The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

The Near Witch
Victoria Schwab
Publisher: Hyperion Books CH
Release Date: August 2, 2011
Series or Standalone: Standalone
ISBN: 1423137876
Format: ARC
Pages: 288
Ratings: 5 Stars
Wow. The Near Witch is such a lyrical, beautiful debut. I cannot even describe the awe I was in while reading this book.
The first thing about this book that will capture your attention and hold you captivated is the writing. The writing is impeccable. From the first line, the writing captivates your senses: “It starts with a crack, a sputter and a spark.” I found myself in awe of the beauty of the writing. Victoria Schwab is able to write such beautiful descriptions, I literally could picture everything There are so many beautifully written passages. I felt wrapped up in the story because of the writing. Victoria’s writing captivates the senses, literally making you think you can hear the wind and feel the breeze on the moors. It’s amazing the effect her writing has. There are just such beautiful passages and phrases. One of my favorite lines from the entire book is “The wind is lonely.” I think that is such a beautiful sentiment and makes complete sense. Wind is an extremely important element in this book and Victoria is able to capture the many different aspects of wind spot on. While the writing is so beautiful, it does not seem forced. Victoria’s writing seems so effortless, a fact a bet was not true, but it just flows so seamlessly and effortless, a skill some writers can never attain in their writing.
While I could continue on and on about how the writing left me in awe and literally gave shivers because it was so good, I will continue on to the other aspects of the book. I loved the character of Lexi. She is such a strong heroine. In a town were women are supposed to stay at home and take care of the children, Lexi is not afraid to defy authority or her family to fight for what is right. I loved that even though Lexi’s uncle would expressly tell Lexi to stay home and even force her to stay home, she would still manage to escape and try to figure out the mystery of the disappearances. Lexi always had the best intentions in mind, keeping those she loved safe, and would not be influenced by the towns irrational fear of outsiders. When Lexi knows something is wrong, she is willing to stand up a fight, no matter what the consequence. I really loved Lexi’s relationship with her younger sister Wren. You could really feel how much Lexi loves and looks out for her younger sister. Wren is what motivates Lexi to fight for the truth; she is willing to do anything to keep her younger sister safe. That type of love is hard to fake and their relationship immediately jumps off the page and is extremely relatable to any person who has a sibling, or loves some enough to do anything to protect them.
Then there is Cole. Cole is this mysterious enigma. Lexi knows little about him and so do the readers. He is a strange in the town of Near, an outsider, and instant scapegoat. He is a mystery. I loved how his role was unraveled and slowly the mystery behind Cole was peeled away. Cole was definitely a mystery that I liked unraveling. He was so secretive and very sad and I wanted to know why. I also sympathized with him because the people of Near automatically jumped on Cole as the culprit of the disappearance even as he was helping Lexi try a solve the problems. The length that Cole ends up going to help Lexi is extraordinary. You really end up sympathizing with him and hating the men of Near for what they do to him because they think that because he is a strange and arrived right as the disappearance occurred that he must be responsible and he is the only thing that could be responsible.
Once I started this book, I found it nearly impossible to put it down. I was engrossed in the story. The mystery of the disappearance was intriguing and had me turning pages until Lexi figured it out. I really enjoyed the sections of the plot that dealt with Lexi deifying what naturally expected of her and the conflict between herself and her Uncle Otto. Those scenes were some of my favorites. Towards the end of the book, the action really picked up and the last couple of chapters flew by until the book was over. I really liked how Victoria Schwab was able to wrap up everything in the end and I was satisfied with how she chose to end everything.
This book is a must read. It’s stunningly beautiful. I will definitely be picking up a finished copy to have one my bookshelf because it is just so beautifully written and captivating. It left me in awe and I felt I would never be able to explain how this book made me felt. 

Review: Hex Hall

Hex Hall
Rachel Hawkins
Publisher: Hyperion Books CH
Release Date: March 2, 2010
Pages: 323
Source: Bought
Ratings: 5 Stars
Summary (from Goodreads):
Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father–an elusive European warlock–only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.
By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.
As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.
When I first read Hex Hall last year I was immediately blown away. Hex Hall was one of the best books I read in 2010 and probably one of my all time favorites.
The magic, the humor, the story, the characters, everything is just spot on perfect in this book. After I read Hex Hall in one sitting, the next day, I sat down and reread it again because I just loved it so much. Hex Hall is the only book I have ever reread right after reading it for the first time. I wanted to go back in to Sophie’s world immediately after finishing.
Rachel Hawkins knows how to write one funny, kick ass, awesome book that leaves you on the edge of your seat. The writing was spot on perfect. It was the right blend of humor, snark and seriousness when need be. And boy, does Hawkins now how to write one hell of a story with an awesome twist. Seriously, she is like an evil genius with the plot. One funny evil genius.
One of the best things that immediately sucks you into the book is Sophie. Sophie is such a great character and gives the book so much life. From the start, Sophie is just pure awesome. She is so sarcastic and humorous that I was literally laughing aloud. I loved that Sophie was a strong character. Sophie stood up for her friends and stood up for what she believed in; she was always doing what is best and trying to help people, which is how she ended up in Hex Hall in the first place. And then there is my other favorite character, Archer. Now what any book be without some swoony worthy guy? Archer is definitely swoon worthy. Not only is he snarky and funny he is also just sexy. Yeah. And there is definitely more to him than meets to the eye.
Now what would Hex Hall be without magic? In some books, when you add supernatural creatures and magic powers to the mix it just falls flat and feels so forced and just fails. But in Hex Hall the supernatural element just fits in so perfectly. The magic element just feels right and is so important to the story. Magic is just part of Sophie and Sophie’s world, but it doesn’t dominate the story which I really liked. Hex Hall wasn’t just about magic and the supernatural but about the characters and their story and the characters just happened to be different from normal humans.
I could wax on and on for ages about this book but that would bore you. But everyone needs to read this book. Seriously, I will force it into people’s hands at the book store. And the ending will leave you wanting more. There is a great twist at the end that makes Rachel Hawkins an evil genius (and SHE IS AN EVIL GENIUS AS THE SEQUEL WILL SHOW). I did pick up the sequel to this book because how could I resist? I wanted to desperately to see what happens next. This is one of those series that everyone needs to read because of its awesomeness.

Review: Dark Goddess

Dark Goddess
Sarwat Chadda
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Release Date: January 25, 2011 (USA release)
Pages: 384
Source: Bought
Ratings: 4 Stars
Summary (from Goodreads):
New enemies, new romance, and new horrors,
Billi’s back, and it seems like the Unholy just can’t take a hint.
Still reeling from the death of her best friend, Kay, Billi’s thrust back into action when the Templars are called to investigate werewolf activity.  And these werewolves are like nothing Bilil’s seen before. 
They call themselves the Polenitsy – Man Killers. The ancient warrior women of Eastern Europe, supposedly wiped out centuries ago. But now they’re out of hiding and on the hunt for a Spring Child — an Oracle powerful enough to blow the volcano at Yellowstone — precipitating a Fimbulwinter that will wipe out humankind for good.
The Templars follow the stolen Spring Child to Russia, and the only people there who can help are the Bogatyrs, a group of knights who may have gone to the dark side. To reclaim the Spring Child and save the world, Billi needs to earn the trust of Ivan Romanov, an arrogant young Bogatyr whose suspicious of people in general, and of Billi in particular. 
Dark Goddess is a page-turning, action-packed sequel that spans continents, from England to the Russian underworld and back. This is an adventure of folklore and myth become darkly real. Of the world running out of time. And of Billi SanGreal, the only one who can save it.
While visiting London this summer, my one requirement was to visit a book store and pick up this book since here, in the United States, the book is not released until next year. I am extremely glad I did this. I loved Devil’s Kiss the first book featuring Billi SanGreal and I was really looking forward to seeing where Sarwat Chadda would take Billi next.
Dark Goddess, the sequel to Devil’s Kiss, was more than I expected, in a good way. Sarwat Chadda continues Billi’s adventures as a Templar Knight and in this book expands the world Billi lives in. I loved that this book took Billi away from London and brought her, along with the rest of the Templars, to Russia where we get to meet the Russians equivalent of the Templars. Russia provides Billi many more challenges and has her continuing to question herself and her duty as a Templar.
In the Dark Goddess, the events from the previous book have truly taken a toll on Billi. In this book, Billi, who still have those characteristics I love about her, such as her stubbornness and devotion to those she loves, has been deeply effected by the previous events in her life. Billi has grown as a character, and continues to grow even more because of the events of these books. I often forgot that Billi is a fifteen year old girl. She seems more mature that because of the harsh life she has been subjected to as a Templar. Even though Billi gets put through more events that have her questioning her beliefs, I love that she stayed true to herself and ended up growing up even more from her experiences.
One of my favorite parts about this book was that it took place in Russia and that in Russia we met a whole new set of characters. I must confess, I have a weird love of Russia and really would love going there and I was so glad that Billi got to go there in this book. I also really loved how Sarwart Chadda took the Russian myth of Baba Yaga and made it his own. I’ve read a few different takes on Baba Yaga and I really like his spin on her and how well it fit with the story. Along with just loving Russia, the characters Sarwart Chadda introduced to us in Russia are probably some of my favorite. I loved Ivan Alexeivich Romanov, even if he did fulfill Kay’s role in this book. Ivan is basically a male version of Billi, and I loved that what you see with him is not what you get. He is battling many personal battles, like Billi, and it was interesting to see his story revealed.
Overall, I truly enjoyed Dark Goddess and ended up reading it all in one sitting. I think I ended up enjoying this book more than it predecessor, probably cause it had Russia in it (just kidding). I found this book very enjoyable, and the ending left me wanting more since it was left opening, hopefully for a sequel to help resolve it. I was not disappointed in my buy in the UK and extremely glad I brought it. Definitely check this book out when it is released in the US.

Review: Only the Good Spy Young

Only the Good Spy Young
Ally Carter
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH
Release date: June 29, 2010
Pages: 240

Rating: 5 Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):

When Cammie Morgan enrolled at the Gallagher Academy, she knew she was preparing for the dangerous life of a spy. What she didn’t know was that the serious, real-life danger would start during her junior year of high school. But that’s exactly what happened two months ago when she faced off against an ancient terrorist organization dead set on kidnapping her. 

Now the danger follows her everywhere and even Cammie “The Chameleon” can’t hide. When a terrifying encounter in London reveals that one of her most-trusted allies is actually a rogue double-agent Cammie no longer knows if she can trust her classmates, her teachers—or even her own heart. 

In this fourth installment of the New York Times best-selling series, the Gallagher Girls must hack, spy, steal, and lie their way to the truth as they go searching for answers, recognizing that the key to Cammie’s future may lie deep in the past….

I am going to go all fan girly on this review because I absolutely loved this book. Ally Carter exceeded all expectations with this fourth installment in the Gallagher Girls series. I brought this book and could not stop reading it once I started it was that good. 

I am going to try to keep this as spoiler free as possible because, believe me, there are tons of spoilers. This book was so jammed packed with mysteries, adventure, betrayals, action, and romance. I loved every minute of reading it. 

Starting from the first chapter, literally, Ally Carter takes you on an amazing read. The story starts right away and does not let you go until the last page, leaving you dying for more. So much happen in this installment of the Gallagher Girls series, answering many questions I was left with from prior books. It’s really hard to try to keep this review non-spoilery because much of the awesomeness of this book is from many of the secrets that were revealed. 

This series has grown so much from its first book, I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You. I love now that the plots are less frivolous, and more real. Your truly seeing the dangerous of being a spy and the difficult decisions that Cammie must make. This book, by far, is currently my favorite in the series. It had everything I have come to expect in the Gallagher Girls series and so much more. I was literally yelling at the characters and points and gasping at others, it was so good. 

The fifth book in the Gallagher Girls series better come out soon because the ending of the book had me dying. I cannot wait to see what happens next with Cammie after what she decided to do in the ending. The fifth book cannot be written soon enough. I will definitely be picking that book up as soon as possible.