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ARC Review – This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman, Meagan Spooner

22082300Title: This Shattered World

Author: Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis:  Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met. Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet’s rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the rebels. Rebellion is in Flynn’s blood. His sister died in the original uprising against the powerful corporations that terraformed Avon. These corporations make their fortune by terraforming uninhabitable planets across the universe and recruiting colonists to make the planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion. Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war. As Flynn and Lee attempt to uncover the truth about Avon, they realize that there is a conspiracy on the planet that runs deeper than either of them could imagine, one that Lee’s former commander Tarver Merendsen only scratched scratcehd the surface of two years ago. The stunning second novel in the Starbound series is an unforgettable story of love and forgiveness in a world torn apart by war.

Huge thank you to Disney Hyperion and Netgalley for an advance copy of this book!

Sam’s Review: 

This book. So much better than the first one, in my opinion. That’s not to say I didn’t love the politics and Lilac and Tarver’s struggles, it’s just Jubilee and Flynn really can steal a show. In fact, this book doesn’t have the pacing issues I felt in the first book, as this one starts fast and keeps its rapid pace throughout. The book also ties in smartly to the previous one, no hole or stone unturned. Having Tarver and Lilac appear was pretty fantastic and I’m glad to see their growth since book one.

But yeah, this book and I got along SO WELL. I really cared about the conflict and the surrounding politics, and the story never felt bloated. Every piece of the story felt like it needed to be there. Plus, Jubilee. She may be the best of the four protagonists so far — she’s easy to fall in love with and you want to cheer for her throughout the story. When things get hard for her, you want to tell her to pull up her pants and fight through it. I love having a character to cheer for, especially a main character who is as flawed as she is. I loved Jubilee, even in her impulses and struggles. I loved her and I could go on and on about why I think she’s wonderful. Flynn, however, took some warming up to. I loved his attitude, but he is NO JUBILEE!

I think what I love about this series is that the dual points of view work so well and the voices are very distinctive. Each plot line has its own players who have a role to accomplish and each person has their own vision of what Avon should be like. It makes for good conflict, and I liked how Kaufman and Spooner really took the time to ensure that both sides of the story were woven well together.

I feel like I’m having a hard time describing this book, but it’s really because I adored it. These characters and this world were something I felt intimidate connection with, and I was so happy to just enjoy the ride.

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ARC Review – Caged Warrior by Alan Lawrence Sitomer

17323431Title:  Caged Warrior

Author: Alan Lawrence Sitomer

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: McCutcheon Daniels’ life is full of bone-cracking violence. As a star fighter in the gritty underground Mixed Martial Arts circuit in the poorest section of Detroit, McCutcheon fights under the tutelage of his volatile and violent father, not so much for himself but to survive as protector of his beloved five-year old sister, Gemma. We get to know McCutcheon as he battles opponents who are literally trying to kill him. 

River’s Review:

Huge thank you to Disney Hyperion for letting me read this advanced copy. I’m writing this honest review to say thank you!

I. LOVED. THIS. Everything but the ending. And the ending might be okay if there’s going to be another book (THERE HAD BETTER BE ANOTHER BOOK OMFG).

So, this is probably not the type of thing most people would think I would read. But most of you probably don’t know how much I love action movies, hand-to-hand fighting, and boxing. So a story about a teen mixed martial arts CAGE fighter in downtown Detroit? Hell. Yes. I was there. (if you don’t know I’m from Michigan so I feel some pride for D-town despite not being from that side of the state).

This book has so many things going for it. Male POV, non-white MC, takes place in the freaking murder capital, deals with some seriously tough subjects (I was HEARTBROKEN over the child prostitution part (no, there’s no actual prostitution, but there is a part where he’s searching for his sister and runs across a pimp who… pimps out kids. It was so sick. And yes, the MC kicked the guys face in) Totally heartbroken that that kind of thing happens in this world, let alone someplace I’ve been to), and had just such a unique premise.

McCutcheon, M.D., Doc, Bam-Bam. Our MC goes by many names, but which person is he? McCutcheon: the inner-city kid with straight-A’s, M.D.: teen-fighter-prodigy, Doc- the best older brother in the WORLD, or Bam-Bam: fierce cage fighter with the KILLA INSTINCT. He’s a mix of them all and he’s struggling to figure out who he is, how to provide for his sister, how to keep his head above water with his father and the gang that runs the city and his life…

McCutcheon’s father is awful. Just terrible. He was probably once a good man, but money and drugs can do a lot of terrible things to a person, and make that person do terrible things. And his father has. He’s basically sold McCutcheon out to the gang that runs Detroit (the Preists) and he has to fight to make money for the family and keep his sister fed. When McCutcheon’s science teacher sees potential in him and helps him get an opportunity to attend a better school, one where he’d have a future outside of the streets and the cage, McCutcheon starts to see a different future for himself, but then his father kidnaps his sister (and McCutcheon fears that his sister has been sold…) so he finally seeks out help.

I loved seeing McCutcheon’s struggled inside and outside of the ring. I loved how sure of himself he was, but that he also knew when to let others help him. I loved how he moved heaven and earth for his sister. I loved the light romance he had with a girl from his new school, and his happy ending. But man… the very end… (view spoiler) So yeah… I wasn’t a fan of that, and I am PRAYING for a sequel!

Dark, gritty, violent, this is so different and fresh and I loved it so much.

ARC Review – Alienated by Melissa Landers

13574417Title: Alienated

Author: Melissa Landers

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2 / ★★★★

Synopsis:  Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them. Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket. Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking. But when Cara’s classmates get swept up by anti-L’eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn’t safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara’s locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class.

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she’s fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.

Huge thank you to the publisher for letting me read this advanced copy. Writing this honest review to say thank you!

River’s Review (4.5 Stars)


I really really enjoyed this! It’s a super light sci-fi, almost more of a contemporary than a full blown sci-fi novel. I loved the balance between the romance, the sci-fi elements, and the action. I also really liked ALL of the characters. Sure there were a few side characters that were stereotypical, but that didn’t really bother me so much.

So, we have Cara, your over-achieving high school student who ends up getting selected to host an alien in an intergalactic study abroad! I loved this so much because I did study abroad and lived with a host family so I could totally connect with Aelyx about that. Not being able to eat the food, not understanding how to act in a family you don’t really know, or in a culture you don’t fully understand. I think I would have liked to have seen a LITTLE more culture shock… but overall it didn’t feel too unrealistic. I also liked that Cara was there with him every step of the way.

Aelyx and Cara were both great. Cara’s a fireball and she’s not only smart but totally reasonable. She doesn’t let people walk all over her, and she stood up for what she believed in. There was a point where it all got too much for her and she broke down, but even then she didn’t wallow around in self pity, and she was able to bounce back pretty quickly.

Aelyx… swoon! I love guys like him. He started off super stand-off-ish and kind of a jerk, but he slowly came around and by the end he’d really changed and grown a lot. I loved seeing how he developed into from an emotionless void into this really caring guy who would do anything for Cara. And while I didn’t like all of his lies, I did like that he was a redeemable character.

The writing in this was SO good. It’s filled with humor and snappy one-liners (there was ONE place that I felt they were a bit too much) that had me smiling and laughing even when things were a bit grim. I also liked that this wasn’t from first person POV, and while the POVs were alternating, it wasn’t like alternating chapters or anything (which I really don’t like), so we were able to see things from both Cara and Aelyx’s POVs.

The romance really worked for me. No insta-love here! Sure he’s super hot (he IS a clone created from a selective breading program…) but Cara doesn’t let that determine her feelings for him. Things built very slowly and while there was one really dramatic point that kinda made me roll my eyes (and bumped it down half a star) Cara didn’t put up with Aelyx’s shit and I LOVED that!

Good writing, solid characters, fun world. I really loved this, and as one of my most anticipated reads of 2014 I’m really glad that I did!

Sam’s Review (4 Stars)

I wish I could say Alienated was a guilty pleasure or something, but it wasn’t. This book is just so freakin’ fun and the writing works SO WELL in its funness (not a word, I know!). It’s just a difficult book to describe because it does have it’s moments of corny and cheesy, but I didn’t care. I didn’t care because the world, the characters, and their interactions were SO FUN (yes that seems to be the word of the review, shoot me).

I loved the interaction in this books. The characters were wonderfully awkward and had to grow into their skins, particularly Cara and Aelyx, who were so snarky at each other. I actually liked how the romance actually took effort — they got to know each other, it wasn’t love at first sight, none of the stereotypes you come to expect from YA. Aelyx is a tool for most of this book, but he’s got very obvious faults that make his toolishness a bit easier to understand. I quite loved his character more than I normally would. I didn’t like Cara right away, but she really grew on me as the story went on and I like how she transforms in the end. She’s pretty damn funny too.

This book is not amazing, but it’s hard for me to pinpoint what I actually don’t like about it. The ride was exciting, fast, engaging, and fun. Alienated doesn’t feel like a sci-fi story at all, but the elements are there and when they are there they are noticeable and don’t really detract. I did at times forget that Aelyx was an alien though! This book reads so much more like a good contemporary novel than a sci-fi story.

So yeah, this book is hilarious and fun. Alienated may win my award of most fun I’ve had in awhile reading YA (which is a feat considering all the sad YA books I seem to keep reading as of late!). Read it, laugh with it, and have fun.

Books We’re Excited For Releasing in 2014

River and I are totally trapped under a pile of books at the moment, but that doesn’t me we aren’t excited to read more. Today we’re going to share our Top Five that we are most excited to get our grubby hands on.

River’s Top Five:

13518102

1) Salvage, by Alexandra Duncan (Greenwillow)

2) Tease, by Amanda Maciel (Balzer + Bray)

3) (Don’t You) Forget About Me, by by Kate Karyus Quinn (Harper Teen)

4) After the End, by Amy Plum (Harper Teen)

5) Alienated, by Melissa Landers (Disney Hyperion)

Sam’s Top Five:

18599748

1) Guy in Real Life, by Steve Brezenoff  (Balzer + Bray)

2) Dorothy Must Die, by Danielle Paige (Harper Teen)

3) Prisoner of Night and Fog, by Anne Blankman (Balzer + Bray)

4)  The Rule of Three, by Eric Walters (Razorbill Canada)

5) (Don’t You) Forget About Me, by by Kate Karyus Quinn (Harper Teen)

So these are the books that River and I are beyond excited about. One treat I will let you in on is that “Guy in Real Life” is going to be participating in an upcoming feature over at RPGamer.com (video games in a book blog? How dare you, Sam!), so there will be a few goodies related to that one that will likely be cross-posted to here.

Coming up River and I are going to share our Top Five Favourite Books that we read in 2013. Keep in mind they may be actual 2013 releases, or just books we finally got to within the year. In the comments let us know what 2014 releases you’re excited for and why you simply cannot wait for them!

ARC Review – These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

18296615Title:  These Broken Stars
Author: Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: It’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone. 

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help. 

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Sam’s Review – 

Huge thank you to Disney Hyperion and Netgalley for an advance copy of this book!

I was a bit skeptical of These Broken Stars when I started it. Something about it didn’t draw me in right away, the characters felt a bit off putting at first. Considering how fast crap starts to hit the fan, I felt like I should have immediately been engaged, but this one took me a good while to sink into and appreciate.

Let’s throw it out there — this book is a space opera, borrowing from all the fun space shows and fandoms out there. The dramatics are fun, a touch on the ridiculous side, but you don’t seem to mind it because there is such a desperation and franticness within the narrative that you want to keep reading. I wasn’t 100% sold on the characters right away, and I definitely found myself gravitating towards Lilac’s narrative over Tarver’s, but I found her to be the more quirky and enjoyable character of the two. Tarver is quite darling, but I think I would have adored him more if he had been a bit more Malcom Reynolds instead of Simon Tam ala Firefly.

The alternating perspectives works very well in this novel, especially considering how closely liked the narratives between characters are. I never felt confused as to how was speaking, as each voice had the perfect amount of distinction in it. The world-building definitely drew me in as I read on. There’s a lot of beautiful description in this novel and I think that alone will appeal to a lot of readers.

The one aspect I was a bit iffy on, but grew to like was the romance. I do love that Lilac played a bit hard to get, but I almost wish the novel had gone a bit further, making it a lot less obvious that they were getting together. I wish it had been more about the adventure, but I am glad it wasn’t a love at first sight, but rather a gradual connection due to the circumstances.

These Broken Stars is easily going to be a hit with YA fans, especially those who love a good space opera and are willing to overlook a few of the basic YA tropes. I loved the writing in both perspectives, and the characters really grow with you, which is definitely something I’ve come to appreciate more. This is an easy recommendation for those looking for a good survival story, as well as romance that doesn’t feel insta-lovey. I look forward to reading the next installment!

ARC Review – Never Fade, by Alexandra Bracken

17925081Title:  Never Fade
Author:  Alexandra Bracken
Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster.

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.

As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Netgalley and Disney-Hyperion for giving me the opportunity to review this book. The expressed are purely my own.

 

Never Fade, the sequel to last year’s YA dystopia hit The Darkest Minds is a book that has a lot of flaws, but suffers from the dreaded middle book syndrome. I feel like I should have loved this book more than the first one, but I found myself struggling to care about the events of the narrative because it didn’t give me the push and pull I needed to feel a part of this world. I think I will be in the minority on this one, but while I think this is the more technically sound of the two books in The Darkest Minds trilogy, I  had a heck of a time trying to get through it. Part of my issue with this series is its roller coaster-style pacing — much like the first book Never Fade suffers from a huge case of up, down, lull, stall, up, down, and probably does it worse than its predecessor. Bracken does a great job picking up where we left off in the previous book and having Ruby rollin’ in the deep by surrounding her with a great cast of secondary characters. When the action is on the book is a non-stop ride, but the moment it stops, the pacing lulls into a screeching halt.

For me pacing is important and a novel needs to be consistent in its pacing for me to have a sense of enjoyment. If the book is slow, make it slow, if it’s fast, keep it fast. This issue really kills Never Fade for me because the consistency is so all over the place that sometimes its hard to keep up with the fun bits because they are overshadowed by the infodumping and frustration that is Ruby’s indecisiveness. I feel like Ruby is a much stronger character in this book, but she suffers from being a bit too hard-headed at times. I suppose this may be on purpose in terms of her character development, but I guess I wanted to like her more as a character than I did. I’m glad the book wasn’t all about the romance between her and Liam because truthfully, I didn’t buy into it in the first book. What I appreciated here was that yes, there is some pining, but its not excessive — Ruby is still her own person and she isn’t entirely defined by her feelings for Liam. If anything, I think Ruby feels more guilt having wiped his memories clean. I found myself more okay with the romance in this book, but it still felt a bit too forced for my tastes.

I think I was more happy to see Chubbs make his grand reappearance and I think he is such a well-rounded character, but seeing him in the novel made me miss Zu so much. I thought the new characters Jude and Vida were pretty solid for the most part, Jude in particular winning me over with calling Ruby “Roo” all the time. I think the political aspects of the book are intriguing, but parts of it felt too heavy-handed or vague, and again the consistency felt too all over the place for me. I loved the idea that the Children’s League attempts to use Ruby as a weapon because she’s the best of the best, but their motives feel so cartoony that I struggle to really comprehend why I should care about this dark world. I will admit though, the reappearance of a certain character from the previous book really made me smile (that sick little monkey), and his particular motives weirdly worked for me.

Overall I would say Never Fade is a solid sequel, but one I struggled with for reason mentioned above. I definitely want to see how Ruby’s adventure is going to end in the last book because as much as I very critical of The Darkest Mind series, they are such fun reads and when the books are on, they are a fun ride. I feel like Bracken’s writing has improved and is much stronger, so I do look forward to seeing where the adventure is going to take me, how Ruby and friends will survive their dark dank world, and what will happen next. There is a solid dystopia here and the super power elements are very fun and engaging, I just wish the pacing and consistency was better. Do not read this book if you haven’t read The Darkest Minds yet as Never Fade builds directly off of it. That being said, there is fun here and if you can get over the issue I mentioned or they don’t bother you at all it’s a solid read.