Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Heir to the Sky by Amanda Sun | Blog Tour Mini Book Review (+ Giveaway)

Posted April 26, 2016 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Giveaway, Young Adult / 8 Comments

Heir to the Sky by Amanda Sun | Blog Tour Mini Book Review (+ Giveaway)Heir to the Sky by Amanda Sun
Published by Harlequin Teen on April 26, 2016
Genres: Dystopia, Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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4 Stars
As heir to a kingdom of floating continents, Kali has spent her life bound by limits—by her duties as a member of the royal family; by a forced betrothal to the son of a nobleman; and by the edge of the only world she’s ever known—a small island hovering above a monster-ridden earth, long since uninhabited by humans. She is the Eternal Flame of Hope for what’s left of mankind, the wick and the wax burning in service for her people, and for their revered Phoenix, whose magic keeps them aloft.

When Kali falls off the edge of her kingdom and miraculously survives, she is shocked to discover there are still humans on the earth. Determined to get home, Kali entrusts a rugged monster-hunter named Griffin to guide her across a world overrun by chimera, storm dragons, basilisks, and other terrifying beasts. But the more time she spends on earth, the more dark truths she begins to uncover about her home in the sky, and the more resolute she is to start burning for herself.

Welcome to my stop along the Heir to the Sky blog tour, hosted by Hannah at The Irish Banana Review! I’m so happy to review this book today because I really enjoyed it! I guess I had been needing a really good dystopia because I ate this one up! I’m really at a loss for words, and am having a hard time coming up with a coherent review. So much happens in the book and it is so well done. I love that it’s a standalone, as it is super refreshing to read a fully fleshed-out story for a change. Anyway, I’m going to keep my review short and sweet so as not to give too much away.

The premise of the story is really interesting, and I was immediately intrigued even though I was a little worried that the floating continents aspect would be too similar to Lauren DeStefano’s Perfect Ruin. The bulk of this story takes place on Earth, though, so everything ended up feeling unique and fresh. And really, the story picked up for me after Kali fell and was literally thrown from her extravagant life as a royal to surviving a cold, dirty, scary life. Her first night on Earth was really exciting for me, and I loved reading about her experiences with the crazy beasts and dragons. But Griffin. Oh, Griffin. I LOVE him. He definitely made this story for me. I loved the bond that he and Kali formed, and I loved how sweet he was to her as he protected her and tried to get her back home.

This story is surrounded by a lot of legend and secrecy, and I enjoyed watching the mystery unfold regarding how the islands really ended up in the sky, what Earth is really like, and who these people really are. Kali has been lied to her whole life, and falling to Earth gave her the awful truth very quickly. She no longer wants to get home for selfish reasons, she wants to get home to save the world. She learns a lot about herself in the process and what she is capable of. She also meets a lot of people, makes some friends, falls in love, and experiences some very dangerous and life-changing things. I enjoyed watching her grow and become more aware and fierce.

I loved Sun’s writing style and the details she provided. Earth is portrayed in vivid detail, with lots of colors and ferocious beasts. I felt like I was there. I loved the characters and all the little secrets to society and politics and ways of life that shaped the story. Heir to the Sky is a fast-paced, action-packed read that had me turning the pages as quickly as humanly possible. I’d definitely recommend it to people who are looking for an interesting dystopia/fantasy mash-up.


About Amanda Sun

I’m a YA author and proud Nerdfighter. I was born in Deep River, Canada, a very small town without traffic lights or buses, and where stranger safety is comprised of what to do if you see a bear—or skunk. I started reading fantasy novels at 4 and writing as soon as I could hold a pencil. Hopefully my work’s improved since then.

In university I took English, Linguistics, and Asian History, before settling into Archaeology, because I loved learning about the cultures and stories of ancient people. Of course, I didn’t actually become an archaeologist—I have an intense fear of spiders. I prefer unearthing fascinating stories in the safety of my living room.

The Paper Gods is inspired by my time living in Osaka and travelling throughout Japan. That and watching far too many J-Dramas. I currently live in Toronto with my husband and daughter. When I’m not writing, I’m devouring YA books, knitting nerdy things like Companion Cubes and Triforce mitts, and making elaborate cosplays for anime cons.

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The Strange Case of Finley Jayne by Kady Cross | Novella Review

Posted July 3, 2015 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 2 Comments

The Strange Case of Finley Jayne by Kady Cross | Novella ReviewThe Strange Case of Finley Jane Published by Harlequin Teen on May 1, 2011
Genres: Alternate History, Fantasy, Steampunk
Pages: 83
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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3.5 Stars
Finley Jayne knows she's not 'normal'. Normal girls don't lose time, or have something inside them that makes them capable of remarkably violent things. Her behavior has already cost her one job, so when she's offered the lofty position of companion to Phoebe, a debutante recently engaged to Lord Vincent, she accepts, despite having no experience. Lord Vincent is a man of science with his automatons and inventions, but Finley is suspicious of his motives where Phoebe is concerned. She will do anything to protect her new friend, but what she discovers is even more monstrous than anything she could have imagined.

My Kindle copy of The Girl in the Steel Corset has this short prequel novella at the beginning, and I had no idea what I was reading until it was over and it was time to move into the full-length novel! I was a tad annoyed that I was not told I was reading the novella, but I can only assume it will be helpful as I move into The Girl in the Steel Corset at a later time.

I think I was fortunate with this novella, even though I was annoyed I was reading it instead of the book (The Girl in the Steel Corset was a required reading for my YA lit course, and so I was frustrated that I had spent 83 pages on the wrong book. But oh well. Moving on.). The Strange Case of Finley Jayne was actually pretty entertaining and has a plot that it not too big or too small for the book. It felt just right to me. We were not rushing through events and details, but it also did not feel like an unnecessary addition to the series. The characters are well developed even though 83 pages is not long enough to get attached to any of them. I like Finley, and am intrigued by her story. I also liked the writing style, and feel like this book was a nice introduction to the series. I know some people read this novella after Steel Corset, so I’m not sure which was the better option. Regardless, I enjoyed it and am planning to read The Girl in the Steel Corset soon.

So. Do you like this series? Have you read this novella? I’m curious how it relates to Steel Corset because I read a review that says that the events in this books are never referenced in Steel Corset, and that Steel Corset contradicts some of the events in Strange Case. So is it even worth reading it in the grand scheme of things? I’d love your opinions!


Captivate by Vanessa Garden | Book Review

Posted January 10, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 10 Comments

Captivate by Vanessa Garden | Book ReviewCaptivate by Vanessa Garden
Series: Submerged Sun #1
Published by Harlequin Teen on January 1, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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5 Stars
In a glittering underwater world, nothing is as it seems...

For the past twelve months since her parents’ death, seventeen-year-old Miranda Sun has harboured a dark secret — a secret that has strained the close relationship she once shared with her older sister, Lauren. In an effort to repair this broken bond, Miranda’s grandparents whisk the siblings away on a secluded beach holiday. Except before Miranda gets a chance to confess her life-changing secret, she’s dragged underwater by a mysterious stranger while taking a midnight swim.

Awakening days later, Miranda discovers that she’s being held captive in a glittering underwater city by an arrogant young man named Marko...the King of this underwater civilisation.

Nineteen-year-old Marko intends to marry Miranda in order to keep his crown from falling into the sinister clutches of his half-brother, Damir. There’s only one problem. Miranda is desperate to return home to right things with her sister and she wants nothing to do with Marko. Trying to secure her freedom, Miranda quickly forms an alliance with Robbie — Marko’s personal guard. However, she soon discovers that even underwater, people are hiding dangerous secrets...

I was super excited when I read the blurb for Captivate, because I LOVE underwater worlds. They have always been my very favorite settings for books. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this world is super unique and gorgeous. I adored this book beyond words, and hope I can set aside the fangirling and present my thoughts in a coherent way! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. The book starts out with a major bang! First, the girls are taking a midnight swim and talking about life and all of a sudden Miranda is pulled under the water and disappears. I was captivated immediately.

2. I fell in love with the undersea world of Marin almost instantly. It is gorgeous and colorful and sparkling and so unique! At first I thought Captivate was a book about mermaids, but it’s not. These are humans living on the ocean floor in a huge city. The city has rivers and gondolas and a modern colosseum where people go to watch criminals get thrown to the sharks in a big aquarium-like tank. When the look up to the sky they see the ocean instead. Their world is lit and warmed by light crystals that sparkle, and oxygen is brought down to them through air shafts. There’s a garden and a park with real grass. I could go on and on. I’m in love with this place.

3. Miranda’s captor, Robbie, is one of my favorite characters. I’m so impressed that Vanessa was able to write a kidnapper that I ended up loving. Robbie was ordered by his best friend, Marko, King of Marin, to go to the surface and bring him a wife. Once Robbie brought her down to Marin, he was appointed her guard. As he gets to know her and her story, he begins to really care for her and her wellbeing. He has such a sweet and caring personality, and I completely fell for him.

4. There is some very interesting mermaid lore thrown in to the story, and I loved reading about it. I loved reading the history of Marin, as well as its hidden mysteries. I mentioned before that I love Marin, but it’s all because of the amazing worldbuilding in this story.

5. I really like Miranda, even though she is nothing really special. Maybe that’s why I like her! She is portrayed as a quiet little plain Jane, always in the shadow of her gorgeous sister. She was chosen at random and by accident, and brought down to a world where she is the center of attention. She is needed. She is extremely important to everyone there. She discovers that she is beautiful. I really loved watching her take to heart that she is so much more than the physical traits she wished she had. She no longer feels the need to hide herself, and even though she is captive, she acts more free the longer she stays.

6. Marko is really sexy. I did not care for him much in the beginning, but I grew to like him a lot. He has this interesting mixture of being really suave, yet completely inexperienced at the same time. I kind of loved watching him trip over himself and discover new emotions.

7. I was not totally sold on the romance, and am left a little confused as to whether or not there’s a love triangle. I think we’re supposed to be confused, though, because I think Miranda is.

8. There were some tense moments, some of which made me scared to continue on! I feel like I really latched on to some of these characters, and so when the danger set in I worried for their safety.

9. I love Vanessa’s writing. I finished this book last night, but I am still picturing Marin in my mind. I’m still picturing Miranda’s moments with Marko. I’m still picturing fearless Robbie. The words flow so effortlessly off the page that I could not quit reading!

Overall, Captivate is a new favorite of mine, and the start to what I’m sure will be an amazing trilogy! The world is one I know many readers will love visiting, and Vanessa’s writing will keep them wishing for more. I was truly captivated and thoroughly enjoyed my reading experience. I cannot wait for the next book!


Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry (Mini Book Review)

Posted July 27, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 6 Comments

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry (Mini Book Review)Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
Series: Pushing the Limits #1
Published by Harlequin Teen on July 31, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 392
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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5 Stars
No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

I’ve never read a book quite like this one before, but I’m so glad I did! I always love reading about two broken characters who put the pieces of their lives back together, together! This is the kind of story that needs to be experienced, so I am making my review short and sweet.

These characters are so amazingly real and likeable. They both have dark pasts that haunt them, and they are both a little broken and struggling with inner demons as a result. They both end up going to the same therapist, and that therapist puts them together to help one another. What surfaces is an amazing journey of transformation, self-discovery, self-confidence, and love. I adored the lessons of forgiveness and resilience that were inserted throughout the story. Two broken families, two heartbroken people, and one mission to change all of that in the hopes of a better future.

I loved seeing them transform and grow into better versions of themselves. Echo gained confidence and answers, and Noah gained a new perspective. I particularly loved watching Noah go from this hardened bad boy to an amazingly caring and responsible man. I loved the tenderness he exhibited with Echo and his brothers. I think everyone needs a Noah in their life.

The romance is so raw and believable, not to mention a long time coming. This one was a very slow burn, and I loved the tension and vulnerability. These two are put through the ringer, and at times put each other through the ringer too. Their imperfections made them perfect for each other. If one of them struggled with something, the other one was the rock that pulled them through. And vice versa.

The writing was beautiful. Katie painted such vivid pictures in my mind of what these characters, even the supporting ones, went through. I gained a lot of insight into the minds of people in general. I’ve never endured these hardships that are discussed in this book, but I do feel much more understanding than I was.

I would definitely recommend this book to contemporary romance and realistic fiction lovers. Many of my readers and blogger friends know me as That Artsy Reader Girl Who Does Not Read Books That Bring Tears. I’m embracing the inner crybaby, and I am so glad I gave this book the chance it deserved.

Oh, and for your listening pleasure… I heard this song the other day, and it totally reminds me of the hope these characters have. I particularly love the lyric: “Life is getting better all the time / As long as we’re together everything’s gonna be alright / I feel it, I see it, I know that / Life is getting better all the time.

Love it!


New Girl by Paige Harbison (Book Review)

Posted January 8, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 5 Comments

New Girl by Paige Harbison (Book Review)New Girl by Paige Harbison
Published by Harlequin Teen on January 31, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Retelling
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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3 Stars
Welcome to Manderley Academy.

I hadn't wanted to go, but my parents were so excited…. So here I am, the new girl at Manderley, a true fish out of water. But mine's not the name on everyone's lips. Oh, no.

It's Becca Normandy they can't stop talking about. Perfect, beautiful Becca. She went missing at the end of last year, leaving a spot open at Manderley—the spot that I got. And everyone acts like it's my fault that infallible, beloved Becca is gone and has been replaced by not perfect, completely fallible, unknown Me.

Then, there's the name on my lips—Max Holloway. Becca's ex. The one boy I should avoid, but can't. Thing is, it seems like he wants me, too. But the memory of Becca is always between us. And as much as I'm starting to like it at Manderley, I can't help but think she's out there, somewhere, watching me take her place.

Waiting to take it back.

Well… That was confusing! With this book, I kind of felt like I was just going through the motions. I wanted to read it, and I knew I should read it, but I wasn’t excited about it or craving it like I do when I’m reading a book I adore. I spent a lot of time going, “hmmm…”. This was definitely unique and totally unlike anything I’ve ever read before.

We have our unnamed (until the very end) heroine/narrator of the story. She’s not a very riveting character, probably because she is the nameless “new girl” living in the shadow of, and pretty much replacing, the girl who disappeared mysteriously the year before. I had to feel for her. I moved around a lot as a child, and I’ve been the new girl SO many times. It’s really hard to go to a brand new place, and at the end of high school? That’s pretty brutal. It’s even harder because Becca (mystery girl) had to disappear to even open a spot for “new girl” to attend the boarding school. Everyone’s got a major thing against her, and they don’t even know her yet. That’s got to be hard. At the same time, though, because I’ve been there I know that you’ve got to stick up for yourself to fit in. She didn’t. She spent a lot of time having people yell at her and accuse her of untrue things while she sat there, stunned, with her mouth gaping open. So… she kind of bugged me. Eventually she finds her footing and begins to stick up for herself. And I do admire her for sticking it out and not moving back home. I know I would want to, so I have to give her props there.

Every other chapter or so, Becca narrates and we have flashbacks of her time at the school before her disappearance. She was a snobby, cocky, manipulative, drunken slut! And… a total sociopath. I got really tired of reading about her against-the-rules late night beer pong/body shot parties at the boathouse, her two-timing two nice boys, her lies, and her ego. I really just hated her! She’s the kind of person that new girls of the world fear. Her friend and roommate, Dana (also “new girl’s” roommate”), was also totally psycho. She really creeped me out as I watched her grief over losing Becca totally consume her. She spent the entire book on a conquest to find Becca and ruin “new girl’s” life. And she was creepy. I got chills reading about her. And then there were all the other members of Becca’s posse, who also hated “new girl”. And then there were the two boys who had a thing for Becca… also having a thing for “new girl” but trying not to have a thing for her because it would be weird in light of Becca’s disappearance. Both guys were nothing special, and I had a hard time understand how they knew enough about her to like her so much. So… poor “new girl” does not have many positive pieces of her life.

Really, the whole story is all boathouse parties, people sneaking off to do the nasty, the occasional classroom environment, creepy encounters, and insane people being really mean to an innocent girl they don’t even know the name of. And the sad thing is… I can totally see this happening in real life. I think that’s why it disturbed me so much! A popular girl in a high school environment can TOTALLY take control of an entire student body like Becca did. She was so powerful that even being MIA, she still ruined the life of someone! That’s kind of scary if you think about it! (By the way, I had no idea this was a retelling of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier until I read another review. Now I’m intrigued… I need to go grab my copy of Rebecca and read it!) The pacing was a little too slow for me, especially at the end… although I did kind of like “new girl’s” introspection as she accessed her final thoughts and her time at Manderly.

I tend to be pretty critical, but in light of what I just said, this book had some positive points. I did not find it weird that we never knew “new girl’s” name. It did not feel like we were not allowed to know. It flowed naturally, and I think not knowing her name actually allowed me to identify with her more. It was easier to slip into her mind and feel what she was feeling. I was also pretty intrigued by what happened to Becca, and how she had such control over so many people. I read most of this book in one sitting, so even though I have my complaints, I was still interested enough to continue on well into the wee hours of the morning.

(Oh my. The light bulb just went on… Rebecca… Becca. Gosh. In my defense, it’s 3:00 AM. Don’t judge!)

I liked how Becca and “new girl” were linked. They both essentially told the exact same story, but things went very differently for the two of them. Becca always got what she wanted and “new girl” pretty much never did. The character development was sound. I know the personalities of the main characters very well. I don’t know their favorite book, TV show, or color. I don’t know where they are from, or what they plan to do with their lives, but I can guess what they’ll think or feel next. They contrasted well with each other, and I liked getting into their heads.

This book was more of an experience than a story. I can see it as a kind of social commentary. I felt the chill and the emotion. I felt really sorry for “new girl”. Actually, I ended up feeling really sorry for Becca as well. It really made me think a lot. Even now as I’m writing this review, I’m coming up with new things I pulled from the book. I just keep coming back to how eerily possible the entire story is. Clearly, an underlying moral message was written between the lines, but telling you my opinions on that might foil your own thoughts.

Have any of you read this? What did you think? Those of you who have read Rebecca, how closely does this story follow Rebecca’s storyline? No spoilers, please!

______________________________________________________________________________

**After a lovely book chat with Magan of Rather be Reading and Alexa of Alexa Loves Books, we collectively decided we are all even more confused by this book than we thought! Some of our conversation highlights include:

Alexa:  I thought the alternating points of view worked out well. Because we got New Girl’s POV and then a bit of a flashback to Becca. I had to get used to it though.
Jana:  I enjoyed it. I think either story would have been boring on its own. So, telling them at the same time was a nice change of pace.
Magan:  Yeah, I liked the alternating POVs, too. It was hard for me to keep up with the timing sometimes because of the character overlaps. Once I got used to it, all was good.
Magan: I felt like there were pages where I was supposed to read into something more, but didn’t and then something supposedly happened between them and I felt lost.
Jana:  Magan, I agree. I felt like I wasn’t thinking hard enough as I read.
Alexa: I always felt like I was missing something too. Like I was supposed to know certain things already.
Jana:  I thought it was the new girl, not Becca… OH MAN. My brain hurts. Haha.
Magan:  Mine too. This is rough.
Alexa:  It’s actually an interesting book to talk about because we can all figure it out together.Magan:  I think I would have swallowed my pride and begged for a return ticket home. I couldn’t have made it through all of that.
Jana:  OH YES. I would have been gone immediately.
Alexa:  Magan – I would have caved the instant they started comparing me to her.
Jana: Haha. I think “creepy” is our most frequently used word.
Magan:  Yeah, I had a stack of not-so-fluffy or romantic books to read after NG and I just wanted something super girly to take my mind off the haunted feeling after I finished NG.
Jana:  Same here. I did feel haunted. Kind of disturbed. It still gets to me even now.
Alexa:  Me too.
Magan:  Yep. Ditto.
Jana: I think we should all read Rebecca and then see if this makes sense. Haha.
Magan:  Yeah, I think you’re right, Jana.
Alexa:  We should! Haha, it can be our next project.
Magan:  Really there was just so much crazy here.
Jana:  Yes. And crazy = makes no sense, hence the reason we are confused.
Magan:  Haha, yep!
Alexa:  YES
Magan:  So, what did you guys rate this on GR? I gave it three stars.
Jana:  I gave it 3 stars.
Alexa:  me too! hahahaha
Magan:  It definitely wasn’t a dislike kind of book, but almost like I wanted more. More answers. More loose ends tied up.
Jana:  Exactly.

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