REVIEW: The Fever by Megan Abbott

Wow, I really want to get this review started. Here’s the synopsis from Amazon:

“The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hockey star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie’s best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community.

As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town’s fragile idea of security.”

1. The reality is so refreshing to see in YA

There are a lot of YA books that disguise the fact that teenagers are having sex, smoking pot, drinking, and cursing. They try to paint these kids as little angels who always do what they’re told when in reality, that is so not the case. There was talk of virginity, the HPV vaccine was mandatory by the town’s school, and casual drinking by the main brother/sister duo. I enjoy truth like this. Add in some heavy cursing, and you’ll have a picture painted of real life. This was my first favorite thing about this book.

2. The entire book revolves around love – but without a love triangle.

Okay, so to stick to my spoiler-free guarantee, I’m not going to tell you the ending. Me saying that the book revolved around love is not a spoiler. You probably could’ve figured that out because this is YA we’re talking about. Anyway, it’s not even the love you think – the icky, mushy, “baby I love you” love. We’re talking about a father or mother’s love for their child (or lack thereof), a sister and brother’s love for each other, friends loving their friends. A lot of relationships come into play in this book, and a lot of love is questioned and re-defined and shifted. This is one of my favorite parts of the book. I never knew how to feel about anyone at any time. By the end, I didn’t feel a lot of closure, but I did feel that the characters would be okay. Don’t you worry about that, too? I always wonder if, after the last page, the characters will have a good life. Is that weird? I don’t care. I’ll think about it anyway.

3. This was my first Megan Abbott novel and I am completely and utterly floored by her writing.

I told her this on Twitter. I told her phenomenal doesn’t even begin to describe her writing in an honest way. An adjective does not exist for me to convey to you or anyone how absolutely brilliant and magical her writing is. The language was elevated. The metaphors were amazing. There wasn’t any time where I thought Abbott was wishy-washy; I feel that when I read a lot of books. I don’t know how Abbott can continually live with this brilliance inside her head, because I would go insane! She’s amazing. Even if you don’t read this book, I think you should at least pick up one of Abbott’s books and read the first page.

4. The main character reminds me of me in high school.

Deenie Nash is really nice. That is the best way to describe Deenie. She’s nice. As far as I can tell, she’s unremarkable, on the cusp of popularity, but not quite having it thrust upon her. She’s included in the inner circle, but is a little bit on the outside. The book always describes how beautiful and ethereal her friends Gabby and Lise are, which leads me to assume she is just…nice. She does some things she regrets. She has a broken home and handles it relatively well. She deals with having to shift feelings about her friends and her family. She is brave in ways I never could be regarding these situations. I applaud Deenie for being unapologetically herself through the book and through her friends being sick and potentially dying. I thought Deenie was going to lose it to be honest. I felt it coming. You’ll love her.

5. The points of view had me whipping back and forth like I was watching a tennis match.

Especially towards the end, wow. We get a lot of point of views. They’re mainly Deenie, her brother Eli, and her father Tom. Then, towards the end, there is one chapter with Lise’s point of view and it. was. awesome. I like when authors do this mainly because it keeps me guessing. I never know when I’m going to come back to that character’s narration, so I get engrossed in the next part of the story. Then, I’m taken back to the first character and I am just excited to get to what happens next. Almost like a weekly sitcom, but right in front of my eyes. It was so great, especially since Deenie’s dad is a teacher at the school. This puts a whole new perspective on him as a father, as well.

6. I would like to address the similarities and differences between this book and Conversion by Katherine Howe

I was seeingĀ  a lot of people talking about how these two books are “exactly” the same. They are not – to begin, the characters have different names. I did see many similarities between the two, but not for a second could I confuse the two books. Conversion feels more to me like a re-telling or re-imagining of The Crucible while The Fever takes the themes from The Crucible and translates them into our modern day. There is no actual illness in The Fever. This is a mean girl tale. The similarities, though, are glaring. Many things are similar including our main character getting anonymous text messages. (That happens in both books). BUT I can love each book for what it is, and I adore both books separately.

Overall: FOUR STARS!! I’m only taking one star away because it took SO long to catch me. There was a lot of set-up to this book, and that’s okay. This was great if you love mystery, friendship, different instances of love, and a little bit of hysteria. This book is already in the world, so clicky clicky on the link to order! (Or, you could do what I did, and wait two weeks for it at the library. My copy has a sticker on the spine that says 14 DAY LOAN ONLY so you can see how in demand this book is. Good thing I’m a fast reader!)

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REVIEW: In The Shadows by Kiersten White and Jim Di Bartolo

This book is about five teenagers who find out about a secret society that specializes in immortality. There is Minnie and Cora, sisters who help their mom with a boarding house; Thom and Charles, brothers who are dealing with the fact that Charles will die at a young age from illness; then, there is Arthur, who is a mystery who blends into the shadows – we find out more about him towards the end. And that, folks, is really all of the synopsis I can give you. I finished this two days ago and I’m still floored.

1. The way the book is organized and the way the story is told is so different from any book I’ve ever read.

So, this book is a hybrid. If a graphic novel and a regular novel were to have a baby, it would be In the Shadows. The text story is written by Kiersten White, and having never read her work before, I am so ready to read more. The art story is by Jim Di Bartolo, who I met at the YALSA Coffee Klatch at the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas. His mutton chops are amazing, but his artwork transcends the awesomeness of his facial hair. While the art and text stories kind of say different things, the art story tends to give a history to the text story. Not to mention, both stories are phenomenally done.

2. The writing was accentuating the art and vice versa.

Sometimes, the art story confused me, but then we jumped right back into the text chapters. The text was amazing and it was so engrossing. I finished most of this book in one day. The story follows these kids as they attempt to discover and bring down a secret organization dealing in immortality. This kept me guessing until the last few chapters, even with the art story to help it along.

3. The characters were relatable.

The five kids seemed like kids I knew or kids I used to be. Other than Arthur, who is an old soul and he arrives in a cloud of mystery. We never really find out much about Arthur. The book starts out with Cora’s run in with the town witch; she then becomes more serious, reserved, and scared of adventure. Minnie is full of fire and adventure. She always wants to find something interesting. They have foils in that of Thom and Charles. Thom is more serious and Charles is the playful one. Although, it is slightly ironic that Charles is more fun, since he is sick and only given a short while to live. I started out as that fun-loving kid, then grew into the serious kid, since I would always disappear into my books rather than deal with people.

4. The artwork is absolutely phenomenal.

So, since I sat down and had coffee with Jim Di Bartolo (I actually drank water, I hate coffee) I have some insider information. So, the artwork is absolutely stupendous – better than any art I’ve seen in any graphic novel or comic I’ve ever read. So, since he was showing us the book, my best friend asked him what he used to create the art. The short answer is he used everything except oil, including digital. It is so detailed and perfect, I can only imagine how hard he toiled over the art story. I can’t fathom the amount of time that took – especially as a husband and a father (Di Bartolo is married to Laini Taylor of Daughter of Smoke and Bone fame. Can you say coolest couple ever?!). I’ll stop rambling – I think you get the point.

OVERALL: FIVE STARS. I’ve told you as much as I can without giving any spoilers. I think you need to read this if you love adventure, honesty, intrigue, immortality, danger, and a little bit of magic. This book is out in the world, so clicky clicky on the link to get it! By the way, Di Bartolo warned me about the difference between the Kindle and print versions of this. He said the artwork isn’t the same if you read this on a Kindle, and I would have to agree. As much as I love my Kindle, this would not have been the same. Plus, this book smells AMAZING. I cannot explain in words how good this book smelled. Just know it’ll take your nose to pleasure town and you’ll be sniffing it the whole time you read it – and probably after you’re finished, too.

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REVIEW: Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau

If you are new to The Testing trilogy, you probably won’t understand anything I’m saying. So, before I start this, I’m going to tell you to go pick up The Testing, Independent Study, and Graduation Day and read through ALL of them. They are absolutely amazing. I stumbled across this series a few years ago while I was browsing through Goodreads and my life has never been the same. I’m not going to give a synopsis since this is the last book in a series, so just go get the books. (Amazon Unlimited seems to be up and running, and if you’re a subscriber, you can read The Testing for free. Just saying).

1. Charbonneau never disappoints

Since reading The Testing, I have been hooked on this series. I took this recommendation because it was displayed in a list that said “For fans of The Hunger Games.” I will admit, I bought into it, but as you know, I really hate those kinds of comparisons. I can see how the first book could be a small parallel, but it is nothing like The Hunger Games. This world is full of intelligent, forward thinking individuals duped into thinking The Testing is something they actually want. The final book in the trilogy surprised me, made me laugh, made me cry, and ultimately satisfied with the ending.

2. Concerning the issue of Cia’s “magic” bag.

So after I finished, I started to read some reviews on Goodreads. One of the reviews focused on Cia’s seemingly magic bag. I beg to differ. Cia is insanely smart. Her bag that she constantly carries with her is a habit formed through The Testing. In this world, that is a great habit to have. Her bag is not magic, let me just clarify that now. While Mary Poppins does, indeed, have a magic bag that things seem to appear out of, Cia’s bag is vastly different. She thinks ahead and loads her bag with things she could potentially need. She is a genius using technology and machinery, so she usually has cogs and various items floating around her bag; she never knows when she’ll need to assemble an object to help her. This is not magic. This is genius. This is thinking ahead and making sure she is equipped to survive in this crazy world.

3. The parallel to our world and the potential reality of Graduation Day’s world becoming our own are both insanely terrifying.

I love dystopian universes that so closely resemble our own world. This series is no different. There is a huge world war (the stages are explained in the book) that decimate the earth’s environment and its people. From the survivors, an awareness was formed that the new world needed new leaders and ways to choose them – then The Testing was born. This process is so sick and this review is going to be spoiler free, so just read the book. I can absolutely picture something like this happening in our world. Not only talking about the war, but The Testing could be something a country would adopt out of desperation for leaders who they know have the ability to lead.

4. I know I always say this, but: THE WRITING!

Charbonneau’s writing had me so involved with the characters that their triumphs were mine as well as their failures and pain. From the first book on, I felt like Cia was a close friend who was relating to me the hardships she had to face. This is no walk in the park. This series is brutal and shows the ugly side of humanity while also balancing with the good. There is no love triangle (yay!) but there is love. Sitting just outside of the vicious ugliness of humanity, love is always present. As someone who considers herself as a “people hater,” it was so refreshing to see that love really does help with the darkness. There is so much darkness.

Overall: FIVE STARS!!! I sometimes have issues with series’ endings. This one did not disappoint. One of the biggest letdowns I could possibly have is a series having an ambiguous ending. This one does not have an ambiguous ending, but it does give the reader the ability to imagine Cia’s future after we’re done tagging along with her in The Testing universe. I heard some bitching about the ending on Goodreads, but true lovers of the series should be insanely satisfied and feel as if a weight has been lifted from their shoulders. Click the link to order the book, I promise you won’t regret it. *While you’re at it, just get the whole series. You know you want to.*

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REVIEW: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

The Jewel

I received this book as an ARC at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas. I picked this book up as a curiosity, since I had heard nothing about it before I talked to the pleasant ladies at the HarperCollins booth. I was told it was a cross between The Selection and some other book I can’t remember. I really loathe when people compare things to other things, but in this case, the nice lady was kind of right. Here we go, because this book was CRAZY.

Synopsis: “The Jewel means wealth, the Jewel means beauty – but for Violet, the Jewel means servitude.

Bought at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake, Violet (now known only as #197) is quickly thrown into the royal way of life. But behind its opulent and glittering facade, the Jewel hides its brutal reality, which is filled with violence, manipulation, and death. Violet must accept that she will bear a child for the Duchess, as well as the ugly truth of the city…all while trying to stay alive. Before she can accept her fate, though, Violet meets a handsome boy who is also under the Duchess’s control, and a forbidden love erupts. Toeing the line between calculating and rebellious, Violet must decide what, and whom, she is willing to risk for her own freedom.”

1. The world is insanely screwed up.

The royalty in this world is so crazy. The women are all sterilized, hence their dependence on the surrogates and the auction. However, instead of like in our world where surrogates volunteer and get paid for their services, these surrogates are tested when they come into their womanhood, and are sent away to a facility until they are charged with being skilled enough to go to auction. Basically, they are cows raised for slaughter. The royalty is sterilized since their own attempts at having children failed miserably. The royals in this book are so EVIL. I absolutely love to hate them. There was a scene with placing leashes on human beings that had me feeling physically ill. This is probably one of the most messed up worlds I’ve seen in YA.

2. There’s magic!!!

The last thing I expected in this book was magic! Magic is called the Auguries. Once to see it as it is. Twice to see it in your mind. Thrice to bend it to your will. Violet chants this before every piece of magic she does. Really, it’s more like altering reality, but it is so awesome. The only downside to their magic is that old school thought of a pain tithe in order for it to work…exists. The girls get bloody noses, migraines, or they vomit. It is not pretty, but the results are.

3. So much political intrigue just in the social circle of a few women.

It is absolutely sickening how these women treat each other. The surrogates themselves are ranked on a scale of 1 to 200, 200 being the highest rating. They’re rated based on their skills, Auguries, and genetics. The Duchesses and Ladies are all competing to get a higher number than their friend. They are all determined to have a daughter (born first) to marry the Elector’s newborn son (yes, the surrogates are able to determine the sex of the baby and how long – or short – it takes to give birth to a healthy baby). These women are ruthless. Sticking to my spoiler free guarantee, that’s all I’ll say about that. Read the book. You’ll most definitely see what I mean.

4. You never know who to trust.

As with any book and universe like this, you never really know who the antagonist’s friends are. Sometimes, though, Violet does. Her friends are sold to friends of the Duchess so she is always able to see her best of friends: Raven. Until something starts to happen to Raven (no spoilers) and she can do nothing about it. There is a plan, there are secret methods of communicating with the man with the plan, and the HUGE shocker at the end (again, spoilers redacted). This was a ride and a test of my trust.

5. I’m a horrible reader for not knowing whether or not Amy Ewing is a debut author, but if she is, WOW.

This writing was so great! The embarrassments and harassment and absolute shame felt by the surrogates had me in tears. I could feel the awful things happening to these girls and it is not often that I connect that deeply with someone’s writing. If Ewing is not a debut author, I NEED ALL OF HER BODY OF WORK THIS SECOND IN MY HANDS!

Overall: FIVE STARS!!! I know I’ve been giving a LOT of five stars, but these books have been so super great and I have been so glad. I was kind of in a slump when it came to new books. But this one was so fun. The only downside is that I have an ARC which is currently unreleased and now I have to wait for the next books in the series because wow. I am very very excited to see where this series goes. This book is in the world on September 2, 2014 so clicky clicky on the link to pre-order. You should totally pre-order.

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

The Iron Trial
I received this book as an ARC at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas. I got a special edition (I think) with a letter from Clare and Black on the cover. Honestly, I had no idea what this book was about when I picked it up. All of the reviews on Goodreads (from people who hadn’t read it) were attempting to compare it to Harry Potter, but I will save that rant for the end of this review. Here’s the synopsis:
“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 tries his best to do his worst – and fails at failing.
Now the Magisterium awaits him. It’s a place that’s 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…”

1. The main character, Callum, is blissfully ignorant of his situation and magic, effectively keeping us in the dark.
One of the things I love about first person or one person’s point of view is that it keeps me guessing until I know what the main character knows. This is so great for this book, because we are as unschooled in magic as Call is, and that just makes for more awesome discoveries. Not only discoveries of magic, but discoveries about who Call really is.

2. I love the creatures in this book!!
There are your basic dragons and wyverns, but there are also creatures called the Devoured and the Chaos-ridden. The descriptions were so great that I have this amazing picture of the Magisterium and its inhabitants in my head. I will admit honestly that I dreamt about them last night, too. There are even strange creatures within the school. It is so awesome.

3. Dual authored books usually irritate me, but this one was so well done, that I kind of forgot they were both in on it.
There was a joke on Goodreads talking about how since Cassandra Clare co-wrote this, there had to be Shadowhunters. I kind of find that insulting on behalf of Clare. She and Black worked so hard on this idea, that it flows so well. You can’t really tell which ideas were Clare’s and which were Black’s. Admittedly, I am more of a fan of Black than Clare (I refused to read past book four in her Mortal Instruments series) but take it from me, this one was so worth it.

4. This was book one in a series of FIVE BOOKS. Yes, I said FIVE. BOOKS.
So much happened in this book, I can’t even believe that they have come up with more story to supplement five books. This was so crazy and I am so excited to see what the rest of the books have in store. Like any first book, this was definitely setting up for more in the future, but I can’t contain my excitement for the next four installments.

5. The ending was so crazy, I stayed up WAY past my bedtime.
As soon as I got to the last 20 pages, I sat up straighter in bed and I had to put the book down for a minute. You know that moment where you tell yourself, “Just one more chapter, then I’ll go to sleep”? That happened to me six or seven times within the last quarter of the book.

6. My rant on similarities in literature, regardless of the genre.
I hate when people say things like, “If you liked [insert popular series here], you’ll definitely like this book!” I am of the firm belief that within literature, you’re going to find similarities between newer books and books that have done it first. Just as you see some similarities to Harry Potter in this book, you’ll see similarities between The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Everyone has similar ideas – there really isn’t anything that hasn’t been done before – the most authors can do is improve on something that’s already been done. Yes, you can compare this to HP, but it is NOTHING like the story. You can see some characters in others, but it does not necessarily mean that it is the same. If you pick up this book and put it down again because of the similarities, you should read this review and pick it back up, because it deserves your attention. /endrant

With that said, overall: FIVE STARS!! I adored this book, and you will, too. Especially if you like the magical world in any form. This is way different from any supernatural/fantasy book I’ve read recently. I think you’ll like it. This book will be released into the world on September 9, 2014 so clicky clicky on the link to pre-order!

http://www.amazon.com/The-Iron-Trial-Book-Magisterium/dp/0545522250/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_har?ie=UTF8&qid=1405561478&sr=8-1&keywords=the+iron+trial

REVIEW: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

The Young Elites
I received this book as an ARC at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas (and it’s signed yay!). There is no synopsis on the back of the book, just praise for Lu’s other series: Legend (which I could also heap praise upon all day). So, here is my attempt on a synopsis. If you don’t like mine, you can look up the synopsis on Goodreads.
The Young Elites follows Adelina Amouteru through the fantasy world of Kenettra. It is years after a plague has passed. Those who survived the plague are usually marked by some physical flaw. They call these people malfettos. Adelina is a malfetto. This story follows her fleeing her home to end up in the clutches of The Young Elites, a group of young people with supernatural powers. There is a war being waged on the Elites as well as any malfetto within Kenettra. (I don’t know how to give you more without spoilers, so I’m going to leave it at this).

1. The main character is hard to like.
Adelina has a darkness swirling within her that has her toeing the line between good and evil. Throughout her narration, there is so much darkness, but also some good. She is a dark character with dark thoughts and a dark ability. She has a younger sister, Violetta, who she struggles to love. Adelina’s father was always cruel, but only to her. Violetta had a doting father who loved her and showed it. This darkness that lives within her father also lives within her, making it difficult for her to see anything good in anyone. She believes any kindness comes with strings attached – but is she wrong? She is amazing as a main character, because she is more like a real person than any YA heroine I’ve seen in awhile. She’s almost an anti-hero, and I always adore those.

2. The world building is fantastic! It is hard for me to get into fantasy, so this was amazing for me.
I don’t have problems with fantasy worlds in general. I have problems with fantasy worlds that don’t stay true to their own rules. Some fantasy worlds leave too much out or make their creatures or citizens transcend any rules set forth by the author when building their world. Since I fell in love with Marie Lu while reading her Legend series, I was hesitant about this since I know her as a dystopian story teller. But, she did it perfectly. Nothing was out of place and I was able to create this world in my own head.

3. There is no love triangle!
There are three main dudes in this book, and one of them is insanely evil. Two are close to Adelina. Those two close to her are super hunky, but there is only one that wins her. Rafaelle is a male prostitute within the court, but he is essential to the story and to Adelina’s training and success. Enzo is the leader of the Elites and he is super awesome. He’s difficult and stubborn when he needs to be, but he is also just a young man living in a scary, scary world. This was so refreshing for me, especially in a fantasy. As you know, I loathe love triangles in any literature, but especially YA because they are just too much and too overdone.

4. Marie Lu’s writing is so engrossing, it honestly made me forget where I was at some points.
As I said, I adored Lu’s Legend series. I was so engrossed in that, so I am so glad that her fantasy world was awesome. I knew she had it in her! Honestly, there were parts of this book that lagged. I was so unimpressed with Adelina about a third of the way through that I thought about mentally stabbing her. Then, she kind of redeemed herself to me. (I’m really trying not to give any spoilers, since this book has yet to be released). Just trust me on this: stick with it. Shit gets bananas and you will be so glad you did.

5. The ending ripped my heart out.
It is not often that I leak tears when I read books. However, this ending is so heart wrenching that it was just too much for my fragile emotions to handle at that moment. I finished this while I was at work, and it was just like the floodgates opened and I just couldn’t stop. It is not how you would expect anything to turn out (we’re not talking Allegiant style, but pretty close). The epilogue is so bad ass that I can’t even begin to describe it without telling you anything, so I’m just going to stop there.

6. This was social commentary on those who look different.
Even if it was unintentional, this book was a good social commentary on how our society values looks over everything. Adelina only has one eye because of the fever and her hair is silver. All of the Young Elites have physical deformities and they are hunted for them. Not all who are deformed have powers, but all who have powers are deformed (except for one). Our society is so caught up in looks and filters and angles and selfies that it is hard to imagine a world where almost half of the population walks around comfortable in their own skin with noticeable deformities. It is a glaring look at how our society fears what they do not know. Kenettra fears what they do not know, and they take steps to ensure they eliminate anyone who does not fit their standards of conformity. Sound like anyone else you know?

Overall: FOUR STARS!! I’m only taking a star away because of the bit of lagging (even though it was SO necessary for the story). I love Marie Lu, and she was so nice when I met her at her signing, so I am super glad I was able to read this and do this review for her. This book enters the world on October 7, 2014 so clicky clicky on the link to pre-order!

http://www.amazon.com/The-Young-Elites-Marie-Lu/dp/0399167838/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1405304742&sr=1-1

REVIEW: Balance Keepers: The Fires of Calderon by Lindsay Cummings

Balance Keepers
I received this book as an ARC at the American Library Annual Conference in Las Vegas (are you sensing a theme?). This book is a middle grade, which I usually don’t enjoy, but this one was pretty awesome and FULL of action, adventure, and mystery. Here’s the synopsis from the back of the book:
“Eleven-year-old Albert Flynn has just learned he’s a Balance Keeper – someone with special magical skills for fixing problems in three underground realms at the center of the earth.
There’s no time to waste – an Imbalance in the Calderon Realm is threatening to destroy New York City above. Can Albert and his teammates restore balance before New York is destroyed forever?”

1. Don’t lie. You always wanted to be a spy as a kid, or some kind of secret agent. These kids actually DO it!
These kids are living all of our dreams of being totally awesome, crime-fighting, kick butt and take names superheroes. Even before they are fully trained, everything they do is super awesome, especially when it comes to their powers. Their powers come from Tiles, which – kind of like the wand choosing the wizard in Harry Potter – choose them in a mystical waterfall in the Core – which is exactly what it sounds like: their secret base located in the core of the Earth. From the beginning there is mystery, and it hooks you from the start.

2. If you thought your parents were weird when you were a kid, you have NO idea.
The parents in this book are so awesome. I’m not going to give away any spoilers, so let’s just say his dad is the absolute coolest. I enjoyed the family dynamic in this book because you don’t see a lot of middle grade books with blended families. Albert’s mom lives in New York with a new husband. He has half and step siblings. His father lives in Wyoming with his grandfather, where he spends his summers sorting mail at the local post office. Then, everything gets crazy and weird and awesome.

3. There are so many animals in this book!
If you’re anything like me, you follow the author – Lindsay Cummings – on Twitter and Instagram. If you don’t follow her, there is something you should know about her: she LOVES animals. She has a horse, a hedgehog (named Hedwig) and I think three dogs. The animals in this book range from an awesome dog named Farnsworth to animals from Cummings’ imagination. These animals are awesome. But, if I had to choose one to have forever, it would totally be Farnsworth. (I love dogs.)

4. The main character, Albert, is an everyman.
Albert thinks he’s weird. And, if you’re not familiar with the term “everyman,” the quick definition is a character that could be anybody. Most people can relate to him and see bits of themselves within him. That being said, Albert is a fantastic main character. He doesn’t really have friends until he arrives in the Core. He is kind, smart, and his bravery is unmatched. Something kind of disappointing happens to him in the beginning, but then we find out it is SO not disappointing. (Again, no spoilers).

5. This is an underdog story.
I love underdogs! I love them in sports, I love them in movies, and I especially love them in books. This is definitely an underdog story, but most of the kids in the Core starting out are underdogs. They’re less underdogs and more…inexperienced. There is a bully named Hoyt in this story who makes Albert and his team (Team Hydra) work for everything they win and achieve.

6. The writing is fantastic!!!!
I only recently read Cummings’ other work. She has a YA novella out called The Fear Trials and a YA novel called The Murder Complex. I recently read both, which fueled my extreme want for reading this. The writing is concise, clear, and creative. Even though Cummings is building this entire fantasy world that lives and moves underneath our own, I didn’t once have to stretch my imagination to imagine this. She has this way of making this world so believable and REAL that I almost wish I would have been tapped as a Balance Keeper since I never got my Hogwarts letter. I am very excited to read everything Cummings produces in the future. Go Lindsay!

Overall: FOUR STARS! The beginning kind of lagged and that’s why I am taking away one star. It took me a little bit to get past the first couple chapters. But, after that, it catches you and does NOT let you go. This book is released in the world on September 23, 2014 so clicky clicky on the link to pre-order!

http://www.amazon.com/Balance-Keepers-The-Fires-Calderon/dp/0062275186/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_har?ie=UTF8&qid=1404968156&sr=8-1&keywords=balance+keepers

REVIEW: Conversion by Katherine Howe

Conversion
I received this book as an ARC (surprise, surprise) at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas. I’m so excited to write this review so it may be a long one (sorry, but I’m not actually sorry). Here’s the synopsis:
“It’s senior year at St. Joan’s Academy, and school is a pressure cooker. College applications, the battle for valedictorian, deciphering boys’ texts: Through it all, Colleen Rowley and her friends are expected to keep it together.
Until they can’t.
First it’s the school’s queen bee, Clara Rutherford, who suddenly falls into uncontrollable tics in the middle of class. Her mystery illness quickly spreads to her closest clique of friends, then more students and symptoms follow: seizures, hair loss, violent coughing fits. St. Joan’s buzzes with rumor; rumor blossoms into full-blown panic.
Soon the media descends on Danvers, Massachusetts, as everyone scrambles to find something, or someone, to blame. Pollution? Stress? Or are the girls faking? Only Colleen – who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit – comes to realize what nobody else has: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago…
Inspired by true events – from seventeenth-century colonial life to the halls of a modern-day high school – Conversion casts a spell. With her signature wit and passion, New York Times bestselling author Katherine Howe delivers an exciting and suspenseful novel, a chilling mystery that raises the question, what’s really happening to the girls at St. Joan’s?”

1. The beginning pretty much lists a cast of characters.
Guys, I love plays. I have a Shakespeare tattoo on my arm. When plays and stories meet, that is just an explosion of awesome for me. The beginning of the book opens with Colleen introducing the main characters. It’s reminiscent of a play, but along with her introductions, she supplies little tidbits that she personally knows about everyone. Since St. Joan’s is a small private school, everyone pretty much knows everyone else. Honestly, the first “modern day” chapter hooked me because of its similarities to a play. This kind of seems like I’m nitpicking, but I’m not, I swear. It is awesome.

2. The way the chapters are set up is so cool. They flip flop from Ann’s confession in the 1700s to Danvers in 2012.
Your enjoyment of this book heavily depends on how you felt about The Crucible. This book is partly a re-telling and partly inspired by true events in our time (thank you, author’s note!). Ann’s chapters are titled as Interludes that usually coincide with whatever is going on in Colleen’s modern world. The way these chapters are set up make it easy to see the parallels between the characters and the story itself. Ann’s chapters are parts of The Crucible told through the eyes of one of the “afflicted” girls. This was so interesting to me, because as readers of the play know, we only get what the playwright tells us. Ann is working through her confession, years after the events of the play take place, in order to try and redeem herself to her village. After reading the author’s note, I saw that Howe pored over transcripts of what actually happened during the Salem Witch Trials and made Ann Putnam (jokingly called Ann Putnam Jr.) the centerpiece.

3. It is so refreshing to see a high school character so passionately concerned about her grades. She’s a private school student, but she isn’t stuck up or snotty, which makes for a likeable main character.
I will admit that Colleen might be a little TOO focused on her GPA, but as a future teacher, I love reading about teenagers who care. Colleen is applying to schools like Dartmouth and Harvard and she actually has a chance at getting in. It is so awesome. Usually, when I read books about characters who go to any kind of private school, they are stuck up and they are not easy to relate to. With Colleen, it’s refreshing to see that she doesn’t rest on the fact that she goes to a prestigious religious private school for her success. From what I know about her after reading, she is a kind and well rounded individual who falls victim to a little bit of stress.

4. There is no love triangle!
If you’ve read my other posts, you know how I feel about YA love triangles. If not, just know that I loathe them. Sometimes, I see their necessity, but other times they seem to be thrown in for extra drama – even if extra drama isn’t needed. In this book, there is a love interest, but Colleen doesn’t ogle over him every second of every day. In fact, she makes fun of her friends who incessantly text their boyfriends all day. This is so refreshing to see compared to other YA novels. The illness in the book is so serious, it was great NOT to see Colleen buy into the boy crazy-ness of her peers.

5. The illness that strikes the girls in this book is totally not what you think. I wasn’t even sure of what was happening until the very end.
The mystery goes from thinking it is hysteria like in The Crucible to environmental contamination to supernatural forces to…what it actually is. I’m not going to tell you because I want you to read the book and find out. When you find out what the illness is, it might seem a little anti-climactic. But it’s totally not! It’s a pretty staggering look at real life, especially when it comes to small schools like that. I feel like I’m saying too much, moving on!

6. A person’s need to be noticed, to be somebody is on the forefront.
We’ve all been there. We all know how it feels to be invisible, or to be seen as unimportant. The parallels between Ann Putnam and Colleen are many, but the biggest parallel is that they both want people to notice them; they both want to feel powerful and important. I have definitely been in that situation, as I’m sure many people have. It’s interesting to see what many people will do in order to receive the attention they want. I experience that in my own group of friends. Colleen isn’t exactly invisible, but she does tend to blend in. The need to stand out is paramount in high school, but also in the 1700s as we see in Ann’s narrative. You’re not alone! We all want to be noticed! (Maybe this is why I started blogging again?)

Overall: FIVE STARS!!I can go on and on and on about the awesome-ness of this book. But honestly, I’d rather you form your own opinions and read it yourself. Katherine Howe had me absolutely enthralled. I was never bored with this and it kept me guessing through the whole thing. Even at the end, you still question if the diagnosis is real. I love that there is no ambiguous ending because I feared that’s where it would end. There is a clear ending, but…is there? This book has been birthed to the world, so clicky clicky on the link below to buy this awesome book. You’ll thank me later.

http://www.amazon.com/Conversion-Katherine-Howe/dp/0399167773/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_har?ie=UTF8&qid=1404703585&sr=8-1&keywords=conversion

REVIEW: Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini

Trial by Fire
Once again, I received this book as an ARC from the American Library Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas. I met Josephine that morning at an event called Coffee Klatch which made me need this book. Then I saw her again at her signing. She is so so nice and wonderful, and I am beyond happy that I enjoyed the book and that I am able to do this review for her! Here’s the synopsis from the back of the book:
“This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from many of the experiences that other teenagers in her hometown of Salem take for granted, which is why she is determined to enjoy her first (and perhaps only) high school party with her best friend and longtime crush, Tristan. But after a humiliating incident in front of half her class, Lily wishes she could just disappear.
Suddenly, Lily finds herself in a different Salem – one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruelest of all the Crucibles is Lillian…Lily’s other self in this alternate universe.
Lily soon learns that what makes her weak in her world is exactly what makes her extraordinary in this other Salem. It also makes her a priceless target. Now, she’s torn amid dangers she never could have imagined, responsibilities she can’t hope to shoulder alone, and a love she never expected.
But is she the savior of this world or the villain, when she is literally her own worst enemy?”

1. The parallel universe is a little confusing at first, but it gets better.
When Lily arrives in the alternate Salem, it seems as if she’s been transported to the past. However, this world is a blend of our past and a distant future (about 200 years). This is a refreshing change from stories I’ve read like this where time travel is simply time travel. Instead, this is an entirely different world with magic where science and teaching are outlawed. Sounds awesome, right? I thought so, too. That’s why I liked this so much.

2. The characters are kind of odd.
This is NEVER a bad thing. However, even after finishing this, I still don’t know how I feel about everyone. Especially Lily. They were hard to like, but also hard to dislike. I’m unsure about whether or not that was intentional, but I still can’t tell you with 100% certainty that I like or hate anyone. This was both really frustrating and kind of awesome because even though there were two sides, I honestly didn’t know who I wanted to win! As I was reading, it was insanely frustrating, but afterwards, it feels a little bit awesome.

3. The “villain” isn’t very villainous. Possibly to make room for the REAL powerhouses in this book.
The villain in this novel is Gideon. Really, it’s Gideon and the entire council that serve the witches. The council is in place just to placate the public into thinking their government isn’t entirely run by the witches. The witches supply power, medicine, and food for their entire world. Back to Gideon. Gideon is a sniveling wannabe bad boy who kidnaps Lily in an attempt to seize the powers of parallel universes to overthrow the witches. He has a lackey named Carrick (the dreamboat, Rowan’s half brother) and they never seemed that formidable to me. They seemed like easily beaten foes with only half baked plans – which is maybe why the council never supports his crazy theories and plans, anyway.

4. Again, more bad ass women!
Lily is most definitely the classic damsel in distress – at first. In our world, Lily is so crippled by her allergies that she is heavily dependent on people to help her. She is the same in the parallel Salem, but only for a bit while she gets her bearings. After she discovers what her hindrances in her old world translate into in this new world, things definitely begin to change. Both Lily and Lillian (her doppelganger) reveal their amazing power, there is no question at all that the women run this universe, whether or not it is forced.

5. Some survival elements, which I normally hate, but they were made pretty interesting.
So, in this world, there is a race of creatures called the Woven. They were created in order to produce more food/goods from animals. These creatures are so disgusting and they hunt humans. They are always hungry. In the woods, our dreamboat Rowan and Lily are escaping these creatures when their attraction starts to grow. However, shit gets so real in the forest when they destroy a bunch of these creatures in the cabin. That’s about the point where the story shifts and Lily discovers who she can be. The survival in the woods would have normally irritated me, but the way it was told was pretty quick and painless, especially if you’re not down for survival tales. It ends quickly, but still keeps you interested.

6. The writing!
I have met a ton of people who have read some of Josephine Angelini’s books, but I am not one of them. This is my first experience with any of her books and her writing. Admittedly, at some points, I wanted it to go a little quicker. But, when the action did come, I’m glad I read the details that I did because it did way more to paint a picture for me. I felt like so many things happened and at the point I was feeling exhausted from all the action, I was only halfway through. It was fantastic!

7. The science!
Okay. I am an English major and I have never liked science or math. Usually when I read a book where science or math is involved, I tune out. Angelini told us at the coffee event that her version of parallel universes and how they work are based in string theory. Not only that, but all of the “magic” that happens in the book is just science. Herb mixing, heat conducting, you name it. The only difference is in the way science is used. There is a much better explanation in the book. Trust me when I say that this science did not bore me! It may have actually even taught me something. You can tell that Angelini did her homework when it came to science. (Who am I kidding? Even if she lied, I wouldn’t know, but I’m going with it because it was AWESOME).

This book comes out on September 2, 2014 so clicky clicky on the link to pre-order! Trust me when I say you’ll want this on your shelf, no matter how you read it.

http://www.amazon.com/Trial-Fire-The-Worldwalker-Trilogy/dp/125005088X/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_har?ie=UTF8&qid=1404519139&sr=8-1&keywords=trial+by+fire

FOUR STARS!! I really loved this book, and I am so glad that I did. First novels in series can normally drag, but this one was pretty exciting. I enjoyed the idea of the willstones and minspeak and all of the crazy things in parallel Salem. The characters were abhorrent and awesome all at the same time, and I didn’t know I could have those types of feelings for characters. Usually, it’s so black and white divided for me; I hate them or I love them. This was so great and I will MOST DEFINITELY continue the series

REVIEW: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

Heir of Fire

My first review is Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas. I received this book as an ARC at the American Library Association’s annual conference in Las Vegas. I’m going to give you the synopsis from the back of the book, because I am going to try REALLY hard not to give any spoilers.

“Celaena has survived deadly contests and shattering heartbreak – but at an unspeakable cost. Now, she must travel to a new land to confront her darkest truth…a truth about her heritage that could change her life – and her future – forever. Meanwhile, brutal and monstrous forces are gathering on the horizon, intent on enslaving her world. Will Celaena find the strength to not only fight her inner demons, but to take on the evil that is about to be unleashed?”

So, here’s how this is going to work, because I know some people hate reading long reviews. I bold my main points, and if you want to read further, go on ahead. However, if you hate reading, you can get the gist by my bolded points.

1. The new characters introduced are amazing, even if they’re villains.

The new characters are amazing! Manon the Blackbeak witch, Rowan the elf prince, the half-Fae, Queen Maeve, and Sorscha are among my favorites. They are all likeable, even if some of them are villains. What I find amazing is that with these new characters, I found myself rooting for them no matter if they were with Celaena or against her. The character development with these new characters comes leaps and bounds through just one book. It is amazing that even though this is a fantasy series, I can keep all of the characters straight and I can recognize personality traits to the point where I can shake my head at something they’ve done and say, “That’s SO Rowan.” I hope you fall in love with the new characters, too.

2. The female characters are the most bad ass characters in the book.

Do not get me wrong. I do not consider myself a feminist at all. However, through the previous two books (Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight – read them if you haven’t, they’re amazing) we have seen a lot of the males hold the general power in the books. Throughout this one, though, the women rule supreme. Whether it’s Celaena or Queen Maeve or Manon, the women own this world, regardless of their affinity for either good or evil. I read a lot of books where females are painted as damsels in distress or that the female starts out being a bad ass warrior, only to need the help of the male by her side. (Pink ranger, anyone?) These women don’t need help from ANYONE. They handle their business and they kick ass and take names while they do it.

3. There is no love triangle. No, I’m serious.

Hallelujah!! The thing I hate most about any YA (And I love love love YA. Don’t take this opinion to mean that I hate the genre) is the dreaded love triangle. Admittedly, there was one within the first two books, but they didn’t bother me as much. Celaena needed some type of romance in her life. Her life was so bleak. However, in this one, we are introduced to a new male character – Rowan. The whole book I was convinced a romance would bloom between them. I cannot tell you how happy I am that I was wrong. This book showed that men and women can be friends. Not only can they be friends, they can work together too. Not only can they work together, but they can use their magic to save the WORLD!

4. The length. Oh, sweet glorious gods of Erilea, the length.

This book is 562 pages of unadulterated coolness and action. Usually, long descriptions lose me. With this book, I was able to take the descriptions to paint a picture and not once was I bored. The world of Erilea is so amazingly well built, that I have no issues paying attention to the descriptions of it. I can still see the rivers and countries and seas described so perfectly in my head.

5. The writing is phenomenal.

Sarah J. Maas has given me a new love for fantasy novels. Throne of Glass blew me away. It is not easy for me to get into fantasy universes, but she helped get me involved and made me fall in love with her characters. Even her villains are so evil that I hate them with a rage I don’t think I’ve felt for a literary character since Voldemort. I heard somewhere that Maas started Throne of Glass when she was just 15. Obviously, she’s older now, but I can only imagine how her writing will only improve as well (not that there is any need for improvement). Sometimes, novels this long kind of scare me, but not this. I couldn’t get enough of it. When I closed it, I wished it were longer.

Overall: 5 STARS!!! If I could give it an endless amount of stars, I would, but I’m not really sure that would be an accurate book review portrayal.

http://www.amazon.com/Heir-Fire-Throne-Glass-Sarah/dp/1619630656/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1404362583&sr=8-1

This book comes into the world on September 2, 2014. Go pre-order!!