Thursday, October 31, 2013

Book Review: Unbreakable

I never believed in ghosts. Until one tried to kill me.

When Kennedy Waters finds her mother dead, her world begins to unravel. She doesn’t know that paranormal forces in a much darker world are the ones pulling the strings. Not until identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into Kennedy’s room and destroy a dangerous spirit sent to kill her. The brothers reveal that her mother was part of an ancient secret society responsible for protecting the world from a vengeful demon — a society whose five members were all murdered on the same night.

Now Kennedy has to take her mother’s place in the Legion if she wants to uncover the truth and stay alive. Along with new Legion members Priest and Alara, the teens race to find the only weapon that might be able to destroy the demon — battling the deadly spirits he controls every step of the way.  Quoted from Goodreads


This is the perfect book for Halloween . . . well depending on how you look at the holiday.  I'll be honest, I've read enough books about witches and vampires to fill October several times over with book reviews, so maybe paranormal isn't that special.  Still, when asking myself what to read this week, this is the book I chose. Why?  I'm going with the whole creepy factor.  Sure, I read tons of books with the right paranormal creature, but thanks to Twilight, most of those are more adventures /romance and not horror. This book, while it does have its share of romance and adventure, also has those eerie, suspenseful moments the scream Halloween thanks to one particularly nasty demon and a plethora of angry ghosts.

We start with Kennedy and her unfortunate trip to a graveyard.  Here we also encounter her our first ghost . . . and the story is off.  The best part of this book is its creepy factor.  It's not gross, blood and guts everywhere horror.  Instead it's vengeful spirits and ghosts throwing knives at your or walling you up in the basement Cask of Amontillado style, and for me, it's exactly what I wanted.

As for the characters, I actually enjoyed Kennedy.  She absolutely lacks self confidence and knows she's the weakest member of the team, but I actually found her to be pretty realistic.  I think her character has a lot of potential, and I enjoyed her need to use her skills to help no matter how small they might be.  I also really liked her desire to be part of a group.  It's a feeling a lot of teens can relate to (and everybody else, really) and completely true to what happened to her character.

As for the romance, I never really thought of it as a love triangle. There was always one clear winner, and while the other was friendly and maybe showed a little interest, it never progressed into the dreaded triangle realm.  I won't go into too many specifics in case you do actually buy into the whole triangle thing, but I also thought he was exactly what Kennedy needed.  Not in an obvious way at first, but I totally saw it.

There are also some good friendships in the book.  While running away and worrying her aunt really weren't probably the best choices, I understand Kennedy's reasoning behind it.  I did admire her devotion to her friends, both the one she left behind and the new ones she makes.   Plus, I like Kami Garcia's writing.  I loved Beautiful Creatures, and while Beautiful Darkness was rather a let down, the series ended up redeeming itself in the last two books. 

All in all this is a fun, creepy, nail-biter of a Halloween read.  It was just what I was looking for this time of year.  Honestly, I was surprised how much I liked it. I'm going to round it up to a lovely 4 stars.  Now I'm just hoping the next book in the series doesn't pull a Beautiful Darkness and instead keeps up the eerie intensity of Unbreakable.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Book Review: Slayers: Friends and Traitors

The Slayers – teens who have powers to fight dragons—are back by popular demand in this high-octane sequel, now with a new cover package!

Tori is at a White House dinner party when she hears a horrifying sound: dragon eggs hatching. It means in less than a year, the dragons will be mature and dangerous. The Slayers are well-trained, but their group is not yet complete, and Tori is determined to track down Ryker Davis, the mysterious Slayer who has yet to surface.

What Tori doesn’t bargain for, however, is the surprising truth about her powers: she isn’t a Slayer after all, but a Dragon Lord, with a built-in predisposition to protect dragons, not kill them.
How will she overcome this to save the lives of her friends?  Quoted from Goodreads


I love this series. Well, I'll be honest, I love anything by Janette Rallison (aka CJ Hill), and this is no exception. I may even like this second book better than the first one.  Basically, it's everything you love about the first book times 2. We get more action, more danger, more romance, more conflict, broader setting, and more dragons.

So I'm going to start where I usually end: the romance.  I actually really am enjoying this love triangle.  Wait.  Hold back your groans.  I know that the love triangle has been overdone a bit in YA, but like I said before, I actually like it here.  It helps that I like both guys (for very different reasons), and I honestly have no idea who Tori is going to end up with. It's not like the Twilight "triangle" where we all know Bella was going to get with Edward and Jacob was created to add conflict, drama and angst.  

Next, the plot.  Friends and Traitors end a few months after Slayers ended.  I was glad we got a glimpse of the camp, but it was fun to change up locations and see all the main characters back in their everyday lives.  Plus, when we do get attacks, it's not just a summer adventure but intrudes on their lives. It makes everything more personal and the danger more menacing.  Plus, there's just plain more going. 

The characters had to grow up a lot in this book. Jesse is trying to prove that he's a good leader.  Dirk has the whole unrequited love/family loyalty issues to deal with, and Tori has to juggle being a presidential candidate's daughter and a slayer at the same time.  Then there's the whole Dragon Lord thing Tori has to deal with. I love the conflict where she wants to kill dragons and protect them at the same time.

The ending was excellent.  It's one of those rare second books were it reaches it's own high points while still building towards the final book.   All in all, it's a great series. My only complaint was how long it took for this book to come out, but I'm hoping this third book comes out quicker.  So should you read it? Absolutely.  Its a very strong 4 stars for me, and one of the series I'm looking forward to the most. So if you haven't started it, now is a great time, and if you have read the first book, what are you waiting for?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Meme Monday

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Book Review: Across the Star-Swept Sea

Centuries after wars nearly destroyed civilization, the two islands of New Pacifica stand alone, a terraformed paradise where even the Reduction—the devastating brain disorder that sparked the wars—is a distant memory. Yet on the isle of Galatea, an uprising against the ruling aristocrats has turned deadly. The revolutionaries’ weapon is a drug that damages their enemies’ brains, and the only hope is rescue by a mysterious spy known as the Wild Poppy.

On the neighboring island of Albion, no one suspects that the Wild Poppy is actually famously frivolous aristocrat Persis Blake. The teenager uses her shallow, socialite trappings to hide her true purpose: her gossipy flutternotes are encrypted plans, her pampered sea mink is genetically engineered for spying, and her well-publicized new romance with handsome Galatean medic Justen Helo… is her most dangerous mission ever.
Though Persis is falling for Justen, she can’t risk showing him her true self, especially once she learns he’s hiding far more than simply his disenchantment with his country’s revolution and his undeniable attraction to the silly socialite he’s pretending to love. His darkest secret could plunge both islands into a new dark age, and Persis realizes that when it comes to Justen Helo, she’s not only risking her heart, she’s risking the world she’s sworn to protect.  Quoted from Goodreads


Love, love, love this book.  It's sort of the perfect storm of perfectness for me.  First, I adored Diana Peterfreund's For Darkness Shows the Stars (a dystopia retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion), so this sequel/companion book would have been on my list regardless.  Then I found out it was a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and I was completely hooked.

Let's start with characters.  I loved them all.  Seriously, this book is full of well developed, interesting characters.  Not everyone is perfect; some have some pretty huge skeletons in their closets, but it just makes everything more interesting. The relationships are well developed, and there are a lot of relationships.  It's not just dealing with the boy meets girl romance angle, but we have relationships between siblings, parents, cousins, best friends, enemies, and the list goes on.  It makes the world seem real despite how different it is from our own. Plus while Persis and Justin are the main POVs, we also get perspectives from Justin's sister and cousin, who give us different viewpoints on the revolution.  Everyone's voice is distinct and rather essential to the story.

As for world-building, it's excellent. It's created on the same foundation as For Darkness Shows the Stars, but how New Pacifica handles everything is vastly different from it's predecessor.  We get a lot of fun, new technology and cures that come with their own sets of problems.

As for the action, it's paced similarly to it's source material.  It isn't all daring rescues, though we have several of those thrown in there.  But there are a lot of other issues going on that the author explores, like political conflict, social inequality, disease, hatred, etc. There's as much internal conflict as their is external, which kept me basically glued to the book while I was reading it.

As for the romance, I thought it was well developed.  It was fun seeing it from both Persis and Justin's POVs. You see why Justin would fall for the shallow girl Persis is pretending to be and why Persis likes Justin despite the serious reservations she has about his character. You know how the story goes, but I loved watching it develop and deepen despite all the lies they told each other.  I also enjoyed the story of Persis's parents and her best friend Isla's forbidden romance.

Really, this is a delightful book everyone needs to pick up.  It's a stand alone, though you would probably enjoy it more if you've read the first one simply because some of those characters show up half way through. It's got lies, secret identities, revolutions, intrigue, action, romance, brilliant characters . . . what more could you possibly want. I'm rating it a delightful 4.5 stars, and I hope Diana Peterfreund keeps writing more in this series.  It's exactly what I was looking for.

Oh, and you should check out her short prequel novella, The First Star to Fall.  It's free on Amazon and a great introduction to this world.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Book Review: Allegiant

One choice will define you.

What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.
But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.  Quoted from Goodreads


Ah, another ending.  I wanted to review this one; I really did. But I'm not going to. At all.

Here's the thing, if I review it, I'll give too much away about the book.  So I can't really talk about character developments or plot twists or even conclusions because this is one you have to read for yourself.

So, I 'll leave you to it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Book Review: The House of Hades

At the conclusion of The Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy tumble into a pit leading straight to the Underworld. The other five demigods have to put aside their grief and follow Percy’s instructions to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death. If they can fight their way through the Gaea’s forces, and Percy and Annabeth can survive the House of Hades, then the Seven will be able to seal the Doors both sides and prevent the giants from raising Gaea. But, Leo wonders, if the Doors are sealed, how will Percy and Annabeth be able to escape?

They have no choice. If the demigods don’t succeed, Gaea’s armies will never die. They have no time. In about a month, the Romans will march on Camp Half-Blood. The stakes are higher than ever in this adventure that dives into the depths of Tartarus.  Quoted from Goodreads


Warning, this review will contain some spoilers for The Mark of Athena. Granted, even the summary on Goodreads contains some spoilers, so I'm in good company. Still, I'll try not to give anything away.

These books just keep getting better and better.  It's sort of how this whole Heroes of Olympus series is much better than the original Percy Jackson one.  Part of it, I'm sure, is just the author getting better at his craft, but I'll admit, it helps, at least for me, that the characters are a little bit older.  It's much easier to take a sixteen year old swinging a sword than an eleven year old.  Plus, I love the different points of view.  

Okay, we'll start with that.  For the first time ever in this series, we get everyone's POV!  Yep, all seven characters get their own screen time and character development, and I loved it.  It helps that we've had three books establishing these characters, which kept it from feeling disjointed.  Plus, as the end nears, each character has their own concerns and obstacles that they'll have to overcome, so it would be hard to skip them here.  Really, everyone sort of comes into their own. Sure, they all still have problems ahead, but each character made HUGE strides in this book, ensuring that they'll be the heroes they need to be for the next one.

This book is also exhausting.  Rick Riordan is great about giving his heroes a deadline---the world will end August 1st, that sort of thing---which really ups the tension. Plus with Percy and Annabeth in Tarterus, a place where the very air is literally trying to kill them, the clock is constantly ticking.  Percy and Annabeth have to escape, the other five have to rescue them, on top of that, their Greek and Roman friends are on the brink of war, all the giants have been freed, and Gaea is about to rise. Part of it goes back to getting everyone's POV.  We're always with the most exciting character, so the tension stays high, but still, there's a lot of crazy stuff packed into this book. 

Plus, we get some great plot twists.  Along with all that character growth I mentioned earlier, we get some great twists I totally didn't see coming but were absolutely justified. 

What else did I love?  Riordan brings back a lot of characters from his earlier series.  I'll admit, there are a few that I didn't really remember.  Percy's killed so many monsters it can be hard to keep track.  However, the ones he does bring back tend to be the most memorable, and I loved their continued character arc.  I won't say much more for spoilers, but I really did love some of the characters we got to see again, especially the ones involved with Percy, Annabeth, and Leo.

Finally, I adore Riordan's dedication page.  If you haven't read it yet, this is what he says, "To my wonderful readers: Sorry about that last cliff-hanger. Well, no, not really. HAHAHAHAHA. But seriously, I love you guys."  Isn't that great!  There are only a few dedications I've enjoyed as much.

If you love the series, this book will not disappoint.  It's everything you've come to expect from The Heroes of Olympus series and then some. Everything is bigger, harder, and more personal.  It's nonstop action with a serious dose of character development and some humor on the side. Everything is perfectly paced, keeping you turning pages until the end, and what a great ending! Honestly, this is a strong 5 star book, and I can't wait (but at the same time kind of dread, because that means the series is over) for the last book. If The House of Hades is any indication, it's going to be amazing.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Book Review: Emerald Green

Gwen has a destiny to fulfill, but no one will tell her what it is.

She’s only recently learned that she is the Ruby, the final member of the time-traveling Circle of Twelve, and since then nothing has been going right. She suspects the founder of the Circle, Count Saint-German, is up to something nefarious, but nobody will believe her. And she’s just learned that her charming time-traveling partner, Gideon, has probably been using her all along.

This stunning conclusion picks up where Sapphire Blue left off, reaching new heights of intrigue and romance as Gwen finally uncovers the secrets of the time-traveling society and learns her fate.  Quoted from Goodreads


I loved this book. Oh, it's not perfect by any means.  Honestly, there were parts that were kind of disappointing and things that bugged me.  Still, whether it's the writing, Gwen's voice, or the whole time-travel/chosen/prophecy aspect, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  This is one of those times when I emphasize that the stars are given based on how much I liked something, not literary merit. And again, I loved it.

First off, this series really is  one that should be read in one sitting.  The first two books don't really build to any sort of climax, they just end, leaving you waiting for the next installment.  So, if you haven't started this series, this is the perfect time.  If you have and were forced to suffer, well, the third book is here!

Basically, if you like the first two books, you'll love this one.  If you didn't, then don't even bother reading it.  Everything wrong with the first two books is still wrong here. There really isn't much more action.  I'm not totally convinced Gwen is even the hero of her own story.  I'm afraid a secondary character may have usurped that role, or at least got to put the last piece of the puzzle together (metaphorically speaking, of course). And the ending, while mostly satisfying, was hardly the climax I expected after three books.

So why do I love this book?  Gwen.  I love her character.  Sure, she cries way too much and wallows in her boy issues, but she's also a genuine sixteen-year-old girl. Her voice is perfect, and for all the training/warning she's been given about what is happening to her, I think she does an amazing job sorting through things and solving mysteries. I love her relationship with her mother and grandfather.  I absolutely adore Leslie.  She's the perfect best friend without falling into the YA stereotype.  As for Gideon, he's frustrating, with plenty of faults, but I still like his and Gwen's relationship.  In so many ways they're perfect for each other. As for the bad guy, well, you hate him from the beginning, but I adored what they did with his character in this book. 

Then there's everything outside Gwen.  I love the prophecies, the secret society that has literally waited for her for hundreds of years.  I adore Lucy and Paul, their opening and closing chapters are some of the most fun in the whole book.  I live time travel, the things from the first book that are wrapped up in the third.  Everything is so well planned, you know that author mapped everything out before tackling the first book.

So that's why I love this book.  Everything is perfectly crafted. The whole idea is just fun and well thought out.  Plus, there are some amazing characters, and maybe that's really what I love so much about this series. Gwen's family, friends, and even enemies are whole, realistic, and oozing personality, so even the minor characters have substance instead of simply being place holders.

So, back to what I said in the beginning, I love this book.  Should you read it? Yes. Is it perfect? No, but I really don't care.  It's one of those fun, delightful reads that I know I'm going to visit again and again, simply because I love the world and the characters so much.  I'm going to overlook the slightly disappointing climax and give it a solid 4.5 stars based on likability alone.   Because, really, the series has that undefinable something abut it that I still haven't quite been able to put my finger on but that makes me love it.  I know that's unfair in a review, so you'll have to read the series yourself and see what you think.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Monday, October 7, 2013

Meme Monday

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Book Review: Steelheart

There are no heroes.

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.

But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills. 

Nobody fights the Epics... nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart—the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning—and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience. 
He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.  Quoted from Goodreads


Doesn't that sound amazing!?! Okay, so if you've followed my blog at all, you know I'm a huge Brandon Sanderson fan.  What can I say, his action is epic, his magic systems utterly unique, and his stories are fast-paced, fun, and original.  Knowing that, Steelheart had a lot to live up to, and it absolutely delivered. 

One of Sanderson's talents is taking the normal, rather common idea and twisting it on it's head.  Instead of Superman coming to save the world, he's here to destroy it.  Captain America wants to set himself up as dictator, and Loki, well, he's converted Thor to his side of things.  That basically is the universe Sanderson gives us, where the ordinary have to rise up to become heroes because anyone with abilities is too busy taking whatever they want.  

I love this idea.  With the popularity of superheroes on the rise, this is the just the twist we needed.  I loved David. He's the sort of person we kind of hope we'd all be: an ordinary boy with nothing but his determination to avenge his father and help the real heroes along. Sure, he's kind of a nerd, absolutely dedicated to the cause, and horrible with girls, but that's really what makes him so relatable.  

Then we get the twist/mystery. A big part of this is figuring out Steelheart's weakness, the best way to bring him down, etc, and it sort of plays out like a mystery.  Of course I had my own theories. Some ideas  I knew were wrong, but it's fun trying to figure it out with the characters.  Plus, we get other twists, again, some I expected and other's I didn't, or I only got half of the equation.  Still, they make the book fun.  Plus, Sanderson's so good about giving us little details that end up laying a big part later on in the story, so the book feels tight.  He knew where he was going from the beginning, so everything is perfectly plotted.

Besides twists, this book is crammed full of action. Honestly, of all the book's I've read this year, this one would probably make the best movie, if someone's smart enough to grab it.  Something is always happening, but it isn't just dumb action.  It's thrilling, edge of your seat, I can't possibly put this book down, there is a purpose to every explosion kind of action. 

The prologue itself will suck you in.  It's delightful to see the difference ten years will make. It's kind of like the reboot of Star Trek, where you can't help but cry.  It introduces you to the world with a bang, and I was completely hooked.  

The rest of the characters (Reckoners) were also fun.  Most of them have a bit of mystery about them, secrets in their past, etc., that keeps you guessing along with David and forming your own theories about what's going to happen next.  And then there's Steelheart.  He's such a marvelous villain.  He's one of those that you constantly feel throughout the book, even when he's not present.  Plus, he doesn't come across as blustering or petty in his cruelty.  He is, simply put, pure, organized evil, and I loved him.

So should you read this book? Yes. Absolutely. You must pick this up.  It's a great adventure.  You know there's going to be a sequel, but it's also the sort of thing that could stand on it's own. Basically it's a white knuckles, up till midnight sort of read, that you later ask where all the time went.  I'm giving it a strong 4.5 stars with the high probability of an upgrade soon.  So if you're looking for what next to read, pick this up. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Anticipating October

Sorry, I've been so bad lately.  I've spent all my time working on another project (okay, and I've been reading a little. I mean, Steelheart came out last week). Still, October is here, and with it we get some of the books I've been looking forward to most all year.

            1st: Hero – Alethea Kontis
                  GlitteringPromises – Lisa Tawn Bergen
                  Endless Knight– Krelsey Cole
                  Unbreakable –Kami Garcia
                  Perfect Ruin –Lauren DeStefano
                  TheBeautiful and the Damned – Jessica Verday

            8th: Emerald Green – Kerstin Gier
                   The Time Between Us – Tamara Ireland Stone
                    House of Hades – RickRiordan
                    The Eye of Minds – James Dashner
                    Ever After High – Shannon Hale
                    Tandem – Anna Jarzab

                    Friends and Traitors  – C.J. Hill
                    Never Fade – Alexandra Bracken
                    Copperhead  – Tina Connoly

            29th: Altered – Gennifer Albin
                     Unbreathable – Hafsah Laziaf

I know! The list is amazing.  Hopefully everyone finds something new they can get excited about.  Personally, I'm all about Emerald Green, Across the Star-Swept Sea, House of Hades, Slayers: Friends and Traitors, and the list goes on. Enjoy!