Wildcard by Marie Lu

Summary:

Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she’s always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.

Determined to put a stop to Hideo’s grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone’s put a bounty on Emika’s head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn’t all that he seems–and his protection comes at a price.

Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?

The Review:

This book, just proved why Marie Lu, is one of my favorite authors. I was also lucky to get an ARC of this book, while at a Sabaa Tahir event.

Wildcard picks up pretty much where Warcross left off. In which Emika found out about Hideo’s plan to use the Neurolink to basically control the population. What made it great was the act that it was one of those things that really makes you think whether or not that Hideo was right.

Emilka also joins Zero’s gang in order to take down Hideo, while also simultaneously trying to avoid Hideo at all costs, because some tried to kill her, and that’s where the plot gets moving. A major strength is how fast paced this book was, and I felt that there was never a dull moment in the book.

Also there is Zero’s story. His story arc was amazing, while in the Wildcard he was mainly a background character who speaks to Emika secretly, he really has some great development, and you find out about his backstory and all that has happened to him. I also loved seeing some Black coats especially Jax, who was one of my favorite characters.

Also Hideo’s story arc was great as well. He was a very complex character, and while he wants to use the Neurolink to basically control the population and destroy the notion of freewill. What made it great was how what he believed what he was doing was right, and was driven my the kidnapping of his brother. I always feel that best antagonists believe that they are the protagonists of their stories.

Also like a Marie Lu book, there is some twists and turns that I did not see coming. There is also the fact that the Neurolink was a small part of a bigger issue. That is all I am going to say because I do not want to spoil anything.

If there was a negative, I felt that I wish I saw more of the Phoenix Riders because I loved those characters so much in Warcross, and I wished they were more fleshed out in this book.

In the end, I loved Wildcard. It has everything that I love about Marie Lu’s books. With its amazing characters and a non stop plot. It takes some great twists and turns with a an amazing story to go with it.

Grade: 5/5

Advertisements

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killen

Summary:

After her mother is shot at a checkpoint, fifteen-year-old Sarah–blonde, blue-eyed, and Jewish–finds herself on the run from a government that wants to see every person like her dead. Then Sarah meets a mysterious man with an ambiguous accent, a suspiciously bare apartment, and a lockbox full of weapons. He’s a spy, and he needs Sarah to become one, too, to pull off a mission he can’t attempt on his own: infiltrate a boarding school attended by the daughters of top Nazi brass, befriend the daughter of a key scientist, and steal the blueprints to a bomb that could destroy the cities of Western Europe. With years of training from her actress mother in the art of impersonation, Sarah thinks she’s ready. But nothing prepares her for her cutthroat schoolmates, and soon she finds herself in a battle for survival unlike any she’d ever imagined. 

The Review:

I remember seeing this book at a lot of book stores. The cover, first of all really intrigued me because it looked liked a great spy novel dealing with Nazis in WWII, and I always love a good undercover story.

The WWII setting within Nazi Germany, and with a Jewish protagonist going undercover at a boarding school in Germany with children of SS officers was a nice touch. Sarah, who was trained as an actress so she was able to infiltrate the school.

Sarah was a nice main character to follow, with her trying to hide her Jewish heritage, I also like that there was times she completely had to improvise her situation in fear that they may find out who she really is.

The boarding school was a very torturous school, with teachers who would beat their students for misbehavior, and with the worship of Hitler or the Fuhrer. It also sort of had what I almost wanted to call Mean Girls, the Nazi version. With the Ice Queen sort of ruling the school. Sarah would have to spend most of her time trying to beat in races and also in school in order to get close to her because her father was a scientist working on the bomb.

A negative I would have for this book, is that it kinda lacked the espionage that I was hoping for. Most of the book was Sarah going undercover at the school, while her handler did most of the heavy lifting. While it wasn’t a bad thing because I got to see Nazi Germany from the Nazis point of view. I also feel that the ending was very rushed, and it almost felt random. I think a sequel may be in the works in which we could see a lot more espionage because the ending left it open for that.

In the end, I enjoyed Orphan Monster Spy. I always like undercover stories set within the history, and WWII was a good setting. It should how dark Nazi Germany was and why Sarah wanted to follow her cause. I hope if a sequel was made it would have a lot more espionage.

Grade: 3.5/5

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Summary:

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep

The Review:

This was another book that was on my TBR for a long time, along with the author, and it is a lovely book that was such a fun read.

The writing was magnificent, it felt as if every word as magical and poetry. The writing style with is lyrical prose just made the story just as strong as it already was.

The world building was outstanding, and it takes you on a journey through the world and through the dreams of Lazlo, who is an orphan and a librarian who is always fascinated by the history of the world especially trying to find the lost city of Weep, which is always have been told to be legend. It really does a good job at tying in the lore within the world.

Sarai, is the blue skinned girl who communicates with Lazlo through his dreams and they both form a connection with one another. She is trying to get out of the influence of who her mother was and a world who basically wants her dead. She is very wide eyed and outgoing. As a godspawn she is made of light and darkness and is always at a constant struggle with what to do and it makes her a fantastic character.

The Sarai and Lazlo connection is one of the highlights of the book for me. They form such a good relationship with one another and its a love story that you want to root for. While it does sort of come across as insta-love especially when they first meet each other through Lazlo’s dream, it really helps that both of their characters are well developed.

In the end, Strange the Dreamer was a great first book that introduces you to a great world. Laini Taylor’s lyrical prose made this book truly amazing, and I cannot wait to read Muse of Nightmares.

Grade: 5/5

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorites You’d like to Revist

Happy Wednesday everyone, and here is another Top 5 Wednesday and the topic is:

August 1: Favorites You’d Like to Revisit
— What favorite books would you like to re-read? These don’t just need to be books, they can also be TV, movies, video games, etc.

I love this topic because, there is always stuff I would love to revisit and not just books either.

Top 5 Wednesday is a group in Goodreads and was formerly created by Lainey at gingerreadslainey and is now done by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. It is open to everyone.

The Uglies Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld 

Image result for the uglies trilogy

I remember reading this series back when I was in high school and into college and really enjoying it. Then when I was at BookCon , I found out we has revisiting that world with Impostors. I was lucky enough to get an ARC of that book, but since I barely remember the Uglies trilogy, I should start by re-reading it.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel

Image result for buffy the vampire slayer

Buffy, is one of my favorite shows of all time, and withe news of a reboot, it got me thinking that I should rewatch the series. While I do have reservations about the reboot, but I did hear that it maybe a continuation rather than a full fledged reboot. I also credit this series for getting me more into the supernatural genre. I also can’t watch Buffy and also forgot about Angel, which I believe is a spin off that is almost better than the original show.

Red Dead Redemption

Image result for red dead redemption

With the sequel coming out in October, what better way to get me excited for the sequel, is to replay the original. I honestly believe that this game nailed the definitive western experience and it makes you feel like a bad ass.

The Illuminae Files by Jay Kristoff/Amie Kaufman

Image result for the illuminae files

My girlfriend bought the first book back in March. She still hasn’t read it, but no pressure for her. I really loved Obsidio, and it really gave me the epic finale I was looking for. This is one of my favorite series and I would love to do a buddy read with her.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Image result for six of crows duology

Another one of my favorite series. With King of Scars coming out this year, with also a Nina POV (so excited). I want to re-read this series again. While I wasn’t a huge fan of Shadow and Bone, this series, got me into the Grishaverse in the best way possible, with fantastic characters. I also heard rumors of a Six of Crows 3. Cross my fingers to hope that it is true.

Those are some of the favorites I would like to revisit. What are some of your favorites you would like to revisit? Let me know in the comments below.

One of Us is Lying by: Karen M. McManus

Summary:
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. 
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. 
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose? 
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.”

The Review:

This is a book sort outside of what I usually read because I don’t read a lot of YA contemporary, but I do like a good mystery book, and this book had it.

It started with five students in detention, all of whom look straight out of The Breakfast Club coming from all different walks of life, and while at first they seem like the cardboard cutouts of those characters as the book went on they started to become more fleshed out.

The “death” happens rather quickly with Simon, having an allergic reaction and dying, while it does start as an accident there is people who believe that he was poisoned. Since all of them were in the room, they all became suspects. As the book goes on, you begin to believe that all of them has a reason to kill Simon, mainly because he posts on a sort of Gossip-Girl type website spilling all of the students dirty laundry, and it revealed a lot of their deepest darkest secrets.

I liked that the book was told through all of their POVs, it really fleshed out a lot of their characters, and you begin to realize that they are more than just a Brain, a Jock, a Princess or a criminal.

I also liked how it talked a lot about the age of social media, and how the story became a national news scandal. It actually had some commentary about news media in general and how it affects those who are involved in the story.

Also with the mystery itself, it actually keeps you guessing with a whodunit, but it also evolves into a whydonit mystery, and a how. Because even with the reveal of the killer you still want to know, how and why.

In the end, I really enjoyed One of Us is Lying. It was a good YA mystery, that kept you guessing throughout the book. The characters were very fleshed out and you wanted to root for. It was takes a lot of good twist and turns.

Grade: 4/5

To Kill a Kingdom by: Alexandra Christo

Summary:

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

The Review:

This was very much a Little Mermaid retelling, with Sirens instead of mermaids, which I liked a lot. It does follow a bit of the same beats as the Disney movie.

It is told through two POVs, Lira and Elian. Lira is a Siren who is tasked in stealing princes’ hearts, literally from their chests. It was a lot brutal than I imagined it would be. She is also the daughter of the Sea Queen, who is ruthless and very cruel towards Lira. She is the one who tasks Lira into stealing Prince’s hearts. The Sea Queen would punish her daughter by turning her into a human, but she still has to steal a princes’ heart.

Lira deals with a lot in terms of her mother. The Sea Queen would constantly abuse her growing up and would manipulate her to do her bidding. With her constantly saying that she wasn’t good enough.

Elian is a prince from a nearby kingdom, who would rather be a pirate than a prince. He spends most of his time hunting down Sirens and killing them to rid them of their evil. I liked a lot of his story arc wanting to branch away from his prince duties in order to hang with his crew of the Saad. 

With the two POVS I got a sense of seeing sort of both sides of the conflict. With Elian, a Siren killed one of his friends and he has been basically on the hunt for them. With Lira it is what she was taught by her evil mother, The Sea Queen. I also liked that Elian spent most of the book not knowing Lira’s true identity.

The book was also paced well. It didn’t slow done one bit and even some of the more quiet moments, which lead to a lot of great character development.

The romance between Elian and Lira was also good. While it did have some cliche moments, and had some parallels with the Little Mermaid, I did spend most of my time rooting them on as a couple.

I also really liked the supporting characters, mainly the crew of the Saad. They each had their own distinct personalities and was pretty fleshed out as I wanted them to be, and they did leave me with the feeling of wanting them more.

This book is also surprisingly enough a stand alone, which is really rare in YA, and I kinda want to see where the characters would go after.

In the end, I really enjoyed To Kill a Kingdom. It had some great characters and a nice twist on the Little Mermaid with some issues about abuse and manipulation.

Grade: 4.5/5

Tradition by Brendan Kiely (CW: Sexual Assualt)

Summary:

Prestigious. Powerful. Privileged. This is Fullbrook Academy, an elite prep school where history looms in the leafy branches over its brick walkways. But some traditions upheld in its hallowed halls are profoundly dangerous.

Jules Devereux just wants to keep her head down, avoid distractions, and get into the right college, so she can leave Fullbrook and its old-boy social codes behind. She wants freedom, but ex-boyfriends and ex-best friends are determined to keep her in place.

Jamie Baxter feels like an imposter at Fullbrook, but the hockey scholarship that got him in has given him a chance to escape his past and fulfill the dreams of his parents and coaches, whose mantra rings in his ears: Don’t disappoint us.

When Jamie and Jules meet, they recognize in each other a similar instinct for survival, but at a school where girls in the student handbook are rated by their looks, athletes stack hockey pucks in dorm room windows like notches on a bedpost, and school-sponsored dances push first year girls out into the night with senior boys, the stakes for safe sex, real love, and true friendship couldn’t be higher.

As Jules and Jamie’s lives intertwine, and the pressures to play by the rules and remain silent about the school’s secrets intensify, they see Fullbrook for what it really is. That tradition, a word Fullbrook hides behind, can be ugly, even violent. Ultimately, Jules and Jamie are faced with the difficult question: can they stand together against classmates—and an institution—who believe they can do no wrong?

The Review:

This book, I sort of picked up on a whim. I knew of Brendan Keily as the co-author of All American Boys that we wrote with Jason Reynolds, and I even talked to him while getting his autograph at Bookcon, and he told me about this book.

The book is mainly told within three parts, a sort of before, during and after, and the book starts pretty much at an event and then goes to how the events lead to that incident. It has two POVs, James and Jules.

James is a transfer student, or a fifth year senior starting at the school and getting a fresh start after what happened at his old school. He has been recruited to play Hockey for them and quickly makes friends with the jock characters. I like that he was already unconformable with a lot of jock characters, who are all basically misogynist.

Jules, is someone who has attended the Fullbrook Academy and is on her senior year, who is basically counting the days until graduation so she could leave that school. She is practially an outsider, with a few friends.

I like that with the two POVs, you got see their own perspectives about each other. I also like how both Jules and James have start of with more of a friendship between each other. and seeing them bond over common interests.

I like the setting of the prestigious prep school, that fosters itself around tradition and order. As someone who has attended an all boys prep school, I can almost vouch for how those boys act, especially towards the young girls.

With the assault itself, it comes right at the middle of the book, and I like that it happened, towards the middle. It really gave me a chance to really recover with the character herself. It actually covers a lot of the beats that deals with sexual assault recovery, and wondering if it was her fault and also the backlash she received from former friends.

With the character of James, his arc revolves around trying to do the right thing with what happened with Jules and to stand up to his misogynist Hockey teammates. I also liked that he was able to be an effective ally without  verging into “not all men” territory.

In regards to the topic of sexual assault, I think more of the book could have dived deeper into the issue. But it did give us, a glimpse into what happens in regards to rape culture especially one that happened at a prestigious prep school, where the school is more likely to protect its reputation than protect the victim. It touches upon how harmful rape culture could be. I also felt that the ending was a bit rushed and could have been a bit more fleshed out.

In the end, I really enjoyed Tradition. It does a good job at tackling a subject such as rape culture, especially at a prep school, through the eyes of two great characters. I think it is a very important read, especially in regards to the #metoo movement

Grade: 4/5