Saturday, June 29, 2019

Review: Hitched series by G.K. DeRosa (Books #1-4)

Hitched is a new series by G.K. DeRosa. As of today, there are four books in the series featuring the protagonist, Kimmie-Jayne Starr.

The Bachelorette is the first novel in the Hitched series. One innocent human girl. Twenty-five supernatural bachelors. Six weeks to choose the one. When aspiring actress Kimmie-Jayne Starr discovers she been snagged the starring role on the next huge reality TV show, Hitched, she thinks all her dreams have finally come true. But as soon as she lands on the beautiful island of Mystic Cove, something feels wrong. Sure, the twenty-five bachelors are heart-stoppingly handsome, but she’s certain they’re all hiding something—something supernatural. As she gets to know the guys, protecting her heart proves impossible when she finds herself irresistibly drawn to more than just one. As a string of strange accidents on set grow deadlier, Kimmie-Jayne realizes there’s much more to this dating show than she ever could’ve imagined. If she can’t figure out who’s behind these incidents, she’ll end up risking more than just her heart.

The Top Ten is the second novel in the Hitched series. A Fae prince, a guardian angel, twin dragon shifters, a vampire… And that’s only the beginning. Now that the truth is out about the supernaturals, things are starting to get interesting. With ten bachelors remaining, Kimmie-Jayne needs to get her head in the game. But with a murder investigation underway on set, listening to her heart only complicates matters. To make things worse, the mysterious accidents that were supposed to end with the big supernatural reveal are back with a vengeance. With more twists and secrets being revealed everyday, is there anyone she can really trust? The Top Five is the third novel in the Hitched series. Five bachelors left. Four mystical families to meet and territories to explore. Four chances to avoid a supernatural war. Kimmie-Jayne thought discovering the bachelors were supernatural was tough, until she finds out she has to spend the week with their families. Now she’s whisked off to meet four of the most powerful families of Azar. If she can survive dragon lords, daunting angels, the intrigue of Fae court, and the Underworld, she’ll end up with the man of her dreams. Or so she hopes. But nothing is as it seems in each of these households, and perils loom in every corner of the vast estates. Will the men she loves be able to protect her or will the supernatural world prove too much for her as she struggles to choose the final two?

The One is the fourth novel in the Hitched series. The time has come for to pick The One. With one bachelor missing and chaos in her heart, Kimmie-Jayne must find the strength to choose the final two. Once that terrible decision is made, she’s sure things will be easier. But she’s wrong. When jealousy flares within the manor, the producers have no choice but to sequester the final two bachelors. As Kimmie-Jayne battles her fracturing heart, torn between two men, news of a surprise visit home sends her hopes soaring. But it’s short-lived. Disaster hits while she’s at home, leading Kimmie-Jayne to make a startling discovery about her past—one that changes everything... Will Kimmie-Jayne finally get her happily ever after?

As a huge HUGE fan of G.K. DeRosa's previous two novel series, The Vampire Prophecy and The Angel and Vampire War, I looked forward to this series, which is loosely based on the U.S. reality television show, The Bachelorette. Kimmie-Jayne Starr has dreams -- she's an aspiring, yet struggling, actress from a working-class family in the heartland who wants to make it big in Hollywood. She's in her 20s, starting her young adult life in a new country and meeting new people. The idea that she landed on a reality show as the main lead does sound too good to be true. However, the shock and awe of the set turns dangerous for Kimmie-Jayne as people close to her turn missing or end up dead! She must learn how to navigate the beauty of Mystic Cove while keeping her alive.

Overall, Hitched was a fun read if you're into a blend of fantasy and reality TV. I wanted to like this series. But the ending felt very predictable. (Or more like my favorite bachelor did not win Kimmie-Jayne's heart). As a result, the entire concept of the series felt underwhelming to me and might disappoint readers if they attach themselves to a certain bachelor. Although I was less impressed with the ending, there is a new spin-off series, Darkblood Academy, for readers interested in learning more about the aftermath of Hitched. In recent years, I have noticed that spin-off series are becoming more popular to keep the momentum going for fans of particular series. Nonetheless, Hitched is appropriate for young adults over 17 and contains mild violence. It is NOT a reverse harem series, even though the two men on the fourth book cover are ridiculously gorgeous. I recommend the series.


Monday, June 17, 2019

Review: Broken Throne (A Short Story Collection) by Victoria Aveyard

Broken Throne (2019) by Victoria Aveyard is a short story collection based on the Red Queen series. It contains six short stories (four of which have never been published), maps, and notes that serve as an add-on supplement to the four-novel series. From the back cover:
Return once more to the deadly and dazzling world of Red Queen in Broken Throne, a beautifully designed, must-have companion to the chart-topping series from #1 New York Times bestselling author Victoria Aveyard....Broken Throne features three brand-new novellas, alongside two previously published novellas, Steel Scars and Queen Song- as well as never-before-seen maps, flags, bonus scenes, journal entries, and much more exclusive content. Fans will be delighted to catch up with beloved characters after the drama of War Storm and be excited to hear from brand-new voices as well. This stunning collection is not to be missed.

I had high hopes for this series. I became a fan after enjoying the first novel, Red Queen, and decided to see how the plot will play out to the end. The series is part of the dystopian genre, so I knew that the plot would be dark, violent, and psychological. But I did expect to read a happy ending for the main characters, Mare and Cal. Despite the persistent threat of war and conflict in the background, I was rooting for them to get together and finally admit their feelings for one another. In each short story, just when the suspense thickens, it ends with uncertainty--there are more questions than answers. This is an ongoing problem that I noticed from Aveyard's writing. I wanted Mare, the protagonist, to become the hero that would save the divided nations--and find true love with her prince. Instead of a fairy tale ending in Fire Light, reader must endure the angst of watching a teen drama -- avoiding each other, not admitting their feelings directly, and so forth. Near the end of the book, the readers get a few pages that fast forward to the aftermath of the Nortan Civil War. We do not know if Mare and Cal's children became Reds, Silvers, or newbloods -- Aveyard doesn't say, which disappoints me.

I also liked the maps and notes that explained what led to the post-apocalyptic United States. After reading this section, I realized this dystopian world takes place a thousand years later. While I did not care for the ideological insertions such as climate change or nuclear energy, this collection does attempt to elaborate on the background that was not clearly mentioned in the previous four novels. Furthermore, this collection includes two short stories--Queen Song on Cal's mother, Coriane Jacobs, and Steel Scars, on Captain Farley--that have been previously published and act as prequels. I skipped them because they were published in another short collection, Cruel Crown. There was one short story, World Behind, that takes place during the four novels in the Disputed Lands that seemed redundant because it didn't add anything to the plot. While this region may be a safe haven for Reds fleeing the kingdoms, it was random and forgettable -- another waste of pages. The collection would have been better spent on two additional short stories that could have given readers, for example, a sneak peak on Julian and Sara's anticipated wedding.

The best short story in this collection was Iron Heart, which focused on the point of view from Evangeline and Elaine. It was full of its indecisive moments, but it brought closure to Evangeline who was raised to be a queen but must chart a different path. It felt realistic--she got what she desired and was able to live the life she always wanted with her lover, Elaine, who surprisingly is the logical voice of the two. In conclusion, I feel conflicted about this series because. I encourage Aveyard to produce a spin-off series that takes place twenty years later on the children like Kiera Cass's Selection series, especially The Heir and The Crown. In my opinion, readers would enjoy learning more about Mare and Cal's children and Marie's niece, Clara. I think that would bring complete closure that this series deserves than what readers got now. It is quite a huge investment -- each novel averaged more than 400 pages only to arrive to a mediocre ending. Overall, I only recommend this series as a library copy--I would not buy this series because the ending did not meet my expectations .

Monday, June 10, 2019

Review: The Legacy Series (Books #1-4)

I am Levy Michaels. Once my kind were the hunters—now we are the hunted.

The Legacy series by Mckenzie Hunter contains four books: Double-Sided Magic, Obsidian Magic, Renegade Magic, and Rogue Magic.

Double-Sided Magic is the first novel in the Legacy series. Supernaturals have become public to the world, but Levy Michaels has to remain hidden and pretend to be human because of the type of magic she possesses. Levy is a Legacy, one of the most powerful beings on the planet. It sounds like the title that should come with reverence, but it actually comes with a death sentence.

Levy has so far stayed under the radar--living a simple life with a simple job and a human roommate. You might ask, what could possibly go wrong in this scenario? Everything’s going fine until a dangerous and enchanted dagger that was once in Levy's possession is stolen. Then she wakes up next to a dead shapeshifter, fae, and mage, without any memory of the past twenty-four hours. Considered guilty of murder by most of the magical community and humans, Levy must work with Gareth, the sexy and dangerous leader of the Supernatural Guild. If he’s as good as rumored, it’s only a matter of time until he discovers the truth about her Legacy power.

Obsidian Magic is the second novel in the Legacy series. levy is a Legacy, a secret that she had originally planned to keep to her grave. She has revealed her identity to Gareth, the enigmatic leader of the Supernatural Guild. The next question is, can Levy trust Gareth with such dangerous information? But that becomes the least of Levy's worries. When mysterious deaths occur as a result of magic that mimics a Legacy, Levy no longer has to worry about Gareth exposing her. Another Legacy is causing the chaos, and Levy is forced to hunt her own kind.

Renegade Magic is the third novel in the Legacy series. Levy's identity as a Legacy has been exposed, and there's nothing that she can do about it but deal with the aftermath. As a result, the city is in chaos and she has more enemies than allies. Even the allies quickly become betrayers. Just when things couldn't get any worse, a former arch-nemesis resurfaces and is ready for everyone to pay.

Meanwhile, a supernatural assassin has been brought in to kill all the Legacy—and he’s good at his job. One by one we are being killed off. Gareth, my only true ally, has his own problems dealing with another group that is set on eliminating the world of supernaturals. The stakes are high, and Levy and Gareth must avoid a xenophobic destruction. Their survival depends on it.

Rogue Magic is the fourth novel in the Legacy series. Levy's best friend has been abducted by a madman who seems to have returned from the dead with the sole purpose of seeking revenge. Worse, her best friend is essential to finding a cure that has the potential to destroy the supernatural community. On top of that, there's a war emerging between humans and supernaturals. The Legacy were responsible for the first supernatural war, and now Levy is tasked with preventing the second war. See what lies ahead for Levy and Gareth in this thrilling finale.

This was my first book series by shapeshifter author Mackenzie Hunter. It had everything that I like -- vampires, fae, shifters, magic, romance, and mystery. I started this series with an open mind, and it exceeded my expectations. Levy, an orphan from the first supernatural world, must learn to blend in human society so that her identity as Legacy stays hidden. The Legacy are so despised that they are hunted so that their power can never again destroy human lives. But Levy isn't the destructive type -- she actually wants to help people and stay out of trouble. Nonetheless, trouble comes her way with mysterious supernatural deaths and another figure who can't seem to let her go. She must do everything within her power to protect the lives of those dear to her while avoiding near-death experiences. Gareth and Levy make such a wonderful team and couple, and I hope to learn more about them in short stories or spinoff series if Hunter decides to create a spin-off series. I highly recommend this series.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Review: Nausicaa - Princess of the Valley of the Wind (2005)

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (2005) is a Japanese dystopian fantasy animated film directed by Academy Award winner Hayao Miyazaki. It was initially released in Japan in 1984, and an English dub version was later released in 2005. The English dub version features voices of of Alison Lohman, Uma Thurman, Patrick Stewart, Edward James Olmos and Shia LaBeouf.

After an apocalyptic conflict has devastated much of the planet's ecosystem in the future, the few surviving humans live in scattered, semi-hospitable environments within what has become the Toxic Forest. The world is devastated by atmospheric poisons and swarming with giant insects. Princess NausicaƤ lives in the peaceful Valley of the Wind and can communicate with the massive insects that populate the dangerous jungle. Under the guidance of the pensive veteran warrior, Lord Yupa, the courageous NausicaƤ desperately struggles to prevent two warring nations from destroying themselves and their ravaged planet.

First, I had never heard of Nausicaa. Since this film was part of the Studio Ghibli classics, I had to see what made this film so spectacular. Overall, I thought the storyline were breathtaking and uplifting. Princess NausicaƤ exceeded my expectations of a female protagonist who was not only a warrior but also a pacifist. This film was also ahead of its time -- there would not be similar films on the big screen such as The Hunger Games and Divergent until two decades later. Despite being produced in the 1980s, the art design looked beautifully well done. Anime fans and families will enjoy this classic animated film -- this is a must see. Stay tuned for more Studio Ghibli reviews this summer.

Watch the official English dub trailer below:

Monday, May 27, 2019

Review: King's Cage, War Storm (Red Queen #3-4)

Allegiances are tested on every side. And when the Lightning Girl's spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

The Red Queen series is a quartet of books, including two novellas, by Victoria Aveyard. This post contains reviews on the next two books: King's Cage and War Storm.

King's Cage is the third book in the Red Queen series. Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother's web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner. As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare's heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back. When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

War's Storm is the final book in the Red Queen series. Mare Barrow learned this all too well when Cal’s betrayal nearly destroyed her. Now determined to protect her heart—and secure freedom for Reds and newbloods like her—Mare resolves to overthrow the kingdom of Norta once and for all… starting with the crown on Maven’s head. But no battle is won alone, and before the Reds may rise as one, Mare must side with the boy who broke her heart in order to defeat the boy who almost broke her. Cal’s powerful Silver allies, alongside Mare and the Scarlet Guard, prove a formidable force. But Maven is driven by an obsession so deep, he will stop at nothing to have Mare as his own again, even if it means demolishing everything—and everyone—in his path. War is coming, and all Mare has fought for hangs in the balance. Will victory be enough to topple the Silver kingdoms? Or will the little lightning girl be forever silenced? As the saying goes, victory comes with a price.

I enjoyed the previous two installments so much (this is a much darker version of The Hunger Games) that I was curious to see how it would end. I literally binged on the last two books to figure out how the story will play out. I was rooting for Mare and Cal to reunite and maybe work together to bring democracy to the lands. Each book nearly averaged 500 pages, so you get a ton of action, suspense, and romance in this dystopian world of post-United States. Unfortunately, I was somewhat dissatisfied with the ending. I won't spoil the plot, but I thought there would be a more happily-ever-after situation. While the series concluded as expected, part of the story felt incomplete as well. So what happens next? Aveyard left readers on a cliffhanger on how Silvers and Reds (and newbloods) will interact going forward. The war is over, but what does this mean for the main cast? While i am glad to pick up on this series, I am a bit disappointed that the ending left many questions unanswered. Stay tuned for the anthology of short stories that explain what happens after the ending of War Storm, Broken Throne.