Sunday, April 28, 2013

Book Review: Renegade

Since the age of three, sixteen-year-old Evelyn Winters has been trained to be Daughter of the People in the underwater utopia known as Elysium. Selected from hundreds of children for her ideal genes, all her life she’s thought that everything was perfect; her world. Her people. The Law.

But when Gavin Hunter, a Surface Dweller, accidentally stumbles into their secluded little world, she’s forced to come to a startling realization: everything she knows is a lie. 

Her memories have been altered. 

Her mind and body aren’t under her own control. 

And the person she knows as Mother is a monster.
Together with Gavin she plans her escape, only to learn that her own mind is a ticking time bomb... and Mother has one last secret that will destroy them all. Quoted from Goodreads


Well, this is a delightfully creepy book on so many different levels. First we have the memory altering. When you can't even trust yourself, how are you supposed to know who or what is real?  Then, well, let's just say when everyone else can also be altered, how do you know how far you can trust anyone.  And that's the whole book, really.  It's a delightfully creepy adventure set in a unique dystopia setting.

First, we have a delightful villain--and by delightful, I mean creepy, evil, vindictive, ruthless, and manipulative.  She goes by Mother, which is creep right there.  She's one of those villains who starts out as a slight threat and escalates with each chapter as you uncover more and more about her, until she emerges as someone utterly depraved and deeply disturbing.

Evelyn is an interesting protagonist. Her memory is being constantly manipulated, as is her very behavior, so while we trust her, at the same time, you sort of can't.  It makes her whole journey to escape and self discovery intriguing  because it isn't just outside forces she's fighting, but what's been done to her mind as well.   

The romance is quick, not insta-love so much as mutual bonding over a horrible situation.  Gavin is a good character whose newness to Evelyn's world gives perspective to how horrible everything is.  He's ordinary but smart, cute, but not that heart-stoppingly gorgeous that makes you question if the main character actually loves him or just his pretty face. 

This is one of those books that starts of with a twist, and then just keeps building and building, upping the danger and lengths the villain will go until you almost have to put the book down just to give yourself a break, while at the same time, you have to keep reading to see if they actually escape.  It's an action packed,  twisting, psychological thriller, you need to check out.  It's a strong 4 stars for me, and I can't wait to read the next book.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saturday Shorts: Among the Nameless Stars

Before Kai joined the Cloud Fleet, he wandered… AMONG THE NAMELESS STARS

Four years before the events of FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS, the servant Kai left the North Estate, the only home he’d ever known, and Elliot North, the only girl he ever loved, in search of a better life. But the journey was not an easy one.
Featuring narrow escapes, thrilling boat races and at least one deadly volcanic wasteland. Quoted from Goodreads


Last Tuesday was a wonderful day for book releases, so last Monday I was a little bit at a loss as to what I should read.  I didn't really want to start something big because I wanted to be ready on Tuesday to read some of these new releases.  I was thinking of picking up and rereading pieces of books I love, when I discovered this prequel novella. Needless to say, I was ecstatic. I loved For Darkness Shows the Stars, and finding out there was a prequel and that it was free on Amazon was just icing on the cake.  

Plus, this book is well done.  It shows Kai's struggles after he left the North Estate, the hopelessness of what he face, and why he made the choices he did.  We also get to see his and Elliot's relationship from his perspective, sort of.  None of this takes place with her, so we just get his thoughts and feelings, but still it's a nice insight.  

The story is, in itself, a story.  It's not just glimpses or scenes from Kai's POV that we already saw from Elliot's. It expands the world beyond the North estate that we only hear about in FDStS.  Of course, it also made me spend most of the next day re-reading bits and and pieces of FDStS, since I wanted to see Kai and Elliot together.

Probably my favorite part of the story are the letters Kai composes to Elliot in his head.  It shows not only what he's thinking and feeling, but how much he and Elliot were connected to each other even when they were separated with no reunion (or even the want for one) in sight.

All in all, this is one of the better novellas out there.  If you liked For Darkness Shows the Stars, you absolutely have to read this.  If you're thinking about reading For Darkness Shows the Stars, this is a great introduction (again, it's free).  It was a lovely 4 star novella for me, and I can't wait to read Diana Peterfreund's sequel, Across the Star-Swept Sea.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Review: Unbreakable

Four months after Ben disappeared through the portal to his home universe, Janelle believes she’ll never see him again. Her world is still devastated, but life is finally starting to resume some kind of normalcy. Until Interverse Agent Taylor Barclay shows up. Somebody from an alternate universe is running a human trafficking ring, kidnapping people and selling them on different Earths—and Ben is the prime suspect. Now his family has been imprisoned and will be executed if Ben doesn’t turn himself over within five days.

And when Janelle learns that someone she cares about—someone from her own world—has become one of the missing, she knows that she has to help Barclay, regardless of the danger. Now Janelle has five days to track down the real culprit. Five days to locate the missing people before they’re lost forever. Five days to reunite with the boy who stole her heart. But as the clues begin to add up, Janelle realizes that she’s in way over her head—and that she may not have known Ben as well as she thought. Can she uncover the truth before everyone she cares about is killed? Quoted from Goodreads


I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Too much, maybe.  I stayed up until 1:00 last night just to finish it, it was that nail-biting, heart-pumpin, must keep reading until the end.  So if you're looking for a great action read, (or really something just plain different for a YA read) this is it. 

Seriously, everything about this book is designed to keep you turning pages.  We have the countdown, so 5 day time limit right there.  Then the chapters are short, most with a sort of cliff-hanger that practically forces you to read the next one.  Finally, so much action: fighting, prison breaks (yes, there are multiple), missing people, world jumping, kidnapping, conspiracies, human trafficking, corruption, doppelgangers, torture, mistaken identity, and the list goes on.  

I loved Unraveling. I loved the characters, the plot, the way we got an end of the world scenario, all of it.  This book is similar but different.  It's not quite so "small" town, one location, one problem causing others.  It's much bigger.  It's world hopping, and reflects the bigger backdrop for the story.  There's also a little less romance.  The first book is Janelle and Ben falling in love (and, of course, the countdown to the end of the world).  This book still has the romance, the longing, but Ben doesn't even show up for the first half.  Much of what Janelle does is motivated by what she feels for Ben, but the story is about something much bigger.

The biggest surprise, at least for me (and don't worry, I'm not talking twist/spoiler surprise here) was how much I grew to like Taylor Barclay.  Sure, he's still arrogant and thinks he knows better than anyone, but I love his snarky relationship with Janelle.  I love how ambiguous he is in the beginning, then love what he becomes. 

I'm also glad I read Elizabeth Norris's novella, Undone.  It's not that you have to read it before this second book, but you really should.  It fills in a few of the gaps and gives you a greater understanding of what's been going on with Ben.  Don't worry, though, it doesn't really ruin any of the spoilers for Unbreakable.

Probably the most difficult thing for me about this book is expectations. I thought this series was a trilogy.  Who knows, maybe it still is, but I don't think so.  The end of this book felt like the end of the series, which made me kind of sad.  Don't get me wrong, it's a satisfying ending, but at the same time, I loved reading it, knowing there was at least one more book with these characters, so in the end, I kind of felt a little cheated. So take note, there are (probably) only two books in this series.  Knowing that, this book is a wonderful continuation/conclusion.

All in all, this is an action packed 4 stars for me.  It's one of those books you can't put down, and I loved it.  It's exciting, thrilling, and full of action, while not just being action.  There's a depth to everything.  We get those brief moments of introspection before the next emergency.  So, if you're looking for a great read, pick up Unraveling, then Unbreakable.  You won't regret it. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Book Review: The Archive

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often—violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption. Quoted from Goodreads


This is such a unique book. The dead shelved as books, all their memories accessible to Librarians?  It's kind of crazy and awesome at the same time. Honestly it was one of the books I was most looking forward to coming out in January.  So why has it taken me three months to review it?  Good question.

First, for this book to make sense, you need to know that Da is her grandfather, not her actual dad.  This utterly confused me in the beginning.  She would talk about Da's death, then have a conversation with her father.  It didn't make sense to me until I figured out their actual relationships. Two, this book starts out kind of slow.  There is so much world-building here, plus setting up her brother's death, her family's move, they mystery of the place they're now staying, it takes a minute to pull everything together and get to the heart of the story. That's why I didn't finish this back in January.  I couldn't get past the first couple of chapters.  But, knowing how much I loved Victoria Schwab's The Near Witch, I decided to give this book another try, and it was absolutely worth it.

First, I love the writing.  It's almost tactual.  She does a great job of immersing you in the world, letting you feel the Narrows along with MacKenzie, walk into the archives with her. She also sets up a delightfully eerie atmosphere.  We have the crumbling hotel/apartment building, all the glitches and problems the Archive was experiencing, and a 60 year old murder waiting to be solved.

Plus, the author does a good job of characterization. You really get to know, Mac, her parents, Roland, Wesley, Owen, even Ben and Da, though they're dead before the book begins.  Each relationship also balances out nicely against the other ones.  MacKenzie's parents are messed up by Ben's death, but they are still there for her.  I love her relationship with Roland, a sort of Librarian mentor, and Da more than anyone influences what and how  Mac does what she does.  Then there's Wesley and Owen.  They give just the right smattering of romance to the story without it ever overwhelming the rest of the plot or even sinking into a standard love triangle pattern.

Again, I'm going to gush about the world building.  The whole premise of this book is so unique.  Plus, the Histories are fun, very different, paranormal characters. It's kind of like if everyone turned into a ghost/zombie/vampire/library book after they died and escaped from their graves. Sort of.   And really, the whole book is a mystery, which just makes it more fun.  

So if you're looking for a fun, unique read, this is it.  Just remember that the beginning is a bit slow, but once you get into the plot, it's hard to put down.  It's not the most mysterious mystery, you sort of see it coming, but there were some twists that totally blind-sided me. All in all, It's a solid 4 stars for me.  If you're looking for something that sort of breaks the standard YA mold, this is an excellent option, so check it out.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bargain Books!

Well, there are a lot of great books at cheap prices out right now.  If you're interested, here are some of the best ones I've found. All of the title/author links go to Amazon.  The (bn) after it is for Barnes & Noble.  Mostly they're the same prices, but there are a few exceptions (like the ones that don't have the (bn) after them aren't bargain books at Barnes & Noble).  I don't know how long these will last, but as of right now, these are the great deals I've found out there.

$1.99 Unraveling - Elizabeth Norris (bn)

$3.56 Cinder - Melissa Meyer (bn)

$1.99 Sweet Evil - Wendy Higgins (bn)

$1.99 Die for Me - Amy Plum (bn)
$1.99 If I Should Die - Amy Plum

$2.99 Born at Midnight - C.C. Hunter (bn)

$2.99 Fated - Alyson Noel (bn)

$2.99  Wake - Amanda Hocking (bn)

$3.99 Grave Mercy - Robin LeFervers 

$3.99 The False Prince - Jennifer A Nielsen (bn)

$1.99 Tiger Lily - Jodi Lynn Anderson (bn)

$1.99 Forgive Me My Fins - Tera Lynn Childs (bn)

$3.99 Going Bovine - Libra Bray (bn)

$3.79 The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight - Jennifer E. Smith (bn)

$2.99 Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson (bn)

$2.24 The Sweetest Spell - Suzanne Selfors (bn)

$1.99 Wings - Aprilynne Pike (bn)

$1.99 Variant - Robison Wells (bn)

$2.55 Gone - Michael Grant (bn)

$0.99 Pandemonium - Lauren Oliver

$2.99 The Scorpio Races - Maggie Stiefvater

Now, I haven't read all of these, but I have read most of them, and there are some really, really great books on this list you should check out.  Of course, there is Cinder.  We also have Unraveling, Way of Kings, and The False Prince, which are all amazing.  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Book Review: The Wide-Awake Princess

Princess Annie is the younger sister to Gwen, the princess destined to be Sleeping Beauty. When Gwennie pricks her finger and the whole castle falls asleep, only Annie is awake, and only Annie—blessed (or cursed?) with being impervious to magic—can venture out beyond the rose-covered hedge for help. She must find Gwen's true love to kiss her awake.

But who is her true love? The irritating Digby? The happy-go-lucky Prince Andreas, who is holding a contest to find his bride? The conniving Clarence, whose sinister motives couldn't possibly spell true love? Joined by one of her father's guards, Liam, who happened to be out of the castle when the sleeping spell struck, Annie travels through a fairy tale land populated with characters both familiar and new as she tries to fix her sister and her family . . . and perhaps even find a true love of her own. Quoted from Goodreads


Reading Cinder and Scarlet put me in the mode for more fractured/retold fairy tales.  Now, I did have to resort to a middle-grade book to find a good one I haven't read, but it's totally worth it. This is such a adorable, sweet read. Honestly, sometimes I forget how much I can love middle-grade books.  The romance is uncomplicated, the worlds have an element of the bizarre, and there isn't that over abundance of angst that plagues some YA books. 

So, basically this book is just fun.  It crams a whole bunch of fairy tales into one story, beginning with Sleeping Beauty, but covering Hansel and Gretel, the Frog Prince, the Princess and the Pea, Snow White and Rose Red, Rapunzel, and a slew of other ones I can't remember right now.  None of them were told in their entirety, but each one got it's own special twist.  

Plus, I really like Annie's curse/blessing.  It makes her a fun character, and while it's almost too powerful, it helps teach a really good lesson.  It's interesting exploring a world where almost every character has some kind of magic and how it affects society's views.  It's especially interesting with Annie's family, who force her into a corner so they won't ever appear less than beautiful by being close to her field of no magic.

As for the world, well, there are some aspects you just sort of have to accept, such as all the neighboring kingdoms are only one or two days walk away and they all have princes of marriageable age. Other than that, it's plain fun, with a forgetful witch, who has to remind herself with notes to each children and a frog prince who's the father of Hansel and Gretel (aka Thomas and Clara). 

All in all, this is a quick, fun read.  It's full of whimsy and fun slants on familiar stories.  There's also a dash of romance between Annie and Liam, even though Annie's trying to focus on finding her sister's one true love.  If you're a fan of fairy tales, I would absolutely check this out.  It's a delightful, light 4 stars for me, and is especially good for younger readers.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Theater Thursday: Catching Fire (and Maze Runner)

Okay, so this has been out for 4 days now, and I realize it's probably not new to anyone. Still, I'm so excited for this movie, I have to gush a little.  First, the preview looks awesome! While I did want to see  some of the next hunger games, I love the lead up to it.  I love President Snow's POV, where we see why they may the decisions they do.  All in all, this is shaping up to be one of my top movies for the holiday season this year. What do you all think?  You excited as I am?

Plus, in other random movie news, Dylan O'Brien has been cast as Thomas in the Maze Runner movie. I personally haven't seen anything with him in it, so I can't tell you anything about him, but he looks cute, and at long last we have an actor!  Kaya Scodelario has also been cast as Theresa, though that news is weeks old. The movie comes out next February, so it will still be a while, but it's fun to watch as they put the cast together.  I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Book Review: Scarlet

The fates of Cinder and Scarlet collide as a Lunar threat spreads across the Earth...

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner
. Quoted from Goodreads


After Cinder, I had really high expectations, while trying not to have high expectations. Cinder proved how good Marissa Meyer is at retelling fairytales, but I didn't know how the trend would continue.  I mean, she introduced a bunch of new characters, while maintaining all the ones from the previous book. Luckily, she pulled this off with flying colors.

First, I love Scarlet and Wolf.  In the beginning I didn't care about them that much.  It was Cinder's story I was invested in, and I felt they were sort of interlopers  forced into the story to make it fit the conventions of another fairy tale instead of continuing the story she already had going.  But as the story continued, I grew to love them. Scarlet was strong and brave, everything you expect, contrasting with Wolf, who wasn't what I anticipated at all. When you put a character in that is essentially the big, bad wolf, there are certain expectations that come with that.  He defied all of them (except maybe in looks), and was more adorable because of that.  

I love the way their story mirrored the Little Red Riding hood version, while being as unique and different as Cinder was from Cinderella.  Plus, all of her characters are distinct.  Scarlet wasn't another Cinder with red hair, Wolf was nothing like Kai (or the rather delightful Captain Thorne).  So even though we bounced around between the characters, I never once got confused about whose head I was living in.

I love Iko as a ship. She was funny in the first book, but putting her in a ship (one with a naked lady on the side) was just one of those fun twists I didn't expect but thoroughly enjoyed.  I also really grew to like Captain Thorne, and can't wait to see exactly who/what he ends up becoming later (I have my guesses, but we'll see how good I am). Then there's Cinder and Kai.  No, we don't get quite as much of them as in the previous book, but their story is still gripping, and I didn't feel cheated by the new characters at all.

Plus, we get more of the delightfully evil Lunar Queen and her diabolical plots to overthrow earth.  She really is an excellent villain.  Even Kai, who is the Emperor of one of the six Earthen countries, is intimidated and browbeaten into doing what she wants (and not because he is week, but forced into an impossible situation).  We get to see more of her plots unfold in this book, and with every page, I grow to hate her just a little more.  

Basically, you need to read this series.  It's fun, full of adventure, and one of the best adaptions out there.  This is a wonderful 4.5 stars for me (again).  Now I'm suffering with  the rest of the masses until next year with the release of Cress.  Already I'm counting down the days. Now here's the preview in case all my gushing didn't convince you to read the book.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Trailer Tuesday: Siege and Storm, The Eternity Cure, The Program

Once again, there are some amazing YA book previews out.  Two of these are even for the second book in their series, which are a lot more rare than previews for first books.  Anyway, check them out and let me know what you think.  I'm pretty excited, especially about Siege and Storm.

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm. Quoted from Goodreads

Here's the link for the Siege and Storm trailer.

The Eternity Cure by Julia Kagawa

Allison Sekemoto has vowed to rescue her creator, Kanin, who is being held hostage and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren. The call of blood leads her back to the beginning—New Covington and the Fringe, and a vampire prince who wants her dead yet may become her wary ally.Even as Allie faces shocking revelations and heartbreak like she’s never known, a new strain of the Red Lung virus that decimated humanity is rising to threaten human and vampire alike. Quoted from Goodreads

The Program by Suzanne Young

In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.
Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them. Quoted from Goodreads

Here's the link for The Program's trailer.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Book Review: Mila 2.0

Mila was never meant to learn the truth about her identity. She was a girl living with her mother in a small Minnesota town. She was supposed to forget her past—that she was built in a secret computer science lab and programmed to do things real people would never do.

Now she has no choice but to run—from the dangerous operatives who want her terminated because she knows too much and from a mysterious group that wants to capture her alive and unlock her advanced technology. However, what Mila’s becoming is beyond anyone’s imagination, including her own, and it just might save her life. 
 Quoted from Goodreads


First, isn't the cover just lovely.  This wasn't on my list in March, but between the cover and some great reviews, I couldn't stop myself from picking this up.  

This book is, simply put, an action packed adventure.  I tend to have certain expectations when I'm reading books (or watching movies) with androids. I expect them to explore what exactly it means to be human.  This book doesn't do that.  Sure, Mila is an android, but because she begins the book thinking she's human, and everyone's complaint about her is that she's "too human," this story never really explores the issue much.  Her being equal to a human and deserving human rights is a given.  It's just the big, bad corporations/government that treats her like a machine. As long as you go into this book expecting that, it's a really fun read.

The book starts out as sort of a typical YA book.  Grieving, new girl in town, meets new boy.  There's a mean girl thrown into the mix.  Stuff happens: romance, cruelty, and then the big reveal.  Mila finds out what she is, and that's when the action really kicks in.  From that point on, it's hard to put the book down.  There's always some chase going on, some group who wants to capture Mila and her mother.

Mila's relationship with her mom is one of my favorite things about this book---partly because that's really the driving relationship in the book.  Yes, we have the dreamy Hunter, who just gets Mila, and who she pines for throughout the story, but when Mila goes to escape the people chasing her, it's her mom she runs off with. Not the dreamy boy.  I really enjoyed exploring Mila's relationship with her mom.  It's not just your basic mother/daughter, but we have the whole creator/android/human mix thrown in there.  We get to see Mila freak out about what she is on so many different levels, but the love she feels for her mom is always there.

Possibly the most frustrating part of the story is the characters. There are lots of good beginnings, but we never find out much of anything about any of them.  We get Hunter, whose parents are never around and who is willing to drop everything to travel across the country for a girl he's only known for a few days.  We have a scientist in the lab who is there of his own free will, trying to help out his brother or something, but we never really get what his deal is either.  The bad guy, well he's just annoyingly evil, as is the mean girl, who I'm hoping doesn't make any sort of appearance in the next books.  It's not that the characters dont' have potential, but you sort of have to wait until the next book to find out what it really is.

All in all, if you're looking for a action that never lets up and clearly defined bad guys designed for your abject hatred, this is it.  This was a fun 3.5 stars for me.  Yes, it could have been more, but it was a lot of fun, and kept me reading long after I should have put it down. Plus, I still want to see what happens next to Mila.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Book Review: The Rising

Things are getting desperate for Maya and her friends. Hunted by the powerful St. Clouds and now a rival Cabal as well, they're quickly running out of places to hide. And with the whole world thinking they died in a helicopter crash, it's not like they can just go to the authorities for help.

All they have is the name and number of someone who might be able to give them a few answers. Answers to why they're so valuable, and why their supernatural powers are getting more and more out of control.

But Maya is unprepared for the truths that await her. And now, like it or not, she'll have to face down some demons from her past if she ever hopes to move on with her life. Because Maya can't keep running forever.

Old secrets are revealed and unexpected characters make a surprising return in this stunning conclusion to Kelley Armstrong's New York Times
bestselling Darkness Rising trilogy. Quoted from Goodreads


Okay, so if you've stuck around this far in the series, you're obviously a fan.  To be honest, this is probably my favorite of the three, and I love the way it wrapped everything up.  The beginning was a little slow for me, partly because I had to remember the characters all over again, but the last half was excellent.  Plus, we got to see Chloe and Derek again! even if it wasn't quite as much as I'd hoped.

I'll try and not give any spoilers away, but I really like the way this book ended. The Cabals are such big, ever-present threats, it's like David and Goliath without the sling. Or the stone. The way it began, everyone was backed into a corner, forced to live life on the run, separated from their parents.  The ending wasn't perfect, but it was an excellent, real-life solution full of hope--including help for the characters from The Darkest Powers trilogy, as well (obviously) as this one.

I probably shouldn't have started with the ending, but that's where my mind always goes on the last book in the series.  Don't worry, though.  There's still all the action and suspense that kept the first two books going.  Plus, we get to meet Maya's brother!  Okay, maybe that was a little bit of a spoiler, but it happens right at the beginning, and I'm pretty sure everyone expected him to turn up at one point from the moment his character was introduced.  I love his and Maya's relationship.  They're siblings who never met each other, who don't have all that history of growing up together, but they both want a part of that at least.  It's fun watching them try and figure out how to interact.

Then there's the romance.  The best thing about Kelly Armstrong's romantic relationships are that they sneak up on you.  I never pegged Derek as Chloe's one true love when I first saw him.  I thought he was an ugly, smelly jerk.  But as we get to know him, he totally won me over, so now Chloe and Derek are one of my favorite couples.  It's just the same for Maya and . . . yeah, not telling.  Maybe it's Rafe.  Maybe it's Daniel.  Who knows, maybe it's someone you never saw coming (but probably not). The whole point is, it's never obvious from the beginning, and it always develops slowly and realistically based on character and not flat out hotness. 

As I said before, this really was the perfect ending to a fun trilogy.  My only regret is that I didn't wait and read them all back to back. There's something about her books that lend themselves to one reading instead of waiting a year.  Still, now they're all out, so you can devour all of them back to back. This was a fun 3.5 (rounded up to 4 on Goodreads) book for me. It has great action, realistic characters, and great world building, so pick it up.  And if you haven't started the trilogy, well, it's done now, so you're out of excuses.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Theater Thursday: Romeo and Juliet

If any Shakespeare play can be claimed by young adults, Romeo and Juliet would be it.

Personally, I read it in eighth grade, and if you graduated high school without having to read it at one point, I'd be surprised.  There's something about the love story and the tragedy of it all that seems tailor-made for young adults. Now this story's been done over and over. If you go on IMDB there's one from 1936, 1954, 1955, 1968, 1996, and now 2013. That's not even counting retellings, such as West Side Story or Gnomeo and Juliet and others, which add their own special twist.  Still, there's part of me that's excited to see how this version plays out. I don't know if it will be any different from the 1968 version I watched in high school, but it will be fun to see how the actors interpret those oh so famous phrases.

Anyway, it's currently scheduled to come out 25 Oct. 2013, and I'm kind of excited.  October tends to be a slower month for movies, so I'll probably check it out.  All in all it looks like an excellent adaptation, and they have some excellent actors.  Check out the new trailer and tell me what you think.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Review: Cinder

Okay, so I know for a lot of people, this should be categorized more as a Flashback Friday entry.  I mean, the book came out over a year ago, and the second one is already here.  Some people may have questioned my sanity when it didn't appear on any of my top five lists last December.  Here's the thing: I've been saving this book for just the right moment.  You know that anticipation when you know something will be good but you want to save it for a rainy day?  That's kind of been my attitude towards Cinder.  I knew from the hype and so many excellent reviews there was a good chance that I would love it, and I absolutely do.  Here's the quick summary.

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . 
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.  Quoted from Goodreads

Maybe I'm just coming off the reading high---I did finish it all of five minutes ago---but even then I sometimes had to pause while reading to take in how much fun I was having with this book.

First, it's a scifi retelling of Cinderella. I love fairytale retellings in general, and this is such an excellent take.  The world itself is so developed, it's delicious. I love that Cinder is a cyborg and a mechanic.  I love Earth vs. Lunars, the evil queen (pulling in a bit of Snow White--literally there is a beautiful step-daughter, etc.--oh and I'm pretty sure Rapunzel made an appearance as well), the plague sweeping across the globe, New Beijing and the six different governments of Earth,  and the second class citizenship of the cyborgs. Honestly, the retelling is more frosting on the cake for me.  The story didn't need it, but it sure made it a lot of fun.

Next, she has a real relationship with Prince Charming, aka Kai. I liked watching their different interactions and getting into his head a little bit.  The story is told from Cinder's POV about 80% of the time, but we also get Kai's and even Dr. Erland. I really appreciate that because it lets us see things Cinder never could, so we don't have to learn about key scenes and characters from other people.  Kai experiences the queen's manipulations first hand, early on, instead of making us wait until the end with Cinder.  We get to experience how brutally ruthless she is, and why Kai could consider marrying her despite how awful she is as a person.  It would be much harder to get that if we were just limited to Cinder's POV.

Despite all my ravings about how much I loved this book, I'll be the first to admit it isn't perfect.  All the twists were pretty easy to spot.  I do understand how Cinder didn't get them, but as a reader I saw them coming as soon as the concept was introduced (and that's on a bunch of different levels, starting off with the foot in the first paragraph).  It also didn't help that we basically knew the story plot from the beginning.  I mean, it's Cinderella, which sort of lets you know where things are heading.  Plus, I had a hard time buying why Cinder's step-mother was so beastly to her.  I get turning her into a slave--she was their family's only source of income--but selling her off, all the purposely malicious things she did?  Yeah, it seemed a bit over the top to me.  There was enough going on without adding that irritating pebble of conflict to the story.

Still, knowing that it isn't perfect, I love it anyway.  It's got everything I want in a book.  Peril, big evil and small evil and natural threat, mistaken identities, hidden motives, smart characters, sacrifice, betrayal, romance, mystery, characters that begin as one thing and reveal they are something else, global impact, and personal tragedy.  So if you haven't read this book, you need to.  Plus, Scarlet is already out so you don't have to wait for the next installment after a horrible cliffhanger.  Granted I haven't read that one (don't worry, it's next on my list), so the ending might be just as bad, but at least you'd be two books into the series.  Anyway, this book is a dazzling 4.5 stars for me.  Now Scarlet, here I come . . .

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Book Review: This is What Happy Looks Like

If fate sent you an email, would you answer?

When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O'Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds. 
Then Graham finds out that Ellie's Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs? Quoted from Goodreads


This novel is just cute. It's the dream every girl's had at least once.  It's the perfect read for you summer vacation.  It's light, and as the title suggests, what happy looks like.

First, I absolutely love this cover.  I love the smiling, yellow happy, the sunrise cover silhouetting the two people on the boat.  I love the color scheme, simple and striking.  It's one of those covers that practically screams read me.  Any book that gets this cover must be absolutely amazing.

Okay, now on to the real story.  It starts off with e-mails, but rapidly turns into the story, alternating POV between Graham and Ellie.  Maybe I don't read enough straight up contemporary YA romances, but that was  refreshing for me.  We get both sides of the story.  Not just your Cinderella type, small town girl falling in love with big time actor, but we see why he falls for Ellie.  We get both of their issues, what makes each of them fall for the other, and their insecurities.  Plus, with Graham's POV, we get to experience both the ups and downs of what it's like to be famous.  It's reminds you that no matter how fairytale the setup of the story, it's not all fun and games.  It changes him, but not in the way you would immediately think, which is why he is drawn to Ellie in the first place. Then there's Ellie. She's so likable in the way she handles everything with Graham.  She has her own issues, which cause a good portion of the conflict in this book, but not in a ridiculous, drama filled way.  Despite the fantastical setup, the whole story comes across as grounded in reality.

I also enjoy how both characters families and friends play a pivotal role in their lives.  It isn't just a story about two people who fall in love in a bubble where the rest of the world fades away.  Ellie's mother is a very real character, as (to a lesser extent) are Graham's parents.   Then there's Ellie's friends, Graham's agent, director, costars, etc.  It adds depth to the book, making it seem like this fairytale could really happen.

Finally, Jennifer E. Smith is just a plain good writer.  You can't help but get sucked into the world she creates, immerse yourself in the small town, and love the characters. I especially liked the e-mails at the beginning of the each chapter, which help move the story along, somewhat, and remind you of how Ellie and Graham first met.  Plus, they're just cute.

All in all, this is a fun, 4 stars for me. It's simple, yet beautifully done, fantastical setup, yet grounded in reality.  If you're looking for a fun, light, happy romance, this is it. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Amanda Monday: While I've been sick

Hello readers.  I am sorry for the lack of Amanda Monday posts I have contributed to this blog lately.  I have not been feeling very good this past month, and with a long list of "must do's" that have to come first, I have let some of the "want to do's" slip . . . like this blog.
But while the rest of you are (hopefully) enjoying the ever-warming weather and the events of spring, I have been reading a lot of books.  Here is a list of books that have kept me company in bed, on the couch, and resting.

A PC school principal turns West Side Story into a comedy of errors.
Sixteen year-old Jessica dreams of Hollywood fame, and when Jordan moves into her small town, she dreams of him too. He’s a movie star’s son, and hey, he’s gorgeous to boot. Jordan has always wanted to get out from the shadow cast by his superstar father, but now that he and his mother have moved so far away from LA, how can he get his divorced parents back together? Jessica convinces Jordan the way to get his father to come for a long visit is to be a part of the school play. And if she’s “discovered” in the process, all the better. Things go wrong when she lets Jordan’s secret identity slip, and grow even more disastrous when the principal tries to change West Side Story into a gangfree, violence-free, politically correct production.
In the same romantic and sharply witty spirit of Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Free Throws, Janette Rallison delivers another comic gem that teen readers are sure to love.


But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.


Both are fabulous in their own special ways, and may even entice you from the warm out-doors to curl up with a good book.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Book Review: Stung

There is no cure for being stung.

Fiona doesn’t remember going to sleep. But when she opens her eyes, she discovers her entire world has been altered—her house is abandoned and broken, and the entire neighborhood is barren and dead. Even stranger is the tattoo on her right hand—a black oval with five marks on either side—that she doesn’t remember getting but somehow knows she must cover at any cost. She’s right.

Those bearing the tattoo have turned into mindless, violent beasts that roam the streets and sewers, preying upon the unbranded while a select few live protected inside a fortress-like wall, their lives devoted to rebuilding society and killing all who bear the mark.
Now Fiona has awakened branded, alone—and on the wrong side of the wall. Quoted from Goodreads


I have so many mixed feelings about this book.  If you don't think too hard about it, it's an absolutely fantastic, action filled adventure. But then there are a couple of things that kind of bugged me when I think about them. Still, it's a quick read that sucks you in right from the beginning and never lets up. 

Lets start with what I loved:  the world building.  I found the whole concept to be really intriguing, especially with the diminishing bee population.  Basically the bees were dying, so they genetically engineered a way for them to survive, but the modification resulted in a horrible flue (think 1918's Spanish Flu times ten).  To counter the flu, they developed a vaccine  that eventually resulted in madness and violence, destroying those it thought to protect.  That was four years ago. Governments are broken, resulting in sort of city states, and the only safe place is behind the wall. Most of all, Fiona doesn't really remember any of this.

 As the book progresses, some of her memories come back to fill in the gaps, but when Fiona wakes up, she doesn't know why her house has been abandoned, why she is immediately attacked by her much older looking twin brother, or what happened to the world she knew. I love this concept. It's half Sleeping Beauty (minus the prince) and half Maze Runner. It's bleak and horrible, but there's enough hope to keep it from ever spilling over into depressing.  The best part (besides the mystery of her 4 year coma) is Fiona is thrust into this world with the reader, forced to survive a society she doesn't understand.

After several adventures, she meets up with (read: captured by) Bowen.  Here's where I started running into problems.  First, Fiona, despite her 17 year old body, is mentally 13.  She's been asleep for 4 years and at times really acts like a 13 year old.  That part of the characterization is actually great, but it does make Bowen, who complains about the new marriage age (15), because it makes all the available girls (there's 1 girl to 7 guys here) 13 or 14, basically Fiona's age mentally.  Yet he never has a problem falling for her.

Plus this is one of the worst cases of insta-love ever.  Yes, they knew each other as children, but they were never really friends.  Plus, the book itself takes place over 3 or 4 days, so not a lot of time to establish a new relationship.  Here's the thing, I actually get why they would fall in "love."  He hasn't even seen a girl in over a year, then one from his past appears all helpless and needing him.  On her end, she's thrust into this horrible world, when someone she used to know appears and suddenly starts helping her, even if it's only so he had turn her over to the lab for money.  I get their instant connection, but it's not build on a foundation that I'm sure will last.  Maybe it will, but it went from "Oh, I remember you," to "I love you and will never leave you," way too fast.  It left me feeling a bit unsatisfied.

So, all in all, I think Bethany Wiggins created a great world and wrote a story it's really hard to put down.  There's always some new peril, betrayal, etc. that keeps you turning pages.  She really is a good writer, and Fiona sort of reflects that.  She is very much a girl with little combat skills (she can shoot a gun, but that's about it) thrust into a harsh, brutal world, and she acted just like that.  My problem is, I really wish she would have stepped up just a bit. While her reactions may have been realistic, part of me wanted her to not be quite so helpless (and then there's one really stupid mistake I wanted to slap her upside the head for).

This was a good 3.5 stars for me.  It was a quick read I couldn't put down.  Plus, and I'm absolutely not sure here, but it looks like there could be a sequel  which may fix some of the problems I had with the first book.  Give Fiona a few months to grow up, adjust to the world, and get used to her new, older body, develop a real relationship with Bowen.  Anyway, if there is a sequel, I'll absolutely have to check it out.  If not, it's actually quite a satisfying end.