Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

This novel was surprising. I was even shocked at the mere size of it. At 549 pages, Grave Mercy by Robin Lafevers is a historical adventure/romance with bite. The writing was dark and vivid; the characters were well-crafted and intriguing, and the story was incredibly unique. The plot is reminiscent of the typical romance novel, except this story actually developed the plot and delivered it without all the cheesy sex scenes.
 
This Young Adult novel is the story of Ismae who escapes an arranged marriage to join the covenant of St. Mortian — the saint of death. He has blessed her with dangerous gifts, and with her brutal past with men, she fully intends to use them. In this historical dark adventure, Ismae is sent on a mission to the High Court of Brittany. As a handmaiden of death, Ismae encounters Gavriel Duval in her search for traitors to the duchess, and is surprised with what she finds.
 
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Lafevers’ writing grabbed me the instant my retina replayed the upside-down image and translated it to my brain. I was sucked in from the beginning. Ismae is such a geniunely likable character even though she’s got baggage. Guy baggage, as in her step-father was evil and tried to marry her off to a horrible, horrible man. For someone who’s never known love, Ismae finds it. It’s so beautiful to watch her unravel the secrets of falling in love, the fluttering butterflies, the unexpected moments, and the final realization that she’s fallen for the most unlikely man during the most inconvenient time. It was a great romance to read with a lot of build up AND delivering on the build up but in a classy and appropiate for Young Adult way.
 
Furthermore, as much as I loved the romance, Ismae’s mission to find the traitor was so exciting to read! She’s initially hardcore, goes in and kills the target without question or conscience. As the story progresses, Ismae grows and her independent realizations lead to redemption in those that are sentenced to death by St. Mortian. This aspect was really neat to me; it was neat to watch Ismae grow. This idea of redemption repeats and I have to give it to Lafevers, she really had me going. With the dark nature of Ismae’s task and the unforgiving historical setting, I was at her mercy with every step. (Dare I say, grave mercy?) She is one of those authors who can kill off your favorite character and you still love her, so waiting and watching, and anticipating the next turn of events was extremely exciting because anything could happen!  I am really pleased with the way Grave Mercy ended. I have full closure but I’m still anticipating the sequel. As this is the  first novel in the His Fair Assaisin series, I am definitely reading the next installment!
 
I highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys historical romance but this one comes with a twist, Assasin Nuns!

Fair Game by Patricia Briggs

After reading Fair Game by Patricia Briggs, the third book in the Alpha and Omega Series, I am so happy with where Briggs is taking her series. She succeeded in creating  fresh, new opportunities for conflict in her characters lives. I am utterly impressed.
 
The werewolves have come out to the public, and they can’t afford bad publicity. Charles, the Marrok’s enforcer, is haunted by the many he’s killed. Were their deaths justified? He’s blocking out his mate and Omega, Anna. In an effort to revitalize Charles, his father the Marrok, sends Charles and Anna on a buisness trip as consultants on werewolf behavior for the FBI in an effort to capture a serial killer.  In this suspenseful novel, there is turmoil between the Alpha and Omega as well as non-stop action, and when what Charles loves most is put in jeopardy, the pursuit of the serial killer becomes personal.
 
I really enjoyed this novel. The relationship between Anna and Charles was really genuine. I liked how Charles was haunted by the people he’s killed and when they’ve become too much he blocks out Anna in an effort to keep her safe from the pain and guilt. It was nice to see his feelings expressed no matter how misled his decisions were. I liked seeing Charles, basically the Marrok’s personal assasin, show fear. Throughout the novel, he continues to express in little ways how much he loves Anna. Towards the end, his fear which causes him to block Anna out and cut off their mate connection almost makes him lose everything. I also loved the native american heritage and rituals Briggs ties into Charles’ character. It makes the ghosts that harm him more believable.
 
Anna is such an awesome character. She exhibits such strength despite her horrific past and she throws everything she is into loving her mate, Charles. I love how she won’t give up on him no matter how much Charles shuts her out. I admire those qualities. I liked seeing her underestimated in the serial killer case, from both sides. The climax towards the end of the book was a bit cliche and expected but it was excellent execution. Briggs writes with a sure hand and an imaginative heart. I really like her. Her inventive Fae characters are my favorite; in this novel, there is an antlered Fae Beast Anna and Charles encounter. It’s exciting, people!
 
I also LOVED the references to Mercy and Adam from the Mercy Thompson series, also written by Patricia Briggs. The books go along the same timeline so you kind of get to see a little glimpse into how Mercy and Adam are doing after River Marked.  It takes talent to mix the two worlds but keep the voices and characters seperate.
 
Now let’s talk about the ending. It was heart-stopping! I loved it: the father heartbroken over the decision made including his daughter, the revelation of who he really is, AND what he does about it! This will alter everything in the Alpha and Omega series as well as the Mercy Thompson series. Regardless, I love where Briggs is taking things; it will make for a very tension-filled, exciting ride in future books.
 
I would highly recommend anything written by Patricia Briggs. She is a very consistent author who delivers an action-packed, gasping-for-more novel every time. Fair Game is just another great example of that. If you haven’t started reading her stuff, you should.

Releases and Recommendations

Happy Tuesday! This week I’m anticipating the release of Rapture by Lauren Kate. I have mixed feelings on this series. I despised Fallen (Book 1), could it have been any cheesier? Yet, I continued on with the series with Torment (Book 2). Torment lives up to every bit of its name, it was absolutely tormenting to get through the book. There was too much whining and complaining between Luce and Daniel. For some reason, and I’ve yet to discover why, I picked up the third book. Passion (Book 3) is the saving grace for me in the series, I actually enjoyed watching Luce go back in time to her various relationships with Daniel. Therefore, I can’t help but pick up Rapture, released on June 12, 2012. Now that Luce is finally convinced Daniel really does love her, it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

The sky is dark with wings . . . .

Like sand in an hourglass, time is running out for Luce and Daniel. To stop Lucifer from erasing the past they must find the place where the angels fell to earth. Dark forces are after them, and Daniel doesn’t know if he can do this—live only to lose Luce again and again.

Yet together they will face an epic battle that will end with lifeless bodies . . . and angel dust. Great sacrifices are made. Hearts are destroyed. And suddenly Luce knows what must happen.

For she was meant to be with someone other than Daniel. The curse they’ve borne has always and only been about her—and the love she cast aside. The choice she makes now will be the only one that truly matters.

In the fight for Luce, who will win?

The astonishing conclusion to the FALLEN series. Heaven can’t wait any longer.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

It’s finally here, the sequel I’ve been anticipating since I turned the last page of Divergent — Insurgent by Veronica Roth.

It starts where Divergent left off, with Tris, Four, Marcus and Peter running from the Dauntless compound after the simulation battle against the Abnegation. Tris, Beatrice Prior, is feeling overwhelming guilt about killing her best friend, Will, while he was being controlled by the simulation. Tris and Four must do whatever is neccessary to unite what is left of their faction and fight back against the Erudite. War looms over the factions and Tris must use her Divergence to make her choices and, ultimately, choose sides.

Veronic Roth has done it again. I have to admit I am always bracing myself for disappointment with sequels, especially the middle novel in a trilogy, but Roth delivers an amazing second book. It’s the same adrenaline-inducing action, magnetic attraction between Tris and Four, and intellectual intrigue and plotting. I so enjoyed this book!

 I love Tris and Four’s relationship. (Four now goes by Tobias, his orginal Abnegation name, which I despise.) Tris is such an awesome character, despite her harsh attitude, she’s a genuinely good person. I love her strength while escaping simulations and her overall bravery, but I like her softer side more, the ability to let her emotions go and just sob because the situation calls for it. I think the stongest people cry; it’s a tool used to get over something quickly, without it, the emotion only festers. Four is the same great tough guy. Tris and Four are perfect together.

There was an element of distrust in this novel between them that perturbed me, but it was neccessary to keep the plot moving. I found myself critiquing the health of their relationship and immediate red flags went up once they started to keep secrets from each other. Trust is very important in a relationship, even literary ones. 🙂 This book had such a hold over me that it left me to question trust in my own relationships. Rarely, do books overtake my personal world — with the exception of the occasional hyperventilating excitement and bursting ecstatic joy! I don’t know if there has ever been a time I believed in something so much that I would lie to my significant other. My initial instinct is to trust my partner to help me pursue this belief. However, Tris and Four disagree about a very important decison. I admire Tris’s strength to take risks for something she believes is right, even though it can cost her everything she loves.

There is a lot of betrayal and scheming in this novel. I wanted to rush to the end just to see the why of every decision throughout the novel. I really like Roth as an author. I love the way she integrates words in her books, not just the way she named the factions and her books, but the way she displays this talent through her Erudite characters. I found myself laughing during the little word lessons from the Erudite because I, too, am fascinated by words.

I could not put this book down. It was everything I wanted it to be. Everyone should read it. Insurgent ended with a shocking revelation which will make the next book VERY interesting.  The third book in the series won’t come out until Fall 2013, which Roth endearingly calls “Detergent,” according to her blog, until she comes up with a suitable title. I personally like the way the titles of her first two books rhyme. However, there are only so many words that rhyme with Divergent and that’s probably why Roth has settled on “Detergent” in her mind until she finds the perfect title. She seems like a really cool person, and regardless what the third book is called, I can’t wait to read it.

The Pledge by Kimberly Derting

 I was immediately drawn to this book once I’d seen the cover and read the synopsis. In fact, I anticipated the release and read it right away but haven’t written a review until now.

In the violent country of Ludania, the language you speak determines what class you are, and there are harsh punishments if you forget your place—looking a member of a higher class in the eye can result in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina (Charlie for short) can understand all languages, a dangerous ability she’s been hiding her whole life. Her only place of release is the drug-filled underground club scene, where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. There, she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy who speaks a language she’s never heard, and her secret is almost exposed. Through a series of violent upheavals, it becomes clear that Charlie herself is the key to forcing out the oppressive power structure of her kingdom…

 I absolutely loved the concept that Charlie could understand multiple languages. We’re not talking foriegn languages like we know them, but in Charlie’s world, everyone is seperated by class. Each class speaks their own language, making it almost impossible to move up the social ladder because you can’t understand anyone! I liked how Kimberly Derting portrayed Charlie’s struggle hiding the fact she can understand mulitple languagues and how difficult it was to not respond when spoken to in a language she shouldn’t be able to understand. I know it would be hard to hold my tongue with all the crude and mean things people from the upper class said to her. There were moments that were the quintessential example of bullying. Words hurt, even if you can’t understand them, and especially when you CAN understand them. Anyway, I felt this concept was unique and interesting. It added tension to the story and kept the reader on his/her toes, not to mention a whole lot of mystery!
 
There were a couple moments in this book that took my breath away. The author, Kimberly Derting, hit the dialogue spot on. I felt like I knew the characters and they were responding in a consistent manner to their unique personalities. I loved the banter between Max and Charlie. In one instance, as they are hiding underground from the bombing, Max’s response before he is discovered took my breath away. I don’t want to give too much away because this moment is practically a mid-book climax; regardless, it was awesome. I couldn’t stop thinking about their converstation. I mull it over in my head and daydream about what my personal reaction would be. *sigh*
 
This book was a pretty strong beginning to a series. I was intrigued throughout, however, I felt the end was a little strange. I just wish that it would have gone a different way. It had the typical “resistance-to-controlled-enviroment” cliche but what happens throughout the end is, quite honestly, disappointing. I was like, really? THAT’S where you’re going to take this amazing story?? The ending had its climactic moments and dramatic reveals, but I thought the whole concept was strange; it didn’t vibe well with the rest of the novel. It felt like the concept  for the story dramatically changed midway through its creation, dissecting the novel into two different parts. I also felt like the relationship between Charlie and Max came to an abrupt halt towards the end. All that juicy build up and it just dwindles down to nothing, and then the reader is expected to believe in their love in the end, without any evidence other than the begining? I would like to see more character development betweeen the two. However, I do think Max and Charlie have plenty of chemistry. I’m still excited to see where everything goes. 
 
I really liked this novel. It was surprising and original. The world Derting created was dark but inviting. The ending made me a little circumspect, but I would recommend that you see for yourself. The ending was still good, my distaste was from my own personal opinion and preferences. You might really enjoy what happens. I still enjoyed the novel as a whole, and I intend to continue reading this series. The sequel, The Essence, comes out January 29, 2013.

Releases and Recommendations

Happy Tuesday. The wonderful day that books are released to the world. I heart Tuesdays.

The other day, while doing laundry, I had this weird moment where I thought, “I need more Anita Blake in my life.”  I miss her! It feels like ages since I’ve read about the sexy, vampire executioner with a gazillion boyfriends both paranormal and not.  Luckily, my wait won’t be long. On Tuesday, June 5, 2012, Kiss the Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton will be released.

When a fifteen-year-old girl is abducted by vampires, it’s up to U.S. Marshal Anita Blake to find her. And when she does, she’s faced with something she’s never seen before: a terrifyingly ordinary group of people—kids, grandparents, soccer moms—all recently turned and willing to die to avoid serving a master. And where there’s one martyr, there will be more…

But even vampires have monsters that they’re afraid of. And Anita is one of them…

This is book 21 of the Anita Blake series. The series has had some ups and downs for me, but ultimately I love Hamilton’s original storytelling and inventive characters. I’ve literally been reading this series since High School, and she’s one of my favorite authors. I’m excitied for this new release, and it looks like it’s going to be good!! I just hope there is more Jean-Claude in this one. In the past few, he only has like two lines. Either way, I’m excited for a serious dose of Anita Blake!

The Savage Grace by Bree Despain

Warning: Unavoidable spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read the first two books. Start with the Dark Divine.

I really liked The Savage Grace by Bree Despain. It has a unique spin on a classic werewolf story, particularly with the inclusion of religious elements. Some went a little too far, in my opinion, but it turned out to be a really great read.

The third and final book in the Dark Divine trilogy, The Savage Grace continues right where The Lost Saint dropped off. Nick is stuck in wolf form and Grace will do anything to get the Nick she loves back. As a wolf, Nick is literally running farther and farther away from home and himself, and to Grace’s horror, away from her. She is desperate to find yet another cure to an unlikely predicament, no matter the cost.

I admire Grace’s strength and drive. She’s a very strong heroine with the typical flaws that make her seem more human, or not human in this case.  Her struggle to not succumb to the werewolf curse inside her was totally believable, and it added an extra delightful layer to the story. Her relationship with Nick seemed real as well. I really enjoyed watching them interact. I could certianly feel the love between them.

I think the main focus in this novel was the relationships between Grace and everyone she loves: Nick, her dad, her brother, etc. Most of the relationships were well-built, except the relationship between Grace and her brother, Jude, confused me. I get that as siblings they love each other deep down even though Jude went off the deep end, but I felt like Despain was trying to create a form of redemption in this novel and it didn’t really do it for me. This redemption is somewhat tragic, so maybe that’s why I’m not thrilled with it. During the climactic end, a lot is going on. I felt like this moment of redemption could have been more built up, it kind of got lost in the chaos at the end, which is sad. It’s a very important part of the story. There wasn’t really any interation between Grace and Jude other than arguing between them, so I felt like there wasn’t enough there in the end to tap into my emotions. However, the moment in the end between Grace and Jude gave me goosebumps.

An originally delighful but ultimately very, very strange part of this series, is the inclusion of religious elements. I thought it was nice to see a “christian” perspective of being a werewolf. I commend Despain for taking on this — what could be —  controversial task. I found it cool at first, because I feel as if that is how I would look at things if I were in that situation. However, I think Despain went a little too far. At one point, Grace is the equivalent of Jesus, complete with healing ears cut off by her “disciples” and other miraculous, famous acts of Jesus Christ. It  honestly made me uncomfortable, and it distracted me from the story. I know that sounds like a really stuffy religious person thing to say, but it’s the truth. I didn’t exactly understand what Despain was trying to do by comparing Grace to Jesus. Maybe if I understood it better, I wouldn’t hate it so much.

Overall, I thought this series was really good. I was thoroughly involved throughout each novel and became attached to the characters. I even enjoyed how Despain wrapped it all into a pretty package in the end, complete with a bow. I think anyone who enjoys romantic werewolf stories will like this book. It has it’s own original spin so it won’t be anything you’ve read before.