Bloodlines-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Fiction/New Adult Fiction/Paranormal

Rating: 4/5

While this is a spin-off series from Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series, it can still be read as its own series. I would highly recommend reading the Vampire Academy series first anyway, because this book has a lot of references and characters that first appear in Vampire Academy. One of the characters in the later part of the series, a supporting character, takes on a leading role in this series, and the main character, Sydney, reflects upon events that happened with her and the vampires during the Vampire  Academy series. Also, I had trouble deciding whether this should be young adult or new adult, because the main characters are 18 and 21, but the other characters are high school age and the predecessoing novels are young adult, so I put under both, because I think college-age would like this novel too.

After Lissa Dragomir becomes the Queen in their society, her cousin, Jill, is in grave danger. With the Vampire rule that a ruling monarch must have a living relative to hold the position, Jill’s life is attempted at to remove Lissa from the throne. Told from the first person perspective of Sydney, the Alchemist must keep the peace while aiding to hide Jill in Palm Springs.

Alchemists find Vampires to be against nature, their very existence a foreboding thing against God. Sydney is frightened of their use of magic, abnormal beauty, and blood diet, but even more foreboding are the Strigoi. Strigoi are the evil, corrupt version of the Vampire community who live forever and enjoy killing, while Moroi are the mortal elites, and Dhampirs are half human half Moroi.

With Sydney finding her latest assignment acting as Jill’s sister at a boarding school in Palm Springs and keeping Jill hidden and safe, she also notices a number of things. One is that everyone loves her tattoo and thinks it makes her super intelligent so she doesn’t have to try academically. When other students begin getting tattoos that make them high or enhance them physically, Sydney suspects the misuse of compounds made by her own association: the Alchemists. The other thing that she notices is that a strange sting of murders has happened in the area over the last few years. Could there be any connections here?

The only local Vampire in Palm Springs believes that his daughter, among those murdered, was killed by some vampire hunters. The odd thing is, vampire hunters seem like a thing of myth, since it is part of the Alchemists jobs to keep the Vampire world hidden. When the attacks appear to be from a Strigoi, Sydney and Adrian investigate, only to find that something even more shocking than a Strigoi OR vampire hunter has been behind the murders.

To keep the human world safe from the Vampire world, Sydney must learn to face her fear of Vampire magic and mystery, and fight to keep her job in Palm Springs. Jill and Adrian have some interesting secrets of their own, but Sydney finds that even though they are Vampires, she can possibly call them friends.

I was a bit wary of this book at first, thinking it may not be as good as the Vampire Academy series, but it was an excellent read. Like I said, you can read it on its own, but I would highly recommend reading the Vampire Academy series first because of the number of events and character appearances. This book is amazing, and shows what happens to Adrian after his heartbreak with Rose. That being said, Adrian was definitely one of my favorite characters from the original series, and I am glad he was able to get his own story, because he is an interesting character, and the development of both him and Sydney is superb. I can’t wait to read the next one!

The Fever Code (Maze Runner Book 5)-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Fiction

Rating: 4/5

Since The Kill Order was a somewhat lacking prequel to The Maze Runner series, I lowered my expectations for The Fever Code, but this book was interesting and fantastically crafted!

This story gives us the reveal to the mystery that readers have been wondering since reading The Maze Runner: how the maze was built! The novel starts with how Newt was taken from his family, along with his sister, who is also a candidate in the maze trials for group B (the all girl group).

Following this single instance of Newt’s capture, the rest of the story is taken in by Thomas’s third person limited perspective. When Thomas first came in, his name was Stephen, but WICKED used a sort of torturous shock therapy until his brain was ingrained with the name: Thomas.

We get to see a somewhat rushed version of Thomas’s childhood, when he meets Teresa, and how they get involved with the other guys, such as Chuck, Minho, Newt, and Alby. Thomas and Teresa are special, though, compared to the other children. They are the two from group A, designing the maze for the boys to study the killzone (the brain) to fight the Flare. Aris and Rachel are the designers of the maze for group B, the equivalents of Thomas and Teresa.

Once the mazes are built, the children start getting inserted into the mazes to begin the maze trials. Thomas, Teresa, and their buddy Chuck, begin to observe their old friends through the beetle blades. On top of Thomas’s and Teresa’s observational work for WICKED and the maze trials, they find that one of the leading officials has the Flare, and that he has been hiding it from WICKED. Since Thomas, Teresa, Aris, and Rachel are immune to the Flare, Dr. Paige sends them to remove this threat, among other suspected officials who are infected, before the whole facility and their killzone project becomes marginalized! The kids have never killed anyone before, and this mission will test their limits.

Jorge and Brenda, who appear in The Scorch Trials, make an appearance as well, explaining that the mazes are only the first trial, and that once the Gladers find their way out of the maze, all of them will then have to go through the Scorch.

When it is Thomas’s turn to enter the maze, those of us who have read the initial trilogy can figure out the story from there. His thoughts and feelings about going in demonstrate his feelings for WICKED, but Teresa still believes, no matter what, that WICKED is good.

Overall this was a fantastic book. I would recommend it more after having read the whole series first, BUT it could also be read as the first book for new readers going into the series. It was well paced and fun to see the characters in the WICKED facility before they ever entered the maze, and it was also interesting to see Jorge and Brenda and their involvement before Thomas meets them in the scorch. This was a great addition to the series, and it would actually be pretty fun to see another installment, if it can meet up with the standards set by this prequel!

On a side note: Don’t forget to check out Dashner’s worthwhile, internet adventure Mortality Doctrine trilogy, The Eye of Minds, The Rule of Thoughts, and the Game of Lives, wherever books are sold!

Highlight: Short Stories From Hogwarts

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Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Rating: 4/5

So far, these three short stories are e-book exclusives ($2.99 each on Amazon).

The three short collections have a basic theme within the collection and add just a bit extra to the world of Harry Potter.

Individual Rating: 4/5

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship, and Dangerous Hobbies has four chapters with a total of 7 short works therein.

  • “Minerva McGonagall” is a more extensive piece (compared to the rest within the series of short stories) and features her parentage, childhood, schooling, and placement at Hogwarts. Some detail going into Animagi’s, which leads into the next short. We also learn about her love life and marriage.
  • “Animagi” goes into minor detail about what Animagi are and what restrictions there are to registering. It also details the (complicated) steps in becoming an Animagus and the misfortune of having to start over if you mess up.
  • “Remus Lupin” is the second major piece in this set or stories (with McGonagall being the first). It depicts Remus’s childhood and how he became a werewolf, what his parents thought of his lycanthropy, and his acceptance to Hogwarts when Dumbledore offers a solution. It also details his first and second time in the Order of the Phoenix, his marriage to Tonks, and his worry about passing on lycanthropy to the child. We also revisit his death, which is hard for us as well as Rowling. Rowling discusses Remus’s metaphor to incurable (but manageable) diseases today, as well as his patronus and feelings towards wolves that we never get to see in the novels.
  • “Werewolves” branches off of Lupin’s story and talks about their worldwide mythos. The history of werewolf registration and discrimination is discussed here, as well as the Ministry of Magic’s policies and how they have changed for werewolves over time.
  • “Sybill Trelawney” has a very vague depiction of how she came to be at Hogwarts as well as her character in opposition to the traits of McGonagall. She does not spend much time with the other teachers, but is descended from a great prophetess, which she tends to use to her advantage. Rowling reflects on the origins of Trelawney’s name, as well as mentioning that she is a character who Rowling has not developed a full background for, unlike many of her other characters.
  • “Naming Seers” briefly describes how wizarding families used to have their children named based on their future readings. If they will do great things, they must have a great name.
  • “Silvanus Kettleburn” is a very short piece, but discusses his enthusiasm as the previous Care of Magical Creatures teacher before Hagrid, as well as his (extremely) minor involvement in the Wizarding War.

Individual Rating: 3/5

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists has five chapters with a total of nine short works therein.

  • “Dolores Umbridge” gives some background to the character including her family, jobs, and interests. Rather than a story, it is more like a background profile (no dialogue or added story elements). The end of this part features commentary by J.K. Rowling and her inspirations for the character as well as name origins and meanings.
  • “Ministers for Magic” is more of a timeline than a story, featuring the origins of the Ministry and dating all Ministers for Magic from the origin, their length in office, and the reasons for their falling out of office. These reasons add a small historical element to the events of the Wizarding World.
  • “Azkaban” tells us the origins of the prison as well as the only times anyone has escaped. Rowling also shares her ideas about the prison and where the name came from.
  • “Horace Slughorn” features the early life of Slughorn and how he was a teacher to Voldemort. Slughorn, at times, has felt guilty for teaching Voldemort how to make the Horcruxes, but still finds his pupil astounding. He also has interests in other students of merit, such as Harry and Neville. Rowling talks about the name origins and inspirations for the character.
  • “Potions” briefly discusses some of the merits of using potions and that sometimes using a potion is the only way to accomplish a task, since there may not be a spell counterpart. Rowling highlights her inspiration and connection to potions in relation to doing chemistry in school.
  • “Polyjuice Potion” is a specific potion that can change ones appearance depending on the potency.  It is a potion that requires a lot of skill and hard-to-find ingredients. Rowling discusses how carefully thought out the specific ingredients are for the potion that relate to what the potion is meant to do.
  • “Cauldrons” are a widely known and widely used item by many cultures, and it makes sense for witches and wizards to have cauldrons even at a portable level.
  • “Quirinus Quirrel” was an interesting short highlighting a bit about his character and school life. Rowling shares thoughts about his name origins and how they relate to some of his more noticeable traits, such as fidgeting and stuttering.
  • “Peeves the Poltergeist” highlights the history of Peeves and his haunting’s. It mentions the type of people he tends to enjoy being around, and his ghostly enemy, the Bloody Baron. The differences between poltergeists and ghosts is also discussed.

Individual Rating: 4/5

Hogwarts: An Incomplete Unreliable Guide has six chapters with 19 short works therein.

  • “The Journey to Hogwarts: Platform 9 3/4” features the short stories “King’s Cross Station,” “Platform Nine and Three-Quarters,” and “The Hogwarts Express.” These short stories feature the history and contemporary means of traveling to Hogwarts. Rowling shares her thoughts and ideas for these things based on the real King’s Cross Station in London and where further inspirations came from.
  • “The Sorting Hat” features the short stories “”The Sorting Hat” and “Hatstall.” It explains the origin and history of the Sorting Hat and the rare event of Hatstall, where the Sorting Hat may take an unusually long time to place someone in a house. We learn about some of the Hatstall students as well as Rowling’s thoughts and ideas for sorting before the Sorting Hat became the final way to sort students.
  • “The Castle and Grounds” features the short stories “Hufflepuff Common Room,” “The Marauder’s Map,”and  “The Great Lake.” Learning about the Hufflepuff common room was interesting. While it was never in the books, Rowling still knew behind the scenes just how her Hufflepuff’s get in and out of their common room. She also mentions the methods of entering the other three common rooms in comparison. Some history is added about the Marauder’s Map as well as some previous owners and contemporary uses. The Great Lake is a bit of a mystery, but Rowling has it developed for when she thought there would be more use of it in the novels, such as a magic gateway (I mean, how else did Durmstrang’s ship come out of the lake?)
  • “Lessons at Hogwarts” has short stories that shed light on “Hogwarts School Subjects” and “Time-Turner[s].” Rowling gives more definitive information on the various school subjects that students can take based on what year they are in, as well as comparing Hogwarts subjects to Muggle school subjects. The time-turner information is interesting in that it shares the history, uses, and precautions of time-turners, and Rowling explains the eradication of time-turners to avoid plot implications in the novels.
  • “Castle Residents” features the stories “Hogwarts Ghosts,” “Ghosts,” “The Ballad of Nearly Headless Nick,” “Hogwarts Portraits,” and “Sir Cadogan.” Rowling depicts the traits of specific ghosts who are permanent residents of Hogwarts in comparison to ghosts in general. The ballad is a song by Nearly Headless Nick that was removed from the final publication of the novels, but it is rather humorous if you can laugh with darker humor. Rowling explains how the portraits are crafted and how they work, not being actual people, merely imitated bits. Sir Cadogan is a knight in one of the more famous Hogwarts portraits and is given a more thorough background and history here.
  • “Secrets of the Castle is the last chapter of this series of short stories and contains “Mirror or Erised,” “Pensieve,” “The Philosopher’s Stone,” “The Sword of Gryffendor,” and “The Chamber of Secrets.” Rowling goes into more detail into these magical objects and places, including origins and relation to real historical myth and legend. These were very interesting and well worth the read.

All in all, these stories are worth the read for any Harry Potter fan. They add just a bit more magic to the world that readers already know and love. Heroism, Hardship, and Dangerous Hobbies and Unreliable Guide are the best of the three, but Power, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists has its interesting merits as well. Despite not being actual stories with dialogue and new adventures for the characters we love, it was a fun intellectual read that I would go back to again, as well as hope for more from Rowling.

Lord of Shadows (Dark Artifices #2)-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Rating: 5/5

The second book in The Dark Artifices trilogy (following Lady Midnight), this book does not disappoint. It is paced much better than the first novel and gives a lot of time to character development. (I would highly recommend reading Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy BEFORE reading this book; it adds a lot of information to what is unfolded in this volume).

The first half of the book mostly takes place in Faerie, when Gwyn shows up at the institute begging Mark to save Kieran, who is going to be murdered by the Unseelie King. Of course, Emma, Julian, and Christina cannot let Mark go alone. By going with Mark, the four must each give up something to enter Faerie, and in return learn of something they will gain or encounter in the fae land.

Meanwhile, Clare spends an exorbitant amount of time developing Tiberius and Livia Blackthorn, and their friend Kit (Christopher) Herondale, the newest edition to the Los Angeles Institute. The relationship that Ty has with both his sister and Kit greatly develops his character, and the fact that he has autism makes him even more interesting and unique, and their relationship may develop to something brotherly…or more?

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Gwyn and Diana are also more developed in this book, which greatly adds to their characters, and makes me want to see more of what they will be doing.

When Malcom Fade returns from the dead to wreak havoc on the institute while the four Shadowhunters are in Faerie, the Centurions that are there to investigate battle him, and Zara Dearbourn takes credit for his death, when Julian sees Malcom’s true death in Faerie. Malcom Fade successfully resurrects Annabel Blackthorn with the sacrifice of Blackthorn blood, and Annabel returns the favor by murdering her once-lover.

Now the Seelie Queen wants the Black Volume to take down the Unseelie King, and she wants the Shadowhunter’s help. The second half of the book takes place in London, where the Blackthorn children have fled to for their own safety. Kit, Ty, and Livvy investigate Annabel’s past. Emma and Julian’s rough relationship brings them to find some way around the parabatai curse, all while looking for Annabel and the Black volume. But they are not the only ones seeking the Black volume. The Unseelie Kings Riders of Mannon seek the Black Volume, and predict the Blackthorns have it. Saved by an unexpected ally, the Blackthorns meet Annabel and ask her to swear upon the Mortal Sword that Zara did not kill Malcom, but rather, that she did.

All the while while this is going on, Zara Dearborn is taking credit for Malcom’s death, among other events of heroism, is prejudiced against Downworlders, and is aiming to take the Lost Angeles Institute from the Blackthorn Family.

This book leave us wondering: What will happen to Emma and Julian? What about Ty, Livvy, and Kit? Will Julian be separated from his family?

This book was exciting, and I am ITCHING for the last one! Obviously, the answer is YES, you should read this book!

Some side notes:

The first edition of Lord of Shadows comes with a reverse jacket featuring a number of different Shadowhunter runes.

The Target edition has a map of Alicante, the Barnes and Noble edition comes with an exclusive short 7-page scene between Emma and Julian, and the Costco edition comes with a beautiful poster of Emma drawn by Cassandra Jean:

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Also, be on the lookout for the City of Bones 10th Anniversary edition (with exclusive art by Cassandra Jean) coming out this November, as well as the City of Bones graphic novel, published by Yen Press:

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Star Wars: Rebel Rising-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Science-fiction

Rating: 4/5

Rebel Rising is a part of the Rogue One story line in the Star Wars franchise. This book can be found in the young adult section of your local book store, and is written for more of a teen audience, which made this a fun and unique read in addition to the Star Wars collection of books.

This novel features Jyn Erso for the ten years she spends between the time of her mother’s death and the time that she truly joins the rebellion. When Jyn is taken from her hiding place by Saw, a Clone Wars veteran, she finds she could learn to care for him as if he were family, but Saw has treated Jyn as a rising rebel rather than a daughter. At times, he does claim her as his daughter and he ingrains into her that she must never share her true identity, since her father is working for the Empire.

Jyn learns how to use a blaster and how to fight and defend using hand-to-hand combat. She becomes antiquated with a number of rebels that begin forming small strikes against the Empire, and she even demonstrates her strength against them, proving her worth to join Saw and the rebels on a mission.

When a mission goes sour and the rebels find a traitor in their midst, they must be careful. When the wrong person is accused, the real spy makes himself known, and Jyn is separated from Saw. She spends a year with the Ponta family (Hadder and his mother, Akshaya), finding new meaning to life, and even romance.

Even though Jyn constantly warns Akshaya that the Empire will eventually come down on their planet, the trader does not listen. When the Empire strikes, Jyn must make a new start yet again. Finding jobs hard to come by, Jyn resorts to working codes for the Empire and even selling out rebels, until she lands herself in the Imperial prison on Wobani.

This book is fun and fast-paced with the perfect type font, line spacing, and writing style for a young adult audience and it works for any Star Wars fan as well. There are some time skips that make the book feel rushed, which was noticeable and a bit of a bummer, and there isn’t anything that particularly stands out that makes the book great. Rather, it is the build and background that is placed upon Jyn’s character that makes this book more interesting, especially since we know the events that happen right after the books ends.

All in all, I would recommend this book for Star Wars fans of all ages, whether they be new fans to the franchise or veterans. It was a great installation to the series, to be sure!

King’s Cage (Red Queen 3)-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Rating: 4/5

This is the third book in the Red Queen series. Following the ending events of Glass Sword, Mare is imprisoned by king Maven. The book title comes from her experience of feeling that she is constantly in a cage created by the king.

With Mare having Silent Stone shackles at all times, her powers are useless. She becomes weak, a pawn in Maven’s game. Maven forces Mare to enlighten Newbloods to come to his side and fight for him, that they will be duly rewarded.

One of the interesting aspects about this novel compared to the previous one is that we get Cameron’s point of view, a Newblood girl from the group rescued at Corvium Prison. When we get her perspective, we see what is going on with the Scarlet Guard, Cal, and the Newbloods during Mare’s imprisonment. This addition gives the reader a new perspective on Mare and Cal as people.

While Mare is imprisoned, she can tell that Maven must still have feelings for her. She uses that to her advantage, until he declared his engagement to the Lakeland Princess. During the wedding ceremony of Maven and the princess, Mare makes a daring escape with the help of someone the reader would not have expected, but her helper has their own goals in mind.

The whole first half of the book involves Mare’s imprisonment, but does not mean it it lacking. We learn a lot about the other nations and their opposition to Maven as king, as well as some of the high houses of Norta who think likewise.

The second half of the book involves taking Corvium, helping Newbloods, and making a bunch of political alliances in the Scarlet Guard’s plans to take over Norta. It also features a nice spotlight on Cal and Mare’s relationship, but when Cal is being put forth to be the king to take over Norta, Mare is furious, since he previously stated he did not want to be king again. This leads to an interesting cliffhanger in regards to there own romance.

Mare is also reunited with her family and becomes and auntie. She also meets a bunch of interesting Newbloods who want to see a world undiscriminating by blood, just like Mare.

This book was not quite as good as the first one, but it was better than the second, despite the fact that Mare is imprisoned for a huge chunk of the novel. If you thought the second one was a bit meh, fear not! This book more than makes up for the slow bits, leaves the reader with a lot of questions, as well as itching for more!

Carve the Mark-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Science-fiction

Rating: 4.5/5

Carve the Mark blew me away! At first it was slow and convoluted because there is a lot of information to take in about the world and how it functions, but once that is more clear, the story is interesting, fast-paced, and outstanding! I went into this book not knowing anything about it or what to expect, and it turned out to be one of the best reads of 2017 thus far. The author the the Divergent Series does not disappoint her fans here.

The premise of the story is somewhat complex, but I will try my best to explain: basically there are two groups of people who inhabit the same planet and they are warring with each other. The origin stories for this dispute are different in both societies, so we cannot know which is accurate and which is not. The people of these planets obtain something similar to powers, called “currentgifts,” such as the use of fire or healing. People gain currentgifts from the current stream in their universe when they are around the age where they would go through puberty.

Akos Kereseth is the main male character who obtains the currentgift for interrupting other currentgifts; in other words, he can take them away. He is of the Thuvhe, the northern culture of people inhabiting the planet. When the Shotet people come to take Akos and his brother away, one of them supposedly the new prophet, the violence encourages even more dispute among the people.

Ryzek Noavek, the leader of the Shotet people in the south, believes that if he owns his own prophet (in this case, Akos’s brother), then he can escape his fate or rewrite what the prophet foresees before it happens. Ryzek’s gift is to exchange memories with others, and his hope is to be able to take the prophet’s power away through memory exchange.

When Akos becomes a servant for Cyra Noavek, Ryzek’s sister, the two seemingly hate each other, but their currentgifts are well-paired. Cyra’s currentgift is being in a constant state of nearly chronic pain, pain which she can give to others through touch, and even kill people with it. Since Akos can take currentgifts away, he can help Cyra ease her gift to build her public face for her brother. Because of her gift, Ryzek uses her to torture enemies often, despite how it affects her.

Eventually, Cyra and Akos not only find feelings for each other, but find that they have a common goal: remove (by murdering) Ryzek from power, because he is the one causing the current violence between the two civilizations. Akos also knows his fate: that he will one day die for the Noavek family, but when and how is uncertain, and no one can change their fate.

Overall, this book received a number of mixed reviews and has been called “ableist” and “racist” by many reviewers. While I can see these aspects in the novel, it is the racism and ableism that make the characters and the novel interesting. Basically, Roth is using this science-fiction world to demonstrate issues that we are still struggling with in the world today, issues that may need a bit more light and understanding bestowed upon them.

Despite the mixed reviews, the story is fast-paced (after the large amount of world building and exposition at the beginning of the novel) and has characters that seem to have a sort of Romeo and Juliet type of fate. It is the hardship and tragedy of the characters that make them worth following and growing attached to. It is the hope that they will overcome what fate has written for them, but knowing Roth, Akos and Cyra may yet have a tragic end.

The writing is pretty solid, and I have to say that the only way to really get a feel for what this book has to offer is to pick up a copy and READ IT! I am greatly looking forward to the next one, which I believe will be even better than the first, since the major exposition has been put out in the first novel.

A side note: Why is it called Carve the Mark? Well, every time the Shotet kill someone, people of violence, they carve a mark into their skin and dye it so that everyone knows how many they have killed, and to put those deaths to memory as well.