Infinityglass: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Infinityglass by Myra McEntireWith the timeline falling apart and ripples appearing everywhere, members of the Hourglass Institute, are desperate to pool their time-manipulating skills and find a way to fix the continuum before the damage becomes permanent.

A legendary item called the Infinityglass is key to fixing the timeline and getting rid of the rips. The only problem is that the Hourglass isn’t the only organization looking for the Infinityglass.

Luckily, the Hourglass has an advantage: They now know that the Infinityglass isn’t an object. It’s a person. And she is living in New Orleans.

Sent to New Orleans to find the Infinityglass and help her understand her abilities, Dune finds a lot more than he bargained for. Hallie might be the key to fixing the timeline but she is also unpredictable and, for Dune, completely overwhelming. Before Hallie can fix anything, Dune will have to convince her to trust him and, together, they’ll have to figure out exactly what being the Infinityglass really means before they run out of time in Infinityglass (2013) by Myra McEntire.

Infinityglass is the third book in McEntire’s Hourglass trilogy. It is preceded by Hourglass and Timepiece.

Infinityglass dives in almost exactly where Timepiece left off. I read the two books back to back but I imagine other readers might need a quick recap to make sense of this final installment.

McEntire once again changes narrators here with the story alternating between Dune and Hallie’s narrations. Although the change is initially surprising (Hallie is a new character and Dune was a secondary one in the previous books) the choice works here. Both characters are add new aspects to the series.

This story is very plot driven but it still leaves room for the characters–specifically Dune and Hallie–to grow and learn throughout the story.

Although the book’s resolution was rushed (and extremely convenient for the characters) it also makes sense for the story and the arc of the trilogy. McEntire also takes the time to give these characters a proper goodbye with an apt epilogue.

This is one of my favorite time travel series and one I highly recommend to anyone looking for an original, readable sci-fi adventure.

Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, Born of Illusion by Teri Brown, The Infinity of You & Me by J. Q. Coyle, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst, Clarity by Kim Harrington, The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood, Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone, Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor, All Out Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, Pivot Point by Kasie West

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Timepiece: A Review

Timepiece by Myra McEntireKaleb Ballard knows all about the ways time can be manipulated by people with the right abilities–time travel, speed, telekinesis, even the ability to control tides or read emotions. What Kaleb never expected was that he would start seeing the ripples created in time when things are disturbed.

When an old enemy to the Hourglass Institute resurfaces, Kaleb’s suspicions are confirmed. Worse, a new player is on the board with an ultimatum that can’t be ignored.

With the rips getting worse, Kaleb and his friends know something bad is coming. The only problem is none of them are sure how to stop an enemy they can’t even find in Timepiece (2012) by Myra McEntire.

Timepiece is the second book in McEntire’s Hourglass trilogy. It is preceded by Hourglass.

This story picks up soon after the events of book one with McEntire striking an ideal balance between summarizing past events and offering new information as readers re-immerse themselves in this series (which was probably helped along by the shift in viewpoint this time around).

Kaleb is often a mess in this story. He makes terrible decisions, he’s obnoxious, and he knows he’s attractive enough to get away with it most of the time. All of that left the potential for Kaleb to be a terribly unlikable narrator. Happily, he is instead a surprisingly honest and insightful one.

It’s unlikely that Timepiece will attract new readers to this series simply because there is so much information readers will need to retain from book one. However this is another great time-tripping read that fans of Hourglass are sure to enjoy. With twists and surprises galore, Timepiece is also guaranteed to leave readers eager for the next book.

Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, Born of Illusion by Teri Brown, The Infinity of You & Me by J. Q. Coyle, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst, Clarity by Kim Harrington, The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone, Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor, All Out Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, Pivot Point by Kasie West

The Demon Catchers of Milan: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat BeyerBefore Milan, Mia Della Torre was the unexceptional sister compared to her smarter, prettier younger sister Gina. Before Milan Mia was the kind of girl who would check for monsters under her bed and make sure all of the doors and windows were locked each night.

Now, even if Mia is afraid she knows what to do. She knows who in a house is dead and who is something else. After Milan, she might still be scared but she also knows.

Mia’s grandfather left Milan, and his family, behind years ago when he settled in New York. Mia knows nothing of her distant relatives or their strange livelihood until she is possessed by a demon and saved by a cousin and great uncle she has never met. Even freed from the demon, Mia still may not be safe. Not when it can come back.

Suddenly Mia’s normal, unexceptional life is over. She is whisked away to Milan to live with the demon catching relatives her grandfather hated–the only people who might be able to keep Mia alive.

In a strange city Mia is cooped up indoors as she learns the strange language and stranger history surrounding Milan and her family. Demons, it seems, can be anywhere and her family always has to be ready. But with the threat of another possession looming, Mia isn’t sure if she wants to face her fate or hide from it.

Mia came to Milan for protection from the demon who wants her and to learn more about the family she never knew. Along the way, surrounded by aunts and uncles and cousins, Mia will also find confidence, a new language and even a new place to call home in The Demon Catchers of Milan (2012) by Kat Beyer.

The Demon Catchers of Milan is Beyer’s first book. It is also the first in a projected trilogy.

Filled with interesting tidbits about Milanese culture and phrases of Italian, The Demon Catchers of Milan is part travelogue, part fantasy. After an action packed opening (complete with a possession and an exorcism!), Beyer slows things down as Mia comes to Milan and begins to acclimate to her new surroundings.

There is not a lot of action in the middle of the story, something that might turn off readers expecting non-stop excitement. There are thrilling moments and the threat of Mia’s demon returning is a constant throughout the story, but the bulk of the plot focuses more on Mia connecting with her family and making sense of her place both in Milan and among the demon catching Della Torres.

Beyer’s focus on family is refreshing. Mia is surrounded by people who love and value her. It’s nice to see that kind of affection and unconditional love in a novel. It was equally pleasing to find a fantasy where the plot stays firmly focused on the heroine (and her family) instead of a messy love triangle or a star-crossed love plot.

Perhaps it’s because my mother’s side of the family is Italian but I absolutely loved Mia and the rest of the Della Torres. The Demon Catchers of Milan is short (288 pages hardcover) but Beyer manages to fill those pages with countless well-realized and vivid characters to create a real ensemble cast.

Although the pacing, particularly near the end, became frantic The Demon Catchers of Milan  remains a solidly enjoyable read for anyone who enjoys fantasies with a strong heroine coming into her own. Best of all, this story is contained. There are hints of things to come in future installments but The Demon Catchers of Milan works very nicely on its own without leaving readers hanging until the trilogy is complete.

Possible Pairings: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, The Demon Trapper’s Daughter by Jana Oliver, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, The Archived by Victoria Schwab, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012*

The Butterfly Clues: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Butterfly Clues by Kate EllisonPenelope “Lo” Marin has always liked order. Since her brother’s death Lo has needed more than her rituals to bring order to the chaos of day-to-day life. Her collections of beautiful things, arranged perfectly around her room, make Lo feel better. They’ll never erase the gaping hole her brother left behind, but they help clear her head. At least until she sees another item she has to have for her room. Then nothing will quiet her head until the object is hers.

Wandering Cleveland’s Neverland searching for traces of her brother’s last days as well as objects for her room, Lo stumbles upon something she was never meant to see.

It’s all tied to a beautiful butterfly charm she finds at a flea market and the butterfly’s last owner–a girl named Sapphire who was murdered days before the butterfly makes its way to Lo. Convinced that finding the butterfly means something, that she is connected to Sapphire against all odds, Lo works to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding Sapphire’s death.

The deeper Lo delves into the murder, the more questions she unearths. What does Sapphire have to do with the alluring street artist who seems so eager to help Lo? Why did someone want Sapphire dead?

If she keeps searching, Lo hopes ordering all of the clues will lead to an answer and give her (and Sapphire) some peace. But that’s going to be as hard as it is for Lo to keep her rituals in check when someone in Cleveland wants Lo’s investigation stopped for good in The Butterfly Clues (2012) by Kate Ellison.

The Butterfly Clues is Ellison’s first novel.

It becomes obvious early in the narrative that Lo’s collecting, rituals, and habits are symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Ellison does a good job making Lo a relatable heroine, habits and all, but that only goes so far when every page has Lo tapping or counting in some way to get through her day.

However, while Ellison delves into the whys behind Lo’s OCD behaviors for most of the novel, some of Lo’s choices make little sense given not just her OCD but also common sense.* Though many of these decisions are crucial to the plot, they often pulled me out of the narrative as I found myself wondering what Lo could possibly be thinking.

Lo is a generally likable and sympathetic narrator so it’s easy to let that go. Seeing her broken family and Lo’s struggle to keep her OCD in check is heartbreaking and extremely compelling.

Unfortunately a shaky plot does little to strengthen The Butterfly Clues. Parts of the story are drawn out and seemingly superfluous to the actual plot instead serving only to lengthen the text. On the other hand key aspects of the actual mystery are obvious early on as Lo explores Neverland. Ellison demonstrates a lot of range in this debut and while I would have liked more mystery and less OCD, The Butterfly Clues is a definite clue that Ellison is an author to watch.

*The idea that Lo would have no problem with the germs and dirt inherent to Neverland’s homeless community–even Flynt–seemed extremely unlikely to me. Other–more spoilery–moments also defied all believability for me.

Possible Pairings: Frost by Marianna Baer, Clarity by Kim Harrington, Slide by Jill Hathaway, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith, Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten

Trial by Fire: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

**This review (and the book itself) contains MAJOR spoilers for Raised by Wolves. You have been warned.**

Trial by Fire by Jennifer Lynn BarnesBrynn thought spending the first fifteen years of her life living with the werewolves of the Stone River Pack was hard. Turns out being the alpha of her own pack is even harder.

Brynn is still human, she is still a teenager. But she is also the alpha of the Cedar Ridge pack meaning she is responsible for the safety and wellbeing of an entire pack of werewolves–living day to day with Were who could just as easily kill her as choose to let her lead them.

Worse, being alpha means dealing with the other packs and their–ruthless, older, male–alphas who would mostly want nothing more than to see Brynn dealt with and her pack absorbed into their own. Callum, her former mentor, might want something else but with a Were like Callum it’s impossible to know for sure.

When a battered teenage boy appears in the center of Cedar Ridge territory asking for protection things get even more complicated. Brynn can’t claim another alpha’s wolf without starting a war. She can’t send the boy away to let him die. Strange dreams of fire and other threats start appearing everywhere.

No one said being alpha would be easy. No one said how long Brynn would last as alpha either in Trial by Fire (2011) by Jennifer Lynne Barnes.

Trial by Fire is the sequel to Barnes’ powerhouse novel Raised by Wolves.

Trial by Fire is a great sequel. Barnes capitalizes on the unique world she created in Raised by Wolves while continuing to develop the world of the North American packs and some other supernatural beings to great effect.

All of the characters readers will want to see from the first book are here with further character development and expanded histories, particularly Lake and Devon. Chase, by comparison, still has a lot of question marks about his past and his general character but that is, at least, explained more in this installment.

It hardly seems possible but this book is even more exciting than the first. Brynn is facing challenges from all sides with very few options for help. With danger looming from all sides, Trial by Fire is a definite nail-biter that will draw readers in with action, adventure and even more twists than the first novel in the series. Not to mention a dynamite ending that will leave readers clamoring for a new installment about Brynn and the Cedar Ridge pack.

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey, Clarity by Kim Harrington, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Divergent by Veronica Roth

**This book was acquired at BEA 2011

Exclusive Bonus Content: Egmont has some really awesome cover designs. I also like the progression between the two covers here. They just really work well together on every level.

Raised by Wolves: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn BarnesWhen Brynn was four-years-old her life changed forever when a rogue werewolf killed her parents. Rescued by the Stone River Pack and Marked by the pack’s alpha, Callum, Brynn’s safety is a matter of pack law.

The only problem is Brynn is human. Even as a member of the pack, living with a bunch of werewolves is dangerous. Weres can smell fear. They are faster. They are stronger. Most of them are older and more experienced. One lapse in control could leave a human very dead.

Even if that human is a fifteen-year-old girl named Brynn who knows almost everything worth knowing about dealing with (and defending herself against) Weres. Even with the danger, Brynn feels more at home in this world dictated by dominance struggles, territorial rights, and pack justice than the human world she left behind.

When a newly-turned were appears in Callum’s territory Brynn’s insular life within the pack is thrown into chaos. Brynn is inexplicably drawn to the new Were. Even though she has never seen Chase before, she recognizes something in him, she knows him.

As Brynn and Chase are drawn to each other she realizes everything she thought she knew about the pack, and about Callum, might be wrong. Everything Brynn thought she knew about her past, and her life in the pack, might be wrong in Raised by Wolves (2010) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

Raised by Wolves is a completely original take on werewolf lore. Barnes has created a well-realized back story for Brynn and the North American packs. All of the weres and their wolf behaviors are fully realized and add a clever, primal, spin to werewolves with a strong focus on life within the pack and the animal nature of the Weres.

Brynn is a heroine readers will want to root for as well as an excellent guide through the dangerous but tantalizing world of Weres. Although Chase is not as fully realized compared to Brynn he is a good addition to the story, especially combined with the other characters (minor and not) who are quirky, funny and extremely well-developed.

Barnes expertly navigates the murky waters of pack life for Brynn and the grey areas of working towards a greater good in this story. She also packs in enough action, excitement and humor to make Raised By Wolves an edge-of-your-seat adventure that will leave readers guessing until the last page.

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey, Clarity by Kim Harrington, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Brightly Woven: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Brightly Woven by Alexandra BrackenThe day the rains finally come to Cliffton, Sydelle Mirabil doesn’t know her life is about to change. She has no idea foreign soldiers are preparing to invade her small village. She doesn’t know that her country is on the precipice of war. She certainly don’t know anything about wizards.

All of that changes with the rain.

Wayland North does know all of those things. When the town offers the young wizard a reward for bringing the much-needed rains he also knows exactly what he needs: the young weaver named Sydelle.

Sydelle has no choice but to accompany the wizard on his long journey to the capital. Much as she detests being tied to him she knows they have to get to the capital if the war is to be avoided. Plagued by foul weather, Sydelle’s temper and North’s black mood, the trip is not easy. Wayward wizards and dangerous secrets threaten to derail their journey long before they reach the capital.

As the pair make their way across the country Sydelle begins to understand there may be more to North than his vague statements and mercurial temperament. There might even be more to Sydelle herself. Like any good weaving, it is going to take Sydelle many layers to see the full picture in Brightly Woven (2010) by Alexandra Bracken.

Brightly Woven is Bracken’s first novel.

While the story could have used slightly more resolution in some areas, Bracken has created an appealing fantasy here. Sydelle’s narration is lyrical and Wayland North is one charming mess of a wizard. In a story where the two main characters are mostly crossing varied terrain, Bracken’s ability to build drama and maintain tension is impressive.

Without giving away too much, the weaving aspect of the story added a nice dimension to the story. The combination of textiles and magic makes the premise of the story unique. Sydelle’s focus on weaving also fleshed out her character and only helped to enhance the narrative.

Brightly Woven has everything readers hope to find in a traditional fantasy. Beautifully written, this novel evokes not only the physical landscape of Sydelle’s world but the culture as well. Sydelle and North are wonderfully rendered characters that are dimensional, funny and completely captivating. In other words Brightly Woven is absolutely a must read for fantasy lovers and Bracken herself is definitely an author to watch.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, Roar by Cora Carmack, The Reader by Traci Chee, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore, Warped by Maurissa Guibord, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Soundless by Richelle Mead, Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien, Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell

*This book was acquired at BEA 2011

Exclusive Bonus Content: Aside from being my favorite publisher at BEA, Egmont also has some really amazing covers, like this one here. I’m completely in love with it. I also am thrilled at how well it captures Sydelle and how many elements of the story are represented here.