Pushing the Limits was another in a long line of books that has been getting absolute rave reviews. Every time I see a book like this and it piques my curiosity, I wonder ‘can it really be that good?’ Yes. Yes, it can. ‘Good’ doesn’t even begin to describe this book.
This novel is a story about love - and not just romantic love, but all the different kinds of love we experience in life. This book made me cry, made me laugh, broke my heart, pieced it back together, made me angry, and made me fall in love.
Echo is scarred, physically and emotionally. Just months after losing her brother, she was brutally attacked, leaving her arms scarred and her memory of that entire day blank. Her whole world has been turned upside down - her family is a mess, she lost most of her friends when she became an outsider, and she has more emotional issues than she knows what to do with. But then there’s Noah. Badass, sexy as hell Noah who’s all wrong for her, but who she quickly learns has emotional scars, too.
I connected with Echo instantly. She had such a genuine voice, and right from the beginning it was obvious she was lost, broken, and haunted. I cried for her, I cheered for her, I wanted so badly for her to be whole again and to have the life she deserved. She was such a strong character, and I felt like I was right there with her as she evolved.
Noah is so much more than he appears. Smart, funny, and loving, he’s just as broken as Echo in so many ways. He’s full of anger and bitterness because of the way his life turned out, and when someone gets too close or too personal he knows exactly the right buttons to push to make them back off, even if it means making them hurt the way he hurts. All he cares about in life are his two little brothers - they were split up from Noah after their parents died, and while Noah went through foster care hell, his brothers were put in another home. Noah's entire life is about them, and his devotion and love for them touched my heart deeply and made me cry more than once. Then when he opens his heart to Echo and shows her that same love and devotion, there was no turning back: I was completely in love with Noah. He wanted so badly to be the man his brothers and Echo needed and deserved, and the things he thought and said and did alternately broke my heart and melted it.
The dual perspective of this book was the perfect choice. We got to see deep inside both Echo’s and Noah’s hearts and minds, and while most of us are probably used to books from female perspectives, I’m a fan of books from a male POV, and I think it’s quite possible that Noah had the most authentic voice of any male character I’ve read to date. I felt every emotion - every moment of anger, hurt, triumph, and love from both of them. Echo and Noah needed each other. They balanced each other out, helped each other, healed each other.
Noah and Echo weren’t the only amazing characters. Every single character in this book had their moment to shine or fail. We got a chance to really know each character, their habits, their fears, their personalities. Every character in this book was memorable.
Powerful, raw, emotional, and sexy, Pushing the Limits is full of ups and downs. There’s no sugarcoating, and no avoiding the hard and painful lessons that life often throws at us. Echo and Noah don’t only find each other, they find themselves, and in the process you’re given a story that is so beautiful, so heartbreaking, and yet so inspiring, you’re not likely to ever forget it. This book makes you believe that love - true, unconditional love, whether it’s for family, friends, or lovers - can overcome just about anything. It also cemented one thing I’ve known my entire life - family is not just about blood. Sometimes you create your own family from the people who love you and are there for you no matter what.(less)
Venom was the number one book on my wish list from the moment I saw the cover and read the synopsis. I wanted this book so badly, and was really excited to receive it from Razorbill. Obviously I had very high hopes for it, and it sounded like it had so much potential - intrigue, murder, romance - all the elements that make for an amazing story.
For me, what stopped it from being amazing was the length. The story itself was good, but it was far too long and bogged down with details. It took me nearly two weeks to get through this book. It was repetitive and way too detailed - we heard every detail of every building, every dress, every hairstyle, etc. Venom could have been absolutely incredible if it had been about 100 pages shorter and had concentrated more on the story itself.
Also, when I read historical fiction, I like to be transported to that time and place, and I expect characters to talk the way they did within the setting of the time frame (but a bit modernized so we can understand it, of course). While the setting was very well done and felt authentic, the language was completely modern; with exception to the dresses, the way women were treated, and a few other little details, I had trouble getting a sense of the time period, and if it hadn’t said in the synopsis, I wouldn’t have had a clue. All the language and conversations were completely contemporary, and that threw me off. It didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the book, but it didn’t feel truly authentic as an historical novel.
With all that being said, Venom definitely had its good points. Cass was spirited and independent, especially for a woman of her time. While I had trouble connecting with her, I still liked her as a character (I think I’d have connected with her more easily if the story had been told in first person instead of third). The story was full of intrigue and mystery, secrets and lies - nobody was who they seemed, and everyone appeared to be keeping secrets. Cass didn’t know who to trust, and with good reason. Venom was full of tension, exciting moments, plot twists, and enough mystery to keep me guessing.
As for the romance - aka love triangle - I could see the appeal of both boys. Falco was mysterious and exciting, and there was something forbidden about him, which I think is a large part of the appeal for Cass, who had lived a fairly sheltered life. Luca was steady and patient, and seemed like he’d really be there for Cass. They both had secrets, and while I believe they both truly cared for Cass, I’m not sure who’s right for her. I went back and forth throughout the entire book. I don’t normally have a problem with love triangles, so I’ll be curious to see how this one plays out, especially after how the book ended.
While I’m not usually a fan of cliffhanger endings, especially when the next book doesn’t come out for a while, I loved this particular ending. It leaves you yearning for more, and yet it was done in a way that left me feeling satisfied instead of antsy.
While this has nothing to do with the book itself, I just wanted to mention that, physically, Venom is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen. Not only is the cover stunning, but the inside is gorgeous too. Each page has beautiful designs, the chapter headings are lovely, and there’s a page before each chapter with a saying from the Book of the Eternal Rose. I’d like to give major kudos to whoever designed this book, because they did a phenomenal job.
Overall, while Venom wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, I did enjoy it, and I’m looking forward to reading Belladonna in 2013.
I’ve loved Robin Hood since I was a little girl, so when I heard about Scarlet, I knew I had to read it - Will Scarlet as a girl? Brilliant. Despite my excitement, part of me was worried for several reasons - what if I didn’t like this version and it affected how I felt about Robin Hood in general? The synopsis hinted at a romance between Robin and Scarlet, but I’ve been in love with the idea of Robin Hood and Maid Marian since I first saw the Disney version at age four or five, so I couldn't imagine accepting a relationship between Robin and anyone else.
I needn’t have worried. Not only was Scarlet well written, it was an incredibly original, fascinating, compelling take on the Robin Hood lore. It captured me from the first page and held on tight, making me laugh, cry, fall in love, and yell at the pages. It broke my heart into a million tiny pieces then pieced it back together and healed it.
Scarlet has a bit of something for everyone - humour, action, suspense, romance. It’s full of unexpected twists, tension, and enough funny moments to balance out the serious ones.
As for the characters, Scarlet is quite possibly one of my favourite characters ever. She was so real, she practically leapt off the pages. Strong and tough, independent and clever, she was a fascinating contrast of hard and soft, fierce and vulnerable. More than once I wanted to wrap my arms around her and tell her everything would be all right. Underneath her rough exterior was a scared, damaged girl who didn’t think she deserved anything good in life. Just when I thought we knew everything there was to know about her, another layer was exposed, and it made me love her even more.
Robin made me fall in love with Robin Hood lore all over again. Younger than in most of the stories out there, he was just as complex and layered as Scarlet, and the interactions between them made me swoon, made me angry, made me laugh, and even made me tear up more than once. The rest of the characters, particularly John and Much added so much dimension to the story. John was fun and flirty (I have to admit, I kind of fell in love with him too) while Much was steady and loyal. The four of them were like a band of misfits brought together by Robin, and I rooted for each of them for different reasons.
Overall, I thought Scarlet was absolutely brilliant. These characters and their stories, while somewhat familiar, were also brand new in the best ways possible, and I know they’ll stick with me for a very long time. I would (and will) recommend this book to anyone, but particularly those interested in Robin Hood lore, historical fiction with an authentic feel, and stories with lots of heart.(less)
I had mixed feelings about this book. I was really curious to read it despite the fact that it hasn’t gotten the greatest reviews from friends and fellow bloggers. I’ve always been fascinated with Shakespeare and Elizabethan England, so a story about time traveling back to that era intrigued me.
I thought the concept was quite unique. Young William Shakespeare was possibly being recruited to become a Jesuit, which would mean he wouldn’t be the famous playwright we all know today. Stephen, who has visions and the ability to travel through time was charged with the task of stopping that from happening, and he chose Miranda to help him do it. I thought his methods and the fact that he wanted her to seduce Shakespeare were a bit strange - at times it felt like he was attempting to pimp her out - but I did think it was an interesting concept to account for Shakespeare's 'lost years'.
I got kind of irritated with the characters sometimes. Stephen would be really sweet one minute and then all rough and gruff the next. He’d go from grabbing Miranda’s arm and dragging her out of a room, to kissing her. And worse than that, after he’d been mean to her, she’d want him to kiss her. He was cool, aloof, and condescending one minute and passionate and caring the next - it got a bit tiresome.
Miranda tended to be overly dramatic, emotional, a bit ridiculous, and slightly naïve. She went over the same things countless times and didn’t seem to think things through all the way. She did, however have her moments. All her flaws made her human, and she did grow as a character.
One thing I really did enjoy was the historical aspect of the story. The religion and politics of the time were in turmoil, women were meant to be good little housewives proficient in things like needlework and running a household, and it seemed like life revolved around eating, dancing, and general merry-making. I really enjoyed the scenes where they were all dining together, and I actually learned bits and pieces of history, like facts about Jesuits and all the religious chaos of the time.
Another redeeming quality about this book was the fact that the story kept me guessing (I thought I knew how it was going to end, but I was wrong). It had a good concept with a lot of potential, but there were too many things that didn’t make sense, and none of the characters (with the exception of Shakespeare himself) were very likeable. If you’re a fan of novels about time travel or Shakespearean/Elizabethan times, I’d say give this one a try and decide for yourself. (less)
When I saw the cover and synopsis of Meant to Be, I knew I had to read it. It sounded cute and funny, and that’s exactly what it was. While it did have its issues, it still managed to be, in my opinion, another in a line of great contemporary young adult books of 2012.
I had mixed feelings about Julia. I could relate to her in a lot of ways - I’m a planner (although not to the extent she was), and I love to learn and read and explore. I could also relate to her with losing a parent and having those emotions stirred up even though it happened a long time ago. She was smart and could be very funny (not always on purpose, which often made it funnier), but she was also a know-it-all and was constantly correcting people when they made mistakes. Everything was very black and white for her, and a lot of the things she said and did irritated me. She would get an idea in her head and there was no swaying her, even though she was wrong most of the time. She dwelled on things so much that she didn’t enjoy half the trip - a trip that she had been waiting her whole life to take.
She does, however, grow as a character, and despite her flaws I enjoyed watching her develop and learn a lot of life lessons that are particularly hard to learn, especially at that age: appearances can be deceiving; not everyone fits into the little mold you place them in; sometimes you’re wrong, sometimes people surprise you beyond belief, and sometimes you get your heart broken because of it, but other times it can be the best thing in the world. Even though the overall theme of the book was light and humourous, there were lessons to be learned, and I appreciated that.
Jason was a conundrum, and I have to admit I liked that about him, because as a character he was never predictable. He would be snarking at Julia and being a jerk one minute, but then the next minute he’d do something totally swoonworthy. Julia was so regimented and anal, and I loved that Jason made her do things she wouldn’t normally do, and helped her to realize that life isn’t all about rules and guidelines and restrictions. I enjoyed the scenes between them, whether they were arguing, teasing each other, or stepping around their growing feelings. They were comical, adorable, and at times, infuriating.
What I love about books set in another country, and something Ms Morrill captured perfectly in Meant to Be, was that London was like another character in the book. London is one of my top 3 dream destinations; I’ve wanted to go there for as long as I can remember, and this book made me want to go even more. I felt like I was traipsing alongside Julia and Jason through the city, soaking it all in.
Overall, while Meant to Be wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, I still enjoyed it very much. The flaws within the characters made them more human and believable; the setting was vibrant and authentic, and just plain perfect; and the story itself had all the elements - humour, romance, tension, and genuine emotion - that make contemporary young adult my favourite genre.(less)
Hemlock is a dark and compelling story with a bit of everything - action, suspense, and romance - woven with a dynamic cast of characters.
I’ve read several werewolf novels, and I particularly liked the concept of Hemlock - werewolves were people infected with lupine syndrome from either a bite or a scratch, and if they were identified as being infected, they were sent to internment camps for the rest of their lives so they couldn’t infect anyone else. I thought it was an interesting, unique spin on werewolf lore. I loved that the weres were ‘out’ - people knew about them, and that they were a real threat. I also thought the Trackers were a great addition - the bad guys that were supposed to be good guys, saving people from werewolves, but they had their own menacing and often deadly agenda. Their presence added to the overall dark and tense feel of the book.
As for the characters, they really made this book. Mac was a very genuine, relatable character. Her emotions really rang true, whether it was fear, worry, happiness, or love. My heart ached for her as secrets and lies were uncovered, and she had trouble knowing who to trust or what to do. She was strong, smart, independent, stubborn, and loyal, and I really felt like I connected to her.
The other characters were just as compelling - Jason, Amy’s haunted and broken boyfriend; Kyle, Mac’s best friend who has a secret of his own; Tess, Mac’s cousin/guardian; and Amy, who despite being dead was a large presence in the story through memories and Mac’s nightmares. She was Mac’s best friend, but Mac slowly learns that there were a lot of things she didn’t know about Amy, and it added to the mysterious feel of the story.
While I’m not one of those people who is fanatically opposed to love triangles, sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t; in the case of Hemlock, it definitely worked. Although I was rooting for Kyle from the beginning, there were moments when things were revealed that almost had me wavering. Both Jason and Kyle have their good points, but I think Kyle - sweet, protective, and loyal - is the type of guy Mac needs in her life. She’s certainly strong enough that she doesn’t need anyone to save her or ‘take care of her’, but I think if she did, Kyle would be the perfect choice. As for the love triangle itself, I think it was really well done. It wasn’t forced or irritating the way some triangles are, and the romance wasn’t in your face - it felt natural.
A fantastic debut in a trilogy that’s sure to be a hit, Hemlock is gripping and memorable, and is sure to enthrall fans of paranormal, romance, and mystery.(less)
In Lies Beneath, debut author Anne Greenwood Brown weaves an intoxicating tale that is dark and somewhat disturbing, but also thrilling, romantic, and, at times heartbreaking. This was the first mermaid book I’ve read, and I can definitely tell you it won’t be the last.
There’s no wasting time in the beginning, the story jumps right in and we’re introduced to Calder, who is wishing he could avoid his yearly reunion with his mermaid sisters. I have to admit, there was part of me that didn’t want to like Calder. He was a monster and a murderer, but it didn’t take me long to realize he was so much more than that, and the ‘monster’ and ‘murderer’ in him were part of his nature. It would be hypocritical of me to hate him for that when I love vampires and other supernatural killers, right? Plus, Calder wanted so badly to separate himself from his inherent nature and not be like other merpeople, especially his dangerous and deadly sisters.
I really started to like Calder when he began interacting with Lily. It was a struggle for them at first, because Calder didn’t know how to act human, and he made Lily nervous with his forthright nature, and the fact that he always seemed to be around. At first, Calder did his best to keep things impersonal - he had a mission, and he couldn’t let anything get in the way. Only, something did get in the way - his growing feelings for Lily.
Lily was very different from a lot of other girls in books. I wasn’t sure I would like her at first, because she seemed so determined to be different, but then I saw that it wasn’t necessarily that she was trying to be different, she was different, and she just wanted to express herself. She was free-spirited and fearless with a touch of a rebellious soul, but there was also this sweetness and innocence to her that was refreshing, and that made me love her.
My favorite scenes were definitely the ones where Calder and Lily were together. Things built slowly between them, and I loved the anticipation. There were scenes that were so sweet, but also kind of sexy, where every little moment or touch held so much tension it made me sigh and silently cheer them on.
I enjoyed learning some of the back story of merpeople - how they were born or made, and what it meant to be part of a mermaid family. Calder’s sadistic sisters fascinated me, and I wish we had seen a bit more of them and learned more about them. One thing is for sure: I’ve always been afraid of open water, and I don’t think that’ll be changing any time soon after reading this book!
The pacing of the story was great - little tidbits of the puzzle were revealed throughout, and by the time the climax hit, I was shocked. I really didn’t see any of it coming, and I love when that happens. This book genuinely kept me guessing, and I was so desperate for Calder and Lily to be together, but no matter how many scenarios I played out in my head, I couldn’t see a way that would work.
Overall, Lies Beneath is a captivating debut that shouldn’t be missed, especially if you enjoy mermaid books, but more than that, stories about love, redemption, revenge, human (or inhuman) nature, secrets, and family ties.(less)
This book was a complete surprise to me. In the beginning, I honestly didn’t think I was going to enjoy it, because Chloe seemed so immature and shallow, but I ended up loving this book for so many reasons.
At first, this did seem like kind of a weird, silly book. It felt like all Chloe cared about were shoes and her job at a Mexican cantina, and she was goofy and appeared immature and shallow. Her voice felt very young - much younger than a 15/16-year-old girl - and she was really wrapped up in her own life and her own problems, which left her oblivious to the problems of her friends. But when those same friends abandoned her and started treating her horribly, Chloe was thrown into the middle of a group of misfits - the kids at the school’s radio station - and she began to open her eyes and see a whole new world, and we got to see a whole new Chloe.
I really loved the evolution Chloe made as a character. Despite the fact that I thought she was silly at first, I ended up feeling a very deep connection to her. She was impulsive, which made her choices a bit misguided at times, and she got wrapped up in her own stuff, but those flaws made her human - and made her the young teen she was. She was passionate, had a huge heart, and she wasn’t afraid to just be herself, which is a difficult thing for a lot of teenagers. She learned how hurtful it can be to assume things about people and to stereotype, and she learned to pay attention and truly listen to what people were saying.
Besides Chloe, there was an amazing cast of characters - Chloe’s kooky grandmother, her traitorous former best friends, the radio misfits - Duncan, Clementine, Haley, Taysum, Frick, and Frack. Even the guidance counselor, Ms. Lungren. They all taught Chloe something and added to her journey, and they added colour and life to this already colourful story.
I especially loved Duncan, and wish we got to see more of him. Ahh, Duncan, with his handmade scarves, and his screwed up family life, and his penchant for fixing things. Wise beyond his years, forced to grow up much too soon, and far too responsible for a kid his age, he was exactly what Chloe needed. These two flawed people with their own personal baggage made a perfect pair.
Favorite Duncan quote: “Has anyone ever told you you’re wonderful?” I totally swooned.
For such a funny book, it had very profound moments. Chloe came off as this happy-go-lucky girl, but she had this almost desperate need to please, and to keep the peace. She was a multidimensional character that I won't soon be forgetting.
Overall, this book is one of my favorite reads of 2012 so far. It had me laughing one minute, on the verge of tears the next, and pausing to ponder over Chloe’s often insightful observations. Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe, is a terrific debut that shouldn’t be missed!(less)
The Princesses of Iowa wasn’t what I expected at all. It made me feel so much, I don’t even really know where to begin. I can tell you that at the time of writing this review, it’s been several weeks since I finished reading the book, and it’s still on my mind.
Paige is a perfect princess. Or at least, that’s the image she’s projected to people her entire life. She and her two best friends have worked toward being princesses for most of their lives - being pretty, being popular, and having people see them as worthy of attention and admiration. That’s all that really matters in life. But when Paige realizes how shallow and superficial she’s been, and that her friends are just as bad - if not worse - life changes completely for her.
Her mother’s obsessive need for perfection made Paige paranoid and self-conscious. I lost count of the number of times my jaw dropped at the critical things her mother said, or the back-handed compliments. As ridiculous as it may sound, there were moments when I wanted to cry, because I couldn’t imagine a mother actually saying those things, being so selfish, or putting that much pressure on her daughter.
I connected with Paige on a very deep level. Even though her life was completely different from mine, I could put myself in her shoes so easily. Nobody really saw her for her. Nobody knew the real Paige. Paige didn’t even really know the real Paige, but as she learned more about herself, as her character grew and changed, I was so proud of her for her self-discovery. Besides her own issues, and the tough life lessons she had to learn, she was surrounded by hypocrisy, racism, bigotry, and homophobia. She’d never realized that before, but she was able to learn the importance of taking responsibility for your actions and not only owning up to your mistakes, but learning from them as well.
The secondary characters were absolutely brilliant, especially Ethan and Shanti. I wish I had friends like them, and I also found myself falling for Ethan. They had surprising depth for secondary characters, and I couldn’t wait for more scenes with them. I also liked the progression made by Paige’s sister, Miranda/Mirror, and I loved Mr. Tremont, not only because he was a great character in his own right, but also because he was one of the main reasons Paige started to dig deeper and realize her true self.
An unexpected bonus of this book was that there were parts that were hilariously funny. The subject matter was so heavy that it was nice to have those moments where I would laugh until I cried (there was one scene in particular that involved Paige, Ethan, and Shanti). And yet, I would laugh and laugh, and then a minute later, Paige would think or say or do something so heartbreaking or poignant that I’d be ready to cry. And I will admit, I did cry several times. This book really did evoke a lot of emotion in me.
I only have a few small complaints about this book. The first is that it was incredibly long. There were these beautiful, elaborate descriptions that I personally enjoyed and could appreciate as a writer, but I think a lot of other people might see it as unnecessary or ‘filler’. I read a review where the reviewer said the book was like ‘a love letter to writing’, and that really stuck with me as being true, but again, as a writer, I enjoyed the descriptions. I also thought that for such a long book, the ending was rather abrupt. Everything was technically wrapped up, it just felt sort of rushed after so much story.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Beautiful, poignant, brilliantly funny, and achingly real, The Princesses of Iowa is a debut that should not be missed. (less)
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick is one of many amazing debut novels of 2012, and in my opinion, one of the best YA contemporaries of the year. This book made me feel so much - I fell in love, I laughed, I cried, I swooned, it made my heart ache, and it made me happy and angry and everything in between. It was sweet, funny, sexy, romantic, and real.
I really connected with Samantha. I felt everything she felt - the disappointment, uncertainty, love, hurt, anger. She was such a great character - so genuine and relatable. And I absolutely adored Jase. He was so calm and unflappable and he really saw Samantha when so many other people - including her own family - overlooked her and took her for granted. I admired his love and loyalty to his family, and his willingness to do anything for them. The Garretts were the best thing to ever happen to Samantha - she fit in with them, and they loved her, accepted her, and needed her.
Besides Samantha and Jase - who are easily two of my favourite characters ever - the secondary characters really made this book, whether you loved them or they made your blood boil. Jase’s siblings were great, especially George and Patsy, the youngest two. They were absolutely hilarious, and whenever they were in a scene, I was laughing out loud. Although Nan, Samantha’s ‘best friend’ made me really angry, I loved Nan's brother Tim. He was proof that sometimes screwed up people just need a second (or third, or fourth, or fifth) chance to get things right. I loved that he really came through for not only Samantha, but also for Jase and the Garretts after a rocky beginning, and a stretch of being a not-so-great friend. He’s someone I’d love to see more of…maybe in a companion novel? *hint hint Ms Fitzpatrick!* ;-)
I disliked Sam’s mother from the beginning - she was such a hypocrite, claiming in her political campaign that family was the most important thing, and yet she neglected and mistreated her own family. I literally felt my blood pressure rising through the last quarter or so of the book when things got really bad with her mom. I’m a slow reader, but I was zooming through the pages, hardly able to turn them fast enough to see what happened next. I couldn’t imagine how it was going to resolve, and I loved that added tension and depth.
My Life Next Door isn’t just about romance. It’s about friendship, family, loyalty, second chances, truth, and life. Lovable characters, a great plot and subplots, a swoonworthy romance, and excellent writing make this book a must-read for fans of contemporary young adult fiction.(less)
Under the Never Sky is hands-down one of my favourite books of 2012 so far. This book had a bit of everything - action, romance, and suspense, paired with an incredibly unique story and unforgettable characters.
The concept for this story was absolutely brilliant. I haven’t read that many dystopian novels, but so many of them are the same at the heart - the story may be a bit different, the characters vary, but the basic plotline is similar. That’s definitely not the case with Under the Never Sky. Right from the beginning we’re thrown into the action. It was a bit disorienting at first because there wasn’t much time to acclimate. I didn’t know where or when we were, or what was going on, but that sense of drama and suspense was there right from the very beginning, and I knew this story was going to be different from the others I'd read in the genre.
The characters in Under the Never Sky really make this story. Aria is strong and smart, but there’s this innocence to her because she’s led such a sheltered life. She adapts quickly and learns just as quickly, and she realizes she’s tougher than she ever imagined, and she’s a survivor. I loved watching her growth as a character.
Peregrine - or Perry - is this tortured character who’s haunted by his past, by his Senses, by his feelings. He’s intense, but he has all these different, surprising sides to him that he slowly reveals to Aria. There were times when he broke my heart, but he also made my heart melt.
Then there’s Roar. I can’t remember the last time I loved a secondary character this much. He’s this sexy rogue with a big heart, and I fell in love with him almost as much as I did with Perry. I can’t wait to see more of him and to learn more about him in the next book.
I loved the progression of Aria and Peregrine’s relationship. At first it was all about fear, hatred, misunderstanding, and misconceptions. When they started to accept each other, it was begrudgingly - they didn’t want to admit that they might need each other or might be able to help each other. Along the way, there were moments that were so achingly sweet I had to read them several times just because they gave me butterflies. There were also scenes that were sexy, but even those were so sweet they made my heart ache in the best way possible.
One thing I loved about the story was that despite the fact this book took place in a post-apocalyptic world, it sometimes felt more like an historic novel - something like Robin Hood that took place in the middle ages. I absolutely loved that. It was fascinating how the worlds were different - Reverie was unbelievably high-tech, while the Outside was almost primitive (which is when it reminded me of something historical rather than futuristic), and Delphi was a mixture of both. I thought that was brilliant, and it was one of the many things that set this book apart.
The pacing was quite slow, and it made the book feel much longer than it actually was. At times I thought that would affect my overall feelings toward the book, but by the time I reached the middle, I was enjoying every single word and every single scene, and I wouldn’t have wanted anything to change. There’s so much depth to the characters and the story itself, and it unfolds slowly with these little jewels of revelations and revealed secrets. The writing is so beautiful, and Rossi has such a unique writing style that sometimes I forgot I was reading a YA book.
Overall, Under the Never Sky is an extraordinary book that is a must-read in my opinion. With a storyline that is unique, engaging, and driven by emotion, along with characters that leap off the page, this book is the perfect start to a series that’s sure to be a favourite. (less)
Something Strange and Deadly was an exciting thrill ride with a bit of something for everyone. I haven’t jumped on the zombie-craze bandwagon yet, but...moreSomething Strange and Deadly was an exciting thrill ride with a bit of something for everyone. I haven’t jumped on the zombie-craze bandwagon yet, but from the moment I heard about this book - and saw its unbelievably beautiful cover - I was intrigued and knew I had to read it.
I loved Eleanor. She was a misfit in her own life - she was unlike the other girls her age, she was stifled under her mother’s harsh and watchful eye, and she didn’t care about fashion and appearances and all the other things girls of her station were supposed to care about. She was innocent and protected in a lot of ways, but she was also spirited and more forward-thinking than a lot of the people around her. It made for a really interesting balance within her character, and I enjoyed watching her develop and learn.
The secondary characters added life and intrigue to the story. Eleanor’s mother, while I do believe she loved her daughter in her own strange way, was selfish and obsessed with appearances, and she used Eleanor in ways that made my blood boil. Then there was Clarence, the brother of one of Eleanor’s ‘friends’ and the young man Mrs. Fitt hoped Eleanor would marry because he came from a good family and could be their salvation from financial ruin. I have to admit, there was something about Clarence that drew me in - he was mysterious and sometimes irritating, and the tense interactions between him and Eleanor were often amusing. My favourite characters other than Eleanor were the trio of Spirit-Hunters (a group tracking a powerful necromancer who was controlling the Dead) - Daniel, Joseph, and Jie. They were each special in their own way, and they each had scenes with Eleanor that made me love them. They added such diversity to the story with their own talents and distinct personalities, and I especially enjoyed the interactions between Eleanor and Daniel. They hated each other at first, but it slowly developed into something more - grudging respect and admiration, a desire to protect each other, and maybe a little something more.
Something Strange and Deadly was thrilling, gruesome, and exciting. The plot itself was tightly woven with moments of humour and romance, but always an underlying sense of tension and danger. I was both terrified and fascinated at the notion of Dead, along with the malevolent spirit and the necromancer. The writing was absolutely beautiful, and Eleanor’s voice, along with the setting, felt very authentic. When I read an historic novel, I like to be transported to that time and place, and that was definitely the case with this book. The dialogue, Eleanor’s inner commentary, and the descriptions of everything felt bang on, and I have to give Ms Dennard major kudos for that.
Overall, Something Strange and Deadly was a beautifully written story with diverse characters, a plot that thrills and chills, a mystery that will keep you guessing, a hint of romance and humour, and enough action to make your heart race. With a bittersweet ending that left me heartbroken because of innocence lost and painful lessons learned, this must-read book has me yearning for its sequel to find out what will happen to Eleanor next. (less)
I have really mixed feelings about this book. If I were basing my review on the concept of the book, or on the last quarter or so of the story, I would be giving it a 4.5, or maybe even a 5, but unfortunately that’s not how these things work.
What I liked: -The concept. Terrific, unique concept. Teenage girl dies of a broken heart and goes to limbo where she can do whatever she wants whenever she wants, including watch her family and friends.
-Patrick. I liked him, but didn’t love him, and I love to love boys in books. He was sweet and funny, but I just wasn’t feeling it between him and Brie, and his cheese-themed nicknames got on my nerves fast. Despite that, he was pretty much the only character I liked, and during the fairly long chunk when he was MIA, I just wanted him back.
-The ending. I didn’t think Brie was ever going to learn anything or develop at all as a character, but when she finally did, it was quite poignant. She finally learned to listen to other people, and to really see things without just assuming and coming to her own far-fetched conclusions about things.
-Certain things evoked emotion. Once we learn about Patrick and Jacob’s ‘secrets’, I really felt for them. They were both sort of tortured by their struggles, choices, and histories. I also felt for Brie at times, especially when she saw her family and friends moving on without her. It’s easy to imagine yourself in that situation - to worry that they people you loved are going to forget you, watch them make mistakes and know there’s nothing you can do to help, or watch them be happy and know you’re not a part of it and never will be again. That part was heartbreaking.
-It made me think. Even though I didn’t really like the characters and couldn’t relate to them in a lot of ways, I could empathize with them.
What I didn’t like: -Brie, in the first three quarters of the book. I thought she was really annoying, childish, self-absorbed, and impulsive. She was always jumping to conclusions, and she never gave anyone a chance to really explain things, or to figure things out herself, and it got her into trouble time and again. Her need for revenge was too much at times, and I thought a lot of what she did was petty and downright mean. She never stopped to think about the consequences of her actions, because she couldn’t see past getting revenge. Yes, she was young, and yes she’d been scorned and all that, but still. She had loved the people she was trying to hurt, but she couldn’t see past her own hurt.
-People said this book was hilarious, but I didn’t find it funny at all. And I’m pretty easily amused, so I felt kinda cheated. ‘Your mom’ jokes have never been funny to me, so maybe that’s part of it? I don’t know.
-There were things that just didn’t line up for me - parts that were kind of hazy and confusing. It also bounced around a lot, and there were quite a few diversions that didn’t seem necessary and made the book too long (375 pages isn’t that long, but it took me a week to read, and each time I picked it back up I had to try hard to remember what was going on and where Brie was). And as much as I enjoyed the ending, it didn’t really seem to line up with the rest of the book.
Overall, I just didn’t really connect to The Catastrophic History of You and Me. The concept was great, but for me, it fell flat in too many aspects for me to really enjoy it. I know a lot of other people adored this book, so if you’re curious about it I would recommend giving it a shot. (less)
Cinder is a futuristic fairytale retelling of the classic Cinderella story. In a distant future (post World War IV), Cinder is a cyborg in a world of humans and androids living in New Beijing. She’s basically a slave to her nasty stepmother, working as a mechanic and giving all her earnings to her family. A plague wiped out a great deal of the population, and continues to infect people at an alarming rate. When Cinder’s stepsister Peony catches the illness, Cinder’s stepmother ‘volunteers’ Cinder for testing that’s being done on cyborgs, because cyborgs are basically considered disposable. During testing, secrets about Cinder’s mysterious past slowly begin to unravel.
So…Cinderella as a cyborg = genius. I have a wild imagination, but I don’t think I’d ever come up with something as clever as that. This futuristic world of hovers and handheld comms and high-tech gadgets is well-thought-out and fascinating for the reader to discover. I loved how there were classic elements of Cinderella woven in, but they were given a fresh, futuristic spin that left me admiring Meyer’s storytelling skills.
Cinder was a terrific character. She was smart, resourceful, and feisty, but she also had this vulnerability to her that made her relatable, and made me really empathize with her. She wanted so badly to get away from her life, and to find somewhere she fit in and wouldn’t be ridiculed for being cyborg. She was a very real character, and I found myself connecting with her on many levels.
Prince Kaito is not your typical prince. He certainly has his swoonworthy moments, but he’s not the perfect, unattainable prince we get in a lot of stories. He’s immediately taken with Cinder, and he seems to like her more with every encounter. In turn, I liked him more with every encounter. He wasn’t pompous and didn’t have illusions of grandeur just because he was a prince, nor did he treat Cinder as if she were ‘just’ a mechanic, or a commoner.
Even though I’m a romance junkie, and even though I enjoyed all the interactions between Cinder and Kai, I appreciated that their ‘romance’ was a subplot and not the main focus of the book. It made their encounters that much more enjoyable, and it gave their feelings time to build, making everything more believable. It wasn’t easy for them, but I definitely rooted for them from the beginning.
Despite the fact that I thought the world-building was executed well, it was lacking in some ways. World War IV? What happened? How did the world get to that point? How did New Beijing become so powerful? We have to assume this is far in the future because of the wars and the extremely advanced technology, and even though it technically says what year it is, it’s a new era - when and why did the current era end? It’s not like it really affects the story in any significant way other than just curiosity over these things. And although I’m sure we’ll learn more about Luna and the lunar people, I wish we had learned a little more about them in this book, especially when certain things were revealed.
Overall, I think Meyer did a terrific job with this retelling of a beloved classic. Likable, believable characters paired with a compelling story that had the right amount of tension and suspense made for a winning combination. The ending had me itching for the next book in the series, and I’m eager to find out what happens to Cinder and Kai, and the fate of Earth and Luna. (less)
I’ve been looking forward to Born Wicked since the moment I laid eyes on the cover and read the synopsis several months ago, and I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint.
This book was filled with compelling, realistic characters. Cate Cahill is strong and independent with a fierce spirit under her quiet demeanor. She loves her sisters - feisty Maura, who is desperate for some independence and attention, and sweet Tess who is capable of so much more than anyone imagined - and would do anything to protect them and keep them and their secret safe. Everything Cate did was for them, always keeping their best interests and well-being in mind. I was amazed by her maturity and her willingness to sacrifice her own happiness if it meant keeping her sisters happy and safe.
Then there’s Finn. Sweet, kind Finn, with his ginger hair and cinnamon freckles and glasses and bookworminess. *sigh* Finn loves his family as much as Cate loves hers. He accepts her exactly the way she is, and doesn’t expect anything of her the way everyone else does. The forbidden romance between them was so achingly sweet and realistic. I always looked forward to their encounters.
The Brotherhood made me so angry! They were ignorant and hypocritical, and what’s most upsetting of all is that you know these things happened in history. People were accused of witchcraft for the least little thing and were hanged or burned or stoned or sent to insane asylums or prison ships. The way they were portrayed felt spot-on to me - pious, with calm demeanors, but this hidden anger and hatred toward women underneath.
The story had this underlying sense of danger and suspense throughout. I didn’t know who to trust through the entire book, and found myself guessing and wondering at what would happen next. Would someone betray Cate and the sisters, or turn out to be an ally? Was someone secretly a witch? Would the sisters get caught? It was very exciting, and the tension really propelled the story forward.
Overall, I thought Born Wicked was a fantastic debut that was beautifully written in a quiet, almost understated way. I’m anxious to find out what happens in the next book, Star Cursed - I just wish we didn’t have to wait until next year!(less)
While Incarnate has been on my to-be-read list for over a year, I just finally got around to reading it during the Pitch Dark read-a-thon. I expected I would enjoy it, but almost immediately I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed it.
The world in Incarnate is completely unique and unlike anything I’ve ever read. The concept of reincarnation is taken to a completely new level – not only are souls reincarnated, the same souls are reincarnated, and have been for five thousand years. Ana is the only newsoul ever to be born, and because she took the place of another soul, people are distrustful of her, and they resent her.
Besides the fascinating concept, the world-building in Incarnate was really well done. It wasn’t confusing like some fantasy worlds, and Ms Meadows didn’t skimp out on details. I was able to picture everything, and I felt like I was discovering Heart along with Ana.
As for the characters, I was really able to relate to Ana. I felt her pain and loneliness, and her insecurities and fears broke my heart. I enjoyed watching her growth, and while it took unexpected turns at times, I really ended up loving her. As for Sam, I absolutely adored him. He was quiet and intelligent and creative, and because he had been around for so long, he was so mature and sure of himself. His interactions with Ana warmed my heart, and made me swoon repeatedly. I loved the budding romance between them – while full of tension and sexy moments (so sexy, but in that lovely, innocent way that's often underrated these days), their friendship was sweet, and I loved that ever-present desire there between them and the potential for more. I also really liked that things didn't come easy for them - Ana was uncertain of Sam at first, questioning his motives at every turn, but Sam was so patient and steady, despite their issues and the external forces working against them. They're definitely one of my new favourite book couples.
I also thought the supernatural elements were great. I loved the dragons and sylphs, and the mention of other creatures like centaurs. They're supernatural creatures that you don't see enough of in books, and I'm curious to see how they factor into the next installment of the Newsoul series.
Overall, Incarnate was the best kind of surprise in every way. It was well-written, with characters I related and connected to, a romance that simmered slowly while still managing to take my breath away, and steady pacing with just the right amount of suspense. If you haven’t yet read Incarnate, you’re really missing out – go read it now!(less)