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:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

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)

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Graphic Novel Review: Frostbite by Richelle Mead

Frostbite: The Graphic Novel (Vampire Academy: The Graphic Novel, #2)

Title: Frostbite (Vampire Academy Graphic Novel #2)
Author:
Richelle Mead
Adapted by: Leigh Dragoon
Illustrated by: Emma Vieceli
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Young Adult, Vampires, Urban Fantasy, Graphic Novel
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: April 2012
Pages: 164
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
The drama and romance continue in this 144-page full-color graphic novel adaptation of the second Vampire Academy novel, Frostbite, which was overseen by Richelle Mead and features beautiful art by acclaimed British illustrator Emma Vieceli.

When love and jealousy collide on the slopes, winter break turns deadly.

A Strigoi attack puts St. Vladimir’s on high alert, and the Academy whisks its students away on a mandatory holiday ski trip. But the glittering winter landscape and posh Idaho resort only provide the illusion of safety. When three students run away to strike back at the Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. Only this time, Rose—and her heart—are in more danger than she could have imagined.

My Review:

Rose may have saved Lissa’s life in Vampire Academy but there are more threats on the Moroi Princess’ life. With the entire vampire world on guard, the school sends students to a luxury ski resort to try to keep them safe. Whilst St. Vladamir’s might be trying to protect their students it seems that trouble always seems to find Rose and her friends. With fantastic new characters and all the old favourites, Frostbite picks up right where Vampire Academy ended and continues with a lot of action and drama.

I’m not a graphic novel person. I’ve read perhaps one in the past three years. But with the Vampire Academy movies being released soon and the slight withdrawal I seem to go though in between instalments of the Bloodlines series, I couldn’t resist buying a copy of Frostbite last week (and I know I could have bought the first book but I was curious to see an artist’s recreation of Adrian).

Frostbite is the second book in the series but since I’ve read the original books I felt confident that I would be able to follow the graphic novel. And I did. This is a gorgeous visual adaptation of the series I love. There’s a fantastic recap at the start of the book which runs down the different characters that were introduced in the first novel as well as events which took place. If you have read the novel series then you will have no problems picking up this second book in the graphic novel series and there is enough details included that I think even people unfamiliar with Vampire Academy would be able to pick up on what’s going on.

I loved this adaptation. The illustrations are beautiful – and you can tell that the artist is very familiar with the source material. These pictures are fantastically true to the original story! Plot wise – all the important scenes are included. We get to see Rose’s uneasy relationship with her mother, the danger surrounding the Moroi as well as the uneasy political situation with the vampire royalty. Dimitri is around and his slightly inappropriate feelings for Rose are evident in the few pages devoted to it. Lissa and Christian are learning how to use their powers and we get to meet a new enigmatic Spirit user named Adrian (although at times I did get Christian and Adrian confused it was clear via context who was who).

I’m delighted that I decided to check out this graphic novel series. I am absolutely going to go and get the rest of the series that have been released so far. I think this series is a must have for fans of the novels as it gives an extra dimension to the story and characters.

 

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

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.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Book Review + Giveaway: Unchosen by Michele Vail

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Title: Unchosen (The Reaper Diaries #2)unchosencover
Author: Michele Vail
Genre: Egyptian Mythology, Young Adult, Paranormal, 
Publisher: A Freeman Publication
Publication Date: 29th October 2013
Pages: 194
Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
I thought the worst of my reaper training was behind me… turns out I was wrong. Dead wrong.

Molly Bartolucci has done a lot of growing up but after being accused of using illegal magic at her school for necromancers, reaper-in-training Molly is treading lightly. As the destined leader of Anubis’s Chosen, she needs to study hard, train harder, and stay out of trouble.

Uh, right.

It doesn’t help that she’s feeling more than academic about her melt-your-bones hot reaping instructor, Rath. And if her relationship drama isn’t enough to drive her over the edge, she has to deal with mother issues, nosy little sisters, suspicious friends, and an unnamed force stalking her at school.

Then her family is attacked, and her bio-dad ends up comatose in the hospital. Now, Molly has to uncover who’s trying to hurt her loved ones—and all without the help of Anubis.

My Review:

Keep Calm and carry your scythe…

Molly has been though a lot lately. Her first kiss – and subsequent first enthralling. Finding out her bio-dad is actually an ancient Egyptian God. Add to that her maternal ancestors all had Reaper powers and she was a legacy at a prestigious boarding school for necromancers. But things are just getting started for Molly.

She has to train to be the ‘Chosen’ Daughter of Anubis – despite the fact that she is in fact Anubis’ only living flesh girl child. She needs to somehow stay under the radar at school before whoever is trying to frame her gets her expelled. Oh and she needs to keep her wits about her even when sleeping because she keeps getting some possibly prophetic dreams spelling out death and destruction.

Wow she’s a busy girl.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the first book in this series, Undeadly. It felt a little too reminiscent of other books I’d read around that time. But I thought Unchosen was a great addition to this series. Molly is finding her feet among those who are gifted with magical powers – and she’s also doing okay coming to terms with the whole half-god thing. She’s growing on me as I can see that she’s growing up and she’s not the same girl in this book as she was in the last. I liked that she’s beginning to see the bigger picture and take responsibility for her role in the upcoming battle.

This book was so quick to read! I’d sad down to read a few chapters and next thing I know it’s a few hours later and I’m finished it! I loved how I was drawn into the story and didn’t want to stop. The ending has me anxiously anticipating the third and final book in this trilogy, Unbroken. 

Rath was my favourite character in the first book and I wasn’t as fond of him in this instalment. His relationship with Molly felt a little odd to me – I love the developments but the timing/pacing of it all just felt a little off. I felt a similar way towards all of the secondary characters. Because this book is fairly short and plot wise there’s quite a bit happening, we don’t get all that much character development. I wondered why some characters and some of their info were mentioned but I’m sure that it’ll all make sense in the next book.

Overall – I enjoyed the story. It’s quick, with quite a bit of action and a great take on Egyptian mythology – one that I’m not very familiar with. There’s romance and zombies (how cool are zombie?) and somehow it all comes together to deliver an entertaining story.

Thanks to Itching for Books Blog Tours for the review copy

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon

AUTHOR BIO

michelevail

Michele Vail is the author of The Reaper Diaries, a young adult paranormal series set in the modern world with a zombie twist. The stories center on 16-year-old Molly Bartolucci, a reaper-in-training who’s learning to deal with love, destiny, and death.
Michele Vail is the pen name of national bestselling paranormal romance author Michele Bardsley (who also writes thriller mysteries under Michele Freeman). The Reaper Diaries consist of three books: Undeadly, Unchosen, and Unbroken.
Author Links:

Giveaway!

There’s a tourwide giveaway for Unchosen when someone has the chance to win a copy of Undeadly & Unchosen (US only) and a $15 Amazon giftcard (open Internationally). Click on the rafflecopter link below for the chance to win!

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Book Review: Endless Knight by Kresley Cole

Endless Knight (The Arcana Chronicles, #2)

Title: Endless Knight (The Arcana Chronicles #2)
Author: Kresley Cole
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult, Adventure, Dystopian, 
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: October 2013
Pages: 336
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Evie has fully come into her powers as the Tarot Empress, and Jack was there to see it all. She now knows that the teens who’ve been reincarnated as the Tarot are in the throes of an epic battle. It’s kill or be killed, and the future of mankind hangs in the balance.

With threats lurking around every corner, Evie is forced to trust her newfound alliance. Together they must fight not only other Arcana, but also Bagmen zombies, post-apocalyptic storms, and cannibals.

When Evie meets Death, things get even more complicated. Though falling for Jack, she’s drawn to the dangerous Endless Knight as well. Somehow the Empress and Death share a history, one that Evie can’t remember—but Death can’t forget.

My Review:

Picking up where Poison Princess left us, Endless Knight starts with a bang! Evie has completely come into her Empress powers and is a force to reckoned with. Can the human cajun, Jackson cope with her supernatural destiny? Evie’s gang of Tarot characters have come to a truce to take out Death – but it’s not going to be easy. Other characters – like the Tower and Strength – come into play and Death is still haunting Evie’s thoughts. 

I loved how Evie has evolved since the first novel. Where she was once a cheerleader and model student, now she’s the Empress – poisoned spurs, magical blood and all. She knows that she has a part to play in the Arcana duel but wants things to end differently this time around. Forming a truce with Selena (The Moon), Matthew (The Fool) and Finn (the Magician), Evie hopes that Jackson will still stay true to his word and lead the misfit group to Evie’s grandmother for more information about past games.

There’s so much action in this book! More than once I was worried that Evie and her friends weren’t going to survive intact as a group. The new ‘cards’ introduced were interesting and I liked to see their take on the game and their roles within it. The highlight for me was Death – he’s so much more than the devious voice in Evie’s head and finding out more about his and his history as a person and within the game was incredible. It really changed the game for me. I was a little surprised at just how ruthless characters are – not just ones you’d expect it from like Death, but Evie is definitely a little more brutal and cruel with the toll of the Flash and Death in her head taking its toll. Jackson is different from the first book and we get to see another side to the Cajun bad boy.

Romance wise this book does have some nice moments. Kresley Cole does write some sizzling male characters and some breathtaking romantic scenes. I fall in love with a new character every book I read of hers. Things advance and regress with her relationships and characters felt more realistic and less flawless because of some events.

I can’t wait for the third book in the Arcana Chronicles – especially after the cliff-hanger Endless Knight left us on!  I’m excited to see which other ‘cards’ are introduced as well as what happens to the characters that I adore like Jackson and Death.

Purchase the novel from:

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Book Review: Kiss of Fire by Rebecca Ethington

Kiss of Fire (Imdalind #1)

Title: Kiss of Fire (Imdalind series #1)
Author: Rebecca Ethington
Genre: Paranormal romance, magic, young adult
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: October 2012
Pages: 352
Rating: 2 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Joclyn Despain has been marred by a brand on her skin. She doesn’t know why the mark appeared on her neck, but she doesn’t want anyone to see it, including her best friend Ryland, who knows everything else about her. The scar is the reason she hides herself behind baggy clothes, and won’t let the idea of kissing Ryland enter her mind, no matter how much she wants to.
The scar is the reason she is being hunted.

If only she knew that she was.

If only she had known that the cursed stone her estranged father sent for her 16th birthday would trigger a change in her. Now, she is being stalked by a tall blonde man, and is miraculously throwing her high school bully ten feet in the air.

Joclyn attempts to find some answers and the courage to follow her heart. When Ryland finds her scar; only he knows what it means, and who will kill her because of it.

My Review:

After being bitten by a mysterious bug when she was five years old, Joclyn spent six months in a coma. Upon waking up she has a very strange scar on her neck and her eyes have changed colour. Her father can’t cope with the bizarre mark on her neck and leaves. To try to make ends meet, Joclyn’s mother takes a job as a cook for the wealthy Edmund. It’s there that Jos meets his son, Ryland. From that moment on the two are inseparable. Eleven years later the two are still best friends despite Ryland’s father threatening them to stay apart. On Jos’ sixteenth birthday she gets a letter from her father claiming that he knows the secret behind her scar – and it involves magic.

This summary has one of my pet peeves – it alludes to things that don’t happen until half way though the book! You can’t do that! But I can understand why they did it. Kiss of Fire is fairly slow to start. We get to see a lot about Jos – who she is and how she got that way, as well as her relationship with Ryland. The magic element isn’t fully developed until the second half of the book and I think that was a little too long. I found my attention drifting at parts. The character of Jos did frustrate me at times. She’s got no insight and it felt like she always needed someone to hold her hand. Her relationship with Ryland was sweet and I do love to read about fated mates however it felt odd – one day best friends and the next Ry is trying to kiss her with no in between? But this is a story with magic so maybe I should blame it on witchcraft.

The characters of Wyn and her ‘brother’ are interesting and I love Wyn’s effervescent personality but I felt like the brother was a heart beat away from being a love interest for Jos and I feel having a love triangle would detract from the strong bond that Wyn and Ry share.

I feel a little like a nitpicker but there was one thing about this story that really niggled at me. BFFs for eleven years – doing all sorts of crazy things that kids get up to and not once did Ryland see the scar on Jos’ neck. And yet, one afternoon of hairography with Wyn and she can see the mark that Wyn’s been so protective about showing off? I just find it a little hard to believe that he never once saw it especially how attentive he is to her every move.

The magic and creatures involved in this book are cool – I love that the author has gone and writing a paranormal novel without the usual monsters. From the birth stones, to the powers they have, these are cool creatures.

Kiss of Fire has a lot of twists and turns with a fairly exciting climax and a great lead in to the second novel however my disconnection with the characters and dislike of Jos will keep me from continuing this series.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon

Book Review: Banish by Nicola Marsh

Banish

Title: Banish
Author: Nicola Marsh
Genre: Paranormal, Magic, Young Adult, Contemporary 
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: August 2013
Pages: 272
Rating: 2 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Alyssa has one week to destroy her enemy, save her spirit… and save her soul.

After her ex-boyfriend commits suicide and her mum’s alcoholism sparks yet another psychotic episode, seventeen-year-old Alyssa Wood flees her small hometown of Broadwater and heads to New York City to stay with her bohemian aunt — a Wicca High Priestess.

Alyssa revels in the anonymity of a big city and her new life. Her grades climb, she has a new best friend, and a new guy: the sexy geek Ronan — a saxophone player who prefers jazz to pop.

But her newfound peace is soon shattered when she sees a dead body in one of Ronan’s music clips — and she’s the only one who can see it. Worse still, Alyssa recognises the body that has been murdered a week forward!

Alyssa doesn’t believe in the supernatural…despite her family’s Wicca background. So how will she overcome evil when it’s closer than she thinks?

My Review:

There’s a lot to like about Nicola Marsh’s YA debut – a strong heroine, a mystery which I couldn’t wait to see how it was solved, some romance and a great kind of magic. Alyssa has been through a lot.  Her boyfriend killed himself the day after they broke up and her mother is an alcoholic who hears voices – NYC with her high priestess aunt has to be better than the memories in Broadwater. But it seems that Alyssa can’t outrun her past. Her new life meets her old when she sees a video set one week in the future of a dead girl. Her new boyfriend Ronan thinks that maybe Lyssa’s aunt is responsible but the strange keeps popping up – a weird séance, jewellery which should be buried and other mysterious goings on. Alyssa needs to banish the bad that’s following her and try to save the girl before this bad magic following her takes her too.

I was excited to read this book because I love reading YA by Australian authors. The fact that Banish is set in the US was a little disappointing to me. Whist I thought Marsh did a great job of writing this city into the book I would have loved it just a little more had it been set in Australia.

I found Alyssa hard to connect with and as a result I found myself uninterested and not invested in just how things would end up for her. She’s blunt – and understandably so considering her history. But I didn’t like how rude she was to those trying to help her and her attitude towards people. She has expectations from people but doesn’t communicate to others what she wants or needs and because of this they don’t behave as she would like and she gets annoyed with them. Her constant disapproval of her aunt’s interest in the supernatural, her mother’s alcoholism and her boyfriend taking his own life was reiterated a little too often for my liking. It seemed like by the end of the novel there was only one thing I knew about each of those characters because it was the only thing Alyssa told us about them. I wasn’t a huge fan of the relationship between Alyssa and Ronan and I felt low to no chemistry between them but I liked that despite their relationship being new – it wasn’t perfect and that added a layer of realism to it.

The plot is slightly predictable but I was genuinely surprised by the motivation behind WHY the villain was tormenting Alyssa and I thought that the ending was a satisfying one. The highlight of this book to me was the type of magic used – it brought me back to my days watching Charmed. I’ll be keeping an eye out for any other YA titles Marsh writes however if Banish turns into a series it’s not one I think I’ll continue reading.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia| Book Depository | BookWorld