"I spent my life folded between the pages of books." -Tahereh Mafi

Some of my reviews are normal non-spoilery reviews. But some of reviews contain lots and lots of spoilers to help you (and me!) remember what happened when the next book in the series finally comes out. Both review types are clearly marked.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Legend by Marie Lu

This post contains lots of spoilers!!

This book is told in split first person. Day is a street kid who's run away from home after failing his assessment test. He should have been sent to a work camp but instead escapes to the streets. June is a prodigy - the only one to get a perfect score on her test. She is destined to be a Republic soldier.

Day finds out his family's home has been marked as having the plague. He attempts to find plague cures (which are very expensive). He's unsuccessful and ends up getting a fight with June's brother Metias. Day injures him and escapes. Day's friend and tag-along Tess helps stitch him up.

Metias ends up dead and everyone is convinced Day is behind it. June is pulled out of school early and put into service under Cmdr Jamison. Her mission is to find Day. She goes under cover as a street kid and quickly finds and befriends Tess and Day, although she doesn't realize who he is. And, of course, they end up kinda falling for each other. They kiss and shortly after, June pieces things together and realizes he's Day.

She executes her plan to turn him in. In the ensuing scuffle, his mother is shot and killed by Metias' friend/collegue Thomas. June is horrified, but sticks with the mission. Day and his two brothers (one who has the plague) are taken into custody. June is in charge of interrogating him. 

Eventually June starts to get curious. She looks up Day's test score to find out that even though he was marked as failing, all of his answers are the same as hers - he should have gotten a perfect score too. Then she finds Metias' journal/blog which shows that he was also getting suspicious of the government as well. He uncovered that their parents didn't die in a car crash and were instead killed by the government because they started asking questions about the plague. Essentially the plague is used as population control and to keep everyone in line since the government provides the cure.  She also looks up the files surrounding Metias' death and realizes that Day wasn't the one who murdered him. Day injured him, but he was murdered by Thomas, who has recently been trying to get June to get romantically involved with him. 

She decides to try to break Day out before his execution. She recruits the Patriots (essentially rebels) to help and discovers that Tess has teamed up with them. They agree to help for a good sum of money. Adventure and danger ensue but the bottom line is that they successfully escape, but Day's older brother Jon sacrifices his life to aid in their escape. June and Day get as far away as possible. They plan to head to Las Vegas, where they believe the Patriots and Tess are, to make sure that she's safe, and then attempt to rescue his younger brother Eden. 

Fast-Tracked by Tracy Rozzlynn

This post contains lots of spoilers!!

Alexandria (or Lexi) has just essentially graduated and taken her assessment test. She's been dating her best friend and neighbor Byron. That's frowned upon until they get their assessment results because they could be placed in different levels. But they're both confident they'll place about the same or higher than their parents so it won't be an issue. 

This book does one thing that I love that most dystopian novels don't do - she explained how we went from now to the society that exists in the book. Actually, I have a hard time even calling this dystopian. I think it was intended to be, but things seem mostly better than they are now. Society is structured into classes, which are represented by colors. How well you do on your assessment test determines what level you are placed into. So while you might have been raised in the lower class, if you do well enough on your assessment, you could be placed higher. Seems a fairer way to do it than we do now. There are definite income differences between the levels, but not like the massive income inequities that exist now. Anyway...

Lexi gets her results and she ends up with a gold level, the highest possible. She's been what they call fast-tracked. She's ecstatic and goes to tell Byron when she finds out he's been placed in orange, even lower than their parents' levels of blue (blue is solidly middle class, orange is definitely not). Byron and his family are angry at her because they think her father had something to do with it because there was some kind of incident at the plant/factory (I can't remember what kind of company it was) where they are both are managers. 

Lexi is devastated for Byron and refuses to be happy for herself. They're so in love (although we never really see why they love each other except that they've known each other forever) and so she can't be happy when his life is now effectively over.

She flies to New York, where she will be attending college (only certain levels go to college and only fast-trackers are at her college). She meets a guy on the plane named Avery who takes her under his wing. She quickly becomes the teacher's pet, which annoys the other students. Her teacher renames her Zandria because Alexandria is too long and Lexi is too cutesy. Her teacher wants her to be a business owner or a politician's wife, but she is determined to become a politician herself so she can change things for the lower classes. This is one part of the book that really bothers me - apparently women, especially those new to fast track, are expected to marry into power. Luckily, that's not good enough for Zandria (good thing, otherwise I would have had to stop reading the book). 

Avery invites her to parties and brings her into the vital social scene of the fast trackers. He explains the importance of power. At one of the parties she meets Autumn, typical mean girl, who takes a liking to her and they become friends, although Zandria knows that Autumn would be vicious if Zandria makes a wrong move. Avery wants to be more than friends, but Zandria's still in love with  Byron, so she keeps politely turning him down. And in the dumbest of all coincidences, Byron ends up being a trash guy at the college (seriously? They couldn't find an orange level job for him closer to home? In any other part of the country? This is way too convenient). He's mean at first, but then he apologizes and she starts sneaking him food. She also takes on her own servant, who was being mistreated at a party by one of her fast-tracker "friends." Of course Zandria treats her more like a friend and roommate.

She makes a plan to take over businesses already owned by blue levels (because gold levels can take over any business owned by a lower level) to build up the money for a campaign. She beings opening nightclubs. After opening night she sees Byron out at a restaurant with another fast-tracker who is known to be gay. She assumes he's essentially sold himself to this guy and is horrified. 

Thanks to some spying, she finds out that it was actually Avery's dad who was responsible for both Byron's low ranking and her high ranking. Apparently Avery's dad owns the company where her and Byron's fathers work. Avery had accompanied him to the plant/factory on a visit years ago and fallen in love with Zandria from afar. So he arranged for her to be fast-tracked and for Byron to be assessed lower so that he wouldn't be competition. Zandria hates Avery for this, but can't show it because she fears what Avery could do to her with all of his power in fast-tracker society. Avery just doesn't seem all that evil to me. He's definitely no hero, but he's essentially an entitled rich kid - not an awesome guy, but not pure evil the way that Zandria makes him out to be. 

Avery proposes to Zandria and she agrees, but only if he'll change Byron's assessment. Avery is reluctant because he's afraid she'll still want to see Byron but she assures him she won't. He convinces his father to change Byron's level to purple (one above blue). So Byron is saved but now she's stuck marrying someone who she hates. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Middle Ground by Katie Kacvinsky

This post contains lots of spoilers!!

Maddie pulls some dumb prank that lands her in a detention center. She ends up befriending one of the workers there - a young guy named Gabe. Gabe helps her sneak out every week to see her Justin and company. Her friends want her to escape, but she wants to stay to try to take down the DCs. Molly runs bunches of tests on her and eventually they figure out that the DC is drugging her and forcing new terrifying memories on her. They are essentially brainwashing her to think that interacting with people face-to-face has disastrous consequences. 

Molly is able to come up with a counter-drug that they pump into the DC through the ventilation. But the doctors at the DC have a new drug they can use. They use it on Maddie once and then threaten to prolong her sentence another 6 months. That's when her friends decide to break her out of the DC.

She wants to go back in and rescue everyone else from the DC. They do; some danger happens, but they're successful. Afterwards, her dad calls her and offers to compromise on Digital School (perhaps not forcing all students to do it, maybe let some do a face-to-face school), but she would have to leave Justin or he won't agree. Cue cliffhanger.

This book was not nearly as good as Awaken. There's some sweet moments between Justin and Maddie and I do really like how strong and independent Maddie has become...but the plot was just so boring and forgetful. Hopefully the next book is better.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead

This post contains lots of spoilers!!

I'm actually starting to like Sydney as much as I loved Rose in Vampire Academy. She's discovering magic, she's discovering that breaking rules might be a good thing, and she's realizing how much power she actually has.

This book begins with a bit of tension between her and Adrian after his confession of love. After a few weeks of awkwardness, he decides that he'll stop being angry and just love her whether she wants him to or not. The majority of this book centers around Sydney finally coming to terms with the fact that she loves Adrian. Which works for me! Adrian is so awesome in this book!

There's a couple main storylines. First, her witch teacher has a sister, Veronica, who is apparently evil and steals the power and youth of young, untrained witches. Ms. Terwilliger is concerned she'll come after Sydney and so she makes her practice lots of offensive and defensive spells. Sydney is hesitant at first but eventually that fades away. She follows leads to find Veronica and warn the girls that she may be targeting. Eventually she discovers that a young girl that was helping them, Alicia, has actually killed Veronica and is now out to steal the power from other witches, namely Ms. Terwilliger. With Adrian's help, Sydney is able to defeat her and save her teacher. Although, Alicia's body is never found, so I expect her to show up in later books.

The other storyline centers around Sydney's suspicions about the Alchemists. She tracks down Marcus, a former Alchemist who has gone rouge. He wants her to join them, but she's hesitant. He wants her to go on a mission to retrieve information that links the Alchemists with the Warriors of Light (the evil off-shoot of the Alchemists that nearly killed her in the previous book - they are more activist than the Alchemists and want all vampires dead, but they're content to start with the Strigoi). She agrees to do it because they also present her with information that the Warriors are looking for a Moroi girl that would cause lots of problems if she was found. She fears they are talking about Jill. After her successful mission, they help her break her tattoo. Now she is no longer bound by the magic in the tattoo. She's always been told that it just keeps her from discussing vampires with other humans. Marcus's group claims that the tattoos also have loyalty-enhancing qualities. They also want her to go to Mexico to get it tattooed over. She's unsure because she thinks she could do more good as a spy within the organization. They think that's too dangerous because if she was caught, they could just reink her tattoo or send her to reeducation. She does call her Alchemist supervisor to warn her that Jill might be in danger.

After lots of flirting and lots of sexual tension, Sydney finally gives in to Adrian's charms. But she's horrified when she discovers that Jill saw all of it through the spirit bond! She tells Adrian that she can't do it and then decides to go to Mexico with Marcus. Adrian is angry and then dodges all her calls. Jill has a big talk with her the morning before she leaves and tells her that she doesn't care that the spirit bond forces her to experience what happens with her and Adrian. She's happy when Adrian's happy and sad when he's sad. And she's sure that she'll eventually learn to control it the way Rose and Lissa have. At the last minute, as she's about to board the train, Sydney makes the right decision. She finds Adrian and lots of making out ensues. <3

When she gets back to Amberwood, she discovers a new "cousin" that the Alchemists have sent to help with the mission - her sister Zoe, who's super pumped to be an active Alchemist now. There's also a new dhampir addition, Neil.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

This post contains lots of spoilers!!

I also read Destroy Me, which is a novella that takes place in between Shatter Me and Unravel Me. This book gives you more of an insight into Warner. Lots of reviewers said that they fell in love with Warner in Destroy Me. Not me. He was a little more likable, but still a jerk.

Wow, this is the rare sequel that is just as amazing (if not more so) than the first! Juliette has teamed up with the rebels and is living with them in their underground outpost. Almost all the rebels have some kind of "gift." Castle, the leader, has telekinesis. Kenjii (who is totally awesome and lovable in this book) can make himself invisible. Juliette's roommates Sara and Sonya have healing abilities. We discover towards the end that James, Adam's little brother, also has healing abilities. Juliette has a cool new suit designed just for her that helps to keep her from accidentally touching and hurting everyone. But everyone is still afraid of her and she's lonely.

Her and Adam are still crazy in love. But he seems distant... Which makes her worry and get a little upset. And that's how we accidentally discover that not only does she have magically dangerous skin, but she also has super strength and can cause mini-earthquakes just by punching the ground. 

This is when we find out what Adam's "gift" is - he nullifies other's abilities. So the reason he can touch Juliette is because he nullifies her ability. This happens automatically as a defense mechanism, but it requires energy and so it drains him to touch her. And as he gets more comfortable with her, it's hard for him to feel defensive. Adam is convinced that their relationship can still work. Juliette is willing to give it a try, until she accidentally puts him in the infirmary after a make-out session. 

She breaks up with him. They're both sad, but Kenjii forces her to snap out of it. This is when we start to see fantastic changes in Juliette. She becomes stronger and less selfish. Kenjii has her go on a mission with him to resupply the base. She begins to feel like she's part of the community. While on the mission, she sees Warner and sees him playing with a stray dog. 

Some members of the resistance are captured by Warner's men. Juliette is part of the team that goes to rescue them. She meets Anderson, Warner's father, and finds out that Warner's first name is Aaron. Anderson tries to get Warner to kill Juliette. Juliette is able to get control of the gun and shoots Anderson in both legs. She's about to kill him when Kenjii bursts in a stops her. Adam also comes in and sees Anderson and recognizes him as his father, who was always abusive and who he thought was dead. They rescue two of their men and take Warner as a hostage.

Castle puts Juliette in charge of interrogating Warner, since he can't touch her. Except...Warner can touch Juliette and she doesn't want anyone (mostly Adam) to know. Juliette's interrogations of Warner turn out to be more like lovely conversations about books and life. She realizes she doesn't hate him, even though she knows she should. And she's eventually able to admit that she's attracted to him. I was afraid this was the direction the book was going in and I didn't want it to, but when it happened, I was totally on board! There is sizzling chemistry between the two. It turns out Warner has an ability as well - he's able to read others' emotions and he can take someone else's ability (they still retain their ability, he just also has it temporarily). Juliette is amazed that he can he touch her, and that it doesn't harm him in any way. 

Castle asks Warner to become part of the resistance. Warner accepts, but his ultimate plan is to leave. The residents of the base are very unhappy that he's been let out of his cell. A scuffle ensues, during which Kenjii is injured. After ensuring that Kenjii is going to be okay, Juliette goes back to her room and Warner quickly appears. He wants her to come with him when he leaves. A very steamy make-out session ensues. 

But of course, at some point she stops it, because she doesn't want to hurt Adam. Warner is angry that she's denying her feelings for him and that she's choosing Adam over him. She maintains that she's not choosing either one. As much as I wanted Juliette and Warner to happen at this moment, I knew she wasn't going to abandon the resistance and leave with him. She felt a sense of duty to them and she wasn't going to leave.

The next morning is battle. They're going to get back the remaining two hostages. Warner escapes and everyone can't wait to murder him. At some point in the battle, Juliette is knocked unconscious. She wakes up in a house in an abandoned neighborhood. Anderson is there and he wants revenge. Warner shows up and Anderson shoots Juliette. 

In the ending chapters, we see through Juliette's haze that Warner is helping to save her with the help of Sara and Sonya.