Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Review: In the Afterlight

In The Afterlight (The Darkest Minds, #3)In The Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the Afterlight is the third and final installment in the Darkest Minds trilogy by Alexandra Bracken. This installment follows Ruby, Liam, Chubs, and the rest of the gang following the climactic scene in the previous book. Everything comes to a head as Ruby, having finally accepted who she is with her powers, risks everything to regain her freedom, and the freedom of every child affected by the IAAN virus.

This must be the year of stellar finales, because this is the second one I've read that has hit all the right notes at the right time, and was generally an excellent book.

I loved seeing Ruby act the way she did in this book, especially when compared to who she was only two books ago. She knew who she was, and she wasn't afraid of her ability anymore, but that didn't mean she was ok with the abilities themselves. It's difficult to separate those kind of things, but she did (finally) and it made her a stronger person.

All the relationships. ALL OF THEM. Were delightful. Whether you were reading a scene with Ruby and Liam, Ruby and Cole, Chubs and Vida, even Ruby and Clancy, were dynamic and thorough looks at the different ways a person can mean to someone.

This book works through the struggles put up through the stellar worldbuilding Bracken has developed, which is not only impressive in its own right, but downright scary, since I felt that the way the government and the country had devolved was something not too far off from what the real world is capable of right now. A place where people can live and love and go about their lives, while consciously ignoring injustices that are literally happening in their backyard right now. Doesn't sound too fictional, does it?

All in all, I loved this installment. Each of these books has a unique personality and identity that totally sets them apart from each other, but also complements each other in a way that a trilogy ought to. I honestly can't tell you which I would save in a fire, because they're all uniquely incredible. The ending may have felt a little rushed, but that also might just be me. I've noticed that after all the buildup of previous books, any ending of a big struggle seems a little bit strange to the point where you don't always believe it. But I'm babbling. On to the next book in my (immortal) TBR shelf.

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Book Review: The Retribution of Mara Dyer

The Retribution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #3)The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Retribution of Mara Dyer is the third and final book in the Mara Dyer trilogy by Michelle Hodkin. This installment begins with Mara having awoken in a hospital after the events of the previous book, as she fights to find out what has happened and to finally put an end to the nightmare that has plagued her since the accident that started it all.

This was a fantastic conclusion to a trilogy that had me hooked literally months before they'd even released the first book. This is like the previous two books, but on a more intense and fast-paced level. Some freaky shiz happens in this book, and yet it all manages to be explained clearly, and in the right time. You never feel rushed, or like you have to go back and reread a section to understand what it means.

The third book in a trilogy, at least in YA fiction, is always as much about the main character finally coming into their identity and deciding to own themselves as much as it is about plot lines being resolved. This was done so well with Mara, because she has always straddled the line between hating herself and reveling in her destructive capabilities. That's not something easily resolved, and you see her go back and forth between this even up to the point of the story's climax.

I won't spoil anything else, because this story is leaving you guessing on CERTAIN THINGS for a very long time, and spoiling them would be an act against my basic sense of humanity. I will leave you with the knowledge that this novel is as full of fear, intensity, and witty pop culture references as either that have come before it, and I CANNOT WAIT to see what else Michelle Hodkin's mind has in store for us. Well done, you.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

The Unbound (The Archived, #2)The Unbound by Victoria Schwab
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Unbound is Victoria Schwab's sequel to her novel The Archived. Following the events that occurred in the first book, Mackenzie is not doing well. Her dreams terrorize her into barely sleeping, and as a result her nightmares are bleeding into real life, just as her life of the Archive is slipping into her "normal" life. What's more, her relationship with her best friend and Keeper partner Wesley is more complicated than ever, and her secrets threaten to put the people she loves in danger.

The Unbound is an incredible sequel that may even surpass its predecessor, The Archived. I ate this book up in less than forty-eight hours, and I'm still thinking about it. Victoria Schwab's writing is so unique, and I can only describe what I feel by quoting another book (Catcher in the Rye): “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though.” It happened here, and it's practically a problem, because all I want to do is rant at her about how much I love it, but then you seem like a stalker, and there's legal intervention, yada yada yada. Oh well. I guess I can just list all the things here for her to see:

-Mackenzie's nightmares. It's weird to say that a supernatural story is handled so realistically, but it fits Mackenzie has dealt with trauma after trauma, and to have her walk away without so much as a mental scratch wouldn't be very realistic. I felt for her, and I wish she hadn't had to experience it, but it is what would happen.

-The private school trope was quickly rejected here for something fresh and original. Usually when a protag (who usually doesn't come from money) enters a private school, it's all about the drama between her and the stuck-up students. That didn't happen here. The most drama was between her and Safia, and it wasn't any more dramatic than it would have been in real life. Cash is preppy, but he's not egotistical or jock-ish.

-Her and Wes. OHMYGODCANYOUNOTWESLEYAYERS?! Once again, I liked how the relationship was handled. He likes her, and it's highly likely that he's aware of her feelings for him, but because of events, he doesn't try to take things any further. That being said, their relationship that's not a Relationship is very sweet. They both care about each other, and even if there wasn't a romantic element going on, I suspect they'd still act that way towards each other, because their friendship is that naturally strong.

There's not much more to say, except GIVE ME THE NEXT ONE and also GIVE ME THE WESLEY POV SHORT STORY PLEASE AND THANK YOU. January can't come soon enough.

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The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Egads! She is risen! For all one of you that may be reading this, I dropped off the face of the earth (or just this blog) for a while. Since then, I have traveled all over Europe, seen natural wonders of the world, and read a crap ton of books. I'm going to be posting a couple reviews from what I've read, and then will do my best to keep it up from then on. It's not like I'm gonna run out of books any time soon.

So with that in mind, let's get cracking.

The Archived (The Archived, #1)The Archived by Victoria Schwab
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Archived is an eerie fantasy novel by Victoria Schwab. The protagonist, Mackenzie Bishop, has not had the easiest life. Along with losing her younger brother to a hit and run and having to deal with her parents moving them to a hotel-turned-apartment building for a fresh start, she's also a member of the Archive, a place where the histories of the dead are kept organized.

So, I'm rather embarrassed of myself. I bought this book...when it released? Which was, what, 2012? And through no fault of its own (and much of mine--I actually have a problem), I owned so many books at the time that I never really got around to reading it. When I would try, my headspace wouldn't be right for reading it, and I couldn't latch on to it like I needed to. So a while later, it comes up on the Kindle Store for 99 cents. "Less than a cup of coffee," as Victoria said herself. So I got it (before actually owning a Kindle. I do now).

Yesterday afternoon, having finished one book and needing another right away, I picked this up. I finished it this morning. And it blew me away. So much that I'm having to restrain myself from buying The Unbound on my Kindle, because I'll be in the US to buy a physical copy in two days, but I almost can't actually wait that long.

This book made me want to write. Made my fingers itch, made me want to bring a world to life with such tangible clarity as Victoria did. The hotel is practically its own character, and the characters are forces to be reckoned with, regardless of if you ever actually see them or not.

I recognized some of myself within Mackenzie. Granted, I don't have the responsibilities of the afterlife causing my problems, but things she would say, like being the less active friend in a friendship, or not necessarily being able to deal with her parents' fragility. These things seemed to have been pulled out of my head as I was reading the book then and there.

I also thought that the various ways people deal with grief, and grief on its own, were expertly handled. When a loss occurs, no two reactions are the same. Some people want to push forwards in hopes that the loss gets lost underneath it all. Some push on, but let it drain them. Some force themselves to address it. Some let it flow over them, like Wesley lets Noise flow over him. I liked that there was never any solution to the problem of the characters' grief, because there is no solution. You have to let it happen in due course; you have to learn to weather the storm.

Mackenzie and Wesley's friendship is probably my favorite boy-girl YA relationship in a very long time (and not just because Wesley is played by Jess Mariano in my head). There's obvious chemistry between them, but it's never forced. They're friends first, Keeper partners second, and everything else is currently floating in a vague cloud of Potential. This works for me, because sometimes a relationship has to evolve from more than smoldering good looks and kisses that are described in pyrotechnic terms. Sometimes, it can merely start from recognizing a bit of yourself in someone else, and just being content to exist around each other. That being said, I ship these two like Jack Sparrow and the Black Pearl, and if they don't end up together by the end I will be very sad.

I may also be a bit of a dunce, but I didn't actually expect things with Owen to turn out as they did. I was more or less completely blindsided by that, so well done there.

Conclusion? Fantastic novel. I'm kicking myself for taking TWO YEARS to read it (I got it signed, for crying out loud!), and now kicking a bit more that I have to wait TWO DAYS for the next one.

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Book Review: Cress

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles, #3)Cress by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cress marks the third installment in The Lunar Chronicles, a sci-fi series of fairy-tale retellings. Along with continuing the stories of Cinder Linh (Cinderella) and Scarlet Benoit (Red Riding Hood), Cress tells the story of Crescent Moon (Rapunzel), a Lunar shell who's is incredibly skilled at hacking, and is being exploited of those talents by the Lunar Queen Levana. As the wedding of Levana and Kai, the Emperor of the Eastern Commonwealth, draws near, everyone has to make a choice of what they're going to do when the time to act comes.

As this is the third book in a series, you can expect some spoilers. That being said, there are a few spoilers of this installment itself; depending on how observant you are, they could be pretty big ones. You've been warned; I will accept no responsibility for hospital bills.

This book had me talking out loud, smiling uncontrollably, and even crying. Which I don't actually do very often with books, and when I do, it's sobbing type crying. Basically, it was really really good.

Cress takes place a little while after Scarlet, after everything has calmed down a bit. We are introduced to Cress, the internet hacker entrapped in a satellite orbiting Earth as she's forced to monitor and find information for Queen Levana. She hasn't seen another person, other than her keeper Sybil Mira, in six years.

I loved the way that Cress was written. Like, absolutely, actively, consciously loved the writing of her. I loved her naivete, her awkwardness, and the fact that she was entirely out of her element, and didn't just adapt to the circumstances like Scarlet or Cinder might have. She did grow and strengthen as a character, but it wasn't the same as we'd seen before, and it suited her character. Being trapped and alone for half your life is going to do some damage, and we actually watched as Cress was able to finally mature from the scared child that first entered that satellite.

I also like how the relationship between Cress and Thorne is being developed. One cool thing about Marissa Meyer is that every character is different, and she recognizes that by not just telling the same story three times over. They both don't instantly fall in love with each other, and even when they have time to develop their feelings, it doesn't happen all at once. In fact, it hasn't even totally happened yet.

So, along with Cress's story, I loved the development for the other characters. We got to meet Jacin, who I assume we'll be seeing more of, and while I wanted to punch him (woo Cinder!), I know that there's a whole other story there. I cried for Dr. Erland, who I've generally disliked.

Real quick: There was one scene, nothing big, just the characters on the Rampion, being individually described, and I just couldn't stop getting this awesome Firefly vibe. I mean, come on, Wolf as Jayne? Don't tell me you can't see the resemblance!

I also felt so bad for Wolf and Scarlet. It's going to be really gratifying, in more ways than one, once their story picks back up again.

And of course, I couldn't go without mentioning Cinder's and Kai's stories. I felt like I'd sort of distanced myself from Cinder during the second book, and I think that had to do more with the fact that there wasn't much development going on for her until the end (which was just how the story had to be; it's not a problem, just the fact of the story), so I was really glad that we got to hang out with her a lot more. I loved actually getting to see Kai; I know that he had some scenes previously, but we get more here. His determination to do what he needed to do for the good of his people, as well as the weight of that need, made me want to give him a big ol' hug. I'm glad that Cinder can go ahead and do that for me now ;)

So, besides the obvious fact that I can't wait for Winter to hit shelves (that book is going to go by at the speed of a racing train, I can already tell) (also I just realized: Winter is coming!), my final observation/love about this book was...Iko! She was a hoot and a half, no matter which mechanical body she inhabited :D In short: if you want to read a story that is best described as "sci-fi-fairytale space book," and ends up making you feel as many feels as any given episode of Firefly, then you would do well to pick it up.

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: World After

World After (Penryn & the End of Days, #2)World After by Susan Ee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


World After is the sequel to Angelfall by Susan Ee. Following the shocking finale of the book, this installment picks up with Penryn reunited with her mother and sister, but without Raffe, who thinks he's watched her die in his arms. The story follows Penryn as she tries to balance keeping her family safe with the ongoing apocalyptic shenanigans, as well as trying to figure out where she fits in this world. What matters more, protecting those she loves, doing her part to take down the enemies of humankind, or following her heart?

It hurt so much to finish this book, knowing that there isn't a new one waiting for me like last time. World After survived the Second Book Curse, keeping its momentum of plot without having to sacrifice character development or anything else.

I really enjoyed the fact that family means absolutely everything to Penryn, and how that manifests through her attitude towards the Resistance. While Dee and Dum were fantastic, and we got to see more of them, the place itself seemed less like a resistance and more like a refugee camp. Which is fine, except you can't mount a massive resistance like Obi wants if the numbers of civilians vs. rebels don't match in his favor. Anyway, Resistance people annoyed me, but only because Penryn was upset by them. We also get to see the tougher side of dealing with a paranoid schizophrenic mother, revealing just how much weight Penryn carries on her shoulders every day.

This book is lacking in quantity when it comes to Penryn/Raffe interactions, but what it does have packs a serious punch. Both of them know that their feelings run deeper than simple allies, and neither one is willing to voice those feelings, for fear of the implications. For Penryn, it has something to do with the fact that Raffe is the "enemy," though that seems like it's becoming less of a source of conflict. Raffe, however, is dealing with a lot. He has to reconcile his feelings with the dangerous realities of what would result, as well as his own morality: how can he do what he damned his own brethren for, and what does that say about him as a person (angel-person)?

I thought that the last few action scenes were shocking, and even a bit bizzare, but when it comes to Susan Ee, I've learned to roll with it, because it always turns out for the better. Though of course, this time I have to wait a year for that to happen, and I am not pleased! I was literally dreading turning the pages the closer I got to the end. PLEASE give us the third book SOONER I can't take the waiting!

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book Review: Angelfall

Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1)Angelfall by Susan Ee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Angelfall is a dystopian novel by Susan Ee, the first in a series. Penryn Young is struggling to keep her struggling family together in the wake of the Apocalypse--and not just any old Apocalypse, but the Biblical End of Days. Angels in all their terrifying glory have torn the world to pieces, and to survive one day is a victory. However, when Penryn's younger sister Paige is kidnapped by one of these angels, she must rely on the last person she'd have expected to find an ally in. Raffe, a now wingless angel, hardly expected to be at the mercy of a Daughter of Man, but the two soon realize that they are each other's only hope of getting their lives back.

I can be a bit of a book snob, and more often than not, I am shown the error of my ways once I sit down and read the object of my snobbery. Angelfall was one such book. I didn't really know that much about it until I saw some hype growing on Tumblr, and based on quotes, I thought it seemed interesting. Once I got it, I saw that had been published by Amazon Children's, and even though I knew there was a strong fanbase to defend it, and that it was almost definitely going to be worth my time, I put off reading it for a while, and not because I have so many other books TBR, but because I am a book snob. Well, let it be said that I not only thoroughly enjoyed this book, but have also been checking my order status for its sequel ten times since I ordered it today.

Angelfall has a few odds stacked against it in terms of winning over its audience. It's a dystopian, it's about angels, fallen or otherwise, and the main male interest is being described as "Adonis" and other too-perfect modifiers that content such as Twilight and others from those years were saturated with. However, I really liked the fact that:

A: his hotness was not spoken of just in aesthetic appreciation, but as a reminder of the fact that he's not human, and not in a good way

B: Penryn, our heroine, has a very grounded head on her shoulders, and consistently checks herself whenever she begins to rationalize things. Only once they have truly "gotten to know each other" does she allow herself to believe that his "different-ness" actually stands to affect her decision-making.

I love love love relationships that actually start with the characters hating each other. Like, visceral, I-want-to-kill-you type stuff. I love it because the author has to be able to bridge the gap from hate to love with skill and finesse, meaning that the risk of insta-love or otherwise awkward change in emotions is at an all-time low. Heck, in this book, love doesn't really factor in until the last fifty pages. Not that the rest of the book is "all out of love." We can see that Penryn and Raffe aren't simply enemy-of-my-enemy type allies, but it's refreshing to see that they haven't totally realized that just yet.

I thought that the worldbuilding was done very well. Unlike Rick Yancey's 5th Wave, where we got sixty pages of exposition (which I did enjoy), Angelfall places the reader right in the middle of a transition for the characters. They've been living in this environment for a while, and they're actually about to begin a new chapter of their lives. So we simultaneously feel like we're in the same headspace as the characters while also adapting to the book's world through a just-roll-with-it-until-you-catch-up, or maybe a catch-up-or-get-left-behind, mentality. With some authors, this leads to really thin worldbuilding, and circumstances that seem arbitrary and, well, circumstantial, but Susan Ee works some sort of delightful sorcery so that everything seems plausible, while still allowing for out of the blue, "WTF?!" moments.

Aside from the dynamic duo and the well-sculpted world and plot, I loved all the other characters. They were all fleshed out and felt like they had real presence in the story, and that they weren't just plot devices. I especially loved the Dee-Dum twins. I kept picturing them as Fred and George, and I hope to see more of them. I also really hope that all the questions in the first book get answered, if not in the next one, then in the coming novels. Goodreads claims there's going to be five! I'm loving the fact that not every series now has to be a trilogy. You've got duologies, trilogies, fours and fives, novella bindups, companion novels. Okay, I'll stop ranting about books in general and get back to this one in particular.

The only thing that I would say against this book was that it was too short. I want more! I also think that there were some Interiority bits (Penryn thinking to herself, being pensive) in moments that required a lot more direct text, like in fight scenes where she would stop to explain an element of the fight. However, it didn't pull me out of the story enough to be a problem. If you like dystopian, supernatural, romance, or action, I highly suggest this book. Don't underestimate it--Angelfall packs a punch you'll never forget!

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

February Book Haul (Or is it March Wrap-Up?)

So, I got a lot of books this February. Like, a lot. As in 17 books. And while it is technically March, I decided that I would show off the shinies. I don't know if you would call this a haul, or a wrap-up for the month (I have not read all of these, so I guess not). Anyway, let's get cracking!

(I apologize for the quality, it was taken with my iPhone.)

So, from left to right, I bought over the month:

-Shades of Earth by Beth Revis (signed)
-Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
-The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine
-Arcadia Falls by Kai Meyer
-Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi (signed)
-Unite Me by Tahereh Mafi (signed)
-Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi (signed)
-Cress by Marissa Meyer
-Paranormalcy by Kiersten White (signed)
-Supernaturally by Kiersten White
-Endlessly by Kiersten White (signed)
-Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
-Vampire Academy 1-5 by Richelle Mead
      -Vampire Academy
      -Shadow Kiss
      -Blood Promise
      -Spirit Bound

Out of all of those, so far I've read Ignite Me, Unite Me (sort of) and the first three Vampire Academy books. Spring Break is coming up, so hopefully I'll be able to make some sort of dent in this massive list; seriously, even for me this is a ridiculous amount of books bought in one month! Not that I'm complaining, of course :)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Book Review: Shadow Kiss

Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy, #3)Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shadow Kiss is the third installment in the Vampire Academy series. At the risk of spoiling the first two, this story picks up a few weeks after the events of Frostbite, which Rose is still recovering from. Meanwhile, she's having to adjust to a new sort of life: Adrian Ivashkov is on campus and causing trouble, Rose and the other Guardian novices are in the midst of their field training, and Rose's relationship with Dimitri is becoming even more complicated. Little does she know that something is coming, something that will put the ones she loves most--and herself--at risk.

So, Shadow Kiss happened.

This book hit you with the plot twists and turns with the force of a freight train. Everything happened, though most of it happened in the last third, per Richelle Mead standard. So let's talk about it.

Now, if I had read this three years ago, I wouldn't have had any sort of problems with it. Rose is witty and wild, and I feel the same emotions as I read them. Dimitri is sensitive, yet a physical force of nature in all the right ways. I thoroughly enjoy Christian's snark, Adrian's an arrogant-yet-tortured delight, etc.

However, I (at the risk of sounding like an ass) have now taken a bunch of college classes on reading stories critically. And I do have a few issues, specifically with certain technical aspects of the writing.



I felt that Rose & Dimitri's sex scene was eased into a bit too subtly, in that it sort of read "we kissed, and then it deepened, and then we'd had sex." Also, being a sex scene where actual sex isn't described, it's not as bad as some. You know, the ones that say stuff like "and then we became one" or something similar. However, Richelle Mead does this thing where she works hard to explain people's (Rose's) emotions in a way that you would express them to another person in a conversation. But, since this is a direct narrative, that kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I felt like she was telling, not showing (which is a phrase I am shamelessly ripping off from my Fiction Writing classes. Once they told me about it, I can never unsee it in a story).

I also felt like the pacing was a little bit off, at least in the climax. I say it was off, in that I initially didn't think I was reading the climax when it was happening. The scene itself felt like it had been eased into too quickly to be as important as it ended up being, and until a certain twist developed, the big scene before had felt more important and climactic, in that it felt like there was more on the line than with the actual climax.

Sidebar: ALSO SPOILERS MORE SPOILERS LOOK AWAY. I really didn't enjoy how Lissa was at the end. I understand that not everything had been known to her, but seriously? Not agreeing to help out in a serious situation because it would slightly negate what you said earlier to the Queen? And more "seriously?" still, that whole "you love him more than me" line made me clench my jaw. If this bond is so intense and strong, and if Lissa knows Rose so well, she ought to be able to see what's going on, as well as be able to see that Rose is serious on this one, and that it's more than just grief. I get that you're best friends, but you ought to realize that this relationship is definitely far from balanced, and that not everything goes both ways. Okay okay, rant over. It's partially that I naturally feel less strongly about the more passive characters in stories, and also because I'm coming from Rose's POV directly. Continue.

THAT BEING SAID, I did thoroughly enjoy the big twist. I came THIS CLOSE to being spoiled mere hours before I read it, and while I wasn't completely surprised, it still came as a shock. I'm also glad that the plot is progressing in the way I hoped it would, in that the high school element of the stories seems to be fading out and giving way to the big plot that Richelle has obviously been gunning for this whole time. I'm curious to see what new characters we have, and how Rose is going to deal with what's next.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Frostbite (Vampire Academy, #2)Frostbite by Richelle Mead
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Frostbite is the second installment in the Vampire Academy series. The story picks up a little while after the events of the first book. All seems well, or as well as can be, until a particularly brutal Strigoi attack on a royal Moroi family leaves the whole vampiric world stunned and very much afraid. As a precaution, the Academy's winter break is arranged at a posh Moroi ski resort, where Rose has to deal with her many personal issues, including her evolving relationship with Lissa, her complicated relationship with Dimitri, and even the relationship with her mother, renowned Guardian Janine Hathaway.

I thought that this book focused more on Rose's character development than the ongoing plot. The focus of the whole story is on Rose, and we get a glimpse of just how truly heavy her life is. At times, I was irritated with her for making stupid decisions, but I could see that it was the result of her being a teenager, but also having the massive responsibilities that were both imposed upon her and that she took on willingly. And that wasn't just with her Guardian duties; we see that with her love life and its crazy complexities.

Like the first book, the last fifty pages was where all the action was. The story itself, like I said, didn't focus very much on the plot, mostly the beginning and the ending, but I can tell that this is Richelle setting everything into place. I've heard before that everything really kicks off in Shadow Kiss, and I'm very excited to see what happens. These books are startlingly addictive, so prepare to be sucked in.

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Monday, February 24, 2014

In Which I Make Stephanie Perkins Buy Tea

Last Thursday, I was so so lucky to find a way to get myself to the Brentwood stop of the HarperTeen Dark Days Tour! I faced many obstacles, including, but not limited to:

-A tornado (twice)

Needless to say, I was excited, and hoping for good things. Four authors were scheduled specifically for the tour's purposes, but as it was in Nashville, a lot of authors who lived nearby came out. So, like any sane person, I walked into the Barnes and Noble with a 100% full backpack. Like, I-kept-it-with-me-because-I-thought-they'd-suspect-it-was-a-bomb type of full. I felt ridiculous, and it was heavy (18 books is not something light), but in the end, it was SO worth it.

After the panel, where they all gave really good advice (I recorded it but the video is messed up somehow), the signing began. It was very well organized, and I realized that it would take a while to get to everybody, so I decided to make a left and head towards the authors I'd spied on the way in. Stephanie Perkins, the author of Anna and the French Kiss, and Lola and the Boy the Next Door, was the only one not in the middle of signing or conversing, so I very awkwardly sidled over and chatted.

And, after some compliments on shoes, and attempts to be cool, I got a selfie with her.

The rest followed more or less the same. I did mention to Victoria Schwab (below with the short hair; also author of The Near Witch, The Archived series, and Vicious) that I'd seen her at signing before, and had chickened out. We all had a good laugh at my expense.

Also pictured here: Beth Revis of Across the Universe fame.

Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children), who bears an uncanny resemblance to one of my professors, was the only one who required a photo done longways, because the man is capital-T Tall. I'm 5'2", as a reference.

So after that, I finally started getting in line for the official signings. Above is another thumb-clouded selfie, this time with Veronica Rossi (Under the Never Sky). I always worry that I'll have nothing to say to them, and result in standing silently while they write their name, but I'm pretty sure I was talking a mile a minute and overdid it. Sorry, authors, you just intimidate me (in a good way).

Tahereh Mafi (Shatter Me) was fantastic as one would expect. She was really the catalyst that made me decide to go to this signing, since even getting to an event in Memphis (where I live) is difficult, let alone a city 170 miles away; I was still suffering an Ignite Me hangover, which those of you who have read it will understand completely. She was wearing the coolest skeleton leggings, looking incredible, and so I had to buffer a table between us to avoid the shame of not being as incredible.

I was so glad to meet Kiersten White (Paranormalcy, Mind Games, The Chaos of Stars); I hadn't read any of her work in a while, but she emanated that sassy fun that I sensed in Paranormalcy, and she was probably the easiest to talk to. Also, she was actually shorter than me, which never happens. So yay :)

Here with all four, after the lines had dispersed. Though I haven't read anything by Sophie Jordan (Firelight, Uninvited), she was just as cool and I really enjoyed getting a picture with all of them.

And one last picture to close the curtains. This gives you a reference to how many incredible, talented people were in the room that night. Also pictured is Courtney Stevens, whose debut Faking Normal just released. She was very chill, and chatted up everyone nearby like they were old friends.

Thus ended the event. After nearly accidentally stealing forty dollars worth of books, and then going to pay for it, I bought myself some Starbucks, where Beth Revis and Stephanie Perkins had remained for the same purpose. While desperately trying to avoid the awkward possibility of standing in silence, I recommended one of the teas that the store was selling, and inadvertently became a personal shopper for Stephanie Perkins, at least as far as drinks are concerned. I expect my career to take off any day now.

This was the biggest signing I'd ever been to; and though it's really hard to quantify such an experience, if not one of the best signings I'd been to, it is definitely among the most memorable. There's always a real anxiety to meeting these authors; for me, they're essentially my heroes, and I'm a mixture of excitement, nervousness at not being an impressive fan, and the fear that they might not be what I've created in my head. But, as has been the case thus far, and I hope will continue to be, authors prove time and again that they are sincere, genuine, earnest storytellers who want their readers to enjoy the story as much as they enjoy being the ones to tell it. I cannot wait for my next adventure, though hopefully next time will suffice without the threat of tornadoes.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ignite Me

Ignite Me (Shatter Me, #3)Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ignite Me is the final installment in Tahereh Mafi's dystopian trilogy. In this finale, Juliette has had a revelation and is ready to take down the Establishment and its ruthless leader. Once enemy, now tentative ally Warner is by her side and just as ready to see the world take on a new beginning. But battles, with enemies and friends alike, must be fought and won before victory can be declared.

This book can best be described as a rush. It could also be described as incredible, jaw-dropping, heart-racing, and genius.

Before I go into details about this book, I'd like to applaud Tahereh Mafi for her incredible talent, not only at writing in general, but for her construction of one of the best executed story arcs I've ever witnessed. None of the books in this series are similar to one another, and they don't fall into the common expectations of a trilogy arc. Each installment was a different and exciting chapter into the story of these characters and this world. Each responded to the other in the best possible way, and I don't know what sort of effort and talent it took to pull it off, but I know that I certainly don't have it.

But on to the book itself. We went into this knowing a few things that led us to believe this was not like its predecessors. There would be no strikethroughs in the text, which meant that we were in for a completely changed Juliette. I can honestly say there was no point in the story where I felt frustrated with her. She's finally stepped up to the plate and embraced herself, and figured out what it is she wants out of life. What's more, she's chomping at the bit to go after it.

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of depth we got from Kenji. In the past, he's been the wisecracking smartass who knew when to tell Juliette to quit her crying and start doing something about it. Here, however, we got to see his vulnerable side, and we also got a lot more development in he and Juliette's friendship. He doesn't always agree with her, and doesn't hide his emotions from her when he's upset, but he makes it clear that she can come to him and tell him anything, and that's incredibly refreshing.

I was...surprised by the way I found myself viewing Adam in this story. He above all the other characters has gone through the most change in my eyes, at least in how I viewed him throughout the novels. There are definitely moments in this book where I wanted to tear him a new one and smack him across the mouth, but we also get a lot of observation and perspective from Juliette, and I was able to make myself see why he was doing certain things. I like where the book left him.

By far the best part of this book, and the greatest amount of development, was with Warner. Oh, this boy. We've seen in Unravel Me that he's willing to be vulnerable with Juliette, but at the beginning of Ignite Me he's still incredibly guarded, even around her. And while he was not necessarily changed, as he feared, he finally broke down the walls that closed him off from everybody else, though he may not have enjoyed doing so at the time. I won't spoil things for you, but let it be said that I love Warner and I love seeing him develop as a person.

Those going into this book for the dystopian aspect won't be disappointed, but it should be said that the dystopian setting of the book is not the main plot. This story, and the series as a whole, is about Juliette and her journey from the mentally damaged, terrified girl in Shatter Me, to the fierce, confident, strong woman we leave in Ignite Me. What's going on with Sector 45 is not as highly developed as, say, The Hunger Games or the Divergent trilogy, but those are stories about a dystopian world and how it's changed by the people in it. The Shatter Me series is the story of a girl in the middle of a dystopian world, and how she changes for the better within it.

The last five or so chapters rocketed by, and were largely what made this book feel like such a rush. You read through with Juliette's adrenaline in your viens, and it ends feeling like there could be more, but still ending in the best place for the story itself. I absolutely cannot wait to see what Tahereh Mafi has in store for her readers next, knowing that I'll devour it just as readily.

I also might even be meeting Tahereh, and a few other authors, next week! If I can swing it,  I'll be attending the Dark Days tour stop in Tennessee. Let's hope I don't pass out from being too starstruck.

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These Broken Stars

These Broken Stars (Starbound, #1)These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

These Broken Stars is the first novel written in the Starbound Universe by Meagan Spooner and Amie Kaufman. In it, heiress Lilac LaRoux and war hero Tarver Merendsen are the sole survivors of the crashing of the Icarus, the universe's biggest interstellar ship. Having crash landed on a planet that appears terraformed but is strangely devoid of human life, the two must find a way to get word to civilization that they are alive, while at the same time navigating the strange new planet and trying not to kill each other in the process. Soon, secrets are uncovered, and their crash seems to have been more than just a freak accident.

I love love loved These Broken Stars! I was wary at first, because the cover drew me in so much in the beginning, and I was nervous that the story wouldn't meet my expectations, but they exceeded them in fact. While it felt like it took a little while to feel totally immersed, once I was there was no stopping me from turning the pages.

From the get go, we know that the story is not like any other, because Tarver and Lilac like each other at first, but then end up hating each other! The reader gets no breaks when it comes to watching the evolution of these characters' relationship to each other. Lilac is tough and stubborn, but also vulnerable and scared. Tarver is strong and in his element, sure, but he's having to struggle with his opinion of Lilac and try to avoid thinking about his own fears. In the end, they make a couple that outshines the stars (just enjoy the pun and move on).

Pacing was phenomenal. At first, it was a little repetitive, because they had a long way to walk, but the pacing of the story itself was on point at all times. By the time I reached the last page, I felt like I'd been stuck on the planet with them for a whole month, instead of the week or so I read this in. Not only do we see both characters in balanced moments of respective strength and weakness, but we also get all the information needed for the main plotline delivered clearly and without feeling like we'd had a dumpster truck drop all the info on it at once. This also allowed for the storyline to be believable--or rather, it felt like something the characters could resonably believe.

I'm very interested as to where Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner will take this story. Not only are we going to read the next volume from the perspective of two new characters, but I can't wait to see how the main conflict is going to grow and manifest itself. I also really reallly hope we get to see more of Tarver and Lilac, because one book was not enough!

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Dark Triumph

Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin, #2)Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dark Triumph is the second installment in the His Fair Assassin trilogy. This story picks up a little bit before Grave Mercy ended, and is told from the perspective of Sybella, the dark and secretive priestess of Saint Mortain. Sybella resides undercover in the household of D'Albret himself, as she uncovers his secrets and eagerly awaits the day she is commissioned to kill him. As the story unfolds, she becomes unlikely allies with the Beast of Waroch, and soon learns that in order to be Death's true daughter, she must first learn to heal herself from within.

I love love loved Dark Triumph! Honestly, my only complaints could be that there wasn't more of it, and that perhaps the cover model didn't look like my image of Sybella. If those are the only problems here, then you've got a good book in your hands.

I was so glad to get into Sybella's story. While I felt that Ismae's story was very important in setting up, not only the convent and the mythology of the Nine Saints, but also of the world of 15th-century Brittany and the court intrigue. I also felt that, while Ismae's characterization was incredibly strong and a great read, Sybella's left a deeper impression on me. Indeed, I sometimes found myself forgetting Ismae's name, though that might have just been because it wasn't used as often on the page.

Sybella was an inredibly strong woman. I was glad that she wasn't simply the angry girl who lashes out at the world because of her dark past. Instead, she was someone trying to heal and endure that darkness which still surrounded her, as well as her conflict of faith, which was not seen with Ismae--which is to be expected, as these two women are night and day to each other. I empathized with her fear of letting herself be vulnerable with others.

I also loved the romance between her and Beast. I loved Beast from the moment I first met him in Grave Mercy, and I was so glad that his character stayed strong as he was more closely observed. I felt like the romance between them formed more naturally and believably than Ismae and Duval's--I love them together, but it felt a bit as though it happened purely for the purpose of there being romance in the story. Beast and Sybella formed themselves around each other, and became better versions of themselves for it.

I can't wait to read Mortal Heart, whenever it comes out. I'm interested to see where Annith will end up, and if there will be any romance between someone new or someone we've already met.

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Just One Year

Just One Year (Just One Day, #2)Just One Year by Gayle Forman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just One Year is the companion novel to Gayle Forman's Just One Day. This book starts around the same time as the end of the "One Day" in Allyson's account of the story, where she wakes up in the art studio. Over the course of a year, the reader follows Willem as he tries to put together the events of his life, both before and after that day. As he traverses over places such as Mexico, India, France, Holland, and beyond, he begins to come to terms with the man he's grown to become and decide what he wants his life to be about.

Oh man. Ohmanohmanohman.

This is gonna have certain spoileres. You've been warned.

So. Willem de Ruiter. Dear God, I did not expect what I got from him. He was a lot sadder, a lot less mature than I expected. Which, of course, made his journey that much sweeter. This poor boy is so lost when he comes across Lulu, aka Allyson, that he was never going to recognize their time together as anything but what it was: different. It was different from any other girl he's been with, and for the very reason that, once Lulu is out of his life, he realizes that the life he's been living up until now is completely unfulfilling. Rather, it brings it into clarity so sharp that he can't go back.

Forman decided to be an incredibly diabolical author and have Willem end up much closer to finding Lulu than I expected we'd see. And by close, I mean at certain times, he was within a matter of HUNDREDS OF FEET FROM HER!!! Cancun ring a freaking bell? He also totally drops the ball when he has a chance to contact the only other person who's aware of what happened and why it would be a big deal for him to be finding her, but what does he do? GIVE UP. And, you know, address the naked lady in front of him in the way only a pessimistic lonely playboy can. *rolls eyes*

It was also very frustrating in that we do not see Allyson until we can see that the ending is VERY NIGH. Seriously, I was scared that it would end on the same cliffhanger as before, it was that close.

But I so loved seeing his transformation. We get to hear more about his family, and see how he resolves that part of his life. He begins to recognize that Lulu is not the answer to finding himself. She was the flashlight in the dark, but when the batteries die, you can still feel around and look for the door on your own. And he did, and in his own time. I also LOVED his acting escapade. Max was perfect, and, as an oft-confused lover of Shakespeare, I really enjoyed seeing how he could see the life in a play that may not read as richly to others, myself included.

The only thing I will say is that we get our resolution, but just that. There's no "and then what happened?" answered, and at first, I was a little disappointed. But two things occurred to me:
1: This was a companion novel. Not a sequel. Forman's last duet was sequential, and I also simply wanted this one to be a sequel, because I wanted to know what happened after the end of Just One Day. But this is Willem's half of the story, and the ending is not necessarily the important part of the story.

2: I realized that, like Allyson and Willem, I was mourning the loss of the One Day. It was perfect, and over too fast. Truth be told, I said in my review of Just One Day that the coverage of the day itself felt like a whole novel, and I was surprised by the end of it that there were more pages to be read.

But then I realized that the two of them start off in their slumps because they've idolized the One Day so much. Yes, they have such good reason to, and there's nothing wrong in remembering it, but because they put so much pressure on the day itself, and not what it revealed about the two of them, that they initially aren't able to grow, which needed to happen in order for them to find each other. So, yes, the One Day was spectacular. And unlike them, I have the privilege of revisiting it whenever I want (the power of a reader, mwahaha!). But the day must not be expected to envelop the whole story. It's the "but one day..." the springboard. It's instrumental, but not all-encompassing.

That being said, I was reading the ending of Just One Year over and over, savoring it. Because it was perfect. This entire novel, this entire series, was perfect.

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Never Fade

Never Fade (The Darkest Minds, #2)Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Never Fade is the sequel to Alexandra Bracken's The Darkest Minds. (Spoilers for DM ahead.) In this installment, the story begins a few months after Ruby has joined the Children's League. During a mission, the team picks up Cole Stewart, Liam's brother. He reveals to Ruby that he met Liam while he was out on his mission, and that Liam unknowingly has a vital piece of information that the League is desperate to get back. Fearful that they might discover Liam, Ruby sets out on an off-book mission to find him and retrieve the info. With her are Jude, a overfriendly Yellow, and Vida, the blue-haired foulmouthed Blue, as well as a few familiar faces. Once more, Ruby must figure out who to trust, as the puzzle pieces falling into place prove to be even more complex than she had believed.

Wow, I say. Wow. This sequel doesn't give you time to take a breath, much less slow down long enough to get bored.

So, I'll start this off by saying what I've said before about Alexandra Bracken, and what I'll probably keep saying until I die, and that is she possesses the unique ability of originality. This doesn't have to do with her concept of plot, though it is. It's her ability to A) make her setting incredibly plausible, so much so that I could see this future playing out, under the given circumstances. It is also B) to construct characters entirely individual from each other. Her voice is in the story, but the characters read as their own selves. For example, you have some characters who are innocent (relatively): Zu and Jude, for instance. These two on their own are two different flavors of innocent. Then you have characters that sound nothing like anyone else in the book apart from themselves. The one that stands out the most like this is Vida. She gets compared to Chubs a bit, but to me, she read as wholly distinct from any other character present in the book. She's (arguably) very bitchy and rude, but then she has this unwavering, almost naive loyalty towards Cate and the League.

Speaking of Cate, you also have the unique dynamic of mixed morality and moral grey areas in this book. In a lot of dystopians, you get the idea that whatever is the antagonistic element of the dystopia is very definitive. There's no need to worry about who's good and who's bad; it's spelled out. Here, however, there is none of that. There's a situation which everyone seen has a different viewpoint or conflict on. There's organizations based around the IAAN virus, on both sides, but none of them are unequivocally in the right or in the wrong. Again, Cate is a good example of this. She simplified truths, even lied on certain occasions, to Ruby, but then we see a very maternal side of her, which confuses the reader and has them wondering what they're supposed to think about her. And she certainly isn't the only character like that. *SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER ALERT* on the subject of Ruby erasing Liam's mind, both of them stand on different ends of that spectrum, yet both have very good points supporting their opinion. In the end, I couldn't figure out which I agreed with more, Liam or Ruby.

Never Fade is a fantastic book, equally as strong as its predecessor, and I cannot wait for the third one. Not only will we finish the sentence (THE DARKEST MINDS NEVER FADE...) but we will also see the fallout from this book. It wasn't left on a cliffhanger, but we are left with no confusion to the fact that s*** is gonna go down.

Ta ta.

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The 5th Wave

The 5th Wave (The Fifth Wave, #1)The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The 5th Wave is a dystopian science fiction by Rick Yancey. It is the first in a series.

The story follows a handful of characters over the course of the alien invasion of the Others. Over the last few months, Earth's population has dwindled down near to 1 or 2% of what it used to be, having been hit by four waves of attack by the Others. With everyone simultaneously anticipating and dreading the next wave to come, the characters must battle with themselves over what they consider worth dying for, living for, and what they plan to do about it. The book mainly follows Cassie, a girl who has lost her whole family and is on the search for her five year-old brother. Over time, she must decide who is trustworthy when absolutely no one can be trusted.

There is so much to this story, yet it moves like lightning. It's almost impossible to write a coherent review.
I'm kicking myself for not having read The Fifth Wave sooner than I did. This book is like being slammed into by a tractor trailer, in the best way possible. In the first sixty pages, we've been told everything that has happened so far, and it's so overwhelming that you become so bonded to the characters, because you're able to understand where they're at. Every emotion Cassie felt, I felt as well. It's overwhelming and frustrating, but an incredible experience. Never in a post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel have I been able to fully grasp the loneliness and fear that comes with being in the characters' situations, and I applaud Rick Yancey for the accomplishment. Nothing in this story is black and white, and you never know what you're supposed to trust. It's the plight of the characters, that they can't trust anyone or even themselves, and it was incredible to have that so seamlessly communicated through the writing. I can not wait to see what the sequels have in store for us.

P.S. This book reads like the movie it absolutely MUST be adapted into.

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FangirlFangirl by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yes, another Rainbow Rowell masterpiece! I just ordered a copy of Attachments, and I cannot wait to sink my teeth into it. I've heard it's every bit as good as the rest of her work.

Fangirl is a story about Cath. She is a twin, a Simon Snow fan, and an incoming college freshman. Cath has never been apart from her sister Wren, but when Wren decides to room with someone other than Cath, her whole view on the upcoming semester begins to tailspin. Cath has always been safely ensconced between the world of Simon Snow, the world she's made with her fanfiction, and her twin. How is she going to navigate becoming an "adult" when she can't even converse with her roommate, her roommate's possible boyfriend (Cath hasn't worked up the guts to ask who he really is), or even find the dining hall?

There was so much perfect to this novel, that it feels almost impossible to write a coherent review. I guess I'll go by sections:

Cath: I had the best love hate relationship with this girl. Love, because she was funny and a geek and very much like me, with her insecurities as well as her good qualities. However, I thought at times she went too far. I despised going to the dining hall my freshman year, but Cath borders on literally starving herself to avoid the situation. She also goes in circles with her reasoning sometimes; however, these problems don't decline from the character. In fact, it made her more real to me.

College: Dear. God. Rainbow Rowell hit college on its head and drove it into the ground! The opening chapter made me get anxious and stressed out and literally have a flashback to how I felt on move-in day (hint: It wasn't fun. Seriously, I love being in college, but you couldn't pay me to relive my orientation or my move-in week). That's what first solidified my sympathy to Cath, because she felt exactly as I did.

There were a bunch of little things that someone who hasn't been in college gets, like when Levi introduces the concept of "freshman time." I constantly think back on certain sections of time from my freshman year, and the amount of memories I have from one month of that year are the equivalent of six months at any other time.

Fangirling: The very heart of this book is the fact that Cath is a die-hard fangirl, writing fanfiction for the Simon Snow saga. When I read the piece on midnight premieres and the fear of getting the last story, I started bawling like a child, because I remembered feeling that way with Harry Potter. What's more is that, though she may not bring it up with strangers, Cath is absolutely unashamed in her love for her stories, something I loved and identified with. College is terrifying on its own, not to mention the biggest period of change you'll experience in your life (or at least, that I've experienced so far), and Cath was meant to evolve over the year, but she also grew and strengthened herself by holding onto what she knew was such a large part of her, even when the whole world seemed to oppose it.

Other parts of the book I loved: the way the story ends with Cath and her mother's relationship. The fact that nobody in this story is perfect. The way Cath takes care of Nick. And Levi. LeviLeviLevi. Dear God, I want to have his pseudo-fictional babies.


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Untold (The Lynburn Legacy, #2)Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Untold is a fantasy novel by Sarah Rees Brennan. This picks up right after the first installment, Unspoken. In this, Kami Glass must deal with the repercussions of her actions at the end of Unspoken, as well as work to uncover more of Sorry-in-the-Vale's secrets, that go down to the roots of the town itself. Meanwhile, she must try to untangle her complicated relationships with Jared Lynburn, Ash Lynburn, and her own family. This is the second in the Lynburn Legacy, the first being Unspoken, and the third novel Unmade set to release later this year.


If you've read this, you know exactly what the above ugh sounds like. It sounds like despair, sadness, emotional exhaustion, and the overwhelming remains of giddy happiness. In short, this book is Unspoken on crack in terms of emotions.

Okay, so let's start at the beginning, rather than ping-ponging my thoughts onto the Internet. Spoilers if you haven't read Unspoken.

Kami: Lovely as always. She has a lot to deal with in this installment, least of which re-finding herself. With the bond broken, she has to redefine herself around the empty spot where Jared used to always be. Without his indefatigable support in her odd ways, she now experiences feeling of insecurity and loneliness, something she was lucky enough not to have to deal with essentially her entire life.

Jared: Dear god, this boy will be the death of me. He has plenty of silent, sulky, infuriating brooding occurring here, but you're able to see that there is plenty of thinking going on behind that furrowed brow of his, as well as a metric ton of vulnerability he's willing to reveal to no one. Almost no one.

At one point, possibly one of my favorite parts of the book, he even shows CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT! Praise God, and Sarah Rees Brennan! (Note: his inability to get over himself is not something I disliked about the writing itself, it was merely my own frustration at his personality. I had no problem with it taking this long in terms of the story, merely in terms of Jared standing in the way of his own happiness.)

And then he goes and f***s it up again, per his own tragic prerogative.

Lynburns: Further development on them. Some people disagree with me, but I happen to love Lillian. She's a class-A elitist pompous snob, but she has reasons, and she's undeniably strong in her convictions, which I respect. Ash still isn't my favorite person, but that's due to my own personal preferences with character traits. We get to see reasoning behind some of his actions and thoughts, and realize that he's got just as much going on as everybody else; he just doesn't let it show as easily.

Glass Family: Claire is impossible for me to deal with. Ten and Tomo made me squeal and nearly sob. Jon is perfect.

The story itself is a lot darker; there's less of a mystery aspect, and more of a ticking time bomb. Brennan is not afraid to break a few eggs for this omelet.

And of course, we finally get to see what Brennan means by book two in a trilogy being the "Make Out" book. Fans who endured snippets, you will be rewarded.

This book is utterly fantastic, I finished it in less than three days, and I will now return into hibernation until the final book comes out.

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Grave Mercy

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Grave Mercy is about a girl named Ismae, who's had a hard life in fifteenth-century Brittany. At fourteen, she is adopted into the convent of Saint Mortain, otherwise known as the God of Death. It's there that she learns the skills to be an assassin, in order to serve her god and country. Once she finishes her training, her debut mission takes her all the way up to the seat of Brittany's power, where she learns that court intrigue is far more deadly than idle gossip, and entire kingdoms hang in the balance. This is the first in the His Fair Assassin trilogy.

I was so glad to finally sit down and take in Grave Mercy. I was a little confused by the presence of a fictional country (I think) in the real world, but Robin LaFevers' world building skill ensured that I didn't get lost. I loved the mythology, especially since polytheism had all but does out in Europe by this time. The fact that they were drawn parallel to the devotion given to saints in Catholicism made my analyzing academic heart go all aflutter.

But enough about practicalities. Ismae was a fantastically wrought character, dynamic and complicated. She has assassin's confidence, yet is self conscious about her body. She also knows how strong she is, and refuses to let the male dictated society she has to work with cast her aside. As Duval says, she is in a "class of her own."

I loved Duval's devotion to his sister and family, even with its complexities. His sense of honor drew me in, and the romantic in me loved his and Ismae's relationship. LaFevers took courtly love, a trope nearly a thousand years old, and breathed life and originality into it.

Her characters were amazingly written, from the housemaids to Beast and De Lornay. I can't wait to read Sybella's story next.

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The Darkest Minds

The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds, #1)The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Darkest Minds is a dystopian novel by Alexandra Bracken. In the future, a deadly disease has gone through and damaged the population of children considerably. Those that survived have begun to manifest unique abilities, and no one knows how to handle it. The government finally decides to round up the children and place them in institutions in order to research and possibly find a cure. What those not in the loop don't know is that these institutions are little better than concentration camps, where life is miserable at best, and short-lived at worst. The protagonist Ruby has a past even darker and more twisted than her inmates, and when a possibility of escape arrives, she soon realizes that life on the outside is stranger and more complicated than even she could expect.

This book snuck up on me with how attached I got to it. I was reading along, not thinking I was too invested in it yet, and the next day, it was all I could think about. All I wanted to do was get back to my room so I could sit there and find out what would happen next to Ruby, Liam, Chubs, and Suzume. Something I found interesting was that, at least in the beginning, Ruby is not some strong, brave, defiant heroine whose goal is to take down the system. She's the character you typically scoff at, that you yell at your pages to because they won't stand up and DO something. Because that's realistic. Ruby has been living in what could be considered a concentration camp for six years, told on a daily basis that she's worthless, better off dead, with no forseeable escape. Keeping your head down would be what I would do, at least, and it drew me to Ruby because it made her seem more real. And it doesn't stop the second the plot shifts, but it's a continuing issue with her that she has to overcome throughout the novel.

However, once she grows and begins to realize her self worth, she becomes one of the strongest characters in this book, which I loved. Nothing makes me smile more than visible character development.

I also thought the world building in this was incredibly well done. In Shatter Me, for example, everything is spot on, but the world it takes place in seems a bit randomized, and not entirely developed (though we've been told that will be resolved in the upcoming sequel). The Darkest Minds is one of the better set up dystopians I've read, not simply because it's detailed, but because it is realistic (that word again) to the point where if something like this were to happen, I'd imagine it would go down in a similar way. Alexandra Bracken knows how to spin an amazing impossible tale, and give it a thread of reality strong enough to make it incredible.

And that ending? FOR REAL?!?!?! I can't simply wait around for a sequel with an ending like that! Give me Never Fade, NOW!!!

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Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Slight spoilers ahead. You've been warned.

Eleanor and Park can be summed up in one word: unexpected. I didn't expect it to be set in the eighties. I didn't expect Eleanor to be overweight, or for Park to be Korean. And I didn't expect to fall in love with this book as hopelessly as Eleanor and Park fell in love with each other.

I loved the dual perspective from the two main characters. It allowed me to see how uniquely they thought, and at the same time showed me that the two of them often thought so alike (for instance, they both describe each other at one point as looking like art).

The ending was described by Rainbow Rowell as "like a truck hitting a brick wall," and rightly so. I had to reread the last paragraph before I understood what had happened, but once I did, I wanted to cry for happiness and sadness all at once. The ending is so hopeful, and while it stands perfectly on its own, I would inhale a sequel if it were to happen.

Some favorite parts:
-Park's reaction after the gym scene (you know if you've read)
-Park's evolution into punk
-Eleanor finally giving herself permission to love
-School at midnight
-How subtly they fall for each other. They don't realize it until it's too late.

Read it. Read it read it read it.

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Batten Down the Hatches

So, I finally figured out how to post my Goodreads reviews to my blog, something I've wanted to do for a really long time. I've always enjoyed giving detailed reviews when I finish a book, but I knew that not many people had access to them unless they either were friends with me on Facebook or Goodreads. As a result of that, and because it's a Thursday and I don't feel like writing my essay until later (like, midnight later), I may or may not be flooding this page with a bunch of my older reviews. Not all of them; just the good ones, and just what I feel is worth reading. So prepare to get flooded!

Vampire Academy

Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy, #1)Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'll be honest, I started this book only because my friend (a fan) wanted to see the movie and wanted me to read it before. I didn't finish the book in time, though I did see the film (and was pleasantly surprised by it). But that's beside the point, being that I've read this book, and this is my opinion on it.

I felt that there was a lot of set up in this book. We have to orient ourselves to a whole other world of varying races of vampires, social hierarchy and government, the dynamics of the magical element, all while keeping up with the fact that there's something going on that the characters themselves aren't fully aware of.

I had a few issues with the book, but I recognized that some of the issues had to do with when the book itself came out. This first released in 2007, when both vampire stories and high school/boarding school dramas were in very high demand. At times, Rose or Lissa or whomever would act extremely catty and mean, resorting to tactics with their rivals/enemies in ways that could now be easily identified as bullying. There was also a lot of using words like slut/bitch/fuck/etc. really casually that, as a whole, felt really unnecessary. I wasn't overly offended, it just felt like the text would have gotten its point across without it just as easily. However, I was able to compartmentalize that part of the story and still absorb the plots and conflicts easily.

And once you get down to it, you realize that this story is very compelling. The worldbuilding is strong and fleshed out; nothing feels flimsy or there only in terms of words on a page, instead of feeling like an inherent part of the place I was immersing myself in. Rose is snarky and fun, but she also has a love for her best friend that grounds her and allows her to see past her seventeen years and react accordingly to the bigger picture. Lissa was gentle and kind without coming across as weak or annoying, which I often find characters like her to be. I also loved Dimitri, and not just because I watched him portrayed by "Russia's sexiest actor." All in all, once the main plot got going and not as much focus was put on the "high school" element, it made for an addictive story that is sure to lead to equally as addictive sequels. Now if I can just get my hands on a copy of Frostbite!

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