shpeherd-The-Cage-FeatureWhen Cora Mason wakes in a desert, she doesn’t know where she is or who put her there. As she explores, she finds an impossible mix of environments—tundra next to desert, farm next to jungle, and a strangely empty town cobbled together from different cultures—all watched over by eerie black windows. And she isn’t alone.

Four other teenagers have also been taken: a beautiful model, a tattooed smuggler, a secretive genius, and an army brat who seems to know too much about Cora’s past. None of them have a clue as to what happened, and all of them have secrets. As the unlikely group struggles for leadership, they slowly start to trust each other. But when their mysterious jailer—a handsome young guard called Cassian—appears, they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: Their captors aren’t from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers for an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans.

As a forbidden attraction develops between Cora and Cassian, she realizes that her best chance of escape might be in the arms of her own jailer—though that would mean leaving the others behind. Can Cora manage to save herself and her companions? And if so . . . what world lies beyond the walls of their cage?

megan shepherdKrista:

Cover

The cover is bright colourful and does represent the story and the main character, Cora.

Characters

Even though, at times, the story does switch perspectives, it really focuses on Cora. She is put into a “cage” with 5 other people: Lucky, Rok, Mali, Rolf and Leon. All are given the same rules and all want to survive.

Favourite

Cassian. I found him very intriguing. I was happy to see that he was a pretty important character throughout the story.

Least Favourite

Rolf just rubbed me the wrong way. I found him very petty and emotional. Didn’t seem to really have a grip on reality.

Beginning

I pictured in my head a mix of The Truman Show, but set in the Hunger Games Arena, which is located at the Men In Black headquarters!

Storyline

Six people are put into a cage and told to obey three rules. Solve the riddles, stay healthy, and procreate. (lets just say most of them focus on that last one, be it negatively or positively).

Ending

Well we all knew what the story was leading up to. There is a big event that happens at the end, which I guessed, but enjoyed anyway.

Thoughts

We learn a ton of stuff about Cora, but only begin to touch on the other characters. As I personally did not find Cora incredibly interesting, I hope that the rest of the series brings in more of the others. Otherwise, on the whole, I enjoyed the story. It was one that I read straight through; it was a fun read but dark. It’s a fight for your life and being in such a different setting really plays head games with the characters. Things get nasty.

Quote

“Sometimes mistakes are worth making.”

 

shepherd-huntBel:

Cover

I have the hard cover. The dust jacket is quite lovely.  A blonde in a white dress is walking through a sand dune away from us, the viewer, toward a cityscape. In the foreground, there’s a jungle-type frame with vines and foliage. It gives at least a hint as to the storyline.

However, without the dust jacket the book is white with gold letting on front and spine. I actually prefer the minimalistic nature of the book minus the dust jacket.

Characters

We have a cast of less than ten key characters. They all drove me up the wall at one stage or another.

Favourite

Lucky, though on day twenty on he lost all my respect.

Least Favourite

Cora. OMG girl, have you never picked up a history book and learned about Stockholm syndrome? Her heart was probably in the right place, but what the hell?

Beginning

Cora wakes up in an odd place and eventually runs into five other fellow captives.

Storyline

The captives are given three rules to live by and Human Zoo is pretty much the gist of everything.

Ending

What I wanted to happen, did happen. So it was a happy ending for me.

Thoughts ~May Contain Spoilers~

If I replaced the humans in this story with animals, I don’t know if I would feel as uncomfortable (which in turn makes me feel uncomfortable)… which was Megan Shepherd’s whole point of writing the book in the first place. No comfort zone for you!

I’m glad Cora has a back bone, but I wish she didn’t think just in terms of visual attractions when meeting beings of the opposite sex. The poor girl is clearly a great candidate for Stockholm syndrome, so I’m just twitchy about that whole area of the storyline in general.

As for the questionable consent around the third rule…walking up a flight of stairs and sitting on a bed, even kissing a little is NOT consent. She should not have had to resort to what she did to escape that situation if Lucky had been decent.

Cups of tea people. Cups of tea.

My moral issues with the story are probably mine alone. It is entertaining and the shock value is timed well. I cannot wait to hear what you all thought of it.

Quote

“Mali may have taught you some tricks,” he said, “but you cannot hide your thoughts from us forever.” Cassian speaking to Cora.

 



aguirre-queenBel:

Cover

I have the hard cover. A bunch of black and white photos of a guy and girl on a bicycle and post it notes background the title.

Characters

I love this collection of characters. Minor flaws in everyone means you can identify with more than one.

Favourite

Sage. She’s had a run of bad luck, but manages to make everyone’s day by leaving positive post-it’s on people’s lockers. This makes me smile.

Least Favourite

Dylan’s Mum. Just, ugh!

Beginning

Sage meets the new guy and there’s a connection.

Storyline

Dylan and Shane have at it and the crap hits the fan.

Ending

Lovely.

Thoughts

I like the way Anne has created teens who are not all shallow and vain. Sage’s actions make me wish more kids would do what she does. I like that not all the adults are absent and unaware of the dramas in their kids’ lives. There are parts that may make you uncomfortable, but it casts a perspective not many would think of.

Quote

Not so much a quote but the happenings on page 280. Small seemingly meaningless actions can make the greatest impacts. I love it when good karma is paid back.

aguirre-mortal
Krista:

Sage Czinski is trying really hard to be perfect. If she manages it, people won’t peer beyond the surface, or ask hard questions about her past. She’s learned to substitute causes for relationships, and it’s working just fine… until Shane Cavendish strolls into her math class. He’s a little antisocial, a lot beautiful, and everything she never knew she always wanted.

Shane Cavendish just wants to be left alone to play guitar and work on his music. He’s got heartbreak and loneliness in his rear-view mirror, and this new school represents his last chance. He doesn’t expect to be happy; he only wants to graduate and move on. He never counted on a girl like Sage.

But love doesn’t mend all broken things, and sometimes life has to fall apart before it can be put back together again…

Published April 7th 2015 by Feiwel & Friends

Cover

The cover completely represents the book. The romance that’s involved and the ideals of the main character represented with the bicycle and post it notes.

Characters

The story follows the main character, Sage, who lives with her aunt. There is a romance with new boy, Shane, and some friends that come into the mix as the story progresses.

Favourite

Shane – probably the most swoon-worthy boy in a book I have read all year. He’s pretty shy, quiet, pensive… and a musician. Very sensitive to Sage’s somewhat quirky ways and very dependable, when he can be.

Least Favourite

Ryan. He wasn’t absolutely horrible, but I felt that he was a very shallow person.

Beginning

We are introduced to Sage who is in a very comfortable, positive stage in her life. She’s healthy, has friends, and is overall pretty happy. Then her best friend tells her a secret, and her life begins to slowly spiral and change.

Storyline

(Besides the synopsis here are some thoughts I had on the storyline/theme) Sage learns to evaluate her own life and those around her. Even if you aren’t the most popular, who you choose to surround yourself with matters. Thinking of others needs in life is important when getting to know somebody.

Ending

Very fairytale-esque: it was perfect for the story and really wraps everything up nicely

Thoughts

In a way, I felt this book was like a fairytale. It’s a representation of change, learning who you are and being true to yourself. A great recommendation for those who like clean reads, positive attitudes and actions in life.

Quote

“Every flaw makes him more perfectly Shane, more right for me. I feel like we’ve been tested, and that we can survive anything. We’re Strong. Were special. We Are. And together, we’re invincible.”

 



graudin-the walled city coverJoelene:

Cover

The title in red slashes on a dark background. The font is reminiscent of Chinese brush-strokes, which suits the story but the cover doesn’t do the novel justice.

Characters

The story is told through three perspectives. Dai is a fugitive trapped in the Walled City until he can find a way to clear his name. Mei Yee was sold to a high-class brothel by her father. And Jin Ling is Mei Yee’s younger sister who came to the city to save her.

 

Favourite

All of them. I really can’t choose. Jin Ling is more obviously brave, but she doesn’t have the character build up the others do. She comes into the book fully formed and never doubts her task. Both Dai and Mei Yee are more subtle in character. They’re full of uncertainty, so when they commit to an action it costs them more than it costs Jin Ling.

 

Least Favourite

Ambassador Osamu. There are several awful characters in Walled City but out of all of them Osamu was the only one who seemed as though he really had a choice. He saw the suffering around him and could escape it, or help ease it. Instead he adds to it.

Beginning

Jin Ling is trying to survive the harsh city streets long enough to find her sister. When Dai offers her a job that will give her access to the one brothel she has not been able to explore, she jumps at the chance. Even if it means going in to the lair of the terrifying Brotherhood.

Storyline

Time is running out for the notorious Walled City, and for those who dwell within its walls. If Dai can’t broker a deal for his freedom in eighteen days, he will spend the rest of his life in a cell. If Jin Ling cannot find her sister in that same time, she will lose her forever. And Mei Yee finally needs to decide to fight for her freedom, or she will never get it back.

Ending

I could barely handle the suspense. A hundred pages from the end I almost flicked to the back to make sure no one I cared about died.

Thoughts

Loved it. I didn’t think I would because sex trafficking, ugh. But Ryan Graudin handled that storyline well. It wasn’t graphic or gratuitous; nor was it romanticised. What Mei Yee and the other girls went through had psychological consequences, but the novel didn’t treat the girls as nothing but psychological consequences. They had their own minds and they played their part in protecting themselves and each other.

Quote

It’s the Brotherhood’s symbol: a beast the color of luck and blood inked on the walls of every building in Hak Nam. A reminder that they own everything here. And almost everyone.

 

graudin_wolfBel:

Cover

A black and red blueprint lies behind the bold red title. The rules of living in the city are in stark white and the author’s name is in a mid tone grey. It fits the tone of the book perfectly.

Characters

There is no room for innocence in the city this book is set in. Everyone has a damn good reason for you to hate them.

Favourite

Jin, mainly because she’s doing the Mulan thing to track down her sister in this hell hole.

Least Favourite

Kuen, for so many reasons, but being bully is just the tip of that iceberg

Beginning

Jin needs to find her sister who was sold to feed her father’s alcoholism.

Storyline

Dai needs Jin to help break open his case

Ending

In a place like this I don’t know if you could really class anything as a happy ending

Thoughts

The sex trade, people smuggling, drugs, gang violence, this really is no fairy tale. The Walled City was based on a real place. The issues within the pages are struggles that are all too common around the world. Ryan has done an amazing job capturing what I would imagine a place like that to feel. The tiny seed of hope is sometimes all anyone needs to get ahead. That can be a dangerous thing for those trying to suppress and control those around them.

Quote

“But I don’t want to be like my mother, either.. Waking up every morning and watching the sun rise on fresh wounds, wondering in the secret chambers of her heart if there was something more. Through the rice fields and over the mountains.”

Krista:

Cover

My favorite cover is the one with white across the top and black along the bottom. Also ….there’s a dragon! The story does not have a dragon in it but represents the culture of the setting of the story.

Characters

DAI, JIN and MEI YEE. Two sisters and a boy. All looking for something. Freedom.

Favourite

DAI-Mostly because I liked his back story most and his kindness.

Least Favourite

Pretty much everybody but the three main characters. The gangs, captors and even the other girls in the house are all pretty nasty people.

Beginning

We are introduced to the three different characters through chapters from their different perspectives. We soon learn that they are all players in the same game and need each other to be free again.

Storyline

Dai is trying to obtain some very private information from the leader of a large crime group. If he succeeds he will have paid back his debts and can return to his family. Jin is in search of her sister who was kidnapped from her home.  Mei Yee is a girl locked in a room who has a rich “suitor” that wishes to take her away from the city.

Ending

I enjoyed the ending there were some surprises that I didn’t see coming: a lot of action, danger and lives in jeopardy.

Thoughts

Slightly based on a real city, The Walled City is full of danger, drugs, crime, sex and money. The story touches on some things that still happen all around the world today. It’s put together nicely with three really fun characters, and I liked learning about each of them. Lots of action and hope.

Quote

“There are moments you wait for. And then there are moments you wait for. Moments you spend every other moment preparing for. Points of your life that click and turn. Push you in a completely new direction.” -Jin

http://www.ryangraudin.com/

Paperback, 424 pages

Published November 6th 2014 by Indigo (first published January 1st 2014)

ISBN 178062199X (ISBN13: 9781780621999)

 

 

 



tanner_Icebreaker_coverBel:

Cover

A lone person on an iceberg with a huge ship looming above. It’s icy and cold looking. The title is in bold with colouration that makes it look a little like dirty snow. I have a hard cover copy and the book underneath the dust jacket is black, the title on the spine is in silver foil. Pretty special.

Characters

Though we know there is a fully comprehensive crew on board the Oyster, there is a central cast of maybe 12 characters.

Favourite

I do like Mr Smoke and Mrs Slink. They’re smart, sassy, and protective of Petrel.

Least Favourite

Dolph. The girl has issues.

Beginning

The Oyster is divided into 3 tribes, and considering everyone lives on an ice breaker ship, it seems somewhat idiotic for this to be the case. Petrel (otherwise known as the ‘Nothing Girl’) is tribe-less, so is ignored by a good proportion of the crew. So when Petrel notices a figure on an iceberg, she is indirectly involved with his rescue.

Storyline

A strange mania takes over the crew when their captain is murdered. The easiest thing is to blame the stranger.

Ending

Not what I was expecting, and yet it pleased me.

Thoughts

After so long on a ship (300 years), some of the concepts have me thinking back to biology class and the issues with inbreeding. There seems to always be mention of babies, but none of the female crew was pregnant as far as we’re told and if the tribes aren’t supposed to co-mingle… yeah, I don’t need to complete that thought.

There is a sneak peek at book 2, Sunker’s Deep, in the back and because I don’t know if I want to read on, so I’m avoiding it.

Quote

“Snow falls from the sky,” said Krill, scowling, “and ice, and even a bird on occasion. But a boy?” He shook his head. “No, there’s another explanation somewhere, and it’s got me worried. According to the old stories, there’s nothing north of here but madness. So what if that’s where he comes from? Eh?” He walked to the door, then turned and glared at Petrel. “What if he comes from somewhere north? And what if he’s brought a bit of that madness with him?” ~Krill planting a seed of doubt in Petrel’s mind.

 

tanner-ice breaker 2Krista:

Cover

I think the cover fits the book because it is about about a large boat. But the title did confuse me a little bit. The cover is very attention grabbing and a great visual description of the story.

Characters

So many characters! But as the story follows Petrel she is the focus and the most rounded character. There is Petrel and Fin who are both on their own missions. Petrel makes one friend aboard the ship Squid. She also has two Imp companions and their many rat followers. Then it extends to the other members of the crew and boat itself.

Favourite

Mr Smoke and Mrs Slink. I have to agree with Belinda on this one; they added so much humor and fun to the story. I have to say that I loved Petrel too; she is very brave.

Least Favourite

Dolph is a pretty nasty character. She does have reasons to be upset and angry but I think her character overall becomes more of a villain in this story line.

Beginning

Petrel is introduced to us as being the only person on the boat that does not belong to one of the tribes. Her parents were considered traitors and now she is an orphan and she plays more of a stowaway role on the story as none of the tribes will take her in. She has to sneak around, steal food, and stay out of the way or risk the possibility of being thrown overboard. One day she is watching the icebergs and notices a boy on the ice. She makes some of the adults on board aware of him, and they decide to bring him aboard, completely causing uproar among all of the boat’s residents.

Storyline

A stranger on board is against all reasoning and is a bad omen. When the captain turns up dead, the stranger is blamed and a search party and war-like state takes hold of the boat. Petrel decides to rescue the boy, she knows he is innocent. With the help of her friends she must warn the residents of danger and save them all from destruction.

Ending

The ending was perfect, pulling the whole story together. It also leaves open possibilities for continuing the stories of these characters.

Thoughts

I did not read anything about the book before going into it, not even the back cover, but I really enjoyed it. In a way, it sort of reminded me of Maria V Snyder’s Inside Out duology (which I loved) It is a great story for young readers and teens. Strong characters and engaging plot.

Quote
“Petrel leaned on the rail, watching the ice cave and stamping her feet for warmth. The berg came closer. That’s when she saw him. Laid out on the ice like a dead fish, with a scattering of snow covering his face. A boy, where there should have been nothing but the memory of winter. A frozen boy.’

 

tanner-sunkers_deep_coverJoelene

Cover

The cover has a girl against the backdrop of a dark sky, a rat on each of her shoulders. A ship navigating through a glacier studded sea is in the foreground. The title is in a font reminiscent of cogs. It works well to give the book the feel of middle-grade fantasy with highlights on the things that are important to the story.

 

Characters

There are three tribes in Ice Breaker, and neither of the two main characters belong to any of them. Petrel has been an outcast on her ship for as long as she can remember and Fin is new to the ship, the Oyster, having been found half-frozen on a glacier.

 

Favourite

Petrel. She’s tough and can survive almost anything. Despite the life she’s led, she’s also kind and able to empathise with people – even the ones who have hurt her.

 

Least Favourite

I couldn’t pick anyone. I wasn’t fond of Fin at the beginning but as you get to know where he came from and what he’s been through, he grows on you.

 

Beginning

It’s an ordinary day for Petrel. Just as she finds a warm enough place to sleep the ship’s children are chasing her off again. To get away she heads out into the frigid cold of the deck, and finds a boy half-frozen on a glacier.

 

Storyline

For years the ship has been divided into three factions – all at war with one another. Now, for the first time, they realise that they might all have a greater common enemy.

 

Ending

Ice Breaker has a satisfying, tidy ending. I’m looking forward to the sequel, but there’s no nasty cliff-hanger here.

 

Thoughts

I devoured this book. From beginning to end, I was hooked. I love the way that Lian Tanner melds real-world ethics to her fantasy without turning her novels into morality stories. Her books are technically for a younger readership but she doesn’t shy away from harsh realities or speak down to her readers; making these novels compelling for people of any age. There’s a psychological depth to Ice Breaker that many YA and adult novels lack. The imagination behind her fantasy worlds never fails to stun me either.

Quote

‘And with that she was gone, leaving the boy shocked beyond belief. She had given him a name! She had forced a name on him, when he had neither earned it nor wanted it!’

 

Discussion

Familiarity breeds contempt, Do you think it would it be possible for people to stay in such close proximity for 300 years and not all die from our own stupidity?

The theme of theology versus technology is not a new one. Given that current technological trends are fast destroying the planet is it naive to show technology as being something flawless that should be whole-heartedly embraced?

 

http://www.liantanner.com/

Hardcover, 304 pages

Published August 18th 2015 by Feiwel & Friends (first published November 1st 2013)

ISBN 1250052165 (ISBN13: 9781250052162)

 



vincent-The stars never rise picKrista:

Cover

I love this cover, very eye catching and pretty.

Characters

There are a handful of characters as Nina ends up joining a group of outcasts. But the story really focuses on her and her intentions to save her sister.

Favourite

I liked Nina the best; totally understood her actions and thoughts with what was going on around her. Her priorities and intentions were always in the right place.

Least Favourite

Nina and Mellie’s mother. She could have played a bigger role in their lives, even under the circumstances.

Beginning

Nina is debating her future role in society and how to protect and take care of her sister when some unexpected news causes everything to change.

Storyline

Mellie has committed a sin that endangers her whole family who are barely getting by already. If her secret gets out, the church will bring unwanted attention to their family, and they will have to pay, ruining the future for all of them. In trying to protect her sister, Nina escapes and joins a fugitive group, which is also being hunted by the church.

Ending

Perfect.

Thoughts

Rachel Vincent has yet to disappoint me with her writing. It’s very well crafted, great pacing and never a dull moment. I love stories that include a secluded community on the cusp of discovering life is not what it seems. This book pulled off the story well, and I ended up being somewhat surprised at the somewhat twist towards the end. It all made sense when revealed, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Quote

“I feel like my life is a book, and someone turned the page before I was ready, and now I can’t follow the story.”

 

rachel vincentBelinda:

Cover

A red and pink butterfly shiny embossed along with the title against a buttery mat black backdrop. The wings of the butterfly look like they’re ink bleeding out onto the page. It’s quite dramatic and eye catching.

Characters

There is an over abundance of evil characters.

Favourite

Hmm, Annabelle. Coz… all the reasons.

Least Favourite

Mellie. UGH! Stupid, stupid, stupid girl.

Beginning

Life it tough and Mellie’s mistake makes life impossible.

Storyline

Nina does her damndest to keep her crap together. She runs into a group of outcasts with the same abilities as she has and they begin to work together to keep Mellie safe.

Ending

You wouldn’t believe it if I told you.

Thoughts

I didn’t mind that I guessed the major plot points early on in the book because watching how Rachel Vincent crafted the storyline was entertaining. I wanted to slap the daylights out of Mellie, but that may just be watching some of my own stupidity played out in the book, making me overly sensitive.

The possibilities for further books to be great, mean that I’m interested to see where Rachel will take Nina, Finn and the others.

Quote

“Exorcists aren’t born every day, but I think it’s reasonable to assume the Church had a few at one point.” ~ Finn talking to Nina

 

 

vincent_SOULJoelene:

Cover

A dark cover with a luminous butterfly centre page and the title in sharp capitals. The cover is lovely but nothing about it connects to the story within – not even the title.

Characters

A soulless horde of demons, a holy order that is just as merciless, and trapped in the middle are Nina, her sister, and several new friends who might just be her key to unlocking the secrets to her world.

Favourite

Devi. She stands out. Though she’s not in the book all that much, she steals most of the scenes she’s in.

Least Favourite

Despite quite a bit of time being devoted to her, I never got a clear idea of who Melanie was. We’re told a lot about her personality, but what we’re told doesn’t mesh with the choices she makes. She feels more like a vehicle than a person.

Beginning

In a world ruled by the Church and preyed on by voracious demons, Nina is doing her best to keep herself and her sister fed. It may mean selling her immortal soul to the Church – if the demons stalking her don’t get it first.

Storyline

Nina has always thought that she knew how her world worked. When a demon attacks her and she meets a boy who can do things that only church officials should be able to; everything she thinks she knows begins to unravel.

Ending

The world Nina thought she knew is as tangible as ash. Along with her friends, she’s going to have to figure out how to survive a new – and much more deadly – reality.

Thoughts

This is an amazing premise. I think Vincent says that she’d been thinking about it and talking it through for a few years before sitting down to write. That makes sense; there’s quite a bit to this world. On the other side, there are a bunch of things that I didn’t get. I’m guessing that demons come from a pretty bleak realm if they’re so impatient to get themselves a human shell. But what’s the point of possessing a human when there are so many restrictions? No sex, no excess (food, alcohol, drugs) of any kind, frequent mandatory church sessions. Having the coveted human shell seems more like a chore. Also, the love was pretty insta. I liked Finn, and Nina had her moments. I think they could have worked well together if built up more gradually.

Quote

“The plan is to send the bastards back to hell, then dance on their corpses.”

“She’s kidding about the dance.” Reece’s gaze was focused on the end of the alley, his eyes narrowed in concentration as he listened.

Finn stepped up to my side. “No, she’s not.”

 

Discussion Topics:

The title The Stars Never Rise comes from the poem ‘Annabel Lee’ by Edgar Allan Poe. Do you see connections between the title and poem, or is the allusion tenuous?

For fun-if you found out one day that you are going to develop a gift that would help save others lives…would you train to develop it or be too shy to reveal yourself?

 

http://rachelvincent.com/

Paperback, 368 pages

Published June 18th 2015 by MIRA Ink (first published June 9th 2015)

ISBN 1848453833 (ISBN13: 9781848453838)

Joelene:

 

 



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