Review: “Blue Lily, Lily Blue (Raven Cycle #3)” by Maggie Stiefvater


17378508Title: “Blue Lily, Lily Blue (Raven Cycle #3)”

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: YA, magical realism, contemporary, AWESOME

Source: ARC from publisher

Publication Date: October 21, 2014 (Scholastic – North America)

Summary: There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

☆: 5/5 stars – SO MANY FEELS YOU GUYS.

Review: Guys, I just…I can’t even with this series anymore. But in a good way. So much heartbreak, but it feels so good. This book (which I guess, is kind of a middle book? out of four?) just proves Stiefvater’s prowess and her unstoppability in terms of keeping a story going with no loss from when you put down the previous book and start the next. With the plot getting crazier, more puzzle pieces falling together, and more doom and gloom gathering, “Blue Lily” is an AWESOME addition to the series, and it makes me hanker for book four even more. Trust me. You want this book.

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Review: “When My Heart Was Wicked” by Tricia Sterling


22749511Title: “When My Heart Was Wicked”

Author: Tricia Sterling

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Magical

Publication Date: February 24, 2015 (Scholastic – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided finished copy

Summary: “I used to be one of those girls. The kind who loved to deliver bad news. When I colored my hair, I imagined it seeping into my scalp, black dye pooling into my veins.

But that was the old Lacy. Now, when I cast spells, they are always for good.”

16-year-old Lacy believes that magic and science can work side by side. She’s a botanist who knows how to harness the healing power of plants. So when her father dies, Lacy tries to stay with her step-mother in Chico, where her magic is good and healing. She fears the darkness that her real mother, Cheyenne, brings out, stripping away everything that is light and kind.

Yet Cheyenne never stays away for long. Beautiful, bewitching, unstable Cheyenne who will stop at nothing, not even black magic, to keep control of her daughter’s heart. She forces Lacy to accompany her to Sacramento, and before long, the “old” Lacy starts to resurface.

But when Lacy survives a traumatic encounter, she finds herself faced with a choice. Will she use her powers to exact revenge and spiral into the darkness forever? Or will she find the strength to embrace the light?

☆: 4/5 stars – a great magical realism debut!

Review: This one was a pleasant surprise, though I wish it had been longer. “When My Heart Was Wicked” is a snapshot of what can happen to someone as a cause of an unstable, dangerous childhood trying to become an adult – but through the lens of Francesca Lia Block-esque magical realism. I loved this one, and it makes me feel like Stirling will be one awesome author to watch. If you’re looking for a little magical realism in your tough stuff YA issues book, “When My Heart Was Wicked” is definitely the one you want to pick up.

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Review: “Passionaries (The Blessed #2)” by Tonya Hurley


17860324Title: “Passionaries (The Blessed #2)”

Author: Tonya Hurley

Publication Date: January 7, 2014 (S&S – North America)

Genre: YA, retellings, AWESOME

Source: Publisher-provided finished copy

Summary: Agnes, Cecelia, and Lucy watched as Sebastian sacrificed himself for what he believed in. Will the girls trust that their destiny as saints and martyrs and perform the miracles as Sebastian instructed? Or lose faith in themselves and each other in his absence? Time is running out for them to make a decision, and the fate of the world lies in the balance.

☆: 4.5/5 stars – a great middle book to this trilogy!

Review: Man. If you guys liked book one, “Passionaries” is definitely going to knock your socks off. Going to places that I didn’t think Hurley would go in this retelling/modernization of the lives of three Catholic saints, “Passionaries” shows the lives of three girls forever changed and now with the weight of the world on their backs with all of the creepiness that I was hoping for. If there’s an awesome retelling middle trilogy book out there for the year, it’s definitely this one.

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Review: “Teen Spirit” by Francesca Lia Block


18054018Title: “Teen Spirit”

Author: Francesca Lia Block

Publication Date: February 4, 2014 (HarperTeen – North America)

Genre: YA, paranormal

Source: Publisher-provided finished copy

Summary: After Julie’s grandmother passes away, she is forced to move across town to the not-so-fancy end of Beverly Hills and start over at a new school. The only silver lining to the perpetual dark cloud that seems to be following her? Clark—a die-hard fan of Buffy and all things Joss Whedon, who is just as awkward and damaged as she is. Her kindred spirit.

When the two try to contact Julie’s grandmother with a Ouija board, they make contact with a different spirit altogether. The real kind. And this ghost will do whatever it takes to come back to the world of the living.

☆: 4/5 stars – a refreshing standalone that harkens back to the days of “Weetzie Bat”.

Review: This one was fun, guys. The writing style and light yet dark feeling to “Teen Spirit” left me with the feeling I first felt when I picked up the “Dangerous Angels/Weetzie Bat series” omnibus when I was 12. I fell in love – though it’s not to say I never fell out of love with my mentor’s writing style. “Teen Spirit” is very similar to “Weetzie” in that sense of light reading, yet heavier (and in this book), somewhat darker content for the reader adjusted for easy digestion. I think a lot of “Weetzie” fans dissatisfied with recent efforts might really like this one. Regardless of where you stand, Block’s newest effort is gorgeous, haunting (no pun intended), and will leave you with a sense of utter peace once you turn that last page.

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Double Trouble Review: “Ignite Me (Shatter Me #3)” and “Unite Me (Shatter Me #1.5, #2.5)” by Tahereh Mafi


13188676 18481271Title: “Ignite Me (Shatter Me #3)” and “Unite Me (Shatter Me #1.5, #2.5)”

Author: Tahereh Mafi

Genre: SERIOUSLY AWESOME, dystopia, YA, fantasy/sci-fi

Publication Date: February 4, 2014 (both – HarperTeen – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided finished copies

Summary:

IGNITE ME: Juliette now knows she may be the only one who can stop the Reestablishment. But to take them dowPerfect for fans of Tahereh Mafi’s New York Times bestselling Shatter Me trilogy, this book collects her two companion novellas, Fracture Me and Destroy Me, in print for the first time ever. It also features an exclusive look into Juliette’s journal and a preview of Ignite Me, the hotly anticipated final novel of the series.

UNITE ME: Destroy Me tells the events between Shatter Me and Unravel Me from Warner’s point of view. Even though Juliette shot him in order to escape, Warner can’t stop thinking about her—and he’ll do anything to get her back. But when the Supreme Commander of The Reestablishment arrives, he has much different plans for Juliette. Plans Warner cannot allow.

Fracture Me is told from Adam’s perspective and bridges the gap between Unravel Me and Ignite Me. As the Omega Point rebels prepare to fight the Sector 45 soldiers, Adam’s more focused on the safety of Juliette, Kenji, and his brother. The Reestablishment will do anything to crush the resistance . . . including killing everyone Adam cares about.n, she’ll need the help of the one person she never thought she could trust: Warner. And as they work together, Juliette will discover that everything she thought she knew – about Warner, her abilities, and even Adam – was wrong.

☆: UNITE ME – 4/5 stars – a must-have for any “Shatter Me” series fan!

IGNITE ME: 5/5 stars – because who am I kidding? This was ridiculously awesome.

 

Review: Now that, ladies and gentlefolk, is an ENDING. Between “Ignite Me”, “Infinite” by Jodi Meadows, and “Into the Still Blue” by Veronica Rossi, I definitely have three contenders for best concluding trilogy books of the year. But Mafi goes all out in this last installment of “Shatter Me” trilogy – so much so that there’s bullets flying everywhere, as well as broken hearts, and a main character that has made such an amazing progression/evolution that just remembering it takes my breath away. There’s also “Unite Me” (the paper publication of the novellas) to talk about, and we’ll get to those in a bit. But seriously, guys, one of the best novels of the year? It has to be “Ignite Me”.

 

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Review: “Cruel Beauty” by Rosamund Hodge


15839984Title: “Cruel Beauty”

Author: Rosamund Hodge

Genre: Fantasy, YA, PNR, AWESOME, Retellings

Publication Date:  January 28, 2014 (HarperTeen – North America)

Source:  Publisher-provided ARC

Synopsis: Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

☆: 5/5 stars – An absolutely mindblowing debut from Hodge!

Review: Man, I’d been hearing some great things about this book before I even picked it up, but I didn’t expect to be this blown away by a 2014 debut. “Cruel Beauty” isn’t just a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast”, but it also mixes in alternate histories/universes and Greco-Roman mythology. Oh, and ass-kicking females. Which definitely got my attention. Guys, this book is a total breath of fresh air for YA, and I’ve already reread it once before doing this review. If you’re looking for a really amazing fairy retelling with a lot of other elements thrown in, “Cruel Beauty” is definitely the book you need to pick up this year in terms of debuts.

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Review: “Kinslayer (Lotus War #2)” by Jay Kristoff


15773979Title: “Kinslayer”

Author: Jay Kristoff

Genre: Alternate Universe/History, Steampunk, AWESOME

Publication Date: September 17, 2013 (SMP/Macmillan – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Synopsis: A SHATTERED EMPIRE
The mad Shōgun Yoritomo has been assassinated by the Stormdancer Yukiko, and the threat of civil war looms over the Shima Imperium. The Lotus Guild conspires to renew the nation’s broken dynasty and crush the growing rebellion simultaneously – by endorsing a new Shōgun who desires nothing more than to see Yukiko dead.

A DARK LEGACY
Yukiko and the mighty thunder tiger Buruu have been cast in the role of heroes by the Kagé rebellion. But Yukiko herself is blinded by rage over her father’s death, and her ability to hear the thoughts of beasts is swelling beyond her power to control. Along with Buruu, Yukiko’s anchor is Kin, the rebel Guildsman who helped her escape from Yoritomo’s clutches. But Kin has his own secrets, and is haunted by visions of a future he’d rather die than see realized.

A GATHERING STORM
Kagé assassins lurk within the Shōgun’s palace, plotting to end the new dynasty before it begins. A waif from Kigen’s gutters begins a friendship that could undo the entire empire. A new enemy gathers its strength, readying to push the fracturing Shima imperium into a war it cannot hope to survive. And across raging oceans, amongst islands of black glass, Yukiko and Buruu will face foes no katana or talon can defeat.

The ghosts of a blood-stained past.

☆: 5/5 stars – an absolutely awesome follow-up to book one!

Review: Because this book was more or less just as awesome in terms of all of the technical aspects of writing when compared to book one, I’m going to instead focus this review on one very interesting theme that I found ongoing throughout this installment of the series, and there will be some speculation if some of the finer aspects of that theme were intentional or not on Kristoff’s part. That being said, it’s no surprise that the followup to “Stormdancer” was awesome, but it felt like Kristoff grew a great deal between both books, and it shows. We’re moving more and more into adult territory with not only what actually happens plot-wise with Yukiko and company, but with themes and the like. And it’s a lovely thing to behold. If you’ve read “Stormdancer” and liked it, you’re going to love “Kinslayer”.

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