Reached by Allie Condie

How to start this review…I LOVED Matched. It made my Top Ten Books Of All Time list. Then came Crossed, which pissed me off so much I refused to write a review. How could I put the disappointment of a lifetime into words? I mean, come on, they fought all of that just to let the rebellion split them up?!? I couldn’t believe it! However, I’ve never been a quitter and I had to finish the series out. The Verdict: It was definitely better than Crossed but didn’t live up to the genius that was Matched.

13125947After leaving Society to desperately seek The Rising, and each other, Cassia and Ky have found what they were looking for, but at the cost of losing each other yet again. Cassia is assigned undercover in Central city, Ky outside the borders, an airship pilot with Indie. Xander is a medic, with a secret. All too soon, everything shifts again.

Here’s the thing. This series went out, not with a bang, but a fizzle. Writing this review, I can barely recall how it ended. It didn’t really leave an impression on me. Perhaps the most disappointing thing was the way Allie Condie resolved the love triangle, and then even worse how she tried to make it “better” by adding another relationship in at the end.  Then there was this “Pilot,” who just annoyed the crap out of me. I wanted Ky and Cassia to just BE together and not feel obligated to save the world. As much as this story irked me overall, I did enjoy the dynamic between Ky and Cassia. I have a soft spot for Xander and was rooting for him the whole time.

The way this story played out was so bizarre and out of left field that I didn’t really believe it. I couldn’t get into it and I just wanted to know what happened so I could move on. There’s a lot of waiting in this book, where each character is in their own place waiting for the other characters; it kind of got boring. I really wish I could sit here and gush but I can’t think of any good things to say. It wasn’t really THAT bad but I was so disappointed that I just want to put this series on my shelf and forget about it.

I still think about Matched and think it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read but now I wish it were a standalone.

STARS: 2.5 out of 5

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Releases and Recommendations: Crown Of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

It’s Tuesday! The wonderful day books are released to the world. Today, I’m anticipating the release of Crown Of Midnight, the sequel to Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, on Tuesday, August 27, 2013.

bookAfter a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king’s contest to become the new royal assassin. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown – a secret she hides from even her most intimate confidantes.

Keeping up the deadly charade—while pretending to do the king’s bidding—will test her in frightening new ways, especially when she’s given a task that could jeopardize everything she’s come to care for. And there are far more dangerous forces gathering on the horizon — forces that threaten to destroy her entire world, and will surely force Celaena to make a choice.

Where do the assassin’s loyalties lie, and who is she most willing to fight for?

If you click the highlighted link above, you’ll see how much I liked Throne of Glass. I have high hopes for the sequel. I’m really looking forward to all the interesting character developments. Celaena is kick-ass and I love watching her try NOT to fall in love. I’m expecting more adventure and romance but maybe a bit more political intrigue now that Celaena has to play the king’s pet. Crown Of Midnight is definitely on my Summer must-read list.

The Elite by Kiera Cass

When The Elite by Kiera Cass was released, I bought it right away and devoured it in one day. I’ve been waiting what seems like forever to get my hands on this sequel.

16248068The hotly-anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestseller The Selection.

Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.

I am so in love with this series I can’t even put it into words. This story just keeps getting better and better. First, I LOVE the competition between the girls and the “challenges” they are given. It adds a level of excitement that really drives the story. The competition between the girls is really starting to heat up. With the threat of the rebels looming over the palace, this story had me on the edge of my seat.

I’m flabbergasted with Cass’s ability to create such sexual tension and heat between America and both Maxon and Aspen. Each relationship is really unique and believable, each with their own challenges. Some of those kisses had the pages burning in my hands!  In the first book, I didn’t know which team I was on but now I’ve decided I’m team Maxon. However, I don’t want to jinx it because I always seem to pick the losing guy.

I loved that America really grew in this book. She had to be honest with herself about her feelings for both guys and whether she could/wanted to be a princess. My heart melted during the scenes with her dad and I loved her little sister, May. This story is full of such rich characters, including the King which creates all sorts of problems.

This book ended with America still split between both guys but also pulled in each direction all the more. Based on the ending, I can’t wait to see how America kicks some ass and takes names in the next book. The third book, The One, will be released in 2014. I CANNOT WAIT! This series is everything I had hoped it would be and more.

STARS: 5 out of 5

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau was the biggest surprise of the year so far. I’m euphoric and ecstatic at the same time. Euphoria because this book was so good, and ecstatic because it was soo good that I cannot wait to read the next installment.

13326831Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one in the same?

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it.  But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.

Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies–trust no one.

But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing.    To survive, Cia must choose:  love without truth or life without trust.

This book is set in an unsettled dystopian world with a fight-for-your-life test, similar to the Hunger Games. However, it doesn’t feel like a copycat. It just feels like another really well done dystopian Young Adult Romance. Instead of a fight to the death like in Hunger Games, The Testing offers a fight for your life, meaning more than one can be standing in the end, leaving more room for alliances…and betrayals.

I have to admit I was skeptical when I first starting reading. I mean, nothing can ever come close to Hunger Games, right? Wrong. I’m not saying one is better than the other but they both inspired that literary-euphoric hyperventilating. I was drawn into this story from the first page, and with how the book ended, there is still so much left to tell.

This story doesn’t have a love triangle but the romance between Cia and Tomas was so sweet. There was definitely something sexy about Tomas and I want more. There were so many twists and turns in this book. I loved it. It starts off like the SAT on steroids, which the tests were especially intriguing. I love puzzles and mysteries. Then it goes into this cross-country race to safety. Cia was an awesome character.  I loved watching her try to unravel other peoples motives and kick ass, but still be vulnerable at the same time. The whole cast of characters were unique and intriguing.

This book left me asking a lot of questions but didn’t leave me wanting. It left me in the dark just enough to make me want to find out what was going on but not too much to where I got frustrated. This book had the perfect balance of romance and action, hope and betrayal, real and fantasy. I loved every. single. word.  I don’t want to give too much away and spoil this story for anyone, just know that it’s definitely a must-read.

The next book, Independent Study, comes out in January 2014. With that ending, I cannot wait to see what happens.

STARS: 5 out of 5

Altered by Jennifer Rush

The cover of Altered by Jennifer Rush drew me in immediately. I love bare-limbed trees and hot boys. What a perfect combination!

10859509When you can’t trust yourself, who can you believe?

Everything about Anna’s life is a secret. Her father works for the Branch at the helm of its latest project: monitoring and administering treatments to the four genetically altered boys in the lab below their farmhouse. There’s Nick, Cas, Trev . . . and Sam, who’s stolen Anna’s heart. When the Branch decides it’s time to take the boys, Sam stages an escape, killing the agents sent to retrieve them.

Anna is torn between following Sam or staying behind in the safety of her everyday life. But her father pushes her to flee, making Sam promise to keep her away from the Branch, at all costs. There’s just one problem. Sam and the boys don’t remember anything before living in the lab—not even their true identities.

Now on the run, Anna soon discovers that she and Sam are connected in more ways than either of them expected. And if they’re both going to survive, they must piece together the clues of their past before the Branch catches up to them and steals it all away.

I heard great things about this book so I went in with high hopes. This book was good but it didn’t surpass my expectations. The best thing about this story is the four hot boys. Each distinct with their own personality, the boys make the novel what it is. The main character, Anna, was a confusing female protagonist. Everyone said that she was beautiful, but all Anna’s self-musings were about her greasy hair and unwashed state–not attractive. I think it’s either the epitome of self-deprecation in a character or beauty is defined very differently in Jennifer Rush’s literary world. This detail irked me, but it’s also a small, insignificant issue in the book.

My biggest issue with this book was Anna’s motive. She wanted the boys to escape. She ‘loved’ them, but they were trapped for FIVE YEARS and she didn’t do anything? I don’t believe that. It would have been more believable if she was told they had a life-threatening disease and if they came out of their glass cages they would die or endanger others, THAT I could believe.  However, I enjoyed the unraveling, mysterious plot as the boys and Anna were on the run. I thought the ending was great and very believable, but matched with the beginning, it took away the ‘magic’ of this novel for me.

I was also disappointed with the romance, or serious lack there of. There wasn’t any chemistry between Anna and Sam until literally the last page. Sam seemed more like a brother and Nick (the boy who ‘hates’ her) seemed to have more chemistry with Anna. (Or maybe I’m reading too many formulaic Young Adult novels where the boy is mean to the girl he loves and it’s rubbing off.) I would have enjoyed a love “square” or some tension between the boys fighting over Anna. I think it would have added to the depth of their relationships and thicken the plot.

Nevertheless, I was thoroughly entertained and I devoured the book in one day. Altered isn’t anything mind-blowing, but it’s a well-written debut novel that has potential to grow into a promising series. The character growth wasn’t there for me just yet but I can foresee good things in the future.

STARS: 3.5 out of 5

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

I was blown away by Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, so I was excited to read the sequel, Days of Blood and Starlight. (Stop reading if you haven’t read the first book! I don’t want to spoil anything!) However, all the reviews were…strange. Everyone talked about how sad and depressing this book was. It quite honestly made me not want to read it. I barely have time to read these days and I don’t like to spend it on a “bad” or sad book, but I knew I had to see for myself. I’m glad I did.

12812550Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.
But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

Days of Blood and Starlight continues where Daughter of Smoke and Bone left off. Karou knows the truth about Akiva and the depths of their past relationship. The story continues with the beginning of a battle between both sides. Here’s where the “It’s sad” comes in. This book has sad elements but Taylor just reveals the cold, hard truth of war, the death, the despair, the pain. Can you really expect unicorns and rainbows? Taylor captures the desperation of both “races” (if you will) and captures it beautifully. Each side fights for what they believe is right and Taylor takes us in so we can sympathize with both sides.

The writing in this book is unbelievable. It’s just so beautiful I thought I was reading poetry. Taylor’s writing really reflects the beauty of the world she created. I love reading her stuff. Here’s my favorite quote:

“Or…perhaps fate laid out your life for you like a dress on a bed, and you could either wear it or go naked.” -Karou

Which leads me to my next point, for a book that’s so “sad,” there was so much humor in it. Karou really brought out her personality by trying to make the best of the situation making jokes and trying to lighten this very serious, real situation. I mean how else do you deal with living in the middle of nowhere in a castle full of monsters? I can totally relate to that because I deal with serious things in the same manner by trying to make it funny. Karou, as a character, is so well done. I love her.

Akiva really shines in this book. He takes so many risks to make a change. He’s so in love with Karou. There were times I wanted to shake her and say let go of your anger and hate and just love him!?! The ante is upped in this installment. There is a lot of loss but more importantly an overwhelming hope that keeps the reader wanting more.

The only issue I had with this book was it was a bit too complicated at times. It was such a complex storyline, switching back and forth between characters making the story feel like it was winding in and out of the plot. However, I understood everything that was going on and Taylor didn’t cop out when things got tough. She wrote the story that needed to be told, no matter how serious the subject matter. I think it’s important that readers understand this story is a bit sad but the hope and the real purpose of this story is the main take-away from this book.

The ending gave me so much hope, I thought I was going to explode. I CANNOT wait to see what happens in the next book! The next installment is Untitled and won’t be here until April 2014. 😦 I guess I’ll just have to wait.

STARS: 4.5 out of 5