Review: Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

Unbreakable Unbreakable
by Kami Garcia

ISBN-13: 9-780316-210171
Publication: October 2013 from Little, Brown BYR
Source: BEA author signing
Rating: 3 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I liked it
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

I never believed in ghosts. Until one tried to kill me.

When Kennedy Waters finds her mother dead, her world begins to unravel. She doesn’t know that paranormal forces in a much darker world are the ones pulling the strings. Not until identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into Kennedy’s room and destroy a dangerous spirit send to kill her. The brothers reveal that her mother was part of an ancient secret society responsible for protecting the world from a vengeful demon – a society whose five members were all murdered on the same night.

Now Kennedy has to take her mother’s place in the Legion if she wants to uncover the truth and stay alive. Along with new Legion members Priest and Alara, the teens race to find the only weapon that might be able to destroy the demon – battling the deadly spirits he controls every step of the way.

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Unbreakable by Kami Garcia is a creepy, intense ride full of demons, ghosts, kidnappings and fear. There were some amazing moments in this book that had me worried our characters might not make it.

Kennedy’s decent into the supernatural begins after her mother has been killed in their home. Thinking it was natural causes, Kennedy soon learns the difference when twin brothers Jared and Lukas break into her home one night and save her from having her breath stolen by her ghost-possessed cat. She goes on the run with them and two other teens, Priest and Alara, after being told about the Legion and how she is a part of it and must help save the world from the demon Andras. Kennedy is pretty tough. She doesn’t think she belongs and that the brothers are wrong about her being part of the Legion, and she accidentally makes some blunders but she steps up to help when needed and doesn’t back down.

I enjoyed the backstory of Andras and how the Legion came to be formed, and the scenes with the ghosts (all of them, from the creepy well to the terrifying prison) are wonderfully suspenseful and heart-stopping. Unbreakable is one of those books where things may not be what they seem, and characters have to trust their instincts and hope they’re not screwing things up. There is a bit of a romantic sub-plot going on with Kennedy and the brothers, but it doesn’t distract from the action or overall plot of Kennedy and the others trying to find a weapon that will put away Andras for good. The ending tied up book one and set up book two very nicely.

3 heart

Honestly, I think I would have enjoyed Unbreakable a bit more if so many aspects of the brothers, ghosts and how they’re killed, the demons and the hunting didn’t remind me of Supernatural (I know these things are not unique to Supernatural, but I draw comparisons). If you’ve never seen Supernatural, than Unbreakable by Kami Garcia will be an incredibly refreshing look at the paranormal genre – it does deliver some awesome action and interesting characters. However, if you have seen Supernatural, you will probably make the same comparisons I did. But you’ll also understand me when I say that Jared? He has Dean levels of guilt over something he did in the past and is keeping secret from Kennedy. I enjoyed Unbreakable and will definitely be on the lookout for the sequel, since the final scenes threw a wrench in everything we had known up until then and I’m curious to see it all play out.

ARC received at Book Expo America through an author signing at Little, Brown. Thank you!

Review: Half Lives by Sara Grant

Half Lives Half Lives
by Sara Grant

ISBN-13: 9-780316-194938
Publication: July 2013 from Little, Brown BYR
Source: Hachette Book Group Canada
Rating: 5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I loved it!
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Seventeen-year-old Icie’s parents have given her $10,000 in cash, a map of a top-secret bunker, and instructions to get there by any means necessary. They have news of an imminent viral attack and know that the bunker is Icie’s only hope for survival. Along with three other teens, she lives locked away for months, not knowing what’s happening in the outside world or who has survived. But one day, Icie discovers a shocking secret deep in the bunker. Are they safe there after all?

Generations in the future, a mysterious cult worships the very mountain where Icie’s secret bunker was built. They never leave the mountain, they’re ruled by a teenager…and they have surprising ties to Icie.

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Where to start with Half Lives by Sara Grant. I can honestly tell you I had very little idea what to expect from this book, but I was hopeful, and it surpassed any expectation I could, or did, have. I was stunned and crying by the end of the book, and amazed at how Sara Grant managed to blend together two completely separate yet intricately linked story lines.

Icie narrates a good half of the book, telling her story of how she is given cash and supplies and told by her parents to find a mountain outside Las Vegas where an abandoned toxic waste bunker that was never used will hopefully keep her safe from an imminent viral attack. On the way, she encounters a cheerleader, Marissa; a twelve-year-old wanna be rockstar, Tate; and mysterious Chaske. Together in the bunker, with no idea how the outside world is faring from the attack, Icie and the others try to survive. Icie is so much stronger than she thinks. She goes through crazy heartache and horror while trying to keep herself and the others alive, and wait for her Mum and Dad to come find her as they said they would. And while she may be terrified and has no clue what she’s doing, she keeps it together and survives as best she can.

The other half of the book is narrated generations in the future, primarily by Beckett, the teenage leader of a society that lives on the mountain that Icie fled to, but also by a few other characters who help flesh out the action and Beckett’s story. Surviving on the mountain, Beckett’s people fear the terrorists of the outside world, the broken city they call Vega just on the horizon both helping them survive and a source of worry. Beckett is the direct link to their god, the Great I AM, who once walked the mountain and gave the society their Just Sayings, their Facebooks and the hope of one day that Mumanda will come to save them all. The chapters are interspersed with each other and I was always so excited to see something that Icie and the others did become the direct influence of the language and culture of Beckett’s society. By the end of the book I was a mess of tears at all the pain Icie, Beckett, Marissa, Tate and everyone went through, but also because of revelations that Beckett has that nearly broke my heart, and the hope Icie still held. I am just in awe of how the two story lines blended together, and how much I came to care about these characters.

5 heart

Half Lives by Sara Grant is a book about one girl’s journey to save herself in the face of impending disaster, and how choices she makes affect the lives of hundreds throughout the coming generations. It’s about finding strength in yourself to continue on, about making the hard decisions but also the right decisions, about confronting your fears and believing in your faith (whatever it may be). It’s about love, and sacrifice, about realizing what matters in the long run and discovering yourself through hardship. Half Lives is also about the threats we face every day through fear, weapons, secrets and lies. It’s about change and growth and the human need to survive and live. All tinged with an innate humour of how culture and language can change and reflect a caricature of words, phrases and things that what we have today in our society. Guys, I want nothing more than to dive right back in to Half Lives and live it again. I love this book like crazy, and I hope you do too.

ARC provided from Hachette Book Group Canada in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Review: Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff

Boy Nobody Boy Nobody
by Allen Zadoff

ISBN-13: 9-780316-199681
Publication: June 2013 from Little, Brown & Co.
Source: Hachette Book Group Canada
Rating: 3.5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I liked it
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Boy Nobody is the perennial new kid in school, the one few notice and nobody thinkgs much about. He shows up in a new high school, in a new town, under a new name, makes a few friends, and doesn’t stay long. Just long enough for someone in his new friend’s family to die – of “natural causes.”Mission accomplished, Boy Nobody disappears, moving on to the next target.

But when he’s assigned to the mayor of New York City, things change. The daughter seems so much like him; the mayor reminds him of his father. And when memories and questions surface, his handlers at The Program are watching. Because somewhere, deep inside Boy Nobody, is somebody: the kid he once was; the teen who wants normal things, like a real home and parents; a young man who wants out. And who just might want those things badly enough to sabotage The Program’s mission.

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Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff turned out to be something I was not expecting – in a pretty good way. A teen assassin, “Ben” through most of the book, is sent on yet another mission by his handlers at The Program, but this one is different. With a timeline of only five days to get close enough to the mayor of NYC in order to kill him, he has to act fast. But the daughter, Sam, complicates his mission. As well as some unexpected followers, most certainly enemies but who and why? I was unsure through most of the book how I felt about it, but the ending saved my opinion. It went in a direction I was not anticipating at all from the synopsis. It was awesome.

So the book takes place over a very short time period – five or so days – in which Ben, our Boy Nobody, goes through a mini-crisis over his role in The Program and what happened to his life and his parents, and whether he wants to continue or go back to a normal life away from all things killing. Meeting Sam kind of starts pushing him in that direction, enough that he hesitates to complete his mission to kill her father. Ben is very cold and driven, since he’s been conditioned that way, but you get to see glimpses of the boy he must have been before The Program. Lets say that his morals start to shine through a little bit. While he manages to keep mostly on track for his mission (mostly), he does start to go beyond The Program’s back a little bit, firstly and mostly by enlisting the aid of a teen hacker. Ben’s starting to plan a way out, methinks. The action was swift and intense, and I loved the descriptions of NYC, especially places I knew. But even if you’ve never been, it is very descriptive and easy to paint a picture of places and events.

3.5 heart

Most of Boy Nobody is spent with Ben figuring out how to complete his mission, finding out who the people following him are, and quick flashbacks to a past that start to tell us why he may be having second thoughts about his “career choice” (as well as a visit from an…old friend). The book is like a quick snapshot into his life, and while there is a very fast romance start-up (two days?) it went in no direction I ever thought it would. The ending kind of comes out of left field (kind of) and is very awesome in the sense that it fits the feel and tone of the book and I am so glad it happened (but sad). I think anything different would have been disappointing, honestly. Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff is a fairly quick, entertaining book that I think will definitely appeal to mystery and thriller readers, and anyone wanting to step into that genre. I’m interested for the sequel!

ARC received from Hachette Book Group Canada in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Review: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

Days of Blood and Starlight
by Laini Taylor

ISBN-13: 9-780316-133975
Publication: November 2012 from Little, Brown BYR
Series: book 2 in Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Rating: 5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I loved it!
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

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.

Spoilers for Daughter of Smoke and Bone!

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor is more than you could ever wish for in a sequel. Taking the reader through forbidden love, betrayal, questioned loyalties and strong friendships, Days of Blood and Starlight will have you on the edge of your seat gripping the book for dear life.

One of the major reasons that I love this book and series is the writing. Laini Taylor has a beautiful, lyrical style of writing – descriptions are extremely vivid with particular attention to detail and intense emotion from characters and situations. Karou is with Thiago and the other surviving Chimaera in the human world while Akiva is back with his brethren in the other world. War is in full swing and both warlords are kind of crazy. We get to experience multiple aspects of the war through multiple point of views – not just Karou and Akiva, but Zuzana and Mik, and refugee Chimaera fleeing the Angels. With each point of view change comes a completely different way of looking at the situation and an almost new feel to the story. New emotions, outlooks and descriptors. Character voice is perfect, especially so with Karou. She is so changed from the beginnings of Daughter of Smoke and Bone and yet still the same girl deep down. It’s an interesting look at how new knowledge and revived memories can alter a personality but have the new experiences and recent memories leave their mark as well.

The plot in Days of Blood and Starlight hits the ground running. There are plans within plans within plans and it seems that no one can be trusted. Every move is questionable, no one is safe and what you think you know can be completely wrong. Akiva and Karou are both being manipulated and there is more going on behind the scenes of the war between the Angels and Chimaera than they are privy to. Laini Taylor hits hard with ideas surrounding love, friendship and loyalty – Karou and Akiva had forbidden love, Zuzana and Mik are so in love. Zuzana would do anything, and indeed she kind of has, for Karou while Akiva manages to earn a grudging friendship with two of his siblings. Karou showcases a sense of loyalty to her people born of guilt and fear, while Akiva’s loyalty to the cause is sorely tested and even broken. The question for both of them is whether to do what is right or what is easy and always been done – and then even if they do the right thing, it tends to blow up in their faces. Sometimes literally.

The ending of Days of Blood and Starlight is ridiculous in such a good way. Shit has well and truly hit the fan. Oh look, apocalypse. How fun! I was so tense during the ending of the book and more than just a little excited (it scares me sometimes how much I enjoy a good apocalypse story). I seriously don’t know how I can wait for the next book after that ending. There are so many twists, cliffhangers and “holy crap” moments that the story is always surprising and gripping. Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor is one of those books where you need to know what happens next and each moment leads to the other and flows so seamlessly together you won’t be able to find a good spot to stop and just keep turning pages until before you know it, it’s 2am and you’ve just finished the book. This series is absolutely captivating.

e-ARC provided by Hachette Book Group Canada through Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Review: Adaptation by Malinda Lo

Adaptation
by Malinda Lo

ISBN-13: 9-780316-197960
Publication: September 18, 2012 from Little, Brown BYR
Rating: 3 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I liked it

Reese can’t remember anything from the time between the accident and the day she woke up almost a month later. She only knows one thing: She’s different now.

Across North America, flocks of birds hurl themselves into airplanes, causing at least a dozen to crash. Thousands of people die. Fearing terrorism, the United States government grounds all flights, and millions of travelers are stranded.

Reese and her debate team partner and longtime crush David are in Arizona when it happens. Everyone knows the world will never be the same. On their drive home to San Francisco, along a stretch of empty highway at night in the middle of Nevada, a bird flies into their headlights. The car flips over. When they wake up in a military hospital, the doctor won’t tell them what happened, where they are—or how they’ve been miraculously healed.

Things become even stranger when Reese returns home. San Francisco feels like a different place with police enforcing curfew, hazmat teams collecting dead birds, and a strange presence that seems to be following her. When Reese unexpectedly collides with the beautiful Amber Gray, her search for the truth is forced in an entirely new direction—and threatens to expose a vast global conspiracy that the government has worked for decades to keep secret.

Adaptation by Malinda Lo is an interesting young adult science fiction story that gives the reader not just aliens, but Area 51, conspiracies, genetics and one hell of a cliffhanger!

Reese and David are away on a school debate club trip when birds start going crazy and randomly dying, falling out of the air and even into planes, crashing quite a few throughout the United States and Canada. Grounded, the teacher chaperone rents a car and begins their long drive home to San Francisco – and that’s where the action begins. With the bird strikes bringing down planes, the government blocking off areas of cities, lots of questions and no answers, people have begun to panic a bit. There’s an attempted car theft, a shooting, more dead birds and a horrific car accident all within the first bit of the book. But then it slows. And there is a lot of speculation on what happened to Reese and David in the car accident, talking about what’s happening with the birds, Reese has some funky dreams and falls in like with Amber, a girl who literally runs into her one day and has questionable loyalties and aims, Reese does some painting, and then not much more action until the end which leads up to a crazy cliffhanger just when it was getting intense.

Most of the middle of the book actually focuses on Reese and Amber’s growing relationship, Reese’s questions about her sexuality, and the crazy yellow and red room Reese keeps seeing in her dreams that she feels means more than she can remember. After the car accident, she and David were treated at a military hospital and are forbidden to speak of it to anyone else. So of course you know some crazyness had to have gone down while they were there (think genetics). There are plenty of secrets to be had in Adaptation, and the revelations about some of them are really well timed and explored. There is quite a good conspiracy going on throughout the story and the sci-fi elements are wicked. I would have liked to see more aliens rather than the insides of military complexes and hospital rooms, but I feel the aliens may play a bigger roll in the sequel. Reese is an interesting character and I enjoyed getting to know her – her voice is very clear throughout the story, as are descriptions, explanations and emotions (especially emotions!)

Adaptation by Malinda Lo may be a bit of a quieter sci-fi than I generally enjoy, but there were enough elements that kept me guessing, wondering and frustratingly wanting to strangle government people that I zipped through the book at a good pace and stayed entertained while reading. The rather abrupt end leaves the reader hanging for the sequel, and while that can sometimes backfire, in this case I am just eager to get my hands on book two so I can find out what happens with Reese, David and the aliens! Because guys, aliens. How can you not want to know how the story continues?

e-ARC provided by Netgalley and Hachette Book Group Canada in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Review: Fathomless by Jackson Pearce

Fathomless
by Jackson Pearce

ISBN-13: 9-780316-207782
Publication: September 2012 from Little, Brown
Series: book 3 in Fairytale Retellings
Rating: 4 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it

Celia Reynolds is the youngest in a set of triplets and the one with the least valuable power. Anne can see the future, and Jane can see the present, but all Celia can see is the past. And the past seems so insignificant – until Celia meets Lo.

Lo doesn’t know who she is. Or who she was. Once a human, she is now almost entirely a creature of the sea – a nymph, an ocean girl, a mermaid – all terms too pretty for the soulless monster she knows she’s becoming. Lo clings to shreds of her former self, fighting to remember her past, even as she’s tempted to embrace her dark immortality.

When a handsome boy named Jude falls off a pier and into the ocean, Celia and Lo work together to rescue him from the waves. The two form a friendship, but soon they find themselves competing for Jude’s affection. Lo wants more than that, though. According to the ocean girls, there’s only one way for Lo to earn back her humanity. She must persuade a mortal to love her…and steal his soul.

Fathomless by Jackson Pearce is the third book in her fairy tale retellings series and revolves around The Little Mermaid, one of my favourite fairy tales. Jackson Pearce manages to keep the darkness of the original tale while incorporating some of the well-known aspects form Disney’s version, and it works very well.

Celia is a triplet – and they aren’t just your normal run of the mill triplets. She and her sisters can see the future, the present and the past. Celia, who can see the past when she touches others, thought she had the most useless gift of the three until she helps a mysterious girl rescue a boy from drowning. Enter Lo and Jude. Lo lives in the ocean. Brought there by the angels, Lo is her second name as she has forgotten her life before the ocean. Eventually, Lo will forget even this part of her life until she one day swims away to be with the angels. Jude is the love interest in a very interesting triangle with Celia and Lo. Though Jude is a main character in the book, Celia and Lo are really the focus and the characters we come to know the most about and feel connect to. Celia’s got the best of intentions and a huge heart. She cares of Lo and is falling for Jude. She’s loyal to her sisters but has some bratty moments. Lo is mysterious, confused, compassionate but hurt and sometimes resentful. Both girls are fully realized, but I can’t say the same for the others. Celia’s sisters are present but have hardly any development, and while we get to know Jude he isn’t explored deeply either. The book mostly focuses on the friendship between Lo and Celia.

The way that Jackson Pearce ties this third book into the other two, Sisters Red and Sweetly, is really interesting and different. I confess that I had to go back to Sweetly and skim to refresh my memory about certain characters, though; namely Naida, who makes an appearance (and thank goodness for chapter headings, or I would have been fairly confused at certain points as to who was narrating – Lo or Naida), and I’m not saying much more about her since it will lead to massive spoilers. Celia’s power of hearing/seeing/knowing the past comes in handy when trying to help Lo and Naida, and the mythology behind the ocean girls (mermaids, if you will) is well done and interesting. I really liked the method of keeping the girls from leaving the ocean (since they don’t have tails!) and the way twins and triplets play into the plot of this book, and the series overall.

Fathomless by Jackson Pearce is an interesting take on The Little Mermaid, and a great addition to the trilogy. The romance between Jude and Celia moves at a realistic pace for teens, and the final scenes of the book are intense with a wonderful message on the power of love for your friends being just as strong as the love for a significant other and family. A highly enjoyable read, and definitely recommended for fans of Jackson Pearce’s other novels.

ARC received at Book Expo America through author signing.

Review: Purity by Jackson Pearce

Purity
by Jackson Pearce

ISBN-13: 9-780316-182461
Publication: April 2012 from Little, Brown
Rating: 3 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I liked it

Before her mother died, Shelby promised three things: to listen to her father, to love as much as possible, and to live without restraint. Those Promises become harder to keep when Shelby’s father joins the planning committee for the Princess Ball, an annual dance that ends with a ceremonial vow to live pure lives – in other words, no “bad behavior,” no breaking the rules, and definitely no sex.

Torn between Promises One and Three, Shelby makes a decision – to exploit a loophole and lose her virginity before taking the vow. But somewhere between failed hookup attempts and helping her dad plan the ball, Shelby starts to understand what her mother really meant, what her father really needs, and who really has the right to her purity.

I went into Purity by Jackson Pearce knowing exactly nothing about Princess Balls except what the back synopsis told me. Though it doesn’t say so, just by the fact that at the end of the ball the participants (well, the daughters at least) vow to live pure lives, I figured it would have something to do with religion so I wasn’t surprised by any aspects of the book, at least.

While Purity is definitely a story about a girl trying to lose her virginity before she has to vow to stay pure (a nice little loophole. If she’s already had sex, she doesn’t have to worry about the vow), it’s also about how she learns to live with the promises she made her mother before her mother died, gets to know her father and come to terms with how she feels about God and her faith. Shelby is a fairly confused teenager, even if she doesn’t think so. She’s trying to live by three promises that she made her mother, and yet the promises begin to conflict with each other and Shelby is left trying to figure out a way to stay true to both Promise 1 and 3 – meanwhile sort of forgetting to fully listen to Promise 2. One thing I loved about this book is Shelby’s friends. Ruby and Jonas support her fully, even when her decisions may not be the best, and they stick around for the sometimes hard life lessons learned at the end of the wacky plan.

I enjoyed the plot and the changes that Shelby goes through as her quest to lose her virginity and partaking in the Princess Ball brings her closer to her father, her friends and a realization that Promise 2 is just as important as Promises 1 and 3. She does quite a bit of growing up over the course of the story. I would have liked to see more between Shelby and her father. I know the plot was mainly about Shelby’s growth and path to really understanding the Promises she made her mom, but there was so much potential to have really good dialogue and interactions between father and daughter. What is there is wonderful, and Shelby’s dad definitely has an impact on her decisions, whether she really realizes it or not.

Purity is a story about family, growing up and finding yourself and what you really want in life. I think many will be able to relate to Shelby’s journey, even if they’ve never set out to have sex on purpose in order to get out of a purity vow!

ARC received from Hachette Book Group Canada in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!