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.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Reading level: Young Adult

Hardcover: 496 pages

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (May 3, 2011)

Beatrice Prior lives in a dystopian Chicago where all sixteen-year-olds must choose where they belong in a society broken up by factions:

“Decades ago our ancestors realized that it is not political ideology, religious belief, race or nationalism that is to blame for a warring world. Rather they determined that it was the fault of human personality–of humankind’s inclination toward evil, in whatever form that is. They divided into factions that sought to eradicate those qualities they believed responsible for the word’s disarray.” My eyes shift to the bowls in the center of the room. What do I believe? I do not know; I do not know; I do not know. Those who blamed aggression formed Amity.” The Amity exchanged smiles. They are dressed comfortably, in red or yellow. Every time I see them, they seem kind, loving, free. But joining them has never been an option for me. “Those who blamed ignorance became the Erudite.” Ruling out Erudite was the only part of my choice that was easy. “Those who blamed duplicity created Candor.” I have never liked Candor. Those who blamed selfishness made Abnegation.” I blame selfishness; I do. And those who blamed cowardice were the Dauntless.”

I thought that passage really explained a lot about the factions that Beatrice must choose from. Does she choose to be loyal to her family and faction or live on the streets with the factionless? What follows is an extremely difficult decision… to be selfless or brave enough to follow her own path. There is also an initiation process that of course is not easy at all. I felt like I was reading about an episode of American Gladiators…but not even broken up by gender. You know, the whole taking on contenders by a test of stamina, strength and heart thing. It’s like that, but extreme.  Not only is she trying to get through all the tests, she’s trying to stay under the radar because of a secret that could be the death of her and others.

Beatrice doesn’t really know where she belongs and I feel anyone would feel that way. We as the reader can relate to her.  I mean how do you honor only one virtue or trait above others? And what I love is that she isn’t bitchy…but definitely bitchin’. I mean she has to put up with a lot, but she’s not mean about it. And she comes from the faction the least liked: Abnegation, but even she struggles with selflessness. It’s something awesome.

There are a lot of Hunger Game comparisons going on, and I can see why, dystopia, wicked awesome protagonist who has to make tons of hard decisions, hot helpful boys. Really though, Divergent is a book all its own. But besides being a really good book, and well paced; it really makes you think. Plus, I really love the idea of the different factions. Candor (honest), Abnegation (selfless), Dauntless (brave), Amity (peaceful/kind) and the Erudite (smart.)

A great dystopian read. What house do you think you’d be in?

Backpacking through Europe with only 4 Rules

Reading level: Young Adult

Hardcover: 336 pages

Publisher: HarperTeen (August 23, 2005)

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson was such a joyful experience. It’s been on my TBR list forever, and I’m kicking myself for not reading it sooner. It’s definitely a YA must-read.

The premise is pretty awesome.Ginny Blackstone at seventeen hasn’t done anything of consequence or gone anywhere exciting… that is, until she embarks on a journey throughout Europe following instructions left to her in letters by her deceased aunt. It’s like a soul-finding scavenger hunt that satisfies wanderlust.
There are four rules she must follow:

Rule #1: You may bring only what fits in
your backpack. Don’t try to fake it out with
a purse or a carry-on.

Rule #2: You may not bring guidebooks,
phrase books, or any kind of foreign
language aid. And no journals.

Rule #3: You cannot bring extra money or
credit/debit cards, traveler’s checks, etc.
I’ll take care of all that.

Rule #4: No electronic crutches. This means
no laptop, no cell phone, no music, and no
camera. You can’t call home or communicate
with people in the U.S. by Internet or
telephone. Postcards and letters are
acceptable and encouraged.

This book was a travel experience. I could smell the places Ginny visited; it was as if I was there. It will bring back memories of your own travels, or give you an idea of what yours could be like.

I also found it easy to relate to Ginny, who is shy, yet earnest in everything she does. It’s a lot for a seventeen year old, trying to deal with the death of her aunt and at the same time navigating in unfamiliar lands. It’s really an educational experience, learning more about her aunt and even herself. I find it admirable that she has complete faith in her aunt’s instructions. I mean look at those rules, they don’t even seem safe.

Last summer was my first time ever leaving the country and I prayed like a million times that Eyjafjallajokull would not erupt while I was on my plane. Also I heard people die near their birthdays and mine was looming near. You can image the nervous wreck I was and I wasn’t even going alone.

I mean can you imagine going by yourself at seventeen, your only directions and support from letters opened one at a time? I had a hard enough time asking people where the laundrette was. Yet Ginny was strong and practical doing some things that were well beyond her comfort level.

13 Little Blue Envelopes is suspenseful because the reader is roughing it with Ginny, and we are just as curious about the next letter. Of course not everything runs smoothly or according to plan, but in the end it’s all about the experience, right? My niece is practically one of my best friends so it was easy to imagine her doing these things. I only wish I could be as epic as aunt Peg was for Ginny.

Hey, it’s also a good time to read it as the sequel was recently released.

I’m up for another journey.

While we’re at it, any interesting travel tales?

Bite Club by Rachel Caine

I’ve always been a big fan of the Morganville Vampire series because I happen to live in a middle-of-nowhere Texas town. I can relate, I practically live in Morganville, my town even has the “-ville” ending in it.

Basically the scenario in this book is pretty fierce, a fight club between vampires and humans–friends are put against friends. And who do you think gets recruited into this club?

After reading the tenth installment in this series, I feel this book is my least favorite. Not, just because Shane goes psycho and starts abusing everyone he cares for. It just doesn’t have that pizzazz the prior books have.

Before we would see glimpses of kick-ass Claire making her way in this weird town, but in this book she was strangely lack luster and a bit short-sighted in regards to her future. I mean what happened to the wicked awesome Claire from Kiss of Death? I felt like Caine tried to showcase more of Eve in this book with her sudden fencing skills, but I’m so used to people always rushing to her aid, that her sudden ability to protect herself seemed odd. I mean she has a mouth on her, but she really couldn’t do anything beside bedazzle her weapons. Now she’s fighting against the founders of Morganville. Yeah, okay…

Bite Club was definitely about Shane though, and we even get to see some chapters in his point-of-view. I guess this is so we can see how his thoughts and temper quickly transform into something that is not usually himself— so we don’t hate him as much and see he is under the influence of someone else. It worked, I mean I don’t hate him, but I don’t love him either.

Don’t get me wrong I still love this series, but this book was just blah. It just felt like a filler book. I assume if you’ve read this far into the series, you’re in it for the long haul. I am. I’m still going to read the next book, and apparently the one after that. It’s just that this one didn’t shine, but at least this one didn’t end on a cliff hanger either.

I’m really just in it for Myrnin.

What do you guys think?

The Truth about Forever By Sarah Dessen

Hardcover: 384 pages

Publisher: Viking Juvenile (May 11, 2004)

So you can’t really be into YA fiction without hearing about Sarah Dessen and her humongous fan base.  In fact I have been purposely ignoring her books cause the title, the covers, everything about them just screamed melodrama to me and that’s something I try to avoid. I’ve seen WAY too many Korean dramas that just left me sad for way too long. Nevertheless, I wanted to at least read one.

So now after finally reading a Dessen novel, what are my first impressions? I mean I’ve seen How to Deal and I know it’s based off of two other of her novels, but essentially the spirit of that movie was in this book. There’s a sad repressed girl having some sort of family problem. There’s a death and the characters are trying to deal with grief as best they can. Of course one can’t do this without an awesome best friend and a swoon worthy boyfriend. I guess after reading so many fantasy books I just wasn’t impressed with the ordinariness of this book. Yes, the sentiments were sweet, and the writing and conversations between characters were meaningful, but I wasn’t blown away.  And this seems to be most people’s favorite Dessen novel. I’ll have to read some more to get a better handle on things I guess.

Despite saying that I think the The Truth about Forever has a quiet sort of confidence about it. I’m willing to put aside my personal preferences for all things fantastical and unrealistic to say this book was good for this contemporary genre. I appreciate that Sarah is writing about true issues realistically and wants to give a message in her book. I read an interview where she mentions that The Truth about Forever was her wanting to write about the idea of being “perfect,” and about embracing imperfection. I can get on board with that. That’s what this book was about.

Macy witnesses her father’s death over a year and a half ago and still hasn’t properly mourned for him. Instead she tries to stay in control of her life by having the perfect boyfriend, best grades, neat appearance and even a job at the library (cause you know only perfect people have jobs at the library…har har.) On a side note, Macy reminds me of Scully from The X-Files, always saying she’s “fine” when she is not, and not wanting to appear weak or out of control.But the only thing that really makes Macy happy and able to forget the past is the chaos that is Wish Catering. She feels human there and meets awesome people like Delia who runs it, sisters Kristy and Monica who are full of life and idiosyncrasies. Bert obsessed with the end of the world and Wes, fresh out of reform school and dealing with the death of his mother. Throughout all this Macy learns to transition and move on.

Overall, if you like YA books at least read one Dessen book. I’m not on her fan-train yet,but hey, many other people are. You could be too.

If so what happens to be your favorite Sarah Dessen book? Or better yet, what are some of your reasons for identifying with her characters?