Review: Unchained (Nephilim Rising #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

UnchainedTitle: Unchained
Author: by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Series: Nephilim Rising #1
Rating: 3.5 stars
Genres: Fantasy/ Paranormal Romance
Links:

Blurb:
Between the pissed off creatures that want demon-hunter Lily Marks dead and the fallen angel who just…wants her, Lily is about ready to trade in forever for a comfy job in a cubicle farm.

The fact that she and Julian are civil to one another is enough to have her thrown out of the Sanctuary, but she can’t shake her not-so-angelic stalker or how he brings her dangerously close to ecstasy.

Her forbidden relationship with Julian provides the perfect fuel for suspicion when a traitor is discovered to be working within the Sanctuary. Lily quickly finds herself hunted by well, everyone.

Her only hope is to discover the real traitor before she loses everything–and she’ll need Julian’s help. That is, if Julian is really there to help her…and not destroy her.

Yeah, being a Nephilim isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.

My Review:
I have mixed feelings about this book. While I definitely enjoyed reading it, it didn’t grab me in the way Jennifer’s books usually do. It lacks her usual finesse, and isn’t up to the normal superb standard. In the acknowledgments section she admits that this was the second book she ever wrote, back in 2008, and that made total sense. So I’ve adjusted my views accordingly, reviewing it as a debut work of sorts.

It took me a little while to engage with both Lily and Julian. Julian seemed like a total creeper at the start and his description was off-putting, I couldn’t understand how Lily would be attracted to him. As the story progressed and I learned more of his character he grew on me. For a 26-year-old I felt Lily was quite immature at times, but I made allowances given her background She grew up in the Sanctuary and really didn’t have much opportunity to be a kid, so I can understand how she’s mature in some ways, and immature in others. Believable.

Michael was the character I felt most connected to in this story, and I would have loved it if he had stronger plot lines. However, if she continues this series I’d expect to hear more about him in future novels given how this one ended.

In the main the writing is not as good as normal, but I’ve addressed that above. One of the things I love most about JLA’s writing is her ability to write really compelling dialogue between her characters. I still can’t get the Seth/Aiden/Alex dialogue from ‘Pure’ out of my head – totally bloody brilliant in the way it’s written. Not so much here, but she was only starting out.

Pacing is a little slow in parts, but overall okay. Plot is good but nothing overly original. Once I got half-way in I got totally sucked into the mystery and enjoyed it much more.

If you are a fan of JLA you might be a little disappointed with this one so I’d say go into it with an open mind and you’ll enjoy it more.

3.5 stars.

Review: The Six, and the Crystals of Ialana (The Six, #1) by Katlynn Brooke

the six and the crystals of ialanaTitle: The Six, and the Crystals of Ialana
Author: Katlynn Brooke
Series: The Six #1
Rating: 5 stars
Genres: Fantasy
Links:

Blurb:
A mysterious island, strange dreams and a powerful healing crystal lost centuries ago: seven young people must discover what their connection is to the disastrous events that took place five hundred years before they were born. Who are the Six Healers, what is their mission and how did it once fail?
The Six, along with a seventh companion, must navigate perilous mountain passes, caves and tunnels guarded by monstrous creatures, and embark on a sea voyage that is doomed from the start. Not only that, there is a potential traitor in their midst who may sell them out at the first opportunity.
The story takes place on the Continent of Ialana, a mythical place in a long-forgotten time that inspired legends and blurs the distinctions between science and magic. The Six discover that all magic is only an understanding of the true nature of reality and the construct of the universe. All they know is that their lives will never be the same again.

My Review:
The Six, and the Crystals of Ialana is a captivating fantasy book that is suitable for everyone from young teenagers upwards.

Relaying the story of six teenagers who are inextricably linked, this is a story of reincarnation, discovery, fate, inner strength and belief. We meet the six main characters as they experience the power of mysterious, shared dreams. These turn out to be memories of themselves in a previous lifetime, and thus begins a new chapter in their journey. Things went disastrously wrong the last time they were all together. Now they’re in a desperate race against time to change their destiny, and the the fate of their country and loved ones. They set off on an exciting adventure, meeting many characters and creatures on the way. Blaidd is clearly the villain of the piece, though I never stopped hoping that he’d turn over a new leaf and see the error of his ways.

Containing many magical elements that are often found in fantastical tales, the author creates her own believable world with engaging characters and vivid details.

I’ll admit that I was initially a little confused over the different characters, POV’s and various locations, but it all makes sense after a few chapters and that became a non-existent issue thereafter.

Exceptionally well written, the writing flows smoothly and it was an easy read.

I think this book would appeal to fans of Percy Jackson, The Chronicles of Narnia and the Hobbit. An enjoyable read.

Review: Unmasked by EM Kaplan

UnmaskedTitle: Unmasked
Author: EM Kaplan
Series: standalone
Rating: 4 stars
Genres: Fantasy/ Paranormal
Links:

Blurb:
Mel can sense the blood beating through her companions’ veins. She can count the moments between heartbeats to tell who is sincere and who is lying. She can make herself stronger for short periods of time, heal small wounds on her body, and manipulate light to change her appearance subtly. These abilities are useful skills for a Mask—a preternaturally sensitive, cloaked and imposing, impartial arbitrator, both revered and feared by everyone.

Mattieus Ottick, or just Ott to his friends, comes from the frozen north to hunt the strange ogre-like creatures, or trogs, that threaten the northern mines. Magical beasties? Nightmares come to life? The world as Ott knows it is about to change. Blessed by easy charm and good looks, Ott is used to the attention of females, but, gods above, he is knocked flat by the kiss of the ethereal woman he rescues. How could she possibly be a Mask?

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Rated approximately PG-13 for fantasy violence and some smooching.

My Review:
Unmasked is the story of Mel, a young girl with special paranormal abilities, who is in training to be a Mask. The community of Masks are skilled mediators, called upon to negotiate disputes, and they are as revered as they are feared.Trained to be neutral, objective and emotionless, they lead a rather solitary life. Mel is sent to Cillary Keep to study human nature, and to see where she fits in society. A chance encounter with a hunter named Ott changes her destiny forever.
It took me a little while to get into the story, but once I got to Chapter 5 I was drawn into the world and quickly became engrossed.
This book is beautifully written and EM Kaplan has a magical way with words.
I’d highly recommend this book to fans of fantasy/paranormal romance.

Review: Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #3) by Laini Taylor

Dreams of Gods and MonstersTitle: Dreams of Gods & Monsters
Author: Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #3
Rating: 5 stars
Genres: Paranormal/ Fantasy/ Demons
Links:

Blurb:
By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her, if there can even be a future for the chimaera in war-ravaged Eretz.

Common enemy, common cause.

When Jael’s brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people.

And, perhaps, for themselves. Toward a new way of living, and maybe even love.

But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and, in the skies of Eretz … something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling, and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.

What power can bruise the sky?

From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

At the very barriers of space and time, what do gods and monsters dream of? And does anything else matter?

My Review:
desperate for him and Karou to have their happy-ever-after that I speed-read through the entire book in less than 24 hours. I literally could not put it down. I had to stop for two hours to make the dinner and seriously, I kept running back upstairs to sneak a few pages in between cooking, because I could not stop thinking about what was going to happen next. I’ve already recommended this to a few people I know will love it, and now I am going to read the entire series again as I still haven’t had my fix. Wow, only word for it.

Review: Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1) by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and BoneTitle: Daughter of Smoke & Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Series: (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1)
Rating: 5 stars
Genres: Paranormal/ Fantasy/ Demons
Links:

Blurb:
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

My Review:
This is an incredible fantasy book and I bow to Laini Taylor’s impressive imagination. I loved the writing, descriptive without bogging the reader down in too many unnecessary details. The dialogue between Karou and Zuzana was very witty and thoroughly engaging and I got really invested in all the characters (except Kaz and Svetla, uughh, those two so belong together). I did struggle to get into it at the start and I felt it was a little bit slow-paced, to be honest I wasn’t sure if I was really going to like it. But boy did it more than make up for it and I got totally hooked, so much so that I didn’t put it down until I finished it. I loved loved the romance storyline, but then I’m a total sucker for compelling, gushing, swoony romance and I particularly loved how this part of the book was written. I have just downloaded the second book and can’t wait to get stuck in. Highly recommended.

Review: Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer

ScarletTitle:  Scarlet
Author:  Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Genres: Young Adult Science Fiction Fantasy
Links:

Blurb:

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison–even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner

My Review:

Talk about blowing it out of the water! Wow! What an amazing follow up to Cinder.

I enjoyed this book much more than the first one – the writing was vastly superior and it was action-packed and fast-paced from start to finish. I struggled to put it down.

When we rejoin Cinder she is incarcerated and awaiting her extradition to Luna. With the aid of handsome fellow prisoner, Captain (ahem!) Carswell Thorne, she manages to escape and sets out on the adventure of a lifetime. I really felt for Cinder as she grappled to come to terms with her new elevated status as Princess and Most Wanted Fugitive.

Kai has been left shell-shocked and confused by the revelations about Cinder, and he is also struggling to deal with Queen Levana’s demands and juggle the new world of global politics. His feelings for Cinder are pitted against his loyalty to this people and he really is in a difficult predicament.

Levana is a despicable character – nasty to the core. Ugh. Skin crawling.

I loved the addition of Scarlet and Wolf in this installment. Scarlet is in a tailspin over her grandmother’s sudden disappearance and she ends up joining forces with Wolf to try and locate her before it’s too late. I was initially conflicted over Wolf’s true motivations and I kept changing my mind. This part of the plot was expertly crafted and full of suspense and intrigue. I loved it! The burgeoning romance between Scarlet and Wolf was really sweet.

The only teeny tiny thing I didn’t like was the lack of romance. I kept hoping that Kai and Cinder would be reunited, but it never happened. Usually, I don’t like stories without a strong romance thread, but I’m happy to eat my words in relation to this book.

All in all, an amazing read and I look forward to reading more in the series.

Actual Rating: 4.5 stars

Sidenote: I bought a paperback of Cinder in my local bookstore for €8.40, however, I went to Kindle for Scarlet and was SHOCKED at the price. £9.14 which translates to over €12 for an ebook. That makes no sense at all. Ebooks cost very little to produce when compared with a paperback or hardback. I almost didn’t download it, but I was desperate to know where the story was going so I swallowed the bitter lump in my throat and purchased it. This type of corporate greed makes my blood boil, especially when it’s already a massive bestselling series and the publishers are making a fortune. Half the target market are teenagers so it really sickens me that they are being exploited in this way. Anyway, I just had to get that off my chest. I’m seeing it more and more and it disgusts me. BTW, this is in no way a criticism of Marissa because she has no control over pricing. I just hate blatant corporate greed. (Stepping off my soapbox now)

Review: Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer

CressTitle: Cress
Author: Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles
Rating: 5 Stars
Genres: Young Adult Science Fiction Fantasy
Links:

Blurb:

In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

My Review:

Cresstastic.

Totally amaze-balls. Seriously freaking loved it. Actually, I think I want to marry this book.

Every book in this series gets better and better and I’m salivating at what Marissa has in store for us with the fourth book. Roll on December.

This book was action packed from the first-minute and it never let up the whole way through. I loved the addition of sweet Cress and her crush on Thorne was adorable. Thorne comes into his own in this book and we start to understand who he really is. Thorne tries to convince everyone of his brilliance and he’s full of bravado and swagger. But it’s all a front.

Cress hero-worships him and it’s through this developing relationship that we see Thornes vulnerabilities and self-esteem issues. Cress only wants to see the good in him and this actually forces Thorne to be honest with himself. He doesn’t believe he has any redeemable qualities but through his protective care of Cress, we come to realize that that isn’t the case at all. He is humbled in her presence.

Character development is really strong in this book and Marissa is very talented at creating likable though flawed characters who progress as the plot moves along. I loved all the different perspectives and I never once felt conflicted over the voice – it was always clear who was narrating. (Unlike, say, Allegiant where I often had to check if it was Four or Tris speaking.)

There was a good twist with the doctor that I didn’t see coming. Me likey.

Poor Cinder – she was really struggling with her heir-apparent responsibilities. What an impossible situation for a sixteen-year-old to find herself in.

The last quarter of the book galloped along and I swooned at the ending with Cinder and Kai finally indulging in some lip-locking. About bleeding time!

I stayed up half the night reading it because I literally could not put it down, despite the head nodding and eye flickering.

Totally epic read and I can’t wait for the next book.

Sidenote: I’ve received a recommendation to read Fairest but for some reason there is no Kindle edition on Amazon.co.uk. I went onto Amazon.com to see if I could download it from there – then I saw the price – $9.99 for an e-Novella. You have got to be kidding me. I’m not going to get on the soapbox again but let’s just say that I will not be reading Fairest now. I’m not that desperate to read about Queen Levana that I’d pay that extortionate price.