I must admit, I've never read a book by Mary E. Pearson. So when Kristen practically forced her copy on me (hehe), I was all:
And then I got to chapter 2, and it was on.
Not only is Lia fierce and determined not to be pushed into a marriage she does not desire, but her friend and lady's maid is just as awesome.
I don't know if Pearson always writes such strong-willed female characters, but I am impressed. Not just with those characters, though...with everything.
The setting. The writing. The transitions between points of view. And there were several of them. All:
And as the story wore on, I found myself captivated, reading it anywhere and everywhere I could.
Then I found that I couldn't put the book down.
But when I got to page 300 or so:
I did a bit of this:
But then as I absorbed it all:
I can't say that the second half was lacking because my anticipation was still through the roof,
but it almost seemed like two separate stories after that point. Before: historical fantasy.
After: a quest-like fantasy, through the unyielding desert...
with the possibility of some magic.
I say possibility because, well, I haven't seen any true magic yet. But I sense it.
A love triangle that isn't
Log wrestling...but with ruggedly handsome men over a mud pit ;0)
All in all, this book was
And I think that it ended at the best possible moment, even if the wait for the next book is going to kill me. _________________________________
The Kiss of Deception is actually my first experience with a Mary E. Pearson book. I think the science-y medical and ethical issues in the plot kept me away from The Adoration of Jenna Fox initially, but having taken a glimpse at the synopsis again, I can't really say exactly why. I love a good, introspective amnesia story, so I'll have to give that series a try soon, especially considering how much I loved this fantasy story from the author. And her characters. Gawd, those characters!
Lia is a formidable heroine. She is fierce and determined and willing to do the unthinkable to escape a life she does not want, including running from an arranged marriage. I can definitely get behind a protagonist like that, especially as she continues to grow over the course of the novel. She also has good taste in friends. Lia's lady's maid and dearest friend sticks with her through thick and thin, and she just may be the Princess's saving grace when all is said and done.
The first half of this novel spent a good deal of time introducing us to the characters and it felt more like a historical fantasy novel, which is pretty much what I expected based on the cover and the summary for the book. However, I did not expect the turn the novel would take about halfway through the story. The setting and the story abruptly changed, and it became more of a quest. But the transition to this aspect of the story and the deception that led there is handled phenomenally by the author. Things got a bit chaotic there for a bit, but I loved every second of it. It was shocking, surprising, and I found much of it to be entirely unpredictable, much to my own delight. The writing was just fantastic, and there was no way I was going to be able to put the book down after that.
This novel is actually rather brilliant. There's mention of magic but little to be seen of it. There's a day of sporting events that culminates in a bout of log-wrestling, which is just all kinds of genius. There are gypsies and vagabonds and vagrants of all sorts. And there is a bit of a love triangle that I didn't find distracting in the least because of how the characters are written. It does get a tad messy toward the end with no resolution, but that's the least of our girl's worries at that point. And I honestly don't think you should worry about the "love triangle" either because it's mostly nonexistent. Mostly.
At the heart of the story, I think the issue is who do you trust when no one is supposed to know who you are but practically everyone does? And moreover, most of those people aren't overly concerned with your well-being. Of course, Lia is unaware for most of the book that her life is in any real danger, though she knows there are people searching for her after she ran away from her wedding. That's probably the biggest deception of the story: her perceived safety, especially when it comes to the two men who've worked their way into her heart. It's also one of my favorite aspects of the story: not knowing who is who and what their intentions are.
It's books like this and The Winner's Curse that have reaffirmed my fanaticism for fantasy stories. I've read some real duds lately, but I think I'm finally out of that rut, thank goodness, thanks to books like these. Granted, I'm now craving some sequels like never before, but I survived the waiting with The Girl of Fire and Thrones series, and I know I'll survive this wait, too. (BTW, if you liked those books, you'll more than likely love this one, too. Just sayin'.) If you don't have this book on your TBR, you should remedy that immediately. It's full of adventure, romance, and betrayal, all of which obviously make it a captivating fantasy novel. I can't recommend it enough, and I'm actually already considering a re-read, if that tells you anything about my adoration for this book.
Be sure to check out my stop on the blog tour on July 7th!
GIF it to me straight: Just absolutely phenomenal!(less)
And then when I realized I have to wait FOREVER for the next book:
"Everyone thinks I'm dead."
And so begins the sequel to one of the best angel books I've ever read. I knew World After would be good. I mean, how could the follow-up to Angelfall be anything but good? This sequel has been a long time coming, though some have been waiting longer than others. (I only discovered Angelfall last year, but it quickly became a favorite.) To put all of your dear minds at rest, I'll just say that this book was well worth the wait.
"My dad once told me life would get complicated when I grew up. I'm guessing this isn't what he meant. My mom, on the other hand, agreed with him, and I'm guessing this kind of thing is exactly what she meant."
I am ridiculously happy that after everything Penryn Young has suffered, she came through it all with her snark intact. I probably flagged a hundred passages in my ARC, including those highlighting her quick wit, her sharp-tounged quips, and her banter with Raffe. But I also loved her inner monologues, where she pondered how best to escape an inescapable situation, how to protect her family, and what to make of her feelings for Raffe.
I voted Penryn to the top of my "favorite heroines ever" list the very first time I read Angelfall, but I've come to appreciate her character even more with this sequel. Not only is she a skilled fighter who would do anything and risk anything to keep her family safe, but she's also very smart and calculating, and she has a remarkable talent for keeping cool in situations that would find anyone else running for the hills with their tail between their legs. Penryn is the epitome of what I want in a protagonist because even though she is all these things, she is still just a girl, emotional and vulnerable and just trying to make it to the next day.
"I've mentioned that names have power, right? Do you realize that when she fights battles, she's going to have to announce herself to the opposing sword? She'll be forced to say something ridiculous like, 'I am Pooky Bear, from an ancient line of archangel swords.' Or, 'Bow down to me, Pooky Bear, who has only two other equals in all the worlds.'" He shakes his head. "How is she going to get any respect?"
Yes, the Sword of Light gets its own section in my review because it is that badass. This thing is sentient, can tell who's got a hold of it and what their intentions are, and it. Is. Badass. Okay, I said that already, but I just need to convey how awesome this sword is. And Penryn has to hide her.
The disguise Penryn comes up with is, well, degrading and demoralizing to the sword and anyone who knows exactly what it is. As is the name Penryn accidentally gives it. Those were some of my favorite parts in the story because not only did they show how connected to the sword Penryn already was, they also added some much-needed levity to an otherwise disheartening story.
"Something catches his eye and he walks to the window. A formation of angels flies past the moon. He leans toward the glass, almost pressing his face to it as he looks up at the angels. Every line of him tells me he longs to fly with them."
Raffe is, for better or worse, absent from a good chunk of the book. BUT, through the sentient power of that awesome, badass sword, we get glimpses of him in the past, sort of like his perspective through the sword's eyes. So, even though he's not there, he's still with us. I think it's because of this -- and her fear for her family -- that Penryn is able to continue, to keep going when it all seems pointless.
"Raffe looks over at the bloody knife in my hand. "If I still had any doubts that it was you, that would do it." He gestures toward my opponent rolling on the ground with his hands cradling his package."
When Raffe does resurface, he is every bit the Raffe we met before. He still wants his wings back, and now he's fighting with a rage that only comes from grief. He believed Penryn to be dead, and so he undertook his previous mission with single-minded intensity. Raffe can be hard and cruel and unforgiving, but he is not wholly unfeeling. In fact, I believe there's more emotion locked up in his angel heart than we're ready to see yet, which is why we've only been given glimpses so far.
"The candlelight flickers a soft glow along his jawline, along his lips. "I hated losing her." His voice is a low growl. "I hadn't realized just how attached I'd gotten." He reaches and moves a strand of wet hair out of my face. "How dangerously addictive she could be."
Le sigh. I'll tell you what's addictive: everything about Raffe. Between his quips about Penryn being a lowly human to the condescending way he berates her every action, you'd think he can't stand her. But quite to the contrary, this is a defense mechanism. Push her away so that he's not tempted to make the same mistakes his Watchers did. I get it. And it's kind of hot to watch the tension between these two, even knowing it won't amount to anything...yet. That's the thing...all those long looks and all of that banter, they're leading up to something big. I can feel it. Raffe can feel it. Even Penryn, who thinks Raffe has no feelings for her, feels it...she just doesn't quite grasp what it means yet. The sword helps her along that path, though. ;0)
"He sighs. "I miss the days when females could be ordered around and they'd have no choice." "Sure that wasn't just a myth? I'm pretty sure nobody ever ordered my mom around -- ever." "You're probably right. The unruliness of the women in your family must go back for generations. You're like a plague upon the land."
For those of you wondering, yes, Penryn's mother is just as crazy, dare I say EVEN crazier than she was in the first book. That woman gives new meaning to the word crazy. And yet, this series just would not be the same without her. Far from being a detriment to all of Penryn's well-laid plans, she actually makes things easier for Penryn...more often than not, anyway. Her antics tend to keep everyone occupied while Penryn does all the heavy lifting.
Paige is more feared than even their mother now, though, and so Penryn spends a good chunk of time battling her feelings toward her sister and also clashing with others, all in an effort to keep little Paige safe. But the changes inflicted on Paige in the first book have left her stronger and more capable, and it's time Penryn gave her the benefit of the doubt.
Everything else in this novel is just icing on the cake. Beliel, Obi, and Dee Dum are all present and accounted for, and causing the kind of trouble you'd expect from all of them. Penryn gets herself into a jam a time or two...or ten. Plans are being cemented for the evil angels to fully possess our world and everything it has to offer. And all the while I'm screaming at Raffe to give us some hope.
If you enjoyed Angelfall, I have no doubt you'll love this sequel equally as much. The writing, the characters, the world...everything you fell in love with in the first book is present and accounted for, only it plucks an even more emotional response from the reader this time around because you already know and love these characters. You've seen what they've survived, what they're willing to do for each other, and you just want them to be okay in the end. And you also know that it's going to be a long, long wait for the next book.
Bring on the Angelfall movie already!!!
*All quotes were taken from an ARC and are subject to change.
Super huge thanks to Skyscape/Amazon Children's Publishing for providing an ARC for review!.
This review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
You had me at gargoyles. ___________________________________________________
Actual Rating: 1/2
Gargoyles! That's the only word I needed to see in the s...moreYou had me at gargoyles. ___________________________________________________
Actual Rating: 1/2
Gargoyles! That's the only word I needed to see in the summary to know that I had to read this book. And then, I immediately started picturing this:
What? You didn't? :P In all seriousness, I'm usually a little squeamish about inter, um, species (?) relationships in books...I mean, how would that even work? Especially since the gargoyle in his true form lacks any reproductive organs. ;0)
Now that that's out there...I kind of loved this novel. It takes place right at the turn of the century, in beautiful Par-ee (that's Paris for those of you who don't speak French), and though I've never been to The City of Light myself, it wasn't hard to imagine myself there among les grotesques, basking in the beauty and the culture, while hoping that this missing brother turned up unharmed.
This book was everything I was hoping for and more. From the sometimes complicated relationship between siblings to the history of the gargoyles in Paris, I was utterly captivated. Throw in shape-shifting gargoyles, a secret alliance that keeps their existence hidden, and crazy underworld magic, and I am a very happy girl. I'm usually iffy when it comes to multiple third person perspectives because they tend to give away too many secrets while providing glimpses at each characters circumstances, but I rather enjoyed reading from Ingrid, Gabby, Luc, and yes, even Grayson's point-of-view. Though, Luc was probably my favorite because he was such a tortured soul...I have a soft spot for characters that cling to their guilt and the remorse that comes with it. Also, I loved his fierce protectiveness.
There is some swooning to be had from this book, as well...no chaste pecks on the cheek or hand, despite the time period. It nicely counteracts the ugliness of the situation but doesn't detract from the overall plot. But I feel I must warn you that a love triangle is afoot, if all indications prove to be true. I hope that doesn't come to fruition, though. It's the standard safe choice versus dangerous and brooding guy, and you can probably guess which one Ingrid is leaning toward. Her sister Gabby, on the other hand, has no such decision to make. If only she didn't love to hate her own swoon-worthy rogue. *sigh*
Above all else, I loved the lush use of descriptive imagery, from the way the author describes the physical attributes of the gargoyles to the way she depicts their shifts. The book cover immediately grabbed my attention. The mention of gargoyles held it. But the writing ensured that I will be back for more of this beautiful story and its tragic characters. And that I'm going to be pestering the husband for a trip to Paris for months to come.
Thanks to Random House for providing an ARC for review!
It's over, and I'm sad about that, but I'm...moreMy initial thoughts after finishing:
There were moments like this:
but ultimately, I feel like this:
It's over, and I'm sad about that, but I'm satisfied.
Fair warning: I'm probably going to ramble -- without spoilers -- in this review and it might get painfully awkward at times. My apologies in advance. But when one of your favorite series comes to an end, a fair amount of gushing and tears is expected...deserved, even. Yes, I'm sad to say goodbye to these characters, but I'm also happy to have met them.
The first thing that always strikes me when I pick up a Cynthia Hand novel is how genuine, how authentic they feel. Clara's voice is sincere and realistic...she sounds like a real teenager -- not the facade that television or society might think of as one, but an actual teenager. Clara is tenacious and snarky and completely relatable...aside from that whole angel-blood thing. The dialogue in these books is superbly done, as if I'm having a conversation with old friends, not just reading about it. And Clara's interactions with other characters are as unpretentious as always, even when she's dealing with a Black Wing. If there's one character I wish were real, it's Clara...I'd make her my best friend in a heartbeat. I've always assumed that Clara was a reflection of the author, so in that case, Can we be best friends, Cynthia? :0)
Something else to take note of in Hand's novels is the importance of family. Sure, Clara and Jeffrey's father wasn't around much during the formidable teenage years, but not by choice, and they had the most awesome, caring mother to make up for it. Maggie is the mother of all YA mothers, and she proves that there doesn't have to be a lack of parental figures in a young adult's life for them to find their share of trouble. Even Clara's wayward brother Jeffrey plays an important role in this series...he's not just a barely there side character. In fact, none of the secondary cast of characters is a bit player. They all have a significant role in how the bigger picture unfolds.
And what a big, beautiful picture this series has turned out to be! So many things I never saw coming! More visions. More danger. More everything. The pacing starts off nice and slow, with Clara embarking on her first year of college at Stanford, but for an angel-blood having visions of doom and gloom, life is never easy. Clara soon begins to wonder if she's been deluding herself into believing that she might be able to lead a normal life. But just as Clara has discovered with her purpose, things happen for a reason, whether you believe in fate or not. There were some truly pivotal moments in this final book, some that I can't yet comment upon, but this story is such a thing of beauty.
So much transpires in this novel, so many secrets and hidden truths uncovered, and yet, just as I was figuring things out for myself, so were the characters. I didn't have to wait 100 pages for them to catch on, which is really refreshing. Just goes to show how truly genuine the characters and story are...we're always on the same page.
Even with Clara's decision to distance herself from Tucker in order to protect him. I usually hate when a fictional guy does this to a girl. But in Clara's case, we already know the danger; we know it's not a gimmick. The Black Wings are a real threat. Doesn't make it hurt less, though. At the end of Hallowed, I couldn't have told you if Clara would end up with Tucker or Christian...and I couldn't have made that decision myself, if I'd been in her shoes. Both were equally good to her and for her, in their own ways. In Boundless, that isn't any less true. Both think that they are each meant to be with Clara. She's definitely got a difficult road and some tough choices ahead of her.
Lots of changes in Boundless. Lots of appearances from old friends. It's a lot to take in. But it's a satisfying ending to a breath-taking series that I won't soon forget. I can't imagine having never met these characters or sharing in their experiences as they came to terms with who and what they were. Full of humor, love, and possibility, this brilliant series is not to be missed. I can't wait to see what else Cynthia Hand has up her sleeve!
Also, don't forget to stop by The Starry-Eyed Revue on the 24th for a Q & A with the author -- in which she divulges what type of reader she is -- as part of the Boundless Blog Tour hosted by Mundie Moms!
Thanks to HarperTeen for providing an ARC for review!
I was excited to read this debut novel from Jeff Hirsch, especially after word got out that Suzanne Collins had blurbed it, saying, "The Eleventh Plag...moreI was excited to read this debut novel from Jeff Hirsch, especially after word got out that Suzanne Collins had blurbed it, saying, "The Eleventh Plague hits disturbingly close to home...An excellent, taut debut novel." Dystopians are all the rage right now, but I wanted to read something different, and this book provides just that.
First off, I enjoy a good male protagonist. After reading so many dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels, one begins to wonder, are young women the only ones who will stay strong in the face of adversity? That's obviously not going to be the case when things do take a turn for the worse, so it was nice to have a strong male lead in young Stephen Quinn.
The world the author has created is surreal but entirely plausible. The aftermath of a war between North America and China was a flu-like pandemic that eradicated a good percentage of North America's population and left the survivors with nothing. The country is a wasteland, there are those who would push the survivors into slavery, and no one is safe. But when Stephen is left on his own, he discovers a community that has some semblance of what the world was like before the war.
I think the thing that made this novel so realistic to me was that the kids were still kids, at least in Settler's Landing. The children in the village still attend school, still play baseball, still pull pranks on each other. I think when faced with such hardships, human beings will always fall back on what they're accustomed to. And since the adults in this novel were all young adults themselves when the plague hit, they want their children to have that same sense of normalcy, no matter how short-lived it may be.
Kudos to Mr. Hirsch. I don't like to envision that our great nation could end up torn asunder in the manner of his book, but I'm glad to think that if it does, we'll still all be red-blooded Americans at heart if it comes to that.
Wowsers! I mean, seriously, I didn't think it could get more awesome than The Archived, but holy wow, it SO DID! Lovedlovedloved it! A...moreALL! THE! STARS!
Wowsers! I mean, seriously, I didn't think it could get more awesome than The Archived, but holy wow, it SO DID! Lovedlovedloved it! And now I must devour every known work by Victoria Schwab. Every. Known. Work.
I re-read The Archived prior to picking up my prized galley of The Unbound because, well...because of the Wesley Ayers. Among other things. But, gawd, if I wasn't stoked for the sequel before (and I was, I really was), then to say that giving that bad boy another read did unspeakable things to my determination to read The Unbound stat and without interruption would be an understatement.
I don't know about you, but I love an unreliable narrator. And in this sequel, Mac becomes just such a narrator. After the horrific things she survived in The Archived, girl is allowed a little mental breakdown, but when she starts to see Owen Chris Clarke, to feel his presence not only in her dreams but in her waking hours, too, something's gotta give, and for a good while, it looked like it was going to be Mac's sanity. But it goes without saying that because of her questionable mental state, she might not be the most trustworthy source for information. It might help if she'd actually talk to someone (ahem, Wesley) about what's troubling her, but you know she's not going to make it easy on herself. Mac is tough as nails thanks to Da, and she will see this thing through, even if it kills her...but hopefully not.
And to add to the chaos of the situation is the fact that Victoria Schwab is boss as misdirection. I had suspicions. I had theories. I felt at times that I was being pushed in one direction so that I'd get all turned around, like I were in those awful tunnels myself. This sequel is all kinds of twisty, and I never knew who to trust, if anyone...well, except Wes. I just can't not trust that guy.
Speaking of, if you were disappointed by the lack of swoons in the first book when it came to Wes and Mac, your patience will pay off in this book. Though you should be warned, Mac's become a bit of a babe magnet as of late. But fret not fellow Wesley fans, this is nothing compared to that awkward triangle-type thingy that happened in The Archived. Which, if I'm being perfectly honest, wasn't really there either since that was a case of Mac and OCC using each other for different purposes and really involved no feelings. Anyway, back to my point: lots of Wesley Ayers page time and you will see a side of him you've never seen before. And he's all kinds of adorbs, but that's to be expected.
New friends, new foes, old friends, old foes...this sequel isn't lacking for entertaining characters. Roland is still a great counter to Mac's brash, impulsive personality. I enjoyed the almost fatherly role he played in the first book, but he's an even more prominent ally now, which is perfect because Mac needs him now more than ever. Even Mac's parents get more action in this sequel, though I can't say that it made me like them any better. I empathize with their situation, but losing one child does not net you permission to be absent for your remaining offspring. They seem to wake up a bit from their stupor and take notice, but it's all the wrong things they're seeing, and Mac can't say a word otherwise to dissuade them.
The interactions between Da and Mac still preface the chapters, but rather than being a present-tense memory where Mac is "speaking" to Da, this time around they actually feel like flashbacks, usually ones that precede some training aspect Mac is putting into action. They still contain those nuggets of wisdom, but Mac is seeing the Archive and its actions in a different light, and she's starting to question what Da really knew and understood about the people he was working for.
Which is partly what makes this sequel so unbelievably good: everything is in question and nothing can be taken for granted. Also: the resolution that should mollify all involved parties but likely will only result in inciting further rebellion...because it leaves room for more story, which I desperately need. I could wax poetic about all the things I love about The Unbound, but there's only one thing that I'm disappointed in. And that's the fact that I can't find any info on a third book! Grrr.
Check back for my stop on The Unbound Blog Tour later in January!
GIF it to me straight: No words could adequately describe how amazing this sequel was. Truly.
"I wish I could talk to him about what I've done, but I don't want him to know. I am alone in this, as I am alone in so much else. It is a crushing feeling with no corners and no edges. Endless and uncontainable. The Ghost seems to understand this feeling."
If you've seen my Review in a GIFfy feature, you know that the first book I ever reviewed in this fashion was Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine. (That review can be found here.) And with good reason, since so much of the story warrants such strong reactionary GIFs. But there's also a beautiful subtlety to Fine's storytelling method, full of vivid imagery but also those small things that niggle at your subconscious until you can no longer ignore them.
This book felt like so many things in one. First and foremost, it's a love story...and a doomed one at that. The setting and characters lend themselves to an Asian culture set somewhere in the somewhat recent past, but this isn't really a historical fiction novel. There are mechanical elements that are reminiscent of a steampunk novel, but that's not the focus of this story, either. One thing I do know, though, is that Of Metal and Wishes is a retelling of a timeless masterpiece, and it is beautifully told.
I loved how this story stayed with me, how even though I didn't know it was supposed to be a Phantom of the Opera retelling until I was already knee-deep in it, the hints of that familiar story were already ruminating in my brain, pushing me to read further, figure out who the Ghost was and what he wanted with Wen. And even though I did have my theories pan out, it made the story no less captivating to know what Wen was up against. In fact, knowing only urged me to plunge deeper into the story to discover the hows and whys of it all. And it all boils down to a little thing called social injustice.
A little background: Wen's family was of a nobler class before they fell on hard times. Wen's father is now the on-staff doctor at the local slaughterhouse. They live on-site in the medical quarters, and Wen's now of the age that she must consider her own occupational options. Basically, she's a sad, lonely young woman with little hope for a happier existence, and now that she's made an impulsive request of the Ghost, she's encompassed in guilt. Melik is a Noor, a group of downtrodden people who stand out as different because of their appearance but also because they are the cheap labor shipped in to work in the factory. They are not respected and they have little to no rights. As such, neither Wen nor Melik would normally have any contact with the other, save for the altercation in the cafeteria that sets off an avalanche of events that continually put them in each other's company. Their initial interactions are rocky at best, but before long, the pair begin to gradually trust one another...though not without reservations.
I usually try not to become overly infatuated with the romance in a story, instead hoping that the story can stand on its own without the love story to back it up, but for this novel, I've made an exception. Okay, maybe that's the wrong word because this story does hold its own without the romantic interludes between Wen and Melik. However, I really liked what was developing between those two, and I can't deny that it also pressed me to read on. The romance not only relies on the characters and their feelings but also on their part in society. Social injustices and peer opinions play a big role in Wen and Melik's potential relationship, and it's because of these things -- and the Ghost, can't forget him and his meddling -- that their relationship almost doesn't come to fruition. But it's everything leading up to their eventual coming together that makes their romance all the more precious: Melik defending Wen from his fellow Noor, Wen mending Melik during illness and injury, and on and on, despite their difference in class. And amidst everything they're already facing, they also have to confront their own prejudices against each other.
Just as Melik feels protective of Wen, Wen deems it necessary to stand up for the Noor, whom she grievously misjudged. She is compassionate toward the Noor when no one else is. But the Ghost, hiding in the shadows, is exacting his own brand of vengeance by way of granting wishes left for him on an altar by those in need...or those who have been wronged. He, too, feels the need to protect Wen, and it's through his wish granting and involvement in the daily lives of the factory workers that we begin to discover who or what he really is. As the mystery unravels, the Ghost's existence becomes less creepy and more sad with the realization of his existence.
And that pretty much sets the tone for the novel, which ends on a very bittersweet note. (Which is fine, since the author announced there will be a sequel.) This novel was truly exquisite: the writing was fluid, the mystery was solid, and the story itself was haunting and beautiful. I can't wait to see where the next chapter takes these characters.
"Wen always has medicine."
GIF it to me straight: That's me to this book.(less)
That was beyond beautiful. I am unbelievably enamored with Elizabeth Fama's gorgeous prose and stunning articulation.
________________________________...moreThat was beyond beautiful. I am unbelievably enamored with Elizabeth Fama's gorgeous prose and stunning articulation.
He went on. "You admitted you were throwing your life away so that Poppu could hold Fleur just once, and it was like the floor of your apartment opened under me. You had the balls to condense the whole screwed-up world into this one pure thing, this crazy act of love. Everything I was working for collapsed through that hole with me, and I went into a free fall. And then you kissed me on the prairie and I wanted it all -- I selfishly wanted what Poppu had."
I've been writing this review in my head for days, since I first finished Plus One, and yet I still don't think I can sufficiently portray just how much this book means to me, but that quote comes close to expressing everything I felt for Sol and her situation. I loved Monstrous Beauty when I read it last year, and I've been not-so-patiently awaiting Elizabeth Fama's next novel, so I was elated to see it pop up on ATW ARC tours. I purposely skimmed the summary for this book because I wanted to be as surprised with it as I was with Monstrous Beauty, but Plus One exceeded any and all expectations I might have had.
"The sun was as high as a Midwestern sun can get in late September, which D'Arcy informed me was not very high, so that as we approached the Natural Bridge the light was hitting it somewhat from the side, highlighting the red ferns and lichens and moss that grew on it and throwing extravagant shadows on the rough surface of the stone."
Despite the ugliness of Sol's plan and the world she lives in, I found so much unbridled beauty in this book, from the comparisons and contrasts of day and night life, to the desk drawings, to the gorgeous prose used to depict the Maquoketa Caves State Park...I felt like I was living and breathing Sol and D'Arcy's experiences through this book. This world is not far off from our own, just shy of what life could be like for us now, had things gone differently in the past. And not even vastly different...I mean, things in the past that were supposed to be temporary because of war, etc., have long since been made permanent: taxes, daylight savings time, among other things. Having one sector of the population temporarily switch to night in order to circumvent the effects of a devastating epidemic seems somewhat reasonable. But whenever the government intervenes like this, there are sure to be those who object.
So, yeah, this sounds like a dystopian novel, in that the government has made this society undesirable for some. But I don't want that to scare you away because this story definitely doesn't read like the typical dystopian novel. Far from it. Sol isn't trying to change the world...she's just trying to grant a dying man's wish. And I'm not positive, but from what I can tell this is actually sort of a retelling of The Day Boy and the Night Girl by George MacDonald. I haven't read the whole story, but it was referenced a ton in the Razorland Trilogy by Ann Aguirre, which I have also read and loved.
I also love the irony of Sol's parents naming her Soleil, which is French for "sun". Although when we meet Sol, her disposition is anything but sunny, we soon discover that this is an exterior shell she projects. Inside, she's still the young girl she was when her brother Ciel -- French for "sky" -- all but abandoned her and Poppu to live as a Ray, those who live in the daylight hours. Because of that betrayal, Sol doesn't get close to anyone and doesn't let anyone close. Poppu is all she has left, and now she's losing him, so it's understandable that Sol would want to give him the last thing on this earth that he wishes for, even if it means her own incarceration and the end of everything she knows.
"In the end I had actually worked up some wetness in my eyes. A drop spilled onto my cheek, and just like in the movies I left it there. I hate the way actresses do that, because when you really cry you want your tears gone -- it's all about wiping them away as fast as you can."
What I loved best about Sol, aside from her devotion to her family, was how genuine she was. From her bluntness and non sequiturs to her never-ending diatribes, I really felt like I'd come to know this girl. Usually, I find that I need to relate to a character in some fashion or another in order to fully enjoy a story, but that wasn't the case with Plus One. I could never be as strong or as capable or as self-sacrificing as Sol. Not once did I question her decisions, think that she was making the wrong choice, but neither could I have ever done the same as she did in her circumstances. Sol knows her lot in life, and she's relenquished herself to always living in the dark, but once her heart is set upon its task, she will stop at nothing to see it through. Normally, I'd question the foolhardiness of such a plan, but with Sol, it was unbelievably easy to get on board with such a harebrained scheme.
And that's where D'Arcy comes in. He may not have been named after a character in a famous nineteenth-century novel, but he might as well have been. *sigh* I don't know how to adequately express how much I love the coincidences that brought Sol and D'Arcy together. There is nothing remotely similar about these two characters, but from the onset of their time together, it was clear to me that they were "meant to be". Maybe neither of the pair has actively rebelled against the system until now, but it's obvious that neither accepts it without question. And the fact that D'Arcy just went with his gut when it came to Sol...I think that just speaks volumes about his character and it speaks to Sol's unflappable willingness to see her promise through to the end.
"Eventually he turned his back to me, with his arms crossed on his chest, and sometime later his body jerked with a hypnagogic twitch, and then utter stillness told me he was asleep. I sat up, holding my breath, the Mylar making the sound of a hundred candy wrappers as I lifted the blanket away."
I also love that this book made me feel smarter while I was reading it. I just knew there had to be a real word for that moment when you jerk yourself awake right before you fall into a deep sleep, and now I know there is. =) I love young adult novels; I think that much is obvious. But I love them even more when they're intellectually stimulating and really force me to question morally ambiguous issues, like the ones the characters face in Plus One. Other things that instantly captured my attention: Gigi and the Noma, the murmuration and how it's described, the use of French and how prevalent it is in this novel despite the fact that the setting is in Chicago, and the use of flashbacks to illustrate life for Sol prior to Ciel's absence. I'd love to go into more detail about these things, but I don't want to divulge too much about the story. Also, for brevity's sake, I need to end this review soon, or else it will end up as long as the novel....I really could go on and on about it ad nauseum, that's how much I enjoyed this book.
"We're going to steal food," I said. "Is that what you're telling me?" He grinned. "I know, right? I am a miscreant now. And it's your fault." My stomach grumbled, like the muffled creak of an old hinge. "They probably only just got settled in," I whispered. "They may not be asleep yet." "Then we'll have to be as sneaky as..." he stopped. "As sneaky as Smudges," I finished the pejorative saying for him. "Sorry." "Not at all. I'm actually worried you can't pull this off, with your galumphing about and booming voice. Maybe I should do it alone." His eyebrows knit together, and I allowed myself a tiny smile, no bigger than the Mona Lisa's. "Touché." He laughed under his breath.
Sol and D'Arcy, as different as night and day and yet so perfectly matched. Plus One is a love story when all is said and done, but it's also a story of sacrifice and loss and hope. There are moments of unbelievable gut-wrenching pain that brought me to tears, there are chase scenes that could have come straight from your favorite action movie, and there are brief moments of levity that left this reader unexpectedly hopeful, despite the dire circumstances the characters were facing. Suffice it to say, this book is the real deal, the full package...everything I'd hoped it would be and more. I wasn't ready to say goodbye yet, but oh my goodness, did I looooove that ending! I think Gilda says it best:
*It may have taken me two hours to write this review, but I promise no babies (or Premie Gorts) were hurt in the process.
**All quotes were taken from an advanced copy and may not appear in the final book.
Thank you to Farrar, Straus, & Giroux/Macmillan and ATW ARC Tours for providing a copy for review!
When I started These Broken Stars, I think I was expecting something along the lines of Beth Revis' Across the Universe series. I liked the first two...moreWhen I started These Broken Stars, I think I was expecting something along the lines of Beth Revis' Across the Universe series. I liked the first two books in that series, but I haven't been compelled to complete the trilogy, though that may have something to do with the cover re-design mid-series and my ownership of the first two books with the old cover. But I digress. These Broken Starsfar surpassed any previous held notions about the book, and if I had the next two companion novels in my possession, I wouldn't be talking to you right now because I'd be glued to those pages, just as I was with These Broken Stars.
These Broken Stars does include mystery and intrigue reminiscent of that in Across the Universe, and the setting does begin on a spaceship far from Earth, but that's honestly where the similarities ended for me. This space opera is unlike any science fiction piece I've ever read. The prose is rife with beautiful imagery and sentiments, and the story itself possesses an otherworldliness that I find it challenging to express in words, though the authors had no such difficulties.
I've been a fan of sci-fi since I was a wee thing, thanks to my Star Trek-loving father, and yet I don't think I've ever experienced a sci-fi story that touched me as much as this one, that had me thinking about it weeks later. Because though this story begins on a spaceship with a girl who's nearly royalty and a boy who's anything but, it quickly morphs into a story of survival, of love and loss and everything in between.
There's so much I want to say about this story, but I fear revealing too much, so I'll just focus on the things I can talk about, like the characters. Lilac is that girl who is just so much more than she appears to be. She puts on a front for everyone, but inside, she's dying a little bit every day, having to pretend to be the perfect daughter of the universe's most powerful man. Lilac has suffered losses in her life, and though outwardly she appears fine, it's obvious from the chapters told from her point-of-view that those losses still weigh heavily on her.
Tarver is handsome and stoic and immediately captivated by the beautiful Lilac. He's a military hero who wouldn't have even been on the Icarus, had he been given a choice in the matter, but it's lucky for Lilac that he was. Tarver, too, knows loss, and in their efforts to survive after the crash, the two bond and forge a connection that neither one is sure will survive their rescue. I enjoyed watching these two characters, who normally keep so much inside, come out of their shells with each other, and their subsequent reactions to each other were even more interesting. As Lilac proved there was more to her than pretty dresses and galas, Tarver showed that he had a softer side. They each brought out the best in each other. (You can read my interview with Tarver tomorrow as part of the blog tour!)
That cover is just so stunning and full of elements I find so romantic, so I did have some lofty expectations for the romance in this story. I was not disappointed. I was, however, surprised again and again at the direction the story took and where it left the characters, but I was never once disappointed. It's actually quite refreshing that the authors were so daring and dramatic with this story, and the proof is in the fact that I spilled tears for these characters and what they were going through. Not only is the story full of the swoons, but I felt ALL THE FEELS.
And even knowing how it ends, I'm already itching to experience all of it again. These Broken Stars is such an impressive debut, the story so compelling and breathtaking. The novel is a collaborative effort and is told from dual perspectives, and each voice is unique to the character, proving that this co-author team is a force to be reckoned with. Even the brief bits of Tarver's interrogation preceding each chapter were masterfully done, bringing the reader into the story and cluing us into the end game piece by piece.
These Broken Stars is gorgeous and cinematic while remaining suspenseful and inimitable, and I highly recommend it, not just to sci-fi fans but to everyone. This book was just so readable and I breezed through it, wishing I'd paced myself when the story was over. I can't wait to see what the authors have in store for us next, and I hope that though the next story is a companion to this one, maybe we'll get another glimpse of Tarver and Lilac and what became of them. A girl can hope, right?
Be sure to stop by tomorrow for my interview with Tarver as part of the blog tour hosted by The Midnight Garden!
Thanks to Disney Hyperion for providing an ARC for review!
One of the things I loved best about The Treachery of Beautiful Things was that it kept to the more traditional faerie lore -- think more A Midsummer...moreOne of the things I loved best about The Treachery of Beautiful Things was that it kept to the more traditional faerie lore -- think more A Midsummer Night s Dream and less Wings. And several favorites from the Shakespearian comedy appear in the novel, as well, making it feel as if I was visiting old friends. I love faerie stories and was glad to see that this particular tale was a return to the faerie world I’ve always known and loved, steeped in rich folklore and magical creatures.
The imagery used to describe the Faerie Realm is phenomenal, if not surreal. Ruth Frances Long depicts a world untouched by human technology, full of wonder and magic and unimaginable beauty. But our heroine Jenny soon finds out that the treachery of the Faerie Realm lies in the simplistic nature of things, for nothing is ever as it seems. The more she travels the Realm with Jack and Puck, the more she comes to realize this truth.
Jenny’s story is a bit sad. On her way home from a music lesson with her brother, the trees reached out and stole him from her. Of course, anyone she tells this story to deems her crazy or fanciful. Seven years later, as Jenny is preparing to go off to college, she goes to the forest that took her brother so long ago in hopes of making peace with his disappearance and saying a final goodbye to the brother she loved so much. Turns out, the forest wants her, too.
Once in the Faerie Realm, Jenny’s only objective is to retrieve Tom and return home. She is determined and intelligent but by no means is she any match for the Realm and its inhabitants, especially once they know she’s there and what her future holds. Jack and Puck try to keep her safe and repeatedly try to coax her into leaving the forest for good, but Jenny refuses to leave without Tom.
And so Jenny spends much of her time traipsing through the forest with her companions, oblivious to what’s right in front of her. She’s a damsel in near-constant distress, but it doesn’t grate on my nerves like it might in other novels. After all, she is in a magical world with no powers of her own to speak of. Plus, her rescuer is Jack o’ the Forest and his character left me with no complaints. He was complex and difficult to decipher…the yin to her yang, so to speak. Their romance in the novel isn’t all touchy-feely, and it isn’t really the focus of the story until the end, but it was still beautiful and, I don’t know…fulfilling? You know how some love stories leave you feeling like it was just a romance of convenience, not like the characters were really meant to fall in love, just that they did so for the sake of advancing the plot? Yeah, the romance in Treachery isn’t like that at all. It’s well-developed over the course of the novel, with neither party realizing it was happening or at least denying it to themselves or anyone who risked mentioning it. It wasn’t cute or sweet, it was simply lovely.
I loved all of the characters in this book, even the ones I wasn’t supposed to, including the fierce Oberon and the creepy Mab. But my favorite was probably Wayland. He was but a bit player, though his part nearly cemented the future for Jack. I always enjoy the character who foresees the future, giving you vague details but then won’t tell you what they mean. And then of course he gives Jack a gift that could kill him as soon as help him. It’s good to have a guy like that on your side, rather than working against you.
The Treachery of Beautiful Things is a lesson in love, loyalty and trust. It's a charming story told amidst unsettling things, but it's one of the better faerie tales I've read. It's also a stand-alone, which means that you're not committing to yet another series if you're smart and decide to give it a try.
My favorite quote:
"Every game has its Jacks," she said, the sadness of it pulling down the elation of sudden understanding. "The thing that acts as a wild card. It can't be counted on or predicted. A weapon, even. But he's in other places, too, isn't he? And do you know what else a Jack is, Puck?...I do." - p. 325 of galley
And I posted this teaser a couple of weeks ago:
"She was talking to a tree. Just talking to a tree. Totally normal. People probably did it every day here. They're only trees. She fought an insane urge to laugh." -- p. 181 of galley
Thanks to Penguin and Netgalley for providing a galley for review.
First, an apology to all of the other books I will read this year: I am sorry that The Winner's Curse was the first book I read this year. I am sorry that nothing I read after it will compare. I am sorry that I now have unreal expectations for every subsequent book I pick up this year and forever more. It's not your fault any more than it's The Winner's Curse, but still I am sorry.
I wish I could have read this book three or four times before sitting down to write this review because I don't think anything I could say right now would do the book justice. Nothing seems adequate to describe my love for this novel. I read the book at the very beginning of the year, and it's stayed with me since. I've been mulling over different aspects of the story for weeks, and I'm starting to think that the only way to get past this amazing book is to read it again. Or am I just fooling myself so that I can read it again?
If I'd read Rutkoski's The Shadow Society prior to picking up this novel, I might have been at least a little prepared for what was to come. As it stands, The Winner's Curse caught me off guard completely. The writing is gorgeous, the story is breathtaking, and the world is different and familiar, all at once. I felt that the story started out similarly enough to Diana Peterfreund's For Darkness Shows the Stars that I was on even footing going into it, but this story is also nuanced by the more present thrummings of revolution and the fact that the reader sees the world through the perspectives of both star-crossed lovers.
Despite the early hype for this book, I'd never read a book by this author at the time that I started The Winner's Curse and I paid little attention to the summary, so I had little to no expectations going into this story. I had no idea that a war was brewing in Kestrel's homeland. That Kestrel's only lot in life was to join the military or get married. There are no other alternatives for a young Valorian lady, despite what sharp-witted Kestrel may wish. I was also unaware that Arin was a slave fated to be so much more to his people. Also unexpected was the duel. Yes, I said duel. (Actually, my notes on the matter say, "A @#%$*&! DUEL!")
"And you will stop pressuring me to enlist. Whether I become a soldier is my choice." The general rubbed his wet palms together, his hands still dirty. The water that dripped from them was brown. "Here is my counteroffer. You will study strategy with me as my schedule allows. Your sessions with Rax will continue, but only on a weekly basis. And you will make your decision by spring." "I don't have to decide until I am twenty." "It's better for both of us, Kestrel, if we know soon on what ground we stand." She was ready to agree, but he lifted one finger. "If you don't choose my life," he said, "you will marry in the spring." "That's a trap." "No, it's a bet. A bet that you like your independence too much not to fight alongside me." "I hope you see the irony in what you have just said." He smiled. Kestrel said, "You will stop trying to persuade me? No more lectures?" "None." "I will play the piano whenever I like. You won't say a word about it." His smile shrank. "Fine." "And"--her voice faltered--"if I marry, it will be to whom I choose." "Of course. Any Valorian of our society will do." This was fair, she decided. "I agree." The general patted her cheek with a damp hand. "Good girl."
Which brings me to the importance of music in this story. In this land, the playing of music is a menial task, one reserved for slaves. And yet, Kestrel is drawn to the piano, despite her father's desires that she not toil away at it. Kestrel's love of music is palpable, as is Arin's, and it's described beautifully in this story:
She wished that Arin hadn't chosen music for the flute, of all instruments. The beauty of the flute was in its simplicity, in its resemblance to the human voice. It always sounded clear. It sounded alone. The piano, on the other hand, was a network of parts -- a ship, with its strings like rigging, its case a hull, its lifted lid a sail. Kestrel had always thought that the piano didn't sound like a single instrument but a twined one, with its low and high halves merging together or pulling apart.
There is such a rich history in this tale, full of political intrigue, military strategy and the undercurrents of a revolution. As the Valorians conquered their enemies, they enslaved them and essentially took over their lives. The Valorians live in the homes of the Herrani, while the Herrani bide their time, waiting till everything is in place to strike back at their aggressors. Kestrel is a Valorian lady, well-suited to stratagem. Arin is a Herrani slave, a skilled blacksmith destined to be placed in the household of General Trajan, Kestrel's father.
Kestrel herself has a commanding presence. She is intelligent, dedicated, and above all, open-minded. And Arin hates her the second she purchases him at the slave auction. Yet, it's her willingness to keep an open mind that eventually starts to melt the ice that's formed around Arin's heart. Arin was not born into servitude, and he has lost much at the hands of the Valorians. He manages to keep a lid on his defiant thoughts and actions, but his growing feelings for the privileged girl who might actually understand his plight are at risk of destroying all his well-laid plans.
So the Herrani thought his face held the mad delight of a warrior at the sight of battle. He let them believe it. You are the god of lies, Kestrel had said. He looked at his people and smiled, and the smile was a lie -- but like writing in a mirror, whose reflection is the inverse of a truth.
Kestrel and Arin are very pragmatic individuals. They realize that what they feel for each other can never be examined closer, that what they want means little in the scheme of things. Each has their own path and never shall the two cross. But that doesn't mean that their affection for each other doesn't continue to kindle. Though any relationship for these two is out of the question, they do embark on a slow-burning romance that cannot be doubted. Their positions in life will never allow them to be anything more, but there is no question that these two yearn for each other -- mind, body, and soul.
Arin smiled. It was a true smile, which let her know that all the others he had given her were not. "Thank you," he said.
The other characters in this story are unequivocally as unforgettable as the passion that burns between Kestrel and Arin. Enai may have had a bit part as Kestrel's nursemaid, but she is the reason Kestrel is the young woman she is today. Equally as important are Kestrel's friends: Jess, her best friend and closest confidante, and Jess's brother Ronan, whose designs on Kestrel's affections are somewhat questionable and entirely foolhardy. And then there's Kestrel's father, the gruff man who loves his daughter but also wants to see her follow in his footsteps. Their relationship was strained, but the love they felt for one another was obvious.
"Kestrel." The general touched her shoulder. When he spoke, his voice was uncharacteristically hesitant. "It's every child's duty to survive her parents. My profession isn't a safe one. I would like -- Kestrel, when I die, do not mourn me." She smiled. "You do not command me," she said, and kissed his cheek.
Do you ever read the acknowledgements of a book, discover how the idea for the book you've just read originated, and find yourself loving the book that much more because of it? That happened here. I absolutely devoured The Winner's Curse, and it's definitely one of my favorites for 2014, even though the year just got under way. But even crazier is that it's earned a spot on my favorite books of all-time list. This story is amazing, with its themes of love, loyalty, loss, and betrayal, and I honestly don't think I've read anything that quite compares to it. This novel is so promising and it offers up so much; it's just so poignant and clever and passionate. I'm sure I'll have read it several times before the second book is released. I just can't get enough of this gorgeous story, and I want to force it up on the masses!
When I read Starters for the first time, nearly two years ago, I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed it, considering I hadn't even planned on reading it. It feels like I've been waiting forever to find out how Callie's story ends, to see who the Old Man is and what his plans are. And although this sequel was just as gripping, just as intense and fast-paced as the first book, it just seemed like something was missing, at least for the first half of the book. I did re-listen to Starters a couple of weeks prior to picking up this sequel, and switching formats sometimes throws me off, so there's that.
At any rate, Enders picks up a few weeks after the events in Starters, with Callie, Tyler, and Michael all living at the house Helena left to Callie. As with Starters, don't get too used to seeing Tyler and Michael around. This is Callie's story, and she owns it, but she has to do this without her brother in tow, and well, someone has to look after him. But there are plenty of new(ish) players and a new love interest to fill the void, so don't worry.
Callie is still hearing the Old Man in her head, and she's seen Blake but can't reconcile him with the boy she fell for months ago. She's kind of lost after everything that's happened, so she busies herself with trying to find and take down the Old Man so that she doesn't have to think about things. She turns to the people who helped her before, but they're not willing to fight the way Callie is. Luckily for her, the right people for the job soon find Callie and her mission seems clear once again. Only, how do you trust anyone when even your enemy tells you to, 'Trust no one but yourself, and then question that.'
If Hyden is who he says he is, Callie has every reason to trust him and yet, every reason not to. But he's willing to do what no one else is, and that's help all the Metals -- all the Starters who rented their bodies out to Prime Destinations and had the chips implanted in their heads -- and offer them sanctuary until those who would do them harm are stopped. Of all of the possible love interests in this series -- and I think we're technically up to three now, counting Michael and Blake -- I liked Hyden best, even if there are REASONS he and Callie find it difficult to be together.
It was because of REASONS that I figured out the major plot twist in this book, but knowing didn't impede my enjoyment one iota. I rather liked sitting back and watching as things unraveled, watching Callie do the things that I knew she'd be able to do, even though she doubted it herself. Even more interesting was watching friends become foes and vice versa. As they say, the plot thickens substantially as the story unfolds, and I know it's cliché, but I really was on the edge of my seat there at the end.
It was nerve-wracking at times, and I think I enjoyed the second half of this book much more than the first, which is on par with the slight disappointment I felt with this book as compared to the first. But it was clever and well thought out and if this is the end of Callie's story, I'm completely satisfied with that. In fact, I hope this is a duet and another book isn't in the works because I think this ending was rather perfect, all things considered.
I think Lauren said everything I wanted to say in her letter to the author, but I'm going to reiterate why I think this book was so awesomely adorable...moreI think Lauren said everything I wanted to say in her letter to the author, but I'm going to reiterate why I think this book was so awesomely adorable and why you should totally read it.
Fangirl is a novel with heart. It's so clever and humorous and brilliantly written. This book is easy to relate to, even if you weren't the shy, nerdy fangirl that Cath was. Going off to college is a daunting experience, and I think Rainbow Rowell captured the nuances of that experience marvelously: the separation anxiety, the homesickness, the trials of living with a complete stranger.
“It’s just … everything. There are too many people. And I don’t fit in. I don’t know how to be. Nothing that I’m good at is the sort of thing that matters there. Being smart doesn’t matter—and being good with words. And when those things do matter, it’s only because people want something from me. Not because they want me.”
And the portrait she painted of Cath! That girl had some serious issues to work through, but being a fellow introvert, I could really relate and empathize with this character. Her mother abandoned her family when she was just a young girl, and now her twin sister is essentially doing the same, just when Cath needs her most. It's almost too much for Cath to bear, but she soldiers on, makes friends with her roommate, develops a crush or two, AND she manages to come out of her shell a bit...after some hiccups and bumps along the road.
“No,' Cath said, 'seriously. Look at you. You’ve got your shit together, you’re not scared of anything. I’m scared of everything. And I’m crazy. Like maybe you think I’m a little crazy, but I only ever let people see the tip of my crazy iceberg. Underneath this veneer of slightly crazy and socially inept, I’m a complete disaster.”
I loved the importance of family in this novel. Just because you move away from home to start your own life, doesn't mean your family is less important or that they're not still there when you need them. So many young and new adult novels completely gloss over this aspect, but for someone whose family has always meant the world to them, I really appreciated the inclusion of family drama in this story. And I appreciated the fact that the issues didn't simply resolve themselves, that the author took the time to delve into these matters and portray them realistically.
The romance in this book is sooooo freaking cute and sweet and adorable. It almost makes your teeth hurt! I loved the guy when he was initially just a friend, but I loved him even more as their relationship became something more. I loved their adorable flirting and how patient he is with her, knowing this is all so new to Cath. I just love him! And that he loves her fan fiction....gawd, there's nothing sexier to me than a guy who takes an interest in your interests.
“You look so blindingly cute right now, I feel like I need to make a pinhole in a piece of paper just to look at you.”
What I liked best about this novel, though, was that even though Cath grew as a person, grew into herself, she didn't become someone else entirely. At the end of the book, she is still just Cath, nerdy fangirl extraordinaire. I loved these characters, I loved their relationships...I just loved this story! I've never read or ever considered writing my own fan faction, but after some of the questions left lingering at the end of this book -- Do they make it work? Does she kill off Baz? -- I might just have to. =)
Thanks to Macmillan/St. Martin's Press & Netgalley for providing a copy for review!
We're no longer Elemental virgins, but that doesn't mean the fun has to stop! As part of the Spirit Blog Tour hosted by The Midnight Garden, Steph and...moreWe're no longer Elemental virgins, but that doesn't mean the fun has to stop! As part of the Spirit Blog Tour hosted by The Midnight Garden, Steph and I will be reading Spark for the next two weeks, so if you're still swooning over the Merrick boys with us, be sure to stop back here on May 12th to discuss! And if you had no restraint and tore through all the books already, we'd still love to hear from you. ;0) And if you're just joining us, check out the Elementals Read Along sign up post for more details!
And don't forget, I'm giving away a SIGNED set of the first three Elementals books at the end of the read along! Bonus entries for reviewing each book!
*This review contains mild spoilers for Storm, the previous book in the Elementals series.*
**You do not have to read Storm to read this book. But I'd recommend it. ;0)**
How very fitting that the brother with the shortest fuse is the one who controls fire? I've jokingly been called a pyromaniac in the past, but I've got nothing on Gabriel. And from what I've read so far, neither do any of his brothers! ;0)
Chris's story in Storm was pretty great, but I found the moments featuring Gabriel to be the funniest...and some of my favorites, when he wasn't acting like a complete douche. I knew there had to be some underlying reason for said douchiness because no one can harbor that much resentment without some basis for those feelings. And there is. Gabriel's temper stems from his own anger toward himself. But instead of doing something about it, he turns it outward and takes all of his frustration out on his family. It's a defense mechanism, and a pretty effective one at that.
I realize that some readers felt his character was chauvinistic and that he objectifies women based on comments made to or about Becca in the first book. And, sure, he jumped to conclusions or made undue assumptions about her character without knowing her or any of the facts. But he owns up to it. He makes no excuses for his behavior and jumps to Becca's defense when he realizes he was wrong. I knew he had it in him.
And, apparently, so did Layne. She's the shy, studious girl that Gabriel's never even given a second look to...until one day when he needs to borrow a pencil. This innocent gesture is a catalyst, a vehicle that brings about significant change in both of their lives. But it takes them awhile to figure that part out. I loved reading as they pulled back the layers, discovering each other's complexities and flaws. Brigid Kemmerer writes about some seriously hot guys, but she also writes multifaceted characters that tug at your heartstrings with their sincerity and rub you the wrong way with their brazenness.
And then there are the powers she's given these kids. And they actually use them! Gabriel even talks to his element, convinces it to burn more intensely or pushes it back when it becomes too destructive. It's all very entertaining. But never more so than when Hunter decides they should be their own fire-fighting duo and save innocents from the arsonist who is plaguing their town at the moment.
That bromance between Gabriel and Hunter was so unexpected but sooo appreciated. Gabriel feels like his family is against him at every turn, and Hunter's kind of the outcast of the group, having been spurned by Becca in favor of Chris. (Okay, okay...maybe spurned is unfair...he was lying about who he was and that's hard to come back from.) Anyway, it makes sense for them to become friends, and even though I didn't see it coming, I'm so glad for it.
I had so much fun while reading this book. I swear there was a slap-happy grin plastered on my face the entire time I was reading. I know the series isn't finished yet, and I don't want to take attention away from the other guys, but I think Spark just may go down as my favorite, with Gabriel being my favorite Elemental. That said, I do have a soft spot for Hunter, and I don't really feel like I know Nick well enough to really judge him yet. But look at all the pages I marked with favorite scenes or quotes! I think it's pretty obvious I enjoyed this story quite a bit.
“I can get my things,” said Gabriel. “I'm not letting you out of my sight.” Layne was caught between them, flustered. She was nearly wringing her hands. “Dad, it's not--” His eyes cut to Layne. “Now, Layne.” She swallowed and slinked past him into the living room. “Don't forget my box of condoms,” called Gabriel.
Hunter sighed and gave him a look. “Come on, baby, don't be like that. Did you pack your midol?” “All right, all right.” Gabriel climbed out of the car, slamming the door behind him. “I don't even know why I like you.”
She scowled out at the parking lot. “So is this like your place?” “My place?” “Where you bring girls.” “Yes. I bring girls to this run-down parking lot all the time.” He gestured with his cup. “I have a sign-up sheet nailed to that tree. Now that you mention it”--he glanced at his watch--“we should probably wrap this up.”
But then Chris reappeared. He threw a glance at the wall that separated the lockers from the shower room. “Who's his sister?” Gabriel looked back in his bag and kept his voice nonchalant. “Just a girl in my math class.” “Just a girl, huh?” Gabriel glared at him. “Just a girl.” Chris smiled. “So was Becca.”
Thanks to Kensington for providing a copy for review! And thanks to The Midnight Garden for having me on the tour!
Wow, you guys...this may be the best series finale I've read in...well, ever. Or at least since...moreThis review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.
Wow, you guys...this may be the best series finale I've read in...well, ever. Or at least since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. ;0) But seriously, I couldn't have asked for more from Laini Taylor. Well, except maybe more Karou and Akiva alone time, but they're on the cusp of a war that's spilling over into our world, so I kind of understand the reluctance to let loose with the swoons. =)
But is it really the end? I've seen a lot of speculation over the ending and how open it is...for more story, that is. There's definitely some resolution to the story, so fret not about the conclusion but about the possibility of more angels and chimera....just maybe from a different vantage point. There were so many new characters introduced in this final installment that it makes perfect sense to continue the story through some of their eyes. Or even from the perspective of characters we've come to know throughout the series, just not as deeply as Karou and Akiva. Or maybe Taylor's pleased with how she left things in Dreams of Gods and Monsters and we'll never see these characters again. I might cry at that thought if I didn't know I could revisit these books any time I please.
Everything I loved about the first two books was present and accounted for: beyond gorgeous prose, strong characters that evoked equally strong emotions in me, and an amazing story to match. This final book is long, but between the audiobook and the hardcopy, I finished it in about two days, listening while I was at work or in the car and picking up where I left off as soon as I could at home. (Khristine Hvam narrates the audio, and if you've never experienced her narration and awesome accents, this series is the place to start...you won't regret it.) In the beginning, I questioned the importance of some of the newer characters, wondering at how necessary it was to include their arcs and whether the overall plot was suffering from so many different perspectives, but once things started coming together little by little, it was clear Laini Taylor knew what she was doing by peppering this last book with peeks at these new characters. Everything came full circle and though many new questions popped up over this world throughout this final book, I feel like I got my questions answered, that the resolution I was hoping for was here in this book.
I'll admit, not all of my hopes for this story were realized, though. I'd hoped that a few things that were fact in previous books might come into question again and be proven false now that the angels and chimera were on the brink of war, but even though those hopes weren't met, I'm still ridiculously happy with this conclusion. It was also torture watching and waiting for Akiva and Karou to make amends, but it was worth it. Plus, I had my favorite secondary characters -- Zuzana and Mik -- to entertain me in the meantime. All in all, a solid ending to one of my favorite series. I'd say Laini Taylor's only misstep was in giving me hope for a spin-off series. ;-)
And here's what my copy looked like after I'd gotten through with it:
And that's me being conservative with the tags!!! =)
Oh, wow. I enjoyed this even more than the Secrets of the Eternal Rose series. So much fun! And I've never been more attracted to a guy with a mohawk...moreOh, wow. I enjoyed this even more than the Secrets of the Eternal Rose series. So much fun! And I've never been more attracted to a guy with a mohawk in my life...even if he is fictional. =)
Full review TK. _________________________
An ARC of this title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Funny story...I was in a bookstore the other day and they have these gorgeous leatherbound editions of classic books, and I sort of have a collection of them going, so I decided to peruse their selection. Lo and behold, what should I come across but The Art of War? I'd already read The Art of Lainey at this point, so I almost picked it up for that reason alone. I mean, you never know when something like that might come in handy, right? But honestly, I'd rather read about girls using this book of strategy and war tactics for winning back -- or getting back at -- their ex...it's way more fun. No, this isn't the first time I've seen The Art of War used in a story in this way, but it is by far my favorite. While Lainey and Bee's plan to win back Jason starts out juvenile enough, the book delves deeper into Lainey's psyche as she discovers that what she thought she needed may not be what she wants after all.
I'm just going to say it: I loved this book. I knew it was going to be cute, and I knew I was going to like it because I'd liked the author's previous work (under her pseudonym), but I had no idea how much I was going to enjoy this story. If you're going to use a romance trope, you can't go wrong with the fake boyfriend scenario in my book. It makes the love triangle aspect worth it, and I love seeing how it plays out: who falls for who, what lengths someone will go to to be seen by another character, how it changes people's perceptions. It's all in good fun...until someone gets hurt.
And there is plenty of heartbreak in this story. But Lainey isn't your typical weeping willow protagonist. She's strong (physically and mentally), capable, and fairly aggressive in her attempt to win back the love of her life. Break-ups are hard, but Lainey doesn't take hers lying down, even if the way in which Jason broke up with her was more than a little callous. We see from the get-go that this guy probably isn't worth the effort, but at that age and at that stage of heartbreak, it's difficult to see something like that on your own.
Good thing Lainey has an awesome support system. Lainey's brother Steve who is studying abroad for the summer isn't even physically present in the novel, but through emails and texts, he is a great sounding board for his wayward sister. I liked that Lainey's mother was open and honest with her, that she felt like my idea of a real mom -- one who means well but tries a little too hard to be the "cool" mom. Lainey's family owns the coffee shop that she, Bee, Micah, and Leo all work at, and I appreciated the fact that although Lainey's father was a little timid when it came to the kitchen staff at the shop, he didn't discount that they were hard workers or good people, just because of the way they looked or dressed. A lot of the characters seem outwardly stereotypical, but they are far from being what you'd expect, making some of them favorites of mine.
And that includes Micah and Bee, but I'll get to Micah in a minute. Strong female bonds that don't completely revolve around boys are hard to come by in young adult novels these days. And though a lot of time is spent discussing Lainey's plan to win back her ex, Lainey and Bee do talk about other interests and focus on their friendship in the meantime. They discuss college choices, what the next year and after will bring for their friendship, and they build each other up but are also honest with each other. At first, I was afraid that their friendship was a little too perfect, meaning a betrayal was surely on the horizon, but Stokes is boss at creating a realistic, lasting friendship. Looking back on Lainey and Bianca's friendship, you can see that it has it's ups and downs, that there are periods where Lainey is lonely, where Bee is out doing her thing and Lainey is missing her ex, but you're also witness to the not-quite-jealousy that Bee feels toward Kendall, the friend that essentially elevated Lainey's status at school and stole her away from her childhood friend. While Jason's out of the picture and Kendall is away all summer, the girls reaffirm their friendship, proving that some bonds are just impossible to break.
Micah, with his strokable mohawk, isn't your typical love interest. He's not even the typical "bad boy" character. Because he's actually a really sweet, caring guy. He and Lainey were actually childhood friends, as well, until something tragic happened to his family and he pushed everyone away. He was probably always destined to rock the mohawk based on his family background, but tragedy probably made him the deeper, more soulful person he appears to be in the story. And I liked that, I liked those hidden depths, especially as we see them unearthed by Lainey as their friendship/relationship evolves.
When Micah and Lainey first strike their deal to win back their exes, they're not really even friends. Neither is particularly fond of the other, but that's because they don't know each other anymore and are going off the perception they have of each other. As they spend more time together on their fake dates, they begin to see what they'd been missing, but they're also each changing themselves and each other. Micah makes Lainey question everything she'd thought about herself: who she is, what defines her, who she wants to be. They force each other to step outside of their comfort zones on these fake dates and they find themselves having a lot of fun with each other while doing so. They were on even footing in this way, at least until feelings got in the way and complicated everything.
The Art of Lainey may have started out with a simple win-the-ex-back plot, but it quickly developed into a story of self-discovery, full of character growth and realistic portrayals of teenagers and heartbreak, and it grew into a story that was so much deeper and thought-provoking than I had expected. I am in complete adoration of the characters Paula Stokes has created from her own story of heartbreak, even the ones that don't deserve my affection, because they were all so genuine and they all had their layers and issues to work through. This is the novel that young women need to read: to experience Lainey's determination, to be inspired by a friendship that stands the test of time, to realize that they are not alone in their heartbreak and that it does get better, and to open their eyes to possibilities and not limit themselves. This was such an incredible novel, and I can't wait to read more from this author. Especially more of Micah's story in Infinite Repeat! #YayMicah
GIF it to me straight:
And to that Micah novella: I can't flipping wait!!!!!!!!!(less)
This book. THIS BOOK! It may just be my favorite YA contemporary EVER! If you know me at all, you know I was once – okay, am still – very skeptical of...moreThis book. THIS BOOK! It may just be my favorite YA contemporary EVER! If you know me at all, you know I was once – okay, am still – very skeptical of contemporary novels. I’m afraid of finding them vapid and shallow and then having to review the insipid things. So, even before I started Meant to Be, I prayed to the book gods that it would be as good as My Life Next Door for me because prior to reading this novel, that was the best YA contemporary I’d ever read. But Meant to Be was even better…it surpassed my wildest expectations and then some!
I identified with this book on a level I never thought possible. So maybe I’ve never been in this exact situation before, but the way the author portrayed the characters and their interactions just made it so legitimately real that it was as if I had…like I was reliving a past memory and not simply reading a novel. I was transported to London, walking the streets with my classmates, taking in the culture and the people. I was sneaking out with my trip buddy to take in a party, even though that’s totally not my style. And even though this book isn’t about me….I really want it to be now. It was just so cute and quirky and full of awkward that I need to make it real and commit those moments to memory.
So, remember that antagonistic relationship Cole and Isabel had in The Wolves of Mercy Falls series? Yeah, that’s exactly how Julia and Jason behave towards each other throughout the entirety of the book. You see the chemistry from the get-go, but Julia’s narrating and it’s pretty obvious she’s kinda clueless about the male gender in general. She’s got the hots for this stuffy guy named Mark who was her playmate when they were younger. He moved away and only recently moved back to town and is attending her high school. And man, is Julia crushing hard. She seriously believes this guy is her “meant to be”, hence the premise of the story.
She may be book-smart, but poor Julia has got a lot to learn. And that’s where Jason comes in. He’s going to help the girl out, if she helps him out by writing all of his papers for the class trip. So they have tons of little adventures in London because this guy is not going to let Julia off the hook. She is super up-tight and needs to let loose, and Jason is just the guy to show her how. Julia is a very reluctant pupil, though, and hijinks ensue. Jason isn’t your usual swoony rogue, and so it’s going to take more than a little convincing for Julia to see the light. But he’s got some things working for him…namely, a great sense of humor, but best of all? He’s a GINGER!!!! I have so much love for this romance…you don’t even know!!
I don’t think it’s too spoilery to tell you to forget about that Mark guy…just forget he exists entirely. Don’t be mad…you can read the synopsis and figure that much out on your own. Trust me….I knew where it was going from the onset but the ride was sooo much fun! And in the end, that's all that matters, right? It was just too freaking adorable to be upset that I’d predicted it all. So, just sit back, relax, and enjoy this crazy, wild, TOTALLY AWKWARD ride for what it is. I’ve already pre-ordered my own copy so that I can go again. :) Plus, that cover is gorgeous and somehow, just knowing I’ll be able to look at it whenever I’m feeling down puts a smile on my face. The story is seriously that much fun.
“Julia, you are my ‘buddy,’” he says, using the requisite air quotes. “I would never put you in harm’s way.” “Oh, right. You’d only take me to a party full of strangers in a foreign country and abandon me. Then get me caught in a street brawl, where I lose all my stuff including my pocket Shakespeare.” “Your pocket what?” He raises an eyebrow. He probably thinks I’m talking about a mini-Shakespeare action figure. (Actually, I do have one of those. But I left it back in Newton, thankyouverymuch.) – p. 62 of galley
Thanks to Random House & Netgalley for providing a copy for review!
I love fantasy. I loved The Girl of Fire and Thorns. I desperately wanted to read The Crown of Embers and be blown away, like I was with The Girl of F...moreI love fantasy. I loved The Girl of Fire and Thorns. I desperately wanted to read The Crown of Embers and be blown away, like I was with The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Was I? Oh, hells yeah. Abso-freaking-lutely, I was! It was amazing and perfect and captivating and when I was reading, the rest of the world dropped away and I had eyes only for this book. (Seriously, I looked up that first night while reading and realized that everyone in my house had already gone to bed, and it was nearing midnight. That's how fantastic this book is.)
So, The Girl of Fire and Thorns leaves us with quite the predicament. (I shall try to remain as spoiler-free as possible for both books, but everyone has their own idea of what constitutes a spoiler, so if you have not read The Girl of Fire and Thorns, I suggest you read it and then come back to this review. I really DO NOT want to spoil this awesome series for anyone. Seriously.) Anyway, quite the predicament, indeed. You would expect Elisa to react as if her whole world has been decimated, but this girl picks up the pieces of her fractured life and moves on. No hemming and hawing or "What'll I do now??" for Elisa. She'll have none of that, and neither will her protectors.
I never thought of Elisa as immature. Sure, she was jaded and world-weary when she began her journey in The Girl of Fire and Thorns, but she never lacked maturity. Elisa was sensible and capable and really proved herself quite competent as a leader in the first book. Even so, she has quite the battle ahead of her, and she only grows with each new challenge she faces. I think Elisa is one of my favorite YA heroines because even though she IS young and faces youth-related trials and tribulations, she handles them so gracefully. She constantly makes her guardians and protectors proud and leaves her enemies dismayed.
After the devastating losses in The Girl of Fire and Thorns, one has to wonder if Elisa will always be so unlucky in love. And I'll be honest, it was certainly looking that way for awhile. But lo and behold, her trusted protector steps up to the plate. I liked Hector's character in The Girl of Fire and Thorns. I actually even thought then that he and Elisa would make a great match, if she hadn't already been married to Alejandro. At the very least, I knew they would be great friends and allies. But, oh, they would make the most honest and fair rulers Joya d'Arena had ever seen...if things were different. (By the by, the gall of that Ximena had me ready to ring her neck. I wanted to tell her to quit mothering Elisa so much and just protect her, to let her figure things out on her own and stop meddling.)
Oh, that lovers quarrel or spat or whatever you want to call it near the end of the book was priceless. But it really showed how much more Elisa had matured, that she could stand there and take that verbal tounge-lashing and remain calm. Even at 30, I don't know that I would have reacted half as well. And it was a testament to Hector's character, to how much he cares for Elisa, that he even allowed himself to show so much emotion and how hurt he was. I love this fictional pairing ever so much and I can't wait to see what the next installment holds for them, especially after that shocking ending. It is going to be so very interesting to see how it all plays out for Elisa and Hector. ;0)
I demand more swooning and less death and destruction, Carson. Okay, I lie. I am totally down for the death and destruction...that's what makes this author so awesome...she is sooo not afraid to go there. But I still want more swooning, especially after all that talk about lovers and lady's shroud (birth control for those of you not in-the-know) between Elisa and her hand-maid Mara. Oh my goodness...just the fact that Carson even approaches the subject of birth control in her fantasy novel puts her in my good graces. Seriously, she created a totally responsible, intelligent teenage protagonist that I adore in every way possible. Whodathunkit? :P Um, ME! And I say unto thee, behold the brilliance that IS Rae Carson. 8-)
So much is revealed in The Crown of Embers, and yet so much still remains a mystery. There is some serious world-building done in The Crown of Embers, even more than we saw in the first novel, and it is tantalizing, you guys. Their God put these people in this world, but how long ago was that, and what was here before that? Still so many unanswered questions about the godstones and the Invierne and the magic that surrounds them all. It's thrilling, and it makes me want to crawl inside the author's head to see how she ever invented such a brilliant world and story to accompany it. I never want Elisa's story to end. NEVER!
The way I feel after having finished Championis the way I had hoped to feel after Allegiant. Shoot, it's the way I hope to feel after reading anyseri...more
The way I feel after having finished Champion is the way I had hoped to feel after Allegiant. Shoot, it's the way I hope to feel after reading any series finale but most especially those that have become favorites. This is how you write the ending to a trilogy. This is how you say goodbye to characters that feel more like friends than simple descriptions in the pages of a book.
It's with a heavy heart that I do say goodbye to June and Day but not because their ending wrecked me. On the contrary, the ending to the Legend series was quite hopeful. It wasn't picture perfect, wrapped up like a Christmas present with a beautiful bow. But it was spectacular in the way that it pulled you in, made you feel cozy like when you're sitting in front of a warm fire with a mug of hot cocoa. I should know...I listened to the last ten minutes at least three times last night. ;0)
I promise to try not to make any more comparisons to that other finale from a couple of weeks ago. It's just that it's still so fresh on my mind that it's hard not to. But this book deserves to stand on its own merits, especially because it was such a strong finish. There were moments of extreme tenderness and love, but not minutes later, I was overcome with this insurmountable sense of grief over what one character specifically was facing. It was difficult not to give into both of those emotions and wish to remain in that portion of the novel, but there's a war brewing, and I didn't have time for brooding over what might have been or what's been lost. Not yet, anyway. Though the characters themselves are often faced with their pasts and previous mistakes, they endeavor to overcome all of that and move forward. In the face of all of their vulnerabilities, all of their perceived shortcomings, they were strong and self-sacrificing and proved to everyone just how resilient they could be.
Did you think there was a love triangle emerging in Prodigy? 'Cause I didn't. And for those of you who think triangles are the foulest trope to grace the pages of our YA novels, rejoice. It's practically nonexistent. No. It IS nonexistent. Shame on all ye who doubt June and Day's feelings. Their romance has really blossomed over the course of this trilogy, and though it's not always sunshine and rainbows for them, they're the real deal. Just don't expect them to realize it overnight.
The war, the plague, the biochemical warfare...it's all pushed to the forefront in this final book, and as much as we want our beloved Legend and Prodigy to get their happy ending, the country comes first. The way this world has been set up has always frightened me...it's just so unbelievably plausible. And it feels even more so in this installment. It's militaristic but also chaotic, pitting government against government, citizen against citizen. Even Antarctica gets in on the action.
This is the first time I listened to a book in this series on audio. I remember the details of the other two books pretty vividly, this being a favorite and all, so I didn't feel compelled to listen to the first two books prior to picking up Champion. However, after listening to Champion on audio, I have to say, I kind of wish I had. I loved the narrators chosen to portray June and Day. They embodied these characters so perfectly, and they sounded like the teenagers that these characters are. Right down to Day's "yeah". *sigh* I definitely see myself purchasing the other two audiobooks for a future re-read/listen.
Champion is a stunning conclusion: fast-paced, action-packed, and riddled with emotion. Marie Lu knows how to bring the feels, and she knows how to use them against you. But as with most good villains, I'm sure she'd say that the end justifies the means. :) If you're already invested in this series, you have to see it through, and I'm pretty sure you'll be happy with the ending. Seriously, it was a truly satisfying and fitting end. And if you haven't started the series yet, well, get to it, especially if you're coming off one of those (ahem) other unsatisfying series endings, yeah? :D
At first, I thought my feelings toward this final installment were based solely on my disconnect with the audiobook, but I've discussed with others wh...moreAt first, I thought my feelings toward this final installment were based solely on my disconnect with the audiobook, but I've discussed with others who've echoed my sentiments about this book feeling really slow. Like I was slogging through all of these details and all of this information, and I couldn't really even bring myself to care. The thing is, it wasn't even a lack of action because STUFF happens, but as with Insurgent, I just never felt the same connection to the characters that I did in the first book, and I really missed that.
I will admit, a lot of my problem with this book did revolve around my lack of love for the narration. Aaron Stanford as the voice of Four was great, and he should have been, considering the fans got to pick that voice to represent their beloved Tobias. But I was in the middle of listening to Endless Knight which also features Emma Galvin as the narrator, and switching to this one with her as the voice of Tris left me disappointed. First, I kind of loathe her as the voice of Evie in Kresley Cole's YA series. I didn't mind her as the voice of Tris when I listened to Divergent as a refresher to Insurgent last year, but this time around, I found it difficult to listen to her portray this character. It's probably my fault for listening to her narrate a series that I'm not loving and then attempting to shrug that off and listen to her as Tris again, but I just didn't connect with her as Tris at all this time. I actually found myself wishing Aaron Stanford could have narrated the entire book.
But, since this was a dual narrative, I understand why that wasn't possible. Even so, this felt more like Four's book...like more emphasis was put on his story arc than ever before, which makes sense since he got his own point-of-view in this book, but I think his story ended up overshadowing Tris's. Maybe that's why it was so easy for Veronica Roth to commit to the ending she wrote for these characters. And, gawd, did she commit. This was not the ending I was expecting, nor was it the ending I was hoping for, but it was real, and I can't fault the author for that. This was a story about war and human nature and it's impossible to tell a story like that without the loss of lives, without the loss of favorite characters.
I know this book isn't being received as well as expected, and I know I'm rating it lower than I expected to, but it's not a bad book. It forces the characters to look at some hard truths and face even harsher realities, but it's a dystopian novel, and I don't think readers could have realistically expected sunshine and rainbows for these characters at the end of the day. I'm not usually a fan of epilogues because it feels like they're always used to soften the blow of the true ending of the story, and that's definitely the case with Allegiant, but I think it was warranted in this situation. I, for one, really needed to see what became of the factions, the GDs and the GPs, if and how they worked things out. I'm not sure I really ever understood which side we were supposed to be campaigning for, but I feel like they're all on the same path now...or at least headed in the same direction.
This final book was more than a little depressing, but it was a fitting end, I think, for our Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Erudite, and Dauntless friends. I'm glad to be done with this world and all its political maneuvering, but I'm excited to see what Veronica Roth has in store for us next.
WARNING: Side Effects May Vary may cause severe emotional distress. While reading this novel, you may experience the temptation to throw the book in a fit of frustration. You may also suffer from extreme mood swings, sighing contentedly one moment while screaming your outrage the next. Please consult a physician if these symptoms persist after you turn the last page of the novel.
Julie Murphy isn't pulling any punches with her debut novel. If her intention was to make her readers feel all the things, then I say she has more than succeeded with Side Effects May Vary. Alice is diagnosed with leukemia and spends the next year wreaking havoc on the lives of those who've wronged her over the last few years as she waits for her time to run out. But miracle of miracles, she goes into remission...and then she has to answer for everything she's done over the last year: to those she's wounded but also to Harvey, the best friend who stood by her and helped her complete her bucket list of revenge.
Harvey's always been there for Alice, harboring a crush of epic proportions. She uses and abuses the poor guy, and for years, he's allowed it with little complaint, hoping that one day she might return his feelings. But when Al's diagnosed with cancer, everything changes between them. Told in alternating perspectives -- through her eyes and his -- during the year of her diagnosis and then after her remission, this story recounts the progression of Alice and Harvey's relationship and how it got to the point that it's at now. And if you're anything like me, it is going to drive you nuts, the back-and-forth between these two, but it is so worth the pain to see it through to the end.
It's not just about relationship drama, though that is a driving force in this novel. It's about having your life handed back to you -- after being told that you had an expiration date that was drawing nearer -- and the psychological toll that can have on a person. It's about revenge and making amends and taking risks. This story was as crushing as it was complicated, but it was also heartfelt and genuine. I tried to keep in mind what all Alice had been through and how that might change a person, and that helped me avoid writing her character off completely, even when she probably deserved it.
Harvey, though...Harvey was the saving grace of this novel. He started out as this lovelorn puppy dog when we first meet him, but everything that has happened to Alice has taken a toll on him, as well, and I'm glad that although he finally grew a pair and made some demands of his own, he still remained that sweet, hopeful boy. I loved the emotional impact of this novel as much as I did the romantic aspects.
I am so ecstatic to report that this book turned out even better than I'd hoped. It is rife with the feels, but don't expect a TFiOS meltdown. Many readers will find Alice completely unlikable, eliciting feelings of rage as opposed to the deep sadness that Hazel Graze evoked. But I think the unflappable Harvey will more than make up for it. And if you give Al a chance, you just might find yourself empathizing with her, too.
I love when I’ve passed over a book quite a few times, thinking it’s not going to be my cup of tea, only to finally give it a chance and find out that...moreI love when I’ve passed over a book quite a few times, thinking it’s not going to be my cup of tea, only to finally give it a chance and find out that not only is it my kind of read, but it’s absolutely phenomenal and I need to scream about it from the rooftops. That is exactly what happened with Starters. If the publisher hadn’t sent me an ARC for review, I probably never would have read it, and I would have been missing out on a terrific debut.
I know dystopian novels are all the rage right now, and I have also jumped on that bandwagon. I’m always on the lookout for something new and different in this genre, though, and I found that in Starters. The story didn’t grip me from the first page, as it apparently did for some, but it didn’t take long for me to become enthralled. At around 50 pages in, I was hooked. I didn’t want to sleep. I didn’t want to eat. I *almost* missed taking my daughter to see The Lorax because I was trying to finish the last 20 pages or so before we left. Seriously, my husband had his keys in hand and was headed to the door as I was closing the book, letting out that final sigh.
Every part of this novel was handled so well that I don’t know where to begin praising it. The concept, the writing, the dialogue…they were all really well done. I had no qualms giving this novel a full five stars. This book had everything I want in a good “this-is-what-the-world’s-come-to” story, and I’ve seen many touting it as this year’s Divergent. I suppose that’s a fair assessment, though the plots are very different. But as far as being books that keep you reading till all hours of the night, they are both very much in the same playing field.
For me, the premise of Starters really boils down to this one question: What WOULDN’T you do to protect your last remaining family member, your younger brother, the last life line to your past? That’s the dilemma Callie Woodland faces. After the Spore Wars took their parents and anyone else between the ages of twenty and sixty, all Callie and Tyler have is each other. They’ve managed to become allies with a “friendly” named Michael who lived down the street from them before the war, but Callie knows that the only person she can expect to better their situation is herself. Callie is afraid to become a renter for Prime Destinations, but after the only home she had left is taken from her, she doesn’t really have any other choice. But even when things seem the most dire, they can always get worse.
And as is always the case, things are never what they seem. Callie believes some rich old Ender woman will be gallivanting around L.A. in her body, but she really doesn’t have a clue what’s about to transpire now that she’s lent her body to Prime Destinations. The evil behind this company knows no bounds. The Old Man is secretive and keeps his identity a mystery, but despite his calm and composed demeanor, he is one of the most awesomely creepy villains I’ve met in a book. Through many twists and turns in Callie’s story, we find that he has much more at stake in Callie’s welfare than even the employees of Prime are aware.
The other relationships in Starters were all well-addressed, though at times it may have seemed like they went from one extreme to another. Give them a chance, though. I’m not a fan of insta-love, but having practically inhaled this novel, I promise you that things will make more sense by the end. Sort of.
So much happens in the span of this novel, but even so, I don’t think we are anywhere close to finding out the mysteries of the Old Man and Prime Destinations. The ending of Starters is proof enough of that. There are cliffhangers and then there are “Holy geez! WHAT THE WHAT?!?” endings like the one in Starters. I read it three times over, and I’m still not convinced I know what’s going on.
You’ll forgive me if this review doesn’t come off as polished as others. I read through this novel so quickly, and was so engrossed in the story, that I failed to take any notes. That’s a sign of how much I enjoyed this book, but it also means I may have missed evaluating some of the nuances and more important details that might strike someone else’s fancy. Even so, I heartily recommend this novel to fans of Divergent, Blood Red Road, and yes, The Hunger Games.
I adored this book. I wanted to slap Bonnie™'s mother more than once, and I just loved how Chloe and Benny got each other through it all. That family was pure chaos! And Patrick...suh-woon. Yep. I loved this book, and I'm kinda surprised it didn't get more hype before it's release because it's full of win. I don't even like reality TV all that much, but it's probably my dislike for it that made this book even better because I have a feeling it's pretty close to how all the behind-the-scenes stuff goes down. Also, I've often thought that putting kids on camera for entertainment without their consent could be likened to child abuse, and I was glad to see that aspect wasn't taken lightly here.
What has happened to me that all -- well, most of -- the books that I adore lately have been contemporaries?!? I used to despise this genre, but now I can't even remember why. Because now, these are my go-to books. When I'm in a funk or a reading slump or whatever, I pick up a contemp and I'm happily entertained for hours.
With Something Real, I think I'll be entertained for eons. This is the kind of book I can read over and over again. This story garnered ALL THE FEELS from me. And so rather than splitting up my review based on characters and plotting, etc., like I usually would, I'm going to do this one a little differently. I'm going to separate my feelings and what triggered them.
“Even Mom doesn't understand how being in front of a camera all the time twists and warps you. How one second it makes you feel unbelievably alive and the next publicly strips you down until all that's left is one big question mark.”
First and foremost, my anger comes from being a mother. As a parent, I cannot fathom subjecting a child to being in the spotlight like this, let alone a family consisting of thirteen children. Times are going to be tough as it is, but how does any self-respecting mother do this to her children? Especially considering what one of the eldest has already suffered because of being on a show that is broadcast nationally. Beth Baker-Miller™ is one of the worst kinds of human beings...those who live for attention and don't care about the cost, even when it's their own family. There was not a single redeemable quality in this woman, and what she did or didn't do at the end of this novel made me question whether she even deserved to have the other children in her care.
Also, I have mad hate for the show's producer Chuck, who is the slimiest of all in this story. He manipulates, cajoles, coerces, and threatens, and he is beneath scum. I imagine a lot of reality TV show producers to be of his ilk, and for the sake of everyone who has to deal with swine like this, I am sorry. I'm not a big fan of reality shows, but I imagine it's not as fun to be the subject of them as it might appear or as others make it out to be. I'm rather intrigued by the leaps and bounds this book took to show the behind-the-scenes stuff. On one hand, I hope this is all entirely fictional, but on the other, I'm pretty sure it's not, and I feel awful for ever having watched a single minute of this kind of drivel, entertaining as it might be at times.
The main character Bonnie™/Chloe hasn't had the easiest transition from reality TV stardom to normal girl. But she's relatively happy with her normal girl status now that she's starting her second year of public school as a high school senior. Until her mom and stepdad decide to start doing the show again, without consulting any of the rest of the family, that is. Chloe has suffered the most at the hands of the Baker's Dozen show, and you'd think her family would at least have the decency to forewarn her that the show was being picked back up, but aside from her brother Benton™, no one seems to care what this might do to Chloe's fragile state of mind.
What I hate most is that Bonnie™/Chloe's mother doesn't even notice the repercussions. She thinks her daughter is acting like a typical spoiled teenager who's not getting her way. I don't think Beth Baker-Miller™ realizes that it's taken Chloe four -- FOUR -- years to finally find some amount of normalcy in her life after what happened in the last season of Baker's Dozen. Which makes my heart hurt even more for Chloe. But worse than that, I wished physical violence on this mother and the stepfather she brought into these kids' life after the sh!t hit the fan in that last season. How could any mother be so oblivious, let her own desires outweigh those of her children, whether they come from her loins or not?
Which brings me to my next point. The way that everyone allows Chloe to be portrayed on national television is an abomination. Seeing it from Chloe's eyes and then seeing how everything is edited to make it more dramatic, or to make it look as if Bonnie/Chloe™ really is the poster-child for Teenagers Gone Wild, I wanted to do more than cut cords or palm cameras out of Chloe's face. No one deserves to have their whole life on display for strangers like this. It more than borders on child abuse in my opinion. And I'm really glad to see that this aspect wasn't taken lightly in this story. There's even talk of getting the ACLU involved, so kudos.
I am unbelievably grateful that Chloe had a sibling like Benny to help get her through all the drama. Beginning, middle, and end...he was there through it all. He pushed Chloe when she needed it, but he also gave her space to do what she needed to do when she wasn't being rational. Benny was her back-up and Chloe was his. I love how out of all the siblings, these two are the closest, have the best connection, and stand by each other, no matter what. I think the only times I laughed in this story with true frivolity -- because of all my fury at the other characters in the story --were when it was just Chloe and Benny hanging out, shootin' the sh!t. Also, Benny drunk is kinda priceless. I'm not condoning underage drinking, per se, but when the situation warrants...
Okay, so I said that I didn't laugh all that much, but I did snicker a lot. Ugh, I hate that word, but it's the best description. Here's why:
"I'm surprised she doesn't get a sunburn from the rays of her own awesomeness," Benny says as she heads to the first floor. _____
There should be a class on what to do with your hands during awkward moments. Like, no other animal has to stand with these ridiculous appendages that make everything worse. Hands are awkward as hell. I watch Tessa disappear down the hall, belonging, being absorbed into the crowd. _____
"Did you apparate here or something? The bell rang two seconds ago." _____
"How was the salon?" Tessa asks, after we're through psychoanalyzing my date. "Did you get claw-the-rapist nails?"
"When his lips finally leave mine, his fingertips stay on my cheeks, and he looks at me--really looks at me--for a long time. Five seconds? Minutes? Centuries? Maybe it's the feeling behind his eyes or the way the warmth of that kiss slowly slips back on the tide of our breath, but I suddenly feel like I need to leave. Now."
Benny may have been a great counterpart to Chloe's persistent pessimism, but Patrick brought the swoons and more. We talk about book boyfriends all the time, but usually as in "I would want this guy to be my boyfriend in real life". In this case, I don't think I've met a more perfect guy to be this character's boyfriend. He's patient, forgiving, caring, but he still manages to be a separate entity and not too clingy. A girl should be so lucky as to have a guy like Patrick in her life. He takes all of this reality TV stardom stuff in stride. Patrick does everything he can to make a relationship outside of that world a possibility for Chloe, and I think that without his soothing presence, Chloe might not have managed nearly as well as she did. Also, he gave her the strength to stand up for herself. I know the saying always goes "Behind every great man, there's a great woman", but I think the opposite holds true, as well, especially for this couple. It takes a solid partnership to make any relationship work, and that's what we have here.
Also, there's that scene in the janitorial closet. My god. =)
"Chlo, that boy has forever written all over his face when he looks at you. A cat lady you shall never be."
Another thing I really enjoyed about this novel was all of the extras included: press releases, twitter feeds, blog posts, interviews, etc. And, of course, those cute text messages between Patrick and Chloe on her secret phone. It really lent to the air that this was reality, that this is how life goes for someone in Chloe's position. It also made for an even more entertaining reading, especially how each piece was spun one way or another. This book really makes me sad for all of those kids who were on Jon & Kate Plus 8.
"I'm not Bonnie™ or Chloe. I'm the essence of her, the nontrademarked person the camera can never capture and my parents have no right to sign over. There is a sovereign nation encased in this skin that MetaReel can never trademark."
I am honestly surprised that this novel didn't receive any hype prior to its publication. It is so unbelievably genuine and completely from the heart, and it ranks up there with my favorite YA contemporary novels ever. I don't think I've ever read a novel that compelled me to be one with the narrator and simultaneously feel so much, and I'm really hoping this isn't a one-time deal. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what else Heather Demetrios brings to this genre, and I hope she continues writing with this outstanding voice of hers.
Wow, this review turned out to be way longer than I anticipated, and the sad thing is I haven't said all that I have to say about this lovely book. But you should read it. You should absolutely read it. :D
GIF it to me straight: Why is no one talking about this book?!?(less)
After reading several reviews of this book, I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who was taken by surprise. That cover screams standard PNR fare...moreAfter reading several reviews of this book, I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who was taken by surprise. That cover screams standard PNR fare. The summary had me believing we were dealing with a sci-fi filled with body-snatching aliens. What I got was a quirky fantasy that doesn't feature a love triangle, despite what the first line of that synopsis might imply.
The Dark Light is quirky in that nothing about this novel is typical. It's not your typical fantasy realm with a bunch of crazy-sounding names and places, though those are there and they are hilarious. (One guy's name is Bromasta. BROMASTA. Bromasta? Seriously?) This book is set in our world and a fantasy realm with a ridiculous name. And though this book packs as much as it possibly can into 500 pages, I still felt like both worlds/settings were described more than adequately for me to envision them clearly.
The characters are anything but stereotypical. Upon first inspection, they might seem it, but as Sol helps Mia to unlock the secrets to her past -- her heritage -- pieces fall into place and nothing is as it seems anymore. I connected with Mia immediately. Her voice was realistic and though she's had a less-than-ideal upbringing, she's making the most of it for herself and for her younger brother. Mia's friends are all a bit quirky, as well, and though they give her a hard time, they endeared themselves to me, much the same as Mia did.
When Mia's brother goes missing, she enlists the help of the new guy. Sol is mysterious and keeps to himself and because of a strange tattoo, she thinks he might have something to do with -- or at least knows something about -- her brother's disappearance and the disappearances of the other local boys. Sol isn't very forthcoming at first, but Mia kind of forces his hand. I loved that they got off to a bit of a rocky start, but eventually Sol comes clean with Mia and a whole new world has opened up to Mia. Literally.
As with a standard fantasy novel, you have to pay attention. So much information is thrown at you, and it can be hard to keep track of. I love fantasy novels, and I had no problem with this aspect. I don't think you have to love fantasy novels to enjoy The Dark Light, though, because for all of its otherworldy idiosyncrasies, there were lots of real world facets thrown in there, as well. I found this novel extremely fun and engaging, and if you give it a chance, I hope it surprises you, too.
Epic. Crazy. Even better than the first book, and seeing how BRR was one of my favorite reads last year, that's major.
Hurt. Betrayed. Deceive...moreEpic. Crazy. Even better than the first book, and seeing how BRR was one of my favorite reads last year, that's major.
Hurt. Betrayed. Deceived.
Those are the last three words of this book, but they sum up the whole of this novel beautifully. Those same words appear over and over in the novel, and the characters feel them time and again. I think every reader will come to know them as truth by the end, as well. (I know I felt gutted by the time I finished, anyway.)
If Blood Red Road was a strong debut, then Rebel Heart is an epic sequel. Remember all the crazy from BRR? The cage-fighting? The giant sand worms a la Beetlejuice? The epic battle for freedom? Young does not disappoint with her follow-up novel. In fact, I may have enjoyed Rebel Heart even more than Blood Red Road, if that's even possible. It was an emotional crazy, in addition to all of the other epic craziness.
I truly love books centered around a quest...especially quests to find loved ones. That's why I loved BRR in the first place. But Saba's on a new quest now. And she's truly finding herself along the way, even if the path is a little bumpy. Okay, A LOT bumpy. Saba is a truly flawed character: she's gutsy but impetuous and she often causes trouble for herself and her companions because of that combination. She's grown even more as a character in Rebel Heart, but that girl has a lot of growing yet to do. And boy does Lugh like to remind her of that. As if he'd have had the fortitude to rescue her had she been the one taken instead.
By the end of the book, everything that's happened becomes Saba's fault. Maybe she did set everything that's happening in motion, but she's plagued by ghosts of her own. Lugh's got a serious chip on his shoulder throughout this book, and there were times when I wanted to grab him by the collar of his shirt and give him a few good shakes. Does he not remember that he'd possiblymaybeprobably be dead if it weren't for his sister?
Another thing I loved about this sequel is that the secondary cast of characters gets a lot of attention, even that stubborn, pig-headed Lugh. Oh, oh, oh...also, DeMalo. Yep. You didn't think we'd seen the last of him, did you? His character, although a bit player in the first book, intrigued me to no end. That intense look he shared with Saba...what was that all about? Maybe you'll find out in Rebel Heart and maybe you won't...you'll just have to read it to find out. :P There are some new characters that I took a real shine, too, as well, including a large man wearing a frilly pink dress. (The story on that one was quite entertaining.)
Rebel Heart might have been a bit slow-going in the very beginning with only sporadic action sequences, but once that pony sets her pace, she is off on a gallop and you won't know what hit you! This novel was engaging and humorous and ruthless and tragic, and I cannot believe I have to wait another year for the next installment. Also, I still can't tell you for sure if that's Jack on the cover. That would be my best guess since Lugh has long hair when we meet him, but we all know that the cover models don't always mirror the description in the text of the book. At any rate, the new covers have grown on me, much as the dialect and rugged nature of the books did. These are some of my favorite books to see sitting on my shelves.
"If restless spirits ride the Wraithway, they ain't Wreckers. They're nature spirits. The spirits of earth an water. Of air an plants an creatures. With every right to ride vengeance on men."
"An all the time, Lugh's goin, Yer the boss, Maev. Yer the daddy. Maev knows what she's doin, Lugh. Hijackin an horse stealin's her business. Newsflash, girls. This ain't no horse. It's a gawdamn camel!"
"Fleas plague you, she says. Swamp skitters can kill you, an a little thorn--so small you hardly notice--it can work its way unner the skin an after a bit, yer hand's infected. Maybe you lose a couple of fingers, maybe the whole hand. Maybe yer blood goes bad an you die. Tiny things can cause plenty of trouble. Cheer up, people!"
Thanks to Simon & Schuster for providing an ARC for review!
This would be a very difficult book to review without the use of spoilers, so I've separated my spoilery thoughts below for those who haven't read this book yet. Also, I have a feeling that this book will be very polarizing, that there are going to be a lot of unhappy fans but a lot of ecstatic ones, as well. I, for one, am very pleased with this final book in the Shatter Me series. Finally...a series finale that I can say that about!
First off, I still can't disassociate Kate Simses as the voice of Cassia in the Matched audiobook series. So, hearing her here as Juliette -- and in the previous books -- makes it hard to separate the two stories at times. Maybe that voice fit Juliette in the beginning, but she got to be quite fierce throughout the series, and with the innocent, child-like qualities of Simses voice, it was hard to vocalize the change in the character. I do love how she brought Kenji to life, though. I didn't get his appeal the first time I read Shatter Me, but after hearing his witty repartee, I found myself wishing for more of this character.
Second, I didn't read Adam's novella. I'd heard that it hinted at what's to come in Ignite Me, and I wanted to be surprised, I wanted to love this book as much as Unravel Me, so I refrained from picking up Fracture Me. Also, I'm just not an Adam fan. Haven't been from day one. Even in the first book, I found myself shipping Warner and Juliette...and that's when we knew little to nothing about Warner. Knowing what I know now, I would have pushed even harder for these two to end up together.
Despite that/in spite of that/because of that -- take your pick -- I found this ending really satisfying, which is kind of weird considering that it's pretty close to one of those endings that's all tied up in a pretty package with a bow and everything. I'm usually not a fan of those, but this ending wasn't entirely picture-perfect, so maybe that's why I find it so tolerable in this case. There were places in the story where the plot crawled at a snail's pace. The book was loaded with relationship melodrama. And the ending did feel a bit rushed. But I don't even care. This book was equal parts emotionally trying and rewarding, and I felt so relieved --triumphant? complacent? weightless? -- when it was over. And that's all I'm really asking for...when a series has to end, can't you just make me feel better about that fact?
Okay, now for all of the things I can't say without risk of totally spoiling things...
(view spoiler)[Oh, you poor Team Adam fans...you are not going to like who your boy becomes in this book, and I'm not just saying that because of what these changes result in. In Ignite Me, Adam becomes brooding -- though Kenji's always said he was moody as hell. He is selfish and hurtful and just plain not worthy of Juliette. Not anymore, if he ever was. I found the revelations Juliette has about their relationship to be refreshing. Aren't we all always saying that you rarely end up with your first love, that you both grow as people and fall out of love, making it hard to remain together in the end? That's exactly what happened with Adam and Juliette.
Some may say that Adam's transition to complete douche-nozzle is a complete 180 for this character, that they don't know him in this book, but considering I was never a fan of Adam's to begin with, I think I saw glimpses of this boy before. He's impulsive and somewhat irrational, and he's the son of Anderson. And just as there are shades of their father in Warner, there are in Adam, as well.
Warner and Juliette are were both kind of crazy-pants. They've both lived in isolation for most of their lives, never having a true friend or even anyone to really talk to. They may have had their differences in the beginning, but when the truth about Warner's real plans comes out, they realize they have a lot more in common than it seemed. And yet, they don't immediately fall into each other, despite what Adam may believe.
I kind of loathe that the romantic elements became the main focus of this trilogy, but at the same time, this is one of the few times that I've enjoyed a love triangle and applauded the way it worked itself out. This is how Boundless should have gone, even if it did piss off a lot of fans. People change, relationships mature, and sometimes they end. That's the way life goes.
I was a bit unhappy with the way Juliette projected her feelings onto Adam, though. It's one thing for her to admit that she is no longer in love with him, but it's another to assume that he feels the same way, especially when he's claimed no such thing. However, I did appreciate that she and Warner didn't try to parade whatever was happening between them around in front of Adam. He didn't deserve that, but also, nothing was happening for the longest, so there wasn't anything to parade around.
But when things did finally heat up, when Juliette was finally ready to admit her feelings...wowsers! Chapter 55. SO HOTT! That is all. (hide spoiler)]
That isn't even half of what I want to say about this book, but it's enough for now.
GIF it to me straight: ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I'll try to refrain from spoilers as much as possible, but I may allude to circumstances in previous books, so if you've not yet read them yet, get on that right now!
Likely, if you're reading this review, you've already read this final book and just want to know my thoughts. Or you've begun the series and want to know if you should continue, if the payoff is worth it. It is, my friend. It is. But this also means that you don't really need me to touch on all the things I normally would in a review, like world-building, characterization, romance, and the story's predictability. Right? Okay, well, there are probably a few things I could still add. ;0)
So...Leigh Bardugo is pretty daring with her finale here. Maybe not as daring as others in similar situations, but I think that most of her fan-base will appreciate the bold choices she made in this final book. Characters you've grown to care about die. Innocents die. This is a war Alina is waging, after all. But I think that Bardugo wrote the story that needed to be told, not the one that everyone necessarily wanted to read. And that's not a bad thing. It's honest. It's brutal. And these characters won me over from the very first page of Shadow and Bone, and I'll not disgrace them by disparaging the author or her story because of who may or may not have survived this battle or who may have ended up with who in the end.
I think you can tell by my rating how much I enjoyed this last book in the Grisha Trilogy. It was action-packed and much faster-paced than I was expecting, though much of the beginning came to pass with little effort, all things considered. I have to wonder if that's because I recently re-listened to the previous book in preparation for Ruin and Rising. What I mean is, Alina was quite alone there at the end of Siege and Storm. She had no idea who'd survived the vicious skirmish with the Darkling and his forces and few of her compatriots remained. Even Mal was distant. And yet, it wasn't long before a plan was hatched and Alina was back to being the oft-adored and somewhat feared Sun Summoner. Basically, it seemed as though things turned around pretty quickly for our rag-tag group of rebels.
The characters have all been pretty well fleshed-out at this point, so Bardugo focused primarly on the plot and she did so aggressively. Not that I'm complaining. I love where she took this story and how completely unexpected some of it was. And I mean spit out my drink while I'm reading unpredictable. And that didn't just happen once. One might think that the author wanted me to waste perfectly good kvas while reading her story. And while her bold decisions with this final novel were plenty, shocking, and somewhat unprecedented, I believe they were entirely true to the story she was trying to tell. In other words, I LOVED the shock-factor.
***Serious spoilers in the next few paragraphs but not for THIS book.***
I also really enjoyed where Bardugo took the romance, no matter how many directions and iterations it's been through, though this is probably where I'll differ in opinion among my peers. But I won't mention why unless you ask me in private.
Alina loved Mal for ages. Mal is a bit of a playboy and thinks of Alina as just his best friend. Alina finds out she is Grisha and has a tryst with the Darkling, only to discover just how evil he is and escapes. Mal finds her and they are in love. (I say that in my taunting voice because I never really felt that connection...or liked Mal all that much, to be honest.) End of Book One.
The Darkling finds Mal and Alina together, captures them and throws them on a ship. Because of the amplifier, Alina is tied to the Darkling, feels a pull toward him. Sturmhond, privateer and captain of the ship, mutinies against the Darkling and saves Alina and Mal, gets them back on dry land after helping Alina secure the second amplifier. Sturmhond is not who he says he is, propositions Alina. (I want her to say YES!) Mal thinks himself unworthy of Alina, distances himself from her. The Darkling visits Alina daily through visions, drives her to the brink of madness. Still, she feels the pull to him; he and she are the same, after all. The Darkling attacks, Alina sacrifices herself, and Mal collects what's left of her. Everyone regroups but Sturmhond is not with the group.
And that brings us to where we begin in Ruin and Rising. Mal starts off being his pig-headed self, but circumstances change and he's all about Alina again. Everyone is all about Alina again. Even Zoya, if you can believe that. I kind of love it.
Which reminds me of one of my favorite aspects of this series: the humor. It's such a serious storyline for the most part -- war against the most evil of evils, fighting prejudices against those with magic versus those without -- that I'm always more entertained than I probably should be by the banter and rapport these characters have with each other. That's probably why Sturmhond quickly became my favorite of the potential love interests, his gift for making light of any situation, but it's also the essence of the story: that you have to be able to see the light through all the darkness.
The Grisha Trilogy is easily one of my favorite high fantasy series. Its wonderfully intricate world, reminiscent of old-world Russia and its neighbors, is simply gorgeous to imagine. The characters, with all of their faults, through all of their trials and tribulations, make me want to know them in real life. And the story itself begs for a happy ending. And even if all of the characters didn't find their happy ending, I am completely satisfied with this conclusion. There was so much growth throughout the series, but what really made this series epic was the last 30% or so of this final book. I mean, WOW. I shall now wait impatiently for Leigh Bardugo's next book, which appears to be a story set in the Grisha world but with new characters to love -- and hate, as the case may be. This author definitely knows how to make us do both with her fabulous words. I hope you've enjoyed your time with this series as much as I have.
This. Book. Wins. If this had been the book given to me as my first foray into comtemporary YA -- and granted, it has supernatural elements, what with...moreThis. Book. Wins. If this had been the book given to me as my first foray into comtemporary YA -- and granted, it has supernatural elements, what with the MC being dead and all -- anyway, had this been my first contemporary read, it might have easily led me to decide that contemps were my favorite subgenre. Instead, I've shied away from most anything contemporary and consistently read paranormals with a heavy dose of romance to satisfy my cravings. This book may have changed all that. Don't think that means that I'll forego supernatural stories in favor of lighter, fluffier reads. But I will give all contemps a second thought, instead of immediately dismissing them due to their lack of imaginary beasties.
The Catastrophic History of You & Me is not a book I'll soon forget. It's cute, funny, heart-breaking, sad, beautiful, honest, and a whole slew of other adjectives. Pretty much, I ran a full gamut of emotions while reading this novel. I teared up -- okay, bawled like a baby because I tend to be overly sentimental -- twice within the first two chapters alone. But I also laughed -- a lot -- throughout the book. And I swooned...oh, did I swoon.
Basically, this book takes you through the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance) as Brie deals with each of them after her death. And she's got dreamy lost soul Patrick to help her through them. (Cue the swooning.) I absolutely adored the voice given to Brie. She's witty and sarcastic and well, adorable, even when she makes some questionable decisions. But honestly, who among us wouldn't take the opportunity to spy on our loved ones after we're gone?
The story was one of redemption, of love lost and found again, and of understanding and compassion when others need it most. I thoroughly enjoyed the subtle hints placed throughout the story, and though I figured out what was really going on half-way through, I was still pleasantly surprised at how it came to fruition. It was slightly predictable without being obvious. Also, the chapters are titled after songs, some of them popular love songs, some of them corny songs from the 80s. And Brie herself is a big fan of 80s music. Because I really needed a reason to love her more.
You want to know something else I've decided I like about contemporary novels? A lot of them are stand-alone novels. I love a good series as much as the next girl, but sometimes, you just want to finish a novel in one sitting and revel in that sense of accomplishment, in knowing how the story ends without having to wait for the next installment. So, there's another plus for this story...as if I needed another one. :) I will recommend this debut novel to everyone, and I mean everyone. And if there's any doubt as to why, see the first paragraph of this review again. It's not everyday that a novel can convert me to the lighter side of YA.
And now, one of my favorite passages from the book. (Mind you, this is taken from the ARC I received and may not appear in the final version of the novel...but I'll be really sad to find out if it doesn't make the cut.)
From pages 42 - 44:
I crossed my arms and clenched my jaw, feeling my inner five-year-old beginning to act out. "I. Don't. Have. A. Pen." She pointed at my right hand. "Yes. You. Do." Before I could argue with her, I realized that actually, I did have a pen. Right in my hand, ready to go. I almost fell off my chair. How the hell did that get there?! The weirdest part? I recognized it. No. Way. It was the exact same pen I'd had back in third grade. Back when I was an even bigger dork who got so excited I couldn't sleep before School Supply Shopping Day. The pen was white on top and sky blue on bottom, with six (six!) color options, depending on which button you pushed down. You could even press two buttons down at the same time and mix the colors. (I know.) To a third-grade bookworm who'd spent her entire summer practicing her signature in cursive, this pen was a complete and total thing of beauty. I'd left it in my desk one Friday afternoon, but when I looked for it the following Monday morning, it was gone. We're talking Real Life Elementary School Tragedy. But then, in a very suspicious turn of events, Chloe Lutz--a girl who wore her hair in pigtails every day, for god's sake--showed up with a similar (and by similar I mean identical) pen a few days later. Et tu, Chloe? I knew she took it. Emma, Sadie, and Tess knew she took it. But tattling wasn't an option because our teacher Mrs. Arden had a very harsh No-Tattling policy. I wanted to confront her at recess, but I figured that was a bad idea, considering a) she was a whole foot taller than me and b) she was a brown belt in karate. In the end, I spent the whole rest of that school year watching Chloe have the time of her life pushing my beloved color buttons. Red! No, blue! Oh, isn't this fun? Yes, Chloe Slutz, of course it's fun. That is obviously why I bought it. And now, all these years later, here I was in a grungy pizza parlor in Half Moon Bay, dead since Monday, and holding the very same World's Greatest Pen. SO weird.
First, I had that pen! Second, I think that passage highlights how funny and normal Brie is, and it gives you a little insight into her character.
**There will probably be minor spoilers for the first book...I can't help myself. I have to talk about it. :)**
So, I liked Altered when I read it earlier this year...A LOT. Like, even more than I thought I was going to. So I pretty much already knew that the sequel was a must-read and that it was probably going to be just as intense. And, boy, was it!
But before I get to that, a little side-note. I read Altered before I'd ever even heard of the Elementals series by Brigid Kemmerer, and though the premises are very different, the group dynamic is very similar and just as entertaining:
Elementals - has twin brothers named Nick and Gabriel - oldest brother Michael is the no-nonsense head of the family - Becca discovers she's also an Elemental
Altered - has altered boy named Nick who has previously used Gabriel as an alias - Sam, the boy who's been in the Altered program the longest, is also a no-nonsense kind of leader - Anna was also in the Altered program with the boys
- both series include an outsider who gains acceptance, only to betray the group
So many similarities from two totally different stories! So, if you've been debating one series or the other, well...just read them both! They are both awesome and I can't recommend them enough. Both are completely addictive and insanely readable.
Okay, now that that's out of the way...
As I said before, Erased is intense. I couldn't put the book down. And when I absolutely had to stop reading, I rushed back to it with super-human quickness. Simply put, I was utterly compelled to continue reading, as Anna, Sam, Nick, and Cas searched for the answers to their past and discovered more than they ever bargained for when it came to their futures.
Erased finds the characters two months after the events of Altered, on the run and hiding out. They're all kind of on auto-pilot, doing what they need to do to survive and not much else. The flashbacks are getting worse, and it's difficult for any of them to discern what's real and what's not anymore. But they're sticking it out, staying together to evade the Branch as long as they possibly can.
Except, it soon becomes clear that their "safety in numbers" theory isn't going to cut it anymore, and Anna is forced to head out with only the ill-tempered Nick by her side. These two have never been the best of friends, the animosity between them crackling like lightning. I liked this little interlude, and not just because we get to see Nick and Anna as badasses, working together in tandem to take down some Branch agents that are on their trail. No, I enjoyed this turn of events much more because it shows a softer side of Nick and through a series of flashbacks, we learn more of each of these characters' history. At one time, they might not have hated each other.
Stop looking at me like that. There's no love triangle...not really, anyway. It's only my ardent wish that Nick was a viable suitor for Anna. Sam's great and all, but he just seems like a shell of a person at times. But these kids have been through an awful lot, so I'll chalk his behavior up to that. Especially since he is unfailingly faithful to dear Anna.
I love the team dynamic, with Sam as the leader. Except, because of some weird bonding experiment done as part of the Altered program, Anna's actually the head of the group. They are her boys, and she is theirs to protect. It makes for some interesting situations and some rather funny tests on their part as they try to determine just how far that bond goes.
Exhilarating and fast-paced doesn't begin to describe this novel, but that's a good jumping off point. As with the first book, I found bits of the plot to be on the predictable side, but again, it didn't keep me from enjoying the story as quickly as I could, especially with some of the awesome twists thrown into the mix. And though there's more story to tell, and their pasts are anything but clear, this second installment leaves the reader with at least some semblance of closure. And yet, this reader can't wait to get her hands on the next book. =)
Thanks to Little, Brown BFYR and Around the World ARC Tours for providing a copy for review!
Time travel novels are usually the bane of my existence. I love the idea of time travel itself, but most novels tend to drop the ball when it comes to...moreTime travel novels are usually the bane of my existence. I love the idea of time travel itself, but most novels tend to drop the ball when it comes to executing the concept. The explanation for how it works, why it works, etc., becomes too convoluted and confusing, and little to no actual time travel actually happens. At least, that's usually my experience. There have been a few exceptions, but All Our Yesterdays surpassed them all.
I haven't stopped thinking about this book since I finished it on Saturday. And I read the entirety of the novel in one sitting. I had the house to myself and I took the opportunity to devour this book, and it was definitely time well-spent. Also, it's a duology. Yeah, those are kind of becoming a thing, and I'm not complaining. It removes the whole issue of "middle book syndrome" and means you get the whole story in just two books. Now, if only they could release the books a little closer together. *sigh*
This story was very character-driven, and if you know my preferences at all, you know that's a biggie. Characters can make or break a story, but this is especially true where time travel books are concerned because they tend to focus a lot of time and energy on the time travel aspect itself, and the characters are never portrayed to their fullest, which results in me never getting attached to them. And if I never develop a connection to the characters, if I don't care one iota what happens to them, you've lost me. Luckily for this story, I cared an awful lot what happened to the characters, maybe too much...I went to sleep thinking about them and I woke up thinking about them, and days later, I'm still thinking about them.
I love how the relationship between the cellmates Em and Finn is portrayed and how it evolved, the fact that they didn't like each other all that much in the beginning, but they later became friends and close confidantes because of their situation. On the other hand, we have Marina and James, who've been best friends and neighbors for years. These characters are all tied together, for better or worse, and somehow, the responsibility of saving the world from destruction, from chaos and war, has ended up in their hands. I really can't say too much about it for fear of giving everything away -- even though it's not like you won't figure it all out on your own pretty early on -- but suffice it to say, these characters felt so real, their relationships so plausible, and my empathy for them only increased as more and more of their story was divulged.
The book may have essentially been character-driven for me, but the plot was also very fast-paced and intense, with the present-day action spanning only three or four days. There were lots of flashbacks to provide a background for Em and Finn, whose timeline is four years in the future from when we meet Marina and James, but that same technique wasn't really necessary to explain the circumstances for the latter pair. The story alternates between Em and Marina's perspectives, with one set of characters knowing full well the ramifications of time travel and the other set woefully ignorant. The author really understood where she was taking this story from the beginning, the way she manipulates the events and characters...and even the reader a little bit.
The time travel concept in this novel isn't totally unprecedented. There is a machine, aptly named Cassandra after the mythological soothsayer, and there are alternate timelines and paradoxical events. But some aspects of it are unusual, at least to me. For example, the idea that time is not linear, that it might be sentient and decide which events remain fixed and which events can be altered...those are not concepts I've seen in time travel before, at least not in YA versions. And because of this, it actually made a lot more sense to me than how I've seen it explained before, maybe because it wasn't made out to be this ultra complex idea but rather a vague one.
The concept and explanation, the character development, even the romantic elements...this is what I was looking for in all of those other time travel novels. Sacrifice is a major underlying theme in this book, and it made for an intensely emotional read, not to mention an absolutely engaging one. All Our Yesterdays is an impressive debut, and I wholeheartedly pronounce that Cristin Terrill is an author to watch and this novel is a definite must-read!