YA

Shadow Study (Soulfinders #1) by Maria V. Snyder

16130758I love Maria V. Snyder’s books. She always has just the right amount of romance, action, and mystery to make me happy. My all time favorite book of hers is Poison Study, and so I was excited to see she was starting a new series with Yelena and Valek, the main characters of her Study books. This Soulfinders series can be read without reading anything else from her, but I would read the Study series first just because I think you get a better grip on who the main characters are if you start from the beginning.

For those not familiar with these characters, Yelena is an official liaison between two territories, Ixia, a land where magic is banned and Sitia a land full of magicians and magic. She is also a Soulfinder, a person who finds lost souls and guides them to wherever they are to spend eternity. The problem arises when it appears that Yelena’s magic is gone completely, and the whole book we are trying to find out what has happened, who is trying to kill her, and also what the Commander in Ixia is up to. There is also a side story about illegal goods being shipped and who and how they are getting across that we have to figure out.  Along the way we get to meet some new characters and have some laughs when we get to read from Janco’s point of view. The thing about Maria V. Snyder’s books are that she really has a knack for making her side characters so interesting and loveable and so it’s nice to read about new characters that you know are going to be so awesome in the future.

I have to say that I was a bit disappointed because I was excited about reading more about Yelena and Valek, but yet again they seem to be apart for most of the book. Yes, they are really cool characters but I think they are better when they are together, and sadly this doesn’t happen. I was glad we got three different point of views, but when I started reading it, all I really cared about was Yelenas. Valek’s chapters had a lot of flash backs and they ended up being a bit boring for me. I have read though, that some people really liked reading about his past and how he became an assassin so I guess it’s just a matter of preference. Plus I have to say that Valek’s loyalty to the commander has always bothered me, and I dislike reading about it.

I’m not saying not to read or to give up on this series, I’m just saying this book felt like a set up for the next books (even though it had a tidy conclusion) and perhaps in the coming ones Yelena and Valek will be together.

So the bottom line is that if you are familiar with her Study series you will be happy to see the characters you love again, but it’s really just a book you read to get to the next one. For those who are new to anything Maria V. Snyder has written, then I would say start with Poison Study first, even though technically you don’t have to. Shadow Study will be released February 24th.

Also Shadow Study is out in audiobook over at Audible. I highly recommend giving it a listen. Gabra Zackman has been the narrator throughout the series and has consistently done a good job. Here’s a small clip to listen to…

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Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

SNEAK PEEK of The Archived by Victoria Schwab

I really enjoyed Victoria Schwab’s The Near Witch last year so I was so excited when I was able to read a sneak peek of The Archived, only the first 100 pages, but oh so good. It makes me want to wear a key around my neck and carry chalk in my pocket.

Details Please (Publisher’s description)
Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.
Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

So What?
Like I said before I just read the first couple of chapters and was just barely scratching the surface of the story, but I can tell this will be a book to look out for. I really liked the whole premise about Mackenzie sending back the Histories that escape through the cracks in the Archive. Mackenzie has a start as a Keeper at a relatively young age and on top of that she is dealing with deaths in the family, and the lack of closure there. There is also Roland a really cool librarian who catalogs the dead, and hasn’t aged a day, and the mysterious Wesley with scars of his own. Also there are a whole lot of doors and shadows just waiting to be explored.

As a side note, have any of you seen the Japanese film Be with You, base off Takuji Ichikawa’s novel? When I started reading this that movie came to mind because in the film the mother dies and goes to a planet named Archive. I had always wondered why they named the planet Archive and now after reading this I understand. Two totally different things but I had such a eureka moment. Lol.

I’d like to imagine that Mio from Be With You escaped from the Archives in Victoria Schwab’s world and came back in the rainy season in Takuji Ichikawa novel.

Anyway,I believe that everyone is approved for the Sneak Peek on NetGalley so you guys should go seek it out. Then we can all patiently wait for January 22nd to come. So. Far. Away. 😦

I can’t wait to read the whole story.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Details, Please (Publisher’s description)

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

So what?

High Fantasy! I went on this kick last year trying to find recent YA, high fantasy books, and it was much harder than I thought. Sometimes with that genre I feel the book can drag on and on, but I didn’t feel that way with this book. Also as a plus there wasn’t an abundance of fight scenes or dream sequences that I usually associate with them. It is also neat that Seraphina is a musician and assistant to the court composer.

As for the world building there are a lot of customs and philosophers that are mentioned that just add to the book. It’s pretty cool when people ask who your psalter saint is, but what would you do if your psalter saint was a heretic? Another thing about this book is that it would be best if you kept a dictionary near you while reading. Can you tell me what ‘perspicacity’ means? I didn’t know and had to look it up, among other words…but that’s good, right?

If you are a fan of the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey you might like Seraphina. It mostly reminded me of the same spirit as Dragonsong and Dragonsinger though. So check it out on July 10th.

Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

I heard great things about Warm Bodies, but was very skeptical about a zombie romance book. Let me tell you right off, this isn’t a yucky kind of romance, something you would see on an episode of Taboo. It’s really just a quiet kind of love, a slow understanding of sorts between a zombie and the girlfriend of one of his victims.

Details, Please
Basically R is living his life in the way he’s accustomed, shuffling here and there, taking the occasional ride up and down the escalator, eating people, eating brains and experiencing other people’s memories…but on a certain night, he decides to keep a living girl safe, and not for a leftover snack. He honestly wants to protect her and I’m not sure he even fully understands why at first.

So what?
I listened to this on audiobook.I turned it on as background noise while doing homework and immediately got sucked in. I wasn’t expecting to be surprised. Needles to say I had to turn it off because then I couldn’t concentrate on my homework. I have to say that Kevin Kenerly does an amazing job narrating. I think listening to it really made me enjoy it so much more than if I had read it myself. I really encourage you to listen to it on your daily commute.

Basically a lot of what is narrated is in R’s head since he is unable to express it outwardly being a zombie and all, but for a dead guy R’s more alive than some living. I really loved R so much that sometimes the memories of other people made me want to rush past it, but I could tell that even those parts were needed in R’s story, because it wasn’t just about his journey. Also I can’t really say what happened at the end, because I’m not sure myself but it was an enjoyable experience getting to that point.This book could have been really corny, but it wasn’t. It was lyrical and poetic. It’s about what makes us human, about hope and tenacity.While writing this all I can think of are Albert Schweitzer quotes like:

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”

 “A man does not have to be an angel in order to be saint.”

“The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives.”

Seriously, I probably have no idea what I’m talking about but quotes like that came to me when thinking about this book. I wouldn’t usually use the word “beautiful” in the same sentence as “zombie,” but you know, for a zombie book, it really is beautiful.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Details, Please (Publisher Description)

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

So What?
This is a fast read, and completely entertaining. It’s not so exhaustively high-tech to the point that you don’t understand what the heck is going on either.  I think this qualifies as a dystopian book, because although the world is high-tech, the world is bleak with disease threatening to kill and no antidote to be found. Plus society is against our protagonist and poor Cinder goes through more than one identity crisis.

As a character, Cinder isn’t all prim and proper or annoying; she’s realistic and not pining away for the prince. The prince knows that his duty is to his people and not about whom he loves…you just get the sense in this first installment that there are bigger issues than just Cinder and Kai. Cinder is the first of a four-book series and Scarlet comes out in 2013. Don’t worry there isn’t a horrible cliffhanger. As a side note Marissa Meyer seems pretty cool she started by writing Sailor Moon FanFiction. What’s not to like?

Oh! For those of you who joined any Sci-Fi challenges or are planning on participating in the Once Upon a Time challenge this would be a good book for both. I’m using it towards my dystopia challenge.

And just because this came to mind while reading here is a Futuristic Paso Doble from Dancing with the Stars 🙂 (nothing like this happened in the book that we saw anyway…it’s just the spirit of it I guess)

Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

Details, Please (Publisher Description)

Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan absorbs their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Fifteen Realms, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life….

So What?
Maria V. Snyder is an author that no matter what she writes, I’ll read. I love her stories that much. Poison Study is still my favorite, but Touch of Power her ninth book comes closest in the overall feel of Poison Study. Avry is a tough, smart heroine and is just so cool. I mean every time she decides to heal someone it’s like a mini sacrifice that takes courage…and to do that for people you don’t even know is amazing. Plus she doesn’t let people order her around when it comes to healing.

One thing I really like about Ms. Snyder’s writing is that she is able to make even her secondary characters so lovable and almost as important at the main characters. The band of rogues in this book are so likable, and their eventual camaraderie with Avry is sweet. Most of the story takes place with them traveling through the forest, but it doesn’t drag. The pacing is just right. The romance doesn’t really kick in till the end, but the characters are just so interesting I don’t even mind.

The main villain, Tohon is someone you kind of want to feel sorry for until you realize he is just plain psycho. He acts like a deranged kid who just wants to win a popularity contest….or in this case gain all fifteen realms for himself.

If you like fantasy, cool magic, a weird healing system, giant plants that eat people, zombies, knife throwing and juggling then yeah, you might like this book 🙂

And Flea, I still have hope….

Excerpt:

“No. You’re worth more alive than dead.” He paused, knowing he had said the wrong thing. “I meant, I need you to heal someone for me. Once he’s better, you can go back into hiding or do whatever you’d like.” Although muffled, raised voices and the sounds of a commotion reached us. Kerrick glanced to his left. “But if you don’t come right now, there won’t be another chance.” He held out his hand.

I hesitated. Trust a complete stranger or remain in jail and be executed in the morning? If he was sincere, Kerrick’s offer meant I would have my life back. My life on the run. Not appealing, but that survival instinct, which had spurred me on these past three years, once again flared to life. What if he was lying? I’d deal with it later. Right now, it didn’t matter; living suddenly took precedence over dying.

I grabbed his hand. Warm calloused fingers surrounded mine. He tugged me down the corridor. I hadn’t been paying close attention when I had arrived, but I knew this way led to more cells. There was one door into the jail. And loud noises emanated from that direction. Fear twisted. Crazy how a few hours ago I hadn’t cared if I lived or died, but now a desperate need to live consumed me.

Warped by Maurissa Guibord

Details, Please
Having haggled with an older lady at an auction, Tessa now finds herself the proud owner of a couple of boxes of old books and an extra crate that contains a unicorn tapestry. After hanging it in her room she starts having odd dreams and memories of a unicorn hunt from a whole different time period. The Norns, who spin threads of Fate, are especially ticked off having suspected Tessa of stealing seven threads from them. Tessa doesn’t remember this, and what happens when she does pull a thread from the tapestry? Better yet, why is there a sixteenth century nobleman in her room?

So What?
Usually I would stay away from books with time travel and unicorns, but I think this book is creative and likable. It didn’t quite live up to all the hype surrounding it, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. I didn’t find it corny at all. The whole unicorn idea was believable, and I mean there are such things as unicorn tapestries anyway.

Also, the time travel was handled in a simplistic way and not at all confusing. Although, there were times where something was mentioned and I thought it would be important and then it wasn’t mentioned again… other than that, it’s a neat read. It’s lite fantasy and reminded me of a Disney Channel movie. So if Disney Channel movies appeal to you and you like the idea of unicorns and dragons, and a girl who lives above a bookstore give it a try on a gray day. Plus it’s a standalone.

Excerpt:

Up close, the tapestry’s deep, jeweled colors made kaleidoscope whorls of crimson and gold and emerald-green, while in the center, the unicorn, woven in milky white, blazed like a pool of moonlight against the dark.

“Gorgeous,” Tessa whispered.

It looked so real. The unicorn, with a long spiraled horn jutting from its tangled mane, was depicted rearing up on its hind legs as its front hooves raked the air. A violent, yet majestic strength was captured in the arched lines of its neck and the muscular shadows of its shoulders.

The unicorn was in a grassy clearing, hemmed in by denser forest. In the background a castle sat atop a distant hill, with turrets outlined against a brilliant blue sky. The scene, Tessa thought, was like something from a fairy tale. But definitely one of the darker ones. And probably not one with a happy ending. For she noticed that a dark cut was stitched on the unicorn’s cheek, and from it flowed two crimson drops of blood. The unicorn’s large golden brown eyes seemed to glitter. Tessa squinted. She felt strange, breathless.

She reached out and brushed her fingers over the tapestry. The threads were warm and soft, almost velvety beneath her touch. Then it happened.

A tingling sensation ran up her arm, quick and warm and so lightning fast Tessa didn’t have time to snatch her hand back. Suddenly everything was gone. The tapestry, the car, even the ground was gone.

It was as if a black fog had swept her up and was carrying her far away. She was drenched in darkness, blinded. But she could hear something. In the black fog, a voice spoke. Words swirled around her.

Through warp and weft, I bind thee.