Passenger (Passenger, #1)

Passenger (Passenger, #1)

First Lines: The amazing thing was, each time she looked at them, Etta still saw something new–something she hadn’t noticed before.

You know, I have like every Alexandra Bracken series on my to-read list, and yet I’ve never read any of her books. It’s actually weird, I think, that I did that? Because clearly she writes things that sound interesting and yet I’d never taken the time? I’m working on remedying that. Obviously. Since I read this.

Etta is a violin prodigy with her entire world about to open to her…until one night she loses everything. Literally pushed into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with her own agenda, Etta quickly realizes she’s traveled not just miles but years from home. Nicholas is content to be sailing the sea–and avoiding the influential Ironwood family in the colonies, a family that kept him as a slave for a time. But an unusual passenger on his ship makes him wonder if he’s actually escaped the past and the Ironwoods. Because the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, and they believe Etta is the only one who can find it. To protect her, Nicholas has to do what the Ironwoods ask and bring the object back–whether Etta wants to or not. Journeying across time and continents, Etta begins putting together clues she didn’t know she knew. But as Etta and Nicholas get closer to the truth, the more forces will try to keep them apart–forever.

Good news is that I did enjoy this. I thought the time travel was fun, the characters were interesting, and the action/danger was more than enough to keep me reading.

Let’s start with the characters. Etta starts the story as a violin virtuoso (I would say prodigy like the description, but I must have a different definition of “prodigy” because that doesn’t seem to fit for me) about to perform in a big concert at the Met. She’s nervous and unsure of herself, but that’s probably the last time I would describe her that way. Once she’s forced to time travel, she becomes a very brave, very commanding person. She knows what she needs to do and she’ll jump headfirst into danger if she needs to.

And Nicholas is the voice of reason…most of the time. As a person of mixed race in 1776, his options in life are extremely limited. However, he’s made a name for himself in the sailing world and just wants to be left alone by the Ironwood family. Once he meets Etta, he tries to become her protector, especially since he knows exactly what danger she’s diving headfirst into. The dynamic between Nicholas and Etta was just incredible. Factor in how they’re both products of their time and their disagreements take on a new angle. It’s fun.

It was definitely interesting seeing where they jumped around to in time. Some places were obvious, perhaps, as places time travel stories seem to go to, but I was happy to see that it did also go off the beaten path. (We go to some unexpected places in Asia!) And trying to blend in in each place was interesting to see as well.

My only advice if you’re planning on reading this is to not look too closely at the sci fi portions of the story. Personally, I don’t think some of them add up. If I focus on those things, then I start forgetting just how much I enjoyed this journey. And enjoy it I did. So many elements of this were just so fun or entertaining that I really can’t wait to read the next book. 

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.

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.