Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Review: Catalyst (Passage of Hellsire #1) by Marc Johnson

Thank you so much to Mr. Johnson for giving me an e-book copy of his novel.

Catalyst (Passage of Hellsfire #1) by Marc Johnson
Rating: 4.5 stars

Format: e-book
pges: 207
Publisher: Longshot Publishing
Publication Date: March 19, 2011

Goodreads Synopsis:
For centuries, the kingdom of Alexandria has protected Northern Shala from the monstrous creatures lurking in the Wastelands. Now, a dark force threatens that fragile peace.

Far from home, Alexandria's princess is abducted. When a young villager named Hellsire stumbles upon her and her captors, he rushes in to rescue her, alone and unarmed. His fear and fury unleash an uncontrollable magical force that grants him the power to save the princess--and change the world.

Hellsfire has never craved nor dreamed of power. But such magic as he now possessed has not been seen in Northern Shala for a thousand years, since the devastation of the War of the Wizards and the creation of the Wastelands.

Now Hellsfire must leave all he's ever known, and make a dangerous journey to learn to master this wild, ferocious power--power he knows he is not ready to wield. More difficult still, he needs to master his emotions. If he can't, the power will consume him, Alexandria will fall, and darkness will eclipse in the land, destroying everyone he loves.

In the dead of cold, the spark shall burn.

Dani's review:

I planned on only reading a few chapters of Catalyst a night, but it hooked me in immediately at the prologue. This novel contains all of my favorite elements of fantasy novels: An author-created world, a unique type of magic, a fearless hero whose various mistakes while growing up are hilarious, mystical creatures, and most importantly, a compelling plot. The plot was so, so suspenseful. I anxiously kept reading late into the night, wondering if the characters would free themselves from their dangerous situations. The characters went through problem after problem, constantly stumbling into impossible predicaments. Yet somehow, Marc Johnson artfully crafted a logical solution for each one.

I loved reading about Hellsfire's various jumbled feelings. He felt lonely, abandoned, the joy of having a foster father, and the sorrow of losing a loved one all at the same time. He is urged by his mother to leave his childhood home when he accidentally reveals his magic power. After many harsh days of travel and surviving on his own, he reaches the home of a wizard named Stradus, who will become his mentor and father. Stradus also has a dragon named Cynder living with him. The banter between Hellsfire and Cynder was one of my favorite parts of the novel!

"You should feel so lucky, little Hellsfire. But I must say it was fun getting to know a human who is young and bold, rather than one who is old and tired." Cynder and I laughed at his joke, glad Master Stradus wasn't around to hear it. "It has been fun trading quips with you, even though you were outmatched by a far superior being."
I grinned at him. "Yeah, right."

Catalyst is also a "coming of age" novel. Hellsfire falls in love with a princess and throughout the novel tries to court her and saves her life, although she is definitely capable of saving herself. There are a multitude of side characters who were part of "Hellsfire's merry band to save the kingdom", as my consciousness christened them. The character development of the smaller characters was well done, something authors often overlook when they only focus on the main characters. The only thing I did not like about Catalyst is the somewhat predictable plot. There were some surprising twists, but it essentially has the template of many other fantasy novels: Protagonist discovers his power, goes to study with a teacher until he grows up, learns about some kind of conflict, saves the world and meets a beautiful along the way. Does this remind you of Eragon? There was one element in particular involving a king and a villain who wants to usurp the throne that reminded me of Lord of the Rings. However, Marc Johnson's writing is stupendous. His detail, imagery, and character development made this novel an amazing read.

I think Catalyst is meant for readers in their tweens or early teens, so it's a YA fantasy novel. The vocabulary isn't very advanced, but that's good for a fast read. If you're like me and you absolutely HAVE to know what a word means so you go running for the nearest dictionary, Catalyst will be a more relaxing read for you. Adults may not enjoy this novel as much as teens.

There's not much more I can say about this novel before I spoil something. I really enjoyed Catalyst, and if you are a teenage fantasy lover, I think you will too! Put Catalyst on your to-read list if you are looking for a fast read full of action and suspense.

More reviews coming soon from Steph and I! Look out for Steph's review of Destiny's Flower.

~Dani

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Blog Tour Stop: Review: Stars In Her Eyes by Clare C. Marshall

Hey everyone, we are BACK! It was a long but much needed break; I cannot imagine doing this plus school plus exams (which went iffy-ish despite our blogging break ;D). The first think we have up for you is a blog tour review for Stars In Her Eyes by Clare C. Marshall, the latest book by her and the first novel in her new series: The Sparkstone Saga. We have tons of reviews lying in wait, I promise WE WILL GET TO THEM no matter how long it takes to catch up. I refrained from reading too much these last few weeks so Dani and I wouldn't be pounded down by need-to-do-reviews. We have a few author-request reviews coming before the end of May, so look forward to that too :)

Stars In Her Eyes (Sparkstone Saga #1)Stars In Her Eyes (Sparkstone Saga #1) by Clare C. Marshall
Steph's Rating: 4 stars
Overall Rating: 4 stars

Publication Date: May 13th, 2013
Publisher: Faery Ink Press
Format: e-ARC

Thanks so much to Clare C. Marshall and Faery Ink Press for this review copy in exchange for our fair and honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis (clicky link for G-reads page):

Burn hot and cold.

Read minds.

Disappear at will.

Dream your own death.

Welcome to Sparkstone University, where some students are more gifted than others.

When Ingrid learns she’s been accepted at the hyper-secretive Sparkstone University, she is sceptical. It’s an honour to attend, apparently, and yet barely anyone has ever heard of the place.

And everyone seems a little too happy that she’s there: especially when she meets Sunni and her group of friends. They seem to already know Ingrid. As if she was expected. Expected to save Earth from an imminent alien invasion. Like she has superpowers or something.

As if magic and mutations exist. As if aliens are really planning to attack.

That just sounds ridiculous. There’s no such thing.

…right?

Wrong.
  
 

Steph's Review:

I'm usually not a big sci-fi fan, but I thoroughly enjoyed Stars In Her Eyes. While this is not Clare Marshall's debut book, it is the introduction to her new series: Sparkstone Saga. I felt this was an adequate beginning to her new realm, and if you are looking for a quick and easy read, this is for you!

Ingrid has been accepted into the prestigious Sparkstone University in middle-of-nowhere Alberta. It is invitation only, no applications. Kind of an oxymoron in my opinion, but there's a reason for it. Ingrid knows she's smart and gifted; she's been a stellar student and musician her whole life, but it's flipped around when she arrives at Sparkstone. Here, she learns just how special she truly is, along with the other students at this university. Creepy enough, everyone seems to know just who Ingrid is, and even worse, they expect her to be their savior: from an outer-planetary alien attack that is. She wants nothing to do with it and is ready to pack her bags and report to the police that people out in rural Kansas are going loco, but when a startling and unexpected attack occurs, Ingrid knows that this alien business might really all be true. To help her newly found friends and to save the school from imminent threats, Ingrid must look deep into herself and discover the very powers she holds within.

I really liked Ingrid's story: it's wild, intense, and keeps readers on their toes. The superpowers Clare came up with were exciting to learn about, and it all reminded me a lot of X-Men (which I love!). If your a sci-fi or fantasy lover, you will surely enjoy this tale. This story is action packed to the core, especially since it's short. While it started out a little on the slow side in my opinion, this story increases page fast. I was little bit confused when Clare got to the big reveal because it all came so suddenly that my brain could not even process the information. I had to reread those pages about 3 times before I really got the situation at hand.

Monsters. Are you afraid of them? The authors takes on aliens is original--originality is always refreshing--but holy crap. I was pretty scared of these aliens by description only. It was a good scared because it kept be completely engrossed in absolute horror, but this is a warning to people who are scared of all things slippery and slimy. I really enjoyed Clare's writing style in this book because she describes the scenes in depth, but it doesn't have the too-much-info feeling that I get from some longer books. Definitely something I thought was wonderful! 

Ingrid herself is pretty spunky. I loved that she really thought out the problem at hand and didn't just eat everything people revealed to her. She has an independent mind, and reading from her POV is as intriguing as it is exciting. She is a big girl and doesn't let anyone boss her around. I also really like her because of her good taste...British Guy...yum :). There is a slight romance developing here, and I can't wait to find out more about that!

This climax was absolutely explosive. In an intergalactic battle for her and her friend's lives, Ingrid must discover the true reason behind the alien's attack on Earth. Startling secrets are revealed that I can't believe I missed from the start, because they change everything about Sparkstone. The ending left me reeling and wanting book 2, but unfortunately I'll have to wait a while for that one.

The only problems I felt with this were too many secrets, and rushing. As I said, this is a fairly short novel. Some of the events I feel were glazed over too quickly and it left me confused sometimes, making me having to go back and reread portions to understand the next one. The other problem was secrets. There are so many secrets involved in this that I really had no clue which secret went with what after they were revealed. I also wish we learned more about Ingrid's powers, which I'm hoping will be explored more in book 2.

I am a pretty fast reader though and I tend to skip words when I read, so you may not find this book confusing at all! It's fast-paced and exciting, and I recommend this to anyone who is in need of a quick and interesting read!

About the Author:

Clare Marshall grew up in rural Nova Scotia with very little television and dial up internet, and yet, she turned out okay. She has a combined honours degree in journalism and psychology from the University of King’s College, and is a graduate from Humber College’s Creative Book Publishing Program. She founded Woulds & Shoulds Editing and Design in 2010 for self-published authors looking for quality editing and design services. When she’s not writing, she enjoys playing the fiddle and making silly noises at cats. Within is her first published novel.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Cover Reveal: Obsession by Jennifer L. Armentrout + Champion by Marie Lu

I might have said I wasn't posting anymore. I lied (whoops). I really wanted to post this earlier...but   I didn't get back from school until now. Today I have two amazing covers for you: Obsession (Lux #3.5) by Jennifer L. Armentrout and Champion (Legend #3) by Marie Lu.

First up: Obsession!

Obsession

Obsession will be coming out on May 31st under Entangled Publishing (Entangled Covet). This is an ADULT novel that is set in the Lux world, however not really related to Daemon and Katy's story. Again, not this is for ADULTS--there will be profanity. (I'm still reading it :D--how could I pass up anything she writes???)

Official Obsession Blurb:

He’s arrogant, domineering, and... To. Die. For.

Hunter is a ruthless killer. And the Department of Defense has him firmly in their grasp, which usually doesn’t chafe too badly because he gets to kill bad guys. Most of the time he enjoys his job. That is, until he’s saddled with something he’s never had to do before: protect a human from his mortal enemy.

Serena Cross didn’t believe her best friend when she claimed to have seen the son of a powerful senator turn into something... unnatural. Who would? But then she witnesses her friend’s murder at the hands of what can only be an alien, thrusting her into a world that will kill to protect their secret.

Hunter stirs Serena’s temper and her lust despite their differences. Soon he’s doing the unthinkable—breaking the rules he’s lived by, going against the government to keep Serena safe. But are the aliens and the government the biggest threats to Serena’s life…or is it Hunter?

Obsession Goodreads Link:


About Jen:

# 1 NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY Bestselling author Jennifer lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true. When she’s not hard at work writing. she spends her time reading, working out, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, and hanging out with her husband and her Jack Russel Loki.

Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent most of her time writing short stories….which explains her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes young adult paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance. She is published with Spencer Hill Press, Entangled Teen and Brazen, Disney/Hyperion and Harlequin Teen.

She also writes adult and New Adult romance under the name J. Lynn. She is published by Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins.

Jen's Additional Links:




******************************************************************

Alrighty, now onto the cover for Champion by Marie Lu!

champion 

This cover was released yesterday on Entertainment Weekly Shelf Life. Champion is the final book in the Legend Series, and it's release date has been moved up to November 5th 2013. NOT 2014 anymore guys!

There is also a teaser interview available on the EW Shelf Life website with Marie Lu. I advise you to proceed with caution, because it caused me shock, desperation, lots of "oh no's", facebook spamming, twitter sprees, and lots and lots of plotting. I am really looking forward to this installment, but I'm a little scared to see what happens as well!

Goodreads Blurb:

The explosive finale to Marie Lu’s New York Times bestselling LEGEND trilogy—perfect for fans of THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT!

He is a Legend.
She is a Prodigy.
Who will be Champion?

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps Elect while Day has been assigned a high level military position. But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them once again. Just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything he has. With heart-pounding action and suspense, Marie Lu’s bestselling trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.

Entertainment Weekly Shelf Life Original Post (Interview is here:)


Champion Goodreads Link:

Monday, May 6, 2013

Lack of Recent Posts

I've mentioned before Dani's blogging break and my semi blogging break due to school exams. We are now REALLY on the crunch down for studying, so neither Dani or I will post reviews until after exams are over, i.e. after May 16th. Just 10 days of us being quiet, and we'll be back to this. The next week and a half will be absolute mayhem, so we're sorry! We have tons of finished books lined up for review already, some of them are work-in-progresses at this point. Blog tours coming up in late May as well!

Just some of the books we completed, and are to-review (note: just some...):

The Elite by Kiera Cass   
Of Poseidon by Anna Banks   
The Collector by Victoria Scott

The Elite (The Selection, #2)                  Of Poseidon (Of Poseidon, #1)                The Collector (Dante Walker, #1)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Review: Requiem by Lauren Oliver

Requiem (Delirium, #3)Requiem by Lauren Oliver
Steph's Rating: 3 stars
Overall Rating: 3 stars

Format: Ebook
Publication Date: March 5th, 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 391

Goodreads Synopsis:
They have tried to squeeze us out, to stamp us into the past.

But we are still here.

And there are more of us every day.

Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has been transformed. The nascent rebellion that was under way in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight.

After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven—pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids. Regulators now infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels, and as Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancĂ©e of the young mayor.

Maybe we are driven crazy by our feelings.

Maybe love is a disease, and we would be better off without it.

But we have chosen a different road.

And in the end, that is the point of escaping the cure: We are free to choose.

We are even free to choose the wrong thing.

Requiem is told from both Lena’s and Hana’s points of view. The two girls live side by side in a world that divides them until, at last, their stories converge.

Steph's Review:
It may be a bad thing that I'm writing this review before I review Pandemonium, but trust me, I have A LOT more to say about Requiem. Warning: There will be rants, annoyance, change of hearts, etc. After I finished Pandemonium, I kind of had the "blank look of shock" until I immediately started grabbing for Requiem (which is why I never reviewed Pandemonium, lack of time spent reading and studying for exams). Both Delirium and Pandemonium were flat out amazing, and I finally found myself in love with this series. Requiem changed things a little...

I am so torn about this book. I didn't really know what rating to give it since there were parts I absolutely adored, but parts that really pestered at me. It completely lived up the high standards set by Pandemonium action wise, but the love story? In shreds. The ending? A big HUH?. I think its best to do a "The Good" and "The Bad" comparison. Minor spoilers ahead, view discretion advised.

The Good

Action
While I felt Delirium was lacking in the action, Pandemonium made up for it. Requiem delivers action right to our minds, spot on. The suspense is a killer, the betrayals and backstabbing are the ultimate twists. During the action sequences, my heart was racing with fear and anticipation, and most of the time I just hoped everything would turn out okay. I started to like Lena a lot in Pandemonium, and I wanted her to be lucky, and be happy (happier?). She's faced too much death since reaching the Wilds. The action is heart jolting, and is what really shines throughout the entirety of the novel. I think all this action  shows Lauren Oliver's growth as a writer, because the plots and plans are so much more elaborate than before. I actually couldn't see through them this time. This is what mostly kept me engrossed the whole time (I'm a sucker for action!). The Resistance has amassed a huge number of followers, both within the confines of cities and out. The attacks and raids planned were startling and superb!

Hana's Story
Requiem is told in dual POV's, one Hana and the other Lena. In this installment, Hana has been cured of amor deliria nervosa and is prepping to get married to the to-be mayor of Portland, Fred Hargrove. At first I was kind of mad that Hana ended up succumbing to the will of the government, because I always thought it'd be pretty epic if somehow Hana managed to make it out into the Wilds too. From how she was in Delirium, this was a big change in demeanor and it was harder to make a shift from "past-Hana" to "present-Hana". Then I realized how dumb I was about that because Hana lived her whole life primped and primed to take her role in society. After I got past my initial anger, I ended up enjoying Hana's chapters more than Lena's. She is newly cured now, but can't seem let go of her old life completely: i.e. the cure didn't quite work all the way. She's a great actress though and can hide this from the press, her fiancee, her parents, everyone. Her story is one of discovery, about herself and about Fred... who's intentions might be much darker than what appears in the good-boy facade he emulates to the world. Most of the suspense is actually in Hana chapters. Lena gets the action, Hana gets the tension.

Alex is back everyone! 
Yes, I was always an Alex girl. Julian was such a wimp...and he never really grew on me. I always thought Alex was better for Lena. He joins Lena's group, meaning we've got a 3-way love story going.  His and Julian's silent treatment of each other was actually quite amusing. There are parts of "Alex" I was really angry about though, but I'll get to that in the bad under "The Romance". 

Annabel
This is Lena's mother, who also goes under the name "Bee" in Requiem. She doesn't have a huge role in the book, but I think her character is a good representation of sacrificing yourself for those you love. She has a noble concept, and I couldn't help but really like her despite not knowing much about her character.

The Bad

Romance
*sighs*. I'm an Alex girl. And he annoyed me for the first half of this book. He's broken on the inside, but I don't take that as an excuse to push everything and anyone he ever cared about away. It wasn't fair to Lena, not fair to himself. I wanted him and Lena to get back together and happy, because even Lena admits she's never loved anyone more than Alex (besides her mom I guess). Julian is messing the whole thing up to me. I don't like him, I think he switched sides to fast, and well he's a wimp. I'm into alpha-male type characters, and Julian...is not. Lena's indecision swamped me too. She clearly was still in love with Alex, couldn't break it to Julian, then decided that if she couldn't fess up she must love Julian. Ack. Her back-and-forth mindsets really annoyed me. There are no more stolen moments in this book like there was in Delirium and Pandemonium. The romance the reader gets come from mentality only.

The Ending
If this ending wasn't so awkward, I could've gotten over myself about the romance issues and given this book a good pat on the back cover, rate it 5 stars, and be done. I honestly don't know what to make of it. Lauren Oliver didn't write the ending to feel like a close of a series, It honestly felt like there was a 4th book on the way or something. There are so many questions unanswered, and the knots are not tied. I don't want to spoil anything, which is hard and leaves this part a little vague, but if you read this book you will understand. There isn't an ending to the plot. Lauren basically leaves us with this inspirational comment about love, life, and fighting for your deepest desires, but it wasn't a closing. There was no finality, and the ending of this book really made me feel like I was hanging somewhere. It really disappointed me because we never find out the imminent futures for the characters, no definite HEA, just...emptiness. I don't know if she's trying to say "you can never predict your own future, so I'm not going to give you anything to predict my character's futures" or something like that. There just wasn't a good resolution to the conflict, which made the ending to this series discouraging. It was a wonderful read until I realized that there was no more left of it when there should have been.

You might have noticed I didn't talk much about our protagonist, Lena. I just don't know where to put her on this spectrum since she was overall just "meh" to me in Requiem. I liked her during the action, I despised her during the romance. She was just okay. 

Overall, this book is great while you are part of it, when your reading it, but once its over you feel like you've been crudely ripped away from a world you wish you could stay in longer. I do recommend it to Delirium fans, though read at your own risk.
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