Series Wrap: ‘The Gemma Doyle Trilogy,’ Libba Bray

Series Wrap is a mini-feature where I sum up what I loved and loathed about a particular series upon completion. The rules are simple: I must have read and reviewed ALL books in said series and the series must be completed by the author. These posts are seperate from reviews.

Author: Libba Bray
Number of Books: 3
Years: 2003-2007
Publisher: Delacorte
Genres/Themes: Historical, Fantasy
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Two months after her mother’s sudden and puzzling suicide, Gemma Doyle travels from India, where she was raised, to England for her new life at an all-girls preparatory school. At Spence Academy, Gemma feels dispirited by the stringent etiquette and her classmates’ cruel pecking order, but she finds herself befriended by a group of girls with aspirations of being more than “proper ladies.” Aside from school troubles, Gemma is also preoccupied with nightmarish visions, and following her discovery of a long-lost diary that describes “the Order,” she learns that she has supernatural abilities that link her to the spirit world, her mother, and an evil force that wants to usurp Gemma’s powers. And it’s almost too late before Gemma realizes that she holds the key to her own and her friends’ destinies.

Quick Picks:

Favourite Character/s: Felicity Worthington. Gemma Doyle. Pippa Cross.
Favourite Pairing/s: Gemma/Kartik. Felicity/Pippa.
Favourite Cover: The Sweet Far Thing.
Favourite Book: Rebel Angels.

Summing Up:

Why I liked this series
Libba Bray has a fascinating way of writing historical fantasy, making her my favourite author of this genre. Perfect world-building and genuine, emotional characters. I’ve re-read this series three times now and each time I’m never disappointed.

I can’t stress enough just how much I fell in love with each and every one of the characters within ‘The Gemma Doyle Trilogy’. Even the ‘baddies’ were so well-written and all had a motive and had a goal. Felicity Worthington remains my favourite literary heroine and even though our protagonist, Gemma Doyle, was a little slow on the uptake at times, I loved her completely.

As for the relationships, they were all so intricate and unique. The friendship between Gemma and Felicity was my favourite aspect in that regard, but I could take any relationship from this series and describe what I loved about it.

There was a good mix of humour in these books, too.

Why I disliked this series
There’s not much I didn’t like about this series, but if I had to pick one thing, it would be the length of The Sweet Far Thing. Yes, I wanted more and more, but some things felt a little unnecessary. While I stomped and wanted to cry over the ending, I wouldn’t say it was something I ‘disliked’. It was bittersweet, but I felt that it closed the chapter on the series as a whole.

In Conclusion:

Would I read this series again? Yes, and I have many times already.
Would I recommend this series? Absolutely. Always. Yes.
This series in one word: Favourite.

Individual Reviews:

A Great & Terrible Beauty (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy #1)
Rebel Angels (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy #2)
The Sweet Far Thing (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy #3)

Review: “Pawn,” Aimée Carter

Review: “Pawn,” Aimée CarterPawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion #1)
Written by Aimee Carter
Published November, 2013 by Harlequin Teen
346 pages
Genres: Dystopian
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three-stars

You can be a VII. If you give up everything.

For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.

There's only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed …and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that's not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she's only beginning to understand.

Though it took a little time to really pick up, Pawn was a surprisingly easy and enjoyable read. More simplistic than it’s fellow dystopian shelf-sitters, the plot and world of Aimee Carter’s new series is quite straightforward and the characters are easy keep track of. I liked this one more than I thought I would! read more…

Series Wrap: ‘The Katerina Trilogy,’ Robin Bridges

Series Wrap is a mini-feature where I sum up what I loved and loathed about a particular series upon completion. The rules are simple: I must have read and reviewed ALL books in said series and the series must be completed by the author. These posts are seperate from reviews.

Author: Robin Bridges
Number of Books: 3
Years: 2012-2013
Publisher: Delacorte
Genres/Themes: Historical, Fantasy, Supernatural
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St. Petersburg, Russia, 1888. As she attends a whirl of glittering balls, royal debutante Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, tries to hide a dark secret: she can raise the dead. No one knows. Not her family. Not the girls at her finishing school. Not the tsar or anyone in her aristocratic circle. Katerina considers her talent a curse, not a gift. But when she uses her special skill to protect a member of the Imperial Family, she finds herself caught in a web of intrigue.

An evil presence is growing within Europe’s royal bloodlines—and those aligned with the darkness threaten to topple the tsar. Suddenly Katerina’s strength as a necromancer attracts attention from unwelcome sources . . . including two young men—George Alexandrovich, the tsar’s standoffish middle son, who needs Katerina’s help to safeguard Russia, even if he’s repelled by her secret, and the dashing Prince Danilo, heir to the throne of Montenegro, to whom Katerina feels inexplicably drawn.

The time has come for Katerina to embrace her power, but which side will she choose—and to whom will she give her heart?

Quick Picks:

Favourite Character/s: George Alexandrovich. Alix of Hesse.
Favourite Pairing/s: Katerina/George, Alix/Nicholas.
Favourite Cover: The Morning Star AND The Unfailing Light.
Favourite Book: The Unfailing Light.

Summing Up:

Why I liked this series
I’m a big fan of anything Imperial Russia. This series did a stellar job in mixing real, historical figures with supernatural and fantasy elements. A good percent of the characters actually existed and I was encouraged to read up about them on Wikipedia after reading. I was so impressed with Robin Bridge’s ability to incorporate accurate details and facts in her debut series.

The world-building was great, too. I was constantly intrigued by the Light and Dark Courts of fae in St Petersburg. Even though the series is now at an end, I am wishing and hoping there is some kind of prequel series of spin-off to come.

Why I disliked this series
I felt that The Morning Star was a disappointment as far as endings go. Instead of stepping up the game and bringing everything in from the previous two books, The Morning Star employed a cast of new characters, new settings and introduced stuff a little late in the game so that when the ending finally came, it just didn’t sit right with me. Characters that I’d grown to love weren’t featured heavily and I wondered what it had all been for. Things I had wanted explained more thoroughly were also brushed over.

I also want to put out there once more how much I hated the Montenegrin Royal Family! Agh! I realise this was Robin Bridge’s intention, but gee… I hated Danilo so much.

In Conclusion:

Would I read this series again? I’ve read the first book twice already.
Would I recommend this series? Yes, but with a disclaimer about the final book.
This series in one word: Close.

Individual Reviews:

The Gathering Storm (The Katerina Trilogy #1)
The Unfailing Light (The Katerina Trilogy #2)
The Morning Star (The Katerina Trilogy #3)

Series Wrap: ‘The Selection’ by Kiera Cass

Series Wrap is a mini-feature where I sum up what I loved and loathed about a particular series upon completion. The rules are simple: I must have read and reviewed ALL books in said series and the series must be completed by the author. These posts are seperate from reviews.

Author: Kiera Cass
Number of Books: 3
Years: 2012-2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genres/Themes: Dystopian, Romance, Royalty
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For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon. But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

Quick Picks:

Favourite Character/s: None.
Favourite Pairing/s: None.
Favourite Cover: The Selection.
Favourite Book: The Elite.

Summing Up:

Why I liked this series
Quick reads with a light and fluffy plot. What I enjoyed most about these three books was the competition side of things – finding out which girls were staying and which were going. Despite my myriad of problems with the characters and pairings, I was able to get through each book relatively quickly.

Why I disliked this series
I didn’t like any of the characters or the pairings. Maxon/America annoyed me to no end. I’ve never read a more back-and-forth couple and even when they were sort of together, Maxon was kissing the other entrants, calling them ‘sweetheart’ and dating them. I realise this was the nature of the competition, but I just can’t swoon over that sort of relationship. As for Aspen/America? Well considering how much Aspen kept guilt-tripping America, this one bombed for me too.

I just can’t stomach America as a character, so even if both guys were perfect, I wouldn’t want her with either of them. What a hypocrite she was! She hates on Maxon and gets jealous when he spends time with the other entrants, meanwhile she’s skipping of with Aspen for secret nookie in Maxon’s palace. And when she realise she’s in love with Maxon she resolves to never let go over Aspen, either. On top of all this, she keeps so many secrets from the ones she loves.

I had other problems with this series, too. I wasn’t a huge fan of Kiera Cass’s writing style. It felt a little juvenile at times. The characters kept going around in circles, never really advancing or growing up emotionally. Just when I thought America’s whining was over, she was back to wondering if Maxon really cared about her at all. Same situations, different variables. The series never really left that slump despite a three-book journey.

As for the conclusion of the series, it as all a little too convenient to me and the characters never really grew into their own to overcome the problems that had plagued them for three books.

In Conclusion:

Would I read this series again? No.
Would I recommend this series? It’s hard to say.
This series in one word: Mediocre.

Individual Reviews:

The Selection (The Selection #1)
The Elite (The Selection #2)
The One (The Selection #3)

Review: “The One,” Kiera Cass

Review: “The One,” Kiera CassThe One (The Selection #3)
Written by Kiera Cass
Published May, 2014 by HarperTeen
217 pages
Genres: Dystopian, Romance
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two-stars

The time has come for one winner to be crowned.

When she was chosen to compete in the Selection, America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown--or to Prince Maxon's heart. But as the end of the competition approaches, and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realizes just how much she stands to lose--and how hard she'll have to fight for the future she wants.

I didn’t enjoy the final instalment in Kiera Cass’s ‘The Selection’ series, The One. I have never been a ridiculous fan of these books, but I have stuck with them in the hopes that it would improve. Three books in, I expected Kiera Cass to amp up her game… but it just never happened. Looking back on all three novels, I just couldn’t see the growth of her characters or relationships.Warning: Spoilers within the full review. read more…

Review: “Never Fade,” Alexandra Bracken

Review: “Never Fade,” Alexandra BrackenNever Fade (The Darkest Minds #2)
Written by Alexandra Bracken
Published October, 2013 by Disney Hyperion
507 pages
Genres: Dystopian, Psychics, Survival
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three-stars

Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster.

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.

As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?

Though I devoured The Darkest Minds pretty much instantly, I had trouble enjoying Never Fade as much. It had a lot to do with my high expectations, the pacing and the ‘all over the place’ plot. While assorted pit-stops and road blocks were charming in The Darkest Minds, I felt that the second book in the series overdid it. read more…

Review: “Just One Year,” Gayle Forman

Review: “Just One Year,” Gayle FormanJust One Year (Just One Day #2)
Written by Gayle Forman
Published October, 2013 by Dutton
336 pages
Genres: Coming of Age, Contemporary, Romance, Travel
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four-stars

When he opens his eyes, Willem doesn’t know where in the world he is—Prague or Dubrovnik or back in Amsterdam. All he knows is that he is once again alone, and that he needs to find a girl named Lulu. They shared one magical day in Paris, and something about that day—that girl—makes Willem wonder if they aren’t fated to be together. He travels all over the world, from Mexico to India, hoping to reconnect with her. But as months go by and Lulu remains elusive, Willem starts to question if the hand of fate is as strong as he’d thought...

The romantic, emotional companion to Just One Day, this is a story of the choices we make and the accidents that happen—and the happiness we can find when the two intersect.

I found that Just One Year was a step up from its companion Just One Day. I slowly realised as the pages went by that I was becoming more and more invested in the story of Allyson and Willem, and that I truly wanted them to get their happy ending. Gayle Forman does an excellent job of pacing the two stories alongside each other as well. Though I knew where and how this one was going to end, Willem’s journey was one worth reading. read more…

Review: “The Darkest Minds,” Alexandra Bracken

Review: “The Darkest Minds,” Alexandra BrackenThe Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1)
Written by Alexandra Bracken
Published December, 2012 by Disney Hyperion
488 pages
Genres: Dystopian, Psychics, Survival
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five-stars

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government "rehabilitation camp." She might have survived the mysterious disease that's killed most of America's children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she's on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her-East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can't risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.

When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.

The Darkest Minds initially looked like a daunting read, but I shouldn’t have been worried. I flew through this book in less than 24 hours, carried along by the fast-paced plot and non-stop action. Alexandra Bracken has mastered a particular art of storytelling – one that combines interesting and emotion-filled characters with an intriguing and intricate world. read more…

Review: “The Morning Star,” Robin Bridges

Review: “The Morning Star,” Robin BridgesThe Morning Star (The Katerina Trilogy #3)
Written by Robin Bridges
Published August, 2013 by Delacorte
288 pages
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Supernatural, Vampires, Werewolves / Shifters, Witches, Zombies
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three-stars

St. Petersburg, Russia, 1890

Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, wants to be known as a doctor, not a necromancer. But Tsar Alexander III forbids women to attend medical school; his interest in Katerina extends only to her ability to raise the dead. Twice now, Katerina has helped him by using her power to thwart the forces of darkness—vampires bent on resurrecting the lich tsar Konstantin Pavlovich so that he can take what he sees as his rightful place on the throne. Katerina thought she had bound Konstantin to the Greylands, the realm of the dead, but he has found a way out. Now he is searching for the Morning Star, a sword that will allow him to command a legion of supernatural warriors.

Katerina must find the sword before Konstantin does—and she must travel to Egypt to do so. Along the way, she puts up with unwanted attention from her former fiancé, the nefarious Prince Danilo, and struggles with her feelings for her true love, George Alexandrovich. But with the looming threat from Konstantin, Katerina's focus remains on the sword. Russia's fate will be determined by whoever wields the Morning Star—and delivers the final blow.

This one was so hard to review. I do love this series, but I had so many high expectations for The Morning Star and they just weren’t met. I had hoped that Robin Bridges would only expand upon the lavish world she had created in both The Gathering Storm and The Unfailing Light, but instead I felt that we were backpedalling in some way all throughout this one. read more…

Review: “The Unfailing Light,” Robin Bridges

Review: “The Unfailing Light,” Robin BridgesThe Unfailing Light (The Katerina Trilogy #2)
Written by Robin Bridges
Published October, 2012 by Delacorte
320 pages
Genres: Faeries, Fantasy, Historical, Supernatural, Vampires, Werewolves / Shifters, Witches, Zombies
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four-stars

Having had no choice but to use her power has a necromancer to save Russia from dark forces, Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, now wants to forget that she ever used her special powers. She's about to set off to pursue her lifelong dream of attending medical school when she discovers that Russia's arch nemesis--who she thought she'd destroyed--is still alive.

So on imperial orders, Katerina remains at her old finishing school. She'll be safe there, because the empress has cast a potent spell to protect it against the vampires and revenants who are bent on toppling the tsar and using Katerina for their own gains.

But to Katerina's horror, the spell unleashes a vengeful ghost within the school, a ghost more dangerous than any creature trying to get in.

The Unfailing Light brings readers back into the world of Katerina and her struggles against the Light and Dark Courts of Imperial Russia. A great historical read, I found that Robin Bridges had a better handle on her series and lore this time around. With all the elements you could hope for in a historical supernatural/fantasy read, ‘The Katerina Trilogy’ is one I highly recommend. read more…