Book Review: Return Once More

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

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. 
YA Bounk Tour Button

Advertisements

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
Add to Goodreads

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.

 

Book Review: The Body Institute

Do you guys remember when I hosted a cover reveal for The Body Institute by Carol Riggs back in March? Well I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advanced copy to read and review!
The Body Institute
by Carol Riggs
Release Date: September 2015
Add to Goodreads
Buy From Amazon

Summary from Goodreads:

Meet Morgan Dey, one of the top teen Reducers at The Body Institute.
Thanks to cutting-edge technology, Morgan can temporarily take over another girl’s body, get her in shape, and then return to her own body—leaving her client slimmer, more toned, and feeling great. Only there are a few catches…
For one, Morgan won’t remember what happens in her “Loaner” body. Once she’s done, she won’t recall walks with her new friend Matt, conversations with the super-cute Reducer she’s been text-flirting with, or the uneasy feeling she has that the director of The Body Institute is hiding something. Still, it’s all worth it in the name of science. Until the glitches start…
Suddenly, residual memories from her Loaner are cropping up in Morgan’s mind. She’s feeling less like herself and more like someone else. And when protests from an anti–Body Institute organization threaten her safety, she’ll have to decide if being a Reducer is worth the cost of her body and soul…

I was originally interested in the book because I thought it would be tackling issues like body shaming and discrimination, but that wasn’t really the case. There were a few moments hidden in between health lectures, but they seemed few and far between. I might have just been too sensitive about it, because of my own personal history – and I’ll admit there were parts in the beginning that were triggering to me and I had to put the book down. Therefore, I would recommend anyone living with an eating disorder or body-dismorphia to read with caution.

However, for all the personal challenges I had while reading this book, I’ve very glad I did. There is no doubt that Carol Riggs is an excellent writer and keeps the reader guessing. I’m normally that person that has everything figured out – not with The Body Institute! The story was slow (but engaging) until the 50% mark and just when I thought I knew what was going to happen I got hit with twist after twist. I read the last half of the book in a day because I just couldn’t put it down!

I like the world building, it was easy to imagine and the technology seemed plausible in the next 100 years or so. I don’t know much about tech or biology but to me, the tech described for switching minds didn’t seem all that impossible. That’s what marks a good sci-fi for me – books with tech that is realistic is way more unnerving that fantasy lands.

I love Morgan for her resliance and her detication to her family. She was a heroine that I could really get behind and not be annoyed by the 1st person perspective. After all she went though, and still carrying herself with pride really inspired me. The other characters were all great in their way, and the cast supported a very well thought out plot.

My favourite character was Morgans grandfather. I felt like I connected with him better because he was not a native of this intense technology, just as I would be if it were developed in my life time. I think his family (even Morgan in the beginning) writes him off as a grumpy old man, but he is very wise. There was something that he said that seems to be a cornerstone of the theme of this book, which I will leave here for everyone:

“Your looks are an important part of who you are. You wouldn’t be who you are, the same personality, if you’d grown up looking different. You’re a blend of your body and your soul.”

 

*disclaimer* – I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a honest review. 
YA Bounk Tour Button

 

Book Review: Superstition

Superstition by Lucy Fenton was a great novel. It set the bar high as one of the best self-published books I have read in a long time.

Superstition
by Lucy Fenton
Release Date: August 2015
Add to Goodreads
Buy From Amazon

Summary from Goodreads:

What happens when your childhood nightmares of being bitten by strange creatures in a dark wood aren’t just dreams?
Sixteen-year-old Arden St. John’s life takes a strange turn when she finds an unusual animal injured near her new house on the south east coast of Australia. When she takes it to the local vet, a terrible truth is inadvertently exposed to her.
She discovers a secret underworld, where witches are commonplace and trolls masquerade as queen bees, terrorizing the other students with impunity. A world where vampires traffic in the lives of children, draining their bodies once they reach maturity. Where adults auction their own children to extend their lives.
Arden finds out she’s one of those kids, her life traded by the mother she never knew. Now she’s caught up in this ancient and corrupt economy operating just below the surface of modern society. She’s a hot commodity, and it’s only a matter of time before the vampire who bought her comes to claim his prize.
But Arden’s not going down without a fight.

It should be no secret now that I’m a sucker for witchcraft or occult based stories. The world building in Superstition was a neat take on traditional witches and vampires. I appreciate that the vampires are scary monsters and not sparkling hunks – I’m not at all worried that Arden might fall for one in the future. What was most interesting was the currency of lives or years, being able to buy and sell them, or even selling your children’s years instead! I know that our society surely would be doing that if they could. (If not already, but that’s a political essay for another day.)

Arden was a likable main character. The narration was dependable and consistent all of the way through. I admire her determination and grit, but some times she gets what she want way too easily. Her friends were loyal throughout, even when things got tough; and the teen heart throb Nick, well – he was your perfect boy next door. I hope things will work out for them.

I enjoyed the debate on what is good and evil, creation and destruction, and all of the grey areas in between. You can’t have one without the other, but being raised in a Western/ Christian society, if someone is labeled as destructive, they immediately related that with being evil. I like that Arden is determined to use her powers to right wrongs and fight evil.

Over all, the editing for this book was strong, however I feel like it could have been longer. The pacing was off, and some scenes seemed too rushed. The fight scenes could have been fleshed out better, they all seemed to end to easily and too quickly. For a witch with such destructive powers, I was hoping for a bit more blood and gore! The story could have easily filled another 100 pages and not been a drag.

The title fell flat for me. There are so many books out there with the title Superstition (or some close variable) that it makes it harder to search for it. I would have recommended something a bit more unique for a first novel, but naming books is something I also have trouble with.  *cough cough*

I will be checking out the play Gaslight to see how it ties into this novel. It seemed like a not so subtle name drop, and Fenton seems to be a reader of plays so I will be checking that out soon.

I was pleased to find out from the author’s Goodreads page that a sequel was in the works. She noted that it takes her a year or more to write a book, which is totally understandable and I was grateful that she wrapped up the end perfectly – leaving you wanting more but not hanging over a cliff!

*disclaimer* – I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a honest review. 
YA Bounk Tour Button
a Rafflecopter giveaway
//widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Book Review: Red Queen

I devoured Red Queen in less than 48 hours. It’s a fast paced, action-packed YA read that hits the mark on so many levels, but in the end I still feel conflicted about it.

Red Queen
by Victoria Aveyard
Release Date: February 2015
Add to Goodreads
Buy From Amazon

Summary from Goodreads:

The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers. To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

Victoria Aveyard is a trained screenwriter and that is evident in her brilliant action-packed scenes, developed characters and excellent pacing. Red Queen could jump on the movie screen instantly, and I’d be pre-ordering my tickets.

What I loved most about Red Queen was the world building. The story line, however, was a tad predicable.

Ultimately, as much as I loved this book, I couldn’t give it 5 stars. Red Queen was a brilliantly entertaining book but it wasn’t exactly original. (Based on reviews on Goodreads, I’m not the only one who feels that way.) It felt like a mash up of Mockingjay, X-Men, Red Rising and The Selection. With great results mind you, but it kept nagging at the back of my mind. The title Red Queen seemed to be used for theatrics, and it doesn’t really tie into the story line as much as I thought it would.

The sequel, Glass Sword is set for release in February 2016. And so beings the waiting game…