Review: Need by Carrie Jones

Review: Need by Carrie JonesNeed by Carrie Jones
Series: Need #1
Pages: 306
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
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Zara White suspects there's a freaky guy semi-stalking her. She's also obsessed with phobias. And it's true, she hasn't exactly been herself since her stepfather died. But exiling her to shivery Maine to live with her grandmother? That seems a bit extreme. The move is supposed to help her stay sane...but Zara's pretty sure her mom just can't deal with her right now.

She couldn't be more wrong. Turns out the semi-stalker is not a figment of Zara's overactive imagination. In fact, he's still following her, leaving behind an eerie trail of gold dust. There's something not right - not human - in this sleepy Maine town, and all signs point to Zara.

In this creepy, compelling breakout novel, Carrie Jones delivers romance, suspense, and a creature you never thought you'd have to fear.

Thoughts: I really, really enjoyed Need. I was grinning and clutching my heart for at least half of the book – it just sucked me in and refused to let me go until I was completely in love.

Need is a book about pixies – but there is also a lot more supernatural stuff going on in it. I don’t want to spoil the surprise (although Jones gives plenty of hints along the way.) Unlike Evernight, the surprise just made me love the book more. I literally jumped on my bed squeeing “I knew it!” when it came around!

Need has been compared to Twilight in many reviews. While I can see the similarity – new girl in a small, cold town discovers there is more to the world than what she sees – the difference is it the protagonist Zara. Although Zara is far from perfect. Her father’s death traumatised her into becoming pretty darn terrified of everything. She is extremely compassionate – she takes action to stop suffering, writes letters for Amnesty International, and genuinely cares about those suffering around the world.

The reason Need didn’t get 5 stars from me? The mechanical climax. Some of the characters veered too far out of character in order to get the plot moving. Even though Jones came up with a fascinating way to wrap up the plot, I wish she had been able to keep all the characters in tune with their previous behaviour.  It was a bit of a let down.

Bottom line? Need is a beautiful book – classy writing, a stunning setting and believable characters. Need is a definite must for all YA fans!

Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle MeadVampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Series: Vampire Academy #1
Published by Razorbill
Pages: 331
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Frostbite, Blood Promise

St. Vladimir's Academy isn't just any boarding school--it's a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They've been on the run, but now they're being dragged back to St. Vladimir's - the very place where they're most in danger...

Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy's ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi - the world's fiercest and most dangerous vampires - make Lissa one of them forever.

Thoughts: This is – truly – a brilliant book. I had thought all the hype around it was over-the-top… I was so wrong.

Vampire Academy is not like most YA novels – hell, like any novel I’ve read. Although there is plenty of teenage realism – mean girls, cliques, and inappropriate kissage – the characters are at the same time very, very different to us. What we consider normal is not what they do – and where we place our priorities also differs from them. It’s odd, to not agree with a character but still understand them.

In fact, there was a lot of that in this book. Our main character, Rose, is exactly what I wasn’t in high school. She flirts with everyone, goes out partying all the time, and makes out with guys she doesn’t even care about – just for the thrill. This reckless edge does settle itself a bit in Vampire Academy, but it is still there even when she is behaving. You could say she is of the “punch first, ask questions later” variety. And even though I don’t personally understand this, I understand her.

It’s weird.

Another really unique feature of Vampire Academy was the relationship between BFFs Lissa and Rose. You get this right from the start as Mead opens with a scene of the two of them. Although I literally swooned over both Dimitri and Christian, the Lissa/Rose bond was by far the strongest in the book.

The vampire universe also had a really nice twist to it. Mead managed to incorporate all sorts of issues – politics, drug abuse, and social class – into the verse without it seeming too contrived. She also managed to work in discussion about mental illness – which was an unexpected surprise. It is something I am very sensitive about, and I really appreciate authors who make an effort to get things right when they include it.

Bottom line? An amazing, addictive read. Mead creates gives a unique twist on vampires, and creates kick-ass characters to boot. Even if you are not a YA fan, go get yourself a copy!

This was the my (and final) read for the brilliant League of Reluctant Adults Mini-Challenge hosted over at Literary Escapism.  It’s been really fun – and I plan to do a little a wrap-up post to celebrate. ♥

Review: Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Review: Wicked Lovely by Melissa MarrWicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
Series: Wicked Lovely #1
Published by HarperTeen
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in the mortal world. Aislinn fears their cruelty-especially if they learn of her Sight-and wishes she were as blind to their presence as other teens. Now faeries are stalking her. One of them, Keenan, who is equal parts terrifying and alluring, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer.

But it's too late. Keenan is the Summer King, who has sought his queen for nine centuries. Without her, summer itself will perish. His is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost-regardless of her plans or desires. Suddenly none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe are working anymore, and everything is on the line: her freedom; her best friend, Seth; everything.

Faery intrigue, mortal love, and the clash of ancient rules and modern expectations swirl together in Melissa Marr's stunning twenty-first-century faery tale.

Thoughts: Wicked Lovely was, without a doubt, one of the most unique YA books I have read. First of all, there’s the universe. I was a bit nervous about the idea of faeries and was pleasantly surprised. Marr does not gloss over any of the horrors commited by faeries in traditional texts, and even encourages them by beginning each chapter with a quote about faery exploits. It was all appropriately horrific and enchanting.

Then there is the romance. Marr breaks the soul-mate stereotype I usually read in YA, and instead allows the people you love to be the ones you choose. Just because someone is destined to be the love of your life does not mean they are going to be!

Something else I appreciated was the realism of the (non-explicit) sex scenes. It is reassuring to read about a character – with an interesting sexual history – getting tested for STDs and waiting 6 months to ensure their accuracy. Perhaps that doesn’t sound romantic, but it was an absolutely heart-stealing scene.

Bottom line? Excellent read for young adults and adults alike – and a must it you are a fantasy fan!

Review: Hearts at Stake (aka My Love Lies Bleeding) by Alyxandra Harvey

Review: Hearts at Stake (aka My Love Lies Bleeding) by Alyxandra HarveyHearts at Stake (aka My Love Lies Bleeding) by Alyxandra Harvey
Series: The Drake Chronicles #1
Published by Bloomsbury, Walker Books for Young Readers
Pages: 256
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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On Solange’s sixteenth birthday, she is going to wake up dead. As if that’s not bad enough, she also has to outwit her seven overprotective older brothers, avoid the politics involved with being the only daughter born to an ancient vampire dynasty, and elude Kieran Black—agent of an anti-vampire league who is searching for his father’s killer and is intent on staking Solange and her entire family.

Luckily she has her own secret weapon—her human best friend Lucy—who is willing to defend Solange’s right to a normal life, whether she’s being smothered by her well-intentioned brothers or abducted by a power-hungry queen. Two unlikely alliances are formed in a race to save Solange’s eternal life—Lucy and Solange’s brother Nicholas, and Solange and Kieran Black—in a dual romance that is guaranteed to jump start any romance-lover’s heart.

Thoughts: Hearts at Stake is a fun debut novel but don’t set the bar too high when you pick it up. The action was entertaining, but not all that memorable. Plot turns and twist were all over the place, and kinda hard to follow. The world building consisted of tell-and-no-show. And as for the romance, well, both pairings fell flat.

But it was still an entertaining read! Harvey has a tongue-in-cheek style that I enjoyed – and we have to give her serious credit for creating the most violent vegetarian (Lucy) I have ever read! I also loved the relationship between the two narrators: best friends, Lucy and Solange. They are fiercely protective of each other, but extremely different. They work very well together, as whatever one of them lacks the other makes up for. It was a lovely dynamic!

It was released in the US with the cover/title you see before you… but in the UK they decided to rename it to My Love Lies Bleeding and gave it a Twilightesque cover. Usually I like the changes made by UK publishers, but not this time.

Hearts at Stake is a light-hearted, funny read. So although there is a lot of life-threatening violence… it is light-hearted violence! (If that makes any sense.) So, if you can, try to get a US copy (I got mine from Fobidden Planet in London) so that the content matches the cover!

Bottom line? This was a fun, light-hearted read – but I was not particularly in love. Pick it up if you are looking for a fast-and-fun read! The next book in the series, Blood Feud, is out in July.

Review: Firespell by Chloe Neill

Review: Firespell by Chloe NeillFirespell by Chloe Neill
Series: Dark Elite #1
Published by Penguin on 2010-01-05
Pages: 256
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
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Also in this series: Hexbound

New Girl. New School. Old Evil. From the author of the Chicagoland Vampires novels. A new series about a boarding school filled with something worse than homework. Lily's parents have sent her to a fancy boarding school in Chicago filled with the ultra-rich. If that wasn't bad enough, she's hearing and seeing bizarre things on St. Sophie's creepy campus. Her roommate, Scout, keeps her sane, but keeps disappearing at night. When one day Lily finds Scout running from real-life monsters, she learns the hard way that Scout is involved in a splinter group of rebel teens. They protect Chicago from demons, vamps, and dark magic users. It's too bad Lily doesn't have powers of her own to help. At least, none that she's discovered yet...

Thoughts: Wow!

I picked up Firespell for the Debut YA Author Challenge – and boy am I glad I did! I had heard of Chloe Neill’s Adult Series, but nothing about them seemed to pique my interest. So I thought I’d test out her YA debut before I dove into the Chicagoland books.

Unlike a lot of YA out there right now, Firespell is based more around Lily and her new universe – rather than around her relationship with a boy. Although there is certainly a love interest  (and I think I am right in foreseeing a future love triangle), her relationships with her BFF Scout and her absent parents take center stage.

Although I loved the universe and whatnot, what stole the show for me was Lily.  She is insanely awesome – a sarcastic, sensitive, vegetarian, fashionista. If people call her a weirdo, she’ll just role her eyes and make some fabulously insightful comment. And her banter with Scout made me laugh out loud countless times!

Scout was another great character – a punky, funny, wanna-be-politician.  She talks tough but is an amazing softie. Lily and Scout make the perfect duo.

But gosh, there are so many mysteries left by the end of the book. And although we get a nicely wrapped up ending – no cliffhangers here – there are still so many things I want to know! I cannot wait for the next book… and the book after that…. and the book after that…

Bottom line?  This book is a must for all readers! Especially if you liked Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampires Series! (BTW, anyone who compares it to the HoN series is out of their mind – completely different!)

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