Friday, February 26, 2016

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

Genre:  YA Historical Fiction

Description (taken from Jennifer Donnelly's website):
New York, 1890. A wealthy family. A deadly secret. A young woman with more to lose than she knows.

Josephine Montfort is one of the city’s most eligible heiresses, and as such, she understands the importance of doing what is expected. She knows that a suitable marriage and a comfortable life is what she should dream of—but her heart can’t help yearning for more.

But then Jo’s father dies violently, and her charmed life is suddenly shattered. His death appears to have been a tragic mistake, but Jo quickly discovers that the details of his death don’t quite add up. If her father’s death wasn’t accidental, could it have been suicide? Or worse….murder?

Jo is desperate to uncover the truth, but escaping her gilded cage is dangerous, and soon it’s hard to know who can be trusted. A chance encounter with handsome journalist Eddie Gallagher shows Jo just how dangerous digging up her family’s past will be—but some secrets can’t stay hidden, no matter how deep you bury them.

Jo is the editor of her school's newspaper.  All she dreams about is being a reporter like Nellie Bly.  Unfortunately, she spends her life in a rich woman's cage doing what's best for her family.  But when she's unexpectedly called home due to her father's sudden death, she can't leave it to rest.  She's determined to find out what happened in his final moments even if it means uncovering secrets.

When Jo shows up at her father's newspaper company, she meets a reporter called Eddie.  Eddie is looking for the next big story, and when he sees her looking for answers, he sees a future for himself.  As they agree to help each other, they get more than they bargained for.  As they're unlikely friendship evolves, Jo realizes the world isn't as nice as she was brought up to think it was.

This was a classic who-dunnit story set in early New York.  We got to see how sheltered a life an heiress can lead as well as how bad the slums were.  I loved seeing Jo break free from her cage.  And even though I had every plot twist and spoiler figured out, I still loved the writing.  And the ending was one I kind of love yet hate.  It's hard not to love it once you've fallen in love with the characters.

I love Jennifer Donnelly's writing.  It brings more to a story instead of just the plot.  I recommend you pick up at least one of her books.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray

Genre:  YA Science Fiction
Firebird Series, Book 2

Note:  This is the second book in an amazing parallel-universe series.  Reading anything below might spoil plots from the first book.

Description (taken from Claudia Gray's website):
Ever since she used the Firebird, her parents’ invention, to cross through to alternate dimensions, Marguerite has caught the attention of enemies who will do anything to force her into helping them dominate the multiverse—even hurt the people she loves. She resists until her boyfriend, Paul, is attacked, and his consciousness is scattered across multiple dimensions.

The hunt for each splinter of Paul’s soul sends Marguerite racing through a war-torn San Francisco, the criminal underworld of New York City, and a glittering Paris where another Marguerite hides a shocking secret. Each dimension brings Marguerite one step closer to rescuing Paul. But with every trial she faces, she begins to question the one constant she’s found between the worlds: their love for each other.

Ever since Marguerite has been using the Firebird technology her parents created, she's believed in souls and soulmates.  Every world involves a love shared between her and her boyfriend, Paul.  But when the original universe tries to recruit her, they use Paul against her.  And as she does their bidding in order to save him, she begins to question whether one soul across multiple universes is really the same person.  Can love travel past multiple universes?  Or do your surroundings and choices help shape who you love?

Marguerite is a perfect traveler in her world.  What that means is she has the ability to control other Marguerites from other worlds without the use of an addictive drug.  In essence, she is the perfect Firebird soldier.  And that's why the Triad from the original universe wants her working for them.  But what is their end goal?  What do they want?  And will Marguerite try to stop them when the time comes?  Or are her world's parents, Paul, and Theo more important?

I have decided I love this series.  This is probably one of my favorite parallel-world series.  It's got the romance, the action, and the moral dilemmas.  And you kind of have your favorite picks of the universes.  I was hooked from beginning to end.  And now I want the third book as soon as it comes out.  I have to keep my opinions short and concise, or else I'll start releasing plot spoilers (just imagine me bouncing around in the background yelling at you to read the book now).

This is an addictive series to get into.  And if you're looking for a multiple-world romance that isn't too gooey, then you might want to give this series a try.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith

Genre:  YA Fantasy

Description (taken from Lindsay Smith's website):
A high-concept, fantastical espionage novel set in a world where dreams are the ultimate form of political intelligence.

Livia is a dreamstrider. She can inhabit a subject’s body while they are sleeping and, for a short time, move around in their skin. She uses her talent to work as a spy for the Barstadt Empire. But her partner, Brandt, has lately become distant, and when Marez comes to join their team from a neighboring kingdom, he offers Livia the option of a life she had never dared to imagine. Livia knows of no other Dreamstriders who have survived the pull of Nightmare. So only she understands the stakes when a plot against the Empire emerges that threatens to consume both the dreaming world and the waking one with misery and rage.

A richly conceived world full of political intrigue and fantastical dream sequences, at its heart Dreamstrider is about a girl who is struggling to live up to the potential before her.

Barstadt has a caste system where the privileged live on the surface and the poor live under the surface in tunnels.  Livia has worked her way from the tunnels to life aboveground thanks to her ability to dreamstride.  As a dreamstrider, Livia can control another person from the dream world.  It's kind of like astral projection.  With this ability, she works for the ministry as a spy to help protect the empire.

Brandt and Livia have worked together for the ministry for quite some time.  And before Brandt leaves to join high society, he wants to complete one more mission.  A mission that involves protecting Barstadt from invasion.  And as Livia meets Marez from another kingdom, she begins to spy on him and question her homeland's system.  But when the dream world begins to collide with the real world, only Livia will be able to stop what's coming.  But will she have enough power to protect her home?

If you were to pick the most depressed and self-doubt infused teenager off the street, you'd have Livia.  I felt like I was drowning in her self-doubt and negativity.  And the whole idea of dreamstrinding and the dream world Oneiros?  It felt like an incomplete concept.  My imagination became a little fuzzy with this world because I was struggling to grasp it and understand it.  Given my contempt for the main character, I kind of found myself cheering on the bad guy once I finally got sucked into the book.  Unfortunately, that happened about fifty pages before it ended.

I just had a hard time fantasizing this story.  Plus, wanting to strangle the main character was a little bit distracting.  I suggest seeing some more reviews before deciding whether or not to read this one.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins

Genre:  YA Fantasy
The Great Hunt Series, Book 2
Expected publication date:  March 8, 2016

Description (taken from Wendy Higgins' website):
Kill the beast. Win the girl.

A strange beast stirs fear in the kingdom of Lochlanach, terrorizing towns with its brutality and hunger. In an act of desperation, a proclamation is sent to all of Eurona—kill the creature and win the ultimate prize: the daughter of King Lochson’s hand in marriage.

Princess Aerity understands her duty to the kingdom though it pains her to imagine marrying a stranger. It would be foolish to set her sights on any particular man in the great hunt, but when a brooding local hunter, Paxton Seabolt, catches her attention, there’s no denying the unspoken lure between them…or his mysterious resentment.

Paxton is not keen on marriage. Nor does he care much for spoiled royals and their arcane laws. He’s determined to keep his focus on the task at hand—ridding the kingdom of the beast and protecting his family—yet Princess Aerity continues to challenge his notions with her unpredictability and charm. But as past secrets collide with present desires, dire choices threaten everything Paxton holds dear.

Aerity lives in a kingdom where choice and true love conquer all.  But with a brutal beast terrorizing her home and no one succeeding in killing it, she is offered up as the prize to any hunter who can kill the beast.  It is something she has learned to accept for the good of her kingdom.  But when she meets a mysterious hunter who could care less about the prize, she becomes intrigued.  And giving up her freedom to choose who to marry suddenly becomes that much harder.

Paxton loves his home, but he has never cared for the royals who govern it.  Their rules and abandonment of the people is all he's ever known.  However he is willing to kill the beast to protect his home and family.  But seeing Aerity as a person instead of a princess softens his heart.  And with the task at hand, pasts coming to haunt him, and the choice of killing the beast or walking away, suddenly nothing becomes free will anymore.

I have to start with this book felt too childish and sappy for me.  Yes, I'm a romantic.  But I'm not a soggy romantic (no one likes soggy bread).  I tried really hard to like the predictable story line, and it is a good story.  It's just I often questioned how old the characters really were throughout the story.  They acted a little too young for their age, and the theme of hopeless love just kind of left me with a nasty taste in my mouth.

I am one of those people who absolutely loved the Sweet Trilogy.  And that's honestly why I picked up this book.  I honestly wouldn't have believed the author wrote both books after having finished this one.  I suggest reading more reviews before deciding to read this one.

Thanks goes to Around the World ARC Tours for providing me with a copy.
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