Review: Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Romance/Sci-Fi

img_0160 Cress is the third installment in the very poplar Lunar Chronicles Series. If you aren’t familiar with these books…they are modern day/somewhat futuristic fairy tale retellings that are simply awesome! All of the lead female characters are kick-ass strong, smart, and self sufficient. There’s just the right amount of fairy tale-like romance to keep it intriguing without going too mushy. Because they are a series…all the books continue the same large story line with each one highlighting a different girl. Cinder (a Cinderella retelling) was the first…and my review of that book can be found HERE. The second installment is Scarlet (a Little Red Riding Hood retelling) and my review of that book is HERE. Cress (a Rapunzel retelling) is probably my favorite book in the series so far!

“Maybe there isn’t such a thing as fate. Maybe it’s just the opportunities we’re given, and what we do with them. I’m beginning to think that maybe great, epic romances don’t just happen. We have to make them ourselves.”

In this book, the action is pretty much non-stop as we are at a point where universe-wide war is on the brink. This part of the story begins with us finally meeting  Cress, the computer genius/hacker girl, who has spent the majority of her life held prisoner in a Lunar satellite hidden away from civilization. Her orders come from Queen Levana and she has been charged with tracking down Cinder. Cress wants nothing more than to be rescued from her jail and and help Cinder put a stop to Queen Lenava and her evil plans….but she is watched very closely and is limited to netscreens as her sole source of communication with the outside universe.

When Cinder, Scarlet, Wolf, and Thorne plan a daring rescue mission for Cress, she thinks all her hopes and dreams have been answered. But the rescue goes awry and Cress will soon learn all that everyone has risked to try to save her. In the meantime, Queen Levana will stop at nothing to make sure that her marriage to Emperor Kai goes off without a hitch. Cress may not have realized that the world’s safety will rely on her, Cinder, and Scarlet…but she’s about to find that out.

I absolutely loved this installment of the series! In fact, I think it might be my favorite so far. Tons of action, plenty of twists & turns and I just adore how the storyline is unfolding. The characters, the world building, all of it… YA fantasy at its finest! If you love fair tales, fairy tale retellings, or just some cool fantasy world building in general….definitely check this series out!

My Rating: 5/5 fun and entertaining stars

Cress – Amazon

Scarlet – Amazon

Cinder – Amazon

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Review: The City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare

The City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1) By Cassandra Clare

Genre: YA Ficiton, Fantasy, Romance

img_0006 When fifteen year old Clary Fray heads out for an evening with her best friend, Simon, she doesn’t think that particular evening will end up any different than the average night out. She would never expect that her night would include witnessing a murder…a murder committed by people that only Clary seems to be able to see. Within a short 24 hour period, Clary’s entire life is flipped upside down as she learns that there is a whole other world besides the one we see and experience every day. A world with demons, vampires, werewolves, angels, and fairies. A world with Shadowhunters… a secret tribe of warriors committed to keeping the world safe. These Shadowhunters roam the streets in secret, protecting the rest of the human race from the demons and “down worlders” that intend to cause harm.

After Clary’s mother mysteriously disappears, she is thrust into this secret world full of dangerous demons and all kinds of creatures that she thought only existed in nightmares and fairy tales. Even though Clary is confused about who or what these Shadowhunters are….they are equally confused about Clary (she isn’t supposed to be able to see them at all) but she must learn trust them in order to get her mother back.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book! YA Fiction isn’t usually a genre I gravitate towards, even though there are some YA books and series that I have loved over the years. I started reading the book and ended up finishing it by listening to the audio book on loan from my library…and I think I really preferred listening to this one. The City of Bones is a great fantasy story to listen to while doing mindless chores. It’s not really the kind of book that contains some deep and profound message and I wouldn’t call the writing lyrical or anything all that special. BUT…the story is unique, interesting, full of action and quite entertaining. Most of the characters are interesting and well written. The Mortal Instruments is definitely a series I will be continuing (I’m actually almost finished with the second audio book now) and it fits the bill for a fun and entertaining fantasy series if that is what you are in the mood for. The story has villains, heroes, monsters, family secrets, twists and turns as well as a little bit of romance and relationship issues (although nothing too heavy for a young pre-teen to handle). If you are a fan of other YA fantasy series along the line of; The Hunger Games, Twilight, etc…you’ll likely enjoy this series. I know I am!

I am intending to finish out the rest of the series but I think instead of individually reviewing each other book in the series…I’ll wait until I finish and review them all together in one post.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

The City of Bones (Mortal Instruments #1) – Amazon

**Also…stay tuned for my “Favorite Books of 2016” post coming up tomorrow! I still have two more book reviews to write up to be fully caught up, but those will be a few more days. **

Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

img_5221 “The Monster showed up after midnight. As they do. “

Thirteen year old Connor is having a recurring nightmare that leaves him waking up in a cold sweat and panting. But the monster who begins to show up after midnight is not the one from his nightmares…this one is something different. Something older, more ancient, and much more powerful.

Present day England….Connor is the sole child to a single mother who is fighting a losing battle with cancer. At the beginning of the story, Connor seems to be in denial about the seriousness and gravity of his mother’s health. His mother’s sickness isn’t Connors only struggle though….he’s also dealing with feeling ignored by both his peers as well as his father, a man who ran off to America with his new wife and young baby.

Then, suddenly a monster begins to visit Connor shortly after midnight to tell him stories. This monster both scares and intrigues Connor as it seems, at times, to take over Connor’s thoughts and actions. The monster appears because Connor has unknowingly called for him….and it will be up to Connor, himself, to figure out what the monster wants from him.

“You do not write your life with words…You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.”

I was pleasantly surprised by this book….and the more I sit and reflect about it, the more I find I enjoyed it. I’m not really sure what I was expecting….because, technically I think this is meant for a younger audience (maybe around the age of the main character….13 or so). However, it’s written in a way that both young and old alike will enjoy this story and get something wonderful from it. A Monster Calls is a very sad and emotional story about love, loss and grief. Connor, at the age of 13, must learn to accept and deal with the fact that sometimes life isn’t fair and that sometimes we don’t get a happy ending.

“Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both.”

A Monster Calls is beautifully written with fantastic imagery and emotion all wrapped up into a smaller package. At just over 200 pages, it’s a short and quick read that grabs you right from the beginning. This emotional roller coaster of a book is one I highly recommend for readers both young (12+) and old alike. The style of this book reminds me very much of the writing style of Neil Gaiman…which is maybe another reason of why I enjoyed it so much.

A Monster Calls will also be a feature length film adaptation releasing in the US  on December 23, 2016! Liam Neeson plays the voice of the Monster and I’m thinking the casting director couldn’t have picked a better voice….super excited to see this one!

*** Even though Patrick Ness is the author of the book, he explains near the end that the idea for the story was actually one by Siobhan Dowd. She came up with the idea of the story as she was losing her own battle with breast cancer.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

A Monster Calls – Amazon

Review: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

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What We Saw is told in the first person account of Kate Weston, a High School Junior. The book opens up with Kate waking up on a Sunday morning incredibly hung over after drinking way too much at a party the night before. She only remembers small snippets from the previous evening….one of them being her friend, Ben, driving her home from the party early. At school on Monday, more and more forgotten details begin to emerge for Kate about all that happened at that fateful party. One of them being a picture of an old friend of hers…passed out, slung over the shoulder of another male student. When four male students are shockingly arrested at lunch on that Monday for sexual assault, the school is suddenly divided into sides. What really happened? Who is lying, who is telling the truth? And to what lengths will the students go to find out the truth?

“Nothing is exactly as it appears. The closer you look, the more you see”

This is an incredibly important book. It’s a book that I think should be required reading for the older junior high/high school aged student. Because the subject matter is heavy…it’s obviously about sexual assault and rape and there is one particular scene that is detailed and somewhat graphic… I’ll reserve my age recommendation to 14 and older. What We Saw is obviously fiction, but it definitely has aspects of it that were inspired by recent stories in the media of similar situations. It addresses so many things that I think are so important to young people today; consent & what exactly IS consent and when it can be given, sexual assault, rape culture, and victim blaming. Social media and it’s effect on young people’s behavior and the long term consequences for that behavior is also addressed quite appropriately in this book.

“Not being able to say NO isn’t the same as saying YES.”

I absolutely LOVE the fact that this book was written by a man, but it addresses, so well, the double standards and challenges young women face when it comes to their sexuality and their choices. The fact that this book was not told in the perspective of the victim, but rather a friend, was unique to other books that address sexual assault and I quite liked that perspective. Reading the story through Kate’s perspective helped to address the issue of speaking up for what is right even when it might not be the easy choice.

“I wonder which is worse: the fear of the unknown? Or knowing for sure something terrible is true?”

This was a very quick, but intense read for me. At slightly over 300 pages, I got through this in around 24 hours…because it’s told in the perspective of a young adult, the writing is pretty simple but it’s also such a gripping story that I just could not put it down. It’s a book that I stayed up way too late reading just to find out how it ended. I’ll say it again…my opinion is that this is a very important book that brings awareness to a very real and current issue facing women everyday. I’m actually surprised that this isn’t getting more attention than it is and I’m thinking that maybe it’s because it’s a relatively newer book…just being published in September 2015. Highly recommended  by me and right into my “favorites” shelf.

My Rating: 5/5 stars

Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

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Ok…. I’m going to start off by saying…I LOVED this book! It was so cool and so much better than I had anticipated it would be. When I initially read the synopsis, I was a bit skeptical and sort of hesitant to jump in…I mean…a futuristic retelling of the Cinderella story?? Really? But yeah…it’s good. Really good.

Cinder is the first installment in the 6 book Lunar Chronicles series, all loosely based on different fairy tales. All with a futuristic, sci-fi twist and none of the “Damsel in distress, waiting for a prince to save me” stuff (bonus!). Cinder (and from what I hear… all of the books) has a very independent, self sufficient, head strong, and smart female protagonist.

Cinder takes place in New Bejing, far into the future… 126 years after WW4. Lihn Cinder is a cyborg (half machine, half human) girl under the legal guardianship of her stepmother who despises her. She also lives with her two stepsisters and works as a local mechanic to earn money for her family. As a cyborg, she doesn’t have the same rights as other people and she’s seen as a sort of social pariah in the community. I loved her character! She’s totally badass and doesn’t take any crap from her mean stepmom & stepsister and their nasty treatment of her. She stands up for herself and calls them out on multiple occasions for their rude and unfair treatment of her.

This story takes place in a time when mechanical androids are commonplace for everything from housekeepers, to medical workers, to companions. A deadly plague is ravaging civilization and nobody is sure where it came from, how it started, or how to stop it. Not to mention, there is also an evil Lunar Queen who will stop at nothing to become empress and overtake the earthling people. Yes…there’s a prince, Prince Kai…he’s pretty awesome too. He meets Cinder when he goes to her mechanic stand to hire her to fix his personal android and (of course) falls for her. But…really, this isn’t a love story and Cinder isn’t all that interested in Prince Kai at first and has no intention of looking for him to be her “savior” from her life.

This was just a fun story to read and I got through it pretty quick. Yes, the plot twist was predicable for me…I saw it coming a mile away…but I don’t really care. Marissa Meyer has one hell of an imagination coming up with this storyline. I’m definitely looking forward to the next installment in the series, Scarlet…which is a retelling of Red Riding Hood. From what I understand, while each of the books follow a different main character, all of their stories intertwine throughout the series.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

img_2357 Red Queen has been getting quite the hype in the past year or so. It feels like I’ve seen it everywhere that new & up cominning books are discussed. Especially since it was named as the Goodreads Choice 2015 Winner for the YA category. I’m not usually one to jump onto the hype train and, in fact, I usually ignore over talked about books on principle alone.  But, I like to give my reading a shake up with genres so I don’t get bored and decided to give it a go.

And….yeah, it’s worth the hype. If YA dystopian fantasy fiction is your thing, I think you will thoroughly enjoy this read. Think…. Hunger Games or Divergent with a fun fantasy/science-fiction spin to it.

Red Queen is about a society separated into two different classes or castes of people – the Silvers and the Reds…named so due to the color of their blood. The Silvers are elite, wealthy, privileged, and also have the added benefit of having special superhero-like powers. The Reds are the lower class, poor commoners who’s prime purpose is to serve the Silvers. Mare Barrow is seventeen and a Red. She is months away from being conscripted into the army to fight in a Silver war…unless she can find a worthwhile job to keep her out. She’s lived her entire life hating the Silvers and the way they treat the Reds, but she takes a job as a servant in Silver society hoping it will keep her from conscription. Once she enters the Silver world, she finds she has both allies and enemies there…but she isn’t always sure who falls into which category.

There are definitely some similarities to other books/series in the same Dystopian genre, but not enough to make it overly predictable. I found this to be a very engaging and quick read. At no point was I bored or uninterested. The world building is fantastic…I could clearly picture what everything looked like and how certain situations felt. The fantasy aspect (mainly the super powers of the Silvers) made Red Queen feel unique and quite exciting. There are some pretty cool, detailed battle scenes that make this stand out from other dystopian novels. Plus, unlike Divergent, the world of Red Queen is a total made up, future world.

Obviously, there is a little more to the storyline than what I have mentioned above, but I think this is the type of book that’s best to just dive right in without knowing too much about the plot ahead of time.
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The second installment to the series, Glass Sword, was just released this week. So, if you are the type of person who doesn’t like to wait long to read the sequel, you are in luck. I will for sure be diving into Glass Sword soon as Red Queen left me wanting to know more. YA Dystopian fiction has sort of become my “guilty pleasure”. I’m not one for juicy, steamy romance stories…but give me a future world falling apart by war & struggle and I’m in!

Overall, Red Queen is a fun and entertaining story. If you are a fan of Hunger Games or Divergent, I think this will be another series that you’ll find you enjoy. Plus…check out how cool and pretty these covers are! Sometimes it’s okay to judge a book by it’s cover 🙂

My Rating: 4/5 stars.

Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

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“Guilt is a hunter.

Fate is a hunter.

Shame is a hunter.

Fear is a hunter.”

In the winter of 1945, four people from very different backgrounds make their way to the Baltic Sea in the midst of the Soviet advance, hoping to gain admission to the Wilhelm Gustloff, a refugee ship promising safety and escape. Each person has their own story, their own secrets, and their own tragedies to overcome. This work of fiction is based on very real and previously little-known events. Based on the single greatest maritime disaster and one of the many hidden tragedies of World War 2, this is a beautiful tale of love, hope, and sacrifice.

img_2293This Book has emotionally wrecked me! I had such a hard time wording a coherent review just because I felt so completely raw and emotional after finishing this beautifully tragic story based on very true events. Historical fiction is probably my favorite genre to read and I’ve read quite a few novels that address WW2 and the casualties during the war. However, I had never heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff before reading this novel. Ruta Sepetys’ family were Lithuanian refugees fleeing the death and destruction of Stalin during WW2. Unlike many historical fiction books which focus on the Jewish/Polish people fleeing from the Nazis, Sepetys’ work also includes and highlights the plight of the Lithuanian people and their flight from the Soviets.

“Snow was falling, making everything appear fresh. The white snow covered the dark truth. Like a pressed white linen over a scarred table, a crisp clean sheet over a stained mattress.”

Salt to the Sea follows the perspective of 4 different people, changing narration with each chapter. Joana is a Lithuanian refugee fleeing her homeland, hoping to reunite with her family. Interestingly enough, she is also the quickly mentioned cousin of Lina, the female protagonist from Sepetys’ other novel, Between Shades of Gray. (But don’t worry…even though a small part of their stories overlap, you don’t have to read one book to understand the other. Although….I also HIGHLY recommend you read Between Shades of Gray.) Florian is a young Prussian man running with his own secrets. Emelia is Polish girl, hiding herself as a Latvian woman. Alfred is a German Nazi seaman working aboard the Wilhelm Gustfloff. All four people’s lives, combined with a few others, converge to tell one of the most beautifully tragic stories I have ever read.

“Just when you think war has taken everything you love, you meet someone and realize that somehow you still have more to give.”

One of the many reasons I love reading historical fiction is because these types of books keep the people & stories of history from being forgotten and lost forever. One of the very last things that Sepety’s writes in her “Author’s Notes” section at the end, perfectly sums up my feeling on the subject:

“History divided us, but through reading we can be united in story, study, and remembrance. Books join us together as a global reading community, but more important, a global human community striving to learn from the past.”

I simply cannot say enough great things about this novel and just how much I loved it. Before this novel, I was a huge fan of Ruta Sepetys… Between Shades of Gray is one of my all time favorite books, that I seem to recommend to everyone. Her second novel, Out of the Easy, was also fantastic and actually made it to my top reads for 2015 here. Salt to the Sea has, without question, secured a place in some of my favorite books of all time. I finished it in just over 24 hours because I could not stop reading about all of these wonderfully written characters. The chapters are rather short, so it’s a quick read. But the heavy nature of the book left me having to take sporadic breaks and/or rereading some sections over again to fully appreciate and absorb the story.

My review: 5/5 stars. I’d give it 6 stars if I could, I loved it that much.

 

 

 

Review: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

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“I guess people can’t be content without answers, even if they are wrong. We’d rather have a lie than a question that we can never know the answer to.”

 

 

Seventeen year old Minnow Bly has just runaway from a life spent living in the secluded and very strict Kevinian cult. The religious cult has taken so much from her; her childhood, her education and both of her hands. The book starts off with Minnow standing over a bloodied body under a bridge. She is subsequently charged with aggravated assault and sentenced to a juvenile detention center. While there, she meets and befriends another girl named Angel who has plenty of her own secrets. Angel tries to help Minnow sort through her past as well as assimilate to her current situation.

“When I remember her, I picture that expression, like behind her eyes she had entire rooms that she didn’t let anyone see. And I realize now it was the book in her hands that’d made them.”

Minnow tries to separate the lies and truths of her previous life while coming to grips with the last days of her life in the cult. She has to try to figure out just what she believes vs. what she’s been told to believe for most of her life as well as learn just who she really is, as a person.

This book was excellent…the writing is beautiful! I did not want to put it down…every chapter left me wanting to continue reading. The characters are all wonderful…I felt like I could easily picture all of them in my head while reading. The main character, Minnow Bly, is feisty, strong and tenacious. Minnow and Angel’s friendship in the detention center was written so well and felt very authentic.

There are definitely parts of this story that are shocking and sad, but the overall tone of the book is not a depressing one. So, if you tend to shy away from books that might leave you feeling sad and depressed…no worries with this story. In my opinion, it’s definitely more thought provoking rather than disturbing.

There isn’t much that I didn’t like about this book. If I had to pick something…maybe the one thing that’s keeping me from giving it 5 full stars…is that I would have liked a little bit more about the day to day activities in the cult. But I understand that the focus of the story was more about Minnow’s recovery after leaving, so it’s not a huge issue for me at all.

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars – Definitely recommend this book!

Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufma & Jay Kristoff

“The universe owes you nothing, Kady. It has already given you everything, after all. It was here long before you, and it will go on long after you. The only way it will remember you is if you do something worthy of remembrance.” 

 

 

 

img_2194Illuminae is probably the most unique book I’ve ever read. The format is unlike anything I’ve seen before. Pretty much the entire book takes place via interviews, email conversations, surveillance footage, medical reports and military documents.

The year is 2575 and people are inhabiting the far reaches of the universe. Two mega-corporations are at war with each other and thousands of civilians are caught in the line of fire. Kady and Ezra are forced to evacuate their home onto different ships to avoid further enemy attack. All the while, a devastating plague has been released with deadly results. Illuminae is the first book in what looks to be a very interesting and unique trilogy. img_2195

I picked this book up solely on a recommendation of my cousin, David. I don’t normally read sic-fi at all and it’s definitely not one of my favorite genres, but this book is good! The story line is great, main characters are awesome (kick ass female heroine), and again….the format is just too cool!

This is definitely a book that is best read in hard copy as opposed to an ebook, in my opinion. I love my Kindle and enjoy reading on it equally as much as I do a hard copy of a book. However, in this case, I feel like you might lose some of the uniqueness for this particular book on an e-reader.

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Don’t let the size of the book (599 pages) deter you from picking it up. It’s a faster read than it seems like it will be. Most of the pages aren’t completely full of text and you’ll find yourself moving through it quickly. If you decide to give it a try, be patient…the unique format took me a bit to get used to, but once I did…I quite enjoyed it.

 

 

My Rating 4.5/5 Stars

Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Published: May 7, 2013

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

Goodreads Description:

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother–or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a very cool story. I have a soft spot for YA dystopian novels and this one did not disappoint…so if you are a fan of The Hunger Games or The Divergent Series, I think this will be right up your alley.

I loved the alien aspect of this story, which is one thing that made it quite different from other YA dystopian novels. While I’m not usually a huge fan of science fiction, I didn’t feel like this book got too “out there” with that aspect to lose me in the story.

The characters were all fantastic as well…Cassie was your typical strong, female heroine in these types of stories, but she was written well here.

I got through this book quickly, but it’s taken me a few days to get this review written. I’m hoping now that the holidays are over, that I can get back to my normal pace of reading and reviewing 🙂 While I did really enjoy this book and actually look forward to seeing the movie adaptation that comes out next month, I haven’t quite decided if I’m wanting to read the rest of the series. When I finished both The Hunger Games and Divergent, I couldn’t wait to get into the second book of each series. For some reason, I didn’t have that feeling after this book. Maybe it was because I feel like the first book had a clean and complete ending…or maybe I just have too many other books I want to read 😉

Either way….if you are a fan of YA Dystopian fiction, I have a feeling you will enjoy this read.