Thursday, 29 November 2012

Under the Never Sky - Veronica Rossi

Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky , #1)Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky #1)
 - Veronica Rossi
Grade: YA
Rating: 5/5 stars

Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.

As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.

They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers abarbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love - one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY. (Description from Goodreads)

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It occurred to me while reading an early copy of ‘Through the Ever Night’ that I’d never actually finished my review of ‘Under the Never Sky.’ I love the book so much, that I found it hard to put into words exactly why I wanted everyone to read it and what stood out for me as the bits and pieces I loved and wanted to share with everyone. But I can’t escape the idea of spreading that love – so here is my late review, and I hope it shows how much I loved the book then; as well as now.

‘Under the Never Sky’ is a dystopia set in a world where only a tiny part of the population is controlled by a governing body under the pretence that it’s for their own protection. This part of the population live in many domed Pods all over the land, but we focus on Reverie. The Pods keeps the citizens safe from the destructive atmosphere outside, a lifestyle they’ve been cut off from for so long and they can no-longer live beyond their manufactured walls and worlds without dying. But there is a population on the outside and they have evolved throughout the 300 years since the world collapsed. I loved these split worlds. We get introduced to both through the main characters, Aria and Perry. You see the tension, lies and stories told to the Dwellers in Reverie and to the Outsiders, and you get to see how they look at each other – and then get to see those stereotypes and tensions least for some.

For me, Aria and Perry are perfect main characters. We get to see their emotions and thoughts through the spilt third person point-of-view. I love that we’re almost instantly introduced to both main characters at the same time; despite the fact that both characters come from different parts of the world and haven’t actually met yet. The tension, anger and emotion that is present while they’re learning to be around each other is incredible. I love that both main characters have situations and emotions that they have to fight to beat. I hate seeing weak main characters; I want my interest to be pulled in by their determination to never give up – and Perry and Aria are exactly like that; struggling to come to terms with their own problems, but always pushing themselves to get through their issues. Aria must try to overcome her fear of the outside world, as well as attempting to draw on hidden strengths to reach her mother in an outlying Pod, Bliss. While Perry struggles to accept that not everything he does will end in disaster and that befriending a Dweller might not be as bad an idea as he originally though. There is hardly any waiting to get the story rolling with these two and you fall into their separate views of the world so well. And obviously, a little of that tension between the two of them moves onto more than just friendship. They’ve become one of my favourite YA couples. I just love these two.

I usually think of dystopian novels as worlds where the government or a rebel body takes over complete control of everything; where the population is limited to only what that government wants them to do. But that’s not always the case, and ‘Under the Never Sky’ really shows there’s more to dystopias than just their oppressive governments with gadgets and invented organisations that trap all citizens. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed seeing this other side. While we do get to see inside the controlling world at the beginning, what we really get to see is the life outside the walls of the Dweller Pods, and there is so much going on. I mentioned that the outside world had evolved, well in a way they have and haven’t. Their lifestyles have moved backwards – small tribes and villages that struggle to find enough food and resources to make life worth living – but for some they have gained extra abilities from living in the outside world: heightened senses – sight, hearing, smell – that are sometimes all that stands between you and certain death. At first you read it thinking this has to be some sort of magic, a supernatural element to the story, but it isn’t; they really are just sense they are stronger than the average human’s.

But every dystopian world needs its weakness – the thing that needs to be overcome in order for everyone to live safely. And for ‘Under the Never Sky’ this is the Aether. The new sky patterns – sort of like super intense lightning funnelling towards the ground in intense storms and strikes – that can cause more destruction in a few minutes than anything before, and if big enough, these Aether storms can last a lot longer than a few minutes! We get hints and rumours of a land without Aether called the Still Blue. But it’s just a mystery place – a myth. The Aether is an interesting addition to the story. Unlike a controlling government or tribes that need to be fought, the Aether is unpredictable. The danger that comes from avoiding the Aether lifts up the excitement in the story and you just know it’s going to be a problem you can’t push aside for long.

What I adored about this book was the action. And it has got a lot of it. I can’t get enough of well written books that also have a bit of fighting and adventure. I love sword fights and treks across troubled lands. There are tribes that chase and attempt to kill Perry and Aria and the only way to escape them is to fight back. Aria must learn to defend herself and there are a few cute knife fighting lessons thrown into the mix. But what I love more is that Perry’s weapon of choice is the bow and arrow. Oh, a man after my own heart. I do like a good archer using his Outsider skills to hunt, fight and kill.

An amazing book full of adventure, excitement and the unknown. Just wait until you read, ‘Through the Ever Night’ – equally as incredible. I can’t get enough of this series.

5/5 stars

(Originally posted on Goodreads)

Friday, 23 November 2012

The Lost Prince (The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten #1)- Julie Kagawa

The Lost Prince (The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten, #1)The Lost Prince- Julie Kagawa
Grade- YA
Rating- 5/ 5 Stars

Don’t look at Them. Never let Them know you can see Them.

That is Ethan Chase’s unbreakable rule. Until the fey he avoids at all costs—including his reputation—begin to disappear, and Ethan is attacked. Now he must change the rules to protect his family. To save a girl he never thought he’d dare to fall for.

Ethan thought he had protected himself from his older sister’s world—the land of Faery. His previous time in the Iron Realm left him with nothing but fear and disgust for the world Meghan Chase has made her home, a land of myth and talking cats, of magic and seductive enemies. But when destiny comes for Ethan, there is no escape from a danger long, long forgotten.

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Even though you could technically read this book without having read the prequel, I would highly recommend that you read The Iron Fey series first. Having that extra background information on the characters and the world just makes things both easier and better. And while you're at it, read the short story Iron's Prophecy (since Ethan doesn't know about the prophecy, he misses things that you will pick up on).
Now on with the review...
Julie Kagawa, you have done it again! Her world building of magic and Fey is utterly memorizing. Everything from the descriptive world and characters to the actual storyline keeps your eyes glued to the page. To be honest I was wondering how I'd feel about this story being written from Ethan's perspective. Now I know I needn't have worried. The last time you read about Ethan, he's only a child and Meghan is telling him goodbye. In The Lost Prince that little boy has all grown up and Ethan has become a tough (and very swoon-worthy) young man. I absolutely loved Ethan.

Ethan is trying to lead a normal life but its not easy being a human with "the sight". Especially when the Fey realise and cause havoc for you and those you care about. It is for this reason that Ethan tries to distance himself from everyone (hoping to stay hidden from the Fey) and also the reason for Ethan's "bad boy" rep. When something starts targeting half breeds and a school mate disappears, Ethan must re-enter the Fey world in order to find him and stop the Fey killings.

I really loved everything about this book. All the new characters that were introduced were awesome (*coughs* Kieran) and it was especially exciting to see all the old characters again (I may have screamed out someone's name in excitement when he made his first appearance). Can't wait for the next book to see how everything plays out... especially with that prophecy still to come.

Originally Posted on Goodreads

Monday, 19 November 2012

Days of Blood and Starlight - Laini Taylor

Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #2)
Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2) - Laini Taylor
Grade: YA

Rating: 5/5 stars

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living – one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers’ arms to take their turn in the killing and dying.

Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon’s secret temple and dreamed of a world that was a like a jewel-box without a jewel – a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness.

This was not that world. 
(Description from Goodreads)

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What would you do if the person you loved was killed by their own family? Would you fall, losing all hope of living again; or would you fight back?

I feel like we may have just entered the age of incredible sequels. I hate to admit it, but lately the second books in popular trilogies have a way of disappointing me - the characters flip their personalities or the story feels like a filler for the final battle. But we're coming out of that trend. 'Days of Blood and Starlight' conveys the same powerful, emotional and addictive story and characters that we're first introduced to in 'Daughter of Smoke and Bone' and takes it to a whole new level. There is not a moment of this book I would have traded for something else, and I wish it had gone on forever. I have no doubt Laini Taylor could have an endless story if she wanted to.

We start the book in the middle of war. We saw signs of this war between the chimaera and the seraphim in the previous book, not only through the angels' active destruction of the portals between Eretz and the Human World, but through Karou's memories as Madrigal. War is all these races knew for so long. But this time, we get to see more of that fighting in the present. Karou is distraught over the death of her family and the collapse of her home, and puts all her energy into continuing the work of her father-like figure, Brimstone. While Akiva, determined to find out how to make up for all his wrongs, plans ways to stop the seraphim from annihilating the last of the chimaera. This book is very action based - what else would expect from a scenes that take place in a time of war? I love action books. The heart racing, blood pumping through the veins - not knowing what might be coming next. It makes it hard to put the book down to do normal things, like eat and sleep!

It's no secret that Laini Taylor has a way with words. She sweeps you up in her powerful tale and spits you out as a new person in the end; completely lost for words and shaking from the journey you've just been on. There were countless times when I had to pause after reading a sentence, just because the raw emotion and images that it produced were too much for me to function. You're attached to every character, every situation; from the Damas running to escape from seraphim slavery, to the guards posted outside the Angel strongholds, to the chimaera experiencing the endless pain tithe for resurrection. Nothing is hidden from the power of Laini's words.

We definitely see a different Akiva and a different Karou, in this book. There's no way for them to be the people they were before, not with so many issues pressing down upon them. Their pasts are always in the front of their - and everyone else's - minds; with no chance of escaping past choices and emotions. But, oh did I want them to forget about what everyone else might think, forget about the past, forget about their troubles. I just wanted to see them together and fighting for the same cause. When you've already seen the passion between two characters (or in two relationships, both Akiva and Karou, and Akiva and Madrigal), it's hard not to want to see those relationships again. But this is not a romance story, despite the longing, the hints, the hope. And, oh is there so much Hope!

This series is not a series that is about one character alone. It's not even about two characters (ie. those we would consider the main characters - Karou and Akiva, even if references to an angel and devil falling in love, is focusing on them). No. This series is much more than that. There are so many different characters that make it amazing. Of course, I want to mention Karou and Akiva, who have both suffered so much heartache over being together and being pulled apart. I can't get enough of these two. But there are characters I loved just as much as them. Zuzana and Mik. Never have the 'human' friends been so entertaining, so passionate and so persistent, Zuzana is incredible. She never gives up on the chance of being with Karou and, because of all the crazy she has already seen, accepting that there is more crazy to come doesn't seem to faze her. I'm so glad she has Mik though, because she needs a little normality in her life. The dialogue that runs between Zuzana and Mik brought smiles to my face almost every time they were on the page, and when there were no smiles it wasn't because of them, but the situation they were in. Then there's Ziri. A chimaera soldier, the last Kirin, who still wears his original skin. I adore Ziri. He's seen the worst of the world and still manages to hold onto this air of innocence. He comes out of his shell throughout the novel and you can't help loving him. And finally, the seraphim Misbegotten, the Emperor's bastards, Liraz and Hazael. Akiva's siblings and closest friends. The ones he can rely on to always have his back, even if he's not too sure they'll approve of his choices. It's amazing too see all these different characters interacting and fighting for survival and freedom. Laini Taylor finds a way to bring a voice to ever single character she creates, without making any of them seem 2D. Every one of them feels real and every one is important to the story.

One of the sub-plots that interested me the most involved Akiva's past, his history. Known as the Beast's Bane for his part in destroying the chimaera stronghold, you would think Akiva was important. But like all bastard offspring of the angel's Emperor, Akiva has no position, no family, no role in the world other than being a soldier. But we do find out more of his ancestry and it really makes you think; discovering just what makes him so different from the other Misbegotten. I'm a little obsessed with Akiva, so finding out more about him really sparked my interest. I can't wait to see how it all ties into the next book.

The end of the book leaves you breathless. Twists and turns that I definitely couldn't see coming, but are game changers. The war can't hope to be stopped in one book, and the angels have made the biggest move yet. I can't even begin to imagine how anyone will prevent more destruction from following in book #3, but one can only hope that there'll be action like no-one's ever known. And I'm looking forward to every last moment of it!

5/5 stars

(Originally Posted on Goodreads)

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Waiting on Wednesday #6

'Waiting On' Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, where you can gush about books that you're desperate to get your hands on...if only they were published already.

I've been in a bit of a YA Contemporary mood over the last few weeks. I haven't actually read too many of them, but I've been wanting to. Today I finally pre-ordered a YA Contemporary I've been waiting for all year. Because I'm dying to read it, I thought it'd be perfect for my WoW post this week.

All the Broken Pieces by Cindi Madsen 

What if your life wasn’t your own?

Liv comes out of a coma with no memory of her past and two distinct, warring voices inside her head. Nothing, not even her reflection, seems familiar. As she stumbles through her junior year, the voices get louder, insisting she please the popular group while simultaneously despising them. But when Liv starts hanging around with Spencer, whose own mysterious past also has him on the fringe, life feels complete for the first time in, well, as long as she can remember.

Liv knows the details of the car accident that put her in the coma, but as the voices invade her dreams, and her dreams start feeling like memories, she and Spencer seek out answers. Yet the deeper they dig, the less things make sense. Can Liv rebuild the pieces of her broken past, when it means questioning not just who she is, but what she is?

This book went through two cover reveals during the year and I'm so glad they ended on this one, because I adore it - The shattered glass, the mix of faces...the colours! And that's just the cover.

I have this slight obsession with broken and troubled characters in contemporaries; and it looks like All the Broken Pieces is going to deliver when it comes to damaged characters. I can't wait!

And that's my WoW for this week.

Friday, 9 November 2012

This Lullaby - Sarah Dessen

This LullabyThis Lullaby - Sarah Dessen
Grade: YA
Rating: 4/5 stars

When it comes to relationships, Remy doesn't mess around. After all, she's learned all there is to know from her mother, who's currently working on husband number five. But there's something about Dexter that seems to defy all of Remy's rules. He certainly doesn't seem like Mr. Right. For some reason, however, Remy just can't seem to shake him. Could it be that Remy's starting to understand what those love songs are all about? (Description from Goodreads)

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Another book to add to my list of comfort contemporary YA reads. I had high expectations for 'This Lullaby' not only because I have loved all Sarah Dessen books I've read in the past, but also because many friends recommended it and claimed it was the best Dessen book ever. I wouldn't go that far, but I really enjoyed the book and I can definitely see myself rereading it when I need a comfort story.

Sarah Dessen's books have a pattern. This isn't a bad thing, I like the pattern she uses, but it does mean you go into each new book knowing what will come next. There will be a girl with some family or personal issues, who falls for a guy who brings out the best in her; but she gets scared, worried or lost along the way. There's a separation for a while and then they'll get back together in the end. I like this pattern and knowing it exists means it fits into my "comfort" category so well. I don't have to worry that the story will send me spinning out of control; I know it'll end well.

'This Lullaby' starts with Remy Starr, a teenage girl who is just finishing High School and who plans to spend the summer before college having fun and letting loose - but first she must plan her mother's fifth wedding. Remy was a strange main character, I didn't like her all that much for most of the book. Because of her mother's relationship past, Remy convinced herself that love didn't exist, and this showed in nearly all her actions. She was hard and cold; and even though she used the same words (and others) to describe herself, I just couldn't bring myself to like her. I could understand why she came off this way, because of her images of love and relationships she wasn't really open to them for herself - it drove me mental. She's not an easy character to like. I sort of hated myself for not liking her, because Remy reminded me a lot of Auden from 'Along for the Ride' - they had a few differences, but I loved Auden and had to really try to love Remy. In the end, I warmed up to her a lot more, but I think that was all because of Dexter.

When you say the word 'lullaby' you think of music and, as the title suggests, the book involves a little bit of music. It's not a big focus, but there is a band: Truth Squad. Their musical journey becomes a side story as we see them write their own strange songs about Potatoes and attempt to get signed by a record label. Dexter, our love interest for this book, is the lead singer of Truth Squad and the one who finally breaks through Remy's cold heart. It sounds cheesy, but he had a really tough job to tackle and he did help change her. Dexter's a clumsy, loud, funny guy and he balanced Remy's personality so well. He brought out the best in her.

What I love most about Sarah Dessen books are the friendships she writes. Not all of her main characters end up with a close group of friends, but some of them do, and I love the dialogue that comes with them. The easy banter and the crazy conversations. I always like seeing characters that have these stable and well formed friendships. It makes them seem more real.

An easy, touching and comforting read. I loved it!

4/5 stars

(Originally posted on Goodreads)