The Book of Blood and Shadow

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The Book of Blood and Shadow

By:  Robin Wasserman
Published: 
2012
# of pages:  450
Challenge: 
Full House (plot twist)

3Stars

Goodreads description:

It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up.  When the night began, Nora had two best friends and an embarrassingly storybook one true love.  When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands and an echoing scream that stopped only when the tranquilizers pierced her veins and left her in the merciful dark.

But the next morning, it was all still true: Chris was dead.  His girlfriend Adriane, Nora’s best friend, was catatonic. And Max, Nora’s sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also—according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone—a murderer.

Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora follows the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. It ultimately brings her to the ancient streets of Prague, where she is drawn into a dark web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all driven by a mad desire to possess something that might not even exist. For buried in a centuries-old manuscript is the secret to ultimate knowledge and communion with the divine; it is said that he who controls the Lumen Dei controls the world. Unbeknownst to her, Nora now holds the crucial key to unlocking its secrets. Her night of blood is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.

My opinion:  Man, I wrote most of this review and then saved it for later…except that it didn’t save properly so most of my review was erased.

This book sounded very intriguing and half of it was great and the other half not so much.  The story follows high school senior Nora just as she finds a place as an intern for a nearby college professor along with her best friends Chris and Adriane.  Everything is going great, especially after Max joins their group and finds a place in her heart.

But their lives suddenly change and they realize that the project they’ve been working on over the past few months may be of interest to people other than the quirky college professor.  Nora embarks on a quest to save Max and maybe even the entire world.

Like I said, this book had a lot of potential, but I feel like it kind of went off the rails in the last third.  It wasn’t bad or anything, there were just things that didn’t quite add up and the teenage angst mixed in with a world-changing adventure seemed forced at times.

Also, I’m a little tired of these modern titles.  This would have been better if it was simply The Book of Blood or, even better, a more original title entirely.  End rant.

Why I gave this book 3/5 stars:  Cool concept, okay characters, somewhat disappointing story line.

Unwind

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Unwind

By:  Neal Shusterman
Published:  2009
# of pages:  353
Series:  Unwind (#1)
Challenges:  A to Z

Quote:  “Please what? the teacher thinks. Please break the law? Please put myself and the school at risk? But, no, that’s not it at all. What he’s really saying is: Please be a human being. With a life so full of rules and regiments, it’s so easy to forget that’s what they are. She knows—she sees—how often compassion takes a back seat to expediency.”

Goodreads description: 

In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would “unwind” them.
Connor’s parents want to be rid of him because he’s a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev’s unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family’s strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can’t be harmed — but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.

My opinion:  I don’t even know where to begin with this book review.  Let me start by saying bear with me and also, while your opinion is probably fine to leave in comments, no arguments or rudeness will be allowed.

I didn’t know this book was going to be so thought provoking.  The story follows three teenagers as they runaway from their homes, family, and friends in order to stay alive.  Connor’s parents decided to unwind (his body taken apart and given to people in need of a donor part without dying) him because of the problems and embarrassment he causes them.  The decision was made to unwind Risa because the government doesn’t have enough money to help all of the orphans in state care.  Lev’s parents made the choice to unwind him before they even conceived him because their religion smiles upon “tithing.”

At first I was incredulous about a system like this ever being a reality.  But the more I read the more I saw a connection between unwinding and abortion.  And maybe there was a time people would have been horrified to think of abortion clinics and the fact that abortion has become something fairly commonplace, not just something done in extreme situations.

My political leanings are fairly liberal when it comes to abortion, but it’s never a choice I’d personally make after having been pregnant.  I don’t feel overly strong about the issue, but honestly I don’t think about it too much.  This book made me think of it though.  And I just wonder……… the kids in the book were so adamant that their bodies belonged to themselves and that they deserved to live.  Their parents shouldn’t make that choice for them, the government shouldn’t make that choice, religion shouldn’t make that choice.  And while of course in our present time we can say that women should have a choice with their bodies and their lives….. but there are lives inside them that would eventually be walking, talking, thinking humans…..  Do they (the living matter/cells/embryo/baby inside the women) have the right to live and be who they can be no matter what other people do or think or say?

I’m not tying the situation in the book with abortion solely on my own.  The backstory of the book discusses a war that took place that revolved around abortion.  Unwinding takes the place of abortion and is justified because it technically isn’t killing the person’s body, they stay alive even while being dismembered.  However, they don’t feel pain, so once again, it’s justified.

Which also made me think a lot about war.  Before reading this book, I was thinking about the traditional patriarchal societies throughout history and how perhaps that’s why we’ve had as much war as we’ve experience throughout history.  I wondered how a matriarchal society would have handled conflict throughout the ages.  And I wondered if having more compromising leaders would have changed conflicts and perhaps led to other outcomes other than physical violence.  But this book explores the idea that there was a compromise that ended a war, but perhaps it was still just as violent.  I just thought it was interesting to read about a nationwide conflict resolution after thinking so much about it.

Overall, the book was an interesting read with unique characters and situations.  It was a little disturbing at times as you can imagine, but it’s not terribly graphic.  I’d recommend this to older teens and adults who enjoy YA fiction/sci-fi.  There’s more books in the series, but I think I’m happy with leaving it off with the first book.  It was a satisfying ending and I don’t feel overly curious to know what happens next.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Good pacing, interesting characters, unique story, a little disturbing at times, skipped over some development later in the novel.

Sunbolt

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Sunbolt

By:  Intisar Khanani
Published:  2013
# of pages: 
142
Series:  The Sunbolt Chronicles (#1)
Challenge:  Monthly Motif (Feb. – 1 word title), Full House (<250 pgs)

4Stars

Goodreads description:

The winding streets and narrow alleys of Karolene hide many secrets, and Hitomi is one of them. Orphaned at a young age, Hitomi has learned to hide her magical aptitude and who her parents really were. Most of all, she must conceal her role in the Shadow League, an underground movement working to undermine the powerful and corrupt Arch Mage Wilhelm Blackflame.

When the League gets word that Blackflame intends to detain—and execute—a leading political family, Hitomi volunteers to help the family escape. But there are more secrets at play than Hitomi’s, and much worse fates than execution. When Hitomi finds herself captured along with her charges, it will take everything she can summon to escape with her life.

My opinion:  Wow!  An author friend of mine recommended this book to me a few months ago and I put it on my TBR list.  I put off reading it because it wasn’t available at my local library.  Now that I have a Kindle I was able to buy it for 99 cents so I went ahead and bought it.  I wasn’t expecting too much.  The book doesn’t have many reviews on Goodreads and it isn’t very well known.  However, I was very pleasantly surprised by this novella that takes the somewhat overdone young adult fantasy genre and slightly twisted it into something more unique.

The story is about a teenager named Hitomi who works with an group that secretly fights back against the corrupt ruler who has taken over Hitomi’s land.  Hitomi soon finds herself caught up in more than she bargained for when she joined the Shadow League.  She’s far from home, surrounded by dangerous strangers, and is forced to use her hidden powers more than she ever has before.

I loved the relationships and interactions in this book.  Hitomi is reckless, but you can see her growth throughout the novel as she becomes more thoughtful while still retaining her bravery.  I also liked that she isn’t perfect.  In one part of the book she makes a choice that haunts her afterwards.  I completely understand why she made the choice, but also why she later regrets that choice.  I think it’s what most of us would do in her situation.

I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, but I’m very sad that the series isn’t complete even though this book was published 5 years ago.  I recommend to adults and young adults, especially if you’re a fantasy fan.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Unique story, understandable and likable characters, well written.  I just wish it was longer!

Salt to the Sea

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Salt to the Sea

By: Ruta Sepetys
Published:  2016
# of pages: 
393
Challenges: 
Full House (4 word title)

5Stars

Goodreads description:

Winter 1945. WWII. Four refugees. Four stories.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies, war. As thousands desperately flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom. But not all promises can be kept…

World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people—adults and children alike—aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

My opinion:  I’ve heard a lot about this book over the past two years and I can see there’s a good reason for its popularity.  I was hesitant to read another WWII book after being so affected by Winter Garden a few weeks ago, but this novel was not only very well written, it was also strangely hopeful in spite of the horrifying events.

First of all, just like in many novels, I think it’s great that the author has brought attention to real events that happened during the war that may have otherwise remained buried in the past.  It’s important to remember history and hopefully learn from mistakes and atrocities that were committed.

This story follows four young adults as they flee East Prussia as the Soviet army advances.  The Nazis are organizing a mass evacuation on several ships, but first civilians need to make it to the port.  The chapters alternate between Joana, a Lithuanian nurse; Florian, a young Prussian man who assisted the Nazis who “acquired” art from conquered countries; Emilia, an observant Polish teenager with a secret; and Alfred, a young German in the Nazi army who helps with loading the ships.  There are other characters as well.  A cobbler, a young boy, a blind woman, and an outspoken woman named Eva.

The chapters are very short and jump between each of the four main characters.  At first I didn’t like that the reader spent so little time in each character’s head, but it ended up working just fine.  At the end I understood all of the narrators and what they had done in the past to survive.

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:  Amazing storytelling, complicated but realistic characters, very emotional as well as informative.

Shattered Blue

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Shattered Blue

By:  Lauren Bird Horowitz
Published:  2015
# of pages:  336
Series:  The Light Trilogy (#1)
Challenges:  Full House (fantasy)

4Stars

Goodreads description: 

For Noa and Callum, being together is dangerous, even deadly. From the start, sixteen-year-old Noa senses that the mysterious transfer student to her Monterey boarding school is different. Callum unnerves and intrigues her, and even as she struggles through family tragedy, she’s irresistibly drawn to him. Soon they are bound by his deepest secret: Callum is Fae, banished from another world after a loss hauntingly similar to her own.

But in Noa’s world, Callum needs a special human energy, Light, to survive; his body steals it through touch—or a kiss. And Callum’s not the only Fae on the hunt. When Callum is taken, Noa must decide: Will she sacrifice everything to save him? Even if it means learning their love may not be what she thought?

My opinion:  This book started out with some moments of deja vu.  I was taken right back to Twilight when Bella and Edward meet in a high school.  The male character, Callum, acts almost identically to Edward by seeming drawn to the female character (Noa) but also trying to initially avoid a relationship.  I was feeling a little disappointed at the similarity to the Twilight series and the teenage high school angst, but thankfully Shattered Blue picks up the pace and changes course just enough that I enjoyed the reading experience.  I’m actually surprised this book isn’t more popular.

The story is about Noa, a 16 year old high school student who isn’t new to her school, but is new to being a commuter student instead of a boarding student due to a family tragedy.  Noa feels lost as she returns to school after the tragedy and the only thing holding her together is her little sister Sasha.  However, she meets Callum and her life drastically changes.

Callum is from the Fae realm and has been banished to the humans’ realm.  The world he comes from is complicated and Callum also feels lost as he navigates a new world with new rules in addition to dealing with his own family’s tragedy.  Soon, Noa discovers that Callum isn’t the only Fae in town and their lives are further complicated as they face danger on several fronts.  Nothing is simple and Noa finds her confidence crumbling yet again as she works to discover the truth and save the lives of her friends and family.

I was impressed with the writing style and the poetic descriptions that felt natural instead of forced or out of place.  Sure, there are things I took issue with (Like seriously, why would you send kids to boarding school when you live within commuting distance!? If Noa’s family was that rich you’d think it would come up, but we are supposed to think that’s normal apparently.  End rant.)  The book is definitely geared towards young adults, but even adult fans of YA fantasy will enjoy this story.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Fun book with interesting story lines and characters, a little immature at times and some characters were slightly annoying.

 

Hunted

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By:  Meagan Spooner
Published: 
2017
# of pages:  374

5Stars

Goodreads description:

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

My opinion:  I didn’t realize when I reserved this at my library that it’s another retelling of the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast.”  I just finished Wintersong a couple of weeks ago which is also a retelling, but is going to be a series while Hunted is a standalone novel.  It’s a good thing that’s my favorite fairy tale and I love reading different versions of it.

The story is about Yeva, nicknamed Beauty, the daughter of a hunter who lives in Russia.  Although Yeva loves hunting, she hasn’t been allowed to in years since her father wants her to become a respected member of the local society.  However, their lives are suddenly turned upside down and she once again finds the opportunity to use her bow and arrows.

I wasn’t able to immerse myself in the beginning of the book like I usually do because we were visiting distant family members I haven’t seen in 3 years for U.S. Thanksgiving.  So I wasn’t immediately drawn into the book, but by the end I was very impressed.  It was an incredibly well written book.  I couldn’t help but compare it to Wintersong and it came out on top.  However, it is quite different from Wintersong, so I can’t fairly compare them directly.

Things that were brought up at the end of the book were hinted at near the beginning of the book.  I love it when books are consistent from beginning to end and when it’s obvious the author had a clear plan from start to finish.  Nothing in this book seemed unnecessary, didn’t make sense, or contradicted itself.

I also enjoyed the main character of Yeva.  I didn’t relate to her that much since I’m not a hunter and don’t find the idea of hunting and what it entails enjoyable.  I also hate the cold and winter/snow played a large part in the story and seemed to symbolize freedom to Yeva while it would make me feel the opposite.  However, in spite of our differences I liked Yeva and understood why she made the decisions she made.

And finally, I appreciated the clean, good fairy tale story that Spooner gave her readers.  It makes me happy to have finally read a young adult fantasy that isn’t the first in a series.  It seems like I’m always waiting for the next novel in a series and this one wrapped up nicely.  It felt like the author wrote this for the pure enjoyment of it and that it wasn’t to make money or appeal to teens today, etc.  Perhaps her explanation in the note at the end of the book influenced my feelings about this, but I think my thought explains why the novel felt so well written and planned out.

Overall, this wasn’t SUPER amazing to me in spite of my review sounding like I was paid off to gush, so I don’t think it will go on my favorites list.  Maybe that was because I wasn’t able to spend much time reading it the first few days.  I think it’s worthy of gushing and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy and different versions of fairy tales.
Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:  Well, I’ve already said why in more detail that my reviews usually go into!

 

 

Wintersong

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By:  S. Jae-Jones
Published:  
2017
# of pages:  436
Series:  Wintersong (#1)
Challenge:

4Stars

Goodreads description:

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

My opinion:  This story follows Liesl (my sister’s nickname as a child so I love it!) as she shoulders much of her family’s burdens.  Her father is an alcoholic, her grandmother is perceived as senile, her mother is overworked, her brother Josef is a socially awkward musical prodigy, and her sister Kathe is super beautiful and outgoing.  Her brother’s talent and her sister’s beauty overshadow her own talent and appearance.  Interestingly, her sister feels ignored by Liesl and jealous of the attention Liesl pays their brother at the same time Liesl feels ignored and jealous of the attention her crush Hans pays Kathe.

But the year is coming to a close according to the old calendar and the border between the Underground where the Goblin King rules and the world Liesl lives in has grown thin.  Strange things begin to happen and Liesl soon finds herself playing a game with high stakes.

 I have mixed feelings about this book.  The first third grabbed my attention and I really enjoyed it, but the story took a sudden turn that didn’t quite make sense to me.  I won’t post spoilers so it’s hard to describe, but I feel like the first third of the book ended up being pointless since it had no bearing on the main character’s big decision.  I felt like the author had conflicting ideas on how the overall story was going to go and that she combined two different ideas into one story.

I liked the retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” and the old German fairy tale aspects.  I understand that Liesl’s feelings were mixed, but I wish that her relationship with the Goblin King had been a little more consistent.  It’s a “coming of age” story for Liesl, but I do wish she had displayed more confidence in herself throughout the novel instead of just at the end.

Overall, this is a fun read, especially if you love fairy tales and fantasy.  It’s nothing amazing, but it’s still worth reading!

 
Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Fun read, unique settings, it’s a fairy tale!, but it could have been more consistent and made more sense if things had tied together a little better.

Under a Painted Sky

Under a Painted Sky
By: Stacey Lee

Published: 2015

# of pages: 384

Challenge:  Monthly Motif, Full House

Official description: Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail. This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship.

My opinion: I just loved this book!  It’s a young adult and it isn’t super realistic, but I absolutely loved the characters.  The author is an amazing writer.  I enjoyed the way she described what the characters were thinking as well as the settings.  I also found it refreshing to read a young adult novel that is also a historical fiction that takes place during a time that is not written about so much.

This met the requirement for January in the Monthly Motif Challenge and the “diversity” category of the Full House Challenge.  The main characters are Chinese and black (escaped slave) young women.

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars: Great characters, unique story, beautiful descriptions.  Not entirely realistic or complex, but that’s okay for an uplifting young adult novel.

Other reviews:
The Perpetual Page-Turner

Have you reviewed this? Let me know and I’d be happy to post yours as well.

Bone Gap

Bone Gap
By: Laura Ruby

Published: 2015

# of pages: 373

Challenge: Full House, Ultimate Reading Challenge

Quote: “She said, ‘Do you love me yet?’
He recoiled from her, from the look of her.  ‘You don’t love me because you can’t see me,’ she said.  ‘Look!  Look!  I am beautiful now.  I am beautiful.'”

Official description:  Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?
Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.
As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.

My opinion:  I usually don’t enjoy books in the magical realism genre so much, but I loved Bone Gap. It was a well written, original story with a beautiful message.

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:  Well written, beautiful message, identifiable characters

Other reviews:
things mean a lot

Have you reviewed this? Let me know and I’d be happy to post yours as well.

The Lake

The Lake
By:  AnnaLisa Grant

Series:  The Lake

Published:  2013

# of pages:  306

Official description:

At 17, Layla Weston is already starting over. Having lost both her parents and grandparents, and with nowhere else to go, Layla is moving from Florida to a small town in North Carolina to live with the only family she has left: her estranged uncle and aunt. The last five years of Layla’s life were spent appeasing her less- than-loving grandmother, followed by being her grandfather’s caretaker. Growing old before her time, Layla lost her identity, she must learn how to allow herself to be loved and cared for once again. Life takes an unexpected turn when Layla meets Will Meyer. His breathtaking good looks are enough to catch her eye, but his sincerity and passion are everything she needs to find the strength and confidence she lost — and lead her into love. When tragedy once again strikes Layla’s life, her hope is all but completely crushed. Through it all, Layla learns what it means to truly love and be loved.

My opinion:  These days I don’t often read young adult books that take place in modern times unless it’s a fantasy or sci-fi.  I know AnnaLisa Grant and so when she published her first book, I bought it.  I was excited about the story and I wasn’t disappointed!  This review is written many months since reading the book, but the story has stayed in my mind and I can’t wait to read the other books in the series (maybe I’ll get those for my birthday!?).

The writing style and story are definitely written for young adults, but adults can very well enjoy it too.  Like I said before, the story is interesting and sticks with the reader long after the book is over.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Interesting, great characters, often has a young adult feel to the writing

Other reviews:
Have you reviewed this? Let me know and I’d be happy to post yours as well.