[review] The Savage Blue by Zoraida Córdova

Warning: Possible spoilers for The Vicious Deep.

Tristan now holds one of three pieces of the trident that once united will allow him to save the sea and its people from the terrifying sea witch Nieve. Can Tristan find the other pieces and protect those he cares about?

13092528The Savage Blue picks up right were The Vicious Deep ends…I think. It definitely picks up right in the middle of some action, and this led to some big problems in my personal reading experience. It had been awhile since I read the first book in the series, and unfortunately most of the details had left me. This left me feeling very much like a fish out of water. (Get it…because the book’s about mermaids… it’s funny.) I would definitely recommend rereading The Vicious Deep prior to reading The Savage Blue, unless you have a good head for details.

The book itself felt more like a side trip. For some reason I went in thinking the competition was going to be a… competition. But interactions between the challengers seemed almost friendly? And none of them really seemed to have a clue as to what was happening, which definitely made the story more realistic, but also made it kind of frustrating because as the reader it’s hard to pick out the end game. It’s a fine balance, and I still can’t decide if Córdova managed to keep it.

From a character perspective, I didn’t find myself as invested. My favourite character, Kurt, has his own storyline, but it only plays a role the last hundred or so pages of the book, and I felt like he wasn’t around as much. Tristan and Layla’s romance really didn’t do much for me. Tristan frequently thinks about how much he loves Layla and how she’s the only girl for him, but he doesn’t do much to show it in this book. I think Nieve, the antagonist of the book, could potentially be a really interesting character. I’m hoping to get even more of her back story in the third book because as of right now it feels like she’s mostly just evil incarnate.

On the plus side, the book didn’t have anything in it that made me want to angry rant, but on the other hand it really didn’t have anything that makes me want to happy rant either. It’s kind of an in-between book: Easy enough to get lost in and easier to let go of when you’re done.

Don’t just take my word for it!

“The plot raced along at a speed that was intense and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” – The Book Cellar

“There was a lot of action in this one!” – The Story Siren

“dark and funny and romantic and just the absolute best.” – In Bed With Books

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Goddess Test trilogy by Aimee Carter

There is no one Kate Winters loves more than her cancer-stricken mother, so when her mother’s final request is to live out her short remaining time in her home town, Eden, Kate packs up their car and off they go. But there’s something weird about the inhabitants of Eden. And what’s with that weird mansion? The truth is like nothing Kate could have imagined and will leave her fighting for her life.

9681214I’m a big fan of Greek mythology, so when I heard about The Goddess Test trilogy I knew I’d have to read it. I wish that I hadn’t. The idea was great, but the execution of that idea was not so great. Pair that with a large cast of characters that individually don’t get enough page time to push themselves beyond their two-dimensions, and I just couldn’t find any enjoyment in the story.

The relationships in the story falls into several pits, including insta-love and pointless love triangles. I should have been swooning over one of the love interests, Henry, but I was too busy rolling my eyes at his hot-cold nature. This guy makes Edward Cullen in New Moon seem normal.

12637490Many of the aspects of the story include a flip-flop nature that made me feel like I was being led around in circles. This was especially rough in The Goddess Inheritance which was a couple hundred pages too long due to this phenomena. I kept hoping that something would push this series up, that something would surprise me, but as the clichés were piled on, important character development moments skipped over in the time between books, and traumatising events more or less ignored post-happening, I had to seriously question why I chose to read this at all.

If you’re tastes are anything like mine, I’d say let this series go, but those who enjoy supernatural romances that follow a regular pattern should find a comfortable fit with this series.

Don’t just take my word for it!

10838776The Goddess Test

“Despite my ambivalence, I did enjoy reading it.” – Alexa Loves Books

“i could not put this book down.” –Lisa is Busy Nerding

“The characters in The Goddess Test were also very fun and layered.” – Books Take you Places

Goddess Interrupted

“exciting and intense, fraught with intrigue and filled with romance” – Alexa Loves Books

“adventurous and heartfelt and it made me want more” – Books Takes you Places

The Goddess Inheritance

“brings the drama, the love and the twists with practiced ease, and it’s a solid conclusion to this series.” – Alexa Loves Books

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[review] Born Wicked & Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood

On her mother’s deathbed, Cate Cahill promised to protect her younger sisters, Maura and Tessa. This is not an easy thing when all three of them are witches. Hated and feared by the Brotherhood, witches must hide in plain sight by pretending to support the misogynistic ideologies of the Brotherhood. But a prophecy threatens the Cahill sisters, and Cate will have to sacrifice everything to uphold her promise to her mother.

11715276Let me get straight to the point: you need to add this series to your must-read-immediately pile. There are two big reasons why: 1. fantastic world building and history and 2. female characters and relationships that are real and raw and wonderful. I could also add realistic and heartbreaking romances as a secondary reason, though as that’s something you can find in most YA books, I don’t feel a great need to focus on it.

The world of Born Wicked has a similar idea to XVI in that it is a backlash to years of female leadership and the society majorly regresses when it comes to gender equality. The Brotherhood spouts many recognizable religious ideologies meant to prove that women should be obedient and virtuous. While the misogyny may seem severe, it is not a far cry from our own society. For example, women who have sex outside of marriage or partake in adultery are taken to a hellish all-woman prison or sentenced to harsh work camps, while the male of that rendezvous does not receive so much as a slap on the wrist, especially if he’s a member of the Brotherhood. We don’t have a place like Harwood (that I know of…), but you only have to look at the reaction to stories like Kristin Stewart’s cheating to see that the sentiment between our two societies is eerily similar. Spotswood does not shy away from these realities and weaves them into the story expertly.

16101026Equally important, the Cahill sisters have one of my favourite relationships in literature. Each character is strong in her own right, and the way they interact with each other will be familiar to anyone with siblings. The story is told from Cate’s perspective. As eldest sister, she has put aside her own wants and needs to take care of her sisters. She is self-conscious, but adventurous. A budding romance helps her to come into her own, while her self-sacrificing nature is a combination of admirable and frustrating. Maura is the middle-child and definitely suffers from middle-child syndrome. Considered the beauty of the family, she is not afraid to use it to her benefit. In Harry Potter terminology, Maura is a Slytherin, while Cate is probably a Hufflepuff, so I think you can see where that’s going. Tessa, the youngest, is definitely a Ravenclaw. She plays a much more background role in Born Wicked, but she is not a character to be underestimated. Tessa has an innocence and strong-will that would make any older sister proud, and after reading you will be just as protective of her as Cate.

The love these sisters share is strong, so watching the transformation their relationship takes from book to book is awesome in the original sense of the word. I am a sucker for character and relationship development, and Spotswood is spot on (haha couldn’t resist) with both of these elements. The end of Star Cursed had me choking on air and waving my hands frantically for the next book. I say again, read this series. You won’t regret it.

Don’t just take my word for it!

Born Wicked

“I fricken LOVED Cate Cahill” – April @ Good Books and Good Wine

“Wonderful character development, intense romance and a protagonist that leaps off the page in all her glory–Born Wicked has it all!” – Angel @ Mermaid Visions

“I really loved the feel of the sisters interaction throughout the story.” – Andrea @ Cozy up with a Good Books

“I couldn’t put BORN WICKED down” – Amy @ Tripping Over Books

“It enchanted me and it wrapped me up in its historical setting.” – Christa @ Hooked on Books

“There were so many things about this book that I loved!” – Jen @ YA Romantics

Star Cursed

“Jessica Spotswood totally delivered.” – Amy Tripping Over Books

“READ BOOK TWO” – April @ Good Books and Good Wine

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[review] Messenger by Lois Lowry

Warning: Possible spoilers for The Giver and Gathering Blue.

Living in Village with Seer, Matty has learned not to steal, swear, or lie. He can’t seem to stop keeping secrets, however, especially when it has to do with a mysterious power he can’t control. He’s not the only one keeping secrets. Village is growing as twisted as Forest as the mysterious Trade Market gains prominence. Can Mattie help Leader save Village before it’s too late?


Messenger by Lois Lowry started out strong, but the ending left me feeling confused and unsatisfied. Even more than The Giver and Gathering BlueMessenger contains a high quantity of magic realism. However, the sheer amount of unanswered questions made it impossible for me to suspend my disbelief enough to enjoy the end of the story, which coloured my opinion of the rest of the novel.

Matty was one of my favourite characters from Gathering Blue, so I was happy to see him in the primary role for Messenger. Matty is still prideful and mischievous. His interactions with Seer are infused with kindness, and it made me happy to see Matty in a place where he could finally be loved and appreciated. The book is short, so there wasn’t time to go into as much characterization and character develop as I might have liked, but I think Lowry did a good job of it considering.

The setting, like the previous two novels of this quartet, is interesting and (mostly) realistic. Once again darkness lurks behind the veneer of goodness. This could very well be a metaphor for humanity itself, and the repeated theme remains valid to me. As always, I wish I could see more of the setting as it feels like only a glimpse of a much fuller world.

This “glimpse” feeling is something that really bothered me about the book. As the story is primarily from Matty’s perspective, the reader isn’t really allowed to see what is going on. While this kind of mystery is interesting, there are events that take place at the ending that we are just supposed to accept, and I don’t. I don’t accept this ending. I want some kind of explanation as to why…why. Why did it end that way? What was going on all along? And if I was certain of receiving answers in Son, I might be a little more lenient to Messenger, but I don’t feel like I’ll receive the answers there either.

While the story was well-constructed so that I can respect it from a writing perspective, as a reader I am seriously upset and cannot say I enjoyed the experience.

Don’t just take my word for it!

“The story leaves open holes that can either frustrate the reader or leave the reader to imagine the missing portion. ” – Jandy’s Books

“Like with the other books in the trilogy, it’s good choice for young readers – especially if they are interested in fantasy, magical realism or dystopian/utopian.” Jules’ Book Reviews

“I thoroughly enjoyed reading Messenger…” – InkWeaver Review

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[review] Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

Warning: Possible spoilers for The Girl of Fire and Thorns.

Now queen, Elisa must out-battle and outsmart enemies both in and outside of her city’s walls. She must also search for answers about the Godstone and its power. Politics, love, and action are plentiful as Elisa fights to keep her people safe.

10816908This series. This series has bumped Rae Carson onto my must-read authors list. It takes a lot to impress me in a book these days. I don’t just want an interesting plot or a swoony romance, though those things are both great and are both found in these novels. I need to see character growth. And to be blunt, I need to see an active feminist edge. When I read a book with one or two female characters who both might as well be made of cardboard, I want to punch something. Hard. Carson’s trilogy instead made me want to hug everything. Hard.

Elisa has a character arc to rival Katsa from Kristin Cashore’s Graceling. She finds her own way sometimes with support from male and female characters, but still her realizations come primarily from herself. Even better, they have support from actual events that happen in the book. There’s no unnatural jumps in her characterization: no sudden miraculous strength. Everything she is able to do has been gained through hard work. Additionally, Elisa’s struggle with self-image has been a running theme from the beginning of the trilogy, and I think this very contemporary message is important for women of all ages who are expected to meet the unnaturally high standards of “beauty.” The end of this character-driven plot line was incredibly satisfying to me.

11431896I was also very impressed by the connections between women in this story. The relationships between the many different women in this story are rarely 100% positive, but there is always an underlying message of respect. Ximena, Alodia, Waterfall, Mula, Mara, and so many more… there are so many wonderful female characters in this story and they have such an impact on Elisa. I could easily read novellas about all of them.

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the romance. Elisa’s romantic interest is someone I have been cheering for since The Girl of Fire and Thorns (and I have proof that I totally wasn’t imagining the chemistry there now!!) He reminds me very much of Po from Graceling (sorry, I can’t help continuing to compare these two trilogies) or George from the Lioness Quartet in that he is a supportive supporting character. Elisa never falls second to him, and they are equals in all the ways that matter. She is above him in other ways, and with a lesser male character this would be problematic because of patriarchy and misogyny and a whole bunch of stuff I don’t feel like getting into. This character though becomes even more swoony because of his loyalty and ability to keep his ego in check. Because I loved him so much I was terrified for him every single page.

That terror is a good thing. Carson doesn’t pull any punches. She is not afraid to slit the throat of your favourite character, literally. (Too soon?) Deadly and near death experiences are frequent, especially in The Bitter Kingdom. None of the deaths felt contrived or useless, nor did I feel like Carson was creating these situations purely for the shock value. Everything felt natural.

I really can’t praise this series enough. It’s a must-read for fantasy fans. Cashore and Pierce fans, we’ve got another one!

Don’t just take my word for it!

“It is among my favorite series OF ALL TIME, and after reading THE BITTER KINGDOM, it will continue to retain a spot among my favorites.” – April @ Good Books and Good Wine

“In short, The Bitter Kingdom was an incredible book and a phenomenal conclusion to a beloved trilogy.” – Jen @ Almost Grown-Up

“If you are a fantasy reader, a fan of YA writers like Kristen Cashore and Melina Marchetta, you should definitely not miss these books.” – Jen @ YARomantics

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[review] The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Warning: Possible spoilers for Angels & Demons and The Davinci Code.

Robert Langdon must put his mind to the test once more when an old friend and mentor is threatened, and the ramifications put the entire country at risk.

6411961Compared to The Davinci Code and Angels & DemonsThe Lost Symbol falls short. Neither the pacing nor the sense of impending doom is quite as intense. While mystery fans should still enjoy puzzling out the answer and history buffs might enjoy information on their favourite topics, I personally did not take anything from the book except for a sense of American entitlement.

The Lost Symbol follows a similar model as Brown’s other Robert Langdon books. The short chapters make it easy to keep reading, though sometimes I found them to be unnecessarily choppy. For example one chapter would end and the next chapter would begin a second later from the same character’s perspective. It made me really uncertain as to why a new chapter needed to be started at all and only disconnected me further from the story.

The characters are more of the same archetypes you’ll find in any mystery novel. The smart (yet vulnerable) woman. The male hero. The bitch. The troubled genius. You know the drill. This is definitely not a character-driven book despite the recurring character of Robert Langdon. Any of his character development is rehashed (yes, we get it. Langdon has a fear of small spaces. Thank you.) and seeing as the entire book happens in one day it makes sense that character-wise, not much will happen.

That being said, I felt the book itself didn’t go anywhere all that interesting. Unlike the previous novels whose focus on religion I remember finding quite interesting, The Lost Symbol feels like much more of a United States thing. There’s this underlying feeling of overdone nationalistic pride, and that’s great. National pride is great. But it also felt as if United States was being equated with the entire world, and while I get that America is a whole world force and everything, going out and bragging about it just seems in poor taste.

I don’t know, I feel like National Treasure did it better.

Don’t just take my word for it!

“The Lost Symbol reads like a 500-page shaggy-dog story—full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” – Rosi’s Doors

“The short chapters help the novel move along quickly, and the major twist toward the end is breathtaking.” – Lara’s Book Club

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[review] Blue Noon by Scott Westerfeld

Warning: Possible spoilers for The Secret Hour and Touching Darkness.

The Darklings are stirring as things get even weirder in Bixby. When the blue time starts invading mid-day, the Midnighters know they need to figure out what is going on before time runs out for humanity.

24769I think I figured out what bugs me so much about this series: it reads like one book. The first book and the second book are all build up to the third book. Unfortunately either I wasn’t pay close enough attention while reading (a strong possibility because I wasn’t exactly engaged) or Westerfeld forgot to leave any bread crumbs because the ending came so far out of left field that what should have been a heart-wrenching, fantastic punchline became an annoying deus ex machina.

Let’s start with what I liked. I liked that these characters, these so-called heroes, are very flawed and completely out of their depths. There’s darkness and selfishness within them that makes them more interesting as characters, especially the two male characters. Somehow, the girls flaws seemed to focus on “bitchiness” which was unfortunate. I liked that in the end they are just kids who don’t really have a clue what they’re doing. They’re kind of just floundering around trying to do good while everything goes to pieces. Looking at it this way, the ending is more like dumb luck than anything else and is slightly less annoying as a conclusion.

In the end, however, I can’t say that I enjoyed this ending. It’s not the kind of twist that has you looking back and haunted by the things that could have gone differently (like, say, The Madness Underneath), but it is fairly haunting in its own severely depressing way. However, I found it frustrating because I felt that the ending had been misused through a lack of tension and personal/moral dilemma for the characters involved. Everything moved so fast that by the time the dust settled all I was left with was a bad taste in my mouth.

Final say, Westerfeld has some AMAZING books, but I wouldn’t include Midnighters among them. Check out his later works which are much more polished and satisfying.

Don’t just take my word for it!

“Blue Noon didn’t absolutely blow me away, but it remains, as the others in the series, a pretty enjoyable YA read for sci-fi/fantasy lovers of either gender.” – Gamila’s Book Review

“I’m glad I picked up this series.” – Writer Quirk

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[review] Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

After the death of her mother leaves her an orphan, Kira returns from mourning to find the only home she’s ever known is gone. Considered a drain on her small community because of a birth defect, the women of the clan want to leave her to the beasts. Will her strange knowledge of weaving save her?

12936Do you know that feel classic books have? That kind of timelessness and universal truth-ness that makes it so easy to settle in, to relate, to enjoy? Gathering Blue is that kind of book. A gentler precursor to the female-led dystopian novels that have currently saturated the YA field, Lowry’s novel will sweep you into a world cloaked with secrets and barely veiled violence.

Kira as a protagonist is amazing to me because there is very little that is particularly spectacular about her. She does what she needs to survive. She’s practical. She does not tend to question her surroundings too much nor is she particularly brave or strong. However, she accomplishes amazing things. She is full of compassion despite rarely witnessing that particular character trait. She lives with the daily pain of being an outcast and of her birth defect, a “twisted” leg, but she does not complain and she does what she needs to in order to accomplish her tasks. She’s a beautifully constructed character, and I would love the opportunity to watch her continue to develop.

The story itself is fairly simple. Seasoned readers are sure to pick up on any possible twists early on, but despite that I enjoyed the story. It was soothing in a way that is difficult to describe. I found myself being completely entangled in the story, in the setting, and in its characters. I’m finding this to be something more rare the more I read, and I can only assume that Lowry is some sort of word magician. No matter how long it’s been since I’ve picked up The Giver, I’m glad I decided to continue with this companion novel.

Don’t just take my word for it!

“While I didn’t get the answers I was looking for, I still found the book to be enjoyable.” – Jules’ Book Reviews

“And it was all that I expected but nothing that made me go OMG. ” – Boarding with Books

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[review] Touching Darkness by Scott Westerfeld

Warning: Possible spoilers for The Secret Hour.

The Midnighters’ danger is only beginning. While the two couples worry about their new romances, Dess struggles with a problem that could unravel the secret  of their past.

24767The increase in action is much appreciated, but much like in The Secret HourI wasn’t exactly impressed.

The speed of events affected the character development, which I found to be severely lacking, though this may be due to the fact that it’s been over a year since I read the first book. The fact that I was able to fall back into the story without too much difficulty is proof of Westerfeld’s story telling ability, even if I’m not super impressed by this particular story. There were some interesting twists, and I would love to see more of the golden time of Bixby back before the Midnighters disappeared.

I feel as if this story is written more for a young-teen age group (I’m thinking 13-15), and unfortunately the older I get, that young adult verging on middle grade story telling no longer works for me. Younger readers, however, who are not quite ready for Uglies and feel like they’re a little too old for Leviathan may want to give this series a try.

I just started the third in the trilogy, Blue Noon, and the focus so far is on character development, so I once again find that I have hope.

Don’t just take my word for it!

“…it is good but I feel most of it was just as set up for the third book after we got the character introduction from the first book.” – Misheal @ Book in the Bag

“The action throughout is nicely spaced out, just the right amount to keep things moving without being so fast paced you can’t keep up.” – A Trillian Books

“Westerfeld creates his characters as effectively as he creates his world.” – Fyrefly’s Book Blog

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[review] Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

TW: Suicide.

When Robin is given her next temp job, she wasn’t expecting to be fulfilling her childhood dream of working for a PI and she definitely wasn’t expecting down-on-his-luck Cormoran Strike. Strike wasn’t expecting another temp, and with money running low he doesn’t see how he’ll be able to pay her, but then John Bristow, adopted brother of tragic supermodel Lula Landry, arrives with questions about his sister’s apparent suicide.

16160797I haven’t read a detective novel since my first year of university when I took a class on detective novels, so when I heard that J. K. Rowling had written The Cuckoo’s Calling the first thing I did was purchase my copy. Okay, my review may have a slight bias to it considering my life has been irrecoverably changed by Ms Rowling and her words, but even so I would like to offer my recommendation of this book despite it being my least favourite of all of her novels.

Rowling follows many of the conventions of a detective novel, but I feel she fleshes out her characters in a way that the old hardboiled novels did not. Strike has both emotional and physical scars. Several of her characters have mental disorders. They’re creatures of their surroundings instead of being unaffected by them.

This is something that I’ve found that Rowling always does well. Rowling understand that people and thus characters don’t exist within a vacuum. They’re affected, created by their surroundings: by their social class, by the people who raise them, by the events that occurred around them. I feel like she only brushed the surface of this in Cuckoo’s Calling unlike in The Casual Vacancy where the theme of social classes took centre stage.

Other themes she brushed across include racism and the identity difficulties faced by adopted children and particularly black children in white households. I wish this topic had been dealt with more in-depth. Sometimes I’m impressed with how Rowling can cover so many issues, but other times I get disappointed by how little she goes into these topics. Then again, if she did, I’m not sure how much room would have been left for plot, so I guess I understand.

They mystery itself was satisfying. I guessed the ending early on though I didn’t really believe it could be the truth. All the clues were there, so the big reveal didn’t feel fake or forced or as if the detective had been hiding something from the reader, which is the worst thing when it comes to stories with any kind of mystery/reveal.

All in all, I’d recommend this book to older readers. Friendly reminder that this is not Harry Potter (as nothing will ever be Harry Potter), and the sex, violence, etc. is not framed in a way for young readers. Older readers however will be in for a comfortable yet gritty read as they fall into another beautifully crafted story by dear J. K..

Don’t just take my word for it!

“This novel has all of the star qualities of Stieg Larsson’s novel and BBC’s Sherlock.” – Scott Reads It

“It is no Harry Potter, but it is engrossing.” – Watching the Words

“It’s a cut above your average mass market crime fiction writing-wise – J. K. Rowling still has that efficient turn of phrase – but I do think that there are much better literary crime books available.” – ‘Ow Am Yau

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