Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear

Katie James

Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear (Aether Chronicles)

Publisher: Flux

Release date: August 8, 2012

Pages: 406

Summary: Noli fixed up an old flying car and took it for a joy ride with her best friend, V. Unfortunately, they are pulled over, and Noli’s punishment is to attend reform school in San Francisco. The school is absolutely terrible, complete with an evil headmistress. Noli will do anything to get away—even take a faery huntsman up on an offer that may cost her life.

I decided to write my essay about this fabulous book: Though Innocent Darkness is set in a steampunk alternate history, I felt that Suzanne Lazear’s voice was a bit too anachronistic. I found myself forgetting that Noli was supposed to come from the early 1900’s because of Lazear’s writing style. Innocent Darkness could easily be set in the present, and it gives that illusion until a word like dollymop pops up, or someone mentions corsets. If a story is to be set in a historical period, it should give that feeling all the way through, not just at sporadic moments. The steampunk background seemed more gimmicky than helpful to the story to me, so I was disappointed with its execution.

That being said, Suzanne Lazear’s voice is a very readable one, and because of that Innocent Darkness is easy to pick up and read for hours. Readers looking for a quick, fun book will enjoy Innocent Darkness. Noli is a spunky protagonist who is just too much fun to follow around. Skilled at troublemaking, Noli will delight fans of girls who break barriers with pride.

Innocent Darkness also features a love triangle, and luckily it’s one that doesn’t totally involve two guys going caveman and fighting over one lucky gal. Both love interests have their merits—one certainly more than the other—but they don’t push Noli too hard to be theirs. The choice is ultimately Noli’s, which is the way it should be.

If adventures in faeryland are your thing, check out Innocent Darkness. The mythology might not be fresh, but the story is fun and exciting enough to keep you hooked.
Have any of you read it, guys? Don’t hesitate to share your opinion in the comments below!  I’d gladly discuss this book with you personally.

At the moment I am thinking about what to read next, do you have any ideas, guys?
3/5 stars

For those who like: faeries, love triangles

Mockinjay by Suzanne Collins

Katie James


I was super excited about Mockingjay, hoping it would be just as crazy as the previous two installments of the Hunger Games series. I can’t say that I was unhappy with the third book, but I was a little disappointed.

Mockingjay is by far the darkest book of the Hunger Games. It’s borderline depressing, because Katniss goes through some serious psychological trauma. That alone made it difficult for her to be the heroine we expect her to be.

The book didn’t disappoint on the action front, but it was lacking the intrigue that the arenas had. I missed trying to figure out how the tributes would escape the various traps and obstacles the arenas provided. Mockingjay brings the arena into the real world, but it’s nowhere near as exciting as the clockwork arena or the first arena because, yeah, it’s reality.

And the romance? Yeesh. I don’t want to be spoilery, but I was really disappointed in how the whole “choice” resolution was executed.

I enjoyed reading every bit of Mockingjay, but I didn’t find it as fun as the previous two volumes. And the ending? Yeah, it’s pretty sob-worthy. 🙁

Mistwood by Leah Cypess

Mistwood is an incredibly engaging YA fantasy. I read it in a day! I had so much trouble putting it down. Then again, I’m a sucker for fantasy. I love me some far-away kingdoms and political intrigue. Thankfully, Mistwood had both, plus the paranormal element of shape-shifting!

An awesome thing about Mistwood is that it had an entirely new take on shape-shifters. No werewolves here! Just a being whose only purpose is to protect and to serve—and take whatever form best completes that job. The Shifter, Isabelle, was a very intriguing character. I loved watching her go from utterly confused to finally understanding; from a blank slate to a fully characterized girl. And she was so stinking badass!

The plot was great as well— because Isabelle had very little memories, her past was a puzzle waiting to be solved. There were also so many twists thrown in there…I honestly couldn’t guess some of those!
Overall, I LOVED Mistwood. Yep, I said it!
Have any of you read it, guys? Don’t hesitate to share your opinion in the comments below!  I’d gladly discuss this book with you personally. At the moment I am thinking about what to read next, do you have any ideas?

Like this book, so check this one as well Matched by Ally Condie. 



Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Katie James

Publisher: Penguin Teen

Release Date: October 2010

Pages: 454

Nightshade is a completely engrossing novel that has enough action—and romance—to keep your heart pounding for hours after you put it down.

I really, really enjoyed Nightshade— so much, in fact, that I made myself read the book slowly so that I could savor every bit (a difficult task!). And let me tell you, Nightshade is quite savory. With a love triangle that doesn’t make the decision easy (for either Calla or the reader), Nightshade is totally swoon-worthy. There are cute moments, steamy moments, and tug-of-war moments abound. You’ve got Ren, the alpha boy Calla has to love, and Shay, the adorable, puppy-like boy who Calla might just love. I suppose if I have to state my preference, I’d pick Shay, since he’s not as pushy as Ren and he’s much sweeter (but, you know, Ren’s fine, too).

Many of the scenes in Nightshade went a little like this:

SHAY: Can I take your clothes off? *puppy eyes*

REN: Forget asking, I WILL take your clothes off!

CALLA: (halfheartedly) Nooo… I’m not allowed to participate in anything like that until I get married!

Though Nightshade focused heavily on romance, Andrea Cremer did one heck of a job building a world for Calla and the other Guardians to live in. The history of the Nightshades and Banes was absolutely fascinating—it mixed fairy-tale and werewolf lore with a dark twist— and the pack dynamic was great. I felt like I was a part of the book myself, taking in all the scenery and characters.

Nightshade ends on a cliffhanger, which is completely unfair and awful, but it only spurred my excitement for book two! I can’t wait! (No, really, Andrea Cremer, lock your doors!)

I would definitely recommend Nightshade to any teen, especially to those who are reluctant readers. Nightshade is completely addictive, and it has the chops to make almost any reader fall in love with it.
I hope you have found this article interesting. Please, feel free to share your opinion in the comments below. I couldn’t express how pleased I am to get your feedback, I would appreciate it very much.
At the moment I am thinking about what to read next, do you have any ideas, guys? If yes, let me know in the comments below where you’re welcome to leave your opinion as well.

5/5 Stars


Matched by Ally Condie

Katie James

Matched by Ally Condie

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile

Released: November 2010

Pages: 366

Matched seems heavily influenced by books like The Giver, but it distinguishes itself by really delving into the teen perspective. Cassia’s narration is in the present tense, which makes you feel like you’re right there with her, and it perfectly reflects how a teen today might feel in her situation. She has little bouts of rebellion in her, but she feels too restricted to take any action.

Ally Condie built a beautiful world in Matched. Attention was given to every little detail, and the Officials were wonderful representations of totalitarian leaders. I loved learning about the Society’s history and all the technology it possessed. The part of the Society that I found most interesting was the little case of pills that everyone was required to carry at all times. Each pill spoke volumes about the instability of the structure of the Society in its own way, which was really neat.

I felt that in terms of overall tone, Matched was very similar to The Hunger Games series. Cassia was not the peppiest of teens, and like Katniss, she often got down in the dumps (and occasionally poetic) about the unfortunate world she lives in. This mindset was realistic, but I really wished that Cassia would stop being so morose and try to think more optimistically!

In terms of romance, at first I had a difficult time making myself love either of the two love interests, Xander or Ky. Xander seemed to be very caring, but overall he was a pretty flat character. Ky had more substance, but it wasn’t until he came out of his shell that I actually thought much of him. The way his relationship developed with Cassia was adorable, but the initial attraction between the two seemed too much like the “soul mate” concept that YA authors love so much. Nevertheless, I slowly grew to believe the love between Cassia and Ky.

One last thing I’d like to mention is Ally Condie’s writing. It is wonderful! The way she writes just flows so well. I also liked her incorporation of poems, and how she kept referring to them not only by quoting, but also through the characters’ actions and feelings.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Matched. The setting was spectacularly written, the teen perspective was realistic, and the writing was lovely. The story will make you question your beliefs, and encourage you to follow your heart, rather than the rules.

4/5 Stars


Melody Burning by Whitley Strieber

Katie James

Melody Burning by Whitley Strieber

Publisher: Henry Holt

Release date: December 6, 2011

Pages: 224

Summary: Beresford has been within the walls of a skyscraper since he was a little boy. He’s even named himself after the building. When teen sensation Melody McGrath moves in, Beresford is mesmerized by her, and he’s certain he’s found love. Beresford gets an opportunity to interact with Melody when he discovers that the building (and thus her life) is in danger of going up in flames.

My thoughts: Melody Burning is charming in some aspects, but odd in others. The chapters told from the perspective of Beresford are written in a very juvenile manner, which is delightful because the style reflects his lack of education. Beresford is a very mysterious character, and it’s never really explained how he came to be fascinated by Melody. His infatuation with her is borderline creepy, and the romance aspect of the novel just leaves you with a queasy feeling. Though the message of the book is to accept everyone, Beresford, though sweet, seems a bit of a stretch. This is in part due to the fact that it’s very difficult to connect to him as a character. He has no memory of his past, but he’s still a completely blank slate. It seems odd that after twelve years or so he wouldn’t have formed some sort of personality.

Melody, on the other hand, bursts from the page with her fiery attitude! The chapters told from her perspective are definitely superior to Beresford’s. The drama that comes with being a teen superstar (think a Disney Channel girl) follows her around and is supremely entertaining. Melody’s mother is positively insane, and the arguments they have are epic almost to the point of unbelievability. Melody is a bit of a damsel in distress in Melody Burning, but there are moments when she shows backbone—especially during interactions with her mother. Melody’s connection with Beresford is, again, just a bit weird, and so it’s not very believable at all.

Melody Burning is a thriller, and at this it succeeds the most. Whitley Strieber is a master at creating heart-pounding scenarios! The language he uses makes the reader feel as if they are the one trying to beat the clock; the intensity is off the charts! Readers who love thrilling scenarios will find the last few chapters of Melody Burning fantastic.

While Melody Burning doesn’t quite meet the mark in terms of characters or believability, it is still ultimately enjoyable. Those looking for a memorable love story, though, should probably look elsewhere. Melody Burning is dramatic and thrilling, but it’s a bit quirky in terms of overall concept.

2.5/5 stars


Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill

Katie James

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release date: November 13, 2012
Pages: 256

Summary: Julia takes a ten-day class trip to London, but none of her friends are along for the ride. The only familiar face is Jason, an alleged playboy with a tendency to tease. So of course Julia is paired up with Jason for the duration of the trip: the “buddies” have to do all their sightseeing together. But Jason helps bring out the wild child in Julia—for better or for worse.
Meant to Be Lauren Morrill
I think sometimes predictability and cheesiness work out in cute novels. I’m so excited for this one since I don’t think I’ve curled up with a solely feel-good romance YA since Anna and the French Kiss, so I can’t wait! 🙂
My thoughts: Meant to Be would make an excellent rom-com movie. It has a charming, plucky heroine and a sexy bad-boy who are clearly perfect together, but they just can’t see it themselves. Plus, there’s humor, and—how could I forget?—the story is set in London. (Seriously, this book is making me so pumped to have my own London adventure in January. Yay for personal connections!)
Lauren Morrill’s writing is so fun to read: it’s quirky—infused with some funny and tons of sweet. Meant to Be has a lot of heart, and this is definitely due to Morrill’s grasp of the teen voice. Julia is basically my soul-sister, organizational tendencies and Shakespeare obsession included, and reading her narration feels like chatting with an old friend.
And don’t get me started on the romance! Meant to Be has enough sexual tension to fill two novels. The concept of a MTB is pretty cheesy, but the way it ties into the story—and the romance—is very cute. I know readers will be very satisfied with the romance in Morrill’s debut.
The only thing preventing me from giving Meant to Be a five-star rating is its predictability. With the romantic-comedy scene occasionally comes tropes. Morrill does her best to avoid them, but sometimes you just know what’s coming.
Get yourself a cup of nice tea  and don’t forget to read a couple of pages before going to bed. I can’t wait to buy a new novel.
4/5 stars
For those who like: Romantic comedies, European settings, travel adventures
Comment question: What’s the first place you’d visit in London?

The Mephisto Covenant by Trinity Faegen

Katie James

Publisher: Egmont USA

Release date: September 27, 2011

Pages: 439

Summary: Sasha’s dad has recently been murdered while working as an Insurance Agent in Russia, and she’s determined to find out what really happened. She’s tried everything, and her last chance for information is the mysterious Eryx, who claims to be able to grant any wish—but the wisher has to renounce God. Turns out, Eryx is actually an evil immortal being trying to take Hell away from Lucifer—and Sasha, an Anabo, is his biggest threat. Jax, another immortal working against Eryx, is determined to have Sasha fighting by his side.

My thoughts: Conceptually, The Mephisto Covenant is fantastic. Trinity Faegen builds on traditional biblical stories to create mythology that’s both unique and genuinely interesting. It doesn’t go so far that it would offend Christians (The Mephisto Covenant stays grounded in Christian belief and values), but it does toe the line, which I love to see in literature. The execution of this premise, unfortunately, wasn’t quite as smooth as it could be. The beginning of the novel is a bit confusing, and it takes a while to fully grasp the technicalities of the Anabo and the Mephisto. Still, about halfway through the book, things start to make a bit more sense.

The one thing that bothered me about The Mephisto Covenant was the romance. Trinity Faegen tries her hardest to make Jax and Sasha’s attraction justifiable, but when you get down to it, it’s instantaneous love, which feels somewhat inauthentic despite explanations. Add in a hundred or so pages of “I love you, but I can’t have you—wait—maybe I don’t love you” tug-of-war, and I was becoming tired of the pair’s indecisiveness. When Jax and Sasha actually come together, though, their chemistry is insane! They really sizzle—both when they’re making out and when they’re bantering.

Individually, Jax and Sasha are great characters, but they’re a bit difficult to connect with. Sasha is innocent and pure without being a prude, and Jax is a tortured, hot son of Hell. The characters that stand out the most, I think, are the ones that aren’t in the spotlight. From the grieving but snarky Phoenix to Sasha’s sweet brother Chris, The Mephisto Covenant is filled with complex side characters. And even though we don’t really meet him, Mephistopheles himself really comes to life through the lore that Trinity Faegen presents.

The Mephisto Covenant has quite a bit of potential to be popular—it has creative mythology, passionate romance, and a compulsively readable storyline. Readers not jaded by the YA paranormal romance genre will especially enjoy The Mephisto Covenant because they won’t be as used to the common elements Trinity Faegen incorporates in her story. I personally wasn’t completely captivated by The Mephisto Covenant, but I was impressed with the unique mythology.

3.5/5 stars