Friday, 15 August 2014

Spark by J.B. North

Title: Spark        
Author: J.B. North
Series: Legends of the Shifters  #1
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Fiction, Romance, Shapeshifters, Religion, Sword play, Magic
Source: Kindle
Pages: 402 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

Available at:

Blurb: (via Goodreads)
For more than a decade, Ivy Oliver has lived in a dark, crumbling orphanage where she was sent after her parents’ death. Her only hope for a life of simplicity and happiness is the trial, a test that frees her second form from where it’s been buried since her birth.

That hope is dashed, however, when she transforms into a creature that rips her away from the only friends she’s ever had and ensures that her enemies are numerous. She is dragged unwillingly to a school that will discipline her in the ways of survival and defense. There, she makes both friend and foe. She discovers things she never knew about her past and her future. This tiny, insignificant girl is faced with a crushing destiny that might be too staggering for her to bear. She will have to abandon her shy, quiet demeanor and take on a fearless spirit if she wants to survive

My Review:
I have been on a role lately with good books and Spark is no exception.  When I first read the blurb to this book, I initially thought it would be about dragons because of the title... that and because I found this book through the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" section of a dragon book I had just purchased. I was surprised to find I was wrong, but I liked what I found much more than what I thought it to be.

To start off this review, I would like to comment on the fantastic job North did on the world building of this novel. She did a fantastic job of explaining new concepts without over explaining or giving tedious information. The world described was easy to understand, an quite fascinating. However, I found that the writing did a lot more telling than it did showing. This isn't the biggest issue in the world, in fact it is a very minor one, but if North can master the skill of showing her audience rather than just telling them, I truly believe that her writing can be utterly outstanding. As it is, it is very well done, but that little push has the potential to make her truly great.

Character Development was beautifully done in my option. The main character, Ivy, wasn't really a whiner, which I was immensely grateful for. Sure, she realized the situation she was in sucked, and maybe it was unfair, but she made the best out of a bad situation and made a plan to make things better. She got shit done despite the challenging obstacles that are put in her way at every turn. The great thing about this book was that you didn't only watch Ivy grow, you saw secondary characters like Kurt and Roland grow as well. Not subtle growth, but obvious growth that made the characters more interesting and gave the reader a deeper connection to them.

Plot wise, the book had a lot of twists and turns. I am usually really good at guessing the ending, or at least major event in the book, way before they happen. This was not the case in Spark. The build up to the major events are so subtle that you really need to be reading the book carefully to fully catch them. I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong in my assumptions, but as I said earlier, what actually happens was so much better than the subpar assumptions I had made out. I did find that the ending was completely shocking. There was very little build up to it, but I'm not sure if that was on purpose to create a bigger Shock Factor, or just something over looked by the other. I am going to give North the benefit of the doubt here and guess the former rather than the latter. I will say that I was very sad at the end of the book, and as of right now, I don't see how the ending was necessary, BUT! I do think that the author will explain why the ending was necessary in the sequel.

Overall, this book was well done. It ended off sad, but with a cliffhanger so that the readers (like myself) will be begging for more. I am only sad that I found this book so early to its release date... now I have to wait for the sequel. This seems to be a popular theme for me lately. I would like to see some more showing rather than telling, and a huge explanation of the ending (I'm still heartbroken and a little mad about it). Other than that, the novel gets a 4.5 star rating in my books. I can't wait to see the next installment.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Karma by Donna Augustine

Title: Karma      
Author: Donna Augustine
Series: Karma #1
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Fiction, Romance
Source: Kindle
Pages: 252 pages
Rating: 5 stars

Available at:

Blurb: (via Goodreads)
People say karma's a...well, you know. Personally, I don't think I'm that bad. It's not like I wanted this job. I wasn't even in my right mind when I accepted the position.

Now, I'm surrounded by crazy coworkers like Lady Luck, who's a bit of a tramp, and Murphy's Law, who's a bumbling oaf. But the worst is Fate. He's got a problem with transfers like myself, and I have to see him constantly. It's unavoidable. We're hunting the same man—my murderer.

My Review:
When I saw the cover for this book in the New Release section of Amazon, I was immediately drawn in before I ever read the blurb. The concept of this book was so fascinating (reminding me a bit of the movie The Guardians with Santa, The Easter Bunny, Jack Frost... etc) that I was surprised how few authors have written around the idea... or at least very few authors that I know of. Saying that, having found this original idea, I was ecstatic to read the book.

I am so glad to say that the book lived up to my expectations. Augustine's writing was exciting and riveting. She knew how to give subtle hints to the reader without exposing too much and to keep the reader interested. The plot seemed well thought out and developed into something much more complex than I had originally thought it out to be. The Universe is complicated; it makes sense that a bit of that complexity would seep into a story written about it.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the novel would fall to the characters. To start off we have the main character Karma, and her love interest, Fate. Karma's development throughout the novel was outstanding. You can see her transition from her old life as a human, to her new life as an Unknown Force of the Universe (UFU). Not only her physical limitations and struggles, but also her mental and emotional transitions as well. You watch her struggles and you witness her strength as she over comes them. Fate's development is less obvious, but his development is no less important. It is done subtly, but you can see his feelings change toward Karma. You witness his confusion about how he should feel about her and you empathize with his uncertainty as a slew of emotions wiz past him.

Of course, we have our minor characters that show up as well. We get to see classics like Lady Luck and Death, as well as some less familiar faces like The Cat Lady and Murphy's Law. I feel the minor characters really kept the story going. Karma's excitement over Santa's existence to the fall out of her interaction with Cupid, these minor snippets laid the foundation of Karma's new world. I look forward to reading about more Unknown Forces in Augustine's sequel.

Overall, I have to say that I really did love this book. If anything, I'm sad I discovered it so soon after its release date, because now I have to wait an eternity before the sequel is released. This novel truly met all my expectations and even has the beginnings to my favorite kind of love story, hate that turns to love (am I weird for that?) The plot was well paced and fascinating, sneaking in new UFU's when it needed some filler (which I thought was a clever idea). The writing was easy and straight forward, but well done and captivating. An Easy 5 stars, and I cannot WAIT until the net installment.

Friday, 8 August 2014

The Passage by Nabille de la Luz

Title: The Passage
Author: Nabille de la Luz
Series: Beyond Two Worlds #1
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Fiction, Virtual Reality
Source: Kindle
Pages: 280 pages
Rating: 3 stars

Available at:

Blurb: (via Goodreads)
It's finally Kino's turn to help The Passage; A virtual world with four zones and four tests that all of Zero's young people have to attempt in order to deserve to live in Lumen, far from the radiation that everyone in the world is exposed to. But there's just one thing... if you die in the game, you die in real life.

In The Passage, Kino meets Axel and the others that will be part of her team. But she is different. Kino is covering up something more than a slight mutation in her eyes. Something that she will discover that can change not just her body, but her life and also the lives of everyone in the world.

''The Passage is not anything more than that; a test. And it depends on the score that you ended the Passage with, whether they give you a job or they let you study at the university of Lumen, or if not, you end up being an erotic ballerina or an escort to someone who bought you to avoid your almost certain death in Zone Four. Despite how weird, dirty, and ugly it sounded to have hopes of being acquired by a man, the majority of girls from Zero were anxious for that moment. It was like everyone's fairytale. But, instead of being saved by a prince, it was being bought by one.''

My Review:
After reading the blurb for this novel, I was really excited to put it on my TBR. When the author contacted me and asked for her book in exchange for an honest review, I obviously jumped at the chance. Unfortunately, with so much happening in my life right now, I wasn't able to read it as quickly as I would have liked, but I finished it, finally, and I can finally voice my opinion about it!
First off I loved the premise of the novel. It follows a world that has so much radiation that the only safe place to live is in. Lumen, a virtual world. Of course, you have to fight for your right to live there by going through a bunch of trials, and if you die in the virtual world you die in real life. This was quite the original plot life for me, I had only seen something similar in an anime called Sword Art Online (excuse the geekiness), although I know similar plots in new animus are jumping up all over the place. regardless, I had never READ anything like it and I was pumped to get into it.
Despite my hopes for this book, it did fall a little short of my expectations. There were several things that fell short that affected not only the plot, but the quality of the book, the biggest issue being the erratic world building. With any story that involves a new world that the reader is unfamiliar to, world building is essential. Many authors fall short in this area, so de la Luz isn't standing alone. Saying that though, I found myself constantly confused about the world the characters lived in. Either there was too much information given at once and some of it being a little unnecessary, or only subtle hints or allusions were given that left the reader frantically searching for some more context.

On a related note, the character development also fell a little short. While the characters were excellently described and their personalities were well established, I found that I had a hard time relating to them. While the characters gained knowledge through the novel,  I felt like very little internal growth was happening. However, I am willing to cut the author a little slack on this because sometimes it takes the second book to really see how the characters have grown since the first novel.

Of course, this book also had some great aspects. I think the strongest aspect of this book were some of the scenes. The scenes that involved Kino and her team within the virtual world were excellently depicted. The inner workings and relationships of the team were well described and the whole team dynamic was fun and actionable. The action that surrounded them was fun and engaging and I found these scenes were some of my favourite parts of the novel. Similarly, I loved Neal and his interactions with Kino. Those probably WERE my favourite scenes in the novel. I don't want to give too much away in that aspect, so I won't say anything more except that Neal was probably the best character in the entire novel.

The ending of the novel was shocking and takes the reader by surprise. I don't want to give too much away for this either, but let's just say that it definitely came out of left field. I thought the novel would have ended in a completely different way giving the contextual tools the author gave and the ending that was actually written didn't have much build up toward it and was a bit rushed. I would have liked to see 50ish more pages to go toward the ending so it wasn't so in my face. However, the little cliffhanger we are given does leave the reader interested as to what happens next in the sequel to come.

Having received the BETA version of the novel and not the finished copy, I didn't include any grammatical issues that the book had because thats what editors are for! in addition, I don't know if said author will help with any other minor issues I had with this book, or the ones listed above, so I am really giving the author the benefit of the doubt here and giving her a 3 star rating. This was a very interesting book, and I am sure that the second in the series will be just intriguing if not more so. I can't wait to read it. If you read the blurb and thing that it's interesting, I say read it. The virtual aspect was so fascinating, I was hooked to reading it once I started despite some of its short comings. A great job done by Nabille de la Luz.