We Were Liars: A Review

We Were Liars by E. LockhartA wealthy, respected family. Summers on a private island. Four friends, the Liars, who have the world at their fingertips. First loves. Memories. Lies. And, eventually, the truth.

Until one accident–one mystery–changes all that and nothing can ever be the same in We Were Liars (2014) by E. Lockhart.

E. Lockhart delivers another smart, layered story here with writing reminiscent of her Printz honor title The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. It’s impossible to say much more without revealing too much.

We Were Liars is an incisive story of privilege, loss and a few other things besides. While the themes and fallout are often cutting, even tragic, the story still offers moments of optimism as well as an evocative island setting.

Written with layers upon layers of meaning as well as subtle clues, We Were Liars is a sensational read that will leave readers as shocked as they are satisfied. With so many twists, this is a story most will want to re-read moments after turning the last page.

Possible Pairings: The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson, And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard, Liar by Justine Larbalestier, Madapple by Christina Meldrum, , The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle, Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten, The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams

Never Fade: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Never Fade by Alexandra BrackenRuby never chose to be an Orange. She never wanted to be able to control people’s minds or be a detainee in Thurmond. She didn’t want to lose Liam and Chubs and Zu. She didn’t want anything to do with the Children’s League.

But Ruby hasn’t been able to make her own choices for a very long time.

After escaping the Smoke and trying to save her friends as best she could, Ruby is now part of the Children’s League, More than that, she’s the Leader of her team. But all Ruby can  think is that they’re trusting a monster. Because isn’t that what someone with her ability must be–a monster?

Something is wrong in the League. Secrets and lies threaten to bring the entire organization down with deadly consequences for Ruby and the other children in the League. Worse, crucial information about the virus that has cost the country, and Ruby herself, so much has gone missing.

Desperate to gain control over her life and keep the people she cares about safe, Ruby embarks on a desperate mission to track down the missing information even if it will lead her back to Liam Stewart–the boy Ruby thought she’d never see again, the one who won’t remember her either way.

Ruby has bartered away her own freedom to protect her friends. As she tries again to keep everyone safe, she has to decide how much more she can lose before nothing of the real Ruby is left in Never Fade (2013) by Alexandra Bracken.

Never Fade is the sequel to Bracken’s novel The Darkest Minds. It is also the second book in this trilogy.

This book picks up a few months after the events of The Darkest Minds. It also relies very heavily on events from book one making this a series you should start at the beginning.

Bracken strikes a perfect balance between old and new characters here. Readers will recognize some familiar faces (even some surprising ones) from book one. At the same time newer characters that Ruby encounters at the League add a lot to the story with new personalities that jump off the page.

Never Fade opens with some intricate action sequences that are a serious departure from the tone and rhythm of book one. However after the action packed opening the story returns to pacing and structure more in line with what readers of The Darkest Minds would expect.

It’s impossible to say more about the plot without seriously spoiling both this book and the first. Suffice it to say that this one has just as many twists and surprises as the first along with some new locations. Despite the fast-paced plot, the focus remains on the characters as Bracken highlights the changes Ruby (and others) have been forced to make after the events of book one.

The characters are also central to this story and a huge part of why this series works. Without ever being overly romantic or twee, Never Fade  is a testament to the power of connections even as those bonds are tested and broken. It’s not an exaggeration to say this book will break your heart even as it puts the pieces back together.

Action and suspense will keep readers turning the pages anxiously but the bonds between Ruby and her friends and the surprising revelations at the ending are what makes Never Fade another sensational read from a great author.

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, False Memory by Dan Krokos, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*

 

Vicious: A Review

“The world resists, when you break its rules.”

Vicious by V. E. SchwabVictor and Eli have been competing with each other since the moment they met. Victor could easily surpass Eli, of course. But he recognizes the same reckless ambition in Eli and, Victor thinks, the same broken pieces that Victor can’t quite fix in himself. In a world where so many things are boring Eli, at least, is interesting.

Eli proves to be especially interesting in their senior year of college when their shared thesis research about adrenaline and near-death experiences reveals that under the right circumstances it may be possible to develop ExtraOrdinary abilities.

Their fates tangle even further when experiments with that research go horribly wrong.

Ten years later Victor and Eli find themselves on opposite sides of a battle for power. While Victor breaks out of prison determined to exact revenge on the friend who betrayed him, Eli is on a mission of his own to eliminate every ExtraOrdinary person that he can.

Victor and Eli both know a final meeting is inevitable. They both know only one is likely to survive. But even as they move inexorably closer to that final confrontation, it’s unclear who will emerge the hero. And who will forever be remembered as the villain in Vicious (2013) by V. E. Schwab.*

Vicious is an intricately plotted story of revenge and the not-quite redemption of Victor Vale. With chapters labeled “ten years ago” and “last night” (among other times) readers are brought closer and closer to Victor and Eli’s dramatic showdown. Flashbacks interspersed with the present story explain the rivalry between the two men while also providing valuable insight into their characters.

Schwab expertly navigates the murky area between right and wrong as readers (and perhaps the characters themselves) are left wondering who, if anyone, is the actual hero of the story.  With a plot exploring the idea that opposing a self-proclaimed hero–even for very good, very right reasons–might make someone a villain by default, Vicious is still populated with a number of surprisingly likable characters.

Vicious pushes the boundaries of conventional superhero tropes to take this story in a new and original direction. Readers looking for the next great anti-hero or fans who always cheer a little louder for the bad guy will definitely want to give Vicious a try.

*V. E. Schwab is the alter ego of YA author Victoria Schwab. This book is marketed for adult readers. It would be great for older teen readers but younger readers should be prepared for more mature language and some violence.

Possible Pairings: Plain Kate by Erin Bow, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, The Brokenhearted by Amelia Kahaney, Proxy by Alex London, Fracture by Megan Miranda, Watchmen by Alan Moore, The Superhero Handbook by Michael Powell, Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*

The Dream Thieves: A Review

The Dream Thieves by Maggie StiefvaterEverything changed for Blue, Gansey, Ronan and Adam before they ever found Cabeswater. Things changed for Noah long before that.

Now that the ley lines have awakened even more changes are coming to the small town of Henrietta. There will certainly be more moments of wonder; maybe even things coming close to magic. But darker things are also being drawn to the power of the lines.

Ronan always knew that his family was different. He always knew that his dreams were different. Ronan always knew that, in some fundamental ways, he was different.

It wasn’t, after all, everyone who had a pet raven named Chainsaw. Nor was it everyone who acquired such a pet from his own dreams.

As Gansey’s search for Glendower and Cabeswater continues it soon becomes clear that Ronan’s dreams are at the center of their latest puzzle. But with so many people searching and grasping for pieces of Cabeswater, it’s unclear how much will have to be lost before the next piece of the puzzle will be found in The Dream Thieves (2013) by Maggie Stiefvater.

The Dream Thieves is the second book in Stiefvater’s Raven Boys quartet. This book picks up closely after the conclusion of book one, The Raven Boys. While both books are delightful on their own, it’s unlikely readers new to the series will be able to catch up without reading the first installment.

This book focuses much more on Ronan even as Stiefvater continues to delve into the mysteries surrounding Glendower and Gansey’s search. Blue and Gansey have their moments, of course, but it was a pleasant surprise to have the book focus so much on Ronan. (Even more of a surprise to realize how very likable he is as a character.)

Stiefvater’s writing is top-notch as this series continues. The focus on Ronan’s dreams and a new secondary character takes the story in a new direction while Stiefvater’s beautiful prose and familiar characters continue to deliver everything readers will remember with fondness from The Raven Boys.

The Dream Thieves is a perfect blend of skillful storytelling and suspense as tension builds until the final confrontations in the story. Being the second book in a series of four, there are (of course) several questions left by the end of the story including a very surprising ending. That said, Stiefvater delivers everything fans will hope for and expect from her in this novel along with a story that is certain to resonate with readers.

Possible Pairings:  Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis, Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, Clarity by Kim Harrington, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin, The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*

Born of Illusion: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Fortune-telling laws are getting stricter and stricter so all it takes is one disgruntled client ratting us out to the authorities and we’re in deep trouble. They allow us to hold our magic and mentalist shows because they’re considered harmless entertainment. It’s the private seances the authorities object to, but the amount of money we get is worth the risk.”

Born of Illusion by Teri BrownAnna Van Housen has been a part of her mother’s mentalist act for years. She has also helped break her mother out of jail countless times when she is arrested during one of their fake seances. Herself a gifted magician, Anna loves performing magic in front of a crowd almost as much as she hates the seances. But the money makes it impossible to stop.

Posing as a medium and performing false seances might be a crime, but for Anna the real risk isn’t being outed as a fraud; it’s having people find out she really does have psychical powers.

As she and her mother start once again in Jazz Age New York City, Anna begins having strange visions of her mother in danger. Surrounded by new people, in a new city, Anna’s powers become stronger and dangers seem to be everywhere. As she tries to learn more about her abilities and her mysterious downstairs neighbor, Anna is drawn into a world of psychical abilities and the paranormal.

In order to get to the root of her visions, and her own complicated relationship with her mother, Anna will have to separate the illusions from the truth in Born of Illusion (2013) by Teri Brown.

Born of Illusion is the first book in a series. The sequelBorn of Deception is scheduled to publish in 2014.

Born of Illusion is a wonderful blend of fact and fiction as Brown integrates real people and events into a completely unique plot. Anna is a refreshingly self-assured, confident heroine who knows exactly what she wants if not always whom.* The supporting cast in Born of Illusion is equally well-written and enjoyable. In a book that operates in grey areas, all of the characters are realistically human and, yes, sometimes flawed. While the story centers on Anna and her unsettling visions, Brown also expertly unpacks Anna’s complex relationship with her mother throughout the story.

Anna’s checkered past as a show-woman and her magic act add even more atmosphere to a delightful story.

There are a lot of books set in the 1920s. Many of those books are set in New York City. Brown adds something new to that conversation with her novel filled with magic and adventure. Born of Illusion will be a delight for readers of historical fiction and paranormal novels alike.

*There is a lover triangle of sorts in this book and it isn’t a strong  story element although I understand the need for it. Ultimately I enjoyed the book enough to overlook it.

Possible Pairings: The Diviners by Libba Bray, The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, Always a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Selling Hope by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*

Prodigy: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Prodigy by Marie LuJune and Day arrive in Vegas just in time for everything to change: The Elector Primo has died. His son, Anden, will replace him as leader of the Republic.

Escaped fugitives desperate to get away from the reach of the Republic, June and Day fall in with the Patriots–an organization trying to overthrow the Republic. The Patriots are happy to help Day find his brother and get them all passage to the neighboring Colonies. For a price.

If June and Day help assassinate the new Elector, they can finally be free, maybe even happy. And together.

The only problem is that as June learns more about the Patriots and their plan she realizes the new Elector might not be the problem and the Patriots might not be anyone she or Day can trust.

Revolution might not be the only way to change things in the Republic. Bloodshed and war might not be the only cost either in Prodigy (2013) by Marie Lu.

Prodigy is the sequel to Lu’s wildly popular debut, Legend. The Legend trilogy will conclude with Champion‘s release in November 2013.

Prodigy picks up right where Legend left off with Day and June on the run. Lu deftly combines new and old information to bring readers up to speed without sacrificing the story’s pacing.

Once again the novel alternates between chapters narrated by Day and June. There are more false starts and near misses as both Day and June begin to wonder about their future in the midst of disapproval and their own doubts.

Prodigy is a clever, action-packed story of revolution and change. Lu expertly unpacks the idea of working within the system versus without. Prodigy also delivers a lot more information about the world of the Republic as well as its neighboring countries to add a fascinating dimension of world politics to the story.

With an ending that is as shocking as it is heartbreaking, Prodigy is sure to leave readers eager for this trilogy’s final installment–a book that is sure to be another stunner in a fine series.

Possible Pairings: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, White Cat by Holly Black, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Selection by Kiera Cass, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, Proxy by Alex London, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012*

Magisterium: A Review

Magisterium by Jeff HirschSixteen-year-old Glenn Morgan has lived next to the Rift her entire life–staring through the forest at the bright, red lights marking the border between the Colloquium and somewhere else. Kevin Kapoor tells her that the other side of the Rift is filled with magic and mutants–wolf-like creatures and maybe even witches.

Glenn doesn’t have time for magic. Or Kevin Kapoor.

Ever since her mother disappeared ten years ago, Glenn’s life has taken on a singular focus: get good grades, join the Deep Space Service, travel across the universe to planet 813 and get the hell away from everything and everyone else in her life. Her father hates the idea. But her father has been a shadow of himself since Mom disappeared–wasting away as he works on the mysterious Project that he might never finish.

Except he does finish; building something that looks more like a piece of jewelry than a piece of technology with the potential to change everything on both sides of the Rift.

Entrusted with the Project, chased by Authority, all of Glenn’s plans for the future become irrelevant as she and Kevin are forced to run with only one place left to hide in Magisterium (2012) by Jeff Hirsch.

Magisterium is Jeff Hirsch’s second novel (following his debut The Eleventh Plague).

Magisterium is a satisfying combination of fantasy and science fiction as Hirsch blends together the best elements of both to create a unique, exciting story. I hesitate to give too much away but Hirsch has conjured two dramatically different worlds on either side of the Rift to create a strong, evocative setting. As the story progresses the land itself seems to become a character in the novel as Glenn and Kevin learn more about what lies on the other side of the Rift.

Glenn is a conflicted heroine, forced to negotiate between her own agenda and the tasks that circumstance have forced upon her. She is also strong, grounded and determined–all nice qualities to find in a character. She is accompanied by several great characters throughout the story–notably Kevin Kapoor who is funny, cheerful and stalwart even in the face of Glenn’s feigned indifference making them a great pair to read about.

Hirsch’s writing is also excellent as he creates a gripping, exciting story. Sometimes there is almost too much action between the dramatic chases and dangers across the Rift. In the midst of all that, Magisterium also raises interesting questions about family and the ideas of unconditional love, home, and even the nature of friendship as almost everything Glenn trusts is stripped away.

I also have to say, I love Jeff Hirsch for writing stand alone novels. It’s so refreshing when everything seems to be part of a series or have some kind of cliffhanger. Magisterium is a nicely contained story with action, magic and some very difficult decisions as Glenn realizes that after some choices there is no road home. Highly recommended for readers looking to transition into the fantasy or science fiction genres.

Possible Pairings: The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi, These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, False Memory by Dan Krokos, Sabriel by Garth Nix, Vicious by V. E. Schwab, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

You can also read my exclusive interview with Jeff Hirsch!

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012*