Review of ‘Toward a Secret Sky’ by Heather Maclean

Toward a Secret SkyToward a Secret Sky by Heather Maclean

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Even the lush depictions of Scotland couldn’t bring me to fall in love with this book.
Synopsis from publisher:
Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she’s never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that’s now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she’ll continue her parents’ fight or stay behind to save her friends.

With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she’s not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn’t as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you.
This book had me torn when it came to actually decided whether or mother I liked it. The idea this book is centered on is pretty cool, what with there existing a secret organization to keep us lowly ones safe, as well as the promise of some code-breaking. But the “romance” (I cringe even thinking of it) is so ridiculous to me, that it played a large part in why I disliked this book.

Why don’t I first start with the good?

Call me cheesy, but I loved the idea of the American girl having to start over in a foreign country. Living with family she doesn’t know, maybe she’ll be able to find out more about the father she’d never known, and explore the Scottish countryside as well. And of course, she’ll fall for the handsome some of a Scottish laird, and the two will live happily ever after – once all conflicts and whatnot are cared for, of course.

The whole ‘secret codes and mysterious organization’ thing was an interesting part of the story, too. The former actually ended up playing only a small part unfortunately, but I did feel that it was well done and more clever than I could have been, attempting to crack a riddle-like code.
When it comes to the mysterious organization, we do get an explanation of its existence, as well as learning of some of its members, but again, those moments are seldom, and I wish we could’ve gone deeper into its missions or pretty much anything interesting, really.

So…now on to the bad/annoying.

I usually am the biggest sucker when it comes to romance, typically loving even the super cheesy stuff, but Maren‘s infatuation/instalove when it comes to Gavin is so ridiculous! When she first meets him, she swoons, falling to her knees because he’s so good-looking. Then, whenever she’s in his presence, all she can think about is how hot he is, yadda yadda. This goes on for pretty much the whole book, to the point where I was actually cringing at her excessive descriptions.
Honestly, the “romance” was one of the worst things I had to deal with when reading this book.

Finally, when the book seems close to having a satisfying wrap-up, we’re given more conflict, and something terrible happens in Maren’s life. This terrible thing bothered me because I didn’t really feel it had to have happened, and of course it leads to more terrible things and me hating the last 2o% of this book. I’m guessing that the way this book ended, there’s going to be a book 2, though I hadn’t seen anything listed on Goodreads. Seriously though, if there isn’t a book 2, I’m going to really hate this book even more in the future.

I’ll only recommend this if you can get past the annoying instalove and really would like to read a book that has mentions of secret organizations and codes.

Thank you to the publishers at Blink via NetGalley for giving this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review Of ‘Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault (Glass Vault, #1) by Candace Robinson

Quinsey Wolfe's Glass Vault (Glass Vault, #1)Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault by Candace Robinson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A very interesting story that could have been better with some additional editing.

Synopsis taken from publisher:

Some see it… Some don’t…

People in the town of Deer Park, Texas are vanishing. There is a strange museum, known as Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault, that appears overnight. Perrie Madeline’s best friend and ex-boyfriend are among the missing. Perrie, along with her friend August, go on a pursuit to search for them in the mysterious museum. Could the elusive Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault have anything to do with their disappearances?

A book that intertwines horror elements and retellings, with humor and darkness.

Okay, so first, let’s talk about the things that bothered me.

The writing.

The writing isn’t horrible by any means, but I feel like this book really could have benefited from some additional editing to improve the flow of the story. Perrie is the MC/narrator, and she was constantly telling us what was going on, as opposed to describing. It was like she was dictating events to a jury, so it did get to be a little much.
Then there was the strange wording that was sprinkled throughout, another thing that could have used some editing. I had already used this example in a status update on my Goodreads, but here it is, August reaches over, and with his hand he pulls apart mine that are clasped. It sounds so weird, and brought to my mind the spoof movie, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, which has a moment in which a character tells his mafia don-like boss, “I will take these cotton balls from you with my hand and put them in my pocket.” (I love the movie, which is why I couldn’t help but remember the line). So the strange wording threw me off a bit, and that did come to mind when I was rating this things.

Maisie and her stinkin’ eye patch.

Perrie’s cousin and best friend Maisie had and endless supply of homemade eye patches, and did she need them? No, she was wearing them in solidarity with people who only had one eye. Right… When it comes to unique fashion, I could care less, usually, but I couldn’t help but think of the long-term damage that was likely happening to her eyesight. She also drove Perrie to and from school everyday, which seems like it’d be dangerous, but what do I know? I’m just basing this off the fact that she really did have 20/20 vision, but chose to wear a patch for the fashion aspect, and not out of real necessity. So yeah, ridiculous.

And finally:

Perrie and August’s “relationship”:

August is another person Perrie labels as her best friend, and throughout the story, we’re seeing Perrie describe how she’d started looking at him differently, and in a more romantic way. But as I read it, I felt like it just didn’t make sense, and didn’t like these moments at all. Theirs was not a relationship I cared to read about.

Now, for the good.

I really enjoyed the story itself, and loved the horror aspect of it. Once we get to the real action, it’s so good! There are several well-known stories that are intertwined with the plot, and I really enjoyed how they each played out, as well as the author’s added touches to these stories, making them a bit more morbid or just plain interesting than the originals.
And can we talk about the fact that there aren’t many horror stories in YA, so how cool is it that this book really is centered on it?! I am such a fan of horror, so when I saw the ‘horror’ tag, I knew I had to read it!

Finally, that ending!!! It really surprised me, and now I need to know what happens next, so I definitely will need to read the next book!

Will recommend for fans of horror; just be mindful of a slow start, cause once you get further into the story, it’s definitely worth it!

Thank you to Candace Robinson via NetGalley for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘The Truth About Happily Ever After’ by Karole Cozzo

The Truth About Happily Ever AfterThe Truth About Happily Ever After by Karole Cozzo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Pure fluff that involves a princess who simply wants her happy ever after
Synopsis from publisher:

Chin up, Princess, or the crown will slip.

A theme park princess must put her life back together after her happily ever after falls apart in this contemporary YA romance from Karole Cozzo, author of How to Keep Rolling After a Fall and How to Say I Love You Out Loud.

Everything was supposed to be perfect. Alyssa has a job she loves, working as Cinderella at her favorite theme park; a fantastic group of friends; and a boyfriend who will no longer be long distance. But as the summer progresses, her prince becomes less charming and more distant, and Alyssa’s perfect summer falls apart.

Forced to acknowledge that life is not always a fairy tale, Alyssa starts working to pull her herself back together. Fortunately, she doesn’t have to do it alone. With her friend Miller’s support, she’s determined to prove that she’s more than just a pretty princess. And with his help, maybe she’s finally ready for something better than dreams. Maybe she’s ready for something real.

I was a bit conflicted when it came to actually rating this book, cause I liked it, but then at the same time, I found aspects of it to be super annoying.

To begin with, Alyssa, the MC, is an theme park princess who is very dedicated to her job. I liked that her dedication wasn’t superficial, but because she genuinely loves her job and takes pride in giving the park visitors a great experience: so, while I can’t fault her in that, I will say that I found her expectations when it came to her prince charming to be pretty ridiculous.

Alyssa’s boyfriend – her prince charming – A.K.A. Jake, pretty much bothered me from the moment he first walked up onto the page. Alyssa is so excited for his arrival after having parted ways the previous summer, but he proves to be indifferent towards her feelings, and there are just so many sketchy moments, that I’m surprised it takes so long for Alyssa to recognize them…but then again, she does believe it’s love with this guy… Still, I just couldn’t get over how she continued to push her suspicions away.

But fortunately, we have Miller.

Miller makes things right.
His role in this book proves that sometimes your prince charming is the one you might least suspect. Cheesy, yes, but it’s so true in this case. He’s a real sweetie, and though his moments are few at first, his role does grow, as well as his friendship with Alyssa.

So, yeah, cute and cheesy.

Moving on…

The story progression was a bit slow at first, which had me bored for a good portion of it, and then the ending itself felt a bit rushed. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a good ending – but considering how slow the pacing was, I was surprised things accelerated so quickly towards the end.

Anyway, weird progression aside – as well as things annoying me in general – I liked this book well enough, and will recommend it if you’re looking for a sweet and cheesy contemporary read.

Thank you to Swoon Reads via Netgalley for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ by Jane Lovering

Can't Buy Me LoveCan’t Buy Me Love by Jane Lovering

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

*Because I want to concentrate more on writing my reviews, I will no longer be adding my own summaries, as they can be found on Goodreads, provided by the publisher.

As sweet as the title of this book is, the content itself did not quiet evoke the same feeling when reading it.

This book had me cringing from the beginning, which I really had not expected at all. Cheesiness (adorable cheesiness, mind you), sure, but for it to be cringe-worthy?
Not quite.

Okay, so I will try to delve into the ridiculousness without giving anything away, though it’ll definitely be hard.

Anyway, first thing I have to mention, is how much I could not stand the MC, Willow. I went back and forth between thinking she was either naive, or just plain stupid. I really tried to give her the benefit of the doubt – as a woman falling in love – but she made such
decisions, or ignored so many obvious things, that I wasn’t very sympathetic when things didn’t go so well for her. Honestly, I’m not sure I have a single good thing to say about her…she was nice to others…does that count?

Now, when it came to the two romantic interests, they were both very different in their roles, and very different in how they treated Willow. It didn’t take very long for me to figure out which guy was the better of the two, but it was pretty obvious…to everyone but Willow, that is. Mostly because she’s an idiot, but I think I’ve already established that.

Really, I just didn’t like any of the characters, and none of them were all that memorable for me, which was really disappointing.

When it comes to the story itself – seriously, I hate that I’m continually saying this – I really didn’t end up liking it. It’s supposed to be centered around the book’s title, Can’t Buy Me Love, about how money can’t buy a person’s love, and yes, money does come into play, but the way it does is so stupid! It’s just another indication of how stupid the MC is, and I have MTV’s Catfish: The TV Show to blame for my thinking that everyone is now suspicious, and especially when it comes to people and money.
Anyway, tangent aside, I just wasn’t a fan of how this story played out, and because I’d had a hard time finding any interest in this book at all.

So now that I’ve stated how much I disliked this book in general, what did I like?
The ending.
Not only because it meant the book was over, but because it was admittedly satisfying. I won’t say how, because that would be a bit too spoilery, but though it was cheesy, it’s an ending that wasn’t open-ended, so I’ll give it that.

Can’t say I’d recommend this one, purely because I just didn’t like it.

Thank you to Choc Lit via NetGalley, for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Seeking Mansfield’ by Kate Watson

Seeking Mansfield (Seeking Mansfield, #1)Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A cute, modern-day take on Mansfield Park, Jane Austen‘s classic novel of one girl’s struggles in dealing with the rich, who may or may not have her best interests at heart.

In Seeking Mansfield, Finley Price (the modern-day counterpart of the original Fanny Price) is satisfied with her life. She lives in Chicago with the Bertrams, who had taken her when she was younger, because of some horrible, past experiences. Finley, though, manages to occupy her time by working on whatever may help her attain her dream of joining the prestigious Mansfield Theater, and all with the help of her best friend, Oliver Bertram (Edmund).
But then comes the arrival of Emma and Harlan Crawford (Mary and Henry Crawford), famous teen movie stars, and the Bertram’s new next-door neighbors. With their arrival comes the beginnings of new relationships – like that of Oliver and Emma, and Harlan and Juliette Bertram (Maria Bertram).
While this all puts a strain on Finley’s friendship with Oliver, his and Emma’s relationship only seems to be growing for the better.
But then there’s the matter of Harlan and Juliette. It doesn’t take long for his attention to turn to the quiet Finely, who is not at all interested in him, and he decides to challenge himself being having her fall in love with him. Of course, with her continued disinterest in him, he ends up falling in love with her for real, and does manage to eventually win her over.
As time goes on, Finley’s relationship with Harlan reveals part of him that Finley finds herself uncomfortable with, thus leading her to wonder if maybe he’s not the right one for her…no, that person just might be closer to home.

Though Mansfield Park is not the most popular of Austen’s books, I always held a special place in my heart for Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram, both the bearers of quiet, kind, and caring demeanors.

But when it comes to Finely and Oliver being their modern-day counterparts…I had a bit of a hard time with them.
I liked Finely, since she seemed to play her role as the virtuous, sensible heroine well enough; but when it comes to Oliver…I just couldn’t find myself liking him all that much. Honestly, he is very similarly written to Edmund, that it stands to reason, if I liked Edmund, I’d like Oliver, right?


Somehow, Edmund’s traits didn’t seem to translate well in this modern representation of him. While Edmund’s romance seemed so innocent and sweet, Oliver’s romance with Emma just seemed to come across as a lustful teenager, who never really seemed to see Emma and her annoying, shallow nature.

If you hadn’t already figured, I wasn’t a fan of Emma, nor Harlan, and nothing the two did could change my mind.

Actually, I’ll admit that I disliked most of the characters in this book, but that could really just be a testament to to how well Kate Watson has written them, so that they really invoke the mannerisms of a snobbish upper caste. So in that sense, they’re written so well, that I really disliked them.

I’ll say that I did like the idea of Finley’s parentage being written differently than that of Fanny’s, and felt it did give the story some added intensity that did make for a more interesting turn of events when they were drawn upon.

Finally – super late, I know – I figure I should say that if you’ve never read Mansfield Park, then you might really like this book and all of it’s cute, romantic feelings. You’d also be able to look at this with fresh eyes. In my case, I had read the original, so I couldn’t help but do a lot of comparing, which didn’t really work out in this books favor, in my case.

In conclusion, though this wasn’t exactly my favorite book, I won’t not recommend it, because as I’d previously said, this is a cute book, so you just might ending up liking it more than I did.

Thank you to Flux via NetGalley for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Carve the Mark’ by Veronica Roth

Carve the Mark (Carve the Mark #1)Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What should have been a compelling, exciting new read from a best-selling author, somehow managed to bore me, taking forever to bring any real excitement or interest for me.

Carve the Mark is set in a galaxy where everyone has some sort of gift, powered by an invisible force called the current. For some, the gifts can be useful/helpful to themselves or others; but for some – like Cyra, sister of the Ryzek, the brutal ruler of the people of Shotet – the “gift” can be awful.
Cyra is used as a weapon by her brother, because she is able to inflict pain upon others but the simple touch of her skin, and this is how he keeps his people in line.
But when Ryzek brings in Akos, a Thuvesit – who are also enemies of the Shotet – with the gift to block other’s abilities, Cyra may finally have some peace from the pain her gift afflicts on her own body.
Akos, though, has a different goal in mind, and that this is to rescue his brother, an oracle, out of her brother’s clutches.
Obviously, with Cyra and Akos being constantly in one another’s company, they begin to grow closer, learning that many of their beliefs concerning their peoples, are actually misconceptions; that maybe they’re more alike than they’d even thought possible.

I’ll admit that I’d never read the final book in the Divergent series (Allegiant), because too many spoilers had ruined it for me, and honestly, I’m not sure I’ll ever actually do so. But even with my lack of wanting to read the book, I still had enjoyed the first two, so I figured Carve the Mark would invoke the same feelings in me. Unfortunately that was a ‘no’.

The story progression bored me to death. I just couldn’t seem to motivate myself to read this book and just thinking of the plot had me pushing it away for other reads.

Funny enough, though, is that contrary to my finding the storyline boring, I LOVED the two MCs!

Cyra was so fierce and unapologetic, and honestly, I couldn’t find myself hating her. Sure, her actions could be pretty deplorable. Cheesy as it is to say, she’s a survivor, and most people (though some may claim they wouldn’t) will do anything to survive…even at the expense of others.

Akos is quite the opposite, willing to sacrifice himself for his brother, but though I usually find such characters annoying with their over-the-top, self-sacrificing ways.
(Okay, so I may have still gotten annoyed at times…).
But I still liked Akos nevertheless. His abilities are pretty cool, and it was just interesting to see how different he was in the beginning, as opposed to later on in the story.
Because, character growth, you know…

Ugh. Reading back on what I’ve just written, there’s a lot of cliches going on, and sure, I can be fine with cliches – God knows I read a lot them – but I can’t help but think that that may be why I was so bored with this read?’

Maybe I just read this at the wrong time?

Na. I’ll just trust my original instincts.

In conclusion, this book wasn’t quite what I thought it would be, nor did it interest me as I thought it would. I did have high hopes, so that may also be my own fault.
I’m not sure I would recommend this book, but boredom works differently in different people, so maybe you’ll like this, and enjoy it with no problems…whatever.

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Review of ‘Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)’ by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beautiful wording and lovely imagery both show that Laini Taylor knew just how to engage this reader!

In the Kingdom of Zosma lives a boy named Lazlo Strange. A war orphan, Strange is not only the predicament he was found in as a baby, but the name given to label the orphan children without names of their own.

Since he was five years old, Lazlo has been obsessed with stories about Weep, lost city or myth, depending on who you asked. But it’s while he is on the path to becoming a full-fledged librarian, that Eril-Fane, the legendary Godslayer of Weep, arrives with his band of warriors to Zosma, and Lazlo is given the opportunity to go to Weep.

In Weep, new mysteries abound for Lazlo, as well as strange dreams. Dreams that feature a lovely, blue-skinned goddess…but in a city where gods and goddesses should no longer exist–hence the title ‘Godslayer’–why is Lazlo dreaming of one, and why does she seem so real?

Lazlo is determined to find answers, but when he does, will they be too shocking to accept?

I have only read one other Laini Taylor book, Daughter of Smoke & Bone–though I will likely have to reread it because I just can’t remember anything about it–but I have the feeling that I will not be forgetting Strange the Dreamer though, because I couldn’t help but be fascinated by Taylor’s writing, it’s beautiful, and not in a way that felt at all pretentious to me.

I’ll admit that in the beginning (for maybe a good 25% of this book), I wasn’t quite sure what exactly was going on, because all of the beautiful, complex writing went right over my head (the reason I also had to dock a star), but I kept on with it, and ending up loving this book!

The characters were all so interesting, and I really enjoyed delving more deeply into their lives. Lazlo, of course, was by far the most interesting of all, and I found myself very intrigued by the mysteries that surrounded him. Like, where did he come from? Who were his parents? How did he become an orphan, and why is Weep so important to him?
I wish I could say more, but I really don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just say that I can’t wait to learn more about him!!

I won’t go at all into the subject of the blue-skinned goddess, instead choosing to raise your curiosity for this book, though the goddess does prove to be pivotal to the story, and another aspect I’d love to learn more about.

Finally, Weep itself, was interesting as well. The mystery behind its disappearance from the rest of the world, leading to its essentially becoming forgotten, is definitely a key plot point, and I seriously cannot wait for the next book!!!

I feel like I can go on and on, gushing about this book, but I think by now it’s pretty obvious I loved it!

So on that note, I will end this review with this little bit that I absolutely loved from this book:

‘And that’s how you go on. You lay laughter over the dark parts. The more dark parts, the more you have to laugh. With defiance, with abandon, with hysteria, any way you can.’

Yes, I totally recommend this book!!!

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