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Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Boys, 3) by Maggie Stiefvater

Blue-Lily-Lily-Blue Blue Lily, Lily Blue

Continuing the Raven Boys cycle, Maura Sargent, Blue’s mother, has gone missing, looking for Blue’s long-lost father, buried underground in a cave along the ley line, leaving behind the mess of her new former assassin boyfriend Mr. Gray. Meanwhile Adam is learning how to be a wizard from Persephone and help Cabeswater. In trying to scry or find out more information about Maura, Persephone and Calla can only tell them that there are three sleepers buried underground. One they should wake, one they may wake, and one they should not. Though Blue and the Raven Boys (Gansey, Adam, Noah, and Ronan) attempt to try and go into a cave to find Maura, Gansey’s severe allergy to bees hampers their exploration. Luckily, Gansey’s friend Dr. Malory, complete with Dog, has come for a visit to try and study their ley line and see if he can offer any assistance. When they finally deduce where another cave entrance is, they meet a local man, Jesse, and learn of the “curse” on his cave, discovering within its depths a semi-entranced girl, found to be none other than Glendower’s illegitimate daughter, Gwenllian, who is half-mad and full little nuggets of truth wrapped deep in riddles. As they get closer to discovering Maura and the sleepers, a new danger is revealed in Henrietta in the form of Mr. Gray’s former employer, Greenmantle, who has taken the vacant position of Master of Latin at Aglonby Academy, and who is also intent upon finding his target, the Graywaren, and seeking revenge upon Mr. Gray. While Greenmantle, helped by some goons and his sharp yet secretive and glamorous wife Piper, learns more about Maura and her disappearance, he also discovers more about the caves and mysteries along the ley line. The final chapters bring death, magic, surprise, and a resolution before leaving you desperately waiting for the final installment The Raven King, delayed until March 2016.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve finished this, but I am still half in love with this series! I was crying, laughing, and (as I was listening to the audiobook, which is fabulous by the way) dying to keep reading when I needed to work. My favorite new character was Malory, who as an older British gentleman with a dry wit, made me laugh aloud continuously. I find myself just as entranced and annoyed with Gwenllian as Blue seems to be, and (!!!) I didn’t even cover how Blue and Gansey’s relationship changes in this third book! Which brings me to one of the things I am most impressed with in this series, how Maggie manages to make each character (because honestly, there are many main characters here) dynamic as they change throughout each book and overarc into the series as a whole. It is positively spellbinding, delightful, and deliciously dirty (literal dirt and strong language dirty only), and really is a treat for older teen readers and adults alike.

 

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Author Spotlight: Gayle Foreman

One of the foremost authors of realistic/dramatic fiction for teens, and amazing at writing stories that take place in a short period of time.

41rEe4pc3yL__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ If I Stay – “A heart-wrenching novel about a teen with a tough choice to make–one that means life and pain or death.” 

Seventeen-year-old Mia teeters on the edge of her future. She desperately desires to go to Juilliard since she is a very talented cellist, but longs to stay with her boyfriend Adam, who goes to college near home and is in a rising rock band. But all of this hoping and dreaming is cut short when Mia and her family get in a horrific car accident. Mia has an out-of-body experience and watches as her parents are pronounced dead and her own badly injured body is taken to the hospital. She doesn’t know what has happened to her little brother Teddy. In the aftermath that follows, spirit-Mia watches as her family and friends react to the news and urge her to get better, but all the while she is weighing what living will cost and what death will mean. Will her love of music, Adam, and her remaining family give her enough to live for or will the grief cause her to give up? This book will make you reevaluate your relationships with your family and your friends and your goals for the future, while also showing how music can deeply influence our whole selves.

8492825 Where She WentSequel to If I Stay following Adam’s journey after Mia’s accident.

After Mia’s horrible car accident, Adam plays Mia her cello music and begs her to live. What he doesn’t realize is how the entire experience changed their relationship and that their future is more uncertain than before. When Mia leaves for Juilliard, Adam is left in stasis as Mia, the one thing he’s lived for, is now gone, though she plans to return at winter break. When she begins ignoring him and doesn’t come back, Adam spirals into depression only transmuted into anger when Mia’s bff Kim attempts to make contact. Kim’s pity and Mia’s cruelty sends Adam into a maelstrom of rage, hurt, and betrayal that fuels his creativity until the band Shooting Star is at the top of the billboard charts. It’s been three years since Mia+Adam, and Adam is dating a famous actress, hounded by paparazzi and haunted by his broken heart. He is a ghost, and so deeply hurt that everything from before reminds him of Mia, including the band with whom he’s grown distant. One night before Adam leaves for an 8 week overseas tour, he fatefully sees a poster announcing renowned cellist Mia Hall is playing a concert and buys a ticket. When Mia asks to see him, they meet and are almost driven to discover whether they were just a tragic first love or only starcrossed young lovers who might have a beautiful future.

A unique perspective of a crippling tragedy and the heavy burden it would be to live, but also the power of music and love to give a new beginning.

Forman-Just-One-Day Just One Day  – “One day of risk and romance gives Allyson freedom to be herself and changes her life forever.”

Allyson is on a summer trip through Europe with a private tour company for teens and it’s one of her last nights, watching Othello in Stratford-upon-Avon at the Globe. She isn’t ready to go back home without having an adventure, and when a cute boy asks her to come watch an amateur rendition of Twelfth Night, she sneaks away to watch. The boy, playing Sebastien, is phenomenal, but that’s enough adventure for Allyson for one day. . . Until she meets him on the train the next day. Suddenly, she’s en route to Paris with a dashing Dutch boy named Willem, who has re-christened her “Lulu” after one of his favorite actresses. Freelance actor and wanderer, Willem and Lulu have a magical day together–discovering they share an unexplainable connection and romance. Then, when she wakes up the next morning, Willem is gone, leaving no note, and Allyson panics, thinking he’s abandoned her in a foreign place. When she returns home, she finds her time as Lulu has changed her and she doesn’t want to be the “before” Allyson anymore. She begins trying to discover her real identity, her hopes and desires, and then, tries to find the boy that gave her the courage to be her true self.

Allyson battles depression and an identity crisis, but gains her strength in attending college and exploring some of the things she loved in France. Confronting her lack of skill brings her around to a new beginning as a confident woman intent on finding out what happened to her one time love, taking her through France to the Netherlands in search of Willem.

12842134 Just One Year   – “Sequel to Just One Day, Willem losing Lulu as quickly as he had found her moves him to embark on a journey to find her, and thereby find himself.”

When Willem met Lulu, it was one of those accidents of fate, he thought, similar to his parents first meeting and perhaps leading to something more. Their one day together seems to have woken Willem up, and he can’t stop thinking about what happened to her after his mishap that morning. He had gone out for food, just for a few minutes, and was caught by some enemies. Ending up in the hospital all day with a concussion and other injuries, by the time Willem made it back to the hostel, she was gone. Feeling even more lost, he goes back home where he faces the bleak heartache of his father’s death and his mother’s seeming abandonment. Crashing with friends, he keeps brooding on Lulu, and despite falling into another relationship–one he doesn’t much care about–he resolves to try and create another accidental meeting. With Broodje, his best friend, he travels back to Paris and Mexico in the hopes of meeting her. His search for Lulu brings him around to finding his own dreams, rekindling his relationship with his mother, and discovering his determination to succeed, yes, as his original talent, a Shakespearean actor.

justonenight Just One Night  – “Short novella resolving Just One Day and Just One Year. The ultimate accident of fate and the future of Willem and Allyson.”

Finally, Willem and Allyson are together, in the right space at the perfect time. They recount their journeys that led them to this meeting and explore whether they are meant to share a real future.

This 3 part series is possibly my favorite of Gayle Foreman’s books. I love the traveling, the romance, the personal sacrifices it takes Willem and Allyson to be together. Satisfying, even if it took a lot longer than say, a book by Stephanie Perkins.

18879761 I Was Here“A journey through unexpected, extreme grief due to suicide that transforms into one of self-discovery and reconciliation that slams with a sucker punch of forgiveness and the importance of asking for help.”

When Cody receives a death note from her best friend Meg describing her suicide, Cody can’t believe it. Her Meg would never have been one to kill herself. When doing a favor for Meg’s parents by cleaning out Meg’s college apartment room, Cody tries to dig a little deeper. What would cause her best friend to kill herself in a motel room by drinking industrial strength cleaner? Along her quest to find out what really happened, a judgmental Cody connects with Ben, Meg’s former friend and one-night-stand, and Alice, Stoner Richard, Tree, and Harry, Meg’s roommates. With their help, Cody maps Meg’s spiral into committing suicide, and through the revelation of events, comes to confront her own perception of herself and her relationships.

Note: I would not be surprised if this newest book from Ms. Forman wins something this year!

 

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Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

One of the new 2015 YA books you’ve likely heard some reviewer or publisher raving about, can be a quickly addicting fantasy.

Just announced as of June 11th, this book will be a film directed by Elizabeth Banks!

41xTH4whq9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Red Queen

In a war-ravaged country on the brink of a societal revolution, where Red blood means a life of servitude and/or enslavement to the elite Silvers with their inbred elemental gifts and Red lives fuel the campaign against neighboring enemies, Mare Barrow faces a certain destiny of becoming a solider like her brothers before her. In an attempt to be useful as something other than a body to die on a battlefield, Mare thieves what she can for a measly income for her family and orphaned friend, Kilorn. When Kilorn’s apprenticeship falls through, he faces a short life in the army too, something Mare can’t bear as she’s been taking care of him since they were young. Making a deal with some local rebels to spirit him away, Mare must come up with an astronomical amount of money, enough that would supply her family for a year. She enlists the help of her younger sister, Gisa, who is a talented apprentice for embroidery, much valued by the Silver ladies and who will one day have her own business, enough to set their family out of the lowest levels of poverty. With Gisa’s assistance, Mare can steal directly from the Silvers to obtain enough for Kilorn. Just as she is about to sneak away with her booty, news comes of a Red attack on the Silvers and it becomes a riot. Gisa’s hand is broken, and Mare has lost her only chance to save both her family and Kilorn. Hurt and raw with humilation, anger, and a desire for revenge with a devil-may-care attitude, she tries to steal whatever she can, running into a handsome and merciful stranger at a local pub. The next morning she is summoned to be a servant to the Silvers at the Queenstrial, an event where all noble female Silvers of a certain age compete for the Prince’s hand in marriage by displaying their elemental gifts to the full advantage. Just as the current favorite, Evangeline, is displaying her talent with metal and pulling the arena apart, Mare is thrown from her balcony onto the shield of lightning protecting the spectators from the competition. Facing certain death,by electrocution Mare is more than lucky to be unscathed from her fall until Evangeline attacks her. With only her hands as defense against Evangeline’s metal shards, she cowers and shockingly reveals a gift for lightning element as the metal shards are incinerated. To cover up the gross error that is a Red having Silver powers and to hedge himself against the growing Red rebellion, the King announces Mare is really Mareena, an orphaned noble Silver who has been raised by Reds, and will marry his second son, Prince Maven. Now Mare doesn’t even seem to know herself or her new role. She becomes embroiled in a plot to overthrow the Silvers while still learning of her own gifts, something only they can teach her. Though possessing legitimate ties to both sides of the conflict, Mare must decide for herself who is right, the Reds or the Silvers, and live accordingly, even if her choices lead to disastrous consequences for all…

So, to get this out of my system, one of the most frustrating things I found with this book was the jarring references to current technologies (elevators, etc.) in a world I was practically picturing as a medieval fantasy. It’s very possible it is more of a science fiction/fantasy/dystopian meld than borrowing from contemporary technological advances. In any case, the setting was just hard to ground and get a feel for, as well as the backstory. I really hope more of this will be clarified in further books. This allusion to anachromism and the almost predictable outcome of Mare and Maven were the only two negative things I came across, really. The set up of the society was intriguing with the Reds and Silvers: their blood, powers, and gap from wealthy to poor. Loved the descriptions of the Silvers’ powers and their fights. It read almost like a video game or comic book, like you were able to get a very vivid picture with the just words of all the action occurring. There were a few surprising twists towards the end, and it actually became more dystopian. In characters, Mare is believable, determined, and able to learn from her mistakes. I preferred Cal from the very beginning, and was very suspicious of Maven and the Queen. I never liked Kilorn, as he is more of a re-imagined Gale. Also, Red Queen had an adventurous Hunger Games feel like when Katniss is being evacuated from the second arena to District 13 as the action ramps up and Mare is running for her life. I can’t wait for the second book! When reading up on when the next book would come out, I noticed a fan reference a “Red Queen” theory, which Victoria Aveyard hinted that this had a very real connection to her story. Not sure how she will borrow from this reference, but I’m intrigued to discover it. I thought Red Queen would have more to do with her blood and her actually becoming queen, so I was delighted to be wrong! Totally worth it to check this book out, especially since it will become a movie at some point!

Check out some quotes from the book posted by EpicReads and take the quiz they have to see what’s your Red Queen power!

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Note: I will be leaving for San Francisco this weekend to attend ALA Annual! Am super pumped to be meeting some fabulous authors (Rae Carson! Leigh Bardugo! Marissa Meyer! Scott Westerfeld! and more!) and hope to have much to gush about when I return! Expect that note at some point in July, but not for the first week or so!

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2015 in Fantasy, Young Adult/Teen

 

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The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

A really fantastic fantasy series, one you won’t want to miss (like I did for a while)!

shadow-and-bone_hi-res-677x1024 Shadow and Bone

As the nation of Ravka is burdened from wars on all borders and a magical blight known as the Shadow Fold scars the center of the country from its western half, a hope emerges in an unlikely heroine. Orphaned as a child, Alina Starkov has only counted on one thing in her hard life, her best friend Malyen “Mal” Oretsev. When he joins the Ravkan First Army, she goes with him and is apprenticed as a mapmaker. As part of the First Army, including Mal and Alina, crosses the Fold, a magic-created hellhole of darkness populated by winged man-eating beasts called volcra, they are attacked. Mal is about to be killed by a volcra when Alina attempts to save him. Her strikes are feeble and don’t stop the horde amassing against them. As she is about to be ripped away and killed with Mal, a hidden power unleashes from her to save them all just as Alina goes unconscious. Upon waking, she is named one of the Grisha, an elite group of magic wielders, and she is the lone Sun Summoner among hundreds. The leader of the Grisha, the Darkling, who powers her elemental opposite, that of darkness, orders her sent to the capital, and Alina is torn from everything familiar, having just learned her entire identity is a lie and that she will be hunted down by ruthless assassins from other nations. Once at the capital, she struggles to make friends, since her strong, rare gift and the abnormal discovery of her powers set her apart from the other Grisha. Her only friend is Genya, a solitary Grisha servant who is in service to the Queen, but Genya is also holding on to her own secrets. With the Darkling trying to seduce her, the old crone Baghra trying to teach Alina to use her powers, and the armsmaster trying to beat some sword skills into her, Alina is overwhelmed and homesick. She’s tried to reach Mal but to no avail. With Alina’s gift miserably not working or maybe only the slightest, her only hope to try and make her gift powerful enough to save Ravka and its people from the horror of the Fold is to try and capture an elusive mystical stag whose antlers magnify a Grisha’s gift. Just when Alina thinks everything is falling into place, Mal comes and her world turns upside down. Alina must choose who is telling her lies, Mal or the Darkling, and just whose purpose does she truly serve?

14061955 Seige and Storm

As Alina and Mal try to escape the Darkling’s reach on Ravka’s western coast, Alina is haunted by her actions in the Fold, allowing people to be attacked and killed just so she could save herself and Mal. Posing as common folk, Alina tries to keep her identity a secret, but their past catches up with them eventually. The Darkling comes for them, sporting a new power from the events at the Fold where he can create corporeal unstoppable shadow beings. Being captured by the Darkling and his loyal Grisha this time takes them onboard a ship bound for a sea north of Ravka to find a magical leviathan whose scales will further amplify Alina’s powers. Just when they are about to lose hope that Alina will be enslaved to the Darkling and Ravka will fall entirely under his thumb, their notorious privateer captain, Sturmhond, outwits the Darkling and his army, saving Alina, Mal, and the leviathan’s amplifier with a secret ship and Grisha crew. For their rescue, Alina and Mal are bound to Sturmhond to listen to his bargain to save Ravka but then they’re free to choose their way. Despite wanting her freedom, Alina feels her duty lies in helping her country and her fellow man, and she allies herself with Sturmhond. In enlisting her help, Alina has requested to find the third Morozova’s amplifier, a firebird, and be leader of the Second Army of Grisha, or what’s left of it. Together, Sturmhond and Alina’s influence inspires the people of Ravka, for they have been worshiping the Sun Summoner since the events of the Fold, against the Darkling. Mal is left to be Alina’s strong and trustworthy right hand and captain of her guard. As Alina learns to become a leader and tries to fortify the Second Army for their inevitable fight ahead, she faces a choice with a double-edged sword. Her power is growing and so it seems is a sort of connection to the Darkling, but this drives her away from Mal. Either way, she is losing, but what is worth the greater cost in the battle against the Darkling’s evil and all-encompassing destruction?

14061957 Ruin and Rising

Alina has failed and the Darkling has risen to ultimate power in the capital. He now rules all of Ravka from his shadow throne as Alina, much weakened and practically deathly ill, is in hiding underground with the overzealous Apparat (high priest of Ravka) as her power-mad puppeteer. His followers are all enthralled to the Sun Summoner cult, and Alina’s friends are beaten down and practically destroyed. Only a mere remnant of the former formidable Second Army remains. Desperate to escape the moldy, incense-laden tunnels controlled by the Apparat, Alina, who is slowly–slowly recovering, and her loyal few manage a surprising coup to blackmail the Apparat and escape to the northwest, taking a grueling journey to eventually make contact with their ally, Prince Nikolai. There, in the high reaches of a snowy mountain pass officially on enemy territory, Alina finally learns the true extent of her power but is still determined to find the firebird and stop the Darkling once and for all. Just when you think the tide will really turn, the Darkling’s forces attack and many are killed while Prince Nikolai is turned into a volcra. Alina, Mal, and a few favorite characters travel to find the firebird and stop the Darkling, for what other choice do they have but let Nikolai and the others have died and suffered in vain. Mal’s unique tracker abilities have known no match and they do not fail now. Upon finding the firebird, Alina learns one final lesson, that to find and embrace the last amplifier will mean a great sacrifice. Will Alina bend and take the third amplifier and defeat the Darkling once and for all despite the great personal risks or are they always doomed to fail?

91v7vX+P9SLFrom world-building to character creation to plot twists, I was blown away by this series! Just when I was terrified to read on and sure to meet tragedy, I was breathless with excitement at finding them reasonably (and believably) unscathed and rescued from danger. I don’t know how she did it (almost) every time! Just for your sake, I kept out many of the key spoilers (though I could have easily revealed a few of them). One of the biggest debates in this series is which male to root for! Many first readers fall into the trap of loving the Darkling and being seduced by him just as much as Alina is in Shadow & Bone. Careful with this one! The Darkling is oh-so-temptingly evil for a reason! So, in case you’re looking for a weekend series read, definitely try this one as it is a satisfying and inventive fantasy.

So excited to read her new book, Six of Crows, coming out September 2015 set in the same world. Strikes me as very Stiefvater-esque ala The Raven Boys in the title, certainly.

P.S. Team Nikolai!

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2015 in Adventure, Fantasy, Young Adult/Teen

 

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The Shades of London series, 1-3 by Maureen Johnson

13595639  The Name of the Star

Rory Deveraux is beginning boarding school in London, far away from her tiny hometown in Louisiana since her parents decided to move to England during her senior year. It’s no surprise that she’s having a bit of trouble adjusting to life at Wexford, but she’s really enjoying most of the experience, though she hates field hockey and almost choked to death at dinner.  Her roommate Jazza is likeable too, but the worst thing is when a murder occurs nearby the school. It isn’t just a random murder, however. It seems to be a recreation of a famous Jack the Ripper killing, one where the security cameras didn’t catch a thing. As the city dissolves into the mayhem and drama of a copycat serial killer, Rory doesn’t realize she’s somewhat involved until she witnesses something funny and is questioned by police. Now, she’s gotten a police detail and another roommate, but also starts a relationship with the cute boy who is sort of a history nerd on Jack-the-Ripper. As Rory delves further into the murders and begins helping with the investigation, this comes with a consequence and it could be. . .deadly.

15721638 The Madness Underneath

After her near death experience and trauma from the Jack-the-Ripper copycat murders, Rory has been taken out of school to recover and analyze her experiences with her new therapist. Only, she can’t tell her therapist the truth–1) that she can see ghosts, 2) that’s what tried to kill her, and, 3) oh yeah, that she can also zap them away now too (special terminus powers). But when Julia suggests Rory go back to Wexford, Rory is taken by complete surprise as she thought that’s the last thing they would let her do. Still, she is happy to be reunited with her friends, both the ones at school and the ones in the secret branch of the London police that deal with ghosts–namely Stephen, Callum, and Boo. Soon after she returns, Charlotte, a girl Rory rather didn’t like, convinces her to try her new therapist since she’s done wonders with Charlotte herself. Rory meets Jane Quaint, and strange things happen to her, even stranger than usual. Which is sad, because now usual means there’s an odd murder, which there is, and Rory is investigating it. But when it seems that Rory is about to get kicked out of school, she breaks down and gets herself kidnapped. Feeling like her world is falling about her ears, Rory discovers just how strong she is and how her real friends will try to save her, no matter what.

819NVqmkNDL The Shadow Cabinet

After having just become romantically involved with Stephen before he was killed and forcing some supernatural occurrence at his death bed, Rory is determined to find his ghost. After no luck, she and her friends are left in a great muddle of depressed grief and lost among secrets. Rory herself is in a lot of danger as 1) she is still reported missing, 2) Jane and her minions are after her, and 3) they have Charlotte, Rory’s former schoolmate. Struggling to see the connections without Stephen’s ingenuity and still stubborn as ever to make her own choices, Rory mucks about with Stephen’s ghost contacts, landing herself trapped and at the mercy of former boyfriend Jeremy and new friend Freddie. The team and Rory’s new handler, Mr. Thorpe is none too pleased about her disobedience and rescue. Still, he vets Freddie to join them, and she proves to be a wealth of knowledge, helping them discover Jane’s real mission — to wake her sleeping (creepy, magical, murdering) friends from their almost death. To do so, Jane needs Rory herself and a special stone, one that is key to protecting all of London from the realm of the dead. The most surprising find is that Stephen’s fate is similar to Jane’s sleeping friends, and Rory must choose whether to save him and thereby fulfill Jane’s wishes or lose him forever. . .

After Stephen’s death I was teetering on the edge of “no way, if he’s gone, I’m not reading this” and “might as well see if she spirals into depression,” and I was completely unprepared for the twists this last book had in store! Thank goodness I kept reading! From the first novel, the Ripper mystery and fear for Rory really caught you up, and in the second, Rory’s identity crisis and breakdowns keep you reading, but by the third, I was driven on by a pure need to know if my favorite character was truly dead and whether Rory would get any sort of happy romantic relationship. Murders and ghosts and kidnappings and. . . I get tied up by the romance and a need to save the hero (or heroine). *sigh* It figures.

Note: violence and sexual circumstances

This book is perfect for middle grades on up through high school. I really enjoyed the historical references and the book itself, even if it just doesn’t quite make it to rock-your-socks-off awesome. It certainly is a new twist on ghostly paranormal YA, and I can’t wait to read book 4!

 

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