Review: The Bachelor Auction

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Title: The Bachelor Auction [The Bachelors of Arizona #1]
Author: Rachel Van Dyken
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Genres: New Adult/Adult Contemporary Romance
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Cinderella never had to deal with this crap.

Jane isn’t entirely sure that Cinderella got such a raw deal. Sure, she had a rough start, but didn’t she eventually land a prince and a happily-ever-after? Meanwhile, Jane is busy waiting on her demanding, entitled sisters, running her cleaning business, and . . . yep, not a prince in sight. Until a party and a broken shoe incident leave Jane wondering if princes—or at least, a certain deliciously hunky billionaire—maybe do exist.

Except Brock Wellington isn’t anyone’s dream guy. Hell, a prince would never agree to be auctioned off in marriage to the highest bidder. Or act like an arrogant jerk—even if it was just a façade. Now, as Brock is waiting for the auction chopping block, he figures it’s karmic retribution that he’s tempted by a sexy, sassy woman he can’t have. But while they can’t have a fairy-tale ending, maybe they can indulge in a little bit of fantasy

Sometimes, I just want to write a review like, “This book. It was good. Good book.” But that’s not very helpful to you or me (well, it would save me some time…).

When I think back to reading this book, I think light, fluffy, funny, great read. Then the rest of the story comes floating back into my head like a train wreck. Not that the book itself was a train wreck, but there was some heavy emotional healing in here. I loved the development of the characters as a whole, but I think the Brock’s brothers stole the show for me. I looked forward to their scenes and their entertaining quips. They helped lighten the mood and gave readers a well needed break from the brooding mains. Also, he ending was pretty great, and it really got me excited for the next books.

Side note: I’m crazy excited for the sequel coming out in August: The Playboy Bachelor! The MC is Bentley and I loved his character in this book!

The being said, Jane and Brock fit well together. I really liked how their character grew into themselves. I loved the memories they had of their families especially – there were some cute memories/flashbacks.

Oh. My. Goodness. Jane’s sisters made me want to tear my hair out. I know they were supposed to drive me bananas, but how did they manage to become so freaking spoiled??? I just don’t get it.

As a whole, I really enjoyed this book, but I can’t say it wowed me. It was well written and well executed, but I think I’m just a little tired of the Cinderella story.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4.5/5
World Building: 4.5/5
Writing: 5/5
Pacing: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.9/5

eARC obtained via Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley.

Review: The Truth She Knew

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Title: The Truth She Knew [Book #1]
Author: J.A. Owenby
Publication Date: Sept 12, 2016
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Mama didn’t want me. In fact, she would’ve traded my soul back for someone different if God would’ve let her, but he didn’t, so she was stuck with me.
For eighteen-year-old Lacey, life at home is a rollercoaster. She doesn’t think she’ll ever be good enough to truly deserve Mama’s love.

But when Lacey enters college and meets Walker, everything starts to change. Suddenly, Lacey is face to face with the realization that maybe what she’s always seen as normal really isn’t. Her entire life—and everything she’s ever believed about herself and her family—is abruptly hanging in midair.

Lacey is left facing two paths, and she has to make a choice. The first means walking away from everything she’s ever known. The other means never really knowing the truth.

I finished this book and wanted to scream like WHAT THE HELL IS THAT ENDING!?!? I can’t even. WHY.

Lacey believes that she is possessed by demons because that’s what her mother says. And she also believes that her mother has a special relationship with God. Lacey believes that God tells her mother what she does when she’s not home, because her mother somehow knows everything.

Enter Walker, normal guy, normal life, relatively normal family. When he meets Lacey, he begins to show her that maybe her family isn’t “normal.”

As a whole, this book was both insanely what-on-earth and yet amazing. Lacey’s belief in her mother’s “relationship” with God is astounding – and it’s sad to think that there are people who live like that. If their family is all they know, they will never be able to tell what’s “normal” and what’s absolutely, totally, insanely wrong. Lacey doesn’t realize that her family is crazy simply because it’s been something that she grew up with, lived with, and has been reinforced through her sister and her mother’s “friend.” There are so many things wrong with Lacey’s perception of the world, and I think this book does a great job of showing how skewed it can be and how much of an impact family can have.

Note: I’m not saying her family is crazy ’cause they’re religious (I mean, I’m Christian, and I’m like 90% sure I’m not crazy…), they’re crazy and dysfunctional for very different reasons…

Lacey grew A LOT throughout this book, and her character grew to be better, stronger, more resilient. Then there’s Walker… Oh man. There’s so much about the second half of the book that I want to just toss out there, but it’ll spoil the book. BUT I WAS SO ANGRY. LIKE… F U R I O U S.

In part, I get why it happened, kind of. But it really flipped some of my initial judgements on their head. I actually got so mad at the end, and then the book was suddenly done. AND I WAS SCREAMING. Ask my roommate.

I mean, it’s one thing to have that happen and for the book to progress, but everything just hits the fan, and the book ends only like 20 pages later.

LIKE WHAT?

YOU CAN’T DO THAT — JHLAKJHFLKAJSDHKAJDH

Anyways, so the book ends – I fly to GoodReads, and I’m both frustrated and relieved to find that this is actually the first book in a series.

Now I’m waiting for the next book to release and am hoping that we see a lot more of Lacey as she tries to navigate the world with her new perspectives (and a few dashed hopes).

Plot: 4.5/5
Characters: 4.5/5
World: 5/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Cover: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.46/5

eARC obtained through Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Raven Boys

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Title: The Raven Boys [The Raven Cycle #1]
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy Romance
Published: September 18, 2012
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

Since the final book just came out, I decided to give this series a chance.

A friend was the first person to tell me about this series – how did I miss the absolutely stunning cover? Well, I didn’t really, but I saw Maggie’s name on it an walked away.

No offense to Maggie Stiefvater, but her Shiver/Linger/Forever series bored me to tears. I read all of them, despite becoming greatly disinterested about 25% way through. The series was just too cheesy and repetitive and cliche for my taste.

That being said, I really enjoyed The Raven Boys.

The novel’s synopsis really doesn’t do the book justice. It’s not a dumb book about love, it’s more of a paranormal mystery.

Blue is from a family of psychics, except all she can do is act as an amplifier to her powers. Otherwise, she’s about as useful as a stool (when it comes to paranormal oddness). As such, she finds herself an accessory when it comes to her aunt seeing the dead, or her mom doing a particularly difficult reading. That is, until she’s recording dead spirits into a book, and suddenly sees one for herself.

His name is Gansey, and though she’s never met him, her aunt tells her that if she can see his spirit, then she either kills him, or is his true love.

Cheesy right? Not really.

Because once she meets Gansey, they do not really mesh – instead it’s his friend Adam that courts her.

Now on to Gansey and friends. The Raven boys are the “privileged” – identifiable by the school crest on their sweaters. They’re the sort of people whom you can smell money rolling off of. Except Adam, but we’ll come back to him.

Gansey is the leader, generally chill and level headed, and hell bent on finding Glendower – an ancient king who supposedly possesses enough power to have lay in a sort of stasis since he disappeared hundreds of years ago. Due to this Gansey has an odd interest in ley lines and magic things.

Then there’s Ronan, generally rough around the edges, and in the edges, and everywhere else for that matter. He actually became one of my favourite characters simply because he was such an enigma. Throughout this book, you never really find out much about him, but still find yourself loving his character.

Adam’s next. While he goes to the richy rich school, he’s actually not rich – just smart. And he works damn hard to be. But his life isn’t easy as pie, and he finds himself resenting Gansey for the money he has (and sometimes flaunts). Adam is determined to escape his circumstances on his own, without anyone’s help or charity – i.e., his pride is surprisingly bigger than all the richy rich people.

And lastly, there’s Noah. Oddly my favourite character, despite the fact that he rarely speaks. I love him so much, and I can’t even tell you why ’cause spoilers.

Overall, this book sets up the rest of the series – we learn a lot about what they’re looking for and how they’re going to find it, and about all those who tried to do so before them. While there was a lot of information, I didn’t find it totally overwhelming, likely because it was spread out throughout the entire novel. That being said, there were times where I had to read sections over again ’cause it just didn’t process the first time.

The book also has a lot of background for characters, and I actually felt like much of the storyline was Adam’s, instead of Gansey’s and Blue’s. Although they presented a lot of background information, Adam really stood out in this novel for a great number of reasons. Also helped that both Blue and Gansey thought about him a lot.

Overall, this novel was more of a mystery than a romance – there was actually very little romance in it in general. There’s a lot of intrigue and surprises, and it honestly kept my interest the entire time. Definitely would say to give it a chance, it might surprise you.

Plot: 4.5/5
Characters: 3.5/5
Writing: 4/5
World Building: 5/5
Cover: 5/5
Overall: 4/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.04/5

Tour and Review: The Lords of Valdeon

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Welcome to The Lords of Valdeon book tour, hosted by Roger Charlie!~

The Lords of ValdeonTitle: The Lords of Valdeon [Heart of the Warrior #1]
Author: C.R. Richards
Publication Date: January 7, 2016
GoodReads

Synopsis:

A new series from award winning Author, C.R. Richards: The epic tale of two men begins. The first – a man of honor trying desperately to turn his country from civil war. The other – a boy struggling to discover his destiny before agents of evil find him first.

Coveted by two ancient enemies of a long forgotten age, the continent of Andara holds the key to victory in an endless struggle for dominance. Eight hundred years have passed since the god-like Jalora struck a bargain with the first King of Valdeon. The Lion Ring, symbol of the covenant and conduit of power, gives its bearer incredible abilities. The ring’s borrowed magic protects the people of Andara from covetous evil, but there is a price. As with most predators, the Lion Ring must feed. Only the blood of the D’Antoiné family line will satisfy its hunger.

A rival for Andara’s treasures, the Sarcion has waited impatiently for its time upon the land. Whispers of treason in the right ear aid its treachery. The King of Valdeon mysteriously disappears, leaving his lands in danger of a civil war by the hand of a murderous usurper. His Lion Ring is lost and the covenant is broken. The Jalora’s power begins to seep away from the land.  Evil’s foothold grows stronger. Can the Lords of Valdeon, Sacred Guard of the covenant, stop the tides of war? Or will Andara fall into chaos? The future rests in the blood of a boy…

Review:

Overall, I thought this book was good. It wasn’t underwhelming or overwhelming, but it was good.

The prologue was not something I enjoyed reading. It was riddled with repetition and it tried too hard to sound fantastical. It also didn’t really gel with any of the voices in the book. As your first impression of the book, it isn’t a good one. Honestly, if I were you, I’d skim it and then try again after you’ve read at least five chapters of the book. Totally different voice from the rest of the novel, but it is necessary to get a gist of the story’s history.

This book is the first of a series and it was very much a book that sets that stage for something more. The Lords of Valdeon is packed with a lot of description and world/character building. Every chapter contains more and more chunks of the places these characters reside and their situations and it’s definitely interesting getting to know them. Something I really enjoyed was that each character had their own aspect of the world to talk about, and each one generally had their own voice and I also like the women in the story. All of them are quite fierce and strong characters, though I wish they had a larger role in the story itself. With that being said, I felt that within each chapter, the characters voices blurred. All the men and boys sound similar in Seth’s chapters, while all the Lords maintain a formal tone. While these help with world building, and allowing readers to get an idea of the pleasantries and conversations appropriate to each setting, I wish there was more to each character, and not just the plot propelling the story along.

On that note, the plot is quite intricate and interesting. These gods are supposedly cut and dry characters at the beginning, the Jalora seen as good, while the Sarcion is seen as evil. This pretense is tested throughout the novel as each reveals different facets of their own personalities and it really adds colour to the story. It’s interesting to watch each characters’ journey against each other and with one or the other godly being. I particularly like Seth’s thread within all of this, as his character is more exploratory and deals more with self discovery throughout the novel. Although it was slow going at first, the plot really makes the book addicting as the story moves forward and the action begins!

On writing, the author is quite skilled at creating worlds, but I found the most challenging part of this book was the writing. Many aspects just fall short for me. There’s a lot of repetition, and often a lot more telling than showing. Although I really enjoyed the novel as a whole, certain aspects just didn’t do it for me.

Overall, this book is like the Night Circus in its extensive descriptions, mixed with Star Wars’ family feud, with a hint of fantasy and mystery mixed in. I think this is an amazing start to the series, and my expectations are high for the next book!

Plot: 4.5/5
Characters: 3.5/5
World Building: 4.5/5
Writing: 3.5/5
Cover: 4.5/5
Overall: 4/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.25/5

Ebook obtained via Roger Charlie in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:

A huge lover of horror and dark fantasy stories.

C.R. Richards enjoys telling tales of intrigue and adventure. Having began writing as a part-time columnist for a small entertainment newspaper, Richards has worn several hats: food critic, entertainment reviewer and cranky editor. She has now published a handful of novels, including Phantom Harvest – book one in The Mutant Casebook Series – which took home the EPIC eBook Award for Fantasy in 2014. Richards beat out entries from the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and other English speaking countries.

The youngest of five army brats, Richards was born on a military base in Utah.  She spent much of her childhood in the back of her family’s sky blue station wagon on trips to see her grandmother – who would show her how to spot faeries in the backyard.  “Sometimes she’d put candy in small silk slippers and tell us the pixies had done it,” says Richards. “She’s the one who gave me my love of fantasy creatures.”

Her most recent literary projects include the horror short story, Lost Man’s Parish and the newly-released dark fantasy thriller, Pariah. She is an active member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Horror Writers Association.

In January, Richards releases her epic fantasy novel The Lords of Valdeon, the first installment in the Heart of the Warrior series.  Through her storytelling, Richards aims to reach lovers of fantasy who are exploring alternatives to the traditional status quo. Her message is simple: One person can be a catalyst for change.

Author Links:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads

Review: The Witch of Painted Sorrows

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Title: The Witch of Painted Sorrows [The Daughters of La Lune #1]
Author: M.J. Rose
Genre: Historical Paranormal Fantasy
Publication Date: March 17, 2015
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Possession. Power. Passion. New York Times bestselling novelist M. J. Rose creates her most provocative and magical spellbinder yet in this gothic novel set against the lavish spectacle of 1890s Belle Époque Paris.

Sandrine Salome flees New York for her grandmother’s Paris mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds there is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is mysteriously closed up. Although her grandmother insists it’s dangerous for Sandrine to visit, she defies her and meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing young architect. Together they explore the hidden night world of Paris, the forbidden occult underground and Sandrine’s deepest desires.

Among the bohemians and the demi-monde, Sandrine discovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter. Then darker influences threaten—her cold and cruel husband is tracking her down and something sinister is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She’s become possessed by La Lune: A witch, a legend, and a sixteenth-century courtesan, who opens up her life to a darkness that may become a gift or a curse.

This is Sandrine’s “wild night of the soul,” her odyssey in the magnificent city of Paris, of art, love, and witchery.

First thing’s first. I loved the cover for this book. It really caught my eye, and of course I was one to judge a book by its cover and requested it…

I didn’t love this book. It was a slow start that never really got going. When I thought something crazy was going to happen, something else would jump in from left field, take me for a spin and then drop me off back a description central. I love description – it helps build the setting, the characters, the mood and atmosphere of the novel – but this one wasn’t a captivating one. I didn’t want to wrap my world in this place and stay for a while. There was a lot of disconnect between myself and the characters and their world.

Sandrine and the other character switch personalities a lot. Sometimes they want to be really nice, sometimes they’re cruel, sometimes their irritating beyond reason, and yet none of these personalities reconcile with one another, and I couldn’t be with the characters, I could only just observe from a distance.

That being said, the world building was well done, overall, but even then, there was nothing that really stood out to be as historic? Aside from the sexism in the city of Paris (only boys allowed to do all the fun stuff), I didn’t really see anything that screamed 1890s. It was more of just a fancy Paris. Maybe it’s ’cause I’ve never been to Paris? I don’t know.

On the other hand, I loved the description of the art. That was something that captured me. Not necessarily PG, but the way she painted and the way the whole process was described, there was something hauntingly beautiful about it. That was also the only time I really cared about what was going through her head throughout the novel. That part of the world was the only part that really resounded with me because I could feel her passion and see the art that was around her.

I think my least favourite part of the book was the questioning-to-create-drama part. How did that happen? What’s happening? Who is this person? Did I do that? On and on it went. Every few chapters would end with some rhetorical questions that I already knew the answer to and it’s just like girl, if you don’t get what’s happening you need to WAKE UP. I get that she might be irrational because of the whole possession thing, but really, how oblivious do you have to be to not see what’s going on. And I hated that she kept switching back in forth – oh, I don’t want her in me – actually I do – actually I think I’m better with her – wait no, she’s bad -but she makes me better. It was like watching someone chase their tail – interesting at first, silly and tiring later on.

Overall, the concept was interesting, and while it wasn’t a very time-specific setting, I could imagine Sandrine’s world well. That being said, the characterization and descriptions held up the plot, and the lack of a huge climax was disappointing.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 3.5/5
World Building: 4/5
Writing: 3/5
Cover: 5/5
Overall: 3/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.54/5

eARC obtained via Atria Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: All Fall Down

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Title: All Fall Down [Embassy Row #1]
Author: Ally Carter
Publication Date: January 20, 2015
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Mystery
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her — so there’s no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.

Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can’t control Grace — no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn’t stop it, Grace isn’t the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

I actually thought I had reviewed this months ago when I read it in January. I didn’t apparently though.

I couldn’t love this book. There was so much that happened, but at the same time, I felt like nothing did. I’m used to the action-packed, suspenseful, mysterious plots that usually come with Ally Carter’s book. This one was trying too hard to do the whole PTSD thing. Grace has been traumatized by her mother’s death, or murder as she remembers it, but has been traumatized even more by the people around her telling her to let it go and that it was a mistake, not murder. Due to this, the whole book was like going around in circles – her screaming it was murder, her being told it wasn’t, her investigating on her own, and her again being told that nothing happened, and around in a circle it went. It felt empty, almost.

There was a lot of telling, and very little showing in this book, to the point where I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. Grace was a frazzled mess, and had very few concrete thoughts, and when she did, it was an obsessive focus; Noah was entertaining and cute, but that was all I could say about him; Rosie was fun, but I know basically nothing about her; and I can’t even remember the other partner in crime’s name – just that her skills and appearance were a little too convenient in line with Grace’s “clue-finding”.

Admittedly, the highlight was the end. It was not what I had expected, and it was enough to make me not totally hate the book. While this book could have had more action and more allure to it, I can see why some things were done as they were. Grace’s adventures are mundane, because she is mundane. She too far in her own world, even prior to her mother’s death, and she can’t seem to realize that she’s not like Cami or Kat – she has no training or skill in really anything except causing problems, jumping to conclusions, and diving in head first into brick walls and dead ends. In the end, I felt sorry for her, but prior to that, it was hard to get through internal complaints and frustrations. That may seem unsympathetic because no one wants to hear that someone with a mental health problem is being told to just be “fine”, but at the same time, it was a little extreme, everything she did, and it was her impulsiveness that annoyed me more than her thirst for the truth.

This book, overall, was not the quality that I’m used to from Ally Carter. It didn’t catch my attention as well, it didn’t draw me in, or keep me glued to the pages. It actually took me two weeks to finish this book, because I didn’t have an itch to run back to it everyday.

I enjoyed some of the twists of the story, but this story didn’t have the same connection and flow that all of her other books had. If I had to say one thing, it’s that I wish this had been another Heist novel instead of a new series.

Plot: 3.5/5
Characters: 3/5
World Building: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Cover: 4.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.79/5

ARC obtained via Scholastic Press in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Shadow Study

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Title: Shadow Study [Study #4] [Soulfinders #1]
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Romance
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Once, only her own life hung in the balance.

Oddly enough, when Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. But she’d survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia. Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands and protect her relationship with Valek.

Suddenly, though, they are beset on all sides by those vying for power through politics and intrigue. Valek’s job – and his life – are in danger. As Yelena tries to uncover the scope of these plots, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. She must keep that a secret – or her enemies will discover just how vulnerable she really is – while searching for who or what is responsible for neutralizing her powers.

Yes, the days of tasting poisons were much simpler. And certainly not as dangerous.

*Spoilers from the first three books will be present, ratings are at the bottom if you just want to know what I thought of it overall*

I have mixed feelings about this book. I fell in love with the Study series back in 2010 or 2011, and when I found out that there would be a new adventure for Yelena, Valek, Ari, and Janco, I fangirled for a good few weeks (and then I noticed the release date and cried, but that’s besides the point). I loved Poison Study, but the next two books disappointed me [Magic Study] [Fire Study]. Not that they weren’t interesting, but the characters kind of let me down. This book, unfortunately followed that pattern.

I loved that this book finally gave a peak into Valek’s past. This was probably the most captivating part of the novel. Valek’s past has always been hidden in the shadows, more so than him, and his story was probably what kept me constantly reading the book. Every time his part popped up, I’d sit up straighter and give the book my full attention, because oh my goodness, it was amazing. Gah, reading about him training and his life in general is the best thing ever. And how he met the Commander! AH. It was awesome. I’d actually recommend the book for old and new fans, JUST for Valek’s story. You have to admit, you’re curious too.

Then there was Yelena. I love her. Don’t get me wrong. But I hate that since she got her magic she’s become a very dependent character. It’s like all of her kickass training and stuff got tossed out the window the minute she found out that she has magical powers. I hate it. And I hated it especially in this book. As stated in the synopsis, her magic is blocked, and she becomes this weak girl. She’s mopey, and sad, and “vulnerable”. Yet, in the first book she was kickass and amazing. She doesn’t even try now. No more warm-ups and training for her. It’s annoying. that’s what it is. Reading about her worrying over her powers drive me insane. I know that she’s worried about some things, like fire world stuff, and getting like barraged with magic mojo, but when it comes to a physical fight, she just can’t and that bothers me beyond reason. She was probably the let down for me in this book, and that sucks.

Janco and Ari are awesome as always, and I really love the new badass touch the new characters add to the story. At least someone can hold their own in a fight. They’re story provides another hint of mystery and intrigue to the story, as well as general confusion and fascination. I love the final twist within their story. It really makes you question loyalties and who’s trustworthy and it’s perfect.

As per usual, her world building was wonderful. While I would’ve liked a little more of it, just to refresh my memory after all these years, it was a perfect amount if you were to read the series consecutively, without pause. I’ve missed the lands of Ixia and Sitia, and I know I’ll miss them just as much as I wait for the next book to come out…

All and all, not my favourite of the series, but not a bad start to the new segment of it. Valek’s story honestly makes the book, and if you don’t want to read it for any other reason, read it for Valek, and you won’t regret it.

Plot: 4.5/5
Characters: 4/5
World Building: 4.5/5
Writing: 5/5
Cover: 5/5
Overall: 4.5/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.23/5

eARC obtained via Mira via Harlequin via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

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Title: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before [#1]
Author: Jenny Han
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control in this heartfelt novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series.

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them — all at once?

Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved— five in all. 

When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

First off, thank you Simon and Schuster and GoodReads First Reads for the ARC !

Second, this is my first time reading anything by Jenny Han, even though I own all her books, even the ones that are half hers (the pile continues its growth). While I’ve heard good things, I’ve never been quite sure of her books (my sister enjoyed them, but also said that there’s something missing from her novels). Honestly, though, I wasn’t disappointed by her books – if anything surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did.

The concept of this novel was great. I really liked the whole idea of these love letters, getting sent out into the world, seen by the eyes of those who were never meant to see them. I also was pleased to see that it wasn’t just romance focused, but also family focused. There was a lot about sisterly relationships, parental relationships, and romantic relationships and I think that Han did a great job of integrating them with each other.

That being said, I didn’t love Lara Jean’s voice in the novel. Everyone else was, for the most part, believable, but Lara Jean’s thoughts streamed through like that of a hyperactive 13 year old. I understand that she was supposed to be the floofy, head in the clouds kind of character, but my goodness. By the time I found out that she was a junior in high school (i.e. was in grade 11), I had checked back multiple times, wondering if her age had been mentioned previously because she wasn’t as old as I thought she was supposed to be. Turns out she was. As a character who lost her mother at a young age, and was given the joint role of taking care of her little sister, she really didn’t grow up faster. She also had an unhealthy obsession with her older sister. Margot this, Margot that, I was quite tired of Margot by the end of this book and she was only there for maybe an eighth of the novel. Margot was also a condescending, control-freak type sister who I really didn’t enjoy reading about, though at least she acted her age…

Also, while I’m all for books that star characters that are Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc. (I mean, I’m a Chinese-Canadian obsessed with J-Pop, K-Pop, and J/K/M/C/T-dramas, I am down with diversity), Han pushed it a lot in this novel. I got it, her family is half-Korean, half-American. But I’m reminded of that fact every few chapters. I love the diversity, but I wish that it was less forced, less… just less.

Aside from the juvenile narrative, I did enjoy the scatterbrained-ness of Lara Jean. The narrative seemed like real thoughts, as she kept jumping back and forth: this happened and then, oh! remember that time when, -back to the present-. It was realistic, in that sense, as we really don’t pay that much attention to detail in real life, unless we make a conscious effort. That was definitely something I loved about the narrative. Also, with regards to Lara Jean’s character, I did like that she, for the most part, faced the whole letter issue head on.

Moving past the MC, I really liked all the other characters. Peter’s character development throughout the story was nice, sweet, and relatively subtle. Josh was very… up and down with his decisions and feelings, but all in all, I have to say that Kitty was my favourite character. For a 9-10 year old, she was basically the voice of reason within this novel. I liked her relationship with everyone, how she was a fluid character who went with the flow, but still had a great personality and voice in the novel. I also love Lucas, he made me happy, even though he was rarely seen in the books, he made for a great friend.

The plot began with Lara Jean’s life. Readers get to understand who Lara Jean is, what her family dynamics are like, who her friends are, and where all her relationships stand, in the first few chapters, before the letters get sent out. I really liked that, as it gave me the opportunity to be eased into her life and become comfortable with it before the drama began. Something that I really liked though was that she didn’t get with the person I thought she would be with at the beginning of the story. The plot evolved and the characters evolved as the book progressed and it was nice to be pleasantly surprised.

All in all, I enjoyed the book. Was I blown away? No. I agree that something is missing like a satisfying, we-all-lived-happily-ever-after end, but I can’t figure out what it is. Overall, Han’s writing is great, though her MC needs to mature a few years, I really liked the way the story was told and the thoughts conveyed. While I feel like this book doesn’t need a sequel, I’m interested to see what Han does in P.S. I Still Love You. Also, I’d just like to mention that I quite like this cover, especially with the detailing in the title, with the whole permanent marker look. It really caught my eye when I first saw it.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 3.5/5
World Building: 4.5/5
Writing: 5/5
Cover: 5/5
Overall: 4/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.18/5

ARC obtained via Simon and Schuster Canada via GoodReads First Reads.

 

Review: Sea of Shadows

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Title: Sea of Shadow [Age of Legends #1]
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy

Synopsis:

In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.

Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.

Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court—one that will alter the balance of their world forever.

This book was very much the beginning of something. I really enjoyed the idea of the story, the action, and characters, however, it was just that, the beginning.

The plot went fairly slow, beginning with an introduction to the twins and the overall idea of the exiled, then moving into a fair bit of action, and then just as the world was getting interesting, everything just seemed to stop. For most of the book, we lay in wait as the twins travel across the wasteland with their designated love interest – separately – and then have a moment of action here and there, and then again nothing. I’ve only read Armstrong’s Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising trilogies, and so reading this book, I felt like all the romance was rushed and very predictable. Much of the time was spent focusing on these relationships too, which irked me, as I’ve found her past YA novels to be much more puzzle based, figuring out what was going on, romantic distractions left for later on in the book. I’m hoping that the second book will have more of that feeling.

That bit aside, I loved the concept presented in this novel. The whole Keeper and Seeker idea, where these twins are so connected. It’s great seeing a novel semi-based around a sibling bond. In addition, I liked the whole idea of legends coming to life. The moments when those creatures made their appearance were truly captivating. I’m trying really hard not to spoil anything, so this is sounding extremely vague, but trust me, the concept and creatures really make the novel interesting.

While they were fairly contained, there were in fact a number of action packed parts to the novel. They were intense and gripping and left me wanting more. They really helped build the relationship between the love interests, and while I wish there was a little bit less of the whole hearts beating fast idea, the attacks and surprises kept me guessing throughout the novel, wondering what exactly waited for both of them around each bend.

I also liked that we got to see two very different personalities come to life. We have Ashyn, ever cautious and unsure, and Moria, hot-tempered and kickass. It always amazes me how Armstrong can create such unique characters, allowing them to have their own voice, but also letting them come out of their normal mindset in times of distress or worry. I like knowing that the strong character isn’t always totally collected, and that the quieter character has the potential to be something greater, someone stronger. Gotta say though, I enjoyed reading Moria’s parts more than Ashyn’s.

All in all, this novel was interesting, due to the concept, the characters, and the moments of action. However, the romance, or the slow construction of it, kind of turned me off of the story, though, come the next book, I’ll probably be wishing for more of it. On another note, it was nice that Armstrong stepped away from the whole Darkest Powers/Darkness Rising concept. While I loved them, it’s great knowing that she still has more than just one world to write about. I’m definitely excited to see what Armstrong has in store for us in the next novel, as much of it was set up in this book, I’m waiting for the big bang. I’m just hoping that she can deliver.

Plot: 3.5/5
Characters: 4.5/5
Writing: 5/5
World Building: 4.5/5
Cover: 5/5
Overall: 4/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.61/5

eARC obtained via DoubleDay Canada via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review: Lumière

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Title: Lumière [The Illumination Paradox #1]
Author: Jacqueline E. Garlick
Publication: December 12, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Steampunk

Synopsis:

One determined girl. One resourceful boy. One miracle machine that could destroy everything.

After an unexplained flash shatters her world, seventeen-year-old Eyelet Elsworth sets out to find the Illuminator, her father’s prized invention. With it, she hopes to cure herself of her debilitating seizures before Professor Smrt—her father’s arch nemesis—discovers her secret and locks her away in an asylum.

Pursued by Smrt, Eyelet locates the Illuminator only to see it whisked away. She follows the thief into the world of the unknown, compelled not only by her quest but by the allure of the stranger—Urlick Babbit—who harbors secrets of his own.

Together, they endure deadly Vapours and criminal-infested woods in pursuit of the same prize, only to discover the miracle machine they hoped would solve their problems may in fact be their biggest problem of all.

I’ve never really put my foot through the steampunk door, aside from the fantastical world that Cassandra Clare weaved. While I know it has become a large trend in YA these days, I had yet to find a book specifically in that genre that captured my attention. That is, until I saw this one. When offered the opportunity to review this book, I immediately jumped on it based on the gorgeous cover, the fascinating synopsis, and the rave reviews on GoodReads. And I have to concur with those reviews. I absolutely loved this book and am so glad I’d decided to say “yes”.

I loved the characters in this book. They were extremely dynamic and realistic. Sure, the heroine was strong, but she also had moments where she shed a few tears, where she needed a shoulder to cry on. Often times, these days, especially in YA, authors forget that just because a hero’s strong doesn’t mean they always have to be. Sometimes, strength is knowing when you can’t do something by yourself. I love the Eyelet and Urlick tag team, and how they work together constantly and mesh so well (while also driving each other up the wall). I also loved the voice of each character. Everyone had their own personality and way of speaking that made it easy to distinguish who was saying what, even if Garlick didn’t explicitly tag them. The fact that these characters weren’t perfect made them even better. With a marred appearance and a neural defect Eyelet and Urlick’s imperfections make them perfect, and the fact that they accept each other regardless of those, is truly formidable. In addition, I really enjoyed meeting the other characters in the book. They were a loyal, fun, and a tad bit odd, but I couldn’t help loving them too.

True, there were times that the characters flipped their mood switch a little too quickly, and other times where the scenes moved just a tad too fast, but at the same time, you could feel the frustrations of the characters, as well as the confusion, the panic, as well as the growing friendship between them. In the end, these traits may make the book even better.

There was only one point in the book where I wasn’t totally happy with the turn it took with regards to one of the characters (but it was small and almost inconsequential… ish). Alas. However, that bit didn’t really effect my experience as a reader, so all is well, haha ~

Next, the world that was created in this book was stunning. I was especially fascinated with all the gizmos and gadgets that were presented: guard ravens, swirling suns, a transformable spinning knife disk. And of course Bertie. The description and utilization of all these gadgets really brought action to the book. I loved that the author wasn’t afraid to take some time away from the the “main” plot and slow the book down to present parts of the world that made it unique. There are a number of books about worlds that are very different from ours, but half the time, there’s very little description of these worlds – I would always be left wondering what the odd food looks like, the colourful outfits, the oddly shaped buildings within the city. In Lumière, I get to see the world, imagine it, and place the characters in them. The description is so vivid in this story that I could picture it, and still can picture it, even weeks after finishing the book. That’s not to say that little is left to the imagination, there’s never a full description of this building or that, simply impressions that stick with you, long after you’ve past that point in the book.

As if I haven’t praised it enough, I loved the over all plot. Everything was thought out so well, and the executed equally as well, that it kept the book rolling and twirling in directions that I wouldn’t have predicted. The tiny details that mean nothing to you at t

Everything about Lumière‘s world felt tangible and within reach. It was the perfect mix of steampunk fantasy and dystopian, and I absolutely loved it. I cannot wait to read the next book!

Plot: 4.5/5
Characters: 5/5
World Building: 5/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Cover: 5/5
Overall: 4.5/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.53/5

eBook obtained via Jacqueline E. Garlick in exchange for an honest review.

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    I loved The Odyssey, so reading a modern retelling of it in The Sea of Monsters was a lot of fun for me. Probably my favourite random change was the guinea pig part, instead of pigs, on Circe's Island 😆🐹🐷
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#literaryjune17 : Day 24
Retelling
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#bookstagram #books #tbr #colours #orange #rickriordan #seaofmonsters #theodyssey #odyssey #homer #middlegrade #retelling #openbook #paper #bookstagrammer #booksofinstagram #booknerd #junebookchallenge #junephotochallenge #bookishlove #goodreads Another book on my #tbr. Yet again, I was drawn to the beautiful cover. Why are books so pretty 😰!?
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#summerbookishcovers17 : Day 24
Mask
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Also, last day to enter my giveaway! Check out the original post for details!
Open internationally.
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#bookstagram #books #tbr #colours #red #purple #openbook #paper #candle #bookstagrammer #booksofinstagram #booknerd #junebookchallenge #junephotochallenge #bookishlove #goodreads #bookishstack #bookstack #pileofbooks #incarnate #jodimeadows As a kid, 13 Little Blue Envelopes was one of my favourite books. I loved that I could travel across Europe just by reading it. I reread it recently and it kind of killed the magic for me. I noticed editing errors, odd aspects that I just didn't get, and I sat here kicking myself for giving it a reread.
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#summerbookishcovers17 : Day 23
Blue
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QOTD : What's a book that you loved until you read it again?
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Bookmark from @inapaperforest!
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