The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead

The Fiery Heart by Richelle MeadWARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD FOR PREVIOUS BOOKS IN THE SERIES

Sydney has finally made her decision and has chosen to be with Adrian despite the risk to them both. She has been part of The Alchemists for her entire life, and they absolutely forbid any kind of relationship with Moroi. However, once Sydney realized that the life of an Alchemist may not necessarily be what she wants, she decided to be with Adrian in secret. This is only made harder for her when her sister Zoe shows up, determined to prove what a good Alchemist she can be and pretty much attaching herself to Sydney’s side. Sydney starts to lead a double life–one in which she is the perfect Alchemist, and the other in which she is in love with a vampire.

I was so excited to read this book because the ending of The Indigo Spell was such a shocker. Finally, Sydney admits to her feelings for Adrian and they decide to be together and then Zoe shows up! And then when I heard that this book would also feature Adrian’s point of view I couldn’t wait to read it–he’s been one of my favorite characters since Vampire Academy.

I’ll admit the book started off a bit slow for me, but it definitely picked up towards the middle. I was worried that once Adrian and Sydney were together things would get dull, but Mead did a great job of making sure that didn’t happen. They had plenty of things going on that caused conflict, so it was very hard for their relationship to get boring. They constantly have to hide what is really going on, even from their closest friends, which made it very difficult for them both.

I loved getting Adrian’s perspective in this one. He is such a complex character and I feel like getting his point of view made it easier to understand him a bit more, especially where spirit is concerned. He always comes off as a drunk, but after he stopped drinking in this book it was obvious that the spirit really affects him and numbing himself to it is the only way for him to feel better. Adrian grew a lot in this book, both because of Sydney and because he was able to finally have some confidence in himself.

The ending to this book was even crazier than the last! I definitely did not see it coming, and I don’t know how I will be able to wait for the next book.

Overall, The Fiery Heart was a great addition to the Bloodlines series. There was a lot of character growth and an ending that will definitely change things for both Sydney and Adrian. I can’t wait to read what happens next!

The Fiery Heart was released on November 19, 2013 and is the fourth book in the Bloodlines series. The fifth book, Silver Shadows is set to be released on July 29, 2014.

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The Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead

The Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead“’Any life worth living is going to have risks.’”

In the third book in the Bloodlines series, Sydney finds herself torn between her duty to the Alchemists and her desire to make her own choices. She begins to discover the truth behind the Alchemists and comes across Marcus Finch, an ex-Alchemist who wants Sydney to join his group of rebels and run away from the Alchemists like he did. At the same time, Sydney finds herself learning magic from her teacher in order to protect herself and other girls with magical abilities from an evil magic user who wants to steal their power.While dealing with her distrust of the Alchemists and her hesitation to use magic, she is also conflicted about her feelings for Adrian, who makes no secret of his feelings for her.

I think each of these books has been better than the last so far. The less uptight Sydney becomes, the more I like her. She really won me over in this book, mainly because she really started to learn how to use magic to protect herself and finally realized how much control the Alchemists have over her and that she doesn’t want that. She starts to finally take control of her life and make her own decisions, and she also starts coming to terms with her feelings for Adrian.

In this book Sydney meets Marcus Finch, who right away wants to help Sydney break away from the Alchemists. I was happy that she was finally starting to realize that the Alchemists are not exactly the people she thought they were, but I was glad she didn’t immediately trust Marcus also. Sydney becomes torn between living the life she was raised to lead, or starting a new life for herself. What I really love about Sydney though is that she is a very selfless person–she really cares about protecting Jill and doesn’t make any decisions without considering her first.

Jill and Eddie seemed to fall more to the background in this book, but I still think that Jill seems to be getting more mature with each book. She gives Sydney a lot of good advice and it seems like she’s finally starting to realize how much Sydney sacrifices to keep her safe. There were some really great Sydney and Adrian moments in this book, and I love how they each bring out different qualities in each other. Sydney really brings out the best in Adrian, and Adrian makes Sydney more confident and helps her to start putting her own needs first more often.

Overall, The Indigo Spell was a great book with tons of sweet moments between Sydney and Adrian and an ending that I absolutely did not see coming. The next book should definitely be interesting!!

The Indigo Spell was released on February 12, 2013 and is the third book in the Bloodlines series. The fourth book, The Fiery Heart, will be released on November 19, 2013, and apparently will feature Adrian’s point of view also!!

The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead

The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead“’Every relationship is different. Everyone loves differently.’”

In this sequel to Bloodlines, Alchemist Sydney Sage begins to start questioning her beliefs about vampires and her own people. She begins to grow closer to Jill, Eddie, and Adrian–all people that she would normally fear and avoid. She falls into a relationship with a boy who is her intellectual match, but finds herself being drawn to someone else–someone she cannot allow herself to fall for. Sydney struggles between following the archaic beliefs of her people, or following her heart, and her loyalty is constantly being put to the test.

I liked this book better than I liked Bloodlines, but I will admit that after going back and reading the entire Vampire Academy series, I reread Bloodlines and enjoyed it much more. While it’s not necessary to read Vampire Academy before Bloodlines, I would definitely recommend it because I was able to understand more about the relationships between some characters that had been developed in Vampire Academy. That being said, I still liked The Golden Lily better than the first book, mainly because Sydney became a much more likeable character. She finally began to ease up a bit, and even though she is still socially awkward she seemed to have more of a personality.

Sydney starts dating a boy named Brayden in this book, and he is basically the male version of herself. He is very smart and she is able to have academic conversations with him, but there is no spark whatsoever. Plus, Sydney is always having to run out on him to deal with Moroi issues, so the relationship only gets more awkward. And while she’s trying to force herself to fall for Brayden, she finds herself drawn to Adrian, who, as a Moroi, is forbidden to her.

Adrian was one of my favorite characters from Vampire Academy and I’m so glad that he is such a big focus of this story. We get to see so much more of him in this book and we get to discover the many facets of his personality, from his vulnerability when meeting with his father to his protectiveness of Sydney when she feels threatened. His relationship with Sydney grows so much in this book–she helps him with his family issues, “teaches” him to drive a stick shift, and takes a self defense course with him. Their back and forth banter is really cute also, and I love the way they have helped each other to grow.

There was also a great side plot surrounding Jill and Eddie.  Eddie was another character that I loved from Vampire Academy and I was happy to see that he wasn’t punished too harshly after the events that occurred with Rose. He is fiercely protective of Jill to the point where it becomes obvious how he feels about her, even if Jill herself is oblivious. Jill was a little bit annoying in Bloodlines–she kept whining about not being able to be a model and she didn’t realize how everyone was sacrificing so much to protect her. She was a little bit better in this book and it seems like she is maturing and is a little bit less naive.

Overall, The Golden Lily was a great sequel to Bloodlines. The characters showed a lot of growth, Sydney herself was much more likeable, and we got to see a lot more of Adrian. I’m very excited to see what happens next!

The Golden Lily was released on June 12, 2012 and is the second book in the Bloodlines series. The third book, The Indigo Spell, is available now and the fourth, The Fiery Heart, will be released on November 19, 2013.

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 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.

Trending Topics in YA

It seems like YA literature keeps going through different trends each year. There was the whole Twilight phenomenon and now The Hunger Games has taken the lead, but what’s next? Here are some current trends emerging in young adult books today:

ZOMBIES ARE THE NEW VAMPIRES

Now that the Twilight saga is (finally) coming to an end, vampires seem to have taken a backseat to a different type of creature: ZOMBIES!! As a huge fan of all things zombies, I am thrilled at the comeback zombies are making in pop culture today. A few years ago you almost couldn’t turn on a TV without some mention of vampires, whether it be Twilight, True Blood, or The Vampire Diaries. Today it seems like most people are over the whole vampire thing. After the release and subsequent explosive popularity of Twilight, everyone and their mother tried to hop on the vampire bandwagon and write a book/TV show/movie about vampires. This year there is a serious lack of vampire books, with two notable exceptions:  The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda and The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa. When picking up both of these books to read, my first thought was that these authors are really pushing it by still trying to keep the vampire craze going. However, I have to say that with both books I was pleasantly surprised. And the reason that I enjoyed both immensely was not because I am still a sucker (no pun intended) for all things vampire, but rather because each of these novels sought to distinguish themselves from the traditional portrayal of vampires and from the supremely overdone trope of vampire meets human girl/boy and falls in love.

With the vampire trend dwindling down, there has definitely been a rise in books/TV shows/movies about zombies. I would attribute a lot of this to The Walking Dead, which has gained an insane following and put zombies back into pop culture. There has been a definite increase in YA books about zombies, a couple of examples being This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers and (still to come) The Infects by Sean Beaudoin. There has also been an increase in the number of YA zombie books being made into movies: World War Z, Warm Bodies, and The Forest of Hands and Teeth, all three of which are set to be in theaters next year. With the significant decrease in vampire books and the rising popularity of zombies, I definitely think it is safe to say that zombies are the new vampires.

RISE OF THE MERMAIDS

Mermaids are HUGE now! This year alone there have been so many YA books about mermaids:  Of Poseidon by Anna Banks, Wake by Amanda Hocking, Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown, and The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Cordova are just a few. I can honestly say that I did not see this trend coming, but I’m glad it did! I don’t think I had ever read a book about mermaids before this year and will definitely admit to being a little skeptical about the subject at first but Of Poseidon definitely changed my opinion and left me craving MORE MERMAIDS! I look forward to seeing how this trend evolves in the future.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE WIZARDS/WITCHES GONE??

There has been a serious lack of YA books about magic lately. I don’t know if it’s just because people feel it has been overdone or if everyone is worried that they will be unable to live up to Harry Potter (which is most likely true) but for some reason there has been a big decrease in the amount of witches and wizards present in YA literature. There have been some great books about wizards/witches in the past few years–Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins and Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia for example—but 2012 hasn’t really seen anything in the way of magic. However, with the Beautiful Creatures movie being released early 2013, it is possible that magic will have a bit of a revival.

SERIES VS. STANDALONE

It seems to me that nearly every book that I pick up lately is part one of a series/saga/trilogy. It is very rare that you find a standalone YA book today and I believe there are pros and cons to both series and standalone novels. The drawback of a series is that (at least in my case) it seems like you’re always waiting for the next book to be written/released. I cannot tell you how many times I have picked up a book, not knowing that it is part one of a series, and got to the end only to see the words END OF PART ONE, TO BE CONTINUED, or something of that variation. There are times when I love this, and it is usually because the book is so good that I just want to read more about the characters and the world they live in. There are other times when I hate this, either because the book is so good that I’m angry that I have to wait months/years for the next one, or because I’m just pissed that every book has to be part of a series. I can understand why many authors are writing series instead of standalone novels–sometimes there is just so much to the story that to fit it all in one book would be ridiculous–but in some cases it seems like the author is just dragging the story out so that they can make money off of yet another book about the same thing (i.e. The Fallen series by Lauren Kate). Then again there are some series, like Michael Grant’s Gone series, that keep going on and on and just keep getting better as they do. I suppose it just really depends on how good the author is at keeping the series alive but I still wonder–can nobody write a good standalone novel anymore? The only exceptions I have found lately have been Courtney Summers and John Green. Both have written exceptionally good standalone novels that in no way seemed incomplete or left me demanding a sequel.

What do you think? Are there any other trends that you’ve noticed emerging this year? Which trends do you love and which could you do without?