Publisher: Balzer + Bray


The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye | Book Review

April 17, 2017 Book Review, Young Adult 3

The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye | Book ReviewThe Crown's Fate by Evelyn Skye
Series: The Crown's Game #2
Also in this series: The Crown's Game
Published by Balzer + Bray on May 16, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Edelweiss
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1 Stars
Russia is on the brink of great change. Pasha’s coronation approaches, and Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter, but the role she once coveted may be more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever expected.

Pasha is grappling with his own problems—his legitimacy is in doubt, the girl he loves loathes him, and he believes his best friend is dead. When a challenger to the throne emerges—and with the magic in Russia growing rapidly—Pasha must do whatever it takes to keep his position and protect his kingdom.

For Nikolai, the ending of the Crown’s Game stung deeply. Although he just managed to escape death, Nikolai remains alone, a shadow hidden in a not-quite-real world of his own creation. But when he’s given a second chance at life—tied to a dark price—Nikolai must decide just how far he’s willing to go to return to the world.

With revolution on the rise, dangerous new magic rearing up, and a tsardom up for the taking, Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha must fight—or face the destruction of not only their world but also themselves.

Here I sit, broken-hearted after taking a month to read this book. Guys, I loved The Crown’s Game. LOVED it. I was so excited for this sequel and ended up having to talk myself out of DNFing an infinite number of times because I so wanted to get back there to that place of love for this world and these characters. Sadly, it didn’t happen and I’m left so disappointed that I don’t even have much to say.

I felt like I was in a different world with this book. It was dark, depressing, and to be honest… boring. I found myself skimming at multiple points due to a complete lack of interest. The Crown’s Game was magical and whimsical and light and full of color and excitement. All of these things that I loved so much were gone in The Crown’s Fate. Nikolai’s character was unrecognizable in a bad way. He went in a very heartbreaking direction that I did not get over even after all loose ends were quickly tied up into a convenient little bow at the end (seriously, that ending was a huge disappointment after everything we’ve been through). Pasha and Vika both seemed weaker than they used to, and never really did or said anything important. There was very little going on in the story, and I felt like what did happen just continued to repeat itself because there was nothing else to say. What little magic there was was just not good for me. And I did not like seeing the characters I once loved being evil and plotting against each other. The book was too long for the story, and I ended up just going through the motions by the end. Let me just say: some horrible stuff happens that any normal person would not be ok with as quickly as these characters were ok with it.

So yeah, that’s all I have to say. The only thing good I can take away from this is that there were a few glimmers of the world I loved. Evelyn’s writing is also still lovely, but I was just not happy with where the story went. I’m so SO sad, as I was highly anticipating this sequel. I will forever recommend The Crown’s Game, but will that suggest people treat it as a standalone.


The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye | Debut Author Book Review

June 13, 2016 Book Review, Young Adult 4 ★★★★★

The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye | Debut Author Book ReviewThe Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye
Series: The Crown's Game #1
Also in this series: The Crown's Fate
Published by Balzer + Bray on May 17, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic, Historical Fiction, Romance
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Edelweiss
AmazonBarnes & Noble Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love... or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear... the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

I pretty much knew I was going to love this book when I read the synopsis and discovered that it takes place in Russia during the time of the Ottoman Empire. Combine that with two enchanters, magic, an ancient game, opulent St. Petersburg, and a forbidden love story and I was sold. I’m happy to say that The Crown’s Game was everything I had hoped for and so much more! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Skye does a wonderful job of blending history with fantasy in a way that had me convinced that this magic and the game is real, and that these enchanters really existed all those years ago. The people and the culture and the setting… it’s all very Russian. The magic just makes it all sparkle.

2. The idea of the actual Crown’s Game is brilliant, and the world-building that goes along with it is so well done. When two enchanters are born in one generation, they must battle each other in a set of magical tasks to see which one is fit to become the Tasr’s on and only enchanter. The other one dies. In this story we have Vika, a mysterious girl from a small town, and Nikolai, the best friend to the son of the Tsar (Pasha). Pasha’s birthday is coming up, so the Tsar instructs these two enchanters to engage in a magical battle to make Pasha’s birthday something special. The battle begins, and the beauty and opulence that encompasses St. Petersburg as a result of this magic is amazing. I won’t give too much away, but I absolutely must mention the intricate system of fountains and color-changing lights that fill the city’s canal system. That entire scene was beautiful, and is still my favorite in the entire book.

3. The characters are great, but I was so swept up in the magic that I never ended up caring about any of them. I know this will change in book #2, though. I know, it’s so weird that I’m allowing this. I’ve always had this rule that I must connect with at least one character in order to even finish a book. So why did I continue even though that didn’t happen this time? And why did I give it a 5-star rating? Guys, it’s like I was hypnotized. I was so captivated, so intrigued, so mesmerized, that I didn’t even notice I wasn’t connecting until I sat down to write my review.

4. I owe my feelings about this book to Evelyn’s writing. She has such a way with words, and wrote such beautiful scenes. There’s one scene that takes place on a little island that one of the enchanters created for one of their tasks. The other enchanter followed along behind and created magical benches that, when you sit on them, transport you to an exotic location where you get to hear and smell and see everything. It was a beautiful, scene, and so wonderfully written and described. I just loved it.

5. The romance is pretty non-existent in this book. There are hints of it and some somewhat unrequited love (?) going on, but it just wasn’t developed into much of anything. Again, that might change in book #2. I was ok with this because everything is so mysterious in this book that you never really know for sure what’s going to happen anyway.

6. The book moves really slowly, but that was fine with me. I did have some trouble getting into it in the beginning, but then I was hooked and I got swept away. If you find that it’s not grabbing you like you hoped, just hang in there and keep going. Let it get its hooks into you.

7. The ending pretty much slaughtered my feels. Like, what do I even do while I wait for the second book?

Overall, this was a very beautiful, magical, mysterious, and captivating tale. I loved the setting and the magic, but I loved the way in which it was written and pieced together the most. I can’t wait to see what happens next, especially after that ending!


How to Love by Katie Cotugno | Mini Book Review

September 3, 2014 Book Review, Young Adult 1 ★★★

How to Love by Katie Cotugno | Mini Book ReviewHow to Love by Katie Cotugno
Published by Balzer + Bray on October 1, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Pages: 389
Format: ARC
Source: Christmas Present
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3 Stars
Before: Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember: as natural as breathing, as endless as time. But he's never seemed to notice that Reena even exists until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town without a word, leaving a devastated-and pregnant-Reena behind.

After: Almost three years have passed, and there's a new love in Reena's life: her daughter, Hannah. Reena's gotten used to being without Sawyer, and she's finally getting the hang of this strange, unexpected life. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. Reena doesn't want anything to do with him, though she'd be lying if she said Sawyer's being back wasn't stirring something in her. After everything that's happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?

I was really not expecting to like a book whose focus was on teen pregnancy, so I was pretty surprised by how much I enjoyed How to Love! Katie Cotugno did a great job realistically portraying the situation and aftermath of teen pregnancy,  not to mention she threw in lot of other plot elements that made the story more dynamic and interesting to read. I liked her decision to tell the story from two perspectives: before Sawyer and after Sawyer. We learn all about his and Reena’s tumultuous relationship, and how Reena handled raising a baby alone after Sawyer disappeared from her life.

I had a super hard time liking Sawyer, which is probably why this book did not receive a higher rating from me. He was an absolutely horrible person to Reena during their relationship, and then he just disappeared. It helps that he left without knowing Reena was pregnant, but he could have stepped up more when he found out he had a child. As the years passed he improved his life some, but he just never convinced me that he was a good person.

Reena is a very likeable character, and I think this was because of the maturity she quickly developed when she became a teenage single mom. I love her relationship with her daughter, how she has grown and changed because of this daughter, and how she is level-headed enough to know she made mistakes in the past too.

The writing is also done very well, and was probably the main reason I enjoyed the story. I liked the way Katie Cotugno portrayed the feelings and emotions of the characters, and I enjoyed her account of the encounters that went down between Reena and her family, as well as Reena and Sawyer. While the book did not blow me away like it did some of my blogging friends, I did appreciate such an honest and realistic portrayal of such a sensitive subject not usually tackled in YA literature. I think that many people will be able to relate to Reena’s situation, or at least realize they have felt some of the same feelings in their own familial and romantic relationships. I have a feeling Katie Cotugno is going to quickly become a big name on the young adult scene.


Ten by Gretchen McNeil (Book Review)

September 17, 2012 Book Review, Young Adult 4 ★★★★

Ten by Gretchen McNeil (Book Review)Ten by Gretchen McNeil
Published by Balzer + Bray on September 18, 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 296
Format: ARC
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4 Stars
It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives—an exclusive house party on Henry Island. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their reasons for being there (which involve T.J., the school’s most eligible bachelor) and look forward to three glorious days of boys, booze and fun-filled luxury.

But what they expect is definitely not what they get, and what starts out as fun turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine.

Suddenly people are dying, and with a storm raging, the teens are cut off from the outside world. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and a ferry that isn’t scheduled to return for two days. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on each other, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?

Sometimes I enjoy being scared. I’m a major chicken, so I don’t read many scary books, but this one sounded too good to pass up! I was also majorly intrigued when I found it’s a retelling of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. This was totally worth being scared for. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. The location is really ominous, and a character all its own. It has the power to be a breezy, sunny escape or a stormy, treacherous nightmare. In this case, it was the latter and I loved it. The descriptions had me snuggling under my blankets, hiding from murderers.

2. Gretchen is amazing at writing suspenseful passages. All of a sudden, I was a speed reader with this book. It was not because I was bored or because there were too many details. It was because everything flowed and ran into the next story elements so nicely that I almost absorbed the words rather than having to shove them in my head. It was effortless reading. 

3. Now, I have not read Agatha’s original version of this story, but the reviews I have read lead me to believe that this version sticks very closely to the original. I didn’t read anything about it having the crazy weather like Ten does, which I loved. It reminded me of Stephen King’s Storm of the Century. Very creepy, and it added a lot to the story. Just like the location, the weather was a character.

4. There were a lot of people to keep track of. Meg is the main girl and her best friend is Minnie. I had a hard time keeping track of who was who in the beginning, just because they each had an “M” name. And all the other characters blended together a bit for me, except for T.J., the love interest. Even though everyone was being murdered, though, the story focused more on the scare factor and less on the characters. I actually enjoyed that, just because it was fun to be immersed more in my feelings and reactions than the characters’ stories.

5. The murders form and are all wrapped up into a pretty crazy web of details. We learn more and more and solve the mystery right along with the characters. I was just as confused as they were. And I figured things out at about the same pace as they did, which was fun. I enjoyed that the reasoning and resolution weren’t easy. I love my details!

6. SO many twists and turns and events. It never calmed down! It just got creepier.

7. I was so scared! I could not read alone or at night, or I started to get really paranoid. This is a great book for autumn, especially for around Halloween.

All in all, everyone needs to read a creepy book every now and again. I really enjoyed this one, and would recommend it to pretty much anyone who loves a good scare. It wasn’t my favorite book in the world, but it’s definitely worth a read. And it seems to be great for all ages, since my dad just stole it from me when I was done! I really want to read Agatha Christie’s version now!


Slide by Jill Hathaway (Book Review)

March 14, 2012 Book Review, Young Adult 4 ★★★

Slide by Jill Hathaway (Book Review)Slide by Jill Hathaway
Series: Slide #1
Published by Balzer + Bray on March 27, 2012
Genres: Mystery, Paranormal, Suspense
Pages: 250
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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3 Stars
Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth--her sister's friend Sophie didn't kill herself. She was murdered.

Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn't actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else's mind and experiences the world through that person's eyes. She's slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed "friend" when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie's slashed body.

Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can't bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting distant lately, especially now that she's been spending more time with Zane.

Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again.

What an interesting take on a paranormal story, huh? A narcoleptic body snatcher on a quest to solve a murder she witnessed while inside and unknown killer. I was very excited to read this book, as I’ve heard great things about it. I liked it a lot, and was surprised (both positively and negatively) by the small details and plot elements of the story. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. The unique storyline was very well done and explained in great detail. The author did a great job describing the sliding process and what that meant for Vee. I almost felt like I was the one doing the sliding, because each event was painted out for us so well. These moments were my favorites of the book. I liked the opportunities Vee had to explore the people she thought she knew so well. It’s like she and I were both flies on the wall. Sneaky!

2. I was hooked very quickly. The reader is immediately submerged in the story. Time is not wasted mapping out every single detail, and things just keep on going from there. There’s not a lot of down time, and I was turning pages very quickly.

3. I liked Vee, but her personality is a bit forgettable. Perhaps the next book in the series will let us get to know her more, but this book focused so much more on all the supporting characters than the main one. I think this had a lot to do with the fact that Vee was sliding so much. Naturally, that would focus the story more on the people who are slid into rather than the one who does the sliding. What we do know about Vee is sad. She does not really discuss happy memories or fun times, so she’s kind of one-dimensional.

4. This book is much darker, heavier, and more emotional than I had expected. I’m not sure how I feel about this. When Vee is not sliding, she’s focused mainly on comforting other people or putting herself in tough situations to try and discover who the murderer is. Her little sister’s best friend is the victim of the murder, so Vee spends a lot of time trying to pull her sister out of a deep depression. The grief in this book is very real. The characters do a lot of mourning, which actually started to depress me a lot. This is not a light read.

5. I liked Rollins, the best friend. However, I’m starting to tire of the endless love triangles where the best friend is ignored for the bulk of the story. This storyline is getting a bit old, in my opinion. Rollins obviously cares about Vee a lot, and I think he’s really sweet. He has a hard home life and some secrets, which both add a lot more depth to him than any of the other characters. He and Vee bonded in a very special way long ago, and their relationship is sweet when they actually get to sit and have fun rather than worry about who will die next. Zane, the newcomer, is mysterious and exciting, but I don’t see why that automatically makes him the immediate love interest. I mean, if Rollins is the best friend, why does Vee start distancing herself as soon as someone new enters her life? Friends don’t do that, and I feel bad that best friends are frequently treated badly, or just flat-out ignored in books like this.

6. I loved how complex the storyline was. There was a ton of stuff going on, page-gripping suspense, lots of characters and emotions, interesting twists, and a really convoluted mystery. We’re constantly being introduced to new things, new people, new facts, etc.

7. The mystery was my favorite part of the story. It was not predictable like some mysteries are. I wanted so badly to find out what happened, and kept reading until I was done. Suspense and danger were involved, and I love it when books do that, rather than focus mostly on romance, with a little mystery on the side. The romance was definitely minimal, and not important to the story’s flow.

8. The book did not end in a cliff-hanger! I was worried that since this is book #1, it would end in a frustrating cliffhanger. Everything was resolved, though, which I liked. This novel could be a standalone. Hopefully book #2 does not ruin that!

Overall, this was an interesting, unique, and emotional read. It was darker than I had expected, but the mysteriousness of the book needed that. I actually liked the storyline and the sliding better than any other aspect of the book, including the characters and the romance. I’d recommend this to people who enjoy paranormal thrillers with a tiny bit of romance.


Everneath by Brodi Ashton (Book Review)

January 14, 2012 Book Review, Young Adult 9 ★★★★

Everneath by Brodi Ashton (Book Review)Everneath by Brodi Ashton
Series: Everneath #1
Published by Balzer + Bray on January 24, 2012
Genres: Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 370
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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4 Stars
Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath. Now she’s returned—to her old life, her family, her boyfriend—before she’s banished back to the underworld . . . this time forever. She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these precious months forgetting the Everneath and trying to reconnect with her boyfriend, Jack, the person most devastated by her disappearance—and the one person she loves more than anything. But there’s just one problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who enticed her to the Everneath in the first place, has followed Nikki home. Cole wants to take over the throne in the underworld and is convinced Nikki is the key to making it happen. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back, this time as his queen.

As Nikki’s time on the Surface draws to a close and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she is forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole’s queen.

When I saw the description of this story on Netgalley, followed by the buzz and excitement around the blogosphere, I knew I had to read it. Since I was very young, I’ve always had an intense curiosity for Greek mythology. Then, when I minored in art history in college and studied Greek art, I learned a lot more about the ancient myths from the art that illustrated them. This book is centered around the story of Persephone’s abduction by Hades, God of the Underworld. Persephone was beautiful, and sought after by many—namely Hades. One day when she was out picking flowers on the plain of Enna, Hades emerged from the ground and abducted her. Her mother, Demeter (the goddess of harvest), wandered the surface of the Earth searching for her lost daughter. When she found out what happened, she was livid (as any mother would be!). Her extreme sorrow caused her to withdraw, and the earth became infertile. Zeus knew that this could not go on forever. He sent his son Hermes down to the Underworld to get Hades to release Persephone. Hades reluctantly let her go, but gave her a pomegranate seed before she left. Once she ate it, she was bound to the Underworld forever and had to spend 1/3rd of the year there. Whenever she was with Hades, her mother would not let anything grow, thus the season of winter was born. Pretty cool story, huh? I swear, I love mythology!

In the book, the Everneath is explained as being the space between the world we live in and the Underworld, where the Everlivings have found the secret to eternal life. But they must feed off of the energy of a human every 100 years or they will die. Enter Nikki/Becks. Cole convinced her, in a moment of weakness, to go with him to the Everneath so he could feed off of her for 100 years (which is only 6 months time on the earth). When the Feed is over (which is when this book begins), Nikki is allowed to Return to Earth for 6 months before she is to be sucked into the Tunnels to serve as a battery to power Hell. Or… she can go back to the Everneath with Cole and become an Everliving, and have eternal life at the cost of the lives of human beings. She hates both of her choices. This book is all about Nikki’s quest to find a way to beat Mother Nature and stay with her family and friends.

I really enjoyed the story. I loved the unique subject matter, and how the author was able to tie in so many elements of the Greek myth, while still adding in unique aspects that made it her own. The story itself is actually pretty beautiful. It’s all about love, loss, and courage. The easy way out for Nikki would be to go back with Cole and have eternal life. She’d even have a shot at being the next Persephone and claiming the crown, becoming queen of the Underworld. That sounds a whole lot better than eternal suffering in the dark, dirty depths of Hell. She can’t fathom the idea of draining the life out of others to save herself, though, so she has chosen the Tunnels. Actually, she could have gone straight there and not return to see her family. It would have been far less painful for her to never see them, and the results of their grief while she was gone. She decides to go back to make amends and say goodbye the right way, before disappearing again. Every decision she makes in this book is for other people. I admire that about her.

Cole’s kind of a slimy character, but I always find myself rooting for the bad-boy (at least for part of the story). In the beginning he seems so wonderful (and I wanted Nikki to choose him), but once we learn what he did to her we quickly root for the sweet childhood-best-friend-turned-boyfriend character, Jack, instead. I loved Jack. He ached for Nikki the entire time she was gone, and upon her return he is very understanding and supportive. He gives her the space she needs to recover, and lets her come to him rather than pouncing on her and demanding answers. That a really mature way to handle a situation like this, especially from a high school boy. He was just a really good guy.

The writing was enthralling, although a few phrases were used too many times. Everything in the story was delayed for “a few moments” or “a long moment”. Like, a character would say something and the other character would respond “after a long moment”. Or two people would hug for “a long moment”. That’s really my only complaint, about the writing, though. I’ve always been the type to not like hearing or reading the same phrases. It’s a quirk of mine. I enjoyed Ashton’s descriptive passages, allowing me to picture the Tunnels, the Everneath, and especially different peoples’ emotions. I also loved that this book takes place in Utah! I live here! I go to the setting of this novel, Park City, all the time! I loved being able to picture the streets they walked down… the Sundance Film Festival. It was kind of a funny discovery of mine, because no book takes place in Utah, so when I saw “Park City” in the book, I immediately wondered where in the World there’s another one! But then I saw the Utah Jazz mentioned, the Film Festival, the Weber River… the Timpanogos Caves… and I knew this story took place right here. So fun! The characters were also great, with lots of dynamic traits. We’re told very specific things about each character, so that by the end of the story you understand their body language without needing the author to explain it. I loved that. It’s like I was watching a movie in my head as I read the book.

I can see this book having a very wide appeal. It’s not mushy gushy, so I think the guys would enjoy it (if they can handle reading a book with that cover, that is! Buy it on Kindle, boys.). It’s not juvenile, so I think it could appeal to the adult fiction lovers out there. Greek mythology enthusiasts will eat this one up. Fans of paranormal romance (YA or adult) will love it. It’s a bit of a mystery that you need to figure out, which is always a plus. Music plays a big role in it, which pretty much nobody can complain about. The book is attacked from so many different angles, that it’s very versatile. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would! I’m very intrigued by the cliffhanger ending, and can’t wait to see what the currently untitled next book has in store for us.