Friday, August 29, 2014

Review: Take Me On by Katie McGarry


Take Me On by Katie McGarry
Book Four of the Pushing the Limits series
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

Acclaimed author Katie McGarry returns with the knockout new story of two high school seniors who are about to learn what winning really means.

Champion kickboxer Haley swore she'd never set foot in the ring again after one tragic night. But then the guy she can't stop thinking about accepts a mixed martial arts fight in her honor. Suddenly, Haley has to train West Young. All attitude, West is everything Haley promised herself she'd stay away from. Yet he won't last five seconds in the ring without her help.

West is keeping a big secret from Haley. About who he really is. But helping her-fighting for her-is a shot at redemption. Especially since it's his fault his family is falling apart. He can't change the past, but maybe he can change Haley's future.

Hayley and West have agreed to keep their relationship strictly in the ring. But as an unexpected bond forms between them and attraction mocks their best intentions, they'll face their darkest fears and discover love is worth fighting for.

What I Liked:

This companion series and I have a love-hate relationship. Well, not exactly "hate" - I haven't rated any of the four books under three stars. Book one got five stars, book two got four, book three got three... and book four gets four stars. I haven't read the novellas (I'm very meh about novellas). Overall, this book had a lot of elements that I loved in the other books, minus a lot that I didn't love, plus a few that are new that I didn't like... but this is my second favorite book of the series, for sure.

West meets Haley when she jumps in front of his car, trying to get away from her drugged-up ex-boyfriend's brother. She was carrying her dad's prescription meds home, and they jumped her for them. And probably for more, given the past. But West is in just as deep as Haley, because West defended her that night, and effectively got himself a match against the ex-boyfriend's brother. Note about the ex-boyfriend (Matt): he's a boxer fighter thing, and he's part of Black Fire, along with his cronies and brother and whatnot. Haley's brother and cousin is of the rival team... and Haley used to be too, until she dated Matt. But Haley's not the only one with problems: West's sister in the hospital, West's dad kicks him out of the house, and West has a huge mess to deal with, in terms of the big fight in two months. Is it all worth it?

I didn't think I would like any males of this series more than I like Ryan... well, West and Ryan are now tied. I liked Isaiah, right up until he got his own book. I like Noah, but I like West and Ryan. I guess I like my refined bad boys, and not the actual "bad" bad boys. West isn't good though - he gets into fights and gets expelled from his rich-boy prep school and has a temper and too much pride to ask his father to let him move back in. Sleeping in his car, it is! Such pride, what a male ego.

No but seriously, I really like West. I think I understand him, even if I can't completely relate to him. He sounds like someone I know (here we go), except the guy I know gets along really well with his parents. Too well, I find. Good for him. Back to West. West is a golden boy fallen angel cat-ate-the-canary sexy and sweet and honest and devilish and flirtatious PHEW DID YOU GET ALL OF THAT. I like West.

I think I like Haley too! I struggled with Beth and Rachel, but I really liked Echo, and I like Haley. Haley isn't too bad a character, even if she is totally messed up and scared and a bit wimpy, in my opinion. She learns, she grows, her character development. It's all good. The same can be said for West, though I like him more than I like Haley, by a lot.

I love the romance, honestly. I couldn't necessarily say that about book three, but I enjoyed the romances in book one, and mostly, in book two. This romance was a bit easier to follow, less constrained by doubts on the female protagonist's part, and with more boldness on the male protagonist's part. Go West!

I like how crazy this book gets, without getting too crazy. In book three, the craziness felt like too much. All the drag-racing and threats and whatnot... it felt like too much, and definitely NOT easy to relate to. Even in books one and three, and this book, the content isn't easy to relate to, meaning the story, the plot, the nature of the story. Most people I know (and I know A LOT of teenagers and young adults) don't drag-race or sell hardcore drugs (though this is debatable) or fight (as in boxing) or fight (as in fistfights) or so on. But that doesn't make the stories enjoyable. For the most part. Back to the crazies - the climax of this book isn't super hyped up towards the fight - THANK GOODNESS. Not everything is high stakes fighting in this book, which is totally fine with me.

I love that college is such a huge part of each of these books, especially this one. My respect grudgingly went up several notches for Haley, because she is determined to put herself through college and pay for it herself or earn it herself (via merit or skill). I'm the same way. I refuse to let my parents pay for me to go to Johns Hopkins. Granted, Haley will NOT be attending such an expensive university. But given her circumstances, I'm proud of her. She's got the fighting skills for athletic scholarships, which is great.

Overall, I liked this one. After the disappointment that was Crash Into You (although I still gave it three stars), I was not entirely thrilled to read this one. BUT WEST. I liked West from the start. So many issues are tackled in this book, and I love how important relationships are, like brother-sister (Rachel/West, Kaden/Jax/Haley), father-son (West/Dad), and the good old couple (West/Haley). I'm very pleased with the development of relationships in this book! And with the book overall.

What I Did Not Like:

Like I said above, it's hard to relate to these characters and their situations. I'm not exposed to abuse, drugs, alcohol, violence, gambling, promiscuity, etc. - mostly because I don't put myself in situations to be exposed to these aspects of life. So, personally, I can't relate to people like Isaiah or Beth or Abby or Haley. Doesn't mean I can't like them or sympathize, but I can't put myself in their shoes. I would never be in their shoes, to begin with.

I wasn't Haley's biggest fan throughout the novel, though I understood her. I believe she hides and shuts down and runs away and it's such b.s., but I get it, more so with her than with Beth or Rachel or any of the other McGarry heroines. Not saying that I like this trope. Not every teenage girl handles problems like that.

Would I Recommend It:

If you've read any of the books in this series, it's totally worth it to read this one. And honestly, if you're like me, and thought that the series was on its way to a terrible slump, don't be afraid to read Take Me On! You should read book three though (as not-so-impressive as it was), because West and company are introduced in that book. Not in books one or two.

Rating: 

4 stars - a solid 4 stars. I'm glad I gave this one a shot, despite the slump in the series, after Pushing the Limits! I'm curious about McGarry's next contemporary books - so much contemporary. Be warned - McGarry's contemporary novels are NOT just romance-based. Romance, yes, but tough issues and a lot of highly flawed characters!


Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

It All Ends Today.

Cue the noisy sobbing and grab the popcorn, because we're in for quite a post! Don't worry, it's not what you think. 

Today is my first day of sophomore year at Johns Hopkins.

And to be honest, for the first time ever, I really, really don't want to go to school. I mean, every person, as a kid or teen or young adult doesn't necessary WANT to go to school - the early mornings, the homework, the time-consuming classes... don't get me wrong, I'm a true nerd, I love learning and really enjoy the content of classes I take. But for the first time, I just DON'T want to go back. I dread starting classes.

I'm the type of person that never stops. I dedicate myself to whatever I put my mind to, and I put my 100% in. All the effort I can give, and then some. That is what has happened my entire life - but it was different when I went through freshman year (at Hopkins). 

Freshman year, I gave 200%. I was the student who started studying for midterms (like, REALLY studying) weeks before the midterm. I was constantly at professors' and TAs' office hours, and I always did my homework ahead of time. Yet, being ahead never meant that I stopped working. It just meant that I finished early, so I could start the next thing early. And it certainly paid off - my GPA is excellent, especially for an engineering student at Johns Hopkins. But clubs, organizations, club sports, a highly active blog, and a great social life, and basically...

I burned out over freshman year. But I still haven't stopped working.

I worked all summer. I took five credits of summer classes at Hopkins, from May 27th to June 27th. Then on June 30th, I started working - full-time. 40 hours a week, plus a 30-60-minute commute each way (traffic sucks). Still managed to do a post a day on my blog. Still managed to hang out with my friends here at home, and the ones staying at Hopkins over the summer. But... I never got the break I *needed*, from freshman year.

It wasn't any one thing that got to me - each "thing", be it the academics, the sports, the blog, the clubs/organizations, the social life, I could handle, no problem. But the combination of everything got to me at times, for sure. It's weird to say that finals week was actually one of the most relaxing couple of weeks while university was still in session, because, no classes, no organizations/clubs, and good excuses for not hanging out with friends or going to the gym or attending practice. Ha.

So here I am, entering sophomore year. Don't get me wrong, I am so ready to work. I need to be busy, to be working, to have thirty things to do. I'm a great multitasker, and I love being busy. Pressure keeps me focused, instead of stressing me out. But it's really said when you dread going back to class but feel a small amount of relief at being able to wake up a few hours later because you don't have to commute anywhere.

Anyway. So what does this boil down to? In the end, I'm not changing too much in my routine, for now. I'm still going to have a post up every day. In October/November, I'll be launching a new meme (hopefully), and that will decrease my reviews per week from four to three. I NEED THIS.

In terms of school, I'm doing seventeen credits, plus ten hours of work (at the same office I worked at over the summer), plus the same clubs, organizations, sports, and social life (hopefully LOL). Something might have to give, and that will definitely be the blog first, if anything. Right now, I've got a good hold on things... of course, classes start TODAY, so I haven't actually tested out my plans. Consider September a trial run of all things new. I'll definitely post something similar to this post if I need to let you all know anything about a hiatus or decrease in posts or so on. 


In the meantime... wanna see what projects I accomplished over the summer? :D

- Took an advanced physics course and lab in four weeks - and got a 4.0!

- Worked 38-40 hours a week on campus.

- Cleaned out and organized my Hopkins email account: this hadn't been cleaned out since I opened the account, in May 2013!

- Added links to all of my reviews on Goodreads: any review on Goodreads that was originally posted on my blog now has a blog review link embedded in my Goodreads review. Yay!

- Cleared out my Bloglovin blogs: okay, I'm "following" many blogs via Bloglovin, but I'm not visiting a good number of them. So, I weeded through the ones I'm genuinely interested in, and the ones that I probably just followed for giveaways or that stopped blogging.

- Cleared out my GFC blogs: this one took FOREVER, because what I was going through was nearly 300 blogs that simply are not active anymore. So, I said goodbye to about 300 GFC blogs.

- Edited my visible tags: this was already good to go, I just hide a couple that were too specific for anyone to actually care to use.

- Got about a week and a half in scheduled reviews and posts


Most of the blog/book-related things were done at work :D When there was downtime, I would take a few hours and simply edit something, like all of my Goodreads reviews (adding the links), or clearing out thousands of emails in my Hopkins email account. This downtime started getting scarce in August, when things started picking up (remember, I work on campus, in an office that concerns students).

So. That's been my life. What exactly is ending today? My summer "vacation", my working full-time, my sanity, possibly? We'll see. I'm not looking for anyone's sympathy, or pity, or anything. Trust me, this post was more for me than it was for you.

In the end (of this post, that is), I want to thank all of you for supporting me, my blog, reading in general, publishers, authors, and so on. Especially for what you do for me - I see every Facebook/Goodreads/blog comment, tweet, message, email, pageview, and I appreciate everything. There would be no blog success without people liking my blog, and every and any little thing you do is so very appreciated. I love you all <3

Swoon Thursday (#83): Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios

Swoon Thursday is a hot meme hosted by the fabulous ladies at YA Bound!


- From the book you’re currently reading, or one you just finished, tell us what made you SWOON. What got your heart pounding, your skin tingling, and your stomach fluttering

- Try to make the swoon excerpt 140 characters (or less), if you are going to tweet about it. Use the hashtag #YABOUND when tweeting


This week, my swoon is from Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios!


Swoon #1

Lightning flashed outside, bright and hot. They moved at the same time, his mouth meeting hers, hungry and gentle and warm. His chiaan [energy] poured into her, faster than before, and it fused with her own, twining through Nalia. She tried to resist it, didn't want to be this close to Raif, to be distracted from what she knew she had to do -

Raif leaned against the table next to them and pulled her closer, his kiss deepening until she didn't know what was her and what was him. The kiss lasted forever, and no time at all. It was the first experience Nalia had of feeling safe, truly safe, and for a while it didn't matter that this might be the last beautiful moment of her short life.

Swoon #2

He smiled and took one of her hands between his own. "What you're trying to do right now - it's not working. You want to know why?"

Nalia trembled, but she threw her shoulders back, lifted her chin. She tried to infuse her voice with the regal disdain the empress had perfected. "Why?"

"Because I know you. I can feel you inside me right now. And what I feel is good and brave and fierce and f***ing beautiful. And you don't care at all about the throne or power. Zanari told me about your brother, so don't even pretend that you care about your brother, so don't even pretend that you care about anything more than saving him. And if you want me to kiss your feet, don't worry, because I intend on kissing every inch of you the first chance I get, so if you want me to start with your feet I'm more than happy to, My Empress."

- ARC, page 350, pages 352-353





LOVEEEEEEEE. LOVE THIS BOOK. The bold part above? SO MUCH LOVEEEEEE. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Blog Tour Excerpt and Giveaway: The Jewel by Amy Ewing


Welcome to the blog tour for The  Jewel! Pretty, isn't it? Check out an excerpt of this book, and enter to win!



The Jewel by Amy Ewing
Book One of The Lone City series
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: September 2, 2014

Official Summary:

 The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence... and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.



About the Author:


Amy Ewing is the young adult author of THE JEWEL, the first in a trilogy from HarperTeen, coming out September 2014.

She grew up in a small town outside Boston, where her librarian mother instilled a deep love of reading at a young age. Amy moved to New York City in 2000 to study theater at New York University. Unfortunately, her acting career didn’t quite pan out. She worked in restaurants, as an administrative assistant, a nanny, and a sales representative for a wine distributor before the lack of creativity in her life drove her to begin writing.

Amy received her MFA in Creative Writing for Children from The New School, where she was lucky enough to meet a fabulous community of YA writers who keep her sane on a daily basis. She lives in Harlem, where she spends her days writing, eating cheese, and occasionally binge watching The Vampire Diaries.



The Excerpt:



The Trailer:


The Giveaway:



Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing


The Jewel by Amy Ewing
Book One of The Lone City series
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Rating: 2 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence... and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

What I Liked:

Wheee, not a fan of this book. Like, at all. Okay there were some positive aspects to this book. But I honestly don't see the appeal. The subject matter is pretty original, but I didn't like it at all. I'm talking about the surrogacy thing. Anyway. Let me get there.

Violet is one of two hundred girls that gets culled out of the rest of the teenage girls to be Auctioned to royalty women who need surrogates to bear them children. Royalty are sterilized upon marriage, and anyway, they are the best and brightest 200 girls to have their kids. #200 is the most talented in the Auguries (think, superpower abilities). Violet is #197. The Duchess of the Lake buys her, for quite a pretty penny. The Duchess is determined for Violet to have her a daughter, who will eventually marry the newborn son of the Electress (wife of the Exetor, who I guess is like the King). The Duchess will kill other royalty's surrogates so the surrogates can't have children to marry the Exetor heir. But who says Violet wants any part of this?

I struggled with this one, in terms of content and story, but after about 50% of the book, I was slightly interested... I at least wanted to see how things ended. In general though, this book could not hold my interest. I was kind of hoping that there would be some serious deaths or something, ANYTHING to make this one remotely interesting, but eh. See the next section for more specifics.

I will say that the subject matter is pretty original, ish. It's a fantasy world, where there is a poor class, working class, middle class, and royalty. THAT'S not original, but the surrogates thing is, I suppose. I was intrigued at first, even though I was a little bored, but then I was disappointed and uninterested. More below!

What I Did Not Like:

Let me start with the general feel of this book - I was so bored. I got about thirty pages in and wanted to fall asleep. Not even joking. Then I tried to keep reading, got about a hundred pages in, and still couldn't get into the story. I'm not sure if I ever was truly interested in this one - maybe when Violet started seeing the doctor, or getting the idea of escape. I don't know. But I was never truly interested or invested in the story.

I don't like Violet. I don't like how she thinks, how she reacts to things (or doesn't), how she doesn't think things through. She also has zero concept of self-preservation - I would honestly rather DIE than give up my body like that. Is that so inconceivable? I would never give up my womb unwillingly, for anyone. Before the doctor's visits, I would have tried to escape many times. Violet did nothing. 

And how perfect was it for Lucien, the guy who did her outfit and makeup and whatnot before the Auction, to be in service of another royal member, and sees Violet pretty often? How convenient that he wants to help her, to break her out? How convenient that he just happens to be an inventor of things, that she can trust him completely, that he doesn't have nefarious, twisted plans? Sure, sure, totally makes sense...

Ash is the love interest in this book - should I say the PRIMARY love interest? I can see a love triangle, or maybe even pyramid, coming from this series. I mentioned Ash, Lucien, oh, don't forget the Duchess's nineteen-year-old failure of a son, Garnet. There is something up with him. You'll see what I mean (if you for some reason decide to read this book). He's hiding something, obviously. 

Anyway. Ash. Can you say TOO PERFECT?! Meaning, he knows just the right things to say, he can't stop thinking about her, he's a walking cliche... I don't like him. He's very one-dimensional, I didn't connect with him, and I don't see the appeal. I don't know who he is, what he's like, and I don't care. I just don't care about him.

The romance is INSTA-LOVE, at its finest. Maybe that's what the author is going for? I don't know. But it was rushed and blurred, like infatuation. But Violet is convinced that she loves him, and he her. I can understand that Violet believes she loves him (she's a virgin, kept away from boys, not allowed to date, etc.). But him? No, I don't believe that he sees her and it's all over and he loves her like that so quickly. That's so fake. The romance is so fake and insta-love-y and disgusting, honestly. How quickly do they decide to have sex? Despite the obvious danger and insane situation? You can't just have sex, when you're a surrogate?!

I didn't find the story all that interesting. I HATE the idea behind this book. The surrogacy thing? I get it, it's the author's world, her world-building, whatever. But I HATE it. Writing a world in which every single girl is forced to get tested for Augury abilities (it's magic, basically) and whatnot, so her womb can be auctioned to the highest bidder? The girl is knocked out and the doctor artificial inseminates the egg or sperm or whatever (they never actually say if it's a fertilized egg, or the Duchess's husband's sperm, or what)? Disgusting. Horrible. I. DON'T. WANT. TO. READ. ABOUT. THAT. EVER. If that's your idea of a pleasure read, good for you. I think it's disgusting and demeaning and demoralizing and messed up (would have used harsher language here). Not about that life.

Yeah, I wasn't a fan of this one, in general. It wasn't just one thing that I didn't like. This book was a full package of not-so-great. If you like The Selection series, you might enjoy this series though! *barfs*

Would I Recommend It:

No. Not at all. You'll be bored to tears, or rage like a bear, or really want some cinnamon sticky buns. I'm curious about the next book, because of the brutal cliffhanger in this book, but I don't think I could put myself through that. We'll see. But basically, I don't recommend this book. If you were on the fence, get on the hell-no side of the fence and keep going with your life.

Rating:

1.5 stars -> rounded up to 2 stars. There is an infinitesimal chance that I might read the second book... it has to drop out of the sky and into my lap for me to read it. If you know what I mean.


Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

Waiting on Wednesday (#87): Woven by Michael Jensen and David Powers King


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.


This week, I'm featuring:


Woven by Michael Jensen and David Powers King
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: January 27, 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

Two unlikely allies must journey across a kingdom in the hopes of thwarting death itself.

All his life, Nels has wanted to be a knight of the kingdom of Avërand. Tall and strong, and with a knack for helping those in need, the people of his sleepy little village have even taken to calling him the Knight of Cobblestown.

But that was before Nels died, murdered outside his home by a mysterious figure.

Now the young hero has awoken as a ghost, invisible to all around him save one person—his only hope for understanding what happened to him—the kingdom’s heir, Princess Tyra. At first the spoiled royal wants nothing to do with Nels, but as the mystery of his death unravels, the two find themselves linked by a secret, and an enemy who could be hiding behind any face.

Nels and Tyra have no choice but to abscond from the castle, charting a hidden world of tangled magic and forlorn phantoms. They must seek out an ancient needle with the power to mend what has been torn, and they have to move fast. Because soon Nels will disappear forever.



YA fantasy! That's all I needed to see/read. Plus, the cover is pretty awesome!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Review: Winterspell by Claire Legrand


Winterspell by Claire Legrand
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Rating: 2 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (from Goodreads):

The clock chimes midnight, a curse breaks, and a girl meets a prince . . . but what follows is not all sweetness and sugarplums.

New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor's ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother's murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.

Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.

Her home is destroyed, her father abducted--by beings distinctly not human. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they're to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets--and a need she can't define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won't leave Cane unscathed--if she leaves at all.

Inspired by The Nutcracker, Winterspell is a dark, timeless fairy tale about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear.

What I Liked:

Umm, I didn't know this was a "The Nutcracker" retelling. Well, the synopsis does say that it is "inspired" by "The Nutcracker", but still. I'm not entirely sure I saw the influences. Or maybe it's just been that long since I've watched "The Nutcracker". Anyway. I agree about "dark" and maybe "fairy tale", but ehhh about "timeless". Just saying.

Clara's mother was murdered. Clara's father has basically gone mad. Clara's godfather has been training her in defense and knives and fighting, all the while obsessing over something else. Clara has been struggling not to recoil when a Dr. Victor touches her, leers at her, threatens to basically take her innocence... all the while, Concordia is falling to corruption, especially with Clara's father (the mayor) not doing much. One night, everything basically goes to s*** and Clara finds herself with her godfather who is not human, the statue who is now a flesh-and-blood "human" not-human who is a prince... and a missing father. She must bring her father back before Dr. Victor and a politician destroy her life - but to do so, she must travel with Nicholas, the prince, to Cane, the magical land from where the prince is. Where the evil half-faery, half-human queen resides.

The plot, overall, was good! The beginning was very slow (I'll get to that later), so I honestly just kept flipping and skimming pages at one point. Things really don't start to get interesting until like, 20% in, or whenever the "loks" show up (not entirely sure what they are). Then Clara meets Nicholas, finds out that her father was taken, and enters Cane with Nicholas.

I liked everything up until Clara and Nicholas were separated (not giving more context than that, but I think this is important and you should know that it does happen). Clara and Nicholas are an excellent pair. They bicker and boss each other around, but they are also fierce and protective and immensely loyal. I love that Nicholas sticks with her no matter what he needs to do for his kingdom. He isn't perfect, and he contemplates terrible things, but he is such a great character. Nicholas is... not faery, so he's human? I think he's human. But he's a royal, and that literally means power.

So I liked Clara, and Nicholas - and I especially liked them TOGETHER. The romantic scenes in this book are few and far between - which was extremely disappointing, because I thought this one was pegged as "dark" and "sexy"? It's dark, ish, but not sexy. Not really, anyway. The queen, Anise, has a heck of a lot of sensuality, and it gets weird when Anise and Clara are holed up in Anise's Summer Palace... weird. 

Read on for what I didn't like! Balanced review for the win!

What I Did Not Like:

One of the first things I mentioned above was that the beginning is slow. Oh, is it slow. Clara's life in New York is so dull and frightful and boring and aggravating. I totally get the historical authenticity of Clara's situation, but snooooooooooozzzzzzeeeeee, and not interested. I liked it when the magical part to this book was introduced. Otherwise, this would have been one BORING historical fiction novel. And you know that I know a lot about historical fiction novels, since I read so many of them (adult and Young Adult). In general, this book moved slowly - I bet about 100 pages could be shaved off this book, and it'd move only slight faster. *snores*

I didn't like how the romance panned out. Clara and Nicholas have chemistry from the start - which I liked a lot. I had such high hopes for this book, because from the start, sparks fly. Heck, flames fly. Clara and Nicholas are one big mess of chemistry. So much sizzle.

But. So little chemistry-filled scenes.

Disappointing, no? For such a hyped-up, "sexy"-tagged romance, it was very not-explored. There was no physical romance between these two, despite the fact that the chemistry was sizzling. Clara bolts in the ONE SCENE, and the next one is not actually real, and that's it. Two scenes. Disappointing. 

Then there was Clara's time at the Summer Palace with Anise. Talk about... weird. I'm personally not a fan of girl-on-girl action, but if you are, good for you. Things get frisky between these two. I'm totally serious. At first, I thought Clara was just going along with Anise, and trying to manipulate her, so she could escape. But then... I think Clara actually enjoyed things. So I'm not sure. *shudders* This is like, a good chunk of the book. Perhaps one fourth or maybe even one third of the book is the leg of the love triangle in which Anise and Clara get it on. I was not amused. And then the author tried to play it off in the end like Clara was just really similar to Anise, in terms of abilities and whatnot, but whatever. No. Call it empowering, call it feminism, call it whatever you want - I don't read lesbian fiction. 

In any case, I find that Clara was kind of a dunderhead. She is pathetic, which is how she is supposed to appear in this time of history, but she ACTS the part and IS the part. Literally lets everyone do all the hard work for her... ew. I sort of liked her in the very beginning, because I felt bad for her, but when we reached the magical realm, my liking of her plummeted. She couldn't stand up for herself for s***.

The book seemed kind of... not convincing. I'm not sure how to approach this feeling - but like, the prince has NO ARMY. No one recognizes him, because he was in "Beyond" (New York) for years, and time in Cane moves four times faster. How in the WORLD did the prince and company defeat Anise's minions? Not realistic, even though we're talking about a fantasy world.

For that matter, the fantasy was a bit disappointing? There are mechaniks, which are like any other robot or steel creature or whatever unoriginal nonsense Legrand came up with. Meh. Not impressive. And what the heck are "loks" - I don't even know myself! What was up with that train - are there trains in Cane? What happened to it? I have no idea what happened directly after Nicholas and Clara entered Cane. Anise - not impressive. Selfish, beautiful, young-looking despot, claiming the lands as her own? SOOOOOO original.

The ending was SO WEAK. So I can get past Clara's actions with Anise. Maybe. But then... the ending... the romance... it's "happy", ish, but not really. I can't explain it without giving things away. Time works differently in the "Beyond" world (New York), and in Cane (Nicholas's world). Time moves faster in Cane. So. Um. Yeah. No me gusta al fin.

Would I Recommend It:

Meh. I know everyone seems to be excited for this one (hey, I was too!), so go read it. But no, I wouldn't recommend it if you're bored or have never heard of it. Read it if you already WANTED to read it. It's an okay story, the cover is pretty, the hero is likable, and hey, maybe you like scant (and weird) romances, disappointing endings, unoriginal fantasy tropes, bisexual love triangles. I know many reviewers are like OMG SO GOOD, so it might just be me...

Rating:

1.5 stars -> rounded up to 2 stars. This one wasn't that great... and I didn't love it, like I wanted to. I wouldn't re-read it, nor would I buy it, nor would I pick it up or look at it. Which is totally a shame, because I wanted a hardcover with that cover. Oh well!


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