Book Review: Half-Blood by Jennifer L Armentrout

Half-Blood (Covenant, #1)

Title: Half-Blood (Covenant #1)
Author: Jennifer L Armentrout
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Mythology, Young Adult, First in a Series
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Publication Date: September 2011
Pages: 281
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
The Hematoi descend from the unions of gods and mortals, and the children of two Hematoi pure bloods have godlike powers. Children of Hematoi and mortals–well, not so much. Half-bloods only have two options: become trained Sentinels who hunt and kill daimons or become servants in the homes of the pures. Seventeen-year-old Alexandria would rather risk her life fighting than waste it scrubbing toilets, but she may end up slumming it anyway. There are several rules that students at the Covenant must follow. Alex has problems with them all, but especially rule #1:Relationships between pures and halfs are forbidden. Unfortunately, she’s crushing hard on the totally hot pure-blood Aiden. But falling for Aiden isn’t her biggest problem–staying alive long enough to graduate the Covenant and become a Sentinel is. If she fails in her duty, she faces a future worse than death or slavery: being turned into a daimon, and being hunted by Aiden. And that would kind of suck.

My Review:

Alex has been on the run from daimons since she saw them murder her mother. After another attack, and nowhere to go, Alex is taken to the Covenant – a boarding school for Hermatoi, offspring of the gods – and the very place where she and her mother fled from three years earlier. Alex was not the best student and her past behaviour record threatens to have her expelled before she is even a student again. She has a choice – to train with the gorgeous pureblood, Aiden St Delphi, or become a servant in her stepfather’s mansion.

I’ve wanted to read this series for a while. I have a weakness for books with strong heroines and magical boarding schools. I’d heard that this series has a lot in common with Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy books and there is a lot that feels familiar (the forbidden romance, the class system, even the boarding school itself). However there is enough different about these stories that I wasn’t constantly comparing the two.

Alex is the kind of girl who acts first and deals with the repercussions later. But she isn’t blindly rebellious. She knows when to pull her head in and when to break the rules. Her loyalty to her mother and her friends is fierce and there is logic behind her decisions. The forbidden romance between Alex and Aiden is fun to read but it did feel a touch like déjà vu.

The plot is interesting. There’s an Apollyon, some mythical half-blood with the power of the elements and super daimon fighting skills. Mix with that some great fight scenes, some mean girls, evil stepfather, ominous and mysterious uncle and a heartbreaking decision. Armentrout is not kind to her characters and I admire Alex all the more for what she goes though in this novel.

I’m curious as to what happens next for Alex now she knows a little more about herself and I intend to read the next books in the series but it’s not a priority. I like the characters and the plot yet there are other series I want to catch up on first. 

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Book Review: Killer Frost by Jennifer Estep

Killer Frost (Mythos Academy, #6)

Title: Killer Frost (Mythos Academy #6)
Author: Jennifer Estep
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Magic, Young Adult, Last in the Series
Publisher: Kensington Teen
Publication Date: February 2014
Pages: 384
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
I’ve battled the Reapers of Chaos before–and survived. But this time I have a Bad, Bad Feeling it’s going to be a fight to the death … most likely mine.

Yeah, I’ve got my psychometry magic, my talking sword, Vic–and even the most dangerous Spartan on campus at my side, in Logan freaking Quinn, but I’m no match for Loki, the evil Norse god of chaos. I may be Nike’s Champion, but at heart, I’m still just Gwen Frost, that weird Gypsy girl everyone at school loves to gossip about.

Then someone I love is put in more danger than ever before, and something inside me snaps. This time, Loki and his Reapers are going down for good … or I am.

My Review:

Gwen Frost, Nike’s Champion and psychometric Gypsy, has been though a lot. Reapers, Rocs and Fenrir Wolf Pups have all done their best to try and quash Gwen and her friends but they haven’t succeeded. And now it’s time for the final battle. Nike’s followers verses Loki’s Reapers. Gwen knows she isn’t alone. She has Vic, Logan the Spartan, Daphne the Valkyrie and a whole bunch of friends to back her up…  but Gwen knows that she is the key to locking Loki back up but she hasn’t the slightest idea how she is supposed to do it.

I’ve been a big fan of this series since I read the first book a few years ago. All kinds of mythology, boarding school and some fantastic characters. It’s always sad when a series you’re enjoying comes to a close but as the saying goes – all good things must come to an end. Gwen is trying to navigate her first romantic relationship with Logan whilst trying to decipher Nike’s cryptic advice. The Reapers are out in force, stealing artifacts and rearing up for a big finish.

One of the things I’ve come to love about this series is Gwen however I wasn’t the biggest fan of her in Killer Frost. I want characters to grow and mature as people as their get older. To have their experiences improve them. But in this book Gwen regressed slightly. She’s not learned that she’s stronger when she has her friends beside her and constantly reminding everyone that she’s the only one that can defeat Loki. I understand that she has a lot on her shoulders. That she is the chosen one. But it felt somewhat out of character to me for her to be shunning those who can help her and still taking such disregard for her own safety – especially since she knows if anything happens to her then the entire world is at risk.

The way the final battle went down was great to read. It incorporated so much of what the things I loved about the previous books as well as new things I wasn’t expecting. The ending was perfectly fitting for all of the characters and I liked seeing familiar faces showing up again.

I’m glad that I read this series. It’s fun and I really enjoyed how the mythologies were incorporated together. It feels like we may get a spin-off and if that does happen I will definitely be reading it too!

 

Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Teen for the review copy.

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Book Review: Anything to Have You by Paige Harbison

Anything To Have You

Title: Anything to Have You
Author: Paige Harbison
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: February 2014
Pages: 303
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Nothing should come between best friends, not even boys. ESPECIALLY not boys.

Natalie and Brooke have had each other’s backs forever. Natalie is the quiet one, college bound and happy to stay home and watch old movies. Brooke is the movie—the life of every party, the girl everyone wants to be.

Then it happens—one crazy night that Natalie can’t remember and Brooke’s boyfriend, Aiden, can’t forget. Suddenly there’s a question mark in Natalie and Brooke’s friendship that tests everything they thought they knew about each other and has both girls discovering what true friendship really means.

My Review:

They may seem like opposites but party girl Brooke and homegirl Natalie have been best friends for years. With only a few months left of their senior year of high school, Brooke is determined to make sure Natalie lets loose and enjoys herself before college. They may not see eye to eye on everything but they have always been there for each other. But life gets in the way and suddenly the two girls who used to tell each other everything are now keeping secrets. Is their friendship strong enough to last the distance?

I wasn’t expecting this book to switch point of views from Natalie to Brooke and back. It was a bit of a shock the first time it happened as I was a third of the way into the novel but I like the rounded view point that getting to hear how certain events transpired and just how both the girls were feeling about situations. Natalie is the solid best friend. She has always had Brooke’s back but she can’t help the feelings that she has for Brooke’s longterm boyfriend, Aiden.

I liked the realism of this novel. You can feel how jealous both of the girls are of the other for different reasons. There’s also a genuine feeling of confusion for them both as their lives take them places they weren’t expecting. Popular Brooke never thought she’d be jealous of Natalie’s camaraderie with Aiden and Natalie can’t help but be envious that the boy she has so much in common with is dating her friend. And the problems they face regarding their feelings towards Aiden are only the beginning. We get to see how the girls deal with conflict and deal with some hefty life altering decisions.

There wasn’t a lot in this book that I wasn’t expecting. But it was interesting to see how everything played out. Brooke isn’t nearly as well put together as she would like the world to see and Natalie is someone who usually just goes with the flow and she has to face up to a few things. I would have loved getting to see a bit of this story from Aiden’s point of view. There are questions about his actions and thoughts regarding the two friends that I would love some more insight into but I understand why he doesn’t get to share his POV. Because at heart – this is a book about female friendship. How there are voids in a girl’s life that can only be filled with her friends. I like the bond that Brooke and Natalie have and how it’s stretched and tested throughout the course of the novel.

Overall I enjoyed Anything to Have You. Paige Harbison has a great style and reading the stories of Brooke and Natalie felt authentic. There are some great characters facing real teenage issues. I will be reading more from Paige Harbison in the future.

 Thanks to Harlequin Teen Australia for the review copy.

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Book Review: How They Met (and Other Stories) by David Levithan

How They Met, and Other Stories

Title: How They Met (and Other Stories)
Author: David Levithan
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Short Stories
Publisher: Text Publishing
Publication Date: January 2014
Pages: 256
Rating: 3.5  stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Eighteen stories, all about love, and about all kinds of love.

From the aching for the one you pine for, to standing up and speaking up for the one you love, to pure joy and happiness, these love stories run the gamut of that emotion that at some point has turned every one of us inside out and upside down.

What is love?

With this original story collection David Levithan proves that love is a varied, complicated, addictive, wonderful thing.

My Review: 

As David Levithan says in his introduction, How They Met (and other stories) is a book of stories about love rather than love stories. Each of the eighteen short stories gives a look into different types of love and relationships. With stories about the first sparks of attraction to tales of heartbreak and parental disapproval – this anthology covers a whole range of emotions and situations.

The stories contained in How We Met feature a variety of types of relationships – from two boys falling in love to a girl being heartbroken when her girlfriend moves on and heterosexual couples and their love stories. With many of the stories, the gender of the narrator is a little ambiguous for the first few pages and I liked the vagueness. Whilst sexuality is a theme in these stories, the unclearness of the narrator made it appear that the issues faced and situations the characters are in a universal (for the most part) regardless of sexual orientation.

For me, the sum is greater than the parts. I enjoyed many of the stories but I think the strength lies in how they fit together as a compilation. The variety is fantastic and yet they all manage to come together and feel like they each belong in the same collection.

Favourite Stories: Starbucks Boy, The Number of People Who Meet on Airplanes, Princes, A Romantic Inclination. 

Favourite Quotes:

“Every two people cause and intersection.
Every person alters the world.” from Intersection

“Sallie and James had both life and the laws of physics working against them. You see, Sallie Brown and James Helprin were good friends.
Which adds a certain friction to our equation.” from A Romantic Inclination

“You have to believe there are kisses and laughs and risks worth taking”

 

Thanks to Text Publishing for the review copy.

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Book Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Unearthly (Unearthly, #1)

Title: Unearthly (Unearthly #1)
Author: Cynthia Hand
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Young Adult, Angels
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: January 2011
Pages: 432
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Clara has known she was part-angel ever since she turned fourteen two years ago, but only now is her Purpose – the crucial rite of passage for every part-angel – becoming clear to her. Clara′s Purpose leads her family to Wyoming, where, amidst terrifying scenes of a bush inferno, she finds the boy of her visions, Christian. He is everything she could wish for – so why does she also have feelings for her enigmatic classmate Tucker?

Clara discovers that her Purpose is only a small part of a titanic struggle between angels and their destructive counterparts, the Black Wings. And when the fire of her visions erupts and both Christian and Tucker are in danger, who will she choose to save?

My Review:

So often we only do what we think is expected of us, when we are capable of so much more.

As a part angel, Clara has a predestined mission. She doesn’t quite know what her Purpose is but knows that she must do everything in her power to save the boy in her visions – even if it means her family have to move across the country to a small town in the middle of nowhere. It’s there she finally finds the boy who haunts her – Christian. But despite finding him, her angelic mission is still unclear. As Clara adapts to life in the country, she finds new friends and some more about Angels and her kinds history. Black Wings – angels with a dark intentions, threaten Clara’s loved ones and her attraction for Tucker – a country boy with a lot of charm, endanger her from being able to save Christian and carry our her angelic Purpose.

Unearthly is a promising start to the series. Clara is likeable and independent with enough secrets  to keep things interesting. She has a good relationship with her mother and brother but it isn’t unrealistically perfect. She has disagreements and the occasional moment where she knowingly acts immature but that makes her just that much more authentic as teenager. Her angel ancestry is interesting – the visions, wings and all that go along with being a Quartarius (quarter angel) make for an entertaining read. I liked the way everything progressed as the story unfolded with some mysteries being revealed and more questions brought up.

For me one of the highlights in Unearthly is the romance. Not your average love triangle but Clara does find herself with feelings for two  very different boys. One is associated with her Purpose and the whole reason why she moved to the country and the other – a complete surprise. This is one of the few novels with a triangle where it’s not entirely apparent who the lead is going to pick until it happens.

I will definitely be reading the next book in the series (in fact I already have Hallowed (Unearthly #2) and Boundless (Unearthly #3) in my possession) because there are still many secrets and mysteries left for the reader to discover. I hope that the questions I have will be answered and I am excited to read more about Clara and her relationships with her friends and family.

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Book Review: Almost Dead by Kaz Delaney

Almost Dead

Title: Almost Dead
Author: Kaz Delaney
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Ghosts, Paranormal, Mystery, Young Adult
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication Date: January 2014
Pages: 400
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Macey’s life has been turned upside down. Her mother has left, her father is absent and her two best friends (her brother Seth and his girlfriend Willow) are MIA. On top of that Macey is being visited by ghosts who need her help to ‘move on’. But as wild as all that sounds, it’s all under Macey’s control until a rakish, good-looking spirit called Nick turns up … in her bedroom!

Nick’s a spirit with spirit who insists he’s not dead, he’s astral travelling and has a message for Macey: someone is out to get her. Macey’s biting wit has got her in trouble before, so she’s not surprised but when the threatening notes start turning up, she’s seriously shaken. Does someone want her dead?

It’s all rather disturbing but she’s finding it hard to focus on who could mean her harm with the annoyingly handsome surf god Finn turning up at the most inopportune times and a father with a rather large surprise of his own.

Is it a case of bad timing? Or are these things somehow connected? And if they are, what on earth should she wear when she’s solving the mystery?

My Review:

Power, love, hate, bad language tears and great shoes. Just another day at RTHS, really…

Macey Pentecost is getting used to seeing ghosts. When the spirit of a cute almost rock star Nick appears in her bedroom, Macey learns that is more than just ghosts out there. Nick isn’t dead. He’s had an accident and is in a coma but feels that he needs to protect Macey from something out there. Threats aside, Macey’s family life is in turmoil. Her mother has abandoned her and her father has some secrets of his own. Lucky for her, Macey meets Finn – surfer god extraordinaire who is willing to help get to the bottom of who is tormenting Macey and just how Nick is connected to it all.

I thought Almost Dead was a fun read. There is mystery, ghosts and romance topped off with plenty of high school drama. Macey is a privileged and feisty seventeen year old (on first impressions, she’s a bit of a mean girl) who has many vulnerabilities deep down. When creepy things start happening to her, she doesn’t run and hide but uses all the resources at her fingertips to try to track down the villain. It took me a while to warm to Macey. She’s blunt and (dare I say) a tad spoilt but after getting into the story and coming to understand her I realized that her frank ways are a defence mechanism. She’s loyal to her friends and (after a while) acts rather maturely in very difficult family circumstances.

The secondary characters are interesting and I liked how they interacted with Macey – I adored how Nick didn’t bow down to Macey and didn’t allow her to dismiss him. Felicity, Finn and Madame Zordastramus all add something extra to the story and I enjoyed getting to know more about them as Macey’s story unfolded. The mystery in this book was great. It’s one that I didn’t see coming till right near the end but once everything was explained it made perfect sense! The supernatural elements of ghosts and spirits was handled with humour and were entertaining to read.

Almost Dead is a companion novel to Dead, Actually (also by Kaz Delaney) and as such shares a setting and many characters but you don’t need to have read Dead, Actually in order to enjoy Almost Dead.

 

Thanks to Allen & Unwin for the review copy.

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Book Review: Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Ruby Red (The Ruby Red Trilogy, #1)

Title: Ruby Red (Precious Stone Trilogy #1)
Author: Kerstin Gier
Genre: Young Adult, Time Travel, Paranormal, Historical
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication Date: May 2012 (first published January 2009)
Pages: 324
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Sixteen-year-old Gwen lives with her extended – and rather eccentric – family in an exclusive London neighborhood. In spite of her ancestors’ peculiar history, she’s had a relatively normal life so far. The time-traveling gene that runs like a secret thread through the female half of the family is supposed to have skipped over Gwen, so she hasn’t been introduced to “the mysteries,” and can spend her time hanging out with her best friend, Lesly. It comes as an unwelcome surprise when she starts taking sudden, uncontrolled leaps into the past.

She’s totally unprepared for time travel, not to mention all that comes with it: fancy clothes, archaic manners, a mysterious secret society, and Gideon, her time-traveling counterpart. He’s obnoxious, a know-it-all, and possibly the best-looking guy she’s seen in any centrury . . .

My Review:

Gwen has always known that time travel is possible. Rare members of her family have been born with the time travelling gene allowing them to go back into the past. Her cousin Charlotte is one of the chosen few and has been training for her trips to the past since birth. But Gwen unexpectedly travels through time and isn’t ready for the pressures that being a time traveller brings. Her clothes are wrong, she can’t fence and languages aren’t her forte. Lucky for her that Gideon’s family also have the time travelling gene and whilst he may be unbearable – at least he knows Victorian era manners.

I’ve been excited about this book for a while and am glad that I finally took the plunge. As the first book in a series, Ruby Red does a brilliant job at laying the groundwork. Gwen is as new to the world of travelling though time as we are and its great learning about how the gene works as Gwen learns herself. There are some amazing characters from the best friend Lesly who is an expert at using the Internet, pop culture and has Gwen’s back no matter what to Gwen’s eccentric and possibly psychic Great Aunt Maddie. I was impressed with the wealth of detail regarding the difference between the past and present as well as some of the difficulties one might face if they were to go back in time. Another thing I loved was the insufferable Gideon – gorgeous yet obnoxious. It’s great to have a potential love interest that the heroine isn’t head over heels for the moment she meets him. There’s some bickering and frustration that I found to be fantastic.

There is a lot going on in this book and by the end a lot is still a mystery. Whilst it’s great at making me want to read the second book, Sapphire Blue, it meant that in terms of action, Ruby Red fell a little short. With all the descriptions and back story, there wasn’t a huge climax in terms of drama and activity in this first book. That said, and without having read the next book yet, Ruby Red is fantastic at laying the ground work. There’s so much happening – from Gwen’s inexplicable ability to talk to ghosts to a future hinted at though one of Gwen’s travels. It’s exciting and I loved being a part of the journey. The time travel is different from ones I’ve read before and I liked this particular take. The family mystery and quirky relatives are fascinating yet formidable.

Ruby Red was originally written in German and I wonder if perhaps that was a reason for why the novel read a little young for me. There were times when the book felt like it was more suitable for middle grade rather than young adult but it’s possible that some of the nuances were lost in translation.

I enjoyed this book and bought a copy of Sapphire Blue as soon as I finished Ruby Red! The main character, Gwen, is exciting, brave and intelligent. The banter with Gideon is a pleasure to read and there are so many secondary characters who are both mysterious and amusing. This was a great book to read and I liked the different take on time travel.

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