Glass Sword

Notice: I highly recommend that you read Red Queen before proceeding. This is not a spoilery post, but you still need to read the first book. (It’s not a bad idea to read Queen Song and Steel Scars as well. These two novellas provide a bit of perspective when going into the second full-length novel in this outstanding series.)

Now, let’s move on to Glass Sword, the second book in Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series…

Having finished Glass Sword just minutes ago, I don’t know how I’m going to write a coherent post about it considering that I am completely numb right now. That is a sincere compliment to the author of the book. Continuing with my day as planned is going to be a struggle when all I want to do is curl up in the fetal position and think about how much this book wrecked me. (Being an adult with responsibilities kind of sucks at the moment.)

Given that I don’t want to spoil the experience for all of you, I’m not going to do my standard recap of the book today. I will say, however, that things don’t get better for Mare and company. They’re on the run from Queen Elara and the newly crowned King Maven, they’re looking for more Reds with power (newbloods), and they’re trying to figure out exactly who they can trust. Mare doesn’t quite know what to do with herself. Is she a leader? Is she the face of a revolution? Is her loyalty to the Scarlet Guard, her family, all of the newbloods out there…or is she only loyal to herself? There are no easy answers, but Mare needs to figure out where she stands before she becomes just like the monsters she’s running from.

Glass Sword is not a book that will give you the warm-fuzzies. Even though it’s hinted at, there’s no grand romance going on here. (That may come in future books. I’m not sure.) The characters are in the midst of a war, and nothing about it is pretty. It’s gruesome, gritty, and real. (Yes, I know this is a fantasy/sci-fi book. It still manages to capture the horrors of war in a realistic way.)

Glass Sword is, in my opinion, 100% Mare’s story of how her circumstances drive her to do both noble and terrible things. She’s proud of some of her actions and horrified at others. She drives people away while longing to hold them close. She sacrifices pieces of herself for her cause and forces herself to harden her heart. This war is taking its toll on Mare, and she doesn’t know if she can handle the cost. Even with everything she’s done–and will have to do–Mare isn’t sure that it will be enough to stop Maven and prevent even more lives from being lost.

I’ll go ahead and tell you that there is no happy ending in this book–which is true for many “second books” in a series. At the end of this one, you’re going to want to immediately dive into the next book…but you can’t. The third book, currently untitled, won’t be out until sometime next year, so we’ve got a wait ahead of us.

I hope I’ve whetted your appetite for Glass Sword without giving too much away. If you want to learn more about Glass SwordRed Queen and Victoria Aveyard, visit the author’s websiteblogTwitter feed, or Facebook page. You can also check out the book trailer below. It does a good job of summing up Glass Sword without revealing a ton.

Steel Scars

Steel Scars is the second novella in Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series. It is a very good idea to read Red Queen before this story so that you have a bit of context. Otherwise, I doubt much of it will make sense.

Last night, I forced myself to sit down and finish reading Steel Scars, which gives a little more background on the character of Farley, a member of the Scarlet Guard, from Red Queen. This story is the second Red Queen prequel novella, and, unlike Queen Song before it, I found it kind of difficult to get through this one. Maybe it was all of the military-like correspondence. Or maybe it was because I didn’t feel a huge connection to Farley in the first place. Either way, it wasn’t easy for me to keep 100% of my attention on this story.

So…is Steel Scars a bad story? Certainly not. Once you figure out how it’s set up, it adds some depth to Farley’s part in the series as a whole. We see more about how the Scarlet Guard operates and the plans they have in motion. It also gives readers at a look at one of the characters from Red Queen that was a bit of a surprise at the end. (I’m trying not to spoil too much here, but the character I’m referring to has a connection to Mare. I’ll leave it at that.)

My biggest issue here is that Farley didn’t make much of an impact on me in Red Queen, so I didn’t feel that I simply had to know about her early work with the Scarlet Guard. (If you feel differently, please let me know in the comments.) I did, however, appreciate seeing how Farley’s path intersected with Mare’s. I think that connection could have been explored a bit more, but that’s just my opinion.

Even though I ended up liking Steel Scars for the most part, I guess I was expecting more. I wanted to like this story as much as I did Red Queen and Queen Song, and I just didn’t. Maybe the latest novel, Glass Sword (which came out on Tuesday), will focus a little more on Farley and make her early actions more relevant. We shall see.

To learn more about Steel Scars, the other Red Queen storiesand Victoria Aveyard, visit the author’s websiteblogTwitter feed, or Facebook page.

Red Queen

I should begin this post by thanking the South Carolina Young Adult Book Award Committee for placing an outstanding book like Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard on next year’s list of nominees. Had they not, it probably would have taken me a lot longer to get to this most excellent book. So thanks to this group of librarians, teachers, students, and others for including Red Queen on the Book Award list and moving it to the top of my TBR pile.

Now, let’s move on to my thoughts on Red Queen. In a nutshell…Holy Crap on a Cracker. I was blown away by this book, and I honestly don’t know how I’m going to be able to express that in a single blog post. (I’ll do my best, though.)

I guess I’ll start with this: If you were to combine the X-Men, Graceling, The Hunger Games, and The Selection, you might get close to the awesomeness that is Red Queen. Yep, that about covers it. Still not enough info? Well, let’s explore this fantastic story a bit more…

Mare Barrow is a seventeen-year-old who lives by her wits. She lies, cheats, and steals to get by, and she realizes that, if she should be caught, it would mean certain death. Why, then, does Mare risk so much?

Mare is a Red. To be Red in this world is to be “less.” The Silvers–humans with silver blood and amazing abilities–are in power, and they plan to stay that way. The Reds fight and die in wars of the Silvers’ making, they work for scraps, and their lives are daily struggles. Until Mare is conscripted into the army, her only way to contribute to her family is to steal whatever she can to make things just a little easier.

Mare sees no way out of her current life, but a chance encounter with a strange young man–known only to her as Cal–changes everything.

Soon, Mare finds herself with a new job–working for the Silvers in the summer palace. This position ensures that she won’t have to join the army, but how did she come to be working here? Who could have possibly gotten her this job? Imagine Mare’s surprise when she realizes that Cal, the young man she recently met outside of a Red tavern, is none other than the Crown Prince. He’s the reason she’s here, surrounded by the very people who keep Reds like her under their heels.

But it seems that fate has more in store for Mare than she or anyone else realized…

When Mare’s life is in danger, it is revealed that she has powers of her own–an unheard-of occurrence in this world. Only Silvers have power, and the royal family will not let anyone learn that Mare, a mere Red, has special abilities. So Mare is passed off as a Silver and betrothed to Maven, Cal’s younger brother. Now, Mare is a princess-in-training, and she knows that the Silvers around her are looking for any excuse to put an end to the threat she poses to their way of life.

As for Mare, she’s looking to be even more of a threat. When the opportunity arises to join the Scarlet Guard, a group of rebellious Reds looking to end Silver rule, Mare takes it. She can help the Guard from the inside and finally stop the tyranny that Reds have lived under for so long. She may even find some unexpected help along the way.

But nothing is as it seems inside the palace. Mare doesn’t know who can be trusted or when everything will come crumbling to the ground. Have those in power seen everything she’s been doing, everyone she’s been talking to? And what will happen to Mare if her secret activities should be discovered? Will she be able to count on the Silver allies she’s made, or will they betray her for their own agendas?

Mare stands in the midst of this war between Silver and Red. How will her position, abilities, and relationships factor into the events to come? Read Red Queen to find out.


I hope I’ve done a little to entice you to read this wonderful book. It truly is phenomenal, and I look forward to reading more in this series.

Speaking of more, the next full-length novel, Glass Sword, comes out on February 9th. If you can’t wait that long–yes, I know it’s only a couple of weeks–there are also two novellas already out. They are Queen Song and Steel Scars, and I plan to read those as soon as I finish up a couple of other books.

While Red Queen is, in my view, definitely written for a teen audience, I do think that some middle grade readers will eat it up. Those who love The Hunger Games and The Selection will find a new series to devour in Red Queen.

If you want to learn more about Red Queen and Victoria Aveyard, visit the author’s websiteblogTwitter feed, or Facebook page. You can also check out the Epic Reads book trailer below. It doesn’t give much of anything about Red Queen away, but it does look pretty cool.

V for Vendetta

Well, this one has been a long time coming. During Snowpocalypse 2014, I finally made time to dive into V for Vendetta, the classic graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. Like so many other classics, I don’t know why I waited so long to read this book (especially since I loved Watchmen so much–the book, not the travesty of a movie), but I’m glad I finally made time for it. It definitely appeals to the dystopian fiction fan in me.

V for Vendetta presents a disturbing view of an alternate England in the 1990’s. The world has been ravaged by nuclear war, and, somehow, England has come through nuclear winter. (Not realistic, but we overlook things for the sake of the story.) Fascism has taken hold, and differences–at least those that don’t benefit those in power–are eradicated. People are controlled through fear, and only a select few have any say in what happens. One man–a man who takes on the persona of the infamous Guy Fawkes–aims to change that.

The vigilante known only as “V” is on a mission. At the beginning, that mission revolves around a select few individuals, people who made him into the man–or maniac–he is. Slowly, readers learn the story of how the totalitarian regime’s policies and “experiments” made some people–those thought to be expendable–into nothing more than lab rats. Few survived, but one of them, V himself, did just that, and he’s unleashing hell on those who tortured so many. V is eliminating these tormentors one by one, and his vendetta against them is blossoming into a rebellion against everything they stand for.

Only one person has any real contact with V. Evey, a young woman all alone in this frightening world, is saved by V one night, and she begins to learn more and more about her savior. She is terrified by some of what she learns–and the part she plays in certain things–but part of her understands what motivates V. Soon, it will motivate her as well.

V for Vendetta is, at its most basic, a story about oppression and how one person can strike a flame that sets off a conflagration of rebellion. It only takes one voice speaking out to change things. Yes, V sought to subvert the system through violence and death, but his legacy was that one person could do much. Only fear stands in the way. Once fear is removed from the equation, there is no limit to what can be accomplished.

(I would add that apathy needs to be removed from the equation as well, at least as far as our own society goes. Too many people are okay with the status quo, don’t think they can do anything, or just don’t care to change things. In my opinion, this attitude is more damaging than fear.)

Maybe I’m missing the boat on my interpretation of this story, but I don’t think so. After having watched the movie–which is pretty different from the book but has the same basic message–I’m doubly sure that V for Vendetta centers on a message that resistance to any form of oppression begins with one person who decides that he/she just won’t take it anymore. Does resistance have to be violent? Absolutely not. In fact, I’d wager that most successful resistance movements are not. The point is that someone has to be brave enough to speak up and do something. Even seemingly small acts can have a lasting impact…and one never knows when those small acts could turn into something bigger and unstoppable.

Allegiant

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Allegiant, the third and final book in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, was released this week. You’ve probably also heard that fans are having some pretty strong reactions–both positive and negative–to how things played out in this book. (Truthfully, some of them are being jerks about it. At the end of the day, it’s not up to me how the book ended, but I can decide to be mature about how I react to it.)

This book was nothing like I expected it to be. (Honestly, I’m not totally certain what I expected after Divergent and Insurgent, but I’m sure it wasn’t this.) That being said, I truly enjoyed the book, and, even though things didn’t happen like I anticipated–or even wanted–I felt it was a fitting, disturbing, and thought-provoking end to a series that captivated me from the first page.

I’m not going to say much more about Allegiant here. To be perfectly honest, I’m still processing what happened (even though I finished the book about four hours ago). I was thrown for a loop, and I cried so much that I’m likely a little dehydrated now.  A person can’t experience a book like this without some inner turmoil, and I’m still working through mine. (I predict that anyone who reads it will feel the same.)

So…love or hate the final installment, Roth’s Divergent series is over. At least until the Divergent movie comes out on March 21st. If you’re anything like me, what happens in Allegiant may just color how you view this movie.

Defiance

Normally, it takes me a week–at most–to finish a book. For several reasons, it took me a month to finish Defiance by C.J. Redwine. It wasn’t entirely the book’s fault. I liked the book, for the most part, but it wasn’t a read that demanded my attention at first. Lots of other things, however, did. Here are a few things that may have contributed to the lengthy amount of time spent reading Defiance:

  1. End-of-school-year craziness. Any educators who follow this blog know how insane the end of a school year is. Inventory. Meetings. Tracking down overdue books. Awards days and celebrations. Gathering materials checked out to teachers. Too tired to move at the end of the day. Not to mention my library got new carpet during the last week of school. That was its own brand of crazy.
  2. Netflix. Yes, I blame Netflix for my lack of reading lately. When I got home from school, I wanted to zone out a bit, and I did that with the help of the IT Crowd, the Bluth family, and the Brothers Winchester. I have no regrets.
  3. Defiance, the ebook. I downloaded Defiance as an ebook to my Kindle app when it was one of Amazon’s Kindle daily deals. I’ve found that it simply takes me longer to read ebooks than it does print books. For whatever reason, I find it easier to get lost in a print book than an ebook. I don’t know why.

Anyhoo, no matter how you look at it, it took a while to read Defiance. It was a decent book with an interesting plot, and I’ll probably read any sequels, but I wasn’t really invested in what was happening to the main characters until close to the end of the book. To put things in perspective, I read the last third of the book in less than a day.

In C.J. Redwine’s Defiance, we meet Rachel and Logan. They live in the walled city of Baalboden, which is ruled by the heartless Commander who seemingly protects the citizens from a dragon-like monster known as the Cursed One. Rachel’s father, Jared, was sent on a tracking mission by the Commander and is missing, and Rachel and Logan might be the only people who really believe that he’s still alive beyond the city’s walls. So they devise a plan to go looking for him…but the Commander may have other ideas.

It seems the Commander might know something about Jared’s whereabouts–and why he hasn’t returned–and he’ll do everything in his considerable power to make Rachel and Logan cooperate in retrieving what he believes is rightfully his. But the Commander didn’t count on just how much Rachel and Logan want to thwart his tyranny…especially when the Commander demonstrates just how far he’ll go–and how much he’ll take away–to hold onto his power.

Some people buckle under pressure, but others–like Rachel and Logan–become more determined than ever to destroy the man who has taken so much from them…by any means necessary. They’ll brave prison, loss, the Cursed One, and certain death to bring justice to the Commander. But first, they must find out what happened to Rachel’s father and what the Commander is really after. Can they do this while holding on to hope, their own humanity, and each other? What will they lose in the process? Can they fight against evil from so many sides while figuring out who’s really in control? Begin finding the answers when you read Defiance, the first book in C.J. Redwine’s Courier’s Daughter trilogy.

Now that I’ve finished Defiance and thought about it a little bit more, I realize that I’m very intrigued by the story and what may happen next. (This is usually the case when I read books that talk about rising up against corrupt governments. I should probably examine that a bit.) I look forward to seeing what happens in the next book, Deception, which will be out on August 27th.

Upon reflecting, I realize that the characters in Defiance have a lot in common with those in The Hunger Games. Rachel, the main character in this series, is kind of Katniss-like. Her circumstances harden her, make her stronger (in some ways), and force her to do what needs to be done. Her counterpart, Logan, is an amalgam of Peete and Gale. In my opinion, Logan is more emotional than Rachel, but he’s still a skilled hunter and absolutely ruthless when he needs to be. The Commander, of course, is similar to President Snow. He’s a jerkwad of epic proportions, and I dare any reader to get through this book and not want the man dead.

If you’d like to learn more about Defiance and the rest of this series, visit C.J. Redwine’s blog at http://cjredwine.blogspot.in/. You can also find out how to follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. You may also want to check out the Defiance book trailer below which takes the whole Hunger Games comparison to a whole new level.

Reached

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t read Ally Condie’s Matched and Crossed, do that before continuing with this post. As a matter of fact, even if you have read Matched and Crossed, you might want to reread them before proceeding with this post and, most especially, with Reached, book three in this series. I didn’t realize how much I forgot until I was well into reading this third book. You’ve been warned!

About a week ago, I started reading Reached, the third book in Ally Condie’s Matched series. I loved the first book (which just won the 12-13 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award), I thought the second was a pretty typical second book in a trilogy, and I had fairly high hopes for this third and final book. When I started reading Reached, though, I thought my hopes were sure to be dashed. It was really hard for me to get into this book, and I kept having to go back to Crossed to refresh my memory on what happened in the previous book (and how it related to what happened in this one). Things didn’t pick up for me until about halfway through the book. After that, my reading positively flew. To put this in perspective, it took me five days to get through the first half of the book and only one to read the second half. I guess, for me at least, the first part of the book had a lot of build-up to the events of the second half, and I felt that it could have been condensed a bit. I did enjoy the book, especially the second half. Was it my favorite of the trilogy? No. That honor goes to Matched. Did it answer some of my questions? Yes. Did it tie up everything in a neat little bow? Not exactly.

Cassia, Ky, and Xander are all part of the Rising, the group trying to overthrow the Society that has controlled their lives for so long, but they all have different roles to play in this struggle. Ky is a pilot for the Rising, and it’s his job to transport supplies, medicine, and anything else needed to further the Rising’s agenda. Cassia is continuing to sort for the Society while following the mysterious instructions from the Rising. She’s also working with the Archivists, making trades on behalf of others, and gathering artists, poets, writers, and musicians together to share their gifts that the Society has long repressed. Xander, once an Official for the Society, is now a valued medical professional who is treating those infected with a Plague that has infected much of the populace. Each of them is critical to the Rising, but they’re all about to learn just how important their work really is…

When the Plague begins to mutate, everything the Rising has worked for is in jeopardy. It is of paramount importance that a cure be found. The Plague has already reached pandemic proportions, and, if something doesn’t happen soon, this disease could wipe out most of the population. The leader of the Rising, the Pilot, gathers Ky, Xander, and Cassia together to work on finding a cure. Cassia’s sorting abilities (and attention to detail) could help to find the common factor that those immune to the Plague share. Xander’s medical and pharmacological knowledge could help to actually create a cure. And Ky…well, Ky is to serve as a test subject. (I don’t think I need to spell out what this means.)

As Cassia, Xander, and even Ky learn more about the Plague that is devastating all they’ve known, they are also learning more about the Rising, the Society, and their own stories. These three young people, whose lives are so interconnected, are discovering the truth about the Plague’s origins, the Rising’s true agenda, and what it really means to have the freedom to choose one’s own path in life. The answers they find will not be comfortable, and their quest for a cure will lead them to some disturbing truths. Will they be able to handle what they find? And how will their relationships be impacted by all of this? Is the cure a possibility, and what will a cure (or lack thereof) mean for the Rising, the Society, and any other groups of people (including those who are immune)? Can everyone reach for the freedom that they’ve been denied for so long, or will the Plague keep everything from their grasp? Read Reached, the conclusion to Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy, to discover the truth for yourself.

I haven’t even come close to covering all of the events that occurred in this book. There are some minor characters (Indie, Lei, the Pilot) who have a huge impact in what happens in this book, but I’ll leave that for you to discover. Like Requiem, the final book in Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series–which I prefer to this one, by the way–Reached doesn’t really resolve everything in a nice, tidy little package. There is a clear conclusion, but there’s also room to speculate what happens to the characters after the last page.

I’ve seen both Matched and Crossed in my school’s Scholastic Book Fairs, and I think some mature fifth graders might be able to handle it. The entire series is great for middle grade, high school, and even adult readers. Reached, in particular, could generate some interesting discussions about diseases, how diseases mutate over time, and how governments or other groups could use diseases–or fear of them–to control a population.

If you’d like more information about Reached, the whole Matched series, or author Ally Condie, visit her website at http://www.allysoncondie.com/. You may also want to check out the Reached book trailer below. (Don’t worry about spoilers here. It tells almost nothing about this book…or the others that preceded it.)

Having finished this entire trilogy now, I can finally reflect on where it fits into my list of favorite YA dystopian (and/or post-apocalyptic) series. As you can probably imagine, The Hunger Games is at the top of that list. Veronica Roth’s Divergent series is a close second. Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy and James Dashner’s Maze Runner series are also pretty high up on the list. I’ve started a few series (Kimberly Derting’s The Pledge, Kiera Cass’ The Selection, Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, Ann Aguirre’s Razorland series, Caragh O’Brien’s Birthmarked trilogy, Marie Lu’s Legend series, Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me series, and a couple of others) that will probably end up somewhere on the list as well. The Matched series, though, is probably closer to the bottom of this list. Yes, I did like the series (or most of it), but it is not my favorite, especially when you consider just how many awesome YA dystopian series are out there. Feel free to disagree with me. I’m just giving you my opinion as a long-time reader of dystopian literature. (I think it started with Fahrenheit 451 when I was in the 8th grade.  Thank you, Mrs. Galloway!)