The Secret Fire by CJ Daugherty and Carina Rozenfeld Review

The Secret Fire (The Alchemist Chronicles, #1)

The Secret Fire by CJ Daugherty and Carina Rozenfeld (The Alchemist Chronicles #1)

To be published September 10 Atom

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Format: I received an e-ARC copy of this book from Net Galley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This did not affect my opinions of this book or the content in this review in any way.

b38bc-coollogo_com-221351400French teen Sacha Winters can’t die. He can throw himself off a roof, be stabbed, even shot, and he will always survive. Until the day when history and ancient enmities dictate that he must die. Worse still, his death will trigger something awful. Something deadly. And that day is closing in.

Taylor Montclair is a normal English girl, hanging out with her friends and studying for exams, until she starts shorting out the lights with her brain. She’s also the only person on earth who can save Sacha.

There’s only one problem: the two of them have never met. They live hundreds of miles apart and powerful forces will stop at nothing to keep them apart.

They have eight weeks to find each other.

Will they survive long enough to save the world? 029c6-coollogo_com-9181998First of all, many thanks to the publisher and Net Galley for letting me review this book early!

I loved the premise of this book. It sounded really cool – a boy that can’t die, a girl that has to save him (and still has powers of her own)? I am a huge fan of alternating perspectives, specifically when those perspectives intertwine even though it might not seem like the two will ever get along or meet. The concept was intriguing, especially because I don’t read very much fantasy. However, the execution of this awesome premise didn’t go over very well for me.

The characters were cut-outs of real people. Sacha was my favorite of the two. He has a very daring personality, interesting relationships with his mother and his younger sister, and a new take on his impending death in just a few weeks. I liked seeing him do his thing in France and all of his scenes were filled with action in the underground gambling rings of Paris. On the other hand, Taylor was boring and uninteresting. I found her to be the stereotypical good girl who found her family secretly has magical powers. She is pretty much nothing without her schoolwork and her relationships with friends and her family didn’t pull it off for me. I did like her experience in London and Oxford, as well as some of the alchemy parts of the world.

I was pretty so-so about the world. It didn’t really make much sense to me, maybe because I don’t read too much fantasy. The two main characters seem to come from completely different worlds and the explanation for what was happening came way too late in the book. I spent the first 25% confused and watching as both characters failed to be online at the same time for tutoring.

My main problem with this was that it was so slow. And even in the ending, nothing really happens. This whole book is setting up for a series and there is no climax here, just world building. That is probably the main reason why the book is very slow. It takes a while to build up the characters, to introduce their powers, to explain how they got them and the origins of their magic. I wanted all of that to be in the first half of the book and then get to the really cool stuff in the second half.

Overall, I wasn’t too impressed with this. I liked the idea and Sacha’s character, but the rest fell flat for me. I probably won’t be finishing this series unless I see really great reviews for the second book.

38c69-pawprint d8ee9-pawprint

Advertisements

Review Mashup (4) feat. Sekret, Fahrenheit 451, and more!

Sometimes after I read books, I don’t have enough to say for a full review post. In order to review every book I read, I’ve decided to start compiling these books into review mashups every so often. For this post, I have a classic, an adult fiction, a nonfiction, and a YA historical fiction!

The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More FunThe Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin – Published Harper 2009 – Genre: Nonfiction – Format: Paperback

I wasn’t too happy with this book. I liked the idea behind it and the methodology. Rubin decides to work on a few goals each month until the end of the year to see if it improves her happiness. I didn’t really buy it though. I think that this process could really work, but the book didn’t sell me on it. I hated the writing style and it was hard to get through. Some of the things she decides to do didn’t really make sense and I’m not sure what exactly I was reading. It was okay, but not life changing. I wanted more out of it, but the writing kept me from truly enjoying it.

938bc-pawprint d8ee9-pawprint

We Are All Completely Beside OurselvesWe Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler – Published Putnam’s Sons 2013 – Genre: Adult Fiction – Format: Paperback

I’m so split on this book. I had to read this one for school, and maybe it was my fault for not reading the summary, but it took a twist I did not expect and after that I was never really on board. I love the main character Rosemary and her family, especially because of all their quirks. They all felt very realistic. I didn’t understand some of the stances that were taken in this novel and I never liked some of the other characters like Lowell and Harlow. While reading the book, I did not enjoy it. I only liked the beginning and the end. However, I feel myself thinking about this book a lot and wanting to go back to it…

8dfc7-pawprint 38c69-pawprint d8ee9-pawprint

Fahrenheit 451Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – Published Voyager 1953 – Genre: Adult Dystopian – Format: Paperback

I liked this book okay. The plot was very interesting and I loved the beginning. It started to drag for me a little bit though because the world building is very slow, the characters are not very dynamic, and there are so many metaphors to dig through. The writing style reminded me a lot of another classic dystopian, 1984 by George Orwell (which is one of my all time favorite books). The ending was amazing and really captured my attention. Overall, I liked this book but it wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever read. I do really like Ray Bradbury as an author though and some of his short stories are SO GOOD.

38c69-pawprint 8dfc7-pawprint d8ee9-pawprint

Sekret (Sekret, #1)Sekret by Lindsay Smith – Published Roaring Brook 2014 – Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction – Format: Hardback

I really liked the plot of this book – Russian KGB with psychics. Very cool. I felt that some parts were lacking, particularly the magic system. All of the psychics have different powers, some of which never made sense to me. The Russian elements were cool and I felt captivated the whole. I had to see what happened next and that kept me reading. I liked the romance and the main character, but I didn’t totally love them. I’m excited to see what happens in the next book, but this one wasn’t too memorable for me.

8dfc7-pawprint 38c69-pawprint d8ee9-pawprint 938bc-pawprint

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys Review

Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Published Philomel 2011

Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction

Format: Paperback from the library

b38bc-coollogo_com-221351400Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

029c6-coollogo_com-9181998This is an incredibly hard review for me to write, mostly because all I want to do is force all of you to read this book. Seriously, it is SO GOOD.

I cried while reading this book, multiple times actually. It is just that beautiful. I feel like this story gives a voice to all the millions of lives lost in WW2 through the Russian labor camps. Typically, when reading WW2 historical fiction, it is set in Nazi Germany and we read sad stories about people being inflicted by those horrors. This is a different take on the time period and something I really appreciated, especially being a history buff. This one takes a story that I didn’t know much about and made it something that is so important. Lina loses her country to start with, but so much after that happens.

This book was hard to read, especially because of how much I connected with the characters. I couldn’t stand to lose any of them. There were many different characters who all had different reactions to what was happening around them. In any one moment, I could understand how everyone was feeling. Lina’s family was so tight knit and that was one of the hardest parts for me to read. I liked how her brother and her mother were there for her the whole time and promised to stick together through it all.

Just when you start getting comfortable and thinking that everything might get better, everything takes a turn for the worse. It’s not a depressing book though. There are some great moments of hopefulness and first love and family ties and celebration. I loved seeing how the people around them helped each other to get through the situation and the community that was formed. It was truly touching to read about the characters and experience their struggles.

Overall, I LOVED this book. It was a beautifully told story that deserves its time in the spotlight. I could not suggest this enough, and not just for fans of historical fiction. I think anyone would love this timeless story.

8dfc7-pawprint 38c69-pawprint d8ee9-pawprint 938bc-pawprint 4b94f-pawprint

Unearthly Trilogy Series Review by Cynthia Hand

Unearthly (Unearthly, #1)Hallowed (Unearthly, #2)Boundless (Unearthly, #3)

Unearthly Trilogy (Unearthly, Hallowed, Boundless) by Cynthia Hand

Published HarperTeen 2011, 2012, 2013

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

b38bc-coollogo_com-221351400(For book 1, Unearthly)

In the beginning, there’s a boy standing in the trees…
Clara Gardner has recently learned that she’s part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn’t easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place and out of place at the same time. Because there’s another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara’s less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she’d have to make between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.029c6-coollogo_com-9181998

After reading the first book in this trilogy over two years ago, I decided it was finally time to jump back in and finish off the trilogy. I ended up reading the second and third books in June and finally finishing this series.

I haven’t read too much about angels, but I really liked this interpretation. They all have visions of their purpose, but when it comes down to it, they can choose to follow their purpose or do something different with their lives. This serves as the main plot for the entire series as Clara struggles to find the balance between what she believes her purpose is and what she wants to do. This is pivoted by one of the best love triangles I have ever read – with Tucker and Christian being the two camps. I was on Team Christian for all of the books, and I won’t spoil it, but I was happy with how everything turned out at the end (either team you were on would probably be okay with it). It was actually really hard to have a favorite!

I expected for there to be some problems after having two years between books, but I felt that the world really kept up with itself. I understood everything easily and this is a light fantasy. This is a very good starter book for those looking to get into more paranormal fantasy. There is not much intense vocabulary and the book takes place in the real world. It is a great fantasy with beautiful writing.

Overall, I love this series! It has beautiful writing, great characters, an innovative concept, and an action packed plot! There are some really intense scenes, but not so much that it becomes a constant battle. I loved these characters so much and I wish that there was one more book so we could spend more time with them. This is a really fantastic series.

8dfc7-pawprint 38c69-pawprint d8ee9-pawprint 938bc-pawprint

(for each book in the series)

 

Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen Review

Someone Like You

Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

Published Speak 1998

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Format: Hardback

b38bc-coollogo_com-221351400The world is a terrible place not to have a best friend.
Scarlett was always the strong one.
Halley was always content to follow in her wake.
Then Scarlett’s boyfriend died, and Scarlett learned that she was pregnant.
Now Halley has to find the strength to take the lead and help Scarlett get through it.
Because true friendship is a promise you keep forever.

029c6-coollogo_com-9181998This is, so far, the darkest Desen book I have read by far. While all of them have darker themes, this one takes the focus of the novel. Teen pregnancy is the main plot of the book, but I really liked the different take on the topic we got. Instead of seeing it from Scarlett’s eyes, who is pregnant, the story was told from Halley’s perspective, Scarlett’s best friend. I liked this interesting POV and found that it added a lot to the story. At the same time Scarlett is going through this, Halley has a romance with a bad boy and after seeing Scarlett’s situation, this allows for Halley to take those lessons and focus them on herself as well.

Halley and Scarlett’s friendship was one of the strongest I have ever read. It was really sweet to see them both working through their situations and how they were still a support system for the other, even though it might seem like they could have only dealt with their problems. I found this friendship to be a common theme in YA – the shy friend and the outgoing friend. That was very much the case in this book, and while I typically struggle with that, this one made it seem more natural. Halley wasn’t so shy that it seemed like a big jump for Scarlett to be friends with her, nor was that the struggle of the entire novel.

I really felt for both of the characters in both of their situations throughout the novel and I liked the parental relationships as well. It was not fun to see Halley dating someone that was not good for her, but at the same time, I was so conflicted between what Halley wanted and the pressures of her parents. I was never frustrated with their decisions, but rather, it exposed some interesting philosophies into the way that these girls experienced their high school years. There are lots of topics in here with multiple different viewpoints, and most of them were addressed in a clear way.

For me, this book proved the stature of Dessen’s writing. Although one of her earlier works, it shows the amount of material that she can write well. It’s not just about the fluffy, sweet romances with Sarah Dessen. It’s about friendship and finding yourself and growing up.

8dfc7-pawprint 38c69-pawprint 63169-pawprint d8ee9-pawprint 938bc-pawprint

A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall Review

A Little Something Different

A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

Published Swoon Reads 2014

Genre: Young Adult Romance

Format: Paperback

b38bc-coollogo_com-221351400The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out.  But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship.
Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together….

029c6-coollogo_com-9181998

This book was really innovative. The fourteen different viewpoints were something that had to be admired. Taking on that many perspectives and making them distinct was really impressive. Even when there was something inanimate that was talking (like a park bench), it didn’t feel weird. It felt really interesting actually. There were also plenty of human perspectives that I enjoyed. One of my favorite things to think about is all the people that we interact with everyday and what they think about us. Because I definitely ship random people all the time. Just me? Okay. But you should try it sometime because it’s really fun.

This method had some drawbacks though. I didn’t really connect with either Gabe or Lea. I liked both of the characters, but I didn’t feel the relationship. Plus, there were so many frustrating times that they were so close to getting together when something would happen. It took a really long time for the relationship to get anywhere which was incredibly annoying. If it was in their perspectives, it probably would’ve been worse though. However, we miss why Gabe and Lea like each other, my favorite part of romance books. It is so sweet to see them together but we never get that. It sometimes shows up within brief glimpses of conversations, but none of the sections are long enough to really flesh anything out. However, it does make for a really quick read.

The thing I loved most about this book was the writing. I was never confused between any of the fourteen viewpoints. All of them were incredibly distinct. It did take me a few times during the first couple chapters when I was still expecting a Gabe/Lea chapter to really get some of the perspectives. The dialogue was also a little awkward sometimes. Other than that, I really loved how all the perspectives were handled, while still showing off Gabe and Lea’s personalities.

Overall, this was a really fun book. I never really got any feels from the book or connected with the two main characters. However, it was still an enjoyable read that I got through in one day. I would recommend this one for fans of young adult romance, especially ones that have awkward beginnings.

8dfc7-pawprint 38c69-pawprint d8ee9-pawprint

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan Review

The Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus, #5)

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan (Heroes of Olympus #5)

Published Disney Hyperion 2014

Genre: Children’s Fantasy

Format: Hardback

b38bc-coollogo_com-221351400Though the Greek and Roman crewmembers of the Argo II have made progress in their many quests, they still seem no closer to defeating the earth mother, Gaea. Her giants have risen—all of them—and they’re stronger than ever. They must be stopped before the Feast of Spes, when Gaea plans to have two demigods sacrificed in Athens. She needs their blood—the blood of Olympus—in order to wake.

The demigods are having more frequent visions of a terrible battle at Camp Half-Blood. The Roman legion from Camp Jupiter, led by Octavian, is almost within striking distance. Though it is tempting to take the Athena Parthenos to Athens to use as a secret weapon, the friends know that the huge statue belongs back on Long Island, where it “might” be able to stop a war between the two camps.

The Athena Parthenos will go west; the Argo II will go east. The gods, still suffering from multiple personality disorder, are useless. How can a handful of young demigods hope to persevere against Gaea’s army of powerful giants? As dangerous as it is to head to Athens, they have no other option. They have sacrificed too much already. And if Gaea wakes, it is game over.

029c6-coollogo_com-9181998

I have been waiting for this book for a very long time. And sadly, it was disappointing.

The first main problem I had with this book was the selection of character points of view. Our five character perspectives were Jason, Piper, Leo, Reyna, and Nico. First, no Percy? Or Annabeth? I have read about Percy Jackson for around five years and have really grown up with this amazing character that I love so much. When it is the last book in a series with this character, I was really hoping to have his perspective for the last time. Even an Annabeth perspective would have even been better. However, these two very important main characters fell to the side, barely completing any important tasks or even keeping a real focus. They were not the only characters to suffer from this choice – I forgot Hazel and Frank were even there. The problems with the piece of wood and Hazel returning to the underworld just disappeared. There was no big deal surrounding that and these character did nothing for the entire book. They both were just kind of…there. Now, Jason’s perspective was good. I like Jason as a character, but there is something that doesn’t seem as genuine about him as Percy. Piper really shined during this. She stood up for herself and I loved seeing the relationship she made with Annabeth throughout the series. She really improved herself. Leo was a good choice. I liked his character, but he was missing something from the last books. Reyna and Nico’s perspectives were both boring, and I mostly skimmed through both of them. While I enjoyed hearing about these two characters, they have never been some of the main characters in the series. I didn’t feel a strong connection with any of them, as just side characters. I understand that we had to have some perspective in order to follow the Athena statue across the ocean and back to Camp Halfblood, but there was really only one perspective needed for that. Normally, I love the characters in this series, but this time they all just fell short.

My next problem was with the pacing of the plot. Everything just happened so quickly. There are two major battles that seemed to happen in a couple of pages, with a lack of detailed description. They ended before they really even started. I was not happy with seeing some of the most epic conclusions thrown to the side. It was almost like Riordan didnt’ really want to end the series, so just kind of trailed it off. There really was no conclusion that I needed.

Okay, so now for some things that I really did like. I loved how it kept the humor and wit and usage of Greek gods. They were all so snappy and intelligent. We get to see some more minor gods and little missions along the way to Athens, all of which were the best parts of the entire book. I loved the descriptions of the scenery and the settings around the Mediterranean. Piper made great strides as a character. Before leaving this series, I got to appreciate all seven of the demigods at least once throughout the five book series.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad book. It was just a little disappointing based on previous books and the high expectations I had set for it. The pacing and character choices were my main problem. The series didn’t really seem to come to a real ending, but this was still a great continuation of Percy Jackson, a character I will miss very much. Thank you, Rick Riordan, for writing an amazing series!

8dfc7-pawprint 38c69-pawprint d8ee9-pawprint