Review of The Shadow Hour by Melissa Grey

theshadowhourThe Shadow Hour
By: Melissa Grey
Release Date: July 12th 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format: Print ARC
Source: Convention

My Rating:
star

Summary:
A battle has been won. But the war has only just begun.

Everything in Echo’s life changed in a blinding flash when she learned the startling truth: she is the firebird, the creature of light that is said to bring peace.

The firebird has come into the world, but it has not come alone. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and Echo can feel a great and terrible darkness rising in the distance. Cosmic forces threaten to tear the world apart.

Echo has already lost her home, her family, and her boyfriend. Now, as the firebird, her path is filled with even greater dangers than the ones she’s already overcome.

She knows the Dragon Prince will not fall without a fight.

Echo must decide: can she wield the power of her true nature—or will it prove too strong for her, and burn what’s left of her world to the ground?

Welcome to the shadow hour.

My Thoughts:
I really enjoyed The Girl at Midnight last year so I was thrilled to be able to pick up a copy of this follow-up at TLA. I think that overall this was a good sequel though the beginning of the book did have slower pacing. As things picked up though, I became immersed and very invested as to what was going on with the story. I think it left off wonderfully for the third book.

I chose not to reread the first book so that could be why when I started this one I wasn’t as invested. It didn’t take too long though for me to get back into the characters and start rooting for Echo. Things aren’t simple for her at all since she is now the Firebird and the subject of prophecy. I think Grey approached her character incredibly well and gave her strength yet self doubt as to what lay before her. I think her struggles were very realistic and the pressure she felt was well done. I loved that she dealt with uncertainty and wasn’t fully able to rely on what she should be capable of. She doubted her own nature and what being the firebird meant for her and those around her. I can’t imagine the pressure of knowing that others are in danger by your mere presence.

I really enjoy the side characters in these books and the building up of relationships between all of them. The dialog was strong and I could feel character chemistry for the most part. I was very intrigued with the sister/brother relationship between the Dragon Prince and Caius. The little bits of their history we see and the struggles they have being on opposite sides really resonated with me.

Jasper was such a great sense of humor and relief from some of the more serious parts of the book. He was so incredibly likeable once again. Of course his dialog with Dorian was amazing and these two characters bring out the best in one another.

As far as the storyline goes I do think this book had a bit of the ‘second book syndrome’ but I do think it is well worth the read. It progressed the story well (especially the last bit) and has set things up for an amazing finish.

theshadowhourIG

Final Thoughts:
I don’t feel that The Shadow Hour was as strong as the first book but I do think it progressed the storyline and characters very well. I loved reading the struggles Echo had having so much pressure on her being the firebird. Once again Caius was a favorite of mine and I’m excited to see what will happen in book 3.

Review of And I Darken by Kiersten White

AndIDarkenUSAnd I Darken
By: Kiersten White
Release Date: June 28th 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL.

And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

My Thoughts:
I must admit to not really being a fan of White’s prior work, but, I couldn’t resist the summary for And I Darken. I had an interest in Vlad Dracula (Vlad the Impaler) in my younger years so there was no way I’d not be reading this book. The fact that White decided to make Vlad’s character female- sign me up. Plus, this time period is so largely ignored in YA historical fiction.

Overall, I found this book to be incredibly successful and full of historical detail, character development, and intrigue. It does read a tad on the slow side because there are lots of details and a great amount of time was covered. I think that if you are a historical fiction fan (or reader of adult fiction) this won’t bother you one bit. If you need your books to be fast moving you might feel this book  is on the slow side. I feel that it is so worth the read because through these slower moments you really get to know the characters and understand them deeply.

The story was told in third person alternating between Lada and her brother Radu. I loved that these are real historical figures (with Lada being Vlad but female). This brother and sister really were held captives of the Ottoman Empire to keep their father in check. Of course, White took liberty with the characters and what occurred during this time period (as far as I can tell it was not well documented what happened to them there). It was fascinating to see the historical bits woven into this book and evident that White has a vast knowledge and understanding of the time period (from my perspective). I highly recommend researching some prior to or while reading. I found it really added to my reading experience. Do not feel, however, that it is necessary to do so! It is not! White provides all the details you need to know and in an easy to absorb way.

Beyond the time period, I really loved the depth of the characters. Lada was wonderfully brutal and though she was all rough edges there’s something…delicate about her? It was a mesmerizing mix that White did an excellent job with. Her younger brother, Radu, was all emotions and insecurity. The novel spans from these character’s birth to their young adult lives. Through this we really grasp who they are deep inside and it was impossible not to love them and to feel their hurts and fears.

Those that fear the love triangle there was one (sort of?) It wasn’t your typical triangle and I never really got the impression it was ever more than unrequited love on one person’s behalf. Some might be sensitive to it, but I felt it was done well and didn’t detract from the story. I felt that though there was a good amount of romance in the book it was not overwhelming and ended up lending itself to help develop rather than take away from the storytelling.

Final Thoughts:
And I Darken was a really strong historical fiction with some obvious changes to how the real events occurred (obviously switching Vlad’s gender being the biggest) which only made the story even more appealing to me. I love the depth of the characters, historical detail as well as how much time spanned in this one novel. I feel that this is by far the strongest work White has created and I can’t wait to read where she takes this story next.

While talking about this novel on Twitter with Sarah from The YA Book Traveler she compared the UK cover to a picture of Vlad and I’ve got to share it:

AndIDarkenUK

 

Blog Tour- Early Review of Tell Me Three Things

TellMeThreeThingsTell Me Three Things
By: Julie Buxbaum
Release Date: April 15th 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago—the closest place she has to something like home—she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

The thing is, Jessie does need help. It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live in LA with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

My Thoughts:
I”m usually not a huge fan of contemporary but this book really grabbed my interest with the summary and I’m so, so happy I took a chance to read it. I loved it. The characters were so relatable, the story was really wonderful and fast paced.

The strongest element in this book for me was Jessie. She had recently lost her mother and been relocated to a new state and school. Her life had fallen apart and her mourning and coming to terms with how things would be now without her mother was amazingly well done and heart wrenching. Though the novel touched on this sad topic the book itself had a very positive vibe and didn’t at all make me feel bad. I honestly fell in love early on and found it difficult to stop reading.

I loved that Jessie had to take a chance on interacting and taking advice from a mystery emailer. I thought Buxbaum handled it in a realistic fashion and I never questioned Jessie’s motives (or the mystery person’s either). I thought it was really impressive how much chemistry these two had via email. Trying to guess who the person sending the emails was fun too and kept me that much more involved in the story.

A lot of times high school dynamics can be a miss for me since I’m an older reader of the genre but not so in this book. There was some high school politics and mean girl stuff but it all hit fairly realistic and somehow didn’t feel like too much drama. Somehow Buxbaum took all these topics I normally wouldn’t really be into and made them incredibly palatable for me.

Final Thoughts:
I’m so happy I took a chance on reading Tell Me Three Things. I was swept away with the story and honestly found it to be a really heart-warming and fun read. I’ll be reading much more from Buxbaum in the future.

Review of The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

GirlatMidnightCoverThe Girl at Midnight
By: Melissa Grey
Release Date: April 28th 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format: Print ARC
Source: Gift

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

The Story:
I was obsessed with reading The Girl at Midnight and did everything in my power to obtain a copy. It took months but eventually a wonderful friend sent me a copy and I dropped everything to read it immediately. I think it is safe to say I had some pretty high expectations. And, I think that might have been a tiny disservice to the book.

Was this book entertaining and overall a great book? Yes! I really did enjoy it. I felt that Grey’s writing was very strong and well done. I loved her descriptions and felt that her prologue especially was brilliant. Have you seen those comparisons to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series and The Mortal Instruments? I typically hate to compare novels or see similarities but I couldn’t help seeing them with this book.

The tone and urban feel was very much in the style of Laini Taylor’s series which I appreciated because I love her books so much. It didn’t feel copied if that’s what you are worried about. But it really did bring  Karou to mind especially for the first half of the book. There was a relationship that really felt like TMI to me and because of these similarities I did keep thinking back to those other books. I’m not sure if that bothered me or not but it did distract a little bit.

Back to the book at hand, The Girl at Midnight had a really wonderful moderate pace that was incredibly enjoyable to read. It wasn’t rushed but no sections really dragged. I adore that it took real settings and added a magical dimension and entire races of beings that existed outside of the normal person’s awareness. I really do love books that take this approach to magic because it allows me to peek around my own life and pretend to see little bits of magic.

The Characters:
Grey really created a likeable cast of characters that all interact wonderfully and have some stellar dialog. I loved the humor and emotions she was able to invoke within her characters. Echo was an easy main character to enjoy because she was wonderfully flawed but also so kick-ass. I loved her sarcasm and really did hope for her to succeed. The side-characters were wonderful and all so varied from one another. I found myself loving them just as much as I loved Echo.

I didn’t know going into this book that there were bird people and dragon people (yeah, I know the Avicen are mentioned in the summary but who reads those?). So much win there. I have been loving the bird-people trend in YA lately (Challenger Deep, Magonia and this book). Who doesn’t need giant birds with glorious feathers running around? I adore the visual I get when imagining what they might all look like. And really, anything to do with dragons wins in my book. I will say that the dragon people are a bit underutilized in their dragon-ness but I’m hoping for much more in the follow-up.

Final Thoughts:
I was a tiny bit distracted by the similarities I could see with some other well known books but at the same time The Girl at Midnight really took some of my favorite aspects and wrapped them up into a new and impressive storyline. I’ll be checking out more from Melissa Grey and this series.

Review of Suspicion by Alexandra Monir

SuspicionSuspicion
By: Alexandra Monir
Release Date: December 9th 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format: Hardcover
Source: Goldberg McDuffie Communications

A copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
“There’s something hidden in the maze.”

Seventeen-year-old Imogen Rockford has never forgotten the last words her father said to her, before the blazing fire that consumed him, her mother, and the gardens of her family’s English country manor.

For seven years, images of her parents’ death have haunted Imogen’s dreams. In an effort to escape the past, she leaves Rockford Manor and moves to New York City with her new guardians. But some attachments prove impossible to shake—including her love for her handsome neighbor Sebastian Stanhope.

Then a life-altering letter arrives that forces Imogen to return to the manor in England, where she quickly learns that dark secrets lurk behind Rockford’s aristocratic exterior. At their center is Imogen herself—and Sebastian, the boy she never stopped loving.

My Thoughts:
I have always loved Hitchcock’s 1940’s version of Rebecca. It had me at the edge of my seat and had such a great atmosphere and wonderful suspense. I’ve yet to read the book the movie was based on but it’s on that TBR wish-list I hope t0 get to. Anytime I see a YA that teases a ‘Rebecca feel’ I get really excited but thus far, none have been successful.

I had fairly high hopes for Suspicion though I saw some pretty meh early reviews. When I started reading I was surprised with how easily I was absorbed into the writing and story. I felt that I might just be the black sheep and come out loving this book. Or at least liking it more than others had.

This positive push lasted until midway through the novel. Once Imogen arrives at Rockford Manor I started to become bored. The entire pacing of the book slowed down though there was possibly more action and I believe it was trying to be creepy. Things were thrown in that I’m sure were supposed to have the reader feeling disturbed/creeped out or generally ill at ease but none of this happened for me. I didn’t really feel much of anything. The characters lost any semblance of personality and I had zero interest in the relationship between Imogen and Sebastian. Honestly, I didn’t care about any of the characters or feel that I cared about their outcome. This was such a disappointment since I felt the book started out pretty well.

As I kept reading things went more and more downhill. I will admit, I was tempted to DNF but there was something that kept me reading to the end. And ugh, that end. Let me just say–it was weak. Really, really weak. I felt the twist wasn’t all that twisty and I wasn’t blown away, riveted or feeling anything positive.

Suspicion had a supernatural twist that I felt was unexplored to the point that it could have been left out and not changed the course of the book that much. I wish Monir could have taken it deeper and darker. Sure, the author did give a tiny bit of back story and show a few instances of the power but it felt far too simplified for my taste. For me, when a characters source of information is derived from mysterious papers found or research in a book it needs to be handled with care and done extremely well. If not, it feels too convenient and like an easy (and not overly creative) way of moving the plot along.

Final Thoughts:
I felt that Suspicion had a strong start with immersive writing and plot but as the story progressed it lost its grip on me. The second half of the book felt disjointed, slow and any connection to the characters slipped away. Sadly, I can’t recommend this one.