Book Hangovers and YA Reviews

Basically I’m still book hungover from reading Sweetbitter last week – I’m trying to find the words to review it soon.  In the meantime I’m trying to get over feeling I was lost in New York in Sweetbitter by throwing myself into Celtic lore in The Last Days of Magic and maybe imperial Russia in The Crown’s Game.  I’m also going between smutty romance in Washington DC in Sustained and even Charlotte Bronte’s Fiery Heart.  While I’m trying to do justice to my new obsession here are quick reviews of two new YA series I enjoyed.   

Tell the Wind and Fire, Sarah Rees Brennan

Published April 5th 2016 by Clarion Books

Hardcover, 368 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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In a city divided between opulent luxury in the Light and fierce privations in the Dark, a determined young woman survives by guarding her secrets.

Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised.

Lucie alone knows of the deadly connection the young men share, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.

Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?

In the interest of full disclosure I haven’t read A Tale of Two Cities – but I was so intrigued by the idea of a Dickensian retelling I had to request this book.  Lucie is a child of the two cities – one light magic and one dark. She’s in love with a boy – both light and dark.  I’m all for young love but the way this relationship was treated was a bit much for me.  I know teen relationships are intense and have real feelings – but really they are teen relationships and I just don’t get it when they’re treated as adults by adults.  That being said Lucie and Ethan were sweet – but his dark side is where the promise was!  

This felt like a mash-up of urban fantasy and dystopian and I am very curious about whether it will stick more in one genre in the future.  I was really impressed with the depth of the emotion I felt in the end of this book.  I was nearly in tears as things played out between light and dark.  I will definitely continue with this series – I just have to make sure I read some Dickens before this sequel comes out!  

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The Shadow Queen, C.J. Redwine (Ravenspire #1)

Published February 16th 2016 by Balzer + Bray

Hardcover, 387 pages

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss

Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

Dragons and ogres and witches – Oh my!   When you see that cover you know this is going to be a creepy version of Snow White.  This evil queen and her apples were deliciously rotten.  I would have enjoyed some deeper world building – when did magic become such an issue in Ravenspire?  Why are the ogres attacking Eldr?  But my curiosity was piqued and I stuck with the book.  I really liked Lorelai.  She was brave and loyal and definitely kicked some booty.  Kol grows up quickly from a party boy to a king and I loved his dragon side!  I want more dragon books!  Again, the evil queen was just fantastically evil.  I think she could have been deeper – but overall this was a great light read.  I flew through the Shadow Queen.  I hope the next Ravenspire book follows the story to Eldr for this dragon – ogre business to be resolved.  Basically all the dragons for me!

Thank you Clarion Books and NetGalley and Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss for these advance copies in exchange for an honest opinion!

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Review: The Scorpion Rules

The Scorpion Rules, Erin Bow (Prisoners of Peace #1)

Published: September 22nd 2015 by Margaret K. McElderry Books

Hardcover, 384 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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A world battered by climate shift and war turns to an ancient method of keeping peace: the exchange of hostages. The Children of Peace – sons and daughters of kings and presidents and generals – are raised together in small, isolated schools called Preceptures. There, they learn history and political theory, and are taught to gracefully accept what may well be their fate: to die if their countries declare war.

Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan-Polar Confederation, is the pride of the North American Precepture. Learned and disciplined, Greta is proud of her role in keeping the global peace, even though, with her country controlling two-thirds of the world’s most war-worthy resource — water — she has little chance of reaching adulthood alive.

Enter Elián Palnik, the Precepture’s newest hostage and biggest problem. Greta’s world begins to tilt the moment she sees Elián dragged into the school in chains. The Precepture’s insidious surveillance, its small punishments and rewards, can make no dent in Elián, who is not interested in dignity and tradition, and doesn’t even accept the right of the UN to keep hostages.

What will happen to Elián and Greta as their two nations inch closer to war?

I thought I was done reading any new dystopian series, but for some reason I felt compelled to request Erin Bow’s debut from NetGalley. Such a smart decision on my part!  This book was excellent!  I was having a really bad day and thankfully Stormy at Book Blog Bake was tweeting about this book and I decided to start reading.  I nearly couldn’t put this book down!

We meet Talis in the beginning.  Talis is the artificial intelligence who decides that “he” has had enough of watching humans blow each other up and takes everything under his own control.  Talis has control over the Children of Peace – the children of every world leader.  When two nations decide to go to war, their kings, queens, presidents or living deities do so with the knowledge that they first have just put their own child to death.  Talis sounds like a horrible evil entity but he’s really thoughtful, and trying to actually save as many lives as possible.  At the same time Talis kind of made me think of this….

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Then we meet Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan-Polar Confederation, who has been raised knowing her death could come at any time along with the death of one of her friends.  I was reluctant at first to like Greta too much – knowing she could die basically from page 1 – but she was so brave despite her fears, strong in the face of terror, loyal, and so damn smart.  I loved that the Precepture she’s been raised at is full of children from all over the world.  These kids are all hopefully future world leaders so it’s only fitting that they’re of all race, religion and political beliefs.  

The description about this book sets you up to think Greta is coming into an epic love story with a new student in the face of a war but oh no there was so much more!   This book went way deeper into questions of love than I expected and choices were made that I never saw coming.  I would not have thought I would become so emotionally wrapped up in questions of artificial intelligence ever but Bow had me enthralled.  This book was about friendship and sexuality, about sacrifice and duty all in a terrifying future in which we fight over water.  

I cannot wait to see where Bow goes with the next book!  What is Talis going to do next?  I need to know!  Read this because I need someone to talk to about this book!  

5 stars!

Thank you Margaret K. McElderry Books and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Two Books Called Feed

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In M.T. Anderson’s Feed, the future is a place where 73% of Americans have “feeds” embedded into their brains, which allow personalized advertisements and entertainment to reach directly into the brain. School™ is run by corporations and primarily teaches kids how to use their feeds. Titus, our narrator and main character, doesn’t read or do a lot of thinking for himself.

They had built a pretty nice stucco mall there, so Loga and Quendy said we should go in and buy some cool stuff to go out in. That seemed good to us. I wanted to buy some things but I didn’t know what they were.

In Mira Grant’s Feed, the world is twenty-some years past the start of the Rising – in which a medical advance gone wrong means that everyone on earth has the potential to become a zombie, either through contact with a zombie or via the virus that lies dormant in everyone. On the plus side, cancer has been cured, so the cigarette companies are back on top. Georgia, our narrator and main character, is a blogger following the 2040 presidential campaign.

I’ve encountered his type before, usually at political protests. They’re the sort who would rather we paved the world and shot the sick, instead of risking life being unpredictable and potentially risky. In another time, they were anti-Semitic, antiblack, antiwomen’s liberation, anti-gay, or all of the above. Now, they’re antizombie in the most extreme way possible, and they use their extremity to claim that the rest of us are somehow supporting the “undead agenda.”

In Anderson’s Feed, the world – as experienced by Titus – is reduced to unchecked, all-encompassing consumerism.

It smelled like the country. It was a filet mignon farm, all of it, and the tissue spread for miles around the paths where we were walking. It was like these huge hedges of red all around us, with these beautiful marble patterns running through them. They had these tubes, they were bring the tissue blood, and we could see the blood running around, up and down. It was really interesting. I like to see how things are made, and to understand where they come from.

In Grant’s Feed, the world – as described by Georgia – is reduced to living in constant fear. While (non-implanted) internet feeds are still full of “porn, music download, and movie tie-in sites,” Georgia and her readers rely on her words.

My material rarely depends on graphics. I don’t need to concern myself with camera angles, lighting, or whether the footage I use gets my point across. At the same time, they say a pictures is worth a thousand words, and in today’s era of instant gratification and high-speed answers, sometimes people aren’t willing to deal with all those hard words when a few pictures supposedly do the job just as well. It’s harder to sell people on a report that’s just news without pictures or movies to soften the blow. I have to find the heart of every subject as fast as I can, pin it down on the page, and then cut it wide open for the audience to see.

These two futures are both terrifying – and Anderson and Grant both include just enough details that you could almost see either of them playing out. I don’t want to live in either of these futures, but if I had to choose, I’d probably opt for the zombies and maintaining control of my brain.

Grant’s Feed is book one of a triology, and you better believe that I’ll be reading two and three soon. Unless the zombies get me first.

Anderson’s Feed is all the more remarkable when you realize it was published in 2002. So basically, M.T. Anderson invented Facebook, eh? Also, perhaps my favorite moment in this book is when the kids start showing up in Riot Gear, as a fashion statement: “it’s retro. It’s beat up to look like one of the big twentieth-century riots. It’s been big since earlier this week.” This includes, I kid you not, one of the girls asking another, “Kent State collection, right?” It’s like Anderson predicted this infamous clothing item from 2014.

Resist the feed.

 

 

Review: Dualed and Divided

Dualed, Elsie Chapman (Dualed #1)

Amanda

Published February 26th 2013 by Random House

292 pages

Source: ARC won from the amazing Cuddlebuggery

From Goodreads

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In the city of Kersh, everyone must eliminate their genetic Alternate twin, raised by another family, before their twentieth birthday. West Grayer, 15, has trained as a fighter, and has one month to hunt and kill her Alt. A tragic misstep shakes her confidence. Guilty, grieving, she feels unworthy, runs from her Alt and from love – both can destroy her.

This was an intense read!  First thing to know is that the people of Kersh are sterile.  To start a family a couple has to go to The Board where a test tube baby is created from this couple and from the next couple to come in.  Both mothers are then impregnated with a genetically identical baby.  So each child born has genetic Alternate –and each set of parents knows that their child will kill or be killed by this Alternate one day.  WTF.

I basically had to block that background out to be able to get into Dualed.  How could you choose to have a child that has to fight to his or her death before the age of 21?

So put all that aside and accept that 15 year-old West is just waiting for the day she is notified its time to kill her Alt- or be killed.  Kersh needs to have only the strongest survive so that if the city is attacked from The Surround the military is prepared.

This book was cold! Deaths were happening around West all the time and it seemed as though people never even looked up.  West is surrounded by ghosts.  Her parents are gone, her siblings have been dying off one at a time as well as her friends. You kind of have to feel for her right away because she has nearly no one else.  While West has lived her life knowing she has to fight to the death, she’s still not anything like a teenage assassin nun.  She’s a pretty normal girl who is just trying to figure out how to live.  She acts based on her feelings and she doesn’t always make the best decisions.

I struggled a little bit with the romance in this book.  I didn’t feel it at the beginning, then all of a sudden BAM – West is supposed to have this deep love for her brother’s best friend Chord.  I wanted something more to see where that love came from or some history.  I would have liked to see West’s Alt herself more. Maybe it would have humanized her too much?  It definitely would have made this a more emotional read.

In the end, I was totally invested in West and her fight to stay alive. I would give Dualed 3 stars, but I say suspend your disbelief and start reading.  I stayed up until midnight to read this just so I could start Divided, the sequel, on my morning commute. Divided was even better!  Stop now if you don’t want spoilers.

Here’s my review:

Divided, Elsie Chapman (Dualed #2)

Published May 27th 2014 by Random House Books for Young Readers

320 pages

Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads…

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The hunter becomes the hunted. . . .

West Grayer is done killing. She defeated her Alternate, a twin raised by another family, and proved she’s worthy of a future. She’s ready to move on with her life.

The Board has other plans. They want her to kill one last time, and offer her a deal worth killing for. But when West recognizes her target as a ghost from her past, she realizes she’s in over her head. The Board is lying, and West will have to uncover the truth of the past to secure her future.

How far will the Board go to keep their secrets safe? And how far will West go to save those she loves?

Wow.

While West hasn’t fully recovered from the experiences she had leading up to killing her Alt she does think she’s done with the Board.  She has a job and is living her dream of art school.  She’s also in therapy to try to close the door on what she’s done and find some peace to move forward.  She’s a much more mature character than we followed in Dualed.  West is done with killing-and then she gets an offer that she really can’t refuse.

West really tries to go it alone on this, but I was so glad she wasn’t as martyring as some heroines can be (cough cough Tris) and that she chose to go to Chord and to her friends for help.  I was so intrigued by Baer and Dire in Dualed so I was really glad to get their history and to see them in action. I was half in love with Chord myself by the end of this book! He was fantastic.  Not an overbearing love interest, just kick ass in his own way.

We finally get the history of Kersh so I while I still didn’t like what was going on in Chapman’s world, I felt a bit less confused while reading and I was better able to just read without questioning.  I still didn’t love that part of it-but it was easier to just go with it with some background.

The action did not stop until the book ended and I was tense the whole time.  Fans of the Divergent series or Hunger Games should definitely check these out.  West felt so much more more real than Katniss or Tris did to me.

4 stars!

Thank you Random House Children’s and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!