The Raging Ones – Review!!!

Publication Date: August 14, 2018

Rating: 5-Raging Stars!!!

The Raging Ones, by Krista & Becca Ritchie, is the first book in a new YA-scifi duology that clobbered me over the head and left me for dead. Seriously though, WOW, I was so impressed with this book. This story had everything I desire, i.e. complex characters, intriguing plot, a competition element and phenomenal world-building. I don’t even know where to begin with this so will start with the basics:

The year is 3525 on a harsh, frozen planet where society is divided into a type of caste system based on how long you will live. How is this possible, you ask? Well, in this world, every baby has a simple test performed that tells the exact day they are going to die. As you can imagine, this extinguishes plenty of fear in the world because you can take risks and know that you will not die from them (unless it is your death day). However, it also extinguishes a lot of hope as well since you know it can never be changed. People accept the social structure and focus more on just surviving in such a severe environment.

The story focuses on three main characters and we follow each of their perspectives along the way. There is Franny Bluecastle, an impulsive and hard-edged Fast Tracker (death days between the ages of 13 – 29) girl who we first meet the day before her impending death day. Court Icecastle is a tough, well-educated ‘thief’ who has a hidden and mysterious past. Lastly, Mykal Kickfall, who is a sweet baby cinnamon roll who hails from the North and was a hunter/warrior prior to falling in with Court. Court and Mykal are drawn to Franny just after she survives her death day and the drama takes off from there.

Our three main characters are linked, you discover this early on, not just in the fact that they are the only known individuals to ‘survive’ their death days but also mentally and physically. They have a bond that is unlike anything I have ever read before. It is hard to describe because it is really more of a feeling than anything – they share senses, quite literally.

I know what you’re thinking…two boys, one girl, classic set up for a love triangle. Nope. Stop right there. This is NOT that book. This is not who will she choose, who will he choose. There is LOVE but not THAT kind of love. The foundation of this relationship is M/M. Mykal and Court have an incredibly deep, unbreakable bond that goes beyond anything that you would typically find in a ‘romance’ story. Franny does become a part of this but not in a third wheel, add-on, aggressive sort of way. The dynamic between the three is equal and all-consuming and I (a non-romantic) absolutely cherished every moment of it.

As a trio, Franny, Mykal and Court enroll to compete for the chance to become employed by StarDust (think NASA meets NSA) and hopefully get one of 5-coveted slots for the Saga-5 Mission. Essentially a space mission, the first in this society for over 300-years. Franny, Mykal and Court make it through enrollment and become three of 1,024 people competing for these spots. They live in dormitories, they have rivalries, they compete in challenges and undergo training on flying space ships, surviving in zero-G environments, etc. This part of the story gave me life! I absolutely love competition/training elements in books – it is one of my all time favorite tropes in YA and this one was so well done. We meet a great cast of side characters and learn more about the world overall through their interactions with our MCs.

I am a big fan of science-fiction books and particularly YA-scifi. I read a lot of them. This one impressed me because it felt very true to the genre without weighing you down in science jargon that would make the story unattractive to the masses. They kept the mysterious, dark, smart scifi feel without making it too snobby nerdy -does this make sense? I mean, I am a nerd, I will be the first to admit that, but I like my scifi to have the power to enthrall all types of people – nerd or not.

I loved so many things about this book, I know as soon as I publish this review I will think of 50 more things I should have mentioned. This storyline to me was so unique and the characters were so well fleshed out, I am going to be thinking about this one for a long time to come. Which makes me think…how long until the next book? That ending…honestly, I don’t know how I am going to live with this cliffhanger! It blew my mind the end of this book. I cannot wait for my book friends to read this so I can discuss with somebody!  Please let that be you – If you haven’t already, please add this book to your TBR – you won’t regret it!

These authors, Krista and Becca (identical twins by the way – how cool is that?) deserve a big round of applause! That they came up with this, through a collaboration, is just so significant and I think demonstrative of their level of talent. I am really looking forward to progressing with this series!

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for providing me with an early review copy of this book. It is, so far, my favorite read of 2018 and I just had such a wonderful time with it and providing my thoughts and opinions. I appreciate the opportunity!

Review: She Was the Quiet One by Michele Campbell

Publication Date: July 31, 2018    |    Rating: 4.5-Stars!!!

4.5-stars! She Was the Quiet One is an Adult Thriller that takes place at a private school for very wealthy kids. Let’s get this out of the way real quick – I am absolute TRASH for any story that takes place in a private school or prep school. I went into this book blind and had no idea that this was the type of story this was, so yeah, elated at that.

The plot centers around twins, Bel & Rose Enright, who after losing both parents get sent to Odell Academy, a prestigious New England boarding school (aka. playground for the priviledged) by their wealthy Grandmother. Rose, the more grounded and studious of the two, looks at this as a blessing – a place where she can reach new academic heights and strive toward loftier goals than ever before. Bel, the ‘wild one’, if you will, devastated by the recent loss of her beloved mother is more of a loose cannon and falls in with a group of ‘bad girls’ almost immediately.

The story also follows a married couple, Heath and Sarah Donovan, who work at the school as teachers and dorm heads. Their marriage is explored in detail and although perfection on the outside, holds its own troubles, resentments and buried secrets. Heath has lofty goals of his own – dreaming of one day becoming headmaster of the school; Sarah the supportive wife is left on the sidelines a lot of time.

Heath and Sarah’s relationship is definitely where the adult element comes from, there are a lot of complicated themes woven into this storyline. The interactions between the students at the school, on their own, could fit in very well in a YA Thriller; it’s when the adults and kids begin to mix that things become messy. If you are the type of reader who doesn’t enjoy teenage drama, you may find this one tedious, so just know that going in. There is bullying, hazing, general romantic drama but for me, it absolutely worked.

In my opinion, this wasn’t wickedly suspenseful – it was more that things began to unravel before our eyes at a steady pace until the final scene. I loved the format of it – which mixes in detective interviews…okay, back up…a crime has been committed, you do not know to who or by who and that is what is revealed throughout the entire story. It was really well done and I applaud the author for keeping the pace steady and engaging the whole way through!

I would recommend this to anyone who loves Adult Thrillers and I also would recommend this to readers who may be looking to transition from more YA books to Adult books, as it has elements of both. I would however say trigger warning for sexual assault, hazing, bullying and unlawful sexual contact. If these are topics that you are sensitive to please be aware before going in.

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press for providing me the opportunity to read this book and provide my opinions. I had so much fun with it and definitely plan to pick up Michele Campbell’s other book, It’s Always the Husband.

Review: Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

Publication Date: January 3, 2017    |    Rating: 3-Stars

Meh. This was good. My mind wandered a heck of a lot with this – I felt like my mind was a ‘traveler’ and it was checking out of this story quite a bit. Is it the book’s fault? Is it my fault because it’s summer and life is crazy? Is it my fault because I read this one right on the heels of the first book and got burn out? I may never know because I am unhauling this series and will most likely never read it again.

This is the 2nd book in the Passenger duology and it follows a group of individuals, known as travelers, who can travel through space and time protecting or unsettling the existing timeline depending on what their ultimate goals are. This picks up a few months after the first one ends, where our two main characters have been separated and neither one knows what happened to the other. The hunt is still on for the mysterious device known as the astrolabe and we jump around to a lot of destinations and times – more so than in the first book; at least it felt that way to me. At times, it was a little hard to keep tabs on the action…

I did enjoy a couple of the new characters in this one:
The Belladonna (aka. The Witch of Prague) – yes, please. She had me at hello and Mi Lin, a sexy, badass female pirate. Again, yes, please.

They were both definitely fun new additions to the story and I liked the sections that they were included in. Particularly this ‘auction’ that the Belladonna held; just a unique twist to the story that I thought was fun and great way to bring characters from all over the timeline together into one place.

Overall, for me though, I feel like the length didn’t help the story. This book was so long for a YA fantasy at over 500 pages. I wonder if it would have worked better broken into a trilogy instead of cramming so much into this one book. I don’t know, for me, it was good but it didn’t blow me away. I didn’t love it (I wanted to!) and I actually enjoyed the first book in the duology more. I definitely will continue reading Alexandra Bracken stories though and I am glad that I read this and that I get to check it off my HUGE tbr list!

Have you ever experienced burn-out on a series, trilogy or duology? If so, what was it? Leave a comment below or connect with me through my contact me links!

Review: Nyxia Unleased by Scott Reintgen

Publication Date: July 17, 2018    |    Rating: 5-stars!!!!

Nyxia Unleashed is the second book in The Nyxia Triad. Just like the first book, I absolutely loved this and gave it FIVE well-deserved stars. This is a YA science-fiction novel that is incredibly inclusive and has a strong undercurrent of social commentary which I thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed.

In this book, our MC, Emmett Atwater and the rest of the kids from Book One have now arrived on the planet they have previously known as Eden. Throughout their training, Babel, the corporation they work for, had taught and prepared them for meeting the ‘aliens’, who they called Adamites, of this planet. Once on Eden, the kids are assigned local emissaries that ultimately end up teaching them in the true ways of their planet, which they call Magnia and refer to themselves as the Imago people. They travel through the various communities of this planet meeting with the peoples and learning their history, political structure and immediate societal issues. The kids, disenchanted with Babel Corporation, after their excruciating training period, begin to realize that Babel’s goals are much more sinister than they had previously expressed. Without giving too much away, they must ultimately decide who and what they are willing to fight for.

What happens next will change the fate of worlds. We are genesis.

This novel is much darker than the first as the subject matter settles down and becomes more serious. Throughout the book I had an incredible feeling of something ominous just at the edge of the horizon. As the storyline began to unfold, I had no clue as to where it was leading. I loved learning about the Imago and experiencing the wonder of learning about their society, past and future. This story is an excellent examination of colonizing powers, indigenous populations and how people choose to treat other people.

Do we treat others with the dignity they deserve, regardless of where they come from?

There are some things a person should never stand by and watch…Pops taught me that much.

The above are thoughts of Emmett Atwater, our protagonist. Emmett is such a sweet, precious little cupcake. He is a great kid, raised but loving parents in the city of Detroit, where although poor, he never lacked for love or a strong kick in the backside, whichever he needed more. Seeing Emmett grapple with good versus evil, standing up for what he believes is right, overcoming adversity, is such an enjoyable thing to read. I loved watching him gaining strength and confidence throughout these two books and I am so excited to see where the third book takes him. He could lead a revolution, this one!

The other kids working with him are from all over the world – we really have everyone represented here – there are kids from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America, Europe, we have LGBTQ+ characters and we get to learn a bit about all of their perspectives; it’s a great thing to see in a YA book. We learn the most about them in Book One but I thought it was important to bring up again here for people searching for diverse representation in their books.

I’m an angel without wings. I’m a demon without fire.

The ending of this book was INCREDIBLE! I have no idea how I am going to make it until next April waiting for the last book in the series. (cue letter writing to publisher begging for early copy…) We are on the edge of a major precipice here – a battle of good versus evil – a battle where fates and worlds will indeed be changed. Are the kids on the right track? Have they made the right choices? Are they siding with the right people? I DON’T KNOW!!!! But I am incredibly ready to find out! If you like sci-fi, if you like diverse books, if you like books with a point, please, please, please pick up this series! It deserves all the love it can get!

Thank you so much to Crown Books for Young Readers for giving me the opportunity to read this book early. It was one of my most anticipated books of the year so I am very grateful!!!

Review: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Publication Date: April 7, 2016    |    Rating: 4-action packed STARS!

‘You cannot fathom the distance I would travel for you.’

Swoon! This high stakes adventure really took me by surprise. I expected it to be good but not this good. I really, really enjoyed this and subsequently picked up the second book already. I started this one mainly because I hadn’t read a good time travel story for almost a year and it is one of my favorite sci-fi subgenres. This book had nonstop action and a scavenger hunt feel as our main characters, Etta & Nicholas, follow clues searching for an object left for Etta to find by her mother, Rose. Sound confusing? At times, I’ll admit, I felt a little lost but I think that was more due to my mind wandering due to LIFE than to an actual issue with the book.

This is the first Alexandra Bracken novel I have ever read and I am happy she has so many other books for me to choose from! Her writing style is very fast-paced and that action kept me flipping pages at a speed that even for me, seemed impressive. I finished this so quickly and am just itching to get farther in Wayfarer. Passenger left off on such a cliffhanger I can’t imagine the people who read it when it first came out having to wait for the 2nd book to be released! Literal torture and this is why I am years behind on my duologies, trilogies and series.

If you are looking for a super fast, engaging and lively adventure this could be the perfect book for you. There is some romance which although no necessarily my favorite plot element was pretty okay. I didn’t cringe once so that’s huge for me. I love Nicholas, a time traveling sailor with a heart of gold -he may actually be my first book crush this year- so cheers to that!

I really enjoyed Etta as well. She is a violin prodigy who when we meet her is under a lot of pressure to perform and live up to expectations. Once she is swept up into the unexpected reality of time travel, we really see her blossom. I thought her character was really strong and took everything in stride. At one point, she thought to herself, if my mother could do this, than so can I. I loved that self-assurance and just taking things as they come. She had no idea this whole underground world was part of her mother’s life, or part of hers, and she was able to adapt and assert herself and I thought it was great to see as opposed to a heroine who just needs to be saved!

Have you read this book? Do you have any other time travel recommendations for me? If so, please leave a comment below – I want to be sure I am not missing out on any other gems like this one!

Review: Eternal Frankenstein, Edited by Ross E. Lockhart

Publication Date: October 9, 2016    |    Rating: 3.5-stars

Eternal Frankenstein is a short-story collection consisting of various tales all inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I would actually give this a 3.5-star rating (if given the option Goodreads, ahem…). Frankenstein in its original form is one of my favorite books of all time. I think generally people automatically think HORROR when they think ofFrankenstein and although it is horrific in many ways, it is also lyrical, thought-provoking and darkly beautiful. This collection I felt paid lovely homage to that original text.

This is actually the FIRST short-story collection I have ever read that was not written by Stephen King. So, that’s something. I am glad I read it. There were 16 different stories in all written by different authors and all tales were unique and examined the original text in their own ways. Obviously, as I am assuming is the case with all such collections, some of these were much more tailored to my style than others – there were actually a couple that I just did not get at all – but overall I found them enjoyable and grossly entertaining. There is quite a bit of violence and gore in this collection, so true horror fans rejoice! There is no tip-toeing around grotesque and macabre subject matter. In this same line though, I would say trigger warning for self-harm, suicidal ideation, suicide and child abuse/murder.

If I had to choose my most memorable story of the collection, I would have to go with Wither on the Vine; or, Strickfaden’s Monster by Nathan Carson, solely because one of my idols, Nikola Tesla, makes an appearance in the story which I found super cool! I would definitely recommend this to any horror fan who happens to love the original,Frankenstein. I would say for those of us who are low-key obsessed with that book, this is a special treat! As a side note, I would love to see this same type of collection developed for Dracula, War of the Worlds, The Island of Doctor Moreau and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde if Mr. Lockhart would like to get working on that. Dare to dream.

What is the best short-story collection you have ever read? I want to know! Leave a comment below or contact me on my social media – links to the right!

Review: Wicked River by Jenny Milchman

Publication Date: May 1, 2018    |    Rating: 2-Stars

Wicked River. What can I even say? Firstly, I waffled between a 1- versus a 2-star rating. Ultimately, I decided on 2-stars because it makes me feel bad to give anything a 1-star unless it has offensive or inappropriate content. This one wasn’t offensive it was just not my cup of tea. At all. This book and I just did NOT get along. The good news, I actually made it through the entire thing, so there’s that.

I knew within the first 30-pages that perhaps this wasn’t going to be the strongest story for me but I trudged on because I had hopes that it would get better. The premise sounds great. The execution of said premise, not so much. It kicks off at the wedding of our two main characters, Natalie and Doug, which was cheese-factor level TEN and had me audibly scoffing over the dialogue and lame characters. Then they head off on the their honeymoon, a trek into the wilderness on a hiking / canoe trip for which I feel neither of them was even remotely prepared for.

The main characters dumbass choices aside, we also have a psycho guy living in the woods whose odd perspective we get every couple of chapters. Then there is a 13-year old whiny girl, Mia, the niece of Natalie, whose perspective we also get which was completely disjointed for me from the rest of the story. Oh, yah, and there is this totally unrealistic side plot involving Doug’s childhood friends that contributes to the story as well.

I don’t know, for me, the whole thing was just a mess. I couldn’t stand Natalie. She was so weak. All she seemed to care about was ‘her husband’ – she admits to losing any friends she ever had because all she cared about was being with him. She could barely scrounge together two bridesmaids for her wedding and tells us they were literally the bottom of the barrel who would probably disappear again into nothingness once the wedding was over. She let Doug make all of her decisions and just goes along to go along, I guess. She was horrible – I wanted her to be lost in the woods.

Now, let’s talk about the term ‘her husband. This had to have been in the book 1,027,432 times. If I ever hear that again, I am going to punch the speaker in the face. This is not a quote but to give you and idea what I’m talking about, it would go a little something like this, ‘her husband forged ahead through the trees. Her husband’s arms easily broke through the branches so much better than hers ever could because her husband was so much bigger and stronger than she was. Natalie felt so happy that her husband would be willing to go ahead so that she could drift along unscathed behind him.’ If reading this makes you go, what? Yah, it’s like that. This book is 464 pages long and I think it could have been edited down to 300 if the term ‘her husband’ had been taken out.

I have no clue who I would recommend this to – maybe someone who doesn’t read a lot or is new to the ‘thriller’ genre; although, I am not even sure I would classify this as a thriller. There was nothing really thrilling about it. It kind of took the suspense out of it when the 4th part of a 4 part book is titled, Saved. Really? No other word could have been chosen to title Part 4? You get there and are like, ‘geeeee, I wonder if Natalie and Doug will be SAVED????’

I would like to thank the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I do always appreciate the opportunity to provide my feedback. This one just wasn’t for me but as we all know there are readers for every story!

What’s the last book you read that you didn’t get along with? I want to know!  Leave a comment below or contact me through my social media links to the right – Cheers~

Review: Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

Publication Date: September 12, 2017    |    Rating: 5-STARS

It just occurred to me that I never wrote up a full review for this wonderful book! I am currently reading the 2nd book of this planned trilogy, Nyxia Unleashed, and went back to see what I had written in regards to the first book and alas, NOTHING! I think this was one of those books where I needed to process for a bit after I finished and than never ended up compiling those thoughts into an actual review. It’s a problem I am sure many of you have experienced.

This book is set in ‘our world’ in the near future where this huge corporation, Babel, selects ten teenagers to go to space and compete for a chance to be sent to the planet of Eden to mine a new miracle substance called, nyxia. The characters are very diverse, coming from countries all over the world, and the competition is fierce. The author, who is a teacher, writes teens very well in my opinion. The dialogue felt natural and how they relate to one another is spot on considering the circumstances they find themselves in. The main character, Emmett Atwater, is a great character. I had no problem becoming attached to him and was rooting him on from the very start.

Competitions in books are one of my favorite tropes. I am a competitive person (hello, Slytherin!) so I absolutely adore and relate to reading about competitions – the training, the mentors, the challenges…yep, love it all. These kids go through very vigorous training that at times is downright dangerous. They have so much to prepare for after all; being sent onto alien soil, that is in fact inhabited by aliens; dangerous ones according to Babel. A lot of the training takes place in VR (virtual reality) which adds a super cool gaming element to it as well! If you have been seeing any buzz for Nyxia Unleashed and wondering if it is worth tracking down the first book and starting this triad, I would say YES! It definitely is. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a great, action-packed science fiction story; particularly with YA characters – great for readers of ALL ages!

What is your favorite trope to find in books? I want to know – leave a comment below or reach me through my contact links!  Cheers~

Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Publication Date: September 20, 2011    |    Rating: 5-heartfelt stars

This Story! I decided to read this book mainly because I selected Circe, Miller’s second book, as my BOTM Club book a couple of months ago and I really wanted to read this one first. This story took me completely by surprise. I knew nothing about it going in besides that fact that it is based off some events in Homer’s, The Illiad. Despite the fact that I took 4-years of Latin in high school, I couldn’t tell you the first thing about The Illiad today; so, no spoilers there!

I was completely floored by the absolute beauty of this story. The center of the tale is the love between Achilles and Patroclus. I am not a romance reader AT ALL and oftentimes the romance will be my least favorite aspect of a given story but for some reason…this one…struck me straight in the feels. There was something so pure and confident in their love – they were loyal and brave and kind to one another in a way that had me reaching for the tissues instead of choking down my mirth. I just knew from my level of attachment that this one wasn’t going to end well for me. Puddle, puddle of goo, right on the floor. I was overwhelmed by the intensity of feeling this story was able to elicit from my cold, dark heart. The Ice Queen hath melteth.

If you are considering reading this yourself, for whatever reason, I cannot recommend the audiobook enough. This narrator absolutely nailed the feeling of the story – plus, his voices for all characters was just so expressive and was always recognizable for who he was portraying at the time (if this makes any sense at all). In particular, his voice when speaking as Achilles…straight up Chris Hemsworth, which honestly, not a bad picture to have in mind whilst listening to a book.

So, yah, in summation: READ THIS BOOK! The world would indeed be a better place if this book were required reading and I honestly believe that.

Original review: 💔😭😭😭😭😭 oh my gods & goddesses! This book. Those last few lines. I am going to curl up in the fetal position somewhere and stare at the wall for a few days.

Review: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

Publication Date: July 3, 2018    |    Rating: 5-glorious STARS

Riley Sager has done it again!! Thrilling from beginning to end. This one kept me guessing until the final pages!

When Emma Davis first went to Camp Nightingale she was late; her parents doing. Subsequently, she got stuck in a cabin with girls much older than herself. Luckily, the pretty and popular bunkmate, Vivian, quickly took Emma under her wing and she began to have a camp experience unlike anything the other girls her age were experiencing. Unfortunately, one night, on the 4th of July, her three cabinmates disappear, never to be seen again. That night continues to haunt Emma, even fifteen years later when we meet her. Now a successful painter living in NYC she continues to meld the haunting images of her camp experience into her work. Invited back to Camp Nightingale by the wealthy owner, Franny Harris-White, to be an art instructor, Emma begrudgingly accepts, thinking she can finally figure out what happened to her friends.

Once Emma returns to Camp she is reunited with many individuals who were also there her first time round; including the handsome Theo Harris-White, Emma’s crush from THAT summer. This story is darkly atmospheric and filled with mystery and dread. For me, Sager’s writing is so cinematic – as I am reading, the entire drama is unfolding in my mind with the perfect clarity of a movie – I felt the same way with Final Girls. His descriptions and feelings are so easy to follow and imagine and are definitely one of my favorite things about his writing.

As the story unfolds, there are multiple occasions where you think you know what happened all those years ago, but those thoughts are quickly dashed away by new information becoming available. The cast of characters was fantastic and past and present unfolded with such ease and excitement that it made this novel very fast-paced! I have absolutely nothing negative to say about this book – I loved it – would read it again and would recommend to any thriller or horror reader. I cannot wait to see what Sager comes up with next! You better believe I will be waiting for it and buying it on release.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Dutton Press, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. It was a highlight of my year for sure and I greatly appreciate the opportunity!