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 ‘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.

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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.

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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:
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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 ‘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 ‘Shadow Run (Kaitan Chronicles, #1) by AdriAnne Strickland and Michael Miller

Shadow Run (Kaitan Chronicles, #1)Shadow Run by AdriAnne Strickland and Michael Miller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An exhilarating space opera that will be sure to keep you enamored with its cast of cool/misfit characters, and the constant action that seems to infuse their everyday lives.

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Seventeen year old Qole is the youngest person ever from Alaxac to own and captain her own ship, and one of the best when it comes to harnessing shadow, an inky, black substance that is used for its ability to produce massive amounts of energy.

As ‘shadow fishers’, Qole and her crew are kept busy with catching the shadow and selling it for profit.

It’s with the arrival of new crew member, Nev, that things start to get shaken up. Because the mysterious Nev has secrets, and one very big one depends on his convincing Qole that she is the key to some groundbreaking discoveries, which also means he needs to get her to his home planet. With or without her cooperation.

What Nev doesn’t count on, is his rivals also finding out about Qole, and wanting her for themselves. Dead or alive.
Neither does he ever think he’d possibly grow to have feelings for her…or that she could possibly be returning them.

But with new dangers now following Qole and her ship, she will have to learn to trust Nev so that she and her crew can survive.
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I have a friend to thank for telling me about this book, cause otherwise I would have missed out on the opportunity of going to the authors talk and signing in my city, considering we don’t get as many opportunities up here in Alaska…

Anyway, let’s move on.

Knowing that the authors are Alaskans, I definitely feel like there were similarities to Alaska, and Alaskan living. For instance, shadow fishing is very reminiscent of commercial fishing, in that they both accumulate large quantities of ‘fish’, and sell for profit.
Then there’s Alaxac itself, which bore many similarities to Alaska, what with its small town living.
Finally, there’s the fact that Qole and her brother Arjan who are very much like Native Alaskans, taking from them the heart and strength that comes with survival in rough terrains.

Now for the characters.
Qole and Nev are our MCs; both from very different lives, and both having very different views. But each are passionate when it comes to what they believe, and I really respected that about them. Admittedly, both can be pretty narrow-minded at times, and that can get annoying, but fortunately the good out-weighed the bad, so I still liked them.

The supporting characters aren’t given much back story, nor “screen time”, but if I had to highlight any of them, it’d probably be Basra, the gender-fluid crew member who specializes in selling the shadow to the best buyers. I think Basra’s inclusion in the story definitely shows how hungry readers are for diverse characters. Now, I’m not going to say that because of this, Shadow Run is somehow making history or anything so monumental, but I appreciated it none-the-less, and will likely remember this book more because of this.

Definitely one I’ll recommend!

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Review of ‘Duels and Deception’ by Cindy Anstey

Duels and DeceptionDuels and Deception by Cindy Anstey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Though fluffy and sweet, this book entertains and will have you engaged by the MCs and their clever/funny conversations.

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Lydia Whitfield is a young woman of good social standing in a time when your fortune and pedigree defined you. The only child of her mother and late father, she is the one who currently runs her family estate–though not without her mother’s brother’s “assistance”, and the land manager under her uncle’s thumb. Until she marries, she must also deal with her uncle’s ridiculous ideas concerning the property.
It’s because of these ideas that Lydia thinks it is time to get married to the man her late father had picked out for her; a man that would also be somewhat easy for her to influence when it came to things running smoothly. But he is not quite ready to marry, and wants to wait a few years, so Lydia tasks her new law clerk, Robert Newton, with drawing up a marriage contract that should work in her favor as well.
But it’s outside of Mr. Newton’s office that Lydia and Mr. Newton end up being kidnapped! This experience draws the two closer together, and it’s with Mr. Newton’s assistance that Lydia (when both have escaped) must find out who is trying to extort money out of her, as well as attempt to tarnish her family’s reputation.
Digging deeper into this investigation will bring forth uncomfortable and unsettling revelations in regards to people she thought she knew…but with Robert Newton’s help and their growing attraction to each other, she may be able to make it through this storm. (Did you like how I got all Harlequin with that?)
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I really found this book to be super cute and fluffy. It was also sweet in an almost exaggerated way, but honestly, I did not mind it at all.

I loved the pairing of Lydia and Robert! The two are obviously into each other, though a few things do stand in their way (including Lydia’s eventual fiancĂ©); and their conversations with each other show not only similar humor, but similar mindsets as well.

I also liked the variety of secondary characters sprinkled throughout the book. Like Robert’s friend, the Lord Cassidy, who is challenged to a duel for an offense he does not remember, and to top it off, he doesn’t even remember the issuer of the challenge! This whole instance really was just so comical!

There are other interesting characters, but I’ll have to say that Lord Cassidy was by far my favorite.

The kidnapping and escape did bring an interesting bit of action/thrills, but nothing overly much. The experience does play a significant part in this story, but in a slightly comical way that doesn’t seem to make all that much sense when it happened. I liked how this experience in a way did bring a more natural –well, considering the circumstances as natural as one can– reason for the two to become so close in such a short time. It’s no wonder when people gravitate towards each other during what appears to be a life or death situation, but this pairing was so much from the idea of imminent death, but from the fact that these two genuinely liked each other. The circumstances only served to bring out more feelings for each other, though the two don’t actually address these feelings as anything more than they really can.

Anyway, long tangent aside, I really did enjoy this book and will be glad to recommend it!

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

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Review of ‘Crow Mountain’ by Lucy Inglis 

Originally posted October 15, 2015 on Goodreads.

Crow MountainCrow Mountain by Lucy Inglis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started this book initially with no idea what it was really about. I understood that it was going to be told in two parallel accounts, one in the present, and one in the past. But I wasn’t sure how they were supposed to correspond, besides the fact that both were of English girls, taking shelter in a mountain cabin in Montana, each with a young man who knew of survival. The modern story being that of Hope Cooper and Cal Crow, and the past belonging to Emily and Nate.

Honestly, I enjoyed Emily and Nate’s story much better. I loved reading about an English girl from a wealthy, proper family having to adjust to living in the backwoods with a young American guy who only seemed to emphasize their differences in class. Being that she lived in a time when young women were expected to be the epitome of moral decorum, it was obviously difficult for her to adjust to mountain-living, especially with a guy who could care less about maintaining respectability. Though the two differed tremendously, I enjoyed reading about their interactions, and I really couldn’t help but fall for Nate. He was everything you can want in a potential love interest, and his patience with Emily was amazing. I’m not sure many guys could handle her and her bristly ways.

The Hope and Cal couple were alright, but they just weren’t super interesting to me. I don’t really have any legit complaints when it comes to them, but I think the fact that I was so in love with Emily and Nate kind of made the other couple a bit lukewarm for me, unfortunately. But they really weren’t bad overall.

In conclusion, I loved this book to pieces, and gladly recommend it to all.

 

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Review of ‘Birthright (Legacy, #1) by Jessica Ruddick

Birthright (Legacy, #1)Birthright by Jessica Ruddick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A cute paranormal romance that had me entertained by its main characters and their witty banter.

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On her 16th birthday, Ava Parks comes in to her birthright, learning that she is a seeker. A seeker’s job is to find people with white auras, because these souls are the ones with the potential to become angels. As soon as she finds these people, she has to submit their names to the Grim Reaper, who then ends their lives. Once a name is submitted, Ava and her mother then move on to another town, where the process is started all over again.
Only, this time the white aura belongs to Cole Fowler, an attractive classmate who tends to infuriate her, but more than once has also come to her rescue. It’s her growing feelings for him that leads to her choosing to save him instead of allowing death to take him, and now it’s up to Ava to make sure to keep Cole safe, all while dealing with the added danger of Cole’s past.
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I enjoyed reading Birthright. Though admittedly, the idea of having Grim Reapers as a plot point is somewhat played out, in Ruddick’s books, they aren’t exactly the main focal point; Ava’s job as seeker is. It’s a horrible position to be in, because then she’s ultimately the one choosing who is going to die, and she has to have their death on her conscience. It’s no wonder when she finally rebels. It’s surprising how grounded she is, really, and I like the way she was able to find some sort of normality in her burgeoning relationship with Cole.

Ava’s “relationship” with Cole actually turns out to be a saving grace, and his influence brings a new sense of responsibility to her life, as well as the need to have someone–other than her mother–care about her. I really liked how he could be snappy (though it was usually in response to her own snappiness), but he looked out for her and helped her out of some scary situations.

Of course there’s danger that comes with cheating death (have we not seen Final Destination??) and of course Ava and Cole will have to deal with whatever comes their way, but all cheesiness aside, at least they have each other… *Gulp*

Though this book can be considerably stereotypical when it comes to all things YA, I still enjoyed it considerably and will definitely be reading book 2.

I’ll recommend it if you’re into stereotypical and cheesy paranormal romances where grim reapers are not the emphasis, but still mentioned.

Thank you to Jessica Ruddick via Netgalley for giving me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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