Seed by Lisa Heathfield

Seed by Lisa Heathfield(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

All that Pearl knows can be encapsulated in one word: Seed. It is the isolated community that she was born into. It is the land that she sows and reaps. It is the center of her family and everything that means home. And it is all kept under the watchful eye of Papa S.


At fifteen years old, Pearl is finally old enough to be chosen as Papa S.’s companion. She feels excitement . . . and surprising trepidation that she cannot explain. The arrival of a new family into the Seed community—particularly the teenage son, Ellis—only complicates the life and lifestyle that Pearl has depended upon as safe and constant. Ellis is compelling, charming, and worldly, and he seems to have a lot of answers to questions Pearl has never thought to ask.

But as Pearl digs to the roots of the truth, only she can decide what she will allow to come to the surface.


Lisa Heathfield’s suspenseful, scintillating debut features a compelling voice that combines blithe naïveté, keen observation, and sincere emotion.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received an ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

If you know anything at all about cults, or have even read any first-hand survivor accounts of former cult members, Seed will hold absolutely no surprises for you.  I wish it had been a more unique and less predictable take on how cults keep and manipulate their members, but Lisa Heathfield really doesn’t stray from the typical cult modus operandi.  That’s not a bad thing because it makes it realistic, but for me it was so predictable that it got a little boring at points.  It won’t be true for everyone, but for anyone with the aforementioned knowledge of cults you aren’t going to encounter any surprises.

That said, Lisa Heathfield does paint a very realistic picture of what someone raised in a cult would be like.  Pearl constantly wants to please Papa S., wants to be his Companion without realizing what that fully implies (and yes, it means exactly what you’re thinking) and laughs off Ellis when he tells her of the wondrous things in the outside world.  She’s been kept naive about absolutely everything and while she questions some things, she doesn’t question them like you or I would.  It’s more realistic than if she were questioning everything and you’d think it would become annoying, but it doesn’t.  Lisa Heathfield writes very good characters and while sometimes I was exasperated with Pearl, her character still rings true.

As I said, the plot is predictable for people who know a little about cults, but somehow that adds to the overall suspense toward the end.  I knew how things were going to end and I knew how they were going to get there, but I was still anxious to find out what happened.  Heathfield’s pacing was a little slow in the middle (thus my occasional boredom) but despite that she really ratcheted up the suspense toward the end.  Particularly in the barn scene.

I would have liked for a little more even pacing throughout the novel so that it didn’t drag so much in the middle, but this is her debut novel so you can’t really expect everything to be perfect.  Her character development was still amazing and in the end I do have to say that I enjoyed Seed.  Will it ever be on the list of my top 10 favourite novels?  No, not really.  But it is quite a good book and a decent debut so I think we can expect great things from her in the future.  Heathfield has a good grasp of psychology and with a little practice, she can write some truly terrifying novels in the future.  I for one can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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The Vampire’s Bite by Eve Grant

The Vampire's Bite by Eve Grant(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

She’s responsible and takes life too seriously

Susan Ethans is a model student: perfect grades, a dream scholarship, and a promising career ahead of her. But her grades alone aren’t enough to flirt with the hot guys on campus. She doesn’t want to end up being a wallflower, but there isn’t much she can do about it.

A vampire bites her

A madman bites her neck and drinks her blood. She tries to get away, but he drains her life away until she collapses.

She thinks she’s going to die, but she wakes up at an eccentric millionaire’s home. She feels healthy, renewed, and even smarter. Something is changing within her.

He has everything… except love

Nicholas Hill has power, money, and an English accent to die for, but he speaks like a man from the 19th Century. His notions of propriety and manners make him different to every other man in the world. Susan is instantly attracted to him and knows that he likes her, but something tortures his soul and doesn’t let him follow his heart.

Will an ordinary girl change a powerful businessman’s life, or will their personalities clash until they can no longer stand each other?

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

This is mainly a character-driven novel so first I’m going to talk about the main character: Susan.  Susan is essentially the same kind of person that I am.  She works hard to please everyone at the expense of following what she really loves as well as having a social life.  When she becomes a vampire and is intoxicated by her new powers, I can totally understand her suddenly wanting to leave it all behind despite working so hard for her spot in university and her scholarship.  Sometimes you just want to say “screw you” and leave it all behind and a life-changing event like realizing you’re a vampire can do just that to a person.  So while I know that a lot of people will hate Susan for giving up everything, for me she was definitely easy to relate to as a character.

The Vampire’s Bite is ridiculously short at only 85 pages, so we really do have quite a fast-paced plot.  Susan herself sometimes slows it down, however.  She takes interludes to describe everything in great detail as she comes into her new powers, but then never really goes anywhere with those new powers.  I would have liked for her to have more interaction with Nicholas simply because then things would be explained, but that was not to be.  I really would have liked for Eve Grant to extend her book for a little more detail, rather than shoving the explanation into the sequel because while it does make the plot fast, it leaves you with more questions than answers.

With all that said, The Vampire’s Bite is not a bad book.  It will never be high literature and for myself it’s more guilty pleasure than anything.  I wasn’t intrigued enough to want to read the sequel, but some of you might if you give it a try.  If you’re into the modern vampire (suave, sophisticated and rich) then you’ll probably like it, but if you’re new to the whole vampire thing it wouldn’t exactly be the first book I’d recommend.  In the end, it falls somewhere around the middle: it’s not great and it’s not bad.  It’s just a solid ‘meh’.

I give this book 3/5 stars.

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The Hunger Games and The Third Servile War

The Third Servile War is probably one of the most famous wars you’ve never heard of.  What I mean by that is that everyone knows about Spartacus’ rebellion from the movie Spartacus, but few people know that there really was a Spartacus and he really did start a rebellion that morphed into what the Romans knew as the Third Servile War.  In Roman history, it was a monumental event that forced the Romans to reconsider their treatment of slaves and paved the way for later legislation to give slaves some protection (you could be charged for murder if you killed a slave during Claudius’ reign!).

What really struck me when I read The Hunger Games is that the Third Servile War is startlingly similar and is probably at least what partially inspired Suzanne Collins’ depiction of the rebellion of the Districts.  First I think we need a little background on the inspiration behind this and then we’ll go more in depth into why there are so many similarities.

The Third Servile War didn’t start out as a war.  It started out as a breakout from a gladiator school in Capua that included some two hundred slaves and gladiators.  Unsurprisingly, with that many people involved, the plot was discovered and the rebel slaves had to fight their way out of the school.  Spartacus was among them and he was naturally looked to as a leader, but what most people forget is another man who was a key player: Crixus.  Crixus was a Celt who had also been captured to fight in the gladiator schools of the Roman Republic and he didn’t like his situation any more than Spartacus did.  He and Spartacus, even though it may not have started out that way, became the ringleaders of their little revolt. Continue reading

Fever by Lauren DeStefano

Fever by Lauren DeStefanoRhine and Gabriel have escaped the mansion, but danger is never far behind.

Running away brings Rhine and Gabriel right into a trap, in the form of a twisted carnival whose ringmistress keeps watch over a menagerie of girls. Just as Rhine uncovers what plans await her, her fortune turns again. With Gabriel at her side, Rhine travels through an environment as grim as the one she left a year ago – surroundings that mirror her own feelings of fear and hopelessness.

The two are determined to get to Manhattan, to relative safety with Rhine’s twin brother, Rowan. But the road there is long and perilous – and in a world where young women only live to age twenty and young men die at twenty-five, time is precious. Worse still, they can’t seem to elude Rhine’s father-in-law, Vaughn, who is determined to bring Rhine back to the mansion…by any means necessary.

In the sequel to Lauren DeStefano’s harrowing Wither, Rhine must decide if freedom is worth the price – now that she has more to lose than ever.

I actually sort of liked the first book, Wither; enough to give it four stars.  But unfortunately, Fever didn’t do so well.  It suffers from severe Book 2 Syndrome.

I hate to say it after liking the first book, but Fever is just plain boring.  Rhine and Gabriel run away and get caught in a creepy brothel-carnival before again escaping into the city to find Rhine’s brother Rowan.  There’s a little bit of action in the end and we finally find out what those stupid June Beans from the first book were all about, but that’s it.  It’s a slow pace for a book that’s only a little over 300 pages and that’s why it seems like it’s much, much longer.  Face it: the plot is just boring and the pacing was too slow.

So let’s talk about characters.  Rhine and Gabriel didn’t really change all that much from the first book.  Rhine got a tiny bit more cynical, but that’s essentially it.  She really has no character development in Fever; she just sort of reacts to events unfolding around her like she pretty much always has.  And I hate that in a particularly spoiler-y situation, she still hasn’t learned to keep her mouth shut and stop herself from blurting out the wrong things.  Rhine lacks subtlety, as she always has.  Gabriel is just sort of your Generic Male Love Interest, there to protect her whenever she needs it and to make out with her but obviously never have sex with her.  He looked like he was almost a good character in the first book, but he’s pretty one dimensional in this one.

What about world-building?  Well, unfortunately, we learn nothing further about why the genetic modification in children left them with a decreased life expectancy and a horrible new way of life once society realized that.  The older generations are still trying to hold it together and the younger generations are essentially contributing to the anarchy of society by not really caring what they do because they’re going to be dead soon anyway.  We get to see vague flashes of the people in power, which is fine, but I really would have liked for there to be a little more information about the science of Lauren DeStefano’s world.  It doesn’t have to be hard science fiction, but some information would have been nice, even if it were just mentioned in passing.

Essentially, except for the last few pages, Fever was a rather boring disappointment.  The next book Sever has potential, but I really wish that DeStefano hadn’t dropped the ball so bad on her second book in the trilogy.  It’s a textbook case of Book 2 Syndrome, unfortunately.  I’m still probably going to end up reading book 3 despite that, but I am seriously having doubts about this trilogy right now.

I give this book 2/5 stars.

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Immortal by Gene Doucette

Immortal by Gene Doucette(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

“I don’t know how old I am.My earliest memory is something along the lines of fire good, ice bad, so I think I predate written history, but I don’t know by how much. I like to brag that I’ve been there from the beginning, and while this may very well be true, I generally just say it to pick up girls.”

–Adam the Immortal

Surviving sixty thousand years takes cunning and more than a little luck. But in the twenty-first century, Adam confronts new dangers—someone has found out what he is, a demon is after him, and he has run out of places to hide.Worst of all, he has had entirely too much to drink.

Immortal is a first person confessional penned by a man who is immortal, but not invincible. In an artful blending of sci-fi, adventure, fantasy, and humor, IMMORTAL introduces us to a world with vampires, demons and other “magical” creatures, yet a world without actual magic.

At the center of the book is Adam.

“I have been in quite a few tight situations in my long life. One of the first things I learned was if there is going to be a mob panic, don’t be standing between the mob and wherever it is they all want to go. The second thing I learned was, don’t try to run through fire.”

–Adam the Immortal

Adam is a sixty thousand year old man. (Approximately.) He doesn’t age or get sick, but is otherwise entirely capable of being killed.His survival has hinged on an innate ability to adapt, his wits, and a fairly large dollop of luck. He makes for an excellent guide through history . . . when he’s sober.

Immortal is a contemporary fantasy for non-fantasy readers and fantasy enthusiasts alike.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

What I’ve always wondered at is if there really are immortals, how will they live in today’s society where you need an ID to do almost anything?  At what point do mortals discover their existence?  Well, Gene Doucette certainly deals with that in Immortal.

Adam is probably one of my favourite characters I’ve read about in a long time.  Sure he’s a drunken lecher of the first degree, but after sixty thousand years, wouldn’t you be too?  He’s clever and street smart, which has kept him alive over the millennia and yet he still holds onto the romantic idea that he’s not the only immortal, that the redheaded beauty he keeps seeing will one day reveal herself to him.  If they all don’t get captured by scientists to be poked and prodded and exploited first.  I love The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and I have to say that quite honestly, Immortal does have the feel of the classic as Adam tries to sober up to run away from his many would-be captors.  I don’t compare classics like Douglas Adams’ book to contemporary works very easily, so you can be certain that I really do enjoy and recommend Immortal.

Even though not all that much is revealed about the origins of Adam’s immortality, I can still say that the world-building in this book was excellent.  Why?  Because there are very good reasons for his immortality being shrouded in mystery: humans were quite primitive at the time and he himself says that he wasn’t engaging in the kind of complex thought that is present today.  “Fire good, ice bad”, indeed.  We see flashbacks of his travels across the centuries, sometimes drunken and sometimes not as he encountered everything from demons to famous gangsters.  He’s certainly had a pretty cool life, but not in the “I’m immortal so I’ve met every famous figure ever” way.  No, sometimes he lived a pretty ordinary life and sometimes not, which makes his current political savvy believable as well as his street smarts.

As for the plot, it was surprisingly fast-paced when you consider that there were occasional interludes into the past.  Normally those slow the plot down unbearably, but not so in this case because Gene Doucette is a good writer.  I wanted to know more about Adam’s fascinating background not only because it was fascinating but because it was also relevant to where he is today: being hunted so that scientists can figure out how to recreate the conditions for his immortality.  Adam’s not too keen on being poked, prodded and possibly dissected so things get very, very interesting toward the end of the novel.  Particularly when we see our red-headed friend again.

So all in all, Immortal was a very enjoyable read and I would definitely recommend it to others.  Adam is a very memorable character and the world-building is so well done that even with the little knowledge you’re given, you remain fairly satisfied that you know most everything that is relevant to the story itself.  Of course I can’t wait to see that expanded in the next book, Hellenic Immortal.  I’ll definitely be watching and waiting to read the rest of Adam’s story.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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Aranya by Marc Secchia

Aranya by Marc Secchia(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Chained to a rock and tossed off a cliff by her boyfriend, Aranya is executed for high treason against the Sylakian Empire. Falling a league into the deadly Cloudlands is not a fate she ever envisaged. But what if she did not die? What if she could spread her wings and fly?

Long ago, Dragons ruled the Island-World above the Cloudlands. But their Human slaves cast off the chains of Dragonish tyranny. Humans spread across the Islands in their flying Dragonships, colonising, building and warring. Now, the all-conquering Sylakians have defeated the last bastion of freedom–the Island-Kingdom of Immadia.

Evil has a new enemy. Aranya, Princess of Immadia. Dragon Shapeshifter.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]

As with a lot of books I seem to read, I was a little skeptical about this one from the blurb.  It had the potential to be either a totally awesome book or really suck.  Good thing for me it was the former and not the latter, right?

I am just blown away by Aranya.  The plot, the world-building, Marc Secchia’s incomparable writing and the vivid characters all come together to make this book one of the best I’ve read in quite literally years.  Considering the fact that I read around 200 books per year, that’s no small feat either.  Sometimes books take the words quite literally out of my mouth and this is one of those instances (which is why I had to write this review hours after finishing the book, just to process it).

I’ll start off with the world-building, which was fabulous.  Here we have a complex geo-political situation within an epic fantasy world!  There are various alliances and rivalries and each little island on this world has its own distinct culture and history.  Its ruling families are all different, as are their customs and languages.  At the same time, for those of you worrying that this just becomes a political thriller, don’t worry.  Marc Secchia walks the fine line between political thriller and awesome world that has complicated politics (but ones that are not the main focus of the story).  So while his world is excellently built, we never get the backstory dump that sometimes happens in similar works.

And the dragons?  Wow.  I like that despite the impossibility of somehow having more matter when you shapeshift from human to dragon, the overall concept is very well thought out.  There are limitations for people like Aranya in both forms and her dragon form is far from invincible like it is in so many other stories.  She actually has to work at developing her powers, with the help of an incurable old letch, Nak.  And her limitations as a new dragon do significantly hinder her as she goes about her journey to save Immadia and her friends/family.  It’s very well done in my opinion.

As I said, Marc Secchia’s writing is incomparable.  He can not only describe action sequences with the ease of a writer with 50+ years of experience, but can also slow down and write heartbreakingly tender moments.  At the same time, the plot never really slows down.  There’s always something going on, a hint of background tension that forces you to keep reading in order to find out what happens next.  I was sucked into the world of Aranya, feeling everything from the humidity in the jungles of the Pygmy and the cool volcanic climate where Aranya gets kidnapped inadvertently.

Last but certainly not least are the characters.  Aranya and Zip are certainly some of the more memorable characters I’ve ever read about and they defy gender stereotypes left, right and centre.  How many female characters have a serious duel nearly to the death and then become the best of friends?  Not as many as male characters, I can tell you that much.  Both of them are well-rounded and three dimensional characters, but Aranya will always hold a special place in my heart.  She’s willing to leave her family and Immadia behind in order to secure the future of her country, even if it means living in obscure exile for the rest of her natural life.  And she does it with minimal whining as well, accepting her duty to her country.  Does that mean she’ll go down without a fight?  Certainly not!  But she also doesn’t spend all her time pining after every attractive guy who crosses her path and whining about how awful her lot in life is.  It’s quite a novel concept after the many, many YA novels I’ve read with similar concepts that were far less well carried out.

I just can’t recommend Aranya enough.  Even if you’re not big into epic fantasy, I think you can still enjoy this book.  Not only are the characters some of the most memorable I’ve ever encountered, the plot was amazing and Marc Secchia’s writing is always superb.  I just don’t have anything to say but this: buy the book already!

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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Charming by Krystal Wade

Charming by Krystal Wade(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and that’s great . . . as long as you don’t die.

Sixteen-year-old Haley Tremaine had it all: top-notch school, fantastic family, and a bright future, but all of that changed when an accident tore her family apart. Now, an alcoholic father, a bitter younger sister, and a cold headstone bearing her mother’s name are all she has left.

Chris Charming has it all: a powerful CEO for a father, a prestigious school, and a fortune at his fingertips, but none of that matters when he lands a reputation as a troublemaker. Struggling to follow in his father’s footsteps, he reaches out to the one person he believes truly sees him, the one person he wants: Haley.

Little do they know someone’s determined to bring the two together, even if it means murder.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]

I’ve read all of Krystal Wade’s books since she debuted a few years ago, but I think Charming is pretty much my favourite out of them all.

Yes, it’s a Cinderella retelling, but it’s not like you’re thinking.  There’s certainly a Prince Charming (named, of course, Chris Charming) but there’s far more depth to their relationship than in the original.  Haley is a very put-upon Cinderella, what with her alcoholic father and her perfect sister who doesn’t see him for what he really is: an abuser who beats his own daughter because she looks like her dead mother.  And there’s plenty of romance and even a ball, but it’s not so simple as that because not only is this a Cinderella retelling, it’s a mash-up of Saw as well.  (So yes, it does get a little gory at the end.)

Haley was an awesome character for me.  Her little sister hates her, thinking that Haley is always deliberately trying to annoy their dad and that she only thinks of herself.  In truth, Haley is the one who takes her dad’s beatings and his verbal abuse so that Jocelyn herself doesn’t turn into a target.  She pretends not to care at school, works late on school nights and then goes home to do several hours of chores caused by their alcoholic father’s natural messiness.  It’s a pretty bad scenario but I was still pleasantly surprised that when Chris Charming turned his sights on Haley, she didn’t immediately fall head-over-heels for him.  No, she didn’t even trust him to be a decent human being because that’s how bad her father’s abuse has shattered her trust.  Their relationship takes a while to develop and it’s not all smooth, which is far more realistic considering both of their backgrounds.

For a book that’s largely character-driven in the beginning, Charming sure has a fast-paced plot.  Just when you think things are winding down, we get a wildcard thrown into the mix and then Haley has to fight for the lives of her ungrateful family.  The mysterious third man who wants to bring Haley and Chris together is around every corner watching, listening and waiting.  He’s just the sort of character to bring a little zip back into the Cinderella story, so it sort of retains its original dark overtones.

To sum up, I just really loved Charming.  After the sort of disappointment that was Shattered Secrets, I love to see that Krystal Wade is back to her classic style of writing (only improved!).  This book is a great retelling of Cinderella and if you’re into very nontraditional retellings of your favourite fairytales, you’ll particularly enjoy it.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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