Book Review: The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty

Cracks in the Kingdom (The Colours of Madeleine #2)

Title: The Cracks in the Kingdom (The Colours of Madeline #2)
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Genre: Fantasy, Contemporary, Magic, Young Adult
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publication Date: February 2014
Pages: 544
Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Time slides around the world so strangely …

It’s not easy being Princess Ko. Her family is missing, taken to the World through cracks in the Kingdom, which were then sealed tightly behind them.

Now Princess Ko is running the Kingdom, and war is looming.

To help her find her family, she gathers a special group of teens, including Elliot Baranski of the Farms. He’s been writing secret letters to a Girl-in-the World named Madeleine Tully – and now the Kingdom needs her help.

Madeleine and Elliot must locate the missing royals, convince them of their true identities, and figure out how to unlock the dangerous cracks between the Kingdom and the World.

All before their enemies can stop them.

My Review:

One of the best things that has happened to me in the past two years of blogging is discovering Jaclyn Moriarty’s books. She has a beautiful way of telling stories and this second book in the Colours of Madeline series did not disappoint.

Elliot Baranski, a boy who lives on a farm in a Kingdom named Cello, and Madeline Tully, a girl from the world we know in a city called Cambridge, are still communicating though a crack between the Kingdoms. A broken TV turned art installation and a malfunctioning parking meter allow the two to pass messages to and fro from Cello to Cambridge. Madeline is still not completely sure she believes the boy is real and the tales he tells about colours harming and seasons with minds of their own – but she lets best friends Belle and Jack in on the secret. Elliot is entrusted by the Princess to try to work out how to use the crack to bring her family back… that is if they are even there to begin with.

I love the characters in this series. They’re as vibrant as the colours which wreak havoc in the realm of Cello. Madeline is inquisitive and unwilling to take things on faith. She needs to find things out for herself and disbelieves things – even things in front of her very eyes – without some kind of scientific proof. Elliot is almost her opposite. He gives his all for everything he does and doesn’t do anything half-hearted. His belief in his family and himself is strong and he would do anything, sacrifice anything, for his loved ones. Where Madeline is theoretically based, Elliot is physical and spontaneous. They work well off each other despite being worlds apart – both physically and metaphorically.

This book is a great addition to the series. Elliot being inducted into the Royal Youth Alliance causes much drama. He has to covertly carry out secret missions for the Princess whilst at the same time pretending just to be there for the sake of uniting the Kingdom. His liaisons with Madeline grow strained under the pressures of the missions but throughout it all they are there for each other. Getting to experience what the different parts of the kingdom of Cello have to offer though Elliot’s eyes was interesting and I loved the trip to the Lake of Spells. Cello is a world that is full of magic and yet it feels believable because of how similar it is to the World Madeline inhabits.

At over 500 pages, this is a long book but it never felt that way. I couldn’t wait to find out what was next for Elliot and Madeline and their friends. The plot took me places I wasn’t expecting and I enjoyed the journey. There are surprises and a lot of questions still to be answered. What happened to the Royal Family? Will they come back? Why are the cracks between the worlds? What’s the deal with the rebels? And whilst many of these questions were not either fully or partially answered – I felt so involved in the story that I didn’t mind not knowing.

The ending was one I wasn’t anticipating but perfect. That said – I’m incredibly eager to find out what Jaclyn Moriarty has next install for Elliot, Madeline and the people of the two Worlds they come from. I enjoyed every step in this novel and recommend the series for fans of well written and exciting young adult literature.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan for the review copy. 

Purchase the novel from:

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Also by Jaclyn Moriarty:

A Corner of White (The Colours of Madeleine, #1)

A Corner of White (The Colours of Madeline #1)

Book Review: The Queen’s Choice by Cayla Kluver

The Queen's Choice

Title: The Queen’s Choice (Heirs of Chrior Trilogy #1)
Author: Cayla Kluver
Genre: Fantasy, Fae, High Fantasy,  Young Adult
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: 28th January 2014
Pages: 500
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
My life is no longer mine to control. By a single deed, I have become something more than I wanted to be.

When sixteen-year-old Anya learns that her aunt — Queen of the Faerie Kingdom of Chrior — will soon die, her grief is equalled only by her despair for the future of the kingdom. Her young cousin, Illumina, is unfit to rule and Anya is determined not to take up the queen’s mantle herself.

Convinced that the only solution is to find Prince Zabriel — who long ago disappeared into the human realm of Warckum — and persuade him to take up his rightful crown, Anya journeys into the Warckum Territory to bring him home. But her journey is doomed to be more harrowing than she ever could have imagined…

My Review:

The Fae Queen is dying and wants her sixteen year old niece, Anya, to be her successor. Ruling her people is not something Anya thought she would be doing and instead decides to venture into Human lands and find her wayward cousin, the Queen’s half-human half-fae son and true heir to the Chrior throne, Prince Zabriel. Misfortune favours Anya as she journeys through the human realm of Warchum but she needs to complete her self-appointed mission before it’s too late for the Queen and her son to reconcile.

Anya is a very interdependent and strong young woman. Having to face horrors with an alarming frequency but somehow she manages to emerge slightly damaged but still with a fighting spirit. She’s gone though so much and despite having lost so much somehow she has even more taken from her. She does tend to feel sorry for herself at times and whilst it’s entrely understandable, it doesn’t make her the most enjoyable character to read. This story really gets going once Anya meets Shea. Shea is every bit as strong as Anya but without the street smarts and a little more naive about the darkness of human (and fae) nature. The camaraderie between the two was a pleasure to read and I loved how they supported each other.

There is a lot going on in this book. A gorgeous pirate and his mischievous crew, faeries with an innate connection to the elements, political unease between the Fae and Humans, an adventure and a quest and a lot of hidden motives. And I enjoyed reading Anya’s journey throughout the Human realm. However I almost didn’t finish this book. I was a hundred pages in and I didn’t feel a connection to the characters and found the book to be a little convoluted and monotonous. The writing is very descriptive but a little long-winded. This book would have benefited from being a little more direct and to the point. I’m so glad that I didn’t give up because after the first 20% this book is great. It’s still a little slow at times but the characters Anya meets on the way and the way events play out were well worth it. One thing that surprised me was how much I enjoyed the romance – or lack there of. Anya is betrothed to a lovely young fae man but it doesn’t overwhelm the story. This is not just a book about a girl choosing the man she wants to be with. It’s about so much more. Duty to one’s people and family. Risking everything to do what you believe is right. And to never give up no matter what hardships have been bestowed upon you.

I’ve not read a Cayla Kluver novel before but I am delighted to have finished the Queen’s Choice. There are twists I didn’t see coming and have me eagerly anticipating the next books in the series. I have so many questions but they are the good kind of questions where I can’t wait to see just where Kluver is going to take Anya, Zabriel and the unrest between the two realms next.

 Thanks to Harlequin Teen and for the review copy. 

Purchase the novel from:

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Book Review: The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead

The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines, #4)

Title: The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines #4)
Author: Richelle Mead
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Vampires, Boarding School
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: November 2013
Pages: 432
Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
In The Indigo Spell, Sydney was torn between the Alchemist way of life and what her heart and gut were telling her to do. And in one breathtaking moment that Richelle Mead fans will never forget, she made a decision that shocked even her. . . .

But the struggle isn’t over for Sydney. As she navigates the aftermath of her life-changing decision, she still finds herself pulled in too many directions at once. Her sister Zoe has arrived, and while Sydney longs to grow closer to her, there’s still so much she must keep secret. Working with Marcus has changed the way she views the Alchemists, and Sydney must tread a careful path as she harnesses her profound magical ability to undermine the way of life she was raised to defend. Consumed by passion and vengeance, Sydney struggles to keep her secret life under wraps as the threat of exposure—and re-education—looms larger than ever.

Pulses will race throughout this thrilling fourth installment in the New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series, where no secret is safe.

My Review:

It’s no secret that the Bloodlines series is one of my favourites. And despite my reservations about the cover (I’m not a fan of Sydney’s hair….), The Fiery Heart is my favourite so far! There’s a lot going on – romantically, magically – and the extra pressure of family dynamics are wearing on Sydney. Things seem to have finally worked themselves out with her and Adrian having admitted their feelings for each other and attempting some kind of relationship. But when Sydney’s little sister now inked as an Alchemist and being tasked with helping Sydney with the vampires, the new couple are going to have to keep their romance under wraps. Adrian has his own problems – it seems impossible for him to find a happy medium between being spirit and sanity.

I was impressed with how well the dual point of view between Sydney and Adrian worked. I wasn’t sure I’d like changing things up from how the series had been going so far but it was a refreshing change to get to see what was going on from someone different. Not only that but it’s the first time in the Vampire Academy/Bloodlines series where we have had a narration from a Moroi and I liked getting to see the impacts of spirit first hand. Getting to see Sydney from Adrian’s point of view was lovely. For all the cockiness and sarcasm he may try to project to world, it was clear to see just how much he loved her and how hard he was trying to be the best person he could be – not just for her but for himself as well. We may have had to wait three books for these two to get together but it was worth it to get the interactions and beautiful dynamic that we get to see in The Fiery Heart.

There’s a lot going on but all the different story lines manage to fit together perfectly. In this book, Sydney is feeling the pressure of her family. Her sister wants her to spend more time together but between discovering her witchy magic, spending time with Adrian and sorting out the antics of her vampire charges, there never seems to be time for Sydney to breathe never mind have some girl time with Zoe. It’s never apparent to me just where Ms. Mead is going to take things next – from romantic relationships to just what the different sects of society (the Alchemists, the Warriors, the Coven)  are up to. I loved the ties in with characters we have not seen much since Vampire Academy – with Lissa asking Adrian for help and getting to see the rest of the group now a little older and wiser interacting with a more evolved Adrian.

This book has everything that I love about this series. Chemistry between the leads, interesting plots, a secondary cast of characters who add to the overall story and are entertaining to read, and dialogue that makes me feel so many different emotions. I’m eagerly awaiting the release of Silver Shadows (July 2014) and am desperately eager to find out what happens to Sydney next. This book does end on a cliffhanger that’s left me anxious to see what’s ahead for these characters.

Favourite Quotes:

“Escape plan number seventeen,” I told her. “Run away and open a juice stand in Fresno.”
“Why Fresno?”
“Sounds like the kind of place people drink a lot of juice.”

“It’s Adrian Ivashkov logic. Don’t try to understand it. Just roll with it.”

“An image of Sydney’s face appeared in my mind’s eye, calm and lovely.
I believe in you.
My anxiety faded.
I took a deep breath and met the gazes of all those watching me in the room.
Who was I to do this?
I was Adrian Ivashkov.
And I was about to kick some ass.”

Purchase the novel from:

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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. 

Purchase the novel from:

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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.

Purchase the novel from:

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Book Review: Taste of Darkness by Maria V Snyder

Taste of Darkness (Healer, #3)

Title: Taste of Darkness (Healer #3)
Author: Maria V Snyder
Genre: Fantasy, Magic, Young Adult, Last in a Series
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: January 2014
Pages: 458
Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
She’s fought death and won. But how can she fight her fears?

Avry knows hardship and trouble. She fought the plague and survived. She took on King Tohon and defeated him. But now her heart-mate, Kerrick, is missing, and Avry fears he’s gone forever.

But there’s a more immediate threat. The Skeleton King plots to claim the Fifteen Realms for his own. With armies in disarray and the dead not staying down, Avry’s healing powers are needed now more than ever.Torn between love and loyalty, Avry must choose her path carefully. For the future of her world depends on her decision.

My Review:

The war for control of the Fifteen Realms is just getting started. King Tohon may be no longer a threat but there are many factions all vying for the crown. The Skeleton King with a passion for human flesh, Estrid’s forces and former rivals coming back out of the wood work, Avry and her faithful friends have their hands full. With a mutated version of the Plague back in the mix, Avry needs to stay strong and do whatever she can for the cause.

Maria V Snyder is not easy on her characters – they are living in the middle of a war and there are casualties to be had. Avry is trying to do the best she can to help Prince Ryne defeat his enemies and return the Fifteen Realms back to some sort of normality however, he is willing to do whatever it takes – sacrifice whoever he needs – in order to defeat the others. Avry is such a great character. She’s determined to do what is right for herself and doesn’t take orders very well. Her bickering with Ryne is somewhat reminiscent of just how  she used to banter with Kerrick in the first book and it’s nice to know that despite all that has changed, some things stay the same.

There is so much happening in this book. I was a little critical of Scent of Magic because I thought it felt like a bridging novel. And whilst I still believe that – it was worth reading to get to this book. As far as final books in a series go, Taste of Darkness is amazing. Things referenced in the first novel are re-addressed and everything that happened in the first two novels was leading to this moment. We get to see more about the different magic users and the extent in which some of their power and affinities effect them.

One of the things I’ve liked most about this series is Avry and her relationships with her friends – Flea, Belen, the Monkeys and Kerrick – and that hasn’t changed. As they grow older and wiser, their relationships have strengthened throughout all they have experienced. Avry’s romantic relationship with Kerrick is at times heartbreaking but these are two characters which bring out the best in each other and whilst they don’t always agree with each other, they do support one another’s decisions.

This is the first series by Maria V Snyder that I’ve read and I loved getting to experience the world she created and witness the battle of the Fifteen Realms. She’s a great fantasy author and I will definitely be reading some of her other books now that I’ve finished reading the Healer series.

 

 Thanks to Harlequin Teen Australia for the review copy. 

Purchase the novel from:

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Book Review: Secret by Brigid Kemmerer

Secret (Elemental, #4)

Title: Secret (Elementals #4)
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Magic, Young Adult, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Allen & Unwin (Australia), Kensington Teen (US)
Publication Date: January 2014
Pages: 375
Rating: 4.5 stars

Note: The Australian edition of Secret contains Nick’s novella, Breathless, which introduces the dynamic between Nick and Quinn as well as Adam.

Synopsis (from goodreads):

Nick Merrick is stretched to breaking point. He’s trying to keep his grades sky-high or he won’t get in to college. He’s trying to keep his brother’s business afloat or the Merricks will be out on the street. He’s trying to keep the secret of where he’s going in the evenings from his twin brother Gabriel – or he fears he’ll lose his family. And he’s trying to keep his mind off the hot, self-assured dancer who is his ‘girlfriend’s’ partner.

And then Quinn takes to hanging around his sworn enemy, and an Elemental Guide is counting the hours until he can try again to kill the Merrick brothers. Storms are brewing. On all sides.

SECRETS IN THE WIND. DANGER IN THE AIR.

My Review:

Nick Merrick has been keeping a secret. He’s been having feelings for his girlfriend’s male dance partner and Quinn is the only one who knows. But Quinn has a secret of her own. Her homelike has been getting worse by the day and she feels like she can’t tell everyone just how bad things are with her mother and older brother. The Guides are getting closer and the threat to the Elemental Merrick brothers is imminent. With Tyler, a local teen who has been torturing the brothers for years, popping up and Nick’s secret growing heavy on him, Nick needs to decide who he can trust before things get out of his control.

I’ve been a fan of this series since I read the first book, Storm, and I get more attached to the Merrick clan with each new instalment. This book focuses on the romantic relationships between Nick and Adam as well as Quinn and Tyler. I do enjoy the romance in this series and it felt like it was going back to the start where more of the focus in the novel was romance and less drama. However I found myself missing some of the action and excitement that the Guides bring. In many ways the prologue felt slightly out-of-place – with a discussion between the Guide which caused Hunter so much pain in Spirit but then not being addressed for the rest of the novel.

Whilst the title of this book doesn’t follow the Elemental aspect of previous books, Secret is a perfectly fitting title. Near all the characters in this novel have secrets that they don’t know how to handle. From Nick’s sexuality to Quinn’s family and the part of himself that Tyler is keeping hidden from the world – the theme of secrets was beautifully reiterated throughout the book. One of the things I liked most about this book was how supportive the majority of characters were when faced with other’s secrets.

Overall I enjoyed this book. This novel was a pleasure to read and with a few surprises that I was not expecting (I can’t wait to see the fallout from the ending).  With the focus being more on romance and relationships as opposed to the Elementals vs. Guides battle, Secret felt like it was laying a lot of ground work for the next book in the series. There’s a lot up in the air (no Air Elemental pun intended!),  I can not wait for Michael’s story, Sacrifice.

 Thanks to Allen & Unwin for the review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

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Check out my reviews for the other books in the Elemental series:

Storm (Elementals #1)

Spark (Elementals #2)

Spirit (Elementals #3)

Novellas: Elemental (Elementals #0.5), Fearless (Elementals #1.5), Breathless (Elementals #2.5)