Book Review: The Siren

25817407Title: The Siren

Author: Kiera Cass

Rating: ★★★

Provided Synopsis: Years ago, Kahlen was rescued from drowning by the Ocean. To repay her debt, she has served as a Siren ever since, using her voice to lure countless strangers to their deaths. Though a single word from Kahlen can kill, she can’t resist spending her days on land, watching ordinary people and longing for the day when she will be able to speak and laugh and live freely among them again.

Kahlen is resigned to finishing her sentence in solitude…until she meets Akinli. Handsome, caring, and kind, Akinli is everything Kahlen ever dreamed of.

Falling in love with a human breaks the Ocean’s rules. But for the first time in a lifetime of following the rules, Kahlen is determined to follow her heart.

Review: Pleasantly surprised by this one. Yes, it did include a bit of an instant-love situation, but I have to admit that I completely get it because Akinli was so precious. Kahlen was also a main character that I could understand; the author did a wonderful job of making her dreams and motivations very clear cut to explain her actions.

What I’ll remember most about this book is the fresh take it took on sirens, and the nature of the Ocean. In this story sirens are chosen to sing people to their death in order to feed the Ocean; it is very much a case of a few being sacrificed to save the majority, and it does bring about struggles with responsibility and guilt.

Even better, I initially felt as if I knew where this story would go, in terms of the love angle and the need to be free of the Ocean and siren duties to reach an endgame. I was surprised by the turn of events. At the end I was sucked into this story, unable to put it down. So if you are on the lookout for a YA contemporary with siren-lore then I would recommend giving this a try.

Review: Along the Infinite Sea

24875387Title: Along the Infinite Sea

Author: Beatriz Williams

Rating: ★★★

Provided Synopsis: Each of the three Schuyler sisters has her own world-class problems, but in the autumn of 1966, Pepper Schuyler’s problems are in a class of their own. When Pepper fixes up a beautiful and rare vintage Mercedes and sells it at auction, she thinks she’s finally found a way to take care of herself and the baby she carries, the result of an affair with a married, legendary politician.

But the car’s new owner turns out to have secrets of her own, and as the glamorous and mysterious Annabelle Dommerich takes pregnant Pepper under her wing, the startling provenance of this car comes to light: a Nazi husband, a Jewish lover, a flight from Europe, and a love so profound it transcends decades. As the many threads of Annabelle’s life from World War II stretch out to entangle Pepper in 1960s America, and the father of her unborn baby tracks her down to a remote town in coastal Georgia, the two women must come together to face down the shadows of their complicated pasts.

Review: After successive novels by Beatriz Williams that did not appeal to my tastes, I was wary and hopeful at the same time. The former because I did not want to be disappointed and not finish another of her stories; hopeful because I find Pepper to be the least nauseating of the Schuyler sisters and because the cover was gorgeous. The synopsis also appealed to my interest in historical fiction, as Pepper becomes acquainted with a woman who buys Pepper’s car due to the role it played in her escape from Germany in the year 1938.

Along the Infinite Sea follows the life of Annabelle, beginning as she meets a man named Stefan along the coast of France and falls in love with him. Circumstances of their own making and of outside forces go on to bring them together and pull them apart during this three-year time span, and the answers revealed at the end of Annabelle’s story color the action of the narration being told from Pepper’s perspective in 1966.

Unlike the model she used in the books I did not like, Williams focused this story nearly entirely on the love affair of the past. And that is why I enjoyed this book — the lives of those from the past have always been the most interesting for me to read about in Williams’ novels. Rather than drownAlong the Infinite Sea with too much drama in Pepper’s life, or a rapidly moving insta-love trope, she delved more into the historical fiction to share a story that held my interest. If you, like me, have had issues with this author’s books in the past because of the issues mentioned, then I can see this one holding more appeal with you.

Book Club: Princess in the Spotlight and Princess in Love

The Princess Diaries Book Club is an ongoing collaboration with my friend Cilla and her blog, Paved with Books. We decided that we would reread this series, at our own pace, and always come back to our blogs and each other to discuss the story and how we feel about it now. If you are interested in joining us, please do!

439275Title: Princess in the Spotlight (The Princess Diaries #2)

Author: Meg Cabot

Rating: ★★

Provided Synopsis: No one ever said being a princess was easy.

Just when Mia thought she had the whole princess thing under control, things get out of hand, fast. First there’s an unexpected announcement from her mother. Then Grandmère arranges a national primetime interview for the brand-new crown princess of Genovia. On top of that, intriguing, exasperating letters from a secret admirer begin to arrive.

Before she even has the chance to wonder who those letters are from, Mia is swept up in a whirlwind of royal intrigue the likes of which hasn’t been seen since volume I of The Princess Diaries.

Review: Once again, I was fortunate enough to listen to the audiobook version narrated by Anne Hathaway; otherwise, I am not sure that I would have been able to finish this story in my current state. Do not get me wrong — this is a fast read, and there are many moments when I found myself trying to cover up my guffawing at the circumstances as described by Mia.

I think what really gets under my skin about this series thus far are the people around Mia, particularly her so-called best friend, Lily, and her grandmother. These two women are very similar in how they seem to bulldoze over the wishes and presence of those around them. In the case of Lily, she continues to have the most pretentious attitude and to treat those around her with very little regard. It has reached the point where I am actively hoping that eventually Mia will realize she is worthy of receiving much better.

Another question I have with this book concerns continuity. When we were first introduced to Mia she had always been in love with Josh. In this second installment however, she continuously says that she has always been in love with Michael…

 

568609Title: Princess in Love (The Princess Diaries #3)

Author: Meg Cabot

Rating: ★★★

Provided Synopsis: Princess Mia may seem like the luckiest girl ever.

But the truth is, Mia spends all her time doing one of three things: preparing for her nerve-wracking entrée into Genovian society, slogging through the congestion unique to Manhattan in December, and avoiding further smooches from her hapless boyfriend, Kenny.

For Mia, being a princess and in love is not the fairy tale it’s supposed to be… or is it?

Review: For me, this is the best of the series thus far. And that is because Mia is the most relatable in the trials and tribulations she must encounter in order to tell the one she loves how she feels and discover his own feelings in return. When you are in high school there is nothing more complicated than love. There are the continuous questions in your head about whether he feels the same. There is the fear to be hurt, or to hurt someone else in return, which is why Mia makes certain decisions about Kenny. There is the confusion as multiple events mold together to create illusions that fit the dream, but also do not.

About halfway through listening to Princess in Love, I remembered the ending. But along with the ending I was also able to recall my feelings towards it when I first read this book however many years ago. It is sweet, it is magical, it was everything I wanted to read as a young girl who believed in love and wanted to experience it for herself. All these years later the ending still had the same effect on me; I could not stop smiling as things began to fall into place.

While the previous two books were difficult for me to get through without the aid of Anne Hathaway’s audiobook narration, this one brought back all the nostalgia and feelings of being in love for the first time, which is a testament to Meg Cabot’s handling of the situation. Mia never felt more relatable back then, and she has never felt more real than she does right now.

Review: The Heart of Betrayal

21569527Review: The Heart of the Betrayal (The Remnant Chronicles #2)

Author: Mary E. Pearson

Rating: ★★★

Provided Synopsis: Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape. Desperate to save her life, Lia’s erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komizar that she has the gift, and the Komizar’s interest in Lia is greater than anyone could have foreseen.

Meanwhile, nothing is straightforward: there’s Rafe, who lied to Lia, but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom Lia always believed to be barbarians. Now that she lives amongst them, however, she realizes that may be far from the truth. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her sense of self, Lia must make powerful choices that will affect her country… and her own destiny.

Review: After the promising level of suspense delivered at the end of The Kiss of Deception, I was eager to read its sequel now that I assumed the troublesome aspects of the storyline had been left behind. Lia, Rafe, and Kaden are now in the Kingdom of Venda, and two of them must fight for their survival with deception always on the tip of their tongues. This barbarian kingdom is lead by one man, a Komizar, who is calculating in his quest for power and a keeper of the hand he has yet to play in the game of politics. The love triangle is resolved, for Lia had made her pick. This was what I expected; this, in some ways, is what I received. So why is it that I am still almost as ambivalent towards this book as I was for the majority of its predecessor?

With a three star rating, The Heart of Betrayal is an improvement to the series, but the problems I had with the first book remained, particularly in the area of pacing. This book is long, and it tends to meander along rather than be urgent. These characters are in difficult situations, therefore I had expected the book to reflect their danger and be on the edge of suspense. Instead, Lia is embraced by the people she had thought of as “barbarians” through the role she is forced to take in their lives. As a prisoner to the Komizar she is forced into a visible public role to suit his plans, but I never managed to feel the danger from him either. Was it pacing? Could this book have been more to my tastes if the perils of deception were evident in the pacing and heartbeat of the story? Possibly.

As for the love triangle: Lia had made a choice, but that in no way means that the spare boy is out of the picture. He continues to be blindsided by her actions, and because of her tenuous status she must play with his heart. I felt nothing between these two, but even more problematic was that I did not feel much of anything between Lia and the boy she loves either, for they were barely given time together. I left book one clearly favoring the same boy as Lia; I leave this book not really caring because I felt distant from her interactions with both of them.

Once again, my hope for the next book in the series is for Lia to join again with someone who can help her better understand and work with “the gift” of sight, as well as help her decipher the texts of the Ancients. I believe these areas are when the book shines, and are the key to the discovery of the political betrayals Lia uncovered while in Venda. If you liked the first book, then I think you will enjoy this one as well, because you most likely did not have issues with the things I have mentioned in both reviews. If you were on the fence after The Kiss, then you might continue to hover there with me, for while this book set-up interesting politics, the overwhelming problems lingered.

Review: The Witch Hunter

Title: The Witch Hunter (The Witch Hunter #1) 18190208

Author: Virginia Boecker

Rating: ★★★1/2

Provided Synopsis: Your greatest enemy isn’t what you fight, but what you fear.

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king’s best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she’s accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.

Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that’s been laid upon him.

But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth’s witch hunting past–if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she’s thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.

Review: When Elizabeth is falsely accused of witchcraft, thrown into prison, and sentenced to death, she finds herself on the other side of the status quo. As a witch hunter, it is usually Elizabeth who is responsible for the discovery of a witch or wizard and their subsequent capture. Now that her life is in the balance she must rely on the only one available to give her help: who also happens to be the most sought-after wizard in the country for his rebellion against the anti-witchcraft laws.

A prophecy is told, a quest must be undertaken, and the result of this book was something that I found to be fun, fast-paced, and easy to follow. The Witch Hunter is by no means at the Game of Thrones level mentioned by the marketing department, but it is something with its own charm that is sure to appeal to certain readers. I believe what made this book work for me is that I liked the deciphering of the prophecy, and revelations about a prominent character, and how the line between good and evil has been established at the onset of what is sure to be war.

If you are interested in a YA book with a fantasy-lite tone, then I would recommend this one. There is magic, adventure, and even some romance, although I will admit the later was weakly established, making me thankful it serves no headlining role in the story.

Review: The Other Daughter

23014679Title: The Other Daughter

Author: Lauren Willig

Rating: ★★★

Provided Synopsis: Raised in a poor yet genteel household, Rachel Woodley is working in France as a governess when she receives news that her mother has died, suddenly. Grief-stricken, she returns to the small town in England where she was raised to clear out the cottage…and finds a cutting from a London society magazine, with a photograph of her supposedly deceased father dated all of three month before. He’s an earl, respected and influential, and he is standing with another daughter-his legitimate daughter. Which makes Rachel…not legitimate. Everything she thought she knew about herself and her past-even her very name-is a lie.

Still reeling from the death of her mother, and furious at this betrayal, Rachel sets herself up in London under a new identity. There she insinuates herself into the party-going crowd of Bright Young Things, with a steely determination to unveil her father’s perfidy and bring his-and her half-sister’s-charmed world crashing down. Very soon, however, Rachel faces two unexpected snags: she finds she genuinely likes her half-sister, Olivia, whose situation isn’t as simple it appears; and she might just be falling for her sister’s fiancé…

Review: Word of warning: for the first fourth of this book I had my doubts. The story did not mesh with me in terms of connection to characters or amenability towards the slang of the Bright Young Things. So if you too find you have similar troubles, then I would advise to read on because the book really does improve once the plot begins to unravel the darkness that lurks behind the glittering façade presented by the characters.

The Other Daughter is the story of Rachel Woodley, who learns from a newspaper clipping discovered after her mother’s death that the father, whom she was told had died when she was four, is still alive. And not only is he alive, he is an earl with another family. Disbelief soon turns to anger for Rachel; under the force of her rage, however, there also remains the remnant of a four-year-old girl desperate to know her father had loved her and did think of her as the years went by. So with the help of man loosely connected to her uncle, Rachel masquerades as Vera Merton to place herself within the company of her father’s children to gain access to him.

As mentioned at the beginning of this review, the initial introduction of Rachel to the Bright Young Things set was not the easiest to get through. It is a series of parties, and empty conversations; I have always read characters from this time period and wished that I could be shown some depth, because I have always had to believe there is something there to a person. When The Other Daughter shows the truth behind the people, it became a story I was much more invested in. Emotions do exist for these characters, the most notable in my mind being the truth about CeCe and the two scenes in which Rachel comes face to face with her father.

When the truth behind what really happened to Rachel’s family twenty-three years ago is revealed, I was not too surprised for my thoughts since the beginning had fallen along the correct lines, even though I did not grasp the reasons. Transparency aside, I was still engaged with the unraveling of the mystery and motivations of all parties involved. I leave the book satisfied with the answers given. In conclusion, with the exception of the vapidity displayed by the Bright Young Things set along with the exclusion of true presence for Rachel’s sister despite her often in the same space, this book was a decent enough read that fans of Lauren Willig’s stories should enjoy.

Review: The Invasion of the Tearling

22698568Title: The Invasion of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #2)

Author: Erika Johansen

Rating: ★★★

Provided Synopsis: With each passing day, Kelsea Glynn is growing into her new responsibilities as Queen of the Tearling. By stopping the shipments of slaves to the neighboring kingdom of Mortmesne, she crossed the Red Queen, a brutal ruler whose power derives from dark magic, who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion.

But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime. The fate of the Tearling —and that of Kelsea’s own soul—may rest with Lily and her story, but Kelsea may not have enough time to find out.

Review: Due to her actions in The Queen of the Tearling, Kelsea Glynn’s kingdom is now on the verge of entering a war. The Mort continue to threaten to cross over the border; the Tearling people need to be evacuated to safety. Kelsea needs a plan to save her people from the plundering and certain death to be delivered by her foe, but what can she do to stop The Red Queen?

Truth be told, with a title such as The Invasion of the Tearling, I expected to receive a lot more action than I did. The Tearling can clearly not hold off the Mort for very long, therefore I was surprised when the end of the book was something that I would have placed towards the beginning or the middle of the story. Because of the languid manner in which it took to reach the actual stand off at the walls, I’ve come to think of this book as less of a sequel and more of an addition of the first book. By this I mean that there is not much here to stand on its own…

Rather than progress the war, Invasion has Kelsea looking back on the past through portraits and people of the present world she lives in, and through visions of a woman named Lily. For those readers who were confused in book one about the dystopian placement of the Tearling in reflection to the world of 2015, Lily’s life holds many answers. But was this enough? Didn’t readers need more than answers in this installment? Didn’t we deserve to receive forward action as well? I have no doubt the next book will deliver in terms of action (due to how things ended) and hopefully character development, but I really do wish I could have received those two things here to invest me in this series much more.