Shift by Rachel Vincent

Just when you think you know all there is to know, Rachel Vincent throws something completely out of left field. Her fifth novel in the shifters series, Shift, is an exciting addition with a lot of forward plot movement.

(Start from the beginning with the first book Stray.)

Being the first female werecat enforcer isn’t easy. Scars accumulate, but I’m stronger in so many ways.

As for my personal life? It’s complicated. Choices worth making always are. Ever since my brother’s death and my father’s impeachment, it’s all I can do to prevent more blood from spilling. Now our Pride is under attack by a flight of vicious thunderbirds. And making peace with our new enemies may be the only way to get the best of our old foe.

With the body count rising and treachery everywhere, my instincts tell me to look before I leap. But sometimes a leap of faith is the only real option…

It’s no secret that I love this series. The characters are strong, the world is believable and there is this tiny part inside of me that wishes I could be a werecat. In this book, Vincent throws a curveball — thunderbirds. I loved this idea of thunderbirds. I feel it’s something that’s original and hasn’t been played out. Their customs, actions and attitudes added a ton of tension and really amped up this book. It was a good choice on Vincent’s part. By including this other aspect (however unexpected), Vincent avoided creating a repeating plotline where all that ever happens is the packs ganging up on the south-central pack. Not to say that if that was the only thing that happened, it wouldn’t be good. I LOVE watching werecat politics, especially watching Faythe struggle to find loopholes to achieve the best possible outcome. Go girl!

The plot literally thickens when the truth comes out to Marc about what happened between Jace and Faythe in the most inconvenient, awful way. (That’s what you get for lying by omission all that time!) The anticipation of what would happen was killing me! I felt like Marc handled it in a very surprising but also legitimate way. Faythe’s admission to Marc about the underlying truth of the relationship between her and Jace was a shocker to me. It’s the ultimate love triangle! Who will she choose?

There is a lot of action in this novel which sometimes gets gruesome but it’s necessary to show the seriousness of the situation. War is imminent and the pack will fight. People will die, the consequences are grave, but it has to be done for the good of the pack. I loved this do or die mentality. It pushes the characters into uncomfortable situations where their true colors get to shine. There is no mercy in this book, Vincent created a story where good doesn’t always triumph evil right away. People get hurt; people get scarred.

My favorite part of this book is watching Faythe grow. She’s learning from her mistakes; she’s taking responsibility for her charges and the pack; and she’s going to do everything in her power, including giving up her own life, to keep them safe. I see the making of an Alpha here. It’s kind of corny, but I am so proud of her! I want her to succeed and to finally reach that point where she doesn’t just screw up but contributes to the pack for the better.

All in all, this was another wonderful installment in the world of Faythe Sanders. I want it to go on and on. Unfortunately, in my search for the next few books, it became clear that the next book, Alpha, is the last in the series. I am so sad right now. I don’t want to read it because I don’t want it to end, and if I know Vincent, it’ll go out with a bang. The implications of such a blowout could be disastrous to the pack, but either way I’m rooting for Faythe and the south-central pack. I can’t wait to see them finally get to kick some serious werecat ass!

Releases and Recommendations: The Essence by Kimberly Derting

It’s Tuesday! The magnificent day books are released to the world. This week I’m anticipating the release of The Essence by Kimberly Derting, the much anticipated sequel to The Pledge (Review HERE). It comes out on Tuesday, January 1, 2013. (Happy New Year’s to ME!)

At the luminous conclusion of The Pledge, Charlaina defeated the tyrant Sabara and took her place as Queen of Ludania. But Charlie knows that Sabara has not disappeared: The evil queen’s Essence is fused to Charlie’s psyche, ready to arise at the first sign of weakness.

Charlie is not weak, but she’s being pushed to the brink. In addition to suppressing the ever-present influence of Sabara, she’s busy being queen—and battling a growing resistance determined to return Ludania to its discriminatory caste system. Charlie wants to be the same girl Max loves, who Brook trusts, but she’s Your Majesty now, and she feels torn in two.

As Charlie journeys to an annual summit to meet with leaders of nearby Queendoms—an event where her ability to understand all languages will be the utmost asset—she is faced with the ultimate betrayal. And the only person she can turn to for help is the evil soul residing within.

I’m hoping this book makes up for the weird ending of The Pledge. I’m excited to see how Derting uses Charlie’s language skills to better (or perhaps worsen) the kingdom. However, I’m most excited about seeing some more Max. 🙂

Movie Review: Breaking Dawn Part 2

I finally had the chance to see the final movie in the Twilight Series, Breaking Dawn Part 2. I usually always go to the midnight show, (I’m a little hardcore about these things.) but life got in the way and I couldn’t go. (I guess that means I’m getting old…)
 
The best part of watching the Twilight movies is reliving the Twilight books all over again. As laughable as the first Twilight movie was, it was pretty close to what happened in the book. To me, that is the MOST important thing about a movie adaptation. The following Twilight movies got better and better with more money filing in due to the popularity of the series, and they always stayed true to the books. I haven’t read Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer since the midnight book release in 2008 which I stayed up all night to finish. So, it was nice to be reminded of what happened and to see that the movie preserved some awesome moments, like when Bella freaks out at Jacob for nicknaming her daughter after the Lochness Monster. Priceless!
 
If you’re not a Twilight fan, this movie isn’t for you. But if you are, this final movie was a great ending to an amazing series. Kristen Stewart (who I honestly despise but put up with for the sake of Twilight) looked awesome as a vampire. I didn’t really buy her “mom” side but I wasn’t a fan of Stephanie Meyer ending her love story with a baby, anyway. It kind of creeped me out. Robert Pattinson (who I also despise but loved in Harry Potter) probably did his best acting as Edward Cullen and a caring father. I kind of liked him after it was all said and done. And Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black was as delicious as ever. (Team Jacob here!) The scene with Bella’s Dad, Charlie, was hysterical!!
 
I even loved all the secondary characters collected for the sake of the showdown with the Volturi. Although, there were only brief introductions, I thought it was just enough to cause attachment.
 
Now remember when I said I liked being reminded of what happened in the books? I kind of forgot what happened specifically. I knew how it ended but I couldn’t remember exactly what happened and I don’t want to spoil anything, but I was almost thrown off with everyone else who hadn’t read the book with Alice’s “vision” in the end. For a split second, I thought the movie producers took the movie down a different path. Thankfully, they didn’t.
 
It’s hard when a series ends. (I mourned for weeks after Harry Potter ended and again when the movies wrapped up.) It was the same with Twilight. I do remember being dissatisfied with the book, Breaking Dawn, simply because of the baby element but it was still a great series. The way the movie producers paid tribute to the movie series in the end was heart-warming. It really brought everything together and reminded viewers and readers alike of the journey that was Twilight, emphasizing the book itself.  I want to cry just thinking about it! Haters can hate, but Twilight was an amazing series. Edward, Bella and Jacob will be a staple for our generation.
 
I’d recommend seeing it. If you’re a fan, you won’t be disappointed. Another great series is under our generation’s belt, to join other series like Harry Potter. It’s sad when the final page is turned, but to live the journey makes it so unbelievably worth it.

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Where to begin? This book was amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I want more of it and I cannot wait to have more of it. It was a like an exotic dessert in bright, swirly colors and with the first bite the tart sweetness settles on your tongue and with each consecutive bite the tang spreads to your insides swelling into the sweetest thing you’ve ever tasted. My mind has been blown.

 A DYING LAND
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.

AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger—a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

A SIXTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire

I’ll admit that my first taste of this book included me struggling to comprehend the world Jay Kristoff created through his third-person omniscient point of view. It’s so colorful, crazy, out there and…big. I had a hard time wrapping my mind around it. I also struggled with all the names, the first few chapters jump from different point of views and I had trouble putting the names with the faces (or voices rather). At times Kristoff went into long drawn out painstaking details, but once I accepted the world Kristoff presented, the plot really took off.

I should preface this review with the notion that this is my maiden voyage into the realm of steampunk. I understood the concept going into it, but for some reason, I didn’t expect it to be so literal. The machines and mechanisms were displeasing in the setting, but I guess that is the point, the machines are killing the environment. I learned to love this aspect of the story.

I loved Yukiko. She was a truly strong heroine. She had mad fighting skills but wasn’t too good to be unbelievable. I really enjoyed her teenage angst against her father. Usually, this aspect of Young Adult novels annoys me, but it worked really well here. This angst was resolved later in the story through shocking revelations so it played a huge part in the plot. I love to see this kind of cause and effect.

The pursuit of a Thunder Tiger was an exciting journey. I was thoroughly entertained and on the edge of my seat. There was tons of action that was easy to follow. The concept of a thunder tiger was unique to me and I loved the relationship that evolved between Yukiko and the Thunder Tiger.

There were so many complex relationships. My favorite was between Yukiko and the guildsman, Kin. His feelings for her were so real and raw, it was heartbreaking. I also enjoyed the romance between Yukiko and Hiro. However, I wanted more details, but I loved Yukiko’s obsession throughout the book with his green eyes. Using his eyes as a focal point to get through some tough times was romantic and endearing.

I can’t even begin to explain to you how unbelievably awesome this book is. My review pales in comparison to the awsomeness that is Stormdancer. It’s so well put together and the world-building is phenomenal. It also surprises me how people can build such complex worlds out of a single idea. This book has a lot of action in the pursuit of justice. I enjoyed the plotting against the Shogun. I found myself in tears by the end of the book from the loss and betrayal, but justice wins out in the end. I love the way Kristoff ends this book and I cannot wait for the next one. Jay Kristoff is an author to watch. Unfortunately, there isn’t any information on the next book— no title, no cover, no release date! I’ll have to suffer in agonizing anticipation.

Releases and Recommendations: Black City by Elizabeth Richards

It’s Tuesday! The wonderful day that books are released to the world. This week I’m anticipating the release of Black City by Elizabeth Richards, but I don’t have to wait long because it comes out TODAY, November 13, 2012.

A dark and tender post-apocalyptic love story set in the aftermath of a bloody war.

In a city where humans and Darklings are now separated by a high wall and tensions between the two races still simmer after a terrible war, sixteen-year-olds Ash Fisher, a half-blood Darkling, and Natalie Buchanan, a human and the daughter of the Emissary, meet and do the unthinkable—they fall in love. Bonded by a mysterious connection that causes Ash’s long-dormant heart to beat, Ash and Natalie first deny and then struggle to fight their forbidden feelings for each other, knowing if they’re caught, they’ll be executed—but their feelings are too strong.

When Ash and Natalie then find themselves at the center of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to pull the humans and Darklings back into war, they must make hard choices that could result in both their deaths.

I know this sounds like just another dystopian novel, but I’m really excited to check it out. The advanced reviews were good and it’s been compared to Legend by Marie Lu. And if you read my review, you’ll see just how much I enjoyed it. I’m hoping I’ll love Black City just as much. I’m a sucker for forbidden love stories set in post-apocalyptic worlds.

Prey by Rachel Vincent

The fourth installment of the Shifters series is so good it hurts…literally.

Sometimes playing cat and mouse is no game…Play? “Right.” My Pride is under fire from all sides, my father’s authority is in question and my lover is in exile. Which means I haven’t laid eyes on Marc’s gorgeous face in months. And with a new mother “and” an I-know-everything teenager under my protection, I don’t exactly have time to fantasize about ever seeing him again.

Then our long-awaited reunion is ruined by a vicious ambush by strays. Now our group is under attack, Marc is missing and I will need every bit of skill and smarts to keep my family from being torn apart. Forever.

 Prey by Rachel Vincent is the beginning of a turning point in Faythe’s life where (forgive my French) s**t gets real! There is so much tragedy and loss in this story, although however hurtful it may be, it’s necessary to add validity and strength to this series. It makes no sense to fight constantly without any casualties on the home front. The death in this story is so unexpected and heartbreaking. I can’t bring myself to pick up another book until I feel I have properly mourned the death of this major character. (I know, it’s weird but what can I say, I get attached!) I have so, so much respect for authors that lovingly and wonderfully create characters and, for the sake of amazing literature, have to kill them off. (I know how much it hurts me; I can’t imagine how much it hurt Vincent to write this!)

 However, do not let the imminent death of a major character scare you off from this series. It was amazing! There was a whole other level of emotion. It’s so raw and real and beautiful; it really solidified the relationships in this story. One thing I love about this series is how with each book the reader gets more and more invested in these character’s lives. Now that the line has been crossed, the south-central pack is really amped up and there is tension in the air. I cannot wait to see how Faythe takes her revenge and I think it will be oh so sweet. Justice must be served, and Faythe is the perfect cat to deliver it.

Keep in mind, there is still a lot of levity and lightheartedness in this book. Faythe, the amazing, witty heroine, shows up in full force, and the south-central pack is as amusing as ever. I was even shocked to see the scandal that Faythe found herself in (again!) between Jace and Marc. I can’t even fathom what will happen next! I love this series and I will continue on with the next book, Shift. Hopefully, seeing justice done will lighten my heavy heart.

Outpost by Ann Aguirre

I have been waiting oh so impatiently for Outpost by Ann Aguirre and it’s finally here! Unfortunately, it didn’t completely live up to my expectations but it ended on a very hopeful note that’s reminiscent of the first book.

Deuce’s whole world has changed. Down below, she was considered an adult. Now, topside in a town called Salvation, she’s a brat in need of training in the eyes of the townsfolk. She doesn’t fit in with the other girls: Deuce only knows how to fight.

To make matters worse, her Hunter partner, Fade, keeps Deuce at a distance. Her feelings for Fade haven’t changed, but he seems not to want her around anymore. Confused and lonely, she starts looking for a way out.

Deuce signs up to serve in the summer patrols—those who make sure the planters can work the fields without danger. It should be routine, but things have been changing on the surface, just as they did below ground. The Freaks have grown smarter. They’re watching. Waiting. Planning. The monsters don’t intend to let Salvation survive, and it may take a girl like Deuce to turn back the tide.

 I loved the first book in this series, Enclave; I loved that Deuce was so hardcore and her world seemed so desperate. In this novel, Salvation, the settlement they found refuge, has made Deuce, Fade, Stalker, and Tegan soft. There is nothing wrong with it exactly; it just feels like a whole other story. In Salvation, Deuce finds what she refers to as her “girly” side, which bodes well for the romance between her and Fade, but it seems out of place. At one point, they have a formal date night, which was very romantic but shouldn’t they be fighting for their lives? I did love the sexual tension between Deuce and Fade though. There seems to be these fake “happy times” in Salvation filled with community dances and tea parties. Deuce even forms a mother/daughter bond with her “foster” mom, which is sweet, but I find myself thinking where the heck is Deuce the huntress? Never fear readers, she is still there!

There is definitely an inner struggle for Deuce to be a huntress but also a “normal” girl. It added conflict to the story, but I wasn’t sure if it fit entirely. I really enjoyed the parts where she is protecting the town, and Deuce is slaying muties left and right. Aguirre still pens Deuce’s fight scenes with savage beauty and grace. I love watching Deuce fight! Without these fight scenes, this story would turn into too much of a sappy, love story.

Speaking of love, there is a strange connection between Stalker and Deuce. She doesn’t want to lead him on, yet she still responds to him in a romantic way. I didn’t get it. I also had an issue with Fade. Deuce and Fade FINALLY have a breakthrough in their relationship where they put everything out in the open and admit their feelings for each other. I loved this part! However, soon Fade is withdrawing from Deuce for no apparent reason, leaving the reader really confused. There were also bad “things” that happen to Fade while in Salvation and in other parts of the book, and he basically lies down and takes it. What? Fade? The hardcore hunter Fade? It made absolutely no sense. The Fade I know would slit anyone’s throat who tried to hurt him, especially someone from outside his inner circle. It made Fade seem pathetic even though I know he is not. Fade’s continual withdrawal from Deuce (who he supposedly loves) doesn’t make any sense either, especially after making it through dire circumstances. I mean, doesn’t going through something difficult make you want to be closer to the people you love?

Regardless, I’m thinking all these issues turn out to be part of middle book syndrome. Aguirre is creating conflict (however unnecessary) to get us to the (hopefully) really good third installment. There is a ton of foreshadowing; the muties are changing and getting more aggressive and acting more like … humans. I love the way Aguirre ends this novel with the four of them back together, on their own in search of safety. I want to see more of Enclave Deuce in the final book, Horde, which comes out in 2013.