Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Perfect Ruin ~ Lauren DeStefano (audio) review

Perfect Ruin (The Internment Chronicles #1)
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
October 1, 2013
356 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

On Internment, the floating island in the clouds where 16-year-old Morgan Stockhour lives, getting too close to the edge can lead to madness. Even though Morgan's older brother, Lex, was a Jumper, Morgan vows never to end up like him. She tries her best not to mind that her life is orderly and boring, and if she ever wonders about the ground, and why it is forbidden, she takes solace in best friend Pen and her betrothed, Basil.

Then a murder, the first in a generation, rocks the city. With whispers swirling and fear on the wind, Morgan can no longer stop herself from investigating, especially when she meets Judas. He is the boy being blamed for the murder — betrothed to the victim — but Morgan is convinced of his innocence. Secrets lay at the heart of Internment, but nothing can prepare Morgan for what she will find — or who she will lose.

Perfect Ruin is a very intriguing start to The Internment Chronicles. While this first book in the series did feel, in a lot of ways, like an introduction to the Internment world it is definitely its own story as well. We meet the characters: Morgan, her best friend Pen, Morgan's betrothed Basil, Pen's betrothed Thomas, Morgan's parents, her brother Lex and his wife Alice.

Internment is very much like our own world, but also very different. How their society functions is quite different - and in some ways reminded me a bit of Matched, actually. Those things that can't be decided by people, leaders are part of the Internment people's belief systems. Things they see as decided by the God of the Sky.

The more we find out about the island, the more I wanted to know. The focus stayed on Morgan, her internal struggles and everything she encounters after the incredibly shocking murder throws everything she knows - or thinks she does - off its axis.

I liked the story sticking with Morgan, with everything being so personal, but it kept something from really clicking for me. It seemed there should have been more about Internment; it was hard to imagine it as a whole, physical thing. I would have loved if it had felt more fully realized.

Morgan is not an emotional character. At points it does make connecting with her character more difficult, yet it also fits with what we know of Internment.

I really loved some of the secondary characters (one seemed to have potential to be a little like a character from Legend) and the turn the plot took toward the end. I have some high hopes for the second book in this series. Although I am a bit torn as to just how I feel about Perfect Ruin, it did remind me that I enjoy Lauren DeStefano's storytelling and I plan to finish the Chemical Garden Trilogy very soon!

Rating: 7/10

Happy early (maybe) New Years'!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Pride's Run ~ Cat Kalen (earc) review [@bwkids]

Pride's Run (A Wolf's Pride #1)
Bloomsbury Spark
December 19, 2013
310 pages; ebook
add to Goodreads/buy NOOK book/or for Kindle

Eighteen year old Pride is a tracker with a hunger for blood. Taught to trick and to lure, she is the perfect killing machine.

Kept leashed in the cellar by a master who is as ruthless as he is powerful, Pride dreams of freedom, of living a normal life, but escape from the compound is near impossible and disobedience comes with a price.

When she learns her master intends to breed her she knows she has to run.

Pride soon learns if she is to survive in the wild, she must trust in the boy who promises her freedom, the same boy she was sent to hunt.
Pride's Run is a werewolf book and, yet, also not a werewolf book, at the same time. The characters are not referred to - by others, or themselves - as werewolves but they do shift, or shade, into something more animal, more dangerous. There's always something present in them, something affected by the full moon that calls for blood.

It's why Pride has lived her life - most of it in cage - in her master's mansion, working for him as a tracker. It's why she and others fear the Paranormal Task Force. It's also why Pride's escape is potentially so dangerous, for her, of course, but possibly others, as well.

Knowing not to trust anyone else and not sure she even trusts herself, Pride's very reticent to accept the help of Logan, another shifter. Soon, it becomes clear that - at least for a time- she'll have to, though.

Pride's reluctance to go along wit Logan, her hesitancy in trusting anyone - even herself - especially as the full moon draws closer, made perfect sense. She has lived such a controlled (literally under lock and key) life  that this is the first time she's being truly forced to test her own instincts, her own limits.

She's been on tracking missions, yet they were all very controlled. She has the right bit of naivete for someone so uniquely sheltered but has the toughness that also makes sense for her.

Her own lack of knowledge about certain things, along with a need to have certain things reinforced - or perhaps, certain thoughts dispelled - definitely helps the readers to learn more. Kalen's sort of werewolf is different than others but the characters and the set-up of the story do a great job of explaining how, what they are. It's all very interesting and enjoyable to read.

What didn't work quite as well for me, was the development of the romance. Pride's Run is more of an NA book than YA and while that can be fine, here it felt due to some ill-fitting developments. Pride is a really well done character who has a great background and is developed very well. Then, however, a few decisions, statements seem to take the story in a more (very) simple romance novel type* direction which didn't fit with the characters, their story thus far.

It was great for an okay, NA romance tale but seemed a turn-around from what had been established with the characters, Pride especially, up until that point.

After the ending I am curious where the next two books in the series take the characters and their story.

Rating: 7/10

*nothing against romance novels, many do have a simpler plot in favor of the romance, though and that's what the turn brought to mind

thank you to Bloomsbury and NetGalley for my egalley to review

Monday, December 23, 2013

Roomies ~ Tara Altebrando & Sara Zarr (ear) review [@TaraAltebrando @SaraZarr @LBKids]

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
December, 24, 2013
288 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

It's time to meet your new roomie.

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer -- and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they've never met.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr and acclaimed author Tara Altebrando join forces for a novel about growing up, leaving home, and getting that one fateful e-mail that assigns your college roommate.

This is one of the times where I was really happy to have been wrong about what I expected a book was going to be about. For whatever reason, I though Roomies was an epistolary style novel. While I do love books written that way, I'm pretty thrilled Roomies wasn't.

While Elizabeth and Lauren's email exchanges are a significant part of the novel, they're not all of it. It's in all that we learn of their lives outside of their their interactions that the story really works, that it really becomes a full story. We see each girl prepare for the start of college, their different family situations, the new boys they meet -- and their struggles to figure out how that fits in with their impending departure.

Not only does this give a much better sense of each girl than if we were only to know them through what they chose to share in the emails, it puts the emails in a bit of a different light. We're able to see what they're holding back - from each other, from themselves, from those around them.

Elizabeth and Lauren aren't falling apart at the idea of leaving home, of starting college. They're excited and, seemingly, ready to go, but also anxious.The way Roomies focuses both on their current lives, allowing things to still happen (like new boyfriend potential, friend drama) while the lead-up to leaving home is ever-present is pretty perfect. It's not all about the girl's imminent departure, all while it is.

The things Lauren and Elizabeth  experience are pretty universal (change, growth, loss, love, etc) things we've all experienced at some point, the college roommate situation is just how Altebrando and Zarr told them this time. It's a great read for all ages. You don't need to be getting your own college roomie(s) any time soon (or already have one) to enjoy Roomies and Lauren and Elizabeth's tale.

Rating: 8/10

thank you to LBYR and NetGalley for my egalley for review

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Until We End ~ Frankie Brown (earc) review [@frankiebrown25 @bwkids]

Until We End
Bloomsbury Spark
December 19, 2013
277 pages; ebook
add to Goodreads/buy Kindle version/or NOOK book

It’s been nine months since the virus hit, killing almost everyone it touched. Seventeen-year-old Cora and her little brother, Coby, haven’t left home since. Not after the power cut out; not even after sirens faded in the distance and the world outside their backyard fence fell silent.

But when a blistering drought forces Cora to go in search of water, she discovers that the post-apocalyptic world isn’t as deserted as she thought when she meets Brooks, a drop-dead sexy army deserter.

Fighting their way back home, Cora finds her house ransacked and Coby missing – kidnapped by the military for dangerous medical experiments in the name of a cure. Brooks knows exactly where Cora can find her brother, except it’s a suicide mission. Cora doesn’t care. But Brooks can’t let her go…

Until We End is pretty much a must read for fans of In The After and/or The 5th Wave1. . The three stories have similar: teenage girl responsible for a younger sibling (or pseudo sibling) in a post-apocalyptic world. A girl who'll put that sibling ahead of anything, even if it means more danger for her.

Frankie Brown's Until We End is its own, unique and well crafted story, though. Cora and Coby's home is very well thought out and it's perfectly understandable that they've been there for nine months. Nine months where they haven't left home and, yet, are still surviving.

It also provides a great catalyst for Cora's departure and the events that set the rest of the story into motion.

The characters were well developed, Cora, especially. We learned a lot about her past which not only helped view her character better but understand her actions and the story, as well.

With the plot remaining very much focused on the present, I was left wanting more information on the virus that had brought about the End of the World As We Know It.  It was understandable for the characters and their focus seated in the here and now, but it left questions. When? How? Etc. The nine month time frame was enough that it did work for the characters to not, quite, still be reeling from everything, to be more focused on surviving. It still left questions, curiosities.

Aside from the unanswered questions about the virus, I really loved Until We End. Cora is tough, but not to the point where she gets in her own way. She has a goal (getting to Coby) and recognizes that it may be to her own detriment, at least physically. She's smart and knows how to fight/defend herself. All of her choices may not, ultimately, be the best ones, but they're the best she knows to make at the time.

The flow and pacing of the novel was really great. You know something's coming when you should, but there are still a few surprises. Everything unfolds in a really nice way. I definitely enjoyed this a lot more than I expected to.

This was Frankie Brown's debut novel and I hope she has more to come -- possibly even more in the Until We End world.

Rating: 9/10

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my egalley for review

1I can't really mention these two books without a bit of squee of some sort. I adore them, muchly. If you haven't read them already, please do do. Immediately. (Along with Until We End.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dangerous Dream (novella) ~ Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl (earc) review

(AT&T doesn't seem to want me to have internet lately; its inconsistent but oh so frequent connection failures paired with holiday busy-ness have messed up my posting. I apologize. [and glare at AT&T.])

** Synopsis/review contains spoilers for the Beautiful Creatures series -- find links to my reviews of those books at the bottom of this post **

Dangerous Dream (Dangerous Creatures #0.5
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
December 17, 2013
60 pages (ebook)
add to Goodreads/buy Kindle edition/or NOOK Book

Novellas are hard to summarize without telling the whole story, but I'll try:

It's time for Lena, Ethan and Link to graduate Stonewall Jackson High School and almost time to leave Gatlin behind. But, first, there's the whole summer . . . a summer with Ridley around and all the opportunities for something to go wrong. Something with great effects.

The Link and Ridley story of "Dangerous Dream" is around thirty-five pages (based on my Adobe Digital Editions) and then there's a preview of Dangerous Creatures. The first book in the Beautiful Creatures spin-off series Dangerous Creatures will be released in May and revolve around Link and Ridley.

It didn't really take anything at all for me to want to read Dangerous Creatures. The Beautiful Creatures books were so great and Link and Ridley were both fantastic characters whose interactions were even better so the idea of books centered on them was more than enough. What "Dangerous Dream" does, however, is set up just where Dangerous Creatures is going to start. A bit of what the stakes are.

While still leaving readers with quite a question.

One that makes you anxious to read the full book.

The characters felt as true in this enovella as they have in the previous four Beautiful Creatures novels. Ethan and Lena were Ethan and Lena (though I did picture them as Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert as I've seen the movie now . . .). Ridley felt a bit fuller than Link, in terms of seeing them as main characters, not supporting characters but that was likely as she had more story.

I loved that they both seemed like expansions of the characters we've already come to know in the other books.  There wasn't a different air to them now that they're the focus.

While that may change in the full novel, I hope it doesn't. It's really nice when the characters (who are the same characters) don't seem to be new characters.

"Dangerous Dream" may be a short novella but it's a great glimpse into what's coming with Dangerous Creatures and a it's really fantastic getting to slip back into that world, if only for a little bit.


Related reviews:
(Beautiful Creatures series reviews:
1 Beautiful Creatures
2 Beautiful Darkness
3 Beautiful Chaos
4 Beautiful Redemption

Icons by Margaret Stohl
Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

 digital galley received from publisher for review consideration

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Altered ~ Jennifer Rush review

Altered (Altered #1)
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
January 1, 2013
323 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

Anna's whole life revolves around the farmhouse in which she lives. From the upstairs where she lives with her father and he home schools her to the basement where he works and she assists. The basement where the boys are kept. Four genetically altered boys who've 'lived' in cells in Anna's basement for the last four years are her father's work.

They're his latest project for the top secret Branch. Anna doesn't understand fully what the Branch is or what the boys have been altered for, what they're being studied for - but she trusts it because she trusts her father. Even if she does think, at times, of letting the boys escape.

When the Branch comes to move the boys from the farmhouse an escape is staged and Anna ends up on the run with them. After agents are very purposefully killed during the escape, Anna finds herself unsure of who to trust. Four boys who don't have any memory of who they were before the time at Anna's house and a girl discovering new truths, they'll have to work quickly if they want to even stay alive.

Altered is a very fast paced read with a plot that pulls you in very quickly. I loved that it was as fast paced as it was because the beginning, likely, would have put me off if it had been a slower, more drawn out telling. Anna has lived with four teenage -- or at least teenage looking -- boys in cells in her basement for four years. Four years. With human beings in cells. In her basement.

That being just sort of, "Oh well, the Branch must have some nice, altruistic end result in mind," wasn't enough to quite work for me. Obviously, though, if she'd been running around telling the town or trying to break them out, the book wouldn't have happened.

The character's and the fact that I'm not actually sure I really liked (well not liked because I don't have to like, but . . . I"m not sure they worked) them left me just the tiniest bit confused with this book. Because I really liked it.

Even as a small part of me hoped for more from the characters -- Anna mostly, but some insight into some of the others, if possible -- the plot was so engrossing that I didn't care that much.

Sam and Anna were really the main characters with Cas, Trev and Nick as more supporting, secondary characters and yet they had distinct enough roles, especially in Anna's life, that it was easy to keep clear who was who. (There are a lot of Supernatural names going on in this book, no?)

The story, from the memory loss, to the mysterious corporation, even how desperate they are to find/capture.return the boys, sets things up for some dramatic revelations. While some of those I was hoping for didn't quite materialize -- again, that was my character loving self wanting more character background -- we there were some really great twists.

The plot all came together like a great puzzle, with each step leading to a possible next step if only they know how and where to look. All with the possibility of the Branch finding them at any moment.

I really enjoyed how everything came together in Altered and I'm anxious to see, after everything that was unveiled in the first book, what happens in Erased out in January.

Forged a prequel to Altered and Erased - but one of those prequels that's sort of spoilery to the first book so it should really be read after the first book if you don't like spoilers - was released yesterday. (At least based on the synopsis.)

Rating: 8/10

Altered Series:

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Looking for a Recommendation

I'm looking for a book recommendation with:  A sheltered main character who discovers that the larger world isn't actually bad.

(A main character who's lived a sheltered life and worries about things/fears people and situations that are different. Then, through, whatever set of circumstances, they're forced to be a part of the world they've always been separate from . . . and realize it's not all they'd made it out to be. They may even like it.)

YA or Adult is okay but preferably not New Adult. I'm looking for a book for someone and the sexual content of most NA titles won't . . . work.

Any suggestions would be very, very appreciated. I know there's something that I just can't think of and one of you knows it! Thank you in advance.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Champion ~ Marie Lu review

Champion (Legend #3)
Putnam Juvenile
November 5, 2013
369 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

** synopsis is spoilery for Legend and/or Prodigy **

The explosive finale to Marie Lu’s New York Times bestselling LEGEND trilogy—perfect for fans of THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT!

He is a Legend.
She is a Prodigy.
Who will be Champion?

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps Elect while Day has been assigned a high level military position. But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them once again. Just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything he has. With heart-pounding action and suspense, Marie Lu’s bestselling trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.
There's always anxiety when a series I love is coming to a close and Marie Lu's Legend series is definitely one that I love.  Always.

Sometimes that anxiety eases quickly, just a few pages into the book as it becomes clear the author's giving the characters a (more or less) happily ever after. Other times, the anxiety morphs into something akin to disappointment when the wrap-up isn't what I wanted.

Rarely, if ever is the end of series what Champion was: something that kept me anxious until the last page, not sure just how much I might have to dislike Marie Lu at the end . . . but also really happy with the story. It was stressful.

Amazingly good, though. Even more so as I think back on it.

June and Day don't have a typical, fluffy (by any means), sunshine and rainbows relationship. Even as I kind of wanted things to be easy and happy for them, it wouldn't have made for the better or more realistic story. Nor would it have been better - in the long run, especially - for the characters. Lu's conclusion to this series really took the characters and their pasts into consideration, not sacrificing who her characters were for a (possibly) easier story.

It's great that the Republic - and the Colonies - are again a part of the plot. They've always been such a large part of Day and June's tale, even before Legend and Prodigy, that it only made sense the threat of their biggest battle should be in the last book.

With brilliant characters who continue to grow, relationships that are still evolving and a world that's still being built - or at least unveiled to readers - Champion is an incredibly strong conclusion to an amazing series. I do hate to see it end, but only because it did and I've loved the books so much - not because I can think of anything to change about how it ended.

I can't wait to see what Marie Lu publishes next.

NB: This series' audiobooks are really good, as well.

Rating: 10/10

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