Monday, May 25, 2015

Sea of Shadows

This book is such a trip. The world that the characters live in is thrilling and amazing. Every moment of this story is suspenseful and engaging. Kelley Armstrong does a wonderful job of bringing the characters and creatures alive in this novel. Her writing is well thought out and extremely compelling. I don't read a lot of fantasy, but this work won me over.

The story is of twin sisters, Moria and Ashyn. They are two of six people in their empire who can listen to the spirits. Their job is to protect the Forest of the Dead, and once a year to release the souls that are trapped there. Something has gone terribly wrong, and they are sent on a journey across the empire, in hopes they can save the lives of those who are trapped in an evil game. It's suspenseful and keeps the reader turning the page.

Moria is a stubborn girl who loves to train for battle. She's passionate about protecting those she loves, and has a huge amount of loyalty. If there is no logical way to do something, she makes her own way. She's courageous and very tough, but soon learns that she has a tender spot she'd like to pretend doesn't exist.

Ashyn is sweet and kind. She's sensitive, but braver than she thinks. She's the romantic in the family, but she's been raised to be sensible. She is extremely intelligent and loves to learn. Her charm is in her humility, and she would do absolutely anything for those she loves. She would face her biggest fears, just to find her sister.

Gavril is a bit of a bully. He likes to get his own way, and pushes people around to get it. He's handsome, and he knows it. When he finds himself stuck with Moria as a traveling companion, he begins to realize how good it is to be able to trust someone. They save each other's lives, and a sort of mutual respect begins to form.

Ronan is a thief, but a remorseful one. He does what he needs to survive. He wants to prove himself worthy of friendship, but he doesn't know how to do so. He tries to remain in the shadows, not wanting attention drawn to himself. But he's thrown into situations that leave him standing out like a sore thumb. He's surprisingly loyal, for a boy raised by thieves.

This book contains a number terrifying, well thought out creatures that have continued to haunt my dreams. They are magical and treacherous. Exactly the right speed for this fantasy piece. It's the perfect amounts of action and romance to keep a true book lover up all night.

Excited to share my thoughts on the second in the series,

Jackelyn Stange

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Distance Between Us

A friend recently suggested Kasie West as an author. Said friend has amazing instincts when it comes to books. We're soul mates, you might say. Her recommendation did not disappoint.

This book was an easy, but interesting read. The characters were lovable. They had real flaws as well as believable triumphs.

Caymen, the main character, is an extremely smart teenage girl living in a wealthy beach town in California. Unlike the majority of the area residents, she and her mother are not bathing in money. They're broke and getting poorer by the second. Caymen is a selfless, loyal girl who is dedicated to her mother, but soon discovers that adventures lie just outside her door. She has spent her entire life hating the rich people surrounding her, never trusting them, always keeping them at an arms length. Out of nowhere, two boys vie for her attention. One of them (Mason) is a very sweet boy of average means and the other (Xander) is clever and earnest, from an outrageously wealthy family. Caymen finds herself having to balance her family life and her friendships while analyzing both her academic and romantic futures.

Skye is Caymen's best friend in the world. She's a little bit vintage, somewhat rock and roll, and extremely unique. Her pink hair and second hand outfits make her stand out from the crowd. She is fiercely devoted to her friendship with Caymen. She stands by the side of her friends, no matter what the situation. Caymen would be lost without her and her sage advice.

Susan. She's Caymen's mother. She's a complicated one. She hates the wealthy people in her town, but she is a slave to them. She depends on their money to survive. She's two-faced to an extreme. She loves her daughter and is a wonderful mother, but she is extremely confusing. Her logic sometimes sends me spinning, and I just want to smack some sense into her. But at the same time, she's so lovable.

Mason is a flirt. He's adorable, talented, and exudes kindness. He has a passion for life, and his life is filled with endless possibilities. He's the lead singer of the beach town's most popular band, and he is loved by all. He has an unwavering interest in Caymen, and is exactly the kind of guy she could be happy with.

Xander is intense and powerful. He has the world at his fingertips, but is losing touch with his dreams. He's lost in the world, but if he knows one thing, it is that Caymen is the girl that can set him on the right path. He doesn't seem to care about social status, instead he is looking for love. He's a bit stubborn, but always willing to talk through anything.

This book was filled with fun antics, a delicious amount of sarcasm, and so many interesting characters. The setting felt a bit MTV, giving off a Laguna Beach feel and some parts of the story line were a bit hard to believe. Overall, the book was a very pleasurable way to fill a Sunday afternoon, and something I would suggest to any fellow book lover.

How about you? Any favorite characters in this piece? Any strange pet peeves about something from it? How do you feel about the relationship between Caymen and Susan? Or Caymen and one of the boys? Which of them did you like better?

Happily daydreaming of California sunshine,

Jackelyn Stange

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Heir

**Important note: the following review will contain names, character descriptions, and limited events from the books. It will not include any devastating spoilers.**

Kiera Cass does it again. She is an absolutely brilliant author. Her books are filled with such lovable, relate-able characters. The entire Selection series is filled with swoon-worthy suitors and impenetrable friendships. Cass' writing style involves limited flowery descriptions, and the perfect amount of character insight. Readers finish her books feeling as if they've met new friends (or enemies, depending.)

The Heir is set twenty years after the previous books, Princess Eadlyn is asked to participate in a Selection of her own. Thirty-five eligible young men from around the country are brought to the palace to compete for her hand. The princess agrees to the Selection only to appease her parents. The entire thing is a joke to her, she has no intention to marry, no desire for romance. Overall, the beautiful Eadlyn is a very selfish and mean girl. She's been raised to run a country on her own, and she's very hesitant to show any sign of weakness. Nothing about love or romance appeals to her.

Quite the opposite of Eadlyn in both looks and personality is her twin brother, Ahren. Where she is dark toned and cold, he is blonde and genuine. He's a hopeless romantic, deeply in love with a princess of his own. He's the only person who truly understands Eadlyn, and he tries desperately to break her out of her shell. He's so kind and loving, he's able to convince her to give the boys a chance. Which, of course, terrifies her to no end.

Of her suitors, there are several stand-outs. First, there's Kile. A very close friend of the family, Eadlyn has known (and despised) him her whole life. Being forced into this game against their will, the two make an unlikely alliance to get them through the whole ordeal. Their forced friendship starts to be come something more as time wears on. Eadlyn starts to warm up to Kile, but is he simply acting the part for the cameras?

Hale is an extremely handsome, well-dressed boy who seems to genuinely care. He's been through some difficult things in his life, but he's come out the other side with a great attitude and charisma. While Eadlyn hasn't had the opportunity to get to know him well, she knows he has potential, and they've got a great deal in common.

The sweetest guy award goes to Henri, who only speaks Finnish. While the language barrier is a definite problem, his kind nature and sincerity make him a front runner. He so obviously cares about Eadlyn, it's obvious he would do anything for her. On top of all of those great qualities, he's also an amazing cook!

The unexpected addition to Eadlyn's suitors is a boy who is not a part of the competition itself. Erik. He is actually Henri's translator, only in the palace to do a job. But he seems to understand Eadlyn on a deeper level than expected. He knows what to do to make her comfortable without even asking. He's certainly someone to watch, though not technically a beau.

Eadlyn's mother and father are so in love, it's refreshing. Their romance is told in the first three of the Selection series. Nothing about their passion faded over time. They were clearly meant to be.

These books simply grab you and suck you in. There's no escape once you've been lost in the words of Kiera Cass. She is a talented wordsmith. She is so wonderful and keeping a reader guessing about what comes next. I know I've picked favorites from the list of suitors, but it's hard to say which one Cass has chosen for her main character. These boys have such great qualities, but there are also valid reasons that Eadlyn would not choose any of them. Kile wants nothing more than to leave the palace and start a life on his own. If she truly cares for him, she would let him go, rather than keep him confined. Hale is interesting and classy, but she has barely learned anything about him at all. Henri is perfect in every way, but it's so difficult for Eadlyn to communicate with him. And he's almost TOO nice, I feel like he's hiding something. Then there's Erik, who is probably perfect for her, but she couldn't choose him because it would devastate Henri. Neither Erik nor Eadlyn could do that to such a wonderful guy.

The choice is difficult, the possibilities are endless. Speculation is such sweet torture. What do you think? Who are your top picks? And what do you think of Eadlyn? Is she unnecessarily severe, or is her cold attitude a requirement for her job?

Kiera Cass will leave you wanting more.

Wasting away slowly until Book 5 is released in 2016,

Jackelyn Stange