Monday, March 31, 2014

In My Mailbox Monday #21

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren

I love when ebooks go on sale. :) Definitely made for a happy week for me. 


Embrace by Jessica Shirvington
Taken by Erin Bowman
Spellcaster by Claudia Gray
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Unremebered by Jessica Brody
Elemental by Brigid Kemmerer

*Thank you < $3 deals. :) 

What's in your pile?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

Title: Defy
Author: Sara B. Larson
Publisher: Scholastic Press (January 7, 2014)
Source: Library

From Goodreads:

A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle.

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

I was super excited to start reading Defy by Sara B. LarsonThe cover and synopsis gave me a Graceling feel, and since Graceling is one of my favorite books, I couldn't wait to read it. 

Let's start with the cover. I'd describe this cover as deadly elegant. My dog on the other hand, would describe it as deadly delicious. 


Lucky for me, my dog left the rest of the book for me to read. 

I absolutely loved the beginning. Sucked me into the story immediately with intriguing characters and great world building. I really enjoyed the dynamic between Alexa and her twin brother, Marcel. Maybe it's because I have so many siblings, but I always appreciate reading well-done sibling relationships in YA, especially since they are often ignored or sidestepped. I just wish there was more time to flesh out their relationship further. I would have enjoyed reading that. 

However, as you can guess by the synopsis, the book isn't about siblings. It's about a warrior girl and her love triangle. *wink* For me, the first third of the book was more compelling than the rest, but that's not to say it got boring. The love triangle didn't really get started until about that far into the book, and personally, I found the other aspects of the story fascinated me more. Maybe it's because I wasn't in a romance mood or maybe because it's tough to do a love triangle well within the span of one book, but I felt the love aspect was lacking a little bit. I really like a nice, slow build-up, and while that's how it started, at a certain point, the love sky-rocketed and became intense quickly. Again, not a bad thing. Just not my personal preference for this story. 

Now, don't take that wrong and think I didn't enjoy the end of the book. I absolutely did. 

Wanna know why? 

The romance wasn't everything. 

There was still a cool plot with danger, action, and thrills happening. They still had to defeat the bad guys with minimal bloodshed and make it to the other side. The readers were spectator to an interesting world with sorcerors, warriors, kings and princes, murder, deception, and courage. What more could you want?

Overall, I recommend Defy by Sara B. Larson to fans of action, adventure, and romance. Seriously, what more could you ask for in a book?

Final thoughts: Borrow or buy. If you have a dog like mine, save yourself the trip to the library and just buy it, because you'll have to pay for it anyway when the dog devours it. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

In My Mailbox Monday #20

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren

Things are finally slowing down enough for me to get back into reading. Super excited. 


Defy by Sara Larson
If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale
This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff

What's in your mailbox?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Title: Allegiant
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (Oct. 22, 2013)
Source: Own

From Goodreads:

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.

Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

When I first read Divergent, I was blown away. Insurgent destroyed my mind. You bet I was anticipating full on soul decimation with the final installment. Allegiant by Veronica Roth was good, but it's hard to live up to that kind of anticipation.

I'll be honest, there were a few things that impacted my experience even before the book was out. First, I read Divergent and Insurgent back-to-back about a year ago. I didn't have to wait to continue the story, but once I did, it took me away from things a bit. Lately, I've been having a hard time getting back into series once a long time has passed. I used to go back and reread the books in a series before the final one came out, but I just don't have that kind of time anymore. I think this approach to reading makes those books less enjoyable because I've been out of the story for so long and don't remember all the details and what made me so excited in the first place.

Second, I knew the story would be told alternatively from Tris and Tobias' perspectives. Don't get me wrong, I like being in Tobias' head, and I really don't mind an author switching up perspectives from book to book in a series, but this just seemed kind of weird to me. All of a sudden, in the last book, we're getting a double perspective? Not my favorite choice, though I can see now why it was done this way.

Okay, now that I've gotten all the bad why-I-may-not-have-liked-this-book-as-much out of the way, let's talk about the good stuff. Allegiant is told with the same intensity as the two previous books, which is one of the reasons I loved them so much. There really is a lot of plot going on and it's pretty awesome.  Allegiant, more than the others, really goes into some complex themes and metaphors. I loved the exploration of these themes and content. I think they are important messages to have people talking about.

Without giving away too much, we learn a lot more about the world Tris lives in and how it is very different than she once thought. To me, this information was thrilling and I really appreciated the new perspective. 

There are a few different reasons it was important to have both Tris and Tobias as narrators. I really enjoyed the contrast of the GD and GP (you will recognize what I'm talking about once you read it), and how the people in this world and story have made sense of these differences. It's one of those metaphors I really enjoyed while reading. 

Regarding the climax of the book, I'm not necessarily sure I agree it had to happen the way it did. That said, I respect the decisions that Roth made in the storytelling. I think she was bold to approach the ending in this way, and I liked how she handled it. I particularly liked the ending chapters and epilogue. I love how it isn't a Happily Ever After, but it isn't total misery either. She didn't bring us to the point where everything is "better." She brought us to a point where things were okay and there was a positive note without being totally "fixed." Loved that!

Overall, Allegiant by Veronica Roth is a satisfying conclusion to a fast-paced, high stakes trilogy. Doesn't hurt that it takes place in Chicago, either. ;) 

Final thoughts: Buy it. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

Title: All These Things I've Done
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Farr, Straus, and Girous (September 6, 2011)
Source: Own

From Goodreads:

In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidently poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.

The title, All These Things I've Done (by Gabrielle Zevin), is very intriguing. It sets the tone for the story before the reader even moves past the cover. Speaking of the cover, the beautiful, yet eerie art cements the haunting tone. The cover featured above is from the paperback and is the cover that fits in with the rest of the series. Although on the surface it's kind of a basic YA cover (insert teenage face looking miserable), I also think it does a great job setting the mood. We have Anya looking out over NYC, is if from the balcony of her apartment, but the expression, the colors, and the contrast between the sharpness of her face and blurred city really is quite striking. 

Don't get me wrong. I loved the original cover too. I just think they are both accomplishing different things. 

Okay, onto the story! The world Zevin created is very Prohibition-esque (and quite on purpose). It was fascinating to read about this type of world and have it set in the future. Now, I have to admit, I couldn't quite believe in the idea that chocolate would ever become illegal, if only because I believe that the amount of chocolate lovers in this country would have outweighed those against it and would have created massive riots at any proposed legal ban (the same is probably true for coffee, but since I don't care for coffee, that one didn't bother me much). That said, the social commentary on how and why different products are banned was interesting and thought provoking.

Zevin's style of writing is interesting and I'm not 100% sure how I feel about it. I absolutely loved the chapter titles. They gave me a glimpse of Anya's personality as I scanned the Table of Contents and accomplished the task of intriguing me to read on. However, there are times when the narrator, Anya, breaks the fourth wall to talk directly to the reader. It is clear that this narrator is not the Anya as we see her in the story, but an Anya who has already experienced the entire story and is retelling it. She occasionally makes comments to the reader that let us know something is not as bad as it seems (or is, in fact, even worse)...but we'll find that out later. These intrusions are minor and don't really interrupt the story, but those are the things I'm not sure how much I like. I usually only enjoy those types of inserts in a very comical or ridiculous story, where the narration adds to the humor. Since this story can definitely not be defined as comical, the insertions were mildly irritating, though that is purely personal preference.

The story itself was well done. By the end of it, there is a long list of key characters who all appeared fully realized and complex. I particularly enjoyed the cast of family members, including Leo and Natty. Zevin covered some big stuff in this book (i.e., Leo) and was able to do so without merely paying tribute, but also without taking the focus away from the larger story. As an aspiring writer, I really appreciated the way she was able to accomplish that challenging task. 

Overall, All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin is an interesting read. If you are intrigued by the cover and/or blurb, definitely pick it up. If not, it might not be to your taste. 

Final thoughts: Borrow

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (September 27, 2011)
Source: Own

From Goodreads:

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war. 

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor is one of the most original stories I have read in a long time. While classically inspired by a Romeo and Juliet romance arc, the way it was adapted was so interesting and intriguing, that it felt fresh, new, and original. 

After reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I just want to open up Laini Taylor's head and peer inside. The creativity she demonstrated through this story is inspiring and I await future books still in awe from this one. Unfortunately, the unique world she built makes it difficult to describe. I'm at a loss on how to convey the story and world she created. 

I always enjoy when stories take me to new places, real and imagined. This book did both. While set in Prague, the reader is transported to both the Czech Republic as well as the fantastical places that Karou visits. She has one foot firmly planted in the "real" world and one in the magical realm. Her discovery of this realm's secrets are well-paced, so the reader is still grounded while uncovering the mythology.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor knocked my socks off. One of my favorite reads of last year. I highly recommend it to YA fans that enjoy fantasy, romance, and/or awesome stories. 

Final thoughts: Buy.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Defiance by C. J. Redwine

Title: Defiance
Author: C. J. Redwine
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (August 20, 2012)
Source: Library

From Goodreads:

Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city's brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father's apprentice, Logan--the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same one who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but a fierce belief in her father's survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city's top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor's impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can't be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.

Defiance by C. J. Redwine was definitely a pleasant surprise. I found it when I was looking for an interesting YA romance and, oh my goodness, was this book right up my alley! What I got wasn't exactly what I expected, but I couldn't have been happier with the book or finding such a great debut author. 

I immediately fell in love with the story, setting, and characters. I had picked it up hoping for a good story with romance, but I got so much more. I was actually surprised by how muted the romance was compared to the summary above. Don't get me wrong, romance plays a role, but I wouldn't consider this a romance book. This is an adventure-oriented fantasy with action, romance, and superb story telling. Fans of historical fiction may enjoy this as well because of the setting. The culture and setting is more traditional, with gender stereotypes, but there is also originality with how the characters interact in that environment.  

The story is compelling, but it was the characters that wouldn't let me put the book down. Told alternatively from Rachel and Logan's perspectives, the readers have the opportunity to see more of the adventure, because the characters are separated at different points and time. And, both Rachel and Logan are strong, interesting characters. Usually, I prefer one perspective over the other, but here, I was equally pleased to read from each viewpoint. 

Seriously, C. J. Redwine got into my head, figured out everything I wanted in a book, and cranked out Defiance to meet those needs. Successfully. I can't tell you how satisfying a read this was for me. I am fully committed to following her career and super excited to read Deception. I highly recommend Defiance for fans of fantasy, romance, and cool stories. 

Final thoughts: Buy it.