Monday, June 16, 2014

This Blog Has Moved to...

I know there haven't been any new posts on the blog lately, but not because I was bored. No, in fact, it's quite the opposite: I was setting up a new blog that would feature more than just book reviews, but at the same time still be aimed at a similar audience. I also have 2 other co-authors with me, and that only makes the site that much more interesting! We already have about 20 posts on the blog, so you can check us out and see if you're still interested. And just so you know, there's going to be a new giveaway up on the nouveau blog soon. I don't want to give everything away, but let's just say that it involves 10 copies of City of Heavenly Fire, and that winning depends entirely on your knowledge of the series.

For those of you worried that I'm going to delete this blog like I did last time, don't worry, I won't make the same mistake again. This blog is going to stay up and running, though there won't be any new posts. All the reviews and events are free for you to look through at your leisure. Those of you who want to check out the new site, just click on the link: 

I miss you all, and can't wait to see you over on the new site! Have a great summer vacation everyone, and remember, keep your eyes on the lookout for the giveaway!!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Early Review: The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles #1) by Mary E. Pearson

In this timeless new trilogy about love and sacrifice, a princess must find her place in a reborn world.

In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight—but she doesn’t—and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom—to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assasin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—even as she finds herself falling in love.

~A copy was provided by Macmillan for review~

I wasn't exactly sure what I was getting into when I started reading this, but The Kiss of Deception was so much more intense than I'd expected it to be. Have you ever picked up a book, in the mood for a whimsical romance complete with drama, and then realized you were getting more than you bargained for? That's what reading this book felt like; the fact that there was an immense plot behind the main character, Lia, a young girl looking for a little love, was what made this book so...serious. Yet beautiful. It's been a while since I've encountered a book like this.

The first book that comes to mind when thinking of possible relatives to this novel is Warrior Princess by Allan Frewin Jones. Both were stories of princesses and fate, and both had the same fierceness to the plot and the MC. However, The Kiss of Deception had more of a romantic base to it. Speaking of romance, the assassin and the prince? They were the most unique male heros I've ever encountered. 

I had the hardest time choosing between the two characters; none of them fit into the stereotypic "arrogant prick turns loving" category that I usually choose my favorite book boyfriends from. I'm sure one of the guys fit the category more than the other, but it was just so impossibly hard to tell which. After getting a little more than halfway through the novel, I finally picked a man for Lia, but new events kept piling onto each other and by the time I finished reading I was doubting my choice. I feel like Kaden, the assassin, is more the complicated boyfriend-type I usually root for, while Rafe, the prince, is this unusual combination between nice-guy and soft-pushy guy. I'm astounded that the author managed to create two of the most unique male characters the book world has ever seen!

The world-building was breathtaking. It was incredible how we learned more about Lia and her world the further we got into the story. Each dialogue and thought increased our knowledge; it was surprisingly easy to see myself as Lia and to understand where she was coming from with all of her decisions. That doesn't mean I agree with everything she did - she gives her love away too easily - but she always had a reason. This amazing world filled with warring kingdoms and dastardly plots was only enhanced by the paradoxical innocence and maturity of the main character.

I'm not quite sure about how I feel about the ending. Almost none of the reader's questions are answered, and he's forced to wait another year to find out more. All of the characters are together once more, and many deceptions that the reader knew, but the characters didn't, are revealed. There still isn't a clear answer to who Lia chose, and while that has got my curiosity one edge, I can see why that would be a benefit in the next book. Personally, I thought the second half of the book was better than the first half, and going off of that, I'm hoping the second book, The Heart of Betrayal, will be even better than the first.

The Kiss of Deception is a consuming story about a girl trying to live her life the way she wishes, who then realizes that fate has other plans in store for her. I feel that fans of GracelingThe Arcana Chronicles, and other such fantasy novels will be the most likely to enjoy this book; it has the same gist to it. I sincerely believe that this is a well-written novel, and a great start to the author's dabblings in high fantasy.
Title: The Kiss of Deception
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Releases: July 15, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt
Genre: YA, High Fantasy

Friday, March 21, 2014

Mini Review: The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

~A copy was provided by Macmillan for review~

Surprisingly, I had little to no expectations for this book. I'd seen the cover around and fallen in love with it at first sight, but I never really knew what the novel was about, probably because I skimmed through the synopsis. It was a 'read now' on Netgalley for a while though, and I just had to get the ARC everyone was talking about. Two reviews I read stuck in my mind, one praising the book with 5 hot expressos (Jenni @ Xpresso Reads) and one not quite loving it (Giselle @ Book Nerd). As soon as I started reading, however, my mind was blown and everything around me - including my many upcoming tests - fell away.

Kestrel is everything I could want in a main character. She's beautiful, intellectual, humble, and uniquely privileged. She also doesn't exactly believe that slaves are property; she actually cares for them, some more than others. She'd also rather play the piano that fight, which is independent of many heroines featured in today's popular novels. Beauty and smarts, what more could a girl want, right?

And Arin. Don't even get me started on him. He was just perfect! He had that perfect combination of stoic unforgiving ness and thoughtful protector. In short, that boy was HOT! And it helped that even as a slave he had that certain regal bearing that Kestrel (and I!) seemed to crave.

As a fan of Disney, I can't even begin to tell you how giddy I was when certain parts of the novel began resembling Disney films. Whenever I think of The Winner's Curse, I also think of Mulan 2. There was just something about the end that resembled the movie, but unlike Mulan, the ending wasn't resolved. If I could have any book in the world at this moment, I'd want the sequel to this.

The world-building was amazing, although even after reading I'm not exactly sure if this is historical fiction, dystopia, or a combination of both. All I know for sure is that this book was beautiful and anyone who disagrees is crazy;) I'd be surprised if I find a better book than this within the year.

This is a beautiful yet complicated romance between two teens on opposite sides in both conflict and class, and I believe all fans of fantasy will enjoy the novel. And if you don't? Well, then there isn't much to say, is there? Kidding. Sort of...
Title: The Winner's Curse
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Released March 4, 2014
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Genre: Romance, High Fantasy

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Review: Bound (The Guardians #1) by M.J. Stevens

‘No good deed ever goes unpunished, Mellea…’

Mellea Wendorn hasn’t exactly had a normal life. Misfortune seems to follow her, and her family, wherever she goes.
However, when Mellea stops to assist a mysterious young man suddenly her prior hardships seem trivial.

His name is Leo. He is a Successor, a child of the Guardians of Selestia.

He is royalty.
He is handsome.
And he wants Mellea completely to himself.

Unable to escape the Guardian's laws, Mellea must learn the ways of the royals. She is convinced her life can’t get much worse. But when a timeworn Guardian enemy arises from the shadows, Mellea must make a choice that will change her destiny forever.

~A copy was provided by Xpresso Reads for review~

This novel was a very...interesting read, and not the type of book I usually go for. The only reason I requested this book was because of the "royalty" concept, and as a huge fan of Disney and princes, I just couldn't stop myself. While even in the beginning my hopes weren't high, it was pretty much what I expected: vague, and without a properly-built setting. The romance was kind of cute and honestly probably the only reason I read this book until the end. Thankfully, the novel was a quick read, and it managed to keep my interest enough for me to keep going back.

The MC, Mellea, was a slightly annoying character; she grated on my nerves. A lot. In the first half of the book she was blindly argumentative, believing everything her father ever told her about the Guardians. Then when she meets Leo for the first time, she can't seem to do anything but nag and inform him of how much of a monster he is (despite the fact that the only time he becomes a monster is when Mellea calls him that). I have no idea how Leo could stand her, let alone want to be united with her. Of course he had his problems too, but they were more of the teenage boy issues you'd expect in a rich guy.

Lucky for me, naggy Mellea was present only in the first part of the book. Towards the end, it was all clingy Melle...which it turns out is ever worse. At this part:

"I squeal a little and tuck closer behind Leo,"

I think I snorted. How does a girl who goes around shouting at Guardians who have the power to kill her suddenly hide behind them? I'd have been more impressed if she used that as a move on Leo:/ I know I usually prefer MCs who aren't totally independent and still have a need for a little bit of romance, but Mellea was just pathetic. I have to say at this point I kind of missed her courage and nagging. It doesn't help that she's the only one of three "brides" who didn't get to learn combat. My reaction was even worse when I read this:

"Leo shouts, 'Arin, do not be so graphic around Mellea! She is not ready to hear that kind of talk.'" I can't even--. So now Mellea is so fragile that she can't even hear about death? I mean, come on! At this point I had almost no patience for the girl. I'd be lying if I said I could stand her. I suppose it turns out that independence really does look good on a girl. However, her weaknesses aren't the only reason I didn't enjoy reading the novel from her perspective. I'd have been completely fine with her fear of death if she had always been like that, but earlier in the novel, when the Lady Guardian died - a sweet, beautiful lady who gave her great advice how to make the best of her situation - the only thought Mellea could come up with was:

"There was still so much more I hoped to learn from her."

I believe that was exactly where my dislike of Mellea first started getting into the extremes. What kind of person thinks that after someone dies? I'd expect compassion at the death of an enemy, let alone a kind queen. And anyways, how does a person go from this unloving-unloved character to being a scaredy-cat? It just seems like a lot of personality changes, making the MC a character I just couldn't connect with.

So like I mentioned, the romance was what kept me reading. For example, Leo and Mellea's first meeting was adorable. There was that whole "I hate you but I'm mesmerized by you" thing going on, and some of the barbs exchanged just cracked me up. Here's my favorite scene with Mr. Guardian Successor:

"'What is your name?' Leo unexpectedly asks.
'Mellea Wendorn,' I say. I have no idea why I felt a need to throw in my last name. In fact I should have used a fake name. Geez I'm a moron.
Leo mumbles, 'That is a very strange name. I do not really care for it.'"

Though scenes like this were my favorite part of the book, after reading I felt like this wasn't my usual age group of books. I have a feeling that the novel is aimed more at people in middle school, though maybe that's just me. The lack of world-building and the not-so-intricate plot only glued that idea into my head even more strongly. I don't mean to be rude, but I feel like this is the type of book that I'd end up writing if I ever tried, a book with a tiny plot that's shoved aside in favor of the romance (of course, any book of mine would be a thousand times worse). Nevertheless, I got the same feeling after reading the book that I did when I first saw the cover of Bound: that it just wasn't that great.

Bound is an interesting novel that will fulfill any young reader's desire for a cute romance, but the lack of plot development and the presence of a double-personality main character encouraged me to turn away. As a side note though, while I had, in fact, planned not to read the next book in the series, that nice little cliffhanger at the end is making me doubt my decision >.<
Title: Bound
Author: M.J. Stevens
Released: January 21, 2014
Publisher: M.J. Stevens
Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Friday, February 28, 2014

Review: Austenland (Austenland #1) by Shannon Hale

Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen; or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It's all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

~Owned as eBook; 197 pages~

I decided to read this novel again because I devoured the book the first time and fell in love with the movie at first sight. Then a few days ago I was tempted to experience Jane Austen once again after making a collage themed on the book and movie (shown at the right), so here I am!

With most books, re-reading just doesn't work for me. I have a pretty good memory, so I always remember everything that happens, and there are never any surprises. What I loved about my second experience with Austenland is that there actually were things I didn't remember, and even the things I did remember were too swoon-worthy and Darcy-esque to not appreciate. I also liked being able to compare the movie and the book since everything from the film was still fresh in my memory.

Whether it be the film or the book, there was never a moment I wasn't full-on in love with Mr. Nobley. He was a real-life Mr. Darcy! Every personality one had, so did the other. The arrogance, the beauty, the mystery, the sadness, the snobbery! If I had a chance to go to Austenland - even with circumstances similar to Jane's - I'd say yes without a hint of hesitation. I want my own Mr. Darcy!

The plot was just as amazing as it was the first time, with Jane struggling over her obsession with Austen's male characters, but mostly Darcy. In fact, she even has a life-sized cut-out of Colin Firth in her apartment. Jane was such an endearing character, always trying to find herself beneath the obsession, and to stand up for her low self-esteem. Her ninja tactics on Nobley were my personal favorite though:P

I did skip the first few pages of the book that discuss Jane before she goes to Austenland, but after that it was me and the book until the very end. There wasn't a page - nay, a letter - that I skipped after that. I was so addicted that I stayed up until 4:30 in the morning to finish a book I'd already read. I hope that clarifies exactly how much I adore this novel. The first time I read it as a library book, the second time as an eBook; I think it's about time I get a copy of this as my own. 

This beautiful, beautiful book is a must-read for all fans of Jane Austen, or even just P&P. All those listopias listing re-tellings of Austen? This one should be number one. And if you're too lazy to read, please do me a favor and at least watch the movie. They're both equally pleasurable, and I can promise that if you're anything like me, it will quickly become one of your favorite films. I suppose that now I've read the book two times, it's only fair that I watch the movie again. I better get to it then!
Title: Austenland
Author: Shannon Hale
Released May 29, 2007
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Genre: Women's Fiction, Romance

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Movie Review: Barbie: The Pearl Princess (2014)

Barbie plays Lumina, a mermaid girl with the power to change the color of pearls. Cheerful and creative, Lumina finds herself working in a mermaid salon customizing fabulous hairstyles. And when Lumina has the chance to attend the royal ball, her friends adorn her with a gown fit for a princess. At the ball, villains try to seize power over the kingdom, and Lumina finds within herself an unexpected power that proves she is much more than a hair stylist.

Anyone who has kept up with the Barbie movies has probably noticed that the last few years of movies have been terrible. And by terrible, I mean that even I wouldn't have watched them if I'd known just how bad they were. And that's serious O_O Things started looking up a bit when the last movie, Barbie Mariposa & The Fairy Princess, came out, and from then (so far) it's been going in a positive direction. Of course, the last 2 good movies had Barbie playing a fairy and then a mermaid; I really hope that the next one will have Barbie as a human, and that the plot gets even better! But enough fangirling...or Barbie-girling.

For any of you who know me personally, you know that I love all things royal. So a movie with a prince and it even possible that that won't win me over? The prince didn't really have a relevant part in the movie, though it's obvious who the princess is. Even knowing the facts from the beginning, it didn't take away from the movie's appeal. 

The thing that separates kids' movies from "regular" movies are the morals. It's nice to watch a movie where good always triumphs over evil, without any complications. Lumina was such an adorable character; she was so innocent. The film starts off with Lumina playing what's basically "house" with her seahorse. It was also cool to see some of the sea animals from other movies.

This movie had a vast variation of characters, and not one of them was normal. The weirdest of the weird was probably Fergis, the boy, well, merman, pressured into becoming King when all he wants is to be a botanist. He has the most ridiculous voice, but he is a great character who made the movie very interesting. Now Fergis's dad on the other! 

Though The Pearl Princess was enjoyable and kept me up until after midnight, even I'll admit that it wasn't that great of a film. Especially when compared to the old ones like The Nutcracker and Rapunzel. I suppose the reason I liked it as much as I did is because it's the best of Barbie I've seen in a while. It doesn't help that the upcoming Fall Barbie movie looks plain idiotic. Maybe it's time I stopped keeping up with these movies *scrunches nose*.

This movie felt really short, and I feel like nothing much important happened until the end. Everything up until the climax was basically pointless. I was really disappointed when there wasn't a clear-cut romance between Lumina and Prince Delphin (not dolphin). I love how the Barbie films I watched during my childhood had a slow building romance, similar to what's read in novels. This, on the other hand, was definitely aimed at a 2 year old. Also, I'm not sure if this is just me, but I feel like Barbie got younger. Maybe the terrible movies are for a new generation of children?

I wish I could say something better about the movie but I honestly can't. I have no idea what is going on in the minds of the Barbie creators, but if it keeps up like this, I might as well say bye now. At least I'll have the pretty dolls XD
Movie: Barbie: The Pearl Princess
Released February 1, 2014
Director: Zeke Norton
MPAA Rating: G
Screenplay: Cydne Clark & Steve Granat
Run Time: 105 minutes

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review: Killer Frost (Mythos Academy #6) by Jennifer Estep

I’ve battled the Reapers of Chaos before–and survived. But this time I have a Bad, Bad Feeling it’s going to be a fight to the death … most likely mine.

Yeah, I’ve got my psychometry magic, my talking sword, Vic–and even the most dangerous Spartan on campus at my side, in Logan freaking Quinn, but I’m no match for Loki, the evil Norse god of chaos. I may be Nike’s Champion, but at heart, I’m still just Gwen Frost, that weird Gypsy girl everyone at school loves to gossip about.

Then someone I love is put in more danger than ever before, and something inside me snaps. This time, Loki and his Reapers are going down for good … or I am.

~A copy was provided by Kensington for review~

I am honestly a huge fan of Jennifer Estep, and have been since I first started reading the series. What I fell in love with first was the romance between Logan and Gwen, but the mythology and the Reapers grew on me too. Admittedly, the romance between the two main characters has been getting less and less interesting after each book - though it peaked in the last novel - and I probably wouldn't have read this had it not been for the fact that I received an ARC for it. I was surprised though when it wasn't the romance, but the thought of the final battle that kept me reading.

What's interesting is that it took me until the final book in the series to realize that these books really are for younger readers, maybe for someone nearing the end of middle school. This doesn't affect my perception of the novel in any way; it was just weird that I never noticed until now. Going off on a a bit of a tangent, this book seemed to focus mostly and friendship, and the power of love (though not really the romantic kind). It kind of reminded me of Harry Potter, and how Dumbledore always said that love is the strongest magic of all, and that it's how Harry's mother protected Harry, et cetera et cetera.

Killer Frost is a pretty quick read and the plot progresses quickly. Yes, there are deaths in this book, and revealed identities, so anyone who has kept up with the series this far might as well finish the book, settle their curiosity, and be done with the Gwen chronicles. I mean, that's why I read the book. I'm getting off track though. My favorite part of the novel was, believe it or not, the romance between Nickamedes and a certain other well-known character. Their blossoming romance was adorable, and it helped that I have a certain fondness for those two characters even before their relationship. I can totally see myself reading this book in Nickamedes's POV...I'd love to read the romance firsthand, and I'd really like to know what goes on in that (probably sappy) head of his.

I really want to laud Jennifer on her ending, the grand finale, as it may be. Though I had a guess on who would win the Chaos War, exactly how the ending came about was a complete surprise. Now that I think about it, Killer Frost's ending was again similar to that of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I won't give it all away, but it consisted of Gwen, Nike, and Loki in some place that - to my mind anyways - resembled the dimension Harry entered after he "died". It's funny how I didn't see these similarities until now.

As this is the final book in a 6 book series, it's kind of difficult to write a meaningful review on it. Especially for this particular collection of books, since they're all so similar. They just blur together in my head. But after making all the connections that I did, I think it would be a good idea to recommend this book to fans of Harry Potter. Not only is the content similar, but I feel like the age group is about the same as well. I'm sure there are those of you who have never heard of this series, let alone read it. If so, I'd recommend you to check out the first book. It was by far my favorite in the series, and consists of all the best parts of a YA novel: a hot, warrior dude (or Logan freaking Quinn, as he is commonly known), mystical gods and goddesses, a very violent, talking sword, and of course, gypsy powers.

I've had a good two to three years with Gwen, but I agree with Jennifer: it's about time we go our separate ways. Besides, our Gypsy Girl deserves a break after saving (or not saving) the world;)
Title: Killer Frost
Author: Jennifer Estep
Released February 25, 2014
Publisher: Kensington Books
Genre: YA, Romance, Mythology