Review: By Your Side by Kasie West

by-your-side-kasie-westIn this irresistible story, Kasie West explores the timeless question of what to do when you fall for the person you least expect. Witty and romantic, this paperback original from a fan favorite is perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson.

When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.

Only he doesn’t come. No one does.

Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?


4.5 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**By Your Side comes out January 31, 2017**

Rating: 4.5 stars

You know a story is amazing when you zip through it so fast that you don’t even realize you’re almost to the end until you’re practically there. I thought By Your Side would take me longer to finish, but oh boy, was I in for a surprise! This is a contemporary novel that you should definitely pick up in the new year.

Autumn is the most relatable girl I’ve had the pleasure of reading about this year. Yes, I may love strong characters and those girls who do things I wish I could do as well as they do, but sometimes, you just need one of those girls who seem to understand you intrinsically.

Autumn is that girl for me.

She has anxiety attacks and that is really relatable to many young women, me included. But she is strong and tries her best to not let it deter her from living life. Being trapped in a library by herself that is barely staying warm over a long weekend, I’m sure most people would find it hard to remain calm too. (Of course, being that the building IS a library….it might be the best place to be in if I were to choose a building to be stuck in)

The boy she ends up being trapped with is a bit stereotypical. A hardened young man who is going through the foster system and a rough childhood, Dax is the picture of seriousness. But Autumn’s witty (and sometimes sarcastic) comments are like minor victories when they bring out a tiny smile or amused look on his face.

Their romance was beautiful. It was never rushed and totally done right. Kasie West is a genius when it comes to writing romances that make you wish the characters get together faster, but pull you in anyway as you anticipate nervously. This one was no exception. It was a glorious slow-burn process that had you hooked from the beginning. Their friendship was slow too, as Dax didn’t do commitments or attachments. He wanted freedom over anything else. He was just waiting for that time to come. Meanwhile, Autumn was hoping for a relationship to come about, although maybe with the wrong guy.

This story is beyond the simple plot of a girl and a boy being trapped in a library together and falling in love. It’s about falling for someone even when you least expected it. It’s about learning more about yourself, taking care of yourself sometimes even when others need you as well. It’s about courage in sharing our hardest secrets and hoping others will still look at you the same.

By Your Side is one story you don’t wanna miss in 2017. It’s the best yet of Kasie West’s stories. I can’t wait to see more.

Overall Recommendation:
I’m a huge fan of Kasie West’s works, but By Your Side blew me away. With a seemingly simplistic plot revolving around two very different teens stuck in a library together for a long weekend, this story is so much more than that. Autumn is such a relatable protagonist and her friendship (and later, romance) with Dax is honest and full of trust. This is what a relationship should look like in real life and in stories! How can you not root for these two through their journeys of self-reflection and love? You definitely must add this to your 2017 to-read list!

Review: The Wish Granter by C.J. Redwine

Series: Ravenspire #2

the-wish-granter-cj-redwineAn epic, romantic, and action-packed fantasy inspired by the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, about a bastard princess who must take on an evil fae to save her brother’s soul, from C. J. Redwine, the New York Times bestselling author of The Shadow Queen. Perfect for fans of Graceling and the Lunar Chronicles.

The world has turned upside down for Thad and Ari Glavan, the bastard twins of Súndraille’s king. Their mother was murdered. The royal family died mysteriously. And now Thad sits on the throne of a kingdom whose streets are suddenly overrun with violence he can’t stop.

Growing up ignored by the nobility, Ari never wanted to be a proper princess. And when Thad suddenly starts training Ari to take his place, she realizes that her brother’s ascension to the throne wasn’t fate. It was the work of a Wish Granter named Alistair Teague who tricked Thad into wishing away both the safety of his people and his soul in exchange for the crown.

So Ari recruits the help of Thad’s enigmatic new weapons master, Sebastian Vaughn, to teach her how to fight Teague. With secret ties to Teague’s criminal empire, Sebastian might just hold the key to discovering Alistair’s weaknesses, saving Ari’s brother—and herself.

But Teague is ruthless and more than ready to destroy anyone who dares stand in his way—and now he has his sights set on the princess. And if Ari can’t outwit him, she’ll lose Sebastian, her brother…and her soul.


3 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperColins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**The Wish Granter comes out February 14, 2017**

The premise of this story was a unique spin on a less common fairy tale that C.J. Redwine opted for, that being Rumpelstiltskin. Let me start off by saying that our protagonist, Ari, was a breath of fresh air. What do I mean by that?

Well, 1) she wasn’t a thin rod to start off with, where time and time again she was described as having “generous curves”. 2) She wasn’t a true princess by birth, but rather a bastard one. Like, how often do you have the main character as the bastard offspring? She and her brother Thad made the story more interesting with this angle of animosity against them by the kingdom they ended up leading. 3) She has this undying love for all things baked – pies, cakes, you name it. I dunno why this point had to be construed so many times to the reader, but I suppose it made Ari different too.

The choice of fairy tale was entertaining as it’s not as overdone as other ones, ahem *Snow White like in The Shadow Queen*. The Wish Granter and his (literally) bloody contracts threatened peace in the kingdom of Sundraille. After reading Redwine’s previous Ravenspire novel not so long ago, it was nice to get to know another kingdom in this world she had created. There was creativity put into spinning this tale in her own way, including Ari’s path of discovery to destroying The Wish Granter, Alistair Teague.

I enjoyed the tense emotions running seeing the ruthless underground network of Teague’s employees in the city of Kosim Thalas. I loved the excitement pumping when reading about the sneaky ways people were ensnared in Teague’s fine print contracts (because of course, I knew they’d be saved somehow – not a fairy tale for no reason). And I loved that there were guest appearances from other sources. For example, near the beginning of the book, some of you may be delighted to see the reference to Lorelai and her dragon prince. I sure was. But I almost fan-girled to see a badass version of Hansel and Gretel pop into the plot as well. I kinda wish there would be a separate story on these twins in the future. Maybe in the story for the fae kingdom of Llorenyae? *Here’s to hoping*.

So why doesn’t this have a higher rating?

Well, for starters, my heart just wasn’t into the romance. Gasp! I know, right? The romance is everything.

Here’s why. The chemistry between Ari and Sebastian was okay, at best. It didn’t light any fires in my heart. It didn’t make me rush through the pages in hopes that they’d get their happily ever after. No, I just felt…indifferent. I may have liked Ari’s fiery personality and quick thinking, but Sebastian felt too clichéd to me.

Now, don’t go hating on me but his broken family situation and physical abuse in childhood made him into a very quiet man with many issues to overcome. That’s to be expected. But sometimes reading from his POV, it just brought down any romantic mood. I liked him enough, I suppose, on his own. He tried to do his best by the princess he thought he didn’t deserve to be friends with, but he’s just a broken hero at the end of the day. Maybe in fairy tales a princess’ love can change a man and overcome any problem, but it just seemed to be a little clichéd. And I just didn’t feel true chemistry beyond falling for each other due to intense circumstances.

Although the plot of the story was unique, it also was a little predictable towards the end. The climax really picked up, but for the most part, it dragged. It took me a while to finish this book. Yes, I was busy, but if it was really exciting, I’d have set time to finish it no matter what. And the conclusion to the big question, how do you destroy the Wish Granter and his binding contracts?, just felt too simple. And predictable. And frankly confusing. I can’t give away any answers without ruining it, but honestly, her final plan in play (that related to the original tale) felt unnecessary in getting rid of Teague.

So I have good points and not-so-good points to make. At the end of the day, it was still an interesting enough read. Would I recommend it? Maybe not. Unless you really enjoyed book 1 in the Ravenspire series, The Wish Granter might just be a pleasant afternoon read that doesn’t quite stir your blood pressure.

Overall Recommendation:
The Wish Granter was a different take on the Rumpelstiltskin story with a leading character that had a fiery personality and might be more relatable to some readers. The story continues as a companion novel to the Ravenspire series by Redwine and it’s up to standard with her previous work. However, lack of true chemistry between the leads, slower pacing throughout and somewhat predictable ending after all that buildup left a bit of disappointment behind. I will probably only recommend it to those who loved The Shadow Queen and to those who aren’t expecting a grand spin on this fairy tale.

Review: Rise of Fire by Sophie Jordan

Series: Reign of Shadows #2

rise-of-fire-sophie-jordanThe richly suspenseful sequel to Sophie Jordan’s romantic fantasy Reign of Shadows.

Luna and Fowler have escaped the kingdom of Relhok, but they haven’t escaped the darkness. When a battle against the dark dwellers mortally injures Fowler, Luna is faced with a choice: put their fate in the hands of mysterious strangers or risk losing Fowler forever.

Desperate to keep the one bright part of her life alive, Luna accepts the help of soldiers from a nearby kingdom. Lagonia’s castle offers reprieve from the dangerous outside world—until the king discovers both Fowler’s and Luna’s true ties to Relhok and their influence over the throne.

Now pawns in each kingdom’s political game, Luna and Fowler are more determined than ever to escape and build the life they’ve been dreaming of. But their own pasts have a tight hold on their hearts and their destinies. Luna must embrace the darkness and fire within her before she loses not only Fowler, but the power she was destined to inherit.


4 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Rise of Fire comes out February 7, 2017**

“Do you feel my gaze on you? Do you feel my heart, Luna? It’s yours. It belongs to you. You know me.”

Even after a year I still remember where we left off in Reign of Shadows with our dear princess watching her loved one sacrificing himself to the dark creatures known as dwellers in order to save her.

And this is exactly where this novel picks up from. At that horrid cliffhanger. At least I’ve finally got my hands on what happens next.

Rise of Fire is even more enjoyable than its predecessor. With more essential characters coming into the story (finally!) and more of Fowler’s past catching up to him that we only had glimpses of previously, this was mostly satisfactory.

Another kingdom has taken them in and now they’ve escaped one darkness only to hop into a different kind. Being pawns of yet another maniacal king (can there only be evil kings in fantasy stories that you just yearn to overthrow?), there is plenty for Luna to overcome to reach her happily-ever-after.

She’s still the brave and beautiful girl I remember. Her blindness both makes her unique and memorable. She uses it as an advantage that doesn’t slow her down in any way. Thrown into a completely different – and civil – environment among the nobles at court, you’d think she’d be like a fish out of water after all this time in the Outside where it’s an eat-or-be-eaten world. But she holds her own as she tries to care for Fowler, and her POV was always very enjoyable to read.

The bench was pulled out so quickly I nearly fell. I’d almost forgotten the existence of the king’s guards. Sadists. Apparently they were never far.

With plenty of swoony scenes for those of us rooting for more romance, this book gives enough to make you smile to yourself. Fowler is the guy you want for your princess. Add to that the suspense of escaping from the clutches of their manipulators, I couldn’t stop myself from flipping through these pages rapidly.

The only point that made this book less-than-perfect was that I could’ve used so much more to their story. Being a duology instead of a trilogy, it didn’t have the middle book syndrome, but I felt the action could’ve peaked a lot higher, especially nearer to the end. The whole ending felt a little anti-climatic to me. It was wrapped up too simply in my opinion. Maybe I just expected it to go out with a bang that was a little more nitty-gritty and complex. Don’t get me wrong, it still was a nice ending. Not all the loosest ends were tied up (I was glad for that because it would’ve just been TOO much of a happily-ever-after moment that’s only seen in traditional fairy tales), but it was a positive note overall. I’m happy with it, at the end of the day, and I hope you would be too.

Overall Recommendation:
Rise of Fire gives a smacking punch to the story that started off in Reign of Shadows. With amped up suspense and romantic scenes worth swooning a little over, Fowler and Luna’s adventures get a little crazier as they set off to stop a mad king. Wrapping up this duology, this sequel delivered in ways that were more than satisfactory, with most loose ends tied up in a nice bow. I recommend it to all you fantasy lovers that like equal parts romance and suspenseful plots.

Note: all quotes taken from this novel are subject to change

Review: Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

long-may-she-reign-rhiannon-thomasThe Girl of Fire and Thorns meets The Queen of the Tearling in this thrilling fantasy standalone about one girl’s unexpected rise to power.

Freya was never meant be queen. Twenty third in line to the throne, she never dreamed of a life in the palace, and would much rather research in her laboratory than participate in the intrigues of court. However, when an extravagant banquet turns deadly and the king and those closest to him are poisoned, Freya suddenly finds herself on the throne.

Freya may have escaped the massacre, but she is far from safe. The nobles don’t respect her, her councillors want to control her, and with the mystery of who killed the king still unsolved, Freya knows that a single mistake could cost her the kingdom – and her life.

Freya is determined to survive, and that means uncovering the murderers herself. Until then, she can’t trust anyone. Not her advisors. Not the king’s dashing and enigmatic illegitimate son. Not even her own father, who always wanted the best for her, but also wanted more power for himself.

As Freya’s enemies close in and her loyalties are tested, she must decide if she is ready to rule and, if so, how far she is willing to go to keep the crown. 


3.5 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Long May She Reign comes out February 21, 2017**

Rating: 3.5 stars

Long May She Reign was something familiar but at the same time, so very different from what I expected. From princesses to the scientific method, Freya was a girl after my own heart. There are many things to be praised about this book, and I shall endeavour to point those things out.

LOVED:
1. I’m a scientist. It’s not so surprising that a science-lover like myself would be overjoyed to find something so out of place like the scientific method in experimentation in a YA fantasy novel. So of course I thoroughly enjoyed that aspect. Freya was a chemist, tinkering with chemical reactions from different powders and metals. Her curiosity about the way the world around her worked was refreshing. She wasn’t pompous in her assumptions or her worldview because everything needed proof. That was the way science worked.

2. Freya herself was a wonderful protagonist.
She just wanted to be a scientist, to explore the world and create experiments. But when disaster occurred and turned her plans – let alone world – upside down, she left her plans behind to do her duty. To become queen, the last thing she wanted to be. She was afraid, who wouldn’t be? Such responsibility in the aftermath of such a tragic event in the kingdom. But her courage and belief that she could make a difference, make the kingdom better , was admirable.

I loved Scientist Freya, but Queen Freya was just as amazing. She remained down-to-earth throughout the novel, facing each hurdle while trying to remain true to herself even when others were trying to manipulate her to their own image. This leads me to the wonderful character development which is always important. From a frightened nobody to a more confident queen, we get the privilege of seeing Freya learn what was important in managing a kingdom and people who had never given her the time of day before.

3. At the heart of this book was a mystery. A simple who-dunnit kind of question. Who killed all those people at the banquet that put her on the throne? I love a good mystery. Long May She Reign was honestly more of a mystery story than a fantasy. The sole focus was hunting down proof, evidence!, that someone had plotted to kill the court and it wasn’t her (because it looked suspicious it’d be her since she ascended to power). I thought it was a well-done mystery, with red herrings being pointed towards by Thomas, and it wasn’t altogether too predictable due to the motive.

4. Last point of wonder was the few secondary characters placed around Freya. Her best friend Naomi and new friend Madeleine were great examples of strong female characters. Freya herself was too. They didn’t need the prince riding down on a horse to save them from all their problems. Freya proved herself smart and capable with her scientific knowledge and heart for the people. Naomi and Madeleine, likewise, were the strong advocates backing up their queen, giving her the strength and courage to face the troubles coming. I loved that about them.

Of course, there’s still a love interest. Ah, William Fitzroy. He was a fun character. A little clichéd with his injured pride and princely status, albeit an illegitimate one, but he had his vulnerable moments that made me really like him. For Freya, there was no one better (although, that may also be due to the fact that there WERE NO OTHER young men her age to potentially court her anyway).

NOT-SO-LOVED:
1. Of course, this is where I diverge in praise and head into the problems. Rhiannon Thomas is known for not giving her characters happily-ever-after in romantic bliss. Now I can kinda see why in this standalone novel. It’s not to say that Freya and Fitzroy don’t have a chance for the future, but she leaves it in a way that is very ambiguous. Like, yeah maybe they can get over their differences and form something someday. But for now, this is kinda where they stand. Yes, there’s hope, but it’s not the wonderful solid “yes they’re together!” that I love.

2. And the other thing I’d point out is the lack of world building and slow pacing. I love Freya. If I didn’t, this rating may have dropped a little. If you’re looking for something dark and bloody and ridiculously suspenseful, well, unfortunately this is not for you. Long May She Reign is nothing like the fights for the crown that you may expect from TV shows like Reign or from history, like the comical re-telling of Lady Jane Grey in My Lady Jane. Freya goes about things in a logical manner with that scientific mind of hers, and I wouldn’t say there’s even truly a “battle” scene in this story. So if action is a must-have on your list, this may be a problem. The world building wasn’t much beyond the divine beings this land worshipped that later plays a small role in the story, but for a true fantasy novel, it just didn’t really focus much on this aspect.

At the end of the day, this book was wonderful in many ways for me (it brought me back from a book hiatus after all), but it’s not for everyone.

Overall Recommendation:
Long May She Reign hosts a cast of wonderful characters, in particular the protagonist. Freya is a scientist, a girl that I could very well love. With deep character development, Freya navigates ascension to the throne with the help of her fierce girl friends. Add a funny love interest and it’s got the makings of a fantasy story, but personally, Freya ties it all together for me. It’s not a book for everyone as it lacks heavy action and suspense, plus romantics out there may also be disappointed in the outcome of the romance. Overall, it’s a beautiful mystery but it could be a hit or miss for some.

Review: Gamescape: Overworld by Emma Trevayne

Series: The Nova Project #1

gamescape-overworld-emma-trevayneThe planet is dying. Centuries of abuse have damaged the earth beyond repair, and now all the authorities can do is polish the surface, make the landscape look pretty to hide the disease within. Two prominent yet mysterious businessmen couldn’t fix it, either, but they did something even better. Together, they invented Chimera, the most complex and immersive virtual reality video game the world has ever known. The Cubes in which Chimera is played quickly became a fixture of this landscape: part distraction, part hospital, and almost wholly responsible for holding up the failing world economy.

Miguel Anderson is also dying. He isn’t the only one who plays the game–everybody does–but Miguel has more reason than most: When players leave their Cubes for the day, the upgrades and enhancements they’ve earned for their virtual characters leave with them. New lungs to breathe poisoned air, skin that won’t burn under the sun are great and everything… but Miguel, born as broken as the earth, needs a new heart–and soon–if he wants any hope of surviving just a little longer.

Then the two Gamerunners announce a competition, with greater rewards and faster progression than ever before, and Miguel thinks his prayers have been answered. All he needs to do is get picked to lead a team, play the game he’s spent years getting good at, and ask for his prize when he wins. Simple, really.

At first, things seem to go according to plan. Mostly, anyway. Inside his Cube, with his new team–including his best friend–at his back, Miguel begins his quest. He plays recklessly, even dangerously, for someone whose most vital organ could give up at any moment, but his desperation makes him play better than ever. The eyes of the world are on him, watching through status updates and live feeds, betting on his chances. With greater rewards, though, come greater risks, and the Gamerunners seem to delight at surprising the competitors at every turn. As he ventures deeper into a world that blends the virtual and the real to an unsettling degree, Miguel begins to wonder just why the game was invented at all, and whether its stakes could be even higher than life and death. 


4 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Gamescape: Overworld comes out September 13, 2016**

I’m not an avid fan of gaming like others may be, and not all stories based on virtual gaming works, but Gamescape: Overworld most definitely doesn’t fit in that category and surpassed all of my expectations.

Miguel needs a heart and this game that’s taken over the world seems to present that wondrous prize that just may help him live. And he’s good at it. Of course, everything has its own twists. It took a while for the story to get going as the gamemakers decided on this new team-play competition with the craziest prizes. The slow pacing here bugged me a bit but Trevayne kept me very much entertained with her imaginative descriptions of each level that Miguel fought to beat. The different ways you can die and the tools collected along the way, not to mention the whole idea of gaming in these giant cube-like buildings around the city, her world building was on point.

The storyline continued to be action-packed as Miguel battled his way to team leader and gained a new team to look after. Each individual member on his team was different, with their own fears to face and baggage they carried. I thoroughly enjoyed their interactions, whether it be positive ones or arguments that arose during the stressful game play.

Emotionally, Trevayne was pretty good at bringing out the vulnerabilities in her characters. This isn’t just a story about gaming or high-tech equipment. Miguel obviously dealt with a lot of stress and emotional baggage. At any moment, his heart could stop. But there was this one moment in the first half of the book that made me pause. It was beautifully sad. Our hero wasn’t a shining one on some white horse. He was a broken boy that just wanted to breathe his first breath of LIFE. Without the fear of dying on his back so constantly.

As for romance, it’s not such a huge part of the story. There is a love interest and she was part of Miguel’s new team, but I honestly wasn’t so interested in that whole aspect at all, which is pretty crazy for me to say. The story was so steeped in gaming intrigue, with the crazy “worlds” built for each level and the suspense of being the first team to win it all, that anything as trivial as a budding romance didn’t register as important with me. But if you like a taste of romance in your stories (as I normally do), there’s still a bit of that present.

I will conclude that what brought this whole story a higher rating was how it all tied in with the mystery of who the gamemakers were and why they created Chimera in the first place. What was its purpose? Why build a game when the world was falling apart when there could be a number of better things to do? Who were they working for?

Snippets of conversations in both the gamemakers’ perspectives in between chapters were the highlight of this novel, in my opinion. As the story continued, pieces were dropping into place until everything just CLICKED. This whole thing was so much bigger than you could ever imagine. The whole GAME was more than it just looked on the surface. The ending was absolutely fantastic. It had my heart racing and wondering how they would get out of this mess. I can’t give much more away, but know that it all goes way beyond the clichéd gaming storyline trope that’s more commonly used in a story like this. Trust me on this, you’re in for a surprise.

Overall Recommendation:
Gamescape: Overworld is levels more than what you may expect from a book about gamers. Yes, it’s full of action as Miguel fights his way for the most important prize of all, but it’s also about facing your fears and making the right calls in the heat of the moment. The suspense builds as Trevayne teases us with little bits about the mysterious gamemakers that started it all in between certain chapters. Who are they and what big plans did they have in store for the gamers beyond the surface level of more prizes? Even if you’re not a fan of gaming, this story has something for everyone. At the heart of it, this story is about choices. Follow Miguel and you will find out just what kind of an emotional ride this will take you on.

Review: Diplomatic Immunity by Brodi Ashton

diplomatic-immunity-brodi-ashtonRaucous parties, privileged attitudes, underage drinking, and diplomatic immunity…it’s all part of student life on Embassy Row.

Piper Baird has always dreamed of becoming a journalist. So when she scores a scholarship to exclusive Chiswick Academy in Washington, DC, she knows it’s her big opportunity. Chiswick offers the country’s most competitive prize for teen journalists—the Bennington scholarship—and winning will ensure her acceptance to one of the best schools in the country.

Piper isn’t at Chiswick for two days before she witnesses the intense competition in the journalism program—and the extreme privilege of the young and wealthy elite who attend her school. And Piper knows access to these untouchable students just might give her the edge she’ll need to blow the lid off life at the school in a scathing and unforgettable exposé worthy of the Bennington.

The key to the whole story lies with Rafael Amador, the son of the Spanish ambassador—and the boy at the center of the most explosive secrets and scandals on Embassy Row. Rafael is big trouble—and when he drops into her bedroom window one night, asking for help, it’s Piper’s chance to get the full scoop. But as they spend time together, Piper discovers that despite his dark streak, Rafael is smart, kind, funny, and gorgeous—and she might have real feelings for him. How can she break the story of a lifetime if it could destroy the boy she just might love?


3 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Diplomatic Immunity comes out September 6, 2016**

I will admit, reading this book about wannabe journalists had my blood boiling at times. It might just be some odd bias, or it could have just been Piper’s callousness, but her desire to get whatever she wanted over what may happen as a result of her story just made me wanna poke her at times.

Let me start from the beginning.

Piper comes from a family that’s facing money problems so her only way of getting into college was obviously by way of a scholarship. Having won the chance to study at a prestigious school that happens to cater to a bunch of diplomatic families’ kids gave her the brilliant idea that her featured story would be some expose on the antics they throw without having to face the consequences. ‘Cause they’re rich. And ’cause they’re DI kids.

Don’t get me wrong. I thought the plot summary sounded fun because this is basically what was written there. But having to read through Piper’s thoughts as she kept persuading herself that she could do this, write something objectively on people she encountered day after day without feeling like this could all go so wrong, I couldn’t handle it.

And the subject of her attentions? Rafe was indeed something. He played up the antics, looking for danger and not seemingly too worried about the consequences of such actions. I didn’t particularly like him all that much in the beginning either. He was the clichéd bad boy who had a deeper sensitive side that would slowly open up to our protagonist.

Of course, that’s what happened. Okay, I sound kinda snippy and I guess I am a bit, but the last 30% of this book made up for the rating. There were very romantic moments set up by Rafe that made me wish I had a Rafael of my own. That’s why it bugged me that Piper could go and continually deceive him even though he could be rather sweet and vulnerable towards her.

Diplomatic Immunity follows a rather predictable storyline, a storyline that I normally would really enjoy, but at the end of the day, its execution could’ve been better. And maybe Piper could’ve been a tad less annoying.

Overall Recommendation:
Your typical girl meets boy kinda story, Diplomatic Immunity just adds a bit of extra flavour because it involves the kids on Embassy Row. Piper Baird was a little too aggressive in her means to attain her goals which made the story harder to swallow when you’re annoyed with the protagonist. It eventually gets a bit better as she finally grows a conscience – I mean, realizes her mistake – and that’s where the entertaining bit of the book comes in. Overall, it’s like any chick lit kinda novel, being mildly entertaining without sticking out a whole lot in its genre.

Review: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge

Series: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire #1

bright-smoke-cold-fire-rosamund-hodgeWhen the mysterious fog of the Ruining crept over the world, the living died and the dead rose. Only the walled city of Viyara was left untouched.

The heirs of the city’s most powerful—and warring—families, Mahyanai Romeo and Juliet Catresou share a love deeper than duty, honor, even life itself. But the magic laid on Juliet at birth compels her to punish the enemies of her clan—and Romeo has just killed her cousin Tybalt. Which means he must die.

Paris Catresou has always wanted to serve his family by guarding Juliet. But when his ward tries to escape her fate, magic goes terribly wrong—killing her and leaving Paris bound to Romeo. If he wants to discover the truth of what happened, Paris must delve deep into the city, ally with his worst enemy . . . and perhaps turn against his own clan.

Mahyanai Runajo just wants to protect her city—but she’s the only one who believes it’s in peril. In her desperate hunt for information, she accidentally pulls Juliet from the mouth of death—and finds herself bound to the bitter, angry girl. Runajo quickly discovers Juliet might be the one person who can help her recover the secret to saving Viyara.

Both pairs will find friendship where they least expect it. Both will find that Viyara holds more secrets and dangers than anyone ever expected. And outside the walls, death is waiting. . .


2.5 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Bright Smoke, Cold Fire comes out September 27, 2016**

Rating: 2.5 stars

Being familiar with Rosamund Hodge’s kinda work and unique plot twists to works that we’re used to, I came in with 2 expectations.

1) This novel would be all dark and twisted up as is her usual style and 2) the themed storyline would be Romeo & Juliet. Well, one of those expectations was met.

Was this really a Romeo & Juliet based story?

For a story that sounded like it was based on a star crossed romance that was absolutely forbidden between 2 clan members in a dying wasteland, oddly enough, Romeo and Juliet weren’t the main characters. Oh no. Their clan relatives were. Paris and Runajo.

Paris was definitely my fav of the 2. He’s the character with the loyal heart and a sense of honour in a city where it seems that kinda trait is running out. He didn’t expect much in life, yet when he landed the responsibility to protect the Juliet, he goes all in. Even after it goes awry and it’s now Romeo he needs to protect, he still doesn’t let him down no matter that they’re rival clans that don’t particularly like or understand each other.

Runajo on the other hand was hard for me to empathize with. A more complex character, her moral compass is a little skewed if you ask me. She’ll do whatever it is that seems right in her eyes but may be seen as wrong in the eyes of her clan or society. Basically, she’s pretty self-centred and being in her head sometimes sucks ’cause she has some really dark thoughts bouncing around in there. On the up side, she’s definitely bold and unafraid of outside opinions.

Now the characterization wasn’t all bad. That’s not why my rating isn’t as high as it could be. It’s the plot.

Why was everything so confusing?

Well, to hand it to Hodge, it was really complex. The world building I mean. There are the undead called revenants popping up, killing the live people, all caused by illegal necromancy occurring in the city by an unknown entity. This is amidst the chaotic information dump that is the ritual of making someone known as the Juliet in the Catresou clan (not including the whole why and religion of this clan for doing so). Not to mention, there’s some other factor known as the Sisterhood with a High Priestess who practices blood sacrifices to appease the gods and keep the city running albeit for only a short while longer.

That’s a whole lot of information that unfortunately doesn’t get dumped onto us in a way that made the reading easy. Jumping back and forth between what the boys are doing and what the girls are doing made it harder to keep track of what was going on in each other’s lives if you don’t read continuously in one sitting.

Oh, and how could I forget about the romance?? Well, that’s ’cause there really wasn’t much of any. Considering Romeo and Juliet weren’t physically together for like, almost the whole book, and Runajo was in the Sisterhood for goodness sakes, that just leaves Paris for romantic entertainment and I think I liked him as he was without being attached to some girl. So if you come romping over here for a nice (albeit dark) romance, you might wanna rethink that plan.

Overall I did enjoy the complexity and creativity put into it. Hodge easily makes a world that’s darkly intriguing, but the pacing was a little slow going. Fortunately, this gives us plenty of time to get to know our 2 – I mean, 4 – protagonists. The growth they each undergo through the events that eventually tie both their storylines together was nice to see, in particular for Runajo who was the hardest character for me to love. There’s plenty of questions left and with a cliffhanger ending like that, I wanna see what happens next to these characters.

Overall Recommendation:
Bright Smoke, Cold Fire was just as dark and complex as I had originally anticipated, especially if you’ve read some of Hodge’s other works. Although this dying world and the intricacies of each clan that’s survived so far was unique, the background history and terminology can get kind of confusing and altogether be too much at times. With a slower pacing than I’m used to in a high fantasy and a whole lot less romance than I would have thought for a Romeo & Juliet story, this novel was more of a mediocre start.