Thursday, January 29, 2015

Review: When by Victoria Laurie

Title: When 

Author: Victoria Laurie 

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Imagine being able to look at a person and see, always, the day of their death looming above them. It may be an extraordinary gift, sure, but it's also a curse. One that Maddie Fynn knows all too well. Ever since she was young, Maddie has been able to see the deathdays of those around her. It first happened when she drew a family portrait and wrote the etched the date of her father's death on paper and, ever since, her talent has singled Maddie out as a loner. With only one friend, Stubs, whose friendliness is matched only by his kindness, Maddie's life is a small, but fulfilling one. Her alcoholic mother, unable to drive after two DUIs, exploits Maddie's skill and forces her to read deathdates for money--money which Maddie uses to pay off bills; money her mother uses to purchase more alcohol. It isn't the healthiest situation and it's far more than any typical high school junior should manage, but Maddie takes care of herself, her mother, and her grades in a juggling act that has become routine.

She doesn't think there's much room in her life for things to get any worse until the FBI name her a suspect to the murder of a young thirteen-year-old boy. Earlier that week, Maddie had looked at an imagine of a young girl with cancer and told her mother that she would live. Inside that wallet, however, were pictures of two other children--one who was fated to die a week from that day. When Maddie tries to warn the mother, however, she is labeled a fraud and the angry customer leaves Maddie's house. A week later, when the boy is found missing, Maddie is questioned by the FBI. With the help of her Uncle Donny, a lawyer in Brooklyn, and her best friend, Maddie must try to clear her name and prove to the FBI that she's innocent. Because, after all, the real killer is still on the loose...

When is a brilliantly written YA debut from Victoria Laurie. Maddie's narration is raw, honest, and down-to-earth. She's a heroine who makes the best of her circumstances and even as life constantly tries to put her down, she gets back up every time, stronger than ever. I admire her will and determination and throughout the novel, all I wanted to do was shield Maddie from the false accusations and difficult situations she was forced to face as a result of the FBI's interference in her life. The FBI are ruthless and they are desperate enough to put an end to these string of murders--each gruesome, targeting minors, and filled with torture--that they're willing to put the blame on an innocent girl like Maddie.

Despite the fact that Maddie's mother is an alcoholic, I was glad to see that Maddie had other adults in her life whom she could turn to for support. The relationship between Maddie and her Uncle Donny, a bachelor who keeps insisting that Maddie can leave her mother and move in with him, is akin to that of a father and daughter. Maddie's father was Uncle Donny's brother and though it has been years since his death, neither of them can forget him. Moreover, Donny makes Maddie proud to be her father's daughter and though the two face their own set of relationship woes--namely the fact that Maddie is loyal to her mother when Donny can see that it isn't a healthy, or normal, relationship--they work well together as a team and Donny goes above and beyond to make sure that Maddie is safe and protected, despite the mayhem around her.

Maddie's friendship with Stubs is also at the forefront of this novel and their relationship goes through some truly difficult circumstances. Laurie isn't afraid to go to extreme measures when it comes to reinforcing the seriousness of this situation and though, at its core, When is an impeccably written and neatly planned murder mystery, that doesn't decrease the strength of the character relationships throughout the novel. Speaking of the mystery, however, I have to admit that I did not, at all, under any circumstances, predict the final reveal. Laurie threw in plenty of red herrings and clues but the true identity of the murderer is one that I am confident no reader will be able to guess beforehand. It's sneaky, it's shocking, and it all makes too much sense in retrospect--just as an excellent mystery should do.

Maddie deals with so much in this novel--FBI questioning, an alcoholic mother, a murderer on the loose, bullying as a result of the FBI's suspicions--that she has little time to be a normal teenager. Yet, despite the fact that there is little to no romance in this novel, we do receive a final, all-too-perfect glimpse of it at the end. And, let me tell you, it is cute beyond measure. I really enjoyed the fact that When remained focused on Maddie, the mystery at hand, and her consequent growth and change as a result of the investigation. Maddie learns a lot about her abilities over the course of this novel and, what's more, she learns a lot about herself. While she begins this story as a teen trying to fit in and hide her abilities, she grows to embrace them by the end and the confidence she accumulates over the course of this difficult murder is heart-warming to see. Thus, I appreciate that Laurie didn't make, say, Stubs, the romantic interest nor were the trickles of the love story involved, in any way, with the murder at hand. Both are separate storylines, one obviously the main plot, but they converge beautifully in an ending that is completely satisfying.

I'm not sure if I'll go back to read through Laurie's backlog--there's only so much thriller/mystery I can take at a time--but I will, without a doubt, be on the lookout for her next YA novel. If there's one author you should be looking out for in the YA genre, it's Victoria Laurie.

Monday, January 26, 2015

ARC Review: I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

Title: I'll Meet You There

Author: Heather Demetrios

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Release Date: February 3rd, 2015

When it comes to Heather Demetrios, I've come to expect that my expectations will be blown out of the water. It doesn't matter just how outrageously excited I may be for her novels to release and, believe me, even the hype can't ruin the feeling of finishing a Demetrios novel--that click when it feels as if a small part of the world--and yourself, in the process--is repaired,without even realizing it needed fixing. I'll Meet You There is not only a profoundly realistic, human tale; it's one that transcends boundaries, particularly those invisible ones the YA genre feels all-too-trapped in.

I'll Meet You There is slow to start and open to end--just the way I like it. In fact, the magnitude of this novel is at a low simmer when you first begin to read until, suddenly, you're embroiled in the tension; it crept on you. Skylar and Josh, the protagonists of this tale, are, from the surface, far from "likable" people. And, as Demtrios builds the fictional town of Creek View, it isn't difficult to see why. The women of Creek View typically find themselves pregnant at seventeen, living and raising their children on a trailer park only to see history repeat itself, generation after generation. Skylar, though, has one foot out of Creek View already and after the three hot, sticky summer months, she'll be in art school, determined to never look back. When her mother loses her job, however, and spirals into depression, it seems as if Skylar is forced to plant both feet firmly back into Creek View, despite the fact that it's the last thing she wants to do. Josh, on the other hand, left Creek View--and returned, only this time, only with one leg. After joining the Marines, his ticket out of Creek View, Josh changed--drastically. No longer the drunk womanizer who curses and plays pranks, war has left Josh hurting. Although he quickly falls back into his old ways, the unexpected friendship he strikes with Skylar reveals that there is far more to him than his persona may suggest.

Demetrios has a way with words, one that leaves you feeling. Just feeling. About everything. From the despair that settles over Skylar's shoulders as she contemplates a life stuck in Creek View to the horrors of war that play behind Josh's eyelids every time he blinks, it's impossible to crack open the spine of this story without endangering your heart to fictional characters in the best possible way. Skylar and Josh's romance is slow to develop, as it should be with two such opposite, angry, and deeply pained protagonists. What makes Skylar and Josh so perfect for one another is the fact that they take the time to see beneath the veneer, have the patience to wait until the time is right, and are willing to lend the ear needed to peel off the paint. Yet, their slow transition from acquaintances to friends to more is interspersed with dialogue, banter, jokes, and fights. Neither Skylar nor Josh are perfect and their flaws are apparent, bleeding through every page, but it is those very same qualities which render them such poignant characters.

Moreover, despite their flaws, they are both characters who straddle the line between "likable" and "unlikable," proving that there's so much more to them than just black-and-white. Skylar is strong-willed and ambitious, but those qualities also emphasize her weaker moments where her loyalty seems to shift towards selfishness versus selflessness. Josh, too, with his moments of guilt and helplessness shows, all too clearly, that there is substance to him beyond his past actions but that his future is tied up with his past, particularly Afghanistan, and moving on means moving past not only his perceptions of himself but those of others as well. Despite the fact that I've grown up in a town that's the antithesis to Creek View, despite the fact that I've always seen my mother as a pillar of strength and inspiration and never as a burden or disappointment, despite the fact that I've never known the struggles of war; despite all that, I still felt deeply for these characters and connected with them on a purely personal level.

What's more, I'll Meet You There  has a stellar cast of secondary characters whose personalities, goals, hopes, and dreams are far removed from that of either Skylar or Josh. Dylan, for instance, Skylar's best friend, won't be leaving Creek View and at one point in the novel, she completely calls Skylar out for acting as if staying back is the lesser option. Dylan and Skylar's friendship is rock solid but I think it's also demonstrative of so many close friendships in high school where college means that one person in a former duo is going farther. It happened to me--I'm the one who left in my friend group--and, much like Skylar, I admit to being ecstatic at the choice to leave my hometown. But, that doesn't quite make us better people and I love that Dylan's perspective grounds Skylar, making her appreciate the options she has without looking down upon the existence others have chosen to live.

I'll Meet You There is told primarily from Skylar's perspective but there were a few chapters told from Josh's POV and, though Demetrios excels at capturing the male voice and distinguishing Josh's narrative from that of Skylar's, I didn't find every insight into his mind to be completely necessary. I felt as if Demetrios gained traction with Josh's perspective as the novel wore on and, by the end, I really loved being in his mind and felt closer to him as a result but, like all good things in this novel, it took awhile. I'll Meet You There is only Demetrios's sophomore contemporary piece and, with only three books under her belt, she writes like a seasoned author; confident, willing to take risks, and able to gauge the direction that the genre she writes in needs to go. Each one of her novels have been original and enticing, filled with characters I can get behind and a style of prose so impressive I wish to imitate it myself. Needless to say, with I'll Meet You There Demetrios as only secured her spot as one of my favorite authors and, no matter what she chooses to write next, I know that I will both buy, and love, it.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Review: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

Title: Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin, #3) 

Author: Robin LaFevers

Rating: 3 Stars

To be frank, I don't have much to say about Mortal Heart. It's a satisfactory ending to LaFevers debut trilogy--and wraps up all the loose ends nicely--but as far as being Annith's story, I felt it lacking. Perhaps it's simply because Annith isn't as strong a force to be reckoned with as Sybella. It's not that Annith isn't a formidable assassin--because she is--and her force of will is to be respected as she struggles to find the truth within her beloved abbey. Yet, she doesn't possess Sybella or Ismae's dark past which makes their stories compelling from the start itself and though it takes awhile for Annith's tale to find its footing, it continues to lose traction over time, not gain. I love Annith as a protagonist but the journey she undertakes in Mortal Heart pales in comparison to the stakes in both the previous novels. Moreover, the romance did absolutely nothing for me except to make me cringe a time or two and question--a lot--why there couldn't have been anyone else for Annith.

I feel as if Mortal Heart is a tricky novel, being the final installment in this trilogy, and LaFevers succeeds in many ways. Not only does the plot line that began in Grave Mercy reach fruition, but we are able to see our three heroines united, changed, and happier than they were when we first met them. Unlike the last two novels, Mortal Heart doesn't revolve around an assassination or a piece of the plot; it's where the entire story converges into one. Thus, Annith isn't the sole starring character at hand. Though we follow her journey, there are other compelling, strong women at play who--and this just may be my personal love of Sybella--at times undermined Annith's casting into the spotlight.

Additionally, though the romance isn't--and shouldn't be--a deciding factor in the enjoyment of a novel, I wasn't on board with this love story at any point and after Sybella and Beast's tale, felt vastly disappointed with this one. Frankly speaking, I didn't feel as if Annith needed romance. She's such a compelling and strong heroine, one whose loyalties to her sisters and friendships with them makes up so much of her being, that to have that replaced with a romance didn't hold the same weight or resonance for me as it likely should have. Plus, the romances of Ismae and Sybella, held side-by-side with Annith's lack of romance at first and then, later, her romantic interest, only made me feel as if Annith was desperate for the love Ismae and Sybella had found and needed a man to complete her as her sisters did. I have never felt that way about the romances in this series until this odd dichotomy.

Mortal Heart brings up shocking revelations and I have no doubt that die-hard fans of this series will adore this final installment. As someone who didn't plan to continue the series after Grave Mercy--something about that book simply did not tick with me--yet fell in love with Dark Triumph, this final installment falls somewhere in the middle. Not nearly as good as Dark Triumph but far more satisfactory than Grave Mercy. LaFevers trilogy is a beloved one among many and though it doesn't rank among my favorites by far, I love these heroines and everything they stand for. Thus, I do not hesitate to recommend forth this series, flaws and all.

Monday, January 19, 2015

ARC Review: Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand

Title: Once Upon a Rose (La Vie en Roses, #1) 

Author: Laura Florand

Rating: 4 Stars

Release Date: February 3rd, 2015

I've been savoring this one. Once Upon a Rose, the start to a new and all-too-beautiful romance series set in the South of France, nearly begged to be read carefully. Each page a petal, thick and heavy with the perfume of roses; meant to be wafted, not inhaled.

Because I just didn't want this book to end. Florand's Amour et Chocolat series ranks among my favorite, ever, so of course I cracked open the spine of Once Upon a Rose with sky-high expectations. Florand's prose can move me to tears, affect me with emotion of the acutest kind, and render me hopelessly in love. I thought, after five full-length novels, three novellas, and two short stories that I knew the intricate ins-and-outs of Florand's writing style and ability. After all, she had covered such a wide range and scope of characters, love stories, and depth within her debut series. But I was wrong. 

What I hadn't known was that Florand's prose has the ability to make me grin like a lovesick fool, giggle like a young schoolgirl, and squeal at the absolute adorable-ness on the page. As an avid reader of Florand's, I'd come across sexy, arrogant chefs; ambitious, motivated, and passionate. But few things delight quite the same way that a strong, rugged, and handsome French countryman who blushes does. 

Layla Dubois is a rockstar. After winning a Grammy for her debut album, Layla--known as "Belle" to her fans--has hit a wall. Unable to find the inspiration she needs to write another album, Layla leaves Paris and journeys to the South of France to find the countryside home that has recently become part of her inheritance. It turns out that Layla's cottage is a part of a rose valley owned by Matthieu Rosier. When we first meet Matt, it is his thirtieth birthday party and the adorable man is drunk and absolutely besotted with Layla, who he affectionately calls "Boucles." It's an encounter that will leave Matt utterly embarrassed the next morning, when his shyness takes over and renders him grunting grumpily in contrast to the chatter of the previous night. 

But it's all just so cute. I wanted to read and re-read every interaction between Layla and Matt; I wanted to savor it and prolong it and live in their world for as long as I could. Because Matt, despite the tough act, is all gooey on the inside. And I love that. I just have to share one of my favorite scenes because it captures the essence of these two characters so perfectly and it was the precise moment I fell insanely in love with their love:

"What do you want now?” Matt growled at her, tightening his arms around himself.
“I only need directions!” Layla snapped back at him. “I can’t believe how unhelpful you people are being!”
Matt blinked. He slid the oddest glance toward the other men, almost—vulnerable? “They couldn’t give you directions?”
Tristan shook his head woefully. “Even Damien,” he said sadly, “proved unequal to the task.”
Matt stared at them for a moment. And then his sunburn seemed to get worse than ever, and he rubbed his chest, as if it felt strange to him. Clearing his throat, a rough growl of sound, he took her map from her. “Where do you need to go?”
“I’ve been lost enough around here, thank you,” Layla said. “I don’t need you to get me lost some more, just to punish me for inheriting a house.”
Matt scowled at the map. “Where do you need to go?” he growled again.
Tristan coughed a little into his hand. “Ahem, Matt. People skills!” he stage-whispered. 
Matt glared at him.
“He’s really a nice guy,” Tristan told her out loud, cheerfully, as if Matt wasn’t even listening. “No, I swear.”
Matt transferred his glare back to the map.
Again, Layla fought the urge to just lay her hand against his chest. It was a really hot chest, that probably explained it. She kept imagining all that growly tension relaxing away from him in surprise. And then what would he be like? That cute, enthusiastic, uncontained man he had been drunk?
“Where?” Matt insisted. He cleared his throat again. And then managed to get words out that were still rough, but considerably quieter. “Where do you need to go?” he repeated, carefully.
“I don’t even know where I am.”
“You’re in the Rosier valley,” Matt said blankly and put a callused finger to her map. “Here.”


His gruff voice elaborated as he wrote: “A three-story house with blue shutters will be on your left. It has lace curtains. If not, if it’s a house with blue shutters and roses climbing up the walls but no curtains, you’ve taken the wrong exit. There’s a little bar two buildings farther down, with a faded red awning. Be careful, there’s a pale orange tabby cat that likes to lie right in the middle of the road there, and he will not move. You have to stop the car and pick him up and carry him to the garden of the little house with the jasmine climbing up the green gate. That’s where he belongs. Then you—”
Layla watched his square hand around the pen, his big body bent over the hood of her car as he wrote. His bare back curved and she stalwartly fought the need to reach out and see if it was as smooth as it looked. As warm. To see if his voice would grow more or less gruff when he was being petted.
He knew a particular cat might be sleeping in the middle of the road on her route. And he stopped and picked it up. He made sure she stopped and picked it up.
From this angle, his face was in shade and the sunburn didn’t look as bad, his skin less ruddy under the matte tones. Her head tilted.
It wasn’t sunburn, was it? Sunburn didn’t subside like that.
This big, growling man had been blushing.
“You’re way better than a smartphone,” she said wonderingly. 
Actually he was more like a…guitar. Someone she wanted to run her fingers over to see what sounds she could pull out. 
He made a sound of acknowledgement that was pretty darn close to a grunt.
She grinned. Definitely a bass guitar. “And you have a much better voice. Do you think I could record you giving the directions instead?” Except, of course, she didn’t have a phone to record with. If she wanted to hear that rough bass talking to her again while he blushed, she’d just have to figure out a way to keep getting him to do it.
A musician had to, you know, coax her instruments into making the sounds she wanted sometimes.
She bit back a grin.
He stopped writing and turned his head just enough to look at her. The color started to mount back into his cheeks again.
Her smile started to escape her efforts to restrain it. “Do you need help with your sunscreen?”
That stern upper lip relaxed its pressure on the full lower one. He stared at her, frozen. 
Her smile deepened. Whether it was the pure fun of flirting in French—a language that had, after all, been refined for centuries to that purpose—or the vulnerable blush on someone that big and rough and growling, this whole moment was developing a delicious zing. 
“You’re pretty cute, you know that?” she tested softly.
The streak over those strong cheekbones turned ruddy bronze. He looked back at her journal, and the pencil lead broke. He stared at it, apparently not having a clue what to do with himself.

See what I mean? An absolute teddy bear if there was one. But Once Upon a Rose is so much more than the developed love story between Matt and Layla. As the inheritor of so much land, Matt is burdened with living in rose valley and caring for her roses constantly. While his cousins travel the world and date gorgeous women, Matt's first love has always been the land he is rightfully heir to. From Matt's perspective, nothing is in black-and-white. Matt recognizes that his cousins yearn for the land Matt owns--and Matt is proud to be the sole inheritor of the Rosier valley and he selfishly loves his roses--but he also envies his cousins for the freedom they possess for, unlike him, they are not tied down to the land of their ancestors. Matt's relationship with his cousins is complex, however, for in brief glimpses we are able to see that his cousins care deeply for Matt and, contrary to what he may believe, they aren't looking for weaknesses in his character to exploit so that they can take his inheritance away from him. We see time and time again that Matt's cousins are there for him and, eventually, Matt, too, comes to realize that there are more options in front of him than he believes, if only he would open himself up to others and allow them to help. 

Layla, too, undergoes her own journey of growth over the course of the novel but it is Matt's character who has stuck with me, long after my languid read of Once Upon a Rose. At its core, this is a story of two people who, by finding love, find that they have room in their hearts for so much more than they imagined. It's about finding the courage to be brave enough to accept change, invite help, and alter your entire world-view. In addition to the Rosier cousins, there are a handful of other vibrant secondary characters who make this novel that much more special and, as always, the cameo appearances and mentions of characters who we've met in previous novellas and short stories is such a delight. Once Upon a Rose, though different from the Amour et Chocolat books, still possesses a hero and heroine who are equally matched, who bring out the best in one another, and who share a riveting passion--whether it be for chocolate or roses, believe me, they're both just as romantic, sensual, and swoon-worthy as the other. I am still unable to adequately express just how deeply I feel for this novel; it's soft, sweet, and oh-so-very hug-able. Between Parisian chocolatiers and Southern countrymen, I'm going to have a difficult time deciding where to stop first when I eventually visit France to find my future husband! ;)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Review: Golden Son by Pierce Brown

Title: Golden Son (Red Rising, #2) 

Author: Pierce Brown 

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Note: This review is spoiler-free for Red Rising and Golden Son. However, if you are new to this series I recommend reading my review of Red Rising first as it sets up the scope of this world and provides background information about the general plot which this review does not. (You can read my review of Red Rising here.)

I have a LOT to say about Golden Son,--it's just one of those books--but to start with...

1. I experienced HIGH levels of stress while reading Golden Son. Making me care that much for your characters is not cool, Pierce Brown.
2. Um, what was that ending? A joke? Because I'm not laughing... I'M CRYING.

Now that that's off my chest I can honestly admit that Golden Son is a sequel that rivals the brilliance of Red Rising and transcends it. While it is still prone to bouts of dramatism, Golden Son amps up the political stakes in this intergalactic world and spares no qualms about destroying, torturing, and killing off every one of your favorite characters. If you thought this was Young Adult, think again. Golden Son begins two years after the events of Red Rising and Darrow, our protagonist, is no mere boy. At twenty-years-old he has come a long way from the sixteen-year-old Red he started out as. Moreover, his time in Gold society has altered his perceptions of the world he lives in. Even in Red Rising, Darrow resisted seeing the world in gray. He wanted to hate Golds and their power; he wanted to fight for Reds and nothing else. By the end of Red Rising, Darrow was forced to grudgingly admit that the world was not quite as black-and-white as he had hoped. In Golden Son, though, he finally understands that this war he's fighting isn't about Red vs. Gold; it's so much more.

In comparison to its predecessor, Golden Son feels more volatile. Darrow is no longer confined and with the entire universe at his disposal, his task seems far more impossible than it ever did before. Brown weaves political power plays alongside epic war battle a la Game of Thrones and every time I think I've got it all figured out, he throws in a curve ball and changes up the game yet again. There isn't a moment to breathe in Golden Son. If Darrow isn't plotting war, engaging in war, or dreaming about war then he's himself; a Red, stripped away of the facade he displays to the world. Although some may argue that the strength of these novels lie in the quickly-paced plot lines which move forward with purpose, I would argue that Brown's true talent shines through in the more quiet, introspective scenes. It isn't often that readers are given a chance to look into the mind of a male narrator but Darrow is a flawed hero that, had I lived in Brown's fictional universe, I'd give my life for.

What I find most remarkable about this series is the fact that Brown has seamlessly created a world of great political divide, strife with violence, yet the humanizing moments are what ultimately linger. Golden Son expands on its cast from Red Rising and though I struggled to remember who was whose son or daughter, the larger host of characters only amplify Darrow's struggles. Whether it be an increasing host of enemies or just the friends Darrow is forced to alienate as he hides the truth of his lineage, Darrow battles his loneliness time and time again. Eo remains a constant in his thoughts; both an inspiration and a guiding compass. Nevertheless, it is her memory which ultimately forces his isolation too. Although Darrow is widely known in the Gold community for his brute strength and battle skill, the Sons of Ares have had little contact with him and the burden of what he has agreed to do is now felt, two long years later. Throughout Golden Son Darrow comes to the realization that, cheesy as it may sound, the truth will set him free. Unless he trusts those around him, they will not linger long enough for him to rely on later.

Golden Son is interspersed with chapters that consist solely of conversation between Darrow and a close friend of his. Those chapters, squeezed between the politics and battles, utterly charmed me. Just as Darrow won over allies, he won me over too. Golden Son emphasizes just how difficult friendships can be: how fickle and fleeting; how we don't realize their worth until they're gone. In his war against Gold, Darrow needs as much back-up and support as he can find. Moreover, if Darrow can convince those around him that lower colors deserve the equality that Gold enjoy, then Darrow is that much closer to changing the world. Slowly, but steadily, Golden Son transforms Darrow's purpose to an even greater one. While Darrow may have started out wanting revenge against Gold, now he recognizes that it isn't Gold who must burn but their society.

Brown writes three-dimensional, flawed characters. No one within these pages is perfect and their imperfections are what make them downright human. I was already attached a decent number of characters from Red Rising but I fell for even more of them in Golden Son. As an author who uses death as a purposeful stab to the heart, I bled while reading Golden Son. Ultimately, it's one big stress fest; wondering who will be the next to die, anticipating who will betray Darrow, trying to figure out the political machinations ahead of time. And yet, that's what makes Golden Son such a thrill to read. Flipping each page more and more quickly in an effort to discover what happens is part of the experience.

One of the most stressful aspects to this novel, though, was the romance. Darrow and Mustang share hints of a love story in Red Rising but in Golden Son, with Mustang in such a pivotal role, their push-and-pull dynamic comes to a head. I know I said it in my review of Red Rising, but Darrow is a feminist male narrator. He respects Mustang, trusts her to make her own decisions, and understands that her strengths are different from his and, as such, she just may be one step ahead of where he is in the game of Gold politics. Mustang is one of my favorite characters precisely because she understands the political situation, seizes the upper hand, and does whatever is necessary to gain it. Unlike so many strong female characters whose purpose molds them into villains, however, she maintains a strong moral compass and winds up bettering everyone at their own game. When it comes to Darrow, though, she refuses to be with someone who continues to hold part of himself back and, despite the fact that their friendship is grounded in equality and their partnership balances out, the possibility of a true relationship remains in question. Mustang and Eo are such strong forces in Darrow's life; women who propel him to be better and convince him that he doesn't need to resort to the depravity of his enemies. Thus, despite the fact that the romance in these novels is so minimal, the romantic interests themselves are integral to creating Darrow.

At one point in the novel, Darrow acknowledges that it is all women who have molded and shaped him to become the person he is. Whether it be his mother who made him the man Eo fell in love with, or Eo who gave him the power to transcend and become the man Mustang fell for, or Mustang who pushed him to be the man others followed. In a world of war and mayhem, dominated by men, the influence of femininity is not forgotten which I, as a female reader, appreciate. What's more, there's a scene in Golden Son where Darrow simply starts crying and the fact that it simultaneously breaks down gender stereotypes while humanizing our protagonist deserves praise, indeed. With Golden Son, Brown has created a rich, heart-felt novel, more science fiction than dystopian, with characters who both maim and inspire. Not only compulsively readable, but also brimming endlessly with themes, messages, and underlying nuances I won't even pretend to be smart enough to pick up, this is not a trilogy to be missed. Knock down The Hunger Games from your shelves if you have to make room for this; it's worth it ten-fold.

Monday, January 12, 2015

ARC Review: The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon

Title: The Mime Order (The Bone Season, #2) 

Author: Samantha Shannon 

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Release Date: January 27th, 2015 

So much of the thrill within a fantasy novel lies in the sequestered magic, so firmly hidden, yet present. Whether it be Narnia or Hogwarts, these mythical realms are out of sight of typical human sight and all the more magical as a result. As readers, we don't want to read about the Pevensie siblings in London, going about their day-to-day lives and reminiscing about their time in Narnia. We don't want to think of Harry, sitting in 4 Privet Drive during the long, sticky summer and dreaming of Hogwarts. I know I, for one, don't want to be subject to the inner monologue of, say, Lucy Pevensie, as she debates spilling the truth about Narnia despite knowing no one will believe her.

It seems Samantha Shannon hasn't quite got this memo, though. 

The Mime Order begins with an extremely tedious start. For the first half of the novel, Paige struggles to mend the broken bridges with her mime lord, Jaxon, all while debating how best to reveal the truth about the Rephaim to other voyants in such a way that they will not only believe her, but they will also share her passion for action. It's slow. It's boring. It's unexciting. The Bone Season sets up a fascinating realm all while throwing its protagonist, and subsequently the reader, into the midst of the action. Now, in The Mime Order, we are forced to take a step back. 

Typically, I'm all for the contemplative moments within a novel or series. I love the slower, more reflective parts. But not when it's written like The Mime Order. To me, the first half of Shannon's sophomore novel reads like an extended version of what is meant to be a brief look into Paige's inner struggles. We, as readers, should be given a lens into the world Paige left--and is now returning to--and, in better understanding where she has come from perhaps we can better understand her as well. Yet, my understanding of the relationships Paige sustains with those around her is minimal in this first-half and everything, from the long dialogues with side characters I wasn't invested in to the multiple ideas Paige considered and rejected and considered and rejected were simply exhausting. I wanted a brief run-down of the important events and then I wanted to get to the real meat of the story. Perhaps, if this series wasn't a seven-book deal already, we wouldn't have been subjected to such a disappointing start to The Mime Order. 

Thankfully, the novel picks up--considerably--during its second half as the tensions outlined in the first half finally come to a head and Paige is finally acting instead of merely thinking all the time. Though its disastrous first half ensures that The Mime Order is a far cry from the brilliance of The Bone Season, the excellence of its second half nearly makes up for it. Nearly.

One of the best aspects to The Mime Order is also a part of the novel I've been complaining about--its set-up. The Mime Order begins to take the revolution within Oxford in The Bone Season to the wider world of voyants in London. As such, it is very much a set-up novel but, by the end, you're left wanting to know how the events outlined will unfurl and play out. The relationship at the core of this novel is, I feel, that between Paige and Jaxon. In The Bone Season, Paige discovers that Jaxon is cruel and willing to go to great lengths in wielding his power. The last thing Paige wants, after returning to London, is to fall prisoner to Jaxon. But Paige has no power unless she is Jaxon's dreamwalker. It puts her in a precarious situation and their exchanges are all very cat-and-mouse, full of underlying political undertones that are chilling, to say the least.

The manner in which their relationship progresses, changes, and comes to a head by the end of The Mime Order is fascinating. Another absolutely thrilling aspect to this sequel is the introduction of yet another villain--one who aims to cause chaos amongst the voyants. Since he features more prominently during the second-half, I will refrain from saying much more but will depart with these few words: prepare to be terrified. I really love how The Mime Order builds up the sense of fear, tension, and danger over the course of the novel. The last few chapters are the most intriguing, by far, so to see all those emotions finally reach a peak is rewarding (though, mark my words, it's also frustrating since we have to wait another YEAR to see what Paige does next).

What I didn't expect to find much of within The Mime Order was romance. After all, this is a seven-book series; we can't conclude the romantic arc that quickly. Yet, Warden makes his appearance sooner than you'd think and his interactions with Paige are as fraught with sexual tension and wanting as you'd dream of. I loved their dialogue, the backstory Warden provided to build upon Shannon's intricate world-building, and am even more excited than before to see how their love story develops over the course of the series. Granted, there are plenty of hurdles that lie before this couple and the romance lies very much in the back-burner of this series. But, that being said, it's a huge component to why I adore these books. Warden and Paige are a perfect match; they challenge each other without putting one another down. They're both strong personalities and, coming from different races with a difficult history, their road to romance is paved with distrust but, if I had to put my money on any couple combating those odds, it's them.

Despite the fact that The Mime Order picks up considerably and puts this series in an absolutely fascinating position by the end, I remain a disappointed fan of this novel. It wasn't an easy or enjoyable read in the least and though it is necessary for the arc of the series, I almost wish there was a condensed summary I could have read instead. Nevertheless, here's to hoping fans of The Bone Season find this far more intriguing than I do and that its sequel, whenever it may release, recaptures the magic the first novel in this series possessed. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

15 Things In 2015...

Happy New Year! I know we're all well into 2015 by this point, but I thought I'd take this time to outline a few book-ish happenings; here's my ode to the year ahead! :)

2015 Releases I've Read and LOVED
(If these aren't already on your TBR, they need to be!)

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I loved Cruel Beauty when I read it last year but Crimson Bound is even better than Hodge's debut--which is saying something. I hardly need to tell you to read this; the cover does a better job than I do. But, seriously, read it. It's a fresh, innovative take on a mixture of fairy tales, Little Red Riding Hood among them, and the end result is a novel that is equal parts enthralling and romantic. What more could you possibly ask for? I'll Meet You There is my favorite Demetrios novel to date. Considering the fact that I devoured all three of her books last year and enjoyed them all, that's high praise indeed. Her latest contemporary, out next month, is heart-warming, moving, and deeply touching. It made me think, reflect, and be immensely grateful for the small, but fulfilling, life I led. Beautiful. Vision in Silver is the third novel in  Anne Bishop's The Others series and, let me tell you, with just three books this series has already become one of my favorite Urban Fantasy chronicles. It's right up there with Mercy Thompson, Arcadia Bell, and Downside Ghosts. All I could articulate after finishing this one was, "THAT ENDING THOUGH. MY HEART. THE SWOON. AHH." Containing one of the slowest-burning romances I've read, ever, Bishop's novels are immensely entertaining and build their own niche in your heart. I dare you to finish this series without a boatload of feelings for these characters. It's impossible. 

2015 Releases I Need...Now!

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Rook is written by Sharon Cameron, the same author who wrote the brilliant historical fiction duo, The Dark Unwinding. I absolutely adored her debut series and Rook, her third novel, sounds simply fantastic. I adore that cover to pieces and cannot wait for the book itself to reach my greedy hands. Court of Fives, by Kate Elliott, is yet another novel by an author I've loved in the past. Elliott wrote Cold Magic, the beginning of one of my all-time favorite fantasy trilogies. Court of Five promises to be just as innovative, romantic, and politically thrilling as her former fantasy novels. I just know I'm going to love it. Leila Sales upcoming novel, Tonight the Streets Are Ours, is like every fangirl dream come true. I mean, a journey of a girl tracking down a blogger she's obsessed with? As Amy Poehler would say, yes, please! More than that, though, Sales made me laugh with Past Perfect and cry with This Song Will Save Your Life. I suspect Tonight the Streets Are Ours will made me do both.
Here's something not many know about me: I've yet to dislike a Libba Bray novel. No easy task, I assure you. Lair of Dreams is a novel I've been anticipating ever since I fell in love with The Diviners and here's the truth: it's going to rock my world. Hard. I can't wait. All the Rage, on the other hand, is sure to send me into a spiral of despair because that's what Courtney Summers does best. And I love it. I anticipate the sensation of her prose rendering me at the mercy of her characters and their emotions, not my own. Ever since binge-reading all of Summers novels shortly after I discovered the brilliance that is her, I haven't been able to read anything by her in a long, long time. With two Summers releases coming out this year, I cannot wait to dive back in. 
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I didn't go crazy over Lord's debut but, for some bizarre reason, I really want to read The Start of Me and You. Not sure if it's the cover or just the synopsis, but I have a gut-feeling I'm going to find a favorite in this one. Dead Heat, on the other hand, is a book I feel like I've been waiting for forever even though Patricia Briggs is absolutely a godsend when it comes to publishing novels. The only UF books I like more than the Mercy Thompson ones are these, the Alpha & Omega ones. I'm practically salivating just thinking about reading this soon. Girl Before a Mirror is another novel I know I will love. I've adored all of Palmer's novels and this one seems to have the perfect recipe for a favorite. It'll be out later this month and you can bet I'll be waiting up for the post man.

2015 Book-ish Goals 

1. Quality > Quantity 
In the past, I've always tried to read a variety of genres and read widely within those genres. Unfortunately, those genres have been limited to YA Contemporary, Adult Contemporary, YA Fantasy, Adult Fantasy, YA Post-Apocalyptic, Adult Urban Fantasy, YA Science Fiction, Adult Science Fiction, and Adult Romance. I want to read more Non-Fiction in 2015. More Classics. More thought-provoking novels that may take longer to finish by may be more rewarding by the end. 
2. Quality > Quantity 
I want this concept of quality over quantity to apply not only to my selection of novels but also to my blogging habits. I'll be frank: I know I won't blog as much in 2015 as I have in 2014 or any previous years. College is a lot more hectic and time-consuming than I imagined and though I find time to read, finding time to sit down and write a review, cross-post it on Goodreads, format it onto the blog, and schedule it all while visiting other blogs to read their posts and make thoughtful comments... I don't have as much time for that as I wish. Thus, I want the few posts I do manage to get out every month to be full of content and quality. I want my reviews to reflect my thoughts and be interesting and thought-provoking. I want the blog tours and guest posts I receive to spark discussion. Unless I have that, I won't be posting. 
3. Bookshelf > ARCs 
Seriously, this needs to stop. I have books on my shelves which dear friends have gifted me but I almost never get to read them because of all the ARCs I can't stop myself from downloading. I've worked on reducing the number of ARCs I request but that doesn't stop me from picking up the ones I receive unsolicited. I loooove getting ARCs--almost nothing makes me happier--but it means that I bump into people who ask me how I liked the books they gifted me and I have to admit I haven't read those books yet. Or, just as bad, it means I come home from college and come across a book on my shelf that people have been raving about or recommended to me and I put ARCs above those novels. I'll always have ARCs; my attitude needs to change. Hopefully, 2015 is the year it does. 
4. Friendships 
I cherish my blog friendships like nothing else in my life. I love them. I have folders of comments and e-mails that cheer me up and all of them are from you; readers, commentors, and fellow bloggers alike. Even though I know I won't be able to blog as prolifically as before, I want to be able to maintain my book-ish friendships despite the hurdles I face to posting. I love you and I like you.

Well, there you have it--three novels I've read and highly recommend, eight novels I cannot wait to read, and four goals for the upcoming year of reading and blogging. I'm a sucker for pretty covers--and just covers, period--hence the reason titles such as the final Raven Cycle book never made it onto the list (though, let's be real, if I had that book in my hands right now I would die a happy woman). But, there it is; a quick ode to the year ahead! I can't wait to see what 2015 brings, both in terms of books and in terms of life. I hope you all have an incredibly happy and wonderfully prosperous year ahead of you. I don't say it often enough, but thank you for sticking by my side, supporting my blog, and being all-round awesome people. You all deserve the very best the world has to offer.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Review: It Felt Like a Kiss by Sarra Manning

Title: It Felt Like a Kiss

Author: Sarra Manning 

Rating: 4 Stars

I'm not sure why I'm surprised to have enjoyed this one so much. It Felt Like a Kiss is set in the same universe as Manning's Unsticky, one of my all-time favorite novels. Yet, despite having held tightly to a copy of this on my Kindle since its release, the mixed reviews have prevented me from diving in. I've enjoyed Manning's work in the past but with the exception of Unsticky, I haven't loved them. And, as a companion novel--of sorts--to Unsticky, I wanted to love It Felt Like a Kiss. Desperately.

Admittedly, I don't love It Felt Like a Kiss. But, by the end of it, I did really, really like it.

The weakest aspect of It Felt Like a Kiss is, unfortunately, the beginning. Unlike Unsticky, its plot doesn't take off running and, what's more, the narrative voice takes awhile to develop. Ellie Cohen, a young British girl working in Vaughn's office, finds the truth of her parentage leaked after a nasty breakup. Ellie's father, the famous rock star Billy Kay, has never acknowledged Ellie or her mother, Ari, all their life and now that Ellie has been outed as his illegitimate daughter, her entire life is upended. Unable to avoid the paparazzi, Ellie finds herself face-to-face with Billy's lawyer, David Gold. And although David and Ellie have a great deal of chemistry between them, there is the tiny little problem of David representing the interests of a man who has done his best to avoid Ellie for all of her life.

It Felt Like a Kiss truly begins only around a third into the story. While the beginning of the novel sets up the story, complete with the cast and Ellie's life prior to the truth of her parentage breaking loose, it doesn't get interesting until David truly enters the tale. Manning excels at writing romantic relationships. Her characters are complex and gritty and real to a fault which usually means that I wind up so wrapped up in their love story that I often don't sleep until the wee hours of the morning, utterly satisfied despite the fact that my heart has gone through the wringer. But, for Sarah Manning's romances, I'd do it all over again.

David is driven, focused, and ambitious. Willing to do anything that his job demands, he manages to be charming and aloof, considerate and cynical. With him, Ellie doesn't quite know where she stands and, as a girl whose entire life has been leaked to the media and who wears her heart on a sleeve, David is uncharted waters. In the past, Ellie has dated the "lame duck" guys; the ones who desperately need fixing. When Ellie finally realizes she's dating a loser and breaks up with them, however, they move on to become the best version of themselves, all thanks to Ellie's intervention. Thus, all the more reason David poses a terrifying choice for Ellie as he's a man she's attracted to but one who doesn't need fixing of any kind.

Watching David and Ellie dance around their attraction, the legal documentation between them, and, of course, their pasts, was more than just a little entertaining. David is enigmatic and inscrutable but as the novel progresses he becomes increasingly human. Their relationship isn't perfect and they're both than just a little bit flawed, but Manning makes us fall for them--and fall hard. She has a knack for painting men and relationships in the worst possible light yet, by the end, you're more than half in love with both.

Nevertheless, the strength of this novel lies within Ellie and her struggle to reconcile who she is in a world she has vastly underestimated. With the people around her acting in the worst possible way towards her, Ellie's position is difficult and empathetic. It's impossible not to fall in love with her and decide--firmly--to be on her side, no matter what. She's just one of those heroines. Moreover, her predicament brings up a fascinating array of questions about the media, publicity, and, what's more, the portrayal of women in the news. Ellie's outing isn't just a news headline; it's also an inspection of her body, of her sexual life, and of her character as a result. Because the paparazzi are stalking her, images of her in a bikini are leaked and, as a result, the headlines rate every body part Ellie has from her lips to her waist to her legs. Because her terrible ex-boyfriend lied about her to the press, Ellie's sexual escapades are released to the world and society judges her to be a "slut" and a "whore." Though Manning doesn't directly bring these issues under scrutiny, by bringing them up in her novel she draws attention to them nevertheless.

It Felt Like a Kiss isn't the best Manning has written, but it's gosh darn close. Just like I've come to expect from her, it's witty and charming, compulsively readable and wickedly swoony, all with unforgettable characters to boot. If you like the corporate slave turned passionate lover trope even half as much as I do, this is simply a must-read.

Monday, January 5, 2015

ARC Mini-Reviews: First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen and Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby

Title: First Frost (Waverley Family, #2) 

Author: Sarah Addison Allen 

Rating: 3 Stars

Release Date: January 20th, 2015

Anyone who has read Garden Spells can confirm that the novel hardly needs a sequel. It's a magical, beautiful stand-alone novel and Allen's debut holds a special place in my heart. First Frost, on the other hand, does not. It takes place a decade after Garden Spells ended and though the re-visit to the Waverley household is familiar--warm, comforting, loving--it feels strangely unnecessary. I didn't have to know of Claire's new candy-making business, Sydney's desire for a son, or Bay's feeling that she belongs with Hunter John's son. While I loved being back in Waverley House and the distinct feeling of Allen's writing is a sensation that wraps around you and holds you tight, like a blanket, First Frost is possibly the most disappointed I have been by her work. If it were not that these were beloved characters I knew before--and intimately, loved these characters--I wouldn't even have given First Frost three stars.

The issue with Allen's latest is the fact that the conflict at hand is flimsy. I appreciate the post-marriage struggles Sydney and Claire face. Their demons from Garden Spells aren't as pronounced but that doesn't mean they have disappeared. Thus, I rather enjoyed being back in their minds, witnessing them come to terms with the change in their lives that time inevitably introduces. Most of all, I loved Bay's narrative and the teenage issues she found herself face-to-face with. Yet, the coming together of these plot lines didn't work quite as seamlessly as it worked in Garden Spells. The shift from Teenage to Adult perspectives wasn't perfection. The strange side plot line with an odd old man entering town, poking around and asking about the Waverley's, ended too abruptly and anticlimactically to satisfy. Ultimately, First Frost lacked the strength of Garden Spells. Claire and Sydney were a unit and in being so, the union of their sisterhood from Garden Spells is a far more compelling story than their joint unity in First Frost.

Allen's latest isn't bad, not in the least. It is beautifully written and, as always, her prose is impeccable and characterizations are point-on. In my eyes, though, there wasn't enough of a story to be told, here. I didn't feel moved by these characters or their struggles as I was in Garden Spells. I wasn't charmed or enchanted or rendered speechless by the magic in the air. First Frost is a novel that fans of Allen are bound to read--and I don't fault them. It's a few hours well spent in the company of an author and characters I adore. Just don't go in expecting the caliber of Allen's debut.

Title: Things We Know by Heart

Author: Jessi Kirby

Rating: 3 Stars

Release Date: April 21st, 2015

Things We Know by Heart is laughably predictable. Unlike Kirby's Golden, which delivered on being more than just a road trip novel, Things We Know by Heart does not. From what its synopsis says, it is easy to deduce that Quinn, who has lost her boyfriend to a horrible accident, tracks down the patient who received his heart, Colton, and falls in love. Naturally, the romance is well-developed and sweet, making Quinn believe that there is more to Colton than simply sharing a heart with her deceased boyfriend. Quinn comes away from their love story knowing that sharing a heart does not mean sharing a personality and as she falls for Colton, an entity separate from her former boyfriend, Trent, there is only a calm sense of relief to be found.

Yet, Kirby creates a novel about grief that is strangely lacking. Quinn chases after Colton well over a year after Trent's death and, as a result, her grief isn't fresh or raw. It's a different kind of grief, which I appreciated, but her interactions for Colton do little to assuage her grief except replace it with love. Quinn has a supportive family, a strong relationship with her older sister, and she discusses--in great length--her relationship with Colton before labeling it as love. Nevertheless, for me, the overwhelming message felt as if to overcome grief, one must simply find true love. Things We Know by Heart beautifully writes Quinn and Colton's romance and, moreover, Colton's thoughts as a heart recipient, though never explored from his perspective, are realistic, meaningful, and in-depth. I learned so much more about organ donations and the pain felt from both sides of the equation--how it's not just happily ever after once the organ is transplanted successfully--from this novel. Regardless, though, I felt as if Kirby could have used this innovative, fresh idea and done more with it than make it a love story. I wanted more of Quinn's emotional journey as explored through her grief. I wanted more of Colton's anger and confrontation after realizing the truth Quinn hid from him as she never reveals that she is the girlfriend of the guy whose heart now beats in Colton's chest. Instead, this romance plays out in a predictable manner, complete with the "break-up" towards the end that eventually culminates in a relationship.

Things We Know by Heart just felt too easy for a novel about life and death. Perhaps if this were written more like If I Stay with us getting to know Trent and Quinn before his death, this would have made a stronger impact. As it rests, however, it is a solid love story and a unique premise. Yet, if you've come looking for the type of depth and scope offered by the author of Golden, re-read Golden--there's little to be found here.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Year in Review: 2014 Favorites

It's that time of the year again! Unlike most years, where I cheat and list multiple books per question and often repeat those same books in nearly every question, I actually stuck to picking just one book per question and didn't repeat a single book either. If that isn't the achievement of the year then I don't know what is! ;) 

Number Of Books You Read: 304
Number of Re-Reads: 5? 6? 7? Not sure...
Genre You Read The Most From: Fantasy & Contemporary


1. Best Book You Read In 2014?

Every year, picking just one favorite book is always a tough decision but this year, I knew from the moment I finished Isla that I wasn't going to find a book I loved nearly as much as this one. I know not everyone loved it and I will not deny that the negative reviews for this novel bring up excellent points about the flaws abundant within this narrative, but it worked for me and simply spoke to me in a way no other book quite has this year. 

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

I loved the first novel in this series, Omens, when I read it last year and was sure this was going to be a promising sequel but the romantic developments really ruined this one for me. What a disappointment. 

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2014? 

Was this really written by the same woman who wrote Tiger Lily? Trust me, The Vanishing Season was a bad surprise. 

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did) In 2014?

I couldn't stop talking about this one, probably because it was so different from everything else being published in YA but still managed to be so relateable and integral to the age group it targeted. Seriously, this book kicks ass. Read it.

 5. Best series you started in 2014? Best Sequel of 2014? Best Series Ender of 2014?

I fell hard for this novel when I first read it and though the rest of the series hasn't quite lived up to the potential this one promised, Mystic and Rider ranks among my favorite books of the year as well as one of my favorite fantasy novels and romances ever. 
House of Sand and Secrets is such a good sequel that it far surpasses its predecessor. If you don't fall apart emotionally during this novel and yet close its covers with the greatest grin on your face then you're reading the wrong book.
Banished the Dark is a perfect series ender. I couldn't find a single flaw within this novel and the Arcadia Bell Quartet is among my favorite UF Series ever.

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2014?

I read all three of these books this year, in the order they appear above. What's more, I genuinely loved all of them. Needless to say, Heather Demetrios has become an auto-buy author for me now and I cannot recommend her work enough.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

I don't read a whole lot of non-fiction so this was certainly not my typical read. But, how could I not love it? It's Mindy Kaling! :)

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

A lot of the books I read are typically slow builds or straight out romances so Into the Darkest Corner is a definite change from that. It's more psychologically thrilling than anything else and I was so engrossed in it that I couldn't stop reading until I knew what would happen to these characters who I quickly became attached to.  If I remember correctly, I stayed up till the early hours of morning to finish it. (It was completely worth it!)

 9. Book You Read In 2014 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

The Laurentine Spy is such a delightful novel. A story of two spies who play their roles in the enemy's court to a fault--so well, in fact, that though they are falling in love with one another in the darkness where they receive their assignments, they do not realize they are both spies for the same country in court. It's an emotional romance, all set against a backdrop of betrayal and deception which makes it the perfect book to curl up with and re-read. I can't get enough of these characters or their love story.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2014?

11. Most memorable character of 2014?

Dred is amazing. Seriously. A kick-ass woman who rules her own expanse of territory in a prison and manages to keep order through her own ruthlessness. Yet, she's fair, isn't really a criminal, and is capable of love. Yup, can't forget that one. After all, there's a reason these are the Dred Chronicles. ;)

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014?

Stiefvater's prose is poetry. What more possibly needs to be said?

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2014?

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read? 

I kept meaning to read The Caged Graves last year, which is why I forced myself to get to it early this year and I loved it. It's a true hidden gem in the world of YA historical fiction. 

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2014?

So Stephanie Perkins writes the most romantic acknowledgements ever and what she wrote in Isla basically made me want to find the love of my life right then and there.  
"Finally, thank you to Jarrod Perkins. I'm crying now just because I typed your name. I love you more than anyone. Ever. Times a hundred million billion. Etienne, Cricket, and Josh--they were all you, but none of them came even close to you. You are my best friend. You are my true love. You are my happily ever after." 

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

 Could it have been anything else? ;)


Titus and Iolanthe truly prove their OTP status in this novel and I ship it so hard! 

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

I loved the romantic relationships in this novel--seriously, they slayed me--but at the heart of this novel is a strong sibling bond that completely gutted me. It's beautiful. 

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2014 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Courtney Milan has long been a favorite romance author of mine and Talk Sweetly to Me, a novella of the love story between an intelligent young black woman besotted with astronomy and a male feminist columnist basically rendered me speechless in awe. Milan not only writes some of the best historical fiction out there, but it's always so on-point with social norms and constructs and she's able to make readers swoon and walk away with revolutionary ideals. I mean, male feminists? YES, PLEASE.

21. Best Book You Read In 2014 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

I feel like people were going on and on and on about this book and I just had to read it to see what all the fuss was about. It was worth all the hype. ;)

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014?

Mateo from Love, in English. *fans self*

23. Best 2014 debut you read?

Half a King isn't Abercrombie's debut, but it is his YA debut, so I'm going to count it. It's amazing so you should read it. Now. 

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Sharon Shinn is impeccable. I read Troubled Waters in the beginning of the year but I haven't been able to forget the vivid setting and rich culture of the fantasy realm Shinn created in this novel. Lovely.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

This book is not only intensely romantic, it's also wonderfully sweet, charming, and lovely. It's a friends-to-lovers romance of the best variety and has just a touch of drama, but not too much. It's my favorite of Johnson's romances, though I've enjoyed all of her work. Nearly a Lady contains the type of characters that force a smile onto your face. It's that cute.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014?

No one else is quite guaranteed to make me tear up the way Laura Florand is. I adore her work and the emotional impact she is able to garner, even from a novella, is astounding. 

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

What I Thought Was True hasn't gotten nearly as much attention as Fitzpatrick's debut, My Life Next Door, but in my opinion, it's a far better novel. Not only does it contain a great romance, which is always a draw (let's be honest), but it also features a diverse cast of characters with cultural heritage, a sex-positive relationship, and teens who possess more than one friendship and whose future plans aren't set in stone. 

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

Fault Line was so hard to read but it also really deserved to be read. 

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2014?

Chasing Shadows is told through both prose and comic style and while it didn't work for me, it's still highly unique.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

The Red Wedding, the death of Oberyn Martell, the framing of Tyrion Lannister, etc. Of course I was mad! Doesn't mean A Storm of Swords isn't the best fantasy novel I've ever read, though... ;)

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2014 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2015?

With the Paper Towns movie being filmed as I write this, I really have no excuse not to read this. It's my last John Green novel, which is perhaps why I keep putting it off, but I absolutely want to read this before the movie releases. 

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2015 ?

Lair of Dreams may have gotten the worst cover on the planet (and is overdue by at least a year in terms of release dates) but it's Libba Bray and I'll forgive everything as long as this will land into my hands. I adored The Diviners with a passion when I read it back in 2013 and I have yet to complain about any Bray novel so I know this is going to rock my world. 

3. 2015 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2015?

I just need answers, dammit! 

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2015?

Maybe finally attend an author event? I know I keep hoping to achieve this but maybe 2015 will be the year it happens! Who knows? ;)

6. A 2015 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone: