Book Talk with Tessi: THE FALLEN PRINCE

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I am more than THRILLED to be part of the blog tour in celebration of Amalie Howard’s The Fallen Prince book release! In case you didn’t know, TFP is the second book in The Riven Chronicles, following The Almost Girl which I liked very much.

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There is barely any book out there that has left me with such mixed feelings. While the book did not exactly trigger one rollercoaster ride of emotions in me, it still left me breathless in the end. Oh, and can I just say how fascinated I am by the world Howard created?

But let me start from the beginning.

The book picks up about one year after where the story left off, but since no major changes have happened since, Riven is still on the run to find her father. Having read The Almost Girl almost two years ago already, I found it rather hard to get back into the story after such a long time. Of course there were some things that I still remembered from The Almost Girl such as Riven being a badass fighter/assassin or her inner struggles after the loss of many loved ones; nonetheless I did wish the book would have provided some memory aids especially in the first one or two chapters.
Unlike the first book, The Fallen Prince focuses on more serious themes than the first one. It revolves more around the question of how human Riven is rather than on how willing she is to save herself and her loved ones. You can tell that Riven has matured a lot by gaining more responsibility and empathy instead of focusing on her senses only. I often wished however that she would have just let her stubbornness go instead of keeping all of her anger to herself. That probably would have made the plot more exciting since the first half of the book was pretty predictable to me. There were times where she reminded me more of an unforgiving attack dog than a badass fighter but after all she has been betrayed by a lot of people.
We are also introduced to new characters who — like the other secondary characters — came a little too flat in the beginning. Maybe it is inevitable due to the book’s technology theme, but it sometimes felt that the book’s atmosphere was too clinical, leaving not a lot of space for emotions and big character developments.

On the romantic side, Caden and Riven are obviously still hot for each other (like really hot!) but again, I sometimes felt that Riven’s voice drifted too much to that of little whiny girl again. Caden is one of the few characters who can make her self-conscious, but instead of admitting to all of her feelings, she decides to let rationality run over emotions. This of course made Riven a fiercer and determined character but it also turned the book more into a one (wo)man show — which is not necessarily bad but it might have allowed more space for the secondary characters. (Note: I love badass heroines. Riven is a perfect example of why you only need yourself to be strong, but love can make you even stronger!)
Then on the other hand, I often asked myself if I would have acted differently if my DNA has been altered and changed. It always raised the question on how far scientists would go in order to create the perfect fighter.
However the book still follows a very fast-paced plot so the reader is literally thrown back into the story with no time to question small details. The last hundred pages or so are so worth of the reader’s patience. It didn’t fail to surprise me with new twists, more action-packed scenes, intrigues, new betrayals. You know what makes a good villain? If the villain has a deep motive to be evil and is convinced that whatever he does, it is for the good. The way they were shaped in the book — so three-dimensional — I couldn’t help but admire the author’s evil genius brain for coming up with such huge plot twists.

Overall, I still find it hard to give a proper review on the book without revealing too much. The book showed pieces of the best but also of the worst of humanity, making it so much more than ‘just’ a YA scifi book. Also, the world-building was the perfect blend of technology, scifi and fantasy. While there weren’t any dragging parts in the book, the first half of the book was still very predictable and foreseeable. However, the questions that were raised throughout the book — how far can science go? What makes a human human? — make up for the little ‘flaws’ in the story, adding a deeper meaning to the whole story. If you are looking for a book that is one of its kind, this one is for you.

Riven has fought for a hard-won peace in her world, and has come to shaky terTHE FALLEN PRINCE - coverms with who and what she is—a human with cyborg DNA. Now that the
rightful ruler of
Neospes has been reinstated, Riven is on the hunt for her father in the Otherworld to bring him to justice for hiscrimes against her people.

But when she receives an unwelcome visit from two former allies, she knows that trouble is brewing once again in Neospes. The army has been decimated and there are precious few left to fight this mysterious new threat.

To muster a first line of defense, her people need help from the one person Riven loathes most—her father. But what he wants in return is her complete surrender.

And now Riven must choose: save Neospes or save herself.

Get the book here, here, here, here or here.

Amalie Howard - headshot

AMALIE HOWARD grew up on a small Caribbean island where she spent most of her childhood with her nose buried in a book or being a tomboy running around barefoot, shimmying up mango trees and dreaming of adventure. 25 countries, surfing with sharks and several tattoos later, she has traded in bungee jumping in China for writing the adventures she imagines instead. She isn’t entirely convinced which takes more guts.She is the award-winning author of several young adult novels critically acclaimed by Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, VOYA, and Booklist, including Waterfell, The Almost Girl, and Alpha Goddess, a Spring 2014 Kid’s INDIE NEXT title. Her debut novel, Bloodspell, was a #1 Amazon bestseller, and the sequel, Bloodcraft, was a national silver IPPY medalist. She is also the co-author of the adult historical romance series, THE LORDS OF ESSEX. As an author of color and a proud supporter of diversity in fiction, her articles on multicultural fiction have appeared in The Portland Book Review and on the popular Diversity in YA blog. She currently resides in Colorado with her husband and three children.

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Review: After Us

AfterUsTitle: After Us (Before & After #2)
Author: Amber Hart
Publisher: K-Teen
Publication date: December 2, 2014
Number of pages: 368
Source: Arc received by courtesy of Netgalley – thank you!
In a nutshell: Strong sequel to the first book

Sometimes secrets kill. Maybe slowly, maybe painfully. Maybe all at once.

Melissa smiles. She flirts. She jokes. But she never shows her scars. Eight months after tragedy ripped her from her closest friend, Melissa is broken. Plagued by grief, rage, and the painful memory of a single forbidden kiss.
Javier has scars of his own. Life in the States was supposed to be a new beginning, but a boy obsessed by vengeance has no time for the American dream. To honor his familia, Javier joins the gang who set up his cousin, Diego. The entrance price is blood. Death is the only escape.

Two broken souls could make each other whole again—or be shattered forever.

Our time will come. And we’ll be ready.

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I am not lying when I say that After Us was probably one of my most anticipated reads last year. If you are into books that deal with culture clashes (which are rarities in the literature world, but there has been a promising trend in the last few months/last year) you definitely do not want to miss this one. I think I almost experienced a meltdown, anxious to be rejected when I hit “request review book” on NetGalley and basically…nothing happened for the next few hours.

WhatIfImNotGoodEnough

What if I’m not good enough to be approved for this book? What if the peeps of the publicity team are mean sadists? These were the questions running through my head during those…I don’t know, 12 never-ending hours? Fortunately, I must have been a good girl last year since Santa decided to give me an early present — my request was mysteriously approved!

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This review might contain some spoilers if you haven’t read the previous book yet

Anyway, I jumped right into reading this book and the first word that popped up in my mind was hot. And I do not only mean Javier’s physical attraction (don’t worry, Javier has plenty of it), but more importantly, the relationship between Javier and Melissa. Because what they basically do throughout the book, is playing with fire. Decisions have to be made, but to what extend are they willing to hurt each other? Secrets overshadow their relationship, and in the end it is all about not getting burned (that fire metaphor sounds smart, right?)

The story of After Us picks up a few months after Before You. Whilst the book does not star Faith and Diego – the two main characters in the first book – the story is directly connected to the previous book. Also, it of course does not mean that the read was less intense.
We meet Melissa and Javier as two broken characters — Javier cannot get over the fact that Diego – his cousin, his best friend, his brother – was killed by a gang, and Melissa — well, that was definitely an interesting story: While she was introduced to us readers as a cheerful and always-caring character in Book 1, it quickly becomes clear at the beginning of Book 2 that she has changed throughout the last few months. We can still see lots of her happiness in the story, especially when she spends her time together with Javier, but her character is also so full of sadness this time. She is hiding a secret which runs much deeper than you would expect it, so the story also has got that emotional twist.
Javier, on the other hand, was so much more than that flirtatious guy I initially thought of. Whilst there were lots of moments in the book where he almost crossed my tolerance limit on head-over-heels-actions (I mean seriously. It can only go wrong when you join a gang in order to take revenge. It is a matter of fact that we have learned from many films and books. Decisions fuelled by anger are always doomed to failure), you simply cannot look over the fact that he is a character with a big heart. There were many obstacles in Javier and Melissa’s relationship that I definitely did not expect which mostly reflected the conflicts Latino families are facing in America. For example Javiers’s mom disapproval of “white girls”. Javier always stayed true to his character, standing by his opinion and defending his love to Melissa. Melissa and Javier complement each other, and the story was not about why they are broken but how they make each other whole again. It is not about playing with fire but taking risks by opening up to people that truly love you.
That being said, I do have to say that there were some bits and pieces in the plot that were a little bit too oversimplified for my liking, especially Melissa and Faith’s friendship. Whilst I did understand Faith’s motives for her disappearance, Melissa was sometimes a bit too forgiving and patient. Moreover, her secret could have been further explored because the pain she was going through was a little bit too predictable, if that makes any sense? But this really is just a first world problem on my behalf.

Nonetheless, Hart does not hold back in this book. Instead, she goes to full extremes – each sentence is more emotional, deeper, more powerful. The plot becomes more and more fast-paced throughout the book, and by the end, I was literally gasping from the emotional roller coaster. If you nearly got a heart attack in the first book, this time your heart will drop into your gut. With all the action scenes in this book (Javier is seriously badass), coupled with all those twists and turns of events, the book was unputdownable.

Guys, I may have fallen in love with this series. Diversity in literature is shown at its best in Hart’s books, defying norms in our society with three-dimensionality created by words. This book is different from any YA book in the YA universe, so if you want to read something new (as in unusual or extraordinary) I can only recommend it to you.
4Schmetterling

Review: Miles from Kara

MilesFromKaraTitle: Miles from Kara (Charleston Haven #2)
Author: Melissa West
Publisher: Penguin / InterMix
Publication date: December 2nd 2014
Source: Arc received via Netgalley – thank you!
In a nutshell: It won’t give you the feels.

Kara Marcus is desperate to forget the past and move on. But she can’t escape her choices—especially when she finds herself falling in love…
Since the first day she stepped into her childhood Southern Baptist church, two truths have been engrained in Kara Marcus’s head: sex before marriage is bad and murder is a sin. And that’s why Kara can never forgive herself for what she did at the age of sixteen.
Now, as second semester of freshman year comes to a close, Kara has stood by her high school boyfriend, Ethan. But as they seem to grow further and further apart every day, Kara realizes that she has feelings for someone else: Ethan’s roommate Colt.
Suddenly, Kara’s clear-cut world shifts out of focus, and she’s torn between what her head tells her is right and what her heart is desperately pushing her to do—even if it means committing another undeniable sin…

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I started this book assuming I would quickly be swept off by a brilliant plot and well-developed characters. I mean, Pieces of Olivia was – by far – one of the most fulminant NA books I have ever read, so I expected Miles from Kara to be a deep, humorous and edgy read as well. Too bad only parts of my expectations came true — to be honest, I was largely disappointment by where the story was leading to.

First off, I believe Kara’s story reads better after getting to know Olivia and Preston first. Without that background, Miles from Kara probably might not read as strong since it is crucial to understand the friendship dynamics.
As a reader we meet Kara right in the middle of a midlife crisis: Her relationship with her boyfriend Ethan is about to fall apart; insecurities of whether she chose the right major (psychology) or not dominate her life. Also, she is struggling with the aftermath of an abortion she had as a sixteen-year-old teenager.
In order to find out if she chose the right subject field, Kara decides to volunteer in a counseling center where she finds herself unwillingly confronted with her own past: Assigned to look after Maggie – a girl struggling with a teenage pregnancy herself – Kara quickly ends up in a vortex of emotions and cannot help to face her own demons.
Considering the fact that abortion is a taboo subject in many ways, Melissa West did a great job in dealing with this complex topic. Her writing makes you realize that not everything is black and white, and I really respect her for being able to make the best out of such tough issues.

That being said, I really wished I would have enjoyed the dynamics in her and Colt’s relationship more. Colt was too much of that oh-so-perfect boyfriend type, making him a not-so-interesting character. Romance plays a major role in the book, however it sometimes felt as though it pushed the main plot away. It did not feel like the romance part and Kara’s inner demons would complement each other, making me feel a little bit annoyed halfway through the book.

It was not always easy to follow Kara’s understanding of sin. Kara is such a broken character — yet she is strong in her own way and conceals her brokenness with her bubbly and always-happy breeziness. Her approach of dealing with guilt however was often based on selfishness, denial and repression. Although the book is all about finding yourself, we barely see Kara undergoing the process of self-reflection: There are certainly some kind of “attempts” of her to do so, but they are often simply just whisked off — instead, she turns into an insecure hormone-driven and emotion-fixed girl again. See, on the one hand she constantly blames herself for having an abortion, but then on the other hand she cannot stop addressing reproaches to her mother by trying to tell herself she was forced to kill her and Preston’s baby. Mysterious character, much? I think so.
Also, the ending felt a little bit too rash. Yes, she eventually finds all her strength to give voice to her grief and guilt by talking to the people she has to talk to. But exactly those conversations were too oversimplified to compromise the mixed emotions Kara has had for years. 

On the bright side, I was very pleased to see that we meet many characters that have already played a more or less significant role in the previous book again. It was amazing to see that Rose (Olivia’s turned Kara’s therapist) has not lost her sense of dry humor, and that Prestion and Olivia are still crazy for each other.

Ultimately, I find it really hard to rate this book. I expected more turns of events in this book, probably a darker and more twisted story; instead, it is a story about optimism and finding happiness (with lots of cliched romance). Miles from Kara is not West’s strongest work to date, and it failed to give me that I-can-so-relate-to-the-characters-moment, but it definitely gave me some bright reading moments.

3Schmetterling

Review: Into the Fire

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Title: Into the Fire

Publication date: September 9, 2014

Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.

Author: Ashelyn Drake

ITF-CoverSeventeen-year-old Cara Tillman’s life is a perfectly normal one until Logan Schmidt moves to Ashlan Falls. Cara is inexplicably drawn to him, but she’s not exactly complaining. Logan’s like no boy she’s ever met, and he brings out a side of Cara that she isn’t used to. As the two get closer, everything is nearly perfect, and Cara looks forward to the future.But Cara isn’t a normal girl. She’s a member of a small group of people descended from the mythical phoenix bird, and her time is running out. Rebirth is nearing, which means she’ll forget her life up to this point—she’ll forget Logan and everything they mean to one another.. But that may be the least of Cara’s problems.A phoenix hunter is on the loose, and he’s determined to put an end to the lives of people like Cara and her family, once and for all.Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | TBD | iBooks
Into the Fire

AbtrennungThere are books that start off slow but turn out to be a real page-turner, and there are books like Into the Fire that start off with a BANG and still manage to keep you engrossed throughout the story.
Cara’s rebirth is getting closer which means she cannot afford to let new people into her life, especially boys like Logan. See her brother, Jeremy, who has just undergone his own rebirth — within minutes he has forgotten all about their close relationship. The pain that not only Cara, but also her family felt was almost seizable and it was seriously gut-wrenching seeing her helplessly watching her brother re-navigating in life again. Actually, the worst thing she could do is imprinting on a boy — but it happens and I really felt the cruelty and irony in falling heads over heels in love.
I’m usually not into those stories where a girl is torn between duty to her family and love, but in this book, each emotion is real, true to the MC’s life and background, both raw and edgy. I did not just know what emotions Cara felt, I lived them. I was able to empathize with her anger as well as her confusion although her relationship toher mother could have been better developed for my taste: I clearly saw that her mother meant well but some passages just felt too overblown — I mean I sometimes just wanted to jump up and tell them to speak with each other instead of avoiding confrontations. Nonetheless, Ashelyn Drake managed to bring the characters to life in a way that left me thinking about them long after I have finished the book.

Also, the book is told from dual POV which I really did not expect, namely Cara’s and Logan’s POVs. Both voices were so refreshing to read although I do have to say I enjoyed Logan’s voice slightly better. There is just something about the sarcasm and bluntness in the way he thinks and speaks. Cara’s voice has a sadder and more melancholy shade which clearly fits the plot, and it was so much fun seeing her loosen up in front of Logan. You just feel the chemistry between them, why they can’t keep their hands off from each other, and adding Drake’s casual writing style to that it was just the perfect love story I needed to read.

I do, however, have to say that the book’s focus is more on the romance than on the mythical phoenix aspect which was a little bit disappointing for a mythology geek like me. The thing is, the book felt more like a contemporary book for me and is strongly based on the characters’ development whereas the world building somewhat lacked in detail and originality. I know it sounds a little bit contradictive to what I have said before, and to do the book justice, I really did not feel bored for a second while I was reading the book, nor did I feel the urge to skip some pages. Nonetheless, I really would have liked to learn more about the phoenix mythology although we do get to know the “basics”, aka reincarnation etc..
That being said, I do have to say I really enjoyed the way the author embraced the mythology by creating the hunter theme and thus increasing the tension in the book: There are phoenix hunters who are on the prowl to kill people like Cara’s family to “steal” their life times.

The pacing in the last few pages was seriously mind-blowing and as unpredictable as a rollercoaster ride. I wished the same fast-paced action had happened earlier since I felt almost overwhelmed by the huge number of twists in the last few chapters as well as the ENORMOUS cliffhanger, but I did enjoy reading the ending though. Nonetheless, I really would not have minded it if there would have been a clearer answer to Cara’s phoenix conflict, especially since many actions at the end of the book felt a little bit too rashed and pressed, leaving many questions unanswered. The ending does however perfectly reflect the wonderfully developed dynamics of Cara and Logan’s relationship and I was surprised how Ashelyn stayed true to Logan’s sarcastic voice despite the dramatic situation.

Ashelyn Drake’s writing is commanding and stunning — I could not pull myself away from the book’s hypnotic grasp. While I would not exactly call the book’s plot “innovative”, the book is a unique twist on the phoenix theme though, making Into the Fire an exhilarating and refreshing novel and ultimately, an unforgettable read!

3.5Schmetterling

AboutTheAuthor

Ashelyn DrakeAshelyn Drake is a New Adult and Young Adult romance author. While it’s rare for her not to have either a book in hand or her fingers flying across a laptop, she also enjoys spending time with her family. She believes you are never too old to enjoy a good swing set and there’s never a bad time for some drk chocolate. She is represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary Agency.

Author Links:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

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