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REVIEW: Firespell (Dark Elite #1) by Chloe Neill

Pub. Date: January 5th 2010
Publisher: Signet
Pages: 246
Readership: Young adult
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Rating: ★★★★.5

Lily’s parents have sent her to a fancy boarding school in Chicago filled with the ultra-rich. If that wasn’t bad enough, she’s hearing and seeing bizarre things on St. Sophie’s creepy campus. Her roommate, Scout, keeps her sane, but keeps disappearing at night. When one day Lily finds Scout running from real-life monsters, she learns the hard way that Scout is involved in a splinter group of rebel teens.

They protect Chicago from demons, vamps, and dark magic users. It’s too bad Lily doesn’t have powers of her own to help. At least, none that she’s discovered yet…

I hadn’t even heard of this book until I accidentally got the third in the series (Charmfall) at the library. Immediately I tracked down the first two and got reading.

I thought I would like it just fine but I honestly wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did. I figured it was just another YA Paranormal school book because there are a lot out there. Boy was I wrong. Firespell is a well crafted, spellbinding world that had me longing to hop on a plane or a train or a bus to Chicago, stat. Parts of the book are a love story to the city.

Firespell is a page turner. When I say it’s face-paced, I mean it’s fast-freaking-paced. There is not one dull moment from the Brat Pack pranking Lily to Lily and co. getting chased by Reapers to the very end. It’s a tornado of action, to put it mildly. It’s a sharp, nail biting thrill ride until the very last page.

Add to the action the characters and you have a wicked novel. I fell in love with some of them, fell in hate with others and only the strongest of books can accomplish that. I will be starting Hexbound not soon enough.

REVIEW: Starters by Lissa Price

Pub. Date: March 13th 2012
Publisher: Delacourt Press
Pages: 368
Readership: Young adult
Genres: Science-Fiction, Dystopia
Source: NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★.5

HER WORLD IS CHANGED FOREVER

Callie lost her parents when the Spore Wars wiped out everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty. She and her little brother, Tyler, go on the run, living as squatters with their friend Michael and fighting off renegades who would kill them for a cookie. Callie’s only hope is Prime Destinations, a disturbing place in Beverly Hills run by a mysterious figure known as the Old Man.

He hires teens to rent their bodies to Enders—seniors who want to be young again. Callie, desperate for the money that will keep her, Tyler, and Michael alive, agrees to be a donor. But the neurochip they place in Callie’s head malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, and going out with a senator’s grandson. It feels almost like a fairy tale, until Callie discovers that her renter intends to do more than party—and that Prime Destinations’ plans are more evil than Callie could ever have imagined… .

Let me start off by saying this is one of the most brilliant YA debuts I have read in a while. I absolutely adored this novel. It has everything I want in a dystopian read: fast paced, originality, great characters, lots of action, and lots of feelings because of said characters. The world Price weaved was scary. Like a lot of dystopians you’re left with a sense of foreboding. This world, or something like it, could actually happen in the future. Near or far, it’s hard to tell, but it’s a possibility. The world of Starters is especially unnerving because it seems so realistic, so like something that could happen down the road. A world gone mad because of war, a country cut off, half it’s population dead. You’re either really old (an Ender) or a minor (a Starter) and if you’re a Starter with no living relative, you’re doomed to live in the streets or in prison like Institutions. Scary, right?

Then there’s Prime Destinations: a company where the unclaimed minors can go to rent out their bodies to wealthy Enders. Yep. They rent out their bodies. They take over for however long they pay for. They walk around as a teenager while their real body is safe at PD’s headquarters. The book opens with Callie walking in. She needs money to take care of her sick brother and if she rented out her body to Prime, she would have more than enough for a house and food for a year for them. But she’s reluctant at first. She’s weary of the contract, of everything but in the end she has no other choice.

But then Callie wakes up… the rental is not over. She wakes up in the middle of a nightclub and is able to communicate with the renter. That’s when the ball gets rolling. That was when I thought wow this book is going to be hard to put down.

I’ve read a few reviews that have said some of the characters don’t have chemistry. I don’t see that. I think there are things to develop and flesh out more with certain characters but it’s a series. What about Michael, for example, but I’m sure things will be developed further in book two. I also hope we learn more of Callie’s backstory in book two. I don’t think we got too much of it. There was some, and enough to kind of tide me over, but I really want to know more.

All in all, Starters was fantastic. However, the massive cliffhanger made me want to claw my face off because I’m not sure how I’m going to wait for the second instalment.

REVIEW: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Pub. Date: February 1st 2010
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 363
Readership: Young adult
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal
Rating: ★★★★

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.

This sat on my to-read shelf for a long time, at home. Finally, after wanting a change from the dystopians I was reading, I picked it up, and boy I wish I read it sooner. This book is nothing short of fabulous.

I took my time reading this because, even though there are tree more in the series to read, I didn’t want it to end. I’d put it down for a day or two to read something else then pick it up again but by page 200 I couldn’t do that anymore. I just could not put this book down. Kagawa created such an original, fantastical world that just blew my mind. Nevernever felt very Alice in Wonderlandy meets The Enchanted Forest to me.

Add to the enchanting, intricate world the characters. There’s Meghan, our heroine, a loyal to a fault seventeen year old whose life turns upside down when her brother gets kidnapped. Meghan has a good heart and literally stops at nothing to get her brother back, forging deals and contracts along the way. She never cares if harm will come to her, as long as she gets her brother back safe. There’s Puck aka Robin Goodfellow (yep, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream) the fun, carefree Trickster who turns out to be much more than that. There’s Ash, the Ice Prince with a cold heart that warms by the end of the book. But I think above all of them, Grimalkin is my favorite character. Grim the talking cat who takes no shit. Grim the mischievous cat. If Kagawa wrote an entire series devoted to him, I would read it and reread it forever. I just love him so, so much.

But the best part of the book is the world. It takes a grand imagination to create this intricate world and the creatures in it. Kagawa has a dedication to detail that is fabulous. There the Winter Realm, Tir Na Nog, the Summer Court then the steam punk-esque Iron Fey realm. Then the wyldwood. All of them have such interesting and unique creatures in it it’s a wonder anyone could think up so many different things and bring them to life so spectacularly. (But I think the packrats of the Iron Fey are my favorite out of them all. What cute little buggers!)

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. While there were little things that bothered me – Meghan’s a-ha moment when Ash finally said her name wasn’t actually the first time, people standing who would be sitting in the next line then standing again the one after that – little things like that. However, that didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book. I can’t wait to start the next installment.

REVIEW: Halflings by Heather Burch

Pub. Date: February 1st 2012
Publisher: Zondervan Publishing
Pages: 288
Readership: Young adult
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Rating: ★

After being inexplicably targeted by an evil intent on harming her at any cost, seventeen-year-old Nikki finds herself under the watchful guardianship of three mysterious young men who call themselves halflings. Sworn to defend her, misfits Mace, Raven, and Vine battle to keep Nikki safe while hiding their deepest secret—and the wings that come with.

A growing attraction between Nikki and two of her protectors presents a whole other danger. While she risks a broken heart, Mace and Raven could lose everything, including their souls. As the mysteries behind the boys’ powers, as well as her role in a scientist’s dark plan, unfold, Nikki is faced with choices that will affect the future of an entire race of heavenly beings, as well as the precarious equilibrium of the earthly world.

I have to say, this book started a wee bit too fast to me. One second it’s hi this is Nikki – oh she’s running from her life from some massive wolves (which turn out to be Hell Hounds) okay. It jumped the gun a little too soon out of the gate. Then came the plot, or what I think the author called the plot. It felt contrived and cliched.

There’s a girl and her name is Nikki. Apparently, she’s this badass chick that does karate, paints and rides a motorcycle. She has a normal life, normal upbringing, everything is daisies. That is, until, she starts getting attacked by evil creatures from hell out of nowhere. Shock, gasp, oh no! Sigh. But I figured it’s okay I’ll go on, even if this has the odour of a MarySue in the works, I will continue on in hopes of something to redeem it.

I really, really wanted to like this book and it had all the ingredients that made me think I would: Hell Hounds, badass sounding heroine, angels, and violence. But it kills me to say that I couldn’t find that redeeming quality. It was hard to continue. It was even harder to finish. I hate, hate, hate saying that about any book but I’m being honest. It was hard. There were too many holes, too many things thrown at you at once at times and the writing was weak. It skipped around and felt like the author barely finished a thought before blundering into the next scene mid-conversation with no real idea why or how they got there. I honestly felt like I was back in grade 9 reading Twilight, if it were about half-angels instead of glittery vampires.

There are things which I won’t spoil, if someone reading this wants to read it anyway, that were brought up, have potential, only to never make an appearance again. I just… I was left thinking why did I bother? I will not be reading book two.

 

REVIEW: Legend by Marie Lu

Pub. Date: November 29th 2011
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Pages: 305
Readership: Young adult
Genres: Dystopia, Science-Fiction
Rating: ★★★★

The United States is gone, along with its flooded coasts. North America’s two warring nations, the western Republic and the eastern Colonies, have reached a breaking point. In the midst of this broken continent and dark new world are two teenagers who will go down in history….

Born into the slums of Los Angeles, fifteen-year old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. A mysterious boy with no recorded image or fingerprints. A boy who should no longer exist. A boy who watches over his family until one evening, when the plague patrols mark his family’s door with an X—the sign of plague infection. A death sentence for any family too poor to afford the antidote. Desperate, Day has no choice; he must steal it.

Born to an elite family in Los Angeles’ wealthy Ruby sector, fifteen-year old June is the Republic’s most promising prodigy. A superintelligent girl destined for great things in the country’s highest military circles. Obedient, passionate, and committed to her country—until the day her brother Metias is murdered while on patrol during a break-in at the plague hospital.

Only one person could be responsible. Day. And now it’s June’s mission to hunt him down. The truth they’ll uncover will become legend.

I wanted to read this book from the second I read the synopsis on GoodReads. It sounded like it had everything I wanted in a dystopia so I was surprised to find it took me a while to get into. For whatever reason, the story just couldn’t catch my interest until after about 100 pages. But I will say, after that, I was hooked and found it hard to put down.

The story is told from two different people’s POVs and the story wouldn’t have worked if that were the case. You see the Republic, the war, and everything else from two very different – yet very similar, we realize – people. If it was only told from Day’s POV, or only from June’s, I think I wouldn’t have enjoyed the book as much as I did. With Day, you see someone who was born into slums, who grew up with little and who became a vigilante of sorts. With June, you get to see the life of a prodigy, born into luxury who will be an agent for her Republic. Then it all comes together perfectly.

If you’ve read The Hunger GamesDivergentShatter Me or any other traditional dystopian novel, you will definitely like Legend. It has all the classic characteristic: a sense of a utopia, but with obvious flaws if you look beneath the surface. What happens after the Trials? What of those who fail? Is it really true that they go to labour camps? There is a sense of very little questioning of the Government, until Day comes along.

Overall I was left feeling satisfied. There are still questions and things left unanswered but the wait until book 2 won’t be excruciating because it didn’t end on a cliffhanger.

REVIEW: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Pub. Date: November 15th 2011
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 338
Readership: Young adult
Genres: Dystopia, Science-Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★

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.

Originally this got my attention because I thought oh, her touch can kill! How Rouge! For weeks it sat on my shelf but after finishing another book I was wondering, what the hell can I read next? Shatter Me was really shiny and let’s face it, I’m a kid so I grabbed off of my shelf and dove right in.

I was hooked immediately. The writing style is what got me. It’s first person but it’s like being inside of Juliette’s fractured mind. It seems like you’re reading a diary, almost. Now, I said almost. While Juliette has a notebook, that’s not what we’re reading. It’s talked about a lot in the beginning, then some after the middle, but it’s not what we’re reading. These are her uttermost thoughts and at times they’re fractured, fast, jumbled, or clear. Also, the use of strike throughs is fabulous. You get to know Juliette even more. You areinside of her mind. I’ve never read a book that used this strike through technique. It’s new, it’s fresh and it is so, so wonderful.

YA dystopia is a genre on fire. It’s everywhere now with The Hunger Games, Divergent, Gone, etc, but this book, ladies and gents, is so so great it kind of puts them all to shame. Yes, even THG. To me, anyway. Shatter Me has elements of The Hunger Games but also of XMen. You begin to realize there are superheroes in a world gone mad. In a country where the government (The Reestablishment) is a bucket of corrupted lies. Where the citizens are cold and broken. But in all dystopias, there is hope.

As in all dystopias, in most YAs, there is a romance. Of course there’s a romance. But I find Juliette and Adam so refreshing, so different from most of the ones out there now. I didn’t find myself rolling my eyes every so often at them as I find with even ships I love. Adam needs Juliette as much as she needs him. It’s a perfectly crafted romance that made me have to put the book down and go find someone – or Twitter – to gush about. Because damn, it gave me all of the feelings and then some. That hasn’t happened in a while, YA ship book wise.

The plot is wonderful. Not too slow and not too fast. It’s just the right pacing that leaves you staying up till 4 in the morning wondering where the last four hours of your life have gone. There are twists, turns, action and romance, all structured superbly. Then there’s the characters. You will fall for each one in their own way, mark my words. Even Sector leader, Waren. Is he a monster? Is he human? Is he misunderstood? Or is he insane? I’m still not sure.

There is no cliffhanger with this book. There is a wonderful ending that will lead right into the sequel set to come out in Feb. 2013. That wait is going to be torture, let me tell you. But I’m sure I will re-read this book many times over between then.