The Falconer by Elizabeth May

Heiress. Debutant. Murderer. A new generation of heroines has arrived.

Edinburgh, Scotland, 1844

Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was destined for a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s social events – right up until a faery killed her mother.

Now it’s the 1844 winter season and Aileana slaughters faeries in secret, in between the endless round of parties, tea and balls. Armed with modified percussion pistols and explosives, she sheds her aristocratic facade every night to go hunting. She’s determined to track down the faery who murdered her mother, and to destroy any who prey on humans in the city’s many dark alleyways.

But the balance between high society and her private war is a delicate one, and as the fae infiltrate the ballroom and Aileana’s father returns home, she has decisions to make. How much is she willing to lose – and just how far will Aileana go for revenge?

Description taken from Goodreads. 

Julie Kagawa instilled a love of the fae in me and when I heard buzz about this book, I had to check it out.

Honestly, I’m not huge with steampunk, but I will try it–and this book’s steampunk elements were fantastic. I loved the way that Aileana works with her weapons and the designs she comes up with throughout the course of this story. The fight scenes were also written very well. It’s really just how well this book is written and how the unique themes are handled that really dragged me into this story. The narration, the voice of Lady Kameron, these two things worked in perfect unison to bring the story to life.

The flaw to this book was the romance. Specifically the love triangle. More specifically the love interests. Even more specifically, the true root of the issue, Aileana. Visual: love triangle>love interests>Aileana.

I didn’t really feel that the love interests were all that fleshed out in this story. I just barely got a feel for who Gavin and Kiaran are. I feel like I only see Gavin on one level, the friend and fiancé to Aileana level. And then you get to Kiaran, who is by far the better fleshed out of the two–which isn’t very much. He isn’t the typical bad boy  character, because in fact, he doesn’t seem to care about Aileana at all. Which is fine by me.

So you can see how the love triangle is so messed up here.

Overall, I did like this story a lot. The characters were the only thing that threw me off (hand in hand with the romance) but since this is a series, I hope to see more fleshed out natures of the characters in the books to come. The ending is also great in that IT IS A CLIFFHANGER. It’s cause to celebrate and silently curse Elizabeth May because I really want to see what happens in the next book, but it’s also been awhile since I read a book with a cliffhanger ending and so I will silently thank Elizabeth May.

inner conflict gif

3 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 378

Six Months Later by Natalie D. Richards

She has everything she’s ever wanted. But not her memory…

When Chloe fell asleep in study hall, it was the middle of May. When she wakes up, snow is on the ground and she can’t remember the last six months of her life.

Before, she’d been a mediocre student. Now, she’s on track for valedictorian and being recruited by Ivy League schools. Before, she never had a chance with super jock Blake. Now he’s her boyfriend. Before, she and Maggie were inseparable. Now her best friend won’t speak to her.

Description taken from Goodreads. 

To say the least, SIX MONTHS LATER has a great mystery. Sure, the whole book is a little drawn out, but I loved the mystery here. For some reason, I kept on comparing it to the feel of Far From You by Tess Sharpe (maybe because that was the last hugely mystery based book that I’ve read…) but the mystery here was far better done than FAR FROM YOU. I do have to admit I cared more about the supporting characters in FAR FROM YOU than I did here, but I did like the main character in SIX MONTHS LATER more than in FAR FROM YOU.

When it came down to things like plotting and the whole memory loss scheme, the poor pacing brought the whole book down–but not too much. I did like the way that the plot unfolded and the way that I was able to clearly see just how broken Chloe’s life had become and how different it was. One thing about that–I really wished that her friendship with Maggie was focused on a little more around the time that they got back together, because I wanted to know a little more about them, why they broke up, why Maggie was so upset that even as an ex-best friend, she wouldn’t call back her old best friend the first time when she sounded so panicked and out of it.

And Maggie. I liked her, but I mean–the visual I had of her was the stuttering girl from Good Luck Charlie. Seriously. That’s not a good image to have.

I did like the ending though and I thought that Adam’s crucial role in this story not only as a love interest but also as a person and a friend was awesome to see. It made me enjoy his character even more. As for Blake though, I wished there was a better dynamic between him and Chloe. Even for a second I wished that Chloe could act like Blake is the guy she thinks he is, the guy of her dreams. She’s been crushing on this guy since forever and all of a sudden she has him and can’t even act like his girlfriend?

Other than the indifference and coldness when it came to Blake, I think that Richards did a good job with the whole memory loss scheme. I don’t think it was pulled off as cleanly as J.A. Sounders’s RENEGADE, but it was done well and I liked the fact that Chloe wasn’t alone in it and that she was able to tell a few people. I also appreciated that fact that she does eventually get her memory back and the reasons for losing it, as well as the suspense and mystery themes, were well-done, creepy and believable.

This mystery ties up nicely and there wasn’t anything spectacularly bad about it, which was nice to see and I enjoyed Richard’s writing. If anything, I wanted the pace cleaned up a little bit and made a bit faster, but overall this was a good read and a good mystery. I didn’t love the cover, but for those interested in reading it, it doesn’t disappoint. 3 stars.

pg count for the paperback: 323

Cold Spell by Jackson Pearce

Kai and Ginny grew up together–best friends since they could toddle around their building’s rooftop rose garden. Now they’re seventeen, and their relationship has developed into something sweeter, complete with stolen kisses and plans to someday run away together.

But one night, Kai disappears with a mysterious stranger named Mora–a beautiful girl with a dark past and a heart of ice. Refusing to be cast aside, Ginny goes after them and is thrust into a world she never imagined, one filled with monsters and thieves and the idea that love is not enough.

If Ginny and Kai survive the journey, will she still be the girl he loved–and moreover, will she still be the girl who loved him?

Description taken from Goodreads.

I think that COLD SPELL could definitely grow to become my favorite  Jackson Pearce. There was so much to this book that was just spectacular, the characters in particular. I’ve read many retellings of THE SNOW QUEEN, all of them fairly disappointing in one way or another. The thing is, they’re all just so similar. Even with other retellings, I usually don’t see that. I had hoped that Jackson Pearce would be able to serve up something a little more unique and her style, and I was not disappointed.

I think the most powerful thing about this book is not the characters in general or the plot or what Pearce did with the story, even though those things are great, to be sure. What I thought was the best in this book was the relationships between the characters. I loved the way that the story started out with the story of Kai’s grandmother, the love of her life disappearing with a mysterious woman in a snowstorm–never to see him again. There were lots of great mystery and suspense elements from the beginning, which kept me hooked on the story.

One thing I didn’t love in this story was how Kai and Ginny’s relationship started out. Kai is portrayed as being some sort of genius, and I respect that, but through their relationship all I really felt was that Ginny was dragging him down. I didn’t enjoy her personality much either. I think that was part of the whole point though, because I ended up really enjoying how Ginny turned out.

The blurb on Goodreads does a great job of showing the growth in this story that comes over Ginny as she goes on a huge quest to save Kai–meeting fantastical characters along the way who teach her lessons I didn’t think she would be able to learn. In many stories, I think it’s less about where your characters start out or end up, and more about how they grow along the way–and Jackson Pearce’s COLD SPELL was a perfect embodiment of this growth.

The main vein of this plot is straight up snow queen style. It’s completely apparent and yet, with her writing, Pearce is able to weave an entirely new story. I think that this is by far my favorite book of hers for the writing by itself.

There wasn’t much about this book that I didn’t love and looking back, I think that if anyone were to ask me which of Jackson Pearce’s books should they read (if they only wanted to read one), I would answer COLD SPELL for sure. Fans of Pearce will not be disappointed. There were many great elements to this book and I hope to see more like this from Pearce in the future. The only problem with this book that I had was that I wished the ending had been a little more drawn out. I’ll stop as to not give away spoilers, but I felt like it was a little rushed. Anyway, 4.3 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 323

Series: Fairy Tale Retellings #4

Firecracker by David Iserson

Being Astrid Krieger is absolutely all it’s cracked up to be.

She lives in a rocket ship in the backyard of her parents’ estate.

She was kicked out of the elite Bristol Academy and she’s intent on her own special kind of revenge to whomever betrayed her.

She only loves her grandfather, an incredibly rich politician who makes his money building nuclear warheads.

It’s all good until…

“We think you should go to the public school,” Dad said.
This was just a horrible, mean thing to say. Just hearing the words “public school” out loud made my mouth taste like urine (which, not coincidentally, is exactly how the public school smells).

Will Astrid finally meet her match in the form of public school? Will she find out who betrayed her and got her expelled from Bristol? Is Noah, the sweet and awkward boy she just met, hiding something?

Description taken from Goodreads.

So the first thing you can probably deter from the blurb is that Astrid is a brat. She’s a genuine witch who doesn’t change much throughout the course of the story–which I did feel badly about because I wanted to see her grow more (isn’t that the whole point of stories like these?)–but she’s hilarious, which is the upside to it all and also something I can’t overlook.

There is so much to this story that made me laugh. It’s actually quite frustrating, because I wanted to hate Astrid so much. She’s irritating, mean, selfish and lives the whole book with the mentality that she’s better than everyone else.

new girl gifs cool face sarcasm

And of course she’s rich too.

I'm so rich funny gif

See, the thing is, I figure public and private high school can go one of two ways for anyone, and this mentality applies to most things. It can either suck, or suck less. Things like the scale of how much less suck there is doesn’t really matter. It’s really a matter of perspective. I wasn’t quite sure how things would go for Astrid, because how much high school sucks for her didn’t appear to be a popularity thing or an academic thing or a musical/elective thing. If anything, the humiliation of having to go to public school was the worst. That, and being surrounded by people she can’t control. Oh, the horror.

welcome to the real world gif

If you’re easily offended, this book is not for you. Let me reiterate that, because this book is worth it if you’re going after a good laugh, a fun story and imperfect but real characters.

this book is not for you

All in all, this was an amusing, hilarious story that had decent characters and a decent storyline. I would’ve liked to see a lot more emotion and growth in the characters and an evolution throughout the story, but I did like where Astrid and friends ended up and while I felt like I should’ve hated Astrid, I didn’t. A solid 3.5 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 336

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper’s destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can’t get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she’s charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper’s least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David’s own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

Description taken from Goodreads.

So here’s a wildly unpopular opinion for you: I didn’t love Rachel Hawkin’s HEX HALL series. I got about eighty pages in to the first book and didn’t read the rest. The main character of the HEX HALL series just didn’t cut it for me, and it’s not like I’m really into paranormal in the first place.

Honestly, I can’t say whether I think people will enjoy or won’t enjoy this book. I was in the middle. I think that because I didn’t love the HEX HALL series, it was easier for me because I came in not really caring. I didn’t know what to expect. All around, I do think this book is worth a shot because if you are a Hex Hall fan, I’m sure you’ll be eager for more of Hawkins’s writing. If you aren’t a Hex Hall fan or haven’t read the books, well, REBEL BELLE is attractive, has good writing and a unique premise.

The thing is that I feel like Hawkins captured the personality exactly of what I expected Harper to be like. Haughty, arrogant, somewhat shallow, somewhat stupid in a “it’s common sense, c’mon” way, that’s what I expected her to be like and in my mind, that’s exactly what I got. Those are her defining traits and even though I didn’t like David either because of what a jerk he was especially in the beginning, I pitied David because he had to put up with her “slightly superior” self.

The action in this was okay, at the very least and the very most. The whole book has this sluggish feel to it, mostly–I feel–because of the contemporary start. The fighting scenes are good, but still felt a little dragged down and not as intense as many of the fighting scenes I’ve seen, even in contemporary-fantasy fiction. The adventure, mystery and paladin themes were quirky and hard to understand but it was still a cool concept and I liked the way David and Harper had to learn to work together and eventually became a couple. I’m still on the fence about how I feel about them in a romance, but I feel like Harper and David both grew due to it so I’m open to it.

Overall, the plot and pacing to this were thrown off–but I was entertained by the story overall. Pacing got a little faster and a lot more stable towards the end of the book and things only got better after the initially rocky beginning. I would like to see more of where the book was going when it ended in the next books, because it is going in a good direction. I’d also love to see more growth in the characters, because Harper, David and countless other supporting characters were just really shallow for me, but overall 3 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 345

Series: Rebel Belle

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her “uncle” Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf’s, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can’t stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can’t help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she’s been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she’s always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

Description taken from Goodreads. 

Another review from the YA Valentines authors! This time, it’s Anne Blankman, author of the historical fiction PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG. You might’ve read my interview with her during my 14 Debuts event. Let’s start out with the main fault to this book though so that the rest of this review will make sense.

This book is a huge info-dump. I think the hardest part about reading historical fiction is the balance between history and fiction, and that’s one thing that’s not done well here. If you’re a history nerd, you will love this book because of the sheer amount of information on every single page. This book revolves around the fact that’s historical, and while that’s not a bad thing, it’s also not a good thing. I will give PRISONER credit for one thing though, the world-building and research is excellently done.

Other than that, there were two main faults attributed with this one ^, and it had to do with the mystery being too drawn out and the plot starting to get repetitive right around the middle.

Now to the good stuff. Besides the whole information overload, I loved how entertaining this was. Gretchen felt real to me and the struggles she went through, the fears she faced and the triumphs she felt were all awesome experiences. I really appreciated her relationship with her father and mother, her brother and especially her “Uncle” Dolf. If you want to read about more relationships like Gretchen’s with the fictional Adolf Hitler, you should read GATED by Amy Christine Parker.

GATED is about a girl named Lyla who lives in a religious cult under a psychotic leader named Pioneer. Pioneer claims her family and the others who live in their community are the chosen, destined to be led by Pioneer who is directed by a higher power (or so he says) into a save haven that will protect them from the end of the world. In both this book and PRISONER, the authors do amazing jobs of showing just how deep these their heroines are, and how much they truly believe in the person who is guiding them the wrong way. This was fascinating for me to see again and I really loved that about the writing of this book. You can read more of my thoughts on Gated in my review.

So many of the characters in PRISONER I truly cared about, or loved to hate. The romance was good. I liked seeing Gretchen’s motivations and just how human she was. The writing was also great. There are many quotable passages and the pacing only got faster and faster, which was a good thing for me.

Overall, I did like this book. I would say 3.5 stars. The heavy scenes were not so incredibly heavy that I couldn’t plow through them, and the quality writing and world building made up for some of the overdose in knowledge. I do hope to see more historical fiction from Anne Blankman, and I would love to see how she grows as a writer from here on out. I will definitely be following up with her books.

pg count for the hardback: 401

Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog

The Paper Sword by Robert Priest: Great Fantasy, Storytelling and Plot — For Fans of the King Arthur Legends and Greek Myths

On the spell-crossed Phaer Isle, teenage Xemion dreams of being a great swordsman. When he finds a blade-shaped stick, he fashions it to look like a real sword. Knowing that the laws of their cruel Pathan conquerors would require a death sentence for possession of such an object, his friend Saheli demands he destroy it. He agrees, but insists on performing just one sword ceremony. When his mastery of the weapon, a skill long forgotten, is witnessed by a mysterious man named Vallaine, the two friends are invited to join a planned rebellion. At first they refuse, but when a sadistic official discovers their transgressions, they are forced to embark on a dangerous journey to the ruins of the ancient city of Ulde, where rebel forces are gathering.

Armed with only their wits and the painted sword, they face Thralls, Triplicants, dragons, rage-wraiths, and a host of other spell-crossed beings. As they approach the Great Kone, source of all spell-craft, Saheli’s fear of magic and Xemion’s attraction to it bind them in a crossed spell of their own â?? one that threatens to separate the two forever.

One thing about this book particularly stuck out to me from the very beginning. The fantasy.

From the world-building to the descriptions to the creatures within this magical world, I absolutely loved every second of learning about it. It definitely heads the more traditional fantasy route, so fans of Greek mythology stories will love this book and all that comes along after it. The storytelling is great as well, really adding onto and building up on the adventure parts to THE PAPER SWORD.

Which leads me to, well, the paper sword.

The paper sword confused me in the beginning. In the first few pages of THE PAPER SWORD, a lot is portrayed both in the sword and in Xemion. While taking care of the sword, Xemion shows off a lot of different sides to himself. His fearless nature, naivety, childishness, patience and care are all shown in the simple acts to finding the sword, getting the sword, making the sword and wanting to keep the sword. In all of that as well,  Priest displayed Saheli and her relationship to Xemion before and after the sword. I felt like these few beginning parts were extremely crucial to the story and in all the roles it played, it did really well. It set the tone for the rest of THE PAPER SWORD, and the rest of it continued the same way. That is, with careful and meaningful narration.

As a fantasy read, I really enjoyed this book and the events that Xemion went through. While the storytelling is that of the Greek myths, Xemion himself seems to me like a King Arthur character and I truly enjoyed his journey of growing up and learning to use the sword. The pacing in THE PAPER SWORD speeds up or slows down accordingly as well. Though some scenes were hard to follow or I felt could’ve been tightened more, overall, 3.5 stars.

pg count for the paperback: 224

Series: Spell Crossed