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Review: Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

Series: Clash of Kingdoms #1

ever-the-hunted-erin-summerhillSeventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.


3 Drink Me Potions


Ever the Hunted was a mix of every fantasy archetype that I could think of, which ultimately resulted in a less-than-amazing read for me.

First off, let me just say that I waited for this book to come for almost over a year. So yes, that might have played a huge role in building up my expectations of its awesomeness.

For a debut novel, I applaud Summerill for a fast-paced story that did its best in a promising adventure, a sweet romance and a world full of magic. Britta was the kinda protagonist I liked. Nothing too too special at the start of it all, one of those ordinary girls who was ignored or even shunned by others. Then of course, she finds out there’s something different about her. *gasp* Like that wasn’t something you were expecting…*insert sarcasm*

The world was built of 2 major kingdoms who were at the brink of war. Malam, where Britta lived, had banned and shunned Channelers, women with a magic of the elements that the laypeople here were superstitiously afraid of. So of course, enter the genocide of all Channelers and the closure of the border to the neighbouring magical kingdom of Shaerdania. That’s the tense atmosphere this book is set in. Beyond hearing a couple more tidbits relating to how all this trouble came to be, there’s not a whole lot more out there about this place.

Or even the magic.

Channelers harness energy, whether from land, air, water or fire. Sound familiar? ‘Cause I’m sure you’ve all seen some form of this type of “magic” somewhere if you’re a reader. Well, maybe even if you’re not a reader. And don’t get me wrong. It’s not a successful trope to fill in for the “magical ability” line you want to add to your documented work for nothing as it is a fun ability after all. But where is the originality in that? So I wasn’t the most pleased to know that there wasn’t a whole lot more to their magic than that.

Oh, and the surprise twist? *insert a short pause* Saw that coming a mile away. Probably from yet ANOTHER fantasy novel out there that you’ve come across.

I also normally despise slow-paced novels as it takes FOREVER to get to the known facts that were given to you even in the synopsis. But Ever the Hunted? Nope. Not a problem there. Everything happened so fast, like boom, boom, boom, that my head felt like it was spinning. I barely got used to Britta and the few people with her at the beginning of the story before it suddenly changed scenes again. So connection to the characters? Kinda hard to do when I felt like the interactions there were so quick and temporary.

This leads me to the relationship. This is one of my favourite parts of stories. And Cohen’s misunderstood history with Britta was brimming with bittersweet angst that is, oddly enough, right up my alley.

But like I said. Kinda hard to feel connected with ANYONE when things happen so quickly. I liked that Cohen and Britta are together for a large portion of the novel. It’s not one of those romances where the guy is halfway across the kingdom and you barely get to see the heroine interact with him (although they’re so-called in love with each other and I have to believe it just ’cause it says so right there on the pages). And for the most part, this aspect kept me somewhat satisfied throughout the story. I knew they’d patch through things somehow. But that ending? I smell a nasty potential love triangle popping in…and I’m not sure if I hate it or not.

Which is WEIRD. x10. I abhor love triangles so I should be jumping off my seat and bouncing around the room in frustration that this was thrown in and I’ve got to wait yet ANOTHER year to figure out how this will go.

But…I’m not. Which I guess means I enjoyed Cohen’s relationship with Britta but I didn’t build as great of a connection with the two of them as I thought either.

Anyway, this review’s kinda got off the tracks, but altogether, Ever the Hunted wasn’t what I expected. It tried to be sneaky, and it tried to be clever and fun and overall exciting. I can see that. But I just wish that I felt that too. I know I’m being generous with my rating ’cause I can see its potential, but somehow, it just slipped through my fingers and I’m left clutching thin air.

Overall Recommendation:
Ever the Hunted was a decent debut (if I’m being extra nice about it), but very predictable in its “twists”. From fast story pacing to almost nonexistent secondary character development and world building, this story just tried so hard to fit well with all those other fantasies we’ve got lining our shelves. The romance would’ve been the best part in my opinion but it too somehow felt a bit disconnected to me and I couldn’t form a huge love for Cohen and Britta either. I’d say it might just be me (and my VERY high expectations), so please give this book a shot as the potential for greatness is there but just may need to be honed a bit more.

Review: A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Series: Charlotte Holmes #1

a-study-in-charlotte-brittany-cavallaroThe last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.


3 Drink Me Potions


I’ve been an avid fan of Sherlock Holmes since I was a child, having read all the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. So for a Sherlock retelling in the YA genre, it was definitely peaking my interest.

But, there were ups and downs in my opinion.

Ups:

1. Charlotte Holmes is kickass
I didn’t know what to make of a female Holmes at first. Yeah, I’m sure it’ll be great and it’s not the first Sherlock retelling that’s flipped genders (there’s that TV show Elementary going on). So I knew I’d be okay with this element.
What excited me was that she was reminiscent of the Sherlock we know. Drug addiction, blunt attitude, awkward interpersonal relationships, and brilliant as heck.
But, I also enjoy a little something that the author puts in on their own. What’s the point of a retelling if it’s EXACTLY the same as the original? You might as well re-read it. I liked that Charlotte had her vulnerabilities, in part because she’s female, and knew how to play to her strengths (a damsel in distress work like a charm in certain situations). So it was more fun to get to reacquaint myself with someone who is familiar but at the same time, still new in some way.

2. Jamie Watson’s voice
No, I don’t mean his literal voice (I did not read an audiobook so I’m not sure how that would be like).
Writing from the perspective of Watson admiring Holmes’ work (just like the original), it could’ve been a little dry but I rather liked his tone and the way he saw the world he was in. Seeing this story in Holmes’ POV would’ve been a ton different and I’d much rather see it from Watson’s eyes. This might just be a personal opinion though.

3. The mystery
Once you get through almost 50% of the book, the mystery really starts to pick up. Who’s going around hurting students at their boarding school? Why are there links to Sherlock Holmes stories? Who’s out to get Holmes and Watson?
I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect. After all, what’s a Sherlock retelling if there’s no solid mystery at the heart of it for Holmes to deduce? I thought the story wasn’t completely predictable, although once the party involved was identified, it wasn’t as much fun just waiting for the info dump from Holmes to explain her deductions (not all of us are THAT smart, Holmes).

These helped me progress through the novel, but the following kept me away from finishing this novel for over a year.

Downs:

1. The pacing
OH my goodness. It was sooo slow at first. I stopped at 36% for over a year until I felt like finally continuing. A murder does happen fairly early on (ish), but their guesses were going around in circles and it just didn’t seem like the pair of young sleuths were progressing much at all. There was too much info on what they were doing in their daily lives at the boarding school that I just couldn’t seem to care about as much. I came here for a mystery, not for “how teens live in a boarding school” contemporary!
It did pick up after 50% but the pieces of the mystery fell too slowly. There was too much focus on Watson and Holmes, too.

2. Their relationship
Don’t get me wrong. I like Holmes and Watson. They’re an inseparable team. Watson balances out the neurotic behaviours of our favourite genius, while Holmes gets Watson out of ridiculously dangerous scrapes. You can’t have one without the other.
But….I just didn’t love them together. Yes, I knew that making one of them a girl may lead to a more romantic relationship possible, especially cuz it’s YA and what is a YA book without ROMANCE?
I just didn’t care about them dating. I’m not even excited for the potential of it. Maybe it’s cuz I’m rather traditional about it but their relationship always wrung true as platonic. Friendships are important too and it just saddens me a little that this has to change as well. It’s not like it’s impossible for a guy and girl to be good friends, but thus is the world of YA I suppose.

Well, A Study in Charlotte was sweet overall, and it made me nostalgic for certain Sherlock stories. I liked it enough, but there were certain hurdles that made it hard to continue for me personally.

Overall Recommendation:
For a Sherlock Holmes retelling, it had its good moments and bad. A Study in Charlotte, paying homage to a few elements from familiar Sherlock adventures, tried its best with the mystery but took its time upping the suspense factor. Throwing in the extra bit of unnecessary romance and I had to take a year-long break to finish. Altogether, it’s not a hard book to swallow, but it may not be for every Holmes’ fan.

Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Series: The Illuminae Files #2

gemina-amie-kaufman-jay-kristoffMoving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The saga that began with Illuminae continues on board the space station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of BeiTech’s assault. Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter, Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum may be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival. The fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.


5 Drink Me Potions


I would think after the mindblowingly-awesomeness that was Illuminae, it would be a very hard act to follow. Fortunately for us, Gemina is equally as badass as its predecessor, if not even a smidge better in a few areas.

The events in Gemina are set literally minutes right after what transpired at the end of Illuminae, albeit in a different location on the Heimdall Jump Station where all our favourite cast of characters were racing towards in the previous book.

Both acting as a sequel and a companion novel, we follow a whole new cast of characters navigating a world that is about to turn UPSIDE DOWN and INSIDE OUT on its head.

We already know from Illuminae the level of pure genius that is a combination of Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, but here is exactly why their genius-ness was NOT a one-off chance occurrence.

The new cast
I was a little worried at first that I wouldn’t love the new protagonists as much. After all, Kady and Ezra were pretty awesome in book 1, and their romance was just so SWOON-worthy. But worries can be laid to rest as Hanna and Nik have stolen my heart.

Hanna is honestly just as badass, if not MORE, than Kady. Being trained in multiple forms of martial arts by her Commander father – what a wonderful decision for father-daughter bonding, Commander – she had the skill set to help defend her station from the impending danger being wrought on them. Plus, it sure helps to have her courage and wit on top of that. She wasn’t the little spoiled rich girl that the other characters initially pegged her for, and I adored her for standing her ground and showing everyone what kinda heroine she could be when push came to shove.

These other said characters would include both Nik and his cousin Ella. Nik wasn’t the sweet kinda guy that Ezra Mason was (oh rest my beating heart), but he wasn’t exactly the bad-boy-criminal that I may have thought he was either. He didn’t want to be this way, but you can’t choose your family, can you? And for a hero, he was definitely the most surprising. Of all those onboard the Heimdall, I’m sure no one else would think he was hero material. I loved his POV as much as Hanna’s, and I’m glad that there was more of him in this story (whereas I’m still miffed that Ezra wasn’t as prominent in Illuminae as I had hoped).

Ella’s great too. She’s like that awkward third wheel of this ragtag resistance group against the invading mercs. She throws in those cringey moments when Nik and Hanna are getting too cozy, and make us laugh while everything else is coming to pieces and people are dying all around. She’s no innocent herself (gang family, remember??), but I love her heart and loyalty. She even seems to come around with her opinions of Hanna. Plus her particular skill set behind the scenes makes her the unsung heroine of this story.

The artistry of this book *insert glowing heart face*
You know, I didn’t think anything could be prettier than Illuminae and its dossier of special files. I loved everything about it, from the maps to the IMs and the hilarious Security Footage Summary with the censored swear words everywhere. I even adored AIDAN’s commentary and unintentionally deep and funny thoughts.

If you think you’re gonna be missing this, or that Gemina is just a replication of what has been done by these two authors already, then you’re in for a surprise. Yes, in a way, it’s the same as all these types of files are also found in this book (yay!), but no, it’s also different. How?

Author Marie Lu has also contributed to this work of art with journal drawings by Hanna. They’re absolutely gorgeous and it adds another layer to this wonderful dossier of files. Plus, there are certain new types of pages that I thought were hilarious. Likewise, sometimes the words and the directions they take represent the movements of the characters, or follow along with the drawing in the background.

And even better? Kady and even AIDAN are back in this novel, so if you’re thinking you’ll be missing them and their words, there will be pages on their involvement on the Hypatia. Don’t worry, the authors didn’t forget about them and their amazing survival to this point. Things will start to wonderfully tie in together.

Honestly? You may be someone who loves ebooks or audiobooks, but this is one series where you just HAVE TO get your hands on the physical copy to fully appreciate how beautiful it is. I can’t tell you how much more beautiful it is without a) ruining things, or b) inadequately describing how wonderful Gemina is even after the initial surprise has subsided with Illuminae. Just grab one and read it!

The twists and turns of the plot and the insane details
I remember clearly how crazy the plot twisted in Illuminae as it was so subtle but it just all made SENSE at the end of it. Here? There were certain points that didn’t initially make sense when I read them, but as the story unfolded and things unravelled in ways I couldn’t possibly have imagined or guessed, it all clicked as well. I dunno how Kaufman and Kristoff do it, but they are absolutely BRILLIANT in how they weave together all the intricate ideas to make a great story told in a beautiful format.

Another sideline to this plot was the presence of alien creatures that are also problematic for the crew on board (as if having mercs onboard wasn’t bad enough, you know?). The detail put into their genus and species – there’s a whole wiki-type page for the creature that’s provided, and as a scientist, gotta appreciate that detailing! – as well as how it’s cultivated and everything was downright amazing. Like it’s just one little thing in this gigantic plot, but they don’t do anything halfway. I’m so impressed. It makes this whole dossier effect more real.

I can go on and on but…
I’m sure all the reviews can go on about the brilliance that’s this series. So you don’t need anything more from me. I will end by saying that Gemina is worth the buy (it was an automatic purchase for me too), and it’s just as good as its sequel which is a rare gem to find in YA these days. Full of action and hints of romance (unfortunately, not as much as it was with Ezra and Kady), it’s everything you can ask for.

No matter if you don’t like sci fi, or if you don’t like YA, or if you think it’s too long (honestly, 659 pages just fly by ), it’s ALL worth it. I’m just so glad that this book I’ve been waiting for a whole year for was just as great as I could hope and expect. I’m even more glad that I’m ending 2016 off with this as one of my last reads. It’s worth it, and I can’t wait to see what book 3 brings!

Overall Recommendation:
Honestly, there’s no way I can put all that I’ve praised in this glowing review of Gemina in a brief summary. I’ll try, but you should just read the whole darn thing. For a sequel, it’s just as amazing as book 1, and you won’t be disappointed. The new heroes are just as awesome as Kady and Ezra, there’s even more beauty in this new dossier of files collected from Jump Station Heimdall and unforeseen twists of the plot made this an unforgettable read. You NEED to get your hands on a hardcopy NOW of Gemina. Before the year ends, if you can. You won’t regret it. Promise.

Review: Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson

Series: The Gold Seer Trilogy #2

like-a-river-glorious-rae-carsonAfter a harrowing journey across the country, Leah Westfall and her friends have finally arrived in California and are ready to make their fortunes in the Gold Rush. Lee has a special advantage over the other new arrivals in California—she has the ability to sense gold, a secret known only by her handsome best friend Jefferson and her murdering uncle Hiram.

Lee and her friends have the chance to be the most prosperous settlers in California, but Hiram hasn’t given up trying to control Lee and her power. Sabotage and kidnapping are the least of what he’ll do to make sure Lee is his own. His mine is the deepest and darkest in the territory, and there Lee learns the full extent of her magical gift, the worst of her uncle, and the true strength of her friendships. To save everyone, she vows to destroy her uncle and the empire he is building—even at the cost of her own freedom.

The second epic historical fantasy in the Gold Seer trilogy by Rae Carson, the acclaimed author of The Girl of Fire and Thorns.


3 Drink Me Potions


Like its predecessor, Walk on Earth a Stranger, the sequel is very similar in the fact that it is more of a historical fiction piece than historical fantasy.

Like a River Glorious did uphold the promise of more action and excitement. Lee Westfall, no longer hiding who she is and her special ability to sense gold in the depths of the earth, has found herself finally in California where she had hopes of starting a new life away from the troubles back home in Georgia. Alongside her is her best friend, Jefferson, with whom a relationship beyond mere friendship may be something on the horizon.

Once again, Rae Carson has done her homework because this novel was not easy to write accurately either. The unfair treatment of the indigenous people known simply as “Indians”, the African-American slaves that were seen as mere property, and the Chinese laborers that were coming over from China were awful. Words could not describe how awful the racism was in the frontiersmen settling California. Carson did a great job of depicting the horrors these people truly faced in the past, with “well-meaning, religious white men” thinking they knew what was best. That they were the best, and on top of the world.

The truly sickening descriptions that filled these pages kept me turning faster than the first book. It made me feel awful, but at the same time, it did the trick of showing how people aren’t all that much better nowadays. I’m glad Lee did not feel the same way or else I might not have been able to finish the story.

Like a River Glorious deals mostly with Lee’s uncle, the root of all her troubles and the reason for her escape out West. It also described the beauty of the untouched lands of California when it was still mostly trees, mountains and lakes. The journey may have been difficult, but it was only the beginning. Claiming land and settling down more permanently wasn’t all that much easier. I liked these parts of the story, as long as they didn’t take up the whole length of it and consumed all my patience.

All in all, it was a nicer sequel but it still lagged in the middle. The pacing wasn’t fast enough to get my blood pumping. There was a little more info about Lee’s special abilities and how they may not be as simple as she had originally thought they were all this time. Other than that, events in this story were far from “heartstoppingly exciting”.

Overall Recommendation:
Like a River Glorious gave me more feelings beyond apathy, getting my heart pumping with anger at the descriptions of unfair racial prejudices back in this time. Of course, the rest of the story was picking up the pace too. Lee was facing her problematic uncle head-to-head while trying to settle her band of friends in their new lands in California. With admiration for the evidence of strong historical research, Rae Carson has done her best to make this new trilogy accurate and fun. I can see the first, but the latter I’m still waiting for.

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: Shattered Identity by Sandra Robbins

Series: Ocracoke Island #2

shattered identity -sandra robbinsSomeone—with a very personal motive—has it out for Lisa Wade, Ocracoke Island’s sheriff’s dispatcher.

She was viciously attacked, her home was ransacked and one very precious possession was stolen. Deputy Scott Michaels plans to stay close until the culprit is caught …but that means involving Lisa in the investigation. And her assistance may cause more trouble for Lisa when she finds clues in a journal to a deadly mystery.

As Lisa and Scott cross dangerous territory, they inch closer to the truth— and to each other.

But lurking in the shadows is a killer determined to keep some secrets buried forever.


3 Drink Me Potions


After reading the first Ocracoke Island book, I fell in love with the island and the Michaels family. I just had to gobble down the next book in the series.

This story focused on the new big brother in the family, the events which introduce him to us occurring in Dangerous Reunion. However, a little different from the previous book, the mystery felt a little more flat to me.

First, the culprit was slightly predictable (in my opinion, which may be biased considering I read a ton of mysteries), which is never good sign when it comes to who-dunnit mysteries. It still took a while to get to that point where I could 100% say I’m positive on the identity, but it definitely occurred before the climax of the story.

Second, Lisa’s character was a little more reckless and defensive when it came to her mother. Granted, it was warranted considering the small town didn’t always have the nicest things to say to her. But always fighting with Scott’s protective concern for her was a little tiresome. She honestly could’ve been killed so many times during the course of the book, if not for the fact that it couldn’t happen since she’s one of the protagonists.

And lastly, the romance was just harder to swallow. Both Lisa and Scott have emotional scars from their past. I understand this was the connecting point that brought them to each other, but also the point from which the healing powers that only come from Jesus can work its way through the story. I did like that. Peace that transcends all understanding comes only from Him. And in a beautiful setting such as this island? I can imagine what it would feel like if I were to bask in His glory there.

I will end with saying that this novel didn’t stick out all too much from the pack of Love Inspired Suspense books and its formula, but it still was an enjoyable enough read. My favourite point was the real-life story of how a lamb sacrificed itself to save several soldiers from being killed by an IED. That is the best story I’ve heard in a long time.

Review: Down with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn

down with the shine -kate karyus quinnThere’s a reason they say “be careful what you wish for.” Just ask the girl who wished to be thinner and ended up smaller than Thumbelina, or the boy who asked for “balls of steel” and got them-literally. And never wish for your party to go on forever. Not unless you want your guests to be struck down by debilitating pain if they try to leave.

These are things Lennie only learns when it’s too late-after she brings some of her uncles’ moonshine to a party and toasts to dozens of wishes, including a big wish of her own: to bring back her best friend, Dylan, who was abducted and murdered six months ago.

Lennie didn’t mean to cause so much chaos. She always thought her uncles’ moonshine toast was just a tradition. And when they talked about carrying on their “important family legacy,” she thought they meant good old-fashioned bootlegging.

As it turns out, they meant granting wishes. And Lennie has just granted more in one night than her uncles would grant in a year.

Now she has to find a way to undo the damage. But once granted, a wish can’t be unmade…


 

3.5 Drink Me Potions


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

**Down with the Shine comes out April 26, 2016**

This story had its dark moments but it never quite felt that way due to the whimsical manner in which it was written.

Or it could just be because wish-granting made it seem less serious since (hopefully!) you could wish the terrible things undone.

Down with the Shine was immediately not what I had originally expected. Lennie was named after her infamous father, a known robber and killer on the FBI’s Top Ten Watch list or something. This made her very unpopular among her peers, and hence, the understandably low self-esteem and “play it safe” look on life.

Oh, and also? Her best friend was murdered and chopped into individual pieces. Continue reading

Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Series: The Illuminae Files #1

illuminae -amie kaufamn and jay kristoffThis morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.


5 Drink Me Potions


Kady Grant: He said, “You picked a hell of a day to dump me, Kades.”


I don’t lightly give 5 star ratings, but Illuminae has swept my breath away. It is literally a piece of art, with the unique layout of pages from hacked memos to re-routed secret IMs to black and white pictures of space. But it’s not just an ordinary piece of art. It’s a masterpiece, crafted in such a creative manner like nothing else I’ve ever read before.

It starts off with a storyline that you think you’ve heard before. Girl dumps boy for some reason that is hinted but not revealed yet. Okay, sounds familiar enough. But all hell breaks loose literally hours after, with fire falling from the skies as a rival company drops out of nowhere to attack their tiny planet on the edge of the known universe.

Sweet. So our characters, Kady and Ezra, rush up into spacecrafts fleeing from the enemy. Okay, it still sounds familiar enough. Life on a spaceship hurtling through the universe? Might have seen something like that before.

But it’s WAY bigger than that. Action is ratcheted high within the first several pages. You’re flipping through the pages of documents and transcripted interviews trying to figure out what the heck went down. And as things start making sense, like who attacked them and why this company would do such a thing, there are still so many uncertainties open.

Ezra and Kady get separated on 2 different ships so our two exes ignore each other for a while. Of course, that doesn’t last. As things get worse as they journey for help in the distant universe, Kady with her hacker skills turns to Ezra as he’s the last person in the world she has left. Their IMs were some of my very favourite part of Illuminae. For most of the story, they’re apart and so we really get to see how they interact with other people around them beyond each other. Their personalities become real and tangible. Not just some hero or girl-who-broke-his-heart or however they are with each other. They feel like REAL teenagers that you and I may have bumped into or have known.

But with each other? It’s priceless. It’s clear their chemistry hasn’t died down with the months and distance between them. The love there isn’t just driven by desperation or fear or craving for familiarity in a world that has turned upside down. Amidst all the craziness (and oh boy, is there craziness!), this tale is still a beautiful love story of two people who would do anything for each other.

 

Still there is no time for sorrow. She knows he is in here somewhere, the one she risked everything for.
The only one she has left. The one she loves true.
“Ezra?”

 

And goodness. Ezra Mason is one funny and romantic dude.

 

Mason, E, LT 2nd:Damn, I still remember first day in her class. You were checking me out HARD, Grant.
ByteMe: U. R. DELUSIONAL. u kept asking me stupid questions about hydrogen bonding
Mason, E, LT 2nd: confession: hydrogen was not the kind of bonding on my mind

Continue reading

Review: Crystal Kingdom by Amanda Hocking

Series: Kanin Chronicles #3

crystal kingdom -amanda hockingThe kingdom she loves has turned against her. Can she save it before it’s too late?

Bryn Aven—unjustly charged with murder and treason—is on the run. The one person who can help is her greatest enemy, the gorgeous and enigmatic Konstantin Black. Konstantin is her only ally against those who have taken over her kingdom and threaten to destroy everything she holds dear. But can she trust him?

As Bryn fights to clear her name, the Kanin rulers’ darkest secrets are coming to light…and now the entire troll world is on the brink of war. Will it tear Bryn from Ridley Dresden, the only guy she’s ever loved? And can she join forces with Finn Holms and the Trylle kingdom? Nothing is as it seems, but one thing is certain: an epic battle is under way—and when it’s over, nothing will ever be the same…


4 Drink Me Potions


Wowza. And that completes the Kanin Chronicles.

That was my first thought upon completing Crystal Kingdom. Having read Frostfire at the very beginning of this year and getting to complete this trilogy by the end of it, it feels like a journey that I’ve taken with Bryn this year.

And I can’t say that her adventure doesn’t end off with a bang. Because it sure does. Right from the beginning, she’s off where we left her in Ice Kissed.

With Konstantin Black. Aka the Kanin’s #1 enemy and Bryn’s enemy (and secret childhood crush). Oh, and a total badass.

Amanda Hocking is an absolute genius when it comes to delivering epic adventures as that is what we get here with Bryn now being a fugitive on the run, stuck with an ally that is no help with getting her better connections. Written in a fast-paced sequence, we follow the two of them all around the different troll kingdoms.

Like, YES, we finally get to see the other troll kingdoms besides the Skojare. I absolutely adored their palace in Ice Kissed but there are plenty more interesting things to come here. I don’t want to ruin much beyond that. Of course, the synopsis already does a good job of implicating the Trylle kingdom. If you have read Hocking’s first series (which I haven’t, I will admit), you’ll be genuinely pleased to see some familiar characters popping up quite frequently.

And with grand adventure, there also comes grand sacrifices. Bryn was a strong and well-rounded character. She has that fight and courage in her that is found in a lot of battle-skilled/warrior-like heroines, but she also developed well over the course of the trilogy. It is here that I really saw her emotionally mature. She was always this person who relied solely on herself. Love had no place in her life. It was a distraction, a weakness. But it also showed that she could be lonely living a life like this. With love burning in her heart, she finally understood that maybe it wasn’t such a problem but rather a motivation for doing well.

However, as I said, there comes sacrifices. I won’t say what kind, but every great tale of heroism and adventure has their fair share of problems that just couldn’t be prevented. I will admit that one of those scenes had a really touching moment there. Let me just say that Hocking makes beautiful characters come alive but keeps it realistic, and I’ll leave it at that.

As for the romance, I am OVERJOYED that there was no love triangle. I honestly swear there were hints for one since Frostfire but I’m glad it wasn’t a necessary tool to add into a story that seemed perfectly fine the way it was. Ridley is still amazing as usual, but there’s some conflict between him and Bryn that they’d have to work out. I did wish there could’ve been more of him in the novel as he doesn’t pop in until mid-way. I suppose it was hard to realistically have him pop up on Bryn’s adventures so quickly, but still. My heart broke over the Ridley-less pages.

I may not have liked Konstantin at all for the last two books. Come on, how many people could’ve fallen for a guy who was known as Kanin’s #1 enemy? And Bryn hated him with a passion after what he did to her and her father. It’s fairly easy to dislike a guy with that kinda description and background. But he was always intriguing, and I think that’s where people fell for him a little. In Crystal Kingdom, he’s everywhere. And by the end of it, I wanted to be his best friend the way he seemed to be for Bryn. It was strictly platonic. She didn’t waver in her love for Ridley, but of course, there was a sort of love for Konstantin as well, just not strictly the romantic kind. And that goes to show how well-done this novel was to turn an opinion completely around.

I’m not sure if Hocking will ever come back to these troll kingdoms after having done two series with them. However, I will end off saying that it was a wonderful journey following the Kanin people and that she’s one ingenious author for creating such a captivating, mythical world within our everyday modern one. I do truly wish there would someday be more.

Overall Recommendation:
Bryn’s just been kicked out of the only home she’s ever known, but as the courageous and ever-determined heroine that she is, Crystal Kingdom follows her on a grand adventure to right the wrongs in her kingdom and set everything right once again. Allied with Konstantin Black, someone I once hated but by the end you’ll be calling him a best friend, and filled with treacherous battles and action, this fast-paced novel definitely fulfills the ideal of the word “finale”. Delicious romance, beautiful settings in varying troll kingdoms and a heart-stopping sacrifice, this is one book that you just have to read. Honestly.