NC_Kubicki_final_burn-brightKrista

Cover

Absolutely the reason that I picked up the book in the first place. When I first saw this book online it was not available in the United States, and I waited for the long shipping from Australia. It was well worth the wait and time. It is still one of my favourite reads of all time. I was ecstatic to hear when Marianne was able to keep the cover art for the U.S. release, its gorgeous. I keep a poster of it on my wall.

Characters

The inhabitants of Ixion come from different places. As our MC, Retra has been raised in a place of little education, she knows nothing about the world that surrounds her island of Grave and the different characters bring in some history and world building to the story.

Favourite

Retra, Lenoir, the Night Creatures. They all play different sides to the story as a whole and each hold great mysteries to how the plot plays out.

Least Favourite

Minor characters: The Warden, Brand, Cal. All those characters that cause trouble and upset to the way of life. The people that always seem to be in the way.

Beginning

After her brother runs away, the Warden is assigned to Retra’s house to watch her. After her mother turns to silence, her father to lecturing and the Warden to never keep her out of his sight, torturing her with her obedience strip, she runs.

Storyline

The guardians can see that Retra has come to Ixion for something different than partying and “burning bright” as they say. They keep an eye on her from the beginning, as she soon makes some friends and begins to find out the history of the island and if her brother is still here. She wants to find him and escape somewhere else they can live out their lives.

Ending

As expected, Ixion is not what it seems, most are too wasted and partying to notice what is happening. But Retra finds herself right in the middle of the disruptions of the Guardians and Counsels. The Night Creatures are acting out and the gangs are causing trouble for everybody. But will we find out what is the true reason that Ixion exists and where you go when you burn out?

Thoughts

I find this story to be so unique, and fun. A bit exotic and sensual. The idea of being able to just completely lose yourself to not worry for awhile is always appealing. My favourite thing about the book is world building. Not only how the islands are all made up of completely different cultures. How the world changes to hide the island in all darkness all the time. I love the idea of the Night Creatures and the scene that describes what they look like, alone and dark in the forest is the best, so creepy, so interesting. So imaginative.

Quote

“Why did you get involved? That’s not a Seal thing to do.’

‘I … what Brand was doing to Krista-belle … she was scared … like when the warden gave me the obedience strip.’

‘You had a pain strip? Fross! How did you leave the compound then?’

Retra gave him a small, anxious smile. ‘I practised. The pain.’

Rollo’s expression changed. His eyes widened in a kind of admiration and he enveloped her in a comforting hug. But Retra didn’t want comfort right now. She wanted to leave. As she tried to edge out his grip he held on.

‘There’s something I’m going to tell you. The real reason that I came here,’ he said.”

Burn Bright Baby Bats!

 

burn-bright-250Bel

Cover

The buttery texture of the first edition cover is really special. The foiled title is extremely eye-catching, and that’s before we even get onto the artwork by Jarek Kubicki. All this beauty and it still represents the story inside wonderfully.

Characters

I love that each character is flawed and yet doing their best to thrive.

Favourite

Retra is certainly my favourite. Girl has guts, a heart, a spine and a soul.

Least Favourite

I pick Lenoir but only because I have to pick someone.

Beginning

Retra escapes the Seal Enclave on Grave to go find her brother on Ixion.

Storyline

The publicity of a place with no rules and no consequences seems too good to be true, and since every action has a reaction, Retra figures out, sometimes, this is even more difficult to handle than  a life lived in the Enclave.

Ending

Leaves you ready to move straight onto book 2, Angel Arias.

Thoughts

When Burn Bright came out in 2011, the concept of a female protagonist choosing her tribe was fresh, new, and relatively unexplored. The fact that Retra was searching for a family member and not a love interest sets it apart from most other books, leading the way in the Aussie market for books like Divergent, and The Stars Never Rise.

It passes the Bechdel test and I’m glad to say, in my opinion, it passes the test of a reread 5 years down the line.

Quote

“Pain can be dismissed” ~ Joel

 

NC_Burn Bright Boxed Set_600Joelene:

Cover

A surrealist image of a woman whose mascara, clothing and background bleed into one another. Mostly black and greyscale with swathes of brightness. The hot pink title is a stark contrast.

Characters

The Ripers, their young wards, pirates, demons… There’s quite a few.

Favourite

Ruzalia, I think. I don’t know much about her, but it’s hard not to love a pirate who is stealing people from those who would hurt them.

Least Favourite

Charlonge probably. She struck me as kind of weak, and, at her age, I don’t know why she wasn’t questioning how Ixion worked.

Beginning

Since her brother, Joel, ran away to Ixion: island of ever-night, ever-youth and never-sleep, Retra has been training herself to withstand pain so that she can follow him.

Storyline

The mysterious and dangerous island of Ixion holds a great many secrets. If Retra can’t figure out how to fit in, she may never live to learn them.

Ending

As with many of Marianne’s novels, it was not what I was expecting. It leaves the scene wide open for an explosive book two.

Thoughts

This is a unique kind of world; complex and nuanced and far too much for one book. I’m kind of wondering how it fits into three.

Grave, Ixion and the Sealed community work well as an alternative reality. They stand on their own without coming across as a slightly altered Earth.

I can’t wait to find out more about some of the characters that we’ve only met briefly. With those who have gone to Ixion, what it was they were running from initially. How those who joined Dark Eve started to think of the future rather than the ever-present raves of the present. And what the Ripers – or Ixion for that matter – are and how they came to be.

Quote

In Ixion music and party are our only beliefs. Darkness is our comfort. We have few rules but they are absolute.

 

Discussion Topics

Sealed compounds stipulate that their people suppress emotion, deny themselves company aside from close family, and live a life of abstinence. Ixion is the polar opposite, expecting its wards to party en masse, take capsules to accentuate emotions, and only pause for sleep. Which of the existences would you prefer?



bardugo-Six of Crows coverBelinda_kisses_tnBel:

Cover

I picked up both the audio and the paperback of this book, and they both have the same cover art, an illustration of a crow in flight against a snowy stormy looking sky.

Characters

This is the reason I ended up having to buy the paperback as well as having the audio book. There are sooooo many characters I just couldn’t keep them all straight in my mind.

Favourite

Nina, her sense of humour is in the right place.

Least Favourite

Van Eck because the loser of the year award should go to him.

Beginning

A drug has been invented to exacerbate the abilities the gifted people (Grisha) possess. It’s addictive and detrimental to the health of the Grisha who are forced to take it.

Storyline

A gang of misfits has been hired by some rich guy to abduct the man who created the drug.

Ending

It isn’t the most unexpected ending, but it is pleasing none the less.

Thoughts

This is a substantial door-stop of a book. There’s a lot of action and quite a bit of humour thrown in. I was a little disappointed to realise I really couldn’t keep the number of characters straight in my head, so reading along became my preferred consumption method. I did enjoy the narration provided by the talented team of Jay Synder, David LeDoux, Lauren Fortgang, Roger Clark, Elizabeth Evans, Tristan Morris, and Brandon Rubin. But as you can see, it’s a mammoth cast.

I do enjoy Leigh’s world building and political ambiance. I also love that her female characters aren’t all complete twits and can hold their own when it comes to intelligence and physical strength.

I’m really not sure if I’ll purchase the second book in the series, but maybe I’d borrow it from the library.

Quote

“I will have you without armor, Kaz Brekker. Or I will not have you at all.” ~Inej talking to Kaz

Bardugo_Shadow and BoneJoelene_tnJoelene

Cover

A crow flying against a mist-grey backdrop with towers sketched into the gaps of its wing feathers. The title font is antiquated and lovely.

Characters

There are rival gangs, rival countries, law-makers, law-breakers, magic-wielders and the magicless. Six people form the major characters – a team put together by teenage criminal, Kaz Brekker, to break into a seemingly impenetrable military stronghold.

Favourite

Way too many to choose from. Inej, maybe. She’s capable, knows her own worth and manages to keep some sort of moral code despite her occupation.

Least Favourite

None of them. They’re all pretty good characters in their own right, even the villains. Though I do hope we get to see Pekka Rollins and Tante Heleen fall.

Beginning

Kaz Brekker and his gang have been systematically destroying any competition to their territory. Apparently, they have done a good enough job to catch the attention someone who has an offer that might just be worth the near certain death they will have to court to claim it.

Storyline

When six people who don’t particularly like each other – and definitely don’t trust each other – team up to infiltrate a never-before infiltrated fortress; it’s going to take all they have to make it out alive and with their prize.

Ending

I don’t see how Bardugo is going to top the stakes in the next novel. This one pushes enough boundaries.

Thoughts

I’m glad I gave Bardugo another try. I liked Shadow and Bone, but Six of Crows has so much more political and emotional depth. It’s amazing how far Bardugo’s writing has come in such a short time. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

Quote

She felt slightly guilty for eavesdropping on Kaz, but he was the one who had turned her into a spy. You couldn’t train a falcon, then ask it not to hunt.

 

http://www.leighbardugo.com/index1.html

Paperback, 491 pages

Published September 29th 2015 by Indigo (first published July 28th 2015)

ISBN 1780622279 (ISBN13: 9781780622279)

 

 



 

I read this book with the help of Netgalley.com and I’m so glad I took the chance.

mccarthy-You Were HereThe Goodreads blurb reads…

“On the anniversary of her daredevil brother’s death, Jaycee attempts to break into Jake’s favourite hideout—the petrifying ruins of an insane asylum. Joined by four classmates, each with their own brand of dysfunction, Jaycee discovers a map detailing her brother’s exploration and the unfinished dares he left behind.

As a tribute to Jake, Jaycee vows to complete the dares, no matter how terrifying or dangerous. What she doesn’t bargain on is her eccentric band of friends who challenge her to do the unthinkable: reveal the parts of herself that she buried with her brother.”

This is a book with really dark themes and though the topic is heavy, Cori executes her ideas in a respectful, heart wrenching manner. I loved the combination between using graphic novel, graffiti art, and traditional book formats, depending on which character is narrating at the time. Each voice screaming to be heard and each making you care about their plight.

You’ll find yourself cheering from the sidelines as the story arc rises to its pinnacle, and I promise there’s a roller coaster to make it through to the end.

Well worth the time and money for anyone who thought John Green’s books were a little too tear-inducing, but still want to step outside their comfort zones.

http://www.corimccarthy.com/

Hardcover, 400 pages

Expected publication: March 1st 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire

ISBN 1492617040 (ISBN13: 9781492617044)

 



Bracken-Passenger coverBel:

Cover

I have the audio book, which is a similar cover to the paperback. We see a bottle on the sea. In the reflection is a ship in a bottle, though in the actual bottle there is a view of New York City. The olde-worlde script the title is in, fits the story perfectly.

Characters

Even the evil characters have their own valid points for being who they are. I’m sure giving each character their own moral code isn’t an easy task, but it is certainly the key to making them believable, easy to relate to, and complex.

Favourite

I LOVE Etta. Making the best of every situation and gettin’ it done. Girl has a spine and a mind of her own.

Least Favourite

Hmm… This is difficult. Knowing why evil characters are the way they are makes it really hard to hate them. I think I’ll pick Wren. Buffoon in the extreme.

Beginning

In present day New York, Etta is prepping for her violin performance, and eavesdrops on her Mum and violin tutor arguing. Nothing goes as planned, and she ends up being accosted by one of the other performers.

Storyline

She wakes up on a ship in 1776. She’s been kidnapped to complete a task, and with the help of Nicholas Carter, she makes moves to get it done so she can go home to 2015.

Ending

There’s another book coming and Bracken is the queen of the cliff hanger.

Thoughts

Travelling through time isn’t a new concept, but this is hardly a wishy-washy half-baked idea. Alexandra has wielded her mastery of well written characters and immersive world building to fling us across the centuries at break neck speed.

Hold onto your hats folks. You’re gonna love the ride.

Quote

‘Etta stood at the same moment as Chase; only she was the one close enough to land a slap on the officer’s face. The crack of flesh on flesh stunned Nicholas, who’d leapt up to restrain his friend from lunging across the table.

“And these are the actions of a lady.” Wren sputtered.

“Aye,” Chase said approvingly, “and a damn fine one at that.”’ ~ Awkward dinner conversation.

 

Bracken-PassengerJoelene:

Cover

A glass bottle with New York City in side. Underneath the bottle reflects an 18th century ship. The cover alludes to the very different worlds of both main characters.

Characters

Five families in the world are born to travel across time. Etta Spencer belongs to one of the families that has almost died out. Nicholas Carter’s family is the most powerful, controlling all timelines that it has knowledge of.

Favourite

Both Etta and Nicholas are amazing characters. They work well together. I wouldn’t be able to choose a favourite from them.

Least Favourite

For inconsistency only, Sophia. She starts as such a promising character: someone who is able to read the weaknesses of others and exploit them to her advantage. Unfortunately, that initial ability is never touched on again and, in future situations, she proves incapable of reading anything about the people around her.

Beginning

Etta is preparing for her debut as a concert soloist. Despite her talent, she is debuting later than many of her peers. On the night of her solo, she witnesses the death of her beloved mentor and is shoved back into 1776.

Storyline

The formidable Ironwood family is after an artefact, and prepared to kill anyone who thwarts their efforts to find it. The patriarch, Cyrus Ironwood, believes that Etta is the key to finding the object.

Ending

Mixed feelings. It increases the possibilities for the next novel, but not necessarily in directions that I like. That said, it’s emotionally satisfying.

Thoughts

I really loved this novel. I’ve recommended it to quite a few people already, and am looking forward to the next book in the series.

The fact that Bracken engages the dark parts of history that people usually avoid is a massive bonus, though I would have liked some more detail on those aspects. Does Nicholas interact with other people of colour? Did his foster father? Where did either of them cultivate the idea that race shouldn’t be a barrier?

Quote

The moment her realised he would only ever be a valet to a half brother who would never, ever, not in a thousand years, acknowledge him publicly as such, Nicholas had merely swallowed the bile rising in his throat and finished retying Julian’s cravat the way he preferred it to be styled.

bracken_afterlightKrista:

Cover

I really enjoyed the imagery on the cover: the opposition of ship vs land, also the bottle. I imagine it represents how she feels trapped (she was kidnapped after all).

Characters

Favourite

Etta for sure. She is very witty and funny, and yet outgoing and vulnerable. Nicholas is a close second though!

Least Favourite

Pretty much anybody proud to claim the name if Ironwood. That family has some issues.

Beginning

Upon the night of her violin debut, Etta is surprised by a fight between her mother and teacher, and suffers something that at first look seems like a panic attack. She witnesses her teacher murdered, and she is pushed into a worm hole by a unknown girl, who jumps with her.

Storyline

Etta finds that she has special blood in her genes that allows her to time travel. She has been kidnapped under the order of the Eldest Ironwood family member and finds herself on a pirate ship traveling to New York, where she will ultimately be told what her purpose is and who will die next if she doesn’t fulfil his wishes.

Ending

Very much a cliff hanger. We are left not knowing how several storylines end and only small details of choices the characters have left. But, as this is a duology all the answers will be answered eventually.

Thoughts

Like Bel, I also listened to the audio book, which I felt was very good. I have never been a fan of time travel novels, and it’s really rare for me to read one that I would recommend. Unfortunately, I found this one fell onto middle ground; it was ok, but I really didn’t care much for the pacing. However, the characters held my interest in the story, and I will most likely pick up the second book to see what happens with Etta and her mother.

Quote:
“You cannot fathom the distance I would travel for you.”  – Nicholas to Etta

 

Discussion

If you were able to travel to any time and place in history, where would you go, and why?

 

http://www.alexandrabracken.com/

Audio CD

Published January 5th 2016 by Brilliance Audio

ISBN 151136114X (ISBN13: 9781511361149)

 



Joelene:

Keuhnert-Ballads coverCover

A slightly psychopathic-looking rocking duck in a kids’ playground.

Characters

There’s a pretty big cast. It’s easy to get mixed up or lose track of who’s dating who until it’s mentioned again. I like how everyone is initially described. They all seem larger than life and visually dynamic.

Favourite

Cass. Hands down. She’s in one of the most awful situations out of everyone, but instead of running away or lashing out at the others, she tries to look out for everyone.

Least Favourite

There were a few that might qualify. I’d probably choose Kara. Partially because this is her story so we’re stuck with her for so long, but partially because she just has no reason to be the way she is. It’s like she blames the world for giving her a raw deal when, by anyone else’s standards, she has it pretty good.

Beginning

Kara hasn’t been back to Oak Park since the night she almost overdosed in the park next to the boy she loved. She’s changed a lot since then, but going back brings a surge of memories.

Storyline

The story follows Kara and her friends as they make the choices that lead to the night she almost dies.

Ending

Is in keeping with the rest of the story. It’s a satisfying conclusion that brings the story full circle.

Thoughts

This is a book I would have appreciated when I was younger. Not that drugs or parties were ever my scene, but it was kind of hard to find out about things like drugs without trying them first-hand. Half the people said that you’d try them and die; the other half said that they were the best thing ever. There wasn’t a middle ground. I guess this book is the middle ground, though it’s kind of excessive.

I appreciate that Kuehnert explores abusive relationships, but wonder why her warnings are about the guy who listens to people’s problems, respects women and can see where he’s gone wrong in the past; rather than about the guy who carries a knife, likes to get in fights and has no respect for women. Sure, anyone can be an abuser, but one of those guys shows all the classic signs, and it’s not the one she picked.

There’s not much in this novel for me, but it’s a safe way for younger people to find out about darker parts of the world. When I was fourteen I would have gotten a lot more out of it.

 

Quote

When his gaze locked on mine, I mentally chanted my mantra of I can’t stay, and then I let him embrace me. His scent had always reminded me of a muskier version of the air off Lake Michigan, and as soon as it reached my nostrils, it shattered the icy indifference that I’d tried to force myself to feel about him. As I melted into his familiar arms, I could no longer deny it: I’d missed him and I’d missed home and I’d gone too long without facing all of my bad memories and old ghosts.

 

keuhnert_IWBYJRwebBel:

Cover

A playground at sunset. A fair representation of where most of the situations happen.

Characters

Between wanting to smack sense into all of them and then do it again, just to be sure it sunk in, it doesn’t bode well.

Favourite

Not sure that I had one.

Least Favourite

Pick anyone, they’re all really horrible for many different reasons.

Beginning

Teen in a social crisis because her friend moves away and decides to hang with the druggies.

Storyline

Self harm drugs, drinking, and teens thinking their lives suck because of external reasons (not at all because of their personal choices).

Ending

The ‘don’t try this at home kids’ message come through.

Thoughts

Did I think this book was well written? Yes.

Do I like the topics covered in the book? No.

As a teen, I felt like life wasn’t exactly a bed of roses. But even for me back then, drugs were not the answer. We had our druggie kids at school, and the number of times I ended up with a second hand buzz from the pot smokers who were never busted for lighting up on school grounds was ridiculous. Those kids were total LOSERS. Four years after graduation, one of them shot a local police senior sergeant. This is reality folks.

A book like this would have them revelling in how awesome it is that someone finally wrote a book about them. In other words, they’d be missing the point entirely.

As a parent, I get the fear factor. Be alert for what your teens are up to. Get help quickly. Do not be an absentee in their live or else THIS could happen.

This book was set in an era where, at least in Australia, safe sex, stay in school and keep away from drugs were HUGE campaigns in schools. I have no sympathy for any of the characters.

I just do not see what MTV was hoping to achieve by publishing this book. The truth is, this is a representation of such a small number of teens. The ones who would read it would either think it’s glorifying their behaviour, or curl their lips and look away.

All choices have consequences; it’s up to you to make good choices.

Krista:

 

Cover

A lot of the big moments in the story  happen in the park in which they all  hang out, so the cover does represent the story well.

Characters

There are a lot of characters in this story and part of the story of this book Ballads of Suburbia in which teens tell their stories of their messed up lives. The story focuses on Liam and Kara but we are really introduced to this whole community through their stories.

Favourite

None. I believe this story focused more on the negative side affects of life and although some healing does happen, there are no role models.

Least Favourite

Shelly: she is the one that throws the parties… every week. A place that supplies the drinks, drugs, atmosphere that never has an adult present. A lot of things stem from Shelly’s house and what it represents.

Beginning

Liam and Kara find out their parents are divorcing. Neither has any friends or other family to lean on for the emotional support and they look to others their age to fill that void. All of the characters in this story are going through emotional turmoil and don’t have a positive support system to lean on. They are all looking for a way to not actually have to live the life they are in. Being teenagers they do not feel they have any way out.

Storyline

It is a mixture of different stories from teens in the Oak Park area of Chicago during the early 90’s. The stories look at the variety of a ways that these kids are searching for an escape: self harm, sex, drugs, alcohol and a feeling of friendship and community with each other.

Ending

A lot of the kid’s stories are about hitting rock bottom and forcing their parents or police to take action. This causes a lot of them to separate into their own lives, graduating and moving on from the situation they put themselves in. And some don’t make it through.

Thoughts

While I agree with the points that Bel made regarding the book, I had a different childhood. I was lucky enough to make some very smart decisions, but also made bad ones. I even saw some very good friends and family make some of the bad decisions. I had this book on my want to read list because, looking back, I still question some of the decisions I saw being made around my life. When it came down to it, my decision to not participate is what made me the avid reader that I am. But I have always had a bit of interest of seeing what it was like for those I know who made other decisions.

This book is not for everybody, perhaps not the best book for a book club choice, but I still feel that there is no harm done by educating ourselves on things that may happen in the world. Even though everybody may not understand or relate to these characters, they do exist. It took me a long time to get through the story because it is heavy. It is sad and it has a powerful message.

Paperback, 344 pages

Published July 21st 2009 by MTV Books (first published July 15th 2009)

ISBN 1439102821 (ISBN13: 9781439102824)

 

Discussion Topics

Are the kinds of self-harming habits explored in Ballads of Suburbia – things such as excessive drinking, drug use and cutting – being glorified in novels, or is it important that these issues be explored?



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