Pan’s Conquest by Aubrie Dionne

Pan’s Conquest Cover (Entangled Publishing, LLC)

Following my love of the Hades/Persephone story Seeds by M.M. Kin, I decided to pick up this story by an unfamiliar (to me) author. I thought another mythology retelling might be appealing. Really, though, all the two stories have in common is a mythological base…otherwise, Pan is completely different from Seeds. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it!

THE PLOT: Pan, the god of fertility, has been chasing Syrinx, a goddess of chastity, for aeons, but she always managed to escape him. Now Syrinx is living disguised as human florist Sylvia in the 21st century. (The gods can travel in time and space, sans TARDIS!) Pan finds out where she is and also disguises himself as a very attractive and rich human, Parker Thomas. What follows starts off as a game of cat-and-mouse, but quickly becomes more about Pan learning to truly love instead of just pursue.

MY TWO CENTS: I was SO pleasantly surprised with this book. I was afraid it might turn into erotica, and it didn’t at all…in contrast, it’s a VERY clean romance! It’s about novella length (about 200 e-pages), but it didn’t seem short at all. The author took her time building Pan’s character, having him learn and change. Rutherford and Kaye were great character additions. And hey, who doesn’t love characters who can conjure up Jaguars and perfect party clothes with a snap of their fingers? Wish fulfillment 101.

BOTTOM LINE: I thought the writing was very good. Love the double meaning of the title. Really enjoyed this as a short, easy read and hope the author does more mythology retellings. How about Syrinx’s sister, Saturnia? I think there’s some story there that needs exploring. Just sayin’.

TEACUP RATING: 4½ out of 5 teacups, and hoping for a second course.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

These Broken Stars (Starbound series #1) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

These Broken Stars Front Cover (Hyperion)

These Broken Stars Front Cover (Disney-Hyperion)

I had to really think about this book before writing my review. It’s a sci-fi YA, not supernatural or straight dystopian. YAY! It’s got a stunningly gorgeous cover. (Seriously, I hope the cover of the next book can remotely compare.) It gets a wee bit draggy during the “survival” part, but that’s really small potatoes compared to all the awesome this book has to offer.

THE PLOT: The setup is very Titanic-esque, only on the spaceship Icarus (also aptly named!) instead of an ocean liner. Lilac is the only child of the man who, pretty much, owns the entire galaxy. Tarver is a young country-bumpkin solder who’s only in first class because of some heroic deeds. There is instant attraction, which Lilac quickly squelches. (See, her powerful father has a problem with any man who might want his daughter, so even though it doesn’t seem like it, she’s protecting Tarver.) But all Tarver knows is that she’s a spoiled rich girl who thinks he’s beneath her.

Then the Icarus crashes, and the only reason Lilac and Tarver survive is through chance and Lilac’s hidden skills. What follows is a story of two mismatched companions struggling to survive on a completely abandoned planet. (Or is it?) Lilac believes that her father will move heaven and earth (figuratively speaking) to rescue her, but as time goes on, Tarver is more and more sure that they’re stuck for good. Something on the planet seems to be causing Lilac to lose her mind. In the meantime, our characters fall deeply in true love…the kind that lasts, not the “OMG he’s so hot” kind. Then something happens that’s so shocking, so mind-blowing, that the reader is astounded.

MY TWO CENTS: I didn’t even realize just HOW emotionally invested I’d gotten in this book and these characters until the shock that comes 2/3 through the book. I loved the characters. Lilac has an amazing strength at her core; not only does she survive, but for a while she does it in a silk dress and heels. She’s got seriously hidden depths and is pretty smart, too. Tarver is a gentleman soldier, your very first pick for who to be stranded on a deserted planet with. Keep in mind, I did feel that the “survival” part was getting a little slow, but it’s all build and strengthening their relationship. It’s worth it, I promise.

BOTTOM LINE: I love this book. It’s beautifully written with a love story you can believe in. The story is a springboard for the rest of the “Starbound” series. From what I understand, the next book, This Shattered World, will focus on a different couple in the same world…this time, a female soldier and a rebel. For those counting down, This Shattered World will release on 11/11/14.

I really do have to do one more shout-out on the cover design for this book. Covers are supposed to catch your eye and draw you in, and boy, this one does. The beautiful jewel tones, the dramatic reach, the dress that is TRUE TO THE STORY!!!! These artists got it all right. Love it. LOVE IT. This is a book you want on your shelf.

TEACUP RATING: Five out of five teacups full of starry yet romantic tea. A book to love and savor for years to come. (You’ll probably want an immediate re-read.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

Pawn (Blackcoat Rebellion #1) by Aimée Carter

 

Pawn

Pawn Front Cover (Harlequin Teen)

Dystopian is the new vampires in YA. While I don’t claim to have read every dystopian YA novel or series since “Hunger Games,” I have read a few. For me, this one stands out a little from the pack as an engrossing story with a sympathetic yet spunky heroine.

 THE PLOT:  Like many other future worlds, this one has a caste system where people are grouped by numbers from I to VII. Seventeen-year-olds take a test that designates what their number will be. VIIs are the “elected” royalty, while Is are sent “Elsewhere,” along with other drains on society, like anyone over the age of 60 (except VIIs). No one really knows what Elsewhere is, but when readers find out…it’s actually even worse than you think. Anyway, poor Kitty Doe has dyslexia and doesn’t test well, which results in her earning a lowly III. She knows this means she has pretty much wrecked her life and that of her boyfriend, Benjy, who is sure to score a fantastic VI when he takes the test. Kitty chooses a life of prostitution instead, but before she can really act on this plan, her life changes forever.  [This is one plot point I have a serious problem with: In this future world, they can “mask” someone to look exactly like someone else, even change their height and bodily bone structure with minimal recovery time…but they cannot change someone’s EYE COLOR? Not with lasers? Not with contacts? Really?]

Kitty is pulled from the brothel based on her unusual eye color to be surgically altered into Lila Hart, a deceased member of the ruling Hart family; become a VII; marry Lila’s fiancé, Knox; and enjoy all the perks that come with it…but of course, there’s a price. Or several prices. To make sure she cooperates, her new “uncle” Daxton Hart has one of her friends killed, and then shows her the true meaning of Elsewhere using someone Kitty loves as a victim. But even the ruling family has issues. Lila Hart is dead for a reason. She was a not-so-secret rebel leader, and other members of the family were working with her…and want Kitty to step into Lila’s shoes as a rebel as well.

MY TWO CENTS:  There are several twists, turns, and surprises in this book, which keeps it moving at a quick pace. The reader definitely feels for Kitty and wants her to navigate this horrible mess successfully. I do wish it wasn’t set up to become a love triangle, but that seems to be almost a requirement for YA.

BOTTOM LINE:  Despite some flaws, I was intrigued enough by this book to look forward to its sequel, “The Captive.” Bring on the rebellion! I also like this better than the author’s “Goddess Test” series.

TEACUP RATING:  I give it 4 to 4½ out of 5 teacups full of rebellious black tea.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen

Dancing Master

The Dancing Master Front Cover (Baker Publishing Group)

When I chose this book, I didn’t realize it was classified as “Christian Romance.” While there are some religious overtones, what it really means is that it’s a very, very clean romance. And that is just fine!

THE PLOT: Alec Valcourt has just moved to tiny little Beaworthy with his mother and sister to live with his uncle. As a dancing and fencing master, he plans to open an academy in his new home to support his family. Unfortunately, his uncle didn’t realize Alec is a dancing master or he might have warned him ahead of time: dancing is forbidden in Beaworthy by the town noblewoman, Amelia Midwinter. But when Amelia’s rebellious daughter, Julia, meets handsome Alec, sparks start flying…and headstrong Julia Midwinter is determined to dance.

MY TWO CENTS: This book is like a cross between the British show Cranford and the movie Footloose. (The original–I haven’t seen the remake.) The small town comes to life as we get to know all its residents…friends of Julia’s, the town bullies, the mysterious blacksmith, even the baker. There are some mysteries in both main characters’ pasts. Alec is hiding some shameful secret, and Julia’s family has their own skeletons. However, I didn’t think the story was predictable. You may THINK you’ve figured out what’s going on, and then…surprise! not so much.

BOTTOM LINE: Like I said, this is a very clean book. I think you get to see one or two kisses, although there are references to some extramarital and premarital shenanigans that might bother someone (not me). Despite its classification, I think even nonreligious people would enjoy this book. Although a character recommends that Julia turn to god in a time of misery, that seems pretty obvious for this time period in a small town. The beginning seems overlong, and the story doesn’t really go full steam until about halfway through. However, if you like Jane Austen, you will probably enjoy this.

TEACUP RATING: I give it between 3½ and 4 out of 5 teacups. Slightly lower than 4 teacups for the drawn-out front half, but I might be interested in reading another book by this author. And serious props for this cover…it’s gorgeous! Really draws you in.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Unhinged (Splintered #2) by A.G. Howard

Unhinged Front Cover (Amulet Books)

Unhinged Front Cover (Amulet Books)

First, I need to thank Amulet Books; I was so excited to be one of the winners of an advance copy on Goodreads! So thank you very much. I loved  Splintered, and could not wait to get my hands on this book. Please keep in mind: although I do not claim to be “Team Morpheus” or an “Alyssa/Morpheus shipper,” I really enjoy Morpheus and do not like Jeb. You have been warned.

NOTE: This review will container spoilers for SPLINTERED, the first book in the series.

THE PLOT: We pick up about a year after Splintered left off. Alyssa and Jeb have been dating for a year (gag), and Alyssa’s mother has picked up the reins of motherhood after her release from the mental hospital. But Morpheus contacts Alyssa…just happening to break up a romantic interlude with Jeb…to tell her Wonderland is in trouble and needs her. When she refuses to help, Morpheus comes through to the real world (stealing a mortal’s body, natch) and proceeds to make life difficult for her at school. But what IS going on here? Is Red really the culprit? And what part in all this is Alyssa’s mother really playing? There’s a couple of very interesting secrets there. And a vision of the future that turns Alyssa’s world upside down. I just LOVE where Alyssa ended up at the end of this book. Such a shock, and yet perfect.

MY TWO CENTS: I love the macabre setting of this world, the clothing descriptions, and the weird art. The author seems to paint a very vivid picture without ever putting the reader into detail overload. I know pro-Jeb readers will probably hate that I loathe him so much and try to convince me what a good guy he is. Don’t.  I don’t like him. Sure, he’s done some good things, but I don’t think he’s a fundamentally consistently good guy. He’s also got the drawback of being a regular old human. When he does stupid and selfish stuff, he doesn’t have the benefit of being able to say, “Hey, I’m a mystical creature from a magical land!” I guess I expect better from a human. I just can’t root for him.

That doesn’t mean I’m necessarily campaigning for Alyssa to end up with Morpheus, though, either. Sure, he’s tons more charismatic, and I think, despite his MANY flaws (he’s a chronic lying manipulator), he better completes Alyssa’s true identity. However, I personally think the best thing for Alyssa would be to walk away from them both, at least for a while. I feel like Alyssa needs time to grow up, to grasp who she REALLY is before she makes any kind of permanent choice. Alyssa may get some of that time at the beginning of Ensnared, since I don’t know that she (or the reader) will see either Jeb OR Morpheus right away. She’s off on a rescue mission, plus there are some issues with her parents.

BOTTOM LINE:  I wish Ensnared wouldn’t be the last volume, but I can’t wait to get my hands on it in any case!

TEACUP RATING: Five out of five cups full of magical tea. Enjoy!

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