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Not a Drop to Drink - Mindy McGinnis This book. I haven't stopped thinking about it since I put it down last night.  It invaded my dreams.  I even woke up pondering alternate endings. It's gritty. It's honest. And it. Is. Brutal.

I thought I was done with dystopians, but Mindy McGinnis has proven that there are still fresh voices to be heard in a genre rife with copycats.  I mentioned in a previous post that this novel seemed like a mash-up of Blood Red Road and Drought, but I was only at the halfway point then.  Having finished the book, I can admit that although the tone and vernacular resembled that of Blood Red Road -- though not quite to that extreme -- and the limited availability of fresh water reminded me of Drought, Not a Drop to Drink is its own story.

Things that set this book apart:  no messy love triangle, fantastic world-building, a headstrong heroine, and a strong emphasis on the fear-inducing aspects of living in a dystopian state where water is scarce.  Sure, several of these components can be found in other dystopian novels, but how often do you find them all in one place?  In my own experience, it's not often.

Yes, there is a romantic subplot to this novel.  Yes, it is cute and sweet and heart-breaking.  Lynn is your typical virginal protagonist, but in her defense, she's only ever known Mother and their neighbor Stebbs, and he didn't come around all that much in her first sixteen years.  Not a lot of opportunities to strike up a conversation or flirt, especially since Mother's stance was shoot first, ask questions later.  But tragedy strikes and Lynn is left to make that call herself, and she and Stebbs decide to offer help to the starving family trying to make a home for themselves by the stream.

At first, Lynn's demeanor seems rather harsh and callous, but she only knows what she's been taught.  I enjoyed seeing Lynn's character grow into so much more as she learned from each of her new friends. Stebbs teaches her about kindness.  Lucy teaches her about family.  Eli teaches Lynn about flirting and love. And Neva, she teaches Lynn about sacrifice.  Everything she knows about surviving she already learned from her mother, and she passes that knowledge on to the group.

And they're going to need all the lessons they can stand.  In this rural Ohio setting, the new law of the land appears to be take or be taken.  You have to fight for what you have and you can't be afraid to do what's necessary to survive.  Not a Drop to Drink is set in the not-so-distant future, where our water resources have been depleted and the government is in charge of the limited supply that's left.  It's not so hard to imagine:  we already pay for our water...it would just be a matter of the government telling us we'd have to live inside the city in order to get any of it.  The house Lynn lives in has been in her family for generations, and with the pond on their land, they don't have as much to worry about when it comes to a water source...except protecting it.
"Lynn was nine the first time she killed to defend the pond, the sweet smell of water luring the man to be picked off like the barn swallows that dared to swoop in for a drink."

Lynn can shoot a rifle with deadly accuracy.  She can bag a deer and process it herself.  And she can protect her pond when she's the only one left to do it.  But that's a lonely life for a sixteen year old girl.  It's no wonder she took to caring for Lucy like she was her own flesh and blood.  She stubbornly resisted the emotional tug of her conscience, having inherited her hardness from Mother, but there's only so long you can hold out against a sweet little five-year-old.

I think what really sold me on this story was how genuine it felt.  It didn't try to make things seem pretty and nice when they weren't.  It told the truth of how horrible other human beings could be to each other, how hard it is to survive in the wilderness when you're not prepared for it, and how people can come together to make a bad situation better.  It's a violent and cruel world Lynn finds herself in, but she's just surviving the best she can.

This was such a refreshing read, and it will definitely force others to sit up and take notice of this debut author.  I know I'm paying attention now.  And I'm sure I'll be reflecting on this novel for days to come.

Also, I have a newfound appreciation for running water and antibiotics.  I kind of understand where those "preppers" are coming from now.  :P


Thanks to HarperCollins for the ARC for review!

This review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.
The Waking Dark - Robin Wasserman So, I should have taken it to heart when others were comparing this novel to Stephen King's works.  I tried to read Needful Things years ago when my sister offered it to me, and I only got halfway through before giving up.  Still, that's quite an attempt, considering the book is nearly 800 pages long.  Apparently, I'm not really a fan of Stephen King, unless it's a movie adaptation.  Those I like.  Those are sufficiently creepy and not at all boring.

I liked Wasserman's The Book of Blood and Shadow. It's the only other book of hers that I've read, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  So, I was expecting a similar experience here.  Unfortunately, me and this book, we just didn't click.  Maybe it was the fact that I listened to the audiobook instead of reading the galley I received from the publisher.  Maybe it was all those points of view.  Maybe it was the horrific nature of the book itself or the fact that it did remind me so much of Needful Things, what with the town reducing itself to chaos.  Whatever the reason, I only partially listened to the last third of the book, favoring other activities over what was actually going on in the story at that point.

Despite the many varying perspectives in this novel, there was but one narrator.  And he did an okay job, though I never felt the passion or horror that a narrator of this story should have conveyed.  It was like he was reading any other book.  There was no sense of the despair of these kids, no real sense of urgency or danger or any indication that these horrific goings-on weren't standard fare in the town of Oleander.

It also probably didn't help that I was confused by whose perspective the story was being told from 50% of the time, since there weren't any hints at transition, nor did the voice really change on the audio.  And there were a lot of differing points of view along the way, with the narration even switching to some of the more minor characters from time to time.

So, maybe I didn't love this book.  But I can admit that it was still a very well-written, horrifying piece of literature.  It was atmospheric and creepy and utterly unpredictable.  The Waking Dark is as gruesome and unpleasant as it gets for a young adult novel.  And it was very well done.  The character depictions are evocative, their actions nearly indescribable...and yet, the author truly captures their motivations, their fears, and their secrets in the brief moments we get behind each characters' eyes.

This book wasn't really for me, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a good book.  I'm not squeamish, but this story was just a touch too disturbing for me.  But if that's your cup of tea, look no further.  I definitely feel like this novel will appeal to fans of Stephen King and horror fans alike.  I was hoping for a horror-light version of The Goonies...you know, the camaraderie despite the differing backgrounds and families, trying to solve a problem, face a common foe...all that.  What I got instead was just...insanely disturbing.

Thanks to Random House & Netgalley for providing a copy for review.

This review will also appear at The Starry-Eyed Revue.
Untitled (Penryn & the End of Days, #2) - Susan Ee A GIFtastic review for you until I can form coherent thoughts...

On Friday, when I got my ARC of World After:
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Also, because Amazon actually sent me an ARC!!!:
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Friday night when I got home and sat down to crack this baby open:
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When my family wanted to go out to dinner, then shopping, then a million other things that weren't reading:
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All weekend, when my family had other plans for my precious reading time:
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Then on Sunday when I finally got to start reading:
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As I was reading:
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When Raffe finally made his first appearance:
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Last night when I finished the book:
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And then when I realized I have to wait FOREVER for the next book:
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Overall impression:
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Once We Were - Kat Zhang When I read What's Left of Me last year, I thought it was a great addition to the dystopian sub-genre, which was rife with tedium and copy-cat novels.  It was completely unique to the subset and added in a hint of sci-fi that seemed to be missing from other similarly themed novels.  And I still think the sheer humanness of this series sets it apart from all the others.  But for one reason or another, I felt that this sequel lacked the same impact of the previous installment, that je ne sais quoi that compelled me to continue reading.

I realize that not much time has elapsed in this series overall, but I still feel that Eva's a little too naive at this point.  Her sister soul Addy, on the other hand, seems to have matured exponentially.  I empathize with both of their plights, but both souls need to be on the same page if they're ever to accomplish anything.  I do love the bond these girls share, that when push comes to shove, they trust each other above everyone.  I just wish it didn't come to pushing and shoving for them to realize that.

There's really just one major storyline running through this sequel, with an awkward romantic quadrangle thrown in for good measure, but I'll get to that in a minute.  Both of these situations, however, I found utterly predictable, despite the fact that the characters were completely shocked by the turn of events.  The rebellion is all that is discussed in this book, and yet we only really hear from one faction of it, the one willing to risk it all to make a difference.  I'd liked to have seen more of Peter's group and learn what they were doing to subvert Jenson's attempts to cure others like they did Jamie in the first book.

The romance in this series is bound to get squicky...two souls in one body, both vying for the attentions of two completely different entities.  Is it a love triangle...or a quadrangle?  There are four souls involved but only three bodies.  If nothing else, it's messy.  Eva and Addy try to give each other privacy by fading out of existence at times, but they're not quite in control of that faculty yet, and awkward situations are aplenty.

I missed the nuances of the changes between souls that came so naturally in the first book.  I felt that I was being told a lot more instead of being shown who was in control of whose body at any given time.  Maybe it was because the characters have been around each other long enough and grown accustomed to each other that they no longer have to decipher who is who...it's just so obvious.  But this time around, it felt more like the Matrix-y shifting of Mr. Smith than the subtle shifting I observed in What's Left of Me.



This was a solid sequel...it just wasn't what I'd been expecting.  I think the first book was full of heart, whereas this book brought the action, the betrayal, and the heartbreak.  I'll definitely still pick up the next installment, though, especially since I have no idea what to expect from it now.

Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss for the review copy!

This review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.
Monsters  - Ilsa J. Bick Monsters and I got off to a bit of a rocky start.  Having been a year since I read Shadows and a year before that that I'd read Ashes, I'd forgotten quite a bit.  Even with Ilsa's handy dandy refreshers (So You Read ASHES a Year Ago & So You Read SHADOWS a Year Ago), I still felt like there was more about this world than I was remembering.  Re-reading my reviews for each book didn't help either, since I try to refrain from spoilers in my reviews.  I just knew that there were things I'd already figured out in the last book that I couldn't for the life of me remember!

Add to that that this book is 821 pages long, and well, I was having a very difficult time immersing myself in this world once again.  There was plenty of action and danger and still all of that intrigue as to whom to trust and how far to trust them, but it was A LOT to take in after being away from this story for so long.  So, if there's a chance you've forgotten anything about this series, I wholeheartedly suggest a re-read.  I wish I'd had the time to do that myself.  It might not have taken as long for me and the book to hit our stride.

But, gawd, once my head was back in this story, I couldn't put it down.  I'm not going to lie:  there are about a gazillion characters and points of view to keep track of in this series, and it's even worse in this final installment.  So, if a story told from multiple perspectives that shift in the middle of chapters isn't your thing, this may not be the series for you. Fortunately for me, I love multiple POVs.  I love the versatility of the third person omniscient point of view especially.  As the reader, you're the only one who truly knows every aspect of the story and you can tie all of the pieces together before any of the characters.

Unless you're reading this story, that is.  As with the other books in the series, Monsters keeps things unpredictable. Getting one question answered only brings on a slew of other questions.  Nothing is ever what it seems in this story, including the characters and their motivations.

I wish I could say that this "zombie" novel is unlike any other post-apocalyptic novel I've ever read.  Oh, it definitely has its own merits, but considering the sheer volume of zombie/post-apocalyptic fare I've read over the last few years, I feel that they all have one thing in common, one thing at the core of each story that compels me to keep reading them.  And it's not the blood and gore or the creepy factor, though I don't mind that.  No, if you really look at the heart of every post-apocalyptic tale, they're all about the human condition, what we're willing to do to survive and just how much we can withstand before we reach our breaking point. Of all the zombie novels I've read, I think this series showcases that facet best because you get to witness it from so many differing perspectives, and everyone handles a crisis differently.

Of course, even with it's similarities to other zombie books, there is one big difference:  the zombies in this series aren't zombies.  They are regular humans that have Changed.  They didn't die and come back to life as zombies are wont to do.  When the EMP hit in the first book, almost everyone falling in a certain age range just...changed.  They weren't themselves anymore and they suddenly liked the taste of human flesh.  There's some neuroscience-y stuff in there that I don't care to go into, nor do I fully understand, but it affects everything and everyone in this series.

There are the crazies who want to build an army out of the Changed.  There are those who want to hole up in a settlement of their own making and forget the rest of the world exists.  Then there are those who simply want to survive, to make some semblance of a new life for themselves now that the world has gone to pieces.  And then there are the Changed who are something...more.

I loved Alex and Tom and Ellie -- the three original characters from the first book -- but I think Simon/Wolf fascinated me the most.  His story was just coming to light in the last book, but after learning everything in Monsters, I believe he might be the toughest survivor of them all, pre-EMP and after.  And I can't believe his story still isn't finished.  I'm a big supporter of the open-ended conclusion and leaving the reader to determine how things really ended, but I also really need to know if there's more of a resolution to this character's story ARC, especially where Alex is concerned.

Monsters was probably the most intense book of the three, which is saying quite a bit.  It left me breathless and in tears and desperately wanting to know more.  I know 821 pages is daunting, but I encourage you to read this unforgettable story, starting from the beginning with Ashes.  If I remember correctly, that installment is told singularly from Alex's POV and should give you a great feel for the authenticity of the series and how well researched it is.

If you're a fan of zombie or post-apocalyptic novels, I probably don't have to convince you to read this series.  However, if you're one of those opposed to the gore and horror of this type of novel, I implore you to look past all that and give these books a chance.  Look to the heart of the story, instead, and see that it's actually a pretty beautiful (and brilliant) story of human survival.  And, hey, all three books are out now, so you can read them back-to-back and avoid all of those memory issues I ran into.  ;0)  Also, all three of these books were 5-star reads for me, if that helps.  :D


Thanks to EgmontUSA and Edelweiss for providing a copy for review!

This review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.
Antigoddess - Kendare Blake With the influx of mythology retellings in YA in recent years, I was terribly afraid that I'd spend half the time comparing this novel to all of the other recent additions to the genre as other reviewers have complained of doing.  Fret not, my loves, for Kendare Blake makes this story her own, giving it her usual flair for the dramatic and making it wholly awesome in the process.

I'm going to share a little secret with you guys.  I kind of really loved this book.  So much so that whenever I needed to mark a favorite quote or passage in the ARC, I dog-earred the page!  Yeah, I know!  I never do that, but I was thoroughly engaged by this story and couldn't even be bothered enough to get up and get a Post-It note to mark important pages.  So unlike me, but there it is.  Honestly, I think this is probably the best mythology retelling I've read lately, full of Kendare's usual humor and alluding in a much larger capacity to the original stories I've come to love.
"I've come to find out what the fuck's going on," he said.
"Might've been a better question to ask before you attacked me."  Athena turned from the mirror and rested her hip on the counter.  She'd changed into a different t-shirt and sort of wished she hadn't.  She should have worn the blood like a badge.
If you've read The Odyssey -- a personal fave -- or The Illiad or even seen the movie Troy, you'll probably recognize a large chunk of the cast of characters...maybe not at first, but all will be revealed in due time.  I loved the modern versions of the gods and goddesses and even the mortal participants of the Trojan War, even if they weren't really themselves when we met them.  It was interesting to see how the gods had adapted over the years, how they'd managed to keep a low profile while still maintaining some semblance of their past immortal lives.  Some have not fared so well over the last few years, especially with their imminent deaths looming before them.  But that's what this novel is about:  finding the cause of their downfall and stopping it, by whatever means necessary.  Even if it means a war against the rest of the gods.

I've kind of always loved seeing gods trying to destroy one another, in film and in books.  There's just something about all of that power and the ability to cause such destruction.  And despite the fact that the gods in Antigoddess are all in a weakened state, they still manage to cause their share of devastation in our world.  Innocent lives are lost.  Sacrifices are made.  And yet we still are no closer to learning the truth about the gods demise.  I have a theory that it's something like when we were kids and were told that if we didn't believe in faeries, they'd cease to exist.  Hera even alluded to something along those lines:
"He was a stepson, only.  Another bastard put upon me by my husband.  Yet I would've welcomed him, had he not forgotten what you've forgotten.  That he was a god.  That gods are not meant to die."
I'm probably wrong, but I don't think it's all that hard to believe that faith plays that large of a role in existence, at least for otherworldly beings.

Aside from all of the violence and infighting, I also loved that this novel comes with a pre-existent relationship for both of what I'm going to call the main characters.  (This is more like an ensemble cast, but Cassandra and Athena are allotted a little more page time, and though the story is told from a third person limited perspective, it switches between these two characters before their paths officially cross.)  For one, the romance is just beginning, though the sparks have existed forever; and for the other, it's been eons in the making, though it's only been a year in this mortal's life.

Resurrection.  Betrayal.  Love.  Sacrifice.  All the things you previously loved about mythology are in this novel, but they're infused with Kendare's awesome style of writing, her dry wit and humor.  After that ending, I kind of want to throttle the author a bit, but only because I don't have the next installment in my hands, and I need to know what happens!!!  It's not a cliffhanger, not in the usual sense, but it's totally a WTF!?! kind of ending, where something so major has happened and you're just left with your mouth hanging open at the end.  I almost want to taunt the author with, "Oh, c'mon!  Is that the best you can do?" but I'm afraid of what she'll bring to the table next.  I've read the Anna books, so I know she's not afraid to mess with my head or my heart, and so I'll leave her be...for now.  But she is seriously trying my patience.  =)

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Other posts relating to Antigoddess:  Katie's interpretation, teaser

Actual Rating:  photo 4-1.png 1/2

Thanks to Tor Teen for the review copy!

This review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - Holly Black
"If she was going to die, she might as well die sarcastic.  She'd seen a lot of old movies, and that was definitely the way to go out."
Every time I think I'm done with vampire books, my favorite authors pull me back in with their own twist on this paranormal creature.  Unlike The Immortal Rules, which I've seen this book compared to on occasion, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown occurs in a more present-day setting, not years from now when the vampire epidemic has already reduced the human population to nothing.  There are five major Coldtowns set up across the US, where vampires and those who have gone cold -- who've been infected by a vampire's bite -- are sent to spend the rest of their days in order to keep the rest of human civilization safe.  Humans must also take extra precaution after nightfall because all of the usual vampire stigmas are present in this novel: sunlight is a no-no, holy water and stakes will kill them, and, of course, they vant to suck your blooooood.

Anyway, I received a review copy from the publisher, but after enjoying the Curse Workers series on audio so much, I decided to download the audiobook for The Coldest Girl in Coldtown.  A search on Audible showed me that I've never listened to Christine Lakin narrate a novel because this is the only one listed under her name, but I would definitely give future audiobooks narrated by her a chance.  She presented Tana in such a matter-of-fact way, much the way I envisioned her:  direct and to the point.

Tana's situation is very different.  She's been bitten before and survived.  So when an attack at a sundown party -- which sounds like a terrible idea to me, when vampires are running rampant -- results in a small bite on her leg, she has faith that she can fight the infection again.  I rather love the self-deprecating character, the one who's humble and never gives up no matter how the odds are stacked against them. Much like Cassel Sharpe in the Curse Workers series taking on ruthless mobsters, Tana ends up taking on some of the most powerful vampires she could ever cross paths with.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is Tana's journey to the Coldtown in Springfield.  She hopes to wait out the infection there, along with her ex-boyfriend Aidan who has gone cold after the attack at the same party where Tana was infected.  Along the way, they meet a vampire and an amateur blogger/filmmaker brother and sister duo, all headed in the same direction.  It was the vampire Gavriel that captivated me the most. Give this girl a hottie with a Russian accent, especially one who seems to be channeling Dimka, and you have a fan for life.  (Not that I wasn't already a super fan of Black's other work.)

I loved the background we get on each of the characters as the story progresses, though I did wish this information would have been provided as dialogue between characters rather than flashbacks.  Whenever one of these flashbacks would occur, the transition between character perspectives was hard to decipher on the audio without some sort of heading preceding them.  Though, that's not to say that these flashbacks didn't provide valuable insight into the characters and their motivations.  I could have done without Pearl as a character on the whole, but her presence was necessary in order for that ending to play out the way it did. And so I can also see why it was necessary to include her present-day perspective at times, despite how boring it might have been.  I just didn't much care for what was going on outside of Coldtown at the time.

I was pleasantly surprised by that ending.  It wasn't perfect, but it was fitting for these particular characters.  I really hope this remains a stand-alone.  I'm left with a sense of satisfaction that I read another vampire book that might just revitalize this overdone creature and make me love vampires again.  Maybe.  For now, I like that this book showed both sides of vampires:  sexy and glamorous but also dangerous and sadistic.  In other words, fun to read about, but I hope I never truly cross paths with one.


Thanks to Little, Brown BFYR & Netgalley for providing a review copy.

This review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.
The Sky is Everywhere - Jandy Nelson
“That's a misconception, Lennie. The sky is everywhere, it begins at your feet.”
I know, I'm late to the party.  I kind of remember everyone making a big deal out of this book, but it sounded kind of tragic and not really my thing.  (If you'll remember, I haven't always been the biggest fan of contemporary novels.)  But my interest was renewed in this title when I saw several posts about a read along circulating the interwebz recently.  Unfortunately, I don't have the time or the energy to devote to a read along these days, but I still wanted to read this book...and soon after reading that synopsis again.  So, I did what I normally do in this case, and I located the audiobook on Audible.  (That addiction is costing me some serious bank...I really need to go to the next town over and get set up on their system for borrowing audio, but every time I've tried, they've been closed. Grrr.)

I have loved every audiobook I've listened to that Julia Whelan has narrated.  A couple of them have even included a little spoken French, which she speaks with ease and eloquence.  Add to this the fact that the love interest grew up in France and speaks French fluently, and this audiobook becomes très magnifique.  Julia Whelan is such an expressive narrator, and she sounds the part in every title I've listened to, which makes it easy to see why she keeps cropping up on YA/NA titles.  With some narrators, it's hard not to hear them as the character they performed in a previous work, but with Whelan, I'm immediately transported into this new piece of fiction, and I don't remember that she has ever portrayed another character until the story is over. She is truly a superb narrator, and if you haven't experienced an audiobook performed by her before, I definitely recommend it.

The story presented in The Sky is Everywhere is just as poignant as the audiobook's presentation of it.  It's beautiful and sad and full of raw emotion.  BUT, it's also funny and sweet and terribly romantic.  In other words, you will run the full gamut of emotions with this novel, and at the end, you're going to feel like you've been running the whole time.  This is one of those books where halfway through, I was banging my head against the wall, wondering why I'd waited so long to pick it up.  It's so unbelievably good and real and just what I was in the mood for.

I thought this was going to be a grief book initially, based on that summary, full of sadness and coping and surviving.  But this is so not that book.  It's about a sister's grief, yes, but it's funny and poetic and clever and just so REAL.  There are moments of pure heartfelt sadness, when Lennie is trying to come to terms with her sister's absence.  And there is coping, sometimes in very unproductive ways.  Let's just say that the summary's allusion to a love triangle rings false, though the kissing of more than one boy is involved in the grief process.
“All her knowledge is gone now. Everything she ever learned, or heard, or saw. Her particular way of looking at Hamlet or daisies or thinking about love, all her private intricate thoughts, her inconsequential secret musings – they’re gone too. I heard this expression once: Each time someone dies, a library burns. I’m watching it burn right to the ground.”
But Lennie does other things that help her overcome the loss of her sister:  she writes poetry on scraps of paper and leaves it for others to find (this actually ends up being her saving grace), she plays the clarinet and decides to pursue her dreams of attending Julliard, and she falls in love for the first time.  So, you see, this book is not entirely about grief, but rather how you handle it and how you handle the guilt that comes from moving on with your life after such a tragic loss.  It's about not letting that loss -- and the resulting grief -- define you.

Basically, I loved every facet of this novel.  The main characters were so genuine: in their grief, in their love, and in their actions. The secondary cast of characters was just as phenomenal.  The writing was gorgeous and heartrending, infused with those snippets of poetry and conversations on scraps of receipts and candy wrappers. And the narration was perfection.  This novel is definitely going on my favorites shelf, and you can rest assured that I'll be picking up a hard copy for my shelf so that I can highlight and flag all of my favorite passages (read: all of them) and read them over and over again.
“Life's a freaking mess. In fact, I'm going to tell Sarah we need to start a new philosophical movement: messessentialism instead of existentialism: For those who revel in the essential mess that is life. Because Gram's right, there's not one truth ever, just a bunch of stories, all going on at once, in our heads, in our hearts, all getting in the way of each other. It's all a beautiful calamitous mess. It's like the day Mr. James took us into the woods and cried triumphantly, "That's it! That's it!" to the dizzying cacophony of soloing instruments trying to make music together. That is it.”

This review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.
The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend - Kody Keplinger -- Mini Review of Audiobook --

So, if you agree that Shut Out wasn't as steamy as you were hoping for -- or as you'd been led to believe -- then you'll definitely like The DUFF.  I knew from the second Wesley Rush hit the
Shut Out - Kody Keplinger -- Mini Review of Audiobook --

I didn't give this book a chance earlier because of that cover.  Had I read the synopsis before making that judgment, I might have known that it was not simply a sports book -- as in, the main focus is not prim
Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell I think Lauren said everything I wanted to say in her letter to the author, but I'm going to reiterate why I think this book was so awesomely adorable and why you should totally read it.

Fangirl is a novel with heart.  It's so clever and humorous and brilliantly written.  This book is easy to relate to, even if you weren't the shy, nerdy fangirl that Cath was.  Going off to college is a daunting experience, and I think Rainbow Rowell captured the nuances of that experience marvelously:  the separation anxiety, the homesickness, the trials of living with a complete stranger.
“It’s just … everything. There are too many people. And I don’t fit in. I don’t know how to be. Nothing that I’m good at is the sort of thing that matters there. Being smart doesn’t matter—and being good with words. And when those things do matter, it’s only because people want something from me. Not because they want me.”
And the portrait she painted of Cath!  That girl had some serious issues to work through, but being a fellow introvert, I could really relate and empathize with this character.  Her mother abandoned her family when she was just a young girl, and now her twin sister is essentially doing the same, just when Cath needs her most. It's almost too much for Cath to bear, but she soldiers on, makes friends with her roommate, develops a crush or two, AND she manages to come out of her shell a bit...after some hiccups and bumps along the road.
“No,' Cath said, 'seriously. Look at you. You’ve got your shit together, you’re not scared of anything. I’m scared of everything. And I’m crazy. Like maybe you think I’m a little crazy, but I only ever let people see the tip of my crazy iceberg. Underneath this veneer of slightly crazy and socially inept, I’m a complete disaster.”
I loved the importance of family in this novel.  Just because you move away from home to start your own life, doesn't mean your family is less important or that they're not still there when you need them.  So many young and new adult novels completely gloss over this aspect, but for someone whose family has always meant the world to them, I really appreciated the inclusion of family drama in this story.  And I appreciated the fact that the issues didn't simply resolve themselves, that the author took the time to delve into these matters and portray them realistically.

The romance in this book is sooooo freaking cute and sweet and adorable.  It almost makes your teeth hurt! I loved the guy when he was initially just a friend, but I loved him even more as their relationship became something more.  I loved their adorable flirting and how patient he is with her, knowing this is all so new to Cath.  I just love him!  And that he loves her fan fiction....gawd, there's nothing sexier to me than a guy who takes an interest in your interests.
“You look so blindingly cute right now, I feel like I need to make a pinhole in a piece of paper just to look at you.”
What I liked best about this novel, though, was that even though Cath grew as a person, grew into herself, she didn't become someone else entirely.  At the end of the book, she is still just Cath, nerdy fangirl extraordinaire.  I loved these characters, I loved their relationships...I just loved this story!  I've never read or ever considered writing my own fan faction, but after some of the questions left lingering at the end of this book -- Do they make it work?  Does she kill off Baz? -- I might just have to.  =)


Thanks to Macmillan/St. Martin's Press & Netgalley for providing a copy for review!

This review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.
The Bone Season - Samantha Shannon I'm usually vary wary of hugely hyped novels.  I've been eagerly anticipating The Bone Season since I first discovered its existence, though, so I tried to avoid the hype as much as possible.  I didn't watch the trailer. I only read the reviews of a couple of my most trusted reviewer friends...those that I knew wouldn't spoil anything or lead me astray. And I avoided all mentions of this book on Goodreads, especially comparisons to other authors and mentions of book and/or movie deals. But I haven't been living under a rock, so I know that this book has been garnering some serious attention, no matter how blind I wanted to be going into it. I hope that by sequestering myself from nearly all references to this book, I can provide an unbiased opinion.

I actually listened to the audio for The Bone Season, and I enjoyed it immensely, probably more than I would have just reading it myself.  The first half of the story does tend toward the tedious, but Alana Kerr's emphatic narration kept it from feeling so monotonous.  Accents always make for pleasant listening in my experience, but Kerr's slight Irish/English accent really did make her sound like the Irish girl living in London that she was portraying.  This audio never lacked of emotion, but it was full of characters with voices to match their personalities.  I'm definitely a fan of Kerr's narration of this book, and I'm hopeful she'll narrate future books in this series.

As I said, The Bone Season gets off to a bit of a slow start, but it's due in part to an intense amount of world-building, and while some may bristle at that, I found it intriguing.  There's a secret society of voyants, a hidden city, and a world on another plane of existence that all have to be fleshed out, and while the details of these are indeed plentiful, they are entirely necessary in order to truly paint the picture.  It's such a dark, sad world, and I felt every bit of it as I listened to the story.

Paige is a nineteen-year-old girl, hiding what she is from everyone but those who employ her talents.  She longs for a normal life, but she knows that the path to safety is the one she's currently on.  Or, that at least it's the safest path of those available to her.  Until it isn't anymore.  And then she's thrust even further into the world of voyants and even crazier, ruthless angels who want to harness the powers of the voyants for their own purposes.

I wasn't particularly crazy about Paige's character or her situation in the beginning, but she's one of those protagonists that grows on you the more you discover of their story.  One thing that bothered me the most about her character though was her seemingly closed-mindedness, how difficult it was for her to accept that things could be anything but black and white, especially when it came to Warden.  And I think a large part of that is owed to her employer, as she proved she could think for herself there at the end.

Warden was a pleasant surprise.  Paige's relationship with her angel master is complicated at best.  Because although he assumes ownership of her in the beginning, he practically gives her free reign, as long as she causes him no trouble.  He teaches her, helps her master her gift, and seemingly, he asks for nothing in return. I wouldn't quite say Warden was enigmatic, for I saw through his guise from the beginning, but he remained such to Paige for most of the novel.  I did feel that the romantic relationship developed rather suddenly between them, though.  Not that I didn't see it coming, but essentially, Paige sees him as the enemy almost right up until the point he kisses her.  Most girls wouldn't kiss the guy they're trying to escape from unless it was a ploy to further their escape attempts.  But Paige was a complex character, and I think maybe she shut off those feelings, that possibility very early on.

Even so, I'm very interested to see what future books hold for Warden and Paige and the rest of the Seven Seals, especially after that explosive ending.  Samantha Shannon may or may not be the next whoever, but she is definitely a masterful storyteller.  The Bone Season was engaging and thought-provoking, and I'll definitely be picking up a finished copy for my shelves.

Rating:   photo 4-1.png 1/2

This review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.
The King's Guard (Fire and Thorns, #0.7) - Rae Carson HECTOR!!!!!!  Hectorhectorhectorhectorhector!!!!!  Okay, I'm done.

Admittedly, I was hesitant to read this novel because I knew the Elisa/Hector swoons would be non-existent since this is Hector's POV prior to Elisa's reign in Joya d'Arena.  But then all I had to remember was how I love Hector and that he's quite possibly one of my favorite love interests ever, and I was convinced this novella needed to be read, despite the fact that I've already finished reading the full-length novels in the series.

And I'm really glad I did.  Not only do you get a peak at Hector as a young man, vying for his spot as a member of the Royal Guard, but you get to see Alejandro with his first wife, Rosaura.  Oh, and how Hector is instrumental in Rosario's birth.  It's quite priceless.  I never would have guessed...

Also, Fernando.  I had to double-check the name, but as soon as he was described as a superior archer, I knew it had to be that Fernando.  Not that he was given much mention in the books, but the fact that I remember him is significant.  But I do have a fondness for archery.  =)

I've loved all of the novellas in this series, but I think this is my favorite because even though we know Hector as the honorable man he is now, it was nice to see that he was the same at the tender age of 15.

**You don't have to read any of the prequel novellas, but you totally should.**


This review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.
The Burning Sky (The Elemental Trilogy) - Sherry Thomas

Man, that cover is awesome.  The original cover for this book was pretty great, too, because it highlighted the duality of the storyline, but I'm equally as happy with this cover.  That said, the description of the book from the trailer (below) captured my interest in this book much better than the summary from Goodreads (above). I'm all for some magic, but when it's a girl wielding magic while pretending to be a boy in a pretentious all boys school in historic London while also hiding from those who would do her harm in her own world, well, I'm going to be all over that.

I'm a fantasy fanatic.  I'm always looking for the next fantastic world I can escape to, one full of magic and mischief and mayhem.  And there was plenty in equal measures in The Burning Sky.  It took me a bit to become fully engaged in this story, but once the pacing picked up, there was plenty to keep me interested. This book was kind of the anti-Harry Potter:  a girl is taken from her magical world and brought to ours, where magic doesn't exist, to attend school while hiding from the Bane and his cohorts.  I'm not attempting to make a true comparison, just laying it out there so you get the gist of the story.  (And I'm not telling you anything that's not shown in the book trailer.)

A lot of my friends who shy away from fantasy tend to do so because the world and it's rules can become quite confusing. I don't think The Burning Sky is supposed to be a confusing book, but there were times that I found myself questioning the laws of the magic of The Realm or the Seer's predictions regarding Titus and Iolanthe.  I often overlook things in fantasy novels, assuring myself that it'll all make sense later.  But with this novel, I needed instant gratification, and so when I was confused about which Crucible was being used and which rules related to it because of the location and who it had previously belonged to, I inevitably started flipping back and forth in the book.  I needed everything in this novel to make sense in the here and now, not chapters later when everything had worked itself out already.  And upon further inspection, it did make sense...it was just easy to get ahead of myself while reading and lose track of some of the details.  Some of the paradoxes involving predicting the future still don't make sense, but I think that's just one of those things that I might never fully comprehend.

Iolanthe and Titus' first meeting is the result of a prediction.  I wasn't immediately enamored with either character, their initial mistrust of each other and overall demeanor leaving much to be desired, but as the story wore on, and more of each character's story was divulged, I found myself rooting for them, separately and as partners.  The romance didn't wow me, but it was sweet.  My favorite aspect, though, was probably one of the super villain's underlings.  The Inquisitor was ferocious in her search for the powerful mage who had wielded lightning.  Her ability to seek out the truth in one's mind knows no bounds, and the Inquisitor makes for a truly terrifying enemy.  Her existence and her power make me even more curious about the Bane and his rumored malevolence.

I think The Burning Sky only touched on some characters that could definitely use further examination as the series continues.  And I'd like a little more background and explanation as to how the magic works and exists in both worlds.  As you can see, I definitely want more, and I'll absolutely be picking up the next installment.  I'm hoping that, where this book seemed to focus more on world-building, the next will focus more on characterization.  I'm excited to get to know these characters better!


Thanks to HarperCollins for the ARC for review!

This review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.
The Dream Thieves - Maggie Stiefvater I am steadfastly unapologetic of my Maggie love.  No matter if she's writing about homicidal faeries, boys trapped in wolves bodies, killer water horses, or a group of kids searching for a Welsh king, her writing never fails to be evocative, lyrical, and whimsical.  I've read every novel she's written to-date, and I'll be honest, I'm having a difficult time deciding my favorite now that I've read The Dream Thieves. Before this book, I would still have been able to say that The Scorpio Races would forever remain my favorite Maggie book, even despite how much I enjoyed The Raven Boys last year.  I mean, even the author herself has proclaimed this her new favorite.  Is it any wonder I'm waffling?

Prior to picking up this book myself, I'd seen others call this "Ronan's book".  And it kind of is.  Didn't he deserve his own side of the story after that rather shocking revelation at the end of The Raven Boys?  And that's only the beginning.  You have no idea what this guy is capable of...and neither does he!  Ronan is a complicated guy. You empathize for his loss and his lack of familial support, but you also wonder how Gansey can stand to be friends with a guy who is so clearly his polar opposite.  But that's the beauty of the relationship between the Raven Boys...and Blue; can't forget her.  They all come from such different backgrounds and have such contrasting aspirations in life and yet they all come together in search of Glendower.  I digress, but I just can't get over that group dynamic...it's almost as interesting as the one between the women of Blue's family.

Anyway, back to Ronan.  He is special.  All the characters in this series are special, but Ronan has a gift, an unbelievable, awesome, dangerous gift.  And for much of The Dream Thieves, he's practicing mastering said gift.  I found his talent interesting, but it wasn't until Kavinsky abruptly arrived on the scene that it truly caught my attention.  Kavinsky, with his white framed sunglasses and his souped-up Mitsubishi, is the character you loathe to like; he's equal turns cocky and disgusting and dangerous, manipulative and calculating, and he wants to team up with Ronan.  What a terrible and terrifying alliance that would be!  (The following video is totally relevant...watch it.)

So much happens in this book as the quest for Glendower continues, though the group is really no closer to finding their Welsh king than they were before.  That said, I felt like some of the magic had gone out of the story...literally.  The lines that separated reality from the surreal in the first book are no longer blurred, except when Ronan dreams, and I love how the magic disappearing in one area correlates with the magic appearing so brazenly in another.  This right here is some fascinating story-telling.

Despite the fact that this is a Ronan-centric book, there's still a little of everyone's story built into it.  Adam is angry and a bit self-destructive.  Blue is sad and lonely.  Gansey is still driven, determined, and dapper. Noah is still dead, and because of circumstances created by the ending in the previous book, he's noticeably absent from a good chunk of this one.  But, oh, when he's there, he is even more adorable than I remember...and sweet and charming and just.... *sigh*  Oh, and Maura gets herself a hitman love interest. And I really liked his character's inclusion in the story.  There has always been heavy emphasis on morality (and mortality!) in this story, and Mr. Gray/the Gray Man toes the line superbly.
"Like, if you kiss your true love, he'll die," he said, "or is it when you kiss your true love, he'll die?"
"I don't get what the difference is."
He rubbed the side of his face on the pillow.  "Mmmmsoft," he remarked, then added, "One's your fault. The other one, you just happen to be there when it happens.  Like, when you kiss him, POW, he gets hit by a bear.  Totally not your fault.  You shouldn't feel bad about that.  It's not your bear."
"I think it's if.  They all say if."
"Bummer.  So you're never going to kiss anyone?"
"Looks that way."
There may be a kissing curse on Blue, but there is plenty of kissing to be had in this book.  Maybe not in the way you might expect...I did tell you Maura landed herself a hitman, right?  ;0)  But that near kiss....it almost undid me.  It took my breath away more than an actual kiss might have...the potential for disaster there is astounding, and yet I want it to happen so badly.



Oh, that ending!  Why does Maggie insist on tormenting us so?!?  Things were going so well, er, well, as good as they're going to get for these characters any time in the near future.  But man, does Maggie like leaving us on the edge of a precipice!  It's going to be torture waiting another year for the next book, but it will definitely be worth the wait.

**I did miss Will Patton's narration, though.  He provided all the voices in The Raven Boys audiobook and is doing the same for the audio for The Dream Thieves.  Even so, I still heard his raspy voice for Ronan and the slight Southern drawl for Adam, etc., in my head while I was reading this one.  That's the sign of a truly good narrator, if you ask me:  when you can't imagine the voices any other way.  If you haven't checked out the audio, I highly recommend it.

Favorite Quotes/Passages:

"So what you're saying is you can't explain it."
"I did explain it."
"No, you used nouns and verbs together in a pleasing but illogical format."

He didn't say, Or maybe something terrible happened to Adam that day he sacrificed himself in Cabeswater.  Maybe he's messed up all of Henrietta by waking up the ley line.  Because they couldn't talk about that.  Just like they couldn't talk about Adam stealing the Camaro that night. Or about him basically doing everything Gansey had asked him not to.  If Adam was stupid about his pride, Gansey was stupid about Adam.

If he were a god, he thought, this would be precisely how he'd create his new world.  Unrolling it like a carpet.

Adam's response was buried in the sound of the second-story door falling open.  Noah slouched in.  In a wounded tone, he said, "He threw me out the window!"
Ronan's voice sang out from behind his closed door.  "You're already dead!"

"I'm very nearly drunk enough to be transcendent," Calla said after a space.  She was not the only psychic drinking, but she was the closest one to transcendence.

Gansey ran over the memory until he no longer felt the thrill of hearing Glendower's name whispered in his ear, and then instead gave himself over to feeling sorry for himself, that he should have so many friends and yet feel so very alone.  He felt it fell to him to comfort them, but never the other way around.

As it should be, he thought, abruptly angry with himself.  You've had it the easiest.  What good is all your privilege, you soft, spoiled thing, if you can't stand on your own legs?

"Are you ready?" Ronan asked.
"What is it I'm preparing myself for?"
Behind the door, something scratched on the floorboard.
Tck-tck-tck.  Like a mallet dragged across a washboard.  Something in Gansey's heart thrilled with fear.
Ronan said, "What's in my head."
Gansey didn't think there was a way to steel oneself for that.  But he helped Ronan push the bookshelf out of the way.<

Gansey threw open his door.  Gripping the roof of the car, he slid himself out.  Even that gesture, Ronan noted, was wild Gansey, Gansey-on-fire.  Like he pulled himself from the car because ordinary climbing out was too slow.
This was going to be a night.

"You're being creepy," Blue said.  "Maybe you mean to be, but in case you're being accidentally creepy, I thought I'd let you know."


Thanks to Scholastic for providing a copy for review!

This review can also be found at
The Starry-Eyed Revue.
Raised by Wolves - Jennifer Lynn Barnes I won a copy of this book from Rachel Vincent a couple of years ago during the YA Crush Tourney (go #TeamTod!), but even before that, I'd heard friends singing this book's praises.  I've only read one other novel -- Every Other Day --  from Jennifer Lynn Barnes, but I've got Nobody on my shelf as well, thanks to another giveaway and I have The Naturals for review, courtesy of Netgalley and Disney Hyperion.  (I apparently have really good luck with procuring this author's books for free. :D)  And I thought that before I dived into Barnes' newer works, I should get another taste of her earlier novels.

So, hype aside, I thought this book showed signs of some of the same things I enjoyed in Every Other Day: a take-charge protagonist, strong writing, and a complicated back story that the main character is only just beginning to understand.  There was also political turmoil between packs, a series of rabid werewolf attacks, and one of the most serious cases of insta-love I've ever witnessed.  Almost as bad as Jacob imprinting on Renesmee.

The book wasn't as terrible as all that, though.  Where other human girls might have simply obeyed and done what was expected of them, especially when tethered to the Alpha of a wolf pack, Bryn questions everything and learns the hard way that even those closest to you might not be who you thought they were.  But Bryn's not alone.  She has some seriously awesome sidekicks.  And her adoptive mother proves to be one hell of a lady.  I really loved the group dynamic there.

I think what I like most about werewolf/shifter stories is trying to comprehend that whole pack-mentality thing. Remember that scene in BD1 where all the wolves are communicating telepathically and Jacob is supposed to submit to Sam as the Alpha but decides to go off on his own?  Yeah, something similar happens in this book, and it's kind of just as hokey sounding in this story as it appeared on screen in BD1.  But it shapes the whole story, so I'll let the eccentricity of that whole act slide.



I've never heard Eileen Stevens narrate before, but I daresay she sounded the part of stressed out and pissed off Bryn.  However, it did bother me a bit that every male she portrayed, whether in wolf form or not, was pretty much growling.  So, even when one was telepathically conversing with Bryn -- yes, because of the pack bond given to her at the tender age of four, she had this ability -- he was growling at her.  And when they were speaking to her wolfman to human girl, they were growling.  I don't know...it's a werewolf book, sure, but it just seemed a bit unnecessary, maybe even overkill at times.

Of all the werewolf novels I've read, this one is definitely not the leader of the pack, but it was definitely entertaining.  It was good, but considering the sheer size of my TBR, I'm not sure if I'll be continuing the series anytime soon.  I will be picking up those other books I have from this author, though, and hopefully I'll find something more redeeming and less convenient for such shoddy comparisons as I made in this review.

Actual Rating:  photo 3-1.png 1/2

This review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.