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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

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Reread and Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1)

By Victoria Schwab

SummaryThere’s no such thing as safe.Kate Harker wants to be as ruthless as her father. After five years and six boarding schools, she’s finally going home to prove that she can be.August Flynn wants to be human. But he isn’t. He’s a monster, one that can steal souls with a song. He’s one of the three most powerful monsters in a city overrun with them. His own father’s secret weapon.Their city is divided.Their city is crumbling.Kate and August are the only two who see both sides, the only two who could do something.But how do you decide to be a hero or a villain when it’s hard to tell which is which? 

Source: I received a hardcover in my Owlcrate box.

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Original Review:

I received This Savage Song in an Owlcrate box and I wanted it very badly. While I haven’t read any of Schwab’s YA novels, I really enjoyed Vicious and I knew she had the ability to wow me with a tale of monsters. I was right. I LOVED This Savage Song. It was unique, interesting, well executed, and awesome with characters I loved immediately. I really enjoyed August’s character and the way he fought internally over his humanity. I loved Kate and her desire to be fierce and unforgiving.

In a fast paced adventure, August Flynn debated what it meant to be human, attempted to feed without falling, and Kate Harker struggled over where she fit in with her father keeping her away from Verity. She did everything she could to come home, only she knew she had a lot to prove to a person she wasn’t sure she trusted. I love that the story, while still fast paced and full of betrayal and close calls, took the time to talk about what it meant to be human, what being a good person was about, and I felt like I fully understood the weight of each choice the characters had to make. Vicious did a similar thing, so I feel like the author really cuts to the heart of good and evil in her books and I can’t wait to read more of her novels.

Schwab is an author to look out for. She’s extremely talented and I love the way she writes. The plot of This Savage Song was unique, but the idea of a hero losing his humanity and a heroine attempting to be fierce are not new to the YA sphere and the book could have easily turned into another forgettable YA adventure if placed in another author’s hands. Schwab balanced complexity with adventure and she did it well!I cannot gush enough about This Savage Song. I was so afraid it would disappoint me because I had such high expectations after reading Vicious. Fortunately, it appears the author isn’t going anywhere and she’s putting out some pretty amazing work! I highly recommend the book if the synopsis intrigues you. I don’t know that it would appeal to those who stick to the contempories and other realistic fiction, but for lovers of fantasy or alternate worlds and strange creatures, it’s awesome.

2018 thoughts:

Not a 5 Star Read to me anymore, but still good.

Photo Review – Blood for Blood (Wolf by Wolf #2) by Ryan Graudini

Blood for Blood (Wolf by Wolf #2)

By Ryan Graudin

Summary: There would be blood. Blood for blood. Blood to pay. An entire world of it.For the resistance in the Third Reich, the war may be over, but the fight has just begun. Death camp survivor Yael, who has the power to skinshift, is on the run: the world has just seen her shoot and kill Hitler. But the truth of what happened is far more complicated, and its consequences are deadly. Yael and her unlikely comrades dive into enemy territory to try to turn the tide against Hitler’s army, and there is no alternative but to see their mission through to the end, whatever the cost.But in the midst of the chaos, Yael’s past and future collide when she comes face to face with a ghost from her past, and a spark with a fellow rider begins to grow into something more. Dark secrets reveal dark truths and one question hangs over them all—how far can you go for the ones you love?

Source: I purchased a hardcover

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Review:

Review – The Beast is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale

The Beast Is An Animal

By Peternelle van Arsdale

Summary: A girl with a secret talent must save her village from the encroaching darkness in this haunting and deeply satisfying tale.

Alys was seven when the soul eaters came to her village.

These soul eaters, twin sisters who were abandoned by their father and slowly morphed into something not quite human, devour human souls. Alys, and all the other children, were spared—and they were sent to live in a neighboring village. There the devout people created a strict world where good and evil are as fundamental as the nursery rhymes children sing. Fear of the soul eaters—and of the Beast they believe guides them—rule village life. But the Beast is not what they think it is. And neither is Alys.

Inside, Alys feels connected to the soul eaters, and maybe even to the Beast itself. As she grows from a child to a teenager, she longs for the freedom of the forest. And she has a gift she can tell no one, for fear they will call her a witch. When disaster strikes, Alys finds herself on a journey to heal herself and her world. A journey that will take her through the darkest parts of the forest, where danger threatens her from the outside—and from within her own heart and soul.

Source: I purchased a hardcover 

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Review:

The Beast Is An Animal was a dark fairy tale set in a small village. It was a story that demonstrating the power of fear and the way religion/ignorance/small minds can stifle those who are different. I felt scared for Alys in that she was always under scrutiny and her village could cry witch if she didn’t watch her behavior. 

The tales and legends about the woods surrounding the villages led the elders to take precautions against such evils, from forcing the children of the tainted village to guard the gates to isolating the village by walls and inspecting any and all travelers, forcing them to depart after their affairs were complete. The first half of the book was strong, though it was difficult to read at times as it was stifling and I felt frustrated on Alys’ behalf.

I’m not really sure what happened in the second half… the weird insta-love, the alcoholic travelers, and the issues Alys had with herself became a sort of whirlwind of issues, but I did like where the story went in terms of the soul eaters and the monster inside of Alys. 

I enjoyed the book as a whole, but wished it was put together a little better after Alys left her village. Because most of the book deals with people and their own evils, I feel that it would be a hit for fans of Cat Winters.

Star 3

Review – FrostBlood (FrostBlood Saga #1) by Elly Blake

 

Frostblood (Frostblood Saga #1)

By Elly Blake

SummarySeventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.

Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating – yet irresistible – Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her – and from the icy young man she has come to love.

Source: I won a giveaway from That’s Normal and this was one of the books, but I also purchased a Kindle copy awhile ago.

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Review:

Frostblood had an intriguing premise that sounded adventurous, romantic, and thrilling. Ruby was hunted and imprisoned for her ability to control heat and flame in a world where only those who commanded ice and cold were permitted to exist. Legends said that frost and fire were intertwined once, but not in Ruby’s lifetime.

I think Frostblood was fun, especially because it was a fairly quick read, but it wasn’t a jaw dropping spectacular YA fantasy and that’s ultimately what I seem to be looking for nowadays. I go through phases where I want something fun and lighthearted, but when it comes to fantasy, unless it tugs at my heartstrings with the romantic feels, it has to make up for it somewhere else by being epic. While the romance in Frostblood was one I was rooting for, it wasn’t a large enough focus or deep enough for me to make up for the rest of the book. 

Frostblood had a good plot and executed it well, but there wasn’t really anything all that unique about it. In a sea of YA fantasy, it just kind of floats along. The character building and world building were decent, but not great. The romance was good, but not epic. The conflicts were quick and, despite the high stakes, I didn’t feel truly connected to the characters enough to feel those consequences and be invested in the fate of everyone. It was somewhat predictable, which I could’ve forgiven had I felt a little more invested in the characters.

I recommend Frostblood if you’re looking for something quick and fun, perhaps to get you out of a book slump or when you’ve spent so much time reading other books that you want to be able to fly through one and have a good time. But it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, so I’m only giving it three stars.

Star 3

 

Review – Warcross (Warcross #1) by Marie Lu

Warcross (Warcross #1)

By Marie Lu

SummaryFor the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

Source: I received a signed hardcover from an Uppercase subscription

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Review:

Warcross was great!

Side note: If you’re expecting Ready Player One, it’s not the same thing, though similar, and it’s probably not as good because it doesn’t drawn on the nostalgia of the 80’s. I liked Ready Player One for different reasons than I like Warcross. 

Warcross was set in the future with a large virtual game for millions of people. There are glasses that connect people to Warcross and combine the real world with the virtual. Emika was a struggling poor bounty hunter who also knew a good bit of code and frequently hacked into various aspects of Warcross. As her situation became more serious, she made a judgement call that brought her to the attention of millions of people watching the Warcross Opening Ceremony.. and the game’s creator.

She had a new target straight from the game’s creator: find Zero, the hacker messing with security measures.

Warcross was fun and adventurous. I loved Emika’s personality and her desire to do the right thing despite all consequences. She seemed like a truly loyal person. She was a bright and unique person who defied stereotypes and it made her a strong character. I liked Hideo, the tortured and private billionaire and creator. I felt like I wanted to know more about him and was intrigued by the mystery of him. 

My only real issue was with the other characters. I felt like the world building was great along with Emika and her feelings, motivations, surroundings, purpose, job, abilities, etc. Even Hideo, as mysterious as he was, seemed to be fleshed out rather well. The rest of the cast was not nearly as well developed and I wished the book focused more on the members of Emika’s team in the game and their banter. Some of the training was highlighted, but I felt like it was just a small slice and I would’ve preferred a longer book that featured the side characters a bit more. Because of this, when Emika really needed to trust them and needed their help, the fact that they jumped in and helped her seemed kind of weird, as their relationship was a bit strained due to her skipping out after trainings completed. 

Warcross was a diverse book, which added to the world-building because I’d hope a futuristic society would be a bit more open minded. There was a bit of a romance in Warcross, which was surprising and welcome. I did not expect it for some reason. I loved the adventure and Emika’s ability to bounce back, figure things out, and maintain a positive attitude.

I definitely recommend Warcross. I didn’t read a lot of reviews and had no real expectations, so I think that helped. It’s hard to top Ready Player One in the cyberpunk genre, but I didn’t expect Warcross to do that for me, so I’m not upset that it didn’t. I think many negative reviews are simply from those who were super hyped up and expected something else.

Another Side Note: The author does use the “I let out a breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding” a few times. If this is a deal breaker, don’t read it. Other than that, the writing was pretty engaging. 

Star 4

 

Review – Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2)

By Leigh Bardugo

SummaryWhen you can’t beat the odds, change the game.

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

Source: I purchased a hardcover

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Review:

Crooked Kingdom was a great sequel/finale to the Six of Crows duology. I was emotionally invested in the fate of the characters and everything seemed to go wrong at the end of Six of Crows. I had no idea what the characters would have to do to fix their fate and change the game to go in their favor. My favorite part of the sequel was watching the characters admit their own feelings to themselves, whatever those feelings might have been. I felt like book 1 was them showing off with this extravagant heist and because things went so badly for them, some of their internal reflections were more personal in this installment.

Crooked Kingdom was well written and fairly well executed. The fates of everyone hung in the balance and they weren’t the top dogs on the streets of Ketterdam anymore. There were political issues, merchants gunning for them, and street gangs to contend with. Each person was personally tested as their weaknesses were made apparent.

My only real issue was the length, but more-so the amount of various plans/heists/jobs the book went through. I knew so much had to happen and that not all of their schemes would go well. I knew that Kaz made some backup plans and some of them rested upon the first plan failing, but also some plans just failed. It was exhausting as the reader in some situations trying to figure out if the plan failed, if what just happened actually happened, or if I should just wait to see what happens next. Book 1 did a great job of showing just how great Kaz was at contingency plans and not communicating plans to his crew so that when his crew thinks a plan failed, it all actually went according to Kaz’s plan. I didn’t need more of it in book 2 when I’m also watching Kaz lick his wounds and admit he can’t be the best at everything and also trying to place more trust in his crew. I feel like almost every heist/plan was like “BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE” to the point where I didn’t get emotionally invested in a plan, didn’t believe that someone cracked or fell or failed, so the big reveals were actually just sort of mild. Basically, I just got tired of the push and pull and didn’t think it was always necessary. It made me sort of disconnect a bit because it was always a false alarm that someone was in real trouble, so when someone actually was, I didn’t know how to feel about it or whether I believed it was true. 

Aside from the constant surprises, Crooked Kingdom was an adventure that I was happy to be on. I also enjoyed that book two connected a bit more with the events of The Grisha Trilogy and can now see why/how the books are connected other than the setting. In the end, I was emotionally invested and I grew to love each and every one of the characters. I definitely recommend the duology.

Star 4