Review: #Murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil

#Murdertrending (MurderTrending, #1)#Murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Gretchen McNeil’s futuristic YA Dystopian novel #Murdertrending drops you straight into a world where the federal government has privatized part of the prison system.

After that decision was made the Postman app was launched.

Essentially the app turns capital punishment into a lucrative business by broadcasting death row as the ultimate reality show. Survivor has nothing on this, trust.

In addition to following the inmates, viewers can also follow their favorite executioners, collectively known as the Painiacs. There’s fandoms involved. It’s a whole thing.

The executions are also broadcast, with each executioner coming up with their own creatively brutally ways of taking someone out.

We follow Dee, who after being convicted of killing her step-sister is sent to Alcatraz 2.0, the most famous prison island, to serve out the last of her term. She is set to be executed, but you never know when it will happen.

That’s half the fun, am I right?

The inmates in Alcatraz 2.0 live fairly freely on the island itself. They have jobs and can socialize with one another. Because of this, Dee ends up making some friends.

The friend group is dubbed DRBC, the Death Row Breakfast Club, through social media. Since they all claim to have been wrongfully convicted, they desire to uncover the truth behind Alcatraz 2.0.

But what is the truth?

#Murdertrending is a unique and interesting read. I enjoyed the themes explored regarding the criminal justice system and social media’s effect on society.

It did take me a wee bit to get my bearings with this one because you are literally plopped down in the middle of Dee’s world. I just had to relax into it and trust that McNeil would ultimately reveal everything I needed to know about the world and she did.

I enjoyed learning about the inmates and executioners. The executioners all had special names that reminded me of the type of punny names people use in roller derby, which added to the air of over-the-topness. It was fun.

I also enjoyed the mystery surrounding the Postman app. You can tell there is some sort of conspiracy happening, but how far does it reach? I tend to enjoy evil corporation vibes and this one definitely channeled that.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t crazy about the final reveals. I really wish it had gone in another direction, but that is simply personal taste.

With this being said, even though it lost me a bit in the end, I am so happy that I finally made time for this one. I don’t think that I will be continuing on with this series, but am still happy to have read this one.

Thank you to the publisher, Freeform, who actually provided me of a copy to read and review back in 2018. My apologies for not getting to it before now. I should have because honestly, I had a lot of fun with it!

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Review: Skyhunter (Skyhunter #1) by Marie Lu

Skyhunter (Skyhunter, #1)Skyhunter by Marie Lu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Skyhunter is a YA-Dystopian novel set in a world ravaged by war. Mara is the last nation to remain out from under the rule of the Karensa Federation. It’s literally the last outpost of freedom.

The Karensa Federation has conquered each nation one by one, using modified human-monsters, known as Ghosts, as their front-line fighters.

The horrific imagery conjured by the descriptions of these Ghosts within the first few pages had me hooked!

Refugees fleeing the Federation’s rule flock to Mara’s borders in the hopes of finding safety.

Talin Kanami is one such refugee, who fled with her mother from nearby Basea as a brutal Federation attack left her father dead. Talin was injured during the attack, leaving her mute.

Some years later, Talin has joined the legendary fighting force of Mara, known as the Strikers, where her muteness is seen as an asset. Ghosts are attracted to sound, therefore, Strikers use sign language when in the field to communicate with each other.

At a low point in Talin’s life, a prisoner gets brought before the Strikers, said to be a solider for the Federation. There’s something about him that calls to Talin. She doesn’t believe he is guilty of what they say he is.

She puts her life on the line for this mystery man. Strikers are paired together in groups of two and as punishment for Talin speaking up on the man’s behalf, she is paired with him. Talin must then train him in the ways of the Strikers and trust him to have her back in the field when it counts.

The man, Red, turns out to be much more powerful than anyone could have guessed, but whose side will he ultimately come down on?

As Karensa pushes closer to Mara, it looks like the nation may finally fall. Talin and her friends must buckle down for the fight of their lives before all they love is lost.

Marie Lu has proved her talent again and again. Skyhunter was such an intensely-gripping story, with well developed characters. The entire history and functioning of the world was also very well-imagined.

I enjoyed getting to know Talin. She had a fascinating backstory and her refugee status reflected that of refugees living in our world. It was an interesting examination of the difficulties that they face; I felt that aspect was very respectfully portrayed.

Additionally, I loved Talin taking a huge risk and standing up for Red. Then as their relationship developed, I just became so invested in it. Their connection to one another ran deep.

The culminating scene of this book was super intense. Everything was on the line for our characters. It left off in a very key spot, as far as setting up the second book.

I’m super stoked to keep going with this, to see how the duology wraps up!

Overall, this was a great reading experience and I’m very glad that I finally made the time for this one. Lu is so gifted. Her stories never fail to impress me!

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Review: Dustborn by Erin Bowman

DustbornDustborn by Erin Bowman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In Dustborn the world has been reduced to a desert wasteland. Danger lies around every corner and humans are forced to travel in packs just to up their chances of survival.

Delta of Dead River has lived her whole life in this world. Delta is very special, for she is the keeper of a map that could lead to the Verdant, a Garden of Eden of sorts, and a place that many people want to find.

The tricky part is the map is tattooed on Delta’s back. She’s never even seen it clearly and couldn’t read it anyways, as it’s drawn in old hand that she is unable to decipher.

When her village gets attacked by a band of raiders lead by a man known as the General, Delta believes they may be looking for her and the map.

Delta’s pack is taken by the General and his people, therefore Delta must go on a quest to get them back. Along the way she runs into old friends and makes some new ones.

Let’s cut to the chase, this wasn’t my favorite from Bowman. I can definitely admit it is a good story, it just never captured my attention like I was hoping. Not once!

The thing I appreciate the most about the story was the setting. I love a dusty, dangerous post-apocalyptic wasteland. Who doesn’t?

What I was never able to care about was the main character and her mission. I got to the very end and was like, what’s this girl’s name? Her entire story was forgettable for me.

There were aspects of the story that had some promise for me, but ultimately I just couldn’t get behind it. Also, there was the unnecessary slaughter of an animal about halfway through that completely turned me off. The narrative was never able to grab me back after that.

Overall, while I completely understand why a lot of Readers love this one, the content just wasn’t a fit for me. Bowman’s writing is strong and I have enjoyed other novels from her; specifically, the Contagion duology.

Thank you to the publisher, Clarion Books, for providing me a copy to read and review.

While this one wasn’t quite to my tastes, I look forward to picking up more from Erin Bowman in the future.

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Pines (Wayward Pines #1) by Blake Crouch

Pines (Wayward Pines, #1)Pines by Blake Crouch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pines, the first book in Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines trilogy, was originally published in 2012. This is a significant backlist bump for me and luckily, quite successful.

When my dear friend, Shannon, suggested buddy reading this together, I was 100% on board.

I loved both Dark Matter and Recursion from Crouch and suspected it would be more of the same with this series. I was completely correct with that assumption.

I actually did watch the first season of the television show, Wayward Pines, released in 2015 on FOX, so I had a very strong idea of what this story was all about.

The whole time I was reading this, picturing Matt Dillon as Ethan Burke of course, I couldn’t help but be impressed with how the television show was handled.

I mean, as adaptations go, this one was actually pretty stellar. Because of that though, not a lot of this came as a surprise to me, however, this is a really clever story.

I would say it is definitely worth a read, even if you have watched the show. There’s just something about the way that Crouch can consistently build intensity that is just so damn impressive.

Ethan is a great main character to follow. He’s extremely intelligent and vigilant in what he does, and it is such a treat watching him discover what Wayward Pines is all about.

I have already finished the second book, Wayward, and am really looking forward to wrapping the series up. I cannot even imagine how this will end!

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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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