Torrent (River of Time, #3)

Torrent (River of Time, #3)

First Lines: We’d shaken the dust from the gowns the guys had left the three of us and slipped on our “medieval disguises,” as I called them, but there wasn’t a whole lot we could do for Dad.

This is a series I discovered a few months back and just absolutely fell in love with. And after reading the second book, I desperately needed to know what happened in this book.

*Series Spoilers Ahead. For real.*

Gabi and Lia were just two normal American teenagers until the day they accidentally found themselves in 14th century Italy. They returned to the present with their mother to try to save their father from a tragic death, and now the family needs to head back to the 14th century, where the girls have left their hearts behind with some gallant, chivalrous knights. But remaining in that time puts them at risk as battles wage over territory and the Black Plague looms over them. Will the family really be willing to put themselves at so much risk? Or will they discover how life is truly supposed to be lived?

I love this series, I do. I think Gabi and Lia are stellar characters and I think this story is well written with other interesting characters and a ton of action.

I just didn’t love this book as much as I did the previous two.

I think part of the reason is that it’s starting to feel the same. Like, every book is about how somebody wants to kill Gabi and Lia and then there are battles. I love the action of it all, don’t get me wrong, and the way it unfolds is always different, but it is kind of formulaic. And also, I just didn’t feel as gripped by this book as the others. I’ve always had this weird feeling about Gabi and Marcello together (I’ve never felt the chemistry), but this book really reinforced that.

That said, I thought Gabi was a MUCH more interesting character than ever in this book. She’s always been physically strong and this total warrior queen, but this book threw curveballs at her that she wasn’t always strong enough to fight off. And that struggle made her so much more interesting. I really liked seeing her try to deal with it all. It made her a more conflicted, intriguing character.

The plot of this still includes a ton of action. We still have battles and fight scenes, which always rock. We still have constant action in one respect or another so the story keeps moving forward. I just didn’t enjoy it quite as much as before is all. Still a good book though.

Cascade (River of Time, #2)

Cascade (River of Time, #2)

First Lines: Mom freaked out when she saw us, of course.

Ok, so after reading the first book in this series, I immediately tried to get my hands on the second. I had to know what happened next. It’s not often I find a time travel series that I really enjoy (except Outlander) and I am here for this.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Even though sisters Gabi and Lia just returned to the twenty-first century from the dangers of the fourteenth century, Gabi needs to go back. She left her love, Marcello, behind. And the only way Gabi gets back is if she convinces Lia to go as well. When they return to the past, months have gone by and all of Siena wants to honor the She-Wolves who protected them against Florence. And their enemies will do anything to see them die. Even between battles, Gabi is more drawn to Marcello than ever before–just as Lia is to Luca. Life here isn’t easy, but the girls will discover things about themselves they didn’t in the present–the connection with their mom, courage, and understanding how important sacrifices can be.

I was not disappointed by this.

Admittedly, I still have issues with the romance between Gabi and Marcello. Again, I love both characters individually–I just don’t feel much of a spark between the two of them, although it’s better this time around than it was in the first book. And I adore the minor characters–Lia, Luca, Mom. All such strong characters in their own ways.

What actually draws me into these stories every. single. time. is the writing. I started this book thinking it was going a bit slow and that I just wasn’t sure it was going to be as good as the last one, but I was wrong. There is constant action in the story, constant conflict that gets your heart pounding and sitting on the edge of your seat. Then, when just when you get a moment to catch your breath, something else comes up and it starts over. I love it. It’s a sci-fi/fantasy action series with strong female leads.

And by “strong” I want to explain that it’s not necessarily physical strength. Sure, Gabi wields a sword and Lia has her bow, but it’s more than that. Gabi gets herself into a really bad scrape in this book and she cracks emotionally, but never breaks in ways she shouldn’t. Like, if she didn’t start crying through some of this, I would have been worried she was a psychopath. It’s the way she’s written and the way Lia is written that draws me in over and over. They’re so good and their sisterly bond so strong that I almost don’t even care about the romance.

I also want to give a shoutout to the first person limited POV in this story for sticking strongly to it. There are times Gabi is separated from certain parts of the action and the story never wavers from Gabi’s perspective. The lack of knowledge builds suspense and it’s so fantastic. So good.

I mentioned with the last book I didn’t understand why it won some Christian lit award because religion really wasn’t a part of the story. Ironically, I thought this book was far more religious and yet I don’t think it’s recognized as Christian lit at all. Granted, it still wasn’t super religious, but Gabi does buy into God and prayer more than she did previously. It shows up more often. She’s also fitting in more with the culture of 14th century Italy, so that’s why.

I loved this. I cannot wait to see what shenanigans they get into next.

Waterfall (River of Time, #1)

Waterfall (River of Time, #1)

First Lines: We paused on our hike, panting and wiping our upper lips as our guide–the old Italian farmer who owned this land–chopped down a small sapling, clearing the overgrown trail. “Ecco, vedi,” he said, pointing to the ground. See here.

This book initially caught my eye about five years ago. I don’t remember how I heard of it, but I can tell you it 100% I put it on my to-read list because of time travel and hotties. It sounded like a YA Italian version of Outlander.

Most American girls in Italy for summer vacation would be enjoying it. Seeing the sights, eating good food, etc. For Gabi and Lia, a summer in Italy isn’t exactly a vacation. They’ve spent most summers in Italy with their archaeologist parents, digging up forgotten sites and, well, being covered in dirt and living for months in outdated hotels isn’t their idea of fun anymore. They’re bored. But that all changes the day Gabi and Lia sneak into their mother’s latest find, an ancient tomb, and put their hands on handprints painted to the wall. Suddenly, the girls find themselves in 14th century Italy, in the midst of a fierce battle between knights of opposing forces. It seems their summer just got more interesting. And a lot more dangerous.

I love a good time travel story. My inner history nerd always wonders what I would do if I magically plopped down in one of these times. (Spoiler: I probably wouldn’t last a week, if we’re being realistic.)

This story caught my eye because it was traveling to a time and place I didn’t know much about: 14th century Italy. There are knights, battles, castles. What’s not to love? Although, to be fair, this book isn’t all that different from other time travel stories I’ve read. It shares a number of similarities to Outlander as well as Wake Unto Me, which is actually probably the closer match as it follows the “girl travels in time to find a hottie in a castle” trope. But still, it had a lot to recommend itself.

I did end up rather enjoying the story. It does have a lot of action and a lot of twists to the story. I liked seeing what trouble Gabi would get into with her 21st century ways (wearing PANTS? OMG girl.). Gabi is a strong heroine with an even stronger sense of what she needs to do: survive, and find her sister Lia, who has gotten separated from her. I liked seeing her adapt to her new surroundings and the fantastically funny commentary she had.

I adored the men in this story too. Everyone from the gallant Marcello to the charmingly flirty Luca, the men closest to Gabi have made chivalry an artform. It was swoony and cute and, yeah, cheesy, but that’s what made it so much fun. It was just a good time, reading this. However, I’ll also say that Gabi’s chemistry with her knight in shining armor was…a little lackluster. It was courtly and stuff, which I get, but it just felt a little cold. Or I’ve been reading too many romances and expect fireworks all the time. Admittedly, I’ve never been good with actually courtly love stories. (For example, I have a hard time understanding Mr. Darcy’s appeal in Pride and Prejudice just because I never see any emotion out of him.) So let’s be real, this is probably on me.

Now, just as I got started reading this, I realized it’s won some kind of Christian lit award. Which, you know, great for it, but I don’t really see it. Like, I kind of do. We’re in 14th century Italy, after all. Christianity is the norm and a way of life here. It shows up. There are crucifixes in bedrooms and prayers before they eat. I wouldn’t have expected anything different for the time period. But it’s not really part of the plot. Gabi makes an off-hand comment once about having found religion after saying her second prayer ever, but it sounded almost as sarcastic as it did serious. I don’t really see this as Christian lit at all. This is a sci-fi/fantasy novel through and through.

This was so much fun to read and I really can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel.

Wayfarer (Passenger, #2)

Wayfarer (Passenger, #2)

First Lines: Etta woke to the rumbling call of thunder, her body wrapped in ribbons of fire.

I read the first book in this duology a few months back and really enjoyed it. Not for any historical accuracy, but just for the fun of it. It was a fun, wild ride and I really wanted to see how things ended.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

All Etta had wanted, even just two months ago, was to make her violin debut. She didn’t count on being thrust into a dangerous world full of people trying to kill her. So when Etta awakes after having lost the most important object and the most important person in her life, she’s surprised to find that help comes in the form of the last person she expected to see–Julian Ironwood, the Ironwood heir who has been presumed dead. Meanwhile, Nicholas and Sophia are searching for the astrolabe and Etta with Ironwoods hot on their trail. They cross paths with an assassin-for-hire named Li Min. But as they travel on, Nicholas begins to fear that his one of his companions may have ulterior motives. Will time run out before Nicholas and Etta can right the Timeline?

This kind of wasn’t what I was expecting…and it kind of was in the ways I didn’t want.

Let me explain. So first of all, this does the very cliché thing that 2nd books do, which is separate the two leads to increase the drama. That was obvious from the book jacket. This is what I wasn’t looking forward to. It just feels so contrived, though I will admit that it was actually a feature of this plot and not some misunderstanding or something that kept them apart. So, you know, bonus points for that.

What I was not expecting but was pleasantly surprised by were the other characters who really stepped up. Like Sophia. She becomes kind of awesome? And the introduction of Henry was unexpected as well, but I’ll just let you figure that one out. Oh, and Julian. We can’t forget about him. The character arcs here were just…unexpectedly delightful, whether you liked the character or not.

What was interesting was that this really started to feel like two separate stories in one. I frequently found myself getting so sucked into one side of things that I forgot there was this whole other story going on at the same time. These chapters do take turns between Nicholas’s POV and Etta’s, but it isn’t an every-other-chapter kind of situation. It plays out a particular plot point, whether it takes 1 chapter or 5. And I actually kind of liked that. Yeah, sometimes I was impatient to go back to the other story, but this felt more thoughtfully planned out.

I kind of wish there was more of a conclusion, but I thought this was an interesting story. Just, as I said with the last book, try not to look too closely at how the time travel works because there are some issues I see, things that don’t add up too well.

Passenger (Passenger, #1)

Passenger (Passenger, #1)

First Lines: The amazing thing was, each time she looked at them, Etta still saw something new–something she hadn’t noticed before.

You know, I have like every Alexandra Bracken series on my to-read list, and yet I’ve never read any of her books. It’s actually weird, I think, that I did that? Because clearly she writes things that sound interesting and yet I’d never taken the time? I’m working on remedying that. Obviously. Since I read this.

Etta is a violin prodigy with her entire world about to open to her…until one night she loses everything. Literally pushed into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with her own agenda, Etta quickly realizes she’s traveled not just miles but years from home. Nicholas is content to be sailing the sea–and avoiding the influential Ironwood family in the colonies, a family that kept him as a slave for a time. But an unusual passenger on his ship makes him wonder if he’s actually escaped the past and the Ironwoods. Because the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, and they believe Etta is the only one who can find it. To protect her, Nicholas has to do what the Ironwoods ask and bring the object back–whether Etta wants to or not. Journeying across time and continents, Etta begins putting together clues she didn’t know she knew. But as Etta and Nicholas get closer to the truth, the more forces will try to keep them apart–forever.

Good news is that I did enjoy this. I thought the time travel was fun, the characters were interesting, and the action/danger was more than enough to keep me reading.

Let’s start with the characters. Etta starts the story as a violin virtuoso (I would say prodigy like the description, but I must have a different definition of “prodigy” because that doesn’t seem to fit for me) about to perform in a big concert at the Met. She’s nervous and unsure of herself, but that’s probably the last time I would describe her that way. Once she’s forced to time travel, she becomes a very brave, very commanding person. She knows what she needs to do and she’ll jump headfirst into danger if she needs to.

And Nicholas is the voice of reason…most of the time. As a person of mixed race in 1776, his options in life are extremely limited. However, he’s made a name for himself in the sailing world and just wants to be left alone by the Ironwood family. Once he meets Etta, he tries to become her protector, especially since he knows exactly what danger she’s diving headfirst into. The dynamic between Nicholas and Etta was just incredible. Factor in how they’re both products of their time and their disagreements take on a new angle. It’s fun.

It was definitely interesting seeing where they jumped around to in time. Some places were obvious, perhaps, as places time travel stories seem to go to, but I was happy to see that it did also go off the beaten path. (We go to some unexpected places in Asia!) And trying to blend in in each place was interesting to see as well.

My only advice if you’re planning on reading this is to not look too closely at the sci fi portions of the story. Personally, I don’t think some of them add up. If I focus on those things, then I start forgetting just how much I enjoyed this journey. And enjoy it I did. So many elements of this were just so fun or entertaining that I really can’t wait to read the next book. 

The 48

Image result for the 48 donna hosieOk, y’all, this review is going to be formatted a little different than usual for one very good reason:

This is a DNF.  At 17%.

I got this book from Edelweiss as an ARC (it’s set to come out in October).  It looked interesting.  Time traveling assassins Charlie and Alex go back in time to King Henry VIII’s Tudor court to prevent Henry from marrying Jane Seymour.  It gets more complicated when their friend and fellow assassin Alice shows up unexpectedly.  Told in alternating perspectives between Charlie, Alex, and Queen Anne’s ladies’ maid Lady Margaret, we get to see both sides of history: the one who lived it and the two who want to change it.

Sounds exciting, right?

And at the beginning, it was fine. We start in Tudor England following Lady Margaret, Queen Anne Boleyn’s lady in waiting. And that was interesting, because Anne was about to start her fall from grace. It’s a very dramatic moment in history and it was lending itself well to that.  Everyone more or less knew Anne’s number would soon be up.

Then the time travel/The 48 stuff really started coming in and I lost it. I lost the momentum of the story, I lost why I should care about these characters, and I love the motivation to keep going. It’s this whole secret society thing and I couldn’t quite get behind a group that appears to want to change history willy-nilly for personal gain of some kind (I didn’t quite get far enough to piece all of that together).

It just…ok, I’m used to time travel stories where the time travel is more of an accident, like Outlander.  I don’t read a whole lot of time travel stories to begin with, but the whole systematic secret society aspect of it made it feel clinical and brutal.  I seriously felt like they had no real motivation to be doing what they were doing.  I didn’t understand why these characters would risk their lives to change history when it seemed like all they were trying to do was keep Catholicism from rising again in England.  (And that was just in Charlie and Alex’s case!  Who knows what the others were doing.)  I got weirded out.

I simply wasn’t enjoying it. It felt like a chore to pick it up and then my mind started wandering when I did. It wasn’t worth it to continue.