The Pledge by Kimberly Derting (Pledge, Book 1)

Charlie knows she must stay out of the spotlight, she has a secret that must be kept. She has a sister to protect. She keeps her head down, does well in school, works hard at her parents' restaurant, and spends her free time with her two best friends: Aron and Brooklynn.

In this time of uncertainty, with the Queen in her increasingly ill state and no female heir to take over, the entire country is in turmoil. The revolutionaries are becoming more bold, and the measures to keep their movements restricted are increasing. Leaving the house without your ID could easily lead to death. This is the world of Ludania. The Queen, however, has a secret. She does not need a blood heir, she can pass on her Essence to anyone of Royal blood. There are whispers that such an heir from an old bloodline may exist, and that the Queen is looking for her.

After a particularly ugly night at work, she agrees to go to the club with Brooklyn.They go to a place she heard about from a table of hot boys she had earlier that night, and sure enough, they are here waiting. Another boy, she remembers him from the restaurant also, approaches her. He is disarming, attractive, and has a quality to him that makes her uncomfortable, like he sees right through her...his name is Max, he says. After a few words, she walks away. Finding Brooklynn, she overhears the men she is with speaking a strange language she has never heard before. She is careful to turn her face to the floor, as it is illegal to face a person speaking a language other than your own in Ludania, punishable by death, but her secret gift allows her to understand him, "This childish beauty smells delicious," (Derting pg. 58, 2011). It's his tone that alarms her, and she drags Brooklynn away.

It finally hits home that things with the war are getting out of hand when the sirens go off, and they are forced to evacuate their own homes. Her father hands her sister Angelina to her, and urges them to go, hide. She begs for he and their mother to come with, but to no avail. The girls run off into the night. Who should them encounter, but Max...who sneaks them into a shelter which initially turned them away at gunpoint. Who is this boy? When they are awoken the next morning by the Royal Guard, she has her answer: he is Prince Maximillian! Moments later, they are practically kidnapped by the Resistance, and taken into their secret tunnels.

What will become of them? What does the Resistance want with them, and why has the Prince been seeking her out, wanting to spend time with her? Something bigger is going on, and she's afraid it has to do with her special ability to understand all language. Will Charlie be able to keep her sister and herself safe?

Derting does a great job of pulling you into her world, and weaving a blanket of emotions for readers to wear. The romantic tension between Charlie and Max will delight many fans of romance, and the action element keeps the story moving. Very thought provoking concepts, and would be great for discussion.

*Library Link*
“I saw the folded note peeking up from behind the cover of the book in which I'd hidden it.
I brushed my fingertips across the lineny surface, my skin sparking with electricity, my fingers itching to pull it free.
I shouldn't, I told myself, even as I held my breath and watched myself withdrawing it from the book. I tried to tamp down the feeling of anticipation coursing through me at the same time I argued that it was a mistake to look at it again.
It didn't deserve anymore of my time. He didn't deserve the space he already occupied in my mind.
I glanced around to see if anyone had noticed me there, tucked beneath my desk, reading a note that I'd already memorized.
No one paid me any attention.
I held the letter, vividly picturing the six words written inside the folds. Six words that I already knew by heart. Six words that meant more to me than they should.
I unfolded the top third of the paper, then the bottom, purposely keeping my eyes unfocused for just a moment.
My heart stopped.
And then my eyesight cleared.

I pledge to keep you safe,”  (Derting, 2011).
If you liked this, check out:

The Essence by Kimberly Derting (Pledge, Book 2)
Delirium by Lauren Oliver  (Delirium, Book 1)
The Selection by Kiara Cass (Selection, Book 1)

Derting, Kimberly. (2011). The Pledge. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books.

The Alchemy of Forever by Avery Williams (Incarnation, Book 1)

Seraphina is both relieved and apprehensive. She's come to terms with the fact that tonight she's going to die. That might be traumatic for most people, but after living 600 years, she's ready. She doesn't want to take another life. That's how she's lived as long as she has, with the help of the serum developed by Cyrus. He was once the love of her life, now he's practically her captor.

Cyrus has planned an elaborate party to celebrate her taking another form, which is what he believes will happen tonight. He doesn't know about her plans. If he did, he would never allow it. The years have made him cold, calculating, possessive, unmerciful... inhuman. He thinks nothing of the life they steal when they take another body.

She can't take any chances, or let anyone else in on her secret - not even her best friend. Things seem to be going according to plan until the screeching sounds of glass and metal tear through the silence of the night, assaulting Sera's senses, blurring her vision and inspiring in her a desperate need to help. Without thinking, she starts CPR...the very act necessary to begin body transference. In an instant, Sera has taken over Kailey's body. She's trapped in the body of a 16-year old girl, with a family and friends, and no easy way out. To leave now would only cause the girl's family more suffering, and to stay risks exposing her as an imposter. All of which discounts the fact that Cyrus may still be out there looking for her...

The only consolation in this disaster of a situation is Bryan, Kailey's next door neighbor. It seems clear that before the accident Kailey only talked with him when no one else was around, something that is changing with Sera. He is the only one that makes her feel comfortable in these strange new surroundings. She does everything she can to suppress the story of the accident to keep Cyrus from finding out. Then there's the drama of high school. Can Sera, a teen from 1349, ever hope to fit in a modern school? So many questions without answers, and they just don't stop. Just when she thinks things are finally starting to settle down, and that she can make it through the next 2 years until college...something unthinkable happens.

It held my attention. It's a quick read. Hardly mind shattering, but it's an interesting take on this new trend. What would happen to our humanity if we lived by taking life? A twist on the vampire myth, this offers a way to live through someone else's eyes. I'm curious to see what happens in the sequel. The cliffhanger has me intrigued.

*Library Link*
"I am a ghost, I think wildly. It is the only explanation. Except that when I reach out, my hand makes contact with my own cheek. But it is not my hand that I reach out with - it is dirty, with ragged nails. Somehow I am now the filthy female thief.
I jump to my feet, suddenly strong. 'I don't understand.'
Cyrus stands in front of me. 'Sera, you're alive. And if I am correct, you'll never have to die.'
'But my body...'
Cyrus hesitates a moment, thinking. Then he scoops it up and drops it into the Thames. It lands with a loud splash. 'It's the only one you'll ever leave behind. Your new body is different, no longer human or attached to your soul. When you are done with it, it will break into dust,'" (Williams pg. 9, 2012). 
If you liked this, check out:
The Impossibility of Tomorrow by Avery Williams (Incarnation, Book 2) June 2013
 Every Day by David Levithan
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (Infernal Devices, Book 1)
Everneath by Brodi Ashton (Everneath, Book 1)

Williams, Avery. (2012). The Alchemy of Forever: An Incarnation novel. New York: Simon & Schuster BFYR.

In Darkness by Nick Lake

This is a tale of two Haitis: today's Haiti tells a story of Soley 19 and Shorty's hazardous path through the ghetto, as he finds himself miraculously unscathed again and again. Yesterday's Haiti talks of Toussaint, the 54-year old slave who led a revolution against his master, and against the French overlords to take back Haiti for the blacks.

Shorty was born Marassa: two halves of a whole. His twin Marguerite is his motivation. Together they are powerful, in Haiti that's serious maji. Marassa can heal, bring good luck, double your fortune, they share the same soul. Without her, he is only half a person. Since Boston, the rival gang, took her, he's been missing his other half.

Toussaint never asked to be the face of the revolution, but he knows that someone with restraint and strategy is necessary if they want to keep Haiti from burning to the ground. He tries to keep the freed slaves from senseless violence and destruction. He brings in educators to teach them how to read and write. He organizes them, and slowly they come to see him as a true leader.

Dread Wilme saved him from the soldiers, that's how he got recruited to Route 9. He was born in blood and darkness, as his mother always said. The MINUSTAH soldiers wanted to make an example, and they used Dread to do it. In a story that became a legend, full of bullet holes, Dread staggered and picked up Shorty, pulling him out of the way of the Humvee. That was the day he gave him his pwen, a stone that carried a god of protection, and the day Dread died.

After that, it didn't take much to recruit Shorty to the chimeres, the gangsters, the drug dealers. Biggie asked, and he said yes. He first killed a man when he was 12 years old. He was going to get Marguerite back, and this was the only way to do it.

Toussaint leads them as they face the colonists, he leads them as they face the French armies. His unwavering bravery and relentless spirit continue in the face of overwhelming odds. They say he has been possessed, he has taken in the Iwa of War into himself to bring freedom to Haiti.

What will become of Shorty? What will become of Toussaint and his men? The two men are connected in a magical way that Lake explains in fits and starts, through darkness and blood. The language is both poetic and street, capturing the feeling of the ghetto. The picture of Site Soley won't be one that leaves me any time soon. The whole story is woven with vodou and old ways, but in a way that doesn't mock their superstition. There isn't much hope for the kids growing up in the ghetto, but in spite of the darkness, sometimes there is light.
"I was born in blood and darkness. That's how Manman told it, when I joined Route 9, when I started to roll with Biggie.
--He was born in blood and darkness, and that's how he'll die, the houngan told her.
Maybe she was right. Maybe I will die in blood and darkness. Maybe she would be happy if she saw me here.
Probably not," (Lake pg. 14, 2012).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
This Thing Called the Future by J.L. Future
Never Fall Down Patricia McCormick
Code Name Verity Elizabeth Wein

Lake, Nick. (2012). In Darkness. New York: Bloomsbury.