Saturday, 26 December 2015

Review: Remembrance by Meg Cabot

Title: Remembrance (Mediator #7)
Author: Meg Cabot

Release date: February 2nd 2016
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Paranormal
Format: eARC
Pages: 315

Source: Edelweiss

In REMEMBRANCE, the seventh installment of the Mediator series, all Susannah Simon wants is to make a good impression at her first job since graduating from college (and becoming engaged to Dr. Jesse de Silva).

But when she stumbles across an ancient murder, old ghosts—and ex-boyfriends—aren’t all that come back to haunt her.

REMEMBRANCE will be the first ever adult installment of the Mediator, published by William Morrow, the adult division of HarperCollins, the company that brought you the YA books in the series.

I was beyond excited when I heard about the existence of this book! The Mediator series was one of the first YA series I ever read, and I did so repeatedly. I love the characters so much. And now I got to see what they're like as adults! It's all very exciting. Remembrance brings us right back into Suze's world, with several things changing as a result of the time that's passed.

So, what have our beolved characters been up to? Well, Suze is working in the administration department of her old high school, Jesse is a doctor, Suze's stepbrothers are doing well (David's in college and Brad has kids!), and Paul is.. well, Paul. Suze has a new ghost kid to take under her wing and mediate, before the angry kid ends up killing her. Meanwhile, Paul is dragging Suze into a blackmail deal that is very reminiscent of high school Paul. And Suze is desperately trying to keep Jesse out of everything, but to no avail. All in all, a book filled with drama and suspense and action. And, of course, romance. After all, Suze and Jesse are engaged. Though they have a lot of obstacles to overcome before they can finally tie the knot.

Surprisingly, Suze is still the same person we met all those years ago. She's witty, hotheaded, funny, and all-around great. But I was expecting a development in her character since she's a proper adult now, so that was a bit weird. Also, there were other things that were pretty much the same. Paul, for example, and basically the dynamic between him, Suze and Jesse. I figured they'd have moved past that stuff by now. Sigh, high school drama never ends.

I wish there was more of Jesse in this book. He only shows up in person about a third into the novel, and even after that there just wasn't enough. And there was also way too much of Suze-Paul drama. But I really liked the ghost case and Suze and Jesse figuring out her murder together. There are also quite a few plot twists - and one huge one I never saw coming! It was great.

It's also cute to see Suze and Jesse together, and how Jesse still retains his 18th century moral values. He's driving Suze mad with frustration, and it's just so amusing! I don't know if we're getting any more of these books, but I sure hope so. Suze and Jesse work so well together despite how different they are, and I can't help but want more. Fans of the Mediator series, grab this one ASAP! I hope you'll all like it as much as I did.

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

Rating: 4/5

Monday, 21 December 2015

Review: Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers

Title: Assassin's Heart
Author: Sarah Ahiers
Release date: February 2nd 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Format: eARC
Pages: 295

Source: Edelweiss

In the kingdom of Lovero, nine rival Families of assassins lawfully kill people for a price. As a highly skilled member of one of these powerful clans, seventeen-year-old Lea Saldana has always trusted in the strength of her Family. Until she awakens to find them murdered and her home in flames. The Da Vias, the Saldanas’ biggest enemy, must be responsible—and Lea should have seen it coming. But her secret relationship with the Da Vias’ son, Val, has clouded her otherwise killer instinct—and given the Da Vias more reason than ever to take her Family down.

Racked with guilt and shattered over Val’s probable betrayal, Lea sets out to even the score, with her heart set on retaliation and only one thought clear in her mind: make the Da Vias pay.

With shades of The Godfather and Romeo and Juliet, this richly imagined fantasy from debut author Sarah Ahiers is a story of love, lies, and the ultimate vengeance.

Assassin's Heart is a wonderfully fast-paced action-packed novel with a fierce protagonist and a great plot. This book is a stand-alone story, so no cliffhangers of any sort, which I loved because I don't really see that in YA fantasy. The characters are complex, and the twists and turns in the plot had me at the edge of my seat for most of the novel.

Lea is a clipper (which is what they call assassins in this world), part of the most respected Family - the Saldanas. She has a secret, though - she's in a forbidden relationship with Val, who is part of the Da Vias, rivals of the Saldanas. The two families have a long and hostile history, so Lea can never let anyone know. But this secrecy might just have led to the massacre of her entire Family, thanks to a possible betrayal by the love of her life. Lea sets out to find her uncle, an estranged clipper, so they can together avenge the deaths of their Family.

Firstly, kudos to the author for the plot originality. I've read so many YA fantasies that have meshed together in my head because they're all so similar. This one really stood out to me. I felt kind of iffy at first because it seemed to be a Romeo and Juliet retelling of sorts, but then the twists began, and things got interesting!

I loved Lea's character - no surprise. Though she seems like the typical tough, strong, badass YA heroine we see a lot of these days, Lea has a few characteristics that set her apart. She's not perfect, obviously, or she wouldn't have unknowingly become the cause of her Family's massacre. She has a certain vulnerability about her, that she doesn't show under any circumstances. I loved how driven she was throughout the novel, and how much she cares about her family as well as the new people she meets later on.

And now we get to those new people. When Lea finds her uncle, Marcello, she also meets Alessio, her uncle's protegee. Alessio is learning how to be a clipper from Marcello - well, as much as he can, anyway. Les brings a spark of light to an otherwise dark novel, and his attitude got to me as much as it did to Lea. He's humourous, kind, strong-willed, and incredibly understanding. Though very different from Lea in many ways, he complements her character really well. I loved seeing the two of them interact.

There's so much more I want to say about this, but I don't want to give anything away. A few other things, though - I liked the role reversal aspect where the girl ends up protecting the guy most of the time. Lea really knows what she's doing, while Les is just learning how to fight like a clipper. Another thing I found interesting was the spiritual aspect. The Families worship a common god, Safraella, and unexplainable things happen that are attested to the presence of gods in this world. I look forward to seeing how this is developed in the companion novel.

So overall, I really enjoyed how different this is from most fantasies. And of course, I need lots of action in the books I read so that was great. I would've liked the other main and supporting characters to be developed a little more, but I guess that's just the downside of having a standalone novel. Though I'm now curious what the companion will be about! In any case, this was a great read and I really recommend this to fantasy and action lovers.

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

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Review: Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan

Title: Sword and Verse
Author: Kathy MacMillan
Release date: January 19th 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Format: eARC
Pages: 312

Source: Edelweiss

Raisa was just a child when she was sold to work as a slave in the kingdom of Qilara. Despite her young age, her father was teaching her to read and write, grooming her to take his place as a Learned One. In Qilara, the Arnathim, like Raisa, are the lowest class, and literacy is a capital offense. What’s more, only the king, prince, tutor, and tutor-in-training are allowed to learn the very highest order language, the language of the gods. So when the tutor-in-training is executed for teaching slaves this sacred language, and Raisa is selected to replace her, Raisa knows any slipup on her part could mean death.

Keeping her secret is hard enough, but the romance that’s been growing between her and Prince Mati isn’t helping matters. Then Raisa is approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slave rebels—to help liberate Arnath slaves. She wants to free her people, but that would mean aiding a war against Mati. As Raisa struggles with what to do, she discovers a secret that the Qilarites have been hiding for centuries—one that, if uncovered, could bring the kingdom to its knees.

First of all, can we appreciate how awesome that cover is? It's complex and brilliant and probably one of my favourite YA covers. Though the book doesn't have much to do with swords, it's a powerful symbol to place there. Sword and Verse is a standalone YA fantasy, which is great because we get closure at the end of the book - no cruel cliffhangers or anything. The downside is that we don't get enough time to get to know the characters, which is what happened in this case.

Raisa is a slave girl surrounded by elites of the race that ransacked her home. Though she's forgotten much of her home and heritage, she knows what kind of people her parents were, and that's a secret she'll guard with her life. When Raisa is chosen to become the tutor-in-training to the next prince, she learns the higher order language alongside Prince Mati, and her growing feelings for him only serve to confuse her further after the Arnathi Resistance demands her help.

The social hierarchy of this land reminds me of that of Ancient Egypt, with its royals and scribes and slaves, and the emphasis on knowing how to write. Since I've been learning about Ancient Egypt in class, I found this really cool. I liked the world building in this book - it's not an info dump, and also not lacking in background. For a standalone fantasy novel, it was the perfect amount.

I really liked Raisa too - she's so determined to figure out what her heart-verse is and that goal keeps her grounded through all the obstacles she faces. The timeline in this book is different compared to most - we see Raisa at fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen if I'm not wrong. We see the development in her character as well as Mati's. Though I was disappointed that we don't get to know the other characters too well, even Mati, I really enjoyed looking through Raisa's eyes.

What I didn't like was the romance aspect of the novel, between Raisa and Mati. It started way too suddenly and very out of the blue, and then stopped just as suddenly, and then picks back up again after several months or so. It was honestly pretty weird to read about, and I didn't think there was much chemistry between them at all. There was also no room for development, what with the sudden starts and stops. I would have preferred more fluidity in that respect.

The mythology involving the gods is a nice touch, and I felt it brought more validity to the world the author has created. Again, a little similar to Egyptian divine mythology, but I guess several ancient civilizations had similar origin stories regarding their gods. There's an interesting twist involving the gods, so pay attention to the little snippets of mythology at the beginning of each chapter!

Overall, I quite enjoyed this one. It was lighter than most YA fantasies, and though it wrapped up a bit too quickly and nicely, I liked reading about Raisa's journey. I would definitely recommend this to fantasy lovers!

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

Rating: 3.5/5