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ReRead- Review: The Retribution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #3) by Michelle Hodkin

 

The Retribution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #3)

By Michelle Hodkin

SummaryMara Dyer wants to believe there’s more to the lies she’s been told.

There is.

She doesn’t stop to think about where her quest for the truth might lead.
She should.

She never had to imagine how far she would go for vengeance.
She will now.

Loyalties are betrayed, guilt and innocence tangle, and fate and chance collide in this shocking conclusion to Mara Dyer’s story.

Retribution has arrived. 

Source: I preordered a hardcover. It came signed, which was an amazing surprise!

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Review:

Original review posted November 12, 2014 here.
 
Oh. My. God. The Retribution of Mara Dyer was AMAZING. It was such an awesome and action packed ending to the trilogy. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, never knowing what would happen or who Mara could trust. It was such a great book.  
 
I felt like each book got crazier, more terrifying, and the stakes were higher as the story went on. And the whole time, while I knew something was happening to Mara that was beyond her control, I wondered how much, if any of it, was really in her head. I loved not knowing and not knowing just how far the author would take any of Mara’s supposedly crazy suspicions.  
 
The trilogy is a perfect blend of mystery, psychological thriller, romance, and the paranormal, which is a blend that I don’t find often at all. Mara was an unreliable narrator who lost time and and did some seriously disturbing things, but was also clearly being set up by someone at least some of the time.  
 
The Retribution of Mara Dyer answered a ton of questions and linked a lot of the different ideas, characters, and flashbacks together. But it also left enough of the mystery open even at the end. I love when endings are both satisfying and leave some threads open and some questions unanswered. I thought the entire book was absolutely perfect.  
 
Perhaps my favorite thing about the Mara Dyer trilogy is how it feels like it’s not YA. The writing is superb, the themes are dark and twisted, and the characters aren’t afraid to use profanity in their situations. I mean, when your entire life is unraveling before you, I think a little bit of profanity is perfect. I loved that it kind of pushes the limits of what kind of language and themes should be in a YA book and it makes it a perfect read for adults.  
 
I highly recommend the trilogy and thought The Retribution of Mara Dyer may be the best book. It was definitely not a disappointing third book like so many trilogies we’ve all read and loved.

2017 Updates:

I never realized how many people actually disliked the final book in the trilogy or the ending. I always thought it was the strongest book in the trilogy and I didn’t see any problems with the ending. I think, though, that I’m different than most people in that I actually love endings that most people hate. Noah and Mara didn’t uncover some hidden link that proved they were supposed to be together and they decided, instead, to ignore the warnings and be together anyway. I think that’s a lot like life. I don’t really care if a future in which I decided to not choose to marry my husband was a successful one, I would still choose him because it’s worth it to me. I think people wanted a neater bow on the end of the series.

I still think this may be the best book in the trilogy, but I loved book 2 for completely different reasons. In book 2, I was happy to be on a ride in which I wasn’t sure who was telling the truth. Book 3 gave me answers that I feel I really needed, but it uncovered a lot of the mystery from books 1 and 2. I did really enjoy the fact that Noah wasn’t a huge part of the final book, not that I don’t love his character, but I wanted to see Mara have to deal with things without leaning on him and she surprised me by how ruthless and cunning and amazing she could be. We all ask for help when we can, but it occurred to me that Mara never had to face anything head on since the crumbling of the asylum and I loved seeing her grow as a character.

I love this trilogy and I’m so excited to read the spin off that came out this year!

Star 5

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ReRead – Review: The Evolution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #2) by Michelle Hodkin

 

The Evolution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #2)

By Michelle Hodkin

SummaryThe truth about Mara Dyer’s dangerous and mysterious abilities continues to unravel in the New York Times bestselling sequel to the thrilling The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. Mara Dyer once believed she could run from her past.She can’t. She used to think her problems were all in her head. They aren’t. She couldn’t imagine that after everything she’s been through, the boy she loves would still be keeping secrets. She’s wrong. In this gripping sequel to The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, the truth evolves and choices prove deadly. What will become of Mara Dyer next?

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

Original review posted on October 17, 2013 here.

Wow. The Evolution of Mara Dyer was absolutely amazing. I enjoyed the first book, but it was nothing compared to this one. I was floored by the complexity and intelligence of the plot, which sprouted from the events in book 1. I love the mood and feelings I got while reading. Was Mara crazy? Or was whatever was happening to her crazy? What is in her mind? What is real? Who is Mara Dyer? I loved not knowing. I loved the unreliable narrator. It was brilliant! 

Honestly, I had no idea where the plot would go. It was just as plausible that Mara was crazy as it was that the events were real and no one knew about them. I didn’t know where the author was going, but the book dripped with paranoia and I loved the mystery. Some things could be explained by her sleepwalking. Something was happening to her. But was it ALL in her head? Or was any of it in her head? 

I absolutely loved Mara’s character. I loved her narration, the fact that she was unreliable, the way she described the world around her, her love for Noah, the easy banter she had with her brother, the love she had for every member of her family, and her bravery. I admired her, I felt scared for her, and I wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery with her. Michelle Hodkin really created a fabulous premise with the Mara Dyer series because she is both likable and kind of crazy. The way the other characters in the book watch her and the way she feels watched makes my spine tingle. I felt like I was going mad while reading it, but in a good way. The wheels in my brain were constantly turning. Some moments, Mara was such a teenager that it made me smile and other moments, she was so deep and wise that it shocked me.  

The Mara Dyer series is a must read. It is full of intrigue, paranoia, the supernatural, mystery, romance, friendship, family, identity, and much, much more. I liked the first book, but The Evolution of Mara Dyer was so phenomenal, it’s now a favorite and a series I’m anxiously and impatiently waiting to be finished. I find it so amazing to come across these types of YA novels that are so smart and well written and yet capture so many teenage elements at the same time. 

Quotes:

 “…plopped down at the table across from my mother, who was sitting her laptop. I rested my head on my arms and sighed dramatically.  
‘What’s up?’ she asked.  
‘Why are boys so annoying?’ 
 She chuckled. ‘You know what my mother used to say?’  
I shook my head, still in position. 
 ‘Boys are stupid and girls are trouble.’  
Truer words were never spoken.”   

 

“His eyes and voice were defiant. ‘If I were to live a thousand years, I would belong to you for all of them. If we were to live a thousand lives, I would want  to make you mine in each one.’”   

 

“My throat burned with tears I wanted to cry but wouldn’t. I knew she loved me. She just didn’t believe me. I understood why, but it hurt like hell just the same.”   

 

“You will love him to ruins.” 

 

2017 Updates:

It must be a trend where I’m always a tad cautious when it comes to the first book in a series. I rated the first book a conservative 4 stars because, let’s be honest, without having read the rest at the time, how could I have known whether the series would get better or follow the traditional YA trilogy pattern of a downward spiral? 

I know now that the entire trilogy is indeed 1 story arc that makes sense and is really good, so I’m not as floored by how great the second book was these days, but it was still really good and I think it might be my favorite in the trilogy because I honestly wasn’t sure if Mara was crazy. 

I love when there are unreliable narrators and I loved not knowing what was really happening. I thought, with some skepticism, that Mara was as crazy as a bag of marbles and Noah was just humoring her because he loved her and their abilities were unrelated to her fracturing mind. Even though I know what happens, I still felt the same way reading it a second time.

I highly recommend the trilogy.

Star 5

ReRead – Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #1) by Michelle Hodkin

 

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #1) 

By Michelle Hodkin

SummaryMara Dyer believes life can’t get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.

It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed. 

There is.

She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love. 

She’s wrong.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

Original Review Posted on October 15, 2013 here.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer was great! I loved the way the story unfolded and how unpredictable it was the entire time. It wasn’t what I originally expected, though it was definitely unique, captivating, and more interesting than I expected. I cannot wait to read the next book!

I loved the level of mystery and the slow way the story unfolded. I liked Mara as the unreliable narrator and I was constantly trying to figure out what on earth was happening to her. I really felt watched and crazy and confused, as Mara felt throughout the book. The execution of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer was marvelous!

Even though Mara was a heroine distracted by a gorgeous love interest and the novel wasn’t afraid to spend some time there, I wasn’t frustrated by it whatsoever. I didn’t feel like the story was a YA love story with a paranormal backdrop but a truly conflicted and mysterious series of events that happened to head in the direction of a romance. It all fit and flowed and worked really well. 

I cannot gush enough about the feeling of the novel. I absolutely loved the mystery. I loved the way Mara’s parents hovered and watched and poked and prodded. I loved the missing time, the questions of sanity, the strange happenings that Mara couldn’t explain. It was so well done. Even the stifling Florida heat fit the feel and I could imagine it around me. Mara’s choices were paranoid, she was often in a bit of a frenzy, all while trying to appear normal so as not to upset her hovering parents and watchful siblings. 

My review is vague, but so was the synopsis. I had no idea what the book was really about and I liked it that way, so I don’t want to give any details away. It was well written and I highly recommend it, especially to anyone looking for something a little different and unique in YA  supernatural fiction.

2017 Updates:

Nothing much has changed in regards to how I feel about the book today. I’m so glad I reread the book. It had been a long time and it was exactly what I was in the mood for. Mara is a great unreliable narrator and I loved watching her world begin to unravel around her. Still definitely recommend!

Star 4

Review – Beastly (Kendra Chronicles #1) by Alex Flynn

 

Beastly (Kendra Chronicles #1)

By Alex Flinn

SummaryI am a beast.

A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright—a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.

You think I’m talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It’s no deformity, no disease. And I’ll stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy.

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Review:

I’ve seen the Beastly movie a handful of times and enjoy it, for the most part. I decided to finally check out the book and see if it was any better. I like the movie, but there are times when the movie is unbelievably cheesy.

Beastly is a great Beauty and the Beast retelling that is modern, young,  and from the beast’s point of view. In a lot of ways, it was pretty good. It seemed a tad more serious than the movie and I liked that it kept the theme of roses and we got to see Kyle grow as a person when he transformed. I enjoyed the twist with the maid that wasn’t a part of the movie. I also liked that I got a little more insight into Lindy’s life and her father’s drug problem that the movie kind of rushed through.

However, I think I prefer the movie in every other way. 

I liked that the movie turned Kyle into a different version of himself, but he was still human. I liked that he had to learn how to be an ugly person, but was otherwise fairly normal looking. His flaws and scars were just enough to turn heads, but it wasn’t like he was some furry and clawed animal trying to walk around. I feel like learning to be ugly is a much better lesson and more believable. People are going to scream when an animal starts walking around town, so I felt like it was a little far fetched to turn him into that like that book did. 

I also did not like the weird IM chatroom between the various fairy tale people. I mean, I felt like it was interesting, but it made the story seem that much more unbelievable to me. I think I preferred the strange Kendra magic that was not quite explained in the movie, but was otherwise unconnected to other fairy tales. 

Still, I’m glad I read the book and I do like that it’s one of the few out there that modernize the story and give us the POV of the beast based on why he was initially turned. It was a little awful to be stuck in Kyle’s shallow head, but it was so much more satisfying to watch him grow into a better person.

Star 3

 

Review – Scythe (Arc of Scythe #1) by Neal Shusterman

 

Scythe (Arc of Scythe #1)

By Neal Shusterman

SummaryThou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own. 

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Source: I purchased a hardcover

Review

I bought Scythe because the premise seemed a bit intriguing and it was a signed copy. Mostly, I wanted to know if it would be decent. I wasn’t a fan of the Unwind Dystology after the first book because things just got to be too crazy and out there to be remotely plausible. I know that not all dystopian books will be plausible, but I feel like there should be some degree of “what if?” in order to be scarier and more thought provoking. But I loved Challenger Deep by the author, so I know that he’s 100% capable of some really amazing storytelling.

I enjoyed Scythe. It was thought provoking and a tad more believable than the Unwind Dystology, enough to where I felt more invested in the story and the society it took place in. It was still a bit far fetched and I wished that it was a little more grounded in reality.

The Scythe Commandments left WAY too much room for error and there are a handful of ways to ensure completely fair methods of population control while not leaving so much room open for the wrong sort of people to take advantage and still technically follow the rules. I hate when I see glaringly obvious ways to turn the dystopia back into a utopia, but I enjoyed the scythe way of life so I just ignored the obvious solution and kept reading. It didn’t bother me nearly as much as the whole premise of Unwind (like what parents would or could actually unwind their kids? It’s so far fetched that it made it impossible to be as thought provoking as the premise would initially sound.) But the bit plot hole was a tad bit frustrating.

I feel like the series has a lot of potential, but it could just as easily turn into a completely insane, too far from reality, type of story. Still, I flew through the pages and cared about the characters, so I had to give it four stars.

Star 4

Review – Before She Ignites (Fallen Isles Trilogy #1) by Jodi Meadows

 

Before She Ignites (Fallen Isles Trilogy #1)

By Jodi Meadows

SummaryBefore

Mira Minkoba is the Hopebearer. Since the day she was born, she’s been told she’s special. Important. Perfect. She’s known across the Fallen Isles not just for her beauty, but for the Mira Treaty named after her, a peace agreement which united the seven islands against their enemies on the mainland.

But Mira has never felt as perfect as everyone says. She counts compulsively. She struggles with crippling anxiety. And she’s far too interested in dragons for a girl of her station.

After

Then Mira discovers an explosive secret that challenges everything she and the Treaty stand for. Betrayed by the very people she spent her life serving, Mira is sentenced to the Pit–the deadliest prison in the Fallen Isles. There, a cruel guard would do anything to discover the secret she would die to protect.

No longer beholden to those who betrayed her, Mira must learn to survive on her own and unearth the dark truths about the Fallen Isles–and herself–before her very world begins to collapse.

Source: I received a hardcover in an Owlcrate

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Review:

I couldn’t wait to read Before She Ignites because I love YA fantasy and I feel like we don’t get enough dragons in YA fantasy, so the promise of dragons hooked me. 

The book is difficult to review because I did enjoy it, but I didn’t like it at times. It’s hard to really decide how I feel about it overall. I think this is one of those times when the second book in a series will ultimately decide how the trilogy itself will be for me in the end. As a first book, Before She Ignites was flawed, but a thrilling second book will redeem every bit of it because the end was decent and there was a ton of potential with the basic foundation laid out in the book. The beginning was good, but the middle faltered a bit and I almost put it down because I was bored and getting irritated by how much it felt like a YA dystopian novel just set in a fantasy world. Part Three of the book picked up the pace and I felt like I was finally getting into it, caring about the characters, and feeling that maybe it wouldn’t be so predictable in the end. 

Right now, the trilogy as a whole could go either way and be super awesome or extremely forgettable. It has a ton of potential and I just need to see how it unfolds in order to make a final decision about whether I really enjoyed this book or not.

One disappointment is that the book talked about dragons and even had a handful of scenes with dragons, but was not really a dragon fantasy and I think my expectations were too high in that regard. 

On a good note, though, there didn’t seem to be any real insta-love, love triangles, or any of that other awful YA trope stuff. 

For people who suffer from anxiety, Mira is probably a character they can relate to and see a bit of themselves in and I do like that a fantasy decided to feature that in a way that worked well for the reader. Still, it was difficult to like Mira for quite some time as she fell from privileged rich girl to prison scum and her naivety was a bit much in the beginning. Like YA dystopian novels, it went through the painful phase in which the main character started to realize perhaps her people were lying to her and maybe everyone else and work through the motives and consequences of that. 

For now, I think 3 stars is fair until the sequel comes out and I can decide if it makes this one worth reading.

Star 3

Review- Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

 

Mask of Shadows

By Linsey Miller

Summary: “I love every aspect of this amazing book—a gender fluid hero, a deadly contest, and vicious courtly intrigue. Get! Read! Now!” —Tamora Pierce, #1 New York Times bestselling author

I Needed to Win.
They Needed to Die.

Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class—and the nobles who destroyed their home. 

When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand—the Queen’s personal assassins, named after the rings she wears—Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge. 

But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.

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

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Review: 

Mask of Shadows started very strong and I fully expected to enjoy it. Sal was a confident, if somewhat arrogant, main character who intrigued me with the carriage robbery in which Sal was both sneaky and polite, flirting with the victim of the robbery in a witty banter. I was so excited to get a Celaena-like character in another fantasy who wasn’t afraid to be sassy/bold.

I kind of suck at reading book blurbs and remembering what the book was about, so I completely forgot about/ignored/never noticed that the main character was supposed to be gender fluid so I wasn’t really sure what Sal was when I first began and it took a few pages before Sal mentioned anything at all about gender fluidity, but aside from Sal’s few mentions about it, it wasn’t really talked about. 

Side note: I don’t know much about gender fluidity at all, but the book did not help me to become any more knowledgable about it, which is a little disappointing because I usually expect books and fiction to educate the reader about issues if they are big enough issues to discuss. I often read to put myself in the shoes of others and a lot of readers do the same, so I had hoped to walk away from the book feeling a little less confused about it. Instead, Sal dressed sometimes like a girl and sometimes like a boy and preferred the pronoun that fit the dress and that was about the only thing mentioned about it. In fantasy novels, women often dress like men in order to fight/move around/be an assassin and also to be taken seriously. (And since pants weren’t really an option for women in the first place, any woman wearing pants would essentially be wearing men’s clothes.) I don’t really think it worked well to have that be the main and only mention of Sal’s gender fluidity because women who dress like men in fantasy books typically still wished to be addressed as women (and usually just want to wear pants!), so I didn’t really understand why Sal would get irritated when people addressed Sal as a girl when in men’s clothing, nor did I really get to know the other characters and understood what they were wearing in relation during each interaction to help me better understand it all. I get that in today’s society, perhaps those who are gender fluid can and do use their manner of dress in this way, but it doesn’t work as well for me given the setting. I think the whole gender fluid aspect only served to make people who already understand it happy that there was a main character who was and is a great aspect, but didn’t do much to really put anyone else in Sal’s shoes and enlighten them. (I am perfectly happy to look everything I have questions about up myself and did not expect to walk away from the book as an expert on the matter, I just hoped I’d have one or two less questions about it all)..

Truthfully, how Sal dressed or was or felt was a non issue and had no impact on my review or feelings about the novel in a negative way. The reason this review isn’t a stellar one is solely based on the rest of the book. In fact, Sal’s gender fluidity was the best and most unique aspect of the entire book. 

Mask of Shadows did not do anything new in the YA fantasy genre aside from the diverse MC. It was the first book of Throne of Glass almost exactly in terms of plot. It was a competition among people to become the Queen’s Assassin with the tests involving training, expertise, and it was up to the contestants to wipe each other out and whoever was left standing would essentially be the winner. The main character also had issues with politics and those politics directly impacted the main character’s childhood and upbringing, so revenge was a big motivator. Sal was also like Celaena because of the romance with someone already at the court/palace and was not related to the game itself, but helped with aspects of training. Other than the gender fluidity of Sal, it felt like a book I’ve already read before.

Unlike Throne of Glass, the rest of the competition remained pretty much faceless strangers. I did not feel like I got to know anyone else at all. There was not a lot of character building or world building, as the competitors donned masks and avoided each other. I had hoped for some alliances to be made so that there was more at stake emotionally for Sal and/or the reader, but they were just faceless numbers falling off and helping Sal get closer to winning.

I kept reading the book hoping for a twist or turn that would make the book seem more exciting/dangerous, but Sal remained fairly unscathed for most of the book and I knew Sal would be chosen as the next Opal and that’s pretty much how the book would end. When the final test came about and Sal had to execute the name on the paper, I had hoped for it to conflict with Elise somehow so that there would at least be some romantic drama, but no.

Other reviews keep saying that Mask of Shadows had great world-building and was so action packed, but I just don’t agree and I kind of feel like I must have been reading a completely different book. The book did have a lot of potential to be amazing, but it fell short in just about every aspect. I needed more world and character building, more high stakes, and less Sal just being good at everything and eye-rolling insta-love. (As much as I loved how unconventional and diverse the whole relationship was, it’s still eye rolling insta-love and could’ve been much better developed). 

 

Star 2