4 star, YA

Review: People Like Us by Dana Mele

people like us -dana meleKay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she’s reinvented herself entirely. Now she’s a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl’s body is found in the lake, Kay’s carefully constructed life begins to topple.

The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay’s finally backed into a corner, she’ll do what it takes to survive.

Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make…not something that happened.


4 Drink Me Potions


With a boarding school setting similar to Truly Devious, whodunnit suspect scenarios such as One of Us is Lying, and the cruelty of a popular it girl group likened to the popular Pretty Little Liars series, People Like Us feels both psychologically familiar yet carries a darker, more messed up undertone.

I don’t know what’s been floating around in the air lately but I’m really digging the dive into (psychological) thrillers and mysteries in YA. This book is part of that ongoing trend that should deservedly get more attention.

The novel starts off with a group of seemingly popular girls without a care in the world. They’re just leaving a party and BAM they find a dead body.

From there, it leaves your typical, simple whodunnit mystery. Our protagonist, Kay, is seemingly blackmailed by the dead girl. What a strange twist, huh?

I would love to feel more bad for her, but she’s not the most lovable person. She’s a pretty flawed, human girl with a secret past that we don’t know about. And that’s what makes it more fun to read and follow along what may happen next.

I flew through this book in almost one sitting. I wanted to know who’s next on this hit list created by the dead girl. I loved the artistry behind the tasks that Kay was forced to do in order to keep her secret. It was poetic and hauntingly cruel. You never knew who was next (and what did they do *gasp*) and who to trust. I sometimes could barely trust Kay’s own perspective because who knows if she’s hiding something huge from us?

Yet I found myself underwhelmed with other elements of the story.

Including the ending.

Yes, everything – and everyone – was kind of messed up. The culprit wasn’t unguessable but the reasoning behind it all wasn’t amazing. The whys matter to me, not just the whodunnit anymore.

Kay’s secret that pushed her so far to protect was…interesting but the delivery to us, the unknowing readers, wasn’t the best. Maybe I’m just being picky, but there was something in the execution that prevented me from loving it wholeheartedly.

Oh by the way, you romance lovers, there was something present in the story for you too. Though at times I wasn’t sure it was all that necessary to force it in.

Kay’s bisexual so throughout the book, she was torn between her ex-boyfriend and her girl best friend. They made for great suspects with motives, no doubt about it, but it was a lot of drama that felt like it just filled in the empty gaps around the main mystery instead of adding to the story itself as an important point.

So as mysteries go, it was an immediately satisfying rollercoaster spin that couldn’t be stopped once it started – for the most part – but after getting off of it, there’re a few mixed feelings thrown in there. People Like Us definitely wasn’t quite what I expected.

Overall Recommendation:

A YA thriller that gives you a glimpse into the secrets at an all girls boarding school, People Like Us was a fast-paced read that took some weird turns along the ride. With a bisexual protagonist (full of romantic angst and drama) and her hidden secret propelling her on a task list sent from a dead girl, lies get unfolded and intrigue hits its max. Although it was a fun journey, the ending came somewhat abruptly that left a strange, but lasting, impression. If you’re one for mysteries (and boarding schools!), definitely give it a shot.

Advertisements
3 star, YA

Review: The Fates Divide by Veronica Roth

Series: Carve the Mark #2

the fates divide -veronica rothFate brought them together. Now it will divide them.

The lives of Cyra Noavek and Akos Kereseth are ruled by their fates, spoken by the oracles at their births. The fates, once determined, are inescapable.

Akos is in love with Cyra, in spite of his fate: He will die in service to Cyra’s family. And when Cyra’s father, Lazmet Noavek—a soulless tyrant, thought to be dead—reclaims the Shotet throne, Akos believes his end is closer than ever.

As Lazmet ignites a barbaric war, Cyra and Akos are desperate to stop him at any cost. For Cyra, that could mean taking the life of the man who may—or may not—be her father. For Akos, it could mean giving his own. In a stunning twist, the two will discover how fate defines their lives in ways most unexpected.

With the addition of two powerful new voices, Veronica Roth’s sequel to Carve the Mark is a chorus of hope, humor, faith, and resilience.


3 Drink Me Potions


Fate versus choice. Which is greater than the other? Or is there a better question to be asked? Can our choices determine our fate or no matter what we choose, we may always hurtle towards our predestined path?

These are the questions that plague our protagonists as we find them right where we left off in book 1. Cyra and Akos may have momentarily “won” over their numerous adversaries but their troubles are far from over. Including their individual fates that still hang over their heads.

Brimming with questions about the path they each have to walk while wishing they could choose to be free of the destiny they were born with, the battle between their peoples continue, dragging in the Assembly that governs all these planets within the current that protects these lands. Additional POVs from the other Kereseth children were very insightful, especially from Akos’ oracle brother Eijeh who wasn’t really all quite there in the mind.

Equally balanced with romance and action, The Fates Divide was a good conclusion to the duology. At times, it did feel slow. The switching POVs didn’t always add to the story, and the world building wasn’t very strong in this sequel. It seemed after introducing us to how this world worked, including its current and the currentgifts some individuals possessed, not a whole lot was expanded about this world here. Roth did a good job in reminding us what had happened in book 1 and how everything worked in this world, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve read it, but I was a bit disappointed in only learning more about the planet Olga in this book since there’s so much more out there. With duologies picking up more in popularity, I suppose this just wasn’t enough space for further characterization of this society on top of the story.

What I will say this novel had going for it was a certain unexpected twist or two I hadn’t seen coming. And of course, back to the Fates . Always that question on how Cyra and Akos would each fulfill their destinies. I think just guessing at how it could all turn out to be okay really kept the underlying tone of the novel more urgent while events really took its time to unfold.

As endings go, this one was satisfactory. I loved the POV it was written in and that not everything was made “better” for our protagonists completely. Things aren’t 100% resolved, especially concerning the state of the overall society’s changing attitudes, but I like to think that it leaves room for more stories to be possibly born from here, set in this world. Meanwhile, we get to leave our protagonists with future possibilities that are both hopeful and content.

Overall Recommendation:
The Fates Divide concludes Veronica Roth’s interesting duology set in a world filled with currents and destinies that define the core of our protagonists. While the pacing was slow at times and there was a disappointing lack of further world building, the central theme of our destinies versus the choices we make that define our fates eclipsed everything else. Yes, there was action, romance, and the ties of family they couldn’t choose, but the question of fulfilling their fates was ultimately hanging overhead the whole time. Excellently weaved into this fantasy story, this showcases Roth’s ability to put depth in even a YA novel that could’ve remained superficial. A worthy ending that opens up the possibilities of more in this world (or so I hope).

3 star, YA

Review: Eden Conquered by Joelle Charbonneau

Series: Dividing Eden #2

eden conquered -joelle charbonneauThe electrifying conclusion to the Dividing Eden series by the New York Times bestselling author of the Testing trilogy, Joelle Charbonneau..

The Trials of Virtuous Succession have ended. Prince Andreus is king—and Princess Carys is dead.

But even as he’s haunted by what he did to win the throne, Andreus discovers that his dream of ruling only brings new problems. The people love his twin even more in death than they did when she was alive. The Elders treat him as a figurehead. And worst of all, the winds of Eden are faltering.

But despite what everyone believes, Carys is alive. Exiled to the wilderness, Carys struggles to control the powers that have broken free inside her. And as she grows stronger, so does her conviction that she must return to the Palace of Winds, face her twin and root out the treachery that began long before the first Trials started.

The Kingdom of Eden is growing darker with each passing day. Brother and sister, former foes, must decide whether some betrayals cut too deep to be forgiven—and whether one will wear the crown or both will lose everything.


3 Drink Me Potions


**Eden Conquered comes out June 5, 2018**

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

A princess on the run. Unknown assailants and spies lurking in the shadows of the court. Who to trust? And who will save Eden?

This sequel to Dividing Eden in ways did it justice, but likewise could have been better. Carys is terrified of the power she’s uncovered within her. Andreus wants to prove himself as king, yet there’s a nagging feeling that not all is right within the walls of his kingdom – let alone within his castle.

While the pacing lagged at times, the story alternates between Carys and Andreus for each chapter. Both the twins have no idea who they can fully trust in the aftermath of the Trials they were forced to take. Their storylines tried to develop their individual journey towards placing trust in the right people, and even taking steps to right wrongs that were done by their hand. Carys had escaped with two men with questionable pasts while Andreus almost had no one in the castle that may not have ulterior motives to setting him on the throne. Charbonneau did well in writing their fears, desires and other emotions into their POVs, yet at times this really slowed down the plot.

I can’t say that action wasn’t a pivotal component of the story. An imminent attack on Eden from their rival country was coming, and different groups had different agendas for who should be put on the throne. There was always an underlying sense of urgency – whether in Carys’ return to the castle or Andreus’ ability to outwit his shadowy enemies – but the action only packed the greatest punch in the last 25% or so of the novel.

And oh boy, was that something. Like a wind hurtling full force, all of a sudden a bunch of things were coming into play. Vague predictions/messages from the seers, monsters coming at full force out of the darkness, and the threat of war just amassed on these twins.

Unseen twists caught me by surprise, though I’m not sure in hindsight why I didn’t see that coming. Yet now in hindsight, I can’t help but feel somewhat cheated in the ending to this duology. Don’t get me wrong, it was exciting in a way but it all happened so fast. Each “obstacle” was resolved in a way that didn’t take the time to fully appreciate the climax of the story. Even the twins’ reunion after the rocky way they left each other in book 1 all occurred so fast.

What I will say about the ending that redeemed this entire book for me was that it didn’t wrap itself up in a very nice bow. Not completely at least. It’s not a sad ending, but things are left somewhat open to the happiness and future of the protagonists. And while this entire series, including this sequel, only supplemented the story with romance, I felt it was the perfect amount to support the plot instead of overwhelm it. The highlight was kept on the twins’ character development and unearthing the subterfuge amidst them.

Would I rather the novel was extended a bit more to really flesh out the climax, and maybe added to the plot a bit more? For sure. But as it stands, Eden Conquered managed to deliver an ending that I think was worthwhile in some way still.

Overall Recommendation:
Eden Conquered may not have packed as heavy of a punch as a final installment to this duology, but it made up for its lack of plot and sometimes slow pacing with a beautiful focus on character development. Both Carys and Andreus are flawed protagonists with their own inner demons, or curses, they had to face. With a kingdom depending on them working together instead of against one another, this sequel placed emphasis on all the right aspects that made it a worthy conclusion in the end. A surprise twist here and there, a touch of feels and an ending that was somewhat open to interpretation, I at least leave Eden with a smile on my face.