Thursday, May 17, 2018

Insurgent (Divergent #2) by Veronica Roth

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One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth's much-anticipated second book of the dystopian DIVERGENT series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.

I tried to read Insurgent a while back but I couldn't get past the first 100 pages. I thought that maybe it just wasn't for me but after reading the entire thing I have changed my mind. I think that I may have just been burnt out from reading at that point or needing to read a different genre. This is one of the best sequels that I have read. The continuation of the story is so well done unlike other sequels that I have read. I think that sometimes authors may not have a clear direction which makes them try too hard. They end up adding unnecessary elements to the story that over-complicate things. 
I loved the direction the author took Insurgent in. It added a complexity to the story by delving deeper into the flaws of their society and each faction's reaction to them. I also thought that the author showed the effects of events in Divergent well. Tris clearly has PTSD from having to shoot Will as well as witnessing her parents being killed. She is hypervigilent in her search for truth and justice, she has nightmares/flashbacks, and is constantly throwing herself into dangerous situations with no regard for her safety. I can see why people love her so much.
I do feel that I have to disagree with other readers on her relationship with Four. I'm not sure I'm convinced that it is a good relationship because neither of them seem to fully trust each other. They keep things from each other and are not open about their feelings. I didn't like Four as much in this one. He is too hardened by the world around him to empathize fully with what Tris is dealing with. 
I was shocked by the reveal at the end of the book. I did not see that coming at all. I'm now wondering what will happen in the next book and how each of the leaders in this book will react to the information that was revealed. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Fire Queen (The Hundredth Queen #2) by Emily R. King

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In the second book in The Hundredth Queen Series, Emily R. King once again follows a young warrior queen’s rise to meet her destiny in a richly imagined world of sorcery and forbidden powers.

Though the tyrant rajah she was forced to marry is dead, Kalinda’s troubles are far from over. A warlord has invaded the imperial city, and now she’s in exile. But she isn’t alone. Kalinda has the allegiance of Captain Deven Naik, her guard and beloved, imprisoned for treason and stripped of command. With the empire at war, their best hope is to find Prince Ashwin, the rajah’s son, who has promised Deven’s freedom on one condition: that Kalinda will fight and defeat three formidable opponents.

But as Kalinda’s tournament strengths are once again challenged, so too is her relationship with Deven. While Deven fears her powers, Ashwin reveres them—as well as the courageous woman who wields them. Kalinda comes to regard Ashwin as the only man who can repair a warring world and finds herself torn between her allegiance to Deven and a newly found respect for the young prince.

With both the responsibility to protect her people and the fate of those she loves weighing heavily upon her, Kalinda is forced again to compete. She must test the limits of her fire powers and her hard-won wisdom. But will that be enough to unite the empire without sacrificing all she holds dear?

While I thought that this book was good, I liked the first one better. I think that the story was well put together with pacing that was appropriate to pronounce the tension. The Fire Queen was still good but felt somewhat contrived. The new characters that were introduced didn't really add anything to the story. They felt pretty bland but the characters from the first book show more growth. I loved seeing Deven and Kalinda grow and change as characters together and separate from each other. Kali grows more into her powers and her role as kindred. I respected her decisions because I felt she made the right ones even if they were hard for her and we're things that she want to do. 
It was difficult to differentiate between who was on who's side in the book because it seemed like everyone was against Kali and her friends. The author added more villains to the mix in this book although I feel as if many of them will have been eliminated by the third installment. I'm hoping that the author won't add any more bad guys in the third installment of the series because it would be too much.
There were things that happened that were a little too convenient so I think that Kali has some traitors among her group. I'm not exactly sure what will happen going forward in the series but I'm hoping that Kali and Ash win will be able to restore their kingdom to what it should have been all along. A peaceful place where people work together in harmony respecting each other despite differences.

Stealing Snow (Stealing Snow #1) by Danielle Paige

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First kisses sometimes wake slumbering princesses, undo spells, and spark happily ever afters.

Mine broke Bale.

Seventeen-year-old Snow has spent her life locked in Whittaker Psychiatric—but she isn’t crazy. And that’s not the worst of it. Her very first kiss proves anything but innocent…when Bale, her only love, turns violent.

Despite Snow knowing that Bale would never truly hurt her, he is taken away—dashing her last hope for any sort of future in the mental ward she calls home. With nowhere else to turn, Snow finds herself drawn to a strange new orderly who whispers secrets in the night about a mysterious past and a kingdom that’s hers for the taking—if only she can find her way past the iron gates to the Tree that has been haunting her dreams.

Beyond the Tree lies Algid, a land far away from the real world, frozen by a ruthless king. And there too await the River Witch, a village boy named Kai, the charming thief Jagger, and a prophecy that Snow will save them all.

I haven't read any alternative versions of Snow White so this book was new for me unless you count the lunar chronicles.  I enjoyed Danielle Paige's version. She added a darkness and psychological elements that made the book hard to put down. I loved the world that she created that involved magic and so many different motives for wanting power. I enjoyed the fantastical elements to the world she created including the animals made of snow and ice as well as the witches that looked the elements that they wielded
The main problems I had with the story were the pacing and the main character Snow. The pacing felt slow to me which made the book drag on. There were times when it was hard to pay attention because it felt like nothing was happening. Another thing that made the book difficult for me yo enjoy was Snow. She clearly had anger issues. She hurt those around her and didn't seem to give a crap about it. She was extremely selfish. I tried to understand her feelings about entering a new world where people expect her to be a hero but to completely turn your back on that for one person?! I found her to be unlikable and had to constantly tell myself to give her a chance. I didn't understand how there were so many love interests when she didn't have many or any redeeming qualities. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Hundredth Queen (The Hundredth Queen #1) by Emily R. King

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He wanted a warrior queen. He got a revolutionary.
As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.

But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.

Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda has only one hope for escape, and it lies in an arcane, forbidden power buried within her.

I enjoyed the stories of the gods and what the powers are like for the half-demon/ half-gods. It reminded me slightly of the last Airbender with the use of elements and being able to draw on them but with the difference of the powers being within and not necessarily having to draw on the environment to use them. 
I loved the authors writing style. She had the ability to draw me into the story without having to write about battles or bloodshed. In this way, the book reminded me a lot of The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Adieh but with a less romantic feel and more of an inner warrior fighting against tyranny vibe. 
I could have done without the familiar tropes that are included in the book as well as the romance. I feel like these things just got in the way of the story and didn't add as much. I felt that some of the characters motivations were confusing and I couldn't understand why they made the decisions that they did unless it all came down to power and jealousy above all else. I would have liked to have seen different reasons and explanations of their actions to make them more relatable and three dimensional. 

Red Queen (Red Queen #1) by Victoria Aveyard

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This is a world divided by blood - red or silver. The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change. That is until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power. Fearful of Mare's potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime. But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance - Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart.

I'm not exactly sure why I waited so long to read the Red Queen. I know that I wasn't thrilled with the amount of hype that it received and I'm pretty sure that numerous people told me that it wasn't that great. I decided the other day that I would just take the plunge and finally read it to know for myself if it was great or terrible. 
I'm really confused as to why people told me that it wasn't good. From the moment I began reading this book, I was entranced. There is not much that happens in the first few pages but the tension emanating from Mare is incredible! Her personality became clear very quickly. I immediately felt a kinship with her and liked her. She doesn't fall for the intimidation tactics of the silvers and has her own mind although she is humble enough ti see that there are other sides to issues in her world. 

The author does not go into depth when building the world but the slow, steady  progression was the perfect way to set up what things are like for the people. I also appreciated that the author speaks about the difficulties that all of the people in the world are facing not just the poor and downtrodden. It doesn't take the author long to have the book progress into what will become the main story line of the book. I was afraid for Mare and what took place there would mean for her going forward. 

I really enjoyed the characters and the amount of depth that they had. It seemed like all of the characters in Red Queen felt important to Victoria Aveyard because even the minor characters had some sort of conflict that they had dealt with or were currently dealing with. An example of this is that the reader only gets to know snippets about Mare's father but it adds to his character and how it shapes her family. I suspected who the villains were because things just seemed too neat and easy. I didn't believe that things could happen that easily or turn out that well. There are a few characters that I am not sure of their motivations after finishing Red Queen but I'm sure that things were clear up in the sequel. I feel like there was a hint if insta love which annoyed me but since romance was not heavily focused on I didn't dwell on it too much. 

I did feel like I have seen many of the parts of the story before in other books that I am familiar with. I am hoping that the series will diverge from that so that it becomes more unique. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet #1) by Madeleine L'Engle

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It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger. 

"Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them. "I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract".

Meg's father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?

I want to start this review off by saying that I haven't seen the movie so I don't know if it is better or worse than the book. If the trailer is any indication, it seems like the director and writers included at least certain parts of the book in the movie. A Wrinkle in Time seemed like an interesting book but I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it until the movie came out. The trailers for the movie made the book seem more interesting to me so I figured I would give it a chance. 
I did think that the book was interesting but I wasn't in love with it. When Meg and company go on a mission to rescue her father things got a bit too religious and philosophical for my taste. That's not really something that I want a book to focus too heavily on when it is a children's book. I think that I ended up having a problem with it mainly because it was so on the nose. It wasn't subtle at all. I also had some trouble getting into the book at first due to the writing style and language that the author used. I'm not big on historical novels even if it is historical fiction so it turned me off of the book for the first 30 pages or so.  I also felt that things were resolved too easily. A character would say let's go accomplish this and then they would band together with others and it would be accomplished without any kind of exploration of things that went wrong or could go wrong. I wanted more conflict than there was in this story. That being said A Wrinkle in Time is certainly imaginative. The author creates a colorful fantastical world that I wanted to know more about. I wish that she would have explored it more in this book but I suppose you have to read on in the series to get more of that. 

Friday, May 4, 2018

ISAN by Mary Ting

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The world has changed.

Scientists warned it would happen.

Meteors devastated the Earth. World Governments developed plans to help surviving citizens. The United States disbanded and salvageable land was divided into four quadrants—North, South, East, and West—governed by The Remnant Council.

Struggling to survive, seventeen-year-old Ava ends up in juvenile detention, until she is selected for a new life—with a catch. She must be injected with an experimental serum. The results will be life changing. The serum will make her better. To receive the serum Ava agrees to join a program controlled by ISAN, the International Sensory Assassin Network.

While on a mission, she is abducted by a rebel group led by Rhett and told that not only does she have a history with him, but her entire past is a lie perpetuated by ISAN to ensure her compliance. Unsure of who to trust, Ava must decide if her strangely familiar and handsome captor is her enemy or her savior—and time is running out.

*This ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

I thought that the premise was very interesting. I like the idea of an agency that trains assassins and also the concept of having them injected with a special serum that makes them far more effective than they would otherwise be. It reminded me of Captain America in that regard with the exception of the assassins having to be injected every time they have a mission. 
I liked the main character. She wasn't naive by any means but is trying to survive is a world where she is essentially alone. When she is given a choice between remaining in juvenile detention or joining ISAN, she chooses ISAN which she feels is a no brainer. She comes to realize that all is not what it seems and that she may not last long there if her usefulness runs out. I enjoyed her tough take no prisoners attitude. She was pretty bada$$ and reminded me of a greener version of Nikita. 
I thought that the storyline was well done and I look forward to reading the next installment to see what choices Ava will make while at ISAN. I'm hoping that the author will explain more about the world and Ava's past. I got the gist of why there was so much destruction and why food was harder to come by but I'm not sure that I understand the governing body of the world that Mary Ting created.