Friday, March 29, 2013

Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst Review

Title: Vessel
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: The first novel I've read from Sarah Beth Durst, Vessel captured my heart and swept me away: an interesting, new premise, a plucky, strong heroine, and a journey across sandy deserts into the unknown, it reminded me of a new, modern fairy tale, and a new favorite for me.

Liyana is special, honored, amongst those in her desert tribe: She has been chosen to be a vessel for the goddess Bayla. As such, Liyana has to dance to summon her goddess, and when she does so, she dies. She must die so her clan can live. But when she dances for her goddess, she doesn't come. Her tribe abandons her in the middle of the desert. She thinks she will die until Korbyn emerges from the sand, telling her that the souls of seven deities have been stolen, and he needs her help to restore them.

What I enjoyed:
-There was almost nothing I didn't love about this novel
-The intriguing new plot--I am addicted to Sarah Beth Durst after one book!
-The mythology, e.g, Korbyn's myth stories
-The desert culture
-Liyana's tribe
-The clan mentality

What I didn't like:
-Bayla. I hated her. Though she was a goddess, I just didn't like her and she made me angry

I loved, loved, loved Vessel, and would recommend it to anyone in search of an original, brand new fantasy adventure. Next on deck: The Brides of Rockroll Island, by Margo Lanagan!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

White Cat by Holly Black Review

Title: White Cat
Author: Holly Black
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Curse Workers, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: Beautiful, gritty, and thrilling, White Cat utterly swept me away--I couldn't put it down. Holly Black, where have you been all my literary life?!

Cassel Sharpe lives in a world that is much like ours--but not quite. The world, in a way, is divided: between humans and workers. 'Workers' is a slang word for curse workers: people who can manipulate things like emotions, luck, and memories. Cassel is the one 'normal' kid in a family of workers: a family of criminals using their powers to receive money and prestige. Cass is noticing strange things: His brothers are keeping secrets, and he's losing chunks of time without knowing why. He starts investigating, and it leads him down a road of danger, self-discovery, and secrets.

What I enjoyed:
-There was honestly nothing I didn't like about this novel--it was amazing and I can't wait for the sequel!
-The mystery of it all
-Cass, and the way all he wants to do is fit in, like any normal teenager
-Cass's crazy family
-The mythology of it all, and how believable it all seemed
-The ending! Gah!

I'd recommend this for anyone who loves a good mystery with a dash of mystery and intrigue mixed in. It was beautiful, pure literary magic. Next on deck: Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep Review

Title: Touch of Frost
Author: Jennifer Estep
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Mythos Academy, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: A brand new series of magic and danger, Touch of Frost was enchanting, though at times the heroine had me rolling my eyes.

Gwen Frost is a Gypsy, with the power of psychometry--she can sense emotions when she touches an object or a person--stuck at the posh Mythos Academy, where rich kids, all descendants of warriors and magic, ignore her and when they are noticing her, belittle her. But things change one night when she is working at the library: A classmate dies, brutally and bloodily, and Gwen is determined to figure out what happened, especially since she was the one who was supposed to die.

What I loved:
-Gwen, though at times her snarkiness had me rolling my eyes, and her evolution throughout the book
-The whole premise of it all, though it reminded me closely at times of Percy Jackson and the Olympians
-The mythology
-The mystery it presented--I cannot wait for the next one!
-Grandma Frost

What I didn't enjoy:
-Sometimes the mythology confused me a little--it was really odd at times
-As I said, Gwen's constant sarcasm
-I'd like to have more of the mythology explained in the next novel if it is possible

I loved Touch of Frost, though it had a few minor flaws, and I can't wait for the sequel. Next on deck: White Cat by Holly Black!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Incarnation by Emma Cornwall Review

Title: Incarnation
Author: Emma Cornwall
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Steampunk/Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: Gorgeous, terrifying, and disturbing, Incarnation is one of my favorite vampire novels ever.

Lucy Weston, if one is to believe Dracula, is his most sexually orientated creations, preying on boys in the night. Incarnation, however, tells the real story of Lucy, and she sets out to Bram Stoker's house, determined to figure out why the author lied about her. In doing so, Lucy is led into a web of ancient intrigue, where vampires fight for supremacy and she begins to unravel the mystery of who sired her and why.

What I enjoyed:
-Lady Blanche
-the travels Lucy had to make throughout the novel
-The way Lucy was torn between her lingering humanity and her carnivorous nature
-The way the Arthurian legends were tied into the novel, and the foundations of vampires themselves
-The steampunk London setting
-De Vere
-Poor Jack

What I didn't really like:
-This is just my personal preference, but even for a vampire novel, it seemed crazy gory, and it disturbed me slightly, but other than that, the novel was absolutely beautiful

For anyone who likes steampunk, vampires, or just wants to read a slight alternative to Dracula, I would recommend Incarnation. Next up: Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep!

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe Review

Title: The Sweetest Dark
Author: Shana Abe
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Series: The Sweetest Dark, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: Absolutely beautiful, riveting, and romantic, The Sweetest Dark is easily one of my favorite books ever for 2013.

I won The Sweetest Dark in a giveaway here on Goodreads. I loved, loved, loved it and couldn't put it down! A sweet, chaste fantasy romance novel, it swept me up and there was nothing I didn't like about this novel. Lora Jones looks like a normal girl on the outside. But on the inside, she hears songs that play only for her, and lives with a mysterious beast inside her telling her cryptic riddles. She is sent from her orphanage to Iverson castle, a school for rich girls. Once there, she meets two very different boys: golden Jesse, and dark, mysterious Armand, and she discovers that she is so much more than she seemed.

What I enjoyed:
-There was nothing I didn't love about this romance novel, actually, and I'll avoid saying more to prevent spoilers. But I loved it and I cannot wait to read the sequel! More, please! Thank you, Shana Abe, and thank you, Goodreads! Next on deck: Incarnation by Emma Cornwall!

Friday, March 15, 2013

The First of Her Kind: A Darkness and Light Novel by K.L. Schwengel Review

Title: The First of Her Kind: A Darkness and Light Novel
Author: K.L. Schwengel
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Medieval Fantasy
Series: Darkness and Light, book one
Star Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: The First of Her Kind is an authentic, romantic medieval novel that I absolutely loved, though there were some flaws.

I won First of Her Kind: A Darkness and Light Novel here on Goodreads. Thank you, K.L., for the nice note on the cover! Totally awesome! I was a little apprehensive when I started reading it--I thought it was going to be a sappy romance novel with no substance--and boy, am I glad that I was proven wrong! Ciara is a girl with a serious problem: She is gifted heavily with the Goddess's earth magic, which is used for healing, and the wilding, a destructive force that could tear her to shreds. When her aunt, Meriol, dies, Ciara sets out with Bolin, a mysterious warrior with secrets of his own, to a convent of sorts where Ciara can learn to control her magic. Once she sets out, Ciara and Bolin are thrust into a deadly battle of wills, in which they are both pawns to those with evil intent.

What I enjoyed:
-Ciara and her strong will and defiance
-Bolin, and his evolution throughout the novel
-The Crone
-The romance and how it wasn't too over the top
-The way it read like an authentic medieval fantasy novel to me
-The pacing
-The cliffhanger--can't wait for the sequel!

What I didn't enjoy:
-The way Bolin was tortured--it was too overtly sexual for me, personally, but then again, it was probably true to the time period

Thank you, K.L., and thank you, Goodreads! Next on deck: The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Also Known As by Robin Benway Review

Title: Also Known As
Author: Robin Benway
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: Hilarious, sweet, and adorable, I couldn't stop laughing at Also Known As--it was a great coming of age story with a spy mystery mixed in!

I won Also Known As by Robin Benway in a giveaway from Goodreads. Also Known As is a contemporary spy story: Maggie Silver and her family move to New York for a new assignment. Once there, Maggie is told that she can have her first solo assignment: Get close to Jesse Oliver and figure out what his father is up to so The Collective and its work won't be put into jeopardy. Predictably, Maggie finds that she is slowly falling for Jesse, and the assignment suddenly isn't so important anymore.. She just wants to be a normal kid. Though it was slightly predictable, Also Known As had me laughing out loud more than once, and I really, really enjoyed it. It was a cute read.

What I enjoyed:
-Maggie, and her spunky, sarcastic yet sweet attitude
-Jesse, and though how he seemed like a stock character at first, how real he was to me
-Maggie's parents
-Angelo--he was one of my favorite parts of the novel!
-The caper that the book presented
-The pacing--the book flew and I read it in two days

I really enjoyed Also Known As, it was so cute! Thank you, Robin Benway, and thank you, Goodreads! Next on deck: First of Her Kind: A Darkness and Light Novel by K.L. Schwengel!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle Review

Title: Queen's Gambit
Author: Elizabeth Fremantle
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: Beautiful, realistic, and chilling, I loved Queen's Gambit!

I received Queen's Gambit as an advanced reader's copy here on Goodreads. A tale of the Tudor court from the eyes of Henry's last queen, Katherine Parr, it was a real treat! Tudor stories are a dime a dozen these days, but this is the first I've ever seen that involved the one queen who survived the wrath of Henry the Eighth. The book chronicles Katherine from her second marriage to her death. The writing to me was realistic of the time period, and the author really did her research--everything I've seen in the book lines up. There was nothing I didn't enjoy in this novel--it was, simply, one of the best novels I've read set in that time period.

What I enjoyed:
-the present tense in which it was written--I couldn't wait to see what happened next and I was hanging on the edge of my seat at points
-the accuracy for the time period
-the way women's roles were depicted--it was realistic and yet the author was taking a stand in her own way, as well
-The way the other queens were mentioned, which made it that much more real to me
-the beautiful writing style
-the depiction of Henry--it was spot on from what I've read!

I really enjoyed Queen's Gambit. Thank you, Elizabeth Fremantle, and thank you, Goodreads! Next on deck: Also Known As by Robin Benway!

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper Review

Title: The Demonologist
Author: Andrew Pyper
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Literary Horror
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: This is one of the best horror novels I've ever read--I couldn't tear myself away!

I won The Demonologist here on Goodreads. Spooky, thrilling, and at times utterly twisted, I really enjoyed it! (Psst! If you're easily scared, DON'T read this late at night!) The Demonologist chronicles the journey of David Ullman, a professor specializing in the murky lore of demons, particularly John Milton's Paradise Lost. In the midst of a failing marriage and crippling depression, he is approached by a strange woman with an intriguing offer: come to Venice to solve a 'case', and get paid a ridiculous amount of money. Once there, his twelve year old daughter, Tess, is taken by a mysterious demon called The Unnamed, and he is led onward to a perilous puzzle leading him all over America.

What I enjoyed:
-David and his wry way of speaking, sarcastic and intelligent
-Tess, his daughter who is so much like himself
-The scary parts, and the way everything wove together so beautifully
-The Unnamed
-The mystery that reminded me immediately of The Da Vinci Code
-The way Paradise Lost was tied into everything
-The tragic surprise at the end

What I didn't enjoy:
-Will Junger

If you guys love scary mystery novels, pick up The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper! Next up: Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Deception Dance by Rita Stradling Review

Title: The Deception Dance
Author: Rita Stradling
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Deception Dance, book one
Star Rating: 3 out 5 stars
The bottom line: This book was just okay to me. The editing was terrible and it took nearly half the book for something to happen.

I won this novel in a giveaway here on Goodreads. Raven Smith is going to Italy for a few months with her sister, Linnie, and her sister's best friend, Chauncey. Once there, Raven is pursued aggressively by two young men: the dark, compelling Andras and the equally mysterious Nicholas. She discovers that everyone is lying to her, and that there are some secrets that need to be unearthed alone.

What I enjoyed:
-The mythology of it all, and the discovery at the ending
-Raven and her mysterious past
-The action

What I didn't enjoy:
-the editing was way, way off
-Raven seemed stuck between the two men
-It took nearly half the book to really get things rolling
-the writing itself was a little bit childish, almost

Overall, despite its flaws, I really enjoyed The Deception Dance. (I hope the next novel gets better!) Next on deck: The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross Review

Title: Kill Me Softly
Author: Sarah Cross
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: A grisly, and yet beautiful, homage to fairy tales and the way they shape our culture, Kill Me Softly was amazing!

Mirabelle is hiding a secret: She's running to her birthplace of Beau Rivage the week before her sixteenth birthday in an attempt to find her parents' graves. Once there, she finds herself trapped in a place where fairy tales seem to live on, and soon she finds she is in terrible danger.

What I enjoyed:
-The biggest thing I loved was the way fairy tales seemed so lifelike, and frightening
-The unique spin put on the fairy tales and the characters themselves
-The way the nods to the fairy tales at times seemed subtle, and then the opposite in most cases
-I loved how the fairy tales were the Grimm retellings, and not necessarily the fluffy Disney versions--it made the story more real to me

What I didn't enjoy:
-They might not make this a series and I want more! I love, love, love the world Cross has created and I want to go into it again, albeit with a different character

If you guys love fairy tales, and fairy tale retellings, pick up Kill Me Softly! Next on deck: The Deception Dance by Rita Stradling!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Title: The False Prince
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Age Group: Middle Grade
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Series: The Ascendance Trilogy, book one
Star Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: This book was just okay for me. It wasn't spectacular, but it wasn't terrible either. It was kind of one note.

The False Prince begins with an orphan boy named Sage, caught stealing from a butcher. Once brought back to the orphanage, the boy meets the ruthless, conniving Conner Bevin, a nobleman with a daring plan to save Carthya from civil war: He will choose one boy out of four to try and imitate the dead prince, Sage being one of them. On this journey, Sage discovers more about himself than he realizes.

What I enjoyed:
-Sage, though sarcastic and bitter and angry, becomes a respectful, wise boy beyond his years

What I didn't enjoy:
-The regents
-The cruel twist at the end
-The cliffhanger!

If anyone wants a great mystery with good pacing, grab The False Prince! Next on deck: Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Illuminate by Aimee Agresti Review

Title: Illuminate
Author: Aimee Agresti
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Gilded Wings, book one
Star Rating: 4 out 5 stars
The bottom line: A thrilling tale of good, evil, and being yourself, I loved, loved, loved Illuminate--I couldn't tear myself away from it!

Haven Terra is selected for a prestigious internship at Chicago's luxe Lexington hotel. Once there, she is swept into a world she has never known: she is pursued by a hot guy, Lucian Grove, gets showered in expensive clothes and jewelry, and is charged with learning from one of the city's most powerful women: Aurelia Brown. But soon strange things start happening to her, and she begins to notice there's something.. off about the place.

What I enjoyed:
-Haven, and her unwavering commitment to being herself, despite being tempted
-Dante--he was one of my favorite characters in the book
-Aurelia and her cohorts
-The choice Haven has to make
-The setting of the novel
-The pacing
-Haven's mom, Joan

There was honestly nothing I didn't enjoy about this book! I didn't want to give much away. But if you guys love books with a slightly paranormal twist, go grab Illuminate! Totally worth it, and I cannot wait until Infatuate. Next on deck: The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen!