Halton Cray – N.B. Roberts

HaltonCray
Halton Cray – N.B. Roberts
(Shadows of the World #1)
Published: 10-8-2014 by Amazon Digital
Get the book: Amazon

When Alexandra Turner takes a job at the eerie Tudor mansion, Halton Cray, she needs all her wit and spirit to cope with the enigmatic Thom Rues. While a near constant fog envelopes the estate, Alex begins questioning the bizarre things she’s seeing around him, as gossip circulates that Thom is more than just different. Determined not to let rumours influence her, Alex tries to learn who he really is, even as he provokes her with his dark sense of humour. But discovery of Thom’s terrible secret propels Alex’s life in a direction she could have never predicted.

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Photo – Andrea Hubner

I like this cover overall. It’s the little details that bring it down. I really like the photo of the girl, especially the way you can’t see her whole face and how her hair is blowing wildly and obscuring the background. It’s a huge plus that the heroine is actually a redhead. The background is suitably eerie for the tone of this book, with just enough detail to make it interesting. What I don’t like is the title font, although it could have been worse, or the golden color of the author’s name. It does kind of look self-published and needs a little pop.

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Halton Cray is an eerie story following Alex as she works at a creepy old mansion with a mysterious tenant. This book has it all; a feisty heroine, great chemistry, a mysterious guy, a creepy haunted house. The atmosphere of this tale is like a ghost story. It’s a slow-building mystery and a slow-burning romance. This is an enthralling story that I really enjoyed and definitely recommend.

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  • Alex’s decision – This is gonna be incredibly vague to avoid spoilers, so try to just go with it. In the middle of this story, Alex makes an important decision about her life. She makes it quickly due to the time-sensitive situation she and Thom are in, but she fully commits to that decision. I really admire the way she makes that tough call, and I love that Thom is a character who respects Alex’s choice immediately. She makes her choice and asks him not to interfere, and he simply does as she wants instead of acting selfishly, which he easily could have done. There is no prolonged scene of Thom trying to change her mind, although of course he does make an attempt, and his nearly unquestioning acceptance of Alex’s decision is wonderful. I wish more book boyfriends and significant others were so confident in their partner’s ability to make choices of their own and support those choices.
  • atmosphere – I love the setting, the pacing, and the eeriness of Halton Cray. Alex’s new job is at an old mansion rumored to be haunted; in fact, she takes over for an employee who literally ran away from the place. Much of the book takes place while Alex is working in the mansion, giving her plenty of exposure to strange noises, strange people, and Thom’s strange behavior. The ghost stories, along with the creepy things Alex experiences as work, build up her suspicions about Thom and the house slowly. Everything is done gradually and convincingly so I was just as uncertain about things as Alex was and I never guessed Thom’s secret.
  • Alex + Thom – Alex is a strong and stubborn character who sticks to her guns. Thom is a mysterious guy who keeps to himself except to tease and provoke Alex. Most people are naturally repelled by Thom, but Alex decides to befriend him. Their banter while they get to know each other is highly entertaining, even if it has Alex sometimes questioning her sanity. The chemistry between these two is great even before any feelings are admitted. They are each strong-willed people throughout the twists and obstacles of the story.
  • story – Although this is a paranormal romance, much of it reads like a contemporary story, which I really enjoyed. Alex is just going about her everyday life while noticing the occasional impossibility and being slowly drawn in to the mystery surrounding the mansion and Thom. There’s definitely a big helping of the paranormal in Halton Cray, but it’s done in a way that’s different from a lot of other paranormal books. There’s no ‘I’m special, I’m the chosen one’ cliche. There’s no adjusting to new powers or a new world. There’s just Alex, learning about things she didn’t know existed or happened.

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  • 2 parts – I felt like this book’s tone and pace were a bit too different from one half to the other. The first half builds everything up very slowly, while the second half launches into action and keeps going until the end. The section before Alex discovers Thom’s secret and the section following the revelation are so different that it threw me off. Of course the sections need to be different, but I really liked the eerie feel of the first half and it took a little time to get used to the faster pace of the second half.
  • dramatic speeches – Thom has the tendency to make long and dramatic speeches and declarations – to himself, to Alex, and about pretty much whatever he has on his mind. Following the revelation of Thom’s secret, he rants about that secret, likes to make undying declarations of devotion, and generally speaks in an old-fashioned manner. Much of this comes from who Thom is and what his secret and story is, which is great. However, the grand declarations of adoration got to be a bit much for me.

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He didn’t move for a moment. His eyes remained fixed on mine as though something strange had caught his attention. Almost certainly the wet strands of hair falling into my face. he looked from my eyes to my mouth and inclined his head a little towards me. I felt confusion with a racing in my chest. Then he bit his lower rip, took his arm away and turned abruptly for the stairs.

– Alex + Thom  Loc. 1859

“Thom, I can’t leave them. There’s something in there, and it’s not right – it doesn’t seem like a normal person. Just help me, please?”

“I will always-” he rushed to say before hesitating. He got next to me, grabbed my arm firmly and spoke rapidly in my ear. “I know about the person in that room, Alex. Listen to me! It won’t harm them; do you understand?”

– Alex + Thom  Loc. 3365

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4 Robots

Acquired: bought (ebook)

Etiquette & Espionage – Gail Carriger

EtiquetteAndEspionage
Etiquette & Espionage – Gail Carriger
(Finishing School #1)
Published: 2-5-2013 by Little, Brown
Get the book: Amazon,The Book Depository

It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners–and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage–in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

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Design – Alison Impey       Photo – Carrie Schechter

I really like the covers for this series. I love the rich background color, with the ornate pattern modified with gears. The girl’s pose is dynamic, and I love how she’s holding the scissors like a weapon. I like how the girl is in black and white because the gold of the scissors and the ampersand stands out even more. The dramatic lighting is eye-drawing and I love how the ampersand is woven behind and in front of the title.

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Etiquette & Espionage is Gail Carriger’s YA series debut. Sophronia is young and intelligent, curious and mischievous, causing her mother to ship her off to finishing school. Sophronia is plunged headlong into mysterious plots, lessons on discreet methods of murder, and the exploration of her new environment. This book takes place in the same steampunk world as The Parasol Protectorate series. It’s fun and quirky with no shortage of action and intrigue.

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  • Sophronia – Sophronia is curious, confident, and not content to sit by while exciting things happen around her. She is constantly sneaking out, climbing around the airborne school, and exploring forbidden areas like the boiler room. I love her attitude about her friends’ differences, her hesitance about violence, and her unwavering pursuit of the truth. Sophronia isn’t afraid to get into dangerous situations, and she’s determined to figure out what Monique is hiding. She’s kind and humble, but she’s straightforward and not afraid to tell someone they’re wrong.
  • Soap – Sophronia makes fast friends with Soap, one of the young men working in the boiler room that keeps the school afloat. Soap is charming and eager to participate in Sophronia’s adventures. He wants to make sure Sophronia is safe on her outlandish exploits, but he does so in a way that’s purely helpful instead of condescending. Seeing as Sophronia is only 14, I appreciated she and Soap’s relationship being mostly friendship with some mild flirting.
  • plot – Etiquette & Espionage is about adventure and mystery. There are a few intriguing guys – Soap and a mysterious student at the boys’ evil genius academy, but there is no love triangle, or even romance really. It’s all about what Sophronia’s focused on – discovering and exploring everything about the school, and figuring out what Monique stole and where she hid it.

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  • Monique – One of my YA pet peeves is conflict with a snobby or popular classmate. I have no particular reason – it just usually seems like such a shallow conflict and I’d rather read about some other kind of conflict. Monique is snobby and older. It would have been fine if she hadn’t been punished by being demoted to the first years’ dorm and classes. I understand that the punishment put her under closer surveillance by Sophronia, but Monique is one of those characters with no evident positive traits. I like that she seems to be good at deception and plotting, but I just didn’t enjoy reading scenes that included her.
  • relation to Parasol Protectorate – I have read and enjoyed all five books in the Parasol Protectorate series, which are adult books (because sex) in the same world as this one. It was a bit distracting to me because in this story there are people who are related to characters in the Parasol Protectorate and my brain would just latch on to these names and try to figure out how they were related, and whether this book took place before or after that series. I’ve decided that this series is before the other chronologically.

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“I didn’t hear or see anything. Although I have been wondering, sir, how you eat? Or should I say who?”

The vampire said nothing.

Have I revealed that I saw too much? Quietly Sophronia added, “And the soot on my dress, sir?”

“I didn’t see anything.” Professor Braithwope smiled down at her, showing a small hint of fang.

Sophronia grinned back. “I’m glad we understand each other, sir.”

– Sophronia + Professor Braithwope  loc. 2751

“Thank you kindly for your help,” said Sophronia, rather awkwardly formal.

” ‘Course, miss,” said Soap, coming in far too close and tucking a loose bit of Sophronia’s hair behind her ear before swinging himself back over the railing and clambering away.

Dimity gave Sophronia a long, suspicious look.

– loc. 3281

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4 Robots

Acquired: bought (ebook)

Die For Me – Amy Plum

DieForMe
Die For Me by Amy Plum
(Revenants #1)
Published: 5-5-2011 by HarperTeen
Get the book: Amazon, The Book Depository

In the City of Lights, two star-crossed lovers battle a fate that is destined to tear them apart again and again for eternity.

When Kate Mercier’s parents die in a tragic car accident, she leaves her life–and memories–behind to live with her grandparents in Paris. For Kate, the only way to survive her pain is escaping into the world of books and Parisian art. Until she meets Vincent.

Mysterious, charming, and devastatingly handsome, Vincent threatens to melt the ice around Kate’s guarded heart with just his smile. As she begins to fall in love with Vincent, Kate discovers that he’s a revenant–an undead being whose fate forces him to sacrifice himself over and over again to save the lives of others. Vincent and those like him are bound in a centuries-old war against a group of evil revenants who exist only to murder and betray. Kate soon realizes that if she follows her heart, she may never be safe again.

covergreenDesign – Mecob       Illustration – Johanna Basford       Girl photo – Monalyn Bracis       Background photo – Olya Smith

I like that there’s something about this cover that feels slightly sinister. The red gradient and scrawling black vines are great. I like the cover, but it has little to do with the story, besides being in Paris. I like that the girl’s face is hidden, but it’s just a girl in a pretty dress cover, which is disappointing. I do really like the addition of the vinelike illustration, but I wish the girl was doing something rather than just standing there.

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Die For Me is the kind of tortured love story that just sucks me in. Kate is a girl with good sense and a personality built up before Vincent becomes part of her life. I really enjoyed Kate and Vincent together, as well as the twist on immortality. The setting is wonderful, but much of the plot feels like a primer for a story and the similarities to Twilight are sometimes overwhelming.

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  • Vincent – Vincent is truly wonderful. He treats Kate with the utmost respect, never demanding anything from her, never questioning or arguing with her decisions. Vincent doesn’t want or expect Kate to change her life in order to be with him. Despite himself, all he tends to see are the negative ways he’s impacting her life. Vincent is bad-boy mysterious without being bad in the slightest.
  • Kate – Although it’s tragic that Kate’s parents died, I love that she’s living her own story long before meeting Vincent. Kate is mourning her parents while she settles in to Paris, burying her nose in novels and wandering through her favorite art museums, dreading the start of school while enjoying the city she loves. Kate is intelligent and has good sense. I love that she told Vincent no because the death was too much for her to handle after her parents.
  • Revenants – Although a lot of the way they operate is strange and complex, I really like the reason for Revenants to exist. One becomes a Revenant if they sacrifice their life for another. This is so much better than vampires, where someone else’s decision seals your fate. The Revenants are immortal, but sense when a stranger is going to die and step in to die instead, coming back to life days later. There’s more to it than that, but the basics are, in my opinion, the best part.
  • family – So many YA books completely ignore everyone’s family unless it’s a book with a big family conflict. Even though Kate’s parents are dead before the book begins, her family is an important part of her life. Kate’s grandparents and sister are always checking in on her and making sure she’s alright. They’re extremely important to Kate with the recent loss of her parents, and they don’t simply cease to be in the story after Kate meets Vincent. This is something I really appreciate.

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  • ugh, Twilight – I despise how seemingly everyone compares every YA story to Twilight, but I couldn’t help thinking about the similarities while reading this book. Vincent and his fellow Revenants are all young and beautiful, living under the care of the oldest-looking and eldest Revenants in a huge and expensive house. Now, tell me what that makes you think of and if it’s not Twilight, then you must not have read Twilight. Plus, the main heroine has no close friends. They’re immortals but they’re the good guys who never involve themselves seriously with humans. Their bodies must be burned to be destroyed. Overall they are very similar to Twilight vampires in some ways, but prefer to compare themselves to zombies.
  • infodump – Clearly, there’s a lot of info that Kate needs to know about the Revenants, about each of them individually, and the threats facing them. So they have your standard meeting – I don’t trust the human sentiments, secrecy vows, info dump where everyone takes turns talking. Even after all that though, everyone’s got their own backstory that Kate needs to learn. Plus everything having to do with the Revenants is complicated, so there are a lot of explanations throughout the book. As a result, much of the book feels like a beginning rather than its own story. I appreciate that Kate is just getting to know Vincent and the others, but things just feel like they’re building up to something that hasn’t quite happened yet.

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And there he was. Sitting a few tables away, watching me as intensely as he had the last time. It was the boy with the black hair. The scene from the river, with him leaping off a bridge to save someone’s life, felt like it had been nothing but a surreal dream. Here he was, in broad daylight, drinking coffee with one of his friends.         – pg. 24

“Kate, please look at me.” I couldn’t lift my eyes to his face. “I understand,” he said.

I finally looked up and held his gaze. His eyes were hollow. Empty. “I’m so sorry for the pain I’ve cause you,” he whispered, and dropped his hand from my shoulder.

I turned to go while I still had the strength to leave him, and as the gate swung shut behind me, I began to run.       – pg. 180

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4 Robots

Acquired: bought (ebook)

Crash

CrashCrash by Lisa McMann
(Visions #1)
Published: 1-8-13 by Simon Pulse
Get the book: AmazonThe Book Depository

Jules lives with her family above their restaurant, which means she smells like pizza most of the time and drives their double-meatball-shaped food truck to school. It’s not a recipe for popularity, but she can handle that.

What she can’t handle is the recurring vision that haunts her. Over and over, Jules sees a careening truck hit a building and explode…and nine body bags in the snow.

The vision is everywhere—on billboards, television screens, windows—and she’s the only one who sees it. And the more she sees it, the more she sees. The vision is giving her clues, and soon Jules knows what she has to do. Because now she can see the face in one of the body bags, and it’s someone she knows. Someone she has been in love with for as long as she can remember.

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Design – Jessica Handelman      Rating – 3/5

I really like the fire in the girl’s eye. It’s almost subtle, and it really makes the iris a creepy orange/brown color from afar. I also like the simple sans-serif of the title, as well as its location and color. I even like how it’s in all lowercase, which is rare for me. Overall, it’s a strange section of a face, but it’s definitely striking.

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Crash is a quick read and an intriguing mystery. It’s not as heavy as McMann’s Wake trilogy, even though it involves visions of death. Jules wasn’t my favorite character, but I like her determination, as well as her family’s business and their rivalry with another restaurant.

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  • visions – The way that the visions work in Crash is really interesting. They pop up practically everywhere, making the scene the scene impossible for Jules to ignore. My favorite aspect of the visions is how, with each of Jules’ attempts to keep it from happening, the visions shift to include more or less body bags lined up in the snow.
  • Sawyer – I really like Sawyer as a character. He’s always kind to Jules, even while keeping his distance due to the ridiculous feud between their families. Sawyer doesn’t ever believe that Jules is making things up to mess with his family, and his true reason for not talking to Jules is heartbreaking.
  • Jules’ family – Jules’ brother is wonderful and they have a great relationship. Their father struggles with mental illness and they are all trying to keep their restaurant afloat. Overall, I felt that Jules’ family dynamic was more interesting than her crush on Sawyer.

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  • Jules’ crush – In my opinion, Jules doesn’t really get much of a personality. Her crush comes off as a bit obsessive, especially since Sawyer shows no interest in her. Much of the book is Jules reacting to the horrifying visions she’s having – freaking out over their increased frequency or hiding from the growing sense of responsibility the visions bring. So, Jules came off a bit bland to me, although I do really admire her determination to get Sawyer to believe and trust her about her visions. 

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When we get to the sidewalk along the road, he just puts his hands on my shoulders and looks into my eyes. “Oh, Jules,” he says, shaking his head. “What are you doing?” He gives me the half grin that almost kills me.                – Sawyer + Jules   Loc. 1533

My good hand flutters to my hair, which is all matted and gross. “What do I look like?”

Felicia smiles warmly and says, “You look like a girl who just saved that guy’s life.”

I press my lips together and nod. “That’ll do. Yeah. Send him in.”  – Jules + Felicia   Loc. 1894

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3 Robots

Acquired: bought (ebook)

Losing Logan

Losing Logan by Sherry D. Ficklin
Published: 4-3-2014 by Clean Teen Publishing
Get the book: AmazonThe Book Depository

What if the one thing you never meant to hold on to, is the one thing you can’t let go of?

Normally finding a hot guy in her bedroom wouldn’t irritate Zoe so badly, but finding her childhood friend Logan there is a big problem. Mostly because he’s dead.

As the only person he can make contact with, he talks Zoe into helping him put together the pieces surrounding his mysterious death so he can move on.

Thrust into his world of ultra popular rich kids, Zoe is out of her element and caught in the cross-hairs of Logan’s suspicious ex-girlfriend and the friends he left behind, each of whom had a reason to want him dead. The deeper they dig to find the truth, the closer Zoe gets to a killer who would do anything to protect his secrets. And that’s just the start of her problems because Zoe is falling for a dead guy.

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Design – Marya Heiman     Typography – Courtney Nuckels      Rating – 2/5

I really dislike this cover. I can’t even tell what’s going on in the photo. Is this a guy and a girl hugging really awkwardly? Are we looking at the back of a person here? The hands are so desperate looking and I can’t tell if they belong to a guy or a girl. The title bothers me because the top font is very decorative, so the bottom font should really be a sans-serif to set that off, but it’s not. And the decision to have it black wherever the words intersect is just awful and distracting. The only reason this cover is a 2 is because it’s a high-quality awkward photo, it has nice colors, and it’s hard to come up with a half-decent cover for a human falls in love with a ghost book.

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Losing Logan is actually really funny. I know, it looks dramatic and sounds heartbreaking. It is sometimes, but it’s overall hilarious as well. I decided to read this after reading the prequel novella, Haunting Zoe, because it was just so funny. Zoe and Logan weren’t in love before he died, but they’d been friends as kids. Logan died under mysterious circumstances but can’t remember anything about it. So, Zoe and Logan work together and argue a ton to find out how Logan really died and why Zoe’s the only one who can see him.

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  • Zoe + Logan – The way Zoe and Logan interact with each other is hilarious. I especially loved it whenever Zoe was mad at Logan for disappearing. Even the first time they see each other, Zoe’s furious with Logan and it’s so entertaining to read. They weren’t in love or really even friends before Logan died, so there’s no melodrama. Instead, Zoe just flat-out asks every question that pops into her head. They’re very upfront with each other, they aren’t weighed down by sexual tension, and they work well together.
  • mystery – The mystery aspect of this book was very well done. The conclusion to it was my favorite kind – the killer was someone I didn’t suspect, but made sense and I could see how there’d been clues to their identity. Zoe doesn’t do anything stupid in her quest to solve the murder, which I appreciate. The mystery about why Logan could feel things sometimes was also fascinating and had a good explanation. 

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  • reaper side-plot – Because this story is so rooted in reality, the reaper plot feels out-of-place. Losing Logan feels like a contemporary mystery that just happens to have a ghost in it. With the mystery and the hilarious way in which Zoe and Logan interact, having more supernatural just isn’t needed. The way the reaper story concluded annoyed me because it made Zoe into someone with a special ability instead of just the normal girl she’d been for the entire book. I also don’t like when books feel like they must deal with every deceased person that the characters have ever grieved over.
  •  Carlos – I really didn’t care for Zoe’s BFF, Carlos. He comes off as the typical gay friend that, for some reason, female main characters often find themselves with. His main purpose seems to be critiquing everything about Zoe. Carlos tells Zoe that she’s hard to be friends with because she seems angry all the time. The thing that bothered me the most about Carlos, though, is that he tells Zoe he’s been waiting forever for her to dress more feminine. This happens when Zoe seeks Carlos’ shopping assistance (because what else do you do with a gay friend right?) in order to blend in with Logan’s friends. This comes off in a way that suggests a lack of acceptance of Zoe as she is.

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“Hey, we should dig up your body, then pour salt on it and light it on fire.”
He stares at me, his nose crinkled up. “Why?”
“To release your spirit.”
“I’m pretty released, thanks.”
“Still.”
“We are not desecrating my corpse based on something you saw on TV.”
I frown. “You have no sense of whimsy, you know that?”           – Zoe + Logan   Loc. 391

I laugh out loud and raise my right hand, “I solemnly promise never, under any circumstance, to make you dress to match me.”

He shakes his head. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to compare you. I thought it was just a chick thing. Kaylee used to do the same thing to Logan. I figured it was in the manual.”

I grab his arm. “Are you telling me there are instructions? My god, I never got the memo. How have I lived my life without it?”           – Zoe + Kyle    Loc. 3123

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3 Robots

Acquired: free from Amazon (ebook)

Unbreakable

Unbreakable by Kami Garcia
(The Legion #1)
Published: 10-1-2013 by Little, Brown
Get the book: Amazon, The Book Depository

I never believed in ghosts. Until one tried to kill me.

When Kennedy Waters finds her mother dead, her world begins to unravel. She doesn’t know that paranormal forces in a much darker world are the ones pulling the strings. Not until identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into Kennedy’s room and destroy a dangerous spirit sent to kill her. The brothers reveal that her mother was part of an ancient secret society responsible for protecting the world from a vengeful demon — a society whose five members were all murdered on the same night.

Now Kennedy has to take her mother’s place in the Legion if she wants to uncover the truth and stay alive. Along with new Legion members Priest and Alara, the teens race to find the only weapon that might be able to destroy the demon — battling the deadly spirits he controls every step of the way.

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Design – Dave Caplan      Rating – 2/5

This cover bothers me because there’s so much going on, between the textures and the giant ‘U’ covering everything, but it still manages to tell me very little about the story. To its credit, it does scream horror/supernatural.

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Reading Unbreakable is like marathoning a season of Supernatural, but with way more females surviving. It’s creepy, it’s dramatic, it’s angsty. But it’s also full of action, teamwork, and wit. I was hesitant at first because Kami Garcia is one of the authors of Beautiful Creatures, a seemingly endless series that I find has soap opera levels of angst and romantic declarations. Thankfully, Unbreakable is darker than that while still managing to be great entertainment.

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  • fast paced – Unbreakable starts out with a bang and never slows down. There are no boring scenes, no wandering side plots. The action starts and just keeps going and I loved it. Even the parts when everyone is hanging around in a safe place to regroup – it’s like bam! action! not safe anymore! The plot moves quickly and keeps you completely engrossed.
  • Jared + Lukas – What can you do to make the rivalry between 2 brothers even more intense? Make them twins. Jared and Lukas have some kind of long-standing grudge or argument going on. Lukas is more positive and encouraging, while Jared is quiet and hesitant to let people in. Then 2 of them trade insults constantly and there’s clearly something huge that happened in their past. I prefer Jared.
  • Kennedy – So, Kennedy knows nothing about demons or ghosts or any of the other things the Legion deals with, but she doesn’t hesitate to jump into the action. Yes, Jared and Lukas do obviously try to protect her, but she’s right there breaking down doors and rushing into creepy places to help them. Kennedy’s doubts about her abilities and membership in the Legion are so understandable, especially since everyone else knows so much more about the history of the Legion and how membership is passed down through families. Overall, I found Kennedy’s balance of fear and badassery completely believable.
  • Alara + Priest – The other members of the Legion, Alara and Priest are awesome. Priest is the youngest, building incredible weapons but feeling like the other treat him like a child. Alara is the rare kind of female character that doesn’t fall into the usual clichés. She’s not romantically interested in either of the twins, she’s not jealous of Kennedy in any way, and she’s genuinely only interested in making sure Kennedy knows enough not to endanger them and to become part of their ass-kicking team.
  • danger/twists – The five characters we follow get themselves into some pretty dangerous high-stakes situations. It’s not like Supernatural, where people continually die but not for good just kidding guys. However, everyone is in constant life of death danger throughout the book. These new members of the Legion are young and learning as they go, especially Kennedy. I love the high stakes and I love the twists.

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  • Jared vs. Lukas – It was easy for me to decide I liked Jared more. As soon as the twins meet Kennedy, Lukas seems to be flirting with her and expecting to be more than friends. Jared takes longer to warm up to Kennedy while still being kind and offering support, just not in a way that was loaded with expectations. It bothered me that Lukas seemed to instantly like Kennedy, because…why? Yes, she’s willing to jump into the action, but other than that she’s just scared and uninformed of all the supernatural stuff.
  • Hearts of Mercy Children’s Home – I’m fine with all the supernatural creatures having killed people who are then vengeful spirits – things like that. When it comes to storylines like the one that resulted in a group of dead children at Hearts of Mercy, I become less able to handle it. If it’s monsters doing the killing it’s fine by me, but when it’s humans inflicting pain on others it makes me so uncomfortable – just a mix of upset and angry and all that. I also wish that Jared had shown more anger and disgust at Hearts of Mercy, like he did later at the prison.

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“How long have you been out here?” I couldn’t believe I’d spent the whole day trying to find him and his brother, and they were sitting in front of my house.

Jared shrugged sheepishly. “Awhile.”

Lukas leaned forward in the passenger seat, rolling a silver coin over his fingers. “Glad you’re happier to see us this time.”                – Kennedy, Jared, Lukas    Loc. 499

Alara watched the crows, transfixed, as though she saw something more than their glossy black feathers and sharp eyes. “I have a bad feeling.”

“Of course you do,” Priest said, checking the pocket of his hoodie for batteries and ammo. “We’re about to break into a prison where hundreds of criminals died. This is the definition of a bad feeling.”             – Alara + Priest     Loc. 2779

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5 Robots

Acquired: Netgalley (ebook)

House of Ivy & Sorrow

House of Ivy & Sorrow by Natalie Whipple
Published: 4-15-2014 by HarperTeen
Get the book: AmazonThe Book Depository

Josephine Hemlock has spent the last 10 years hiding from the Curse that killed her mother. But when a mysterious man arrives at her ivy-covered, magic-fortified home, it’s clear her mother’s killer has finally come to destroy the rest of the Hemlock bloodline. Before Jo can even think about fighting back, she must figure out who she’s fighting in the first place. The more truth Jo uncovers, the deeper she falls into witchcraft darker than she ever imagined. Trapped and running out of time, she begins to wonder if the very Curse that killed her mother is the only way to save everyone she loves.

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Design – Erin Fitzsimmons     Lettering – Sasha Prood     Photo – Mark Owen      Rating – 5/5

I really like the detailed hand lettering of the title, the flowery vines branching off of the words, and the unique color scheme. It’s unlike any of the other covers in the YA market right now. I really can’t tell what the photo in the background is of – maybe some treetops and sky – but I do love the blue/green color and the strange shapes of the photo. I like how the flowers are also inside some of the letterforms.

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House of Ivy & Sorrow is a dark story of magic and a curse. Jo lives with her grandmother in a creepy cottage under a bridge, but when a stranger shows up asking about her dead mother, Jo must race to find out how he found her and how to defend her home. Jo and her grandma are the only remaining Hemlock witches, so it falls to Jo to fend off the curse that has plagued their family and defeat the darkness that is slowly encroaching on their home. And speaking of mysterious men, Jo also has to unravel the secrets of the dark Levi and her crush Winn, who just might know more about Jo than she thought.

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  • Levi – Firstly, this is not a love triangle – not really, but there are some lovely sexy bits with Levi. Although I found Winn to be bland and boring, Levi is enigmatic and alluring. He seems like a threat at first, but I think he is a great guy underneath it all. He always shows up to offer to help Jo when she has no other options. I absolutely adored the twist where Levi helped Jo escape from a trap, and also the part where he bargained for a kiss. Really, I found Levi to be so interesting and helpful, while Winn was just boring and largely absent whenever there was trouble.
  • witch lore – Everything in the dangerous mystery surrounding Jo’s family has to do with witch families and the magic passed through each family. I really like the fact that the magic is only passed onto women, especially because so often in fantasy stories everything depend on the man – from inheriting kingdoms to keeping special bloodlines going. It’s also really interesting because the witching families are now few and far between. In the past, they relied on each other for aid and respected each other, but now anyone could be the enemy and there are feuds over the remaining magical properties. 

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  • Gwen + Kat – So, Kat shows up at the wrong place at the right time, resulting in Nana doing some magic to bind her and Jo, so Kat knows all the secret magic things and can look out for Jo. Gwen, however, is just left in the dark and has to deal with her two best friends constantly making excuses not to hang out with her. It’s never really explained why they are leaving Gwen out, except I guess that it’s dangerous and Kat had to pull one of her own fingernails out. Which, by the way, actually turned my stomach. But after all the fighting between the three friends, the final face-off with the villain ends with Gwen and Kat becoming Hemlock witches. So, they all become sisters and it’s all very cutesy and convenient.
  • convenience – There are certainly a lot of complications in Jo’s life, but everything always seems to work itself out at the last moment. For instance, Levi always shows up when Jo is in dire need of help. There always seems to be some last-ditch spell or bit of magic that Jo or Nana can use to get out of a jam. Although there are some close calls, on of which I particularly loved, that vital bit of info is always close by and everything just felt too easy and convenient. 

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My stomach turns as I worry about whether or not Winn can sense my powers. I hate that Levi’s claim about people lying has gotten to me. The way Levi looked at him when we first met screamed of recognition. Levi probably knows how Winn plays into this, and he’s somewhere smiling that evil smile, thinking about how devastated I’ll be when I find out.         – pg. 197

A few drops, and the cauldron bubbles with glee. I pour more of my magic into it until it stabilizes. Then comes the dried hemlock.

“Isn’t that…poisonous?” Kat asks.

I give her a flat look. “No comment on the bear heart, but this concerns you?”     – Kat + Jo    pg. 332

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4 Robots

Acquired: bought (ebook)