Monday, December 30, 2013

Let's Discuss The Series End

I used to look forward to series ends. 

I loved the feeling of getting to know characters over the course of several books, becoming emotionally invested in their struggles and triumphs and then letting them go at the end of their journey and in a place that is better off than when I met them. Usually the world is a little safer place and they've found friends, family and a love that will carry into the future. 

Now anticipating series conclusions just give me an anxiety attack. 


I'm going to stop a minute before I continue and tell you something about myself.

1) I am an unequivocal fan of the HEA. Or rather the realists version of the HEA, which sometimes just means the characters finally get a little peace. To me this also includes the girl getting her guy. I'm pretty unapologetic about that for a series. After several books of watching a couple struggle, get torn apart, fight for survival etc, I want them to be happy. I don't care if that's unliterary or uncool of me. However, I don't like magical solitons that fix problems without taking into account the reality of the world in which the MC is living or the situations s/he's encountered. I'm also not a fan of generously handing out immortality, unless it makes sense for the characters, or one in the couple is already immortal (this is a larger discussion for another day).

Examples: Two controversial series ends that I liked: I actually consider the very end of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins to fit into the Good End category (most often, I don't mind epilogues), I also liked the end of Forever by Maggie Stiefvater, even though it's a lot more open ended. In both, I felt like I left the characters in a safe place, with enough hope to let them go. I thought the end of Boundless by Cynthia Hand fell into the Magical Solution category, and I was not a fan of that epilogue (sorry! - I also have lots and lots to say about this book, but will refrain here).

2) A series is nothing without its end.  I know not everyone will feel this way  - maybe I'm the only one - but how a series ends clouds the entire experience for me. If a book ends in a way that is disappointing or depressing, I have a hard time seeing the entire series in a positive light. In other words, how I send characters off into the future means a great deal to me. Especially after feeling emotionally attached to them throughout several books where they inevitably suffered.

Example: I wasn't a big fan of the end of Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle series, and that has affected my feelings about the whole experience. To be fair, this series petered out for me a bit as it continued. On the other hand, I love the end of Jeri Smith-Ready's Shade series, which has made me see the whole trilogy in a much more positive light, even though book two is a love triangle disliker's nightmare (think love-pentagram). The books mentioned in the next section also fit this example.

This year the excitement and faith I've always had in the end of series has been shaken with some disappointing conclusions. (I'm all about numbering things today:)

1) I still don't understand what happened. I've read a few endings this year where my vision for the series all of a sudden seemed to sharply veer away from the author's, so much so that I've questioned my original love for the series. These are books that have left me feeling sadder than when I started the series, as well as upset at myself for getting so emotionally attached to a story that left me feeling depressed. Main characters died, the wrong guy got the girl, the series had no real conclusion or it seemed like the characters entered a mind warp and weren't who I remembered they were in the beginning. I will fully admit that several of these had to do with the dreaded love triangle, which is why I have upped my efforts to avoid them. 

Examples: Books that fit into this category are Boundless by Cynthia Hand (because of the way the triangle was handled) and Allegiant by Veronica Roth. Not just because of the ultimate conclusion, which did hurt. But for the slow pacing, lack of direction and info dumping. I completely avoided reading Requiem by Lauren Oliver, but I'm confident that I wouldn't have liked it either.  

2) It's not you, it's me. Or, maybe it is you after all. For a few series I read this year, I finally got to the third book and just didn't care anymore. This inevitably has to do with series that I've read spread out over a few years. I'm not a big rereader so some of this is my fault. After investing in so many series at the same time, some naturally have gone by the wayside, but it's sad to pick up a final book in a series that I had previously loved and feel a lackluster connection to the characters and conclusion. I'm not sure how to fix this except to wait to read series until several books are out, but that's not always realistic.  Even so, I do feel like if I was that invested in the beginning of the series, I should like it in the end. If I'm not anymore, than maybe it's not me, it's you? 

Examples: Infinityglass* by Myra McEntire and Goddess by Josephine Angelini. I'm not sure whether I'd like them better as a whole if I'd read them in full this year, or if my reaction would be the same? These ends were both positive, I just didn't care as much as I'd hoped once I got there. 

*I liked Infinityglass, but the series as a whole lost its momentum in the last book.

3) Good Endings. I don't want to make it sound like I disliked every series conclusion I read this year. I have read some ends that I've loved. It's just that my previous mental surety that I'm guaranteed to love them always has been completely shaken. 

Examples: A few of my favorite series ends this year were Eternally Yours by Cate Tiernan and The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson (I read both series close together too, btw.) I also just finished Champion by Marie Lu, and I'm going to throw it into this category, even though I was hesitant about it right when I finished it. 

Looking ahead, I just finished two early 2014 series ends that I liked a lot. Infinite by Jodi Meadows and Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi. 

Where is the lesson here? 

I don't know if there's anything that I can do to combat Bad Ending in the year 2014, unless I try to remain emotionally detached from books, which is virtually impossible for me. I have a lot of favorite series coming to an end next year, and I'm nervous. But I'm going to read them anyway, obviously. Waiting for others' reactions generally psychs me out, so I'm just going to read them right as they release. As for new series coming out, I'm trying my best to avoid anything that might even hint at a triangle, because that's where most of my disappointment about endings has been located. I'm also trying to be more selective about starting first books until sequels are out, because I usually feel better connected when I can read thru a series at once. Even so, it's not always realistic for me wait. I think it's more fun to read series when a rush of friends is reading it at the same time, because my favorite is discussing books I love. Basically, I'm going to start anticipating the worst and hoping for the best. 

 Some of the series ending this year that I'm excited/nervous about reading. 
What series ends are you anticipating?

Tell me about your own experience with the series end. 

Does it give you anxiety or make you excited? 

How do you face a conclusion?

Monday, December 23, 2013

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

All Our Yesterdays 
by Cristin Terrill
Read: December 8 - 10, 2013
Published: September 3, 2013 by Disney Hyperion
Source: BEA
Category: Time travel, Sci-fi, YA 

Series: All Our Yesterdays # 1
Find: Goodreads | Amazon'

"You have to kill him." Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside. 

Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was. 

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice. 

All Our Yesterdays was one of my most anticipated fall books, but because I was so excited to read it, I got a tad paralyzed about starting the story when it released in September. I was afraid it wouldn't live up to the hype I've heard and also manufactured in my head. I finally picked up All Our Yesterdays at the end of the year in my effort to read 2013 books that I'd missed before 2014 begins. I'm very thankful that I did, because this story was completely amazing and definitely a favorite of the year!

Em is imprisoned in a cell in an unidentified government facility. She is tortured daily by sadistic men she calls the Doctor and the Dictator, and her only companion and confidant is Finn, the boy in the cell next to hers, who's humor and encouragement has become her lifeline. When Em discovers a list of instructions written in her own hand that says "you have to kill him", she knows that she must act to prevent the destruction of the world happening all around her. 

Marina is a teen who seems to have everything - she is wealthy, has popular friends and goes to one of the best private schools in DC. But she still hasn't gotten the one thing she really wants. Marina is in love with her brilliant best friend and neighbor James, and he has no idea. James is so smart that he skipped several grades and is now in college working on his masters. He's just come home for the winter holiday, and Marina is determined to tell him how she feels. 

If you haven't guessed already, All Our Yesterdays features time travel. If that makes you nervous, the travel in this book is both complex and manageable. It made my head spin a bit at the end, but I was able to grasp it, and also found it completely fascinating. I think it made me feel smarter too. 

I'm sure you're also wondering how Em, Marina, Finn and James all fit together. Or maybe you already know. Although I'm not going to tell you, just in case you don't, what I love about the four of them is the way that Terrill was able to make me sympathize with them, especially Em and Marina. Although I fell a little harder for Em, I thought both of their characterizations were believable.  I also loved the relationships between the characters and within themselves. There are some lovely and poignant reflective scenes in this book, especially as Em and Finn consider their past. 

It's tricky to talk about the romance in All Our Yesterdays without giving anything away. The simple answer is that there is no love triangle, though possibly a Linear Love Progression, but it's one that I wouldn't fret about if I were you. The way it plays out is integral to this book, and it's something that I really enjoyed. I liked seeing the ways the romance matured and steadied over time, along with the growth of the characters.

All Our Yesterdays has swift moving action and a really well constructed plot. The way the story and time travel weaves together is exciting and kept me turing the pages fast, especially near the end where everything culminates in an explosive conclusion. This is a 2013 book not to miss! 

Love Triangle Factor: Between None and It's Complicated
Cliffhanger Scale: Low - This is one of those ends that seems deceptively quiet, as if it could be a completed standalone. But I have a lot of questions about the last two chapters, and I know this is a duet. I'm hoping the sequel moves the story forward instead of just backtracking! But still I'm excited to read it. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Let's discuss The DNF


One of the first bookish terms I learned when I started blogging, was DNF, which quickly figured out meant Did Not Finish (a book. Runners also use the term for races.) You can even add suffixes and say "I'm DNFing this story," even though it doesn't work out very well grammatically. Although I quickly deciphered the term, The DNF remained an illusive and mysterious entity, because of my complete inability to accomplish it. 

I've talked about this before, but I have trouble putting down a book once I've started it, even when I'm not liking it. I'm still curious about what happens, I feel obligated to finish the story, or I'm desperately hoping that if I keep going, the book will get better. It usually doesn't. I've felt like I'm giving up on something if I don't finish, even while I've envied the people who could quickly determine whether a book was for them, and put it down with ease if it wasn't. 

As a blogger and book lover, I read a lot. Many of the books I read are ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies. That's another term I learned) that publishers are asking me to promote. I want to give their story a fair shot, but as a very moody and frankly selfish reader, I don't want to spend my time on a story that just isn't going anywhere for me. It's taken me some time to balance those thoughts in my head, but near the end of this year I finally started letting books go and successfully DNFed four of them. 

I think my increasing pile of review books had something to do with my new found DNFing Superpower. I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed with all of them, but have wanted to at least give them a chance. I've also figured out how to trick myself into a DNF pretty successfully. What I'll do is put a book "on hold" for a week or more if I'm not that into it, and if I feel zero interest in picking it back up again after that time, I'll throw it into the DNF pile. Maybe I'll pick one of those books up again if something changes, but probably not. 

You know what? Instead of being stressful, it's actually a freeing feeling to let a book go that I'm not enjoying. I don't rate them on Goodreads, because I haven't read them in full, but I have tried to write why I've stopped reading them in an honest but constructive way. I mean, a publisher's sole marketing doesn't rest on my shoulders, and if I don't like a book and DNF because of that, someone better suited to the story will finish and gush about it.  

Now I want to hear from you!

What are your own experiences with The DNF?

Are you easily able to determine if a book isn't for you 
or do you always keep reading until the end?  

If you're a DNFer, do you try to read to a certain point in the story before deciding to let it go?

Talk to me! 


P.S. I hope everyone is having a lovely holiday season! I'll be spending time with family over the next two weeks and reading a lot of course, but I'll be slowing down on blogging. I plan to still post but probably less frequently. I'll be back for sure in the New Year. 

Also, as usual, I'm not good at adding relevant gifs to a post so I've included some of my recent instagrams that have zero to do with this topic. Enjoy!

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse
by Marie Rutkoski 
Read: November 18 - 19, 2013
Published:  March 4, 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) **UPCOMING**
Source: NetGalley - thank you Macmillan! 
Category: High fantasy, political intrigue, dual narration, YA
Series: The Winner's Curse book 1 of 3
Find: Goodreads | Amazon 

In the tradition of Kristin Cashore and Cassandra Clare* comes this brilliant, unputdownable, star-crossed romance about the curse of winning.

Seventeen-year-old Kestrel is an aristocratic citizen of Valoria, a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers. Here, a girl like Kestrel has two choices: join the military or get married. Despite her skills in military strategy, Kestrel’s real passion is music.Which is why she feels compelled to buy Arin, a slave with a talent for singing, at auction. It’s not long before she finds herself falling in love with Arin, and he seems to feel the same for her. But Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for Arin is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a new world, The Winner’s Curse is a story of wicked rumors, dirty secrets, and games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

* I wouldn't compare this book to Cassandra Clare, but I would compare it to high fantasy by Melina Marchetta, Megan Whalen Turner, Cat Hellisen and Rae Carson. They are some of my favorite fantasy EVER, which means high praise for this book. 

Five reasons you should preorder this book for Christmas and then count down the days until it releases in March: 

1) A girl buys a boy at a slave auction.

The first thing I heard about The Winner's Curse was that above statement, and it hooked me immediately. When I started reading, I was worried the story wouldn't be as compelling as its set up. Instead, it exceeded my expectations.  If you love fantasy, intrigue, political maneuvering, romance, or good books in general, this one is for you. 

Kestrel is an aristocrat and a Valorian, a people who are known for their military might. Even more, she is the daughter of the well respected general who conquered the peninsula where she lives. That means even more power and wealth. What Kestrel doesn't have, though, is a whole lot of freedom, because girls in her society are expected to either marry or join the military when they come of age. Kestrel doesn't want to do either option. But until she is forced to decide makes a decision, she's is not allowed out in society without a chaperone. Thankfully, Kestrel is able to count her best friend as a companion. One day Kestrel and Jess are out shopping, and they end up stuck at a slave auction that is happening in the center of town. The event makes Kestrel uncomfortable, but when a boy comes up for sale, and the auctioneer says he can sing, Kestrel finds herself buying him. 

Several years ago the Valorian military conquered this peninsula, subjugating the native Herrani people in the process. Arin is one of the conquered, whom the Valorians treat as hardly better than animals. He is a slave trained as a blacksmith and will be valuable in Kestrel's father's home where there are guards and weapons being made. That's why Kestrel buys him, or rather why she tells herself that she purchases him. She doesn't want to admit that it's because she learned of their shared love of music, even though Arin refused to sing at the auction when prompted, and the Valorians look down on Kestrel's piano playing. Maybe she likes his defiance a little bit too.  

2) Kestrel is as strong and kick-butt as your favorite heroine, but she's not a great fighter, and Arin is more than just a slave. 

One of my favorite things about Kestrel is that she's not your typical kickass heroine. As much as I love reading about girls who can beat any man in a physical fight, Kestrel is power is her mind, and she's better off for it. Her ability to outthink almost anyone is her most valuable asset. She is basically unbeatable at gambling and games, much to the dismay of the wealthy Valorian guys she knows. She doesn't care that they get angry when she beats them, and continues to focus on her music, despite the fact that everyone thinks she's strange for it, making her a bit of an outsider. Of course her father's influence trumps most negative comments, but Kestrel doesn't really care about how she's seen. 

My favorite thing about Arin is that he is an observer. He pays attention and for that he gets to understand Kestrel very well, which in turn shapes his entire world view. His ability to see through her haughty demeanor and understand her, even though he is a slave and very much below her, in turn makes Kestrel reexamine what she's always believed about herself and her people. Arin is also pretty good at strategy himself, and Kestrel is less able to outmaneuver him, which is definitely a source of frustration for her. 

3) Power shifts between the characters. 

Kestrel purchases Arin at a slave auction. Her family owns him. But despite her obvious control, power manages to shift between them in interesting ways. Sometimes it is subtle. Sometime's it's not. How these shifts happen, Kestrel and Arin's reactions and the ways their relationship changes when they have the perceived advantage or disadvantage, is one of the things I adore about this book. 

I was also very angry at both of these characters at various places in the story for how each treated the other. But I could also perfectly understand their perspectives. I really like that dichotomy in a book, and the inner struggle it creates. Especially when it brings out m
oments when you wonder whether their actions are meant to hurt or protect each other, and we get peaks at their true feelings. 

4) This book is rife with political intrigue.

Even though they grew up on the same peninsula, Kestrel and Arin are from vastly different groups with opposing positions in society. They are also each loyal to people with differing objectives. Throughout the course of this book, both get caught up in political intrigue and games of war that are much larger than themselves. It makes for thrilling and nail biting reading at times. 

Kestrel has the opportunity in this book to use her abilities as a strategist in both minor and life threatening situations. But despite her mental skills, Kestrel isn't the only person in this book who is good at strategic thinking. She does some excellent out maneuvering but she likewise is out maneuvered, to both exciting and horrifying affect. 

5) Slow moving, painful romance, with all the FEELS. 

The Winner's Curse features my favorite type of romance. It is slow moving and painful at times. Kestrel and Arin are completely different in their circumstances and goals, but the more I read the more it was clear that they are actually identical to each other and perfectly suited. They have matching intellects and heads for strategy. If only he wasn't her slave and she wasn't his master. And he didn't resent her and her people for killing and subjugating his own. As much as they start to care for each other, it may never be enough. Or maybe it's what will save them all.

Bonus! The Winner's Curse is part of a "heart cracking trilogy"

You will appreciate this statement when you get to the end of this book and find out the brilliant but cruel place we leave these characters. Then you will desperately want to email the author to find out when the next book releases. Rest assured, it is part of a series. The Winner's Curse is filled with political intrigue, power struggles and an aching romance, and I predict lots more of all to come. This book is so good that you definitely want to read it now so that you can discuss it with friends, and then read it again before book two releases. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Medium - No immediate danger, but may be somewhat emotionally stressful (or possibly exciting, depending on your perspective). The Winner's Curse is the first in a trilogy. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr: mini review + giveaway

by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr
Read: November 24, 2013
Published: December 24, 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers **UPCOMING**
Source: NetGalley - THANK YOU, LB!
Category: Contemporary YA, anticipating college
Find: Goodreads | Amazon

It's time to meet your new roomie.

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer -- and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they've never met.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr and acclaimed author Tara Altebrando join forces for a novel about growing up, leaving home, and getting that one fateful e-mail that assigns your college roommate.

Elizabeth (EB) lives in New Jersey with her single mom. She is very excited to be going across the country for college at Berkeley in the fall. When she receives her roommate assignment, she can't wait to start getting to know the person she'll be living with at school. She eagerly sends an email to introduce herself. 

Lauren lives in San Francisco with her parents and four younger siblings. She even shares a room with two of them. She is never alone and because of that had requested a single room for the fall. She's a bit dismayed to receive an email from her new roommate, because it means she will have to share her space again. 

Told in a combination of email and narrative, Roomies is the story of two girls living on opposite coasts, whose lives become linked because of their college room assignment. EB and Lauren's conversations start off a little rocky, but as different as their lives are, their experiences also run parallel in their last summer before college. Both come to terms with the fact that their places their families are changing. They learn to deal with relationships maturely - both friends and romance. They ask questions about race, make decisions about sex. Have break ups, fall in love, and make mistakes. Both EB and Lauren discover that there are a lot of ways to misunderstand each other thru email, but they also experience a lot of growth and even some bonding through their summer conversations. 

When I started Roomies, I was particularly nervous about both of these girls starting new romances, because for me the summer before college was much more about ending things. But I really liked how both relationships were handled in this story, with a dose of hope and realism. I also wasn't quite as reflective as these girls are, and I don't remember that period in my life being all that life changing for me. More anticipatory. Still, this book made me do some thinking back to my life right before college. I went to school six hours and 4 states away, although I did room with a friend (whose name was also Lauren. We were Lauren + Lauren or The Laurens and lots of other cute nicknames), but I enjoyed getting to know these girls and watching them grow up individually and learn to communicate with each other as friends and adults. I have a feeling they're going to be the type of roommates that still get together years later. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone


Advanced Copy of Roomies 

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Waiting On Wednesday: Scholastic

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine 
that spotlights upcoming releases we can't wait to read.

This week I can't wait for:

Scholastic Press

I haven't done a WoW in a while, but I'm back with two final series books from Scholastic. 


These two picks are completely different and are probably aren't targeting the same audiences. But I am DESPERATE for both of them. 

The Shadow Throne is the final book in a series that started with The False Prince.
 I can't wait for more Sage and Imogen, and lots of deception and intrigue of course.

by Jennifer A. Nielsen
The Ascendance Trilogy #3 
Published: February 25th 2014

Jennifer A. Nielsen takes readers on an extraordinary journey in this final installment of the NEW YORK TIMES bestselling Ascendance Trilogy.

War is coming. . . . 

Who doesn't need more Cole St. Clair in their lives? I am salivating for his book. 

by Maggie Stiefvater
The Wolves of Mercy Falls #4 (series companion)
Published: July 1st 2014 

Sinner follows Cole St. Clair, a pivotal character from the #1 New York Times bestselling Shiver Trilogy. Everybody thinks they know Cole's story. Stardom. Addiction. Downfall. Disappearance. But only a few people know Cole's darkest secret -- his ability to shift into a wolf. One of these people is Isabel. At one point, they may have even loved each other. But that feels like a lifetime ago. Now Cole is back. Back in the spotlight. Back in the danger zone. Back in Isabel's life. Can this sinner be saved?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Darkest Fear by Cate Tiernan

Darkest Fear 
by Cate Tiernan
Read: November 9 - 12, 2013
Published: January 7 2014 by Simon Pulse **UPCOMING**
Source: Edelweiss THANK YOU!
Category: PNR, YA, shapeshifters

Series: Birthright 1
Find: Goodreads | Amazon

Vivi’s animal instincts are her legacy—and maybe her downfall—in this start to a romantic fantasy series that will appeal to fans of The Nine Lives of Chloe King.

Vivi has known the truth about her family—and herself—since she was thirteen. But that doesn’t mean she’s accepted it. Being Haguari isn’t something she feels she’ll ever accept. How can she feel like anything but a freak knowing that it’s in her genes to turn into a jaguar?

Now eighteen, Vivi’s ready to break away from the traditions of her heritage. But all of that changes with the shocking, devastating deaths of her parents and the mysteries left behind. Vivi discovers family she never even knew she had, and a life open with possibility. New friends, new loyalties, and even romance all lay ahead—but so do dangers unlike anything Vivi ever could have imagined.

Vivi's parents told her the big family secret when she turned thirteen: she's descended from a long line of shape shifters called Haguari and can turn into a Jaguar. Instead of being thrilled about this news, Vivi was horrified, and has rejected everything about that nature since the day she found out about it. Why can't she just be normal? But when a tragedy strikes her family, Vivi is forced to confront who she is and reexamine everything she's denied about herself. 

I became a huge Cate Tiernan fan this summer, after I read and adored her Immortal Beloved series. They feature a heroine whom I fell for from the first page, even though she was extremely unlikable. I also enjoyed that it presented an unique take on immortality and the Paranormal Romance genre. Of course, I was hoping for a repeat of that in Darkest Fear. Unfortunately, though I picked up flavors of why I love Tiernan's writing, as a whole this book didn't work for me. 

Darkest Fear begins as a typical PNR in many ways. A tragedy leaves Vivi isolated and alone, without her family support. She has a secret she can't tell anyone, and feels lost and alone, especially because she all of a sudden has a lot of questions about her family and can't access them - or so she says. Because Vivi has always refused to discover more about her nature, she's lacking vital information about herself and her people. But instead of asking an extended family member questions, she chooses to do everything on her own. I got increasingly annoyed with Vivi for this. I just didn't buy Vivi's excuses for why asking her aunt questions, even really general ones, was a bad idea. 

Throughout this entire story, Vivi would make a tiny bit of progress in coming to terms with her Haguari nature, but then she'd backtrack again. This lead to long inner monologues where she'd struggle and beat herself up about how she felt. While I think Vivi's feelings and concerns were valid (for a time), they dragged on to long. Even after she joins a community of people of her kind, it still takes her forever to come to terms with who she is and that wore on me so much. I got to the point where I  didn't understand her perspective anymore and got so fed up with her stubbornness, that I could no longer sympathize with her. 

Part of the reason I struggled to understand Vivi, is because I was ready to embrace her animal nature early in the book. In fact, one of my favorite aspects of Darkest Fear was whenever Vivi was a Jaguar. I enjoyed how her perspective changed in that form, and also how her human and animal natures came together. I wanted her to explore the bounds of her ability. Although I'm assuming this will come with time, it is probably one reason why I struggled so much with Vivi's rejection of it. It was difficult for me to handle her very slow growth and path to self awareness. By the end of the book she's really getting there, but I'm worried she'll just backtrack again. While there is an overarching mystery that comes out, it is only focused on briefly in spurts, and the rest of the story is about Vivi's daily struggle to come to terms with herself. At the end of the story there is finally some action and forward direction, but all of a sudden everything ends, right in the middle of the (finally) exciting momentum. 

Despite all my negative feelings about this book, I did manage to find elements that I liked. Vivi graduates from high school at the very beginning of the story and I like that Darkest Fear has more of a New Adult, discovering your path, type feel to it, than navigating high school. This book features a mix of cultures, races, genders in a community living situation, which I enjoyed (this is also classic Tiernan). I love the house where Vivi lives in New Orleans and especially her cousin Mateo and his girlfriend Aly. Darkest Fear has some fantastic high stress, action sequences in it, all involving jaguars. It also features a few moments of nice romantic tension and swoon, but unfortunately those sections of the plot were only bright bursts in an overall slow moving story. Even though I have a few theories about Vivi's love interest by the end, we still know next to nothing about him, which was quite frustrating. Yes, despite my better judgment, I am apparently still drawn to these mysterious boys. 

Even though this review is mostly negative, I'm still curious about the next book in the series. Or at least, I am still a big fan of Cate Tiernan and hope that this story gets exponentially stronger in book two. I'm crossing my fingers, but not holding my breath. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Medium - no immediate danger, but story felt unfinished. However, I was anticipating this, as it's standard Tiernan. 

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