Review: Blackbird

Blackbird by Anna CareyTitle: Blackbird
Author: Anna Carey
Series: Blackbird Duology #1

About: A girl wakes up on the train tracks, a subway car barreling down on her. With only minutes to react, she hunches down and the train speeds over her. She doesn’t remember her name, where she is, or how she got there. She has a tattoo on the inside of her right wrist of a blackbird inside a box, letters and numbers printed just below: FNV02198. There is only one thing she knows for sure: people are trying to kill her. 

On the run for her life, she tries to untangle who she is and what happened to the girl she used to be. Nothing and no one are what they appear to be. But the truth is more disturbing than she ever imagined. 

My Thoughts: I almost didn’t even try to get into this book. The first several chapters — probably the entire first half or so — was a struggle. You see, this book is written in second-person. I remember learning about various narrative styles in school as a kid, and there was much said about first- and third-person narratives. All I remember being told about second-person: It’s hardly ever used, so you don’t really need to know much about it. But, it’s as if someone is telling you what YOU did. Almost as if you are the main character.

Let me just say, there’s a reason why second-person is not a popular choice. It’s not for everyone. And this book showed me that I’m one of those people who just don’t find second person something I enjoy reading. So, I’m thinking it doesn’t have wide appeal. And if I’m honest with myself, well, I’m guessing it’s a difficult way to write, too. Especially an entire novel.

So, back to Blackbird by Anna Carey. Thanks to the second-person narrative, I found this very, VERY hard to get into. I almost called it quits, it was so hard. (And you know I’m not one who easily gives up on books.) But I pushed through, I’m glad I did. Mostly. Here’s why I say “mostly”:

  • There are small bits throughout the book that are told in third-person. Those were my favorite parts. Like breaths of fresh air. I liked those parts. A lot. And they are very well-written. (Really, the whole book is — if you can get past the whole second-person thing, which I obviously cannot.)
  • Once the second-person narration stopped being a distraction, I found myself drawn into the story. The action is intense, fast-paced, and full of suspense. Soon, perspective doesn’t matter too much, because you just gotta know what’s going on.
  • Lots of twists and turns. Very interesting.

So, will I read this again? Absolutely not. Second-person is enough to keep me away. (Me no likey!) Will I read the sequel? You bet! By the end, the action finally got good enough that I was almost able to forget about the whole second-person problem. Almost. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to make me love the book. But it was enough to make me like the story a lot — and want to see how this all plays out.

3 StarsSource: Received through Around the World Tours for review.

Read It: Blackbird is scheduled for release around September 16, 2014. You can pre-order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Review: The Queen of Zombie Hearts

The Queen of Zombie Hearts by Gena ShowalterTitle: The Queen of Zombie Hearts
Author: Gena Showalter
Series: The White Rabbit Chronicles #3

About: I have a plan. 

We’ll either destroy them for good, or they’ll destroy us. 

Either way, only one of us is walking away. 

In the conclusion to The White Rabbit Chronicles, Alice “Ali” Bell thinks the worst is behind her. She’s ready to take the next step with boyfriend Cole Holland, the leader of the zombie slayers…until Anima Industries, the agency controlling the zombies, launches a sneak attack, killing four of her friends. It’s then she realizes that humans can be more dangerous than monsters…and the worst has only begun. 

As the surviving slayers prepare for war, Ali discovers she, too, can control the zombies…and she isn’t the girl she thought she was. She’s connected to the woman responsible for killing—and turning—Cole’s mother. How can their relationship endure? As secrets come to light, and more slayers are taken or killed, Ali will fight harder than ever to bring down Anima—even sacrificing her own life for those she loves.

My Thoughts: Awesome! Perfect ending to an absolutely fabulous series! No, it wasn’t flawless, but it was so darn good I found myself able to completely overlook the not-so-perfect moments. It’s heartbreaking, amazing, and just fabulous. This is one series I plan to own — in hardcover!

The flaws:

  • Not-so-surprising twists. One very big one. I could see it coming a mile away. But it works. And figuring it out didn’t ruin the book for me — there are plenty of other twists and surprising occurrences.
  • Cole was an asshat again. Not the entire book, like in Through the Zombie Glass, but enough that I seriously considered knocking him out of contention for book boyfriend. Almost happened.
  • One or two story inconsistencies. (Example: She sits, in the floor, but a page later her knees weaken and she slides to the floor. Given the circumstances, she could’ve stood but we never see that happen.)
  • A few other, pretty minor, things.

But, no, that wasn’t enough to kill the book for me. I loved it. Read it in less than 24 hours — with life interruptions (caring for kids, sleeping, spending the morning away from the book, etc.). I could have easily read this in one sitting, lasting only a few hours — tops. Still loved Ali — most of the time. The action is non-stop. It’s riveting, exciting, heartbreaking, and the perfect way to end one of the best YA series I’ve had the pleasure of reading!

5 StarsSource: Received through Around the World Tours for review.

Read It: The Queen of Zombie Hearts is scheduled for release around September 30, 2014. You can pre-order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Review: The Iron Trial

The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra ClareTitle: The Iron Trial
Author: Holly Black, Cassandra Clare
Series: Magisterium #1

About: From NEW YORK TIMES bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare comes a new series that defies what you think you know about the world of magic.

From two bestselling superstars, a dazzling and magical middle-grade collaboration centering on the students of the Magisterium, an academy for those with a propensity toward magic. In this first book, a new student comes to the Magisterium against his will — is it because he is destined to be a powerful magician, or is the truth more twisted than that? It’s a journey that will thrill you, surprise you, and make you wonder about the clear-cut distinction usually made between good and evil.

My Thoughts: I finished this several hours ago, and I’m still conflicted as I sit to write my review. I will be completely honest: I saw Cassandra Clare’s name and signed on for the ARC tour. I didn’t pay too close attention to the description, so I didn’t realize going into it that it’s a middle-grade book — er, rather, series, I suppose. That’s generally not a bad thing, however, I was expecting something with an “older” feel to it. You know, something that isn’t quite obviously for significantly younger readers. I don’t think it colored my overall reaction to the book, but I can’t say that with 100% confidence.

The new student mentioned above is a boy named Callum Hunt, or Call for short. The poor kid has a tragic backstory (don’t they all), but at least he’s not a complete orphan (for once). He’s raised by his father, who has sworn off wizardry and all things associated with the Magisterium. He even goes so far to try to get his son to fail The Iron Trial, which is basically a test to see if kids (around 12 years old) have what it takes to learn the art of magic. Despite trying his best to fail, Call (of course) ends up being selected by one of the Masters. There is much ado about what’s going on. Call doesn’t know much about magic the way many of the other kids do. He just knows all of the negative things he’s been told by his father. How much truth is there to what he’s been told from a young age? It’s hard to say. It’s quite early in what’s apparently going to be a five-book series.

Let me start by saying that I like Call. A lot. While he tries to have an attitude, he really is a good kid who just wants to be accepted by his peers and wants to make his father proud. The poor kid is kept way too much in the dark. There’s clearly something his father has been keeping from him. What is it? What could it be? Hopefully we don’t have to go the whole series to find out. Yes, we learn some things in this book. One of them was a huge surprise. Well, both were, but the second — the one that directly affects Call — well, I’m not buying it. First, considering the source, I immediately question the sincerity. Secondly, it just doesn’t sit right. But, it does explain something from the opening of the book. I sure hope it’s a pack of lies, though, as I don’t want it to be true.

The book is not a fast read. Especially not for a MG book. It’s actually quite slow to get started. By the end, though, it was kinda hard to put down. I wanted to keep reading, but didn’t find I had to. By the end, there is some serious potential to this story. I just hope the pace quickens quite a bit! That said, I definitely will continue this series!

3.5 StarsSource: Received through Around the World Tours for review.

Read It: The Iron Trial is scheduled for release around September 9, 2014. You can pre-order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Review: Remember Me

Remember Me by Romily BernardTitle: Remember Me
Author: Romily Bernard
Series: Find Me #2

About: In the sequel to Find Me, Wick Tate, sarcastic teen hacker, is back and once again dealing with criminals and corrupt cops…and a brooding new love interest. Will Wick persevere when some secrets refuse to stay hidden?

Wick had thought her troubles were over.

But she should’ve known better.

Not only is she embroiled in a new murder case, which starts with a body with “Remember Me” carved into it and doesn’t stop there, but she also discovers new evidence surrounding her mother’s suicide…which leads her right back to her imprisoned deadbeat dad. And she has to deal with her flirty new hacker friend, Milo, sniffing around—which her boyfriend, Griff, isn’t too happy about.

The pressure might be too much as secrets—including Wick’s own—climb to the surface.

My Thoughts: I’m gonna start right out and say I’ve been quite sick. Usually, I wait to feel better before I really dive into a book. I didn’t have that luxury this time, so I will be the first to admit that being ill and not as fully functional while reading could have influenced my feelings about the book. I absolutely loved Find Me by Romily Bernard, so I was thrilled to see a new book featuring Wick. I didn’t think this one was quite as exciting, quite as surprising, or quite as good.

Wick is still pretty cool, but not quite so much as I thought she was first time around. Not sure if she was that different, or maybe I was that different. It’s hard to know. What I do know is that I hated seeing her so down on herself. Hated seeing her so willing to give up everything.

Milo is … interesting, but I don’t think he was developed enough. And there just wasn’t enough of Griff. And, frankly, I’m not sure I buy Griff’s actions in this book. Unfortunately, I don’t remember him well enough from the first book to say that with a lot of confidence.

There is another book in the works, and I will definitely read it. It’s called Trust Me. While I felt this one fell a little flat, I’m not ready to give up on the series. Plus, the book did hold my interest, and I was eager to see how it all played out. It just wasn’t quite so surprising this time around. If you enjoyed Find Me, definitely give this one a read. I’ve also discovered there’s a prequel called Lie for Me: Griff’s Story. I definitely want to read that!

3.5 StarsSource: Received through Around the World Tours for review.

Read It: Remember Me is scheduled for release around September 23, 2014. You can pre-order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Review: Falling into Place

Falling into Place by Amy ZhangTitle: Falling into Place
Author: Amy Zhang
Series: n/a

About: On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road. 

Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force —Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect? 

My Thoughts: This was amazingly well-written, especially when you discover that it was written by a high school student. Not because a teenager can’t write, but simply because it’s so well, well done. If I had found out the author’s age after reading, I would’ve been shocked. And I don’t think I’d have believed it right off the bat! Fantastic work! Hopefully Miss Zhang has much more to share with the rest of us!

The story is very compelling, and it had no trouble pulling me in — and keeping me there! If I had the opportunity, I easily could have read this in one sitting. Unfortunately, I did not. I say unfortunately simply because I would have liked to.

The way the story is told is rather unique and quite clever. We have one first-person account, and I was very impressed by that, especially when it’s revealed for certain (there are earlier hints, but it’s later confirmed) just who that narrator is. There are some chapters told exclusively from this narrator’s perspective. Other chapters focus on various people: Liz’s friends, a classmate who’s more of an acquaintance, etc. They all have very interesting stories, some of which are just heartbreaking.

Liz is a character who, despite just how much of a mean girl she can be, I found myself liking and pulling for. If I stop and think about it, my mind says I should hate her. She’s mean, mean, mean! But, we’re given many glimpses inside this girl, and it’s obvious that the meanness is an expression of her inner turmoil. Poor girl is in a lot of pain.

Falling into Place by Amy Zhang is a compelling, interesting, masterful novel. It’s amazing that such a mature novel came out of someone so young! I look forward to seeing what else Zhang will have for us down the line.

4.5 Stars

Source: Received through Around the World Tours for review.

Read It: Falling into Place is scheduled for release around September 9, 2014. You can pre-order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Review: There Will Be Lies

There Will Be Lies by Nick LakeTitle: There Will Be Lies
Author: Nick Lake
Series: n/a

About: Shelby Jane Cooper’s world is the town of Scottsdale, Arizona, where she’s home-schooled, hits balls at the batting cage, visits the library, and sees The Boy. Life in her city in the desert is one big routine, like ice-cream-for-dinner Fridays: normal. 

But in four hours, she’ll be struck by a car, and that’s when normal ends.

Barely recovered from the accident, Shelby is inexplicably whisked away by her mother—away from the hospital, her home, and everything she loves—on a manic road trip to the Grand Canyon. 

Shelby’s mother says that everything’s fine. But with mile after mile falling fast behind them, Shelby starts to question everything she knows about her life and tries to piece together what’s real, what isn’t, and who she can ultimately trust.

My Thoughts: I was very surprised by how good this book is. The writing is fantastic, and the story had me hooked right off the bat. One thing I really liked was that typography was used to “illustrate” the book in many ways. It’s hard to describe, but you’ll get it if you read it. It reminded me in many ways of a novel in verse, except that it’s mostly a basic novel written in the usual format — except in some parts.

The book is told in first-person from Shelby’s perspective. And I just loved her voice. She’s sarcastic, honest, witty, and fun to read. Oh, and she’s your typical teenager — snarky and prone to exaggeration (things taking 4,280 years, and whatnot). It’s a hoot to read! She, as a character is very sympathetic. I found myself rooting for her from start to finish.

My only complaint is that this book is highly predictable. I don’t think there were any surprises in it for me. I figured out the truth pretty early on, and the Dreaming’s purpose was also very easy for me to figure out on my own. While there’s some satisfaction in being able to shout, “I knew it!” while reading, it’s also somewhat disappointing to have it all figured out from pretty close to the very beginning.

Despite the obviousness, I still found this book hard to put down. I felt for Shelby. I loved her voice. And this is a very well-written book. If it wasn’t for the predictability factor, this would’ve been a 5-star book.

4.5 StarsSource: Received through Around the World Tours for review.

Read It: There Will Be Lies is scheduled for release around January 6, 2015. You can pre-order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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Review: Feral

Feral by Holly SchindlerTitle: Feral
Author: Holly Schindler
Series: n/a

About: It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.

But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened. 

But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley….

My Thoughts: I am very confused about this book. Not by it — I understand the story just fine — but about this book. How I feel about it. What I think about it. Do I like it? Don’t I? What do I think about it? Why?

Usually those are somewhat easy questions for me to answer. But, I’m not sure this time — and, no, it’s not “writer’s block” or anything like that. I started out liking it, and quickly found myself thinking it was pretty darn good. I was eager to get into it, really get submersed in the story. And then Claire went bat-shit crazy. And, somehow, her classmates — Rich and Becca especially — don’t get weird about it. Somehow they keep trying to be her friends. I don’t know about you, but high school wasn’t like that for me. If I’d done and said some of what she did, I’d have been a social pariah!

The book is creepy. Very creepy. And it makes feral cats seem like tools of Satan — or something. I love cats, and they have never freaked me out before. But this book, well, they’re quite freaky. And, well, it’s also a bit gross — and that’s putting it mildly. If you’re squeamish, proceed with caution!

The end, I think, did play out pretty well. Claire grew. She matured. And she came to some understandings about things she clearly hadn’t had before.

This book was very, very predictable. I figured out pretty early who “he” is. And I had a pretty good — and accurate idea — what was going on with Claire. There were a couple of things I didn’t quite get, but they were really not a huge surprise either.

So, after all of this, how do I feel about this book? Let’s think. I liked it at first, then really liked it. Then Claire became an idiot. An absolute idiot. Yes, that is explained, but that part was drawn out way too long. And everyone around her — her father and Rich especially — seemed to not pick up at all on her craziness. I find that hard to believe.

The middle third or so, I often felt I had to force myself to keep reading. I was so ready to make it a DNF. But, I wanted to see if the story could recover. See if I could find the ending worth pushing through all the stuff I just couldn’t stomach. And, well, I felt the ending was pretty satisfying (although, there was one pairing I was hoping to happen that just didn’t). Not awesome-so-glad-I-saw-this-through satisfying. But good enough. I’m glad to know exactly what happened. And the final chapter, that part was touching, sweet, and pretty close to perfect. But, well, it wasn’t enough to fully redeem the sludge in the middle.

3 StarsSource: Received through Around the World Tours for review.

Read It: Feral is scheduled for release around August 26, 2014. You can pre-order your own copy via Amazon or Book Depository(These are affiliate links, and purchase through either link will result in my receiving a small commission at no cost to you. Your support is appreciated!)

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