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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The Madness Underneath

Spoilers! Read Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star, the first book in her Shades of London series, before continuing. I just finished the second book in the series, The Madness Underneath, and you really need to experience the first book before diving into the second. This sequel is definitely not a stand-alone novel. You’ve been warned!

A little over a year and a half ago, I read The Name of the Star (which is now on the nominee list for this year’s South Carolina Young Adult Book Award). I picked this book up for two reasons. 1. The author, Maureen Johnson, is one of the funniest people on the planet. (If you don’t already follow her on Twitter, you should.) 2. Jack the Ripper. I’ve always been kind of morbidly fascinated by stories of the Ripper, and I figured this one–with its new supernatural twist–would intrigue me. As usual, I was right.

I absolutely adored The Name of the Star (one of my top 10 books of 2011), so I’m not sure why it took me so long to pick up the sequel. (It was released in October 2012.) At any rate, I made time for it this week, and it didn’t take long to get right back into the world created in this series.

Now, the Ripper-esque story in the first book was–more or less–wrapped up, but the aftermath opened up a whole new world to our main character, Rory Deveaux, a Louisiana native transplanted in London while her parents are on sabbatical. (Hmm…a southern girl in London. I wonder why that appeals to me…)

Following her near-death experience at Wexford, her boarding school, Rory is now staying in Bristol under the watchful eyes of her parents and her therapist. While Rory would normally be thrilled to talk about herself–especially to someone who is basically paid to listen–she just can’t tell her therapist (or her parents) what really happened. No, she must keep quiet about her encounter with the Ripper copycat who stabbed and nearly killed her. She can never reveal that she can see ghosts…and can now somehow kill them (or help them move on to the next spiritual plane) with a touch. Who would believer her anyway? Is there any way for Rory to get back to some semblance of a normal life and maybe–just maybe–not have to hide so much? Perhaps…

With the help of some high-ranking government officials, Rory is allowed to return to Wexford. She’s behind in all of her classes, and she has a bit of trouble adjusting to school after so much time away, but Rory is back with friends…including the Shades of London, a top secret “police force” capable of seeing and interacting with ghosts. And the Shades–Stephen, Callum, and Boo–need Rory. Now that their all-important termini (ghost-eliminators) are gone, Rory is the only being that can send ghosts on. (On to where, I have no idea.) A simple touch makes ghosts go bye-bye. So, in addition to worrying about grades, friends, boys, and the warped psyche that comes with nearly being murdered, Rory must also deal with being a human terminus, a weapon against ghosts with a grudge.

And boy, do some of the ghosts in London carry grudges. But they’re not the only beings up to no good. It seems that something–or someone–even more disturbing may be at work, and Rory finds herself right in the middle of yet another mess. Her longing to get away from her problems and find a place to belong may have landed her into a predicament that even her quick wit can’t get out of. What has Rory gotten herself into this time, and will she be able to find a way out…before she or someone she cares about pays the price? Learn what madness lurks underneath the streets of London–and in the hearts and minds of people–when you read The Madness Underneath, the second book in Maureen Johnson’s Shades of London series.

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While I enjoyed The Name of the Star a bit more than this book, I have to say that The Madness Underneath was a wonderful read. The character’s distinctive, often sarcastic, voice was perfect, and I felt her turmoil over trying to return to a somewhat normal life after going through so much horror. At several points in the story, I felt like screaming at Rory because I could kind of see that she was about to walk into bad situations. (What seventeen-year-old doesn’t?) I was thoroughly engaged and, at the end, kind of heartbroken. (When you read this book, you’ll know what I mean. If I didn’t treasure books so much, this one would have taken a lovely flight across the room and landed against my wall.) I’m hoping for some kind of happy resolution in the next book. (But I honestly don’t see how things can get happy after what happened at the end of this one. Hopefully, Maureen Johnson can find some way to “unbreak my heart,” to borrow a phrase from one of my all-time least favorite songs.)

Speaking of the next book, it’s supposedly titled The Shadow Cabinet and is due for release sometime in 2014 according to Goodreads. There is no information on the third book on Maureen Johnson’s website. With any luck, she’ll tweet about it in the near future. (This woman is all about some Twitter. So am I, so that’s cool.)

I guess that’s all for now. I’ll leave you with a book trailer for The Madness Underneath from Penguin Young Readers. It’s creepy, but it doesn’t give away much of anything about the book. It does a good job of setting the mood for a good supernatural mystery though. Enjoy!

Published in: on July 25, 2013 at 11:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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If I Should Die

Warning! This post will focus on If I Should Die, the final book in Amy Plum’s Revenants series, so I suggest you turn back now if you aren’t caught up. Before proceeding, you need to have read Die for Me, Until I Die, and Die for Her, the ebook novella from Jules’ point of view!

If you’re still reading this, I will assume that you’ve read, at the very least, the first two books in this series. Just minutes ago, I finished the third and final book in Amy Plum’s Revenants series, If I Should Die. After the epic cliffhanger in Until I Die and what happened in Die for Her, I dove right into this final installment. (If I had actually read Until I Die when it first came out, I suspect I would have expired from a bad case of the feels. That ending nearly did me in…and reading Die for Her on top of that felt like someone ripped out my heart and stomped all over it.)

After my initial shock concerning the end of the previous book and the beginning of this one, I paused for a bit and gave this book the time it deserved. (I spent nearly a week with it.) Even though I suspected some of the events that transpired in If I Should Die, I was pleasantly surprised by how those events actually came about. The main character in this series, Kate, morphed from a girl crippled by grief into a true hero and, in my opinion, entered the pantheon of strong, take-no-prisoners, female characters in YA literature. Of course, what can you expect from a girl who’s read The Princess Bride almost as many times as I have?! (That little tidbit was probably one of my favorite parts of this book.)

Kate is overcome with grief.  Violette, a Revenant once considered a friend, has betrayed everyone in her quest for power. Violette, the new leader of the numa of Paris, has kidnapped Kate’s beloved Vincent–thought to be the Champion–destroyed his body, and bonded his volant spirit to her own. At first, Kate is sure there is nothing that she can do, but she soon realizes that there may be a small shred of hope. Vincent’s spirit is still out there somewhere. She just has to find a way to make him completely whole again.

Kate will have to tap resources she didn’t know even existed in order to bring Vincent back, and, along the way, she’ll learn more than she ever dreamed possible about the Revenants–both bardia (good) and numa (bad)–and their history, ancient rituals, and even what her own fate might be.

Reuniting with Vincent is only one part of this epic battle against the traitorous Violette. It seems that Kate has a much bigger role to play than almost anyone–even herself–suspected. What will she have to do–or become–to really set things in motion for a final showdown with Violette and her numa army? Is Kate prepared for what’s coming and what it could mean for her future with Vincent? Is a future even possible when the fate of nearly all Revenants rests on Kate’s shoulders? No matter what, Kate must get ready to fight for everyone and everything she loves. Is she strong enough to triumph? I guess there’s only one way to find out…

I tried my best not to give too much away here, and I’m not sure I’ve been entirely successful. Some of what happened in this book was rather blatantly foreshadowed, in my opinion, but how it played out wasn’t. There were a few surprises in this book, a couple of which actually made me want to toss the book across the room. Always a good sign!

In posts on the previous books in this series, I’ve compared the characters and plot to those in the Twilight series. Well, some of those comparisons continue in this book, but, thankfully, the final epic battle is not one of them. There actually IS a fight! (Not like that huge disappointment at the end of Breaking Dawn. My apologies to all the Twi-hards out there, but you have to admit that was a rather large letdown.) I wanted a battle, and I got one. Some of the characters I liked didn’t make it, but that’s kind of what’s supposed to happen in a battle.

All in all, I would highly recommend the entire Revenants series to any reader who enjoys complicated love stories, action, lush settings, and strong female characters. While some would argue that this series is one long supernatural love story, I think it’s more than that. To me, it’s one girl’s quest to be the person she was always meant to be. Yes, finding the love of her life factored into her journey, but I honestly think she would have been just as strong on her own. Just my two cents.

If you’re not already a fan of this series, I urge you to check it out. You may also be interested in the author’s website, her Twitter feed, her Goodreads page, her Facebook page, and Revenants Central on YouTube.

Published in: on June 30, 2013 at 12:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Until I Die

Spoilers ahead! If you haven’t read Amy Plum’s Die for Me, the first book in her Revenants series, do that now. (If you’re a South Carolinian, you may want to read Die for Me anyway. It’s a nominee for this year’s SC Young Adult Book Award.)

So, I read Die for Me in February, shortly after it was announced as a nominee for the 13-14 SCYABA. Now, four months later, I’ve finally found time to read the second book in the series, Until I Die. (Hopefully, I’ll finish the rest of the series before next weekend.) Until I Die picks up right where Die for Me left off, and it is absolutely essential that you read the first book before continuing with the second.

Kate Mercier, an American living in Paris after the tragic deaths of her parents, is in love with the enigmatic Vincent, a Revenant. What are Revenants, you ask? Well, it’s kind of complicated. They’re sort of less creepy versions of zombies. Yes, they’re undead/immortal, but Revenants became immortal by dying to save another’s life. They keep immortality by sacrificing their “lives” to save others. Their enemies, the numa, are kind of the opposite. They became immortal by killing others, and they retain their undead status by continuing to kill or convincing others to kill themselves. (Like I said…complicated. I’ve read two of these books so far, and I’m still not sure of what it really means to be a Revenant or numa.) Kate is learning more and more about this world she’s now a part of, and what she’s learning is both fascinating and disturbing.

Kate isn’t sure she can handle Vincent constantly facing death to stay forever young, and Vincent doesn’t want to put Kate through the trauma, so he becomes determined to find a way to suppress his urge to sacrifice himself to save others. With the help of a newcomer to the Revenants’ Paris home, Vincent thinks he’s found a possible solution, but it’s painful, and Kate can’t stand seeing him so weak. What’s a girl to do? Well, she goes on the hunt for a different “cure.” Her search, however, leads to some dangerous paths and possible prophecies, and it seems that others–possibly the evil numa–are just as eager to find this information as Kate is.

Once again, Kate, Vincent, and everyone around them are in peril, and it’s not always clear where the menace is coming from. They know the numa are always a danger, but what if the danger is closer to them? What if an enemy is hiding in plain sight? Can they trust anyone? And can Kate and Vincent find out what’s really going on before death separates them forever? Discover the horrifying truth when you read Until I Die, the second book in Amy Plum’s Revenants series.

Like many second books in a series, Until I Die, in my opinion, served as a “bridge” book between the first and third books in the series. I’ll go ahead and tell you that it did not exactly have a happy ending. That’s a good thing. If it had ended nicely and neatly, I wouldn’t have been so eager to read the next book. As it stands right now, I have no clue where things will go in the final book, but my imagination is going haywire. Luckily, I don’t have to wait to find out what happens. Tonight, I’m planning on reading Die for Her, an ebook novella from Jules’ point of view (Vincent’s best friend), and sometime tomorrow I’ll begin reading book three, If I Should Die. (I’ll probably also read something a little less intense at the same time.)

If you’re a school library or in the business of recommending books to others, market this series to Twilight fans. There are some pretty obvious parallels, but I have to say that Kate, in many ways, is a much stronger character than Bella Swan. (At the very least, she didn’t want me to go on as many feminist rants.)

For more information about Amy Plum, Until I Die, or the entire Revenants series, visit the author’s website, her Twitter feed, her Goodreads page, her Facebook page, and Revenants Central on YouTube.

Published in: on June 22, 2013 at 8:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Chosen at Nightfall

Spoilers! Read the first four books in C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series (Born at Midnight, Awake at Dawn, Taken at Dusk, and Whispers at Moonrise) before proceeding with this post. I will be writing a bit about Chosen at Nightfall, the fifth and final book in this series, and I don’t want to ruin things for you…but I will. (You may also want to take a look at two Shadow Falls novellas, Turned at Dark and Saved at Sunrise. They shed some light on one of the most interesting characters in this series.)

If it’s not readily apparent, I finished reading Chosen at Nightfall earlier today. I’ve been enamored of this series since I first got my hands on an ARC of Born at Midnight about two and a half years ago. Today, I concluded my journey with these characters (or at least some of them). This finale was chock-full of action, conflict, and danger, but it also contained it’s fair share of levity, friendship, and, yes, romance. Many of the questions that plagued me throughout the first four books were answered in this one, and several problems were resolved. Some of my predictions from previous books came true. Others…not so much. All in all, Chosen at Nightfall was a great conclusion to a series that I’ve truly enjoyed. I hope you’ll feel the same.

Kylie Galen finally knows what she is. As a chameleon, she possesses gifts from all supernatural species…along with a few others that are unique to her kind. And even more that are unique to her. While staying with her grandfather and great-aunt, Kylie’s learning a great deal about her species, but she’s finding life with the other chameleons rather difficult. She doesn’t fit in here like she did at Shadow Falls, and she’s viewed with a certain amount of distrust. What’s a girl to do?

Well, if you’re Kylie Galen, fate has a way of stepping in and making your decisions for you. When Mario, a powerful and evil chameleon, returns with the intent to wreak havoc in Kylie’s life, it becomes clear that she must return to Shadow Falls for her own protection. Her grandfather disagrees with Kylie’s decision to return to the camp/school that is her true home, but it’s really not up to him. Kylie makes a getaway from the chameleon compound and, even though she encounters her share of danger in the process, returns to Shadow Falls…and to the two young men who are fighting to win her heart.

Derek, the half-fae who can feel Kylie’s emotions, and Lucas, the werewolf who broke her heart. How can Kylie choose between these two guys when she’s got so much other stuff to worry about? It’s not like she’s super busy with anything like finding a way to help the teen chameleons who want more freedom, or dealing with a sword-wielding ghost who shows up at inconvenient times and wants her to kill someone, or trying to figure out why her mom’s boyfriend gives her the creeps, or helping her friends with their love lives, or, you know, learning to fight so that she’ll be ready to face Mario again. No, she’s got plenty of time to worry about deciding between Derek and Lucas, both of whom have given her reason to distrust them. (Where’s a sarcasm font when you need one?) Does she want either of them after everything that’s happened? (Yes, she does, in case you were wondering.) Who truly holds her heart, and can she get past her own issues–and his–to make things really work?

Boy problems aside, Kylie has a life or death battle on her hands. She knows that she must be the one to face Mario, but she doesn’t know if she has the strength or will to destroy a being so powerful…without losing her own life in the process. Kylie will have to use everything she’s learned and all the connections she’s made–to both the living and the dead–to get out of this one with her life and her sanity intact. Will it be enough? Will she finally be able to rid herself of this enemy that has tormented her for so long? The time of reckoning is fast approaching, and it seems that fate is not done with throwing some surprises Kylie’s way…

I hope that the few paragraphs above have intrigued you or whetted your appetite for this book and the others in C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series. If you decide to give the series a try, I honestly don’t think you’ll be disappointed. It’s a great ride for anyone who likes some supernatural teen angst with a bit of action, mystery, and romance thrown in. And even though the characters in these books are paranormal beings, they relate to each other (most of the time) like typical teenagers. They have problems with their parents, they think about sex, they break the rules, and they’re trying to figure out who they are.

I’m happy to report that this is not the last we’ve seen of at least some of the Shadow Falls characters. According to a small teaser at the back of my copy of Chosen at Nightfall, a series is in the works that revolves around your favorite vampire and mine, Della Tsang. (If you’re already a fan of this series, you know that the two Shadow Falls novellas deal with some of her backstory.) I’m hoping we’ll see more information about this on C.C. Hunter’s website soon!

That’s all for now folks! I’ll leave you with this absolutely fantastic book trailer for Chosen at Nightfall. Truthfully, it’s so good that it made me want to read the book all over again!

*I hesitate to recommend this book to middle grade readers, simply because I know some parents frown on cursing and frank talk of sex…both of which are present in this series. (Truthfully, I think a lot of people are a bit too prudish about such things. If you think middle school students don’t curse or talk about sex, well…you’ve never worked in a middle school. That’s all I’m saying.) As with any other book or series, know your readers, and recommend books accordingly. Knight Reader out.*

Published in: on May 6, 2013 at 9:41 pm  Comments (4)  
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