Mini Reviews: Ensnared & Sparks of Light

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I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

32472740Ensnared by Rita Stradling
Release date: May 23rd, 2017
Publisher: Kindle Press
Genre: New adult, science fiction, retelling
Format: eBook

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Alainn’s father is not a bad man. He’s a genius and an inventor. When he’s hired to create the robot Rose, Alainn knows taking the money is a mistake.

Rose acts like a human. She looks exactly like Alainn. But, something in her comes out wrong.

To save her father from a five year prison sentence, Alainn takes Rose’s place. She says goodbye to the sun and goes to live in a tower no human is allowed to enter. She becomes the prisoner of a man no human is allowed to see.

Believing that a life of servitude lies ahead, Alainn finds a very different fate awaits her in the company of the strange, scarred recluse.

While waiting for Rita Stradling to complete her Dakota Kekoa trilogy I thought I’d pick this book up to hold me over. It sounded interesting…a sci-fi retelling of Beauty and the Beast? Yes please! While it was creative and unlike anything I’ve read before, it still didn’t live up to how much I’ve love her other books. I know, I know. I shouldn’t be comparing apples and oranges but I can’t help, OK?

This story closely follows the overall message of Beauty and the Beast but takes place in a futuristic society. It’s centered around Alainn, who is sent to the home of a recluse named Lorccan. The catch? She has to pose as one of her father’s robots, the Rose 76GF. You see, her father, while completely brilliant, is a gambler and cheater who has gotten both of them into trouble. The whole question is what will Lorccan do when he realizes that she isn’t actually a robot, but a living breathing human?

I was entertained while reading this book and read through it quite quickly. However, it didn’t really flow, parts were uneven and there were a lot of parts that either didn’t add up or caused confusion. The insertion of random minor characters was completely unnecessary. That said, I did really like the two main characters. They were deeply flawed but funny and interesting. The setting made it really standout! I have no clue how Stradling came up with it but if it wasn’t advertised as a Beauty and the Beast retelling I could have easily read it as completely original in every sense of the word.

Overall, Ensnared is a book that I’m glad that I had a chance to read. It demonstrates the amazing amounts of creativity Stradling possesses, she truly had a talent with taking things and turning them on their heads. However, it felt a bit rushed and uneven. A few more edits or clarifications here and there would definitely improve its readability.


I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

30971762Sparks of Light by Janet B. Taylor
Release date: August 1st, 2017
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young adult, historical fiction, fantasy
Format: eBook

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For the first time in her life, Hope Walton has friends . . . and a (maybe) boyfriend. She’s a Viator, a member of a long line of time-traveling ancestors. When the Viators learn of a plan to steal a dangerous device from the inventor Nikola Tesla, only a race into the past can save the natural timeline from utter destruction. Navigating the glitterati of The Gilded Age in 1895 New York City, Hope and her crew will discover that high society can be as deadly as it is beautiful.

The first book, Into the Dim, was really pushed as being a YA Outlander but oh boy was it not! Yes, there was time travel and some of it did take place in the Scottish Highlands, but that’s where the similarities end. I thought that the first book was alright, middle of the road. An interesting read that I neither overly liked or disliked. However, this time around with Sparks of Light I quite firmly have an opinion and it’s a very negative one.

This sequel was a huge disappointment. Yup, nothing about it captured the moments of excitement seen in the first book. It just falls flat, bogged down by old memories and a lack of transitions. It read as disjointed and unsure of itself. I was honestly never really sure if what was being described was something from the past or the current action. The constant struggle to figure it out in addition to the sluggish plot just turned me off completely. I read it through and stuck with it, but it was certainly a struggle!

The main character also got on my nerves. She was tolerable in the first book. I actually began to like her near the end but here all of the things I disliked take centre stage. My biggest issue? It’s how she views other girls. In the first book she kept on putting down women who dress a certain way or are large chested. To her they were all promiscuous. It continues in this book as well to the point where it made her sound jealous, hateful and petty. I hate books where girls slam other girls for how they dress and equate it with their intelligence or sexuality. Who cares how you dress? So, you date a lot of guys, so what? STOP JUDGING!

Will I read the third book? Nope! After this disaster I have no inclination to do so. There are so many other time traveling books to keep my occupied. I highly suggest the Ruby Red series by Kerstin Gier. Then there’s Passenger by Alexandra Bracken that’s been sitting on my shelf for ages. Any other YA time travel books to suggest?

Blog Tour: The Dragons of Nova (Review)

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31686500The Dragons of Nova by Elise Kova
Release date: July 11th, 2017
Publisher: Keymaster Press
Genre: Fiction, fantasy
Format: eBook

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Goodreads | Amazon

Cvareh returns home to his sky world of Nova with the genius crafter Arianna as his temperamental guest. The mercurial inventor possesses all the Xin family needs to turn the tides of a centuries-old power struggle, but the secrets she harbors must be earned with trust – hard to come by for Ari, especially when it comes to Dragons. On Nova, Ari finds herself closer to exacting vengeance against the traitor who killed everything – and everyone – she once loved. But before Ari can complete her campaign of revenge, the Crimson Court exposes her shadowed past and reveals something even more dangerous sparking between her and Cvareh.

While Nova is embroiled in blood sport and political games, the rebels on Loom prepare for an all-out assault on their Dragon oppressors. Florence unexpectedly finds herself at the forefront of change, as her unique blend of skills – and quick-shooting accuracy – makes her a force to be reckoned with. For the future of her world, she vows vengeance against the Dragons.

Before the rebellion can rise, though, the Guilds must fall.

I totally loved The Alchemists of Loom, the first book in the series. Elise Kova is truly a master of writing fantasy. *throws up hands* I’m completely addicted to this series and can’t get enough of it. The Dragons of Nova topped its predecessor by a long shot…it was just so good! It was so perfectly imagined, much darker and more violent, all things that I adore in a fantasy book.

For those of you who haven’t read The Alchemists of Loom (which you should do ASAP), the book takes place in Loom, a world enslaved by a dragon race. The dragons have forced the people of Loom to work in specialized guilds for their benefit. Once in a guild there is no way out. It’s illegal to leave or to not be associated with the guild of your birth. Besides the Dragons (who aren’t actually like the mythical dragons we know and love), Loom is made up of the Fenthri, human-like people, and the Chimera, humans with dragon parts that can wield magic.

The Dragons of Nova primarily takes place on Nova where the reader is dropped into a world of political intrigue, betrayal and treason. The Dragons aren’t happy with their current leader and one house in particular is willing to take enormous risks to challenge the status quo. What I found very entertaining was how the POV of both sides was featured in the book. I found myself conflicted and unsure what would happen next. It definitely kept things exciting and interesting!

The world building was all kinds of amazing. It’s truly what Kova does best! The first book was very steampunk inspired with factories, flying ships, gunpowder and bombs, but Nova is all about the fantasy world. The colourful floating islands, complex religious system, Dragon houses and magic systems were perfectly described. My mind went wild trying to visualize each aspect of the Dragon world. The contrast between Loom and Nova was stark and it perfectly hit home the differences between the two races. Nova was a land of beauty; bright, rich and a abundant. The Dragons used their magic to enslave and exploit the human race on Loom, a dark and depressing world. The book explores prejudice and stereotypes. The characters are constantly judged or judging other due to their race, abilities or social status. Characters such as Florence constantly push back and work hard to prove that they are more than the limitations forced upon them. The Dragons of Nova challenges preconceptions, both of the characters and the reader. There were so many grey areas that I’m still not sure how I feel about certain characters and their actions.

I loved how women were front and centre in this book! Ari, my favourite character from the first novel, continued to be her badass self. She’s such a force of nature, so sure of herself, mentally and physically tough, but also willing to admit when she is wrong or beyond her limits. More is revealed about her past and while I still have tons of questions, I really do appreciate Kova’s slow leak of information. It builds tension and mystery, forcing the reader to continue reading to find out more. A character I wasn’t entirely sure of was Florence, but here she really comes into her own. She’s stepped out of Ari’s spotlight…she’s self confident, willing to take risks and a true leader. I really enjoyed reading the chapters from her perspective.

Unlike its predecessor, this book featured a lot more mature content. So, it’s not really young adult but I wouldn’t label it as new adult either. It’s kind of in-between due to its violent content and sex scenes. The sex scenes don’t dominate the storyline and aren’t explicit but they do mark a change from The Alchemists of Loom which didn’t feature any.

This book was just perfect in every way! I have no complaints, things that I would change. I love it to tiny pieces! I just wish that more people were talking about this series. It’s so underrated and that breaks my heart. The third book in the series, The Rebels of Gold, is scheduled for release at the end of the year. I can’t wait to have it in my hands. I just know this series is going to keep on getting better and better!


About the Author

8306309Elise Kova has always had a profound love of fantastical worlds. Somehow, she managed to focus on the real world long enough to graduate with a Master’s in Business Administration before crawling back under her favorite writing blanket to conceptualize her next magic system. She currently lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, and when she is not writing can be found playing video games, watching anime, or talking with readers on social media.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook


Giveaway

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Waiting on Wednesday

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

31563982This week I’m looking forward to Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi. Ahhhh….the cover for this book is fantastic! Persian MC wearing a hijab on the cover? YES! YES! YES! I love everything about this book but will sadly have to wait until November 14th to get my hands on it. This is going to be a very long wait!

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Our story begins on a frosty night…

Laylee can barely remember the happier times before her beloved mother died. Before her father, driven by grief, lost his wits (and his way). Before she was left as the sole remaining mordeshoor in the village of Whichwood, destined to spend her days washing the bodies of the dead and preparing their souls for the afterlife. It’s become easy to forget and easier still to ignore the way her hands are stiffening and turning silver, just like her hair, and her own ever-increasing loneliness and fear.

But soon, a pair of familiar strangers appears, and Laylee’s world is turned upside down as she rediscovers color, magic, and the healing power of friendship.

Review: The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi 

29346880The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi 
Release date: March 28th, 2017
Publisher: Salaam Reads
Genre: Middle grade, fantasy
Format: eBook

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Goodreads | Amazon

A trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair.

When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube—they know it’s up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how.

Under the tutelage of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay, the Farah and her friends battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats as they prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari, the man behind the machine. Can they defeat Amari at his own game…or will they, like the children who came before them, become cogs in the machine?

As soon as I heard about The Gauntlet I knew I had to read it. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen right away when it was released. Life got in the way but once I actually had time to sit down and read it I was blown away. I LOVED IT! It was the perfect mix of fantasy, action and suspense. I say this a lot about books that I’ve enjoyed, but it was seriously difficult to put down. I just kept on getting sucked into the adventure.

The main theme of the book is friendship and family. It’s what motivates the characters and drives the plot forward. The friendship between Essie, Farah, and Alex is fantastic and wonderfully written. They are each their own person, with their own quirks, strengths and weaknesses. I loved how they were strong on their own, but even more so when working together. And this book isn’t about physical strength, but about intelligence, loyalty and dedication. While the friendship between the three main characters was my favourite aspect of the book, I also found Farah’s relationship with her younger brother Ahmed to be very interesting and complex. It pulled Farah in so many directions and had her battling between her responsibility to protect him and her need to be on her own.

I’m really starting to enjoy reading middle grade novels. The short chapters made the story flow. While I like reading fast paced books, sometimes the action went by too quickly. This is really my only issue with the book. At times I wanted more…more information, a few more moments to get to know the fabulous supporting cast of characters, but the chapter would end and the topic would change.

The descriptions in this book, from the scenery to the food to the never ending amounts of sand, amazed me. I felt like I was there with Essie, Farah, and Alex, running from a sandstorm, dodging large camel spiders and drinking sweet tea in the souk. Talking about tea…the food descriptions made my stomach growl. Everything sounded so delicious! I’ve never read a book that’s made me feel so hungry before.

This is a must read for middle graders and adults! It’s such a fun book that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It has action, friendships, ghosts, talking lizards…what more could you want? Just go out, pick up a copy and READ IT!


About the Author

2105807769_thKaruna Riazi is a born and raised New Yorker, with a loving, large extended family and the rather trying experience of being the eldest sibling in her particular clan. Besides pursuing a BA in English literature from Hofstra University, she is an online diversity advocate, blogger, and publishing intern. Karuna is fond of tea, Korean dramas, writing about tough girls forging their own paths toward their destinies, and baking new delectable treats for friends and family to relish. Her dessert of choice is a lemon bar, which always promise a sharp zest of intrigue along with the reassuring sugar of a happy ending.

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Down the TBR Hole

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It’s time for another edition of Down the TBR Hole, which is hosted by Lia @ Lost in a Story! This meme is dedicated to uncluttering your TBR pile, going through each book and choosing which one should stay or go.


The Books:

1. The Memory Book by Lara Avery

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I feel like I’ve read this story before. Girl gets ill, goes on long journey to finally do the things she feared, patch up relationships with those she wronged, etc. It doesn’t interest me one bit. Right now I’m all about the dark fantasy books and super adorable romances. Maybe I’ll want to read this at a later date? *shrugs*

The Verdict: Remove

2. After the Fall by Kate Hart

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I applaud the author for tackling so many difficult issues but I’m just not sure this book is for me (at least not right now). Reading the description doesn’t give me a must-read-this-right-now feeling. I do love the sky in the cover though. *sigh* Goodbye book!

The Verdict: Remove

3. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

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I recently finished reading Anna and the French Kiss and LOVED IT!!!! I’m really hoping this one is just as adorable. Why has it taken me so long to discover this series?

The Verdict: Keep 

4. The Way to Game the Walk of Shame by Jenn P. Nguyen

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I love the fake boyfriend trope! This book caught my eye ages ago and seeing it pop up on my TBR totally reminded me of why I originally wanted to read it. It stays!

The Verdict: Keep

5. Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Reigate

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Seven points of view?!?! While that worries me, I did really enjoy Riley Reigate’s other book Noteworthy so I’m going to give this one a chance. Plus, the reviews seem to be quite positive. Fingers crossed!

The Verdict: Keep

Mini Reviews: The Daemoniac & The Haunted House Project

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I received this book for free from Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

31031301The Daemoniac by Kat Ross
Release date: October 12th, 2016
Publisher: Acorn Publishing
Genre: Mystery, historical fiction, fantasy
Format: eBook

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Goodreads | Amazon

It’s August of 1888, just three weeks before Jack the Ripper will begin his grisly spree in the London slum of Whitechapel, and another serial murderer is stalking the gas-lit streets of New York. With taunting messages in backwards Latin left at the crime scenes and even more inexplicable clues like the fingerprints that appear to have been burned into one victim’s throat, his handiwork bears all the hallmarks of a demonic possession.

But consulting detective Harrison Fearing Pell is convinced her quarry is a man of flesh and blood. Encouraged by her uncle, Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry hopes to make her reputation by solving the bizarre case before the man the press has dubbed Mr. Hyde strikes again.

From the squalor of the Five Points to the high-class gambling dens of the Tenderloin and the glittering mansions of Fifth Avenue, Harry and her best friend, John Weston, follow the trail of a remorseless killer, uncovering a few embarrassing secrets of New York’s richest High Society families along the way. Are the murders a case of black magic—or simple blackmail? And will the trail lead them closer to home than they ever imagined?

Over the past year, Kat Ross has quickly become one of my favourite authors. I couldn’t get enough of her Fourth Element trilogy (a must read fantasy series based on mythology and history) and was ridiculously excited to start this book. Let me say that it did not disappoint. I loved, loved, loved it!!!! The Daemoniac is a perfect blend of horror, mystery and historical fiction. It had me on the edge of my seat from the start and continuously kept me guessing. I can best describe it as a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It’s dark, moody and a tiny bit creepy — basically everything I adore all rolled into one!

The Daemoniac opens with Harry Fearing Pell taking on her first case as a private investigator. A couple have asked her to find their missing friend, however, Harry is not who they think she is. The couple believe that she is her sister, Myrtle Fearing Pell, a detective known for solving the most difficult of cases. Harry sees this as her chance to step out of her sister’s shadow and takes on the case. However, what initially seemed simple quickly becomes dark and complicated when it’s discovered that the subject of their investigation was involved in witchcraft and murder.

What made this book standout was its characters. Yes, the story was fantastic but it wouldn’t have been so engaging without interesting characters that I truly cared about. The story’s main character, Harry, was totally badass. She flaunted society’s expectations that of what a woman should be. Harry wasn’t necessarily running around throwing punches, but she was incredibly smart and used that to her advantage. The Daemoniac is also Harry’s coming-of-age story. It’s an examination of how sometimes we need to fight for what we believe in and how even though sometimes others don’t believe in us, we are capable and worthy. We all just need to believe in ourselves. It’s all about female empowerment!

I also loved the feel and atmosphere of this novel. It’s set in 1880s New York, a time period known as the Gilded Age, but actually takes places mostly in the seedy areas of the city. It’s really rough and tumble with street gangs, underground clubs and creepy séances. The descriptions really set the mood for the book and enabled me to imagine every setting with incredible detail. It also established this tension that kept me turning the page. What would happen next? Was what happened real? I had so many questions throughout and once I thought something was about to happen, the story took a turn elsewhere. I love these types of books. It was such an adventure and one that didn’t want to end. Thank goodness there’s a sequel because I’m most definitely not done with these characters yet!


I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

26053362The Haunted House Project by Tricia Clasen
Release date: October 11th, 2016
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: Fiction, middle grade
Format: Hardcover

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Goodreads | Amazon

Since her mom died, Andie’s family has crumbled. Instead of working, her dad gambles away insurance money, while her sister, Paige, has put her future on hold in order to pick up extra waitressing shifts. Andie’s afraid of what will happen if people find out just how bad things are. She’s not sure how long she can hide the fact that there’s no food or money in the house…or adults, for that matter.

When her science partner suggests they study paranormal activity, Andie gets an idea. She wants a sign from her mom—anything to tell her it’s going to be okay. Maybe the rest of her family does too. So she starts a project of her own. Pretending to be her mother’s ghost, Andie sprays perfume, changes TV channels, and moves pictures. Haunting her house is Andie’s last hope to bring her family back into the land of the living.

For anyone who loved Counting by 7s, The Haunted House Project is a journey through loss and grief, but ultimately a story of hope and self-reliance. As much as Andie has been changed by her mother’s death, the changes she makes herself are the ones that are most important.

I received this book randomly from Sky Pony Press and didn’t really think much of it. I hadn’t requested it and its target audience was middle grade. I also thought it was about a “haunted house,” so definitely not my “thing” (I really should have read the synopsis). This poor book languished on my shelf for months until I finally decided to pick it up. I needed something to read before my trip that would quick and easy to get through. Well, everything I thought that this book would be, simple, childish, silly, was completely wrong! The Haunted House Project was heartbreaking and oh so beautiful. I really enjoyed it!

The story is about Andie, a middle grader who had recently lost her mother in a car accident. All Andie wants is for things to be as they were before her life was forever changed. Her sister works long hours at a diner and has become withdrawn, quitting the sports that had once made her happy. Andie’s dad is always absent, gambling away their money and drinking heavily. So, in order to bring her family together and remind them about what her mother would have wanted, Andie decides to pretend that her mother is haunting the family.

Besides all of the family drama that Andie has to deal with, the book also discusses friend dynamics. I remember how painful it was to learn that sometimes the people you thought would always be your friend aren’t anymore. The author did such a good job navigating the complexities of friendships and how children react to things when they fall apart or don’t go their way.

This book is really a must read! My heart ached for Andie, she went through so much and her development was really remarkable. I usually don’t read middle grade books but this one taught me that I shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover or title. Sometimes you just never know what you’ll find if you give it a chance!

Waiting on Wednesday

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

33413892This week I’m looking forward to Ever the Brave by Erin Summerill. I read the first book in the series last fall and absolutely loved it! The romance, the magic, the struggle between good and evil…yes it didn’t offer anything new to the fantasy genre and wasn’t perfect but I had so much fun reading it. The ending left me with tons of questions so I can’t wait to see what will happen next. The book will be released on December 5th by HMH Books for Young Readers.

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Ever the Divided. Ever the Feared. Ever the Brave.

After saving King Aodren with her newfound Channeler powers, Britta only wants to live a peaceful life in her childhood home. Unfortunately, saving the King has created a tether between them she cannot sever, no matter how much she’d like to, and now he’s insisting on making her a noble lady. And there are those who want to use Britta’s power for evil designs. If Britta cannot find a way to harness her new magical ability, her life—as well as her country—may be lost.

The stakes are higher than ever in the sequel to Ever the Hunted, as Britta struggles to protect her kingdom and her heart.