Book Review: War of Wizards (Secrets of Shadow Hill) by S. P. Cervantes

I’m going to make a confession.  I have never read the Harry Potter series.  Yes, yes, I know.  I’m deprived.  But it is on my list.  As I continue in this genre of paranormal romance, it is clearer to me that I need to read some of the big books in the genre.  I broke down and read the “Twilight” series for example.  And now I can see all the references my vampire books make to it.  So now I have to read Harry Potter.

warwizardsEbook

I read the first two books in this series and loved them.  My review for “Always and Forever” is here and my review for “The Prophecy” is here.  It is strictly YA, no graphic sex, but in this one, Ava and Dalton are finally married and finally consummate their relationship.  The descriptions aren’t detailed and it is very tender and sweet.  Definitely YA appropriate.

Here is the synopsis for this final book:

Ava and Dalton want nothing more than to forget about the danger their love puts them in, and live peaceful lives in Shadow Hill; but that is not their destiny. Evil continues to haunt them, threatening to destroy everything. Volikai’s determination to summon the dark powers that the Originals have kept hidden for centuries before the Prophecy can be fulfilled.

When Patrick finds a new love, and learns of the reason for his powerful connection with Ava, he will stop at nothing to protect those he loves and destroy the evil that has plagued the world since the beginning of time.

Together, they will be faced with unimaginable choices to save the one’s they love as the final secrets of Shadow Hill are revealed.

As with the other books, this one is written from varying points of view.  I usually don’t have a problem with that, it is really creative and different.  But in this book it was a bit confusing when chapters went from Patrick to Dalton because it wasn’t exactly clear who the speaker was at times.

I do like the maturity shown throughout all of the books.  Especially with Dalton and Patrick.  It is a number of years after they first met, and with all they have been through with Ava, they now have a mature, adult, working relationship.  They both want to keep everyone safe, especially Ava.  They aren’t at odds anymore.  I truly liked seeing that particular relationship evolve.

Ava and Hannah have evolved as well.  They take their situation very seriously.  They go from knowing nothing about magic and wizards to leading their coven in the space of a few years.  Their strength is remarkable.

I hate to say this, and many YA fans will vehemently disagree, but it was kind of refreshing that some characters didn’t make it.  I’m not going to do a spoiler alert and name names.  But in most of these types of books, everyone lives happily ever after.  In this one, its a different kind of happily ever after.  And I really liked it.  It is more realistic, as much as realism can be found in a book about wizards.

A great follow-up to the first two books.  A great ending to the trilogy.  I truly love this series for its romance, its relationships between characters, its drama and aspect of a thriller.  And the magic is cool.  Definitely a must read for fans of paranormal YA.

Book Review: Revelations (Thera’s Eyes Series) by Leia Kiuski

Yes, I am on a paranormal romance, YA kick.  Again.  But I am so glad to be getting such different takes on the genre.  This one is no exception:

revelations

 

Here is the synopsis:

Elizabeth Monterey is a 17-year-old girl, who always had everything: lots of money, friends, the perfect boyfriend, and a promising future in the archery world. But an inexplicable accident changed her life forever, and now she needs to face the harsh reality of the death of her parents, a brother in a coma and the loss of her fortune. 

As if she hadn’t problems enough, demonic-looking creatures want the freedom to come and go to the human world as they please, and Elizabeth is the one chosen to prevent that from happening. But, she can’t do it alone. It will be necessary to find out who her allies are… and her enemies. 

So, the hunt begins. 

‘Revelations’, the first book in the ‘Thera’s Eyes series’, is an incredible adventure story, filled with magic and romance. A novel that follows the current trends and still manages to be different from anything you have ever read.

This is really different than the typical YA fare with wizards, zombies and vampires.  I truly admire authors that can create these worlds seemingly out of thin air.  I love learning about their creation, the laws of their world, the lore and history.  This story was no different.

I love that the main character, Beth, is flawed.  She’s shaken.  Her life has taken a turn for the worst and she is still standing.  But she is strong.  She overcomes her situations and makes the best of it, becoming a leader in a new world that she had no clue even existed.

I also like that despite the fact that she is now a warrior, she still has the same issues that most teenage girls do.  Especially with boys.  And one particular boy, Leon.  Some miscues and an overheard conversation leads her to think that he isn’t interested despite her overwhelming feeling for him.  This is pretty descriptive of her imagined situation:

If she could not have his love, at least she would have his friendship and she could still be a part of his life, even after he left, and it sure was better than having nothing at all.

I truly appreciate this aspect of the story.  It lends some realism…even though they are fighting “demons” she still is struggling with her feelings for a member of the opposite sex.

I absolutely love the friendship between the warriors.  Their loyalty to each other.  Their willingness to do what is needed to “save the world”.  Definitely a bonus in this story.

And it is very well written. The characters are well developed, the plot is well thought out, the writing is fantastic.

Overall a great read, very different than others of this genre, highly recommended for those who love YA paranormal romance.

 

Book Review: The Prophecy of Arcadia by M. H. Soars

prophecyarcadia

A different spin on YA paranormal romance and I loved it.  Here is the synopsis:

Being a teenager is tough, especially when you have to pretend to be something you’re not, and you’re in love with someone you shouldn’t. 115 years ago, a small planet called Arcadia was invaded by a vicious alien race and nearly destroyed. Cut off from their resources, the Arcadians turned to Earth for help. A group of Arcadian explorers discovered a Prophecy that claimed their salvation lay in the hands of two children from Earth. To ensure their safety, the Arcadian Council sent their most gifted youngsters to Earth to act as protectors. Samantha is one of them.

To succeed in her mission she must learn to control her Arcadian powers and keep her true identity from her best friend, and the girl she swore to protect, Alexia. But Samantha will soon realize that nothing is as it seems. Someone is trying to prevent the Prophecy from taking place and the prophecy boy hasn’t been found yet. There is also a new drug circulating at school that is turning students into freakishly strong menaces.

To make matters worse, distractions keep getting in her way. Such as her love/hate relationship with her “cousin” Matthew. Or her confused feelings toward popular and mysterious Julian. She wants nothing more than to be free to live her life. But the survival of Arcadia depends on her and her friends. Free will is not an option.

I liked that this book wasn’t typical YA.  It involved aliens.  The first chapter kind of made my eyes cross with all the alien names, but the story was amazing after I got past that.

This is YA, but I would classify it as older YA, just because there is sex involved as well as drugs and alcohol.  I would say 16 and up.

Sam is the main character, but the points of view swivel from character to character.  The author does an amazing job of this, as it is very clear which character is the speaker.  This can be very difficult, and the author pulls it off nicely.

Sam and her “cousins” are sworn to protect Alexia.  They have super powers that help them do this and they are trained to be bodyguards.  But their powers don’t really manifest until they are teenagers, and this creates some problems, especially for Sam.

Add in the fact that they are several teenagers around the same age living in the same house who aren’t related and you have some romantic issues.  Considering that they are pretending to be “cousins”, this presents some problems.

What I do like about this book is how it clearly conveys the angst of this time in life.  Despite who is the character speaking, the author makes this time in life abundantly clear:

Betrayal was one of the worst feelings a human being could possibly experience.  It gnawed at your insides, it twisted your heart until you thought it would be better if someone just ripped it out — then you wouldn’t feel the pain of it bleeding inside of you.

This passage could have been written by me at age 17, but maybe not so eloquently.

I do like the aspect that the guardians aren’t 100% automatons.  They know what the prophecy says, but they use their own brains to figure out that something isn’t right.

I was completely sucked into the world of Arcadia.  It is completely different in that most of these books feature vampires, wizards, etc.  So this was completely new to me.  And it is very well written, very concise, and the prophecy, sci-fi rules, powers, etc are clearly spelled out.  You don’t find characters suddenly doing something that they couldn’t before, or the prophecy doesn’t meld to fit the situation of the characters.  That is really important to me with reading these types of books.

Highly recommended for fans of paranormal romance and YA.  I love the sci-fi angle to it.  I am eagerly awaiting the next book.

 

Book Review: Djinn by Laura Catherine

djinn

 

Ohhhh….I really liked this book.  Really, really, liked it.  Read in one day, liked it.  Here is the synopsis:

Kyra’s life is far from normal.

She’s been on the run for as long as she can remember and her father is the only stable thing in her life, but everything changes when the people pursuing them finally catch up.

Kyra is abducted by the handsome and mysterious, Will. He takes her to a secret compound where she is told the truth: She’s a Djinn, a genie-like creature with super powers and a love of dogs.

Kyra has to adjust to the Djinn and their rules, but her new life is far from perfect. Everyone is hiding something and the one person Kyra cares about most is forbidden to her.

There are secrets around every corner and more dangers than Kyra could ever imagine as she struggles to find herself and be with the one she loves.

Very different from the normal “vampire and werewolves” fare.  That is why I was drawn to this book.  I recently read the Forbidden Trilogy by Karpov Kinrade(I may do a post on it soon), and this kind of reminds me of that series mixed in with one I love, but have yet to finish, called The Significance Series by Shelly Crane.

Kyra is a very strong character.  Very strong-willed, smart, resourceful.  She analyzes her situation and tries not to get too emotional.

I don’t want to give any of the twists and turns away at all, but this is probably one of the least predictable YA novels I have ever read.  You think you know where it’s going and WHAM! a new twist.  That is probably why I was up until 3 a.m. last night finishing this book.  Characters aren’t stereotypical, events aren’t what they seem.  Very refreshing in this genre.

I found myself wishing this book was longer.  I wanted to know more about the Blooders, the history of the djinn and their wars.  I guess if this is going to be a trilogy, there is more to come.

I also like the social commentary.  Most of the time I try to ignore that, but the commentary in this book was written in such a way that it wasn’t preachy, it wasn’t political.  It was just part of the story and events weren’t contrived to get the point across.  It was woven more naturally into the story.

This is strictly YA fare as well, I would be comfortable recommending it to a younger teen.  I wish books like these were written when I was younger!!!

Looking forward to the next few books…

Book Review: Rebels Divided

????????????????????Title: Rebels Divided
Author: Lance Erlick
Publisher: Finlee Augare Books
Release Date: June 2013
Length: 294 pages
Series?: Rebel #2
Genre: YA/Science Fiction/Dystopian
Format: e-book
Source: author

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis

Rebels Divided was written as a standalone dystopian action story. It is also part of the Rebel series, three years later. [Read my review of Rebels #1, The Rebel Withinhere.]

The first time he sees her, they meet as enemies and she doesn’t kill him. That’s worth something. Geo (19) is a rugged frontiersman who hungers to see more of the world than the impoverished Outland glen where he and his pa hide from local Rangers. To prove himself, Geo fights Union Mechanized Warriors and Outland Rangers to protect friends, neighbors, and refugees fleeing the Federal Union. Annabelle (19) is a tough yet fragile tomboy who lost her parents at age three to the Mech Warriors. Then she’s forced to become a Mech.

After the Second American Civil War, the nation divides into two ‘utopias’. The Federal Union enforces Harmony and an all-female society with the help of EggFusion Fertilization and Female Mechanized Warriors based near Knoxville. The Appalachian Outland promotes rugged individualism, but Thane Edwards holds a monopoly of power with his Rangers, loosely modeled on the legendary Texas Rangers. The Union’s Tenn-tucky governor and the Outland warlord conclude a secret deal, pledging Annabelle to the warlord to provide him heirs, and putting a bounty on Geo and his pa.

When Annabelle refuses the arranged marriage, Thane Edwards kidnaps her and her beloved sister. She escapes, but can’t find her sister without help. That’s when she tracks down Geo, a sworn enemy she feels connected to. While trying to survive, and pursued by their own and opposing military forces, Geo and Annabelle wrestle with attraction and mutual distrust as enemies. Yet, only together can they confront Edwards to rescue her kidnapped sister and gain justice for the murder of Geo’s pa. Time is running out.

Review

Annabelle has grown up in a world where females have weeded out the men and boys from their society and their lives. Her adopted mother, a Tenn-tucky state senator, still remembers the husband and son she sent into the Outlands to protect. Annabelle has grown up believing her brother George is a monstrosity of a boy.

This novel picks up three years after the ending of The Rebel Within (read my review here). Annabelle is still paired with Dara in the Mechanized Female Warriors, and still is trying to evade and brush off the amazon’s advances. Her younger sister Janine has now joined their ranks, and they are sent on a mission into no man’s land, the strange common ground between the female Civ society and the male retreat of the Outlands.

Governor Battani is still pressing forward with her own political agenda, the mechs are amping up their border patrol and missions, and Senator Scott is still opposing Battani on many issues…until Battani gives Mama Scott an ultimatum she can’t refuse.

Annabelle and Janine are both captured in the Outland and held hostage, but Thane Edwards has underestimated Annabelle’s resourcefulness. She must impost her much-hated mech presence on the very thin hospitality of those trying to sustain a life during the hard times on the frontiers of the Outlands. She’s not leaving without her sister, even if it means taking a stand against the much feared and well-trained former mech Thane Edwards.

The novel’s chapters alternate between Annabelle’s world and a young Outland man’s world, until they eventually find each other in the Outland.

Annabelle and Geo are both betrayed by their people, fighting against both of their worlds to do the right thing, and forging something new of their quickly deteriorating civilizations before civil war can strike again and take its toll.

This is not a novel to be missed! While the first was hard for me to get through at times, this novel pretty much lays it all out on the table. The past of Annabelle is fully explained, the truth of George’s banishment is shown clearly, and shows the strength and willpower of young individuals, which is something I find quite lacking in today’s time.

Annabelle continues to grow as an individual, even deceiving Geo along the way for his help. She shows a softer side in this novel, as does her mech commander, Sam, which is totally out of place based on the hard-nosed character she was portrayed as in the first book. Geo is a character that grows throughout the novel in so many ways. He is a young man trying to be a man but is oppressed by the societal structures of the Outland and the cause his father has taken up to protect others. I loved Geo’s character; he has a heart to match Annabelle, even if he was unfocused at times.

I am intrigued to see how Annabelle and Geo will build a new Appalachia, in hand with their mother and Sam, and how their relationship will progress. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a third book!

About the Author

600388_10201010092153744_210253767_nRaised by a roaming aerospace engineer, Lance Erlick grew up in various parts of the United States and Europe, as well as traveling through Asia. He took to stories as his anchor, including the works of Asimov, Bradbury and Heinlein, and has been writing since age eleven. Growing up, he was inspired by his father’s engineering work on cutting-edge aerospace projects to look to the future.

Lance received his BS in political science and his Masters in business from Indiana University, before studying creative writing at Ball State, the University of Iowa, Northwestern University, and the University of Wisconsin.

Numerous detours along the way included solving business problems for companies ranging from automotive, to electronics, kitchen cabinets and boats. This involved significant professional writing, supplemented after hours by writing science fiction. Now a refugee from the business world, he is focused on writing.

Lance lives with his wife in the Chicago area, where he’s working on his next novel. He writes speculative fiction, science fiction, dystopian and young adult, and likes to explore the future implications of social and technological trends.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Book Review: The Rebel Within

This is Charlie’s take on a series Amanda reviewed earlier.  You can read her post here.

Title: The Rebel Withinperf5.500x8.500.indd

Author: Lance Erlick
Publisher: Finlee Augare Books
Release Date: March 2013
Length: 270 pages
Series?: Rebel #1
Genre: YA/Science Fiction/Dystopian
Format: e-book
Source: author

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis

Forced to grow up quickly, Annabelle (16) faces adult dilemmas and a fight for her life. Orphaned at age three when the elite military corps took parents, she’s a tomboy who rebels against a conformist society. The state pushes her to become a cop intern to catch escaped boys. Then she’s forced to choose between joining the elite military unit that took her parents or being torn from her beloved sister and adoptive mom.

The Rebel Within turns our male dominated world upside down. After the Second American Civil War, the Federal Union pursues a utopian society without men by rounding up the remaining males, and enforcing Harmony. Central to their plan is EggFusion Fertilization and Female Mechanized Warriors based near Knoxville.

In this world, Annabelle faces a cop intern boss who hates her, a military commander who demands too much, and an amazon bully who won’t leave her alone. She meets a handsome boy who escapes prison. As she tries to survive rigorous military training and hunt for her imprisoned birth mother, Annabelle must choose between capturing the boy and helping him escape, while she wrestles with the consequences of her actions.

Review

I don’t like people bringing up family connections, as though the sins of the mothers fall upon the daughters.

Annabelle is a strong young woman, not at all deceived by the utopia that political officials paint. She works as a cop intern, and sees the daily grind of what the reality of her all-female society is really like. Of course, it doesn’t help that her mother holds an opposing view to that of governing officials and is a state senator.

Mom says women stopped having boys because of high rates of autism, violence and social disruption, and they didn’t read. That made it hard for them to adjust to our knowledge-based economy. After the war, most of the males fled. Then the city zoned our neighborhood and school to exclude them. Harmony Director Surroc and Captain Voss say liberated women don’t need men. Governor Battani says the only way to make females safe is to eliminate the source, men. 

And that’s just what they do. Boys, even as a young child, are strictly forbidden from being outside of their “zone,” with rezoning happening constantly, and consequently catching usurpers of the law. The women of Annabelle’s society fear boys and men, and the lucky boys are regulated to all-boys boarding schools that are highly regulated by the government and surveillance industries.

Who knows what men are really like? Most fled to the Outlands before I was born. 

Annabelle’s society, the Federal Union,  was created after “21st century right-wing extremists tried to turn back the clock.” Obviously, they failed and thus seceded, causing the Second American Civil War. The result was the split between the Federal Union and the Outlands (Appalachia and TexSoCal), where men take off to hide and escape persecution.

During this process, Sam Hernandez came to have a powerful position by mechanizing female warriors – literally making them almost indestructible and amped up on illegal performance-enhancing drugs of a new generation. Given how much Annabelle’s society has regressed, it is surprising, as well as some of the technology that is mentioned throughout the book. This new all-women society has even come up with a solution to reproduction without using males: EggFusion Fertilization, where one woman’s egg fertilizes another. Sam has continued this program, Mechanized Female Warriors, in the state of Tenn-tucky. Just as in Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games, mech tournaments (which include a variety of mech vs. man and mech vs. mech fights that also include fights to the death) are televised every six months.

It’s horrible to have to wear a choker like a dog, which is how cops I work with track males. 

This all-female society is surprising in the fact that women are allowed to take multiple wives. Annabelle has two other mothers, each with three children. She has two younger sisters that are her mother’s children – but she’s adopted. Her younger sister Janine, who seems heavily dependent on Annabelle, wouldn’t understand that she’s adopted. Truly, Annabelle and Janine’s mother fights for a cause – the very reason which landed Annabelle with her, and the reason behind her losing her own husband and son. Annabelle hasn’t forgotten what the Federal Union has done to her family, and neither has her mother. They are bent on gaining more information, helping boys escape, and seeking justice.

On top of everything else, the government regulates everything, right down to the “harmony” of one’s clothing, one’s ambiance in a place of business, and the food choices and food content of restaurants. No sugar, no caffeine, no MSGs – in other words, the bland cardboard that is now being pushed in public schools today. Annabelle hopes of opening a restaurant to avoid the unpleasantness of her society, and it’s a lot of work. Governor Battani makes sure that Annabelle’s dreams of her future are shut down. The book also mentions that some things that are a normal part of our lives today are banned in this future society, like the King James Bible and The Diary of Anne Frank. I would be interested to know what else is restricted in their society.

Annabelle really gets in a scrape when she stands up for her sister at a school basketball game, and is embroiled in a fight with the other team. She has two choices: go the the Resocialization Facility in Nashville…or join the Mechanized Female Warriors. Annabelle is in a hard spot: be put far away where she won’t have access to information she needs to seek justice or her family, or join the group responsible for her family’s downfall?

I stare at the retreating boy, a scared mouse caught in a trap. You don’t treat humans like this. 

Annabelle has to make some very difficult choices, and put aside her own opinions of her world in order to further herself, gain trust of others, and hopefully get what she’s wanted all along. Despite joining an organization that discriminates against men and the weak and going through weeks of tear-down and build-up exercises, Annabelle retains all of her heart, spirit and opposition of her society. She supports her sister warriors, roots for them, and ultimately shows the compassion her society is sorely lacking.

About the Author

600388_10201010092153744_210253767_nRaised by a roaming aerospace engineer, Lance Erlick grew up in various parts of the United States and Europe, as well as traveling through Asia. He took to stories as his anchor, including the works of Asimov, Bradbury and Heinlein, and has been writing since age eleven. Growing up, he was inspired by his father’s engineering work on cutting-edge aerospace projects to look to the future.

Lance received his BS in political science and his Masters in business from Indiana University, before studying creative writing at Ball State, the University of Iowa, Northwestern University, and the University of Wisconsin.

Numerous detours along the way included solving business problems for companies ranging from automotive, to electronics, kitchen cabinets and boats. This involved significant professional writing, supplemented after hours by writing science fiction. Now a refugee from the business world, he is focused on writing.

Lance lives with his wife in the Chicago area, where he’s working on his next novel. He writes speculative fiction, science fiction, dystopian and young adult, and likes to explore the future implications of social and technological trends.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Book Review: Chasing Xaris by Samantha Bennett

xaris

Again into the YA realm.  Here is the synopsis:

Chandler Bloom starts her day like every other—on her surfboard and away from her smothering grandparents. It’s the only way she’s been able to cope since the hit-and-run that killed her parents two years ago. But when a shark nearly turns Chandler into breakfast, a loner surfer named Ari saves her life. Which is great, except that he also triggers new questions about her parents’ deaths. Before Chandler can ask him more, Ari disappears. 

Desperate for answers, Chandler decides to track down Ari with the help of her best friend Jordan, a surfer guy who’s totally in love with her. The search leads to Ari’s home—a hidden island that can only be found with a form of light called xaris. But Chandler isn’t the only one searching for the island or the unearthly elements found there. Her parents died protecting it, and if Chandler doesn’t come to grips with what she’s really chasing, she could be next. (YA inspirational urban fantasy)

I really liked this book.  It was well written with many different themes woven throughout.  The inspirational part of it wasn’t forced, it was sort of in the background and really only made an appearance later in the book.

The author captured the reader early on with the shark attack and literally doesn’t let go (sorry for the pun!!)  The author also is very authentic with the voice of Chandler, the surfer talk, the tone and cadence, the vocabulary.

The story is a thriller as well.  I really didn’t see a bunch of the twists and turns, and I’m pretty good at seeing that those coming.

I also loved the story of the lost civilization.  That really added a different element to this story that made it more mature.  I would have loved to have learned more about the island and their history.

The themes with Chandler and her grief were extremely well written and thought out.  I understand the need for the surfing.  It is her escape.  It is helping her to keep on surviving.  I have never been surfing, but through the vivid descriptions in this book, I can imagine it in great detail.

I would have liked more info at the end on how Chandler gets to the point she is at four months later.  It is like she is a different person.  And as I understand that her experiences have changed her, I would have liked more of an explanation or more of a build up to the conclusions at the end of the book.

Overall, a great YA story with some elements of sci-fi.

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