ARC Review: “The Chaos of Stars” by Kiersten White

The Chaos of StarsThe Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

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Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up.

Of course, as the human daughter of Egyptian gods, that pretty much comes with the territory. She’s also stuck with parents who barely notice her, and a house full of relatives who can’t be bothered to remember her name. After all, they are going to be around forever—and she’s a mere mortal.

Isadora’s sick of living a life where she’s only worthy of a passing glance, and when she has the chance to move to San Diego with her brother, she jumps on it. But Isadora’s quickly finding that a “normal” life comes with plenty of its own epic complications—and that there’s no such thing as a clean break when it comes to family. Much as she wants to leave her past behind, she can’t shake the ominous dreams that foretell destruction for her entire family. When it turns out there may be truth in her nightmares, Isadora has to decide whether she can abandon her divine heritage after all.

3 1/2 stars

Thanks to Edelweiss and HarperTeen for this eARC! This title will be released September 10th, 2013.

When I saw that Kiersten was writing a book with an Egyptian theme, I nearly died of happiness. I am a HUGE fan of her Paranormalcy series (see here), as well as her Mind Games series (see here), so this … this just hit the spot in every right way. Well, at least the news she was writing it did. After all that, it’s not surprising that the book itself couldn’t live up to my anticipation…

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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: “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: “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!

ARC Review: “Mind Games” by Kiersten White

Mind GamesMind Games (Mind Games #1) by Kiersten White

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Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her—except when her mind is gripped by strange visions of the future.

Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in twisted, unthinkable ways… or risking each other’s lives by refusing to obey.

In a stunning departure from her New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy, Kiersten White delivers a slick, edgy, heartstoppingly intense psychological thriller about two sisters determined to protect each other—no matter the cost.

5 stars

Thanks to HarperTeen and Edelweiss for this eARC! This title will be available February 19th, 2013.

This should not have worked. This should not have been good. Everything about this book was begging for me to hate it.

So why did I love it so much?

Here’s why I shouldn’t have loved Mind Games:

  1. It’s written by Kiersten White and it’s NOT about Evie and Lend, to which nothing was supposed to compare.
  2. The point of view is constantly switching between two sisters.
  3. The point of view not only switches between characters, but switches between the past and the present.
  4. There is a love triangle beginning for one of the sisters.
  5. I hate false advertising. This book isn’t really a “slick, edgy, heartstoppingly intense psychological thriller” as descriped in the blurb. I wasn’t ever particularly scared or anything.

AND YET I LOVED IT.

All of my feels about this book are hard to explain. But hold on, let me back up a little. This book is about two sisters with psychic powers who have been orphaned and “taken in” by this school for girls with psychic powers. The problem is that this school is not a nice place, and they’re using these girls for evil purposes. The first sister’s name is Annie, and she’s blind—but a Seer. So her sight is really more useful in the long run. Her sister Fia is like nothing anyone has ever seen before, because she has these great instincts that tell her everything from the right stocks to pick to how to perfectly fight someone—and also keep her from being able to be seen by Seers. The school that’s taken them in is training Fia to be their killer while holding Annie for collateral. The book opens with Fia out on her first hit, which she is unable to carry out. And then it all goes downhill from there.

I was not amused with the book started going back and forth between Fia and Annie, and even less so when the book kept going into chapters of flashbacks. Usually, this DOES NOT WORK. But with this one … it did. It ACTUALLY WORKED and I don’t know how. The flashbacks actually did their job of making the story and the characters even deeper while never taking away from the flow and process of the present storyline. WITH FLASHBACKS, I felt like the plot never stopped moving forward, and fast. I’m still going gaga about that.

The characters of Fia and Annie were very different, and their voices really came through. Honestly, I wasn’t that impressed with Annie, but Fia entirely makes up for it. She is broken, she is battered, she is stubborn and she is a fighter. Living in Fia’s head is painful and terrible and breathtaking.

Usually I wouldn’t be a fan of the love triangle that was set up either, but here it totally made sense. The characters aren’t throwing themselves at each other, and they aren’t eternally in love with each other from the start either. There’s a mutual attraction that pulls one of the sisters in two ways that make utter and total sense.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but here it goes: I think that Mind Games is better than the Paranormalcy books. I mean, the two books are REALLY DIFFERENT, but I think as a crafted object Mind Games is actually better. There’s a less of White’s humor in here, but her story writing seems to have reached a new level with this one.

ARC Review: “Through the Ever Night” by Veronica Rossi

Through the Ever NightThrough the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky #2) by Veronica Rossi

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It’s been months since Aria last saw Perry. Months since Perry was named Blood Lord of the Tides, and Aria was charged with an impossible mission. Now, finally, they are about to be reunited. But their reunion is far from perfect. The Tides don’t take kindly to Aria, a former Dweller. And with the worsening Aether storms threatening the tribe’s precarious existence, Aria begins to fear that leaving Perry behind might be the only way to save them both.

Threatened by false friends, hidden enemies, and powerful temptations, Aria and Perry wonder, Can their love survive through the ever night?

In this second book in her spellbinding Under the Never Sky trilogy, Veronica Rossi combines fantasy and dystopian elements to create a captivating love story as perilous as it is unforgettable.

3 1/2 stars

Thanks to Edelweiss and HarperTeen for this eARC! This title will be released on January 8th.

The middle books in trilogies always make me nervous. The sophomore slump is somehow always a threat, and this book was no different.

For me, it just fell flat.

When the book opens up, Perry and Aria are finally meeting again after a long time apart. Perry has spent this time with his tribe, and Aria with Roar at Marron’s. Aria plans to go up to the Horns (the people who Perry’s sister/Roar’s girlfriend was supposed to marry into to cement an alliance) because apparently their leader knows where it is. However, since the mountains are frozen, she can’t go quite yet, so she goes back to the Tides with Perry. Except that they think it would be better if no one knew they were dating, because the Tides won’t like Aria for being a Dweller. (They don’t.) It’s obvious from the get-go that the Tides don’t like Aria, even though she does make a few friends. Perry makes the big mistake of picking Aria over a tribe member, so everything just starts to go to pot.

Aria leaving Perry is not a surprise. It’s basically there in the blurb. Still, though I guess that, I didn’t exactly guess how we’d GET there, and that I liked a lot. There were some things Rossi could have done that would have been totally cliché but she didn’t do them and I LOVED IT. Must I say it again?

Despite what the blurb seems to suggest, this book doesn’t really deal with Perry and Aria’s relationship. We actually get more of Roar and Liv, and Roar and Aria than Perry and Aria. Not to mention all the side character relationships built-in. Personally, I liked the switch. Unlike other books, where the relationship takes center stage, Perry and Aria get the chance to grow up as individuals rather than just be stuck on each other all the time. I also cannot get over the fact that Roar and Aria are presented as clearly just friends who love each other, rather than the love triangle that could have cropped up if Rossi was taking a more cliché root. Aria and Roar are the best friends.

Honestly, though, the plot itself just felt like filler. Perry spends the entire book learning how to be a leader. That’s great, but it really didn’t have an impact on the book at large. It’s Aria, in fact, who makes the most progress towards the end goal of finding the Still Blue, with Perry only coming in to help her save the day at the end of the book. But still, Aria spends the entire book running around the continent for almost no reason except to meet a guy and then go back to the Tides. Yes, yes, it’s much more dramatic than I make it seem–and several key things DO happen–but I didn’t feel like much of anything but character development was really happening. Which is weird, because the book never stopped moving.

I gave this book 3 1/2 stars basically because I appreciated the individual character development and the way it occurred. Rossi really does know how the write relationships. As a central character, I still think Perry needs to find a personality and stick with it, but I really do love Aria’s resilience. I wish the identity of her father had been a bigger part of this book, since it was basically forgotten, but I guess I just have to wait for book 3 for that.  The plot was basically straight forward and always moving. But still, I just can’t shake the feeling that nothing really happened that was really important up until the end of the book, and I find that frustrating. Still, it sets up a FANTASTIC setting for book 3 that promises to be action packed, and that makes me excited.

Under the Never Sky #3, Into the Still Blue, will be released in 2014.

ARC Review: “Prophecy” by Ellen Oh

ProphecyProphecy (The Dragon King #1) by Ellen Oh

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The greatest warrior in all of the Seven Kingdoms… is a girl with yellow eyes.

Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope…

Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King Prophecy, but the missing treasure of myth may be the true key. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.

Intrigue and mystery, ancient lore and action-packed fantasy come together in this heart-stopping first book in a trilogy.

3 1/2 stars

Thanks to Edelweiss and HarperTeen for this eARC! This title will be released January 2nd, 2013.

Let me just say that I had only the HIGHEST hopes for this book. I mean, read that blurb. See that cover. There is NO WAY that this doesn’t look like the most awesome thing ever.

When I first started reading, I believed my hopes would be entirely acheived. Throughout the entire book, there was nothing more awesome then the setting and the descriptions. Prophecy is without a doubt a visual feast, especially for those people–like me–who like nothing more then world based on Asian mythology. (I mean, dragons and tiger spirits? YEAH.)  They did get long at points, but I didn’t mind because I WANT TO LIVE HERE. You know, when the whole world isn’t at war.

The world BUILDING, on the other hand, suffered a little. I was pretty confused for most of the book, with all the words and countries being tossed back and forth without much explanation. Having a map at the beginning of the book DOES NOT mean you can go away without explaining a bunch of stuff. Especially for those of us on cheap Kindles, it isn’t easy at all to jump back and forth from the front map to the back glossary to where we were in the story. (And if it is and I’m just technology-impossible, someone help me out.) In general, though, it seemed like world building was sacrificed for world description, and it frustrated me sometimes.

In the beginning, I thought the cast of characters for this book would be way too many. I was very impressed how Oh mananged to keep the number of characters “on screen” down, and keep the main characters in the forefront. Still, with that said, something about the characters felt off to me. We were certainly given enough reasons to feel sympathy for the characters, and we were given just enough backstory to connect with them but I … never did. Kira and her friends stayed flat to me, despite all the death and action around them. Other characters, especially some background ones, just seemed characterized. I’ve never been especially character oriented, but even this felt lacking to me.

Where I always focus is the plot, and there I also found issue. To be fair, it rarely stopped moving. Within chapters of the beginning, Kira is an outcast, betrothed to a pretty psychopath and then on the run with the crown prince. They LITERALLY don’t stop moving. They go through like three countries and numerous moutains, temples and castles. For 336 pages, they cover a LOT of ground.

Which I guess is one of the reasons the plot seemed so choppy.

The only way that Oh could have hoped to fit everything in is by cutting out parts of the journies, and that’s what she did. Still, this made the book seem like it was jumping around, especially when this happened in the same chapter. Characters were suddenly dead, cities were suddenly taken by the enemy–and these weren’t small characters or cities. The characters and the cities that were being attacked by the enemy had huge impact on the main characters, but this impact was never explored. All of the sudden it just happened, sometimes with no explanation. I just kept moving with the flow, but the bumps in the road were definetly there.

Also, huge plus: romance takes up like 2% of this book. So the female main character ACTUALLY spends ALL her time kicking butt and not batting her eyelashes. Personally, I find this fantastic.

All in all, I did enjoy this book. It was an interesting premise and I loved the setting. The characters were flat to me, but they weren’t dislikeable by any means. This book is definetly one for those people who are looking for more high fantasy settings with female heroines who certainly kick butt. I do look forward to reading the next book in this series, because I think it can only go up from here.

Book 2, Warrior, is due 2014. Book 3, King, is due 2015.