Since I loved Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, another sequel that I caught up on over my winter break was Days of Blood and Starlight. Besi...moreSince I loved Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, another sequel that I caught up on over my winter break was Days of Blood and Starlight. Besides having more of Akiva’s perspective *cue my inner fangirl screaming*, I loved that Days of Blood and Starlight was a much darker read with some very surprising twists.
Although the main perspectives remain Akiva's and Karou's, Days of Blood and Starlight enables you to get into the heads of other major and minor characters too. I really loved this because it showed how war can affect people in such different positions of life. Through these different perspectives, the novel introduces you to new characters like Ziri and Jael and fleshes out some of the secondary characters from Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I particularly enjoyed reading the perspectives of Liraz and Zuzana, and hope that their perspectives are included in Dreams of Gods and Monsters.
Days of Blood and Starlight also lacks the insta-love romance that was present in Daughter of Smoke and Bone. In fact, considering how badly he betrayed her, I love that Karou doesn’t forgive Akiva! At the same time though, I love that Taylor leaves open the possibility of redemption for Akiva.
A sequel that definitely doesn’t suffer from the dreaded middle book syndrome!(less)
For a self-published novel, Heather Topham Wood’s First Visions was a well-written mystery. The book, however, lost some stars when it came to the mai...moreFor a self-published novel, Heather Topham Wood’s First Visions was a well-written mystery. The book, however, lost some stars when it came to the main character of Kate and the romance.
After contracting meningitis, Kate emerges out of a coma with a vision about an abduction case. Having seen her family’s and friends’ reactions to her newfound ability, Kate now pretends that she can no longer see visions of people’s past. Hiding her true self though has led to Kate becoming very defensive and being more or less a loner. When Jared shows up on her doorstep asking for assistance with his case, Kate initially continues the charade, but is eventually convinced by her mother to help.
Jared was a nice guy, and I thought he and Kate would have made good friends. But, the romantic tension between them felt very forced to me. I mean, how convenient that the first guy Kate started to fall for after becoming a psychic also happened to have an eccentric aunt who brought him up and therefore was very open to ideas like people being psychic. Of course he got bonus points for being attractive and a good listener.
Another reason I wasn’t a fan of the romance was because Kate just seemed so immature in comparison to Jared. For example, Kate crosses professional boundaries soon after meeting Jared by Googling his address and showing up at his apartment after a fight with her mom. Later in the book, she gets him to pick her up from a club and tries to seduce him while drunk.
Finally, I didn’t like the romance because I didn’t approve of Kate going after a guy that was already taken (even if he was sending some mixed signals). I think Wood tried her best to convince readers that Kate was the better option for Jared, but she unfortunately did so by depicting Nikki as a stereotypical mean girl.
The relationship I did like however was that of Kate and her mother. It was just so normal, and I liked how close they were with each other.(less)
Emblaze by Jessica Shirvington, the third book in The Violet Eden Chapters, picks up right where Entice leaves off. With only six months between relea...moreEmblaze by Jessica Shirvington, the third book in The Violet Eden Chapters, picks up right where Entice leaves off. With only six months between releases, you’d think that I’d remember what happened in prior books better! But, for some reason, by the time a new book in this series is released, I can barely remember why Violet is so special, let alone the overarching plot. I really think having a list of major characters with their powers at the end of the book and a brief recap at the beginning would help solve my problem.
In terms of how The Violet Eden Chapters has evolved, a lot of things remain the same. For example, each book ends with a cliffhanger. As well, Violet continues to be pretty immature, having secret meetings with Phoenix and withholding information from her Grigori friends rather than letting them be a source of support. I’m also getting sort of tired of the whole wanting-to-be-with-Lincoln-but-not-being-able-to phenomenon. I love though that we still get some steamy scenes and that Shirvington remains able to smoothly incorporate her angel mythology with the historical background of the different places (e.g. Jordan, Santorini, etc.) the Grigoris travel to.
The one noticeable change in Emblaze is that Violet’s absent father suddenly starts to notice his daughter. He begins to question her whereabouts and even makes an attempt to ground her. Although it was weird to have Mr. Eden randomly acting like an actual parent, I like the development and am curious to see how this will change his relationship with his daughter.(less)
None of the Regular Rules by Erin Downing was a quick, easy read. Though the story was decent, it was one that unfortunately didn’t leave a lasting im...moreNone of the Regular Rules by Erin Downing was a quick, easy read. Though the story was decent, it was one that unfortunately didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. Perhaps because of the short length, the characters were also a bit flat.
While I liked Sophie, she and her friends were just a tad self-absorbed. As a result, my favourite character in the novel was probably Johnny because of his easygoing attitude and the way he helped Sophie and her friends with their dares, eventually becoming a friend of Sophie’s.
I also appreciated that Downing didn’t force her characters to rush into a relationship. When Sophie realizes that her crush on Johnny might be reciprocated, she lets him know that she isn’t interested in being strung along or becoming the other girl. Instead, she gives him time and space to figure out who he wants to be with. It was really nice to see a YA protagonist deal with her love life in a mature manner.(less)
Since Flash Point by Nancy Kress was available as an automatic download on NetGalley, I snagged a copy without knowing much about it or having any sor...moreSince Flash Point by Nancy Kress was available as an automatic download on NetGalley, I snagged a copy without knowing much about it or having any sort of expectations. Although I found the novel easy to get through, I also thought the worldbuilding was severely lacking – we’re never given any information as to how something akin to the Great Depression 2.0 comes about – and the challenges quite boring for reality TV. As well, the characters were ridiculously flat and the main character hard to like. All I came away with about Amy was that she loved designer labels (as evidenced by her multiple ramblings about them), had phantoms – a concept that wasn’t well-explained, fell in love way too easily, and barely got along with her sister because both were jealous of each other. (less)
Although Conjure by Lea Nolan is a YA book, it can easily be read by older MG readers because its tone felt a bit younger, particularly since the main...moreAlthough Conjure by Lea Nolan is a YA book, it can easily be read by older MG readers because its tone felt a bit younger, particularly since the main character, Emma, was only fourteen and repeatedly thought about how dreamy her crush was. While I liked Emma, I found her twin brother Jack to be whiny and kind of selfish. To me, the most interesting and unique thing about Conjure was the incorporation of hoodoo. I’m not going to lie: before I read the book, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the difference between hoodoo and voodoo. Not only do I know the difference now, but I actually felt like I learned quite a bit about hoodoo from reading Conjure. It’s very clear that Nolan did a significant amount of research on the topic!(less)
You know how when you’re little, people ask you what you want to be when you grow up? Well, one of my answers used to be: “Archaeologist!” As I grew u...moreYou know how when you’re little, people ask you what you want to be when you grow up? Well, one of my answers used to be: “Archaeologist!” As I grew up, I realized that it probably wasn’t as glamourous a job as the media made it out to be and that getting dirty wasn’t something I was fond of. And let’s not even talk about bugs! However, I thought it would be interesting to read Jordan Jacobs’ Samantha Sutton and the Labyrinth of Lies considering that Jacobs himself is an archaeologist. Here’s my list of pros and cons about the novel:
Pros: - Because the locals living around Chavin de Huantar speak Spanish, I liked that Jacobs kept their sentences and questions in Spanish rather than translating them into English. I may not have understood what was being said, but the incorporation of Spanish gave the book a more authentic feel. It also enabled me to relate to Samantha’s plight of not being able to understand what’s being discussed when people are conversing in Spanish because she doesn’t know the language. - Similarly, I liked the incorporation of real archaeological terms. - I thought the relationship between Samantha and Evan was depicted pretty realistically. As siblings close in age, they argue a lot; but there are also times when they’re sort of nice to each other. - Overall, I felt that Jacobs did a good job of demonstrating the day-to-day life of an archaeologist.
Cons: - Though I didn’t think the answer was that obvious, my hunch as to who the looters might be turned out to be correct. Nevertheless, I had no clue as to how the looters were stealing from the units. - The book could have used a bit more excitement. It was a little more serious in tone than the MG novels I prefer to read, and I never felt that need to find out what was going to happen next.(less)
After seeing lots of praise for Hannah Harrington’s debut novel Saving June and then again for her newest book Speechless, I wondered what I was missi...moreAfter seeing lots of praise for Hannah Harrington’s debut novel Saving June and then again for her newest book Speechless, I wondered what I was missing out on and figured I’d give her sophomore novel a try before my galley expired. I’m not really fond of stories revolving around selfish, mean girls so when I first started Speechless and realized Chelsea was one of those girls who ignores how awful her “best friend” is in order to stay popular, I speculated how long it would take before she blurted out the secret mentioned in the synopsis. Fortunately, not long; and by the end, Harrington’s gradual development of Chelsea’s character had me if not liking Chelsea, at least respecting her.
In my opinion, by far the best thing about Speechless was Chelsea’s voice because it was so honest and easy to relate to. Since Chelsea decides to take a vow of silence – which to me seemed a tad unrealistic because why decide to stop speaking altogether when you could just as easily make a vow not to gossip for example – a significant chunk of the book focuses on her thoughts. Through Chelsea’s perspective, you realize that, like anybody, she’s flawed and is a myriad of contradictions – brave, judgmental, determined and self-absorbed yet also vulnerable, thoughtful and perceptive.
I also liked the secondary characters. I just wish I could have gotten to see them in a more personal environment (e.g. in their homes) so that I could learn about them as characters independent of their interactions with Chelsea at school or work.
Another thing that I would have liked more time to be spent on was the relationship between Chelsea and Kristen. Since the two stop hanging out after the awful incident, we don’t really get to see Kristen as anything other than a stereotypical mean girl. At the same time though, I was okay with the way their relationship was portrayed because there was eventually some sort of resolution between the two.
Since I’ve never read Juliet Marillier’s adult fantasy novels but had heard good things about her work, I was curious to see what her newest YA novel,...moreSince I’ve never read Juliet Marillier’s adult fantasy novels but had heard good things about her work, I was curious to see what her newest YA novel, Shadowfell, would be like. The fantasy lover in me is always thrilled when I can find a new world that I can fully immerse myself in; and in that regard, Marillier delivers. However, Marillier’s mystical world full of magic and danger is unveiled agonizingly slowly as Neryn, the protagonist, journeys through Alban. As such, I’m pretty sure this book won’t appeal to everybody.
If you don’t mind a slow plot involving a lot of walking though, then I would recommend giving Shadowfell a try because not only does it have great worldbuilding, but it also has sensible characters. While I liked seeing Neryn grow and become more determined and self-confident, my favourite character was the mysterious and complex Flint who carries quite a burden. That said, I wish the characters could have been a bit more memorable since it felt like they lacked that little something extra.(less)
My biggest problem with Sylvia Gunnery’s Emily For Real was that it squished a variety of topics like a breakup, family secrets, alcoholism, etc. into...moreMy biggest problem with Sylvia Gunnery’s Emily For Real was that it squished a variety of topics like a breakup, family secrets, alcoholism, etc. into a short book. As a result, none of these subjects were covered in depth. However, there were other problems as well: namely, that Emily was kind of immature, that what was supposed to be a meaningful friendship between Emily and Leo felt superficial at best, and that because I felt emotionally disconnected from Emily, I just didn’t find her family drama that engaging. (less)
Confessions of an Angry Girl by Louise Rozett is about one girl trying to get through her first year of high school. While the writing was okay, I was...moreConfessions of an Angry Girl by Louise Rozett is about one girl trying to get through her first year of high school. While the writing was okay, I wasn’t pleased that the book ended so abruptly, particularly since I thought the plot and the characters – none of whom I really liked – weren’t memorable enough. I also didn’t care about the romance because I couldn’t see what Rose saw in Jamie or figure out why he, a senior, would fall for a lowly freshman. Moreover, I thought it was very hypocritical of Rose for judging her best friend for staying with a cheating boyfriend when she herself makes out with Jamie, a guy who has a girlfriend. (less)
Lullaby by Amanda Hocking delves further into the siren mythology and is a tad more gruesome than its predecessor, Wake. However, like with Wake, it s...moreLullaby by Amanda Hocking delves further into the siren mythology and is a tad more gruesome than its predecessor, Wake. However, like with Wake, it still feels as if there’s something missing, preventing me from falling in love with this series. The characters – other than Daniel and possibly, Marcie – continue to be merely okay, and the romances aren’t really anything special.(less)
After seeing all the positive reviews for Amanda Hocking’s Trylle trilogy, I really wanted to give her writing a try. Thankfully, Wake came out at the...moreAfter seeing all the positive reviews for Amanda Hocking’s Trylle trilogy, I really wanted to give her writing a try. Thankfully, Wake came out at the right time because rather than trying to catch up on another series, I could start fresh with a brand new one.
Although the synopsis of Wake makes it seem like there’s only one protagonist, it actually has two – Gemma and her older sister Harper. The sibling relationship was probably my favourite aspect of the book because even though the girls argue with each other, it’s obvious that they love one another too. In terms of them as individuals, I found Harper the easier one to relate to because she was a lot more like me in personality whereas Gemma was the more impulsive one. I also thought Gemma was stubborn and selfish for going swimming in the bay at night in spite of Harper’s and their dad’s concerns about it being dangerous.
Another thing that I liked was that both girls got their own romances that were free of instant love. However, I also thought that the love interests were sort of unremarkable – despite feeling like that there’s still more to Daniel than meets the eye – and that the romances were kind of bland.
Overall, while I wasn’t blown by Wake, I did like it enough that I will be reading the sequel. I felt like the story had just started to pick up steam when it abruptly ended!(less)