ARC Review | WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power

Goodreads

I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.


I feel like it is a big no-no when the letter from the editor in the beginning compares the book you’re about to read to Lord of the Flies by William Golding and then further states it is a more feminist take on the theme. That then not only sets up the expectation for the book to reach the standard of a staple, classic masterpiece, but then also has to make it into some sort of social movement piece.

And, while no one should really care about my opinion, I guess (or I’d be getting paid money to write these), but just because you have a 95% female cast of characters does not make it a feminist novel. Not every novel has to be contorted to fit into a social movement. And just because these characters are on an island and some of them die definitely does not make it anything close to Lord of the Flies.

I mean, the writing was spectacular. It is true that Power knows what she is doing and knows how to write strong, compelling sentences. But her writing style, in my opinion, does not fit in the YA genre. My girlfriend can attest to this next statement in that I fell asleep (yes, actually fell asleep in the middle of the day with this book in my hand) three times. The descriptions were extremely lengthy and repetitive throughout the novel, mimicking more of an adult fiction vibe. These descriptions, I feel, are going to have teens setting the book back on the shelf and moving on to something a little more action-packed.

That brings me to the next thing — there is no resolution, and basically, no point to this book. I just really felt that nothing happened in it. We had weird POV changes in the middle a few times that were promising, but, in the end, fell flat. Not to mention that you do not get any answers that you seem promised from the beginning. Having invested in a 350 page novel for no answers is beyond disappointing.

While I am still working towards my degree, I feel like I am more than adequately competent in reading deeper into literature, and I just couldn’t see this as having any feminist type themes minus the cast of characters being female (don’t even get me started on the editor comparing it to Lord of the Flies).

If somebody has the rest of this book and wants to send it to me, please email me.

tldr; this was a snooze fest with no payoff

Rating:

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ARC Review | NO IVY LEAGUE by Hazel Newlevant

Amazon | Goodreads

RELEASE DATE: Aug. 20, 2019

208 Pages

When 17-year-old Hazel takes a summer job clearing ivy from the forest in Portland, Oregon, the only plan is to earn some extra cash to put toward concert tickets. Homeschooled, affluent, and sheltered, Hazel soon finds that working side by side with at-risk teens leaves no room for comforting illusions of equality and understanding. This uncomfortable and compelling memoir is an important story of a teen’s awakening to the racial insularity of the upper class, the power of white privilege, and the hidden history of segregation in Portland.


I had the pleasure of grabbing an ARC and meeting the author of this graphic novel at Bookcon. I was very intrigued and also slightly nervous, as this graphic novel tackles some serious issues in a brief amount of time: race, sexuality, etc.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. The graphic novel is aware of what it is, and knows that it’s hard to cover such dense material in such a brief time period. But what this is isn’t a manifesto, but the beginning of someone’s maturing mind into being what is aware around them and how to deal with those things.

I felt myself even going to a sort of nostalgia with this piece. Again, I really enjoyed it, and thought it was very well done (and you know I’m picky with my graphic novels).

Rating:


What’s your favorite graphic novel ? Let’s chat in the comments!

Review | A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by V.E. Schwab

Amazon | TBD | Goodreads

413 Pages

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.


This is one of those that has seemed to be eternally on my TBR. When I realized that Bookcon was coming up and that I was going to meet Schwab, I felt like I needed to get around to it.

There’s not a ton to say here other than that I’m absolutely addicted to her writing. I love how every time I’ve read one of her books, I never really know what to expect or who to trust.

I understand that this is a trilogy, and I do plan to read the rest of them. However, I do appreciate that the story in book one seems to wrap up pretty tightly by the end, so I can get around to reading some other things before picking up book two.

Amazing characters. Amazing story. These type of books remind me why I love fantasy so much.

Rating:


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ARC Review | SWIPE RIGHT FOR MURDER by Derek Milman (DNF)

Goodreads

On the run from the FBI.
Targeted by a murderous cult.
Labeled a cyber-terrorist by the media.
Irritated texts from his best friend.
Eye contact with a nice-looking guy on the train.
Aidan has a lot to deal with, and he’s not quite sure which takes top priority.

Finding himself alone in a posh New York City hotel room for the night, Aidan does what any red-blooded seventeen-year-old would do—he tries to hook up with someone new. But that lapse in judgement leads to him waking up next to a dead guy, which sparks an epic case of mistaken identity that puts Aidan on the run from everyone—faceless federal agents, his eccentric family, and, naturally, a cyber-terrorist group who will stop at nothing to find him.

He soon realizes the only way to stop the chase is to deliver the object everyone wants, before he gets caught or killed. But for Aidan, the hardest part is knowing who he can trust not to betray him—including himself.


Listent to me here . . .

Please go into this review with a warning. Since I did not fully complete this novel (oh, though I sure tried, since I wanted to give it that genuine 1-star it so deserves), I do not know what happens past page 145 out 436 ARC pages.

But, I finished almost 1/3 of it, so . . . take with that what you will.

. . .

When I think of a well structured book on a highly political topic, or really, any book for that matter, I like to think of it as a cake.

You have your topping <—- basic premise of the book, i.e. genre, basic goal, etc. Essentially what you would tell people if someone was like, “Hey! What’s that book you’re reading about?”

You have your cake <—- this is essentially the entirety of the story arc, laid out, step by step

You have your frosting layers <—- these layers are by far the hardest part of a story to develop, yet are also the most important. They have to be subtle. They are the deeper meaning of your story (whether that be equal rights or any other controversial issue). I like to think of this as the moral of the story.

If your frosting layers are too thick, your teeth are going to hurt and you’re going to be like yup that’s frosting!

Well, what we have with Swipe Right for Murder is absolutely only frosting. Essentially, a huge chunk of frosting. Plopped on a plate. With a spoon to eat it with. (That’s maybe something?) Oh, but the spoon breaks and you can’t even taste the frosting. Sorry, no frosting for you 😦

Anyway, anyway . . .

When I started this book, I was met with the main character, as usual in a book. I was met with the secondary characters, also the norm.

And all of them are pretentious and represent some sort of minority or stereotype? Miraculously?

For instance . . .

Aidan is white. He is also gay. Also, within the first twelve pages he mentions how all of his friends are attractive. Also that he’s gay. Oh, did you know that Aidan is gay? Because, if you didn’t, Aidan is gay, and you should definitely know that.

(Pssst, Aidan is gay.)

His friend, Jackson, is black. Superstar looking, yet makes sure to put Aidan in his place by telling him having to deal with being gay is nothing compared to being black in America because invalidating your best-friend’s feelings is a thing, now.

We have Aidan’s parents. Who are probably homophobic . . . yet they accept Aidan. Yet, they think being gay is unnatural.

OHHHH and we have murdous terroist group that seems to be killing politicians who have voted against LGBT rights in terrosits attacks in unrealistic scenarios (such as controlling a pacemaker, IV and car brakes remotely).

Essentially, there was zero character development in the 145 pages accept maybe Aidian is okay with all of the killing? I don’t know.

I’m in the minority here when I say that this book is toxic, as it has a 4.5 star rating on Goodreads right now. When I say toxic, I’m saying a political agenda seems to be shoved down some kids throats here. In other words, if it’s looking to change someone’s mind about something, I feel, at the ARC’s stage, it would blatantly fail, as anyone who has any sort of anything against left-wingers would immediately catch on to what’s happening within the first twenty pages and put it down anyway.

I wish I could also quote some of the dialogue here directly, because it is also pretty toxic. For instance, the second Jackson complains about being black in America he suddenly developed a dialect and starts using the word ain’t? Does anyone else not see a problem with this?

Like I said, maybe I’m in the few here, but please, please, if you have any sense for what should be considered good, left wing writing, do not pick this up.


What makes you DNF a book? Let’s chat in the comments!

Review | AURORA RISING by Amy Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Amazon | TBD | Goodreads

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the academy would touch . . .

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates 
A smart-ass tech whiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger-management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s 
totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem–that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline cases, and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

NOBODY PANIC.


It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Jay Kristoff’s adult works (reference my five star reviews here + here), but I’ve never really been sold on his YA. I felt like LIF3LIKE really limited Kristoff to being his full self — this sort of raunchy and comedic, yet very, very dark and serious writer. I also read Illuminae when it first came out (long before this blog existed), I really did not enjoy it. So, when this book came out, I was nervous I wasn’t going to like it. And I’ll admit, I almost didn’t buy it. But an opportunity arose, and I really can’t pass up supporting one of my favorite authors (sorry Kaufman, I know you had a part in writing this too, but I’m not entirely as familiar with all of your works). So I was fortunate enough to purchase it.

I’m happy to say that, in the end, I came out really, really enjoying this one! I felt that all of the characters were very likable and that the plot was extremely interesting. I know that doesn’t really tell you a lot, but I don’t really have a ton to complain about here! Unlike my main complaint with LIF3LIKE, I felt like the world (outer space) was extremely diverse. I felt like I was getting new places and wasn’t trapped in this hot, steamy world like I felt in the previously mentioned.

Now, for my one critique:

The repetition of comedy. I understand that the authors are extremely limited when it comes to YA and the separation they want to represent when it comes to this and their adult fiction, but some of the comedy was just so repetitive that I found it annoying after awhile.

There is this running joke in the novel when something exciting happens about needing new pants, and I’ll say it was amusing the first time. But by the fourth or fifth time? Not so much. I found myself reminded of LIF3LIKE and the constant references to robot private “bits.” I feel like there’s a balance that has yet to be figured out, and that the charm is being so forced to the reader that it gets annoying. THE CHARM IS THERE!!! YOU DON’T NEED TO FORCE IT!!

Anyway, in the end, this was a super fun read, and I will definitely pick up the next one.

Rating:

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WE’LL FLY AWAY by Bryan Bliss | Review

Amazon | TBD | Goodreads

Uniquely told through letters from death row and third-person narrative, Bryan Bliss’s hard-hitting third novel expertly unravels the string of events that landed a teenager in jail. Luke feels like he’s been looking after Toby his entire life. He patches Toby up when Toby’s father, a drunk and a petty criminal, beats on him, he gives him a place to stay, and he diffuses the situation at school when wise-cracking Toby inevitably gets into fights. Someday, Luke and Toby will leave this small town, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, and never look back.

But during their senior year, they begin to drift apart. Luke is dealing with his unreliable mother and her new boyfriend. And Toby unwittingly begins to get drawn into his father’s world, and falls for an older woman. All their long-held dreams seem to be unraveling. Tense and emotional, this heartbreaking novel explores family, abuse, sex, love, friendship, and the lengths a person will go to protect the people they love. 


This book is an absolute emotional rollercoaster.

First off, the characters are absolutely brilliant. Bliss is an expert at showing their bond and their impoverished situation that you can’t help but sympathize and find someway to relate to them.

I want to start out talking about the “twist” in the book. I’m here to say that while I feel it is easy for the reader to figure out what is really going on early in the beginning, Bliss wasn’t trying to create this HAHA FOOLED YOU moment, but rather write about the strong bond between two boys towards the end of high school. How hard it is to figure out where you stand in this adult world when you’ve already been forced to be in that situation for so long.

Bliss notes at the end how he felt this was mainly written to make a statement about death row, but I really felt that the story took a step to the back, as Luke and Toby’s characters where just so strong that it really made it about the trials of growing up and the unexpected that can happen with friendship and time.

The prose in this book are very strong, very compelling, and very emotional. I was very surprised when I saw that not many people are talking about it, as this book needs to be read more. I was very moved, and I loved every page.

Rating:


What’s the most emotional book you’ve ever read? Let’s chat in the comments!

HIDDEN BODIES by Caroline Kepnes | Review

Amazon | TBD | Goodreads

442 Pages

Sequel to You. Joe Goldberg is no stranger to hiding bodies. In the past ten years, this thirty-something has buried four of them, collateral damage in his quest for love. Now he’s heading west to Los Angeles, the city of second chances, determined to put his past behind him.

In Hollywood, Joe blends in effortlessly with the other young upstarts. He eats guac, works in a bookstore, and flirts with a journalist neighbor. But while others seem fixated on their own reflections, Joe can’t stop looking over his shoulder. The problem with hidden bodies is that they don’t always stay that way. They re-emerge, like dark thoughts, multiplying and threatening to destroy what Joe wants most: true love. And when he finds it in a darkened room in Soho House, he’s more desperate than ever to keep his secrets buried. He doesn’t want to hurt his new girlfriend—he wants to be with her forever. But if she ever finds out what he’s done, he may not have a choice…


I felt the ending to You (read my review here) was perfect. When I found out there was a sequel, I was skeptical — was this just a money grab?

FULL DISCLOSURE: This is a review of a SEQUEL; if you haven’t read the first one, be strongly cautioned. While I will try to keep this review entirely spoiler free of the first one, I cannot make any promises.

I’m happy to report, that when I picked this up, I fell into a similar rhythm as I did with You — it was very hard to put down.

On the good notes, Joe is a character you just can never get enough of. He’s a character that you can also really never make your mind up about. He’s pure evil, pure crazy, yet you can’t help but feel sorry for him and want good things to happen to him.

This novel overall was action packed, sexy, and filled with many things that I loved about the first one.

Now onto the reasons why I just can’t give this a full five stars like it’s predecessor.

While there was an overall sense of not being able to put the book down, there were a couple moments and chapters that I felt added absolutely nothing to the main plot. It felt as if Kepnes was trying to figure out where she wanted to go next with Joe, but just wasn’t quite sure.

I also feel that the story, as a whole, was very unplanned, very unrealistic. The one thing that made You so thrilling was that it felt so real. At times, however, some of the situations Joe was finding himself in just seemed so absurd that it pulled from that realness.

As with the people who don’t . . . survive. I felt that in the first one, you built a rage with Joe — that these people deserved their fate, as Joe was just so convincing — made you hate them too. And I just wasn’t getting that with these victims.

But, even with those critiques, I still felt it was a strong sequel. Do I really think it was necessary? No. But, it entertained me, and I got to spend more time with a character who I really enjoy.

Rating