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. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

If I Stay & Where She Went by Gayle Forman


Title: If I Stay; Where She Went
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Speak (April 10, 2012)
Source: eBook (own) & Audiobook (Library)

I first read If I Stay & Where She Went by Gayle Forman a few years ago and was absolutely blown away. This story was the most gut wrenching, heartbreaking, and emotionally provoking story I'd ever read and that's still true today. One thing I loved (and hated) about these books was that I couldn't tell how they would end. Of course, I had in my head what I wanted to happen, but I wasn't sure whether or not it actually would. Oftentimes, when I read a book, there are certain things I can expect, such as the main character won't die, love will prevail in the end, etc. However, with If I Stay and Where She Went, I couldn't be sure. The very nature of the subject matter proved that life isn't fair and I was sure that was true not only of life in general, but in the life of the book as well. These books could break those "rules" because the story was told in a painfully honest way.

I vividly remember devouring each book in one sitting apiece, laying on my couch with tears streaming down my face. I was an emotional mess and I don't usually cry when reading. The way Gayle Forman got into these characters' heads was utterly believable and fantastic. I could feel all the emotions right with them. She tapped into such a delicate and emotionally riveting experience with care and sensitivity. When I say I was emotionally unbalanced for days, I'm not exaggerating.

Given the powerful experience it was to read these stories, one told from Mia's point of view, the other from Adam's, I was wary of picking them up again. I absolutely adored the story and appreciated that it didn't end with Mia's choice. We got to follow up on the aftermath as well. But, I wasn't sure I could take a reread, so I've stayed away from them for awhile.
However, when I started hearing the buzz of an If I Stay movie starring my favorite young actress, Chloe Grace Moretz, I knew I needed to revisit them. This time, I chose the audiobook versions. A wise decision.

I'd like to take just a second to marvel at the wondrous production for these audiobooks. I couldn't have been happier with the experience. Kirsten Potter and Dan Bittner were excellent narrators and I felt I was able to experience the books in a whole new way. Maybe it was because I already knew the story or that I listened to these in public, or maybe it was just because I'm in a happier place in my life right now, but I didn't react as intensely to the story this time around, which was a good thing. That's not to say that the audiobook is any less intense, but for me, my own imagination is more intense so the audiobook provided a little bit of distance so I could experience the story without becoming a puddle of goo. That said, I still got the raw emotional experience I was craving. 

If you haven't read If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman, do it. Now. If you have, maybe it's time for a reread. I highly recommend the audiobooks for doing so.

Final thoughts: Buy multiple copies. Keep for yourself and pass out to friends.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman


Title: The Book of Blood and Shadow
Author: Robin Wasserman
Publisher:  (April 10, 2012)
Source: Library (Audiobook)

From Goodreads:

It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up.  When the night began, Nora had two best friends and an embarrassingly storybook one true love.  When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands and an echoing scream that stopped only when the tranquilizers pierced her veins and left her in the merciful dark.

But the next morning, it was all still true: Chris was dead.  His girlfriend Adriane, Nora's best friend, was catatonic. And Max, Nora's sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also—according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone—a murderer.

Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora follows the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. It ultimately brings her to the ancient streets of Prague, where she is drawn into a dark web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all driven by a mad desire to possess something that might not even exist. For buried in a centuries-old manuscript is the secret to ultimate knowledge and communion with the divine; it is said that he who controls the Lumen Dei controls the world. Unbeknownst to her, Nora now holds the crucial key to unlocking its secrets. Her night of blood is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.

I'd been intrigued by The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman since I first saw it on NetGalley. Apparently, I'm an idiot because I never got around to reading (or, in this case, listening to) it until now. 

Boy am I glad I found this as an audiobook at the library. Lately, audiobooks are the only thing I have time for and I think I may have even enjoyed this book more in audio. Emily Janice Card was an excellent reader. Her voices for the characters, particularly Adriane and Chris, really brought them to life in a short span of time. 

I enjoyed The Book of Blood and Shadow because in some ways, it was a totally typical YA. MC and friends are involved in a mystery, must figure out said mystery, chaos ensues. However, in other ways, it was very different than a typical YA. In a lot of ways, the mystery is very personal to Nora and she is disconnected from the "main goal" the other characters have in the mystery. She's set on a more personal connection with the historical person whose letters she has been translating. She wants to find out what happens to her...not so much about the Lumen Dei and what it means for mankind. 

Also, romance is present, but it very much takes a back seat to everything else. Max, Nora's boyfriend, is a quirky and strange person to be the romantic interest. It works for the story, and for Nora. I don't want to spoil anything, so I won't say more than that I appreciated the depth and exploration into the romance and the friendships. Actually, the characters and character development is the main reason I enjoyed The Book of Blood and Shadow so much. 

Overall, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman is an intriguing read. I'd recommend it to readers interested in mystery, fiction with historical aspects, and character development. 

Final thoughts: Borrow.

Monday, May 27, 2013

To Read or Not to Read

Lately, I'm finding that I have a hard time reading books that I've been excited for, for a long time. Crazy, right? Here I am, anticipating this great book by an awesome author, then I get it and...

just...
can't...
read...
it.

Now, don't get me wrong. Once I do start reading it, I usually absolutely enjoy it. I devour the book and can't believe I had put off reading it for so long. So, what's the problem?

First, I think that lately, I have a hard time getting back into series that I haven't read in awhile. Maybe I got into a trilogy after book 2 came out, then read both books back-to-back before waiting a year for book 3. Once book 3 rolls around, I'm not in-the-moment like I was when I had read the first two. Somehow, I have a hard time getting back to that place where I was super excited to read about those characters. That may be due to the time it's been since I had read the others or the fact that I've read so many other books in between and the excitement for that particular series has ebbed in the mean time.

Second, sometimes, it's hard to read that final book in a series. A series that has been thrilling from the beginning is ending and that's sad. I want to hold onto the series a little longer, so I put off reading the ending. This is something I heard other people say in the past and I could never completely understand. How could you possibly wait to find out what happens?!

Yeah.

I guess I get that now.

Third, I know I've forgotten a lot about the lore, since it's been so long since I've read the earlier books, but I also know I don't have time to go back and read them. I don't want to go into the book not quite remembering what happened, but I also know I either (1) won't go back and read them because I have other books I'd rather read or (2) don't have time to go back and read them. My answer to the dilemma: put off reading the book...which really doesn't solve the problem at all. I know I'll read it eventually. Really, I'm just making the problem worse.

Does this happen to anyone else? What do you do?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi


Title: Under the Never Sky
Author: Veronica Rossi
Publisher: HarperCollins (January 3 , 2012)
Source: Library

From Goodreads:

Since she'd been on the outside, she'd survived an Aether storm, she'd had a knife held to her throat, and she'd seen men murdered. This was worse.

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland - known as The Death Shop - are slim. If the cannibals don't get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She's been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He's wild - a savage - and her only hope of staying alive.

A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile - everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria's help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.

First off, this cover is stunning. Absolutely stunning. Paired with such a cryptic and intriguing title, I'm surprised I took so long to snatch this book up. 

Veronica Rossi's Under the Never Sky has a classic storyline. Boy and girl from different "worlds" are outcasts in their respective societies. They meet up and have to work together to attain their goals. Oh yeah, and they end up developing feelings for each other along the way. Because this storyline is so classic, it can be tired in its execution, if not done well. Lucky for me, Veronica Rossi knows her stuff. This definitely had enough of a different feel for me to be eager to read on.

Most of the "differentness" came from the world itself. Rossi's creation is both similar and very alien from our own. To be honest, the first few chapters were a little disorienting to me. I couldn't connect with the story. In immersing the reader immediately, I felt as if I lost some of the necessary foundational blocks that would have stabilized my entry into the story. Don't get me wrong, I understood what was going on (for the most part), but it took too long for me to figure out a few different things, which I didn't like. That said, it's entirely possible I was having a slow-brain day and other people may not have had my same issue. Also, it's important to note that I did eventually become completely immersed in the story and the world.

Romance-wise, I was struck by how different Perry came across from other romantic leads. Yes, he has a lot of those classic attributes (strong, attractive, few words, etc.), but there was also a very different quality to his character. For me, a lot of that came from his Outsider society. Being a Scire and having these more primitive characteristics really helped him stand apart from other crush-worthy guys in the YA genre. Likewise, while Aria also had a lot of the typical characteristics, she also stood apart. 

Overall, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi is a great mix of sci-fi and fantasy, with a healthy romance subplot. Fans of these genres should definitely pick it up. 

Final thoughts: Definitely borrow, but I'm tempted to say "buy" because of the beautiful cover.

Monday, January 14, 2013

In My Mailbox Monday #19


IMM is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren

Slow week this week. Just one book, but I'm suuuuuuper excited to read it. :D

Library

Every Day by David Levithan

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry


Title: Pushing the Limits
Author: Katie McGarry
Publisher: Harlequinn Teen (July 31, 2012)
Source: Own

From Goodreads:

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry was just the thing to getting me out of a reading funk. I had been aimlessly picking up books and putting them down, unsatisfied, for weeks. (Crazy, I know!). When I saw the blurb for Pushing the Limits, I just knew I had to read it.

And I did.

With great pleasure. :D

Pushing the Limits is a raw, emotional, and realistic portrayal of two teens struggling to deal with life. They each have skeletons in their closet, whether they remember them or not. I was instantly pulled into the mental health aspect (as I'm prone to do). I was relieved that it wasn't overly played up or played down. Obviously, mental health issues differ from person to person, and disorders present themselves in different ways. Often, I am disappointed when a disorder or issue is presented as *always* coming across a certain way. I didn't get that feel from this book. 

But that's not really the focus...it's the romance.

Oh my Tod, the romance! The passionate, yet real relationship between Noah and Echo completely drew me in. The development of the relationship progressed at a steady and realistic pace, in line with the character development. And I loved reading from Noah's perspective. In a way, I thought that the chapters from his POV were even more authentic than Echo's, though I enjoyed her voice as well.

Pushing the Limits is a great read, all around. Particularly, it's good for fans of contemporary romance with some darkness (Simone Elkeles' books come to mind).

Final thoughts: Buy it.

Monday, January 7, 2013

In My Mailbox #18



IMM is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren

I'm getting back in the game this week. Since I've stop reviewing for awhile, I'm no longer receiving ARCs or Galleys. :( However, I did splurge on some awesome holiday sales. :)

Library

Legacy by Calya Kluver
Allegiance by Calya Kluver
Sacrifice by Calya Kluver
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
Darkfall by Janice Hardy

Bought

A Touch Mortal by Leah Clifford
The Liar Society: You're Only As Good As Your Last Lie by Lisa & Laura Roecker
The Liar Society: The Lies That Bind by Lisa & Laura Roecker
Crash by Nicole Williams
Clash by Nicole Williams
Graveminder by Melissa Marr