Tag Archive | post apocalyptic

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: 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: 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.

Review: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Series: Under the Never Sky #1

under the never sky -veronica rossi

Since she’d been on the outside, she’d survived an Aether storm, she’d had a knife held to her throat, and she’d seen men murdered.

This was worse.

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland–known as The Death Shop–are slim. If the cannibals don’t get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She’s been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild–a savage–and her only hope of staying alive.

A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile–everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria’s help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.


3 Drink Me Potions


Let me be honest upfront. I started this book when it first came out and only now decided to finish it. And let me tell you, the beginning is downright confusing.

Aria and Perry are our two alternating protagonists. Don’t get me wrong, they both are very interesting people to follow along. But as you’ll see, some terminology and background on this strange world is kind of hard to understand at first (because Rossi doesn’t explicitly tell you in a straightforward manner), and may not even be explained at all by the end of the novel.

First up, Aria gets punished and left to die in the “Outside” after a prank goes wrong. What is this “Outside”, you ask? Uh, well her people, the Dwellers, have lived in this dome-like building for over 3 centuries and have never come out of it due to the terrible atmosphere on Earth. Wouldn’t they get bored? Apparently not when you have tech that transports you to this virtual reality known as the Realms. They spend all their time there doing whatever the heck you can possibly imagine. So Aria I had to admire for her guts in handling banishment like that. ‘Cause honestly, I don’t think most spoiled kids who’s never walked farther than their one building would be able to survive a freak storm.

And that brings me to explain what the heck is wrong with the Earth. In this world setting, there are strange storms that shoot out funnels of electricity or something from the sky. These currents of electricity roam in clouds above the Earth and occasionally touch down to burn up the land beneath it. This was known as Aether, a word taken from ancient times that represented a 5th element (besides earth, air, water and fire) they couldn’t quite describe. Now, HOW does this thing really work or where it came from? That, my friend, I cannot answer for you as of right now. So you see? Confusing.

BUT that’s not all. There are people like Perry, the Outsiders, who weren’t as fortunate to be trapped – I mean, to live – in the Pods, aka the dome. (See, the terminology is confusing in itself? Can’t it just be referred as the Dome? Much simpler?) Anyway, I digress. Apparently, due to living in such harsh weather conditions, these storms have produced mutations in the people where they now have enhanced Senses. That’s right. Senses with a capital S.

ROSSI DIDN’T EXPLAIN IT VERY WELL AT FIRST. So if you were like me, scratching my head at what the heck was going on, well here’s the pointers. People can have enhanced sight (Seers), hearing (Audiles) or Smell (Scires). Rarely, they can have two Senses, like Perry. So I guess he’s an anomaly – I mean, special? Lucky us. And boy are these people clique-ish. They hang with people of similar Senses, and even marry them in order to maintain “pure bloodlines”. ‘Cause apparently, your offspring or whatever will be cursed if you try to mate with some other Sense. Or, gasp, someone who’s Unmarked (aka has no Sense).

So does this mean Perry won’t even look at Aria?

The romance wasn’t really hitting it for me for a long while. I liked the way Aria and Perry interacted. Their tension at being Dweller vs. Outsider was hilarious and entertaining. Perry, being a Scire, hated her scent for a long time, to the point he had to stay upwind of her so he wouldn’t have to smell her. So romantic, right? Don’t worry, you romance lovers. It doesn’t stay awful forever, but I did wish the transition from “You smell bad and I see you as a Dweller” to “You have a heavenly scent and I see you as a girl” was a little more smooth. It felt a little rushed/choppy. Like, one instant Perry barely tolerated her, and the next, he was starting to notice everything.

Okay, so as it stands here, it seems this review is going pretty down south. But hey, my rating isn’t so bad. What’s with that?

There IS redemption. Under the Never Sky may have been as confusing as crap for like the first half of the book, but you eventually get immersed into the world (or at least, I hope so if you can last that long).

How was it redeemed?
1. Roar
He’s Perry’s bestie and I love him dearly. He becomes a really good friend to Aria as well, and he definitely added some comic relief with his fun and charming self in this dark world of cannibalism, freak storms and fights-to-the-death. And no, he’s never portrayed as a potential love interest for Aria (thank God) as his heart is already taken by some other lovely girl…who actually never appears in this novel.

2. Fights-to-the-death & Archaic rituals
Under the Never Sky seems to have built an Outside world where people survive in tribes or as lonely lost people who don’t belong anywhere (and probably end up dying quickly). Perry’s brother is a tribe leader, known as the Blood Lord. Gruesome sounding already, isn’t it? Well, to usurp present Blood Lord, gotta have those fights-to-the-death or else surrender to me kinda fights. People give oaths to follow a leader, and other tribes can try to attack and raid each other to expand their followers and/or land. It’s starting to sound like we’re back in the old ages. It was occasionally amusing to see how a futuristic setting (come on, they have tech that makes virtual EVERYTHING) also draws such huge similarities to how ancient civilizations lived.

3. Originality
I guess being confused does have ONE good thing. Means that I’ve never read anything quite like it that upon first glance, I already understood what the author’s ideas were. Well done, Rossi.

Anyway, this novel had its up and downs, but by the end, I was hooked onto the overall plot and setting. This wasn’t the strongest first book in a trilogy, as that’s where you really want to draw in readers, but if you can last a bit of confusion until it reaches the exciting, action parts, I’d say you’re good to go with the series.

Overall Recommendation:
Under the Never Sky was not the strongest contender for the first book in a trilogy, nor an easy book to initially understand. Random terminology in a dystopian setting that wasn’t explained all too clearly can cause a lot of confusion. However, with help of reviews (like this one!), confusion can be easily erased to bring forth an interesting plot following two protagonists who are courageous, determined and willing to sacrifice everything for someone they love. The romance could use a bit of umph, but I swear, you’ll be hooked in with Perry and Aria’s adventures as I have by the end.

 

Review: Rebel by Amy Tintera

Series: Reboot #2

rebel -amy tinteraWren Connolly thought she’d left her human side behind when she dies five years ago and came back 178 minutes later as a Reboot. With her new abilities of strength, speed, and healing—along with a lack of emotions—Wren 178 became the perfect soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation). Then Callum 22 came along and changed everything.

Now that they’ve both escaped, they’re ready to start a new life in peace on the Reboot reservation. But Micah 163, the Reboot running the reservation, has darker plans in mind: to wipe out the humans. All of them. Micah has been building a Reboot army for years and is now ready to launch his attack on the cities. Callum wants to stick around and protect the humans. Wren wants nothing more than to leave all the fighting behind them.

With Micah on one side, HARC on the other, and Wren and Callum at odds in the middle, there’s only one option left…

It’s time for Reboots to become rebels.


4 Drink Me Potions


What I love about this story is that it really makes you think. My all-time favourite book is The Host, so this is a huge compliment when I say that like it, Rebel centres on one huge question.

What makes someone a human? Is it their physical make-up or how they go about making their decisions? Is it their ability to love or their ability to bring down such destruction upon themselves? Is being human even a good thing?

Wren struggled with this in Reboot, the first book in this duology. I thought she came a long way in finding a piece of humanity in her. However, the true progress came through here. It wasn’t black and white for her. Kill humans who never treated her kindly? Or risk everything to save a species who were, logically, the less evolved group and may not hesitate to kill a Reboot?

So throughout Rebel, Wren had to take a good look at herself and figure out why she wasn’t like Callum with his way of thinking. Was it really just because of her high number that made her feel less guilt over what she’s done or could do? Or is it just, at the end of the day, something that was solely because of her? She was still this amazing kick-ass character who, unbeknownst to her, was worthy of admiration and respect from the other Reboots, not only due to her 178 number. She wasn’t some weak and fragile heroine who couldn’t take care of herself. But she wasn’t just some heartless monster desperate to find herself either. And that’s what always made her POV very interesting to read.

Likewise, Callum had his own POV in this book and went through a similar, fleshed-out character development. I love that his role as Wren’s love interest never just stopped at that. Some books carry their male leads like some fancy toy that’s nice to admire and have around, but don’t really have anything unique or interesting about them on their own without the girl they supposedly like/love.

Callum was this happy-go-lucky kinda guy in Reboot. I loved that about him. I personally think his quick smile and attitude while facing hostile Reboots in the HARC facility was what touched Wren enough to fall for him so hard. But he realistically had to face challenges after escaping that affected his ideologies. After all, he was only rebooted a short while ago. Everything wasn’t great for them most of the time. Humans feared them or wanted nothing to do with them. He only touched the surface of the hardships he’d have to face as a Reboot now.

As for the action and romance, there were plenty of both. And they balanced each other out. Rebel started literally right where Reboot ended, dumped at the doorstep of a potentially new future for escaped Reboots. The pacing was always on point. It never dragged out a scene and there were always suspicious things going on to ponder about.

The only thing I’d complain about is one anticlimactic point near the end where I personally thought Tintera could’ve made a more action-packed sequence for it. Like, the plot of the story kinda built it up and it just….fizzled down. When I read it, I was like, “wait, what just happened? Hold on. You gotta be kidding me…”. But ah well. I guess it could’ve been worse.

The romance didn’t take up centre stage this time, but it was always evident that Callum and Wren dearly cared for each other. And their relationship was realistic too. Their personalities were so different and although they complemented each other in a lot of ways, sometimes those ideologies can cause disagreements as well. I loved that Tintera fleshed out and explored where they were headed now that the initial “I like you, I think you totally dig me too” kinda phase has passed. She didn’t need to bring in some awful love triangle or some stupid thing that to cause a rift between them to make the book “exciting” in the romance department. (You can totally see how big of a fan I am with love triangles…).

As I look around on the news, you can see what humanity can be like. So to wrap things up, this brings me back to what I pointed in the beginning as the central theme of Rebel. I think Tintera pointed it out perfectly. It’s not that we are good and emotional. We’re by far not. Human beings can do the worst, unimaginable horrors to each other. But there’s always a choice. I think that’s what being human looks like. Choosing which path to go and accepting the consequences. It’s not always black and white in the decisions that are made, but hopefully, at the end of the day, the more moral and loving choice was picked. I think Rebel really touched down on such an essential part of humanity.

Overall Recommendation:
Rebel was equal parts action and equal parts character development with romance sprinkled in between to glue it all together. The pacing never dragged out as new characters and new plotlines picked up. Likewise, we really get to see what humanity looks like through the POVs of both Wren and Callum. Although they may be Reboots now, what separates them from humans? Have they really lost their sense of morality and guilt? Are humans even worth saving? These are all questions explored through both their narratives and I think Tintera did an amazing job at trying to answer this through the eyes of two realistic characters. Definitely check this duology out.

Review: Reboot by Amy Tintera

Series: Reboot #1

reboot -amy tinteraFive years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).

Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.

The perfect soldier is done taking orders.


4 Drink Me Potions


Wren Connolly, otherwise known by her branded number as 178, having “rebooted” to life after 178 minutes after dying.

She should have lost more of her humanity than anyone else, but it seems all it needed to surface was a push in the right direction.

I held off reading Reboot for a long time. I’m not really sure why. But oh boy, I’m so glad I finally picked it up. This story follows a beautiful protagonist who truly feels that emotions and other trivial human things are just a part of her ill-spent childhood. I love that Wren is such a complicated character. She feels emotions, but she doesn’t believe she’s really human anymore. Even she believes she can be a monster, mindlessly following even the cruelest of orders coming from HARC. After all, she’s 178, right? How much humanity could have been left in her after being dead for so long?

In a way, this inner conflict against her own personal demons reminded me a lot of Rosamund Hodge’s Crimson Bound. I admired the protagonist for the complexity in which her character couldn’t be defined as strictly good or bad. Although Wren wasn’t as monstrous or as dark of a character (for which I am grateful, ’cause poor me can only handle so much darkness at a time), she definitely went through a similar struggle. She killed people. People who were supposedly bad. And she enjoyed the hunt.

Enter Callum, with his wee number of 22 minutes. You would think that a guy like him, who was barely a Reboot and probably retained most of his humanity, would have nothing in common with someone like Wren, who scared even most of the other Reboots in the facility. But he did. With his contagious smile and hopeful attitude, he showed her that there was still a large piece of humanity in her.

Man, this just makes me want to find a Callum for myself.

The romance was sweet and slow-progressing. Reboot as a whole was an extremely fast read, gobbled up in a few sittings, and the romance still felt like it was written in a nice, even pace. And it wasn’t just the romance, but the pacing of the action sequences was well-done. Things weren’t as normal back in the facility, leading Wren to question her role with HARC for probably the very first time.

The world building and setting was definitely interesting. A new virus caused a major outbreak in the area known as today’s Texas. But it had strange effects. It killed a ton of people, but it also “rebooted” some young people after a range of minutes from death. Hence, a new and stronger species of humans called Reboots started roaming. The world building was familiar, in a sense, but with familiar cities remodelled to fit with this fallen world after the virus. I do wish Tintera let us explore a little more into the world she’s created, so that’s something to look forward to in the sequel.

I’ll keep this review short and sweet, closing off with this. The romance does give a lot of weight to Reboot, probably more so than other novels in this genre, but I think it’s well-placed alongside the fighting and the rebellion against the higher order. It connects us to Wren and to Callum in such a strong way that it’ll have you rooting for their survival way before the end of it.

Overall Recommendation:
For a synopsis that suggests rebellion and loads of action, Reboot also has a fair share of romance, as well as diving into the inner conflict that Wren has to deal with. Is she a monster now that she’s a Reboot, having been dead for so long? Could she find a piece of humanity left in her? All that is explored alongside her growing friendship and attraction for newbie Callum, someone she normally would never give a second thought about. I loved that it explored her character like this to give us a sense of who she really is and to let us connect with her, whether she be a monster or not. That’s not to say the novel isn’t exciting and still full of some ass-kicking. I’d say Reboot has something to offer for everyone.