Monday, September 3, 2012

Dreamless by Josephine Angelini

Dreamless by Josephine Angelini
HarperTeen, 400 pages

"Can true love be forgotten? As the only scion who can descend into the Underworld, Helen Hamilton has been given a nearly impossible task. By night she wanders through Hades, trying to stop the endless cycle of revenge that has cursed her family. By day she struggles to overcome the fatigue that is rapidly eroding her sanity. Without Lucas by her side, Helen is not sure she has the strength to go on. Just as Helen is pushed to her breaking point, a mysterious new Scion comes to her rescue. Funny and brave, Orion shields her from the dangers of the Underworld. But time is running out—a ruthless foe plots against them, and the Furies' cry for blood is growing louder. As the ancient Greek world collides with the mortal one, Helen's sheltered life on Nantucket descends into chaos. But the hardest task of all will be forgetting Lucas Delos. Josephine Angelini's compelling saga becomes ever more intricate and spellbinding as an unforgettable love triangle emerges and the eternal cycle of revenge intensifies. Eagerly awaited, this sequel to the internationally bestselling Starcrossed delivers a gritty, action-packed love story that exceeds all expectations."

Dreamless is everything you could hope for in a sequel for Starcrossed. Starcrossed is actually one of my favorite books, and that is because the concept of the book is completely enthralling, in my opinion. Toying with the idea of having the Trojan War play out in modern times? With a ton of Greek Mythology thrown in to boot? Absolutely!

While Dreamless is not the most solid book when it comes to substance and whatnot, I think it is one of the most entertaining books I have ever read, kind of how I feel about the Tiger's Curse Series. The romance is sweet and intense, the action constantly going, and the mythology rounds everything out to make it an awesome read.

While I absolutely loved Lucas as Helen's love interest in the first book, I am a bit more conflicted having read this book. Sure, it is obvious that Helen and Lucas should be together, but how much of that is simply fate pulling them together to be the next Helen and Paris? So, when a new character named Orion is introduced, I am kind of intrigued by him. He grows on me, and I actually found myself cheering for him instead! But enough with the romance. :)

The action in this book took a little bit to get going, but I wasn't complaining because I wanted to see a bit more of the interaction between characters before the gang had to get involved in some sort of brawl with Greek gods. (Yes, I'm completely serious.) Once the action kicked in, the book was extremely difficult to put down. You want to just fly right through to the ending, which I must tell you is really no consolation either. That ending is one heck of a cliffhanger. Everything is psychotic. And then you simply can't wait to get your grubby little hands on the final installment of the series.

Rating: 5 stars - I loved it! Buy a copy!

The Kill Order by James Dashner

The Kill Order by James Dashner
Random House, 336 pages

"Before WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, sun flares seared the earth and mankind fell to disease. The Kill Order is the story of that fall. A prequel to The Maze Runner trilogy, The Kill Order has been in the works since the completion of The Maze Runner. The story of civilization's fall was kept under wraps and is the explication of the events that began this bestselling series."

Ever since picking up The Maze Runner, I have been enthralled with this series. There was so much mystery and action that it is difficult to not like the books. When I finished with the last book in the series, The Death Cure, I couldn't believe that we didn't get any more answers. I think I just sat there for a minute or so with my mouth hanging open like an idiot when I found out that was all we were going to get. Then I squealed from excitement when I found out that Dashner was making a prequel to the series! Maybe we were going to get our questions answered!

The very first thing to keep in mind when going to read this book is that there are completely new characters. Sure, there may be some flash forwards or backwards to Theresa and Thomas, but these sequences rarely last more than a few pages. A majority of the time is centered around new characters about 13 years before the maze was built. Even though I adore the characters from the trilogy and was slightly disappointed when I found out they wouldn't be the main focus, the new characters will certainly grow on you. Of course they won't be anything like Thomas or Minho, but they are fun to read about nevertheless.

The second thing to be aware of when you start this book is that all of your questions will NOT be answered! Sure, a majority of them will be, but don't expect them all to be. As frustrated as I was with this, I think it is a good move on Dashner's part. By not revealing everything, Dashner keeps an air of mystery around the entire series, which is part of the reason I think the series is so fascinating.

The third thing to keep in mind when you go to read this book is that it is violent. Quite violent when compared to other YA books. I really don't have a problem with that kind of thing, especially when the violence in a book isn't gratuitous, but it is up to each person. The violence aids in making the reader realize how dire and terrible the situation is.

If you have read The Maze Runner Trilogy, you certainly don't want to miss out on this prequel! It has the same action and excitement as the other books, and alleviates a bit of the mystery from the series.

Rating: 5 stars - I loved it! Buy a copy!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Grace Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Houghton Mifflin Books, 560 pages

"Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf? Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others. Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?"

I first saw this book while shopping at Barnes and Noble with my fellow bloggers. The cover was majorly epic and I am a historical fiction freak. So, naturally, when I saw the book at my local library, I checked it out to read it while lounging poolside at my house.

Within the first thirty pages, I was hooked!! This was a book that was virtually impossible to put down!! I read it in three days not only because I loved it, but because the narrowness of the pages makes it easy to fly through.

Being a lover of historical fiction, I found the fact that a girl from the 1400s who was a matron of Death very interesting. You get a small amount of a science fiction-ish concept with all of the fashion descriptions and vintage language of a historical fiction book.

The romance is another fabulous surprise. Although subtle in the beginning, the relationship between the lead characters, Ismae and Duval, is charming and, at times, steamy. The way the author slowly creates an alliance between these two characters that evolves into a smoldering courtship is genius! The reader can't help but read on to figure out what happens next in their relationship!

The aspect and presence of Death as a character in this book is beyond interesting, as well! The only other book I've read that involves Death as a character was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. While there are drastic differences between the two interpretations, they share an incredible depth into the thoughts of Death and how people view it. Throw into the mix a girl from poverty as Death's servant and you have a compelling subject. Ismae is not only a strong heroine, but she also is caring, smart, and compassionate. She is a woman that female readers will want to be. I adored this book and I can hardly wait for the continuation of the trilogy!

Rating: 5 stars - I loved it! Buy a copy!

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Dial, 576 pages

"The long-awaited companion to New York Times best sellers Graceling and Fire. Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck's reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle - disguised and alone - to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the 35-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past. Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck's reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn't yet identified, holds a key to her heart."

The first two books in The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy literally blew my mind. Fire and Graceling set the standards for all of my favorite books. I have never been so captivated and empowered by a YA book before reading those two books. The characters were marvelous in both of the books, and it was hard to let them go. What was such an amazing and wonderful surprise is that characters from both Fire and Graceling reappear in Bitterblue! Bitterblue is the book that connects the dots between Fire and Graceling. It's wonderful, exciting, and enthralling just like it's predecessors. I know it says in the jacket cover that you don't need to have read Fire and Graceling before reading Bitterblue, but I disagree. I think a person wouldn't get nearly the same amount of satisfaction out of the book if they didn't.

While Graceling was much more of an action and adventure oriented book and Fire purely court politics, Bitterblue is much more about courtly intrigue with the action coming and going in spurts. If you took the best of Fire and Graceling, you would come up with Bitterblue.  There is plenty of mystery when trying to figure out King Leck's castle, and the flashbacks to when he would rule were certainly frightening at some moments. I love that Queen Bitterblue is such a strong female character. She has been left with a kingdom in complete shambles, and yet she finds the strength to bring it back.

When you first see the book in your hands, you will think, "Sheesh! Is 576 pages really necessary?" The answer is yes. Abso-freaking-lutely. You will get to the last pages and be totally upset that it has to end. Things get REALLY interesting by the end of the book! (Can we please have another sequel? :D)

I guess if you are wondering whether or not to read this book, the answer is this: HOW COULD YOU NOT? But you should definitely check out the previous two books first. That way you can fall irrevocably in love with the characters and world before beginning Bitterblue.

Rating: 5 stars - I loved it! Buy a copy!

Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer

Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer
Simon Pulse, 336 pages

"What happens when happily ever after… isn’t? Delilah is a bit of a loner who prefers spending her time in the school library with her head in a book—one book in particular. Between the Lines may be a fairy tale, but it feels real. Prince Oliver is brave, adventurous, and loving. He really speaks to Delilah. And then one day Oliver actually speaks to her. Turns out, Oliver is more than a one-dimensional storybook prince. He’s a restless teen who feels trapped by his literary existence and hates that his entire life is predetermined. He’s sure there’s more for him out there in the real world, and Delilah might just be his key to freedom. Delilah and Oliver work together to attempt to get Oliver out of his book, a challenging task that forces them to examine their perceptions of fate, the world, and their places in it. And as their attraction to each other grows along the way, a romance blossoms that is anything but a fairy tale."

When I heard that Jodi Picoult was writing a YA novel with her daughter, I instantly knew that I was going to have to check it out. I really enjoyed My Sister's Keeper (Don't even get me started on how much I dislike the movie!), so I figured that I would enjoy this novel. And I did, enjoy it that is, but I felt like something was missing.

I must say that the book has a very solid concept and idea, but I don't think it was executed as well as it could have been. Some of the personalities of the characters weren't justified enough, in my opinion. I simply could not find myself ever acting like Delilah did when I was her age. It just wasn't that believable to me. I thought Delilah's mother was not very understanding of her daughter at all... I did not enjoy her as a character. And even though I enjoyed Oliver, I liked the fairy tale version of him much more than the Oliver when the book is closed. When I don't really feel much for the characters, I know that I will not be raving about how great this book is.

The fairy tale writing was fantastic, and it is obvious that Picoult wrote most of those portions of the book. The other parts where Delilah was speaking were incredibly dull and not engaging. I think it was pretty obvious that Picoult had her daughter write a majority of these portions. The writing just wasn't clicking.

While the story is very sweet and will leave you with a happy feeling, it certainly isn't amazing. It's okay. It's obvious that the book is targeted towards the tween age group. I think I will remember how pretty the illustrations and text are much more than I will remember the content of the book. With that being said, if you want a quick, easy, and somewhat entertaining read, go for it. Otherwise skip it.

Rating: 3 stars - I liked it. Worth borrowing.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Book to Movie: The Secret Life of Bees

This is the first book to movie review here at The Readable Kingdom, and it surely will not be our last! Before I get to the goods, if you haven't read The Secret Life of Bees, be sure to check out my review of it here. Justine, a fellow blogger for The Readable Kingdom, just so happened to point me in the right direction with the movie! She's essentially the pop culture diva in the group and I trusted her solid recommendation of The Secret Life of Bees. I'm going to break the movie down into a few portions. My first portion being the casting.

The casting:
Lily Owens- Dakota Fanning
August Boatwright- Queen Latifah
Rosaleen Daise- Jennifer Hudson
June Boatwright- Alicia Keys
May Boatwright- Sophie Okonedo
T. Ray Owens- Paul Bettany

I'm sure most of you are familiar with Dakota Fanning. I remember her in Uptown Girls when she was super young. I was so so surprised with Fanning's performance in the movie. She truly held her own. The raw emotion she portrayed as Lily was phenomenal. It was believable and compassionate. Moving on to some other big name actresses we have Queen Latifah, which to be completely honest, I did not picture August like that at all. Queen Latifah definitely does have those soft and gentle facial features, but there was just something about her that seemed a little off. Then there's two stars who are more famously known for their musical encounters, Jennifer Hudson and Alicia Keys. I had my doubts about these two, mainly because their main focus is music and it bothers me how a lot of people who have money forge their way into the acting world, however, Alicia Keys played a perfect June with a tough exterior that could somehow be broken down by the marvelous and caring Neil while Jennifer Hudson managed to pull off Rosaleen as a mother figure to Lily. As for the other actors/actresses that were not big names, I have to say they were awesome as well! Sophie Okonedo captures May perfectly with her genuine sense of caring and the darkness behind her past and the wailing wall. The casting overall was great, which can be tricky for book to movie adaptations.

Next I would like to move on to the plot. Being a hardcore follower of the plot I was pretty happy about how the story flowed together. For the most part the movie followed the plot quite well, although I was a little disappointed in a few things, like the ending for example. At the end I definitely was hoping for something a little altered than what the movie had to offer. Don't get me wrong, the ending was good, but I can get pretty picky about these sorts of small changes. I wish I could mention the parts that I wish were different, but I really don't want to spoil it for people who haven't read the book yet!

Other factors that added to the movie was the music, which was a mix of beautiful guitar/piano instrumentation/other great artists featured, and also the lovely setting. I thought it was incredibly awesome getting to actually see August, Lily, and Zach interact with each other out with the honey bees. The whole process of making the honey is so intricate and interesting to me so I definitely liked seeing that come to life.

Overall, The Secret Life of Bees was a fantastic movie, besides a few minor glitches, I found it was a pleasure to watch. Lastly, I would like to mention that while it was a terrific movie, for some reason I found it to be too short. I sort of wished that it lasted longer, maybe to go more into detail about each of the sister's lives or focus on the honey making process even more. As the credits rolled I thought it went by too quick. Again, it's a great movie, but I found it to be a little short. I think if you're a fan of the book you should absolutely check the movie out and I also think that anyone who even hasn't read the book should check the movie out! It's a movie for all ages, so it could make for a great family time watch.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars - I really liked it. Worth renting.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Random House, 464 pages
ARC courtesy of Random Buzzers

"Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high. Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life. In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page."

When I first heard about Seraphina, I knew it was book that I had to get my hands on. Some of my favorite authors of all time were recommending the book: Christopher Paolini, Alison Goodman, and, even though I haven't read any of her books (Yet! I just know I'll love them. :D), Tamora Pierce. Needless to say, if you are a fan of any of these authors, you definitely want to read Seraphina. And may I also add in Kristin Cashore? I would say that this book reminded me a lot of her style as well, and every single one of her books have always ended up on my favorites list.

All in all, Seraphina is a fantastic read. I will certainly be keeping my eye out for a sequel (There IS going to be one, right?!). At the beginning of the book, I will admit that I was a bit bowled over with all the new terminology while trying to grasp the setting, character relationships, and the new concept of dragons. It can be a bit overwhelming, but after about fifty pages or so, you begin to understand a bit more of what is going on. With any fantasy novel comes this transition... if it is going to be a really good book, the world building is essential as it needs to convince you of the setting of the story, which Rachel Hartman accomplishes with ease. I believed the setting and thought it beautiful and intricate instead of simple and dull which is what sometimes happens with some lazy authors.

What I thought was so strange about this book was that I don't like love stories to be front and center in my fantasy novels. I like more of the action and political intrigue (Which I assure you there is plenty of!) to be the focus with maybe a small side love interest that is only mildly important to the plot. But Seraphina does both... action, political intrigue, and love all share equally important parts of the plot. Seraphina's personal love story is not the main one, but it is still important to her character development. It is really about dragons trying to cope with the human emotions while they are in human form; they don't understand love, guilt, empathy, or anything of the like, and they tend not to welcome these feelings. This is partly why tensions tend to be high between dragons and humans; they wish to distance themselves from human emotions.

Seraphina is a strong female character that I love to read about. She values her mind and independence, and I simply want to stand up and cheer whenever I find a young female character like that. And I love Kiggs as well as he tends to treat Seraphina and his cousin Princess Glisselda with respect and values their ideas, regardless of them being women. Simply put, the characters were a joy to interact with. They are smart, witty, funny, and lively, and I can't say that any of them in the book are expendable in the least. They are all important to the plot (while some obviously more than others), and the book wouldn't be the same without any of them.

Seraphina is a great start to what seems to be an epic storyline. I can't wait to read more about all of the characters' adventures! (Rachel Hartman, there better be another book!!! :D)

Rating: 5 stars - I loved it! Buy a copy!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 544 pages

"Can the lost be reclaimed? What price is too high to pay for love? Who can be trusted when sin and salvation collide? Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge. Darkness threatens to claim the Shadowhunters in the harrowing fifth book of the Mortal Instruments series."

This is the fifth book in The Mortal Instruments series so I highly advise leaving this review if you haven't read up to City of Fallen Angels. I will admit that after reading the first three books I was so smitten with the series. Cassandra Clare has a way of developing this spectacular world in the middle of New York City with characters full of life. But I will also admit that after I heard Cassandra Clare was creating three more books to make six in total, I was a little disappointed. Mostly, because I loved how everything came together at the end of City of Glass and also because I wanted it to stay that way. Don't get me wrong, I adore Jace, but I was just getting sort of annoyed with how he was dealing with Clary. City of Lost Souls was difficult for me to finish because I just could not get so enveloped in the plot like I usually do with Clare's lovely novels. I didn't find it was terrible, I did enjoy it, but I just expected something better and also, not so long.

The plot starts to get interesting when Jace is missing, and he is missing with none other than Sebastian. We all know how evil Sebastian is, so this stirs quite the passion within Clary because she has to get Jace back. Naturally, of course. The only problem? If you kill Sebastian, you kill Jace. Somehow they are linked together and it's quite the mystery. Everyone is set off to help save Jace: Alec, Magnus, Isabelle, Simon, and Clary, obviously. Clary is just as reckless as she's been before. Her bravery truly does shine throughout the novel and the lengths she is willing to go to so she can save Jace. Alec and Magnus are tied to each other, but Magnus's immortality stirs up a few troubles within their relationship. Simon will basically never get over Clary, which is what I've always found a little irritating, but he's falling a bit for Isabelle too. Isabelle is good for Simon and vice versa. I was also glad to see that Simon had some character development. He seems to discover more courage as the novel reaches its climax. Jace can be hard to read at times, but he's still his same snarky self. The scenes where Jace and Clary are together were probably my favorite scenes and the ones I would look forward to most.

Clare always has one main conflict and drive for her characters, but then she also always has lots of little side plots going on. She does do a fantastic job at switching the scenes, pacing the reader so they'll have to read to the next chapter or snippet to find out how the problems will get resolved. That much I did like. But the part that I didn't like was that I wanted more of the real Jace. I know I'm not the first to say this, so don't get mad at me, but I do not like Simon. I don't want to be rude about it, but I sort of don't care so much about his personal life and the extents of it, however we get to hear from Simon's sister, Becky, and there is definitely more of the focus on Simon throughout the novel. I know Simon has always been there for Clary, but there comes a time when everyone just moves on. I was hoping that would happen a lot sooner.

The writing is detailed, as always, with Clare's books. I could picture every scene in my head with ease. At times she does get a little carried away, but it didn't bother me really. It's nice to see her writing improve throughout each book.

Overall, I did not love City of Lost Souls like I had hoped I would. I adore the characters wholeheartedly, but the plot twist sort of got annoying. I think this is due to the fact that this is the fifth book and after book three I started to lose interest. If you're a die-hard fan of The Mortal Instruments series or Cassandra Clare, I say read it, but if you weren't that intrigued by City of Fallen Angels, I say pass.

Rating: 3 stars - I liked it. Worth borrowing.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Happy Book Birthday, Seraphina!

It's finally here! Today is the release date for Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, as well as Rachel Hartman's birthday! We can't think of a better birthday present for an author. As I am currently reading reading Seraphina, I can vouch for the awesomeness of the story. If you need to something to push you over the edge and convince you to pick up this book, look no further! Check out the book trailer below:

If that makes you super excited to read the book, check out our book giveaway here!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Penguin Books, 336 pages

"Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's fierce hearted black "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free."

I picked up The Secret Life of Bees on a complete whim. I was doing my usual browsing at Barnes and Noble and came across a copy, recognizing the title's name. I didn't know what it was about, so I went into reading with an open mind. This novel was an absolute pleasure. It's one of those books that has this marvelous story worth telling and as soon as you consume that last page you want to share it with everyone you know. I highly recommend it (in case you didn't already catch onto that).

The setting is in South Carolina in 1964 and the main character is Lily Owens. Lily Owens is a fourteen-year-old girl living with her abusive father, T. Ray. Her mother died when she was only four and she's still trying to unravel how her death even came about. All she remembers are bits and pieces and most of the novel revolves around Lily recollecting these memories to make one panned out puzzle in full view. Lily and T.Ray have a housemaid, Rosaleen, who more or less is Lily's mother figure. One day Rosaleen goes into town to vote, but being an African American woman in that time period she is denied her right, wherein she is ridiculed and then spits on some men's shoes which lands her in jail. Somehow Lily comes to the rescue and sneaks Rosaleen out of jail, but they don't know where to escape to. Lily's plan is to find a place called Tiburon, which was written on the back of a picture Lily found from her mother's old things. This is when the story truly begins and we're introduced to the three Boatwright sisters who are beekeepers for a living. Rosaleen and Lily are then taken under their wing.

Each of the characters are unique and have a past of their own. I feel as if Sue Monk Kidd did a terrific job embossing each character with their set of specific traits and there was no lack in depth. One of my favorite characters was definitely August. August is patient, compassionate, and inviting in every way. She always knows the right thing to say and how to say it. She is the main beekeeper and definitely wise. Naturally, I loved Lily as well. Although for a majority of the novel she is lying to the Boatwright sisters, Lily is searching for the closure she so desperately craves about her mother.

Kidd has a way with words that makes writing look like you could do it in your sleep. It was more than beautiful writing with effortless prose and descriptions. The imagery was absolutely delightful and she managed to capture the essence of the story perfectly with her writing. It was simple, yet extravagent at the same time, which probably seems like an oxymoron, but trust me, it's a paradox.

The plot flowed as smooth as the honey August and her sisters make! It's not an incredibly long novel to begin with, but it was simply a joy to read. Especially towards the end when the mysteries behind Lily's mother are finally being uncovered. But I also loved the pacing because we learned more and more about each of the sister's history. Like with May and her wailing wall and June with her bitter exterior.

If you've ever once thought about reading The Secret Life of Bees I highly highly recommend you go for it! Also, if you haven't heard about The Secret Life of Bees then I suggest you get your butt to the library or nearest book store and get yourself a copy. I found it was a beautiful novel that was also perfect for the summer since it was set in the summer with an uplifting ending.

Rating: 4 stars - I really liked it. Worth buying.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
Simon & Schuster, 528 pages

"In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street—and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends. With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them. Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will—the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?"

I read the first book of the Infernal Devices back in the summer of 2011 and I absolutely loved it! My friend and fellow blog correspondent, Emily, and I constantly read historical fiction and adore the genre. So, the fact that Cassandra Clare had published a book based in the Shadowhunter's world in London, England during the 19th century was so exciting! We were more than thrilled to get our hands on the second book of this series because we loved Clockwork Angel so much. I will tell you straight up: this book was even better than the first, which was a lot to measure up to, considering I adore Clockwork Angel!

Let me first address the issue at hand that every girl should have when reading this series: Who do you love more, Will or Jem????!!!!! After reading Clockwork Angel, I couldn't choose which male character I loved more. I mean, there's Edward or Jacob, Gale or Peeta, and Jace or Simon (even though there's not much of a competition in the last example!) And, again, after reading Clockwork Prince, I still can't make up my mind if I am on Team Will or Team Jem!!! It is actually harder to choose now that I have read this book!!!! FWI women, you will be even more confused than before. Both Will and Jem are at their best in this book. Will makes plot-altering discoveries about himself and Jem continues to struggle and embrace his disease. I LOVE THESE MEN! (Can't you tell???!!)

The storyline in this book is another reason why I continue to love Cassandra Clare's books (even though I wish the Mortal Instruments would have ended by now). She has such an effortless and beautiful way in which she weaves the plots and characters' circumstances together. What's usually most important to me in a book is the way the characters who are romantically entangled act together. When I read a book, I often see the events playing out like a movie in my head and Ms. Clare's crafting of images helps me to do this even more. Tessa, Will, and Jem all have relationships that are crafted to dramatic perfection. I found at times saddened and even tearful for these characters in love. That is what makes a great book for me: the author's ability to affect the reader's emotions.

The action in this book is breathtaking and up to par with any other Cassandra Clare book. The sub characters also develop more throughout the book, particularly Henry and Charlotte. The twists and turns of the book will shock audiences and keep a reader on his or her toes! I can hardly wait for Clockwork Princess to make its entrance into the literary world!

Rating: 5 stars - I loved it! Buy a copy!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Book Giveaway! Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

It's about time that us at The Readable Kingdom host another book giveaway. And for you fantasy lovers out there, you should be extremely excited! This time around we are giving away an Advanced Reader's Copy of Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, courtesy of Random Buzzers. Below is a synopsis:

"Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high. Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life. In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page."

How many of you are almost bursting at the seams with excitement like me?! It sounds like to me if you are a fan of Kristin Cashore, Tamora Pierce, or Christopher Paolini, this book is a must-read! Now, I must get back to my reading....

Entering to win is easy! All you need to do is comment on this post and become a follower of our blog (NOT by e-mail! You need to become an actual follower where you will show up on the right side of the page. If you don't do that, we can't tell if you actually are a follower, and it is how we will contact you if you win. By all means though, also follow us by e-mail if you so desire!).

This contest will end on Friday, July 20, 2012. The winner be announced the following day, and their book will shipped out within the week. Good luck! Note: Winner must live in the U.S. or Canada.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
HarperCollins, 480 pages

"Samantha Kingston experiences her last day on Earth 7 times. She gets to relive the day of her death multiple times trying to discover what happened and trying to make things right before she dies."

Prior to reading Before I Fall, I had read Delirium by Lauren Oliver which is a wonderful dystopian novel that I recommend to those interested in a romance/dystopian book. So, I was expecting to be blown away with this book, but unfortunately this was not the case. I'm not going to say I hated it, but I cannot say I loved it all that much either. It was a book that irritated me, but I also am finding this was probably the author's intentions.

Right off the bat we meet Sam Kingston and her group of superficial, popular, party-going friends. The main reason I found this book irritating was that the characters were annoying in the fact that they were so superficial and "popular." Lindsey is sort of the ring leader of the group and the most obnoxious out of their friendship circle, which is quite exclusive, mind you. The plot of the book centers around Sam's death which she's trying to unravel herself. At the beginning she is just like her friends, Lindsay, Elodie, and Ally. They are mean girls, which inherently reminds me of the movie "Mean Girls" starring Lindsay Lohan. These are girls I would not like to be friends with, girls who are cruel and cruel simply because they can be, because of their status. Sam seems to have anything she could ever want, including a so-called "amazing" boyfriend, Rob. Rob is a complete loser to be honest who seems to only be sticking around because he want's to "get some" to put it bluntly. Again, a majority of these characters are very unlikeable as they start out. Although, the one character I did genuinely like from the beginning was Kent. Kent seemingly has this adorable crush on Sam, mainly because of their friendship that traces way back to the third grade. He's funny, caring, and overall a super sweet kind of guy. As Sam continues to relive the day leading up to her death, she starts to become more conscious of her lifestyle and the main theme in Before I Fall is definitely redemption. Redemption is usually the main theme of many novels and movies as well, but even more so because Sam is not only affecting herself, but she is also affecting those around her. This theme is more than relatable because who doesn't want to be redeemed?

As I was reading through the first day that Sam was reliving, I was thinking to myself, "Wonderful, I get to relive this stupid Valentine Day card handout and a party seven times, hoo-ray!" But thankfully as each day progressed Sam learned mistake by mistake and how to fix things. The first few days I wasn't too into, mainly because the plot wasn't changing as much and fast as I wanted it to. The pacing was a little off in that respect. After those few days and a sort of epiphany hit Sam that her friends were the main problem and that she herself, only added to it, the book started to improve for me. I understand that books aren't created with likable characters, I completely get that, it was the ending that sort of annoyed me in a way too though.

Lauren Oliver, however, is a marvelous writer! She certainly does a terrific job getting into the mind of a "popular" superficial girl and her daily life. The descriptions were detailed and I could basically picture everything happening quite clearly. So, if anything, her writing was great. And I'm not saying it was a terrible book, I just couldn't get as into it as much I had anticipated.

The plot seems repetitive as it starts out, obviously due to the fact that Sam is reliving the same day seven times in a row. But it does take an interesting turn when we find out more about the side characters like Kent and also Juliet Sykes - this apparent "psycho" (who actually is anything but) girl who used to be best friends with Lindsay. I did like watching the side stories unravel and learning more and more about the characters who were a lot more complex than I initially found them to be.

Overall, my opinion of Before I Fall is a bit hard to decipher. I mainly had issues with the book because the characters annoyed me so much that I didn't care what happened to them, and the plot is a bit repetitive in the beginning. But once you read through the entire book, I can see why the characters started out where they did, and same goes for the plot. If you're an absolute fan of Lauren Oliver or an even bigger fan of contemporary fiction, I say read Before I Fall. But if you're like me and get irritated by characters easily, you may want to pass it up. I've heard rave reviews about this novel, so it may just be a personal preference on my part, so don't let my views keep you from reading it.

Rating: 2 stars - I didn't like it. Barely worth borrowing. 

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Speak, 288 pages

"Lennie plays second clarinet in the school orchestra and has always happily been second fiddle to her charismatic older sister, Bailey. Then Bailey dies suddenly, and Lennie is left at sea without her anchor. Overcome by emotion, Lennie soon finds herself torn between two boys: Bailey's boyfriend, Toby, and Joe, the charming and musically gifted new boy in town.  While Toby can't see her without seeing Bailey and Joe sees her only for herself, each offers Lennie something she desperately needs. But ultimately, it's up to Lennie to find her own way toward what she really needs-without Bailey."

This book, similar to Jellicoe Road, is very, and I repeat, very underrrated. I don't even know how I came upon it, but I have a soft spot for contemporary novels and The Sky Is Everywhere exceeds all the expectations I had for it. It was a beautifully crafted story with lovely writing, lovely characters, and a lovely plot. I really feel as if I cannot say enough nice things about this book and people need to hear more about it because it's far too under the radar!

The plot takes off at a very dark place. Lennie (short for her real name, Lennon- and yes, she was named after the famous John Lennon) is grieving over the loss of her older sister Bailey. Bailey died from a fatal arrhythmia (basically an irregular heartbeat) practicing for her role in Romeo and Juliet. Her death was sudden and completely out of nowhere and Lennie struggles with coping. Bailey has always been the "brighter" sister in Lennie's eyes: very outgoing, animated, and full of life. While Lennie remains the geeky, but talented clarinetist. Not to mention, when you add to the mix that her mother is missing from the family and Lennie is living with her Gram- gardener extraordinaire, and her Uncle Big- the pot smoking, caring arborist. Things start to get complicated when one night Toby, Bailey's boyfriend, shows up at Lennie's window and they share a very intimate moment together resulting in a kiss or two. Not only is Lennie confused, but she is also morbidly ashamed that she is getting involved with her dead sister's boyfriend. The main reason Toby and Lennie have this connection is because of Bailey; they are both in this messy state of sadness and understand exactly what each other are feeling. But this doesn't make for a healthy recovery dealing with the grief over Bailey's death. It only adds to another complication as Lennie finally goes back to school after four weeks and meets the new absolutely gorgeous trumpet player, Joe Fontaine. Joe Fontaine was born in California, but raised in Paris, France, and is a fabulous not only trumpet, but guitar player as well. He's basically the entire package, as far as guys go. When Lennie suddenly finds herself involved with both Toby and Joe is when things start to get super complicated and a bit reckless.

I absolutely loved all of the characters in the novel. The fact that the story centers around Lennie's grief over her sister and the mystery behind her mother was something I can relate to myself. Everyone has gone through grief at one point or another in their life; grief can result from many things. Each of the characters had their own quirks and that was why I greatly enjoyed reading this book. I got to connect on a more intimate level with more than just Lennie. I learned about Toby and the extent of his sadness, Gram's protectiveness over her roses, Big's fifth divorce, Sarah (Lennie's friend), and Joe Fontaine and his other brothers. All of which I had come to adore and admire as if they were my own friends and family.

I took note of the beautiful and effortless writing within the first chapter of the novel. I also found out after reading the book, that Nelson herself is a published poet. I can definitely see this in her gorgeous writing. I also liked that Lennie was a poet herself. Everywhere she went she wrote these poems about Bailey and her family and her life on the backs of candy wrappers, the trunk of a tree, and all over the room Bailey and Lennie used to share. It was very refreshing the way Lennie's poems were incorporated into the story. It made it feel more personal in a way.

The plot was smooth and intricate. I loved how everything weaved together in the end. I've never been a big fan of love triangles, but for some reason this love triangle made sense. It wasn't like in paranormal books where two gorgeous guys are head over heels for this ordinary girl, it was a lot different, and I mean A LOT. It isn't completely irrational for Toby to want to be close to Lennie, I mean, she is Bailey's sister, she's the closest thing he's got to Bailey. Also, both Lennie and Toby are dealing with the same sense of utter out of control sadness and are simply trying to cope and understand each other in a way others didn't. The plot had me laughing, but also crying. It truly is a remarkable story.

If you happen to come upon a copy of The Sky is Everywhere keep it close to you and please, PLEASE read it! It's a wonderful, heart-breaking, gorgeous story that will make you feel things you never imagined words could make you feel.

Rating: 5 stars - I loved it! Buy a copy!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Scribner, 180 pages

"In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write "something new--something extraordinary and beautiful and simple + intricately patterned." That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald's finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning--" Gatsby's rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream."

I planned on reading this book ages ago, but held off on it because one of my elective classes I was taking in school ensured me that we would get to it. Unfortunately, there just wasn't enough time and room in the curriculum so I never got the chance to read it. Thank goodness my copy was just lingering, sitting on my night stand urging me to open the novel and read on! I was pleasantly surprised with The Great Gatsby. I found it to be an amazing novel, especially for a classic. I wouldn't recommend this book to just anyone though, mostly to those fellow book enthusiasts who treasure the words and the pages. Overall, The Great Gatsby was terrific!

At the very beginning of the novel we are introduced to the main character, Nick Carraway. Nick Carraway is currently living on Long Island in West Egg, NY. On the other side of Long Island is East Egg, NY where more of the richer subside. Nick is looking for work in the bonds business and lives opposite to his cousin Daisy of whom lives in East Egg. Nick is probably one of the most honest characters in the book because the majority of the others such as Tom Buchanan and Mr. Jay Gatsby himself are very hollow people. And by hollow, I mean mostly superficial chasing after money and status. These hollow personas are usually what turn a lot of people off to The Great Gatsby. I've heard quite a few complaints about well, who would want to read about lavish lifestyles, constant parties, and those pursuing people of whom they don't genuinely love? The point of The Great Gatsby isn't simply about those things; it runs a lot deeper and is why it is such a classic in time. Gatsby as a character remains quite a mystery for most of the novel. We actually aren't even introduced to him until Nick meets him at one of his extravagant parties. Most of the people who attend Gatsby's parties don't even know who Gatsby is himself or how he acquired his fortunes or even what his history is. I thought this aspect added to the plot of the novel because throughout reading I kept questioning to myself who the real "Gatsby" was. Again, with the hollow characters, we have Daisy and Tom Buchanan. Tom is having an affair with a woman named Myrtle, while Daisy finds her connection to Gatsby and that's where things start to get interesting. Gatsby has this idea of Daisy because of their relationship they've had in the past and it brings up a bigger concept behind loving someone versus loving the idea of someone. I'm not going to say I loved all the characters because most of their ideals were very immoral counter to what I believe in, but I thought Gatsby was a cool character and Nick also, although he manages to get involved with some people he probably shouldn't.

The symbolism in this novel, where to even start! First off, we have the green light which is on Daisy's dock across the bay where she lives in East Egg. This is what Gatsby is forever peering out at, representing his longing for her. There is also the Valley of Ashes where Myrtle Wilson lives. It definitely isn't a pretty sight there and shows how all Americans are searching for that "Great American Dream." The symbolism goes on and on really so I'm not going cover all of it. I'm sure you could spend days and days breaking apart the chapters because there's lots of it in there!

When talking about classics, the writing is a huge factor into what makes it so timeless. F. Scott Fitzgerald has some very beautiful writing that you could probably recognize anywhere. One quote that really made me think was when Daisy was talking about hoping for a little girl.

"I hope she'll be a fool - that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool."

This truly demonstrates the kind of hollow characters that were in The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald's writing never waivers and is strong throughout with a broad vocabulary and lots of imagery and metaphors.

The plot in the novel actually surprised me more than I thought. I guess I really hadn't a clue what I was in for considering prior to reading the book all I knew was the time period it was set in, during the roaring twenties. But it's a lot more complex than one would think and after reading the book I kept on analyzing how the ending came about and how character's continued to lead their lives. The ending was spectacular and that's all I can say because I don't want to give anything away, of course!

If you're looking for a short classic, I say go for The Great Gatsby. It really is a marvelous novel that analyzes the way hollow people live their hollow lives. I also like how you can read it and take what you will from it. Sure, there are plenty of messages, but they aren't forced upon you, only encouraged. This is definitely a great classic to start with if you're trying to branch out and read some more classic novels. Just make sure that before reading you're aware that the characters are not necessarily there to be adored and simply eat the novel with an open mind!

Rating: 4 stars - I really liked it. Worth buying.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 352 pages

"Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew - just in time for Amy's senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she's always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy's mother's old friend. Amy hasn’t seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she's surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she’s coming to terms with her father’s death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road - diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards - this is the story of one girl's journey to find herself."

Any one of my close friends will tell you that I'm sort of a sucker for those chick-lit contemporary books, and I'm not afraid to admit it! I heard that Amy and Roger's Epic Detour was a road trip novel with a romance as well, so, naturally, I had to read it. Also, although the cover art may look a bit cheesy, at least it's adorable and gives some insight as to what the novel is about. Nothing annoys me more than a faceless model on a cover that is completely irrelevant to the plot.

The novel begins as we meet Amy, a girl who has a love for theater, but is still mourning over the death of her father. Amy's grief about her father's death extends much further than anyone can imagine and Amy's mother takes it upon their family to travel all the way across the country to Connecticut. The only thing is that Amy's mother is already in Connecticut, and in order to save money, Amy must drive their car to their soon to be home. Charlie, Amy's brother, is dealing with his own issues that involve drug and alcohol abuse. Charlie is sent away to a rehabilitation center in North Carolina and Amy must take the long road trip practically by herself. Then we are introduced to Roger. He is friendly, kind, and very inviting. Amy hardly remembers him and is now going to be spending an entire road trip stuck in a small car with a stranger more or less. Amy was a great character to learn more about. She is a normal girl in search of closure. The journey she takes with Roger is just what she needs to finally move on to better things within her life. Roger is the one who actually gets Amy to open up about the accident that killed her father and it is a pivotal moment in the book.

I love the plot because who doesn't like a nice, long, scenic road trip? I was continually interested in all of these places that I, myself had never visited. Also, there are pictures within the chapters of hotels or restaurant receipts that I found to be pretty cool. It shows Matson had her extent of knowledge about the places that her characters were visiting. In fact, in the back of the novel Matson states that she, herself took the same road trip that Amy and Roger did, but backwards! I thought that was just so awesome. Another aspect that was incorporated that I found to be pretty sweet was the various playlists that Roger created for the trip. Roger felt that a good playlist of music was key to a successful road trip, so along their ride he created many different playlists. I always looked forward to seeing what songs and artists would be featured on the numerous playlists. Also, the titles for them were quite humorous as well.

The road trip definitely magnifies Amy's need for a complete journey in her life, but it also shows Roger's need for one as well. Roger has his own past with relationships and that same initial yearning for closure that is shared with Amy. I thought it was great how everything isn't so focused on Amy, but is also focused on Roger as well. On the outside he seems to relaxed, at ease, and out-going, but he is dealing with his fair share of problems too. These problems make Amy a little uncomfortable, but it only connects Roger and Amy more. I couldn't help but feel all giddy inside when they were simply together and enjoying each other's company.

I don't want to bash this book, because I found it completely adorable and sweet and a happy-go-lucky sort of read, but it's awfully predictable and I guess it all depends on what type of books you enjoy. I, of course, LOVE the chick-lit contemporary novels and fall for them so easily because I just have a problem. I think this book is great for the beginning of summer or the middle of summer or just during the summer at all, really! I was glad to kick start my summer with this terrific read, but I can't say I was totally blown away. Although I did love the road trip aspect, it wasn't so unique and different that I'll remember this book forever or something. It's just one of those light reads that make things more bearable and I like that.

So, furthermore, if you love road trips, chick-lit novels, or are a huge fan of contemporary books Amy and Roger's Epic Detour is for you!

Rating: 3 stars - I liked it. Worth borrowing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Insurgent by Veronica Roth
HarperCollins, 525 pages

"One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love. Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so."

After reading Divergent, I was so thrown into this terrifying society driven by factions and Tris’s own story that I anxiously anticipated the release of Insurgent. Insurgent was just as intense and wonderful as Divergent, probably even better, so I promise you won’t be let down.

The beginning of the book brings Tris's world into perspective. After the sad and tragic downfall in the last book, I honestly had no idea what was on the brink of happening next. Tris is a greatly developed character. She has plenty of vulnerability, strength, and is flawed in many aspects. I love each of those parts about Tris; she has finally grown into her Divergence and accepted that she is neither fully Dauntless, Erudite, or Abnegation. The factions are becoming more corrupted than ever and the resilience to not be so controlled by those factions is what makes Tris's character shine through. Although she can be stubborn, she knows what she values and does not want to hurt people if it's unnecessary. Especially considering Tris's last experience in Divergent, it's the only thing that is holding her back. Another one of my favorite characters of course is Tobias. His love and dedication to Tris is clearly evident in his actions and words. He, too, is strong, yet flawed. The mystery that lingered before about Tobias's character is now washed away and I liked learning more about Tobias's past and his reasoning for choosing Dauntless.

The pacing in Insurgent is so wonderful! Roth managed to give plenty of action, a lot more when compared to the first book. There wasn't a moment when I felt bored or that I had to trudge through to the next chapter. There was always something interesting going on that kept me reading up until I finished it. This book is also a lot darker than the first one, both plot-wise and emotion-wise for Tris. She is fighting a battle inside herself for what she has done and what she is doing. Let me just say that the ending had a HUGE cliff-hanger! I can't believe Roth would do that to her readers! It not only leaves questions drifting in the air, but it more or less ends in the middle of a scene and you will be dying for the third and final book in the trilogy which does not have a title or release date yet.

Roth has a beautiful writing style. She gives a sufficient amount of description without dilly-dallying. She gets straight to the point which is effective because of how many intense scenes there are in Insurgent. The plot is of course full of action and excitement. One thing I really loved about Insurgent was seeing each of the factions at both their best and their worst; or even in the toughest of situations, when some of the factions were forced to be brought together.

If you loved Divergent as much as I did, or just can't get enough of terrific dystopian novels, be sure to check out Insurgent. Roth better plan on releasing the final and last book in the trilogy sometime soon because I just might lose my sanity soon. (Who am I kidding... I lost it ages ago!) But seriously, read it! Just try and stay content until that unknown release date.

Rating: 5 stars - I loved it! Buy a copy!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Unleashed by Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguié

Unleashed by Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguié
Delacorte Books, 304 pages
ARC courtesy of Random Buzzers

"Katelyn McBride’s life changed in an instant when her mother died. Uprooted from her California home, Katelyn was shipped to the middle of nowhere, Arkansas, to her only living relative, her grandfather. And now she has to start over in Wolf Springs, a tiny village in the Ozark Mountains. Like any small town, Wolf Springs has secrets. But the secrets hidden here are more sinister than Katelyn could ever imagine. It’s a town with a history that reaches back centuries, spans continents, and conceals terrifying truths. And Katelyn McBride is about to change everything. Broken families, ageless grudges, forced alliances, and love that blooms in the darkest night—welcome to Wolf Springs. Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié, the New York Times bestselling authors of the Wicked series, have created an entirely new trilogy with the passion of Twilight and the grandeur of Fallen. The Wolf Springs Chronicles introduces readers to a town of secrets and the new girl who's about to start believing in werewolves."

I was very excited when I read the synopsis of Unleashed. It sounds roughly like something along the lines of Twilight meets Vampire Academy (two staples in the Young Adult genre). So, when my busy season started to die down and I had more time to read, I started devouring my monstrous pile of books hidden away in my closet (I really need to get a bookshelf!!). One day, when I was looking through my to-be-read pile, I came across Unleashed and I thought that it was long overdue for some attention!

I started the book and was instantly brought in with the action that occurs at the beginning. For those of you who like to be thrown into a storyline, this is definitely the book for you! Anyway, the beginning of the book goes into the usual: where the lead character, Katelyn, is at in her life and how she fell into the predicament she is now in. This book started out interesting enough, but as I continued, it became very boring and generic. I understand that the authors needed to set up a basis for Katelyn's life, but it really dragged through the first third of the book.

I ended up neglecting Unleashed (it sat in my school bag and on my desk for a spell) because I got busy again: the story of senior year!!

Finally I said to myself, "I have to buckle down and finish this sucker." So, I started to read the book while teachers were talking about things that I could care less about and while I was supposed to be watching my sister's softball games (I know, I'm such a great sister! Not! But it was only one game!). Although the story took a while to get off the ground, the drama and intensity of the storyline started to burst out toward the last third of the book. I was excited that this book I was so interested in finally picked up.

The ending was honestly the best part (Not in a bad way!). The last seventy pages or so were the most thrilling part of the book. Katelyn's love triangle, however, was extremely frustrating for a person who is the queen of romance novels in The Readable Kingdom! She constantly gives the two guys, Trick and Justin, mixed signals!! It makes me so unbelievably irritated!!! But on the plus side, the romance scenes are pretty steamy. I was very pleasantly surprised. In a way, they kind of outweighed the boring beginning (I'm being serious).

All in all, this book was pretty good. My only complaints are that it took too long for the action to pick up and the love triangle thing is frustrating. For anyone who likes to read about werewolves and folklore like that, I would recommend this with caution. The werewolf action doesn't start until a little later in the book.

Rating: 3 stars - I liked it. Worth borrowing.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Holy May New Releases, Batman!

Yes, for us at The Readable Kingdom, May is the month of amazing and wonderful new releases that we are DYING to get our hands on! So, without further adieu, here they are:

Today both Insurgent, sequel to Divergent, and Bitterblue, companion novel to both Fire and Graceling, have been released. Hannah and I are so excited to find out what is going to happen to Tris! But we can't forget about the long-awaited release of Bitterblue... we have been waiting 3 years for this one! Justine and I can't wait to hear about Bitterblue's story!

On May 8, City of Lost Souls, sequel to City of Fallen Angels, will be released. Holy Nephilim!

And on May 29, Dreamless, the sequel to Starcrossed, will be released. Jessica and I are totally ready to refresh our Greek mythology knowledge. And to read about the ridiculously attractive Lucas.

Off to reading and waiting for now, I suppose! And to pre-order the ones that aren't out yet. Hmm... now I must save my money... it's super important you know. :)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Spirit's Princess by Esther Friesner

Spirit's Princess by Esther Friesner
Random House, 446 pages
ARC courtesy of Random Buzzers

"Himiko the beloved daughter of a chieftain in third century Japan has always been special. The day she was born there was a devastating earthquake, and the tribe's shamaness had an amazing vision revealing the young girl's future - one day this privileged child will be the spiritual and tribal leader over all of the tribes. Book One revolves around the events of Himiko's early teen years - her shaman lessons, friendships, contact with other tribes, and journey to save her family after a series of tragic events. Once again, Esther Friesner masterfully weaves together history, myth, and mysticism in a tale of a princess whose path is far from traditional."

I have read all of Esther Friesner's Princesses of Myth stories, whether they were about Helen of Troy or Nefertiti, and have enjoyed all of them. I definitely have enjoyed Nefertiti's story the best because Friesner exposed us to Egypt, a world that clearly isn't eurocentric, and I found this very refreshing. Typically I do not go for the books that have an Asian setting or something of the like, but ever since reading Eon and Eona by Alison Goodman, I have been captivated by the setting, and Spirit's Princess may now have surpassed Nefertiti's story's excellence in my opinion.

The beginning of the book is definitely pretty slow. I would say that the first 100 or so pages dragged a bit, but they are absolutely essential in telling Himiko's story. Without that background of when Himiko was younger, we would not be able to truly understand where she came from. So, don't give up in the beginning. Keep pushing through.

I think why I like Himiko's story better than Helen's or Nefertiti's is that there is a clear purpose of what Himiko wants to do. She is a very strong-willed child, and eventually woman, that knows what she wants and is determined to go out and get it. In Friesner's previous books, it kind of seemed that both Helen and Nefertiti didn't have a clear purpose to their life and that some of the issues they had to face in their stories seemed a bit trivial at times. Helen's story definitely felt like that to me, while Nefertiti actually had some severe problems she had to overcome. With Himiko, I could simply feel how dire her situation was, and everything just seemed more important. Every action she made appeared to have a resounding effect on her tribe, and this made me care for the story and the characters so much more.

The characters are absolutely wonderful. I loved Himiko's spirit and spunk when she was young, and it was very enjoyable to watch it evolve as she got older. The spunk wasn't gone, it was just transformed into a purpose and a drive for life that was great to see. Himiko's brothers were all charming and made me chuckle at times. They definitely lighten the mood of the story a bit. Lady Yama... I absolutely LOVED her as a character! One second you can be laughing from something she said, and the next you can be amazed by the wisdom that spouted from lips that so easily joked. She was simply a delight.

If you are looking to pick up a book that has adventure, a strong female character, and a heartfelt storyline, definitely pick up Spirit's Princess!

Rating: 4 stars - I really liked it. Worth buying.

Monday, April 2, 2012

You Against Me by Jenny Downham

You Against Me by Jenny Downham
David Fickling Books, 411 pages
Courtesy of Random Buzzers

"If someone hurts your sister and you're any kind of man, you seek revenge, right? If your brother's been accused of a terrible crime and you're the main witness, then you banish all doubt and defend him. Isn't that what families do? When Mikey's sister claims a boy assaulted her at a party, his world of work and girls begins to fall apart. When Ellie's brother is charged with the crime, but says he didn't do it, her world of revision, exams and fitting in at a new school begins to unravel. When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide. Brave and unflinching, this is a novel of extraordinary skillfulness and almost unbearable tension. It's a book about loyalty and the choices that come with it. But above all it's a book about love - for one's family and for another."

When this book was in the Random Buzzer website store, all of my friends and myself jumped at the chance of owning this book, and all requested a copy. Once the books finally arrived in those beautiful orange packages, we were all so excited (Not to mention that it was a hardcover beauty!). Then senior year kicked in!

We were all so busy with AP and colleges classes, work, extra-curricular activities, college applications, and so on and so on. So, the copies of You Against Me went unread in our to-read piles. But about two weeks ago, it just so happened that I needed something to read and I also finally had the time. So, I went through my stack of unread books and You Against Me popped out at me. I thought to myself here is this book that I had so much interest in reading but for some reason hadn't yet. And so, I opened the neglected novel and finished it in a whopping five days (Ask anyone and they will say that is really quick for me!).

I absolutely loved this book!! Jenny Downham is a British novelist, which is very clear throughout the duration of this book. It was sort of confusing at first because they are constantly talking about how they eat crisps (which is a British slang word for potato chips), but I didn't know that until I looked it up. But in a way, once you get to know what the slang words mean in the context of the story, it really adds to Downham's overall style.

When I first read the synopsis for this story, I wasn't expecting there to such an emotional romantic thread between the two lead characters, Mikey and Ellie. But once I started getting into the book, I was so excited to realize that the love between the two characters was so authentic, realistic, and beautiful that at times I found myself on the verge of tears. I fell in love with these two. The situation that they have to go through in the book is also very relatable to people who have family issues that can effect everyone.

I would definitely recommend this book to people who like contemporary fiction or who just simply want to read something that is realistically beautiful. I was so happily surprised by this book and I hope that others will enjoy it, too.

Rating: 4 stars - I really liked it. Worth buying.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Starters by Lissa Price

Starters by Lissa Price
Random House, 352 pages
ARC courtesy of Random Buzzers

"In the future, teens rent their bodies to seniors who want to be young again. One girl discovers her renter plans to do more than party - her body will commit murder, if her mind can't stop it. Sixteen-year-old Callie lost her parents when the genocide spore wiped out everyone except those who were vaccinated first - the very young and very old. With no grandparents to claim Callie and her little brother, they go on the run, living as squatters, and fighting off unclaimed renegades who would kill for a cookie. Hope comes via Prime Destinations, run by a mysterious figure known only as The Old Man. He hires teens to rent their bodies to seniors, known as enders, who get to be young again. Callie's neurochip malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her rich renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, even dating Blake, the grandson of a senator. It's a fairy-tale new life... until she uncovers the Body Bank's horrible plan...."

I was totally preparing myself to be blown out of the water with Starters, but... I wasn't. Maybe it was because there was so much hype for this book that I expected much more, but it just didn't happen. Although I did really enjoy the book, it simply wasn't a five-star book for me.

I thought the world building was fantastically executed. I believe that is a key component when making a dystopian book. If the world isn't believable, I am sorry, I just won't believe or care about your book. All of the technology was great to hear about, whether it was the chip in Callie's head, Helena's awesome cars, or Madison's awesome version of a T.V. Everything seemed fresh and believable.

The action in this book was certainly there in abundance. It really was what made the book intriguing for me. If there wasn't as much as there was, I am not so sure I would have enjoyed the book as much as I did. But, there was always some new twist that you had to wrap your head around, and the entire time something doesn't feel quite right. Appropriately, it was like an itch in the back of your brain... something was rotten about the story, but you couldn't quite put your finger on it until things are finally revealed a bit in the end. In other words, Lissa Price does a great job with making you try and guess what was going to come next, but instead she takes a completely different turn than what you saw coming.

Where the story fell flat with me was with the characters. Michael, Callie's friend, seemed to be a sort of love interest... at least, that is the vibe I got from Price. But, I simply could not picture Callie and Michael having anything other than sibling-like love. It didn't help that Michael wasn't really in the book that much. From what I understand, Michael should be more prominent in the next and final book Enders. I did enjoy Callie as a main character. Of course, only being a teenager, she made some mistakes throughout the novel and learned from them. It was very enjoyable to watch her grow into a strong character. Tyler, Callie's little brother, bothered me as a character. I actually feel horrible saying it as he was sickly and such, but it really irked me that he couldn't be a bit more understanding of what Callie had to do. I know he was young and all, but you would think living on the streets would toughen up his mentality.

Starters was all in all a very enjoyable book, even though there were some things that bothered me. I am VERY excited that this is going to only be a two book series, not because it was bad, but because it is a new and refreshing way of writing. Better yet, the sequel, Enders, will be released at the end of this year. And after the heck of cliff-hanger of an ending in Starters, you be able to rest assured that you will know what happens to Callie by the end of 2012!

Rating: 4 stars - I really liked it. Worth buying.