Sunday, June 24, 2012

Obsidian: The Lux Series Book 1

 Title: Obsidian
Author: Jennifer Armentrout
Published: May 2012 by Entangled Teen
Book 1 of the Lux Series

“He was probably the hottest guy I’d ever seen in real life, and he was a total douche. Go figure.”  

One of the most blogged about books recently and widely recommended, Obsidian is an out of this world piece of work that is filled with danger, excitement, and a fascinating group of extra-terrestrial beings known as Luxen. Jennifer Armentrout, author of the popular Covenant Series, has done it again with Obsidian!
Katy Swartz does not have long to mourn the move to West Virginia before she finds a reason to celebrate….the gorgeous boy next door- Daemon Black. But when her first meeting with him leaves her fuming and nearly in tears, she swears off Daemon and all that boys like him have to offer. Ironically, the next person she meets is Dee, Daemon’s sweet and friendly twin sister, eager to make friends with the new girl. Determined to be friends with Dee, while ignoring the protests of Daemon and their established friends, Katy begins to fall into the routines of a typical high school senior. That is until the extraordinary happens: Katy is attacked by a lunatic and Daemon shows up and literally freezes time with a wave of his hand. Katy is left in awe of her rescuer; that is until he opens his mouth and ruins the moment. Daemon reluctantly explains that he is a Luxen, a being from another planet and he has “marked” her by saving her. Now she has to stay close by him so that he can protect her from the Arum (evil aliens) who will come looking for her to get to him and other Luxen like him. Armed with the extraordinary knowledge that other worldly beings walk among us, Katy must navigate high school while trying to avoid stepping into the middle of an all out alien war amongst the Luxen (who are classmates and teachers alike) and the Arum, the evil aliens that have hunted their kind here to extinct them. To make matters worse, Katy’s new situation has made her a new enemy at school, Daemon’s crazy ex-Luxen girlfriend, who is determined to put an end to her without a second thought.

Katy is a gem of a protagonist. For as much crap as she takes from Daemon, she is able to give it right back. She is witty and snarky, the perfect match to Daemon’s full blown sarcastic personality. I like that she is a book blogger and is constantly trying to take control of her life. Or at the very least, keep Daemon from controlling her. Daemon is incredible. Incredibly…moody and judgmental. He is fiercely protective of his sister and sweetly indulgent when he wants to be. Daemon’s character and behavior are very deliberate. The best part of Obsidian is the witty banter that takes place between Katy and Daemon. While they are constantly at each other’s throats, they are really funny about it, providing several laugh out loud moments. Not to mention the serious sexual tension laced in-between the intended jabs. Daemon and Dee’s interactions were just as interesting to watch because you get to see a different side of him compared to how he normally interacts with Katy. Dee was just a big ball of sunshine; you can’t help love her for her excitement and friendship.
Jennifer Armentrout weaves large quantities of sarcasm, with heavy amounts of sexual tension, and a dose of Sci-Fi to create this amazing read. I would recommend this to any Sci-Fi, paranormal- loving YA readers anywhere! Be on the lookout for book 2 in the Lux series, Onyx, out in August 2012.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Hunger Games Trilogy

I know when you read the title you probably thought, "I'm not reading this.  Everyone knows about The Hunger Games!"  Well I was post-apocalyptic when post-apocalyptic wasn’t cool people.  You will see how obsessed I am with this particular post-apocalyptic trilogy when I talk about Book 2.  Now for Book 1!
Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Published:  September 2008 
by Scholastic Inc.
The Hunger Games Trilogy: Book 1

In the first book of this series, Suzanne Collins sets the stage for an exciting and captivating story to unfold.   In post-apocalyptic North America, the nation of Panem is separated into 12 districts and 1 shining metropolitan area.  The Capitol is a wealthy, beautiful, and vindictive city.  The Districts all have a specific job to do that provide The Capitol things they need.  Many years ago, there was District 13 who decided to rise against The Capitol.  That District was presumably destroyed.  To remind the other Districts of their power, The Capitol instated The Hunger Games.  This is an annual event where The Capitol selects 1 boy and 1 girl tribute from each district to fight to the death in an arena while the people of Panem watch on television.  It is like the ultimate reality show.  Instead of a rose, the contestants get spears and arrows in their back. The “lucky” winner get to return to their District with prizes of food and shelter.  

Katniss Everdeen is the female tribute from District 12, the poorest of all Districts.  Katniss is a strong heroine and a no nonsense type of girl.  She has been the primary *bread* J winner for her family since the sudden death of her father when she was 11 years old.  She is a great shot with a bow and arrow and hunts in the woods surrounding her District with her good friend Gale.   Katniss selflessly volunteers as tribute for The Hunger Games after her 12 year old sisters name is selected.

The male tribute from District 12 is Peeta Mellark, the baker’s son.  Peeta is an extremely likable character.  After Peeta is selected for The Hunger Games, Katniss remembers that Peeta once gave her a loaf of bread when she and her mother and sister were on the brink of starvation after her father’s death.  Because of what Peeta did, Katniss began to feel hopeful and believed that she could provide for her family.  Before the tributes have entered the Arena, Peeta reveals that he has been in love with Katniss since the first day he saw her at school. 

Once in the arena, the tributes are faced with horrific obstacles ranging from starvation to killer insects to murder.   Katniss has no idea how she will kill the boy who saved her life so many years ago, but she knows she must return home to her sister.    

I give this book an At!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Published: September 2011 by Simon & Schuster Publishing
Mara Dyer Series Book 1

Michelle Hodkin’s debut book, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, is one of the most intriguing reads we have come across. This story is filled with complexities and not easily categorized. Part paranormal, part teen thriller, and part romance; The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is a story that will have you mystified right up until the last page. Days after finishing this book, I would find myself considering over the facts presented, trying to make sense of the obvious and ambiguous.

The novel begins with a mystery, our protagonist, Mara Dyer, informs the reader through a letter that she is using a pseudonym, for protection, both hers and yours. When we first met Mara, she is awaking in the hospital from a tragic accident, were she is the lone survivor. Without her memories leading up to the accident, she is lost and no amount of police questioning will bring about the story that lead to her best friend's and boyfriend’s death. Deciding that a fresh start might help Mara heal, her family, including two protective brothers, move to sunny Florida. But even with a change of location and a new school, Mara is still plagued by hallucinations, unable to determine what is real and what is in her mind. She does her best to stay under the radar, but attracts the attention of the class Casanova. Enter Noah Shaw, known for his legendary “panty dropping smile”, bed-head hair, and his British bad boy persona.  Immediately attracted to the fragile, beguiling Mara Dyer, what ensues can only be described as providence and disaster rolled together. Mara is desperate to find out why she can’t remember and at the same time, trying to figure out which of her hallucinations are real before someone else gets hurt.

Mara is a complex character, one who you can’t quite put your finger on, even as you read the story from her point of view. Although she is troubled, she does not run from it, accepting her fate – whatever that may be. She is unsure of herself, but at the same time, holds herself accountable for everything she did and did not do. Her relationship with Noah was interesting to read and you cannot help put root for him when he finally gets her attention. Noah is easily one of the most crush-worthy guys in literary history. Maybe it is his use of British euphemisms or his bad-boy turned sweet boyfriend behavior, but he is definitely an appealing character. Mara’s brothers are nice secondary characters, supporting her when needed and covering for her at other times. They added a nice family dynamic to the book, making Mara considerably more agreeable.

This book leads up to an ending that is both shocking and mind-boggling. While many answers are reveled, just as many new questions emerge. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer has a well placed cliffhanger ending; casting doubt on all that you have come to think is true. The second installment of this series, The Evolution of Mara Dyer, is certain to bring both answer and more questions.

Shatter Me: The Shatter Me Series Book 1

Title: Shatter Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Published: November 2011 by Harper/ Harper Collins
Shatter Me Series: Book 1

A fresh idea in the dystopian genre, Shatter Me is part X-Men, part new world order. Author Tahereh Mafi brings to life a riveting story about self-realization, the reality of human evils, and the redeeming virtues present in us all.
17-year- old Juliette Ferras has lived 264 days in a dark hole, away from a family who did not love her, away from any type of human contact. The Reestablishment has deemed Juliette a murder and a freak, unable to determine why her touch is fatal; they chose to lock her away. When she has begun to accept herself for the monster they claim her to be, Juliette is offered a reprieve from her prison and taken to the outside. The world around has slowly begun to diminish, falling prey to the new world order set forth by the imperious government, The Reestablishment.  Taken to the Reestablishment’s military base, Juliette is faced with her would be rescuer, Sector Commander Warner. Juliette quickly realizes that the young and handsome Warner is as ambitious as he is cruel; Warner has “saved” Juliette to make her a weapon against the Reestablishments enemies. Distraught and unwilling, Juliette comes into contact with Adam, solider with a secret; a boy from her past, who remembers her kindness. It is in Juliette’s power to determine if she will remain a victim and do the Reestablishments dirty work or if she will free herself and accept her affliction for what it is, a gift and a weapon.
Juliette is one of those characters who do not realize her own strength. For the majority of the novel, she remained self-deprecating, at points even begging the soldiers to kill her and put an end to her own evil and suffering. Those parts were heartbreaking to read, knowing she had no control over her affliction/gift. Eventually, she has the opportunity to come into her own, realizing her true potential and worth as not only a human being, but as someone who could have a lasting impact. She is an agreeable character, someone who has your sympathy, but at times not your undivided attention. For me, however, the supporting characters, Adam and Warner, stole the show. Both are polar opposites, yet equally fascinating and alluring in their own right.
Adam, who is considerate and charming in a good boy way, earns Juliette’s trust and affection easily. Although it becomes apparent he has ulterior motives, he is every bit the stand up guy he appears to be. Warner is everything Adam is not. Temperamental and calculating, he does not hesitate to take down anything in his way. But, in contrast, he is fascinated to the point of obsession with Juliette, taking care of her and treating her as something of reverence. Warner is enthralling and grows on you in an unsuspecting way.
Tahereh Mafi builds a world were books and art are burned and resistors of the government are killed without prejudice. The Reestablishment is trying to build a new world out of one likeness and through the imagery of her writing you get to see that. While this is a dystopian novel, many of the conflicts are presented internally among the characters. On an informative note, the writing did present a different type of prose normally found in the YA genre. The writing is straight forward and sometimes bleak, giving away to the inner monologue of an isolated girl. There were several instances of stricken text that forces you, the reader, to read between the lines of what she is thinking verses what she is saying.
All in all, this was an excellent read; unique, thought-provoking, just like the characters and plot. I would recommend this to dystopian fans and those who favor the supernatural. I look forward to the next two installments, Destroy Me (1.5) from Warner’s POV & Unravel Me (2)!

Born Wicked: The Cahill Witch Chronicles Book 1

Title: Born Wicked
Author: Jessica Spotswood
Published: February 2012 by Putnam Juvenile
The Cahill Witch Chronicles: Book 1

Born Wicked, the debut novel by Jessica Spotswood, is a definite must-read. Ms. Spotswood has created a book that will grasp hold of you from the very beginning and claim you until the very end.

Cate Cahill and her sisters are witches hiding in plain sight. As the eldest sister, Cate must help her sisters develop their magic, but more importantly, she must ensure no one ever find out about them. If suspected, at best the sisters would be put in the asylum; at worst- they would hang. Cate and her sisters have managed to stay under the religious Brotherhoods' radar, but recently, more and more innocent girls are being accused and carted off with no proof. Besides protecting herself and sisters from suspicion, she has an even bigger problem to worry about: her 17th birthday- which is fast approaching. In their civilized society, girls turning 17 must either marry or join the Sisterhood (the female version of the religious Brotherhood). While neither idea is desirable to Cate, her time is running out. Before Cate realizes it, she is juggling magic lessons, the Brotherhood, a marriage proposal from a childhood friend, and a growing attraction to her family’s new gardener, Finn Belstra.

Cate was a great lead, she was strong willed, caring, and independent. She fought to keep her sister safe and always made self-sacrificing decisions. I enjoyed reading her inner monologues and witnessing her relationships with Finn, Paul, and her sisters. Before getting in too deep, I have to say how much I ADORED Finn! He is the perfect combination of nerd-hottie! Smart and well read, but cusses like a sailor at just the right time. I love that he wore glasses and had ginger hair and still came off as sexy. (Not that those aren’t attractive qualities to begin with- it was just nice to read something beside tall, dark, and handsome). But most importantly, he was totally devoted to helping Cate and is willing to take a stand for his family and her. I loved reading the scenes between Cate and Finn; they were filled with the best kinds of tension. But then there is Paul, her childhood friend and partner in crime for so many of her younger years. Paul arrives back home during the most opportune time in Cate’s life, months away from deciding marriage or the Sisterhood. It is easy for Cate to fall back into routine with Paul, he is funny, good-looking, and they have a shared history. This was definitely a love triangle that could go either way- both guys are likable and deserving.

Cate’s sisters, Maura and Tess, are everything sisters should be. There are some very relatable sibling rivalry issues and some even better sisterly bonding. Tess, the youngest, is sweet and precocious. Maura, will do anything to set herself apart, but is clearly devoted to her sisters- just in her own way. The Brotherhood- who remained politically imposing and far reaching in their ways- you just cannot help but hate them immediately. They view the world in black and white, leaving no room for those who do not conform.

Ms. Spotswood does a great job providing the reader with imagery to the world she has created. Set in historical New England, the feel is genuine and engaging. The writing flowed well and left me swiftly turning pages to get to the next part. The plot was rich with drama, brought on by dysfunctional family dynamics and swoon-worthy boys. The paranormal aspect was a nice added bonus, to what was already a captivating story. I would recommend this book to all YA lovers- especially paranormal/ historical fans. I look forward to the next installment of the Cahill Witch Chronicles, Star Cursed!