The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

I think I’ve mentioned in the blog before that I’m not a big fan of dystopian books but since so many blogging buddies loved the Chaos Walking trilogy, I decided to give it a try. I received all three books for my birthday this year.

Here’s the summary from Patrick Ness’ website:

Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown.

But Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in a constant, overwhelming, never-ending Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets.

Or are there?

Just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd unexpectedly stumbles upon a spot of complete silence.

Which is impossible.

Prentisstown has been lying to him.

And now he’s going to have to run…

I think the UK editions are so pretty, look:

The Knife of Never Letting Go is a very absorbing read. Each chapter end was written in such a way that it encourages you to keep on reading and I think that’s the mark of an excellent writer. Other people warned me that the language might take some getting used to. Todd’s lack of education is clearly reflected in the way he narrates but that didn’t bother me at all. Patrick Ness created a very intriguing world with this trilogy and it reminded me somewhat of Sharon Shinn’s Samaria. Todd was believable as a boy on the cusp of manhood, as innocent as his foster fathers can keep him and clueless about his town’s past. He has no idea of what’s real and what’s not in his world. When he discovers something unexpected, he has no choice but to run, together with his accidental friend, Viola. My favorite character in the entire book is Manchee, Todd’s dog. I feel like if dogs could communicate with their masters, they’d act exactly like Manchee. At first I found him hilarious because he acted the same way as Dug, the talking dog in the Pixar film Up with his constant shouts of “Squirrel!” before running after the smaller animal. Manchee is a steadfast companion and the best friend any boy could ever have.

To be honest, I was hoping I’d love this just as much as my blogging friends did but that didn’t happen (please don’t hate me!). I really liked it but it didn’t make me emotional, which is what other readers experienced. Others had really violent reactions to this book: they cried, they wanted to throw it against a wall, they had to pause before they could continue reading. I feel like I was more of a casual observer and I was kind of detached from the characters instead of being fully engrossed. And I can’t even explain why. There wasn’t anything specific that pulled me out of the story, I just wasn’t sucked in. I’m starting to think that maybe I’m missing the dystopian gene? Why do I end up just liking the post-apocalyptic books that others love? But then again, I loved The Hunger Games and The Giver so maybe it really is just a matter of taste. Like I said, this is a really good book with excellent writing and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to fans of dystopian lit, I just wanted to explain why I didn’t love it. I’m still looking forward to reading the other two books in the trilogy since I already have copies and I am curious about what will happen to Todd and the rest of the characters. I just don’t think I will be as enthusiastic about this series as the rest of the fans are.

Other reviews:
See Michelle Read
One More Page
Good Books and Good Wine
The Crooked Shelf

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This book is one of my entries in the Once Upon a Time challenge.

Angel-Seeker by Sharon Shinn

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

Angel-Seeker by Sharon Shinn is the last book to be published in the Samaria series. It occurs a few months after Archangel so you can read this right after that one. They are the only two books set in the same time period, all of the others are set centuries before or after. Archangel is one of my favorite reads in 2010 and I thoroughly enjoyed reading Jovah’s Angela and The Alleluia Files so I had high hopes for this one.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Elizabeth was born to wealth, but circumstances forced her to live as a servant in her cousin’s household. Determined to change her life for the better, she makes the journey to the town of Cedar Hills, hoping that an angel will take notice of her, and take her as his own.

Rebekah is a daughter of the Jansai tribe, raised to hate the angels – and to marry whichever man her father chooses for her. But in her heart, she longs for a different life. And when she finds an injured angel near her village, she defies her upbringing to care for him.

In time, these two women, whose paths will cross, will both find what they desire, in surprising – and dangerous – ways.

I love the world that Sharon Shinn created with her Samaria books. I know there are a lot of series about angels out there but this one is really my favorite. I’m glad that Obadiah got his own story because he’s a character that I really liked in Archangel. He is sent by the Archangel Gabriel to go to Breven and deal with the Jansai. The Jansai are merchants who have no love for angels, especially since Gabriel outlawed their main source of income – the slavery of the Edori. Obadiah is the perfect choice for this mission because of his charming personality. He has a way with words and people can’t help but like him. Obadiah knew that the task wouldn’t be easy but he never expected he’d be suddenly injured in the middle of the desert with resources. Thankfully, a young Jansai girl named Rebekah offers help even though it’s forbidden for women of their race to even talk to men outside of their family, let alone an angel. Interwoven with their story is Elizabeth’s tale as she wishes to obtain a pampered life by being an angel-seeker, a woman willing to have relations with an angel for a chance to become a mother to a precious angel baby.

I couldn’t figure out how Elizabeth’s story intersects with Obadiah and Rebekah’s and was even afraid that there was a love triangle in this book. Have no fear, that doesn’t happen in this book (sorry if that piece of information is spoiler-ish). The narrative changes from Obadiah, Rebekah and Elizabeth’s points of view so we understand better what the characters are going through. Both Rebekah and Elizabeth encounter big changes in their lives throughout the books. They both show how strong and resilient they are in the face of danger and unfamiliar situations. I enjoyed reading both of their stories and I don’t prefer one over the other. Sweet Jovah singing, you can’t help but root for both of these girls! I thought the romance between Obadiah and Rebekah was very sweet, which is a good thing because they both deserve to be happy. Elizabeth also achieves inner peace as she makes better choices in life. I was thrilled by the glimpses of Gabriel, Rachel and even Nathan and Magdalena in this one because they’re characters that I loved in Archangel. All in all, a very satisfying installment in what has become one of my favorite series. I highly recommend this book and the whole series to fans of romantic fantasy or fans of books about angels. I hope I get to read Angelica soon, the only remaining Samaria book that I haven’t read because I want to start on Sharon Shinn’s Twelve Houses series. Also, I think I’d love to read a book set during the time when the settlers first came to Samaria. I think Angel-Seeker is a fitting Retro Friday choice this weekend because it is a love story at its core and we all know that Valentine’s Day is coming up.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Book Harbinger
Angieville
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

Grimspace was one of my Want Books picks back in July but it was out of stock then. I was planning to order it but I was surprised to see it available in Fully Booked for P315 when I passed by there last week. Since I’ve been reading a lot of YA lately, I thought I’d give this one a try since it’s sci-fi and I haven’t read a lot of books from that genre.

Here’s the summary from Ann Aguirre’s website:

By all accounts, Sirantha Jax should have burned out years ago…

As the carrier of a rare gene, Jax has the ability to jump ships through grimspace — a talent which cuts into her life expectancy, but makes her a highly prized navigator for the Corp. But then the ship she’s navigating crash-lands, and she’s accused of killing everyone on board. It’s hard for Jax to defend herself: she has no memory of the crash.

Now imprisoned and the subject of a ruthless interrogation, Jax is on the verge of madness. Then a mysterious man breaks into her cell, offering her freedom — for a price. March needs Jax to help his small band of rogue fighters break the Corp monopoly on interstellar travel — and establish a new breed of jumper.

Jax is only good at one thing — grimspace — and it will eventually kill her. So she may as well have some fun in the meantime…

Sirantha Jax used to be a superstar navigator of the Corp. She has the J-gene, which enables her to navigate in grimspace. It will eventually lead to her demise because grimspace drains away jumpers but they rather burn out than stay away from grimspace. Jax is in her early thirties and should be pretty near her burn out point when the ship that she’s navigating crashes and she’s the only survivor. The story starts while Jax is incarcerated, a man suddenly shows up to break her out. From then on, it’s one adventure after another. The action in Grimspace never stops and the book has short chapters so it’s easy to read one chapter right after the other.

I’m a fan of strong female protagonists so Jax is my kind of character. She’s feisty, snarky and brutally honest. She certainly met her match in March. I knew that guy was special the moment he walked in Jax’s cell. I love how those two interact. They’re both broken, complicated and find it hard to trust another person. Most of the time, March remains aloof so Jax does her best to annoy him and get on his nerves. The secondary characters add more spice to the mix. Overall, Grimspace is a gripping, absorbing novel and I highly recommend it even to those who aren’t fans of space opera. Here’s a quote from the book that I really liked:

“No matter how interminable something feels, there is always, always an ending. Sometimes that’s good, and sometimes it’s bad; sometimes it’s a matter of indifference, and sometimes it’s heartbreaking, and your life is never the same thereafter.”

I don’t read a lot of sci-fi but I’ve read the ones that came highly recommended: Young Miles by Lois McMaster Bujold, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and now Grimspace. I’ve been lucky in my space opera picks because even though I’m not a fan of the genre, I thoroughly enjoyed reading these books. Also, this one has more romance than the other two. What I like about the three books that I mentioned is that they stand well on their own so even if I know there are more books in the series, I’m not in any hurry to read them. There’s no cliffhanger ending although there’s plenty of plot threads to pick up in the next books. I’d like to hear what others think of the latter books because I want to read them when my TBR goes down.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Janicu’s Book Blog
Angieville
Dear Author
Revenge of the Book Nerds
Bitten by Books

Silent Blade by Ilona Andrews

I didn’t even know that there was a novella by Ilona Andrews until I saw Angie’s review. Thanks for the heads up, Angie! Silent Blade is a romantic science fiction story which can be purchased in e-book format from Samhain. Strong female protagonist determined to get her revenge on the man who ruined her life? I knew I was in for a treat.

Here’s the summary from Samhain Publishing’s website:

Old hatreds die hard. Old love dies harder.

On Meli Galdes’ home planet, the struggle for power is a bloody, full-contact sport — in business and on the battlefield. For years her lethal skills have been a valuable asset in advancing her family’s interests. She’s more than earned her right to retire, but her kinsmen have one last favor to ask.

Kill the man who ruined her life.

Celino Carvanna’s razor-sharp business acumen — and skills with a blade — won him the freedom to do as he pleases. There’s only one thing he can’t seem to control — his reaction to the mysterious woman who tantalizes his senses. Her eyes alone set his blood simmering. With a few words she dissects his soul. Who is she? And how does she slide so easily under his well-guarded skin?

It’s almost too easy to draw Celino within the kill zone. Meli plans to revel in him. Drink him in. Wring every drop of pleasure out of every moment.

And when she’s sure he belongs to her, she will finally repay a decade’s worth of pain — in a single, brutal dose of reality.

This is the first time that I’ve ever read romantic science fiction and it looks like it won’t be the last. The husband and wife duo Ilona Andrews created another intriguing world in Silent Blade – the story is set in a futuristic world where kinsmen (similar to the Mafia) rule the financial industry and biological enhancements are the norm. I don’t get to read a lot of sci-fi because I tend to get lost in the technical terms but I had no difficulty with this one partly because the descriptions were very straightforward. You get a sci-fi feel of the world, without the techno confusion.

Meli has special skills that enabled her to work as an assassin for her family. She’s retired but she couldn’t resist taking on this one last mission – to come face to face with Celino Carvanna and make him pay for ending their engagement years before. I found it amusing that Meli’s real name is Imelda because it’s such a familiar name around here. The Hispanic/Italian characters in this one is something new and another aspect of the story that I liked. I found this description from Ilona Andrews’ blog and I thought I’d post it here:

The world is very lush, a place of bright flowers, pink wine, and too many pastries. The people are tan and dark-haired, this odd mix of Spanish, Italian, and Mexican cultures. Socially, it’s a mafia in SF setting: biologically enhanced families battling for influence. The plot is HP (Harlequin Presents). There is an alpha male, who is an ass, and a wronged woman who will make him grovel in the end.

I really enjoyed reading this one and I hope there are more stories set in this world. It was very easy to get into and even though this one is just a novella, the world was fully described and the characters had enough back story to flesh them out. I love the scene when Meli and Celino first met as adults because it was set in the kitchen of a pastry shop with Meli baking one of Celino’s favorites. Pastries nom nom nom. I love how Ilona Andrews’ female characters are excellent in cooking (remember Kate’s pies? :P) I recommend this one to fans of Ilona Andrews, this could tide you over until Bayou Moon comes out and to fans of romance stories in general.

The Alleluia Files by Sharon Shinn

Yay, it’s Friday! I love Fridays. I think I’ve said it several times in this blog. Anyway, I finished reading The Alleluia Files last night and I thought I’d post a review while the story is still fresh in my mind. I’ve enjoyed reading the first books in the series: Archangel and Jovah’s Angel and I was really curious about this one. It is set in the same world but a hundred years later than Jovah’s Angel and around two hundred and fifty years later than Archangel.

Here’s the summary from the back of the book with some sentences thrown in from Sharon Shinn’s website:

It has been one hundred years since the Archangel Alleluia and the mortal Caleb discovered the truth about the god of Samaria. Legend says they left a record of that truth, though no document has ever been found. In time, an underground cult arose, seeking to find again what Alleluia found. But the reigning Archangel Bael seeks to destroy the small dissident sect of Jacobites that spreads this heretic philosophy.

Yet some survived. Among them is Tamar, child of cultists, raised in captivity among the angels. Tamar believes that the Alleluia Files exist. She is determined to find them, and to free the people of Samaria from their fear of Jovah. In her search, she encounters the angel Jared, one of the members of his kind who have come to question the wisdom of Bael. Together, these two uneasy allies will journey the length and breadth of Samaria, risking their lives and the lives of their comrades, seeking a truth that will alter the face of Samaria forever…

At the same time, the angel Lucinda learns that her mother was a Jacobite — and Lucinda herself might have the key to uncovering the truth about Jovah.

Pretty hefty summary, huh? I tweaked the summary from two sources because I wanted to give a better, spoiler-free picture of what occurs in the book. As with the other Samaria books, this one revolves around certain characters, namely Tamar, Jared and Lucinda, and their interactions with each other. Tamar is a feisty and fiercely determined woman, brought up by Jacobites. She has been on the run her entire life and has a hard time trusting people. On the other hand, Jared is a happy-go-lucky type of angel. Even though he’s technically the leader at Monteverde, he’s never been passionate about anything. Tamar and Jared are total opposites, even in their beliefs, and it was such fun to watch them get on each other’s nerves because it’s so obvious that they admire each other underneath all the arguments. I have to admit, Jovah comes up with the most unlikely pairs but they end up suiting each other nicely.

While all of that is happening, the angel Lucinda is having her own adventures. Lucinda was brought up by her Aunt Gretchen in an isolated island called Angel Rock. Lucinda is an interesting person because you’d expect her to be shy and reserved, having grown up in an island with a population of twenty, but she’s not. She’s open-minded, eager to learn new things and does not back down when she’s being intimidated. At first, I kept thinking about what was Lucinda’s connection to the other characters and I only realized it around the middle of the book. I was so excited to finish reading to see how it will all unfold. I’m sorry to be so vague but I don’t want to mention spoilers.

The Alleluia Files is another excellent installment in the Samaria series. This series has become my favorite when it comes to books featuring angels. Although to be fair, there aren’t a lot of angel books out there. I highly recommend this series to fantasy fans. Here is Sharon Shinn’s suggestion on what order the Samaria books should be read:

The book of mine that is the clear favorite among readers is Archangel, so it’s not a bad idea to start with the Samaria series. I always think they should be read in the order in which they were published: Archangel, Jovah’s Angel, The Alleluia Files, Angelica, and Angel-Seeker. I know some people have read them chronologically, which would change the order to: Angelica, Archangel, Angel-Seeker, Jovah’s Angel, The Alleluia Files.

Jovah’s Angel by Sharon Shinn

Jovah’s Angel is the second book to the Samaria series and the sequel to Archangel, which I read and loved last April. This book is set one hundred and fifty years after the Archangel Gabriel’s time. Thanks to Celina for picking up this book for me when she went to a sale in Fully Booked. I know of a couple of book bloggers (namely Charlotte, Angie and Michelle) who love this series based on their comments in my review of Archangel.

Here’s the summary from Sharon Shinn’s website:

More than a hundred years after the time of Rachel and Gabriel, Samaria is in deep turmoil. Charismatic Archangel Delilah has been injured and forced to give up her position, and she has been replaced by shy, uncertain Alleluia. What’s worse, ungovernable storms are sweeping across the country, and the god never seems to hear the angels’ pleas to abate the bad weather. Unless those prayers are offered by the new Archangel…

And she also posted an interesting tidbit as well:

What I find intriguing about this book is that there’s no villain. There’s no power struggle between ambitious individuals. It’s all about man vs. the environment, with a healthy dose of man vs. faith.

Yay, I noticed this tidbit while reading the novel too! I kept thinking to myself that it was very interesting that there was no villain to this story. The novel revolves around complex characters, their beliefs, how their lives are all intertwined and how they deal with a world that is rapidly changing. I liked the contrast between the deposed Archangel Delilah: dark, vibrant, and outgoing and her replacement Alleluia (nicknamed Alleya): blonde, reserved and not much of a people person. Delilah has a striking and lovely voice and she has the kind of personality that naturally draws people to her. Alleya, on the other hand, is shy and quiet. The whole land was surprised when the god chose her to replace Delilah and she struggles to give her best in her role as Archangel even though she never wanted to be one. Alleya would much rather have her nose buried inside a book than have political dealings with the influential people of Samaria.

Also included in the fascinating mix of characters are best friends and scientists Caleb and Noah. Although it is set in the same world as Archangel, Samaria is now on the brink of an industrial revolution. Both Caleb and Noah are inventors with their own specializations. It was interesting to note that in a land full of believers, Caleb is a self-proclaimed atheist. He thinks that science has more power over faith and there isn’t enough proof in the world for religion. Like Archangel, there’s a lot of theology thrown in this book but it never becomes overwhelming. I liked Caleb and his insatiable thirst for knowledge and how he can focus on one problem until he arrives at a solution. I know it’s not obvious based on my blog but I was an electronics engineering major back in college (I never practiced and now know next to nothing about the field) so I can somewhat relate to Caleb’s interest in science. I really enjoyed reading about this world and this set of characters and I can just imagine that the rest of the books in the series will be just as wonderful. I wasn’t expecting what happened in the ending but I loved how it all worked out. I think it was just perfect.

Just for fun, I like picking out quotes from books that I read and I note down the ones that resonate with me. This is one taken from one of Alleya and Caleb’s conversation somewhere in the middle of the book:

“If love makes you sad, you acquire a little depth, a little compassion. If it makes you happy, you learn how to be joyous. Every relationship should color your soul to a certain degree, don’t you think? Every friendship, every love affair – each one should build up the chambers of your heart the way a sea creature builds the chamber of his shell.”

And this one is part of one of the final scenes and I’m not going to say any more than that to avoid spoilers:

“Yet the world is the same as it always was. It is merely that you see it with new eyes.”

This can be a standalone novel but I would recommend that the entire series be read because why miss the awesomeness? I, myself, am looking forward to what’s in store in the rest of the series. Here is Sharon Shinn’s suggestion on what order the Samaria books should be read:

The book of mine that is the clear favorite among readers is Archangel, so it’s not a bad idea to start with the Samaria series. I always think they should be read in the order in which they were published: Archangel, Jovah’s Angel, The Alleluia Files, Angelica, and Angel-Seeker. I know some people have read them chronologically, which would change the order to: Angelica, Archangel, Angel-Seeker, Jovah’s Angel, The Alleluia Files.

Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

Ang init! Which means “It’s so hot!” in Filipino. Just had to mention that because it’s really hot nowadays. I can’t believe I’m wishing for the rainy season to start because it’s such a hassle to go around the city when it rains but I think it’s better to have rain than this unbearable heat – high 30s in Celsius (high 90s in Fahrenheit) and very, very humid. You’ll start sweating even right after taking a shower. Now that I have that out of my system, on to the review.

Sapphique is the sequel to Incarceron, which I recently read and reviewed. Warning: This post contains spoilers for Incarceron so if you haven’t read that book, don’t proceed in reading this review. Even the summary has spoilers for the first book.

Here’s the summary from Catherine Fisher’s website:

Finn has escaped from the terrible living Prison of Incarceron, but its memory torments him, because his brother Keiro is still inside. Outside, Claudia insists he must be king, but Finn doubts even his own identity. Is he the lost prince Giles? Or are his memories no more than another construct of his imprisonment? And can you be free if your friends are still captive? Can you be free if your world is frozen in time? Can you be free if you don’t even know who you are? Inside Incarceron, has the crazy sorcerer Rix really found the Glove of Sapphique, the only man the Prison ever loved. Sapphique, whose image fires Incarceron with the desire to escape its own nature. If Keiro steals the glove, will he bring destruction to the world? Inside. Outside. All seeking freedom. Like Sapphique.

If you click on the link here and look up my review of Incarceron, you’ll see that I really enjoyed reading that book. So it should come as no surprise that I had high hopes for its sequel. Sadly, I was disappointed. My friend Moses, who sent me copies of the duology, already mentioned that the sequel isn’t that good but of course, I was still curious. The characters are still the same but Claudia and Finn aren’t the focus of the story anymore. The point of view shifts from Claudia, Finn, Jared to Attia and Keiro. Also, there were some new characters introduced to the story such as Rix.

Finn was able to escape Incarceron but he just went to a different kind of prison. People Outside are still trapped, albeit not in a physical prison, but in lives constricted to following the Protocol. They had to follow the rules governing the seventeenth century and how people lived their lives back then. Outside isn’t the paradise that everyone in Incarceron dreams about. Finn also has to deal with his memory loss. He may be Prince Giles but he doesn’t have much to prove it. Finn’s troubles don’t end there, he also has to worry about his political enemies in court – those who had him sent to Incarceron in the first place and the ones who don’t believe that he really is the lost prince. Claudia has her own set of problems – her father destroyed the Portal and trapped himself in Incarceron and her beloved master Jared’s sickness is getting worse. Meanwhile, Attia and Keiro struggle to find ways to escape and Incarceron grows restless: the prison wants to escape just as much as its inmates.

The changing points of view can be frustrating at times because it would change right after something big happens. A single chapter can contain scenes from various points of view. Like Incarceron, Sapphique is just as fast-paced and also riddled with political intrigue. However, I didn’t feel like the sequel lived up to the first book. I think Charlotte’s comment in my post about Incarceron is applicable to Sapphique:

“There was just so much happening, and I was so busy trying to keep track of things that I never relaxed into it… and I never even finished reading the sequel. It just wasn’t for me. Maybe when I’m older.”

Also, there were a couple of plot threads that were just left hanging. There were too many questions and not enough answers. I was expecting more character development and maybe the shifting narration just wasn’t able to delve deeper into each character. I would still recommend that people who’ve read the first one to read this sequel because you can’t help but be curious and Sapphique would give you closure, so to speak. I can see why others would like this but I echo Charlotte in saying that I guess this just wasn’t for me.

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

I’ve been waiting to read Incarceron ever since I first saw it mentioned in Sounis, the LJ community for Megan Whalen Turner fans. I’ve gotten a lot of great recommendations from members of Sounis and the premise of this was really interesting. I’m glad my friend Moses, who lives in Australia, agreed to get the UK paperback editions for me because I like this edition better and at least the sequel, Sapphique, is already out in the UK edition. He read it before passing it on to me and when I asked what he thought of it, he said that it seems like my kind of book.

Here’s the summary from Catherine Fisher’s website, click on the link to see her inspiration for the book:

Imagine a living prison so vast that it contains corridors and forests, cities and seas. Imagine a prisoner with no memory, who is sure he came from Outside, even though the prison has been sealed for centuries and only one man, half real, half legend, has ever escaped.

Imagine a girl in a manor house in a society where time has been forbidden, where everyone is held in a seventeenth century world run by computers, doomed to an arranged marriage that appalls her, tangled in an assassination plot she both dreads and desires.

One inside, one outside

But both imprisoned.

Imagine a war that has hollowed the moon, seven skullrings that contain souls, a flying ship and a wall at the world’s end.

Imagine the unimaginable.

Imagine Incarceron.

After reading the book, I’m still considering how I feel about it. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked it but I’m not sure if it falls under my favorites list. I might give the sequel a try before I decide. Anyway, the premise of Incarceron is interesting. I admit, I’ve already seen a similar premise back when I read The City of Ember so it’s not new but I have to say that Incarceron is much better. I can’t even remember the details of The City of Ember. Plus Incarceron (the prison) is a sentient being and not just a structure built underground with walls to keep people in.

The start of the book is a little confusing because it dives right into the story but give it a couple of chapters and you’ll be properly engaged. The points of view switch from Finn, the boy inside Incarceron who’s convinced he’s from Outside even if he has no memory of it, and Claudia, the Warden of Incarceron’s daughter. I love the world that Catherine Fisher created. Incarceron was created with the goal of letting people live in a contained, perfect world but it backfired. And while there are problems inside the prison, people outside are trapped in a different way – the law requires that they give up modern conveniences and pretend that they’re stuck in the seventeenth century. Both Claudia and Finn think that the other has it better and they both want to know more about the other person’s environment. But the book isn’t just about Claudia and Finn and how they unravel the mysteries of each other’s worlds. As with all the books that I enjoy reading, a huge aspect of my enjoyment rests on the characters and Incarceron doesn’t disappoint. There’s a cold-blooded queen, a spoiled prince, a wise but sickly tutor, a mysterious oathbrother, a slave turned loyal follower and an inmate consumed with the dream to get out.

Incarceron is an action-packed book filled with political intrigue, plot twists and turns, fascinating characters and a unique setting. It can be read on its own but it will leave you wanting more as there are still some plot threads that need to be resolved. I’m glad I have the sequel on hand because I’m interested to see where the story goes.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

I picked up Unwind because it was chosen as our monthly book read in one of my Goodreads groups. I think I wouldn’t have picked it up otherwise because the premise is kind of creepy.

UnwindHere’s a description of what unwinding means from the movie website:

Twenty years from now, life and death in America have changed…

Genetic engineering has shattered the boundaries of science as we know it.

Life expectancy has increased dramatically.

Organ transplant is at an all time high.

But social, medical and welfare resources are stretched to breaking point.

So, the Government comes up with a solution…

It’s called UNWINDING.

Parents can now “Unwind” their troubled teens – a surgical process by which all of a teen’s body parts are harvested for organ donation. And, according to the law, these teens are not dead, they are just living in a “divided state”.

In this world gone mad, if you’re a teenager, you’re a target until your 18th birthday.

Yes, you’d better start running…

And here’s a summary of the book from Neal Shusterman’s website:

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.

Sorry for the long descriptions, just wanted to provide a clear background to the story because the concept of unwinding can be a little confusing. At first, I though it was a horror story but although the plot is a little creepy, it’s not scary at all. The discussion for this book has started in my Goodreads group and a lot of us found the premise pretty hard to swallow. Unwinding supposedly was the solution that the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice camps agreed upon to end their war against each other. I can’t believe how they can all think that unwinding and living in a divided state is not equal to killing. I suspended my disbelief and went on to read the story because it does tackle interesting and unusual concepts. I had high hopes for this too because the group members who’ve finished reading the book have given it excellent reviews. However, I was never really sucked in by story and I wasn’t into it. The narrative was sloppy and a little chaotic for me, not because of the multiple points-of-view but because I felt like there wasn’t enough explanations for a lot of situations. I felt like the author kept giving facts about the world he created and just expects you to grasp the concept and believe them. For example, there were several mob scenes during the climax of the book but I didn’t think they were properly motivated. I thought the mob was pretty crazy. I don’t know, I may not be doing a good job of describing how I felt about the book but suffice it to say that I was disappointed.

Again, I’d like to say that maybe this book just wasn’t for me and I can certainly see why other people think it’s great. I’m not really into dystopian books and the ones that I ended up liking were The Hunger Games books. If you’re into dystopian or if the premise looks interesting enough for you, I suggest that you give it a try. I’d love to hear what other people think of the book.

I hope the book for our June monthly reading is a lot better! So far, I’ve been disappointed in the past two books.

Archangel by Sharon Shinn

They say that the next trend after vampires will be angels but I don’t think there are a lot of good books about angels out there. Archangel seems to be the exception and it has been recommended a couple of times, I don’t even remember where’s the first time that I saw it. I saw a copy when I picked up A Conspiracy of Kings and decided to get it as well. I know that Angie mentioned that this is one of her favorite angel books so I knew I was in for a treat.

Here’s the summary from Sharon Shinn’s website:

Angels and men exist in harmony on the world of Samaria. Every twenty years, a new Archangel is chosen to govern the land and lead all the people of Samaria in a great musical chorale to honor the god Jovah. But Gabriel, the Archangel-elect, finds himself constantly feuding with Rachel, the bride who has been chosen for him by Jovah—and he is slowly coming to realize that the aging Archangel Raphael has no intention of giving up his power, even if it means all of Samaria could be destroyed.

Oooh and Ms. Shinn also posted her favorite scene from the book. I think that’s my favorite too! I don’t think it’s spoilery so I’ll post it here as well:

My favorite scene: The one where Rachel wakes up under Gabriel’s wing. That’s actually the scene I had in my head most clearly before I started writing the book, so it’s the scene that I worked backward and forward from as I came up with t e rest of the story.

Before I write anything else, I just want to ask what’s up with the cover? I’m going to go ahead and assume that that’s Rachel but what is she holding in her hands, a feather and a glowing ball of some sort? It’s not part of the story at all. I’m glad I’ve heard so many good things about this book because otherwise, I wouldn’t have picked it up based on the strength of its cover alone. I’ve only read one other Sharon Shinn novel and that’s Summers at Castle Auburn. I enjoyed reading that book but it’s YA and Archangel isn’t so I knew that the writing would be somewhat different.

I loved the worldbuilding in this book. The setting is a fictional country called Samaria, where angels co-exist with humans and they pray to the god, Jovah for all kinds of intervention – weather, health and general well-being. All angels are born gifted with incredible musical ability and they pray by singing. Every twenty years, an Archangel is chosen to govern the whole country and every year, the Archangel leads the people in singing a mass, the Gloria, in praise of the god. His angelica (or her angelico if the Archangel is female), the god’s chosen wife (or husband) must sing by the Archangel’s side. If they don’t, the god will strike down lightning from the heavens and destroy the world. Isn’t that interesting? There’s a lot of theology thrown in this book but it’s not preachy and it isn’t too much that you’ll be overloaded with information. I think it’s just enough to show the religion in that world and the strength of the characters’ beliefs.

I also loved the characters in this book. Both Rachel and Gabriel are solid characters. Rachel is strong-willed and very stubborn and even though she knows it’s a great honor, she’s reluctant to become the angelica. Gabriel is arrogant and self-assured but he loves the land and the people and only want what’s the best for them. The story is told from alternating third-person points of view of these two so we get to see how things develop from both sides. I love that even though they’re meant for each other by the god’s mandate, they still have to work for it. It’s definitely not love at first sight and they keep rubbing each other the wrong way. Love-hate relationships for the win! ♥

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I look forward to reading the other books in the Samaria series. I have a feeling they’re going to be great! I also have copies of the first two Twelve Houses and I hope those books are just as good. If you’ve read Ms. Shinn’s work, please leave a comment to tell me what you think of them. Also, what are other angel books that you’ll recommend?