Review: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

[book-info]

Let’s talk about that boy…

All praise Brandon Sanderson for giving us one of the best male narrators in YA fiction. David is a breath of fresh air in a sea of Katniss and Tris wannabes. Maybe it’s just that I’ve become tired of the dystopian girl who has to meet a cute boy to help her cope with her depressing world, but it was nice to have a main character who took it upon himself to try and make his world better.

In the prologue, we meet David as a young boy, who goes through a harrowing experience while at the bank with his father. Two of the Epics – humans with superpowers that developed after an event called Calamity – get into a brawl with disastrous consequences. David spends the next ten years studying Epics in search of a way to defeat them, taking notes and forming theories. 

So about those Reckoners…

David is not the only one who wants to take down the Epics. Imagine if people started developing limitless powers, and couldn’t handle the God complex that followed from that? This is David’s world, where Epics rule with iron fists while the rest of the country falls into chaos and poverty.

The Reckoners are a guerrilla group that work to secretly eliminate Epics. They have no real presence – they don’t publicize their efforts, and they haven’t been able to take down any of the really powerful Epics that would draw much attention. David wants to join up with them to share his research and bring down the Epic that took everything from him. 

The mystery of Steelheart…

The problem is that although David knows that Steelheart can be hurt, he doesn’t know how. In the bank, as a boy, he witnessed one bullet that managed to make Steelheart bleed. When David joins the Reckoners they set out to try and figure out what was special about that bullet, that gun, or that moment that made him vulnerable.

And one of my favorite aspects of the book was that I could never quite figure it out. Most of the main characters have a different theory about Steelheart’s weakness, and they all feel convincing. The deeper they get in their plot to try and overthrow him, the higher the stakes become for getting the answer right. If they can’t find the answer before the showdown they are setting up, they’ll all be killed. This is a win or die scenario, and it was completely gripping to read.

If you want action…

…then this is the book for you. If they don’t make this into a movie, then the world is majorly missing out. The action scenes are crazy intense – chase sequences, guns, and explosions galore. The Reckoners have to meet with seedy black market weapons traders and sneak into heavily guarded buildings. Their headquarters are in a forgotten layer of underground tunnels, and the final showdown happens in one of the most iconic buildings in Chicago (or Newcago, as it’s known in David’s world).

It was the breakneck pace of the action that kept me turning the pages as fast as possible. I tore through this book and found it unbelievably hard to put down. Unfortunately, the pacing didn’t leave much room for explanation of the world. I felt there were a lot of pieces of information that we didn’t get which would have been helpful to understand how Newcago operates or how the world got to this point. No one seems to understand Calamity or how it led to the Epics, and even though it has only been ten years, I expected just a bit more information.

I’m hoping that information comes in with the next book in this exciting and promising new series. I adored David and can’t wait to see what’s in store for him and the rest of the Reckoners. 

Rating: 4/5 stars

[rating stars=”four-stars”]

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Review: Reached by Ally Condie

Book: Reached
Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton Books
Release date: November 13, 2012
Source: Purchased ebook from Amazon
Series: Matched #3
 
Summary from Goodreads: All will be sorted

Cassia’s journey began with an error, a momentary glitch in the otherwise perfect facade of the Society. After crossing canyons to break free, she waits, silk and paper smuggled against her skin, ready for the final chapter.

The wait is over.

One young woman has raged against those who threaten to keep away what matters most – family, love, choice. Her quite revolution is about to explode into full-scale rebellion.

With exquisite prose, the emotionally gripping conclusion to the international bestselling Match trilogy returns Cassia, Ky, and Xander to the Society to save the one thing they have been denied for so long, the power to choose.

I absolutely adored the first book in this trilogy, Matched, and though I didn’t love the second book, Crossed, I figured it was all leading up to an exquisite showdown. When my preorder arrived on my Kindle, I was stoked. Over the Christmas break, I dove in.

What a disappointment.

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that this series just wasn’t what I wanted it to be. The plot of the first book that I loved so much – the government-controlled marriages/matches and what happens when that system breaks down – didn’t really carry through the trilogy. Instead of being a part of her existing community and fighting it from within, Cassia is exiled to the outer reaches of their territory. Though there is a return to the larger cities in this book, for the most part it is functioning entirely differently. She is no longer fighting the government, but a rebellion that may not be what it seems.

Though this sounds intriguing, I found it tough to get through. This just wasn’t the story I wanted to hear for these characters, and as a result I was disengaged from the political struggles going on. I’m still not sure I even understand who The Rising or the Pilot were or what they really wanted. The book focused too heavily on Xander’s work on the virus/vaccine, and Cassia and Ky seemed mostly like afterthoughts. 

The action was fairly exciting in this one, and a lot more happens than in book two. There is a mystery at play and a race against the clock to find a cure for the plague unleashed upon the citizens. If I had been able to better draw the line between the events of the first book and these last two, I probably would have enjoyed them. Sadly, I failed to see how all three of these books went together – they felt like they were telling two different stories to me.

I fell in love with Cassia and Ky and their love in the first book, but the last two books in this trilogy really took that away from me. I’ll happily re-read Matched, but these last two just didn’t work for me.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Discussion: The Selection by Kiera Cass

Book: The Selection
Author: Kiera Cass
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: April 24, 2012
Source: Borrowed ebook from library
 
Summary from Goodreads: For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.

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

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

I’m trying something different today. Instead of straight-up reviewing this book, I want to open it up for discussion. I’d like to try focusing less on dissecting a book and more on analyzing my experience of reading it. Please join me in the comments!

**As this is a discussion, please be aware that there will be some slight spoilers!**

Let me start by saying this – I liked this book. But I recognize that this book has a capital-H-History, particularly on Goodreads. I was not expecting to like this one because of some of the reviews I read by people who I find to be trustworthy.

Yet. It’s YA! It’s dystopian! It has a Bachelor-like competition! What could there possibly be not to like? So when I saw it available through the library, I figured I’d go for it.

And I liked it. Really liked it, in fact. The writing was breezy, the characters were interesting, the competition was heating up…so I started to wonder what the big deal was with this book. I texted my sister, who also loves a good YA dystopian, and asked if she could read it if I bought her a copy. She could, and she did. Hooray for discussion! We texted about it for a while (much like we had with Divergent), and I started to realize that though I recognized many of the book’s flaws, I still liked the book. Thus the need for a discussion post.

The love story

Putting aside the bad names, I found America and Maxon to have good chemistry. A good love interest will carry me pretty far through a series (Twilight, I’m looking at you, kid), and I found the scenes with America and Prince Maxon to be delightful and full of the intense awkwardness of teen love. It’s that kind of realism that I connect with as an avid YA reader, and it took me back to thoughts of my own first kisses and first dates.

My sister didn’t find the America and Maxon love story believable, however. It irritated her that America could act like the horrible wench that undoubtedly makes it on The Bachelor every year, and yet we (and Maxon) were expected to not want her to get kicked off. She treats Maxon like dirt, is still in love with Aspen back home, and is staying in the competition for the food and money. She’s in it for all the wrong reasons, but Maxon agrees to keep her around. In my sister’s view, this makes America unlikeable and Maxon a fool.

I, however, appreciated that America was up front with Maxon. On The Bachelor, we only ever despise the girls keeping secrets about former boyfriends or illicit affairs with producers or who are in it for the wrong reasons but keep playing the game. America’s not hiding anything – she admits she has feelings for an old boyfriend at home, and that she needs to stay to help out her starving family. That Maxon lets her stay, while also hoping to win her heart anyway, is a nice gesture. America is more real with him than any of the other contestants, so why not let her stay? In my view, Maxon was simply grasping at anything that had substance over superficiality. Does that really make him a fool?

Root, root, root for the…

My two major complaints with the book were that A) the world history didn’t make a lot of sense and was thrown in without much context; and B) that there was no conclusion to the story. I would have liked more information on the growing conflict outside the palace walls (and sometimes within the palace walls). What do the rebels want? Who do we, as readers, want to win? I needed a cause to root for, other than just hoping that the poorer castes get a better life. I also really, really wanted to see the competition through to the end. I felt the ending of this book did not have a natural or satisfying conclusion.

So yes, there were some problems, but I still found America and her situation to be a cool way to explore young love. It’s fun to watch these strangers try to navigate their forced camaraderie, and discover that they both care about their country and doing what’s right. I want to see what happens next, and how America deals with her feelings for Aspen and her growing feelings for Maxon.

Have you read this book? Did you find the love story believable? If you haven’t read it, do you plan to? Let’s talk!

Rating: 3/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Book: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release date: May 3, 2011
Source: Bought from local bookstore
Series: Divergent #1

 

Summary from Goodreads:

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtueâ??Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really isâ??she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. 

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really areâ??and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she lovesâ?¦ or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent seriesâ??dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

First impressions: I picked this one up, read through the first few chapters, and then put it down for months. I did not find the beginning of this book that compelling.

Lasting impressions: However, once I got into the story, I had a hard time putting it down. The plot moves swiftly and it’s easy to get swept away in this one.

Conflicting impressions: I spent too much time wondering A) why more people weren’t Divergent; and B) what was so bad about being Divergent. 

Overall impressions:  A well developed world is the key to success where dystopians are concerned. As a reader, I need to know  the rules of the current society and why they were created. Why are there factions? How do they function to protect the people? How important is their existence to the ruling powers? What is at stake if they fail? How does Divergence factor into this all? Roth does a fair job at trying to answer these, and some were more satisfactory answers than others. 

Beatrice (Tris) is a pleasant enough protagonist. I appreciated that she wasn’t the best at everything. In several scenes we actually see her overpowered and humiliated by her fellow faction-mates. She’s not helpless, though, and she certainly proves her value as time goes on. Four, the love interest, is somewhat bland, but I found the supporting characters to be interesting and vivid. While Tris is completing her faction’s initiation, there is a Hunger Games-like feel to things, where this group of young people is going through hell together, but also competing against one another. It makes for a great dynamic.

As much as I liked the initiation process, it took up too much of the plot for me, to the detriment of the development of the larger conflict. Only after initiation is nearly complete do we start to understand the bigger issues at play in this world, and the climax of the book seemed cramped into too few pages as a result. I wish we had gotten more insights into the inter-faction rumblings beyond some seemingly benign animosity between Erudite and Abnegation. Perhaps it’s my own interest in politics that had me craving more of this, but I think it would have been helpful to know.

I can see why this series has inspired so many rabid fans. It’s heavy on action with an exciting setting, and there’s a nice romance that I can appreciate (even if it wasn’t my favorite). For me, however, this one failed to live up to the hype.

Rating: 3/5 stars 


Click the stars for a description of my rating system

 

 

Review: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Book: Pandemonium
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: February 28, 2012
Series: Delirium #2

Summary from Goodreads: Iâ??m pushing aside the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school,
push,
push,
push,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Lauren Oliver delivers an electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Delirium. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite.

**slight spoilers for book one contained in this review**

First impressions: I had no clue what to expect with this book. I liked Delirium, but had some major issues with the premise of a society that views love as a disease. It kept me from fully enjoying Lena and Alex’s story, despite beautiful writing. I went in to this one with some hesitation as a result, which turned out to be completely unnecessary.

Lasting impressions: This may be one of the only times I recommend reading a first book just so you can read the second one. This sequel was a thousand times more enjoyable for me than Delirium, and no matter what your feelings on the first book, this is a fantastic read that nearly stands on its own.

Conflicting impressions: I thought Julian changed his ideals and morality a bit too quickly and conveniently. It definitely added tension to Lena’s storyline, but I found it hard to swallow that he would be so afraid and disgusted by Lena’s affliction of delirium, only to fall victim to it a few days or weeks later with no internal conflict.

Overall impressions: When we left Lena at the end of Delirium, she had made it past the wall into The Wilds, and her love Alex had been captured in Portland. This book picks up immediately after, with Lena injured and heartbroken at the assumed death of Alex. She is saved by a group of people on the outside, who take her into their community and nurse her back to health. As she gets stronger and more determined to live life free of the cure, she begins to take on more advanced assignments within their group’s resistance efforts.

Lena experiences some major growing pains in this book. She is alone in spirit, fending for herself for the first time. She makes some acquaintances with her new family in the wilderness, but on the outside people are harder and have been through so much pain that they build emotional walls to fill the place of the physical ones of their old lives. Raven, the mothering leader, is tough as nails while holding tenuously to her desire to care for others. She and Lena have an interesting dynamic that is at times competitive and at times friendly. It’s hard to fully trust her, despite the fact that she seems to do what’s best.

Things really ramp up when Lena is sent to a public rally to spy on a young uncured named Julian. Lena winds up being kidnapped with him and despite his fear of her as a delirium victim, he feels drawn to her. They share some touching moments during captivity and Julian begins to fall for Lena. As they work to escape, navigating their feelings becomes equally treacherous as their harrowing situations. Lena is conflicted about her remaining feelings for Alex, and Julian has been brought up to despise everything that Lena stands for. It’s an interesting dynamic ripe with tension.

The book is full of exciting action and beautiful prose. I appreciated the chance to follow Lena outside the contstrained life in Portland, and following her through the wilderness and into New York City brought a fresh perspective that was so much fun to read. The story is told through chapters that alternate between a 6 month timeframe, labeled “now” and “then.” In the now chapters, we follow Lena and Julian’s exploits, and in the then chapters we see how Lena made her way from Portland to Raven’s crew. When the stories ultimately collide at the end, Lauren Oliver drops another bomb on us (though ultimately not that surprising) and leaves us with another uncertain ending that begs for continuation. It was an appropriate end to this section of Lena’s story, but I anxiously await the third book to see what comes next for Lena.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Review: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Book: Enclave
Author: Ann Aguirre
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release date: April 12, 2011
Source: Borrowed from library
Series: Razorland #1

Summary from Goodreads: In Deuceâ??s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed â??bratâ?? has trained into one of three groupsâ??Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.

As a Huntress, her purpose is clearâ??to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. Sheâ??s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothingâ??s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuceâ??s troubles are just beginning.

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesnâ??t like following orders. At first Deuce thinks heâ??s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders donâ??t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; sheâ??s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.

As Deuceâ??s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategyâ?¦ but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world sheâ??s ever known.

First impressions: I couldn’t put it down! Could not. I started it on a Saturday night right before bed, and stayed up until I was halfway done. The next day I picked it up and read it straight through to the end. Two sittings and it was over! Few books give as strong of a first impression as that.

Lasting impressions: A taut, suspenseful, realistic dystopian that kept my skin crawling in all the best ways.

Conflicting impressions: I had the same thought as Amanda. Deuce? Her name is Deuce? Please tell me this is a joke.

Overall impressions: I love post-apocalyptic stories. I love strong female characters. I love mysterious cute male characters. I love dystopias where the strong female character doesn’t know how bad things are until she gets a new perspective introduced by mysterious cute male characters.

I knew I was going to like this book. I didn’t know I’d love it.

Ms. Aguirre creates a world so richly detailed that it completely absorbed me. As Deuce stumbled blindly through dark subterranean tunnels, fighting off rabid zombie-like “Freaks,” my heart pounded. I turned the pages so fast I nearly tore them from the book. I had to know what was going to happen! This world was dangerous and surprising and really kept me on my toes. Kudos for the well done suspense.

Deuce is a fairly typical protagonist for a dystopic novel. She’s a bit naive about how the system is working against her, rather than for her. She’s idealistic and wants to contribute to their strict society. She doesn’t like to ruffle feathers. She believes she is being protected and cared for, and that the information she receives from her elders is true and correct. Over the course of the book, we come to realize that her life is not as grand as she thought it once was.

Fade is an outsider in Deuce’s community. He’s not well looked upon, and is only allowed to stay because he’s an excellent Hunter. When he and Deuce are paired together, it’s a punishment of sorts, and she doesn’t want to be stuck with the guy whose last partner died. Deuce is excellent at what she does, and like Fade, is constantly out to prove herself. As they work together to check traps and fight off Freaks – who seem to be getting smarter and more vicious – they are forced to develop a bit of trust. Their relationship gets cemented after a grueling journey to a nearby camp, and it’s at this point that Deuce’s world view starts to change.

It would take all of the fun out of the book to reveal the events that affect Deuce enough to drive her above ground for the first time in her life, and what course her life takes when she’s out from under the authoritarian enclave. The second part of the book reveals a whole new world to Deuce, with different challenges, and it’s where she really is forced to make tough choices.

One of my favorite things about this book is that no one is all good or all bad. The characters each do things that are valiant and despicable. Someone who once was an enemy may become a friend, and friends can always betray you. Deuce can truly only rely on herself, her instincts, her skills as a Huntress, and her humanity to guide her life’s journey. Despite the hellish place America has become, Deuce is determined to persevere.

I can’t wait to see what the next stage in her life brings. Book two, Outpost, is out this fall, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Review: Crossed by Ally Condie

Book: Crossed
Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Release date: November 1, 2011
Source: Ebook purchased from Amazon

Summary: (from Goodreads) In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky – taken by the Society to his certain death – only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.

Cassia’s quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander – who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia’s heart – change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.

First impressions: I was so excited to get back into this world, and it picks up almost immediately after we left off in Matched. I admit I had to take a minute to think back – now where were we? I think this is one of those series that is better read close together.

Lasting impressions: While I won’t go so far as to say this was a disappointment, it did suffer a bit from middle book syndrome. We didn’t learn a whole lot of new information about the Society, and a majority of the book revolves around Cassia trying to reunite with Ky.

Conflicting impressions: I was so invested in Cassia and Ky’s relationship in the first book that having to spend so much time with them apart made the story lose a little magic. The chemistry that connected me to these characters was missing, so the book dragged for me.

Overall impressions: This was probably my most anticipated book of the year, so it’s too bad that it turned out to be just okay for me. Good, not great. I loved Matched so much that it’s not likely the sequel would have measured up, but this felt like an entirely different story.

Cassia spends most of the book trying to sneak her way to the Outer Provinces by pretending she’s not a Citizen and joining work camps. Ky, meanwhile, is faced with the grim reality of being used as bait in an ongoing war with the people outside the Society. He makes a few friends and bolts with them into the surrounding canyons.

There is a bit of tension surrounding the blue pills and whether or not Cassia will survive and/or be reunited with Ky. She also tries to find out more about the Resistance and what kind of role she wants to play in it. Similarly, Ky must also determine whether being with Cassia is worth accepting a prominent position in the Resistance.

With just enough nuggets of new information to merit this sequel, there’s still a lot left to discover in book three, out next year. I think it’s worth a read for fans of the series, but would wait to read it until closer to the release of the conclusion book, so you can move straight into what will hopefully be the more exciting end of the story.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Trailer Tuesday (2)

Shhhhh. Let’s not talk about NaNoWriMo. We won’t discuss my paltry word count (~5,600) or the fact that I’m considering scrapping it this year to work on the book that actually needs to get finished. We’ll just table that discussion for another day.

BECAUSE.

Because, because, because, because, because!

It’s here!

It needs no introduction, really. Kids, the day has finally come for the theatrical trailer of The Hunger Games, and I admit no shame in the fact that tears were shed upon viewing this magical trailer.

Is it March yet?

Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Book: Shatter Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: November 15, 2011
Source: ARC received from Around the World Tours
Series: Shatter Me #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days. The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting as The Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices, Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel â?? with a paranormal twist â?? that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel.

First impressions: Juliette is a beautiful character. From the beginning, we are alone in her thoughts, as she whiles away her time in isolation. Her touch kills people, and for the last 264 days she has been alone in a wreck of a psychiatric hospital/jail with only a window and a notebook to pass the time. I fell in love with this sweet girl who dreamed of birds in flight and wished for a taste of fresh air.

Lasting impressions: Never has a title of a book been more appropriate. The writing and the characters and the world all made me want to shatter into pieces. Though the ending of the story went a different direction than I anticipated, it was not unwelcome. I’m excited to see where the next chapter in Juliette’s life takes us.

Conflicting impressions: At times the stylistic prose pulled me out of the story. How many ways can Juliette describe falling to pieces? A lot. I also wish that we’d gotten more of the history of her world in order to understand Warner’s motives as the villain. He kidnaps Juliette for his own purposes, but we don’t really know what those are because Juliette is so in the dark about the world outside her cell. I felt like I was flying blind a lot of the time.

Overall impressions: Despite the aforementioned flaws, and a perhaps tired plot that feels like a re-tread of the X-Men, I still absolutely loved this book. Tahereh Mafi fills her plot with such incredible characters that I couldn’t help but be captivated by all of them.

Juliette is one of the most sympathetic characters I can remember reading recently. She has been neglected by her parents and forced to avoid human contact for her entire life. My God! I would die! Yet she has remained kind, thoughtful, and perhaps most surprising, sane. She never gives up, and I admired that about her.

Adam is a bit of an enigma. He starts off almost cruel toward Juliette, but later reveals himself as a Peeta-like admirer from afar. Working for the enemy, it takes a while for Juliette to fully trust him, but he is so pure of heart and full of love that he ultimately wins her, and the reader, over.

Warner is a great antagonist. We may not be sure of his motives, but we know he wants to have Juliette as a pawn in his war against The Reestablishment’s enemies. He will do anything to achieve this goal, and forces her to do some pretty awful things along the way. For such a smart and sadistic guy, however, he seemed awfully gullible when it came to Juliette’s feelings.

This is an interesting paranormal crossed with a dystopian setting that never failed to keep my interest. Powerful characters are all seeking to find their destiny, and the new direction Juliette’s life takes at the end of the novel will have profound consequences for the next book. I’ll definitely be looking forward to the sequel as one of my most anticipated books of 2012.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Review: Legend by Marie Lu

Book: Legend
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release date: November 29, 2011
Source: ARC for review from Books with Bite Book Tours

Summary: (from Goodreads) What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths – until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.

First impressions: Is it enough to say that I knew I’d like this just because it’s a dystopian? From the first few sentences that set up a militaristic, controlling, dystopic future, I was on board with this one.

Lasting impressions: Very few books bring on a full cry from me, but this was one of them. The ending was so full of tension and sacrifice that I couldn’t help but sob, right there at work during my lunch break.

Conflicting impressions: I intended to give this 5 stars after finishing it, but when I sat down to try and write a review, I couldn’t remember what happened or why it made me cry without a bit of a refresher. Considering it’s not as unforgettable a tale as some of my other die-hard 5 star favorites, I knocked it down a peg.

Overall impressions: This is a story about starcrossed lovers. June and Day are two 15 year olds who come from very different backgrounds, but are thrown together by circumstance, only to find themselves falling in love instead of destroying each other. Um, yes please!

June is the smartest kid, with the brightest future, in all of the Republic. She scored a perfect score – twice, since they didn’t believe it the first time around – on her required exams. This landed her on the fast track to a promising military career, following in the footsteps of her older brother, Metias.

Day, on the other hand, failed out of his exams and was sent to the labor camps – or so the Republic would have the people believe. He escaped his terrible fate, and now acts as a Robin Hood of the poor districts where he was raised. He cheats and steals his way into money, giving some back to his destitute family when he can, though all except one of his brothers believes him to be dead. Day is known to wreak havoc on the Republic, making him the most wanted criminal in the country.

When a plague (one of many constantly striking the poor districts) rolls through his family’s neighborhood, Day sets out to find a cure to save his youngest brother, who has been infected. After a dangerous break-in and an incident that leaves Metias dead, June is set on the trail of Day to find and kill him in revenge for the loss of her brother.

If only things were that easy.

Day is a charmer – bold, flirtatious, charismatic – and even June cannot resist being drawn to him. He challenges every preconceived notion the Republic would have her believe about him, and she struggles with how to keep hating him, even as the doubts set in about Metias’s murder. June is likewise intriguing to Day. She is strong, smart, and ruthless, though also gentle of heart. She is quiet, thoughtful, and listens to Day, just when he thought no one was left to care about what he had to say. I loved these two together, and the tension that came from them not truly trusting each other.

The story moves quickly, and it’s very hard to put this one down. None of the mysteries unraveling throughout are big surprises, and I wish the book was a bit longer, if only to get some more background. The Republic (Los Angeles) is at war with the rest of the continent, but I found it unclear why or how it started. I wasn’t sure the exact history of this world or who the real villains were, so it was difficult to get invested in the political allegiances. For this book, June and Day were enough, but in the future I hope we get more information on the conflict that’s brewing around them.

This is a must-read for all dystopian fans, and I think it’s a good jumping in point for anyone looking to try out the genre for the first time. It has an intriguing setting, enjoyable characters, and a lot of heart. I very highly recommend it!

Rating: 4/5 stars

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