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

Saturday, 16 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

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Review: The Isle by Jordana Frankel

Title: The Isle (The Ward #2)
Author: Jordana Frankel

Release date: January 19th 2016
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Format: ARC
Pages: 368

Source: Publisher

The heart-racing and thrilling sequel to The Ward about a teenage female drag racer who will do anything to save her sister—and a flooded futuristic Manhattan.

Drought season is coming....

The Ward is in trouble—its streets filled with seawater after a devastating flood and its impoverished inhabitants suffering from a deadly disease called the Blight.

Ren, with the help of her scientist friend, Callum, and her racing buddy, Derek, has discovered a cure—miraculous spring water—administering it to her sick sister, Aven. But when Aven is kidnapped by Governor Voss, the malevolent dictator of the United Metro Isles (UMI), Ren must go on a dangerous mission to save her sister, again.

The mysterious healing water is the only source of freshwater throughout the entire UMI—water that Ren had been tasked by the government to discover. Although she refuses to give up the water’s location, Governor Voss has his own selfish reasons for wanting it. And he will do anything to satisfy his thirst for unquenchable power.

But Ren and Aven have more enemies than the governor. An ancient order, the Tètai, has been guarding the magical water for hundreds of years. And they will kill to protect it. With the Ward in desperate need of freshwater and wracked by disease—and deadly enemies at every turn—the sisters face a dangerous journey, marred by mysterious secrets and horrifying truths, to save their friends and neighbors, and a city.

I'd been waiting so so long to read this book - The Ward was among the first ARCs I received after I started this blog. And now I finally got to read its sequel! This is a duology as far as I know, so The Isle has a clear ending with most plotlines wrapped up.

The Isle is told in two POVs - Ren's and Aven's. At first I was excited about this, because I liked Aven in The Ward. Sadly, I didn't like her much in this book, I'm not quite sure why. Maybe it was her mannerisms or her childishness or her jealousy. Either way, I looked forward to Ren's chapters but tried to get through Aven's as fast as I could.

The novel is pretty lengthy, though not as much as its predecessor. A lot happens in this - Ren and her friends come up with a plan to save Aven, and they also need to make sure the citizens of the Ward don't feel the other special effects of the cure. Oh, and they need to watch their backs for the tètai, the ancient organization determined to keep the water safe and away from humans.

There's so much action throughout, I loved it. Never a dull moment. Ren is as badass as ever, and she really shows great character and strength in this book. She's come a long way from the early times of drag racing, and she's carrying a lot on her shoulders. The other main characters we see in this book are Aven (obviously), Derek, Callum, and Terrence. They team up to fight the multiple battles they need to before the city is safe.

I wish there was more Callum in the story, because he had so much potential in the previous book. He's the brilliant scientist who comes up with the cure, but he takes a backseat in most of the action scenes since he's not a fighter. Regardless, Callum is my favourite. Despite how afraid he is, he's always there for Ren and the others to count on.

There's a teensy bit of romance, between Ren and Derek. Which I can't say I was a fan of, since I don't particularly like Derek. Yeah, he's on Ren's side, but he's also part of the tètai and that makes him kind of a wild card. I'm glad there wasn't much time for romance stuff in this book, because Ren and Derek together.. It just doesn't sit right with me. While reading The Ward, I was hoping there would be something with Ren and Callum, but unfortunately that doesn't happen.

I really liked the way the last few chapters were done. Beautiful writing, a great climax, and it was all very emotional. It was a satisfying ending to the series, and I couldn't have asked for more. So despite the issues I had with the book, I'm glad I read it and I would recommend this series to anyone who loves sci-fi and dystopia.

*Thank you to Megan at HarperCollins International for sending me an ARC for review*

Rating: 3/5

Monday, 11 January 2016

Review: Velvet by Temple West

Title: Velvet (Velvet Trilogy #1)
Author: Temple West

Release date: May 12th 2015
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Format: ARC
Pages: 386

Source: Pansing

First rule of dealing with hot vampire bodyguards? Don't fall in love.

After losing both her parents before age seventeen, aspiring designer Caitlin Holte feels like her whole world has been turned upside down, and that was before the terrifying encounter with a supernatural force. Then, she learns that her hot bad-boy neighbor, Adrian—who might have just saved her life—is actually a half-demon vampire.

Suddenly Caitlin is stuck with a vampire bodyguard who feels that the best way to protect her is to become her pretend boyfriend. Trouble is, Caitlin is starting to fall in love for real, while Adrian can never love a human. Caitlin trusts Adrian to keep her safe from his demon father, but will he be able to protect her heart?

I was excited to read Velvet since I haven't read a vampire novel in a very long time. I used to love them, but I think Twilight might have made me stay away from them for a while. Velvet actually seemed kind of similar to Twilight in the beginning, but it soon became a completely different story - one I ended up enjoying.

Caitlin has to move in with her aunt and uncle after her mom's death, leaving her an orphan. She leaves behind her home and everything she held dear, so she's entitled to feel angry, lost, etc. But she doesn't. She does her best to live her life like she used to. Except her life becomes far from normal when she encounters Adrian. Things get very, very complicated, and Caitlin is stuck right in the middle of it.

I found it easy to connect with Caitlin, though I didn't think I would. It helps that she's strong-willed and sensible rather than being depressed about what life has brought on her. It's admirable, really. And even when everything turns to shit around her, Caitlin perseveres and keeps her head on straight.

I loved Adrian, of course. I was intrigued to see what kind of vampire I'd read in this book - what would be traditional and what would be new characteristics from the author. Adrian has several of the regular vampire traits, but some other fascinating ones, too. Ones that help Caitlin particularly. I won't say more than that. Adrian is struggling with a lot, too, as he has rules to live by, and he's given a job to protect Caitlin. I loved seeing their interactions, especially when they began getting close. There's just enough romance in here to keep things interesting.

We get to meet Adrian's vampire family too, like his brothers who I thought were the most intriguing. I loved his little brother Lucian, and I can't wait to see more of him in the next book! Other than high school and family drama, there's suspense and a little bit of mystery too. Despite having some issues with the plot and Adrian at some points, I liked getting back to the YA vampire genre. I'll definitely be picking up the next book in the trilogy, and I urge any paranormal lovers to give this a try! 

*Thank you to Sasha from Pansing for sending me a copy for review*

Rating: 3.5/5

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Review: Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan

Title: Reign of Shadows
Author: Sophie Jordan
Release date: February 9th 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Format: eARC
Pages: 211

Source: Edelweiss

Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

With lush writing and a star–crossed romance, Reign of Shadows is Sophie Jordan at her best.

I had pretty high expectations for this, because it's Sophie Jordan and because I adore YA fantasy and this sounded great. I'm glad to say Reign of Shadows lived up to my expectations! Great plot, swoon-worthy romance and fantastic characters that I cannot wait to read more about.

Luna is the princess of Relhok (well, the rightful queen actually), but she's in hiding. The eclipse that began around the time she was born still shrouds the world in darkness, allowing just a little sunlight every day for a short period of time. Luna lives with two trusted caretakers in a tower (yes, it sounds dramatic but it's really not). When Luna meets strangers and helps them out, she sees what it's like to interact with new people, and it's exciting - especially because Fowler is so enigmatic. But when her home is attacked by the new king's men, Luna and Fowler escape into the woods, on a journey to find Allu, a place supposedly free of the terrifying dwellers that roam the land.

Luna may be one of my favourite YA heroines. She's bold and skillful and curious about the world, but what I liked most about her is her optimism. In a dark world like this one, Luna still has rays of hope. Also, I'm just so in awe of her after a certain something we find out soon in the novel. Luna keeps the secret of who she is from Fowler, but what she doesn't know is that Fowler has secrets of his own.

Fowler was my favourite thing about this book! He's disillusioned after the things he's been through, and as a result he tries to be as aloof and selfish as he can. There isn't a shred of optimism in the guy. But he's realistic and honest, which was great. He and Luna don't really get along well in the beginning, but Luna grows on him eventually, and they start caring deeply for one another. Fowler is really protective of Luna, and I get why, but Luna can take care of herself so it's quite amusing to see that. The two of them are so good for each other! And the romance, it's so so sweet. Fowler may think he's as selfish as they come, but when it comes to Luna, he's incredibly selfless and compassionate. I'm really looking forward to seeing how their characters and relationship progress in the next book.

There are quite a few plot twists in this, a couple of mind-blowing ones. And lots of action that kept me tethered to the pages! Not a single dull moment in this. It's quite a short book, but so much happens in it. It's mostly action-driven, but I hope we get more background in the next book, and that we find out what's going on in Relhok. The book ends in a cliffhanger - cruel, cruel, cruel. I need the next book! Anyway, if you're a fan of Sophie's books and if you love action and fantasy, I urge you to give Reign of Shadows a go.

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

Rating: 4/5