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Radiant Shadows

Clockwork Princess (Infernal Devices)

Clockwork Princess - Cassandra Clare Clockwork Princess has so much going for it – action, suspense, a beautifully tragic love triangle – but while I found myself enjoying the playful banter of familiar characters, I also found myself bored of professions of love and anxious for what I assumed would be an action-packed ending. And when I reached the ending, I realized that it was absolutely perfect. And I hated it for it.So, to be completely honest, this review is mostly going to center around the ending of Clockwork Princess. Most everything that occurred up until the ending was predictable, yet enjoyable. I loved watching the various relationships grow, seeing Mortmain’s secrets unfold and finally learning the secrets to Tessa’s past. The tension surrounding Jem’s failing health and Will’s growing feelings for Tessa was palpable and having Cecily and Gabriel as new-ish characters added moments of unexpected humor and surprisingly touching loneliness.And then the dreaded ending happened. Or, should I say, began to unfold. And this is where the spoilers start: final warning.Throughout the vast majority of Clockwork Princess, it was like Jem was preparing his goodbyes. He asked for his friends to cease their search for a cure because he had made peace with death, and was ready to move on. I was ready for him to move on. But because no one was allowed to die in Clockwork Princess (I’m not joking – none of the major players die!), in his final moments, Jem becomes a Silent Brother. More on that in a bit.Meanwhile, Will has been holding back his feelings for Tessa, out of respect for her engagement to Jem. He even went so far as to say that even when Jem dies, he won’t be able to be with her.If Jem dies, I cannot be with Tessa,” said Will. “Because it will be as if I were waiting for him to die, or took some joy in his death, if it let me have her. And I will not be that person. I will not profit from his death.So imagine my surprise that the day after he believes Jem has died, since he feels the sever of their Parabatai connection, he sleeps with Tessa.And then there’s Tessa. Truly in love with both boys, I almost felt like she was looking forward to Jem’s passing so the decision would be made for her. While I never doubted her feelings for Jem, I also doubted she would have remained loyal to him had Will made a move on her. Which, I guess, mostly happened the night they slept together.I could have found a way to justify both of these situations. Jem suddenly realized he didn’t want to die young, and sought out the Silent Brothers as a last resort. Will and Tessa truly believed that it was their last night alive, and so they acted on their pent up emotions and worked through their grief by being intimate with each other.BUT THEN. Clare had to take everything one step further. As Jem leaves the Institute for the last time, having given both Tessa and Will his blessing, Will immediately begins to court Tessa. It’s a couple weeks later before they’re engaged. The epilogue speaks to their success and happy marriage. This is all great right? We have an answer – Tessa ends up with Will! Wrong. Years after Will’s death (due to his old age), Tessa is waiting to meet with Jem at the bridge where they first kissed, like she has met him every year since he became a Silent Brother. Except when Jem shows up, he’s no longer a Silent Brother – he’s back to being her Jem. A cure has been found, and he can live a full life – with her – if she’ll have him. Which, of course, she accepts.Tessa literally got to have her cake, and eat it too. (I hate this expression, I mean, why wouldn’t you eat your cake if you had it? But it’s fitting, so whatever).And all I could think was, you have got to be kidding me.

40 Things I Want to Tell You

40 Things I Want to Tell You - Alice Kuipers The biggest thing going for 40 Things I Want to Tell You is its realism: Bird is put through the ringer before a glimpse at a happy future is shown. Her decisions come back to haunt her, and her friends don’t let her get away with her self-indulgence. And when the biggest mistake of her life changes her life forever, you know there’s no going back. Some of Bird’s decisions left me frustrated or confused, and the odd European slang choice threw me for a loop, but I mostly found myself enjoying 40 Things I Want to Tell You, despite its flaws.Bird was a hard protagonist to like. Her online alias, “Miss-Take-Control-Of-Your-Life,” was the exact opposite of who I envisioned Bird to be: other than writing a few to-do lists at the beginning of 40 Things I Want to Tell You, and being told by her best friend how predictable she was, Bird was never in control. She was oblivious to the growing tension between her parents, oblivious to the missing chemistry between herself and her boyfriend, Griffin, and oblivious to what it means to truly be someone’s friend. She lied – to everyone – under the pretence of not wanting to hurt anyone, and then would head home and give advice to a teen about being honest! She was judgmental, basing her opinions of Pete off of the gossip floating around school, and she had no backbone, letting everyone walk all over her. It wasn’t until she was abandoned by her friends and disowned by her father, with her lies having finally caught up to her, that I began to feel any type of connection toward Bird.BUT despite my inability to connect with Bird for much of 40 Things I Want to Tell You, I found myself captivated by her story because of how real it seemed. Every time Bird made the decision to withhold the truth about Pete from Cleo, every time she kissed Griffin and thought about kissing Pete, every time she ignored her mother’s calls, I cringed, knowing that so many teens – myself at her age included – were just like Bird: too scared to be honest, for fear of the repercussions. So while I berated most of Bird’s choices, I can’t honestly say I wouldn’t have done the same thing in her situation (except for the park scene; I mean, really?).The pacing for 40 Things I Want to Tell You was okay; I wasn’t flying through the pages, but I also wasn’t putting it down in boredom. What bothered me though, was it’s hints at being European; the characters seemed quite Westernized until out of the blue, they would use a European word, like “knickers” or “mum.” I also took issue with the doctor’s reaction to Bird’s request for a pregnancy test. He told her that at-home testing was pretty accurate these days, so he wasn’t going to bother with blood work. Umm what? While I’m sure over-the-counter pregnancy tests are accurate in most cases, there’s always room for error with them – especially when dealing with hormonal teens; why wouldn’t he just run a simple blood test? For as much as I’ve congratulated 40 Things I Want to Tell You for its realism, this was a moment where I was pulled out of the story completely, because of it’s seeming inaccuracy.Fortunately, Bird’s ending was almost perfect. While she was able to wrap up all the loose ends of her fractured life quite conveniently, it was also done in a way that showed her growth as a character, which I appreciated. She confessed to her mistakes and tried to repair the relationships that she had damaged with her dishonesty. Best of all, her friends did what friends do best: they reminded her that their relationships weren’t ever going to be the same, but that they were willing to move past everything that happened, and forgive her. But it wasn’t all rainbows for Bird; there’s one person who she didn’t come clean to in time, and…you’ll just have to read the book to find out what happens

Unravel Me

Unravel Me - After my excitement for this series had been rekindled by Destroy Me, I was really looking forward to Unravel Me. I was sure my dislike of Shatter Me was a situational thing; I must have disliked it because of the headspace I was in when I read it! And then I realized it wasn’t Unravel Me per se that I disliked, but it’s heroine; it’s pathetically whiney, dependent and frail heroine who showed no little growth since Shatter Me.Before I get into all of the reasons why Juliette has ruined this series for me, I would like to comment on the one thing things I did enjoy in Unravel Me. With its stream of consciousness narration, Unravel Me manages to succeed at being incredibly fast-paced, even though almost nothing is happening during its 400+ pages. I will admit to skimming over most of Juliette’s angsty monologues about feeling inadequate, which means I probably skimmed over most of Unravel Me, but thanks to almost nonexistent punctuation in between Juliettes’ thoughts, Unravel Me reads surprisingly quickly for its lengthier size. Mafi’s prose, while definitely of the purple nature, is also quite pretty even though it rarely makes sense.It’s the kind of kiss that makes you realize oxygen is overrated.This is where I almost put the book down. I should have known then, but I was promised a world of delights if I read through until Chapter 62, so I persevered.As for Juliette, I’m going to quote from my review of Shatter Me, since it seems appropriate here: For the vast majority of the book, she spends her time crying/trembling/gasping/blushing, all while adamantly refusing to understand how anyone, but especially Adam, could care for her. This type of behaviour I could have forgiven, had she shown any growth. But it wasn’t until the last few chapters that she went from being a weak, ridiculously melodramatic and frustratingly insecure protagonist into one with the glimmer of something resembling strength.It’s surprising that I could have written that without my little blockquote/indentation, and you wouldn’t have known it had come from a review of a different book! Juliette has seen absolutely no growth since Shatter Me; the description I posted above is equally as fitting in Unravel Me. You know how I know Juliette is supposed to have grown? Because she tells me so!I’ve come to realize that being away from him has forced me to rely on myself. To allow myself to be scared and to find my own way through it. I’ve had to train without him, fight without him, face Warner and Anderson and the chaos of my mind all without him by my side. And I feel different now. I feel stronger since putting space between us.And I don’t know what that means.All I know is that it’ll never be safe for me to rely on someone else again, to need constant reassurance of who I am and who I might someday be. I can love him, but I can’t depend on him to be my backbone. I can’t be my own person if I constantly require someone else to hold me together.But guess what she was doing ten pages previous to this enlightenment? Sobbing on her knees, trembling in fright, and relying on someone else to pick her up.I understand that Juliette had a tough childhood. I understand that she was tortured at a young age and that there will be psychological repercussions because of it. I understand that this might lead to moments of confusion/angst/self-pity/etc. But understanding and believing are two different things. I didn’t believe that Juliette was acting out of some deep psychological torment when she played mind games with both Adam and Warner. I didn’t believe that Juliette thought herself a monster, and that was the reason she was so afraid to learn how to control her abilities. And I didn’t believe in her inner strength because every time she was pushed, she fell to the ground, crying.As for chapter 62, I was too distracted by Juliette’s complete and utter betrayal to enjoy any of it.

Mind Games

Mind Games - With a stream of consciousness narrative style, Mind Games is a fast-paced thriller thanks to each one of Fia’s manic thoughts that are exposed and laid bare for the reader to witness. As the sinister truth behind the Keane Academy is brought to life through flashbacks, and the sisters are pushed to their breaking points in order to keep each other safe, I found myself lost in their stories, completely unable to look away.Told in dual PoV, splitting between both Annie and Sofia (Fia), Mind Games managed to give us glimpses into the motivations and intentions of both girls, while rocketing us down a twisty path of lies, deception and hope. Remaining naive to the Academy’s true purpose for much of her residence therein, Annie was floored to learn that her sister’s training was of a much more dangerous – and practical – manner. As she slowly began to understand that she was being used as leverage in order to keep Fia under control, she struggled with the guilt of knowing that it was her choice that had gotten Fia into this mess to begin with.I turn and walk out, knowing exactly how many steps will take me away from that monster. Once again wishing I were Fia, Fia who could have killed him with her bare hands.Fia who is impossible broken because she can do just that.While I enjoyed watching Annie grow to understand just how broken Fia had become, all because of her decision to attend the Academy despite Fia’s protests, I never truly got a sense of who she was as her own person; I was constantly thinking of her as Fia’s sister. Her chapters were a nice reprieve however, acting as an escape from the dangerously dark and maddening chapters that belonged to Fia.Having been beaten and broken, trained to fight her instincts to do what was right so she could learn how to manipulate them in order to do what was commanded of her, Fia held no illusions concerning the intentions of those running the Academy.In this room I have picked which gun was unloaded out of ten options. And then they pulled the trigger on me. I have picked stocks that went on to skyrocket. I have picked which pencil I would shove into Ms. Robertson’s ear until she kicked me out for thinking about it.Mind Game’s stream of consciousness narrative was used to show just how fragmented and damaged Fia was, after years of mental and physical abuse at the hands of her guardians. I found myself drowning in her chapters, lost in her broken mind as she tried her best to block out the voices, the feelings that said something was wrong, and enter a space where she was neither happy nor unhappy; a space where she merely existed. In this way, Fia truly stole the show for me, as I was fascinated with seeing how far she could fall before she was too broken to get back up. I also admired her determination to protect Annie, even though it meant she would never be free of her tormentors.Still, I will protect Annie. She is the only person in the world who loves me. She is the only person in the world who would never use me. She is my anchor, the chain around my ankle, the thing that means it doesn’t matter what James does or who he is – I will still be his because I will always be Annie’s.Even when presented with an out, with a life where she could be free, where she could work at forgetting the horrors she had been forced to do under the command of those who held her sister’s life in the balance, she knew it would only be a matter of time before her past caught up with her.I could have kisses like that for the rest of my life. Kisses that don’t know who I am. Kisses that make me feel more and less than what I am. But my finger tap tap taps on my leg and reminds me that I am not who Adam thinks I am, and it makes me want to cry. It’s not that I don’t deserve his kiss. It’s that the person I am can never really share a life, a soul, with the person he is.My heart broke for Fia with every chapter, as she descended deeper and deeper into the kind of madness that comes with having to constantly look over your shoulder, having to constantly be one step ahead of those who would see you fall.While there could have been a lot done to better develop Mind Games’ plot, to better flesh out the world Fia and Annie lived in and the people behind their captivity, I didn’t mind because I was so invested in Fia’s story. To me, as much as Mind Games was a psychological thriller, it was so much more a character-driven novel. I was desperate to fix Fia, for her to find a way to free both herself and Annie from Keanes’ clutches, and for her to get a chance at the kind of life she deserved.

Through the Ever Night

Through the Ever Night - I thought I loved Under the Never Sky. I thought I knew Aria and Perry, and the strength of their relationship. I thought I understood life outside Reverie, and how hard Dwellers had it. I’m here today to tell you: I thought wrong on all counts. Through the Ever Night is easily more suspenseful, more romantic and more action-packed than I could ever have imagined, and is a rare instance of a sequel outperforming its predecessor.Refusing to let her novel suffer from the fatal middle book syndrome, Rossi begins Through the Ever Night with a sense of urgency that only escalates as the pages are turned. This sense of urgency is fuelled by the Aether storms, growing in both ferocity and frequency, which makes everything that happens in Through the Ever Night feel like it’s on borrowed time. Add in the numerous, intersecting plot twists, all of which have you wondering how you mostly didn’t see them coming, and you literally can NOT put it down.But as wonderfully suspenseful and fast-paced as the plot is, Through the Ever Night is brilliant because of its characters and their phenomenal growth since Under the Never Sky, and their relationships to one another. Having grown in strength – both physically and emotionally – Aria is nearly unrecognizable. Gone is the scared, nervous girl from Under the Never Sky, and in her place is a fierce warrior who is in tune with her abilities. While she stills holds a certain level of fear for the outside world, it’s accompanied by a certain respect and determination to meet her fears head-on. Perry shares a similar determination, but it is to do what’s right for his tribe – even when that means letting Aria go. I loved knowing that, as important as Aria is to him, his sense of loyalty to his people overpowered his desire to be with her after being apart for so long. And that they both knew that their relationship could handle the time and distance apart.Love was like the waves in the sea, gentle and good sometimes, rough and terrible at others, but that it was endless and stronger than the sky and earth and everything in between.And as much as I thought Aria and Perry’s relationship would steal the show for me, it truly didn’t play an overbearingly important role in Through the Ever Night’s plot. While it was impossible not to feel how in tune with each other both Aria and Perry were, with their thoughts constantly returning to one another during moments of pain or loneliness, they were both focused on more important tasks: Aria hoping to convince Sable to lead her to the Still Blue, and Perry struggling to keep his tribe fed and protected.And then there’s Roar. Passionate, protective and well-humored, Roar was the rock Aria needed to see her through her tasks’ hardships. Their connection as Auds created a friendship that was warm and heartfelt and innocent – I never once doubted that their friendship would ever be anything but friendship. Their casual banter was easy and so necessary to balance all of the heartache and hardships they were forced to overcome.I really don’t feel like I’ve done Through the Ever Night justice. I can’t put in to words how strongly Rossi has made me feel for all of her characters, how much she has done to make sure I care for their future and how hard it is to walk away from them for a whole year!

The Shadow Girl

The Shadow Girl - Jennifer Archer Frustratingly delightful, The Shadow Girl masterfully leaked out hints at life-changing secrets and sinister intentions, all while keeping the reader in the dark for most of its duration. With a headstrong and confident heroine, who spends much of The Shadow Girl confused yet determined, and an interesting twist to explain Iris’ existence, The Shadow Girl is a must read for all science fiction and paranormal fans!Told from Lily’s PoV, The Shadow Girl succeeded in keeping me in constant suspense by keeping Lily from uncovering the truth to her parents’ past too quickly. With Lily’s mother being completely unwilling to answer any of her questions, Lily is forced to sneak around to discover the truth. Finding her mother’s sketches that hinted at a past Lily couldn’t remember, a trunk full of old clothes that Lily didn’t recognize but that looked to be designed just for her, and a music box that stirred up thoughts of a dark-haired, blue-eyed boy, Lily grew curiouser and curiouser; which, of course, meant I also grew curiouser and curiouser. As Iris grew more agitated, and foreign memories began to flood into Lily with growing intensity, Lily couldn’t help but question Iris’ existence – something she had always just taken for granted. Was Iris just a part of her, or had Iris somehow had a life prior to Lily? This constant state of confusion created such an intense level of suspense that I grew frustrated – in the best way – with the amount of clues that were piling up that didn’t result in answers! The Shadow Girl’s deliciously slow reveal of the truth made for great pacing as I was constantly trying to piece together the latest clue with everything else Lily had learned in an attempt to come up with the larger picture.The only thing I really had an issue with in The Shadow Girl was its inclusion of a love triangle. Considering everything going on in Lily’s life – her father’s death, her mother’s failing health and emotional distance, her depressed dog, and her questions about Iris and her parents’ big secret – I really didn’t think that The Shadow Girl needed a romantic element. And considering her friend Sylvie pretty much nails her feelings for one of the guys on the head, I didn’t think it needed to be drawn out for as long as it was.“Whenever Wyatt and I are together, I notice things about him I never did before, and I start wondering how it would be if we were more than friends [...] He’s so sweet, and nobody makes me laugh like he does. Plus, we know pretty much everything about each other, so I don’t have to worry about what he thinks.”“He’s safe, you mean.” Sylvie casts me a disappointed look. “Safe is a cop-out reason for being with someone.”That being said, I didn’t dislike the love triangle either. It wasn’t over the top, there wasn’t any instalove, and it didn’t overwhelm the plot; it was more of a background thing really, that popped up from time to time. And I actually really liked both boys, though neither of them truly blew me away or stole my heart. I just didn’t think it was necessary.So I think a big reason why I enjoyed The Shadow Girl so much had to do with how much I liked Lily. She was courageous and spunky, but vulnerable and naive at the same time. The loss of her father was something that was felt throughout the entire book, during moments when her grief would just overwhelm her for a moment, but she was always able to get past it in order to move forward. Several times she lashed out in anger because of her grief, but always recognized that she was hurting others because she was hurting, so she’d apologize for her behaviour. I loved that Archer was able to weave such an emotionally heavy event into The Shadow Girl’s plot, without incapacitating Lily because of it or using it as the thing which defined her. The other big thing that I loved about Lily was that she never questioned her sanity. As much as she recognized that having Iris was abnormal, she never worried that it meant that something was wrong with her; it was merely something she knew she should keep to herself in order to keep everyone happy. While I personally would have appreciated a psychological twist to The Shadow Girl’s plot, it probably would have been a little too much considering everything else that was going on!There’s definitely more I could say, like certain ethical questions that were raised, but I don’t want to get into spoilers. Thanks to a relatable and headstrong heroine, and enough mystery and suspense to keep me on edge for most of its pages, The Shadow Girl is a must read!

17 & Gone

17 & Gone - Nova Ren Suma In what was one of the most thrilling and suspenseful, yet confusing and paranoid, reads of recent memory, 17 & Gone held me prisoner as its almost dream-like atmosphere blurred reality to a point of non-recognition. Shadowy figures, whispered voices and a feeling of desperation overwhelmed my senses in a cacophony of sight and sound, leaving me unable to trust anything – or anyone – Lauren encountered.Easily the shining beacon of 17 & Gone was Suma’s ability to create a dark and haunting atmosphere, that when interspersed with a stream of consciousness-esque prose, created a dream-like quality to her writing. As Lauren’s thoughts flitted about, from concern over Abby’s whereabouts, to fascination concerning the other lost girls’ stories, to obsession with discovering the truth, you almost get the feeling that you are, in fact, dreaming. Nothing that Lauren experiences is solid enough for you to feel like it is based in reality, yet nothing is so far out there that you can’t believe it’s happening. Everything is written with a sense of fleetingness and fluidity, like that thought you can’t quite grasp, that makes it feel like at any moment you might lose the story completely and be left with nothing but the whispers of what once was. It made for such an interesting, if at times frustrating, read that I couldn’t have put 17 & Gone down if I had wanted to.Much like Suma’s writing, Lauren also gave off an air of impermanence; she was so easily side-tracked by a whisper, or a shadow, that we didn’t get a good glimpse at who she was without the lost girls who served to define her. Actually, she mostly served as a vehicle for the stories of the lost girls, which meant much of her personality was hidden or obscured. There were glimpses at a a fierce and independent young woman,My legs walked me over to him. “Luke? Do you remember me? I’m Lauren. I’m – ”“Jamie Rossi’s girlfriend,” he said, stopping me, like that’s how I’d introduce myself to someone, my identity in relation to a boy’s.but mostly, we learned about the lost girls: Abby, Fiona, Natalie, Shyann, and so many others that it became, at times, tedious to hear their stories over and over. To be as lost as them, to wonder to why they were haunting Lauren and what they hoped to achieve by isolating her from her friends and family. They became the thing which defined Lauren, and without them, Lauren was (seemingly) nothing.But part of the reason I enjoyed 17 & Gone so much, despite not truly connecting with Lauren, was because of its vagueness. 17 & Gone kept me in suspense for so much of the plot, leaving me questioning everything that was happening, that I couldn’t help but eagerly read on. As Suma delivered a slightly unexpected twist, I was thrilled to have continued reading because of her excellent handling of such a…sensitive topic. (I’m trying to avoid spoilers here, so I apologize for my vagueness!) And paired with that ending, one that stays true to Lauren’s type of experience, I had to appreciate what Suma had managed to accomplish, all while keeping me mostly in the dark.For fans of psychological thrillers, who won’t mind when the questions being answered aren’t necessarily the ones you hope to have answered (at least, not when you hope to have them answered), 17 & Gone will be an absolute delight. For people who appreciate concrete answers or plot-driven stories with definitive endings, you might want to think twice!

Roar and Liv

Roar and Liv - I know, I know. Another novella. Why did I do this to myself, you ask? Well, I purchased Roar and Liv, for $2.99 I’ll have you know, during my post-Destroy Me, euphoria-induced, novella spree. Fortunately, I really enjoyed this extremely brief tale, even though I didn’t remember anything about Roar…What I was reminded of though, was why I loved Under the Never Sky: Rossi is a great writer. Her prose in Roar and Liv is simple yet elegant, and her characters seem to come alive on the pages. A gypsy at heart, Roar found his home with Liv and Perry. His presence isn’t welcomed by all however, and Liv and Perry’s brother Vale, who also happens to be the Blood Lord, is quick to remind Roar just how useless he thinks he is. With his admission that he might just be everything Vale thinks he is, Roar nearly broke my heart.My ambitions aren’t grand. All I have ever wanted is to be there for the two people who mean everything to me. Maybe that’s a small goal to others, but it’s always felt like enough.Absolutely gutted. Like I said, Rossi’s way with words is almost simplistic, but effortlessly powerful nonetheless. Fortunately, when Roar wasn’t breaking my heart, he was making me giggle.My hand is wrapped around her hip. I slide it to her back so I can think clearly. Somewhat clearly. So I have a chance of holding a coherent thought in my head.His ability to lighten the mood in almost any situation gave a nice hint of humour to an otherwise tense (and possibly suspenseful for those who, like me, couldn’t remember Roar’s story) novella.I think what I liked best about Roar and Liv though, was how Roar described Liv. He made her this strong and courageous woman that I was desperate to learn more about.I watch as she disappears into the curling fog. Live flees when she’s unsure. Like Perry, she thinks on the run. I know this, but my stomach still twists as I watch her leave. I want her to need me right now. She doesn’t. Somehow, I both hate her and love her for it.Her fierce independence and loyalty to those she loved was felt so strongly, because of how much Roar believed it of her. And because Roar thought so highly of her, I had a hard time not falling in love with her too.I listen to her say this and wonder why the pull I feel to protect her is so strong. She doesn’t need me. Liv is a force. She is fierce.Now that I think about it, I almost wish that Roar and Liv had been told in dual PoV, so I could have gotten a peek at Liv’s mind: she was constantly surprising me by doing the opposite of what I would have expected.Above all though, I loved how much respect Roar had for Liv, and how much he respected that any decision for her future was one that he had to let her make on her own.Make Liv mine is the objective. What I haven’t figured out yet is how.Run away with her? Marry her? I need to talk to Liv and find out what she wants. The real goal, the one that’s always guided me, is to make her happy.Even though he knew it would hurt him in his soul, Roar was determined to let Liv go if that was her choice; he never once pressured her into choosing him. He merely let her know that he was, and always would be, waiting for her when she was ready.So why only three stars if I seemed to enjoy Roar and Liv so much? Mostly because of its length – like I said, Liv’s PoV would have been awesome and added a little more substance to the story. As with all the novellas I’ve read recently, I was just getting in to the story when, BAM! It was over.

Deep Betrayal

Deep Betrayal - Anne Greenwood Brown Going in to Deep Betrayal, I knew two things: I had really enjoyed Lies Beneath and I was looking forward to learning more mermaid lore. As the story unfolded, I kept waiting to be wowed by Deep Betrayal, like I had been with Lies Beneath, and found myself growing more and more disappointed. While I really enjoyed reading things from Lily’s perspective, with Deep Betrayal the mystery and allure surrounding the mermaids in Lies Beneath was mostly absent, making for a slightly less exciting read.One of the reasons I loved Lies Beneath, besides my fascination with evil mermaids, was thanks to Lily – she had a quirky style, a spunky personality, and was pretty self-confident. Unfortunately, in Deep Betrayal I had a hard time seeing any of those qualities in her. For the first 20-30%, she spends most of her time moping about because she hasn’t heard from Calder, and then when he does show up, she’s whining that he’s spending so much time helping her dad.“Tell me how long you’re going to be gone, ” I demanded.“Its just for a little while,” Calder said.“But I haven’t seen you in over a month!” I hated how hysterical I sounded, but I couldn’t help it. This was unfair, and Calder didn’t seem to care at all.She became a different person, someone who was selfish and unable to understand that her life wasn’t the only one that was changing.“You know what? I wish I’d never told you about any of this. This was my secret. I shared it with you, but now you’re taking it from me.”“Lily, I’m not taking anything from you. Frankly, I don’t want any of it.”It made it really hard for me to remember why I had liked her so much in Lies Beneath. Fortunately, once she finally understands the seriousness of the situation (at about the halfway mark), she’s able to think of people other than herself and put her big girl panties on.Once Lily was able to get over herself, I really started to enjoy Deep Betrayal. The mystery surrounding the attacks built up a tension that oozed off the pages, even though I felt like we were being sent on a wild goose chase with each new clue. The slightly circular route it took for the attacker to be unveiled did get a little tiring, but I did appreciate that it wasn’t the obvious choice. It also opened up the opportunity for us to learn a little more mermaid lore, which helped to ease my disappointment over not getting to see a lot of Calder’s ferocious mer-sisters. I was actually quite upset with their treatment in Deep Betrayal. I wanted to see more of the slightly devious and twisted sisters from Lies Beneath, the mer-sisters who’s beauty was only matched by their deadliness, and instead they were made weak and pathetic, fading away into mere shells of their former selves from lack of proper nourishment.As for Calder, he had his moments where he reminded me why I really liked him in Lies Beneath, and then he had such cold, distant moments that I wondered how Lily could fool herself into thinking he could ever care for her the way she cared for him.For the first time, I was getting a sense of how truly destructive Calder could be. What could he make me think, be, do, if he really wanted to? Could he have made me go to the Bahamas with him, even though he knew how important it was for me to come back with my dad? Could he have made me forget my family even existed, if it meant keeping me for himself? Hadn’t he once told me merpeople were essentially selfish?I didn’t understand why his ability to influence Lily’s mind was suddenly working, since that’s something that I seem to remember him having difficulty with in Lies Beneath, and I didn’t like how he spoke to Lily at times, demanding that she stop sulking so her negative mood didn’t impact him so much, or forcing her to remove her pendant because it made her aura look different (the reasons for that effect never being explained) and he didn’t like it. Those things aside, I did enjoy watching Calder struggle with his merman instincts, fighting to overcome his nature when he knew Lily expected more from him. He also had some sweet moments, where he would apologize to Lily in such a genuine way for being short with her, that I couldn’t fault her for forgiving him so easily.While I didn’t love Deep Betrayal as much as I might have hoped to, I still mostly enjoyed it. I loved watching how Lily’s fathers’ choice affected his whole family, and some (literally) electrical moments between Lily and Calder reminded me why I enjoyed them as a couple. And, while slightly cheesy, I couldn’t picture a better ending, though there is definitely enough left open for a third book!

Strands of Bronze and Gold

Strands of Bronze and Gold - An isolated and fantastical abbey, with rooms painted like underwater castles or adorned with paintings fit for any museum, sets the stage for Nickerson’s Strands of Bronze and Gold. An endearingly naive heroine and an insidiously twisted antagonist added a level of suspense, while the ghosts of Cressac’s ex-wives added a certain creepiness that kept me turning the pages late into the night!I absolutely adored Sophie. She tried her hardest to be a proper lady, but her eccentric godfather would have none of it! Being “genteel, but only in a theoretical way” she theoretically knew how to live as a lady of wealth, but in practice hadn’t been able to afford it – and now that she could afford it, her godfather wished for her to enjoy life and carpe diem. At first, his oddness was something that Sophie entertained so as to appease him, to show him that she was grateful for his generosity.I leaned in to him a little stiffly since he was still practically a stranger, and I bravely kissed his cheek. It was not terrible, being the extraordinarily attractive cheek it was, after all.As time passed, Sophie began to question her godfathers’ eccentricities.I allowed my godfather to stroke my hand or bring it up to his lips or his cheek, labeling his caresses his “Frenchities.” Besides being smitten by him, I genuinely liked him, although sometimes there was a look in his eye that made me uneasy. He could be…dangerous. now, why did that adjective leap to mind? Perhaps because it fit. M. Bernard resembled a tiger – sleep, velvety, smiling, dangerous. And very attractive.But due to her innocence, I had the hardest time deciphering if his “dangerous” ways were a real threat or merely Sophie and her overactive imagination. It made Strands of Bronze and Gold a fantastically suspenseful read as I worked to unveil Cressac’s infatuations with redheads and true intentions with Sophie. It also made me really enjoy Sophie’s character growth: her childlike innocence was slowly stripped away as she realized the entire household was holding its breath, waiting for Cressac’s next blowup, and that Sophie, and Sophie alone, had the power to cool his temper and restore peace. As her eyes were opened to Cressac’s true nature, and her own curiosities were peaked concerning the details of his four former wives’ deaths, Cressac’s gentile manner was soon shown to be a mere farce, hiding a much more hostile temperament.His voice blasted me. Would he actually strike me? I had been waiting for it, fearing it, I realized now, for a long while.And Cressac! What a brilliant antagonist; he’s an absolute master at manipulating those around him and at hiding his devious thoughts under the pretence of playful banter.“I worried you might be huddled in your bed terrified. I tried to come reassure you.”“Did you?”“I did, but your door was locked. Do you lock it every night?”“I do.”“Do you think someone is plotting against your virtue?” A gleam of amusement twinkled in his honey brown eyes.“No sir, I simply feel more secure with the big dark house shut out.”“You know I have all the keys, don’t you? I could enter at any time I wanted.”*Shivers* He knew exactly how to let Sophie know that he had all of the power, while maintaining his smiling and caring facade. It made it that much harder for Sophie to believe that he might not be as sweet and charming as he pretended. My only minor issue with Strands of Bronze and Gold was that despite my love for the two main characters, I didn’t really connect with either of them. I was completely invested in their fates, but only to appease my own curiosity – not because I truly cared about what happened to either of them. Mostly though, it didn’t matter. Thanks to Nickerson’s spot-on pacing, I was completely caught up in uncovering the secrets behind Strands of Bronze and Gold’s plot, and became as obsessed as Sophie in uncovering the truth behind Cressac’s devious scheming and sinister past.For fans of historical romances with a thrilling twist, Strands of Bronze and Gold was an absolute pleasure to read. With simply lovely prose, an enchanting heroine and a sly antagonist I had a hard time putting it down!

A Dark Grave (The Elysium Chronicles, #0.5)

A Dark Grave (The Elysium Chronicles, #0.5) - J.A. Souders Like Radiant, A Dark Grave was a novella that I should have skipped. Disappointingly short, it added very little, if anything, to my understanding of Gavin and the world Souders has created with The Elysium Chronicles.I did enjoy learning a little bit more about Gavin and his life prior to entering Elysium. After his father’s death, which is mostly unexplained, he has been the main provider for his family. His younger brother, having been just a baby when his father was killed, has looked up to Gavin for his whole life, and Gavin sees himself as a bit of a father figure because of it. Knowing his mother and brother would starve without him, he feels the weight of that responsibility each time he heads out to hunt.That doesn’t stop him from planning a dangerous trip to a supposedly haunted island though, where people have been known to disappear; the prospect of a bountiful hunt outweighs any downside that he can think of. So A Dark Grave informed me of Gavin’s village’s struggle with providing its residents with enough food. What it didn’t tell me, which was something I also couldn’t gather from Renegade, was why – what happens in the future that Gavin is responsible for feeding his family at such a young age? While I don’t expect all of the answers in a novella, something – anything – would have been appreciated.I did find it interesting that Gavin wasn’t really friends with Connor – he just happened to be the next best hunter, and someone he could trust with his secret; it kind of makes Connor’s fate in Renegade that much more tragic. But, as with Radiant, as soon as I began to enjoy A Dark Grave for what it was offering me, it ended.


Orleans - With absolutely spectacular world-building, Orleans held me captive as I watched a post-apocalypse version of New Orleans unfold around me in vivid and careful detail; nothing was overlooked. I did find that I cared very little for the protagonist – Fen – and her tribe dialect. Though I understood her motives, I was much more interested in learning about Orleans and how it had come to be.Fen is a very interesting, and refreshing, heroine in that she looks out for herself first, and does whatever is necessary in order to survive. At times, this means she considers abandoning Lydia’s baby, in order to save herself.I look down at Baby Girl, snuggled up against me. I want to run so bad, but she so tiny. Too tiny to hold the dogs off me for long. Then I close my eyes and feel hot all over, I’m so ashamed. Lydia ask me to look after her. I ain’t gonna throw her away.And when she meets Daniel, she helps him only because of the help he can provide her. While her character arc does progress and we do see small changes in her self-preservation above all else instinct, by the end of Orleans, she is still a survivor who is determined to continue surviving. But while I couldn’t fault Fen for her will to survive, I also couldn’t connect with her. While I learned quite a bit about both Fen and Daniel’s histories, which explained how they had become who they were in Orleans, it did little to make me truly connect to either of them. Besides the unshakable and realistic truth that Fen was a survivor, I really wasn’t able to grasp her characterization because she kept herself so closed, which kept me from engaging completely. And while Daniel was much more open with his emotions, he was so useless that I couldn’t relate to him either.Fortunately for Orleans, I didn’t need the characterization to be outstanding, because the city of Orleans was as much a living, breathing character as either Fen or Daniel. And Smith starts Orleans‘ characterization on page one: after a series of devastating hurricanes, which resulted in a lethal disease called the Fever, the Guld Coast was quarantined from the rest of the United States. In time, the quarantine turned into a full separation, as the United States withdrew its funding and support for the survivors living in Orleans, thinking they would die out and take their disease with them. With the Fever attacking blood types differently and in varying strengths, the survivors band together in blood-based tribes. With AB types being the most severely affected, they quickly become the most dangerous – attacking others to steal their blood, which helps to temporarily stave off the Fever.And that’s just the threat from Orleans‘ inhabitants! As Fen travels with Daniel, we watch them travel across a mossy field with an entire city buried underneath, where pieces of the past float to the top during heavy rains. It also means certain spots might cave in if you’re not light enough on your feet. The landscape was as much a threat as any Blood Hunter, which made every move Fen and Daniel make suspenseful as you waited for Orleans‘ reaction.With such a rich landscape and such an interesting character as Fen, Orleans is a dystopian for dystopian fans – fantastic world-building, a suspenseful plot and a heroine that makes decisions based on logic instead of her heart.


Boundless - Cynthia Hand A mostly satisfying conclusion to the Unearthly trilogy, Boundless was a great end to Clara’s story. With a shocking twist surrounding her purpose revealed and her final decision between green-eyed Christian or blue-eyed Tucker made, Boundless was almost everything I had hoped for!Clara is exactly how I remembered her from Hallowed, making light of dangerous situations to hide her fear, hurting over her break-up with Tucker, and optimistic about her fresh start at Stanford with Angela and Christian. I was worried that Clara would be quick to start a relationship with Christian, given their mutual instinctual feeling that they belonged together and their seemingly entwined purposes. So I was extremely happy to see that Hand treated Clara’s feelings for Tucker with respect, reminding her that while she might hope to move on from their time together, it is easier said than done. It really made me empathize with Clara, and it added a level of realism I appreciated - who hasn’t wished to get over an ex, only to find that they’re constantly in your thoughts? But despite Christian’s best advances, and Clara’s runaway thoughts, the romance in Boundless truly takes a backseat to the plot, making Clara’s conflicted feelings feel natural; she was able to focus on the important things as they were happening, leaving her thoughts of Christian and Tucker to those rare moments when she was alone with her thoughts.But, surprisingly, the plot was truly where Boundless caught my attention. I was so caught up in what each vision could mean, what Samjeeza was waiting for, what Angela was hiding, what new power Clara was going to learn next, that I really didn’t mind that the romance was put on the back burner. I loved watching Clara try to master her new teleportation skill – crossing – only to watch her transport herself to Tucker’s barn, over and over. I loved seeing her grow close to Christian, seeing them grow comfortable with each other, and watching them use their ability to ground each other to tackle some of their darkest fears. I loved that all of Clara’s actions were motivated by love – for her friends and family – and that that was a theme that carried over from Hallowed. And I loved watching Clara try to live as normal a life as possible, attending class and making new friends, all while dealing with her brother’s disappearance, the recent death of her mother, the constant ache of a broken heart and visions of death; it made for an absolutely riveting read as you never knew when a seemingly normal moment was going to be interrupted by something sinister.But Boundless‘ plot is also why it lost a star, oddly enough. I was so excited to see all the loose ends from Unearthly and Hallowed tied up, but Boundless seemed to leave as many questions as it answered, mostly pertaining to everyone’s purpose. Was Angela’s purpose really to throw her life away? What was Jeffrey’s purpose – and why was he the one who had to start the forest fire? What was the point of the forest fire? Why did Christian and Clara’s destinies seem to be linked? Why was Unearthly so focused on Clara’s purpose, if in Boundless we’re to learn that the visions are actually just glimpses at one possible future? And if the visions are glimpses at a possible future, why were the visions always the same – why weren’t they shown the different futures available?And then there’s the ending. An adrenaline filled rush, the constant fear of getting caught, the possibility of being stuck in hell – literally – and facing down one of the Fallen’s most dangerous. I was so EXCITED! But then, everything kind of falls in to place – quite conveniently – and is wrapped up in a neat little bow. It was…disappointing? Anticlimactic? Cheesy? I think yes, to all of the above. I’m also not happy with the conclusion to the love triangle – not because of who she picked, but because of how the two boys were treated. One disappears almost entirely from Clara’s life, giving us no closure to his story. And the other is given something that, again, makes everything a little too convenient.But, despite Boundless‘ endings’ shortcomings, I still loved it. And I think it is the right ending; I really can’t picture it ending any other way. And the epilogue made me smile in that giddy, aw-shucks kind of way that my husband teased me for, even though it was over-the-top corny.

Sever (Chemical Garden Trilogy)

Sever - Lauren DeStefano Having loved Wither and having been disappointed by Fever, with Sever I was hoping that Lauren DeStefano would redeem her trilogy for me, by concluding it with the sense of wonder and hope I had been given with Wither. While certain world-building questions were finally addressed, I couldn’t get past Rhine’s bleak outlook on life and DeStefano’s tendency to wax philosophical at every turn.Considering that lacklustre world-building was a common complaint from readers of both Wither and Fever, it was about time that the issue was finally adressed in Sever. So while I appreciated being given some answers, I took issue with how it was presented; that is, I disliked having all of North America’s history thrown at me in one info-dump speech, given by Vaughan, towards the end of the book. And the worst part was that for readers who were paying attention when Reed talked about things not being as they seemed during the first few chapters of Sever, the explanation given by Vaughan in this info-dump wasn’t even surprising. DeStefano’s use of foreshadowing really took away most of the suspense surrounding North America’s history, and the reasons behind the virus infecting everyone from Rhine’s generation. And while the explanation we’re given explains away most of the most ridiculous parts of the premise, parts that many readers took issue with in Wither, the explanation served only to replace the first with something that was just as unrealistic and unbelievable.I could have gotten past DeStefano’s weak attempt at explaining her dystopian world had I enjoyed reading about her characters. Unfortunately for Sever, while the characters I missed the most from Fever (Cecily and Linden) are back, everyone is stuck in a bleak and dreary place, making for a very stagnant and tiring read. Linden is trying his hardest to be angry with Rhine, to hate her, so he spends much of Sever blank-faced as he works through reconciling his head with his heart. Cecily has grown up significantly since Wither, and while she’s still hot-tempered, she’s much more sombre and much less prone to outburst – I missed her passion! As for Rhine, she talked – a lot – about her great plan of finding her brother, but most of what she experiences is something that is forced on her, or something that someone makes her do. She was very much a passive force in Sever, and even her voice became one of hopelessness and defeat. While I understood that the last year had not been easy for Rhine, I just couldn’t empathize with a character who truly didn’t care about her own future.Even my favorite villain wasn’t spared. I remember being truly terrified of Vaughan in Wither, and his influence was palpable in Fever even though he wasn’t physically present for most of the book. But in Sever, Vaughan is just as tired as the rest of the characters. He gives a rather logical explanation for most of his behaviour, shedding new light on his seemingly diabolical plans, which made his scheming, somehow, much less ominous. But his character doesn’t actually change, or experience the kind of development required for me to alter my perception of him. Much like the world-building was just taken at face value in Wither, I am expected to take Vaughan’s noble intentions at face value in Sever, regardless of who he has had to sacrifice or hurt in the process.And as much as I couldn’t get behind Sever’s characters, I also couldn’t enjoy the writing. Perhaps I’m just not a fan of Lauren DeStefano’s style, but I found it much too flowery considering Sever’s pacing and that Sever is very much a character-driven story. There was too much attention given to what Rhine was thinking during her deepest moments of depression, that even when something plot-related was happening, I couldn’t muster up enough energy to care because I was so bored with Rhine’s bleak outlook and philosophical thoughts about life and death.So why is Sever getting two stars, instead of just one? Because despite its faults, I still read it in just one sitting. So it obviously had something going for it that I enjoyed enough to make sure it got read. I think that while I didn’t like how the flowery prose bogged down an already slow-moving plot, it was still pretty. And that’s gotta count for something…right?


Radiant - This type of novella is exactly the reason why I dislike them so much. In Radiant, other than learning who the mysterious Italian boy Angela's been dating during her summers, we learn seemingly nothing of importance.So, to save you from the $2 that Radiant will cost you on Amazon, I'm just going to tell you exactly what happens. While vacationing with Angela in Italy for the summer, Clara is plagued by the same vision several times.Something about the vision this time, about what I feel inside of it - it's bad. Like people dying, bad. But not like last time. Last time my vision was marked by grief; this time what I feel is fear. Sharp, heart-squeezing, abject terror.As for Angela, we learn that her mother was raped by a black wing, resulting in Angela's conception.My conception was not an act of love. To her, I was a curse.After being visited by a white wing, Angela's mother is told that she has not been cursed, but that she has been blessed with a "remarkable child, born of angels and men. A shining child...a miracle." We also learn that her first kiss was with Christian Prescott when they were thirteen years old, during a game of spin-the-bottle. When she didn't feel a spark, she promised herself that her next kiss would be better, that it would be with someone remarkable.And that's exactly what I did. I waited. I knew the moment I saw him that he was the one I was waiting for. The one whose kiss would make me see stars.Someone remarkable.It turns out this remarkable person isn't actually a human. Remember back in Unearthly, when Angela said she had met an angel name Penamue in Italy, who taught her about angels?At first he was hesitant to tell me about the angels, and the war between them, but he did let me in on the ways to tell the good from the bad. I thought that the wing-color thing was a bit cliche, really - white for good, black for bad; definitely not politically correct - but it wasn't about color, he said. It was about light. Black is the absence of light. White is the gathering of it.Meet Phen. Angela's angel-lover, who can promise her nothing but heartache and pain. That doesn't stop her from falling deeply, and irrevocably, in love with him.He lowered his lips to mine.I was undone.I was reborn.This was actually happening. I was kissing him, my fingers in his hair, and it was like setting a match to gasoline. I couldn't get close enough.An ambivalent angel, Phen refuses to choose a side. He's Switzerland. And Clara can't help but notice that he doesn't give her a good vibe.His soul is gray. Cold. Almost colourless I feel how weary he is with himself, how resigned that this existence is all that there will ever by for him, day after day after day, until the end of the world, and even then he doesn't know what will happen or if anything will truly change.She jumps to Angela's defence, and tells Phen if he cares for her at all, then he should just leave Angela alone.Angela deserves someone good. Phen may not be evil. But he's not good. She deserves someone who will be crazy about her for her, her zany intelligence and spurts of kindness, her little quirks. Not just for her "humanness". She deserves someone real.Angela is quick to jump to her relationships' defence, telling Clara that it was only ever "temporary" and that they're "just friends".And so I don't talk about what I saw in Phen that day on the top of St. Peter's. I tell myself that it's her life, and I stay out of it.It's a decision that I will always regret.Thus, Radiant concludes. Two stars for showing me a side of Angela I hadn't known, even if it was only a mere morsel.

Shades of Earth: An Across the Universe Novel

Shades of Earth - Beth Revis I’m going to go out on a limb here, so here’s hoping it doesn’t break: Shades of Earth is the perfect ending to a wonderful trilogy. Continuing in true Beth Revis fashion, Shades of Earth is full of twists and turns, fast-paced action and just a little gore, making for such a suspenseful read that I was operating under the mantra of “just one more chapter” until, before I knew it, I had read the whole damn thing.Finally delivering on the character development I had been wanting from Across the Universe, with Shades of Earth I finally fell in love with Amy and Elder. Revis has never shied away from making things difficult for her characters – Amy’s almost rape in Across the Universe, Elder’s thrust into leadership with a population on the verge of mutiny in A Million Suns – but in Shades of Earth, we finally get to see how these experiences have shaped these characters into the young adults they are now. Watching Amy and Elder face each new obstacle head-on and with determination, thinking of what was best for the colony versus what was just best for them, really and truly showed how different they were now versus when we first met them in Across the Universe. And while I enjoyed watching both Amy and Elder grow more comfortable with their relationship, taking it to a level one of them never expected and one of them could only hope for, I admired how easily Revis was able to keep it firmly in the background so as not to overshadow the main issues of survival on this new and dangerous planet, while solving the remaining mysteries Godspeed and Orion had to offer.But as much as I found myself enjoying these refreshingly developed versions of Amy and Elder, they paled in comparison to my excitement for and enjoyment of Shades of Earths’ plot. Finding themselves on Centauri-Earth brought about even more secrets, dangerous dinosaur-esque monsters and dark shadows in the trees that hinted at something even more sinister laying in wait. As the puzzles of Centauri-Earth piled up and the body count grew higher, Amy and Elder found themselves questioning everything and everyone around them. Why did Godspeeds‘ leaders keep them from landing on this new planet? What did he know about the monsters, and is it possible that he know how to stop them? Why are they finding traces of Phydus on Centauri-Earth, if it was developed on Godspeed? What secrets is Godspeed still hiding? What happened during the centuries that Godspeed just hovered in space? And why does Amy and Elder feel like the monsters they’ve seen aren’t the monsters Orion has warned them against?SO MANY QUESTIONS! But fear not, because Revis is a master at weaving, and weave she does. Tying up loose threads from Across the Universe and A Million Suns, Revis drops hints that nothing on Centauri-Earth is as it seems – or as we were made to believe – until piece by piece, the truth is uncovered. With Shades of Earth, Revis has ended her trilogy with finesse and style, luring us into a place of relative safety before destroying that illusion, gruesomely killing off several key characters and turning everything we thought we knew about Godspeed, its mission, and Centauri-Earth on its head!