Book Review: Entangled by Amy Rose Capetta

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Title: Entangled
Series: Entangled Series , #1
Author: Amy Rose Capetta
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 11/4/2014
Pages: 336
Age range: 14 years
ISBN-13: 9780544336247

Book blurb as seen on Amazon:

Alone was the note Cade knew best. It was the root of all her chords.

Seventeen-year-old Cade is a fierce survivor, solo in the universe with her cherry-red guitar. Or so she thought. Her world shakes apart when a hologram named Mr. Niven tells her she was created in a lab in the year 3112, then entangled at a subatomic level with a boy named Xan.
Cade’s quest to locate Xan joins her with an array of outlaws—her first friends—on a galaxy-spanning adventure. And once Cade discovers the wild joy of real connection, there’s no turning back.

I purchased this book for my Kindle on Amazon.

This one will be short. I don’t have a lot to say about Entangled. It was a good, entertaining read that was pretty quick and had me moderately invested the whole time. I enjoyed the author’s use of musical terms to help explain how Cade was thinking and feeling, and even though she was one of those hard luck cases that hates you first before you can hate her, I actually kind of enjoyed it. It wasn’t over done and seemed realistic based on her background. The theme of the story, connecting to other people, became a gradual idea and you saw Cade grow through all of it. She needed her connection to Xan, but she wanted her connection to other people she had gotten to know.

And the writing kept me in the story most of the time. I never stopped and thought, “Oh, she should have shown there, instead of told,” or “The dialogue is clunky.” Everything flowed together nicely. There were a couple of times her prose style made me do a double read so I could figure out what she was talking about, but other than that I enjoyed it.

This book would be an entertaining read for fans of Science Fiction with it’s interesting take on the universe. The villains were properly scary and the big reveal wasn’t something I saw coming. The ending was interesting and a little heartbreaking, though I knew there had to be something that would keep her from a happily-ever-after. It just didn’t feel like a HEA book. I’ll definitely be reading the sequel.

My Review: 3/5 stars

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And on a side note, I’m looking for recent YA Science Fiction novels to read. I want to get a good handle on the genre before I start writing. Any suggestions?

Book Review: Burn Baby, Burn Baby by Kevin Craig

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Title: Burn Baby, Burn Baby
Author: Kevin Craig
Paperback: 148 pages
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press (December 11, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1620076519
ISBN-13: 978-1620076514

I purchased this book on Amazon for my Kindle

Book blurb as seen on Amazon:

Seventeen-year-old Francis Fripp’s confidence is practically non-existent since his abusive father drenched him in accelerant and threw a match at him eight years ago. Now badly scarred, Francis relies on his best friend Trig to protect him from the constant bullying doled out at the hands of his nemesis, Brandon Hayley-the unrelenting boy who gave him the dreaded nickname of Burn Baby. The new girl at school, Rachel Higgins, is the first to see past Francis’s pariah-inducing scars. If Brandon’s bullying doesn’t destroy him, Francis might experience life as a normal teenager for the first time in his life. He just has to avoid Brandon and convince himself he’s worthy of Rachel’s attentions. Sounds easy enough, but Francis himself has a hard time seeing past his scars. And Brandon is getting violently frustrated, as his attempts to bully Francis are constantly thwarted. Francis is in turmoil as he simultaneously rushes toward his first kiss and a possible violent end.

So I finished reading this book last weekend, but I’ve been putting off writing a review, because for the first time ever, there is a realistic possibility the author will read the review. That’s a lot of pressure. Sure, if I wanted to gush about the parts I love, and I will, that would be easy. But as my readers know, I almost never just say “good” things. Because I believe in an honest and comprehensive approach. Especially if I think my review could help a writer improve. Even if it isn’t the author of the book I’m reviewing. After all, I’ve learned so much about what not to do and what I can do better by reading the good and the bad from published authors. They are my school, my teachers, my mentors (even if they don’t know I exist!)

There’s a part of me that says I should give up writing book reviews. As I get closer to being a published author myself (no, there’s no news, just blatant optimism that someday . . .) I feel maybe writing reviews of authors I may someday meet, or work with, or even compete against, isn’t a good idea. Still, I value honesty, as long as it’s done in an appropriate manner, so for now I shall continue.

As to why Mr. Craig may actually read my review, I sort of know him. Well, as much as you can know someone you occasionally chat with on Absolute Write and passively follow his blog. He knows I’m reading it, though who I am may not register on his radar. Like I said, very minor acquaintance. I could probably never say anything and he’d never know, but that’s not me. I’ll write my review, be honest, and still tell him I wrote it. And on with the book review . . .

I’ll start with a few things I believe Craig could have improved on, but I’m going to qualify it first. I’ve read other books from a deep teen POV, as this is, and I find I don’t particularly like the writing style. I think Monument 14 by Emmy Labourne was one I’ve commented on before. While I think it is excellent to really get into the voice of a teen, especially when writing 1st person (and trust me, this had plenty of voice) I also like when authors “upgrade” how teens really speak and feel. Not so they don’t sound like teens or you lose the voice, but maybe not repeat certain words too much (unless it’s a distinct character trait.) For example, multiple teens use the word “pariah” in this book on multiple occasions. As a word, it’s fine, but repeated so many times seemed a bit redundant. I like a little more polish to my teen voices, while still retaining the flavor.

Another issue I had, and something I am guilty of myself, is telling and not showing. I’m specifically referring to how the characters feel and what they were thinking. There were longish bits of dialogue that spelled out a characters thoughts or feelings that seemed a bit excessive to me. I’d rather be shown by body language and a few well-chosen words than long descriptions that kind of repeat themselves. Even though this is how I communicate on a daily basis, and especially on this blog! Sorry guys for all the lengthy posts!

So what did I like? Well, a lot actually. I’m sure many of you have heard of the We Need Diverse Books campaign, and though I know when you hear those words, you immediately think of minorities in race, sexual orientation and maybe disabilities, but not everyone would consider a burn victim disabled. Personally, I think this book fits the bill perfectly. The WNDB campaign, in my opinion, is about showing readers another side of life they may not experience everyday, and being Francis Fripp is something very few people can really understand. Francis was badly burned by parental abuse as a child, but his emotional scars run much deeper than the physical.

This book explores the adverse affects of physical, mental and emotional abuse inflicted by a parent and their long reaching, long standing hold on the victim. It also shows the truly terrifying life of being the victim of vicious bullying. But it also lets the reader into the world of a kid who sees himself as the victim and plays that role, to the exclusion of allowing others to befriend him. He is so certain that he is unworthy of love, friendship and really anything good in life, that he hides behind his burned facade and protects himself from further hurt. Really what he has done, is allowed others to see him as a “social pariah” as he puts it in the book. It’s easy to question by the end of the book if he is really an outcast, or if his self-esteem and defense mechanisms have prevented anyone else from forming attachments to him.

I loved how Kevin developed the bully from someone who tormented Francis at school, in a sort of typical high school fashion, to someone truly evil. It was a great transformation from this kid we can all see as at least one person we know, into a monster that probably grows up and abuses his kids. And we can see how the whole “stand up for yourself” mantra, doesn’t always pan out. And neither does the “tell and adult”. I’m not saying that victims of bullies shouldn’t stand up for themselves or tell adults, they should, but the reality is much darker and more complex than that. Craig gets it, and shows in his novel how the world of high school bullying is not cut and dry, or as simple as some adults like to make it out to be.

And can we get to the climax?! Holy crap! I read most of this book with interest and a genuine appreciation for the story and the storytelling, but it wasn’t until the climax chapters that I was riveted to my Kindle screen. It was brutal, suspenseful and there was no clear way this was going to end. The fear was real, mine and Francis’! Craig pulls you in, making the scene as tangible as if you are experiencing it yourself.

I think the real gem of this story, though, is the humanity it brings to the pages. It’s easy to see people with severe deformities as their deformities. Even good people who would never bully or hurt others, look away, or look too long, or just don’t see the people in front of them as people with thoughts, feelings, dreams and emotions. They are a victim, or a burn or a lost limb. Someone to be pitied. But reading novels like this makes characters who are different than what we are, more real to us than the people we see in life who deal with the same issues we read about. Hopefully, taking a step inside Francis’ head, or the head of other people who are different, whether that be race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, handicap or medical issues, can help us readers see them as just people. Maybe through imaginary characters, their real-life counterparts can become real to us as well.

There’s a lot more I could talk about with this, but it’s getting long as it is. The last chapter was beautiful and gratifying. The villan was terrifying in a way only a real evil person can be. Francis was both moving, sympathetic and maddeningly dense, but I love MC’s who are far from perfect and help to create some of their own problems. The “message” (though it doens’t feel like a message book) is deep, moving and important for all teens to hear. I’d even say it is one of the books I really wish teens would read, much like Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys contemporary issue-based YA novels. Heck, I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes YA. If you want to work on your WNDB challenge, you can add this one to your list. It is thought provoking, emotional and substantial.

My Review: 3.5/5 stars

Check out some of Kevin’s other books:

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Book Review: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

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Title: Afterworlds
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Hardcover: 608 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse (September 23, 2014)
Language: English
Age range: 14 – 17 Years
ISBN-10: 1481422340
ISBN-13: 978-1481422345

Book blurb as seen on Amazon:

Darcy Patel has put college on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. With a contract in hand, she arrives in New York City with no apartment, no friends, and all the wrong clothes. But lucky for Darcy, she’s taken under the wings of other seasoned and fledgling writers who help her navigate the city and the world of writing and publishing. Over the course of a year, Darcy finishes her book, faces critique, and falls in love.

Woven into Darcy’s personal story is her novel, Afterworlds, a suspenseful thriller about a teen who slips into the “Afterworld” to survive a terrorist attack. The Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead, and where many unsolved—and terrifying—stories need to be reconciled. Like Darcy, Lizzie too falls in love…until a new threat resurfaces, and her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she cares about most.

I’ve done a lot of agent research over the past few months. Actually, I’ve been doing it far longer than that, but I’ve been pretty intense and in-depth of late. Agency websites have been perused page-by-page, names Googled, Twitter and Facebook scoured, blog posts and interviews read (and sometimes even the comments!) Suffice it to say, if a YA agent has said they want to see it in a novel, I’ve heard about it at this point. (Isn’t it interesting that it’s totally acceptable for authors to take on the role of a cyber-stalker while querying agents?)

So when I started reading Afterworlds, I immediately had this mental image of Westerfeld’s agent Jill Grinberg upon hearing about his latest novel: “Oh my God, Westerfeld, I f@#%ing love you!” Actually, I have no idea if Ms. Grinberg is the swearing type. To be honest, I’m not either, but if you’ve done the research I have and you’ve read this book, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

1) Agents everywhere are asking for diversity, diversity, diversity! Westerfeld’s MC, Darcy, is Indian-American (think India, not Native). Her whole family is (of course) and one of her friends and also the LI in the Paranormal portions of the story. Though Westerfeld doesn’t inundate the reader with countless Indian references, he slips them in as they would be in Darcy’s life: just natural. A big deal isn’t made out of the inclusion of holidays or cultural references. They are part of Darcy’s life and therefore they are a part of the book. I loved how he did that.

2) And then there’s more diversity: Agents (and readers) have been asking for more LGBTQ+ characters where their sexual orientation is not the issue of the story. Westerfeld delivers. No one is upset that Darcy starts dating a girl, and Darcy doesn’t have a huge deal telling people. There is a minor inclusion of telling her parents which is a slight hitch, but they are loving and accepting and it is not the core of the story. Westerfeld treated Darcy discovering she is attracted to Imogen as just natural and real. Once again, loved that!

3) Agents and readers alike have been requesting Paranormals and Mythologies that use non-Western history or mythology. The Afterworlds portion of . . . um, Afterworlds, is based on the Hindu religion. So yeah, check another one off the list Westerfeld.

4) I’ve seen countless agents list Paranormals as an absolute no, and even if they did say they’d consider, they were adamant about no vampires, werewolves, selkies, mermaids, witches, wizards, etc. So basically anything that’s been done before. Since I don’t know a single book written about psychopomps (not saying they don’t exist, just haven’t seen any) I think Westerfeld was safe in the Paranormal category. Especially since he alternated each Paranormal chapter with a Contemporary (a genre that is getting a lot of requests these days.) One chapter about Darcy, the writer, new to the world of publishing and her trials and tribulations. Then one chapter about Lizzie, our psychopomp exploring the world of the dead. Then back to Darcy and so on. That’s two checks on this one. Contemporary and original Paranormal. Is this guy even human?

So there you have it: the reasons any agent would have taken on this book, even if Westerfeld wasn’t a huge name in YA to begin with. But what did I think of it?

Well, pretty much I feel if you are attempting to break into the publishing industry, you should read this book. Especially if you write YA. Not only does it give you a glimpse into the world of an agented author who has a book deal, but it is also a well-written YA that you can learn a lot from. It also explores the touchy ground of using an existing religion or mythos for the purpose of a YA novel. Darcy struggles with concerns that she is pilfering her religion “for the purpose of YA hotness.” Thought the issue is never resolved, it is something all authors have to consider when writing about a culture, religion, race, sex, or sexual orientation. What doesn’t seem offensive to one person can be to another and we have a responsibility to consider that. By no means should we avoid controversy and exploring all aspects of life, but we should at least consider all the options and potential opinions.

Usually, I expound on an author’s writing abilities, but I feel that is unnecessary in this case. Westerfeld is irreproachable for his writing skills. And moving on . . .

Both stories were intriguing, though I was drawn to Lizzie and her lord of death more than Darcy’s angst over first love, revising a book, living alone in New York for the first time in her life. That’s just personal choice. I don’t read a lot of Contemporaries, but having said that, I was fully invested in Darcy and Imogen and the rest of the cast very quickly. As far as Contemporaries go, I really liked it.

As for Lizzie and Yamaraj’s story, I was so completely absorbed. The story was new and fresh, not something I had read before, and there was a definite creepy factor I wasn’t expecting. Reading late one night I promised myself to the end of the chapter. I had to go to bed. After all, I have children, and they don’t care how late I stayed up reading. Anyway, the chapter ended with “something” scratching the floor beneath Lizzie’s bed and calling, “Come down and play!” I was so freaked out, and I don’t usually get scared by stuff in books. Of course, I don’t usually read scary books, but hey, this was creepy!

And no, I didn’t read another chapter. I really had to go to bed. But you can bet the next day when I had a free minute I was pulling that book out to find out what happened.

Pretty much I loved this book. I borrowed it from my library, so it may have to be a future purchase. But I didn’t love everything. As a mom, I wasn’t thrilled about the references to underage drinking. No, I’m not some silly prude that thinks teens don’t drink. And I know my nineteen-year-old daughter drinks with her friends. And when I was nineteen, I drank too, but not much. It annoyed me that Darcy drank almost everywhere she went. It’s much harder in Michigan to get a drink as a minor, but maybe New York is different. When Darcy thought about how bad she needed a beer, I was just put-off. I’m not totally upset about it, because I realize it is part of life and Westerfeld didn’t really glorify it, but I wasn’t thrilled about it either.

The other thing I was ambivalent about was the romance between Darcy and Imogen. Actually, not even the romance, but the lead up to it. The scene where they express their feelings for the first time and kiss was beautiful and I adored it, but there wasn’t enough of a lead up for me. One minute she isn’t thinking about Imogen in that way and the next they’re kissing. I guess I just need the feelings to be established a little more. It made it difficult to connect with their love story through out the book. Personal preference, but I like a slow burn that gets me caught up in wanting these two characters together, not a suddenly together and let’s skip all that foundation stuff. It was just too quick for me. On one hand, the story wasn’t about the romance, and that’s okay, but I still needed more.

I’d love to know from some of my LGBTQ+ blogging buddies if they have read the book and how they felt about Darcy and Imogen’s romance. I was worried that I wasn’t connecting because the characters are lesbians, and well, I am not. But I honestly don’t think that’s it, because like I said, I loved that first love scene and I was rooting for their relationship after that, but it kind of snuck up on me. I thought maybe it was going to happen, but questioned whether I was reading too much into the text.

Other than those two minor things, I adored this book. Every minute kept me captivated and I’m interested to know if Westerfeld is going to write a sequel. Though I have read his Uglies series, I haven’t read the rest of his books. He has just entered the ranks of one of my favorite authors, so I guess I’m going to be searching out the remaining books I haven’t devoured yet.

My Review: 4.5 stars

Book Review: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

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Title: Under the Never Sky
Author: Veronica Rossi
Series: Under the Never Sky Trilogy (Book 1)
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (January 3, 2012)
Language: English
Age Range; 14-17 years
ISBN-10: 006207203X
ISBN-13: 978-0062072030
Amazon Review: 4.4 stars

Book blurb as seen on Amazon:

Fighting to survive in a ravaged world, a Dweller and a Savage form an unlikely alliance in New York Times bestselling author Veronica Rossi’s “unforgettable dystopian masterpiece” (

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland—known as The Death Shop—are slim. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild—a savage—and her only hope of staying alive. A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile—everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria’s help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption.

It took awhile to draw me into this book. To start with, Rossi begins with 7 named characters within the first couple of pages. I wasn’t sure who I should care about. And since it is Science Fiction, there’s world building too, so all-in-all, I was slightly overwhelmed. Which is to say I was underwhelmed. I like to be drawn into a character’s life with subtlety and hints, and to be emotionally invested in whether this person lives or dies or get’s what they want. I just didn’t feel that with Aria right away.

And then there was the fact that we were plopped right into the sort-of action from the start. Which normally isn’t a bad thing, and in fact is becoming more and more common in YA novels, because let’s face, who wants to read 3 chapters about a person going through their day-to-day life so we can get to know them? So what am I asking for here? Well, a balance I guess. I need to be invested in a character before I care about them and I need to be cognizant of their world before I can move through it. That’s hard to do in Science Fiction, and Fantasy too. So yes, a balance, which Rossi did okay, but it could have been a little better.

So move forward in the book, and eventually I did care what happened to Aria. Perry I was connected to very quickly, but that may have been because he was more real and his life situations were more immediate than Aria’s. It’s easier to connect with the emotional and physical struggle of someone who has to fight for his life everyday, than some spoiled kid who lives in a virtual reality world. It’s not until Aria is thrust into the “real world” that I began to connect with her more.

The premise was fairly interesting, though I wanted to know more about the Aether and what happened to the world to make it that way, but I’m guessing that will come in the later books. I thought the world building was well done and the developing relationship between Aria and Perry played out nicely. At first, you never thought there was any way these two people could form a bond, but Rossi did a great job of connecting the dots, humanizing both characters and drawing them closer. There was enough sexual tension to push the story forward and written in an appropriate manner for the target audience. The action was non-stop and they were rarely out of danger, which keeps you turning pages to find out what happens next.

The ending was reasonably satisfying, while still setting up for the sequel with unanswered questions and plot to develop. So basically a good read. It won’t change the world or anything, but it was enjoyable entertainment. I’m kind of running out of things to say, because though I enjoyed this book and I’ll read the sequels, it was just for fun, I guess. I don’t remembered being awed by the writing, but I wasn’t annoyed by it either, so that’s good. The story didn’t inspire me or anything, but it was entertaining. I guess basically, if the premise sounds interesting, you won’t be disappointed. But if not, well, you’re not missing anything.

My Review: 3.5/5 stars

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Book Review: Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

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Title: Dreams of Gods & Monsters
Author: Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone
Hardcover: 624 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (April 8, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316134074
ISBN-13: 978-0316134071
Amazon Review: 4.6/5 stars

Book blurb as seen on

In this thrilling conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, Karou is still not ready to forgive Akiva for killing the only family she’s ever known.

When a brutal angel army trespasses into the human world, Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat–and against larger dangers that loom on the horizon. They begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves–maybe even toward love.

From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera, and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

I have to admit, I think I’m getting tired of writing book reviews. Maybe it’s just because the books I’m reviewing I read weeks ago, or maybe because I’m feeling so much pressure to get my novel ready for submission. Whatever the case, I think I’m going to take a different approach, oh, about 4 reviews from now. 🙂 I always forget to keep notes while I’m reading, so that’s something I’ll change, and I guess I’ll just talk about things that jump out at me, give a brief overall judgement, and my stars. Maybe that’s not so different, but being organized might help. And writing it immediately instead of waiting two weeks!

So on to Dreams of Gods & Monsters. As you can tell by my previous reviews (Daughter of Smoke & Bone and Days of Blood & Starlight) I love this series! I started a Pinterest fan-board, so that should show how much I love it. So there really isn’t much more to say. Taylor’s writing is magnificent. She transports me to another world and I read her books as I breath air. I feel as if I am a character in the book, feeling the despair and the heartache, experiencing the never-ending war that seems to have no resolution, and hanging on to the thread of a hope that something can be done. Taylor moves us through the story, until we can see an ending. We can understand all the characters, their thoughts, motivations, actions and desires. We aren’t left wondering why did they do that? Or how did they get to this point? All is shown and taught and developed within us, until it is just a story that exists in our minds much like a fairy tale drilled into us from childhood. It doesn’t need explaining, it just is.

If Taylor had a drawback, it was this. She succumbed to the established author problem of over-writing the book. I’m not complaining. I’ll take as many novels as she’d like to produce, but she definitely could have shortened things up.We had two to three pages explaining a second in time and how it affected each and every person in the room, or drawn out descriptions of how someone felt in graphic detail. I enjoyed every second, don’t get me wrong, but only an established author with a strong following can get away with that. Oh, to have that pull some day!

And the ending. It was acceptable. I don’t need fairy-tale-perfect-everyone-lives-happily-ever-after. In fact, I don’t like those. You can’t go through hell and be Mary Poppins on the other side. Yes, I’m talking about you, Bella. And there are others, but I like my characters to suffer, and for the reader to understand that suffering doesn’t stop with THE END. So, Taylor makes sure we get a realistic ending. And I liked it. But she left it open. Is there another book? Is there another series? You can’t leave them with, “Oh, you saved the world, but now here’s another major catastrophe you need to fix. Good luck!” Or rather, you can’t leave ME with that! Dear God, woman! Have you no heart? Well, if there’s more to read: Yea! If not: Seriously?! I need a little more resolution than that.

My Review: 4.5/5 stars

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Book Review: Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

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Title: Days of Blood & Starlight
Author: Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone
Paperback: 544 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (February 25, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316133981
ISBN-13: 978-0316133982
Amazon Review: 4.6/5 stars

Book blurb as seen on

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is–and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Dear Ms. Taylor,
I do believe I am in love with you. Not love-love. I mean, you’re a woman and I’m a woman and we’re both straight, so, you know. And not stalker crazy-love either. Oh, no. I won’t be lying in wait outside your writing retreat to snap pictures of your lovely pink hair. I am most specifically talking about your writing. Yes, Daughter of Smoke & Bone was exceptional, and I began to feel my passion for your writing then, but it was this. This novel. Days of Blood & Starlight, that has cemented my undying affection . . .

Wait a second. This is supposed to be a book review, not a love letter to Laini Taylor. Sorry about that. Back on track!

As I’m sure you can surmise, I loved this book. Taylor has restored my wavering faith in YA authors. I know. I know. Ye of little faith. I didn’t really think that ALL YA authors needed to be sent to writing camp, but I have had a string of disappointments lately. And she’s given me a serious inferiority complex. My confidence in submitting my own novel has been sorely tested.

So I guess I’ll start off with the only thing that bothered me. Get it out of the way so I can gush about the good things later. I noticed this in Daughter of Smoke & Bone (you can read my review here) but It was sort of in the back of mind. It was brought to the fore front in this novel and here’s my issue. On several occasions in both the first and second books, Taylor describes the Chimaera as prizing a human aspect as beautiful. Maybe I missed something, and many Chimaera wanted to be their beastly selves (I say beastly with the utmost respect), but I found it strange that a people as varied as the Chimaera would see one aspect as more beautiful than all the rest. Wouldn’t cat-like Chimaera prize a feline face, and bird-like Chimaera want amazing feathers, and those with typical human aspects would like to see a human face. It bothered me that our (I mean human) prejudices would be placed on a people that would most likely appreciate that which was usual to them. I might be reading more into, but that was my one little problem through the whole book.

Now what did I like? Well, EVERYTHING! I love Taylor’s descriptive writing style. How she can describe a person, place, thing, emotion with prose that sings. Her words have the effect of making me forget I am reading a novel. And that is the one best thing an author can do for me. As I read, I forget I’m reading, and I’m just there. In the story. I see what Karou sees and feel what she feels. I understand Akiva’s pain and Liraz’s misgivings and when certain characters die, well, my emotional turmoil is pretty real.

Taylor also has a beautiful gift to see people. Really see them. She creates characters who are full and complete, with strengths and weaknesses. Real weaknesses too. Not just, they have a hot temper. No, these characters have thoughts and ideas and prejudices. They learn from mistakes, and sometimes they don’t. Their detailed pasts color their future and define their actions and Taylor lets us see it all. Even when someone does something we don’t like, we understand why. I was completely intrigued with the personalities and motivations of some of the side characters. Especially Liraz, a character who I started out disliking, but now am intensely interested to see where her story takes her.

There was a rape scene, and I won’t say much because I don’t want to be a spoiler, but it was hard to read. It was still YA appropriate, but it was difficult to see this character go through the ordeal she experienced, though Taylor handled it well. It was brutal. It was awful. And there was nothing remotely romantic about it. That’s how stuff like that should be portrayed, not the crap romance novels pass off as forbidden love. Rape is nasty in all circumstances.

And when Days of Blood & Starlight began, I didn’t see how Karou could ever forgive Akiva for what he had done. No matter what his reason, or thoughts, or motivation, what he did could never be undone. The deaths of so many people she loved was not something that can be gotten over. I still wasn’t convinced these star-crossed lovers would have a happy ending by the end of the second book, but at least I saw a path forward. And I don’t always need a blissfully happy ending. I just need a resolution. Sometimes those are happy, but mostly they just need to be realistic and believable. Taylor brought you along on Karou’s emotional journey, and boy was it a roller-coaster, and you were there with her and the possibilities of a future.

So, in closing, I loved it. I don’t know if it has awakened my enjoyment for fantasy, something I don’t read a lot, or if it’s just Taylor’s books I love, but I’m open to possibilities. I’ve actually already read Dreams of Gods & Monsters before I wrote this, so it was hard not to let that bleed in, but that review will be next.

My Review: 4.5/5

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Book Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

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Title: The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Series: The Maze Runner Trilogy (Book 1)
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press; First Edition edition (October 6, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0385737947
ISBN-13: 978-0385737944
Amazon Review: 4.3/5 Stars

Book blurb as seen on

If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.

Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Everything is going to change.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

Remember. Survive. Run.

I borrowed this book from my son.

My son has been bugging me to read this book for quite awhile, and with the movie coming out soon, I figured I better get on it.

It was a fairly quick read for me, spurred on by the fact that The Maze Runner is one of those books that feeds you just enough to awaken your taste, but leaves you starving with need to find the answers. Dashner did a great job of making us feel Thomas’ anger and frustration at not knowing what is going on, because that’s how I felt through the whole book! It actually got a touch old, receiving tiny morsels of information, but having to wait and wait for the next. I guess it served its purpose. I kept reading after all, but I think it actually took me out of the story after awhile because I was so annoyed with being constantly confused.

The characters were fairly well developed, though I felt Dashner would have done better to let us see the character’s actions and dialogue, and let the reader conclude personalities and motivations, rather than have Thomas spell it out through his POV what a character was like. It seems to be a common problem I’m experiencing with YA writers. I think we all need to work on letting YA audiences come to their own conclusions. They’re smart. Give them the clues and they’ll get there.

I also found myself struggling with believe-ability in the characters toward the end. Some of the dialogue felt unnatural and cheesy. But like I said, at some point I was frustrated with unanswered questions and it took me out of the story. Maybe that contributed to finding the ending (last third?) a bit unrealistic. (I don’t mean the events were unrealistic. It’s fiction after all. I mean I realized I was reading a story. I like to forget that if I can.)

Teresea was one character who Dashner could have devoted more time to. I know, she was in a coma for most of the book, limiting opportunities to develop character, but still. I often feel male writers have difficulty writing believable female characters, and Dashner was no exception. Though I suppose men could say the same about women writing men. It’s a circle I guess. Hopefully, Teresea’s character will get better in the sequel.

And what’s with the sexist take on only boys being tested to see if they are good leaders? Once again, I hope this is addressed in later books, because I was kind of offended.

One thing I thought Dashner did well was developing a series of swear words for the boys to use. It was totally realistic that boys in that situation are going to swear like sailors, but being a YA book, it was a great idea to develop nonsense words that were obvious in their definition, but not offensive to read repeatedly.

Overall, this book was a great suspenseful read. I was scared out of my wits for the first third of the novel, and those grievers may give me nightmares. My fear and my desire to know answers kept me turning pages. A few plot points I saw coming, but there were enough twists and surprises to make it worthwhile to read. I will definitely be reading the sequel.

My review: 3.5/5 stars

Book Review – Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau with bonus e-prequel The Testing Guide

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Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Series: The Testing
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (January 7, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0547959206
ISBN-13: 978-0547959207
Amazon Review: 4.4/5 stars

I Purchased this book at a Barnes & Noble.

Book blurb as seen on Amazon:

In the series debut The Testing, sixteen-year-old Cia Vale was chosen by the United Commonwealth government as one of the best and brightest graduates of all the colonies . . . a promising leader in the effort to revitalize postwar civilization. In Independent Study, Cia is a freshman at the University in Tosu City with her hometown sweetheart, Tomas—and though the government has tried to erase her memory of the brutal horrors of The Testing, Cia remembers. Her attempts to expose the ugly truth behind the government’s murderous programs put her—and her loved ones—in a world of danger. But the future of the Commonwealth depends on her.

If you read my review of THE TESTING, then you already know what I think of Charbonneau’s writing. She improved her ability to show-don’t-tell in INDEPENDENT STUDY, but added several more irritations to my list, but I’ll only talk about two. First, she would describe a decimated area:

To the southwest, I see grass, shriveled trees, and grayish soil. An area yet to be revitalized.

That in itself, not so bad. I’m sure you’re thinking, “What’s her problem?” But Charbonneau did this numerous times. She does an excellent job of painting a picture, then TELLS the reader it is an unrevitalized area. She’s not trusting the reader to understand what she is saying.

Next, there are pages of description, world building, and back story for things that don’t really matter. For example, she takes almost two pages to explain why there are chicken coops at the University. Two pages. Like it even matters. And that wasn’t the only time, but I won’t list them all. The point is she succumbed to the second-novel-syndrome of writing whatever you feel like because it’s going to get published anyway. J.K. Rowling can get away with this. Christopher Paolini can get away with this. Charbonneau can not.

Okay, I’m done. Now I’ll just talk about the story.

We find Cia at the University, not remembering what happened, but she has discovered the transit communicator and its recordings. Confused and upset, she doesn’t know whether to believe what it tells her, or believe the smiling faces of her University professors. Charbonneau delivers a similar amount of suspense as Cia navigates tests designed to find out if she’ll make a good leader in the United Commonwealth. Lucky for her she never has to fail at anything. I get that she’s intelligent, resourceful and all around amazing, but really, she never fails. Not once that I can remember. I think I would have liked to see her struggle a little more.

Tomas, her love interest, is still present and the reader is left wondering if Tomas had anything to do with Zandri’s death in the previous novel, and whether he took the pills designed to prevent his memory loss. Both plot threads are resolved with very little drama. The only drama is waiting for the reveal. It was fine, and Cia reacted accordingly, but I thought that could have been given more of a plot twist.

We see a little more of Will in this novel, but not much. Since we already know about his character from THE TESTING (though his memory has been erased) he doesn’t show too much in this book. He’ll probably get more playing time in the final book, but I was disappointed to see this left out.

Zeen makes an appearance, which promises some great interaction for the next book, but it was pretty much just a bridge to the finale. Once again, could have used more of him.

We are introduced to a few more interesting characters, which I’m sure is set up for Cia’s team to defeat the Testing in book 3. We also lose a character we’ve come to know and care about, but I won’t say who.

Overall, I’d say this book was mostly set up for book 3. There is some excitement and it was interesting, but since I’m personally having difficulty getting past the lax writing, the adventure didn’t carry it for me this time. Besides, you can only read so much about testing teens before it gets a little old hat. I will probably end up buying the third book when it comes out, but that has more to do with my obsessive need to have a matched set of books on my shelf. And my need to see the story finished. Even if I’m not that interested anymore. I’m hoping it will be like some trilogies where the second book isn’t so great, but the final book ends up being decent.

My review: 2/5 stars


Not much to say here. It was only about a chapter long. And about Cia’s brother, Zeen, which was kind of cool. If it cost anything, I’d say don’t bother, but if you enjoy these books and you want a little insight into Zeen’s character, go ahead and make the download. I won’t even bother giving it stars. There just wasn’t enough to judge.

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Coming June 17th, 2014 . . .

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