City of Heavenly Fire

If you’ve come here looking for spoilers, you have definitely come to the wrong place. As a matter of fact, I’m not going to tell you much of anything about City of Heavenly Fire, the long-awaited conclusion to Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. Do yourself a favor and read it. And the rest of the series. And the prequel trilogy. And anything else that Cassie Clare writes. Even if it’s her grocery list. I’m pretty sure even that would be epic.

For those not caught up with all things Shadowhunter, you absolutely MUST read the first five books of the Mortal Instruments saga before picking up City of Heavenly Fire. Those books are City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels, and City of Lost Souls. (And no, seeing the movie adaptation of City of Bones is not a substitute for reading the book. In my opinion, the movie was absolute crap and didn’t begin to do the book justice.) I’d also highly recommend reading the prequel series, The Infernal Devices (Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince, and Clockwork Princess). There’s a fair amount of crossover, and you may not get the importance of certain things if you don’t have the background provided in the prequels. (Hint: Brother Zachariah for the win!)

I honestly don’t know what I can say about City of Heavenly Fire without giving too much away. From the very first page, I was enthralled, and I’m still processing a lot of what happened. Throughout this 725-page tome, I laughed, I cried, and I got angry. It was an emotional journey, and one that I won’t soon forget…especially since I was extremely worried about my favorite character for much of the latter part of the book. (If you’ve read my other posts on these books, you likely know who I’m talking about.)

Those of you who’ve read the series thus far will get everything you’ve come to expect in a Mortal Instruments book. Snarkiness, sadness, redemption, action, emotional upheaval, intense battles, loss, fear, laughter, and love overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. The characters we met in the first book–Clary, Jace, Simon, Alec, Isabelle, and Magnus–have grown so much, endured so much, to get where they are, and this final war with Sebastian, Clary’s own brother, is their greatest battle yet. They are being tempered in a great fire, and, if they emerge, they will be stronger than ever.

I will say that the ending, while heart-breaking at times, was rather satisfying, and didn’t leave me with–you know–the urge to throw the book across the room or egg the author’s house. (I cannot say the same for my feelings when I finished reading Allegiant.) I felt it was a very fitting end to a beloved series, and it served well as a new beginning for many of the characters who’ve come to mean so much to me.

The official City of Heavenly Fire book trailer was released a few weeks before the book, and it captures the basic mood of the book. (I will admit I’m not crazy about the trailer. Something about it felt a bit off. The same is definitely NOT true of the book!) Check it about below, compare it to the book, and judge for yourself.

I first met these characters six years ago, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of the time we’ve spent together. Luckily, I don’t really have to say goodbye. I’m fairly certain I’ll see them again in Cassie Clare’s next Shadowhunter series, The Dark Artifices. We definitely get glimpses of what we’ll encounter in the new series, starting with Lady Midnight in 2015. Our newest adventure will center around Julian Blackthorn and Emma Carstairs in the Los Angeles Institute, and, if what I saw in City of Heavenly Fire is accurate, we can expect another thrill ride from these young Shadowhunters!

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I know this post didn’t give you a ton of information about City of Heavenly Fire, and I do apologize for that. It’s just that this series means a great deal to me, and I find it rather difficult to put my thoughts on it into words. Those I’ve used here don’t feel adequate in any way. If you take anything away from this, though, I hope it’s this: Read anything you can find by Cassandra Clare. She will wrap you up in an intense story, give you characters you grow to love, and teach you a little something about caring for your fellow man (or vampire, werewolf, warlock, whatever) along the way. Her books–this one and any others–are not to be missed.

The series is complete...for now.

The series is complete…for now.

In the Shadows

After wrapping up my previous post on MILA 2.0, I decided to dive into yet another book-in-progress. I honestly didn’t expect to get so involved in the story that I would finish it in a matter of hours. That book is In the Shadows by Kiersten White and Jim Di Bartolo.

Now, I’ve read other works by Kiersten White before (Paranormalcy, Supernaturally, Endlessly, Mind Games, and Perfect Lies), but this one is a little different. In the Shadows is told in both text and art. White wrote the text story, and the amazingly talented Jim Di Bartolo presented another story through his illustrations. I knew the art and text stories were connected, but it didn’t become clear until the very end just how they fit together.

Cora and Minnie live in a quaint town in Maine where their mother runs the local boarding house. One day, a mysterious young man, Arthur, comes to stay with them, and life as they know it is never the same.

Arthur is a rather taciturn boy, but he looks after Cora and Minnie and vows to protect them from the past he fears may have followed him. And he’s not the only one. Two new young men have arrived at the boarding house, and they have more in common with Arthur than any of them know.

Charles and Thomas, sent away by their wealthy father, are in Maine for a while. Charles is slowly dying, and Thomas is determined to make his brother’s days as happy as possible. Part of that happiness comes in the form of Minnie, one of the girls living at the boarding house. Charles is enamored of Minnie, and, while she enjoys his company, her attention never really leaves Arthur, the brooding young man who lurks in the shadows. Thomas, on the other hand, quickly turns his attentions to Cora, and she seems to have feelings for him as well. But is love in the cards for any of these young people, or is an unknown threat just waiting to tear them apart?

It seems that Arthur, Charles, and Thomas–or their families–are somehow connected to an ages-old society, a society that will do anything to protect its secrets. These young people are in very real danger, and they will have to use their wits and every ounce of strength they have to get out of this mess alive.

Arthur knows more about this looming threat than he’s telling, but he doesn’t want to go down the road that drove his parents mad. He may not have a choice, though. When evil threatens his friends, Arthur must make a difficult choice that could impact his life and the lives of those who care about him. What could this choice mean for Arthur and his future? Only time will tell…

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If you enjoy books like Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck or others that combine text and art to create unique and memorable stories, I think you’ll be very happy with In the Shadows. Both the art and text in this book presented interesting–and often terrifying–tales, and the closer I got to the end, the clearer the connections between the two became.

I read a digital copy of this book via NetGalley, but I think this is definitely one case when a print copy would have been preferable. At the book’s conclusion, when the connections between the two stories were revealed, I would have liked to flip through the book’s artwork to see what I may have missed. That’s not so easy to do with an ebook (especially one read with Adobe Digital Editions, a less than desirable ereading option). So, take this advice: READ A PRINT COPY OF THIS BOOK! (Sorry for screaming at you, but I had to get my point across!)

I’m still debating on whether or not to purchase this book for my elementary school library. I think a lot of my students will enjoy it, but the illustrations do contain some scary imagery that elementary students may not be able to handle or even understand. I do think In the Shadows would be a very welcome addition to middle, high school, and public libraries. It’s a quick, easy read that packs a punch.

If you’re still not convinced to read In the Shadows, take a look at the eerie trailer below. It effectively captures the mood of the artwork present in this book and makes me want to read the book all over again!

Published in: on May 25, 2014 at 8:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Bang

Read Crash, the first book in Lisa McMann’s Visions series, before proceeding. These are definitely not stand-alone books. The second book, Bang, will be extremely confusing if you haven’t read book one.

I’m not going to give much of a prelude to Bang, the second book in the Visions trilogy. (I just closed a book fair–which I unknowingly scheduled during the full moon–and I’m so far beyond tired that I can barely think straight.) If you enjoyed the first book, I think you’ll love Bang just as much…if not more.

In Crash, we met Jules DeMarco, a sixteen-year-old plagued by disturbing visions of the future. She saw a truck crashing into a rival Italian restaurant and exploding, killing up to nine people. Thanks to lots of investigating and a bit of luck, Jules was able to prevent a horrible tragedy. One of the lives she saved was Sawyer Angotti, the son of her father’s most hated enemy.

Now, Jules and Sawyer are a couple, but this couple is facing something that most don’t. It seems that Sawyer is now having visions of the future. Jules doesn’t know how or why this mess was passed along to Sawyer, but she’s determined to help him figure things out and do whatever she can to stop another tragedy from occurring.

While Jules saw visions of a truck running into a restaurant, Sawyer sees something very different, and he’s having trouble coping with his visions and how he can possibly turn things around. He sees what appears to be a classroom, a gunman in black, and bodies piled all around. Yes, his vision seems to be pointing to an eminent school shooting, and the thought that it’s up to Sawyer to stop it is enough to send him into a panic.

Jules knows how Sawyer feels, but she’s also frustrated that she can’t see the visions herself. All she can do is guide him as best she can and trust in this boy who has come to mean so much to her.

Even though they have the odds stacked against them–visions of a disturbing future, a family feud, abusive parents, etc.–Jules and Sawyer do what they must to be together…and to stop a lunatic from taking innocent lives. Will they be able to solve this mystery before tragedy strikes again, or will they get embroiled in a situation so dangerous that they are caught in the crossfire? Read Bang by Lisa McMann to discover the truth for yourself!

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If possible, I think I enjoyed Bang even more than I did Crash. I liked seeing how the relationship between Jules and Sawyer developed. Things were quite steamy at times, but I honestly believe this was a realistic depiction of two teenagers in love, especially when the relationship is essentially forbidden by their parents. (There’s definitely a Romeo and Juliet vibe here…but, you know, without the senseless suicide.) They had to sneak around to be together, lie to the people around them, and take whatever time they could get. I think all the secrecy added yet another element of danger to their relationship–because the terrible visions weren’t enough–that made their being together even more appealing.

*Note: The “sexy times” in this book, while not terribly graphic, are frank. Jules, the book’s narrator, doesn’t hold her feelings back, and the reader sees just how Jules feels about her first foray into a romantic relationship. Some middle grade readers–I hope–are probably not ready for this, so use caution when recommending this book to tweens and younger teens.*

Another thing I appreciated about this book and its predecessor was how close Jules was with her siblings, Trey and Rowan. That closeness extended to Sawyer when he was experiencing the lowest of lows in his life. These kids had to deal with more than most their age, and they did it with maturity. Sure, they had to break some rules, lie, and sneak around, but what do you expect when their parents are unreasonable, crazy, and even downright abusive?! I’d probably do the same thing! Through everything, though, they stuck together and presented a united front. I find that admirable.

I am looking forward to Gasp, the next book in this series. Given that these strange visions are seemingly passed from person to person, I’m curious to see who will be cursed with this “ability” in the next book. I guess I’ll find out on June 3rd!

If you can’t wait until June 3rd to learn more about Bang, Crash, and more from author Lisa McMann, check out the author’s website, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Published in: on May 16, 2014 at 2:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Reborn

Proceed with caution! Reborn is the first book in C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls After Dark series. It might behoove you to read the entire Shadow Falls series before continuing with Reborn. In my opinion, it is kind of necessary to have some knowledge of what happens in the original series before continuing with the spin-off. If you need a list of these books, look below.

There are also a couple of ebook novellas that add to the series and what happens in Reborn. They are Turned at Dark (Shadow Falls #0.5) and Saved at Sunrise (Shadow Falls #4.5).

If you’re still reading this post, I’m assuming you’ve already read the entire Shadow Falls series. Next week, Reborn, the first book in the Shadow Falls After Dark spin-off series, will be released to the masses. (I was lucky enough to read an advance copy via NetGalley.)

Reborn (and the rest of this new series, I imagine) is told from the perspective of Della Tsang, the rather moody vampire we met in the original series. Della is still living with roommates Kylie and Miranda at Shadow Falls, but she’s got her eye on a future with FRU, or Fallen Research Unit, the agency that governs the supernatural.

Della just has to convince Burnett, the big, bad vampire in charge, that she’s got what it takes to be a FRU agent. This may not be the simplest of tasks given that Della has a tendency to go off into dangerous situations with little regard for the consequences. Also, Burnett has a protective streak a mile wide when it comes to any of the young women in his care. A little sexist, yes, but, considering that Della’s own family seems to have written her off, kind of comforting.

When a new guy enters the picture at Shadow Falls, Della’s life gets even more complicated. Chase, a super-powerful vampire, has an air of danger about him, and Della is sure she’s run into him before, but she can’t quite place where. She’s sure he’s hiding something, but she may have to put her suspicions aside if she truly wants a place in the FRU. She and Chase are on the trail of a murderer, and any conflicts could convince Burnett to pull Della off the case that’s quickly taking over her life.

As if worrying about her place with FRU weren’t enough, Della has a few more issues on her plate. Steve, a shapeshifter she’s sort of in a relationship with, wants to make things official. Della’s not sure she’s ready for that. After all, the last guy she loved left her when he discovered she was a vampire. Della doesn’t want to put her heart on the line if Steve will up and leave her one day. And the mysterious Chase also seems to be interested in Della. Officially, Della loathes the newcomer, but she can’t deny that he has a certain appeal. What does he really want with her, and should she be even thinking about Chase when Steve so clearly wants to be with her? Well, the answers to those questions may be more complicated than even Della realizes…

Della is also dealing with the possibility that she has vampire relatives she never knew about. Apparently, her dad had siblings that could have faked their deaths because they were turned (much like her missing cousin Chan). Della is using every resource she can think of to determine if she has an uncle or aunt out there somewhere. Since her own father seems to hate her, Della is longing for some sense of family, especially family who understands what being a vampire is really like.

Della Tsang is facing quite a few changes in her life at Shadow Falls. Tracking down a killer, getting a taste of her future career, a thoroughly confusing love life, trying to find her family, and so much more. You see, while all of this is going on, Della is also experiencing a strange sickness. Her senses are on the fritz, she’s running a fever (very unusual for a vampire), she’s having some pretty intense headaches, and, to really make things odd, she’s seeing ghosts. What exactly is going on here, and can Della figure things out before it’s too late?

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C.C. Hunter has once again packed a bunch of stuff into one book. Della definitely has a lot to deal with, and she manages to do it with the sass that we’ve come to expect from her. But we also get a glimpse of a Della we may not have seen before. Yes, she presents a tough exterior to those around her, but her emotions are often in a state of turmoil. She struggles greatly with her father’s disappointment, she wants to make Burnett proud of her, she’s fiercely loyal to her friends, and she seeks justice for the innocent. Della also wrestles with seeing herself as a monster. (We know she’s one of the good guys, but sometimes all Della can see is the fear associated with the word “vampire.”) This character wants love and acceptance, and she’s sometimes too blind to notice that she’s had it since she stepped foot into Shadow Falls.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Reborn, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it–and the original Shadow Falls series–to teen readers. (It is a bit mature for middle grades.) If you think this book is worth a read, I encourage you to pick it up on May 20th!

If you’re a book trailer enthusiast (like I am), you may also want to take a peek at the Reborn video below. It’s just a wee bit spoilery, but it doesn’t give too much away. And it’s kind of awesome.

For more information on RebornShadow Falls, and author C.C. Hunter, visit the author’s websiteTwitterGoodreads, or Facebook.

The next book in this series, Eternal, is scheduled for an October 28th release.

Published in: on May 14, 2014 at 11:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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Crash

I’ve been a fan of Lisa McMann‘s work since I read the first book in her Wake trilogy way back in 2008. I’ve since read that entire trilogy (Wake, Fade, and Gone), Cryer’s Cross, and Dead to You, all fabulous books by an equally fabulous author. (She’s also written a middle-grade fantasy series, The Unwanteds, that’s on my to-read list.)

Yesterday, I finished the first book in McMann’s Visions series. The book is Crash, and it was just as strange, compelling, and captivating as the other books I’ve read by this author.  It’s a very quick read that will definitely appeal to boys, girls, reluctant readers, and those who will devour any book in sight.

Jules Demarco tries to keep her head down. Any girl who usually smells like pizza, drives around in a truck sporting two huge meatballs on top, and has a father who is a hoarder would probably do her best to go unnoticed…but that’s growing more difficult by the day.

Jules recently started having visions of a horrible, fiery crash, and she sees this vision everywhere. On billboards, TV and computer screens, windows, books…everywhere. In the not-too-distant future, an out-of-control truck is going to run into a building and explode, killing as many as nine people. But when? And where?

Jules tries to look for clues as to when and where this crash will eventually happen, and she’s shocked by what she discovers. Someone she truly cares for–a guy from a family that hates her own–will die if she doesn’t find a way to halt this tragedy.

But what can Jules possibly do without people thinking she’s crazy? How can Jules convince anyone to take her seriously when even she doesn’t really understand what’s going on? Especially someone whose family flips out if he so much as glances at Jules?

One thing is certain. Time is running out, and Jules will have to do everything in her power–including putting her own life at risk–to stop the worst from happening. Will she succeed, or will her vision of this crash ultimately take everything from her?

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This book reminded me a little of the Num8bers series by Rachel Ward. (This British YA series revolves around a few people cursed with seeing everyone’s date of death hovering over their heads. Creepy but cool.) Like Num8ers, Crash–and the rest of the Visions series, I guess–deals with catastrophic future events that a young person is trying desperately to change. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that a power like that could come in handy…but I’m not sure I’d want the responsibility.

Crash is a YA novel with some bad language and adult (though not necessarily sexual) situations that may make this better for high school students, but mature middle school students may be able to handle it. I don’t know. You know the tweens and teens in your life better than I do. Use your best judgment.

Crash is the first book in the Visions trilogy. The second book, Bang, is already out, and the third book, Gasp, has a June 3rd publication date.

 

Published in: on March 26, 2014 at 11:26 am  Leave a Comment  
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Endure

A word to the wise: If you haven’t read the first three books in Carrie Jones’ Need series (Need, Captivate, and Entice), it might be a good idea to do that now.  And if it’s been about three years since you’ve read these books, a refresher might be in order before proceeding with the fourth and final book in the series, Endure. (Should have taken my own advice on that one.)

So, I’m spending part of my reading this year catching up on various series. It’s hard to keep up when most of what one reads is part of a series.  Three years ago, during a week-long snowstorm here in South Carolina, I read the first three books in the Need series by Carrie Jones.  Fast forward a little over three years, and I finally started reading the fourth book, Endure, during yet another freak snowstorm in South Carolina.  (When I say “freak” here, I’m talking like 6 inches of snow…which basically shut down the entire state.  It was a big deal, and I didn’t leave my house–or my pajamas–for days.) It seemed to fit as this series takes place in Maine, and pixies have brought on some sort of super-winter as a prelude to Ragnarok. (Don’t know what Ragnarok is? Look it up. That’s my sassy librarian answer for you.)

Anyway, I say I started this fourth book during Snowpocalypse 2014, but I didn’t finish it until a bit later.  It was difficult to get invested in the series again after spending so much time away from it.  To put things in perspective, it took me about three weeks to get through the first 30 pages of Endure…but I read the last 230 pages in the span of a single evening. Once I refamiliarized myself with the characters and story, I was enthralled, but it did take some time…and a mention of my favorite Norse god, Loki (who I will always and forever picture as the glorious Tom Hiddleston).

Zara White is not exactly a normal girl. Not anymore, anyway. After turning pixie to save Nick–her boyfriend and a werewolf–from Valhalla, Zara has hopes that things can return to some kind of normal.  But normal’s not really possible when you are tied to a pixie king, being hunted by another one, your grandma–a weretiger–is missing, people all over your town are being abducted, and you’re at the center of it all.

As if Zara didn’t have enough to deal with, Nick wants nothing more to do with her now that she’s a pixie–a pixie queen, as a matter of fact–and Zara’s growing feelings for Astley, the good pixie king, are more confusing than ever. It’s quite the conundrum, but Zara will have to put her love-life on the back burner for now…especially if she is to have any hope of halting the apocalypse. No pressure.

Zara is facing some tough choices. How can she train her human friends to fight evil pixies? Can she retain her humanness while taking her place as Astley’s queen?  What does that even mean, and what will Zara do when some things are completely taken out of her hands?  Will she still be a strong leader? Will she still save the world from certain destruction? How? What sacrifices will Zara have to make to protect those she loves the most…and will those sacrifices be enough? There’s only one way to find out. Jump headfirst into trouble…

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Now that I’ve finished the entire series, I must say that the first book was probably my favorite, and this last one came in a distant second. (It would have been a close second, but it just took me way to long to get re-invested. The perils of loving to read serial fiction.) The entire series turns pixie lore on its ear, and it pays homage to Norse mythology. That’s something I appreciate.

On top of all that stuff, the Need series features some very strong female characters. Yes, Zara is the protagonist and is seen as the strongest of the series’ female characters–which I think she is–but there are many other strong women and girls given time in this series, and each one has her own brand of strength. From Zara to her grandma to Issie to Cassidy and several more, the females in this book do not depend on men to do their fighting for them. These ladies go out and make things happen, and they are fully capable of stopping the end of the world on their own, thank you very much. (The guys do help some, but the action definitely centers on the girls in the group, in my opinion.)

All in all, the Need series is a great read if you’re into supernatural stuff with a bit of good, old-fashioned mythology thrown in. You may need to look up a few things if you’re unfamiliar with Norse mythology, but that’s part of the fun! (Granted, my idea of “fun” may need a bit of work.)

For more information on the Need series and author Carrie Jones, check out her website at http://www.carriejonesbooks.com/. You can find links to all of Carrie’s social media pages there.

Published in: on March 4, 2014 at 2:38 pm  Comments (2)  
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Love Is Hell

No, this is not my standard anti-Valentine’s Day message. For the month of February, my book club decided to read books with “love” in the title. I didn’t want to trot out a book I’d already read, so I dove into my sizable to-read pile and pulled this anthology out.

Don’t let the title fool you or turn you away. Love Is Hell features five short stories from some pretty wonderful authors: Laurie Faria Stolarz, Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, Gabrielle Zevin, and Melissa Marr. I kind of expected some light-hearted love stories with paranormal twists, but I got so much more than that.  Each of the stories explored the darker sides of love, and they were so well-told that I found myself wanting more. (Scott Westerfeld’s story, in particular, would be great fleshed out into a full-length novel…or series.)

The first story in this anthology is Sleeping with the Spirit by Laurie Faria Stolarz, and, as the title suggests, this is something of a ghost story. Brenda, the main character, is experiencing some fairly intense nightmares that leave her with mysterious bruises.

Brenda later learns that her house is haunted, and her bruises are being caused by a ghost, Travis, who is trying to hold onto her. Brenda, then, must determine just what this ghost wants and how it will impact her own life and past. As you would expect in a supernatural love story, romance is brewing between Brenda and the ghostly Travis…which creates some interesting situations for Brenda, especially when she finally helps Travis with his “unfinished business.”

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Scott Westerfeld’s Stupid Perfect World is probably my favorite story in this book. I think it can best be desribed as a futuristic tale. (When I described it to my friends, they said it sounded sort of dystopian, but I don’t think I totally agree with that.) In this story, teleportation is a common mode of transportation, research is done in something called “headspace,” sleep is unheard of, and most diseases have been wiped from the earth. Young people learn about what life was like in the past in a class called “Scarcity.”

A big project is coming up in this class, and each person will have to pick just one thing from the past to experience for two weeks. Some choose to experience diseases (which is no big deal, really, since they can have procedures to correct everything when the project is over), some choose to do without teleportation, but two students are doing something a bit different.  Maria decides to do without the standard hormone regulators. She wants to experience teen angst and all that it entails.  Kieran doesn’t know what his project will be at first, but, with a little help from William Shakespeare, he decides to allow himself to sleep. He’ll have to learn about the cycles of sleep, how the body prepares for sleep, and all that other wonderful stuff…but it’s not as easy as he thought it would be. At least not until Maria helps him a bit.

Maria’s hormones start messing with her pretty quickly. She starts feeling “twirly” and noticing Kieran in a very special way. Poetry seems to explode from her brain, and it’s this poetry that brings Maria and Kieran together. Maria reads Kieran to sleep every night, and, before long, Kieran starts to dream about Maria, a girl he never would have noticed before this project.

All is not moonlight and roses for these two, however. Maria is becoming rather emotional, and those raging hormones don’t exactly make her rational all the time. This leads to some problems with Kieran. I’ll let you discover if these two make it and what will happen to them when this project ends.

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The third story, Thinner Than Water by Justine Larbalestier, was rather disturbing. It revolves around a girl, Jeannie, who lives in a very primitive culture…a culture that puts on a show for tourists who come to town. Jeannie lives in a family of bakers, and that’s basically all they focus on. They expect Jeannie, who is only sixteen, to marry soon and begin having children.

Jeannie wants to run away from her family, but something–or someone–stops her. Robbie, the town outcast, expresses interest in Jeannie and promises that he’ll “handfast” with her during the coming Lammas Day celebration. (Essentially, they’ll get engaged and live with each other for a year before they decide to commit to marriage.) Jeannie agrees and sees this as a way out of her family (made up of truly horrible people).

Well, that’s what happens…but Jeannie’s family isn’t exactly eager to let her go to Robbie, a boy they believe to be one of the “fair folk.” They think he is evil and is spreading his curse to Jeannie.  Jeannie doesn’t really believe in all that stuff, but she knows her family is serious about this…especially when they take Robbie from her in the most brutal way possible. And when Robbie inexplicably returns just when Jeannie is rebuilding her life, what will happen? Will Jeannie take Robbie as he is now, or will she try to build a life for herself?

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Gabrielle Zevin’s story, Fan Fictions, is probably every fangirl’s deepest nightmare. I know we all joke about having “book boyfriends,” but this story takes things a bit further. It’s a rather uncomfortable read, and I honestly don’t know what to do with how the story unfolds.

Paige is the epitome of an average girl. She often goes unnoticed, she sits in the middle of the classroom, and she waits for someone to really see her. One day, it actually happens. After spending some time in the school library (and getting a book recommendation from the new librarian), Paige feels someone looking at her. She turns and sees a gorgeous guy, Aaron, who doesn’t seem to fit into her neat little world.

Aaron is everything that Paige could want in a guy. He’s mysterious, he dotes on her, and, most importantly, he notices her in a way that no one else ever has. But there are some things that don’t add up. Aaron never talks about his family, he doesn’t eat, he’s always absent from school. Paige really knows very little about him or his past. None of her friends have met or even seen him. Paige wants things to change, but Aaron is resistant, and Paige soon learns why. Aaron is not totally human (of course).

Soon enough, things begin to unravel for Paige and Aaron. And when Paige learns that everything she believed about this “relationship” is contrived, she will come totally unhinged (if she wasn’t before). The lines between fantasy and reality will become blurred, and Paige will be unable to deal with the fallout. (It’s easy enough to relate to this. I felt sort of similar Sunday night when I thought my beloved Sherlock had a girlfriend. Sigh.)

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The final story in this anthology, Love Struck by Melissa Marr, involves selchies (or selkies, if you prefer). These creatures live as seals in the sea and shed their skin to live on land as humans. In this story, Alana (a human) is seemingly entrapped by a selchie, Murrin, who wants to make her his beloved.

Alana wants none of it, and she definitely expresses this to Murrin. Murrin, though, is sure he’s found the love of his life, and he does everything in his power to convince Alana to stay with him. But Murrin does not figure on his brother, Veikko, using Alana–and her growing feelings for Murrin–to settle an old score.

Love and lies collide in this tale filled with longing, deception, and overcoming obstacles. What will Alana and Murrin ultimately do to remain true to all that they hold dear?

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It should be obvious that I thoroughly enjoyed this anthology. (I really didn’t expect to.) I was prepared for fluff, but I’m pleased to say that I got some real meat here. I fully intend to explore the other Short Stories from Hell anthologies, and I can only hope that those stories live up to those I found in this installment.

Published in: on February 4, 2014 at 2:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Boundless

Warning! If you’re new to Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly series, you may want to change that before continuing with this post. You’ll need to read, at the very least, Unearthly, Hallowed, and Radiant (an ebook novella), before reading Boundless, the third and final book in the series.

So, nearly three years ago exactly, I started the Unearthly series, and yesterday, thanks to a rather unexpected “winter event” in the South, I had time to finish reading Boundless, the series finale. (Today’s post is also the result of an unexpected day off. It seems we can’t handle snow and ice here in South Carolina.)

Boundless picks up right where Radiant–and, to a lesser extent, Hallowed–left off. Clara is about to embark on yet another adventure. She’s starting her freshman year at Stanford, but, if you’ve followed this series at all, you know that Clara is no typical college freshman. She is a Triplare, the rarest of the angel-bloods. (Her mom was half-angel, and her dad, Michael, is 100% angel.) Clara and her fellow angel-bloods Angela and Christian are dealing with visions of an uncertain future where it seems they will have to fight the dreaded Black Wings (fallen angels) that would seek to destroy them.

In addition to learning to fight the bad guys, Clara and friends are also dealing with some other heavy stuff.  Clara is still torn between Christian, a fellow Triplare who is always there for her and makes her stronger than she would be alone, and Tucker, the human she left behind. She has feelings for both boys, and she doesn’t really know how to reconcile those feelings with the visions of a not-exactly-happy future.

Clara is also worried about her brother Jeffrey. After their mother’s death, Jeffrey seemed to lose a bit of himself, and Clara wants to help him find his way back to the light, but it’s not easy. Jeffrey resists all attempts to help and rarely even speaks about what happened in Wyoming. Clara doesn’t know what to do, but she knows she has to at least try to be there for her brother…even if he pushes her away.

Clara’s friend Angela, meanwhile, has gotten herself into a bit of trouble, and that trouble is going have some pretty huge ramifications, both in Angela’s own life and in the coming war between angel-bloods and Black Wings.

What does all this mean for Clara and her destiny? Is she meant to be with Christian or Tucker? Does she even have a choice in the matter? What will happen with Jeffrey? With Angela? Can they hope to defeat the Black Wings when their lives are in so much turmoil? War is brewing, and Clara and company will have to face their deepest fears and journey through hell to emerge victorious. Will they succeed? I’ll leave that for you to discover…

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After finishing this entire series, I have to say that I want more. The ending was sort of satisfying, but–spoilers!–not every character gets what I would call a happy ending. Some of the ending was a little too neat for me, but other parts were left at loose ends. I won’t tell you which parts I’m talking about. I’ll leave that for you to figure out. I will say that a spin-off series for one character in particular wouldn’t be totally unwelcome.

All in all, the Unearthly series was entertaining, and I would recommend it to teen readers who show an interest in angels. Now, I think I’ll continue this “angelic” theme of the week and binge on some episodes of Supernatural. (I do enjoy Castiel!)

For all of you visual people, here is a short book trailer for Boundless from HarperTeen. Enjoy!

Published in: on January 30, 2014 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Daylighters

Danger, danger! Turn back now if you haven’t read the first fourteen (yes, fourteen!) books in Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampires series. They’ve all led up to the fifteenth and final book in the series, Daylighters, and you absolutely must read every single book before you dive into the finale.  If you’re wondering what the first fourteen books are, here you go:

If you’re not already immersed in this fantastic series, now’s a great time to get into it. You don’t have to wait for anymore books! For now, though, I’m going to reflect a bit on the final book in the series, so be off with you if you’re not caught up!

It’s been a wild ride. A few years ago, my friend Jennifer introduced me to the Morganville Vampires series, and, after reading the first book, I was hooked. (I didn’t know at the time that I would be in for a fifteen book commitment, but that’s okay. I love reading books in a series, and, honestly, it wouldn’t upset me now if there were more books to come. There aren’t, by the way.)

During this journey through Morganville, I’ve lamented that the main characters never have anything good happen to them for long. That doesn’t really change in Daylighters (nor would I expect it to). In this final installment, Claire and company are fighting what may be their most dangerous foe yet.

The Daylight Foundation and their charismatic leader Fallon are ridding Morganville of vampires. Sounds like it would be a good thing, right? Well, things aren’t as rosy as Fallon would have everyone believe…and Claire knows it. She and her friends see firsthand just what Fallon is doing to keep the vampires corralled, and they know things are bound to get much worse. (They’re right, as usual.) “Worse” comes in the form of Michael and Eve being split up, Shane becoming some sort of weird hellhound, Claire being arrested, and their beloved Glass House being threatened with demolition. Sunshine and roses, yes?

Things may actually be sunshine and roses for many of the humans in Morganville, but there is a definite undercurrent of menace in this new order. And when Claire’s vampire allies–Myrnin, Amelie, and Oliver–find sufficient strength and will to fight back against this new threat, all bets are off.

War is coming to Morganville, and, loathe as she is to admit it–even to herself–Claire wonders which side she should really be on. Should she side with the Daylighters, who are bringing a peaceful existence to many of the humans who lived in fear for so long, or should she stay with the vampires who founded this town?

There really is no choice for Claire and her friends. Even though many of the vampires are truly terrifying, many more have shown loyalty to the humans in their charge. How could Claire possibly abandon Michael, Myrnin, Amelie, and even Oliver (who is grumpy on a good day)?

Claire, Shane, Eve, Michael, and company will use every tool and ally at their disposal to bring the Daylighters down…but will it be enough? Can vampires and humans work together to bring down a fanatical zealot and convince his followers that a peaceful coexistence is possible?

No matter what the outcome, one thing is certain. A new day is dawning in Morganville. Will it be a day full of light and possibilities or a day soaked in the blood of war? I’ll leave that for you to discover…

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This finale, like the other books in the series, was quite the roller-coaster ride. There were times when I wondered how on earth my favorite characters could possibly get out of their predicaments. I was anxious throughout the bulk of the book, and I longed for a happy-ish ending, especially since I hadn’t got one in fourteen other books! I’m thrilled to say that, to a certain extent, I got what I wanted. The ending was rather satisfying, and I closed the book with a contented sigh.

After fifteen books, I am sad to say goodbye to Morganville and the characters I’ve come to know and love. I’ll especially miss Myrnin, the mad scientist vampire. Every time I put on my killer bunny slippers (with sharp, pointy teeth!), I think of him. Yes, Claire, Shane, Michael, and Eve drove the stories along, but, for me, Myrnin was one of the main reasons I kept coming back for more.  (That probably says more about me that I’m comfortable revealing.)

If you’d like to learn more about The Morganville Vampires or author Rachel Caine, take the time to visit one of these sites. If you go to the young adult page on the author’s website and click on YA short fiction, you’ll find a selection of short stories that explore Morganville and its residents just a bit more. (These may also be on the official Morganville Vampires site.)

Goodbye, Morganville. It’s been an adventure.

Published in: on December 16, 2013 at 12:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Every Day

I started reading Every Day by David Levithan way back on August 18th.  It took me until September 5th to get through the first 75 pages of this book.  I honestly don’t know why I wasn’t super-engaged in this book.  The premise is right up my alley–someone wakes up in a different body every day.  Why then, did it take me so long to get invested?  Maybe I’ll figure it out through the course of this post.  (In case you were wondering, I read pages 76-322 yesterday while in a hospital waiting room.  More on that later.)

What would you do if you didn’t know where–or who–you’d be from day to day?  That’s reality for “A.”  One day he could be in the body of the most popular boy in school.  The next day he’s experiencing the life of a suicidal girl who lives hundreds of miles away.  Every day, A is someone different.  This existence is all A has ever known, and he’s pretty sure there’s no one else in the world like him.  The best he can hope for is not to screw up his hosts’ lives too badly.

But everything changes when he inhabits the body of Justin. Justin is normally not a great guy, but he has one thing that changes everything A has ever felt about himself or the world around him.  Justin has Rhiannon, a girl that A almost immediately falls in love with.  But how can A cope with only having one day with this remarkable girl?  One day during which she’ll only know him as a kinder version of her boyfriend?  Is there any way for A to keep a relationship with Rhiannon going?  If he can, what will be the cost…to both A and Rhiannon?

As A grows closer and closer to Rhiannon, he begins breaking more of his own rules.  He’s tampering with his hosts, and it’s not going unnoticed.  A is also growing to resent the only life he’s ever known.  When you’re a different person every day, how can you hold on to anyone or anything?  But could there possibly be a way out of this life without A hurting himself, his hosts, and Rhiannon?  Only time will tell…

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Even after finishing this book, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I still think the premise is great, but I would have liked a bit more resolution at the end. I feel like too many things were left up in the air. I’m not sure if there will be a sequel or not, but I would like to know how things end up for A. (Spoilers! Every Day did not, in my opinion, end on what I would call a positive note. Maybe the lack of happy ending is what’s bothering me.) Apparently, there will be a companion novel, Rhiannon, which–you guessed it–tells Every Day from Rhiannon’s point of view. This book is not scheduled to be released until sometime in 2015. I don’t know if I’ll pick it up or not. We’ll see.

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Now, for those still reading who are curious as to why I was in a hospital waiting room most of the day yesterday, here we go.  My sister was giving birth to my second niece!  Yesterday, we welcomed Sarah Elizabeth “Ellie” Payne into the world!  Mom and baby are doing well, and my entire family is ecstatic about our new addition!

If you’d like to see a picture of Ellie, check out my Twitter feed in the sidebar here.  (For those who are not following me on Twitter yet, my handle is @KnightReaderSC.)

Published in: on September 7, 2013 at 1:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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