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Nicole Hewitt

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Abducted: Escape from Kraile audiobook cover art

Had me and my kids hooked from the very beginning!

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-21-16

This was a delightful book that took me completely by surprise. For some reason I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did. My kids and I thoroughly enjoyed the story and were engaged right from the very start. Luke’s experiences in space are full of action, danger and mystery as he goes on a (sometimes crazy) quest to save his parents from a deadly race of aliens. I loved all of the fun references to alien conspiracy theories (yep, this book confirms that aliens helped build the pyramids. Who knew?), and it was truly interesting to see what the aliens thought about humans and human emotions. One small detail that didn’t make sense to me: the aliens seemed to be incredibly impressed by the fact that humans are willing to put themselves in danger for others, but the aliens themselves were doing that for Luke and his family. (I guess the argument could be made that they were doing that out of duty rather than sacrifice, but it didn’t seem completely that way.) I did enjoy how Simon and Leonidas seemed very logical at first but as Luke got to know them you totally saw their soft sides.

Narration: I’m hoping the audiobooks for the next two books in the series come out soon because we really enjoyed listening to these—my kids especially loved that the narrator gave the aliens interesting voices. They were bummed to hear that we might have to actually read the next two if we want to get to them soon. Braden Wright is an excellent narrator, though it took me a little while to get used to his deeper, more serious voice right after listening to Momotaro, where the full narration was in more of a kid’s voice. (Wright did a great job with Luke’s fourteen-year-old voice in the dialogue, but he didn’t sound kiddish for the whole narration—which was totally fine, just different.) And, like I mentioned before, Wright did a fantastic job with all of the different alien character voices.

I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for something fun to read or listen to with younger YA readers (or MG, though there is a bit of violence in parts—nothing too horrible). This one gets 4/5 Stars.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via Audiobook Boom! All opinions are my own.***

Lichgates audiobook cover art

Great start to the series!

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-17-16

I decided to buy this first book again and do a re-read before listening to the second book. I did still think that the pacing in some parts of this book were a little slow, but overall I loved it, and I thought that Kara Kovacich Stewart did a fantastic job bringing these characters to life.

Here's my original review (from my first reading of the book - I think all of this still holds true upon a second "read"):

When Kara finds and opens a mysterious book, she doesn't realize that she has just become the Vagabond - fated to bring peace to the strange land of Ourea (or die trying). She suddenly finds herself thrown into a war between Ourean races that has been brewing for centuries - and not everyone wants her to live long enough to bring peace. Many of those who do, see her as a pawn who is to be used in their game of politics and revenge. Ourea is a frightening place and Kara would not be able to survive on her own. Luckily, she has Braeden to help her. But Braeden has his own reasons for wanting to protect Kara - he needs the Grimoire to escape his ties to the savage race that he is Heir to and to escape the father who has embraced that savagery.

The negatives:

Slightly slow start.
While there was plenty of action, even at the beginning of the book, for some reason it took me a little while to engage completely with the story. Ironically, I think that this may have been because of Boyce's rich story-telling style (which is actually a positive listed below). While her lush descriptions paint vivid pictures of the world she has created, it sometimes made the book feel just a little bit slow, especially at the beginning. Once I really got into some of the mysteries of Ourea, though, I was definitely engrossed.

What I Loved:
Unique characters and creatures.
Ourea is filled with a tremendous array of interesting characters and creatures. Each race of the people of Ourea (called the yakona) is very different and unique - the frightening gray-skinned, smoke-producing Stelian; the web-footed, blue skinned Lossians; the winged, silver-skinned, beautiful Ayavelians; and the human-looking Hillsidians. Then there are the soul-stealing isen and the shape-shifting Muses, along with creatures like gryphons, giant two-headed wolves... I could go on and on. Ourea is an amazingly unique fantasy world!

Vivid Descriptions.
Boyce describes her characters and landscapes in vivid detail. Sights, smells, textures - they're all described. As you read, you can really imagine yourself in Ourea!
Witty dialogue. I loved the witty banter, especially between Kara and Braeden. Several lines made me laugh out loud. Here's a favorite passage that's both witty and insightful and gives you an idea of Kara's personality:
"Look, Mr. Tall, Dark, and Dangerous, I'm already in as deep as a stranger can go. I've met royalty--sorry, Bloods--and I was chased by an army. I saw dragons. There's a vicious isen thing trying to kill me. My dad--" She stopped short, her breath hitching.
"Basically, you don't scare me," she went on. "You've got a troubled past, well so do I. Most people do. We do things we're not proud of, things we wish we could take back, but what's done is done and all you can do is try to redeem yourself in the present. So, cut the crap. I'm just trying to help you out."

Kara.
Kara is a great, strong female character who doesn't let anyone tell her what to do or how to feel. Even though she has been thrown into an impossible situation that she knows almost nothing about, she doesn't panic (well, not much). That doesn't mean she's not terrified - she is! Kara has some pretty significant issues haunting her from her past that she has to work through throughout the book, but that just makes her all the more interesting!

Braeden.
Braeden is an intriguing and complex leading man. He has spent his life fighting against his Stelian nature, trying to find a way to escape the blood ties that control him. Braeden originally wants to use Kara for her power over the Grimoire, but he eventually realizes that his feelings for her are stronger than his desire to protect his own interests. The problem is that he doesn't know that he will ever be able to control his darker side - and this side of him just might put Kara in even greater danger! I ached for Braeden and I so hope he finds his way to redemption. Meanwhile, I'm just enjoying his journey! The romance between Kara and Braeden is slow to develop - there's no insta-love here - which makes it much more layered and realistic.

I highly recommend Lichgates to fantasy lovers. This book is highly imaginative and full of magic and excitement! I'm now kicking myself for not requesting to review all three books in the series, since I'm dying to know what happens to Kara and Braeden next! 4.5/5 stars.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Treason audiobook cover art

Even better than the first book!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-17-16

In this second book, Kara has come to terms with the fact that she's the Vagabond and she's decided to jump into her task of uniting the people of Ourea wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, not everyone in Ourea is on board. Most people simply want to use Kara, and the betrayals in this book just keep coming. To make things more complicated, she's falling in love with Braeden, and these feeling can be used against her. Even the original Vagabond isn't above threatening Braeden and he does everything he can to keep Kara and Braeden apart. The stakes are way higher in this second installment of the series, and both Kara and Braeden are put through some pretty horrible things. The pacing is fantastic in this book, and I often found myself wanting to listen just a little bit extra so that I could find out what was going to happen next. I loved the characters in the first book, but Braeden captured my heart even more in this second installment. And then there's Kara - I love that every time I thought there was going to be a cliché plot point or Kara was going to agree to something way out of character, Boyce surprised me. Kara is intelligent and strong-willed, but that doesn't mean she never makes a mistake - she falls prey to trusting people occasionally who she shouldn't and she gave into demands once or twice - but it all felt very within her character. Toward the end of the book, there's a major twist that I didn't see coming at all - it completely changes a LOT of things! Loved this book - 5/5 Stars.

NARRATION: I thought that Kara Kovacich Stewart did a fantastic job with the narration of these books. I especially loved her accents for many of the Oureans.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Porcelain Keys audiobook cover art

Beautiful and heartbreaking

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-29-16

This was a really beautiful story. I especially loved the first half of the book, when Thomas and Aria were first falling in love and Thomas was helping Aria to see her true potential and worth. The story dealt with both abuse and the pain of losing a loved one, and I completely connected to both Thomas’s and Aria’s stories – my heart ached for these characters. My only complaint was that the middle of the book was dragged out a little bit and there is a love triangle introduced that I could have done without. I think the pain of what happened between Thomas and Aria could have been enough conflict. Still, overall, I loved the story and I give it 4/5 Stars!

The narration: I thought that Heather Masters did a wonderful job with the emotion of this narration. She was a bit slower than some other narrators I’ve listened to, though. (I usually listen to books at 1.5x speed, but this one I usually listened to at 2x!)

***Disclosure: I received this audiobook from the author via YA Bound Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

The Guardians: The Guardians, Book 1 audiobook cover art

Solid, but I had a hard time with the narration

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-27-16

The Narration - I know I don't usually start out with the narration, but in this case, it was a big factor in how much I enjoyed the book. I thought this was a good story, but I had a very hard time with the narration. While I thought Henry McNulty's voice was pleasant enough, he said every line of narration in the exact same tone of voice - there was so little variation that it started to feel a bit like droning to me. He did vary up the dialogue, so that was good, but the non-dialogue bits were very hard for me to get through. Some of his accents also seemed a bit "off." Other reviewers didn't seem to have an issue with the narration, so maybe it's just me? I don't know, but this was definitely not my favorite style of narration.

The story itself was a solid paranormal fantasy. It followed some of the typical tropes, but Marion executed them well. I had a little bit of a hard time connecting to the main characters, though, and that made me less invested in the book as a whole. I honestly think that my frustrations with the narration might have had something to do with that, though. The ending was fantastic and makes me want to read the next book in the series - not sure if I'll go the audio route, though.

Overall, I think I have to go with 2.5 stars on this one. I didn't hate it by any means, but I just wasn't engaged (until the end).

***Disclosure: I received this book from the author via Audiobook Blast in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

Now and Again audiobook cover art

Great story, but it involved a pet peeve of mine

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-27-16

I really enjoyed this book, especially at first. At the beginning, I was enchanted by Em's somewhat snarky sense of humor and I empathized with her awkward pain when it came to seeing her Cole again - the boy she'd been in love with all through college. I have to confess, though, that as the book went on, I had less and less sympathy for Em. The more of the story of their past unfolded, the more I realized that this was one of those cases where the only real obstacle was Em's refusal to admit to her feelings and her inability to truly connect (one of my pet peeves). I started to get frustrated with her about midway through the book (maybe even a little further?). BUT, I will say that Em had reasons, and by the time I got to the end of the book I understood her fears and motivations a lot better.

On the other hand, I LOVED Cole - he's one of the absolute best book boyfriends of ever! He was sweet and caring and understanding, even when Em pushed him away. He never gave up on her, but he didn't push her either.

This was a really quick listen for me because I was really engaged in the story and just wanted to keep listening (again, especially the first half to three-quarters of the book). I liked how everything was wrapped up, but would have liked if it hadn't happened quite so quickly - things were resolved on pretty much the very last page of the book!

Even though this wasn't my favorite of Ellision's books, I now officially know that I love her writing, and I plan to read all of the rest of her books (this is the third I've read).

The narration - I loved the narration for this one. I thought that Piper Brown did a fantastic job capturing Em's tone and I just wanted to keep listening and listening!

Overall, I give this one 3/5 stars (bordering on 3.5 stars).

***Disclosure: I received this book from the author via Audiobook Blast in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

The Last City audiobook cover art

Intense and Exciting!

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-14-16

I’m a fan of zombie books, but it’s been a while since I’ve had my zombie fix. This book was the perfect solution to that problem. I especially loved that it had a unique angle on the genre – it wasn’t just life as usual and then the zombies hit. This was much more of a dystopia, with a controlling government willing to sacrifice its people and revolutionaries called The Underground who are fighting to regain any sense of liberty.

What Fed My Addiction:

Liza.
Right from the beginning, I liked Liza. First of all, since I was listening to this one, there was that British accent (I have to admit that I love British accents). Even though she was sent off to die and had sort of given up hope that she’d ever see a better life (or much of a life at all), she still fought hard to fight the good fight – especially for the sake of Mimi, a little girl who was on the island with her. She didn’t want Mimi to lose her innocence too soon. When Liza’s destiny completely changed (for reasons I won’t spoil), her journey became much more complicated, but she never lost that will to fight!

Tommy.
Tommy lived his life as a guinea pig for the Underground – a resistance force – and because of that, underwent painful procedures that turned him into a monster for the war – something like the Incredible Hulk. He was accompanied by other specials – one who could control minds (and who wasn’t Tommy’s favorite person), a 13-year-old vampire (who he protected at all costs), and a girl with healing abilities (a possible romantic interest). But Tommy was haunted – both by his monster and by the memory of the girl he regretted hurting. Tommy’s struggle was one of my favorite aspects of the book!

The action.
From the very start, the danger factor in this book was sky high. It started out with Liza on the island where cancer patients are sent to die, but things there weren’t pretty. She was attacked (an attempted rape) and then attacked again (this time by zombies). Tommy’s side of the story was filled with chaos as well, since he was sent off to train for war against the Authority. In this dystopian world, things were never easy!

The climax.
The climax of this book was a spectacular collision of events that ended up changing everything. I can’t wait to see where Keys heads with the story in the next book!

What Left Me Wanting More:

Separate stories.
The book was told from both Liza and Tommy’s POV’s and their stories were completely separate almost the entire way through the book. This isn’t usually my favorite style because inevitably there’s one portion of the story that I end up connecting to more and then I get tired of the other “side” of the story. In this case, that wasn’t a huge issue – I actually think listening to the book helped this a bit because, while I did connect to Tommy’s story a bit more, I wasn’t bored with Liza (okay, I did think there were a couple of points where things slowed down a bit on her side). Since I was listening to the book in spurts anyway (a half hour here and a half hour there), the disjointedness didn’t seem as noticeable. Still, I was eager to see how Liza and Tommy’s stories intertwined – and I definitely had to wait to see it!

The romances.
Both stories had a romance in them (one side more than the other), but I wasn’t completely invested in either. I didn’t dislike the romance element – I just wasn’t overwhelmingly excited about it either. Since there was A LOT of other things going on in this book, that was fine with me.

The Narration:

The narration for this book was really tough because there were SO many accents! Liza was British and Tommy was American, but then there were also characters with other accents – New York, Jamaican, Irish, Hispanic, maybe even more that I’m forgetting. I thought that Rhiannon Angell did a really fabulous job with it, (there were a couple of times that I thought I caught tiny inconsistencies – but, honestly, I would have had to go back and listen to those parts again to even be sure, and it wasn’t important enough to me to do that). I would definitely listen to more books with this narrator.

Overall, an intense and exciting first book in the series. (I have no idea how many books there will be. So far, Keys has just said that there will be a sequel.) I easily give this book 4/5 stars!

***Disclosure: I received this book from the author via Audiobook Blast! in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

Riot of Storm and Smoke audiobook cover art

This series is just getting better!

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-16-16

This second book in the series picks up right where ToSaS left off – with Bree and her friends fleeing the king. Bree is burdened with new secrets and finds that her power over water is more unreliable than ever, which makes her escape far more difficult than she had anticipated!

What Fed My Addiction:

No second book syndrome.
I felt like this second book was easily as strong as the first, possibly even slightly stronger, since we’d gotten all of those fantasy tropes out of the way. Even though much of the second installment was spent running , it never got dull – there was plenty of conflict and action along the way!

Caden’s POV.
I loved that we got to see the world through Caden’s eyes in this one! Understanding his conflicted feelings over his father made me care for him even more deeply than I had in the first book. And, even though Caden and Bree were apart for much of the book, I never felt like the story was disconnected in any way. Ellision did a wonderful job of weaving it all together.

New characters.
There were a few new characters introduced in this book, and I was a fan of them all. I love that Ellision gives her secondary characters depth and weight in the story.
Bree’s struggle with her powers. This was a theme in this second book – Bree struggling to understand and control the element that has claimed her. I loved that her understanding of her powers was sort of wrapped up in her struggle to trust other people and the ghosts of her past that haunt her. She’s new to Elemental powers, but she has trouble confiding in the people who could help her because she feels like she needs to hide things from them – both because she doesn’t want to admit her shortcomings and because she fears some of the answers she might get.

What Left Me Wanting More:

Secrets and lies.
This book had pretty much everything I loved about the first book, so there wasn’t a whole lot that I didn’t like. Bree’s inability to admit her lack of powers or to confide in anyone about the fact that she was actually the princess (or talk about certain other issues which I won’t mention because they’d be spoilery) did go on a bit too long for my taste, but considering that conflict based on characters not talking to each other is a pet peeve of mine, it actually didn’t bother me nearly as much as it normally would have. (This was probably helped by the fact that there were plenty of other conflicts to keep me distracted!)

So, overall, book two in this series definitely lives up to the high standard that Ellision set in the first book. I’m eager to see how she finishes this trilogy off!

The Narration:

It took me just a little bit to get used to a new narrator for this second book, but Grace Glass’s voice was similar enough to Misty Daugherty’s that I might not have even noticed the difference if I hadn’t listened to them back-to-back. I think that Glass did a fantastic job delineating the voices. Since the book was told in both Caden’s and Bree’s POV’s and there were some characters with an accent (a Russian sounding accent), Glass had more to do than the narrator of the first book. Glass also managed to capture Bree’s spirit well – and matched Daugherty’s general narration style, which I appreciated.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the author via Audiobook Blast! in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

Threats of Sky and Sea audiobook cover art

Quintessential YA Fantasy

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-16-16

Threats of Sky and Sea is a sweeping fantasy set in a kingdom at war – where the king employs Elementals to do his bidding and take down kingdoms. Bree is just a simple girl living a simple life who gets caught in the crossfire – and her life becomes more complicated than she ever would have imagined.

What Fed My Addiction:

The writing.
Ellision is a fantastic writer. There were so many little turns of phrase that caught my attention. I’m not the type of reviewer who typically makes note of many quotes (and listening to this book on audio would have made this even more difficult – I would’ve had to pull over to write them down half the time!), but if I were reading this on my Kindle, I would have been highlighting a lot!

Bree.
Bree is a strong heroine. The type who knows who she is and refuses to change for anyone – even when everyone around her is trying to mold her into someone new.
Strong family bonds. Bree absolutely refuses to give up on her da, even when she discovers that he’s been lying to her her entire life (this happens pretty early on in the book, so it’s not really a spoiler). I love that, even though she was rightfully frustrated about her situation, she never actually doubts her father – she never turns into a petulant child who lashes out because of his transgressions. Her faith in him and her love for him are unwavering.

The romance.
A slow-forming romance that had me swooning? Yes, please!

What Left Me Wanting More:

Slightly Predictable.
I had figured out most of the twists in the book before they were actually revealed (but I I hadn’t figured out the exact circumstances for the main twist, so I still really enjoyed the reveal). The fact that the book followed typical YA fantasy tropes didn’t help that any. If you’re the type of reader who’s gotten tired of the typical tropes, you might get frustrated with this one – I still enjoy the book as long as they’re done well, and they were in this case.

If you’re a fan of YA fantasy, then you need to pick this series up! It has everything that you could want in the genre – complex characters, fantastical magic, dangerous plotting, and exciting conflicts!

The Narration:
I really enjoyed the narration of this book. I thought that Misty Daugherty did a great job with it and gave it an emotionally compelling reading. Her voice was light and pleasant, but still had just the right amount of snark for Bree!

I give this book 4/5 stars.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the author via Audiobook Blast! in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

1 of 1 people found this review helpful