WoW: NEMESIS

WAITING ON WEDNESDAY is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at BREAKING THE SPINE in which participants share their anticipated reads with the blogging community.

THIS WEEK:

This is one of my favorite anticipated reads for fall. A rivalry, high stakes, epic fantasy? YES PLEASE. Not to mention that it’s written by Anna Banks- and I will read ANYTHING she writes, hands down. And the cover. THE COVER! SO much pretty. Coming October 4, 2016, here’s

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SUMMARY:

Princess Sepora of Serubel is the last Forger in all the five kingdoms. The spectorium she creates provides energy for all, but now her father has found a way to weaponize it, and his intentions to incite war force her to flee from his grasp. She escapes across enemy lines into the kingdom of Theoria, but her plans to hide are thwarted when she is captured and placed in the young king’s servitude.

Tarik has just taken over rulership of Theoria, and must now face a new plague sweeping through his kingdom and killing his citizens. The last thing he needs is a troublesome servant vying for his attention. But mistress Sepora will not be ignored. When the two finally meet face-to-face, they form an unlikely bond that complicates life in ways neither of them could have imagined.

Sepora’s gift could save Tarik’s kingdom from the Quiet Plague. But should she trust her growing feelings for her nemesis, or should she hide her gifts at all costs?

WHY I’M EXCITED

Like I said- I’ll read anything that Anna Banks writes. She’s absolutely AWESOME. This new, epic fantasy comes straight from my dreams, with the promise of a slow-burn romance, some political intrigue, and an ethics dilemma too good to pass up. And a Quiet Plague? I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT THAT IS. So yeah, I’m really excited for this one. And I LOVE the cover. I think it totally escalates the claim of ‘fantasy’ novel to a higher degree. So many books say they’re fantasy, but only change a few things to make it that way, usually that someone somewhere has a magical power. But this? Silver skin (or war paint, either way), someone who can CREATE ENERGY, and fighting kingdoms are absolutely what I want. So kudos to Anna for making this happen, because I’m so psyched!

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BABY BOOK REVIEW: SWORD AND VERSE

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SUMMARY (goodreads):

Raisa was only a child when she was kidnapped and enslaved in Qilara. Forced to serve in the palace of the King, she’s endured hunger, abuse, and the harrowing fear of discovery. Everyone knows that Raisa is Arnath, but not that she is a Learned One, a part of an Arnath group educated in higher order symbols. In Qilara, this language is so fiercely protected that only the King, the Prince, and Tutors are allowed to know it. So when the current Tutor-in-training is executed for sharing the guarded language with slaves and Raisa is chosen to replace her, Raisa knows that, although she may have a privileged position among slaves, any slipup could mean death.

That would be challenging enough, but training alongside Prince Mati could be her real undoing. And when a romance blossoms between them, she’s suddenly filled with a dangerous hope for something she never before thought possible: more. Then she’s approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slaves—to help liberate the Arnath people. Joining the Resistance could mean freeing her people…but she’d also be aiding in the war against her beloved, an honorable man she knows wants to help the slaves.

Working against the one she loves—and a palace full of deadly political renegades—has some heady consequences. As Raisa struggles with what’s right, she unwittingly uncovers a secret that the Qilarites have long since buried…one that, unlocked, could bring the current world order to its knees.

And Raisa is the one holding the key.

BABY REVIEW:

What a disappointment. I had high hopes for Sword and Verse. The author created a new language just for her book! If you can create a language, you MUST be able to use it, right?

Wrong.

I think she spent a little too much time on linguistics and not enough on her plot. Let me put a disclaimer that I skimmed a LOT of this book, but this was what I got from it:

BEWARE: SPOILERS AHEAD

 

 

Page 20: Raisa is already raised from lowest slave level to Tutor-in-training: training WITH the prince. Yeah, sure. And she avoided execution somehow, which was also unclear. Then there were the names and the places- an info dump if there ever was one. Raisa was the most normal name of any of them. I’m all for creativity, but please don’t give me 15 crazy names of people, places and things in the first 20 pages that I’m supposed to remember.

Page 30: She and the prince, who have never spoken before, ARE IN LOVE. Kissing ALL THE TIME.

Page 50: They sneak off to the library to have sex, and continue to do so several times throughout the book, even after the prince is betrothed to another girl, who’s super nice. Did I mention that she’s fifteen? But she was 14 when this love affair got started, and she barely breaks 16 by the time you actually get to the plot? Unrestrained teenage hormones are obviously a key factor in pushing this plot.

The rest (because after I spent 50 pages flipping through shivers and coos and the laughable idea that the ONLY PRINCE could sneak off so easily, for so long): There’s some kind of revolution, but Raisa is only concerned with how long it is before the prince gets married to the other girl- who is SUPER NICE, as far as I can tell. But it doesn’t seem to matter, because they still sneak off together anyway. Raisa only joins (begrudgingly) when people- important people- get kidnapped. And then there’s hardly any action, just some planning and suddenly, BAM. Raisa is the ruler of the whole place, some kind of priestess that can consult with an oracle and all sorts of random stuff like that. Good grief! A language rebellion wasn’t enough? It’s frustrating because I thought this would be in the vein of The Pledge, by Kimberly Derting, which was a great book about language and class separation. Maybe that was my mistake. But I certainly expected more than this.

I am very, very disappointed in this one. Insta-love, 8000 random characters, NO real action that I could find, and a very sketchy way of trying to have a happy ending. It would have been much more satisfying if there had been any true sacrifice from ANYONE in this book.

WHAT TO WATCH (more spoilers)

There was the bad romance, of course. Lots of not-so-innuendo about what they were doing and how. That permeated the book.

There was some violence, though not nearly as much as expected when you see the word sword in the title and a picture of it on the cover. Isn’t it supposed to be a revolution?

As far as drugs and drinking go, I couldn’t tell you, because I didn’t get that deep into it, to catch those details. The same goes for language, though I think I can safely say that since the author created a language, the curing wouldn’t be what we normally see.

The resolution of the whole affair seemed to rely on her suddenly becoming the magical priestess, something I am so not on board with. Can’t have a happy ending? THAT’S FINE. Don’t add some random plot element at the end so that everything can be hunky-dory.

This book was not for me. I thought it was awful, and yet, it was so hyped! Maybe I’ll write a post up about hype- because this is happening more and more. It’s a travesty, especially when people pre-order books based on some contrived excitement. A synopsis does not a good book make.

NAMELESS

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SUMMARY:

Four clans have been at war for centuries: the Kodiak, the Raven, the Wolf and the Ram. Through brutal war tactics, the Ram have dominated the region, inflicting death and destruction on their neighbors.

Seventeen-year-old Zo is a Wolf and a Healer who volunteers to infiltrate the Ram as a spy on behalf of the allied clans. She offers herself as a Ram slave, joining the people who are called the “nameless.” Hers is a suicide mission – Zo’s despair after losing her parents in a Ram raid has left her seeking both revenge and an end to her own misery. But after her younger sister follows her into Rams Gate, Zo must find a way to survive her dangerous mission and keep her sister safe.

What she doesn’t expect to find is the friendship of a young Ram whose life she saves, the confusing feelings she develops for a Ram soldier, and an underground nameless insurrection. Zo learns that revenge, loyalty and love are more complicated than she ever imagined in the first installment of this two-book series.

THOUGHTS:

PLOT: I don’t have a lot to say about this book. I think I went into it with too high expectations from the rave reviews I had seen before the release date. I don’t know what changed between the ARC and the finished copy, but I didn’t see the kind of excellence I wanted to. The idea, in and of itself, is great. It’s a different take on a sort of cult life, futuristic fantasy faction land, and I loved the originality of the idea. The execution, however, felt like too much of the author trying to make elements of other popular YA books fit into her novel. The Prim (Hunger Games) little sister in danger situation? Check. The factions that all excel in one field or another, a la Divergent? Check. A love triange? Check. (But, to be fair, it wasn’t much of one). It saddened me that the execution fell so flat for me, and I wish that even the pacing had been better. There was a lot of talking, talking, talking, each character thinking, feeling guilty, feeling torn, and then all at once a flurry of action that made sense, but with no buildup or anticipation. The cliffhanger at the end was good, although abrupt, and I’ll probably at least skim the next book, since it’s only a duology.

CHARACTERS: Eh…I don’t want to talk about them. Honestly, it’s been a week since I finished this book, and I don’t even remember them. The girl was Zo, someone whose name started with a G….Gryphon? I don’t have the book, and now I can’t check. I think it was Gryphon. Anyway, they all did a lot of thinking- mostly about how betrayed everyone would be if they knew the truth. It was all so roundabout, and it got tiresome quickly, especially with so much potential for other things. I don’t think I can really say anything more about the characters- just that they were all intending to do something selfless, and ended up only seeming self-absorbed.

WHAT TO WATCH

This one was pretty clean, with only a few references to sex- one of the gate guards is particularly disgusting, and takes what he wants from many of the girls in the community, and intends to do so with Zo as well as her younger sister, but (SPOILER) nothing happens. That’s all.

OVERALL: I’d give this one two and a half stars, maybe. It was only okay in some parts, but there were a few occasions that I really enjoyed it. So of course, these are all subjective opinions, and I’d love to hear yours if you’ve read it!

BOOK REVIEW: SHADOW AND BONE

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SUMMARY

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

MY THOUGHTS

PLOT: Okay, the first time I picked up this book, I put it down almost immediately. A few months ago, I think I just wasn’t in the mood for it.  This time, with some helpful prodding from Brianna Shrum (who is excellent) I enjoyed it much more. I think this is the only love triangle that I’ve been on board with, and I’m actually excited to read more- I’m feeling the Darkling love SO MUCH and despite that, I love Mal, too. The plot is kind of weird and was a little slow at first, which may have contributed to my lack of enthusiasm. This time, however, I pushed through, and I didn’t regret it. I enjoyed the pacing, although the ending seemed a little bit off and I wish I had been more invested in it. I will definitely be finishing the series, though, because I think this could turn out being a really great series (and I would like to have these three under my belt before I start Six of Crows so I’m familiar with the universe).

CHARACTERS: Point number one, and perhaps the most important point, is that the way Bardugo wrote the Darkling is 100% perfection. You never know whether he is hero of villain (okay, you pretty much know, but you don’t care) his motives are vague, his morality is entirely questionable and you just. don’t. care. I understand now why many, many people choose the Darkling as their #1 book boyfriend- although he isn’t mine (yet) he’s climbing right up the list with those quartz eyes. However, it’ll be tough to beat the Caliph of Khorasan- Khalid’s tiger eyes and also vague morality are well established in my heart.

The reason I didn’t give this book five stars is Alina, our heroine. Although by the end of the book she had changed and had become something different- someone better- for much of the book I skimmed her thoughts unless they had to do with the Darkling. Her inferiority complex is something I just couldn’t understand, and couldn’t enjoy reading. I would have preferred if she came into her own sooner, and we got to see more of her powerful side. As it was, each change was sudden, abrupt, and almost a little bit confusing when it came to the final pages of the book. I do look forward to seeing where Bardugo goes with this character, though, because I think she could be pretty great once she gets used to being powerful.

Mal was a great character, and I do love him- he’s my kind of guy, and in any other book, I would adore him. But in this book, he’s competing with the Darkling, and that’s pretty much impossible. I understand this love triangle, though, because there’s an impossible pull toward the Darkling, and to me he’s just a fictional character. To Alina, he’s flesh and blood and smoking hot. So I totally get this LT, even though it hurts.

In all honesty, Genya the Tailor was my favorite character. Much like Despina from The Wrath and the Dawn, Genya is the servant who is much more, with a plucky determination, beauty, and flair all her own. I loved her flash and the way she acted- and I truly hope I see her in future books.

OVERALL: I’ll give this four stars, because Alina was so frustrating and the ending seemed a little bit rushed to me. But I did love many aspects of this book, and can’t wait to see more.

WHAT TO WATCH:

There are some pretty heated kiss scenes, but nothing too untoward happens. There are some hints to what the king does to servants he finds attractive, but nothing is detailed and the reader is left to draw conclusions on their own. They drink something called kvas, which seems to be some sort of alcohol, but no one is getting obviously drunk or acting crazy. Violence is the only issue- there are some scenes that are a little gory, and I wouldn’t want younger readers exposed to descriptions of the volcra, monsters in the Fold. I do wonder, though, what causes the Grisha’s powers- it never really tells you whether it’s just elemental or genetic mutation or if it’s magic. That’s something I’ll have to keep a lookout for.

THE WINNER’S CRIME

“If you won’t be my friend, you’ll regret being my enemy.”
Official Summary: (From goodreads.com)

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

My thoughts: I think my mistake was reading it so soon after finishing the first one. Because after the wonder of The Winner’s Curse, what wouldn’t pale in comparison? I’m sorry to say that this one was just less thrilling. As a reader, I often felt overwhelmed with the sheer number of new events when there was no resolution to the first one. Or any following. I feel as though Rutkoski wanted to keep me on the edge of my seat, but she lost me in the continuing upward spiral of new revelations, when I hadn’t fully understood what came before.
    I think my biggest issue with this book was that fact- something new happened every few pages, and you never really knew why, and then there were few satisfying answers to questions that you first had while reading book one. I left book two feeling a little lost and sort of sad- I had expected more from the sequel of the book that made time explode (see the review of The Winner’s Curse).
    Additionally (and obviously this was a personal issue), I wish there had been just one moment where Arin and Kestrel were in sync, or some kind of peace between them. But all there was was mistaken hatred and anger and hurt. Even the letter explaining everything at the end of the book from Kestrel to Arin was lost, so he left thinking that she hated him (words borne of necessity because an enemy was listening) and she was swept away to the north without him knowing.
     Honestly, I would have enjoyed this more if I hadn’t read The Winner’s Curse and immediately picked up The Winner’s Curse. But that’s the way I read them, and this is how I felt- you may have felt differently, so let me know!
What to Watch (SPOILER alert):
     Really, the only thing worth mentioning in this is the violence. A spy is tortured, people are killed, and it’s no secret how they died. While it isn’t graphic, it may not be the best choice for younger readers. In addition, it does concentrate a bit more on the war Kestrel’s father is fighting in, and she offers up tactics to win battles in the east. Arin is attacked, and his face is cut open, which could be disturbing to some readers.
     Additionally, (and this was very minor) Arin is kissed once, propositioned once, and nearly lets the women have what they want, but stops himself in time. There is a slight description of these events, but nothing too serious.
     I liked this book, and I will be looking out for the third and final book in the trilogy, The Winner’s Kiss, but I wish there would have been more satisfactory resolutions to some of the issues brought up.
Questions? Comments? Have a book you’d like me to review? Post a comment below and tell me what you think!

THE WINNER’S CURSE

“…People in brightly lit places cannot see into the dark.”

Official Summary: (goodreads.com)

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

My thoughts: This book. Wow. And again, wow. I understand the praise on the back of this one, which is from two amazing authors. This book made time explode for me. I thought I was reading for about ten minutes, but nearly forty-five had passed. I finished this one in half a day, and I don’t regret that time for a moment. I would do it again. Here’s why.

     A lot of these books- the forbidden love, the dangerous elite society catching on, etc. are predictable. You know the love story will happen in the first three or so chapters, and what’s left is all secret meetings and soft glances, maybe a stolen liaison or two. Not so in The Winner’s Curse. The romance develops in the challenges, the angry truths, the realization that even though they can infuriate each other, there’s an understanding that overreaches the world they live in, and they will change the world for each other.

     And the writing. Oh, the writing. I am in raptures. Sweeping, elegant, beautifully painful at times, Rutkoski captures what it means to write a novel that takes you into its world. Some authors have a hard time describing a foreign world in a way that makes it both understandable and yet still uniquely beautiful, but this author certainly does not, capturing the essence of the Valorian world and the beautiful, rich culture of the Herrani.

     While I loved the conflict between Arin and Kestrel, the conclusion of the book tugged at me, confused me just a little, and left me…unsatisfied. While we see the reasoning, of course, it still feels just the slightest bit forced, like Rutkoski herself was pained to write it. Contrary to popular belief, if your writing is as good as Rutkoski’s, you don’t need to end with a cliffhanger, but she did, and it felt so…wrong that I just couldn’t appreciate the thrill.

What to Watch:

     The most unsettling thing in this book is the way the Herrani are treated as the slaves of the Valorian, and the descriptions of their rebellion. Many people die, by the sword or by poison, and a popular punishment is the cutting off of the ears and nose. Slaves are also beaten and verbally mistreated, spoken to like animals and insulted to their face. When the Herrani take revenge, they do it with a bloody overthrow, and the violence does continue when the Valorians return to attempt to retake the city.

     This is also a romantic novel, and while there are no scenes of a sexual nature between Arin and Kestrel, they do kiss a few times. Additionally, after the (SPOILER) Herrani revolution, their leader, a man called Cheat, makes unwelcome advances toward Kestrel until Arin comes in and kills him.

    I have a lot of respect for Rutkoski, coming out with a book as stunning as this one. Although the sequel didn’t impress me nearly as much (review coming soon), The Winner’s Curse will remain in my memory as one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Of course, you may have a different opinion, and I would love the feedback!

     Questions? Comments? Have a book you’d like me to review? Post a comment below and tell me what you think!

BETWEEN THE SPARK AND THE BURN

“People like you don’t go mad, Vi. They’re quiet on the outside and loud on the inside and sane as the day is long”  

My Rating: PG-13, for some language, sexual content, and horror elements

Official Summary: Freddie once told me that the Devil created all the fear in the world.
But then, the Devil once told me that it’s easier to forgive someone for scaring you than for making you cry.
The problem with River West Redding was that he’d done both to me.

The crooked-smiling liar River West Redding, who drove into Violet’s life one summer day and shook her world to pieces, is gone. Violet and Neely, River’s other brother, are left to worry—until they catch a two a.m. radio program about strange events in a distant mountain town. They take off in search of River but are always a step behind, finding instead frenzied towns, witch hunts, and a wind-whipped island with the thrum of something strange and dangerous just under the surface. It isn’t long before Violet begins to wonder if Neely, the one Redding brother she thought trustworthy, has been hiding a secret of his own . . .

My Thoughts: (SPOILER ALERT) Basically this whole post is a spoiler, because this book is a sequel.

I hated this one. Book one was a fantastic roller coaster of romance, thrills, and mystery, and in book one, ‘Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’, you fall in love, along with Violet, with River Redding, the enigmatic hotshot. And in book two, River goes to find his evil brother and Violet falls in love with his brother, Neely. Even though you already love River. The idea is that she parallels her grandmother, who was also in love with two boys in her day, but it ends up just being frustrating and you lose respect for Violet and even Neely with his ‘kisses full of sunshine.’ Which makes me sad, because everything has to be a love triangle. And then they find River, and he’s crazy. That’s right, an absolute loon, sparked to the brim with his brother’s mind control to make him think he’s the sea king of a little island. But, enough of my hatred. Here’s what to watch in this book:

There is some cursing, not too much, but Violet gets pretty angry sometimes. And the sexual content- well, there’s a love triangle, and River, with his mind control and in his sleep, gets Violet to do things she thinks she’s dreaming about. So, to prevent her from having sex with River first (because even she admits that she wants to) she does it with Neely. Nothing graphic, just subtle hints that “later, much later” there’s some bare skin and some ‘feels’ moments that no one feels because you’re just angry that suddenly she’s in love with Neely.

But the big issue is that you don’t know where Neely, River, and their brother Brodie get their powers (the glow, the spark, the burn). You get the feeling that it’s just a genetic mutation that gave the family these different powers, but even so often you wonder if it’s something more sinister. Violet even speculates that these boys are descendants of the devil. Which is not a good thing. I prefer to choose that the powers are a result of a genetic thing, like the X-Men, but some more conservative readers may choose otherwise.  It’s up to you.

The first book (unreviewed) was awesome, but if you read it, stick to it, because this one was a sore disappointment. But then, that could just be my love of River pouring into my disappointment that the mind-blowing writing was wasted on a love triangle when a couple had already been established.

Questions? Comments? Have a book you’d like me to review? Post a comment below and tell me what you think!

 

THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER

‘Thinking something does not make it true.
Wanting something does not make it real.’

Rating: PG-13 for romantic themes and some horror, as well as unexplained elements.

Official Summary:

Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.

It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.

There is.

She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.

She’s wrong.

Not exactly clear, am I right? It’s very vague, but you might take a chance on it if you saw it at the library. I took that chance, and here’s what really happens:

A teenage girl, Mara, comes to the realization that she has a terrible special ability. Mara and her family have just moved to Florida in hopes the relocation will help Mara heal from the accidental death of her best friend, Rachel. Continuing deaths, however, make Mara realize that she is at the center of all the strange fatalities and may have even caused the death of her own friend. Noah Shaw, an eccentric and intelligent boy, that Mara meets in Florida, holds his own secret that might help Mara control her own ability if she makes the right choice.

Slightly less vague, but I don’t want to give you too many spoilers.

My thoughts: This is a caution book. The source of Mara’s powers remain unexplained, and the results of it are rather gruesomely described (causes of death are near-horrific, and though well-written, are not suitable for younger readers). The PG-13 is an all-around rating, but primarily for the violence, the graphic pictures Hodkin’s words can paint in your mind. There is also a small amount of swearing (Noah Shaw is a bad, bad boy).

Also to be noted is the romantic themes in this novel- they’re pretty close to the surface and a major point in the character and plot development. That means that there are some…tense moments, but nothing past kissing, which is nice for those of us who don’t appreciate the lax morals thrown at us in most YA novels. However, Noah Shaw has a bad reputation, and it’s commented on several times from girls he’s ‘wronged,’ shall we say. One of these girls is the ‘Queen Bee’ who, (because there always has to be one of these nowadays) totes around a hulking male sidekick who just happens to be her ‘G.B.F’ (Gay Best Friend). Thanks, modern society where a person’s sexuality is a B.F.D (big fat deal). Anyway, that’s not too prominently discussed more than a passing comment by another kid at the school Mara attends, but it’s still there.

The big caution: At one point at the very beginning, during a flashback, there is a discussion of Mara and her friends using a Ouija board, a BIG no-no. There is no further discussion of that later in the story, though. The only other issue that is a caution point is when Mara and Noah attend a seminar where the speaker promises to ‘help find answers.’ She demands answers from him, and he cons $5,000 out of Noah and gives Mara a drink that is supposed to help her, a mysterious liquid. When Mara goes back to confront the man the next day, the shop is gone.

This was a really gripping book, but there are some things you have to take into consideration when deciding whether it would be an appropriate book to read. I don’t want to make decisions for anyone else, only help them to be well-informed.

Questions? Comments? Other books you want to have reviewed? Leave a comment below!