Toward a Secret Sky – Heather Maclean

30649331Toward a Secret Sky by Heather Maclean
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher: Blink
Publishing Date: April 4, 2017

Preorder Link: https://amzn.com/0310754747

Blurb: Toward a Secret Sky by New York Times bestselling author Heather Maclean is a new breed of YA novel: an intelligent adventure-quest crossed with a sweeping, forbidden love story. A mix of reality and possibility, this fast-paced thriller will appeal to fans of Stephenie Meyer and Dan Brown as it leads the reader on a breathless flight through the highlands of Scotland, the secret city under London, and history itself.

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.

It was the blurb of this book that drew me to it, very well written blurb that sort of draws you in and makes you ask questions. This book falls right in line with a paranormal/fantasy mixed with reality that is pretty popular now, and I’m always intrigued by them.

What I Loved: I really enjoyed the world building in this book. The story had a good progressive movement, while there is clearly something otherworldly going on, the first few chapters only give you enough to make you want to know more. Even as things are revealed, it’s not all at once, but continues to be done at a slow place. The setting of Scotland is always enjoyable in my opinion, and I’m always down with a good accent (unfortunately this wasn’t via audiobook this time! 😉 ) I found Maren’s character enjoyable, as she was both flawed and strong. She was dealing with some pretty heavy grief, but always was not unwilling to find out more and learn about why her parents were previously estranged from her grandparents. The Illuminate aspect of the book was just sort of intriguing all on its own…apparently my husband is rubbing off on me.

Not So Much: While I loved his Scottish accent and good looks, Gavin’s character was a little too hot to cold to mega-hot jumping into this thing with both feet. It was a bit jarring I think. And then there was the mysterious Graham, who I think needed a lot more play time in the book to establish his obsession with Maren.

I also felt like there were too many individual story-lines happening in this book. We have the arc that had to do with Maren’s mother’s journal, and this huge chunk of the novel dedicated to its mysteries, and then there were some end chapters dealing with the Maren/Gavin/Graham concept, in it’s own mini-story arc. It made the book feel a little segmented I guess. This is a series, and I wonder if it would have better played out if one of these story arcs was extended beyond this book and elaborated on (I already said more time could have been given to Graham’s character, so naturally I’m thinking the latter).

The Verdict: In all this was a great start to a series, one that I think will intrigue many! It was a clean book, perfect for the YA audience!

I received a copy if Toward a Secret Sky from Blink in exchange for an honest review. I have received no other compensation, other than the joy of reading, for my opinion.

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Book Review: These Vicious Masks – Taurn Shanker

These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Published Date: February 9, 2016
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Buy Link: https://amzn.com/B011I5QPP4

These Vicious Masks was one of those moments when I was just browsing through what was available at the library and just happened to run across the book. After reading the blurb, I found it might be something I could possibly enjoy. I’m SO not disappointed that I downloaded this book!

What I Loved: So Evelyn, our main character and narrator, is SO FUNNY! She has very dry, sarcastic humor, but I loved it. Straight from the very first page I knew that I was going to enjoy this book based on her voice alone.

Normally I’m not a ‘love triangle’ lover, not that it’s horrible, it’s just done so frequently, but never have I read a book and really wanted both options to win. Not that I want this girl to have two guys – but well, I liked both options equally and for different reasons.

These Vicious Masks is the beginning of a series (imagine that!) and this book gives you just enough to get you into the story, fall in love with the characters, and make you want more without some huge cliffhanger. I loved that! And I am very excited to carry on with this series.

Not So Much: There was a story line that I wanted to play out soo differently. It’s an extreme spoiler and plot killer, so I’m not going to list it here. But it is just one of those, I want my way, type moments for a reader.

The Verdict:
An excellent Paranormal Victorian YA. I loved it! It’s clean and perfect for the age group it’s written for. I can’t wait to read more.

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Book Review: Unhooked – Lisa Maxwell

Title: Unhooked
Author: Lisa Maxwell
Genre: YA – Fairytale Retell, Paranormal

Buy Link: http://amzn.com/1481432044

Blurb (From Goodreads):
For as long as she can remember, Gwendolyn Allister has never had a place to call home—all because her mother believes that monsters are hunting them. Now these delusions have brought them to London, far from the life Gwen had finally started to build for herself. The only saving grace is her best friend, Olivia, who’s coming with them for the summer.
But when Gwen and Olivia are kidnapped by shadowy creatures and taken to a world of flesh-eating sea hags and dangerous Fey, Gwen realizes her mom might have been sane all along.

The world Gwen finds herself in is called Neverland, yet it’s nothing like the stories. Here, good and evil lose their meaning and memories slip like water through her fingers. As Gwen struggles to remember where she came from and find a way home, she must choose between trusting the charming fairy-tale hero who says all the right things and the roguish young pirate who promises to keep her safe.

With time running out and her enemies closing in, Gwen is forced to face the truths she’s been hiding from all along. But will she be able to save Neverland without losing herself?

My Review:
Ever the sucker for a fairy tale retelling, I grabbed up Unhook as soon as I knew about its existence. I truly did not know what I was in for when I picked up this book! I mean, from the blurb you can see this isn’t your typical Peter Pan story, but I am quite impressed with what it turned out to be. Unfortunately this review is finding itself to be vague in all ways. It’s very difficult to say much about it without spoiling the surprises in the book. Even the slightest discussion on the characters or events can reveal things that I feel are much better discovered by reading the book itself!

What I Loved: This book was quite a bit darker than any Peter Pan book I’ve read before. I think that is part of what really drew me in. This was only a skeleton of the story we know, in fact I’m pretty sure I can’t actually call this a ‘re-tell’ at all. The surprise of that kept me hooked, wanting to know what was going to happen next since I didn’t even have a baseline for the story.

Unhooked had so many twists and turns in it; I am usually pretty good with predicting what is going to happen, and I admit some predictions were easy, there were other moments, however, that surprised me! I love when a book does that. I find enjoyment at looking for foreshadowing and being right about the outcome, but I think I find even more when something (that makes sense) comes out of left field.

Not So Much: I have something I would put here…but it’s a spoiler, so I can’t. But it is not something that is a flaw in the story…just a preference of mine.

The Verdict:      

Hmm, well, I think that if you like fae (not the Tinker Bell kind) and familiar stories with a twist, you’ll like this book. It is quite clean, even from cussing – so approved for YA, and for those younger Pre-Teens who might like Goosebumps type books – they may enjoy this too!