Review: “The Crown of Embers” by Rae Carson

The Crown of EmbersThe Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns #2) by Rae Carson

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In the sequel to the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.

Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone’s power. That is not all she finds. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy.

4 stars

WARNING: This review WILL have spoilers for The Girl of Fire and Thorns! Read my review of the first book HERE.

Oh Rae Carson, Rae Carson, Rae Carson – how dare you pull at my heartstrings like that? Thank God I waited to start this book until I had an ARC of The Bitter Kingdom in hand as well. Also, hip hip hooray for authors who GET characters and write REAL characters and ohmygosh guys I can’t get over these CHARACTERS. Erm, anyways, let’s get reviewing, shall we?

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Review: “Venom” by Fiona Paul

VenomVenom (Secrets of the Eternal Rose #1) by Fiona Paul

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Cassandra Caravello is one of Renaissance Venice’s lucky elite: with elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, her own lady’s maid, and a wealthy fiancé, she has everything a girl could desire. Yet ever since her parents’ death, Cassandra has felt trapped, alone in a city of water, where the dark and labyrinthine canals whisper of escape.

When Cass stumbles upon a murdered woman—practically in her own backyard—she’s drawn into a dangerous world of courtesans, killers, and secret societies. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a mysterious artist with a mischievous grin… and a spectacular skill for trouble. Can Cassandra find the murderer, before he finds her? And will she stay true to her fiancé, or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco?

Beauty, love, romance, and mystery weave together in a stunning novel that’s as seductive and surprising as the city of Venice itself.

4 stars

When I first heard about this book, I knew I had to have it. I’m a huge historical fiction buff, and this was BEGGING to be on my shelf. So I picked it up. I opened the pages. As it turns out, the historical fiction was not the only complex piece of the puzzle – the plot surprised me, the main character made me smile … and I had a weird reaction to the love triangle.

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ARC Review: “Dare You To” by Katie McGarry

Dare to uDare You To (Pushing the Limits #2) by Katie McGarry

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If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk’s home life, they’d send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom’s freedom and her own happiness. That’s how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn’t want her and going to a school that doesn’t understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn’t get her, but does….

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can’t tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn’t be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won’t let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all….

4 stars

Thanks to HarlequinTeen and NetGalley for this eARC! This title is now available.

In the beginning I accepted one thing. I knew that I could in no way love this book as much as I loved Pushing the Limits. But I had faith in Katie McGarry to come through and write something that would rip at my heartstrings. Thank God I had so much faith, or I might not have made it past the first part of the book.

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ARC Review: “Transparent” by Natalie Whipple

TransparentTransparent by Natalie Whipple

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Plenty of teenagers feel invisible. Fiona McClean actually is.

An invisible girl is a priceless weapon. Fiona’s own father has been forcing her to do his dirty work for years—everything from spying on people to stealing cars to breaking into bank vaults.

After sixteen years, Fiona’s had enough. She and her mother flee to a small town, and for the first time in her life, Fiona feels like a normal life is within reach. But Fiona’s father isn’t giving up that easily.

Of course, he should know better than anyone: never underestimate an invisible girl.

4 stars

Thanks to HarperTeen and Edelweiss for this eARC! This title is now available.

This is one of those instances where the blurb did not adequately prepare me for what was about to happen. As it turns out, it’s even better than I could have imagined.

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ARC Review: “Born of Illusion” by Teri Brown

Born of IllusionBorn of Illusion (Born of Illusion #1) by Teri Brown

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Anna Van Housen is thirteen the first time she breaks her mother out of jail. By sixteen she’s street smart and savvy, assisting her mother, the renowned medium Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage show and séances, and easily navigating the underground world of magicians, mediums and mentalists in 1920’s New York City. Handcuffs and sleight of hand illusions have never been much of a challenge for Anna. The real trick is keeping her true gifts secret from her opportunistic mother, who will stop at nothing to gain her ambition of becoming the most famous medium who ever lived. But when a strange, serious young man moves into the flat downstairs, introducing her to a secret society that studies people with gifts like hers, he threatens to reveal the secrets Anna has fought so hard to keep, forcing her to face the truth about her past. Could the stories her mother has told her really be true? Could she really be the illegitimate daughter of the greatest magician of all?

4 stars

Thanks to Balzer + Bray and NetGalley for this eARC! This title will be released June 11th, 2013.

I don’t know what it is about blurbs these days. This is one of too many books I’ve read recently where the blurb didn’t focus at all on what the book was actually about.

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ARC Review: “Reboot” by Amy Tintera

RebootReboot (Reboot #1) by Amy Tintera

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Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).

Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.

The perfect soldier is done taking orders.

4 stars

Thanks to HarperTeen and Edelweiss for this eARC! This title is now available.

Actually, I’m not sure if I should give this one four stars or four and a half stars. 4.25 stars isn’t in my rating system, per se, but if it was that’s what I’d rate this book. Here’s why:

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ARC Review: “Going Vintage” by Lindsey Leavitt

Going VintageGoing Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt

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When Mallory’s boyfriend, Jeremy, cheats on her with an online girlfriend, Mallory decides the best way to de-Jeremy her life is to de-modernize things too. Inspired by a list of goals her grandmother made in1962, Mallory swears off technology and returns to a simpler time (when boyfriends couldn’t cheat with computer avatars). The List:
1. Run for pep club secretary
2. Host a fancy dinner party/soiree
3. Sew a dress for Homecoming
4. Find a steady
5. Do something dangerous
But simple proves to be crazy-complicated, and the details of the past begin to change Mallory’s present. Add in a too-busy grandmother, a sassy sister, and the cute pep-club president–who just happens to be her ex’s cousin–and soon Mallory begins to wonder if going vintage is going too far.

4 stars

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for this eARC! This title is now available.

Sometimes there are moments when a book turns out to be exactly what you need. This was one of those times.

The book begins with Mallory and Jeremy “studying” in his room. When they finally separate from their lip lock, they attempt to keep working on their school project together–or rather, Mallory keeps working on it. Jeremy is letting her do the whole thing. She logs onto this computer to find some sources, and instead finds that Jeremy has not only married a different girl on a Sims-like computer game, but has also been conversing with this girl on a far more personal level than he ever talked to her. Filled with hurt and betrayal, Mallory goes home and holes up in her basement, packing up her grandmother’s things to bring to her at her new retirement complex. In a box, she finds a notebook with a list of things her grandmother hoped to accomplish her junior year, and it seems absolutely perfect. If she’d lived in the 60s, there wouldn’t have been internet and Jeremy never could have cyber-cheated. Viva la Dark Ages!

This book has a super cute premise. I loved it from the second I heard it. It works really well for the book, too, with Mallory exploring both the pros and the cons of the whole thing. It causes self discovery, but it also causes conflict, which is nice. At the same time, though, there were times when I thought the characters were acting a little bit crazy. At times, multiple characters had overblown reactions that made me dislike them. This is especially true of Mallory’s sister, Ginnie, and sometimes of Mallory herself.

The plot seems pretty low key for most of the book. Mallory’s issue stem deeper than just her break up. Her mother isn’t being supportive and is too prying, her father isn’t making much money and her grandmother is trying to reinvent herself after the death of her husband. This interweave pretty well for most of the book. However, at the end they seem to blow up catastrophically into mountainous revelations in their own right, and each one is fighting for prominence rather than being given the space it deserves. Even Mallory can’t seem to find the time to explain them all, and she tells her sister so. In the end, I was a little unsure how her grandmother and then her mother’s revelations had to do with the plot at all.

The character of Oliver (Jeremey’s cousin) deserves his own paragraph, of course. I was a little affronted when he popped onto the scene so soon after Jeremy and Mallory’s breakup. I didn’t want this to be one of those books where the problem is instantly solved by another guy. I don’t want to spoil anything, but that isn’t what happens, and that made me extremely happy. Besides my worry that he was going to turn into Mallory’s knight in shining armor, he was a likable character who was a great friend and believable.

As always, the endings of these stories are always the make-it-or-break-it point for me. It’s important to me what the final message is. In the end, I was pleased and proud. Mallory becomes her own person in a believable way. She doesn’t need a man to save her. Jeremy, too, becomes a more fleshed out person throughout the story, so by the end you understand him, even if you still don’t like him. After too many books where we’re left just knowing the ex is a “bad guy,” this was refreshing.

If you’re looking for a good contemporary romance that’s really about the inner struggle with finding yourself after a break up, but don’t want the answer to be yet another guy, READ THIS BOOK!

Bibliomancy for Beginners: Review and Hangout Video for “The Book of Lost Things” by John Connolly

Finally, the secret is out! I am one of four members of the new Google+ Hangout book club “Bibliomancy for Beginners.” This week, our book was John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things. Below you’ll find my review, and after that the YouTube video of our hangout. Next week we’ll be doing The Innocent Mage by Karen Miller, and you should totally come hang with us! I’ll announce when the next chat is right here on the blog.

The Book of Lost ThingsThe Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

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High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own — populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.

Taking readers on a vivid journey through the loss of innocence into adulthood and beyond, New York Times bestselling author John Connolly tells a dark and compelling tale that reminds us of the enduring power of stories in our lives.

4 stars

This book was not something I’d usually read, but thus is the purpose of our book club. I thought the blurb was interesting, but was a little unsure of what would happen from there. What I found was a pleasant surprise.

Twelve-year-old David is fairly believably written for his age, despite the fact that this book isn’t meant for middle grade or ya readers. His relationship with his mother and his reaction to her death tore at my heart. When his father remarries, to a woman with whom he fights all the time, and David gets a new step-brother, the way he deals with it never comes across as trite or overblown, as is sometimes the case with the way younger characters are written.

I’m still not quite sure how David ends up in what I’ll call “fairy tale land” for lack of a better phrase. I honestly can’t remember if it has a name in the book. Anyways, all of the sudden David is popping out a tree knot in a forest and there’s human-wolf hybrids after him. Thank goodness there’s the Woodsman there to save him. The villain of the story, the Crooked Man, hides the tree that has the portal in it from David, however, so he can’t go back, and the Woodsman says that only the dying king of the land can help him get back home now, so they set off on a quest to find the king and get David home.

For a while, it really did seem like the plot was relying on the questing motif way too much. David was on a journey and obstacles popped up around it, but he never really deviated from his goal. Each obstacle was present as unrelated to the other, so at times they felt quite disconnected and in some places unnecessary y. I will say, though, that of all these the Communist seven dwarfs and the fat, mean Snow White were the best part–of the quest and of the entire book. I don’t want to spoil anything, but seriously guys. Just mull that over. Fat and mean Snow White and the Communist Seven Dwarfs.

When David finally reaches the castle and finds the king, however, things really start to get rolling. All of the questions are answered, and more broader ones that make you think are asked. I didn’t think that this was going to tug at my heart strings as much as it did. In the end, I just wanted to hug David and hug the king and … basically hug everyone but the Crooked Man, who I wanted to stab repeatedly for putting the kid through everything. This is a stand alone, so the end wrapped everything up neatly–some might say too much so, but I don’t agree. Usually I like messy endings myself, but it was the epilogue that really did me in so no complaints there.

I’d really recommend this one if you’re looking for a fairy tale that isn’t for children. This really isn’t for people the age of the protagonist, trust me. Its themes and its messages ring much truer to the adult ear, and the prose is meant for that. It was a great bridge for me between the children’s stories I love and the adult novels I should really read more of.

Curious what me and my friends had to say? Want to laugh at the fools that we make of ourselves? Well, watch the video! (The first 9:20 of this is technical difficulties and giggles. For the actual book club part, skip right to about the 9:20 mark.)

ARC Review: “Taken” by Erin Bowman

TakenTaken (Taken #1) by Erin Bowman

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There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends…and he’s gone.

They call it the Heist.

Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.

Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?

Four stars

Thanks to Edelweiss and HarperTeen for this eARC! This title is now available.

There have rarely been books that have tossed me for this much of a loop. Whether or not that’s a good thing is still undecided.

See, Taken starts off with a pretty interesting concept. It’s up there in the blurb, so I’m not going to rehash it. The book opens up with Gray’s brother being Heisted and general shenanigans and of course there’s a girl that Gray has the hots for. Honestly, though, warning bells started going off in my head from the second after Blaine the brother is Heisted because it seemed to me that the most interesting thing about the book was the concept of being Heisted. The action that happens after, with Gray and Emma, is boring and seems to be forced filler to establish a relationship between the two of them so that the rest of the stuff has impact and a preface. While I appreciate this attempt to give the two lovebirds a history, it didn’t really work where it was placed and I got pretty bored pretty quickly.

Since the blurb is so vague about it, I can’t even tell you whether or not Gray goes over the wall without being intentionally spoiler-y, but I CAN say that eventually Gray wakes up and realizes that something was seriously weird about his brother’s Heist and goes in search of answers. In the process, many more details about the concept of the Heist is introduced which confirm my earlier assumption that this is a really cool concept.

Throughout it all, however, the characters are fairly eh. There is no one with a great deal of personality that I really loved, but I didn’t dislike anyone either (except for Emma). Every action seemed very believable (except for Emma). Gray actually really grew on me as the story went on, which is hard for characters to do.

Now, about that loop…

See, I can’t really say anything because people will be all SPOILERS on me. But let’s just say that the romance aspect of this novel starts off iffy and then gets worse. Then Gray seems to realize that Emma is the worst and does his own thing for a little while. Then the romance gets worse. But just when I thought Bowman was setting us up for the worst possible cliché I can think of, the end of the book happens and she’s like actually no, I’m going to go for a more real people thing. WHICH I LOVE.

HAH. Vague without spoilers like a boss.

All in all, I think the world building was great and the characters were alright. None of the plot twists were all that twisty to me, but I was still pleasantly surprised at points and I liked that. If you’re in the mood for more guy driven plot with a unique premise then give this one a go!

Review: “Black City” by Elizabeth Richards

Black CityBlack City (Black City #1) by Elizabeth Richards

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A dark and tender post-apocalyptic love story set in the aftermath of a bloody war.

In a city where humans and Darklings are now separated by a high wall and tensions between the two races still simmer after a terrible war, sixteen-year-olds Ash Fisher, a half-blood Darkling, and Natalie Buchanan, a human and the daughter of the Emissary, meet and do the unthinkable—they fall in love. Bonded by a mysterious connection that causes Ash’s long-dormant heart to beat, Ash and Natalie first deny and then struggle to fight their forbidden feelings for each other, knowing if they’re caught, they’ll be executed—but their feelings are too strong.

When Ash and Natalie then find themselves at the center of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to pull the humans and Darklings back into war, they must make hard choices that could result in both their deaths.

4 stars

This review was completed by Michaela from The Pied Piper Calls! Thanks to her for this wonderful guest post (which I made her do because she stole this off my bookshelf because what else are roomie’s bookshelves for? But I digress)…!

Well, it wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t mind blowing.

I had the enormous revelation at the beginning of the novel that it was a less tragic Romeo and Juliet but with vampires, well “darklings”. I wasn’t far off. (Calling back memories of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead: a movie filled with terrible literature puns involving vampires)Of course we have our star crossed lovers. The daughter of the cities emissary the son of the king of the darklings.

I will say that there was a strong point in the characters. I had emotional attachments to almost all of them. If I didn’t love them for their quirk or their humor I hated them because they were ignorant sheep being led to a slaughter by their government. Personally I have an affinity to love the secondary characters more than the protagonists. No offense to the protagonists they still kick butt but I would rather curl up with their best friends. The same is true for this novel.

While Ash our dashing darkling is suave even in the times when he is imbecilic, his best friend Beetle’s struggle with drug addiction and his choices in the past interested me far more. Likewise, while I could relate completely to Natalie in many ways and was utterly confused in others her best friend Day and her sister Polly were more heart warming. All of the characters were well developed and showed growth. They were realistic and both lovable and hate-able in all the right ways. Let’s leave that be for a moment and talk about the other aspects of the novel.

The world building was alright. It has some of the classic dystopian elements: a world ravaged and scarred by war, the people divided, a government the performs atrocious experiments on their citizens, a courageous group of youngsters ready to stand up in arms against oppressive government that doesn’t care about them, you know, the usual. None of the themes here were particularly alien to me so it was a comfortable environment to be in. You knew pretty much what to expect.

The one problem I found with this book is that it was extremely predictable. I saw all of the little signs left for me to connect the dots. The problem with this style of writing is I always get the feeling that the author thinks their readers are dim. Thinking that the readers wouldn’t get the idea if all of the signs are lain out in front of them with flashing neon lights surrounding them. Ooh ooh look this is important, Chekhov’s gun. While she does indeed tie them in to the story, it was slightly distracting to sit and wait for them to become important.

There were a few other things that took me off guard. Small things that were distracting but not really important but could have been easily mended. Those of course are just knit picky things.

Overall I enjoyed the book, and I did call out shenanigans when one character decided to be a dumb ass. It was a good read in an interesting world even if it was predictable and dare I say it unoriginal. You can read this book in countless other books in the genre, of course then you won’t get to know the beauty that is Beetle and his Aunt Roach. Give it a go if you like paranormal romance of the temperate nature.