ARC Review: “The Morning Star” by Robin Bridges

The Morning StarThe Morning Star (The Katerina Trilogy Volume III) by Robin Bridges

Goodreads | Amazon

Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, wants to be known as a doctor, not a necromancer. But Tsar Alexander III forbids women to attend medical school; his interest in Katerina extends only to her ability to raise the dead. Twice now, Katerina has helped him by using her power to thwart the forces of darkness—vampires bent on resurrecting the lich tsar Konstantin Pavlovich so that he can take what he sees as his rightful place on the throne. Katerina thought she had bound Konstantin to the Greylands, the realm of the dead, but he has found a way out. Now he is searching for the Morning Star, a sword that will allow him to command a legion of supernatural warriors.

Katerina must find the sword before Konstantin does—and she must travel to Egypt to do so. Along the way, she puts up with unwanted attention from her former fiancé, the nefarious Prince Danilo, and struggles with her feelings for her true love, George Alexandrovich. But with the looming threat from Konstantin, Katerina’s focus remains on the sword. Russia’s fate will be determined by whoever wields the Morning Star—and delivers the final blow.

Three and a half stars

Thanks to Random House and Delacorte Books for Young Readers for this ARC! This title will be released August 27th, 2013.

WARNING: This review WILL have spoilers for volumes 1 & 2. See my reviews of The Gathering Storm and The Unfailing Light for more! Don’t forget to also check out my interview with Robin!

Well, this is it. The end of Katerina’s journey through legions of the supernatural and an (intentionally) lopsided love triangle. She has raised an army of the dead and fallen in love and fought fiercely to be allowed to be a doctor. Will Katerina get everything she desires, or will she let go of her dreams and her love for the sake of the lives of friends and family? Well, I know how this all turns out, and I was fairly pleased with the result.

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ARC Review: “The Rogue’s Princess” by Eve Edwards

The Rogue's PrincessThe Rogue’s Princess (The Lacey Chronicles #3) by Eve Edwards

Goodreads | Amazon

1586 – London, England. Sixteen-year-old Mercy Hart is the daughter of one of London’s richest – and strictest – cloth merchants. Kit Turner is an actor and the illegitimate son of the late Earl of Dorset. A chance encounter finds Kit falling for the beautiful Mercy’s charms, but their love is forbidden. A merchant’s daughter and a vagabond – it simply cannot be. If Mercy chooses Kit she must renounce her family name and leave her home. Will she favour duty over true love, or will she give Kit his heart’s desire?

Thanks to Random House for this ARC! This title is now available!

3 stars

When people tell me they have some YA historical fiction for me, I instantly jump for it every time. Sadly, a lot of the YA hisfic romance that I read falls into way too many romantic clichés for me to be happy. This one was no different.

The main character of this story is a young girl named Mercy Hart, who is as innocent as a child when it comes to the ways of romance. Her love interest is Kit Turner, an actor with some roguish ways, who also happens to be the illegitimate son of an earl so he isn’t entirely without money. Together, they create one of the most basic love pairings in literature. As characters, they were also pretty two-dimensional—as were many of the others. The only character I really enjoyed reading about was Mercy’s crazy grandmother, whose hilarity just made me so happy.

The treason Kit gets mixed up in was possibly the only reason I knew which time period we were looking at. Because I’m a nerd, the second the character of Babington was introduced I knew that we were dealing with the time in which people were concocting a plot to put Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne instead of Queen Elizabeth I. Aside from that, the historical setting was just used as a basic backdrop, which I’m still trying to decide if I liked or not.

The plot was fairly simple and never left me guessing. Innocent girl meets roguish guy, they fall in love despite their differences, guy gets arrested for treason and their love is tested … I bet you could finish it from here. I liked this book well enough on the basis of what it was: another hisfic romance. If you want to add another like title to your shelf, then this one is cute enough for me to recommend it. (You don’t have to buy the first two books to read it! It’s connected, but a standalone.) If you’re looking for something new and exciting in the genre, I would look elsewhere.

ARC Review: “Meant To Be” by Lauren Morrill

Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill

Goodreads | Amazon

Meant to be or not meant to be . . . that is the question.

It’s one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quite another to fall for the—gasp—wrong guy. Straight-A junior Julia may be accident prone, but she’s queen of following rules and being prepared. That’s why she keeps a pencil sharpener in her purse and a pocket Shakespeare in her, well, pocket. And that’s also why she’s chosen Mark Bixford, her childhood crush, as her MTB (“meant to be”).

But this spring break, Julia’s rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: to be thrown from a window) when she’s partnered with her personal nemesis, class-clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts . . . from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to break a few rules along the way. And thus begins a wild goose chase through London, leading Julia closer and closer to the biggest surprise of all: true love.

Because sometimes the things you least expect are the most meant to be.

4 stars

Thank you to Random House/Delacorte Press and NetGalley for this eARC! This title will be released November 13th, 2012.

Sometimes I read YA contemporary romance and I wonder if maybe I’ll a little too jaded for my own good. I mean, is there nothing left in this realm that I can stand?

Turns out, there is. And it’s this book.

I’ll admit I had my reservations going into it. I mean, the premise is nothing new. The main character, Julia, has the nickname of “Book Licker” for good reason. She’s a straight up nerd with a kooky best friend, a secret crush on a childhood friend and then she gets stuck with a guy she abhors for nine days in London. Quite frankly, I’ve seen this a million times with the variables tweaked.

But there’s a saying, and that’s that everything that is being written has always been written, and it’s how you write it that makes a difference. If you’ve followed any of my reviews on romance in any kind of book, you’ll know I’m very hard to please. That gives more weight to be saying that I fell head over heels for this book.

It wasn’t perfect, and I’ll get to that in a minute, but the point is that I found it amazingly cute. Julia’s devotion to her parents and the concept of finding the one “meant to be” was absolutely touching. I was reading and giggling all the way through. Julia and Jason are the standard rom-com couple that can’t stand each other, but the way they handle it and the things they say are just far too cute. They actually do end up getting rather nasty with each other too, which makes it more real—it’s not just surface tension. I don’t want to give away anything about the rest of the plot, but the twists thrown that complicate everything were actually interesting for the most part.

I do think that things fell apart a little bit on the characterization side. For one, there was an attempt to include way more characters then the story had real room for, and then to try to make those characters more than flat. I appreciate the attempt, but frankly it wasn’t relevant, it got in the way and it bogged down the story. I really wish more of an attempt had been made to flesh out Jason’s character as well. Throughout the story, he switches back and forth between sweet and immature way too easily. I understand that that’s what Julia was seeing and everything, but honestly I never believed that there was another level to Jason beyond what we were seeing because it was never addressed in great detail. There is also the character of Mark, who I can’t address without giving things away, but the way he was handled really annoyed me.

I think the greatest connection I made in this book was with Julia. She made the book for me. Sure, the nerd who’s a secret romantic isn’t a fresh story line by any means, but she managed to wrap her hands around my heart even so. She was funny, she was awkward, and—most importantly—she was real. Her reactions to all situations were genuine.

Blog Tour ARC Review: “The Unfailing Light” by Robin Bridges

Welcome to Day 1 of my 2 day celebration of Robin Bridges’ new soon-to-be-released book The Unfailing Light! Today there is a review of the book! Tomorrow’s goodies are at the bottom. 😉 Don’t forget to check out all the other stops of the tour with their reviews, giveaways and more!

The Unfailing Light – Blog Tour

September 24th: Smitten Over Books ~September 25th: Casey’s Crew ~ September 26th: Much Ado About Books ~ September 26th: The Streetlight Reader ~ September 27th: Infinite Reads ~ September 28th: The Hiding Spot ~ September 29th: Girls *Heart* Books ~ October 1st: Mom Reads My Books ~ October 2nd: Magical Urban Fantasy Reads ~ October 2nd: The Book Review Club ~ October 3rd: The Book Review Club ~ October 4th: Kimba Caffeinated ~ October 4th: My Life is a Notebook ~ October 5th: My Life is a Notebook ~ October 6th: Candace’s Book Blog ~ October 7th: Reader Girls~ October 8th: Bookish ~ October 8th: Peace, Love, Books ~October 9th: YA Bibliophile ~ October 9th: Reader Girls ~ October 10th: Wastepaper Prose ~ October 10th: Imaginary Reads ~ October 11th: Imaginary Reads ~ October 12th: Well Read Wife ~ October 15th: Libby Blog ~ October 16th: Cracking the Cover ~ October 17th: A Bookish Libraria ~ October 18th: A Novel Review ~ October 19th: In the Best Worlds ~ October 20th: Tripping Over Books

The Unfailing Light (The Katerina Trilogy Volume II) by Robin Bridges

Goodreads | Amazon

Lush and opulent, romantic and sinister, The Unfailing Light, Volume II in The Katerina Trilogy, reimagines the lives of Russia’s aristocracy in a fabulously intoxicating and page-turning fantasy.

Having had no choice but to use her power has a necromancer to save Russia from dark forces, Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, now wants to forget that she ever used her special powers. She’s about to set off to pursue her lifelong dream of attending medical school when she discovers that Russia’s arch nemesis–who she thought she’d destroyed–is still alive. So on imperial orders, Katerina remains at her old finishing school. She’ll be safe there, because the empress has cast a potent spell to protect it against the vampires and revenants who are bent on toppling the tsar and using Katerina for their own gains. But to Katerina’s horror, the spell unleashes a vengeful ghost within the school, a ghost more dangerous than any creature trying to get in.

Thanks to the fantastic people at Random House/Delacorte Books for Young Readers for this ARC! You can get a copy for yourself on October 9, 2012.

3 1/2 stars

BEFORE YOU READ, don’t forget to check out my review of book 1 of this series, The Gathering Storm. There WILL be minor spoilers out of necessity.

When I finished my review of the first book of this series, I mentioned that despite my problems with the first book I wanted the second one because I had hopes Bridges would settle into the story and much more of it would make sense.

My prayers were answered.

I was deeply worried I wasn’t going to be able to remember much from the first book and that I had done this review a deep disservice by forgetting to bring book 1 to college with me. I was genuinely surprised to find that the first part of the book did a really good job summerizing the events of book 1 while not dragging down the new events of book 2. Usually, this is not the case when authors do make the decision to remind the reader of what happened in the previous book.

As predicted, the ending of the last book was far too tidy and didn’t come to pass in this one. (The blurb tells you this.) Honestly, I was kind of annoyed that Katerina had to go back to Smolney after the global adventure I thought I was promised by the end of book one. The characters that surround her there were underdeveloped and flat in the last book and were the same in this one. (I also just don’t like school settings. Far too many clichés.)

Still, I found myself enjoying the beginning just because I felt more secure in what was happening. Bridges has severely paired down on the mythology that’s sprung on the reader and we’re given much more time to understand what all the different Russian folklore names are and mean. The differences in vampires and fae were made much clearer, and the werewolf connection was greatly expanded. My heart rejoiced.

At the same time, I have no idea why Katerina’s powers are downplayed for most of the book. The spell that’s cast on Smolney literally shuts it off, for the most part. She raises another person from the dead, yes, but we–and she!–still has no idea how that happens. There is nothing special that occurs, no attempt made to do so, no NOTHING. For being 2/3rds of a way through these books–with this supposed to be a focal point!–the fact that both us and Katerina herself are so in the dark seems to be disturbingly off.

The Danilo-Katerina-George thing is still going on, but honestly they weren’t around for much of the book which made me happy. The lack of typical love triangle gooey-ness is always a plus for me. Still, the whole situation seems strange, and Katerina questions it herself, but we’re still given NO ANSWERS about the blood bond, etc. And George as a character appears fairly bipolar and out of whack. I think this is supposed to be happening because George is falling towards the Dark Court, but it felt jumpy.

I think my biggest problem with this book was the pacing. I honestly forgot that there was only one more book to this series, not two or three. I wanted Bridges to slow it down and she did, but then it seemed like nothing was happening. The ghost that appears at Smolney isn’t as scary as she seems, and half the time Katerina forgets about her to think about George or something. It’s strange because SO many other things are going on, but the book seems to progress at a slow plod. But then, that could just be middle/second book syndrome kicking in.

Though I gave this book the same rating I gave book 1, I find it to be a large improvement over The Gathering Storm–in terms of understanding what’s going on. I feel much more confident about the mythology now, and I really want to reread book 1 because I feel like I’d be able to understand it a lot more. Many of the characters with the confusing names also became clear, and the large cast was cut down to a smaller number of important people who I could keep track of. The characterization itself still seemed to be a bit off, however. As I said, my biggest problem was the pacing just because I prefer my books to zoom at the speed of light. As with book 1, I felt the ending to be a bit odd. However, since it does leave me genuinely puzzled about where book 3 is going to go, I guess that’s a good thing? Either way, I completely intended to pick up the third and final installment. With all the questions yet to answer and the foes yet to be dealt with, there is no possible way that it could go anything but fast.

WANT TO KNOW SOMETHING EXCITING?

If either this review or my review of The Gathering Storm intrigued you, make sure you stop by again tomorrow! Not only will I have an interview with the author Robin Bridges, but there will ALSO be a giveaway courtesy of Random House. DON’T miss out!