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NICOLE'S REVIEW: The Falconer by Elizabeth May

The Falconer: Book 1 - Elizabeth May

Michelle and I have been looking forward to reading this book for a long time. To actually receive an eARC for this...well, you can just imagine the squealing and the crying and the howling. But, my friends, I'm afraid The Falconer did not really live up to our expectations. It's an okay read, don't worry, it just fell short.

Lady Aileana Kameron is the subject of scandal and gossip and suspicion at every ball she attends. It's not something she can help though, because just a year ago she was found next to the bloodied body of her mother who died of -alleged- animal attack. Aileana knows the truth, and it wasn't an animal that killed her mother but a fae. Hell bent on revenge, she completely sheds her debutante persona and turns into a cold-hearted, merciless killer. Her target? Any fae she can get her hands on. Her partner Kieran, who is also fae, trains her to fight and maim and kill his own kind for reasons unknown of course. 

I think the author was able to portray Aileana's grief and sorrow and anger in such a way that it was actually believable. Nothing wrong with that, right? But somewhere along the way, that's all there was to Aileana. Her anger, her vengeance. I don't mind the violence and the graphic descriptions of her kills but seriously it got to a point where I was just like "I get it. You're mad. On with the story, please?" Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against angry heroines but reading about someone who's angry all the time makes me angry too. I don't like being angry.

Moving on to the romance, which involves a love triangle, Aileana has Kieran on one side Gavin on the other. Who's Gavin? Oh just her childhood friend. He's her childhood crush; handsome, smart and he's wealthy to boot. He's perfect, just perfect. Now Kieran is your typical brooding, angsty bad boy who can strike a chord in women and turn them into touch-crazed animals. Okay. I might be exaggerating a bit but you get the gist. He's every woman's fantasy. (I was planning on adding something more vulgar but my co-blogger is lurking) How's a girl to choose? Can I also mention that these two are highly suspicious? Creeping around, keeping secrets and the like.

Aside from Aileana's relationship with the men in her life, there's also her relationship with the little pixie named Derrick who lives in her closet, loves honey and is a general nuisance; and her best friend Catherine; and her distant father who wants to marry her off. Life's a blast for Aileana. She's got to find a balance between her life as daughter of a peer, her various social obligations and her quest for vengeance. Not to mention she's stuck in a love triangle plus trouble with pesky faeries out to kill her.

I also want to take some time to warn you guys about that cliffhanger. Cue heavy signing - just when the action was getting started and things seemed to be progressing it just had to get cut off. Oh well. The book is still an okay read.

I'd recommend this book for people who are looking to ease themselves into steampunk/faery books or maybe for those who just want a quick fantasy read.

MICHELLE'S REVIEW: Infinite Sky by C.J. Flood

Infinite Sky  - C.J. Flood

You know those kinds of novels where you just keep reading these almost "normal" narrations, but then you find yourself get gutted (and heart-wrenchingly wounded) time and time again? C. J. Flood's Infinite Sky is exactly like that.

Right in the beginning of her pubescent years, Iris is learning how to cope with an angry brother, a distant father, and the non-presence of a mother who would rather see the world. Her horizons are further broadened when she meets Trick, the son of the Gypsy household that settles illegally on their land. Iris' father won't allow their presence on his land, so how he reacts when he finds out Iris and Trick's secret and forbidden friendship is not surprising. Out in the fields, under the stars, not everyone can see just how limiting life can usually be... Except for Iris and Trick.

Infinite Sky does make use of British slang, so for people who aren't really used to them might find some details incomprehensible. I must admit that I was a bit off-put sometimes because I just couldn't get the hang of it, but nevertheless, the almost unintentional prose really pushed me to keep reading. Infinite Sky actually has a simple storyline, and probably because of its non-embellishments, it kind of works. In a way, it captured Iris' curiosity for the world as well as the beginning changes in her "journey to womanhood" (I hate this phrase I coined, but if the shoe fits, yeah?) and the tremulous relationships within their family and with the much-shunned Gypsy family. The first bloom of romance is very tender and sweet, and it was like that with Iris and Trick.

To sum it up, this is the kind of book that you reach for when you feel bogged down by weighty matters. At the end of the book, readers will end up surmising about life, and the more serious problems we ignore on a day-to-day basis.

Fans of Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere will undoubtedly find a familiar, yet younger soul in Infinite Flood's Iris.


NICOLE'S REVIEW: Renegade by Debra Driza

Renegade - Debra Driza

On the run from General Holland and the Vita Obscura, Mila has somehow managed to rope Hunter into her plans under the guise of looking for her real father - with nothing but the name "Richard Grady" to lead the way. Along the way, Mila unveils secrets related to her creation, her real parents and she also has to deal with the sneaking suspicion that Hunter isn't exactly who he seems.

Now for this baby, the first half is actually rather disappointing. It's basically about Mila and Hunter on the run. Mila's all confused and stressed out about telling Hunter that she isn't a normal girl. She's actually not human at all, she's an android with programmed emotions.  I actually spent a lot of time imagining myself shaking Mila and telling her to just spit it out because I couldn't take her indecision. I get that it's a big decision and she just wants to have someone to talk to for a while longer but seriously, her life was in danger and she could only think about her loneliness? What about your life? And where's the action I was promised?

Mila and Hunter's relationship take up a lot of the second book and it was quite annoying because I wanted Mila to use her android powers and kick some butt. I wanted Mila to just tell Hunter the truth about herself and go find out her origin story. I didn't want them to be on a seemingly endless road trip acting like nothing's going to come after them and disrupt their seemingly perfect calm. I want to know why the Vita Obscura's out for her and I really want to see her beat the crap out of her twin.

Suffice to say it was quite tiring to read this book and it was only around the second half or rather the last third of the book where things started to pick up. There were a few action scenes and those secrets that her mother kept were all aired out now. Mila also makes a really life changing decision that will definitely affect the tone of the next book. 

But the way this book ended does make me want to pick up the third book. Because after Mila's big decision, what's going to happen to her and Hunter's relationship? What of the Vita Obscura and Holland? You know. Things like that. 


NICOLE'S REVIEW: The Taking by Kimberly Derting

The Taking - Kimberly Derting

Books with aliens are few and far between (those that actually manage to pique my interest) and decent alien books that I've read? I could count them on one hand. 

The Taking has promise - it has an interesting plot that involves memory gaps and alien abduction and human experimentation plus mention of super powers. Cool, right? It all went downhill when the romance was added and I had to resist banging my head up against the wall or throwing my iPad at someone. 

The last memory she had was of the fight with her father, stepping out of the car after a temper tantrum and the light. The bright light. Then nothing. Kyra lost five years of her life to who knows what and coming home and finding out that everything's changed? Not the easiest thing to deal with. Her father and mother are separated, Austin's gone off with her best friend and Tyler, Austin's younger brother, is pretty hot and she's got the tingles for him. But when strange things start to happen, Kyra has no choice but to give her father's crazy theory about alien abduction some credit. Especially when strange people appear on her doorstop overly interested by her five year disappearance.

See, the plot's not that bad. It just got overshadowed by the romance. Meaning to say that the story was focused more on the romance with a little alien stuff thrown in. Maybe a little grand theft auto and some blood. But let's talk about the romance since it is, obviously, my biggest peeve about this book.

You see, before Kyra was abducted, there was Austin. Austin was her childhood best friend, he's hot, he's handsome, he's everything Kyra wants and she is determined to never be separated from him. Who cares about all those wonderful opportunities at the big league universities if she's got this hot boyfriend right? Oh Kyra, you fool. That's the argument Kyra and her dad were having before she got abducted. So we've established that Austin is perfect, okay? Moving on.

When Kyra gets back after five years, Austin went off with her best friend to university and it was pretty obvious how heartbroken and angry she was. I was irritated because Austin seemed like a good guy and then, after five years, he's turned into this massive jerk? Apologizing to Kyra for his own sake? I don't know. I mean a lot can change in five years but from the very start Austin was never a jerk, so why now? It just didn't sit so well with me.

Now, as mentioned Austin has a little brother named Tyler. He was twelve when Kyra got taken but now he's seventeen and apparently he's also fair game. He's been in love with Kyra since forever too. What is so great about Kyra? I don't get it. The Taking is all about Kyra and her relationship with this guy. Things moved too fast and she easily dismissed her problems because some boy drew her stuff using chalk on pavement. He's hot, looks like Austin, so why not right?

Aside from too much romance, I didn't like how everything was so easy for Kyra. Chased by bad guys? Not to worry some, random alien guy who's been tracking you for months steps in to save the day. Not to mention the fact that she has powers that the other hybrids don't which makes her even more special.

Kyra is not special. She's just a lovelorn teenager who's more obsessed with her boyfriend than she is with her safety and the safety of those she loves. I'm sorry, this book is a disappointment. Jennifer L. Armentrout's Lux series sees more alien action than this.


[Blog Tour] Killer Instinct by S.E. Green

Killer Instinct - S.E. Green

Meet Lane, she's a normal teenager -maybe on the outside - with an unhealthy obsession with serial killers. Why? Because she might be one. She's fascinated with how they think, how they work and what makes them tick. She's got an itch - killing someone - that she's always wanted to scratch and when an opportunity presents itself you can bet she's not gonna turn it down. But when she starts investigating into "the Decapitator", a serial killer at large, she comes across secrets regarding her past. Add to that the weird text messages she's been receiving threatening her and her family? She's definitely not going to let anyone get away with that. It might be time to give into her dark side.

When I started reading this book, I had a good feeling about it because the tone was reminiscent of Dexter. Doesn't that summary send delicious chills running down your spine? It's always a good thing. But as the story progressed that good feeling started to fade, only to be replaced by a whole lot of confusion and mild annoyance. Disappointing, because I really wanted to like this book.

It's around page 58 where I finally realized that I don't understand Lane at all. She ticks all the boxes on the serial killer list - uncaring, intelligent, tortured past, clinical view of the world around her - and it would have been okay if it weren't for a case of tell instead of show. But I thought I could deal with that, sociopaths/psycopaths are an interesting breed and it's not the easiest thing to write from the perspective of one. Although I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed that Lane ended up being a vigilante instead. I think it'd be interesting to see Lane give into her urges.

So I thought that hey, maybe the plot and the story itself would make up for my issues with Lane. Guess what? I was wrong. I mean don't get me wrong, it's a good story and it has potential but the plot was chock-full of things that, in my opinion, were kind of forced. I don't get Zach and his importance to Lane, aside from being a victim, and her sort-of-but-not-really love interest. I thought she didn't care about trivial matters like love? Or how random it is that she has this friend who's a super hacker, and oh by the way they met at summer camp? What a coincidence. And the way she just randomly solves crimes in between hunting for the Decapitator. It's like Criminal Minds except she's just one girl with no team of skilled professionals to back her up.

Suffice to say, the long, winding road to the conclusion of this novel was quite confusing. I couldn't guess who the serial killer was and it did come as a surprise but I was left feeling "eh". It didn't leave that much of an impact and I was left with a feeling of dissatisfaction. Although I will admit that at one point I was suspecting everyone around her of being the Decapitator. There were so many twists and turns and loops that in the end it sort of became a whole jumbled mess of lies and convoluted half-truths and messy, bloody deaths.

If you want your serial killer fix maybe check out Barry Lyga's I Hunt Killers or you should just try watching Dexter. Or Criminal Minds. My personal favorite though is Hannibal.


[Blog Tour] Scan by Walter Jury, Sarah Fine

Scan - Sarah Fine, Walter Jury

Tate has no idea why his dad insists upon him being perfect. With only his loving girlfriend as his sanctuary, Tate is emotionally distant from a father who spends most of his time developing inventions that Tate could not understand. What starts as a prank when he brings one of his dad's inventions to school turns into an action-filled chase resulting in his father's death, and him discovering that the world has been infiltrated by human-looking aliens... and that what he's holding in his hands could potentially start a war millions do not know that they're part of.


The ball starts rolling pretty quick when Tate sneaks into his father's supposedly secret workroom and brings to school one of his shiny, albeit "useless", inventions. All hell inevitably breaks loose, and immediately, readers are taken on a wild romp with Tate and his super girlfriend, Christina, as they try to outwit, outsmart, and outrun the aliens who wouldn't hesitate to kill them for the invention.

I did like Tate's predilection for making science seem cool with all the makeshift inventions of his own in lieu or boring firearms, and how well he works with Christina in tandem. While she is the girlfriend who just gets roped into this whole mess, Christina is very level-headed and it almost seems like she's used to being chased down by homicidal aliens. Tate's need for proof, or at least a hint, of his father's love is bittersweet, as readers would find out for themselves in the book.

Fast-paced and quite riveting this book may be, Scan felt overly long sometimes, which I can't fault it for since I am not an action flick kind of girl. And while I did like the characters, it did feel like there wasn't enough of their characters shining through that made them tangible or corporeal-like to me.


Scan would undoubtedly appeal to huge fans of alien-themed action movies. I like my alien movies mostly rom-com (like Stephenie Meyer's The Host, no judging please) so I probably wasn't the best audience for this. Scan was nonetheless quite interesting to read, if only because I, too, won't be surprised if aliens actually live amongst us, and because I didn't realize that I can pelt out predators with oranges in the event that I'm near a grocery. (Thanks, Tate.)


[Blog Tour] Resistance by Jenna Black

Resistance - Jenna Black

Against her will, Nadia is sent to a "spa" to keep the heat off her family and to their family name. Nate doesn't know that Nadia is in seclusion, and Nadia knows that she is useless when the real battle is outside... Until an ally steps in to inform her about the new developments in Nate's life. Nate, on the other hand, finds himself in a stickier situation, what with politics and love and familial duties and ties entangling themselves into a web where he finds a bigger conspiracy that no one is really quite prepared for.

If you think Replica (the first book) was pretty good, Resistance is even better. Replica only skimmed the surface of the conspiracy, so we were really impressed at how bigger Black makes this ruse out to be without sacrificing too much credibility. While things may have come to a certainly roundabout way, both Nadia's and Nate's characters have grown and their resolve is no longer as shaky and conflicted as before.

We like that not only has Nadia cemented herself as a kickbutt girl (We knew the girl had it in her since book one!) in Resistance, but Nate isn't so much as the hang-back-and-let-Nadia-worry-about-it Nate here. He's actually testing his limits and control, which makes us proud of him.

Another thing we have to love about Resistance is the pacing, there's never a dull moment in this book and it's full of action packed scenes. Nate and Nadia have matured a lot and have to make a lot of hard decisions. We totally approve of Black's willingness to put her characters through one catastrophe after the other. 


In Resistance, everything is falling into place - the plot, the characters, the conspiracy. It's an interesting roller coaster of suspense and action with romance throw in. Plus points to that because it's not forced at all and we kind of wish that Nadia's romance with this spy flourishes. (And we're pretty grateful that the revolution isn't run by a bunch of teenagers this time.)


MICHELLE'S REVIEW: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

A Mad, Wicked Folly - Sharon Biggs Waller

Vicky would like to offer her apologies for having offended the more delicate sensibilities of the ton by posing nude for her art class, but she knows that she will do it again in a heartbeat if it meant she could continue her craft. Vicky wants more to life than just the splendid dresses and handsome suitors - she wants to leave her legacy by becoming a full-fledged artist, something that no one but Will, the police constable, can understand. It is a changing world in 1909 London, where women are fighting for their rights as equals, and it is the same world where Vicky must decide if her desires and ambitions can trump everything that she's ever known.

There's just something so deliciously wicked about Vicky, that I couldn't help but want to become her friend just after a few chapters. She's determined, ambitious, but also funny - albeit unintentionally - and just positively bursting with life; traits in a young lady that the 1909 London high society just cannot tolerate. Vicky is hellbent on being an artist, and if it means that having to marry charming but selfish Edmund Carrick-Humphrey will be the gateway to her freedom, then so be it. Her plans are, however, thwarted when she finds a muse in the most unlikely of places, and that her college application may or may not be further strengthened by making caricatures and painting murals for the suffragette movement. Vicky is the kind of friend that your parents may not approve of, but she's exactly the kind of friend you'd want to keep around because she makes everything an adventure. Trouble certainly follows Vicky around as she is often caught at the wrong place at the wrong time, but it's decidedly what makes the novel come alive and take a mind of its own. Vicky's burgeoning romance with the handsome police constable, Will, is just as equally delicious, what with her amusing thoughts and their innocent, yet highly flammable touches.

I also liked reading about the suffragette movement, as it undoubtedly caused a major wave of panic. Where women were initially perceived as frail, fragile things - yes, things, possessions, to be exact - London is seeing a change in the tide where women are rallying for the same rights as men! This is a movement perfect for Vicky who faces her problem with the same endearing and passionate If the men can do it, then so can I! cavalier attitude.

READ this if you love historical fiction with a passion. READ this if you are all for a protagonist who although is deeply in love with a charming young man, will still stick to her guns about her wants and dreams in life. READ this if you want to be entertained by a lovely, spirited young woman who heralds the change of times in London. READ this if you delicious stories about love, art, and the power of passion!

Which is, you know, practically me falling all over myself to urge you to pick this up and prepare to be swept away. A Mad, Wicked Folly offers a rollicking good time peppered with just the right amount of romance and ambition.

I cannot wait for more books from this splendid author.


MICHELLE'S REVIEW: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse (Winner's Trilogy, #1) - Marie Rutkoski

After having read a lot of books that have been hyped to the point of no return, I must admit I was torn between two feelings when I spotted a copy at our local bookstore. First, I was excited, and then I was terrified. "What if I end up not liking this book after I spent so many months coveting it?" I remember half-whispering to my co-blogger as I adoringly stroked the gorgeous cover at the bookstore.

My dismal - and panicky- thoughts were quelled, however, when I was just a chapter in. As of late, I could pretty much predict the overall rating of the book based on the first few chapters alone, having had only a few who changed my ratings. In this case, I was all smiles as I settled in with this book, never mind the fact that I should have been hurriedly packing my luggage for my vacation.

In one fell swoop, The Winner's Curse won me over with its fantastic, well-paced plot, splendid multi-faceted characters, and seductive thralls of power, danger, and love. 

As Kestrel's seventeenth birthday looms, she is given two choices: she either joins the military, or she must find herself wedded. Neither of the options are truly appealing to Kestrel, whose musical abilities are an eccentricity only overlooked because of her status as the general's daughter. When she is lured to purchase a slave who can sing, Kestrel seems to have gotten more than she has bargained for. Not only does Arin open up a heart that should only be open to the upper echelon of her glittering society, but he opens her eyes to the painful reality that her society has shrouded. Kestrel must decide which should rule over which: the mind, or the heart?

What I loved about this book was how it quickly captures the interest of readers - the spectacular cover, the alluring pull of the summary, and the best part being that it actually deliversEarly on, readers are practically fall all over themselves in sympathizing with Kestrel who, like the bird she is named after, is caught in an impressive, yet repressive gilded cage. Kestrel is great at strategy and at winning (like Prince Jaron of Jennifer Nielsen's The False Prince), but she doesn't quite do as well with hand-to-hand combat - which is quite refreshing. I'd say more about Arin, and the bigger, pivotal role he plays that doesn't just turn Kestrel's world upside down but also that of society's, but I'd really much rather that readers plunge into this without a thought as to what they're "supposed" to be expecting, as the element of surprise is really quite crucial here! I read this one with only the summary to guide me, and although the information fell just right of what is apt, it gave me no expectations as to what I'm about to discover - and THAT, my dear friends, is what makes this book very worthy of its 4.5 rating. I relished the thrill that this book took me to in the comfort of my own bed, and I hardly let it go, except to spam-message my co-blogger that "This book doesn't suck at all, and it's very, very fabulous!!!"

I loved this one so much (and I do not take that word lightly!), that I immediately plucked Marie Rutkoski's The Shadow Society from my unruly - and because of book-blogging, growing - To-Be-Read shelf and packed it with me for my travel. 

The Winner's Curse is without a doubt, another of 2014's best books that I've read so far.  

Can the next book please come faster now? Please?


NICOLE'S REVIEW: Talker 25 by Joshua McCune

TALKER 25 - Joshua McCune

I really wanted to like this book because dragons, right? But try as I might I just couldn't get into it. I wasn't happy that it's been compared to Ann Aguirre's Outpost because that book is amazing. This just falls flat.

After sneaking into the dragon sanctuary and inadvertently catching the military's attention, Melissa finds herself an unwitting participant in the war between humans and dragons. This book is basically a war between humans and dragons. That is about as much as I could glean from it because it's all about who's on which side and a whole lot of dragon torture which is not amusing. 

The characters in Talker 25 are poorly crafted. Melissa is a crass, judgmental, insensitive and spiteful girl and I don't like her attitude at all. She flips off her dad, shames her brother in public and calls her friend a slut behind her back. From the very beginning, I knew she was going to be an issue. Add to that list the fact that she instantly swoons over a hot guy? I don't know why the dragons even bothered with her since apparently she's useless.

James, the hot guy, is as annoying as Melissa. Love at first sight? Yeah. I have nothing against that but the way it was executed here was just terrible. The romance served no purpose in the story and it just added fuel to the fire. He's a really terrible insurgent who throws temper tantrums and compromises the safety of his group by running off to mope when he's all sad and depressed. Not cool, James.

Also, where was the backstory? I don't understand how the dragons found their way to our world and apparently they don't know how that happened either. REALLY. Is this some sort of a cop-out? The dragons had no idea how they found humans? They were just dropped there? Out of the blue? They can't see the color black? What. Is. That. Where was the world-building? Someone please explain.

And the humans! Attack first negotiate later? I get that fear makes people act rashly, but having the government lash out at dragons when they haven't initiated anything? That deserves a massive face palm. And the torture scenes in this book were horrible and annoying because they were just cruel for the sake of being cruel. It's just unnecessary and unexplained hatred everywhere.

I also didn't get the role of the dragon fanatics or rebels because the dragons seemed to do okay on their own. And here comes these people who want to help them? By riding on their backs and talking to them in their heads. Ugh, if I were one of those dragons I wouldn't even bother.

Basically Talker 25 is about about dragons and dragon fanatics fighting the government and they all hate each other and try to one up the other. They also do reconditioning on humans and use them on their TV show. It's doesn't help that you've got a bratty heroine narrating the story and I wouldn't trust her with my life. If you want a dragon book I'd point you towards Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.

NICOLE'S REVIEW: The Hunt by Stacey Kade

The Hunt - Stacey Kade

The Hunt basically starts off where The Rules left - Ariane and Zane on the run, hiding from GTX. Problem is, GTX isn't the only corporation out to get them. There are 2 more out there who would love nothing more but to get their hands on Ariane - because human experimentation is a thing and there's even a government sanctioned competition between the three to figure out who's creation is the best. Ariane's just realizing that she never really had a shot at a normal life but if she wants out from the running and the hiding, she's going to have to find a way to get in touch with the other experiments and find a way to put a stop to the whole mess.

With the recent influx of alien books, it's hard to find one that really catches your eye. (same thing dystopian novels but that's another thing) The Hunt isn't amazing but it's a good, solid, entertaining book. It's one of those books I give a 3.5 but still follow the whole series till the very end. 

Ariane's character arc was well written - she's stronger now in the second book. She's more in control of her powers and not as afraid or meek as she was in the first. She's more take-charge here and I like her this way. But at the same time, there's a certain vulnerability to her. She's never really had anyone she could trust but now she has Zane and being on the run doesn't do things for his safety so she's torn between ditching him or dragging him along. It's nto easy but that's what happens when you care about people.

Zane, on the other hand, isn't just some macho jock anymore. Now that he's finally come to really care for Ariane, we see him sometimes wondering if he's good enough. He doesn't judge her for being half-alien and actually wonders if he's even worthy of Ariane. Such a cute boy. And the fact that he's willing to fight for what they have? Plus points to you. Even if he might have botched a few things up near the end. He's a good boy and I might have wanted to reach into the book and smoosh his face then maybe smoosh him and Ariane together because they deserve a happy ending.

Speaking of endings, that cliffhanger is killer. I was lucky enough to get an eARC of this book but I don't think it's possible to wait till next year (I think) for the next. I had to constantly distract myself with other shiny things so as NOT to think about the way this ended. Cliffhanger. Ugh. I want to cry. All in all, if you're in the mood for something extraterrestrial pick up The Rules then get this baby too.

The cover's a little shady. I mean I understand it but that doesn't mean it's not shady.


NICOLE'S REVIEW: Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

Sea of Shadows  - Kelley Armstrong

Moria and Ashyn - sisters, twins, Keeper and Seeker. They have a task every year - quiet the sprits that roam the forest near their home. Spirits of the exiled criminals who die in the forest near their home. It's Ashyn's first year to do it without her mentor and when things start going wrong and people start dying she's not sure what to think. Her fault? Or maybe just a bad year for her and her sister. When their tiny little town is attacked, the sisters have to bring news to their Emperor crossing paths with monsters and journeying across deserts and mountains. But thing is, trouble has a way of following the sisters and court life isn't exactly the reprieve they thought it'd be.


Sea of Shadows is a pretty good story - the pacing's great and the world-building was decent. I liked the atmosphere, it was creepy and dark. My only problem was how it seemed like the ending was too quick which left the story feeling a little cut short but that's about it.


The story is told in the alternating voices of Moria and Ashyn, two wholly different characters. Moria is the fighter, brash, bold and gorgeous, she has all the boys falling at her feet. Especially that imperial guard who's taken a liking to her. Moira has a cat, a big hunting cat who tags along wherever she goes. ( I like the cat better than I do Moria)


Ashyn, the other twin, is as beautiful but more timid. I was more partial to Ashyn and might be a little guilty of just skimming through Moria's parts and paying more attention to her twin's. After getting separated from her sister, she's forced to travel with an exile named Ronan. I liked him with Ashyn and when it was clear that he might have been more interested in Moria, initially, I wasn't happy. There was a little case of insta-love and Ashyn feeling a whole lot sorry for herself and comparing herself to her sister but thankfully it doesn't last the whole book. I can deal with a little self-pity.


Long story short, they do some traveling then encounter supposedly nonexistent mythical creatures and get into fights. They get deceived by bad men out to get them and escape and have to travel to the city. There are kisses in between. Then we realize that Ronan leaves the scene and there's something wrong with Moria's choice in men. See Moria? This is why I prefer your sister. She's not stupid. 

Overall a pretty entertaining book, I'd recommend this for those looking for their next fantasy read.


MICHELLE'S REVIEW: Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen

Stolen Songbird - Danielle L. Jensen

Cécile was on her way to the city to further hone her skills as a singer and join her estranged mother, when she was abducted to become the troll prince's bride.  Now bonded to Tristan - against her will, of course - Cécile could feel his thoughts and feelings, and vice versa. Humans aren't exactly favored in Trollus, a town that used to revel in sunlight but what has now become a mountain of rubble, so half-bloods are definitely discriminated against. If it weren't for the prophecy, and the fact that harming Cécile definitely will hurt Tristan as well because of the bond, Cécile would obviously not be the bride the town wants for their prince. All the while steering clear of her hot-and-cold husband, Cécile stumbles onto a revolution that vows change for the half-breeds, headed by a very unlikely leader. 


This initially reminded me a lot of Chloe Jacobs' Greta and the Goblin King (which I reviewed here), and I kept hoping and praying (my co-blogger can attest to this) that it could fill the "fantasy creature-human romance" hole in my heart. 


While it does indeed deliver what the blurb promises, Stolen Songbird has not stolen my heart or my whole attention when I was reading it, for that matter. I don't know, but there seems to be something almost a bit too rehearsed about the whole book, but I think it manifests most especially in Tristan's lines. Yes, he's the prince and he's supposed to be worldly and everything about the workings of the Royal Court, and it's not exactly surprising that he is glib and sarcastic about absolutely everything (aren't almost all YA princes?) I wasn't so into Tristan probably because he reminded me so much of Defy's Prince Damian (which was absolutely pas terrible for me; you can read the review here). Tristan and Damian can fool all the people they want, but they're definitely not fooling me with their bored rich kid attitude. The main protagonist, Cécile, wasn't much interesting either, except when she uses her voice to lure Tristan simply because it's amusing to watch him kind of follow her in a stupor.

Stolen Songbird does get a bit more action as the story progresses, so it wasn't as boring and monotonous as I make it out to be. I did like that there were some French terminology (Francophile that I am). The ending was surprising, but not unexpected, and it did leave me a tiny bit curious as to the next book.

I think that if you liked Prince Damian from Sara Larson's Defy, then you will like Prince Tristan, which I think is a pretty big factor since he plays an important role in the book. I do think that this is considerably better than Chloe Jacobs' Greta and the Goblin King, so if you were disappointed by that one, you can give this one a try.


NICOLE'S REVIEW: Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

Not a Drop to Drink - Mindy McGinnis

Lynn's okay with the way she lives. It's day after endless day of protecting her pond, looking for food and surviving the winter. She doesn't see the point of moving away from the tiny pond, content with her day-to-day routine. So when stragglers threaten her pond - she's going to do anything to keep it safe, things happen and she's got no choice but to deal with this upheaval on her routine.

The scariest thing about Not a Drop to Drink is how the events that happen in the book could actually happen in real life. It's an intense read about a girl's struggle to survive in a world where water is scarce and if you have it, you'll have to fight to the death to protect it. And that's exactly what Lynn does, with the help of her mother. 

The post-apocalyptic setting was really well done. One of the few post-apocalyptic books that actually feels like a dark, desolate world where people cling to fragments of their old life. The author doesn't drop you in the middle of some wasteland, says it's the aftermath of the war and boom. Post-apocalyptic. She takes time to build the world and introduce her characters.

McGinnis has a strong heroine - Lynn. All her life she's been taught to survive by her mother. Taught how to shoot, to hunt, skin an animal and how to purify water from their pond. She keeps vigil over their house at night by setting point up on the roof. But from the way her mother brought her up - to not trust strangers and shoot before she speaks - it makes for a very lonely life. She's stubborn and set in her ways, but she's totally unsure of how to interact with other people.

When she meets a boy - there will always be a boy - named Eli, she starts acting differently and the book started loosing it's survivalist feel. I get how meeting Eli was totally new for Lynn seeing as how there aren't much teenage boys just hanging around but things start getting more emotional and survival seems to be the last thing on Lynn's mind... I got bored. Mainly because it was't as gripping but also maybe because I wasn't really feeling Eli and Lynn. She's such a capable heroine and Eli's this bumbling idiot who can't do anything to save his own life. Maybe the idea of having to care for someone lesser than her was her thing - she did take in a little girl you know - and regards Eli as a pet. Wishful thinking on my part because it's pretty obvious that they're into each other.

But the book isn't all about the survival of these few people because there are bigger things going on and there are still men in trucks who snatch people of their belongings to looks out for. Obviously, Lynn's got to find out more about these people and when she does, she's going to have to find a way to stop them from bulldozing over her and everyone she's come to care for. 

I'll stop here to keep myself from being too spoilery but if you're on the lookout for a post-apocalyptic survivalist story, pick this one. It's terrifyingly realistic.


MICHELLE'S REVIEW: Salvage by Alexandra Duncan

Salvage - Alexandra Duncan

While Ava thinks that she is forced to decide either between life and death after being caught with someone who was not after all her intended, it seems that the fates are in favor of Ava choosing life, but not without sacrifices. Born as the daughter of the ship's captain, Ava knows nothing of life outside the ship, and ergo, definitely nothing of life in another planet. Ava must learn to navigate the intricacies of daily life and understand the nuances of all that she's missing, if she wants to prove to others, but most especially to herself, her inner strength and worth.

Suffice to say, I really enjoyed Duncan's Salvage. It has ships, interplanetary galaxies, a heroine who despite being backhanded by life, struggles to find herself and her place in the world. Ava initially can't care much for others because life on the ship didn't exactly train her to know what to do, but she gradually learns and heals, and I just wanted to give her a hug for getting through all that.

I found myself surprised at a lot of points in the book, because I really didn't quite know what to expect. Last that I read the advance reader's copy summary of Salvage, it was just a paragraph with a lot of blanks and spaces to fill up. I really thought that there would be some revolutions here and there (It's the cover, you see) but you won't find any of that in here, which makes it kind of cleansing to the palate of the reader who's already way in over his/her head with government vs the people scenarios typically found in recent YA books. Salvage is just about a girl, who even if she appears to be in the most fortunate circumstances, is unfortunate enough to be treated as a pawn in a game of money and power. World-building is pretty great, and I had no problem reading this one as it did provide a lot of surmising and surprising. 


If you're in the mood for intergalactic revolutions and stuff, Salvage is not it. It's like a contemporary novel, except that it takes place in a very sci-fi environment, which is pretty cool like that. If you've had too much dystopian novels with conspiracies going on and fancy taking a break but still want to linger in the sci-fi environment (or if you want to check out Mumbai after the apocalypse and everything), pick this one and cheer on Ava who proves that we all learn and grow from our mistakes.


NICOLE'S REVIEW: Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano

Perfect Ruin - Lauren DeStefano

Lauren DeStefano books always have amazing covers. Remember the Chemical Garden trilogy and their gorgeous book jackets? Those were damn pretty. So I guess it's safe to say I bought this book based on the cover alone - it was totally worth it, friends.

Recently I've been plagued with this really nasty reading slump, I started a lot of books but I couldn't finish them, and Perfect Ruin along with this other book was able to pull me from my funk. And I swear, after reading a slew of books that were 3 rainbows at best I was dying, deprived. I needed something good. Something that would make me want to paint my nails (4 rainbows pls omg). A book that I could read late into the night non-stop. This book was just what I needed. 

Morgan Stockhour lives on Internment - a floating island in the clouds where people are warned to stay away from the edge because the edge brings madness. Case in point: her brother. After he jumped, Morgan was determined to not follow in his footsteps although she has imagined what's there to see over the edge. When someone gets murdered and Morgan chances upon the supposed murderer - Judas - she can't help but investigate and the secrets she unveils reveals a darker side to her supposedly perfect society.

First off, what I really loved about Perfect Ruin was the world-building. DeStefano is not afraid of details and I love it. She has managed to build Internment to be equal parts interesting and foreboding. And as I read the book and learned all about Internment, which is fascinating by the way, I got this sense of something darker that lurks beneath it's seemingly pristine surface. I just love it when the world-building is done beautifully and I just want to say that DeStefano did a really, really, really good job with this one. 

What I couldn't help but adore, also, was the writing. It's so lyrical and poetic but doesn't come off as holier-than-thou and it doesn't sound forced. Now, I don't usually mark my books with post-its and the likes but I couldn't help it with Perfect Ruin. My copy is seriously overflowing with yellow post-its.

Characters. DeStefano has seriously great characters and before I get into Morgan and Basil - cue swooning - I just want to get into the side characters for a bit. Perfect Ruin has seriously well developed side characters and I like how the author manages to seamlessly integrate them into the story. I mean they're not for show and I found Morgan's relationship with every one of them - no matter how strained - so darn real. 

Morgan. She's a dreamer and her character starts off a little soft and naive. I mean I like headstrong, brash, uncouth characters and Morgan was a change of pace for me. It's hard not to feel for a character who's easy to relate to and just...real. I seriously adored her and Basil. He acts like this silent, giant pillar of support for Morgan. He's kind and good and protective and big and strong and....yeah. He's perfect. And, unlike other male YA characters who need girls to fall at their feet and act like a jerk to assert their dominance and alpha male status, Basil doesn't need all that. Perfection, right there.

Four rainbows! You guys don't know how good it feels to give another book four rainbows. I mean, awesome world-building, characters I couldn't help but adore and this plot that's all twisty and turny and how can I not like this book? You guys should really pick this one up.