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,
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

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Series Review: Darkest Powers by Kelley Armstrong

Book: The Summoning
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: July 1, 2008
Source: Borrowed ebook from library
Series: Darkest Powers #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) After years of frequent moves following her motherâ??s death, Chloe Saundersâ??s life is finally settling down. She is attending art school, pursuing her dreams of becoming a director, making friends, meeting boys. Her biggest concern is that sheâ??s not developing as fast as her friends are. But when puberty does hit, it brings more than hormone surges. Chloe starts seeing ghosts â?? everywhere, demanding her attention. After she suffers a breakdown, her devoted aunt Lauren gets her into a highly recommended group home.

At first, Lyle House seems a pretty okay place, except for Chloeâ??s small problem of fearing she might be facing a lifetime of mental illness. But as she gradually gets to know the other kids at the home â?? charming Simon and his ominous, unsmiling brother Derek, obnoxious Tori, and Rae, who has a â??thingâ? for fire â?? Chloe begins to realize that there is something that binds them all together, and it isnâ??t your usual â??problem kidâ? behaviour. And together they discover that Lyle House is not your usual group home eitherâ?¦

Book: The Awakening
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: April 28, 2009
Source: Borrowed ebook from library
Series: Darkest Powers #2

Summary: (from Goodreads) If you had met me a few weeks ago, you probably would have described me as an average teenage girl â?? someone normal. Now my life has changed forever and I’m as far away from normal as it gets. A living science experiment â?? not only can I see ghosts, but I was genetically altered by a sinister organization called the Edison Group. What does that mean? For starters, I’m a teenage necromancer whose powers are out of control; I raise the dead without even trying. Trust me, that is not a power you want to have. Ever.

Now I’m running for my life with three of my supernatural friends â?? a charming sorcerer, a cynical werewolf, and a disgruntled witch â?? and we have to find someone who can help us before the Edison Group finds us first. Or die trying.

Book: The Reckoning
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: April 6, 2010
Source: Borrowed ebook from library
Series: Darkest Powers #3

Summary: (from Goodreads) Only two weeks ago, life was all too predictable. But that was before I saw my first ghost. Now along with my supernatural friends Tori, Derek, and Simon, I’m on the run from the Edison Group, which genetically altered us as part of their sinister experiment. We’re hiding in a safe house that might not be as safe as it seems. We’ll be gone soon anyway, back to rescue those we’d left behind and take out the Edison Group . . . or so we hope.

First impressions: It doesn’t take long for Chloe to start seeing scary ghosts, and she’s quickly shipped off to Lyle House. Kelley Armstrong wastes no time ramping up the action and easily hooks us on sweet, friendly Chloe.

Lasting impressions: These books are best consumed in rapid succession, as the endings leave you wanting MOREMOREMORE. That said, the final book left too many unanswered questions and I felt a little gypped after finishing it.

Conflicting impressions: The pace is so fast and the timeline so short that there is little room for growth among the characters. They jump from one conflict to the next, always on the run, and at times I wanted things to slow down so we could learn more about these kids.

Overall impressions: For a series with so much squeaky-clean fun, these books felt sinfully bad to devour. They were so addictive that I would get twitchy when forced to stop reading. I passed up lunch dates and stayed up into the wee hours. I kind of feel like a drug pusher telling you about these books.

When I started the first one, Ruby warned me that I should go ahead and get the others. She was right. It’s highly improbable, nay – damn near impossible, to finish one without reaching for the next. I’m not kidding. These books are like crack.

Chloe Saunders is a nice little wisp of a girl. She’s barely past puberty when she sees her first ghost – an encounter that scares the crap out of her and leads to her being sent to a group home for the mentally ill. She’s diagnosed with schizophrenia, and does her best to get along with the handful of kids in her new home, Lyle House.

But of course, things are never what they seem in good paranormal books, are they?

Chloe soon learns that her fellow housemates have secrets of their own, and when they realize their lives are in danger they start to band together to escape. This conflict takes them across all three books as they discover more about their captors, the Edison Group, and try to get a handle on their growing supernatural powers. I loved that each of them had such different strengths and weaknesses, so that as a team they became stronger than they could ever be as individuals.

True to life were the interpersonal conflicts that arose among these teens. At times vain, socially awkward, naive, overconfident, and nearly always impulsive, all of the characters read like real people caught in this heightened reality. The action is intense and neverending, so you can’t help but keep turning the pages to see what happens next to this ragtag group. There is a slow burn romance that develops across the series as well, which I especially enjoyed. As a reader, you can see it coming, but it takes a looooong time for the characters to figure it out, which was just the cutest thing ever.

The thrill of their escape and ensuing chase sequences are nothing compared to Chloe’s gift to communicate with and raise the dead. She’s a powerful necromancer who has a hard time learning to control her gift in a way so she doesn’t draw souls back to their bodies and create an army of zombies. When she does accidentally create a zombie (best. idea. ever.) it’s absolutely horrifying and grotesque in all the best ways possible. Armstrong is a genius at creating the ick factor without wandering into stomach-churning territory.

My only real complaint came with the ending of book three. I was frustrated with the lack of answers and resolution. Throughout the series, Chloe’s necklace is a bit of a mystery, and its changing colors and purpose are sources of intrigue (not only for the story, but evidenced in the covers as well). Yet we don’t find out what it all means! The story also just stops, without a full ending that provides these characters with direction for the future. It was too abrupt for my taste, but since the overall reading experience was so satisfying, I’ll forgive it.

Series Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Review: Torrent by Lisa T. Bergren

Book: Torrent
Author: Lisa T. Bergren
Publisher: David C. Cook
Release date: September 1, 2011
Source: Received from publicist for review
Series: River of Time #3


Summary: (from Goodreads) When Gabi and Lia finally learn to surf the river of time, they realize they must make hard choices about life and love in the third and final book in the River of Time series.

Gabi and Lia Betarrini have learned to control their time travel, and they return from medieval Italy to save their father from his tragic death in modern times. But love calls across the centuries, and the girls are determined to return forever â?? even though they know the Black Plague is advancing across Europe, claiming the lives of one-third of the population. In the suspenseful conclusion of the River of Time series, every decision is about life . . . and death.

First impressions: We’re back! After jumping through some serious hoops with major consequences, the Bettarini girls are back in Marcello’s time, and the action picks up immediately. At this point, reading this series feels like meeting old friends for coffee. No need for pleasantries, we can jump right into the heart of things.

Lasting impressions: But…but…I want moooooooore!

Conflicting impressions: There wasn’t nearly enough resolution for me. I wanted to know the fate of Paratore. And what happened to Giacinta? I felt like the book rushed through all of the events without taking the time to fully explore them in a way I’d have more enjoyed.

Overall impressions: It’s impossible to sum up my feelings on this book without a few spoilers, so if you’ve made it this far by ignoring my above disclaimer, then I wash my hands of responsibility for spoiling the party.

I want to start first with what annoyed me. Ben had it far too easy working his way into this new century. He’s thrust into battle right off the bat, and then they have to run for their lives without any time to stop and consider what just happened. When they do, I found it to be desiring. Much like others’ complaints that Marcello and Luca don’t seem curious enough about the future, Dad seemed a little too accepting. For all the trouble they went to to bring him back, Dad gets the short stick in this tale, which was a bit disappointing.

The ending was also a bit cliffhanger-y. There’s a huge battle (which Lisa Bergren continues to write with exquisite pacing and detail), but the story ends just after it. I wanted some more clues on where their lives were headed and just how much the events of the three books have impacted them. I felt I was denied a complete resolution for these characters.

Okay, but there was way more good stuff than bad stuff. All of my whiny complaints aside, Bergren has given us a solid third book in the River of Time trilogy. As in Cascade, the action drives the story at a brisk pace. The war between Firenze and Siena is threatening to boil over, and Firenze wants nothing more than to get their greedy paws on the She-Wolves of Siena. Gabi faces the pressure of marriage in order to save the dying and tortured Fortino. Can she thrust aside her feelings for Marcello and save Siena by marrying the alluring and attractive Lord Greco?

Marcello seemed miles away from Greco in this one. Rash, stubborn, and a bit immature, the luster of Marcello was wearing thin for me. Along comes dashing Rodolfo Greco and I’m all “Marry him Gabi!” I love books that can make you divide your allegiance between hot, strapping men. It gave Gabi some needed perspective and made her choice to get married at all more informed and adult instead of just a bit of teen love cementing her fate.

Obviously, this is a must-read for River of Time readers. It is full of excitement, love, doubt, sacrifice, and faith. Not just faith in God or destiny, but faith in ourselves and our choices. Gabi’s story is all about the decisions she makes and how she knows they are the right ones. Sometimes she does, and sometimes she has to take a leap of faith and do what she thinks is right. It’s a fantastic journey for her and for the readers, and I’m glad I got to be a part of it.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system
Curious about my reviews for the first two books in the trilogy? Read my take on Waterfall and Cascade.

Review: Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

Book: Behemoth
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: October 5, 2010
Source: Borrowed from local library
Series: Leviathan #2

Summary: (from Goodreads) The behemoth is the fiercest creature in the British navy. It can swallow enemy battleships with one bite. The Darwinists will need it, now that they are at war with the Clanker powers.

Deryn is a girl posing as a boy in the British Air Service, and Alek is the heir to an empire posing as a commoner. Finally together aboard the airship Leviathan, they hope to bring the war to a halt. But when disaster strikes the Leviathan‘s peacekeeping mission, they find themselves alone and hunted in enemy territory.

Alek and Deryn will need great skill, new allies, and brave hearts to face what’s ahead.

First impressions: This series was definitely designed to be read together. The action picks up shortly after the conclusion of the first book, Leviathan, and as with that book, we are quickly launched into exciting events. Westerfeld is a master at drawing you in.

Lasting impressions: I actually read the last 60 or so pages slower than any other section of the book, because I did not want it to end yet. I have so much fun in the world of this series that I get grumpy when I’m forced to stop reading.

Conflicting impressions: Sometimes Alek wavers in TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) territory. The fact that he can’t figure out Deryn is a girl is mind-boggling, especially as her feelings grow toward him. I was just glad that at least one character figured it out, but I think the total is still a bizarrely low 3 people that know or suspect her secret. Really? It’s that easy to impersonate a boy? It’s so easy for Deryn, in fact, that I no longer find that subplot filled with much tension.

Overall impressions: I thought I loved this Clanker/Darwinist world in Leviathan, but this book took it to a completely new stratospheric level. My god is Scott Westerfeld a genius! Everything about the voice, tone, action, setting, and characters pulls together into one cohesive whole that is so vibrant it is nearly cinematic. I can practically breathe in the Turkish air when the lady boffin leads a team to meet the sultan. I can hear the steam pistons firing in the giant walkers. I can smell the stale atmosphere deep in the Leviathan whale-ship’s core. I didn’t just read this book. I The-Neverending-Story-style lived it.

Deryn is still my favorite of the two protagonists, but Alek improved greatly in my esteem this time around. He was more confident and less arrogant, more careful and less reckless. He started to use his brain and consider the wants and needs of not only himself, but his people and the civilized world as well. Deryn, meanwhile, is still tough, humble, and a bit naive. They are great when they work separately, but brilliant when they work together. If only they weren’t on opposite sides of this growing war.

The politics got a bit more jumbled as the hard lines are blurred and more countries start pulling into the conflict. It’s no longer just Europe, but expanding into Asia as well. I found the Turkey setting in this one to be colorful, different, and exciting. Instead of clomping through the Alps or soaring through the skies, we see new communities and cultures and how they are affected by both the Darwinists and the Clankers. Westerfeld handles it all impeccably, and I found myself wanting to plan a trip to Turkey.

Alek and Deryn both are thrust into new levels of responsibility in this book, and we get introduced to a new beastie that should prove to be quite instrumental in the future (though I admit it was a bit of a letdown after all the book one buildup with the eggs). I loved seeing these two kids step up and experience the world in new ways. They really rose to the challenges presented to them and I look forward to seeing how they deal with what’s coming in the final chapter, Goliath, due out September 20th.

This one was full of nearly nonstop action and scheming, with a tiny hint of romance thrown in. I hope we get more than just a taste in the next one, but only because I adore these two so much and am really rooting for them. This is certainly a book that can stand on its own without the romance element, but gets an added touch of that something special when the romance comes into play.

Westerfeld is a beautifully subtle writer, never hitting us over the head with extraneous details or descriptions. Instead, his stories unfold with ever escalating urgency, perfectly timed to the events and consequences the characters face, and propelling the plot forward with just the right balance of character and plot development. Throw in the fantastical steampunk elements (which never outshine or divert from the story), and now I’m glued to the page.

I cannot recommend this series highly enough. As much as I loved the first book, Behemoth has catapulted this series to the top of my favorites list, and I promise you I will be re-reading these books for years to come.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Book: The Iron King
Author: Julie Kagawa
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release date: February 1, 2010
Source: Ebook purchased from Amazon
Series: The Iron Fey #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) Meghan Chase has a secret destiny; one she could never have imagined.

Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan’s life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school or at home.
When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she’s known is about to change.

But she could never have guessed the truth – that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she’ll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face; and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

First impressions: Meghan is a sweet girl, although somewhat invisible to the people around her. She’s ignored or taunted at school, she lives on a hog farm thanks to her new stepdad, and she has a quirky male best friend who never lets her see where he lives. With her 16th birthday coming up, her life felt vaguely reminiscent of a Molly Ringwald movie (or, say, all of them).

Lasting impressions: Though the book felt like a mishmash of beloved ideas from lots of other sources, the ending was compelling enough to make me want to read on in the series.

Conflicting impressions: The plot lacked any kind of urgency for me. Meghan meanders her way through fairy land, and though time doesn’t really exist there, I kept wishing for there to be a deadline of sorts for her to be up against so the story kept moving forward. Instead, it felt like it dragged at parts because she didn’t know what she was doing, where she was going, or when she would eventually get there.

Overall impressions: If you like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Labyrinth, Wicked Lovely, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, then you’ll like this book. If you took these books/play/movie and tossed them in a blender, out would pop The Iron King. That isn’t to say there weren’t cool ideas here, it’s just that certain scenes seemed to remind me of other material, which was both comforting and disconcerting.

Meghan Chase is having a rough go at teenagerdom, and her life is quickly thrown into new territory when she comes home on her 16th birthday to find her brother replaced with a vicious changeling. Her best friend Robbie Goodfell, that merry prankster, uses this opportunity to reveal his true self, which of course is Puck. He introduces her to the hidden fairy world where he exists because he lives on in the hearts, minds, and legends of the human world.

From here, we learn of Meghan’s own ties to the fey, and she sets out to find her brother with the help of an often disappearing Puck, and a cat sidhe named Grimalkin. She encounters King Oberon and Queen Titania’s Seelie/Summer Court, and also is introduced to Queen Mab and Prince Ash of the Unseelie/Winter Court. As she continues to fumble her way around the land of the fey, she makes a lot of mistakes and deals and as a result, starts to figure out how things work down here. She’s resourceful, but too trusting and loyal – a fault Prince Ash warns her will be her downfall.

Ash is a bit of an enigma. I didn’t feel I got to know him very well in this book. In fact, most of the characters seemed to be held at a bit of a distance, so I didn’t truly connect with any of them. I liked Puck more because he’s, well, Puck. I’ve studied Puck and Claudius more than any other Shakespearean characters, and he’s very true to form here. I just wish he wasn’t a gawky redhead so I could find him as attractive as the dark and dreamy Ash. So for this book, at least, I’m calling Team Puck.

Meghan wanders in and out of dangerous situations, back and forth between the fey world and the mortal world, and there is no sense of how much time she has to rescue her brother, Ethan. If there had been a timeframe in which she had to find him, I think it would have pushed the urgency and created real consequences for Meghan’s failures. Instead, she got wrapped up in different battles and guessed her way toward finding him. She doesn’t find out who has him, or why, until the last few chapters of the book. This was very off putting for the middle section when I wanted someone to have some information that would drive the story.

I did appreciate the world created here, especially the conflict between the courts and the introduction of the titular Iron King. I’m very curious how this war will play out and what role Meghan will fill in its battles, especially given the binding agreements she had to make with some of the fey while trying to rescue Ethan. I found the book enjoyable in the end, and the overall reading experience was above average, so I give it four stars, though I hope the next books live up to the hype of being better than this one.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Review: Cascade by Lisa T. Bergren

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Book: Cascade
Author: Lisa T. Bergren
Publisher: David C. Cook
Release date: June 1, 2011
Source: ARC received from publicist
Series: River of Time #2

**NOTE – contains mild spoilers for the first book**

Summary: (from Goodreads) Gabi knows sheâ??s left her heart in the fourteenth century and she persuades Lia to help her to return, even though they know doing so will risk their very lives. When they arrive, weeks have passed and all of Siena longs to celebrate the heroines who turned the tide in the battle against Florenceâ??while the Florentines will go to great lengths to see them dead. But Marcello patiently awaits, and Gabi must decide if sheâ??s willing to leave her family behind for good in order to give her heart to him forever.

First impressions: I knew I was going to like this book from the first line: “Mom freaked out when she saw us, of course.” (p. 11) Best. First. Line. Ever. Slipping back into this world was like throwing on your favorite comfy jeans. I was a goner.

Lasting impressions: I’m so anxious to read Torrent, the final book in the trilogy, that I may develop an ulcer by September 1st. At least I only have to wait the summer, though. This quick release series thing is my new favorite.

Conflicting impressions: I don’t know if I’m just not remembering Waterfall that well, but Gabi felt a bit off to me in this book. Her voice came through a little differently than I was expecting – more typical teenager-isms, I guess. As a result, the internal monologue was 21st century, but the dialogue was 14th century, which was more jarring for me this time around.

Overall impressions: That said, the book was written the way I think. And the way I like to write. So, OF COURSE, I loved it!

At this point, I feel almost like, “What else can I say?” I love this series. Unless Lisa Bergren had written this sequel with Gabi murdering her own sister with noxious farts, I couldn’t have been disappointed. No. You know what? Even with the death-by-farting, I still probably would have rolled with it, nodding along as I read, assuming this was a weird ritual Italian thing that only Lisa is smart enough to know, and that eventually Lia would spring back to life and pull a rabbit out of a hat or something.

Ta da!

Lucky for us, Lisa didn’t write anything quite so silly. Instead, she completely rose to the occasion and crafted a sequel with even more of the heart-pounding action and non-stop danger that hooked me in the first book. Let’s face it. Medieval Italy was HARD LIVING, especially if you were a woman. Gabi, still a teenager, has a hard time accepting just how tough life in Marcello’s Italy can be. This book didn’t cut her any slack. Gabi and Lia are constantly under attack, but in a believable way and without anything seeming over the top or overdone.

Perhaps the best part of this installment is getting to spend nearly the entire book with Gabi and Lia together. I love seeing the She-Wolves of Siena fighting along side each other, and witnessing their bond grow through the time they spend in the past. Lia kind of steals Gabi’s thunder in this book, actually, showing off those mad archery skills and proving herself every bit as tough as our main heroine.

No review of this book could be complete without mention of Marcello and Luca. Cue the handheld fans! Our Italian hotties are back and better than ever, joined by the somewhat sinister Rodolfo Greco. Lord Greco added a nice element this time around – not purely evil like Lord Paratore, but not fully good like our main men. I appreciated his duplicity and scheming, and I think this is not the last we will hear from him.

Marcello and Gabi are totally sweet together, of course, but Luca and Lia stole the show for me. I think I may be falling more in love with Luca! I’m a sucker for his wit and smile, and I can’t wait to see how things develop with Lia. I love the pace at which these relationships are moving (not that they have much choice given all of the danger and violence constantly chasing them!), and I particularly enjoy watching Gabi struggle with her growing feelings for Marcello. Would you be willing to give up modern life for your possible true love? Oh! It’s so heart-wrenching!

The end of this book is so sweet and joyous despite its uncertainty. I absolutely cannot wait to read Torrent and find out what happens next! I could personally relate to the final events of Cascade‘s story (minus the time travel, natch), which led to many bittersweet but also happy tears while reading the last chapter. The entire book will have your heart leaping into your throat, dashing down to your stomach, and hammering so hard you might fear for your own life.

So what are you waiting for?

Rating: 5/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system
Want to read my take on the first book? Click to read my review of Waterfall. I’m also giving away a copy of Cascade this month, so click here to enter. You should also check out Small Review’s incredible review of Cascade. She’s got some sweet giveaways happening as well!

PS – Lisa just sent me the link to the book trailer, and it’s too pretty not to include. Enjoy!

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

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Book: Wicked Lovely
Author: Melissa Marr
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: June 12, 2007
Source: Purchased for Kindle (still only $0.99!)
Series: Wicked Lovely #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) All teenagers have problems, but few of them can match those of Aislinn, who has the power to see faeries. Quite understandably, she wishes that she could share her friends’ obliviousness and tries hard to avoid these invisible intruders. But one faery in particular refuses to leave her alone. Keenan the Summer King is convinced beyond all reasoning that Aislinn is the queen he has been seeking for nine centuries. What’s a 21st-century girl to do when she’s stalked by a suitor nobody else can see? A debut fantasy romance for the ages; superlative summer read.

First impressions: Man, this book is DARK. Way darker than I anticipated. Perhaps the gorgeous cover should have clued me in, since it is kind of spooky beautiful, but I wasn’t really prepared for how awful the fairies were going to be in this story, particularly right off the bat.

Lasting impressions: I can’t tell if I should be frustrated with Melissa Marr or celebrating her genius. The only reason I didn’t like this book was because I didn’t want Aislinn to have to make the choices she did. She was put in an impossibly unfair predicament, and I didn’t want her to be in it, so I got really angry with the book. Frustrating to read? Yes, but it also provoked some strong emotions and I obviously connected with the characters, so well done Ms. Marr. Well played.

Conflicting impressions: Though I didn’t have as strong feelings about Keenan as did Aylee, I definitely agree that he is a pompous ass who would never deserve Aislinn in a million years. Many of the characters in this book were not likable, which contributed to the dark aspects I enjoyed, but it sure made it hard to read sometimes.

Overall impressions: I agonized over whether to give this book 2, 3, or 4 stars. I really liked Aislinn (Ash), even though I don’t know how to pronounce her name, and absolutely adored Seth. Sure he’s a bit of a man slut, but he’s hopelessly devoted to Ash and I want to steal him away and have all of his babies. And I hate babies.

Besides Seth, I also really liked Donia, the Winter Girl who must help Keenan find his Summer Queen. As much as Seth loves Ash, so does Donia love Keenan. And just as Ash is put in a hopeless position, so is Donia. She loves Keenan, but must help him find his queen so he can resume the throne. That queen was supposed to be her, but it’s not, and that’s a tough pill to swallow.

On the sidelines is Beira, the Winter Queen, and Keenan’s mother. She’s pretty much pure evil, and tries to convince Donia to save her own life and betray Keenan in the process. Seriously, everyone in this book is stuck between a rock and a hard place. I so wanted to throw this book across the room, except in my case that would also mean throwing my Kindle around, and I’ve really been trying to avoid that.

Needless to say, the tension is amazing. Marr really knows how to build the plot, piece by piece, in such a way that you can’t help but finish it off. Her characters are likewise carefully constructed and fully developed. I found everything about the book compelling, and my only reservations are based on my gut reactions to the people and actions involved.

While the characters had to make tough choices, it also rang true to life. We don’t always get what we want, and when things change it’s usually impossible to get them back to the way they used to be. I loved that Marr didn’t hand anything over easily and made the characters work to find their own solutions. Even though the process frustrated me as a reader, it made a great story, and for that reason I look forward to reading the next books.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Want a different perspective? Check out this fabulous and funny four star review by Aylee at Recovering Potter Addict.

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare


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Book: City of Glass
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Release date: March 24, 2009
Source: Bought for Kindle
Series: The Mortal Instruments #3

Summary: (from Goodreads) To save her mother’s life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters — never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight.
As Clary uncovers more about her family’s past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadow-hunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadow-hunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he’s willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her new found powers to help save the Glass City — whatever the cost?

First impressions: Only Cassandra Clare can get a laugh out of me in the first two pages. I love the image of Simon bragging about his MarioKart skills in spite of the events happening around him. I love how Clare handles these kinds of juxtapositions between normal daily life and this supernatural world she’s created, and it settled me back into this world on a happy note.

Lasting impressions: This book is by far my favorite of the series. Though it’s clear that Clare was wrapping things up for what was supposed to be the end of the series, it also left open the possibility for new adventures and discoveries, and I am so excited that today is release day for Book 4, City of Fallen Angels. This book is epic in scope with lots of action, backstabbing, and surprises. A must read.

Conflicting impressions: At 541 pages, this thing is a beast. I was so anxious to get things moving that the few times where the action dipped I got frustrated with how many pages I had left.

**NOTE – Spoilers are hidden**

Overall impressions: The spirit of this book was very similar to Harry Potter for me. Everything is ramped up for this book – romance, action, magic, setting – and this heightened reality made the story soar. Taking place almost entirely in Glass City, with only a few scenes in New York, this added to the intensity of what was happening. I loved seeing Clary in Alicante, this home world she should have known a long time ago.

We meet lots of new characters in this book within the Alicante setting. The most important of these, Sebastian, is powerful and mysterious from the get-go. He clashes with Jace, particularly when he tries to woo Clary, which only further complicates things with our main characters. The Jace-Clary conflict reaches a fever pitch in this book, threatening to boil over into a frenzy if they can’t figure out how to relate to each other. Thankfully, this book settles the incest question once and for all so we can leave that behind.

Simon plays a bigger role in the narrative this time around, adding complexity to his relationships with Jace and Isabelle. He is still struggling to come to terms with his new identity, both in his own acceptance of how this changes his daily life and in his role within the war against Valentine. He makes a big sacrifice toward the end of the book, with repurcussions that have yet to be felt fully. I can’t wait to see how his story progresses.

Most importantly, this book marks the return of Clary’s mother. She has been in a magic-induced coma since early in the first book, and Clary has worked tirelessly since then to find out how to bring her back. In Alicante, Clary must gamble on the good nature of Magnus Bane in order to have a chance – a choice that works out as planned and proves Bane really is one of the good guys.

This book had so much going on, but in a good way. I loved the onslaught of new elements because they fit so nicely with what Clare had spent two books establishing already. These characters all feel like old friends, and I would read about them darning socks and still find it interesting. Fortunately, Clare gave them much more exciting things to do, and this book flew by.

If you haven’t yet started this series, I promise you won’t be disappointed. Each book is better than the last, and in my humble opinion, this book makes the whole series worth reading. It’s just that good.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system
Wondering about my thoughts on the other books in The Mortal Instruments series? Read my reviews of City of Bones and City of Ashes.

Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz

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Book: Blue Bloods
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Publisher: Hyperion
Release date: May 1, 2006
Source: Borrowed from local library
Series: Blue Bloods #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) When the Mayflower set sail in 1620, it carried on board the men and women who would shape America: Miles Standish; John Alden; Constance Hopkins. But some among the Pilgrims were not pure of heart; they were not escaping religious persecution. Indeed, they were not even human. They were vampires.The vampires assimilated quickly into the New World. Rising to levels of enormous power, wealth, and influence, they were the celebrated blue bloods of American society.

The Blue Bloods vowed that their immortal status would remain a closely guarded secret. And they kept that secret for centuries. But now, in New York City, the secret is seeping out. Schuyler Van Alen is a sophomore at a prestigious private school. She prefers baggy, vintage clothes instead of the Prada and pearls worn by her classmates, and she lives with her reclusive grandmother in a dilapated mansion. Schuyler is a loner…and happy that way. Suddenly, when she turns fifteen, there is a visible mosaic of blue veins on her arm. She starts to crave raw food and she is having flashbacks to ancient times. Then a popular girl from her school is found dead… drained of all her blood. Schuyler doesn’t know what to think, but she wants to find out the secrets the Blue Bloods are keeping. But is she herself in danger?

First impressions: I’m generally a fan of the alternating time perspective, and it worked really well here. Letters from a woman who came to America on the Mayflower are interspersed throughout the book, giving us clues about the mystery as the story progresses. Loved it! It felt spooky and different and gave the book a touch of old world classiness that mirrored the high society lives of the present time.

Lasting impressions: I thought the book was a giant success and am really glad I decided to try out this series. It was a great cross of paranormal with a contemporary feel. I must say, this whole boarding school theme is growing on me.

Conflicting impressions: I figured out the mystery just a little too easily, and this coming from a girl who NEVER figures out the mystery.

Overall impressions: I breezed through this book in just a day or two, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Prissy, preppy New York girls are not usually my go-to characters, but here I felt they were all fleshed out well, with real personalities that didn’t seem ultra thin. I especially liked Schuyler Van Alen (and what a name!), who both fit in, yet didn’t. She marches to her own beat, yet can hang at a fashion shoot no problem. Sure, I’ll model these designer jeans for you. Sure, I can get us into this club. Yet just when you thought she’d veer off into Mary Sue territory, she’d bring it right back to reality.

The world and setup here is quite interesting. Vampires are some of the most powerful members of New York society, called Blue Bloods because, well, they have blue blood. As teenagers, when they start to turn (because it’s hereditary…kind of…but really reincarnative…sort of?) they are at their most vulnerable, and this knowledge is being exploited by something out there killing off the vamp kids, one by one. The narrative follows a handful of these young kids, some are vampires, some aren’t, as they sort through these events.

The story builds nicely, and as the kids stumble through discovery after discovery, they eventually start to piece together what’s happening. The book does at times feel like one big, long prelude to a larger story arc that will build in subsequent novels, but as a stand alone it is also completely satisfying. I loved de la Cruz’s incorporation of the Mayflower history into the story, and I hope that we get to learn more about the vampire culture and how it is exactly that they regenerate. This is a quick, fun read, especially for fans of the vampire genre.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Want a different perspective? Check out this review by In the Good Books.

Review: The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

Book: The Dark Divine
Author: Bree Despain
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Release date: December 22, 2009
Source: Ebook purchased for Kindle
Series: The Dark Divine #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) Grace Divineâ??daughter of the local pastorâ??always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared and her brother Jude came home covered in his own blood.

Now that Daniel’s returned, Grace must choose between her growing attraction to him and her loyalty to her brother.

As Grace gets closer to Daniel, she learns the truth about that mysterious night and how to save the ones she loves, but it might cost her the one thing she cherishes most: her soul.

First impressions: I know it has nothing to do with the book, but that cover is gorgeous. I hate to admit it, but it did kind of influence how much I wanted to read this one. I mean, it is seriously beautiful.

On to the actual book. One of the first things I noted about this book is the demarkation of time. Despain uses section breaks that indicate the time of day or location of the story, which really helped orient me within the timeline and kept the momentum moving. This concept worked really well for me.

Lasting impressions: The mystery that permeated Grace and Daniel’s story was sublimely realized in the final few chapters. Despain really delivered a great ending, even including a few surprises just when I thought I had it all figured out. Silly wabbit.

Conflicting impressions: Some of the plot elements had a bit too much build for my tastes. It takes a really long time to figure out the beef between Grace’s brother and Daniel, for instance, even though it’s constantly referenced throughout the entire book. My impatient side got a little frustrated.

Overall impressions: Grace is a pastor’s daughter, an art student, and a good girl from a good family. Hanging over her is an incident with the boy next door, a close friend of the family’s, who came from a broken home and moved in with them for a time. One day Daniel’s mom came to collect him and they moved away, and he disappeared from their lives for years until his sudden return to town. Daniel and Grace’s brother can’t get along, no one in her family is interested in inviting him back into their lives, and Grace struggles with the desire to stay away from the troubled and mysterious boy despite her strong attraction to him.

Nice church-going girl falls for bad boy, conflict ensues. Simple, right? Not so in this deliciously complicated tale of love and loyalty. Daniel is struggling with more than just an abusive father, and Grace has far more at stake than just a disapproving family if she chooses to love him. For me, this was like the good girl/bad boy story on steroids.

Through the course of the story, Grace encounters increasingly disturbing events. The suspense builds nicely, with each new death or near-death forcing the reader to ask more questions about what’s really going on. Is Daniel responsible for the violence spiking now that he’s back in town? Is there more to pseudo-boyfriend Pete than meets the eye? Why does her brother Jude hate Daniel so much?

Although the ending is a bit predictable, given the numerous clues throughout the book, it’s still satisfying in that we get answers to all of these questions, and even some we didn’t know we were asking. I liked that Grace had to figure out the answers for herself, with both her dad and her brother giving her the information, but leaving her to draw her own conclusions. This helped keep Grace as a capable and intelligent main character without seeming passive or whiny. It also explains how she makes the difficult decisions she does, both selflessly and thoughtfully.

This is a fast paced tale with believable characters and just enough action to keep things exciting. I’m definitely looking forward to The Lost Saint.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Want a different perspective? Check out this review by Sonette’s Bookworm Blog or another five star review by The Lovely Getaway.

Looking for my usual Monday post? Be sure to check out what’s In My Mailbox this week.