In the fight for freedom no one can stand alone

Hey you guys and girls! Today I’m going to be doing something new. A little while ago I was asked if I wanted to participate in a blogtour. I had no clue what that was, but it is really fun! A couple of bloggers are asked to read the same book, then one by one, on a set date, the bloggers post reviews about that book on their personal blogs and as a result people can read lots of different opinions on one and the same book while at the same time taking a tour through many different blogs. I’m going to kick off this blogtour which revolves around N.22, a Dutch YA dystopia, written by Joyce Roele. Let me first give you a description (translated to English) and then I will tell you why you should read this book (because it was awesome!)

Kate has a healing ability and because of it she has been held captive by the government for two years and counting. Before she was taken away from home her mother gave her four basic rules which would keep her alive in the laboratories. However, now, after two years, these rules are the reason why her body is shutting down. Kate has given up all hope of freedom, especially now that she has been sent to laboratory Mentha. A chance encounter changes her monotonous life forever.

Alexander and Lena are searching for their best friend Kate. Alexander is convinced it is his fault that Kate’s gift got discovered and he will do anything to free her and fix his mistake. The search is full of danger and choices they never thought they would have to make.

Will Mentha be Kate’s end of the road? Or can she escape this nightmare with the help of her friends?N22_1

Well, if that description didn’t trigger you let me help you by making the choice to read this book much simpler 😉

Kate is a wonderful heroine. She’s lonely, almost completely broken and balances on the brink of death and yet she still hasn’t given up and still hasn’t lost her compassion. Whenever she sees someone who needs help she will rush in to make that person better, even if it will cost her the little reserve of energy she has left after two years of constant torture and famine. The two years she spent in researchfacilities she has kept to herself, never showing emotions, never talking, fading into the background, all in an effort to stay as much out of sight of the labtechs as possible. But when she meets young Zoë she can’t keep her distance. This sweet little girl can’t be left to fend for herself, so, Kate decides to break one of her mothers rules and befriends Zoë. This one decision turns her life upside down and sets into motion inevitable events that will lead to Kate’s freedom or her death.

Alexander was a bit more elusive as a character. He struggles with survivors guilt because Kate used her gift to help him and as a result she got captured. He has put his life on hold so he can track Kate down and help her, but the search is slow and hard as there are multiple laboratories where the gifted are observed and ‘disected’ and all of them are guarded. Luckily, Alex has a gift of his own that enables him to create illusions. Except for his guilt and will to find Kate, Alexander is not really a rounded character. The reader gets only glimpses of his inner world and to me he wasn’t all that remarkable or likable. At times I found him a bit immature. Needless to say that Alexander wasn’t one of my favorite characters.

Branden, however, stole my heart. He’s annoying, loves to tease both Kate and Zoë, yet at the same time is really sweet and tender and cares more for others than he lets on. He’s a bit of a mystery and wildcard and therefore I loved him. Whenever Kate’s in pain or trouble he is by her side, while at the same time he keeps her on edge and in the present by teasing and antagonizing her. I’m really hoping Branden and Kate will end up together. So, keeping my fingers crossed for the next books!

I loved the pace in this book. It was gradual and yet really suspenseful. As reader you follow Kate in her horrible life that consists of cruel tests, eating and sleeping. Her only moments of solace are the ones she spends with Zoë and Branden and her daydreams about the beach and ocean. Because the pace is not too fast you get to know Kate really well and will hope that the future has something better in store for her. However, even though the pace is gradual the tension remains high. From the very first page I wondered how this story would end and I kept turning pages to find out what would happen next in Kate’s life and if Alexander and Lena would find their friend in time.

Another thing I loved was the writing style. Joyce has a fresh and easy writing style that reads very pleasant. At the same time her writing is poetic and there is more than one beautiful sentence in this book that will make a perfect quote!

The worldbuilding in this first book in the series was a bit rudimentary, but that is to be expected as most of the book takes place in the same setting. However there are a few hints as to the world outside the research facilities. It seems like people are born into their circumstances and can’t get out of them (so if you are born in a industrial town you will probably end up working in the factory for the government). Children are educated to perform certain professions, so this also seems to point to a society that is strictly ordered and where people have little or no choice in what they want to do. There is also mention of the world being torn apart by natural disasters and rebuild to its former grandeur, but this isn’t explained in detail. The government is, at this stage, a shadow in the background as the only thing you know as reader is that they imprison special people. I’m looking forward to the next books and to discovering more about this world.

The only thing I liked less was the fact that some parts of the book and the writing style reminded me very much of Tahereh Mafi’s Touching Juliette trilogy. I got the feeling that the writer was very much inspired by this serie and based at least part of her book on it. However, because there were enough differences with Tahereh’s trilogy and because N.22 is written so well it didn’t bother me that much. Hopefully the next books will be completely different than any other stories because this series has everything in it to become a bestseller and deserves to be an original!

If you’re looking for a suspenseful, emotional dystopia with a great heroine, fun side characters and a beautiful writingstyle, look no further because N.22 has got it all!

The light that has to shine through the darkness always shines brighter – part two.

Hey you guys and girls, a couple of days ago I promised to post reviews of book two and three of the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, but my laptop decided it didn’t feel like working haha. So my posts are a bit delayed, but today I will be discussing Siege and Storm  the second book in the trilogy! Let me start with a description and then I will tell you why you have to read this one. If you don’t like spoilers, don’t read this post!

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

storm and siege

In the first book we saw how Alina became the Sun Summoner and how she was betrayed by both the Darkling and Genya. The Darkling almost enslaved Alina by using Morozova’s first amplifier against her, but at the last minute Alina managed to break free from his hold and use her powers to rescue Mal and herself by sacrificing everyone on the Darkling’s skiff to the darkness and the Volcra in the Fold. Now, Alina and Mal are on the run from the Darkling’s men, taking them across the True Sea to Novyi Zem.

It doesn’t take long before Mal and Alina are found and captured. The Darkling not only survived the Shadow Fold, somehow he has gained new powers enabling him to create and summon the nichevo’ya, creatures of darkness and shadow. Mal and Alina are brought on board of the Volkvolny, the ship of a privateer called Sturmhond. The ship will take them back across the True Sea towards the Bone Road where the legendary Sea Whip called Rusalye, a sea serpent and Morozova’s second amplifier, is rumored to live. The Darkling forces Mal to track the serpent by threatening to torture Alina, and plans to use the second amplifier just like the first by binding Alina’s powers to him. However, the Darkling’s plans are thwarted by the enigmatic captain who turns out to be not just a privateer, but also the youngest son of the king of Ravka.

I LOVE sturmhond aka Nikolai Lantsov. This character has got to be one of my alltime favorites! Nikolai is witty, sarcastic, adventurous, charming, a little bit crazy and all around awesome. He has the best one-liners and adds so much humor and light-heartedness to the books. Moreover, Nikolai is not just a funny and pretty guy, he creates his own ships (both flying and sea faring) and weapons and stands up for what’s right and just. To give you a little sneak peek: here are some of his best lines 😉

 

In this book Mal and Alina’s love is put to the test as Mal is just a simple tracker, while Alina is the powerful Sun Summoner, Ravka’s only hope in the battle for their country, freedom and lives. Mal chooses to let Alina go in order to help her be all that she can be, but their love is not so easily extinguishable.

There’s a new love triangle in this second book between Alina and Nikolai, but it is pretty clear that Alina still has feelings for Mal and that Nikolai and her are more best friends than lovers, so I didn’t really mind this new triangle. Besides, Nikolai is just too fun a character to get annoyed haha.

The suspense in this book is turned up a notch as the Darkling not only plans to expand the Fold, but also wants to take over leadership of Ravka and the rest of the continent. Together with Nikolai and some of his crew members Alina and Mal form a plan to stop the Darkling and save the kingdom, but will their plan work… And more importantly will everybody survive this battle?

This book is full of action, love, friendship, adventure and magic! A must-read for all YA-fantasy fans.

 

The light that has to shine through the darkness always shines brighter.

It’s been a while since my last post, not because I didn’t read any books, but because there were a few books I read that I didn’t finish because I really didn’t like them. But I won’t write a post about these books, because I rather write about books that I loved ;). Luckily, after a few misses I hit the jackpot! There’s only one word that describes my feelings for the trilogy that blew me away. Wow! Just wow. I just finished reading the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo and I’m in awe. These books were so, so good! They’ve got everything I love: strong and well-developed characters, suspense, love, magic, great worldbuilding, and an antagonist who’s got so many dimensions that he will keep surprising you (sometimes in the worst ways). Today I will be reviewing the first book in the series called Shadow and Bone and tomorrow and the day after that I will review the other books. Let me first give you a description and then I will convince you why you absolutely have to read this trilogy (if you haven’t already!)

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

 

Lets start with main character Alina. She’s such a great heroine. All her life she has felt invisible. The only joy in her life has been her best friend Mal who has been with her since they were little kids in the orphanage. But now Mal has loads of friends and girls chasing after him, leaving Alina feeling lonely and neglected. For years she’s been hiding the fact that she has a major crush on Mal, but lately it’s been extremely hard to keep those feelings secret. Especially when girls that are far more pretty than her are vying for his attention.

Life for Alina changes in one fateful moment. Alina, Mal and the rest of their regiment are tasked with a mission to protect a skiff that is about to set out over the Fold, a barren wasteland filled with darkness and human eating monsters that was created by a magical experiment gone wrong. The only way to cross the Fold is by illuminating the way as the monsters can’t stand the light. The mission soon goes terribly wrong as the skiff is plunged in darkness. When Alina sees Mal getting grabbed by one of the Volcra something inside her breaks free and a blinding light emerges from her body. The Volcra retreat and the skiff returns to port, where Alina is taken to the Darkling, the most powerful Grisha (humans with magical abilities). Because of her extraordinary talent she is whisked away by the Darkling to the Little Palace, the place where all Grisha are trained. Once there she discovers that she’s stronger than she ever thought.

At the Little Palace Alina not only learns how to use her abilities as Sun Summoner, but she also learns to fight, to depend on herself and her own strengths. In short she discovers her selfworth and the person she is without Mal. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t need him in her life or that she doesn’t miss him, but all this time she has looked up to Mal and let him take the lead and now she has to deal with all the things that life throws at her without him.

Mal is also a great character. At the start you feel as though he is a bit of an arrogant jerk. As if looks and girls are all he cares about and that he takes Alina for granted. However, later on the reader gets to know the real Mal. A boy who excells at tracking, who cares deeply for his best friend and who will stop at nothing to keep Alina safe.

Mal and Alina are by no means the only two great characters in this book. The Darkling is an awesome character balancing between good and evil and who will keep you guessing the entire trilogy if he can be redeemed. He’s got so many dimensions that I’m still trying to figure out what I think of him. On the one hand he’s kind, lonely and intuitive. On the other hand he is terrible, cruel and willing to kill for what he wants. Another cool character is Genya. A Grisha girl who is treated as an outcast among her peers because of her talent to alter peoples looks and the way the king uses her as nothing more than a whore. Alina and Genya soon become best friends because they are both different than the other Grisha. But, is their friendship real or does Genya have an ulterior motive for befriending Alina?

The worldbuilding in this trilogy is awesome! The author has used parts of Russian history (especially that of the tsar period) to create a unique fantasy world where multiple countries are at war with each other. Ravka is the country where Alina lives and where the Grisha are part of the armed forces. Added to this well-developed worldbuilding is a very cool system of magic and magic users that’s explained in this picture 🙂

grisha orders

How cool is that? This system of magic is so well thought out and logical, making it utterly believable.

I absolutely loved the romance in this book. This was one of the only books where I didn’t mind the love triangle. The feelings between Alina and Mal were not evenly balanced at the start of the story making the fact that Alina was hurt and looking for someone to love her realistic and logical. The feelings between Alina and the Darkling seemed real and sincere in the beginning but soon you start to wonder if the Darkling has other reasons to seduce her. Therefore, when Mal returns and saves Alina and confesses that he does love her and that he didn’t notice this until she disappeared, it doesn’t come across as a cheap trick to create tension like in so many other YA books. The funny thing was that I loved both guys just as much, and didn’t have a preference for one or the other (at least not in this first book haha).

Everybody who loves fantasy, well-developed characters, an antagonist who balances between good and evil, awesome worldbuilding and a unique use of magic based in science should definitely read this one!

 

Friends can be found in the most unlikely places if one just remembers to look with different eyes

One of my resolutions was to post reviews more often and I think I’m succeeding in that resolution haha. I can’t promise I will post a review every day, but I will post something when I’ve read a book that was special to me in any kind of way. Yesterday I finished reading Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi and I’m completely in love with this book! It’s so, so good!!! First, let me give you a description and then I will try to convince you why you should buy and read this book.

There are only three things that matter to twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. The day Father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. But it’s been almost three years since then, and Alice is determined to find him. She loves her father even more than she loves adventure, and she’s about to embark on one to find the other.

But bringing Father home is no small matter. In order to find him she’ll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. It will take all of Alice’s wits (and every limb she’s got) to find Father and return home to Ferenwood in one piece. On her quest to find Father, Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.

I think by now probably everybody knows I love retellings. So when I heard Tahereh Mafi had written an Alice in Wonderland retelling I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. And now that I’ve read it I’m never going to forget it anymore! Do you ever feel like cuddling a book because it just was that good and that inspiring? Well, I want to cuddle this book, stroke it and kiss it for good measure too. Why? I will tell you why!

Alice is one of those main characters who crawls under your skin and won’t budge once settled. She’s sweet, extremely lonely and sad, but at the same time incredibly resilient. Because of the color (or lack thereof) of her skin she has always been an outsider. People in Ferenwood believe she has no magic and in a world where magic and color are tremendously important someone who lacks both is just not that interesting. The only one who ever cared for Alice (or so she believes) is her father, but it’s been three years since she last saw him. Now, she has nobody. Her mother seems to hate her, she can’t go to school because she was expelled after she attacked her bully and now she doesn’t have any friends. Even her little brothers don’t really seem to care if she’s there or not. The only thing that keeps her from giving up is the promise of a better life once she has partaken in the Surrender. The Surrender is the day when all children who have turned twelve present their town with the magic they carry inside. Once they have surrendered their gift they will be given a task to complete that will determine which job and higher education they will get. However, Alice hates her real magical talent and refuses to acknowledge she possesses it. Instead, she focuses all her energy on her love to dance and her ability to hear the music of the world. But this is not a magical talent and when she presents this ability at the Surrender she receives a 0, a score Alice didn’t believe was possible. All her hopes and dreams are crushed. That’s where her old bully Oliver comes in.

Oliver is one of those characters that keep surprising you. He lies, he teases, he manipulates and he is arrogant. Yet, at the same time he can be really kind and sweet. He’s got layers and layers of personality, like an onion that has to be peeled to get to the mushy core. Oliver is thirteen and a year ago he received the task to rescue Alice’s father from the dangerous world of Furthermore, where magic runs rampant and visitors are tricked, tortured and eaten. Really a lovely place to be ;). Even though Oliver tried with all his might to rescue Alice’s father he needs help. Help from the girl he teased and who possesses a special kind of magic that would come in quite handy in Furthermore. When Oliver witnessess Alice’s failure at her Surrender he comforts her and persuades her to come with him. And that is where a grand adventure starts.

I absolutely loved the worldbuilding in this book. Allthough it’s full of silliness and humor, the storyworld works according to a set of rules established early on in the book. Never does the author digress from these established rules. So, even though the most fantastical things happen, everything makes sense within the set rules. There are towns where people aren’t allowed to sleep, there are towns that are two-dimensional, towns where speaking or moving is a capital offence and towns that love visitors especially because visitors can be eaten. But most importantly in Furthermore there is one commodity that is regulated very strictly. What commodity could be that important in a world where magic runs rampant? Well, Time of course, because people need time to make sound decisions and in Furthermore people don’t like thinking because than visitors would be able to circumvent traps and dangers. So, at the start of every journey through Furthermore people receive a ruler filled with time and inscribed with a Tibbin (a sort of emergency solution in times of extreme danger that can only be used once). Every visitor has to complete his journey within the time he or she has been given otherwise they are arrested for stealing time.

Another thing I loved was the friendship between Alice and Oliver. At the start they are enemies. Alice hates Oliver because he teased her in school and called her ugly because of her lack off color. Oliver doesn’t know how to deal with Alice, the only one who doesn’t seem to be affected by his powers of Persuasion and that’s the reason why he teases and torments her. Along the way they will discover that they are not that different at all. Their friendship develops realistically and they meet a lot of bumps and obstacles on the road to becoming friends because Oliver is so used to lying and manipulating and Alice has a hard time trusting people and showing what she feels.

The personal journey of discovery that Alice makes was also really beautiful. At the start of the book she longs to be like everybody else and hates that she is so different. But at the end she learns that the things that set her apart are the things that make her her. She learns that she can’t change the way people look at her, but she can change the way she reacts to that and how she looks at herself. In this book there are a lot of life lessons (about love, about friendship, about the way we perceive things) interwoven with all the magic and silliness, which makes for not only a really fun read but also a very satisfying and maybe for some even an eye-opening one.

Everybody who loves retellings, magical and wonderfilled stories, tales of friendship and love, and a story with great characters should pick this one up! You won’t be sorry, I promise you 🙂

Catch a falling star – part three

It’s time to share my final review with you guys and girls about Nora Roberts’ Guardians trilogy. The third book is called Island of Glass (Het glazen eiland in Dutch). As always I will start with a description and then I will share my opinion with you all.

glazen-eiland

As the hunt for the Star of Ice leads the six guardians to Ireland, Doyle, the immortal, must face his tragic past. Three centuries ago, he closed off his heart, yet his warrior spirit is still drawn to the wild. And there’s no one more familiar with the wild than Riley—and the wolf within her…

An archaeologist, Riley is no stranger to the coast of Clare, but now she finds herself on unsure footing, targeted by the dark goddess who wants more than the stars, more than the blood of the guardians. While searching through Irish history for clues that will lead them to the final star and the mysterious Island of Glass, Riley must fight her practical nature and admit her sudden attraction to Doyle is more than just a fling. For it is his strength that will sustain her and give her the power to run towards love—and save them all…

In this third book the guardians have traveled to county Clare in Ireland, to the home of Bran and the birthplace of Doyle. The last two guardians, Riley and Doyle, are the main characters. Throughout the trilogy you will come to know much about Riley. She’s an archaeologist with a large network of acquantainces who can hook her up with anything and everything she requires. She’s the brain of the operation, where Sasha is the heart and Annika the soul. Riley is logical, extremely loyal, fierce and tough-ass. A great heroine. The fact that she’s a werewolf only adds to the fun. Her character intrigued from the start of the trilogy and I really liked to read from her point of view.

Main character Doyle is a bit more elusive. In the previous books he didn’t seem to play a major role and he is really private and reserved. As a result I didn’t really feel about this character. As always Nora Roberts masterfully develops her characters and slowly reveals what Doyle is struggling with thanks to his curse of immortality. I did come to like him as a result and really hoped he would get his happily ever after.

If you read a lot of Nora Roberts books you know she writes romance books, so naturally in this book Doyle and Riley fall for each other. However, this love felt too much like instant love for me. In the previous books these two characters didn’t really seem to care much about each other, certainly not more than new friends do. That they would end up together was not obvious from the development of the previous books and as such didn’t feel realistic to me. In my first review about Stars of Fortune I talked a bit about the plot Nora Roberts uses in all of her paranormal series, and in this plot structure we find an explanation for the reason why Doyle and Riley would end up together. It seems as if these two characters were only put together because they were simply the last two guardians and the last two unattached people. This doesn’t make for great romance. Only at the end of the book did I start to feel something towards the romance between these two. A bit of foreshadowing in the previous books would have gone a long way in making this romance feel less insta-love and more like a proper romance.

Another thing I didn’t much like about this book was the fact that the search for the Star of Ice was again really similar to the search for the other stars. Some research is done, Riley calls in a few favors and the team goes diving in underwater caves. And when they are not diving they are doing excercises and physical training. Because this is the same m.o. as in the previous two books it gets really tiring to read. Luckily Nora mixes things up a little by hiding the Star of Ice on land in a place that means a lot to Doyle. As a result the tension that is lacking in the first part of the book gets turned up in the rest of the book. Fortunately the rest of the book is suspenseful and the battle between the guardians and Malmon and Nerezza is also written well.

What I did like about this book was the character development of both main characters. Both Riley and Doyle are written realistically and have to overcome some personal issues before they are ready to defeat the antagonist and before they can really start a relationship.

I also liked the fact that it wasn’t Riley who had to find the star, but Doyle. In the previous books the women were pivotal in the quest, but here it is the man.

If you’re looking for a romantic trilogy with a suspenseful ending, fantastic elements, and well-developed characters then you should definitely read this one! The romance in this last book fell a bit short for me, but luckily that was made up for in the end. Overall I really did like this trilogy, despite its flaws :).

Catch a falling star – part two

Yesterday I shared my review of the Stars of Fortune by Nora Roberts with you guys and girls and promised you to post a review of book two Bay of Sighs (Baai der zuchten in Dutch) today. Well, here I am to fulfill my promise. As always I’ll first share the description of the book and then I will give my opinion of the book. If you don’t like spoilers then don’t read this review!

baai-der-zuchten

To celebrate the rise of their new queen, three goddesses of the moon created three stars, one of fire, one of ice, one of water. But then they fell from the sky, putting the fate of all worlds in danger. And now three women and three men join forces to pick up the pieces…

Mermaid Annika is from the sea, and it is there she must return after her quest to find the stars. New to this world, her purity and beauty are nothing less than breathtaking, along with her graceful athleticism, as her five new friends discovered when they retrieved the fire star.

Now, through space and time, traveler Sawyer King has brought the guardians to the island of Capri, where the water star is hidden. And as he watches Annika in her element, he finds himself drawn to her joyful spirit. But Sawyer knows that if he allows her into his heart, no compass could ever guide him back to solid ground…

And in the darkness, their enemy broods. She lost one star to the guardians, but there is still time for blood to be spilled—the mermaid’s in the water and the traveler’s on the land. For she has forged a dangerous new weapon. Something deadly and unpredictable. Something human.

In Bay of Sighs we follow the adventures of the six guardians after they have procured the first Star of Fortune, the Star of Fire. The team has moved from Corfu to the Italian island of Capri. Sasha and Bran were pivotal in the capturing of the first star and now it’s Annika’s and Sawyer’s turn to find their star, the Star of Water.

Annika was one of my favorite characters in this series. She’s funny (although she doesn’t try to be), she’s a bit unwordly and doesn’t know how to express or behave herself according to human laws of conduct which results in more than one hilarious situation, she’s really kind and sees the best in everyone and everything. She is one of those innocent souls who keep their sense of wonder despite all the cruelties and hardships in life. Annika has got a major crush on fellow guardian Sawyer, but he doesn’t seem to feel the same for her. Or so she thinks.

I really liked Sawyer too. He’s funny, friendly, loves to tease and offers a helping hand wherever he can. His ability to travel through time and space is also really cool and very handy in times of danger and need. Ever since he saw Annika he’s had major feelings for her, but since she’s such an innocent soul he doesn’t want to act upon those feelings in fear she might get hurt or won’t understand what he wants from her. So he keeps his distance. But Annika makes it really hard for him to be chivalrous because she’s not only beautiful and sexy as hell, but also doesn’t have a problem with prancing around nude. Someone should really tell this mermaid that humans are a bit more prudish about bodies than the merfolk haha.

The romance between these two characters is super sweet and humorous. They keep dancing around each other and have a hard time keeping their hands to themselves. Sawyer because he wants to be chivalrous and Annika because she can’t seduce Sawyer first for fear of her sirenpowers kicking in and ensnaring him in a spell. So it’s up to Annika to convince Sawyer to be a bad boy ;).

The tension in this book is turned up a notch as the evil goddess Nerezza decides to use a human for her dirty work. Her eyes fall on Malmon, a corrupted, dark and evil treasure hunter who tried to kill Sawyer in the past and who had a few run ins with Riley too. Nerezza lures him to her mansion and enchants him to drink her blood. From that moment on Malmon has no more free will and has to do everything Nerezza wants, while at the same time he transforms into an abomination. Something not quite human, not quite demonic, but something in between. The adding of another antagonist ensures that the guardians run into even more trouble while trying to fulfill their quest and Annika and Sawyer will be tested to the limits of their strengths and love.

What I liked less about this book was the fact that the search for the second star was really similar to the search for the first star. Again the guardians have to dive to several underwater caves to see if the star is hidden in one of them. Again Riley has unlimited contacts who can supply them with everything they need from a boat to ammunition and special weapons. Because of this some parts of the book felt a bit repetitive. Luckily the new antagonist added some more tension and gave the protagonists a run for their money.

If you like your romance with a bit of fantasy, a lot of tension and some hilarious situations this book is the one for you ;).

Catch a falling star and battle an ancient goddess, catch a falling star and find true love.

Okay the rhythm of this title sucks, but I couldn’t resist haha. For those of you who have read most of my reviews it’s probably obvious that I’m a little bit addicted to Nora Roberts’ books. I especially love her paranormal stories! So, when I saw that her Guardians trilogy was translated to Dutch I knew I had to read these books. After reading them I can’t say I fell in love quite the way I normally do, but I did enjoy the stories. I will be sharing reviews of all three books in the coming days and will try to explain why this trilogy fell a little bit short for me. If you hate spoilers then only read the first review and skip the other two ;). I’ll start with a description and a review of the first book, then tomorrow I will give a description and review of book two and the day after that I’ll proceed with a description and review of book three. The title of the first book is Stars of Fortune (Een ster van vuur in Dutch).

ster-van-vuur

To celebrate the rise of their new queen, three goddesses of the moon created three stars, one of fire, one of ice, one of water. But then they fell from the sky, putting the fate of all worlds in danger. And now three women and three men join forces to pick up the pieces…

Sasha Riggs is a reclusive artist, haunted by dreams and nightmares that she turns into extraordinary paintings. Her visions lead her to the Greek island of Corfu, where five others have been lured to seek the fire star. Sasha recognizes them, because she has drawn them: a magician, an archaeologist, a wanderer, a fighter, a loner. All on a quest. All with secrets.

Sasha is the one who holds them together—the seer. And in the magician, Bran Killian, she sees a man of immense power and compassion. As Sasha struggles with her rare ability, Bran is there to support her, challenge her, and believe in her.

But Sasha and Bran are just two of the six. And they all must all work together as a team to find the fire star in a cradle of land beneath the sea. Over their every attempt at trust, unity, and love, a dark threat looms. And it seeks to corrupt everything that stands in its way of possessing the stars… 

So, let me start by telling you what I liked about this book and then I will tell you what I liked less.

Sasha was a really nice main character. Thanks to her ability to foresee the future and her prophetic dreams she has always been an outcast and never had a real relationship. She lives as a recluse and earns a living with her paintings, some of which are the result of her prophetic dreams. When she keeps dreaming about and painting the same five people and the same island she decides to find out if this place exists. After some searching she discovers that she has painted the Greek island Corfu, and she decides to travel there to find out why she keeps dreaming about this island and these strangers. Because of her reclusive life Sasha is shy, innocent and sweet. She’s not good with people and making friends is really hard. But when she sees one of the women she has painted again and again she decides to just talk to her.

Riley, the woman, is a tough-ass archaeologist searching for three ancient artifacts known as the Stars of Fortune. And her research has led her to Corfu. She’s enjoying a well-deserved cocktail when suddenly a woman walks up to her and tells her she’s been dreaming of Riley. When the woman shows her detailed drawings and sketches of not just Riley herself, but also of four other people Riley starts to believe what the woman is saying. While Sasha and Riley are getting to know one another a man comes strolling by. A man who looks exactly like someone on Sasha’s drawings.

Bran is an Irish man with a special talent for magic. He’s outgoing, mysterious and chivalrous. When two women ask him to come sit with them and when the gorgeous blonde one starts explaining she has seen him in her dreams he’s intrigued. When the other woman reveals she’s searching for the Stars of Fortune Bran knows this chance encounter could be fated, for he is also searching for the Stars. His suspicions about fate seem to be confirmed when it turns out all three of them are staying at the same hotel and on the same floor.

Sasha, Riley and Bran decide to team up in their search for the Stars and the other people from the drawings. They decide to move from the hotel to a villa of an acquaintance of Riley’s so they have a bit more privacy for their research. It doesn’t take long before the next two people from Sasha’s drawings find their way to them. They find the adventurous and friendly Sawyer trying to hitch a ride on the road they take to the villa, and they meet kind, strange and beautiful Annika on the beach near their villa. Together the five of them find out that they are the chosen guardians to destroy an ancient, evil goddess Nerezza and return the Stars of Fortune to the Island of Glass. A dangerous and magical quest that will test their strengths and that will put them in mortal danger.

It doesn’t take long before Nerezza shows her face and decides to test the strength of these so called warriors. In this first fight the last member of their group, the strong, stern and reserved warrior Doyle, joins them. Finally their team is complete and the real search for the Stars can begin. On Corfu they will have to find the Star of Fire, first of the three stars. It’s up to Sasha to brings this first stage of their quest to a happy ending.

I really liked the romance between Sasha and Bran. It developed in a realistic tempo and they were really sweet together. I loved how Bran made Sasha discover the strong woman she always was on the inside and how he helped her to come to terms with her special gift. Bran is a real sweetheart and has a big heart. Yet at the same time he’s a really strong magician who has an immense amount of power, but he never uses this power to hurt people or to take the easy way out in life.

I also liked the fact that the story revolves around a fellowship and a quest (huge fan of LotR here!!!). The paranormal elements all had a good basis and history within the book and were realistic. The fact that Riley was an archaeologist and did historical research to discover hints about the Stars and their whereabouts was also really cool.

What I liked less was the fact that every paranormal trilogy by Nora Roberts seems to have the same plot which starts to become really obvious when you read a lot of her books. She always has one über villain without any redeeming qualities, the pure incarnation of evil. Most of the time this is a god or goddess or some type of sorcerer. Then there are one or more people or supernatural ‘guardians’ who have tried to stop the evil but didn’t succeed entirely. These ‘guardians’ however do succeed in crippling the evil in some way which results in a long absence of the evil until the time is right for the evil to rise again and take revenge. After many, many years three or six special people are born who are fated to destroy the evil if they succeed in finding three magical objects before the evil does. While the chosen ones are busy fulfilling their quest they either fall in love with each other or meet and have to work with somebody (not a chosen one) who turns out to be perfect for them, their one true love. In the end the evil is always defeated and the good guys live happily ever after. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with this type of plot and Nora Roberts writes them really well. However, if an author keeps reusing the same plot over and over it gets a bit predictable and tiresome. I like some originality in the stories I read and on this criterium these books were lacking for me.

Another thing I didn’t like was the way how all the characters met each other. It was all a bit too easy and convenient. It would’ve been nice if the search for teammembers had been a bit harder and less coincidental. The fact that there were six main characters also made the book a bit unclear at times. Sometimes I didn’t know who was speaking and other times the author switched from one person to the next so abruptly that I had to read passages two or three times to understand what happened and through whose eyes I was seeing the scene. Normally Nora Roberts is really good at this, but in this series it was a bit of a mess.

If you like paranormal, romantic stories with a quest this book is the one for you! The love story is realistic and sweet, the main characters are well-developed and it’s packed with magic and adventure :).

 

Killing timepieces, Fabergé eggs and stolen hearts

Hey everybody! It’s been a while since my last post, but no worries I’m still here. I finally passed my Perspectives on History exam and the end of my thesis is finally showing, only one more chapter and a conclusion and I’m done :). Meanwhile, I’ve landed my first publishing contract for 8 short historical fiction stories and I’m waiting on news about another writing project! But best of all, it’s almost christmas. I just love everything about this holiday. I don’t know about you all, but I like reading christmas stories around this time of year. One of my all time favorites is the steampunk short Crimewave in a Corset by Stacy Gail. Let me first tell you what this story is about and then I will convince you to put this one on your to buy and to read list 😉

Roderick Coddington is on a mission to make Cornelia Peabody pay. After identifying her as the thief who stole a priceless Fabergé egg from his dying sister, he finds her and shackles a deadly timepiece to her arm. If she doesn’t return the egg by Christmas morning, she will die.

Normally seven days is more than enough time for Cornelia to carry out the perfect crime, but Roderick’s intrusion into her life is beyond distracting. He challenges her mind, and ignites her body with desire she’s never felt before. But worst of all, he threatens the independence she values above all else…

As Roderick spends time with Cornelia, he realizes there’s a lonely soul hidden beneath her beautiful but criminal veneer. Falling for a thief wasn’t part of Roderick’s plan, but plans can change and he has no intention of letting another priceless treasure get away from him. 

crimewave

So, if the description and cover didn’t persuade you yet to put this on your list let me try to convince you ;).

Cornelia was raised by a mother whose only care was how much profit she could make by stealing. When Cornelia didn’t come home with enough goods her mother would beat her. Needless to say Cornelia grew up thinking that stealing was the only way to make a living and people cannot be trusted. Her only rule is never to steal from the poor or sick, and only to rob powerful institutions. She lives a solitary life and enjoys using her wit to outsmart people. One day when she comes home she discovers that somebody has broken in. Convinced that the thief has left the building without discovering her secret hideout she makes her way upstairs only to be attacked by the man who broke in.

Roderick is a professor at the local university and has made it his life’s mission to make the thief of his beloved Beth’s Fabergé egg pay. The only thing that made his sick sister happy was that egg and when it was stolen she took a turn for the worse and died. When he finds out Cornelia stole the precious trinket he concocts a plan to get it back. He breaks in and sets a trap to ensnare a thief. Then he will shackle Cornelia with his killing timepiece and make her steal the egg back. But when his plan succeeds and he spends time with her he discovers that beneath the fineer of a ruthless thief lies the heart of a scarred and lonely woman who cares a great deal about other people. She’s just afraid to show her gentle and caring nature for nobody ever loved her.

I absolutely love the romance between these two characters. At first Roderick hates Cornelia for what she did, but slowly he starts to fall for her smarts and kind nature. Making him wonder if he should proceed with his plan. Especially when Cornelia tells him where the Fabergé egg ended up. Cornelia is afraid of Roderick at first, but soon discovers that although he says he hates her he doesn’t seem to want to hurt her like her mother did. And he does strange things to her heart. However, she is convinced that a man like him can never love a woman like her and when the mission to steal the egg back proves not only dangerous, but just as heartbreaking as when she stole from Beth she doesn’t know if she can go through with it. Will Roderick unshackle her or will his hate make him kill her for not getting the egg back? The feelings between these two characters are so sweet, yet at the same time explosive (prepare for some steamy scenes ;)). You can’t help but root for these two and hope they will eventually end up together.

Another great thing about this story is the attention to historical and scientific detail making it utterly believable. From flying machines to traps. From killing timepieces to precious Fabergé eggs. Every detail has been carefully written.

If you like sweet and steamy romance, suspense, an overload of emotions and a story full of scientific and historical details this is the one for you. Prepare for a christmas adventure you didn’t see coming!

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!

Do you all ever have the feeling that you’ve read too much? I finished reading the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness three days ago and after more than 1800 pages in the same story world I felt a bit wrung dry. So, I decided to pick up a book that wasn’t part of a series, that would probably be light-hearted and didn’t have too many pages. When I was standing in front of my bookcases my eye automatically wandered to my NA and contemporary YA section. And there it was: the book that would shake me awake. I chose The fill-in boyfriend by Kasie West and read it in one night because I couldn’t put it down! What’s this book about?

When Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she’d been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend—two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.

The problem is that days after prom, it’s not the real Bradley she’s thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn’t even know. But tracking him down doesn’t mean they’re done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend’s graduation party—three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

fill-in-boyfriend

I don’t know how West does it, but in every book I’ve read of her I loved the characters. Gia is one of the most popular girls at her school, but lately she’s been feeling like there’s something missing. Besides, her friendship with Jules has taken a weird turn, it’s as if Jules is jealous about everything and goes out of her way to make Gia look bad. Worst of all is that her other friends are starting to believe Jules. So, when Gia’s new boyfriend Bradley dumps her just before prom she makes a desperate last-minute decision and asks a complete stranger to play her boyfriend.

Hayden is recovering from the heartbreak his ex-girlfriend and former best friend caused him by cheating together, so, when he sees Bradley breaking up with Gia and the desperation Gia feels he decides to help her out by playing Bradley. When Gia and Hayden are dancing they hit it off but the deal was to break up at the end of the evening and that is exactly what Hayden does. However, Gia can’t put her fill-in boyfriend out of her mind. She tries to get his phone number to thank him, but Hayden’s sister Bec does her best to keep Gia away from her brother because she feels Gia doesn’t deserve him. When Hayden’s ex invites him to her graduation party Bec takes action and forces Gia to go with Hayden to play his new girlfriend in exchange for his phone number. Gia feels like she owes Hayden for helping her out and decides to help out Hayden this time. This is the beginning of a complicated relationship based on a whole web of lies. Biggest complication however is the fact that Hayden and Gia really start to fall for each other but can’t be together because of all the lies they’ve told.

As with all lies, the truth eventually comes out (thanks to Jules). In one fell swoop Gia loses all of her friends, and on top of that her brother has used her for a film he created and makes her the laughing stock of his college. Gia feels like she’s an idiot with no character or redeeming qualities. Hayden and Bec are her only supporters, but when one of Hayden’s friends starts spreading lies about Gia Hayden doesn’t know who to believe and walks away from her. However, Bec has decided that she believes Gia and does her best to reunite Hayden and Gia because she knows they love each other despite the weird way they came together. Meanwhile Gia has to figure out who she is and what she wants in life.

I loved how the romance between Gia and Hayden developed and how Gia discovered herself. This love story and coming-of-age tale was really sweet, realistic and fun to read. This is one of those books you’ll want to read if you’re in the mood for some light reading, sweet romance and easy entertainment!

When the Junglebook meets a cemetery, magic is created <3

Hey you all. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything. No worries, nothing bad happened, in fact a lot of good happened! I participated in a reading club revolving around the Dutch YA book Falco en de gestolen Stympha’s (if you haven’t read it put it on your list 😉 ), I wrote a short story (about a girl living in the time of emperor Justinian when the Mediterranean was devastated by a plague that cost many, many lives) that’s going to be published this weekend on historischeverhalen.nl and I got a really cool offer from a well-known Dutch YA-author that I can’t tell anything about yet but that’s got me jumping all around the room and hyperventilating from stress at the same time haha. On top of all that I’m studying like crazy to pass my exam Perspectives on History and I’m trying to finish all my reading for my Ba thesis. It’s a bit stressfull at the moment, but I’m really enjoying myself with all the different projects! Of course I’m still reading for entertainment too. And yesterday I read a really awesome book called The Graveyard Book written by Neil Gaiman. I hadn’t read anything by Neil before, but I’m putting his name on my ‘authors to follow’ list! So what’s this book about?

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family…

 

graveyardbook1

I loved everything about this book! Bod is a really sympathetic and cool main character. Throughout the story the reader sees him growing up, following him from toddler to teen. Bod is headstrong, kind, adventurous, and really curious. His curiosity paired with his sense of adventure leads him into all kind of mysteries and troubles. And along the way he finds a lot of friends in unlikely places. From a human girl wandering the cemetery ground, to the ghost of a teenage-aged witch buried in unhallowed ground, from a troublesome guardianghost in a Celtic burial mound to the entrance of a world full of corpse-eating monsters. But, despite all these mysteries contained on one ancient cemetery Bod yearns to discover the world of ordinary humans. People who breathe and exist like him. Yet that is the one thing Bod can’t do because when he leaves the graveyard a ruthless clan of killers will find him and finish the job they started when Bod was just a little boy. However, as Bod gets older he doesn’t care about the consequences anymore. He wants to go to school and lead at least part of a normal life. When his guardian Silas agrees to Bod going to a normal school everything changes and the inevitable future is set into motion…

I really liked the fact that all the inhabitants of the graveyard became a surrogate family for Bod. He is adopted by the Owenses, a lovely couple from the eighteenth (or nineteenth?) century. His education is provided by ghosts from different places and times and not only teaches him basic things like reading and writing, but also fading, dreamwalking and scaring people mentally. In some ways Bod is like the ghosts that are his family and in others he is as human as the rest of us. He literally balances on the divide between the living and the dead. But, the more he is immersed in the real world the weaker his connection with the dead becomes.

Added to this wonderfully magic background is the suspense of the killers that want to kill Bod. Why was his family murdered? Why does the murderer still want to finish his job? And why is there a whole clan of killers involved in these murders? I won’t betray the plot here, but I thought the plot was geniously created and masterfully unraffled.

At the end of the book I really had to do my best not to cry. Because Bod is human he can’t stay on the graveyard forever. This also means that a farewell is inevitable. However, I never suspected how final that last goodbye would be. The ending is kind of happy-sad. The reader knows that Bod has an adventurous future ahead of him, but he also has to leave everything he has ever known and cared about behind.

If you’re looking for a suspensefull, magical story with a sympathetic main character and loads of interesting supporting  characters pick up Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book! Who knew how fantastical a Junglebook  retelling could be?!