This is probably more books than should have been in one review, but these two five-book series by Bec McMaster are connected and ALSO my review is based on how they relate to each other. (Hint: the first series is okay, the second is SUCH an improvement.) Sorry, this is so long, but here we go!
Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!
Title: Vampire Academy
Author: Richelle Mead
Goodreads Description: Only a true best friend can protect you from your immortal enemies . . .
Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth’s magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires – the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa’s best friend, makes her a dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them.
After two years of freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir’s Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their guardians-to-be, hidden in the deep forests of Montana. But inside the iron gates, life is even more fraught with danger . . . and the Strigoi are always close by.
Rose and Lissa must navigate their dangerous world, confront the temptations of forbidden love, and never once let their guard down, lest the evil undead make Lissa one of them forever . . .
Why it’s worth it: In honor of the release of The Glittering Court, I wanted to feature the series that got me started on Richelle Mead. I picked up the first books in this series kind of on a whim, back when vampires when all the rage. The original covers weren’t all that great, but I did it anyways.
I’m so glad.
My favorite thing about these books is that they aren’t just another vampire novel. There are vampires in it, but there is a lot more focus on relationships and friendships than in a lot of other “vampire” books. The world is exciting and new, and the books are full of adventure.
Rose, the main character, is the kind of person I would love to be friends with. Without a doubt, she makes these books for me. Whether it is her constant sass, her unflinching loyalty or her realness as a person and not just another archetypal character, she is always the highlight of each of the six books. She makes as many mistakes as she fixes, but she always works through it in the end.
An extremely realistic and interesting love interest/story always helps as well. Yes, not realistic in the sense of VAMPIRES but realistic in the sense that it’s messy and fraught but in the end I’m convinced that it is worth fighting for. These books will amuse, hurt and excite you in all the right ways. Not just another vampire novel.
Read it if you’re looking for: vampires, strong female characters, strong female friendships, swoon worthy romance, not another love triangle, magic, humor, sass, action, adventure
Vengeance will be hers.
Allison Sekemoto once struggled with the question: human or monster? With the death of her love, Zeke, she has her answer.
Allie will embrace her cold vampire side to hunt down and end Sarren, the psychopathic vampire who murdered Zeke. But the trail is bloody and long, and Sarren has left many surprises for Allie and her companions – her creator Kanin, and her blood brother, Jackal. The trail is leading straight to the one place they must protect at any cost – the last vampire-free zone on Earth, Eden. And Sarren has one final, brutal shock in store for Allie.
In a ruined world where no life is sacred and former allies can turn on you in one heartbeat, Allie will face her darkest days. And if she succeeds, her triumph will be short-lived in the face of surviving forever alone.
THE FINAL HUNT IS ON.
Thanks to NetGalley and HarlequinTeen for this eARC! This title is now available.
So if you read my reviews of the first two books, you know that I was completely blown away by the first one and fairly underwhelmed by the second one. Rather predictably, the final installment was right in between those two feelings.
Waiting on Wednesday is a feature hosted by Breaking the Spine.
Title: Darkness Before Dawn
Author: J. A. London
Expected Release: May 29, 2012
Summary from Goodreads: This electrifying new trilogy blends the best of paranormal and dystopian storytelling in a world where the war is over. And the vampires won.
Humans huddle in their walled cities, supplying blood in exchange for safety. But not even that is guaranteed. Dawn has lost her entire family and now reluctantly serves as the delegate to Lord Valentine, the most powerful vampire for miles. It isn’t until she meets Victor, Valentine’s son, that she realizes not all vampires are monsters….
Darkness Before Dawn is a fresh new story with captivating characters, unexpected plot twists, a fascinating setting, and a compelling voice. Written under the name J. A. London by a talented mother-son team, the trilogy is perfect for fans of True Blood and the House of Night and Morganville Vampires series.
Why I’m Waiting: Because I’m a sucker for vampires. (Yes, the pun was intended. Shush, my sense of humor is SPECTACULAR.) Also, dystopian. Through them together and what do you get? Hopefully something amazing, like Julie Kagawa’s The Immortal Rules, which I loved. I am CAUTIOUSLY excited about this book, because they can be so hit and miss with me, but it really does sound interesting. Plus, a mother-son writing team? I’m just curious to see if that works at all, story aside. 😛 (Although, about the cover, could they have made it look anything more like the Fallen series? Whether you like the Fallen series or not, I prefer uniqueness in a cover…)
Don’t forget to check out my Two Year Blogoversary Giveaway!
Waiting on Wednesday is a feature hosted by Breaking the Spine.
Title: The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden #1) (Click for Goodreads)
Author: Julie Kagawa
Expected Publication Date: April 24th, 2012
Summary from Goodreads: In a future world, Vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity.
Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.
Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die or become one of the monsters.
Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.
Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.
But it isn’t easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.
Why I’m Waiting: Because my blog is way too much of a small fish for me to be able to get it off NetGalley. 😛 Plus, Julie Kagawa is doing vampires. Guys. DID YOU NOT READ THE BLURB? So I got bit by the media vampire. Hard. I’m not ashamed. Plus, this cover is eerily reminiscent of the one that was designed for me for my novel that was up on inkpop-turned-figment. They could be, like, twins. (Except for, you know, the words between the pages. I do not write like Julie Kagawa; not even close.) Several key book blogs I follow who ARE bigger fish than me and got the eGalley have loved it, so I’m sold. Now, the book just needs to COME OUT.
EDIT: So, funny thing happened this morning. I checked my inbox and MY REQUEST WAS APPROVED. This Waiting on Wednesday has just turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. I LOVE EVERYTHING.
3 1/2 stars
St. Petersburg, Russia, 1888~
As she attends a whirl of glittering balls, royal debutante Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, tries to hide a dark secret: she can raise the dead. No one knows. Not her family. Not the girls at finishing school. Not the tsar or anyone in her aristocratic circle. Katerina considers her talent a curse, not a gift. But when she uses her special skill to protect a member of the Imperial Family, she finds herself caught in a web of intrigue.
An evil presence is growing within Europe’s royal bloodlines–and those aligned with the darkness threaten to topple the tsar. Suddenly Katerina’s strength as a necromancer attracts attention from unwelcome sources … including two young men–George Alexandrovich, the tsar’s standoffish middle son, who needs Katerina’s help to safeguard Russia, even if he’s repelled by her secret, and the dashing Prince Danilo, heir to the throne of Montenegro, to whom Katerina feels inexplicably drawn.
The time has come for Katerina to embrace her power, but which side will she choose–and to whom will she give her heart?
Lush and opulent, romantic and sinister, The Gathering Storm, the first book in Robin Bridges’s Katerina Trilogy, reimagines the lives of Russia’s nobility in a fabulously intoxicating and page-turning fantasy.
So, if you’ve been reading the reviews of this book, you probably heard that this book is really mythology heavy.
IT REALLY, REALLY IS.
Now, it should be known that I am ALL FOR mythology. But the thing is, if I don’t understand that mythology, I need it explained to me. 99% of the reason The Gathering Storm only got 3 1/2 stars from me is because I felt as if NOTHING is explained.
My big problem with this book is that I walked away feeling like I had no idea what had just happened. The book’s blurb doesn’t even begin to cover the kind of mythology going on in this book. Actually, I felt like Katerina’s power took a huge backseat to the different kinds of creatures running around in the book–and there were a LOT of creatures; almost too many.
The major creature in this book? Vampires. That was totally not what I signed up for. No, they don’t sparkle, but there is three different “breeds” of them that I never fully understood, and they didn’t seem to have any of the traditional vampire issues. (Granted, I think Bridges was playing with Russian vampire myths, because she was name-dropping breeds I’d never heard of.) The second one? Fae. It kept being referenced in brief flashes that the Imperial Family was descended from the Light Court of Fae, and this other family was descended from the Dark Court and they had special abilities and … something. Didn’t quite understand that either. There was, of course, undead, but that was all thanks to people other than Katerina for the most part. Supposedly she did raise one guy, but she never TRIED and it was just really, really weird. A reference to werewolves was also dropped for like three sentences.
Now, maybe my problem with this book is that I read really, really fast. I literally cannot slow down, which is not good when trying to read books like this. But I just kept going through this book and just. Not. Getting it. Whether it was mythology or events or descriptions, I felt like way too many things were glossed over. Other people have read and loved this book–aka, totally understood it–so to each their own, but don’t take this book lightly.
Another thing that bothered me: Do you see that bit in the blurb where it says “No one knows” about her power? In the beginning, no one did. Then, one person finds out and it’s like dominos. I don’t remember 85% of these people ever being told about her powers, but all of a sudden EVERYONE KNOWS EVERYTHING. That was really jarring to me.
Now, I can’t get away with this without mentioning that potential love triangle the blurb hints at. Readers can relax, it doesn’t get as love triangle cliché as it sounds.
Personal annoyance: The name dropping. If ONE more person called Katerina by her full name every other sentence, I was going to lose it. There were way too many names running around as is, especially for characters that were never introduced in the story. “He” or “she” really is an acceptable substitute when you can use it, authors.
Lastly, the ending. Perhaps it’s just me, but I felt that–for the end of a first book in a trilogy–the ending was far too tidy. Obviously there were some things to clear up, but there didn’t seem to be enough still going on to keep some readers interested. I’m legitimately curious about how the story will continue because there isn’t a clear place to go from there, except that it seems to be leading to “Katerina leaves Russia to go be a Doctor in Switzerland.” Which I feel should be the feeling we get after the end of book THREE.
Overall, though, I think this book has potential. Robin Bridges is, after all, a debut author (who did make my list of 12 Debut Authors I’m Looking Forward to in 2012). The Gathering Storm is very involved, so I will certainly be picking up the second book, The Unfailing Light, expected to be published October 9, 2012. What I’m hoping for is that Bridges, now settled into the story, will be able to take the time to explain just how in the world this world actually works, and what in the world is going on in these millions and millions of layers. I would recommend this book, but only to certain types of people who devour mythology heavy books. If you’re looking for a new world to drop right into, I’m be wary about handing you The Gathering Storm. An interesting challenge it is. An easy read it’s not.
The Mortal Instruments Trilogy by Cassandra Clare
Are you looking for humor? Fantasy? Action? Romance? Mystery? Vampires? Werewolves? All of the above?
Then I’ve got some books for you!
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot in the paranormal genre, but nothing’s been quite as good or as fun a read as this trilogy by Cassandra Clare. The first book, City of Bones, tells the tale of Clarissa “Clary” Fray, who thinks she’s just a normal teenage whose dad died before she was born and an artistic but forceful mom. One night at a teen club in Brooklyn, though, she spots a group of teens slaying something that claims to be a demon—and finds she’s the only one who can see them.
After her home is ransacked, her mother goes missing and Clary is attacked by a crocodile-looking demon, Clary finds that the group of teens is part of a large organization called Shadowhunters—warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons. The fifteen-year-old is now burdened with the knowledge that demons—along with warlocks, witches, fairies, vampires, werewolves and all other manners of mystical creatures—really do exist.
And her mother isn’t the normal woman Clary thought she was.
But the secrets and lies exposed in City of Bones turns out to be just the tip of the iceberg. In the second and third books, City of Ashes and City of Glass, Clary will find and lose friends, learn the truth about her past and her family and fall in love—sometimes, with the wrong people—all while trying to save the world from a madman the Shadowhunters thought was dead.
All three books are amazingly well-written and fast paced. Even the “slow” moments of the book keep you reading. The plot twists and turns like puzzling mystery to boot. My personal favorite about them, though, is that nearly every other page you will find yourself laughing out loud. Even after my two thousandth read-through, the jokes never seem to get old. Her characters, too, never lose me—they are some of my favorites in books overall.
If you start reading them now, you’re very lucky. With the trilogy finished, you won’t have to wait in suspense to know what happens like I did! However, Clare recently released her newest book, Clockwork Angel, which is the first book in a new trilogy called The Infernal Devices. While in the same world as The Mortal Instruments, it is actually a prequel to that trilogy. But if you’re worried that means repetition and things you already know about, don’t be! I just finished the book myself, and the world and plot is so completely different then The Mortal Instruments it’s hard to believe they both take place in the same universe! However, Clare retains the loveable characters and laugh-out-loud humor that made me (and my brother) love her first trilogy. Even more recently, I have found out that Clare is writing a new trilogy that will follow the events after City of Glass!
If you’re looking for a new fantasy series to read, I definitely recommend all of Clare’s books. At the very least, you’ll have to crack a smile. As for me? I’m actually in the middle of re-reading City of Ashes right now.
That’s the only thing keeping me sane as I wait for Clockwork Prince and City of Fallen Angels to come out in 2011!
I can’t believe I forgot that there WAS something else I could post up on here. 😀 Every month I write a book/author column for my school’s newspaper. VOILA! The first non poetry thing I can think of. 😀
Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon
Looking for a supernatural read this October that doesn’t involve vampires? I might have a book for you!
Depends on if you like the Undead or not.
In the Yvonne Woon’s debut novel Dead Beautiful, that’s just what you get. The book starts out on the sixteenth birthday of Renee Winters, whose present is to find her parents dead in the redwood forest in what looks like a double murder.
Though Renee is convinced there is something stranger going on, no one listened to her. Instead, her new guardian—her wealthy estranged grandfather—sends her to Gottfried Academy, a boarding school in Maine with strange students with secrets to take classes like Latin, Philosophy and the “Crude Sciences.” As if just losing her parents weren’t bad enough.
But then she meets Dante Berlin, the handsomest—and most elusive—boy at school, to whom she can’t help but feel drawn. As she falls in love with Dante and makes friends around the school, she finally feels that maybe she can move on after all.
As she and Dante get closer, strange things start to happen, and Renee stumbles onto the dark tragedies of Gottfried’s past. All at once, the Academy no longer feels like it could be anything like a home, not with all the secrets hiding behind its walls.
Little does she know it is Dante who is hiding the deadliest secret.
Though Dead Beautiful is billed as a romance, it was to me first and foremost a mystery. It is the questions surrounding her parents’ death and then surrounding Gottfried Academy that give the story its drive from beginning to end. The feelings between Dante and Renee almost take a backseat to the chaos going on in Renee’s life. The romance is definitely there, but I’d read this one more if you were going after a skin-crawling mystery then a love story.
Another factor that made Dead Beautiful a good, new Young Adult book was the fact that it dealt with actual philosophy (as a class and in the book in general!). It raised questions about life after death, love and the nature of the soul. Now, before you go “Ughhh, not something I’d like,” understand that this was not a main force of the book, but they were the undercurrents.
At this point in time, it is not clear whether or not there will be a sequel, but Woon definitely leaves that open. I, for one, hope she does. I’m not ready to abandon the world of Dead Beautiful quite yet! In the mean time, I find it to be the perfect October read for any lover of the Young Adult genre. It’s a perfect mix of the supernatural elements permeating the market right now, the new twist everyone seems to be looking for, an entangled web of mystery and a dash of romance. I hope you’ll like it as much as I did!
…Or, maybe a little less. That’s all for me this time, since I’ve got to go return this overdue book to the library!