14

[REVIEW] Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson (Ft. Excessive Orange Is The New Black Gifs)

allegedly

Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, YA

Series: None

Rating: 3 STARS

Description:

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a church-going black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

In this gritty and haunting debut, Tiffany D. Jackson explores the grey areas in our understanding of justice, family, and truth, and acknowledges the light and darkness alive in all of us.

My Thoughts:

“Some people are just born bad, plain and simple.”

Honestly, this book wasn’t even on my radar. I’d heard some things about this book because I follow up with the Epic Reads website, but it didn’t really interest me, so I stayed away. But then I was pulled over by the Influence of Bookstagram, and I totally and completely caved because I heard SO MANY GOOD THINGS. Would I say that I totally and completely fell in love with this book? No, not really. But I definitely found this one entertaining, and I’m sure, in the right hands, someone would love this book more than I did.

its-going-to-be-okay

So, regarding the characters, I found this one really interesting. We are introduced to Mary, a sixteen-year-old girl stuck in the crappy system and also just happens to be pregnant by her older boyfriend, Ted, who works in the nursing home close to the group home. Mary is someone you will most likely sympathize with. Her relationship with her mother is frayed, she wants to keep her baby but she doesn’t have that choice, she’s trying to get an education but is continually blocked from it, and everyone thinks she killed a baby. Allegedly. I felt so bad for her, and I thought this was a really great book to talk about how the system treats younger prisoners, especially POC. I know we’ve all watched Orange Is the New Black (and if you haven’t, WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE?), but this seemed like a darker, more grittier version (I mean, the show is dark as well, but this was less comedy and girl power, more depression and girl fights). And with Ted…whatever. I didn’t really care too much about him, to be honest, and I just didn’t like him? I’m weird.

drama

The plot of this book was done so well. I will say this is a mix between a contemporary and a mystery, so for mystery/thriller fans like me, this is no psychological thriller, but I still found it really addicting, especially since we’re hinted at something more constantly. I personally found this book that way, and I just needed more of it, needed to know what was going to happen, and I can owe that all to Mary and her plight. I just needed to know what was going to happen next, needed to see if she was going to get the proper justice she deserved, needed to know what in the hell actually happened to Alyssa.

fun

I also loved the little snippets inserted from books and reports and transcripts of interviews. I’m a huge fan of books like that, especially thrillers (it reminds me a lot of Dangerous Girls, and, wow, can I go a post without talking about that book?), and I thought it really added to the story, especially seeing how the public responded to the it. I honestly wonder how the public would respond if a nine-year-old black girl killed a white baby. Would the world go into chaos? Would more people believe she did it or if she didn’t? Would people think she deserved an even worse sentence? It’s one of those really interesting cases that would definitely bring up controversy in the real world right now (and I sort of wonder if it’s based off of something that happened in real life?).

nope

I don’t know how I feel about the ending. Of course, I’m trying not to spoil, but I feel like I’ve seen it so many times before that I’m not really shocked or surprised, and it’s sort of become something where I basically say, “Oh, okay.” Yeah, the first few times I’ve seen that sort of plot twist, I was like, “Woah; what???” but it’s so overdone at this point that I’m starting to hate it a little. It’s not like it’s the author’s fault or anyone else’s, it just feels as if publishers see a plot twist and go, “YES MUST PUBLISH NOW,” to constantly keep up with the trends, and after seeing a thousand different ways to express the fact that the main character is lost royalty, it gets old.

Overall, I thought this was a pretty interesting mix between a contemporary and a mystery, and I think you should definitely check it out if it interests you.

Let's Chat

Have you read this book yet? What did you think about it?

Follow Me

Bloglovin’Twitter

3

[ARC REVIEW] Another Thriller Bites the Dust // The Last to Die by Kelly Garrett

the last to die

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, YA

 Series: None

 Rating: 3.5 STARS

Release Date: April 4, 2017

 Description:

 Sixteen-year-old Harper Jacobs and her bored friends make a pact to engage in a series of not-quite illegal break-ins. They steal from each other’s homes, sharing their keys and alarm codes. But they don’t take anything that can’t be replaced by some retail therapy, so it’s okay. It’s thrilling. It’s bad. And for Harper, it’s payback for something she can’t put into words-something to help her deal with her alcoholic mother, her delusional father, and to forget the lies she told that got her druggie brother arrested. It’s not like Daniel wasn’t rehab bound anyway.

 So everything is okay-until the bold but aggravating Alex, looking to up the ante, suggests they break into the home of a classmate. It’s crossing a line, but Harper no longer cares. She’s proud of it. Until one of the group turns up dead, and Harper comes face-to-face with the moral dilemma that will make or break her-and, if she makes the wrong choice, will get her killed.

 My Thoughts:

 Okay, so bear with me here. I was lazy enough to wait until, like, weeks and weeks later to write up this review, so if this sounds vague as all hell, now you know. But, when I was approved for this request on Netgalley, I was so pumped. I absolutely love thrillers, and I’m always interested in YA thrillers since YA is the genre I’m a huge fan of, and there aren’t enough thrillers found in the genre. Again, I ran into a YA thriller that I’d consider better than most, but, in the end, was still just okay. I think most people will enjoy this, but it’s no Dangerous Girls, and if you’re looking for a more complex thriller, this definitely isn’t it.

 So, we’re introduced to a gang of rich, teenage robbers, and I know you’re probably immediately writing them off as unlikable, but they actually weren’t too bad. I thought it was interesting that they robbed each other’s houses for the thrill of it, not only because it sounded stupid, but because it seemed sort of risky and useless, since they didn’t steal anything big, but whatever. Harper is the main character, and, of course she has a younger sister who’s deaf, and this reminded me a lot like Alex from the horror/thriller movie Don’t Breathe from last summer, which I loved and would recommend over reading this book, but that’s getting off-topic. I thought Harper was an all-right character; I didn’t really cheer for her, but I wasn’t praying death upon her, so that was good! I thought the rest of the gang was sort of forgettable, and weren’t developed enough, except maybe Alex and Benji.

 I thought the premise was interesting, and was pretty much what I expected from the synopsis. I was surprised to see that people actually died, and there were some moments that were really touching, especially during one of the member’s deaths. I will say, the book was addicting. I told myself I’d stop at one chapter, and, of course, I completely failed to do so. I just needed to know what was going to happen next, and I appreciate the fact that Garrett just wrote a straight-forward thriller without feeling the need to insert unnecessary filler. And hooray for the fact that the romance didn’t overtake the plot! It was barely there, which is how thrillers SHOULD be.

 I honestly don’t know how I feel about the ending. At the same time, I thought it was entertaining, but on the other hand, I feel like, again, I’ve suffered through a conclusion that seemed to have an unbelievable villain, which way too many damn YA thrillers suffer from sometimes. Instead of trying to make a believable thriller, some authors fall victim to wanting to have this big, crazy twist that shocks people, and it just doesn’t make sense. I don’t want to spoil, but I just felt like the way things were handled, the “villain” had to not only be the best actor in the history of acting, but also be a mastermind, with a hell of a lot of coincidences.

It’s funny, because it honestly seems like I’ve read way too many thrillers this year, both adult and YA alike, that I thought were good, except for the highly unrealistic endings. It feels like thrillers have stopped attempting to make logical sense and be entertaining, and now seem to try to out-rank each other for craziest plot twist of the year, which isn’t what I want thrillers to de-evolve to, but that’s a discussion for another day. But, I’m sure some people will love the plot twist and be like, “OH MY GOOOOD. DID NOT SEE THAT COMING.” I just rolled my eyes.

 Overall, if you’re interested, I’d say you should just go for it, but, personally, I wouldn’t set other people’s expectations to be TOO high.

let's chat

Are you interested in this book? How do you feel about the state of thrillers? What’s your favorite thriller?

follow me

Bloglovin’ | Instagram | Twitter

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.

let's chat

Have you read this book yet? What did you think about it?

follow me

Bloglovin’ | Instagram | Twitter

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.)

let's chat

Have you read this yet? Why haven’t you read this yet? YOU MUST!

(And if you have, what did you think about it?)

follow me

Bloglovin’ | Instagram | Twitter

19

[REVIEW] Frostblood by Elly Blake

frostblood

Genre: Fantasy, YA

 Series: Frostblood Saga #1

 Rating: 1 STAR

 Description:

 The frost king will burn.

 Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.

 Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating—yet irresistible—Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her—and from the icy young man she has come to love.

 My Thoughts:

“I offered my hand to the fire.”

 So, I realized that I have yet to post a completely negative review on my blog. So…I decided to publish one! Yeah! And that review is, unfortunately, for Frostblood by Elly Blake. Obviously, there are some things that you should know. First, I was really, really excited to read this. A fantasy book that deals with elemental powers and deals with a competition? Yes, please. And two, I rarely give out one stars. Like, ever. Seriously, I’m pretty sure that on my old Goodreads profile, I had about under twenty one star ratings. And, honestly, a large majority of them were DNFs, so me rating one star to a book that I’ve fully read is even more of a surprise. But, I’ve already rated two books one star this year. Is that an accomplishment? I can’t tell.

EDIT: THIS REVIEW IS FULL OF SPOILERS. I apologize to all the people I’ve already spoiled because I was in a rush to post this. Whoops.

 First off, I think the main reason I didn’t like this book was just the fact that this was pretty much a cliché mess. If you’ve read a YA fantasy in the last couple of the years, you’ve probably already read this story and seen its plain characters and formed heart eyes at the soppy romance and seen the plot twists coming a mile away…and, yeah, you’ve most likely read this already. And if you haven’t, congratulations! You’ll probably love this more than I did.

 We get to meet Ruby, who’s the token Chosen Girl who also has to battle the darkness inside her, and is part of a class/group of people that’s known as being an outsider and is constantly getting attacked, and somebody she cares about dies, causing her to want to get revenge against those who hate her. You know, the usual. Except Ruby wasn’t developed anywhere past that, and I swear to God, pretty much all her thoughts I’ve read before in another YA dystopian/fantasy before. And then we have Arcus, the token Love Interest who has a tragic past and is cold-hearted to the Chosen Girl but actually totally secretly loves her and he also has an undercover sweet side that comes out of nowhere and he’s an expert in the field that the Chosen Girl needs to become an expert in. Again, the usual. I will say, I liked that he was scarred since we rarely ever see an imperfect character in YA who’s still considered beautiful, but that’s overshadowed by how typical everything else was.

 And then there’s the fact that I felt like the pacing of this book was all over the place. It took me a good long while to read this book, like about a week, which, for me, is a ridiculously long time. If I’m not in a slump-y sort of mood, I can read a book in two to three days, so yeah. I thought the first part of this book was so slow until Ruby FINALLY gets captured again. This sort of went all A Gathering of Shadows-esque, and, yeah, I love that book, but it also suffered from mentioning this awesome competition in the synopsis, and then it takes over halfway through the book before we finally actually GET to said competition, which annoys the hell out of me. And even then, the competition wasn’t even that fun. I was bored.

 The world-building was much the same. It’s the same fantasy world with royalty and kings and queens ruling and peasants treated unfairly, and, of course, two main groups are fighting against each other, and one of them is prejudiced against the other, and it has magic, except this time, it’s elemental. It just didn’t seem like it’d take any effort to create a world like that, one that I’m sure we’ve all seen described in several other YA books.

 And then we reach the end, and we learn…Arcus is lost royalty. You thought it couldn’t get more cliché? Don’t worry, it just proves you wrong! And then we have this big battle that’s pretty typical. Her new “love” is taken by the Big Bad Guy, who has been possessed by some sort of evil and is also the Love Interest’s brother, and the Chosen Girl unlocks this inner power that she never knew she had, while also feeling bad because it feels like she’s dabbling in the dark side. I’ve seen this before. Like, 294882 other times.

 It’s just so frustrating, because I feel like this could’ve been good, despite the clichés. For example, I absolutely love Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, and that got slandered by Goodreads for being unoriginal, but, in my opinion, it did a good job at balancing being cliché, but also still being pretty entertaining. Of course, not everyone feels that way, but I loved it. But this one…just ugh. That’s basically how I feel about it, which sucks.

 Overall, just a very disappointing read, but if the reviews from Goodreads are anything to go by, I’m sure some of you guys out there might fall in love with it.

let's chat

Have any of you guys read this book? Do you feel the same way? Or do you feel totally different?

17

[REVIEW] City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

city-of-saints-and-thieves

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, YA

 Series: None

 Rating: 3 STARS

 Description:

 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Gone Girl in this enthralling YA murder mystery set in Kenya.

 In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn’t exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill’s personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.

 With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.

 My Thoughts:

“If you’re going to be a thief, the first thing you need to know is that you don’t exist.”

stop-please

 Okay, this first paragraph might seem like I’m talking gibberish, but can I just say, this was nothing like Gone Girl. When you have the words “Gone Girl” on the cover, I expect a psychological thriller. But this was more of a murder mystery than a thriller. Sure, the book jacket also mentioned The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which I haven’t read yet, so I have no idea if that was an accurate comparison or a name drop as well), but it greatly annoys me that a domestic/psychological thriller that’s not even within the YA category was in anyway compared to this book. There was literally nothing in common. Nothing! This is more of a forewarning to fans of Gone Girl. And to publishers who keep incorrectly dropping names so people will read their work.

smiling

 But on to the actual book. We get to meet Tina, whose mother died a while ago under Greyhill’s hands, wants to help her sister, and is involved with a dangerous gang that wants to assist her in taking Greyhill down and exposing him for maybe murdering her mom. I thought she was an awesome character, mainly because she’s a thief, and I love heists and robbers and cheering for anti-heroes, as I’m sure you guys might know, so Tina was, of course, my type of girl. We also get to meet Boyboy, a hacker and Tina’s best friend who reminded me so much like Job from one of my favorite TV shows, Banshee (which you should totally watch if you like action and cute badasses as main characters, but that’s not the point of this review), and Michael, the classic love interest that I didn’t care too much about because blah blah blah, he’s loved her since they were little, blah blah blah, I’ve heard this story at least ten billion times before, blah blah blah, this romance is literally not necessary; I came here to see Tina AVENGE HER MOTHER’S DEATH DAMN IT. But, of course, it’s all personal opinion.

falling-asleep

 I thought the pacing of this book and the plot tied together. There were some parts of this book that were totally banging and made me read faster and faster…and then there were some parts of the book that just fell flat and made me bored and were sort of slump-inducing. The pacing was a bit all over the place, and I guess that’s because the story would sometimes reveal new information and action sequences and cliffhangers, which was super exciting, but then we have those moments where we’re sitting around and getting a little bit of exposition or attempting to move the plot forward in the form of story-telling, which, unfortunately, failed keep me entertained. But, fear not those who love plot twists in their thrillers, there are many abound in this novel!

thumbs-up

 Despite my issues with the pacing, I actually really enjoyed the ending. I found the “big battle” really tense and exciting, and the big finish was totally worth it. I also thought that the ending was personally convincing concerning Kiki and the romance between Tina and Daniel. And for those who are worried about the romance over-powering the action and Tina’s mission, it doesn’t, which I found to be a definite positive, besides the fact that I considered it to be realistic and well-developed. I still didn’t think it was necessary, but I feel like at this point, I’ve got to start accepting it.

 Overall, I thought it was an okay murder mystery with pacing that felt like it was all over the place, but this book will definitely work depending on the person and their preferences.

file_009

Have you read this book yet? And if this becomes a movie, would you watch it (I saw that it was optioned for film, which has now convinced me that EVERY BOOK is going to be turned into a movie, my God)?

45

[DISCUSSION] Is the Romance Really Necessary?

file_003-2

And I’m back with another discussion for the month of February! Valentine’s Day has long since passed and love has most likely dissipated from the air, but since it’s still the month of love, I thought I’d center my discussion topic around it! I was also supposed to post this on Friday, but I posted my last discussion post around this time, so why not do it again?

Imagine you’re reading a book. It’s a thriller, a fantasy, a sci-fi, a dystopian, pretty much any genre except contemporary. You’re completely entranced in the world the author has created. The main character is the perfect main character, tailored just for you, a character you’ve always dreamed of. The writing is absolutely stunning. Literally everything about this book is perfect, every element is coming together so wonderfully…and then the Generic Love Interest enters the building and entrances your hero/heroine into insta-love. You sigh, you scream, you throw your book against the wall, because, damn it, why does EVERY YA book have to have a stupid romance in it, when there doesn’t even need to be one? Can there ever be a YA book without a romance? Is that possible?

throwing-book

Pictured Above: Everyone Reading Insta-Love

Which introduces the discussion topic: Is the Romance Really Necessary in YA Books and Why is It There in the First Place?

I’ve mentioned before in other posts that I just hate when romance comes in and ruins a perfectly good premise. It’s one of my main problems with YA mysteries/thrillers: it’s so damn good, so gory, but the author decides to focus more on the angsty backstory between the heroine and the love interest rather than, you know, solving the mystery. But this isn’t even just a problem in the mystery/thriller genre. This is basically a problem in all different types of genres, whether it be the assassin that’s too busy falling in love to actually do anything in fantasy or the revolutionary symbol who can’t choose between two hot guys in dystopians. 

I definitely am not against all romance that takes place in a different genre other than contemporary. Take Sarah J. Maas, for instance. I know some people hate her books, but I’m a huge fangirl of them, and if you know anything about her books, you know they create the biggest shipping wars the world has ever seen. Both Feyre and Aelin go have at least two different love interests in each of their respective series – the ACOTAR trilogy and the TOG series – but never have I ever felt that that the romance has gone first before the plot. The world-building is epic, the plot is complex, and the characters all shine in their own respective ways, and, yeah, there are hot sex scenes going along with that. Same with series such as the Raven Cycle, where even though the entire premise of the series is surrounding a forbidden kiss, relies more on friendship and magic than romance, or the novels These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner and The Program by Suzanne Young, that both feature gorgeous romances, but also take the time to deliver on their promising premises and push them to their full potential, even beyond what I thought I’d be given.

But with the good, comes the bad. There are two series that I think would’ve been absolutely fantastic if not for the romance – the 5th Wave trilogy by Rick Yancey and The Selection by Kiera Cass. My love for the 5th Wave trilogy waned as the books went on, and, unfortunately, completely halted once I finished The Last Star, and I remember that when writing my review, I realized that the series could have done without the romance. Evan and Cassie weren’t the adorable ship they had been when they first met, instead fighting and partaking in one of the worst sex scenes ever, and Ringer and Ben came out of absolutely nowhere (and you guys know how much I hate ships with zero build-up). And concerning The Selection, it’s probably one of the best examples of a dystomance I’ve seen in recent years. During the rise in popularity of books like The Hunger Games  and Divergent, most authors decided to write their own dystopian novels, where they basically all ended up being about a world where a basic right is taken away and a sixteen-year-old girl has to serve as both a revolution symbol and a love interest at the same time, but focuses more on the romance than the world-building or the plot or basic realisticness, hence dystomance. The Selection could definitely have potential, as expressed much better than I ever could in this Goodreads review from a user named Kiki, but is instead wasted on an infuriatingly stupid heroine and a love triangle between the Boring Prince and the Boring Ex.

This goes without mentioning other popular and extremely loved series whose premises were ruined by romance, in my opinion, namely the Shatter Me trilogy, the Mara Dyer trilogy, and the Winner’s trilogy. All series that had such amazing plots and a great cast of characters, but ruined it with love triangles, crappy love interests, and boring forbidden love subplots.

dollar-signs

And then you have to wonder why it’s there in the first place. And the answer is consumerism, that’s why! We, as readers, usually consume these types of books, hence every new debut that comes out that now explicitly states that we’re in for a “steamy” or “forbidden” romance with a “mysterious stranger.” And though it might be met with snarky pre-reviews or eye-rolls, it really doesn’t matter when it comes down to the sales. It’s sort of the same thing when reviewers complain that books are super cliche, so why are they still being published? Well, of course they’re being published when there are five-star reviews for the book plastered everywhere on Goodreads. 

To conclude this discussion, I thought it’d be nice to include some books that have no romance at all, or little to none to the point where it doesn’t really affect the plot. I haven’t read all of these listed here, most of them have good reviews, and even if they don’t, I believe in reading it for yourself because you never know what you’ll like, so feel free to explore! There are a lot of genres included, so no one should feel left out!

img_2014

Vicious, The Giver, Illuminae, 172 Hours on the Moon, and Red Rising

*

This Savage Song, Half A King, The Darkest Corners, The Women in the Walls, and Everybody Sees the Ants

*

Wonder, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Stranger Game, and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

*

Two Boys Kissing, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, All American Boys,  The Book Thief, and Scythe

*

MARY: The Summoning, The Merciless, The Call, Bird Box, and The Detour

*

Dangerous Girls, With Malice, Slasher Girls & Monster Boys, A Monster Calls, and Scary Out There

img_2014

And if you want even more recommendations, here’s Cait @ Paper Fury’s post recommending YA books without romance! I haven’t read many of those either, so, obviously onto the TBR list they go!

file_009

This wouldn’t be a proper discussion post without asking your opinion, so here it is: What do you think about romance in YA books? Do you prefer romance or plot? What are some series that you think balanced the romance well or did it horribly?