The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater – Book Review

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If you could steal things from dreams, what would you take?

Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps from himself.

One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams.

And sometimes he’s not the only one who wants those things.

Ronan is one of the raven boys—a group of friends, practically brothers, searching for a dead king named Glendower, who they think is hidden somewhere in the hills by their elite private school, Aglionby Academy. The path to Glendower has long lived as an undercurrent beneath town. But now, like Ronan’s secrets, it is beginning to rise to the surface—changing everything in its wake.

Of The Raven Boys, Entertainment Weekly wrote, “Maggie Stiefvater’s can’t-put-it-down paranormal adventure will leave you clamouring for book two.” Now the second book is here, with the same wild imagination, dark romance, and heart-stopping twists that only Maggie Stiefvater can conjure.

The second book in The Raven Boys series still had Blue as the central character but it also focused quite a bit on Ronan. Ronan’s backstory was quite mysterious in the first book, so I was excited when I realized we were going to find out about his past.

In Ronan’s storyline you get to meet his second brother and we find out more about his absent mother. There is also the enigmatic Mr. Gray in town, who is looking for someone matching Ronan’s description of talents. Ronan’s abilities grow a lot in this book and you discover how they are connected to the search for Glendower. Ronan is violent, aggressive, quick-witted, and sad; fittingly, his storyline matches him to a tee.

Adam’s character is also explored further in The Dream Thieves. Adam goes through a dramatic change at the end of the first book and The Dream Thieves explores the consequences of that change on his friendships, relationship with Blue, and his future. Unfortunately, the event that Adam experiences in The Raven Boys changes him in ways I did not particularly enjoy.

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Gansey still isn’t developed too much. The book does show more of his motivations and how he seems to require his friends to need him all the time. Gansey is portrayed in a way that makes him seem almost desperate to be the centre of his friends’ lives. This doesn’t come off in a way that is irritating, just more human insofar as he wants to feel needed.

One thing that I wanted from the first book and received in the second book was more focus on Blue’s family. You discover more about the history of Blue’s family members living in the house with her. Blue’s father is brought into the picture, not in actuality but more so in stories told by Blue’s family. The family reveals that he disappeared as soon as Blue was born and that they are now searching for him again.

Blue’s mom, Maura, has a romantic interest who happens to be an assassin stalking Blue and The Raven Boys. This was the only plot line in the book that I didn’t particularly enjoy. I found it odd that everyone knows that Maura’s love interest, Mr. Gray, is an assassin and they’re all totally cool with her dating someone who kills people for a living. The whole thing was just a bit too far-fetched for me, despite it being in a book about magic.

Rating: 4.5/5

 

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The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater – Book Review

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Blue Sargent, the daughter of the town psychic in Henrietta, Virginia, has been told for as long as she can remember that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. But she is too practical to believe in things like true love. Her policy is to stay away from the rich boys at the prestigious Aglionby Academy. The boys there — known as Raven Boys — can only mean trouble.

Have you ever had those books that utterly consumed your life? Where all you can think about is the next time you’re free to read. When walking down streets turns into a fun game of trying not to trip as you read and walk simultaneously because — god forbid — you stop reading to travel from one destination to another. Dishes pile up in the sink and boyfriends get ignored as you and your book become one, forgetting that life exists outside the pages of your literary drug of choice. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater was one of those all-engrossing novels that I hated having to put down.

The Raven Boys was the perfect mix of character story, love story, mystery, and magic. Blue, the protagonist, is intelligent, confident, witty, and quirky (but not in an annoying manic-pixie-dream-girl kind of way). Her living situation is unique in that she lives with her mother and multiple extended members of her family, all female. I extremely enjoyed the portions of the book that had interactions between her family, and although they are infrequent, I am happy to see more of them in the sequel (which I am currently reading).

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The Raven Boys, Adam, Ronan, Noah, and Gansey all have quite different personalities and that makes their dynamic fun to read. I definitely had a large crush on Adam with his bashfulness, kind demeanor, intelligence, and motivation. That might be changing now in the second book but we will see. Ronan would be a dick if not for the fact that you can’t help but feel for him after his father’s murder, and laugh at his offensive yet sometimes true commentary. Noah is almost a shadow in the background of the story, but for a good reason that you will find out upon finishing the book. Gansey is a difficult one; I never really knew if I liked him or if I thought he was another rich boy obsessed with an unsolvable mystery because he’s bored with his rich life.

There are so many mysteries in this book that I, as described above, basically couldn’t put it down. The plot is fast-paced and will pull you in right off the bat.

Rating: 4.75/5

Similar Books: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkins, A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty, and The Diviners by Libba Bray

 

Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau – Book Review

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In the series debut The Testing, sixteen-year-old Cia Vale was chosen by the United Commonwealth government as one of the best and brightest graduates of all the colonies . . . a promising leader in the effort to revitalize postwar civilization. InIndependent Study, Cia is a freshman at the University in Tosu City with her hometown sweetheart, Tomas—and though the government has tried to erase her memory of the brutal horrors of The Testing, Cia remembers. Her attempts to expose the ugly truth behind the government’s murderous programs put her—and her loved ones—in a world of danger. But the future of the Commonwealth depends on her.

It  was quite a long gap of time between when I read The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau and when I started reading the sequel, Independent Study. Getting back into it was a little tough, at first, because I couldn’t really remember which character had done what or even which characters were trustworthy or not. Despite this, I got back into the flow of the story pretty quickly.

The plot could be compared to the central ideas in The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, so it does sometimes seem a tad bit like a rip off, but is great if you’re craving something with a similar society and almost identical conflicts. The part that I really enjoyed was a deadly scavenger hunt that the university freshmen had to play in order to be accepted by their peers. Anytime there’s any sort of scavenger hunt or treasure hunt I get really into it. National Treasure, anyone? I know Nicolas Cage gets some serious hate, but how can you not like that movie?!

The scavenger hunt section ended up taking up about two thirds of the book, so there wasn’t a big focus on developing the political conflict going on in their society. Because of this it was a really fast-paced read and highly enjoyable, although it is quite predictable.

Cia is highly intelligent and extremely compassionate. She is easy to root for because she is such a good person, but this also seems unrealistic. Her character can be at times flat and one-sided and seems to be written entire in black and white with no ambiguity. She’s also somehow able to see things everyone else misses, carry a harder course load in school than anyone before, and have one of the top internships at the same time all without showing any sort of emotional distress. It just all comes too easy to her.

Overall, it was an enjoyable and entertaining but not amazing read.

Rating: 3.5/5

Similar Books: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Divergent by Veronica Roth, and Matched by Ally Condie

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon – Book Review

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My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

I recently began reading Everything, everything by Nicola Yoon because I had received an ARC of it. I had read a lot of good things about it on bookstagram posts and the blogosphere.

Unfortunately, the book did not live up to the hype (at least, in my opinion). It’s categorized as a YA novel, but it read more as a 9-12 book with YA subject matter. The book is made up of a lot of illustrations, instant message chats, and uses large font with many blank spaces. The book already looks quite small, but when you add in how little text there actually is it is quite a fast read. Despite how short of a read it was, I still wasn’t able to force myself through the book. It was an interesting concept that was executed poorly.

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I understand that a girl who has been trapped inside her house for her whole life would obsess over the attractive and intriguing boy next door. I did not, however, understand why the boy next door began an interaction with her so quickly and became so insanely interested in her that he made his life revolve around a girl in a bubble. He comes into the story and then all of a sudden is magically infatuated with her. It all happened too quickly and seemed very juvenile to me. The love story is really one of the only things going on in the book and because I was so disinterested in it the book just didn’t do it for me.

I never finished reading the book so I cannot truly judge how the book was as a whole but the fact that I couldn’t power through it is not a great sign.

Rating: Could Not Finish

 

The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin – Book Review

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Mara Dyer wants to believe there’s more to the lies she’s been told.
There is.

She doesn’t stop to think about where her quest for the truth might lead.
She should.

She never had to imagine how far she would go for vengeance.
She will now.

Loyalties are betrayed, guilt and innocence tangle, and fate and chance collide in this shocking conclusion to Mara Dyer’s story.

Retribution has arrived.

This post is extremely late. I finished this book a couple of months ago, but I think after completing the Mara Dyer trilogy I just needed a little break from it. Because man oh man was it ever intense!

(MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD – I don’t say exactly how the book ends, I just talk about my feelings towards the ending and the general vibe of the ending)

I’ve read a decent amount of reviews where people really hated the ending to the series, but I have to say that I enjoyed it. I was most definitely expecting it to go somewhere completely different, maybe something more depressing and on par with the way that the story was heading. I liked that it didn’t go the way that I thought and that it kind of surprised me. I also liked that at the end of a very emotionally draining series there was a happy ending. To me this made all of my reading seem worth it. Nothing frustrates me more than when you read through a whole series, get attached to all the character, and root for their lives only to have that character die or have it end in a depressing and unsatisfying way.

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The third and final book in the Mara Dyer trilogy developed Mara’s character well, exploring her dark side and the psychological toll that the journey has taken on her mental well being. I enjoyed that it brought other characters in that could understand her messed up situation and provide support for her. This allowed both Mara and myself (the reader) to feel less isolated and frustrated by the challenges faced in the book.

Bringing Jamie back in to the book allowed for some brevity and humour in the story, because man is her ever sarcastic and hilarious. I think this was key to my enjoyment of the third book, because by that point Mara’s perspective was very draining and depressing to read. By having Jamie in there it gave me some reprieve from the intensity. This leads me to another thing that I loved about this book… it feature Noah’s point of view! This was extremely well done, and completely necessary for the final scenes of the book.

(MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD)

My one big drawback is that, although I liked the ending, it just seemed too happy for me. They just went through something ridiculously messed up and traumatic, but they’re fine and just going about their daily lives. Also, it never talked about what happened to the girl (who’s name I now can’t remember because it’s been so long since I finished it) who was stuck in the asylum with them and escaped and went through all the same messed up stuff they did as well. She just peaced it in the last half of the book and wasn’t really talked about again. But, mostly it’s all aces with this series.

I would give it 4.25/5

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The Spiritglass Charade by Colleen Gleason – Book Review

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After the Affair of the Clockwork Scarab, Evaline Stoker and Mina Holmes are eager to help Princess Alix with a new case. Seventeen-year-old Willa Aston is obsessed with spiritual mediums, convinced she is speaking with her mother from beyond the grave. What seems like a case of spiritualist fraud quickly devolves into something far more menacing: someone is trying to make Willa appear lunatic,”using an innocent-looking spiritglass to control her. The list of clues piles up: an unexpected murder, a gang of pickpockets, and the return of vampires to London. But are these events connected? As Uncle Sherlock would say, ‘there are no coincidences.’ It will take all of Mina’s wit and Evaline’s muscle to keep London’s sinister underground at bay.

This book is the sequel to The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason, which I really enjoyed. This book still encompassed a lot of the things that I liked about the first one and furthered the girls’ romantic interests as well. One thing that I dislike a little is that the books are moving quite slowly, and I’m now guessing that this means that the author is trying to turn these into a long series. I love the fact that it’s not quite the England of our past in these books, but instead it’s more of a Steampunk version of it. This is interesting because there is a character from our present time who has somehow travelled back in time, but the history books he learned from about England taught the same version of history that we know now. So the whole series, so far, you’re trying to figure out why the London that he has travelled back to is different from the one that we know of.

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I definitely think I am going to be searching out more steampunk books because I loved the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld and I love the very cool settings in this book. The drawback in this series is that the settings are most of the time not fleshed out enough. Most people don’t know what to picture in a steampunk world, and even if you read steampunk books a lot each world will be different in different series. I sometimes had to stop and take a minute to try and figure out what Gleason was describing, or had to fill in details myself, which detracted from the flow of the book. I’m also just extremely intrigued by the world itself and would have loved more vivid and detailed scene setting to dive into their lives better. I do have to say though that I think the settings in this book were more flushed out than in the first book.

I like the girls’ love interests and enjoy that it’s nicely added in but definitely doesn’t revolve around romance. The cases are most definitely the central focus, but the flirtations add a good amount of excitement to the book. Again my one complaint here is that it took me two whole books to really put together all the descriptions of the male love interests to actually be able to picture them. Maybe the vague description is a stylistic choice, letting the reader imagine most of it themselves, but I’m personally not a huge fan.

I still really enjoy the characters, and the flipping narrative between Mina and Evalines’ perspectives. I love the idea of the world they live in and I like that each book is a super fast paced read revolving around one case, like an episode of Sherlock in book format and aimed at teen girls.

I would give this book 3.5/5 

P.S. I’m going to start adding in links at the bottom of my posts for where you can buy the books online that I review. I do, however, highly recommend buying books at physical bookstores as this better supports authors and publishers a lot of the time.

CHAPTERSAMAZON | BOOK DEPOSITORY | CHRONICLE BOOKS

Suggestions for the Sherlock Holmes Obsessed

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My friends and I all seem to be quite obsessed with everything Sherlock Holmes, and rightly so. I mean a brooding, and usually handsome, genius who has a sly and sarcastic wit. I wanted to create a post to give a few movie, book, and television suggestions for people like me who love anything related to Sherlock Holmes.

Most of you probably already watch Sherlock, but I do still have to put it in here because it is the best of the best if you’re Sherlock Holmes obsessed.

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Then of course there are the Sherlock Holmes movies starring Robert Downey Jr., who was basically made for the role of Sherlock Holmes. His version of Sherlock Holmes is eerily similar to Iron Man in portrayal, which makes sense. They are both weird, slightly mad geniuses with huge egos. Plus Rachel McAdams is in it! I do so love her. Although I don’t think she fits the role of Irene Adler very well. Noomi Rapace, of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Prometheus fame, plays a sort of gypsy in Sherlock Holmes: A Games of Shadows.

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There is also the new American TV version of Sherlock Holmes called Elementary. It stars Lucy Liu as a female version of Dr. Watson and Johnny Lee Miller as a recovering drug addict version of Sherlock Holmes. It’s honestly not fantastic, it just doesn’t have the same kind of intelligence to it as the previously mentioned movie and TV show. You can usually tell where the plot is going and who did the crime. It’s more of a stereotypical procedural crime drama with the Sherlock name attached. All that said, it’s still an entertaining show if you go into thinking of it more as an American detective show and not as much as Sherlock Holmes.

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Now, onto wonderfully Young Adult book suggestions for Sherlock lovers. I recently started reading The Stoker and Holmes series by Colleen Gleason. A wonderful and addictive series that revolves around Bram Stoker’s sister and Sherlock Holmes’ niece working with Irene Adler to solve crimes in a steampunk version of 19th century London. It is a quick and easy read, entertaining, with an interesting plot. The characters are not incredibly well developed, and the scenery could be more descriptive since the hints of it that I read just left me wanting to get a better visual of this interesting world. I still found the series very interesting and am whipping through the second book right now.

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Evaline Stoker and Mina Holmes never meant to get into the family business. But when you’re the sister of Bram and the niece of Sherlock, vampire hunting and mystery solving are in your blood. And when two society girls go missing, there’s no one more qualified to investigate.

Now fierce Evaline and logical Mina must resolve their rivalry, navigate the advances of not just one but three mysterious gentlemen, and solve murder with only one clue: a strange Egyptian scarab. The stakes are high. If Stoker and Holmes don’t unravel why the belles of London society are in such danger, they’ll become the next victims.

Another book that I have not read yet, but am very excited for, is Every Breath by Ellie Marney. I can’t say much on this one, because I have not started it yet, except that it seems like a cheesy but enjoyable young adult novel about a modern day teenage Sherlock Holmes and female Watson.

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Rachel Watts is an unwilling new arrival to Melbourne from the country. James Mycroft is her neighbour, an intriguingly troubled seventeen-year-old genius with a passion for forensics. Despite her misgivings, Rachel finds herself unable to resist Mycroft when he wants her help investigating a murder. And when Watts and Mycroft follow a trail to the cold-blooded killer, they find themselves in the lion’s den – literally.

 

P.S. Not so much Sherlock Holmes related, but if you like books about crime solving teenagers with crazy abilities of deduction then you will love The Naturals series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. The first two books are out and I’ve read them both and loved them. Both would get 4.5/5

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Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.

What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides—especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own. Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.

Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.

Like These? Try These…. Hunger Games & Divergent

Here are a few, hopefully not overdone, suggestions for books you might like if you enjoyed The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins and the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. The Maze Runner  by James Dashner is pretty obvious, so I didn’t include it in the chart. Another series people usually suggest is Matched by Ally Condie and although I loved the first book I really did not enjoy the second or third book in the series.

LTW - Hunger Games & Divergent

If you did enjoy The Maze Runner series I would also highly recommend James Dashner’s new series. The first book is called The Eye of Minds:

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Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker.
And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team.
But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern – Book Review

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Amy and Matthew didn’t know each other, really. They weren’t friends. Matthew remembered her, sure, but he remembered a lot of people from elementary school that he wasn’t friends with now.

Matthew never planned to tell Amy what he thought of her cheerful facade, but after he does, Amy realizes she needs someone like him in her life.

As they begin to spend more time with each other, Amy learns that Matthew has his own secrets and she decides to try to help him in the same way he’s helped her. And when what started out as a friendship turns into something neither of them expected, they realize that they tell each other everything—except the one thing that matters most.

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This book was funny, and hopeful, and heartbreaking, and eye-opening. I had never read a book before that put me in the shoes of someone who literally couldn’t speak (verbally, because she does use a computer to communicate) for themselves. Both Amy and Matthew have struggles that they are attempting to overcome for the majority of the book. Having the book from both of their mindsets truly allowed for me to experience two lives completely unlike my own and yet so similar in their dreams and goals, despite dealing with things much harder than anything I’ve ever dealt with.

I feel like this book helped me see different sides to OCD and Cerebral Palsy that I never would have, had I not read this. I think one of the greatest things a book can do is to make people more open and empathetic to the different struggles that everyone faces. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to gain a new perspective on life, and who enjoys a good love story. Matthew and Amy’s characters are both extremely interesting, and are developed well throughout the storyline. I would give this book 4/5

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[MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD]

My only qualm is that it ended almost too perfectly, with them getting together in the end. I honestly just really enjoyed that Matthew was able to finally connect with other people and deal more successfully with his OCD. I loved that Amy took charge of her own life and went back to university to do what she wanted, standing up to her mom in the process, and worked incredibly hard to become successful. They both found their paths and were happy in their lives, so adding them getting back together and being in love seemed slightly over the top for me. But, it was still a cute ending.

Books Offering New Perspectives:

I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

Zac & Mia by A.J. Betts

Blind by Rachel Dewoskin

Shadow of Night by Kelley Armstrong – Book Review

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I’ve been waiting for this book to be released and picked it up as soon as I saw it appear on the shelf at work!

Empire of Night by Kelley Armstrong is the sequel to Sea of Shadows, which is about twin sisters who have to flee after their village is decimated and find themselves on a journey, with an attractive warrior and a criminal, to figure out what is behind the supernatural attack. I loved the first book, Sea of Shadows, and would rate it with 4/5 stars, and the second book turned out to be even better.

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Empire of Night was yet another epic adventure, bringing in new otherwordly beasts that were easy to picture with Armstrong’s description. The twins, Ashyn and Moria, travel to new parts of their realm, allowing the reader to experience more of their world. I enjoy that Kelley Armstrong doesn’t just leave the rest of the series to be told from the capital, but keeps the sense of adventure going.

Yes, there is romance mixed into this fantasy series, but it is very well done. I’ve found some fantasy and dystopian YA authors don’t create a great balance between the plot of the book and the romance the main character experiences. It can sometimes feel a bit ridiculous that these characters are in life threatening situations, and instead of thinking about saving themselves they just dream of their ‘true’ love.  Is anyone with me when I say there was way too much lovey dovey poetry in the sequel to Matched by Ally Condie?

I appreciate that Armstrong wrote both Ashyn and Moria intelligently, not pining after guys who hurt them or guys who aren’t interested in them. The love stories in this book also don’t overwhelm the rest of the plot, they didn’t make me roll my eyes or want to put the book down because of some outrageous decision a character makes due to love ( I once threw a book onto the floor at how mad I became at the main female character’s romantic choices).

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How I felt reading Crossed by Ally Condie and Deny by Sara B. Larson because of
the stupid romantic choices of the main characters

This book was very enjoyable, with intelligent and strong female characters. I’m definitely looking forward to reading the final installment in this series, and will be checking out more of Kelley Armstrong’s other books.

Rating: 4.25/5

For Fans Of: Graceling, Fire, or Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore; Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas; and Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch