Monday, February 18, 2013

Review: Blood Promise (Vampire Academy #4) by Richelle Mead

Title: Blood Promise (Vampire Academy #4) 
Blood Promise (Vampire Academy, #4)Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher:  Razorbill
Release Date: August 25, 2009
Pages: 503, Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 4.42 stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: Rose Hathaway's life will never be the same. 

The recent attack on St. Vladimir's Academy devastated the entire Moroi world. Many are dead. And, for the few victims carried off by Strigoi, their fates are even worse. A rare tattoo now adorns Rose's neck, a mark that says she's killed far too many Strigoi to count. But only one victim matters . . . Dimitri Belikov. Rose must now choose one of two very different paths: honoring her life's vow to protect Lissa—her best friend and the last surviving Dragomir princess—or, dropping out of the Academy to strike out on her own and hunt down the man she loves. She'll have to go to the ends of the earth to find Dimitri and keep the promise he begged her to make. But the question is, when the time comes, will he want to be saved? 

Now, with everything at stake—and worlds away from St. Vladimir's and her unguarded, vulnerable, and newly rebellious best friend—can Rose find the strength to destroy Dimitri? Or, will she sacrifice herself for a chance at eternal love?


I really enjoyed this book. The only reason that I didn't give it 5 stars were because of a few flaws.

First off, I felt like there were too many flashbacks to Rose and Dimitri's past. It felt a bit like Mead felt like she didn't give us enough of their relationship in the first three books, so she decided to backtrack and add in more detail. Some of these flashbacks were fine, but I didn't feel that they were all necessary and they certainly didn't propel the story forward. I also felt like the idea of the Alchemists was something that Mead just came up with and threw in - I didn't buy into the explanation about why Rose would not have heard of them before. Finally, I was sometimes confused about timing when Rose was seeing the world through Lissa's eyes. It didn't seem like time was consistent. While Rose said many days had gone by for her, it seemed like Lissa was still on the same weekend back in Montana, which didn't make much sense. It wasn't consistent at all.

Still, even though there were some flaws, I still enjoyed reading Blood Promise. While the first half of the story didn't have a lot of action, I appreciated seeing a new side of Rose as she explored her feelings for Dimitri's family and evaluated her life decisions. And the second half of the book was very intense. There were quite a few twists and turns in this book, some that I saw coming, but some that took me by surprise. I am definitely ready to continue this series!  4/5 Stars

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Review: UnWholly (Unwind Trilogy #2) by Neal Shusterman

Title: UnWholly (Unwind Trilogy #2) 
Author: Neal Shusterman
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Pages: 416, Hardcover
Goodreads Rating: 4.31 stars
My Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: It’s finally here. The long-awaited sequel to the bestselling Unwind, which Publishers Weekly called a “gripping, brilliantly imagined futuristic thriller.”

Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa—and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp—people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of troublesome teens while simultaneously providing much-needed tissues for transplant might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question. However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests that want to see it not only continue, but also expand to the unwinding of prisoners and the impoverished.

Cam is a product of unwinding; made entirely out of the parts of other unwinds, he is a teen who does not technically exist. A futuristic Frankenstein, Cam struggles with a search for identity and meaning and wonders if a rewound being can have a soul. And when the actions of a sadistic bounty hunter cause Cam’s fate to become inextricably bound with the fates of Connor, Risa, and Lev, he’ll have to question humanity itself.

Rife with action and suspense, this riveting companion to the perennially popular Unwind challenges assumptions about where life begins and ends—and what it means to live.


As the summary says, this is a sequel to the 2007 book, Unwind. If you haven't read Unwind, run now to your nearest bookstore and see what you've been missing.  It was an amazing book that Neal Shusterman originally planned as a stand-alone.  But, here we are, five years later, and he decided that there was more to the story that needed to be told.  All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you!

What I love most about this series is the way that Shusterman tackles some very tough and controversial topics in a way that makes you stop and really examine all sides of the issue.  The series explores a future in which the battle between pro-life extremists and pro-choice extremists has turned into a literal war.  The final compromise that is made is outrageous and yet accepted by both sides - abortion is abolished, but parents may choose to "unwind" their children between the ages of 13 and 17 (the unwinding process is not considered death because all parts of the child are donated and kept alive in people who need them).  When I initially starting reading the book, I was a bit afraid that I was going to be hit over the head with the author's personal views on abortion.  In fact, I was very happy with how balanced the discussions of the life/choice debate were - it is a central theme of the book, but there are no "right" answers given and the topic is explored from all sides. The only definitive truth presented is the absolute value of life once it has truly begun (the reader is left to decide when that is). It also presents the danger of extremism (on any side of an issue) and how that extremism can lead to people who no longer care so much about the very issue they are fighting for but instead are more driven by their hatred for the "other side." This is a series that makes you think about the issues without giving pat answers. I appreciate that.

UnWholly continues with the themes that are explored in Unwind, but delves into them in a new way.  In this book, we find that many people are starting to question the morality of unwinding.  A revolution has begun and our main characters are part of that revolution, sometimes in ways that they wouldn't choose.  In the meantime, many people are fighting just as hard to keep unwinding legal - "for the good of the many."  The book poses questions about what atrocities many people will blindly accept just because society as a whole says it's "for the best."  It makes you look at our own world and think about how our choices and beliefs are molded by society.  Yet, the book isn't a heavy read.  Instead, it is an engaging page-turner that leaves a bold impression long after you've put the book down.

The main characters in this series are well-rounded - flawed, but with a strength that transcends their flaws. There were no cardboard cut-outs in this book, which I loved! The action was interesting, the pacing was excellent, and I was often left guessing about what might happen next.  I highly recommend it!  5/5 Stars.

Review: Indigo Awakening (The Hunter #1) by Jordan Dane

Title: Indigo Awakening 
Author: Jordan Dane
Publisher:  Harlequin Teen
Release Date: December 18, 2012
Pages: 304, Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 3.54 stars
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: Voices told Lucas Darby to run. Voices no one else can hear. He’s warned his sister not to look for him, but Rayne refuses to let her troubled brother vanish on the streets of LA. In her desperate search, she meets Gabriel Stewart, a runaway with mysterious powers and far too many secrets. Rayne can’t explain her crazy need to trust the strange yet compelling boy—to touch him—to protect him even though he scares her.

A fanatical church secretly hunts psychic kids—gifted “Indigo” teens feared to be the next evolution of mankind—for reasons only “the Believers” know. Now Rayne’s only hope is Gabe, who is haunted by an awakening power—a force darker than either of them imagine—that could doom them all.


I struggled with whether to give this book 3 or 3.5 stars. I actually felt that the book started out really promising, but it lost some momentum for me in the second half.  

The story revolves around a group of teenagers and kids with telepathic powers (Indigo Children) who are hiding from a religious sect that they call "The Believers." Lucas has just escaped from a mental institution that is run by this religious sect and he finds himself drawn to the Indigo Children, especially to a girl named Kendra. But, the Believers know that Lucas is special and they are not about to let him go. Meanwhile, Lucas' sister, Rayne, is searching desperately for him when she meets a strange boy named Gabriel who has dangerous powers of his own.

The story is told from multiple points of view, which sometimes bothers me, but (in my opinion) was okay in this book. The book never stays on the secondary characters' points of view for too long, so I didn't get frustrated with being pulled out of the main story. Overall, I enjoyed the story and the plot moved along well. Rayne and Gabriel did have an instant connection that could have bordered on insta-love, but I thought that the author did a good job of giving reasons for their initial attraction and I felt that they grew closer due to the extremity of their circumstances, which seemed realistic to me. I connected to both Rayne and Gabriel and I was invested in what happened to them.

On the other hand, I didn't feel that same connection with Lucas and Kendra. I just didn't feel that the author spent enough time developing Lucas and Kendra's story (or the story of the other Indigo kids, with the possible exception of Rafe and Benny). Lucas and Kendra were supposedly pulled to each other through the psychic connection that they felt, but I didn't quite buy it. These two characters were never fleshed out enough for me to care about them.

Still, I enjoyed the book's many interesting turns and I am intrigued to find out what will happen in the next book. A good read, but not a great one.

By the way, I won this book from Goodreads First Reads, but that did not affect my review in any way.  3.5/5 stars

Review: Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy #3) by Richelle Mead

Title: Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy #3) 
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher:  Razorbill
Release Date: November 13, 2008
Pages: 443, Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 4.44 stars
My Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: It's springtime at St. Vladimir's Academy, and Rose Hathaway is this close to graduation. Since making her first Strigoi kills, Rose hasn't been feeling quite right. She's having dark thoughts, behaving erratically, and worst of all... might be seeing ghosts.

As Rose questions her sanity, new complications arise. Lissa has begun experimenting with her magic once more, their enemy Victor Dashkov might be set free, and Rose's forbidden relationship with Dimitri is starting to heat up again. But when a deadly threat no one saw coming changes their entire world, Rose must put her own life on the line - and choose between the two people she loves most.

My Take

This book was definitely my favorite book in the Vampire Academy series so far.  (I know, I'm behind - this series is already complete - still, I'm actually happy about that because it means that I don't have to WAIT to find out what happens next!)  

In this book, the relationships between all of the major characters are tested.  When Rose starts seeing ghosts, she is faced with the idea that she might be losing her mind and she has to decide who she can truly trust to confide in.  Of course, in typical Rose fashion, she first determines that she can't talk to anyone about the strange things that are happening to her (this is one of my few issues with the book - it makes no sense to me that she doesn't confide in Lissa or Dimitri sooner, but it does seem to be the way that Rose consistently operates).  Still, she eventually can't hide the darkness that surrounds her - and that's when the story gets really interesting.  Rose starts to investigate her own feelings and beliefs and determine whether she is truly living the life that she is meant to (or wants to live).  The book jacket cover (at least the cover of the book that I read) says that Rose will have to choose between Dimitri and Lissa.  She did, ultimately, have to make that decision, but it wasn't forced on her in the way that I was expecting.  To Mead's credit, the mysteries in the book weren't all tied up easily or in the most obvious ways.  Everything was foreshadowed nicely and I did figure out some things before the characters did, but I still found myself enjoying the ride.  And the ending definitely caught me by surprise.

Speaking of the ending - it is action-packed and heartbreaking and it puts Rose on a path that I did not see coming.  I honestly can't wait to read the next installment.  Definitely a 5/5 rating from me!