King’s Cage (Red Queen #3) by Victoria Aveyard

Book Description:

Published: February 7, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

In this breathless third installment to Victoria Aveyard’s bestselling Red Queen series, allegiances are tested on every side. And when the Lightning Girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

Review –

It’s been almost a year since I read the second book in the Red Queen series so I was afraid I’d have trouble getting back into the story, but it was amazingly simple to pick up the storyline.

The story starts with Mare as Maven’s prisoner, but gets wonderfully complicated as it delves into their twisted relationship. It’s all just SO WELL DONE. Maven’s mother literally molded his mind throughout his life to the point where he’s no longer sure which parts are his own. She even turned his love for Mare into an obsession and erased the love he had for his brother, Cal. And there’s still a small part of Mare that cares about Maven (or is at least empathetic) even though she wants to kill him.

The story never excuses Maven’s actions, by the way.The author is very clear that this is not a relationship that will ever be good (or happen), but  I still LOVE how complicated everything is between them. Stories with black & white characters or shallow villains get old for me really fast because it’s unbelievable. Maven’s character totally worked.

Mare is  totally broken and starts to feel gratitude to Maven for the most basic acts of humanity. Watching her grapple with everything was actually one of my favorite parts. She somehow finds the strength to fight again and is a totally relatable character you WANT to support. All of her thoughts and actions make sense and she has so much growth over the course of the story.

To make a long story short, Mare is finally able to be rescued and a huge battle ensues between the Reds and the Silvers, with both sides having many casualties. “The Lightening Girl” is able to harness her gift and she a Cal, together work for the good. BUT, when push comes to shove and a kingship is offered to Cal, he takes it, knowing it goes against everything Mare believes in. So after barely getting back together, they break up. A bit after that, the book ends, and I CANNOT wait until next year for the fourth book in the series.  Write faster, Victoria Aveyard!!!!!

 

 

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

Book Description:

Published: November 1, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Review –

Just finished listening to this book and had to get my thoughts down before they become mingled with the next book I plan to listen to/read.

This book basically covers A DAY in the lives of two seventeen years olds, a boy, Daniel, a Korean-American and a girl, Natasha, who came to America  from Jamaica when she was eight.

Everything about day had to fall just right for them to meet. If a second of difference in an occurrence had happened they would have passed by each other without a single glance. But they did meet and for Daniel is was love at first sight. Natasha was a harder sell and Daniel spent the day making her fall in love with him.

Daniel was on his way to a college entrance interview for Yale with plans to become a doctor. He didn’t want to be a doctor or really go to Yale but it was what his parents wanted.

Natasha was trying to stop her family from being deported that night back to Jamaica .

There are many twists and turns but suffice it to say that Daniel is crushed when he learns that she is going to disappear from his life that night and the attorney who had promised to help her dropped the ball by missing an important meeting  with a judge by spending the afternoon in a hotel room with his paralegal. Circumstances have to be just right for things to go right or wrong.

Natasha and her family go back to Jamaica and  she and Daniel keep in touch for a while but then life takes over and they each get on with their lives.  

Do they get back together? I’m not going to tell you but just know that for the last twenty minutes of this audiobook I had tears falling down my face and had trouble breathing.

I give this book  4 1/2 stars because there were a few parts that bogged down with too much information.

This is the second book by author, Nicola Yoon, and now I’m going to go find her first one, Everything Everything and grab more Kleenex.

Between Shades of Gray by Rita Sepetys

Book Description:

Published: March 22, 2011

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

Review –

“They took me in my nightgown.” The opening sentence of this superlative first novel by Ruta Sepetys demonstrates the strength of its unembellished language. Thus, 15-year-old Lina Vilkas, along with her mother and younger brother, is deported from her Lithuanian home by the Soviet secret police in 1941, and begins a cattle-car journey through a series of forced-labor camps that will span 12 years and 6,500 miles.

Apart from a few overly dramatic metaphors, Lina recounts her story with a straightforward clarity that trusts readers to summon images of starvation, disease and death, and grounds them in a reality young adults can understand.

As expected in Y.A. fiction, Lina has both a love interest and a special skill. Her relationship with another refugee is one of attraction amid desperation, their physical desire tamped down only by the limits of their emaciated, louse-­ridden bodies. Lina’s talent for drawing likewise plays a role: in her attempts to get a coded message to her father; in the assignments she is given by her Soviet captors for map-­copying and portraiture; in the flashbacks to her life as a promising art student.

The book does not lead us through the entire twelve years of the horrible conditions at the labor camp but does give us a glimpse into the life she had after being freed, and for that I was grateful. Parts were very heart-wrenching and seemed almost to horrible to have really happened .

I truly enjoyed this book but not as much as her second book, Salt to the Sea, which I rated FIVE STARS and think everyone should read. This one too, will leave you thinking for some time to come.

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You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

Book Description:

Published: July 26, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Katie and Eric Knox have dedicated their lives to their fifteen-year-old daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful. But when a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community just weeks before an all-important competition, everything the Knoxes have worked so hard for feels suddenly at risk. As rumors swirl among the other parents, revealing hidden plots and allegiances, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself drawn, irresistibly, to the crime itself, and the dark corners it threatens to illuminate.

Review –

At first I didn’t know if I could into this book because it was about gymnasts , but it was sooo much more than that!

Megan Abbott’s novel You Will Know Me takes readers deep into the obsessive, highly structured world of young female gymnasts and the families who help push these athletes to victory. It’s a masterful tale that’s both suspenseful and an eerily accurate portrait of the way teenage and parental cliques operate.

The book’s central characters, Katie and Eric Knox, have overextended themselves emotionally and financially to support their fifteen-year-old daughter, Devon. Ever since Devon was three and began excelling at Tiny Tumblerz, gymnastics has been “the mighty spine of everything for them.” Even the arrival of Drew, Devon’s younger brother, didn’t displace her from the spotlight. Now, Devon is on the brink of possible Olympic greatness, under the expert tutelage of Coach Teddy, “the gymnast whisperer,” who presides over BelStars gym, which has become the Knoxes’ little corner of the universe. The gym’s “booster parties” constitute the extent of their social life; the other girls’ parents are their only friends. Or, “sort of” friends. Because Devon, after all, is the sun and the other girls merely her satellites.

One fateful night, however, that solar system threatens to collapse when a handsome young man named Ryan who works at BelStars is found dead, a victim of an apparent hit-and-run. Perhaps, some suggest, Ryan should have known better. It wasn’t smart to walk alone on a dark country road; it also wasn’t smart to be the lone young man amid a crowd of adolescent female gymnasts, whose natural sexual desires could be sublimated for only so long into soaring vaults and sweaty floor exercises.

This is where the book turns into a “who-dun-it” because the author leads you to believe that several people could have killed Ryan. But why? Each person has their reasons and although I went back and forth on who the killer was, I was pleasantly surprised and ending OMG!!!!!!

To find out who killer Ryan and why you’ll have to read or listen to the book. I highly recommend it.

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The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher

Book Description:

Published: October 3, 2013

Format: Audio/Library Book

Emily’s dad is accused of murdering a teenage girl, Ashlee Parker. Emily is sure he is innocent, but what happened that night in the woods behind their house where she used to play as a child? Determined to find out, she seeks out Damon Hillary, the enigmatic boyfriend of the murdered girl. He also knows these woods. Maybe they could help each other. But he’s got secrets of his own about games that are played in the dark.

Review –

This book  is told from the alternating points of view of Emily and Damon, either of whom could have everything to lose depending upon the outcome of the mystery.

Emily’s father suffers from PTSD after a horrifying incident during his military service, and is rendered largely unable to assist in his own defense, leaving her to try to prove his innocence. Damon was the last person to see Ashlee alive, but suffered from either a drug- or stress-induced memory loss that evening and doesn’t know what happened. Emily and Damon each feel that the other is the key to finding the answers they need. Their interaction begins with each steadfastly convinced of their side of the story, but as bits and pieces emerge their paths both become clouded with doubt, creating an interesting tension between them–they are drawn to one another as a source of information, though wariness prevails. 

The author does a fantastic job of turning the woods behind Emily’s house into a character in and of itself thus adding more intensity to the plot.

Damon and his friends play a Game( which was never fully explained) in the woods and Ashlee asks to join and so the rules blur and there are sexual fantasies involved as well as drugs and alcohol. I won’t say what happens but there is a hea for some while not for others.

 I enjoyed this book very much and while it is supposedly a YA book but I would recommend it for a very mature young adult.

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Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Book Description:

Published: September 29, 2015

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager
A runaway with a privileged past
A spy known as the Wraith
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

Review –

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You need to know that Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows is related to her Grisha trilogy, but you can read this first book of the related series without reading the trilogy first.(I did NOT read the Grisha trilogy) The content is consistently mature and a better fit for more mature teen readers and adults.  Characters are complex, flawed, and sometimes responsible for despicable acts, such as plucking out a man’s eye in one gruesome scene. More bloodshed includes arena fighting in prison where a man is mauled to death and wolves are killed, a gang shooting where a boy is left for dead, a knife wound that nearly kills a main character, and more. Backstories of the main characters can be jarring, such as a recalled childhood scene of a character being buried in corpses on a barge, imprisonment and near-starvation, and characters being beaten and forced to work in brothels. No details are given about life in the brothels, but there’s some kissing and nakedness in other scenes.Readers will learn the backstories of these characters as the novel progresses, each bringing up themes of survival and overcoming loss. Though greed and revenge seem to motivate characters on the surface, there’s also an underlying desire for connection.

I’ve read reviews that raved about this book but for me it was a three and a half to four star book. It was entertaining and the narrators, and there were several, did a great job. I will read the next in the series, Crooked Kingdom, but only because I hate not finishing a series, not because I can’t wait.

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Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Book Description:

Published: February 2, 2016

 

 

World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people—adults and children alike—aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

Told in alternating points of view, this masterful work of historical fiction is inspired by the real-life tragedy that was the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff—the greatest maritime disaster in history. As she did in Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys unearths a shockingly little-known casualty of a gruesome war, and proves that humanity and love can prevail, even in the darkest of hours.

Review – 

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Although this book is technically a young adult book ( and I highly recommend it to ALL young adults because they must know what can happen when the person in charge of a country has no respect for human life – they see things like this on television and movies but most of them don’t care enough to learn the truth behind he images) I, as an adult, found it haunting, captivating, heart wrenching and hard to believe. 

I don’t want to give too much away, but all of the main characters in the book do not survive and it broke my heart . I had the audio version and had to turn it off in some places while driving because of the tears forming in my eyes.

It is the best historical fiction that I had read or listened to in a very long time and although the characters were not real  people, I’m fairly certain that out of the ten thousand  people crammed onto the evacuation ship there were stories just like the ones in this book. 

The sinking of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff is the single greatest maritime disaster in history yet, to many, the story remains unknown .It is a poignant, heart-breaking and should be on everyone’s TBR list.

For more information on  Operation Hannibal and this disaster check out the following link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MV_Wilhelm_Gustloff

^Side Note:

I have not read Between Shades of Gray, by this author, mentioned in the blurb above, but I intend to very soon.

Five stars *****

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The Last Star (The 5th Wave #3) by Rick Yancey

Book Description:

Published: May 24, 2016  

The enemy is Other. The enemy is us.

They’re down here, they’re up there, they’re nowhere. They want the Earth, they want us to have it. They came to wipe us out, they came to save us.

But beneath these riddles lies one truth: Cassie has been betrayed. So has Ringer. Zombie. Nugget. And all 7.5 billion people who used to live on our planet. Betrayed first by the Others, and now by ourselves.

In these last days, Earth’s remaining survivors will need to decide what’s more important: saving themselves…or saving what makes us human.

Review –

Five-star-feedback-on-oDesk

offers-headphones-jpgmaxheight138maxwidth207THE LAST STAR picks up not long after THE INFINITE SEA, Book Two, left off. Cassie, still torn between her love of Evan and her fear of his kind, is focusing her energy on reminding Sam what it means to be a family. Ringer — believed MIA by Cassie and the gang — has been “enhanced” and is focused on eliminating Evan Walker so she can take revenge on the man who betrayed her without him getting in the way. Zombie, ever the leader, remains untrusting of Evan and focused on reuniting with Ringer and Teacup before the end of days. 
Alternating between the viewpoints of Cassie, Ringer, Zombie, Sam and others, THE LAST STAR takes place over the course of three action-packed days, or, more specifically, the last three days of Earth. Evan Walker has a plan that he hopes will save humanity — aka Cassie — but, in the end, he is not the hero Earth needs. That hero, of course, is Cassie. Cassie who, even when all hope for rescue is lost, still demands that young Sam learn his ABCs and remember the face of his mother. Cassie, who loves Evan in ways that even she cannot understand, but knows that they will not celebrate a fairy tale ending. Cassie, the personification of humanity.

Although readers have been cheering Cassie on for years, I believe it is Sam who truly shines in THE LAST STAR. If THE LAST STAR can be classified as character-driven science fiction, Sam is one of the most powerful forces of its narrative. Through Sam, we see the true effects of humanity’s downfall, as he finds it easy to shoot a person, but less so to remember to bathe. He loves his sister, but feels a stronger, everlasting bond with Zombie, because Zombie is his sergeant in a world where his family’s promises have been annihilated more often than not. 

Because the story takes place over only three short days, it is impossible to go on without spoiling the ending to a series fans have loved for years. I will say this: yes, there are major deaths, yes, there is a resolution to the war, and yes, you will cry. The author did a superb job giving this series a perfect ending.

Five stars *****

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The Winner’s Kiss (The Winner’s Trilogy #3) by Marie Rutkoski

Book Description:

Published: March 29, 2016

Some kisses come at a price.

War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.

At least, that’s what he thinks.

In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.

But no one gets what they want just by wishing.

As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?

Review –

Format:
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I love how the author, Marie Rutkoski, starts off the final book exactly where the second one ended. No wasted time rehashing the past happenings. It’s like READY, SET GO!

As with the  other two books in the trilogy, I had the audio version and the narrator, Justine Eyre, does a magnificent job with the voices of all the characters and makes it a very pleasant listening event.

Besides the descriptions of the battles of  war, the author, gave us more in depth development of several secondary characters which made the book richer and gave us a better insight into their actions.

I am fiercely in love with all things Kestrel and Arin. Their relationship struggle in the novel was so real. Finally a YA book where it’s not the fantasy world keeping them apart, but actual real relationship bumps that plagues us all: break down of communication, acknowledgements of individual changes and growth, trust issues, accepting faults along with strengths, understanding personal struggles, guilt of hurting the one you love the most, forgiveness, and above all, mutual respect.

Our protagonists, Kestrel and Arin, experience a lot of growth as previous choices finally reach shocking, climatic consequences, many of which I was unsure how they’d move past. I definitely didn’t expect the changes Kestrel underwent; she is both the same and vastly different, exploring physical and mental strength of female characters.

THE WINNER’S TRILOGY is one of my favorites. I love the way the whole series comes  together as a whole and this last installment is fantastic and I’m really satisfied with how everything came about.

I HIGHLY recommend this series.

Five stars *****

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The Gardner by S. A. Bodeen

Book Description:

Published: May 25, 2010

Mason has never known his father, but longs to. All he has of him is a DVD of a man whose face is never seen, reading a children’s book. One day, on a whim, he plays the DVD for a group of comatose teens at the nursing home where his mother works. One of them, a beautiful girl, responds. Mason learns she is part of a horrible experiment intended to render teenagers into autotrophs—genetically engineered, self-sustaining life-forms who don’t need food or water to survive. And before he knows it, Mason is on the run with the girl, and wanted, dead or alive, by the mysterious mastermind of this gruesome plan, who is simply called the Gardener.

Will Mason be forced to destroy the thing he’s longed for most?
Review –

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I have really picked some doozies lately, and not in a good way. First there was the Camera Killer and now this one.

This book wasn’t totally awful, but I found it boring and a bit too sci-fi for me. While some things were pretty far out there some things were very predictable-like The Gardner being Mason’s father. I could see it coming a mile away and the ending was just too perfect.

I did not enjoy this book.

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