Monday, January 25, 2016

Review: No Love Allowed by Kate Evangelista

Book Description:

Paperback, 256 pages
Expected publication: April 19th 2016 by Swoon Reads

It's all fun and parties until someone falls in love in this modern fairy tale from author Kate Evangelista.

Caleb desperately needs a fake girlfriend. Either he attends a series of parties for his father’s law firm with a pretty girl on his arm, or he gets shipped off to Yale to start a future he’s not ready for and isn’t sure he wants. And sadly, the last unattached girl in his social circle has just made the grievous mistake of falling in love with him. Fortunately, Didi, recently fired waitress and aspiring painter, is open to new experiences. As the summer ticks by in a whirl of lavish parties, there’s only one rule: They must not fall in love!


Reviewer's Copy: ARC

Source: Kate Evangelista (Thank you!)

My Thoughts:

Upon cracking open No Love Allowed, I thought that it would be similar to the other no-strings-attached contemporary novels I have read. Instead, I was swept into a thrilling story about pretending, parties and paintings. The collision of Caleb and Didi’s worlds created a beautiful spark. They physically lived in the same area and yet they might as well be living in two different galaxies. They were the kind of people who didn’t meet and go out every day. Their meeting was exhilarating and refreshing.

Didi was under a lot of pressure. She and her mom were barely getting by, with all the bills and the medication that Didi needed. Our heroine was not as psychologically stable as we would have liked her to be but with this little handicap, came her abundance of inspiration and creativity. Didi agreed to Caleb's proposal for the fun and the chance to breakaway from her typical daily routine. I am quite fond of characters with mental conditions - I truly am. Didi was a fascinating subject. I liked that this novel didn't show the darker side of mental conditions, unlike most novels I have read in the past. Didi's condition became her "feature," a fact, a reality that brought about good and bad things. I liked how it wasn't treated as negatively as it was in other novels. This enabled me to keep an open mind easily, to witness and understand its effects on Didi as a whole without judging right from the start.

Caleb was the boy who had all the resources at the tips of his fingers. He would do everything in order to get back his gap year, which would be spent roaming Europe, far away from his distant father. I actually expected to dislike Caleb. That was what usually happens when I read stories with this kind of plot. But I was quite surprised when I ended up rooting for him. Although the No Love Allowed rule came from him, I saw in the beginning that he was in more risk of breaking the rule than Didi. He was surprisingly sweet and thoughtful in his own way. He reminded me of the song The Only Exception by Paramore, believing that love brought about bad things instead of the opposite. With Didi, the doom and gloom vibe of his otherwise glamorous life fell away.

I liked how the Caleb and Didi's relationship developed, from a catastrophic incident at the clubhouse, to agreeing on a no-strings-attached-set-up, to nearing the end of their agreement, and yet being unable to fully let go of one another. It was sweet and a little bit chaotic. The collision of two different worlds made their interaction more fun. I particularly liked Caleb's teasing and swag and Didi's personality and bubbly, enthusiastic side. Together, they made a cute pair right from the start.

I liked the story world that Kate painted in this novel. It had a movie-like quality to it, in the sense that I could imagine the setting and the vibe easily in my head. The parties and all the planning and preparation really intrigued me. I loved details in my books, and Kate gave me just what I wanted: a shower of details, from the very basic, generic ones down to the tiniest ones. I could imagine No Love Allowed as a television show, even. It was vibrant, filled with life and a cast of strong personas. The secondary characters were as magnetic as Caleb and Didi. Nathan and Preston were a sight to behold, the closest friend of Caleb. Nathan was the resident gay supportive friend. Natasha was the beautiful goddess, model-esque cousin. She was friendly and supportive to both Caleb and Didi. But to be honest, I wanted to see more of her and Preston. I wanted to get into their heads.

No Love Allowed was a vibrant, fun-filled and paint-splattered contemporary novel that would leave readers entertained, hooked and wanting more. I wished that the book was longer. I loved the story world and the cast of characters so much that I wanted to spend more time to get to know them and explore every inch of the setting. Though, I am hoping that Kate's follow up to No Love Allowed, starring Nathan and Preston, would be the answer to this. I recommend this to readers of contemporary romance, readers who are looking for a fast and fun read - you could easily finish this in one sitting -, readers who are interested in novels with psychological themes and novels exploring family dynamics.

Rating:


4 Cupids = Strong book love.
I really enjoyed this. I recommend this!


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Review: Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto

Book Description:

Hardcover, 384 pages
Expected publication: February 2nd 2016 by Balzer + Bray

The two-bit town of Rogue City is a lawless place, full of dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters. But it’s perfect for seventeen-year-old Westie, the notorious adopted daughter of local inventor Nigel Butler.

Westie was only a child when she lost her arm and her family to cannibals on the wagon trail. Nine years later, Westie may seem fearsome with her foul-mouthed tough exterior and the powerful mechanical arm built for her by Nigel, but the memory of her past still haunts her. She’s determined to make the killers pay for their crimes—and there’s nothing to stop her except her own reckless ways.

But Westie’s search ceases when a wealthy family comes to town looking to invest in Nigel’s latest invention, a machine that can harvest magic from gold—which Rogue City desperately needs as the magic wards that surround the city start to fail. There’s only one problem: the investors look exactly like the family who murdered Westie’s kin. With the help of Nigel’s handsome but scarred young assistant, Alistair, Westie sets out to prove their guilt. But if she’s not careful, her desire for revenge could cost her the family she has now.

This thrilling novel is a remarkable tale of danger and discovery, from debut author Michelle Modesto.

Reviewer's Copy: ARC

Source: Harper Collins(Thank you!)

My Thoughts:

Let me get things straight: Westie was one of the wildest characters I have ever met. She was brimming with spunk, sass and daring. As a result, she got into a lot of trouble, adventure and heart-stopping suspense. Despite her impulsive mind and her penchant for getting knee-deep in catastrophic situations, I liked her just fine. She had her reasons, background and motives and she stuck to them all throughout the book. She was the kind of heroine who knew what she wanted and worked on getting it, persistently. Her ability to try again and again and again, despite failures, obstacles and deep-seated fear, made her one of the bravest heroines in my eyes. Her wildness was a beacon of light, a reminder of youth and possibilities. But then, Westie was also an incredibly flawed character. She had a problem with drinking, which was a result of her traumatic past and Alistair’s distance. As she plowed ahead, in hopes of fixing her drinking problem, she generated a series of other problems. It was the kind of domino effect that I would normally see in a movie – seemingly unavoidable, ill-fated and dramatically comic in a way. I had so much fun reading about her experiences, whether it was good or bad.

Alistair was the loyal friend, the one who was always there when Westie needed help. Although there was some distance between them at all times. He was a harder character to understand. Alistair had layers protecting him from inspection. As the story progressed and Westie and Alistair got the opportunity to become closer, breaking through the walls they built around themselves, Alistair’s layers cracked and unraveled, revealing the boy within. He was loyal to a fault, which was a good thing in this case, given Westie’s impulsive and danger-magnet nature. They have lived together under a roof for so many years and yet, in the last three years, they barely spoke a word. How could two people not talk frequently and yet be able to understand each other just fine? I liked how the author developed Alistair and Westie's relationship. It was slow and simmering - just enough to give me butterflies.

Rogue City was a beautiful setting for the story. It was mostly isolated, far from the main cities. It was a sanctuary for humans and creatures, where both can live together in peace without the promise of death. Rogue City was protected by a magical dome that was being held in place by the Wintu Tribe. The landscape of the setting was varied, from the woods to the river, and finally to the sprawling houses.

The creatures were diverse. Almost all mythical creature mentioned across the folklores of the world were represented in the novel. But the ones I liked the most were Jezebel, the chupacabra bet of Westie and Nigel, and a thousand-year-old vampire named Costin. Costin was your typical vampire prince, devastatingly debonair, exuding charisma and confidence, with a velvet voice that could make a girl melt. Despite his inhuman nature, he had a good heart. He was protective of Westie and would do anything in his power to keep her safe. I wanted to ship him with Westie, but the powers be wanted our heroine with another boy.

The plot unraveled smoothly. One thrilling plan was followed by another, stacking up into a series of mini disasters and surprises. I thoroughly enjoyed Westie’s plotting and scheming as she aimed to get revenge for the cannibal family who killed hers. Reading the close encounters and face-offs between Westie and the Fairfield family was a hair-raising, edge-of-your-seat experience. James, the gorgeous boy who traveled with the Fairfields, was another unknown variable in Westie’s equation for revenge. He was quite well-mannered and had a sad past. For some reason, Westie couldn’t help but feel that he was innocent. And yet, in this book no one was truly innocent. I kept analyzing every move and every action of the characters.

Revenge and the Wild is a wild, suspenseful and romantic gallop into a vivid steampunk world. It had a distinct movie-esque vibe for me, in the sense that it had the kind of magic that made it vivid enough to be imprinted in my head. Readers would be thoroughly entertained and intrigued with the novel's catastrophes and perilous errands, colorful conversations, and close encounters. I highly recommend this to steampunk and fantasy readers alike, readers looking for novels with a wild, daring heroine. You won't regret it.

Rating:


5 Cupids = Eternal book love.
I will never, ever, ever forget this book. I highly recommend this!


Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Book Description:

Hardcover, 437 pages
Published May 21st 2015 by Macmillan

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon, to keep the wood's powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost to the wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows - everyone knows - that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia - all the things Agnieszka isn't - and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him.

From the author of the Temeraire series comes this hugely imaginative, engrossing and vivid fantasy novel, inspired by folk and fairy tales. It is perfect reading for fans of Robin Hobb and Trudi Canavan.

Reviewer's Copy: Hardcover

Source: Bought

My Thoughts:

I read this book a few months ago and I feel like I am still lost in its pages. Lost in a very, very good way. I cannot imagine anything better than this. I was addicted to it, as if it was an elixir that I was suddenly abusing out of pleasure. I couldn't pry it off my hands and I couldn't summon the willingness to stop and so I read it, day and night, until finally it was finished.

The story world of Uprooted was undeniably old world, with its own magical charm. It was like injecting fairytale serum into an old kingdom setup. I loved the vivid descriptions of the world and how atmospheric the entire novel was. I felt like I lived in the valley and in the tower. The imagery that the author created in my mind, with her words, was simply astonishing. It was like looking into a mirror to the world on the other side of it: the reader got every detail. The social hierarchy, political system and magical system were thoroughly explained. I didn't want any answers anymore because I got more than I asked for. A lot of themes were tackled such as family ties, friendship and the foundations and cracks of legends.

The Dragon was a very interesting wizard, indeed. I enjoyed reading about his snappy, almost-always-irritated and sarcastic way of talking. It was a bright star in the universe of stiff, formal dialogue that one expected when stumbling into a high fantasy. I was thoroughly amused and entertained at the banter between the Dragon and Agniezscka. I found attraction, hints of a budding romance and so much more in their lines.

Agnieszka as a character, was so genuine and just down to earth. She was just herself and didn't plan on changing for anybody else. I loved that she remained true to herself throughout the entire book. She remained anchored to what she believed in. Her humor and her determination really entertained me. Every scene that she was in had a possibility to become an instant comedy and it was refreshing to see so much humor in a fantasy novel.

The Wood was such a mysterious element of the novel. It was powerful, patient and intelligent. The wood had the capacity to plan ahead and strategize how it could expand and gain even more power. It was very much like the "Red Queen" of Uprooted, cunning and horribly unstoppable. But it was such an enlightenment to understand where the Wood was coming from, why it sought revenge and blood and why it wouldn't stop.

The plot was beautifully crafted. There was just enough breadcrumbs for me to follow, enough walls for me to find to make Uprooted a challenging guessing affair. The politics of the castle, the motives of the royal family and the critical situation of Kralia made the story even more interesting. Each character had his own motives. Each one was a bright light vying for my attention and at the same time, demanding my suspicion. I was always doubling back, rethinking and reevaluating their role in the story, deciding if they were on the good team or the bad team - this was one of the things I liked the most in Uprooted.

Uprooted is a fantasy of unforgettable, unputdownable proportions, with its amazing world building and deliciously sweet plot. Uprooted is pulsing with danger, slow-burning romance, and wondrous magic. I highly recommend this to readers of fantasy, preferably older fantasy, and readers looking for atmospheric reads!

Rating:


5 Cupids = Eternal book love.
I will never, ever, ever forget this book. I highly recommend this!



Monday, January 04, 2016

Review: Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan

Book Description:

Hardcover, 384 pages
Expected publication: January 19th 2016 by HarperTeen

Raisa was just a child when she was sold to work as a slave in the kingdom of Qilara. Despite her young age, her father was teaching her to read and write, grooming her to take his place as a Learned One. In Qilara, the Arnathim, like Raisa, are the lowest class, and literacy is a capital offense. What’s more, only the king, prince, tutor, and tutor-in-training are allowed to learn the very highest order language, the language of the gods. So when the tutor-in-training is executed for teaching slaves this sacred language, and Raisa is selected to replace her, Raisa knows any slipup on her part could mean death.

Keeping her secret is hard enough, but the romance that’s been growing between her and Prince Mati isn’t helping matters. Then Raisa is approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slave rebels—to help liberate Arnath slaves. She wants to free her people, but that would mean aiding a war against Mati. As Raisa struggles with what to do, she discovers a secret that the Qilarites have been hiding for centuries—one that, if uncovered, could bring the kingdom to its knees.

Reviewer's Copy: ARC

Source: Harper Collins(Thank you!!)

My Thoughts:

Raisa was an endearing heroine. She was realistic, in such a way that she was not entirely rebel and not entirely turning her back on the Arnathim. She was somewhere in between, being pulled to different directions by her desire to help her people, her personal goal to decode her heart-verse, the last reminder she had of her family, and her pounding heart. She struggled and grappled with hard decisions and impending consequences throughout the book. Her honesty, desperation, loyalty and perseverance made her 100% human in my eyes. Raisa knew her strengths and weaknesses and embraced them. She was a beautifully flawed character who made mistakes and sometimes, bad decisions. But she rolled along with the consequences with grace, and this was one of the things I liked about her.

Mati was the kind-hearted prince charming of the story. Devastatingly handsome with his olive skin and onyx hair, I fell for him along with Raisa. The weight of responsibilities and expectations dragged him down. With an anti-Arnathim circle, he needed to be one step ahead of everyone, if he wanted to keep his throne and protect Raisa. Mati was one of the most loyal characters I have ever encountered, through good and bad times. I liked his conviction and dedication to see things through. He was the true prince charming, minus the stallion and the armor, but with a sword and secret passages.

This book reminded me of The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski because of the class struggle and master-slave relationship. Qilarites were olive-skinned and black-haired, the reigning class in all of Qilara. They were the ruling class, composed of guards, courtiers, priests and royalty. The Arnathim, the slaves, were pale-skinned and had varying colors of hair. My first impression was this: the generic, stereotypical assumption on the races of masters and slaves was reserved. The concept was refreshing and quite daring, if I may add. The Qilarites were suppressing all manifestations of rebellion but in doing so, they were creating a bigger fire. The Arnathim Resistance was bristling with anger and thirst for revenge for all their loss and suffering. Though not all Arnathim were part of the Resistance. Most of them were too scared to lose their lives or endanger their loved ones. The situation was a mirror of real life histories, such as the Philippines during the Spanish Colonial Period.

At the beginning of every chapter, there was a short part retelling the story of the pantheon of gods and goddesses that Qilarites and Arnathim worshipped, reminiscent of the Greek mythology in some ways. As Raisa and Mati’s story developed, the mythology of the story world complimented the events. Sword and Verse was actually two stories in one book. The author did a splendid job on the elaboration of her own mythology and it resonated and fit in the story.

The plot of Sword and Verse was beautifully crafted, like a colorful tapestry: there was an abundance of twists and turns and surprises to keep the reader guessing, heart-warming, smile-inducing romance that could flip the reader's world at any time, loss, heartache and tragedy to keep the reader grounded in the story world's reality and salvation to give the reader hope. The book was quite political, too. I loved how the characters moved and thought, struggling to be one step ahead of the other in this political game. Power, influence and impending doom played into the story raising the stakes.

The writing style was fluid and easy to lose yourself into. I delighted in each page that I read. The book had an endearing cast. I enjoyed reading about the Resistance the most for some reason. Jonis, the not-so-nice, spunky rebel leader, had barbed banter with Raisa. He was just doing everything in his power to survive and keep his people as safe as possible, all while plotting how to bring down the Qilarites. The children slaves made my heart ache with their innocence, lost childhood and suffering.

All in all, Sword and Verse was a beautiful, romantic and heart-shattering debut, with the forbidden romance, the deliciously sweet rebellion, the mystery behind the writing and the mythology. I'm giving this book a five because it appealed to the softer side of me: the hopeless romantic and the lover of all things written. It might not be as epic or action-packed as I was expecting it to be, but it definitely satiated my thirst for fantasy and romance. What a way to start 2016. I highly recommend this to fantasy readers, romance readers, people who are looking for a colonial-period, historical vibe book and people who are interested in books about class struggle.

Rating:


5 Cupids = Eternal book love.
I will never, ever, ever forget this book. I highly recommend this!