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Book Review: Rebel by Marie Lu

Title: Rebel

Author: Marie Lu

Series: Legend #4

Genre: YA Dystopian

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: With unmatched suspense and her signature cinematic storytelling, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Marie Lu plunges readers back into the unforgettable world of Legend for a truly grand finale. Eden Wing has been living in his brother’s shadow for years. Even though he’s a top student at his academy in Ross City, Antarctica, and a brilliant inventor, most people know him only as Daniel Wing’s little brother. A decade ago, Daniel was known as Day, the boy from the streets who led a revolution that saved the Republic of America. But Day is no longer the same young man who was once a national hero. These days he’d rather hide out from the world and leave his past behind. All that matters to him now is keeping Eden safe―even if that also means giving up June, the great love of Daniel’s life. As the two brothers struggle to accept who they’ve each become since their time in the Republic, a new danger creeps into the distance that’s grown between them. Eden soon finds himself drawn so far into Ross City’s dark side, even his legendary brother can’t save him. At least not on his own . . . -Goodreads

The Review:

I remember loving the original Legend Trilogy. In hindsight, however, I think I rated it so highly because I was only comparing it to other YA dystopians. Of the dozens I tried at the time, Legend ranked close to the top of my list. I don’t know that I would have been so generous with my ratings had I honesty compared them to all books I enjoyed and not just that very specific branch of the YA market.

Rebel was just okay. The plot was cute, extending the romance between June and Day. Actually it’s biggest selling point was how much better this ending wrapped up their love story. Unfortunately, everything else was really surface-level. The plot didn’t get complex, the characters didn’t have a lot of depth, and the concept for the story wasn’t really that compelling. In my review for earlier books, I mentioned that I loved the point-system hierarchy (where you rise in rank and status based on how much you contribute) of the society she created in Antarctica, and since Rebel takes place there, it should’ve provided a much more in-depth exploration of it. It did not. I suppose world building is not usually the main focus of a straightforward YA, but even so, I let my expectations drive my experience a bit, and my overall rating reflects that. At the end of the day, I wish this resolution had come out much closer to when I’d read the first three books because it does do a good job at wrapping things up. It’s highly recommendable for Marie Lu’s Legend fans. But for my reading tastes these days, it was a decently entertaining bit of fluff and not much more.

Other books you might like*:

*I decided to go with less-typical recommends because, let’s face it, if you like the genre you’ve most definitely already read the mainstream ones like Divergent and Hunger Games. I recommended these books for similar vibes, setting, and character motive. :)

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Cerulean by Amy Ewing

Title: The Cerulean

Author: Amy Ewing

Series: “Untitled Duology” #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: Sera has always felt as if she didn’t belong among her people, the Cerulean. She is curious about everything and can’t stop questioning her three mothers, her best friend, Leela, and even the High Priestess. Sera has longed for the day when the tether that connects her City Above the Sky to the earthly world below finally severs and sends the Cerulean to a new planet. But when Sera is chosen as the sacrifice to break the tether, she doesn’t know what to feel. To save her City, Sera must throw herself from its edge and end her own life. But something goes wrong and she survives the fall, landing in a place called Kaolin. She has heard tales about the humans there, and soon learns that the dangers her mothers warned her of are real. If Sera has any hope to return to her City, she’ll have to find the magic within herself to survive. -Goodreads

The Review:

What I appreciate most about Ewing is her abundance of cool concepts. I loved the society she created in her Lone City trilogy, and the one conceived here was just as interesting (and even more outside the box). Concept was definitely the biggest draw here for me and easily the main reason I kept reading until the end.

Unfortunately, with that cool concept came not a whole lot of substance as far as plot was concerned. Most of the scenes featured extensive explanations about the world (which I didn’t totally mind) and a ton of dialogue. .. but not a whole lot else. There were a few great moments between characters where I felt invested, but for the most part it didn’t give me much to talk about.

One thing I did appreciate – the book is LGBT friendly. And not in that “token” inclusion I’ve seen in YA books historically, but integrated in ways that felt more authentic (to be fair, I’m no sure how well it represented the community, but I still appreciate the diversity). In a book with very few external happenings, it really is all about the characters and how they relate to one another.

Overall, I liked the concept and general character profiles. However I didn’t think there were enough moving parts or overall plot points to warrant such a long book. I personally craved more substance and depth. And maybe a little grit to make me feel something rather than just read about it.

Series status: this is a duology and I’m not sure yet if I’ll pick up the sequel. I have an affection for Ewing’s stories and appreciate her concepts and style of writing, but this book did not give me anything to sink my teeth into.

Recommendations: if you’re looking for a unique YA tale that’s highly character-driven, The Cerulean is a great pick. It was a bit tame for my tastes and needed more external conflicts, but it was still a lovely read that I think will appeal more to readers who prefer YA as their main genre.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Tarnished by Kate Jarvik Birch

Tarnished by Kate Jarvik Birch

Title: Tarnished

Author: Kate Jarvik Birch

Series: Perfected #2

Genre: Teen Fiction

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Ella was genetically engineered to be the perfect pet—graceful, demure…and kept. In a daring move, she escaped her captivity and took refuge in Canada. But while she can think and act as she pleases, the life of a liberated pet is just as confining as the Congressman’s gilded cage. Her escape triggered a backlash, and now no one’s safe, least of all the other pets. But she’s trapped, unable to get back to Penn—the boy she loves—or help the girls who need her. Back in the United States, pets are turning up dead. With help from a very unexpected source, Ella slips deep into the dangerous black market, posing as a tarnished pet available to buy or sell. If she’s lucky, she’ll be able to rescue Penn and expose the truth about the breeding program. If she fails, Ella will pay not only with her life, but the lives of everyone she’s tried to save…

The Review:

If you haven’t heard my constant ravings about Perfected over the last year, I’ll sum them up: I fricken loved it. It presented the disturbing concept of human “pets” in a way that acknowledged the darker connotations without dwelling on them, therefore allowing the story to focus on the sweet love story. Tarnished is where all of that darkness and grit comes to the forefront, and it was every bit as compelling as it was heart-wrenching.

I really feel as though this is where the story needed to go. Perfected felt innocent because the main character, Ella, was innocent. One of the things I love about this author is her ability to totally immerse you in the character’s point of view. In Perfected, Ella had quite a sheltered view of the world. In Tarnished, any delusions of safety and security Ella may have had are completely stripped away as she faces the harsh (and disturbing) realities of how human pets are treated in the real world. It showcased an excellent growth of character, which is easily my favorite elements to this book. Ella had to come to terms with the darker nature of humanity, and it was inspiring to watch her convictions and sense of self grow throughout the book. Like the love story, it felt organic, and that’s another part of why I love these books so much. There are so many subtleties adding up to profound moments that you almost don’t see them coming.

While Perfected spoke to my heart, Tarnished spoke to my mind. I hope the third book will tie together the best of both. The only thing I didn’t get out of this novel was a clear motive for Missy, a fellow pet who offers to help Ella at what I’d call extreme sacrifice to herself. I kept waiting for her motives to be revealed, good or bad, but was perplexed to note it wasn’t addressed anywhere throughout the entire book. That alone kept me from fully getting behind that part of the plot as plausible and also kept me from really immersing myself in the story. All I’m saying is, some sort of hint or minor indication early on would have gone a long way. Other than that, everything else about this book was superb!

As you can see, I am a huge fan of this series and recommended most often to YA readers who loved Destefano’s Chemical Garden Trilogy and Oliver’s Delirium Trilogy – both of which I thought were beautifully written and evoking stories. If you’re in the market for a teen read without all the fluff, Perfected is the series for you. I definitely limit myself to recommending it to older teens and adults due to the darker subject matter, even though it’s all handled tastefully.

I’d like to thank Entangled Publishing, LLC, Kate Jarvik Birch, and NetGalley for the chance to read and review a reviewer copy of Tarnished.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Top Ten Young Adult Books!

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Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Over the last several years, my reading habits have been heavily skewed towards YA books. I figured now would be as good a time as any to compose a Top Ten of my favorites. While composing this post, however, I had a major epiphany. You see, while there are many books from this genre that I enjoyed, there are very few that I absolutely LOVED. This is a stark contrast to the Top Ten Fantasies list I composed where I had a difficult time narrowing it down from the 20+ series that totally rocked my world. Evidently, I’ve been focusing on the wrong genre. Nonetheless, I did manage to figure out which YA books were the cream of the crop:

Top Ten Young Adult Books!

 What books would make your Top YA list?

by Niki Hawkes

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Your Pick for Nik! – October’s Selection!

bbbbThank you all for your votes!

10874177This month’s winner is… Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger!

A thorough review and discussion for this book will take place on Monday, November 4th, so there’s plenty of time to pick it up if you want to read along. For more information on the Your Pick for Nik! book club, click here

If you want to participate officially, all you have to do is grab the button below and/or answer the questionnaire at the end of the book review when it posts (which will hopefully generate some awesome discussion). If you post your own review of the book, send me the URL and I will include a personalized link at the end of my review.

Here’s a look at what the book is about:

It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners—and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

Here’s the button:

Your Pick for Nik! Button

(Just copy the following code to your text widget):

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Book Review: The Elite by Kiera Cass

16248068Title: The Elite

Author: Kiera Cass

Series: The Selection #2

Genre: Teen Fiction

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea. America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.

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The Review:

I can’t tell you how many reviews for this book I’ve read so far – it seems that almost everybody read it (and loved it) before I did. The Selection was sweet, romantic, and engaging, and I loved the element of competition in a slightly dystopian setting. It was exactly what I was in the mood for – a fun, lighthearted read – and I picked up the second one immediately (which is something I don’t usually do – all you have to do is check out my “Currently Reading” shelf on goodreads to see how scattered I am with books). Anyway, although I liked this one, I don’t feel as though I got what I signed up for.

The first book was lovely. It was breezy, romantic, and fun, and even though I expected a little turmoil to show up in this second book, I wasn’t prepared for the level of stress I felt while reading it. I had to fight the urge to write a story-rant review – and that tells me the author did and exceptional job of getting me emotionally involved. I was so invested in these characters that I wanted to scream at them to stop being such idiots. I have never gotten so worked up about a book and have spent the last month or so trying to figure out why it affected me so much.

And I think I finally figured it out…pacing.

Cass used several different elements to throw angst at me for almost the entire end half of the book. It was subtle and slow building until I was riding the proverbial snowball down the mountain. I kept reading faster and faster to try to get ahead of it, but I never did. I practically begged for her to throw me a bone, and she ignored me. From her author’s note at the end,  I think she did it on purpose… and that pisses me off. At first, I was angry at the story, the characters, and the situations they put themselves in. After a month of reflection, I am now pissed at Cass for writing it well enough to do that to me. It was truly evoking and I have to applaud that.

Overall, this was a very well-done book. It sticks with you long after you’ve finished it… at least it did with me. Even though it is the second book in the series, I feel like each one is drastically different as far as the emotional payoffs (or lack thereof) are concerned. It was an emotional roller coaster and I can’t wait to see what ride I’m getting on next. I will probably pick the third book up the day it comes out.

Recommendations: Because I’ve read so many reviews, I know a lot of people enjoyed the series as much as I did. It’s technically a dystopian, but it’s definitely not the most well-conceived society of the genre. I would recommend it to people who lean more towards the romantic dystopians such as Delirium and Matched rather than the more conceptual ones like Hunger Games and The Fifth Wave.

 Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes