Friday, February 24, 2012

Blood Red Road by Moira Young

Blood Red Road by Moira Young
480 pages, Margaret K. McElderrly Books

"Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back. Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she's a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization. Blood Red Road has a searing pace, a poetically minimal writing style, violent action, and an epic love story. Moira Young is one of the most promising and startling new voices in teen fiction."

Blood Red Road was yet another dystopian novel that I wanted to read SOOO bad in 2011 but didn't have a chance to get to. Even though that was unfortunate, I am kind of glad I didn't read it earlier, otherwise I would have had to wait even LONGER for the sequel! As you can probably guess, I absolutely loved this book! I was totally blown away by it.

Even though I really wanted to read this book, I was still skeptical when I started it. I have read The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and I couldn't help but notice the parallels between the two. Similar titles? Check. Lack of quotes and has a dialect? Check. Post-apocalyptic world? Check. Violent scenes? Check. A parent/sister left to look after a younger family member? Check. Needless to say, I was sort of expecting an enjoyable read that was a young adult rip-off of The Road, but fortunately, this couldn't be further from the truth. Blood Red Road clearly stands apart from The Road and is an amazing debut novel in its own right.

I personally was accustomed to the lack of quotes and a strong dialect in a book. Think of a strong dialect like The Help combined with the lack of quotes like The Road, and you will get a general idea of what it was like to read this book. I have read that some people found it very difficult to get used to this writing style, but it really isn't that difficult to get past it, especially when the story starts to get very intense and only some of the dialogue has the thick accent.

The beginning starts off with a bang, and then from about page 20-80 the book becomes a bit slow as Saba tries to figure out what to do. But after page 80, the story kicks into high gear and is a non-stop action-packed adventure. I simply loved it. I really don't know what to say other than you must read it. Saba really is a kick-butt heroine... she has this really tough exterior and is simply focused on finding her twin brother, Lugh. After a while you begin to see her tough facade disappear, especially with the appearance of Jack.

I love the love interest in this story. For once there really isn't a stupid love triangle, as far as I can tell. I have seriously been getting sick of those because I find them completely and utterly unrealistic, and they always get on my nerves at some point. What is the best part is that Saba is such a strong character that I wouldn't have minded if the author never introduced a love interest for her. She really didn't need one. As such, even with the introduction of Jack and their complicated relationship, I really didn't feel like it took away from the story at all. It didn't turn into a romance centered book, thank the lord. Better yet, the relationship between Saba and Jack really didn't require either of them to change who they really are, unlike many books that are in the young adult genre today. It is a relationship that I really want to cheer for and will forever stand behind unless something drastic happens in the next book.

Needless to say, if you haven't read Blood Red Road yet, do so immediately before the next book, Rebel Heart, comes out October 30! This book is a new favorite of mine, and if you are a fan of dystopian, it may become one of yours!

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

The Other Countess by Eve Edwards

The Other Countess by Eve Edwards
352 pages, Delacorte Press
Courtesy of Random Buzzers

"It's England, 1582. Ellie - Lady Eleanor Rodriguez of San Jaime - is in possession of a gold-seeking father, a worthless title and a feisty spirit that captivates the elite of the Queen's court, and none other than the handsome new Earl of Dorset ...William Lacey has inherited his father's title and his financial ruin. Now the Earl must seek a wealthy heiress and restore his family's fortune. But Will's head has been turned by the gorgeous Ellie, yet their union can never be. Will is destined to marry a worthy Lady so the only question is - which one? Eve Edwards has a doctorate from Oxford University and thinks researching a large part of the fun for writing historical fiction. She has visited Tudor houses, attended jousts and eaten Elizabethan banquets to get the sights, sounds and tastes right for this book. And, yes, she can testify that it is possible to eat neatly without the modern invention of the fork. She lives in Oxford and is married with three children."

The minute I heard of this book on Random Buzzers, I knew that I absolutely had to read it. I am very fascinated by novels that are set in the Elizabethan Era... I find the court intrigue immensely entertaining. Eve Edwards definitely delivers a fantastic historical romance that definitely had its story backed with research. I definitely think I enjoyed this book so much because it is very clear that Eve Edwards did her research when referring to daily tasks of not only the members of the court, but tasks of the peasantry and other people outside of the court. Although, the book definitely did not feel like it was simply written as a book to educate a person about the era. It was clear that it was intended first and foremost to entertain, which I personally thought it did so remarkably. I loved that I could read this book and be completely enthralled without feeling like I was reading something entirely frivolous.

I enjoyed the main characters a lot, and I love that Eve Edwards made both Ellie and Will outcasts in their own rights. I feel like this made their relationship seem that much more realistic, and made their personalities very relatable. Ellie has to deal with always being on the road with her somewhat crazy father and having a Spanish title in a realm that despises the Spanish because of their close relation with the Catholic church. Will is not as much of an outcast as Ellie, but when compared to others in the court, he is definitely in a different circle where his wealth is concerned. This lack of excessive wealth definitely makes Will the amazing man he is. He is seen working with the farmers and locals on his land just like anyone else. I wholeheartedly believe that Eve Edwards partly wanted his family to lack funds to not only create a challenge between him and Ellie, but to also bring Will down to earth and make him lovable.

I must say that The Other Countess has most likely become my favorite historical fiction novel by far. I absolutely love the historical accuracy, the amazing supporting characters, and the believable romance between Ellie and Will. Eve Edwards certainly delivered a novel that you definitely don't want to miss! (And make sure to check out the sequel, The Queen's Lady! I am going to devour it once I get my copy from Random Buzzers!)

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

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Million Suns by Beth Revis

A Million Suns by Beth Revis
386 pages, Razorbill

"Godspeed was fueled by lies. Now it is ruled by chaos. It's been three months since Amy was unplugged. The life she always knew is over. And everywhere she looks, she sees the walls of the spaceship Godspeed. But there may just be hope: Elder has assumed leadership of the ship. He's finally free to enact his vision - no more Phydus, no more lies. But when Elder discovers shocking news about the ship, he and Amy race to discover the truth behind life on Godspeed. They must work together to unlock a puzzle that was set in motion hundreds of years earlier, unable to fight the romance that's growing between them and the chaos that threatens to tear them apart."

After reading Across the Universe, I was excited to find out that it's sequel A Million Suns was finally released. If you've read Across the Universe (which I'm hoping you have, otherwise I advise you not to continue on with this review) then you know that it left with plenty of questions still unanswered. A Million Suns was fantastic and personally, I liked it better than Across the Universe.

Again, I will state that if you haven't read Across the Universe I would advise you NOT to continue on with this review. It will contain spoilers, not for A Million Suns, but it will potentially ruin Across the Universe for you.

The book continues with the flip flopping point of views between both Amy and Elder. With Eldest dead, Orion now cryogenically frozen, and everyone on the ship off of Phydus--the drug that calms people down and makes them very unresponsive to what is going on around them--Godspeed is struggling to maintain life. Again, there is yet another mystery, but this time it includes a secret that Orion knows. Orion has left clues specifically for Amy to find and this secret is extremely vital for her to discover before it is too late.

Amy is a great protagonist. She has her own voice and won't submit easily. She also has her perspectives in check. Although her love for Elder is getting stronger, she is not letting this consume her like so many other female protagonists do. Amy recognizes what's important to her, like her parents becoming unfrozen and the ship landing on Centauri Earth. She has the determination to reveal the truth - whether it be good or bad. And she has the power to want to change the outcome of whatever that truth may be. As for Elder- he is fighting an inside battle with himself. We watch as he realizes what leaderships means and what if it's not for him? I found this part to be relatable for readers - not me personally, but I know people who grow up in families that expect them to take on leadership or go to a college that everyone else went to or just follow in their footsteps. Elder doesn't want to become Eldest, yet he feels like this leadership was what he was made for. I liked some of the side characters, such as Victria, but I wish I would have gotten to know them on a more personal level or watched them develop.

The plot is the best part of these books. Beth Revis uses another intriguing mystery to draw the reader in. I was dying not knowing the fate of Godspeed. I caught onto a couple of the mysteries, but the main mystery that was revealed at the end caught me completely off guard! My mind was seriously blown. Everything made sense, but there was still mysteries lingering at the last page.

I liked Revis's writing, but sometimes I would read a sentence and its diction would bug me. My only other complaint I have with A Million Suns is that the romance aspect still has yet to win me over. I think Elder is very sweet and Amy is too, but for some reason I just could not get into their relationship. If they had to separate or end up not being together, I would be okay with it. I'm not saying the romance was terrible; I just felt it to be a little unnecessary considering their circumstances and the fact that the plot carries itself pretty well.

A Million Suns is packed with secrets, just as Across the Universe was, but we get more of an insight on Godspeed. Especially with the ship low on food, people rioting, and trying to find a way to use Phydus. It's definitely a page turner! And if you're like me, you'll be anxiously anticipating the last book in the trilogy, Shades of Earth, which is expected to be released some time in January of 2013. (That's a long time!!! It looks like we're all suffering until then.)

Rating: 4.5 stars - I don't typically rate books with .5 intervals, but I just couldn't give it the full 5 stars because of the romance aspect that felt unneeded. Mind you, I absolutely LOVED it, but in order to get 5 stars in my book, everything has to be spot-on awesome. :)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
400 pages, Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan Audio
Audiobook courtesy of Macmillan Audio

"Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.... Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future. In this thrilling debut young adult novel, the first of a quartet, Marissa Meyer introduces readers to an unforgettable heroine and a masterfully crafted new world that’s enthralling."

I have been on a serious fairy tale kick lately, and needless to say, I have been very eager to read Cinder ever since I saw the cover! Better yet, there was sci-fi in this fairy tale. For those you out there that are skeptical about this mix of genres, don't be! Marissa Meyer handled the two genres very skillfully and wove them together to create something entirely new and original.

For this specific book, I listened to an audiobook. At first I was a bit worried that I would become annoyed with the reader's voice, but I actually enjoyed her voice after a while. I was happy that she was able to do the different accents for the different world leaders, as well as a monotonous voice for an android. At first I was a little disappointed with her voice for the Prince. I thought her voice should have been a bit deeper, but as the book went on, I am glad that she didn't change her voice much for him. If she did, it would have almost been like she was making a mockery of him.

Marissa Meyer nailed the classic personalities of the characters that make up a Cinderella story. We have Adri as the classic evil stepmother, someone you simply just want to punch in the face sometimes as a favor for Cinder. You have Pearl, the snotty stepsister who is second in a line for a good punch after her mother. And then you have Peony, the one stepsister who you actually like as she is kind to Cinder. Iko, an incredibly adorable android, took the place of the rest of the staff of servants in the classic tale, and her fate made me sad, but I still have hope for her!

Cinder definitely had its surprises, some that I absolutely did not see coming, as is the case with Dr. Erland, and some that I did, such as the big bomb of a secret at the end of the book. What a cliffhanger! My only complaint is that I figured out that big secret in the first quarter of the book. I don't know if it is because I am getting too good at guessing these kinds of things, as I have seen other reviewers who said they didn't see it coming at all, or if the author made this big "secret" too obvious. I literally saw it coming a mile away, but it was a secret with a HUGE impact nonetheless, and it didn't ruin the story by me figuring it out early; it just took away a bit of the suspense.

I enjoyed the characters very much. For the most part, I felt like they didn't rush into things without stopping and thinking, which makes me a very happy reader! I enjoy reading about characters that don't do blatantly stupid things because they didn't stop and think for two seconds. I had a respect for Prince Kai and what he had to do to lead the Commonwealth, and I found him as an attractive romantic interest. Cinder had her moments when she would drive me a little nuts (Haha... nuts and bolts! Couldn't resist. :D), but for the most part I felt like she was a very relatable character.

So, if you are looking for a new and refreshing take on the Cinderella tale, this book is definitely for you! It makes for a entertaining read that still has substance at the same time. I enjoyed it very much and am looking forward to its sequel, and you will too!

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

Check out an exclusive clip of the Cinder audiobook below!