Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sublime by Christina Lauren Review

Title: Sublime
Author: Christina Lauren
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

This book was given to me by the publisher, Simon and Schuster, in exchange for an honest review.

Lucy walks out of a forest, and is mysteriously drawn to Collin. As they grow closer, they fall in love. Collin is desperate for a way to be with her, even as Lucy begins to remember the complicated circumstances of her past--and her death.

The bottom line: The blurb of this novel sounded interesting--and romantic--but I couldn't relate to Lucy or Collin--it just seemed like their relationship, without any real depth, took the spotlight, and I couldn't finish it. The sudden relationship between them--even in the beginning--didn't seem plausible. I didn't finish it. Next on deck: True Fire by Gary Meehan!

Secret of Omordion by Nande Orcel Review

Title: Secret of Omordion
Author: Nande Orcel
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Omordion Trilogy, book one
Star Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review--thanks, Nande!

I'm not going to lie: I really had some issues with this book. The first time I picked it up, I only made it about twenty pages in before trying it again a few months later. And the book itself wasn't bad, once I got through the first half, but there were a lot of issues. The world-building seemed very confusing, it was hard for me to picture the setting of Omordion. But, there were good things about this novel as well: I enjoyed the five main characters and their loyalty to one another.

The story itself wasn't bad; when I read the description, I knew I wanted it. An epic quest for five children to save the world? Sign me up! But there were times when I was scratching my head: a lot of things just didn't seem to make a lot of sense in the storyline. But it wasn't terrible, either. There's some serious potential here, if only some things were fixed.

The bottom line: A good story, but with some world-building issues that made it very difficult to follow. But a great effort nonetheless! Next on deck: Sublime by Christina Lauren!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg Review (Possible Spoiler Alert!)

Title: The Paper Magician
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Paper Magician, book one
Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This book was given to me by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I'll start off this review by saying that it was a Read-Now featured title on Netgalley, and, after skimming a Goodreads review that Khanh posted last week, I decided to go for it. And I'm so very glad I did! The Paper Magician opens with the main character, Ceony Twill, meeting her master, Magician Thane. And the story goes on with a very reluctant Ceony learning the craft of Folding, that is, until her master's heart--literally--is stolen. Forced to go inside her master's heart, she must learn what exactly makes the mysterious Emery Thane tick, because if she doesn't, they might not get out alive..

First off, I want to say that I loved the premise of this novel--it was absolutely magical. The only problem was, the world-building itself was very vague. How, exactly, was the world structured by magicians? How were Excisioners formed? At times it was all I could think about: I need more world-building here!

But I digress. I loved the characters, Thane and Ceony in particular. Thane was so nuanced and complex, and I loved that, but I couldn't exactly follow what was going on during the later part of the novel. How did Ceony get into Thane's heart? How was that even possible, even in a world rife with both kinds of magic, good and bad? Ceony was the shining light of this lovely novel for me--I loved the way that she grew throughout the novel, from an inexperienced young woman to a magician in her own right. But as the novel went on, it was miraculous to see Ceony learn, and grow, in turn from Thane's own mistakes.

The ending was wonderful too, satisfying and sweet but not overly sappy.

The bottom line: Good start to a fun series, but the world-building needs serious work.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Unseen by Katherine Webb Review

Title: The Unseen
Author: Katherine Webb
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review--thanks, Katherine!

'The first time Leah met the man who would change her life, he was lying face down on a steel table, quite oblivious to her..'

This sweeping historical novel opens with that tantalizing first line, and in moments, the reader is sucked in. Moving back and forth between the present year, 2011, and 1911, Leah, struggling after a messy breakup, throws herself into the mystery the dead man presents. And in doing so, begins to cover a mystery forgotten by all but time itself. In 1911, Hester Canning, and her reverend husband, Albert, hire a young servant with a more than checkered past. As if Cat Morley weren't enough to deal with, when her husband takes in a young man with a dangerous obsession, it leads to darker impulses that stain even the purest of hearts..

There were more than several things I loved about this novel: the gorgeous prose, seemingly straight out of an Austen novel and highly recommended for fans of The Thirteenth Tale and Ian McEwan's novels. I also enjoyed the way the novel went smoothly back and forth between past and present, though at times the slow pacing was frustrating--at times it was difficult to hold onto. But the shining triumph of this novel was that it asked the question: What drives a man to his darker impulses, and why? This question is addressed more than once in the book, often in subtle ways that the characters themselves didn't quite understand, even towards the end.

One of the best things about The Unseen are the characters: none of them are necessarily good, but none are quite bad, either, and part of the suspense for me--what kept me hanging on so tightly--was that I couldn't really predict what was going to happen next. Every character, Leah, Mark, Hester, Albert, Robin, Cat, and even Sophie and George had hidden layers that made them nuanced. Despite my disgust, I really sympathized with most of them, save Ryan.

I enjoyed the ending, too--I felt like it fit with the author's writing style, nothing ever explicit, but rather implied.

Unfortunately, at times, the novel got muddled just by the fact that the chapters were so long, but overall, I highly enjoyed it!

The bottom line: 3.5 out of 5 stars, with great Gothic tone and nuanced yet sympathetic characters. A great book nonetheless, and I'll be waiting for more from Katherine Webb! Next on deck: Soulless by Amber Garr!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Bleed Like Me by C. Desir Review

Title: Bleed Like Me
Author: C. Desir
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: A frightening, dark, and twisted character study about two broken teens trying to find solace in each other, I highly enjoyed Bleed Like Me--highly recommended for fans of fiction with raw relationships.

This book was given to me by the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

The thing that endeared this book was to me was that it depicted an unhealthy relationship. I've discovered that we as humans seem to enjoy watching things fall apart, and this book was an example of that.

Amelia Gannon--just Gannon to the few friends she does have--is for the most part invisible, the lesser priority in her family ever since her parents adopted three young boys from Guatemala. The only way she feels she can handle her family's constant dysfunction is to cut. When she meets Michael Brooks--just Brooks, to her--she knows that there's something off about him, and yet, she can't help but be drawn to his dark, twisted psyche. The two fall in love, and Gannon discovers that this kind of love may not be the one she's looking for..

What I enjoyed:
-I really liked the premise of this novel, dangerous relationships and love gone wrong, because, as I said before, it's fascinating to watch a relationship evolve, and then, fall to pieces
-The pacing of this novel was breakneck--I was thrust into Gannon's skin with force
-Gannon, the troubled young woman so desperate for some kind of love that she finds it in exactly the wrong place--I really felt for her as the novel went on, so twisted up in Brooks's personality that she only found herself at the end of the novel
-Brooks, the boy with so many unresolved issues--I really felt for him too, even though at times he made my stomach twist--he was a really very nuanced character, and I wish the book had been a little longer, so as to learn more about him
 -Ricardo, the boy who seems to be carrying quite the torch for Gannon, and tries to save her from her destructive relationship
-The ending--it was sad and terrible, but it was fitting to the story, and for Gannon's closure

What could've been better:
-I really didn't like Gannon's parents at all, they seemed too focused on their sons and their own dysfunction to deal with their daughter
-The three brothers

Overall, I really enjoyed Bleed Like Me--it was almost like looking into a funhouse mirror. Next on deck: The Unseen by Katherine Webb!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson Review

Title: The Captive Maiden
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Christian Romance
Series: Romance Fairy Tales, book four
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: A romantic retelling of Cinderella with Christian elements and a strong heroine, I really enjoyed The Captive Maiden--in fact, it was my favorite of all the series! Highly enjoyable!

This book was given to me by the publisher, Zondervan, in exchange for an honest review.

Gisela's life has been good, until her father died. Forced to wait on her mean, ugly stepsisters and stepmother, she tries to find solace where she can. When she meets Valten, the duke's son, and learns that he is throwing a ball for all the eligible ladies in the kingdom, she is determined to go. The two fall passionately in love, but they realize that there are forces conspiring against them that even Gisela may not be able to fight against..

What I enjoyed:
-I liked the premise of this whole series: clean, romantic retellings of fairy tales with real meaning
-The pacing of this novel was breakneck, I couldn't put it down
-Gisela, the young woman forced by unpleasant circumstances to serve her evil family members--she is the one that really endeared this book to me, because she wasn't just a damsel in distress--she fought for her own freedom, and I really liked that
-Valten, the macho man that Gisela falls for, searching for something greater than a life fighting as a warrior--I really enjoyed and felt for him, and I was rooting for him--I liked his character development
-Valten's family
-I liked the way the Christian elements were incorporated--skillfully, just enough so that they struck meaning with the reader, but didn't overwhelm the entire story
-Friar Daniel
-The cameos of characters from the previous books
-The ending

What could've been better:
-I hated Evfemia

Overall, I highly enjoyed The Captive Maiden--a wonderful story! Next on deck: Bleed Like Me by C. Desir!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson Review

Title: The Fairest Beauty
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Christian Romance
Series: Romance Fairy Tales, book three
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: The third book in a series of clean romance retellings, The Fairest Beauty was the best so far--I really, really enjoyed this installment!

This book was given to me by the publisher, Zondervan, in exchange for an honest review.

Sophie is no stranger to suffering. But she doesn't let that get her down; she is determined to escape the clutches of her evil stepmother. When a young man named Gabehart comes to rescue her--for his older brother to marry, no less--she leaps at the chance to get away. Thus begins a thrilling adventure. But along the way, the two begin to fall for one another.. And if they don't guard their hearts carefully, everyone they love could be at stake..

What I enjoyed:
-I loved the pacing of this novel--I really couldn't put it down once I started it
-I particularly liked the way the author twisted the fairy tale--it retained some of its darkness, which in my opinion is needed for a retelling, but especially Snow White
-The Duchess--wicked and creepy, just the right amount to make my hair stand up on end, but not too much so
-Sophie, the young woman determined to behave well, but I liked the way that even though she was a Christian, she was still a strong protagonist unto herself--I liked the way that she kept her identity despite her romance
-Gabehart, the foolhardy young man determined to prove his own responsibility to his family, and by rescuing Sophie, turns into a changed man
-The sweet, romantic nature of the relationship in the novel--it, surprisingly, wasn't too sappy
-The Seven--they were easily one of my favorite parts in the novel
-I also enjoyed the way the narrative wasn't altogether clouded by the Christian aspect of it all
-The ending

What could've been better:
-At times the way Sophie was described as beautiful had me constantly rolling my eyes--I know this was supposed to be a Snow White retelling, but sometimes it got to be a little too much

Overall, I really, really enjoyed The Fairest Beauty, and I'm looking forward to the last book! Next on deck: The Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson!

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Merchant's Daughter by Melanie Dickerson Review

Title: The Merchant's Daughter
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Christian Romance
Series: Romance Fairy Tales, book two
Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: The second in a series of clean fairy tale romances, I liked The Merchant's Daughter better than the first book--a lot better, actually. The Christian part of the story didn't take away from anything else.

This book was given to me by the publisher, Zondervan, in exchange for an honest review.

Annabel Chapman wants only one thing--to get through life in her village with her head down. But with lecherous men, a lazy mother and siblings, she is forced to become an indentured servant to Lord Ranulf de Wyse to pay off a debt. But he is grim and moody, and frightening. But as life begins to ease at the manor house, she must choose between her feelings for her lord, and what plans God may have in store for her..

What I enjoyed:
-The pacing--I really couldn't put this book down once I started it
-I liked Annabel a lot--in this, the author really did justice to the original tale, she reminded me a lot of the protagonist in the fairy tale, kind and gentle as can be, but also with visible flaws--I enjoyed that she wasn't too perfect
-de Wyse, the lord whose beastly sensibilities frighten everyone he happens to come near--I really enjoyed the way his issues and flaws shone through, but were improved upon in the end--it made the romance much more relatable
-The way the author addressed serious issues like sexism, in a very subtle way
-Mistress Eustacia
-The ending--it was very sweet and very satisfying all at once

What could've been better:
-I didn't really like any of the villagers Annabel had to deal with
-It was hard for me to picture the setting of the novel--not much of it was described
-Baliff Tom--he was one of the worst characters in the whole novel for me
-Annabel's family, especially her brothers

Overall, I liked The Merchant's Daughter--a fine retelling of my favorite fairy tale. Next on deck: The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson Review

Title: The Healer's Apprentice
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Christian Romance
Series: Romance Fairy Tales, book one
Star Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: I liked this sweet, clean romance, but there were some things about it that kind of threw me off.

This book was given to me by the publisher, Zondervan, in exchange for an honest review.

I first want to start off by saying that I had no idea that this series of retellings were Christian books. That kind of threw me off of the story, as sometimes with Christian fiction the religious aspect overtakes the actual plot of the story. But I digress--I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. It was nice, and sweet, but for me, lacked several things.

Rose has been appointed the healer's apprentice for the royal family, a great opportunity for a mere woodcutter's daughter like her. She's grateful for the work, as it helps her avoid the frightening possibility of marriage to a local brute. When Lord Hamlin, the duke to be, is wounded, Rose tends to him. While she does so, she falls for him, and he for her. But she realizes that God may have other plans for her..

What I enjoyed:
-I liked the way that the prose was in keeping with the time period
-I also enjoyed the way the romance was clean, and tender--it fit with the characters
-Rose, the young woman who tries her best to stay true to God, and her heart--I liked the way she really made an effort to help other people
-Lord Rupert
-Lord Hamlin, the man who falls head over heels for Rose, despite his royal responsibilities and his own sense of duty
-The secret at the end of the novel
-Hildy and Gunther
-Frau Geruscha
-The ending

What could've been better:
-Rose, at times, seemed a bit too perfect, too good to be true, and I found it a little hard to relate to her
-It really bothered me, the way that paganism and demons were portrayed in the novel--it almost seemed as though pagans in and of themselves were bad, and it makes me wonder if it's going to be a continuing trend
-I didn't like Rose's family or Lord Hamlin's--they seemed unnecessarily cruel and rude to all the characters in the novel, and it bothered me

Overall, The Healer's Apprentice was a good read, but in the end, it wasn't spectacular, nor terrible--just somewhere in between. Next on deck: The Merchant's Daughter by Melanie Dickerson!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Dehumanize Us by Emmanuelle Grey Review

Title: Dehumanize Us
Author: Emmanuelle Grey
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Series: Fabricated World, book one
Star Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: I had high hopes for this dystopian thriller, but though the world-building was great, the main character fell flat, so I couldn't finish it.

This book was given to me by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

It's no secret that I love the dystopian genre in every way, and in the past few years, I've gobbled them up, so when I saw this on Netgalley and was approved, I was absolutely ecstatic. Only thing was.. The only thing that I really enjoyed about this book was the unique, well-thought out world-building. The characters throughout the book seemed almost like stock characters, flat and one-dimensional, and it really turned me off the book.

 Circe and Leopold, twins, have only each other to rely on. In their world, a mysterious force called The Others have ravaged the earth, and its people. Now, survival is one day at a time for them. Circe is not the strong one, but when Leopold is kidnapped by the Others, she will stop at nothing to save him, even if it means compromising her already meager morals, even if it means using the cyborg she saved for her own ends..

DNF at 72 pages.

What I enjoyed:
-The world-building was unique and well-thought out, I liked that aspect of the novel

What could've been better:
-The characters seemed flat, almost like stock characters--I couldn't really relate to Circe, and it turned me off of the rest of the book
-The pacing seemed to stutter throughout the book, and I couldn't really follow what was going on

I had high hopes for this book, but ended up disappointed. Next on deck: The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Triple Knot by Emma Campion Review

Title: A Triple Knot
Author: Emma Campion
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: A historical novel both strangely epic in scope, but minute in gorgeous detail, I loved A Triple Knot--it was just what I needed in a midst of a bad book slump!

What I as a reader love about historical fiction novels may turn other readers off: I love the way this genre gives a window into the past, often by embellishing and imagining obscure historical figures, and sometimes, in so doing, gets so caught up in the political aspects of the novel that the characters get left behind. I'd never heard of Joan of Kent before this novel, so I was very intrigued. This novel really shone for me, overall: I loved the way the political intrigue of this novel took a backseat to the most important thing: the characters.

I won this book in a First Reads giveaway--the publisher sent it to me in exchange for an honest review.

Joan of Kent, the niece of Edward III, renowned beauty, has everything: that is, until her father is executed for treason. She realizes that with the position that comes with royal blood, there is a price: She is a pawn in the brutal royal family's schemes. But Joan of Kent isn't a woman who meekly puts her head down and follows orders. She enters into a marriage of love, and, after hiding it after nearly a decade, seeks freedom. But when that man dies, she is forced to think of her own survival, even if it means entering a relationship, and possibly even marrying, the future king.. And so Joan is caught up again in the price of her royal blood..

What I enjoyed:
-The prose of this book was beautiful and unique, in that it still did justice to the language of the time, but I still understood it
-I also really liked the way that while political intrigue was mounting, it didn't overshadow what was happening to the characters--it was part of what really sold this novel for me
-The meticulous research taken into what little facts there were about Joan's life, and the way the embellishments and imaginings at least gave somewhat of a picture of her, even in fiction
-The pacing of this novel was absolutely breakneck--I couldn't put it down, once I started
 -Joan, the young woman determined to take her fate into her own hands--I really, really enjoyed her character development from headstrong child to brave, beautiful young woman--I really sympathized with her as the novel went on, from the age of twelve
-Thomas Holland
-The royal family, but especially the prince Ned--what was so compelling about him was that I couldn't tell if he was friend or foe to Joan and her family--even after the book ended!
 -The ending
-Efa, Blanche, Margaret, John, and Joan's children

What could've been better:
-If I'm being honest, there is really nothing I didn't love about this finely wrought, deeply researched novel! A triumph in historical fiction! Next on deck: Dehumanize Us by Emmanuelle Grey!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Werewolf Asylum by Roxanne Smolen Review

Title: Werewolf Asylum
Author: Roxanne Smolen
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Amazing Wolf Boy, book two; can be also read as a standalone
Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: A story about a young werewolf becoming of age, I liked some aspects of this story, but others just didn't fit with me.

This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review--thanks, Roxanne!

It was Halloween yesterday--did you all enjoy it? I wasn't sure which book to pick up next, so I just chose this one. It's no secret that I love all varieties of the classic supernatural werewolf story, and this book didn't disappoint me. What was so unique about this was the author's ability to balance between the contemporary and the supernatural--as a result, it blended really well.

Cody Forester is a werewolf. He lives in Florida with his Uncle Bob (also a werewolf, by the way.). He's trying hard to maintain his werewolf abilities with his normal life--and to be honest, it isn't going very well. As if this poor kid didn't have enough issues at the moment, his parents want to send him away, again--this time, to a posh medical institute in Europe. But all Cody wants is to get a handle on his powers, and stay with his girlfriend, Brittany. When a mad scientist stops at nothing to get her hands on Cody--and use him for more sinister ends--he finds that even the greatest resistance may not be enough..

What I enjoyed:
-I liked the pacing of this novel--I couldn't put it down when I picked it up!
-Cody, the young werewolf trying to deal with his overwhelming powers--I really enjoyed his character development, as he grew from a scared young man into a hero--I also liked that he was more sensitive than most guys his age
-The lush, hot, sticky setting of Loxahatchee, Florida
-Cody's uncle Bob, he was one of my favorite characters throughout most of the novel, and I really liked his relationship with Cody
-William, the young man who gets inadvertently mixed up in Cody's shenanigans--I liked how even though he wasn't the main character, a lot of the book centered on him too--and I liked his relationship with our young werewolf
-The notorious Doctor Scaarsgard, and her goon--I liked the way she so quickly became a villain, and held her own, even as I grew to dislike her
-Howard, William's father and Bob's best friend--I liked the way he was always off in his own little world, often with a few words of wisdom that no one really understood
-The ending

What could've been better:
-Brittany seemed very wishy-washy, especially about Cody, throughout the entire book, and it put me off of the book
-Cody's parents
-At times the editing needed work--nothing really major, just minor spelling errors here and there
-Cody, when thinking about Brittany, almost seemed obsessed with her, to the point where it wasn't young love, and their relationship was almost a little codependent

Despite some minor flaws, overall, this book was a nice adventure! I really enjoyed it!