The Hearts We Sold

Image result for the hearts we soldFirst Lines: A demon was knitting outside the hospital.

I was going to put more about the first lines down, but I think this one is attention-getting.  It certainly got mine.  Now this was something I picked up on a whim at the library.  The title caught my attention and when I read the jacket and learned there were demons, I was in.

In Dee’s world, demons are a  part of life.  They offer deals in exchange for body parts.  When Dee makes a deal with a demon–her heart in exchange for escape from an awful home life–Dee suddenly learns the true cost of dealing with a demon.  And it’s much worse than she ever could have anticipated.  With her whole world turned upside-down, the only people who help keep Dee grounded are other deal-making teens in her same position, including the charming James Lancer.  Between the nightmares coming to life and the realities of her new life, Dee wonders if she can give her heart to someone when it isn’t hers to give.

WHERE HAS THIS BOOK BEEN HIDING?  If it had not been for the chance encounter at the library, I probably never would’ve read this.

And boy, was it worth it. Dee is a quiet girl, just trying to survive at her boarding school when she finds out her scholarship is disappearing…and that would send her back to the home she’s desperate to leave. So she sells her heart to a demon to make sure that doesn’t happen.  It gave her an inner fortitude that it didn’t initially look like she had.  And I liked that.

This book was powerful. (I’ll admit, it took a little while to get that ball rolling, though.) There are so many angles that this story comes from. Sometimes it’s fantasy. Sometimes sci-fi. Sometimes contemporary romance. It’s all over the place, but everything’s woven together so well that you really don’t even mind.

From the beginning, it caught my attention. Then after the story got going, it felt like it was slowing down a bit. But by the middle of the book, I was so in. The plot is really interesting and will keep you on your toes. Even when I sort of knew what was coming, there were elements of it that I didn’t see.

The characters are really interesting as well. From Dee, the quiet and always fearful one to James, the artistic bohemian with a sense of humor to Gremma, Dee’s frightening but caring roommate and Daemon, the demon that Dee worked for who actually had some depth to him. The characters are why I kept reading.

But let’s not lie. This whole demons plot thing was excellent. It was interesting and the world building surrounding it was well done. I was invested in it and the consequences that came with even one foul step. It was just great.

Like I said earlier, this book is also powerful. It looks at themes of what it means to live, what makes a life worth living, and how far we’ll go to survive. It was really great.

The book wasn’t perfect (there are a few plot holes that never got properly explained, in my opinion), but it was so entertaining.

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Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe, #2)

Image result for thunderheadFirst Lines: How fortunate am I among the sentient to know my purpose.  I serve humankind.  I am the child who has become the parent.  The creation that aspires toward creator.

The first book in this series was all-consuming, to the point where I didn’t get a whole lot done after I started reading it.  I had a feeling (and a hope) that this one would be similar in that respect.  At the time, I needed something that could help me escape the world.

Rowan and Citra, former friends, now sit on opposite sides of the Scythedom.  Rowan has gone rogue, serving up his own brand of vigilante justice as Scythe Lucifer, taking out corrupt scythes across the continent.  Citra, a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, wants to curb corruption from the inside out.  But this is harder than she thought it would be, as she’s struck down by “new order” scythes at every turn.  She realizes she can’t do this alone and turns to Scythes Curie and Faraday for help–but she also risks being “deadish” to talk to the Thunderhead for help.  But will the Thunderhead help or will it simply watch the destruction unfold?

I was thoroughly impressed.

From the moment I started this book, I was sucked into it. Something about Shusterman’s writing style with this series is just captivating. It didn’t matter if I read two paragraphs or twenty pages; I was always lost in it.

Part of it is because I actually really enjoy the idea of scythes and their supposedly humane gleanings in a perfect utopian world. I think that concept in itself is interesting, especially when you factor in the different facets of that utopian world. How they don’t understand greed and jealousy, how technology has perfected everything, how if they die in an accident it’s not even a true death. Everyone comes back. It’s just alien enough to actually feel realistic in a sense.

But it’s the characters who really sell this story. Everyone from the wise and compassionate scythes like Citra/Anastasia and Curie to the “villains” of the scythedom. Every character plays a role and every character totally sells it.  Seriously–you even understand where the villains come from even as you want to beat them to a pulp.  It’s really awesome.

Also, the suspense and plots twists in this are fantastic. It’s just incredible where this story ends up going. You do not see it coming.  This was one ending that I never ever would have predicted in any way, shape, or form.  Shusterman upped the ante on that one from where most YA goes.

So so good. I’m totally ready to see where this story goes next. If I know Shusterman, it’s about to get really weird.

Split Second (Pivot Point, #2)

splitsecondFirst Lines: My car sat on the far side of the parking lot, and I couldn’t get to it fast enough.

I’ve had this from the library for something like, oh, a month and a half.  I just never felt in the mood for it, you know?  I’m really struggling with getting into the mood for certain books lately.  I can’t tell if I’m reading too many of a certain genre or if my tastes are changing slightly.  Anyway, I decided to get this read.

*Potential Series Spoilers*

With all of the horrible things that have happened lately, Addie can’t believe that she chose this future when she looked ahead.  Why would she want to be betrayed by her best friend, used by her boyfriend, and devastated by her parents’ divorce?  And that’s not even the worst of it when her ability begins to change.  She’s always been able to Search the future when presented with a choice, but now she can slow down time…but not without pain.  When Addie’s dad invites her to Dallas for winter break, Addie jumps at the chance to get away.  It’s in Dallas that she meets the handsome and familiar Trevor.  When Trevor begins to notice strange things about Addie, his interest in her turns to suspicion, much to Addie’s dismay.  Meanwhile, Addie’s BFF Laila has the power to restore Addie’s memory…if only she learns how.  The only person who can help is the infuriating Connor, a bad boy who seems immune to her charms.  Both of them need to hurry because if they don’t, the future could be an awfully different place…

I can sum this book up in five words: a swing and a miss.

Look, I adore Kasie West’s contemporary romances.  They are charming and funny and heartfelt.  But this?  I just cannot get into it.  It has very little of the humor I’ve come to expect from West and–this book especially–lacks the heartfelt romance that I was hoping would be here.  What romance was present felt forced and fake.  Contrived.  Too much tell, not enough show.

The characters themselves aren’t bad.  I generally like Addie and Trevor and Laila.  (I say generally because there are times when they do start to bother me a bit.)  Connor’s actually probably the most interesting character, maybe because I didn’t meet him in the last book.

I think part of the problem might be the narration.  It bounces back and forth between Laila and Addie.  I had this problem with the last book too, when it just bounced between Addie’s two futures.  Something about it just feels disjointed, like I’m not getting the full story.

And the action felt like it was all loaded into the end of the story.  There wasn’t much at the beginning that really kept my attention.  There were some times I really felt like I didn’t know what was going on, so that’s never good.

I never felt like Laila’s plot was fully wrapped up.  I felt like I was missing so much about her life because, even though she tells half the story, it all still really focuses on Addie.  And all the stuff with Connor just felt lacking.  I wish there’d been more to it because that had been promising.

I think from now on, I’ll stick strictly to West’s contemporary romances.

Ruins (Partials Sequence, #3)

9780062071101First Lines: “This is a general message to the residents of Long Island.”  The first time they heard the message, nobody recognized the voice.

I have such a hard time actually finishing off series, and I don’t know why.  I’m always reluctant to do it, even if it’s a series I’m not in love with.  But with this sitting on my shelf, I figured it was better to read it now before I forgot what happened in the other books.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Actually, this one is so complex (and vague) that I’m just going to copy it from Goodreads: Kira, Samm, and Marcus fight to prevent a final war between Partials and humans in the gripping final installment in the Partials Sequence, a series that combines the thrilling action of The Hunger Games with the provocative themes of Blade Runner and The Stand.

There is no avoiding it—the war to decide the fate of both humans and Partials is at hand. Both sides hold in their possession a weapon that could destroy the other, and Kira Walker has precious little time to prevent that from happening. She has one chance to save both species and the world with them, but it will only come at great personal cost.

So here’s what I liked about this one.  I liked that there was still a ton of action.  Loads of explosions, guns, secrets, and betrayals.  There was always something happening and rarely a dull moment.

The story is told through those constantly changing narrators again, shifting from everyone like Kira, Samm, Marcus, and Haru to Tovar and even a Partial we’ve never met before.  With everyone spread out across Long Island and beyond, this was basically the only way to get the whole story told.  (Though I will admit that certain chapters, like the ones told by that new Partial, were boring to me.)

But Kira really started to get on my nerves this time around.  Sure, in the other books she has something of a hero complex.  If someone’s got to do something dangerous, she’s going to do it to protect her friends and family.  I get it.  But by the time we get to the end of this book, she’s on a full-on martyr mission.  She is basically throwing herself in front of bullets just to say she’s protecting people.  To me, she’s lost her heroic edge when she starts doing this.  This comes off as desperate and even selfish because she absolutely will not allow anyone else to do the same thing she’s trying to do.  I still admire her strength and cleverness, but this hero complex just went too far.

And the ending was totally anti-climactic.  You know how usually when you get to the end of a book, you’re on the edge of your seat just waiting for the final twist?  I had about 0 pages of the book one night when I went to bed and absolutely no idea how the book would wrap up.  I really think it brings something to the book when you have an idea what’s going to happen in the final showdown.  Like Harry against Voldemort, we had been anticipating that for the entire book, if not the books prior to it.  We knew it was coming.  But to not even know who the villain would be to fight off in this finale?  It was weird and totally killed any suspense the ending would have had.

I really wish I had better things to say about this book, but it just wasn’t the same.  Even Samm, who I adore, felt different this time around.  He actually seemed kind of rude at times.  The only character who really stayed the same was Marcus, whose dry humor and amazing comic timing helped to keep the story light.

While it was good, I was expecting so much more from a series finale.

Pivot Point (Pivot Point, #1)

pivot-point-westFirst Lines: “Heads up,” a loud voice called from my right.  I looked up just in time to see a football smack me right right between the eyes.

I’m a total Kasie West fan for her contemporary romances.  I loved On The Fence and The Distance Between Us.  So I thought, hey, maybe I’d check out her debut novel, even though it’s a sci-fi.  It has to be full of yummy romance scenes, right?

Addison’s life is full of possibilities.  As a Searcher, she can see the consequences of every choice she makes.  It’s the best way to avoid a social disaster…or, that’s what she thought before her parents announced their divorce.  Now Addie has a choice: live with her mother in the Compound where she can continue to use her powers or live among the “Norms” with dad.  Addie loves the Compound, so the answer should be easy, right?  A quick Search proves otherwise.  One future has her adjusting to life outside of the Compound as a new girl in high school where she meets Trevor, a sensitive artist who gets her.  In the other, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school–but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend.  When Addie’s dad is asked to help with a murder inside the Compound, Addie is pulled into a dangerous game that threatens everyone she holds dear.  Choosing which path she’ll take comes down to what she can’t live without…

Due to school work, it took me almost 3 days to get more than 30 pages into this book.  That is ridiculously slow for me.  And yes, school work was a large part of why it was so hard for me to get into it, but I also struggled with the beginning.  I was really confused about the Compound and what Addie’s powers actually could do.  On top of that, the narration between the two futures Addie’s looking at took a while for me to settle into it.  It just threw a lot at me, I guess, and when I had a lot of other things I needed to be doing, it was really easy to push this aside.

But once I really started getting into the story, it grabbed me.  I really liked Trevor and the chemistry between him and Addie was ace.  And it was interesting to see how the two future paths lined up.  Similar events took place in each one, which helped me keep the timeline straight.

Most of the characters were pretty interesting.  I respected Addie, even if I didn’t always like her.  She’s a bit indecisive, and it was sometimes hard to get a handle on her when you’re jumping between two different futures.  She acts a bit different in one than the other.  But I definitely like Trevor a lot.  That boy’s got it going on.

Was this my favorite read by Kasie West?  No.  That honor still belongs to On The Fence, easily.  But it was different and retained a lot of what I like about Kasie West’s writing.  And I will be reading the sequel soon, to see what happens.

Fragments (Partials Sequence, #2)

13170596First Lines: “Raise a glass,” said Hector, “to the best officer in New America.”

You know, it’s pretty rare for me to start a series once all the books are already out, so I’m actually kind of enjoying reading this series while I still remember what’s going on.  It’s an interesting experience, but one that’s definitely helpful for this convoluted series.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*  …I just misspelled “Potential” so it said “Poet”…

The fate of the human race rests on Kira’s shoulders.  She knows what cures RM, but no one can replicate it.  Determined to find more answers about RM, Kira sets off into the ruins of America.  It will not be any easy journey, but with the help of a few friends, can she find the answers she’s looking for?  Is she going to like those answers when she finds them?

Like I mentioned above, there’s a ton of complicated things that happen in this plot.  The story jumps between Kira, Marcus, and a slew of other characters, so it’s not just that you’re keeping track of what Kira finds–you also have what’s happening back in East Meadow.  Admittedly, I felt like the story was so much slower when anyone but Kira was narrating.  I got a bit bored sometimes when Marcus was telling it because it always seemed to cut into the middle of something major with Kira.

The characters are pretty awesome.  I definitely like Kira and her determination to do what she has to do for answers.  But the true star of this book is Samm.  I loved watching him struggle to understand human nature.  It’s just kind  of funny how foreign that is to him, and Kira always noticed when he was trying to imitate her.  It was funny.

I don’t always comment on this, but the setting was kind of stellar.  I mean, there are tons of movies and books that look at apocalyptic America.  I don’t know how many zombie movies I’ve seen with deserted cities, abandoned cars, and ransacked stores.  But this is the only one where it’s really seemed like the cities are falling apart and nature (and human inventions gone bad) is devastating the landscape.  Granted, this takes place 11 years after the “end of the world” while most of those movies are a few months after.  But the setting was unsettlingly real.

The plot is really intricate too.  I mean, there are so many little clues, so many little things that show up again later.  I caught some of them ahead of time, but it’s just always fun to know that there is so much going on in the plot.

The only complaint that I really have with this is that there are some characters who seemed to virtually disappear from the story.  I mean, they’re big enough characters that I know they’ll come back in the next book, but they were just gone after the first half of this book.  And I didn’t understand why.

Overall, this is really a thought-provoking read with a great cast of characters and scenes of delightful darkness.

Partials (Partial Sequence, #1)

partials-hc-c2First Lines: Newborn #485GA18M died on June 30, 2076, at 6:07 in the morning.  She was three days old.  The average lifespan of a human child, in the time since the Break, was fifty-six hours.

It’s like throw-back dystopian week over here.  This is a book that I truly had no intention of reading, except for the fact that one of my best friends from college is constantly telling me I needed to read this.  We tend to enjoy the same kind of books, except I lean more toward romances and she favors sci-fi, and neither one of us really likes to jump that divide.  But I finally picked it up going, “If I read this, I can finally get Heather off my back about it.”

Because the plot is a bit complicated, I’m going to copy the summary from Goodreads: Humanity is all but extinguished after a war with Partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island. But sixteen-year-old Kira is determined to find a solution. As she tries desperately to save what is left of her race, she discovers that that the survival of both humans and Partials rests in her attempts to answer questions about the war’s origin that she never knew to ask.

Playing on our curiosity of and fascination with the complete collapse of civilization, Partials is, at its heart, a story of survival, one that explores the individual narratives and complex relationships of those left behind, both humans and Partials alike—and of the way in which the concept of what is right and wrong in this world is greatly dependent on one’s own point of view.

I really hate to say this, but Heather was right.  I enjoyed this book a lot.  (Isn’t that always kind of galling?  Like you hate to be wrong, but you’re also happy about it??)

Kira definitely steals the spotlight in this book.  She’s tough and gutsy, always pushing to do what’s right.  She realizes what she needs to sacrifice in order to do something big like saving the human race from extinction.  Even when that path is filled with danger and possible death, she charges forward because someone has to and it might as well be her.  What I thought was interesting was that Kira isn’t necessarily the most physical, the smartest, or the most take-no-prisoners heroine, but she’s driven and determined.  That goes a long way to helping her throughout the story.  Sometimes bravery and determination get you farther than brains can.

And actually, the minor characters brought a lot to the story too.  They all felt really well-developed, which doesn’t always happen when there are a lot of characters.  I was really attached to characters like the warrior Jayden, the fierce Xochi, the charming Marcus, and the secretive Samm.  (There are also tons of minor characters with weird quirks: enter a man who shall remain nameless with his pet camel.)  They all helped make the story so much fun.

Also a good note?  There’s not a huge focus here on romance.  Surprisingly enough, Kira is not interested in finding love while she’s being shot at.  Crazy, I know.  (Please tell me you picked up on my sarcasm.)  There are some underlying character shifts that you know could lead something, but it’s not the crux of the book.  And that actually seemed to fit Kira’s personality and situation really well.

The plot really plays out well and comes together well.  …That sounds a bit strange.  But what I mean is that it was always so fast paced; there was always something going on.  Sometimes that came in political maneuvering, Kira figuring out why certain things are happening, or legit fights with explosions and weapons.  Something was always happening.  But it was always happening with a purpose, and it tied together really well at the end.

My reluctance toward this book really stemmed from the Partials.  I was afraid they were going to come across like aliens or something, humanoid in features but something truly Other, like in a 1960s B movie.  Turns out I didn’t need to worry about that.  The Partials are actually really interesting to read about.  They aren’t the alien-figures I thought they would be; they have depth.  Thank God.

Overall, this is actually a really good read.  It goes fast, it’s mysterious and funny, and it’s really hard to put down.