Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Graceling - Kristin Cashore

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

I read this book about 6 months ago and devoured it in a couple days. I really, really liked it, but was left feeling unsatisfied with the ending. After reading it again (slower this time), that feeling is still there, but not nearly as strong. I knew what to expect from the characters this time and it helped me to appreciate them better.

The great thing about this book is that it's a "non-traditional" romance story. Katsa feels no real desire for romance. She has no wish to marry or have children or any kind of happily ever after. She wishes only to live on her own terms. So she really struggles when love shows up. And even after that, she still doesn't want to belong to anyone but herself. It's an interesting point of view to read from. As far as leading men go, Po is definitely swoon-worthy. He's smart and funny, and a more than worthy love interest for Katsa's strong personality. I love him and his back and forth with Katsa were some of the best scenes in the book.

The most beautiful thing about this story - that I failed to notice in my first reading - is Katsa's evolution as a character. While there is a love story in here, the book is basically about Katsa. About how she grows and matures and really takes her own destiny into her own hands; whether it be her place in the kingdoms or her love life. It's exquistely written, and while I was wishing for a more solid conclusion at the end, it was still a good ending. I am keeping my fingers crossed, however, that in the future she'll write another book that will allow us to see Katsa and Po again. I want to know what they're up to. : )


Kristin Cashore
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
480 pages
$17.00 (hardcover)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Dark Divine - Bree Despain

Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared--the night she found her brother Jude collapsed on the porch, covered in blood--but she has no idea what a truly monstrous secret that night held.

The memories her family has tried to bury resurface when Daniel returns, three years later, and enrolls in Grace and Jude's high school. Despite promising Jude she'll stay away, Grace cannot deny her attraction to Daniel's shocking artistic abilities, his way of getting her to look at the world from new angles, and the strange, hungry, glint in his eyes.

The closer Grace gets to Daniel, the more she jeopardizes her life, as her actions stir resentment in Jude and drive him to embrace the ancient evil Daniel unleashed that horrific night. Grace must discover the truth behind the boys' dark secret...and the cure that can save the ones she loves. But she may have to lay down the ultimate sacrifice to do it--her soul.

While werewolves seem to be getting as popular as vampires, it's always nice to read a new angle on the mythology, and this one is definitely a fresh take on werewolves. It blends popular myth with new origins and blends together nicely to make a great mythology for this world. But I won't say more, since it plays a part in the story. And a subplot also draws a parallel to the parable of the prodigal son, which added a great layer to the tensions in the book between Daniel and Jude.

Our narrarator - Grace - is your typical good girl next door. She loves her family, does well in school, and tries to be a good person. But like all good girls, there's an inner voice begging for something to change; something to spice up her fairly predictable life. Enter Daniel - long lost friend and first crush for our girl Grace. The back and forth between Grace and Daniel is filled with sexual tension and suspense, since there are quite a few unknowns floating around and Daniel keeps leaving details out of his explanations to Grace. She's a morally strong character and I anxiously wondered which side of her would win - the side loyal to her family, who (with the exception of her father) hate Daniel after an incident 3 years prior, or the side loyal to her heart, which keeps pulling her to Daniel.

There's a fair amount mystery to the story, since you keep trying to figure out who is and isn't trustworthy and just what is going on in town. The ending took me by surprise and was a bittersweet conclusion to the first book in this trilogy. The next book - The Lost Saint - comes out on Tuesday and I can't wait to get my hands on it!


The Dark Divine
Bree Despain
Egmont USA
372 pages
$17.99 (hardcover)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Chasing Brooklyn - Lisa Schroeder

Restless souls and empty hearts

Brooklyn can't sleep. Her boyfriend, Lucca, died only a year ago, and now her friend Gabe has just died of an overdose. Every time she closes her eyes, Gabe's ghost is there waiting for her. She has no idea what he wants or why it isn't Lucca visiting her dreams.
Nico can't stop. He's always running, trying to escape the pain of losing his brother, Lucca. But when Lucca's ghost begins leaving messages, telling Nico to help Brooklyn, emotions come crashing to the surface.

As the nightmares escalate and the messages become relentless, Nico reaches out to Brooklyn. But neither of them can admit that they're being haunted. Until they learn to let each other in, not one soul will be able to rest.

I love Lisa Schroeder. Her style is simple, but because of it's simplicity the emotions come through loud and clear and feel more powerful. This is a companion of sorts to I Heart You, You Haunt Me. We get a glimpse of Ava, which was nice, and she provides the soundtrack to Brooklyn's healing.

The story takes place a year after Lucca's death and a just after the death of Gabe - who was friends with Lucca, Brooklyn, and Nico. The chapters switch back and forth between Brooklyn and Nico, so you really get a feel for how each is coping with their own grief. Brooklyn has disappeared into her own head and Nico has disappeared into the endorphins of running. It's hearbreaking to see them still struggling, and as they struggle with this new death, it's like they get pushed back a few steps.

I loved that they were being haunted by different people, in different ways for different reasons. Nico is such a sweetheart and he was the perfect person to help Brooklyn fight her way out of her depression. And she in turn helped Nico stop and look around instead of always running. The evolution of their friendship was beautifully written and felt very real. I absolutely loved it.

Basically, I loved this book. I've said it once and I'll say it again: Lisa Schroeder is a must-read author for me. I can't wait for her next book The Day Before to be released this summer.


Chasing Brooklyn
Lisa Schroeder
Simon & Schuster
412 pages
$15.99 (hardcover)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

City of Fallen Angels Cover Revealed

This is very exciting because not only do I love Cassandra Clare's books, but I love the covers! They are always so beautiful and I'm incredibly excited to see what happens to Clary, Jace, and the gang. To see close ups of the cover and a link to an excerpt from the book, you can visit her blog here. She mentions on the blog that it is Clary and Simon on the cover, and that for all three covers of the second TMI cycle, there will be two people instead of just one like the first three books. Very cool.

April can't come fast enough, can it? : )

Friday, December 10, 2010

Last Sacrifice - Richelle Mead

Rose Hathaway has always played by her own rules. She broke the law when she ran away from St. Vladimir's Academy with her best friend and last surviving Dragomir princess, Lissa. She broke the law when she fell in love with her gorgeous, off-limits instructor, Dimitri. And she dared to defy Queen Tatiana, leader of the Moroi world, risking her life and reputation to protect generations of dhampir guardians to come.

Now the law has finally caught up with Rose--for a crime she didn't even commit. She's in prison for the highest offense imaginable: the assassination of a monarch. She'll need help from both Dimitri and Adrian to find the one living person who can stall her execution and force the Moroi Elite to acknowledge a shocking new candidate for the royal throne: Vasilisa Dragomir. But the clock on Rose's life is running out. Rose knows in her heart the world of the dead wants her back...and this time she is truly out of second chances. The big question is, when your whole life is about saving others, who will save you?

It's finished. The final book in the Vampire Academy is out and the series is over. We know how Rose's story ends. I'll admit, I was both insanely excited and very sad to get it. This was it. I would finally find out who Rose would choose, who killed the Queen, and what Lissa's political future would be.

This book does not disappoint. From the very beginning it starts with bad news and crazy stunts and seriously does not stop the entire book. Something is always happening, some plan is being hatched and carried out, and the plot twists and surprises are enough to make you cry out in shock. And let's not even talk about the sexual tension in this book. It's saturates every page.

It really took me for a wild ride and I loved every single minute of it. The growth of all the characters, the way everything ended, and the intricate and complex way she brought everything together blew my mind away. There were a few storylines left hanging, but I'm not worried because we'll probably be getting more of those characters in the spin-off series - Bloodlines - due out late summer/early fall of 2011. I'm incredibly excited to see where she takes us next, because even after six books, I'm not ready to say goodbye to this world and the amazing characters in it.

Richelle, you amaze me with your incredible books, and I have to say, this was the best final book of a series that I have read in a very long time. I worship your awesomeness, and I look forward to all the books you have yet to write. Thank you for such an incredible series.

5/5 plus 5 stars and 2 thumbs up (seriously, it's amazing)

Last Sacrifice
Richelle Mead
Penguin Group USA
594 pages
$17.99 (hardcover)