Saturday, March 30, 2013

Saturday Shorts: The Shattered Mountain

On the outskirts of Joya d'Arena, small villages fight for survival against the onslaught of sorcerers and raiders. Mara's village has been safe--so far--but Mara decides to escape anyway. Escape from her harsh, abusive father. Escape with her first love. But when their plans fall on the same day that the animagi burn the village to the ground, Mara faces losses that could destroy her. She's a survivor, though. She is going to make it through the mountains, and she is going to protect the refugees following her. Because there's a rumored safe haven . . . and some say they have found the Chosen One. Told from Mara's point-of-view, The Shattered Mountain is an alternate perspective of the beginning of the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Quoted from Goodreads


Well, the novella is absolutely here to stay, and I, for one, am glad about it.  It's fun to see different key sequences from another character's POV.  Generally, I like expanding the book's universe and telling stories that previously lived only in author's heads.  That being said, these are really hard to review.  They depend on their trilogy, quadrilogy, whatever.  For example, Crown of Embers was one of my favorite books last year, so I was understandably excited.  Personally, I loved The Shattered Mountain.  It was well written, full of action and heartbreak, coming of age and first loves.    But, it's only a novella.  It needs the other books.  I guess Mara's story could stand alone, but it would be a little unfulfilling.  What makes it great is seeing her in these other books, learning where she comes from, and learning to admire and love her even more because of this.

That being said, I really did love this short story. It does so much in so little time, confirming how great an author Rae Carson really is.  I love the insights into Mara's character.  Yes, I did sort of know the end from the beginning, but it still broke my heart seeing the hardship Mara and the rest of the children faced before they make their appearance in Girl of Fire and Thorn.  It also made me admire Mara that much more, actually experiencing what she went through.  

This book really is basically all heartbreak and action.  It's basically a group of children's struggle to survive after all their parents and their village has been wiped out by their enemies.  Besides just Mara, we get to see all the children grown up, even a little four year old.  I've said heartbreak a lot in this review, and there is a lot of it in this book, but there are wonderful moments of bravery and strength, compassion and struggle that makes this novella a wonderful read.

It's also fun to see Elisa from another character's POV.  We get a glimpse of her in Shadow Cats, another novella from her sister Alodia's POV, but Alodia and Mara have very different relationships with Elisa and they see her at different points in her life.  

So, if you like The Girl of Fire and Thorn, you need to read this.  No, it's not essential to the story, but it's worth it just to expand the universe and get to know some of the side characters better. Plus, it's a great story in it's own right.  For me, it's a lovely 4 stars.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and now can't wait for The Bitter Kingdom to come out.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Film Friday: Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

It's always awkward when there are two colons in your title.  Oh well

This week is a great one for book to movie releases. First, The Host is here!  And yes, that statement is deserving of an exclamation point---at least I hope it is.  I haven't actually seen the movie yet, but I'm excited.  I didn't love the Twilight movies.  I saw them, of course.  Avoiding them is like trying not to stare at a car crash on the side of the road. You simply can't do it, even though you know you may regret it later depending on how bad it is. Still, I'm hoping what's true about the books holds for the movies, specifically that I'll enjoy The Host more than I enjoyed Twilight and Co.

Second, as if the first weren't enough, we get to see the first trailer for Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.  To be honest, I'm not sure how much I'll enjoy this movie, though I have high hopes.  As far as the books go, the second was probably my least favorite, and the first movie was . . . well, it was okay.  But I hear this second one will stay more true to the book (always a big plus), and since I'm always pro book to movie adaptions for so many reasons---they make the books more popular, they promote reading (I mean, you have to find out what happens next), they expose an author to a wider audience, etc.---I can't wait to see this movie. Plus the preview looks pretty good.  Check out out this trailer.

Now for all of you who haven't read the book, here's a quick summary courtesy of Goodreads.

The heroic son of Poseidon makes an action-packed comeback in the second must-read installment of Rick Riordan's amazing young readers series. Starring Percy Jackson, a "half blood" whose mother is human and whose father is the God of the Sea, Riordan's series combines cliffhanger adventure and Greek mythology lessons that results in true page-turners that get better with each installment. In this episode, The Sea of Monsters, Percy sets out to retrieve the Golden Fleece before his summer camp is destroyed, surpassing the first book's drama and setting the stage for more thrills to come. Quoted from Goodreads

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Book Review: Chasing the Prophecy

The #1 New York Times bestselling Beyonders fantasy trilogy comes to a stunning and epic conclusion.

Jason and Rachel were not born in Lyrian. They did not grow up in Lyrian. But after all of the battles and losses, the triumphs and adventures, and most of all, the friendships forged in this fantastical world, Lyrian has become home to them in a way they never could have imagined.
And so, armed now with the prophecy of a dying oracle, they have gone on their separate quests—each surrounded by brave and powerful allies—knowing that the chance for success is slim. But Jason and Rachel are ready at last to become the heroes Lyrian needs, no matter the cost. Quoted from Goodreads


I totally thought I posted about this weeks ago, but I guess I didn't.  I think it got stuck in draft form and never actually published to my blog, so I'm sorry this is so late.  Anyway, here we have another great conclusion to a really fun series, and I'm sort of sad to see it go.  Of course, I'm hoping there's a spin-off, but, who knows?  It could happen.  It's set up that way, but at the same time, it works if there isn't.

The problem with final books is I have a hard time reviewing the whole book as opposed to the final three or four chapters.  Somehow, they sort of blend into the previous books, and I'm left thinking what I loved (and hated) about the book's actual ending.  In my head that's not so bad. I mean, often I'm immensely satisfied by what happened to all the characters.  Sometimes, of course, I'm furious and, occasionally, confused. If I'm just thinking about things, though, it's not a bad way to remember a book. When I write a review, however . . . lets just say it makes it really hard not to sprinkle spoilers all over everything.  But don't worry, I won't.

Honestly, I think this book lives up to it's predecessors.  It's full of action, quests, battles, political intrigue  and Rachel really comes into her own.  But what about Jason, you ask? Jason plays a key role in everything, don't get me wrong, and some of the best chapters are from his point of view, but Rachel's the one who really grows in this book.  She gets a little bogged down in the middle, and for a while I couldn't wait for her chapters to be over so I could get back to what Jason was doing, but in the end, it's her chapters that show the most growth and I couldn't wait to read.

One thing must be said for Brandon Mull, he isn't afraid to kill off his characters.  I learned this in Fablehaven, but I still didn't expect quite the number of main characters that would sacrifice themselves. I'm a sucker for sacrifice, and there are several moments I loved for that very reason.  On the other hand, there is one character whose death really bothered me.  I won't say whose; I let you figure out that for yourself, but much like Finnick in Mockingjay, one particular death still irritates me because it didn't need to happen.  Yes, you can make the counter argument that senseless death is part of war and not all heroes survive.  I get that.  But sometimes living is more of a statement than dying.

Still, this book wrapped up all the loose ends from the previous books really well. We have two great quests from Rachel and Jason's POV, both of which had their more shining moments.  I should probably mention, Nedwin's chapters are among my favorite. They were totally unexpected (though I should have seen at least one aspect coming if I had remembered one small detail sooner), delightful, shocking, and a little sad all at the same time.

Anyway, be prepared to loose several characters that you love. Be prepared to face crazy tasks and cool, new villains (or new aspects of old ones).  Be prepared for twists and turns in the plot I never saw coming.  Be prepared to stay up late because you have to find out what happens next.  And be prepared for a bittersweet ending that is half perfect and half not, one that makes you beg for a spin-off series just so you can find out what happens to your favorite characters next.

This is an exciting 4 stars for me.  I loved all the adventure, the twists, the villains, the heroes, the sacrifice  and the crazy settings/species. If you're looking for an exciting read, check this out, especially because the series is over.  Now you won't have to wait, unlike the rest of us poor suckers, to find out how the series ends.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Book Review: Strands of Bronze and Gold

The Bluebeard fairy tale retold. . . .

When seventeen-year-old Sophia Petheram’s beloved father dies, she receives an unexpected letter. An invitation—on fine ivory paper, in bold black handwriting—from the mysterious Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, her godfather. With no money and fewer options, Sophie accepts, leaving her humble childhood home for the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey, in the heart of Mississippi.

Sophie has always longed for a comfortable life, and she finds herself both attracted to and shocked by the charm and easy manners of her overgenerous guardian. But as she begins to piece together the mystery of his past, it’s as if, thread by thread, a silken net is tightening around her. And as she gathers stories and catches whispers of his former wives—all with hair as red as her own—in the forgotten corners of the abbey, Sophie knows she’s trapped in the passion and danger of de Cressac’s intoxicating world.
Glowing strands of romance, mystery, and suspense are woven into this breathtaking debut—a thrilling retelling of the “Bluebeard” fairy tale. Quoted from Goodreads


I never much cared for the Blubeard fairy tale.  Still, despite knowing it's subject matter, I was pretty excited for Strands of Bronze and Gold.  I love fairy tale retellings, especially the more obscure ones, and I couldn't wait to see what Jane Nickerson did with this one.

I loved the writing.  The book itself is kind of slow.  It all takes place at Wyndriven Abbey, and while there is a brief flirtation with slavery issues and the underground railroad, it's mostly about how something breathtaking and ideal slowly warps into a nightmare. Jane Nickerson does a great job of bringing the abby and it's surroundings to life.  Everything is given a taste, a texture, so you experience it alongside Sophie, and I really enjoyed that.

Honestly, I think I would have enjoyed the book more if I hadn't already known where the story was heading.  It's probably a good thing Bluebeard is a more obscure fairy tale because it diminished some of the suspense for me.  Still, Bernard de Cressac is an absolutely excellent character. Despite knowing who and he what he is from the outset, you still have to admire how wonderfully his was portrayed.  He could be so sweet, then so cruel at the drop of a hat, and you can pity him while at the same time know he is an absolute creeper of epic proportions.

Sophie is also an interesting character. Part of me thought she was a bit too nieve, but that may have stemmed from knowing the end from the beginning.  I did love how brave she ended up being, especially in the end, and I loved the careful, creepy, steps Bernard took to manipulate her into doing what he wanted.  She really grew throughout the book and discovered who she was.  Even in horrible circumstances she was brave and tried to put a cheerful face on things, and I admired that.

All in all, I think Jane Nickerson did an excellent job with the fairy tale she chose.  Is it my new, number one fairy tale?  No.  But I did enjoy the way she put it all together.  It was creepy and beautiful all at the same time. I loved the contrast between Bernard and Gideon and the person Sophie became at the end.  I love Ducky and her purposeful blindness, Ling with his slight help but ultimate silence. They knew who Bernard was, or at least had an inkling, but they still stayed with him, and maybe even loved him.  I thought it was portrayed really well. 

They make a several references to Beauty and the Beast in this book. I never really put those two stories together in my head, but it was kind of an ingenious contrast.  Both start out very similar, but in one, she discovers the beast is a man, and in the other she discovers the man is a beast. I loved that.

All in all, this is a fun 3.5 stars for me.  I thought she did a good job of keeping up the suspense in the later half of the book and her writing is beautiful.  I also loved the different characters.  I'll admit, the first was a bit slow for me, but it almsot had to be to establish the setting and explain why Sophie and all Bernards previous wives married him in the first place before everything began to fall apart. It's a great adaption of an old fairy tale, and while Bluebeard still isn't my favorite, I'm really glad I read Strands of Bronze and Gold.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Book Review: With All My Soul

What does it mean when your school is voted the most dangerous in America? It's time to kick some hellion butt...

After not really surviving her junior year (does "undead" count as survival?), Kaylee Cavanaugh has vowed to take back her school from the hellions causing all the trouble. She's going to find a way to turn the incarnations of Avarice, Envy and Vanity against one another in order to protect her friends and finish this war, once and forever.
But then she meets Wrath and understands that she's closer to the edge than she's ever been. And when one more person close to her is taken, Kaylee realizes she can't save everyone she loves without risking everything she has . . . Quoted from Goodreads


Yet another excellent series comes to an end.  I'll be honest, the first few books were good, but these last ones have been great. The first ones kept me interested in the series, if not exactly riveted.  I think I waited for the fourth one to come out before reading the third. After that, well, I they have grown into something I absolutely couldn't wait to read.

I'm going to try and avoid giving away too many spoilers.  Of course I won't give away any from this last book, and maybe not even from the book or two before, but I do want to tell you what I feel makes this series great.

First, Kaylee.  Of course, a main character is always key to the success of the story, and Kaylee is likable enough in her own way.  What makes her so endearing, though, is her personal growth.  She is not the same person we meet in My Soul to Take.  She has been through so much and it changed her in a good way.

Second, the romance.  I love Tod and Nash and the whole, awkward love triangle.  Actually, while it absolutely is a love triangle at several points in the series, it never feels like one.  I love how Kaylee handled her relationship with both brothers (and yes, it was a bit messy, and absolutely not perfect, but I like the way it played out).  I love the growth.  If you want a realistic romance, one that still sweeps you off your feet and has plenty of paranormal twists, this is it.  Despite all the different paranormal creatures, the relationships in this book are real and honest in a way that a lot of YA books never try to achieve. Plus, well, I love Kaylee's relationship with . . . the person she ends up with.  It's absolutely adorable.

 Third, everybody else.  Each one of the side characters has their own subplot, and I appreciate that.  Yes, this is absolutely Kaylee's story, but it could be any of theirs.  Yes, there are aspects of them I don't like,  *cough* Sabine *cough,* but I respect, and sometimes really enjoy, them as characters. It's kind of like real life, where there are certain people you just can't stand but you still admire certain qualities.  And the parents!  Yes, I love that Kaylee, Tod & Nash, Sophie, and even Emma have very present parents. In the case of the paranormal set, their parents help them out with their problems.  They are people they can go to when things go wrong.  It doesn't take anything away from the teenagers.  There is still plenty of peril to go around, most of which Kaylee ends up facing in one form or another, but they have strong, functioning relationships with parents they actually talk to and respect.  I love it. 

Fourth, the mythology.  First, writing a book about Bean Sidhes and Reapers and Demons was unique and kind of brilliant.  Rachel Vincent took a few well known myths and build an interesting world on top of that.  Sure, parts of it are familiar, but some of the ideas are absolute genius.  Plus, while she gave her characters some really cool powers, they always have limits, and the bad guys are way stronger than our heroes.

Fifth, real life issues.  Yes, a lot of books deal with abandonment, love,  friendship, or not being understood, and this series touches on all of that, but it also deals with other stuff, like drug addiction, break-ups, working with people you dislike, and even a little bit with abortion.  Most of them are dealt with in a paranormal way, but the issues are still there, and I thought she handled them in a very tasteful way.

Sixth, the ending.  I love this ending.  It's absolutely perfect.  Yes, these books have sadness and heartbreak, lots of people die, and there is a lot of sacrifice, but then ending . . . well, like I said before, the ending was perfect.

So did I enjoy this series?  Absolutely, yes (with the caveat that it's geared for older teens rather than younger ones). It has great characters, a solid mythology, and   lots of peril and adventure.  If you want paranormal adventure with realistic characters and relationships or are just looking for a wonderful romance, you should check this out. It's a solid 4.5 stars for me.  Now I'm just  hoping Rachel Vincent decides to write another YA series.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Flashback Friday: The Chosen

It is the now-classic story of two fathers and two sons and the pressures on all of them to pursue the religion they share in the way that is best suited to each. And as the boys grow into young men, they discover in the other a lost spiritual brother, and a link to an unexplored world that neither had ever considered before. In effect, they exchange places, and find the peace that neither will ever retreat from again . . . Quoted from Goodreads


I'll admit, I first picked this up for a 10th grade English assignment.  I didn't love it at first.  I mean, you expect to read great, classic literature in an English class, but classic doesn't always mean enjoyable.  They always have some great message or are excellently written, etc.  I'm not arguing that, and I'm always glad I read what I was assigned. It exposed me to a lot of excellent stuff and led me on to other books I absolutely loved.  Still a lot of them were one time reads for me.  The Grapes of Wrath?  Yeah, glad I read it but I won't be picking that one up again.  Once was enough, though it did convince me I did need to read more John Steinbeck.  

Still, this book I absolutely fell in love with.  We were supposed to read something like three chapters a week, I don't remember.  I kept that reading schedule for two weeks before throwing it out the window and finishing the whole thing. I simply couldn't put it down.

I think it did an amazing job of exploring the WWII time period and what it was like to be an American Jew.  It also exposed me to Judaism in a way no other book has. I'm not Jewish, and I've only known a few people who are.  I've read a lot of books with Jewish main characters, a good portion of which take place in Europe during WWII, and  I took a religions of the world class and studied their religion for about a month. All of it was interesting but none of it immersed me into their world and belief system so much as this book.

That's not to say it's whole focus was religion.  It's probably about relationships more than anything.  Reuven and Danny's relationship, Danny's relationship with his father, Reuven's with his, Danny's with his younger brother, Danny and Reuven's with their neighbors, members of their synagogue, and God himself.  They're all examined and explored in detail.  This could have been quite a specific book for a narrow audience, but it's not. The ideas he explores in this very Jewish environment echo across different situations and spectrums of belief.

I admit I read a lot of light young adult books. I go more for action, mythology, romance, laughs and adventure over the heart breaking ones that explore hard issues. Despite what I post here, I do still actually read those type of books.  I've probably read three-fourths of the newberry award books ever published, and I absolutely adore some of the classics. Like the summary of the book says, this book is a classic.  If you're looking for something that expands your mind and explores belief and friendship, you need to read this.  It may take a few chapters to get into it, but it's beautifully written, with timeless themes and great messages.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Theater Thursday: Casting Fun

So there's been a lot of fun casting the past little bit for Young Adult Films.  First, Divergent has filled out it's cast of characters, including the elusive Four. I'm actually pretty excited about some of the people they got to play different characters.  I mean, Kate Winselt is always great.  I also kind of appreciate how there are a lot of people I'm not really familiar with.  It makes it easier for them to actually become the character they're playing.  In some movies, I'm never learn the of the character, they're just Tom Hanks or Reece Witherspoon, and even tough they do a good job, they never move beyond that.

Now I know IMDB isn't always the most reliable source for movie news early on. Too many people can play with it, but I've confirmed most of the below on different sights, so check it out.  I'm pretty excited.

Credited cast:
Shailene Woodley...
Theo James...
Aaron Eckhart...
Andrew Prior
Kate Winslet...
Jai Courtney...
Maggie Q...
Miles Teller...
Ray Stevenson
Zoë Kravitz...
Ansel Elgort...

(Cast List from IMDB)

In other movie casting, The Maze Runner has found several of it's leads, though Thomas still hasn't been announced.  We have Thomas Broadie-Sangster as Newt, Will Poulter as Gally, and Aml Ameen as Alby.  Still, there are tons of people left to find, so I'm excited to see who they get.

Then we have Chloe Grace Moretez on If I Stay.

Finally, Shailene Woodley (Tris from Divergent)  is going to add another YA book to film adaption to her growing list.  She's been cast as Hazel in John Green's The Fault in Our Stars.  To be honest, I haven't actually read this book yet, which is probably a tragedy since it's gotten great reviews by people I trust.  The problem, for me, is the book is about cancer, and while I'm sure it's amazing, I haven't been emotionally ready to deal with that yet.  Maybe that's shallow of me, but I think it's a really tough subject, especially when young people have it. Still, it's on my too read shelf, and I'll have to get to it soon before it gets too close to the movie's release date.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Book Review: Clockwork Princess


A net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute. Mortmain plans to use his Infernal Devices, an army of pitiless automatons, to destroy the Shadowhunters. He needs only one last item to complete his plan: he needs Tessa Gray.

Charlotte Branwell, head of the London Institute, is desperate to find Mortmain before he strikes. But when Mortmain abducts Tessa, the boys who lay equal claim to her heart, Jem and Will, will do anything to save her. For though Tessa and Jem are now engaged, Will is as much in love with her as ever.

As those who love Tessa rally to rescue her from Mortmain’s clutches, Tessa realizes that the only person who can save her is herself. But can a single girl, even one who can command the power of angels, face down an entire army?
Danger and betrayal, secrets and enchantment, and the tangled threads of love and loss intertwine as the Shadowhunters are pushed to the very brink of destruction in the breathtaking conclusion to the Infernal Devices trilogy. Quoted from Goodreads


It is a truth universally acknowledged that no one emotionally tortures her characters (or her readers) as much as Cassandra Clare.  Really, this book is emotionally exhausting.  It's not that these are the most tortured characters in the world.  I can think of plenty that have far worse situations--Edmond Dantes (the Count of Monte Cristo) languishing in prison while his father dies and his fiance marries another man, Fantine, abandoned, forced to give up her daughter and finally dying as a prostitute after sacrificing everything for her child, etc.--but you can't read these books and not ache for the characters and what she puts them through.

I'd love to talk about Tessa, Will, and Jem, but I'm not quite sure how without spoiling things.  As far as their characters go, I really like all of them. Each of them is tortured in their own unique way (immortal, cursed, and dying), and I admire how each one handled their situation. Cassandra Clare put them in possibly the most horrible love triangle I've really ever read, which I think was kind of her point (and I suppose you could argue it's one of the most triangle triangles I've ever read, which is sort of what makes it so heartbreaking) and think she handled the ending really well. 

That being said, and I won't give anything away so dont' worry, the ending was almost too perfect for me and heartbreaking all at once.  I had my ship, I knew exactly who I wanted to end up with Tessa, and, again, without giving anything away, I was really pleased with what happened.  At the same time . . . well I'm not sure how I feel about the epilogue.  I'll freely admit, part of it made me cry (though I really shouldn't be held responsible for any tears shed after 10:00), but part of it . . . well, can an ending be too perfect?  Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I read the epilogue, but maybe next time I read the series, I might just stop at the end.  Despite all it's perfection and happiness, it sort of left me feeling sad. 

Despite all that, I really did love this book (see the 5 star rating below!).  I liked the action, the peril, the relationships between the characters. I especially loved getting to know Will's little sister Cecily. Everyone else in these stories has two books worth of anguish weighing them down, where she gives us a wonderfully fresh viewpoint.  Sure, she has her own issues with her brother and she didn't like Shadowhunters at first, but that's mostly over with at the opening of this book. I really appreciated her new perspective, seeing how she views everyone half from the outside, half from the inside. I loved Gabriel Lightwood for the same reason.  He has his own demons to carry, but it's nice to see things from a slightly different perspective.

And finally we solve the mystery that is Tessa. Sure, it's been explored in the first two books, but I loved discovering Mortmain's plan and why he needed her so desperately.  I also love how she uses her abilities to save her friends.  She grows up a lot from the girl in the first book, fresh off the boat from New York, and it's fun to see the person she's become.

I'm know there are tons of other things I'll think about as soon as I post this review that I want to add.  I'm still emotionally all tangled up in that world. I'm sure things will be clearer in a day or two, but I wanted to review this book today, give a whole first impression blog instead of a one-week-and-with-clearer-thoughts review later. This book is a wonderful 5 stars for me.  It tied the series up nicely, really leaving me with just one pressing question I'm sure I'll find the answer to later. All in all, this is a great series.  I love the time period, the characters, the relationships, the conflicts, and I'm sad to see it come to an end. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Book Review: Undone (Novella)

Before the accident. Before their universes collided. Before they fell in love.

Riveting and romantic, Undone: An Unraveling Novella contains three short stories set in the world of Unraveling, the first book in the gripping sci-fi duology by Elizabeth Norris.

Before Ben Michaels saved Janelle Tenner’s life, Janelle saved Ben when he stumbled through an interuniverse portal into a completely new world. That day, he fell in love with the girl of his dreams. And he never forgot her.
Through three stories told from Ben’s point of view, learn how Ben and his friends discovered their ability to travel between worlds, how Ben first met Janelle, and how he pined for her for years before he actually got the chance to meet her, save her life, and capture her heart. And find out what happens to Ben between the cliff-hanger conclusion to Unraveling and the beginning of its heart-stopping sequel, Unbreakable. Quoted from Goodreads


This is what a novella should be.

Really it's about perfect.  First it's three short stories from Ben's POV: "Before She Knew Me," "When I Saved Her," and "After I Left Her."  The first two kind of what you'd expect. It just fleshes out a few points a bit more fully, shows how Ben's been crushing on Janelle, etc.  They were sweet and I liked them, but they weren't really groundbreaking.  I'll warn you now, they weren't as romantic as I thought they'd be. I sort of thought we might get a scene from Unraveling from his POV, their first kiss, or maybe where he saved her life and knew she saw him and tracked him down.  It's nothing like that.  Sure, he crushes on her, but they take place before he appears on her radar.

Then we have the third and longest story.  This story I loved. It left on such a ridiculous cliff hanger, I can't wait for book two to come out.  Plus, it gave me an idea of where book two is headed.  Basically we get what happens to Ben after he steps through the portal.  I really loved seeing his world, what was the same and what was different from Janelle's.  Plus, we get to see what happened because he and his two friends disappeared to another world. Honestly, it's sort of what I expected, but at the same time, not at all. I imagined certain consequences, but they went a lot further than I ever dreamed.

I also loved how we get to know Ben better.  We get to meet his family, see his world, and get a little more insight into his crush on Janelle.  Plus, you better understand why his friends hate her so much, or at least hate his relationship with her.  

All in all, if you like Unraveling, this is a must read.  Plus, it's actually decently long.  Too many novellas are really short, like 20 pages, and it's less than satisfying, even if you are only paying a dollar or two.  I'm giving it a short 4 stars.  Now I'm just counting down the days (literally. I mean, you've see my widget, right?) until Unbreakable comes out.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Book Review: Unremembered

When Freedom Airlines flight 121 went down over the Pacific Ocean, no one ever expected to find survivors. Which is why the sixteen-year-old girl discovered floating among the wreckage—alive—is making headlines across the globe.

Even more strange is that her body is miraculously unharmed and she has no memories of boarding the plane. She has no memories of her life before the crash. She has no memories period. No one knows how she survived. No one knows why she wasn’t on the passenger manifest. And no one can explain why her DNA and fingerprints can’t be found in a single database in the world.

Crippled by a world she doesn’t know, plagued by abilities she doesn’t understand, and haunted by a looming threat she can’t remember, Seraphina struggles to piece together her forgotten past and discover who she really is. But with every clue only comes more questions. And she’s running out of time to answer them.

Her only hope is a strangely alluring boy who claims to know her from before the crash. Who claims they were in love. But can she really trust him? And will he be able to protect her from the people who have been making her forget?
From popular young adult author Jessica Brody comes a compelling and suspenseful new sci-fi series, set in a world where science knows no boundaries, memories are manipulated, and true love can never be forgotten. Quoted from Goodreads


I feel like this is an excellent example of what I consider the next (or at least another emerging) YA trend: YA vs. mysterious corporation   It's not that they're new, exactly, but after all your vampires, angels, werewolves  dystopia books out there, I'm enjoying finding a new motif to fill the bookshelves. 

Now, let's start with Seraphina (aka Violet in the beginning).  She's an interesting character. She's naive and rather innocent, while at the same time, skeptical of anyone and everything.  Combine that with her memory loss, being thrust into the limelight, and having people chase her, and  you get someone who can't quite believe anyone and wants nothing more than to start fresh.  I think she does a really good job of portraying what it would feel like no not remember anything about yourself and the struggles that would cause.  It's not just her own personal life she can't remember, but she's also kind of clueless with slang, computers, and even people in general, which further complicates the whole situation and heightens the mystery of who she really is.

I also really enjoyed Zen and Cody.  Zen's the mysterious love interest, and he was cute.  I liked his devotion of Sera, how he gave her space and didn't push her, while still always being there for her.  Cody is her younger foster brother, and he was just adorable.  He was the perfect combination of liking and not liking girls.  I loved how Sera's good looks were actually a strike against her in his book and how he helped her even though he wasn't convinced he even liked her. It really made for a great character.

Now for the action.  This book really was pretty much non-stop, keep-turning-pages action/mystery. I read it in one, very lazy, rather indulgent afternoon.   To be honest, I sort of guessed the big revel early on, but I didn't really find that to be a problem. There were other surprises I really enjoyed. I also really enjoyed the sci-fi elements of the book, but I appreciated how it was more mainstream.  The ideas are very accessible and contribute to the situation rather than overwhelming the book.

All in all this is a fun  4 star read.  It actually works as a stand alone, but I guess there are two more books in the series.  Regardless, I can't wait to see what happens to Sara and Zen and where, exactly, they end up.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Book Review: Let the Sky Fall

Seventeen-year-old Vane Weston has no idea how he survived the category five tornado that killed his parents. And he has no idea if the beautiful, dark-haired girl who’s swept through his dreams every night since the storm is real. But he hopes she is.

Seventeen-year-old Audra is a sylph, an air elemental. She walks on the wind, can translate its alluring songs, and can even coax it into a weapon with a simple string of commands. She’s also a guardian—Vane’s guardian—and has sworn an oath to protect Vane at all costs. Even if it means sacrificing her own life.

When a hasty mistake reveals their location to the enemy who murdered both of their families, Audra’s forced to help Vane remember who he is. He has a power to claim—the secret language of the West Wind, which only he can understand. But unlocking his heritage will also unlock the memory Audra needs him to forget. And their greatest danger is not the warriors coming to destroy them—but the forbidden romance that’s grown between them. Quoted from Goodreads


I love that there's a book about sylphs! It allows the author to totally build a magic system and culture based on wind, and Shannon Messenger did a good job.  Sure, there are some familiar overtones to other fantasy novels, orphan boy is the chosen one, last of his kind, the only one capable of defeating the emperor. But it's more than that. I mean, no dead mentor already deviates from that trope.  Honestly, while some of the ideas may seem familiar, it's absolutely different enough that I really enjoyed it.

I love how each of the winds has a different personality, and each of the sylphs, depending on which wind they come from, takes on certain aspects.  Plus, Shannon pulls a lot of cool tricks with air and how they use it, especially when they go around the wind turbines.  It's fun to see a really unique concept woven into a good story.

Now for our main characters.  It's told from alternating points of view between Audra and Vane.  Vane is the clueless boy destined for greatness---sarcastic, funny, and normal.  Audra is the girl who devotes her life to protecting him to the point of literally sacrificing everything else---serious, guilt ridden, and dedicated.  I really liked both these main characters.  It was easy to keep track of which chapter was from whose POV, and they kind of provided a relief from each other.  Audra's life is kind of one track and depressing, so it was nice to change it up with a chapter from Vane.  Conversely, Vane is new to the entire mythology, so Audra fills in the bigger picture nicely. All in all, I really felt they complimented each other nicely.

This book is such a great blend of everything. There's action, betrayal, romance, mystery, good vs. evil, a ticking clock, coming of age, battles, magic (well, wind, but yeah, basically magic).  So many YA books over the past few years have fallen into the Twilight mold (paranormal creature, love-triangle, bad guy).  Lately, though, I've felt like everyone is moving away from that, and I love all the great things people are coming up with.

As for the ending, well, it was excellent. Audra and Vane each have to face their own, unique challenge.  Audra is a great warrior, but that's not where her main conflict comes from.  She has to face her past and confront her inner demons, while Vane, the boy who never wanted to fight, finds out he is just about the only one who can. It's superbly done, and I can't wait for the next book.

This was a fun 4 stars for me. I liked the characters, the way they grew and changed, and the challenges they faced together.  I really enjoyed the concept of sylphs and their specific powers.  It's a fun, unique read you should definitely check out.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Trailer Tuesday: The Clockwork Princess &The Rising

So there are a lot of books coming out I'm excited for, and a few have trailers.  Now, a lot of these don't turn out very well.  They're overly cheesy or simplistic or fail to capture the essence of the book.  Then there are some really great ones out there that you sort of wish they would just turn into a movie they did such a good job.  At the very least, these trailers make me excited for the book.  Here are a few trailers for books I can't wait to read.

#1. The Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

#2. The Rising by Kelly Armstrong

I'm so excited for both of these books and the trailers make it even worse.  Of course neither is exactly how I imagine things, but I think they both did a really good job with what they had.  The Clockwork Princess comes out next week, on the 19th and The Rising comes out two weeks later, on April 2nd!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Book Review: Also Known As (AKA)

Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations.Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She'll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school's security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case . . . all while trying not to blow her cover. Quoted from Goodreads


Such a cute story!  Honestly, anyone who loves Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls books needs to check this one out. Strong, quirky main character? Check.  Loyal, opinionated best friend? Check.  Adorable love interest? Check.  Delightfully off-the-wall mentor? Check. Lots of safe-cracking? Check.  Peril and possible kidnapping? Check. Really, what more could you ask for?

First there's Maggie.  She is absolutely adorable.  She's quirky, funny, and dramatic.  I loved watching her find her way through high school, make friends, and fall in love. She has a strong voice, and really, she's what makes the story work so well. She's the type of person you can totally see as being your best friend, and you kind of wish she existed so she could be.

Next on my list of things I love? Jesse and Roux.  Jesse was an adorable love interest (and yes, I realize I'm overusing the word adorable, but it's sort of the driving tone of the novel). He's the realistic, average, teenage boy you can't help but fall in love with, and I enjoyed watching their relationship progress.  Now Roux.  She's kind of hilarious.  Mean girl turned social outcast, who becomes Maggie's best friend is ripe with potential, and Robin Benway absolutely has fun with it. Roux's quirky, kind of crazy, and hilarious.

Now for everyone else.  First, Angelo.  He is the delightfully quirky spy every book like this needs to have.  He makes the perfect mentor for Maggie, and before Roux came along, he was kind of her best friend as well.  I enjoyed his outfits and business cards and pretty much everything else about him.  Now for Maggie's parents.  I have mixed feelings about them.  They have an excellent backstory, and I love their close relationship with their daughter.  That being said, it drove me a bit crazy at times.  For all they raised her in the spy world, they don't seem to really trust her.  I understand this is a new situation for all of them (Maggie being new to the whole high school thing), but there were several times I wanted to smack them either for their impatience with her work, keeping secrets, or almost destroying her cover. It just didn't really seem to fit with the people they were established to be in the beginning.

Now as far as the actual spy element goes, it's a little lacking.  Maggie cracks a few safes and solves a mystery but it's not really the driving force of the novel.  It's more the set up for Maggie's journey through high school, finding a best friend, boyfriend, and balancing out her life.  It's not that it isn't fun or present, but if you're looking for a hard core spy novel with tons of suspense and cool gadgets, this isn't it.  It's half spy novel, half high school romantic comedy/coming of age.

Still, I found this an absolutely delightful novel.  Absolutely 4 stars.  It's fun, full of great characters, and enough action to keep you from ever putting the book down.  Honestly, if you don't find yourself smiling through most of this book, I'd be very surprised. It's pure, addictive fun.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Book Review: Grave Consequences

For Cora Kensington, the journey of a lifetime takes unexpected twists. And her future—her very life—depends on the decisions she’ll make at each crossroad. As her European tour with her new-found family takes her through Austria, France, and Italy, an unseen enemy trails close behind. Meanwhile, a forbidden love continues to claim her heart, putting everyone’s plans in danger. And as Cora stays one step ahead of it all, what might need the most protection is her own heart, torn between the dramatic pursuit of a dashing Frenchman and a man who has been quietly staking claim to her affections all along. Love has dangers all its own. She must escape the bonds of the past and discover the faith to make the right choices, as each one has grave consequences. Quoted from Goodreads


It helps a lot if you've seen Downton Abby and Titanic.  It may sound shallow, and if you're a great history buff or really into historical fiction, you may not need it, but it really did help me.  The story takes place in 1913, a year after the Titanic  sank and during the first season of Downton Abby.  Both shows deal with the differences in class, the lifestyle of the super wealthy, and the quirks of the time period in general.  

Now on to the book specifically.  I enjoyed this second installment a lot more than the first one.  I'm not going to claim it was better, because I'm not sure it actually was, but I enjoyed it a lot more.  Part of that is due to my obsession with Downton Abby, I'll admit.  I'm kind of into the period right now.  Another big part of that is I knew more what to expect.  When I read the first book, I had just finished the author's River of Time series (or I thought I had, I guess there's another book coming out, but that's a different post).  I tend to have a hard time starting a second series by an author I've enjoyed.  The writing style tends to be the same, but sometimes when a plot is totally different, I have a hard time switching gears.  It happened when I read Stephanie Meyer's The Host and David Eddings The Redemption of Althalus, just to give a few examples. This time I was much more prepared for what I was getting, and I enjoyed it a lot.

The first book's tension mostly came for Cora's trying to gain acceptance with her half-siblings and people who couldn't accept her origins.  This second book has a lot more action.  Basically the threat they escaped at the ending of the first book is back in full force, and that provides most of the action/peril this time around.  

I will caution you, this book with make you want to travel to Europe   It's kind of a win/loose situation though.  She gives some great history about the different places, which makes me really want to see the locations they're visiting.  At the same time, it does tend to slow the action down a bit, giving the book a slower feel. 

I especially enjoyed Cora's growing relationship with her siblings and their friends, Hugh in particular.  He was kind of a creeper in the first book, but as Cora gets to know him better he is actually a pretty decent guy.  It's kind of the same all around (with one or two notable exceptions I'm not going to mention here).  In the first book I disliked almost everyone except Cora, Will, and her "dashing Frenchman" as the summary calls him.  I found most of them much more likable this time around.

As for the love triangle, it's kind of fun. You get Will, who is the good, steady guy that fits well into Cora's past.  Then we get Pierre, who is the fairy tale prince every girl dreams of meeting.  Still, Cora makes her decision in this book, which I really appreciated.  I won't tell you who she chooses, but it's a change resolving that sort of conflict in the second book.  Maybe the other one will make an appearance in the third, but I don't think Cora is going to be conflicted about her choice. 

This book is labeled as Young Adult Historical Christian Romance (yeah, that's a mouthful). I don't read a lot of Christian fiction, but I really liked the way Lisa Bergren handled it in this book. Having Cora and Will pray to God added more consistency to their characters and the time period in which they live, but it never overtakes the story.  It just makes it feel more authentic.

This book also introduces a new character. I'll admit the moment he pulled out his camera I could tell where this was going, but there was a delightful twist I didn't see coming at all, so the first, rather obvious twist is okay.  

All in all, this is a fun read.  I liked some of the twists and the way the different relationships played out. In the end, this is an intriguing 3.5 stars for me.  It did kind of lag in spots, but it really made me want to follow Cora's journey through Europe (minus the kidnappers).  I especially love how Cora's relationship with her father ended, and I'm excited to see what happens in the third installment.