What I’m Reading Wednesday: Playing Catch-Up

Okay, so there are so many books that I want to include in my What I’m Reading Wednesday posts, but they sometimes get shoved to the side and then forgotten about. Especially with all the new shiny reads that are so distracting right in front of me all of the time. So today I’m going to play catch-up a bit and review three books I’ve read over the last little, well actually, long while, and give them the attention they deserve. Because they were awesome books.

pawn

For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister’s niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.

There’s only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed …and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that’s not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she’s only beginning to understand.

Okay, okay. So I know for a lot of people, you say the word “dystopian” and there will be huge groans of annoyance and major steps in the opposite direction. I admit, I am very picky about my dystopian reads, especially after those few series, we all know what they are, which have done it so well, it’s hard to compete originally.

But…and this is a bit BUT…PAWN is a an original read. Carter does this with an idea that seems like all the others, but with some intelligent tweaking and imaginings, and adds in her crisp writing, plentiful plot twists, and a story line filled with characters who are interesting enough on their own that a love triangle isn’t necessary.

No love triangle? I told you this dystopian was original.

Like the book description says, in this PAWN world, there is a caste system. Sevens are basically royalty/politicians. Fives and sixes are very wealthy citizens. Threes and fours are the blue-collar jobs. Twos are whatever is worse than that…and ones get sent to ELSEWHERE (which ends up being such a frightening idea…props to Carter.)

There is a test that you take when you reach the age of 17 (yes, I know, like I said, it starts out all too familiar) and the results place you in a caste for the rest of your life.

From the beginning, Kitty is the underdog as an orphan and as someone with a learning disability who has never been able to read. There really is no chance for her on this test. When her best friend/boyfriend scores high on his test, she knows she will have to do whatever it takes to not drag him down to the sewers (CASTE 2) with her.

What follows is an opportunity that she would have to literally die to refuse, but also sets her spinning on a course that reveals secrets, corruption and betrayal in the highest levels of society.

If all of this still sounds familiar, just keep reading. The “masking” process is very well supported as is the thought that goes into literally becoming another person. While the reader follows Kitty into the presence of some of the most evil villains and also the heart of the rebellion, the attachment to the characters and also the political intrigue will keep the pages turning through to the end.

I thought this was a fresh new path for Aimee Carter after The Goddess series and shows just how versatile and talented she truly is.

PAWN’s sequel CAPTIVE is due out November 2014 and is definitely on my to-read-as-soon-as-possible list.

defy

A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle.

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?

This is another book where I had read the hype for it so I really wanted to read it, but a part of me was dreading that it would be a re-telling of Mulan and I wouldn’t be surprised by anything, or find anything I’d want to read on for.

I was wrong.

I wouldn’t call this high fantasy, because it wasn’t too fantastical, even though there were Sorcerers and such, there wasn’t too much emphasis put on the history or culture, magic or otherwise, in the setting/plot until the very end. But, it was set in a world so different and distant from ours, with Prince’s and villains and heroes and love stories, that it was still a winning fantasy for me.

For me, more than this book being about Defiance (even though I know it’s Defy because Alexa is unbeatable) was it being about Deception. Alexa is pretending to be a boy to keep herself out of the breeding houses (which, by the way, is a terrific plot point). Prince Damian is pretending to be someone he isn’t for reasons I won’t spoil. And all sorts of other people and situations are misunderstood and the kingdom is quickly deteriorating…there is a whole lot of deception going on.

But, Larson writes it well and keeps the reader going at a steady pace. There are just enough action scenes and plot twists to keep the reader intrigued, but it moves along slowly enough so the reader can get to know the characters.

I’m not a huge fan of the love triangle, and this one wasn’t the exception to the rule, but I don’t think that takes away from Larson’s plot or her writing. If you don’t love it, ignore it and focus on her imaginative scenes and descriptive writing that really pulls you into the story.

And the ending! Especially for a debut, Larson took some risks, but I really think she more than pulled them off and will have a loyal following going into the sequel.

 

dangerous

Maisie Danger Brown just wanted to get away from home for a bit, see something new. She never intended to fall in love. And she never imagined stumbling into a frightening plot that kills her friends and just might kill her, too. A plot that is already changing life on Earth as we know it. There’s no going back. She is the only thing standing between danger and annihilation.

From NY Times bestselling author Shannon Hale comes a novel that asks, How far would you go to save the ones you love? And how far would you go to save everyone else?

In full disclosure, I have to say that I am an avid Shannon Hale fan and have read and loved everything she has written. In saying that, DANGEROUS is nothing like anything she has ever written. Hale brings a whole new voice, feel and writing style to this story that really sets it apart from other things she has written. But even apart from her other works, I am a huge fan.

Let’s start out talking about Maisie, the main character. I really enjoyed having a female lead in a sci-fi story and I will make the argument that this book is so much more than Hale checking off a list of how diverse she can make her character so that she can stay on the best-seller list. Sure, Maisie is a minority and disabled, but I don’t think that this aspect of her character is contrived or unnecessary at all. I do think that the way she fell for Jonathan Ingalls Wilder didn’t sit right for me, especially with such a sweet best friend at home, but I see how it moved the story in specific directions it needed to go in.

All these directions, is what makes this story amazing. I’m the type of reader who thinks I can guess the ending of stories, or the reasons why the characters are doing what they are doing. I am always grateful when I don’t get it right though. It’s very refreshing. DANGEROUS seriously had me guessing and changing my mind through to the very end. I couldn’t keep up with who was bad and who was good, who to trust and who to stay away from. But it didn’t make it confusing, it made it great.

Through all of this, Maisie, and us as the reader, learn what it takes to grow up during hard situations. We have to deal with friends made and lost, death, and overcoming obstacles.

I will say this book felt a bit young for YA, despite a few steamy kissing scenes, so I would recommend it for a younger reader. But I do recommend it…and that’s what matters, right?

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