2.5 star, YA

Review: Steelstriker by Marie Lu

Explosive action and swoon-worthy suspense collide in this riveting conclusion to the Skyhunter duet from #1 New York Times–bestselling author Marie Lu

As a Striker, Talin was taught loyalty is life. Loyalty to the Shield who watches your back, to the Strikers who risk their lives on the battlefield, and most of all, to Mara, which was once the last nation free from the Karensa Federation’s tyranny.

But Mara has fallen. And its destruction has unleashed Talin’s worst nightmare.

With her friends scattered by combat and her mother held captive by the Premier, Talin is forced to betray her fellow Strikers and her adopted homeland. She has no choice but to become the Federation’s most deadly war machine as their newest Skyhunter.

Red is no stranger to the cruelty of the Federation or the torture within its Skyhunter labs, but he knows this isn’t the end for Mara – or Talin. The link between them may be weak, but it could be Talin and Red’s only hope to salvage their past and safeguard their future.

While the fate of a broken world hangs in the balance, Talin and Red must reunite the Strikers and find their way back to each other in this smoldering sequel to Marie Lu’s Skyhunter.



That’s the thing about evil. You don’t need to be it to do it. It doesn’t have to consume all of you. It can be small. All you have to do is let it exist.

The grand conclusion to this latest duology by Marie Lu, back in dystopian fiction which was the genre that propelled her to fame, I kind of expected more from Steelstriker. Obviously the ending of book 1 left a lot hanging in the air. Yet it doesn’t move forward at a very fast pace, a characteristic I noticed even in Skyhunter.

We’ve been introduced to the Big Bad of the story, Premier Constantine, previously. Now we’re up close and personal with him as Talin has to deal with his every whim. He’s evil, let’s be clear on that, but I do love how Marie doesn’t make him so black and white for a villain. He’s covered in shades of grey for we start understanding his fears and mind more while unearthing the past that perhaps made him into the ruthless dictator he is.

Yet the plot moves so slowly. While Talin spends most of the book figuring out how to escape the Premier so she can thwart his plans for one United federation, Red and the other Strikers are on the run, making small attempts where they can to stop Constantine. It’s lots of planning, minor action, and minimal world building.

Yes, I felt there was a missed chance to have explored more about the different countries that were once independent and now forced into the federation. Talin and friends are no longer stuck in their own country because now it’s been claimed by this regime and they’ve been forced to go to the capital. But I still have no idea what these other places are or even the relevance of half these countries listed on the map since they’re hardly or never mentioned at all.

I also didn’t feel much for the romance. This is probably my fault for having read book 1 so long ago. It was such a slow burn romance where all the chemistry and tension were set up there, leaving only the aftermath and response in book 2. Since I barely remember those moments, it’s kind of hard to feel the same sense of elation at actual romance budding between Red and Talin now. I mean, they didn’t even kiss in the first book so this should be a win in my books but I felt almost nothing. Ah, I wish I could push out feelings with a button but alas that wouldn’t be very organic.

Not wanting to end off with so much negativity, I did really appreciate one thing: found family matters, especially in a world torn up by war. With so many families broken apart and even witnessing fellow comrade deaths, the ties that bring those who remain together are even more important. I loved the Strikers from day 1, this band of elite fighters who were brave and disciplined when it came to protecting those they loved against the monsters from the federation. I’m so glad some of my favorite secondary characters were back and being their lovable, courageous selves.

Marie writes this at least very well, and sums it up even better in her own words.

Goodness is friends who stick by you, even when they fear you’re lost. It’s mothers who fight for their daughters. It’s believing in something better – and taking action to make it reality. It’s love, untainted and pure.

Goodness is a garden that provides life to thousands of blooms. It does not rule. It gives.

Overall Recommendation:

Steelstriker fell a little flat when it came to pacing for what I had hoped would be an epic conclusion. Now facing the evil ruler of the federation that had destroyed their home country, Talin and her friends are separated and still trying to fight the good fight against the greatest odds stacked against them. I had hoped for more action and less internal thinking/planning so it was hard not to put it down a lot. While there were certain memorable moments, I can’t say this is among the best dystopian books I’ve read.

4 star, YA

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?


4 Drink Me Potions


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.

4 star, YA

Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Series: Arc of a Scythe #1

scythe -neal shustermanTwo teens are forced to murder—maybe each other—in the first in a chilling new series from Neal Shusterman, author of the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology.

Thou shalt kill.

In a world where disease has been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed (“gleaned”) by professional reapers (“scythes”). Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythe’s apprentices, and—despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation—they must learn the art of killing and come to understand the necessity of what they do.

Only one of them will be chosen as a scythe’s apprentice. And when it becomes clear that the winning apprentice’s first task will be to glean the loser, Citra and Rowan are pitted against one another in a fight for their lives.


4 Drink Me Potions


What can I say about Scythe?

Honestly? After taking a couple of days to think about it since finishing this book, I’m not sure I can put it into any better words. But here IS what I would say.

Scythe is deeply thought-provoking and makes you question bigger things such as morality and good and evil. Who is allowed to take a life? At what cost would this come? How does human nature tie into it all? Can you maintain your own soul when you are charged to take lives as a duty, over and over again?

All these things swirled in my mind as I was reading this book. And this book could be read pretty quickly but I had to take my time with it.

Citra and Rowan were both ordinary individuals living out their boring day-to-day lives. Very rarely do people around them die – otherwise known as being gleaned in this somewhat far off society on Earth. But then they both encounter a scythe and life as they know it becomes completely different.

I loved reading their stories from both their perspectives. It may not have been first person, but it was still really descriptive about their thoughts and feelings as they trained as apprentices to a Scythe Master. I loved the snippets at the end of each chapter that took insight into certain Scythe Masters’ thoughts about what they did and why they did it. Although they may seem random at first, everything tied together well in the end.

I felt that Neal Shusterman did an amazing job building this world that seems plausible as technology and data grows. But the most amazing feat he accomplished was the ability to capture complexity of human conscience and the in-between gray areas behind people’s intentions and actions. That is what kept me going throughout this book.

The only reason I couldn’t give this a full 5 star rating was my annoyance with Rowan at times. I’m not sure what to make of him nearer to the end, although I do hold out some hope that things are going to more than what they seem. Yes, I know that sounds vague but let’s not give away anything too much, right?

As for romance, I was so sure that there’d be more between Rowan and Citra but they weren’t together all that much in the story to truly develop anything stronger than attraction in my mind. I’m not sure what the ending implied but I look forward to seeing what’s to come for the both of them and the whole Scythedom as some crazy things really shake up its workings then.

Overall Recommendation:
Scythe provided a wonderful platform for a story about morality behind every action. As a Scythe or even as a simple apprentice, our protagonists Rowan and Citra learned so much about the workings of their immortal society and the role of scythes that is far more complex than simply killing a certain quota of individuals. In such a complex world that may not be so far off into the future, Shusterman did an amazing job building a believable society and its own problems that need to be solved. Overall, this story was one that made me think and it followed me long after I closed the last page.