Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Review: The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick (COYER Challenge #2)

First, thanks to Roaring Book Press and Edelweiss for allowing me to read an e-galley of this title.  I of course loved the cover right off, and the idea of the story sounded really intriguing.  I don't know that I was a huge fan of the story though.  It was very creative, and unique, and well-written for sure.  And I made it through the book, and for the most part wasn't bored at any part.  At the beginning of the book, the author makes a note about how it is divided into four different parts, and that the reader can read them in any way they want.  Personally, I'm not sure how true this is.  I feel like they were arranged chronologically and it works that way.  In fact, I think if you read them in a different order, there are small bits in each story that tie back to the story before it, that might not stick out as much to the reader if they didn't read them in order.  But that's my opinion, and how my brain works, so maybe for others it would be okay.  All of them deal with a spiral in some way, the cover is a perfect tie in for that.

The first story is told in poetry form.  It is the story of a girl in the time of cavemen, and references the paintings found in caves that date back to those times.  I skimmed through this rather quickly, as I am not always a big fan of the poetry, and it is a lot of times quicker to read as well.  I get the spiral bit in it, kind of, but not as much as it was set into the other stories.

The second story is a woman in the times of witch hunting.  She and her mother created herbs and "potions" to help those who were sick or in pain.  At the time of the story a new priest has come to town, one who is setting about proving there is a witch to be taken care of.  And in this time period, there are those who would give her up, even though she's helped them, because of their own problems.  Again, a spiral plays into the story, and the wonder of what it might mean.

The third story takes place in a time where asylums were a big thing.  And the story follows a single father who is a psychologist come to work at an asylum in a very remote area.  He and his daughter live on one of the top floors of the building, and the floors below are the different patients, the lower the floor, the worse off their problems are.  The first day there they meet a man who seems like he must work there, but it turns out he is a patient.  And one that lives on the lower floor, because his psychosis has to do with spirals.  I feel like this story brings in the "ghosts" bit from the title.

The final story is set in the future, a world where humans must move on, find a new planet to live on.  It is a space ship that carries 500 people to start a new life for humans on the "New Earth" that has been found.  Besides the 500 people that are in a sleep until they reach the planet, there are 10 sentinels.  These are people who are under a different kind of sleep, one that wakes them up every 10 years in order to see what has happened in the time they were asleep, and make sure things are still working.  The main character is one of these sentinels.  And he begins to wonder if he is really the only one awake during the 12 hours he gets to do his work every 10 years.  Especially when he wakes up to six people being dead.  And according to the computers on board, there is no reason for their deaths, no malfunctioning of anything.  Again there is a spiral tie in because of the ship having to spin to create the fake gravity needed to help with the long journeys in space and human health.  This story has the most tie ins to the other stories, especially at the end of it.  I kind of feel like it would be the best at the end, or if you were going to try a different order, maybe it could be the first one.

Definitely a very complex story overall, and a good one, just not something I would read over again.  I can definitely recommend it to people who enjoy a complex group of stories, and looking for the connections in them.  It is definitely very thought provoking, with numbers and science, nature and history.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2015 TBR Pile Reading Challenge #2015TBRPile

I didn't do this last year, and feel like it would be a good one to try again this year.  As before it is sponsored by Bookish.  I got a lot of ARCs at BEA that I really wanted to read, but got messed up in my plan when September and my Sequel Challenge came around.  So those are kind of top on my list.  As well as some books that I had been given or won in giveaways.  So, I'll set my goal to the same number I've done in the past, I plan to read 11-20 books from my TBR pile between January 1st, 2015 and December 31st, 2015. All the books have to have been published in 2014 or before.  Any new books don't count as cleaning out your TBR pile.  I think the fact that they will be doing link ups on the 25th of every other month is going to be helpful for me to doing that.  With the challenge I participated in this past year, I was able to do updates every two months, until October that is, then I got behind.  I hate to pick exactly what I'll read, as I tend to go with what the mood fits at the time, but here are some that I'm hoping I will pick up for this challenge:
  • Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
  • Endgame: The Calling by James Frey and Nils Johnston-Shelton
  • Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle
  • The Walled City by Ryan Graudin
  • Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Fallen by Lauren Kate
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  • Time  Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone
  • Arianna's Destiny by Michelle Sodaro
  • Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
The top 5 are ones that I got at BEA, so really hope to get them read.  Others are ones that I really need to read.  If you are interested in participating, click on the link on Bookish above to go get signed up.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Goals/Resolutions For 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is sponsored by The Broke and The Bookish.  The goals can be bookish, blogging, or anything else.  So here goes!
  1.   I want to continue to do at least 2 book reviews on my blog every week.  Along with that, I want to try to have a post every day of the year.  To do that, I am going to try to do as many scheduled posts as I can.  Possibly to try to have at least 10 ready to go at all time, and when one is used, then I will make another one.  
  2.   My Goodreads goal was 125 this year, as of the time that I am posting this, I've read 136 books, and the year is not over.  For 2015, I want to bump it up to 130.  I know that is below how many I ended up reading this year, but I hate to set a too high goal.  What do you think?
  3. I'm participating in the Winter 2014-2015 COYER Challenge to help clean out all those e-books that I download when they're free.  I will probably try to participate in this if it is offered for other times during the year.
  4. I haven't signed up yet, but I think I will sign up for another TBR Pile Challenge, I have a lot of books I really need to get to.
  5. I'm up in the air about my September Sequels Challenge.  I think I need to do it, but it really messed up my schedule of reading this past year.  Partly because it interrupted my getting through the ARCs I'd picked up at BEA.  So, that is in the air, but I will probably do it again, as I am not going to BEA this year, so won't have that same issue.
  6. I am working with an artist friend of mine to re-do the banner and button for my blog.  I want to add the dogs I have now, and make a few other changes.  Only issue will be with how to add it, and if I'll have to have the person who did my current design add them or if I can figure it out.  What I like is that for the price my friend quoted me, I will have the image of the banner that I can then use for a Facebook page, or for business cards, etc.  My current banner I do not have the image for, so when I tried to use it for my Facebook page, I was unable to use it.  That's the reason I don't really have a Facebook page for my blog.
  7. I want to work more on my Instagram presence.
  8. I need to start my walking 20 miles a week again, and working on what I'm eating.  I'd really like to lose some weight.  Even if I don't lose any weight, I have a goal that by summer I will be able to be okay enough with myself that I can wear a swimsuit in public.  I am tired of not doing any swimming because I hate the site of myself in a swimsuit.  So that is working on my brain more than just my body itself.
  9. I want to start saving money so that I can attend the Annual ALA Convention in the summer of 2016 because it is in Orlando.  I want to go down a week early, or stay a week after the convention so that I can go to the Harry Potter park and all the other Disneyworld and Universal Studio attractions.  
  10. Revise the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo this past year enough to where I feel okay letting someone else read it to tell me if it is even worth working on anymore.
So those are my goals.  I would love to put something about getting more ARCs requested from publishers, but I don't know how to go about that, and feel weird asking for them.  I feel greedy to email and ask. What are your goals for the year?  Bookish or otherwise?

Monday, December 29, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - December 29th, 2014

This weekly meme is sponsored by Book Journey, and we talk about things we read last week, and our plans for what we'll read this coming week. 

Last week:

For Christmas break I've been getting some reading done.  Not as much as I'd hoped, but still pretty good.  I did get two reviews done for the week, as was my goal for the year.

Currently Reading:

Well, I just DNFed Monkey Wars by Richard Kurti.  I've now moved on to the book pictured below, which I'm not sure how I feel about it yet, but we'll see.

This week:
I'm working on trying to get some e-galleys caught up before they expire, plus hoping to do a little New Year's mini-challenge for COYER starting on January 1st.  But I'm doing more DNFs if they don't catch my interest, like I did with Monkey Wars.  If it is an egalley, I will give a mini-review on Goodreads and then also on Edelweiss or Netgalley for the publisher, even if I don't do one on here.  So here are the tentative reading plans for the week:
I'm pretty sure I won't get through all of those, but those are what I intend to attempt to read this week.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Stacking the Shelves - December 28th, 2014

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews.  It is a way for us to share the new books we have collected.  Christmas week turned out much better than planned in the bookish world.  I got some great e-galleys, as well as some awesome books through YA Book Exchange

Received as Christmas gifts:

Traded for on YA Book Exchange:

 I'm sooooo excited about finally having my hands on a copy of Ensnared.  Yes, it's only an ARC, but I'm a-okay with that!!  Echoes of Us is the third in a series that I have been waiting a while to read.  And while I have already read Ruby Red, I loved it, and needed to own a physical copy of it.  I got all these on a trade with Jane from Much Ado About Books.  

Stripped cover from work:
However I haven't read the first one yet, so guess I'd better check that out from the library soon.


I don't know if I can express how awesome these two e-galleys are!!  The first one is the sequel to The Taking, which I loved! The 2nd one was on one of my top 10 books for 2015 lists.  I got both of these on Edelweiss.

Free e-book:

It was free and it sounded right up my alley, so I downloaded it.

So, that's my haul.  What did you pull in this past week?  Did you get a lot of books or bookish things for Christmas?  I did get a gift card to Barnes and Noble, and I'll probably get a cookbook I wanted with that.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Christmas is always a nice time for me.  As a school librarian/teacher in the past, it means time off from work.  But it also means getting to see lots of family that I don't get to see at other times of the year.  My sister who lives in NYC flies home for a week or so.  I have a cousin that moved to California in the fall, and so it will be nice to see her and her boyfriend while they're home too.  It also means I have more time for reading!  Here are pictures I took of my niece last night at my mom's house.

And then this morning, my dogs (my kids), got to enjoy their gifts.

 Argyle is my little boy on the left, and Dora is the little girl in the picture on the right.  

Tonight I'll go to my dad's house for Christmas with my sisters.  And then later tonight I plan to go see The Interview.  I wanted to see it before all the fuss, so now I'm glad they're going to go ahead and release it in the theaters.  And because I have really gotten to be obsessed with GIFS, I'll add a few Christmasy GIFS from my favorite movies and tv shows to finish up this post!

This is how I felt when I heard that there would be a Harry Potter marathon starting tomorrow!

And just some other fun GIFS as gifts for all my followers!

This one makes me laugh out loud ever single time:

From the other Christmas movie that must be watched over and over every year:

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Review: Infected by Sophie Littlefield (COYER Challenge #1)

First, thanks to Edelweiss and Delacorte Books for Young Readers for allowing me to read an e-galley of this.  It was a good read, I was just disappointed that it wasn't another zombie book.  I first found this author, Sophie Littlefield with an ARC of her book, Aftertime, which was a zombie story.  And when I saw the title of this, my first thought was, oooh, YA zombie story, I mean isn't that what the word infected brings to mind for you these days?  No?  Just me?  Oh well.  Overall it was still a good story, even it it wasn't what I'd expected.  That's what I get for not reading the synopsis.  I just saw the title and the author's name and requested.

The main character in this book is Carina.  Her mother passed away, suicide, about a year ago. She'd been living with her uncle until just before the book starts, when he is in a car accident on his way home from a business trip.  As the story starts Carina is getting ready to go to his memorial service.  But some strange things are going on.  As far as she knew her mom and uncle had been working on some kind of nutrition scientific research.  But at the memorial service there is security, two bodyguards following her around. She's getting ready to go live with her mom and uncle's friend Sheila.  But first she finds a code of some sort in a ring that her mother had given her. And when she tries to get some alone time with her boyfriend Tanner, Sheila and the bodyguards start getting really weird about not letting them hang out.  So she and Tanner decide to get out of there and sneak away.  Carina has an envelope that she found under the trash can at her uncle's house, and in it, he says to not trust Sheila and gives a location for her to go to in order to be safe and find out what is going on.

Both Carina and Tanner enjoy code breaking, or other computer programming type of things.  And together they are able to find this apartment along with the code to get into it and then figure out how to get into the encrypted files her uncle left her.  There is a virus that was being developed to help make stronger, faster soldiers.  Only it caused them to die from the side effects.  They had finally come up with an antidote, but before they could attach it to the virus, they began to have trouble, someone had sold the info to Albanians. So not only are Carina and Tanner running from Sheila, but also these Albanians.  And somehow they've both been infected.  Well, first Carina, and then the night before the memorial, when they spent the night on the roof of the school, Tanner got the virus from Carina.

I liked the science, and the intrigue, and even the code breaking.  For the most part it didn't get too technical at any part in my opinion.  And there were twists and turns throughout the whole book.  Some I didn't see coming.  And the dangerous moments were all really edge of your seat, and also unique.  There were drones used at one point, and I loved how they were worked into the story.  Once again Sophie Littlefield has written a great story.  I was lucky enough to get to meet her this past summer at BEA, and here is my picture with her:

Waiting on Wednesday: Until the Beginning (After the End #2) by Amy Plum

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we spotlight upcoming releases that we're eagerly awaiting.  My choice this week is a sequel to a book that wasn't quite what I thought it was going to be, but I still want to see what happens next.  Here is the blurb from Goodreads:

When Juneau's clan disappeared, she lost so much more than her friends and family. She soon discovered everything she thought she knew about her life was a lie. Her people's gifts were actually secret abilities that others wanted, desperately enough to kidnap an entire village.

Juneau and her new companion Miles's cross-country journey to find her clan has led them to a game preserve in New Mexico. Now Juneau's people are finally within reach, and she will stop at nothing to save them. But she has a target on her back too, because unbeknownst to her she is the key to unlocking everything. To rescue her people - and herself - Juneau must discover what she, and her abilities, are truly capable of.

I definitely need to know exactly what is going on with Juneau's family and the ones who were in charge of it.  So I'm sure I'll be picking this one up when it comes out.

What about you?  What are you eagerly awaiting this week?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

New Year's Read-a-Thon

 Since part of my plan for the COYER challenge is to read some books that I downloaded because they were free, I feel like this challenge, hosted by Fantasy is More Fun and Because Reading, will be a good one for me.  You can participate, whether you’re a COYER participant or not, and even if you don't have a blog. The Read-a-thon will run from 12 AM Thursday, January 1, 2015 – 11:59 PM Sunday, January 4, 2015.  Here are the rules:
  1. All books must meet the COYER Price Guidelines (so Free/Nearly Free, eBook or Audiobook)
  2. It’s a new year, so read an author, narrator, or series that’s new-to-you.
  3. Sign-up on the linky HERE by 11:59 PM December 31st. No link required, just give us your name so we know you’re joining in.
  4. Sometime between now and 11:59 PM December 31st, post on your blog, twitter, FB, Google+, Booklikes (you get the idea… somewhere!) that you’re participating. That’s the link you’ll need for the Rafflecopter.
I'm going to predict that these are the books I'll try to read:
I went back to the earliest downloads on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble and picked two from each one.  We'll see how it goes!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Review: Frostfire by Amanda Hocking

First, thanks to St. Martin's Griffin and Edelweiss for allowing me to read an e-galley of this title.  I've been a fan of Amanda Hocking since I downloaded a 99 cent e-book of the first book in the Trylle series, Switched.  I read that book while sitting in line waiting for one of the Harry Potter movies one summer.  And I was hooked!  And I'm pleased to say that I enjoyed returning to this same world as well. 

In the Trylle trilogy we spent our time with the Trylles, obviously.  But this book deals with the Kanin trolls.  It begins with a very intense scene.  The main character for this story is Bryn, and the night of a big party in the palace she finds one of the soldiers or guards that she looks up to, Konstantin, attempting to kill her father.  She is able to save him, but at the same time she is also wounded.  Then we jump ahead to a time when Bryn is a full blown tracker, and something she always has on her mind, to find Konstantin, and find out why he did what he did, and then get justice.  Bryn's life isn't always the easiest besides that event that has shaped her career and life.  She is only half Kanin, her mother was from a different race of trolls, the Skojari.  They are what you would call water beings, many are even born with gills. Because of this their whole way of life is different.  But they are also different in that they are light skinned, and have light colored hair compared to the Kanin.  So Bryn has blonde hair that sets her apart, and as she grew up, it made her stick out and get bullied even.  Because her father married her mother, he lost his title, and so did her mother.  This only made Bryn want to be a tracker any more.

It is on what should be a routine tracker job, where Bryn is out to find a Changeling, and prepare them to be brought home to his true parents, that she runs into Konstantin again.  He is sitting in a car that has been following the changeling around Chicago.  She confronts him and gets into a fight, but he gets away.  Once again he leaves her with some cryptic message, like the one he gave her the night he tried to kill her father.  She grabs the changeling and gets him back to his parents before the planned time, but to keep him safe, because she doesn't know what kind of danger he might have been in.  At first the King and Queen try to say it is a one time occurrence and don't set up a big security change.  But soon things will escalate.  And now Bryn and her fellow trackers will have to start trying to save all of the changelings, while also figuring out what Konstantin and his cohort are up to.  As with any story that has royalty, there is intrigue, and possible mysteries that could go back farther than what it seems with the present time issues.

My only complaint with the book is that it kind of ended abruptly.  I tried to turn the page to read what I figured would be a final concluding chapter, only to find out I had read the end.  I'll be very eager to read on in this series.  I did see people say that they wondered if they had to read the Trylle trilogy first in order to understand it, and I don't really think you do.  It was fun to see characters pop up from those books, like Tove and Wendy, but I feel like most things were explained that needed to be explained in order to understand the story. 

I definitely recommend this to people who enjoy a good paranormal/fantasy romance.  And if you liked the Trylle trilogy, you need to pick this one up as well.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Post #19 and Stacking the Shelves December 21st, 2014

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted  @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news ~ A post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme.  With Christmas this week, I'm off school, so thought I'd talk about things besides just what books I got.

Last week on the blog:
 I had a lot to do on the blog this week.  I signed up for a couple promo type of posts. Then I had my two reviews that were my goal for the year, two a week.  I got a lot of books this week, so I'll be excited to share those later in this post.  

This week on the blog:
  • Review:  Frostfire by Amanda Hocking
  • Waiting on Wednesday
  • Maybe Cover Characteristic
  • Review:  Infected by Sophie Littlefield
  • Maybe one of the Tag posts I've gotten tagged in lately
  • ??? Another review ????
I'm expecting to get more than two books read this week, what with not having to work every day.  Plus I'll be working on my COYER - Clean out your e-reader  challenge, so some of the e-books may be shorter, especially if I end up DNFing any of them.  Christmas being this week may also mean I do some kind of fun Christmas GIF post.  We'll see how it goes.

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews.  It is a way for us to share the new books we have collected.  This was a pretty exciting week for me!  First I'll share a giveaway that I won

I won this awesome prize pack from Christy at The Reader Bee.  Can't wait to use the nail polish and get this book read so that I'll be ready for the sequel.  I loved this author's book Revolution, so I'm very excited to read this one as well. 

This is what I got from my other Secret Santa, Angela at My So Called Chaos.  I'll still need to read the 3rd book in the Megan Crewe series before I read Those Who Lived, but I'm glad to have my copy ready to go  now!  Thanks Angela! 

Physical Books won:

 The first one I won in the Indie Fall Fest.  I know the 2nd book was part of a big controversy.  But, I had won it like a week before all that got all crazy.  I hadn't received it yet though, so I emailed the blog I'd won it on, and told them I was still interested.  I do still want to read it.  I hope that doesn't offend anyone.  I know a lot of people were up in arms about it and the author.  And the last one I won from Traci at The Reading Geek's Blogoversary.  Don't you just love that cover?  I can't wait to read it!

Book from friend:

 I guess a student left this book at school last year and it had been in the lost and found for a long time.  One of our school secretaries had taken it out, and when I was in the office this week, she asked if I wanted it.  It was one I had wanted to read, so I said sure!

ARC from bookstore:

One of the managers saved it for me.  I did like If I Stay and Where She Went, so hopefully this will be good as well.

E-galleys from Edelweiss:

The first one is by the author of The Dark Between, a book that I liked.  The 2nd one I got just for any tips on working with my little boy dog that seems to like to pee in the house no matter what I do.

Free e-books:

The first two were free for my Kindle app.  The 2nd two were free on my Nook.  The last one is a set of 5 fantasy titles:  The Zombie Chronicles, Eternal Vow, Crush, Enchanted Castle, and Castaway.  Just more things to add to my COYER Challenge.  

So, that's a lot of things I got this week!  How about you?  What did you add to your bookshelves this week?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

I have to thank my manager at the Barnes and Noble where I work part time for saving this ARC for me.  I guess I have to thank HarperTeen and Epic Reads for sending it to the store as well.  I had been hearing a lot about the book on other blogs, Waiting on Wednesday posts, and even some very early reviews.  At first I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it, I mean, yeah, the cover is so beautiful, and then the packaging the ARC came in, that was also awesome. Remember this:

And then, the more and more I saw it around the blogosphere, as well as reading more about it, I just got so excited to read it, that I went ahead and read it earlier than planned, so this review is more than a month ahead of time, which is how long I usually try to wait to post an advanced copy review.  But I loved this, and it does come out towards the beginning of February, so I'm going to go ahead and spread more love and excitement for this book.  And I have to say that I did love this book.  Let me give a bit of a synopsis, and then talk about what I liked, as well as address some negatives I found online in other reviews.

The main character is Mare.  This is a world segregated by the type of blood you have, red or silver.  The Silvers are the elite, and you might say rightly so, as they have different types of powers such as:  the ability to read minds, to control people's minds, to control metal or other things around them, immense strength, ability to control the movement of water, and so many others.  The Reds, like Mare, do not have powers, and so they are made to work for the Silvers. This includes factory work, farming, and serving on the front line of the armies to protect their country.  But while they do all these things, for the most part they live in poverty.  And when they reach a certain age, 17, they can be conscripted to join the army if they do not already have a job lined up by being an apprentice.  Three of Mare's sisters have already been conscripted.  She has a sister that is an apprentice.  But she is turning 17 and will be conscripted very soon.  Until one night she runs into an interesting boy about her age outside of a local pub.  Now Mare's talent is pickpocketing and theft.  Unfortunately this boy catches her in the act.  There is something about him though, Mare can tell he isn't from their area.  It's possible he may be a Silver.  She is lucky when he lets her go without pressing charges.

The next morning she is awoken by the King's guards at her family's door.  She has been given a job to work in the palace as a servant.  One thing the Silvers do is to have kind of gladiator matches between their own to show off their powers.  And it is okay if one of them gets hurt really bad, they have healers.  Mare arrives at the palace right before the Queenstrial is about to begin. This is where available girls from the higher ranking families will compete to try to win the hand of the Prince, in order to become the future Queen.  Mare is serving at this, and has now realized that the boy who helped her that night is the Prince.  The heir to the throne.  At the Queenstrial, the booth that Mare is serving begins to fall due to one of the girl's powers, and she falls into open air and lands on the electric force field shield that should be protecting everyone from the girls' powers.  Only she doesn't die, she discovers that she has some strange power, something to do with electricity, and she is able to save her own life.  Well, this is not good in the eyes of the Silvers, Reds should not have any powers!  She is again lucky that this was witnessed by all the people it was, because the King and Queen cannot just kill her, and it is not in their best interest to let people know she is a Red.  So an elaborate background story is created to make people believe she is actually a Silver.

Now Mare becomes Mareena, and she must learn how to behave like a proper Silver as they have decided to betroth her to the younger prince Maven, so they can keep an eye on her, and maybe use her powers to increase their own. But all isn't what it seems, and there are many other intrigues going on in the palace, as well as with a new rebel group, the Red Guard.  Mare must learn who she can trust, and who she will fight for.

I loved the story.  It was so well imagined and planned out.  I feel like for the most part the differences were well explained between the Reds and Silvers.  There was history given, although I wonder about other things, like how did they get to be different colored blood?  Were they ever the same?  The story was action packed, as well as being very much where it kept me guessing till the end.  While there was one point where I thought someone could not be as good as they were, I was really convinced by the end that they were a good person.  There was just no way they couldn't be.  As for the love story.  Well, yes, there was some. Between both Mara and Cal, the older prince who had first brought her to the Palace.  But as he was betrothed to the winner of the Queenstrial, she began to fall in love with Maven.  And I really thought they were good together.  There was a moment of two when it kind of seemed like maybe a love triangle, but no, I think she was really in love with Maven and over Cal.  Honestly, it could have been called a love square?  Because there was also her friend from back home, Kilorn.  But while it seemed there may be something more than just friendship there.  it never was made to be that Mara had any feelings like that for him.  And so I thought that was done perfectly as well.  And now, I must wait for book 2.  And I don't know how I'll do that!  Love, love, LOVED this book!  Highly recommended to people who like dystopian/fantasy type of stories.