Saturday, 6 February 2016

Review: The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins

Title: The Great Hunt (The Eurona Duology #1)
Author: Wendy Higgins

Release date: March 8th 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Format: eARC
Pages: 282

Source: Edelweiss

Kill the beast. Win the girl.

A strange beast stirs fear in the kingdom of Lochlanach, terrorizing towns with its brutality and hunger. In an act of desperation, a proclamation is sent to all of Eurona—kill the creature and win the ultimate prize: the daughter of King Lochson’s hand in marriage.

Princess Aerity understands her duty to the kingdom though it pains her to imagine marrying a stranger. It would be foolish to set her sights on any particular man in the great hunt, but when a brooding local hunter, Paxton Seabolt, catches her attention, there’s no denying the unspoken lure between them…or his mysterious resentment.

Paxton is not keen on marriage. Nor does he care much for spoiled royals and their arcane laws. He’s determined to keep his focus on the task at hand—ridding the kingdom of the beast and protecting his family—yet Princess Aerity continues to challenge his notions with her unpredictability and charm. But as past secrets collide with present desires, dire choices threaten everything Paxton holds dear.

Inspired by the Grimm Brothers’ tale, “The Singing Bone,” New York Times bestselling author Wendy Higgins delivers a dark fantasy filled with rugged hunters, romantic tension, outlawed magic, and a princess willing to risk all to save her people.

Wendy Higgins has done it again! She's totally captured my heart with this fantastic start to the series. Aerity and Paxton are my new favourite OTP and I cannot wait to see what's in store for them later.

Lochlanach is plagued by a terrifying beast that comes for its prey in the night and is practically unstoppable. As the king, Aerity's father needs to come up with a plan to have the beast killed once and for all. The soldiers are scared too, and not many are brave enough to face the beast willingly. As a last resort, the king proclaims that he will hold a hunt, and the killer of the beast will have Aerity's hand in marriage, thereby gaining a kingdom.

I for one definitely did not agree with the king's decision. Yes, the beast needed to be killed, but couldn't he have promised land or gold or something? Promising the winner his daughter means that he stripped her of her choice, and I think that was wrong. Also, any barbarian or idiot could've had the luck to kill the beast and then would marry Aerity and become a prince? That's a risk the king shouldn't be willing to take! Sigh. Apart from this though, I did really love the story.

I figured Aerity would be one of those spoiled princess types (like Paxton thought), but she really surprised me. She knows she won't be able to marry for love like the others in her family, but she's brave enough to accept this and do her duty for the kingdom. Aerity cares more about her people and her loved ones than for herself, and her compassion and selflessness really got to me. She's also really courageous, and we get to see a lot of that too.

I obviously adored Paxton, despite his prickly personality and his deeply hidden secrets. He has a lot to lose, as he enters the hunt along with his younger brother, Tiern. I loved Tiern too, by the way. Hilarious and goofy, Tiern is the sunshine to Paxton's darkness. Paxton has a reason for the way he behaves, though. He's descended from one of the Lashed, the name given to people with magic. Magic is outlawed in Lochlachan, and the Lashed are punished and killed when discovered. They're also treated like dirt by most people. So yeah, Paxton keeps that quiet. But Aerity gets under his skin and he can't help caring about her, more than he should. He doesn't want the crown, though. He's in the hunt to kill the beast and that's it, at least until Aerity gets past his defenses.

There are a lot of people we meet in this book, people in the hunt as well as outside watching it. Aerity's cousin is one side character I loved, as well as her sister. Then there are certain ones I disliked from the beginning, and one or two I'm just not sure about. We get Paxton's point of view as well as Aerity's, of course, since we need to know what's happening in the hunt. It's interesting to see things from two very different perspectives - Aerity's cheerful, trusting one and Paxton's cynical one.

There's a lot more to this book than just the hunt for the beast, but I don't want to get into that. Let's just say it keeps things suspenseful and mysterious. And gosh, there's so much romantic tension between Paxton and Aerity! But they don't really act on it much, so it's quite frustrating. Even worse, I think they will be apart for a good part of the next book, but I hope not.

The ending had me practically begging for the sequel! Don't worry, it's not a cliffhanger. But that doesn't mean I didn't need to know what comes next. There's a surprising development in the end that would lead into the events of the next book, and I can't wait to find out what happens. To all the fantasy lovers out there - The Great Hunt is one you cannot miss out on!

*Thank you to HarperCollins for providing me with an eARC for review*

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Waiting on Wednesday #113: Lady Midnight

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

My pick for this week's WoW is...

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Title: Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices #1)
Author: Cassandra Clare

Release date: March 8th 2016
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal

Los Angeles. It’s been five years since the events of the Mortal Instruments when Nephilim stood poised on the brink of oblivion and Shadowhunter Emma Carstairs lost her parents. After the blood and violence she witnessed as a child, Emma has dedicated her life to to discovering exactly what it was that killed her parents and getting her revenge.

Raised in the Los Angeles Institute with the Blackthorn family, Emma is paired as a parabatai with her best friend, Julian Blackthorn. A series of murders in the city catch her attention — they seem to have the same characteristics as the deaths of her parents. Could the murderer be the same person? And her attention isn’t the only one caught: someone has been murdering Downworlders as well. The Fair Folk make a deal with the Institute: if the Blackthorns and Emma will investigate the killings, they’ll return Mark Blackthorn to his home. The catch: they have only two weeks to find the killers. Otherwise it’s open war between faeries and Nephilim.

The Shadowhunters of the Institute must race against time to catch the killers, even as they begin to suspect the involvement of those closest to them. At the same time, Emma is falling in love with the one person in the world she’s absolutely forbidden by Shadowhunter Law to love. Set against the glittering backdrop of present-day Los Angeles, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches from the warlock-run nightclubs of the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica.

YES YES YES I absolutely cannot wait for this one! The Mortal Instruments series (all the related series) are some of my favourite YA books and I'm so eager for this new installment in the TMI world.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Review: Seven Black Diamonds by Melissa Marr

Title: Seven Black Diamonds
Author: Melissa Marr
Release date: March 1st 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Format: eARC
Pages: 271

Source: Edelweiss

This riveting fantasy marks Melissa Marr’s return to the world of faery courts that made her Wicked Lovely series an international phenomenon.

Lilywhite Abernathy is a criminal—she’s half human, half fae, and since the time before she was born, a war has been raging between humans and faeries. The Queen of Blood and Rage, ruler of the fae courts, wants to avenge the tragic death of her heir due to the actions of reckless humans.

Lily’s father has always shielded her, but when she’s sent to the prestigious St. Columba’s school, she’s delivered straight into the arms of a fae sleeper cell—the Black Diamonds. The Diamonds are planted in the human world as the sons and daughters of the most influential families and tasked with destroying it from within. Against her will, Lilywhite’s been chosen to join them...and even the romantic attention of the fae rock singer Creed Morrison isn’t enough to keep Lily from wanting to run back to the familiar world she knows.

Melissa Marr returns to faery in a dramatic story of the precarious space between two worlds and the people who must thrive there. The combination of ethereal fae powers, tumultuous romance, and a bloodthirsty faery queen will have longtime fans and new readers at the edge of their seats.

I haven't read any of Marr's previous books, but after this one I really want to get started on them! Seven Black Diamonds is an exciting novel full of intrigue, romance, action, and a bunch of awesome characters. I love fae books, and this is probably one of my favourites.

The Seelie and Unseelie faerie courts are currently united as one, although it's a very precarious situation. Lily is half human, but she's suddenly put right in the middle of everything. After she meets Creed, a member of the Black Diamonds, Lily wants answers about the fae side of her, and the Black Diamonds can give them to her. Except that Lily doesn't want to join them, doesn't want to answer to the fae queen, and definitely doesn't want to kill humans. But there are things about her abilities she doesn't understand, and to figure them out, she needs to embrace her fae side.

This book is told in several POVs, mostly Lily's and Eilidh, the queen's daughter and heir to the throne. We also get POVs of the other Black Diamond members, which was confusing at first but after I got to know them it was alright. The POVs actually helped to understand what's going on in the other members' heads.

This is quite a character-centric novel, so I'll probably talk mostly about them rather than plotlines. Lily is great - her father is the head of an important criminal organization, so she knows how to take care of herself. She's resourceful and independent, but there are so many secrets she's hiding. Her fae powers, for example. Lily has a list of 'Abernathy Commandments' that she follows, and they keep her on track. But though she's tough, she's also compassionate and she has honour. Also, I liked that she doesn't really show a soft side of herself. Lily is a total badass, and it was a crazy ride being in her head.

There are six other members, and we get to know a few of them quite well. Creed is Lily's love interest (no love triangle, don't worry), and he's a rock singer in the mortal world. He and some of the others live a life of luxury in the spotlight, without a care. But camera Creed isn't the real Creed. I loved getting to know the real Creed! He's sweet and protective and also kind of intense. I'm definitely hoping there's more Creed-Lily interactions in the next book.

Zephyr is another member we meet, the leader of the group. He's kind of a wild card.. moody, jealous, but also kind and good at heart. Lily was 'supposed' to be with him, to lead the group with him, but instead she falls for Creed. So that impacts Zephyr, obviously, but there's another girl who matters more to him than anything else, and he won't admit it. Yeah, there's a lot of romantic tension everywhere. We also meet Alkamy, Violet, Will and Roan. All very different characters, and I hope we get to know them better later on. I already love Violet, though. She's snarky and smart and just as badass as Lily.

Each of the members have a fae affinity to an element, or even two. It was interesting to see how they used them and how often they came in handy. This book was more of an introduction to the series and characters, but I was glad we got some nice action scenes towards the end, with the fae using their powers.

Does this sound like too many characters in a book? Well, there are a few more! The other main POV we get is Eilidh, the queen's daughter. She resides in the fae world, so we get to know what that's like, and what the queen is really like, too. Eilidh has only two allies with her - her half-brother Rhys and her best friend Torquil. The three of them are opposed to whatever machinations the queen is planning, and the two separate storylines of the novel soon converge, which is when everything makes a lot more sense.

The plot isn't devoid of cliches, but everything was done well in my opinion! There were also a few surprises I didn't see coming. I thought the larger-than-normal number of main characters would be annoying, but it really wasn't. I just wish some of them had more focus in the story. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and I can't wait to see what comes next!

*Thank you to HarperCollins for providing me with an eARC for review*

Rating: 4/5

Friday, 29 January 2016

Review: Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor

Title: Into the Dim
Author: Janet B. Taylor
Release date: March 1st 2016
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction/Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Pages: 436

Source: Edelweiss

“Seventy-two hours, then we have to be back at the clearing. Sunrise on the third day.”

Being “the homeschooled girl,” in a small town, Hope Walton’s crippling phobias and photographic memory don’t help her fit in with her adoptive dad’s perfectly blonde Southern family. But when her mother is killed in a natural disaster thousands of miles from home, Hope’s secluded world crumbles. After an aunt she’s never met invites her to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic. She’s a member of a secret society of time travelers, and is actually trapped in the twelfth century in the age of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Now Hope must conquer her numerous fears and travel back in time to help rescue her mother before she’s lost for good. Along the way, she’ll discover more family secrets, and a mysterious boy who could be vital to setting her mother free… or the key to Hope’s undoing.

Addictive, romantic, and rich with historical detail, Into the Dim is an Outlander for teens.

Into the Dim wasn't quite like what I was expecting - it was better! The sci-fi aspect fused together brilliantly with the historical elements, and overall it was just a great read. I'm so stoked that there's a sequel, because I can't wait to read more of these characters.

Hope has just lost her mom, and it's a really tough time for her. So when she gets an invite from her aunt, her mother's sister, she decides to accept and stay with her mom's relatives in Scotland over the summer. But what she finds there is miles away from anything she'd expected. A society of time travellers? A rival time-travelling gang too? It's like something out of a movie. But Hope's mom is trapped in the past, and Hope needs to go back in time to find her, along with help from some newfound friends.

I loved how even though the concept is pretty out there, it didn't seem too far-fetched when I was reading it. It was exciting seeing Hope go back to the twelfth century and meet well-known historical figures. I myself don't know much at all about this particular time and place, so it was really cool learning what it was like back then. But I wish we could've seen more on how Hope prepared for a time like that, for example the way they spoke and dressed and acted. That preparation part was skimmed over quite a lot.

In terms of characters, there are few that we get to know quite well. Hope is a great protagonist - she's realistic, she's easy to connect with, and she's super interesting! An eidetic memory like hers is fascinating. The other characters we meet are Hope's travelling companions, Phoebe and Collum, and then Bran, a mysterious guy Hope meets in Scotland. Phoebe is the classic eccentric sidekick kind of character, and I loved her. Collum is her brother, and I wish we'd seen more of him. He intrigued me because of his aloofness and this inner compassion that would come out at the most random times.

Bran is much harder to figure out. I don't want to give anything away so I won't say much about him. He's a real mystery for most of the book, though. But I think he and Hope have a connection that's hard to beat. There are some pretty cool twists that come our way regarding Bran and also Hope and it was all just pretty surprising to me so I loved that.

All in all, a great blend of sci-fi and historical fiction. It's a long book, but I never got bored. Some great twists and turns, and quite a lot of action too. I'm now really eager to see where the next book will take us - literally and figuratively!

*Thank you to HMH Books for providing me with an eARC for review*

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Waiting on Wednesday #112: Titans

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

My pick for this week's WoW is...

Titans by Victoria Scott

Title: Titans
Author: Victoria Scott
Release date: February 23rd 2016
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction

Ever since the Titans first appeared in her Detroit neighborhood, Astrid Sullivan’s world has revolved around the mechanical horses. She and her best friend have spent countless hours watching them and their jockeys practice on the track. It’s not just the thrill of the race. It’s the engineering of the horses and the way they’re programmed to seem so lifelike. The Titans are everything that fascinates Astrid, and nothing she’ll ever touch.

She hates them a little, too. Her dad lost everything betting on the Titans. And the races are a reminder of the gap between the rich jockeys who can afford the expensive machines to ride, and the working class friends and neighbors of Astrid’s who wager on them.

But when Astrid’s offered a chance to enter an early model Titan in this year’s derby, well, she decides to risk it all. Because for a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, it’s more than a chance at fame or money. Betting on herself is the only way she can see to hang on to everyone in the world she cares about.

I've loved all of Victoria Scott's books so far, and this one sounds so intriguing! I hope I'll enjoy it just as much as the others. Not much longer to wait now!

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Review: The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

Title: The Shadow Queen (Ravenspire #1)
Author: C.J. Redwine

Release date: February 23rd 2016
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Format: eARC
Pages: 298

Source: Edelweiss

Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

C.J. Redwine has once again made me fall in love with her books. I really like the concept of this series, and it's impossible not to love Lorelai and Kol. There's magic and dragons and all kinds of awesome things in here!

Lorelai is in hiding after her stepmother Irina killed her father the king and took over the kingdom. Irina rules cruelly with her magic, and though Lorelai has magic too, it's not yet enough to take on Irina. Kol is the prince of Eldr, who is suddenly given the throne when he is orphaned. Kol needs Irina's help to save his kingdom, but to do that he has to kill Lorelai. And of course, he can't bring himself to do that. Lorelai and Kol have to work together despite their dire situations to defeat Irina permanently.

Some things about this book reminded me of Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan, since I read that book just before starting this, and both main characters are in similar situations. Though the 'princess in hiding' premise seems to be popular in YA fantasy now, it's interesting to see how each author puts a different spin on it. The Shadow Queen is based on the Snow White fairytale, with Kol as the huntsman. You'd think it's a little clichéd to have the huntsman and the princess fall in love, but C.J. Redwine adds some great twists to it.

Lorelai is a fantastic protagonist - witty, brave, compassionate. You can tell right off the bat that she'd made a great queen. I liked seeing her relationship with her younger brother Leo, and her sheer determination to gain her kingdom back. It's so easy to be driven mad with revenge, but Lorelai has got her head on straight. It also helps that Leo and her father's old guard, Gabril, are there with her. Gabril is like a father to Lorelai, and he's very protective of her.

I couldn't help feeling sorry for Kol, for everything he has to go through in this book. Irina really does a number on him. But his mental strength is remarkable. Kol has a strong sense of honour and justice, and he'll always do the right thing. So he knows that he can't kill Lorelai in good conscience. He and Lorelai help each other stay on track and remain focused. They grow very close to one another over the course of the novel, because they find out things about each other that no one else knows, and they know each other's thoughts and feelings. I won't say how, I don't want to spoil anything! I did find it quite amusing how Gabril seemed like a third wheel for a good part of their journey. In addition to taking care of teenagers, he has to deal with this newfound romance between Lorelai and Kol.

There are several other things I loved about this book, especially Lorelai's gyrfalcon, Sasha. And Kol's two best friends, and Leo, and the banter between Lorelai and Kol. I want to say so much more but I don't want to make this too long. I'll just say that the thought-sharing with magic premise in the book is something I haven't seen before, and it worked very well with the plot. And I loved seeing Kol and his friends in dragon form, though I wish there had been more of that. This book is a standalone in a series of companion novels, so there's a nice, clear ending.

Though the book started out a bit slow for me, it picked up pretty soon and I was pulled into the story. I'm kinda sad this is a standalone, because I'd love to read more of Lorelai and Kol. Hopefully they'll show up in the next book, who knows!

*Thank you to HarperCollins for providing me with an eARC for review*

Rating: 4/5

Friday, 15 January 2016

Review: Proposal by Meg Cabot

Title: Proposal (The Mediator #6.5)
Author: Meg Cabot

Release date: January 19th 2016
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Genre: Paranormal
Format: eARC
Pages: 106

Source: Edelweiss

The last place Suze Simon expects to find herself during Valentine’s Day is a cemetery. But that’s what happens when you’re a mediator – cursed with the “gift” of communicating with the dead.

That’s how Suze has ended up at the graves of a pair of NCDPs - Non-Compliant Deceased Persons – whose drama didn’t end with death. It’s Suze’s job to make sure they move on—for good.

But the NCDPs aren’t the only ones with problems. The reason Suze is spending her Valentine’s Day with the undead instead of her boyfriend, Jesse, is because he’s having so much trouble adjusting to life after death . . . not surprising, considering the fact that he used to be an NCDP himself, and now his girlfriend busts his former kind for a living, while he tries to cure his kind of what used to ail him.

Can Suze use her mediating skills to propose a mutual resolution, and bring all these young lovers together - including Jesse and herself - especially on the night Saint Valentine declared sacred to romance?

Or will she end up alone—and possibly undead—herself?

I've already read Remembrance, the adult Mediator novel that follows this novella, and I thought that was the newest installment in the series. Imagine my surprise when I found out about Proposal! This novella bridges the gap between the teen series and the adult book, and there's lots of Suze and Jesse, which made me all kinds of happy.

Suze is in college now, but she's still up to her old antics of 'mediating' ghosts, or NCDPs. Meanwhile, Jesse is away at medical school, and the two of them are apart for most of the year. The novella takes place on Valentine's Day and it's called Proposal, so it's pretty obvious Jesse shows up. But romance takes a backseat when Suze is trying to help out a young NCDP and things get messy, as expected.

I loved this because we get to see a glimpse of college-aged Suze, and what her relationship with Jesse is like in the early years of his 'rebirth'. It isn't all happy-go-lucky, obviously, but they're just so great together. And I really missed that, so I'm really grateful for the existence of this novella!

Suze is pretty much the same character I grew to love in the teen series, which is fantastic and also hilarious. She's still snarky and badass and impulsive and stubborn. Jesse is maybe a little more serious, but other than that he's the same too. Their interactions made me feel like I was back in middle school reading the Mediator series for the first time. I don't want to give anything away plotwise, so that's all I will say about Suze and Jesse.

We get another fun mediator case - a short one, of course. It revolves around a young dead couple, staying in the Valentine's Day theme. Suze enlists the help of Jesse and also her college suitemates to an extent, in order to bring justice to the poor soul who came to Suze for help. I enjoyed the climax and the resolution, though I wish we had more of this story than a short novella. I liked this better than Remembrance, setting-wise as well as because there was so much Jesse in it. I loved getting back to these beloved characters!

*Thank you to HarperCollins for providing me with an eARC for review*

Rating: 5/5