Tag Archive | dystopian

Review: Illusion Town by Jayne Castle

Series: Ghost Hunters #13

illusion-town-jayne-castleA new adventure begins on Harmony… 
 
With its opulent casinos and hotels, the desert city of Illusion Town is totally unique—and will take you on a thrill ride you’ll never forget.

Hannah West isn’t the first woman to wake up in Illusion Town married to a man she barely knows, but she has no memory of the ceremony at all. For that matter, neither does Elias Coppersmith, her new husband. All either can remember is that they were on the run…

With Hannah’s dubious background and shaky para-psych profile, she could have done much worse. The cooly competent mining heir arouses her curiosity—as well as other parts of her mind and body. And even her dust bunny likes him.

But a honeymoon spent retracing their footsteps leads Hannah and Elias into the twisting underground catacombs, where secrets from both their pasts will come to light—and where the energy of their clashing auras will grow hot enough to burn…


4 Drink Me Potions


This was my first book by “Jayne Castle”, although I happened to have crossed her other contemporary AND historical books as well, under her names Jayne Ann Krentz and Amanda Quick respectively.

Illusion Town was a little disorienting at first as I quickly had a feeling that this wasn’t a simple standalone book that I had picked up from the library. There seemed to be alluded references to this whole land of Harmony that I did not know about as a completely new reader. And now looking at how vast this whole series is (with the intricate weavings even across Castle’s other genres), I’m quite impressed with the overall world building that’s been crafted here.

First of all (from what I gathered as an amateur reader in this world), this futuristic set of series written under Jayne Castle is on some alien planet colonists from Earth settled ages ago, but through some mishap, were disconnected from Earth quite permanently and the people here had to make do and thrive somehow.

Paranormal activity is like the new norm here, with people genetically passing on these talents and traits like it’s nothing. The kind of tech here also matches the futuristic theme, but also walks hand-in-hand with the paranormal abilities that people have, such as listening to energy with amber crystals.

Then there’s the land itself and how it’s laid out. 8 Zones split up around some epicentre where some unnatural activity caused some of it to be uninhabitable. It was well-written (albeit still a little confusing for a first reader like me), but I got enough of the idea to still be quite engaged with how this society organized itself.

And of course, there’s the creatures. In particular, the dust bunny.

When I first read about Virgil, the resident dust bunny in this story, I was quite astounded to be honest. Who is this thing and why does it have FOUR eyes? Fluffy yet quite ferocious. I loved it! Castle is very imaginative as she laid out even remote childhood fantasies of dust bunnies (such as I had when I was a kid) into a futuristic story where it becomes as simple as asking “why NOT have it featuring dust bunnies as characters?”. I was overall quite impressed with the setting I had randomly landed myself in.

Then there’s the ROMANCE. It wasn’t the centre of the story, though the intriguing plot line where Hannah and Elias found themselves married to each other was fun enough to draw me in. No, their relationship and budding love for each other was icing on top of the excitement (and dangers!) that were brewing all throughout the book.

From exploring the dangerous Rainforest and Underground areas where I gathered were leftover ruins from when Aliens inhabited this planet (surprise! even more intriguing things just THROWN in here) to finding a long-lost treasure and being chased by a gang of pirates on motorbikes. It was like a rollercoaster of heartfelt emotions and running around adrenaline.

For a novel I randomly decided to read on a lazy Saturday, I think it’s opened me up to a whole new world of possibilities.

Overall Recommendation:
Illusion Town was brilliantly crafted in its imaginative setting on some futuristic planet where people had paranormal abilities and real live dust bunnies as companions. Although this is technically part of a long lineup of books in a series, it still stood out well enough as a standalone (as I had read it ’cause I sure as heck didn’t read any of the previous ones yet). There was enough sweet romance but the action in the plot had me excitedly flipping through the pages. It seems this book has almost everything. This is the kind of world that is unique and should be visited at least once. Be sure to read the previous books first (maybe).

Review: Gamescape: Overworld by Emma Trevayne

Series: The Nova Project #1

gamescape-overworld-emma-trevayneThe planet is dying. Centuries of abuse have damaged the earth beyond repair, and now all the authorities can do is polish the surface, make the landscape look pretty to hide the disease within. Two prominent yet mysterious businessmen couldn’t fix it, either, but they did something even better. Together, they invented Chimera, the most complex and immersive virtual reality video game the world has ever known. The Cubes in which Chimera is played quickly became a fixture of this landscape: part distraction, part hospital, and almost wholly responsible for holding up the failing world economy.

Miguel Anderson is also dying. He isn’t the only one who plays the game–everybody does–but Miguel has more reason than most: When players leave their Cubes for the day, the upgrades and enhancements they’ve earned for their virtual characters leave with them. New lungs to breathe poisoned air, skin that won’t burn under the sun are great and everything… but Miguel, born as broken as the earth, needs a new heart–and soon–if he wants any hope of surviving just a little longer.

Then the two Gamerunners announce a competition, with greater rewards and faster progression than ever before, and Miguel thinks his prayers have been answered. All he needs to do is get picked to lead a team, play the game he’s spent years getting good at, and ask for his prize when he wins. Simple, really.

At first, things seem to go according to plan. Mostly, anyway. Inside his Cube, with his new team–including his best friend–at his back, Miguel begins his quest. He plays recklessly, even dangerously, for someone whose most vital organ could give up at any moment, but his desperation makes him play better than ever. The eyes of the world are on him, watching through status updates and live feeds, betting on his chances. With greater rewards, though, come greater risks, and the Gamerunners seem to delight at surprising the competitors at every turn. As he ventures deeper into a world that blends the virtual and the real to an unsettling degree, Miguel begins to wonder just why the game was invented at all, and whether its stakes could be even higher than life and death. 


4 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Gamescape: Overworld comes out September 13, 2016**

I’m not an avid fan of gaming like others may be, and not all stories based on virtual gaming works, but Gamescape: Overworld most definitely doesn’t fit in that category and surpassed all of my expectations.

Miguel needs a heart and this game that’s taken over the world seems to present that wondrous prize that just may help him live. And he’s good at it. Of course, everything has its own twists. It took a while for the story to get going as the gamemakers decided on this new team-play competition with the craziest prizes. The slow pacing here bugged me a bit but Trevayne kept me very much entertained with her imaginative descriptions of each level that Miguel fought to beat. The different ways you can die and the tools collected along the way, not to mention the whole idea of gaming in these giant cube-like buildings around the city, her world building was on point.

The storyline continued to be action-packed as Miguel battled his way to team leader and gained a new team to look after. Each individual member on his team was different, with their own fears to face and baggage they carried. I thoroughly enjoyed their interactions, whether it be positive ones or arguments that arose during the stressful game play.

Emotionally, Trevayne was pretty good at bringing out the vulnerabilities in her characters. This isn’t just a story about gaming or high-tech equipment. Miguel obviously dealt with a lot of stress and emotional baggage. At any moment, his heart could stop. But there was this one moment in the first half of the book that made me pause. It was beautifully sad. Our hero wasn’t a shining one on some white horse. He was a broken boy that just wanted to breathe his first breath of LIFE. Without the fear of dying on his back so constantly.

As for romance, it’s not such a huge part of the story. There is a love interest and she was part of Miguel’s new team, but I honestly wasn’t so interested in that whole aspect at all, which is pretty crazy for me to say. The story was so steeped in gaming intrigue, with the crazy “worlds” built for each level and the suspense of being the first team to win it all, that anything as trivial as a budding romance didn’t register as important with me. But if you like a taste of romance in your stories (as I normally do), there’s still a bit of that present.

I will conclude that what brought this whole story a higher rating was how it all tied in with the mystery of who the gamemakers were and why they created Chimera in the first place. What was its purpose? Why build a game when the world was falling apart when there could be a number of better things to do? Who were they working for?

Snippets of conversations in both the gamemakers’ perspectives in between chapters were the highlight of this novel, in my opinion. As the story continued, pieces were dropping into place until everything just CLICKED. This whole thing was so much bigger than you could ever imagine. The whole GAME was more than it just looked on the surface. The ending was absolutely fantastic. It had my heart racing and wondering how they would get out of this mess. I can’t give much more away, but know that it all goes way beyond the clichéd gaming storyline trope that’s more commonly used in a story like this. Trust me on this, you’re in for a surprise.

Overall Recommendation:
Gamescape: Overworld is levels more than what you may expect from a book about gamers. Yes, it’s full of action as Miguel fights his way for the most important prize of all, but it’s also about facing your fears and making the right calls in the heat of the moment. The suspense builds as Trevayne teases us with little bits about the mysterious gamemakers that started it all in between certain chapters. Who are they and what big plans did they have in store for the gamers beyond the surface level of more prizes? Even if you’re not a fan of gaming, this story has something for everyone. At the heart of it, this story is about choices. Follow Miguel and you will find out just what kind of an emotional ride this will take you on.

Review: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge

Series: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire #1

bright-smoke-cold-fire-rosamund-hodgeWhen the mysterious fog of the Ruining crept over the world, the living died and the dead rose. Only the walled city of Viyara was left untouched.

The heirs of the city’s most powerful—and warring—families, Mahyanai Romeo and Juliet Catresou share a love deeper than duty, honor, even life itself. But the magic laid on Juliet at birth compels her to punish the enemies of her clan—and Romeo has just killed her cousin Tybalt. Which means he must die.

Paris Catresou has always wanted to serve his family by guarding Juliet. But when his ward tries to escape her fate, magic goes terribly wrong—killing her and leaving Paris bound to Romeo. If he wants to discover the truth of what happened, Paris must delve deep into the city, ally with his worst enemy . . . and perhaps turn against his own clan.

Mahyanai Runajo just wants to protect her city—but she’s the only one who believes it’s in peril. In her desperate hunt for information, she accidentally pulls Juliet from the mouth of death—and finds herself bound to the bitter, angry girl. Runajo quickly discovers Juliet might be the one person who can help her recover the secret to saving Viyara.

Both pairs will find friendship where they least expect it. Both will find that Viyara holds more secrets and dangers than anyone ever expected. And outside the walls, death is waiting. . .


2.5 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Bright Smoke, Cold Fire comes out September 27, 2016**

Rating: 2.5 stars

Being familiar with Rosamund Hodge’s kinda work and unique plot twists to works that we’re used to, I came in with 2 expectations.

1) This novel would be all dark and twisted up as is her usual style and 2) the themed storyline would be Romeo & Juliet. Well, one of those expectations was met.

Was this really a Romeo & Juliet based story?

For a story that sounded like it was based on a star crossed romance that was absolutely forbidden between 2 clan members in a dying wasteland, oddly enough, Romeo and Juliet weren’t the main characters. Oh no. Their clan relatives were. Paris and Runajo.

Paris was definitely my fav of the 2. He’s the character with the loyal heart and a sense of honour in a city where it seems that kinda trait is running out. He didn’t expect much in life, yet when he landed the responsibility to protect the Juliet, he goes all in. Even after it goes awry and it’s now Romeo he needs to protect, he still doesn’t let him down no matter that they’re rival clans that don’t particularly like or understand each other.

Runajo on the other hand was hard for me to empathize with. A more complex character, her moral compass is a little skewed if you ask me. She’ll do whatever it is that seems right in her eyes but may be seen as wrong in the eyes of her clan or society. Basically, she’s pretty self-centred and being in her head sometimes sucks ’cause she has some really dark thoughts bouncing around in there. On the up side, she’s definitely bold and unafraid of outside opinions.

Now the characterization wasn’t all bad. That’s not why my rating isn’t as high as it could be. It’s the plot.

Why was everything so confusing?

Well, to hand it to Hodge, it was really complex. The world building I mean. There are the undead called revenants popping up, killing the live people, all caused by illegal necromancy occurring in the city by an unknown entity. This is amidst the chaotic information dump that is the ritual of making someone known as the Juliet in the Catresou clan (not including the whole why and religion of this clan for doing so). Not to mention, there’s some other factor known as the Sisterhood with a High Priestess who practices blood sacrifices to appease the gods and keep the city running albeit for only a short while longer.

That’s a whole lot of information that unfortunately doesn’t get dumped onto us in a way that made the reading easy. Jumping back and forth between what the boys are doing and what the girls are doing made it harder to keep track of what was going on in each other’s lives if you don’t read continuously in one sitting.

Oh, and how could I forget about the romance?? Well, that’s ’cause there really wasn’t much of any. Considering Romeo and Juliet weren’t physically together for like, almost the whole book, and Runajo was in the Sisterhood for goodness sakes, that just leaves Paris for romantic entertainment and I think I liked him as he was without being attached to some girl. So if you come romping over here for a nice (albeit dark) romance, you might wanna rethink that plan.

Overall I did enjoy the complexity and creativity put into it. Hodge easily makes a world that’s darkly intriguing, but the pacing was a little slow going. Fortunately, this gives us plenty of time to get to know our 2 – I mean, 4 – protagonists. The growth they each undergo through the events that eventually tie both their storylines together was nice to see, in particular for Runajo who was the hardest character for me to love. There’s plenty of questions left and with a cliffhanger ending like that, I wanna see what happens next to these characters.

Overall Recommendation:
Bright Smoke, Cold Fire was just as dark and complex as I had originally anticipated, especially if you’ve read some of Hodge’s other works. Although this dying world and the intricacies of each clan that’s survived so far was unique, the background history and terminology can get kind of confusing and altogether be too much at times. With a slower pacing than I’m used to in a high fantasy and a whole lot less romance than I would have thought for a Romeo & Juliet story, this novel was more of a mediocre start.

Review: Deliverance by C.J. Redwine

Series: Defiance #3

deliverance -cj redwineEverything hangs in the balance, and nothing is certain: Rachel has been kidnapped by enemy forces and is being taken to Rowansmark while Logan, imprisoned and awaiting trial, is unable to leave Lankenshire. Separated from each other and their Baalboden comrades, each must find a way to achieve what they desperately want: to rid their world once and for all of the Commander and the tech that controls the deadly Cursed One.

Fighting through her pain and embracing the warrior she’s become, Rachel will do whatever it takes to escape her enemies’ clutches and join Logan in his fight. But when she learns a secret that changes everything, she realizes that escaping Ian and his tracker friends is no longer an option if she wants to save the people she loves. Instead, she’ll have to destroy Rowansmark from the inside out—if she can survive the journey through the Wasteland.

Logan needs allies if he wants to thwart Rowansmark’s power grab and rescue Rachel. But securing allies will mean betraying his beliefs and enlisting the help of the man he hates more than anyone: Commander Jason Chase. Driven by his fierce love for Rachel and his determination to make their world safe, Logan may be just the weapon the city-states need to defeat the Cursed One.

But as Rowansmark bears down and uneasy alliances are tested, will Rachel and Logan’s love for each other be enough to surmount the unbelievable odds against them?


 

2.5 Drink Me Potions


I don’t know why I thought the conclusion to the series would be any more exciting or action-packed. It most definitely never reached the amount of excitement I was expecting for a finale. Let me put my disappointment into perspective for you.

Logan and Rachel were separated at the end of the previous book, Deception. Logan’s POV is his constant pining away for her alternating with all his Worst Case Scenarios where his enemy the Commander is concerned. Rachel’s isn’t a whole lot better as she’s just basically a punching bag for those who’ve taken her. Especially the traitor that was alluded to in the previous novel. So she’s taking in all this physical and verbal abuse. Some crazy stuff about pain atonement and sacrifice necessary in order to right one’s honour. A bunch of BS if you ever asked me.

So that’s where the novel starts. These two scenarios. And basically these two scenarios continue along those same lines for like… the whole freaking book . It doesn’t matter where they each are, location wise. Inner monologue is the same. Logan’s trying to use the Commander and outsmart him once he knows his enemy’s gonna try to get rid of him. Rachel’s trying to outsmart her captors and even destroy anything that may cause Logan to lose his war against the city-state of Rowansmark.

All of Deliverance is also basically just travelling around the Wastelands. Logan and friends, plus the Commander tagging along, are moving around trying to build alliances to ensure a larger army against Rowansmark. Rachel and her captors are steadily moving towards Rowansmark. Once they’ve each done that, it’s practically the end of the book and that’s when “war” breaks loose.

And I do mean “war”. With the quotations.

For the epic climax of the series, this “war” wasn’t all that epic. The way their enemies were dealt with wasn’t all that satisfying either. Maybe I just have high expectations when it comes to how one’s mortal enemies are taken care of at the end of a long, strung-out battle of the wills (and physicality) that stretched over the span of a few books.

I suppose why I didn’t just DNF the series was simply due to the fact that it was an ebook that I read and I was feeling too lazy to flip through a hard copy novel at the time. Personality-wise, Rachel’s grown to understand healing requires opening oneself to vulnerability and feelings. She accepted that maintaining her humanity was worth the cost of the explosion of emotions that could assault her.

Plus, she had firsthand experience seeing what being consumed by revenge could do to someone when they blocked out everything but the darkness and silence inside of them. Too bad she came to this conclusion SO late into the series, considering this plot element started at the end of book 1.

All in all, Deliverance wasn’t the lowest of the low, but it sure didn’t have a whole lot going for it. Would I recommend this series as a whole? Or even just this one book?

The short answer? I dunno. It may just not work for me, but it seems it’s doing something semi-right with other readers. Either way, the journey Logan and Rachel took, both physically and emotionally, was one heck of a rollercoaster ride. I don’t regret going down this path with them, but I do wish that Redwine could make it more exciting and less angsty next time.

Overall Recommendation:
Deliverance doesn’t pack the proper punch for a series finale. With the usual slowness in plot development and hardly anything that was surprising to curb up the rating, it basically tied up all the loose ends in a predictable manner that ended mostly well for everyone. Logan and Rachel grew a lot, but I can’t say that it made up for the fact that they both just did a whole lot of travelling in this story (just like the last one – what does Redwine love about people walking ALL THE TIME in her stories?) with the same worried inner monologues wherever they went. I think a whole lot of things could’ve been tweaked for the better, but to be fair, it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t finish it. Not sure that’s much better of a recommendation, but it is what it is.

Review: Deception by C.J. Redwine

Series: Defiance #2

deception -cj redwineBaalboden has been ravaged. The brutal Commander’s whereabouts are unknown. And Rachel, grief stricken over her father’s death, needs Logan more than ever. With their ragged group of survivors struggling to forge a future, it’s up to Logan to become the leader they need—with Rachel by his side. Under constant threat from rival Carrington’s army, who is after the device that controls the Cursed One, the group decides to abandon the ruins of their home and take their chances in the Wasteland.

But soon their problems intensify tenfold: someone—possibly inside their ranks—is sabotaging the survivors, picking them off one by one. The chaos and uncertainty of each day puts unbearable strain on Rachel and Logan, and it isn’t long before they feel their love splintering. Even worse, as it becomes clear that the Commander will stop at nothing to destroy them, the band of survivors begins to question whether the price of freedom may be too great—and whether, hunted by their enemies and the murderous traitor in their midst, they can make it out of the Wasteland alive.

In this daring sequel to Defiance, with the world they once loved forever destroyed, Rachel and Logan must decide between a life on the run and standing their ground to fight.


 

2.5 Drink Me Potions


If I could summarize Deception in one word, it’d definitely be angsty. Chalked full of Rachel’s spiraling darkness as she succumbs to the silence inside of her. Now normally I don’t mind a story focused on getting through the dark times in order to become a stronger person. But I swear every time it’s her POV, it’s just so annoying . It doesn’t stop!

The story is a fairly simplistic one. Maybe too simplistic, actually. It starts right where we left off in Defiance. For the most part, the plot’s all about travelling through the Wastelands to another city-state after the destruction of their home, Baalboden. The only excitement from the endless walking, people complaining and Rachel’s endless thirst for revenge stems from the mysterious entity that’s testing Logan and hurting his people as they travel. I’m always in for a good mystery element in a story, and I think this was the only thing that saved Deception from completely dying in my eyes.

Anyway, Rachel was cutting herself off from anyone, especially Logan, as her need for vengeance against the Commander continues to grow. But her inner monologue doesn’t really suck because of this one thing. Oh no, it’s also due to her own self hatred. How could she have done such a horrible thing at the end of Defiance? How can she live with her actions and seeing the consequences of it? How can she continue on feeling anything after losing her father and Oliver? It didn’t matter that Logan was hurting from what happened as well. She wanted to cut herself off from everything, including him.

Half the time while I was reading, I wanted to just knock some sense into her head. Maybe denying herself from the horrible feelings welling up inside her was a temporary relief, but it was making her very unstable. And frankly, a not-so-nice person to follow around in her head. I’m not sure how Logan could even stand the way she was.

Though I suppose he did have bigger problems to deal with…

Logan continues to become a better protagonist in my opinion. I love his POV, and not just because they seem so much better in comparison to Rachel’s. He’s such a strong character, even before all the events of the previous book occurred. His background story was never pleasant but seeing him taking responsibility for so many people way older than him – he’s only 19 after all – and doing his very best to become the leader he never expected to be was amazing. I loved the gradual change and growth in him through all the craziness that occurred from the mysterious enemy tracking them. Which by the way, its identity completely took me off guard even though in hindsight it also made 100% sense.

Without giving away too much, the last bit of the story really picks up for the finale of the series. Meeting new characters and a surprising twist, I will at least say that Deception does know how to end well. If only the rest of the story could have matched this faster pacing and plot development.

Or cut out most of Rachel’s parts of the story.

Overall Recommendation:
C.J. Redwine’s Deception falls flat from expectations. And I can completely pinpoint its failings on Rachel. Her constant ramblings about revenge and the way she cut herself off from ALL feelings made her overall struggle to regain her humanity a very hard thing swallow as a whole without getting completely exasperated. That was already really bad, but the plot was a little too slow, stuck on their journey across the Wastelands. The one thing I enjoyed was the element of surprise as some mysterious enemy was methodically killing off Logan’s people as they travelled. Overall, it suffered greatly from Middle Book Syndrome, but the ending was worth it, wracking up suspense for the conclusion of the series.

Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

Series: Monsters of Verity #1

this savage song -victoria schwabThere’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters.

In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.


5 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**This Savage Song came out June 7, 2016**

Monsters, Monsters, big and small,
They’re gonna come and eat you all.
Corsai, Corsai, tooth and claw,
Shadow and bone will eat you raw.
Malchai, Malchai, sharp and sly,
Smile and bite and drink you dry.
Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal,
Sing you a song and steal your soul.


This Savage Song held high reviews from other early readers but the hype is really worth it. This novel was astounding. And I don’t say that lightly about most books.

Set in a world ravaged by crime and separated into little territories after decades of fights, this violent world has brought to life an evil that now breathes and destroys whatever is in its path. Monsters. Made of shadows and past crimes committed by humans, they’ve taken a form of their own. Or 3 forms, in fact. Corsai, Malchai and Sunai.

At first, the world and how it functioned was a little confusing, especially about the monsters and how they were created. But Schwab’s writing draws you in, wrapping you in this world that’s terrorized by creatures literally made of shadows and sins. Once you get past initial confusion, the details slowly fall into place and this world will amaze you at its simplicity – it’s like you know it so well by the end of it that you feel you lived there with them – and its imaginative detailing. Verity, or V-City, is one scary place to be in. And it’s been divided into 2.

Kate is the daughter of the man controlling the northern part of the city. I initially despised her. She’s human, yet she acts like a monster. She intentionally is cruel to others, willing to do whatever it took to please her very distant father and be worthy of their name. But over time with the horrid events thrown into her path in this book, she learns that there’s always a choice to be made, and maybe, just maybe, being her father’s daughter isn’t the most important thing to be in her life.

August works for the man who’s in charge of the southern half of the city, along with his brother and sister. They consider themselves one family, no matter if they’re not blood related. Because August is a monster. At first, I wasn’t even certain that he truly was. He’s gentle and hates what he is. It’s one huge part of his half of the story. Abhorring who he was, the very fabric of what keeps him alive, but he can only act human to a certain extent. His inner struggles were some of my favourite parts of This Savage Song. They were detailed and tug on your heartstrings for this poor boy who wished to be other than what he was.

 

It was a cruel trick of the universe, thought August, that he felt human only after doing something monstrous. Which made him wonder if that brief glimpse of humanity was really just an illusion, an echo of the life he’d taken. An imposter sensation.
Leo’s voice came to him, simple and steady. This is what you do. What you are.
Ilsa’s rose to meet it. Find the good in it.


I loved how much he developed as a character. Sometimes the decisions he made were necessary ones, and this story was so good at being unbiased about the white and the black, the light and the dark. Sometimes, there are just gray areas. Sometimes, you are just made of both light and darkness.

This Savage Song also didn’t have a huge array of characters. In fact, although there are a number of minor characters and a few more important supporting figures, this book really does only centre on Kate and August. And I’m perfectly fine with that.

Their relationship was initially brought about intrigue. Like the two of them could understand each other, no matter how different they were. Maybe it’s because they both understood what the world truly was like that they lived in. They weren’t pretending that everything was okay, that monsters didn’t just walk among them. But they also weren’t just cowering in fear until the day they died. They both wanted to live. No matter what living really meant in a world like theirs.

 

Whatever he as made of – stardust or ash or life or death – would be gone.
Not with a bang, but with a whimper.
In with gunfire and out with smoke.
And August wasn’t ready to die.
Even if surviving wasn’t simple, or easy, or fair.
Even if he could never be human.
He wanted the chance to matter.
He wanted to LIVE.


With prose like this and more, it’s easy to see why I absolutely adored Schwab’s writing. The descriptions aren’t long and tedious, but it gets you thinking and exploring what’s on the minds of both Kate and August. It’s not all clouds and rainbows, if any. They understand the harshness of life.

As their relationship progressed, you may think “hey, maybe a beautiful forbidden romance would bloom between them”. Well, guess again.

Their relationship maintains platonic throughout and although I’m normally a huge lover of a cute romance between protagonists, this just felt right. A romance didn’t fit in with everything else that was going on here. It would’ve taken away from the development of their individual characters with the problems they were dealing with. They needed to do it on their own without being clouded by the other’s opinions if they were thinking of each other in that way. Maybe in the sequel it might take a different stance, but here, this was perfect. A friendship that depended on one another, a trust that was built on danger but tested and solidified through the fire. I adored them both equally, but I also loved them together the way they were.

 

….a single shadow screamed and toppled forward from the mass, white eyes winking out, teeth raining down on the damp floor like loose stones.
“Any time now,” snapped Kate as the Corsai rattled and hissed.
“Can’t rush art,” said August as he rested the bow on the strings.

At moments, their interactions and banter were even a little comical (in the dry sense, of course) to take off some of the tension building.

 

“Listen to me,” he said, pulling off his coat. “You need to stay awake.”
She almost laughed, a shallow chuckle cut short by pain.
He tore the lining from the jacket. “What’s so funny?”
“You’re a really shitty monster, August Flynn.”


At the end of the day, This Savage Song explored what it meant to accept what you are but to also understand that you decide what you do with that. Your decisions are what warrant you a monster, whether you were born human or a monster. Victoria Schwab goes through this all by immersing you into the heart and minds of August and Kate, two people who became so real to me that I was sad to see their story ending for the moment. Until the sequel, then.

I shall end off this long review with another beautiful moment between Kate and August. Maybe you can start to see how I fell so in love with them both. Their ability to continue on even when it’s just so much easier to give up all hope.

 

The sky was on fire. He wondered if Ilsa had ever seen stars, which were so strange and perfect. One streaked across the sky, trailing light.
“I read somewhere,” said Kate, “that people are made of stardust.”
He dragged his eyes from the sky. “Really?”
“Maybe that’s what you’re made of. Just like us.”
And despite everything, August smiled.


Overall Recommendation:
There is so much that I can say about Victoria Schwab’s This Savage Song but I’ll simply just say this. It’s a beautiful story depicting two teenagers who learn that there’s more to light and darkness than just what you’re born as or whose family you belong to. Finding hope in a violently torn apart world like theirs, Kate and August both grow in ways that make you hold your breath and silently root for them as they navigate decisions that are hard to make. I absolutely adored them both, and the mental journey they each took to the place they’ve reached at the end of the book. This goes to show that the YA genre doesn’t require a romance as a driving force for a good story. Their platonic friendship was beautiful in its own way and I cannot wait to see what else comes their way in the sequel. With plenty of action, imaginative creatures made of darkness and a world that sucks you in along with two very strong protagonists leading the way, this is one book you most definitely have to read.

*Note: All quotes taken from the ARC are subject to change

Review: Defiance by C. J. Redwine

Series: Defiance #1

defiance -cj redwineWithin the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city’s brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father’s apprentice, Logan—the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same boy who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city’s top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor’s impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can’t be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.


3 Drink Me Potions


I haven’t read a post-apocalyptic kinda book in a while, so I was excited to see more from C.J. Redwine, although I am a bit late to this series. Defiance was mostly what it claimed to be with the minor exception that the pacing was slow and the ending was a bit anti-climatic.

Rachel Adams is a fighter. There’s no doubt. Where other girls just hope for their Claiming day (basically where men in their small city-state can ask her father/male guardian for her to become their wife), Rachel would rather hunt and spar as her courier father had taught her. When her dad doesn’t come back, she was torn apart. In this story, family matters more than anything else. Where would you be without family in a world ravaged by some strange creature called the Cursed One? (which if you ask me, is a very, very odd name for a crazy fire-spewing monster)

Stuck as Rachel’s guardian or Protector upon her dad’s disappearance, Logan makes for a rugged love interest with a loyal heart. As an outcast and orphan, Logan loved Rachel’s family as his own. No matter the issues between them, once the story got rolling, these two were just an adorable pair to follow along. With alternating POVs, it was interesting to see how each of them mistook the other’s actions and feelings. I also loved that Logan planned things out, laying out the Best Case Scenario along with the numerable Worst Case Scenarios. They felt like the bit of humour necessary to dissipate the tension and dark feelings they were both feeling.

The main thing I had problems with was the very slow pace. Even the synopsis suggests that Rachel and Logan embark on a journey to the Wastelands to search for her father. That honestly doesn’t take place until the very middle of the book at least. Yes, it was nice to get to understand the land and what had occurred in this world that they now lived in. But it took forever for true danger and suspense to kick in.

I may have admired Rachel in the beginning, but as her character “developed” over the course of the story, she grew colder and more silent in order to keep from falling apart at the injustices that were dealt to her. I could understand that, but sometimes, I just wanted to shout at her to knock it off. She wasn’t being strong in that sense. She was being a coward for not facing reality, and taking it out on those around her.

The antagonist of the story was obvious from the beginning, but the final confrontation just didn’t hit me all that hard. It definitely provided more questions and potential material for the following books in the series, but in itself? It was hardly very exciting. I was a tad bit disappointed, to be honest. However, I am still looking forward to the rest of the series. Hopefully the bits that I didn’t enjoy as much would only get stronger and better from Redwine’s debut.

Overall Recommendation:
For a debut novel, Redwine’s Defiance was enjoyable, albeit lacking a little in excitement and pacing. Rachel and Logan were opposites when it came to their way of thinking. She was all brash and action, a strong fighter who didn’t spend all her days wondering about boys and content with a life of meek obedience to a husband. Logan was the brain and planner, an orphan hardened by the realities thrown at him from a young age. Together, they made a wonderful pair and even better couple. However, the momentum of the plot took ages to move into the teensiest bit of suspense, and the ending just rolled off of me like it was nothing. I hope the following books can minimize these issues, but otherwise, Defiance was a quick and enjoyable read.

Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

Series: The Lunar Chronicles #3

cress -marissa meyer

In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.


 

3.5 Drink Me Potions


I wanted to love this as it so clearly thrilled the majority of Meyer’s fans from her previous two novels in the Lunar Chronicles. However, the only feeling I’m left with is mild adoration instead of the OMG, that was the best thing ever.

Let me start off by saying that I did really enjoy it, but it just didn’t meet my extremely high expectations after reading Cinder and Scarlet. I will break down what I loved about it, and what gave me pause from giving it a maximal rating.

LOVED:

1. Cress was different from the two previous protagonists in the series. She’s a little naive (after all, she spent a huge chunk of her life stuck in a floating satellite all on her own) and a whole lot innocent. Her voice stood out from regular heroine-types in YA literature. She wasn’t a fighter; she believed in the best of everyone.

NOT-SO-LOVED:

1. Maybe it was her innocence or whatever, but her huge crush on Thorne even before she met him was a little farfetched for me. She fell for a figment of her imagination, someone she molded Thorne to fit into when she read up on his history. I’m not saying their romance wasn’t great and all – eventually. Just, the strength of her feelings before even truly getting to know him really puzzled me. Honestly, why him? Of all the people she spied on, she picked Thorne and believed the best motives behind all his crazy plots and mishaps.

LOVED:

2. The camaraderie between all the protagonists so far in the series. Cinder was still very much present, for which I’m glad ’cause she’s still my favourite character of all of them and an integral part of everything. Their banter and scenes were very fun to read, and Meyer writes in a way that each person she added to this story wasn’t some generic version of each other. They had a unique personality that definitely shone through their actions and their comments.

For example, Cinder can be quite sarcastic but you know she has a genuine heart. Thorne is hilarious with his wittiness, charm and sometimes the most inappropriate things to say. Add Cress’s innocence and eagerness to help him out, it made for a lot of fun reading this novel, considering the length of it could potentially bore people if it wasn’t kept entertaining.

Knees suddenly weak, Cress reached for [Thorne’s] forearms to stabilize herself. “You came for me.”

He beamed, looking for all the world like a selfless, daring hero.

“Don’t sound so surprised.” Dropping the cane, he pulled her into a crushing embrace. “It turns out you are worth a lot of money on the black market.”

NOT-SO-LOVED:

2. Because of the continual addition of new protagonists with each book, there are more and more POVs separating all the characters. So you’ll be invested into one particular scene with say, Cinder, and then suddenly pop on over to what Cress is up to. It made me impatient to get past one person’s adventures in order to continue with the one I was most invested in. So by the end of Cress, even with 500+ pages, it didn’t seem like as much happened for each character because the length of the novel was split so heavily between so many people. I just didn’t love Cress as much as Cinder because I read so much more about Cinder’s hardships and rise to heroine status.

LOVED:

3. The plot was jam-packed with crazy things that each heroine had to face, along with their potential “Prince Charmings”. It wasn’t boring as there’s always one thing or another happening to someone. The action and adventure were just as fun as you would expect from Meyer, that I can assure you.

NOT-SO-LOVED:

3. But, because of the segmentation of everyone’s POVs, the plot didn’t flow as smoothly. Eventually when most of the gang got back together, it was a little easier to go from Point A to Point B.

The other thing was the lack of romance (or hints of it) for the most part.  Obviously, the grand finale would give us all the closure we needed with each heroine and their love lives, but there just wasn’t much in this department here. Wolf and Scarlet get separated early on, Cinder and Kai still have some unresolved issues since book 1, and Cress has these huge expectations for Thorne that he really didn’t ask for so he obviously doesn’t measure up.

All in all, Cress was a fine novel and continuation in the Lunar Chronicles. It just had a lot of expectations to meet, and these points may have just been things that only bothered me as the majority of fans found it immensely enjoyable.

Agh, but that ending! Now I really want me some Winter.

Overall Recommendation:

Marissa Meyer does it again with this next installment of the Lunar Chronicles. Due to my nitpickiness and extremely high expectations for her work, I didn’t enjoy Cress as much as I had hoped. Switching between too many POVs made the plot seem disconnected in places and there just wasn’t enough resolution in the romance department for a fairy tale retelling. That’s not to say it wasn’t still a good read. I would recommend this to any fans captured by Cinder as the pace picks up heading into the finale.

Review: Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

Series: Under the Never Sky #3

into the still blue -veronica rossi

The race to the Still Blue has reached a stalemate. Aria and Perry are determined to find this last safe haven from the Aether storms before Sable and Hess do—and they are just as determined to stay together.

Within the confines of a cave they’re using as a makeshift refuge, they struggle to reconcile their people, Dwellers and Outsiders, who are united only in their hatred of their desperate situation. Meanwhile, time is running out to rescue Cinder, who was abducted by Hess and Sable for his unique abilities. Then Roar arrives in a grief-stricken fury, endangering all with his need for revenge.

Out of options, Perry and Aria assemble an unlikely team for an impossible rescue mission. Cinder isn’t just the key to unlocking the Still Blue and their only hope for survival–he’s also their friend. And in a dying world, the bonds between people are what matter most.

In this final book in her earth-shattering Under the Never Sky trilogy, Veronica Rossi raises the stakes to their absolute limit and brings her epic love story to an unforgettable close.


3 Drink Me Potions


For a series conclusion, it wasn’t really all that epic, to be honest. Perry and Aria have so many problems to conquer, an accumulation of everything that’s happened in both Under the Never Sky and Through the Ever Night. And sure, I will admit that everything gets resolved, somehow, but it just wasn’t the explosive kind of conclusion that I was expecting.

Sacrifices were made. Lives were lost. A fight against the bad guy ensued. Yes, it had all these elements, but it just felt like something essential was still missing at the heart of it. Maybe this is just me, and not at all the book. But that’s just how I felt coming out of this.

Character development was decent. Perry has a lot of stepping up to do to lead a group of people away from everything they’ve ever known. Aria, likewise, needs to convince her people that these Outsiders aren’t as bad as they always believed. Soren wasn’t the typical bad boy anymore. I think he had to grow up, real fast, after seeing what kind of a deal his father had made with Sable, the leader of the Horns, and the ensuing consequences. Lastly, there’s dear ol’ Roar. I’ve always loved him. He was the best friend for both Aria and Perry, but he also had a soft romantic side to him. After the absolutely heartwrenching events of the previous novel, Roar’s left with an aftermath that he wasn’t ready to deal with. I won’t ruin anything, but not everything can be happy-go-lucky for every character. He got the short end of the stick, but I’d like to think it made my favourite character the strongest of them all.

Eh, I guess there’s not much more to say. I was quite iffy with this ending. I had so hoped there would be a surprising twist, but it went pretty much the way I had imagined it (minus the lives lost). Maybe you would like it more than I did, but the only favouring point I can give it is that it was a stable ending.

Overall Recommendation:

Into the Still Blue was everything I expected. Period. There was no amount of surprise, pretty much unfolding in a predictable manner that anyone can guess from reading the two previous novels. For a series conclusion, it held no special umph that gave it a bit of spice and excitement. At the end of the day, it was a decent ending for everyone, but it wasn’t one of those memorable ones. Unfortunately, it also didn’t end “happily ever after” for every character, though I guess that made it more realistic. All in all, I’m glad I read it to see how things wrapped up, but don’t expect it to be “OMG that was awesome” or anything.

 

 

Review: Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi

Series: Under the Never Sky #2

through the ever night -veronica rossi

It’s been months since Aria last saw Perry. Months since Perry was named Blood Lord of the Tides, and Aria was charged with an impossible mission.

Now, finally, they are about to be reunited. But their reunion is far from perfect. The Tides don’t take kindly to Aria, a former Dweller. And with the worsening Aether storms threatening the tribe’s precarious existence, Aria begins to fear that leaving Perry behind might be the only way to save them both.

Threatened by false friends and powerful temptations, Aria and Perry wonder, can their love survive through the ever night?


4 Drink Me Potions


Through the Ever Night is a heart-pounding, fast-paced novel that left me breathless as I raced through it in one sitting. This is one sequel that definitely surpassed its predecessor. And I rarely say that, so it’s one BIG compliment.

Now that the details of this dystopian world has been settled in Under the Never Sky, the action really starts coming from all directions. Starting right where Under the Never Sky left off (at that sweet hint of a reunion between our two protagonists), things get hairy – real fast. Perry is now the Blood Lord of his tribe, the Tides. He’s rather young and not as heartless as his brother who was before him. That could cause problems. And to make things worse, he’s bringing a Dweller – aka Aria – into the fold.

I wasn’t very into Perry and Aria’s romance in the first novel, but their relationship takes a realistic turn that I enjoyed here. Their first fight and how to deal with a potential future for the both of them when they come from such different backgrounds. Their sweet, hidden moments away from the prying eyes of the Tides. Dealing with jealous exes. It was real, poignant and their love was so very tangible that I felt I could almost taste it (or should I say, smell it?). They didn’t say “I love you” to each other at any point, but a good romance doesn’t need the words physically there in order to show that the love is still present. So this made everything drastically better from the awkward transition in their relationship in the previous novel.

Secondary characters were immensely well-written. I had said in another review that I absolutely adored Roar, Perry’s best friend. He’s funny and he is more laid-back among Perry and Aria, so it gives a nice comical edge to a story that’s otherwise filled with impending doom and trouble. He also has his own problems – romantic ones – that just tugs at my heartstrings. I wish Rossi would just soothe away all his heartache.

I am glad, though, that there’s no hint in his friendship with Aria that moves beyond the platonic. I guess he’s a very suitable character for a potential love triangle to form, but it really isn’t necessary so I love the fact that things aren’t thrown into more chaos by something like that. Their friendship is as strong as Roar’s friendship with Perry, but different at the same time. They’re both Auds (people with enhanced hearing) so they understand the melody and tunes of the world. He’s like the guy best friend you can talk about the bad stuff with, but also tease and joke with as well.

Beyond Perry having difficulties leading his new tribe and settling Aria in, Aria had her own problems to deal with. The Dwellers were exploiting the fact that she was Outside of the safety of their Pod (aka a dome-like structure that housed people from the fury of the strange storms). In this world, there are weird electrical storms shooting through the sky, and it’s getting worse. This strange element is called the Aether.

And Rossi finally explains what the Aether is/how it came to be. Apparently, in past centuries, a freak solar flare changed the magnetic fields of the Earth and caused it to fluctuate, letting cosmic rays into the atmosphere. This somehow made the Aether that’s constantly flowing through the sky. Or rather, shooting electrical currents or waves through the sky. Don’t ask me if that’s scientifically sound, but as far as fiction goes, I’d say it’s good enough.

Anyway, Perry and Aria attempt to find out the location of a rumoured haven where there is no Aether destroying the land in funnels of fire coming from the sky. A beautiful piece of paradise called the Still Blue. This was no easy attempt, as the only person they could ask for this information was a Blood Lord of another tribe who sounds immediately unlikeable. Hence, they embark on an epic (ish) adventure in order to save their peoples. Action, action and action galore. This is why I loved Through the Ever Night more.

And with such adventure and conflict concludes the second novel of this trilogy. I do recommend you read this. Like now.

Overall Recommendation:

Through the Ever Night was by far better in every way compared to the previous novel in the series. With a romance that sweeps you off your feet and roaring to cheer their forbidden love, as well as conflict among Perry’s people, this book doesn’t let you bore easily. It sets the stage for the conclusion of the trilogy but never falls into the trap of “second book syndrome”. Continuing to follow both Perry and Aria’s POVs, Through the Ever Night will definitely satisfy fans of the first book and I highly recommend you read this. You’ll be whooping and crying with them, that’s how brilliantly this world has captured me.