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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

 

 

 

 

Throwback Review – Poison Study (Study #1) by Maria V. Snyder

 

Poison Study (Study #1)

By Maria V. Snyder

REREAD

SummaryMurder, mayhem and magic…
Locked in a coffin-like darkness, there is nothing to distract me from my memories of killing Reyad. He deserved to die—but according to the law, so do I. Here in Ixia, the punishment for murder is death. And now I wait for the hangman’s noose.
But the same law that condemns me may also save me. Ixia’s food taster—chosen to ensure that the Commander’s food is not poisoned—has died. And by law, the next prisoner who is scheduled to be executed—me—must be offered the position.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy.

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Review:

**** Originally posted Mar 2016****

Poison Study was great! I absolutely loved the story. In some ways, it was similar to Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which is great because I’m constantly on the lookout for books of that caliber. Yelena was a prisoner and was to be executed for murder. Under the military regime, things were even, yet not necessarily fair in the way that we understand fairness. Murder was wrong, regardless of why you did it, even if you had a good reason. It was the same for everything. Punishment was to be exacted for every infraction, even not wearing your uniform to work, regardless of why. However, the next prisoner on the chopping block was meant to have the opportunity to be a food taster for the Commander. Luckily, Yelena was next in line and was given a shot at life, with restraints.

Yelena was a likable character. She was fierce, but good at heart. She learned poisons under Valek, who taught her what to look for and what the effects were to various types of poison so that she could effectively do her job. The Commander was always under some threat of murder and poison, so Yelena had to taste everything. Her position was, of course, one with a very high mortality rate.

The book was full of magic and mayhem, with lovable characters. I cared about each of Yelena’s friends and people who attempted to help her. While I disliked the way the regime was set up, I understood why it was so drastic after the way magicians ran the kingdom previously. I also respected Commander Ambrose. He was soft when he needed to be and seemed to trust Valek, who extended that trust onto Yelena.

I enjoyed the slow romance in the book as well and I liked that it wasn’t all front and center, but kind of played out in the background.

I definitely recommend Poison Study and I will read the sequels. It was a beautifully written and enchanting YA fantasy and I can’t wait to find out what will happen to Yelena next.

 

REREAD 2017 Updates: I decided to reread the book so I could recap before starting the sequel and I still loved it just as much as the first time! It’s kind of a nice story to read if you’re looking for something like Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas because Yelena and Celaena have some similar traits and backgrounds. 

 

Star 4

Review – Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eliza and Her Monsters

by Francesca Zappia

SummaryEighteen-year-old Eliza Mirk is the anonymous creator of Monstrous Sea, a wildly popular webcomic, but when a new boy at school tempts her to live a life offline, everything she’s worked for begins to crumble.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, smart, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of a popular webcomic called Monstrous Sea. With millions of followers and fans throughout the world, Eliza’s persona is popular. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community. Then Wallace Warland transfers to her school, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart. With pages from Eliza’s webcomic, as well as screenshots from Eliza’s online forums, this uniquely formatted book will appeal to fans of Noelle Stevenson’s Nimonaand Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.

Source: I received a hardcover in an Owlcrate

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Review:

Before I state my opinion, I’ll say that this book was a huge Owlcrate fan favorite. A lot of subscribers enjoyed this book and I completely and totally understand why. It’s a great book, short, sweet, and probably very easy for many introverted people to relate to. So my low-ish rating is more of personal opinion and not necessarily an indicator that this is a bad book.

I think this book is easy for a lot of readers and introverts to relate to and that ability to relate is what makes it so enjoyable. For me, I am kind of different because, while I do enjoy escape into books, I am not the kind of introvert who doesn’t enjoy real life, even when I don’t fit in. I feel like becoming comfortable in my own skin is important to me, even as tempting as escaping into myself tends to be, and it’s always kind of made it difficult for me to relate to the types of introverts who prefer to escape. This book is for those people. For me, it just wasn’t a book I identified with, though the author did create characters I wanted to root for even if I couldn’t relate.

On another note, I also dislike and do not participate in fan-fiction, so there’s another thing that other people probably loved and could relate to that I just couldn’t. I will likely never pick up Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (though I love her other books!) just because I know it’s not my cup of tea. I didn’t realize that this book would be about a fandom in that sense. Eliza created her world, but I didn’t expect the online fandom presence or the existence of a fan-fiction writer. And this definitely hindered my enjoyment of the book, though it didn’t really bother me until the end. I rooted for Eliza and Wallace for the majority of the book, but his behavior regarding his fan-fiction really bothered me and that’s partly because I think it was a crappy attitude about it but also because of how I feel about fan-fiction in general, published fan-fiction, and the rights of fan-fiction authors. (I’m sorry, but no author or artist or any person should ever be made to feel like they exist to give other people inspiration even if they do frequently inspire others. You are not an inspiration factory and if someone can’t get their life together it’s not your fault no matter what. This message WAS in the book, but the end of the book kind of rushed through some of that and I don’t think that was as clear as it could’ve been.)

And lastly, while I didn’t relate to Eliza, I felt like I understood her throughout much of the book. I was completely loving the book for at least 70% of it because the author did a great job of making me empathize with and love Eliza and “get” her situation. But once her identity was revealed and she had a panic attack, she generally stopped participating in life on and offline, and I just didn’t feel like the rest of the book handled the healing process very well. It glossed over a lot of it and I wanted the book to have more of a focus on overcoming and dealing with anxiety instead of just kind of skirting around it. While her family didn’t necessarily understand her focus on her comic and they finally understood it once they realized how big it was, the fact that it was so successful did not and should not mean that Eliza’s behavior was okay. There’s a middle ground there that just wasn’t obviously pointed out. I feel like the message, without meaning to, kind of sounded like “it’s okay to let anxiety control your life if you just do something successful.” The book did start to go in a more positive direction towards the end, but it just wasn’t as detailed or in depth as the whole rest of the book, so it just fell short for me and made the actual message it was trying to give a little less clear.

If you love comics, graphic novels, the creation of art, fan-fiction, and/or characters who are more comfortable online than in person and find that easy to relate to, this book is absolutely awesome and I definitely recommend it. But it’s not without flaws.

Star 3

Review – The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

The Female of the Species

By Mindy McGinnis

SummaryAlex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.

While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.

But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.

So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.

Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever. 

Source: I borrowed a Kindle copy from the library

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Review:

WHY aren’t more people talking about this book?!

The Female of the Species looks like your average contemporary with the bright cover and quirky title. But underneath, it was a brutal and fierce book that pushes the ugliness of rape culture in your face. It’s full of cussing, screwed up situations, and violence, but it was a sucker punch I think we all need. 

On second thought, I’m actually glad that since it’s not the book everyone is raving about, at least it’s not in the spotlight of public outrage about what is appropriate in YA. I feel like there’s a big issue with people scrutinizing what is okay for YA fiction and if too much language or sex or violence is counterproductive or even triggering. I’ve always been in the camp that reading stories like this one SHOULD be uncomfortable to some degree because teens are cussing, drinking having sex, and dealing with a lot of issues that no one, including their parents, ever seem to talk about. Let’s talk about it and be real. There is even a scene that talks about talking about stuff like that and being In-Your-Face about it to get people’s attention. Tiptoeing around an issue won’t help people truly understand it.

I think the synopsis makes it sound like some romance between Jack and Alex, making me expect a much more run of the mill contemporary romance, but that was not what the book was at all. Alex was a brutal person who decided she had enough of behaviors and people slipping through the cracks. While Jack and Alex had a connection and ended up attempting to explore it, the story was more about the small town, groups of friends, and Alex’s place in an ugly and unfair world.

I loved Peekay. She was my favorite character because she had spunk and she treated Alex like something other than the girl with the dead sister. 

The Female of the Species is a 100% necessary book. It talked about rape culture, the way that girls are treated differently, the fact that no one ever seems to want to deal with sexual assault or talk about it. It also dealt with stereotypes and I absolutely LOVED that it didn’t vilify the promiscuous girl and instead asked why it mattered whether she got around or not. Maybe half the rumors about her aren’t true, but so what if they are? It was a book about the awfulness of people and the goodness in them, too.

The book is NOT for those sensitive to violence, sexual assault, or animal cruelty. None of those behaviors are excused in the book, but they do occur. 

I highly recommend it. I was going to rate it 4 stars at first, but the story has stayed with me for a couple of days and I found myself wishing I knew more readers to recommend it to, so I just had to bump it up to five stars. 

 

Star 5

 

 Quotes:

You see it in all animals – the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

I live in a world where not being molested as a child is considered luck.

Opportunity is what matters, nothing else… I’m telling you… It doesn’t matter. What you were wearing. What you look like. Nothing. Watch the nature channel. Predators go for the easy prey.

But boys will be boys, our favorite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll.

 

 

Review – A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3) by Sarah J. Maas

 

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3)

By Sarah J Maas

SummaryLooming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places. 

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

Source: I purchased a hardcover

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Review:

I absolutely love this series. And Sarah J. Maas. This was another brilliant five star book that had me twisted into a ball of emotions the whole time. I was on the edge of my seat with so much hanging in the balance. There were alliances, court scheming, plots, betrayals, quests, romance, adventure. I think ACOWAR is even more complex than the second book with the political plots and bargains and favors. 

I love how Maas creates characters that end up growing and changing. Comparing ANY of the characters in ACOTAR to the ones in ACOWAR would show just how much they’ve all been affected by the events of the world. Feyre did a lot of her growth in ACOMAF, but in ACOWAR, we got to see her strut her stuff as High Lady of the Night Court and truly flaunt her power. I will always love the romance between her and Rhys because they just believe in each other, lean on each other in times of need, and never let their worry stop them from letting each other do what needs to be done. I love villainous and terrifying love interests, but I melt even more when they treat their romantic leads as equals and believe in them. And it really doesn’t happen as often as it should in romance, so I can’t get enough of Rhys and Feyre. They are both so full of compassion and yet rippling with terrifying power. 

But while ACOMAF was more focused on the romantic tension between Rhys and Feyre to some degree, ACOWAR was definitely more about introducing more of the rest of the characters and their stories along with the threat of war, and so there was a lot going on. For anyone who was sticking through it just to get more romance, while I think ACOWAR has a lot of great romantic moments, it definitely wasn’t quite the same kind of story. This book wasn’t just the two of them soaring through the night and stealing moments, but of them covered in blood and sweat and leaning on each other because they just couldn’t stomach the battle without each other. Which was better to me, but might not satisfy people who crave romantic tension. 

I don’t know what to say without spoiling the many twists and turns in the plot. The story started in such a different place than it ended, with a host of various schemes and problems along the way. But I LOVE this series so much. It brings real fantasy elements and real character growth to YA that I just don’t see often enough in other books. It is rare that books touch upon the strength it takes to recover from traumatic events, the love that is real and makes us better people, the friendship between people who are good to each other, and the complexities of the Fae world. There are layers upon layers to everything in the series and none of it feels contrived or lazy or predictable. The characters are amazing and I just loved every second. 

I can’t wait to see where the series will go after this, but I’m also glad to get some closure, too, which is what I have not yet gotten from the Throne of Glass series. 

I highly recommend the series and this book was as good, if not better, than the second in the series, so it did not disappoint. I truly cannot comprehend anyone not loving this series if they are into fantasy and Fae lore at all, unless it has to do with the more mature violence and romance being off putting for people who stick to YA for the cleanliness. This series is definitely mature, but not quite as graphic as adult romance. I highly recommend it.

Star 5

Review – Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Hunted 

By Meagan Spooner

SummaryBeauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them. 

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance. 

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

Source: I borrowed a digital copy through Kindle Library Lending

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Review:

Hunted was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and I was eager to read it. It was different from the tale we all know and love, but also very similar and familiar. The book was gorgeous and well told and was a great retelling of a classic story. But I think I just can’t do retellings of Beauty and the Beast because I did not enjoy the story as much as I thought I would. And to be honest, I think that’s mostly my fault and not the book’s fault. 

Hunted took the original tale and made it more about the forest, hunting, and animal natures. It also included Russian folklore with the magic of the forest, which was an aspect I enjoyed. 

If you love fairy tale retellings, adore Beauty and the Beast, and want more of it, Hunted definitely delivered a great story. I can see why people were raving about it. It was a standalone, it involved the magic of the forest, and the slow development of romance between Yeva and the Beast who captured her. It was a more isolated, quiet, and cruel version of the Disney tale with less dancing around the castle.

The reason I didn’t enjoy it was my own issue with how I feel about retellings in general. I love when retellings take a story and do something else with it that isn’t quite expected. I do love when love interests are like the Beast, with violent, animalistic, and maybe even with cruel tendencies. I love villains turned love interest or when you cock your head at a character and I wonder if they are really as bad as they seem. That is what I love about Beauty and the Beast. But I know how that story ends. I know how it comes together, and I expect it. And that is why 99% of Beauty and the Beast retellings don’t work for me. It always feels the same. 

I always think I want a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but I don’t actually. I crave a character who is perhaps the bad guy and maybe ends up not being so bad, but that small similarity can be done in many different ways and not even be a retelling of the fairytale. So I don’t actually want a retelling of this story and I need to STOP picking them up because I don’t like any of them.

It feels weird to not like a book because it’s too predictable when it’s a retelling because of course it’s predictable. Which is why I say that it’s more my fault for not liking the book. If you genuinely want a Beauty and the Beast retelling, Hunted was a very good story. It’s a great read, well written, interesting, and provided a bit of it’s own twist on other fairy tales and aspects of magic. I definitely recommend it and have rated it higher than it really was for me because three stars is just not fair when it’s my own fault I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to. 

Star 4