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.

Hidden

Warning:  Read Firelight and Vanish before proceeding! That is all.

Last night, I finally finished reading Hidden, the third (and final) book in Sophie Jordan’s Firelight trilogy. The book came out in September of 2012, but I didn’t make the time to read it until this week. (Honestly, I probably would have waited a little longer to read it, but the author, Sophie Jordan, will be attending the annual SCASL conference in March, and I wanted to finish the trilogy before meeting her.) This book was a very quick read, but, like the previous two books, it was full of action, romance, and adventure, and it packed an emotional wallop. Some of the events in the book were kind of surprising, but, all in all, it was a very satisfying end to a wonderful series.

Hidden continues the story of Jacinda, a draki (descendent of the dragons of yore) torn between her love for Will (a hunter) and her bond with Cassian (fellow draki and future leader of the pride). Jacinda, Will, Cassian, and Tamra (Jacinda’s sister) must now work together to save one of their own–Cassian’s sister, Miram. Miram has been captured by the dreaded enkros (mad scientist-types who imprison and experiment on the draki), and no one really knows what these people will do to her–especially if they discover that she can appear as human as anyone else.

In a move some would call crazy, Jacinda manifests as her draki self and allows Will and Cassian to turn her over to the enkros so that she can communicate with Miram and let her know help is coming. But Jacinda isn’t prepared for what she finds in the enkros stronghold. Miram is not the only draki being held, and the enkros treat their prisoners no better than lab rats. Now, Jacinda wants to save all of the draki tormented by the enkros. But it may not be as easy as she’d hoped. In a very short time, Jacinda starts to go a little nuts from being imprisoned and abused. When will Cassian, Tamra, and Will rescue Jacinda and the others…and will they arrive before something terrible happens?

Help does come eventually, but the enkros and their hunters are still determined to capture the draki that escaped (and any others they happen to encounter). Jacinda is determined to help her fellow draki, but a part of her longs for the freedom of a life with Will, a life away from the expectations that come with living with a pride of draki. But can she just turn off her bond with Cassian, her love for her sister, or the sense of duty she feels to make sure her fellow draki are safe from harm? And what will happen when it is revealed that the biggest threat comes not from the enkros or hunters but from a draki–a traitor in their midst?

In this final installment in the Firelight trilogy, lives will be lost, promises will be broken, secrets will be revealed, and relationships will be tested. Will Jacinda do what needs to be done to save her own kind? And can she find a way to be true to both her draki self and her love for Will? Find out if Jacinda can truly fly free when you read Hidden by Sophie Jordan.

While part of me is kind of sad that this series is over, I did like the way the author wrapped things up. Some will probably say that the ending was too neat, but, after three books of nothing but drama, setbacks, and danger, I think these characters needed a little break. Of course, not every character made it to the end of the book, but you’ll have to read for yourself to discover just which characters made it out alive and whether or not they were happy with how their stories concluded. I will say that I loved what happened with Tamra, and I wouldn’t mind seeing a follow-up book or novella detailing what happened to her after Hidden.

If you still haven’t gotten enough of the Firelight trilogy after finishing Hidden, there is an ebook novella, Breathless, that tells Az’s story. (You might remember that Az is Jacinda’s best friend in the draki pride.) I’m reading it right now, and, so far, it’s pretty good.

I look forward to meeting author Sophie Jordan in March and talking to her about her inspiration for this series and her plans for future books. If you have any burning questions you’d like to ask Ms. Jordan, let me know in the comments, and I’ll do my best to get some answers!

For more information about Sophie Jordan, the Firelight series, and other books, visit the author’s website, her Twitter feed, or her Facebook page.

If you’re still not convinced to give Hidden and the rest of the Firelight series a try, check out the Hidden book trailer below. That should do it!

Vanish

Spoilers (and dragons) ahead!  Before reading Sophie Jordan’s Vanish, you MUST read Firelight, the first book in this series.  (You should really read Firelight anyway.  It’s pretty awesome.)

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If you’re still reading this post, I’m guessing you’ve read Firelight, and, if you’re anything like me, you thought it was great.  Now, I read Firelight in October of 2010, so you can imagine that I forgot quite a few details before reading the sequel.  But I still remembered the basics of this awesome story before I began Vanish.  (Revisiting my post on the first book helped a lot.)  This was extremely important because Vanish picked up immediately where Firelight left off.  Jacinda, a fire-breathing draki, is forced to choose between Will, the love of her life, and the pride she left behind…

After revealing herself to the dreaded hunters in an attempt to save her beloved’s life, Jacinda must make a heart-wrenching decision.  She must leave Will behind, possibly forever and with no memory of her, and return to the safety of the pride of draki who now view her as a traitor.  With her mother and her twin sister Tamra–who is demonstrating some surprising new abilities–Jacinda rejoins her own kind–descendants of dragons who must be careful to keep themselves hidden from the hunters who seek to destroy them.

Life with the pride is no longer as easy as it once was for Jacinda.  Although her status as a fire-breather still offers her some measure of protection, Jacinda is no longer favored among the draki.  (That honor now belongs to her sister.)  Jacinda must work harder to prove herself to the pride and show them that her loyalty resides with them.  It is by no means easy.

The hostility, surveillance, and restrictions surrounding her are taking their toll on Jacinda.  Even though she longs to experience the freedom she felt when she and Will were together, Jacinda also desires the approval and acceptance of her fellow draki.  Only Cassian, the heir of the pride’s leader, seems to care anything about her.  It’s clear that he still wants her as his mate, and Jacinda gradually begins to believe that he might offer her a way to get over losing Will and find her place within the pride.  But an intruder into the pride’s settlement may change that…

When Jacinda is offered the startling opportunity to reunite with Will, she takes chances that endanger her life and the lives of everyone she holds dear.  What will she have to sacrifice to be with the one she loves?  Will it be worth it?  And what punishments will be visited upon her and her family if it is discovered that she left the pride to be with a hunter?  Will Jacinda ever find the freedom she longs for?  Read Vanish, the second book in Sophie Jordan’s Firelight series, to discover what one girl will do to be truly free. 

As is often the case with books I really enjoy, this post doesn’t even come close to capturing how wonderful and anxiety-inducing Vanish is.  I flew through this book simply because I couldn’t bring myself to stop reading.  I kept hoping that the next page would bring something good into Jacinda’s life.  (Sometimes I was right.  Sometimes…not so much.)  Like Firelight, Vanish was an engrossing read that will be popular with readers who enjoy characters whose love is seemingly doomed.  The prospect of Jacinda and Will being together despite all of the odds stacked against them is what keeps us reading.

Speaking of keeping us reading, the third book in the Firelight trilogy, Hidden, will be released in September of this year.  I look forward to seeing how events play out for Jacinda, Will, and even Tamra and Cassian.  Should be a fun ride!

For more information about author Sophie Jordan and the Firelight series, visit http://www.sophiejordan.net/ya/news.html.

 

Bloodrose

Spoilers ahead!!!  I finished reading Bloodrose, the third book in the Andrea Cremer’s Nightshade trilogy last night.  If you keep reading this post and haven’t already read Nightshade and Wolfsbane, you will be sorry!  Sorry, I tell you!

After you’ve read these two books, then you should proceed directly to Bloodrose!

War is looming. Calla Tor and her pack of Guardians (aka werewolves) are uniting with the Searchers to finally defeat the evil Keepers who have oppressed them for as long as anyone can remember.  The primary weapon in this war is Shay, the Scion (and, quite possibly, the love of Calla’s life), who can only defeat the bad guys if he obtains every piece of the Elemental Cross (two kick-butt swords made out of four pieces empowered by earth, air, water, and fire).  Finding the pieces of the Elemental Cross is treacherous, but it is a journey that must be made if this war is to be won.

As if waging war isn’t tough enough, Calla also has to tread the dangerous waters of her own love life.  After saving Ren, the guy who was supposed to be her alpha mate, Calla is worried about Shay’s reaction and what it could mean for the battles ahead.  Calla must deal with her feelings for both guys.  She thought everything was so cut and dried, but what if it’s not?  What if she really is meant to be with Ren?  What if Shay’s role as the Scion places him forever out of her reach?

Even though Calla is torn between the boy she’s always known and the one she gave up everything for, she has to put her own desires aside to face the difficult journey ahead.  She must step up as the alpha of the pack (since she can’t choose her mate at the moment) and lead her fellow wolves and their Searcher allies into battle.  They will face horrors that make them want to give up, they will encounter former friends who have become their enemies, and they will lose people they’ve come to care about. 

These warriors will dive headlong into certain death in order to break the hold the Keepers have on them and everything they hold dear.  Will they be successful?  Do they have any hope of winning this war when it’s not clear who is friend and who is enemy?  And if they do drive the Keepers away, what does it mean for Calla and her pack?  Will Calla finally choose her mate, or will that choice be taken out of her hands?  Do the wolves even have a place in a world without Keepers?  Read Bloodrose, the final installment in Andrea Cremer’s Nightshade trilogy, to discover the sacrifices that must be made in war and in love.

Like so many before it, I don’t think this post has done justice to the breathtaking story that is Bloodrose.  It was a fantastic book, and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading.  (I almost called in sick to work yesterday so that I could finish the book.  I didn’t, but I did rush home after school and immediately began reading.)  There was a surprising amount of humor in this book when you consider that it’s a tragic love story set in the midst of a supernatural war.  I was also gripped by the love triangle in Bloodrose (and the other two books in this series).  I felt torn right along with Calla, and, for a large portion of this book, I wasn’t sure if I wanted her to end up with Shay or Ren.  (She had some steamy scenes with both of them.  So steamy that I would recommend this book for ages 16 and up.)  In the end, though, I was very satisfied with how the Nightshade trilogy concluded.  I mourned the loss of a couple of characters while I celebrated the demise of others.  I felt like everything happened as it should, and, at least for a while, the world of the Guardians and Searchers is at peace.  A great end to a great series.

But wait…there’s more!  There’s currently a Nightshade novella, Treachery, available through Barnes & Noble and Amazon, which tells Ansel’s story.  (You might recall that he is Calla’s little brother.)  There will also be a prequel to the Nightshade trilogy, Rift, which should be out on August 7th of this year.  For more information about these extras and the entire Nightshade series, visit http://www.nightshadebook.com/.  Enjoy!

Nightshade

I don’t even know where to begin.  When a book is so good that a person contemplates skipping work to finish it, you know you’ve got a winner.  (No, I didn’t actually do this…but I thought about it.  I did take the book to work with me, and I read it during my too brief lunch break.)  Nightshade by Andrea Cremer is the book I’m talking about.  It is absolutely amazing, and I cannot begin to express how much I loved it.  The cover alone is a work of art, and the writing is just as artistic and beautiful.  I highly recommend this book to teen and adult readers alike.

In Nightshade, readers are introduced to Calla Tor, alpha female to a pack of werewolves (for lack of a better term).  Calla has always known and accepted her destiny.  She knows that, come Samhain, she will join with Ren, her chosen alpha male, to form a new pack.  Calla is secure in her role as a Guardian, and, though she sometimes cringes in the presence of the Keepers, masters of the Guardians, she realizes that the Keepers provide for her pack and depend on the wolves for protection of their most sacred sites.

Calla’s certainty, however, begins to fade when someone new enters her life.  When Calla is on patrol in her wolf form, she saves a human’s life and reveals her true self to him–a major violation of the laws of her kind.  Imagine her surprise when he shows up at her school the very next day.   Shay is new in town, and no one knows much about him.  No one knows of his first meeting with Calla.  He is human, but he lives with Bosque, a feared and unknown Keeper, in a sprawling and secret-filled estate.  Will he reveal how Calla saved him?  What is his connection to the Guardians and Keepers?  And why are the Searchers–the enemies of the Guardians and Keepers–so interested in him?  Calla is intrigued by Shay, even though she knows she shouldn’t be.  She’s promised to another, and getting close to Shay can only lead to trouble. 

Well, it seems that trouble is what’s in store for Calla and Shay.  As the time of her union with Ren draws near, Calla and Shay begin to uncover the many secrets of the Keepers and Guardians.  Calla does not know what to do with this new knowledge, and she’s torn by her duty to her pack and Ren and her growing feelings for Shay.  As Calla goes against her nature and the very laws that govern the Guardians, she grows closer and closer to the truth.  Will her discoveries cause her to drift from what she’s meant to do and the people she cares about the most?  Will these truths change how she views everything around her–including who she should spend her life with?  Unravel the mysteries when you read Nightshade by Andrea Cremer.

If this post hasn’t made it abundantly clear, I adore this book, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in future books.  The second book, Wolfsbane, will be released in the summer of 2011, and the third book, Bloodrose, will come out in the spring of 2012.  A companion novel to Nightshade is also in the works for the fall of 2012.  There’s lots to look forward to, but if you just can’t wait to learn more about Nightshade, upcoming books, and author Andrea Cremer, I encourage you to visit http://www.andreacremer.com/index.html.  I hope you enjoy this wonderful book as much as I did.

Firelight

As many people know, I’m a fan of fantasy novels.  I like vampires, witches, werewolves, mermaids, and many other seemingly mythical creatures.  One creature that has never appealed to me, however, is the dragon.  I don’t really know why.  Well, that may have all changed after finishing my latest read, Firelight by Sophie Jordan.  This book is freakin’ awesome!  If you haven’t guessed by now, dragons, or at least their descendants, play a major role in this book, and I am now convinced that dragons are awesome and not just a cruel part of the first challenge in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Jacinda is draki.  She and those in her pride are descended from the dragons of old.  Unlike the dragons that came before them, the draki can take on human form.  This is their greatest defense and how they escape the hunters that are always after them.  Even among the draki, though, Jacinda is different.  She is a fire-breather, the first born in her pride in generations.  She is constantly watched, and her fate does not seem to be her own.  She yearns for freedom, and this urge to fly free causes Jacinda to break one of the most basic rules of her kind.  She is nearly caught by a hunter, and she and her family must flee the pride in order to remain safe, both from the pride and those that would hunt and kill her.

Jacinda’s mom decides to settle in the desert.  The hope is that the arid climate and inability to transform will kill the draki inside Jacinda and force her to become wholly human.  Jacinda fights against this and wonders why her mother and her twin sister, Tamra (who never managed to manifest into a draki), cannot accept her as she is.  Why do they want to kill such an important part of her?

Jacinda is convinced that she will wither in this miserable new environment…until she encounters Will at school.  They’ve met before, but he doesn’t remember.  He was a hunter who let her go.  Despite knowing what Will is, Jacinda is as drawn to Will as he is to her.  She knows it’s dangerous to be around him, not just because he could discover her secret, but also because she feels her inner draki stirring whenever he is near.  He may be the only way to keep her draki self alive.  Her greatest threat could be her ultimate salvation.

Can Jacinda survive in this new life?  Will she try for her mom and sister?  What will become of her relationship with Will?  Is there any hope for Jacinda to truly be herself when she feels that those who should love her most wish part of her would die?  Will she stay?  Or will she return to the pride who wishes to control her?  Discover these answers and more when you read Firelight by Sophie Jordan.

I may have given too much away in the post above, but it’s hard to know when to stop talking about such an amazing book.  I especially got engrossed in the relationship between Jacinda and her sister.  I spent most of the book extremely mad and irritated at Tamra.  She was just so self-centered.  So was the mom.  I know they had their reasons, but it was still very frustrating.

Firelight is just the first book in this new series, so look for more information on upcoming sequels.  I know Firelight  has already been optioned for a movie.  If done right, that could be pretty awesome.  Fore more information on Firelight and author Sophie Jordan, visit http://www.sophiejordan.net/ya/news.html.

Paranormalcy

So, it’s Tuesday, my absolute least favorite day of the week.  Work stunk today, I have a pile of laundry to do, I haven’t gone grocery shopping in nearly two weeks, there are three more days until the weekend, and I have to spend my Saturday dressed up at my uncle’s wedding.  But there is a bright spot, boys and girls!  I just finished reading an awesome book about some wonderfully weird creatures.  Now, I know that describes nearly every book I read lately, but this one is a little different.  This bleeping super book is Paranormalcy by Kiersten White.

Evie is a sixteen-year-old girl who works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency.  She’s the only person in the world (or so we think) that can see through the glamours of paranormal creatures, so it’s her job to bag and tag them so that the IPCA can keep track of them.  Quite the job for a teenager, no?  (Personally, I think it has to be better than working the drive-thru at McDonald’s…which I did for all of three days.)

Anyway, you could say that life is not quite normal, or paranormal if you will, for Evie, but it’s all she’s ever known.  She’s been at the IPCA since she was discovered wandering the streets alone when she was three years old, and she knows her “gift” is helping both humans and paranormal creatures alike.  Or is it?  (That question kind of gave the answer away, didn’t it?)

When paranormal creatures begin dying, the horrible events are traced back to a prophecy that somehow relates to Evie.  Could she possibly be the cause of these attacks?  Is there anything she can do to stop them?  Are her abilities and past somehow connected to what is happening?  Join Evie as she discovers just how paranormal she really is in Kiersten White’s Paranormalcy.

I really enjoyed this book.  It is one of the rare pieces of supernatural fiction that I think really doesn’t need a sequel.  (I wouldn’t complain if there was one, but the story wraps up nicely in this book.)  There’s the typical teenage snarkiness, a longing to fit in and belong somewhere, and a bit of romance thrown into this great story.  At the core, Paranormalcy is about a girl, human or paranormal, who is just trying to find her place in the world.

For more information on Kiersten White, Paranormalcy, and future books, visit http://www.kierstenwhite.com/.  I just went to the site myself and discovered there will be two sequels to Paranormalcy, so there you go!  Happy reading!