Review: The Book of Ivy (The Book of Ivy #1) by Amy Engel

TitleThe Book of Ivy
Author:  Amy Engel
Publisher/Year:  Entangled Publishing 11/11/14
Length:  227 Pages
Series:  The Book of Ivy #1

Overview

What would you kill for?

After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.

This year, it is my turn.

My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and return the Westfall family to power.

But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.

Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

My Thoughts

I’m a fan of this genre, looking into the future when we know that man kind will wipe out society as we know it, and when things return back to what it was like before technology, with different rules in place to keep peace, it makes you realize that maybe we’re all going to be lost and up a creek without a paddle if that day ever comes.

So we start this story in a point that’s roughly 10 years into the future from where we are now, which is kind of scary. Nuclear war has wiped out much of America, and there are so few people left that we know of because of what happened, and that means that there are only a few left to live in a town that was itself once divided.

There was war in this town to determine how it would be run, some were for democracy and some were for one ruler who was president and set the laws. That side one, and what it means is that there are families who draw a line in life. As a result of this divide, there’s a tradition that every year olds marry someone from the other side in the hopes that war will be avoided since it means that everyone would be warring with their loved ones, and there’s hope that marrying people off at a young age will allow for a higher chance to have more children who are healthy and can revive the country.

The president’s son has managed to delay his marriage because he’s the President’s son, but as such, he has to marry the daughter of the founder of the losing side. The irony here is that the Westfalls, the losing side, have a daughter that’s the same age as Bishop, but he delays his marriage to wed the younger daughter. As we all know, it’s always the younger daughter that’s been the spare in life, and that means that her value is unexpected, undervalued, and well, everyone thinks she’s less worthy. Everyone except for Bishop. We learn his motivation later in the story and it gives you hope.

Ivy is our leading lady, sixteen and forced to marry a man she doesn’t know, whom she hates because of who he is and what his family has done to hers, and at the same time, there are pieces of this tradition that give her freedom. That get her away from what her father and sister have been forcing her into, and gives her the opportunity to grow her own wings.

Bishop is the son of the President, a boy that everyone looks to as the future of society, and a boy who has different feelings on how things should be than his father, but he’s biding his time so that he’s able to make changes.

The development of their relationship is on par with what we see in other stories in this genre. Bishop isn’t what we expected and as such, he gives Ivy time to adjust, gives her a chance to get comfortable with him, to let some type of relationship grow and develop and hopefully make it into a marriage that’s more than in just name only.

The challenge here though is that Ivy’s family has revenge in their minds. They want to take power back from Bishop’s family and the only way to do that is for Ivy to kill Bishop and then for her father and sister to kill the President and take power over. The journey that we go on here is one where we hope there’s a way to change minds, or to avoid doing things that will go too far, but we also know that will never happen.

There are similarities of this story and several others though where there’s a fence that surrounds their community. The fence is the edge of civilization, and outside of that is deemed unsafe, uninhabitable and that’s where they put people out who break laws. From what we’ve seen in other stories, there’s far more out there than anyone knows, and it’s far more civilized, but that’s not for book 1 i don’t think.

What we worry about here though are the hopes and dreams that both Ivy and Bishop share. They both crave to know what’s out there, to see the ocean and to be free. That means that some how we know that they will go outside the fence but we don’t know the circumstances and if they will succeed, survive etc. What we do know though is that this story lets us off at the fence. One on one side and one on another, with limited hope of resolution or success. Too much is at stake for anyone to go against beliefs, but too much is at stake to sit and do nothing.

So on that note, i can’t wait to get into the second book here since i’m really curious how things will turn out. People are planting ideas, people are planting lies, and those who are in power are abusing it for their own worth. I can’t wait to see what’s next. Enjoy!

Review: Reveal Me (Shatter Me #5.5) by Tahereh Mafi

TitleReveal Me
Author:  Tahereh Mafi
Publisher/Year:  HarperCollins Publishing 10/8/19
Length:  68 Pages
Series:  Shatter Me #5.5

Overview

This fourth companion novella to Tahereh Mafi’s New York Times bestselling Shatter Me series is narrated by fan favorite character Kenji Kishimoto!

The explosive revelations in Defy Me have left readers reeling and desperate for answers. This fourth and final novella in the series will bring readers back to the world of the Shatter Me before the final novel installment hits shelves in winter 2020.

My Thoughts

The summary here doesn’t do anything for the story – you really have no idea what it is that we’re going to walk into, especially knowing that we were left with some INSANE revelations in the last book. Whatever it was that they thought they knew about each other, about the Resistance, about what it was that Anderson had tried to do, well the story is far more complex. Adam and James are pawns just like Ella and Emmaline are. Warner is caught in the middle again as are everyone else and it’s a mess.

As you’ll remember, they had safely made it across the country to Castle’s daughters complex. A place that no one knew existed because no one knew she existed and it’s a sanctuary to recoup and figure out what the next move will be. Told from Kenji’s point of view, we see how this will play out.

Remember that he was drugged and kidnapped by Nazeera (who could still be playing both sides) and then his plane is shot down by the Resistance to get him to safety. All part of a plan that he wasn’t informed about.

The biggest thing here is that you know that Kenji is driven by emotions and that’s part of his powers. He’s able to put others at ease, but what happens too is that he’s doing that by not letting his emotions take hold of him. We haven’t seen what would happen if he can’t control that and there are moments in this novella that we come close.

Because Kenji is so invested in his friendships, in his relationships, he’s the one that takes the latest rounds of information the hardest. Adam and James didn’t come with them from Omega Point and that can’t bode well for their futures because we learned who their father is and that makes things dicier. Kenji’s emotions bottle up and then explode when he learns of their fate and that takes the story on a fast turn of anger, fear and distrust.

Add to that the feelings that he had for Nazeera at one point, and the fact that he doesn’t know what her motivations are. This turns quickly into a love / hate relationship and while i would love nothing more than to see them together, we don’t yet know what’s possible.

When things seem like they can’t get worse – they’re in hiding from Anderson (shocker – he’s not dead), Adam and James are in limbo. No one knows who to trust, what their futures will hold and who’s going to be able to save them. Juilliete and Warner are finally in a good place but will that last? Will anyone find happiness and what will the world look like when this all comes to a head.

The last scene is an intense one brought to us via screams from the sanctuary, the world changing physical structure and form, the sun becoming something that no one understands, and Julliette on her knees screaming her sisters name. All of this begging for questions to be asked on what’s to come next, and now we have to wait a few months to see how this plays out. I don’t know if i can be patient but i guess i have no choice. Enjoy!

Review: Rebel (Legend #4) by Marie Lu

TitleRebel
Author:  Marie Lu
Publisher/Year:  Roaring Book Press 10/1/19
Length:  332 Pages
Series:  Legend #4

Overview

Respect the Legend. Idolize the Prodigy. Celebrate the Champion. But never underestimate the Rebel.

With unmatched suspense and her signature cinematic storytelling, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Marie Lu plunges readers back into the unforgettable world of Legend for a truly grand finale.

Eden Wing has been living in his brother’s shadow for years. Even though he’s a top student at his academy in Ross City, Antarctica, and a brilliant inventor, most people know him only as Daniel Wing’s little brother.

A decade ago, Daniel was known as Day, the boy from the streets who led a revolution that saved the Republic of America. But Day is no longer the same young man who was once a national hero. These days he’d rather hide out from the world and leave his past behind. All that matters to him now is keeping Eden safe—even if that also means giving up June, the great love of Daniel’s life.

As the two brothers struggle to accept who they’ve each become since their time in the Republic, a new danger creeps into the distance that’s grown between them. Eden soon finds himself drawn so far into Ross City’s dark side, even his legendary brother can’t save him. At least not on his own . . .

My Thoughts

OH.MY.GOODNESS. Thank goodness we got to re-enter the story here with Day and June because they had major unfinished business in the epilogue of book 3 and there was no way that fans were going to be ok with that ending. Knowing that our amazing author Ms Lu was busy writing another story (which was also amazing), I was patient and that patience paid off.

We enter this story about ten years in the future. Day (Daniel) and his brother Eden are living in Ross City in Antarctica. The most advanced new country in the world – a society based on Virtual Reality, a Level system to keep you in classes, and as a result, a society that’s both thriving and failing at the same time. If we learned anything from the Republic, we know that there will be unrest and that will result in the wrong people coming into power and that will result in a catastrophe.

That wrong person is our main villian here – Dominic Hann – the man who rules the Undercity – the portion of Ross City that’s made up of people who don’t have levels high enough to survive. They can’t get medication, they can’t get food and shelter and they can’t aspire to be anything more.

The story we have here is one told in alternating chapters between Daniel and Eden. They are brothers who at the core love each other, but who have such different views on life because of their experiences in the past. Daniel wants nothing more than to protect Eden, and Eden wants to live his life. It’s that ‘living’ that gets them into trouble. Eden is noticed by Dominic while in the Under City and that means that he’s on a radar for skills. Skills that we were seeing in the previous books – his innate knowledge of tech and computers and his ability to make things that others can’t. That’s something that he thrives in here in Antarctica and he’s actually scored an internship back in the Republic because of what he can do. The challenge though is that his interaction with Dominic means that nothing will come to pass as it should.

Daniel on the other hand is now part of AIS which is a government agency. Like the FBI or CIA. he’s there to keep order, to hunt criminals and to protect the president. That’s one thing that he has in common with June as she’s in the Republic to protect Anden still. He is hunting Hann and when his brother gets mixed up in that gang, things get dicey.

Now back to June. The last we saw of her and Daniel was back in the epilogue of the last story. Daniel’s memory had been wiped because of illness and intervention and he didn’t have any sense of what June was to him anymore. Devastating!!! June knew that was a likely occurrence when she agreed to help him get treated, meaning that sh was going to sacrifice her love and future, which inevitably they both did. The great thing about their love story though is that even without the clear memories, Daniel still knew that June was special and this fourth installment lets us see how that plays out.

So you can imagine the excitement that we have in this story. We have the Utopia society come crumbling down because of interactions with the under city and Dominic Hann. (thank you Eden for being such a genius) and we have the potential to see romance rekindled. Add to that breaking laws, fleeing to the Republic and being back as square one where it all began. Watching governments struggle and society crumble. Far too many people die in this story and far too many truths are found to be lies.

But on the flip side, we see new relationships form, new alliances taking shape, we see the future for what it can be and that’s something that’s amazing. This is the closure and finale that this story truly needed and i’m THRILLED that Ms Lu finally got to finish it. Enjoy!

Review: Shatter City (Imposters #2) by Scott Westerfeld

TitleShatter City
Author:  Scott Westerfeld
Publisher/Year:  Scholastic Inc 9/17/19
Length:  331 Pages
Series:  Imposters #2

Overview

When the world sees Frey, they think they see her twin sister Rafi. Frey was raised to be Rafi’s double, and now she’s taken on the role . . . without anyone else knowing. 

Her goal? To destroy the forces that created her.

But with the world watching and a rebellion rising, Frey is forced into a detour. Suddenly she is stranded on her own in Paz, a city where many of the citizens attempt to regulate their emotions through an interface on their arms. Paz is an easy place to get lost . . . and also an easy place to lose yourself. 

As the city comes under a catastrophic attack, Frey must leave the shadows and enter the chaos of warfare – because there is no other way for her to find her missing sister and have her revenge against her murderous father.

My Thoughts

It’s been a while since we’ve been in this series but this second book gives us all the feels you could hope for. (definitely an overused phrase in this story though). Anyhow, like the summary says, we are thrown right back into the middle of a war – where Rafi and Frey are against their father because all he has in mind is to destroy the world for motives unknown aside from a need for power.

When we left off, Frey traded places with Rafi in the hopes of saving her love Col, and well, we know how that turned out. The bomb collar was switched from one sister to the other, meaning that identities had to be faked yet again. Frey at least had the chance to be with Col in these unusual circumstances, all while trying to figure out how they could both get out unscathed. Thankfully, Col has his allies on call and they were able to devise a plan to get them out and hopefully on the road to freedom.

The challenge here is that Frey is on the hunt for Rafi since her entire life she was raised to protect her sister. She learns that her sister is in a city called Paz, the next target for their father, both for the notion that Rafi is there but also because Paz is a city that believes in true freedom and doesn’t conscribe to the notion of dust or spying. It’s truly free. Their father threatens devastation that no one can fathom, a Rusty weapon that appears like natural destruction and then invasion.

What Frey finds when she gets there is a mess. She learns that Rafi is gone and that she’s left everything to Frey in the meantime. she’s set up an apartment, made sure she’s taken care of, but the reasoning behind it is still a semi mystery to Frey.

That’s really what a lot of this story is about. There are semi truths or incomplete pieces of information that everyone’s working with and we don’t yet know what’s intentional, what’s accidental and what the end result here could be.

There’s so much going on that i don’t know where to start otherwise. We spend time in Paz trying to broadcast that their father is evil and is trying to take over the world, yet he’s a step ahead and while he’s destroyed the city, he appears to be the first to help build it back up. There’s a secret there that they don’t yet know the motivation behind, and when we do figure it out, there’s no surprise.

Then there’s the issue of Rafi being out in the Wild, with rebels and we don’t know what her end game is. Trying to locate her gets Frey caught by a neighboring city and held captive in the hopes of securing a stronger network of allies. When she’s freed by Col and his crew, we start to see the story speed up.

there are Easter Eggs throughout this story that trigger questions. The Paz AI tells Frey about something called ‘Iron Mountain’ but there’s no context to what it is ,where it is and what it will do. When we get to the wilds, we learn that a few people have deeper insight and it could be a key to unlocking a lot of information.

Then there’s a hint that someone that the girls know of may be in the rebels, and that there’s a key link there to Rafi’s focus on being out there. She has heard rumors and if they are true then there may be hope. The way that this specific story line plays out is so shocking though that i’m glad i assumed wrong for the bulk of the time.

We are left at a point of hope, yet a point of instability. There’s no clear direction on who will win, if their father can be bested and what that will mean to the world. Relationships continue to grow and build, and there’s something solid and sweet about each friendship and romance. The depth that we get to see psychologically with everyone is really intense as well and that’s a new feature to all of the stories that i’ve read by our amazing author.

There’s an interesting idea here that we get throughout both the Uglies and the Imposters series. Originally when you read Uglies, you see that people are never happy with what they have naturally and as a result, they surgically change or enhance everything that’s possible to change about themselves. What we learned there is that it’s not always better and sometimes tech makes things worse. What we have in this series is a tease of that since most of the modifications are now illegal, with only a few Specials remaining for example, but there’s such fear and mis information on what it was that led to the need for Surg. There’s fear of invaded privacy and that you’re never allowed to be free. It makes you wonder if this is going to be our future. The way that we enhance ourselves and the way that we allow innovative technology to watch all of our activities and even help to make life easier…..just a philosophical question today about what’s good and right and worth the stress. Ponder away until we get book 3. Enjoy!

Review: Defy Me (Shatter Me #5) by Tahereh Mafi

Title: Defy Me
Author:  Tahereh Mafi
Publisher/Year:  Harper Collins 4/2/19
Length:   352 Pages
Series:  Shatter Me #5

Overview

Juliette and Warner’s story continues in the thrilling fifth installment of Tahereh Mafi’s New York Times bestselling Shatter Me series.

Juliette Ferrars isn’t who she thinks she is.

Still reeling from the explosive events of the Continental Symposium and the secrets Warner has been keeping, Juliette has nowhere to turn and doesn’t know who she can trust. 

She’s desperate for answers, but to get them, she’ll have to face the nightmares that have been chasing her for a lifetime.

My Thoughts

WOW. honestly, let’s just start by saying WOW. Where we have gone in this 5th full length installment is a place of insanity, intrigue, lies, questionable trust, fear, love even. All of that in this compact story!

Nothing is what it seems – what happened at the symposium didn’t happen, or perhaps didn’t happen as everyone ‘saw’ it and that was done for a purpose. To make people question the stability and sanity of Juliette and to cast doubt on everything that she’s been trying to put into place. Add to that, Warner and Juliette go missing – kidnapped and it’s a race against the clock to find them.

We spend the beginning of this story still seeing relationships at a turning point. Juliette and Warner are not in a good place and while you can still feel the magnetism that pulls them together, there’s so much anger that they are pushed further and further apart. Juliette is back in a shell of her own making because of actions that were made from Warners’ direction and that scares a lot of people.

Then there’s Kenji and Nazeera – the couple that won’t admit that they are attracted to each other. It’s so nice that we can continue to see how Kenji develops following his novella. the sweet human side that we saw is really the same Kenji that we get here. Seeing how he’s not able to be tough anymore around Nazeera and how shes’ maybe willing to take a leap of faith with him, that’s makes for a great few chapters.

On top of all that relationship stuff, the way that our amazing author wrote this story is even more complex and engaging than the others. We’re used to seeing chapters change from people’s POVs but in this story we’re not only alternating who’s telling us the story, but we vary in the time that things are happening. There are memories that are coming back from when they were children, when all this started and this really lays the groundwork so that as the characters begin to see what’s been kept from them, we get to see it as well.

The key here is that there are far more friendships from childhood than anyone knew. They were friends, they were safe places, they were reasons to keep living, and yet those same reasons for crying.

When Juliette realizes that she’s an experiment, that her sister is one as well ,all that the hands of Warner’s father, and her parents – things begin to spin. FAST. Juliette is really Ella, and her sister Emmaline is the one who’s in worse shape. The girls used to be best friends with Nazeera back when they were 5 years old, and when Ella was taken from her family, Warner was there to witness it all. Even Adam had a role in this as Warner’s father kept tabs on him and pushed him into the role that he had in Ella/Juliette’s life.

This story is an insane roller coaster. People that we thought died didn’t. People that we thought were killed in past books maybe aren’t dead. People that want to die save the lives of many, and people that we love get hurt.

Omega Point isn’t safe anymore, Sector 45 isn’t safe so they are left scrambling for another place to live while everyone hatches a plan to find Warner and Juliette/Ella before it’s too late. And once they find them, depending on the shape they are in, figure out what moves to make from there.

We’re constantly debating who to trust – the Supreme Commanders’ children aren’t to be trusted, or are they? The Unnaturals (those that have special powers) find that there’s an interesting link there, and that they were all destined for a different life at the hands of someone that’s become important. Castle still knows more than he shares but never opens his mouth. Nazeera is a true wild card and continues to make us question every single thing she does, especially when ghosts pop up.

Where we are left at the end of this installment is even more uncertain. We have moments to think there may be hope for the future, but at the same time, we see that there are still so many powerful forces against them, with money and weaponry to beat them that it seems bleak. Is Ella strong enough to take control, will she and Warner reconcile? Will Castle finally share all that he knows? Will we ever get to the bottom of what the Reestablishment stands for and what can be done to bring them down? SOOO many questions and far far too long until we get the next installment to get answers. Enjoy!

Review: Shadow Me (Shatter Me #4.5) by Tahereh Mafi

Title: Shadow Me
Author:  Tahereh Mafi
Publisher/Year:  Harper Collins 3/5/19
Length:   55 Pages
Series:  Shatter Me #4.5

Overview

Juliette is still reeling from Warner’s betrayal, and Kenji is trying to balance his friendship with her with his responsibilities as a leader of the resistance against the Reestablishment. Things get even more interesting when an unexpected person from Omega Point’s past surfaces.

The ending of Restore Me left readers gasping, and this novella full of Kenji’s signature sass and big heart is the perfect story to tide fans over until Defy Me, the shocking fifth book in the Shatter Me series, hits shelves in April 2019.

My Thoughts

Every time we get a new installment, i’m reminded that it’s been a while since the previous one, and while I hate being in limbo and a bit fuzzy on details, I don’t quite have it in me to re-read everything to get fully back up to speed. So, in this novella, where we are is a bit out of sync in my mind but that’s ok. Ms Mafi does a fantastic job of grounding us in the moment in time where the world has completely turned itself upside down.

This time around we get a snippet about Kenji – what’s going on in his head personally and what he’s being left to clean up in reality. There’s always been this humor about him, the ability to make situations less dramatic, but what we find out here is that there’s even more drama and depth than we ever knew.

Juliette continues to be in such a precarious position, and Kenji takes so much of that weight on his own shoulders because he’s been closest to her for the longest time, and because it’s his nature to be overly compassionate. We see that even more so in this book, and we hear his internal monologue giving us bits of the history there to understand even more.

We really get the chance to see another side of him – the side that perhaps is covered up by all the humor that he puts out in the world. The jealous side – the part of him that wishes that he could have what everyone else seems to have – even if he has to witness first hand the pain that comes along with finding his perfect person.

This is a bit of a snack to hold us over until Defy Me comes out in about 2 weeks, we find ourselves with Kenji trying to save Juliette from the after effects of the Symposium, and Juliette then going missing – Nazeerah becoming even more a mystery and all hell breaking loose….All of this is both too much and not enough to keep the chaos on my brain at bay. I need to see what happens, who’s still alive and what impact this is going to have on the world as they know it. Enjoy!

Review: Imposters (Imposters #1) by Scott Westerfeld

Title: Imposters
Author:  Scott Westerfeld
Publisher/Year:  Scholastic 9/11/18
Length:   289 Pages
Series:  Imposters #1

Overview

Deception. Risk. Betrayal. Redemption. Master storyteller Scott Westerfeld is at the top of his game, and back to his most famous realm. A New York Times bestseller.

Frey and Rafi are inseparable . . . two edges of the same knife. But only one of them is ever seen in public.

Frey is Rafi’s twin sister-and her body double. Their powerful father has many enemies, and the world has grown dangerous as the old order falls apart. So while Rafi was raised to be the perfect daughter, Frey has been taught to kill. Her only purpose is to protect her sister, to sacrifice herself for Rafi if she must. 

When her father sends Frey in Rafi’s place as collateral in a precarious deal, she becomes the perfect impostor. But Col, the son of a rival leader, is getting close enough to spot the killer inside her . . . . 

My Thoughts

Seeing the cover of this story brings me back to a great time when I read the series that preceded this one – The Uglies. That story was ahead of it’s time with all the body mods that were possible, the reason for it, the throwback to Rusties society (which is really our time), and now we’re sort of back in it again.

Tally Youngblood was the main character in that series -a girl who did everything that she could to change how people thought about themselves and the world. She started a rebellion, and now we’re back in a time when people are primed for another rebellion, and could use her reappearance but when that doesn’t seem likely, they use her spirit.

As the summary says, Rafia and Frey are twins, half an hour apart, but worlds apart in reality. Rafia is the favorite, the one who’s meant to be the ruler and Frey is the bodyguard and the throw away. Of course though, if we haven’t learned anything in reading these types of stories – it’s always the Throw Away that has the most potential. And that’s where this story takes us.

Frey is traded to a neighboring ruling family as collateral so their father can get a hold of metal which he so desperately wants. The intention is that Frey will impersonate Rafia while she’s there so that he can get what he wants and if something goes wrong, well, then he’s only lost the spare. not the heir.

Giving Frey this kind of freedom, even though she’s essentially a prisoner, well, it’s opening her world up more than anyone could have hoped. She befriends the eldest son to the ruling family and building more than just a close friendship with him. But if Rafia isn’t what she seems, then what’s to say that Col is what he seems?

From the beginning, we’re pulled into this story from an emotional string, and then we’re kept engaged with the hope that these teens can make the world a better place. Our main characters know that how their parents rule and have raised them isn’t necessarily the best way and when they come to terms that they can be powerful as well, in a positive way, then the story explodes.

In addition to Frey and Rafia, and Col even, we have a few additional characters that truly lend good shape to the story. There’s Zura who’s a Special (if you read the other series, you would know that Specials have been modified to be military grade – stronger, faster, smarter etc). She’s proven to be incredibly helpful and perhaps one of the last remaining Victorian House Guard Specials to survive. There’s also Teo who is Col’s younger brother and a boy who’s got an interesting role in the story that we don’t fully know yet. He’s at a private boarding school in Europe when all hell breaks loose and then he goes missing and we can’t wait to see how that plays out. There’s also Col’s friend Yandre who seems to have family connections to the Rebels and we can only guess that the Rebels will be necessary (and perhaps will spawn a pop up by Tally).

What our author does well yet again is paint a picture on how societies truly divided themselves once the Rusties went away and new tech became the norm. People became far more reliant on newer and better technology to make things not only beautiful, but automated and controlled by AI etc. When that happens, as we saw in the Uglies series, people become far too reliant on things outside of themselves and society crumbles.

We go on a roller coaster with this story. Feeling heartbroken for the sisters when they are torn apart, feeling hope for Frey because she gets a chance to be someone else, and then dealing with angst and anxiety when a war breaks out and friends and loved ones are killed or torn apart. We’re left in a very precarious place at the end of this story – where one sister is forced to make a decision that can truly ruin the other one, where enemies are capturing people left and right and people are still missing. there’s almost no closure at the end of this first installment to this spin off series and that’s something that i both love and hate because i need to know more – NOW. So, on that note, i’m going to stalk Mr Westerfeld’s page to find out when the 2nd book is coming out and i’ll be back later! Enjoy!

Review: Dry by Neal Shusterman

Title: Dry
Author:  Neal Shusterman
Publisher/Year:  Simon & Shuster Publishing 11/23/18
Length:   400 Pages

Overview

When the California drought escalates to catastrophic proportions, one teen is forced to make life and death decisions for her family in this harrowing story of survival from New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman.

The drought—or the Tap-Out, as everyone calls it—has been going on for a while now. Everyone’s lives have become an endless list of don’ts: don’t water the lawn, don’t fill up your pool, don’t take long showers.

Until the taps run dry.

Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation; neighbors and families turned against each other on the hunt for water. And when her parents don’t return and her life—and the life of her brother—is threatened, Alyssa has to make impossible choices if she’s going to survive.

My Thoughts

I needed a change of pace for a bit and we all know that i’m a huge fan of dystopia, post-apocolyptic etc. so this fell right into my sweet spot. For those of you who follow what i’m reading on Goodreads, you’ll see that this has taken me FAR too long to read and that’s not a result of the book itself, but just that i haven’t been able to focus. This week though, i turned the corner and really invested my time in reading this story and i’m happy that i did.

It’s interesting how reading stories like this hit so close to home, especially since in this case especially it’s based on a scenario that’s so real and quite likely to happen if we don’t do something about consumption management now.

We find ourselves in Southern California, where the water/drought situation is so bad that neighboring states are now closing off waterways to Cali because those states are desperate as well. No one truly knows what the impact of all this will be but we quickly learn that water really is the one thing that keeps people sane and alive and without it, it’s an eat or be eaten mentality for society.

The nice way that this story is written is that we have chapters that alternate through our character’s POVs. not just two main characters, but essentially everyone that we meet. I personally enjoyed this because this is a situation that impacts different people in unique ways and seeing how it can either tear people apart or bring them together based on what they are living and feeling brings much more depth to the story.

Add to that, a variety of adjacent scenes that are happening throughout the similar surrounding areas for people who aren’t connected to our mains, and we get a really detailed and complex picture of what’s going on.

I really enjoyed how our main characters are all teens and maybe younger than teens, and even though they are faced with a situation that typically forces them to grow up quickly, they still remain acting as ‘kids’. We see some take leader roles etc, but they still act, talk and seem like kids and that’s refreshing. There are a few who take on personas that are not themselves and that comes to bite them in the end, but i think that it’s all realistic and natural.

There’s a great flow to this story – we see the initial shock and disbelief to what’s happening in the state, even though everyone knew that water was running scarce and that rationing wasn’t working. I feel like if/when this happens in reality, the exact same reactions will happen and things will sadly play out in a similar way. No one believes that things like this will happen to them, and no one prepares. (except for that one weird family down the street).

There are moments when we have hope – knowing that there is someone with survival skills around, knowing that there’s a Plan B to keep us moving towards. then there are moments of dispair when parents go missing, when the adults rebel and when they take for granted the fact that kids are more innocent and can just get things done. There’s the arc of fear and desperation when disease becomes widespread, when government doesn’t help, when hope is lost because a series of events happen to throw them off course.

The roller coaster in this story is wild and i think that if you take the time to enjoy this story – you’ll agree with that notion. I don’t know that i loved the way that this story ended – i think that it did part of the plot justice but then it did a bit of a disservice when the closure in some places seemed too easy. That’s just me though – i’m cynical and jaded and sometimes wish that things couldn’t all be wrapped in a pretty bow.

On that note – i really enjoyed this book and i’m glad that i finally just put my head down to finish it. well worth it. Enjoy!

Review: Iron Gold ( Red Rising #4) by Pierce Brown

Title: Iron Gold
Author: Pierce Brown
Publisher/Year:  Random House Publishing 1/16/18
Length:   617 Pages
Series:  Red Rising #4

Overview

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In the epic next chapter of the Red Rising Saga, the #1 bestselling author of Morning Star pushes the boundaries of one of the boldest series in fiction.

They call him father, liberator, warlord, Slave King, Reaper. But he feels a boy as he falls toward the war-torn planet, his armor red, his army vast, his heart heavy. It is the tenth year of war and the thirty-third of his life.

A decade ago Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society. But the Rising has shattered everything: Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war. Now he must risk all he has fought for on one last desperate mission. Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself?

And throughout the worlds, other destinies entwine with Darrow’s to change his fate forever:

A young Red girl flees tragedy in her refugee camp, and achieves for herself a new life she could never have imagined.

An ex-soldier broken by grief is forced to steal the most valuable thing in the galaxy—or pay with his life.

And Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile to the Sovereign, wanders the stars with his mentor, Cassius, haunted by the loss of the world that Darrow transformed, and dreaming of what will rise from its ashes.

Red Rising was the story of the end of one universe. Iron Gold is the story of the creation of a new one. Witness the beginning of a stunning new saga of tragedy and triumph from masterly New York Times bestselling author Pierce Brown.

My Thoughts 

I was the biggest fan of the original Trilogy – i couldn’t get enough of the tales of Darrow and the Howlers, the twist with Virginia and the life that they all lived once being selected for training and then trying to save civilization from  a war that no one really knew who was behind it nor the breadth or depth of it.

So when we learned that Mr Brown, our author wrote a 4th book for the story – 10+ years in the future, i was beyond excited.  I couldnt wait to see what the story would be now that we would get to see who’s still alive, what alliances are in place, and who would be fighting for which side.  What we get is that, but we also get a really weird story with so many new characters that i’m not sure that we ever learn how they are intertwined.  I”m confused.  that’s about all i can say.

We all know that it never takes me this long to read a book, even one that’s 600+ pages, so that should give you a sense of what i think.  i’m on the fence.  We come back into a world where Darrow is the still the Reaper, respected  by some, hated by many.  We see that his wife  Virginia has assumed the position of Sovereign which should be a good thing since we saw a lot of maturation from her in the original series.  But being married to Darrow puts her in a rough position where she’s either destined to be doomed, or destined to  be revered or a bit of both. then there’s Sevro and Victra in the mix as well as many others, so we are grounded in the familiar and introduced to the new.

we are given a series of alternating chapters here, many new characters that are of an age where they were too young to truly know what was going on during the other war, but have strong opinions now that they have grown up in what the world has become.

We have Ephraim and Volga who are mains in a sense, they drive the progress of one of the story lines – Ephraim being an art broker by trade, but a thief for all intents and purposes.  and where his story takes us is on a path first to earn a lot of money, and then being recruited  by the Syndicate to steal back something very  valuable, which turns out to be someone(s).  Volga is his ‘friend’ – a term i use looslely since Ephraim is a tough friend to have, yet as an Obsidian, she ties herself tight to those that she’s close to, and it proves to be a good and bad thing for him.

The other story line that we focus a lot on is that of Lysander, the grandson of Aja, the prior Sovereign who was murdered and Cassius – one of the most important mains of the first 3 books.  They are comarades of sorts but not quite friends.  They have a bond that we can only hope ultimately takes them to fight for the proper side, but in this series it’s impossible to know what’s good or not .

So you can see, there’s a bit of historical and heritage in the series that keeps us familiar with what we read all those years ago, but there’s so much new, so much that’s not truly grounded to give us a sound foundation that takes the story on a new and confusing path.

I’m still scratching my head here, but i’m glad that i read it and we all know that i’m going to read the next installment whenever it comes out because i don’t let books beat me, and i have faith that we’ll get closure to this series that’s deserved.  so enjoy – and let me know what you all think.  i wonder if you guys think differently than i do.

Review: Warcross (Warcross #1) by Marie Lu

Title: Warcross
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher/Year:  Penguin Group 9/12/17
Length:   305 Pages
Series:  Warcross #1

Overview

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty-hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

My Thoughts

I don’t know how our author does it – yet another amazingly different series – with a basis in something htat doesn’t even resemble the other series.  It’s such a great next step.

The world that we’re in now is one in the future where virtual reality is a way to escape life and it’s a necessary thing for Emi who’s now 18, alone in the world (her father died and her mother left years ago) and she’s in so much debt that she doesn’t know what’s going to happen next.  As a bounty hunter, that’s her way to make some money since she can’t quite get a job after a hacking situation that got her arrested years ago.  That same hacking is what’s about to save her life.

Warcross is the biggest thing in the world – a game that you can go pro playing and there’s a world championship each year where you can see the best of the best play in a team situation.  Emi hacks into the game just to get a high value power-up that she can sell on the black market and ends up hacking into the game itself – causing all sorts of problems.  In doing that, her life changes forever.

Her identity which she had worked so hard to keep secret is revealed to the whole world, she’s not in the press, and she gets a call from Hideo Tanaka – the creator of the game  – which she fears means her life is over.  Quite the opposite.

Hideo is an interesting character – 18, has demons and ghosts of his own, but the most successful man in the world through the development of his neurlink glasses which allow players to play the game and even see the entire world in VR.  Its intense to think about actually.  He brings Emi to Tokoyo becuase he needs her help and her ability to hack into the game shows that maybe she’s the one who can do it.

There’s someone called ‘Zero’ who’s been hacking into the game and collecting data, and Hideo needs to stop him since he doesn’t know what the end game is.  He hires Emi as a hacking bounty hunter of sorts (along with some others) who he will put into the tournament in the hopes that they can figure out who Zero is.

Through the tournament, we get to meet a lot of characters that make the story so much better.  Emi is put on the Pheonix’s – a team made up of 3 experienced players and 2 wild cards – herself and DJ Ren.  (a well known DJ).  We start to see how close the friendships are with the players and how that really keeps things going.  especially with the competitive nature of all the other teams.

Where this story goes is an interesting journey.  We don’t know who to trust – and we don’t know who’s on what side.  The friendships that grow are great and the secrets that live within Emi tear them apart.  We see an interesting romance begin and it’s something that you really root for since it humanizes a few people, but of course there’s a lot at stake for that relationship to continue.

When we learn the identity of Zero (through a glitch) (mind you i kind of figured this one out earlier on).  we see that what we thought we knew of the hack is something completely different.  The world at the end of the book is nothing like it was when we started and it’s now up to a few to change the course of actions already set in motion in the hopes of saving everyone on the world.

I’m so bummed that book 2 isn’t out already because this was really amazing to read – especially from Marie Lu – but i’ll be patient.  Enjoy!