Dark Triumph by Robin Lafevers

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Rating: 4.5/5

Summary: When Sybella arrived at the doorstep of St Mortain half mad with grief and despair the convent were only too happy to offer her refuge – but at a price. The sisters of this convent serve Death, and with Sybella naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, she could become one of their most dangerous weapons.

 

But her assassin’s skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to the life that nearly drove her mad. Her father’s rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother’s love is equally monstrous. But when Sybella discovers an unexpected ally she discovers that a daughter of Death may find something other than vengeance to live for…

Another book brought to me by my book club! I read Grave Mercy about six months ago immediately after I finished Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series. I had initially blacklisted all assassin novels assuming I wouldn’t like the concepts. After reading both Mass and Lafevers’ versions that brought fantasy to the adventure and action that comes with being in an assassin novel, I completely fell in love.

And six months later, I haven’t found an assassin novel I haven’t loved. Dark Triumph was no exception. 

I used to hate series who focused on a different character in each book. It’s taken me a long time to get over it. In fact, even to this day, some of my favorite parts in books in these series are the references to characters that have been met previously. However, as soon as I found out this would be Sybella’s story, I quickly cast Ismae out of my mind. Sybella was such an interesting character to observe from the outside and inside perspective. From the Grave Mercy book, all we get about Sybella is that she has been traumatized and has endured a lot in her life. Learning about Sybella and what made her the way she was my favorite part of the whole book.

We start off the novel finding out that the Duchess’ enemy, D’Albert, is Sybella’s father who she came back to under coven orders in order to kill the man. Along with that, Sybella had been essentially forced into an incestuous relationship for a long portion of her life with her older brother. These collective experiences all seemed to accumulate to the point that as soon as Sybella got to the coven, it was the only place she had ever felt safe. And even then, she was never the favorite as her friends had been.

I loved the development of Sybella. I especially love how strong of a female lead she was. She was stubborn and kickass. She did the right thing for the people she loved. She was such a well-defined character under the general pretense of being perceived as crazy. However, she wasn’t totally without flaws. She spent the whole book wanting to kill someone. She kept secrets and lied to protect herself. But I loved it. I loved her character as a whole. She meshed so well with Ismae who was so kind and soft compared to the harsh shell Sybella had wrapped herself in.

This book also did an excellent job of diving into Beast. He was a substantial character in the first book of the series, but it was so different to see him cast into his leading man role. When I read about him in the first book, I felt like he was essentially supposed to be the lovable comic relief with a big heart (i.e.: the Hagrid stereotype). Learning about his past and what led him to hate D’Albert more than just for the reasons involving the Duchess showed a much deeper side to him that I really appreciated. I actually think out of all the things Lafevers did so well in this book, the fact that each character had several dimensions was my favorite. What you saw at the surface or even the first or second layer was not all that was there. Every character was so diverse and unique in its own way.


Even Annith, who didn’t even make a physical appearance, began to slowly form to show the layers of the character she had become. I really enjoyed the fact that this author didn’t need to force it in, but she slowly dropped the hints of Annith in to keep readers on their toes for the third book in the series. I often find writers overbearing when they consistently drop plot points throughout the novel in a super obvious way that they want you to pick up. Robin Lafevers’ subtle hints seemed to flow naturally throughout the text without me getting sick of it.

This fast paced book kept my interest the whole time from the action, surprises, and intense character development. It exposed old and new characters to try and keep everyone engaged throughout the novel. I really, really loved this book and I am so excited to read the third installment.

~Taylor~

You know what the secret is? It’s so simple. We love books.”

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Sparks Rise by Alexandra Bracken

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Rating: 5/5 

Summary: Sam didn’t think things could get worse at Thurmond rehabilitation camp. Then the Reds arrive. Everyone assumed the kids with firepower had been killed years ago. Instead they were taken away, brainwashed, and returned as terrifyingly effective guards. To her horror, Sam recognizes one of them: Lucas, the one spark of light in Sam’s dark childhood. Lucas has a deadly secret–he beat the brutal training that turned his fellow Reds into mindless drones. When Sam defends herself against an attack by a vile PSF guard and faces a harrowing punishment, Lucas must risk his everything to save her.

Anyone who knows my reading history probably knows I am obsessed with Alexandra Bracken’s books. I happened to stumble upon her debut novel The Darkest Minds when it was assigned to my book club. I read it and immediately fell in love with the characters (LIAM!!!) , the plot, .. the everything. As soon as Alex announced Sparks Rise, I added it to my to-read list and bought it as soon as it was available. Let’s be real. I love Alex’s writing style so much, I would read anything she announced no matter what the plot was. However, I especially loved her In Time novella, so I had very high expectations coming into Sparks Rise.

The first thing that really caught my attention was the fact that the novella was about Sam. When I first read the summary, I couldn’t even place Sam. After going through my e-books of both The Darkest Minds and Never Fade, I realized that Sam was the girl who’s memory Ruby had previously erased at Thurgood when she was still baffled by what her powers really meant. I was especially excited for the look into the life Ruby led before she met Liam, Chubs, and Zu.

The thing I liked most about the novella is that both characters had very developed personalities. All too often, when writers write novellas or different characters within their world’s setting, the characters seem to bleed together and mimic each other to the point where it feels like the characters are just remakes of the MCs. Fortunately, Alex avoided that completely. Both characters were completely their own. Sam was the strong girl who hated playing the princess and preferred to be the knight in her fairytale games. Lucas was the soft and sensitive one who wasn’t afraid to cry when he was scared. Normally, I hate MCs who tend to cry repeatedly, but Alex has this way of conveying her characters that make me love them, no matter how I would normally feel about the person. 

The plot is quick paced and constantly had my attention until the end… where it ends in quite the unconventional way. In fact, halfway through reading, it felt more like a novel than any other novella I had ever read. Sparks Rise is a great lead in to get readers excited for the third and final novel in the trilogy and I am so so excited to see how Sam and Lucas’ story continues to develop throughout In The Afterlight. I highly recommend the series and this novella to all YA readers. Seriously. Read it. Love it. THEN SOMEONE TALK TO ME ABOUT IT!!!

~TAYLOR~
You know what the secret is? It’s so simple. We love books.”

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Rating: 3/5

Summary: It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path.

Going into this novel, I had very high expectations based on the premise and the feedback I had heard about it from people who had already read the novel. I love a good book that can make me cry and hit me straight on in the feels. I had high hopes that this novel would do that for me. While it may have made my eyes water a tad bit, it fell short of what I was expecting.

THINGS I LIKED:

The supporting characters – Natalie and Hannah… Tristan and Kristen… even May and Aunt Amy and Laurel’s Dad. They all had that depth in them that made me fall in love with their stories and want to know what happened to them. As I read through the letters, I had hopes for Natalie and Hannah to finally get the courage to go after the thing they wanted – each other. I wanted Tristan and Kristen to find a way to be together. I wanted Tristan to achieve his goals, and Kristen to achieve hers while still being as in love as they were throughout the novel. I wanted Aunt Amy to find a good man for herself to help get through the lonely days. I want Laurel’s dad to be happy again. And most of all, I wanted more for May than she got, even though her story was doomed from the beginning. The author did a wonderful job in getting us to fall in love with these characters and caring about them.

The premise of the novel – The idea of the novel was so original. It was one of the reasons I had such high expectations for it. The thing I liked most about it was the research that the author did about each of the dead that her main character wrote to. She knew how they died, but most importantly, she knew how they lived and what they did in the midst of their lives. It was really refreshing to go through a novel that the author seemed to be so invested in.

Laurel’s transformation about her sister’s death – As I have probably stated before in other reviews, one of my favorite parts of reading is dynamic characters. I love watching a character go from one point to another. Laurel’s character is definitely a very dynamic character throughout the novel, which I applaud.

THINGS I WAS SO-SO ABOUT:

Laurel’s character – While the author did such a wonderful job developing everyone else’s character and doing research for each of the people that Laurel wrote to, I felt Laurel was lacking. While she did have her character arc about her sister’s death, I felt there was little that we learned about the character herself. She was guilty about her sister’s death and she certainly loved May, but … who was Laurel besides this accident? I understand that in an event as traumatic as this, it defines your life a lot. However, I wanted to know more about Laurel aside from just how she was affected by May’s death. For the narrative the novel was written in, I felt that Laurel should have been more developed than she was. I didn’t necessarily hate her as a character, but she mostly just focused on Sky and her sister, which made it hard to really see her own character traits. … aside from being a crier. I got that one loud and clear.

THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE:

Laurel’s relationship with Sky – Point blank, it felt underdeveloped. I think this began in the very beginning for me so I was against it for the entire rest of the book. As soon as Laurel sets her eyes on Sky, she instantly likes him and stares at him all the time… and he likes her too. I don’t know, the whole thing just felt very rushed to me like they weren’t really given a chance to develop more before they were in this odd relationship. And then, Laurel focused most of her attention on Sky. While I understand Sky was a key player in getting her to open up, I felt that the character was a little overglorified throughout the novel. And then during the big revelation SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT where we learn that Sky got kicked out of school because of his crush on May, I was very weirded out about it. Laurel seemed a bit shocked about it for a page or two before she was going back on about how she loved him. I don’t know… if I found out my boyfriend asked me out because I looked like my dead sister who he had a crush on, it would be game over for me. But hey, maybe that’s just me END SPOILER ALERT. Maybe if I didn’t have the initial premise where I felt they were just pushed together, I might have enjoyed their relationship a little more.

Other than these few complaints, I felt that the book was highly enjoyable. I especially enjoyed the epilogue when the novel had finally come around full circle. I recommend to most YA readers because of the interesting premise that draws most people in. For a debut novel, I have very high expectations for this author in the future.

 

~TAYLOR~

 

You know what the secret is? It’s so simple. We love books.”

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

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Rating: 5/5 stars

 

Summary:

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE

 

It’s been a long time since I’ve read two books I’ve absolutely adored back to back. I read good books all the time, certainly, but it takes a lot for me to fall head over heels for a book. I discovered the book We Were Liars on twitter after a large majority of the authors and readers I follow were raving about it. I marked it to-read, and swept it under the rug – as what happens to a lot of my to-read novels. I stumbled back upon it as I was downloading books for vacation a few months later – and gosh, do I wish I dived into this novel sooner.

The novel opens with our four main characters, the Liars. Cady (our central character) is a part of the prestigious groups of Sinclars – a family who owns an island that they spend every summer on. She is the oldest grandchild, closely followed by two other Liars, Johnny and Mirren. The last member of the Liars is Gat. Gat is Johnny’s mom’s boyfriend’s nephew, who came along one summer and ended up spending every summer after. At the opening of the novel, it appears to be a love story between Cady and Gat.

Until Cady reaches summer fifteen and has a terrible accident that she cannot remember. Her cousins and fellow liars stop answering her emails, and her mother begins to shelter her. In fact, during summer sixteen, she goes on a trip with her father and spends her first summer ever without the Liars. All Cady can remember about the accident was the fact she ended up with half of her clothes off faced down in the ocean after hitting her head. And she doesn’t even really remember that. That’s just what they told her over and over as she asked what happened day after day.

Now she is left with terrible, constant migraines with no recollection of what happened. And when she finally goes back to the island with her family, her grandpa built a new house, and everyone is keeping secrets – even her little cousins.

The entire course of the novel is a journey to uncover what happened to Cady and why the rest of the Liars are acting so weird… and why is Gat acting so guilty when he kisses her? And why did Gat abandon her after her accident when he told her he loved her?

One thing that I enjoyed that most people did not was the writing style. (well, I am a little obsessed with prose.) Lockhart has short chapters that constantly skip around. It took me a while to figure out what time we were in during some of the flashback scenes, but otherwise, I found her style to be refreshing. In fact, in writing the way that she did, it packed a bigger punch when the events that occurred to Cady are finally revealed. It also seemed very true to Cady’s character who was very dramatic, though it may not be apparent until later in the novel.

Honestly, I applaud Lockhart for the genius that is this novel and its turn of events. I am probably the worst person in the whole world at suspense. I am notorious for reading the last page before reading a novel all the way through or wikipediaing what will happen in each episode of the TV show I am chain-watching to ‘prepare myself’. We Were Liars kept me so absorbed with the current events of the novel that I was not once tempted to flip to the end to see what happened. I was very glad I waited too. This novel slowly builds itself up without the reader really understanding until it reveals the shocking factor.

That’s the thing I think I like most about the novel. All too often, we read books and then jump to the next one without much thought about the first one. Most of the time, we read for enjoyment and the bigger lesson does not seem to be that big of a deal compared to the entertainment factor. Lockhart’s novel is the complete opposite. I finished the novel right before I intended on going to bed, and I ended up going to sleep two hours later than I planned because I was thinking about the impact the book made on me. A sign of a good novel is not just how one enjoys it while reading it, but the impact the readers carry with them. This novel caused me to think a lot about my own life and questions I had always quickly skimmed over.

I HIGHLY recommend this book to everyone. Not only was this a highly enjoyable read, I think it leaves readers with hard questions that we tend to neglect because they are too difficult to think about. Honestly, if you get the chance, read this novel and try to take with you the lessons Lockhart so beautifully expressed throughout the pages.

 

~TAYLOR~

 

You know what the secret is? It’s so simple. We love books.”

Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #3) by Laini Taylor

For anyone who doesn’t know, I am a part of Addicted to YA on goodreads. Every month, the club picks and votes on four novels to read each month. So today, I finished the first of many books for book club that I will be reviewing on the blog! Yay! I’m excited. I’m also excited that of all the novels it could be, it is Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor!

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Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary: By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her, if there can even be a future for the chimaera in war-ravaged Eretz.

Common enemy, common cause.

When Jael’s brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people.

And, perhaps, for themselves. Toward a new way of living, and maybe even love.

But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and, in the skies of Eretz … something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling, and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.

What power can bruise the sky?

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.

At the very barriers of space and time, what do gods and monsters dream of? And does anything else matter?

Dreams of Gods & Monsters is the third book in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone series. I am actually ashamed to say I had never heard of the series prior to the third book popping up in book club. I only joined this book club about a year ago, so there are tons of books that they’ve read that I haven’t. One major flaw of this is I often find myself trapped when book club is reading the fifth book of a series, and I haven’t even read the first. Honestly, a lot of times, when I read all the books in a series consecutively, it is really hard to keep on track. Being in one world for so long is really difficult if the series isn’t really, really well written. Aside from getting used to the style that Laini Taylor has when writing these books with the various shifted points of view without any real indication, I managed to get into the first book very easily and from there, I fell in love with this series.

I have a confession though. When I started this series, I was sure I was going to hate it because… well… because I’ve never read a book about angels that I haven’t HATED. Well, at least as far back as I can remember. When people and/or book club recommend me angel books, I dread them the whole time due to the various stereotypes that seem to surround them. The same thing ended up happening to me and vampire books for a while. They became so predictable, it wasn’t any fun to read them anymore. Laini Taylor completely defied all expectations I had coming into this book.

THINGS I LOVED:

THE CHARACTERS – Together. Apart. These characters were fantastic. I found myself falling in love with the creatures that most novels and legends have always told us to hate. Laini was able to spin a tale where … maybe the angels aren’t necessary always the ‘good’. Or maybe they think they are and it just becomes misconstrued throughout generations. I loved how every character was real. Even the ‘evil’ or ‘bad’ characters had something they were trying to do good towards (except for Morgan Toth and Jael… and Esther. You suck, dudes). It was a great reminder that everyone has good and bad in them, even the leading man of a novel series.

I think I am with the mass majority when I say my favorite characters were Zuzana, Mik, Liraz, and Ziri (besides our two protagonists). It was refreshing in a story of life and death and war to have characters like Zuzana and Mik who were human and in love and more loyal than any character I have ever read. Both characters seemed to emphasize the good in humanity in a story full of monsters and angels. Oh and Mik was so badass when dealing with Esther. SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT If Zuzana hadn’t agreed to marry him, I would have 😉 END SPOILER ALERT. Though, if I have to admit, I think Liraz was my favorite character overall. It wasn’t necessarily the character that I loved, but the dynamic changes she went through as the series progressed. Honestly, I’m a sucker for a well developed dynamic character. I went from hating her in the first book to shedding a tear over her when she saved Avika’s life. However, I think it was towards the end of the book that I really felt for her and how much she had to give the world.  Oh, and her relationship with her brothers was the cutest. I got emotional from how cute it was multiple times. No lie.

And last on my list: Ziri. I think Ziri deserves his own paragraph with how much I loved him. The thing I loved most about him was how he made this giant sacrifice… and he hated it. He hated that he did it, even if it was for the greater good of his species. He allowed himself to go through the book appearing as though he was the monster that Thiago was… and then SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT gave up his life willingly for the greater good. He even knew that he hadn’t set anyone up to collect souls, but he still died for his people and the cause. The honor behind this character stole my heart. I was overjoyed when he and Liraz got their happy ending together. They both deserved someone kind and loyal and honorable. I was beyond happy about their conclusion of the story. END SPOILER ALERT

And last, but not least, on the things I loved about the characters, I have to talk about Kaoru and Avika. My favorite thing about them was that even though this was an instantaneous love story, their love did not take away from their duties. When Kaoru found out that Avika was one of the leading factors of Brimstone’s death, she didn’t shrug it off because he did it because of her. The loss of each other was a big thing in their lives, but their love wasn’t the only important thing. It was fantastic for me because Kaoru stood for her values and when Avika went against them, she didn’t back down. She was a strong female lead without being a stereotype. She still had a big heart while holding true to her ideals.

THE PLOT TWISTS – I did not predict a plot twist at all throughout this whole series. The author placed so many questions throughout the book and did not disappoint when the answers were revealed. With current books, it is all too common to place an abundance of hints about the course of the book and then go with the predictable ending because it is easier. Laini stayed away from this method completely. I was much more fulfilled through the various reveals in the book because while there were some minor hints in the book, they were not predictable or easy to guess.

THE FORMAT – As I admitted before, the format used to confuse me to no end. The sudden shift between characters with no marking confused me at first. Additionally, I am actually really picky about the way points of views are expressed in books. I was almost turned off this book in the beginning, but I’m very happy to say I stuck with it and Laini converted me. I loved the way she told her story. All too often in third person, it is focused upon a central character. If that character is not in the scene, then the reader must learn the various twists and turns in the book as that central character does. With Laini’s switching point of views, multiple characters were explored, and we got a sense of what was in their heads. This method worked especially well with the introduction of Eliza, but I liked it even just to see what was going on in Mik and Zuze’s own story during the mass chaos of Kaoru’s.

SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT THE ENDING – There are very few epilogues I have ever read that I actually loved. Too often, authors feel the pressure of their readers and tend to flop during the epilogue because they want all their characters to have a happy ‘ending’. Point blank. Usually all the main conflicts have been filled and the characters spend the rest of their lives just happily chilling in the world. Life doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t say ‘oh, you had too much turmoil already, let’s make you happy for the rest of your life. You deserve that.’ That’s an unrealistic expectation. The end of this novel left more questions and more conflicts. Kaoru had to recover and resurrect the souls that Brimstone saved while Avika had to learn to control his magic. On top of that, there was still Eliza and the godstars’ conflict. The conflict of the books – the war between chimaera and seraphim – was resolved, but Taylor left so many more conflicts open. At the end of the series, Avika and Kaoru don’t just find their happiness together. They still have to continue working in their lives to achieve that happy ending they so desperately hoped for. In fact, my favorite quote/paragraph from the novel is as follows:  ” It was not a happy ending, but a happy middle – at last, after so many fraught beginnings. Their story would be long. Much would be written of them, some of it in verse, some sung, and some in plain prose, in volumes to be penned for the archives of cities not yet built.” The ending was not a beginning, but simply the middle of Kaoru and Avika’s story. I think this was the thing I enjoyed most in the whole series. END SPOILER ALERT

THINGS I LIKED… BUT DIDN’T EXPECT TO:

ELIZA – When I started this book, I was so confused what Eliza had to do with it. Here was some girl who worked in a museum in DC… and focused on butterflies. What? How do butterflies tie into angels again? I enjoyed the places the author went with Eliza though. I liked how she tied into the plot and left room for more questions in the future.

RAZGUT – I really liked learning how he became a fallen. Razgut’s story was actually one that plagued me throughout the whole series. In fact, I was terrified that Laini Taylor would end her book series without explaining what happened to Razgut. It was an irrational fear, I know, but the character was extremely interesting to me. I wanted to know how he became a Fallen and how he knew so much about the portals. His story tied in beautifully and I was not disappointed in the least bit. In fact, I almost felt sorry for him at the end. Shocker, I know! I think my favorite thing that I learned in this novel about Razgut was who his next victim turned out to be. I had to stop reading for a while because I was laughing so hard.

THINGS I HATED:

MORGAN TOTH – u suck, dude

 

All in all, Dreams of Gods & Monsters was a wonderful read. I highly recommend it to all of those who love YA fantasy. I am very glad that Addicted to YA picked it as their monthly novel, and I look forward to reading more of Laini Taylor’s future writing!

~TAYLOR~

 

You know what the secret is? It’s so simple. We love books.”

Cover Reveal: Sophie Jordan’s Unleashed!

I’m so, so pleased to reveal our new announcement. We are a part of Sophie Jordan’s cover and synopsis reveal for her new novel, Unleashed (sequel to Uninvited)!

For those of you who don’t know, Uninvited is the first of the two book duo about a girl named Davy Hamilton who tested positive for a kill gene (also known as Homicide Tendency Syndrome or HTS). When they find out she has the gene of marked killers, she loses everything in her life, including her boyfriend, her parents, and the future she was planning at Juilliard. Davy doesn’t have the urge to kill anyone, but that doesn’t mean that she won. Only Sean, a fellow HTS carrier, can relate to her new life. Davy wants to trust him; maybe he’s not as dangerous as he seems. Or maybe Davy is just as deadly.

When I read the book, I rated it 4/5 stars. Once Davy was taken from her life, the book speeds up and you are definitely in for an adventure. I highly recommend it to you all!

So without futher ado:

UNLEASHED BY SOPHIE JORDAN

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What if the worst thing you ever did was unforgivable?
 
Davy’s world fell apart after she tested positive for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome. She was expelled from her school, dumped by her boyfriend, abandoned by friends, and shipped off to a camp that turns HTS carriers into soldiers. Davy may have escaped, but the damage has already been done. The unthinkable has happened. Now, even worse than having everyone else see her as a monster is the knowledge that they may have been right about her all along. Because Davy has killed.
 
On the run from government agents, Davy is rescued by Caden, the charismatic leader of an underground group of rebels. Despite Caden’s assurances that the Resistance is made up of carriers like her, Davy isn’t sure she can trust them. Then again, she doesn’t even know if she can trust herself . . . or her growing feelings for Caden. But if she doesn’t belong with Caden and his followers, is there anywhere she can call home?

 

 
Unleashed release date is February 24th, 2015.
 

 

Oh, and one more special treat for you all! Here’s a little teaser:
 
I thought being labeled a killer and losing everything—my future, family, boyfriend, friends—was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. It’s not. Finding out they were right. Finding out that’s exactly what I am?

 

 
That’s worse.

 

 
So that’s Unleashed. I’m so excited to read it, and I hope you all are too! Oh, and a special thanks to Sophie Jordan for allowing us to be a part of your cover reveal! ❤

 

 
~TAYLOR~

 

 
You know what the secret is? It’s so simple. We love books.”

The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

THIS REVIEW IS NOT COMPLETELY SPOILER FREE. SLIGHT SPOILERS WILL BE MARKED.

The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Expected Release Date: September 9th, 2014
Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary: Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial.

Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail.

All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him.

So he does his best to do his worst – and fails at failing.

Now the Magisterium awaits him. It’s a place that is both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.

The Iron Trial is just the beginning for the biggest test is still to come…

The Iron Trial is the first book written by Holly and Cassie as collaborators. However, they are not new to the Young Adult genre at all. Holly is well known for her Curse Breakers’ series as well as The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. Cassie already has two widely popular series under her belt as well: The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices. Both authors are favorites of mine, so needless to say, I was absolutely thrilled to hear about the two of them working together.

The Iron Trial did something to me that I’m not used to… it shocked me. When you’ve read enough books, it is difficult to get tricked by the plot twists. If there is a mystical lost princess or a prophecy awaiting a chosen one mentioned casually in a book, it is usually easy to guess that the main character will fulfill this mysterious role. The remaining part of the book will entail how they ‘found themselves and saved the world.’ It’s an age old concept that traps readers again and again as the basic formula to a successful fantasy book. One thing that I love about both Cassie and Holly is the red herrings they place in their books. Based on the clues given, there is obviously only one possible solution until… wait what? Their books always send me on a wild journey with twists and turns that I never see coming.

I have to say that The Iron Trial showcased what I loved best about both authors. When I started reading, I was actually quite worried. Let me spell it out for you. There’s a magic school that people spend all of their schooling career at. The mother died when our main character was a baby, and said main character has a visible disability/scar because of it. There is an older master/mentor character. Oh, and the main character has two best friends: a know-it-all female and a loyal male. I think after the phenomena that was Harry Potter, readers automatically put the pieces of the puzzle together that it will be exactly like the story that got many of us into reading.

I am so very happy to say Cassie and Holly proved us wrong. Though the preface may seem similar, these ladies took the idea of a magic school and completely made it their own.

The book opens with Callum right before he is about to take his Iron Trial. He has spent his whole life being told magic is wrong. He was led to believe mages only care about themselves, and that’s how his mother was killed. Throughout his whole life, his father trained him to fail these tests. Yet, no matter how hard he tried at failing, Call couldn’t fail. The concept is interesting and something I have never seen in YA lit yet. Usually schools full of magic are glorified for all the good they bring with it. However, this book shone a light on … what if that wasn’t the case?

One thing I loved was the main character Call. If I met him in life, I’m not sure I would be friends with his little twelve year old self. The thing I loved about him was that he was real. All too often, YA books are filled with characters that are supposed to be young… but don’t act it. Callum was mischievous and lacked tact. He was rash in his anger, and he was insecure. It wasn’t a far reach for me to believe that he was actually a 12 year old little boy. Same thing goes for Callum’s two best friends, Tamara and Aaron. Each have motivations and depth. They aren’t at all what they appear to be on the surface. One thing everyone should keep in mind is that this book is written for middle school kids. It is not the most advanced characterization simply because they are twelve. They still have so much time to learn and grow.

Another thing I loved is the world building. However, I still have so many questions about the world they live in. How do they decide what missions are acceptable to send silver/gold years on? What is Alex’s significance? What are the credentials to become a master? How do mages fit in the real world? At this point, I would have liked more questions to be answered, but there are still four more books in the series. If anything, the questions give me something to focus on when reading the next book. However, the part I loved the most was how something as traditional of a concept as magic school was flawlessly made their own. I really loved the idea of the Iron Trial and the handpicked groups from each master. It took the old idea of magic school, reshaped it, and made it seem as if it was something totally new. I LOVE that. I love that such a used concept could be developed into something so original.

One thing that I didn’t love was the pacing. It went really well until the end. SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT. SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT. SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT. The climax and twists were fantastic, as well as the falling action. However, I didn’t understand how Callum, Tamara and Aaron just got to pass the Iron Gate early. There seemed to lack an explanation there. What happens at the end of the year when the rest of the students pass through? Will the next book start with their next year or pick up right after the climax of this book? I just felt that last scene came out of left field, and I am unsure how it will affect the second book of the series END OF SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT

All in all, I found myself loving this book. It was a strong first novel, and I definitely see myself and others getting absorbed into the books and completing the series. Once again, I want to remind all future readers to remember this book is written at a middle school level. It is not written the way some of Cassie and Holly’s previous books have been written (since they are for an older audience). Don’t hold the book up to an expectation that is totally out of its league.

I would recommend this book to all my reading friends as well as younger children interested in reading and fantasy. I can’t wait for you guys to read it, and I hope you enjoy!

~Taylor~

MUCH LOVE AND HAPPY READING

You know what the secret is? It’s so simple. We love books.”

The Young Elites – Marie Lu Sneakpeak Review

One of the best things I managed to get at BookCon was the sixty page preview of The Young Elites by Marie Lu. So while I didn’t get to read the whole book, I still wanted to give a little bit of a review on it.

The Young Elites – Marie Lu
Expected Publication Date: October 7th, 2014

Summary: I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

 

The preview gave us a sixty page sample full of character introductions and world building. The central setting of this novel was based on Italy during the period of the Black Death. The epidemic swept through the various populations infecting up to one third of the population. However, those who were infected by the plague were not necessarily killed. In The Young Elites, Marie Lu explored the idea that while the adults may have died from the plague, what if the children bounced back and survived? This served as the premise of the novel. These children then developed a sort of power based on how they were marked by the curse.

I can already tell this novel will be fueled by political drama much like the Legend series was. When I sat down at Marie Lu’s panel at BookCon, that was actually one of the things I enjoyed most. Veronica Roth hosted the panel and it was very obvious to see she was very well acquainted with the novels they would be discussing. One thing VRoth asked the authors was how does one choose what to take in the world we are living and in fuse it with dystopian and fantasy styled books.  Most of the authors answered that the dystopians always seem to stem from things that are happening from the real world. I loved the twists that Legend took previously so I have very high hopes for this new series.

The thing I am most looking forward to though is the characters in this new book. At the end of the preview, Marie had some questions and answers about the new series. My favorite question was one that asked her which character from this new series was most difficult to write. She answered, “Adelina, the protagonist, was definitely the most challenging to write because she’s more like a villain than a hero. Day and June (from Legend) lived in a broken world, but they were at heart very good people, raised by loving families. Adelina is no such person. Her thoughts get progressively more twisted as the story goes on, and I had a lot of trouble trying to put myself into the places where her mind wanted to be. Day may have been the boy who walked in the light, but Adelina is a girl who walks in darkness.” I love that this series will bring us a protagonist that isn’t a hero. So often, the words have been used as synonyms for one another. I am excited to see a character who’s motivations won’t always be for the good of everyone else.

From the small preview we got, I would definitely give The Young Elites five stars. Needless to say, I will be counting down the days until October 7th!

 

~Taylor~

MUCH LOVE AND HAPPY READING

You know what the secret is? It’s so simple. We love books.”

BOOK CON 2014

Today was honestly one of the best days of my life.

Well first, let’s have a brief introduction. Hi, I’m Taylor. I’m twenty years old and studying biomedical engineering and pre-medicine biology. While I love what I do, my escape from it all has been reading. The following is a picture from book con today!

To the left is Ann. To the right is Teresa. And the pale one in the middle – well you guessed it, that’s me.

In January, Ann messaged me going “BOOK EXPO OF AMERICA… wanna go?’ I agreed half-heartedly, not knowing if I actually would be able to go. You know when you make plans with your friends and most the time they fall apart? I assumed that would end up happening… except it didn’t. Soon, Teresa was added to our mix, our tickets were bought, and this dream became a reality.

Honestly, BookCon was one of the best experiences of my life. As soon as we got there, I rushed into line to get a signature from A.G. Howard who wrote the Splintered series. She signed a beautiful poster of the cover for her third book, Ensnared. Right after, we rushed to Julie Kagawa to get a picture and signed epub of The Forever Song (which is one of my favorite books!).

My friends and I are very into YA novels in general.  As soon as we got through the initial signings we wanted, we quickly made a schedule.  We made a bit of a pit stop as we got signed ARCs from both Andrew Mayne and Joseph Berger on the fly. Next up on our list was Alexandra Bracken who is another one of my other favorite authors. She signed copies of Never Fade, and I made sure to act like a total idiot. Seriously, I told her I stalked her hardcore on twitter and instagram. After, I was mortified (but she favorited my tweet SO IT MADE IT ALL OKAY).

As soon as we finished there, we ran to get in line to get the ARC of Julie Kagawa’s new book, Talon. Even though we were over an hour early, the tickets had already been given out for the ARC. We were sad, but Julie saw us and came over – especially when she saw Ann’s mother in a wheelchair. She apologized for the lack of ARCs for us, but took more pictures with us and promised to follow us on twitter.

… AND SHE DID FOLLOW US ON TWITTER! ALL THREE OF US!

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After meeting Julie, Ann and I headed downstairs to the Holly Black/Cassie Clare/Maggie Stiefvater panel. We had actually already seen Holly Black and Cassandra Clare earlier that week because we went to the City of Heavenly Fire release party on Monday at the 92Y in New York City. However, we loved them so much (along with Maggie), we knew we had to make it to this panel. And gosh, we were glad we did. Holly and Cassie were super adorable in their matching outfits. Maggie was hysterical. Oh and come to find out… Maggie’s publisher is David Levithan. He was at Cassie’s panel on Monday too, so when I saw him being introduced as Maggie’s editor, I freaked. Ann didn’t think it was him… until she realized it too. I think she almost peed her pants over her excitement. You could tell he was unimpressed when she asked for a signature since he was there as an editor, but he was a great sport and signed her stuff anyways. The panel was literally the best… until we were in for the biggest treat. WE GOT ARCS OF THE IRON TRIALS BY CASSIE AND HOLLY AND SINNER BY MAGGIE! And since we were the last to leave, they let us take the extra ARCs. So we grabbed some for Teresa and some friends who couldn’t come to bookcon with us! I fangirled so hard, I am fairly certain they thought I was having a heart attack.

And while we were in the panel, Teresa headed off to meet Danielle Fishel from Boy Meets World. (Teresa and I both own all the DVDs of the series). She grabbed a signed bookmark for me too…. but this was definitely the best part of her trip.

(Seriously though, how cute is Danielle Fishel?!)

Our final panel was one I was really excited for. It consisted of Veronica Roth, Marie Lu (I love the Legend series so much!), Danielle Paige and Alaya Dawn Johnson. We got excerpts of the stories of Four from VRoth and then the panel started. The best part in my opinion was how educated VRoth was about everyone’s book (since she was hosting the panel). … oh and VRoth’s fashion… because DAMN girl. Homegirl looked awesome!

It was so refreshing that she had definitely done her research for all three of the ladies on the panel. At the end of the panel, we were about to leave until Teresa called our attention to a table. We thought it was just additional Four excerpts, until we realized… IT WAS AN ADVANCED SECTION OF MARIE LU’S NEW BOOK, The Young Elites. So of course, we grabbed a bunch of copies of those because we were last to leave the room once again.

After the last panel though, it was time to go home… good thing too.

This was seven tote bags, three backpacks, and four very tired ladies later.

At the end of the day, Teresa took a picture and inventoried all of her stuff. While there were minor differences between what we collected between Ann, Teresa and I, the majority of it was the same.

SWAG (from top to bottom, left to right): Tuttle Publishing Tote, The Periodic Table of Epic Reads poster, Grumpy Cat Mask, Beat This: A comprehensive step by step drum set method by Mike Shapiro, Grumpy Cat post card, Danielle Fishel card with a free excerpt of her new book (autographed), 2014 New Title Showcase, A Wonder Story: The Julian Chapter postcard, Dr. Suess Button, Ilona Andrews Burn for Me button, 2015 Harlequin Young Adult Catalog, Tuttle: Books to Span the East and West, Nightmares Eye Mask, Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, The Pious Ones by Joseph Berger (autographed, advance reader copy), Angel Killer: A Jessica Blackwood Novel by Andrew Mayne (autographed, advance reader copy), Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken (autographed), Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater (advance reader copy), A.G. Howard Ensnared poster (autographed), The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (advance reader copy), Four by Veronica Roth (free sneak peak), The Young Elites by Marie Lu (exclusive sneak peek), One of Us by Tawni O’Dell (advanced reader copy), The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa (personalized ereader version with autographed picture of Julie and I together) and 2 bookmarks.

 

So all in all, one of the best days of our lives… BookCon was an AMAZING experience and can’t wait to go through it all again next year!!!

 

~TAYLOR~

 

 

Oh, and a few more pictures to warm your heart/make you laugh:

MUCH LOVE AND HAPPY READING

You know what the secret is? It’s so simple. We love books.”