Review: Born of Illusion

Born of Illusion (Born of Illusion #1) by Teri Brown
Release Date ~ June 11, 2013
Balzer + Bray ~ HarperCollins
ISBN13: 9780062187543
ARC received from HarperCollins Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Anna Van Housen helps her medium mother Margeurite do stage shows and seances in 1920s New York. Possibly Houdini's daughter, she can sense feelings and see the future. Frightening visions show her mother in peril. New downstairs neighbor Cole introduces her to a society that studies people with gifts like hers. Sorting truth from illusion yields her destiny.

I had SO much fun reading Born of Illusion, and I loved the little details which make this book stand out from the crowd of newly-released YA. Between a super cool setting, bizarre character dynamics, and a little bit of real-life magic thrown in, this book has a lot going for it. Also, I think the cover is very fitting for the book and really stands out to me because of how well it was designed even if it isn't the most unique book cover I've seen.

  1. An intriguing New York in the 1920's setting:

    This was probably my favourite aspect of the book: I adored this setting. You get jazz era prohibition, and we're just past the turn of the century when all sorts of ideas and things are all shiny and new (which we especially get to see regarding technology). And Teri Brown gives it enough attention, by including (brief) descriptions of clothing, scenes, and even the lifestyle in general.
  2. Contemplative exploration of various relationships:

    Born of Illusion was heavily character-driven to me, best evidenced through the various relationships and character dynamics found in this book. Anna's relationship with her mother was the most intriguing to me, because it isn't your typical mother-daughter relationship but it's also very present in the plot and one of the main motivations for Anna's decision-making. Anna also manages to make a number of new friends, all of whom are vastly different from Anna but it's touching to see how friendships can come about in unexpected ways.
  3. Magic that's more than an illusion:

    I loved that there was this struggle for Anna between pretending that the tricks and illusions she does with her mother are real for their customers, while at the same time hiding her genuine "magical" abilities from those around her. It just made for such an interesting dichotomy between these two types of magic, and made the story more believable for me as a reader.
It took me some time to warm up to most of the secondary characters, because they felt very one-dimensional to me at first. This was definitely the type of book that takes a little bit longer to solidify its development, but once it did I was remarkably impressed with how thoughtful the plot was in Born of Illusion. I'm really looking forward to the sequel, Born of Deception, especially after hearing that it includes Rasputin as well! (Update: Teri Brown clarified why this rumour is spreading, and how it isn't true here.)


Top Ten Tuesday {1}: Authors Who Deserve More Recognition

I've been meaning to participate in Top Ten Tuesday for a while now, just because I LOVE reading the lists that other bloggers share! And I finally managed to put together my list for this week, on authors I believe deserve more recognition than they get. 

I tried to add a bit of variety here, but you can tell where my tastes really lie. :) 
And for the record, it was REALLY hard to narrow this down to only ten! I feel like there are a lot of authors that deserve more recognition (frankly, I think that's all authors in general. Movie stars and rock stars are overrated). But I did my best!

Meme image from The Broke and The Bookish, host of Top Ten Tuesday

  1. Maureen Fergus ~

    I love Maureen Fergus' newest book, the YA fantasy The Gypsy King. It's the start of a new trilogy and I LOVE the sense of humour she has and how well it comes across in her writing. I had the pleasure of meeting her at a Penguin Canada event a couple months back, and I think Canadian authors need more recognition in general. So if you're a fantasy fan, or are curious about reading some fantasy on the lighter side, I'd highly recommend you give Maureen's book a try!
  2. Alex Lidell ~

    Clearly, I really like fantasy since Alex is the second fantasy writer on my list. Alex's debut The Cadet of Tildor came out this year, and it was exactly the kind of YA fantasy I grew up on. I compared it to Tamora Pierce's Tortall books and I stand by that comparison. Her writing has a strong face and she captures Renee's struggles as a new cadet so well. As well, Alex created a fascinating world which is crucial for my interest in a fantasy novel.
  3. Rachel Hartman ~

    Rachel's another Canadian writer whose debut fantasy came out last year, Seraphina. Rachel's writing really stood out to me, as did the story of Seraphina, because there was nothing predictable or common about it. She has a very creative spin on dragon mythology, blends it with a music theme, and adds in one of the most surprising mysteries I've ever read in YA.
  4. Ari Marmell ~

    I stumbled upon Ari's first YA series and decided to give it a shot on a whim - and I'm SO thankful that I did, because Widdershins is one of my favourite book series EVER. The world-building is fascinating, because it's a much more modern fantasy world than I'm used to reading. And I really love reading Ari's books because he writes horror so well - this is one of the few books I've read where the way he describes some scenes and creatures really gets inside my head, and honestly creeps me out. And I have to emphasize that I don't really get scared by monsters that much. Or even scary scenes in books.
  5. Brigid Kemmerer ~

    I read Brigid's debut Storm hoping that it wouldn't be yet another predictable paranormal book and I was pleasantly surprised by how much it stood out from other paranormal YA books I had read. Not only does Brigid's story feature male perspectives (which I think is cool), but she makes sure to include very important and relevant contemporary (REAL) problems as well. That way the reader is constantly grounded in her story, even if some of the paranormal events are less plausible. And she continues to amaze me with each book of hers that I read, as the stories switch narrators and she keeps the voices different from one another.
  6. M.R. Merrick ~

    Matt is another wonderful Canadian author who managed to impress me with his first book, Exiled. What makes him stand out? Matt's one of my favourite self-published authors. In my opinion, he's right up there with the traditionally published authors I read. His books are exciting and action-packed, and he writes from the male perspective in the paranormal YA genre where we don't actually get to hear too much from the guy's point of view.
  7. Victoria Schwab ~

    I read Victoria's debut The Near Witch when I first started blogging... and I told myself right then and there that I'd read anything she wrote after that. Her writing in that debut created this ethereal atmosphere, that completely swept me away in the story. Her style of writing is much more than merely creative - it's persuasive. And I don't think we realize how important that is for a fiction writer, because it makes an unbelievable story believable for me. Then I read The Archived and I was thrilled with the creativity oozing from its pages. I know Victoria's growing in popularity now, but I feel like every YA reader should be introduced to her books.
  8. A.C. Gaughen ~

    A.C.'s Scarlet is a new favourite of mine, not only because she put a fresh spin on one of my favourite stories (Robin Hood), but because her style of writing was perfect for this story. I'm always surprised that more people haven't read Scarlet, when retellings seem to be so popular right now! This is one of my favourite retellings. Scarlet's voice is unique, but perfectly suited to the time and her circumstnaces. The romance is so swoon-worthy, and I thought the plot reveals and twists were very cool!
  9. Lia Habel ~

    Anyone who can make a zombie attractive and win me over clearly has the mark of a good writer, in my book. Dearly, Departed was completely unlike anything I have ever read, with its steampunk, zombie apocalypse type world, all set in the future. It's heartbreaking and romantic in a way I never imagined I would read. (And clever. Did I mention that? I loved the witty writing.)
  10. Heather Dixon ~

    I read Entwined before I actually started blogging, and loved it. I'm really surprised this book isn't talked about more, because it's one of the best fairy tale retellings out there, easily. Entwined is beautifully written, and plenty of depth for its readers to appreciate. It actually felt like a more modern kingdom, and the royal family had an interesting set of problems to work through. PLUS I found the Keeper to be extremely intriguing. Yet very creepy, in his own way. But the relationship between the sisters really moved the story forward and made me love it. 


Review: The Gypsy King

The Gypsy King (The Gypsy King #1) by Maureen Fergus
Release Date ~ January 22, 2013
RazOrbill ~ Penguin Canada
ISBN13: 9780143183150
ARC received from Penguin Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
A runaway slave with a shadowy past, sixteen-year-old Persephone has spent four long years toiling beneath the leering gaze of her despised owner and dreaming of a life where she is free to shape her own destiny. Then, one night, a chance encounter with a handsome chicken thief named Azriel changes her life forever.
Sold to him for a small bag of gold coins, Persephone soon discovers what she already suspected: namely, that Azriel is not what he seems. And when she realizes that he believes Persephone has a special destiny—she is determined to escape him and his impossibly broad shoulders.
But things are no longer as simple as they once were. Torn between her longing for freedom and her undeniable feelings for the handsome thief with the fast hands and the slow smile, Persephone faces the hardest choice she will ever have to make. And no one least of all her—could have imagined the shocking truth her decision will reveal.

You know what this book is? This book is a good old-fashioned adventure story in all its glory. Fans of Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore will love The Gypsy King! (I say that as a fan of both of those authors.) I want there to be high stakes, sinister villainy, swoon-worthy romance, tongue-in-cheek humour, and a pinch of magic added in my books. Check and mate to The Gypsy King for having it all for me. :)

So it's pretty clear that The Gypsy King is a great new read for seasoned fans of fantasy books, but for those of you who aren't quite as well-acquainted or are a little iffy when it comes to this genre I think this is a book that you should give a chance. It's a little bit lighter on the fantasy, and the writing and story is strong enough to hold your interest. Trust me on this one!

  1. Wit & excitement from the first page:

    The first chapter of The Gypsy King pretty much sets the tone and gives you a glimpse of what the rest of the book will be like - Persephone perpetually finds herself in trouble of one kind or another, and is never willing to back down. And once in a while, that actually works out VERY well for her. I love a book that instantly hooks me, and the first chapter did just that and only increased as the story moved along.
  2.  Characters (and an author) with a great sense of humour:

    I always enjoy reading books when the author writes in a few humorous scenes or includes a clever character to make those jokes. That's exactly why I loved reading the banter between Persephone and Azriel, and I have to say that their relationship kind of reminded me of George and Alana from The Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce (which, if you haven't read it, is a GOOD thing and you should make sure to read that series as well)!
  3. Strong character relationships:

    I loved the diversity in characters we're introduced to in The Gypsy King (including animals), and how they interacted with each another. Strong friendships are a huge plus for me when reading, and I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Persephone and Azriel and her furry friends because of this! 
As much fun as I had with this book, I could definitely tell that it wasn't as complex of a read as I normally look for and expect from fantasy books. There are a number of tricky situations that the characters conveniently walk away from, which makes The Gypsy King a bit more simplistic than other books. The positive aspect of this is that it means The Gypsy King could appeal to younger readers as well.

But The Gypsy King felt like the YA fantasy I used to read years ago, as a younger teen, and I loved that! As much as I appreciate darker fantasy books, fun ones like this book are so enjoyable and Maureen has such a fantastic sense of humour that really comes across well in her writing. And there are some darker aspects to it, that I think are going to be more important in the next books of this series. The Gypsy King is a new favourite of mine and exactly what I've been missing in YA lately.

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