Title: The Diabolic Author: S.J. Kincaid Publication Date: November 1st 2016 Note: I was provided an advanced copy by the publisher, but opinions are my own. Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction Synopsis: Nemesis was engineered for one purpose: to keep Sedonia, the daughter of a … Continue reading
Title: A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes book 2) Author: Sabaa Tahir Publication Date: August 30, 2016 Note: An advanced copy was provided by the publisher, but opinions are my own. Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Synopsis: *This is the second book in … Continue reading
Since I’ve read an ARC of the sequel, to be released in August, I’ve decided it’s about time I sort out my confused feelings towards this book so I can move on to writing an advanced review of the sequel. Continue reading
Authors: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Published: October 20, 2015
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Synopsis: Just hours after their recent break-up, exes Kady and Ezra find their home planet in the middle of a war between intergalactic corporations. In the evacuation the two find themselves on separate space ships.
If they want to survive Kady, Ezra, and the other refugees need to reach the nearest jump station, through which they can reach a more densely inhabited region of space, before those who invaded their planet catches up with the refugees.
Review: At first I had a hard time getting into this book. Adjusting to the formatting was a bit of a challenge, and months at a time passed in a matter of pages.
When I was on page 366 of 599 I noted in a Goodreads update:
“At first I was having trouble getting used to the constantly changing formatting, it can be jarring at times, but now I’m really starting to get into the story and the pace has really sped up.
— Dec 15, 2015 07:42AM”
However, I think the pacing picked up for me at an earlier point than I noted in that update. It was likely around page 250 or so. With the formatting the way the novel built to a climax was necessary to give the reader time to adjust to the formatting before everything started happening at once.
For those who think that this book is long with its length of nearly 600 pages I would like to remind them of the formatting. Had this book been written in the standard form of a novel there would likely have been much shorter.
I had a slight problem with some of the times technology was mentioned in this book. The characters had cars, a subway system, and tablets. It seemed as if at times the only technology that had progressed were weaponry and spaceships that allowed for long distance space travel.
Considering that this book is supposed to take place in 2575, or over five hundred years in the future, this threw me out of the story a little. This is, however, a minor concern. Due to the way the story was narrated these objects were not described in detail and may have born little resemblance to their 2016 equivalents.
As this story takes place almost entirely on space ships in an isolated part of this fictional future, the reader isn’t told as much about the way the government functions and other habitable planets. I think this was a good choice on the part of the authors as it allows the reader to become slowly immersed in the world-building as opposed to having the need to learn everything all at once. I hope to see more world building in the sequel.
I ended up reading this book twice. Once in physical form and then again in audiobook format not long after. This is unusual for me.
What Readers Should Know: This book contains many character deaths and zombie like individuals. All of the cursing in the physical version of the book is censored, but in the audio book the first and last letters of most of the curse words is not censored making it easy to tell what all of the censored words are.
Rating: This book started out a little hard to get into, but the second half made up for this.
Title: The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)
Author: Rick Riordan
Published: October 6, 2015
Genre: Young Adult Mythological/Urban Fantasy
Synopsis: Magnus didn’t plan to die on his sixteenth birthday. He actually didn’t plan anything at all.
Magnus has spent the last year homeless on the streets of Boston after the mysterious death of his mother. Finding the source of his next meal is higher than his birthday on Magnus’s priority list, but when Magnus discovers he is the son of a Norse god his life is changed drastically minutes before his death where Magnus finds himself in a strange afterlife he hadn’t known existed.
Review: Magnus Chase has one of the strongest voices of any character I have read for some time. This being the author of Percy Jackson that comes as little surprise. While I normally hate it when authors break third wall, Rick Riordan does so in a way that somehow manages to add to the story.
There appears to be much concern about this book being too much like Riordan’s Percy Jackson books. There were some major parallelisms, Magnus is even the cousin of on of the main characters from the Percy Jackson book and it is clear there will be more overlap between characters of Riordan’s various series in future books.
That said, readers do not need to have read any of Riordan’s other books to read The Sword of Summer. The series stands on its own thus far in spite of the sometimes not so subtle callbacks to Riordan’s previous books.
The similarities between this book and other books by this author don’t really bother me. Whenever I read several books by one author I start seeing common themes and character arcs throughout their works and even see the same in my own writing. The similarities between Riordan’s books just happen to be more obvious than most.
Perhaps my favorite thing the Percy Jackson books and this series have in common are the hilarious chapter titles. I missed the chapter titles in The Heroes of Olympus.
Some of the side characters were very well developed while others felt like they didn’t get enough development. *slight spoiler* There was one side character in particular that died in this book, but didn’t get all that much development. I feel her death would have been more meaningful had the reader been given a chance to get to know her.
Rating: Really enjoyed reading this book, but it doesn’t standout in my memory as life changing. For that reason it gets a four out of five.
Titles: The Demon King, The Exiled Queen, The Gray Wolf Throne, The Crimson Crown
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Genre: Young Adult High Fantasy
Synopsis: A thousand years ago seven realms were one and wizards ruled like tyrants, but no longer. Now the queendom of the Fells is ruled not by magic users, but by the queens of the gray wolf line. Raisa ana’Marianna, the princess heir, is frustrated by the fact that she is trapped in the palace unable to make changes to improve the lives of her citizens. Meanwhile, ex-thief Han Alister, knows how bad life can get in the Fells. He only wants to keep his family fed and alive, but manages to get himself tangled in wizard politics anyway.
Review: This series took a little while for me to get into the first book, but after I finished The Demon King I was hooked and marathoned the rest of the books.
My favorite aspect of this series was probably the world building. Often in YA fantasy novels the world seems very underdeveloped, but that was not the case here. I enjoyed reading about all of the seven realms various cultures and the tensions between them though the name of this series is somewhat deceptive as it manly focuses on one of the seven kingdoms in this world known as the Fells.
This series often references historical events in the seven realms. I really like when fictional historical events help shape the present in fictional universes because it makes them feel more realistic. Though, as most of the events referenced happened a thousand years ago, it was somewhat unrealistic that so little had changed since then, but this is a common occurrence in fantasy novels so I’m willing to ignore this fact. The ways that the historical facts had been distorted with time made me think a lot about how our own history has been manipulated.
I liked that the romance in this series never overshadowed the fantasy elements. The romance gradual in development which is something I really appreciated, though I do somewhat wish Hans and Raisa had spent more time together in the early books.
Many of the characters were very well developed. Our male main character, Hans, was probably my favorite. I found his backstory as a reformed thief fascinating.
These books just seemed to get better and better as the series went on. Each book seemed to expand upon the scope of the world a little more, and the plot progressed nicely with several twists. It’s not often that I feel the urge to read all the books in a four book long series in a row, but this series continued to feel fresh and engaging throughout.
What readers should know: This series contains vague references to an instance in which a major character’s mother was raped long before the first book began resulting in the birth of aforementioned major character. Besides that there is a fair amount of violence including the torture of a major character. Readers should also know that although the first book is called “The Demon King” and the word “demon” is used on several occasions I don’t remember any demonic intervention/demons getting page time.
Rating: This was an engaging YA high fantasy series. I recommend it for fans of the genre or trying to get into high/epic fantasy as I think this would be a good series to start with. I can’t wait for the spin-off series to be released.
Title: Red Rising
Author: Pierce Brown
Publication date: January 28, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Synopsis: Darrow spends his days on Mars mining the minerals needed to terraform the planet’s surface. He could care less about the fact that he is a member of the lowest “caste”, oppressed by the Society. Darrow is too busy trying to provide for his wife and extended family. Darrow knows the price of rebellion. He attended his father’s execution at five years old.
Darrow’s outlook on rebellion changes when another of Darrow’s loved one is killed by the society. Her dying wish: break the chains. Now Darrow will stop at nothing to make her dream a reality. Even if it means infiltrating the Gold, upper-class, society and pretending to be one of his enemies.
Review: Mars is one of my favorite settings. It’s where I set the first novel length manuscript I completed, and I’ve always had a fascination with the planet. So of course, when I saw a book set on Mars with generally good reviews I wanted to read it.
The first fourth or so of this book is very different from the latter three fourths. Based on reading many reviews, what seems to make or break the reading experience is whether the reader likes the path the story takes in the later portion. For me both portions worked. Although the “teenagers in an arena fighting for their lives” and “boarding school” tropes that showed up in the second half have been overdone in fiction as of late Brown did a decent job in portraying it in an exciting way.
This book clearly draws inspiration from many others. Sometimes this bothers me about books, but for some reason it didn’t in this case. It likely has something to do with the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever before read ideas put together in this particular way before.
The ideas are drawn from so many vastly different places I have trouble categorizing it. The book is set on Mars, but has a very dystopian feel at times. At others it has a mythological fantasy feel with all because the houses at the school Darrow attends are named after Roman gods or even Lord of the Flies.
There is also the question of whether or not it is young adult, new adult, or adult. Darrow starts the book at 16, but within it two years pass, and I know for a fact the next book has a time jump in between and the story restarts with Darrow at age 20. This book is also very realistic in the horrors of the totalitarian regime and the actions of the characters who live within it. Many characters bring out the worst in themselves in this novel.
While I wanted to see more of some world-building aspects others felt overly simplified. I can think of other books off the top of my head that use a color classification system to differentiate between classes of people. Then again, I’ve been reading an excessive number of Brandon Sanderson books lately and have come to expect excellent world-building.
Something I would have liked to see more of is the world building, specifically how living on Mars affected the characters. We’re not shown much of the Martian Civilization, and the rebels themselves. The rebel organization was interesting, but like so many other dystopian novels I’ve read it was skimmed over in this novel, but I’m hopeful more of the rebels will be seen in future books as the story expands in scale.
What readers should know: This book features a significant amount of swearing, mentions of cannibalism, mentions of sex, prostitution murders, executions, and some side characters are raped. The cannibalism, prostitution, and rape do not occur while the main character is present, but it’s clear what is happening. Darrow is present for and sometimes even participates in murders and executions. The sex scenes are not detailed, and the book puts little emphasis on romance.
Rating: I flew through this book and really enjoyed it overall, but would have liked the later portion to be more in depth details about the rebels and the world so I’ve given it a four out of five.
Titles: Bloodlines, The Golden Lily, The Indigo Spell, The Fiery Heart, Silver Shadows, The Ruby Circle
Author: Richelle Mead
Publication dates: 2011-2015
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult Urban Fantasy
Synopsis: 18-year-old Sydney Sage has lost the trust of her people, a top secret human organization known as the Alchemists dedicated to keeping humans from learning supernatural creatures exist. The only way to gain it back is to succeed at her current assignment: keeping the vampire princess safe by mascaraing as students at a human boarding school to prevent a vampire civil war.
Sydney’s relationship with the vampires is to remain strictly professional . . . Yeah, that’s going to happen. Sydney has been told for as long as she can remember that vampires are evil, heartless creatures, but the more time she spends with them the more Sydney begins to question her teachings and her vampire coworkers become trusted friends. There’s even this one vampire who Sydney thinks she might want to be more than friends with.
Review: This series is highly addictive. On at least two occasions while reading these books I ended up trying to go to bed halfway through but being unable to fall asleep because I wanted to know what happened next so badly. I then had to get up and read the book until I was finished which was usually only a few hours before I had to wake up the next day.
Sydney’s personality is much different from Rose’s and for some people I can see Sydney’s lack of self-confidence as hard to warm up to. Bloodlines is less action oriented than Vampire Academy with more focus on internal struggles. Throughout the story Sydney gradually becomes more sure of herself and confident.
Many of the characters from the original series make an appearance, but main characters remain in the periphery. Characters from Vampire Academy who have a major role in Bloodlines include Eddy, Jillian, and Adrian. Sydney was also featured in the last few books of Vampire Academy.
This series mirrors the first one in many ways. The first few books mostly confine Sydney to the boarding school she attends where high school drama is prominent in the plot after that Sydney and her friends are forced to venture out into the wider world.
There was no true love triangle in this series. There were boys Sydney dated, but the whole time it was fairly clear to the reader these relationships wouldn’t last long. It was fairly clear to the reader who Sydney really wanted to be with even at the time when the two of them wouldn’t admit it to themselves.
The final book was my least favorite of the series. It was still gripping but not in the instantaneous way the other books were. I felt many plot points were rushed as if the author had grown board of these characters and just wants it over with. After twelve books set in the same world I can’t exactly blame her.
What Readers Should Know: There is a reason I classified the last few as new adult. Not only does Sydney eventually turn 19 she also gets physically involved with a certain romantic partner. The series also contains cases in which the main character is tortured because of her interactions with vampires.
Rating: This is a gripping, fast pace series. I recommend it to fans of Vampire Academy, and anyone with enough time to devote to finish an entire book in one or two sittings.I give the series overall four out of five for its gripping nature, but the last book would get a 3.5 if I were rating it individually.