Biting faces! Face bite!
I read stuff. I like a lot of science fiction, fantasy, and YA. But I like other stuff too. We can be friends if you like the Oxford comma.
it was okay
Author: Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Publication Date: September 17, 2013
Series: The Lotus War #2
A SHATTERED EMPIRE
The mad Shōgun Yoritomo has been assassinated by the Stormdancer Yukiko, and the threat of civil war looms over the Shima Imperium. The Lotus Guild conspires to renew the nation’s broken dynasty and crush the growing rebellion simultaneously – by endorsing a new Shōgun who desires nothing more than to see Yukiko dead.
A DARK LEGACY
Yukiko and the mighty thunder tiger Buruu have been cast in the role of heroes by the Kagé rebellion. But Yukiko herself is blinded by rage over her father’s death, and her ability to hear the thoughts of beasts is swelling beyond her power to control. Along with Buruu, Yukiko’s anchor is Kin, the rebel Guildsman who helped her escape from Yoritomo’s clutches. But Kin has his own secrets, and is haunted by visions of a future he’d rather die than see realized.
A GATHERING STORM
Kagé assassins lurk within the Shōgun’s palace, plotting to end the new dynasty before it begins. A waif from Kigen’s gutters begins a friendship that could undo the entire empire. A new enemy gathers its strength, readying to push the fracturing Shima imperium into a war it cannot hope to survive. And across raging oceans, amongst islands of black glass, Yukiko and Buruu will face foes no katana or talon can defeat.
The ghosts of a blood-stained past.
What the fucking fuck.
I just can't even process some of this shit right now.
It's all crazy madness. Some of it is cool madness. And some of it is I-don't-know-how-to-take-this madness. There are surprises. Good ones. Bad ones. No punches held. The stuff that goes down in Kinslayer has me simultaneously needing the next book and wanting to take this whole year or whatever between books to try to figure out what the hell I think about the stuff I just read.
Some of these characters, man. Michi is beyond amazing and the culmination of her story arc in this installment is just so hardcore freaking badass that I don't know if I can handle it. We get a new character, Hana, who is just so likable and also with the surprises. All these little fuckers wanted to surprise me. KIN. His story had the most WTFery. I don't think the reader gets the whole story with him in this book. At least, we better not have. Because reasons. I am having the most difficulty processing his Stuff than anyone else's. Yukiko and Buruu are awesome but I don't know if I got enough Buruu snark in this one, since he and Yukiko share the spotlight with more of the other characters and Yukiko is having some issues with the Kenning. But Yukiko's situation in this probably rivals Kin's for making me concernicus. I admit to some tad irritation on my part by Yukiko's story in this one. It's due to a peeve of mine. It's a maybe weird peeve, so don't go getting all worried about it. It's not a vampire or a love triangle or a penchant for assholes who want to kill/eat her. I just can't talk about it specifically because spoilers. It's probably a good thing Michi and Hana are so WTF badass and Kin is so WTF (and maybe kinda a little bit badass?). But I'm hoping for things. Stuff. To be resolved in a way that makes me cheer for it even if it isn't necessarily happy. We do get some hints of Buruu past, though, and that is pretty awesome. Because Buruu.
But you may not want to read this if you don't want to read about people betraying the fuck out of people, or about bloody guts and burning guts and loose guts and more guts and lady balls and murder and betraying (yeah, more of it) and explosions and murder and attempted murder and blood and torture and black vomit and betrayal (YES, MORE OF IT). There are no cuddly bunnies. If there were, their intestines would probably be hanging out at some point. Proceed if you like gore, but be careful because one of these fuckers will probably betray you.
4 point fucking 5
I don't usually curse this much in my reviews, but shit.
Title: The Reece Malcolm List
Author: Amy Spalding
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Things I know about Reece Malcolm:
1. She graduated from New York University.
2. She lives in or near Los Angeles.
3. Since her first novel was released, she’s been on the New York Times bestseller list every week.
4. She likes strong coffee and bourbon.
5. She’s my mother.
Devan knows very little about Reece Malcolm, until the day her father dies and she’s shipped off to live with the mother she’s never met. All she has is a list of notebook entries that doesn’t add up to much.
L.A. offers a whole new world to Devan—a performing arts school allows her to pursue her passion for show choir and musicals, a new circle of friends helps to draw her out of her shell, and an intriguing boy opens up possibilities for her first love.
But then the Reece Malcolm list gets a surprising new entry. Now that Devan is so close to having it all, can she handle the possibility of losing everything?
I had no idea that I would love this book so much! Devan's voice is perfect. Seriously, perfect. It's so teenager, so authentic and lovable that I immediately gave her my full attention and didn't want to stop until her story was finished. She's an awesome character - a little insecure at times, but completely confident when it comes to singing. She's unsure of herself and of her place, but not in a self-pitying way. She is a little timid but also has a self-awareness about her that allows her to recognize when she needs to overcome it. I just love her.
And I love the other characters as well. Devan makes a handful of mostly great friends who each have their weird little flaws but who are also understanding and forgiving of each other. Of all of the secondary characters, I particularly adore Reece Malcolm (whose name I almost feel should be typed in all caps, since she's such a force in this story). She's superbly flawed but also amazing, and she is written wonderfully. Devan's mom can be an intimidating woman, particularly to Devan who has had no contact with her prior to moving in with her after her dad dies. It should be awkward, right? Except it isn't particularly awkward at all. A bit rocky at times, though, since neither one is great at being open about her feelings, and Devan is a bit sensitive when it comes to her mother. The exploration of their relationship is my absolute favorite thing about this story. It's such a strange little dynamic. Even sans all of the other stuff that happens, I would have kept reading this through the night just to get to the point where Devan and Reece finally understand each other, because I was wholly invested in them and really wanted that for them so badly.
That was the driving force of the book for me - the relationship development between Devan and her mother. But it's not just about a mother's and daughter's attempts (and failed attempts) at bonding. It's about friendships and first loves and kissing and music and theater. It's about finding those people with whom one is connected and that place in which one is comfortable, where Devan can be herself and be happy and know that she belongs in that place and with those people.
I was so surprised by just how much I adored this story. I expected something cute, and I got something wonderful. It has the perfect balance of emotions. Music and theater. Friendships and romances. An amazing mother-daughter story. And perhaps the most flawless ending I've read in a while. If you like contemporary realistic fiction, stories about finding one's place in the world, mother-daughter stories, show choir and musicals, get it.
Title: Through the Ever Night
Author: Veronica Rossi
Publication Date: January 8, 2012
Series: Under the Never Sky #2
It's been months since Aria learned of her mother's death. Months since Perry became Blood Lord of the Tides, and months since Aria last saw him.
Now Aria and Perry are about to be reunited. It's a moment they've been longing for with countless expectations. And it's a moment that lives up to all of them. At least, at first.
Then it slips away. The Tides don't take kindly to former Dwellers like Aria. And the tribe is swirling out of Perry's control. With the Aether storms worsening every day, the only remaining hope for peace and safety is the Still Blue. But does this haven truly exist?
Threatened by false friends and powerful temptations, Aria and Perry wonder, Can their love survive through the ever night?
I liked Under the Never Sky quite a bit, and Through the Ever Night was one of my most anticipated books of 2013. And it definitely lived up to my expectations for awesome. I am not quite sure what I was expecting from it, but it wasn't exactly this. This was way better than what I was expecting.
There should be a disclaimer on this book for how awesome Roar is. I enjoyed his character in Under the Never Sky, but in Through the Ever Night he is even better! Roar is an amazing, unwavering friend to Aria when she desperately needs one. His heart is laid bare in this book, and I love him for it. Perry has a lot of crap to deal with in this installment, as he is now the Blood Lord of the Tides. He must earn his people's faith, trust, and respect as a leader, and he must protect them from the elements as well as invaders. He struggles with these things and with guilt over what happened with Vale. I love the growth that Perry experiences over the course of the novel and I adore him even more than before because of it. Aria has some stuff to deal with of her own - prejudices from some of the Tides, the pressure of finding out where the Still Blue is and wanting to save Talon. But she also does a great deal of worrying about and doing her best to be an emotional support to Perry as well as Roar through their ordeals. My favorite things about the character development in Through the Ever Nightare the growth that we see in Perry and the strength of the friendship between Aria and Roar.
The pacing in Through the Ever Night is faster than that of Under the Never Sky. There are more Aether storms and other dangers and there's just a lot going on, and that makes it a really quick read. There's none of that second-book-in-a-series syndrome thing happening here. The Aether is further described as liquid fire in the sky that strikes in funnels like lightning, and its origins are briefly explained. The plot is fast-paced and fun and appropriately frustrating in places. The character development is great. If you've been following my reviews for a while, then you know that one of my pet peeves in books is when actionable conflict is brushed aside in favor of contrived relationship drama. That does not happen here. There are plenty of worthy conflicts to fill that role, and any relationship tensions that do arise are thoughtfully constructed and believable.
If you loved or liked Under the Never Sky in the slightest, then you need to read Through the Ever Night. It's better than its predecessor. It's a fun sci-fi lite type of book with well-written and developed characters. I loved it. I need Into the Still Blue, preferably right now.
Author: C.J. Redwine
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: August 28, 2012
Series: Defiance #1
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.
At first I was pretty lukewarm about Defiance, but by the end I became a bit more engrossed. In the early parts of the story, the main characters fall a little flat, but that progressively gets better as the book goes on. Secondary characters remain pretty flat throughout the novel, though, and it is difficult to make any kind of connection with any of them. Because of this, certain events within the story do not affect me as much as they were meant to. But the villain is vile, power hungry, and appropriately detestable, which is awesome, because who doesn't love to hate a loathsome bad guy?
The plot isn't anything new, which hurts its excitement factor a little. It feels recycled. The setting and situation are moderately interesting, but if you read a lot of fantasy and/or dystopia then the setting as well as the plot will feel like more of the same. The wanting for character development is stronger when the plot is formulaic, and I think that a little more depth where the characters are concerned could have gone a long way toward making the story less pedestrian. I would've liked more of a build up of evidence in the relationship development of Rachel and Logan, for example, as well as more of a presence from the supporting characters. There is a lot of telling going on, but not all that much showing, particularly where Rachel and Logan's relationship is concerned. With regards to the worldbuilding, it is not clear whether this is a second world or a post-apocalyptic version of our own, leaving the rules of this world ambiguous at best. I would have appreciated more information on exactly what happened to take this world from its before to its after.
The pacing starts off a little slower than I'd have liked. Almost half of the book involves Rachel and Logan preparing themselves for the second half of the book. I wanted it to get to the adventures, already. But once events finally start moving forward, the pacing (and my enjoyment) picked up quite a bit. I would have loved for this to happen sooner and for more time to be spent on this phase of the story because to me it is far more interesting than just about everything that was happening in town. That being said, one way or another, by the end I found myself enjoying Rachel and Logan and their story. I still wanted more from it, though.
I wanted to love Defiance. I really, really, really wanted to head over heels adore the shit out of it. I had mega-high hopes and they just weren't met. I still like it, just not in a way that makes me super enthusiastic. And I think that my high hopes worked against this book. But again, by the end I was kinda sucked in by it. I liked it enough to continue with the series, so my opinion falls somewhere between "it was okay" and "liked it".
Title: Throne of Glass
Author: Sarah J. Mass
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date: August 7, 2012
Series: Throne of Glass #1
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.
Her opponents are men—thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.
Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
This book! I do have some complaints, but I thoroughly enjoyed Throne of Glass, and the characters completely won me over.
I love that Celaena is both kick-ass and girly-feminine. I'm sick of seeing heroines defy the patriarchal paradigm or break free of womanly constraints in a man's world only to reject so many things about their femininity in the process, shunning dresses or long hair or other things that would be considered "girlish" or "feminine". Not that I have a problem with girls rejecting these things, but must EVERY paradigm-defying heroine also be a tomboy? I am beginning to view that trope (or is it a cliché?) as a suggestion that being more like a boy is preferable to being an empowered female - as though there's something less acceptable about anything delicate or pretty. To see Celaena embrace both her power and her femininity is honest and refreshing. Why can't girly girls be badasses? Why should embracing one's femininity and beauty mean that one can't also be physically strong? It doesn't, and Celaena is a perfect example of that. She loves dressing up, reads romance novels, suffers PMS, and is nowhere near devoid of emotions and feelings even though she's a contract killer. And she can still kill a man with her bare hands. She's confident to the point of occasional arrogance. She's the girl version of the cocky rogue, and I absolutely love it. Will her overconfidence get her into trouble? Probably. It has the potential to be a fatal flaw if she isn't careful. But you'll never see me complain about it.
Chaol and Dorian. I love these two! Dorian looks at Celaena and sees her sensitivity, vulnerability, and captivity. Chaol looks at her and sees her skill, cunning, and killer-instincts. Each sees something of himself within her. The prince sees someone who has suffered loss and been placed at the mercy of the king. The commander sees a dangerous warrior. They both care for her, but neither of them is getting the whole picture yet. Personally, I'm in favor of Chaol because he is not blind to the cruelest parts of her but cares for her anyway.
Celaena is the focal character, but the narration occasionally slides from the perspective of Celaena into that of a handful of other characters, the most important of those being Dorian and Chaol. The setting is almost exclusively restricted to the castle. I wish we'd have gotten to explore the world a little bit more because it is interesting enough for me to want more of it, but I also like that this adds to the containment that Celaena is feeling. She's a prisoner, after all. The tournament is not quite as exciting as I would've liked it to be. It feels more like a means to an end and a way to draw out Celaena's journey from the prison to her current station. I wish that it'd have either been more of a focal point or that it'd have been bypassed much quicker so that things could just carry on. The other thread of the story involves a killer who is running around maiming the tourney competitors. I felt like the mystery of who was ultimately behind this was rather obvious and I wasn't at all surprised by any of the ways that this plot line developed, since it turned out pretty much exactly how I figured it would. A good portion of the plot in this book is predictable (at least it was to me). There are some pretty obvious hints regarding Celaena's pre-assassin identity (at least, I think it's pretty obvious - I guess I'll have to wait to see if I'm right or if I totally am getting fooled, but based on how my other predictions have gone so far I'm going to go with obvious). But none of this did much to mar my enjoyment of the story, which remains fun despite any predictable outcomes.
The quality of the writing is at times inconsistent. Some paragraphs had me reveling in the words and enjoying every engrossing second of it, and others sort of put me off because the wording felt amateurish or cliché. It was up and down. A few things that happen in the text are completely random. For example, out of nowhere (and fairly late into the story), Celaena suddenly misses this guy that was never mentioned or hinted at or even thought about previously in any of her reflections on her past (and there were enough musings for him to come up at least once). For something that is of such major import to Celaena, it was totally out of left field and, whether he was added late or outtakes removed any previous mention of him, I think that there should have been a sentence or two added back in to supplement his appearance in Celaena's thoughts, in order to reduce the WTFery that was bouncing around in my head at Celaena's sudden longing for some person who is never properly introduced to the reader. (If you read the prequel e-novellas, this character isn't just a random thought and his appearance in Celaena's thoughts makes A LOT more sense. But despite the novellas giving a great back story, I feel that this character deserves a proper introduction into the BOOK.)
Despite my niggling complaints, I like Throne of Glass quite a bit. The characters commanded my attention and adoration, and the environment and story sucked me in regardless of the fact that I find some of the major plot points to be predictable. The love triangle doesn't bother me in this story because it is handled in a way that (at least so far) makes it pretty clear that one is a friendly and fun yet shallow infatuation, and the other has the potential to be a deep-rooted love based on mutual understanding and a (very) hard-earned trust. I will be anxiously awaiting the sequel, because it seems like book two will be going very interesting places.
Author: Rachel Hartman
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: July 10, 2012
Series: Seraphina #1
Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.
Seraphina has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift - one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.
There are so many reasons that I love Seraphina that I'm certain I cannot adequately express them all. There's the exquisite dragon lore, the musicality, the erudite scholars and philosophers, the engrossing world, heartfelt and believable characters, the social commentary... I could go on for some time.
Seraphina is a respectable heroine who is struggling with her identity. Her struggles to accept herself make her sympathetic and her willpower makes her easy to like. Half in and half out of multiple worlds, she straddles the lines between human and dragon, nobility and commoner, science and art. Her unique point of view lends readers the perfect perspective to see clearly and from every angle the realm in which she resides.
The supporting characters are all amazing. Everyone has their faults, their strengths, their own personalities. They're all very human (even the dragons, though they would be annoyed to hear it). I particularly love Orma. But Kiggs, Glisselda, Lars - all of the characters, really - are perfectly written, with such wonderful depth and motivation, especially for secondary characters, and all of them come across as completely authentic and appropriately lovable (or loathable, as the case may be).
The setting is flawless and the world building is executed extremely well. Goredd is a fleshed out world complete with social castes, politics, warring factions, civil unrest, prejudices, religion, philosophy, magics, music, and technology. The pacing is perfect and the writing is absolutely gorgeous. This book is a seriously fun fantasy filled with mystery, danger, discovery and self-acceptance. But that isn't all it is. The tensions between humans and dragons allow for some great commentary regarding Otherness and I wished so badly that I had been able to read this when I was taking a capstone course on The Other in college. I gleefully absorbed ALL THE THEMES.
Seraphina is an impressive debut. I couldn't find a single thing in it to complain about! I highly, highly recommend it to fans of high fantasy, dragons, fun books with a literary quality to them, or fans of anything, really, because if you can't find something to love in Seraphina, then I don't really know what to tell you.
Title: Goddess Interrupted
Author: Aimée Carter
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: March 27, 2012
Series: Goddess Test #2
Kate Winters has won immortality. But if she wants a life with Henry in the Underworld, she'll have to fight for it.
Becoming immortal wasn't supposed to be the easy part. Though Kate is about to be crowned Queen of the Underworld, she's as isolated as ever. And despite her growing love for Henry, ruler of the Underworld, he's becoming ever more distant and secretive. Then, in the midst of Kate's coronation, Henry is abducted by the only being powerful enough to kill him: the King of the Titans. As the other gods prepare for a war that could end them all, it is up to Kate to save Henry from the depths of Tartarus. But in order to navigate the endless caverns of the Underworld, Kate must enlist the help of the one person whom she would really rather not meet. Henry's first wife, Persephone.
Meh. I didn't like it much.
Kate in this book is: insecure, codependent, maudlin, petulant, jealous, desperate, idiotic. These things are fine with me - in small doses at low moments of inner struggle or whatever. We all have our times of self-doubt and insecurity and we all let it make us a little bit crazy once in a while. It could have provided some decent character depth to have a heroine who went through some heart-wrenching moments of self-doubt. But this "I'm not good enough" rampage went on for about 95% of the story. By the time Kate had (mostly) stopped acting like a hysterical lunatic, I was more than ready to hand her a pack of razor blades and high five her in her face.
Some words of advice to Kate: The end of the world is imminent. Please give more focus to that than to the fact that your spouse isn't raining attention down on you. Also, affection might not come so easily when you spent the last six months with another guy and your needy, jealous insecurity paired with a barrage of "Do you even want me here?" is really unattractive. STOP IT.
Kate's character seemed like she had herself pretty together in the first book (despite some second wife syndrome stuff she had going on) only to be an absolute mess in this one. She also spends the entirety of the book being told by others about the motivations and feelings of Henry or Persephone. So when Henry praises her ability to understand people and their motivations, I had to laugh. Derisively.
I also want to say that, while the name changes of the gods didn't bother me in the last book, I found them to be really confusing in this one. This is likely because in the first book their roles weren't so obvious. In book two they're more prominent. Since their names are different and don't really provide any clue as to which god they represent (and, let's face it, the personalities of the gods in this series are not exactly all in accordance with the original versions), I had to constantly check the index in the back of the book to remind myself who each person is. I get the idea behind changing the names to fit a modern world, but found it to be a hassle.
Kate really affected my ability to enjoy the story in Goddess Interrupted. Her self-pity ate up most of the text of book two, which is nearly 300 pages, and that was just really disappointing. The plot outside of Kate's drama could have been fairly entertaining on its own - if one can put aside the mythology inaccuracies in this series and just enjoy it for what it is, which is more of a reimagined twist than a retelling. There was plenty of conflict to be had in the plot without throwing in relationship issues and a heroine who acts like a petulant child. It also doesn't help that there are multiple instances of girls competing with one another for a guy's affections (Kate vs. Persephone, Ava vs. Persephone, Calliope vs. Kate). I don't like seeing this notion that women are competition rather than companions perpetuated, particularly in young adult literature. Even the strongest girl-girl friendship, Kate and Ava, displays moments of jealousy and feelings of inadequacy on Kate's part because Ava is prettier than her.
Also, the ending? Cliffhanger. And not the resolution-with-something-thrown-in-to-make-you-think kind. The kind that ends right in the middle of a scene where something big is happening. The story was finally getting somewhere and then it was all, "Stay tuned next year!", and then I'm pretty sure that it flipped me off. It might as well have, because this felt strongly like a filler book that exists just to draw this thing out into a trilogy.
Would I recommend it? I guess that depends on what you like. If you liked the first book, prefer that the romantic relationship elements of a story are the main focus, and don't mind the sort of character insecurity that I took issue with, then you might like Goddess Interrupted. If you're like me and prefer that the action parts of the plots of fantasy or adventure novels take the forefront and that the relationships happen as an aside, then you'd probably also find yourself more than a bit frustrated with this novel.
Title: Under the Never Sky
Author: Veronica Rossi
Publication Date: January 3, 2012
Series: Under the Never Sky #1
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.
Under the Never Sky is a seriously fun little science fiction book. I wasn't really sure what to expect from it, but I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I like it.
Aria is a pretty awesome chick. She's not a waif or a whiner. She is smart and does not complain overmuch and keeps pushing herself to be stronger. She goes through something of an ordeal at the beginning of the book, and ends up in a pretty sucky predicament as a result. But she handles it all with courage and an inner strength that kinda surprised me. Perry is a warrior and a survivor. He can be vicious when he has to, but is ultimately a caring individual with a strong character. His savagery comes from a need to survive and protect within a harsh environment filled with dangerous things and people.
Aria and Perry experience a heck load of tension in their initial interactions. Aria is frightened of Perry and his capability to kill. Perry is frustrated by Aria's talkativeness and questions. They come from different places and do not understand each other. They hold resentment and contempt toward each other until they get to know one another better. Once they get over their initial dislike, they're better able to acknowledge each other's strengths. I can appreciate the way that they slowly come to respect one another and the way in which their relationship develops.
The settings in Under the Never Sky are pretty crazy. It's like part dystopia, part post-apocalyptic survival. Aria and the Dwellers reside in biodomes built to protect people from the harsh environment. The society within the domes has become a bit dystopic. The people wear devices called smart eyes and use them to experience a virtual existence within the biodomes. As a result, she hasn't experienced very many things in real life, or "in the real" as she calls it. Smells and textures are all a little bit different once she's outside. While the domes are fascinating, only a small portion of the story takes place within them. The world outside the domes is wild, unsafe, and electric. Some of the Outsiders like Perry have developed enhanced senses. The sky is filled with Aether, which is some sort of flowing, fiery lightning that comes down from the sky in funnels and storms, wreaking havoc and destruction on everything in its path.
The plot moves quickly as Aria and Perry navigate this Aether infested world in search of a way to find/save/communicate with those who are loved but lost to them. The story is told in the alternating points of view of Aria and Perry. It's awesome to get both of their perspectives and to see how differently they view things. If I had to make one complaint, it would be that some of the stuff with the enhanced senses pushes into a territory that is almost paranormal, where I would've preferred that it were a little more subtle. But it's nothing too major and doesn't do much to affect my enjoyment of the novel.
I enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to fans of stories with a bit of science fiction, dystopia, post-apocalyptic environment, and survival elements.
Title: Desires of the Dead
Author: Kimberly Derting
Publication Date: February 15, 2011
Series: The Body Finder #2
The missing dead call to Violet. They want to be found.
Violet can sense the echoes of those who've been murdered—and the matching imprint that clings to their killers. Only those closest to her know what she is capable of, but when she discovers the body of a young boy she also draws the attention of the FBI, threatening her entire way of life.
As Violet works to keep her morbid ability a secret, she unwittingly becomes the object of a dangerous obsession. Normally she'd turn to her best friend, Jay, except now that they are officially a couple, the rules of their relationship seem to have changed. And with Jay spending more and more time with his new friend Mike, Violet is left with too much time on her hands as she wonders where things went wrong. But when she fills the void by digging into Mike's tragic family history, she stumbles upon a dark truth that could put everyone in danger.
I really liked The Body Finder and was excited to start Desires of the Dead. Unfortunately, I wasn't as impressed this time around. I still enjoyed the story, but it just wasn't as fulfilling as the first installment in the series.
Violet was on my nerves for a lot of the story this time. It's as though she didn't learn ANYTHING from the first book. She still makes the same stupid mistakes. Her lack of self-preservation didn't bother me in the first book, because it was a new situation to her and her motivations and intentions were good and maybe she was a bit naive. But this time, she should know better. She should've learned from her mistakes, but apparently she didn't. So now it is less endearing desire to help and more frustrating stupidity. She still keeps secrets from Jay. She still runs off alone into situations that she knows are dangerous without even telling anyone she's leaving or where she's going, constantly! It frustrates me because it feels like there is no growth there for Violet between the last book and this one, when there should be.
I'm not sure how I feel about the introduction of the new characters, Sara and Rafe. I'm curious about where their involvement will carry the series, but I'm hesitant to jump on board with the idea as well. I'm not a fan of Rafe. He feels more like a plot tool than a character to me, and I don't like the idea that he could end up coming between Violet and Jay at some point. I hope that he doesn't, because I'm over the love triangle thing being splatter painted all over YA lit. I will keep my fingers crossed for Jay.
The pacing is similar to that of The Body Finder. The story moves pretty quickly, and there are chapters thrown in sporadically that are from the point of view of a character who is something like a stalker. The plot of Desires of the Dead is more predictable than that of the first book. It is obvious (at least it was to me) early on in the story how everything is going to play out in the end. The predictability of it makes it a bit less enjoyable than it would've been if I had been kept guessing. I kept hoping for some sort of a twist, but none ever came. It is pretty straightforward this time around, and is more dramatic irony than mystery.
I'm complaining a lot, but I did enjoy the novel for what it is. It just isn't quite as captivating as what I was hoping for when I started reading it. That being said, I'm still really looking forward to The Last Echo and I'm very curious to see what dimensions are added to Violet's story with the introduction of these new characters and everything that their presence implies.
Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publication Date: December 2, 2010
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #1
Anna was looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she's less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all...including a serious girlfriend.
But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?
This book was so. freaking. cute. It's one of the best contemporary romance books I've read. I really enjoyed the fact that the relationships in Anna and the French Kiss are complicated and realistic - the characters suffer ambivalence, uncertainty and confusion, and that made reading it delightfully fun.
Anna is such a great character! Her voice and her thought processes and little peeves made her an instant favorite of mine. If she were real, I think she'd have been my friend. She's even got a review blog - for film rather than books, but still! The secondary characters are realistic and well done. I loved most of them, and loved hating some of them as well. I adored Anna's whole group of friends that she makes in Paris. But one thing that amazed me is that there is a very minor character that only appears in the book twice, and for but a second each time, and I fell in love with that character, too! So yeah, I loved the characterization in this one.
One of my favorite things about this book, though, is how realistically the relationships in it progress. There is so much instantaneous drawing together of teens in books these days, and I think that one of the best parts about real teenage relationships is the roundabout ways that they end up happening, and all of the awkward adorableness that takes place between a crush and a relationship. This book tackles all of that delicious awkwardness and complication, and I found that to be incredibly rewarding. The characters and relationships in this story actually evolve and devolve, and it's REAL and perfect and amazingly fun to read.