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I Belong

Review: And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich

May 29th, 2017 @ 12:01 am
Posted by Tara under Review Tags: , , , , ,

And the Trees Crept InTitle: And The Trees Crept In

Author: Dawn Kurtagich

Genre: YA Horror/Mystery

Series: N/A

Publication Date: September 6, 2016

Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages

ISBN-10: 0316298700 (Little Brown)

ISBN-13: 978-0316298704 (Little Brown)

Reviewed by: Tara


Stay away from the woods…

When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt’s home, it’s immediately clear that the manor is cursed. The endless creaking of the house at night and the eerie stillness of the woods surrounding them would be enough of a sign, but there are secrets too—questions that Silla can’t ignore: Why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer? Who is the beautiful boy who’s appeared from the woods? And who is the tall man with no eyes who Nori plays with in the basement at night… a man no one else can see?

Quick & Dirty: A chilling thriller that keeps you guessing until the very end.

Opening Sentence: Catherine, the tallest and wisest of the girls, had the idea first, but that fact would soon be forgotten.

Excerpt: No

The Review:

If you like knowing what is going on in a story, this is not the book for you. If you’re okay with not understanding and are willing to go along for the ride, you might enjoy this book. While this book is not particularly gory, it is definitely a horror book and there are some very dark and disturbing scenes. I would not recommend reading before bedtime unless you have a particularly strong constitution.

The storytelling style was very disjointed and unique, which I personally enjoyed but I know that some readers won’t. There are excerpts from seemingly random stories, handwritten notes, diary entries, and more. As for the plot, I can honestly say that I expected very little of what happened. I was constantly reevaluating my expectations. It was an absolute mind-bender but everything does start to click into place toward the end. About halfway through, I was entirely confused and disorientated. The author does a wonderful job of spinning you around until you don’t know which way is up and then piecing the story together for you.

I was never quite able to connect emotionally to Silla or Nori. However, I was constantly fascinated by them. The author also did a wonderful job of putting the reader in Silla’s head and allowing us to experience the horrors with her. The sibling relationship between the two of them was well-developed. It was interesting to see how it changed and warped over time. Their backstory is slowly revealed, which added to the suspense for me. One of my favorite things in this novel was the exploration of how emotion affects memory and perception.

There also was a love interest for Silla. When he was first introduced, I honestly thought that he was the monster (and continued to think so for most of the book). I wasn’t a huge fan of Gowan or the role he played in the novel. Given the focus on familial ties, I almost would have preferred if Nori played the role he did in the ending.

This book starts very slowly. The beginning was a bit of a slog but since it introduces important plot points, I understand why it proceeded at the pace it did. Once the author begins to introduce the horror aspect, I became a lot more interested. The ultimate resolution to the story was a bit of a let-down. I understand why the author choose to end the story that way but I still didn’t like it, which is why this book wasn’t a four-star read for me. I’d recommend this one for anyone looking for a beautifully atmospheric horror YA novel.

Notable Scene:

Staring out at the ancient boughs, all of them dripping moss, I whisper, “Nori, tell me right now. What boy?” My skin is crawling.

She wears a pout, unaware that a certain sense of darkness is growing up behind her, deep within the trees. It’s as though the day is somehow later in the wood than it is out in the field. Impossible.

Look! Her hands yell. There he is! I told you!

And someone is coming. I maneuver Nori behind me and wait, muscles tense and ready to fire. What can I do? Run? With Nori? I look around for a weapon, but the only thing of use is a fallen branch, and I don’t want to touch any part of Python Wood. I’m not even sure I know why.

Don’t be like Cath, I berate myself. But I still don’t touch the branch.

The figure gets closer, and I step back, pulling Nori with me. But then I see it’s just a boy, stalking out from between the trees, hands in his pockets. Dark hair, dark eyes. Like me.


FTC Advisory: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers provided me with a copy of And the Trees Crept In. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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Review: Beheld by Alex Flinn

May 28th, 2017 @ 12:01 am
Posted by Tara under Review Tags: , , , , ,

BeheldTitle: Beheld

Author: Alex Flinn

Genre: YA Fantasy

Series: Kendra Chronicles (Book #4)

Publication Date: January 10, 2017

Format: Hardcover, 360 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062134558 (Harper Teen)

ISBN-13: 978-0062134554 (Harper Teen)

Reviewed by: Tara


#1 New York Times bestselling YA author Alex Flinn is back with magical twists on four fairy-tale favorites, each featuring a little help from Kendra, the witch from Beastly, as she searches through cities and centuries for her lost love.

Being a powerful witch, Kendra has survived it all. Since she first beheld James over three hundred years ago, Kendra has tangled with witch hunters and wolves, helped a miller’s daughter spin straw into gold, cowered in London as German bombs fell, and lived through who knows how many shipwrecks. But her powers have limits, and immortality can be lonely. Kendra isn’t ready to stop searching for the warlock she had met centuries ago.

With the help of her magic mirror, Kendra will travel the world to reconnect with her lost love—and, of course, she can’t help but play a hand in a few more stories along the way.

Featuring retellings of favorite fairy tales such as Little Red Riding HoodRumpelstiltskinEast of the Sun and West of the Moon, and The Ugly Duckling, Alex Flinn’s latest young adult novel, Beheld, is fresh fairy-tale fun from beginning to end.

Quick & Dirty: An anthology of four fairytales retellings connected by one story arc of a search for lost love.

Opening Sentence: I know that children don’t read fairy tales anymore.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Beheld was a series of fairytale retellings that all feature Kenda, an immortal witch who is searching for her lost love. While Kendra features prominently in the first one, she slowly fades from the book as it progresses, although the stories are nominally tied together by her search for her long-lost love.

The first retelling is that of Little Red Riding Hood. This is the story that features Kendra and James’s meeting. I’m not a fan of insta-love so the fact that they fell in love so quickly was a bit of a disappointment to me. Additionally, Kendra waited two weeks for James after escaping and then spent several hundred years searching for him. These time frames seemed highly disproportionate to me and, while I recognize why they couldn’t be together for the purpose of the story, not realistic given the supposed scope of their love. Other than the romantic aspect, I somewhat enjoyed this story. Flinn took the tale of Little Red Riding Hood and melded it with the Salem Witch hunt to create an intriguing retelling that retained much of the darkness of the original.

Perhaps because the setting in the Rumplestiltskin retelling was similar to the original, it didn’t feel as original. The message the author was attempting to convey came through clearly but it felt too short and underdeveloped for me to truly enjoy it. Even though this one was one of the shortest ones, it took me the longest to read. The third retelling also suffered from being underdeveloped. This one was perhaps the biggest disappointment since I loved the set-up. Placing East of the Sun and West of the Moon in World War II England had such potential. However, the characters weren’t developed enough and the pacing was too fast. Had this one been longer, it would have easily been the best in the book.

The last short story takes up almost a third of the book. After the large role magic played in the first three, this one felt more like a contemporary novel than a fairytale retelling. There is only one instance where Kendra uses magic (or appears at all really) and it is over in just a few short lines. However, this was my favorite short story. It’s a unique retelling of The Ugly Duckling. It was interesting seeing Topher and Amanda grow up together and how their relationship changed over time. This tale was definitely adorable, but it didn’t quite fit in with the darker tone of the other stories.

If you’ve enjoyed Alex Flinn’s previous books and liked Kendra as a character, you will probably enjoy Beheld. However, it doesn’t quite deliver on the promise of an overarching arc involving Kendra and James, since their story never comes to the forefront. The stories were of extremely variable quality and I wasn’t quite able to connect with any of the characters.

Notable Scene:

He kissed me.

Finally, he stopped.

“I have been wanting to do that since I first laid eyes upon you.”

I laughed. “Why?”

“You are lovely. Is that not reason enough?”

I shook my head, no, for I knew there was more, and I wanted to hear it.

“No, then. I wanted to kiss you for we are the same. We are alike, clever and full of mischief, and have been through the same things and will be through the same experiences. We have both lost everything yet lived on. And on. And because you are beautiful.”

“Better.” I struggled to my feet. I wanted him to kiss me again, but it was probably not fitting to allow him to kiss me on the ground, especially in those deserted woods.

He pulled me toward him. “But you must leave Salem, Kendra.”

Kendra Chronicles:

1. Beastly

2. Bewitching

3. Mirrored

4. Beheld


FTC Advisory: HarperTeen provided me with a copy of Beheld. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Empire of Dust by Eleanor Herman

May 27th, 2017 @ 12:01 am
Posted by Tara under Review Tags: , , , , , ,

Empire of DustTitle: Empire of Dust

Author: Eleanor Herman

Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Series: Blood of Gods and Royals (Book #2)

Publication Date: June 28, 2016

Format: Hardcover, 384 pages

ISBN-10: 0373211929 (Harlequin Teen)

ISBN-13: 9780373211920 (Harlequin Teen)

Reviewed by: Tara


In Macedon, war rises like smoke, forbidden romance blooms and ancient magic tempered with rage threatens to turn an empire to dust.

After winning his first battle, Prince Alexander fights to become the ruler his kingdom demands—but the line between leader and tyrant blurs with each new threat.

Meanwhile, Hephaestion, cast aside by Alexander for killing the wrong man, must conceal the devastating secret of a divine prophecy from Katerina even as the two of them are thrust together on a dangerous mission to Egypt.

The warrior, Jacob, determined to forget his first love, vows to eradicate the ancient Blood Magics and believes that royal prisoner Cynane holds the key to Macedon’s undoing.

And in chains, the Persian princess Zofia still longs to find the Spirit Eaters, but first must grapple with the secrets of her handsome—and deadly—captor.

Quick & Dirty: A quick and easy historical fiction sequel full of action, adventure, and magic.

Opening Sentence: Leaves rustling. Branches creaking. The tinkle of tiny bells and cymbals creeps toward her on the wind.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

After reading Legacy of Kings, I was excited to see where the author would take the story in Empire of Dust. She did not disappoint in this sequel. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is one of the rare sequels that is better than the first book. After beginning with a killer scene, the action continues non-stop throughout the book. However, Herman manages to also focus on the emotional development of her characters, a careful balancing act that she accomplishes well.

This book was a wild, crazy ride and I enjoyed every second. While the characters were mostly clustered in one location in Legacy of Kings, this book sees many of them off on adventures to new places. My favorite storyline was still that of Kat and Heph, I adored watching their interactions, particularly as their feelings toward each other grow and change throughout the novel. Heph still sometimes does or says some unfortunate things but he does experience a lot of character growth in this book. One of my favorite things was how he described his changing feelings for Kat, mentioning that it was her spirit, intelligence, and beauty that he was attracted to. The author creates a multi-dimensional, fluid relationship between the two of them that is quite believable. Kat remains my favorite character and some of her lines made me laugh out loud.

Both Jacob and Alexander had interesting plot lines but neither of them was a particularly likeable character in this installment. They both grow as characters but leave an ever-increasing body count behind them. Toward the end of the book, Alex begins to see the error of his ways and makes a choice about the type of leader he wants to be. As for Zo, I’m honestly not entirely sure why her story is included yet. Her storyline consists mostly of riding around, looking for the Pegasus, and finding her captor attractive. Had she been more of a multi-dimensional character, I might have enjoyed her storyline more. I also would have liked a little bit more depth to Cyn, although I have hopes for her in future books. As with the first book, Olympia was such a deliciously immoral character; her scenes are usually semi-shocking but always interesting.

While the plot was fast-paced and entertaining, the world building could have been a bit better. Much of the history was conveyed through info dumps, rather than spread out and woven into the plot. I did like the magic system, but would have liked more information about it. There were some unexpected plot twists through the book that kept my interest. The switching between characters was smoother than the last book but would still often occur in the middle of a scene.

Empire of Dust was a quick and easy read full of action, adventure, and magic. I’m already looking forward to reading book three and finding out what happens next.

Notable Scene:

Jacob hears a boot kicking gravel. “I regret, High Lord, that I cannot say at the moment. But I swear I will find the last god, in whatever form he takes, and bring him to the Lords.”

“If you do, you will be the best of the Aesarians,” comes the resonant voice. “Rest assured, your name will be inscribed at Nekrana. Never before have we…” Gideon’s voice fades as the two men leave the courtyard. Jacob peers around the column at their retreating forms and sees no way of following them without being seen. Questions churn in his mind like a river in spring flood. What does it mean, the last god? The gods are asleep—they have not come in contact with men for hundreds of years now. Is Bastian trying to waken them? Why was he on a secret mission? But another thought grows larger and larger until it pushes all others from his mind: the best of the Aesarians. High Lord Gideon said find Riel and become the best.

Blood of Gods and Royals Series:

0.5 Voice of Gods

0.6 Queen of Ashes

1. Legacy of Kings

2. Empire of Dust

3. Reign of Serpents (June 27, 2017)


FTC Advisory: Harlequin Teen provided me with a copy of Empire of Dust. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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Review: Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman

May 26th, 2017 @ 12:01 am
Posted by Tara under Review Tags: , , , , , ,

Legacy of KingsTitle: Legacy of Kings

Author: Eleanor Herman

Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Series: Blood of Gods and Royals (Book #1)

Publication Date: August 18, 2015

Format: Hardcover, 428 Pages

ISBN-10: 0373211724 (Harlequin Teen)

ISBN-13: 978-0373211722 (Harlequin Teen)

Reviewed by: Tara

Synopsis: Imagine a time when the gods turn a blind eye to the agony of men, when the last of the hellions roam the plains and evil stirs beyond the edges of the map. A time when cities burn, and in their ashes, empires rise.

Alexander, Macedonia’s sixteen-year-old heir, is on the brink of discovering his fated role in conquering the known world but finds himself drawn to a newcomer…

Katerina must navigate the dark secrets of court life while hiding her own mission: kill the Queen. But she doesn’t account for her first love…

Jacob will go to unthinkable lengths to win Katerina, even if it means having to compete for her heart with Hephaestion, a murderer sheltered by the prince.

And far across the sea, Zofia, a Persian princess and Alexander’s unmet betrothed, wants to alter her destiny by seeking the famed and deadly Spirit Eaters.

Weaving fantasy with the shocking details of real history, New York Times bestselling author of Sex with Kings Eleanor Herman reimagines the greatest emperor the world has ever known, Alexander the Great, in the first book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.

Quick & Dirty: The story of Alexander the Great’s rise to power with a young adult fantasy twist.

Opening Sentence: Katerina races across the meadow, scanning for any roots or rocks in her way.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Legacy of Kings was a solid start to a very promising series. Eleanor Herman takes the broad outlines of Alexander the Great’s life and weaves an entirely new story filled with magic from them. Many of the characters from the real Alexander’s life make appearances and the author creates some wonderful new ones. I ended up really enjoying this one and I’m intrigued to see where the story goes next.

The book does start off rather slowly. However, the events at the beginning shape what happens throughout the story, sometimes in unexpected ways. The author lays the groundwork very well for the reader to understand both the world and all the characters. Luckily, the pace picks up about halfway through and I ended up flying through the rest of the story. As a fan of Greek myths and history, I enjoyed seeing how the author brought the world to life, she wove in the magical aspects very well. Sometimes the magic system was a little jarring since I was expecting more of classical Greek mythology but I ended up enjoying that she created something entire new.

Part of why it took me so long to really begin enjoying the book was the multitude of different points of view. The story follows six different main characters and constantly is switching between them. The switches sometimes would even happen in the middle of a scene, which was a little jarring. Since the story is told in third person omniscient, the switches weren’t as jarring as they could have been. Zo’s storyline is the only one that takes place in another location so the switches to her always took me a few pages to get used to and to remember what happened to her previously.

Over time, I did end up falling in love with most of the characters. Olympia and Cynane are two that I still have mixed feelings on but I always looked forward to their scenes because of how entertaining (and deliciously sneaky) they were. I really enjoyed seeing how the relationships between the various characters developed and shifted over the course of the book. Kat’s encounters with Hephaestion usually involved verbal sparring and entertaining dialogue. The friendship between Heph and Alex was believable and the challenges they faced understandable, even if some parts were slightly heartbreaking to watch. One benefit of the multiple POVs is that the reader did have more insight into situation than the characters, which worked well in this book. In some cases, like Cyn’s interference with Heph and Alex, it made me feel a lot more emotionally invested in the characters.

The passage of time in this book was often quite confusing. Events, like Kat’s trip to Halicarnassus or her stay at the palace, would appear to take place over weeks but then characters would mention that it had only been days. This is a small point and it might just be me but I think the story could have been improved by expanding the timeframe and not cramming the events into a short period of time.

While this book did have some minor flaws, it was overall a very solid start to a promising series. Now that much of the groundwork has been laid, I am very intrigued to see what the next installment in this series brings.

Notable Scene:

Furious now, the guards throw themselves on her, driving the breath from her chest. Her face is pressed into the hard ground as the men hold her down. At the lightless, airless bottom of a heap of armor and sweaty, hairy flesh, Kat wonders if they will break her bones or, worse, smother her to death in a muggy fog of fermented body odor. But then she hears a voice cutting clear and cool through the soldiers’ grunts.

“What’s going on here?” It is a young man’s voice and, oddly, one that seems both comforting and familiar.

The weighty load on top of her removes itself. Gulping in fresh air, Kat pushes herself to her feet and sees her rescuer on a beautiful black stallion. He’s muscular yet slender, dressed all in royal purple. A gold crown sits atop his strikingly light hair. If anything, he’s just as handsome as the other man, but his unusual eyes—one brown, one pale blue—make him seem otherworldly.

And yet familiar. She’s heard of the boy with such eyes. Everyone has.

It’s Prince Alexander.

Blood of Gods and Royals Series:

0.5 Voice of Gods

0.6 Queen of Ashes

1. Legacy of Kings

2. Empire of Dust

3. Reign of Serpents (June 27, 2017)


FTC Advisory: Harlequin Teen provided me with a copy of Legacy of Kings. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

May 25th, 2017 @ 12:01 am
Posted by Tara under Review Tags: , , , , , ,

Gilded CageTitle: Gilded Cage

Author: Vic James

Genre: YA Fantasy

Series: Dark Gifts (Book #1)

Publication Date: February 14, 2017

FormatHardcover, 368 pages

ISBN-10: 0425284158 (Del Rey/Random House)

ISBN-13: 9780425284155 (Del Rey/Random House)

Reviewed by: Tara


Not all are free. Not all are equal. Not all will be saved.

Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

Quick & Dirty: A commoner family is caught up in the magical aristocracy’s game of power.

Opening Sentence: “She heard the motorbike first, then the galloping horse—two distant points of noise in the darkness, converging on her as she ran.”

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Gilded Cage is the first book in a new fantasy trilogy by Vic James. This was a very quick read. The story felt somewhat familiar but I enjoyed it. Set in a dystopian world, society is divided between the aristocracy (the Skilled) and the commoners (those who lack magic). In England, the commoners live in a modern world until its time for their slavedays, a ten-year period in which they leave their life behind and work for the Skilled. Most are sent to the factories, industrial labor camps that leave you a shadow of your former self. A lucky few are chosen as servants on the estates of the Skilled families. The juxtaposition between the two worlds is stark and helped me understand the society from the beginning.

Gilded Cage begins with the Hadley family preparing to serve their slavedays. Abi, the very intelligent and organized daughter, has gotten them a cushy job as servants at Kyneston Estate, the familial home of one of the ruling Skilled families. However, her brother Luke is deemed surplus and sent to Millmoor, one of the factory towns, instead. I appreciated having both Abi and Luke’s POV in the story, they enhanced the story by exposing the reader to more of the world. There were some additional POVs that were used for parts of the story, like meetings of the Skilled aristocracy, that neither of these characters could be present for due to their status. I appreciated these because they helped me understand the politics of the world but the shifts were sometimes distracting.

I was never quite able to connect with Abi, although I liked most of the scenes at Kyneston. I didn’t get a good idea of her character and the instalove she experienced was a little off-putting. I was never able to quite understand the attraction between the two of them. I did love the relationship that developed between Daisy, Libby, and Gavar though. I can’t wait to see how those three characters develop in the next book, although I do hope to see more of Libby. Luke’s storyline was the one that I connected to the most. I’m very intrigued by some of the characters he worked with and how they’ll play into future installments in the series. Silyen was my favorite character – he was sneaky, conniving, and power hungry. I got some major Moriarty vibes from him. Although he was technically one of the main characters in this book, he flitted around the edges of the plot, emerging only at key points. I’m very intrigued by Silyen and would continue the series solely for him (luckily there are many other reasons to continue as well).

The characters in this book were well developed, I was surprised at how multi-dimensional even the side characters were. Many of the characters are neither good nor evil but exist in the grey area, which is so much more interesting. Politics do play a large role in this novel so I would recommend it if you enjoy schemes and Game of Throne-esque power plays (the young adult version, nothing quite so graphic as the original). The plot had good pacing, I was constantly engaged and curious about what would happen next. The author did an excellent job of maintaining an air of mystery, even with the multitude of POVs. Each chapter served to answer a previous question but also raised another, slowly peeling back the layers of the intricate game Vic James has created.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting book two from the moment I turned the last page. While Gilded Cage could have been stronger in some areas, this was an overall very enjoyable series debut. There were so many pieces in play at the end of book one, I can’t wait to see where the author takes the story next in book two.

Notable Scene:

“Who do you think you are, Mr. Kessler? You can’t just assault people.”

“How right you are, young lady.” Kessler’s lips drew back across a wide, teeth-filled grin. “But I’m afraid that as of 11 A.M.”—he checked his watch ostentatiously, rotating his wrist outward so they could all see the dial, which showed 11:07—“you all began your slavedays and entered a state of legal non-personhood. You are now chattels of the state. To explain for the little one here,” he said, looking at Daisy, “that means that you are no longer ‘people’ and have no rights at all. At. All.”

Dark Gifts Series:

1. Gilded Cage

2. Tarnished City (September 5, 2017)

3. Bright Ruin


FTC Advisory: Del Rey/Penguin Random House provided me with a copy of Gilded Cage. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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