Wednesday, March 8, 2017

"Gates of Thread and Stone" by Lori M. Lee



My rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5/5)

Author: Lori M. Lee

Series: Book #1 (Gates of Thread and Stone series)

Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Romance, Young Adult

Page Count: 333 (hardcover)

Release Date: August 5th, 2014

PublisherSkyscrape

Places to order:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository
IndieBound

About Lori:
She has a borderline obsessive fascination with unicorns, is fond of talking in capslock, and loves to write about magic, manipulation, and family. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, kids, and a friendly pitbull.







Synopsis:
In a city of walls and secrets, where only one man is supposed to possess magic, seventeen-year-old Kai struggles to keep hidden her own secret—she can manipulate the threads of time. When Kai was eight, she was found by Reev on the riverbank, and her “brother” has taken care of her ever since. Kai doesn’t know where her ability comes from—or where she came from. All that matters is that she and Reev stay together, and maybe one day move out of the freight container they call home, away from the metal walls of the Labyrinth. Kai’s only friend is Avan, the shopkeeper’s son with the scandalous reputation that both frightens and intrigues her.
Then Reev disappears. When keeping silent and safe means losing him forever, Kai vows to do whatever it takes to find him. She will leave the only home she’s ever known and risk getting caught up in a revolution centuries in the making. But to save Reev, Kai must unravel the threads of her past and face shocking truths about her brother, her friendship with Avan, and her unique power.
My review:

I received a e-copy of "Gates of Thread and Stone" from Netgalley and Skyscrape in exchange for an honest review! This review will have a non-spoiler and a spoiler section since this was released 3 years ago and so that anyone can read this! Hope you all enjoy it! 

It took me a long time to finally pick this book up, but on August 7th, 2016, I was able to start and finish this book in less than 4 hours because IT WAS AMAZING AND GAVE ME ALL THE FEELS AND RIPPED OUT MY HEART! So, to start off my review, I will do the non-spoiler section for those who have not read this book yet and then I'll have the spoilery section below! 


NON-SPOILER SECTION 

When I initially started this book, I didn't reread the synopsis (I did read the synopsis long ago, but chose not to reread it) and went into it with an open mind, which got me to pay more attention to the details of the story and world building!

In the beginning, we see that the story is told in first person by Kai, our main protagonist. The setting definitely reminded me of the book "Of Metal and Wishes" by Sarah Fine since Lori's novel *almost* gave off a steampunk kind of feel, and the world felt similar to Sarah's "Of Metal and Wishes" world.

As usual, I wrote small sections about the main characters, but I also keep in mind not to do spotlight sections for characters that might be part of a spoiler.

Kai. Early in the book, we—as the readers —are told that Kai doesn't remember anything before the age of 8 and that Reev found her one day and decided to become her adopted older brother, making them family. It's really refreshing to read books with characters that have an extremely strong relationship with their siblings, and even if they aren't blood, it makes them ever closer. As it says in the synopsis, Reev disappears 

Reev. My heart swelled a bit while reading and learning about the things he does for Kai and their relationship with one another. They have such a strong bond and loyalty to one another that made me really happy to see in a YA novel since there aren't very many YA novels that I can think of at the top of my head that have such a strong sibling relationship. Reev found Kai when he was around 18 years old (she was around 8 years old at that time) and instead of leaving her on the streets, he helped her and loved her as his sister. Despite that she didn't share blood with him, he treated her like any older, protective brother would treat his younger sister. I'm excited to see more of his character development in the next book since there are things that happen in this book that will change him in a way that will allow us (as the readers) to see a different side of him.

Avan. Oh my word, would I like to be "friends" with him *wink wink*. Avan is a year older than Kai since he graduated from school a year before she did, and he is Kai's only friend. I can't blame for her having a crush on Avan because DAYUMM. He's got tattoos on his neck, shoulder, AND CHEST, plus he has an eyebrow piercing *passes out*. He's secretive, brooding, quiet, kind, and loyal... and I love all of these aspects about him *GRINS*. But on a serious note, he is one of those complex characters that you don't realize contribute a fair amount to the story until later. His relationship with Kai is much more than romantic (that's later)—they have a deep sense of trust between each other and remain loyal to one another. 

PROS:
  • Strong sibling relationship (KAI + REEV)
  • Not super heavy on romance 
  • Even and steady pacing (never felt too slow or too fast, in my opinion)
  • Great world building (never got confused about the magical aspects or creatures in the book)
  • Briefly explores the sexuality of a certain character (I think the character is bi, as far as the book explains it in a few lines)
  • Unique idea about the Infinites 
  • THE PLOT TWISTS
CONS:
  • Wishing sexuality could have been explored more for that certain character or for other characters (maybe that will be in the next book?)
  • Introduced one or two characters that could have been introduced in Book 2
Books that reminded of GoTaS
  • Of Metal and Wishes (by Sarah Fine)
    • The tones seemed somewhat similar—in my opinion
  • Percy Jackson Series (by Rick Riordan)
    • Gods and demi-gods parallel the Infinites and mahnos in the GoTaS
Regarding the plot and overall concept of this book, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed reading about this world and learning about the Infinites and mahnos (you learn about these two in the book). Kai is a character that I feel a lot of people will root for, because she has went through various hardships and was brave enough to travel across lands to find her family, despite the dangers that lurked in those lands. I think that this series has great potential to grow and expand since it is a new world, and there's potential to have (or create new) characters that


SPOLIER SECTION

*POINT OF NO RETURN FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT READ THIS BOOK*

OKAY, I'm not going to lie and say that it wasn't hard to figure out that Reev was a sentinel and that Kai was the daughter of Time since, you know, she can literally BEND TIME, and we find out about other "Infinites" such as Irras (Famine), Kalla (Death), Star (Strife), and who each represent a specific power or whatever. I was really impressed with the idea behind this story regarding the Infinites and mahnos, because Lori created a new world with multi-dimension characters and was able to execute the plot well. 

Also, did anyone else kind of get Percy Jackson vibes while reading about the Infinites and mahnos? They reminded me of gods and demigods (or the horsemen of the apocalypse) since Infinites were immortals and had offspring/descendants with powers called mahnos. Interested to find out who Kai's mother is (The River?) and what she is—since she's neither an Infinite nor a mahnos since her true form in not human.

Anyone else die a little bit when Reev was brainwashed and almost killed Kai? Because I did and it was so painful to read him fighting her and not remembering her. I figured out that Kai would be fighting Reev when it was shown on the board that she would be fighting someone named "Number 22," because I'm pretty good at predicting sad scenes like that hahaha. But it was hard to read them fighting each other since they have such a strong bond and since Kai had JUST found him UGH MY HEART.

Not sure how I feel about the reveal of Kai's father (aka Kronos, or known otherwise known as Time), because I wasn't expecting him to appear until the sequel, and it felt like he was introduced too early, if that makes any sense. I did, however, like the reveal of Kalla and how she played a role in Kai's life since the beginning of book when Kai encountered her in the alley and then again at the Raging Bull in a different form. When Kalla gave her the knife then, I was a little suspicious about that scene since I found it strange for a woman at the Raging Bull to be carrying around a knife and then again when the Sevs stopped pursuing Kai (and Avan) in the Void while she was holding the knife. So I knew the knife played an important role but the fact that its true form is a scythe was pretty cool.  

Now here's the part where I talk about THE SCENE (aka when Avan dies because of Kronos). OH MY SWEET LORD, my heart was ripping into pieces and being set on fire because that was just TOO MUCH FOR ME.


I think it did occur to me in the very deepest part of my conscious that Avan could be Kai's guardian, but I never gave it a second thought, so you can imagine my surprise AND PAIN when I found out that KRONOS made Avan her guardian and that he had to die because Kronos altered time on his life UGHHH. And when Reev had to hold Kai back to keep her from going to Avan.... THAT WAS JUST TOO CRUEL, LORI. HOW COULD YOU DO THAT TO MY FRAGILE HEART.



I was sitting on a bus to my house from the airport while finishing this book as was literally crying quietly in the back because of this scene (you'll see the GIF above as an accurate representation). It was pretty damn depressing and after all the crap that she had to go through. Thank god I had napkins in my backpack or else I would've had to wipe snot and tears on my Captain American zip-up jacket and lord knows THAT wouldn't happen lol. 

One of the things I'm dreading that could possibly happen in book 2 is that Avan won't remember her for a really long time and that Kai will get together with Mason, because she couldn't wait for Avan to remember anymore AND THEN Avan will all-of-a-sudden remember everything and shit hits the fan. It seems like a cliche but if it did happen, it would be entertaining and rip me apart AGAIN.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book for all sci-fi and fantasy readers. It has a great pace and lots of different aspects to love (i.e. sibling relationships, romance, magic, action, etc.). After finishing this book, I immediately went onto Amazon and bought the sequel because I COULDN'T WAIT ANY LONGER. Interested to see how the sequel is compared to this book since A LOT of things have changed and if this book will carry a heavier sense of intensity (if you catch my drift).

Hope you enjoyed this review! I'll be sure to post more reviews soon (and more often)! :D

Happy reading!
Whitney Lauren 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Spotlight Post: "Arcana Rising" (ARC Review + Excerpt)


Welcome readers!

Today is the official release date of Arcana Rising, the fourth book in the Arcana Chronicles series by Kresley Cole! If you are unaware of this series, I'll briefly explain what the first book, Poison Princess, is about! But then afterwards, I highly advise that you do not continue reading this post because you will get spoiled for the previous books since this post includes the synopsis of this fourth book... YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Thank you so much to Caroline from Sullivan and Partners, LLC for contacting me, sending an e-ARC of this beautifully, painful book, and allowing me to do this special spotlight post!

Anyway, this spotlight post includes the product details of this book, online links of where to purchase this book, my *non-spoiler* review, and an excerpt of Arcana Rising at the end!

DISCLAIMER: If you have not read the previous books (Poison Princess, Endless Knight, and Dead of Winter), I highly recommend you do not continue reading this post.

Here is the cover!

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Down below includes detail of Arcana Rising, my *non-spoiler* review, AND an excerpt from the book!

My rating: ★★★★

Author: Kresley Cole

Series: Book #4 (The Arcana Chronicles)

Genre: Dystopian, Paranormal, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Young Adult

Page Count: 280 (paperback)

Release Date: August 15th, 2016

PublisherValkyrie Press

Places to order:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble (Nook)
iBooks
Kobo
Google Play

About Kresley:

Kresley Cole is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the electrifying Immortals After Dark paranormal series, the young adult Arcana Chronicles series, the erotic Gamemakers Series, and five award-winning historical romances.
A master's grad and former athlete, she has traveled over much of the world and draws from those experiences to create her memorable characters and settings. 
Her books have been translated into twenty foreign languages, garnered three RITA awards, and consistently appear on the bestseller lists, in the U.S. and abroad.

Website // Facebook // Twitter 


Synopsis


Losses mount and deadly new threats converge in this next action-packed tale of the Arcana Chronicles by #1 New York Times bestseller Kresley Cole.

When the battle is done . . .
The Emperor unleashed hell and annihilated an army, jeopardizing the future of mankind--but Circe struck back. The epic clash between them devastates the Arcana world and nearly kills Evie, separating her from her allies.

And all hope is lost . . .
With Aric missing and no sign that Jack and Selena escaped Richter's reach, Evie turns more and more to the darkness lurking inside her. Two Arcana emerge as game changers: one who could be her salvation, the other her worst nightmare.

Vengeance becomes everything.
To take on Richter, Evie must reunite with Death and mend their broken bond. But as she learns more about her role in the future--and her chilling past--will she become a monster like the Emperor? Or can Evie and her allies rise up from Richter's ashes, stronger than ever before?

My Review


I don't think I've ever been this torn between two guys since the Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare. And that's saying A LOT. Somehow, Kresley (author) does an incredible job making it impossible for me to pick between the two love interests in this book for the main protagonist, Evie Greene. But since this is a non-spoiler review, I won't say much more about the love interests, just in case. HOWEVER, I will say that both men are extremely swoon worthy... enough to melt you heart a thousand times over, and of course, making it nearly impossible to pick between the two!

Side note: if you've read the first three books (Poison PrincessEndless Knight, and Dead of Winter), I highly suggest you read the companion guide (Day Zero) before reading Arcana Rising, because this guide gives you insight on characters who are part of the Major Arcana that have already been introduced in the books prior to Arcana Rising and sneak peak information about the new characters that are introduced in Arcana Rising.

Because I can't really go into detail about the pros and cons I had with this book in case of spoilers, I've decided to make a list with bullet points!

PROS:
  • Introduction to new characters 
  • Increased complexity and intrigue of some characters/villians
  • Crazy love triangle drama (if you're not a fan of love triangles, you might get irritated with this series... fair warning)
  • STEAMY *fans self*
  • Hints at more plot twists to come/secrets to be revealed in the next book
CONS:
  • Drags on during some parts of the book
  • Not as many arcs or action as I'd hoped
  • It's shorter than I expected (previous books were over 300 pages while this one was only 280 pages--the first book in paperback was 400 pages according to Amazon.... so this kind of irks me)
I would recommend this series to people who enjoy:
  • Fantasy/Paranormal series
  • Intense love triangles
  • Fast read 
Sorry that it was a short review! I wanted to write more but because this book was just released as of today (August 15t, 2016), I had to/wanted to make it a *non-spoiler* review so that people who have read the previous books can read about how I liked it without worrying if I'll spoil the book.

For those of you who have read the previous books, here is an excerpt down below just for you guys! Hope you enjoy it!!

Excerpt from Arcana Rising


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Day 382 A.F.

Death kept taking me farther from Jack. I stretched my arms out, fingers splayed toward the heat. "He can't be dead." I sobbed. "Can't. NO, NO, NOOOO!"

    "You want to follow the mortal? Get your revenge first. The Emperor mocks your pain."

    I could hear that fiend in my head--laughing.

    The red witch exploded inside me, a force that could never be contained. I shrieked, "You will PAY!"

    As the Emperor laughed, Death murmured in my ear, "I have your grandmother, Sievā. That was the gift I spoke of. We'll teach you how to kill the Emperor. You'll avenge Deveaux."

    "Don't you understand? Jack's not DEAD!" I screamed that over and over. "He's alive!"

    With my mind teetering on the brink, I spied something in the skies above us. I gaped, disbelieving.

    Real? Unreal? Just before oblivion took me down, a mountain of water curled over our heads, racing toward that hell of flames. 

    Circe's towering wave. Taller than a skyscraper.

    -Quake before me!-

    -Terror from the abyss!-

    Richter and Circe's calls boomed in my mind, jolting me back from the blackness.

    "Come!" Aric snatched me into his arms and sprinted from the clash. "When they meet, the blast and then the flood..."

    I stopped fighting him; the need to turn Richter's laughter into screams clawed at me, which meant I had to survive.

    Aric gave a sharp whistle, and a horse's nickering answered. Thanatos. With me secure in his arms, Aric leapt into the saddle, and spurred the warhorse into a frenzied gallop.

    We all but dove down a slope, then charged up the next. 

    I gazed over Aric's shoulder as that tidal wave crested above Richter's lake of lava.

    Heaving breaths, riding faster than humanly possible, Aric kept Thanatos at a breakneck pace. Up another mountain face. Down its slope--

    Circle struck.

    A hiss like a giant beast's. A detonation like a nuclear bomb.

    The shock wave was so loud my ears bled. As loud as the roar preceding the Flash.

    The air grew hotter and hotter. The ground rocked as a blast of scalding steam chased us.

    BOOM! The force sheared the top off the mountain just behind us. Boulders crashed all around as we careened into yet another valley. Still we rode.

    Aric grated, "Surge comes next."

    The ground quaked from the weight of an ocean of water. I could hear the surge shooting toward us."Aric!"

    He got as far as he dared, as high as he could. "Hold on." Clutching me tight, he dropped from Thanatos who kept running.

    Behind the cap of another mountain, Aric braced for impact. He wedged his metal gauntlet between boulders, wrapping his other arm around me.

    Gaze locked on mine, he yelled "I'll never let you go!" We each sucked in a breath.

    The searing water hit. The explosive impact ripped me from his chest, but he caught my arm, clenching his fingers above my elbow. 

    Death's grip. The ungodly force of the flood. My watery scream...

    Aric never did let me go--

    My arm...gave way.

    Separated.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Spotlight Post: "Day Zero" by Kresley Cole


Hello readers!

Today's blog post is a special "spotlight" post for Kresley Cole's newest release to her Arcana Chronicles series, Day Zero! This book was released on August 1st and is said on Goodreads to be Book #3.5 of the series, which I'm assuming means that it's a novella--especially since it's significantly shorter than the other novels in the series and isn't really a full continuation after Dead of Winter (Book #3).

HUGE thank you to Caroline from Sullivan and Partners, LLC for contacting me and allowing me to do this spotlight post for this book as well as sending me an e-copy of Day Zero! Very excited to start it once I finish Dead of Winter!

ALSO, the fourth book to this series Arcana Rising is set to be released on August 15th, 2016! To those who haven't read this series before, I highly recommend you pick up the first book Poison Princess because it really is a great series about the Major Arcana (a set of cards from a tarot deck) and has some swoon worthy romance! And to those who have read the first three books, don't forget to pre-order or buy Arcana Rising at you bookstore next week!!


Now here is the cover!

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Down below are some details regarding Day Zero, the author, AND an excerpt from the book! 

Author: Kresley Cole

Series: Book #3.5 (The Arcana Chronicles)

Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Young Adult

Page Count: 180 (paperback)

Release Date: August 1st, 2016

PublisherValkyrie Press

Places to order:
Amazon
Amazon Kindle
Barnes & Noble
iBooks
Kobo
Nook 
Google Play


About Kresley:

Kresley Cole is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the electrifying Immortals After Dark paranormal series, the young adult Arcana Chronicles series, the erotic Gamemakers Series, and five award-winning historical romances.
A master's grad and former athlete, she has traveled over much of the world and draws from those experiences to create her memorable characters and settings. 
Her books have been translated into twenty foreign languages, garnered three RITA awards, and consistently appear on the bestseller lists, in the U.S. and abroad.





Synopsis: 
Arcana means secrets, and these Arcana Chronicles short stories from #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole are filled with them. Experience firsthand the beginning of the end and behold the apocalypse through the eyes of characters you only thought you knew. 

Ashes to ashes . . .
Evie Greene’s story of the Flash is just one of many. All over the world, those connected in some way to the lethal Arcana game—like Death, Jack, and Fortune—must first survive a horrifying night of blood and screams. 


We all fall down.
Some will have to grapple with new powers; all will be damned to a hellish new existence of plague, brutality, desolation, and cannibalism. Find out who they lost, why they endure, and what they sacrificed in order to live past Day Zero. . . . 



Here is a link to an excerpt of Day Zero below!

http://www.thearcanachronicles.com/Excerpts/DayZeroKresleyCole.pdf

Sorry I couldn't post pictures of this PDF file; for some reason I couldn't insert the images ughhh. But hope you all enjoy it!

Thanks for reading this post! Stay tuned for Monday for another post + a book review! *wink wink*

Happy reading everyone!
Whitney Lauren xoxo


Thursday, July 14, 2016

"The Neverland Wars" (ARC Review)


My rating: ★★★★☆

Author: Audrey Greathouse

Series: Book #1 (The Neverland Wars series)

Genre: Retelling, Fantasy, Young Adult

Page Count: 302 (paperback)

Release Date: June 6th, 2016

PublisherClean Teen Publishing

Places to order:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository
Books-A-Million
Wordery
Overstock

Meet Audrey:
Audrey Greathouse is a lost child in a perpetual and footloose quest for her own post-adolescent Neverland. Originally from Seattle, she earned her English B.A. from Southern New Hampshire University's online program while backpacking around the west coast and pretending to be a student at Stanford. A pianist, circus artist, fire-eater, street mime, swing dancer, and novelist, Audrey wears many hats wherever she is. She has grand hopes for the future which include publishing more books and owning a crockpot.




Synopsis: 
Magic can do a lot―give you flight, show you mermaids, help you taste the stars, and… solve the budget crisis? That's what the grown-ups will do with it if they ever make it to Neverland to steal its magic and bring their children home.
However, Gwen doesn't know this. She's just a sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a powerful crush on Jay, the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn't know her little sister could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that she might have to chase after her to bring her home safe. Gwen will find out though―and when she does, she'll discover she's in the middle of a looming war between Neverland and reality.
She'll be out of place as a teenager in Neverland, but she won't be the only one. Peter Pan's constant treks back to the mainland have slowly aged him into adolescence as well. Soon, Gwen will have to decide whether she's going to join impish, playful Peter in his fight for eternal youth… or if she's going to scramble back to reality in time for the homecoming dance.


My review:

Thank you Audrey for sending an e-ARC copy of your wonderful book in exchange for an honest review! This book definitely satisfied the child in me as well as the young adult in me too!

*NON-SPOILER SECTION*


I really enjoyed this book! Truthfully, I've never read Peter Pan, but I did grow up watching Walt Disney's Peter Pan, Hook (1991), and Peter Pan (2003) many times as a kid up until now. Since these three movies are considered remakes (or what I like to call retellings on film), I think "The Neverland Wars" did a good job of separating itself by having a unique plot and changing the focus on certain aspects of the classical tale to make it it's own story, rather than pulling out the big plot points of the Disney's Peter Pan (forgive me, it's the only thing I can compare/reference it to) and making a few small changes and say it's good to go.

The Neverland Wars is a wonderful, young adult retelling of the classic Peter Pan story that follows a teenage girl named Gwen, who travels to Neverland to keep an eye her younger sister Rosemary (who ran away with Peter Pan to Neverland in the beginning of the story), and her adventures all over this strange, fantastical world while a war wages between the real world and Neverland. As Gwen starts to get drawn into Neverland, her internal struggles about what the right thing to do is proceeds throughout the course of her journey as she deals with the ultimate decision: to go back to the real world and grow up or stay young forever in Neverland.

If you are unfamiliar with the original Peter Pan story that this book is based on/a retelling of, I recommend that you look it up or watch the Disney movie version of Peter Pan because explaining it here will take up a lot of space and I want to focus on TNW. 

I'll start with some problems I had with this book then save the stuff I really liked about this book for the end! 

NEGATIVES:

1.) (minor) The beginning is pretty slow--To be fair, I understand that as a retelling, the book kind of had to start slow to warm the readers up to Gwen and her younger sister Rosemary as well as the setting the story/timeline, but I was hoping that the book would jump right into some action followed by some more action (but it could also just be me, asking for too much).

2.) Not as much action as I was hoping for--I mean there was that one scenario on the ship that scared the crap out of me (because I was quietly reading in the dark...), but other than that, there weren't many scenes where my palms were sweating or my heart was racing. 

3.) Wording of the stories sounded a tiny bit complex for children--Whenever Gwen told the Lost Brigade (basically Lost Children since there are boys AND girls) a story, I thought Gwen could have told the stories in a simpler, exciting manner since as children, it's fun to tell stories dramatically and colorfully so that they can have a clear image of your story and be fully engrossed in it. But the way Gwen spoke sounded more like a fit for children between the ages of 12+years old and not to children younger than that. From the book, the oldest girl is no older than 12 years old, but then again, she wasn't raised in the real world (I assume) so I'm also assuming that she hasn't finished her schooling during which children begin to learn more proper writing, speaking, and reading. I, by no means, am not saying that Gwen's storytelling wasn't good! In fact, it was really well done, but it seemed a bit too well done for the children from Neverland, who haven't been to the "real world" much to go to school and learn proper vocabulary and whatnot there. But I could also be completely wrong and not be making any sense to those of you who have read this book already, so I apologize if you don't understand how my brain works when it comes to these things *insert nervous laughing emoji*

4.) Not much war going on--One of the things that caught my attention when I looked up this book here on Goodreads was the title "The Neverland Wars," because it initially sounded like I would be a more intense, action driven read with lots of action-packed scenes or heart pounding scenarios because of this war that's happening in Neverland, judging from the title. But I felt there wasn't enough about the war. As the reader, you do learn about what war is happening and why it's happening, but there isn't much else. The book has a scene that shows the effect of war on Neverland, but after that, there isn't much about the opposing sides meeting and battling or fighting or disputing. It feels more like that backside of the story and seemed to focus more on Gwen's adventures and all the things she's learning while in Neverland rather than having more of the focus on what's happening on both sides of the war or if we, as the readers, get to see any both parties in one scene together fighting each other.

POSITIVES:1.) Love the originality of this retelling--The main character that this book follows is Gwen, a teenage girl who is dealing with the typical teenage girl problems: high school, prom, boys, and drama.But when she goes to Neverland, she's almost relearning how to be a kid again while having the midst of a teenage girl. 

2.) Very minimal romance--As the reader, you start off by being introduced to Gwen's life in the "real world" where she has a guy that she likes, which didn't bother me at all. And when she gets to Neverland and meets Peter, I am SO GLAD that there wasn't any insta-love or immediate romantic feelings she might be having for him and vice versa. If there is a sequel, I don't think I would mind Gwen and Peter falling in love, since Peter is aged up.

3.) As much as I like Captain Hook and Tinkerbell, I'm so glad they weren't in TNW--There are pirates and fairies in TNW, but there aren't specific characters that are an exact reinterpretation of those iconic characters from the original story, which is something I really appreciate that shows more originality. I enjoyed how there wasn't a "Captain Hook" in this book to be the main antagonist to Peter and how the book changed the antagonist to adults in the "real world." 

4.) YAASSS for mermaids!--So glad that this book had a lot of focus on mermaids instead of pirates, because Audrey did a great job of tying in their importance and how they have an impact on the plot and on Gwen especially. I love Gwen's interaction with them and her curiosity because as the reader, you're also curious about these mermaids, especially if you've watched different Peter Pan movies that don't really have too much of a focus on mermaids.

5.) The maturity--Because the story of Peter Pan typically has a much younger audience (due to the widely known Disney version of Peter Pan), the amount of maturity I've seen in movies based off of Peter Pan don't really branch out. What I mean by this is that we don't see a lot of internal character development from the main protagonist in the various Peter Pan movies (maybe in "Hook"), but with TNW, we get to see Gwen's development and internal struggles as a teenage girl in a world where people don't age.

*SPOILER SECTION*

PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!

Alright, for those of you who have read this book already (or just like reading spoilers for the fun of it), can we talk about how happy I am that there wasn't a "Captain Hook" in this book aka being the main antagonist?! *happy dances* YAS this is what I like about this retelling because sometimes books that are retellings either nails it in terms of originality but others can totally miss the mark and seem like a replica of the original tale or story. 

Again, I was hoping for more action. But I did get scared when that crocodile popped out of nowhere from the bottom of the abandoned pirate ship! Maybe if (referring to the scene where Lasiandra took Gwen underwater) there was a huge ass shark that tried to eat Gwen, that would have been a fun, heart racing scene similar to the crocodile scene. Or if there was a scene where the adults actually invaded Neverland and started wrecking the place/looked to capture Peter (but hey, that could all be in the sequel if there is one!)

Speaking of MERMAIDS, I looooved how Audrey wrote a solid portion of the book to focus on the importance of mermaids and how they live and what they can do! It was fun to read about how much they like land fruit because it makes sense that they love land fruit since they live in the water! It was also cool to read about how mermaids are like star readers/fortune tellers! When Gwen had to strip down because she didn't want to get her clothes soaking wet, Gwen had an appropriate, reasonable level of maturity for a teenage girl in that scenario. I think it's important to readers to look at that scene and get a feel for how Gwen was in that situation and how she--despite being in a land where children never grow up--acted in a grown-up, mature way that gave the book a nice touch. *claps* Well done, Audrey!

If you think about the original story of Peter Pan (or in my case, the Disney movie version), there are Native Americans in the book, and I think Audrey made a pretty good message about race and being mindful of what one calls others. In TNW, Gwen grew up being taught that calling Native Americans "redskins" was offense and racists, but when she gets to Neverland, Peter takes her to meet the "Redskins," which makes her uncomfortable and hesitant. It's totally reasonable in this day and age that people are trying to be considerate other peoples' race and what language is appropriate or not--which also circles back to maturity (which is one of the many things I appreciated in this book!). At first, Gwen was super uncomfortable and embarrassed because she thought that calling the Redskins "redskins" was offensive, but in Neverland, who's to say that calling the Redskins "Native Americans" is offensive in their magical land? But the Redskins didn't mind that Gwen was confused and trying to be considerate of them because they understand that they come from two different worlds where they were taught different things.

Ok, I don't know about you guys, but I loved the fairies in this book. Again, very very happy that there wasn't a "Tinkerbell" in this book and that there were 3 main fairies that we got to meet and love. Hollyhock, Bramble, and Dillyweed. OMG MY HEART WHEN BRAMBLE DIED UGHHH. But I loved the scene where Gwen followed Peter to the fairies home and got to say goodbye to Bramble. ALSO, I think it was super neat of Audrey to make the popular quote, "I do believe in fairies," mean goodbye, in a sense, instead of having that saying somehow bring Bramble back from the dead--it made the saying feel more meaningful and close to the heart. 

OVERALL

I really do hope that there is a sequel because the book ended in a way where you just sit there and go "wait, what just happened?" kind of feeling. If there is a sequel, I would looove to see more action scenes about the war itself since The Neverland Wars mostly shows the author's interpretation of Neverland and getting the readers to understand how this land works n Gwen's POV (instead of thinking about the typical, original Neverland that one might think of). 

All in all, I do recommend that people should read this book because it is a unique take on the classic story of Peter Pan and it would be awesome to support Audrey because if people read her books and like them + review them, then maayyybbeee she'll write a sequel? * crosses fingers* because despite my problems with it, I enjoyed the book and loved how different it was!


EDIT: omg Audrey told me that there IS going to be a sequel THANK YOU SWEET LORD AND AUDREY AND CLEAN READS PUBLISHING! *throws confetti*

Happy reading everyone!
Whitney Lauren

Monday, March 7, 2016

"The Kiss of Deception"




My rating: ★★★★★

Author: Mary E. Pearson

Series: Book #1 (The Remnant Chronicles)

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Page Count: 496 (hardcover)

Release Date: July 8th, 2014

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

Places to order:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository
Books-A-Million
IndieBound

About Mary:

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.

Website // Instagram // Twitter // Facebook // Pinterest // Tumblr // Wattpad






Synopsis:
Princess Lia is First Daughter of the House of Morrighan, a kingdom steeped in tradition, duty, and the stories of a bygone world.  She flees on her wedding day, shirking her duty, but is determined to marry for love and not to secure a political alliance.

Pursued by bounty hunters, she finds refuge in a distant village and settles into a new life, hopeful when two handsome strangers arrive.  She doesn’t know 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.

My review:

WOW.

What a hell of a novel. And a twist that left my mouth agape for a solid 10 minutes.

The Kiss of Deception is a must-read fantasy novel with a brilliant heroine, swoon-worthy romance, ancient mysteries of the past, and a plot twist I guarantee you won't see coming. Pearson has crafted this story to absolute perfection.

This is a *SPOILERY* review! (proceed with caution if you HAVE NOT read this book yet!)

When it comes to high fantasy, the first half of the book tends to have a slow pace due to the add-ins of explanations about this new world, terminology, history, characters, and other extras for us, as the readers, so that we can fully understand and dive into this world. With this book, however, there was never a dull moment (in my opinion)!

Mary did a BRILLIANT job with this novel! THAT PLOT TWIST THO.


Throughout the book, I was wondering why she didn't title the chapters with the characters names and kept switching back to say either "The Assassin" or "The Prince," BUT NOW I KNOW WHY--so that she could pull off that amazing plot twist! *internally screaming* IT. WAS. INSANE. I felt like the title was mostly to deceive us rather than Lia since I think it had more of an impact on me (hahaha).

Lia. Princess Arabella Celestine Idris Jezelia--that's one hell of a name and title. She's everything I love about a heroine: badass, selfless, feisty, and kind. She takes her life in her own hands and creates a life for herself in a strange place way from home, which does not seen easy for a princess to do. As I read through the first half of the book, it was fun to watch Lia and Pauline as nothing more than tavern maids in Terravin, where they can be free to do what they please and enjoy the lives that they have.

I love Lia's acts of selflessness, especially in the part where she killed Eben's horse (Spirit) so that he wouldn't have to do it himself. She had never killed anything in her entire life, yet she was willing and able to kill a horse without showing any fear or hesitation, all for the sake that a boy wouldn't have to.


It was also really cool to see her pick up on things fast--like learning the Venda language and out the translation of the Song of Venda (AKA figuring out she's destined to do badass things)-- but also how we get to see her kindness and continuous acts of selflessness all through the book. She fought for the life she wanted in Terravin, but came to learn her importance and duty she had to her kingdom as the First Daughter of Morrighan.

Lastly, I loved the ending when Lia finally figured out that Rafe was the Prince of Dalbreck! They both had a silent moment to themselves since he gave her hints that he was the Prince and not an emissary like what he told Kaden and the other soldiers.



But now I worry what will happen if (or should I say, "when") the people of Venda figure out that Rafe is THE Prince of Dalbreck and not the emissary. *gulps*


Mary.... DON'T DESTROY MY HEART PLEASE.

Rafe. Crown Prince Jaxon Tyrus Rafferty. HOLY CANNOLI (and HELLO HANDSOME). Oh god, was this man swoon worthy *fans self* I loved the mysterious air about him and how Mary (author) set him up for the readers to believe that he was the Assassin.... oh, how wrong we all were! I squealed so loudly when I read how he had kept THE LETTER that Lia had written to him before they were to "wed," and it made it even better when I found out that he was the Prince of Dalbreck! *collapses from feels* I definitely remember going, "HE'S THE PRINCE? OH HELL YES. YES YES YES. HOLY HELL, YES."


When that shirt came off for the log wrestling event.... *drinks a cold glass of water* HOT DAMN.


But in a small part in the back of my brain, I knew there was something off when he went shirtless, because I thought that not having a shirt could possibly reveal his identity if he had any scars (since assassins--I assume--would bear lots of scars), but when he took off his shirt, there were no scars. I guess I moved that thought aside and didn't think much about it.

In the end when he pretty much gave himself up to Kaden and the Venda soldiers, I feel like this was him:


He's basically like, "oh, no big deal or anything, but I'd like to freely hand myself, the *emissary* of the Prince of Dalbreck (only Lia knows he's the real prince), over to you so that I can be with Lia and make sure you assholes don't do anything to her." AND NOW HE'S WITH LIA AND THEY KISSED AND MADE LOVEY EYES AT EACH OTHER.

"In the farthest corner... I will find you." *dies from feels*


Kaden. He definitely reminded of Hans from Frozen movie (haha) since he was acting all nice and sweet to Lia, and then turned out to be THE ASSASSIN. *screams*


But I really did like how much he cared about Lia (unlike Hans to Anna) when they were in Terravin and how we got to see the gentle, "human" side of him. It opened up my views and perspective about him. I knew he had to act like an assassin again once his crew came to the town, so I can see how his hand was forced to finally wake up from this fantasy dream and to get back to reality. But he still acted like a jerk when he and his crew kidnapped her.

This was what was probably going on in Lia's mid when Kaden took her:


I knew he wasn't going to kill her; there was no way he could after he developed all those feelings for her and began to care for her deeply--but now it's just a matter of what the Komizar will do with her (AND MY BABY RAFE). I'm excited to see his character development in the next books to see what kind of person he'll become.

I also think that this was Kaden the whole time in his head while he was holding Lia against her will on their way to Venda--somehow still hoping she forgives him and cares about him.


And then there's Lia, who was probably like:


HAHAHA. Can't help but laugh. But we can't forget that they also kissed for a hot second...... that was an interesting scene, so I'll let that slide.

Pauline. I have a terrible feeling that we're going to see Mikael (the man she loved and father of her unborn child) show up in the next book, which will turn Pauline against Lia for lying to her--at least that's my theory. But other than that, Pauline is such an amazing friend to Lia; she betrayed her kingdom to help Lia (THE PRINCESS) flee and took her away. They have the best kind of gal-pal relationship anyone would want to have: dependable, loyal, protective, comical, and so much more.

Berdi. Oh my goodness, I love this woman. This gif below best describes her attitude:


She doesn't take crap from anyone. Even though letting Lia stay with her was a HUGE risk (which she could lose the tavern and possibly face death), she still took her in and treated her like a normal worker in her tavern instead of pampering Lia like a princess. What Berdi says goes, because she is the boss and will literally tear you down if you mess with her. Again, love this woman.

*          *          *          *          *          *

In terms about theories I have for "The Heart of Betrayal," I honestly don't have many theories except a couple outlandish ones since God only knows what Mary has planned for us: I think Rafe might betray Lia somehow (hence the title, and Kaden already deceived her badly in this book), Pauline will hate and/or get in a fight with Lia about Mikael, Lia will get back home somehow, and Lia will marry someone at the end (BUT WHO?).

Overall, I LOVED this book and can't wait to read the sequel! This book never had a dull moment or felt sluggish in the beginning, like how most fantasy series with their first book. Lia is now on my list of Top 5 female protagonists since she's a total badass, deals with all the shit thrown at her like a boss, and has stellar character development throughout this book. Can't wait to see more! I'll be going into "The Heart of Betrayal" with an open mind since with Mary, God only knows what she's going to pull out of her crazy hat filled with tricks.

Let me know if the comments your thoughts and opinions on "The Kiss of Deception"! :)

Happy reading!
Whitney Lauren