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Review – The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

 

The Love Interest

By Cale Dietrich

SummaryThere is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: the boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: the brooding, dark-souled guy who is dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose the Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be—whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both. 

Source: I purchased a hardcover as part of the Book of the Month Club

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Review:

It’s kind of difficult to rate The Love Interest. It was awful and made zero sense, but it did an amazing job at making fun of tired YA tropes and if that was the point, then it was kind of awesome.

Basically, The Love Interest was a dystopian novel in which a secret organization takes kids and makes them into Love Interests. Every important person will have one, but in order to ensure he or she chooses the spy, they create a Bad and a Nice in order to appeal to the person. Whoever she doesn’t pick will die. It’s outrageous and makes no sense, but I’ve read enough awful YA to be entertained by the premise. In The Love Interest, Caden started to fall for the wrong person: the Bad guy. Which was also kind of awesome because it’s about time the idiot heroine who keeps bouncing between two guys loses both, right?

Caden narrated the story and he didn’t believe he was really Nice, but played his part in order to not die. He was kind of bland and awful, as was nearly all of the dialogue, but the book makes fun of so much wrong in YA, I can’t help but wonder if it was all on purpose. 

I’m not really sure if I read a brilliant parody of every YA dystopian novel ever or another awful addition to that pile, so I gave the book three stars because it’s either really good or really bad and I shot for the middle. 

Star 3

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Review – New World: Rising by Jennifer Wilson

 

New World: Rising

By Jennifer Wilson

SummaryWorlds collide in debut author Jennifer Wilson’s graphic dystopian series where Divergent meets Mad Max. 

Since witnessing her parents’ murders at the age of eleven, Phoenix’s only purpose in life has been to uphold her mother’s dying words – to be strong and survive. But surviving outside of The Walls – outside of The Sanctuary – is more like a drawn-out death sentence. A cruel and ruthless city, Tartarus is run by the Tribes whose motto is simple, “Join or die.” 
Refusing to join and determined to live, Phoenix fights to survive in this savage world. But who can she trust, when no one can be trusted? Not even herself…
The first of a trilogy, New World Rising is an epic tale of survival, instinct, trauma, and the extraordinary power of human connection.

“Savage and raw, Jennifer Wilson pulls no punches in this blood tingling dystopian.” Kimberly Derting, award-winning author of The Pledge Trilogy 

Source: I received a paperback in an Owlcrate box.

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Review:

New World: Rising was surprisingly awesome. I never really expect much from YA dystopian novels anymore and this wasn’t the starring book in the Owlcrate box, so of course I kind of viewed it as “extra” and didn’t have a lot of expectations for it, assuming it would be a mildly enjoyable book at best. 

Man, was I wrong. 

New World: Rising was really good in a way that I just don’t really see anymore in YA dystopian fiction. It was fresh. It kind of combined the aspects of post apocalypse with dystopia. Tartarus was the post apocalypse setting, the broken city taken over by tribes. A wall separated Tartarus from The Sanctuary. While we didn’t get to see the Sanctuary, it can be assumed that it’s the oppressive but perfect on the outside broken utopian society. I love that the story had both aspects of dystopian fiction. 

Phoenix was a loner who wasn’t part of any of the city’s tribes. She kept to herself, traded when she needed to, and kept access points all over the city. She survived. The comparison in the synopsis that it’s Divergent meets Mad Max is actually pretty spot on, but at the same time, I was pleasantly surprised that the book stood on its own without having to be compared to other dystopian YA novels. I loved Phoenix as a character. She was fierce, but I could tell she had a softer side. It showed when she saved a small girl without even realizing what she was doing.

The world building was superb. It was dark, gritty, and terrifying. I was caught up in the atmosphere and mystery, as well as the characters. 

If you are like me and love the dystopian genre, but it’s been nothing but disappointment recently, I highly recommend New World Rising. It’s the breath of fresh air we’ve all been waiting for.

Star 4

 

Review – The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson

SummaryWhen all hope is gone, how do you survive? 

Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—air conditioning, ice cream, long days at the beach. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed.

Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. Eden has lost everything to them. They killed her family and her friends, destroyed her home, and imprisoned her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.

Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves—but the solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected. 

This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.

Source: I received an Owlcrate exclusive hardcover in an Owlcrate box.

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Review:

The Sandcastle Empire was a strange book. I was confused for the majority of the story, but it was so interesting that I couldn’t help but turn the pages to see what would happen next. Because I was so intrigued and constantly surprised by the direct of the story, I enjoyed the book quite a bit.

The book definitely has a LOST feel to it, along with dystopian elements. Something happened to Eden’s world and it was under very strict rule, but her main goal was to find the Sanctuary her father wrote about in his survival guide. During a moment of chaos and confusion, Eden found herself traveling with three other girls headed off of the coast with only one way to go: towards Sanctuary.

There was so much going on with the plot. The island was really strange and it became clear that they weren’t on any ordinary piece of land. Also, the group dynamics were weird because none of them could really trust each other. And then one of them went missing and the girls attempted to find her and stumbled onto all sorts of messed up things. What WAS this place?! What was happening?

And then, suddenly, there was another group of people who showed up with characters some of the girls recognized, but not quite. Who were they? What were THEY doing here? 

I loved all of the craziness.

I have to admit, things did get a little over the top with the amount of strange twists and turns and shifting alliances, but I was so hooked. The end probably had more plot holes and rushed schemes than I would’ve liked, but it wasn’t a big deal to me. From the beginning, I knew I wasn’t reading a story that was realistic or had a tie to any world I’d recognize, so it was pure fantasy and chaos that never really needed to make sense to me. I suppose I understand if you are a stickler for realistic fiction how this book would be maddening, but I thought it was kind of fun and insane. 

I would definitely recommend The Sandcastle Empire to anyone who enjoyed Lost, enjoys being on the edge of their seat, and doesn’t have super high expectations for YA dystopian novels. This isn’t the next big hit, but it was definitely enjoyable and I had so much fun flying through the pages with a confused look on my face. No one can accuse the book of being predictable!

 Star 4

 

 

 

 

Review – Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

 

Incarceron 

By Catherine Fisher

SummaryIncarceron is a prison so vast that it contains not only cells and corridors, but metal forests, dilapidated cities, and wilderness. It has been sealed for centuries, and only one man has ever escaped. Finn has always been a prisoner here. Although he has no memory of his childhood, he is sure he came from Outside. His link to the Outside, his chance to break free, is Claudia, the warden’s daughter, herself determined to escape an arranged marriage. They are up against impossible odds, but one thing looms above all: Incarceron itself is alive . . . 

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

Incarceron has a gorgeous cover and a thrilling synopsis, so I couldn’t help but pick it up at the bookstore once I saw it. It has great reviews and seemed to be a great mixture of dystopia and steampunk, which sounded pretty awesome.

The book was about Finn, a prisoner inside the awful machinery world that was Incarceron. He was sure he came from outside and had visions of stars and lakes. To everyone else, he was likely cell-born, as Incarceron was said to create life in some instances. It was an ever changing machine and the entrances had been sealed for centuries. No one could go in or out, but there were legends of Sapphique, a man who escaped. Claudia was the Warden of Incarceron’s daughter on the Outside. In the Outside, Protocol demanded that there be no progress. Only a small portion of technology was allowed to be used; everything else was Era. They said the world got too out of hand and progress was to blame. She was betrothed to a prince she was fond of until his death. His stepmother, the Queen, had a son of her own who would be heir to the throne and Claudia was betrothed to him after the death of Giles. But when she found a key and spoke to Finn in the prison, she recognized him…

The plot of the novel seemed really interesting, but it was actually very slow going for me. I wasn’t engrossed in the characters whatsoever. I think the book has so much potential, but the execution was disappointing in just about every way. Claudia was the innocent daughter of the villain in the story, yet despite her fear of her terrifying father, she wasn’t afraid to do just about all things illegal behind his back and somehow think she could save the day and help prisoners escape from a prison she wasn’t fully capable of understanding. The Queen was an even worse villain, though I’m not really sure why.  Incarceron suffered from the same old YA tropes that took away from the unique premise. The story was mainly action based, which I would’ve enjoyed had the world building and character building been more present. All of the action felt like it was done with no real understanding of the consequences. Claudia just knew people were evil or awful without really having much proof, acted on her own biased whims, and yet it all worked out in her favor. The story just seemed too simple for such a complex world and I’m still not any wiser as to the how’s and why’s of the world I was just visiting.

This is one of those times when I own the sequel and am torn between just trudging through it or letting it sit for decades on my shelf, unread. If you’re a younger teen, this book might be just what you’re looking for. It’s fun, action packed, and full of mystery and plots. But for older teens and adults, it just fell short of my expectations. I think there comes a point when the whole “adults are evil with plots of their own and I, a teenage girl with no background about ANYTHING, know exactly what I’m doing” plots just don’t work for me. 

Star 2

 

Review – Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam #1) by Margaret Atwood

 

Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam Trilogy #1)

By Margaret Atwood

SummaryOryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining.

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Source: I purchased a paperback

Review:

I read Oryx and Crake to fill the category in the Eclectic Reader Challenge for a novel that was shortlisted for the Man Booker Award. To be quite honest, I don’t typically enjoy books in that category because they are most certainly guaranteed to be boring and pretentious to me. Or wordy for the sake of being wordy. I’m just not a big fan of Man Booker Award Winning Novels even though I’m no stranger to thought provoking novels. But, like I anticipated, I didn’t enjoy Oryx and Crake. The premise was interesting, but the story was jumbled and a bit tough to get into.

I got the point of the book and the references and satire that the author intended. The overall plot was interesting, but a tad predictable in a few ways and a bit over the top. I felt like the fact that Crake was a violent and ingenious maniac was clear in early scenes, yet there were dozens of examples that served only to reinforce the point and felt like a waste of time. The science was extremely far fetched. The depravity of society was quite awful, but there were so many scenes depicting gruesome and horrible activities just to prove that fact over and over again. 

Margaret Atwood is a hit or miss author for a lot of people and I think I’m in the minority when I say I’m not a big fan of this particular novel. It’s not that I miss the point, I just don’t think it’s a brilliant piece of storytelling. There’s an arrogance in the way she writes and I feel like if I said I didn’t like it, people would just assume I’m too dull or short sighted to truly appreciate it, as if any critique is a misunderstanding. One of the constant criticisms that dystopias receive is that they are so far fetched and ridiculous (which isn’t necessarily true), yet this is somehow a brilliant dystopia despite being even more far fetched than most dystopian novels. 

Despite the many problems the world has, I am not so pessimistic as to think that the public executions and torture porn that the characters gaze at 24/7 online is in any way a cautionary tale about the dangers of the internet or the awfulness of society now. Yes, people are gross, but I just see this book, if it’s a critique on society than it’s a bit too far fetched and pessimistic for me and I’m a big fan of apocalyptic and dystopian societies. I didn’t connect with the characters or the story or even the overall message. 

Star 2

Review – The Gender Game by Bella Forrest

 

The Gender Game

By Bella Forrest

Summary: A toxic river divides nineteen-year-old Violet Bates’s world by gender. 

Women rule the East. Men rule the West. 

Welcome to the lands of Matrus and Patrus…

Ever since the death of her mother, Violet’s life has been shadowed by bad luck. Already a prisoner to her own nation, now after two unfortunate incidents resulting in womanslaughter, she has been sentenced to death.
But one decision could save her life.
One decision to enter the kingdom of Patrus, where men rule and women submit. 
Everything about the patriarchy defies Violet’s identity, but she must sacrifice many things if she wishes to survive the forbidden kingdom… including forbidden love.

Source: I received a digital ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Review:

Bella Forrest is the author of the Shade of Vampire series that is a major Kindle bestselling series. I’ve been fortunate enough to read a lot of those books and obtain some of ARCs as new books released until I just couldn’t keep up with the series. It’s a great series, but I was glad to get a request to read something outside of the Shade of Vampire world for a chance. The Gender Game is the author’s venture into YA dystopian. 

Let me start by saying that I don’t like the title. I think the title combined with the synopsis comes across like the author is only acknowledging two genders, which alienates a lot of people, especially in the YA age group who are experiencing something else and are being exposed and introduced to the concept of non-binary people. Regardless of how anyone feels about the issue, that’s not really what the book is about overall, so it’s a misleading title that turns people off when those same people would probably enjoy the conflict and premise of the world. 

The book explores the differences between a matriarchal society and a patriarchal society. Each society created rigid rules based on what they deem important. We all know that people don’t always fit neatly into categories and it’s obvious that some people are not cut out for either one of the societies and wish for something better. Violence was frowned upon and had steep consequences in Matrus and the punishment was much harsher for men. In Patrus, women couldn’t be alone or speak up or really do anything. Men in Matrus were limited to hard labor and prohibited from learning. In Patrus, women were limited to domestic duties and prohibited from learning. 

Violet found herself in a juvenile facility for violence. While she was allowed to train in basic defense, she was limited in her training and she was prone to lashing out. However, she found herself chosen for an important task on behalf of the Queen of Matrus and was sent to Patrus as a spy. She would marry another Matrus spy, Lee, and the two of them would carry out the task and smuggle the item back into Matrus. If she succeeded, she would be able to see her brother who was sentenced to the mines of Matrus.

I liked the book and I enjoyed the plot. I felt like both societies were stifling in different ways. It was generally believed that women flourished in Matrus and men flourished in Patrus, but Violet experienced something else. She didn’t flourish in either society because of her violent tendencies. After watching a cage fight, she realized if she could just be allowed to fight, perhaps she could blow off some steam and be a regular citizen, but fighting wasn’t an option in either society. 

I think the title may throw some people off, but the book was really interesting and it was a fun YA dystopian novel that kept me guessing. I recommend it if you’re looking for something short, different, and fun.

Star 4

 

Review – Flawed by Cecilia Ahern

 

Flawed (Flawed #1)

By Cecelia Ahern

SummaryYou will be punished…

Celestine North lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.
But then Celestine encounters a situation where she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule and now faces life-changing repercussions. She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found flawed.
In her breathtaking young adult debut, bestselling author Cecelia Ahern depicts a society where perfection is paramount and flaws lead to punishment. And where one young woman decides to take a stand that could cost her everything.

Source: I received a hardcover in an Owlcrate
 

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Review:

I’m not a big fan of Cecilia Ahern. I think she comes up with awesome plots, but I don’t think she’s a strong writer. I wondered whether I would enjoy her attempt at YA fiction, but my expectations were quite low. 

Flawed was okay. The story was fairly character driven in a society where regular laws, like the kind you and I are aware of, exist. The biggest difference was the Guild who punished people for flaws in their characters and prevented people who were deemed Flawed to be in positions of leadership. This was to prevent the economic collapse due to dishonest people and other flaws. I was impressed with the concept because it’s interesting and I felt like I was certainly reading the book at a great time.. When our candidates for president are some of the worst people I’ve seen in politics in a long time. I could definitely get on board with having people pay for their character flaws if they can’t be convicted of a crime.. At least don’t let them do things like RUN FOR PRESIDENT. Right?

The beginning of the book was interesting, but then it started to get a little crazy. The act of deeming someone Flawed seemed a bit flawed, but if all they did was basically prevent people from being in positions of power, it didn’t seem that bad. But then it got worse. Suddenly, you weren’t allowed to help people who were Flawed and that’s how Cecilia found herself in a screwed up situation and where the story started to make no sense. I can get on board with a society that wants to prevent people who make bad choices from leading. But now they can’t be helped? They can’t sit with other flawed people? This seems like an issue that never would have gotten as far as it did. Perfect people have compassion and would want to help flawed people in order to feel better about themselves, we already know that as a society. So, if I reject helping a Flawed as being a problem, then I basically reject the rest of the book. Flawed people were essentially “factionless’ people in Divergent, but you’d get in trouble for even thinking about helping them.

Society went from having this minor thing where they deem people as Flawed to having this power hungry Guild looking to mark people as Flawed to promote their own agendas and what not, which is the very thing the whole system rose up to prevent. 

I get that Celestine basically fell down this rabbit hole for doing what she thought was right, but I just rejected the whole system and couldn’t really get on board with the conflict. I feel like dystopias should be somewhat probable or believable. Pulling the wool off of the eyes of an innocent girl may work for some people, but the system seemed designed to fail and therefore wouldn’t have lasted long enough for people to have treated Flawed citizens the way they did. If it’s been happening for any length of time, it should not be quite so easy to tear apart logically.

While I basically rejected the whole premise of the book, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be and I flew through it. It was certainly not difficult to read and I feel like fans of YA dystopian novels will like it as well. Flawed was better than I expected and, while I didn’t really like how unbelievable the conflict was, I’ve seen worse in YA dystopias, so I can’t completely knock the book. It’s not nearly as ridiculous as a lot of dystopian worlds and the book did a fairly good job at keeping it character based and interesting. 

Star 3