Mini Book Review: Born of Deception by Teri Brown

Budding illusionist Anna Van Housen is on top of the world: after scoring a spot on a prestigious European vaudeville tour, she has moved to London to chase her dream and to join an underground society for people like her with psychic abilities. Along with her handsome beau, Cole Archer, Anna is prepared to take the city by storm.

But when Anna arrives in London, she finds the group in turmoil. Sensitives are disappearing and, without a suspect, the group’s members are turning on one another. Could the kidnapper be someone within the society itself—or has the nefarious Dr. Boyle followed them to London?

As Cole and Anna begin to unravel the case and secrets about the society are revealed, they find themselves at odds, their plans for romance in London having vanished. Her life in danger and her relationship fizzling, can Anna find a way to track down the killer before he makes her his next victim—or will she have to pay the ultimate price for her powers?

Set in Jazz-Age London, this alluring sequel to Born of Illusion comes alive with sparkling romance, deadly intrigue, and daring magic.

3 cupcakes

As with Born of Illusion, Teri Brown once again excels at creating an enchantingly atmospheric setting: through her vividly beautiful descriptions, I felt as though I had been transported to historic London alongside Anna. Between black magic, murder, and the Sensitives, the plot was fairly well-paced and kept my interest, even if it was quite easy to predict the outcome.

Unfortunately, the main focus of the story was neither magic nor mystery; instead, the romance between Cole and Anna takes the forefront, and it’s rife with petty conflicts and a love triangle. This not only caused the plot to drag in a few places, but also caused Anna to go from being a strong, competent young lady to a jealous girl who is constantly doubting herself. By the end, I no longer cared about Anna and Cole’s relationship; if more time had been spent developing Cole’s character, as opposed to introducing a new love interest, it likely would have worked out a bit better.

Overall, while the magical aspects of the plot and the atmospheric setting were excellently crafted, the romantic subplot caused Born of Deception to fall flat.

I received a copy of this book from a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

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Waiting on Wednesday (July 16)

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that are eagerly anticipated.

This week, I’m waiting on The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters, which has an expected publication date of October 14, 2014.

Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.

After reading (and adoring!In the Shadow of Blackbirds, I came to the decision that I would happily read anything that Cat Winters writes. I love historical fiction, especially those involving spiritualism, seances and hypnotism, so I’m incredibly excited to give this a read!

Which books are you waiting on? Leave me a link or a list to your Waiting on Wednesday post below. 3

Book Review: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time.

5 cupcakes

“Human beings have always managed to find the greatest strength within themselves during the darkest hours.”

In the Shadow of Blackbirds is a hauntingly atmospheric novel set in the midst of World War I. Between the grief that comes from the loss of a loved one and the injured soldiers who show exactly how high the consequences of war are, Cat Winters is unafraid to show readers exactly how much heartbreak and tragedy the people living during this time were forced to endure.

The Great War wasn’t the only cause of death and horror during this time, however; the Spanish Flu resulted in the largest death toll during the latter half of 1918. It’s evident that Winters meticulously researched this time period: there are coffins lining the street corners, and gauze masks and garlic/onion-flavoured dishes appear to be the only defense against this epidemic. Vivid descriptions allow the Spanish Flu to be ever-present, resulting in heightened paranoia and the feeling that this silent, unseen killer is a character in and of itself.

Our protagonist, Mary Shelley, is one of my new favourite heroines. She’s intelligent, rational, and possesses a scientific mind – which was seen as odd during that time, but served to make me love her even more. Mary Shelley is determined to do what’s right instead of what’s safe, yet is neither radical nor prone to impulsive risks. She’s compassionate and resilient, and I greatly admire her strength and courage during such bleak times.

The paranormal aspects are incredibly well-done, both in terms of the spiritualism craze and the haunting itself. In times of trouble, people often cling to whatever gives them hope — and, during World War I, that just so happened to be spiritualism. While Mary Shelley doesn’t believe in this phenomenon at first, strange and eerie happenings cause her (and the reader) to question just how much of it is real.

Overall, In the Shadow of Blackbirds is an exceptionally haunting and evocative debut. I can’t wait to read what Cat Winters writes next!

Book Review: Pivot Point by Kasie West

Perfect for fans of Sliding Doors, Kasie West’s riveting novel Pivot Point follows a girl with the power to see her potential futures.

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, a special type of clairvoyant, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she is able to look into the future and see both outcomes. So when her parents tell her they are getting a divorce and she has to pick who she wants to live with, a Search has never been more important.

In one future Addie is living with her mom in the life she’s always known and is being pursued by the most popular guy in school. In the other she is the new girl in school, where she falls for a cute, quiet artist. Then Addie finds herself drawn into a murder investigation, and her fate takes a darker turn. With so much to lose in either future, Addie must decide which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she’s willing to live without.

My Rating: 4 cupcakes

I’m not sure what to classify Pivot Point as. There are neat paranormal aspects to it (such as memory erasure, clairvoyance, and telekinesis), but it reads like a contemporary novel – cute romance and all. Despite not fitting neatly into one genre, I can say one thing with absolute certainty: I really enjoyed reading it.

Pivot Point is told in an enthralling manner: after a certain point, each chapter alternates between Addie’s life in the Compound and Addie’s life outside, in the Norm world. At first it seemed as though this dual narrative was going to lead up to Addie choosing between one of two boys, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the narratives were subtly interconnected and culminated in an intense, heart-breaking finish. Thankfully, the romance was sweet, not exactly a love triangle, and didn’t overshadow the main conflict too much.

Pivot Point is very much a character and relationship-driven novel, and as a result, the world-building is slightly lacking. I would have liked to know more about how the powers came about and the structure of the Compound, so hopefully that will be elaborated upon in the sequel.

Addie was a girl after my own heart: instead of going to parties, she would much rather read a book. She’s charming, witty, and easy to sympathize with, making her coming of age journey a lot of fun to read about. Addie’s most admirable trait, though, is her loyalty and fierce love for her family and friends – to the point where she is willing to sacrifice her future happiness for them.

The secondary characters were just as intriguing as Addie, and it was interesting to see how their relationships and motivations changed with each portion of the Search. I especially loved seeing how Laila and Addie grew even closer with the distance that separated them, and how different Addie’s relationships with Trevor and Duke were.

Overall, Pivot Point was a quick, fun read that caught my attention from the start. I can’t wait to see where Addie’s story goes from here!

Book Review: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper’s destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can’t get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she’s charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper’s least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him–and discovers that David’s own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y’all beg for more.

My Rating: 4 cupcakes

Rebel Belle would make an excellent movie. It’s action-packed, adorable, and oh so much fun. It felt like watching a supernatural comedy film (is that even a genre?), and I really did not want to put it down.

Harper Price is your ideal Southern Belle. She’s involved in absolutely everything at school – from student council to cheerleading. She’s homecoming queen, participates in the Cotillion, has the hottest boyfriend, and believes “that the F-word should be saved for dire occasions.” Despite this, Harper proves that frills, lace, and pom poms aren’t mutually exclusive to strength and capability – a message that I wish more books would include. Friendship and family are extremely important to Harper, and that dedication shines through in her every action.

The romance was cute yet frustrating, mostly due to the presence of a love triangle. One one hand, you had the perfect gentleman, Ryan, who Harper had been dating for a couple of years; on the other, there was David Stark, her hipster arch-nemesis that she was assigned to protect. I really enjoyed the chemistry and banter between Harper and David, and loved the fact that gender roles were reversed in that David was the one who needed protection/rescuing… I just wish that the love triangle wasn’t dragged out for almost the entire book.

Overall, Rebel Belle was exactly what I needed: a cute, fun read that had me smiling throughout the entire thing.

Book Review: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown

Anna Van Housen has a secret.

A gifted illusionist, Anna assists her mother, the renowned medium Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage show and séances, easily navigating the underground world of magicians, mediums, and mentalists in 1920’s New York. As the illegitimate daughter of Harry Houdini—or so Marguerite claims—sleight of hand illusions have never been a challenge for Anna. The real trick is keeping her own gifts secret from her opportunistic mother. Because while Marguerite’s own powers may be a sham, Anna possesses a true ability to sense people’s feelings and foretell the future.

But as Anna’s powers intensify, she begins to experience frightening visions of her mother in peril, which leads her to explore the powers she’s tried so long to hide. And when a mysterious young man named Cole moves into the flat downstairs, introducing Anna to a secret society that studies people with gifts like hers, she is forced to confront her past and rethink everything she’s ever known. Is her mother truly in danger, or are Anna’s visions merely illusion? And could the great Houdini really be her father, or is it just another of Marguerite’s tricks?

From Teri Brown comes a world bursting with magic, with romance, and the temptations of Jazz Age New York—and the story of a girl about to become the mistress of her own destiny.

My Rating: 4 cupcakes

I’m a huge fan of books set during the Roaring Twenties, and Born of Illusion is no exception. Between séances, spiritualism, magicians, and prohibition, I absolutely loved the historic New York City atmosphere.

Anna Van Housen is such an easy character to love. Although she hasn’t had the easiest or most traditional life, she’s such a strong, competent young lady, and her passion for magic shines through her every action. She refuses to let her work be devalued because of her gender, and struggles to find her own place in the world.

The relationship between Anna and her mother was beautifully portrayed, despite how frustrating it was at times. While often characterized by jealousy and petty manipulations, Anna’s mother does truly love her – something that Anna discovers slowly over the course of the book, and that served to redeem her mother a bit in my eyes.

The secondary characters, too, become rounded out over the course of the story. As Anna overcomes her initial judgments and reservations, she builds forms close friendships and learns that not everyone is quite how they first appear. Mr. Darby, in particular, surprised me in his transformation from crotchety old man to surprisingly fun neighbour.

There was a touch of romance in Born of Illusion, however it took a backseat role to the magic and mystery in the main plot. The two suitors that vie for Anna’s attention are polar opposites, although it was rather easy to determine which one would be chosen.

My main complaint about Born of Illusion is that the mystery was a bit too predictable. I also would have liked more scenes with magic/séances, as those scenes were incredibly well written and creative, and a few more answers regarding Anna’s magic and Houdini. But I suppose that’s what a sequel is for.

Overall, Born of Illusion was an intriguing mix of paranormal and historical fiction that I thoroughly enjoyed. I can’t wait to read Born of Deception – especially if what I’ve heard about it involving Rasputin is true.

Saturday Showcase (April 26)

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Saturday Showcase is a weekly event hosted here at The In-Between Place which features books that you wish more people had read (or, at least, heard about).

This week’s featured book is Nevermore by Kelly Creagh.

Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due—so unfair—on the day of the rival game. Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can’t help but give this enigmatic boy with the piercing eyes another look.

Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.

As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind. Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares.

His life depends on it.

At first glance, Nevermore seems like your typical story involving “star-crossed lovers,” however there’s so much more to it. Dark paranormal forces that are inspired by Poe’s works and his tortured life are at play, resulting in a creepy mystery that will inspire you to pick up “The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe” right away.

What are some of your favourite underrated books? Leave a list in the comments below.
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Waiting on Wednesday (April 9)

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that are eagerly anticipated.

This week, I’m waiting on Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan, which has an expected publication date of September 23, 2014.

Who will be the sacrifice?

Kami has lost the boy she loves, is tied to a boy she does not, and faces an enemy more powerful than ever before. With Jared missing for months and presumed dead, Kami must rely on her new magical link with Ash for the strength to face the evil spreading through her town.

Rob Lynburn is now the master of Sorry-in-the-Vale, and he demands a death. Kami will use every tool at her disposal to stop him. Together with Rusty, Angela, and Holly, she uncovers a secret that might be the key to saving the town. But with knowledge comes responsibility—and a painful choice. A choice that will risk not only Kami’s life, but also the lives of those she loves most.

This final book in the Lynburn Legacy is a wild, entertaining ride from beginning to shocking end.

I absolutely adore the Lynburn Legacy series. Unspoken is one of my favourite reads of this year and although Untold was not quite as good, I was still left with a burning desire to know what happens next. Unfortunately, that wait is going to be far too long, which just really won’t do given the awful cliffhanger that this series left off on.

What books are you waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me a list in the comments below. 3

Guest Post: Ghosts by Brina Courtney

Hi everyone! I’m really excited to welcome Brina Courtney, the author of Reveal, to the blog for a guest post about one of my favourite topics: ghosts.

—–

Why have ghosts become this scary object we’re supposed to fear? I’ve never been afraid of ghosts, I’ve just always felt that they’re spirits who have unresolved business. I had never thought they wanted to hurt us until I started to watch scary movies. Then I, and I deduce you, became fearful of these translucent beings.

So here is what I have to say about that, don’t fear ghosts. Think about all the wonderful people who have died, I really don’t believe they’d be haunting you in such a horrible way. Ghosts have been turned into these gruesome monsters, by television and movies when really I think they’ve been misinterpreted.  But Hollywood is what it is and we can’t deny the American public seems to like watching people be chased by bloodied figures flying down the hall in the dark chasing the victim to their untimely death. We like the gore and the spooky feeling it gives us. Why? I really can’t tell ya. But how many times have you hidden under the covers because of a ghost story?

I think our biggest mistake is we consider demons and ghosts the same entity, but really they’re totally different. Demons are evil spirits or fallen angels and trust me, those are people I would be afraid of. Get your blankets friends, and keep the lights on if you have a demon attached to you!

But for now, light a candle and welcome the ghosts into our world.

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About the Book:

Title: Reveal (Cryptid Tales, #1)
Author: Brina Courtney
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

You think seeing ghosts is weird? Tell me something I don’t know.

Shay Tafford’s childhood has been fatherless, filled instead with memories of speaking to the
dead. She is forced to hide her unique ability from those living around her. That’s why it’s been comforting to have Jeremy, a child ghost, as her confidante. But recently he’s been absent, perhaps lost as her father is. When Shay meets Hugh, the guy she’s had a crush on for weeks, and finds he can speak to ghosts too, she’s just starting to find a normalcy in her life.

But as Hugh reveals the truth to Shay, about who she really is and about what it is she can do, he erases all chances she had at a normal existence. Turns out talking to ghosts is just scratching the surface of her genetically engineered gifts. Shay learns she may be part of an age old prophecy that could save the entire race of cryptids. But can she?

Quotes

“So here I am with a dead girl in my car, in a super creepy forest, stalking a potentially dead father…yeah, not one of my brightest moments.”

“She sighs, “Shay you can’t live your life in fear. If you do there’s just no point in living.”

“He turns and leaves, heading towards the math building and though I hate to see him leave, I do love to watch him walk away.”

About the Author

5295520Brina Courtney is a young adult author obsessed with chocolate, crime shows, and fantasy movies. She’s spent the last few years as an elementary teacher and a high school cheering coach. She lives in a small town in Pennsylvania with her husband and two very loud, small dogs.

Connect with Brina: Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

Book Review: Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan

Free from bonds, but not each other

It’s time to choose sides… On the surface, Sorry-in-the-Vale is a sleepy English town. But Kami Glass knows the truth. Sorry-in-the-Vale is full of magic. In the old days, the Lynburn family ruled with fear, terrifying the people into submission in order to kill for blood and power. Now the Lynburns are back, and Rob Lynburn is gathering sorcerers so that the town can return to the old ways.

But Rob and his followers aren’t the only sorcerers in town. A decision must be made: pay the blood sacrifice, or fight. For Kami, this means more than just choosing between good and evil. With her link to Jared Lynburn severed, she’s now free to love anyone she chooses. But who should that be?

My Rating:  3.5 cupcakes

After the heartbreaking cliffhanger ending of Unspoken, I was expecting Untold to be filled with angst and torment, since Sarah Rees Brennan loves to torture her readers and all. Somehow, though, going into Untold with that mindset did nothing to alleviate the angst that was present throughout the entire book.

On one hand, Untold possessed many of the aspects that I loved about Unspoken. The writing was witty and engaging, and led to my e-copy of this book being filled with so many highlighter markings. The characters were quirky and loveable, and the addition of Ash and Holly’s perspectives added an extra layer of character development – to the point where I absolutely love Ash as a character, and I really didn’t think I’d be saying that after Unspoken.

Although I was captivated throughout Untold, in retrospect, the plot line was rather boring. There was a love triangle but, for once, my problem wasn’t that it existed; it was really well-written, and I found myself kind of enjoying it. Instead, my issue was with how much precedence the romantic aspects of the story held. Instead of being centered around Kami learning to fight back against Rob Lynburn and his band of sorcerers, there was little action and a lot of romantic drama – to the point where I found myself wanting more: more magic, more about the Lynburns… more of anything that wasn’t relationship-oriented, really.

Overall, Untold was not quite as strong as I was hoping it would be. The plot was not as compelling as that of Unspoken, however a combination of my immense love for all of the characters and that very cruel ending have left me eager to read Unmade when it is released later this year.