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Review: Dream On by Kerstin Gier

Series: Silver #2

dream on -kerstin gierThings seem to be going well for Liv Silver: she’s adjusting to her new home in London; she has a burgeoning romance with Henry Harper, one of the cutest boys in school; and the girl who’s been turning her dreams into nightmares, Anabel, is now locked up. But serenity doesn’t last for long.

It seems that Liv’s troubles are far from over—in fact, suddenly they’re piling up. School gossip blogger Secrecy knows all of Liv’s most intimate secrets, Henry might be hiding something from her, and at night Liv senses a dark presence following her through the corridors of the dream world.

Does someone have a score to settle with Liv?

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Dream On continues along in the same thread as its first book with whimsical dreaming and the threat of dangerous entities waiting for our protagonists in their dreams.

There are many things I love about this book. First, for a second book in a trilogy, it sure was a fast read. Things have settled down somewhat since the crazy ending events in book 1, but there seems to be something hanging in the air that unsettles poor Liv. And while the danger that presents itself isn’t anything crazy (now don’t be thinking of demons and weird monsters and other fantastical creatures), it’s no less a dangerous threat to these sweet individuals I’ve come to love.

That brings me to this point. The characters. They’re just so…. lovable !

Liv and her sister Mia are fun and so real. They don’t necessarily act like mini adults that a lot of YA seems to portray their protagonists. They’re sweet girls who sometimes have a hard time adjusting to their new familial lives with the Spencer family. They make mistakes – no one’s perfect – but the thing is, neither of them are particularly special either. And they don’t have to be! I love them for how they are, their unique personalities that make them so tangible, without having those super protagonist powers that also are so prominent.

The secondary characters are all unique as well. From the eccentric but sweet au pair to the boys Liv hangs with and the completely intolerable Spencer matriarch, each one isn’t just a cookie cutter mold of someone else that is vaguely familiar.

I will admit that the plot is a bit slow at times, especially when it comes to isolating what this feeling of trepidation is whenever Liv and Henry are exploring the dream corridor. But the romantic tensions between them both drove me nuts and kept me reading like crazy. The progression of their relationship felt real. No need for weirdly complicated love triangles, dastardly plots trying to destroy their relationship or other crazy things that I’ve seen occur. Liv just had her doubts about Henry’s interest in her sometimes. And the trajectory of their sweet romance was a lot fun to follow, especially for you romance lovers out there! It was just enough to the story that added a bit of sugar on top.

I once said that this whole series reminded me of Wonderland. Maybe it’s the covers with the keyhole showing the other side of one’s dream door. Maybe it’s the whimsical and nonsensical nature of what goes on in dreams sometimes. Maybe it’s the innocence and curiosity of Liv that I see in Alice as well. I’m not sure if this extra layer could’ve coloured my view on these books, but either way, I think it’s another solid story added to the series and I can’t wait to see how things go for this wonderful eclectic family of dreamers.

Overall Recommendation:
Dream On has a bit of everything: suspenseful wait for what other dangers may be present, romantic relationships with a certain dreamer and the fun antics of a truly unique family. I loved every single bit of it, but especially the way that Gier makes her characters come alive. For any dreamer out there, I definitely recommend this book – in fact, the whole darn series – for you. ‘Cause in dreams, anything can happen. And the imagination can run wild, although sometimes a little too wild as these wonderful protagonists find out.


Review: Firstlife by Gena Showalter

Series: Everlife #1

firstlife -gena showalterStep one…you die.


Tenley “Ten” Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live — after she dies. There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.

In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, long-time enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms that will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she’s drawn to isn’t where the boy she’s falling for lives? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…

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Firstlife had impressive ambition with its unique focus on the afterlife but all it really left me was a taste of mild interest.

What I do know and love about Gena Showalter is that there are always very intriguing (and hot!) guys in her stories. So it’s no surprise that the story starts off with two really good-looking guys fighting it out for Ten Lockwood.

While grappling and very sarcastic guys are totally my thing, lately it just hasn’t really hit the spot. And if I had to narrow down why this book just wasn’t doing much for me, I can probably point out 3 things.

1- Kieran, the main love interest, did not make me pity him at all. There was no “aww” factor or anything. Yes, his life sucked once. Does that excuse all his previous poor treatment of girls he was assigned to? No. Did I understand his attraction to Ten? Uh, if a girl doesn’t fall for your charm right away, yeah I guess she’s interesting but man, that romance really fell flat to me and I found myself grimacing half the time reading their interactions.

2- While you’d expect plenty of action occurring, it all boils down to one thing: Ten is trying to escape her tormentors and is on the run. Constantly. Because she cannot freaking decide where she wants to be after she dies. Like a pendulum, she swings back and forth constantly. Although from an outside perspective as a reader, it seems kinda obvious where she should go. So the whole point of the story dwindles to waiting for her to FIGURE IT OUT HERSELF.

3- There wasn’t enough storybuilding or character development left in here. The poor romance line took up so much time and space (of course, you gotta give many pages to Kieran’s attempts at sucking Ten in – and then when she does fall for him, many sappy heartsick moments there too). Ten barely changes over time, no matter how many dangerous situations she puts herself (and all the people around her) in. Honestly, I’m not a fan of hers at all.

So was this book redeemable in any way?

Yeah, sure, in some minute ways. That other hot guy fighting with Kieran? Archer Prince. Totally swoony in his own way. No, it was never a love triangle here ’cause he never tried to get Ten in that manner, but he’s the one redeemable character I liked reading about. Sacrificial in all that he did, taking all the crap Ten gave him when she couldn’t decide on anything, humble and all around amazing guy. If there’s a book on him, Gena, I will DEFINITELY buy it.

Honestly, the world building should’ve been prioritized more. I wanted to know more about Troika and Myriad. Their history. How they came to be. How it’s run. Yes, I get that it’s a trilogy but book 1 is there for us to learn the world a bit more. Otherwise the whole gist of this book wasn’t so much about the afterlife and more about Ten on the run while on Earth – which doesn’t really separate out much from the pack of thrillers who do a WAY better job.

I wonder what book 2 will be like.

Overall Recommendation:
Firstlife fell flatter than I had hoped with precious few moments dedicated to character growth and world building. While the focus was heavy on the romantic tensions between Ten and a certain Myriad Laborer trying to get her to his realm, the rest of the story just kinda fell off to the side. Constantly on the run with people attacking them, Ten and her group of friends don’t really have to do anything at the end of the day. This story felt like a filler waiting for Ten’s ultimate decision on her afterlife realm, with the only highlight being her friend Archer and the crumbs of information we get on what the afterlife is like. Will book 2 be any better? Heck, I sure hope so or else I may die of boredom next.

Review: Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

Series: Arc of a Scythe #2

thunderhead -neal shustermanRowan and Citra take opposite stances on the morality of the Scythedom, putting them at odds, in the second novel of the chilling New York Times bestselling series from Neal Shusterman, author of the Unwind dystology.

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

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Explore this new facet of yourself with my blessing, he would imagine the Thunderhead telling him. It’s fine as long as you remember who you truly are and don’t lose yourself.
But what if this is who I truly am?

Thunderhead leaves me oddly impressed with the progression of the series. With unexpected twists and new characters thrown into the story, the problems Citra and Rowan now face are crazier than before as they each embark on a journey of self-identity in the new circumstances they now face.

While its predecessor, Scythe, made me think more as I wrapped my head around the different concepts of the futuristic world Shusterman has created here, this sequel was more about the intensity of what’s happening with our favourite characters as the worldbuilding seamlessly continues and fits like a second skin as I re-immerse myself into it.

This book was split more into individual storylines as each character faced a different challenge that occasionally merged together with another, but rarely as each could hold its own. It’s tricky with these kinds of stories as some plotlines I find are more intense whereas the others lack behind and feel so very bothersome to read in between, like filler for the exciting scenes. However, I never found myself feeling that, which is a very strong compliment for Shusterman’s writing skills as he can so easily craft separate stories that can (and eventually will) tie into each other that makes each part of the whole more understandable in the grand scheme of things.

Citra, now Scythe Anastasia, is in mortal danger. I know, that’s weird, right? She’s a scythe, for goodness sakes! Yet someone, or some GROUP, is out trying to kill her and Scythe Curie for good for who knows what reasons. The ramifications of how she chose to glean and her secret popularity among young scythes makes her a possible target for numerous enemies. Meanwhile, Rowan’s off hunting bad scythes, hiding from the rest of the scythedom only to appear to Citra occasionally (aww, how romantic! which means a lot because you know there’s really not much “romance” in this book). Although his storyline sounds less structured, a great amount of action and surprises were through his POV that I thoroughly enjoyed. I can’t tell you what, but I liked these new developments as it made the story juicier.

There’s also a new guy who’s been added to the roster of main POVs. Greyson Tolliver. He’s your average guy who had a conscience and wanted to do the right thing. When his life crossed with Citra’s, nothing stays the same. Out of the 3 teens we get to follow, I felt the most for him. Life took unfair turns (for interesting reasons that you’ll find out!) and he was left to deal with all its messes. But he also had the most amount of growth/re-growth/change. His character really spiced up the story and I think there’s more potential in where his role comes in with regards to the scythedom as the series continues.

As for the ending, we don’t exactly get truly ridiculous cliffhanger moment, but all 3 characters find themselves in some dire or strange circumstances. Neal Shusterman really knows how to amp up his game as this makes me so much more excited for the next book to come out! His worldbuilding is superb and it’s like you could live in this world after reading 2 books. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a scythe walking down the street in MidMerica. We get more layered understanding of how the scythedom works and its hierarchy of authority.

But most importantly of all, we get more of the Thunderhead. As the title may suggest. Where Scythe provided snippets from certain scythes’ journals, we get to see how the Thunderhead thinks. What it sees. What it wishes it could do. What it feels – if a system could express true feelings. I liked the change-up, but it is also a timely move that I think prepares us for how things may be different in book 3. Does anyone else feel like the Thunderhead may be benevolent towards humans, but it could go all bad AI at any moment if it could justify its actions? Hmm? Anyone?

So. Having read all that, you probably realized that I didn’t really say much of anything about the book. That’s ’cause there’s just so much beauty in how it was laid out and the surprises that came along the way that I think it’s best to leave most of it unsaid here. It was well-balanced between action, suspense, and continual worldbuilding. The only thing missing was a tad bit more romance between Rowan and Citra. Hey, I know it’s technically “wrong” for scythes to be together, but they could try being a bit rebellious, right? Here’s to hoping there’s more of those 2 together next time. Then maybe it’ll move to 5 stars.

Overall Recommendation:
Thunderhead continued seamlessly from where Scythe left off after months since the dramatic events of book 1 has passed. With individual storylines that are still full of action and surprises, Rowan and Citra – along with a new guy named Greyson – are faced with tough circumstances that make them question their actions, decisions, and just who they truly are after everything’s said and done. Although there’s still a lack of romance in this book (why, Shusterman??), the little teases of romantic chemistry whenever Citra and Rowan are together suffice as unexpected events take up precedent. With crazy things happening one after another towards the cliffhanger ending, I’d say this book wonderfully connected our introduction to scythes in book 1 to the ultimate conclusion to these characters’ fates in book 3, which marks it a true sequel.