Golden by Melissa De La Cruz and Michael Johnston

Golden by Melissa De La Cruz and Michael Johnston
Golden by Melissa De La Cruz and Michael Johnston
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (Penguin Group)
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Print Length: Full Length (272 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rated: 3 stars
Review by Lupine

Recast the spell. Light the flame. Make the world anew.

With the ruins of New Kandy still smoldering around them and Nat’s bond to her beloved drakon quickly fraying, Nat and Wes are lost amid a sea of destruction—with Wes at death’s door. Wes tried to save his sister, Eliza, and protect them from her cruelty, only to see firsthand just how dark her power had become.

Desperate to escape the dangers lurking in New Kandy, Wes accepts help from a mysterious voice calling out to him from the Blue, leading Nat and his crew into even more perilous surroundings. They quickly realize that their only chance for survival lies with Nat and the quest for a new world to replace their broken one—but at what cost?

In this epic conclusion to the Heart of Dread trilogy, Nat and Wes must put their love to the ultimate test in hopes of seeing their world reborn.

The conclusion to this trilogy by Melissa De La Cruz and Michael Johnston was full of epic adventures, and action packed as expected.

Golden starts off in the fray of battle, and certainly doesn’t leave the reader bored!

Still, I struggled with the disconnect between the reader and the story. It seems too much like a tale that someone tells around the campfire, rather than a story shown through literary devices. I couldn’t really bond too well with the characters because of that, even though they were well rounded and full of unique aspects, they lacked the emotional bond that I crave when I’m reading a book. It may be because I’m a few years older than the age recommendation, though, and younger readers may love the way its written. I did love the bond that Nat had with her drakon – it was my favorite part of the whole series.

I think the story and the plot were also something new that the YA genre hasn’t seen yet, which is one of the reason I’ve kept reading, but it seemed to either full on action for chapters followed by a slow period that drags along. I honestly think that the trilogy would have been better in one thick five hundred page book rather than spread out like it was.  Fans of fantasy combined with a dystopian world full of new technology and different government should enjoy this book and the series.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Publisher:G. P. Putnam’s Sons
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, YA
Length: Full Length (457 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Thistledown

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

What would happen if aliens did come to earth?

Some books stick with you and keep you up nights. The 5th Wave did both. In this multi-POV teen novel you experience what it is like when Cassie, the main character suffers as aliens make their presence known on earth. Other characters pop in as the black chapter breaks appear. There are several waves of disasters that plague mankind, designed to wipe us off the face of the earth.  It was relentless and in The 5th Wave, it sure doesn’t go well for the human race.

When the book begins, we meet Cassie, a teenager, who is on her own in a post-apocalyptic world. Almost everyone has been killed in the first four waves (silence, disease, flooding and more) and Cassie begins to wonder if she is the last human being left on earth. She wanders, learns how to survive and becomes a force to be reckoned with. It would be just too easy if that was all to the story. We journey with her as she retells the beginning of the end in flashbacks. What happened when the lights went out, what happened to her family as an Ebola type virus swept through the population, the military gathering of children and the murder of her father. It is a visceral journey told as only Rick Yancy can. Beautiful. Tragic. Poignant. In the present someone is hunting Cassie. It is one of the aliens that she calls a silencer. After he corners her and shoots her in the leg, she has to decide if she is going to live or die. One choice and it would all be over. She promised her brother she would come for him and one wrong move could very well end everything.

As the book develops, you also meet Ben. He is a young man that went to Cassie’s school but has now been captured with the other kids and brought to a military base for what they believe is training against the alien forces that have infiltrated humanity. That is the catch. They look just like we do and have been here forever. Sneaking inside of our mothers as they slept, implanting themselves in the growing babies held within, their consciousness awakened as the invasion hit. Well, most of them. For some, they have been plotting against humanity from the start, waiting for the time to strike. At the compound, Ben has to decide to give in to his despair and become a force to end the suffering of humanity or succumb to his own inner demons. Who is real? Who is not? Military regiment becomes the new religion and survival is for the fittest. The fact that they are children hardly matters at all. There are some interesting questions posed by this part of the book. Who are these people in charge of the base? How did they get power back up when everything else is gone? What are the chips they are inserting into each child and what is this Wonderland mind mapping system? Red or green, who is alien and who is human? It is a question that kept me turning the pages.

Cassie’s brother Sam is also a character that appears once or twice in narratives. Renamed Nugget after being brought to the military camp where Ben is stationed, he learns quickly what his new reality has become and it is terrifying. He begins to grow up. These journeys come together as Cassie is rescued by Evan, begins to fall for him and continues her search for her brother. Ben, now renamed Zombie, grows in his strength as he helps himself and others and Nugget tries to keep up with it all.

Having a book with multiple POV’s makes the story more inclusive. In this case, you get multiple sides of the alien invasion, all of which are riveting. The descriptive elements of the book are so there I literally felt like I was falling into the story. The gut clenching moments when you try to figure you who is friend or foe, the fluttering sweetness of first love, the bitterness of betrayal and the sheer determination of the human race against insurmountable odds are all themes here. I have read the first book in Yancey’s Monstrumologist series and knew firsthand the level of writing this author has to offer and even still, this book blew me away. It is gripping, suspenseful, heart wrenching and beautiful all at the same time and I fell in love on the first page.

The next time I am looking for an alien novel, this will be the one I pick up again. To be honest, l didn’t read it at first because it was about aliens, but noticing it was Rick Yancey’s work made me rethink my decision. This is not a hokey body snatcher novel. Yes, it has some elements of that, but the way it is handled, to me, was much better than any other alien invasion scenario I have ever read. That is the scary part. He makes it seem so real. Every layer, every character quirk that makes the person pop off the page, every plot twist all points to a story that had me creeping off into corners at every opportunity to read this remarkable book. I just hope there is going to be another one.

One other thing that struck me about this book was the end note by Yancey. While he was writing the book, he lost his writing dog and companion Casey. As a reader, that struck me, because all the through the book there is loss after loss and the grim reality of what life has become in the after. Yancey was going through it himself as he was writing and that got to me.

The 5th Wave was unforgettable. It is a journey. It is the unrelenting force of love and the unstoppable essence of humanity.

Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood

Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood
The Cahill Witch Chronicles Volume 2
Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (366 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Thistledown

With the Brotherhood persecuting witches like never before, a divided Sisterhood desperately needs Cate to come into her Prophesied powers. And after Cate’s friend Sachi is arrested for using magic, a war-thirsty Sister offers to help her find answers—if Cate is willing to endanger everyone she loves.

Cate doesn’t want to be a weapon, and she doesn’t want to involve her friends and Finn in the Sisterhood’s schemes. But when Maura and Tess join the Sisterhood, Maura makes it clear that she’ll do whatever it takes to lead the witches to victory. Even if it means sacrifices. Even if it means overthrowing Cate. Even if it means all-out war.

In the highly anticipated sequel to Born Wicked, the Cahill Witch Chronicles continue Cate, Maura and Tess’s quest to find love, protect family, and explore their magic against all odds in an alternate history of New England.

A storm is gathering for the witches in New London and the Brotherhood is tightening its strangle hold. Will the Cahill sisters be a force to free the witches from persecution or a destructive spark that sets the city ablaze?

Cate Cahill is the eldest of three sisters, and has just had to make a heart wrenching decision to leave her home and fiancé, Finn. She has joined the Sisterhood in order to save those she loves from becoming pawns in a war that could destroy her family and all she cares for. Finn has joined the Brotherhood in order to be able to protect her, even if from afar. Her sisters Maura and Tess are sent for after a wave of violence toward girls and women suspected of witchery begins to get out of hand. As the sisters arrive at the school run by the Sisterhood, tensions escalate. Warring factions within the ranks of the witches place the sisters at odds and in danger. It has been foretold that one of the sisters will kill the other and one will be the oracle that either sets the witches free or begins a new Terror.

The events in this series captivated me so much that I bought the first book, Born Wicked in e-book form and when I found out I was going to meet the author, I promptly went out and bought it in hardcover so she could sign it. So, getting the chance to review the second in the series pretty much made my week. I credit a book with being good when I can’t sleep, eat or do anything without it in my hand and that was the case with Star Cursed as well. As I read, I couldn’t help but respond to the dynamic that author Jessica Spotswood crafted with her characters. The fighting between the sisters, the love between Cate and Finn, the desperation of the women effected by the tyranny of the Brotherhood, the inmates at Harwood, the religious fervor of the Brotherhood and the many different personalities in the cloister of the Sisterhood; all of it pops with emotion and action and I could not get enough.

Watching the three sisters interact within the mystery of the prophecy was intensely moving. First there is Cate, the oldest sister that has had to keep the sisters moving in the right direction pretty much her whole life. Now she has had to forgo her dreams of happiness with Finn in order to keep everyone safe. Maura is the middle child and is always looking for attention and ready to pick a fight just to prove how much prettier she is than Cate, or even how much stronger she is as a witch. Maura is determined to be the oracle and she doesn’t care who she knocks over in her path to greatness. Tess is the youngest sister and is only twelve. She has secretly begun to have visions and is terrified of what they will mean. The Brotherhood is on the hunt and is filling the insane asylum at Harwood with more girls every day in search of any and all oracles or witches.

Star Cursed is also a political testament to the rights of women. Think about the times when women couldn’t vote, hold a job, learn to read or even own certain books because of religious intolerance. Women have been placed in powerless situations before, cast into insane asylums for being different, accused of being immodest and arrested for simple misunderstandings or forced into situations with male “superiors” that put them in horrible circumstances. Add to that the fear and terror of the witch burnings that happened throughout Europe and the incidents that happened in Salem and this is the climate that Jessica Spotswood has so brilliantly brought to life, with an alternative history twist. If you are a fan of Harry Potter, Beautiful Creatures, Charmed, the House of Night series or The Secret Circle series, then this is a book you will more than likely enjoy.

When I am in the market for a witchy read with characters that leap out of the page, I know Jessica Spotswood will deliver. Star Cursed cast a spell on me on the very first page that has lasted long after the final page has been read.