Thursday, February 23, 2017

Carve the Mark

Carve the Mark
By Veronica Roth

So, I love reading books in series because it means I get to spend more time with characters I love...but I don't always remember what happened in earlier books when the next book in the series is published. So, this post is going to totally have SPOILERS--tons and tons of SPOILERS. I'm going to pretty much summarize the entire plot and tell who's who, so that when the next book comes out, I can look at this post to remind myself of what happened and important details. So, here's my synopsis of Carve the Mark.

The are nine planets orbiting within the currentstream barrier, each with certain things that make it unique. Thuvhe has two groups of people--the Thuvhites and the Shotets. The Shotets, led by the Noavek family, are scavengers who visit other planets and scavenge there and bring back what they find to renew it and make it good again. They are pretty bloodthirsty and they mark their arms with "kills". They are also determined to rule their planet--but the Oracles have proclaimed that Ryzek Noavek is fated to fall to the family Benesit. Like his parents before him, Ryzek is determined to find a way to avoid his fate--although the whole point of a fate is that it is destined, seen in whatever future the Oracles envision, no matter what different scenarios play out.

Each person is given a different gift through the currentstream--and Ryzek, who has been twisted and warped by his tyrannical father, will use whatever means he can to change his fate, including his own currentgift of taking people's memories and replacing them with his, and his sister Cyra's currentgift of hurting--torturing--people by merely touching them. Normally fates aren't publicly known, but when the fates of several people are announced, Ryzek sends soldiers to Thuvhe to capture those who will interfere with his mission.

The Kesreseth family is one Thuvhite family that is attacked. Akos is captured, as is his brother, Eijeh, who is fated to be the next Oracle. Their sister Cisi is spared, but their father is killed, and their mother Sifa (the current oracle) does nothing to stop any of this. Akos and Eijeh are taken to Ryzek, who demands that Eijeh prophesy for him, but Eijeh doesn't know how to use his gift. Akos has been trained as a soldier but then he is given to Cyra as a servant--because his currentgift is interrupts others' gifts, which means if he touches her, she is no longer in constant pain. He is determined to escape and to take Eijeh with him--but once he tries, Ryzek starts taking pieces of Eijeh's memory, replacing them with his own (horrible) memories, until Eijeh is barely recognizable as himself. Cyra has always done what her brother demanded, hurting people, so that he wouldn't tell anyone that she had (accidentally) killed their mother, but as she spends time with Akos, who has a goodness about him and also seems to believe there is something good in her, she refuses to help Ryzek--until he hurts Akos to punish her. From that point on, Cyra is ready to work with rebels and exiles to get Akos away from her brother--even if it means making him go without Eijeh. Cyra tries to lead an assassination attempt, but it fails--and then Ryzek makes her touch Akos (who, in a severely weakend state can't use his currentgift to interrupt her) to torture him. In so doing, though, Cyra, who has never been able to control her gift, resists. She loves Akos and refuses to hurt him, pulling the pain back into herself. When she does so, Akos is rescued by her allies; they take him to Thuvhe, where he meets up with his sister, Cisi, and her friend Isae (who is destined to be the Chancellor that Ryzek falls to) and her twin sister Ori (who keeps her sister safe as very few people know which of them is fated to be the Chancellor--and killing them in the wrong order can change things that people don't want changed). Ori is kidnapped by Shotets, so Cisi, Isae, and Akos go meet up with Jorek, a Shotet rebel (and Cyra's cousin).
Meanwhile, Cyra has been skinned on her face by Vas, her brother's soldier who can't feel pain, and has been challenged to fight him. However, Akos and his allies (including Teka, Jorek, and more) get her out of the arena. Akos has realized he cares for her, too. Sifa joins their group--and Akos has mixed feelings about her, since she didn't protect them and manipulates people sometimes through her visions. Based on Sifa's latest visions, the group decides that Akos and Isae will rescue Ori before Ryzek can assassinate her and that Cyra will publicly challenge Ryzek to a fight that he can't back down from without losing face. Akos, hoping to force Ryzek to restore Eijeh's memories, wants her to keep Ryzke alive, but she says she can't. When Akos and Isae go rescue Ori, she isn't in the prison that Sifa said she was in (Akos kills Vas on the way to get there). Cyra has gotten a reluctant ally, Yma, to poison Ryzek; she makes it look like she stabs him but really he is only unconscious; however, as that happens, Eijeh kills Ori, his former friend and then sort of goes into a trance--possibly affected by Ori's gift (but Akos doesn't know what her gift is). They get Ryzek and Eijeh back to the ship, where Ryzek tells Cyra she's not really his sister and that HIS father (not her father) is still alive.
Isae directs their ship to go to the Assembly, to show them she is alive. Akos, with his mother and sister, and now Cyra, sees that maybe you can get some things least for now.

So, this was a fascinating world to enter. Akos is a likable character; he's good and loyal and he hates hurting people. Cyra is complicated--which is good. She's an excellent character for discussion--is she good? Is she bad? Is she to blame for how she is? etc. (Ryzek and Sifa also make for interesting discussion points.)

This reminds me of Graceling by Kristin Cashore--with special gifts that a wicked ruler uses to maintain power and exploit others. I'm really interested to see where things go in the next book.

4.5 stars.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Valentine's Day Collection

Valentine's Day Collection
 This collection of six Valentine's Day novellas was a lot of fun. Great choice for a light-hearted V-day read.

A Brush with the Law by Janette Rallision
Bethany Daniels thinks that the worst thing that will happen on Valentine's Day is her blind date...and while that could be bad enough, after being pulled over for running a red light and then arrested for a crime she didn't commit (while dressed only in her unmentionables), this Valentine's Day has the potential to go down as the worst in history.
This was a great start to the collection; it totally made me laugh out loud. It was funny but also not so far-fetched as to be unbelievable. As soon as I finished reading this story, I wanted to go back and reread it!

Every Occasion by Heather B. Moore
Maurie Ledbetter has moved back to her hometown--to the home she lived in with her mother before she was removed and placed in foster care. When she calls a local handyman to get some repairs done,she isn't expecting Grant Shelton--her crush from her teenage years. She's happy to see him, and while attraction soon flares up between them, Grant has something to tell Maurie that could derail their relationship before it really gets going.
More serious than the first story in the collection, this was well-written and hopeful, showing how Maurie put a painful past behind her. Grant is a cutie--sweet and serious and an all-around good guy. I liked seeing how things came together for them.

Hold Your Breath by Jenny Proctor
Kayla isn't going to let anything get in the way of her dreams of making the Olympics, so even when she's home for vacation, she's swimming and training every chance she can. But when she runs into her former crush and high school swim teammate, Nate Hanson, she can't deny she's still attracted to him. But getting involved is a risk she just can't take if she wants to achieve her dreams, right?

Another fun read. Pretty light-hearted but also realistic as it shows the dilemma of trying to balance even the good things that life brings.

The Ultimate Bachelor Challenge by Annette Lyon
Sam is just trying to do some laundry in preparation for Valentine's Day--and hopefully, her boyfriend's proposal--but instead, she finds herself crossing paths with Connor Wynn. Connor has reluctantly accepted a challenge for the sake of charity, in which he has to compete with another YouTuber to see who is the ultimate bachelor...which leads him to a laundromat where he meets Sam and gets her involved in completing a couple tasks for the challenge.
This one was a little less appealing to me; there were some elements that seemed a little less believable to me (like, really, her boyfriend did what he does on Valentine's Day? He couldn't have picked any other day to do it?), but Connor was a totally sweetie and Sam is fun and spunky.

Deal Breakers by Heather Tullis When weather strands her in the Denver airport, Colette runs into Drew, a former college friend who she burned bridges with when she dated another guy instead of him. In the day and a half that they're stuck in the airport, they reconnect and find that there's still a spark there--but is it enough to build on?
This one was the weakest story in the collection for me; I felt like the author TOLD about their connection more than actually showing it. And while it's realistic that they'd have a lot of baggage to sort out and talk about, it wasn't super interesting to read about. However, having been stranded in a few airports myself, I can say I wish I'd run into a handsome guy when that happened.

Hey, Helen by Sarah M. Eden
Helen, an advice column writer, is working on her Valentine's Day themed columns, and as usual, her neighbor and best friend Neil, is her sounding board for her ideas. As they talk about Valentine's Day, Neil tries to figure out if there's a good way to tell Helen his feelings for her are more than just friendly.
True to form, Sarah Eden provides great dialogue and humor in this story. She's awesome at including lovable and laughable banter, and this story didn't disappoint.I also loved the low-key approach to V-day in this story.

Another enjoyable collection the Timeless Romance series. I received a free copy from the publisher. All opinions are my own. 4.5 stars. Clean read.