Review of Unsightly: A Modern- Day Retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Amber Garza

Star Rating: 
Genre: YA Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling
Number of Pages: 222

Date Started: October 22, 2017
Date Finished: October 24, 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
Layla has grown up hearing the rumors of the beastly boy who lives in the forest on the edge of town, but she knows there is no such person. It’s nothing more than an urban legend. On the night of her high school graduation she drives through the forest to get home from a party when her tire hits water on the road, sending her car spinning into the trees. She slams her head and is out cold. Fortunately, a mysterious stranger shows up to help her. Hours later she wakes up in an old abandoned house, her savior shrouded in darkness. Over the next couple of days, he nurses her back to health, but she never sees his face. He wears a mask and refuses to take if off. In the final minutes before her departure, curiosity gets the better of her and she yanks his mask off. Immediately, she is horrified. His face is deformed and unsightly. Angry, he tells her that she’s made a terrible mistake, and now she can’t leave. While held prisoner, her captor waffles between cold and kind. It’s in those kind moments that Layla feels drawn to him in a way she’s never been to anyone before. As days morph into weeks, the coldness melts away and the two grow closer. She realizes that the stories the town has heard about the beastly boy are false. He’s not the monster they’ve made him out to be. But Layla knows better than anyone that their love will never survive in the outside world. Therefore, she has a choice to make. One that she fears will end badly either way. This modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast reminds us that love is powerful, and it truly can conquer all.

Review:
Layla is superficial. You can’t exactly blame her, given how she grew up. Unfortunately, most of the characters within the book are superficial stereotypes and don’t seem fleshed out as real people, more like stock characters. Layla and the Beastly Boy are fairly well developed, but there seems to be a lack of reality– everyone seems as if the author has just dreamt them, without any real depth. There are a lot of instances of things being told instead of shown, especially in regards to how Layla was brought up, and her past in general.

As much as the author tries, even within the book, to claim that Layla isn’t feeling Stockholm Syndrome, there is a depth missing to the story. All in all, it’s an interesting take on beauty being only skin deep. I especially enjoyed that the book was not over when most are used to the story closing. Although the story was very beauty and the beast inspired, it isn’t exactly a retelling. Keeping that in mind, you could still enjoy this novel.

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Amber Garza is the author of the Playing for Keeps series as well as many contemporary romance titles, including Star Struck, Tripping Me Up and Break Free. She has had a passion for the written word since she was a child making books out of notebook paper and staples. Her hobbies include reading and singing. Coffee and wine are her drinks of choice (not necessarily in that order). She writes while blaring music, and talks about her characters like they’re real people. She currently lives in California with her amazing husband, and two hilarious children who provide her with enough material to keep her writing for years.

Amber loves to connect with her readers. You can visit her at ambergarza.com, or find her on facebook or on twitter @ambermg1.

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Review of Girl in the Shadows by Gwenda Bond

Girl in the Shadows

Cirque American
By C. J. Archer

Star Rating: 
Genre: YA Fantasy
Number of Pages: 380

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
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.

Review:
I was really excited when I found this book, since I had quite liked Girl on a Wire. While I didn’t hate this book, it wasn’t as amazing as the first in the series. Moira is a likeable protagonist and seems to have a solid plan in place to secure her future in the magic business. While Raleigh appears totally capable and ready to look out for her, given that she doesn’t try to take over his stage, she seems far too easily smitten with Dez.

Dez is too undeveloped, and it’s hard to like him or his connection with Moira, even when you realize just how much is on the line. I found this book a little too two dimensional and the females were too powerless. For the type of energy supposedly there, much of the book seems to be a damsel in distress story, which is the opposite of what the first book in the series was.

Nonetheless, I would read another book if it came out, and do like this author.

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Gwenda Bond writes YA and children’s fiction. Her novels include the Lois Lane series (Fallout, Double Down), which bring the iconic comic book character front and center in her own YA novels, and the Cirque American series (Girl on a Wire, Girl Over Paris, Girl in the Shadows), about daredevil heroines who discover magic and mystery lurking under the big top. She and her husband author Christopher Rowe will launch a middle grade series, the Supernormal Sleuthing Service, in 2017, and Lois Lane: Triple Threat will be released.

Her nonfiction writing has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Locus Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and many other publications. She has an MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in a hundred-year-old house in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband and their unruly pets. There are rumors she escaped from a screwball comedy, and she might have a journalism degree because of her childhood love of Lois Lane. She writes a weekly letter you can sign up for at http://www.tinyletter.com/gwenda. Visit her online at http://www.gwendabond.com or @gwenda on Twitter.

Review of Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins

Spell Bound
Hex Hall 3
By Rachel Hawkins

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young Adult/Young Adult Urban Fantasy
Number of Pages: 337
Summer 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
Just as Sophie Mercer has come to accept her extraordinary magical powers as a demon, the Prodigium Council strips them away. Now Sophie is defenseless, alone, and at the mercy of her sworn enemies—the Brannicks, a family of warrior women who hunt down the Prodigium. Or at least that’s what Sophie thinks, until she makes a surprising discovery. The Brannicks know an epic war is coming, and they believe Sophie is the only one powerful enough to stop the world from ending. But without her magic, Sophie isn’t as confident. Sophie’s bound for one hell of a ride—can she get her powers back before it’s too late?

Review:
This book I both looked forward to and dreaded. I very much hate the end of a series, don’t you?

While Sophie did grow quite a bit throughout the series, in the end I was disappointed by what happened to some of her allies (one in particular) even though I had thought what would happen was rather obvious from the beginning.

I am quite pleased with the ending of the series, though I am sure that I, like many others, would love to see what happens to Sophie beyond the scope of the series.

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Rachel Hawkins (www.rachel-hawkins.com) was a high school English teacher before becoming a full-time writer. She lives with her family in Alabama. To the best of her knowledge, Rachel is not a witch, though some of her former students may disagree….

Review of Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins

Demonglass
Hex Hall 2
By Rachel Hawkins

Star Rating:  
Genre: Young Adult/Young Adult Urban Fantasy
Number of Pages: 365
Summer 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
Sophie Mercer thought she was a witch. That was the whole reason she was sent to Hex Hall, a reform school for delinquent Prodigium (aka witches, shapeshifters, and fairies). But that was before she discovered the family secret, and that her hot crush, Archer Cross, is an agent for The Eye, a group bent on wiping Prodigium off the face of the earth.

Review:
There’s nothing left for Sophie to do but take away her power. But, her father warns, it will change who you are. As she spends time getting to know her dad and understanding where she fits into the world, she has to take into consideration what is best for everyone. Loyalties are tested, and ultimately she has to decide who she believes she can trust.

Great book, just as gripping and fast paced as the first.

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Rachel Hawkins (www.rachel-hawkins.com) was a high school English teacher before becoming a full-time writer. She lives with her family in Alabama. To the best of her knowledge, Rachel is not a witch, though some of her former students may disagree….

Review of Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Hex Hall
Hex Hall 1
By Rachel Hawkins

Star Rating:  
Genre: Young Adult/Young Adult Urban Fantasy
Number of Pages: 337
Summer 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father—an elusive European warlock—only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

Review:
I’d been looking at this book for quite some time when I finally picked up a copy and I have to say I was so very glad I did.

There is so much that Sophie doesn’t know about the supernatural world. Knowing essentially nothing about both herself and her father, she is thrust into a land with people who have always known what they were. As she tries to navigate the depth of which she’d fallen into, she realizes that there might be more going on than she was warned about.

The characters are quirky and irresistible, and while Sophie’s left to figure out everything in the magical world she’s been completely kept from, you get to go on an amazing journey alongside her.

Loved this story! If you love supernatural and don’t mind some romance, this is definitely the book for you!

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Rachel Hawkins (www.rachel-hawkins.com) was a high school English teacher before becoming a full-time writer. She lives with her family in Alabama. To the best of her knowledge, Rachel is not a witch, though some of her former students may disagree….

Review of Soul Symmetry by J. L. Weil

Soul Symmetry
Book 3 in The Raven Series
By J. L. Weil

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/YA Urban Fantasy
Number of Pages: 278

Date Started: May 18, 2017
Date Finished: May 20, 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
A BANSHEE.
A DEATH REAPER.
LOVE TRANSCENDING.

War is coming. The veil between the living and the dead no longer exists. Evil is running rampant and the universe’s symmetry balances on my fingertips. No big deal. Of course, nobody knows how or when the hallows will strike, or who among us is a traitor.

Hordes of vengeful spirits are multiplying by the minute, closing in ranks. Zane is poised to strike, but it’s going to take more than his killer instincts, more than swords and shadows to vanquish the hallows back where they belong. Stakes are higher than ever, yet I am determined to protect those I care about—to save the world.

Restoring the veil isn’t as easy as a snap of my fingertips. Nothing worth fighting for ever is. Friendship and loyalties are tested to the limit, sacrifices of unimaginable proportions are made, but in the end, all that matters is whether I succeed or fail.

Review:
Worrying about personal relationships when the world as we know it might be completely in jeopardy is a very immature thing to do, yet our protagonists are quite young, and so it is believable.

I could not help but wonder, with all of the power that Piper had, why she wouldn’t have simply taken out the threat that seemed far too obvious in causing all the mischief in the first place. She could have called the person forward and fought BEFORE all of the vengeful spirits appeared.

While predictable, this book series is exactly the sort of series most teenagers will love to read. In the end, despite being foreseeable and cliched, the complete story was alright overall. I enjoyed the ending, although I thought that the timing was perhaps a bit rushed.

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
USA TODAY Bestselling author J.L. Weil lives in Illinois where she writes Teen & New Adult Paranormal Romances about spunky, smart mouth girls who always wind up in dire situations. For every sassy girl, there is an equally mouthwatering, overprotective guy. Of course, there is lots of kissing. And stuff.

An admitted addict to Love Pink clothes, raspberry mochas from Starbucks, and Jensen Ackles. She loves gushing about books and Supernatural with her readers.

She is the author of the International Bestselling Raven & Divisa series.
http://www.jlweil.com

Review of White Raven by J. L. Weil

White Raven
Book 1 in The Raven Series
By J. L. Weil

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/YA Urban Fantasy
Number of Pages: 291

Date Started: May 13, 2017
Date Finished: May 16, 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
DREADFUL LIES.
UNEXPECTED LOVE.
IMPOSSIBLE TRUTH.

It only took one heartbeat to change my life–one chilling phone call in the middle of the night.

And then, as if my life didn’t already suck, my dad sends my brother and me to some idyllic island for the summer to live with a grandma we never met. WTH. Naturally, I rebel. In the end, I find myself shipped off to Raven Hollow…and bored to tears.

Until I get an eyeful of the mind-bendingly gorgeous Zane Hunter. The dark-hair cutie makes my pulse go bonkers, and I think, maybe this might not be so bad after all. Six feet of swoon inducing looks, with a hint of Celtic charm in his voice, he was the type of guy that left a string of broken hearts in his wake. And I had all the heartbreak I could handle.

Yet, there is something uncanny, almost supernatural about Zane, and it’s not just his devastating smirk. No matter how much distance I put between us, Raven Hollow isn’t big enough, and the sparking tension between is undeniable. Of course, the one person I want to avoid becomes my salvation.

My past comes back to terrorize me. Someone wants me dead, and the closer I get to the truth, the more I realize my whole life is a lie. I am no longer sure what is more frightening–the attempts on my life or the guy whose heart and soul are synchronized with mine.

Review:
Concept seemed good. Writing was… interesting, to say the least. I did like the story, and do intend to read the rest of the series, but there were a lot of little things that could have been done better.

The voice used to write this novel was… unique, but I’m unsure if that’s a good thing. Piper, the main character and narrator, uses language similar to what you’d hear from most teenagers, except in some instances where she uses really odd phrases I’m not sure have ever been used before (and I rather hope they aren’t used again).

Having two people who don’t necessarily get along, yet feel instantly connected, be fated to be together–or connected, at least, is quite cliche. One could say the same about the connection between Zander and Piper.

I was super excited when Piper began to notice something different about some people, but the reveal was not the angle I had expected, and I was rather disappointed. While some reference to pop culture, such as the show Supernatural, and the mention of manga was nice, it seemed in some ways like this was a hodgepodge of various fandom related things the author liked put together, mentioned too often to be a mere coincidence.

Despite the things I personally felt detracted from the overall story, I found it interesting overall, and want to know what happens next.

 

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
USA TODAY Bestselling author J.L. Weil lives in Illinois where she writes Teen & New Adult Paranormal Romances about spunky, smart mouth girls who always wind up in dire situations. For every sassy girl, there is an equally mouthwatering, overprotective guy. Of course, there is lots of kissing. And stuff.

An admitted addict to Love Pink clothes, raspberry mochas from Starbucks, and Jensen Ackles. She loves gushing about books and Supernatural with her readers.

She is the author of the International Bestselling Raven & Divisa series.
http://www.jlweil.com