Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund“We can only be responsible for what we ourselves do.”

Persis Blake publicly plays the role of a rich socialite, spending time at parties discussing clothes and gossip. But in her private life, she is the Wild Poppy, a notorious spy who rescues people of Galatea from being Reduced and sneaks them over to the island of Albion, where she resides. When Justen Helo, a medic from Galatea, finds her ill after one of her missions and helps her return home, she decides to keep him close so that she can discover his true motives in Albion. What she didn’t expect was how she would begin to feel for him, and how much she would wish she could tell him the truth about who she is.

Across a Star-Swept Sea is actually a companion novel to For Darkness Shows the Stars. While you don’t need to read the first book in order to understand this one, it definitely helps because some characters from that book reappear in this one. I absolutely loved the first book, and the second was just as good.

This book is actually a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, which I haven’t read but definitely want to after reading this one. Persis has always been very intelligent and has had a bright future ahead of her, but when her best friend Isla’s family is killed and Isla is made acting queen of Albion, Persis abandons school and her future in order to help her friend. She creates the Wild Poppy in order to help Isla make a difference while the council of Albion prevents Isla from actually doing anything politically about the rebellion in Galatea. In Galatea, the rulers are Reducing people–basically giving them a drug that makes them lose their mental capacities. The Wild Poppy saves these people who are Reduced and brings them to Albion to recover.

Justen Helo decides to abandon Galatea when he realizes what is really going on. He sees Persis as nothing more than a flaky socialite however, and doesn’t realize how much of a difference she is actually making. He begins to work in the lab, trying to find a cure for the Reduced, and tries to keep from Persis how involved he really was in the rebellion in Galatea. Persis uses the image she created for herself as a ditzy socialite to keep people from finding out that she is really the Wild Poppy, but unfortunately it keeps Justen, the one person whom she may actually want to be herself with, from seeing who she really is.

Peterfreund does a brilliant job building the world of New Pacifica. Her descriptions paint a vivid world and by doing so she creates an intricate and compelling story that you can’t put down. The flutternotes were the most interesting detail for me–little holographic notes that basically fly from one person to another through the air and then deliver a message to them via an electronic device on their palm. Every detail of this story was fascinating and unique and added a great sci-fi aspect to the plot.

Overall, Across a Star-Swept Sea was a fascinating story with great world building and beautiful writing. I look forward to reading more stories about New Pacifica!

Across a Star-Swept Sea was released on October 15, 2013 and is a companion novel to For Darkness Shows the Stars.

Advertisements

Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Second Star by Alyssa B. SheinmelWendy Darling’s brothers Michael and John disappeared one day, and her parents have basically decided that they were killed in a surfing accident. Wendy doesn’t believe them and decides to go and look for them herself. What she finds is a hidden cove inhabited by runaways where the waves are always perfect and everyone is always surfing. She becomes torn between two of the runaways–Pete, who has his own band of runaways that he protects, and Jas, Pete’s nemesis and a drug dealer on the other side of the cove.

I was excited to read this because it was the first retelling of Peter Pan that I have come across. Unfortunately, it was also really disappointing. First of all, Wendy is the most blah main character ever. I felt absolutely no connection to her and she made the dumbest decisions and then wondered how she ended up in such bad situations. After months and months she just decides to go out looking for her brothers, who she still believes are alive. This didn’t make sense to me–if she was so sure that they were alive, why would she want to find them after they’ve put she and her parents through hell? Anyway, she goes out on her own and thinks for some reason she can do better than the entirety of the California law enforcement, and when she comes across the hidden cove called Kensington, things begin to get really bad.

She meets Pete, who is obviously the reinvented Peter Pan, and who is nothing like the original. He’s kind of a jerk who keeps secrets from Wendy yet for some reason after knowing her only a few hours can’t bear to have her leave. Wendy of course develops her own insta-love for Pete, even though they have basically no chemistry and barely know each other. Belle, who is obviously the reinvented Tinkerbell, was the only character who seemed to develop a bit throughout the book, but her character was still very cliche–the typical jealous ex-girlfriend who wants to make Wendy’s life miserable.

But it gets even worse: Wendy develops insta-love for another character–Jas, who is basically the Captain Hook of the story yet personality wise is a much better guy than Pete. Wendy goes from being head over heels for Pete to being head over heels for Jas so quick that it is obviously she has no idea what she really feels for anyone. The story then takes a twist near the end that I’m sure was supposed to wow the reader but basically made me angry because it was so ridiculous.

Overall, Second Star was a huge disappointment due to too much insta-love, underdeveloped characters, and a horrible ending.

Second Star will be released on May 13, 2014.

Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd

Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepard“Sometimes you have to embrace the darkness to stop it.”

Juliet Moreau escaped her father’s island and returned to London. She is trying to rebuild her old life and forget about her father and the secrets she left behind on the island, but when people she knows begin to get murdered in an all too familiar way, she fears that the secrets have caught up with her after all.

The Madman’s Daughter was both creepy and amazing, so I was very excited to read this sequel, which is basically a retelling of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. While this was definitely a great follow up to the first book, Juliet herself annoyed me a bit in this one.

People that have previously wronged Juliet begin to die, and they are killed the same way that the victims on the island were murdered. Juliet begins to think that Edward followed her back to England, and she is worried that the monster part of him has taken control. At the same time, Juliet is still pining over Montgomery, who admitted to caring for her but then stayed on the island rather than coming back to London with her.

It was Juliet’s back and forth between Edward and Montgomery that annoyed me in this book. I didn’t mind the love triangle in the first book because it was easy to see how Juliet could be torn between the two, but in this book it got to be a little bit too much. She literally bounces back and forth between the two and constantly feels guilty about it. Instead of just not involving herself with either man until she figures out what she really wants, she basically gets the best of both worlds for awhile at the expense of both of their feelings.

However, other than this problem, I really loved the rest of the book. Juliet is trying to solve these murders and at the same time is trying to figure out how to make a new serum to keep her condition from ruining her life. She basically sets up her own chemistry lab in a little room and tries over and over to replicate the serum that her father invented. I liked how she was able to throw herself back into her old life in society yet keep her independence by sneaking out at night to experiment.

I also loved seeing Edward’s constant conflict with the monster that lives within him. It’s easy to understand Juliet’s own inner conflict when it comes to Edward–on the outside he is a kind and respectful man who adores her, yet inside him lurks another being that enjoys killing and will stop at nothing to gain control. She is torn about what to do with him because she doesn’t want to hurt him, yet doesn’t want the Beast to hurt anyone else.

Overall, I enjoyed Her Dark Curiosity even though the love triangle bothered me a bit. I’m excited to see how this will all end in the final book.

Her Dark Curiosity was released on January 28, 2014 and is the second book in The Madman’s Daughter trilogy. The final book, A Cold Legacy is expected to be released in 2015.

Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen

Lady Thief by A.C. GaughenYour power, your great gift, is that you never give up.

Scarlet was forced to reveal her true identity and marry Lord Gisbourne in front of all of Nottingham. She despises Gisbourne, who is cruel and manipulative, and is actually in love with Robin Hood. She and Robin want to find a way to be together, but first she must figure out how to get her marriage annulled. But as the royal court comes to Nottingham to appoint a new sheriff, Scarlet realizes that there are even bigger things to worry about than her forced marriage.

This was a really great sequel to Scarlet, and in my opinion was even better than the first book! Scarlet and Robin are in a much different place in this book–Scarlet is upset about her marriage to Gisbourne, and Robin is suffering from PTSD after being held prisoner and tortured. He is trying not to let it affect his relationship with Scarlet, but it keeps getting worse and worse. Then when Gisbourne arrives to blackmail Scarlet, she is forced to leave Robin anyway.

Gisbourne tells Scarlet that if she behaves like a noblewoman and stays by his side while the royal court is in Nottingham, he will annul their marriage when it is all over. Scarlet is torn, because while she does not trust Gisbourne to hold his word, she is willing to do almost anything to annul her marriage so that she can be with Robin. When she goes to stay in the castle with Gisbourne, we get a bigger glimpse into his character and the reasons behind his cruelty.

Scarlet is such a great heroine. She has the amazing ability to never give up, despite how dire her circumstances seem. She always has a backup plan, and is able to get herself out of the worst situations. She doesn’t let the fact that she is small and female stop her from doing anything and she is willing to do almost anything to keep the people of Nottingham safe.

This book had even more twists and turns than the first one. I did not anticipate the ending at all, and I can’t wait to see how the events of this book will affect Scarlet and Robin in the next one!

Overall, Lady Thief was a great sequel to Scarlet, and was full of action and suspense. I can’t wait to read what happens next!

Lady Thief was released on February 11, 2014.

 

Another Little Piece of My Heart by Tracey Martin

Another Little Piece of My Heart by Tracey MartinClaire comes from a very wealthy family and it is expected that she will be just like her mother and sister–into fashion, shopping, and attending all sorts of events. However, she wants nothing to do with this lifestyle and instead is really into music. In high school, she meets Jared, an extremely talented guitarist and songwriter, and he teaches her to play guitar and they begin to write songs together. When they start dating and Claire brings him home to meet her family, her parents are not at all impressed. They want Claire to be dating a boy destined to go to an Ivy League school, not a boy from the local public school who has no intention of going to college. When Claire’s mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer, she begs Claire to break up with Jared. Since Claire wants to please her dying mother, she does exactly this. What she didn’t expect was that Jared would move to New York, get a record deal, and win a Grammy for the songs he wrote that basically bash his ex-girlfriend.

I really liked this one! It is actually a retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, which I haven’t read but definitely need to. Claire’s parents are the cliche snobby rich parents who are disappointed in their daughter for not being exactly like them, and they immediately think the only reason she is with Jared is to rebel against them. They don’t realize how much she actually cares about him, or how hard it was for her to end their relationship. I appreciated that Claire loved her mother enough to give up Jared for her, but at the same time it was really unfair of her mother to even put her in that situation.

So Jared goes off to New York and basically pulls a Taylor Swift on Claire, which is totally not cool. Instead of listening to her or trying to figure out the real reason behind the breakup, he runs away. They were definitely both at fault–Claire for not explaining what was really going on, and Jared for not listening. And instead of answering her phone calls, Jared writes a bunch of songs about how horrible his ex-girlfriend was and they end up being chart toppers. Right away, I didn’t like Jared because he seemed like a jerk after all of this, but he definitely grew on me throughout the book.

Claire ends up having to spend the summer working at the beach while her family vacations there. When Jared turns up, staying with his friend who is Claire’s cousin’s best friend, the two are thrown together again after everything that happened between them. The two have this whole back and forth thing, going from hating each other to obviously still not being over each other and back again. I really liked Claire’s personality, and the way she would take little jabs at Jared that only he would understand. She definitely doesn’t let him back into her life easily, which is totally understandable.

Overall, Another Little Piece of My Heart was a cute love story that I definitely enjoyed. The ending was a bit lacking, because it ended pretty abruptly and I would’ve liked to have seen more of what happened after.

Another Little Piece of My Heart was released on December 1, 2013.

The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Sheperd

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Sheperd“A scream hurled up my throat, but I never heard it. I’d slipped into a welcoming darkness.”

Juliet Moreau lived a life in the high society of London, until her father’s scandal and disappearance left she and her mother penniless. When her mother died from illness, Juliet was left on her own and found work as a maid in the university where her father had worked. While she cleans the laboratory where her father was rumored to conduct gruesome experiments, she becomes determined to discover if the accusations are true. She learns that her father is still alive and living on an isolated island off the coast of Australia. She travels to the island with her father’s assistant, Montgomery, and along the way they pick up a castaway named Edward. While Juliet is drawn to both men, she is forced to realize the extent of her father’s insanity. On the island, he has begun to experiment on animals, manipulating them so that they speak and walk like humans. Aside from her father’s madness, there is a creature killing people on the island–one of her father’s experiments gone wrong. Juliet realizes that she must not only stop her father’s experiments before they go any further, but she must try to escape the island with her life.

The Madman’s Daughter is one of my favorite books of this year so far. It is actually a retelling of The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells, which I haven’t read, so I can’t compare the two. The Madman’s Daughter, however, is both a gruesome and fascinating novel that I couldn’t put down. Juliet is a great character–though women aren’t allowed to become doctors during this time period in England, she studies her father’s books in secret and becomes almost as educated in anatomy and physiology as any doctor. She’s not only smart, but also determined and brave. Once she realizes what is happening on the island, she tries her best to stop her father before it is too late.

Juliet is torn between her father’s assistant, Montgomery, and the strange castaway they pick up in the middle of the ocean, Edward. She has always harbored feelings for Montgomery, but when she realizes how much of a hold her father has on him, she is upset that Montgomery allows her father to control him. Edward, on the other hand, seems like the ideal match for her according to her father. He claims to be from a well-to-do family and seems educated, while Montgomery is only an assistant. However, Juliet senses something off about Edward, and while she begins to have feelings for him, she has a suspicion that he is hiding something.

Dr. Moreau is such a complex character. At some points he really does seem to care about Juliet, but most of the time he seems to just be using and manipulating the people around him. He conducts gruesome experiments on animals in his labs without using anesthesia, so the poor animals suffer tremendously. He seems to be willing to do anything for the sake of what he considers to be “science” even if it destroys the lives of those around him. The scientist in me, like Juliet, found it fascinating that he was able to turn animals into humans, but his methods absolutely terrified and disgusted me. Sheperd’s writing made me feel like I was right in Juliet’s shoes, and I my heart was pounding as I read some of the terrifying scenes in the laboratory.

The ending was not what I expected, and I was mad until I realized that this is the first book in a trilogy! Thank goodness, because if that had been the true ending I would have been so upset. The ending was a great lead in to a sequel, and I’m excited to see what Sheperd has planned.

Overall, The Madman’s Daughter was a fascinating and gruesome story that will haunt and terrify many–but in a good way! I’m not sure if I would recommend reading it late at night though…

The Madman’s Daughter was released on January 29, 2013 and is the first in a trilogy. The sequel, Her Dark Curiosity, is set to be released on January 21, 2014.