Review: Born of Deception – Teri Brown

This is a review for the second book in the Born of Illusion series. So if you haven’t read the first, you might be spoiled. I suggest reading the first book and then coming back. đź‘Ť

Born of Deception Teri Brown

Title: Born of Deception
Author: Teri Brown
Series: Born of Illusion #2
Publisher: Balzer & Brown
Publication Date: June 10, 2014
Source/Format: Library / Hardcover, 326 pages
Opening Sentence: “A circle of children surround me, their bright faces turned upward, as if eagerly awaiting the cascading lights of a fireworks show.”
Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon

Budding illusionist Anna Van Housen is on top of the world: after scoring a spot on a prestigious European vaudeville tour, she has moved to London to chase her dream and to join an underground society for people like her with psychic abilities. Along with her handsome beau, Cole Archer, Anna is prepared to take the city by storm.

But when Anna arrives in London, she finds the group in turmoil. Sensitives are disappearing and, without a suspect, the group’s members are turning on one another. Could the kidnapper be someone within the society itself—or has the nefarious Dr. Boyle followed them to London?

As Cole and Anna begin to unravel the case and secrets about the society are revealed, they find themselves at odds, their plans for romance in London having vanished. Her life in danger and her relationship fizzling, can Anna find a way to track down the killer before he makes her his next victim—or will she have to pay the ultimate price for her powers?

Set in Jazz-Age London, this alluring sequel to Born of Illusion comes alive with sparkling romance, deadly intrigue, and daring magic.

I adored Born of Illusion when I first read it. It was given a five star rating and I basically had nothing bad to say about it. I went into Born of Deception expecting to love this installment just as much as the first, or maybe even more. Unfortunately, I loved it less.

I somewhat feel like Born of Deception was a completely different story. I know the main characters were the same and some of the plot carried over, but honestly, what happened to the core of the story? The Sensitives were still there, the romance between Anna and Cole was still there, the magic was still there… but the continuity with Born of Illusion felt off. This story felt way less geared toward the Sensitives and more toward romance. EVERYTHING had something to do with Anna’s love life and it felt unnecessary.

I wanted to know more about Anna’s powers and all the other people’s powers. I wanted to see Anna doing magic and becoming even more independent and awesome. I wanted to see some real growth in the plot, but the whole thing was suffocated by a dumb twist in Anna’s love life. It honestly seemed like she thought about that more than the danger she was obviously in. Agh, so frustrating! The whole thing just failed to wow me.

I enjoyed reading the novel, don’t get me wrong. The aim of the story was absolutely frustrating, but I loved reading Brown’s writing. It draws you in and really makes you feel like you’re there. I just wish it had been paired with a good and balanced story.

But yeah, what happened to Anna?! She was so strong and independent in the first novel, but in this one she sometimes felt like a completely different person. I had an insanely rough time connecting with her or her life. And her romance was just, like, womp womp to me. I give no shits about Cole. Sorry. Also, was Anna always that superficial? I swear every chapter had her talking about someone’s beauty. WE GET IT!

Anna’s mother, on the other hand, won a little bit from me. I’m pretty sure I disliked her in the first book, but this one showed a different side to her that I could definitely get on board with. I would have liked to see more of her. Which brings me to her “father”. Where was Harry Houdini in this book?? I was really hoping to see more development in that plotline, but it was basically nonexistent. There were maybe one or two nods toward Houdini, but otherwise he had no part in the story. Sigh. He was kiiinda important to Anna in the first novel. How was he completely cut out in this one?

Moving on: is there going to be another novel in the series or is this the last one? The way this ended sorta makes it seem like there could be another one, but it also is wrapped enough that it could be the end. Not a very good end, mind you, considering how easily things were resolved—a topic I won’t bother touching on because this review would grow too much—but yeah. If there’s more: the end was fine. If this is the last book: the end could have been done with WAY MORE care. Someone let me know!

And breeeeathe!

This turned out to be a way more negative review than I had originally planned, but I feel so disappointed in the story. I adored Born of Illusion. I thought Born of Deception was going to win my heart as well, and when it didn’t I felt like I lost something. All in all, I could have written a kinder review. I liked the book enough to do that, but then the review wouldn’t have been completely honest. I definitely don’t regret reading Born of Deception because it was, after all, enjoyable, but I know it had more potential than this. That’s the biggest disappointment.

Rating: 3 of 5 stars


Reviews from the rest of the series:
Born of Illusion (#1)

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Review: All the Truth That’s In Me – Julie Berry

All the Truth That's In Me Julie Berry

Title: All the Truth That’s In Me
Author: Julie Berry
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publication Date: August 31, 2013
Source/Format: Library / Hardcover, 247 pages
Opening Sentence: “We came here by ship, you and I.”
Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon

Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by those who were once her friends and family.

Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember–even if he doesn’t know it–her childhood friend, Lucas.

But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever.

This startlingly original novel will shock and disturb you; it will fill you with Judith’s passion and longing; and its mysteries will keep you feverishly turning the pages until the very last.

I’m going to be completely honest. When I first heard of All the Truth That’s In Me I wasn’t too impressed and I wasn’t even sure I wanted to read the book at all, let alone come back and share what I thought of it. I also didn’t have a very good idea of what the book was about… and for some reason I thought the characters were Amish. (They aren’t. I don’t even know.)

For the most part All the Truth That’s In Me was unlike anything I was expecting from it. I was sort of put off by the mystery aspect that was seemingly pushed in the publicizing of the book—but it’s totally not one of those mass-market thriller mysteries that have 15 corny sequels with even cornier names. Is it a mystery? Yeah, kind of. Does it have way more going on? Definitely WAY more going on.

The biggest thing that struck me about this book was the characters… in a bittersweet way. I really liked a lot of the characters, but I also hated a lot of them. I feel like for every one character I liked there were at last two I despised. This is at no fault of the author’s, in fact it was done very much on purpose and it made me like the entire book more… but man. I forget that people used to be way more crazy and close-minded back in the day. Not to say they aren’t that way now, but on the average day I don’t see a lot of people at this level of bigotry. It’s terrifying to think life used to be this way—and it was normal. This book really threw me back and reminded me what humans are capable of. *shivers*

The story itself was rather interesting. Told in very short “chapters” that mirror something of a diary or even just the main character’s thoughts, the story is highly personal. Unfortunately it didn’t really affect me as much as I feel it should have and at the beginning I found myself getting somewhat bored. Still, I enjoyed reading Judith’s story and sympathized with her from beginning to end. I definitely liked reading from Judith’s point of view. She was headstrong and determined but also extremely vulnerable. It was nice getting to read about someone so well rounded.

Sure, the beginning was a little rocky, but overall the story was of quality and the writing was graceful and entertaining. For the most part I appreciated All the Truth That’s In Me and will probably find myself recommending it on more than one occasion.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Review: Born of Illusion – Teri Brown

Born of Illusion Teri Brown

Title: Born of Illusion
Author: Teri Brown
Series: Born of Illusion #1
Publisher: Balzer & Brown
Publication Date: June 11, 2013
Source/Format: Personal Library / Hardcover, 373 pages
Opening Sentence: “The hair on the back of my neck prickles even before I spot him rounding the corner ahead.”
Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon

Anna Van Housen has a secret.

A gifted illusionist, Anna assists her mother, the renowned medium Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage show and séances, easily navigating the underground world of magicians, mediums, and mentalists in 1920’s New York. As the illegitimate daughter of Harry Houdini—or so Marguerite claims—sleight of hand illusions have never been a challenge for Anna. The real trick is keeping her own gifts secret from her opportunistic mother. Because while Marguerite’s own powers may be a sham, Anna possesses a true ability to sense people’s feelings and foretell the future.

But as Anna’s powers intensify, she begins to experience frightening visions of her mother in peril, which leads her to explore the powers she’s tried so long to hide. And when a mysterious young man named Cole moves into the flat downstairs, introducing Anna to a secret society that studies people with gifts like hers, she is forced to confront her past and rethink everything she’s ever known. Is her mother truly in danger, or are Anna’s visions merely illusion? And could the great Houdini really be her father, or is it just another of Marguerite’s tricks?

Born of Illusion by Teri Brown has been very high on my TBR since I first heard about it. I don’t know why it took me so long to read it, especially because I had a copy at the ready. Alas. I read it and I LOVED it. And now I sort of have a book hangover. More accurately, I have a self-inflicted book hangover because I’m not ready to leave this book’s world.

I feel like Born of Illusion was written for me, because it has three things I just can’t say no to (and definitely can’t say no when they’re all added together).

  • 1920’s setting
  • ghosts/spiritualism/magic
  • HOUDINI! (lovelovelovelove)

I’m not going to lie. I didn’t need more than “Houdini” to make me want to read the book. I’m kind of in love with him and he provided a lot of my will to read it. But it was Anna’s life that kept me reading. I had so much fun reading Anna’s story. I wouldn’t say Born of Illusion has a particularly FUN plot, but it’s definitely fun to read. I’ve never read another book quite like this one. There was magic, Houdini, romance, betrayal, danger, Houdini…. Born of Illusion had so much to offer.

The story itself was actually very unexpected to me. I didn’t do more than skim the synopsis, so maybe that’s why, but I wasn’t expecting there to be so much danger. And not like “Oh, they’re going to steal our show!” (though there was that too), but I mean real danger. Anna had reason to fear for her life. I was so intrigued by how Brown weaved facts and history into the plot of this novel. Yes, it’s paranormal, but I never for one second believed that the events in this book COULDN’T have happened. It seemed so real.

I loved Anna’s character. She’s a very independent person not necessarily because her personality is like that, but because she has to be. I feel like Anna had so much to whine and cry about but she was very adult despite. She’s just one of those characters you want to root for. Her mother, however, was something of a… bitch. She was a bitch. Very self-centered and jealous, I wondered a lot of the time if I hated her or liked her. (I don’t like her, but I definitely understand her.) As for secondary characters… I really love, like, all of the characters in this novel. Some are good guys and some are bad, but they’re all dynamic and very interesting. I hope they continue as parts of the next installment.

I don’t know if I have one bad thing to say about Born of Illusion.  I absolutely adored it—so much so that it’s officially one of my favorite books. If you like paranormal or historical fiction I definitely recommend you read this one. Even if you’re not sure you’ll like it I urge you to give it a try. It’s so worth the time.

Rating: 5 of 5 stars


Reviews from the rest of the series:
Born of Deception (#2)

Review: Out of the Easy – Ruta Sepetys

out of the easy
Title: Out of the Easy
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel Books
Publication Date: February 12, 2013
Source/Format: Library / Hardcover, 346 pages
Opening Sentence: “My mother’s a prostitute.”
Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon

It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer.

She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.

Reading the synopsis for Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, it’s hard to really put a finger on what type of novel this is. It could be an issue book (a mother who’s a prostitute), a mystery novel (mysterious death in the Quarter), or it could be a coming-of-age story (main character who wants to move away and go to college). But which is it? All of the above and so much more.

Out of the Easy is a splendid and unique novel with so much going on. The plot is like nothing I’ve ever read before. Josie Moraine has a pretty tough life. As if having only one parent (who’s completely negligent) isn’t bad enough, Josie grew up before her time and now has to deal with the likes of perverted men, angry gangs, personal loss, and so much more. This novel had me twisted up in emotion the entire time I was reading it. I’m sort of wondering how I went so long without it in my life.

Josie is my kind of strong character. I feel like there’s a lot of wonderful but far-fetched “strength” going through books as of late. Josie’s character was completely believable.* She crumpled up and cried more than once. She was scared to death a lot of the time, and sometimes I questioned her (actions), but Josie was a fighter. With so much blackness in her life I wouldn’t have blamed her for giving up, but she never did. She always got up and kept going on. THAT’S why she’s strong and why I might have to make a list of “Favorite Characters” just for her.

Really, Out of the Easy has a bunch of wonderful, unique characters. Each character had their own personality and history and they were all generally fantastic. I even liked the characters I hated. They were domestic villains of the truest forms and even while I was wishing they would leave I was praising Ruta Sepetys for writing them so well.

At the end of the day I really loved Out of the Easy. I was iffy on it at first, but it proved itself as a well written, deep, and emotionally captivating novel. I’m so happy to have not passed this one up and definitely recommend it to everyone. You’ll get invested in it. I promise.

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars


*I say this with the mindset she’s in realistic fiction (which she is). I’m just saying I know the rules are changed when the world is different and I don’t want people getting mad at me with words about “reality” being different for all books. I know, I know.

Review: In the Shadow of Blackbirds – Cat Winters

in the shadow of blackbirds
Title: In the Shadow of Blackbirds
Author: Cat Winters
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Source/Format: Library / Hardcover, 387 pages
Opening Sentence: “I stepped inside the railroad car, and three dozen pairs of eyes peered my way.”
Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon

In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time.

“I was on a train in my own country, in a year the devil designed. 1918.” When I read this sentence–at the end of the first chapter of In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters—I didn’t think much of it. The novel had a strong start, but I couldn’t foresee what a rollercoaster ride it was going to be. Fear not! It’s the good kind of rollercoaster ride. The kind that has your stomach leaping toward your mouth every few moments and you, by the end, nearly hysterical with happiness that you didn’t die, because, let’s be honest… it almost happened. And you loved it. (That got really off topic, didn’t it? Sorry.)

Obviously there’s no real threat of death in reading a book, but at times I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest. In the Shadow of Blackbirds radiates strength. The story is strong, the characters are strong, even the title of the book is strong, though you’ll never realize it until you read the book. *wink wink

In the Shadow of Blackbirds takes place in 1918, during World War I and the breakout of the Spanish influenza. I was so impressed with how difficult it was to forget the sickness while reading this book. Like someone living in fear of the influenza, the reader is always aware of its presence. It is there breathing down your neck at all times, waiting. It was extremely easy to sympathize and/or empathize with the characters in the novel. I actually forgot a few times that there was no sickness in my present life and pulled away when my family breathed too close to me. I love it when I get so immersed in a book like that, and it happened extremely easily with this one.

As if a pandemic isn’t enough, many people died in the First World War as well, so there was a lot of ghost talk in real life and throughout In the Shadow of Blackbirds. Cat Winters’ writing was effortless to read at all times. It was so apparent how much time she put into researching the time period, the sickness, the war, et cetera. I didn’t feel the need to fact check because nothing seemed out of place to me. I was able to put my full trust into Winters’ work, which made the reading process easier. To be honest, I needed that, because the content of the story is a bit… tough to swallow.

Mary Shelley, the main character, went through some pretty horrific experiences throughout the time of the book. I loved Mary so much. She is, to me, the perfect “strong” character. She wasn’t always the dictionary definition of “strong”, but she kept trucking on and that’s what stood out to me. Given the situation she was in she had the perfect amount of confusion/hesitation and certainty. I think I could read about Mary Shelley forever.

As you can see, I adored In the Shadow of Blackbirds. I found it on Goodreads sort of by accident and thought it sounded interesting. I never thought I would love it so much. In fact, I think it might be up there in “favorites” territory (even though I don’t really do “favorites”). I definitely recommend it to anyone. It’s creepy and weird and wonderful and sad. It’s so good and I hope everyone else loves it too.

Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: Kaleidoscope Eyes – Jen Bryant

kaleidoscope eyes
Title: Kaleidoscope Eyes
Author: Jen Bryant
Publication Date: May 12, 2009
Opening Sentence: “I wake up every morning to Janis Joplin.”
Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon

When Lyza helps her dad clean out her late grandfather’s house, a mysterious surprise brightens the sad task. In Gramps’s dusty attic, Lyza discovers three maps, carefully folded and stacked, bound by a single rubber band. On top, an envelope says “For Lyza ONLY.” What could this possibly be? It takes the help of her two best friends, Malcolm and Carolann, to figure out that the maps reveal three possible spots in their own New Jersey town where Captain Kidd (the Captain Kidd, seventeenth-century pirate) may have buried a treasure. Can three thirteen-year-olds actually conduct a secret treasure hunt? And what will they find?

In a tale inspired by a true story of buried treasure, Jen Bryant weaves an emotional and suspenseful novel in poems, all set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War during a pivotal year in U.S. history.

Once upon a time I tried to write a review for Kaleidoscope Eyes and failed. Then I tried again… and again… and again….

I loved Kaleidoscope Eyes so much, but for some reason I’ve been at a loss for words to say about it, so please excuse this sure-to-be short review. The length of it doesn’t reflect on the book at all.

The title of this book doesn’t give much away about the subject matter of the story, so I was excited to find out it’s about pirate treasure AND it’s set in 1968. (Woo, historical fiction! Many adults are probably crying right now because the sixties are technically “historical”.) The story itself was so great. It could have become too childish in regard to pirate treasure or too heavy in regard to the tough time period, but Jen Bryant balanced everything out and made the story wonderful to read. It was never forgotten that there was a war going on or there was struggle with racism, but it didn’t overpower the story and that really appealed to me. This is a novel in verse, so there were times I wished something had been explained more fully, but there was never anything in the story that seemed unclear or unfinished.

All in all this was such a fabulous random pick and I’m so glad to have read it. Every single scene and character was amazing and unique and really helped thrust the plot forward. I would recommend this book to just about anyone, especially considering it’s a quick read.

Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: The Diviners – Libba Bray

the diviners
Title: The Diviners
Author: Libba Bray
Series: The Diviners #1
Published: September 18, 2012
Opening Sentence: “In a town house at a fashionable address on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, every lamp blazes.”
Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets.The only catch is that she has to live with her Uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Willis called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened….

I don’t know that I’ve ever come across a book like The Diviners before. It’s a mix of paranormal, romance, and mystery with all sorts of historical, occult, and religious aspects. Hearing that, it doesn’t seem like the book would be good at all, but everything works together so well and makes an extremely interesting and worthwhile read.

The main character, Evie, was so wonderful to follow around. In a book with a bunch of lovable characters it’s hard to single just one out, but if I had to it would be Evie. She’s fresh, fun, and extremely deep and so easy to like. Evie’s growth throughout the book is difficult not to notice. She went from a party-loving teenager who saw moving to New York as a “coming out”, to an almost-adult dealing with events that the strongest of people would hesitate to face. And she did it with unwavering courage and bravery. In the midst of a fight, Evangeline O’Neill is definitely someone you want on your team.

Evie, of course, is just one of several main characters. We also see the novel through the eyes of Memphis–a boy from Harlem with a special power of his own–and other select people throughout the story. Sometimes the points-of-view are a little sporadic and, if you’re not paying attention, confusing, but the story never suffered because of it. Every point-of-view was relevant and important to the plot.

Libba Bray has written a very thorough, engaging, and historically accurate (based in 1926, whoop whoop!) novel that will keep you reading until the very end. Admittedly it did take me nearly a month to get through the book, but I can’t blame the reading time on Bray’s writing at all. I loved everything about this novel and I’m very anxiously awaiting the arrival of the second book in the series. I definitely, definitely recommend you give The Diviners a try. You won’t regret it.

Boop-boop-a-deet-deet-doh-doh-da!

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars