Between – Megan Whitmer

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Summary:

When a supernatural freak of nature forces her family to separate, seventeen-year-old Charlie Page must turn to her frustrating (yet gorgeous) neighbor, Seth, to help reunite them. Seth whisks Charlie to Ellauria—a magical world filled with the creatures of myths and legends—and tells her of the Fellowship, the group charged with protecting mystical beings from human discovery. (All except Bigfoot: that attention whore is a total lost cause.) But when Charlie learns that she’s under the Fellowship’s protection herself, well, “stressed” is an understatement.


Ellauria should be the safest place for Charlie while the Fellowship works to find her family, but things in the mystical realm aren’t what they seem.

Magic is failing, creatures are dying, and the Fellowship insists Charlie holds the key to saving everyone. With her family still missing and the danger in Ellauria growing, Charlie doesn’t know who she can trust. She’s dealing with a power she never asked for, falling for a guy she can’t have, and being forced to choose between her destiny and her heart. And if she chooses wrong, she could destroy magic forever.

Charlie may be in over her head.

Review:

I won this in a giveaway sometime back in 2014. I honestly don’t even remember entering the giveaway, but either way, this showed up and I shelved with a shrug of indifference because I got the vibe that this was going to be some fairly generic YA, of which I’ve read plenty of. Fast forward a year. I’ve been on a reading tear this weekend. I’m pretty much caught up in ARCs and decided it might be nice to read some of the books that’ve been hanging around on my shelves. I was looking for something easy to read so figured now was as good time as any.

That first impression was dead on.

Charlie’s a 17 year-old girl whose life is ruined when she doesn’t get into a summer residency program, because despite being an OMG AMAZING artist, her art apparently would only be good enough to get her into a top visual art program with that program or whatever. But before she can dwell on it too long, a Mothman (no, I’m not making this up) attacks the house and she is whisked away to Ellauria (how do you pronounce that anyway? Why not just Alluria and be done with it?) where she she is the last Muralet. I won’t spoil what a Muralet is (other to say that it is a not-so-good name, really naming is a problem throughout this book) but know she is special and of course her mere existence puts everything else at risk Because.

Oh, and I suppose I should mention that there is a Fellowship (which based on the description makes me think the author doesn’t really know what a fellowship is, because the organization as described does not fit one). There is a bitchy female character who is bitchy because the horrible trope demands it, not because there is any valid reason for her to be that way. In the interest of full disclosure, the MC is also annoyingly stubborn and keeps putting herself into danger, but because she is the main character I suppose we must applaud her for giving the finger to The Man. Or something. The most interesting part of the book is when it’s become clear that the main character’s brother gets brainwashed at some point and I think I’d rather have read that story because it would have been much more interesting. As it stands we barely learn that it’s happened before good triumphs evil and all we are left with is the brother sulking and wishing that both he and his sister were dead. Nice.

This is generic fantasy at its best/worst. You’ve read it all before, and you’ve read much better versions of it. I suppose the best I can say is that it’s generally inoffensive and it’s a fast read.

That’s not saying much, is it?

Ultimately, this book reminds me of advice often given to contestants on cooking shows: if you’re going to make a basic/simple dish, the execution better be flawless. And here, it’s just average at best. You can pick this up on an e-reader for $4. Die-hard fans of the genre, it might be worth a look. The rest of us can better spend our money elsewhere.

Verdict: Skip It

Available Now

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Illusions of Fate – Kiersten White

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Summary:

Downton Abbey meets Cassandra Clare in this lush, romantic fantasy from New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White.

“I did my best to keep you from crossing paths with this world. And I shall do my best to protect you now that you have.”

Jessamin has been an outcast since she moved from her island home of Melei to the dreary country of Albion. Everything changes when she meets Finn, a gorgeous, enigmatic young lord who introduces her to the secret world of Albion’s nobility, a world that has everything Jessamin doesn’t—power, money, status…and magic. But Finn has secrets of his own, dangerous secrets that the vicious Lord Downpike will do anything to possess. Unless Jessamin, armed only with her wits and her determination, can stop him.

Kiersten White captured readers’ hearts with her New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy and its effortless mix of magic and real-world teenage humor. She returns to that winning combination of wit, charm, and enchantment in Illusions of Fate, a sparkling and romantic new novel perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare, The Madman’s Daughter, and Libba Bray.

Review:

Illusions of Fate is a stand-alone (!) YA fantasy title about a girl of mixed-heritage getting caught up in a deadly game of political wrangling by either luck or fate, however you define it. Jessamin is a smart girl who defies the conventions of her day: she’s disinclined towards marriage and would rather dedicate herself to intellectual pursuits as much as she is able despite the negative opinions towards her gender, her race (mixed) and her class (commoner). I’m really rather fond of Jessamin. She has no airs of pretension: she knows what she is and what she isn’t. She’s smart, but grounded, and immensely loyal to her friends, sacrificing her own safety to help others whom she feels were imperiled because of her.One of them is Eleanor, a Society woman with a talent for gossip and a kind and giving heart. Yes, she’s initially eager to capitalize on the gossip that Jessamin’s wave-making causes, but there’s little doubt that by the end of the book she is a true and fast friend of Jessamin. It’s nice to have a book where all the female characters are likable and one are held back by petty jealousy. I wish my female-driven titles would go this route.

The world-building and magic are really quite good. It’s a secondary-world story where factions in England (Albion) would like to go against Spain (Iveria). Magic is accessed through two royal lines – the English side has greater numbers, but weaker magic and the other side has fewer numbers but a much purer and stronger magic. The magic itself is rather scientific in nature, and I like how although Jessamin can’t actually access it herself, she can learn and understand the theory behind it, aiding her immensely in the book’s climax. I love a woman who can save herself!

Finally there’s a nice slow-build up to a chaste romance in this book. I’m genuinely disappointed that this seems to be a stand-alone title: the interplay between them is rather enjoyable and they make a nice couple, I rather wish I could see more of them!

Illusions of Fate is the perfect kind of book for the summer: a fast read with likable characters and a plot that moves along briskly, wasting no words in its brief 275-page running time. While I am disappointed that there isn’t more to be had, I guess that just gives me a reason to go take a look at some of her other works.

Verdict: Buy It

Available: Now

P.S. If you’re like me and have a thing about Cassie Claire, don’t let the comparison in the summary phase you. This book is heads and tails above Cassie in every way, shape and form. Honestly, I’m not even sure why the comparison was made other than to try and sell books.

Lair of Dreams (The Diviners #2) – Libba Bray

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Summary:

After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. Now that the world knows of her ability to “read” objects, and therefore, read the past, she has become a media darling, earning the title, “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” But not everyone is so accepting of the Diviners’ abilities…

Meanwhile, mysterious deaths have been turning up in the city, victims of an unknown sleeping sickness. Can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld and catch a killer?

Review:

Lair of Dreams is a paranormal thriller about people with psychic abilities. It’s a lovely little bit of literary fiction where one doesn’t necessarily expect it: in the pages of a Young Adult novel. This book has a lot going it: a fairly tight story, a diverse cast that takes you all across New York City from Harlem to Chinatown to Fifth Avenue, a nice historical setting in the 1920s and a wonderfully creepy central mystery: what is causing people to fall asleep and never wake up, with the afflicted appearing to die from wounds suffered from the inside out.

You can all sense a but coming, can’t you?

But.

I feel the pacing of the book was slow, that it took a long time to get to where it was going, and I think that it ties in to the other problem: there were just a few characters too many. On a blog post Bray stated she had to write something like seven opening chapters and she probably wasn’t far off in her count. There are a lot of players in this book, and perhaps not entirely surprisingly, they aren’t all created equal. For example, there is a man named Blind Bill who feels it is his due to get healed by a Diviner with a healing gift, and so he more or less starts stalking the kid and trying to bring harm to the brother to get his healing. It isn’t as menacing as it should be, and the ones he chase are among the less developed characters so it left me with this sense of can we get back to the others now?  There’s a plot in here about a secret government agency that is presumably Up to No Good either that is continually hinted at through out the book but never really comes to the fore (clearly they’ll be the bad guys for the next book) and as such their parts kind of drag too. It’s nice seeing a YA title being allowed to take its time and breath (the book clocks in at an impressive 702 pages) but it’s too easy for books this long to lose momentum in places and I feel like this one did.

Now I haven’t read the first book, so I can’t say if or how they compare. Am I compelled to give it a look? Maybe? Kinda? Sorta?

I think I felt like this book is one of those books that had so many good pieces that I want to love it more than I actually did. That being said, if you like moody thrillers, this may well work for you. If you’re looking for diverse YA I can absolutely recommend it on that front. If you want a little more action in your book you may want to give it a pass.

Ultimately, I think it’s fair to say that Bray has deservedly earned the following she’s got. Maybe she’s just not the author for me. If the premise or the setting or the diversity appeal you, I’d say give it a look – you might well love it. I will say too that for a sequel, I found it very newbie friendly. Yes, there are totally nods back to the first story, but those times were relatively far and few between and I think it’s easy to figure out what’s going on.

Verdict: Borrow It

Available: August 25

Hunter (Hunter #1) – Mercedes Lackey

Hey everyone! I’ve only been away a little over a week, but it really does feel much longer than that. Work has been picking up as of late, and it’s a double-edged sword. I absolutely love being busy, but for various reasons, it also means less reading time. On top of that, it took me a couple of tries to even find a book I wanted to finish. I started, but did not finish The House of Shattered Wings (A brief DNF review is available on Goodreads if you’re curious), Legacy of Kings (the third person present voice was getting on my nerves. I haven’t decided if I’ll try and press on at a later date) and The Oversight. That last one stands a good chance of me going back to at some point. We’ll see. But yes. Anyways. A review! Let’s get to it.

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Summary:

Centuries ago, the barriers between our world and the Otherworld were slashed open allowing hideous fantastical monsters to wreak havoc; destroying entire cities in their wake. Now, people must live in enclosed communities, behind walls that keep them safe from the evil creatures constantly trying to break in. Only the corps of teen Hunters with lightning reflexes and magical abilities can protect the populace from the daily attacks.

Joyeaux Charmand is a mountain girl from a close knit village who comes to the big city to join the Hunters. Joy thinks she is only there to perform her civic duty and protect the capitol Cits, or civilians, but as cameras follow her every move, she soon learns that the more successful she is in her hunts, the more famous she becomes.

With millions of fans watching her on reality TV, Joy begins to realize that Apex is not all it seems. She is forced to question everything she grew up believing about the legendary Hunters and the very world she lives in. Soon she finds that her fame may be part of a deep conspiracy that threatens to upend the protective structure built to keep dark magic out. The monsters are getting in and it is up to Joy to find out why.

Review:

I have fond memories of Mercedes Lackey: her Heralds of Valdemar series was one of my favorites throughout junior high and early in to high school. Back then, young adult fiction didn’t really exist, but as its become its own genre, I always felt that she was one author I read back then that would have been able to write for both. Needless to say, my expectations were kind of high for this. So now that I’ve read it?

It’s the most fun I’ve had reading a book I didn’t actually like in some time.

On the surface, this is a fun little book. A post-apocolyptic world where monsters are now things that exist and there are people with magic who can summon Hounds to fight them. Cool! There’s some flashy fighting, and the relationship between Joy and her Hounds is quite lovely.

But then all the cracks show.

There are little annoyances, like chocolike, coffelike, sham-pagne. Ugh. Such awful puns to indicate replicated food and why? We’re centuries out from the disaster. The vast majority of people in this world don’t know the difference. People would still call hot chocolate hot chocolate even if it was made of chocolike. If the humans of then are any like the humans of now, you’d just get something more like “here’s some real hot chocolate” or whatever. Also in this category is Lackey’s continued insistence of calling Joy a “turnip” because she’s from the countryside. By the end of the book when Joy is all “We don’t call it recreation, we call it having fun, but I’m just a turnip!” all you can do is roll your eyes. But I can deal. It’s not a book-breaker.

Then there are the Christers. I don’t know Lackey’s personal views, but speaking as a agnostic, she comes across as the kind of atheist that gives us a bad name. Christians a whole are portrayed as annoying throughout much of the book. And to learn that when the Rapture didn’t come, they tried to nudge it along by nuking Jerusalem? Really? REALLY? It just came across as so unnecessary. The main Christian character does end up coming off as a decent guy, but for me it’s too little too late and if this kind of thing bugs you, it will annoy you.

Finally, the biggest issue I have with this book is the whole ranking system and tv show aspect. Seriously, why is this here? I feel like maybe Lackey was trying to Make a Point, but if forgot to put one in. It is so underdeveloped, it feels tacked on. Okay, the ostentatious purpose is to keep the civilians placid, but there never ends up being an event that happens that shatters that sense of security. The main antagonist comes out of this system, but we really don’t see enough of the benefits to see why he’d feel so threatened. They’re vaguely discussed (like you can get a better room, woo?) and so his initial dislike of her just makes it seem like he has a super fragile ego. Meanwhile, the Folk Magician we meet at the start of the book never again comes back in to play. It feels like Lackey missed the whole point of Chekov’s gun: don’t put it on stage if you don’t plan to use it. It feels like he might come in to play in a later book, but the threat he poses (and the mystery that she’s supposedly investigating in this book) never really gets going, and the focus winds up being on our jealous Hunter and that’s just dull and feels like a wasted opportunity.

As for Joy herself, I mostly like her. Aside from her constant “this is how we do it in the Mountains” remarks, she is likable enough. I wouldn’t blame others for giving her the stink-eye when it comes to her massive popularity in her first week and the ridiculous amount of power she’s wielding towards the end of the book, but that’s just kind of par for the course for this genre isn’t it?

Ultimately, I feel like this book had a ton of potential that was squandered leaving us with something kind of fun, but also a bit of an underdeveloped mess. If you like Lackey and are curious, I suppose it’s worth checking out from the library once it does publish because it was kind of fun. But can I honestly recommend it? No, not really. And that’s a pity.

Verdict: Skip It

Available: September 1st

Kushiel’s Scion (Kushiel’s Avatar #4/Imrael’s Trilogy #1) – Jacqueline Carey

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Summary:

It is whispered that Kushiel’s lineage carries the ability to perceive the flaws in mortal souls, to administer an untender mercy. I sense its presence like a shadow on my soul…the memories of blood and branding and horror, and the legacy of cruelty that runs in my veins, shaping my own secret vow and wielding it like a brand against the darkness, whispering it to myself, over and over.
I will try to be good.

Imriel de la Courcel’s blood parents are history’s most reviled traitors, but his adoptive parents, the Comtesse Phedre and the warrior-priest Joscelin, are Terre d’Ange’s greatest champions. Stolen, tortured, and enslaved as a young boy, Imriel is now a Prince of the Blood, third in line for the throne in a land that revels in art, beauty, and desire. It is a court steeped in deeply laid conspiracies…and there are many who would see the young prince dead. Some despise him out of hatred for his birth mother Melisande, who nearly destroyed the realm in her quest for power. Others because they fear he has inherited his mother’s irresistible allure – and her dangerous gifts. And as he comes of age, plagued by dark yearnings, Imriel shares their fears.

At the royal court, where gossip is the chosen poison and assailants wield slander instead of swords, the young prince fights character assassins while struggling with his own innermost conflicts. But when Imriel departs to study at the fames University of Tiberium, the perils he faces turn infinitely more deadly.

Searching for wisdom, he finds instead a web of manipulation, where innocent words hide sinister meanings, and your lover of last night may become your hired killer before dawn. Now a simple act of friendship will leave Imriel trapped in a besieged city where the infamous Melisande is worshiped as a goddess; where a dead man leads an army; and where the prince must face his greatest test: to find his true self.

Review:

Kushiel’s Scion is the first book of Imrael’s trilogy, and the continuation of the Kushiel’s Legacy. While it is its own trilogy, like true epic fantasy, it draws on characters and events of the first three books: it will make much, much, much more sense for having read Phedre’s books and your enjoyment will go up accordingly.

That aside, there’s a question that all but hangs over the series: is it as good as Phedre’s tale?

In short: no.

And to be fair, it almost couldn’t be. Phedre is genuinely unique. I cannot think of anyone who comes close to comparing Phedre, there are many more out there like Imrael.

Does that make this less of a good book?

Not really.

It’s just different. The quiet start is expected: it lets Imrael grow up, and to try and deal with some of the demon’s of his past. Carey takes her time with it: if he never fully conquers them (which wouldn’t have been believable) he’s begun to heal from them, which is nice to see. Even when the action picks up, its of a different flavor – more political – and not as adventurous, I guess? This is more a character study, I think. It’s different, but still compelling. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t read both books. I will also say there is no antagonist as compelling as Melisandre, and her shadow still hangs over the books. It’s both good and bad, because another strong antagonist could have really helped this trilogy distinguish itself.

If I’m not as wildly enthusiastic about this book it’s because I think Phedre’s books were truly special. This wasn’t quite on the same level. It’s still a great book, and I’ll still get around to reading the next one, but I just don’t see this sticking with me in the same way, and I think there’s a reason that the first trilogy is the one that has had the most staying power. So yeah. A lesser version of an amazing book is still a great book and that is what this is.

Finally, I will contract my earlier statement and statement say that if you haven’t read the first set because you couldn’t get behind the erotica aspects, this may be worth picking up. There’s not nearly as much sex and it’s much more vanilla, so that is something to consider. Maybe it’ll even entice you into giving Phedre’s trilogy a chance. For the rest of us though,  you know if you’re into Carey, and if you are, you’ll enjoy this.

Verdict: Buy It

Available: Now

Stacking the Shelves #7

Hey everyone! I don’t normally do these so close together, but I missed some on the last post and had some book mail and there was enough for another round, so here we are. By the by, if you’re a fan of historical romance, go check out my review of Mistress of Pleasure over on Good Reads. Anyway without further ado…

eARC from the publisher

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AU where Paris has been destroyed, there’s magic, there are families fighting for power. All right up my alley.

Physical Books

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Reawakened – I got this through #booksfortrade, and I admit I kind of got it for unintentional laughs. Although I enjoyed Tiger’s Curse it’s premise was absolutely absurd and the author has taken heat for her handling of people of couple and not undeservedly so – the first few chapters of that book had an Italian stereotype that would make Mario wince. All that said I did have fun reading it and am hoping to get some fun out of this one too.

Clockwork Crown – The publisher sent me a copy of this in the mail. I enjoyed the first enough to read the short-shorty prequeal. I wasn’t going to go out of my way to read it, but since I do have it, I’ll totally give it a go.

Summoning the Night – The other book I’m getting through #booksfortrade. I rather enjoyed the first book in this series, so am hoping the second stays as good.

eBooks

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I’ve hit up the under-$5 ebook sales and picked myself up some more urban fantasy. Hopefully they work out!

Anything new on your shelves?

The Veil – Chloe Neill

Hey everyone! Hope you all had a nice (hopefully long) holiday! Work and life got a bit stressful so I didn’t exactly get a ton of reading done last week, unless you count me DNFing Masque of the Red Death as actual progress. Things are settling down, so I’m hoping to get back into the groove of things. That said, my former 3-reviews a week just seems like it’s just not going to happen until I have some time to build a cushion back up and that won’t be possible until at least around Labor Day when I have my next vacation. In the mean time, I’m going to try aiming for twice a week, on some combination of Monday/Wednesday/Friday.

That out of the way, let’s get to it.

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Summary:

Seven years ago, the Veil that separates humanity from what lies beyond was torn apart, and New Orleans was engulfed in a supernatural war. Now, those with paranormal powers have been confined in a walled community that humans call the District. Those who live there call it Devil’s Isle.

Claire Connolly is a good girl with a dangerous secret: she’s a Sensitive, a human endowed with magic that seeped through the Veil. Claire knows that revealing her skills would mean being confined to Devil’s Isle. Unfortunately, hiding her power has left her untrained and unfocused.

Liam Quinn knows from experience that magic makes monsters of the weak, and he has no time for a Sensitive with no control of her own strength. But when he sees Claire using her powers to save a human under attack—in full view of the French Quarter—Liam decides to bring her to Devil’s Isle and the teacher she needs, even though getting her out of his way isn’t the same as keeping her out of his head.

But when the Veil threatens to shatter completely, Claire and Liam must work together to stop it, or else New Orleans will burn…

Review:

Having to write reviews like this are one of the most frustrating things I ever do. My desire to like this book wound up being stronger than my actual liking of this book, and worst still, I can’t quite put my finger on why exactly that is.

The plot is solid enough, and a nice little twist on the usual Urban Fantasy. Beings with magic tried to kill us, we tried to kill them, and when that all failed the government said eff it and just more or less abandoned New Orleans and most of the surrounding country side. New Orleans is now a husk of its former self and the inhabitants are just trying to cope. It’s different enough to be a bit of fresh air in the genre, so no fault there. I will say though that as much as she incorporated New Orleans into the story, it didn’t feel like a deep seated need to be there. It didn’t add a lot of flavor to the story is all I’m saying.

The magic is okay, I guess, though maybe a bit underdeveloped. The idea of Sensitives and Paras and Wraiths do make sense, but the actual usage of said magic just seems to be a thing that you just accept because. How else do you explain Claire, someone who has deliberately used her magic like three or four times in her whole life, being able to save the day at the very end? It kind of works, but also kind of leaves you looking side-eye at the book.

The characters are okay. I like Claire enough, despite the ending, it’s not like she’s some genius practitioner who gets it all right on the first attempt (which makes her ability to work under such extreme pressure a bit hard to swallow), she has a solid friend circle, and Liam seems okay. I’m not sold on a certain betrayal in the book. I’m not sure what the character who did that actually got in exchange, since her end goal was still the same the main bad guy. Just a general bitch? Extra plot to help round out the story? I didn’t really feel the chemistry between Claire and Liam either. I don’t think they’d be bad together, but I’m not emotionally invested in them either.

Ultimately, I had enough fun while reading the book that I didn’t have any particular urge to set the book down. I also didn’t have the urge to binge-read it either. It was just kind of there for me. Those who love urban fantasy might still want to give this a look because it is just that much different as to feel a bit fresh, but those who just dabble can safely move along.

Finally, how does it hold up to her Chicagoland books? I honestly can’t say. It’s a series that I’ve been mildly curious to try, but never actually have. After this publishes, I’d love to hear from people who have read both and find out if you think it’s worth giving her other series a chance!

Verdict: Borrow It

Available: August 4th