Friday, March 29, 2013

Sarah M. Eden round-up

Always on my quest to find a good, clean, fun regency-era romance, I've recently discovered Sarah M. Eden. And, being me, I read all of her books in a week. Conclusion? So much fun. I was really impressed by her and loved a couple of her books as much as I loved Edenbrooke. If Sarah M. Eden had better titles and prettier covers, they could easily be as popular as Edenbrooke because they are that good. Of course, at some point they all have some similar qualities and now that I've read them I need a major break from this kind of book, but I expect this kind of romance to be predictable. Enjoyment is all in the execution and these are well done if you like this type of book. And I can say right now that content for all of them is squeaky clean - no sex, swearing, or violence.

From Goodreads:
The Duke of Kielder has more influence than Parliament, higher social standing than the Royal Family. No gentleman dares face him on the dueling field, nor risks testing his infamous temper. But His Grace is in need of a wife. Combine his fearsome reputation with a terribly scarred countenance and finding a lady willing to accept his hand becomes all-but impossible. When the Duke manages to secure a bride through a bit of trickery and an obscene amount of money, he is certain his problems are behind him. Except his purchased bride proves to be nothing like he expected. What is a man like the Duke to do with a bride who is gentle, loving and absolutely impossible to live without?

My Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars

I really liked this one. There's no missing the allusions to beauty and the beast and of course, with a name like Persephone, there are plenty of allusions to Persephone/Hades as well. The story is sweet and the Duke, though scary at first is actually a pretty hilarious character. I loved his bluntness and the way he is afraid of no one, not even the royal family. It takes a while for him to allow Persephone near his heart, but watching them slowly come together is lovely. This book is even a little scary at times. I loved the wolves and the truth is, they posed real problems for people in remote estates during that time period. Overall, a great story.

 From Goodreads:
Harry Windower adores blonde, green-eyes Athena Lancaster, but alas, a penniless man like himself has no hope of winning a young noblewoman's hand. To add insult to injury, Athena's brother-in-law and guardian, the Duke of Kielder, has asked Harry to assist Athena in finding a gentleman of her dreams. But the lovesick Harry is cunning as well: as the weeks pass, he introduces Athena to suitors who are horrifically boring, alarmingly attached to their mothers, downright rude, astoundingly self-absorbed, and utterly ridiculous.

Athena can't comprehend why she is having so little success meeting eligible and acceptable gentlemen. Indeed, her circle of admirers couldn't be be less admirable - nothing like the loyal, gentle friend she's found in Harry. But how long can Harry's scheme be hidden before it is discovered? And what will Athena do when she uncovers Harry's deception? Escape into a charming regency world in this delightfully romantic comedy of manners that will entertain you to the very last word.

My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

This one is a lot of fun, especially because I love details about the London season and Athena goes through one, encountering all the beauty (and not-so pretty parts) of being a debutante. And Harry is a very fun, cheerful character. And of course, the Duke is back and in full force here. Oh my gosh, he is such a great character. Mocking people no one else would dare mock and actually fighting real duels for his charge's sake. I love that both he and Persephone play major parts in this story. Athena seemed young to me and wasn't as compelling a character. Her love story wasn't as fabulous and I probably would have given this book three stars if it weren't for the Duke. I'm serious. He's awesome.

 From Goodreads:
When Crispin, Lord Cavratt, thoroughly and scandalously kisses a serving woman in the garden of a country inn, he assumes the encounter will be of no consequence. But he couldn't be more mistaken--the maid is not only a lady of birth, she's the niece of a very large, exceptionally angry gentlemen, who claims Crispin has compromised his niece beyond redemption. The dismayed young lord has no choice but to marry Miss Catherine Thorndale, who lacks both money and refinement and assumes all men are as vicious as her guardian uncle.

Trapped between an unwanted marriage and a hasty annulment, which would leave his reputation tainted and Catherine's utterly ruined, Crispin begins guiding his wife's transformatoin from a socially petrified country girl to a lady of society. Their unfolding relationship reveals encouraging surprises for both of them, and privately each of them wonders if theirs may become a true marriage of the heart. But their hopes are dashed when forces conspire to split asunder what fate has granted. As a battle of wits escalates into a life-threatening confrontation, will it be possible for Crispin and Catherine to live happily ever after?

My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

I really liked this one and Catherine was a big favorite character for me. She had a very difficult childhood and adolescence, locked up, mentally and physically abused, and forced to live in poverty while her uncle enjoyed her money. It's no wonder she has no idea how to act around Crispin. I loved their romance and the way Crispin is able to heal her broken heart bit by bit. Catherine learns to stand up for herself, something that leads to very real danger when she stands up to her uncle later in the book. I couldn't put this one down, but I will admit it drove me a little crazy that Catherine and Crispin took so long to communicate their feelings for each other. It was obvious to me that neither of them wanted an annulment. Anyway, it all ends happy ever after and I definitely recommend this one.

 From Goodreads:
After five years of tracking and capturing spies on English soil, Philip Jonquil, Earl of Lampton, is in pursuit of his last quarry. But at a traveler’s inn, he encounters an unexpected and far more maddening foe: Sorrel Kendrick, a young lady who is strikingly pretty, shockingly outspoken, and entirely unimpressed with him. Indeed, Sorrel cannot believe the nerve of this gentleman, who rudely accuses her of theft and insults her feminine dignity. Doubly annoyed when they both end up at a party hosted by mutual friends, Philip and Sorrel privately declare war on one another. But Philip’s tactics, which range from flirting to indifference, soon backfire as he finds himself reluctantly enjoying Sorrel’s company; and, much to her dismay, Sorrel finds Philip’s odd manner to be increasingly endearing. In the midst of this waning war and growing attraction, Philip catches wind of the French spy he’s been tracking, and Sorrel inadvertently stumbles upon a crucial piece of the puzzle, making her indispensable to the mission. But can two proud hearts negotiate a ceasefire when cooperation matters most?

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

And here's my favorite of the bunch. Loved Philip! Spies! True danger and espionage! And Sorrel is fabulous. She's no mamby-pamby speak-only-when-spoken-to Regency heroine. She has gumption. And she has to. Sorrel is unique because she has a real physical handicap and she's had to learn how to stand up for herself and not care what others say. Their romance is wonderful with all sorts of fun banter and snarky conversations. Crispin and Catherine also play a big role in this book and I love the way Sarah M. Eden interlaps her stories like that. The ending of this one has real peril and a very good resolution. Will definitely be looking to add this one to my shelves someday because I know I'll want to reread it.

From Goodreads:
The future has never looked brighter for once penniless Nickolas Pritchard. Now in possession of an unforeseen legacy from a distant cousin, he can finally woo the exquisite Miss Castleton, belle of the London Season. What better setting for matchmaking than Ty Mynydd, his ancestral home nestled in the untamed hills of Wales? Ideal, indeed ... except for the ghost.

For nearly four hundred years, Gwen has walked the halls of the home in which she lived—and died a mysterious death. But despite centuries as the reigning force within her ancient residence, nothing prepares her for the charm and unexpected appeal of Englishman Nickolas.

A deep and abiding affection grows between the two, tempered by the unbreakable barrier that separates them. They cannot possibly hope for a happily ever after. there can be no future between a man yet living and a woman long dead.

But how can Nickolas possibly give Gwen up? And how can Gwen face an eternity without Nickolas?

My Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars

And this would be my least favorite of them. Aside from the Welsh setting (which I loved), I had a hard time with this book. I don't think that the ghost story thing worked for Ms. Eden. I couldn't buy how normal everyone was with the ghost, even Nickolas's house guests. Gwen ends up walking through the castle casually, attending dinner parties, hanging out at picnics. I don't know, I just thought it could have been done in a much more thrilling and spooky way. No one is afraid of her! It was just weird. Anyway, my biggest disappointment was that as the final reveal is made and the final resolution happens, it's way sudden and there's almost no explanation for certain things. I was left with all sorts of questions about how and why and what in the world was that???? I don't know. If you're going to include magic at all it better have some sort of understandable system and not feel like a deus ex machine (miraculously convenient solution). Anyway. It was a little better than ok overall, but not my favorite.

I'm still wanting to read Drops of Gold which is the sequel to Friends of Foes, based on another Jonquil brother. It's not at my library, but I'm sure I'll get to it eventually. What do you think? Have you read any of these? Any other great clean Regency romance authors I need to check out?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Renegade by J.A. Souders

From Goodreads:
Since the age of three, sixteen-year-old Evelyn Winters has been trained to be Daughter of the People in the underwater utopia known as Elysium. Selected from hundreds of children for her ideal genes, all her life she’s thought that everything was perfect; her world. Her people. The Law.

But when Gavin Hunter, a Surface Dweller, accidentally stumbles into their secluded little world, she’s forced to come to a startling realization: everything she knows is a lie.

Her memories have been altered.

Her mind and body aren’t under her own control.

And the person she knows as Mother is a monster.

Together with Gavin she plans her escape, only to learn that her own mind is a ticking time bomb... and Mother has one last secret that will destroy them all.

My Rating: 3 / 5 stars

I've had my eye on this one for a few months. I thought it looked like a cool psychological thriller, dystopian mix with a unique setting (entire underwater city? count me in). It even promises some fairy tale hints (which it delivers - definitely some Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, and Ariel mixed in). And this book was exactly what I expected from it, only it was far more gritty and disturbing than I would have liked.

It was fascinating. Evelyn is being brainwashed and the reader knows it, but she doesn't. It was creepy for her to wake up each day, after her mind had been wiped blank, not remembering the horrifying things or people she'd known just the day before. She thinks her life is "just about perfect" until finally things begin to crack. Okay, maybe there was too much of an instant-connection between her and Gavin, but she needed it to break free of her mind conditioning. He wakes her up and the truth is shocking. The rest of the book is a violent, break-neck speed escape attempt from Elysium.

It was too much action for me. I loved the beginning, all creepy and psychological, and Evelyn's awakening. But as soon as she tries to escape, there is blood everywhere. Mother is killing innocent people (including children) left and right to prevent her perfect genetic creation from escaping. Lots of blood and guts and, *shudder* it made me kind of sick at times. Plus there's no room to breathe. I needed some downtime in the plot, some emotion and character development, but there was none of that. And when Evelyn's trained mind begins to snap and turn against Gavin I just wanted to scream.

This story does not end on a happy, unresolved note. I'm not convinced I'll pick up the sequel because it sounds like it will have the classic sequel phase romance issues, but I may anyway, just in the hopes of getting some kind of resolution.

So, really interesting concept, nothing at all wrong with the writing, so too intense and gory for me.

Content: Plenty of talk about sex (a major plot point is about who Evelyn will couple and conceive a child with), minor swearing, and loads of nasty violence.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Goddess Inheritance (Goddess Test #3)

From Goodreads:
Love or life.
Henry or their child.
The end of her family or the end of the world.
Kate must choose.

During nine months of captivity, Kate Winters has survived a jealous goddess, a vengeful Titan and a pregnancy she never asked for. Now the Queen of the Gods wants her unborn child, and Kate can't stop her--until Cronus offers a deal.

In exchange for her loyalty and devotion, the King of the Titans will spare humanity and let Kate keep her child. Yet even if Kate agrees, he'll destroy Henry, her mother and the rest of the council. And if she refuses, Cronus will tear the world apart until every last god and mortal is dead.

With the fate of everyone she loves resting on her shoulders, Kate must do the impossible: find a way to defeat the most powerful being in existence, even if it costs her everything.

Even if it costs her eternity.

My Rating: 2 / 5 stars

SPOILERS for books one and two

Saddest thing about this book? My reaction right now is, "It's finally over! I never have to return to this series!" You know, I really hate it when I don't love a book, but I feel compelled to read the sequels because of dreadful cliffhangers. The first book in this series (The Goddess Test) piqued my interest because, hello, greek mythology. It was much more boring than I'd hoped. I went on with book two because of a) the cliffhanger and b) I hadn't hated book one. I did NOT like book two, but the cliffhanger was much worse. I don't deal well with child peril. I had to know what happened. And so here I am. I've finally finished this series and I will not be in a hurry to read anything else by Aimee Carter.

This book finally ramps up with a bit of action, but it feels too little too late. Plus, we never actually see the battles the gods are fighting against Cronus until the very end. Kate is whiny and annoying the whole book and she has seriously taken her "sacrifice me to save everyone else" complex too far. And I was sooo worried about her being pregnant and kidnapped by people who wanted to kill her baby the moment it was born. Wanna know how that turned out? It was resolved by a couple pages in, by the way. Everything's fine and Kate's body is magically returned to a pre-pregnant state. Maybe it's just my own current pregnant hormones and emotions talking here, but seriously???!!??? Lame. Maybe I'm just jealous, but that fact, combined with Kate allowing herself to be separated from her child made me feel like she knew nothing and cared nothing about being a mother. What was a really good source of potential emotion became a distant thing that Kate thought of on occasion "Gee, I hope I can get my baby back soon..." If I were her, I'd be going all freakin' mother bear on Cronus. She disappointed me.

And why is it that we have to see so much flirting still between Kate and James? Kate is married to Henry (who is still the most boring lord of the underworld that ever existed). I don't want to hear Kate promising James he'll be her first affair, even if they are just joking.

I found the plot predictable, the fight scenes boring, the surprise twist inane, and pretty much every aspect of this book disappointing. But not really. Because I wasn't expecting to love it. I just had to know what happened to the baby.

Content: Plenty of swearing, implied but not on page sex (they are married now), some blood at the end, but not much else violence-wise.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Sequel Edition

I have not blogged much recently, but I have read 15 books since I last posted a review.

I'm out of control.

Truth is, I'm actually expecting a new little reader to join my family this fall and I have been sick, sick, sick. The only thing I've had the energy to do is lay on the couch with a book. Books aren't the perfect morning sickness cure, but they make a good distraction from constant nausea. Thankfully, my first trimester is over and I can feel my energy s l o w l y returning. And now I have some catching up to do! First up, the big sequels (spoilers inevitable for their predecessors):

From Goodreads:
June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help Day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request—June and Day must assassinate the new Elector.

It’s their chance to change the nation, to give voice to a people silenced for too long.

But as June realizes this Elector is nothing like his father, she’s haunted by the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengeance, anger and blood—what if the Patriots are wrong?

In this highly-anticipated sequel, Lu delivers a breathtaking thriller with high stakes and cinematic action.

My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Legend was right up there with my favorite books of last year as a totally epic dystopian. I loved its energy and Prodigy somehow manages to pick up the pace even more! Both of these books read like highly entertaining movies. Marie Lu's writing is very visual and energetic and I was completely swept up in the story. There are some new twists and turns and surprises and I loved it all.

Sequel Romance trap? Yeah, there's a little bit of that going on. I always hate it when a couple fights so hard to be together in a first book, and then right away in the sequel they begin to doubt each other and secondary love interests are introduced. Prodigy has all of that, but the focus of this book is more on story and action than romance anyway, so it didn't feel like too much of the book was spent on sappy love complications. June and Day have ZERO time for sap in their lives.

A couple of complaints: there's so much action, that at times I felt like I wanted more character development. There wasn't enough time to get as deep into their emotions as I usually like in a story. And my biggest complaint is the ending. Won't say much, but I was really irritated at what felt like, to me, a pretty unnecessary way to keep the tension going for a third book. I was going to read it anyway. She didn't have to go there.

Overall, though, I love this series for its intensity and its sheer awesomeness. Can't wait to see what happens to June and Day in the final book.

Content: A steamy kiss, a little swearing, and plenty of action scenes, some kind of violent but not much blood and gore.

 From Goodreads:
Ana has always been the only one. Asunder. Apart. But after Templedark, when many residents of Heart were lost forever, some hold Ana responsible for the darksouls–and the newsouls who may be born in their place.

Many are afraid of Ana’s presence, a constant reminder of unstoppable changes and the unknown. When sylph begin behaving differently toward her and people turn violent, Ana must learn to stand up not only for herself but for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

Ana was told that nosouls can’t love. But newsouls? More than anything, she wants to live and love as an equal among the citizens of Heart, but even when Sam professes his deepest feelings, it seems impossible to overcome a lifetime of rejection.

In this second book in the Newsoul trilogy, Ana discovers the truth about reincarnation and will have to find a way to embrace love and make her young life meaningful. Once again, Jodi Meadows explores the extraordinary beauty and shadowed depths of the soul in a story equal parts epic romance and captivating fantasy.

My Rating: 3 / 5 stars

Incarnate was totally weird, but in a super fascinating way and I was really looking forward to figuring out some of the answers behind all the mysteries with Asunder. Good news! Asunder provides major answers and they are pretty mind-blowing. Sometimes a series will make me wait until the third book to figure things out, but Asunder was a very kind second book. Of course, that doesn't mean things are going to be easier for Ana in book 3, but now I'm getting ahead of myself.

So despite Ana's heroic actions at the end of book 1, people are still terrified of her as a newsoul, still freaked out that they will all be replaced, and still mourning for all those souls lost who will never be reincarnated again. Ana is seriously bullied and at times violently terrorized and it was interesting to see how she handled that and nice to see the way Sam stood by her. And sequel romance? There are some concerns to keep them from openly declaring they love each other and some doubts and arguments along the way, but it all felt really natural. But I have to say that the romantic atmosphere in this series is weird, mostly because these are people who have been reincarnated for thousands of years, falling in love with different people and being different genders at times and in general its all a mess. There is a major character introduced who was once in love with Sam, but it doesn't affect Sam and Ana's feelings for each other in a bad way.

My favorite part was the answers. What are sylphs? Why is this particular group of people able to reincarnate? How? Where did Ana come from and why aren't there other newsouls? It all makes sense now, but Ana has to go through some pretty harrowing experiences (dealing with a certain uber-creepy temple) to find everything out. I'm going to be reading the conclusion and I'm looking forward to seeing how it all wraps up.

Content: No sex scenes, but plenty of hints that it's moving that direction for Ana and Sam. Can't remember if there's swearing. Nothing truly vulgar and memorable at least, since I can't remember :D. A little violent at times and there are a couple of stomach-turning descriptions (things Ana sees in the temple).

 From Goodreads:
When Philip Walker appears as a new student in Michele Windsor's high school class, she is floored. He is the love she thought she lost forever when they said goodbye during her time travels last century. Overjoyed that they can resume the relationship they had a lifetime ago, Michele eagerly approaches him and discovers the unthinkable: he doesn't remember her. In fact, he doesn't seem to remember anything about the Philip Walker of 1910.

Michele then finds her father's journals, which tell stories of his time-traveling past. As she digs deeper, she learns about his entanglement with a mysterious and powerful organization called the Time Society and his dealings with a vengeful Windsor ancestor. Michele soon finds herself at the center of a rift over 120 years in the making, one whose resolution will have life-or-death consequences.

Alexandra Monir's Timekeeper combines breathtaking romance with a tale of complex magic in a sequel that will have every reader believing in the transcendent power of love.

My Rating: 2 / 5 stars

This one isn't as big a sequel as the others, but I was looking forward to reading it anyway. There aren't enough good time travel books in YA lit and I enjoyed Alexandra Monir's take with Timeless. She did a great job with a lot of fun New York history and a cool magic/time traveling system. My biggest problem was the romance. Too cheesy. The sequel, I'm sorry to say (and you can probably tell just by looking at the cover) is even more cheesy. It's just so "our love is so epic but we are kept apart by time and it's so tragic so feel bad for us!" without the actual epicness to back it up.

There's plenty more cool time traveling and some fun back stories are added. The world is fleshed out even more with info on Michele's dad and his time traveling story. There's more awesome history too. The plot introduces a great villain, but the way said villain is disposed of at the end was so easy, so convenient, I'm wishing she hadn't been introduced at all.

And like I said, the romance is the worst. Philip somehow appears in modern times with no memory whatsoever of Michele. She pines for him and he dates the most popular girl in school in front of Michele, making her crazy depressed and jealous (it was kind of irritating and more than a little cliche). Later, when it's explained how he's able to be in modern times (and when he all of a sudden remembers that he so, so, so loves her) it was beyond annoying because the solution is just too implausible. Blech. I wasn't impressed.

Once more, like in Timeless, music plays a big part in the story, something I normally love (since I am a musician). But when Michele and Philip write songs together I can't help but find them underwhelming, especially when the book compares their songs to true greats like Gershwin's "You Can't Take That Away" and Billy Joel's "And So It Goes".

I hate to rag so much on this and go on and on, but when I dislike something I really do try and back it up with proof why. Sorry Alexandra Monir! I find your story a bit unimaginative despite a very promising set-up. We'll see if I decide to read the third book. Right now I'm not convinced I want to commit any more time to this series.

Content: A little swearing, but nothing else.

From Goodreads:
It's been months since Aria last saw Perry. Months since Perry was named Blood Lord of the Tides, and Aria was charged with an impossible mission. Now, finally, they are about to be reunited. But their reunion is far from perfect. The Tides don't take kindly to Aria, a former Dweller. And with the worsening Aether storms threatening the tribe's precarious existence, Aria begins to fear that leaving Perry behind might be the only way to save them both.

Threatened by false friends, hidden enemies, and powerful temptations, Aria and Perry wonder, Can their love survive through the ever night?

In this second book in her spellbinding Under the Never Sky trilogy, Veronica Rossi combines fantasy and dystopian elements to create a captivating love story as perilous as it is unforgettable.

My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

I really liked this and immediately felt like I was able to get right back into Aria and Perry's world. Sometimes it takes me forever to get back into a sequel, but it was easy to remember what had happened in Under the Never Sky as soon as I was a handful of pages in. I think that's a testament to Veronica Rossi's great writing and truly memorable and fascinating world and story.

I loved exploring more of this world through Aria's travels with Roar. She's not the clueless girl she was at the beginning of book one and I love the fierce and capable woman she's become. Roar is also a favorite character of mine just because he's so fun to be around. This book needs the way he lightens things up because it's intense and dark. Things are not going well for anyone, especially Perry, who's trying his best to handle responsibility as Blood Lord and not being very successful. The aether is ramping up its destructive power and while I still don't have answers to what and why and how it works, I'm hoping those are coming in book three. I can be patient. Maybe.

This book is a rescue mission. Aria's trying to rescue Perry's sister, Perry is trying to rescue his tribe, and there's another big rescue mission at the end that I won't detail for spoilers' sake. There's plenty of danger and it's thrillingly fast-paced. Loved it.

How does the romance fare? Typical sequel. Aria and Perry doubt each other and secondary love interests show up. This is the aspect that knocked my review down a star. It was very cliche and I wanted it to be so much more. Disappointing, especially because it's obvious Aria and Perry will end up happily ever after (somehow someday) and these things are obviously just a distraction and a stretching device.

Still, I'm dying to check out Into the Still Blue.

Content: Minimal swearing, hinted at sexual content (nothing on page), and a fair bit of violence - blood, death, and burning. Nothing that made me feel extra nauseous (though it's hard to tell when that's how I feel anyway :D)


That's all I've gotten to so far of this year's big sequels. I'm still waiting for Marissa Meyer's Scarlet, which I'm dying to read. I held out because I was too poor to buy it before, but it's now on its way to me in the mail. Hooray!!! I actually reread Cinder to get ready for it and fell in love with it all over again. If you haven't read Cinder, go do it right now. The BEST, most creative cinderella retelling in existence.

Read any good sequels lately? Especially without sequel phase romance?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Mini Reviews: 3 - 8 - 13

 Wow, have I read a lot of great books lately! And sometimes when I speed-read through a batch, it's easier to do a quick, whirlwind review of a few while they're still fresh on my mind. :D

From Goodreads:
Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often—violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

My Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars

Wow, The Archived blew me away. First, I absolutely love a good, original, after-life kind of story and in The Archived, I found an immensely creative and awesome after-life mythology. I thought the whole concept of the Archive and of MacKenzie's job as a keeper patrolling the Narrows for escaped, ghost-like Histories was so cool. She was a great and very real character, full of layers and conflicting relationships - but packed with talent and fighting skills. But my favorite part was that most of this story is a very spooky and very well-done murder mystery, all taking place in the best place for such a thing - an old hotel turned apartment complex that Mac's family has just moved into. As if the Archive itself wasn't a cool enough setting. Mac can literally read the layers of history in the building by touching objects and floors and I was just so engrossed by that part of the story.

The story progresses slowly at first and I had a harder time with the beginning when it just felt like so much information to process, but by the middle it flew. I was completely into the story and desperate to see each new development. Read the second half in one sitting it was that hard to put down. I knocked down a half star from my rating only because I was able to predict very early on exactly who Mac should definitely not have been trusting. And a slight deduction was necessary because the love interest is described as a eyeliner-wearing, black-painted nails, goth kind of guy. Yuck. Not my idea of attractive. But as a character he was fascinating and in fact, all the characters were fully-developed and well-described. The librarians (especially Roland) were my favorite. :D

In short, this is a totally original, kind of spooky, and incredibly entertaining read. There will be a sequel, but thankfully this reads as a stand-alone without any mean cliffhangers. Highly recommended!


 From Goodreads:
The greatest warrior in all of the Seven Kingdoms... is a girl with yellow eyes.

Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope...

Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King Prophecy, but the missing treasure of myth may be the true key. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.

Intrigue and mystery, ancient lore and action-packed fantasy come together in this heart-stopping first book in a trilogy.

My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

I wasn't sure what to expect from Prophecy. The concept looked awesome to me, but I read a lot of negative reviews so I was worried that it would fall short. And it was not love at first page. I felt a little bit like I was forcing myself to keep going when I started it. I loved the Korean influence and the concept was still interesting and magical, but the characters were hard to like. Character development really suffered and I hardly felt like I knew anyone or how Kira related to others and why she liked certain people but not some, etc... I was about to put it down when somewhere around the halfway point the magic happened. And all of a sudden the book just started to rock. All these incredibly magical things happened and there were cool objects and prophecies fulfilled and dragons and a quest and water spirits and Kira was totally in her warrior, demon-fighting groove and I got completely swept up in it. At the end I closed the book and thought, "I loved that! 5 stars!!!" And then I had to say, "Cool your jets. Remember how we didn't like the beginning?" And so the result is 4 stars for Prophecy and I am for sure checking out the sequel whenever it comes out.

 From Goodreads:
After defying the ruthless Enclave, surviving the wasteland, and upending the rigid matriarchy of Sylum, Gaia Stone now faces her biggest challenge ever. She must lead the people of Sylum back to the Enclave and persuade the Protectorat to grant them refuge from the wasteland. In Gaia's absence, the Enclave has grown more cruel, more desperate to experiment on mothers from outside the wall, and now the stakes of cooperating or rebelling have never been higher. Is Gaia ready, as a leader, to sacrifice what--or whom--she loves most?

My Rating: 3 /5 stars

Promised is book 3 in the Birthmarked trilogy, so if you want to avoid spoilers for books 1 and 2, skip this review.

I've finally gotten around to finishing this trilogy, and I really think that I've liked each book less and less as it's gone on. By Promised I was heartily sick of the love square and especially sick of Leon. What a constant drain he was on the story! He's so depressing and I wasn't really sure if I trusted him either. But, I kept reading for Gaia, and she's always been the saving grace of this story. Gaia is a great character. I love her background as a midwife and I like that she's been forced into the role of leader not because she wants it, but because she has to do it to help her people. She also makes mistakes and is very human and likeable. I love all the medical ethical questions this series brings up too. Overall, I didn't love the romance, and since most of this book is about the romance it really brought my rating down. Despite that, this is a fascinating dystopian world and the trilogy is worth reading if you absolute need a new dystopian. :D

From Goodreads:
Jackson Meyer has thrown himself into his role as an agent for Tempest, the shadowy division of the CIA that handles all time-travel-related threats. Despite his heartbreak at losing the love of his life, Jackson has proved himself to be an excellent agent. However, after an accidental run in with Holly—the girl he altered history to save—Jackson is once again reminded of what he's lost. And when Eyewall, an opposing division of the CIA, emerges, Jackson and his fellow agents not only find themselves under attack, but Jackson begins to discover that the world around him has changed and someone knows about his erased relationship with Holly, putting both their lives at risk all over again.
My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Vortex is book 2 in the Tempest trilogy. SPOILERS

Tempest was exactly the kind of time travel book I love best, all twisty and complicated and mind-bending, and the good news is that Vortex continues the awesomeness (minus the cover, which I don't think qualifies for awesomeness - not my favorite). Plus, Jackson is now training with the CIA and a good portion of the beginning goes through that. I thought it was so interesting and I liked reading about the conflicted lives of CIA agents and how they have to lie to so many people about what they do. There are some great new characters too. Then everything goes crazy again with lots of time travel mix-ups and a certain child named Emily appears again from the future making things very complicated (she's my favorite). And there's plenty of Holly, too, though things are not right since Jackson and Holly's original timeline got all skewed. Anyway, it's all a big mess, but I'm a big fan of time travel messes. :D It ends in kind of a shocking place and I can't wait to see what happens in the final book.

One star off my rating for content - too much swearing for my tastes and a little bit of sexual innuendo. This one is also pretty violent at times.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Classic Double Challenge: Jane Eyre vs. Jane

Okay, I wasn't going to do a double challenge for this one, but after I read Jane, I just had to get some of the original in my system. I watched my favorite movie interpretation (the 2006 miniseries with Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens which you need to go watch RIGHT NOW if you haven't seen it and are a Jane Eyre/period drama fan) and it still wasn't enough so I reread Jane Eyre. And by the way? It's no contest. Jane Eyre is by far the superior book here. :D

From Goodreads:
Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity.

She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman's passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed.

With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous secrets she encounters, and the choices she finally makes, Charlotte Bronte's innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers.

My Rating: *****

Quite simply one of my top favorite books of all time. There's so much to say about Jane Eyre but it's all been said. I'll just say that for me, Jane has always been an inspiration. She comes from a quiet, abusive background and with nothing but sheer determination becomes educated and talented. She finds true love and she has the moral courage to leave it behind when it becomes wrong to stay. She cares more about family than money. She learns to be happy even with a broken heart. It's so easy to cheer for Jane when she finally receives everything her heart has ever wanted. I just feel like I've learned so much from her and can always find some new trait she has that I want to emulate every time I read it. And what a story. So sweeping! So gothic. And Mr. Rochester. Yeah. What can I say? I love Jane Eyre and I always will.

From Goodreads:
Forced to drop out of an esteemed East Coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback. Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance.

But there's a mystery at Thornfield, and Jane's much-envied relationship with Nico is soon tested by an agonizing secret from his past. Torn between her feelings for Nico and his fateful secret, Jane must decide: Does being true to herself mean giving up on true love?

An irresistible romance interwoven with a darkly engrossing mystery, this contemporary retelling of the beloved classic Jane Eyre promises to enchant a new generation of readers

My Rating: ***

I liked this much less than April Lindner's Catherine, and maybe it's because I like Jane Eyre so much more than Wuthering Heights. It takes a lot to try and retell Jane Eyre and it just wasn't good enough. But still entertaining, nonetheless.

Maybe it just tried too hard to be like the original. In Catherine, April Lindner took a lot of plot liberties (which I liked), but Jane is trying too hard to be the real thing. Almost every scene in Jane was taken from the original - even most of the dialogue was just paraphrased. I liked the rock star twist, but I really had a hard time seeing any chemistry between Nico and Jane. I just didn't see what Nico saw in Jane. There were no sparks, no real reason why he'd fall in love with her. In the real Jane the romance is instant and real and this didn't even come close.

Plus, certain things were different that I had a hard time with. Why, in this modern world, would Nico choose to stay married to his insane wife? And mental institutions are not as bad as they were in Jane Eyre's time so I really don't understand what the hold up is. Except it's almost like Nico's still in love with his crazy wife, which messes everything up. That's just not right. How can I believe he loves Jane, that he's found his soul mate, if he still has feelings for his wife? Plus, what happened to Jane's moral fiber? If she's willing to sleep with Nico so quickly why does she care about being his mistress when the truth is revealed? It just didn't add up for me.

Anyway, it was kind of fun to read as a Jane fan, but also incredibly frustrating. I liked the modern setting, but this retelling fell short for me in every other way.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Nightmare Affair

From Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.


Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.

Then Eli’s dream comes true.

Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.

My Rating: ***

Copy for review provided by NetGalley. Thank you!

I liked The Nightmare Affair well enough, but as far as paranormal boarding school books go it did not "wow" me. I was hoping for Hex Hall level humor and awesome powers, but everything here was pretty bland. Dusty was trying really hard to be one of those witty, kick-butt, powerful heroines, but I wasn't impressed. First off, I was expecting the Nightmare thing to be more interesting. She doesn't give people nightmares - she essentially enters others' dreams and quietly observes them, gaining magical power from them. Kind of boring. Of course, with Eli it's a little different as she starts to see things in his dreams that foretell awful events in the future.

But the whole mystery thing? So predictable. I wanted to scream at Eli and Dusty because they were being so blind. Duh! You do not suspect the most obvious person!!! You do not fall for red herrings! You do not walk right into the real murderer's OBVIOUS trap! It was a little disappointing.

But it was a quick read and some of the powers people had at school were interesting and fresh. I'll probably check out the sequel, but I won't be rushing out, desperate to read it.

The Nightmare Affair is available tomorrow.