Countdown by Michelle Rowen

Countdown by Michelle RowanKira Jordan wakes up chained in a room with Rogan Ellis, a boy well known for his vicious crimes. They are told that they are participating in the game show Countdown, in which they have to pass a certain amount of levels to win. In each level, they are told to do a specific task within a certain amount of time. If they complete the task, they move on to the next level; if they fail to complete the task in time, they die. Kira must learn to work with Rogan, someone she would rather have nothing to do with, in order to finish the game and survive.

This book reminded me of a twist between The Hunger Games and The Running Man by Stephen King. In Countdown, criminals are drafted to play in the game show that the rich people watch for entertainment. Kira’s entire family was murdered in front of her so she has been living on the streets trying to stay alive. Rogan has been in prison for a horrible crime, and he and Kira are supposed to work together to win the game show. They have to complete terrible tasks to pass each level, and they are being constantly monitored so they are unable to escape. As they complete each level, Kira and Rogan discover more truths about each other and realize that they must overcome their differences to win the game and find a means of escape.

While I really enjoyed all of the twists and turns in this book and found it hard to put down, I think it would have been better as a trilogy than a standalone. It’s so rare that I say that because today it seems like everything is a trilogy and I’m always wondering where all the standalone novels have gone but this is one book that could have benefited from having at least one sequel. It was a lot to jam pack into one novel and while the ending had somewhat of a resolution I still found myself left with a lot of questions as to what happened after. I loved the fast paced action and the constant twists but I felt like I would have wanted to spend more time reading about this world.

Overall, Countdown was a fast paced novel that kept me on the edge of my seat. I would have liked a bit more of a resolution at the end so I am definitely hoping for a sequel!

Countdown was released on October 1, 2013.

Pawn by Aimee Carter

Pawn by Aimee CarterKitty Doe has spent her life as an Extra, an illegal second child who was sent to live in a group home at birth. She has tried her hardest to prepare herself for the day when she would take the exam that would determine how she would spend the rest of her life, in hopes that she can score high and earn a Ranking of at least a IV. However, when Kitty earns the ranking of III and her job assignment is to work in the sewers in Denver, a city thousands of miles away from her home in D.C., she decides to do whatever it takes to stay near her boyfriend, Benjy. When she is presented with the opportunity to become a VII, the highest Rank possible, she is unable to refuse, even though she knows there must be a catch.

The catch is that Kitty will have to be Masked–surgically altered to look exactly like Lila Hart, the manipulative prime minister’s niece. She will have to learn to be Lila so that she can take her place and the country will never have to know that the real Lila was killed. However, she must not only be Lila–she must stop the rebellion that Lila was stirring up, even though it is something that Kitty herself believes in.

This was such an exciting start to what seems to be a promising new dystopian series! This book had a ton of twists and turns and I found myself unable to put it down. Kitty is a really great character–she is dyslexic so she is unable to learn how to read, yet she doesn’t let that stop her from learning. She is very smart and is able to memorize entire books and speeches after hearing them just a few times. She is extremely self sacrificing and brave, and she stands up for what she believes in. She was a great heroine and I loved her growth from beginning to end.

The world that Aimee Carter creates reminded me a bit of the world in The Selection by Kiera Cass. Like in The Selection, the people are assigned numbers or Ranks that determine their place in society. While in The Selection this was determined by family (children are assigned the same rank as their parents), in Pawn every member of society takes an exam that determines their Rank based on their intelligence. IV’s, V’s, and VI’s live in a completely different part of the city than I’s, II’s, or III’s and are given more money and privileges and have better jobs and housing. III’s and below live in run down areas of the city and are given menial jobs such as sewer maintenance. Carter paints a vivid picture of this society and I really enjoyed the world building in this book.

The only thing that annoyed me a bit was how Kitty’s world at times seemed to revolve solely around Benjy. I get that he’s the love of her life and he’s been one of the only people in her life for so many years, but I wasn’t nearly as interested in their relationship as she was. I actually felt like Kitty had more sparks with Knox, and I would’ve liked to see that relationship explored a bit more.

Overall, Pawn was an exciting book that kept me on the edge of my seat! I highly recommend this to any dystopian fans!

Pawn will be released on November 26, 2013 and is the first book in The Blackcoat Rebellion series.

Light by Michael Grant

Light by Michael GrantWARNING: SPOILERS FOR PREVIOUS BOOKS IN THE GONE SERIES AHEAD

The kids of Perdido Beach have been living in the FAYZ for a year now. Kids have starved, died, developed mutant powers, and fought countless battles. Now that the barrier has gone transparent and they can see out into the rest of the world, it seems as though the end is near. The kids begin to worry about what will happen to them when the barrier does come down and how they will be treated by the rest of the world. But before they can even deal with those issues, they have to figure out how to stop the gaiaphage, or none of them will make it out alive.

I have been a huge fan of this series for years now, and I was so amazed that each of these books have been better than the last. This series has been six books long and every single book in the series has been amazing. I’ve been anxiously awaiting Light because I’ve been so excited to see how this would all end. And once again, Michael Grant did not disappoint!

This series has such a large group of characters, but Grant does a great job of giving each character their own voice. Each character has their own issues to deal with outside of the group’s issues, and each person has changed greatly since the FAYZ was created. Some people became leaders while others became cowards. But what is amazing is that some characters have changed completely just in the last few books and have become the type of person you never expected them to come. The character growth has always been very nicely done in this series, and in this book especially it seems like each character grew tremendously.

The kids start to realize that the barrier is going to come down soon, and not everyone is happy about it. Sam for instance, was last seen murdering Penny on national TV, so he is almost positive that once the barrier comes down he will be thrown in jail. The people outside the barrier have no idea about the horrors that the kids have faced inside and the things they have had to do to stay alive. Many of the kids have more experience with war than some people in the armed forces. It is hard for Sam and the others to imagine just going back to high school and returning to their lives, because it seems like in the past year they have grown into adults. What I thought was really interesting is that one of the characters asks if the adults had been present in the FAYZ, would they have run things better or worse? This is an interesting question, because while adults may be more knowledgeable about things like medicine and procuring food, adults also do not have the same innocence that many children have.

The kids also have to deal with the gaiaphage, who is growing at a rapid rate and has more mutant powers than any of the other kids. They know they will have to fight, but they are unsure if any of them will make it out alive. The gaiaphage wants to kill them all and seems to actually take pleasure in causing pain. Plus, kids have started starving again because they are all sitting at the barrier talking to their parents rather than working, so there is no food being grown. It’s crazy how much these poor kids have gone through in the past year, but they are still so resilient.

This book wrapped everything up nicely and didn’t leave any questions at the end. We finally get the answers as to why the FAYZ happened and what the gaiaphage actually is, and what Little Pete’s role in the whole thing was. Also, we get the back story of Sam and Caine and why their mother only kept Sam. I really liked the way this ended, and I think Grant really accurately portrayed the way the media would react in this situation.

Overall, Light was an excellent conclusion to the Gone series. I will miss reading about these incredible kids, but I really enjoyed the ending.

Light was released on April 2, 2013 and is the final book in the Gone series.

The Elite by Kiera Cass

The Elite by Kiera Cass“You know that you’ve found something amazing, and you want to hold on to it forever, and every second after you have it, you fear the moment you might lose it.”

America Singer has made it into the Elite–the last six girls left competing to marry Prince Maxon. She is determined to compete for real now, yet her feelings are still torn between Maxon and her ex-boyfriend Aspen, the man she had always envisioned spending her life with. She constantly questions her decisions and the motives for her actions, but as the contest gets more serious, so does the situation with the rebels. The castle is repeatedly under attack and suddenly there is more for America to decide about her future than simply who she will marry.

I cannot tell you how excited I was to read this book!! The Selection was one of my favorite books of 2012 so I literally downloaded The Elite to my Nook at midnight the day it was released. The Selection was the type of book I absolutely could not put down, and The Elite was exactly the same. In this book, America has decided to take the competition more seriously now that she knows Maxon a little bit better and wants to give him a fair shot. Since they are down to the final six girls, the competition gets increasingly difficult for all of the girls, not only physically but emotionally as well. While America grows closer to some of the girls and honestly likes most of them, she is forced to realize that they are ultimately her competition and if she really wants to win The Selection, she will have to be better than them all.

The only problem I had with this book was the fact that America went back and forth a lot between Maxon and Aspen. I understand that she was emotionally torn between the two of them, but it bothered me a bit that she had to constantly lead both of them on. She kept telling herself that she needed to decide between them, yet going back and forth just made the situation worse for them all. What also annoyed me about her is that she kept getting jealous of Maxon taking the other girls on dates, yet she was secretly sneaking around with Aspen! Aside from this however, the book was fantastic.

I really liked that the political situation escalated in this book. We got a better understanding of the type of society America lives in and how it evolved to be that society. I think America herself also began to look at herself in relation to the rebellion going on in the country and how it affects not only her but people of all castes.

Overall, The Elite is an excellent sequel to The Selection. It kept me on the edge of my seat and I was unable to put it down until I had finished it. While some of America’s choices annoyed me, I liked where she ended up by the end of the novel and I am excited to see where the third book will take her. Team Maxon all the way!!

The Elite was released on April 23, 2013 and is the second book in The Selection trilogy. The final book, The One, is set to be released on May 6, 2014.

Requiem by Lauren Oliver

Requiem by Lauren Oliver“We wanted the freedom to love. We wanted the freedom to choose. Now we have to fight for it.”

**SPOILERS for Delirium and Pandemonium ahead!!

Lena has become an active member of the resistance, fighting alongside her friends for the right to love. The rebellion that has been brewing throughout the previous two books has finally escalated, with Lena right in the middle of all the action. After rescuing Julian Fineman from his execution, Lena and he flee to the Wilds in hopes of safety. However, the rebellion has reached the Wilds as well. While Lena is dealing with the aftereffects of rescuing Julian and the upcoming revolution, her best friend Hana remains in Portland, dealing with being in the public eye as the future mayor’s fiance.

The previous book, Pandemonium, ended on one of the cruelest cliffhangers ever!! I had a feeling we hadn’t seen the last of Alex, but I never expected Lena to be torn between her love for Alex and her attachment to Julian. I honestly liked both characters and I liked that they each had their own independent story so that I didn’t have to spend the entire trilogy wondering if Lena would choose Alex or Julian. Lauren Oliver did a fantastic job by not making Requiem too “love-triangly” and instead the book was focused more on sending the powerful message that everyone should fight for their freedom even if it seems impossible.

Requiem is told from both Lena and Hana’a point of view. Though I usually don’t like the back and forth type of narrative, I think it worked really well in this book especially because Lena and Hana’s stories are completely different. I recommend reading the novella Hana before reading Requiem, however, because it gives you the background on what was going on with Hana while Lena was falling in love with Alex. I actually started reading Hana’s POV in Requiem and had to go and download the novella before I continued because I was a little bit confused. I enjoyed reading Hana’s story both in the novella and in Requiem because I feel like their stories are completely opposite–while Lena started out very timid and law abiding and ended up becoming part of the rebellion, Hana started out as a bit of a rebel and a rule breaker and became the ideal citizen. It was interesting to see their stories in comparison with each other and I liked how Oliver tied both stories together in the end.

I’m not sure how I expected this trilogy to end, but I definitely didn’t expect the ending it had. There was a lot left up to the reader’s interpretation I think, but that worked really well for the story. Again, I loved how it wasn’t about Lena picking one guy over the other, but I also liked how it didn’t have the most perfect happily ever after ending.

Overall, Requiem was a fast paced story that was an excellent conclusion to the Delirium trilogy! While I’m sad it’s over, it had a great ending that I think many readers will appreciate.

Requiem was released March 5, 2013 and is the final book in the Delirium trilogy.

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

“But you’re the only one, Scarlet. You’ll always be the only one.”

Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother has gone missing and the police have called off their search. But Scarlet doesn’t believe that her grandmother ran away–she thinks that something terrible has happened to her, and she intends to find out what it is. When Scarlet meets Wolf, a street fighter who seems to know something about her grandmother’s disappearance, she finds herself drawn to him even though she doesn’t trust him. She embarks on a journey to rescue her grandmother with Wolf’s help and on the way encounters Cinder, who has just escaped prison. Scarlet realizes that there is a lot more involved in her grandmother’s disappearance than she thought.

I loved this book! I really enjoyed the first book, Cinder, because it was such a different type of book than I had read before. Even though I enjoy science fiction, a sci-fi fairy tale retelling seemed a little bit strange to me. I’m so glad I gave it a chance though because it is such a fantastic and original story, and the sequel, Scarlet, was even better!

Scarlet is such a fantastic character! I love a strong female protagonist and Scarlet fills that role perfectly. She not only runs her grandmother’s farm, but she knows how to defend herself and is determined to rescue her grandmother no matter what. She initially doesn’t trust Wolf, especially once she realizes he knows more about her grandmother than she thought, but she and Wolf have an undeniable chemistry that keeps drawing them together.

It was also really interesting to see how Scarlet’s story intersected with Cinder’s. The book shifts back and forth between the two narratives and while I initially guessed at how Scarlet and Cinder’s stories related to each other I didn’t expect the twists at the end! The only complaint I would have is that I missed Kai–he’s not in as much of the book as I would’ve liked but I’m guessing he’ll play a bigger role in the next one. I did enjoy the little bit we did see of him in Scarlet because he was dealing with the aftermath of Cinder’s appearance at the ball and was conflicted between his feelings for her and his desire to do what is best for his people.

Overall, Scarlet was an amazing sequel with crazy twists! It was even better than Cinder in my opinion and I’m very excited to see what happens in book three!

Scarlet was released February 5, 2013 and is the second book in the Lunar Chronicles. The third book, Cress, is set to be released in 2014.

The Farm by Emily McKay

The Farm by Emily McKay

“They are as pitiable as they are inhuman. They are fear personified. Their emotions and minds given over to rage and hunger.”

Six months ago, people began turning into blood sucking monsters called Ticks. They rampaged the country, devouring anyone in their path. It was discovered that the Ticks preferred the blood of teenagers, so the government began gathering teenagers and placing them in Farms–fenced in prisons that not only keep them in one place, but raise them like cattle as food for the Ticks. Lily and her twin sister Mel have been living in a Farm in Texas for months, but Lily thinks that her sister has finally figured out a way to escape. As Lily begins to gather their supplies, a former classmate named Carter appears at the Farm, offering them help and information and arousing suspicion in Lily.

The Farm is a very different take on vampires, which to me was very refreshing! I am definitely over the whole vampire thing, but not when they are reinvented the way they have been in The Farm. The Ticks are not even really vampires, but some sort of a warbled version of a vampire. The real vampires are able to blend into society and appear human aside from the fact that they suck blood and are much stronger. The vampires are caught up in a political struggle to take control of the United States, and are using the humans as pawns.

I really loved the loyalty that Lily had for her sister. Her twin sister Mel is autistic, and has become more introverted and childlike since they were placed on the Farm. Lily takes care of her and is willing to do anything to protect her, but at the same time she knows how smart her sister is and doesn’t insult her by treating her like anything less than her equal. I loved the dynamic between the two sisters and the way they are both able to understand each other better than anyone else. Once they escape from the Farm, Lily has no other wish than to keep her sister safe, even though Carter has a different plan in mind.

The one thing that really bugged me about this book was the type of narration. The novel is told in chapters with alternating points of view, going back and forth between Lily, Mel, and Carter. This type of narration is not my favorite, but when it works, as in Through The Ever Night by Veronica Rossi, I don’t mind it at all. However, in The Farm, while it gives us a little insight into Carter and Mel’s mind, I still didn’t see the purpose of the narration being from anyone other than Lily’s perspective. What bugged me the most though was that whenever it switched to Carter’s point of view, the narration switched from first person to third person, which was another move that just did not translate well and in my opinion, disrupted the flow of the chapters.

Overall, The Farm was an exciting read with a very original take on vampires. It was also a beautiful story about the love between two sisters and the lengths they will go to in order to keep each other safe. I would definitely recommend this one to anyone who is tired of the traditional vampire story!

The Farm was released on December 4, 2012 and is the first in a series. The sequel, The Lair, is set to be released sometime in 2013.