Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Review: Reboot

Reboot #1
Amy Tintera
Young Adult/Dystopian
352 pages
Available May 7th
Received via Edelweiss for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).

Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.

The perfect soldier is done taking orders.

Dark and gritty, Reboot presents us with a very different possibility for life after death, one of rigid control, demanded compliance, and excessive violence. It's made clear to us early on that Reboots are considered less-than; their human deaths a temporary end for them physically, but to the rest of society, it's a permanent end to them mentally and emotionally as well. Our anger ignites almost instantly as we follow Wren through the cold and brutal world that rewards ruthlessness and disposes of weakness, teeth grinding at the pain Reboots experience each day in the name of “training”, hoping against hope that the little girl who is the strongest of them all will bring this world to its knees in the coming pages.

Wren, having been dead for a full 178 minutes before her body rebooted, is the most feared and revered Reboot in her facility (and as far as we can tell, in any of the Reboot facilities). She's extraordinarily lethal and seemingly merciless, carrying out assignment after assignment with ease even as other Reboots fall dead at her feet during the course of the same mission. We worry initially that what everyone says about Reboots is true–the longer they're dead, the less humanity left in them–but it doesn't take long before we see the lie for what it is; simply a way to instill fear of Reboots in the human population and yet another way to manipulate them into feeling inferior. Wren is neither cold nor unfeeling, and her hesitant steps into back into the world of human emotion from the lonely existence of the world's best soldier are a joy to watch, each page tightening the grip she has on our hearts.

Callum is a young man we don't really know all that much about even after we reach the last page, but his unshakable positivity and infectious personality win us over easily, and we simply can't keep ourselves from falling a little in love with him when a smile crosses his face at a time it should be contorted in pain. He bears his horrifying training with a humor we are nearly one hundred percent sure we wouldn't be able to conjure in his shoes, and his unrelenting campaign to show Wren she isn't what the numbers tattooed on her wrist tell her she is has us rooting for the two of them from the onset. Their relationship progresses fascinatingly as Callum gives a little humanity back to Wren and Wren puts a little fight in Callum, and we find ourselves grinning stupidly at their initial interactions and then sighing loudly as their affection deepens, grateful to Ms. Tintera for sparing us unnecessary angst and premature declarations of love.

One of the only small quibbles keeping this first installment from a higher rating is the relative ease with which Wren and Callum get in and out of certain high-risk situations, but we so desperately want to see them succeed that it's hard to do anything but say a quiet thank you when they emerge on the side of life from one of their many life and death situations. The ending is also a touch abrupt, adrenaline still pumping sweet and fast through our bodies when we suddenly find ourselves on the last page, leaving us just a little off kilter for a little while after reading. Overall though, Reboot is a beautifully electrifying beginning to this series, grabbing us by the throat from page one and never easing in its grip until we reach the end, breathless and gasping for more.

Rating: 4/5
More information on Amy and Reboot can be found here:

Monday, April 29, 2013

Review: The Ward

The Ward #1
Jordana Frankel
Young Adult/Dystopian
480 pages
Katherine Tegen Books
Available April 30th
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Sixteen-year-old Ren is a daredevil mobile racer who will risk everything to survive in the Ward, what remains of a water-logged Manhattan. To save her sister, who is suffering from a deadly illness thought to be caused by years of pollution, Ren accepts a secret mission from the government: to search for a freshwater source in the Ward, with the hope of it leading to a cure.

However, she never expects that her search will lead to dangerous encounters with a passionate young scientist; a web of deceit and lies; and an earth-shattering mystery that’s lurking deep beneath the water’s rippling surface.

The Ward presents us with yet another bleak look at a possible future, a world where an airborne infection runs rampant, drinkable water is scarce despite entire cities being flooded, and the wealth of a few determines the fate of the many. While a disease-ridden post-apocalyptic setup is certainly nothing new, Ms. Frankel does create some very interesting elements given the prevalence of water, and while sometimes her obviously clear vision of this world doesn’t always translate for us as readers, there’s something fascinating about the pieces we are able to put together. The real strength of this story, however, lies in the characters themselves, our connection to them and their struggles overwhelming any confusion we experience with the world-building and ensuring we add this book to the list of series we wish to continue.

We initially meet Ren as a rough-and-tumble thirteen year-old who’s been raised in an orphanage and has watched as everyone around her gets adopted out. As a result, she makes absolutely no attempts to form attachments to anyone knowing they will inevitably leave her behind. Spending time with this younger version of Ren in the prologue gives us a much deeper understanding of the Ren we’re with for the remainder of the story, laying a beautifully painful foundation for the fight Ren is about to undertake in order to save the one girl who dodged, ducked, and destroyed every single one of Ren’s defenses to make her way straight into Ren’s heart.

Ren is as strong as they come (though she often thinks the opposite of herself), someone who would likely laugh in your face if you wanted to have a heart to heart, but who so clearly feels deeply an passionately about the select few people in her life. She projects a strictly superficial persona, letting people know only the things she wants them to know and nothing more, making our access to her fears, her pain, and her desperation to save Aven all the more intimate and profound. The extraordinarily subtle romance between her and longtime crush Derek is well-executed, the romance not a foregone conclusion as so many are in young adult fiction, but rather it's a quiet yet powerful connection pulsing with so many intricacies we quickly realize it could either progress into something meaningful or devolve into something dark and hurtful.

While the depth of Ren’s character does make up for a few of the drawbacks of this story, our love for her can’t act as a plug for every hole we find. There are some things about her past–particularly the fact that she is immune to the virus sweeping through the Ward as well as the reasons why she was never adopted–that plague us as we try and lose ourselves in this watery future. Additionally, there are several aspects of the world that are difficult to grasp because we simply can’t picture them; namely the way the mobiles Ren is so gifted at piloting actually race from rooftop to rooftop. There are a multitude of scenes depicting the races themselves and several action-packed sequences involving these vehicles, but given their complexity and the foreignness of how they work, we find ourselves distanced from the story during the times we should be holding our breath in anticipation. Overall though, I simply have to know what’s to come of Ren, Aven, and Derek, so I am eagerly anticipating book two.

Rating: World-building/plot – 3.5/5
Characters – 4/5

More information on Jordana and The Ward can be found here:

Friday, April 26, 2013

Interview: Stacey Kade + The Rules

Today I'm thrilled to welcome young adult author Stacey Kade to the blog to answer a few questions about her newest book, The Rules, which released from Disney Hyperion this week. I absolutely adored this story and would love it if it could go ahead and be 2014 already so I can get my hands on book two immediately. Patient I am not. What I am, though, is excited to have you all get to know Stacey as well as protagonists Ariane and Zane a little bit better with this interview, I hope you enjoy!

Ariane grew up in a cold, stark room where she could be observed at any hour of the day. If she could have made one small change to the space in order to personalize it knowing it would have gone unnoticed by the various doctors and lab techs, what would she have done?

My guess is, if she could have gotten away with it, she would have cut photos out of her books and magazines and put them on the wall, like they were people that she knew or places she’d been.

Let’s say Ariane has Dr. Jacobs to herself for 5 minutes during which she can ask him anything she wants and he has to answer truthfully. What’s her first question?

Who is (or was) my mother?

Ariane has an unwanted tattoo on her back marking her as a GTX experiment. If she walked into a tattoo parlor today to get a tattoo simply for herself, what might it look like?

If she got one at all, I think it would be the word “Mine” tattooed on the inside of her wrist, in small cursive/script-y letters. It would be sort of a counterbalance to the GTX mark on her back, a reminder that she is her own person, no one’s property.

Zane has a very difficult and demanding father who constantly weighs him against his older brother and finds him wanting. If he could choose a father from any other piece of fiction to swap for his own, even temporarily, whom might he pick?

Well, he’s not a father, technically—more of a mentor/father figure—but probably Obi-wan Kenobi, from the original Star Wars movies. The idea of someone believing in you a ridiculous amount so as to push you toward being brave and becoming your own man is probably something Zane would have liked to have.

Describe Ariane and Zane’s relationship using only song titles or lyrics.

"Take Me Out" by Atomic Tom
"ET" by Katy Perry
"This Love Will Be Your Downfall" by Ellie Goulding
"Ever After" by Marianas Trench

(Incidentally, all of these songs are from the playlist I used while writing the book.)

Ariane and Zane spend time at a school carnival on one of their “dates”. What is your favorite carnival ride or game?

I do love a good game of skee-ball! But mostly, I’m interested in the food—elephant ears, funnel cakes, yum.

I suddenly find myself with Ariane’s telepathic ability and am standing near you just as you start thinking hard about book two. What couple of words might I pick up from your mind as your gears turn?

Dr. Laughlin, hybrids, Ford, Carter, and Nixon. :)

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions Stacey!

• • • • • • • • • •


(photo: Vania Stoyanova)

As a former award-winning corporate copywriter, Stacey Kade has written about everything from backhoe loaders to breast pumps. But she prefers to make things up instead.

She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, Greg, and their two retired racing greyhounds, Tall Walker (Walker) and SheWearsThePants (Pansy).

• • • • • • • • • • 


1. Never trust anyone.

2. Remember they are always searching.

3. Don’t get involved.

4. Keep your head down.

5. Don’t fall in love.

Five simple rules. Ariane Tucker has followed them since the night she escaped from the genetics lab where she was created, the result of combining human and extraterrestrial DNA. Ariane’s survival—and that of her adoptive father—depends on her ability to blend in among the full-blooded humans in a small Wisconsin town, to hide in plain sight at her high school from those who seek to recover their lost (and expensive) “project.”

But when a cruel prank at school goes awry, it puts her in the path of Zane Bradshaw, the police chief’s son and someone who sees too much. Someone who really sees her. After years of trying to be invisible, Ariane finds the attention frightening—and utterly intoxicating. Suddenly, nothing is simple anymore, especially not the rules…

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Review: The Eternity Cure

Blood of Eden #2
Julie Kagawa
Paranormal Young Adult
446 pages
Harlequin Teen
Available April 30th
Received from publisher via NetGalley

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Allison Sekemoto has vowed to rescue her creator, Kanin, who is being held hostage and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren. The call of blood leads her back to the beginning—New Covington and the Fringe, and a vampire prince who wants her dead yet may become her wary ally.

Even as Allie faces shocking revelations and heartbreak like she’s never known, a new strain of the Red Lung virus that decimated humanity is rising to threaten human and vampire alike.

The Eternity Cure is a beautifully dark sequel, delving deeper into the brutal vampire world of which Allie is a newly fanged member, and peeling back the layers of beloved characters to expose the painful and vulnerable flesh underneath. Ms. Kagawa does a brilliant job of slowly bringing us up to speed as we follow Allie in her search for Kanin, reminding us of the details we may have forgotten since finishing The Immortal Rules in a way that doesn't interrupt the pacing at all, instead the little clues and hints we need to jog our memories are seamlessly integrated into present events. Many times with second books in a trilogy, we find ourselves struggling with non-events–small dramas and superfluous details that don't necessarily move the overall story arc forward but rather set us up for the inevitable action-packed conclusion–but with The Eternity Cure we're given a multi-layered plot that only intensifies our connection to Allie, Kanin and Zeke, making us laugh, cry, and suck in our breath in the final chapter.

Allie is seventeen going on fifty, a world-weariness radiating from her as she sees and experiences things no one so young should have to, but she shoulders it without even the slightest of grimaces as acknowledgement of the added weight. Every moment of every day she struggles with her vampire nature, constantly trying to make choices that will leave the smallest possible black marks on her soul, but ultimately knowing they are black marks just the same. Though her future has the potential to be unbearably bleak, she never wallows or despairs of what might have been, even when reuniting with Zeke provides her with a poignant reminder of what she can never again have, instead she continues to put one foot in front of the other and mitigate the damage she has no choice but to cause as best she can.

Those who fell in love with Kanin despite his fairly minor role in The Immortal Rules will likely be thrilled with The Eternity Cure, his presence magnified and his past finally illuminated in all its gritty glory. He's still deliciously enigmatic in many ways and is never one to speak without purpose, so we can't help but treasure every word that escapes his lips as we know he's measured them carefully and is imparting something important whether we realize it at the time or not. Adding a little levity to Kanin's stoic presence is Jackal, a vampire we wouldn't have minded meeting a tragic end after his role in the deaths of many a human in book one, but we find ourselves snorting in amusement when he joins Allie on her quest, surprisingly grateful for his presence, his blunt nature, and his sometimes inappropriate sense of humor.

Despite its length, The Eternity Cure seems to fly by, tension wreaking havoc on our guts when Allie and company are tested and threatened but seem to emerge victorious, something we soon realize was simply Ms. Kagawa lulling us into a false sense of security as we approach the concluding pages. It's only then she comes at us from the darkness where we least expected her, a fist to the stomach doubling us over as Allie's world is suddenly and violently knocked off its axis, and we're left with hearts shredded but shockingly still beating, wondering whether the answer to Kanin's haunting question as to what kind of monster Allie will choose to be will forever change when we meet up with her again in the next book.

Rating: 4/5

More information on Julie and her books can be found here:

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sweet Peril Blog Tour: Review, Band Tour Posters + A Giveaway

The Sweet Trilogy #2
Wendy Higgins
Paranormal Young Adult
374 pages
Available April 30th
Received from publisher for review

Anna Whitt, the daughter of a guardian angel and a demon, promised herself she’d never do the work of her father—polluting souls. She’d been naive to make such a vow. She’d been naive about a lot of things.

Haunted by demon whisperers, Anna does whatever she can to survive, even if it means embracing her dark side and earning an unwanted reputation as her school’s party girl. Her life has never looked more bleak. And all the while there’s Kaidan Rowe, son of the Duke of Lust, plaguing her heart and mind.

When an unexpected lost message from the angels surfaces, Anna finds herself traveling the globe with Kopano, son of Wrath, in an attempt to gain support of fellow Nephilim and give them hope for the first time. It soon becomes clear that whatever freedoms Anna and the rest of the Neph are hoping to win will not be gained without a fight. Until then, Anna and Kaidan must put aside the issues between them, overcome the steamiest of temptations yet, and face the ultimate question: is loving someone worth risking their life?

Sweet Peril has a rather daunting task ahead of it from the beginning, following up a debut that was surprisingly intense emotionally, and while it is definitely a middle book in some ways, Ms. Higgins uses the slightly slower pace of this sequel beautifully, allowing readers time to really study the characters and walk away from them with a far deeper understanding than we had when we started. We begin with a rather brutal prologue – a harsh reminder of just what Kaidan and Anna risk should they try to be together – and it succeeds in planting a seed of tension in our guts from the onset, something that continues to grow and often forces us to hold our breath as our concern for Anna and Kaidan’s safety reaches an all time high.

Anna is both the girl we met at the beginning of Sweet Evil and yet drastically different at the same time, forced to split her personality in two in order to keep off the Dukes’ radar. She’s not the girl that can look at the world and see only the good anymore, instead her painful lessons in life as a Nephilim have given her a few sharp edges where before there were only smooth curves. She never resorts to melancholy or despairs of all the ways her life has changed since learning of her heritage though, instead she meets every challenge with a lift of her chin and an admirable confidence borne from the hope that one day her future will be free of its current confines. Her handling of the romantic drama in this sequel causes us to release a sigh of relief, a love triangle flickering briefly into place before Anna definitively shuts it down, embracing her feelings for Kaidan even though she knows he may never be able to return them.

Many readers may find themselves a touch antsy during the first half of this book as Kai is physically absent for the most part, but Ms. Higgins gives us a scene at the very beginning that acts as a branding iron, searing our skin and causing a sharp pain to flare before fading to a dull but persistent ache, leaving behind a permanent reminder of Kaidan that we keep with us until he and Anna join forces once again. What becomes hauntingly clear in this second installment is just how dark and unforgiving life for the children of the Dukes really is, Anna’s upbringing a stark contrast to the torment Kaidan and the others suffer daily; their fathers constantly seeking ruination rather than salvation and pain instead of love, all the while using their sons and daughters as the tools by which they cast a black mark on the soul of humanity.

Anna’s separation from Kaidan and the things she learns as she travels the world searching for allies among the Neph make their relationship all the more poignant when they finally work through some of their issues, Kaidan’s ability to express any kind of emotion at all shocking given the depravity his father requires of him, and our hearts beat to an erratic but pounding rhythm as Anna bleeds love into a man who knows nothing of it. Sweet Peril definitely sets readers up for what is sure to be an epic showdown in the final book, but the quieter nature of it gives us time to truly breathe these characters in before that breath will no doubt be expelled quickly as the Dukes bring fists to vulnerable flesh in book three.

Rating: 4.5/5

Find Sweet Peril:

• • • • • • • • • • 


For any of you who have yet to read this series (first of all, get a move on, Kaidan is waiting for you!),  Kaidan Rowe is the drummer for a band called Lascivious. Those of you who follow this blog with any frequency know I'm scarily mildly obsessed with these books and Kaidan in particular, and given I find Mr. Rowe to be, ahem, inspiring, I thought it might be fun to design some promotional posters for Lascivious as though they were actually going out on tour.

Below are the three posters I created for Kaidan and his band as a token of my undying affection for them, Wendy Higgins, and this series as a whole :)




• • • • • • • • • •


After earning a bachelors in Creative Writing from George Mason University and a masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Radford, Wendy taught high school English until becoming a mommy. Writing Young Adult (YA) stories gives her the opportunity to delve into the ambiguities of those pivotal, daunting, and exciting years before adulthood.

She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, daughter, and son. Sweet Evil is her debut novel.

 • • • • • • • • • • 


The prizes:

1 Grand Prize Giveaway - engraved “Kaidan Rowe Sweet Peril” drumsticks, fruity scented lip balms, a paperback copy of Sweet Peril and a signed Sweet Peril bookplate.

5 Winners for - a paperback copy of Sweet Peril and a signed Sweet Peril bookplate.

Giveaway is US only and ends May 10th at 12:00 a.m. PDT. Only one entry per household and you must be 13 or older to enter. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 • • • • • • • • • 


Don't forget to check out all the other amazing tops on this tour for more interviews, guest posts and general Sweet Peril awesomeness! A huge thank you to Rockstar Book Tours for putting this tour together.

April 22nd - YA Sisterhood - Guest Post
April 23rd - Tater's Tall Tails - Kaiden Interview
April 24th - Supernatural Snark - Review + Artwork
April 25th - Books with Bite - Anna Interview
April 26th - Tales of a Ravenous Reader - Guest Post

April 29th - Bewitched Bookworms - Guest Post
April 30th - Two Chicks on Books - Guest Post
April 30th - Curling Up with a Good Book - Review
May 1st - Magical Urban Fantasy Reads - Guest Post
May 2nd - The Book Cellar - Guest Post
May 3rd - Fiktshun - Guest Post

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Unbreakable Blog Tour: Interview, Mini-Review + Giveaway

Today I'm positively giddy to be a part of the promotional tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours for Elizabeth Norris's outstanding young adult sci-fi novel, Unbreakable (releases today!). I couldn't have loved book one, Unraveling, any more if I'd tried, so I was a little nervous entering into this sequel that it wouldn't live up to the extraordinarily high bar set by its predecessor. I shouldn't have worried in the least though, as Unbreakable is every bit as epic as Unraveling was, and I'm thrilled to welcome Elizabeth Norris back to the blog today to answer a few questions!

When traveling to another universe, it’s entirely possible to run into your own double – someone who could simply look exactly like you but not share any of your personality traits, or they could be nearly identical to you in every way. What’s one trait or quirk you possess that would instantly tip your family and friends off that your double wasn’t the real you should they not have it? 

I have a couple things that I say quite often. They’re not quite catch phrases but they’re definitely me. One is “shocking!” which I say sarcastically when I am most definitely not shocked. (Yeah, so that piece of Janelle is completely me). I also am incredibly shy in front of people I don’t know, but really outgoing with my friends and family. But actually the dead giveaway, I think, would be my dogs. I have a lab mix—or a brown dog, as we refer to her—and I found her when she was just a few weeks old. I even fed her a bottle the first few weeks I had her, and she’s insanely attached to me (she lies by the door when I’m gone and waits for me to come back, even if I’m gone for a week or more). I think somehow she would just know that my double wasn’t me.

If you were to come face to face with one of your doubles, what’s the first question you would ask them? 

I would want to know everything about them, but specifically everything about their family. My family went through a lot of struggles when I was growing up, some of them tougher than others, and I spent a lot of time (especially as a teenager) wishing little things had been different. I’m not close with my dad, and that’s something that I’ve struggled with. I would want to know how my double’s childhood had taken shape, what her relationship with her dad was like and then I’d try to figure out if she made different choices that resulted in a different outcome.

You’re helping Cecily to organize movie night. What are your top two choices for the showing? 

Pride and Prejudice because it’s one of those movies I can watch over and over again, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower because I just got it on Blu Ray.

A portal is opening next to you right this second and you decide to be adventurous and step through despite not knowing the destination. Describe what you hope to find when you emerge on the other side. 

Right this second, I’d be hoping to end up somewhere warm, where people are friendly and I can get really good food. In fact, in my idea portal jumping experience, I’d end up here.

Janelle is loyal, fiercely determined, and extraordinarily strong emotionally. What has writing her character taught you about yourself? 

She definitely gets her loyalty and fierce determination from me. I’m not that tough emotionally—or at least I didn’t think I was when I started writing. So Janelle was tough when I couldn’t be. While I was writing Unraveling and Unbreakable, I was diagnosed with a (thankfully) very treatable form of cancer. (I’m totally healthy now). Writing Janelle and forcing her to be strong while saving the world, helped me become a stronger person in a way.

Given Unbreakable is written from Janelle’s point of view, we get to see the various ways she envisions her reunion with Ben going, but we don’t have that same access to him. During the months of their separation, what did Ben dream the first words out of his mouth would be when he saw her again? 

In his heart, Ben always knew he’d see her again. He knew he would get back to her somehow. Even though he didn’t know exactly how he’d manage that, there were never any doubts that he’d make it happen. Because he was a little more in control of the situation, he missed her, but he wasn’t quite as stressed. Because he’s a guy, he didn’t really think about the specifics of what he’d say—more that he’d just pull her into his arms. If things had played out differently in Unbreakable (as in, less stressful), he would have kissed her first and then said, “Hi, I’m back.”

• • • • • • • • • •

Unraveling #2
Elizabeth Norris
Young Adult/Sci Fi
496 pages
Balzer + Bray
Releases Today!
Received from publisher for review

Four months after Ben disappeared through the portal to his home universe, Janelle believes she’ll never see him again. Her world is still devastated, but life is finally starting to resume some kind of normalcy. Until Interverse Agent Taylor Barclay shows up. Somebody from an alternate universe is running a human trafficking ring, kidnapping people and selling them on different Earths—and Ben is the prime suspect. Now his family has been imprisoned and will be executed if Ben doesn’t turn himself over within five days.

And when Janelle learns that someone she cares about—someone from her own world—has become one of the missing, she knows that she has to help Barclay, regardless of the danger. Now Janelle has five days to track down the real culprit. Five days to locate the missing people before they’re lost forever. Five days to reunite with the boy who stole her heart. But as the clues begin to add up, Janelle realizes that she’s in way over her head—and that she may not have known Ben as well as she thought.

Can she uncover the truth before everyone she cares about is killed?

Unbreakable is the literary equivalent of a roller coaster, the first chapter or so a slow build as we try and remember all the details of Unraveling, stomachs fluttering with nervous anticipation before we suddenly top the crest of the hill, hover briefly, and then plummet. From the minute Barclay shows back up in Janelle’s world we barely get a moment to breathe, hearts pounding and breaths coming out in shallow pants as our fear for Janelle’s safety is matched only by our desire to see her reunited with Ben, the two feelings combining to ensure our fingers fairly vibrate with the need to turn the pages faster.

Janelle is as capable and level-headed as we remember, never prone to bouts of dramatic behavior or great emotional fluctuations, instead she remains steadfast and strong, aware of her ultimate goal and willing to do whatever needs to be done in order to achieve it. Though Ben is absent for the first half of this book, we don’t feel any flashes of the frustration that sometimes arises when a couple is separated in a sequel (though we certainly want them together), a surprising reaction due in large part to the beauty of Janelle’s character. She doesn’t need Ben in order to function, nor is she incomplete without him, and while her love for him is a rich and palpable thing, we are content to spend our time simply with her because she is so comfortable in her own skin.

Ms. Norris delights yet again with Unbreakable, the action of Janelle’s desperate search for information to help clear Ben’s name perfectly balanced with quiet and deeply heartbreaking moments as she has no choice but to question the love she thought to be impervious to any doubt. I honestly can’t recommend this series highly enough.

Rating: 4.5/5

• • • • • • • • • •


Elizabeth Norris briefly taught high school English and history before trading the southern California beaches and sunshine for Manhattan's recent snowpocalyptic winter. She harbors dangerous addictions to guacamole, red velvet cupcakes, sushi, and Argo Tea, fortunately not all together. Her first novel, UNRAVELING (Balzer+Bray, April 2012), is the story of one girl's fight to save her family, her world, and the one boy she never saw coming. Also the film rights to Unraveling have been optioned by MTV!

• • • • • • • • • • 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to check out the rest of the stops on this tour for more interviews, reviews and guest posts!

4/15/2013 - All Things Urban Fantasy

4/16/2013 - Two Chicks on Books

4/17/2013 - A Book and a Latte

4/18/2013 - Magical Urban Fantasy Reads

4/19/2013 - Shortie Says

4/22/2013 - Katie's Book Blog

4/23/2013 - Supernatural Snark

4/24/2013 - Justin's Book Blog

4/25/2013 - Tales of a Ravenous Reader

 4/26/2013 - Fiktshun

Monday, April 22, 2013

Review: The Elite

The Selection #2
Kiera Cass
Young Adult/Dystopian
336 pages
Available April 23rd
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.

The Elite drops us back into a world of carefully calculated pageantry, where smiles and simple gestures have so much more meaning than they appear to on the surface, and emotional attachment seems to change on a whim, as easily altered as the remaining girls’ wardrobes between one royal function and the next. While there is an undeniable addictive quality to America’s story, this second installment presents us with a number of challenges as the competition for Maxon’s heart–or in some cases, simply his title–becomes a bit more heated. Though there was no true love triangle in The Selection, something we were absurdly thankful for, the same cannot be said for The Elite, Aspen’s appearance at the palace at the very end of book one forcing this story into a familiar direction that causes our interest to waver as a result.

America was a likeable young woman in book one, someone who tried to sort through her lingering feelings for Aspen even as she stumbled her way through the Selection process, and she was always upfront with Maxon about her emotional unavailability. Unfortunately, the America whose honesty we greatly appreciated in The Selection is absent in this second installment, becoming instead the epitome of a romantic pendulum – swaying ceaselessly back and forth between Maxon and Aspen, constantly second guessing her feelings all the while. Just when we think she’s going to reach out and grab one of them to hold her still, some small drama occurs that forces her to release her grasp and go freely swinging back toward the other man with more speed than she had previously.

The love triangle might not be as bothersome were both Maxon and Aspen equally appealing, but Maxon is the true standout between the two of them, thus making America’s constant waffling all the more frustrating. We spent almost no time with Aspen in The Selection, so all we know of him upon entering into this second book is that he pushed America away when she least wanted to go, and then showed up to fight for her far too late. Our time with him in The Elite is strictly superficial–stolen kisses and whispered reminders of a love past–and our lingering disapproval of his actions in book one keeps us from fully embracing him even as we find ourselves grateful for his understanding of America’s romantic confusion. Maxon, on the other hand, repeatedly chips away at any uncertainty we might have had as to his feelings for America, and while he is certainly not drama or angst-free, he easily has our vote.

Overall, The Elite is a bit of a challenging read given the prominence of the Maxon/America/Aspen love triangle, but despite the constant fluctuation in America’s feelings, there’s still something just downright fun about this series. Those who revel in teen drama and epic relationship entanglements will no doubt enjoy The Elite and finish it craving more. Those of us who are a little less impressed (perhaps those older readers like me) with America’s game playing may find themselves stumbling a bit, but America finally does show a bit of fire in the last chapter, giving us hope she might start to own her feelings in the future and take a leap of faith instead of walking straight up to the edge before shrinking back.

Rating: 3/5

More information on Kiera and her books can be found here:

Friday, April 19, 2013

Review: The Sweetest Dark

The Sweetest Dark #1
Shana Abe
Paranormal young adult
352 pages
Available now
Received from publisher via NetGalley

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Lora Jones has always known that she’s different. On the outside, she appears to be an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl. Yet Lora’s been keeping a heartful of secrets: She hears songs that no one else can hear, dreams vividly of smoke and flight, and lives with a mysterious voice inside her that insists she’s far more than what she seems.

England, 1915. Raised in an orphanage in a rough corner of London, Lora quickly learns to hide her unique abilities and avoid attention. Then, much to her surprise, she is selected as the new charity student at Iverson, an elite boarding school on England’s southern coast. Iverson’s eerie, gothic castle is like nothing Lora has ever seen. And the two boys she meets there will open her eyes and forever change her destiny.

Jesse is the school’s groundskeeper—a beautiful boy who recognizes Lora for who and what she truly is. Armand is a darkly handsome and arrogant aristocrat who harbors a few closely guarded secrets of his own. Both hold the answers to her past. One is the key to her future. And both will aim to win her heart. As danger descends upon Iverson, Lora must harness the powers she’s only just begun to understand, or else lose everything she dearly loves.

Soft and rich, The Sweetest Dark is one of those stories that possesses a lulling quality, the lyrical writing painting fleeting images that burst forth in a sudden storm of color and light before fading, leaving us aching and hollow in their absence. Those looking for a great deal of action and intricate world building will not find them in this tale, instead this story of stars and dragons is a delicate flame in the wind – flickering in and out on a seeming whim and creating striking patterns that decorate the shadowed corners of a room without ever illuminating them completely. Instead, we can only guess what lies in the darkness, the how’s and why’s of this world and the characters’ various roles in it things that remain hidden from view, yet we can’t help but revel in our access to the beauty radiating from the flame's small circle of light, however narrow it may be.

Lora is a dose of realism in an otherwise lilting and darkly magical tale, her ability to put those above her in station in their place creating an anchor for us as we try to understand this world that is both ours and yet so much more. Though she is considered a charity case by the other girls attending Iverson, she never cowers from their blatant insults or whispered cruelties, rather she casts their aspersions right back on them, delivering them with a cool confidence rendered all the more effective for the no-nonsense delivery. She accepts the paranormal revelations with little drama, deciding to trust in Jesse and what he tells her, thereby granting us more time to dig our toes into the sand of this story rather than wasting precious page time as she travels through various stages of denial.

While the synopsis insinuates a love triangle setup, the relationship between Lora, Jesse, and Armand is thankfully not one so easily wedged into that all-too familiar shape, instead we’re given a romance as quietly powerful and fascinatingly distinct as the rest of the story. Her feelings for Jesse develop quickly, but theirs is a relationship that has a very different atmosphere to it–a coming together of old souls in new bodies–the force of their impact something that reverberates through the pages to travel along our skin until the our hearts pulse in time with their unique beat. Armand is someone interested in Lora romantically, but her affection for Jesse, at least in this first installment, is an impenetrable wall despite her complex link to them both.

The Sweetest Dark is not a story that will be universally loved by all, its quietness and the lack of defined history for the paranormal aspects of the world things that will likely trouble many a reader, but there’s something achingly beautiful and poetically haunting about the way Lora’s story unfolds that makes this book an experience rather than a simple read.

Rating: 4/5

More information on Shana and her books can be found here:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Review: This Is What Happy Looks Like

Jennifer E. Smith
Contemporary Young Adult
416 pages
Available Now
Received from publisher via NetGalley

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O'Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds.

Then Graham finds out that Ellie's Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs? 

This Is What Happy Looks Like is a beautiful blend of fantasy (of the daydream variety) and realism, playing out one of our recurring girlish musings wherein a beautiful boy from a world of fame and fortune falls for the small town sweetheart. This story could have been complete fluff, full of adorable unrealities and sigh-inducing-but-unlikely-moments, but Ms. Smith manages to imbue both Ellie and Graham with an intriguing authenticity and not-insignificant problems to ensure we get swept up in their lives even if they share so few similarities to our own.

Ellie is cute and endearing with a sharp wit that keeps her from being perhaps too perfect, delighting us from the first page with her online banter as she becomes a pen pal to current Hollywood It Boy Graham. Once she realizes who Graham is and that he is in fact the young man she’s been talking to for months, she doesn’t treat him any differently, quickly picking up their easy communication after her initial shock wears off. She has valid reasons for her hesitancy to pursue a relationship with Graham despite every young girl worldwide wishing they were in her shoes, but she never creates unnecessary drama and always approaches things with him with an understandable combination of wistfulness and wariness.

Graham, for his part, is as equally enjoyable a character as Ellie, charming us as he does her with short bursts of vibrant personality that shine through in each of his emails, and he follows up that effortless charisma with an unexpected and well-executed vulnerability. Graham could have easily been simply a character in a romantic comedy, all star quality and smiles with a hidden sadness underneath, and while that’s exactly what he is, he’s written in such a way that he emerges from the confines of ink, paper and labels to become flesh and blood. He never resorts to whining over the challenges of being famous even as they are made glaringly apparent to us, and he never looks for either sympathy or awe from Ellie, instead always putting himself out there to her and hoping she likes what she sees.

Overall, This Is What Happy Looks Like is a fun, light romance with two protagonists who add a little extra depth to familiar roles and make us fall in love with them all the more as a result. Those readers (like myself) who love their romances to be all neatly packaged at the end may find themselves a touch let down when they reach the last page, but eventually logic forces us to recognize the unlikeliness of a sixteen and seventeen year old finding their forever at such ages. Instead we’re left with the equivalent of a sweet kiss on the cheek – perhaps not the exact romantic fulfillment we might have been wishing for, but yet something that holds a great deal of promise and hope for the future.

Rating: 4/5

More information on Jennifer and her books can be found here:


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Tumble & Fall

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking The Spine and is a fun way to see what books other bloggers just can't wait to get their hands on!

Alexandra Coutts
Young Adult
Releases September 17th
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
A novel about the end of days full of surprising beginnings

The world is living in the shadow of oncoming disaster. An asteroid is set to strike the earth in just one week’s time; catastrophe is unavoidable. The question isn’t how to save the world—the question is, what to do with the time that's left? Against this stark backdrop, three island teens wrestle with intertwining stories of love, friendship and family—all with the ultimate stakes at hand.

Alexandra Coutts's TUMBLE & FALL is a powerful story of courage, love, and hope at the end of the world.

First of all, hello gorgeous cover! Because I'm easily won over by good design, the cover alone is enough to have this book on my must-read list, but I also really like the idea of a story set pre-apocalypse rather than post. Sure, it sounds like a little bit of a downer with the impending death of the entire world, but I've always been intrigued by stories that create contrasts - light amidst the dark, beauty amidst the ugliness - and this definitely seems like it fits that bill. I can't wait!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Review: Taken

Taken #1
Erin Bowman
Young Adult/Dystopian
352 pages
Available now
Received from publisher via Edelweiss

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends…and he’s gone.

They call it the Heist.

Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.

Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?

There are times when a strikingly beautiful cover can be both a blessing and a curse; a gorgeous design encouraging readers to pick it up, yet at the same time instantly creating high expectations as we can’t help but hope the story lives up to its packaging. While Taken has a deeply intriguing premise–one that will likely have our interest increasing as we learn more about Gray’s world rather than lessening as the series continues–our lack of connection with the characters themselves keeps us from glorying in the grit and guts we know must exist beneath this book’s pretty face.

Gray draws us into his world immediately with a haunting opening line, and we easily come to care for him more and more as soon as he starts to question the emotionally stunted and brutal way of life in his small town. We fully support his curiosities and his decision to find the soft spots the elder women in the village are protecting and give them a much-needed poke, but we are never quite provided the opening we so desperately want to be able to crawl into his heart and mind and make ourselves at home. Our time with him is captivating and his various exploits practically have the pages turning themselves we flip them so quickly, but that extra spark that would elevate him from an enjoyable character to a memorable one remains elusive.

Part of the troublesome connection with Gray stems in part from his romantic relationship with Emma. The love he’s had for her since he was a child (a setup we can’t help but like and much prefer to any sort of instant connection) exists only in word form, never quite transcending the black and white ink to become truly heartfelt sentiments we feel ricocheting back and forth between his fiction and our reality. About halfway through a new romantic player enters the picture, and while thankfully a triangle doesn't fully form, there is one event in particular that ensures that formation doesn’t take place and effectively kinks the straight path we thought existed between Gray and Emma. Based on the lack of resolution for their romance in this first installment, it’s probable a triangle will be forthcoming in future books, but those who fear or loathe them should take comfort in the absence of one in Taken.

Overall, Taken introduces us to a very complex and deeply fascinating world, new facets of it revealed and new questions raised every chapter to keep us interested throughout. The reasoning behind the Heist itself when it’s finally brought to light, however, feels a bit thin and grossly impractical given the end result those in charge are looking for, but it’s easy to overlook that factor in favor of trying to decipher which characters are black, which are white, and which exist in shades of gray. Hopefully book two will explore a few more emotional subtleties to help deepen our investment in Gray and his journey, but it’s a journey I’m interested in continuing.

Rating: 3.5/5

More information on Erin and Taken can be found here:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Review: Rising Darkness

Game of Shadows #1
Thea Harrison
Adult paranormal romance
304 pages
Berkley Sensation
Available now
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
In the hospital ER where she works, Mary is used to chaos. But lately, every aspect of her life seems adrift. She’s feeling disconnected from herself. Voices appear in her head. And the vivid, disturbing dreams she’s had all her life are becoming more intense. Then she meets Michael. He’s handsome, enigmatic and knows more than he can say. In his company, she slowly remembers the truth about herself…

Thousands of years ago, there were eight of them. The one called the Deceiver came to destroy the world, and the other seven followed to stop him. Reincarnated over and over, they carry on—and Mary finds herself drawn into the battle once again. And the more she learns, the more she realizes that Michael will go to any lengths to destroy the Deceiver.

Then she remembers who killed her during her last life, nine hundred years ago…Michael.

Rising Darkness is a bit of a departure format-wise from Ms. Harrison’s Novels of the Elder Races, giving us a hero and heroine who will be front and center for multiple books rather than main characters in this first book and secondary characters in subsequent ones. This setup shifts the arc of the romance itself, drawing things out far longer and heating things up far slower than we might be expecting based on our experience with Dragos and company in her other series, and as a result, our connection to this story and its leading pair is incredibly slow in forming and weak in strength for majority of the book.

While the premise for the series is deeply intriguing–the concept of soul mates torn apart and catapulted into a new world where they repeatedly dance in and out of each other’s orbits one lifetime after another–it takes nearly one hundred pages for our couple to actually meet for the first time in their current lives, making the first third of the novel a touch tedious. So badly do we want them to set eyes on one another, to kick-start the palpable romantic tension we know Ms. Harrison is so gifted at creating, that it’s simply hard for us to settle into the story, our nerves on edge and our minds wandering to the moment of inevitability we're so desperately craving.

Additionally, Mary is understandably confused about the radical changes suddenly taking place in her otherwise fairly mundane existence (save for the very realistic dreams she’s experienced her whole life), and given we know nothing more than she does, our resulting confusion only amplifies our desire for her to find Michael and the vital information we know he possesses. Once they finally do meet the story drastically picks up, the answers to our questions flowing freely and forcing us to emotionally invest in the tragic, cyclical nature of their lives. Both Mary and Michael are characters we can easily see ourselves loving deeply as the series continues, each of them strong individually despite the fact that they are quite literally halves of a single whole, and though that love isn’t necessarily established by the time we reach the last chapter, we have nothing but infinite faith in Ms. Harrison’s ability to weave their beautifully chaotic strands around our hearts in future installments.

Overall, Rising Darkness gets off to a bit of a meandering start and never quite gets back on track, the romantic sparks between Mary and Michael lacking some emotional intimacy due to their late introduction to one another. Their history together and the all-too brief snippets of their past lives both together and apart seem to have far more poignancy and chemistry than their current incarnations do, leaving us just a touch wistful when we close the back cover and begin the long wait for book two. That being said, I will certainly be looking forward to watching their relationship deepen as their millennia-spanning fight against the Deceiver continues.

Rating: 3.5/5

More information on Thea and her books can be found here:

Friday, April 12, 2013

Guest Post: Molly McAdams + The New Adult Genre

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming author Molly McAdams to the blog to talk to us a little bit about the New Adult genre and what it entails. The New Adult genre is one I'm completely in love with, and I've been devouring as many books that fall under this label as I can get my hands on. As a slightly older reader of YA fiction, it's sometimes difficult for me to connect to the younger characters, so the New Adult genre and its myriad of upper-teen/early twenties men and women and their corresponding life situations just makes me happy. Take it away Molly!

People have many ways of defining the New Adult genre; whether it’s the general age group that you’ll find in the stories, the problems the characters may face or the intensity of the steamy scenes…different readers and authors see it their own way.

I feel the New Adult genre is about the experiences we’ll have, the freedom we’ll finally taste and the lessons we’ll learn…most likely the hard way. It’s all about the time in your life when you’ve just legally become an adult and you’re learning what exactly it means to be an adult. People are excited to hit that age, and to finally be able to say they are “legal”; but going into that time in your life can be more overwhelming than you’re prepared for. Bills start coming, you are suddenly responsible for things like buying your own food and, if you went the college route, actually getting yourself out of bed and to class.

For a lot of “new adults” you’re finally free from the parental units and with that freedom comes the time to find who you are. And that’s what we’re all wanting to know, isn’t it? Who we really are, where we want to go in life, and what paths we’ll take to get there.

It’s the time in our lives when I feel we learn the most that will help us in life. It’s almost like when your parents told you not to touch that burning stove when you were a child, but until you touched it yourself, you had no idea just how much it would hurt. Our parents and people we look up to can tell us countless times to do this…oh, but don’t do that! But until we’ve experienced these things ourselves, we aren’t going to truly comprehend exactly what will happen if we do decide to “touch the burning stove” – whatever it may be.

New Adult is really all of these things. The epic highs and terrifying lows of becoming an adult and becoming who you want to be. We get to follow heroes and heroines through journeys that a lot of us often face during those incredible years of eighteen to mid-late twenties. I can’t say there is one thing that defines the genre, and as I said, other people may have a different view on it. But for me, it’s all about the thrilling time in our life that we get to learn about who we are, and it’s those steps and paths we take figuring that out, that make up the genre.

• • • • • • • • • •


Molly grew up in California but now lives in the oh-so-amazing state of Texas with her husband and furry four-legged daughter. Some of her hobbies include hiking, snowboarding, traveling and long walks on the beach…which roughly translates to being a homebody with her hubby and dishing out movie quotes. When she’s not diving into the world of her characters, she can be found hiding out in her bedroom surrounded by her laptop, cell, Kindle and fighting over the TV remote. She has a weakness for crude-humored movies, fried pickles and loves curling up in a fluffy comforter during a thunderstorm...or under one in a bathtub if there are tornados. That way she can pretend they aren't really happening.

• • • • • • • • • •


Eighteen year old Harper has grown up under her career Marine of a father's thumb. Ready to live life her own way and experience things she's only ever heard of from the jarheads in her father's unit; she's on her way to college at San Diego State University.

Thanks to her new roommate, Harper is introduced to a world of parties, gorgeous guys, family and emotions. Some she wasn't expecting yet, and others she never knew she was missing.

She finds herself being torn in two as she quickly falls in love with her boyfriend Brandon, and her roommate's brother Chase. Covered in tattoos, known for fighting in the Underground and ridiculously muscled...they're exactly what she was always warned to stay away from, but just what she needs. Despite their dangerous looks and histories, both adore and would do anything for Harper, including stepping back if it means she's happy.

Her first year away is turning out to be near perfect, but one weekend of giving in to heated passion will change everything.

• • • • • • • • • • 


Aside from her dad, who passed away when she was six, Cassidy Jameson has only ever trusted one man: her best friend, Tyler. So of course she follows him to Texas when he leaves for college. She just didn't expect to be so drawn to their new roommate, Gage, a gorgeous guy with a husky Southern drawl. The only problem? He's Tyler's cousin.

 Gage Carson was excited to share an apartment off campus with his cousin. He didn't mind that Tyler was bringing the mysterious friend he'd heard about since they were kids . . . until the most beautiful girl he's ever seen jumps out of his cousin's Jeep. There's something about Cassi that makes Gage want to give her everything. Too bad Tyler has warned him that she's strictly off-limits.

Despite everything keeping them apart, Cassi and Gage dance dangerously close to the touch they've both been craving. But when disaster sends her running into Tyler's arms, Cassi will have to decide whether to face the demons of herpast . . . or to burn her chance at a future with Gage.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Review: The Rules

Project Paper Doll #1
Stacey Kade
Young Adult/Light Sci Fi
416 pages
Available April 23rd
Disney Hyperion
Received from publisher via NetGalley for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
1. Never trust anyone.

2. Remember they are always searching.

3. Don’t get involved.

4. Keep your head down.

5. Don’t fall in love.

Five simple rules. Ariane Tucker has followed them since the night she escaped from the genetics lab where she was created, the result of combining human and extraterrestrial DNA. Ariane’s survival—and that of her adoptive father—depends on her ability to blend in among the full-blooded humans in a small Wisconsin town, to hide in plain sight at her high school from those who seek to recover their lost (and expensive) “project.”

But when a cruel prank at school goes awry, it puts her in the path of Zane Bradshaw, the police chief’s son and someone who sees too much. Someone who really sees her. After years of trying to be invisible, Ariane finds the attention frightening—and utterly intoxicating. Suddenly, nothing is simple anymore, especially not the rules…

The Rules is an outstanding beginning to this new series, delighting us with smart, layered characters who keep us up reading late into the night because we can’t bear to walk away without knowing what facet of them the next chapter will reveal. Though the story itself is intriguing and well-executed, it’s the characters that truly make this book shine, both Ariane and Zane individuals who are hiding in plain sight, wearing masks of insignificance and popularity respectively to cover the fear and loneliness underneath. While we feel utterly connected to both of them from the onset, it’s clear to us with every page that there will always be more about each of them we want to learn, and more time with the two of them together we want to spend.

On the surface, The Rules has a Carrie-esque vibe, with Ariane’s traumatic past fueling her desire to protect the weak from their tormenters and an epically awful group of popular kids seeking to humiliate those who dare cross them through increasingly mortifying pranks. It’s Ariane herself that keeps the similarities strictly superficial though, as she is not one to fall for the pretty falsities that tumble from a serpent’s tongue. She’s incredibly self-aware and highly intelligent, her quick wit repeatedly stunning both Zane and mean girl Rachel into silence, and we find ourselves always smiling, knowing she’s on the offensive even when those targeting her believe her to be on the defensive.

Given this story is told from alternating points of view, we get to spend as much time in Zane’s head as we do Ariane’s, something that allows us to warm to him far faster than we would if we only saw him through her eyes. As a member of the “in-crowd” who has always simply drifted along in Rachel’s wake without any desire or motivation to make waves of his own, Zane is someone it would have been hard for us to really like as a romantic interest for quiet-but-spirited Ariane, but luckily our time with him shows us a boy who bears as many emotional scars as she does. He has a sense of humor to match Ariane’s, each page revealing his sweetness and charm, but it doesn’t take long before both we and Ariane are able to see through the bravado, and it’s nothing short of beautiful to watch as each of them accepts in the other the traits and flaws they like least in themselves.

The Rules is a first installment that’s over entirely too quickly despite its not-insignificant length, a frown contorting our faces unbidden when we reach the last page and realize our time with Ariane and Zane is temporarily at an end. We’re left with the future wide open for our two young protagonists, but instead of feeling incomplete we are nicely satisfied, wishing only that we were gifted with an ability to manipulate time so that we might speed through the months and suddenly find ourselves on the release day for book two.

Rating: 4.5/5 

More on Stacey and her books can be found here: