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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 – P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

P.S. I Like You

By Kasie West

SummarySigned, sealed, delivered…

While spacing out in chemistry class, Lily scribbles some of her favorite song lyrics onto her desk. The next day, she finds that someone has continued the lyrics on the desk and added a message to her. Intrigue!

Soon, Lily and her anonymous pen pal are exchanging full-on letters—sharing secrets, recommending bands, and opening up to each other. Lily realizes she’s kind of falling for this letter writer. Only, who is he? As Lily attempts to unravel the mystery and juggle school, friends, crushes, and her crazy family, she discovers that matters of the heart can’t always be spelled out…

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Source: I borrowed a Kindle copy from the library

Review:

I skipped the August 2016 Owlcrate box and missed out on this book, so I decided to borrow it from the library. I’m a huge fan of Kasie West novels and I couldn’t wait to dig in!

P.S. I Like You was such a cute contemporary story. It featured a quirky guitar player and songwriter and her awkwardness. Her best friend kept trying to set her up with people and double date. She couldn’t seem to talk to her crush at all. Her family life was a whir of chaos. And she had weird taste in music that no one in her immediate circle seemed to identify with.

In chemistry class, she somehow bonded with a stranger over desk graffiti and started passing letters. She knew the person had chemistry before her and sat at the same desk, but she didn’t know anything else. She thought it was a girl and it was revealed later that her mysterious pen pal was a guy. They had the same taste in music and Lily started to think maybe she was falling for the stranger. But who was he? Was he the guy her best friend kept setting her up with on double dates? Was he Lucas, the hunky boy she kept her eye on and had a massive crush on? Or someone else? 

I loved not knowing and I loved watching the whole thing unfold. 

I figured out who the letter writer was long before Lily and I was right, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment at all, in fact, I think it might have been more entertaining because I wanted to know if I was right and what Lily would do when the truth came out. 

Kasie West writes adorable contemporary novels I can’t help but love. Most of my go-to contemporary authors are deep and dark and make me cry, but Kasie’s like a breath of fresh air and I know I’m going to sink into a well written and cute romance instead of something designed to torture my soul. I highly recommend the book and if you haven’t read her other books, just grab them all. I have yet to be disappointed!

Star 4

Review – Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Wolf by Wolf (Wolf by Wolf #1)

By Ryan Graudin

SummaryHer story begins on a train.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

From the author of The Walled City comes a fast-paced and innovative novel that will leave you breathless.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

Wolf by Wolf was such a great book! The premise is what hooked me at the bookstore. I don’t read a lot of alternate history, but the idea intrigues me, especially when it comes to WWII. I love stories about Hitler, the Holocaust, and the various assassination attempts. 

This book rolled all of those ideas into one. In Wolf by Wolf, the year was 1956 and the Nazis won World War II. The Axis powers were ruling most of the world. Each year, the motorcycle race celebrated their victory. The year before, Victor Adele Wolfe stole her brother’s racing papers and entered the race as him and won. Instead of being mad, the Third Reich celebrated her victory. This year, Adele would compete again, but not as herself. Yael, a death camp survivor and experiment, had the ability to change her appearance. She studied Adele, practiced everything she’d need to know and do, and took her place in the race. If she won, she would be close enough to Hitler to execute him. 

The book took history and fact and morphed it into a thrilling alternate history story involving a little bit of fantasy, since Yael had such a unique ability. I loved the mixture and I loved being thrown into the chaos of the race. Yael occasionally thought about her past and we learned a lot about her as a character, her mission, and the importance of it all. We also got to know Adele, despite her not actually being in the race, because of the interpersonal connections between her and her brother, her and Luka, and even some of the other racers. Yael was a little out of her element because no amount of studying prepared her for the possibility that there were unreported incidents between her and the other racers and she had to struggle to maintain her identity and be believable as Adele.

I thought Wolf by Wolf was the perfect blend of history and imagination. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I can’t wait to pick up the conclusion, Blood for Blood. I highly recommend Wolf by Wolf. It ends in a satisfying way so that I crave the sequel, but don’t feel like I got a cliff hanger ending or anything, which is always a plus. It was imaginative in a realistic way. Despite Yael’s ability, it felt like a believable story. I could tell the author was well researched based on the setting he weaved. And while it wasn’t the first book to pull off a What if the Nazi’s won the war train of thought, it was unique. The motorcycle race was fast paced and ruthless, giving a little grit to the story. It was well done and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Star 4

Review – All the Rage by Courtney Summers

 

All the Rage

By Courtney Summers

Summary: The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

Source:I purchased a paperback.

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Review:

Warning: All the Rage contains rape, violence, and emotional turbulence. It’s not graphic about the rape, but I imagine it’s difficult to read for anyone sensitive to the content.

All the Rage was very well done. I think it will be compared to Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and I don’t really think it’s the same, even if the content was similar. I think Speak is wonderful, but it doesn’t do the same thing that All the Rage does. Basically, even though they both deal with similar things, they do it in different ways and I think society needs both of these books for different reasons. 

I’ve never been a victim of sexual assault, so I can’t speak for how that feels or how much I can relate to the main character or if the events are realistic. But I am a woman and there is so much about All the Rage that made me just feel so raw and angry. I can’t imagine not being believed by people that are my friends. Because what? My family isn’t perfect? Because there’s no way a guy like that could hurt a girl like me? I don’t need to have experienced it to feel some of the outrage and the pain of that situation. What makes it even worse is that it was a guy she liked. A guy she wanted. A guy she could even be accused of chasing. But just because you like someone and dream about having a moment with them doesn’t mean you want to be forced into sex and I think that whole situation is just awful. I mean, I remember being into a guy or something in school and I wanted to catch their eye, get their attention, have them like me back, but not… that. I never wanted to actually get physical with anyone. And what if something like that happened and no one believed me? It would’ve been my worst nightmare. (Since I’m a married adult, I worry about this less and my fears have more to do with walking by myself in dark areas and that kind of thing, but not being believed is still one of my worst nightmares.) I actually did have rumors spread in high school that I could not stop, couldn’t refute, and I think people still think they are true to this day, so I get it. Everything that happened in the book is just so.. real. Rumors, bullying, family issues, small town grudges, cliques, rape culture… it was all there. 

Romy was a difficult character and I think a lot of people may find her frustrating and off putting. But I loved that she was so imperfect, still trying to move on and deal with her feelings. She felt like something inside of her was dead and she kind of acted accordingly. She just went through the motions, tried to get through school, and this layer of anger just seethed inside of her and exploded a couple of times. The dynamics at her school were awful, and that’s even after her rapist was gone and no longer a part of her social circle or school at all. Still, she was the liar, the girl who was always making stuff up, the girl who couldn’t say anything and be believed. 

I think the synopsis is a little misleading and I think some people expected Romy’s rapist to have more of a part in the book and for there to be more of a plot. I know I assumed someone else would be raped and then Romy would have to report hers or something to that effect and the book didn’t really go in that direction. I think for some, it could be disappointing, but I think I actually like the fact that the book was the way it was. It felt real, like the author wasn’t writing just to tug at my emotions or make grand points about rape or rape culture or anything like that. She did do all of those things, but in a way that felt honest and less contrived. It didn’t feel like she included this neat little plot wrapped in a bow like a lot of books involving issues. 

Romy felt so haunted in a lot of ways, but sometimes she’d make this remark that would sound awful, but it was kind of true at the same time. When her coworker’s sister was pregnant and didn’t know the sex of the baby, Romy’s immediate thought was I hope it’s not a girl. Which seems so awful and pessimistic, but it’s a valid thought. There was also this quote about how you can’t put a perfect golden girl in front of guys and expect them to behave and that really hit me hard, too. In a place where the sheriff’s son is untouchable, him and his buddies can get away with anything. She even mentioned how awful it was that we live in a world where we can’t accept a drink when we don’t know where it came from. It was those types of moments that made me stop and realize that even though Romy was being overly dark or pessimistic, she wasn’t really wrong and that’s the problem. 

I highly recommend All the Rage. My only advice is to expect less of a linear story that has a direct conflict or plot the way the synopsis describes and expect more of a book that deals with the aftermath internally.

Star 4

March 2017 Owlcrate Unboxing

March 2017 Owlcrate Unboxing

 

The theme of the March box was

 

Sailors, Ships, and Seas!

 

 

What was in the box?

 

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  • Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller with a signed bookplate, Owlcrate letter, and temporary tattoo
  • Compass pendant necklace by The Geeky Cauldron
  • Octopus notepad from Boygirlparty
  • Mermaid washi tape made by Simply Gilded
  • Hand printed tea towel from Kitch Studios  with quote: “a ship is always safe at shore but that is not what it’s built for.”
  • Owlcrate theme pin

 

 

Take a closer look:

The book:

 

As a navy wife, I absolutely loved the items. The tea towel is folded on my bookshelf, but I’m planning on framing it and putting it near my husband’s model pirate ship on my bookshelf. I love nautical themed stuff, so this box was awesome. I love the necklace. While the chain is a bit long, the actual compass and anchor pendants are so beautiful! 

Owlcrate has done it again and given me a bunch of stuff I can totally use and love!

 

 

Review – The Problem With Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout

 

The Problem With Forever

By Jennifer L. Armentrout

SummaryHeartbreakingly real…a remarkable novel about the power of first love and the courage it takes to face your fears.” —Kami Garcia, #1 New York Times bestselling author

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout comes a riveting story about friendship, survival and finding your voice.

Growing up, Mallory Dodge learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime. Now, after years of homeschooling, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at a public high school. But she never imagined she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet soon it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory must make a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants and the truths that need to be heard.

Source: I purchased a kindle copy.

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Review:

The Problem with Forever was another gem from Jennifer L. Armentrout! I typically love most of her books with the exception of a few, so I grabbed this when it went on sale on Amazon. I picked it up when I was in the mood for a nice contemporary romance with a little bit of grit and it did not disappoint.

The book was similar to the Pushing the Limits series by Katie McGarry as far as dealing with damaged youth, broken homes, and characters a little more rough around the edges. Like McGarry, Armentrout handled it well, made the characters believable, and did not rely on tropes and stereotypes to get her points across. I really felt like I knew Mallory and Rider and that they were realistic characters. It also felt original, despite McGarry having a few stories in her series involving the same kind of characters. This story felt similar in theme, but I didn’t feel like I was reading something that had “been done before” or anything. 

I loved seeing Mallory grow as a character from the meek Mouse stuck in the past to someone who could argue an entire paragraph when she felt confident or passionate enough. I loved that the love interest, while still maintaining the whole tough and brooding persona was genuinely caring. I sometimes think we don’t see the softer side of guys in YA romance without losing the whole alpha male protector aspect. Armentrout gave us a character who was both in a way that really worked. 

I flew through the book in just a matter of hours over a snowy Saturday! I highly recommend it. I don’t know that I’ve read any similar books by the same author. She writes YA and paranormal/fantasy romance under Jennifer, but also New Adult contemporary romance under J. Lynn. This book, while contemporary, felt completely different from her J. Lynn books. I don’t know how she does it, but she keeps pumping out some quality stuff!

Star 4

Review – A Book of Spirits and Thieves (Spirits and Thieves #1) by Morgan Rhodes

 

A Book of Spirits and Thieves (Spirits and Thieves #1)

By Morgan Rhodes

Summary: Modern-day sisters discover deadly ancient magic in book 1 of this Falling Kingdoms spin-off series!

Worlds collide in this suspenseful, page-turning Falling Kingdoms spin-off series, which explores a whole new side of Mytica—and an even darker version of its magic.

Crystal Hatcher, Modern-day Toronto: It’s a normal afternoon in her mother’s antique bookshop when Crys witnesses the unthinkable: her little sister Becca collapses into a coma after becoming mesmerized by a mysterious book written in an unrecognizable language.

Maddox Corso, Ancient Mytica: Maddox Corso doesn’t think much of it when he spots an unfamiliar girl in his small village. Until, that is, he realizes that she is a spirit, and he is the only one who can see or hear her. Her name is Becca Hatcher, and she needs Maddox to help get her home.

Farrell Grayson, Modern-day Toronto: Rich and aimless Farrell Grayson is thrilled when the mysterious leader of the ultra-secret Hawkspear Society invites him into the fold. But when he learns exactly what he has to do to prove himself, Farrell starts to question everything he thought he knew about family, loyalty, and himself….
Fate has brought these young people together, but ancient magic threatens to rip them apart. 

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

I purchased this book because it stood out on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. I didn’t know it was a spinoff of the Falling Kingdoms series, which I had been planning on reading after hearing so much about, but I knew it was the same author, so I figured I’d give her other series a shot.

Since buying the book, I have read up the current book of the Falling Kingdoms series. I decided to pick it up after finishing Crystal Storm. I am enjoying the series, but it is a bit dramatic and ridiculous, so I was eager to see how the author would handle the present day Toronto world and that of Mytica, the setting of the Falling Kingdoms series.

I think there are aspects of A Book of Spirits and Thieves that I like much more than the Falling Kingdoms series. I read a lot of fantasy and the author’s writing is a little modern and a tad juvenile, making her Falling Kingdoms series a bit of one of those popcorn-munching guilty pleasures that I don’t pick up for the writing itself. Her writing works a lot better in the modern world where I expect characters to act a certain way and care about certain things, so I felt like I “believed” in the characters a little bit more than I do the characters of the Falling Kingdoms series. 

I liked the area of the book that was set in Mytica and I’m glad it didn’t really tie into anything with her other series at all as far as time period or characters or anything. It was just a magical plane of existence that worked in the modern world and Maddox’s struggle didn’t seem to fit in, but I knew it would tie in at some point and it did towards the ends. I know see how the two worlds are linked and I liked that whole set up.

I think I’ll likely continue the series, but I’m not rushing out for the next book because it’s still in hardcover. I feel like the author writes great YA fantasy fiction, but I feel like it’s one of those borrow instead of buy situations. I’ll wait for the library to stock the next book and go from there. This spin off series is fun and entertaining with a cast of characters you can’t help but care about. There is drama, relationships, mystery, betrayal, and secret societies. I definitely recommend reading, even if the Falling Kingdoms series isn’t for you. The setting in A Book of Spirits and Thieves changes the overall feel so that the writing fits a lot better than it does in an ancient world. 

Star 4