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Book Review Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

cover-dreams-of-gods-and-monsters-201x300  Dreams of Gods & Monsters
by Laini Taylor

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Published by: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on April 8, 2014
Genres: Action & Adventure, Europe, Fairy Tales & Folklore, Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance, Monsters, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 624
Source: eARC from Publisher

 

 

 

 

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I never throw around this word, but I will use it with capital letters right now:

EPIC.

DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS by Laini Taylor, the conclusion to her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, is truly epic… Not to mention, it’s poetic, incredible, stunning and one heck of a (perfectly solid) finale.

Honestly, I will tell you right now: I am a hugely insane, forget everything you thought you knew about me because I am out of control, fan of Laini’s writing. There was very little chance that this book wasn’t going to “wow” me. I mean, yeah, there’s always a chance, but… no. Disappointment didn’t happen at all here. Not even one ioda of disappointment. I was in love with all 624 pages – and most likely 150k+ words – of this book. Will it be for everybody? I don’t know – and really, I don’t care. I loved this book… The series… Everything. As a (basically rabid and salivating at the mouth) fan of the series, I can tell you that the conclusion will not disappoint.

From chapter one, there were fireworks between me and DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS. Starting with the first chapter, I was reminded as to why I love Laini’s writing so much. Even the simplest of passages, such as…

“Revenant soldiers and Misbegotten, together. At best, it would be miserable. At worst, devastating. But in spite of his misgivings, it was as if there was a brightness beckoning to him – the future, rich with light, calling him toward it…”

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And…

“…For just a moment, in spite of the burden of the weapons bag, and the thuribles, and her pack – not to mention the anvil weight of her duty and the deception and the future of two worlds – Karou felt almost light. Hopeful.”

If you recall, Days of Blood and Starlight was rife with sorrow and death and deception and pain (literally, lots and lots of pain). DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS is still full of pain and deception and plenty of things bad, but where there is sadness here, there is also hope lining every page. The entire book contains a perfect see-saw of emotions that will keep readers turning the pages, forgetting just how many of them have been turned and how many have yet to be touched.

In the end you may not physically be in the happiest place on earth (or, who knows, maybe you will be), but you will certainly feel as though you’ve been there thanks to DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS.

 

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DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS begins mere hours after the conclusion of Days of Blood and Starlight (3 hours, to be exact). We are introduced to a new character right off the bat – someone who will play a larger part than you can presently imagine. Some people may boo and hiss at this detail, but alas, the character is almost as likable as Zuzana and Mik or, at the very least, as much as Liraz. Eliza… What an intriguing character to follow. (And that is all I will say about that.)

Just as intriguing as the new character are the interactions between our two most familiar characters, Karou and Akiva. Their story begins at the kazbah in Morocco. Over and over again, their paths cross – with the shadow of previous deceptions still weighing on their shoulders. More than once I found myself yelling at the two of them:

 

…but that’s really only because I am such a mushy-gushy Madrigal/Karou-Akiva fangirl. Yes, I admit it. I am a shipper. I was devastated at the end of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and seeing them as enemies in Days of Blood and Starlight was pure torture. Will they ever get together again? I will not say. Either way, their story is so, so very satisfying and ends in the most appropriate of ways, regardless of whether or not they get their “happily ever after”.

…But still, throughout the book I was repeatedly in the same position as carpet:

 

Just KISS!!! (…Pretty please?)

But back to the story: In DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS, the combined troupes of chimaera and Misbegotten must work together to save their world and ours… Honestly, I have often wondered how humanity would react if beings like “angels” or “demons” ever did descend to our level. Laini answers these questions in the most logical of ways, with people reacting to their presence in the name of both religion and science. She handles what could easily become a touchy subject both tastefully and with grace. No obvious opinion on the subject of religion can be seen within these pages. Although religious themes are present, the reader can still enjoy the story for what it is: pure fantasy, through and through.

In DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS, Zuzana and Mik are featured more prominently than ever before. Thanks to their novella, Night of Cake and Puppets, we know enough about their relationship to have strong feelings for both of them. Thanks to them we witness some very, very creative usage of wishes – one or two of which have a major impact on the overall story.

 

These ain’t no simple genie wishes either.

On that note I say: Keep on keeping on, Zuzana and Mik! You two have proven that I want you in my corner if anything bad were to happen to me!

Did I mention that this book is beyond gorgeous? Not just Laini’s words – which anyone who has already begun the series can see are quite impressive – but also the scale of her world(s) and her story. The book is divided into parts; half taking place in Eretz, as the chimaera and Misbegotten attempt to work out their “truce”, and the other half on Earth. First we get to experience the building tension involved in an unsteady alliance and the planning of war and and then we get even more tension as an “espionage-esque” mission is carried out. Somewhere in-between there’s also some glorious flying, including a scene that contained some of my favorite words in fiction, ever.

Alas, just when you think the story is over – and there couldn’t possibly be anything more to befall the surviving characters – the ultimate bombshell of the entire series is dropped.

My reaction?

You’ll have to read it to believe it.

Pros:

  • Everything.
  • Gorgeous writing.
  • Unforgettable characters
  • Worlds beyond imagining.
  • Romantic fantasy at its best.
  • It is everything that a conclusion should be.
  • …Chimera.
  • Neek-neek!!!

Cons:

  • Nothing?
  • No seriously. Nothing.
  • …I mean, maybe the page count might scare people off?
  • But seriously, don’t let that scare you…
  • Or the epic bombshell at the end.
  • (It’s perfect.)

I hereby declare DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS THE BOOK of 2014. In addition, I implore EVERYONE… be you a reader of young adult fiction (or not), a fan of fantasy novels (or not), a man or a woman, beast or god-like in appearance… to read this epic series.

 

Plot: 10+
Characters:
10+

Setting: 10+
Pacing:
10+
Style:
10+

Grade: 100+

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Fragile Line Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway

cover-fragile-line-200x300  Fragile Line
by Brooklyn Skye

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Published by: Entangled on April 21, 2014
Genres: Depression & Mental Illness, Love & Romance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 260
Source: eARC from Publisher

 

 

 

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Wow.

FRAGILE LINE by Brooklyn Skye is such a wild ride into the darkest of psychological places. This is funny because while reading the first 1/2 or maybe even 2/3′s of the book you wouldn’t think this is the case. But then you get to the super tripped-out finale and you go all: Woah! What the heck just happened?!

For me, the experience was an amazing one.

FRAGILE LINE starts off as a fairly straight-forward contemporary with a main character who has some serious memory problems. Somewhat like a mystery novel we slowly learn the source of those problems. Honestly, the end result was as just as much a jarring shock to me as it was for Ellie. I did not see that coming! …well, not for a long while, at least. Holy. Stromboli. I reached the twist near the end and I actually stayed up until 1am in the morning because I had to find out how it was all going to play out. It was a morbid curiosity, too, because that stuff was dark!

The twist might be a bit off-putting to those who had become acclimated to the preceding parts of FRAGILE LINE. The twist will also polarize readers with regard to whether or not they will enjoy the book. It definitely changes the tone of the book. Drugs, sexual situations, prostitution… all of these items are involved. Beware to younger teen readers out there: She dared to go there!

The resolution just adds to the realism of a story that could have veered into a hokey paranormal or “love saves all” resolution. No worries, guys! There is plenty of romance. At times, I didn’t want Ellie to be with her boyfriend, Shane, though. I actually rooted for “the other guy” (And yay for the action we get when it comes to Griffin!) But Ellie’s boyfriend, Shane? Ugh. I wanted to wring his neck more than once. Does he redeem himself in the end? Maybe. Minus one character point because of Shane’s doofusness (yes, I made that a word)…

Is there a love triangle? I know I mentioned two guys above. One of which I called “the other guy”. Folks, while there are two leading men, twist your head around this one: There is no love triangle. Trust me on that.

All in all, my favorite characters were Ellie, the mysterious Gwen and Griffin. My heart broke when Ellie’s life unraveled around her. Her absolute lack of control over all things – including her own actions for hours or days on end – was terrifying. I also felt for Gwen and her problems as they related to Ellie. I wanted to cling to Griffin throughout every scene in which he appeared. I was totally effected by all of these characters – enough so that I could not pause their story and put the book down.

Not even for sleep.

Pros:

  • This is a DARING, RISKY story that the author has written. FRAGILE LINE goes into the darkest places of the soul that I have NEVER seen any YA book venture before.
  • Characterizations are solid. I believed in these people from Ellie to even the most minor of characters, including family, friends, ex-friends and more.
  • This is one of those reads that you will not want to put down – especially once you get to the final third of the book.

Cons:

  • While FRAGILE LINE is totally easy to read, some of the darker parts of the story may drag the reader down – both physically and emotionally. Best to read it in one sitting so not to prolong those emotions! (Thank goodness this is easy to do!)
  • Shane. Oh, Shane… I loved your initial supporting personality so. Why did you have to go and let me down?

How psychologically accurate are the events in FRAGILE LINE? Of that I have no idea, but the author does a pretty darn good job convincing me that things like this actually can happen.

For that I say: “Bravo, Brooklyn. Bra-vo.”

Plot: 9
Characters: 9
Setting: 10
Pacing:
 8
Style:
9

Grade: 95

 

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Book Review : A Tale of Two Centuries by Rachel Harris

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A Tale of Two Centuries
By Rachel Harris
August 6, 2013

Ages 12 and up
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Reviewed: Ebook/ARC from Publisher

 

 

 

JENNA’S REVIEW

A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES by Rachel Harris is the perfect escape novel for fans of time travel, swoon-worthy romance, brilliant plotting… and just about everything else that makes for an amazing story. In this second installment in her Super Sweet series about time traveling teens, Rachel has managed to take everything good about the first book, My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century, and with it she has woven an even more romantic and well-fleshed out story. I’ll be honest: I loved this book and the characters, Alessandra and Austin, so much that the following review will likely be filled with endless gushing and praise.

While My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century was a whimsically fun tale about the adventures of a 21st Century teen in 16th Century Renaissance Italy, A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES offers a whole new level of time traveling adventures by bringing the 16th Century, Alessandra (aka “Less”), to 21st Century Los Angeles. Pardon the pun, but in this case, “Less” is MORE. More fun than witnessing a modern day teen experience the past is watching a young girl from an earlier time discovering the highly unusual, and oftentimes alarming, modern day world. Few things are more fun than following along with Less as she rides in a taxi for the first time, uses seemingly mundane things such as zippers or… (a’hem)… undergarments… for the very first time or accustoming herself to our modern day language and slang. All her various discoveries were more hilarious and more exhilarating than I had imagined. I found myself even more surprised and entertained by Less’s modern day discoveries than all of Cat’s snarky escapades in the 16th Century – and that’s saying a lot if you’ve read my review of the first book!

…Like I said, “Less” is MORE.

How would a 16th Century girl react if she was forced to face the everyday troubles of a modern teenage girl? A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES has your answer… The obvious care that Rachel took in making the telling of her magical story completely believable is astounding. From the minutest descriptive detail to every word that is spoken – ranging from the feeling of a surf board skimming on the waves to Alessandra’s gradual progression toward a more modern way of speaking – albeit her words are understandably stilted, the slang coming with much difficulty and hesitation. I could only imagine how hard it was to make Alessandra sound like an authentic girl from the past – but Rachel pulls this off with much success! Also, now I am not entirely convinced that Rachel has never before been surfing… 😉

First and foremost, A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES is a romance; a wonderful, sweeping, swoontastic romance of the highest caliber to be found in YA fiction. To make a good romance, you need two likable main characters that readers can relate to. Who knew that we could find that in a prim and proper Renaissance girl? While Cat is reserved and steadfast in her ways, decked out in her unbreakable armor of snark and sass, Alessandra is reserved and timid, clothed head to toe in layer upon layer of tradition and presumed expectations. Yet buried underneath all those layers is a triumphant songbird who longs to escape her prison. The more assertive and independent “Less” is coaxed out thanks to the roguishly charming Austin. Through clever dialogue, a thrilling series of interactions and “bucket list” worthy experiences/lessons and an unfortunate familial back-story, we learn that this bad boy is much more than he initially appears. Austin is a character that can I already see many future readers crushing on in droves. If I were younger, I would be deeply under his spell… (Ah, who am I kidding, I already am under his spell. Go #Austin!)

I think one of my absolute favorite things about A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES is Alessandra’s uncanny observational skills and the direction they take her in the story. Rare is it that we find a female protagonist who, while certainly “lost” on so many levels, has such a clear head on her shoulders. I think this is most likely due to the period she comes from, when women were seen and not heard, giving her plenty of time to develop such skills.

Although coming from another time and place, Alessandra exemplifies a fear that many teenagers have today: the fear that we will never amount to anything in life. This fear is present throughout the novel, forcing the astute reader to ask the question: What makes a life “complete”? Though I stress that A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES is more “fun” than “insightful”, the book ends on a brilliant note that brings this question full circle.

I would recommend A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES to anyone who enjoys a good romance and even better fiction. Not since I read Bid Time Return (more commonly known as Somewhere in Time)  by Richard Matheson have I been so swept away by the occurrence of true love across space and time. With her writing skills as honed as they are already, I eagerly await the next installment in this series.

Standing Ovation, Rachel, for both you and Less.

Plot: 10
Characters: 10
Setting: 10
Pacing: 10
Style: 10

Grade: 100

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Grasshopper Jungle Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway

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Grasshopper Jungle
By Andrew Smith

February 11, 2014
Ages 15 and up
Disney Hyperion

 

 

 

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GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE by Andrew Smith is perhaps the most bizarre, alarming and uniquely-crafted book I have ever read. Equal parts disturbing and insightful, it will both disturb you and make you think.

A word of warning: This book is not for those who are easily put off by foul language, topics such as homosexuality, drugs, and other controversial society issues and descriptive depictions of sex and gore. If I were to give this to a young adult to read, that young adult would have to have a good head on their shoulders.

That being said, I have a feeling that GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE will be a big book on the market after it is released. People will talk about this one. It will be so polarizing on many levels. People will either love it or hate it because of the subject matter involved, the way that it is written (in the voice of a very “real” 16 year old boy who is very confused about his place in the world) as well as the outcome of the story.

When it comes to GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE, I fall more on the “love it” side of things. I love that the author holds back absolutely nothing in his writing. I love the sporadic way that the story is told; very frequently the plot is stalled so that the main character can refocus his thoughts and look back in history. While this slows things down a bit, it is necessary 1) in order for the reader to keep their sanity and 2) well, you see, Austin has a responsibility. It’s the end of the world, and his history may be the last history of mankind. So while these horrible mutant grasshoppers begin their attack on earth, we learn about Austin’s ancestors and their involvement in the overall scheme of things. We also learn about his town, those who mock Austin and his best friend Robby, and how they have shaped all things that are going down. We are torn, along with Austin, between a love for a friend and a love for a girl. Sounds confusing? That’s the point. Reading GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE is like jumping into the mind of a hormonal and highly confused teenage boy, sitting down with him and having a very real conversation over a couple of cigarettes. Whether or not you choose to smoke (I wouldn’t), can keep up with the kid, or will even remotely like the conversation, is up to you. It’s the end of the world, do you really have a choice?

I appreciated many of the topics touched upon within this book. Whether or not the author had a specific agenda in mind going in, I really don’t care. But the way he focuses on how each of his characters develops and behaves over the course of the book feels so natural and so very in touch with our modern day society. Be they human or be they huge unstoppable mutant bugs, the parallels between the characters and some figureheads in the real world are so very disturbingly similar. This thought is perhaps is the scariest part of this book: though I don’t actually foresee huge mutant bugs devouring our world, I do see humans acting in similar ways…

Pros:

  • A great read for those looking for an insightful look at LGBT issues and teens.
  • Unpredictable, alarming and very suspenseful read in the style of Kurt Vonnegut and Stephen King.
  • Not your grandma’s book club read. This is a book for those who like a little extra shock value and off-beat characters.

Cons:

  • Endless repetition. “This was our day.” “This is the truth.” “This is history.” You’ll know what I mean once you read it.
  • If bugs aren’t your thing, prepare to have nightmares.

I think that GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE will go down in history as one of the most shocking YA titles to ever hit the shelves. I would be surprised if it doesn’t win a few awards and cannot wait to hear about all the banned book lists it will makes. Schools will be having a field day with this book for years to come.

And I cannot recommend it enough.

Plot: 9
Characters:
9
Setting: 9
Pacing:
 8
Style:
8

Grade: 93

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Book Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer (+ Giveaway)

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Cress
By Marissa Meyer

February 4, 2014
Ages 12 and up
Feiwel & Friends

 

 

 

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Like a fine wine, Marissa Meyer’s books only get better with age. Cliche to say, I know, but if you like science fiction fantasy, and want to discover the most creative and original, fairy tale re-telling ever, then you need to read CRESS. But first, you need to catch up with Cinder and Scarlet. And if you have already read those books, then I have a feeling you don’t even need to read this review. You’re likely to read CRESS and love it, just as I did.

Cinder instilled in readers that this series was one to watch. It retold a classic tale in a unique, futuristic setting. Scarlet introduced a few new characters and guaranteed that this solid cast of characters had carved their ways into our hearts for the long haul. But CRESS even further expands the cast, and also ingeniously plays upon the characterizations that have already been developed in the first two books. With every new character introduced, Marissa seamlessly weaves their classic fairy tale into the overlying story. With almost the whole cast now in place, CRESS has climaxed into the best of the lot so far.

I really have not read anything so uniquely crafted as this story about seemingly “familiar” fairy tale characters. Upon further consideration, I think it’s safe to say that this series is one of my favorite, ever. In these books, you’ll find the most perfect form of storytelling; no matter what the characters are doing – whether they’re getting ready in the morning, rotting away in a prison cell, floating aimlessly through space or traveling hundreds of miles across barren lands on Earth, you know that you’re going to be enraptured. No matter what.

I keep saying this with every book, but I love Cress just as much as I love Scarlet and Cinder, both the book and the character. Thorne and Cress have some of the best scenes in the whole series; their chemistry positively sizzles. Cress’s innocence mixed with Thorne’s conniving charm and sneakiness… it’s like discovering the movie Tangled all over again and watching Rapunzel and Flynn interact, only on a more advanced, highly developed level – minus the singing and animal sidekicks (unless Wolf or Iko count as animals… or sidekicks?) But I digress. Point is: Their interactions, dialogue and the challenges that they face are both delightful and completely surprising with every turn of the page. CRESS is the most engrossing entry in the series simpy because Cress and Thorne are placed together for much of the book.

Pros:

  • Lots of Cress and lots of Thorne make for the best character interactions yet.- A perfectly drawn out and highly climatic middle and final part of the book provide plenty of thrills and suspense. Oh, and there’s an event at the beginning that is pretty heart-pounding, too.
  • New revelations will turn readers upside down. Jaw-dropping moments galore!
  • Come on, if you’re reading this series at all by now, you know it rocks.
  • This is the longest book in the series yet, but it feels like the shortest. You will finish the book wanting more, more, MORE!

Cons:

  •  We have to wait a whole year for the final book in the series, Winter.

You have space action, deception, road trips and fights for survival. You have gambling and humor, torture and tears… If you’re a reader looking for one behemoth of a novel that can deliver everything a reader could possibly want in addictive fiction, CRESS is the novel for you. And if you haven’t read the earlier books in the series, Cinder and Scarlet, you really need to get on that. Stat.

Plot: 10
Characters:
10
Setting: 10
Pacing:
10
Style:
10

Grade: 100

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Book Review: Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

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Uninvited
By Sophie Jordan

January 28, 2014
Ages 12 and up
Harper Teen

 

 

 

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UNINVITED by Sophie Jordan is one of those books that you kind of have to throw out all your expectations in advance. It’s a mix of science fiction and romance that will either move you – or it won’t.

The one thing I loved most about UNINVITED was the “self-fulling prophecy” idea that hung over the entire novel. Do people make themselves evil? Or does society as a whole make people evil? If a child, from a very young age, is repeatedly told that he will never amount to anything, and then eventually he ends up on the street – as a criminal or worse – who is to blame? The child, or those who told him what he would become? This thought has always intrigued me in my life, and now as a reader, seeing it as the focus in a novel… that is what pulled me in and kept me reading UNINVITED. Though, I admit, the “doom and gloom” feel of the book did pull me down at times. I wanted to shake these characters and tell them, “Don’t become what they apparently want you to become! Don’t give in to the Dark Side!!!”

That said, UNINVITED was much more Scarlett Letter, or perhaps a more accurate comparison would be Delirium 2.0, than it was Minority Report, as claimed by the publisher. I don’t know about other readers, but I didn’t find UNINVITED to be particularly “exciting”. It was more “contemporary” romance, full of melodramatic “my life is over” teen angst, than it was intense or even psychologically riveting. We actually spend multiple chapters with the characters sitting around in their new “segregated” school in a cage doing absolutely nothing except mulling over just how much life sucks for the HTS carriers. I wanted more than that, book. So much more.

But then, about 3/4 through the book, the HTS carriers are “relocated” and things finally get a bit interesting. We get a bit more insight behind what might actually be going on behind the scenes when it comes to Davy’s world and the “purpose” of the HTS carriers. I started seeing a bit of an actual plot that was engrossing, thrilling and totally mind-blowing as far as revelations are concerned. I like the “paint ball” style trials that the carriers were put through. It was like Ender’s Game, in which you didn’t know whether or not there was a hidden agenda under it all. By the end I thought, “OK, where is book two? I need to know how this turn of events is going to mess with Davy’s mind. I need to believe, as intense as that last part of UNINVITED was, that the rest of the story will follow through with the action, the intensity, the excitement… I need to know how this all ends!”

Pros:

  • UNINVITED got better as the book went on. That ending. Oh, Davy… My heart.
  • Original plot with an interesting concept on “self-fulling prophecies”.
  • This is only a two-book series. Not a long investment period. A bonus in my mind.

Cons:

  • Slooow, very contemporary, melo-dramatic first 3/4… Hard to get invested in the characters with such a slow plot. If you can get through the first parts, the reward at the end is worth it, though.
  • The romance is pretty much hit-and-miss. The romance was just thrown in there, which is suprising since this author is known to be a stellar romance writer. But still, I didn’t care much for the main male lead… Even by the end. I was much more invested in the implications of being an HTS carrier. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.
  • Prepare for the moodiness of the whole ordeal (being cut off from your friends, your school, your future, your whole world as you have always known it) to possibly drag you down.

I really did enjoy UNINVITED. I would recommend it to anyone who has read and enjoyed anything by Lauren Oliver, Kasie West, Lissa Price, or Gennifer Albin, since the book has similar themes as and a writing style much like the books by these authors.

I’m sticking around for book two, since I have a feeling it will more than make up for the slow build up in UNINVITED.

Plot: 8
Characters:
7
Setting: 8
Pacing:
7
Style:
8

Grade: 88

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The Unbound Blog Tour: Review + Interview

 

 

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The Unbound
By Victoria Schwab

January 28, 2014
Ages 12 and up
Disney Hyperion

 

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I am honored to be a part of Victoria Schwab’s blog tour for The Unbound, the second book in her series about what happens to us after we die and those who keep the dead in check. After being part of her Making History video tour for The Archived, you can imagine my excitement when I was asked to be part of this tour.

Please note: The Unbound is the second book to this series, if you have not yet read book one, The Archived, you really should get on that because this review will be full of book one spoilers.

 If you’re already a fan of The Archived, dare I say: The Unbound is even better!

The Pros:

– The writing is even more impressive as this author fine-tunes her skills with a vision and prose that surpasses her previous work. So many quotable passages in this book, guys. But, anyone who is familiar with Victoria’s work really should not be surprised. Like a fine wine, this author only gets better with age.

– The emotional levels are through the roof.  Victoria takes risks in how she treats her main characters. She forces them to deal with such issues as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) due to the horrific events in book one. There were moments when I wondered if our main characters would be successful, or if they would just give up, give in or worse. Bonds of trust are severed and misunderstandings between family and friends run rampant within The Unbound. You will wonder who is right, who is wrong – and who to trust until the very last page. This books is both breathtaking and heartbreaking in its beauty, but you will love every page of it.

– In all but one case, the book is entirely unpredictable.  Oh goodness, if I had to make comparisons, The Unbound is like a mix of Carrie by Stephen King, meets Something Like Normal by Trish Doller. Odd combination, I know, but you will understand one the plot and the psychology behind it come to light. Though I had a good idea who the villain would be in the end, I had no idea how they would pull off their devious plots. Suspense galore, my friends. Suspense galore.

The Cons:

The pacing in The Unbound is a bit off at times, but is an improvement over The ArchivedMainly early on in the book when Mac goes back to high school and acclimates to her new friends and schoolwork is when I had issue with the pacing. Otherwise, once the meat of the story kicks in and all heck breaks loose, the sluggishness of the earlier chapters is quickly forgotten. I never once found myself wanting to put the book down, at least.

– Mac’s depression occasionally dragged me down. But then again, I doubt that the emotional level and the story wouldn’t have been half as interesting if it hadn’t. Just make sure you read with a fluffy animal or with pictures of unicorns and rainbows around you. You might find that you need to pick-me-up.

Any other cons? Not really. But how quickly can we expect book three? With that ending, I know that things are going to get interesting…

Plot: 10
Characters:
10
Setting: 10
Pacing:
 8
Style:
9

Grade: 97

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Othershpere Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway

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Othersphere

By Nina Berry

December 31, 2013
Ages 12 and up
Kensington Books

 

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OTHERSPHERE by Nina Berry is a stellar conclusion to one of the handful of paranormal romance trilogies I’ve read lately. I’ll be honest, paranormal romance has most worn out its welcome for me, but the Otherkin series is one of the (very few) exceptions I will make.

I love this series. LOVE IT. I’ll admit, I have a thing for shape-shifters, and no shape-shifting series has quite grabbed me like this one has – not since I finished the Tiger’s Curse series by Colleen Houck almost two years ago. (Wow, has it really be that long?) You may be noticing a trend here. Shape-shifting. Tigers… Hmm, apparently there is a reason why, if I loved Tiger’s Curse so much, that I would also love this series about – you guessed it – a tiger shape-shifting teen named Desdemona (“Dez”).

The Pros:

A strong cast of characters. Dez starts off as a misfit teen with a back-brace in book one, but she finishes up the series the strongest of all the characters. Each character has their own personality (based on their animal shifting abilities) and their individual background stories become as much a part of the story as Dez’s. There is not a stronger group of mismatched friends in any YA series ou there. Warning: your heart will be broken more than once.

Great underlying messages. At the front is the message of self-esteem and self-confidence. Watching Dez overcome her weaknesses as well as her ability to unite people from different backgrounds should be applauded. Then there is the environmental message, which is largely addressed in book three. A unique plot point about endangered species speak loud and clear, as well as gives a Narnia-esque feel to the final battle. It is epic and will make event the most jaded “non-environmentalist” think. Also touched apon are messages on religion and sexuality. With so many messages in one series, you may worry that the author is over-preaching on her beliefs, but really, the topics included in these books only make the story stronger. I never once thought that the author was “preaching” rather than telling a very important story – with magic and animals…

The school. The Othersphere. The science elements combined with a magical world… This story was so well-structured. I love it when even the magic is so perfectly explained. And mixing science with magic? Guys, you will have to read it to believe it, because I know it’s impossible otherwise.

The pacing of this novel is spot-on. Just like with Othermoon, OTHERSPHERE dives right into the story, with some recapping interwoven with the forward movement of the plot. Dez is jumping forward between her feelings for the two brothers, Caleb and Lazar. Cue the drama. Though her feelings are always on her mind, sometimes at the most inconvenient moments (but hey, she’s a teen), the more important elements of the story – dealing with Ximon, finding out about Dez’s mother, etc. – do not suffer as a result. There is more (yes, more!) magic, action and adventure than in the previous books and the world building takes a definite step up.

One of my absolute favorite parts of the book was when Dez, Caleb, Lazar and London take a trip into Othersphere. I want to see that world for myself, even with all of its horrors! It is a world that sounds as beautiful as it is deadly. Plus, the connection that Nina Berry makes between the Othersphere and the extinct and endangered species from our world was brilliant, simply brilliant.

The Cons:

That dreaded love triangle. But it is short-living, not really poking its ugly little head until OTHERSHPERE (book 3). The triangle is also the result of misunderstandings and melodramatic conflict. You always know who she’s going to end up with anyway.

The world-building is slightly lacking early-on in the series. Except for the school. The school is awesome from the very first page it’s mentioned. Book three improved greatly upon this point in leaps and bounds, so I guess it not really a “con” with regard to OTHERSPHERE.

If you love shape-shifter stories – as well as books about parallel universes – you really should consider picking this one up today. All books have now been released, so it’s a the perfect pick for a binge reading weekend!

You might also want to read my review of book one to learn more about why I love the Otherkin trilogy.

Plot: 9
Characters:
9
Setting: 10
Pacing:
 10
Style:
9

Grade: 97

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Taste the Heat

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Taste the Heat
By Rachel Harris
July 8, 2013
Ages 18 and up (Personally, I’d say 16 and up)
Entangled Bliss (Light Romance)
Reviewed: eARC from Publisher

 

JENNA’S REVIEW

 

For anyone who is on the cusp of adulthood or is looking for a good crossover from YA to “adult” reading, TASTE THE HEAT by Rachel Harris is the perfect book for you. The title is part of Entangled Publishing’s Bliss line, which releases contemporary novels that reflect the trials and tribulations of modern love in America with a focus on family, home, a strong sense of community and happiness. This description is the perfect way to summarize the overall mood and setting of TASTE THE HEAT, an adult novel that, while undeniably hot and spine-tingly romantic, is better suited for teens than a vast majority of the “new adult” titles currently on the market.

As far as adult romances go, Rachel Harris knows how to turn up the heat, while keeping her characters grounded in reality and delightfully, well, tasteful. I swooned in all the right places, I begged for more when character interactions got “this close” to toe curling hotness and I wanted only the best for everyone involved. There are some serious situations involved here that will definitely rev up your emotions, but nothing overly-so to become melodramatic… Just a pinch of family rifts, a dash of infidelity, all blended in with a bit of the dearly departed and whatnot. The overall depth to this story about family, unrequited love and life-long friendships will have you craving additional stories about the secondary characters – which, I am happy to say, the author has confirmed will be coming!

What I love most about Rachel’s writing is her ability to put her characters into situations that reflect their unique and realistic personalities, decisions and emotions. I saw the potential in her first, super flirty young adult novel, My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century, and I experienced it again in TASTE THE HEAT. But, dare I say, it appears that Rachel has honed in on the writing elements and skills that she knows best, and she has developed an even more fleshed out cast of characters that current and new fans will surely fall in love with.

TASTE THE HEAT is a story full of preconceived notions and misunderstandings and is a complete roller coaster ride on the emotions. I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. While I found myself grinding my teeth every time one of her characters thought a silly and absurd thought or made a decision that I knew would not work out in their favor, underneath it all I felt that the story was progressing the way that it was meant to. I loved reading about how the two main characters gravitated toward, and then drifted away from, each other – back and forth, back and forth – throughout the novel. In the end, I have never encountered a more deliberate avoidance of the *glaring* truth between two characters in all of my life – but I loved every bit of it!

Everything about TASTE THE HEAT is utterly delightful and just as deliciously sweet as the tasty treats that are sprinkled throughout its pages. Oh, and it’s got firemen. Like, the GOOD kind of firemen. The kind you’ll want to snap shirtless photos of in order to make a 12 month calendar… In fact, I have created a new Twitter hashtag for how I feel about the leading fireman in TASTE THE HEAT. That’s right folks, I officially have a #JasonCrush.

For only $2.99, you’ll want to add TASTE THE HEAT to your collection of ebooks to take to the beach this summer. Too far from the beach? Well then… just pull out a blanket, find the nearest patch of grass and expect to enjoy a few hours of fresh air and some simmering summer heat… preferably in front of a building full of smokin’ hot firemen (just make sure they’re not smokin’ because the building is on fire, ok?) Trust me, you’re in for a real treat with this one!

Highly recommended to all fans of romantic stories that are full of family, food and spicy fun!

Plot: 9
Characters: 10
Setting:10
Pacing: 10
Style: 9

Grade: 98

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