Wild Swans by Jessica Spotwood

The summer before Ivy’s senior year is going to be golden; all bonfires, barbeques, and spending time with her best friends. For once, she will just get to be. No summer classes, none of Granddad’s intense expectations to live up to the family name. For generations, the Milbourn women have lead extraordinary lives—and died young and tragically. Granddad calls it a legacy, but Ivy considers it a curse. Why else would her mother have run off and abandoned her as a child?

But when her mother unexpectedly returns home with two young daughters in tow, all of the stories Ivy wove to protect her heart start to unravel. The very people she once trusted now speak in lies. And all of Ivy’s ambition and determination cannot defend her against the secrets of the Milbourn past….

Goodreads

The short version:  Just like Ivy, this book needed something special about it to become extraordinary… unfortunately it did not.

I wish I felt that way about something. Consumed by it.

Forget all the special one tropes you’ve read in YA because Wild Swans gives you Ivy, a girl born into a family of extraordinary women with extraordinary talents. Her grandfather has high standards for her, building her up for greatness but she just hasn’t found her calling yet. It’s very relatable to me and I think it will be to a lot of teenagers, almost out of high school but not quite. We’re all expected to have our lives set out before we are even 20 but that’s a lot of pressure for a major life decision.

It took me a few false starts but once I got into Wild Swans I could not put it down. If you’re friends with me on Goodreads you can see that I spent a month reading this XD I really enjoyed reading the middle bit of the book, it became so addictive to read. But the ending…it was like a storm that kept building and building and then suddenly its all sunny skies. WHAT THE HELL? Book, you promised me one thing and that was a good ending but you didn’t give me that!

Although the concept was good I felt like the characters themselves were really frustrating. It wasn’t just the really pushy grandfather but it was more Ivy herself. She was just so placid and obedient that it drove me crazy. She doesn’t like to push the boundaries and as the protaganist that meant that the plot was lacking that extra something. The only character I kind of liked was Erica, Ivy’s mum, who kicked the drama right up. She was a very interesting character who’d gone through the same experiences as Ivy but turned out so different. I would’ve really liked to see her POV because it would’ve had a bit of spark at least.

3

Big thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy via Netgalley. 

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Dorothy Must Die | Love the dress, hate her

Goodreads | Author 
I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero.

But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado – taking you with it – you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little bluebirds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still a yellow brick road – but even that’s crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy.

They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm – and I’m the other girl from Kansas.

I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.

I’ve been trained to fight.

And I have a mission.

My thoughts in one picture:

Oh Dorothy Must Die, you started off so well with you being a dark, twisted retelling of Wizard of Oz and descriptions so vivid I kind of wished I was in the book. I was even willing to overlook how annoying Amy was but no, it was not meant to be.

Do you ever get this feeling when you’re reading a book that you’ve read this before? Dorothy Must Die was like that… but at the same time not. I can pinpoint exactly what I hated so much about this book which doesn’t happen often. I’m really torn about this book because it’s got such a great world and an amazing concept but the main characters just made me so angry.

Amy Gumm is not special at all in book terms. It’s like she was written by someone holding a checklist all like “Ok so bad parents, check. Angst from troubled childhood, check. Is a giant ass screw the system person, check. Has some weird coloured hair, check”. HOW MUCH MORE TROPE CAN YOU SHOVE INTO A SINGLE CHARACTER??

“No one does this right away, not even me,” Nox said quietly. “You have power”

Oh yeah, I forgot about the special one trope. It’s not like it’s shoved into my throat every second book.

The romance was really sad and I don’t mean sad like in The Fault in Our Stars, I mean sad because it should’ve had so much more. I don’t normally mind instalove but in Dorothy it’s freaking crazy. Amy and Nox literally don’t even talk more than a couple of sentences and suddenly, they’re a couple. There was no chemistry, no romantic buildup just a makeover. A literal spit take scene included. It’s also worth mentioning that this is the bar for most of the character development in the book. We meet the character, we get a few lines out of them and then they’re killed off because who knows and who cares 😀

If that wasn’t enough disappointment, [spoiler]AMY FUCKING SCREWS UP AND DOROTHY DOESN’T DIE. THE BOOK IS FUCKING CALLED DOROTHY MUST DIE, SO WHY DOESN’T SHE???? [end spoiler] It made the ending so anticlimatic and it was pretty funny how much shit went down in the last chapter. It was as if it was a setup for the sequel…

Sidenote: I got around to researching it and turns out it might be picked up by CW. I was not surprised. Dorothy is very CW material, by that I mean it just emanates YA from its pores.

TL;DR: Basically, good world building does not work when inhabited by shitty characters

2.5


So have you read Dorothy Must Die? What were your thoughts (especially on that stupid ending)? By the way, is the sequel any good because I want to know what happens but I honestly don’t think I can stand another book of Amy. Anyways, let me know 😀

Ruined by Amy Tintera | Revenge is sweet, forgiveness is not sweeter

Goodreads | Author 

Publication Date: 3rd May 2016
A revenge that will consume her. A love that will ruin her.

Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped.

But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family.

In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family.

Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake

I knew I would love this book after 5 pages in when we get our first death. Any book that starts with the protagonist killing someone can’t be anything less than excellent.

The book came in the mail right before my exams so like any sane person, I was happy to be distracted. I just didn’t realise how addictive this book would be and devoured it in 2 days. I’ve seen a lot of reviews saying “Ruined is just basically -insert another fantasy story here-” but to me it had a perfect balance of all the fantasy stories I’ve read. It’s not the most original plot but it’s so, so enjoyable.

The revenge plot plus the impostering was so much better than I thought it would be. It was suspenseful and the conflicts that it created within Em was just excellent. I liked how by going through with pretending to be the princess, we get to experience the other side of the story in a way. I’m sure we’ll all hate Lera in the next books but it was fascinating to see the kingdom’s systems and views.

The book touches on the topic of convicting criminals before they even commit crime and that was a really interesting topic, it’s not one that you commonly see in YA. A lot of plots focus a lot on oppression or dictatorship but not this book. The Ruined are exiled for the crimes of Em’s mother but as individuals, they’re not all bad. The author does shape them to be very scary though, their abilities are so strong and honestly I understand the King’s mentality. It’s a book that will make you rethink your own opinions. 

Ok onto the fangirling. I love Em. Her determination is inspiring and her fighting skills… well she kills the princess in the first 5 pages so XD She’s such a strong character that I’m really excited to read about in the next books. Ruined actually has a lot of powerful female characters both good and bad but its not overdone. Then we have to talk about Cas who really gave me strong Dorian vibes, more to do with just being a prince in a fantasy YA novel than anything else. I really enjoyed reading about him too, he had these really good sarcastic lines that added that touch of humour that Ruined needed.

The only complaint I do have about this book is that I need to know more about the Ruined, about what they are fully capable of, their kingdom, their history – actually the history is hinted but not explored that much. Maybe in the next book?

Verdict: A very typical fantasy novel but it works it to its strengths.

4

So have you read Ruined or are you planning to?

Bright Blaze of Magic + Playlist | Best. Finale. Ever.

Publication Date: 26th April 2016
Goodreads | Author 
Bad Things Always Come In Threes…

As a thief, I’m good at three things: hiding in the shadows, getting in and out unseen, and uncovering secrets. I put these skills to work for the Sinclair Family, one of the magical mobs that run the tourist town of Cloudburst Falls.

Everyone knows Victor Draconi wants to take over all the other Families–and kill every last Sinclair. What they don’t know is that I’m on to him, and no way will I let the man who murdered my mom get away with hurting all the other people I care about. Especially when I’ve got places to break into, stuff to steal, and Devon Sinclair fighting right by my side…

Image and video hosting by TinyPicWhen I see a Jennifer Estep book, I’ve come to just immediately associate them with awesomeness because she does not disappoint. I loved her Mythos Academy books and re-read them hundreds of times. The Black Blade series though… it’s even better. They’re very, very similar but Black Blade wins because its only 3 books and so it packs a bigger punch.

Estep somehow manages to strike a really nice balance between light, fluffy moments and pure death and doom. It does fall more on the lack of substance side at times but she revives it regularly with these really action packed scenes. I enjoyed it so much that I flew through the book in a couple of days. And the ending… what can I even say. The author knows how to write finales, no holds barred with all the gruesome details included. I was shocked by how far Victor took his plan. Black Blade gives off a really happy feel so I did not expect the darkness that crept into the plot.

This review will mostly be a love letter to the characters because they are such a good bunch of people. My awesome crew is back! + Deah. Can I just say I really liked Deah in this book? I felt her pain of realising her father is evil and how she’s caught between the Draconis and Sinclairs. And then we have Oscar and Tiny who are the best thing to happen to this book. They are hilarious but its their loyalty to Lila that really gets me. I’ve fangirled about Devon before so I won’t this time (even though he was so swoony). This book was all about Lila.

She kicks serious ass. She’s done so in Cold Burn and Dark Heart but she’s obviously been saving up her best for Bright Blaze because damn, I don’t think I’ve liked her as much as I did after I read it. From where she was in the first book, living in the library basement with only Mo as her friend, it’s just so heartwarming to see her now surrounded by so many people who love her. Plus it doesn’t hurt that she’s a great protagonist to read about.

If you haven’t picked up this series yet, you need to. It gets a big thumbs up from me!

5

Keeping low, I left the woods behind and hopscotched my way across the lawn, hiding behind various trees and bushes and only moving when the guards’ backs were turned. Devon and Felix followed along behind me, both of them being as quiet as possible and clutching the duffel bags to their chests to muffle any telltale clank-clanks.

Less than three minutes later, we were at one of the side patio doors. I reached up and gently turned the knob. Unlocked. How disappointing. It was no fun breaking into a mansion when your inside woman left a door unlocked for you.

But I opened the door and ushered Devon and Felix inside. I slipped in after them and locked the door behind me, just in case one of the guards decided to check it. Then I took the lead again, creeping from one hallway and staircase to the next.

The outside of the Draconi mansion might resemble a castle, but the furnishings inside were the real riches. Just about everything gleamed with some sort of gold, from the chandeliers overhead to the gilt-edged mirrors on the walls to the trim on the tables and chairs. And Victor’s snarling dragon crest was painted, carved, chiseled, embroidered, and stamped into practically everything, from the crown molding that ringed the ceilings to the stained glass windows set into the walls to the white flagstones underfoot.

All those dragons were creepy enough, but it seemed like every single one of the monsters turned its head, narrowed its eyes, and glared at Devon, Felix, and me as we crept past. I shivered. Sometimes, I would have been happy not to see so well with my sight magic.

We quickly made our way up some stairs to the Draconi greenlab. Once again, the glass doors were unlocked, and the three of us slipped inside and moved through the area, which was part chemistry lab, part greenhouse, where a variety of magical and other plants were grown and harvested. The long, sharp needles on the stitch-sting bushes quivered as we hurried past them, but we didn’t get close enough for the evergreen plants to lash out and try to scratch us for disturbing them.

We made it to the opposite side of the greenlab, and I sidled up to the glass doors there and peered out into the hallway beyond. The lights were turned down low in this part of the mansion, creating more shadows than not. Just the way I liked it.

Since the coast was clear, I stepped out of the glass doors and into the hallway—

I spotted a glint of metal out of the corner of my eye. Even as I turned toward it, a sword zoomed out of the shadows, heading straight for me.

 photo addtogoodreadssmall_zpsa2a6cf28.png photo B6096376-6C81-4465-8935-CE890C777EB9-1855-000001A1E900B890_zps5affbed6.jpg

 

Follow the Bright Blaze of Magic by Jennifer Estep Blog Tour and don’t miss anything! Click on the banner to see the tour schedule.

Jennifer Estep is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance.
Her Elemental Assassin series follows the life and times of Gin “the Spider” Blanco, a barbecue restaurant owner who also happens to be an assassin with magical control over the elements of Ice and Stone.
The Mythos Academy series focuses on Gwen Frost, a 17-year-old Gypsy girl who has the ability to know an object’s history just by touching it. She studies at Mythos Academy, a school for the descendants of ancient warriors.
Her Bigtime paranormal romance books feature sexy superheroes, evil ubervillains, and smart, sassy gals looking for love.

Estep’s new Black Blade series is about 17-year-old thief Lila Merriweather, who has a Talent for sight, along with the ability to take magic others used against her to boost her own powers. She tries not to get involved with the Families who control much of the town, but ends up in the middle of a potential turf war.

Short and Sweet Reviews | Because I am a procrastinator

Remember the last time I posted a review? Well, that makes two of us! I am really behind on reviewing, I blame my Shadowhunters addiction. And my kdrama addiction. Or you know, we could blame my procrastination XD

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids

Goodreads | Author 
Publication Date: 2nd June 2015
The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: An ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one.

Christian Kane is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life.

When Christian needs a first mate for the Cove’s high-stakes Pirate Regatta, Elyse reluctantly stows her fear of the sea and climbs aboard. The ocean isn’t the only thing making waves, though—swept up in Christian’s seductive tide and entranced by the Cove’s charms, Elyse begins to wonder if a life of solitude isn’t what she needs. But changing course again means facing her past. It means finding her inner voice. And scariest of all, it means opening her heart to a boy who’s best known for breaking them . . .

So I started reading this thinking it was alright and then somewhere around the middle of the plot I was so into the story I couldn’t stop.

It’s amazing how loud Elyse’s voice could be even though she couldn’t even speak. The book doesn’t show us her past but rather her present and how she deals with her muteness and how her family and friends deal with her muteness, it just makes for such a compelling story. Elyse has all my respect because she just powers on like a badass. While she might not be the assasin queen or the top of her class, she’s great in her own way.

While Elyse is obviously the star, the other characters are just as memorable. All the characters are really, really well developed from the resident playboy Christian to his mermaid obsessed brother Sebastian to Elyse’s cousin Kirby.

The mermaid mythology was woven through the plot line and it made the whole story magical. I guess it’s a retelling of The Little Mermaid but I never liked the story much until now. Just go read it, it’s great trust me.

4.5

Demon Princess

Goodreads | Author 
Publication Date: 21st December 2015
Goodreads blurb:
With her father gone and her brother missing, Demon Princess Adriana has to assume the throne, temporarily becoming the Demon King. The procession is underway, and the princess is nervous yet determined … until the unthinkable happens and she is summoned! Somehow, Aldric, a mage-in-training, has summoned the princess into the human kingdom. Now trapped, Adriana must hide her identity and escape before she loses her life in the hands of her mortal enemies.

I was so not expecting to like this as much as I did. The blurb makes it sounds so cliched but when I got around to reading it, I was hooked. Demon Princess had a really strong cast of characters. Adriana was a really great character who goes from having all the power to essentially none and I admire how she handles this loss. The world was interesting with mages and demons against each other and I wish we got more development of the setting. I mean, we got the rough picture and it looks great but when you get closer it’s pixelated. Maybe in the next book?

The beginning didn’t hook me in straight away. Actually I’m not quite sure when I really got into the book. The combination of the characters and the plot just clicked at one point and then it was over so quickly. That’s probably the only complaint I have about Demon Princess, it’s just too short. I felt like the characters and plot could have just been developed so much better if there was just more of it.

So if you’re looking for a quick fantasy/ paranormal that’s not so normal, give Demon Princess a try!

Thanks to the author for providing me a review copy via Netgalley. 

3