Tuesday, May 29, 2012

28. Shadow Bound

Book #28: Shadow Bound
Author: Rachel Vincent
Published: May 22, 2012
448 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

KORI DANIELS is a shadow-walker, able to travel instantly from one shadow to another. After weeks of confinement for betraying her boss, she’s ready to break free of the Tower syndicate for good. But Jake Tower has one final job for Kori, one chance to secure freedom for herself and her sister, Kenley, even if that means taking it from someone else…

The job? Recruit Ian Holt—or kill him.

Ian’s ability to manipulate the dark has drawn interest from every syndicate in the world, most notably an invitation from Jake Tower. Though he has no interest in organized crime, Ian accepts the invite, because he’s on a mission of his own. Ian has come to kill Tower’s top Binder: Kori’s little sister.

Amid the tangle of lies, an unexpected thread of truth connecting Ian and Kori comes to light. But with opposing goals, they’ll have to choose between love and liberty.

I've said it before but I'll say it again: Rachel Vincent is amazing. The more I read her books, the more I love her. Each world she's created, whether it be Kaylee's horrific Netherworld or this one, where blood and oaths rule the world, holds its hold and sucks you in. They are believable, frightening, and epic. The Unbound world is described so perfectly in the first novel, Blood Bound, that stepping into the sequel is smooth and easy. The city is separated into three parts, two of which are ruled by ruthless Montague/ Capulet types, eager to finish the war and rule it all. Where as the first novel showed us one side, this one lets us behind the curtain to Tower's fierce ways. Both are deadly and could break most people, but for strong women like Liv Warren and Kori Daniels, it's just another bump in their road to freedom. 

Vincent has a skill with creating strong female characters. Yes, they are flawed, and they've had hardships that make them the way they are, but they make it through it with grace and will. Kori is a ass-kicking, gun wielding, broken woman who will do anything to protect her younger sister, even if it means being bound to Tower forever. The book begins with her as her weakest, tortured and locked up after her actions in the first novel. But she doesn't let that stop her from seeking revenge on those who put her down there. In the process, she must make nice with Ian Holt, a man with a very special skill who Tower wants as his own. The tension between these two is perfect. Kori's hardness smashes into Ian's softness, but he cradles it like a pillow. He is the perfect counterpart to her character. He comes onto the scene like a knight in shining armour, protecting her whether she wants it or not. That relationship alone with keep the pages turning.

Like Blood Bound, this one is also told by both perspectives: Kori's and Ian's. A nice touch was that Vincent added the names to the chapters, which makes it easier to know who is narrating (even though there's no way not to tell that it's Kori talking. What with that foul mouth and all) Shifting back and forth keeps that tension tight. We get to see how each of the characters feel about each other before they act on those feelings. We get to see Kori's strength return with the help of Ian, and Ian's loyalties change the more he gets to know Kori. Each character has such a unique voice that you feel everything they feel, understand why they say the things they say and do the things they do. Vincent does a perfect job of never straying from their characters. There is never a moment when one person says something that feels like it shouldn't be said. Even when we met Kori in the first novel, we knew she was tough after a few lines of dialogue. This is a skill that every writer should have perfected, and Vincent's ahead of the game.

I'm a huge fan of Vincent's Soul Screamers series, which is a young adult series. Blood Bound was the first adult book of hers I've read (I haven't dived into the Shifters world yet, but they are on my shelf waiting) so I was eager to see how different her writing would be when aimed at adults. I was glad to see that the writing is equally as poetic and flowing in both, but with a lot more swearing and sexuality in the adult ones. And this is definitely not a bad thing. Vincent has taken both worlds by storm and I know she'll continue to do so for the rest of her career. 

“She wasn't feeling nothing. She was feeling too much. She was blocking it all out. That was a survival skill, and her still-beating heart was proof that it worked.” 

Friday, May 25, 2012

27. If I Stay

Book #27: If I Stay
Author: Gayle Forman
Published: April 2, 2009
234 Pages
3 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck...

A sophisticated, layered, and heart-achingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make, and the ultimate choice Mia commands.

Death. Music. Love. This book has Rock 'N' Roll written all over it. And just like a song, life can be short and over before you're ready for it to be. Mia's life changes in an instant. A car crash and everything is lost. Out of her body and watching all her loved ones praying for her to wake up, Mia has to decided if she should stay or go.

As we know, I've become intrigued (maybe obsessed) with books about death, where the main character is either in the middle of something traumatic or already dead and gone, yet still holing on to something she can't quite grasp. Before I Fall sucked me in and The Catastrophic History of You and Me held me there. Slip in some music references, a cute guy in a band, and heart breaking trauma, and I'm in. The book takes place while Mia is in a coma, listening as the doctors tell her family that it's up to her whether she wakes up. Forman breaks up the depressing hospital scenes by inserting memories as Mia contemplates her life. We learn about her family, friends and boyfriend through the course of one night as she tries to make a decision. The memories flow smoothly, connecting with something that Mia has either seen or heard whilst out of her body. We learn why she may not want to stay, but also the reasons why she definitely should.

Music moves in and out of her thoughts as she wonders the hospital. She gets to catch an inside look at those she knows best, and finds out more about herself in the process. Mia plays the cello, listens to classical music in a house full of rockers, and is dating the lead singer of a rock band. She doesn't quite fit in, yet in some ways that's why she fits in so well. She is certainly not a follower. She lives her life the way she wants to, and the relationships she has with her family and boyfriend just go to show that music holds us together more than we know. We may not even like the same music, but music is the same for everyone. It makes us all feel the same emotions, same joy, sadness, heart break, no matter who we are or what we do.

If I had had the time to read it in one sitting, I would have, and I feel like the reason it didn't captivate me as much as it could have was because it took me over a week to read it. When I'd pick it up again, I'd have to remind myself what had just happened, especially since it takes place in the course of a day and there aren't really chapter breaks, just a timeline. I didn't get into it enough to cry, to feel for Mia the way I know I should have. The tragedy that she's just gone through is something that no one should ever have to experience and Forman wrote it in a way that you know exactly how she feels. We know exactly how much this hurts her and why her decision is so hard to make. I may pick it up again and reread it eventually, just so I can get the full cadence of this beautiful, terrifying story. And I've already bought the sequel and I'm eager to learn what happens after Mia has made her choice.

“And that's just it, isn't it? That's how we manage to survive the loss. Because love, it never dies, it never goes away, it never fades, so long as you hang on to it.” 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

26. The Selection

Book #26: The Selection
Author: Kiera Cass
Published: April 24, 2012
327 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself- and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

I'll admit that the description of The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games drew me in, but that's certainly not what kept me going. The only similarity to The Hunger Games in this book is the fact that it's a dystopian novel. The girls involved in the Selection do it by their own will and most of them actually want to win. Also, no one dies if they don't get picked. It is much more like The Bachelor, which, I do also admit, is a great plot. I've read a couple of mixed reviews, but I'm glad to say I'm on the loving side. 

I love the world that Cass created, it's old fashioned yet futuristic all at once. America has been resurrected into a monarchy, ruled by a royal family like most European countries. And now that the prince is of age, it's time for him to choose a princess. Thus The Selection, a reality TV show where he will pick the future Princess of Illea. Enter America Singer, a lower class girl who's in love with an even lower class man, who enters just to make her family happy. And there'd be no plot without America having to leave her true love to be part of the Selection. 

The relationship between America and Prince Maxon is adorable and believable. They make a pact to be friends because her heart belongs to another, and she becomes his go-to girl. I fell in love with Maxon before America even thought about it. He is sweet and naive, eager to please his parents and learn how to rule the kingdom. Over the course of the novel, as the other girls vie for his attention, America doesn't realize she's had it all along. Their friendship turning into something more melts my heart and makes me eager for the next chapter in their lives together. 

The world that Cass sucks us into is believable and easy to understand. The caste system, which is numbered and realistic, makes it easy to relate to the different worlds living together. It is much like it is now, with lower, middle and upper class, where some worry if they will get to eat and others have an abundance of everything they could ever ask for. America helps to teach Maxon about the world outside the palace and he in turn teaches her about love. 

There could have been more about the competition, like a talent portion or more detail into what was happening to make it a TV show. They were only on camera once a week and nothing really seemed to be happening outside of America and Maxon getting to know each other. Girls leave suddenly and not enough leave to make you want to grab the pages and keep reading. It was well written and entertaining, but there could have been more. I'm excited to pick up the second in this series to see where Cass will take her characters. 

“I couldn't joke about the person who'd saved me from facing absolute heartbreak at home, who fed my family boxes of sweets, who ran to me worried that i was hurt if I asked for him.

A month ago, I had looked at the TV and seen a stiff, distant, boring person-someone I couldn't imagine anyone loving. And while he wasn't anything close to the person I did love, he was worthy of having someone to love in his life.” 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

New Release: Shadow Bound!

We all know Rachel Vincent is one of my favourite authors, so of course I got my hands on her latest book as soon as I could!

I read Blood Bound in February and instantly fell in love with the world Vincent had created, just like I fell in love with her world in the Soul Screamers series. And when I finally get my hands on Stray, I know I'll fall in love with her were-cat world too. She does not disappoint and that is why I seriously can't wait to dive into this book!

If you live in the dark long enough, you begin to forget the light…

KORI DANIELS is a shadow-walker, able to travel instantly from one shadow to another. After weeks of confinement for betraying her boss, she’s ready to break free of the Tower syndicate for good. But Jake Tower has one final job for Kori, one chance to secure freedom for herself and her sister, Kenley, even if that means taking it from someone else…

The job? Recruit Ian Holt—or kill him.

Ian’s ability to manipulate the dark has drawn interest from every syndicate in the world, most notably an invitation from Jake Tower. Though he has no interest in organized crime, Ian accepts the invite, because he’s on a mission of his own.

Ian has come to kill Tower’s top Binder: Kori’s little sister.
Amid the tangle of lies, an unexpected thread of truth connecting Ian and Kori comes to light. But with opposing goals, they’ll have to choose between love and liberty….

So the official release date is May 22, 2012, but most book stores already have it on the shelves. If there's one thing I love, it's romance blooming in the midst of war, betrayal and special abilities. So seriously, go buy this book! (Well, buy Blood Bound first, but then buy this one!)

Indigo Books
Barnes & Noble

Saturday, May 5, 2012

25. Insurgent

Book #25: Insurgent
Author: Veronica Roth
Published: May 1, 2012
525 Pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

As soon as I put down Divergent, I knew I'd be hooked on this series. I've read my fair share of dystopian novels after falling in love with The Hunger Games, and this is the only series that even compares to Collins' masterpieces. So when the second book in the series hit the shelves, I knew I had to read it right away. And boy was I not disappointed!

Roth has created a society that seems perfectly logical. In fact, it seems downright utopian. The futurist city of Chicago has been separated into five factions, each representing a trait that those belonging to them believe is what could save the world from war. Tris, born to Abnegation (the selfless) has picked Dauntless (the brave) and is stuck in the middle of a brewing war. While dealing with the grief of her actions in Divergent, she struggles to find the will to live and some alone time with her boyfriend, Tobias. 

Tris's voice is realistic and haunting. Her suicidal tendencies are heart wrenching and true. She is ashamed of herself for killing one of her friends and no longer feels like she is needed in the wrold. She would gladly sacrifice herself for the war, convincing herself that it's the right thing to do. She cannot even look at a gun as it brings her back to the moment she shot Will, and I know that this is the way someone would truly act in that situation. Tobias and Tris's relationship is a roller coaster of emotion. They love each other, but throughout the novel the relationship is tried and tested. It's a nice change from most young adult novels where the only thing that usually goes wrong in a relationship is a love triangle. Tris is going through a hard time and both her and Tobias have different information swimming through their brains and it ends up hurting the other. Tobias is gentle with Tris, even when she does not ask for it, and it's my favourite trait of his. 

Tris is just as stubborn as me, so it's nice to see the way it makes others feel since it's hard for me to know how my actions affect others. Roth writes her characters brilliantly to go along with the action packed plot.  There isn't a moment where you want to put this book down. If not for work, I'd have had it done the first day. This is truly the book to recommend to any The Hunger Games fans. 

“We both have war inside us. Sometimes it keeps us alive. Sometimes it threatens to destroy us.” 

“People, I have discovered, are layers and layers of secrets. You believe you know them, that you understand them, but their motives are always hidden from you, buried in their own hearts. You will never know them, but sometimes you decide to trust them.” 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

24. City Of Ashes

Book #24: City Of Ashes
Author: Cassandra Clare
Published: March 25, 2008
464 Pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what's normal when you're a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who's becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn't ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary's only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

I'm still a little iffy about how I feel about these books. The plot in both City of Bones and City of Ashes kept me reading. I love the world that Clare sucks you into and I love the mix of different species of Downworlders. But there isn't enough dialogue and some of the scenes seem to drag on. The war is looming on the outskirts of this middle book of the trilogy and I do think it's a well done second book. I tend to be a fan of second books, sometimes I like them more than the last one in the series, but I have a feeling I'll enjoy the last one of this series the best. Mostly because I know a spoiler and it'll be very nice when certain characters realize certain things about themselves. 

Clary is still my favourite. She is going through hell but she keeps going. She does not let the fact that her mother is still unconscious stop her from trying to defeat her evil father, Valentine. Other minor characters return in full force like Magnus and Luke, and Isabelle and Alec are still snarky Shadowhunters. Simon's character develops the most, as he goes through the biggest change in the book. I thought him weak in the first book, so I'm glad he proved me wrong (and I wouldn't want to piss him off now) 

I guess I'm just more of a fan of character driven stories than plot driven ones. I would have liked to see more character development between Clary and Jace, especially now that they are related and still in love with each other. I mean, that's just asking for tons of drama. I like intimate scenes between characters, but there was a lack of that throughout the novel. It's all fighting and action scenes, which I know most people love, but either I didn't like the writing or I just wasn't interested in the action. I don't want to sound like I didn't enjoy it, because I did, and I already have the next one to read, so I will definitely be finishing this series and will check out Clare's other series, The Infernal Devices. I guess I just expected more. 

“Something inside Clary cracked and broke, and words came pouring out. 'What do you want me to tell you? The truth? The truth is that I love Simon like I should love you, and I wish he was my brother and you weren't, but I can't do anything about that and neither can you!” 

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