Shelley Liked It: Endgame by C.J. Daugherty

Series: Night School 5
Format: E-Book | 315 pages
Release Date: June 4, 2015
Publisher: Bookouture
Source: NetGalley
Genre: YA, Fantasy

Broken. Scattered. But not defeated.

The spy is gone but the cost has been high – the rebels at Cimmeria Academy have lost their leader and Carter West is missing. Nathaniel can taste victory. But Allie and the other survivors aren’t done yet. First they have to get Carter back. Then they plan to make Nathaniel pay.

One way or another – the game must end.

Endgame is the thrilling fifth and final book in the internationally bestselling Night School series.

ENDGAME is the fifth and final book in the Night School series. The story picks up right where Resistance left off. The opening chapter, in fact, is one big chase scene with non- stop action, and hold your breath suspense. The rest of the book is tension filled with Nathaniel once again hanging over every single thing that the Cimmeria students and teachers do, while Allie is trying to find a way to get Carter West back, and defeat Nathaniel once and for-all.
Allie has grown up rather quickly from the first novel forward. She went from being a trouble maker and angry girl who was thrown out of her parents house after getting into major trouble, to being sent to Cimmeria where she entered a entirely different world of beautiful and rich students. She’s made friends with a core group who have been fighting by her side from almost the beginning. Carter, Sylvain, Rachel, Nicole, Zoe, Isabelle, Raj, Dom, Eloise, and Katie.  
Allie has watched friends die unnecessarily, and faced a megalomaniac in Nathaniel who twisted Allie’s brother Christopher to joining him, while desiring Allie for himself to expand his powers and influence. She’s become someone who knows how to fight after joining the secretive society known as Night School. She’s a rebel leader against the normal and usual, and not shocking at all, pretty powerful in her own right thanks to her grandmother. 
However, always a however, she missed something pretty important that was right in front of her face. How can you truly call yourself a friend and miss THAT happening? Especially since EVERYONE else knew about it except you! Perhaps with everything that’s been thrust onto Allie’s lap since she arrived at Cimmeria, it took a toll on her. Perhaps it was because she was Nathaniel’s target almost from the very beginning, and perhaps, because her friends were too busy to fill Allie in on OTHER things happening around her.
Didn’t figure Sylvain into my thoughts of what was going to happen in ENDGAME, which is my mistake. Glad he was at there for the important moments in the story, and not missing in action. Perhaps I am a bit rough when it comes to him, and Allie’s choices. I did start out hating him for many reasons, one being he was extremely possessive and grabby hands. But, one thing you can’t fault him for is that he is someone you can count on when danger lurks around every corner. 
I was kind of surprised by the ending. Not at all what I was expecting and hoping for which is always nice. I do believe there was an alternative ending possible, but let’s walk away knowing that the right couples are together, and that makes me happy. Let’s walk away knowing that Allie did whatever she could do to survive until the very last page of the very last book along with most of her closest friends, teachers, and advisers by her side. Let’s walk away knowing that Allie truly believes in what she’s done, and let’s hope that Allie finds a way to forgive her parents for what they’ve done to her and her brother.
Follow Me: Gizmo’s Reviews Blog | Facebook | @GizmosReviews | Goodreads

Talk Supe


Shelley Loved It: Lion Heart by A. C. Gaughen

Series: Scarlet 3
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Released: May 19, 2015
Source: NetGalley
Format: E-book | 348 pages
Genre: YA | Historical Retelling

Only the greatest loves can survive great danger. .

Imprisoned by Prince John for months, Scarlet finds herself a long way from Nottinghamshire. After a daring escape, she learns that King Richard’s life is in jeopardy, and Eleanor of Aquitaine needs Scarlet’s help to free him. For a lifelong thief, this newfound allegiance to the crown-her family-is a strange feeling.

Scarlet knows that helping Eleanor will put her and those she loves back in Prince John’s sights. Desperate not to risk anyone’s life but her own, Scarlet formulates a plan to help save the king on her own.

But fate-and her heart-won’t allow her to stay away from Nottinghamshire for long. Even if Scarlet and Rob can together stop Prince John from going through with his dark plans for England, will their love be enough to save them once and for all?

“If you embrace who you are, you might find a great many tools at your disposal.”

LION HEART is the final installment in the Scarlet trilogy by A.C. Gaughen. Scarlet has been held captive by the vile Prince John since the end of Lady Thief. John would love nothing more than to see her dead and forgotten about. He moves her around a lot, hoping to keep anyone with prying eyes from finding his prized possession while not letting his mother know the horrific things he’s done to Scarlet, or his attempted coup while his brother Richard was captured on his way back from fighting the Crusades.
After escaping John’s clutches with assistance from her new Knight David, and a reunion with Allan a Dale, Scarlet is forced to choose the path she thinks is correct for her and Robin’s future. By returning home to Rob, she paints the perfect target on his head and those she’s come to think of as family. She’s lost so much to John already, that it’s almost easy to run away. If she does run away and hide, Robin becomes less of a threat with everyone thinking that she’s dead. But, now that she’s been pardoned, and given Nottinghamshire by King Richard, can she really turn her back on Rob and John’s machinations? Scarlet eventually finds her way back to Nottinghamshire where things aren’t exactly calm, and nearly everyone lost hope that she was actually alive. 
If you’ve read the Scarlet Trilogy from the start, you know that Scarlet has gone through the most of any character in the series. She’s been put into highly emotional situations where she’s been challenged both mentally and physically. She’s gone from being Wil Scarlet, thief, to Lady Marion of Nottinghamshire, the thorn in Prince John’s side, the love of Robin’s life, and the protector of the innocent. Scarlet has more than proven herself over and over again, and she is just as capable as Robin in leading the Merry Men into keeping Prince John in check. 
The most curious storyline in LION HEART happens between Scarlet, and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor is the real life historical figure who was Queen of France, and participated in the Second Crusade. Later, when Richard was captured, she personally negotiated his ransom by going to Germany. Scarlet and Eleanor form a pretty interesting relationship, one that puts them both on the other side of John’s determination to take over Richards’s crown. Eleanor really becomes a strong ally to Scarlet, and even stands up for Scarlet and Robin as they plan to marry in Richard’s absence.
Scarlet Trilogy yet another series where the author, A.C. Gaughen, takes a historical figure and asks What if questions. What if Scarlet, aka Maid Marian, aka Marian Fitzwalter really was the figure behind the legendary Robin Hood aka Robin of Locksley? What if Marian really was such an inspirational figure that men adored her, and feared her, including Prince John Lackland? I’d like to believe that Marian was an actual person. I’d like to believe that people will look at this series not just as a love affair between Robin and Marian, but in the way that Marian rises to the top after everything she’s been put through. She is the true LION HEART of this story. 
**I received this book for free from (Bloomsbury USA Children’s) via (NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
Follow Me: Gizmo’s Reviews Blog | Facebook | @GizmosReviews | Goodreads

Talk Supe

Shelley Liked It: The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows

Series: The Orphan Queen 1
Format: Hardcover | 400 pages
Release Date: March 10, 2015
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Borrowed Library
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Wilhelmina has a hundred identities.

She is a princess. When the Indigo Kingdom conquered her homeland, Wilhelmina and other orphaned children of nobility were taken to Skyvale, the Indigo Kingdom’s capital. Ten years later, they are the Ospreys, experts at stealth and theft. With them, Wilhelmina means to take back her throne.

She is a spy. Wil and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate Skyvale Palace to study their foes. They assume the identities of nobles from a wraith-fallen kingdom, but enemies fill the palace, and Melanie’s behavior grows suspicious. With Osprey missions becoming increasingly dangerous and their leader more unstable, Wil can’t trust anyone.

She is a threat. Wraith is the toxic by-product of magic, and for a century using magic has been forbidden. Still the wraith pours across the continent, reshaping the land and animals into fresh horrors. Soon it will reach the Indigo Kingdom. Wilhelmina’s magic might be the key to stopping the wraith, but if the vigilante Black Knife discovers Wil’s magic, she will vanish like all the others.

Jodi Meadows introduces a vivid new fantasy full of intrigue, romance, dangerous magic, and one girl’s battle to reclaim her place in the world.

THE ORPHAN QUEEN begins a brand new two book series by the author of the Newsoul trilogy. THE ORPHAN QUEEN is the story about 17-year old Princess Wilhelmina Korte, and her struggles to retake her kingdom. Ten years ago, Wilhelmina’s kingdom of Aecor, was torn apart in what the survivors and winners are calling the One Night War. Wilhelmina and other highborn children were rounded up and taken to an orphanage in Skyvale, where they escaped and became a group known as the Ospreys. 
Wilhelmina, her best friend Melanie, and Patrick Lien form the core of the group. They’re scrappy. They can fight. They steal in order to survive, and they have planned out the ultimate revenge against King Terrell of the Indigo Kingdom who was responsible for killing all of the lords and ladies of Aecor, including Wil’s mother and father. This revenge starts with Wilhelmina and Melanie taking the identities of Liadian high born ladies, and infiltrating the Indigo King’s castle looking for key information.
THE ORPHAN QUEEN is set against the backdrop of a world where magic isn’t allowed, and a no magic alliance is in place. The use of magic can get you killed. It is not a new vibe that Meadows offers, but it is interesting when you realize that they weren’t messing around, and that YES there was a reason for abandoning magic since it created something called the wraith. The wraith created strange monsters, and creatures called the Glowmen who have overrun entire countries.
I saw the betrayal coming a mile wide. It was apparent from the moment the character was introduced that they were up to no good. Then, when Meadows does a flashback to the One Night War and who was really responsible, you get a better grasp of what is really happening, and why. It’s hard to trust characters intentions when you know they don’t have the same reasoning as the heroine of the story. It’s what makes this a good story, and one that isn’t groundbreaking. Didn’t make Wilhelmina’s supposed best friend look good either, but then again, the story isn’t about her, is it?
Wilhelmina’s adversary and romantic entanglement is Tobiah, the crown prince of the Indigo Kingdom, and the person who carries a dangerous secret. Being the masked vigilante called The Black Knife who appears whenever Wil or her Osprey’s are around, Tobiah carefully leads a double life, while fighting against crime, those who wield magic, and those affected by the wraith. He also is the reason Wilhelmina finds herself without a country to rule. On one hand, Tobiah is the sheltered prince who wasn’t allowed to attend normal schools. On the other hand, his freedom as the Black Knife brings him face to face with the girl who saved his life the night of the One Night War.
I’ve been hearing all about the cliffhanger ending to THE ORPHAN QUEEN since before the book was released. Thankfully for me and anyone else who actually liked this story, Meadows says that this is part one of a two part duology. So, no, I won’t bitch or complain about the ending. For now. Still, it’s a long wait until the sequel, The Mirror King, comes out in 2016. In the meantime, Meadows announced that she will also be releasing FOUR separate novellas; The Hidden Prince (June 2, 2015), The Glowing KnightThe Burning Hand, and The Black Knife
Hopefully, Meadows will answer questions about Wilhelmina’s powers, and how she did what she did at the end of this book. I do hope the rest of the Osprey’s, who made choices of their own between following Wilhelmina, or Patrick, find a way to survive. I do believe that James would be the perfect partner for Wil. I really liked him. He was a bit more straight forward than Tobiah, who really left Wilhelmina in a tough spot with THAT ending! I know I’ve said that I resent 3-way love triangles. I think I’ve overstated that stance over the past year. However, if Wil and James were to find a connection, it would be better than yet another twisted triangle.
Follow Me: Gizmo’s Reviews Blog | Facebook | @GizmosReviews | Goodreads

Talk Supe

Shelley Loved It: Rook by Sharon Cameron

Series: Standalone
Format: E-Book, 464 pages
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: YA | Science Fiction

History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.

Set 800 years into the future in a place known as the Sunken City, ROOK is a young adult dystopian novel that blends together a mix of the Dark Ages, without any of the technology that we enjoy today; with the French Revolution under Maximilien Robespierre and his ideas of banning religion, using the working class in an attempt to bring down the aristocracy, and putting people to the death by way of the Razor (Guillotine) who disagree with his revolution.

ROOK is Cameron’s own flattering re-imaging of The Scarlet Pimpernel where a mysterious character rescues those who are scheduled to face the Guillotine. 18 year old Sophia Bellamy is the person behind the “Le Corbeau Rouge” or Red Rook mask. She is daring and courageous in her mission of rescuing the wrongly accused of being traitors under Premier Allemande. She also leaves a red-tipped rook feather behind in order to let Allemande know she doesn’t agree with HIS or Albert LeBlanc’s revolution.
Sophia is by far one of the most entertaining characters that I’ve read about in recent memory. She’s a strong character who doesn’t desire her father’s help in guiding her life or her attempts to do good for those who are suffering under Allemande’s rule. Sophia isn’t a foolish character, nor does she run around every 30 seconds whining about how hard her life is. Sophia lives in the Commonwealth, which is basically England. The citizens are Luddite’s who truly believe that technology destroyed the world during the Great Death. 
History repeats itself in ROOK with 18th century fashions, hairstyles, makeup, and the idea of sending off your daughters to marry wealthy men in order to save your property from being taken away. When you think about Allemende’s attempt at class warfare, and killing those that don’t agree with him or his politics, well, we see the same ideas raising their ugly heads today, haven’t we? 
The romance was actually entertaining, which, yes, surprised me since I was prepared for an all-out twisted love triangle which infests the Young Adult genre. Sophia meets her match in Parisian Rene Hasard who she ends up betrothed to in an attempt to save her family’s land, her father’s life, and stopping the Commonwealth from taking the property away. Like Sophia, Rene has a few secrets of his own, and his family is definitely one of the most entertaining that you will read about, especially Emile and Maman. The romance isn’t love at first sight. It is painful at times, and grinds up pages before Sophia and Rene find common ground. But, in the end, it works like a charm. 
I’ll say this about ROOK, it has so many different twists and turns and surprises that you will need to take notes to remember what happened and to whom. ROOK is an entertaining story, with a not so original idea of using a polar shift to destroy mankind and the resulting refusal of future generations to fall back on the technology they blame for the world’s destruction. Although polar shifts are extremely rare occurrences, they have happened. Pole’s reverse themselves about every 200,000 to 300,000 years. Add to the mix subsequent holes in the ozone and the resulting fall of technology, and here’s hoping that we don’t have a polar shift any time in OUR lifetimes!
Follow Me: Gizmo’s Reviews Blog | Facebook | @GizmosReviews | Goodreads

Talk Supe

Shelley Loved It: The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

Series: The Girl at Midnight 1 
Format: E-Book | 368 pages 
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: Netgalley
Genre: YA | Urban Fantasy

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT was one of the most anticipated reads that I had scheduled for the month of April. Set in a real world setting that takes place around the globe and under New York City, Grey tells her story via multiple characters. But, it is with 17-year old runaway thief/pickpocket and very human Echo, that Grey really excels. Echo’s very being puts her in direct odds with every other character that makes an appearance in this book. But, she’s not one to stand on the sidelines while everyone has all the fun.

“To know the truth, you must first want the truth.”

At a young age, Echo was taken in by a race of supernaturals called the Avicen after running away from home. The Avicen (Avian) are a race of people with feathers for hair and magical abilities that live under the streets of New York City. Now, some of you are already saying, HEY, that sounds like Daughter of Smoke and Bone! But, let’s move past that for a moment. Especially since there are no angel’s or devils in THIS story, and even though Echo was raised by them, she knew who her parents were. 
For centuries, the Avicens under Ala and Drakharin (Dragons) under Casius, have been searching for the mythical Firebird which is said to be able to bring peace between the supernatural enemies. Peace is what both Ala and Casius wants and desires, but not everyone is on the same wavelength. It is with that in mind that Ala sends Echo on a mind blowing journey that is filled with adventure, romance, betrayal, and an awakening of sorts for Echo.
Echo is a character that loves to use bravado (sarcasm & humor) when she gets into tight places. Echo has doesn’t have any of her own magic, but she can travel the in-between to get where she’s going. She loves reading, and can quote from almost any book that she’s read. She hoards her stolen goodies, and has a best friend in Ivy, an Avicen who is also a healer. She does have a “boyfriend” in Rowan, but perhaps her match really belongs with someone else ::wink wink:: Echo is more than determined to prove her worth to the Avicens who have been her only true family. 
THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT‘s other main characters are Caius, Ala, Ivy, Jasper, and Dorian. Put them together and you have an unlikely team willing to put away their differences in order to find a common cause. Caius’s own sister Tanith stands in his way of finding the Firebird, while Ala’a nemesis Altair, stands in hers. Jasper is a peacock, of sorts, who is in the same business as Echo. Dorian has been by Caius’s side as his guard since being saved. Ivy, Echo’s best friend, really goes through a lot in this story, and I feel kind of like she’s the 5th wheel at this point. Hopefully, that will change.
I do believe this is the first time I am saying that multiple character storylines actually work. I don’t remember at any point, saying that I had no clue who the author was talking about. The breaks were clear, and almost always, Grey hinted at who she was writing about. Apparently, Multiple POV’s can be done efficiently. 
I suck at keeping my promises of not comparing books. But, since the synopsis makes such a glaring and triumphant comparison between this book, City of Bones, & Shadow and Bone, let’s go there for a moment. Because the Avicens are a race of supernaturals with feathers for hair, readers will fall back to Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I don’t quite see where Shadow and Bone comes in, and I do encourage you to read THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT on your own, and see if this comparison is worth its merits. I supposed seeing as the Avicen use magic to hid themselves from humans, there goes the City of Bones likeness. 
THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT is a book that I would recommend to other readers. I am understandably weary of sequels, but in this case, I am definitely eager to see where Grey takes Echo and her crew from here. I won’t speak all that much on the romance angle. It kind of is what it is, and you can take it from there how you feel about it after reading the book.
Follow Me: Gizmo’s Reviews Blog | Facebook | @GizmosReviews | Goodreads

Shelley Liked It: The Infinite by Lori M Lee

Series: Gates of Thread & Stone # 2

Format: E-Book, 378 pages
Release Date: March 10, 2015
Publisher: Skyscape
Source: Netgalley
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

The walls of Ninurta keep its citizens safe.
Kai always believed the only danger to the city came from within. Now, with a rebel force threatening the fragile government, the walls have become more of a prison than ever.

To make matters worse, as Avan explores his new identity as an Infinite, Kai struggles to remind him what it means to be human. And she fears her brother, Reev, is involved with the rebels. With the two people she cares about most on opposite sides of a brewing war, Kai will do whatever it takes to bring peace. But she’s lost her power to manipulate the threads of time, and she learns that a civil war might be the beginning of something far worse that will crumble not only Ninurta’s walls but also the entire city.

In this thrilling sequel to Gates of Thread and Stone, Kai must decide how much of her humanity she’s willing to lose to protect the only family she’s ever known.

THE INFINITE is the second installment in the Gates of Thread and Stone series by Lori M. Lee. For Kai, our 17-year old protagonist, things have changed over the course of the past several months. She is no longer living a sheltered life believing that she’s an orphan. She’s the daughter of Kronos, father of time, who just happens to be one of the 70 Infinite in the world.  
She’s become more involved with the new chosen leader, Kahl Miraya, but other things in her life have become that much more puzzling. For instance, her powers to manipulate the threads of time have gone on hiatus, and she hasn’t told anyone she’s having issues, or that she’s having intensely vivid nightmares. With Kronos sitting in the wings ready to pass the baton to Kai, it is time for her to fully come to grips with her abilities, and the fact that connecting to the so called River, is not only necessary, but can save her life.
With a new leader in place, there’s the question of who is in charge of a rebel faction of trouble making sentinels that won’t bow down to her, and the fact that Reev, Kai’s brother, may be part of the rebellion. But, the most important item on Kai’s to do list, is to find a way of bringing back Avan memories of when he was human, and cared deeply for her. With Avan now being the Infinite called Conquest, this mission is more difficult than Kai could ever imagine. 
While we were already introduced in great detail to Ninurta and a brief visit to Etu Gahl in Gates of Thread and StoneTHE INFINITE expands upon the world that Lee has created. With the surprising arrival of a visitor from a land called Lanathrill, the presumption that those who live in Ninurta were the only survivors of the Rebirth, is shattered into little pieces. What’s more surprising, is that they ask Kahl Miraya for assistance in dealing with a rather large problem.  
After Kai accepts a position as adviser to Miraya, she, along with Mason, travel to investigate what Lanathrill needs, and if they can actually help them. What does the leader of these people, Kahl Emryn, really want? Are they serious about needing help, or are they into much more nefarious ideologies? How could a entire nation of people not come forward sooner, and let Ninurta know they exist? What’s even more bizarre, is that there is yet another land not to far off, Peshtigo, that none of the Ninurtans heard about! 
If you haven’t read Gates yet, then let me suggest that you do. I love when characters grow over a series. I love that Kai doesn’t necessarily think about herself first before doing things like trying to save Mason’s life after a brutal betrayal. Or, how about not letting Reev or even Avan fall too far down the rabbit hole where they won’t ever come out? I do appreciate Kai’s struggles after killing an important character in Gates. Had Kai just shown up without any emotional baggage in THE INFINITE, I would have been rather shocked. 
So, let’s talk about the boys, shall we? First, I adore Mason. I love that Lee makes him a much more important participant and friend to Kai. However, I would have preferred less time spent with Avan, and more time spent with Mason. I think Mason is being used at this point, and I don’t think it’s fair to him, especially since he’s put so much effort into helping Kai. I do hope that the third installment is a bit kinder to Mason.
How about Reev? Kai’s brother is still by her side, still the rock that keeps her head straight, and still loves her even knowing about her abilities, and how powerful she could be once she learns to grasp them fully. I think Reev gets the shout-out for the most understood character in the book. He’s been with Kai for almost 10 years, and never once wavered in is love for Kai.
I supposed I should talk about Avan now. Wow, where to even begin? Avan is not the Avan from Gates. In fact, I would dare say that he’s a pod person who is inhabiting the body that Avan once owned. I can’t say that I don’t like Avan. After all that he put himself through for Kai, he deserves a bit of a break. And yet, I do want to scream at him, or Lee, for making him such a grumpy sod who breaks Kai’s heart at every turn.
I was surprised to learn that there WILL be a third installment. When you read the synopsis, it reads as though this was the last book. THE INFINITE is an action packed story that I read fairly quickly. There are more than a few betrayals and surprises in this book, and the secondary characters introduced from Lanathrill, are more than enough to keep your interest, while breaking your heart into little pieces. 
Other Book In series, along with my thoughts:
Follow Me: Gizmo’s Reviews Blog | Facebook | @GizmosReviews | Goodreads

Shelley Loved It: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Publisher: Viking Juvenille
Released: January 27, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult | Contemporary

When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

“I failed her in life. But I won’t fail her in death.”

I Was Here, by Gayle Forman, is yet another emotional ride that makes you sit up and take notice. The subject matter, suicide/depression, is one that goes mostly ignored by the general public, but hits the mark with those of us have experienced or continue to feel the same helpless feeling day after day. The story is told in the first person narrative by Cody Reynolds, who at 18, loses her best friend Megan “Meg” Garcia after she drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room.

Cody is understandably left confused, angry, devastated, and filled with regret over Meg’s actions. For most of I Was Here, the story hinged on Cody understanding why her best friend killed herself, and suddenly finding out that the girl she has known since kindergarten, has kept a whole lot of secrets from her. There are those she shared a home with (Richard, Harry, and Alice), those she befriended along the way (too many to mention), the man who broke her heart (Ben McAllister), and a secretive encrypted file that may hold all the answers.

“She didn’t tell me that she found life to be so unbearably painful. I mean, I didn’t even have a clue.”

Cody finds herself peeking into a dark world where people seek out others to guide their decisions whether to live or die. One needs to ask themselves whether or not Meg thought about her family, her brother, or Cody before she decided to catch the last bus. I know that’s selfish, but those left behind suffer from an unimaginable loss that doesn’t go away overnight. I think in today’s society, we need to provide people with more information on what is available to them. We have to stop treating those with depression as not worthy of our time. I haven’t had any friends, or family who have taken this route, nor will I judge anyone that has.

“Be tolerant of one another and forgive each other if anyone has a complaint against another.”

I’m going to do something a bit different with this review, so please have some patience with me. I do recommend that you do find time to pick up this book and read it. I recommend that you read the authors notes at the end of the book, and the resources that she provides to families and those contemplating suicide. Suicide and Depression is not a joking matter. It is a silent killer that haunts millions of people each year. Those thinking about Suicide may not reach out to their family, friends, or support groups.

They truly believe that they are alone in the world, and nobody will miss them when they are gone. I have suffered from depression since I was honorably discharged from the Navy. My family, former employers, and employees will tell you that I wasn’t a pleasant person to be around. I was angry, sad, and turned within myself shutting out all my friends. I still do that today even after numerous attempts to control my issues. But, because of the strength of my family, I have survived longer than I expected.

Forman’s writing style hasn’t changed much since I read If I Stay. It’s still raw, emotional, and reel. I could compare Cody and Ben to Chloe and Adam. Cody isn’t Chloe, but Ben could be Adam’s brother since they are both musicians. Cody is a girl who is nothing like Chloe, but nonetheless, she does have her strengths, and determination. Forman is another author who has felt the pain of losing someone close to her. Her pain is definitely felt in how she puts together the story. Despite the solemn tone, I didn’t find myself shedding any tears until the final chapters of the book.

Follow Me: Gizmo’s Reviews Blog | Facebook | @GizmosReviews | Goodreads

Shelley Liked It: Death Marked by Leah Cypess

Series: Death Sworn 2

Format: E-Book, 400 pages
Release Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Source: Edelweiss/Publisher
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

A young sorceress’s entire life has been shaped to destroy the empire controlling her world. But if everything she knows is a lie, will she even want to fulfill her destiny? The sequel to Death Sworn is just as full of magic and surprising revelations, and will thrill fans of Leigh Bardugo and Robin LaFevers.

At seventeen, Ileni lost her magical power and was exiled to the hidden caves of the assassins. She never thought she would survive long. But she discovered she was always meant to end up, powerless, in the caves as part of an elder sorcerer’s plan to destroy the evil Empire they’d battled so long. Except that Ileni is not an assassin, and she doesn’t want to be a weapon. And, after everything, she’s not even sure she knows the truth. Now, at the very heart of the Empire—its academy for sorcerers—the truth is what she seeks. What she finds challenges every belief she holds dear—and it threatens her fledgling romance with the young master of assassins.

Leah Cypess spins an intricate and beautiful conclusion to Ileni’s story. In the end, it may not be the epic decisions that bring down an empire, but the small ones that pierce the heart.

Probably 3.5 Cauldrons 

DEATH MARKED is the sequel & conclusion to the Death Sworn duology. A journey that has seen 17-year old Ileni exiled from her Renegai home, to landing among assassins who desire to take down the Empire, to entering the hive of the Empire itself searching for a way to destroy their power source. Things haven’t exactly been easy for Ileni since the beginning. She lost her magic, was sent off to die, faced lies and betrayal, found love, and was forced to kill someone in order to save her life. 

DEATH MARKED picks up 3 days after Ileni left the assassins cave. Ileni is soon caught by Imperial Sorceress Karyn (who we met in Death Sworn), and brought to the Academy of Sorcery. Ileni finds that there are a whole lot of questions to answer, choices to be made, and new characters to be meet. Ileni has no power of her own anymore, but finds that if she draws on lodestones, she’s just as powerful as other more advanced sorcerers. For Ileni, she must find out how to destroy the Empires source of power, but ends up finding out more than she expected. 
DEATH MARKED shows that Ileni faces a whole slew of choices that aren’t necessarily easy. Will she choose to become the weapon necessary to defeat the Empire? Will she turn her back on Sorin, who she may love but doesn’t necessarily trust, and join the Empire who has been depicted as the big bad wolf ready to gobble up little boys and girls for lunch? Who can she really trust when all she’s found so far is hurt, misery, and heart break? Will she accept how the Empire takes its power, or will she find another avenue to a higher purpose? 
Ileni’s struggles with she believes in and is really tested in DEATH MARKED. Why would anyone want to put their life on the line for the Empire or the Assassins who won’t stop killing people no matter what the cost is? As I was reading this book, I was kind of shaking my head over Ileni’s actions, but considering how her life has changed since losing her magic, I can’t fault her entirely. Thus, we find a very indecisive character who doesn’t really have anyone to help her make tough decisions.
The world that Cypess leaves us with, is not entirely black or white, or even gray. It’s not entirely good, or entirely bad. There’s more to it than meets the eyes, which leaves Ileni utterly confused and struggling with what has happened to her since being banished and sent off to die. There is too much at stake for Ileni just to flip a coin and say, that’s what my choice is and I’m sticking to it. One could say that this is what free choice is really about. The freedom to choose our own paths without anyone else telling us how to eat, what to wear, or who to love, or to make a choice between two forces that have their own baggage to deal with. 
I loved Evin and his brother Girad who we meet at the Academy. Evin is a powerful sorcerer, and his brother is cute as a little puppy. I didn’t mind all that much that Sorin was basically a bit player instead of a key ingredient like he was in Death Sworn. I have heard other people saying that there is a bit of a love triangle involved in this story. Don’t believe everything you read. It’s just not true. While Ileni has had her share of love interests, Tellis, Sorin, and perhaps Evin in the near future, they don’t happen while she is with anyone else.     
Perhaps one should temper their expectations at a happy ending and that everything will be wrapped up in a nice little basket with plenty of pretty bunnies to go along with it. The ending leaves room and possibilities for another book should Cypess decide to return to this world. I have said this before, I shall say this again to the moaning of those reading this review, I don’t like open ended endings. I think it’s the lazy way to cut and move onto something else. I like to see my characters ride off into the sunset. I don’t really mind if an author chooses to write important characters off by killing them. At least I know what happens next, and can move on.  
Follow Me: Gizmo’s Reviews Blog | Facebook | @GizmosReviews | Goodreads

Shelley Liked It: In The Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken

Series: The Darkest Minds # 3 

Format: Hardcover, 535 pages
Release Date: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult | Dystopian

Ruby can’t look back. Fractured by an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government’s attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. With them is a prisoner: Clancy Gray, son of the president, and one of the few people Ruby has encountered with abilities like hers. Only Ruby has any power over him, and just one slip could lead to Clancy wreaking havoc on their minds.

They are armed only with a volatile secret: proof of a government conspiracy to cover up the real cause of IAAN, the disease that has killed most of America’s children and left Ruby and others like her with powers the government will kill to keep contained. But internal strife may destroy their only chance to free the “rehabilitation camps” housing thousands of other Psi kids.

Meanwhile, reunited with Liam, the boy she would-and did-sacrifice everything for to keep alive, Ruby must face the painful repercussions of having tampered with his memories of her. She turns to Cole, his older brother, to provide the intense training she knows she will need to take down Gray and the government. But Cole has demons of his own, and one fatal mistake may be the spark that sets the world on fire

In The Afterlight is the final installment in The Darkest Minds trilogy, bringing everything to a head. Ruby Daly and the survivors of the attack on the Children’s League & Federal Coalition in Los Angeles are fractured, and struggling to survive. Cate and other agents are missing, other agents want to ransom the kids for money to fight President Gray, and Ruby is feeling the loss of a certain character who she was supposed to take care of. 
With President Gray and his thugs squeezing them like sardines, and with broken trust and betrayal on the horizon, Ruby becomes a totally different character. I would say that in many ways, she was as cold as the other side of the pillow, and had the emotional baggage of someone who slept around one too many times. But, we can’t expect that Ruby will be the perfect character. If you do, then you didn’t pay attention to the previous two novels. She has had to do things in order to survive, including removing Liam’s memories, make difficult decisions as a leader, and working with the devil himself, Clancy Gray.
I want to be able say that I had no qualms or problems with this story, but then I would be a liar, and that’s just not the way I roll. You want to know what this story really was set up on? Conflicts. Conflicts between Ruby and Cole over the direction they should be heading. Between Cole and Liam because that’s how brothers act. Between Ruby and Liam, Vida, Nico, Cate, and especially Clancy who is supposedly the key to finding his mother, and the supposed cure for IAAN. 
It’s also a story about struggle and survival. Ruby’s struggle with her powers which have grown exponentially. Her struggle to make things up to Liam who she loves, but can’t trust herself to ensure that he won’t be killed or do something stupid in order to save her. Ruby wants to end the rehabilitation camps, but it isn’t until almost the end of the book and a shocking loss before she makes a life or death choice and finds her way back to Thurmond.
I will say this, the last chapters of In The Afterlight truly saved the entire book from being a disappointment for me. There are still a whole bunch of non-answered questions, but that is part of life I guess. I liked that almost every character, including Suzume (Zu) gets their return engagement. I was a bit worried that Bracken had written her off, and actually did a little jig once the original group of Ruby, Liam, Zu, and Chubs were reunited. Add in Vida, and you have a really awesome group of characters.
Since the book is over 500 pages, I would have liked to see more story development from Senator Cruz, Dr. Lillian Gray, and especially Cate who helped Ruby escape from Thurmond. After everything that is said and done, Cate kind of was left out in the middle of nowhere, with no particular storyline to finish, with only a brief nod to thank her for being the only family Ruby had at the time.  
In the end, this series has been filed with heartbreaking deaths, fantastic and often time humorous relationships, frustrating tensions, especially between Liam and Ruby, and an ending that leaves room for the imagination since there are no more books in this series. Oh, and let’s not forget my favorite part, Vida and Chubs!!!

Bloggy Friends’ Reviews

Follow Me: Gizmo’s Reviews Blog | Facebook | @GizmosReviews | Goodreads

Shelley’s Shot of YA: Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

Series: The Darkest Minds # 2 

Format: Hardcopy, 512 pages 
Release Date: October 15, 2013 
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Source: Borrowed Library
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian

Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster. 

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her. 

As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?

NEVER FADE, the second novel in The Darkest Minds trilogy, actually picks up 6 months after the end of The Darkest Minds. 17-year old Ruby Daly never thought she would train to be a soldier, or go on rescue missions, or become a designated leader. She was just lucky to be rescued, and given a chance that a lot of others can only dream about. But, she has. Now, Ruby finds herself not only training hard, but also using her psionic abilities to ferret out the truth from agents, and those the Children’s League brings in.
Bracken recreated the US into a place where a horrible virus forever changed America’s children. Those who survived the disease were left with unnatural powers that could only be described by a color: the greens (super intelligent), the blues (telepathic), the yellows (control over electricity), the oranges (power over the mind), and the reds (control fire). Ruby is an orange, and a very dangerous one at that. 
Bracken’s President Gray is a ruthless leader who doesn’t mind putting anyone from age 7 years on up to 18 into so called rehabilitation camps where, like Ruby who spent 6 years in Thurmond, linger for years without any hopes of ever getting out. He doesn’t tolerate rebellion, and yet that is exactly what the Children’s Network does while it’s also supposed to be rescuing children from the camps.  
With a new story, comes Ruby’s new mantra which is Accept, adapt, act. But, when she finds herself in the middle of a political game of chance, she and her teammates Vida and Jude, travel to the east coast searching for Liam Stewart and even more intriguing surprises that pop up along the way. 
What’s interesting about Ruby this time out, is that she actually grows as a character and becomes more in-tuned with her abilities. She still struggles with the right or wrong aspects of using them, but that’s because she refuses to become a monster like one Chancy Gray. I also liked her relationship with Cat Conner, who helped her escape from Thurmond, and chose her to become the leader of the psionic children.
Another character I liked in NEVER FADE, is Vida who is about as sarcastic and sassy as you can be without driving someone up the wall. I was also happy that Liam and Chubs once again make appearances, and to say that things have changed a whole lot for both characters, is an understatement. Unfortunately, Suzume (Zu) is not around at all. The hope is that she still alive, but I guess we’ll have to wait until the final installment to find out.
NEVER FADE ends on a really emotionally charged cliffhanger that leaves everyone shocked to the core and scrambling to figure out what happens next. I can’t say I that I wasn’t surprised that this would happen with all the political moves, and counter-moves, but not to this character. One of the most nerve wrecking part of this story is Liam and Ruby’s romance/friendship which is like watching two lightweight boxes duking it out. They both need to leave their egos at the door, and just over themselves! 
Follow Me: Gizmo’s Reviews Blog | Facebook | @GizmosReviews | Goodreads