Tag Archives: action

Late to the Party ARC Review – All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1) by Ally Carter

22571275Title:  All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1)

Author: Ally Carter

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis:  Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her — so there’s no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.

Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can’t control Grace — no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn’t stop it, Grace isn’t the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

Huge thank you to Scholastic Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

When I was at OLA back in January, I remember being handed an ARC for All Fall Down by a Scholastic Canada representative. I have never read an Ally Carter book, but many of my bookish and blogger friends all say she’s a fun read, and great for getting out of reading flunks. Considering this was my first book by her, I can say it likely won’t be my last because this book was a ton of fun.

Sometimes you just want a read a book that sweeps you through the story in a fast-paced way. It’s crazy, ridiculous, stuff is constantly happening, and this book is exactly that. The plot is constantly moving, you don’t get a breather, but you don’t mind because the story is just that engaging. In a lot of ways, readingAll Fall Down reminded me a lot of the television showsRevenge and Homeland. It’s the story of a young girl desperate to find the person who murdered her mother, but it still has all the elements of being a political charged story. Carter keeps the narrative moving at lightning speeds, and it helps considering how the events within the novel are laid out. Everything felt very well-plotted, carefully laid out, but with a ton of action and intrigue. I’m aware that Carter has written a lot of spy novels, and she definitely has a knack for it.

The one thing that drove me a bit crazy with this story was Grace, our heroine. At times she felt a little too one-note, because she basically spends a lot of the novel obsessing over a man she is convinced killed her mother. Grace is completely fixated, focused and obsessed, but she comes across lacking in other personality traits, which is odd given the rest of the characters in the story. I adored Rosie, Megan and Noah, and felt like in terms of characters, they contributed so much more than Grace did. Also Alexei was quite interesting, given his political position against Grace, even he had more personality than Grace did.

It was also weird to read a YA novel that didn’t have a romance. I mean, you get a sense that Grace is likely going to hook up with either Noah or Alexei at some point in the series, but I appreciate how much of this novel felt like “strictly business” and I was happy to see that no romance had been shoehorned in, because after completing it, it just would have came too out of left-field in my opinion. Sometimes it’s just nice to not have a romance in a story, especially when there’s nothing developing towards it.

I loved what a quick read this book was, and I do have Heist Society in my collection that I think I may now need to bump up in the ranks. Ally Carter is just such a fun writer and I totally understand why my friends like to read her books when they are in a funk — they are just crazy, and ridiculous, but you don’t mind because the ride is just so engaging. I’ll definitely be checking out book two when it releases next January.

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ARC Review – Lies I Told by Michelle Zink

20983351Title: Lies I Told

Author: Michelle Zink

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Grace Fontaine has everything: beauty, money, confidence, and the perfect family. But it’s all a lie.

Grace has been adopted into a family of thieves who con affluent people out of money, jewelry, art, and anything else of value. Grace has never had any difficulty pulling off a job, but when things start to go wrong on the Fontaines’ biggest heist yet, Grace finds herself breaking more and more of the rules designed to keep her from getting caught…including the most important one of all: never fall for your mark.

Huge thank you to HarperTeen and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

I LOVED this book and could not put it down! I was initially drawn to it because I love things with con artists (huge fan of the TV shows White Collar and Leverage). I was a little skeptical going into it because I was wondering how realistic it was going to be buuuuut it was awesome. It had a similar vibe to a book I loved last year, Kiss, Kill, Vanish so if you liked that book you’ll dig this one too.

Grace and her family are con artists. They find a target, work the mark and then take them for all their worth. I was SO worried that this was going to be crazy fake and that I’d have to suspend my belief A LOT or just roll my eyes a lot. I did neither. Grace and her brother, Parker, are adopted. When they were introduced to the grifter life they were both coming from horrible foster care situations and this just seemed SO much better. Money, glamour, power. What scared, lonely, poor, abused pre-teen wouldn’t want that? This set up just worked for me. And trust me their parents, awful people.

But to Grace, they’re her parents and this life is MUCH better than the one she left. Parker is dark and broody and has scars that he doesn’t talk about. It’s quite obvious that he’s doing it to make sure that he’ll never have to want for anything ever again. He’s saving his money so that he can get out. And Grace, she does it because she’s good at it. And it’s all she’s ever really known that makes her happy. She loves her parents (despite them being really awful people, they are good-ish parents) and doesn’t hate their life.

After having pulled off a number of jobs as a family, Grace and Parker are moved to Southern California where their mark is a wealthy man who has over 20 million in gold hidden on his estate. Grace has to get close to the son to infiltrate and find the gold, but she doesn’t count on falling for him. Making real friends, and enjoying living a “real” life. She starts to question if what she’s doing is right or wrong, and who it’s hurting. Parker is getting darker and darker, more unstable and he’s begging Grace to get out with him.

I loved Grace’s character growth. She really does evolve in this book and at the end when things fall apart she’s left questioning everything that she’s learned and ever known.

Things I loved about this: the writing and the pacing. It snaps along and I found myself instantly drawn in. I couldn’t put this book down and found myself FLYING through the last 40% because I had to know how things were going to go down. The characters: Everyone was so real. They were flawed, loveable, hateable, and at times I even felt really sad (especially for the guy they were robbing) for some of them. This so easily could have been a story about cookie-cutter California stereotypical rich kids, but it wasn’t. And they weren’t.

The ending was left pretty open and there are a lot of things that didn’t get resolved so there BETTER be another book because I NEED to know what happens!!!!

Joint ARC Review: The 100 & 21 Days by Kass Morgan

17333779Title:  The 100

Author: Kass Morgan

Rating: ★★

Synopsis: Ever since a devastating nuclear war, humanity has lived on spaceships far above Earth’s radioactive surface. Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents — considered expendable by society — are being sent on a dangerous mission: to recolonize the planet. It could be their second chance at life…or it could be a suicide mission.

CLARKE was arrested for treason, though she’s haunted by the memory of what she really did. WELLS, the chancellor’s son, came to Earth for the girl he loves — but will she ever forgive him? Reckless BELLAMY fought his way onto the transport pod to protect his sister, the other half of the only pair of siblings in the universe. And GLASS managed to escape back onto the ship, only to find that life there is just as dangerous as she feared it would be on Earth.

Confronted with a savage land and haunted by secrets from their pasts, the hundred must fight to survive. They were never meant to be heroes, but they may be mankind’s last hope.

Huge thank you to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for these ARCs!

Sam’s Review:

This book had so much potential, and yet it was so vague and nonsensical at the same time. I wanted so much more for this story than I got — I was hoping for a story about survival, struggles, crime, and post-apocalyptic goodness — or at least that is what is advertised. This book was a glorified “science fiction” romance novel, which is not a bad thing if that is what you are expecting. Since the book doesn’t advertise this part, well, that’s really what your getting… and then the science fiction kaboomy part at the end.

Everything about this world is vague, which is really frustrating. We don’t get a sense of what kind of dystopian world the story has or entirely what the issues are. Yes it’s about repopulating Earth since it’s completely inhabitable, and yes let’s send some criminal teens to see if it can produce life, but that’s really all we get! Furthermore, Clarke is perfect in every way and all the boys love her and that is apparently characterization. Seriously, everyone was either super perfect or very vapid in terms of personality and again, it’s a case of wanting more than what you get. I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters, which is never a good sign.

You know what kept me reading though? This is a total popcorn book. One that is so insane and ridiculous that you cannot stop reading because everything keeps getting crazier. I mean, there is so much romantic dramalama and admittedly, that for me was entertaining. Plus the book is an easy read and surprisingly a page-turner, even if it isn’t very good. Admittedly, it also makes me want to watch the television show just to see if all of the romantic aspects get amplified into intense steamy teen dramaland.

Admittedly, The 100 isn’t very good. If you wanted an easy popcorn read, then it’s perfect for those seeking a mindless experience. Those who are looking for a book to be more stimulating on the science fiction front should steer clear.


 

20454076Title:  The 100: 21 Days

Author: Kass Morgan

Rating: ★★ 1/2

Synopsis: It’s been 21 days since the hundred landed on Earth. They’re the only humans to set foot on the planet in centuries…or so they thought. Facing an unknown enemy, Wells attempts to keep the group together. Clarke strikes out for Mount Weather, in search of other Colonists, while Bellamy is determined to rescue his sister, no matter the cost. And back on the ship, Glass faces an unthinkable choice between the love of her life and life itself.
In this pulse-pounding sequel to Kass Morgan’s The 100, secrets are revealed, beliefs are challenged, and relationships are tested. And the hundred will struggle to survive the only way they can — together.

Sam’s Review:

So, admittedly, this book was much better than the first one. In a lot of ways, that’s still not saying much. Again, it’s still very much a page-turner and it’s definitely popcorn fiction, and while I completely devoured this book, I’m still at a loss for words as what I’d even say is enjoyable about it.

Since this is a direct sequel, you can’t jump right into Day 21. There’s just as much melodrama here as there was in the first book, but I will give this one more credit than the first — the characters felt a lot more fleshed out in this instalment, and were much less shallow than what we got prior. The book also fixed another issue I had with the first, which was the world-building. This book is mostly set on Earth and we get so much more world-building this time, and yet… Morgan leaves us with more questions, someone which are confusing, perhaps?

A lot of the “surprises” in this book felt so predictable and tacked on, particularly when it comes to the Wells/Clarke/Bellamy love-triangle. In fact, I totally predicted the big spoiler with these two, but my hope was that Morgan wouldn’t go in that direction, and did. I still don’t entirely understand the appeal of Clarke as a love interest considering she still has some of the weakest development. I’d even argue Wells and Bellamy got a bigger boost to characterization than she did, which is kind of a shame since she’s one of the most important characters.

To be frank, a lot of the characters still don’t gel with me. I really don’t get the relationship between Glass and Luke, especially considering how horrible a person Glass is (and how much the book ADMITS she’s a horrible person). The melodrama between all of the leads was just too much at times, and I was really annoyed by the fact that the ending is the only time we get some information about the Earthborns. Otherwise, it’s more “Here’s the Hundred fighting. Here’s the Hundred making out” and I wish I could say I was fine with that, but I need more work with! When the book was focusing on the science fiction aspects, I did want to know more, but like the first book, it still felt like only a sliver of the actual plot that was happening.

I’m not sure if I will read the next book in this series (providing their is one), but I still have this crazy desire to watch the show, if just to see how they approach the science fiction aspects and the CW-style melodrama. This series is really an odd duck, but chances are if you loved the first book or the show, you’ll probably love this sequel as well.

ARC Review – The Rise of Aurora West by Paul Pope, J.T. Petty & David Rubín

18465567Title:  The Rise of Aurora West

Author: Paul Pope, J.T Petty, and David Rubin

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: The extraordinary world introduced in Paul Pope’s Battling Boy is rife with monsters and short on heroes… but in this action-driven extension of the Battling Boy universe, we see it through a new pair of eyes: Aurora West, daughter of Arcopolis’s last great hero, Haggard West. A prequel toBattling Boy, The Rise of Aurora West follows the young hero as she seeks to uncover the mystery of her mother’s death, and to find her place in a world overrun with supernatural monsters and all-too-human corruption. With a taut, fast-paced script from Paul Pope and JT Petty and gorgeous, kinetic art from David Rubin, The Rise of Aurora West(the first of two volumes) is a tour de force in comics storytelling.

Huge thank you to First Second for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I recently read Battling Boy before it’s Eisner win, and I have to say, it’s definitely one of the more cheeky superhero-esque stories out there. Battling Boy is actually a young boy who behaves like a young boy, and admittedly, that’s where my greatest enjoyment came from the story. Colour me excited when the prequel The Rise of Aurora West appeared in my mailbox.

Aurora’s story is mostly hinted at in Battling Boy and isn’t fully fleshed out. Here, we get a huge glimpse into Aurora’s life and relationship with her father, the great hero Haggard West. Aurora was my favourite character in the previous story so I was delighted to hear she was getting a two book prequel that follows her story. She’s such a kick-ass, no nonsense kinda gal, but we do see a softer side to her character, especially in relation to the closeness of her father, which I adored. I thought that was so wonderfully woven into the story and I genuinely found myself caring about Aurora and Haggard’s relationship.

There’s also an awesome amount of action in this book and it’s very fast-paced and page-turning. Furthermore, the monster designs are really fun and creepy, though considering my ARC was in black and white, I’d be interested to see how the colouring is going to look like once the final version is out. If you lovedBattling Boy, you’ll definitely enjoy this prequel, and I know for me personally, I’m going to have a hard time waiting for the next instalment of this to drop. Highly recommend for those who love war torn worlds and action-oriented storytelling.

ARC Review – The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew

18465601Title:  The Shadow Hero

Author: Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: In the comics boom of the 1940s, a legend was born: the Green Turtle. He solved crimes and fought injustice just like the other comics characters. But this mysterious masked crusader was hiding something more than your run-of-the-mill secret identity… The Green Turtle was the first Asian American super hero.

The comic had a short run before lapsing into obscurity, but the acclaimed author of “American Born Chinese,” Gene Luen Yang, has finally revived this character in “Shadow Hero,” a new graphic novel that creates an origin story for the Green Turtle.

Huge thank you to First Second for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I LOVE Gene Luen Yang’s stories. There’s something about them that stays with me after I complete something he writes — he always seems to ask the reader to have an open-mind when participating in one of his worlds. This time, however, we have a world that isn’t entirely his own, but with the help of Sonny Liew, they give a neglected Golden Age hero the treatment he deserves.

First off, I adored the origin story presented in this graphic novel for the Green Turtle. I love that Hank is completely pressured by his tiger mom to become a superhero because it would give him the fame and glory that she feels he deserves in some ways. His family comes from humble beginnings, though his father was possessed by a spirit, which was then “passed down” to Hank. The Green Turtle may not have any notable powers, but he’s awesome at avoiding bullets, so that’s something right?

I really enjoyed the interaction between the characters in this story, particularly the relationship between Hank and his father. There is such a genuine level of respect between the two of them and its wonderfully portrayed. You get a sense that all the characters in the story are harmoniously woven together without having to question why a character just appears in the story (like some comics do). Plus, Sonny Liew’s artwork does an amazing job of capturing all the emotion and zaniness within the story.

I admittedly had never heard of the Green Turtle until after I had read this comic. I loved and appreciated Yang and Liew’s origin story for this forgotten hero, and I feel like they did it in such a way to remind readers about how Golden Age comics lacked a sense of diversity (or at least feared it). Hank and his family are completely unforgettable and the history lesson to take from this comic alone makes it worth being checked out.

ARC Review – Divided by Elise Chapman

13649079Title:  Divided

Author: Elise Chapman

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: 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? With nonstop action and surprising twists, Elsie Chapman’s intoxicating sequel to Dualed reveals everything

Huge thank you to Random House BFYR and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I’ve been mulling for days over what I want to say aboutDivided. Truthfully, I was simply ‘okay’ with Dualed and I found that while this book was better, I never found myself in love or into what I was reading. The world building still feels drab and confusing (but surprisingly much clearer than the previous book), the characters still feel one-note, but at least the story still had engaging parts… I just wish it had been engaging the full amount of time.

West is still aggravating, and while I get that she is not the best decision maker, I found myself grumbling many a times. I did appreciate that West was trying to redeem herself and that she didn’t want to be associated with being a murderer any more — but she really never catches a break. However, it’s a tad ridiculous how fast things move and the explanations often feel unclear as to where the plot is going or what is happening. 

I’m not going to lie, I was so proud of myself for remembering some of the abbreviations in this book because the first book was terrible at reminding the reader of what the abbreviations meant. I think Chapman took much more time to explain aspects of the story in this book better than she did in the previous and I love it when author’s attempt to create more clarity for the reader. Considering how vague her world building was previously, this book was much better considering she did a lot of re-establishing, but this also gave us more telling and not enough showing.

At the end of the day, this series is one I can see many teens gravitating towards because it has the right amount of action and a heroine who is pretty easy to cheer for. The other characters are not bad, I just didn’t find a lot of them as memorable as our plucky heroine. Still, I wanted more of this series, I wanted to stay engaged from start to finish and unfortunately, while this book is still inherently better than the first, I need more from it to keep coming back. That being said, I think Chapman’s writing greatly improved in this instalment and I’m still curious as to see where her next novel takes her.