Book Review: Creatura – Nely Cab

Title: Creatura
Author: Nely Cab
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy, Romance

Buy Link:  https://amzn.com/B00WQ5YUAS

Blurb (from Goodreads):
When seventeen year-old Isis Martin is having trouble sleeping due to perturbing dreams of a horrific growling beast, she decides to confront her fear. But what Isis discovers is something other than a menacing entity.

The human-like creature offers Isis assurance that he is not a figment of her imagination. Unwilling to accept his avowal, Isis sets his words to contest by asking the entity to prove himself—a dare, he readily welcomes.

It is in her dreams that Isis innocently stumbles upon the silent existence of the divine lineage of those that man has long forgotten.

In a quaint town, deep in south Texas, this story leads Isis onto the path of impermissible love and captivating life-changing truths. Isis Martin’s journey is sure to leave any reader ravenous for more.

Blurb 2 (from Amazon):
Isis can control her dreams. Or she could—until recently. The creature in her nightmares has been haunting her for months. As if being dumped wasn’t bad enough, now she dreads going to sleep. She decides to confront the creature and win back some of her peace; only, she finds that he’s not a monster and he’s not a dream. A sacrifice for love, a shocking discovery and a jealous ex-boyfriend blur the lines between reality and dreams, making it hard to tell who the real monsters are.
Who would’ve known…that sometimes love is lethal?

My Review:
This book is not one I would have picked up on it’s own.  Judging from the blurb (I had read the Amazon version) and the cover, it sounded a bit more thriller/horror for my taste.  However, this was voted as the May book of the month in a book group that I belong to, and since it otherwise fit my ‘type’ of book, I decided to suck it up and give it a chance.

What I Loved:  So, I try and make it a rule to not reveal anything about a book that isn’t already in the blurb, in the attempt not to spoil anything, so I’m sorry if I’m vague – I’m working with what I’ve got! 🙂

I enjoyed the world building and back story of Creatura, especially when it came to the human/creature. The concept behind these creatures was unique and interesting.

 Isis has great family and friend connections throughout this book, everyone in her life is very supportive, especially considering her months of insomnia, which is having its effect.  While at time I felt Isis’ mother behaved a lot more like a friend than a mother during times, and then switched back – I loved the comradery between them.

Not So Much:  I really was expecting something more with this book.  I already mentioned that I felt like it was going to be thriller/horror like, and I feel like the cover indicates this too, however the reality is that this book was closer to a typical young adult, paranormal romance novel.  There is little real action, and a lot of smoldering glances.

I really thought that Isis’ dreams would play a much bigger part in this book, but after the beginning the fact that she could control her dream and was able to dream into this place that the creature dwells sort of became a back-burner detail after the first couple chapters. Then there was her jealous ex-boyfriend, who played his part but I really thought he was something more and in the end it felt anti-climatic to me.

The Verdict:     +.5

While the writing was decent and the world building was pretty good, I felt like this story just fell short for me.  My expectation based on the blurbs was that this book was going to be a paranormal version of when the girl falls in love with the boy who isn’t what he seems – he’s much more dangerous – and it turns into an action filled drama of her attempting to escape.  This book is good for the Young Adult genre, age appropriate.

Book Review: The Neverland Wars – Audrey Greathouse

Title: The Neverland Wars
Author: Audrey Greathouse
Genre: YA – Fantasy, Fairytale Retell

Buy Link: http://amzn.com/1634221710

Blurb (from Goodreads):
Magic can do a lot—give you flight, show you mermaids, help you taste the stars, and… solve the budget crisis? That’s what the grown-ups will do with it if they ever make it to Neverland to steal its magic and bring their children home.

However, Gwen doesn’t know this. She’s just a sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a powerful crush on Jay, the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn’t know her little sister could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that she might have to chase after her to bring her home safe. Gwen will find out though—and when she does, she’ll discover she’s in the middle of a looming war between Neverland and reality.

She’ll be out of place as a teenager in Neverland, but she won’t be the only one. Peter Pan’s constant treks back to the mainland have slowly aged him into adolescence as well. Soon, Gwen will have to decide whether she’s going to join impish, playful Peter in his fight for eternal youth… or if she’s going to scramble back to reality in time for the homecoming dance.

My Review:
I’m in love with Peter Pan stories.  I can’t get enough of the different takes of the classic fairy tale.  I fall into these patterns a lot; Beauty and the Beast is my favorite to read, but I’ve also done Cinderella, and Red Riding Hood multiple times.
What I Loved:  A popular theme in Peter Pan retells has been that Hook is not the ‘bad guy’ and Peter Pan is.  I haven’t minded these role swaps, and find them a lot of fun, I’m thankful that someone has decided to keep the playful, adventurous Peter Pan in character!   I loved the descriptions of him behaving perfectly youthful and curious, while at the same time showing his burden for the home he loves and the desire to keep it protected from those who wish to use it for their own gain.
Gwen’s character was so perfect, even before Peter and Neverland come into play in this book, you can see the internal battle that she faces between wanting to be teenage and enjoy the things teenagers enjoy, while at the same time keeping that carefree freedom that only comes with being a child.  As she does venture into Neverland, that internal battle is even stronger.
Not So Much: Given the title, I thought that there would be more of a ‘war’ happening, as far as action.  What we have is the tip of a story, an introduction to characters and the promise of more adventure.  I know this, because I verified by checking out Audrey Greathouse’s website, but that wasn’t until I finished the story, so while now I’m pretty satisfied, while reading I was a little let down about this.

The Verdict:        
I liked this book, but I predict that I’m going to LOVE sequel!  This book is very YA appropriate, and honestly, I’m considering buying the book and putting it into the hands of my 11 year old daughter.
Note:  I received this book from Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Firstlife – Gena Showalter

Title: Firstlife
Author: Gena Showalter
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy, Romance

Buy Link: http://amzn.com/0373211570

Blurb (from Goodreads): 
Tenley “Ten” Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live—after she dies.

There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.

In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, longtime enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms who will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she’s drawn to isn’t home to the boy she’s falling for? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…

My Review: 
I had just recently started hearing a little bit of buzz about Firstlife recently when I saw that the audio book was available for download from my library, so I decided I’d give it a shot. A long while ago I was a fan of Gena Showalter, so I figured giving her YA novels a try would be worth the time.

What I Loved: This was a unique world that Showalter has created. I enjoyed learning about the two (three) sides of the afterlife, and their differences. More so, I enjoyed getting to know Archer and Killian along with Ten(ley). When the book started, I wasn’t sure which direction we were going to take on the whole romance angle, and I actually guessed wrong – which was a pleasant surprise for me actually. I wanted to be wrong, though I was interested in how what I thought was going to happen would…(clear as mud?! 😉 )

I enjoyed the banter between all three main characters, they were witty and silly at times, and serious others. The boys were even a bit overwhelmingly over protective at times, a trait that I love in book-form only. I loved Ten’s loyalty to her friends. Despite the two afterlives fighting for her allegiance, and the decisions her friends were making along the way, she remained rather impartial and even respected their decisions. She was genuinely trying to figure out what was best for her life.

There was no lack of action in Firstlife. There was always constant motion – even if I wasn’t sure exactly where that motion was suppose to be leading.

I cannot leave this section without mentioning the narrator, Emma Galvin.  Even in the times when I felt like the book was running long, Emma was the saving grace – because she did such an excellent job, especially with the accents.  It was beautifully done!

Not So Much: There were many parts of this book that I felt were sort of loose ends, or scenes that kind of seemed unnecessary to the story line (unless they play a role in the next parts of the series, though that doesn’t really seem that likely). I also felt the first half of the book dragged on a bit long as well – it truly was the two boys fighting for her allegiance the best they could, just a constant ‘sign with…’ every time something happened.

I spent a good portion of this book kind of understanding why there was such a huge fight to sign Tenley, but mostly was left wondering what really was the big deal with this girl.

The Verdict:    

I think this series is going to have to come together a bit more before I’m able to know if I’m going to really like it or just kind of like it. Right now I’m on the “eh, it was okay,” end of the spectrum, but intrigued enough to give the 2nd book a chance when it is released. If the 2nd book doesn’t really capture me completely though, I wouldn’t give the 3rd book much of a chance (I’m just assuming this is a three book series). This book had mild cussing and some sex talk suitable for high school teenagers.

Book Review: Glass Sword – Victoria Aveyard

Title: Glass Sword (Red Queen – Book 2)
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian, Romance, Fantasy

Blurb (From Goodreads): 
Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

My Review:
I have been waiting on this book for a year – I fell in love with this world right from the start.  Any new world that I can somewhat compare to the X-Men is always going to get my attention though (hello Shatter Me Series!)  But I also enjoyed the Hunger Games/The Selection aspects of this book as well.

So I’ve waited a little impatiently for this book, all the while watching the fandom come together via instagram photos.  So when the day finally came, I was the first in line for the library’s audio-version of  The Glass Sword, but also my best friend had bought me the book for Christmas!  I LOVE HER SO MUCH! 🙂  (Okay, I love her whether or not she got me the book..but still!!!)

What I Loved: SO MUCH ACTION.  This isn’t your typical ‘sit and wait’ 2nd book where it really felt like it was a space-filler between the first and third books of the series.  In the past I’ve had trouble with the middle book of a trilogy for this reason – I love origins because I love getting to know new people – Glass Sword gives you plenty new characters to get to know and love.  One specifically I suspect is going to play a major role in the final book!  The 3rd book is usually so full of action and wrap up, but here again I say Glass Sword has its full share of action.  We aren’t stuck waiting out to find out what the oppressors are going to do in the books, we are taking action and creating game plans.  Some game plans don’t work out as well as others, but that’s okay.

I do also love that this book isn’t prettied up any.  Victoria Aveyard does not hold back any punches.  There are gruesome details and you end up hurting just as much as Mare.  She is not leading the easiest life right now, and you can feel that in every move, ever decision.

Not So Much:  Well, one – I hate when characters don’t communicate well.  I feel like Mare and Cal have some things they should talk about.  Do you know how many of our lives would be much easier and better if we would just talk??

I really wish I could have been in Cal’s head a bit more.  While he was there with Mare the entire time, and played a very important role in their rebellion/revolution, I still kind of feel like we didn’t see enough of him.  He was there in a sort of closed off sort of way.

I’m not digging Mare’s fixation on Maven either – This isn’t like Shatter Me where my heart tipped in Warner’s direction…I don’t feel like he’s been very redeemable at all.  Plus, well I love Cal, and have from the beginning.  The underlying theme of this entire book has been “Anyone can betray anyone” but he’s been pretty clear about who he is, what he desires, how he feels.  I swear if he betrays what I believe to be true about him, I might just throw the last book against the wall.  Then buy a new one since I ruined it. 😉

The Verdict:          
These books are best for older teenagers, there are a lot of gruesome details that I think would give my pre-teens/young teens nightmares, but you know your kids best.  There is cussing.  Other than that this is a clean book – and one I love and recommend for Dystopian lovers!

Book Review: Illusionarium – Heather Dixon

Title: Illusionarium

Author: Heather Dixon
Genre: YA – Fantasy, Steampunk

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
What if the world holds more dangers—and more wonders—than we have ever known? And what if there is more than one world? From Heather Dixon, author of the acclaimed Entwined, comes a brilliantly conceived adventure that sweeps us from the inner workings of our souls to the far reaches of our imaginations.

Jonathan is perfectly ordinary. But then—as every good adventure begins—the king swoops into port, and Jonathan and his father are enlisted to find the cure to a deadly plague. Jonathan discovers that he’s a prodigy at working with a new chemical called fantillium, which creates shared hallucinations—or illusions. And just like that, Jonathan is knocked off his path. Through richly developed parallel worlds, vivid action, a healthy dose of humor, and gorgeous writing, Heather Dixon spins a story that calls to mind The Night Circus and Pixar movies, but is wholly its own.

My Review:
Just before my 2016 “shut down” on buying any new books due to the 2016 TBR Reading Challenge, I received one of those Goodreads emails that includes new books which are specifically picked out for you due to what you’ve read in the past. Those emails are evil, and probably half my problem. Anyhow, Illusionarium was on that email. It was there because I have read and loved Heather Dixon’s writing in the past, so of course I NEED to know when she releases a new book, right?

I don’t always fall for those emails. But I’m a sucker for great covers, and let me tell you – I don’t know who Heather Dixon is working with on her covers, but they are both simply amazing. And truth be told – if this cover wasn’t so perfect, I wouldn’t have been buying this book on December 31, 2015, right before I was suppose to be cutting myself off from new purchases so that I could make a dent in the 450+ books already on my kindle/nook/whatever reading app.

What I Loved: This book takes imagination. I took LOADS of imagination to write (I wish I had half this imagination!) and it takes imagination to read – thankfully I’m good at that part! About halfway through reading Illusionarium, I stopped and read a few reviews on Goodreads, and I found a mixed response. But I think the biggest problem with the book is that it is weirdness on top of weirdness – and if you weren’t following from the beginning, you are probably going to have a problem continuing to follow…. I didn’t. I think that the setting (an AIR CITY!!), the illusions, the schism (ß you must read to understand) – everything was so interesting and perfect. If this book were a movie, it would no doubt be directed by Tim Burton. I imagine all kinds of bright colors, but also that gothic darkness that Burton is known for as well.

The illusions (this isn’t really a spoiler, right – given the title?!) were another element that I was so in love with. They weren’t illusions as in, you just imagine it and there you were. You had to create them, as in, understand the science behind what you were making before it became real. It was cool that Jonathan was smart, and shy and not your typical main character at all…but because of this, he was awesome at these illusions, despite his self confidence issue.

I loved the steampunk feel about the book, but also how it wasn’t driven by it’s ‘steampunkiness.’ There wasn’t the constant mention of gadget and devices, and it wasn’t overly Victorian in theme either. It was just kind of there, just another layer.

Okay – I’ve talked about the world and around the theme of the book – but I also really liked the story. It was layered with twists and turns, a few of them I was able to guess as the story progressed, a couple I didn’t guess until closer to the end, and some that took me by surprise. I like that. I like being surprised just as much as I like being able to foretell a story based on the foreshadowing. I think that is one of the things that keeps me engaged while reading, trying to figure out what’s going to happen because of the hints that authors throw out there.

Not So Much: Soo I LOVED the story, and the story line. And I even really liked the characters, so this little bit is nothing but a drop in the book. I really wish that the romantic aspect of the book would have been a little bit more there. I like a little bit of romance, you know? It wasn’t the purpose of the book, but I don’t think a little bit more would have taken away from it either. It was done well, but I just I don’t know…it left me wanting.

The Verdict:     

The only reason I’m not giving this 5-Hearts is because while I really did enjoy this book quite a bit, I’ve read it. I’m done. I don’t have a pull to re-read this one immediately. I’m trying to save 5-Hearts for those books that call to me in that way. This book was clean (even from cussing) and would be great for young teens who read more mature books for sure! And, because they are simply beautiful, I plan on adding this AND Entwined to my hardback book collection. (This is not cheating..I’m not buying any NEW books in 2016!!!)
  

Book Review: Uprooted – Naomi Novik

Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik

Synopsis: “Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

My Review:
I just want to start off by saying that this synopsis does not do this book justice. It is a synopsis of the first part of the book, maybe, but there was so much more than I was expecting. What I was expecting was a loose rendition of Beauty and the Beast with other fairy-tale elements.

Uprooted does have a very fairy-tale feel about it, but it is a tale all of it’s own. The evil is not the dragon, the dragon does not need to be slayed. The evil is the Wood – and it is a force to be reckoned with.

What I Loved: Uprooted was a long book, but I’m happy that it was just one book and not a series though. It was refreshing to get a book of this magnitude, and detail that was not broken up over 3-5 years. I do like series, but mostly I love having the complete series in my hands.

I loved the Agnieszka and the Dragon dynamic. They were an unlikely pair of personalities, the kind of personalities that grate on each other’s nerves and get under each other’s skin….and yet, in the end they did get under each other’s skin. It made their relationship a fun side-story to this entire book.

I am attempting to not spoil anything here, especially since the synopsis was rather vague, but let me tell you, there were a few plot twists and turns that make following this book along for it’s ride even more interesting! As I said before, it had all of the elements of a good fairy tale; the evil that lurks and terrifies the village and people, it has the knight in shining armor, the girl who’s more than she think she is. It has deception and unlikely friends. It takes you through an entire story past the point of no return and then turns around and wraps it up with a happily-ever-after. It has all of those things, but every single element is not like any fairy-tale you’ve ever read. All the roles are filled with unstereotypical players.

Not So Much: First of all, I listened to this via audiobook, and I kind of had a hard time with the narrators accent. I understood it’s purpose and I think it’s possible that it was close to this narrators own accent – however some of the conversations sounded stilted or a little bit like a four-year-old attempting full sentences. It was just a little rough for me. I did, however, stop hearing that so much the more I got into the story and the plot took over my concentration.

There were parts of Uprooted where the story did feel like it was getting long. I don’t know that it could have been cut or edited without loosing some important elements though. I just had periods of wishing the story would move forward a bit more quickly than it was.

The Verdict:         
I really enjoyed this book. It had a lot of the elements that I love in a good book, and it had a satisfying ending. Due to one scene in this book, I cannot consider this a “clean” novel, though it is categorized as Young Adult. The one scene was rather graphic, and I can’t recommend this book for young teens at all – but had it been left out it would have been perfect.

Book Review: Stray – Elissa Sussman

Title: Stray (Four Sisters #1)
Author: Elissa Sussman

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

I am grateful for my father, who keeps me good and sweet. I am grateful for my mother, who keeps her own heart guarded and safe. I am grateful for my adviser, who keeps me protected. I am grateful for the Path, which keeps me pure. Ever after.

Princess Aislynn has long dreamed about attending her Introduction Ball, about dancing with the handsome suitors her adviser has chosen for her, about meeting her true love and starting her happily ever after.

When the night of the ball finally arrives and Nerine Academy is awash with roses and royalty, Aislynn wants nothing more than to dance the night away, dutifully following the Path that has been laid out for her. She does not intend to stray.

But try as she might, Aislynn has never quite managed to control the magic that burns within her-magic brought on by wicked, terrible desires that threaten the Path she has vowed to take.

After all, it is wrong to want what you do not need. Isn’t it?

My Review:
I’m about to be very honest. I did not care for Stray, and that is very surprising to me since this book falls into my fairy-tale preferences very nicely. I listened to this as an audio book, and I want to say that this might be part of my problem, but I really don’t think it was. But that doesn’t mean that the book was all bad, and judging from other reviews, most people actually do like the book.

I do want to point out now that I am going to avoid using character names as much as I can, because they were all unusual and I’m afraid to botch up spellings, etc. Bare with me!

What I Loved: So I loved the premise of this book; a book about suppressing magic and learning to not let it control you. About an evil that lurks in the corners waiting to catch hold of you. The setting of the book was near perfect as well. It really had all the elements of a good book. I loved how the author coined her own tongue and cheek sayings using fairy tale stereotypes. I really wish I could remember one, and unfortunately I cannot just open the book and find an example, however they made for a cute, clever addition to the book.

Not So Much: I really felt like this book dragged on in Aislynn’s day-to-day activities, while the real drama was more on the outskirts of the book. We learned a lot about Aislynn and her difficulties and insecurities (brought on by her authorities). She grew up being expected to suppress magic, and then thrown into a situation where she was expected to use it – and she struggles with trying to use magic daily…then at some point BAM – it’s like it was easy.

I really only liked a few characters in this book, and it’s clear that the evil is in more than just the evil queen discussed throughout the story. It wasn’t until the end that “stuff” really started being revealed, and it all seemed anti-climatic. Like I’d been waiting for it so long that I just sort of gave up on it ever coming.

More than once things happened in Stray where there was no explanation offered as to why, a good example is when Aislynn was given a complete 2nd chance at something – but it seemed to come out of nowhere with no reason as to why it happened. She also had a portion of her {lets say it was a characteristic/personality shaping thing} taken from her as part of her punishment (so to speak), which mysteriously seemed to come back in part, but why? Is Aislynn suppose to be especially powerful? I don’t know. It just seemed strange that it was there, except to enhance the there but barely there romantic element to this book.

The Verdict: 
This book just wasn’t for me. I wanted to enjoy it, but it fell short of my expectations. It is a very young adult appropriate (even for younger teens in the 13ish age range), a very clean book.