Book Review: Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson

September 27, 2016

Title: Like a River Glorious

Author: Rae Carson

Series: The Gold Seer Trilogy #2

Genre: Teen Fantasy [ish]

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: After a harrowing journey across the country, Leah Westfall and her friends have finally arrived in California and are ready to make their fortunes in the Gold Rush. Lee has a special advantage over the other new arrivals in California—she has the ability to sense gold, a secret known only by her handsome best friend Jefferson and her murdering uncle Hiram. Lee and her friends have the chance to be the most prosperous settlers in California, but Hiram hasn’t given up trying to control Lee and her power. Sabotage and kidnapping are the least of what he’ll do to make sure Lee is his own. His mine is the deepest and darkest in the territory, and there Lee learns the full extent of her magical gift, the worst of her uncle, and the true strength of her friendships. To save everyone, she vows to destroy her uncle and the empire he is building—even at the cost of her own freedom. -Goodreads

The Review:

 Rae Carson is one of my favorite authors for the amazingness that is Girl of Fire and Thorns, which still holds the spot as the best YA Fantasy I’ve ever read. The Goldseer series, so far, has many of the same attributes that set GOFT above the rest:

  • Strong heroines who are endearingly atypical and always feel like real people.
  • Beautiful, immersive writing that will totally transport you.
  • Enough magic to drive the plot without being the sole focus.
  • Gut-wrenching moments that will Tear. Out. Your. Heart.

In fact, even more so than GOFT, the Goldseer Trilogy will hit you left and right with horrible injustices (some which make me so mad I could spit). Carson really understands conflicts and how to put her characters through hell. To be honest, it was so well done that I wondered on several occasions how I was able to enjoy the story while hating it at the same time. It never ceased to evoke emotion and make me feel engaged.

As far as the magic goes, Like a River Glorious had more magic than the first book, but not enough for me to feel confident recommending it as a fantasy verses a historical fiction. I’ve always been of the mindset that the more magic, the better, but I still enjoyed the book for all the other elements. It’s one of those stories written so well that it’ll appeal to readers of multiple genres. I’ve read a little criticism of the supposed historical inaccuracies in this book, but as someone who remembers only what I was taught in grade school about the gold rush, it was realistic enough for me. I thought she did a great job transporting me to this era and, let’s face it, I didn’t pick it up for a history lesson… Even so, the criticisms surprises me because Carson acknowledges at the back of the book that she had to take some creative liberties to streamline her story.

Anyway, Like a River Glorious was a strong sequel that could have satisfied me as a series-ender, but there’s still one book yet to come. I can’t figure out what it will entail, and find the prospect (no pun intended) of discovery really enticing. It’s a damn shame it’s going to be a year before it comes out!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: The Fixer

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Series: The Fixer #1

Genre: Teen Fiction

Rating: 4.5/5 stars!

The Overview: Sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick has spent her entire life on her grandfather’s ranch. But when her estranged sister Ivy uproots her to D.C., Tess is thrown into a world that revolves around politics and power. She also starts at Hardwicke Academy, the D.C. school for the children of the rich and powerful, where she unwittingly becomes a fixer for the high school set, fixing teens’ problems the way her sister fixes their parents’ problems. And when a conspiracy surfaces that involves the family member of one of Tess’s classmates, love triangles and unbelievable family secrets come to light and life gets even more interesting—and complicated—for Tess. -Goodreads

The Review:

I can’t get enough of Jennifer Lynn Barnes! Her books are smart, engaging, and so well constructed that she’ll always have your brain reeling. I read The Fixer (The Fixer series #1) with the hope that it would help hold me over for when Bad Blood (The Naturals series #4) comes out November 1st. And you know what? The Fixer completely satisfied my crime novel craving!

While The Naturals series is a YA version of the show Criminal Minds, The Fixer series is very reminiscent of Scandal (which I love). Tess, the main character, is thrust into a world of intrigue when she’s forced to move in with her “fixer” sister in Washington DC. Her involvement starts out minimal, but soon grows into something of epic proportions. The book has excellent momentum and pacing, and I found it super difficult to put down!

Part of that addictiveness comes from how well it’s written. Barnes is one smart cookie. With advanced degrees in psychology from Yale University, her smarts really translate to her stories – they are written brilliantly! She weaves such a compelling mystery that I spend the entire book analyzing every character to try to figure out whodunit. Barnes is so good at misdirection that I haven’t been right yet, but the beauty is that in hindsight all the clues were there to figure it out. I’ve never casually read a Barnes book and am always totally engaged/engrossed/enamored the whole way through.

The mystery was the funnest element of The Fixer, but I also loved the characters. If I’m honest, they were slightly more animated than real people, but that only made me like them more. One character in particular, Asher, had me busting a gut left and right.

Overall Jennifer Lynn Barnes is one of my top authors and current favorite to recommend. The Fixer is just one more example why I think she’s so brilliant.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Mini Book Review: Bloodrose by Andrea Cremer

Bloodrose by Andrea Cremer

Title: Bloodrose

Author: Andrea Cremer

Series: Nightshade #3

Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Overview: Calla Tor wakes up in the lair of the Searchers, her sworn enemy, and she’s certain her days are numbered. But then the Searchers make her an offer–one that gives her the chance to destroy her former masters and save the pack–and the man–she left behind. Is Ren worth the price of her freedom? And will Shay stand by her side no matter what? Now in control of her own destiny, Calla must decide which battles are worth fighting and how many trials true love can endure and still survive. -Goodreads

The Mini Review:

Bloodrose provided the most adventure yet. Cremer used several exotic settings as hiding places for the mythical weapons the characters had to retrieve (which was probably my favorite part of the book). The seek and find adventure kept me engaged through most of it, and I thought the story escalated to a fitting climax. Although I admit I have mixed feelings about the story-ending itself.

There’s really not much left to add. As I mentioned in my reviews of Nightshade and Wolfsbane, the real beauty of this series are the characters and the fun dynamics they have with one another. All characters were written well, but there was one that I just could not stand – Shay (one of the love interests). Any scenes involving him set my teeth on edge and definitely stole a bit of my enjoyment for the story. This final book also had a lot of boy angst, which, although consistent with story, might have been a little too much for my tastes.

Overall, I’d recommend Nightshade series, but would take caution handing it to younger teens (it kind of encouraged underage sex). That said, it’s still one of the better teen werewolf books I’ve read and I definitely enjoyed Cremer’s writing style.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Coming Soon: Dragonwatch by Brandon Mull

March 14, 2017

Title: Dragonwatch

Author: Brandon Mull

Series: Fablehaven #6

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Release Date: March 14, 2017

The Overview: In the hidden dragon sanctuary of Wyrmroost, Celebrant the Just, King of the Dragons, plots his revenge. He has long seen the sanctuaries as prisons, and he wants nothing more than to overthrow his captors and return the world to the Age of Dragons, when he and his kind ruled and reigned without borders. The time has come to break free and reclaim his power. No one person is capable of stopping Celebrant and his dragon horde. It will take the ancient order of Dragonwatch to gather again if there is any chance of saving the world from destruction. In ancient times, Dragonwatch was a group of wizards, enchantresses, dragon slayers, and others who originally confined the majority of dragons into sanctuaries. But nearly all of the original Dragonwatch members are gone, and so the wizard Agad reaches out to Grandpa Sorenson for help. As Kendra and Seth confront this new danger, they must draw upon all their skills, talents, and knowledge as only they have the ability to function together as a powerful dragon tamer. Together they must battle against forces with superior supernatural powers and breathtaking magical abilities. How will the epic dragon showdown end? Will dragons overthrow humans and change the world as we know it? -Goodreads

Waiting on Wednesday
Hosted by Breaking the Spine

I LOVED Fablehaven, and if you’d asked me which element of the whole series I’d like to see expanded on, I would’ve shouted “The Dragon Sanctuary!!” From the rooftops. Therefore, I am SO FREAKING EXCITED that my wish is coming true! This spinoff/continuation series is going to be amazing and I can’t wait!

What book are you waiting on?

 by Niki Hawkes


Duology Review: Reboot by Amy Tintera

The Reboot Duology
by Amy Tintera
4/5 stars

Reboot (5 stars) was one of the best YA books I’ve ever read. And not necessarily because it was flawless, but because the elements that worked well really stole the show.

It starts out with a great concept – humans who are “rebooted” after dying (from a virus) and given a number to indicate how long they were dead. The bigger the number, the less humanity the individual retains. Wren is a 178 and every bit the cold, calculating soldier she supposed to be (or so it would seem). She never questions authority and always does what she was supposed to do. Then in walks my favorite dynamic of the story – Callum, a 22 who is relatable and endearingly human, challenging everything about Wren’s paradigm. The interplay between the two is easily the magic of the series, especially at the beginning were they’re still learning how to relate to one another. I loved every moment.

Tintera is a good writer who builds characters and relationships really well and writes with great pacing and clarity. But her work does have a couple of issues – world building and accuracy among the most prominent. It was mostly just a few little things here and there that made me pause and think “Hmmm… I’m not so sure that’s consistent with the laws of physics.” Or something to that effect, but I would always decide to just roll with it. For the most part, I was enjoying all of the things she did brilliantly enough that the shortcomings didn’t bother me.

Rebel, the second book in the duology, maintained momentum from the first but I admit it lost a little of the magic that made Reboot so amazing. That said, I’d still give it a solid 3 stars (I liked it) rating and appreciated as a series-ender.

Overall, this duology is great for dystopian/post-apocalyptic fans, and I’d even hand it to someone who likes zombie stories (even though it doesn’t dive very deep into that genre). If you still have a Hunger Games hangover, this might be the book for you.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Book Review: All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

all inTitle: All In

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Series: The Naturals #2

Genre: Teen Fiction

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: Three casinos. Three bodies. Three days. After a string of brutal murders in Las Vegas, Cassie Hobbes and the Naturals are called in to investigate. But even with the team’s unique profiling talents, these murders seem baffling: unlike many serial killers, this one uses different methods every time. All of the victims were killed in public, yet the killer does not show up on any tape. And each victim has a string of numbers tattooed on their wrist. Hidden in the numbers is a code—and the closer the Naturals come to unraveling the mystery, the more perilous the case becomes. Meanwhile, Cassie is dealing with an equally dangerous and much more painful mystery. For the first time in years, there’s been a break in her mother’s case. As personal issues and tensions between the team mount, Cassie and the Naturals will be faced with impossible odds—and impossible choices. -Goodreads

The Review:

The Naturals Series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes might be my favorite YA series of all time. I devour each new book with a passion I don’t experience often with books, having read so many. Here are just a couple of the many reasons why I LOVE it:

The concept!! The series revolves around teens who are ridiculously talented in certain areas useful to crime solving (emotion-gadgers, statistical-analysists, lie-detectors, and so on). What I love is that these talents are totally feasible (albeit rare), so it feels like reading about real-world superheroes. It fascinated me to no end to see their analytical skills put to the test. My favorite was probably Sloane – the statistician. She’s really quirky and endearing, but also incredibly smart, using numbers and statistics to predict where the killer would strike next, deciphering commonalities for whom the killer might target, and analyzing things like security camera footage to pinpoint criminals based on trajectory and all sorts of other complicated math that I only half pretend understand (;P). All In gave Sloane more of a spotlight and it was awesome to get to know her even better.

Basically, take these cool characters with cool talents and add to that a complex mystery, and I’m in love.

As if it wasn’t fun enough reading about these super talents, the mystery within each novel is what I think really draws me in. It’s nothing like those old Nancy Drew novels where the criminal is always the nicest persona in the book. In the Naturals series, the killer could literally be anyone, and Barnes does a masterful job of incorporating a lot of plausible misdirection to keep you guessing. When I read these novels, I always have SO MANY THEORIES about who the killer could be. And each new chapter gets me that much closer to figuring it out. It’s seriously the most engaged I’ve ever been in a book, making it also one of the funnest books I’ve ever read. Additionally, each book gets more complex without also getting more convoluted. There’s a different mystery in each novel, but they are all tied together by one big story arc (that’s also a complex mystery) which has gained so much momentum that I’m absolutely DYING to read Bad Blood (the final book in the series) which comes out November 1, 2016.

In fact, I think the reason I loved All In in particular was that it did an excellent job advancing the overall story arc while still giving me a killer mystery to help solve (I say “help” ironically… I didn’t do shit). All In also delved into a bit more background of The Naturals (the characters, as that’s how they refer to themselves) and you start to see even more how they ended up with such honed talents. Ugh, I really can’t say much more than that without dipping into spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that.

Overall, for any of you Criminal Minds fans out there, this is the series for you! This is one of my favorite books to recommend because 1) I love geeking out about it 2) it’s one of the most engaging books I’ve ever read and 3) I think it appeals to a wide range of readers. I call a lot of things my favorite, but I really, really mean it this time, haha. :)

 Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes