Book Review: Trinity by Clare Davidson

15760637Title: Trinity
Author: Clare Davidson
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: July 12th, 2012
Goodreads | Author Website | Amazon | B&N
Review copy provided by the author in exchange for honest review.

Kiana longs to walk through a forest and feel grass between her toes. But she is the living embodiment of a goddess and has enemies who wish to murder her. Her death will curse the whole of Gettryne. Locked away for protection, she dreams of freedom.
Her wish comes true in the worst possible way, when her home and defenders are destroyed.
Along with an inexperienced guard and a hunted outcast, Kiana flees the ravages of battle to search for a solution to the madness that has gripped Gettryne for a thousand years. Pursued by the vicious and unrelenting Wolves, their journey will take them far beyond their limits, to a secret that will shake the world.

Trinity has an amazing cover. It may be superficial, but that was the first thing I noticed about this book, and the first reason why I wanted to read it. I didn’t care about the plot, at first glance I knew this book was giong to be something I enjoyed based on the cover alone. So then I went to read the synopsis, and I liked it. I thought it was a fresh and original take on our regular, well-known epic fantasy stories. And it was for young adults. Double win. So I said ‘yes’ to a review copy and began reading the book practically as soon as I got it in my mailbox.

Kiana is the living embodiment of a goddess. If she dies, the entire land will be cursed. To prevent that from happening, she’s locked up in a tower, surrounded by guards, handmaidens and teachers. What she wishes for more than anything else however, is freedom. Well, wishes have a strange way of coming true in ways you don’t expect, and don’t want to. The tower Kiana lives in is attacked by the Wolves, enemies of the goddess she represents. They kill many of her guards, and Kiana can barely escape. With the help of a guard who’s on duty for the very first time, but who would lay down his life to save hers, and a Wolf outcast who’s consumed from within by a dangerous and powerful magic every time he tries to protect himself, Kiana must make it out of the woods alive, and stay out of the Wolves’ claws.

The world author Clare Davidson introduces us to is vivid, imaginative and colorful. It’s a completely different take from the fantasy worlds I’m used to reading about, and that I enjoyed very much. The story is action-packed and mysterious, leaving the reader on the edge of their seat until the end when all (okay, maybe not all, but part) is revealed and the veil is lifted. As I said, the world building was fabulous. The writing was decent as well. The vocabulary wasn’t flowery when it didn’t need to, and that worked well. Since the book was primarily aimed at young adults, it didn’t dwell too much on descriptions, except, of course, to describe the world.

The plot itself was delightful as well. The action didn’t stop once. They’re on the run for their lives from start to finish. Add in a little mystery, betrayal and some nice plot twists, and you have an enjoyable story. I also liked the secondary characters. Each one seemed well-developed, especially since they only appeared briefly – and most of them really added something to the story.

What I didn’t like? Kiana. I know what you’re going to say – how can you enjoy a book when you don’t like the main character? Well, turns out it’s possible. I thought Kiana spend most of the time complaining, and granted, she had every right to complain, but she just complained for all the wrong reasons. She evolved, albeit slowly, but I failed to grasp why, and what exactly triggered her character progress at some points. After her guards have been slaughtered, she seems more interested in the Wolf outcast and making sure he’s all right than in mourning the loss of people whom she knew her entire life. I thought it was a bit odd, as if the deaths of those people were cast aside immediately and meant little to nothing. Her whole character progress seemed a little wonky at times.

However, I can easily forgive the unlikeable main character, since the plo was so good it kept me reading till the end, and the secondary characters made up for a lot of the main character’s failures. If you like epic fantasy and you’re up for something new, try Trinity. In terms of plot and world building, it will definitely not dissapoint.

Book Review: The Ocean and The Hourglass by Dan O’Brien

15012054Title: The Ocean and The Hourglass
Author: Dan O’Brien
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: September 9th 2011
Goodreads | Author Website | B&N | Amazon
Review copy provided by the author in exchange for honest review.

Dreams are not for the faint of heart, they are for the brave to follow.
A Book, an Hourglass.
An adventure into the mind.
Nicholas had always dreamt of faraway places, distant lands beyond imagination. Wandering into the library on a cold day, he finds an adventure that he had not been looking for. Transported to a distant world, Nicholas finds himself involved in sweeping adventures of a broken and lost kingdom. Filled with sea giants and ancient cities, the young man soon finds that the adventure was greater than he could have ever imagined.

The Ocean and The Hourglass features Nicholas, a young, troubled boy who wants nothing more than to escape his daily life, filled with school bullies and an alcoholic mother. He finds solace in the library, until one day the eccentric librarian hands him an empty book and an hourglass to use. However, there are strict rules to use the book and hourglass, and when one day Nicholas doesn’t obey those rules, he finds himself in the middle of a war tearing a magical kingdom apart. Evil lurks around every corner, and Nicholas, referred to by many as “The Prodigy”, along with an eclectic group of friends, is forced to fight the evil and save the kingdom, if he ever wants to get home again.

The story has a LOT of potential. The concept is great, and reminded me of timeless stories like The Chronicles of Narnia and the Inkheart series, and even The Never-Ending Story. The story starts out strong enough as well. Nicholas is a likeable character, and easily relatable for the many bookworms who like to escape our daily reality and hide behind the covers of a book. However, the plot soon falls flat, and becomes unconvincing. The characters fail to come alive, the third person perspective is at times, very odd, since it introduces us to unnecessary characters. At times, we meet characters who are very interesting and necessary for the plot, but we only meet them briefly and then they disappear in the pages of history. I could’ve lived with that if this book was intended for the middle grade crowd, but as it is, Nicholas is a young adult and he behaves like a ten year old most of the time.

Then there’s the plot itself, which…lacked something. There was a sparkle of plot magic at work up to the point when Nicholas travelled to the magical world, and then the magic was lost. There wasn’t enough action to keep me invested in the book, the conflict seemed minimal and sometimes even non-existing. There are plenty of philosophical discussions going on in the book, but I can’t help but wonder if a YA book, or even MG considering the story, would be the perfect place for long, philosophical discussions. I wish the author would’ve left it out in favor of more action and adventure.

If one would cut out the sometimes overly flowery prose and heavy vocabulary and philosophical discussions, the many side characters adding nothing to the story, and would make Nicholas several years younger, one would have an interesting, fun MG novel. As it stands, it’s difficult to classify this book as anything except eclectic.

While I enjoyed the other books by Dan O’Brien that I read, this one didn’t feel right to me. Some of the ideas were too random, and the book wanted to be more than it was intended to. I liked the original plot idea, and the characters of Nicholas, so I gave points for that. It’s not an overly bad book, it just wasn’t for me.

Book Review: Telesa – The Covenant Keeper by Lani Wendt Young

12964326Title: Telesa – The Covenant Keeper
Author: Lani Wendt Young
Genre: YA, Paranormal Romance, Fantasy
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: October 19th 2011
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions.

When Leila moves to her new home, all she wants is a family, a place to belong. Instead she discovers the local ancient myths of the telesa spirit women are more than just scary stories. The more she finds out about her heritage, the more sinister her new home turns out to be. Embraced by a Covenant Sisterhood of earth’s elemental guardians – what will Leila choose? Her fiery birthright as a telesa? Or will she choose the boy who offers her his heart? Daniel – stamped with the distinctive tattoo markings of a noble Pacific warrior and willing to risk everything for the chance to be with her. Can their love stand against the Covenant Keeper?
A thriller-romance with a difference. If you enjoyed Twilight, then you will be enthralled by Telesa as it blends the richness of Pacific mythology into a contemporary young adult love story that will stay with you long after you have turned the final page.

Telesa: The Covenant Keeper is an unique book. Unique, because it doesn’t talk about vampires, werewolves, witches, shapeshifters or mermaids. And it’s still YA Paranormal Romance. That’s enough for me to be instant-read. I’m so tired of clichés that I’d take on anything that offers an unique and original paranormal species. This book offers spirit women instead. Intrigued? Read on.

After her father’s untimely death, Leila is trying to find a place where she belongs, and finding out who she truly is. She travels to Samoa, the home land of her mother, to find out more about her heritage. She tries to start anew, with a new school, new friends and a new, hot, swoonworthy boy to drool over named Daniel. While Leila and Daniel seem like two opposite ends of a stick at first, they quickly realize that the storm brewing between them is in fact chemistry. But the longer Leila spends on the island, the more she’s troubled by secrets from the past and a fire growing inside her heart and soul. When she finds out her mother is still alive, there are questions only her mother knows the answer to. So Leila will have to find the courage to meet the mother she doesn’t know, and to deal with the new relationship slowly developing between her and Daniel.

On top of that, Leila feels a strong connection to the land – one she can’t really explain. The connection may have something to do with ancient mythology and secrets long buried in the folds of history.

I’ve never been Samoa, but the author’s descriptions are very intriguing. I would definitely like to visit there after reading this book. It’s clear from the start that the author did her research well. As I already mentioned, a major plus is the lore. It’s different in this book – unique and compelling, and very well-described. Another major plus was the main character. I think I developed some kind of girl crush on Leila. She’s amazing. She’s so…normal. She behaves in a way that’s so completely like any sane, rational human being would behave, that she had me from the start. It’s difficult to develop a character that’s just spot on, but Lani Wendt Young succeeded in this when she created Leila. She’s stubborn when needs be, emotional when expected, just the right balance of rational and emotional that I could connect with her almost right away.

Then there’s Daniel. He’s swoonworthy in more than one way. I wouldn’t mind going to school with him as well. And even if their relationship was off to a rocky start, I do like Leila and Daniel as a couple. There’s a love triangle thrown in this book as well, but it doesn’t feel redundant for once.

Telesa – The Covenant Keeper is a must-read for fans of YA Paranormal Romance. Especially because of the original paranormal element – people feeling a rare and unique connection to the earth itself – one should definitely read it. The epic couple portraying the protagonists is just a bonus.

Book Review: The Wicked and The Just by J. Anderson Coats

12180253Title: The Wicked and The Just
Author: J. Anderson Coats
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA, Mystery
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: April 17th 2012
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository
Review copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley.

Cecily’s father has ruined her life. He’s moving them to occupied Wales, where the king needs good strong Englishmen to keep down the vicious Welshmen. At least Cecily will finally be the lady of the house.Gwenhwyfar knows all about that house. Once she dreamed of being the lady there herself, until the English destroyed the lives of everyone she knows. Now she must wait hand and foot on this bratty English girl.
While Cecily struggles to find her place amongst the snobby English landowners, Gwenhwyfar struggles just to survive. And outside the city walls, tensions are rising ever higher—until finally they must reach the breaking point.

If you’re a fan of historical fiction novels, then you’ll absolutely love The Wicked and The Just. Set in 13th century Wales, this book is a well-researched, vivid account of daily life for the rich and the poor in Wales when it was occupied by England. What makes this book brilliant and unique is it’s historical correctness, and its main characters. This book is told from the alternating points of view of rich English girl Cecily and her servant, Welsch Gwen.

Cecily is a stuck up brat. She’s not entirely terrible, because she doesn’t intend to hurt people’s feelings by treating everyone she comes across as her servant, but it’s close. I had the feeling that more often than not she was just too preoccupied to worry about other people’s feelings. But Cecily is also pretty hilarious, although she doesn’t try to be. She’s clumsy, downright idiotic at times, and her idea of right and wrong is so messed up I couldn’t help but laugh at her expense. She’s not a likeable character, but I applaud the author for choosing an unlikeable heroine. I didn’t grow to like her by the end, but that still didn’t take out how good this book was, or how much I enjoyed the story. It wouldn’t have been the same if the main character had been someone I could easily like. It’s brave when authors use unlikeable protagonists, but it’s astonishing when they succeed in writing an awesome book featuring said protagonist.

The other main character, Gwen, is the polar opposite. Forced to work for every penny, focused on surviving life day by day, she is hardened by poverty, and has a grim and bitter look on life. But who can blame her? When she’s forced to work as a servant for the stuck up English girl, Cecily, Gwen’s life goes from bad to worse. When the girl’s life begins to interweave, my initial thoughts were they’d become friends. Although they learn to accept each other somewhat along the way, they never make it to friendship and I’m actually relieved. It would’ve been a bit too far-stretched. And not every book needs a happy ending where everyone’s besties and the bad guys have been defeated.

What I enjoyed most about this book besides the story, which is surprising and interesting and has a large number of twists and turns that keep up the pace, is the writing style. It’s spot on. Never too descriptive, never too lyrical, but always spot on. Then why the four and not five stars? At times, I felt like the story dragged on a bit. I would’ve liked more action and drama. But overall, this is a great read, with awesome characters and a historical setting that’s not overused at all.

Book Review: Of Poseidon by Anna Banks

12425532Title: Of Poseidon
Author: Anna Banks
Genre: YA, Paranormal Romance, Mermaids
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: May 22nd 2012
Review copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley.

Galen is the prince of the Syrena, sent to land to find a girl he’s heard can communicate with fish. Emma is on vacation at the beach. When she runs into Galen — literally, ouch! — both teens sense a connection. But it will take several encounters, including a deadly one with a shark, for Galen to be convinced of Emma’s gifts. Now, if he can only convince Emma that she holds the key to his kingdom . . .Told from both Emma and Galen’s points of view, here is a fish-out-of-water story that sparkles with intrigue, humor, and waves of romance.

Of Poseidon is your typical YA paranormal romance story, except now you have to change the vampire/fallen angel/whatever love interest by a siren. A male siren. They’re the current new hype, and okay, I could live with that, if this book was a half-decent story with awesome characters, exciting and original lore and heaps of romantic tension. It’s not, unfortunately. We meet Emma, a girl who possesses a series of Syrena traits, but not all of them. One day on the beach, she accidently bumps into Galen, who turns out to be a prince of the Syrena. The book is told from the alternating POVs of Galen (which is in third person) and Emma (which is in first person). An odd choice from the start, but one that could easily be forgiveable if it wasn’t for…

Chloe. Chloe is Emma’s best friend since the dawn of time. She’s also black, which was an immediate yay for me, since diversity in YA doesn’t happen all too often. So I was glad we’d finally get to have a black best friend. Chloe also seemed like a very fun person, and she genuinely cared about Emma. Then Chloe dies. And it’s not even a huge spoiler, because it happens five minutes or so after we meet her. While swimming, Chloe and Emma are attacked by a shark and Chloe died. It’s actually very sad, but in the book it almost feels comical, especially by how Emma reacts afterward. How about developing an irrational fear for the water after you saw your best friend getting murdered by a shark? Or how about not immediately falling head over heels with the first guy you meet right after your BFF has passed away? Alas, we’re out of luck. Emma is a stereotypical, almost emotionless character. Think Bella. Think worse than Bella. Then you might come close.

Galen is probably even worse. He’s so stereotypical that I could predict his every freaking move. He’s also very controlling, in a bad, unrealistic way. The Syrena are apparently married off to random other Syrena when they reach a certain age. Love in Syrena world? I guess it’s non-existent. When Galen talks about his person life-partner, it sounds like he’s describing a rag doll. Seriously. He made me so angry by his statements about how he’d like a woman who’d never argue with him and agree with everything he said. If you want that, go buy a dog. Dogs don’t argue and they love you even if you’re a two-faced doofus with more than one mental problem. But no. Galen does what he does best: tell Emma what to do, and get all controlling and angry when she doesn’t obey. Not that Emma doesn’t obey all that much. He even tells her they’re going to Florida at a certain point, and he’s taken care of everything. I’d understand this if it was a surprise by him and he was her boyfriend or something (like ‘Look, I booked us a flight to Florida for your birthday because you’ve always wanted to go, and I already talked to your Mom and she thought it was great’). Here, Galen is neither her boyfriend (or at least not for very long) and it’s not a birthday surprise. He basically kidnaps her. Seriously, this is kidnapping in my book.

On top of that, Emma is special. She’s such a special snowflake that I want to rip her heart out and feed it to a shark. Literally. She apparently has the Gift of Poseidon, something rare, bla bla, bla bla, I couldn’t care less. After making her the most annoying protagonist in the history of YA literature, why go and make her even worse? Why freaking make her special? Mary Sue syndrome, anyone?

Special snowflake syndrome, boring, stereotypical protagonists, and oh, did I mention that in general women’s rights are non-existent in Syrena world? I already mentioned the pre-arranged marriages, but hey, a women’s worth is also decided by whether or not they can get pregnant. Oh God. Middle ages, anyone? Even back then women had more rights than female Syrena. No wonder Galen’s sister Rayna runs around being angry at the entire world for more than half of the book. That is, until she sees the guy she was bethrothed to without her consent, kissing another girl, and then she falls head over heels for him. Yes. That kind of crazy, non-realistic behavior happens everywhere in this book.

I’m not sure about Of Poseidon. I want to say I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, but I’m sure some people will like it. I mean, everyone in their pet chihuahua seemed to hate Hush, Hush (for those who don’t know, that’s a YA Paranormal Romance with a fallen angel as male love interest), but I liked it all right. I’m just going to say this wasn’t for me. I’m sure someone out there will like it. If you’re a fan of mermaids, you may want to give it a try. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Starter Day Party Telesa: The Covenant Keeper

telesabanner

I’m hosting a starter day party for the Telesa: The Covenant Keeper Tour.

Tour Schedule

August 31rd: Starter Day Party
@ I Heart Reading

Sept. 1st: Book Excerpt and Giveaway
@ Serenity’s Lovely Reads

Sept. 2nd: Interview
@ The Booklover’s Report

Sept. 3rd: Book Excerpt
@ Library Mosaic

Sept. 4th: Book Review and Excerpt
@ The Solitary Bookworm

Sept. 5th: Guest Post
@ Brenda McCreight’s Blog

Sept. 6th: Interview and Giveaway
@ I Am A Reader Not A Writer

Sept. 7th: Book Review
@ Aliaa El Nashar’s Blog

Sept. 8th: Book Excerpt
@ Nicki J. Markus’ Blog

Sept. 9th: Guest Post
@ Megan Likes Books

Sept. 10th: Book Review
@ I Heart Reading

Sept. 11th: Guest Post
@ C.S. Dorsey’s Blog

Sept. 12th: Book Excerpt and Giveaway
@ Soul Unsung

Sept. 13th: Guest Post and Giveaway
@ Sik Book Reviews

About Telesa: The Covenant Keeper

12964326Title: Telesa – The Covenant Keeper
Author: Lani Wendt Young
Genre: YA Fantasy Romance

When Leila moves to her new home, all she wants is a family, a place to belong. Instead she discovers the local ancient myths of the telesa spirit women are more than just scary stories. The more she finds out about her heritage, the more sinister her new home turns out to be. Embraced by a Covenant Sisterhood of earth’s elemental guardians – what will Leila choose? Her fiery birthright as a telesa? Or will she choose the boy who offers her his heart? Daniel – stamped with the distinctive tattoo markings of a noble Pacific warrior and willing to risk everything for the chance to be with her. Can their love stand against the Covenant Keeper?

A thriller-romance with a difference. If you enjoyed Twilight, then you will be enthralled by Telesa as it blends the richness of Pacific mythology into a contemporary young adult love story that will stay with you long after you have turned the final page.

About the Telesa Trilogy

Lani self-published her second book ‘Telesa: The Covenant Keeper’ as an electronic book in October 2011 – a first for a Samoan author. Telesa is the first book in a Young Adult contemporary Fantasy series set in Samoa and within two months, it had reached number one on the Top Rated Fantasy Romance List on Amazon, the world’s largest e-book distributor. On June 10th 2012, the second book in the series, ‘When Water Burns’ was launched on Amazon, making it to Amazon’s ‘Hot New Releases’ listing within the first 48 hours. Both books 1 and 2 are also available in print books. The third book, ‘The Bone Bearer’ will be released in early 2013.

Lani uses a variety of social media to market, distribute and promote her writing, taking it to a global audience. The multi-visual marketing campaign for Telesa showcased a wide variety of Pacific talent as Lani collaborated with ‘up and coming’ innovators in the fields of photography, film, dance, art design, sports, modeling, bone carving, music, and fashion.

Author Bio

Lani is a Samoan-NZ writer who blogs as a (slightly Demented) Domestic Goddess at Sleepless in Samoa. Her award-winning short fiction has been published in collections in NZ, Australia and the UK. In 2009, Lani was commissioned to research and write her first book, the narrative non-fiction account of the disaster which devastated the islands of Samoa, American Samoa and Northern Tonga. The printing of ‘Pacific Tsunami – Galu Afi’ was funded by the Australian government and all proceeds from the book go to survivors who shared their stories for the project.

Lani is married to Darren Young (who is probably the most patient man alive) and when she’s not writing blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking, getting depressed about a two star book rating on Goodreads, and ecstatic about a rave review on Amazon – she’s the full-time mother to her five fabulous children. (Who are also very patient people)

She won the following awards:

  • 2011 USP Press Fiction Award, ‘Sleepless in Samoa.’ Short story collection.
  • 2010 Commendation Award, Commonwealth Short Story Competition. ‘The Beast that Came from the Sea.’
  • Winner of the 2002 Telecom/National Univ of Samoa Short Story Competition. ‘A Sister’s Story.’

Goodreads | Facebook | Telesa’s Trilogy Fan Page | Twitter | Blog

Purchase from: Amazon | B&N

Book Review: Bitterblue (Graceling Realm #3) by Kristin Cashore

12680907Title: Bitterblue
Author: Kristin Cashore
Genre: YA Fantasy, Romance
Publisher: Dial
Publication Date: May 1st 2012
Goodreads | Author Website

The long-awaited companion to New York Times bestsellers Graceling and Fire.
Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle–disguised and alone–to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.
Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

Kristin Cashore is one of my favorite authors of all time. She has a literary talent that perplexes me and makes me feel more than a little jealous (but in a good way). In Graceling and Fire, the two previous novels in the Graceling Realm series, she crafted a fantasy world so mythical and strange, so different from everything I grew used to as a reader when I talked or heard about fantasy books, that is left me dazzled, mystified and intrigued. She has the rare ability to make her characters come to life on the pages of her novels. They’re multi-dimensional, complex people with a myriad of emotions and issues. I fell in love with Fire, and I liked Katsa a lot as well. Heck, I even liked Bitterblue, who was a side character in Graceling, and now steps up as the heroine of Bitterblue.

The problem is that, if I didn’t know the sheer amount of awesomeness Kristin Cashore is capable of, I probably would’ve rated this book a five. It redefines the standards of YA Fantasy literature, as well as the other Graceling Realm books. It plays with stereotypes and dismisses them, or turns them around and makes them new, fresh and original. Bitterblue still does that, albeit less so. It’s like, in a way, I’ve grown so accostumed to the awesome world that is the Graceling Realm, that it just doesn’t feel that new and shiny anymore.

Another problem with this book, as opposed to others, is the heroine. Katsa was strong, powerful, stubborn and capable of handling almost anything. Fire, although perhaps less powerful, more or less possessed the same traits. Bitterblue not so much. She’s a Queen, but instead of ruling a Kingdom, she’s being ruled by the Kingdom. Her subjects are still only starting to grasp the atrocities King Leck did to them by controlling their minds. They’ve missed out on so much already and went through such turmoil, that it’s left the Kingdom in chaos and despair. The people need a powerful, capable monarch to fix that, but Bitterblue, being a teenage girl who’s own father used the same mind tricks on her he did on others, isn’t up for the role. It takes a journey of self-discovery for her to decide what she needs to do, who she can trust, and what Queen she wants to be. In that aspect, Bitterblue is perhaps the most original of all Kristin Cashore’s main characters. What other book features a teenage Queen set to rule a Kingdom led to depair by her father’s wicked mind-control powers? The premise is astonishing, but the rest falls a bit flat. There’s no magic in this book. I don’t mean that literally. But there was something about the other two books that almost felt magical, and that is lacking here.

Mind you, Bitterblue is far from bad. It’s a very good book. It’s just that its light shines a little less bright when compared to the two previous books by the same author.

The mystery is…not at all that mysterious. At times, I wondered if I even wanted to know. The love affair was great, but could’ve used a bit more screentime. The rest of the story was so-so. There were elements that truly surprised me, and things I saw coming miles away. I also had the feeling the story dragged a bit, especially in the middle.

Bitterblue is a nice addition to the series, and when compared to other books, it shines far above them. Compared to the other books by Kristin Cashore however, it’s a tad bit dissapointing. Characters lacked depth and the plot lacked direction. I’d still recommend it though.

Book Review: The Darkening Dream by Andy Gavin

13447670Title: The Darkening Dream
Author: Andy Gavin
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Vampires
Publisher: Moscherato Publishing
Publication Date: January 10th 2012
Author Website | Goodreads | B&N | Amazon
Review copy provided by the author in exchange for honest review.

The Darkening Dream is the chilling new dark fantasy novel by Andy Gavin, creator of Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter.
Even as the modern world pushes the supernatural aside in favor of science and steel, the old ways remain. God, demon, monster, and sorcerer alike plot to regain what was theirs.
1913, Salem, Massachusetts – Sarah Engelmann’s life is full of friends, books, and avoiding the pressure to choose a husband, until an ominous vision and the haunting call of an otherworldly trumpet shake her. When she stumbles across a gruesome corpse, she fears that her vision was more of a premonition. And when she sees the murdered boy moving through the crowd at an amusement park, Sarah is thrust into a dark battle she does not understand.
With the help of Alex, an attractive Greek immigrant who knows a startling amount about the undead, Sarah sets out to uncover the truth. Their quest takes them to the factory mills of Salem, on a midnight boat ride to spy on an eerie coastal lair, and back, unexpectedly, to their own homes. What can Alex’s elderly, vampire-hunting grandfather and Sarah’s own rabbi father tell them? And what do Sarah’s continuing visions reveal?
No less than Gabriel’s Trumpet, the tool that will announce the End of Days, is at stake, and the forces that have banded to recover it include a 900 year-old vampire, a trio of disgruntled Egyptian gods, and a demon-loving Puritan minister. At the center of this swirling cast is Sarah, who must fight a millennia-old battle against unspeakable forces, knowing the ultimate prize might be herself.

Let’s face it. Vampires are sissies, and have been for the last decade. Ever since the paranormal romance genre introduced us to the vampires in love with our heroes or heroines, vampires have been known as goody-two-shoes, true romantics at heart. We’ve forgotten the roots of these creatures. They’re not meant to fall in love or seduce our main characters. They’re meant to be terrifyingly scary, dark and dangerous, bloodthirsty murderers who maim and kill with a passion. No longer do good and evil overlapse in these creatures of the night. Instead, they’re delightfully evil, returned firmly to their roots in the deepest circles of hell. No sparkling vampires if you read The Darkening Dream, and to be honest, aren’t we all glad for that?

Not only did I find the sheer evilness of the vampires – evil just for sake of being evil, in some cases – utterly refreshing from the tame vampire characters we’ve come to know, I also thought this book offered an intriguing view on ancient folklore, and an unique approach to Salem at the beginning of the twentieth century. The main character, Sarah, isn’t exactly what you’d be looking for in a main character. She doesn’t have the typical attributes we usually seek for in a heroine. The turn of the century is a difficult era for the inhabitants of Salem. On the one side, progress happens more rapidly than it did before. On the other hand, people are keen on holding on to the past they’ve come to know and love. Amidst this constant battle between progress and tradition, one of the most ancient monsters this world knows decides to make an appearance: an ancient vampire, with his mind deadset on destroying everyone who crosses his path.

Sarah and her friends, twins Anne and Sam, become friends with Alex, a boy from Greece. Most of the book is written from Sarah’s POV, and other parts are from Alex’ POV. I liked Alex. He was different. Being a Greek immigrant now living in turn-of-the-century Salem, he had an unique look on things that I very much admired. I also liked his relationship with Sarah, and the growing attraction between them.

The Darkening Dream obviously isn’t something thrown together quickly to come up with a story. This is a bulky novel, well-thought-through from start to end, with an impressive backstory and lore. It wraps together vampirisim, ancient Egypt Gods, a magical horn belonging to an Archangel, warlocks, witches and more. Evil is delightfully evil. The worldbuilding is superb. The author obviously did a lot of research before getting started on this book.

It’s hard to classify this book. It’s YA, the main character is a young adult, but it’s not YA like we’ve come to known. It’s unique, even in this approach. The main characters don’t always act like young adults, and this book has such outstanding source material I have no doubt it could be enjoyed by young adults and adults alike. It’s too large to fit in one age category, just like you can’t easily fit it in one genre.

The only reason I didn’t give this book a five-star rating is that, at times, I found the narrative dragged a bit. I had trouble with some of the descriptions, and at first, I had trouble getting into the story. As soon as I delved further into the book, this changed though. It’s hard to get through the start, but this book gradually gets better, so don’t give up right away.

If you’re a fan of vampires or paranormal romance in general, try out The Darkening Dream. It’s new, refreshing, a major improvement from the YA vampire novels currently out there. It’s very dark, and definitely lives up to its name. There’s romance, horror, suspense, mystery, drama, a historical setting, memorable characters and a big bad you’ll never forget. I hugely recommend this to all fans of paranormal novels or vampire novels.

Book Review: Hallowed (Unearthly #2) by Cynthia Hand

11563110Title: Hallowed (Unearthly #2)
Author: Cynthia Hand
Genre: YA, Paranormal Romance, Angels
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: January 17th 2012
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Review copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley.

For months part-angel Clara Gardner trained to face the raging forest fire from her visions and rescue the alluring and mysterious Christian Prescott from the blaze. But nothing could prepare her for the fateful decisions she would be forced to make that day, or the startling revelation that her purpose—the task she was put on earth to accomplish—is not as straightforward as she thought.
Now, torn between her increasingly complicated feelings for Christian and her love for her boyfriend, Tucker, Clara struggles to make sense of what she was supposed to do the day of the fire. And, as she is drawn further into the world of part angels and the growing conflict between White Wings and Black Wings, Clara learns of the terrifying new reality that she must face: Someone close to her will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.

Hallowed is a tough book to review, because it deals with a lot of difficult topics. It’s certainly a lot more emotional than its prequel, Unearthly, which is great, but also places the characters in difficult situations they may or may not be able to handle. Clara is a part-angel, and that gives her visions of a purpose she must fulfill in life. She’s already fulfilled hers, or at least one of them, but she keeps having recurring dreams that place her at the cemetery, grieving. When it becomes apparent the vision is telling the future, Clara has to find out what’s about to happen and who’s going to die so she can stop it.

While it takes a while for Clara to find out what’s going on, I knew almost immediately. It was very obvious. I didn’t know if this was on purpose or not, but it slightly annoyed me; I wanted to be kept in the dark, just like Clara was. The conflict, of which we’ve seen the roots in Unearthly, now expands rapidly and quickly takes over the entire plot. Black Wings arrive at Clara’s school and watch her every move. With a war slowly growing all around them, Clara and her friends decide it’s time to learn themselves a few new skills.

But in the midst of dealing with it all, Clara must also find a way to keep her growing feelings for Christian in check, considering she’s still Tucker’s girlfriend, and she still loves him. But like all things in Clara’s life, love isn’t easy. It’s complicated, mysterious and more than she could ever hope for.

Hallowed starts out strongly, falls a little flat in the middle, and ends strongly again. I had trouble with how some of the characters behaved. Half of the time I felt like slapping Clara around the head, but then I felt sorry for her and grew to like her somewhat again. This constant like-dislike relationship I had with the main character kept me annoyed for a large part of the book. Also, in Unearthly, I was a big fan of Tucker, but I found myself not liking him all that much in this sequel. In fact, my feelings slowly changed to liking Christian instead. There were definitely some scenes here that gave him major bonus points.

I was also disappointed by how Tucker, the brief times he actually makes an appearance, is portrayed in this book. It’s like he made an one-eighty after Unearthly, turning into a completely different person. He’s childish, immature and shallow at times. Huge dissapointment there.

Plot-wise, this book was all right. I wasn’t blown away, nor was I bored. I enjoyed the plot, but it didn’t strike me as particularly original or intriguing. The side characters were well-developed, but same old, same old. I wanted a bit more originality, a bit more character depth, and a bit more conflict to keep myself intrigued.

Hallowed is a decent sequel to Unearthly. It starts where Unearthly left off, and follows the lives of Clara and her family and friends. If you like YA paranormal romance, feel free to give the Unearthly series a try. The lore behind the Angels is intriguing, at times even refreshing, and the book is well worth reading.

Book Review: Ascend (Trylle Trilogy #3) by Amanda Hocking

11947829Title: Ascend (Trylle Trilogy #3)
Author: Amanda Hocking
Genre: YA, Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Tor
Publication Date: April 26th 2012
Amanda’s Blog | Goodreads

Wendy Everly is facing an impossible choice. The only way to save the Trylle from their deadliest enemy is by sacrificing herself. If she doesn’t surrender to the Vittra, her people will be thrust into a brutal war against an unbeatable foe. But how can Wendy leave all her friends behind…even if it’s the only way to save them?
The stakes have never been higher, because her kingdom isn’t the only thing she stands to lose. After falling for both Finn and Loki, she’s about to make the ultimate choice…who to love forever. One guy has finally proven to be the love of her life–and now all their lives might be coming to an end.
Everything has been leading to this moment. The future of her entire world rests in her hands–if she’s ready to fight for it.

Ascend is the third and final installement in the successful, previously self-published Trylle trilogy by Amanda Hocking. This series sold a million copies before being picked up by a large trade publisher, and in my opinion, it’s obvious why. I previously read and reviewed Switched and Torn, the previous two books in the series, and enjoyed both of them.

Ascend follows the same successful storylines the previous books did, but now reaches a breath-taking climax in the finale. We have Wendy Everly, main character extraordinaire and Princess of Trylle, who now has to take up an entirely new role she never dreamed she’d need to, not this soon. As the number one person standing in the way of the Vittra king taking control of Trylle, she has to wage a war – both a real one, and an internal one. Her friendships are tested, old relationships are put in a different light, and new loves are found.

Wendy grows a lot emotionally in this novel, and it’s great. She grows from a teenager into a young adult, ready to handle difficult situations heads on. She’s always been fiercely loyal, protective and brave, but now those characteristics are enlarged. We see glimpses of the woman she’ll become one day, and I don’t think Trylle could’ve found a better Queen. She doesn’t judge, she sees all humans and trylle as equal, and although she doesn’t think she’s very social herself, she does have a lot of good friends who’d support her through everything and who she’d support as well.

The story itself is great. The plot twists are intriguing, and never predictable. I read this book in one sitting until the wee hours of the morning, which isn’t all too surprising considering how awesome it is. Not only does Wendy truly shine in this novel, so do the secondary characters. I especially liked Tove. He deserves his own series of books. I’d love to read those (hint, hint, Ms Hocking! :P).

My favorite character, besides Wendy, is Loki. He really rocks each scene he appears in. Handsome, devilishly charming and intelligent, he has everything you’d want in a love interest in a YA novel.

The only thing I felt slightly lacking was the ending. I had expected more. But I’ll shut up about it now, so I don’t accidently give out any spoilers.

I don’t want to spoil too much, so I’ll keep this review brief. Ascend is an astonishing, grand, final volume in the Trylle series. It lives up and surpasses its predecessors. The Trylle trilogy is an awesome YA series with a kick-ass heroine, intriguing side characters and a storyline that’ll keep you reading from page one till the end. Don’t miss out on this one!