Bloodlines by Richelle Mead

Bloodlines by Richelle Mead

“The greatest changes in history have come when people were able to shake off what others told them to do.”

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, a member of a group of people who act as the barrier between vampires and humans. Since she was a child she has been raised to fear the Strigoi, the evil vampires who want nothing more than to kill humans and drink their blood, and to not trust the Moroi, the other kind of vampires who coexist with humans. She has been bred to keep vampire secrets from the rest of humanity, and when the life of the Moroi Queen’s sister is threatened, Sydney is called upon to act as her protector and keep her in hiding. Sydney and the Moroi princess, Jill, pose as students in a private school along with Jill’s guardian Eddie. Sydney has to adjust to living surrounded by vampires, creatures she has been fearful of her entire life.

I was a bit confused at first with the whole Strigoi/Moroi thing and I’m wondering if part of this is because I haven’t read any of the Vampire Academy books. I didn’t realize that Bloodlines was the start of a spinoff series–I had thought it was an independent series, so I felt like I was missing out a bit because there were a lot of references to Rose Hathaway and events that took place before this book. Once I got a better grasp of the different vampires and dhampirs and Alchemists I definitely thought it was an interesting take on vampires.

Sydney was kind of an annoying character. She is way too uptight and has a seriously unhealthy body image. She got a bit more confident towards the end of the book and I gradually started to like her better. She is super smart and dedicated to her job but her best quality is that she really tries her best to take care of everyone, vampire or not. I really liked Adrian and his interactions with Sydney were some of the best parts of the book. To me this book seemed like a set up for the rest of the series because it really didn’t pick up until about two-thirds through. I feel like the next book will have a much more interesting story.

Overall, Bloodlines was an interesting story with a slightly more original take on vampires, and while it had a slow start, it was a promising beginning to the series. I am looking forward to reading the next book!

Bloodlines was released on August 23, 2011 and is the first book in the Bloodlines series, a spinoff of the Vampire Academy series. The next two books, The Golden Lily and The Indigo Spell, have also been released and the fourth book, The Fiery Heart will be released in November.

The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Diviners by Libba Bray

“’People always fear what they don’t understand, Evangeline. History proves that.’”

Evie O’Neill is sent from her home in Ohio to New York City to live with her Uncle Will as punishment, yet to her it is anything but. In the 1920s, New York is an exciting place with speakeasies, movies, and plenty of places to shop. However, living with her Uncle Will, curator of “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies” turns out to be a much different experience than she had anticipated. Evie’s uncle is called in to help the local police solve a series of murders that seem to be related to the occult. Evie becomes caught up in the investigation and has a secret ability that she may be able to use to help catch the killer before it is too late.

It took me foreverrrr to get through this book because, while it definitely held my interest, it was a whopping 592 pages!! It was definitely worth it though, because this is an exciting story with so much to offer. There is mystery, romance, humor, and a bit of horror. In my opinion though, the best part of this book was the characters. This book reminded me a bit of The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross because it has a kooky band of characters that are trying to solve a mystery, yet they each have their own little side plot that is actual vital to the main plot. It’s definitely a challenge to be able to develop so many characters well in just one book, but Libby Bray, like Kady Cross, does it perfectly. I found myself attached to each and every character and kept hoping that they wouldn’t end up as the next murder victim!

I loved all of the characters, but my favorite was the protagonist, Evie. Evie is a sassy character who speaks her mind even though it sometimes gets her into trouble. She sneaks out to go drink and dance at speakeasies and is not afraid to see a murder scene. She is extremely brave and rather than shy away from the murders her uncle is trying to solve, she decides to use her special power to help him find the murderer.

Another thing I loved about this book is the time period. The Diviners takes place during the Roaring Twenties, which seems like a fascinating time to be in New York City. Bray does an excellent job of describing the city during the 20s and even the dialogue reflects the slang of the time period. I really felt as though I was transported to the 20s every time I sat down with this book.

Overall, The Diviners was an excellent book with a great cast of characters, a thrilling mystery, and fascinating historical context. While it was a very long book, the pacing was good and there really wasn’t a dull moment. I really enjoyed it and I’m definitely looking forward to the next book!

The Diviners was released on September 18, 2012 and is the first book in The Diviners series. The second book is currently untitled and is expected 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.

Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans

Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans

“There has to be more to death than this.”

Felicia Ward died the day before her eighteenth birthday. She is trapped in Level 2, an afterlife where she lies in a pod and relives the memories from her life over and over again. When the boy who broke her heart breaks in to find her, he tells her that he is part of the rebellion to bring down the Morati–angels who are keeping everyone trapped in Level 2. He tells her that if she helps him then he will do something for her in return: he will bring her to Neil, the boy she loves.

This book had such an original concept. The way all of the people in Level 2 were trapped in pods reminded me a bit of The Matrix, but instead of being trapped in a fake reality, everyone in Level 2 was trapped within their own memories. They could resurface for awhile but soon had to return to their pod and “plug in”. The way the memory network worked was very interesting and was almost like an afterlife’s version of social networking. Each person could choose to share their memories on the network and as people viewed their shared memories, the owner of the memories would earn credits that they could use to purchase other people’s memories for viewing. Felicia’s most precious memories are the memories of her boyfriend Neil, which she keeps private and views over and over.

What was really interesting about Level 2 is that it mixes genres. It is a dystopian novel set in the afterlife, but Felicia’s memories from Earth are strictly contemporary. The story is told from Felicia’s perspective in Level 2, but it is interspersed with memories from different parts of her life. Through her memories, we see the beginning and progression of her relationship with Neil, the effect her relationship with Julian had on her future, and each moment right up until the end of her life. The memories are viewed out of sequence so we don’t get all of the answers at once, and there is a great deal of suspense right up until the end of the book.

Overall, Level 2 was an incredible debut with an original concept, an engaging and suspenseful story, and a beautiful ending. This was a powerful first book and an excellent start to an exciting new series.

Level 2 was released on January 15, 2013 and is the first book in The Memory Chronicles. The second book in the series, Level 3, is expected to be released in 2014.

A Fractured Light by Jocelyn Davies

A Fractured Light by Jocelyn Davies

“I am always torn. Between control and chaos; passion and tranquility. Between what’s fated and what I want.”

A Fractured Light is the sequel to A Beautiful Dark, which was about a girl named Skye who found out that not only is she part of a world full of warring angels, but she has to choose between the light and the dark. In A Fractured Light, Skye recovers from a near death experience to find Asher, the “dark” angel she had fallen in love with, by her side. She returns home and continues trying to use her new powers, but she is still torn between allying herself with the Order or the Rebellion.

To be honest I am really over the whole fallen angel genre in its entirety. It has been way too overdone over the past few years and it seems like every fallen angel book has the same generic story–girl meets fallen angel and falls in love way too fast and has to choose to be on the side of good or evil. A Beautiful Dark was exactly this, so I wasn’t very excited to read its sequel. However, I will admit that I liked A Fractured Light better than I thought I would.

As predicted, Asher ends up being all shady and secretive towards Skye. He keeps trying to tell her that he loves her and always will but at the same time it seems like he’s just trying to get her on his side–the Rebellion. Skye kept getting on my nerves because she kept playing both sides of the fence–she would be having a steamy make out session with Asher and then she would sneak off to talk to Devin, who not only is part of the Order but also betrayed her in A Beautiful Dark. What I did like: we found out a lot more about Skye’s past, including who her parents were and why she was raised by her parents’ friend. Skye also had to deal with the repercussions of continuously lying to her friends and I was glad that they didn’t forgive and forget easily.

The end of this book really redeemed it for me though–Skye finally started to think for herself and stand up for herself and began making her own decisions about the Order and the Rebellion. It ended (of course) on another cliffhanger so I will most likely read the next one, even though I am so over fallen angel stories.

A Fractured Light was released September 25, 2012 and is the second book in the A Beautiful Dark series. There is no word yet on when the next book will be released.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

Blue Sargent is the daughter of a psychic, and has spent her whole life surrounded by the supernatural. From a young age, she has been told by every psychic she has ever met that she will kill her true love by kissing him. So obviously, she has avoided kissing or getting involved with anyone. However, when her half-aunt Neeve comes to stay with her family, things begin to change. Every year Blue goes to an old church with her mother on St. Mark’s Eve to watch the spirits of people that will die in the coming year walk past. Blue is never able to see the spirits herself because she lacks psychic ability, but when she goes on St. Mark’s Eve with Neeve, she sees the spirit of a boy who tells her only his name: Gansey. When Neeve tells her that the only way she could see his spirit is if she is his true love or his murderer, Blue is determined never to meet Gansey.

Gansey is a rich boy at the Aglionby school, a prestigious school with a raven as its mascot. The fact that he is a “Raven Boy” gives Blue another reason to stay away from him. But no matter how hard she tries, it seems that their paths are destined to cross and she soon becomes part of Gansey’s quest to find the body of a long dead king. She becomes involved in this strange crusade with the four Raven Boys: Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah, but in the back of her mind she cannot forget her ill-fated destiny to bring death to her true love.

The Raven Boys was such a surprise for me–in a good way! I wasn’t a big fan of Stiefvater’s Shiver trilogy for many reasons, so I had low expectations for this book. I am so glad to say that The Raven Boys was in no way a disappointment. I absolutely loved this book; it was fantastically written and was full of so many unexpected twists and turns from beginning to end. It has so many great characters with such vibrant personalities. Blue is such a strong character and really holds her own amongst the four boys, who adopt her as one of their own. She accepts the fact that she is fated to kill her true love but is still determined to create her own destiny. Blue’s relationship with the Raven Boys reminded me of when Wendy meets Peter and The Lost Boys in Peter Pan. Like the Lost Boys, who look to Peter as their leader, the Raven Boys look to Gansey. And as with Wendy, the boys are first very skeptical about Blue, but they soon realize that it seemed like she was always meant to be a part of their group.

Each of the Raven boys is extremely different, but they fit together like a puzzle and each brings a different quality to their little group. Their loyalty to Gansey is admirable, and they are all extremely invested in his quest to find the dead king Glendower, even if it seems a bit fantastical. I really liked Gansey, because even though he was born to a privileged life, he still tries to be humble and deeply cares for each of his friends. This makes it hard for Blue to stay away from him and harder to keep the truth a secret, even though she knows he is to die within a year.

I really loved this book and could not put it down. This is definitely the best book that Maggie Stiefvater has ever written, and I highly recommend reading it if you haven’t already!

The Raven Boys was released September 18, 2012 and is the first book in The Raven Cycle. The sequel, still untitled, is set to be published September 2013.