Friday, November 30, 2012

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Release Date: Out now!

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Pages: 323pgs

The Story

It's the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won't stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self.

To Sloane Price, that doesn't sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she's failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she's forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live.

But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group's fate is determined less and less by what's happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life - and death - inside.

When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

The Review

From what I've seen from this author so far, Courtney Summers has this special way of writing words - not only with her colourful cast of character's but with these raw, intense emotions that always seem to come along with them. THIS IS NOT A TEST is a greater risk for Summers as her new title is far from her usual works of her 'cutting edge' contemporary literature. But since I'm already a HUGE fan of the zombie and the post-apocalyptic genre, I was immediately drawn towards this book before I even started it. In the end and after reading it all, with a creative crossover between The Breakfast Club and Zombieland, it's no wonder why I've come to adore this author's work so, so much and even more than ever before when it comes to this book alone!

I'm going to be straight with you, right here and now, and try not to bore with you the minor details. So here we go . . . There's no doubt in my mind when I say that Courtney Summers should continue writing books with zombies or at least books with some form of horror in them, because quite frankly she had totally made my mind blow and I still can't believe how amazeballs this book really was and how Summers managed to pull it all off! No, seriously! It was that good! I mean, WOW! Even with this book having zombies popping up here, there and everywhere, this book for me was still far more than your average zombie novel. It was rather a simplistic novel but with a somewhat complexity about it, you know? After all, there's a group of teenagers who are trying to fight against every possible, violent curve-ball the world seems to throw at them and while - for the majority of the book - it's depressing to read about and even a little uncomfortable at times, but there's this sense of realism that this book just . . . had which I guess made me connect with the story a hell of a lot more than I'd ever imagined it would do. There's depression, there's grief, there's death, there's killing, there's hope, there's consequences, there's even love and honestly . . . this book had it all!

What had stolen the show for me - apart from the storyline - was the main character, Sloane, who was the one who made this book as epic (and depressing) as possible. Sloane's voice - compared to all of the characters we are soon introduced to in the book - was so raw, brutal, fresh, and yet she possessed this split-lip of pain about her that made everything all worth while in the end, and made my own heart ache every time she came onto the page. I mean, reading her voice alone and having small glimpses of her past life that made her for what she is today, I can say I've never read a character like her before nor have I ever EVER had such a strong connection with a character like her before, at least not as powerful as the connection I had with Sloane. With this main heroine at heart, Sloane is hard to describe since there's so many layers to her character arc but with everything Sloane experiences or rather has 'experienced', both in the present and in the past, you'll be right there cheering with her and wanting her to triumph over the many difficult situations  that she is now faced with. But wow, wow, WOW . . . Sloane impressed me and with her in the lines of some very interesting company of teenagers with their own mindsets as well, I have to say the characters, the zombies, the story, the blah, blah blah . . . was just . . . WOW!

Overall, I can't necessarily say anymore about this book because you will just have to find out for yourself on how really amazing Courtney Summers's THIS IS NOT A TEST book really is! With a little blood and gore, some heartbreak and death, and a bleak world of dire desperation where people will do almost anything in the means of survival, this is the kind of book you really DO NOT won't to miss out on! But word for the wise - DON'T READ THIS BOOK IN THE DARK! It's scary!!!

The Rating
5/5 stars

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dearly, Beloved by Lia Habel

Release Date: Out now!

Publisher: Del Rey Books

Pages: 496pgs

The Story

Can the living coexist with the living dead?

That's the question that has New Victorian society fiercely divided ever since the mysterious plague known as "The Laz" hit the city of New London and turned thousands into walking corpses. But while some of these zombies are mindless monsters, hungry for human flesh, others can still think, speak, reasons, and control their ravenous new appetites.

Just ask Nora Dearly, the young lady of means who was nearly kidnapped by a band of sinister zombies but valiantly rescued by a dashing young man . . . of the dead variety.

Nora and her savior, the young zombie soldier Bram Griswold, fell hopelessly in love. But others feel only fear and loathing for the reanimated dead. Now, as tensions grown between pro - and anti - zombie factions, battle lines are being drawn in the streets. And though Bram is no longer in the New Victorian army, he and his ex-cammando zombie comrades are determined to help keep the peace. That means taking a dangerous stand between The Changed, a radical group of sentient zombies fighting for survival, and The Murder, a masked squad of urban guerrillas hellbent on destroying the living dead. But zombies aren't the only ones in danger: Their living allies are also in The Murder's crosshairs, and for one vengeful zealot, Nora Dearly is the number one target.

As paranoia, prejudice, and terrorist attacks threaten to plunge the city into full-scale war, Nora's scientist father and his team continue their desperate race to unlock the secrets of "The Laz" and find a cure. But their efforts may be doomed when a mysterious zombie appears bearing an entirely new strain of the virus - and the nation of New Victoria braces for a new wave of the apocalypse.

Lia Habel's spellbinding, suspenseful sequel to Dearly, Departed takes her imaginative mash-up of period romance, futuristic thriller, and zombie drama to a whole new level of innovative and irresistible storytelling.

The Review

A big thanks to the publisher on netGalley for accepting my request in reading this book early!

In Lia Habel's debut novel, Dearly Departed, it was an interesting read for me. It wasn't exactly a fantastic book but it was an enjoyable one at the very least. Now I think what had drawn me into this world of Habel's in the first place was the way she handled zombies and how she represented in the book - not as mindless and flesh-eating creatures (okay there are some like that), but rather they were quite intelligent, interesting and surprisingly so very human, with even some that were pretty, handsome and charming too, which was a great take on the zombie genre. It added something unique. But as much as I hate giving an average 'Yeah, it was okay . . .' review for what I expected to be a very great read, unfortunately the sequel just didn't cut it for me and it didn't even convince me to love this series more and I kind of knew this would happen yet again.

Much like what I'd read from the first book, DEARLY, BELOVED followed exactly the same pacing as the previous book - slow and steady - and it was told through several perspectives once more. Argh! Like I said before . . . I knew this would happen again. I can handle two or three perspectives at one time, heck even the third perspective which I have come to favour over the years rather than the common first person perspective view, but with this book it had at least five POVs under its belt and it was god awful. I'm not kidding. Just awful. While I favoured only two character perspectives, both of which were the main characters of the story and whom I only wanted to read about - that being Nora and Bram, but as for the others I just felt like they added nothing really special to the story and I found them completely pointless to be honest with you. The only redemption that the book earned was with myself enjoying Nora and Bram's view of this bleak world and having some tension arising throughout the book between them until the tension blew everything into utter chaos. I like me some chaos, okay?

Character-wise and as I mentioned with the perspectives aspect, the only characters I really grew attached to and the only characters I really cared about were Nora and Bram. They are the ones who'd kept me going with this book. Together they grew closer and built on each other's strange worlds, not to mention they have some sizzling chemistry sparking between them, but even when they are in angst over certain things or even when they are apart, Nora and Bram somehow turn out to be two very great individuals. So I'm really thankful for their character growth in that. And that ending . . . god it was so out of the blue and so mushy mushy, but I still ended up really digging it so all of you romantic fans out there . . . you'll totally love it!

Overall, DEARLY, BELOVED may have failed to impress me but it was still a nice little follow up to the first book of the series and it'll interesting where the author takes us with the final installment of this YA series. Really interesting . . . especially when you consider how everything ended and all. Quite surprising!

The Rating
3/5 stars

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore

Release Date: Out now!

Publisher: Penguin Australia

Pages: 384pgs

The Story

Until the day I met John Smith, Number Four, I'd been on the run alone, hiding and fighting to stay alive.
Together, we are much more powerful. But it could only last so long before we had to separate to find the others . . .

I went to Spain to find Seven, and I found even more, including a tenth member of the Garde who escaped from Lorien alive. Ella is younger than the rest of us, but just as brave. Now we're looking for the others - including John.

But so are they.
They caught Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
And Number Three in Kenya.
They caught me in New York - but I escaped.
I am Number Six.
They want to finish what they started.
But they'll have to fight us first.

The Review

A big thanks to the publisher on netGalley for accepting my request in reading this book early!

It's action-packed, it's addictive, it's fun and it's explosive! And in case you were wondering about what I'm talking about . . . YES I'm clearly talking about Pittacus Lore's third installment of the Lorien Legacies series, THE RISE OF NINE, and Number Four and his numbered little gang are back better than ever before!

This time round the book's events are narrated back-and-forth between several of the characters - Four, Six and Seven's perspectives. Now from the previous installment Four (John) is still with number Nine who are continually making small - and sometimes MAJOR - discoveries about their chests, their powered legacies and many other important things about themselves as well. Whereas on the other side of the globe, Six and Seven (Marina) are now in the company of Ten (Ella) and Clayton who end up finding someone else like them . . . number Eight that is. But as both groups fight to stay alive and try to find each other there are many shocking twists coming their way and ones they didn't see coming which was a real treat for, even if this book wasn't my favourite in the series so far.

With a sad and lacking of no reappearance from Sam (I know how could they do that to me!), I still loved getting back into the Lorien Legacies world and no longer missing out on these wide variety of characters that I love so, so much from the other two books. So while John (Four) and his fiery sidekick Nine didn't interest me whatsoever in this book (mostly this was due to nothing much really happening between them), but I absolutely LOVED the perspectives exchanged between Six and Seven. Now I liked Six in the first book but I found her too annoying for her own good in the sequel because she was becoming a love interest for Four rather than that strange, kick-ass girl friend that I just loved having around. But not to worry dear readers Six is back and totally badass than ever before. She rocked in this book! But it wasn't Six that did it for me this time . . . it was Seven all the way and the newly introduced character Eight who made me smile every single time he came onto the page. Those two were just so adorable alone and together as well! Eight in particular was a total hottie and whom I wanted all to myself. He was SO cute, sweet, resourceful and was totally perfect for our sweet Seven, and it was really cute seeing her boy-crushing over him. It was so nice to see her grow. But Eight . . . *melts* I blab too much, right? Okay I'll stop here.

Overall, I don't want to spoil too many things that happened in the book but I'm really excited to see what will happen next in this series and how far the author is willing to go in wrapping things up in this explosive YA series! With plenty of action, drama, teen angst and film-like sequences running through everyone of the pages and into my mind, I have to say while this book wasn't my favourite compared to the sequel but THE RISE OF NINE was definitely a worthy follow-up for fans of this series and I'm glad everything from the characters to the unique elements of sci-fi keeps getting better and better! It's such a sweet little delight to say the least!

The Rating
4/5 stars

Monday, November 26, 2012

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Release Date: Out now!

Publisher: Macmillan

Pages: 352pgs

The Story

Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shogun, they fear that their lives are over. Everyone knows what happens to those who fail him, no matter how hopeless the task.

But the mission proves far less impossible, and far more deadly, than anyone expects - and soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country's last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. But trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and Buruu soon discover a friendship that neither of them expected.

Meanwhile, the country around them verges on the brink of collapse. A toxic fuel is slowly choking the land; the omnipotent, machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure; and the Shogun cares about nothing but his own dominion. Yukiko has always been uneasy in the shadow of power, when she learns the awful truth of what the Shogun has done, both to her country and to her own family she's determined to do something about it.

Returning to the city, Yukiko and Buruu plan to make the Shogun pay for his crimes - but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?

The Review

A big thanks to Macmillan for sending me a review copy of this book!

If you've been reading reviews on Goodreads lately, especially over the past few months, then you would already know about people in the book blogging world raving non-stop about the Australian author, Jay Kristoff, and waiting in agony over his debut novel STORMDANCER, the first in The Lotus War series. Fortunately enough, I was one of those readers waiting in agony to get my hands on this book. Not because of its gorgeous covers, both the US and the UK one, okay maybe it was 'part' of my reasoning in wanting this book in the first place, but rather it was because of the book being a Japanese-based steampunk storyline and those are my two favourite combinations genre-wise. In fact, I'm obsessed over those two types of genres.

In a dying and polluted land, we are quickly introduced to our main heroine, a sixteen-year-old girl named Kitsune Yukiko (otherwise known as Yukiko), who lives within the borders of The Shima Imperium Empire. Given a command by the Shogun of Shima, Yoritomo, both Yukiko and her father, Masaru, must look for an ancient 'extinct' beast known as the arashitora and as one impossible journey leads to another, along with many dangers, secrets and lies, Yukiko soons finds out that she possesses a strange power: She is able to communicate with animals telepathically. But when her adventure is soon put on hold and turns awry, she then crosses paths with Buruu, one of the arashitora, but will she sacrifice and turnover Buruu over to the Shogun or will she do whatever it takes in order to protect him, herself and those she holds most dear to her heart?

Now I'm not going to lie. Despite those glowing 5 stars worth of praise, STORMDANCER and I had a pretty bumpy ride from the beginning and almost til the very end. I know, right? How could I of all people say that about a book such as this one? Clearly as much as I thought this book and I would be practically soul mates, but I guess some things just aren't meant to be for certain readers and their much anticipated books. So with me already being a Japanese-fanatic, I did understand most of the terms mentioned throughout the book without needing to look at the glossary terms at the back of the book. So, if I wasn't already aware of those Japanese terms or even the culture within itself . . . then really, there would be little hope for the rest of us - those other average readers - to understand certain things that happened that book so I was lucky I wasn't one of them.

But as I continued reading on and on, sadly I also had further problems as I kept reading the book, one of which included not understanding what was actually going on for the first half of the book. Really I was pretty much clueless with STORMDANCER and I was bored too - and it frustrated me so - at being that clueless about the book. However, when it came to the second half of the book it all eventually began to pick up the pace and it became a little bit more comprehensible for me than the first half of the book was, so a big yay for that! But then there was the writing also . . . I know, I know . . . I hate saying this but as much as I love the uniqueness in Kristoff's writing - how everything read like beautiful and descriptive poetry - but I also found that there was too much description in the paragraphs and I was lost in it I'm afraid. While I do applaud the author for actually knowing what he is talking about and you can easily tell through his writing alone that he researched Japan and other little things like that but . . . yeah . . . the book just didn't work in my favour as sad as it is and it then became a huge disappointment for me. I'm probably one of a few readers saying this but that's just how I felt.

For STORMDANCER's characters they were all pretty intriguing and different to each other's in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. I, especially, loved the relationship between Yukiko and the ancient beast, Buruu, who were in all honesty the only characters I would say had some love coming from me. But when push comes to shove, much like what I had experienced with the storyline, I still felt that there was no real passionate connection with the characters either. Sure I cared about what was happening, but I still didn't care all that much because they were all just . . . characters to me. In the end I guess I just wanted characters to be more then just characters placed into a book, so I really, really hope the sequel brings more out from these characters of ours, you know . . . to a much higher level so I can then appreciate them more than I did in this first book. Also, even the romance I'm afraid to say, the brief romance shared between Yukiko and Kin and with another boy vying for Yukiko's attention, Hiro, had no real passion either. Take for example a 'certain scene' in the book that occurred between two of the love interests (if you've read this book you will know what scene I am talking about), now that scene I found was completely unnecessary and out-of-the-blue because of the lack in romance-depth, but hey, what can you do?

Overall, I can see why many readers utterly adored this book, not only because it contained some of the most beautiful writing but because the story was told from a beautiful imagination as well, this great and wondrous world of Jay Kristoff's. While it may not have been a great read for me, but maybe it will for you! Both original and stunning in its own right, STORMDANCER is a great debut from an Australian author and it will please many of its readers and let's hope you are one of them too!

The Rating
3/5 stars

Friday, November 23, 2012

Spark by Brigid Kemmerer

Release Date: Out now!

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Pages: 350pgs

The Story

Gabriel Merrick plays with fire. Literally.

Sometimes he can even control it. And sometimes he can't. Like the fire that killed his parents.

Gabriel has always had his brothers to rely on, especially his twin, Nick. But when an arsonist starts wreaking havoc on their town, all the signs point to Gabriel. Only he's not doing it.

More than Gabriel's pride is at stake - this could cost him his family, maybe his life. And no one seems to hear him. Except a shy sophomore named Layne, a brainiac who dresses in turtlenecks and jeans and keeps him totally off balance. Layne understands family problems, and she understands secrets. She has a few of her own.

Gabriel can't let her guess about his brothers, about his abilities, about the danger that's right at his heels. But there are some risks he can't help taking.

The fuse is lit . . .

The Review

A big thanks to Allen & Unwin Australia for sending me a review copy of this book!

Honestly there's no better word in describing SPARK than it being hot, hot HOT?! Because really that is exactly what it is folks . . . HOT! With the book being far more than light fiery sparks flying across the pages and with me being already in love with the author's previous installment Storm, it's no real secret when I say I'm a huge fan of this series, especially when it comes to Brigid Kemmerer's work and her fabulous ways of entertaining her readers with in-depth characterization, sizzling romances and spine-tingling action! It's just plain awesome!

For the next sequel of the Elemental series, SPARK, this time round the story mainly focuses on Gabriel Merrick, one of the other Merrick brothers that we've read about previously, and unlike his twin-brother, the calm and collective Nick, Gabriel is a hot-tempered, arrogant, and a blunt mess to boot. But as he tries to work on his elemental powers and maintain a normal lifestyle as much as possible, Layne - the sweet, caring and shy girl - suddenly comes into his life, and Gabriel must seriously rethink his situation and what he is really living for. And, like what we have previously experienced from the first book in the series, with many other dangers headed on the horizon for Gabriel and his family, he will soon remember exactly what it means to protect his family, his love and everything lying in-between.

Despite some minor issues I had with Gabriel from the previous book to this one (mostly because of his arrogance and saying the wrong things to certain people in certain situations), I have to say that he really did surprise me in this sequel and he's definitely more than meets the eye. I mean throughout the entire book, SPARK, Gabriel's character continued to slowly evolve into bigger and much better things, and he has faced so many, many challenges that tested him to the ultimate limits - things including studying for the first time in ages, falling in and out with his relationship with his own twin brother Nick, becoming an outcast, and falling in love in the most unexpected places. It was needless to say such a pleasure to read about Gabriel's own story and journey, and finally seeing how different he is compared to his twin, Nick, even when he too shared some of his brother's most likable qualities which surprised me also.

For Gabriel's main love interest, Layne, she was someone I liked straight off the bat, even when I first met with her as a main character. As much as I loved Becca, the other main love interest from the first book Storm, but Layne for me was my favourite kick-ass girl in the series so far and I could relate to her on a lot more levels. She's geeky, she's shy, she's well-balanced (sooooooooo like me at least I would like to think so haha) and she's in all honesty the perfect match for Gabriel as he is quite the opposite to her. It's a great match what can I say? While Layne's father was a total mess for the majority of the book and I so wanted to slap him for being an idiot  but when it came to the relationship between Layne and Gabriel it was just something that may have started out as very rocky and complicated at times, but in the end it ended up being something totally undeniably perfect and I can see why this book was called 'Spark' because there was definitely sparks flying about when you interacted closely with these two main characters and I loved every moment of it!

Overall, SPARK was such a fabulous follow up to the Elemental series and while it wasn't necessarily my favourite in the series but considering we have another book, Spirit, heading our way very soon, I'm still super excited to see what else Brigid Kemmerer has to offer us! I'm sure it'll be a book that will make has swoon like we've never swoon before!

The Rating
4/5 stars

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Release Date: Out now!

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Pages: 375pgs

The Story

Waverly and Kieran are finally reunited on the Empyrean. Kieran has led the boys safely up to this point, and now that the girls are back, their mission seems slightly less impossible: to chase down the New Horizon, and save their parents from the enemy ship. But nothing is truly as it seems . . . Kieran's leadership methods have raised Seth's hackles - and Waverly's suspicions. Is this really her fiance? The handsome, loving boy she was torn from just a short time before? More and more, she finds her thoughts aligned with Seth's. But if Seth is Kieran's Enemy No. 1, what does that make her?

In one night, a strange explosion rocks the Empyrean - shooting them off course and delaying their pursuit of the New Horizon - and Seth is mysteriously released from the brig. Seth is the most obvious suspect for the explosion, and Waverly the most obvious suspect for releasing him. As tension reaches a boling point, will Seth be able to find the true culprit before Kieran locks them both away - or worse? Will Waverly follow her heart, even if it puts lives at risk? With the balance of power precarious and the clock ticking, every decision counts . . . every step brings them closer to a new beginning, or a sudden end . . .

The Review

A big thanks to Pan Macmillan for sending me a review copy of this book!

Last year in my review I gave Amy Kathleen Ryan's debut and the first installment of the Sky Chasers series, Glow, two stars and I have to say it wasn't my favourite book in the sci-fi and YA genre. Or rather . . . not at all. But since there were many others who had shared similar opinions as me in regards to the first book and since there were still many other readers who had actually highly praised the sequel in improving and being far more entertaining than the first book, I decided against my better judgement and gave this series another go, and in the end I'm really glad that I did because boy oh boy . . . it sure changed my mind on a big, big level!

In the next sequel of the Sky Chasers series, SPARK, it picks up right after Glow had left off at. With Waverly and the other girls just barely escaping the sinister ship of the New Horizon, they soon find themselves returning to Empyrean, where Kieran is now in command of the ship and where Seth, someone Waverly deeply cares about, is now imprisoned in the brigs. Upon Waverly's arrival and on top of everything else that is going on, she is considered a traitor and is being blamed for not returning with everyone else's parents, and one crazy moment after another, including an incident where explosions are set off and Seth is released under unusual circumstances, Waverly must determine how to prove Seth's innocence as well as keeping everyone else in the ship safe . . . by all means possible.

Unlike what I had experienced from the first book, SPARK was amazing right from the very beginning and I was so surprised by this feeling that I'd gotten as I kept reading this book because I had zero expectations. Absolutely zero. Though, despite these judgments of mine, I did secretly hope this sequel would change my mind - about the storyline, about the characters, about the pacing and basically everything else in this series - and that it did. The author, Amy Kathleen Ryan, wrote the sequel with a much better attitude than she did with Glow this time round since the pacing was faster, there was far more action to suck me back into the storyline, and most importantly, there was way more character development which blew me away. In all honesty, I really loved this book and it goes to show that you shouldn't stop a series until you read its sequel, because the author can and will surprise you in many ways, and can make you eat up your own words in the end. So way a go for this author in doing that to me!

When it came to the characters, especially with the main ones, I really liked Waverly, Kieran and Seth, and all of the faults they may have possessed. For our main heroine, Waverly, I couldn't help but feel sorry for the girl especially since how everyone seemed to be treating her lately . . . almost like a criminal when really . . . she was the ultimate hero among all of them. I remember how I felt about Waverly in the first book and I didn't fully connect with her like I wanted to, however in this sequel there was so much more to love about her - all because she had much more development in her character and we finally got to see her strengths that I'm sure was there all along and I just couldn't see. For one thing, she stood up for herself (about time girl!) and at certain moments in the book she even went up against Kieran (really against him and his bullying ways) which made my eyes bulge out and feel wowed by her! I mean going against the likes of Kieran is like wishing for a death sentence, so again, way a go author for making Waverly of all people do that in the book.

Regarding the two boys of the story, that being Kieran and Seth, it's easy to justify them and their actions, and whose team I'm really rooting for. With Kieran, like with how most readers view him, he was never ever a favourite character of mine and I don't think he will ever be one with the way he's going right now. That character . . . man . . . he needs a beaten sometime soon because he was ridiculous and just stupid. So let's forget about Kieran at the moment and just focus on Seth alone, the boy we ALL want to talk about. Am I right, readers? Yup, I'm right. When it comes to our boy Seth, he is absolutely my favourite character in this entire series and he continues to impress me each and every time he comes onto the page. There's just something about him that gets under my skin (in a good way of course) and his strength is simply amazing . . . it just matches Waverly's so perfectly and it's no wonder why I love them being together!

Overall, SPARK surprised me SO much and I would recommend this book in a heartbeat, even if you were like me and didn't fall hard for the first book, Glow. Trust me when I say this: This sequel was such an amazing installment and I'm really, really looking forward to seeing how everything will end in the last book of the series which I hope is just as amazing as this one!

The Rating
4/5 stars

Monday, November 19, 2012

Rift by Andrea Cremer

Release Date: Out now!

Publisher: Atom

Pages: 455pgs

The Story

Discover where the Nightshade series began . . .

Ember has always known that she owed her life to a mysterious order of Knights who saved her as a baby. The same order of Knights who called her best friend to service, leaving her behind to play the dutiful daughter.

But shortly after her sixteenth birthday, Alistair returns. Although he seems altered - shadowed and brooding - Ember places her trust in him, knowing that he's her one chance to escape.

Little does she know what danger lies ahead. For this is a tumultuous time, and Ember will soon be caught up in an age-old struggle between darkness and light. Neither she, nor her heart, can possibly survive unscathed.

The Review

A big thanks to Hachette Australia for sending me a review copy of this book!

RIFT is a prequel young adult series and opens us up to a magical world set hundreds of years prior to and from the same world of Andrea Cremer's Nightshade series, where the Keepers first originated from. For women of this medieval world, they are expected to be married off and bear children for their husbands. Not fight in violent wars and wield weapons of men. So for our main leading lady, Ember Morrow, her parents made a promise (a debut) at her birth to save her mother's life: For when she comes of age she must fight alongside the Guard in the heart of Conatus where there is a group of women who are just as strong as men in the battlefield. And, to escape an arranged marriage, she is more than happy and willing to leave her old life behind and join the Guard. But when her arrival causes a stir and when one of the leaders is dabbling in dark magics, Ember will soon need to trust her own heart and her instinct, and to learn how to become a fierce warrior in order to save the world as she knows of so far.

While I enjoyed Andrea Cremer's Nightshade series but since the last book Bloodrose wasn't my favourite final installment, I'm now really, really pleased to say that this new trilogy series was even better than Nightshade! Seriously, where has this book been all my life? Where has Andrea Cremer been hiding this wonderful masterpiece of literature  From the very first page I drawn into this storyline, and with each chapter and in each line . . . it made me SO involved with everything going on within the book and I just didn't want to leave this world behind. Ever. Set in the fifteenth century and in my favourite place of Scotland, RIFT delivers a wonderful blend of fantasy and historical fiction, along with some new characters, and hell practically every single word featured in this big world made me disappear from my own reality so once again excellent job to the author for doing that to me!

What made this series shine even more than it already did, you know besides the amazing storyline and the setting, was the main character, Ember Morrow, a girl who isn't too afraid to wield the most deadliest of all weapons nor waver from her fierce determination and rocking personality. Reminding me of the likes of Vampire Academy's Rose Hathaway and Hunger Games's Katniss Everdeen, Ember is just the kind of character you can't help but love and relate to instantly, and with every bit of emotion and every feeling that she felt, I ended up feeling which I'm sure every reader loves to experience at one stage with their favourite heroines. There is so much praise for Ember (obviously from me) and at the moment I just can't express how much I adored her character . . . there is way too many words for her alone!

While I expected some sort of a love triangle to occur, much like what happened in the Nightshade series (a pointless love triangle mind you), but I'm pretty darn happy that there is not one single love triangle in this book. At least not one that I could see happening since it's pretty obvious to whom Ember is slowly falling in love with and that is her mentor. An honourable man abided by his duties and armed with gorgeous looks, and a man with a serious and a part-vulnerable side to him, Barrow is one man you can't help but swoon over. Reminding me so much of Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy character, Dimitri Belikov (a man I still love), Barrow just had this grace and raw intensity about him every time he leaped up onto the page and it's no wonder why Ember fell in love with him because I was too! One moment he is melting your heart and the next he is this out-of-this-world glorious warrior . . . yes, clearly the interaction between Barrow and Ember has this perfect balance of warmth to this fierce and out of control flame, and boy was it hot to witness! Why Andrea Cremer? Why write these hot and serious MEN? I seriously need a Barrow of my own!!! If anyone can let me know where to find one I will forever be grateful!

Overall, Andrea Cremer has once again weaved together the perfect combination of action, adventure, romance, fantasy, politics and history all into one perfect book. Whether or not you enjoyed the author's previous Nightshade series, RIFT still delivers more in every single book element and it is simply a book you cannot afford to miss out on! I LOVED IT . . . LIKE THIS MUCH! *spreads arms out*

The Rating
5/5 stars

Friday, November 16, 2012

Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost

Release Date: Out now!

Publisher: Avon

Pages: 384pgs

The Story

She's a mortal with dark powers . . .

After a tragic accident scarred her body and destroyed her dreams, Leila never imagined that the worst was still to come: terrifying powers that let her channel electricity and learn a person's darkest secrets through a single touch. Leila is doomed to a life of solitude . . . until creatures of the night kidnap her, forcing her to reach out with telepathic distress call to the world's most infamous vampire . . .

He's the Prince of Night . . .

Vlad Tepesh inspired the greatest vampire legend of all - but whatever you do, don't call him Dracula. Vlad's ability to control fire makes him one of the most feared vampires in existence, but his enemies have found a new weapon against him - a beautiful mortal with powers to match his own. When Vlad and Leila meet, however, passion ignites between them  threatening to consume them both. It will take everything that they are to stop an enemy intent on bringing them down in flames.

The Review

Like many of you, I'm one of those crazy obsessed fans of the Night Huntress series - it's something that I practically live on on these last few years, especially when it comes to literature. I mean, we're talking about Cat and Bones here people! How can you not have read at least one book of Jeaniene Frost's . . . she's like an urban legend in adult paranormal romance and an author who gives you winner after winner with her books along with some unbelievably sexy and complicated vampires! And like with the infamous characters, Cat and Bones, I've also been a big fan of the character Vlad and ever since I found out the author was going to give us the full story on him - a whole book all to himself - I just couldn't resist reading it and Frost sure doesn't disappoint us!

Before meeting Vlad once more, in ONCE BURNED we are quickly introduced to the new and totally kickass heroine, Leila. As a teenager, she touched a downed power-line which had electrocuted her and as a result she woke up to find a nasty scar on her temple that ran straight down to her right hand. Only . . . that's not all she finds. In fact, when she touches someone or an object with that right hand, she can not only read a person's worst sins, see impressions of people in the past and/or future, and heck, even see which object belong to whom, but she can also send volts of electricity through people within a single touch and some can even be killed by it. Living with these dangerous abilities of hers, Leila cannot help but not live a normal life nor form any sort of intimate relationships with people, which then forces her to travel with a circus, performing as a sideshow act that puts her acrobat skills and her "looks" to good use. But when someone begins to notices her abilities and sees potential in them, Leila is kidnapped by a group of men - vampires no less! - and she soon crosses paths (accidentally of course) with the great and powerful vampire named Vlad Tepesh (the Dracula himself) who comes to her rescue but with a price in tow. The question is . . . will Leila be able to pay up?

This book totally rocked for me - everything from the action, the romance, the emotion, the despair and the raw intensity was nailed in every single shape and form in this book! Sure, it wasn't as EPIC as I found the Night Huntress series to be, but it still had just enough elements to get excited on this new adult paranormal series and I can't wait for the bloody next sequel! Like with all of Jeaniene Frost's books, ONCE BURNED starts off very strong and keeps up the pace until the very end, until we are left with our mouths wide open. In all honesty, the only thing that really affected my overall rating would be that I needed or rather wanted some of Vlad's own perspective in some of the chapters, even little ones. I do realize that Leila was the main character that we would be focusing on, but since this series is all about Vlad and as we get to see a completely new side to him, I just 'kind of' wanted to see inside his head for once, but I guess that's part of the mystery and the allure of him, right? Other than that, I simply loved this book!

What I also loved was Leila herself. She was such a great heroine. Personally, I like my heroines who are tough as nails in protecting themselves and have an attitude, while also having that small vulnerability about them which the love interest or those closest to those heroines end up bringing out to the main character as the book goes along. I just love those types of gals and Leila was so that from the start for me. Both sometimes-frustrating and sometimes-just-completely-adorable, Leila was someone whom had suffered from many terrible things in her teenage years - including having a not-so-great family life and not to mention possessing uncontrollable powers that continue to help in closing herself off from the world - and in the end I enjoyed seeing into that life of Leila's and learning how to become a great woman that she is destined to become.

Then of course there's the leading man himself, Vlad! Known for being the comic relief of the Night Huntress series (which we're all aware of from the previous series), fans will be quite surprised when they get to see a completely new side to Vlad in ONCE BURNED. Now unlike the Vlad we know him well for, he is pretty serious in this new series of his, especially when it comes to people wanting to kill him and his new love interest, Leila, whose chemistry is just off the hotness charts! Seriously . . .  it was! Some say they'd preferred the banter-throwing Vlad and missed him as that, but to me he's still there people cracking a few one-liners here and there, and truth be told I actually liked this serious Vlad. It just radiated his powerful vampireness and it only showed to us readers what lengths he is willing to go in order to protect himself and those he cares most about . . . after all he's supposed to be the Impaler himself! And as far as his romantic relationship goes, with none other than Leila, even though he stated that he doesn't and will never actually love someone as love was lost to him long ago, however whenever he is with Leila . . . it's fair to say that they are the perfect match and test each other on so many levels, and boy oh boy . . . do I love them together! They are so sweet and complicated! Vlad is your typical protective Alpha male character and Leila is your strong-willed woman who is used to closing herself off from others. Seriously . . . I want more from these two characters!

Overall, ONCE BURNED is yet another delicious vampire tale coming from one of my absolute favourite authors Jeaniene Frost! I still can't believe I have to wait until 2013 to see where else Vlad and Leila takes us to next! 2013?!?!?!

The Rating
4 1/2 / 5 stars

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ascend by Amanda Hocking

Release Date: Out now!

Publisher: Tor

Pages: 326pgs

The Story

The third and final dramatic installment

in Amanda Hocking's page-turning trilogy.

Wendy Everly can barely remember what it was like to feel like a normal girl. She'd wished for her life to be different but everything is so much more complicated than she'd expected. And she certainly hadn't dreamt she'd be getting married at eighteen to a man she didn't love - all for the sake of duty.

As the big day approaches, Wendy can't stop thinking about two different men - and neither of them are her husband-to-be. Finn - quiet, strong and determined to do what's right, and Loki - dark and seductive, a sworn enemy who once saved her life. With all-out war just days away, Wendy needs to act quickly if she is to save her friends and family. But while her loyalties and duties are to her people, deeper passions are leading her elsewhere.

And as her worlds collide, Wendy must sacrifice everything she loves to save them. But will it be enough?

The Review

From the very beginning of Amanda Hocking's bestselling Trylle trilogy, I was hooked on it within a minute of reading and this young adult series had instantly became a favourite of mine. I'm sure many other readers out there will feel the same way as I do when I say it was rather sad to see this series coming to an end. It really was sad for me as a fan of this trilogy - not because I was going to miss the stolen kisses from the characters nor the action-packed scenes that took everything to a whole new level in this beautiful world of Hocking's, but it was because I was left wanting more, more and more!

Keeping the first two books of the series in mind, when it came to reading the third and final installment of ASCEND, a book I couldn't wait to get a copy of, I wouldn't be the first to admit that the progress of this book and the way it was concluded took me by complete and utter surprise. In all honesty here, I didn't see a single thing coming my way - especially in the romance department - and while I didn't necessarily agree with how everything was wrapped up in the end, but regardless of that small factor it was still an enjoyable book with a great ending and what more could you possibly ask for? Still, I preferred the first two books in the series since something - a small something - was missing from this book. That 'big bang' I was hoping and longing for.

For our main heroine, Wendy, as you have read from my previous book reviews and the praise I have for this leading lady of ours, I found her character has finally proven to everyone about what it takes to be the Royal Queen's daughter and the responsibilities she must share in order to be that heir everyone believes she is. While the old Wendy we've seen in the past has been confused, naive, and perhaps a little lost at times, but in this book she has changed but in a good way of course. For example, she took charge for herself in this book, to become a leader for her people and for her kingdom - just like I wanted from her in the beginning - and she pushed through every single struggle that toppled over her no matter the consequences of her actions and the ones of her enemies . . . what can I say . . . she was strong and awesome in this installment. But for those other readers who didn't quite like her as main character . . . I do certainly hope that this book changes your minds because she does end up proving herself worthy and stands for the cause she is trying to win.

As for the romantic love interests from the previous two books, that being our endearing and caring Finn and the smart and seductive Loki, I have to stay these two young fellows right here surprised me. They surprised me a lot actually. For Finn's character, a person I thought would still have some fight left in him, I firmly believed in the beginning that he would have a much larger and a prominent part to play in this storyline and unfortunately for Finn fans such as myself, let's just say you won't get too much from him which I'm sad to say is very, very disappointing. Not to say what happened between him and Wendy was a complete shocker  because it wasn't one bit, but on another side of things I just 'kind of' wished he had something more to do in this last book rather than remaining on the sidelines of the action . . . after all, he had so much potential in him and I had really grew to love and care for him. As for Loki's character, he was someone whom really surprised me in ASCEND (in more ways than one I might add). From my other reviews of the books I was more of a Finn fan, however in this book I was ALL FOR LOKI! I know . . . what a big change, right? Throughout the book never once did Loki confuse Wendy's heart - his feelings were all out on the table this time round - and never once did he doubt nor push her to make a decision in who she loves and I ADORED that quality of his. His patience. His love. His kind words. His fight in waiting around for Wendy's heart to turn to him. Oh Loki, you really know how to steal a young woman's heart, don't you? Honestly who is this Finn fellow? I have no clue, really.

Overall, ASCEND was a fantastic and an addictive read that will be forever loved by all, especially if you enjoyed the previous two books in the series, Switched and Torn. While this third and final installment may not have been my ultimate favourite by far, but Amanda Hocking manages to offer up a fantastic conclusion to a series and (I admit) made my heart skip a few little beats whenever Loki and Wendy came onto the page . . . need I say more my dear readers? Trust me here: Grab this book NOW! That's right . . . NOW!

The Rating

4 1/2 / 5 stars

Monday, November 12, 2012

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Release Date: Out now!

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books

Pages: 292pgs

The Story

Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance. Posing as one of Robin Hood's thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire.

Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in.

It's only her fierce loyalty to Robin - whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her - that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.

The Review

A big thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for sending me a review copy of this book!

Two words. Robin Hood. Yes that's right, you guys you heard me correctly - the ROBIN HOOD!! Now I've always been a hardcore fan of the Robin Hood tale and I would read pretty much anything that mentions him and his band of merry-men in a book  In fact, after I finished reading this book, I then had the instant urge to go rewatch all of those Robin Hood movies that I've watched from my childhood and nerd out all out again (of course I did that by the way because I am, you know, a nerd like that). For A.C. Gaughen's debut novel, SCARLET, she takes everything we know about Robin Hood to a whole new level by recreating the traditional myth of Hood's right hand man and basically making a 'he' into a she. But here's the thing about our main heroine: Scarlet isn't exactly your typical damsel in distress waiting for her knight in their shining armor to come save her from her trouble - no, she is actually a sneaky thief with a heart of gold and is a worthy member of Robin's main crew and if anyone get's in her way . . . trust me . . . you better watch out for her knife because she's good with them. Too good.

I'll get straight to the point here and say I absolutely, wholeheartedly adored this book, more than I ever expected to from what I began it. I mean I literally wanted to start re-reading SCARLET all over again when I finished the last few pages because I loved the storyline so much and I didn't want to leave this world of Gaughen's, one that she has managed to create so splendidly beause I'm dying for a sequel even with no sequel currently in the works. But personally for me, what made this storyline shine a lot more was not having Robin Hood taking the reins of the adventures of his merry crew, but rather having a woman do it in his stead and this whole 'girl empowerment' thing that took over the story just put a big and bright smile on my face. Trust me folks - it was soooooooooo good!

When it comes to our main heroine, Scarlet, she was someone I could straightaway relate to. For one example, she was just as good as any other man in the book and whom happens to be tough as nails, fiesty in all shapes and forms, is in every way determined in helping those of the most unfortunate, and she even has a very distinctive voice of her own era which only made her that much more real and appealing to me, so props to the author for making me love and wanting to be Scarlet herself. She's honestly one of my favourite heroines from this year of 2012 - not because she's totally kickass (okay that's part of it), but it has more to do with her being a little rough around the edges and how her fierce loyalty to everyone continued  to inspire me . . . so yes, I'm forever Team Scarlet!

As much as the supporting characters made me giggle like a schoolgirl (and heck even the villain made me giggle because he was so good) but what surprised me with this book was the relationship between our Scarlet and her Rob aka the Robin Hood. While both of them can try their hardest in denying each other's feelings for one another, but their emotional and physical attraction for each other is just always there as they interact and I guess that's why I have always loved them - together or not together - because they were so frustrating, lovable and were total perfection all wrapped up into one. I mean, the chemistry with these two . . . it was sexy as hell . . . that is for sure! So as you begin to read this book, it's so obvious that these two characters care about each other in friendship (and more than that of course) and while I wanted these two crazy kids to get together ASAP but I had quite enjoyed reading about their slow relationship by savoring the sweetest of all moments that they had shared together, even their arguments too, since the slow burning romance is what made me believe in them more and what made me believe in the legend of the Hood and of Scarlet's own unique adventures. God . . . why were Rob and Scar so perfect together? WHY?!?! I want my own Robin Hood!

Overall, SCARLET had literally blew me away! What with an opened ending in this book, I seriously hope the author, A.C. Gaughen, takes her story into serious consideration because really . . . with no plans of a sequel right now, I really, really, really am cheering - no, praying - for the author to write a darn sequel because you can't - just CAN'T - leave a book that is so awesome and so epic such as this one with an ending like THAT. No seriously . . . you CAN'T do that to me!

The Rating

5/5 stars

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Timepiece by Myra McEntire

Release Date: Out now!

Publisher: Egmont

Pages: 336pgs

The Story

A threat from the past could destroy the future.

And the clock is ticking . . .

Kaleb Ballard's relentless flirting is interrupted when Jack Landers, the man who tried to murder his father, timeslips in and attacks before disappearing just as quickly. But Kaleb has never before been able to see time travelers, unlike many of his friends associated with the mysterious Hourglass organization. Are Kaleb's powers expanding, or is something very wrong?

Then the Hourglass is issued an ultimatum. Either they find Jack and the research he's stolen on the time gene, or time will be altered with devastating results.

Now Kaleb, Emerson, Michael, and the other Hourglass recruits have no choice but to use their unusual powers to find Jack. But where do they even start? And when? And even if they succeed, it may not be enough . . .

The follow-up to Hourglass, Timepiece blends the paranormal, science fiction, mystery, and suspense genres into a nonstop thrill ride where every second counts.

The Review

TIMEPIECE is the second installment of Myra McEntire's young adult series and it picks up shortly after the events of the previous book, Hourglass. Now Hourglass was one of my absolute favourite books from 2011 and I was literally dying to get my hands on its sequel, which I knew would blow me away because I loved the author's writing and her characterization. However, despite what the cover implies, this book isn't told from Emerson's perspective, the main narrator of the first book, but rather it's told from Kaleb's perspective, a supporting character we know all too well from the book, Hourglass. I'm sure many readers of this particular book can agree with me when I say that this new perspective took me a quite while to get used to but it did - eventually - improve as the story went along. But with that being said, I still would've preferred Emerson telling this tale because I really, really missed her voice and I could relate to her more I ever could with Kaleb for some pretty obvious reasons. He's a boy and all. Still, even though this book wasn't as compelling as the first and at times I often felt like people were running around for no reason at all, but I, on a whole, thought it was a great follow-up of one of my favourite books.

Bad boy persona. Heart-throb. Good-looks. Tattoos. Piercings. And a total heart-breaker  This pretty much sums up Kaleb as a character, but like other readers of Hourglass we all know that he is more than what he appears to be. For the most part Kaleb was a bit of a jerk, even if he had good reasoning's for being more inclined that way. But as you slowly begin to overlook his certain 'quirks' in personality, I had actually found Kaleb's character to be somehow more . . . softer and more . . . well . . . vulnerable than what I've previously seen from him which I loved reading about. And then of course there's Lily, Emerson's best friend, who is the love interest for Kaleb and is simply there to help out the gang in catching a bad guy. As much as I wanted to love Lily, I can't say she was a favourite of mine. Sadly. I think it was because of her relationship with Kaleb or rather it was because I found her to be a rather blunt character . . . maybe it's just me feeling this but yeah she was blunt and not particularly likable. Although what I did love about Lily was how she made Kaleb get a run for his money to get her interested . . . so I say good for Lily for making our boy work harder than ever before for a girl to date which was a nice shake up to the storyline.

Now when it comes to the story itself, I thought everything was pretty fast-paced and was enjoyable enough to keep me reading til the very end, but quite often I found myself confused by all the sci-fi-ness of the storyline and all the quirks in naming these time slips and other whatnot. Maybe it was because I haven't read Hourglass in a really, really long time which may have contributed to me not really 'getting the book' as I hoped I would or maybe it was because I couldn't remember certain parts of the series and who was who, but yeah . . . I was a little bit confused. But moving past this and as I read through the last half of the book, I have to say it was actually quite awesome to finally have some questions answered from the previous book and getting the clearer picture of things (especially in what the villain wants mostly), so that was probably one of the highlights for me and this book.

Overall, I highly recommend this book especially to those who've already read the first book, Hourglass. While TIMEPIECE wasn't exactly my favourite of the series so far, but the cliffhanger did offer up quite an interesting turn-point, so I'll definitely be looking forward to the third book and wondering who will be narrating it next! I sincerely hope it's a character I love this time round . . . maybe Michael?

The Rating
3/5 stars

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame

Release Date: Out now!

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Pages: 288pgs

The Story

It's 1912 and the Darlingtons of Wentworth Hall have more than just their extensive grounds to maintain. They need to keep up appearances that things are as they have always been for one of England's most elite families . . . even as whispers of secret romances and bitter betrayals threaten their facade of perfection.

Maggie Darlington has a secret. And she's not the only one: The handsome groom, Michael, the beautiful new French nanny, Therese, even Maggie's youngest sister, Lila, are all hiding something. And when scandalous satires start appearing in the newspaper with details that closely mirror the lives of the Darlingtons, they are soon looking over their shoulders, worrying about whose scandal will be next - because at Wentworth Hall, nothing stays secret forever.

The Review

A big thanks to Simon & Schuster Australia for sending me a review copy of this book!

Do you love the likes of Downton Abbey and Gossip Girl? Well then, please look no further in the book department because Abby Grahame's debut novel, WENTWORTH HALL offers up a delicious combination of both of those titles and is more than it appears to be for a quick historical read! Filled with a variety of themes and weaved together into several separate storylines, while also mixing between gossip and scandal, unrequited love and budding romances, and even social classes and deadly do-not-tell secrets, it's no reason why everyone is spreading the word about this book and why I enjoyed it so, so much!

WENTWORTH HALL introduces you to the lives of the Darlington family, one of the most powerful families in all of England at the beginning of the twentieth-century. Under the roof of its massive estate, Wentworth Hall, there we first meet one of the main characters named Maggie Darlington, the elder sister of her siblings and whom has always been the free spirit amongst her very strict and well-respected family. But when Maggie finally returns home after traveling for almost a year now, something is really off about her. She's no longer the carefree girl she used to be - not happy, but rather cold and callous towards everyone. While we may not know of her secret as of yet - at least not until the end of the novel - but this secret plays a much larger part to the rest of the characters' that we end up meeting along the way, the many stories that crossover and ones we will soon come to learn more about. There's Maggie of course, there's the handsome groom, Michael, there's the beautiful and new french nanny, Therese, and then there's characters like Maggie's youngest sister, Lila, who all share something in common: Secrets and Scandal.

Already being a hardcore fan of the television series, Downton Abbey, there was a definite guarantee that I would adore this book as well. Even if the storyline and the events that happen shared some similarity to the TV show Downton Abbey and it's own characters, but hell . . . I didn't care about any of that whatsoever because I love - absolutely LOVE - historical fiction written at its best (which this book is) and I love this particular period too, so I rarely noticed such similarities since I was so entertained by this book alone, so entertained indeed. The author, Abby Grahame, did such a fantastic job in understanding the culture of this particular period and the social aspects of men and women, so this book was a total win-win for me in all regards!

But it was more than the storyline I loved, it was also the characters as well. For sure, I may have favoured some characters more than others, especially when reading different perspectives in each section of the book, but I still loved every single one of them in my own way and how each of their stories came to together and played some major part to one another. But if I had to say who was my favourite character of them all . . . it was totally the two of the main characters, Maggie and Michael. Maggie and Michael . . . I just adored those two characters to death and I wanted so much more from them. Reminding me of two of Downton Abbey's character's, Mary and Branson, both Maggie and Michael had something so captivating and lovable about them, and in the end I just wanted them to be together. Whether or not that happens, that my friends means that you will have to pick up this book for yourselves in order to find out what exactly happens to the characters! Trust me . . . it's so worth the read!

Overall, even for such a short book and not a lot of character depth, I have to say Abby Grahame's debut book WENTWORTH HALL had really hit home for me with her very entertaining story and I seriously can't wait to read more from her and I really, really hope that there is more coming from this series because I want more from my two little sweetie-pies, Maggie and Michael! Oh how I loved those two! *smiles gleefully*

The Rating

4 1/2 / 5 stars

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Calling by Kelley Armstrong

Release Date: Out now!

Publishers: Harper

Pages: 326pgs

The Story

Maya Delaney's paw-print birthmark is the mark of what she truly is - a skin-walker. She can run faster, climb higher, and see better than nearly everyone else. Experiencing intense connections with the animals that roam the woods outside her home. Maya knows it's only a matter of time before she's able to Shift and become one of them. And she believes there may be others in her small town with surprising talents.

Now Maya and her friends have been forced to flee from their homes during a forest fire they suspect was deliberately set. Then they're kidnapped, and after a chilling helicopter crash, they find themselves in the Vancouver Island wilderness with nothing but their extraordinary abilities to help them get back home.

In The Calling, the sizzling second book in the Darkness Rising trilogy. New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong pumps up the romance, danger, and suspense that left readers of The Gathering clamoring for more.

The Review

I really enjoyed the first book in the Darkness Rising series, The Gathering, and while I don't usually set up high hopes for a sequel nor expect it to be be even better than the first book - merely because I don't want to be disappointed by them - but unfortunately I did have high hopes for Kelley Armstrong's second installment of her newest YA series, and unfortunately for her and unfortunately for me with this book alone, I didn't enjoy this sequel all so 'much'. It was fun in certain respects but there just wasn't enough to keep me gripped throughout the book.

As I was reading THE CALLING I couldn't help but compare it to Kelley Armstrong's previous YA series the Darkest Powers and while I understand this is supposed to be a spin-off series of that original series however I still felt like nothing new was being added into this particular storyline. Kids with special powers. Kids constantly on the run. Kids being watched by a group of powerful government-like people. Same old, same old. The main problem with this book - for me at least - was it being set mostly in the wilderness or rather the way it was handled in that lonely wilderness. While being in the woods and the whole survival thing is there to prepare us for what's going to happen in the final book of the trilogy, but I don't know . . . I just didn't like it. After all, I felt like most of the characters were making too many hasty decisions and I forgot who was chasing who by the time I finished this book. I was confused and disoriented. However, the only redemption this book had was Maya, the main heroine. She seemed to be the only one with her head screwed on throughout every single situation she experienced. Maybe not when it comes to love . . . but she's great as always.

Personally, I find Maya to be that kind of heroine that you'll always have to support and stand behind. She's brave. She's tough. She's someone willing to listening to others. She appreciates help when its needed. She's totally kick-ass and . . . she manages to keep everyone together, even when things seem to break further and further apart from these group of teens featured in the book. For sure, Maya still may have struggled with her feelings and emotions (especially with her 'two' love interests) which caused her to make further mistakes, but eventually in time she manages to pull through many obstacles for which I'm grateful for.

As for the other supporting characters that we meet once more, I can't say I'd particularly cared for them all this time round, though I did love Daniel a little bit more which is good. Like the awesome guy that he is, Daniel is the super best friend everyone needs to have in their lives (he's an all-round good guy what can I say?) and he doesn't judge people for their mistakes - which is, one of the best qualities about him. While our dear Rafe - Maya's other bad boy of a love interest - remains missing for the majority of the book (which really peeved me off since I wanted more from his character), but having Maya and Daniel team up together in this sequel had a very likable appeal to me and in the end made me enjoy the book even more.

Overall, THE CALLING was a  very, very different sequel. It didn't necessarily have the same feelings that I had experienced from the previous book, which was probably due to the fact that there was a lot of movement and nature going on within the storyline, so I guess that part may have had something to do with my lower rating. But even with this book failing to impress me, but considering what happened in the end, I'm still fairly eager to read the third and final installment of the trilogy, which I'm sure will make me fall back in love with this series again. I'm almost sure of it!

The Rating
3 1/2 / 5 stars

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Trial by Fire by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Release Date: Out now!

Publisher: Egmont

Pages: 357pgs

The Story

There can only be one alpha.

Bryn is finally settling into her position as alpha of the Cedar Ridge Pack - or at least, her own version of what it means to be alpha when you're a human leading a band of werewolves. Then she finds a teenage boy bleeding on her front porch. Before collapsing, he tells her his name is Lucas, he's a Were, and Bryn's protection is his only hope.

But Lucas isn't part of Bryn's pack, and she has no right to claim another alpha's Were. With threats - old and new - looming, and danger closing in from all sides, Bryn will have to accept what her guardian Callum knew all along. To be alpha, she will have to give in to her own animal instincts and become less human. And, she's going to have to do it alone.

Bryn faces both the costs, and the rewards, of love and loyalty, in this thrilling sequel to Raised by Wolves.

The Review

TRIAL BY FIRE is the second installment of the Raised by Wolves series. Already being a big fan of the first book, the same name of the series title, I was so eager to start reading its sequel as I expected it to be full of non-stop action - my absolute favourite element in Barnes's writing. While the book was enjoyable and flowed very easily for me to read and slowly savor, however it's a completely different book with a completely different feeling to it compared to the first book, and whether it was because the direction of the book was heading towards (which may not have been how I wanted it to all go) or it was because nothing was really connecting with me this time round, but, like I mentioned before, it was still immensely enjoyable for me to read.

TRIAL BY FIRE begins a few months after the first book, Raised by Wolves, had ended and even though I was slightly confused by a few things that were happening - mostly because I haven't read the first book in a long, long time - however readers will receive enough information of the back-story to get your bearings straight and understand what's going on. In the sequel Bryn is now an Alpha leader and like all new alphas she's trying to get that balance of adjusting to her new pack as well as trying to control and keep her pack members happy and together. But when a threat arises, putting her life and her own pack in danger, it's up to Bryn alone to put her Alpha skills to good use and determine who their new enemy is and how to stop them before it's too late.

The author, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, continues to write a very compelling voice and in saying that I was really glad to see that Bryn's character had grown far more in this second installment. Bryn, as seen in the first book, was a young girl fighting in a dog-eat-dog world, but now, after having more control over her own pack and figuring out who she is as a leader while putting her new experience to the ultimate test, she was not only able to be the Alpha leader that she was born to be but she was also able to push herself against those dangerous boundaries between her human side and that fine line of her animalistic side as well, which was really pleasant to read about and it was probably my favourite part of the book. Her growth and her strength.

While I'm impressed with Bryn's development, however I just couldn't feel that strong connection I'd gotten from the Raised by Wolves book and most of the other character interactions weren't hooking me like I wanted them to. It's a shame, really. I mean there's still originality presented in this sequel, with the characters and the gritty relationships the character's share with each other, but I got that rare feeling where there was something missing from the storyline . . . 'the edge' mostly. Sure there was some plot-twists that were pretty surprising to me in certain scenes and I was certainly entertained by them, but I wasn't necessary blown away by them in the least but that's okay, I hope the third installment brings that edge back to the series once more.

Overall, TRIAL BY FIRE is a worthy sequel for the Raised by Wolves series and if you're looking for an action-packed, fast-paced, and an original werewolf young adult series, then I would highly recommend this series to you all because it's a must read for paranormal lovers!

The Rating
3/5 stars
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