Category Archives: First in series

Tuesday Review Day: The Bloodlines series 1-4 by Richelle Mead

I’m currently in the process of re-reading the first 4 books of Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines series (Bloodlines, The Golden Lily, The Indigo Spell, and The Fiery Heart), the Vampire Academy spinoff featuring several key characters from that series. The 5th book in the series, Silver Shadows, was released this summer and I’ve been itching to read it. But, like other book series in which I read each one as it’s published, I forgot most of what I read in the previous book once the newest one came out. So I decided to do a reread so I could give a review on the first 4 books before doing a review on Silver Shadows.

bloodlines 1-4

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one member of a large and very powerful group of humans tasked with keeping the human race ignorant to the existence of moroi, the living and peaceful vampires, strigoi, the dead vampires who almost always kill their victims, and dhampirs, the moroi and human hybrids who live to serve and protect the moroi from strigoi.

After a long stint with the infamous Rose Hathaway in the last few books of the VA series, Sydney gains a somewhat unfavorable reputation due to her seeming ability and willingness to sympathize with moroi and dhampirs. However, due to her ability to tolerate living in such close proximity to these “evil creatures of the night,” she lands a post in Palm Springs helping to protect Jill Mostrano, the only living relative of the moroi queen. Together with Jill, dhampir Eddie Castile, and moroi playboy Adrian Ivashkov, they move to Palm Springs to pose as the Melbourne family, and, with the exception of Adrian, enroll at Amberwood Academy to pose as students.

Throughout the first four books Sydney goes through several dramatic transformations. She must battle her deeply engrained beliefs that moroi and dhampirs are disgusting creatures that violate nature and her ideas that all magic – human or vampire – is bad. She discovers that the Alchemists did very little to actually prepare her to survive in a world that is centered around social interactions and interpersonal relations. And most importantly, she is forced to learn that the group she has so long revered as the light battling the dark may have its own forms of darkness and that their beliefs may not necessarily be the right ones for her.

What I Like So Far:

1. I rooted for Adrian big time in the Vampire Academy series, so I was excited to be able to get more of his story. The same goes for Sydney and Jill – they clearly played very important roles in the VA series and I felt they deserved extended storylines.

2. It’s really fast paced. These were the kind of books that kept me up all night because I couldn’t find a good stopping point.

3. This is a true spinoff. The stories of multiple characters from the VA series were continued thoroughly in Bloodlines. It wasn’t just Sydney’s story; it was Eddie’s, Jill’s, Adrian’s, Angeline’s, and there was good tie in with the original cast of characters with several trips back to court for weddings and work studying spirit.

My major gripes with the series thus far:

1. Everything that happens is way too convenient. It just so happens that there is a restored strigoi near Palm Springs, her teacher is a witch who knows all about Sydney’s world, her classmate is a vampire hunter, and many of the Amberwood students get magic tattoos that for some reason are considered perfectly normal and are supplied by a rogue Alchemist she has close ties to.

2. This series was really hard to binge-read like many others, which may or may not be a problem for some. Each book is a continuation of the previous one, and the theme of Sydney coming into her own continues throughout the series, but whatever major obstacle they face in one book is done and over with by the end and doesn’t carry over. The bad guy gets caught, there is some mention in the next book, and that’s that. The only one that I’ve been super bummed to see end was Fiery Heart because there was such a cliffhanger at the end.

If you were a fan of the Vampire Academy series, you need to read the Bloodlines series. The final book, The Ruby Circle, will be out in February, so if you’re like me and want to read all the books back to back it might be worth waiting for. In the meantime, brush up on the background story to this series and check out Vampire Academy, which focuses on the exploits of dhampir Rose Hathaway and her best friend Vasilisa Dragomir. That’s another fast-paced series, but each book fades nicely into the next so it’s easier to read back-to-back if that’s what you’re into.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Fiction, First in series, Paranormal, Romance, Series, Vampires, YA

Tuesday Review Day: Open Minds by Susan Kaye Quinn

Susan Kaye Quinn’s Open Minds is another one that was on my 2014 Goals list that I’ve finally been able to cross off. I actually bought it quite some time ago because it was free for Kindle, but it, along with all of the other books I grab just because they’re free, sat in my Kindle library gathering theoretical dust. I’m not sure why it took me so long to get around to reading it, but I’m thrilled I did because it was a really great book.

Open Minds

Series: Mindjack
Author: Susan Kaye Quinn
Publication Date: November 1, 2011
Pages: 326
Rating: 4 stars

In 16 year-old Kira’s world, not being able to read minds makes you a freak. She has been waiting for her mind-reading powers to kick in so she can finally be a functioning part of society, but being 16 with no powers pretty much means they aren’t going to appear – she’s destined to be a “zero” forever. However, she soon discovers that while she doesn’t have the power to read minds, she does have the power to control, or “jack” them. With her fellow jacker Simon, she enters into a new world full of things she could have only dreamed of had she gotten the same powers as everyone else. But while at first her jacking abilities seem awesome, it quickly becomes apparent that there are those out there who would like to use the jackers for purposes much more sinister than just trying to fit in. Finding a fellow jacker to show her the ropes seems like a great idea at first, but that friendship ultimately lands her in places she thought could only exist in science fiction, places she must fight her way out of in order to keep her life and the lives of her loved ones in tact.

What I Liked:

1. That the mind-reading aspect was done well.  It was creepy, no doubt about that, but Ms. Quinn did a great job of making it seem like a perfectly normal aspect of every day life.

2.  Romance isn’t a big thing in this one, although it was still a functional part of the plot. Kira’s relationship with Simon was certainly flawed, but it gave her the opportunity to discover more about herself than she would have otherwise.

3. The reason she was different was very basic, no supernatural force necessary. Genetics were the driving force behind her differences, not some magic potion or monster bite.

What I Didn’t Like:

1. The physical descriptions of characters was somewhat lacking. We knew about hair color for a few, and some characters had some defining traits, like Raf’s Latino hotness, but for the most part there wasn’t really much to go on, nothing to really fuel the imagination and draw up pictures of the characters.

2. Minor thing: it was way too easy to get away with the whole Kestril confrontation. He knew exactly how powerful Kira was and how much control she could exert, so you’d think he’d be more on his guard.

3. The words the author created for the story – “demens,” “mesh,” “scrit,” etc. – were an ok touch but also kind of annoying. She described everything else about the world, so the language could have been explained, too.

I recommend this book to anyone who is into a more sci-fi young adult theme than paranormal. It doesn’t focus on a person who has super powers because they’ve been cursed/bitten/whathaveyou.  Kira, like everyone else in her world, was born with her powers. They just happen to be a bit different than the norm. It made for a really entertaining and quick read, so if you’re looking for something you can get through in a few days, this is a great option. It’s still free for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and on Google Play, so if you’re curious it’s a great time to grab it.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Cheap reads, Dystopian, Fiction, First in series, Mind control, Romance, Sci-Fi, Series, YA

Tuesday Review Day: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer was one  I really wanted to knock off my 2014 Goals list (which I really need to get cracking on), so when it lowered quite a bit in price (only $1.99), I snagged it. The concept of it was a bit unclear based on the description, but it sounded interesting enough to try it out.

Mara Dyer

Author: Michelle Hodkin
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
Pages: 466
Rating: 4 stars

Mara Dyer is a 17 year old girl who wakes up in a hospital to discover she is the only survivor of a building collapse that took the lives of her two closest friends and boyfriend. She has no memory of the events leading up to the collapse, including how she came to be there. She experiences severe PTSD after her release from the hospital due to her feelings of survivor’s guilt, prompting her and her family to pack up and move to Florida for a fresh start. Once there, she begins to see that she has what appear to be some very disturbing abilities. After she meets Noah, the popular British classmate with a reputation for breaking hearts, she realizes that he may be the only one who can help her understand her new powers. With him, she sets out to discover what she can do, and whether she can use those powers for good or if they have a more sinister purpose.

What I Liked:

1. The different twist on paranormal was done really well. There was no way (for me) to really guess what was fueling Mara’s powers and how Noah was connected to them, and once more came to light it indicated a really great story would be continued in the next two books.

2. The love between Noah and Mara wasn’t immediate. It took a little while for them to actually get together, although he pushed it from the start. Mara, while definitely attracted to Noah, held him off because of his reputation and her past, which at least indicated some level of common sense on her part. She didn’t automatically assume he was “different” with her.

3. The minor things. I liked that the books Mara was into weren’t the old-school classics, like in so many other books. She’s caught reading Lolita, which, while not exactly a new release, it’s also not centuries old. Also, Hodkin pulls off the sibling aspect well. Usually protagonists are only children, or have siblings that are relatively absent. Daniel and Joseph were very present in the book and were integral to the story, giving Mara a home life that consisted more than absent or clueless parents. The sporadic references to Harry Potter and LOTR were also a plus.

4. The language was pretty typical for teenagers. Sexual innuendoes, raunchy jokes, etc. were included in the dialogue, which made the characters a bit more believable. I know not all teenagers have potty-mouths, and foul language does not a good book make, but when you walk down the hall in a high school, you’ll hear plenty of things that could hardly be considered intellectual conversation.

What I Didn’t Like:

1. The typical YA romance formula was followed. Mara shows up on her first day of school dressed like a bum, gets into it with the prettiest girl in school, becomes BFFs with a friendly nice guy, embarrassed herself, and makes googly eyes with the hottest guy in school. Who also happens to be British. Not to mention the “warm current” she feels when their hands brush. Come on now.

2. Ok, Mom, super smart lady that you are. Your daughter has been prescribed antipsychotics and you feel the best time for her to take her first pill is as she’s walking out the door for a date? With a boy you just met? I’m gonna go ahead and say that’s probably not the best idea.

3. The whole missing-brother thing was really random. I’m still not entirely sure of the purpose of it. I thought it would be the climax to the book, and even that would’ve been odd because there was still so much unknown about Mara. I get that the author was trying to reveal something about Mara and Noah (kind of), but there wasn’t really enough foreshadowing to indicate that something big would be revealed.

4. Once Mara discovered what her powers allowed her to do, she didn’t really attempt to control them. She knew that she could if she really wanted to, but she let her emotions get in the way of learning to use or control them to keep herself from falling apart. That cast her in a pretty negative light in my eyes.

All in all this was an enjoyable book. The surprising cliffhanger at the end has me really itching to read the second book, so I’ll likely have that one up for review soon, too.

Now, on to check a few more books off of my goals list!

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Cheap reads, Fiction, First in series, Paranormal, Romance, Sci-Fi, Series, YA

Tuesday Review Day: The Park Service by Ryan Winfield

I came across Ryan Winfield’s The Park Service on Amazon back in June as a freebie deal. Currently its got 4.5 out of 5 on Amazon from a total of almost 900 reviews, and when a freebie pops up with good reviews, I really don’t see the harm in grabbing it.

I was almost halfway through by the end of a 2 hour car ride, so I was pretty sure it was going to be a great book. It did lose steam a bit once I hit that point, but it was able to pick back up again toward the end.

Park Service

Author: Ryan Winfield
Series: The Park Service
Publication Date: October 11, 2012
Pages: 338
Rating: 4 stars

Set almost 1000 years in the future, The Park Service centers around 15 year old Aubrey VanHouten, a boy who lives in a compound called Holocene II beneath what was formerly the United States. In Holocene II, all kids take a test at age 15 to determine which of the 6 levels of society they’ll move on to for the remainder of their working life. Aubrey gets called to Level 1, which is extremely rare because no one really knows what happens there. Not knowing what he will find, he sets off on a train to his new home. On the way, his train crashes and he is dumped out into the middle of the world he was told was uninhabitable. He stumbles across a small clan of people who take him in and make him one of their own. In time, he begins to realize that the world he lived in and what he was told was fact was almost all a fallacy. The scientists that controlled what he did, ate, and how he lived were doing much more than attempting to keep the human race running. He, along with his new friend Jimmy, end up on a mission to destroy what was a much more disturbing and sinister organization than Aubrey ever thought possible.

What I Liked:

1. Male protagonist. They’re rare, but I almost always like them, finding them much less whiny or mopey than the female protagonists of the YA genre.

2. While it happened quicker than I thought it would, the author included Aubrey’s necessary adaptation to the outside world. He’d been living underground all his life with an immune system and body that could only develop so many immunities in the concealed space. He had to go through a transition period of sunburn, peeling, and illness before being able to really function in the open air.

3. The evil of the Park Service is demonstrated to an extreme. I’m not sure why I found this a strong aspect of the story, because the note I added was “so freaking depressing,” but it added a good deal of emotion to the story. If writing can elicit true emotion, I find it worth reading.

What I Didn’t Like:

1. That everything I did like happened within the first 150 or so pages. I tore through the first chunk of the book in about 2 hours, but once Aubrey and Jimmy met the Radcliffes, I ended up skimming for about 50 pages. There had been a lot of things happening in the first half – adapting to a new way of life, making new friends, mass murder, treks through the mountains, etc – that kept it moving along nicely. Once they reached the compound, Aubrey seemed to get comfortable back in his own element (sort of), so things stopped happening.

2. After Aubrey met Hannah, things turned into a stereotypical YA romance for awhile. She was beautiful, they fell for one another immediately, they roll around in the ocean together, etc. The only weird thing was that her parents were expecting them to essentially bring the human race back from extinction once Dr. Radcliffe pulls off his crazy plans, but that added to the interesting aspects of the story.

3. Dr. Radcliffe told Aubrey absolutely everything about his mad-scientist schemes and explained all the things that they’ve been keeping from those in Holocene II. He laid it all out very clearly, making it way too easy for Aubrey and Jimmy to carry out their own plans.

I still haven’t picked up book 2, Isle of Man, because I’ve got several other books I want to get out of the way first. But I’ll definitely be grabbing it. Toward the end of the book, things started to pick back up and it’s looking like the next part of the story will be pretty interesting. I definitely recommend this one to anyone who enjoys YA dystopian and wants something not fraught with romance. It’s a relatively cheap series – The Park Serivce is only $3.99 on Amazon, with books 2 and 3 – Isle of Man and State of Nature at only $5.99. All are free for Kindle Unlimited.

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Cheap reads, Fiction, First in series, male protagonist, Paranormal, Sci-Fi, Series, YA

Tuesday Review Day: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

So this is my first Tuesday Review Day after a brief hiatus to finish up my English degree (Woohoo!!). Now that it’s all over and done with, I’m excited to get back to posting more regularly. For this week’s review I’ve chosen Julie Kagawa’s The Iron KingNormally I don’t go for fairies, but I figured, what the heck, and dove in.

Iron King

Author: Julie Kagawa
Series: The Iron Fey
Publication Date: February 1, 2010
Pages: 363
Rating: 3.5 stars

I’ve never been a fan of the whole fairy/faery thing. I read Carrie Jones’ Need a few years ago and just couldn’t get Past book 1. Now, after reading The Iron King, my opinion has changed slightly. I almost want to say I loved it, but then I think of the things about it that kind of made me cringe and that “love” drops down to a “really liked.”

After 16 years of being a loser, “swamp girl” Meghan Chase’s world is turned upside down when she discovers that  her life-long friend Robbie is none other than Robin Goodfellow, aka Puck from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and that she is the half-faery daughter of King Oberon. After her little brother Ethan is kidnapped by evil fey and replaced with a changeling, she is forced to enter into the world known as Faeryland, or the Nevernever, to rescue him. There she discovers a world broken into kingdoms of Winter Fey and Summer Fey, led by Titania and Oberon respectively, and a land called the Iron Kingdom, which is unknown and therefore unimportant to the Winter and Summer fey. Because of this, Meghan’s mission to save her little brother turns into a much more dangerous mission than she expected, forcing her to face and attempt to defeat a very powerful king all on her own.

What I Liked:

1. The imagery was great. All of the descriptions of characters were very clear. I especially loved the way the Iron King was depicted – Bluetooth earpiece, robotic yet not. Also, the pictures painted of the different lands in the Nevernever were very detailed, and you could tell that the land of the Iron King had a lot of thought and imagination put into it. Although she probably could’ve avoided phrases like “the color of drowned infants” when describing her little brother’s changeling.

2. Her wording and use of literary devices was interesting. “As subtle as a thunderstorm” was one metaphor I liked, and icicles commiting suicide was another good one. Puck sometimes pulled off great quips, such as “Shall we have tea first? Brew up a nice pot of kiss-my-ass?” I also found “mountains of forgotten technology” a great visual for the piles of antiquated technology Meghan found in the land of the Iron King.

3. At first I thought it was crazy that Meghan would even consider staying with the Iron King and becoming his wife. Insane. But as I thought about it a bit more, I found it very interesting. Meghan was a victim of bullying in her school. She was poor, not very pretty, and lived in the bad part of town. As she hashed things out in her mind, it made sense that she would consider one awful fate instead of another if it meant she’d actually mean something.

What I Didn’t Like:

1. The whole Midsummer Night’s Dream theme wasn’t used enough. A few of the same characters were used, and the strife between Oberon and Titania was definitely there, but it ended at that. It’s possible that the love triangle between Ash, Puck, and Meghan could be a nod to the triangle/square in the play, but it’s tough to tell. For all we know, Ms. Kagawa could’ve written a Master’s thesis on Shakespeare’s famous comedy, but that didn’t show through in this story. Because there was such little reference to the play, it almost seemed pointless to be referencing at all.

2. A lot of the book seemed unoriginal. References to Shakespeare aside, certain names – Nevernever, Faeryland, etc., just seemed like placeholders for something better than just never came to mind. Also, many aspects of the story were much like those in previously written works (think Narnia, The Labyrinth, The Hobbit, and Alice in Wonderland), making it come off less as an original adaptation and more of a cut and paste job. I do not think she stole other writers’ ideas, I just think ideas she had came off as unoriginal.

3. The foreshadowing wasn’t really foreshadowing, it was basically telling you, very loudly, that “THIS IS IMPORTANT! YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION!” Robbie/Puck’s incessant use of the nickname “Princess” for Meghan and her ridiculous obsession with her backpack and busted iPod were fine at first, but they got past the point of simple foreshadowing when they were repeated constantly.

My overall impression of this book was that it has a lot of potential. It ended with a great cliffhanger, so I’ll certainly be reading the second book in the series, The Iron Daughter, just to see where it goes from here. I only hope that some of the slight sloppiness of the first book in this series gets cleaned up a bit now that the story has picked up speed. It gets 3. 5 stars because there was a lot about it that I thought was great, but also quite a bit that made me facepalm a bit.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Faery, Fiction, First in series, Romance, Series, YA

Thrifty Thursday: July 3rd Edition

First on this week’s Thrifty Thursday is a PSA. If you sign up for Amazon’s Teen & Young Adult newsletter, you get a free Kindle book. There’s only a choice between 3, but I’m not sure if that’ll change daily or not.

1.

Park Service

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

 

This week’s Thrifty Thursday freebie is Ryan Winfield’s The Park Service, book 1 of his Park Service trilogy. I just grabbed this one about a week ago, and within a few hours I was halfway through. It’s fast-paced, realisitically timed, in some ways disturbingly feasible (in other ways very much not), and told from the point of view of a teenage male, which is a nice switch from the female-driven YA books we’re used to. It’s free for Kindle (normally $3.99) and on Google Play, and only $.99 on for Nook.

2.

See Me

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

Awesome author of the Sweet trilogy Wendy Higgins has one of her newer releases, See Me, up for only $2.99 for Kindle, Kobo, and Nook. If you haven’t read the Sweet trilogy, you need to. If you missed my review of its conclusion, Sweet Reckoning, you can check it out here. It’s a really great series that I’m desperately hoping will become a TV series someday.

3.

Neverland

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

If you’re into revamps of your favorite childhood books, Anna Katmore’s Neverland is only $2.99 for Kindle and Nook, and just a penny more at $3 on Kobo. It follows Angeline McFarland, a girl who takes a fall on her balcony and lands herself right in Neverland, home of the infamous Peter Pan and some scary old pirates. With book 2 of the Adventures in Neverland series, Pan’s Revenge, due to be published this month, it’s worth a look if you’re looking for a new series.

4.

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

If you’re looking to step a few steps away from the YA paranormal genre, there’s Jillian Dodd’s That Boywhich is currently free for Kindle. It centers around a girl named Jadyn and the boys who teach her how to kiss, make out, and fall in love. I grabbed this one, too, because it seemed like a nice change of pace.

5.

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

And lastly, Runes, book 1 of Ednah Walters Runes series is only $.99 for Kindle. This one weaves a bit of Norse mythology into the typical YA paranormal romance, so it might change things up a bit if you’re looking for something new.

Happy reading!

 

 

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Filed under Book lists, Cheap reads, Fiction, First in series, Paranormal, Series, YA

Tuesday Review Day: Frost by Kate Avery Ellison

So this one almost went on my “Couldn’t Finish” shelf. It was so hard to get into that I had to put it down a few times before actually finishing. But once it got going, putting it down became very difficult.

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

Author: Kate Avery Ellison
Series: The Frost Chronicles
Publication Date: April 18, 2012
Pages: 181 (on Kindle)
Rating: 3 stars

Frost by Kate Avery Ellison is the story of a girl named Lia who lives in Iceliss, a small villiage in what is known as the Frost, the frozen snowy land outside of the land of the Farthers and the evils of modern-day civilization. Her small village lives in a very old-fashioned way, trading goods and services, each person contributing the the whole community. They have completely separated themselves from the Farthers to avoid becoming tainted by their lifestyle. The downside to living the way they do is that they live in constant fear of the Watchers, evil creatures who roam the woods after dark.

After Lia’s parents die in a tragic accident, Lia is left to care for her disabled brother and sister. One day, her sister comes across a wounded Farther in the forest. She appeals to Lia and convinces her to bring him back to their farm and heal him. Taking a great risk, Lia chooses to do so. This action leads her to learn things about her parents, the people she trusts, and the world she grew up in that will change her forever. She must choose whether to maintain loyalty to the world she was raised in or take a new path that will lead her to places she never thought possible.

What I Liked:

1. The outside view of the modern world gave a really interesting perspective. While some of the things were very different and futuristic, most of the lifestyle of the Farthers described in the book was dead-on with our own world. Seeing it from the perspective of an outsider, however, made it much a less appealing place.

2. I didn’t expect the ending. I thought that Lia would simply revolt with Gabe against her people and the Farthers, but what actually happened was pretty unexpected and left me wanting to read the next book in the series.

3. It was short but not rushed, which isn’t a combination you often come across.

4. No love triangle! This seems to be happening more often with newer YA novels, which is nice because it leaves room for other more important things.

What I Didn’t Like:

1. Lia’s tone was very dry and boring. It made it really difficult to really get into the story because there was so little emotion in her voice for the first chunk of the book.

2. The bad guy’s confession came way too easy. I always hate when the villain taunts the victim by explaining every last detail of his plans, and this was no exception. He detailed what he did almost immediately upon finding Lia and Gabe, which made it all a bit ridiculous.

3. Because it was such a short book, the fact that it took so long to get going was extra disappointing.

I’m still up in the air about this one. I’m pretty certain I want to read the second book, Thorns, but I don’t know that I’ll be doing it any time soon. It’s certainly worth a read, but it will likely take a bit of time to get into. But it’s got a pretty interesting and VERY unfinished ending, so if you’re looking for a new series, pick up this starter (it’s only $.99 for Kindle, currently unavailable on B&N, Google, and Kobo).

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Filed under Book Reviews, Cheap reads, Fiction, First in series, Paranormal, Romance, Self Publishing, Series, YA