Review: Every Day by David Levithan

Every Day
by David Levithan

ISBN-13: 9-780307-931887
Publication: August 2012 from Knopf
Rating: 5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I loved it!

Every morning, A wakes in a different person’s body, a different person’s life. There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with — day in, day out, day after day.

Every Day by David Levithan is so beautiful. I was unsure how he would pull off the idea of a soul that has no body of its own but instead spends every day since its conception in a different body, borrowing a persons life for a day and then moving on, but I loved it and David Levithan did such an amazing job with this book.

Before I get into the review, I want to note that I will be using the pronoun ‘he’ for the main character A, purely because the love interest Rhiannon prefers males, and so is more comfortable with A when A is in a male body.

A is such an complex and interesting character. Growing up without a body of his own, A has the refreshing whole hearted belief that gender, race, orientation, abilities, etc. don’t matter – and he is so right. A has been in the bodies of men and women who have all kinds of unique characteristics, from blindness, crippling depression, all encompassing faith and more. A has seen is all, and been it all. And yet at times I still found A to be stubborn, a bit naive when it comes to relationships (understandable, since he has had no permanent relationships) and intense. But A is a good person. Just think of the damage he could do to a persons life if he was any less a good, honest, caring individual. The two main supporting characters, Rhiannon, A’s love interest and Nathan, a boy who A was for a day and who comes forward about his experience, are wonderfully fleshed out and relatable even with less screen time and being seen through A’s eyes.

Though it would have been nice to see more about how A is the way he is, and if there are many others out there like him, the story was about A’s revelations about his life after meeting and falling in love with Rhiannon. By the end of the book, I had been in tears two different times thanks to Levithan’s lyrical writing and the ideas that were being portrayed. To know that only one person in the world knows who you really are and that you even exist is heartbreaking. It has to be such a lonely existence, and yet this is A’s life – never forming attachments, having belongings or a family of his own. All he has are memories. While I think it would be amazing to experience so many aspects of human life, I see it being incredibly difficult and tiring.

Every Day by David Levithan is one of those books that make you appreciate what you have, and makes you really think about the way you experience life around you and view the people you interact with. Would you be as strong as A in his convictions to not harm the lives of the people he inhabits for a day? Would you be as open to all realms of human life and love as A? I was completely swept away in Every Day, and it is easily my favorite book so far this year. If you want poetic, gorgeous writing in a character focused book with just a hint of mystery and a love story? Than pick up Every Day. It’s beautiful.

“I no longer think she’s just being nice. She’s being kind. Which is much more a sign of character than mere niceness. Kindness connects to who you are, while niceness connects to how you want to be seen.”
– page 56, ARC

ARC received at Book Expo America through author signing, with much thanks to Terri at Read and Riot.

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Review: The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

The Book of Blood and Shadow
by Robin Wasserman

ISBN-13:9-780375-968761
Publication: April 2012 from Random House
Rating: 4 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it

It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up. When the night began, Nora had two best friends and an embarrassingly storybook one true love. When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands and an echoing scream that stopped only when the tranquilizers pierced her veins and left her in the merciful dark.

But the next morning, it was all still true: Chris was dead. His girlfriend Adriane, Nora’s best friend, was catatonic. And Max, Nora’s sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also — according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone — a murderer.

Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora follows the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. It ultimately brings her to the ancient streets of Prague, where she is drawn into a dark web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all driven by a mad desire to possess something that might not even exist. For buried in a centuries-old manuscript is the secret to ultimate knowledge and communion with the divine; it is said that he who controls the Lumen Dei controls the world. Unbeknownst to her, Nora now holds the crucial key to unlocking its secrets. Her night of blood is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman was not what I was expecting – in a good way. I’m not quite sure what I had in mind, actually, but I do know that once I started reading I was hooked for good. I fully credit this to the brilliant way that Robin Wasserman begin the story. Starting with an intense scene and then flashbacking until you’re brought up to that scene was a definite way to get my attention. It’s like, oh look, murder – how did that happen?

Nora’s voice comes through loud and clear. Her emotions are front and center for the reader to experience, even when she’s not as forthcoming with them as she could be. And who can blame her? She’s had some tough stuff go down in her life, and the events in this take her through the wringer. It’s a sign of some good writing when you get attached to the characters and feel for them. Honestly, I think Nora handles herself amazingly. She’s caught up in this crazy search for an artifact that may or may not even exist, she has groups of people all wanting knowledge she doesn’t even know she possesses in the beginning and she has no idea who may be friend or foe. I had no idea who was friend or foe! You think you know one thing, and then BAM. Nope, sorry, it’s really this. Loved it, even if it drove me mental at times.

The Book of Blood and Shadow is this intense ride through murder, jealousy, hidden identities, Prague and secret religious orders – one intent on finding the machine rumoured to allow one to talk to God, and one trying to stop them. The writing is stark and straightforward, and conveyed the anxiousness of the characters really well. Despite the fact that I felt the pieces needed for the Lumen Dei were rather conveniently found in Prague, I have to remember that there were crazy factors to consider, like two secret societies and letters from a long-dad woman leading Nora on her quest. The letters from this woman, Elizabeth, were a nice touch to add in to the narration, if a bit long and many. It helped give a sense of time and place to the story, and how all-encompassing this search for the Lumen Dei has been.

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman is an eery and mysterious story that will definitely keep you awake reading long into the night.

e-ARC received through Netgalley from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Review: Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay

Juliet Immortal
by Stacey Jay

ISBN-13: 9-780385-740166
Published: August 2011 from Delacorte
Rating: 4 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it

Juliet Capulet didn’t take her own life. She was murdered by the person she trusted most, her new husband, Romeo Montague, who made the sacrifice to ensure his own immortality. But Romeo didn’t anticipate that Juliet would be granted eternal life as well, and would become an agent for the Ambassadors of Light.

For seven hundred years, Juliet has struggled to preserve romantic love and the lives of the innocent, while Romeo has fought for the dark side, seeking to destroy the human heart. Until now.

Now Juliet has found her own forbidden love, and Romeo, O Romeo, will do everything in his power to destroy their happiness.

Being a Shakespeare fan, I was immediately drawn in to Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay. A twist on the star-crossed lovers where Romeo murdered Juliet and now they are both technically immortal? Definitely an interesting plot and had my attention held enough that I read it in one sitting.

There are two factions warring against each other – the Light and Dark, of course. After Juliet is murdered by Romeo to secure his immortality, she is offered the chance for the same from the Light. For over seven hundred years she has been placed into bodied on Earth to help the course of true love and soul mates. Romeo and his brethren are there to disrupt her at every turn. Juliet is a wonderfully developed character. She was horribly betrayed in life, and though she’s running around saving true love and helping sort out the lives of the people she inhabits, she’s still angry and a little bit vengeful. She has dimension to her, and it’s refreshing to see. Romeo is full on creepy evil in the beginning of the story, and even by the end when he seems redeemed or what have you, he’s still kind of creepy. You know it’s written right when you actively dislike a character in a manner you’re meant to.

The concept in Juliet Immortal is unique and very intriguing. The book is well written – the pace, action and romance all mesh into an absorbing story that will keep you turning the pages. A bit of the ending was confusing at times, but as you keep reading it evens out and leaves a nice segue into the upcoming sequel. Although the romance is of the insta-love variety (something I am not a fan of), I didn’t mind in this one. The whole idea behind Romeo and Juliet is how they fell in love so quickly, and Juliet is returning to Earth to ensure soul mates have a chance to thrive, after all. Aren’t soul mates the definition of insta-love? Definitely worth a read, especially if you enjoy re-vamped stories, and I’ll be sure to pick up the sequel.

Review: The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan

The Dark and Hollow Places
by Carrie Ryan

ISBN-13: 9-780385-738590
Published: March 2011 by Delacorte (Random House)
Rating: 4.5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it!

There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister’s face before Annah left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the Horde as they swarmed the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.

Annah’s world stopped that day, and she’s been waiting for Elias to come home ever since. Somehow, without him, her life doesn’t feel much different from that of the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Until she meets Catcher, and everything feels alive again.

But Catcher has his own secrets. Dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah has longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it’s up to Annah – can she continue to live in a world drenched in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return’s destruction?

Oh my gosh. Ok. Third book in The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and I’m still so much if love with these books. In the first one, we have Mary as our narrator. In the second, Gabry, her adopted daughter. In this one, we have Annah, Gabry’s sister. Annah and Elias had left the Forest of Hands of Teeth when they were young, leaving Gabry behind in the trails. Making their way to the Dark City they lived there together until Elias left to join the Recruiters. Annah has been on her own for three years, and in one day everything changes. She finds her sister, Elias returns, and Catcher arrives in her life. But the Horde also arrives, and Annah’s home is gone in hours. Living on the island Sanctuary of the Recruiters, Annah, Elias and Gabry are kept prisoner – safe from the Horde, but not the Recruiters – as insurance that Catcher, immune to the disease of the Unconsecrated, will always return.

The Dark and Hollow Places is a bleak look into the life of areas overrun by the Unconsecrated. The hope that the Return did not seep into every spot on the world is slowly dwindling, and Annah is losing faith that everything will be ok. I think Annah’s story, and this third book, is actually my favourite. Annah is one tough cookie. She’s smart, resourceful and doesn’t know the meaning of giving up. She’s survived the Dark City on her own, and she’ll survive the oncoming Horde. Her interactions with the returned Elias and new-found sister Gabry were very well done, and I really connected with her character. The only aspect of the relationships in this book that I didn’t really get is how quickly Catcher and Annah felt so strongly for each other. An easily looked past detail, but still. It was very quick, and a little odd.

There’s a point near the end when I was just holding my breath, praying that she make it. Oh, and the small parts that seem insignificant but really pulled at my heartstrings because they are small drops in the bleak reality that is the life lived by these characters, that show how much they have to sacrifice and yet it’s just necessary to them. I don’t know if I would survive in Carrie Ryan’s zombie-ridden world. But, no matter how much things may seem dark and bleak, there is still a glimmer of hope. And that’s the part that makes me love apocalypse plot lines. When everything seems at its worst, there’s the small inkling that things will get better. And this book delivered that in spades. Love this trilogy, I highly recommend it for everyone.

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

The Dead-Tossed Waves
by Carrie Ryan
ISBN-13: 9-780385-736848
Rating: 5 ♥ / 5 ♥

Gabry lives a quiet life, secure in her town next to the sea and behind the Barrier. She’s content to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. Home is all she’s ever known and all she needs for happiness.

But life after the Return is never safe, and there are threats even the Barrier can’t hold back.

Gabry’s mother thought she left her secrets behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, but like the dead in their world, secrets don’t stay buried. And now, Gabry’s world is crumbling.

One night beyond the Barrier…
One boy Gabry’s known forever and veiled in mystery…
One reckless moment, and half of Gabry’s generation is dead, the other half imprisoned.

Gabry knows only one thing: if she is to have any hope of a future, she must face the forest of her mother’s past.

 

I love this book so hard. The Dead-Tossed Waves is a companion novel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth – one of my Top 5 picks of 2009 – and just as wonderful.

In The Forest of Hands and Teeth, we met Mary. We fled with her from her village when it was invaded with Unconsecrated, through the forest and to the ocean, where she would begin a new life. Now, we meet Gabry, Mary’s daughter. Gabry has never known the harshness of the Forest the way her mother did. She is content to live in their lighthouse on the edge of their town, Vista, helping her mother keep back the Mudo that wash up on the beach. She has never gone across the Barrier surrounding their town until one night she caves to her friends and joins them. After that night, nothing is the same. We follow Gabry as she is turn between two boys, learns the secrets of her past and follows her mother into the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

Although I found many themes and plot points the same as the first book (Gabry torn between two men, wandering the Forest paths, etc), this one gave us so much more world building it was crazy. We learn more about the world outside the forest and more about the Return. We learn some pretty interesting things about the Unconsecrated/Mudo and and the zombie factor is jacked way up in this one.

Gabry is a well-developed, likeable character. She’s far from perfect and makes some mistakes along the way, but she’s earnest and though often scared she’s full of courage. As in quite a few first person POV books, I didn’t connect quite as well with the secondary characters of the novel. I didn’t mind with Mary, since I already knew her from The Forest of Hands and Teeth – I actually enjoyed getting to see her through Gabry’s eyes. I would have liked to know a bit more about Catcher and Elias, the two boys Gabry is torn between, so I hope we get to know them better in the sequel (the way The Dead-Tossed Waves was left, I’m hoping for a direct sequel instead of another time-skip).

As with The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Dead-Tossed Waves led me on a rollar coaster ride of happiness, despair, worry, anger, love, hope and faith. The writing was wonderful, the plot engaging and imagery breathtaking.

 

 

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Fallen
by Lauren Kate
ISBN – 13: 9-780385-738934
Rating: 5 ♥ / 5 ♥

There’s something achingly familiar about Daniel Grigori.

Mysterious and aloof, he captures Luce Price’s attention from the moment she sees him on her first day at Sword & Cross boarding school in Savannah. He’s the one bright spot in a place where cell phones are forbidden, the other students are all screw-ups, and security cameras watch every move.

Except Daniel wants nothing to do with Luce – he goes out of his way to make that very clear. But she can’t let it go. Drawn to him like a moth to a flame, Luce has to find out what Daniel is so desperate to keep secret…even if it kills her.

 

Sword & Cross is not just a boarding school, it’s a reform school. Luce has been sent there after a horrible accident at her old boarding school. Once there, she encounters Daniel Grigori – and is immediately hooked. Feeling as if she has met him somewhere before, Luce and her friend Penn set out to find out everything they can about Daniel’s background. Meanwhile, Luce has to contend with the seductive Cam, a fire, and the hot and cold attention of Daniel. Oh, and those mysterious shadows Luce has been seeing all her life? They’re still around.

I absolutely loved this book. Fallen contains the kind of plot-line that draws me in so completely, and makes me want to know everything, right away. Thankfully, the next book comes out next Fall (though earlier would be nice). Fallen starts off with a “flashback” chapter that sets up the story perfectly – as soon as we meet Luce and Daniel, we realize they have something to do with that first chapter. I was constantly guessing at plot details while I was reading. Yes, it’s easy to figure out the main plot from the first chapter and the references to the bible and angels, but the details? The exact whys, hows, whens and whats are a mystery. One that we only get brief explanations of, since the main character can’t know everything right away, after all. She’d have nothing to find out in the next book!

Luce was really the only character that is explored to any kind of depth, even though the book is not told in first person. Through most of it, I was sure that Penn had some kind of ulterior motive and that Arianne was the normal one (but knew something was up), when really, it was the opposite. Maybe that’s the way it was supposed to be, to throw us off the scent, and if so – well done. Daniel and Cam were explored to an extent, but once I closed that back cover, I still felt as though I didn’t really know them. I’m positive that’s the way it was supposed to be, since more of their story will no doubt show up in book two. Still, it would have been nice to find out some more of what makes these two boys fighting over Luce tick.

I was perfectly happy with the pacing of the book, and with the rate (and how) information was revealed to us, even though I wanted more of it, and with Lauren Kate’s writing style. I will definitely be purchasing the sequel, and I think I may have found another author to add to my “automatic buy” list. I feel safe in recommending Fallen to anyone who likes a bit of the fantastical in their books.

 

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
ISBN – 13: 978-0-385-73794-4

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. He has no recollection of his parents, his home, or how he got where he is. His memory is blank.
But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade, a large expanse enclosed by stone walls.
Just like Thomas, the Glader’s don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning, for as long as anyone can remember, stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night, for just as long, they’ve closed tight. Every thirty days a new boy is delivered in the lift. And no one wants to be stuck in the maze after dark.
The Glader’s were expecting Thomas’s arrival. But the next day, a girl is sent up – the first girl ever to arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. The Gladers have always been convinced that if they can solve the maze that surrounds the Glade, they might find their way home…wherever that may be. But it’s looking more and more as if the maze is unsolvable.
And something about the girl’s arrival is starting to make Thomas feel different. Smething is telling him that he just might have some answers – if he can only find a way to retrieve the dark secrets locked within his own mind.

I really enjoyed The Maze Runner, and I cannot wait for the sequel! There were only minor issues keeping this book from being a five heart rating for me, but let’s start with the good.

The idea that teens are being sent to live in a maze, with no memories of who they are, why they’re there, or what they’re supposed to do (other than solve the maze)? Brilliant. I loved it. The fact that these kids are surviving as best they can, while knowing that they are most likely just an experiment is amazing.
Thomas, our main character, was awesome. I felt connected with him almost right away, from his first moments of terror (he has no memory, remember. I’d be terrified too if I had no idea what was going on), to his slowly growing fear that he has something to do with the maze and the Gladers being there, and his eventual resolve to get them out, and safe, at all costs.

Dashner’s writing was overall engaging, fluid and smooth, though there was a moment in the first few chapters where I didn’t know if I’d actually enjoy this book. The writing in the first chapter is a bit choppy and abrupt, but I figure that was to help set the mood of the fear and uncertainty that Thomas is going through since the rest of the novel read fine for me (thank God. I really dislike too many ubrupt sentences in a row). The other thing that almost threw me off was the language. And no, it’s no vulgar. The Maze Runner is one of those books that utilizes ‘made up’ words, the two most notable being klunk (which you realize almost right away refers to fecal matter), shank (which I’m still fuzzy on the meaning of) and shuck-face (likewise, still fuzzy, though you understand the general meaning from the way the words are used in dialogue). Thankfully, their use became few and far between as the book continued and Thomas became used to his new home.

The blurb on the book jacket references the mysterious girl that gets sent to the Glade the day after Thomas. I thought her character would be much more prominent than she was. I didn’t really end up feeling much for Teresa, besides acknowledging that she’s important to the plot, Thomas, and hopefully the sequel(s). Besides Thomas, the character I connected with the most was Minho, the leader of the runners. His personality is electric and I got a sense of him immediately. Unlike Teresa and a few of the other more main characters, Minho was quite three dimensional and well developed. I hope we get to see more interaction with some of the others in the next book.

I felt the plot had a good pace, with a fast and sharp climax at the end and a small twist that good readers will have seen half of coming, and a larger twist that made me feel incredibly sad for our Gladers. Can I be any more vague? I just don’t want to give away spoilers because to spoil this book will ruin it.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Maze Runner, and I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel(s). I highly recommend this for anyone, especially if you like dystopias.

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This book is also part of the dystopYA challenges.