Robin’s Reading Rendezvous

The Enchanter Heir - Cinda Williams Chima

Ummmm…….So I have decided to rate this as if it were just the first half of a book because that is what it seems to be. This is the first half or Part I of a much larger book in my opinion.

I love the writing style of Cinda Williams Chima, this is the eighth book by her I have read. That said this was really a departure from the prior three books of this series. It would almost be an entirely new series if it didn’t still have the same rules and some characters of the first three books. Although I was a little confused as to who mainliners were, just so you know they are all the people in all the guilds you learned about in the first three books of the series.

The Enchanter Heir is a complete departure from the initial story line of Trinity. About ten years before the Dragon Heir there was a massacre that left all the inhabitants of Thorn Hill, a sorcerer commune in Brazil, either dead or a mutant of sorts. The weirstones of all the survivors have been completely changed along with their powers. Unknown is whether it was a wizard attack on the commune or if the sorcerers accidentally poisoned themselves.

Jonah, an Enchanter, is a survivor of Thorn Hill, but it came with a high price. His skin is poisonous and thus he is forced to live a mostly untouched existence. He has become an assassin trying to find the answers of Thorn Hill hoping to save his brother as well as himself from the affects of the mutations.

Emma has had a slightly wild childhood. She was hidden away with her Grandfather and new nothing of her past. With him she became engrossed in the music world and making guitars. But when he dies of mysterious circumstances she finds the father she never knew and starts learning about a world of magic she didn’t know existed.

I liked Emma right away. She is a headstrong teenager and is a little wild yes but she is feisty and stands her ground. I love that in a female character. When she meets our hero Jonah and he is less than inviting she says

You know what? You’re damn pretty until you open up your mouth. You ought to keep it shut.”

There is also a vulnerability to Emma as she, like the other orphans of Thorn Hill are mostly alone. Jonah as an assassin you would think would be hard to like, but right away you see how reluctant he is with his natural poison gift and as an empath he fells the pains of those around him. He is desperate to be accepted and loved but pushes everyone away as he knows how deadly he really is. I couldn’t help liking the kid.

--it was such a small and simple pleasure—to talk to someone who didn’t know that the thing he was best at was killing. Leaving the pool-shark girl behind was like ripping off a scab and watching himself bleed.

As Emma and Jonah get to know each other there is a definite attraction and Emma wonders why Jonah is giving mixed signals. I like the forbidden love story, I’m a sucker for those and it didn’t really overshadow the rest of the plot.

There are cameos from all of the Trinity alums and the story involves them only a little as mainliners seem to blame the Thorn Hill victims for the sudden rash of wizards being killed. Things become heated as each side blames the other.

The reason I’m saying that this is like half a book is because there really was no resolution to any of the story lines happening. At the end it still isn’t clear what happened at Thorn Hill, I know who is killing the wizards, well probably, but I have no idea why, Lilith the leader of the shades (deceased Thorn Hill spirits that take over bodies) still hasn’t given her plan, I have no idea how Emma is tied into the whole thing and then there was a cliff hanger.

This really reads more of like a part I of II. I’m not saying that is necessarily bad it just really wasn’t expected from everything else I’ve read by CWC. This was an enjoyable read, I really just wanted more resolution to…..well anything.

So I will wait until the completion of part II also known as The Sorcerer Heir (book 5) to make my official judgment on The Enchanter Heir. As for now it is 3.5 Stars

This is Vulcan’s without pointy ears meets Shape Shifters.

Slave to Sensation - Nalini Singh

 

Sasha is a Vulcan, I mean Psy.  The Psy do not have any emotions and have evolved enough to interact with each other on a psychic plane, sorta like the internet.  Well all the Psy except Sasha that is, she has spent most of her life hiding that she is different.  She has emotions but has no idea how to deal with them. 

 

Lucas is a Shape Shifter or Changling.  He is the alpha of a pack of cats, a shrewd business man and a hunter.  Currently he is searching for a serial killer who is taking young Changling women from various packs.  When an opportunity presents itself in the form of a business deal with the Psy, he jumps at the chance to learn more about them and try to find a way into their world.

 

Lucas finds that it is harder to get to know a Psy than he thought it would be.  Especially Sasha, who seems so guarded, but the beast in him is sure she is different. 

 

“She wished he’d stop touching her. Not because she didn’t like it but because she liked it far too much. It made her hunger for things that could never be hers. And if someone went hungry for too long, they started to starve. Started to hurt.”

 

As Sasha sees more of the Changling world it is harder to return the cold emptiness of the Psy world.  But does Lucas care for her or only his own agenda?

 

I liked how the story progressed and the world that was built here.  The idea of the Psynet is so much like the internet in many ways I followed it nicely.  The build up to the sexy times was just enough angst and anticipation without too long a wait.  Sasha and Lucas were very likeable characters and I enjoyed reading the love story progress.  The killer and the resolution of the story wrapped up nicely.

 

All and all an enjoyable fun read for those of you out there that like to read about Alpha males like myself.  Lucas wasn’t even that over the top as Alpha males go which made my want to cuddle him even more.

 

I like the world the author has created and look forward to reading more stories set in this backdrop.

Ghost Hold (The PSS Chronicles, Book Two) - Ripley Patton

Ghost Hold picks up a few weeks after Ghost Hand ended. Olivia has left her entire life behind in search of some names on a list with Marcus, Passion and the PSS kids. She is going to go undercover into a private school with Passion in hopes of recruiting a girl from the list into their group. Sounds like a simple enough plan but it turns out that it might not be that easy as Samantha James is the daughter of the leader of a cult. Not just any cult either, one that worships PSS.

I enjoyed the fast paced story line that followed. While a few of my questions were answered (not a lot of them but a few) there were so many more posed. Now not only are there CAMFers that hunt PSS kids there is a semi-religious group called The Hold also looking for kids with PSS to join their ranks. At times there was so much going on I got a little muddled. I did however love the expansion of Passion and Jason’s characters. Passion who was such a mystery at the beginning of the book was shed in a completely different light and I liked her transition in the story. It was great to see Passion and Olivia become friends and find some common ground. Jason really grew up a little in this book and instead of just being a gun toting conspiracy theorist he really started to grow on me as someone who sees what is going on and is always watching out for the people he cares about.

I had a few small issues with the book. One is all the coincidences. I didn’t completely buy into them. I can’t remember the exact number but I think that there were like four or five things that just happened to happen and to be a coincidence. The other was I was foggy on a few details/names from the previous book and most authors I will complain over explain things to jog your memory. I think this is the only book I will say the opposite. Had I read Ghost Hand right before this that wouldn’t have been a problem but I read it six months ago so I forgot a few names and while Ripley did get to who they were in the story it seemed they had been mentioned a few times before she jogged my memory. The last thing was I really wanted Olivia to pull stuff out of people. That was the most interesting part of the first book to me. I loved how the things Olivia took out of people changed them, possibly made them better and I’m fascinated by it. But she was afraid of herself and her gift in this book. I really wish I could have read more about that aspect of the story.

A few of the brighter points from this book: I don’t know what to think about Marcus I flip back and forth between he is a good guy trying to protect everyone in his group to he has something bigger he is hiding and maybe he is the worst villain of all. The mystery surrounding both Marcus’s past and Olivia’s parents added a new layer to storyline. The last five chapters were incredibly intense and the cliffhanger at the end was unbelievably jagged, it cut me.

I enjoyed the first book in the series a little more but overall the addition to the storyline kept me engaged and I will definitely be interested to see what happens in the final book of the series.

More Twists than the Snake River

Never Fade - Alexandra Bracken

Possible minor spoilers (It’s almost impossible to say anything about the book without, my apologies if anything I say is a spoilery)

Alexandra Bracken is a freaking tease. Yep, I said it I have a love/hate thing going on with her in my head right now. Not once but three times she made me believe that we were seeing a certain character again and then my hopes were dashed. But I’ll admit the second time I didn’t care quite as much because of who it really was but still.

Everyone is just making the choices that think will help them get by.

Ruby has definitely lived by that motto. She has changed a lot in the months since the first book, Ruby has done things she is not proud of for the Children’s League and she can’t change that. She is a leader of her team and has gone through some hard times since parting with her friends from Black Beauty. Even though all the kids on her team love Kate, Ruby can’t seem to let any of them get close to her and she refuses to get close to Kate. She doesn’t want them to know anything about her past, she doesn’t want to feel the same pain she felt when she lost Liam, but when a member of her team is in danger Ruby is still bound and determined to protect him.

As it turns out Ruby needs to break away from an op with the endangered Jude to run off and find Liam. Another member of the team, Lida, a snarky blue haired girl joins in the fun and they are off in search of the boy Ruby made forget her. Ruby runs into some old friends and a few enemies along the way. I will say that I was happy to see a few people from her past show up. There are so many struggles and dark times but thankfully Bracken adds some humor into the mix as well.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said, “apparently the middle of me sentence interrupted the beginning of yours. Do continue.”

Things I liked include but are not limited to: The addition of a few new characters Cole, Jude, Vida and Nico demonstrate how the Children’s League is set up. Kate’s backstory made her a bit more likeable if it’s true that is. Bringing back a few members of Ruby’s past to help her in her mission to find Liam and a flash drive with the cause of disease that killed or mutated all the children in the United States.

Ruby is truly a flawed person who is struggling with the monster she is or can be. She wants so much to be with the people she loves but at the same time she wants to save all the kids in all the camps and is scared by how far she might be willing to go to achieve those goals and who she will hurt along the way. I liked how the romance aspect of the book is resolving itself (I want to say more but I won’t). Liam, I always love Liam, his fierce loyalty and the way he always tries to protect all the kids. Even when he is upset his underlying core values shine through.

Some of the things I had issues with - Too many twists. I like the idea of twisting the story but Bracken had so many twists that well, I don’t take anything in the story as truth. There is conspiracy on top of conspiracy throughout the story and so I’m never surprised when someone switches sides or whatever I thought was going on is totally different than it seemed. Actually I’m just waiting for it because I’m sure that is what will happen next. Don’t get me wrong, they are well thought out and executed brilliantly there are just too many. At this point I won’t be surprised if all of this is just a hallucination that Clancy is behind. The only other issue I had was I wanted to have a few more questions answered before tossing in more mysteries. There will be a lot to wrap up in the last book.

Overall the plot of the story is well thought out and Bracken again tugged on my heart strings and made me tear up more than once in the story. The world she has created is extremely harsh and dark. There is plenty of action and danger to go around and the ending was pretty intense. But, our crew trudges on and continues to have hope for a better future, possibly one they can share together.

“Life isn’t fair,” I said, “It’s taken me awhile to get that. It’s always going to disappoint you in some way or another. You’ll make plans and it will push you in another direction. You will love people and they will be taken away no matter how hard you fight to keep them. You’ll try for something and won’t get it. You don’t have to find meaning in it, you don’t have to try to change things. You just have to accept the things that are out of your hands and try to take care of yourself. That’s your job.”

UnSouled (Unwind, #3) - Neal Shusterman

“You want to know the real reason unwinding keeps going strong, Miss Risa Ward? It’s because of the things we’re willing to do to save our children.” She thinks about it and laughs ruefully. “Imagine that. We’re willing to sacrifice the children we don’t love for the ones we do…”

Neal Shusterman is a genius story teller. He builds his stories layer by layer, revealing the plot through multiple POVs. While the majority of POVs are from Connor, Lev, Risa and Cam the others all add so much to the depth and thought put into all aspects of the book. It is like a chess board and he is moving all the pieces of the puzzle around letting you see most of the plays before the final conclusion of the game. Some pieces will be sacrificed, some will only be distractions, some support and others will sneak in change the game completely. But inevitably the game will end with a victor, who that victor will be and how s still anyone’s guess.

I’m wowed by this story. The initial horror that I felt in Unwind by the atrocities committed in that book haven’t left me and even when I think I can’t be more horrified by anything else in this series I’m proven wrong again. From who is really controlling the clappers to what Proactive Citizenry is willing to do or has done to keep all the body parts coming.

Neal Shusterman lets us walk through unwinding’s past as the scientist Jansen Rheinschild horrified by what he has invented and how it is to be used tries to correct his mistakes. At the beginning of each Part there is a snippet of Jansen’s past leading to a better understanding of the present. Neal is also great at showing what is going on in the present story with some of the propaganda and commercial ads that are being ran. This is a brilliant mechanism in the story as it lets the reader see what society is really like.

Connor and Lev - Are on the run together trying to get to Sonia who might have a key to why Proactive Citizenry would have erased her husband from history. They hope it is a key on how to stop unwinding all together. But along the way they run into a few obstacles and end up meeting Grace as well as a few friends from Lev’s past.

No true hero ever believes that they are one,” she tells him. “So you go ahead, Lev, and keep denying it with every fiber of you being.”

It’s clear the Lev still has a major part to play in the downfall of the system. He just isn’t sure what it is yet.

Cam - Cam is struggling with who and what he is, does he even have a soul is he more than just a collection of all of his parts. Cam is determined to make the people who rewound him pay. He still believes that will make Risa love him and that is the only thing he wants.

Cam knows beyond a shadow of a doubt he could fill that void in her, if only she loved him enough to let him. It would be the one thing that would make him feel whole.

Cam is putting all his trust into loving Risa. But he still doesn’t know that Connor is alive and maybe there isn’t any room in Risa’s heart to love him that way. He is definitely a wild card because what will he do if he doesn’t get the girl he wants.

Risa - Risa knows the ADR is in shambles but she wants to help revive it. Although she misses Connor, I like that she is never so consumed by it that she drops all of her goals to help the Unwinds to just look for him. Risa stays on her own path and while she hopes to see him again she sticks to the bigger picture of trying to find a way to fight against the system. She even runs into an old friend of Lev’s along the way CyFy. I was so happy to see that kid again. He still has a very interesting story and it is interesting to see how some people with unwound parts choose to live.

Starkey - Is evil and awful and a complete freaking psychopath. But he is a charismatic psychopath who is leading a band of stork kids escaped from the Graveyard. Every time I think Starkey can’t do anything more horrendous well he does and I become even more disgusted with him. He is the ultimate bad guy, looking only for glory and immortality willing to sacrifice anyone and everyone else to get it. I love hating him.

There are some other characters that really add to the story. Grace is a new addition to the AWOLs as she is traveling with Conner. I really liked the way she is simple minded yet an idiot savant at strategy and is a great addition to the team. We get to see Hayden again I was worried about what happened to him after he was captured in Unwholly.

There was a lot of development of the individual characters in this book. Cam and Starkey especially I see as more three dimensional now. Conner, Risa and Lev have changed so much from when they first escaped together. My one and only complaint is I really wanted Conner and Risa to find each other sooner, but I can’t even be mad about that because it was perfect how it happened.

The big reveal at the end was a little shocking but not unexpected and I really believe that this book was the best jumping board it could be going into the final book of the series. It was emotionally gripping and I stayed locked into the story the entire time waiting to see what would come next. Neal Shusterman has his work cut out for him to make the final book as strong as the rest of the series but he has a great lead in with this book and I can’t help but feel that everything in the last book will be absolutely epic.

Steelheart - Brandon Sanderson

I know, better than anyone else, that there are no heroes coming to save us. There are no good Epics. None of them protect us. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

David learned that at a young age the first time he saw Steelheart, the day his father died. Since then he has lived his life with one goal and one goal only. To kill the Epic that killed his father.

This is my very first Brandon Sanderson novel and I loved it. Sometimes it is difficult for me to read UF from a male perspective it ends up being all about big boobs and girls in skin tight clothing and high heeled boots but that couldn’t be farther from the truth here. Brandon created a very intricate dystopian world in the wreckage of Chicago now referred to as Newcago. He has painstakingly thought out a class system for all of the Epics and the powers they use. He has also built a believable resistance of renegade humans that try to fight against them. I was definitely impressed with the sheer volume of thought that went into those two items of the story.

I was interested in this world from the beginning. David is a very likeable character he is a slight know it all but has the hardest time putting a metaphor together which kind of made him endearing to me. Once he meets up with the Renegades you can tell he really has been alone for most of his life and protector that I am I just wants him to win. Of course there is an older man to look up to has a substitute father figure that helps guide our young David out of his blind hate and need for revenge.

“It’s good for you to think of this, son. Ponder. Worry. Stay up nights, frightened for the casualties of your ideology. It will do you good to realize the price of fighting”

There are some really nice philosophical questions posed that can make this more than just a story of revenge. You have the choice to delve in and think of this world on a deeper level or just move on with the story. No agenda is forced on you which I appreciate as a reader.

There is a cute little crush romance that isn’t quite insta love but is heartwarming all the same and some very interesting developments that I really didn’t see coming. The story twisted just enough at the end that I really was surprised. I seriously had a moment of woe is that real.

Actionwise sometimes it is over the top for me (I’m a girl but my stepson disagrees with my assessment whole heartedly). It is an action book for sure and there are a lot of scenes with fighting and motorcycle chases and a final battle that goes on for multiple chapters.

All in all good storlyline, nice pacing, solid world building for a first book of a series and great start to the layering that I see will come out in future books in the series. All of the characters definitely have a backstory worth developing a little more.

I will definitely have to check out some of Mr. Sanderson’s other works if they compare to or are better than this one.

Through the Smoke - Brenda Novak

4.5 Fantastic Stars!!!

True confession time, my absolute guilty pleasures are books or movies from books by Jane Austin and Charlotte Bronte. I’m a sucker for them and probably have seen most movie or made for T.V. adaptions multiple times. Through the Smoke has the feel of one of those novels if they included sex and possibly a murder. Bonus right!

I was hooked from the prologue, right away you learn that the wife of the Earl of Druridge has cheated and become pregnant, he would like to kill her, he is actually racing home to confront her and when he gets there it is all a blur. There was a fire and she was killed but he is not sure if he did it or if someone else is to blame.

He wouldn’t let her win. In life, she had tied to destroy him, had hated him for knowing the leprous character beneath her pretty face. In death, she was more vengeful still.

Enter Rachael the headstrong prideful daughter of a man who was paid to set fire to the Earl’s home. The Earl is desperate to find who set the fire, hoping that it truly wasn’t him and is using all of the enticements at his disposal to learn from a reluctant Rachael everything she knows of her now deceased father and any part he played in the fire.

They are nemesis at the beginning of the story as Rachael is helping organize a union against the Earl’s mine. Rachael is completely distrusting of him

Like Persephone, she was making a deal with the devil. She was warming herself at his fire, dining on his food –

But as she learns more of the man she cannot help but be drawn to him. Both are strong willful characters and they took a little time for me to warm to them.

There is always a lot happening in the book. Between searching for the true murderer, the mine drama and the budding romance there really weren’t any dull moments. Every time I thought I had a handle on who set the blaze and murdered the Earl’s wife I felt myself change theories or complete direction. I was kept guessing as to the who and why of it until the last few chapters.

The story definitely builds. I loved that some things were kept simple. Sometimes with historical romances the details become daunting as everything is explained in the minutest of details. But the author focused more of the telling of the story. There are enough details about the time and setting to build a vivid picture but it is beautifully crafted and not overdone. The suspense building for the story had my reading chapter after chapter not wanted to set it down.

There were only a few small details that didn’t get closed out as well as I would have liked. But they are small and I don’t think most readers will notice at all.

If you ever read/watched Jane Eyre and like me thought, I wish they did more than just kiss, then my friend this book is for you. I love that this is an adult romance that reads like it is from the era of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. Fantastic Historical Romance.

ARC provided by Amazon Publishing – Montlake Romance via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes may not be in the final novel.

Lost in a Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore - Robin Sloan

If J.J. Abrams had a book store it would be Mr. Penumbra’s 24 hour bookstore, a quirky place that really has no interest in selling any books. There are a few books that the general populous might like but all of them are used and none of them are current. Instead there is a large section of beautiful bound books all written in code and a secret society of people that come in at random times and borrow one of the said books.

“...this is exactly the kind of store that makes you want to buy a book about a teenage wizard. This is the kind of store that makes you want to be a teenage wizard.”

The M.C. Clay finds most things about the bookstore odd including the enigmatic owner of the shop Mr. Penumbra. He rarely sells anything and wonders how the bookstore could possibly stay in business after taking the graveyard shift of the store. Clay gets drawn into the mystery of the coded books and with the help of Kat a girl he meet who works at Google and Neel his childhood friend they go on a quest of sorts to solve the mystery of the secret society.

“Why does the typical adventuring group consist of a wizard, a warrior, and a rogue, anyway? It should really be a wizard, a warrior, and a rich guy. Otherwise who's going to pay for all the swords and spells and hotel rooms?”

I was drawn into the quirky mystery of the story right away. I love puzzles and codes and everything about this story drew me in a little more. There is also a cute little romance between Clay and Kat. Clay is kinda a geeky programmer and Kat is a Googler their interactions are extremely cute but not overly romantic like the beginning of a real relationship.

“Then: I google "time-series visualization" and start work on a new version of my model, thinking that maybe I can impress her with a prototype. I am really into the kind of girl you can impress with a prototype.”

I enjoyed the dialog of the entire book and really liked Clay and all of his friends. I would say that the only weak point in the entire story is the wrap up of the mystery. After everyone else failed, the secret society and an entire team at Google, Clay figures it all out all by himself. But all and all this is entertaining, fun and different than many of the other things I’ve read lately. I totally liked the epilogue though that thoroughly lets us know what happens to all the characters in the book in the future.

This is one of the better stand-alone books I’ve read. So if you are looking for something that is quick, fun, interesting and you don’t have to commit to 3-7 books to get through I would totally recommend checking it out.

Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell

Do you want to know that best way to win me over as a reader? I’m a sucker for well done Star Wars references and if you can put them in a new and unusual way then I will probably like the rest of the book just based on that one thing. But good for me the rest of the book was just as brilliant and unusual as the Star Wars reference that spoke to my nerdy little heart.

“You can be Han Solo," he said, kissing her throat. "And I'll be Boba Fett. I'll cross the sky for you.”

Parts of this book are beautiful and parts of it made me angry at characters to my core. As a step-parent of a teenager it is so difficult for me to read of parents who treat their children in a neglectful or mean way. I will say that this is a great book for both teens and parents of teens. I’ve heard this book is being banned for language in some schools and that is too bad. There is no way to shelter children from everything and I’m for exposing them to language and questionable situations in order to keep an open dialog and prepare them for the world, but that is just my own parenting technique. I’m sure my 16-year old has heard much much worse at school and life in general. Most of the bad language in the book is from the abusive step-father anyway and is very much a part of his character. I don’t think he would have come across nearly as bad if the language he used was changed.

Okay so now that that part is settled onto the actual book.

This is a book about real people. Not the perfect and pretty, but the people who are not at the top of the pyramid in High School. The people who don’t exactly fit in and most of the time just try to keep their heads down to just get through it.

Eleanor comes from a very disadvantaged family life. That in itself wouldn’t be so bad, being poor is not a crime, but her stepfather is abusive and most of the time Eleanor just tries to be invisible. The last time she wasn’t invisible she was kicked out of her house for over a year. I felt for Eleanor right away, she has so many things going against her it would be so easy to give up but she trudges on.

Park has a mostly happy home life. His parents are still madly in love (odd enough) and he isn’t in the in crowd but he isn’t a total outcast either. He runs in the middle and does just enough that he isn’t on anyone’s list. He lets the new Girl sit next to him on the bus one day and after that a slow friendship of sorts starts to kindle. It is so small at first but it is changing everything in Park’s life.

“What are the chances you’d ever meet someone like that? he wondered. Someone you could love forever, someone who would forever love you back? And what did you do when that person was born half a world away? The math seemed impossible.”

There were so many cute moments that were completely tender, innocent and loving. Remember how exciting it was the first time you held the hand of someone you really liked. Remember how it felt the first time you kissed a person you honestly cared for. This took me back through a lot of innocent first in a most fantastic way. Both Eleanor and Park are real and unsure of their bodies. They are awkward at times and in loving each other maybe learn to accept themselves for who they are a little bit more.

“He made her feel like more than the sum of her parts.”

Besides the Eleanor and Park story line I loved the portrayal of Parks parents. Unlike other YA novels where the parents are absent or over the top Parks parents seem real. Park and his parents don’t always agree, they don’t always get along but they always love him. They are ever present in his life and do everything they can to support Park in everything he does. His mom totally grew on me and I really loved her so much by the end.

On the opposite side of the spectrum was Eleanor’s home life. Her mother in an abusive relationship, with five children thrown into the mix, just made me angry as a parent. It was not easy to read about Eleanor’s home life and I didn’t get how bad it really was until revelations were made later. I teared up to read Eleanor didn’t even have a toothbrush, the neglect was so awful and probably so honest it was difficult.

This story will have many moments that make you smile and some that make you sad. I swung hard on both sides of the spectrum. But, it is totally worth it. It is beautiful and about a love that you hope will stand the test of time. Maybe we are not perfect but we are possibly perfect for someone else. In my book Eleanor and Park are perfect for no one else except each other.

Voyager - Diana Gabaldon

Minor spoilers for Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber:

I have the most difficult time reviewing the books in this series. Voyager, like Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber has so much happen during the book. It is so difficult to condense it down into a readable review.

Jamie survived Cullodan and Roger is helping Brianna and Claire discover what happened to him after. It has been twenty years and not all of them pleasant for our Jamie. The first third of the book is the discovery of what happened in those twenty years since Claire left him in the past. We also find out what Claire has done with her life since she returned to her time. While both these story lines are interesting I love Claire and Jamie together and really was just waiting for that to happen. Once Claire realizes that Jamie is still alive in the past congruent to her own time line she jumps back in the past to be with the man she loves.

“I shook so that it was some time before I realized that he was shaking too, and for the same reason. I don't know how long we sat there on the dusty floor, crying in each others arms with the longing of twenty years spilling down our faces.”

Only after jumping through time does Claire stop to even consider that perhaps Jamie has created a new life that won’t have room for her in it. It is a big leap of faith after all, but now our clandestine lovers are back together. But the twenty years they have been apart have changed both of them.

“Do ye want me?" he whispered. "Sassenach, will ye take me - and risk the man that I am, for the sake of the man ye knew?”

The craziness ensues right away and Claire and Jamie fall right back into their habit of finding trouble everywhere they go. So much action happens from this point on. There is smuggling, seditious printing, betrayal by a friend, family problems (Jenny what were you thinking), a lost treasure, pirates, abduction by the Royal Navy, someone back from the grave, a serial killer….the list goes on and on.

I love all the action and stories happening and while it is convenient that Claire and Jamie keep running into the same people over and over again and again even though their journey takes them far away from Scotland I will let it go because it is all so interesting. But I let it go because I love the story line so much.

Some of our favorite side characters are back, Fergus is all grown up a man in his early thirties. Jamie is like a father to him and at Fergus’s wedding makes a very generous and emotional gift to him that made me tear up. We get to see Jenny and Ian again and a few others from the Outlander including Lord John Grey (the boy Jamie spared in Dragonfly. The addition of a few new characters add a lot of flavor to the story from the little china man Mr. Willoughby, Ishmael a black medicine man and Ian Jr., Jenny’s youngest boy.

The story is really compelling from beginning to end and as always it is an emotional ride, one I will not soon forget. I love Jamie and how fiercely he fights for Claire and his family and friends. He is the ultimate protector. Again this is an epic love story for the ages.

“Only you," he said, so softly I could barely hear him. "To worship ye with my body, give ye all the service of my hands. To give ye my name, and all my heart and soul with it. Only you. Because ye will not let me lie--and yet ye love me.”

The House of Hades - Rick Riordan

Spoiler Free Review

I’m not sure why I love these books so much, well other than they are just fun fun fun. There is always so much happening. If you are reading this you have probably been immersed in Rick Riordan’s mythical realm for a while and nothing I say about this book will either encourage you to read it or not. I mean it is the 4th book of this series but the 9th book in the world of Percy Jackson. But this is just as awesome and well planned out as the others I have read.

Things I like about this series:

There are a plethora of characters and mythology both Greek and Roman now. I always feel like there are so many gods both major and minor I knew nothing about. There are so many little background stories that add to this world and give it depth. All of our heroes are not kick-ass all the time. They all have doubts in themselves and work through them. The descriptions of god and monsters are so interesting and diverse that I can really picture them in my mind without being overly described until I zone out. That is a great thing about YA in general.

Annabeth and Percy – Are at least together after the cliff hanger of Mark of Athena and trying to make their way through Tartarus. No easy task but they have to travel to the heart of Tartarus if they are going to find the doors of death and try to lock them. I loved the descriptions of Tartarus as a living thing trying to destroy them. All the obstacles in their path were daunting. There are many moments of how are they going to get out of this one. The titan Bob was the best, I loved his interactions with Percy and Annabeth. Oh Bob I hope we see you again in the final book…..crosses fingers.

Annabeth decided the monsters wouldn’t kill her. Neither would the poisonous atmosphere, nor the treacherous landscape with its pits, cliffs and jagged rocks. Nope, most likely she would die from an overload of weirdness that would make her brain explode.

Jason and Piper - Jason isn’t feeling exactly Roman anymore. What should he do if they make it through this journey? Will he return to Camp Jupiter or should he try to return to Camp Half-Blood. He is desperately trying to figure out who he is in the midst of leading the ship in the absence of Percy and Annabeth. Piper is feeling like she is a little useless with just her charmspeak and wants to really step up and be more of a warrior. Her magic knife keeps showing many scenes of destruction at camp Half-blood. It is definitely a curse to see glimpses of a future that you can maybe not change.

Leo - I love this kid. He is the continual levity of the story. Leo actually meets a girl this book! Even better, she doesn’t try to kill him and she wasn’t his great-great-grandfather’s first girlfriend either. There might be hope for them if he can just figure out one little itty bitty minor thing so he can get back to her.

“I figure the world is basically a machine. I don't know who made it, if it was the Fates, or the gods, or the capital-G god or whatever. But it chugs along the way it's supposed to most of the time. Sure, little pieces break off and stuff goes haywire once in a while, but mostly...things happen for a reason.”

Nico DeAngelo - Well he is still a little misunderstood but a trip to see Cupid might fix him up or destroy him. All is fair in love and war right. I really liked that Rick Riordan took an unexpected direction with his character and I think many will be surprised. But it was nicely done and I will not explain more since I want you to be surprised too.

“Oh, I wouldn't say that Love always makes you happy. Sometimes it makes you incredibly sad." - Eros”

And Finally

Hazel and Frank - This is very much Hazel’s story. I mean she is going to the House of Hades and one of his children will need to close the doors on this side. Hazel is at a crossroads and must discover how to use her gifts if she is going to defeat the guardian at the door. Her power was completely different than I thought it would be, but it was fantastic and she really grew a lot in this book. Frank as well needed to step up and become a leader and a military strategist in the absence of Annabeth. He needed to come to terms with his warring father Mars and take charge.

Summary:
There is plenty of action, more monsters, more gods, more myths and much farther to go to be able to stop Gaea from waking. House of Hades is a great addition to the Heroes of Olympus collection. It is everything I expect from a Rick Riordan novel.

Clockwork Princess - Cassandra Clare

Where to begin?  There are series you come to the end of and there is no big payout, you are left feeling disappointed and wondering what happened or unhappy in the resolution of many of the arcs and then there is The Infernal Devices that has one of the biggest payouts for an end of a series I have ever read. 

 

 Most people are lucky to have one great love in their life, you have found two.

 

I will just preface this with I normally do not like love triangles eventually everyone just seems so silly at some point of them.  However, this story of love between three people was so bittersweet and beautiful.  There is no selfishness, pettiness, jealousy, distrust or anything negative.  Everything that Will, Gem and Tessa do is for each other.  When one feels pain the other two work to alleviate it without regard for themselves.  It is how people in true love should behave, always wanting what is best for their love without thought of themselves.   I cried at many intervals in this book because of the love and sacrifices made they were so beautifully told.  There isn’t just the big payout for the love triangle there is also wrap ups to other romances and arcs.  Cassandra Claire spent a lot of time after the Mortmain arc played out to really dedicate to the wrap up of all the other personal arcs.  Henry and Charlotte’s future and the future of the institute are addressed.  Very romantic moments for some of the other supporting characters all made me smile.  So much of this book is about love and the different forms of it, how two people can have the same tragedies in their lives and chose totally different paths either of love or destruction.  

 

Yes there is also the conflict with Lightwood, Mortmain, the infernal devices, what Tessa really is and how she came into being.   So many of the clues peppered through the other two books are revealed and a few twists have been thrown in of course.   The story remains engaging weather because of the conflict with Mortmain or wondering how all of our heroes will endure.  There is also some political positioning in the shadow hunter world.    And…Magnus of course we get some more Magnus.  I love how he tries to seem so nonchalant but clearly it is apparent how much he cares for Will and the other shadow hunters.  He is always the calm cool in the middle of the storm.

 

The epilog oh the epilog I tear up just thinking about how beautifully it was written.   How wonderful and brilliant the ending/beginning was.  Is love really that timeless?   It is so romantic to believe that it is.   It was worth reading the entire book just for the epilog. 

 

 When two people are at one in their inner most hearts they shatter even the strength of iron or bronze.

Of all the things in the world, you are what I love most.

 

I want to thank Cassandra Clare for taking the time and extra time to really give the fans of her characters a wonderful ending to a series.  I loved all the beautiful things share in the epilog.  My heart hurt and then leapt and soared.  I am still awash with emotion every time I think of it and I think that says the most about how much an author and the characters they have written touch your life.

Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver

I’ve seen this compared to a mash up of Mean Girls meets Groundhog’s Day and in a very one dimensional way that is completely correct, but this story is so much more.

 

Sam has everything that every girl in High School wants, hot boyfriend, popularity, cool click of girls to hang out with.  But she is shallow, oblivious to her family, mean to other people at school self-absorbed and for most intent and purposes a horrible person overall.  When we first meet Sam the only things she cares about are her clothes, finally losing her virginity and how many flowers she will get for Cupid’s Day.  She is not very likable actually I down right hated her in the beginning.  She wasn’t the instigator in the group but she followed along and was just as mean as the other girls.  All together they fed off each other and were completely horrible.

 

After an evening at a party there is an accident resulting in the death of a girl and Sam wakes up to relive the same exact day over.  In each day she sees something different and does something different.  It gets worse, not the book but Sam in general, before it gets better.  As there are no consequences she goes to a few extremes.  She doesn’t start to turn her attitudes around until about half way through the book.

 

“I shiver, thinking how easy it is to be totally wrong about people-to see one tiny part of them and confuse it for the whole, to see the cause and think it's the effect or vice versa”

 

Even though it was the same day over and over again I really liked how Lauren Oliver portrayed the choices made and how they affected Sam.   I never got tired of the introspection that Sam does while hanging out with her friends.  By the end I think she truly saw them for who they were and I was surprised by how she decided to love them in spite of and because of their flaws.

 

“Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there's a tomorrow. Maybe for you there's one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around it, let it slide like coins through your fingers. So much time you can waste it. But for some of us there's only today. And the truth is, you never really know.”

 

I really really really wanted this to end differently.  Sam comes around and I like the person she is becoming.  I adore Kent, the quirky boy Sam has known forever.  Kent is what every High Schooler should be.  He is kind, attentive and knows exactly who he is.  He makes no apology for what he likes and who he is, he doesn’t need approval from anyone and I loved that about him.  I cried at the end of this book.  I flat out bawled, not necessarily for Sam but for Kent and Sam’s parents and her little sister.  I bawled for the woman Sam could have been and for Juliette.  But the ending was probably everything it should be and needed to be.  I’m not sure the book would have stuck with me for so long had it gone a different way.

Cinder - Marissa Meyer

“Even in the Future the Story Begins with Once Upon a Time.”

 

I read this a little over a year ago and re-read/listened to it just a few days ago.  I remember now why I loved it so much. A Cyborg Cinderella story, you might think that it will be a little boring, or weird, or not really work but Marissa Meyer does a fantastic job on this retelling of a classic in a future world with whole new twists.

 

“I'm sure I'll feel much more grateful when I find a guy who thinks complex wiring in a girl is a turn-on.”

 

The story is set in Beijing China sometime in a distant future.  Cinder is a cyborg; she is basically a second class citizen and a slave to her stepmother.  Her only friend is a droid with a quirky personality chip named Iko.  Cinder works as a mechanic and while at her booth is approached by the very handsome Prince Kai to help him with a malfunctioning android that may have some important information.   Right away there is a type of chemistry between them that is extremely subtle.   But the story isn’t just about Cinder and Kai no no no Meyer ups it a notch and there is so much more.  There is a plague that has been ravaging earth for over ten years, a Queen from the colony on the moon that is maneuvering to marry Kai and become Empress or go to war and a lost Lunar Princess that might be able to save Kai from a fate worse than death.

 

“Imagine there was a cure, but finding it would cost you everything. It would completely ruin your life. What would you do?”

 

Meyer built an interesting futuristic world with Cyborgs, Androids, hovercrafts and identity chips to track everyone.  Most of the story is set in Beijing China but there are references to other areas outside that I’m eager to see more of in future installments.  This is the first book in a four book series and I will say I am impressed.  Cinder is not a boring girl, she is fascinating and her story compelling.  Yes there is the evil stepmother and two step sisters but even that took a different twist from the original story.  I traveled along with Cinder and really connected to her character emotionally. 

 

This is a fun read for anyone who likes some lite sci-fi and fairy tales, you will not be disappointed.

Dragonfly in Amber - Diana Gabaldon

This book is for people who love the details of History and Epic Romances.

 

Dragonfly in Amber is not for the faint of heart.  I can’t believe how many times I was up and down while reading this.  There are so many characters that someone in the book has to jump out and grab your heart if not multiple characters.  Diana Gabaldon does not pull any punches and while there are some extremely disturbing moments that may shock you there are also some extremely tender moments that make everything else worthwhile.

 

“There aren't any answers, only choices”

 

I almost thought I picked up the wrong book as in the beginning it is twenty years in the future and Claire and her daughter Brianna are traveling through Scotland.  They find Roger the adopted son of the pastor that helped Frank with some of the genealogy all those years ago before Claire first disappeared from her time.  But the story is told from two points one being twenty years after Claire went into the past and a few months after we left Outlander.

 

When we left Jamie and Claire in Outlander they were about to set out to see if they can perhaps change the events that led up to the battle at Culloden and the death of so many Scots.  It is a dangerous game trying to straddle both sides and learn what Prince Charlie is planning.  Paris is a dangerous place and danger and trouble seem to find Jamie and Claire around every corner. 

 

I will say this is one of the most interesting books I’ve read.  The author takes huge chances with our couple.  They are in a constant battle against all odds and even though you know ultimately what will happen at the end the road the journey to it is epic.  The road winds and unfolds in ways I never imagined.  To say that my heart broke while reading this is an understatement.  There are extremely tender moments between Jamie and Claire.  They go through so much and still the bond that they share is forever clear.  They are one of my favorite couples in literature with so many romantic exchanges between them it was hard to pick just a few that stand out more than others.

 

“I talk to you as I talk to my own soul," he said, turning me to face him. He reached up and cupped my cheek, fingers light on my temple. "And Sassenach," he whispered, "Your face is my heart.”

 

“If it was a sin for you to choose me . . . then I would go to the Devil himself and bless him for tempting ye to it.”

 

I never doubt the love between them even as they hurt each other impossibly in order to try to save one another.  Each would gladly die for the other and think nothing of it.

 

Jamie and Claire make new friends along the way Fregus the pick pocket that Jaime took under his care in Paris was one of my favorites.  Along with Murtog the cantankerous and loyal God Father of Jamie.  Some old nemeses return and there are plenty of new ones to contend with too as Jamie tries to prevent Prince Charles Stuart from returning to claim the throne in Scotland. 

 

At the end I was eager to drop everything in my life and charge on into the next installment.  I forgot how long the book was as I was drawn into every detail of it.  But, as these are extremely long books I must do a few other things in-between.  By far some of the best historical fiction I’ve ever read.

 

A few quotes I absolutely loved that might be a bit spoilery

 

 

“For if you feel for me as I do for you - then I am asking you to tear out your heart and live without it.”

 

“I will find you," he whispered in my ear. "I promise. If I must endure two hundred years of purgatory, two hundred years without you - then that is my punishment, which I have earned for my crimes. For I have lied, and killed, and stolen; betrayed and broken trust. But there is the one thing that shall lie in the balance. When I shall stand before God, I shall have one thing to say, to weigh against the rest."

His voice dropped, nearly to a whisper, and his arms tightened around me.

Lord, ye gave me a rare woman, and God! I loved her well.”

 

Epic Romance that Transcends Time

Magic Rises - Ilona Andrews

There are books that develop the plot, books that develop characters and books that manage to do both without you noticing.  I think it is a week after reading this that I think I see why the authors chose to present this story in this way.  It is something that needed to happen to clarify lines before the big battle with Kate’s Daddy can happen.

 

Kate and Curran are together and Kate is as happy or as you can possibly be when you rule the were-packs and your Father or one of his minions might come to kill you at any time.  At least you were until a tragedy strikes.  Most were-children don’t make it through either birth or puberty and Kate and Curran must walk into a trap, concocted by the European packs, in order to get the one thing that might help them keep the kids in the pack from going loup.  But will their love be enough to survive it?

 

“One time I was dying in a cage inside a palace that was flying over a magic jungle. And some idiot went in there, chased the palace down, fought his way through hundreds of rakshasas, and rescued me.”
“I remember,” he said.
“That’s when I realized you loved me,” I said. “I was in the cage and I heard you roar.”

 

Knowing you are walking into a trap is one thing, not knowing exactly what your partner is doing is another and Curran is definitely sending mixed signals.  Kate must decide if she should trust the man she loves or does she believe like those around her that he might betray her.  It might be getting her down a little bit.

 

 “Outside the windows the day was bright: golden sunshine, blue sky, pleasant wind ... I wanted to punch the happy day in the face, grab it by the hair, and beat it until it told me what the hell it was so happy about.”

 

But our Kate is strong and perseveres even when in doubt.  She doesn’t hold up and pout in a bedroom, no she still takes charge, focuses and gets the job done.  As you should girls, even when you question your life’s happiness, go girl power.   Kate has some serious trust issues that needed to be addressed after being alone for so long.  Curran has this habit of making decisions for everyone, including Kate, without consulting anyone.  These are both big character weaknesses that needed to be addressed before the big battle happens.

 

This was the most emotional book for me of the series.  It was great to see how Kate is fitting into the pack.  Some have come to her side right away while she is still trying to win others over.   As always I loved Derek and Barabas’s fierce devotion to Kate.  Even Mahon had a touching moment or two.

 

 As a parent, it was believable the lengths members of the pack would take to be able to procure the medication that helps reduce the risk of kids going loup.  There were surprises and heartbreaks I didn’t expect throughout and some set up as to what Daddy really wants with Kate. 

 

But as always I love the interactions between Kate and Curran.  They are if nothing else passionate.

 

“He said that the man must be your husband, because only someone we love very much can make us this crazy.”

 

I’ve been married awhile and that is totally true.  We sometimes become fools for the ones we love as they are able to hurt us in ways no one else ever could.

 

In summary

action – check

romance – check

heartbreaking moments – check

the WTF moment – check

snarky banter – check, check

and finally the awe moment – super check