Thursday, December 18, 2014

Grave Mercy by Robin LeFevers

Ismae uses her supernatural gifts and the training she received at the convent for the daughters of the god of death, as an assassin, bringing justice and fighting for the independence of her country. Her biggest assignment yet is to infiltrate the court where war, arranged marriages, and fatal betrayal is brewing. She must find out who is behind the treason and dispatch them before they murder the young ruler and others for whom Ismae cares, all while pretending to be a lady of court and keeping her identity her secret. 

13035363This is fantasy, history, romance and murder mystery with suspense, intrigue, and female empowerment. Ismae is a girl of action who doesn’t sit still or get pushed around. She’s always fighting, spying, taking risks and crossing lines but does so with a strong sense of duty and responsibility. She is, after all, a trained assassin. She seeks to kill justly and do what’s right, but where magic and betrayal collide, the lines around what is right, becomes blurry. 

The romance is well-developed and compelling, rebels against the cloying insta-love that appears too frequently in our genre, and truly has substance embedded in character, not just chance and good looks. I like romance served with a hearty side of emotional conflict, and this one had as much as there could be, yet parts of it sneak up on you subtly. 

Over the course of the book, Ismae gains learns to let emotions seep through her wall of hard logic and pragmatism, and also develops critical thinking – learning to appreciate those she trusts and obeys while acknowledging they are only human, and to think for herself despite everything she’s always been taught. The first of these is about finding balancing in her personality which we all could use, and the second is a theme which teenagers and young adults grapple with. This was a unique and unforgettable highlight of this year’s readings!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Bloodlines and Golden Lily (Bloodlines #2) by Richelle Mead

In this spin-off of the beloved Vampire Academy series, Sydney the Alchemist
poses as a bodyguard of sorts against the myriad of things that go wrong when
Jill Mastrano goes into hiding at a human prep academy.

While each book contains at least one thrilling,
life-or-death battle, they seem to encompass less danger and excitement
throughout in comparison with the Vampire Academy series. A prominent theme is
Sydney moving from the humans = good, vampires = bad mantra grilled into her by
the Alchemists, questioning the system she’s blindly subscribed to all her
life, and overcome the racial barriers in a desired but forbidden romance.

Sydney Sage is the polar opposite of Rose. Instead of shouting “Why did you do that, stupid?” every other chapter the way I did with Rose, I related to Sydney – she’s a lot more like me. However, Rose clearly makes the more exciting and unpredictable character.

Lovers of Adrian will rejoice in his prominence in this
series. I wasn’t too fond of him in VA, but he quickly made my favorites list
in Bloodlines, demonstrating a depth of character behind his devil-may-care
attitude. Adrian is even more Sydney’s opposite than Rose, and Bloodlines has
them bringing out the best in each other.  
I hope this in-the-writing series will see Sydney throw off
the chains of the Alchemist cult (at least that’s what I see it as) and join
the vampire cause. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Beautiful Creatures by by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

~ Summary ~

Ethan is plagued by all too realistic dreams of trying to
hold on, against all odds, to someone he can’t bear to lose. Hauntingly, he
meets this person and finds that she can speak to him in her mind. Lena warns
Ethan to stay away from her, because on her sixteenth birthday, like all
Casters, she will be claimed either back the Dark or the Light. She is haunted
by suspicions that she will go Dark, and become more of a danger to him, the
closer they become. However, Dark Casters are already attacking Lena, and Ethan
seems to be the only thing that can protect her. He fights to hold on and do
whatever he must to save her from being taken by the Darkness.

~ Plot ~ 
Suspense and mystery are introduced early on and the action
builds at a gripping pace. I was fascinated from the start by the psychic bond
of dreams and telepathy between the main character and his love interest. The
author instilled an itchiness to solve the mystery of the visions that bind them
together. Every moment holds rising tension of what might happen if they don’t
succeed in finding a way to break Lena free from an ancient curse to enable her
to choose Light rather than doing evil. The only thing that would have made this novel better would be at least a subtle temptation to go Dark in the first two thirds of the plot, and also more development of how Lena’s magic works and what all it entails. However, the latter may be delved into during future installments. The ending catered to my preferences in delivering a well-finishes closer rather than a trailer for the sequel. 
~ Characters ~
The characters were all quirky and believable, with not a single cookie-cutter among the main cast. The author couldn’t have picked a more perfect setting than
Gatlin, nor developed it more intricately. This small town, closed-minded to anything new or
extraordinary, harbors secrets beyond what any of its inhabitants could
fathom. Lena was intriguing and compelling, along with her family of Casters, all with unique abilities. At times it felt like Ethan too easily accepted all
Lena’s strangeness, but it’s believable that having so many dreams of losing someone who evokes such strong feelings, and then meeting that someone in person, can build
immediate an immediate bond. It was immensely more likable,
interesting, and compelling than the vast majority of cases of
~ Rating ~

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy, #1)From back cover: St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose is a dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger…

Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever.

I hardly ever read books twice, but even my second time will not be the last for this long-standing member of my favorites shelf.

Within the excitement of the typical high school drama is a series chronicling a thrilling struggle between life and death where Rose must choose between chasing after her deepest desires and risking it all for the greater good.

Friendships are the most important relationship in a person’s life at this age, yet it’s rare that friendship is ever given attention. The self-sacrificial bond between protagonists Rose and Lissa is as inspiring and unforgettable as the thrilling plot with its mysteries, humor, and unpredictable twists. The connections between developing couples are entangled with life and death and put other YA romantic connections to shame. If I were moroi royalty, I’d declare this book a classic.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Cover Reveal: Guardian and Avengers (Halflings #2 & 3)

I know I’m kind of behind the curve with this post, as I’ve been traveling around the globe this summer. But Halflings is my favorite of all the series that have come out in the last year so I’d like to share this moment with you. Fellow fanlings, the covers for GUARDIAN (October 9, 2012) and AVENGER (March 19, 2013)!

There are two covers for Guardian – I favor the one above. To me it strongly resembles Nikki from the first cover, but more serious and determined, now that she is aware of the warfare around her. One of the things I loved most about her is that she is no damsel in distress: she tries to be the savior of the very ones that came to protect her. I feel like the more daring look of the cover above reflects that well. 
And below is the author’s personal favorite cover of the entire series so far:
What do you fanlings think? Cover 1 or Cover 2 for Guardians? Do you have a favorite cover in the series right now?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Power Within by C.L. Causer

Charlie should have drowned in that shipwreck, instead she came out with superpowers controlled completely by her emotions rather than her mind. She finds others with powers like her own while discovering new mysteries about her abilities and learning to control them, all while on the run from those who seek to capture, lock up, and experiment on those like her. 

This story has a most captivating premise with the likes of what I’ve been hoping to see for a while: what would the life of an X-men be like before they discovered the school that could help them? In Charlie’s case, she eventually does find such a place to call home but even then she is not protected from those who seek to do her harm. This is a fast-paced tale full of action, tough decisions, character depth, and danger lurking around every corner. I didn’t love the ending but it was a clever balance of resolution versus forcing the reader to buy the next in this series called The Lazarus Children. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

What if gaining the ability to have your own life meant letting your sister and only friend’s slip away? At 13, Anna has had to miss out on friendship, school, and sports to undergo numerous invasive surgeries to get transplants for her sister, a cancer patient. She sues her parents for the rights to stop being a donor and tries to discover who she is apart from who she was conceived to be.

This was my first time dabbling in this genre and trying this author but will not be the last. Ms. Picoult made the unforgettable characters come to life in a story that felt so real. The presentation from multiple perspectives was executed phenomenally and I couldn’t help but side with whoever was narrating at the moment, wishing against all possibility that all could win in the end. This was a gripping exploration about what it means to live, to love, and how far one should go to save a life – or to gain one for oneself. 

There’s two huge surprises at the end – one I loved and one I hated, both of which made me cry. I would recommend this poignant tale to everyone who is looking for a novel that will make them think, make them feel, and to let the reader go unchanged. 

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