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Mini Book Reviews: Pawn and Allegiant

On deck for today’s mini-reviews are two really good dystopias, Pawn by Aimee Carter (of The Goddess Inheritance series) and Allegiant by Veronica Roth (third and final of the Divergent series, which is coming to a theater near you this spring).
First, Pawn.
 

Book Synopsis:  In a world where everyone is given a ranking, and that rank determines your life, Kitty Doe is a throwaway- an extra. When she scores a 3 (III) on her test, her life is regulated to menial jobs and living on scraps, until a way shows itself for her to jump from III to VII- the highest of the high. However, things aren’t always what they seem, and Kitty is thrown deeper into a murky world of politics and cutthroat family ties that she never could have dreamed. Will her desire for a better life be her undoing, or can she prove that she is more than someone’s Pawn?

My thoughts: I was drawn into the book from the first, although like a lot of teens I am a huge dystopian fan so give me a good story with a twist and I get into it. Kitty is a little less forthcoming for my tastes as a heroine- she seems to spend more time scared than using her street smarts and intelligence (which we see in the first few chapters, and pops up from time to time) to get out of situations. There is a lack of world building in Pawn as well, which may not bother some readers, but it nitpicks at me. It’s a good start to the series, and I’m interested enough to see where it’s going.

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Next, Allegiant.
Book Synopsis:  After joining the Allegiant, Tris and Four are picked to escape the city walls and contact their predecessors, only to discover that there are more cities like theirs- and that they are a huge experiment to see if by controlling human nature and genetics humans can rid the world of war.  Told in alternating chapters of Tris and Four (Tobias’) viewpoints, Tris and Tobias must figure out what to do with this new information, and when new factions arise outside the cities make choices that could sever their relationship once and for all.
My thoughts: I counted down for this book, and could NOT put it down. I know there are those out there that are completely upset by the ending (SPOILERS SWEETIE) but there are times where there can be no happy ending, and this is one story that I felt should be that way. I loved all the twists and turns and complete roadblocks, and oh, I can’t wait for this to come to theaters. Tris and Tobias are torn apart by their choices, their beliefs, brought back together, and find that the outside world, which seems so perfect, is just as flawed as theirs, if not more so. This was completely me at the end:
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Christie’s To Drool For: November/ December 2013 Releases

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Oh, so many good books coming! And with the holidays and everything, I don’t know how I will have time to read them all!

November Drools:

6th in the Iron Fey series, Ethan slips back on the world of fairy in order to try and save both worlds, and the girl that he loves.


The finale of Marie Lu’s trilogy, June and Day have sacrificed everything in order to stop war, yet a new plague threatens to destroy everything they’ve worked for. 

A new series from the writer of The Godess Test series, Kitty Doe knows that she’s stuck in the life she’s born with, and the only way to get anything is to score well on the Test. When she scores a III, her life might as well be over, so when she can become a VII she jumps at the chance. Yet, drawn as a pawn into the ruling class’s power games, can she take control?

December Drools:


Conclusion to the Under the Never Sky triology, Perry and Asia are trying untie the survivors of the Aether storms and tribal infighting in order to make it to the one place that might still be safe.


Elizabeth can’t wait to begin coordinating EVERYTHING with her freshman year roomie, and starts sending letters in order to coordinate bedding and mini-fridges; much to Lauren’s surprise, as she asked for a single room. Soon they’re sharing letters, secrets, and learning that sometimes the only people you can count is someone you’ve never met.



The sequel to Prophecy, only days have passed since Kira has safely returned her cousin the  prince back to their uncle the King. Yet the Demon Lord has not been defeated, and in order to defend her cousin’s claim to the throne, she must set out to gather the remaining the two dragon treasures before the country is destroyed by war.

True Confessions of a Reluctant Reader: a guest post by author Aimee Carter

As a part of Harlequinn Teen week earlier this year, author Aimee Carter wrote a guest post about being a reluctant reader.  Today we are re-running that post for Reluctant Reader week because it is full of insight.  This post originally appeared on February 11, 2013


 
 Aimee Carter is the author of the Goddess Test series.  You can visit her official website here.


 I have a confession to make. I’m a reluctant reader. 
 
When I was a kid, my dad paid me to read. We made a deal: for every book I read on my own, he gave me a quarter. To a six-year-old, that was a pretty big deal, and I saved them all up to buy toys (instead of books, like my dad had hoped). But no matter how many quarters I collected, I still didn’t catch the bug for reading. My dad, who’s an avid reader and writer, was convinced something wasn’t right. I was his kid, after all. There had to be a story out there that would unlock my genetic predisposition to read everything in sight. 

It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to read. I liked some books, especially ones about mythology and Disney characters. But on our weekly trips to the bookstore, I always sought out those same stories, and I never gave others more than a passing glance.


My dad tried everything to get me to read more. The quarter reward went up to a dollar. I was allowed to check out as many books as I wanted from the library. He sought out sequels to the stories I enjoyed, as well as other books by those authors. I reluctantly gave each one a few pages. Sometimes he managed to unearth a gem I wound up adding to my limited collection, but most of the books he found just didn’t match my style. Problem was, there didn’t seem to be many out there that did. 

I wish I could say I overcame my reluctance and dove into books like an all-you-can-read buffet. I did, in a way—I eventually reached the point where I was constantly reading, but it was always those same books. When I found a story I loved, I read it over and over until the pages fell out and I had to buy new copies. My reading tastes were much like my childish palate: I liked very specific things, and I was reluctant to try anything new. When I did, I usually made a face and quickly moved on to something familiar. 

In my teens, I discovered Harry Potter. For three years before Order of the Phoenix came out, I rotated through the first four books. As soon as I ended Goblet of Fire, I started back on Sorcerer’s Stone, and they were all I read. Not because of an obsessive personality, but because I had outgrown the books I read as a kid, and I couldn’t find anything else I enjoyed. I was too picky, but I also loved immersing myself in a world and following characters I loved. Finding that in another book was next to impossible, and while I loved to read, after a while I gave up trying to find something new. 

And then I discovered fan fiction – the art of writing stories in another author’s universe. The Harry Potter fan fiction community was thriving, and I devoured hundreds, if not thousands of stories set in Harry Potter’s world. When I couldn’t find the kind of fanfic I wanted to read, I began to write my own. A few hundred words at first, but eventually I was writing thousands of words a day. Somehow, through some strange alchemy, I turned into the reader and writer my dad had always wanted me to be. 

To this day, I still have a hard time finding something new to read. I browse bookstores often, always picking out a book that looks interesting in hopes that this will be the one that makes me want to read everything in sight. But no matter how many books I buy, I still have a hard time finding something I finish. Not because the books aren’t any good – I usually pick them up after my friends rave about them – but because of that same reluctance that stopped me when I was a kid. No matter how much time passes, I can’t shake it. 

Instead, I write the books I want to read. I never reread them once they’re published, but the act of writing them lets me experience a world I crave, and it satisfies my need to find something new that I love. It isn’t a perfect system, but it keeps me busy, and I hold out hope that maybe one of my stories will help a reluctant reader discover the kind of books he or she loves.Either way, my dad was right: there is a story out there for everyone. Sometimes we find it right away, along with hundreds or thousands more like it. But sometimes it takes a bit of searching, and that’s okay, too.

The Goddess Inheritance will be released by Harlequin Teen on February 26, 2013.  Aimee will have a new series, The Blackcoat Rebellion, coming from Harlequin Teen in November of 2013.

This is Aimee’s bio, stolen right off of her web page:  I attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and received a degree in Screen Arts and Cultures (a fancy way of saying I was forced to watch a lot of old movies) with a subconcentration in Screenwriting. I write. I watch a lot of new movies. Read a lot of books. Tweet too much. Love dogs and have two spoiled Papillons.

Book Review: The Goddess Inheritance by Aimee Carter

I struggled to take a breath. She wasn’t listening. She didn’t understand- or maybe she did, and she just didn’t care. “What about my son? He’s Henry’s too, you know. And he’s your grandson. His name’s Milo, and he’s not even a week old. Why does he deserve to be raised by Cronus?”

Rhea said nothing, and I couldn’t stop the flow of words that poured from me now.

“He’ll never know me. He’ll never know his father. He’ll grow up calling the bitch who kidnapped me his mother, the egomaniac who’s killed millions of people his father, and he’ll never know that I’m out here loving him ore in a moment that they could in an eternity. What could he have possibly done to deserve that?”

“Nothing,” said Rhea softly. “Your son has done nothing to deserve it, as the people of this village have done nothing to deserve brutality and starvation.”

Then help him like you’re helping these people,” I pleaded. “Please, I’ll do whatever you want me to do-“
“I want you to leave me in peace,” she said.

“Okay.” I took a shaky breath, and the world spun around me. She wasn’t going to help the council with the war. If she wouldn’t do it for the billions of helpless people in the world, then nothing I could possibly say or do would change her mind. “I’ll go away, I promise. Just-please. Help Henry. At least vie my son a chance to know his father.”

Once again, Rhea was quiet. Her eyes grew distant the same way Cronus’s had in the nursery, and her hands stilled mid-pick. I glanced at James. Was that our cue to go? He shrugged, and together we waited.

“Very well,” she said at last, breaking the silence. “It is done.”

“What’s done?” I said, giving James another bewildered look, but his brow knitted in confusion as well. “Rhea, please-what’s done?”

“Give your mother my love,” she said, touching my shoulder. The pain in my arm from the dagger vanished. “You are strong, Kate. Stronger than you know. You do not need me to have what yo most desire. As long as you resist my husband, you will have it.””It isn’t about what I want,” I said, seconds from bursting. How could she heal me but not help save the people who really needed her? “he’s going to kill everyone, this village included.”

She didn’t respond. Instead she picked a few more blossoms and turned to reenter the clinic. I started to go after her, and James grabbed my wrist with an iron grip.

“Don’t,” he said. Before I could protest, another voice whispered through the garden, hoarse and cracking. But real. So, so real.

“Kate?”

My heart hammered, and I spun around, yanking my hand from James’s. Nestled between a gnarled tree and a patch of ferns stood Henry.

The Review:
In the final book of the Goddess Test triology, Kate is yet again faced with tests, but this time may be the breaking point.  Forced to abandon their son to Calliope and Cronus, Kate and Henry are planning for battle with the rest of the council.  Yet Kate has a secret- she has promised Cronus that she would become his queen if he would spare Milo and humanity, while destroying Henry and the rest of her new family. Yet Henry and the rest of the council are firm that they can defeat Cronus, even after he proves that he can destroy millions of lives within minutes.  How can she choose: the end of her family, or the end of the world?

The Goddess Inheritance twists and turns poor Kate in all different directions, testing her in ways that readers couldn’t possibly imagine.  Her baby taken from her right after giving birth and being raised by Calliope and Henry on the brink of death, Kate does the unthinkable and promises herself to Cronus in order to save them both and give the council time.  Yet nothing goes according to plan, and everything seems to be standing in her way.  Plots and traitors twist, what was once clear seems murky, and what she thought she knew about people is not at all what really happened.  There are tons of character development within the rest of the council throughout the book, and readers get to see sides of James, Ava and the others that reflect them in many different pools of light.  Twists at the end will break series readers hearts.  3 out of 5 stars. 

The Goddess Inheritance will be released on February 26, 2013 according to Barnes and Noble.  To keep track of it’s rating on Goodreads, click here.



I really wanted to love this book- I loved the cliffhanger at the end of Goddess Interrupted, and was primed to fall into this one.  The prologue was perfect, and the first part was wonderful.  And then, I realized that I’m missing Kate. Kate in The Goddess Test was not only compassionate and empathetic, but she was smart, and tough, and was going to do things no matter what.  It took almost the entire book of The Goddess Inheritance to get that Kate back, and I realized while reading that I miss that Kate.  Yes, she has to make an impossible choice (and yes, that’s a huge theme in the Greek mythos): her son and humanity, or Henry and her family. And yes, she’s just had Milo and Henry is in a death-coma, but I’m thinking that would make you fight more, not just weep.  I (my personal feelings, not professional reviewer feelings) wanted her to get her act together sooner.

I really enjoyed the development of Ava and James in this book, and the death of one of the main characters at the end is heart-wrenching.  It does leave open the option for more within the series (spin-offs maybe), so that’s something to be considered.  Definitely a worthwhile read.

Also something to think about is whether or not this would fit within the older YA/New Adult boundaries.  A lot of the questions/themes within this book are what would sacrifice for your child/husband/family, and that seems to fall more in an older teen viewpoint than most YA books you encounter.

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Book Review: Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter

I didn’t remember falling asleep, but when I woke up, Ava was gone and Pogo snored in the indent she’d left in the pillow. Sighing, I took inventory, pleased that at least some of the pain had dulled. Even if it did still hurt to move around, I was determined to grin and bear it.  But the moment I sat up, pain exploded behind my eyes, giving me a splitting headache. I moaned and lay back down, and Pogo licked my cheek as I massaged my temples. Apparently all the pain had gathered in my head while I’d been sleeping.

Someone to my right giggled, and my eyes flew open, taking in the rock walls around me. I wasn’t in my bedroom anymore. Instead I stood in the cavern where I’d watched Henry battle the fog I now knew to be Cronus, and the massive gate loomed before me, carved from the stone itself. I twisted around to find whoever it was that had laughed, and suddenly I was nose-to-nose with Calliope.

I froze. This was it. She’d somehow managed to kidnap me, and there was nothing I could do to protect myself. If she was half as powerful as Ava said she could probably rip me in half with a single thought, and I knew better than to hope there was any way I could talk myself out of this.
To my amazement, she looked past me and stepped forward. Instead of running into me, she moved through me, as if I were nothing more than a ghost.

I wasn’t really here. Just like what had happened when I’d first arrived in the Underworld, this was another vision, and Calliope had no idea I was watching.
I hurried to follow her. She walked proudly through the cavern toward a smaller cave to the side, and I noticed an oddly shaped pile beyond the light that glowed from the ceiling. I could only make out shadows, but whatever it was made Calliope giggle again.

“I can’t believe it.” She stopped a foot from the cave entrance. “Eons of putting up with you, and this is all it takes?”
My insides turned to ice. I didn’t want to look, but my feet moved forward anyway until I could make out the three bodies piled together, bound by chains made of fog and stone.
Walter on the left, his head slumped forward as blood trickled down his cheek. Phillip on the right, an ugly wound running through an eye, down his face and disappearing underneath his shirt.

And Henry in the middle, as pale and still as death.


The Review:
Kate has passed the tests, and returned from her summer to become Queen of the Underworld. But before she can cross the threshold, terrible visions begin to take hold- Calliope is back, fighting against Henry and the others, trying to release the Titans in a bid to destroy the world and Kate.  Doubting herself, their relationship, and her new godhood, can Kate save her new-found family from their rogue member, or will the struggles be too much to bear?

This second installment of The Goddess Test trilogy, Goddess Interrupted picks up six months later, when Kate finishes her summer sojourn and returns to the Underworld to be crowned Queen to Henry’s King. However, Calliope (Hera) has other plans, and has started to release Cronus, one of the Titans who created the original six Olympians, in order to destroy the world and make her Queen of Everything.  Kate must battle not only outer demons but inner ones as well, including the specter of Henry’s first wife and her insecurities about their relationship.  Goddess Interrupted ends on a huge cliffhanger that sets up the end book, The Goddess Inheritance, extremely well, and will make readers anxious for the conclusion.  More Greek history is interwoven into this volume, which also adds dimension to the relationships.  Definitely one for your romance readers (note- mild sex action towards the end, so if you are thinking of recommending this to teens who may have some problems with that, read those chapters beforehand). 3.5 stars out of 5.  Goodreads has Goddess Interrupted at 4.11 stars as of February 11, 2013.



I enjoyed Goddess Interrupted, and have high hopes for The Goddess Inheritance based on the first two books.  Kate was annoying me for a good portion of this book, but I can understand where she was coming from- learning that your whole existence was just to save one guy, and that he’s been in love with your sister (or half sister- we never have found out who Kate’s dad is) for eons would make anyone insecure.  The fact that he’s not telling you anything doesn’t bode well, either.  I’d really like Carter to write a second set of books from Henry’s side of things, because at times I really want to know what he’s thinking.

I loved the development of Ava and James, and the detailed descriptions we get of the Underworld.  I liked learning about the powers, and the loose Greek myth woven in (NOTE- if you are very into the Greek canon, this series will drive you batty; the players will NOT act the way they are supposed to, and they’re not supposed to).  I do wish we would see some more of the supporting characters (Dylan, et al.) just because I would love to see all the gods in action.  I also hope that we see more of the Titans than just Cronos, but that’s the geeky side of me.

Definitely fun for readers, but because of the sexual scenes at the end (not graphic but still there) it may be wise to pre-read before recommending to some of your teen romance readers.

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Book Review: The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

“I didn’t agree to any tests.” I paused. “What happens if I pass?”
He stared at his hands. “You will become one of us.”
“Us? Dead, you mean?
“No, that is not what I mean. Think – you know the myth, do you not? Who was Persephone? What was she?”
Fear stabbed at me, cutting me from the inside. If what he claimed was true, then he’d kidnapped Persephone and forced her to marry him, and no matter what he said, I couldn’t help but wonder if he would try to do the same to me. But the rational part of me couldn’t look past the obvious. “You really think you’re a god? You know that sounds crazy, right?”
“I am aware of how it must sound to you,” said Henry. “I have done this before, after all. But yes, I am a god – an immortal, if you will. A physical representation of an aspect of this world, and as long as it exists, so will I. If you pass, that is what you will become as well.”
Feeling dizzy, I stood as quickly as I could while still in those damned heels. “Listen, Henry, this all sounds great and everything, but what you’re telling me is from a myth that people made up thousands of years ago. Persephone never existed, and even if she did, she wasn’t a god, because there’s no such thing-“
“How do you wish for me to prove it?” He stood with me.
“I don’t know,” I said, faltering. “Do something godlike?”
“I thought I already had.” The fire in his eyes didn’t fade. “There may be things I will not – cannot – tell you, but I am not a liar, and I will never mislead you.”
I shrank back from the intensity of his voice. He really did believe what he was saying. “It’s impossible,” I said softly. “Isn’t it?”
“But it is happening, so maybe it is time for you to reevaluate what is possible and what is not.”
I thought about kicking off my heels, heading down the path to the front gate, and leaving, but the thought of my dream with my mother stopped me. As the part of me that wanted to stay for her overruled my skepticism, the temperature dipped twenty degrees, and I shivered.
“Kate?”
I froze, my feet glued to the ground. I knew that voice, and after yesterday, I’d never expected to hear it again.
“Anything is possible if you give it a chance,” said Henry, focusing on something over my shoulder. I whirled around.
Not ten feet away from us stood Ava.

The Review: Kate and her mom have always been together, and when her mom’s dying wish is to return to the town of Eden, Kate makes it happen, leaving behind her friends and the life that she knew.  And she’s not eager to make new ones- especially when it’s a choice between being social and spending the last moments with her mom.  When Henry offers Kate a chance to extend her mother’s life, Kate grasps at the chance- and finds out that the Greek pantheon isn’t found just in the history books after all.  Henry is the Ruler of the Underworld, and Kate enters into a twisted bargain: move to his estate, attempt the tests of the council, and if she passes, become his bride and co-ruler of the Underworld. However, someone is working against Kate; can the traitor be found before it’s too late?

Aimee Carter’s The Goddess Test is an interesting updating of the Greek myths.  Kate, created to be perhaps the last possible mate for Henry (who is the modern day Hades), learns that the bargain she strikes for delaying her mother’s death is a tricky one: she must live at the estate, and pass the seven tests of the council in order to become Henry’s bride and co-ruler of the Underworld, and then be in the underworld like Persephone was, six months out of the year.  If she succeeds, she will have time to say goodbye to her mom, who has been dying of cancer; if she fails, she will be returned to the normal realm with no memory of her time at the estate.  Yet, no one mentioned til after she agreed that there have been 11 other candidates, and all have died in one way or another, and that if Kate fails, Henry will fade to nothing and one of his brothers will take his place.  Twists upon twists ensue, with enough romance to make readers’ hearts skip beats.  Trying to figure out which character is what god in the pantheon without skipping to the key in the back is a fun twist as well.  3.5 out of 5 stars.  Goodreads currently has The Goddess Test as 3.9 stars as of February 11, 2013.


The Goddess Test was a really fast read for me, and a very entertaining one as well.  I liked the way Kate was standing up for herself from the very beginning, and how she wouldn’t back down to anyone.  Her rescue of Ava despite her fears was something that showed her uniqueness, and that plays out throughout the book.  I also liked that she wasn’t into the fancy dresses and make-up, that she was always herself, no matter what.  It made Kate seem more believable that way.  And the fact that she wanted time to say goodbye to her mother made everything more poignant.

I caught on early that every named character was part of the pantheon, but I didn’t cheat and look at the chart in the back until the end.  I figured out Ava pretty quickly, as well as Kate’s mother, but didn’t figure out Ella and Theo until it was mentioned they were twins- that clicked but whether it was from astrology or Battlestar Galactica references I’m not sure.  I didn’t figure out any of the other pantheon, and really am not sure I would have if not for the key- I’ll have to go back through and see if there were subtle clues I missed.  I admit I’m not strong on my mythology, so it could be semi-obvious and I wouldn’t pick up on it.  They were fun twists, and an interesting premise, although those who are serious about their mythology may not be be impressed.  

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