Review of ‘The Last Magician’ by Lisa Maxwell

The Last MagicianThe Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary provided by the publisher:
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Stop the Magician. Steal the book. Save the future.

In modern-day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives.

Esta is a talented thief, and she’s been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future.

But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past.
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This book was such a fun read! The world, the characters, and the excitement of forbidden magic really were spot-on for me!

Let’s start with the world this book takes place in:

I think it was clever on the author’s part to set this book in New York, because in the early 1900’s–the time period most of this book is set in–there were many immigrants who came into America with dreams of being able to provide better lives for their families, or themselves. This reasoning really also tied in well with why magic could be found in the city, and why so many risked their lives coming into a city that would end up trapping them in. And then, being the early 1900’s, there was a lot of street gangs that ruled New York City at the time–these were usually depending on which nationality you were, i.e. Irish, Italian, and so on–so it made a lot of sense to have gangs be prevalent in this book, though these seemed to be more centered on powerful Mageus who “protected” those who paid tributes to be under their umbrella of protection. This was definitely a cool setting!

Now, for the characters:

I really liked Esta, whose affinity has to do with time, and being able to control it when necessary–or when she needed to make a point. This affinity helps her to go from present day to 1902, so that she may join a certain magical gang, help them with a heist, and retrieve an item she must bring back to the present. Esta is extremely street-smart, and is able to say she can pick any lock she comes up against, and these skills definitely come in handy when it comes to proving herself to the gang’s leader. I also loved how clever she was, always ready with a quick-witted response to anything Harte might have to say.
Since I’ve now mentioned Harte, I’ll say that I really liked how he was a guy who just wanted to live a better life…to be able to take care of his mother, though she didn’t exactly treat him very well due to something she faulted him with in the past, and mentally, she wasn’t quite right after coming in contact with the brink. Back to the better life point, he wanted to overcome his gang-related past, and with his magician ‘act’, live a relatively normal life that could provide him with some of the finer things, as well. But, Harte is dragged back into magic-oriented things, and must again deal with the people he’d left behind. Namely, Dolph, the leader of the gang Esta has managed to infiltrate.
Dolph, Nibs, Viola, and Jianyu are the secondary characters, who each bring their own skills and talents to make for a more interesting story, as well as strengthen the relationships between the characters so you’re able to see why each person is important and why they fight so hard for each other.

Finally, the forbidden magic:

I loved the element of magic being so forbidden in this world. This is a well-used plot-point, but it was so much fun in this instance. You’ll have to read to find out this find out more, but I will say that the Order are the bad guys in this story, and they’re the ones who have basically outlawed magic. I know, the Order…what a stereotypically used name for fiends, right? I’ll admit I did find the name to be a bit cheesy, but it wasn’t bad enough to stop my interest in this book.

All in all, I really did enjoy this book, and recommend it to any who are interested in reading about a magical world with cool characters.

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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.
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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.
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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 ‘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.
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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
stupid 
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 ‘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.

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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.
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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 ‘Someone Else’s Summer’ by Rachel Bateman

Someone Else's SummerSomeone Else’s Summer by Rachel Bateman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A cute contemporary about self-discovery with a Nicholas Sparks-esque feel to it that will appeal to any who have ever thought of writing and fulfilling their own bucket lists.

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Anna Holloway has always looked up to her older sister Storm, so when Storm dies after crashing her car on the night of her high school graduation, it’s no surprise that the loss would hit her family hard.
Storm had been the free-spirit everyone in town knew as the little girl who had only a decade earlier battled cancer and won. She was unique and memorable, leaving Anna’s family with a very visible hole from her absence.
It’s several weeks after Storm’s funeral that Anna find one of Storm’s infamous lists (lists that ruled Storm’s and Anna’s summers, when they’d rush to complete the tasks before the school year began), this one though, is labeled ‘My Perfect Summer‘. This list is different, more heavy, so Anna decides she’s going to complete every item on it, and with the help of her next-door neighbor (and Storm’s best friend) Cam, they soon find themselves on a road trip with the intention of doing it for Storm, as well as for herself.
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It took me awhile to actually get into this, because the first quarter of the book was pretty much showing how losing Storm affected Anna, and how Anna found herself drawing closer to Cam (and apart from other friends), since he was the one who really knew what it meant to lose Storm, as her best friend.

I felt a bit detached when it came to Storm, because we’re told how unique and special she was, but her character never really was a presence in this book, so she never felt real to me. Maybe if we had had flashbacks that could have fleshed Storm out some, it might have helped with making her absence feel more real, leading to genuinely missing her character.

Now, when it came to Anna and Cam, I’ll admit that I found it a bit ridiculous how quickly she fell into this easy companionship with him, mostly because she had gone through high school having only really spoken to him in pass, when he and Storm were hanging out together. I know they grew up being close, mostly due to Storm being their glue, but high school found them drifting apart, so it just came across as a little too easy…but then again, people think differently from me, so whatever works for them.
Either way, the fact that they found themselves gravitating towards each other helped to get the road trip off the ground, so that they could complete Storm’s list.

Of course, you could only assume that close quarters – as well as working together to complete the tasks on the list – would draw Anna and Cam closer, eventually leading to romantic feelings for each other. I liked Cam and his “geeky” personality, it’s endearing, as well as the way he really tried to help Anna with the list, considering he didn’t really owe her anything, he was just a good guy.

I feel like this book seriously had all the makings of a Nicholas Sparks novel: a tragic death, a bucket list that needs completion, and the romance that develops between the two people most affected by the aforementioned death…
But I can’t say that I hated the stereotypical Sparks-esque tropes that are the hallmarks of his stories, no, I liked them here. I liked how sappy this was at times, and I liked how everything wrapped up into a non-cliffhanger ending. Having read so many series in recent times, it was almost strange reading a book that actually ended.
Such a lovely feeling that is. *sighs*

So, in conclusion, I enjoyed Someone Else’s Summer, and it reminded me that I can like contemporaries in a dystopian-filled world!

Will recommend!

Thank you to Running Press Kids who gave me this copy via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘The Book Jumper’ by Mechthild Gläser

The Book JumperThe Book Jumper by Mechthild Gläser

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The idea that you could literally jump in to a book and interact with the characters was really attractive to this bibliophile, but unfortunately, this story managed to fall flat for me.

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It’s not long after Amy Lennox and her mother Alexis leave Germany for Alexis’ childhood home in rural Scotland, that it is revealed Amy is a book jumper, as her mother had been, as well as the grandmother Amy had never before met, Lady Mairead.
For reasons I will not mention, Alexis had fled Scotland before Amy was born, therefore Amy had no idea her mother used to live in a castle, and never knew of the gift her prestigious family had either.
Being a book jumper, Amy is tasked (along with fellow jumpers, the Macalister cousins, Betsy and Will) with the job of protecting literature, basically making sure that a story plays out as it is supposed to, and not interfering unless an emergency situation should arise.
All appears to be going as it should, until Amy realizes ideas and key points are being stolen from the books she visits, and to top it off, her own life appears to be in danger as well! With Will’s help, Amy sets out to figure who is behind the missing items, and hopefully do so before entire stories are destroyed, or before she herself ends up a victim.
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Okay, so I wanted to expand on my earlier mention of book jumpers being able to interact with the characters from the books they jump in to.
A book jumper must stay in the background of a story and not bring attention to oneself when observing. But when a character’s scene concludes, and if not needed for the next, the book jumper is allowed to interact with the character. At times, Amy even brings a friend (named Werther, who belongs to some nondescript book) along to an area called The Margins, which was a no-man’s land where book characters liked to go and hang out with each other when not not currently appearing in a plot. So if I’m getting it right, the characters were only needed when their stories were currently being read by a reader, which otherwise left them free to roam, and free to chill with our MC.

Now, for our MC.
Amy is portrayed as the awkward, homely girl, yet she’s “special”. She’s able to do things unique to her, when it comes to book jumping, and therefore we have the stereotypical YA MC. I’ll admit that I can be a sucker for the stereotypes and most of the time, I am, but when it came to Amy, I just couldn’t be convinced. I think because this story progressed so quickly, and we didn’t really get to see much in regards of world-building or character-building, I felt she was pretty one-dimensional. She’d left behind a horrible incident in Germany, but though it’s mentioned a few times throughout the book, it seemed to only be included to show again how awkward and homely she is. You’re never given much time to really build any sympathy for her, and you’re never told how the situation came to be…it just happened. And honestly, even as the story progressed, I didn’t like her any more than before, which really ended up being a bummer.

Let’s Talk About Love
The romance was bleh. When Amy first shows up, Will is pretty indifferent towards her, but of course, Amy does, or says something that’s “special”, drawing his eye, and soon after, his heart. Will plays the part of the love-interest who has just experienced a tragic loss, so though he’s quite tortured and doesn’t want to book jump because of it, he agrees to help in the real world, because that’s what the main love-interest is supposed to do! He’s supposed to show that even when something horrible has happened, he’ll do whatever he can to show his girl how much he loves her! Bleh. Sorry, but no. I did not find their relationship to be interesting at all, and thought Amy could have had better chemistry with Shere Khan from The Jungle Book for all I cared…

Anyway, this book just didn’t do it for me. Story progression was strange, world-building pretty much non-existent, and the characters were just too dull and unlikable for me. Don’t even get me started again on that romance…

Sorry, but this is not one I’m going to personally recommend.

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Review of ‘RoseBlood’ by A.G. Howard

RoseBloodRoseBlood by A.G. Howard

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I have to say that I am disappointed I did not like this. The idea of a ‘Phantom of the Opera inspired retelling was such an attractive idea, but when it came time to actually read this book, it fell flat for me.

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RoseBlood is about Rune Germain, an American girl with an amazing singing voice (though it always left her feeling physically drained and ill), ends up going to an exclusive boarding school for the arts in France, which is originally where her late father was from.
Not long after arriving at the school (called RoseBlood and rumored to have ties to ‘The Phantom of the Opera‘ story), Rune begins to experience strange things, including seeing a masked person who comes and goes like a ghost.
Then we finally have Rune’s secretive friendship with Thorn, a boy who does not go to her school, but appears to know everything about it, including its hidden details…and there’s the fact that with Thorn’s musical guidance, Rune appears to be able to sing without injury to herself…
But, though Thorn may be falling for Rune, there is still the very real Phantom haunting the school, and he wants Rune for his own dark reasons, and Thorn may end up having to give her up.
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I have to give props to A.G. Howard, for taking such a beloved story and making it her own – making it fresh – but I just didn’t care for Rune and Thorn. Rune as a character just never quite connected with me, and so that only left me easily annoyed by everything she did. I couldn’t bring myself to feel any empathy towards her and her situation, and I couldn’t help but find her stupid when she so easily likened herself to Gaston Leroux‘s Christine, and thus met up with Thorn (like the Phantom in her eyes) at night, in secret, to help her with her singing.
Actually, maybe she’s not quite so stupid as she is naive?
Depends on how you want to look at it.
Now when it comes to Thorn, I felt a wee bit more empathy for him because of where he’d come from and what he’d had to survive, but he just didn’t appeal to me in the sense of being our substitute Phantom. He did have his dark past, as well as the darkness that even now surrounds him, but there seems to be something missing. I’m not sure what, honestly, but it’s enough to make me be not quite that interested in him.

Another thing I have to point out, is that the storyline itself never seemed to build up to anything. The dramatics weren’t dramatic enough, and then when you’re expecting something big and climactic as you’re coming up on the end of the book, it’s like ‘oh, that’s where we’re going with this?’ and the then it’s a little blah, blah, blah, and then the book is over.

Seriously?!?!

I’m beginning to think I may actually have to downgrade my overly generous three-star rating, considering the way this review is going…

As for whether or not I recommend it? I can’t personally do so, but to each their own.

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