The Talon Saga, Book I and II: Talon and Rogue by Julie Kagawa

talon rogue

Published by Harlequin Teen/ Mira Ink, 28 Oct 2014 & 28 April 2015, £6.99-7.99

Description: YOUNG AND COOL DRAGONS. Action-packed, mystery, fantasy YA with romance.

Steam?: squeaky clean but some sizzling moments, not just from the dragons.

Plot: Talon- Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they’re positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser. Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. 

As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George. Soldier Garret Xavier Sebastian has a mission to seek and destroy all dragons, and Talon’s newest recruits in particular. But he cannot kill unless he is certain he has found his prey — and nothing is certain about Ember Hill.  Faced with Ember’s bravery, confidence and all-too-human desires, Garret begins to question everything that the Order has ingrained in him – and what he might be willing to give up to find the truth about dragons.

A dragon who is torn between true nature and her human form- what can be more bizarre and exciting?! Ember is a vivacious character with a kind heart. She is bursting with energy and reminds me of my mid-teens; always feeling caged and wanting to break free from a myriad of things. Any reader would love her and support her when she continually challenges the Talon regime. Go Ember!

Her love of both things dragon and human undermines the ancient war of Talon and St. George. Both institutions are completely fixed in their hatred of each other and nobody knows who started it. There is something Cold War-like there. Another mystery is that nobody has met the highest order of the two sides. Ember and Dante are expected to follow Talon word as utmost law, but they barely have any information. ‘This is the way it’s always been and should be’: well we all know how this motto works out.

Ember’s confusion brings us to the typical YA love triangle: good-looking Garret, a secret St. George soldier and a rogue dragon called Riley/Cobalt, who happens to transform into a hot biker dude. So many things happen at once. Ember starts falling in love. Garret is questioning basically his whole life and Riley decides to risk exposure by recruiting Ember. The alternative-POV chapters really help the reader get an insight into this complexity and experience the intensity of emotions.

Overall this is a great start to a fantastic series. For those who want a little more gut and action than the Twilight series I would recommend this.

Do NOT read on **Spoilers**!

Rogue- Ember Hill left the dragon organization Talon to take her chances with rebel dragon Cobalt and his crew of rogues. But Ember can’t forget the sacrifice made for her by the human boy who could have killed her—Garret, the boy who saved her from a Talon assassin, knowing that by doing so, he’d signed his own death warrant.

Determined to save Garret from execution, Ember must convince Cobalt to help her break into the Order’s headquarters. With assassins after them and Ember’s own brother helping Talon with the hunt, the rogues find an unexpected ally in Garret and a new perspective on the underground battle between Talon and St. George.

Yay! Ember is back and ready to kick ass with Riley. She is finally free of Talon and her creepy trainer. Garret has also turned his back from his organisation, so all three are exiles and nomads. You couldn’t have a weirder and more intense runaway gang. So be prepared for more suspense, action and heart-wrenching moments.

Now Dante is in charge of her capture, we get a sneak peek into Talon head-quarters. But this only deepens the mystery. Why is everyone so obsessed with Ember? Why have they asked Dante to be her hit-man of all dragons? What do they know about the two that is so important? And where is this elusive Elder Wyrm??

I get so frustrated with Dante, why can’t he see that Talon is nuts? Both brother and sister think that the other is brain-washed. This paranoia and mistrust feeds into the reader. We start to feel that there are other issues at stake. St. George is as determined as Talon to retrieve its traitor. Both organizations clash and its confusing to know which one is which. Is there possibly a conspiracy going on?

Bring on book 3!!

Connect with the author: @jkagawa

Review copies provided by Netgalley

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The Selection Series Book 1 by Kiera Cass

WOW
WOW

Published by Harper Collins UK, Children’s, June 7 2012, £2.40 (Ebook).

Description: YA dystopia-modern fairytale-reality TV-romance

Steam?: none graphic but plenty of swoon.

Plot: It’s the chance of a lifetime and 17-year-old America Singer should feel lucky. She has been chosen for The Selection, a reality TV lottery in which the special few compete for gorgeous Prince Maxon’s love. Swept up in a world of elaborate gowns, glittering jewels and decadent feasts, America is living a new and glamorous life. And the prince takes a special interest in her, much to the outrage of the others.

Rivalry within The Selection is fierce and not all of the girls are prepared to play by the rules. But what they don’t know is that America has a secret – one which could throw the whole competition… and change her life forever.

Ok, Wow. Seriously, I am kicking myself. Where has this been in the past three years of my life? While we were all getting hyped from the Hunger Games Movies, this was being published. If you even had a vague interest in the HG then you would still love this. GET IT.

I got my copy of this via Netgalley in time to review the fourth book The Heir, out on 5 May. So I have a lot to catch up on; not that it would take me long as I finished the first book in a few hours.

The heroine, America, is very loveable. She is high-spirited, sensitive, smart and kind. Being named ‘America’ is a little disturbing. It confirms the ghosts of a lost world, but her admirable qualities are obviously patriotic. She is not afraid to speak her mind, be herself and finds beauty in her gift of music. And of course, whilst fighting for her family, she finds herself in a very irresistible love triangle: Aspen, the gorgeous boy she left behind and Maxon, the polite and adorable Prince.

This novel has a very interesting concept. It got me thinking about society, culture, people and myself. I know, deep. But that’s the mark of a good book; implanting thoughts that linger for hours. The author combines issues that we can relate to in contemporary society.

The idea of being selected by a Prince and rising from rags to riches has been done. Cinderella. I just watched the Disney live-action last week. So the story is popular and cherished. There are also successful (well non-serious) reality TV selections: The Bachelor and the ghastly I Want to Marry Harry. The programs exist because many find it entertaining and they bring together communities, as many reality shows do. So, an official version does not seem completely bizarre.

The novel also explores strict social hierarchies, abstinence and poverty as a result of the lack of birth control. These issues echo Regency England as well as modern day problems in third world countries. The regeneration and instability of a post-war era is revisited. This is not the post-apocalyptic grave-yard of HG, but a subtle and familiar landscape. Like the aftermath of WW2, countries have been re-formed and re-named. Like the characters, we don’t have complete access to our history and heritage.  So the novel feels like reality and alternative reality at the same time. If we swap some things around and we may be living in a dystopia… Or are we already?

Overall, the novel is well-written with great pacing from both action-scenes and tender moments. There are a host of interesting characters with their own backgrounds and secrets. The good deal of mystery keeps the reader going- who keeps attacking the palace? And who will America chose? Aspen, Maxon, her family or herself?

Get it, get it, get it.

Connect with the author: @kieracass

Not Romance but brilliant YA: Weightless by Sarah Bannan

Contemporary YA, NA
Contemporary YA, NA

Published by Bloomsbury, 12 March 2015, £3.79 (eBook version). 352 pages.

Plot: Before Carolyn Lessing arrived, nothing much had ever happened in Adamsville, Alabama. Each week, at dinner tables and in the high school assembly, everyone would pray for the football team to win. Each year, the Adams High hotlist would be updated, and girls would rise and fall within its ranks. Each day, everyone lived by the unwritten rules that cheerleaders did not hang out with the swim team, seniors did not date freshmen and the blistering heat was something that should never be remarked upon. But then the new girl came.

All Carolyn’s social media could reveal was that she had moved from New Jersey, she had 1075 friends – and she didn’t have a relationship status. In beach photos with boys who looked like Abercrombie models she seemed beautiful, but in real life she was so much more. She was perfect.

This was all before the camera crews arrived, before it became impossible to see where rumour ended and truth began, and before the Annual Adamsville Balloon Festival, when someone swore they saw the captain of the football team with his arm around Carolyn, and cracks began to appear in the dry earth.

I came across this book whist volunteering at the charity shop. It was a proof copy which we’re not allowed to sell. It was weird because we normally get donated super old and dusty books. So I wondered if there was a fellow book blogger that just had too much. Anyway, I took it home because I’ve been meaning to read it and the cover is just so striking. And this is what the book is about: image, that and passivity. I thought it was brilliant debut and even though it’s not a romance, it deserves a review.

The use of first person plural is definitely creepy but extremely understandable. For anyone who has been in an adolescent friendship group, especially a girl one, you will know that you were a clone. You stick together in public, travel, eat and shop in a pack. You are referred to by others as ‘them lot’ or ‘so and so’s gang’. It is almost as if you, like the narrator, are faceless. The novel cleverly addresses the universality of these cliques and how they are always watching, always talking but never getting too close.

I can understand the narrator becoming obsessed with the beautiful new girl. Everybody is attracted to beautiful images. In the digital age everything is easier, quicker and traceable. But for bullying, the brutality is harder, faster, and inescapable. Tweets and Instagrams multiply and circle continuously. Its not so easy to just deactivate all your social accounts. Being in my twenties I’d like to think that I am detached from the digital generation, but I still find myself Facebook stalking.

The novel has good pacing and the colloquial language is very believable. Nothing is worse than an author misusing slang…The novel also alternates between narration and documents, which makes readers feel even more like they are gossips and peeping-toms. It addresses the irony of bullies being bullied and turns back on the reader. Would I, ultimately, have done anything different? Would my 16 year old self have reached out to Carolyn?- The truth hurts.

Connect with the author: @sarahkeegs

Review: The Wedding Cake Tree by Melanie Hudson

Has it been more than a week since my last review? Crazy! But in my defense I still have been reading and reviewing. I have joined Choc Lit’s Taster Panel for about a month now. This means I get to read submissions and help select what will be published. Its been an amazing experience and has inspired me even more to become an editor.

More details here: http://www.choc-lit.com/join-the-choc-lit-tasting-panel/

To the review:

weddingcaketree2
Sweet and heart-warming

Published by Choc Lit, April 2015, £2.99 ebook.

Tagwords: Sweet, emotional, heart-warming, contemporary, life-lessons, journey.

Perfect for?: Lazy afternoons, weekend reads.

Steam?: Minimal.

Plot: Celebrity photographer Grace Buchanan has always known that one day, she’d swap her manic day job for the peace and quiet of her beloved childhood cottage, St Christopher’s – she just didn’t expect it to be so soon.

At the reading of her mother’s will, she’s shocked to learn that she hardly knew Rosamund at all, and that inheriting St Christopher’s hangs on one big – and very inconvenient – condition: Grace must drop everything for two weeks and travel the country with a mysterious stranger – war-weary Royal Marine, Alasdair Finn.

This novel is about getting to a certain stage of success or routine that you need to take a step back and have a good look at your life. Are you satisfied with what you have? Do you think you have it all worked out?

Grace is very likeable and sensitive character. In the midst of grief and confusion, she forms an unlikely friendship with Alasdair, who is also carting around some baggage (whilst being irresistible at the same time!) Each step that she takes to learning more about her mother she also unravels pieces of herself. The letters from her mother were very gripping. It felt like reading two stories in one. It got me thinking about what the heck my parents were doing at my age!

The novel stresses that everybody has a private life. Love, lies and secrets are the real laws that govern our lives. The chaos of life’s enemies: sibling bitterness, infidelity, and loneliness has a way of, if not smoothing over, but reaching a silent agreement. 

I did feel at certain points it got quite conversation heavy which slowed down the pacing. The romance between Grace and Alasdair also blossomed a little slow and mild for my liking. However, it was a sweet, heart-warming read and nudged me to seize opportunities before it may be too late.

Connect with the author: melanie-hudson.co.uk @Melani_Hudson_ 

My review copy was provided by Choc Lit with many thanks! xx

Review: ‘Take a Chance on Me’ by Debbie Flint

Spicy Contemporary
Spicy Contemporary

Published by Choc Lit, March 14, £2.99 ebook

Quick Description: The irresistible mix of business and pleasure.

Perfect for?: Evening reads

Steam?: Puts the HOT in Hot Choc Lit.

Plot: When the breakdown of her marriage leaves Sadie Turner a single mum, she vows that she will make it on her own. After all, why would a smart businesswoman with a PhD and the prospect of a life-changing deal on the horizon need a man? 

But Sadie’s man-ban is tested to the limit when she travels to Monaco to meet her potential investor. There she encounters Mac, a rough and ready playboy billionaire who lives life in the fast lane – and that’s when the real adventure starts! 

But Sadie’s heart isn’t the only thing on the line. There’s also the business she’s worked so hard to make a success; the business that could so easily slip out of her grasp if she doesn’t seal the deal within thirty days …

After reading The Legend of the Gypsy Hawk by Sally Malcolm, I was not disappointed with another Choc Lit publication. We have two characters whose chemistry starts sizzling almost immediately. Sadie is strong, smart and lovingly relatable. Mac falls perfectly in line with Choc Lit’s all important ‘irresistible man’ requirement. A super rich, good-looking businessman with a sensitive side and mysterious past- what’s not to get addicted by?

The opening chapters are brilliant and have good pacing; they dive deep into the characters, the exotic setting and the instant connection made between Sadie and Mac. The middle-part focused on the drama of business negotiations and office politics, while Sadie and Mac try to keep their attraction purely professional. While the author has put a great deal of effort into Sadie’s scientific research and company deals, I did get lost at times during these chapters. Never the less the story ends as it starts: intense satisfaction.

The novel is definitely worth the price and is the perfect replacement for hot chocolate.

Connect with the author: http://www.debbieflint.co.uk/      @debbieflint

My review copy was provided by Choc Lit.