Review of ‘Flamecaster (Shattered Realms, #1)’ by Cinda Williams Chima

Flamecaster (Shattered Realms, #1)Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To start off, I have to admit that I hadn’t read the Seven Realms series that proceeded this one, but from what I’ve gathered, it’s still readable without prior knowledge from the former–though I’m sure you’d probably have more ‘A-ha’ moments if you had…
Anyway, even without having read the former series, I have to say that I really enjoyed this book and will likely be delving into the Seven Realms books in the near future.

Flamecaster was everything I could have wanted in a fantasy novel (not that I’ve actually read very many), and I’ll go ahead and list a few reasons why:

1. With my first reason, I’ll say that I can be pretty simple at times, and I think one of those moments came into play with the fact that I could actually read a majority of the characters’ names!! I tend to be a bit put off by so many authors and their inherent need for characters to have the most ridiculous names you can think up, so it was refreshing to read a book where Ash (Adrian) and Jenna were the names of the MCs! Sure, there are names like Taliesin, and Ash’s last name is sul’Han, but they’re still considerably easier to pronounce than some of the names I’ve come across before… Now that I’ve gone off on a tangent about names, let’s move on!

2. This being my first read from Cinda Williams Chima, I have to say that I really loved reading about this world she’d created. It was easy to navigate through, and you end up learning bits and pieces about the different kingdoms as you’re reading, leaving you both curious and excited to learn more as the series continues on. I’m not going to go into detail about what I found to be interesting, because of spoilers, but I will say that it concerns a certain geographic area called the Northern Islands… All in all, I just loved this magical world, and really look forward to learning more about the different realms.

3. MCs that I actually liked! Ash is awesome in his role as an ‘assassin hiding in plain view‘. He’s bent on revenge, but the revenge is extremely hard to follow through with when it’s against a king who is very well-guarded. So of course he must take on a role that can earn the king’s trust–that of a royal healer. He’s very skilled, but it’s his magic that first draws the attention of the king, and though I won’t go into that, I will say that the way he does so is very interesting and I can’t wait to see more from him.
Then we have Jenna. I loved Jenna’s intelligence, and I loved the fact that she knew all sorts of things when it comes to blowing things up! She ends up being imprisoned in the aforementioned king’s castle, and that’s when a lot of the exciting things really start happening!!

*The one thing that I didn’t quite care for:

4. The romance was a little meh. It’s a bit too ‘insta-lovey‘ to me, but since it doesn’t happen till later in the book, it didn’t overwhelm, so I’m able to forgive and move past it. Fingers crossed that it doesn’t end up becoming cringe-worthy in the next book!

In conclusion, besides the meh romance, I really liked this book and would recommend it if you’re looking for a well-written fantasy starring characters with beautifully normal names.

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Mini Review of ‘Julia Vanishes’ by Catherine Egan

Julia Vanishes (Witch's Child, #1)Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Mini Review Time.

I really hate to say this, but this book really wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped it would be. I’m not sure what I was expecting, maybe something along the lines of Witch Hunter, because of the whole ‘magic being outlawed, witches will be killed’ theme they both shared, but unfortunately, Julia Vanishes just didn’t interest me as much as the former had.

Because the character of Julia has the ability to go “unseen” by those around her, I was kind of assuming there’d be some life or death situations that would really highlight that ability. Sure, there were some instances when she had to go “unseen”, they just weren’t really all that exciting to me. I’m personally a sucker for characters with cool abilities, and seeing them use these abilities in really cool, epic ways, but Julia just fell flat for me, and just plain annoyed me. She also annoyed me because of her infatuation with a boy (whose name I can’t even remember right now) who never seemed to give 100% to their relationship–or even 50%. The guy was just lousy when you have so many better guys to compare him to in YA books.

Moving on from Señor Douche-face
(Okay, so he wasn’t that bad, I just happen to use the term ‘douche’ pretty freely when it comes to people (or characters) I do not care for.)

I feel like there was an attempt to make the world in Julia Vanishes unique, which was good on the author, but I feel like there was just too much info dumping going on. The information given just bored me, and when it went into the history of some magical beings and their crazy, fantastical names–I was ready to toss this book aside. The only reason I finished it is because I’d come too far to back out, and kept secretly hoping it’d get better for me. Nope. It didn’t.

I think at this point it’s safe to say I’m not personally going to recommend this one.

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Review of ‘Invictus’ by Ryan Gaudin

InvictusInvictus by Ryan Graudin
(Release date: September 26, 2017)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Summary provided by publisher:
Time flies when you’re plundering history.

Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.

In this heart-stopping adventure, Ryan Graudin has created a fast-paced world that defies time and space.
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I had never read a Ryan Graudin book before (though I do have Wolf by Wolf, courtesy of my Uppercase box subscription), but I can now say that I am definitely a fan!

In Invictus, we get the joys of time travel, but without so much of the clichĂ©d time paradoxes the blah that comes with being constantly told to not re-write history. No, instead we have four teenagers time traveling in order to acquire treasures from different time periods for their boss who happens to run a very successful black market business. So when it comes to venturing into the past, it’s all business until they are allowed free time to travel to pretty much any point they’d like.

Anyway, before I go off and end up summarizing more of this book, I’ll move on with my actual line of thought.

So, back to time travel without all the fun of paradoxes looming over everything. I really loved how time travel wasn’t all that we had to concentrate on in this book. Sure, it was really cool to see them travel to the Titanic in 1912, but the focus was set on our merry band of travelers first meeting Eliot, who pretty much crashes into their lives and blackmails her way onto the Invictus ship. I’ll be honest and say that at first I really disliked Eliot, because she always went completely against everything that Far (captain and boy wonder – for reasons that are explained in the book summary, and the book itself) ordered. I’m not saying I’m against a strong female character, I just happen to be a fan of order, and admittedly, I am known to outwardly cringe when things go off track in epic proportions…which is what happens when the team go to Pompeii on the day of eruption. Honestly, you’re going to have to read this book if you want to find out what exactly happened, but I’ll say that it was a huge plot twist, and really becomes a focal point in this book.

I already mentioned Eliot and Far, so now I’ll mention the other three characters who play a big role in this book. There’s Far’s cousin, Imogen, who’s job as a historian is very important when it comes to their clothing being as authentic to each time period they visit, and how can I not mention the fact that she’s chalking her hair different colors everyday? Oh the joys of being blonde, right? (I am so not blonde, so I do not have this joy.) I just loved her easygoing manner, and the dedication she had to her friends.
Next, we have Priya, Far’s girlfriend, and the ship’s medic, who brews a fantastic chai tea, and is the levelheaded one when Far needs rational opinion.
Finally, we have Engineer Gram, who happens to be extremely intelligent, and without his calculations, the ship wouldn’t land where it’s supposed to. He also possesses a love for Tetris, and for Rubik’s Cubes (both understandable, since I also love both, though I have never successfully completed a Rubik’s Cube…sigh). What he does not possess, is the realization that Imogen really, really likes him…sigh again.
Yeah, the characters each are fun in their own ways, and I enjoyed them immensely.

Now that I’ve mentioned my love of the plot and the characters, I will conclude by saying that the ending really lived up to my expectations, and I just really loved this book overall. Sure, it did start off a bit slow, or it could have just been that I was distracted, but once I picked this back up, I really couldn’t stop! The story was that entertaining for me! It’s probably pretty obvious at this point that I will gladly recommend it.

Thank you to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers via Netgalley for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Mini Review of ‘The Dark Tower I : The Gunslinger’ by Stephen King

The Dark Tower I (MTI): The GunslingerThe Dark Tower I (MTI): The Gunslinger by Stephen King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mini Review Time:

Considering that most of the books I’d read from King has been more or less categorized as horror, this book was completely different from what I’d expected.

There were creepy moments, like Nort the man who ate weed and died with nothing, only to be resurrected by the man in black, resuming his familiar presence in a small-town bar. Or maybe even the Slow Mutants that terrorize the gunslinger and Jake, deep within the dark tunnels that will lead them to the man in black? Yep, just a bit of the creepiness you’d expect from a renowned writer of horror.

But really, though the ideas and the world-building were super interesting, I couldn’t help but feel like this book took a little too long getting anywhere. For example, the gunslinger spent a ridiculous amount of time in the small town of Tull, where he shacks up with a barmaid named Allie, and observes the weird behaviors of the townspeople. Tull is literally the epitome of a redneck town, and even has its own eccentric preacher-woman, who believes herself to be the Bride of God. Craziness abounds, and eventually he does leave the town, though it does involve emptying his guns on the way out.

There’s more world-building, like us learning a bit about the gunslinger’s past, though not much, and we see him eventually meeting the child, Jake, but again, slow-progression, and when the story seems to maybe be getting somewhere, it’s the end of book 1. Yep.

Well, though it took me a bit longer to read this book because of boredom at times, I still found the story interesting enough to read the next in the series, and from what I’ve heard, the series only gets better, so I’m looking forward to that, at least.

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Review of ‘The Epic Crush of Genie Lo’ by F.C. Yee

The Epic Crush of Genie LoThe Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A super funny action-adventure that involves Chinese Folklore, centering around the very modern, teenaged Genie Lo.
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Summary provided by publisher:
The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie Lo’s every waking thought. But when her sleepy Bay Area town comes under siege from hell-spawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are suddenly and forcefully rearranged.

Her only guide to the demonic chaos breaking out around her is Quentin Sun, a beguiling, maddening new transfer student from overseas. Quentin assures Genie she is strong enough to fight these monsters, for she unknowingly harbors an inner power that can level the very gates of Heaven.

Genie will have to dig deep within herself to summon the otherworldly strength that Quentin keeps talking about. But as she does, she finds the secret of her true nature is entwined with his, in a way she could never have imagined…
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Usually, I like to start off my reviews with the things I didn’t like, but when it comes to The Epic Crush of Genie Lo…I have nothing bad to say, because I absolutely loved this book!

–The Characters–
First, let’s talk about our MC, Genie Lo. I think that Genie will go down as one of my favorite heroines ever! She initially played the role of the stereotypical Asian teen, being the model student, and model daughter. But then, with the arrival of Quentin Sun, she’s suddenly thrust into a world in which Chinese Folklore is real, and something she just happens to play a major part of. But she’s still a teenage girl. So, cynicism and snark abound in her interactions with Quentin, which really had me cracking up at times. I really loved how she does grow more comfortable in her own way as the book goes on, and though there’s no mention of a book 2 on Goodreads (as of the last time I’d checked, that is), I really look forward to more Genie!

Now, for Quentin Sun, I won’t say much when it comes to exactly who he is, because you’ll just have to read to find out. But he’s so endearing, interesting, as well as super-funny, though his funniness stems more from his having to combat Genie’s snakiness. Again, I just loved their interactions together!!

–The Plot–
What an exciting, fantastical story! I know zilch when it comes to Chinese folklore, but the things that were introduced to me in this book were definitely super interesting! Genie’s strength, and the things she has to fight against really make for an even more exciting read!

–The setting–
It seems fitting that this book would take place in San Francisco, considering it is home to the oldest Chinatown in North America, and the largest Chinese enclave outside of Asia (I took this bit of info from Wikipedia, so hopefully it’s right, ha ha!). So, being that a lot of Chinese live in these parts, it’s the perfect place for Chinese monsters, and the like, to blend in, thus, the perfect setting for this fabulous book!

I think I’ve established by now, how much I absolutely loved this book, so obviously I will gladly recommend this book!!!

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

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Mini Review of ‘The Haunting’ by Alex Bell

The HauntingThe Haunting by Alex Bell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mini Review Time!
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Summary provided by the publisher:
Some curses grow stronger with time…
People say that all Cornish inns are haunted, but the Waterwitch’s history is particularly chilling. Built from the salvaged timber of a cursed ship, the guest house’s dark secrets go further back than anyone can remember.
Emma is permanently confined to a wheelchair after an accident at the Waterwitch which took place when she was ten. Seven years later, she decides to return to the place where the awful event occurred. But the ancient inn still has its ghosts, and one particular spirit is more vengeful than ever…
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After having read the author’s previous book Frozen Charlotte, and not feeling like it really lived up to the creep factor I was hoping for, I wasn’t really expecting much from this book. But how thrilled was I when this turned out so much better for me?!

First off, I loved the scares and found it to be genuinely creepy at times. There were plenty of details when it came to several horrific things mentioned in this book, and the entities plaguing the inn.
I mean, how creepy to think that one room houses a ghost who is trying to keep another locked out, holing away from the horror that would be bestowed upon him, should he be caught?Shivers. And when one of the characters pulls a bird feather from her eye? Ew! Icky, but definitely what you’d expect from a horror novel!

Second, I actually liked the characters. Though Emma is supposedly the MC, I feel that siblings Jem and Shell were just as prominent in this story as she was. Jem’s importance is proven by his need to take care of his younger sister, and protect her from their abusive father. He takes her away to the Waterwitch, and there, Shell comes into her own, and pretty much becomes the one I really feel is the MC of the story. She’s the one the most horrific ghost concentrates on, and she’s the one who can see it all happening when others don’t. Not till it’s too late, that is.

Third, and finally, I really found this book to be just good, well-done horror. I really enjoyed it and would be more than happy to recommend it to my fellow horror fans!

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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.

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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.
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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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