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Review: All That Glows by Ryan Graudin

Thursday, January 30, 2014




All That Glows
by Ryan Graudin


Series: All That Glows #1
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Paperback: 480 Pages
Publication: February 11, 2013
by Harper Teen




Synopsis

Emrys—a fiery, red-headed Fae—always embraced her life in the Highlands, far from the city’s draining technology, until she’s sent to London to rejoin the Faery Guard. But this isn’t any normal assignment—she’s sent to guard Prince Richard: Britain’s notorious, partying bad boy and soon-to-be King. The prince’s careless ways and royal blood make him the irresistible for the dark spirits that feed on mortals. Sweet, disheveled, and alive with adventure—Richard is one charge who will put Emrys’s magic and heart to the test.

When an ancient force begins preying on the monarchy, Emrys must hunt through the London’s magical underworld, facing down Banshees, Black Dogs and Green Women to find the one who threatens Richard’s life. In this chaos of dark magic, palace murders and paparazzi, Emrys finds herself facing an impossible choice. For despite all her powers, Emrys has discovered a force that burns brighter than magic: love


Review
◆ A copy was provided by Harper Collins for review ◆

A free spirit, Emrys doesn't expect to find love in London, where technology drains her magic. However, she makes an instant connection with Richard and finds herself wanting to unveil herself before him and let him see her for who she is.

All That Glows is a solid debut with solid writing and a stable, if predictable, plot. It jumps straight into the story from the beginning with Emrys returning to London for the first time in a long time, having been reassigned to guard duty, and there is rarely a moment without some new development taking place, be it in Emry's relationship with Richard or in the threat to the crown. At the same time, events never feel particularly exciting or suspenseful, and the story misses out on making more use of foreshadowing, especially through the ravens' prophecy, which could have been played up more. I would have liked to see more done with the encounters with the enemy, as the story tends to rush through them (most prominently in the final battle, which doesn't take up many pages).

What kept the story moving were the characters. My favorites have to be Annabelle and Titania. The former has a lot of charm and spunk while the latter is a strong character who may not be entirely likable, but you always know where you stand with her. Emrys is a likable heroine with a compelling personality, though it doesn't really feel like she grows over the course of the novel. It's Richard who really matures—into someone that I could see as a true king. I enjoyed the playful banter between Emrys and Richard just as much as the scenes when things get real between them and they are confronted by their growing feelings for each other.

In fact, I would have liked to see the romance between Emrys and Richard played out more along with the forbidden romance aspect, as their relationship is one of the highlights of the novel. I know that Emrys has a mysterious connection with Richard, but I feel that some potential is lost here in really exploring the depth of their feelings for each other. Emrys has something more with Richard, something that she hasn't experienced with another royal. Something that makes her, an experienced Fae, drop her guard around him and even start hiding things from her fellow guards. Add the fact that Richard seems to be Emry's first love, and it would have been nice to see more of her going through the process of figuring out her feelings and then really falling for him and struggling to decide between staying Fae or becoming mortal for him.

On the whole, this is an enjoyable read. The changes that take place in the world at the end are interesting, and though I'd be satisfied with the novel ending where it does, I am intrigued by the idea of where the second novel may take us. Still, I'm don't know that I like the story enough to read a sequel. We'll see when the sequel comes out.



Additional Information
Series
  1. All That Glows
  2. Untitled
Similar Books
  • Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Content
  • Drinking
  • Kissing

Cruel Beauty: Review, Excerpt, & Giveaway

Tuesday, January 28, 2014



Cruel Beauty
Rosamund Hodge
Genre: YA Fairytale Fantasy
Hardback: 352 Pages
Publication: January 28, 2014
by Harper Teen



Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.


Review


◆ A copy was provided by Harper Collins for review ◆

Cruel Beauty is dark, haunting, and beautiful.

Nyx is an independent yet broken girl. Raised from a young age to believe that she's the hope of the kingdom, Nyx has trained to defeat the "Gentle Lord"that rules over them. In the process, she has become bitter and resents her destiny. Nyx's feelings are understandable. I'd go insane if I grew up knowing that my family was preparing to send me to my certain doom for their sake. Nevertheless, she doesn't give up trying to find a way out, be it killing her lord husband or, later, trying to find a way to save them all. Ignifex too is a sympathizable character. From the beginning, he treats Nyx with respect and doesn't seem like the evil lord that the kingdom believes him to be. The mind games that he and Nyx play are such fun.

What really brings this world and characters to life is the detailed imagery. I could feel Nyx's emotions and sympathized with her situation. More powerfully, I could see the scenes playing out. I especially enjoyed exploring Ignifex's house along with her. It's filled with many fascinating rooms, and I never knew what to expect next. I enjoyed unraveling the secrets of his ever-changing house with Nyx and learning the truth about the Sundering. I only wish that we get to learn more about the world and its history. Still, Nyx isn't really in a position to uncover every aspect of the world building, and I'm okay with some uncertainty in this case. I also want to bring attention to the unique ending to the story. Saving the world doesn't always result in the ideal outcome, but it is possible to try and fix things later and make a different kind of happy ending. Cruel Beauty shows us that, and this is what makes it unique and hauntingly beautiful.

The synopsis suggests that this is a love story. In a way, it is, for it is by showing each other kindness that Nyx and Ignifex are able to find themselves. At the same time, it is more than it. It is a story about a girl learning about herself and finding the strength to fight for what she wants after having been raised to fight for others all her life. Romance threads the story, but it is not everpresent. Those who are looking for a romance-centered plot may be disappointed. Nevertheless, this is a solid debut from a new voice in YA lit. I look forward to seeing what Rosamund Hodge brings to us next.


Review repost from January 9th (here)



Additional Information
Series
N/A




Content
  • Kissing
  • Sex (not explicit)


Excerpt


You are the hope of our people.

My fingers writhed, clawing up and down my arms, until I couldn’t bear it anymore. I grabbed the lamp and flung it at the floor. The crash sliced through my head; it left me gasping and shivering, like all the other times I let my temper out, but the voices stopped.

“Nyx?” Aunt Telomache called through the door.

“It’s nothing. I knocked over my lamp.”

Her footsteps pattered closer, and then the door cracked open. “Are you—”

“I’m all right. The maids can clean it up tomorrow.”

“You really—”

“I need to be rested if I’m to use all your advice tomorrow,” I said icily, and then she finally shut the door.

I fell back against my pillows. What was it to her? I wouldn’t ever need that lamp again.

This time the cold that burned through my middle was fear, not anger.

Tomorrow I will marry a monster.


About the Author

Rosamund Hodge grew up as a homeschooler in Los Angeles, where she spent her time reading everything she could lay hands on, but especially fantasy and mythology. She got a BA in English from the University of Dallas and an MSt in Medieval English from Oxford, and she now lives in Seattle with seven toy cats and a plush Cthulhu. Cruel Beauty is her first novel.

Connect with Rosamund
Website | GoodreadsFacebook | Twitter




Giveaway


1 ARC of Cruel Beauty

Open to the US only
Giveaway hosted by Rockstar Book Tours

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Did Not Finish Reviews

The Queen's Choice
Heirs of Chrior #1, by Cayla Kluver

Genre: YA Fantasy   Hardback: 512 Pages
Publication: January 28, 2014 by Harlequin Teen


Magic was seeping out of me, black and agonizing. I could see it drifting away. The magic that would let me pass the Road to reach home again.

When sixteen-year-old Anya learns that her aunt, Queen of the Faerie Kingdom of Chrior, will soon die, her grief is equalled only by her despair for the future of the kingdom. Her young cousin, Illumina, is unfit to rule, and Anya is determined not to take up the queen's mantle herself.

Convinced that the only solution is to find Prince Zabriel, who long ago disappeared into the human realm of Warckum, and persuade him to take up his rightful crown, Anya journeys into the Warckum Territory to bring him home. But her journey is doomed to be more harrowing than she ever could have imagined.

I loved the first book I read by Cayla Kluver (Legacy), but I didn't love the sequels, even dnf-ing the third book. Because I remembered Legacy, however, I decided to give another of her books a try, especially when I saw faeries in the synopsis. Unfortunately, I ended up dnf-ing another of the author's books. The reason for this is that the writing falls flat for me. It feels like Anya is writing a scientific journal, detailing her observations from an objective perspective in order to preserve what she sees for future generations to study instead of actually being in the scene and feeling things. Even detailing Davic's attractiveness seems like a scientific observation, for she calls the parting of his lips "an aphrodisiac in itself." Really?? How about straightforwardly admitting that she finds it hot? More internal dialogue and more showing of emotions would be helpful here. As it is, I couldn't form a connection with Anya or even immerse myself in the writing.

A copy was provided by Harlequin Teen for review



The Chaos of Stars
by Kiersten White

Genre: YA Mythological   Hardback: 288 Pages
Publication: September 10, 2013 by Harper Teen


Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up.

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

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

Though Paranormalcy was a fun, fresh voice in YA lit, I've since seen a lot of outspoken girls like Evie since, and the trend is growing old. Isadora is extremely opinionated and has an over-the-top personality that takes things too dramatically. She really just seems like a spoiled princess who gets annoyed when she doesn't get what she wants. I also don't like how she doesn't have many, if any, nice things to say about her family in the first pages of the book. While I know that families can be overbearing, especially if they try to arrange your life for you, they're still family. From the synopsis, it looks like Isadora will probably reconnect with her family and mature over the course of the novel, but I just couldn't take anymore. Because I didn't really like Mind Games either, I'm probably not going to give another Kiersten White book a try unless I happen to spot it on a shelf and decide to browse it.

A copy was provided by Harper Collins for review



The Burning Sky
(The Elemental Trilogy #1), by Sherry Thomas

Genre: YA Fantasy  Hardback: 464 Pages
Publication: September 17, 2013 by Balzer & Bray


Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she's being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.

Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he's also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to avenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.

But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

Another book where I couldn't connect with the heroine. Another teen heroine who thinks she knows best and won't listen to her guardian. I KNOW that Iolanthe has had to fend for herself for a while because her guardian hasn't been in any condition to properly care for her, and his mind is in a questionable state. However, she could at least respect him and look into what he says? It's not like he's was a bad guardian during his lucid times. I gave this book a try because I love a good fantasy; however, this is seems more in the vein of Ellen Oh's Prophecy (read my review here), which didn't really world build and took a romantic approach to an epic adventure.

A copy was provided by Harper Collins for review



Revolution 19
(Revolution 19 #1), by Gregg Rosenblum

Genre: YA dystopian, science fiction  Paperback: 288 Pages
Publication: January 7, 2014 by Harper Teen


Twenty years ago, the robots designed to fight our wars abandoned the battlefields. Then they turned their weapons on us.

Nick, Kevin, and Cass have spent their whole lives in a community in the wilderness, hiding out from the robots that have enslaved mankind. But when the bots discover their location, they barely make it out alive — only to discover that their home has been destroyed and everyone killed or captured. Now, the siblings must risk everything to save the only people they have left in the world.

I feel like three perspectives was overkill for the novel. While each character has something to add to the plot, the perspective changed so frequently that I didn't really get to know any of the characters. It didn't help that the writing is flat. It felt like the narration was happening in passive voice. I didn't get a sense for the world or who the characters were. It didn't feel like there was any substance to them.

A copy was provided by Harper Collins for review



The Scorpio Races
by Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: YA Fantasy   Hardback: 404 Pages
Publication: October 18, 2011 by Scholastic Press


It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

The writing isn't bad, and the characters are interesting enough. However, it just didn't feel like anything was happening; it didn't feel like the plot was moving anywhere. I quit around halfway through.

A copy was provided by Scholastic Press for review



Starry Nights
by Daisy Whitney

Genre: YA Paranormal Romance   Hardback: 280 Pages
Publication: September 3, 2013 by Bloomsbury USA Children's


Seventeen-year-old Julien is a romantic—he loves spending his free time at the museum poring over the great works of the Impressionists. But one night, a peach falls out of a Cezanne, Degas ballerinas dance across the floor, and Julien is not hallucinating.

The art is reacting to a curse that trapped a beautiful girl, Clio, in a painting forever. Julien has a chance to free Clio and he can't help but fall in love with her. But love is a curse in its own right. And soon paintings begin to bleed and disappear. Together Julien and Clio must save the world's greatest art . . . at the expense of the greatest love they've ever known.

There was a lot of potential to this book with the plot and setting. However, it was poorly executed. I stopped reading a little over a quarter into the novel. There is a lot of telling with little internal dialogue. I never really felt like I got to know Julien or his obsession with Clio even before he gets to know her. I knew he had a compulsion to see her, but the novel doesn't really explain why. Additionally, Julien tends to skip time in his narration, directing readers to certain events while brushing over others, and it happens so frequently that it disrupts the flow of the story. I would have also liked if the paintings coming to life aspect was explored more, especially at the beginning during the exposition, since it plays such a large role in the story. On the whole, the plot wasn't well developed, character motivation wasn't properly explained, and the flow of events was poor.

A copy was provided by Bloomsbury for review

Review: Circle of Fire by Keri Arthur

Monday, January 27, 2014




Circle of Fire
Keri Arthur


Series: Damask Circle #1
Genre: CrimeUrban Fantasy
Paperback: 336 Pages
Publication: January 28, 2014
by Dell




Synopsis

Sixteen teenagers taken from their homes. Eleven bodies recovered, each completely drained of blood. Some believe vampires are responsible. Jon Barnett knows that what’s happening is far worse. Sent by a group of paranormal investigators known as the Damask Circle, Jon quickly becomes enmeshed in a web of black magic and realizes he needs help. But fate gives him only one choice.

Madeline Smith has retreated to an isolated farmhouse, afraid of the abilities she cannot control—abilities that have killed. But when a “ghost” brings a warning of danger and her nephew goes missing, Maddie not only has to leave her haven, she has to place her trust in a man who is neither ghost nor human. As the noose of sorcery tightens, the search for the teenagers becomes a race against time. But the greatest danger to Maddie and Jon could be the intense feelings they refuse to acknowledge but cannot ignore.


Review
◆ A copy was provided by Random House for review ◆

An intense urban fantasy / crime novel from a powerful voice in urban fantasy.

After having read a good portion of Keri Arthur's Dancing With the Devil, so I knew going into this that she has solid writing skills. Thus, though Dancing With the Devil didn't quite manage to hold my attention (it may have been my fault, as I didn't quite find the time to sit down with it like I did with this one), I was more than willing to give her writing another try, and I wasn't disappointed.

From the first pages, the writing worked to immerse me in the story. I could feel Maddie's fears and hesitations about believing in the "ghost" that appears to her, summoning her back to civilization, and I felt my own fears for Maddie and Jon in their dangerous quest to rescue the missing teenagers. In fact, though I read Circle of Fire in a brightly lit room, albeit past sundown, and I wasn't alone, I was really creeped out. When I had to leave the room to run errands, I was almost sure that the bad guy was going to magically appear in my room and spirit me away like with the missing teenagers—even though I'm not a teenager or magically endowed.

The characters are equally compelling. It was easy to connect with Maddie and her fears of losing control of her abilities because we really get a feel for them in the first pages. Jon was harder to connect with, mostly because he's had a lost of experience with denying his heart's desires. Each of them has a story behind these fears, and their stories causes them to deny the connection between them. More internal dialogue could have really helped with building up the tension between Maddie and Jon by playing up how their respective fears motivate them to conceal their feelings for each other. Especially with Jon, as he dallies quite a bit in the love department.

I would have also liked to see more danger coming from the bad guys. There is talk of old magic, and experienced as he is, Jon fears that he will not be able to come out safely. Despite the suspense, however, I never quite had a strong feeling that he was truly in imminent danger. A lot of the twists that come their way are predictable, and most of the danger seems to be directed towards Maddie, an obvious target as she doesn't have experience dealing with crime. Nevertheless, the pacing is fairly quick and keeps the plot moving.

Overall, this is a highly enjoyable read that I recommend to those who enjoy a good urban fantasy with crime mixed in.



Additional Information
Series
  1. Circle of Fire
  2. Circle of Death
  3. Circle of Desire
Similar Books




Content
  • Kissing
  • Sex
  • Violence

Review: The Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams

Thursday, January 23, 2014




The Shadow Reader
Sandy Williams


Series: Shadow Reader #1
Genre: Fantasy
Paperback: 307 Pages
Publication: October 25, 2011
by Ace Books




Synopsis

There can only be one allegiance.
It’s her time to choose.

Some humans can see the fae. McKenzie Lewis can track them, reading the shadows they leave behind. But some shadows lead to danger. Others lead to lies.

A Houston college student trying to finish her degree, McKenzie has been working for the fae king for years, tracking vicious rebels who would claim the Realm. Her job isn’t her only secret. For just as long, she’s been in love with Kyol, the king’s sword-master—and relationships between humans and fae are forbidden.

But any hope for a normal life is shattered when she’s captured by Aren, the fierce and uncompromising rebel leader. He teaches her the forbidden fae language and tells her dark truths about the Court, all to persuade her to turn against the king. Time is running out, and as the fight starts to claim human lives, McKenzie has no choice but to decide once and for all whom to trust and where she ultimately stands in the face of a cataclysmic civil war.


Review

From the first pages, I was drawn into McKenzie's world. There is always plenty of action to go around wherever she goes, for both sides want to make use of her shadow reading abilities. In this world, the fae travel through fissures, and certain humans like McKenzie, who is a shadow reader, can map the traces they leave behind, allowing other fae to pursue those who travel the In-Between. Her world is fascinating and new, and it's very well constructed. I enjoyed learning more about it as I journeyed with her through this novel.

McKenzie is one of my favorite heroines. I just love how her mind works. She doesn't take any BS and is fiercely loyal to those she cares about. Though Aren provides plenty of reason why she shouldn't trust the court, she won't listen to him without seeing the truth for herself. And he's one big sexy temptation to resist. I've seen a lot of pretty boys in the books I've read, and he's just irresistible. I like how she doesn't fall for any pretty face and even credits her attraction to him as being due to Stockholm's Syndrome. As a Psychology major, I appreciate the reference.

The characters as a whole are filled with personality, at least the important ones. I like how that the good guys and bad guys aren't clearly defined. Both the Court faes and rebel faes are capable of committing atrocious crimes, though not everyone does so. Some even try to stay out of politics and don't care who they're involved with as long as their business thrives. Kelia and Naito especially are adorable, and I like Lena for being the spitfire that she is. Lorn is also an interesting, and capricious, character. The love interests are also well developed, as is the romance. It doesn't feel like I'm being torn between Kyol one second and Aren the next. In fact, McKenzie herself says that she isn't some girl who can't decide between two guys who are after her. Though she deeply cares about them both, she makes her decision based on what she wants in life and feels she deserves, and I respect her for that.

This is a remarkable debut from Sandy Williams. I'm looking forward to reading The Shattered Dark, book two in this series!



Additional Information
Series
  1. The Shadow Reader
  2. The Shattered Dark
  3. The Sharpest Blade
Similar Books




Content
  • Makeout scenes
  • Violence

Review: Starters by Lissa Price

Wednesday, January 22, 2014




Starters
Lissa Price


Series: Starters #1
Genre: Dystopian
Paperback: 384 Pages
Publication: July 23, 2013
by Ember




Synopsis

You can’t get them out of your head. . . .

Callie lost her parents when the Spore Wars wiped out everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty. She and her little brother, Tyler, go on the run, living as squatters with their friend Michael and fighting off renegades who would kill them for a cookie.

Callie’s only hope is Prime Destinations, a disturbing place in Beverly Hills run by a mysterious figure known as the Old Man. He hires teens to rent their bodies to Enders—seniors who want to be young again. Callie, desperate for the money that will keep her, Tyler, and Michael alive, agrees to be a donor. But the neurochip they place in Callie’s head malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her renter.

Callie soon discovers that her renter intends to do more than party—and that Prime Destinations’ plans are more evil than she could ever have imagined. . . .


Review

Only the children and senior citizens are able to be vaccinated from something, presumably an aftereffect of the Spore Wars, that kills off everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty. Without any grandparents to take care of them, Callie and her baby brother Tyler are forced to live on the run along with Michael, a neighborhood friend, in order to avoid being locked up. Desperation leads Callie to Prime Destinations, a body-bank that circumvents laws that prohibit minors from working by giving them a stipend for donating their bodies to an elderly renter. On her third rental, Callie's chip malfunctions, and she learns that her renter Helena has notorious plans and that Prime Destinations is not all that they claim to be.

Callie is strong and independent. Caught in a difficult situation in a completely hostile world, she struggles to save the only family she has. All the decisions that Callie make are out of love for Tyler, and I love caring she is of her little brother. They have a great relationship. Also, I love how, even though they aren't present, her parents influence Callie as she uses the lessons that they gave her.

Michael is a great guy from what I can tell. However, he doesn't play a large role in Starters, as the focus is on Callie's involvement with Prime Destinations. Hopefully we'll get to see more about him in the next book. I'd also like to see more of Blake. Though it doesn't play a large role in the story, we also get to to enjoy a fun romance with Blake, a sweet, caring, gorgeous guy. He and Callie have a really cute relationship. Plus, there is a big twist involving him.

Starters is a phenomenal dystopian novel that sets a firm foundation for the fascinating world of elderly Enders and young Starters that has been created through the tragic consequences of the Spore Wars. In this futuristic world, the Enders hold all of the power, and the only things left for them to take is the youth of Starters. What really elevates the novel, however, is how it raises the questions of the ultimate price we pay for technology and how far we will go to get what we want.

Starters is a very enjoyable read that ends on a huge cliffhanger. I can’t wait to read Enders, the second installment in the duology.



Additional Information
Series
  1. Starters
  2. Enders

Similar Books




Content
  • Kissing