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Unstoppable: All Fall Down by Ally Carter

Hello!

Is there an author who, in your opinion, can do no wrong? That author whose books you always enjoy. Ally Carter is this author for me. Everything she writes is awesome — her Gallagher Girls series is one of my favorites and Heist Society is really fun too. I was really excited to hear about Embassy Row, her newest series, and had high expectations, so I read All Fall Down, the first book in the Embassy Row series and as I mentioned before Ally Carter didn’t let me down! She is unstoppable!

Overview

Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:All Fall Down by Ally Carter

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her–so there’s no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door who is keeping an eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands. Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can’t control Grace–no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . .  and if she doesn’t stop it, Grace isn’t the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world all stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

My Thoughts

I had high expectations for All Fall Down, I was also nervous that I’d be disappointed because it wasn’t a Gallagher Girls novel, which are still some of my favorite books ever. As I started listening to the audiobook I was quickly rewarded with an interesting main character, and a plot full of family secrets and political intrigue, which is exactly what I was hoping for!

That interesting main character is Grace, who is carrying some deep wounds and insecurity. Grace knows her mother is dead, feels alone within her own family and is struggling to feel normal. On top of all that she is dealing with the fact that she is alone in her belief that her mother was murdered. Grace is definitely flawed – she makes some majorly questionable choices and hurts a lot of people while trying to prove she is capable and normal. Isn’t that what makes her interesting though?

One of my favorite things about Ally Carter’s novels is that they’re set in a contemporary time, but are located in a special place that makes the story feel more fantastical.Take the Gallagher Girls series, for example, which is set in today’s United States but takes place in a secret boarding school to train young spies (super cool right?). All Fall Down is similar in that the story happens in today’s world, but it is set in a fictional European country and even more specifically in the very unique setting of the Embassy houses. Because the story takes place in the embassies of many different countries, Grace’s story is placed in the middle of political intrigue and high society events, which makes it that much more captivating! I mean seriously mystery abounds…there are secret underground tunnels! For realz!

I am so relieved and happy that All Fall Down turned out to be a great start to what seems like a fun series! Ally Carter…she will not let you down! Book two, See How They Run, is set to release in January 2016 and I’m so excited I can’t wait!!excited

Have you read All Fall Down —What’d you think? Who, in your opinion, is that unstoppable author that can do no wrong? Please leave your comments below, I love reading them!

Details

Author: Ally Carter
Publisher: Scholastic Press (January 20, 2015)
Format: Audiobook
Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
Length: 8 hours and 32 minutes
Series: First in a series
YA/MG: YA

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Completely Captivating: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Welcome Back!Twizzler Bites

I’m sitting here at my dining room table munching on Twizzler Bites (YUM) and enjoying the pretty sunlight coming in through the window while I work on this post. South Carolina winters are strange. One morning it’ll be a frigid 23F and five hours later it’ll be a comfortable 64F. I have the front door open (with the doggy gate up of course) and Miles the Pup is lounging on the rug. I’m pretty pleased with today overall!

Overview

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

I adore this cover…le sigh…

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

My Thoughts

A new fantasy series?! Yes please! I tried to get my hands on The Winner’s Curse all summer and fall but the waiting list at my local library was seriously a mile long! Finally it popped up on Overdrive, so I was able to listen to the audiobook. Although this book is classified as fantasy, I’d say it has more of a political intrigue plot with some fantasy elements woven throughout. Whatever it is, The Winner’s Curse is completely captivating and I couldn’t help but lose myself in the setting, characters, and story!

The world Kestrel lives in is well thought out and seems to resemble the Roman Empire in a lot of ways. Kestrel is member of the ruling Valorians and her people are the ruthless conquerors who have enslaved the Herrani people and treat them as cattle sold at auction. Despite the similarities to the Roman Empire, however, Kestrel’s world has its own qualities that give it a unique presence on the page, not to mention the political intrigue that begins to unwind! It is a well set up world that I am excited to visit more in the following books!

The romance between Kestrel and Arin, her newly acquired slave is subtle at first. It is slow to build as every interaction between the two in wrought with cords of romantic and emotional tensions. I didn’t feel rushed with this forbidden romance like one sometimes does in popular YA fiction, but every scene did leave me wanting more.

Recommended For

Because The Winner’s Curse is a slower paced read, with not a lot of action until the later half, I’d recommend it for older middle school readers and above, especially those who love a good romantic fantasy. I question whether  younger readers would have the patience to appreciate the slowly growing heat that is The Winner’s Curse. If you are one who can appreciate the gradual building of a good story, however, then you’ll enjoy this one like I did!

Details

Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux (March 4, 2014)
Format: Audiobook
Length: 8 hours and 24 minutes
Narrator: Justine Eyre (one of my faves!)
Series: First in a trilogy
YA/MG: Both

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My Husband Likes YA: Legend and Prodigy by Marie Lu

Hi!

Every once in a while I suggest that my husband and I listen to a YA audiobook together. We’ve done the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games trilogy and The Maze Runner series before and we both had fun listening to them together. He usually enjoys the titles I’ve picked, but I do have to choose the right book to get him interested, which is why I was excited when I read the summary for Legend by Marie Lu.

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with iLegend by Marie Luts neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths – until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

In October, the Husband and I were driving back to Florida for my brother’s wedding.  It was a six hour drive so we knew we needed an audiobook. We chose Legend and loved it! When we got back to South Carolina we snagged the second book, Prodigy from the library too.

One thing that was special about this audiobook is that there are two narrators; one for Day and one for June.  It makes sense because the chapters alternate between Day and June’s point of view. I think I Prodigy by Marie Luprefer listening to books with multiple points of view on audio rather than reading them because the voices help me remember who is speaking. Even when the two characters’ voices are very different from each other, I still end up getting a bit confused so it helps having literally two different voices!

Speaking of June and Day I liked the combination of the two personalities and backgrounds coming together to help each other. June is very much a tom-boy, incredibly analytical, and often doesn’t realize how much her sheltered and privileged background shapes her world view.  This, mixed with the chip Day has on his shoulder from having been born to a life that is the complete and total opposite of June’s. The two don’t trust one another at first and it’s interesting to see just how they learn to do so.

The dystopian world Day and June live in is hinted at in Legend and the reader (or in our case, listeners) get even more of it in book two, Prodigy. We learn more and more about this futuristic version of the United States as June does. There are characteristics about this dystopian US that are believable (natural disasters taking a toll), but other aspects that seem a fall a little short (where is the rest of the world while the US is dealing with this stuff?!).  I was incredibly intrigued by the whole skills testing teens undergo to get placed (or tracked) into specific careers or…other things. As an educator I see creepy similarities to our focus on testing.

Although both books are incredibly fast paced with pretty much non stop action the entire time, I preferred Prodigy to Legend. It’s not uncommon for me to prefer the second book in a series to the first though, because I tend to get really excited when the characters’ world opens up and we learn about deeper layers of the story and new characters are introduced.

This series is pretty fun and totally accessible to middle grade readers, older young adult readers and up and the audiobooks are highly recommend by me and the Husband (we’re currently trying to get our hands on book three, Champion!) So, if you’re a fan of dystopian YA, or are simply trying to lure your significant other in the world of YA,  Legend and Prodigy are good additions to your TBR stack!

Author: Marie Lu

Publisher: Penguin Audio (Nov. 29, 2011) & (Jan. 29, 2013)

Format: Audiobooks

Length: Legend (7 hours and 48 minutes), Prodigy (10 hours and 10 minutes)

Narrator(s): Steven Kaplan, Mariel Stern

Series: Books 1 & 2 in the Legend series

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book: Legend    Prodigy: A Legend Novel

 

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Magic and Mobsters Unite: The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell

Well hello there!

As you may already know (from the buttons on the left side of the page or my earlier post) 2013 is the second year I’m participating in the Debut Authors Challenge! I had so much fun with this challenge last year, as it introduced me to so many new authors to love! Well, this year the first debut novel I read was The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell. Thank you to Dial books for the e-galley!

There is a new king on the throne of Tildor. Currents of political unrest sweep the country as two warring crime families seek power, The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidellangling to exploit the young Crown’s inexperience. At the Academy of Tildor, the training ground for elite soldiers, Cadet Renee de Winter struggles to keep up with her male peers. But when her mentor, a notorious commander recalled from active duty to teach at the Academy, is kidnapped to fight in illegal gladiator games, Renee and her best friend Alec find themselves thrust into a world rife with crime, sorting through a maze of political intrigue, and struggling to resolve what they want, what is legal, and what is right.

I love fantasy! I really, really do! And I really, really, believe that The Cadet of Tildor is a great addition to the genre. The world building is well done and I felt like I could clearly imagine this world where magic and mobsters unite.  There is just so much political and criminal intrigue that I want to know more about this world Renee, Savoy and Alec live in! Give me more Tildor books!

Lidell’s take on the heroine, Renee, is an interesting one. Renee, although talented, isn’t the strongest student at the Academy.  She is weaker than everyone else and is even in danger of loosing her place in the school. I appreciate that Renee, isn’t automatically this crazy beefed-up warrior girl, but that she instead works hard to get to where she wants and needs to be.

I had head a few other bloggers saying that there was no romance in The Cadet of Tildor, and how relieved they were. No romance?! I completely disagree! Although there was no major romantic story line, I found tendrils of romance throughout the story and can’t wait to see what forms in the next installment…I assume there is a sequel! I asked author Alex Lidell about this on Twitter and all she did was smile…so we’ll have to wait to see if my romance sniffing skills are as good as I think they are!

I was a little disappointed with Alec’s character. Throughout the story we’re reminded that he is Renee’s best friend, but in my opinion, he sure doesn’t act like it!  Alec doesn’t defend Renee when he should and pretty much leaves her on her own for most of the story. I guess, I need to consider the inner confusion and turmoil Alec is dealing with, but I just wasn’t a fan of Alec and how he treated Renee.

There is some violence…okay a lot of violence! But I think Lidell does a pretty good job of being realistic without being too graphic, which is always a good talent to have!

If you’re a fan of the fantasy genre, I think you’ll be pleased with Lidell’s debut, The Cadet of Tildor. It is a fun example of what can happen when fantasy and political thrillers unite! If there is to be more of Renee’s story, I will definitely be on the lookout for it!

Author: Alex Lidell

Publisher: Dial (January 10, 2013)

Format: e-galley (ARC)

Length: 400 pages

Series: standalone

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book:  The Cadet of Tildor