Category Archives: Magic

Review {36} HEX HALL by Rachel Hawkins

HEX HALL

SERIES: Hex Hall | OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES: Hex Hall #1 Demonglass #2 Spell Bound #3

AUTHOR: Rachel Hawkins

PUBLICATION INFORMATION: March 2nd 2010 by Hyperion Books

EDITION: Paperback, 323 pages

ACQUISITION: Own

CATEGORIES: Hex Hall Series, Young Adult, Review, 4 Stars, Fantasy, Paranormal, Magic, Vampires, Witches, Faeries, Shapeshifters, Supernatural, Demons, Rachel Hawkins, 2014 Read

RATING: 4.00/5.00 | GOODREADS RATING: 3.99/5.00


WHAT THE COVER SAYS: Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she is a witch. Her non-gifted mother has been supportive, consulting Sophie’s estranged father – a warlock – only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who exiles her to “Hex Hall”, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, fairies, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day, Sophie has three new enemies, a futile crush on a warlock, a tag-along ghost, and a vampire roommate. Worse, Sophie soon learns that an unknown predator has been attacking students. As a series of blood-curdling mysteries converges, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: An ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

MY THOUGHTS: I really enjoyed this book more than I expected to! I first picked this book up from the library when it first released, and had trouble getting into it, and ultimately didn’t finish it. But then the reviews started pouring in, and some of my favorite fellow bloggers really enjoyed it and were saying great things about it. So, I bought it when it released in paperback. 

Sophie was a likable character because it was easy to sympathize with her when she starts learning all of the secrets that have been kept from her all of her life – important secrets that probably could’ve really been useful to know! When she attempts to help a girl at the prom get her dream date, the spell goes horribly wrong – landing Sophie at Hecate ‘Hex’ Hall as punishment. 

There weren’t many elements of the story that I didn’t like. I really enjoy that there are many different paranormal creatures – Prodigium – at Hex Hall, but I feel like there were too many to really get to know any one group more than just on a superficial level. I am really hoping that in the next two books we get to know more about the workings of the faeries, shifters and witches. We get a main story on how they were “Created” from angels/fallen angels, but I did want more background.

The pacing of the story moved quickly, and there was always some type of action or event occurring on each page. I liked the dynamics of all of the characters, each was different and individual and held their own. I really enjoyed Jenna’s character, and how she and Sophie work together as roommates-turned-friends. 

I didn’t like how secretive everyone was; however. It wasn’t just Sophie’s parents (including her Warlock father whom she’s never met) but Ms. Casnoff, the head of Hex Hall as well. Nobody wanted to tell Sophie who she truly is, her family lineage, or the dangers that face her now and in the future. I feel like keeping everything a secret was even more detrimental, than had everyone been open with her. I cannot imagine the feeling of finding out these secrets about yourself and your family from other students, especially when you’re already new and feel out of place.

The aspect of the book that I really liked, was the ghost of Sophie’s great-grandmother, Alice, who takes it upon herself to teach Sophie how to protect herself. But things aren’t always as they seem, and when things start to get a little weird, Sophie starts to piece everything together and we are left with a pretty crazy cliffhanger. I do like that Hawkins isn’t afraid to kill off characters and not give them happy endings, but I’m curious to see how the series proceeds now without a few key players.

SIMILAR READS: AWAKE AT DAWN (Shadow Falls #2) by C.C. Hunter | THE GHOST AND THE GOTH (The Ghost and the Goth #1) by Stacey Kade | Paranormalcy (Paranormalcy #1) by Kiersten White | SHADE (Shade #1) by Jeri Smith-Ready | ONCE A WITCH (Once a Witch #1) by Carolyn MacCullough | FIRESPELL (Dark Elite #1) by Chloe Neill

Happy Reading!
Laura
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REVIEW {31} BOOK CLUB REVIEW {1} FALLING KINGDOMS by Morgan Rhodes

FALLING KINGDOMS
SERIES: Falling Kingdoms #1 | OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES: Rebel Spring #2 [Releases: 12/3/13]
AUTHOR: Morgan Rhodes [Michelle Rowen]
PUBLICATION INFORMATION: December 11th 2012 by Razorbill
EDITION: Hardcover, 412 pages
ACQUISION: Borrowed | Library
CATEGORIES: Fantasy, Young Adult, Magic, Romance, 3 Stars, Razorbill, Review, Book Club Book, Falling Kingdoms
RATING: 3.00/5.00 | GOODREADS RATING: 3.82/5.00
ADD TO GOODREADS

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: The gripping New York Times  bestseller that is Game of Thrones for teens.
In a land where magic has been forgotten but peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest is simmering. Three kingdoms grapple for power—brutally transforming their subjects’ lives in the process. Amidst betrayals, bargains, and battles, four young people find their fates forever intertwined:
Cleo: A princess raised in luxury must embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of a magic long thought extinct.
Jonas: Enraged at injustice, a rebel lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country impoverished—and finds himself the leader of a people’s revolution centuries in the making.
Lucia: A girl adopted at birth into a royal family discovers the truth about her past—and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield.
Magnus: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, a firstborn son begins to realize that the heart can be more lethal than the sword. . . .
The only outcome that’s certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?

MY THOUGHTS: So for our first book club meeting, we decided to read this fantasy book by adult author Michelle Rowen, whom I have not read before. I started this book before I left for BEA (at the end of May) and when I got back I was so into The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken, that I never picked it back up… until it was chosen for our book club book for July!
I am glad that I ended up finishing it because it turned out to be pretty good.
I saw on GoodReads that someone had referred to it as; ‘Fantasy-Lite’ and I believe I agree with that. While definitely a fantasy, I do not think it was a high fantasy, or anywhere near the level of Game of Thrones, which it is compared to.
The world that Falling Kingdoms takes place in is called Mytica. Mytica is divided into three kingdoms; Auranos, Paelsia, and Limeros, and also The Sanctuary. While it’s told in multiple points-of-view, I feel like Cleo, the princess of Auranos, is the main character. The book quickly throws you in the midst of the events that set up the theme for the rest of the story, and while there were times that I felt it moved just a little slowly, for the most part the pacing was fine.
Since most fantasies do have multiple narrators, I feel that this one could’ve been stronger in each narration. While I felt I was being told a story, save for a few parts, I didn’t feel a ton of emotion. If I want to laugh, cry, or throw a book across the room because I’m so mad at what just happened, then I know it’s an amazing book! I did find myself getting a little worked up at certain parts, but again, it just didn’t wow me.
This book has a lot going on, and I felt that the different characters didn’t have unique enough voices to really stand out and stand apart from each other for me. I didn’t have a favorite character, but would choose Jonas if I had to.
I also had issues with the world-building. I got the differences in the kingdoms, and could tell what was different between them, but I didn’t really see the world in my mind. I couldn’t really imagine what it was completely like, and found I was hoping for just a little more.
Overall, I did enjoy the story for the adventure and fantasy aspects, and I will read the rest of the books that come out in this series. I believe it has potential to get really good and I have a feeling the characters are going to grow and change a lot in the next book.

SIMILAR READS: Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst | The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke | Venom by Fiona Paul | Poison by Bridget Zinn | The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Happy Reading!

REVIEW {32} RETRO REVIEW {6} The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS
SERIES: Fire and Thorns #1 | OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES: The Shadow Cats #0.5; The Shattered Mountain #0.6; Crown of Embers #2; Bitter Kingdom #3
AUTHOR: Rae Carson
EDITION: Hardcover, 423 pages
PUBLISHED: September 20th 2011 by Greenwillow
ACQUISITION: Own; ebook
CATEGORIES: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Magic, Adventure, High Fantasy, Paranormal, War, Review, 4 Star Rating, Book 1 In Series, Greenwillow Publishing, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Rae Carson, Fire and Thorns Series
RATING: 4.00/5.00 | GOODREADS RATING: 3.86/5.00
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one. 

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will. 

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.

MY THOUGHTS: This was my first foray into fantasy, and I was very hesitant to even give it a try. But when I stumbled upon it at the library, I decided, what the heck, let’s get it. And I am so glad that I did, because I was not disappointed!
In one word, I found this book to be very unique. I can’t think of any other book that I would compare it too; but again, at this point I hadn’t read very much fantasy. I felt that the book started out a bit slow, and was slightly difficult for me to visualize Elisa’s world; but once I finished Part 1 of the book, I realized that Part 2 really throws you into the meat of the book – and I was hooked!
One lovely thing about this book, is that it takes place in several different settings – all of which are unique in all aspects – landscape, inhabitants, purpose, and beliefs. Carson marvels at creating one unified world with these individual microcosms within it. When I wasn’t reading the book, I was thinking about it. There really weren’t any times where I knew what was going to happen – save for maybe one or two scenes. Otherwise, Carson kept you guessing until the end.
I really didn’t like Elisa when the book first began. She was this helpless, almost dumb fat girl who at all the freaking time and never did anything worth mentioning in her life. Cut to Part 2 and I love Elisa. Love her to bits! She is the perfect heroine! She’s smart, sassy, and steps up to the plate and fights for what is right. She’s very selfless, never thinking about herself, and puts others ahead of herself.
King Alejandro also bothered me. He’s pitiful and pathetic, but gains my respect by the end of the book. He likes to sit back and let others do his fighting and dirty work, and doesn’t take an active role in his son, Prince Rosario’s life. He also is in love with his mistress, Arina, and keeps his marriage to Elisa a secret.
Another amazingly wonderful character is Cosme. Cosme, who begins as a treacherous maid for Arina – doing her spying for her – despises Elisa. And in the end, it’s safe to say that they are probably as close to best friends as two girls can become. She’s smart and she’s been hurt and betrayed so she puts on a frigid, icy front but it’s to protect herself.
The issue that I had with the world building was that it had a very Spanish feel to it with the names and place names, but the description of the land being desert-like yet very hilly was making it a little difficult at first to connect everything together. I also thought that being a fantasy, the spiritual being would have a different name than “God”, but this does use “God” as the spiritual being and every century he chooses one person to be a “bearer” meaning that they have a “Godstone” in their navel. They then are supposed to do something amazing, maybe even miraculous. So there was a pretty heavy religious tone to the story, which typically is not my cup of tea, but it was done in a unique way that didn’t bother me at all. I think Carson handled the themes and tones of the book perfectly.
I also have to commend Carson on her ability to kill off characters. Holy heck is that a breath of fresh air! I haven’t been so ticked off at an author for killing off characters since J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series! Yes, I said Ticked Off, but what I mean is, thank you! Thank you for not creating a picture-perfect book with the ‘happily ever after’. Carson cares what her fans think and feel and want, but she also doesn’t herself or her story in the meantime.
Carson did exactly what I love with the ending too – gave a lot of closure, but left enough open to make me want, need, crave more! It ended absolutely perfectly, and sets up the main theme (at least what I think the main theme is… ) for the rest of the series.
SIMILAR READS: The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke | Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta | Witchlanders by Lena Coakley | The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton | The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab 

Happy Reading!

REVIEW {31} RETRO REVIEW {5} Frostbite by Richelle Mead

FROSTBITE
SERIES: Vampire Academy #2 | OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES: Vampire Academy #1; Shadow Kiss #3; Blood Promise #4; Spirit Bound #5; and Last Sacrifice #6; SPIN-OFF SERIES: Bloodlines | BOOKS IN THE SERIES:Bloodlines #1; The Golden Lily #2; The Indigo Spell #3; The Fiery Heart #4
AUTHOR: Richelle Mead
PUBLISHED: April 10th 2008 by Razorbill
EDITION: Paperback, 327 pages
ACQUISITION: Library; Need to Own/Wishlist
CATEGORIES: Young Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Magic, Vampires, Romance, Supernatural, Richelle Mead, Book 2 in Series, Vampire Academy Series, Razorbill, 4 Star Rating, Wishlist, Review, Retro Review
RATING: 4.00/5.00 | GOODREADS RATING: 4.37/5.00

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Rose loves Dimitri, Dimitri might love Tasha, and Mason would die to be with Rose… 

It’s winter break at St. Vladimir’s, but Rose is feeling anything but festive. A massive Strigoi attack has put the school on high alert, and now the Academy’s crawling with Guardians—including Rose’s hard-hitting mother, Janine Hathaway. And if hand-to-hand combat with her mom wasn’t bad enough, Rose’s tutor Dimitri has his eye on someone else, her friend Mason’s got a huge crush on her, and Rose keeps getting stuck in Lissa’s head while she’s making out with her boyfriend, Christian! The Strigoi are closing in, and the Academy’s not taking any risks… This year, St. Vlad’s annual holiday ski trip is mandatory. 

But the glittering winter landscape and the posh Idaho resort only create the illusion of safety. When three friends run away in an offensive move against the deadly Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. But heroism rarely comes without a price…

MY THOUGHTS: I really enjoyed Vampire Academy, and when people started telling me that Frostbite was even better, I was psyched to read it… which I did, immediately after finishing book one. The most appealing aspects of these novels are the incredibly abundant amounts of action, and the insane emotions you feel from Rose. Rose is such a complex character, even though you seem to get her at face value, and you think there’s just maybe two sides to Rose, you then finish book two, and you are like, nope! Rose is Rose, regardless of who she’s interacting with; but she handles situations so differently. Every reaction that Rose has is so emotionally charged, and when she’s put to the test she always manages to kick butt! Everything about this book was addicting and delicious, and I can see myself adding the entire series to my personal library, and will be rereading these too, because the re-readability is very high.
The story line as well is so captivating, it literally grabs you and doesn’t let go. I would literally find myself doing things with the book clutched in my hands – cooking dinner, cleaning the house, etc. I did not want to put it down. There are momens where I was literally shocked at what Rose was put through, and awed at how amazingly she handles things. If you haven’t read this series, and you love vampires – you need to go get it right now. Like. Right. Now. Immediately. Go.
SIMILAR READS: Midnight Alley by Rachel Caine | Jealousy by Lili St. Crow | Vampire Academy: The Ultimate Guide by Michelle Rowen | Masquerade by Melissa de la Cruz | Stargazer by Claudia Gray
Happy Reading!

REVIEW {30} RETRO REVIEW {4} Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

VAMPIRE ACADEMY
SERIES: Vampire Academy #1 | OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES: Frostbite #2; Shadow Kiss #3; Blood Promise #4; Spirit Bound #5; and Last Sacrifice #6; SPIN-OFF SERIES: Bloodlines | BOOKS IN THE SERIES: Bloodlines #1; The Golden Lily #2; The Indigo Spell #3; The Fiery Heart #4
AUTHOR: Richelle Mead
PUBLISHED: August 16th 2007 by Razorbill
EDITION: Paperback, 332 pages
ACQUISITION: Own
CATEGORIES: Young Adult, Paranormal, Vampires, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Magic, Review, Razorbill, 4 Stars, Vampire Academy Series, Richelle Mead
RATING: 4.00/5.00 | GOODREADS RATING: 4.20/5.00

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger…

Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever.

MY THOUGHTS: I went into this not really thinking I’d like it; but when I finished, I realized that I actually really enjoyed it! Like any first book, the beginning is a bit slower as it fills you in on everything that is going on, and explaining all of the characters, and story lines, etc.  I was even kind of annoyed with both Rose & Lissa when they first got back to the Academy. I had trouble connecting with Rose because I was reading her one way, and then we start to learn about how she used to be when they were previously at the Academy, so it was conflicting for me. But once I was into the bulk of the book I started seeing how kick-ass Rose Hathaway is! And Dimitri – YUM! The tension between Rose and Dimitiri is wonderful! And Christian, oh, Christian! Love the bad boys!!

What I liked as well is that there was ALWAYS something going on. There were very few, if any dull, slow moments. It was a very nicely paced story, in my opinion. I love the development of both Rose and Lissa’s characters throughout the story; and the ending was pretty much perfect to lead us into the second book. The world that Mead has created is wonderful, and one you can easily visualize and spend lots of time in. 

[NOTE: This is actually an old review that I originally posted on my previous blog in 2011. I’ve since read and loved the entire series, and will be posting the reviews for the rest of the series in upcoming weeks.]

SIMILAR READS: Midnight Alley by Rachel Caine | Betrayals by Lili St. Crow | Night World by L.J. Smith | Vampire Academy: The Ultimate Guide by Michelle Rowen | Out for Blood by Alyxandra Harvey

Happy Reading!

Review {29} The Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead

THE INDIGO SPELL
SERIES: Bloodlines #3 | OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES:  Bloodlines #1, The Golden Lily #2 The Fiery Heart #4
AUTHOR: Richelle Mead
PUBLISHED: February 12th 2013 by Razorbill
ACQUIRED: Borrowed | Library [Need to Own]
EDITION: Hardcover, 1st Edition, 401 pages
CATEGORIES: Young Adult, Paranormal, Vampires, Urban Fantasy, Magic, Romance, Witches, Review, Razorbill, February 2013 Release, Richelle Mead, Bloodlines Series, Vampire Academy, Five Star Rating
RATING: 5.00/5.00 | GOODREADS RATING: 4.49/5.00
WHAT THE BACK OF THE BOOK SAYS: In the aftermath of a forbidden moment that rocked Sydney to her core, she finds herself struggling to draw the line between her Alchemist teachings and what her heart is urging her to do. Then she meets alluring, rebellious Marcus Finch–a former Alchemist who escaped against all odds, and is now on the run. Marcus wants to teach Sydney the secrets he claims the Alchemists are hiding from her. But as he pushes her to rebel against the people who raised her, Sydney finds that breaking free is harder than she thought. There is an old and mysterious magic rooted deeply within her. And as she searches for an evil magic user targeting powerful young witches, she realizes that her only hope is to embrace her magical blood–or else she might be next.


Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, the Bloodlines series explores all the friendship, romance, battles, and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive—this time in a part-vampire, part-human setting where the stakes are even higher and everyone’s out for blood.

MY THOUGHTS: As expected, I abso-freaking-lutely LOVED this book. Seriously, Vampire Academy & Bloodlines have to be at the top of my ‘Favorite Series’ List. Just when you wonder where the next book in the series is going to take you, you’re suddenly transported into action and adventures you never thought possible. 
I was getting kind of aggravated with Sydney in this book, considering she was fighting her feelings for Adrian, yet leading him on. But, being Adrian, he knew she would eventually come around, and told her that he would love her “from afar” until she realized that she’s totally in love with him. Let’s just say by the end of the book I was happy with where their relationship is.
The Indigo Spell finds us back in Palm Springs and back in the lives of Sydney, Jill, Eddie, Angeline, and Adrian. The book opens with the wedding of Sonya and Mikhail, and then sweeps us back to the west coast. Sydney is able to track down the elusive ex-Alchemist, Marcus, and is surprised to find out who he is, and the group of people he’s involved with. Marcus asks her to gather information for their group to help them someday take down the Alchemists, and Sydney agrees. Marcus also offers her the chance to break her tattoo, so that she cannot be compelled by the Alchemists. Intertwined in this, Sydney is still learning magic with Miss Terwilliger, and fighting her feelings for Adrian.
One of my favorite things about Richelle Mead’s books, is that there really are no slow parts. There’s pretty much something going on all the time on every page. There is such a vast array of characters too, that she wonderfully weaves their sub-stories into the main plot. She is absolutely amazing as an author, and I even find myself wondering if she would ever do another spin-off from Jill’s point-of-view. I’d definitely read it!
One of my favorite things when reading, is to experience the protagonist’s growths and changes along with them. The Sydney Sage we met back in the Vampire Academy books, to the Sydney here in the 3rd book of the Bloodlines Series are so different. The important things that make her who she is are still there, but she starts to question herself in this book. Who am I? What am I doing? And luckily, she figures out she is the person she is supposed to be. It’s okay to love who your heart desires, and to want better for not only yourself but those around you. Sydney is such a wonderful, caring, loving person that it sometimes gets in the way of making herself happy. Luckily, she’s starting to realize this.
There are basically three main worlds in this series that Mead has to intertwine- the vampires & dhampirs, the Alchemists, and then the magical world that Sydney’s finding herself a part of. I guess maybe Marcus’s group could almost be a fourth world. Wait – a fifth – the Warriors. Sheesh! And to keep these all interesting, fresh, and working in a way to involve all of them is quite a feat. I can’t even think of anything else to say except to just gush over how freaking AMAZING this series is!
I am super stoked for The Fiery Heart. I literally want that book now! I’m so curious to see what happens and where our characters end up – especially with the cliffhanger we get at the end of The Indigo Spell... 
SIMILAR READS: The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa | Fall of Night by Rachel Caine | With All My Soul by Rachel Vincent | Revealed by P.C. Cast | Sentinel by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Happy Reading!

Review {28} Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

Born Wicked
AUTHOR: Jessica Spotswood
SERIES: The Cahill Witch Chronicles | OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES: Star Crossed #2
ACQUIRED: Borrowed | Library
EDITION: Hardcover, 330 pages
PUBLICATION INFORMATION: February 7th 2012 by Putnam Juvenile
CATEGORIES: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical Fiction, Witches, Romance, Magic, 3.5 Stars, Putnam Juvenile Publishing, Jessica Spotswood, 2013 Read, Book 1 in Series, Born Wicked, The Cahill Witch Chronicles
RATING: 3.50/5.00 | GOODREADS RATING: 3.95/5.00
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.


Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word… especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.

MY THOUGHTS: Born Wicked was an interesting read for me. It’s not one of those action-packed, fast-paced stories where you’re constantly getting whiplash from how quickly the plot goes and how crazy the scenes get. Instead, the first installment in the Cahill Witch Chronicles moves slowly, dishing out dangerous liaisons, magical misuse, and secrets that rock a town to its core.
Cate Cahill is our protagonist. She is almost seventeen, the oldest of three girls, and very maternal since her mother died several years ago. Cate feels that it is her duty to not only care for her two younger sisters, but also to make sure they are not using any of their magical powers, lest the Brotherhood finds out they are witches and tries them. Once tried, a witch would either be sent to the Harwood Asylum or be killed; neither of which are viable options for Cate and her sisters.
Born Wicked is set in an ‘Alternate 1900 New England’ where the Brotherhood rule and at the age of seventeen a girl must announce her intentions to marry (and to whom) or join the Sisterhood. At first I wasn’t sure how I would feel about reading a story taking place in an ‘alternate’ place and time, but once I was into the story, Spotswood does a wonderful job creating the world where her characters live.
The characters are well developed, each with their own personalities and attitudes. I can’t say I necessarily loved Cate as the protagonist, but I am going to assume that she will be a wholly different person in the next book(s) to come. Where she tried to stay as out of sight as possible, I think we are going to see a giant change in her, now that she knows how things really are in New England.
One character I really enjoyed, however; was Finn Belastra. He was a wonderful love interest, and one of two guys to make up the love triangle. He’s smart, witty, and willing to fight anyone or anything for the people that he loves. In that way, he and Cate have a lot in common. They only want to protect their families, and put themselves last. He is wonderfully selfless, and a great match for Cate.
Cate’s two sisters, Tess and Maura, each have a unique voice to the story. Cate is overprotective and suffocates them, and Maura acts out at any chance she gets. Tess is the quieter, gentler one who just wants the three of them to stay unified while making decisions together, rather than suppressing their magic and being told how to behave.
One character that I completely disliked was Sister Elena, from the Sisterhood. She annoyed me from the first page she appeared on. I’m not sure completely what it was that irritated me, but she just rubbed me the wrong way! And how she played the sisters against each other and played with Maura’s heart and emotions was just unforgivable.
The slower pacing of the story, I believe actually helped the story to achieve an eerie, kind of maybe almost Gothic-Victorian type of air to it. I would say it felt rather dark and gloomy than a light, airy read. The Brotherhood is oppressive in their rules – and just like any other “government” type body, they have their corruption and flaws. I will be curious to see how things change within the Sisterhood that will ultimately affect the Brotherhood in the end.
There is a great prophecy that is entangled in the web of this tale as well; one that could have several different outcomes and consequences. There is a bit of a twist at the end – one that I cannot say was completely unpredictable, but I am anxious to see how Cate handles her choices and how it will affect those around her.
Overall, I enjoyed this read for the straight-forward story that it is. I would willingly recommend to anyone who enjoys paranormal, steampunk, historical fiction, or just a good fight-for-love story.

SIMILAR READS: Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne | When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen | Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock | The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges | Gilt by Katherine Longshore

Happy Reading!

Review {26} Invisibility

AUTHOR(S): Andrea Cremer & David Levithan
SERIES: Stand-alone
PUBLICATION INFORMATION: 2013 by Philomel; 358 pages | Hardcover, 1st Edition
ACQUIRED: Own | Signed
LABELS: Young Adult, Romance, Paranormal, Magic, Spells & Curses, 4 Star Rating, Philomel Publishing, Autographed, Review
RATING: 4.00/5.00 | GOODREADS RATING: 3.63/5.00

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: A magical romance between a boy cursed with invisibility and the one girl who can see him, by New York Times bestselling authors Andrea Cremer and David Levithan.
Stephen is used to invisibility. He was born that way. Invisible. Cursed.
Elizabeth sometimes wishes for invisibility. When you’re invisible, no one can hurt you. So when her mother decides to move the family to New York City, Elizabeth is thrilled. It’s easy to blend in there.
Then Stephen and Elizabeth meet. To Stephen’s amazement, she can see him. And to Elizabeth’s amazement, she wants him to be able to see her—all of her. But as the two become closer, an invisible world gets in their way—a world of grudges and misfortunes, spells and curses. And once they’re thrust into this world, Elizabeth and Stephen must decide how deep they’re going to go—because the answer could mean the difference between love and death.
From the critically acclaimed and bestselling authors Andrea Cremer, who wrote the Nigthshade series, and David Levithan, who wrote Every Day and co-wrote Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist with Rachel Cohen and Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green, as well as many other novels, comes a remarkable story about the unseen elements of attraction, the mortal risks of making yourself known, and the invisible desires that live within us all.

MY THOUGHTS: This was one of those books that I picked up, put back, and hemmed and hawed over because I wasn’t completely sure if I wanted to buy it, or borrow from the library. In May I attended the Rochester Teen Book Fest and was able to sit in on a panel that was comprised of Andrea Cremer & David Levithan. They spoke about the book that they had decided to co-author, and Invisibility was my first experience of both authors (Even though I own book #1 of Cremer’s Nightshade series).
After hearing Cremer & Lethivan answer questions pertaining to writing Invisibility, and listening in as they read from chapter 5 (Cremer reading as Elizabeth while Levithan gave voice to the invisible Stephen). I am so glad that I got to see these 2 authors together, because they have such an incredible connection, such life to them and a great sense of reality and kindness that I HAD to buy a copy of Invisibility then and there – and get it signed by both of them.
Invisibility didn’t disappoint. While I didn’t completely fall in love with either Elizabeth or Stephen’s characters, I did adore Elizabeth’s brother, Laurie. I will say that each character was a breath of fresh air, in that I cannot think of any other characters in previously read books that I’d compare them to. While I do have issues with the insta-love, I will say it was forgivable in this story, considering one part of the couple is invisible. You don’t run into that everyday!
The story started out a bit slow, giving the characters time to tell us their stories before dumping them into a new situation with brand new challenges. I wasn’t sure how paranormal the plot would get, other than the invisibility aspect. I was pleasantly surprised, though with how cursecasters, spellcasters, and spellseekers were introduced into the tale. Both well executed and entertaining, I loved reading about the history of the magic users and meeting Millie and Saul.
I don’t love or hate how the book ended, and while there could very well be room for a sequel or spin off (which I’d quickly purchase without all of the indecisive inner debating) both author’s seemed pretty content at leaving the story where it ended and not revisiting. Of course that can always change – so I’d welcome more chapters about these characters and story line. There are definitely ties left loose that would be interesting to see where they would continue/go with it.
It was also very interesting to see the theme of invisibility – whether physical or mental/emotional – engulf each of the characters in different ways. From past pains to future anticipations; I love the way both Cremer & Levithan write and tell their story (from what I recall, Levithan wrote odd chapters narrated from Stephen’s POV starting at #1 while Cremer picks up the evens, Elizabeth’s POV beginning with #2). When I mentioned the connection they had in person earlier on in my review, that tether continues to keep them paired up while alternating chapters, working separately and only communicating to ensure they both had the same end goal in mind.
I would freely recommend this book to any of Cremer’s or Levithan’s fans (old & new), or anyone who loves a good love story with the typical trials and tribulations trying to keep them apart; or even if you are looking to step slowly into the paranormal genre, this would be a great book for you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S): Andrea Cremer and David Levithan met each other in Washington, DC, even though that’s not where they live. Andrea was pretty certain she wasn’t invisible, but David confirmed that fact by introducing her to some other writers, who were all able to see her.
Andrea’s novels include Nightshade, Wolfsbane, Bloodrose, Rift, and Rise. You can visit her at http://www.andreacremer.com and follow her on Twitter @andreacremer. She lives in New York City, quite visibly.
Before writing with Andrea, David had never written a novel with a one-word title. His novels include Every Day, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (written with Rachel Cohn), and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (written with John Green). You can visit David at http://www.davidlevithan.com and follow his lover’s dictionary on Twitter @loversdiction. He lives just outside New York City.
Happy Reading!
Laura

Review {22} Changeling

AUTHOR: Philippa Gregory
SERIES: Order of Darkness #1 | OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES: Stormbringer #2 (Expected Publication: June 4th 2013)
PUBLISHED: May 25th 2012 by Simon Pulse
ACQUIRED: Own
EDITION: Hardcover, 256 pages
CATEGORIES: 2012 Release, Did Not Finish, Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy, Italy, Magic, Adventure, Mystery, Paranormal, Simon Pulse, Philipa Gregory, Book #1 in Series
RATING: DNF/5.00 | GOODREADS RATING: 3.14/5.00
WHAT THE BACK OF THE BOOK SAYS: Dark myths, medieval secrets, intrigue, and romance populate the pages of the first-ever teen series from #1 bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl.
Italy, 1453. Seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is brilliant, gorgeous – and accused of heresy. Cast out of his religious order for using the new science to question old superstitious beliefs, Luca is recruited into a secret sect: The Order of the Dragon, commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to investigate evil and danger in its many forms, and strange occurrences across Europe, in this year – the end of days.
Isolde is a seventeen-year-old girl shut up in a nunnery so she can’t inherit any of her father’s estate. As the nuns walk in their sleep and see strange visions, Isolde is accused of witchcraft – and Luca is sent to investigate her, but finds himself plotting her escape.
Despite their vows, despite themselves, love grows between Luca and Isolde as they travel across Europe with their faithful companions, Freize and Ishraq. The four young people encounter werewolves, alchemists, witches, and death-dancers as they head toward a real-life historical figure who holds the boundaries of Christendom and the secrets of the Order of the Dragon.
MY THOUGHTS: I hate not finishing books; especially those written by one of my favorite authors of all time. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy any aspects of this short 256-page introduction to Gregory’s Order of Darkness Series.I could not connect to any of the characters; and I found the story line very difficult to not only follow in the beginning but not engaging or interesting at all. 
Events happen quickly at first, when we first meet Luca and read along as he receives his orders after being accused of heresy. We also meet Isolde, whose father has just died and she learns that she isn’t going to inherit his lands after all, because her dishonest, untrustworthy brother has altered (or lied) about the will and sends her to be the Lady Abbess instead. Once Luca arrives at the Abbey, things slow down incredibly. We crawl through the events of Luca questioning all of the nuns, we see how “odd” Isolde and her companion, Ishraq are, and we realize that there may be more to Ishraq than we first thought.

Isolde and Ishraq escape the Abbey, and when Luca decides that his work there is completed, he travels on to his next mission. That isn’t the end of his run-ins with Isolde though. When I decided that I was not going to finish the book, I was on page 180 (of 256) so you can see I’d made it quite far. This is the chain of events up to that point. There was nothing spectacular or incredulous to keep me reading until the end, which is why I made the decision to go ahead and mark this one as a ‘Did Not Finish’.

The writing style was not the same that I remember from past novels by Gregory, and I think that as well is partly why I wasn’t able to complete the book. I believe that it, too, did not feel like a YA novel. The characters, even though it is an historical novel, did not feel like young adults, and they did not feel very developed to me. The characters were flat and lacked any depth, in my opinion.

WHO WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK TO: Fans of Philippa Gregory and those who enjoy Medieval Period Historical Novels.

SIMILAR READS: The Unfailing Light by Robin Bridges | Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame | Debutantes by Cora Harrison | Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb | Ladies in Waiting by Laura L. Sullivan

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Philipa Gregory was an established historian and writer when she discovered her interest in the Tudor period and wrote the novel, The Other Boleyn Girl, which was made into a TV drama and a major film. Published in 2009, the bestselling The White Queen, the story of Elizabeth Woodville, ushered in a new series involving The Cousins’ War (Now known as the War of the Roses) and a new era for the acclaimed author.
Gregory lives with her family on a small farm in Yorkshire, where she keeps horses, hens and ducks. Visit her website at www.PhilippaGregory.com
Her other great interest is the charity she founded nearly twenty years ago; Gardens of The Gambia. She has raised funds and paid for 140 wells in the primary schools of the dry, poverty stricken African country. Thousands of school children have learned market gardening, and drunk the fresh water in the school gardens around the wells.
A former student of Sussex University, and a PhD and Alumna of the Year 2009 of Edinburgh University, her love for history and her commitment to historical accuracy are the hallmarks of her writing. She also reviews for US and UK newspapers, and is a regular broadcaster on television, radio, and webcasts from her website.
Visit her Facebook page.

Happy Reading!
Laura

Review {21} Throne of Glass

AUTHOR: Sarah J. Maas
SERIES: Throne of Glass #1 | OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES: The Assassin and the Pirate Lord #0.1, The Assassin and the Desert #0.2, The Assassin and the Underworld #0.3, The Assassin and the Empire #0.4, Crown of Midnight #2 (Releases 8/27/13)
PUBLISHED: August 7th 2012 by Bloomsbury USA Children’s
ACQUIRED: Own 
EDITION: Hardcover, 404 pages
CATEGORIES: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Magic, Adventure, Mystery, Paranormal, First Book in Series, 5 Star Rating, Kick-Ass Heroine, Love Triangle, Suspense.
RATING: 5.00/5.00 | GOODREADS RATING: 4.14/5.00
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:  After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.
Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she is bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another.
Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigares, her search leads her to discover a greater desitny than she could possibly have imagined.
MY THOUGHTS: I loved this book from page one, and have given it the coveted Five Star rating… so you know not only did I absolutely LOVE it – but it’s also on my ‘Re-Read Shelf’ and my ‘Must Recommend to Everyone I Know Shelf’ as well!
I’ve only recently gotten into reading high fantasy, which if you follow my blog you’re probably well aware of. It’s also the disclaimer I usually start off any reviews for a fantasy novel with. An important part of a good fantasy novel for me, is the world-building. Maas has created an absolutely realistic, visual world that Celaena lives in and that the novel takes place in. She seamlessly weaves magic into the mix to create a world where it is forbidden to use. 
Too many factors bound up into one story can also create a sense of chaos, but Maas is able to combine themes of magic, fantasy, assassins, fairies, and duels into a story that is action-packed and completely unputdownable (even if that is technically not a word!)! 
I found myself thrilled at the mystery in who was killing the competitors, and was very happy to find it wasn’t predictable at all! Each turn of the page kept me guessing and guessing, and in the end I was quite happy with the way the story closed. It left enough loose ends while managing to also give enough closure to the first book in the series.
The characters in the book also make it a joy to lose a few hours within it’s pages. Celaena is one of the strongest, bravest heroines that I’ve had the pleasure to spend time with. Celaena’s definitely met her match in Captain Chaol Westfall; who isn’t immune to fleeting moments of jealousies when Prince Dorian begins spending lots of time with Celaena. And a friendship is formed when Nehemia, the Princess of Eyllwe meets her and prefers Celaena’s honest company to that of the girls of the court – as in Lady Kaltain. 
There are many sub-stories interwoven into the plot, including Celaena learning that she is much more than she ever thought she was, or would be! I have a very big spot in my heart for fairies, so when it’s learned that the first Queen of Adarlan was of fairy descent, I was so excited, and hoping to find out even more in future books about Queen and her connection to Celaena.
SIMILAR READS: The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke | The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson | Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes | Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo | False Memory by Dan Krokos
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah J. Maas lives in Southern California, and over the years she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much coffee, and watches absolutely rubbish TV shows. When she’s not busy writing YA fantasy novels, she can be found exploring the California coastline.
Happy Reading!
Laura
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