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    Book Thoughts: VIAL THINGS by Leah Clifford

    vial_thingsTitle & Series: VIAL THINGS (Resurrectionist #1)
    Author: Leah Clifford
    Release date: August 9, 2016
    Publisher: Self-published
    Pages: 221
    Formats: eBook

    Find it: AMAZON | GOODREADS

    Description…

    When the resurrectionists of Fissure’s Whipp begin disappearing, eighteen-year-old Allie knows someone is after their blood—or, more accurately, the genetic mutation that allows their blood to heal wounds, save lives and even bring back the recently deceased.

    Raised by her aunt after her parents’ deaths, Allie knows staying vigilant means staying alive. She’s trained her whole life to protect herself by any means necessary, from self defense classes to extensive weapons training in knives. Now, she’s gone so far as to befriend a homeless boy named Ploy who unknowingly trades a few nights a week on her couch in exchange for being a human tripwire to those hunting her.

    But as Allie and Ploy’s feelings for each other grow, Allie realizes this time, she’ll need more than fighting skills and a sharp blade to beat a villain literally out for blood.

    Protecting a girl he shouldn’t love, from a threat he understands too well, Ploy must face his past to save his future in Allie’s world—a world where bringing back the dead can cost you your life.

    Note: This review is based on an eARC received from the author’s publicist in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book.


    Book Thoughts

    If you’ve ever read anything by Author Leah Clifford you know it’s going to be unique. And a bit dark. And a whole lot awesome. Well that pretty much sums up VIAL THINGS. It’s all you really need to know. Of course, if you want to know more…

    While you may have read stories about resurrection, the method is fascinating. Clifford created a very distinct process with strict limitations and rules that she adheres to. It is definitely not for the squeamish – things get pretty messy at times. (Though if you’re reading a book whose title font is written in blood, you’re probably not one of those readers.) But it is a key component of this story and presents quite a few challenges for the main character.

    You also may have read stories that had mystery, thrills, action. But with Clifford’s distinctive voice, her characters really make this thrilling, mysterious and action-packed story memorable and addictive and exciting. Told from both Allie and Ploy’s POVs you’ll get to know their secrets, fall in love with them, feel protective of them. You will definitely be hoping for the best possible outcome even if you think it might be impossible.

    It took all of twelve seconds for me to become hooked. The author got my interest with the play on words title and the blood drenched cover. She had my curiosity piqued by the very first sentence telling of a late night job and an accidental death. And she had me hooked with the character’s no-nonsense first words – “Time of death?” – to the crying girl she encounters.

    And I remained riveted throughout. From its “icky” moments to its “wow” moments. From its nail biters to its heartbreaks. From the suspense. From the surprises. From the twists and turns.

    I could not have loved this story more. (Well, maybe I could have if I had the next book in the series to dive into and didn’t have to wait. But that wouldn’t be fair to this story.) I loved that it was messy and gruesome at times. I loved that the characters were kick-ass and edgy and distrusting and secretive and dirty and a touch odd. And I loved that the author made me believe in her reality – where resurrection is possible and there are people whose job it is to give their life’s blood to make it so.

    I cannot recommend VIAL THINGS enough to anyone who isn’t afraid to read about needles, blood, or the gory stuff, and who loves reads that are interesting and different and amazing.

    The Rating

    06

    Like In-N-Out Burger‘s infamous secret menu this one deserves my off-the-menu 6 star rating.

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    Book Thoughts: ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER Sneak Peek

    Isla and the Happily Ever After

    Title: ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER (Anna and the French Kiss #3)
    Author: Stephanie Perkins
    Release date: August 14, 2014
    Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
    Pages: 352
    Formats: Hardcover, audio, eBook

    Find it: AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | GOODREADS

    Note: Sneak peek received courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book.

    Description…

    From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

    Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

    My Thoughts

    Whether you’ve met Isla and Josh before or this will be your very first introduction, they will be characters you’ll instantly reconnect or connect with and completely fall in love with.

    The writing in this short five chapter sneak peek is some of Author Stephanie Perkins’ best. There is a wonderful cadence and the dialogue is sweet and funny and awkward which makes Isla absolutely endearing. Right from the start.

    This short peek at ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER was my very first time experiencing Stephanie Perkins’ writing. And it was perfect. It hit every one of my must haves. A start that instantly grabs. Writing that’s clever and funny and sweet. Characters I can connect with, root for, become invested in. A story that makes me not want to put it down.

    And I didn’t want to. At all. I might have screamed when I reached the end, because I had become so caught up in the story that I didn’t notice it was coming to the end. Waiting until August 14th is going to be killer. Especially due to the fact that the point where the story left off is like a mini cliffhanger. Yes, the end of chapter five is guaranteed to make the wait absolutely torturous.

    In just these five chapters I fell head-over-heels in love with the writing and the characters. From the very first I was hooked by both. So much so that as soon as I finished I grabbed my copy of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS and devoured it in one sitting and I am currently reading LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR.

    While I wouldn’t normally rate only five chapters of a book, I couldn’t imagine not giving this story at least an “amazing” rating. I’ll await my read of the full-length novel, however, to see if it is an “off-the-menu” six-star read. I have a feeling it will be.

    Reviewer gives this sneak peek…

    5star

    And for just a tease. It’s writing like this that made me fall in love.

    I can’t imagine Josh falling for someone vanilla.

    Not that Josh would ever fall for me.

    But I wouldn’t want to ruin any chance.

    Even though I don’t have a chance.

    But just in case I do.

    Even though I don’t.

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    The Quick & Dirty: The Winner’s Curse & Cruel Beauty

    QUICK

    A long while ago I thought it might be a good idea to post my Quick-ish thoughts about the books I’ve read but didn’t get the chance to review over on The Annex. But I found that the way I’d set things up didn’t meet the “quick” part of the post title. So I decided to let the idea slide.

    But I still found that I really wanted to share my thoughts about some of those amazing – or not-so-amazing – books I’d read. And so I’m trying again here at Fiktshun.

    This time, instead of creating such a rigid format and posting thoughts about a number of books in each post, I thought I’d be a little less formal and limit the number of Q&D thoughts to just two or three books.

    Every once in awhile I may end up writing a review for a book I’ve given my Q&D thoughts about. Especially if it was a book I’d read quite a bit early. But for the most part these Q&D posts will be about books that have already released.

    They’re not just pretty covers….

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    The Winner's CurseTitle: THE WINNER’S CURSE (The Winner’s Trilogy #1)
    Author: Marie Rutkoski
    Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
    Pages: 368
    Release date: March 4, 2014
    Formats: Hardcover, audio, eBook
    Source: eARC and printed ARC from the publisher

    Find it: AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | GOODREADS

    Description…

    Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

    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.

    Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

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    The Quick & Dirty…

    Epic. Stunning. Extraordinary. All-consuming. An unputdownable, completely captivating read.

    I knew I would love this book. I expected it to be amazing. I was not in the least bit disappointed. The gorgeous cover doesn’t hold a candle to the awesomeness that is the story beneath. It was even better than I imagined it could be.

    Kestrel was a heroine that I instantly liked. She was strong and independent and oh so clever. She got herself into a number of predicaments, some deadly, but was able to use her intelligence to find solutions. As the story progressed I became totally invested in her outcome and knew I would continue with this series to its conclusion to find out what that outcome is.

    I loved that this story held secrets and betrayal. I loved that the world was so danger-filled and unpredictable. I loved that the author didn’t hold back and was willing to challenge her characters, put them in difficult situations and make them face seemingly insurmountable obstacles, heartbreak and loss.

    I had the highest of expectations for THE WINNER’S CURSE and it far exceeded them. The writing is simply beautiful, the world is one I found totally enthralling, Krestrel and Arin are characters I am desperately rooting for, and it’s a must read now story that I can’t wait to continue.

    How it rates…

    06

    Like In-N-Out Burger‘s infamous secret menu this one deserves my off-the-menu 6 star rating.

    Favorite quote…

    “I will tell you something you can trust is true.” Arin’s eyes held hers. “We are not friends.”

    Kestrel swallowed. “You’re right,” she whispered. “We’re not.”

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    Cruel BeautyTitle: CRUEL BEAUTY (Cruel Beauty Universe)
    Author: Rosamund Hodge
    Publisher: Balzer + Bray
    Pages: 352
    Release date: January 28, 2014
    Formats: Hardcover, audio, eBook
    Source: eARC from the publisher

    Find it: AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | GOODREADS

    Description…

    Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl’s journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

    Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

    Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

    With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

    But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

    As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

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    The Quick & Dirty…

    Beautiful. Imaginative. Heartbreaking. Magical. An utterly gorgeous read.

    Rosamund Hodge takes the Beauty and the Beast story to the next level. I was wary of this story with its amazing cover before I began because of the possibility of it giving me déjà vu. But not once did I make comparisons to those other tales. The build-up took a little while, but from the moment Nyx arrived at Ignifex’s castle I was transfixed.

    The story was enchanting and fascinating and the characters were quite different from what I imagined them to be. But it was the world the author created that kept me riveted. It kind of blew my mind. It was a total surprise. Which is why I can reveal no more about it.

    The love story was perfectly, achingly heartbreaking and it made this already amazing story absolutely incredible.

    CRUEL BEAUTY is creative and unique, with an intricate and brilliantly developed plot, a book I will forever call a favorite, and a total must read.

    How it rates…

    06

    Like In-N-Out Burger‘s infamous secret menu this one deserves my off-the-menu 6 star rating.

    Favorite quote…

    “…You are never safe with me.” I drew a shuddering breath, trying to will away the sting of tears.

    He opened his eyes and stared up at me as if I were the door out of Arcadia and back to the true sky. “That’s what makes you my favorite.” He reached up and wiped a tear off my cheek with his thumb. “Every wicked bit of you.”

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    Book Thoughts: If I Die

    Title: If I Die (Soul Screamers #5)

    Author: Rachel Vincent

    Publisher: Harlequin TEEN

    Pages: 352

    Release date: September 27, 2011

    Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

    Goodreads description:

    The entire school’s talking about the gorgeous new math teacher, Mr. Beck. Everyone except Kaylee Cavanaugh. After all, Kaylee’s no ordinary high-school junior. She’s a banshee—she screams when someone dies.

    But the next scream might be for Kaylee.

    Yeah—it’s a shock to her, too. So to distract herself, Kaylee’s going to save every girl in school. Because that hot new teacher is really an incubus who feeds on the desire of unsuspecting students. The only girls immune to his lure are Kaylee and Sabine, her boyfriend’s needy ex-girlfriend. Now the unlikely allies have to get rid of Mr. Beck…before he discovers they aren’t quite human, either.

    But Kaylee’s borrowed lifeline is nearing its end. And those who care about her will do anything to save her life.

    Anything.

    My thoughts on If I Die are based on a re-read of this fifth full-length book in the series. I had a chance to read If I Die for the first time in June 2011 thanks to an ARC I received through a trade. And I’ve read it three more times since then. My thoughts are based on a re-read of the eBook I purchased and I re-read it having read all six full-length books and three novellas in the series.

    For my original review, which posted in August 2011, I gave If I Die my off-the-menu six star rating. If I were to re-rate this book, I would once again give it six stars, though it deserves so many more. And as I reviewed it already, I have decided to share my thoughts on the re-read instead.

    ***

    Re-reading If I Die brought relief and torment in equal measure. Knowing just how things ended provided some relief, as the not knowing was the hardest part of reading it the first time.

    But at the same time, knowing all that was going to happen throughout the story – the good and the bad – was a form of torture in and of itself. Anticipating what was going to happen caused a whole different kind of anxiety to build, prolonged the heartache that wasn’t a sure thing on first read and made those moments in the story that much more emotional when they finally arrived.

    Of all the books in the series up to this book’s release, If I Die was by far the most exciting, the most heartbreaking, the most shocking and the most deliciously tormenting. It kept me on edge, for every single read, until I devoured each and every word on each and every page.

    From the very beginning this book hits you with a knockout punch. I was K.O.’ed on the first read. And while I was ready for it on subsequent reads it didn’t hurt all that much less. The fear and pain, the grief and the sense of loss just seeped out of the page and right onto me. I was drowning in the sadness and heartbreak I felt for all the characters. And that heartbreak didn’t lessen with any of the reads.

    This book was definitely the most emotional when compared to its predecessors. Things are always amped up when the life of a major character hangs in the balance. But when that is combined with a complicated love story that gets all the more complex with a new love interest added to the mix, we’re talking an emotional rollercoaster ride that causes your heart to drop into the pit of your stomach over… and over… and over again.

    I don’t think I ever loved the characters more than I did in this book – I certainly never felt as connected with them as I did until I read If I Die. And with each read I got to know them a little more, picking up on all the little details I missed while crying my eyes out. Though I’m sure I’m still missing a few as I haven’t yet made it through this book without sobbing.

    Oh and I did not see the end coming the first time around. I was waiting for the Hail Mary pass. And waiting. And waiting. I also did not expect there to be another sucker punch at the end. But I really should have known. It is Rachel Vincent after all. And she likes to torment her characters as much as her readers. Maybe more. Probably more.

    But it was one of those moments where you’re twisting and turning in agony, where your heart feels like it’s being squeezed, and then the floor drops out from under you and you feel like you’re falling in some kind of a death spiral. And no, I’m not exaggerating. It was one of those moments. Right there at the end. With barely any pages left for something, anything, to change.

    I had to go back and re-read that one moment to see if it actually happened. Because I couldn’t really believe it was true. That the author would do yet one more thing to a character that had been through so much already. But she did.

    And my reaction was the same no matter that I read it all before. On this read, as with all previous reads, I couldn’t stop from shouting out, “Noooooo!” I couldn’t stop from feeling that terrible sense of loss. I couldn’t stop from aching for the character who had to go through it, who felt responsible for it and who was helpless to do anything about it.

    Yes, I’m being a bit cryptic – especially about that ending – just in case someone hasn’t read this book. Because stumbling upon that ending in a blog post, and not getting to experience it for oneself, would be even more of a tragedy than all the tragic events in this book combined.

    If I Die is a book I can’t help but become emotionally invested in. I doesn’t matter that I know what happens to the characters. Rachel Vincent’s writing pulls me into the story so deeply – each and every time – that I feel everything all over again as if it’s new to me.

    And everything is just so much more intense in this book. Everyone is going through so many layers of hurt, with only brief moments of joy, that you can’t help but empathize with all of them. Yes, even with Sabine.

    So, what more can I say about If I Die that I haven’t already said in this post or in my review? Probably not much. Because I’ve had a lot to say about this book since I first read it.

    But yes, it is my favorite book in the series, though it is tied with the next book, Before I Wake. Yes, it is, hands down, the most torturous of all the books. And yes it is tied with Before I Wake as the most heartbreaking.

    And while there is all sorts of torment and heartbreak, there is no shortage of humor. That wonderful brand of sarcasm the author loves to infuse her characters’ dialogue with. Even in a book as sad and shocking and heartrending as this one. But it is those lines that allow you to take a breath and get a brief respite from that twisty-turny agony, before being plunged back in. Lines that can’t help but make you smile.

    If I Die is the standout book in this series. And not just because its name differs in form from all previous books. It’s the game changer. It divides the series. There is what comes before. And then there is what comes after. And there is absolutely no going back. Not that you’d want to.

    I definitely recommend reading this book more than once. Because this is such a shocking book, it is very likely that many of the finer points will be lost with just one read. And I would definitely recommend re-reading it prior to picking up Before I Wake, the next book in the series.

    Oh and yes, knowing what happens in Before I Wake does alter the reading experience of this book. In all the best possible of ways.

    ***

    I’ve already posted quite a few favorite passages for if If I Die in my teasers posts and I still don’t want to include a completely spoiler-y one here. But just to prove the point that this book gets right to it, here’s the very first passage in the book…

    I used to think death was the worst thing that could happen to a person. I also used to think it was the last thing that could happen. But if I’ve learned anything from surrounding myself with reapers, and living nightmares, and my fellow bean sidhes, it’s this: I was wrong on both counts….

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    Book Thoughts: Reaper

    Title: Reaper

    Author: Rachel Vincent

    Publisher: Harlequin TEEN

    Pages: 55

    Release date: December 1, 2010

    Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

    Goodreads description:

    Tod Hudson was a typical teenager. He liked girls, sports, food and tolerated his younger brother, Nash. In fact, he had his whole life in front of him–and due to his bean sidhe heritage, it was going to be a very long life indeed. And then the car accident occurred.

    Suddenly Tod’s future wasn’t so sure, and he had to make a choice. Life… Death… or something Between….

    An ebook exclusive Soul Screamers series novella.

    My thoughts on Reaper are based on a re-read of this second novella in the Soul Screamers series. I first read and reviewed Reaper on November 22, 2010 and while I’ve read it a couple of times since then, this is the first time since I reviewed it that I’ve looked at it with a critical eye instead of simply reading it for pleasure.

    I originally gave Reaper a four star “loved it” rating. However, now that I’ve gotten to appreciate all that is Tod, which includes not only his sarcasm, but his loyalty, heroism and bravery, and have discovered all those little details that I missed on first read that connect this novella to the series, I would give it a five star “amazing” rating.

    Aside from being a quick and entertaining read, which it was, there was much more to this short story than what I took away from it during my initial read. Whether it was due to the fact that on that first read I was so distracted by the heartbreak that was Nash Hudson, or simply because at that time I wasn’t as appreciative of novellas as I am now, I didn’t notice just how detailed and clever this story was.

    I didn’t make the connection that both Kaylee and Nash existed on borrowed lives. I didn’t recall that the reanimation process was discussed. I didn’t remember how difficult it was for Tod to master his corporeality. And I didn’t notice that Kaylee’s mom made a similar sacrifice as Tod had and could just as easily have become a reaper… or wonder if maybe she did.

    I didn’t question what it might mean that Kaylee could see Tod when he wasn’t corporeal the first time they “met.” I didn’t wonder if there would ever be any repercussions down the road for what Tod did to the drunk driver that hit his car and ultimately caused him to become a reaper. And I definitely didn’t realize that Tod died right before a birthday just like another character in the series.

    I didn’t realize all these details would or could mean something later in the series. Had I known, I would have committed this entire novella to heart, and not just Tod’s witty and incredibly sarcastic lines.

    Rachel Vincent wove all of these details into this short but captivating read. But that wasn’t all she did. She gave readers insight into who Tod was before he became a reaper, just how he became a reaper, and just what kind of person he was after his sacrifice, and she really let us get to know him in a way that we never would have been able to within the framework of the series up through My Soul to Steal.

    Reaper is the first time we get to see the story from Tod’s point of view, which sets the stage for just how important a character he is to become later in the series. And by writing this story from his perspective, we are able to see parts of the Soul Screamers world that Kaylee never would have had knowledge of and I absolutely love, love, love that the author opened up her world in this way.

    From the umpteen sarcastic lines that Tod delivered in this novella – of which I think there are at least ten I call favorites – to the cruel and clever irony that the author infused in this story during Tod’s last few hours alive, Reaper is a fun and a little bit heartbreaking short peek at Tod’s life and afterlife and a story that definitely raises a few questions as to what the future holds for this somewhat immortal reaper.

    And while I could probably go on and on about just how amazing I think Tod is, his awesomeness wasn’t completely revealed by this story. Some of that did come later. But I can say with absolute certainty that after four reads, Reaper is my favorite novella in this series and one of  my top five novellas of all time.

    ***

    There are way too many favorite quotes of Tod’s for me to choose just one. So I chose instead a scene between Genna and Tod in which the irony of the conversation was not lost on me…

    “…But if I’m late, my mom will jump to all the right conclusions, and then my dad will kill you. Seriously. And what am I gonna do with a dead boyfriend?”

    “Nothing that doesn’t defy the norms of polite society…” I mumbled, disappointed when she stepped back and turned toward the door.

    If Nash isn’t dead of alcohol poisoning by the time I get there, I’ll kill him myself…

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    Book Thoughts: My Soul to Steal

    Title: My Soul to Steal (Soul Screamers #4)

    Author: Rachel Vincent

    Publisher: Harlequin TEEN

    Pages: 352

    Release date: December 21, 2010

    Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

    Goodreads description:

    Trying to work things out with Nash—her maybe boyfriend—is hard enough for Kaylee Cavanaugh. She can’t just pretend nothing happened. But “complicated” doesn’t even begin to describe their relationship when his ex-girlfriend transfers to their school, determined to take Nash back.

    See, Sabine isn’t just an ordinary girl. She’s a mara, the living personification of a nightmare. She can read people’s fears—and craft them into nightmares while her victims sleep. Feeding from human fear is how she survives.

    And Sabine isn’t above scaring Kaylee and the entire school to death to get whatever—and whoever—she wants.

    My thoughts on My Soul to Steal are based on a re-read of this fourth full-length book in the series. I had a chance to read MStSteal the first time in November 2010, thanks to an early galley I received courtesy of NetGalley and Harlequin TEEN. My re-read is based on the finished eBook I purchased and I re-read it having read the five full-length books and three novellas in this series currently available.

    As I’d already reviewed this book for the blog, Goodreads and Amazon, I’ve chosen to post my thoughts on the re-read instead of re-reviewing it. But if I were to re-rate it, I would give My Soul to Steal five stars, as I did when I first read it.

    Re-reading My Soul to Steal was even more nerve-wracking than the first time. I knew what was coming, which made things so much more torturous. The knots that I had when I read it the first time were nothing like the ones that I had on this second read.

    I agonized over every anguish-filled moment that Kaylee had when Sabine entered the picture. And my heart ached for her with the knowledge of everything that was to happen. But having read If I Die, there was also a certain sadness that blanketed the events in My Soul to Steal. A sadness that wasn’t as deep on first read.

    It wasn’t until this book in the series where my hope for Kaylee and Nash’s relationship took a nosedive. On first read I blamed it all on Nash. Even though his addiction fueled his decisions, they were still ultimately his to make. He made bad choices and hurt Kaylee worse than anyone should be hurt. And while with both reads I never felt Kaylee should completely forgive him, I did feel, on second read, that he deserved to be with someone who could.

    When I first read MStSteal, I was so caught up in Kaylee’s pain that I thought that Tod and Emma weren’t being good friends. I thought they were traitorous to her for even thinking that Nash should be with Sabine. But on second read, I thought the opposite. Even Sabine’s words – the ones that weren’t just meant to get to Kaylee – made so much sense. As much as Nash messed up, he deserved a chance at happiness. And he deserved the chance to be able to forgive himself.

    Until this book, I’d always felt Kaylee was incredibly strong. In this installment, I felt that she was at her weakest. Because of what happened with Nash in My Soul to Keep and also because of the mara’s presence and influence in this book, her insecurities and fears were at an all-time high. Which made her the most sympathetic she’s been in this series so far in a book that is the most heartbreaking so far.

    For the re-read I attempted to take the time to keep track of all those details I was sure I missed on first read because I was rushing through it, riding that wave of tortured, anxiety-filled emotion that takes hold with each and every book that Rachel Vincent writes.

    And while I noticed a few things that I missed on that first read, I was caught up in the emotional roller coaster. Again. So, I may have missed a few, though I tried so hard not to.

    What I did notice is that there is definitely some foreshadowing about Tod’s feelings toward Kaylee. What those are exactly is still to be determined. But on more than one occasion he was fighting hard to hide some emotion in those swirly eyes of his.

    I was also able to look past some of Sabine’s behavior. What I hadn’t realized on first read was that some of that meanness may have been a direct result of the hellion’s influence. Just as some of Kaylee’s insecurities were. Sabine’s need to be forgiven by Emma and the fact that she did apologize to Kaylee were really what drove this home.

    While she may have been just as relentless in her pursuit of Nash, she may not have been as cruel as she had been when doing so. At least I hope not. Because, while on first read I didn’t have a single ounce of sympathy toward her, I did sympathize with her quite a bit this second time around.

    I was just as caught up in the mystery, chaos and utter mayhem when re-reading My Soul to Steal as I was when first discovering the story. I did re-read it in one sitting and was even more invested in the story’s outcome – as if it may have somehow changed from what I’d remembered – than I was the first time.

    And the re-read has made me even more desperate to get started on the next book in the series. While on first read I was utterly heartbroken, I still had a thread of hope, albeit a fragile one, for Kaylee and Nash. And I definitely needed some time to recover from My Soul to Steal.

    But now, although I’m still heartbroken for the pair, I don’t need any time to recover. And knowing what’s ahead in the next book, makes me that much more anxious to get started.

    ***

    As much of my connection with Rachel Vincent’s Soul Screamers series is an emotional one, I thought I’d compare the range of emotions the author put me through between the first read and the second.

    Emotions on first read: Shock. Anger. Angst. Heartache. Anger. Rage. Anger. Betrayal. Fear. Hopelessness. Nervousness. Some more anger. Anxiety. A little more rage. Hopefulness. Disgust. A lot more angst. Relief. A little more hope.

    Emotions on second read: Heartache. Sadness. A little despair. Anger. Disgust. Angst. Heartbreak. Sympathy. Understanding. Some more sadness. A touch more anger. A lot more angst. Just a little bit more anger. HOPE.

    ***

    And since I didn’t list a favorite passage in my review, I thought I’d share two of them here.

    “I don’t think there are words for what we are, Nash.” Yet I could think of at least one: broken.

    Nash and I were like the wreckage of two cars that had hit head-on. We were tangled up in each other so thoroughly that I could no longer tell which parts of us were him and which were me. We could probably never be truly untangled – not after what we’d been through together – but I had serious doubts we could ever really recapture what we’d had.

    “…It kills me to sit here knowing I no longer have the right to lean over this table and kiss you. I want to be the first person you call the next time something goes wrong. I want to know that you’re eventually going to be able to forgive me. And I’m not gonna do anything to jeopardize that possibility.” He took a deep breath and held my gaze. “But Sabine needs me…”

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    Book Thoughts: Mockingjay

    Mockingjay

    Title: Mockingjay

    Author: Suzanne Collins

    Publisher: Scholastic

    Release date: August 24, 2010

    Goodreads description:

    Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

    It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plains–except Katniss.

    The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay–no matter what the personal cost.

    As with the two other books in this series, I decided not to review Mockingjay and instead simply post my thoughts about this book and series. This would have been the most difficult book, by far, in this series to review. And I definitely feel that my thoughts would have been inadequately expressed in a review format.

    And as with both other books in this trilogy, I have rated it on Goodreads, giving it 4/5 stars. Throughout much of the book I felt it was more of a “like” than a “love” and would have rated it a three, but for the ending. However, now that I’ve sat with it for just a bit, taking into account some of the messages I felt the author was putting forth, I would have given it a four regardless.

    While I very much enjoyed the author’s writing once again in this third book in the series, I wasn’t captivated by the story. I found myself easily distracted and set the book aside on numerous occasions. There were even points during the read that I was so frustrated with the main character, Katniss Everdeen, that I almost didn’t want to go on. But mostly I just felt no real connection to this book or series.

    I still blame much of this on being so late to the party. I’ve come to expect a lot more in the books I read in terms of making a connection with either the character or the story. And I expect a lot more depth to the characters than I felt when reading these books. Especially by the third book in a series. But I just didn’t feel that depth. And I had almost no connection.

    I also expected to care one way or the other for the main character. Love her or hate her, I expected to feel passionately about her. But again, I only felt lukewarm toward her. However, this may have had to do with the buzz. I had expected her to be an incredibly strong character. Someone who was brave and independent and sure of her decisions. I  kept waiting for that awakening by her character. But that, too, never came.

    After reading this third book I feel fairly certain, however, that the author didn’t create this character to be easy to connect with. She wasn’t incredibly likable. She was a hunter. She was a provider. She was a protector. She was a killer. She was calculating.

    And for some reason these qualities made her the perfect symbol for the revolution in this story even if she was really more of a figurehead than a true leader. Perhaps it was because they weren’t looking for a leader but someone they could control and manipulate.

    Katniss was indecisive. Her loyalties couldn’t be trusted. She lacked the passion that Gale had toward the revolution. She lacked the skill that Peeta had in rallying the people. She lacked the kindness that either of them had. And I think the author described her best when she said: “Finally, he can see me for who I really am. Violent. Distrustful. Manipulative. Deadly. And I hate him for it.”

    Except for where it concerned her sister, Katniss approached things like a predator. And I think this is why I just couldn’t connect with her. Even when she finally broke down I didn’t feel pity for her, when I felt saddened for everyone else.

    Again in this third book, I wasn’t surprised by anything that happened. I expected it to end pretty much as it did. I didn’t find myself getting caught up in the action, even when the characters headed to the Capitol. And I didn’t find myself falling apart when several of them were lost along the way.

    Even for the one character who I was very much hoping to see more of in this book. Everything happened so quickly, leaving no time to reflect or mourn and it felt as if the author was trying to create a distance from the character long before their demise.

    But I did keep expecting to become angry with this story. From all the chatter about this third book I anticipated a huge letdown with the ending. But that never happened for me. I thought it was the perfect ending for this trilogy.

    The way the author ended her series in this book made me like it all the more. It was believable. It felt real. It felt honest. There was no way this could have ended on a high note. Not if it were to stay true to the storyline. Just looking at Haymitch and Annie and all the previous victors told me that there could never really be that fairytale ending.

    And this was a story about war and cruelty and suffering. With everything that happened, everything that was lost, the burden that was placed on Katniss’ shoulders, there was no way she could have shrugged that off.

    While this series didn’t tug on my heartstrings like I had expected it to, I find it to be one of those sticky ones. One where certain elements affect me after the fact. One that felt sort of shallow while I was reading it, but actually is much deeper upon reflection. One where each book in the series didn’t grab me, but as a whole I find it to have much more meaning. But all of that came together in this final book in the series.

    I was fascinated by the gamesmanship. I was intrigued by the notion that everything was just a game. That these two political leaders were fighting a battle for dominance and that all the characters who thought they were of value were really just pawns. And no matter who the victor, history seemed doomed to repeat itself.

    I was not surprised about Coin’s maneuvering because of the hints the author gave throughout. From the moment I was introduced to District 13 I was suspect. About the leadership. About their motives. So I very much enjoyed seeing Katniss’ reaction as the truth came out.

    While I felt that many of the characters’ stories throughout the series felt incomplete, I loved just how well-developed the story arc was from first book to last and how well-developed the main character was. Her behavior was predictable because it was established very clearly at the beginning of the series. I had just hoped there would be some growth.

    And while I didn’t have too much of an emotional connection to the characters in this series, I did break down just a bit at the end thanks to my favorite character, Buttercup. That darn cat snuck up on me. He was the most expressive and emotional character in this story and where no other character could, he managed to bring on the tears.

    I have yet to read a review of any of the books in this series but I will have to check out the reviews for Mockingjay to find out just what people didn’t love about the ending. I think the way things resolved themselves with the love triangle felt right. After everything that happened, I don’t see how Katniss could forgive the boy she chose to let go.

    And I thought the way things ended for her was the right way to end things. She always was a survivor. From the very beginning. As wonderfully dramatic as it would have been to see her wither away to nothing, it wouldn’t have felt true to who she was.

    All the characters left standing at the end were coping in the only way they could. They lost a lot. They lived. They began to rebuild their lives. Or perhaps they didn’t. And they never fully recovered from all they experienced. I don’t know any ending more honest than that. But maybe readers were expecting the fairytale.

    I don’t typically enjoy epilogues that take place years after the story ends. I like to leave the characters where they were at the moment I last “knew” them. But I loved the epilogue in this story. It reinforced everything the story was trying to convey. That time passes, there is a rebirth and that remembering and honoring the past is important to not repeating it in the future.

    While I can’t say this will be listed among my favorite series of all time, I am glad I read it. Even though the war aspect felt a bit more real than I typically like to read about in fiction. And after finishing Mockingjay I’m left thinking of the cruelty of human beings, the senseless violence they will engage in and the devastating and long-lasting effects of war. So, yes, this story itself will stick with me for a long while, where the characters themselves may not.

    Oh, and yes, I am Team Peeta.

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