9th Life - Wendy Beck
This was one of the rare books whose world-building and characters drew me right in to the point where I lived and breathed in the story's world, and didn't want to leave it.

9th Life is an engrossing, fascinating story of love, sacrifice, destiny, and the exploration of the lines we'd cross for that which we perceive as most important. Beautifully told, with a lyrical quality to the prose and smart, intriguing dialogue, the story had me turning the pages to find out what would happen next to the characters I've come to care about.

It starts with a thoughtful build of the relationship between the heroine Skyler and the hero Bastian, which creates a slow burn that is all the more engaging for its careful, paced progression. I found it especially enjoyable that the author didn't rush the relationship or throw in tons of action just to create a faster pace -- the quiet intensity of the building romance between Skyler and Bastian had its own fascinating tension, and had me hungry for more, wanting to read on and see what the next step would be.

The culture of the Ailuro shifters was worked into the story in a beautiful, subtle fashion that established their "otherness" in a believable, authentic way. As mentioned before, the world-building as a whole was just so realistic and well-done that I felt fully immersed in this world and all its facets.

Having read the next two installments in the series, I can say that 9th Life is the beginning of a truly amazing trilogy that touched me on the deepest level, ripped out my heart and handed it back to me with a beautiful smile. So, in short: Fan-freaking-tastic.