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Photo Review – Hero at the Fall (Rebel of the Sands #3) by Alwyn Hamilton

Hero at the Fall (Rebel of the Sands #3)

By Alwyn Hamilton

Summary: When gunslinging Amani Al’Hiza escaped her dead-end town, she never imagined she’d join a revolution, let alone lead one. But after the bloodthirsty Sultan of Miraji imprisoned the Rebel Prince Ahmed in the mythical city of Eremot, she doesn’t have a choice. Armed with only her revolver, her wits, and her untameable Demdji powers, Amani must rally her skeleton crew of rebels for a rescue mission through the unforgiving desert to a place that, according to maps, doesn’t exist. As she watches those she loves most lay their lives on the line against ghouls and enemy soldiers, Amani questions whether she can be the leader they need or if she is leading them all to their deaths.

Source: I purchased a kindle copy

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Photo Review – Traitor to the Throne (Rebel of the Sands #2) by Alwyn Hamilton

Traitor to the Throne (Rebel of the Sands #2)

By Alwyn Hamilton

Summary: Rebel by chance. Traitor by choice.

Gunslinger Amani al’Hiza fled her dead-end hometown on the back of a mythical horse with the mysterious foreigner Jin, seeking only her own freedom. Now she’s fighting to liberate the entire desert nation of Miraji from a bloodthirsty sultan who slew his own father to capture the throne.

When Amani finds herself thrust into the epicenter of the regime—the Sultan’s palace—she’s determined to bring the tyrant down. Desperate to uncover the Sultan’s secrets by spying on his court, she tries to forget that Jin disappeared just as she was getting closest to him, and that she’s a prisoner of the enemy. But the longer she remains, the more she questions whether the Sultan is really the villain she’s been told he is, and who’s the real traitor to her sun-bleached, magic-filled homeland.

Forget everything you thought you knew about Miraji, about the rebellion, about Djinn and Jin and the Blue-Eyed Bandit. In Traitor to the Throne, the only certainty is that everything will change.

Source: I purchased a kindle copy.

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I really enjoyed this one, but it was a little less stellar than book 1.

ReRead and Review – Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1)

By Alwyn Hamilton

SummaryShe’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from. 

Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him… or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

Source: I purchased a hardcover. And a kindle copy on accident because I forgot I owned it already.

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Review:

I purchased Rebel of the Sands after seeing it win the Goodreads Debut Author of 2016 category for the Best Books of 2016 on Goodreads. I’d seen the book around beforehand, but never picked it up. I read a lot of books each year and 99% of them I buy myself. I’ve been burned by new releases so many times, so I’ve been relying on reviews, overall star ratings, and things like “Best Book of the Year” awards to help me decide what to pick up instead of buying random books at the bookstore.

Rebel of the Sands was a blend of cultures. I expected Arabian/Eastern type of desert mythology, but I got a bit of American West at the same time. Amani’s life resembled that of the American West, a desert town full of guns and liquor and people who didn’t trust one another. At the same time, the creatures in the desert and the political setup resembled the East, a bit of Arabian Nights, with Sultans and harems. I don’t know that I’ve read a book that took place in the desert and combined Eastern and Western settings. I feel a little conflicted because I thought the combination was unique, but I wish there was an explanation for it. The author isn’t American, otherwise my first thought would be that she wanted to stick with her own comfort zone and she did that by including the American West, but that’s not the case. It’s just a little weird as I’m not sure those two things really go together.

Regardless, the book was compelling and I read it quickly. I liked Amani. I felt like she was a tough heroine who wasn’t afraid to try dangerous things. She wanted out of her life in a town where her gender determined whether she was listened to. Her uncle was going to force her to be one of his wives, but she needed to leave with money if she was ever going to get out of her town. There was a war going on and a ton of conflict, but Amani didn’t need to get involved until it showed up on her doorstep. Her path crossed with a mysterious foreigner and she was off on an adventure she wasn’t quite sure about.

A lot of reviewers have mentioned Amani’s lack of direction throughout the book and how she had no real purpose once she fled Dustwalk. What was she doing out there? Why was she so content to follow Jin? I understand the frustration when we are so used to heroines having something to focus on, even if it’s just revenge, but I liked that Amani didn’t really know what she was doing because I think sometimes that’s how life is. I get frustrated when heroines discover their strengths and somehow know exactly what to do to tear down some awful regime. I like that Amani knew what she was good at and every step she took lead her to discover the world she dreamed of wasn’t anything like she expected. Maybe she could escape to that city her mother came from, but then what? Why not just follow Jin and see what tricks are up his sleeve? At least by his side she could use her guns. She wasn’t trying to rage against the government or anything crazy. She just wanted out of her life and had no real other plan.

I do love that eventually Amani figured out what Jin’s whole deal was and found a bigger purpose. I liked that she didn’t just immediately jump on that bandwagon and that she stayed conflicted at first because it fit with her whole lack of direction. I don’t want to give too much away, but I liked how it all ended and how she ended up finding her place in everything.

I can see why Rebel of the Sands won the category for Debut in 2016 on Goodreads. It was an interesting book and it was certainly unique. I also like that, while it is part of a series, it didn’t end with some crazy cliffhanger that makes me regret reading it so soon before the sequel’s release. It was satisfying, but there’s still so much more that can and probably will happen. I definitely recommend the book.

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Photo Review – The Bat (Harry Hole #1) by Jo Nesbo

The Bat (Harry Hole #1)

By Jo Nesbo

Summary:

Inspector Harry Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad is dispatched to Sydney to observe a murder case. Harry is free to offer assistance, but he has firm instructions to stay out of trouble. The victim is a twenty-three year old Norwegian woman who is a minor celebrity back home. Never one to sit on the sidelines, Harry befriends one of the lead detectives, and one of the witnesses, as he is drawn deeper into the case. Together, they discover that this is only the latest in a string of unsolved murders, and the pattern points toward a psychopath working his way across the country. As they circle closer and closer to the killer, Harry begins to fear that no one is safe, least of all those investigating the case.

Source: I purchased a paperback to read for the Nordic Noir category of the 2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge.

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Photo Review – All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

All the Missing Girls

By Megan Miranda

Review – From the Earth to the Shadows (Valkyrie #2) by Amanda Hocking

 

From the Earth to the Shadows (Valkyrie #2)

By Amanda Hocking

SummaryThe epic conclusion to the thrilling Valkyrie duology by New York Times bestselling YA author Amanda Hocking, From the Earth to the Shadows.

While dealing with dark revelations about her life and her world, Malin finds herself with new allies–and new enemies. Her quest for the truth leads her to places she never thought possible, and she’s never been one to shy away from a fight. But for all her strength and determination, will it be enough to save the world before it’s too late? 

Grab a copyAmazon . Barnes & Noble . Books-a-Million . IndieBound . Powells

About the Author: Amanda Hocking is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book. 

http://www.worldofamandahocking.com/ . @Amanda_Hocking . @AmandaHockingFans . Author Blog

Source: I received a digital copy in exchange for participation in blog tour and honest review.
 
 
Review:
 
Book One Review is here
 
I really enjoyed Between the Blade and Heart as a fun and somewhat unique urban fantasy with valkyries, gods, drama, and mayhem. From the Earth to the Shadows is the much anticipated sequel. 
 
I liked the supporting characters in the first book and I was glad to see more of them in the sequel. 
 
If I’m being honest, From the Earth to the Shadows wasn’t the thrilling sequel that I expected. It felt very much like a second book instead of an epic finale. Something was missing and the writing felt clunky. I don’t remember not liking the writing in the first book, so I’m not sure if the tone changed or if I’m just more forgiving when I’m reading a first book. I do tend to forgive a first book for feeling a little like info-dump, but it didn’t work in a second book. It just felt like the characters went from point A to B to C without a lot of world or character building in a way that would have smoothed the story out.
 
The plot itself was good, I just wished the story was executed in a more polished way. 
 
If you’re looking for a fun urban fantasy, the story is good. If you tend to read a lot of unpolished indie books and don’t mind a little bit of roughness in the storytelling, it’s definitely a great read and I thought it ended well. 
 
Star 3
 
 
 
 

Review – Restore Me (Shatter Me #4) by Tahereh Mafi

Restore Me (Shatter Me #4)

By Tahereh Mafi

SummaryJuliette Ferrars thought she’d won. She took over Sector 45, was named the new Supreme Commander, and now has Warner by her side. But she’s still the girl with the ability to kill with a single touch—and now she’s got the whole world in the palm of her hand. When tragedy hits, who will she become? Will she be able to control the power she wields and use it for good?

Source: I preorded a hardcover

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Review:

If you know me, you know that the Shatter Me series is one of my absolute favorite YA series. I reread it almost every year because I sometimes miss the unique writing style and I just haven’t found anything quite the same. So when I found out the author was continuing the series, I was excited. And I knew we’d be getting a POV from Warner, which I liked in Destroy Me, so I thought Restore Me would be amazing.

What I liked about Restore Me:

As a dystopian story, even I will admit the Shatter Me series failed to really give readers much in terms of worldbuilding. We are caught up in Juliette’s brain and she was not aware of a lot of what was going on. She was also focused on other things. As the story progressed and she turned outward, we got a lot more information, but there was still a lot to build on. I liked that Restore Me acknowledged that by being a book that dealt with the state of the sector and became more of a global book since there were additional characters, areas, plots, and Juliette wasn’t the only narrator. In terms of dystopian stories, Restore Me was a great book that dealt with the hardships of running things, leading others, and fighting against an entity that oppresses people.

As a standalone, if we vaguely knew some backstory about the series, it would be a good dystopian novel of its own that would compete with the likes of The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.

However, it’s not a new series.

It’s a continuation of a series. It’s a continuation of a series I love, a series that is written differently than this book… and that is where it ultimately fails for me.

To understand why I didn’t like Restore Me, you have to understand why I love the original series.

I love that the series starts with Juliette in an asylum frantically counting and crossing out her thoughts and then progresses and the writing style with it. As Juliette grows into a person who isn’t so afraid of her own bad thoughts and demands to exist in her own way, the crossing out of lines stops and she becomes who she was always meant to be. And along the way, her relationships and own perception of other people change as well. It’s so ingenious because we realize as readers how unreliable she is as a narrator when she’s trapped in her own head. Although the outside plot of the original series was open and largely unexplained, the story arc of Juliette was completed. She became herself. The story was never about the rest of the world. It was a story about her. The poetic writing worked with the story, the fact that Juliette’s narration wasn’t focused on the outside world was sort of the point to me.

I already said that there was definitely room to expand upon the actual world of Shatter Me and include other characters, but that it wasn’t the point of the story. While the original series is a YA dystopian series, it’s not really a YA dystopian if you compare to other books. For me, the story mirrors growth. Juliette’s relationship with Adam was a symbol of what society always wanted her to be, what she thought she HAD to be to survive, and her growth and development into a confident and strong person who discovered her own strength didn’t leave room for that scared and meek girl Adam loved. Her relationship with Warner was a result of finally understanding herself, what she was capable of, etc. She even said in Ignite Me how awful it was that the entire time she was counting in a corner in the asylum, she was capable of walking through concrete and didn’t know.. didn’t get angry or focused enough to even try. That’s the point of the series to me. We see Juliette’s character growth and her narration changes along with her.
So this is why I didn’t like Restore Me:

Restore Me feels like what happens when you grow up and perhaps grow out of things. You grow up and think, You’re a teenager, Juliette, what could you possibly hope to accomplish by becoming Supreme Leader? Did you really think you could do this without any hardships? And who falls in love with THE ONE at your age? You guys are bound to have issues. Do you even really know him? Ugh, you are so immature! And what about the rest of the world? Why didn’t anyone explain The Reestablishment? 

And it feels like the author came at the story with all of that in her mind and proceeded to (sorry) RUIN everything I loved about the series. Like when you pick up an old favorite with new adult eyes and realize maybe the main character was immature. Like when you watch The Little Mermaid as an adult and think maybe Ariel’s father was right and Ariel is being a brat and she’s only 16, so she’s still a kid in the grand scheme of things.

OR.. the author, having been a YA author and in the YA community, has read much more YA than she did previously, discovered where other series were having success, and proceeded to pepper the story with tons of YA tropes, issues, and worldbuilding in order to provide conflict because thats what other successful YA stories have.

OR both of those things happened. I’m not really sure.

Either way, Restore Me is just not what I expected.

I found it to be an unncessary continuation of the story that proceeded to destroy most of what I love about the series.

To explain: In the book, it’s been 16 days since the end of Ignite Me and our cast of characters have changed dramatically.

Juliette, who FINALLY discovered herself and her potential, proceeded to turn into an unsure, somewhat whiny, and clueless girl (not even the same unsure girl she used to be) after just 16 days of success in overthrowing the Supreme Leader. Also, the one person she had a mutual connection with and strategized with and trusted is no longer her go to person for help because of … reasons? Suddenly, she’s just a completely different person for no reason and everything she respected about Warner is suddenly forgotten or something?

Warner, who loves Juliette with all his heart and has COMPLETE confidence in himself and Juliette, suddenly turned into this weird person who doesn’t communicate at all and second guesses himself and also offers Juliette no assistance despite being the type of person who 16 days ago would have drawn up a complete spreadsheet on who everyone leading each sector was and how to win them over or beat them. He knows his job and wouldn’t just leave Juliette hanging.. or wouldn’t have 16 days ago.

His new “personality” legit angered me. Like… IDK who the F this Warner is, but even if I give him credit for grieving and also wanting to give Juliette space to lead, there’s literally no possible way he’d ever let things spiral out of control the way he did. Their entire relationship was BUILT on TRULY understanding one another and I just don’t believe they would have the crazy communication issues after just 16 days, EVEN knowing that Warner keeps a lot to himself. It’s like the author spent the entire original series building this whole mutual understanding and amazing relationship only to decide that Juliette shouldn’t need a man, even a man that makes her a better person. It feels like the whole point of Restore Me was watching the author try to make Juliette independent by destroying her relationship with Warner. Or maybe just create discord for plot suspense. Either way, the Warner I knew wouldn’t watch Juliette flounder in a society she knows nothing about while he holds the key to helping her understand the other sectors. He wouldn’t have done that in a million years.

Kenji, who became an amazing friend, is suddenly back to being the Jokester, except blander than usual.

Castle, who was always a naive and optimistic leader of the rebellion suddenly became super organized and knows everything about the sectors and decides to share all the news in passive aggressive sneaky ways in order to cause chaos and discord between Juliette, Kenji, and Warner. What happened to the Professor X type of character? Suddenly, it feels like he exists only to make everyone second guess themselves by being passive aggressive.

And to top it off, the author also decided to pull a Sarah J Maas (I love you, Mafi and Maas, but for real).. and decided to whip up some secondary characters with mysterious backgrounds and throw them into the story for fun. If I didn’t know and love the original series, maybe I’d be up for this, but I was already frustrated by the old characters who were suddenly different people and I SO didn’t have time for actual different people.

Also, there’s no more amazing poetic writing.

Basically, it’s your typical YA dystopian novel complete with over the top plots, unnecessary miscommunication drama, relationship drama, and mysterious characters along with the twist of WHO IS JULIETTE REALLY. (Which, again, would be fine if this wasn’t a contination of a series that was completely different 16 days ago!) If it wasn’t for the fact that the series already existed and was completely fine by itself, Restore Me was a kind of exciting first book in a dystopian series. The ending was cool, the drama, though over the top, was fun, and there was definitely more of a focus on things aside from Juliette and her head, but this was just so unnecessary.

I LIKED being stuck in unreliable Juliette’s head and watching her grow. I liked Warner and the way he believed in her and inspired her to be amazing. I liked the ambiguous not really explained dystopian setting. I liked the crossed out sentences and purple prose. I liked it all.

I read that Mafi wanted to give her fans what they asked for – more plot, less poetry.. and she did, but I can’t help but think that she wasn’t writing this for fans who loved the first book. It feels like this book is for people who only sort of kind of liked the series and wanted it to be more Divergent-esque.

To be as fair as possible, I’m giving Restore Me 3 stars. It’s more of a 1-2 for me, but it’s really not a bad book, so I can’t be quite that harsh. For me, I’ll just pretend Restore Me didn’t happen after Ignite Me and maybe continue this weird spin off series by pretending it has no relation to the Juliette and Warner from the first “trilogy” and call it a day.

Star 3