Series Review: Immortal Beloved

Author Cate Tiernan is probably best known for her Sweep Series. When I had the chance to get all three of the Immortal Beloved books *in hardcover* at once, I quickly snapped them up, without ever having read anything by Teirnan before.
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The Immortal Beloved Series
1 – Immortal Beloved
2 – Darkness Falls
3 – Eternally Yours 

by Cate Tiernan
Release Date: 2010 – 2012
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Summary from Goodreads:

Nastasya has spent the last century living as a spoiled, drugged-out party girl. She feels nothing and cares for no one. But when she witnesses her best friend, a Dark Immortal, torture a human, she realizes something’s got to change. She seeks refuge at a rehab for wayward immortals, where she meets the gorgeous, undeniably sexy Reyn, who seems inexplicably linked to her past.
Nastasya finally begins to deal with life, and even feels safe–until the night she learns that someone wants her dead.

February was the month of digging into the lovely books I purchased on Boxing Day from Book Outlet. After reading many different books all over different series, I was in the mood to read a series from beginning to end and chose Immortal Beloved. The books are around 400 pages each, but they read quick. I actually read the trilogy in about a week, which is an achievement when you’re a mother and a full-time student.

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I loved Natasya (more on that later) and to be honest, I started the book completely jealous of her crazy, care-free immortal life style. That faded as I realized that her partying was her way of coping with 450-ish years of hell. I really bonded with her as a character, which is something I usually have more difficulty than I would like to admit. She’s so… REAL – and that is an aspect in leading roles that seems to be lacking in YA these days.

In my life, I have the privilege of things like war and famine being far away, in history or in the news. Going through the process of self-healing and discovery with Natasya and Rayn brought many feelings to the surface. I felt raw and sad, missing times that were well before my own. Sometimes I wished for 500 year old memories and then realized that living forever seemed more like a curse than a blessing. If there’s one thing that Cate Tiernan does perfectly, it was the flash-back. They were each so richly written that I felt as if I was holding a tiny time machine in my hands. She is a masterful writer.

Going by the blurb, I was worried about insta-love between Natasya and Rayn, but I was pleasantly surprised. Now granted, there was some insta-lust, but I’m pretty sure I’d be giddy over this Viking God too. All of the characters blended together well and all grew at a good pace. Of course, Natasya had some of the best character development.

As i cracked open the second book,  Darkness Falls, I was mostly anticipating what would come for the  “villains”, Boz and Incy. Teirnan wrote these indulgent, self-destructive characters perfectly and I think even in our modern lives, we all know one or two people that remind us of Boz, Incy and the other wayward Immortals. I won’t put any spoilers in here but whoo-wee Incy! I love myself a bad boy … but he took it too far.

Unfortunately, what irked me the most was the inconsistencies in the Immortal’s world/backstory/rules. Half the time the reader got a “It is because I say so” or “It is because it is” answer to basic questions about where the Immortals come from and how they age. The information slowly built up over the course of the series, but many questions were still left unanswered. I would have liked their culture and past to have been a bit more well developed, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the series.

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About the cover change. While the new editions of covers are lovely and cohesive and filled with “girl in a gown” goodness, I prefer the original 2011 covers. They seem to match the tone and topic matter of the novels better. My set at home has the 1st book in the original cover, and the other two in the more recent renditions. I’m glad I have at least one original, because I adore the pendant imprint on it. It’d make a sweet tattoo – just sayin’.

If there’s one thing I love most about Tiernan’s writing, it’s the tone. Natasya’s narration was the perfect mix of funny, sarcastic and self-serving, as I would expect an immortal “teenager” to be. There were several times that I laughed out loud and other times where I shook my head at her ridiculousness. Cate Tiernan has worked in children’s and teen publishing for a long time and she has mastered the technique of a perfect narrator.

There’s a lot more about this book that I could get into, but then this review would go on forever. Let’s just say that this book came to me exactly when I needed it. I’ve been going through some things myself lately and having Natasya go through them with me made me feel like I wasn’t so alone.

The question is now… what to read next? I probably won’t dive into Sweep, because I’ve heard that it can be quick offensive and eye-roll inducing for Wiccans. However, when shopping for this series, I also got my hands on Birthright, which seems like it will be a great read. But I also have a bunch of new releases to read.

If only I was Immortal, then I could finally have the time to read everything.

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Good Morning

Good morning.

Good morning world, today is the day.
It is the day everything changes.
Or so I always say. 

Even now my will has not conceded.
Let me show you all things,
That I never needed.

Written November 2015

50 Book Challenge Update – December

Whew, how fast a year can fly by! I made the 50 book challenge by the skin of my teeth! There’s a slight error in my Goodreads total, because it added books that I DNF and I don’t always record the non-fiction books that I read; so I’m using my blog as the final score.

In hindsight, I wished my reading hadn’t suffered in October and November, but I’ll forgive myself because of mid-terms and NaNoWriMo. I also read a few non-fiction books later in the year, but because I didn’t read cover-to-cover, I decided not to include them in my blog count.

I’m not sure if I’m going to add to the challenge this year coming or not. I think 50 books is a modest goal, but seeing that I lead a fairly busy life, it’s a good one to aim for.

If you’re planning on doing the 50 book challenge in 2016 let me know so we can buddy up! Leave a comment here and/or add my Goodreads profile to follow along.  I will be updating my blog with once a month, but my profile is updated on a weekly / “bookly” basis.

I got my 25 books from  bookoutlet.ca and I can’t wait to get them read! I shared a pic of my haul on instagram, which you can see below.

January – 5/4 – goal exceeded!
1. Redeemed (House of Night #12)
2. Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3)
3. Earth Star (Earth Girl #2)
4. Earth Flight (Earth Girl #3)
5. City of Dark Magic (City of Dark Magic #1)
    

February – 7/4 – goal exceeded!
1. #GirlBoss
2. Hex Hall (Hex Hall #1)
3. The False Princess
4. Demon Glass (Hex Hall #2)
5. Spell Bound (Hex Hall #3)
6. Talon (Talon #1)
7. The Heretic Queen
      

March – 3/4
1. Unleashed (Uninvited #2)
2. Southern Fried Wiccan
3. Perfect Ruin (The Internment Chronicles #1)
  

April – 5/4 – goal exceeded!
1. Catwoman: The Game, New 52 (Volume 1)
2. Golden Son (Red Rising #2)
3. A Necklace of Souls (Soul Necklace #1)
4. No Intention of Dying (The Internment Chronicles #1.5)
5. Burning Kingdoms (The Internment Chronicles #2)
    

May – 4/4
1. Nefertiti
2. The Occasional Diamond Thief
3. Rebel Belle (Rebel Belle #1)
4. Secret of the Sevens
   

June- 5/4
1. Modern Monsters
2. The Rebel Queen
3. Rouge (Talon #2)
4. A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1)
5. Red Queen (Red Queen #1)
    

July- 4/4
1. The Winners Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1)
2. Synthetica
3. Miss Mayhem (Rebel Belle #2)
4. Once a Witch
   

August- 4/4
1. Always a Witch (Once a Witch #2)
2. The Winner’s Crime (The Winner’s Trilogy #2)
3. Superstition
4. The Orphan Queen (The Orphan Queen #1)
 

September- 4/4
1. Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1)
2. The Body Institute
3. Pawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion #1)
4. Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2)
   

October- 2/4
1. Captive (The Blackcoat Rebellion #2)
2. Return Once More (The Historians #1)
3.
4.
 

November- 2/4
1. Shadowshaper
2. The Summer Prince
3.
4.
 

December 5/5
1. The Goddess Test (The Goddess Test #1)
2. The Goddess Hunt (The Goddess Test #1.5)
3. Goddess Interrupted (The Goddess Test #2)
4. Thin Space
5. AntiGoddess (Goddess War #1)
9681214 129993061 12637490  

—– TOTAL 2015 BOOK COUNT – 50/50

Book Review: Return Once More

Return Once More (The Historians #1)
by Trisha Leigh
Release Date: June 2015
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Summary from Goodreads:

If you could learn the identity of your one true love—even though you will never meet— would you?
Years have passed since refugees from a ruined earth took to space, eventually settling a new system of planets. Science has not only made the leaps necessary to allow time travel, but the process engineered a strange side effect—predicting your one true love.
If you could save your one true love from an untimely death, would you be able to resist?
Sixteen-year-old Kaia Vespasian is an apprentice to the Historians—a group charged with using time travel to document the triumphs and failures of the past—and she can’t resist a peek at her long-dead soul mate in Ancient Egypt. Before she knows it, she’s broken every rule in the book, and the consequences of getting caught could destroy more than just her new romance.
Or would you have the strength to watch him die?
But when Kaia notices a fellow classmate snooping around in a time where he doesn’t belong, she suspects he has a secret of his own—and the conspiracy she uncovers could threaten the entire universe. If her experience has taught her anything, to changing history means facing the consequences. The Historians trained her to observe and record the past, but Kaia never guessed she might have to protect it— in a race across time to save her only chance at a future.

I’ve never had a thing for time travel, but I have always had a thing for Ancient Egypt, so that’s what drew me into Return Once More. I believe that the author did a good job of describing the futuristic world and the technology that was used within it. I find that some books have to little explanation while others have far too much – Trisha Leigh got this one just right. Some of it did require a willing suspension of disbelief, but that’s why we read fantasy!

The entire premise of being about travel back in time but not forward it time made sense to me. The past is already done but the future possibilities are infinite. As long as you don’t screw up the past and make sure we have a future to return to. The other plot device used was the ability to find someone’s “One True Love” throughout all time and space. For some reason, they can predict someone’s True in the future… but not go there… hm. That felt undeveloped for me. I played along with that, because hey, I love History so the thought of being able to go back and observe was awesome!

Kaia is a great heroine, I enjoyed reading from her point of view. She is a realistic teenager who breaks all the rules when it suits her, but still has a strong sense of what is right and wrong. The supporting characters could have used a bit more fleshing out, as sometimes I was confused about who Kaia was interacting with.

While the book moved and read quickly, some of the pacing felt off to me. I found myself bored every so often and then suddenly it would pick up like a roller-coaster. I really loved the cover for this book. I like the juxtaposition of the modern clothing with the (fantasy inspired) Ancient Egyptian setting.

As I was approaching the end of the book, I knew that there was no way that it was all going to wrap up nicely in the last 10%. I went into this book thinking it was a standalone, so I was left wondering wtf was going on at the end. Imagine my surprise when I realized it was a series! I can’t wait to read what happens next.

In the end, I really enjoyed this book by Trisha Leigh and I look forward to reading the next installment in the series. She does have another series completed with CreateSpace named The Last Year, which I will also be adding to my to-read list. The first installment, Whispers in Autumn is free on Amazon!

*disclaimer* – I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a honest review. 
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Series Review: Once a Witch / Always a Witch

I added Once a Witch to my to-read list over a year and a half ago, when I first started using Goodreads to track my reading / to-read progress. I seriously cannot get enough of that site, I have discovered so many amazing authors through Goodreads, including Carolyn MacCullough.

#1 Once a Witch
# 2 Always a Witch
by Carolyn MacCullough
Release Date: 2009 / 2011
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Summary from Goodreads:

“Your daughter will be one of the most powerful we have ever seen in this family. She will be a beacon for us all.”

Tamsin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and on the day she was born, her grandmother proclaimed she would be one of the most Talented among them.
But Tamsin’s magic never showed up.
Now, seventeen years later, she spends most of her time at boarding school in Manhattan, where she can at least pretend to be normal. But during the summers, she’s forced to return home and work at her family’s bookstore/magic shop.

One night a handsome young professor from New York University arrives in the shop and mistakes Tamsin for her extremely Talented older sister. For once, it’s Tamsin who’s being looked at with awe and admiration, and before she can stop herself, she agrees to find a family heirloom for him that was lost more than a century ago. But the search – and the stranger – prove to be more sinister than they first appeared, ultimately sending Tamsin on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the past sins of her family, and unleash a power so strong and so vengeful that it could destroy them all.

In a spellbinding display of storytelling, Carolyn MacCullough interweaves witchcraft, romance, and time travel in a fantasy that will exhilarate, enthrall, and thoroughly enchant.

Once a Witch has been sitting on my to-read list for a while, but I’m glad that I’ve finally had the chance to read it. Put simply, I loved it! It’s fast-paced, well-written and has everything that I could have wanted in a modern fantasy novel. First published in 2009, I’m surprised that this book hasn’t gotten more mainstream attention, especially with an endorsement from Cassandra Clare.

At just under 300 pages, this story is a whirlwind of an adventure that includes witchcraft, sleuthing, time travel, sibling rivalry and a hint of romance.

I really enjoyed the characters. MacCullough knows how to write teens for a wider audience. The characters were all unique, avoiding major tropes but still providing the cast that we would expect from a book like this. Her tone and pacing hit every mark perfectly.

I honestly went into reading this book not knowing that there was a sequel already published. I was over the moon when there was a sample of Always a Witch in the back, and I immediately checked it out of the library and even put reading The Winner’s Crime on hold to read it.

So, let’s talk cover art. I love love love the cover for the 2009 edition of Once a Witch. It fits the mood of the story completely. The cover for Always a Witch, however, fell flat into a cliche cover of some goth girl brooding in a corset. Seeing how this is a trend in YA at the moment, it must help the books sell, but I prefer the Hermoine-esque cover of the first book, which I connected with on a more personal level.

Upon finishing the series, I am definitely interesting in reading more from this author.