Review | Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee and Susan McClelland

every falling starEvery Falling Star by Sungju Lee and Susan McClelland
Published September 13, 2016 by Amulet Books, 336 pp.
Copy provided by publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Every Falling Star, the first book to portray contemporary North Korea to a young audience, is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains. Sungju richly re-creates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, his “brothers”; to be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist.

Honestly, other memoirs or accounts of people who have escaped North Korea read very academically. They describe the gulags, the bleakness of the places perfectly, but it all seems clinical. There is nothing wrong with this, and this does not diminish their ordeal in any way, just that for me as a reader, I tend to feel detached, and it’s like I see theories and numbers rather than people.

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Review | Girl in the Shadows by Gwenda Bond

girl in the shadowsGirl in the Shadows by Gwenda Bond (Girl on a Wire #2)
Published July 5, 2016 by Skyscape, 382 pp.
Copy provided by publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Eighteen-year-old Moira Mitchell grew up in the shadows of Vegas’s stage lights while her father’s career as a magician soared. More than anything, Moira wants to be a magician too, but her father is dead set against her pursuing magic.

When an invitation to join the Cirque American mistakenly falls into Moira’s possession, she takes action. Instead of giving the highly coveted invitation to its intended recipient, Raleigh, her father’s handsome and worldly former apprentice, Moira takes off to join the Cirque. If she can perform alongside its world-famous acts, she knows she’ll be able to convince her dad that magic is her future.

But when Moira arrives, things take on an intensity she can’t control as her stage magic suddenly feels like…real magic. To further distract her, Raleigh shows up none too pleased at Moira’s presence, all while the Cirque’s cocky and intriguing knife thrower, Dez, seems to have it out for her. As tensions mount and Moira’s abilities come into question, she must decide what’s real and what’s an illusion. If she doesn’t sort it out in time, she may forever remain a girl in the shadows.

Agh I hate when the concept is great but the execution falls just short of making it so, and I think Girl in the Shadows is one example of that. Magic and the circus? Yaaas sign me up! But I felt like it never really came off the pages. The circus world is there when convenient, but not really explored, Moira and Dez as characters are flat and their romance didn’t make sense to me, and the only interesting characters didn’t get enough screentime.

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Review | Unseen Messages by Pepper Winters

unseen messagesUnseen Messages by Pepper Winters
Published March 30, 2016, 591 pp.
Copy provided by publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Instincts are what keep us safe from fate. Ignoring them can change your life forever.”

Fame and fortune arrived overnight and after months on the road with her singing tour, all Estelle craves is peace. Tired and ready for paradise, she travels to Fiji to recuperate.

Stubborn and surly, Galloway is avoided by most–which is exactly the way he likes it. However, he’s done spending his life in regret and hopes to find redemption in the tropical wilderness.

Together, they board the flight that changes their fate forever. Crash landing on a deserted island, they not only have to figure out how to survive with no skills and daily dangers–learning how to fish, find water, and build shelter–but also inherit two children who look to them to keep them alive.

However, staying alive might be the least of Galloway and Estelle’s problems. As days creep to months and rescue doesn’t find them, their desire for each other ignites.

They started as strangers.
They grew to be friends.
They fought the desire to be lovers.

Lust can be the most beautiful thing. Love the most rewarding. But not on an island where life hangs by a thread and giving into temptation can kill you.

Can they survive being forgotten or will love be their ultimate undoing?

First thoughts after finishing this: man this was depressing. I mean, Galloway and Estelle got out alive, but after what everyone went through… I don’t think I can celebrate. Also, I don’t think I can celebrate because I couldn’t exactly get behind Galloway and Estelle’s romance, which makes me feel selfish. Don’t get me wrong, they deserve it after all they’d been through on that island, but the romance didn’t feel real.

This is also a pretty long read, just a bit shy of 600 pages and I regularly read books around the same page count – it’s just that the first 45% of this dragged. Like I struggled to get through that for almost a week. Once you do get past that though, you can finish it within the day.

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Review | The Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse

the neverland warsThe Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse
Published May 9, 2016 by Clean Teen Publishing, 302 pp.
Copy provided by Clean Teen Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Magic can do a lot—give you flight, show you mermaids, help you taste the stars, and… solve the budget crisis? That’s what the grown-ups will do with it if they ever make it to Neverland to steal its magic and bring their children home.

However, Gwen doesn’t know this. She’s just a sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a powerful crush on Jay, the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn’t know her little sister could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that she might have to chase after her to bring her home safe. Gwen will find out though—and when she does, she’ll discover she’s in the middle of a looming war between Neverland and reality.

She’ll be out of place as a teenager in Neverland, but she won’t be the only one. Peter Pan’s constant treks back to the mainland have slowly aged him into adolescence as well. Soon, Gwen will have to decide whether she’s going to join impish, playful Peter in his fight for eternal youth… or if she’s going to scramble back to reality in time for the homecoming dance.


Ahh that cover. If only I could love the book as much as I love that cover.

The Neverland Wars feels a bit incomplete – a lot of loose ends are left, and I still have so many questions, the foremost being: how in the world do “adults” transmute magic and funnel it into the “real world”? The last time I heard and read the word “transmute” was when I was a huge fan of Fullmetal Alchemist and suddenly it pops up here without a concrete explanation.

Also, I’m trying out a new-ish review format, so if you don’t feel like reading through this review, there’s a handy summary at the bottom! 😀 Skip to TL;DR, haha.

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Review | The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon

the bird and the swordThe Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon
Published May 10, 2016, 352 pp.

Swallow, daughter, pull them in, those words that sit upon your lips. Lock them deep inside your soul, hide them ‘til they’ve time to grow. Close your mouth upon the power, curse not, cure not, ‘til the hour. You won’t speak and you won’t tell, you won’t call on heaven or hell. You will learn and you will thrive. Silence, daughter. Stay alive.

The day my mother was killed, she told my father I wouldn’t speak again, and she told him if I died, he would die too. Then she predicted the king would sell his soul and lose his son to the sky.
My father has a claim to the throne, and he is waiting in the shadows for all of my mother’s words to come to pass. He wants desperately to be king, and I just want to be free.
But freedom will require escape, and I’m a prisoner of my mother’s curse and my father’s greed. I can’t speak or make a sound, and I can’t wield a sword or beguile a king. In a land purged of enchantment, love might be the only magic left, and who could ever love . . . a bird?

How goes it?

Ack, skip the summary. Just read the quote, and dive right into the book. Because this isn’t just about romance, not just about court politics – it’s about a girl who learns who she is, and what she can do.

This is my first book by the author, and Amy Harmon has a way with words. Most of the time, our heroine doesn’t even have an inner dialogue, because words have power – especially for someone like her – and she learned early on that a careless slip, an exclamation, can have far-reaching consequences. Somehow though, Amy Harmon manages to draw us into Lark’s story, and by the end I didn’t want to leave Jeru.

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Ruined by Amy Tintera

ruinedRuined by Amy Tintera (Ruined #1)
Published May 3, 2016 by HarperTeen, 368 pp.

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.

How goes it?

I bought this book on a whim and the fact that this arrived before The Rose and the Dagger makes me… mad. Sort of. Or just disappointed? Anyway, remember how I was hoping this would have something different to set it apart from similar books? I don’t think that hope has been realized. I remember closing this book after I finished and feeling nothing, which I hate because I’d rather strongly dislike what just happened than not remember a book because I couldn’t find anything to care about.

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The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

the star-touched queenThe Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi (The Star-Touched Queen #1)
Published April 26, 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin, 342 pp.

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself

How goes it?

The Star-Touched Queen is like cotton candy – fluffy, sweet, but when you bite into it there’s not much to it. Not to say that I don’t like books like this, because goodness knows I do, but if you’re expecting something epic, then maybe you’ll be a tad let down.
This is also a standalone, but will have other books in the same universe, so I’m looking forward to those! The world-building here is awesome, so even if this book isn’t my favorite, I’m looking forward to reading other books set in this universe!

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The Falconer by Elizabeth May

the falconerThe Falconer by Elizabeth May (The Falconer #1)
Published May 6, 2014 by Chronicle Books, 378 pp.

One girl’s nightmare is this girl’s faery tale

She’s a stunner.
Edinburgh, 1844. Eighteen-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, has everything a girl could dream of: brains, charm, wealth, a title—and drop-dead beauty.

She’s a liar.
But Aileana only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. she’s leading a double life: She has a rare ability to sense the sìthíchean—the faery race obsessed with slaughtering humans—and, with the aid of a mysterious mentor, has spent the year since her mother died learning how to kill them.

She’s a murderer.
Now Aileana is dedicated to slaying the fae before they take innocent lives. With her knack for inventing ingenious tools and weapons—from flying machines to detonators to lightning pistols—ruthless Aileana has one goal: Destroy the faery who destroyed her mother.

She’s a Falconer.
The last in a line of female warriors born with a gift for hunting and killing the fae, Aileana is the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity. Suddenly, her quest is a lot more complicated. She still longs to avenge her mother’s murder—but she’ll have to save the world first.

How goes it?

The Falconer is part historical fiction, part fantasy, and part steampunk, and if you feel like that’s a barrage of information – it actually is. The setting is certainly unique, and the action is definitely one of my favourite things about this. I’m not sure how I feel about Aileana apart from her Falconer persona, but the girl as a Falconer does manage to kick fae butt pretty well.

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Dreamology by Lucy Keating

dreamologyDreamology by Lucy Keating
Published April 12, 2016 by HarperTeen, 336 pp.

Vibrantly offbeat and utterly original, Lucy Keating’s debut novel combines the unconventional romance of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with the sweetness and heart of Jenny Han.

For as long as Alice can remember, she has dreamed of Max. Together, they have traveled the world and fallen deliriously, hopelessly in love. Max is the boy of her dreams—and only her dreams. Because he doesn’t exist.

But when Alice walks into class on her first day at a new school, there he is. Real Max is nothing like Dream Max. He’s stubborn and complicated. And he has a whole life Alice isn’t a part of. Getting to know each other in reality isn’t as perfect as Alice always hoped.

Alarmingly, when their dreams start to bleed into their waking hours, the pair realize that they might have to put an end to a lifetime of dreaming about each other. But when you fall in love in your dreams, can reality ever be enough?

How goes it?

I am not even going to lie: my favorite parts of this are the last bits where Max and Alice are just two saps when they profess their love for each other – the multi-color leaves and Oreo cake is a great touch. What can I say, I like to live vicariously through fictional characters, hah.

Dreamology, overall, does feel a bit dreamy – in a sense that it’s kind of detached? Like it doesn’t feel grounded and everything just seems like you’re watching/reading it through some sort of filter. This is perfect, however, if you want something to reaffirm your belief that dreams do come true, and your dream guy does exist.

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