Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book Reviews: The Kiss of Deception

The Kiss of Deception

AMAZON | GOODREADS



Publisher: Henry Holt (July 8, 2014)
Print Length: 492 pages
Format: E-arc
Source: Netgalley.com
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Series: Yes, Book 1 of ? (The Remnant Chronicles #1)
Completed: June 2014











SUMMARY

FROM GOODREADS: In this timeless new trilogy about love and sacrifice, a princess must find her place in a reborn world.

In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight—but she doesn’t—and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom—to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—even as she finds herself falling in love.


BACKGROUND

FROM AUTHOR'S BLOG: 

Mary E. Pearson is the award-winning author of The Jenna Fox Chronicles, The Miles Between, A Room on Lorelei, and Scribbler of Dreams. She writes full-time from her home office in California where she lives with her husband and two golden retrievers.


SETTING PACE AND STYLE

Set in the past in an imaginary world, the writing style impressed me. It flowed well and was easy to read.  The author used details and descriptive passages in a way I appreciated. She even wrote an emotional passage near the end which made me tear up and its tough to make me cry.  It helped this involved a horse because I have to mention I'm a sucker for animals. So this scene really tugged at my heart strings.   I think the most trouble I encountered with this story was with the pacing.  For long periods of time not a whole lot went on, just a lot of swooning back and forth over two guys and the girls carrying on their daily activities. The narration was told in a third person narrative split up by chapters between the three main characters: Lia, the assassin and the prince.  As the story approached the ending this did change up a bit with different voices occurring within the chapters or sometimes even VERY short chapters with different narrators.  This didn't suit me well because even though Lia's voice was distinct, I kept getting the assassin and the prince confused, which proved to be quite agrivating.


CHARACTERS AND PLOT

Lia the main character, fierce, determined and strong willed caught my attention right away.  I appreciated her braveness and her sass.  She wasn't afraid to speak her mind or even put men in there place if need be.  Her compassion towards others and her love for her older brother were both characteristics I admired.  Lia's best friend Pauline was a great side kick and very complimentary to Lia's personality.  I enjoyed her courageousness, spunk and vigor.  I wish she'd been a little bit more involved in the story.  She was one of my favorites.Rafe, seemed pretty mysterious for quite a while, longer than I liked.  He brooded a lot and wasn't very forthcoming.  Cayden, on the other hand, appeared troubled.  He had a difficult childhood and found himself facing quite a moral dilemma.  Either way, I needed the prince to be more prince-like and the assassin definitely could have used a heavy dose of both evil and cunning.  It took a long time for each man to finally show his true colors. In retrospect, I think this was an intentional ploy by the author, it just didn't work well for me.

PERSONAL NOTE

The blurb convinced me this would be a high fantasy about a daring princess who spites her pre-arranged future and instead forges a path of her own. As I read the story, I found this wasn't exactly the case. The beginning started off with a huge bang, but after that it sort of slowly fizzled out.  Most of the story relied on a developing love triangle, which at first I was vested in.  As the book moved forward, though, I got a little bored with it all, too much love triangle, not enough else going on for me.   

The world building and politics were somewhat complex.  Near the end of the book I was just starting to get a better feel for it all.  The story is set in a fantasy world in the past.  One unique aspect is at the beginning of each chapter there would be some type of verse or passage from old books or just narratives from the past.  These blurbs were like reading folk lore and it made me curious how they would be tied into the plot lines, later.  At the conclusion of the story, I was miffed to find a huge cliffhanger.  Nothing gets resolved.  The only aspect I felt changed significantly is that Lia evolved into a stronger character.  Otherwise the ending was wide open as a front door on a hot summer day.  It didn't even end on a settling point.  Grrrrrrr! So, my advice, maybe wait for book two to be close to its release date before starting this one?



RECOMMENDATION

I'd recommend this story to fantasy readers who appreciate romance in the foreground of the story. Those who enjoy reading about strong women heroines, this would be a good fit for too. 


RATING


4 out of 5 Rings


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Reviews: The Body in the Woods

The Body in the Woods
BY APRIL HENRY


AMAZON | GOODREADS


Publisher: Henry Holt & Co (June 17, 2014)
Print Length: 263 pages
Format: E-Arc
Source: Netgalley.com
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, YA
Series: Yes, Book #1 (Point Last Seen Series)
Completed: June 2014












SUMMARY

FROM GOODREADS:

In this new series told from multiple perspectives, teen members of a search and rescue team discover a dead body in the woods.

Alexis, Nick, and Ruby have very different backgrounds: Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness, Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough, and Ruby just wants to pursue her eccentric interests in a world that doesn’t understand her. When the three teens join Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, they are teamed up to search for a autistic man lost in the woods. What they find instead is a dead body. In a friendship that will be forged in danger, fear, and courage, the three team up to find the girl’s killer—before he can strike one of their own.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

FROM GOODREADS:

I write mysteries and thrillers. I live in Portland, Oregon with my family.

If you've read one of my books, I would love to hear from you. Hearing from readers makes me eager to keep writing.

When I was 12, I sent a short story about a six-foot tall frog who loved peanut butter to Roald Dahl, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He liked it so much he arranged to have it published in an international children's magazine.

My dream of writing went dormant until I was in my 30s, working at a corporate job, and started writing books on the side. Those first few years are now thankfully a blur. Now I'm very lucky to make a living doing what I love. I have written 13 novels for adults and teens, with more on the way. My books have gotten starred reviews, been picked for Booksense, translated into six languages, been named to state reading lists, and short-listed for the Oregon Book Award. 

I also review YA literature and mysteries and thrillers for the Oregonian, and have written articles for both The Writer and Writers Digest.


This first book in April Henry’s Point Last Seen YA mystery series is full of riveting suspense, putting readers in the middle of harrowing rescues and crime scene investigations.


SETTING PACE AND STYLE

Set in Portland, Oregon, pacing for this book was moderate. Writing in this one was pretty straightforward. There was usually always something going on to capture my attention. They mystery was the main lure to keep the reader turning pages. This is told in a third person narrative from multiple perspectives helping the reader get to know what pretty much everyone is thinking. 


CHARACTERS AND PLOT

The characters were generally all teens with a small collection of adults. Alexis, one of three primary characters in this book  is a young girl who joined SAR because it would look good on her college application. She's unable to pay for college because her mother is mentally ill (bipolar). They both live, month to month, off her mom's disability checks. Alexis doesn't like anyone to get too close. Allowing someone to get close to her means revealing her secrets. She tends to push people away, its just easier for her to do that then have them asking too many questions. I felt bad for Alexis's situation, even though I probably connected with her the least of the three. Nick was just a kid looking for recognition. His father, a soldier, died serving in Iraq. He had all kinds of preconceived notions about his father, like he's sure he died a hero, even though his mother refused to speak a word about him. He died when Nick was only four. Nick is longing to follow in his father's footsteps, he wants to be noticed and he believes SAR will be a great way to earn the publicity he yearns for. I liked Nick, he tried extremely hard to stand out, probably too hard. With an active imagination, he was easily distracted, but in the end, despite his flaws, Nick proved to be very brave and selfless. Ruby was my favorite character. I related to her the most. She's a cool and calculating person. I adored how her mind worked. She loves to make mental lists, prefers order to chaos and desperately wants to make sense of everything. Her deep thinking, after an initial rocky road, ends up being very worthy in the end. The main problem with Ruby was her social skills. I almost felt she may be on the autism scale because she didn't really like to be touched and felt awkward in social situations. She never knew how to act or what to say around kids her age. Ruby's main reason for joining SAR was so she could become better at getting along with her peers, plus she genuinely wanted to help people, too.


RECOMMENDATION

I would recommend it to middle grade on up. Readers who like mystery and thrillers will totally appreciate this story.


PERSONAL NOTE
This book could be best classified as a mystery/thriller for young adult audiences. The story interested me since it is set in Portland, Oregon which happens to be only 20 miles north of where I currently live. Its about three teens who belong to Portland SAR - Search and Rescue, a trained group of young people who volunteer to look for missing or lost people. In the midst of one of those searches three friends discover a dead body, which leads them on a dangerous search for a potential serial killer who may be targeting young homeless females. 

The mystery wasn't something I could easily solve. I guessed a few bits and pieces, but the big parts were mostly unpredictable. With only touches of romance scattered throughout the book, the mystery was the meat and potatoes of the story.  The conclusion was a real nail biter. I was fairly confident it would end on a positive note, but I was still on the edge of my seat right up to the climax. This was a great, clean read. It was also very fast and easy to finish with a page count of less than 300. I guess this book is also the kickoff to a new YA mystery series, so I'm looking forward to reading more in the future.



RATING
4 out of 5 Rings




Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Book Reviews: Midnight Thief

Midnight Thief
BY LIVIA BLACKBURNE


AMAZON | GOODREADS


Publisher: Disney Hyperion (July 8, 2014)
Print Length: 384 pages
Format: E-book
Source: Netgalley/Publisher
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy, YA
Series: Book #1 of ?
Completed: June 2014







SUMMARY

From Goodreads: Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs. But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull. 

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease. When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives.


BACKGROUND

From Goodreads: Livia Blackburne wrote her first novel while she was a PhD student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she conducted research on the neuroscience of reading acquisition in children. Upon graduation, she switched to writing full time. Livia still blogs about the intersection of literature and neuroscience. Midnight Thief is the kickoff to a brand new series 


SETTING PACE AND STYLE

The writing is missing the descriptive adjectives that usually form pictures in my mind. I prefer words like "staunch the blood flow" instead of "stop the blood flow" and this author more often than not would use the latter. Its written in dual perspectives from both Kyra and Tristam's point of view. This didn't work out well for me. The two stories didn't seem to be related. He's a noble, she's a their/assasin. I struggled to find a common thread which would eventually join them together. Unfortunately, tensions weren't building and I really didn't care if or when these two finally met.


CHARACTERS AND PLOT

Immediately after starting Midnight Thief I was disappointed to discover, the main characters were not the same as in the prequel, Poison Dance.  Kyra, one of the main characters to me was a likable girl. She's small, slight and agile, nearly cat like.  It seemed daunting to me how she managed to somehow survive on her own despite being abandoned at a very young age. Even with all of this going for her, for some reason I just struggled to make a strong emotional connection. Some vital piece was missing. I think I may have been unfairly measuring her against other thieves/assassins I've read about previously.  The yard stick was already set too high. I guess to me she came across a little too soft, it appeared as if the killer instinct gene passed her up. I consider her somewhat of a spineless assassin. I think that may have been her biggest fault in my eyes.

Tristam, the other primary character in the story, right off the bat proved to be intelligent, with an uncanny knack for attention to detail. I admired his dedication to avenge his friend's death. For most of the book I was uncertain of his role in the bigger story, the plot. I wondered if he'd end up being a love interest or not.  I hoped not. The story was heading in that direction, but I really didn't want it to go that way. It didn't feel right or feasable.  Why would Tristan, a noble, have an interest in a thief/outlaw? 

James, who happens to be the main character in Poison Dance, but more of a side character in Midnight Thief was the most disappointing to me. He wasn't the same guy as I met. In the prequel I found him to be likable, compassionate and even honorable. In this story he seemed selfish, cold hearted and mean. These characteristics didn't align with the man I met before. 


PERSONAL NOTE

I read the prequel novel to this book, called Poison Dance, which set the stage for my excitement to start the main book. Sadly, though, the two books weren't anything alike. It was almost as if they'd been written by two completely different people. Sadly, the excitement quickly morphed into disappointment, well at least for the first two-thirds of the story, then things started to get interesting.

Poison Dance, even though brief, was an emotional read. It made me feel something for the characters. It made a difference to me when something grievous happened.  With this book, I found it difficult to feel anything for the characters, especially in the beginning. Midnight Thief is  a plot driven story more than a character driven one for sure. Even as the story progressed, I continued to feel emotionally detached. 

This story held great potential for an engaging plot, but for most of the book, the execution was sub par and the world building seemed skeletal at best. The story DID spark my curiosity with some elements and I definitely had my interest piqued here and there throughout the book, so I forged onward, hoping for better times ahead.  It really wasn't ALL bad.

My biggest issue is the plot continued for way too long to be lack luster for me. It took way too long to develop.  There wasn't anything for me to latch on to, there was just a mishmash of concepts: thieves, mystery, a touch of fantasy and assassins, but yet no one part could take the lead. Then, after wading through almost two thirds of the of book => BAM, out of nowhere it became a completely different story! This is exactly the injection this book needed. I only wish the author could have tied this in sooner. It made a very BIG difference in how I felt about the entire story. In fact, I'm actually now looking forward to continuing on with the series! What an unexpected turn of events. The only hint I'm going to give is the story changes from being primarily historical fiction to turning on the fantasy elements full throttle. Now that's what I'm talking about! Just why not sooner?


RECOMMENDATION

This is one of those books I'd recommend to patient readers.  Those who enjoy historical fiction will probably like this one more than those who love fantasy.  I'd totally avoid reading the prequel before beginning this book because I think it sets up people for disappointment and greatly influences one's feeling for this story.


RATING


3 out of 5 Rings