8

[DNF ARC REVIEW] Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

blood rose rebellion

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Series: Blood Rose Rebellion #1

Rating: None

Release Date: March 28, 2017

Description:

The thrilling first book in a YA fantasy trilogy for fans of Red Queen. In a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place.

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

My Thoughts: 

“I did not set out to ruin my sister’s debut.”

DNF AT 16%

 Oh, boy. This totally sucks. I saw this up on Netgalley and immediately requested it when I first signed up for the site. The cover is stunning, and the summary was just so intriguing that I couldn’t help it. I was so surprised to be approved for this one since it seemed like literally everyone was clamoring for an ARC of this, and I didn’t consider myself too popular in the book blogging world at the time.

 Unfortunately, this one just really let me down, and after trying to read this for so long, I ended up just giving up on this one for numerous reasons.

 1. This is a historical fantasy. I love fantasy, okay? Fantasy is one of my favorite genres, even though I haven’t really read it too much this year (and I must solve that problem). But, this is historical fantasy. I really don’t like historical fiction, personally, so seeing this was basically just court politics that took place in Hungary around the 1800s except with magic made me extremely disappointed. And I’m not a fan of court politics either, so that didn’t really help things.

 2. I didn’t care about any of the characters. So we have the main character, who was easily forgettable and boring that I didn’t even remember her name until I read the summary of this book again (her name’s Anna, apparently). We also have Catherine, who is stereotypically the mean older sister who’s catty towards our main character. And that’s as far as I got to. I mean, there are some other adults who only seem to exist to dump exposition and leave, and we also get to meet Freddy, who’s her temporary suitor in the beginning of the book, and, again, bland and lifeless and boring and sort of an asshole, and I just didn’t care.

 3. It was incredibly slow-moving. I just couldn’t handle how bored and uninterested I was throughout the entire thing, even from the beginning. It’s never a good sign when a book can’t capture you from the first pages. I know I’ve said this already, but it’s just so disappointing, because I was so hyped for this book, but I just couldn’t get into it. I tried so hard to get into this one, multiple times, but there was nothing in the chapters that kept me going, and I didn’t feel like suffering.

(Also, this book is nothing like Red Queen. So, there’s that.)

 All in all, after seeing so many other people not finishing this book as well at a later point than I could ever attempt to reach and seeing several others who actually finished the book and still didn’t like it, I decided to just go ahead and join them. I really don’t recommend this one, but, again, I’m never one to dissuade someone from reading a book they’re excited in, so feel free to check it out if it really interests you!

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A huge thanks to Random House Children’s for giving me an ARC of this book via Netgalley! I’m so sorry I couldn’t finish it, but it means a lot to me that I received it for free.

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13

[REVIEW + AUTHOR INTERVIEW] Follow Me Down by Sherri Smith

Follow Me Down

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Adult

Series: None

Rating: 4 STARS

Description:

Mia Haas has built a life for herself far from the North Dakota town where she grew up, but when she receives word that her twin brother is missing, she’s forced to return home. Once hailed as the golden boy of their small town, Lucas Haas disappeared the same day the body of one of his high school students is pulled from the river. Trying to wrap her head around the rumors of Lucas’s affair with the teen, and unable to reconcile the media’s portrayal of Lucas as a murderer with her own memories of him, Mia is desperate to find another suspect.

All the while, she wonders, if he’s innocent, why did he run?

As Mia reevaluates their difficult, shared history and launches her own investigation into the grisly murder, she uncovers secrets that could exonerate Lucas—or seal his fate. In a small town where everyone’s history is intertwined, Mia will be forced to confront her own demons, placing her right in the killer’s crosshairs.

Follow Me Down is a rare find—a gutsy, visceral, and beautifully crafted psychological thriller.

My Thoughts:

“My first thought was my mother had started another fire.”

Nothing is better than reading a book that lives up to its gorgeous cover (LOOK AT IT. IT’S SO PRETTY). I am jealous of anyone who manages to get a hold of a physical copy of this book, since I only got an e-ARC. But I’m so glad that I received this one through Netgalley, because it was oh so good.

 (Also, stay tuned! I got the opportunity to interview the author, and it will be below the review!)

 I was definitely pulled into requesting this one because of the synopsis, and I’m so glad to say that it definitely delivered. I’m a huge fan of thrillers in which the main character used to live in a small town, and has no choice but to go back to the bad memories to solve a conflict, and this one definitely reminded me of why I’m such a huge fan of them. If you were a big fan of Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, you’ll probably fall in love with this one like I did.

 The pacing of this book was A+. Once I started this book, I could barely put it down, especially near the halfway point where we kept discovering new things and clues kept popping up and I just absolutely needed to know what was going to happen next. Personally, I thought this book was pretty much perfectly-paced, and a fantastic balance between being extremely tense, but slowing it down when it was necessary. I thought the way that the entire case unfolded was quite realistic, especially regarding the police work (even though that 100% frustrated me to death that the police wouldn’t listen to Mia, I swear to God). Not to mention that I was completely mislead about where this book was going, and it’s always a mark in my book when a thriller can truly surprise me.

 The main character of this novel is Mia Haas, who was quite interesting. Usually, I’m not one to care too much about characters in thrillers, but who can resist a pharmacist who’s addicted to pills herself? I also really loved the relationships between her and her family, which was a great way to build character. Even though Lucas isn’t in the book too much, I definitely got that sort of twin bond between the two of them, and you could definitely feel the love that she had for her brother, which was what made her complex feelings towards the case so real. And we also get to see the complicated relationship between Mia and her mother growing up, and even in the present, which I really loved. A lot of relationships get explored often in thrillers – married couples, parents and their children, best friends, even siblings – but I’ve rarely seen such a huge focus on characters and their parents, and I really enjoyed it and thought it included a pretty interesting perspective.

 Overall, if the premise interests you and you love small towns with big secrets, you should 100% read this book!

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 I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley. A huge thanks to Macmillan-Tor/Forge and Sherri Smith for granting me a copy!

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 And now, for what you guys were waiting for! I got the opportunity to interview Sherri Smith for my blog, and it was so much fun (and my first ever author interview eep!)! She’s such a sweetheart, and I really enjoyed reading her answers, so I hope you enjoy the interview!

1. What made you want to write your first psychological thriller since your other published books are in different genres?

It was really a combination of things. I love reading about history, but when writing historical fiction I was getting snagged on the details too much. The research was grueling and I was way too preoccupied with getting the historical time period just right and writing quickly became too stifling and clinical for me. I’d get too panicky about all the wrong things and realized I was avoiding the story I’d been working on at the time and I knew it was time to move on. I wasn’t happy doing it.

As well, both of my historical fiction novels are a tad on the dark side, especially the second one, and they weren’t exactly fitting in with the expectations of the genre. So I’d been heading in this direction long before I realized it.

2. Following up with the first question: were there any particular books that inspired you to write this one?

Well, I was reading Laura Lippman’s Every Secret Thing when I had this ground-shifting revelation about my writing. I just fell in love with it. I knew this was what I wanted to be doing.

From there I read as much as possible in the genre. Gillian Flynn is also a major influence. I’m in awe of her novels, they just get everything right. Same as Tana French, Mo Hayder, Karin Slaughter and Chevy Stevens.

3. Small towns with a lot of secrets are becoming a sort of trend in thrillers that I’m really enjoying! How did you make your small town different than other thrillers’ small towns, and were there any books that inspired yours?

Good question! First, the city I live in is unique in the way that we don’t have a thriving downtown area. This is probably because we have long, killer winters with ice-slick roads, blistering windchills and snow-drifts so high that turning into traffic is a blind-gamble with your life. And so, this makes going too far out of the zone one lives in, well, unappealing. Don’t get me wrong, we’re a hardy people, we do go for leisure walks in blizzards, but just in our own areas, so we can make it back home via sheer muscle memory if necessary.  Anyway, this all plays into the feel of living in a very small town. So it’s certainly a setting I am familiar with.

As well, like you, I just love small town settings. The town in Sharp Objects was a huge inspiration; it was so recognizable to me. As well the small-town settings in Stephen King’s novels where you think you know everyone, because you see them every day. You get a little too comfortable with the people around you, that they won’t spill out of the box you expect them to stay in and when they do, it makes it all the more terrifying.

4. I though this book was quite dark, and I’ve always been a fan of dark thrillers. Was there anything special you had to do to write from such a dark place?

Not really. I think I just naturally lean that way. Maybe it’s an urge to make the incomprehensible, comprehensible.

5. Mia is quite the interesting character, and I loved following her story. What was it like getting into the headspace of Mia, especially with what she’s dealing with?

Thank-you! Going into Mia’s head wasn’t always easy. Sometimes I wished she’d share a few of her pills with me, to smooth out the ride, but I think with writing any character you just have to find the threads that connect with you. I have two brothers. Again the small town thing was familiar. I certainly share Mia’s sense of humor, especially how it buoys up when she’s feeling particularly low. I’m a laugh while you cry sort of person too. So I sort of took those commonalities and went from there. And while I wouldn’t necessarily do much of what she did in the book, her actions made sense to me.

6. I’ve always been fascinated by how authors come up with their ideas for their books. How did you get the idea for this novel?

Follow Me Down started with an image of a semi-rundown apartment block with a rusty look pool in the back. There’s a teen girl in the pool, floating on an air mattress. She has that look girls this age can have, a kind of mournful sadness. I kept wondering, who is this girl? Why is she so sad? Who did she lose? Does she belong there or not? From there, a plot and characters eventually swirled together in the right way.

7. I’ve always wanted to ask this question to an author of a thriller novel: Did the mystery and the conclusion of said mystery unfold in the final version of the novel like it did in the first draft, if there was one? Did anything change?

The ending kind of revealed itself through multiple drafts. While this might sound artsy, it’s not. I had a slew of competing ideas (because I am a really indecisive writer) of where I wanted it to go and one just simply won out. So things definitely kept changing as I wrote.

8. I found it really interesting how this book focused so heavily on mothers. What influenced the broken relationships between some of the characters and their mothers?

Such a good question! Having a bad parent can set you up for a certain level of adult misery. Or so I say, because I am an armchair psychologist and it seems like a given truth. Anyway, I am overly preoccupied with being a good mother in real life that it borders on neurotic, and so maybe it was a covert away to air out my anxieties of being a bad one.

As well, just like in real life, you only really feel like you know someone if you know a bit about their history. Why they act the way they do, how they acquired their worldview and so on. I wanted that level intimacy to be there with Mia. I wanted you to feel like you knew her, the way Lucas might have, and that way you would better sympathize with her journey.

9. Expanding more on the previous question (and because it was just so interesting), what was writing the relationship between Joanna and Kathy like?

It was a bit like taking an outsider’s view of Mia and Mimi’s relationship. It was that kind of mother-daughter relationship people would heavily suspect was off in some way, but wouldn’t challenge it because they didn’t know for sure. Is this mother just really, enthusiastically supportive of her daughter or is she controlling? I think we’ve all encountered these kinds of relationships that make us suspicious of something we can’t exactly put a finger on.

10. I see you’ve written two historical fiction novels. How different was it writing a thriller rather than a historical fiction novel, or were there no differences at all?

There was certainly far less research! I actually went out of my way to not research anything for Follow Me Down because I was so totally research-fatigued from my historical fiction novels.

There wasn’t much difference in trying to create good, strong characters because I think that’s every author’s approach, but coming up with a twisty plot was very different and one of my favorite parts. I love the puzzle aspect of trying to pull it all tighter and when it clicked, it was the best feeling!

11. What are some of your favorite authors that inspire you?

There are so many authors who inspire me. Honestly I could go on for days. Books are my life’s playlist, which author, what book I was obsessed with at any given time reflects a lot of what I was feeling in that period. But now, today, those obsessions are Gillian Flynn, Laura Lippman, Meg Abbott, Mo Hayder, Alex Marwood, Chevy Stevens, Hilary Davidson, Stephen King (always,) Gilly MacMillan. There’s more, but I’ll stop here.

12. Any books that you’d highly recommend everyone must read?

Well I’d have to split it into categories to a do a good job of it.  Such as, top recommended book to give you night terrors? The Silence of the Lambs.

Recommended magical realist book? One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Recommended unlikable characters with a cool plot twist? Nick and Amy in Gone Girl.

Recommended unreliable narrator? Briony in Ian McEwan’s Atonement.

Recommended book with a clown? It by Stephen King

Recommended long-suffering artist biography? The Tragic Honest: The Life and Works of Richard Yates.

Recommended graphic novel? I don’t know, but I am loving iZombie on Netflix right now!

See? This could go late into the night, so I should probably stop now.

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2

[REVIEW] The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

the-roanoke-girls

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Contemporary, Adult

Series: None

Rating: 4 STARS

Description:

Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.

After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between Lane’s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.

My Thoughts:

Well, THAT was certainly an experience. And probably one of the most messed up books I’ve ever read. And, let me tell you, I absolutely loved it. A little bit of a note: I know there are some people out there who want to know nothing going into a book, so I’ll tell you right now that if you don’t want any spoilers, just know that this book is wonderfully dark, but slow-moving, but also highly addictive. But, I am going to talk about this “dark secret,” mainly because it’s literally revealed in the third or fourth chapter, which is about 25-30 pages in? So, it really doesn’t matter. But, again, I know some people hate spoilers, so feel free to skip out on this review.

So, bye to the people who don’t want any spoilers!

 First off, this book was so dark. So incredibly dark. Like, “My Grandfather has sex with all the women part of the Roanoke family, and my Grandma knows about it and doesn’t care, and also, my Grandfather is totally a pedophile, and also I’m in an unhealthy relationship with a boy I had lusty sex with back when I was like, sixteen,” dark. And I absolutely loved it. I’m a huge fan of dark thrillers (this is probably why I have such an unhealthy obsession with Gillian Flynn and Nick Cutter), and this was definitely my taste. I know it definitely won’t feel that way for others, and it might be uncomfortable for some, but I just couldn’t stop reading. Not to mention this book made me have all the feelings, and, in my opinion, feelings always make me adore a book.

 In this book, we’re dealing with the mystery of Allegra, who is her “cousin,” but obviously not because her Grandfather is having sex with all of them, and then they’re having babies, so, probably not, but that’s not the point (in short, the way they’re all related is SO WEIRD, and I’m not even going to bother to figure it out). I will say, the mystery is very slow-moving, and it’s not even really towards the end that we’re really working hard on solving the mystery, but I didn’t really mind too much. I thought it was a sort of mix between a contemporary/literary fiction and a thriller, especially since we get to see the POV from Lane in the past when she’s sixteen, and in the present, and also a peek at the lives of the other missing/dead Roanoke girls, which is what made me devour this book.

 And we also get to see everything through the eyes of Lane, the main character, who I can’t really put my finger on. She frustrated me, but at the same time I really liked her? It’s all very confusing. I wouldn’t really call her a likeable character, in retrospect – and really not a sane one, either, to be honest – but she’s certainly an interesting one, and I really enjoyed seeing everything from her POV. It was a nice take on the “main character is forced to go back to a small town” trope, since for every one I read, I’m always faced with a different messed-up protagonist, and Lane’s a bit different, especially since she’s one of the few to sort of run away from the normal fate of the Roanoke girls.

 Also, there’s a romance? Or whatever you’d like to call it (I definitely don’t define it as one). It honestly seems like all kinds of unhealthy to me, and, like, two-thirds angry sex and hate, but, you know, I guess they’re meant to be because they can be messed up together? Honestly, every single relationship in this book was unhealthy in a way, so I guess you could say it really doesn’t matter in the end, right? RIGHT?

Also, a mini bravo to Engel for going from a YA dystopian novel to something as horrific as this. Like, hot damn. Welcome to the thriller crew, Engel; trust me, you fit right in with the big dogs.

 Overall, this was a dark mystery/contemporary that captivated me from the very first sentence. I highly recommend for those who are a fan of Gillian Flynn or just dark thrillers in general, much like me.let's chatHave you read this book yet? What did you think about it? Are you as much of a fan of dark thrillers as I am?

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6

[REVIEW] The Otto Digmore Difference by Brent Hartinger

File_000 (49)

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Adult

Series: The Otto Digmore Difference #1

Rating: 4 STARS 

Description:

“Road trip!” 

Otto Digmore is a 26-year-old gay guy with dreams of being a successful actor, and he’s finally getting some attention as a result of his supporting role on a struggling sitcom. But he’s also a burn survivor with scars on half his face, and all indications are that he’s just too different to ever find real Hollywood success. 

Now he’s up for an amazing new role that could change everything. Problem is, he and his best friend Russel Middlebrook have to drive all the way across the country in order to get to the audition on time. 

It’s hard to say which is worse: the fact that so many things go wrong, or that Russel, an aspiring screenwriter, keeps comparing their experiences to some kind of road trip movie. 

There’s also the fact that Otto and Russel were once boyfriends, and Otto is starting to realize that he still might have romantic feelings for his best friend. 

Just how far will Otto go to get the role, and maybe the guy, of his dreams? 

My Thoughts:

“People are staring at me, and I’m in the moment, and I want it to go on forever.”

First off, oh my God, this is my first author request book! I was so happy to read this one because LGBTQ+ novels are my some of my favorite novels, as I’m sure you guys know. Plus, I actually have two of Hartinger’s books on my TBR – Three Truths and a Lie and Grand and Humble, to be exact – so, why not start with this one! And, yes, I’m so glad that we’re getting a sequel because this was oh so good.

I absolutely loved Otto so much! He has burn scars on one side of his face because of an incident when he was seven years old, and continually has to overcome prejudice regarding Hollywood because he can’t get the parts he wants, and the parts he’s offered are extremely offensive. He’s such a nice guy that just wants a chance to make it as an actor, and you’ll definitely feel for him. He’s such a real character that it’ll basically be impossible to not care about him even a little, especially because of the situations he’s constantly caught up in and the way he feels because of what he looks like. Do people think of him as sexless because he’s not conventionally attractive? Are the only parts he’s going to be able to act as are monsters or small parts?  It’s one of those things where you’ll feel frustrated and sympathetic because of his thoughts and what’s going on around him, and that’s always a good thing.

Also, the road trip aspect of this was so much fun. Believe it or not, I’ve had yet to read a book centered around a road trip and not become completely bored by it – I’m looking at you Retribution of Mara Dyer and The Darkest Minds – but I read this one so quickly because it was easily captivating, and because I cared so much about Otto, I just wanted to see what was going to happen regarding his story. Of course, we had some out-of-the-blue events going on, but it really didn’t bother me too much because it was just all so enjoyable.

And good news – this book had little to no romance! I truly thought there was something that was going to happen between the two main characters because I’m so used to watching shows or reading books where everything works out happily ever after for the main character romance-wise, but I was pleasantly surprised that this book featured absolutely no cheating and a really adorable bromance (and bromances are always some of my favorite friendships out there). There is a little bit of a fluffy romance near the end, but not too much that it’ll detract from the story, and I thought it was just so, so cute. I don’t think I’ve ever read a contemporary that doesn’t center completely around a romance, so it was nice to see a contemporary that had more of a focus on the importance of friendship and recognizing other people’s sacrifices.

Also, points for all the super modern references! Since it’s a book that takes place in Hollywood, we get to see all these references to modern TV shows – shows that came out just in this fall season of last year, which I adored – and actors – if you actually keep up with that type of stuff. This book reminded me that I was watching The Exorcist, and I never got back to that (like I do most shows I start watching oops). Also, Speechless is A+; I highly recommend it.

Overall, a really fun road trip contemporary that has a larger focus on friendship than anything. I highly recommend.

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I received this book for free from the author via an author request. Thanks so much to Brent Hartinger for allowing me to read this book!

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13

[REVIEW] Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

Empress of a Thousand Skies

Genre: Sci-fi, YA

Series: Empress of a Thousand Skies #1

Rating: 2 STARS

Description:

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, RHEE has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne – and her revenge.

ALYOSHA is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding – even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.

In this exhilarating debut for fans of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles and Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy, RHODA BELLEZA crafts a powerful saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.

My Thoughts: 

“Rhee tore a path through the bustling marketplace, kicking up dust that fell slowly in Nau Fruma’s low gravity.”

 Ugh, I’m so sad. I was super excited to read this book because it sounded really awesome, not to mention how pretty the cover is. But, unfortunately, I was highly disappointed by this one. And it all started out so well! Those are always the most disappointing books.

 I think my favorite character out of the POVs was definitely Aly. He was so sweet and funny and nice, and I think the reason I liked him so much is that he’s different from the typical male POV, you know, the blonde, white guy who’s a player/professional jerk and also spits out sarcastic comments at all times. Yeah, that one. It was nice to get a change of pace with a sweeter guy. And we also get to balance it out with Dahlen, who’s all mysterious and secretive, and, personally, I want to learn so much more about him. Our main female character is Princess Rhiannon, and I feel sort of meh about her. I’m sure she’ll be a favorite protagonist of many, but for me, I think she’s one of many female protagonists that I’ll probably forget about in a couple of weeks. I do really like the fact that she wasn’t physically badass, by which I mean she wasn’t an amazing fighter or came up with witty comebacks like most female badasses seem to have been degraded to. We also have Kara, who plays a larger part in Aly’s story and someone we meet later in the novel, and, again, pretty forgettable on my end. I just didn’t care too much for her and felt she was quite bland.

 I will say, one of my favorite parts of the novel was how it mirrored our real life at the moment. Aly is black and Wraetan (a race of people that reminded me of a representation of Syrian refugees and immigrants), and is immediately blamed for Rhiannon’s murder, even though he didn’t do it, just because of racial profiling. A new leader, Nero (a.k.a. Donald Trump in Space), bases his entire campaign off the fear people have with Wraetan refugees and saying they’re violent savages and that his supporters need to be protected from them. Aly talks constantly about his struggles and the stories of other Wraetan refugees as they leave their war-torn home and are constantly separated. It was such a fantastic representation, and it’s really what makes me love fantasy and sci-fi: the way it can show us the flaws in our own society and how ridiculous they are, sometimes.

 The romance though? Definitely its weakest point. Fortunately, Dahlen and Rhiannon don’t get together (yeah, a boy and a girl travelled together and didn’t end up making out!), but then it’s rendered completely useless because Kara and Aly meet 2/3 near the end of the book, and Aly can’t. Stop. Thinking. About. Her. And I’m being serious here, because I got so annoyed, I started highlighting. Here are a couple of quotes:

 “Her hazel eyes – were they always hazel? – met his and never left as they counted together.”

 This is when the two of them are, you know, TRYING TO ESCAPE.

 “The curve of her hip brushed against him, and even now – filthy and exhausted, skinned to hell, and on the run for his life – Aly felt his face flush.”

 I don’t think I have to explain this one.

 “He’d bloodied his knees and elbows, and he sure that everything would hurt later, but it felt fantastic here – his arms around her, his face in her big mess of tangles.”

 Literally Aly’s thoughts two paragraphs after the previous quote I mentioned.

 “She squeezed him. He could smell her, feel all the warmth from under her coat. For a long time, there was quiet, except for the sound of Aly’s heavy sobbing.”

 Again, TRYING TO ESCAPE.

 “He reached behind Kara to unravel the scarf, and her messy black hair fell everywhere. It smelled good – just a little bit sweet – and he brushed it out of her eyes for no good reason.”

mor eye rolling

 *rolls eyes into the next century*

 I get it, you love her; can we please move on to the actual plot and action and stuff? Or back to Rhiannon? Come on now! Not to mention the fact that it’s just the most boring romance ever, and I just didn’t care at all.

 But, balancing the negative with the positive, I loved the world-building. Because of my obsession with Red Rising, I just love books that take place in space and such, and I thought the different races and the way the system worked was incredibly interesting and captivating. And, again, the way the fictional world mirrored our own was what made it so brilliant. My hat goes off to you, Belleza!

I felt like it was just personal opinion regarding the pacing, but at times I would be on the edge of my seat, and then I’d just become bored and easily confused. Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m just bad at following things, but it just really bothered me how over the place it was.

 Overall, this book wasn’t too good for me, but I can definitely see this become a new favorite for someone else.

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20

[REVIEW] This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

this savage song

Genre: Fantasy, PNR, YA

Rating: 4 STARS

Description:

There’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. The first of two books.

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.

My Thoughts:

“The night Kate Harker decided to burn down the school chapel, she wasn’t angry or drunk.”

“Mikaela, how dare you call yourself a V.E. Scwab fan when you haven’t read This Savage Song yet?” I know, I know, it’s a shame! I read the first two books in the Shades of Magic trilogy, fell in love with Vicious, even pre-ordered This Savage Song about a month before it was released…and then promptly downloaded it on the Kindle app, and never read it. And then went to meet her, bought a physical copy, and left it sitting on my bookshelf, collecting dust. So when I finally forced myself to read it, of course, I was like, “WHERE WAS THIS BOOK ALL MY LIFE???”

 First off, the world-building in this book was A++. I loved seeing this sort of dystopian/PNR novel in which humans and monsters co-exist. I thought the entire conflict between the two families definitely reminded me of Romeo and Juliet, except there was no romance (THANK JESUS HALLELUJAH). The entire conflict between monsters and humans sort of reminded me of how people can easily stereotype those we don’t know based off of what we’re told and our personal bias, which goes for everybody on any sort of side. I love how the details about this world were sprinkled in and not forced onto us via info-dump. Where does V.E. Schwab come up with these wonderful ideas and worlds?

 The characters were fantastic, and probably what made me really fall in love with this book. We have Kate Harker, a human who has total daddy issues and strives as hard as she can to be this “toughie” who has no feelings (which we all know for sure is completely untrue) and August Flynn, my sweet baby monster, who only wants to be a human being and doesn’t want to hurt a soul (which is quite unfortunate because he has to to, you know, live). I think one of my favorite things about this besides the fact that the two of them didn’t have these cheesy romantic moments (PRAISE GOD), was the fact that their typical gender roles were reversed, in a way? Usually, we have the guys being these broody bad boys with a rough past and family issues, and the girl is innocent and wants to stay out of the special powers she’s forced into, so I thought it was an awesome change of pace to see it be turned upside down a little bit.

 I also really loved seeing Kate’s anxiety. It’s not talked about that much in the book, but I love how it was shown, especially since she struggled with so many problems concerning her past that she just keeps bottled up inside. I don’t have the same anxiety that Kate herself has (I’m pretty sure she has a more general anxiety while mine is a more mild form of social anxiety), but I thought it was a really nice touch to the story. And can we please talk about August’s character development? It was absolutely brilliant to see him go from this shy monster who didn’t want to hurt anybody to someone who could finally take control of his own ability and accepted himself as who he really was. I think it’s a nice change of heart to see someone accept themselves as who they are, even though they feel as if they’re “bad,” especially since we read so many stories in which characters feel as if they have to entirely denounce who they are to be considered a “good guy.” August is just as morally gray and complex as a human being would be.

 The pacing of this novel was totally on point. There’s just something completely magical about Schwab’s writing that always manages to draw me in and keep me turning the pages. How could I ever say no to another chapter when the previous one ended on an amazing cliffhanger? HOW? I think one of the best things about this book is that you can easily go into it completely blind (which is obviously always the best way to go into a book) since the summary is so vague and doesn’t give away too much of the story, so we get taken on this incredible journey full of twists and turns.

 All in all, another V.E. Schwab novel that I completely and totally fell in love with. Can this woman do no wrong? I definitely think so.

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21

[REVIEW] The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

the-hate-u-give

Genre: Contemporary, YA

Series: None (but I would love a sequel, pretty please)

Rating: 5 STARS 

Description:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, Khalil’s death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Starr’s best friend at school suggests he may have had it coming. When it becomes clear the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protesters take to the streets and Starr’s neighborhood becomes a war zone. What everyone wants to know is: What really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could destroy her community. It could also endanger her life.

My Thoughts:

I am black. I know, you guys are just so completely shocked! It’s as if I don’t have a picture on my “About Me” page that has my face next to V.E. Schwab’s and clearly shows the color of my skin (now I know you guys are going to go and probably look at my “About Me” page)! But, clearly, that’s not the point. Starr and I live different lives as black girls, but, she’s definitely probably one of the most relatable protagonists I’ve ever read about. She’s definitely up there with Fangirl‘s Cath and Unwind‘s Lev.

 I live in the suburbs. Starr lives in the projects. I don’t in any way suffer from the effects of gang wars because I live in a nice neighborhood over in North Carolina. The closest thing to fear I’ve felt in my neighborhood is when I jump because someone is setting off fireworks and it’s not July 4 (this happens often). I don’t really have any friends that are black, I don’t listen to rap, I’ve never watched Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in my entire life, and any black person could probably be ashamed if they found out I didn’t understand any of their slang. I’ve lived in a nice suburban place since I was born, and I’ll probably go on to live in nice places (unless my life takes a horribly dark turn, which I hope it doesn’t). I don’t ever feel like I’m hiding two parts of myself, because I’m just introverted, and…that’s it. That’s all. There are lots of differences between us, obviously.

 But seeing that Starr went to a private school was what hit home for me. I go to a private school as well, and it also happens to be Christian, because my entire family is, and I am as well (but, like, everything else about me is liberal, so there’s that). Obviously, there are only eight to ten other black kids in grade out of the 120+. Out of the entire school, there’s probably still a lower number than white kids that attend. It can sometimes be interesting, going to school where some of the white boys listen to rap more than I ever will in my entire lifetime. And it can also be highly annoying, because surprise, surprise, some of those same Christian white boys supported Donald Trump and his racist remarks (and his misogynistic comments. And now he’s transphobic. And he’s Islamophobic. And we’re all going to be here all day if I continue). So, imagine my fury at the fact that I’m sure if I asked these people to their face if they thought Donald Trump was racist, they’d probably say no.

 It’s frustrating. It really is. And the fact that Starr feels like such a real, raw character is what makes it so perfect. Her parents are protective and care about her, much like mine are (and she gets annoyed at them, much like I do) and she swears a lot in her head, much like I do when I get rant-y and angry! I’m not the only one who does that! It makes me so happy! And she feels like she has to be this whole different person because she doesn’t want to be the Angry Black Girl, and, yep, I feel for the fact of feeling like I have to keep my mouth shut even though I want to scream, and that’s part “I don’t want to become a stereotype” and part “I am an introvert, hear me keep quiet.”

 Also, this book gave me all the feelings. ALL OF THEM. The entire way the case is handled, the entire way the actual shooting is handled feels so very, very real. You will be angry. You will be frustrated. And if you’re not, you probably don’t care or you’re just emotionless or whatever. But nothing made me want to throw my phone against the wall (I was reading this as an e-book) then that interview with the cop’s dad, where it makes out Khalil and Starr to be these teenage thugs who made the cop uncomfortable and in danger. WHEN THAT IS NOT TRUE. NONE OF IT IS TRUE. And then we have Hailey over here, with her annoying ways, saying the most racist things, and then being angry because Starr is offended by said racist things. #EveryRacistEver

 But then we have Chris, Starr’s boyfriend, and their relationship is so cute, okay? Chris is white, and he doesn’t want Starr to be this different person in front of him, and, yes, he might say some ignorant things that will make you face-palm – especially if you’re black – but I think what I loved is the fact that Starr always set him straight, and he tried as hard as he could to understand. And he’s just a nice guy in general, and he’s such a dork who’s always there for Starr whenever she needs him. Chris is precious; where can I buy one?

 I felt like the case was realistically handled, and I loved how this book gave this sort of POV of black people. We get a look into protests and riots and having to live in a neighborhood that puts a curfew on the people living there, much like what happened in Ferguson a couple years ago. They are angry and they are frustrated and they want justice, and those emotions bleed through the pages, and that’s what makes this book so amazing. That it manages to play with your emotions, by not only being serious, but also balancing those moments with really funny ones. We usually only get to see this type of stuff on TV, so it feels far away unless you’re actually there and living through it, and I liked how Thomas managed to make the feelings the protestors and Black Lives Matter advocates feel going through this conflict. It just makes it that much more powerful and personal.

 We have supportive parents that are ACTUALLY THERE and ACTUALLY SUPPORTIVE and feel real. We have a beautiful representation of family and being black from #ownvoices. We have an adorable romance that doesn’t take center stage. We have wonderful female friendships. We have a raw representation of racism that will probably make you angry and uncomfortable, and THAT’S THE POINT. We have a book that is literally so amazing and perfect and PLEASE READ IT I BEG YOU.

 And if you’re not pushed to read this book after this review, then, I don’t know how I can help you. You must pick this book up. You must.

 (Hopefully, I’ll be able to buy this in hardcover since I had to borrow this via Overdrive, and the hardcover looks so gorgeous, but I don’t have any money to buy it; I am just a poor, jobless teenage bookworm. I’M SUFFERING.)

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