Friday, August 22, 2014

Review: Storm Siren

Storm Siren by Mary Weber
Storm Siren #1
Published: August 19th 2014 by Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins
“I raise my chin as the buyers stare. Yes. Look. You don’t want me. Because, eventually, accidentally, I will destroy you.”
In a world at war, a slave girl’s lethal curse could become one kingdom’s weapon of salvation. If the curse—and the girl—can be controlled.
As a slave in the war-weary kingdom of Faelen, seventeen-year-old Nym isn’t merely devoid of rights, her Elemental kind are only born male and always killed at birth — meaning, she shouldn’t even exist.
Standing on the auction block beneath smoke-drenched mountains, Nym faces her fifteenth sell. But when her hood is removed and her storm-summoning killing curse revealed, Nym is snatched up by a court advisor and given a choice: be trained as the weapon Faelen needs to win the war, or be killed.
Choosing the former, Nym is unleashed into a world of politics, bizarre parties, and rumors of an evil more sinister than she’s being prepared to fight . . . not to mention the handsome trainer whose dark secrets lie behind a mysterious ability to calm every lightning strike she summons.
But what if she doesn’t want to be the weapon they’ve all been waiting for?
Set in a beautifully eclectic world of suspicion, super abilities, and monsters, Storm Siren is a story of power. And whoever controls that power will win.
*An ARC was provided by Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.*

Storm Siren was one of those books that I knew I needed even before it came out.  I am a HUGE fan of elementals and elemental magic so that bit was a no-brainer.  The synopsis seemed original to boot with an elemental female who shouldn't exist being saved from a life of slavery and trained as a weapon to save kingdoms.  Despite all this promise though, Storm Siren ended up falling flat by focussing on a questionable 'romance' instead of elaborating on plot, villains and tying up loose ends.

Sigh, will I ever learn to not be lured in by the pretty covers?  I sure hope so because it seems like I'm on a bridge to nowhere with these debut novels lately.  Admittedly, Storm Siren started off promising enough, tying into the blurb nicely we got introduced to a broken and jaded MC with exceptional powers that she can't seem to control.  Elementals in this world are killed at birth, and what's more: there's never been a female elemental.  Like, ever.  Nym believes she is cursed and since she keeps being sold from slaver to slaver, it's obvious that her previous owners tend to agree. Until finally someone sees her for what she truly is and offers her a choice: train to become a weapon to defend Faelen from impending war or die. Obviously she chooses to begin training and that's where her whole life changes.

Within her lavish new owner's house, Nym is still a slave but being taught to control her curse makes it all worth it for her.  Soon she meets other people with gifts, and training together becomes their sole purpose - when their eccentric and cruel mistress isn't forcing them to attend extravagant parties as spies that is.    It's about at this point where Storm Siren began to falter. There's something of a budding love-hate relationship that begins to surface and takes up most of the story's focus.  The two main boys in the story become potential love interests with the classic nice guy being ignored while the MC focuses all her energies on the jerk who's only nice to her in between being jerky.  Notice that I avoided using the word ''romance'' because to me there was nothing remotely romantic about their interactions.  I'm sure some would disagree with me but it doesn't change how I felt reading this one.  

The best part of Storm Siren for me was in fact the elemental magic.  It's the reason I was attracted to the book to begin with and it's what I was hoping would be the main focus of the story.  Unfortunately, Nym's powers and their evolution seem to take a backseat for the better part of the story.  The elemental bits only really became front and center at the very end - with a few notable exceptions.  Sure we see her training a lot and struggling to harness her powers but all those scenes are tainted with supposed 'romantic' tension and frustrations.  It seemed to me that even the character development suffered by this relentless focus on building some sort of a love story.

As an MC, Nym was likeable enough but I would have liked her a lot better had the 'romance' been completely removed from the equation...or at least put on the sidelines.  I really enjoyed Colin though but I feel his character wasn't given the attention he deserved.  Colin's twin sister Breck was another character I liked but I found myself forgetting she was supposed to be the same age as Nym and Colin. For some reason she came off like she was around 10-11 years old instead of being a teen like the rest of them. And then there's Eogan. *groan*  Eogan didn't seem to be able to decide what the hell kind of a man he was.  He  oscillated from being a jerk to being something of a nice guy but I could never tell if he was lying or being sincere. Nym couldn't either but she seemed to have less of a problem with it than I did >.<

Similarly,  the world-building in Storm Siren was decent but it took a backseat to other points of interest. There were some nice descriptions of their surrounding areas as they moved around but even now I feel like I know little about Faelen and it's structure.  Nym was training to defend the people of Faelen but I found I didn't care much about the city and it's plight.  For whatever reason though, I kept reading.  I always hold out some hope that the ending might turn things around with a book like this.  The ending was action packed enough to keep my interest but when the dust settled, there were simply too many loose ends for me to feel satisfied.  And that twist right at the end was surely meant to build tension for a sequel but it only annoyed me further. Like WTF?!

Truth be told, Storm Siren had a lot of potential but the focus on lackluster romantic tension simply put me off.  It's not that I don't enjoy romance in my YA literature but I need it to have a nice flow, proper development and it's usually preferable for it to not take focus away from the main storyline.  Even the thrill of elemental magic couldn't save this one.

My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Harry Potter MotW #56

Harry Potter Moment of the week is a weekly meme hosted over at Uncorked Thoughts. The idea is to share one favorite moment, magical item, character, spell, quote, object from the books, films or J.K.Rowling herself!    For information on how to join up & for upcoming topics, click here.

  Favorite Hogwarts House

This week is a free week, so I thought I'd try picking Favorite Hogwarts Houses.  To me, each of the four houses has it's own unique appeal.  Of course, ideally I'd want to get sorted into Gryffindor because it's Harry, Ron and Hermione's house. Not to mention Sirius, Lupin, Dumbledore and McGonagall.  Then, when I really thought about it, I always figured I'd get sorted into Ravenclaw - I've always been a geek, I love to read so naturally I assumed...

On the other hand, it admittedly took me awhile, but eventually I gained more appreciation for Hufflepuff and decided it wouldn't be a terrible thing to be sorted there...although I don't much care for having the common room be underground O.O  And sure, there is a certain coolness to Slytherin.  I definitely love their underwater rooms and house colours but then again, I'm not a fan of their pure-blood mania...

So I guess when everything is said and done, I'm happy that Pottermore sorted me into Gryffindor, even though I don't consider myself brave and reckless like they are. I'm definitely no athletic jock-type either and I don't think I'd really care about sporting events as much as they do.  Before Pottermore, I got sorted into Ravenclaw the most...Gryffindor second.  I would definitely have been happy to be sorted into Ravenclaw, even though they can be snooty and competitive in their own way. And despite all the bad rap Hufflepuff get, I think they're awesome.  They were the first house to stand up and fight alongside Harry and the rest of the Gryffindor crew at the Battle of Hogwarts, so I'd feel no shame if I was a 'Puff.  And I really like that they'll accept any sort of talent into their folds. Now even though I know all Slytherin aren't evil, and the fact that I usually tend to like the badass crew, I don't really identify with their values or I doubt I'd ever be sorted there. If so, I sure wouldn't be your typical Slytherin ;) 

Bottom line: my favorite house is probably still Gryffindor, but I think I'll always have a soft spot for Ravenclaw! 

**If you're looking for an in-depth analysis of all the Hogwarts Houses, head on over to Ula's post over at Blog of Erised.  She did a fantastic job with her post, which you can read here!**

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday *87*

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine where book bloggers spotlight an upcoming release we're especially looking forward to!

For those of you that know me, and/or follow me on Goodreads, Twitter or Instagram, this week's pick should come as no surprise:

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
The Raven Cycle #3
Expected Pub. Date: October 21, 2015 by Scholastic Press

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.
I just finished The Dream Thieves this Friday and I am quite literally besides myself.  I adored The Raven Boys straight away, but man, getting to know the boys, ESPECIALLY Ronan (♥!) this well?  Needless to say I kinda can't imagine my life without them at the moment. D:  It's bad guys.  I have to say though: as much as I adore Gansey, Adam, Noah and *sigh* Ronan, I loooove Blue to pieces as well, so I'm ecstatic that she will be front and center for the next installment!  And let's be honest; more Blue = more swoony Gansey moments! *sigh*  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to pine some more xD

Who else is desperately longing for Blue Lily, Lily Blue???
Link me up. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

ARC Review: Heir of Fire

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Throne of Glass #3
Expected Publication: September 2nd 2014 by Bloomsbury

Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy.

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?
*An ARC was provided by Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review*

Heir of Fire is the insanely-anticipated next installment in the Throne of Glass Series and the follow-up to the explosive Crown of Midnight.  We all knew that CoM was a game-changer (that ending!! like, woah!) SO, fans of the series should go in expecting a somewhat different plot-line than the previous two.  Our beloved protagonist, Celaena - seriously guys, I can't even write her name without getting all the feels - is off to the faraway land of Wendlyn. Naturally, this puts some distance between her and the rest of the main characters.  Like Chaol. And Dorian.  Never fear though, the goddess that is Sarah J. Maas has you covered because we also get to follow what's happening in Adarlan... through the eyes of a heartbroken Chaol, and a confused Dorian.

I'm just going to pause here and let that sink in for the romance-fans of the series. 
Read: everyone. *sniff*

But seriously, as much as I longed for my favorite couple's reunion (C&C for ever!), Heir of Fire is, at it's core, a journey of discovery for Celaena. In Wendlyn, Celaena faces new obstacles, delves deeper into her past, her powers and her powers. She also meets new characters, all of which are freaking brilliant by the way *cough* ROWAN *ahem* but the focus remains on our protagonist: her past, her secret and her destiny.  It's here that SJM brilliantly weaves in mythology, magic and Celaena's transformation and everything.was.perfection.  I teared up multiple times throughout this entire book, as Celaena struggled with who she was and who she is, as she mourned her lost friend (not to mention dealing with her actions following that loss), as she ached for Chaol, and as she faced the past she has been trying to long to escape; and the powers she's trying so desperately to hide.  All of this was all so freaking powerful!  For all you Celaena fans out there: if you thought you couldn't love her more, you're in for a surprise! Wow.

Like I mentioned above, the story alternates from Celaena's point of view, to Chaol and Dorian... not to mention a select few new characters: Manon, Aedion and Rowan. I don't want reveal anything about the plot but I will say this: I adored every.single.character perspective we got, from beloved returning characters to new fiery ones alike. Not one of the new characters turn out to be exactly as they seem to be at the start. I admit that my favorite new character is probably Rowan, because of reasons, but Manon is certainly not to be ignored. She was fierce and honstely scary but also wickedly amazing! Aedion is another memorable one too, he's like a male version of Celaena - so what's not to like ;)

The layers that are revealed to us as the characters and the story takes shape is nothing short of spectacular and masterfully executed by Maas here.  As the scope of the story broadens with every new installment to her series, she continues to blow me away with not just the character development but with her world-building skills. Speaking of which: the magical system expands here beyond anything I could have imagined. While there's always been a fantasy element to the Throne of Glass books, it was more or less in the background - especially in The Assassin's Blade and Throne of Glass and to a lesser extent in Crown of Midnight.  With Heir of Fire though...we get to really dig into these aspects of the world  And let me tell you: I was riveted and I'm already craving more.

Since Heir of Fire is about double the size of it's predecessors, there ample time for setting the tone at the beginning here; going over the after-effects of the game changing ending from CoM, and introducing us to the new reality at hand. The pacing is another aspect of the story to gush over: as the story begins to fully take shape and the layers reveal themselves, it gets all the more exciting because you the pieces are clearly falling into place, not just for the plot of HoF, but for the story-arc of the entire series as a whole.  There is some subtle but serious foreshadowing going on here and the whole experience makes me wish the entire series was already out so that I could know ALL THE THINGS.  Which in turn made THAT ENDING (!!!) even more torturous! Gah! Man. This book guys!  I can't even with this book.  I want to gush and squee and cry and hug it out with ALL my fellow Throne of Glass fans and Celaena lovers of the world!

Sarah J. Maas delivers a masterful addition to her series with Heir of Fire that is equal parts heart-wrenching, addictive, intense and emotional. It's pretty much guaranteed to blow your freaking mind!  If you've made it through my intense fan-girling and praise up to this point and are still reading, I have one final thing to say: READ.THIS.BOOK.  And then come on over here again so we can cry, rave and have a loooong gush-fest about ALL of the AWESOME.

My Rating: 5! out of 5 stars ♥!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Harry Potter MotW #55

Harry Potter Moment of the week is a weekly meme hosted over at Uncorked Thoughts. The idea is to share one favorite moment, magical item, character, spell, quote, object from the books, films or J.K.Rowling herself!    For information on how to join up & for upcoming topics, click here.

  Character I'd trade places with for a day

Of course being me, there is more than one character in JKR's universe that I would willingly trade places with.  If it meant I could live within the Wizarding world, I would gladly trade with any number of them!  *swoon*  But yeah, here are my top picks:

Harry cause I want to know what it feels like to be THAT brave.

Ginny cause then I'd have Hary all to myself ♥ plus she's got some mad skills!

Dumbledore cause I want to know what it's like to be THAT brilliant. Who doesn't?!

Olivander cause I'd know all about wands and how to make them! #DreamJob

McGonagall cause she's BADASS. End of story.
^^ I seriously get chills watching her step in front of Harry like that :*)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday *86*

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine where book bloggers spotlight an upcoming release we're especially looking forward to!

Here's what I'm waiting on this week:

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Expected Publication: February 10th 2015 by Harper Teen

Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood--those with red and those with silver. Mare and her family are lowly Reds, destined to serve the Silver elite whose supernatural abilities make them nearly gods. Mare steals what she can to help her family survive, but when her best friend is conscripted into the army she gambles everything to win his freedom. A twist of fate leads her to the royal palace itself, where, in front of the king and all his nobles, she discovers a power of her own--an ability she didn't know she had. Except . . . her blood is Red.

To hide this impossibility, the king forces her into the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks her new position to aid the Scarlet Guard--the leaders of a Red rebellion. Her actions put into motion a deadly and violent dance, pitting prince against prince--and Mare against her own heart.
Supernatural abilities, class struggles, nobility, deceit, betrayal and war.  Man does Red Queen ever sound EPIC! Sure it sounds like there's a love triangle brewing between the MC and those two princes, but I'm willing to go along for the ride, if at least one of them draws me in. Ideally both! And hopefully the romance will take a backseat to the characters and court intrigue.  All in a mixture of both high fantasy and dystopian setting. So far Red Queen has been compared to a mix of Graceling, Game of Thrones and Divergent.  All I can say is: GIMME GIMME GIMME!

What are your thoughts on Red Queen?
Link me up to your WoW post and let me know in the comments below!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Review: Born of Corruption

Born of Corruption by Teri Brown
Born of Illusion 1.5 (novella)
Published May 6th 2014 by Balzer + Bray

Returning to the atmospheric and mysterious Jazz Age world of Born of Illusion, Teri Brown's Born of Corruption is a 64-page companion digital novella about what happens when New York City's most notorious socialites, mobsters, and bootleggers get together for a larger-than-life scavenger hunt . . . and someone gets killed.

Cynthia Gaylord, a vivacious blonde flapper and the niece of one of the most infamous mob bosses in New York City, loves scavenger hunts, and the one she's putting together for her best friend Anna's going-away party is going to be the swankiest one ever. But then, Anna Van Housen is no ordinary friend. She is reputed to be Harry Houdini's illegitimate daughter and a magician of the first order—and she possesses psychic powers.

Before Anna leaves for a European tour with her vaudeville company, Cynthia throws open the doors of her Gramercy Park mansion for a giant bash, but when one of the guests turns up dead, Cynthia and Anna must join forces to discover the truth. Who is the mysterious dead man? And which of Cynthia's guests could have killed him? Cynthia's relatives in the mob? Or someone related to the Society for Psychical Research, a shadowy group with a dangerous history? Cynthia and Anna have to find out who done it before the coppers are called in . . . something both Cynthia and Anna are eager to avoid.
*An ARC was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.*
This is a mini-review (of sorts) since Born of Corruption clocks in at around 60 pages but I still wanted to share my thoughts on it.  I'd really enjoyed the first book, Born of Illusion so I was looking forward to returning to Anna and her New-York flapper lifestyle.  Born of Corruption is meant to bridge the gap between book 1 and it's sequel Born of Deception that just came out so i figured now was the perfect time to dig in.

Born of Corruption mixes things up a bit - it's not told from our usual MC Anna's perspective but instead is told from Cynthia's.  Fans of Born of Illusion will remember Cynthia as one of Anna's friends, who incidentally has family ties to the Mob.  With Anna heading out to London soon, Cynthia decides to throw her a posh going-away party, in the form of a scavenger hunt around NYC.  The party gets cut short though when guests start dropping dead like flies.  Now Cynthia, Anna and the remaining, living, guests have to figure out who's responsible - the Mob, The Society for Psychical Research...or could it be someone else entirely?

On the plus side, it was fun to return to New York in the roaring 20's, even for a short while and it was an added bonus to get to see Anna from another character's perspective.  I always find that seeing the MC through someone else's eyes adds insight and depth to an already well-fleshed out character.  I found myself liking Anna even more than I already had.  I also enjoyed getting Cynthia's thoughts and perspective on things.  She's very different from Anna but I can see why the two of them became fast friends; they complement each other's personalities nicely.

The downside of some novellas though is that, after reading absolutely fantastic ones like The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas and Night of Cake & Puppets by Laini Taylor, you get used to novellas doing more than they used to, adding layers to the plot and scope to the world at hand.  Sadly, Born of Corruption reads like the novellas we were used to, before Maas and Taylor changed the game forever. What I mean to say is that, while entertaining enough, Born of Corruption isn't necessary reading material.  It's a enjoyable and quick read, but not much beyond that.

I think Born of Corruption is a entertaining way to get back in the swing of things and get ready for Born of Deception.  My only other complaint is that when the villain is finally uncovered, he does the usual ''bad guy speech where he reveals all his plans to the MC because he thinks he's home free'' -thing. I mean I get that it's a way for the reader to connect the dots, but I wish sometimes the heroes would just find proof to what the bad guy was up to in another way, and save us from this all-too familiar plot device.  Nitpicking aside, I had fun with this one and it definitely got me in the mood for book two!  Fans of Born of Illusion will no doubt enjoy this quick romp with the flappers in New York before heading out to London ;)

My Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
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