Review: A Soldier and A Liar by Caitlin Lochner

A Soldier and A LiarA Soldier and A Liar by Caitlin Lochner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Soldier and A Liar is a YA-Dystopian novel set in a world where supernaturally-gifted teenagers, known as Nytes, are feared and shunned by the rest of society.

The set-up of this world is similar to that of The Hunger Games, with different sectors living independently of one another. There’s also dangerous beings on the outside that make travel outside the sectors dangerous.

The entire society is quite fractured, with the ungifted wanting to suppress, or eradicate the Nytes; rebel forces willing to fight back against the ungifted and a smaller faction wanting everyone to just get along.

Unsurprisingly, the government certainly doesn’t mind using the Nytes when it works to their own advantage.

Lai Cathwell is a Nyte and a talented soldier, who in the beginning of the story is in prison, but not for the reasons people think.

When the military wants to rerecruit her to aid in a special mission against rebel forces, they send in a fellow soldier and Nyte, Jay, to try to convince her to join up.

Lai is initally unimpressed, but there’s something about Jay that has her intrigued.

Ultimately, she decides to help and agrees to commit to the team, not just with Jay, but with two other fellow Nytes, Al and Erik. Together the four are set the task of eliminating the rebel threat and saving the sector from a long and brutal war.

I’ve had a copy of this book since it was initially released at the beginning of 2019. I love a good Dystopian story and the color scheme of this cover had me sold. I decided to pick it up recently as a backlist bump; my way of actually reading some of the books on my shelves.

I’m so happy that I did. I really enjoyed this story. From the very first chapter I was intrigued by the set-up of the world and the characters.

Lai, in particular, is the character I connect with the most. She’s a bit of a wildcard and I enjoy that about her. You never really know what she is going to do. She’s smart, strong and used to standing on her own, away from the maddening crowd.

I also really like Jay. He has a difficult relationship with his overbearing father and feels like he always has to be perfect. Even though he has excelled in his military career, is smart and capable, he still struggles a bit with self-consciousness.

Jay is selected to function as the team leader, which works quite well as the team members train together and learn to trust one another.

I loved the team training aspect. That’s a trope I tend to enjoy, so I was happy to find it here. The missions were dangerous and full of action. I also like the layers of this world that keep being revealed; like peeling back the layers of an onion.

This ended on a great cliffhanger and I have already started the second book, which is equally as compelling.

Overall, I had such a fun time reading this. I am always so happy when I randomly pluck a book off the shelf and it turns out to be a winner. Another successful backlist bump. Let this be a lesson to us all, don’t neglect your backlist!!!

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Review: Perfect (Flawed #2) by Cecelia Ahern

Perfect (Flawed, #2)Perfect by Cecelia Ahern
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

After the culminating events of Flawed, the first book in Cecelia Ahern’s YA Dystopian Duology, Celestine North is on the run.

The most wanted individual within the society, Celestine has evidence that could bring down not just Judge Crevan, the man responsible for her being branded as flawed, but the entire Guild.

Hiding from the Whistleblowers, Celestine, along with her trusted companion, Carrick, need to figure out their next steps for exposing Crevan’s misdeeds.

Even prior to Celestine’s case, there were dissidents who wanted to see the end of the system they view as cruel and inhumane. Now Celestine has become a figurehead for their cause.

This novel, like the first, was fast-paced and engaging the entire way through. Ahern has no problem kicking her stories off with a bang and maintaining that pace.

It has been over a year since I read the first book and I appreciated how Ahern refreshed my memory without regurgitating the entire plot.

The dystopian setting is particularly well done, with corrupt leaders and an interesting system for maintaining the obedience of the masses.

I couldn’t help but compare Celestine to Katniss; how they both begrudgingly become leaders of such large causes. They’re both strong and brave; characters who are easy to stand behind.

I would recommend this for anyone who loves interesting Dystopian stories.

This one isn’t too far off from our world, which adds a touch of a frightening element to it. One of those, oh shit, this could really happen feelings.

Overall, I’m really happy that I finally picked this one up and finished this duology. It was really good. I’m actually surprised I haven’t heard more people talking about it.

Another successful backlist bump!!!

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Review: Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown

Morning Star (Red Rising Trilogy, #3)Morning Star by Pierce Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s finally happened.

I just let out a breath I didn’t even realize I was holding!

Morning Star, the third installment of the Red Rising Saga, exceeded all my expectations. My favorite so far!

Pierce Brown is currently battling George R.R. Martin for the title of, ‘Author Trying to Crush My Soul’.

Brown has created a hellishly brutal world. No character is safe. Ever!

Just when you start to let your guard down…

Without giving too much away, as this is the third in the series, the battle against the sovereign continues with The Reaper and his allies trying to disassemble the Color System.

The highlight for me, although there is always a ton of action, is watching the relationship growth among Darrow and his friends.

Particularly Darrow and Sevro, which honestly is one of the best male friendships I have ever read. It gives me life.

At the conclusion to this story, six years has passed since the start of Red Rising, so much has happened. It’s a complicated story and really very impressive.

I am entertained beyond reason and cannot wait to continue, although I will most likely need to take a breather before I start the next book.

Nevertheless, it’s pretty clear that I am low-key obsessed with this series and cannot wait to see what Brown has in store for these characters.

With this story, it could literally be anything!

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Review: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

The Grace YearThe Grace Year by Kim Liggett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

In a dystopian world, in an area knows as The County, girls are banished from their community during their 16th year. It is believed that at that age a girl’s true magic will be revealed.

These girls apparently are so dangerously magical that they threaten to steal husbands from wives, driving the wives crazy with jealousy in the process.

The girls are sent to live together in a fenced-in compound in the woods. Once there they must completely survive on their own, navigating their powers, for a full year.

This year is known as the Grace Year. When the year has passed, the survivors return to the community, get married, have babies, take care of their husbands and live happily ever after.

Tierney James has always dreamed of a better life, but when her Grace Year arrives she knows she is helpless to stop it.

Shipped off with the rest of the girls, she decides to try her best to motivate them all to work together in order to survive. It doesn’t have to be that bad, does it?

Unfortunately, not all of the girls play nice together and a true Lord of the Flies situation unfolds. This is their first time truly on their own, without any adult supervision, and it shows.

These girls get brutal real quick!

Before she knows it, Tierney is literally on the brink of death, with seemingly no allies.

How will she ever make it through her Grace Year alive?

This was definitely an interesting examination of women’s rights, relationships and roles within society. The dystopian world, both inside and outside of the County, was harsh and compelling.

There was a lot of drama amongst the girls and definitely some savage moments.

I want to reread this someday when things calm down a bit. I felt like with all the unsettling things happening in the world currently, my mind was wandering quite a bit.

I feel like I may be able to get more out of this story when I can concentrate better. Some of it felt very surface level and I do think that is more due to my mental state at the moment than the book.

Absolutely if you are interested in a YA-version of The Handmaid’s Tale meets Lord of the Flies, you should pick this up.

That’s pretty much a perfect description of this disturbing tale. Although I wasn’t crazy about the romantic elements, I think overall it is a solid story.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. My apologies for taking so long to get to it!

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Guest Post: Author Chat with Kelsey Quick

On Tuesday, December 9, 2019, a great new addition to the vampire genre is set to be released. This fast-paced and inventive novel is a debut for author, Kelsey Quick.

I had the opportunity, thanks to, GODDESS FISH PROMOTIONS, to ask Kelsey a few questions about her work and what this release means to her.

Before we get into that however, for those of you who visit my blog regularly, you may remember that I just reviewed this novel last week, but for those of you who are new…

…and you can check out my full review by clicking HERE!!!

Without further ado, let’s get into my questions for Kelsey and her responses:

Meg: What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Kelsey: Aside from “never give up,” it would have to be: Understand that everyone in this industry gets rejected. That agent who rejected you? They get rejected all the time by editors. The editor that rejected you and your agent’s submission? Acquisitions rejected the last five of his/her/their proposals. If you have rejection issues (like me), this is not your industry unless you can see it for what it really is. It’s an unfortunate consequence of bad luck and, perhaps, a poor product—but that’s where persistence comes in. The more persistence you have, the less luck you need, especially if you keep trying to get better rather than to prove everyone wrong. The better you get, the better chances you have. It’s that simple, although it’s no guarantee. You have to really want it enough to overcome the perpetual sting of being told “no.”

Meg: What were your inspirations for this particular story?

Kelsey: Really, a lot of things! I found the basic framework of the story from reading Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino back in 2007. It was such a chilling, yet romantic manga, especially in terms of artwork. It had a dark, yet shoujo-esque (female-audience intended) style that I’d never seen. My own style of manga was influenced heavily by it, in fact. Aside from the basic framework, I’d always wondered why there wasn’t a big novel featuring vampires ruling over a dystopia, where humans were at their beck and call as slaves. I know they exist and I’ve since heard of them (such as The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa), but at the time, I thought that idea was pretty original, so I stuck with it—and it stuck with me!

Funny enough, a couple of the characters have their own inspirations: Lord Anton Zein is a silver-haired, cruel war general—much like Sesshoumaru from Rumiko Takahashi’s Inuyasha. I’ve also heard that he’s like Prince Cardan from Holly Black’s, The Cruel Prince, as well as Sarah J. Maas’ Rhysand from A Court of Thorns and RosesGemini is the candid, blonde vampire that is a blend of three very different characters: Hanabusa Aido from Vampire Knight, Gilderoy Lockhart from Harry Potter, and Guildenstern from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Meg: With release date just a week away, how does it feel to be having your story released into the world?

Kelsey: It is pretty surreal. I thought I’d never have the guts to self-publish if it came to that, but I clung to the hope of getting traditionally published for so long that I think it eventually wore away all the fears and inhibitions—so to speak. While those two years of querying took a lot out of me and completely killed my writing productivity, I think I needed them to realize that rejection by the publishing industry does not equate to rejection by the reading community. As they say, bestsellers are made, not written (to an extent). So, I decided to do the best with what I had, as my passion for A Violet Fire seems to have no bounds. It’s not perfect, but it is my heart book, and I take pride in how much work I put into it to make it shine well enough to be compared to other big names. At the end of the road, I’m going to be glad I did it this way even if the results are less-than stellar. It’s probably the
hardest I’ve ever worked for something… and the work is never-ending.

I want to thank, Kelsey, for being so kind as to answer my questions for her. I feel so blessed to have been provided with the opportunity to be included on this blog tour. Also, a huge thank you to Kelsey for providing me with an early copy of the book to read and review.

I really enjoyed this one and was so impressed by the fact that this is a debut novel. Kelsey has a wonderfully creative imagination and pleasing writing style, I look forward to the chance to continue on with this series!

Be sure to pick up your copy on release day, Tuesday, December 9th!!! Until then, click the link below to enter for your chance to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card that the author will be giving away. The raffle is run via rafflecopter and one randomly drawn winner will win during the course of the blog tour. It could be you!!

$25 Gift Card Raffle

That’s all for now my lovely book friends! I hope you had a fabulous reading month in November and look for my wrap-up soon.

Cheers & Happy Reading!

Review: A Violet Fire (Vampires in Avignon #1) by Kelsey Quick

A Violet Fire (Vampires in Avignon, #1)A Violet Fire by Kelsey Quick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Wavorly Sterling was a child, a vampire attack decimated the population of the town in which she lived. In fact, she is known as the only survivor, rescued, or captured, depending on your perspective, and brought to live within the Vampire Stratocracy of Cain.

Set in a dystopian world, where the blood supply is low, the Stratocracy has developed a vast and interesting system for raising ‘human supply units’. These supply units are eventually chosen and bound to a master who they vow to serve, and feed, for the duration of their lives.

Wavorly is brought to a sort of private school where the girls are raised together and taught how to please their future masters.

The majority of these girls were born within the Stratocracy so have never tasted the freedom of the world outside as Wavorly has. This sets her apart from them and she struggles trying to understand their seemingly docile personalities in the face of what lies ahead of them.

In fact, when we first meet her, she is in the midst of executing an escape attempt. Although it may not go as planned, you have to give the girl props for her strength and determination.

No matter how hard she fights back against the powers that be however, Wavorly is ultimately selected to go live in the castle of Lord Anton Zein and act as one of his supply units. They have a complicated history and you just know something’s going to go down at that castle!

I really enjoyed this, you guys! I do not read a lot of vampire-related content, really my only experiences being Salem’s Lot, NOS4A2 and Doctor Sleep, so I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this or not. Apparently, it’s my new thing!

I loved the dystopian feel of this story. The world-building was excellent in my opinion and I cannot wait to learn more in Book 2.

I also really enjoyed quite a few of the side characters, they added depth, humor and challenging personalities to the story. There were people you really wanted to get behind and people that were a joy to hate. Yes, that is a thing.

Although the plot got a little jumbled for me towards the end, I was still on board for all that was happening. There were revelations and betrayals, a lot of excitement.

I think this left off in a great spot for the continuation of series and I definitely will be continuing. This was one of those books that when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it and wishing I was!

Overall, this was an impressive debut. I feel confident this author has a bright future ahead of her. If you are looking for an inventive and captivating, fast-paced read, you should definitely pick this one up!

Thank you so much to the author, Kelsey Quick, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I have since preordered the paperback because I love the cover and also, have no self-control.

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Review: Flawed (Flawed #1) by Cecelia Ahern

Flawed (Flawed, #1)Flawed by Cecelia Ahern
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #3 for my Sci-Fi September!!!!

 

Celestine North is a high school girl living a Perfect life with her Perfect family.

In a society that values Perfection in mind, body and spirit, this is of the utmost importance. Because of this, maintaining Perfection is a primary focus of the citizens living within this dystopian society.

Collectively they punish those who they deem as lacking. Such individuals are branded as Flawed and never treated the same within society again, virtually designating them as the lowliest individuals that Perfects are afraid to even associate with.

When Celestine’s neighbor and piano teacher, a woman she feels she knows well, is punished as being Flawed, she is shocked, never having experienced a Flawed person so close to home.

She is also shocked to see the lack of empathy on the faces of her other neighbors as the Flawed woman is forcibly dragged from her home, away from the embraces of her crying children.

This incident causes Celestine to begin questioning everything. With new doubts in her mind, she tries to get back to life as usual but it very difficult. One day on a bus, she commits an act that ultimately gets her branded as Flawed. Her crime, compassion.

She is imprisoned, literally branded on her body and made to wear and arm patch with a big capital F on it, so all of society will know of her disgrace. Think futuristic The Scarlet Letter.

Her rights are stripped and life as she knows it, is over. Her long-time boyfriend, Art Crevan, whose father is the Judge that sentenced her, has disappeared. She is secluded and alone. Even her little brother is afraid of her.

In the midst of her situation, she hears rumblings of a possible underground movement out to overthrow the ruling party. They are pushing for a more equal society, ridding it of the old Perfect or Flawed mentality. The rebels have grabbed onto Celestine’s story and are using her as a sort of figurehead for their movement.

This was truly a delightful surprise. I really enjoyed this! It was like a CW show, and I mean that in the best way, easy and addicting. The pace was fast and information revealed to you just when you needed it to be. I could have used a teeny bit more of world-building but I am hoping more will be revealed in the next book.

I think if you are looking for a futuristic YA Dystopian that is quick and well written, you should definitely check this one out. Good solid drama, intriguing premise and it leaves off in a great spot for the continuation of the story. I definitely plan to pick up the sequel soon!

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Review: Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown

Red Rising (Red Rising, #1)Red Rising by Pierce Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is an absolute blessing!!!

I am so thankful that I finally made the choice to pick this one up for my Sci-Fi September. I have heard so much about this series, so many raving reviews, so much love, so much hype…

…but, would it work for me? I am late to the party. Maybe the thrill is gone?

Fortunately, I adored this. The beginning, I’ll admit, I was on the fence but once Darrow meets the Sons of Ares, I was paying attention. It drew me in and never let go from there on out!

This brought back some nostalgia for my OG, The Hunger Games, and I’m cool with that. The best part of a great dystopian are those moments when you think, ‘Oh shit. This could happen someday’.

For me personally, one of the most important aspects of a dystopian story is the world-building. It has to be vast and detailed yet easy to pick up.

I felt the caste system, with designations based on colors, was really well done. Although I couldn’t list for you the role of each of the colors, I do feel I have an understanding of the functioning of the world as a whole.

Picking up this book, I really did not know too much about the plot. I was so pleased that it ended up having two of my favorite tropes ever.

The first being a training and competition element. The fact that this competition happened to involve political and military strategy was the absolute icing on the cake.

The second is a chosen one from the lowest rung of society setting out to overthrow a decadent and corrupt ruling class. I just dig that trope and Darrow is very likable protagonist. In fact, this entire book has plenty of people to cheer for and to hate because we all know, a good villain is VERY important!

I have already picked up the next book in the series, Golden Son, and it just keeps getting better and better. I cannot wait to continue on. This is definitely binge GOLD.

To all of you who have recommended this to me over the years, thank you! You are a genius and a true friend!

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Review: Ration by Cody T. Luff

RationRation by Cody T. Luff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in a murky dystopian world, where only women remain, we follow a group of characters living in a place known as The Apartments.

As the story unfolds, you learn more and more about this stark environment, where every calorie is counted and what one chooses to eat may cost another their life.

Following multiple perspectives, this twisted tale is bleak.
She dark, y’all.

If you’re looking for light and fluffy, you need to turn tail and run, baby, cause this ain’t it.

It’s unclear to me how to even begin to describe this plot. It’s like Little Orphan Annie stumbled into the landscape of 1984.

Bizarre enough for you?

What I can say is that this story is all kinds of dark, dirty and cringe-worthy. Almost every scene left me shaking my head and slightly nauseated.

The writing is so good, it truly sucks you in. Horror lovers will enjoy this. I can’t imagine them not. I was truly impressed with the creativity and how the story never let up. Luff is taking his readers on a ride and once you are in, you’re in.

While not scary in a ghostie, other-worldly way, there is a definite ominous atmosphere. It seems that information you want to know always lies just beyond your grasp.

The characters are not likable.
The world is not likable.
There are no saving graces here.

There is a lot of great, graphic, bloody and toe-curling content however, so if that is your jam, you definitely need to be tracking down a copy.

Initially, I was thinking I would give this a 3.5-star rating but ultimately, I was just so impressed with Luff’s outstanding creativity and writing style that I bumped it to a 4. For the type of story this was, I really enjoyed it.

My one minor issue was that I personally would have enjoyed more world-building. He did a great job with his setting. The setting was incredibly detailed. You could feel the dark, the dank, the dirt, the dried blood, but I wanted to know more about where this place sat in position with the rest of the world. Why were the characters at this point? More context would have been helpful to me. However, I completely understand that this is a personal taste issue and I know a lot of readers will love this just the way it is!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Apex Book Company, for sending me a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and would definitely pick up more books from this author!!!

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Review: Internment by Samira Ahmed

InternmentInternment by Samira Ahmed
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars**

This hurts my heart.
I wanted so much to love this. It was one of my most anticipated reads for the first part of the year.

I did not like this.
I’m crushed.

One reason I was so excited for this book was the exploration of topics and perspectives that I think are so important and need to be included more often.

This book did touch on many issues that are salient in today’s culture, such as: Islamophobia, xenophobia, ‘us vs. them’ mentality, the politics of fear, the importance of resistance movements to initiating change, black op sites, disappeared peoples, the illegal detainment of individuals and the abuse/neglect and torture of detainees.

All of this stuff.
Yes. Let’s see more of it, particularly from those peoples or populations most affected.

My issue with this was purely in execution. The first 20% was so gripping. The circumstances were terrifying. I was hooked.

Then it just lost me. Layla, the main character’s, fixation on her boyfriend, the storyline involving the guard, Jake, the dialogue.

Don’t get me started on the dialogue.

In summation, this was a disappointment for me. I still think the content is important and I hope people continue to read this and discuss it. Maybe I am in the minority here with this opinion. As I always say, there is a reader for every book! Sadly, this one just didn’t work for me.

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