Review: King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

 

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In this breathless third installment to Victoria Aveyard’s bestselling Red Queen series, allegiances are tested on every side. And when the Lightning Girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

King’s Cage is book three in the Red Queen series.

Okay, so for some reason this series seems to be getting a lot of hate, and as soon as there’s hate, people get nit-picky and shred every aspect of the book.

For my reviews, I base them solely around whether the author kept me entertained. Did they do their job and help me escape the real world? Yes? Automatically at least three stars. The other two stars are made up by taking a deeper look at a combination of character, pacing, and plot.

I don’t believe this book deserves the one- and two-star ratings it has been getting but art is subjective and everyone has the right to an opinion. This is simply mine.

I loved King’s Cage. Mare is such as easy character to sympathise with because she is driven and has agency. She spends a lot of this book locked up as Maven’s—what? Toy, maybe?—and while that could have gotten old fast, Aveyard really amped up the tension between them in a way that keeps interest. She’s also grown a lot as a character. There is less brashness and more calculation and planning. I also loved when she realized what a dick she had been to people in the previous book.

As always, the secondary characters are on point. Evangeline is one of those characters I love to hate and she did not disappoint. There is a lot of character growth for her also, and it is easy to see her being the hero of her own story, despite how much her story opposes Mare’s.

Cal is still a hunk, and Maven is still a twisted lunatic who was absolutely addictive to read.

I with there had been more Kilorn, and I really could have done without Cameron’s chapters—I didn’t even remember who she was to begin with so by the time I figured it out, I really didn’t care.

And while they’re still knee-deep in rebellion, Aveyard has added even more depth to the struggle for Norta, which I won’t spoil here, but has the potential for her to take book four in literally any direction.

My favourite parts of all these books are the battle scenes, and the scenes with Mare and Cal. So it makes sense that when her and Cal finally reunite in the midst of a huge fight, I was cheering them on for days.

This book is on the long side for YA fiction and thankfully keeps the pace throughout. There are no areas that felt boring or stale and I loved how one scene propelled you on to the next. After Mare escapes Maven though, it kind of felt like the rest of the book was all epilogue, getting ready to set up the next book. I mean, there were some great scenes in there and I still loved reading it, but the highlight of the book was definitely Mare’s escape.

I totally recommend this book.

 

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary

Review: Into the Mists – Book One of the Into the Mists Trilogy by Serene Conneeley

Enter the swirling mists of an enchanted land, and open your heart to the mystery…

Carlie has the perfect life. A wonderful family and a best friend she adores. A house by the beach so she can go surfing after school. A clever, rational mind and big dreams of becoming a lawyer. A future she’s excited about and can’t wait to begin.

But in a split second her perfect life shatters, and she is sent to the other side of the world to live with a stranger. In this mystical, mist-drenched new land, she is faced with a mystery that will make her question everything she’s ever known about her parents, her life and her very self. A dark secret that made her mother run away from home as a teenager. An old family friend who is not what he seems. A woman in blue who she’s not convinced is real. A shadowy black cat that she’d swear is reading her mind. A deserted old cottage she can’t always find. And a circle of wild-haired witches who want her to join their ranks.

Will she have the courage to journey into the mists, and into her own heart, to discover the truth? And can she somehow weave together a life that she’ll want to live – or will she give up and allow despair to sweep her away from the world forever?

A Melodic tale of loss and a magical journey of self-discovery and acceptance.

This beautiful story follows Carlie as she tries to come to grips with the loss of her parents and the sudden upheaval of her life. Serene has written the tale to include quite detailed descriptions of casts and rituals Carlie and her mother perform. You could easily complete such rituals yourself following the descriptions in the story. The story inspires the reader to look at their own life as the main character Carlie does hers.

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Gabrielle Baker narrates the audio book. Her beautifully calming voice tells the story in a tranquil tone, switching between a few voices slightly with each characters dialogue. She does well with the mix of Australian and English accents, only once or twice did I giggle at her pronunciation of an Aussie word. I listened to the story at 1.3x speed. As a faster reader myself, I felt the original a little slow for me, but the story allows for the increase without feeling rushed.

I loved the backwards and forwards timeline that Serene used to intertwine Carlie and Violet (her mother) stories. Flashbacks, diary entries and dreams are each employed in telling this magical captivating tale.

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When Carlie began to read from the book her mother had owned as a teen, I did not at first realize it was Carlie reading. When reading a physical book you would see the change in script or a detail to show that the character is reading a letter or diary entry of sorts, but when listening to an audio book, the transition wasn’t as easy to keep on top of. This of course did not take away from the story or my enjoyment of the novel as a whole.

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I look forward to reading more of the Into the Mists Trilogy, and if you have not tried an audio book before, click HERE and you can get your first book free. Why not give Into the Mists a chance to captivate you the way it has me.

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Rebecca Bosevski is the author of Enchanting The Fey, a fairy tale for grown-ups. She lives on the sunny coast of Australia with her husband and three children. When not writing she will often be found with her nose in a book.

Review: Enchant: Beauty and the Beast Retold (Romance a Medieval Fairytale #1) by Demelza Carlton

A beastly prince. An enchanting beauty. Only love can break the spell.
Once upon a time…
The wicked King Thorn forced the enchantress Zuleika to cast a terrible curse. She fled his court to travel the world, helping those who need her magic most. Until a search for her merchant father’s lost ships leads her to an enchanted island, where Prince Vardan, the island’s ruler, is afflicted by the most powerful curse Zuleika has ever encountered. She’s not sure she can reverse the spell, but she’s determined to try. After all, a prince who fights pirates can’t be all bad…no matter how beastly his appearance.
Together, can the enchanting beauty and the beastly prince break the spell?

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With the live action film Beauty and the Beast set to hit screens in only a few short weeks (yes I have my Chicks at the flicks tickets already) I was excited to read this retelling of a much loved old tale. Now I do not know about you, but when I read a name, I often read it all kinds of wrong. The MC of this story is named Zuleika, now this was not an easy name to wrap my head around, my brain read it as Zoo-lee-ka, I hope that is right. If not, my apologies to Demelza Carlton.

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Zuleika is the ‘Belle’ of this story and a witch, the same witch that is responsible for the curse on the prince. This twist was a fantastic set up to the story, and her conflict with the king was a fantastic way to steer the story towards the prince without feeling like you were just going through plot setup.

About 1/3 in, Zuleika is faced with the beast and the town he lives in, and it is then that she should have known it was her curse immediately, but for some reason she doesn’t figure it out herself till much later on. I would have liked to have her acknowledgement of her curse to herself as soon as she sees the beast and the town. Then the conflict with trying to figure out if she should, or how she can remove the curse could unfold in a more believable timeline.

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In all stories we need to get a feel for who the MC is and what drives them, I would have loved to get to know Zuleika better before being thrown into the Belle/Beast plot line, but Demelza has still managed to create likable characters that are both believable and engaging none the less.

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I enjoyed the overall plot, but did feel like it was missing some heft in the middle of the story.  Perhaps another 10,000 words could have helped me to feel stated, but that does not mean I did not enjoy it. A good book should have you wanting to read more, but a great book has you feeling like the story was played out and wishing you could go back to a time where you had not began the story, just so you could start over and experience it all again for the first time.

A solid 3.5 stars. I took one star off for the unfulfilled potential of the story itself, and a half star off for the title. ‘Enchant’ though on the cover looks really pretty, the word itself is a little too sharp for me, especially with such a heart warming story. Read it if you love retellings, or just need a Beauty and the Beast fix before the live action hits us in a few weeks.

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 Rebecca Bosevski is the author of Enchanting The Fey, a fairy tale for grown-ups. She lives on the sunny coast of Australia with her husband and three children. When not writing she will often be found with her nose in a book. you can find her on Facebook here.

Review: RoseBlood by A. G. Howard

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In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

When it comes to covers, A. G. Howard sure has lucked out. The Splintered series were gorgeous and RoseBlood is just the same. Being a huge fan of her wonderland retelling, and after reading that blurb, I was so excited to start this one!

Let me start off by saying, Howard sure can write a love interest. Thorn, tragic backstory and all, was a gorgeous hulk of guy who somehow had charm and allure despite living in the sewers. He and Rune are swept up pretty fast in an intense attraction that sees them making life-threatening choices. So obviously, it definitely wasn’t a healthy relationship. In keeping with the obsessive, deadly love of the original, Thorn lurks about in Rune’s dreams, and plays music to her from behind a vent in her bedroom at RoseBlood. And that’s cool–not every relationship written has to be sunshine and roses–as long as the audience can acknowledge that creepy lust is not something to aspire towards IRL.

Rune’s friends at RoseBlood were also another highlight. There were some great moments where their personalities really jumped from the page and I would have loved to see more of them (especially as I had to look up their names again–Quan, Jax, and Sunny FYI). Audrey was also an intriguing characters but there wasn’t enough done with her, and I really would have loved to see RoseBlood through her eyes.

The ultimate highlight of the book was Erik. He had motivation and mystery and was the reason I kept reading. His end goal was also something I didn’t see coming–I love when a book can surprise me.

Because of how established Erik was though, the ending felt very out of character, which is perhaps my biggest disappointment from this book.

RoseBlood had some beautiful scenes–Rune and Thorn’s dance, the bird avery(?) under the lake, Jippetto’s backstory, Erik’s club–and if you loved Splintered you’ll probably enjoy this like I did.

There were just a few things that bugged me.

This book is chock-full of cliches. RoseBlood has no cell service, internet–nothing. Umm…it’s a school. How are they off the grid? Sure makes things convenient for a certain homicidal lunatic.

The Twin Flames thing–clear code for Soul Mates, and I prefer my characters to get together based off something more than ‘meant to be’.

Rune is reluctant to go to a super-cool school to try and ‘fix’ the thing that she hates. How is she not determined to kick butt and take names?

Then, there were things that weren’t explained enough. Erik’s ending. Rune busting in on the auditions for the show’s lead singer and sings over the top of her before ‘fainting’–why didn’t she hide out in a bathroom and let the song out? What exactly was the reasoning behind Erik’s plan? How did he ever think that was possibly a thing that could happen? Why were Rune’s friends so keen to be BFFs when they wanted Audrey to snag the lead and Rune was clearly better than her?

And while I loved the writing for the most part, there were areas where it became convoluted to the point I had to reread to wrap my head around what was intended.

Those things are me being picky after the fact though. While reading, they were insignificant enough that while I noticed them, they didn’t detract from the story as I was reading.

I’m glad I gave RoseBlood a chance to sweep me away in the story.

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary

Review: ‘Been Here All Along’ by Sandy Hall

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Gideon always has a plan. His plans include running for class president, becoming head of the yearbook committee, and having his choice of colleges. They do NOT include falling head over heels for his best friend and next door neighbor, Kyle. It’s a distraction. It’s pointless, as Kyle is already dating the gorgeous and popular head cheerleader, Ruby. And Gideon doesn’t know what to do.

Kyle finally feels like he has a handle on life. He has a wonderful girlfriend, a best friend willing to debate the finer points of Lord of the Rings, and social acceptance as captain of the basketball team. Then, both Ruby and Gideon start acting really weird, just as his spot on the team is threatened, and Kyle can’t quite figure out what he did wrong…

This book was a super cute read. Told through multi-POV we’re privy to the thoughts and emotions of each character, which created great fun seeing the characters misinterpreting each others actions.

Hall wrote Kyle and Gideon with great chemistry, so it was so frustrating waiting for the two of them to get together, but helped me speed through the book.

This is a shorter novel and it completely met my expectations for a quick, happy read. That said, there were multiple opportunities for it to have been fleshed out.

The book was very predictable, from Gideon writing his inner-most thoughts down for anyone to see, to the way the issue this caused was resolved. Gideon’s drunken candour, and Kyle’s relationship with Ruby. These things were fun, but they certainly didn’t strain any brain muscles to figure out what was going down.

The great thing was, the characterisation was still pretty good. Kyle was laid back and awkward, Gideon was fastidious and driven. Even Ruby–who was generally pretty vapid–had effort put into making her not completely two-dimensional (though this could have been fleshed out beyond the poor family/mean girl trope).

Overall, if you’re looking for something cute, sweet, and with a gay romance, this is one to pick up.

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(and a half)

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary

Review: Tainted Blood (Dramir #1) by Yajna Ramnath

Welcome to Dramir, a city where the blood never stops flowing

The streets of Dramir have always been protected under the rule of the reigning King. It was all because of his not so secret weapon.

A weapon they called the assassin. A weapon with long-dark hair, savage soulless eyes and a body built for sin.

She wielded a sword as one would breathe air. She danced in blood as one would dance in rain. She laughed in the face of death as one would laugh at a bad joke.

It was believed that the day the assassin experienced emotion, the world of Dramir as they knew it would crumble under the force of her shattering heart.

How could you break the heart of someone who had long since lived without one?

How could you fight against the darkness when she forced light to do her bidding?

Most importantly how could you hide, when she came looking for you?

 

Tainted Blood is fantastic. I did not know that it had been previously published and then rewritten before being released under this title, and to tell you the truth, I prefer this title, cover image and story line better than the original.

Atalia is a likable MC and her voice is consistent throughout. A kick-ass warrior type, she cuts off heads without a second thought and goes right back to what she was doing prior, no hesitation and certainly no remorse. Ramnath does a fantastic job of portraying Atalia, her lack of emotion and her overall queen-of-cool self.

Nathaniel Drake I did not like from the beginning and enjoyed the end of his story-line immensely. However, I thought there could have been a few more interactions with him throughout the story before the final chapter.

Cassius is one of those characters you think you have a handle on, but then realise at the end of the book, that you really don’t know all that much about them. This doesn’t distract from the likability of the character, but does leave me hoping his story is explored more in any sequel that may follow.

Shayur is even less memorable, and I feel his character could have been combined with his father’s with little to no effort or effect on the overall story-line.

The other characters played their parts well enough to push the story forward, but didn’t stand out to be overly memorable for any particular reason. This is not a bad thing. The story focuses on Atalia for the most part, and though at times Ramnath glossed over parts of the story where I felt like there could have been more, the end result was an enjoyable read, and I will recommend it to all those who is in need of an explosive fantasy fix, that mixes vampires, shifters and witches with gods and mythology.

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Overall a 3.5 star book bordering on 4 stars. I hope to see more from this author in the near future.

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 10.45.01 PMRebecca Bosevski is a speculative fiction author living on the east coast of Australia. Her debut novel, Enchanting the Fey, is the first in a trilogy and combines old world Fey magic and a sassy contemporary main character.

 

 

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

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A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.

And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

This is one of those books I have so many mixed feelings about, I have no idea if I’ll get them all out coherently, but here I go trying anyway.

First of all, the writing style of this book totally wasn’t for me. It was written really well, don’t get me wrong, just not my style. Pretty disappointing considering that blurb had me excited AF to get reading about this mysterious, alluring family with a huge secret, and supposedly amazing ending. Not being a fan of the writing style was purely on me though. It’s not what I’m used to reading, and not what I enjoy. I decided to push through anyway.

Truth is, the main thing that kept me going through this book was my curiosity at what the big secret was. Lockhart kept the mystery alive so much so, I couldn’t have not finished no matter how many issues I had with it.

Basically, Cadence has problems. Those problems consist of being white, being privileged, and being rich. Then something happens and no one will fill poor Cadence in on this BIG FAMILY SECRET so she gets all whiney and dies her hair black and starts giving away every one of her possessions ever, even though half of it is useless crap. Also, the way Lockhart describes her migraines, and her ‘intense’ emotions is confusing and waaaaay over the top.

Halfway through this book it occurred to me I was reading about a messed up family, doing messed up things, for no obvious reason what-so-ever. The exact moment this thought hit me was a scene when Aunt Carrie was wandering the grounds of their private island. Her son is screaming for her because of his nightmares and she TURNS AND WALKS IN THE OTHER FLIPPING DIRECTION.

Like, man. These characters were so frustrating. The whole novels is literally about a summer where the ‘rebellious’ Liars, who are actually not so rebellious, sit around talking at each other. Not to, at. There conversations are about the most basic crap I’ve ever read, like ‘sexual intercourse’ (not sex. Sexual. Intercourse. Every time.) that never actually happened. There is literally no chemistry between any of them, least of all the love interest, until the very end when Cadence has a moment of discovery with Johnny and Mirren and I finally see the family bond going on.

And you know what’s really messed up? I actually enjoyed the suspense. Without giving too much away, I picked the end result of the secret, part way into the book. But then something happened that threw it from my mind. So when I got to ‘Part Four: Truth’ I had to put the book down after a sentence or two. It was like a gut punch that I really should have seen coming, but Lockhart did a great job of convincing me my initial suspicions were incorrect.

The ending was great, I actually got a little teary, which was odd because I never thought I cared about the characters until that moment. I guess it all finally made sense. And now I look back on this book like a bitter-sweet summer.

The other highlight was the use of the fairy tales. They were completely transparent, but they added an extra layer to the whole story and helped increase the suspense and allure of the family. They also showed the side of Cadence who was becoming more self-aware.

At the end there’s a really great moment where Cadence realises who she really is. Her view of herself is completely flipped on its head and I did a mental high five with her, because she finally viewed herself like I had the whole time.

So many people love this book–and I could see why–but it wasn’t for me. I enjoyed it when it was finished, but there was too much throughout that irritated me. All I could focus on were all the first world problems Cadence was bitching about. And yeah, I totally get we’re ALL like that IRL, and there’s a place for that in fiction, but it didn’t draw me in.

I enjoyed it to a point. And after so much excitement going into it, I’m disappointed it didn’t captivate me.

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(and a half)

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary