The Holders (Holders #1) by Julianna Scott

12:27 PM

Title: The Holders
Author: Julianna Scott
Publish Date: March 5, 2013
Publisher: Strange Chemistry 
Pages: 320
Other Books in the Series: N/A
Buy the Book: Barnes & Noble
Rating: ★★★★★

17-year-old Becca spent her whole life protecting her brother from, well, everything. The abandonment of their father, the so called 'experts' who insist that voices in his head are unnatural and must be dealt with, and the constant threat of being taken away to some hospital and studied like an animal. When two representatives appear claiming to have the answers to Ryland's perceived problem, Becca doesn't buy it for one second. That is until they seem to know things about Ryland and about Becca and Ryland's family, that forces Becca to concede that there may be more to these people than meets the eye. Though still highly skeptical, Becca agrees to do what's best for Ryland.

What they find at St. Brigid's is a world beyond their imagination. Little by little they piece together the information of their family's heritage, their estranged Father, and the legend of the Holder race that decrees Ryland is the one they've been waiting for. However, they are all--especially Becca--in for a surprise that will change what they thought they knew about themselves and their kind.

She meets Alex, a Holder who is fiercely loyal to their race, and for some reason, Becca and Ryland. There's an attraction between Becca and Alex that can't be denied, but her true nature seems destined to keep them apart. However, certain destinies may not be as clear cut as everyone has always believed them to be.

Becca is lost, but found at the same time. Can she bring herself to leave Ryland now that he's settled and can clearly see his future? Will she be able to put the the feelings she has for Alex aside and head back to the US? And can Becca and Ryland ever forgive their father for what he's done?

It's hard to forgive and forget. It's hard to give up the role of protector. It's hard to know whether the choices made are the right ones or the wrong ones. Becca knows all about these hardships and it's something she battles with from the moment they arrive at St. Brigid's. If only that was the only thing she had to face.

I really love this story and here's my reasons why.

The Holders by Julianna Scott tells the story of Becca, a seventeen-year-old, as she protects her brother Ryland from the people that seem to only want to take him from her. Ever since he began hearing voices or rather thoughts, psychiatrists and doctors have been constantly trying to take him away but of course, it is for his own good. They can help him. Becca doesn't buy it. So when she comes home from work to find him hiding because their mother has decided to send him away, she is extremely angry. But these two men claim to be different. She is about to find out just how much. Determined to not leave Ryland alone with these men, she convinces them to let her come along until he is settled. But quickly it becomes clear that as relationships, friendships, and feelings of security developed, the desire to go home is blurred to the point that she questions whether she should leave at all. Will she? Or rather, can she?

Becca is strong willed, feisty, protective, and very loving. I guess the whole love and protect thing intertwines but I think love is the a very soft emotion while protectiveness can be a hardening emotion. From the beginning, I could tell how much of a parental role she had taken in her family. If her father wasn't going to be there to protect them, she was going to do his job. Her attitude is less stubborn and more strong willed, she isn't outright stubborn just to be stubborn and she is open to all the other options out there but once she's formed an opinion, her ideas are hard to sway. Honestly, I love her. I like that she is an open, forgiving person. It's not to say that she can't hold a grudge, because she can, but she doesn't get upset over the little things that people typically freak out over. She is the type of character that I love reading and wish that I could be more like.

I was excited that the romance or rather the potential romance was introduced basically from the beginning. I mean, it's not like I am all about the romance but when there is some, I like when it's set up right and not delayed until the middle of the story. Plus, it's a great subplot throughout the whole story. Alex actually had a big part outside of being the love interest of Becca and I love that. It's hard when the love interest is simply the love interest and that's their only purpose. During the story, I got to realize what role he played in the Holder world and why his loyalty to the race is so important. The blossoming relationship between Alex and Becca takes a toll on him though sometimes I think his actions are completely necessary. Anyway, he's gorgeous and wonderful. Totally swoon worthy.

I think Becca has a tense relationship with both her parents but it's pretty understandable. Sadly, her mother didn't play as much of a part as I would've liked and in fact, after awhile she isn't really mentioned. I think I would've liked to see more of the dynamic of the mother daughter relationship. Although, her father, Jocelyn (LOL it's such a girl name), plays a lot bigger part despite the fact that Becca hates him. Her father abandoned her as well as her mother and brother just after Ryland was born and that cut her pretty deep. Mostly because he hadn't told them he was leaving like a normal person, no instead he had left a letter meant to tear her mother apart. How can she forgive that? She is forced to face him once again when she travels to St. Brigid's and all of the hurt resurfaces. Throughout the story, she determines he doesn't care that much for her and he is controlling like he knows what she should do with her life. She worries that he wants her to be like him and that is why she pushes him away.

Chloe can be described as Becca's best friend. She is super bubbly which makes her just plain entertaining to read. I've met a lot of people who fit her description and it can be overwhelming as well as exhausting, for it is hard to keep up with them. Chloe is great though, I was glad that Becca wasn't surrounded by men the whole time and that she had a girlfriend like Chloe. They balanced each other out very well. 

Ryland is a great little brother. In the beginning he is super shy and scared of everything which makes him depend on Becca a lot throughout the beginning. But once they arrive at St. Brigid's, he grows into a greater person. He has found people that understand him and his condition and with a charm made to help him control his powers, the voices disappeared. He finally has a chance to be normal. I love that I got to see how much he grew through that short period of time. I love that he didn't necessarily need Becca to fight his battle or protect him from everything. 

Min, Mr. Anderson, Mr. Reid, and Cormac are all Holders that either work at St. Brigid's or work with the Order, which is basically a whole bunch of powerful Holders. They all provide needed comedic relief for the tense scenes when I knew that Becca might break down or collapse from being overloaded with information. I love all the wisdom and power that these characters bring to the story even if they don't play a huge part. It's a wonderful group of characters and I adore them all.

The bad guys honestly didn't play that much of a part in most of the story besides being mentioned. Even when a threat of danger is mentioned, the real bad guy didn't play any part in it. The character, though, is set up in such a way that I can't wait for him to be introduced in future stories and see what happens when all my favorite characters must make hard choices. All of the bad guys have been set up wonderfully and the anticipation will kill me until I get to actually read the next book.

I really love this book. I want the sequel... if only. It's an addicting read that keeps you hanging on until the last page and leaves you entirely enchanted with the whole story. If you weren't planning on reading it, I think you should. It's a must read. Don't miss this story!


Erebos by Ursula Poznanski and translated by Judith Pattinson

10:20 PM

Title: Erebos
Author: Ursula Pozananski
Translator: Judith Pattinson
Publish Date: January 19, 2012
Publisher: Annick Press
Pages: 434
Buy the Book: Barnes & Noble
Rating: ★★★★★

An intelligent computer game with a disturbing agenda.

When 16-year-old Nick receives a package containing the mysterious computer game Erebos, he wonders if it will explain the behavior of his classmates, who have been secretive lately. Players of the game must obey strict rules: always play alone, never talk about the game, and never tell anyone your nickname.

Curious, Nick joins the game and quickly becomes addicted. But Erebos knows a lot about the players and begins to manipulate their lives. When it sends Nick on a deadly assignment, he refuses and is banished from the game.

Now unable to play, Nick turns to a friend for help in finding out who controls the game. The two set off on a dangerous mission in which the border between reality and the virtual world begins to blur. This utterly convincing and suspenseful thriller originated in Germany, where it has become a runaway bestseller. 

It's such an awesome read. I loved it.

Erebos by Ursula Poznanski captures the reader's attention from the get go. It is the story of Nick, a sixteen-year-old who doesn't exactly have the best home life, as he becomes immersed in this virtual world. However, the lines between virtual and real become blurred as he is sent on missions not only in the game but also in his real life. There is no questioning in his mind that whatever this game maybe, it is definitely worth doing some measly missions to keep playing. His addiction continues to grow stronger as the missions continue to grow harder until he reaches his breaking point. Does he do what the game says and risk his real life or ignore his mission and be banned from this world he slowly can't see living without? 

This story is incredibly well written. Everything seems to be so fleshed out that I can see myself chilling with Nick as he travels through the novel, struggling with his addiction. The descriptions are perfect in my mind because they give enough of an image to place the reader in the scene without bogging down the narrative of the story. All of the places Nick visits feel familiar, for they are familiar to him. It was so easy to allow myself to sink into the character and never want to get out. 

The game is pure epic-ness and I could totally see myself playing it... which is bad. Yeah, oh well, I would totally play it. Even though it's sort of creepy and weird. And I would probably run away when they asked me to do something in real life but I would play it. Anyway, onto the review:

Nick was a pretty cool character, he is very relatable from the beginning. At least, I can see my friends acting like he does in the first chapter. I smiled a lot through all of the interactions he had with other people because he (and yup, I am a she) reminds me of myself. Addictive personalities run in my family and so it's really easy for me to become addicted to television shows and book series which leads me to replay until the show quits working or reread until the binding of the book is worn out. It was refreshing to see his behavior as an accurate portrayal of what addiction really looks like, especially when that person feels like they are sworn to secrecy. I personally like that he becomes attached to the game, well truthfully everyone does, and that he doesn't exactly try to hide his excitement even if he redirects it to something complete separate. After all, he is sworn to secrecy.

All of his friends play an interesting part of the story. Colin, who is introduced at the very beginning of the first chapter, is essentially Nick's best friend. Which is why he finds it disturbing to have his friend suddenly stop showing interest in him, in the things they did, and really anything in general. Of course, he takes interest in whatever the issue is and pushes to know more, although it is extremely dangerous. Their friendship is constantly shifting from they can tolerate each other to they can't even stand to be in the same room. 

The next "friend" I want to bring up is Brynne. She is a case A girl who thinks her unrequited crush is definitely requited. It surprised me, though, how much of a part she actually had to play in the story. The awkward side plot love interests are typically forgotten once the real one comes along but she just keeps popping up. She totally reminds me of my brother's stalker. LOL but that's a story for a completely different time. Anyway, she is probably one of the most interesting characters of the whole story because she has a lot of depth and drive in what she does. It's funny to see how people react in real life and then in the game. I totally had no idea who her character was until the end and I was basically blown away.

Helen. I almost don't know quite how to describe her because I don't think I will describe her well enough. She is basically the girl that everyone picks on and she knows that she will never be a popular kid or even a normal one. From the first point she is introduced, I knew that I would feel a lot of regret by the end of the story for how Nick and his friends treated her. It's not hard to believe that she was pulled into the game because it seemed like it targeted people who were down or lost. Even until the very end, I felt an undying sympathy towards the girl who was mistreated and definitely misunderstood.

The last character I am going to talk about is the real love interest of the whole story, Emily. I really wish she would've played a bigger part in the beginning because I liked her character as the story progressed. At first she came off a bit abrasive and just not very interesting as the main romance for Nick. She slowly came to her sense, so to speak, and became to awesome character I knew she would be. I definitely approve of the Nick and Emily relationship, just throwing it out there, because I didn't at first.

This book was great. I really really loved it. It's worth reading and it gives you the chills. It sucks you in until you feel like you just can't not read it in one sitting. Seriously, check it out.


The Hangman in the Mirror by Kate Cayley

8:05 PM

Title: The Hangman in the Mirror
Author: Kate Cayley
Publish Date: July 7, 2011
Publisher: Annick Press
Pages: 229
Buy the Book: Barnes & Noble
Rating: ★★

"A strong-willed 16-year-old girl fights for survival in 18th-century North America. "

Francoise Laurent has never had an easy life. The only surviving child of a destitute washerwoman and wayward soldier, she must rely only on herself to get by. When her parents die suddenly from the smallpox ravishing New France, Francoise sees it as a chance to escape the life she thought she was trapped in.

Seizing her newfound opportunity, Francoise takes a job as an aide to the wife of a wealthy fur trader. The poverty-ridden world she knew transforms into a strange new world full of privilege and fine things -- and of never having to beg for food. But Francoise's relationships with the other servants in Madame Pommereau's house are tenuous, and Madame Pommereau isn't an easy woman to work for. When Francoise is caught stealing a pair of her mistress's beautiful gloves, she faces a future even worse than she could have imagined: thrown in jail, she is sentenced to death by hanging. Once again, Francoise is left to her own devices to survive . . . Is she cunning enough to convince the prisoner in the cell beside her to become the hangman and marry her, which, by law, is the only thing that could save her life?

Based on an actual story and filled with illuminating historical detail, "The Hangman in the Mirror" transports readers to the harsh landscape of a new land that is filled with even harsher class divisions and injustices.

The Hangman in the Mirror by Kate Cayley tells the story of a girl named Francoise as she struggles through life in New France. Her parents are poor and there is no hope for her rising beyond the situation that she was born into. Ever since she was small, it's been her greatest desire to be like the ladies that stroll around the more desirable parts of New France. She wants the pretty dresses, the air of importance, and she definitely already has enough pride for the part. It is a tale of her rise and fall as a New France lady.

I typically really like historical fiction. But this one just didn't do anything for me. I felt like I was reading Wuthering Heights all over again (and yes, I don't like that one either). For those of you who love Wuthering Heights, I believe you would like this but me personally... Yeah. I just couldn't do it.

Francoise is the main character of the story. You are introduced to her in a way that makes you sympathize and want her to succeed in her endeavor to rise in the ranks of society. It's hard not to feel pity for her as she struggles to help her mother with her business and keep her dad from making trouble. It's obvious that her home life is horrible, she has no moral support from either parent and they could care less if she did anything stupid. But once her parents die, I lost all sympathy for the girl who should've been born into a better life. She gets her dream job as a maid to the lady of a wealthy household. It seems like her life is looking up but once again, I begin to not like her. She becomes cold and callous to the people she'd once considered her friends. When she got thrown into jail, I kind of didn't know whether I should feel bad or smile.

Now, here's what I do love. This story definitely has no trouble transporting you back into the time of New France, even if you do hate your companion. I loved the way everything is brought to life on the page and you can count the characters. Everything seems very real and tangible. It's like you are living Francoise life but I definitely would have done things differently.

The ending was a tad disappointing for me. It seemed like the story ended on what I would've considered the climax and that bugged me. I was finally getting back into the story, curious about what was going to happen, and then BAM! It's over. I kind of wanted to pull my hair out in frustration. Really? I am intrigued and it ends? 

Once again, if you like Wuthering Heights, check this story out. I personally don't so that's probably my problem. 


The Battle for Acranon Major (The Lost Dacomé #1) by Alexandra May

10:14 PM

Title: The Battle for Acranon Major
Author: Alexandra May
Publish Date: January 13, 2013
Publisher: Pauma Publishing
Pages: 130
Buy the Book: Amazon
Rating: ★★★★

With only a small army at her command Halíka Dacomé, a skilled warrior and daughter of the Elemental King, is ready to lead one final battle to save her planet. A battle against the savage, bloodthirsty Primords who want to extinguish the diminished race of Elementals once and for all.

But before battle commences her father is given an ultimatum from the enemy leader, Arfron Uhnok. If the king agrees, Halíka Dacomé must marry Arfron Uhnok to prevent further bloodshed. If the king disagrees they, as a race, will all perish.

Horrified by her fathers decision Halíka Dacomé leads her army onward regardless of the consequences. Because her heart belongs to another. A love that blossomed many years ago. A love that her father has forbidden.

Halíka faces her toughest battle yet and learns that not all battles are those fought with a sword...

The Battle for Arcanon Major is an epic love story set against the backdrop of war and is the first Prequel to Elemental: The First

I've always been wary of prequels to books, mostly because they can either frustrate your desire to read more of the books or excite you to love the characters more. Honestly, if the word prequel is attached, I tend to avoid them completely. I am pleased and excited to say that I am glad that I read this one.

The Battle for Acranon Major by Alexandra May is a sort of backstory for what is happening in the book Elemental: The First. In the prequel, you are introduce to a unique world that is different from our own. These people, Elementals, are far more advanced than any human civilization and yet there is something about them that lingers far enough back in history that you know they aren't modern day characters. It doesn't take long before you are attached to the characters, to the world, to their lives.

Halíka Dacomé is the center character for the story, bringing a character that I've been familiar with since I read Elemental: The First. Instead of viewing her as a hardened warrior, a vicious being, and an Elemental without feeling, I learned just how deep this character actually was. I never understood what was so amazing about her until I read this. She has so many dimensions, so many roles to play in this hierarchical culture she was born into. Her main quality as a character in the beginning is loyalty -- loyalty to her father, loyalty to her people, and loyalty to the person everyone expects her to be. It becomes clear as the story progresses, loyalty must be the first thing to go. She is a beautiful character because of how well developed and written she is. In such a short story, I became attached to her and fell in love with her story.

Now, I really want to focus on the aftermath of the broken loyalty. The first thing I noticed was the fact that those closest to her were often the source of the greatest betrayal. Her friendships were her greatest weak point in her armor and it was definitely exploited throughout the story. She is such a strong character but I think her loyalty stems from trust which often connects with innocence to the betrayals of friends and family. I wanted to shake her for being naive and yet I cannot place any blame on her because her innocence and naivety reminds me a lot of myself.

Don't get me wrong when I say that the betrayals frustrated me (although they were important to the plot) and that the relationships she created were a source of anxiety for me. Who do you trust? Who can you trust? That is something that the main character battles with throughout the story. I love the characters that made up her group of friends because just like the main character, they are as well developed and interesting. I was sad to not learn more about her father or the bad guys of the story but of course, the story was short. The romance in the story was good and I loved the forbidden twist to it which I know can only lead to greater heartache. All of the characters that played a part in the story were great and definitely made a great impression on me.

Woohoo! I get to talk about my favorite thing: the world the author created. There is nothing quite like when an author executes a fantasy world and manages to make it connect so well with the reader's opinion of a fantasy world. I never once thought, "Oh this world is weird," or "This simply isn't believable." I completely bought into the world and could make connections between Earth and this world the author had brought to life on the page. I love when stories do that. 

This story is an epic prequel to what I believe will be a great series, especially if it continues to follow the pattern of this story. It can be read prior to Elemental: The First or after but it definitely fills in a lot of blanks that are left at the end of Elemental.