Tag «Dystopian»

Trilogy Termination: The Chemical Gardens by Lauren DeStefano

trilogytermination

Spring 2017

Trilogy Termination Blitz: I finally finish some trilogies I started years ago by reading the final book! But don’t let my delay in finishing them deter you from picking them up…or should it?

Miss the Introduction Post? Read it here!

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Wither (from Goodreads):
By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.

When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape–before her time runs out?

Together with one of Linden’s servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Cover Love
Series: Chemical Gardens Trilogy
Author: Lauren DeStefano
# of Books: 3 (Wither, Fever, Sever)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance, Science Fiction
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: March 2011 – February 2013
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover; eBook (Sever)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I can’t remember how Wither crossed my radar all those years ago. I might have been browsing my library’s new catalogue items when the cover caught my attention. These covers are some of my all time favourites…well, not Sever so much but they are beautiful.

For Wither and Fever, I was the first one to read them at my library. I made sure my name was first on that holds list and I pretty much read them on their release date. But my not so great experience with Fever stopped that trend when it came time to read Sever the following year.

The Concept / The World:

As a scientist myself, the whole premise is what drew me to this story.

A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years.

Talk about intriguing!

It adds a layer of desperation to this series. There is nothing more thrilling in a novel than watching what happens when people are pushed to their extremes. It also creates the potential for a great villain (which we get here!).

And while this series doesn’t focus too much on the science of it all (not really until the last book), the premise itself creates a unique backdrop for this story.

The Plot:

Don’t go into this series thinking it is more science fiction than it is romance. While the romance isn’t the primary focus, it drives the plot more I find than the science of the world (which acts as a backdrop more than anything). It’s hard to pinpoint the main genre of this story.

And I think that might be this series problem: it’s hard to define.

I really enjoyed Wither for its unique premise: a girl thrust into a dire world she desperately wants to escape. Learning about Rhine’s world was probably my favourite aspect of that book.

But Fever has a completely different feel–it’s darker and lacks the romanticism underlying in Wither. But it also had a plot that seems to lack direction other than the passing of time. Sure, you get little bits and pieces of information but nothing is really done with it all. I found myself getting bored; especially when I was so absorbed in the world I had seen in Wither. It was a big disappointment for me.

Sever has that same slowness to it as well. I thought with the intense ending of Fever that it would continue that thrilling pace…but not so much. I would have DNF’d it if it wasn’t for it’s decent page count and my desire to see how this was all going to wrap up. Sure, it had its surprises but by that point I was past caring.

I think what this series needed was a more definable overarching plot-line. Perhaps it is just a result of me reading these books over the span of the course of years (thus missing the finer details), but I felt like each book was its own plot and world, only briefly linking to the one before it. There isn’t a complex plot to this series–or at least one that gets teased enough to keep you interested. I suppose the “cure” is the complex plot but it takes such a backseat for 80% of the series that it doesn’t contribute much to the notion.

The Characters:

Rhine doesn’t do much for me as a main character. It’s hard because you do learn a lot about her and her circumstances; I just wasn’t finding myself rooting for her throughout the series. She’s jaded and even though I understand why, she was just so “blah” to me as a character.

I think my biggest problem with Rhine is that she lets everything happen around her. And yes, she does have some pretty difficult situations and circumstances to navigate. Vaughn sure doesn’t make her life easy. But unless it was to save her own butt, she takes the meeker approach and that bored me. I just wanted some tenacity and not “meh”.

Truthfully, Linden was probably my favourite character. I’m not particularly sure why but I really felt for him as the series progressed.

The Romance:

This one didn’t do much for me. I’m sure my dislike of Rhine contributed to me not enjoying her romances. Not that she really had any. I suppose a better way to phrase the romance would be “love interests” that potentially could go somewhere.

But I wouldn’t suggest reading this series if all you wanted was a romance. There are much better science fiction romances out there if that is your main draw to this series.

Series Rating: 3/5

Wither 4/5 | Fever 3/5 | Sever 2/5

overall

This series is one of those missed opportunities for me. It has a cool premise but the execution just falls short for me. Perhaps, seek out a second opinion because I feel like I am in the minority. But if you want a science fiction novel that isn’t overly complicated, this is an interesting series to try.

Read if You Like: jaded heroines, light science fiction
Avoid if You: want more romance, want a more complicated plot

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Thanks for tuning in for this review blitz! I hope to have another one in the very near future!

Fresh Fridays: The Divinity Bureau (#1) by Tessa Clare

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

The Divinity Bureau Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Divinity Bureau (from Goodreads):

The Hunger Games meets Romeo and Juliet in a stunning debut about a forbidden romance between a young activist and a government employee working for a corrupt bureau that controls the population by deciding who lives and who dies.

Roman Irvine is a disgruntled IT Technician for the Divinity Bureau, a government agency that uses random selection to decide who lives and who dies. In a world where overpopulation has led to pollution, a crippled economy, and a world in crisis, he has accepted the bureau’s activities as a necessity. That is until he meets April McIntyre.

April has every reason to be suspicious of Roman. He works for the Divinity Bureau, which sent her father to an early grave. However, he is also sweet and loyal, and unbeknownst to her, he saved her life. As Roman and April fall deeper in love, the deeper they are thrust into the politics of deciding who lives and who dies. Someone wants April dead. And the bureau’s process of random selection may not be so random after all.

breakdown

Series: The Divinity Bureau
Author: Tessa Clare
# of Books: 1+ (The Divinity Bureau, Book 2)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, there is a sequel in the works
Genre: New Adult, Non-Contemporary New Adult, Romance, Dystopian, Science Fiction
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: September 21, 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: YA Bound Book Tours–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This book first crossed my radar after I read a review for it over at Darque Dreamer Reads. The synopsis sounded like something I would enjoy (I love anything with a Romeo and Juliet vibe to it!) so I decided to keep an eye out for it. And wouldn’t you know that a review opportunity came up and I just knew it was a sign that I should read this book.

The Concept / The World:

First off, the premise of this book is just plain intriguing! Overpopulation and resources is something you hear about in the news every so often but it’s something you don’t think will ever happen (at least in your life time). But what happens if it did? One of the main reasons I love dystopian novels is that they take these ideas and take them to the extremes to explore what would happen.

And that’s where this novel truly succeeds. Tessa Clare has done an amazing job crafting this world to parallel current trends in the world despite this taking place in the distant future. One thing that really struck me in particular was the fact that Roman (our hero) has a masters degree but finds himself in a minimum wage job struggling to make ends meet. (I feel ya!)

However, I did feel like we got a little bit of info-dumping at the start of the novel. It stifled the flow a bit and so it took me awhile to get into the story; but once you get past that, things even out. It’s an easy world to understand though despite all this.

The Plot:

I’d say the first half of this novel is predominately focused on the romance–something I should have remembered from Darque’s review. While I enjoyed their romance and chemistry, I needed more action to keep my attention. Everything just felt mundane to me.

As it was, my interest had waned by the halfway point which is when all the political drama happens and we get to the gritty part of the story. By then I was just skimming because I found that the plot wasn’t as exciting as I wanted it to be.

The Characters:

Roman was definitely a highlight for me. He’s such a refreshing hero to have in a dystopian story because he is the everyday man. He’s not this overly confident guy who oozes charisma and is an action star prodigy. He’s definitely charming in his own way though. His heart is in the right place, even if he makes the wrong choices but you couldn’t help but root for him.

April is flawed in her own way too. She’s incredibly impulsive and lacks maturity despite her age. She’s got a fighting spirit though which I always like.

The Romance:

Again, this is a huge focus of the novel and it does a lot of good for the story as well. The clashing of these two really emphasizes the world and its problems. You’ve got a rich girl who has been shielded from the realities of the world and a poor boy who strives for more but can’t get there. But watching their love grow despite everything was really sweet.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I started this book thinking it was a standalone but I started to suspect as I got further into the novel that it would have a sequel. I’m curious to see how this will all be wrapped up but I don’t think I will be picking the sequel up.

My Rating: 2.5/5

overall

In a lot of ways, this book reminded me of the classic 1984. The characters are at the whim of the world around them and they slowly start to rebel in their own way. But for most of the story, we are focused on their everyday lives and how they are constricted by this oppressing world. It’s not a bad thing if you know to expect that. I just wanted a little more action and conspiracy and thrill.

I really think readers of Lauren Oliver’s Delirium Series will enjoy this one!

Read if You Like: world-building, dystopian, slower starts, romance
Avoid if You: want physical action, want less romance

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Series Review: Perfected by Kate Jarvik Birch

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Perfected (from Goodreads):

Perfection comes at a price.

As soon as the government passed legislation allowing humans to be genetically engineered and sold as pets, the rich and powerful rushed to own beautiful girls like Ella. Trained from birth to be graceful, demure, and above all, perfect, these “family companions” enter their masters’ homes prepared to live a life of idle luxury.

Ella is happy with her new role as playmate for a congressman’s bubbly young daughter, but she doesn’t expect Penn, the congressman’s handsome and rebellious son. He’s the only person who sees beyond the perfect exterior to the girl within. Falling for him goes against every rule she knows… and the freedom she finds with him is intoxicating.

But when Ella is kidnapped and thrust into the dark underworld lurking beneath her pampered life, she’s faced with an unthinkable choice. Because the only thing more dangerous than staying with Penn’s family is leaving… and if she’s unsuccessful, she’ll face a fate far worse than death.

For fans of Kiera Cass’ Selection series and Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden series, Perfected is a chilling look at what it means to be human, and a stunning celebration of the power of love to set us free, wrapped in a glamorous—and dangerous—bow.

breakdown

Series: Perfected Trilogy
Author: Kate Jarvik Birch
# of Books: 3 (Perfected, Tarnished, Unraveled)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Dystopian
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: July 2014 – April 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook (Perfected); Netgalley–eARC

Tarnished & Unraveled were provided via NetGalley

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I initially had this series as a pass after reading a few mixed reviews. But then I saw the audiobook at my library and decided to give it a second chance. I was intrigued by the concept and I seem to have great success listening to dystopian YA worlds (The Lone City Trilogy for example) so why not?

The Concept / The World:

The idea that girls are bred as pets for wealthy people is an interesting and unique dystopian spin. I’ve read books where girls are bred for surrogates (The Jewel) or girls are sent off to marry older men to repopulate the world (Wither) but nothing of this variety before.

What’s the purpose? Why has society come to this?

Unfortunately, we don’t really explore this too much, especially in Perfected (Book #1). I think we get one line in Perfected that gives us the history of why they started breeding girls (or at least where the idea originated from). So in that respect, I was a little disappointed because I wanted to learn more.

However, I find the sequels do a better job or highlighting the various issues of having “pets”. The focus shifts to questions about what makes someone human and allusions to owning humans (ie slavery). It gets more of a social conscience as the story progresses and that definitely appealed to me as a reader.

The Plot:

I’d have a hard time telling you the exact plot for Perfected  (Book 1) because there isn’t too much of one. The synopsis is a touch misleading because the kidnapping aspects seems like it would be the main plot-point but it isn’t. It’s a crucial moment in the novel but it isn’t the main story.

Perfected is mostly about Ella losing her naivety about the world. She’s been at her “kennel” for 16 years and told the world is a certain way. But as she lives in the real world, her ideology changes and she grows as a person. It isn’t terribly exciting but I did find myself entertained nonetheless. I love good character progression and Ella–though she makes some mistakes–is endearing in her efforts.

Compared to the first novel, the sequels (Tarnished and Unraveled) have much better pacing and are constantly introducing new elements into the plot. I didn’t find myself getting bored or lost in the mundane everyday life of a pet. Ella gets tested and she has some hard decisions to make and I loved watching that journey.

The Characters:

Like I said, Ella is naive but given the circumstances of her life up until the start of Perfected, it makes sense. I think people might forget that a little. She’s the very definition of sheltered and so she has a child-like approach to the world. I found as the story progressed, she evolved and the gears started turning for her a little more. She broke out of that shell and I liked that. Sure, she makes some silly mistakes but I find she is constantly learning and evolving as a character and you can’t ask for much more than that.

I also really liked some of the side characters as well, especially as the series progressed. There’s one character who completely captivated me with her story and I think she provides a nice complement to Ella with her someone jaded personality and approach.

The Romance:

Truthfully, I wasn’t totally sold on the romance between Ella and Penn. It’s one of those situations where they connected over one thing (music) and the rest is developed “off-camera” away from the reader. It’s cute but it just seemed fluffy to me. But it is a good catalyst for driving the plot forward, especially in the sequels. It isn’t a huge focus moving forward so I appreciated that and I even appreciated the sweet moments later on.

My Audiobook Experience for Perfected (#1):

I was only able to read Perfected as an audiobook and I’m glad I did. I think getting Ella’s tone of voice as she narrated her story helped me understand her character a lot more. I could understand her struggles and developed sympathy for her character which allowed me to enjoy the story more. Having that voice in my head as I read the print versions of the sequels helped me establish her character as well.

Series Rating: 4/5

Perfected 3/5 | Tarnished 4/5 | Unraveled 4/5

overall

Despite a slower start in Book #1, I found this series grew exponentially as the sequels evolved. It’s an intriguing concept and world and I think if you take the time to establish everything in the first novel, you’ll appreciate the great sequels.

Read if You Like: light dystopian, romance
Avoid if You: want stronger world building, action

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Series Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

book4 book5 book6

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Shatter Me (from Goodreads):

Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

breakdown

Series: Shatter Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
# of Books: 6 (Full Reading Order)

There are 2 novellas: #1.5 Destroy Me and #2.5 Fracture Me

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Restore Me will be published in March 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content later in series**
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: November 2011 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve had Shatter Me for a ridiculous long time on my TBR. Every once in a while I would think to read it, but all the novels were checked out in the library. And it wasn’t until the next 3 novels were announce that I decided to make it a priority for 2017. Specifically, I used it as my “binge” series for my Summer TBR Wipeout Challenge.

The Concept / The World:

If you’ve read any dystopian fiction before, you know how it goes. You have a minority in power and the majority struggling/accepting that things are the way they are. Queue the secret rebel society and there starts your series. This one isn’t that different when it comes down to it.

What I will say about this series is that (so far) we don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on why things are why they are. What I mean is that you focus more on Juliette finding her way in the world instead of focusing on why she has this power or why the world collapsed into what it is now. So I guess the world building leaves a little to be desired but I also wasn’t reading it for that purpose either.

The Plot:

As I said above, this series is all about Juliette’s character growth and how she adapts to the situations she finds herself in. Perhaps that sounds a little dull, but I found myself captivated by her story. There are some great twists and events along the way so I never felt bored by the plot.

The Characters:

I LOVED Juliette! Her growth from Shatter Me to Ignite Me was exactly what I want to see in my heroines. And what’s really cool is that it shows in the narration style throughout the series. In Shatter Me, it’s a touch disjointed and uncertain; in Unravel Me, she gets a little surer of herself; and in Ignite Me, she’s confident and just goes for it. It was a awesome evolution.

The rest of the cast is fabulous. I loved how they added to the story when they needed to but never overshadowed Juliette.

And can I just say, I LOVE Warner! I love a bad boy and his character added so much to this story! He’s a great villain!

The Romance:

Oh, this is one of my favourite aspects because it does a fabulous job of enhancing the story. I don’t want to get into much since I don’t do spoilers but I really liked the romance…yes, even the love triangle we get. This is one of the few times I think a love triangle was used effectively and actually contributed to the overall plot.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

While I liked the ending in Ignite Me, I think it would have been a different story if I didn’t know about the next 3 books. I think I would have wanted more…so glad I’ll be getting it!

Series Rating: 4/5

Shatter Me 4/5 | Unravel Me 4/5 | Ignite Me 4/5

overall

If you want a dystopian read that focuses on the heroine’s personal journey and doesn’t get too caught up in the world or why it is the way it is, this is the one for you!

Read if You Like: dystopian, love triangles, heroine development
Avoid if You: want more world building
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Series Review: The Lone City by Amy Ewing

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Jewel (from Goodreads):

The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence… and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

breakdown

Series: The Lone City Trilogy
Author: Amy Ewing
# of Books: 3 (The Jewel, The White Rose, The Black City)

There are some short stories. Full reading order here.

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: September 2014 – October 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This is one of those series that would pop up on occasion for me. Mostly anytime when I reviewed any of the books from The Selection Series or browsed my library’s eBook collection. I’ll admit, I didn’t really know what the series was about until I decided to pick it up as an audiobook series and read the synopsis.

I also wasn’t sure what to expect but I have a few standards that I like all my dystopian novels to have: an intriguing world, a heroine I can tolerate and an actual plotline.

The Concept / The World:

Although the concept is very similar to other dystopian novels (especially The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood) I’ve encountered in the past, I definitely got sucked into the world. I just love high society books and all the scandals of the haves vs the have-nots. Ewing does a great job of establishing the society here and why everything is as it is. There are a ton of secrets so you don’t know who you can and can’t trust and it just makes the entire story addicting.

The Plot:

You aren’t going to find the action-packed plotlines of The Hunger Games here but you are going to get more of a dramatic plot than The Selection Series ever provides. Meaning there is more than just a forbidden romance at play here.

It helps that this world is so intricate in its structure. Like most caste system stories, it’s the haves vs the have nots and that creates a tense atmosphere of danger and intrigue. The risks are high and you never doubt that for a moment thanks to the antics of the upper classes.

However, I did find the pacing to be off at times. For example, The Jewel starts off with a bang because you are thrown into this super interesting world. Getting acquainted with it and watching Violet navigate this was exciting to read until it reached a lull. The introduction of the romance (just past the 50% mark) really slowed down the plot since the romance becomes the larger focus and the rest of the intrigue takes a backseat. Thankfully it picks up again at the end.

The same can be said about The White Rose which suffers from the typical Book 2 of a Trilogy Slump. It was terribly slow even though important developments do happen–especially near the end.

The Black City, book 3, keeps the pacing strong at the start but wanes a little again in the middle. I was a little disappointed by some of the big “twists” but it was a solid ending to the series as a whole.

The Characters:

I went through a bit of a rocky relationship with Violet. In The Jewel, I liked her as a heroine more so than others I’ve encountered in this type of dystopian story. She didn’t drive me insane though I did roll my eyes many a times at some of her comments. (Often during the romantic scenes because I really wasn’t feeling that aspects). I think I was able to forgive some of her naivety because she really is kept in the dark due to her position/role in society. Of course she is going to react impulsively and not really think things through all the time.

And that’s the case as the series progresses. She doesn’t make the wisest decisions–she fails to see the bigger picture at times and that drove me a little nuts.

But I did like a lot of the side characters and I liked that it was easy to hate the villains.

The Romance:

This was a huge disappointment truthfully. I’m all for forbidden romances but this one just bored me. Their connection just seemed very superficial to me and it definitely borders on insta-love. I just wanted a little more substance here. I can’t help but feel that Garnet (the son of the Duchess who bought Violet) would have been a more intriguing love interest for her rather than Ash (who is a little dull despite all the efforts to make him compelling).

The Novellas:

I read both Garnet’s Story (#1.2) and The House of Stone (1.5) right after I read The Jewel. Garnet’s Story in particular does a good job bridging The Jewel and The White Rose and since I loved him as a character, it was great to get that insight. Raven is also a strong character so it was nice to fill in some of the gaps about her story. I opted not to pick up the other short stories.

My Audiobook Experience:

This was the first series I had read exclusively through an audiobook and I think it was a great choice. As I’ve often said in my other audiobook reviews, audiobooks do a great job of conveying emotions I wouldn’t have necessarily felt while reading. I also think it helped me understand Violet a little more. It’s so easy when you read words to interpret them one way instead of another. And I think by having someone speak Violet’s words and convey the emotions she is feeling, it helped me get what Violet’s motivations were–cooling my irritation with her.

Series Rating: 3/5

The Jewel 3.5/5 | The White Rose 3/5 | The Black City 3/5

overall

I’m a particularly hard critic on my dystopian novels but this one was solid from start to end even if it didn’t feel like that at times. While some things were predictable, others wowed me and had me wanting to know more. It’s addicting albeit slow at times but I think readers who enjoy high society dystopian novels will enjoy this.

Read if You Like: high society, dystopian
Avoid if You: want physical action

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Fresh Fridays: Royal Replicas (#1) by Michael Pierce

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

Royal Replicas Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Royal Replicas (from Goodreads):

“Princess Amelia is dead… and one of you will replace her.”

Seventeen-year-old Victoria Sandalwood has served the Duke and Duchess all her life. Over the years, she’s learned to make due with what she has and endure her surrogate father’s awful punishments. She dreams of escape, but never expected it to come in the form of a message from the Queen of Westeria.

Victoria learns that she’s the Queen’s daughter, the younger sister to Princess Amelia, and it’s time to come home and claim her birthright. When she arrives, she discovers she’s not the only one who received the royal message.

Victoria must compete with six other girls to earn the affection of both the Queen and a princely suitor… and to replace the secretly deceased Princess Amelia. If she fails to win the crown, Victoria may just have to fight for her life…

breakdown

Series: Royal Replicas
Author: Michael Pierce
# of Books: 2 (Royal Replicas, Royal Captives)

There is a prequel novella (#0.5) called Royal Reset

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Royal Captives, is to be published
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: July 11, 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: YA Bound Book Tours–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

While the cover drew me in, the synopsis had me wanting more. I love books with courtly intrigue or politics and throw in the idea that girls have to compete to be the next princess? I was so there!

I went in hoping for a book like The Selection but with a lead I could actually like and a story that actually went somewhere.

What I Liked:

–The Mystery of the Competition–

Trying to figure out the Queen of Westeria’s motivations for the competition truly had me eager for me. It kept me hooked and had me coming up with all sorts of conspiracy theories. I love books that keep me guessing.

–The World–

Dystopian worlds all share the same basic foundations which can get monotonous over time. But this one still felt fresh to me. I think it’s because we don’t focus too much on its structure and keep our focus on Victoria’s journey. I’m hoping that we can expand this in the sequel(s).

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Choppy Romance–

While this wasn’t the main reason I picked up this story, I do like a solid romance in my reads. Unfortunately, this one was a little all over the place. I could forgive Victoria for her back and forth feelings given the situation(s) she finds herself in. I would be torn too. However, I really didn’t see the connection to either boy and her flip-flopping drove me NUTS because of it. The connections just seemed shallow and too quick for me to really “pick a team”.

–It Played Things Too Safe–

With some of the plot twists, I feel like they were revealed a little too abruptly. There were certain things that could have built or been taken to the next level to give this book the “wow” factor it easily could have.

The Novella, Royal Reset:

I read this after Royal Replicas and I feel like you could read it before or after. I found it didn’t give too much away in terms of a certain character (I actually had more questions than answers after I finished reading it–even though I had read the full novel). But, I do think it does a slightly better job of explaining Victoria’s home life and leads nicely into Royal Replicas.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I have so many unanswered questions that I’m curious to see what is going to happen next! I’m hoping now that the novelty of the romance is done, we can get back to the nitty gritty of the plot and trying to uncover what is at play.

My Rating: 3/5

[Royal Reset] 3/5 | Royal Replicas 3/5 | Royal Captives TBP

overall

This is a lighter dystopian read packed with an addictive and suspenseful plot that is layered in mystery.

Read if You Like: dystopian, courtly intrigue, mysterious plots
Avoid if You: hate love triangles
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Single Sundays: 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for 5 to 1 (from Goodreads):

In the year 2054, after decades of gender selection, India now has a ratio of five boys for every girl, making women an incredibly valuable commodity. Tired of marrying off their daughters to the highest bidder and determined to finally make marriage fair, the women who form the country of Koyanagar have instituted a series of tests so that every boy has the chance to win a wife.

Sudasa doesn’t want to be a wife, and Contestant Five, a boy forced to compete in the test to become her husband, has other plans as well. Sudasa’s family wants nothing more than for their daughter to do the right thing and pick a husband who will keep her comfortable—and caged. Five’s family wants him to escape by failing the tests. As the tests advance, Sudasa and Five thwart each other at every turn until they slowly realize that they just might want the same thing.

Told from alternating points of view—Sudasa’s in verse and Contestant Five’s in prose—allowing readers to experience both characters’ pain and their brave struggle for hope.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author
Author: Holly Bodger
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Poetry
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I marked this as a book I found from a blog but I’m not sure where. Not that it really matters, this book seemed to be everywhere when it came out so I’m sure it wasn’t a single source. The cover was making lists of fave covers; the synopsis is more than intriguing and the narration style is noteworthy. So I put it on my TBR but never got a chance to read it back in 2015. Which is why I added it to my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge as a pick for 2015.

The Concept:

I love stories that challenge our everyday norms; in particular our views on gender roles. I just loved the idea of a matriarchal society–where women are in control and boys compete to win their hand. It’s very reminiscent of something you might see in Victorian times; only this is the future and an isolated society and girl’s are the ultimate prize. I thought this exploration was done fantastically and you can tell it is the driving force behind this story. It really makes you think about what it means to be a woman or a man in society and the expectations that come along with it.

The Narration Style:

I definitely missed the part in the synopsis about Sudasa’s chapters being in verse so that was a cool surprise. It’s easy to read (the flow is great) and the formatting is awesome. Very unique. As a whole it really works as a tool to convey how restricted Sudasa is in her life.

HOWEVER, I did struggle near the end trying to interpret what was happening. The ending seemed so rushed to me because it is told in verse (not in full paragraphs) and I had a hard time following. I just felt like I was misinterpreting what was being said and so I couldn’t put in together the developments. And in turn, that dampened my reading experience (and my rating).

The Characters:

I really liked these two as leads. They were not only rebellious but also intelligent as well. Meaning they thought about everything they did before they did it. I liked that they weren’t overly impulsive.

For this story being a shorter novel, I was really impressed by how developed they were as characters.

The Romance:

I just want to say that if you think this is going to be some epic romance between two people who never wanted to get married–think again. Like I said above, this story is all about pressures from society and not the romance. The marriage situation is just a tool to emphasize the circumstances.

My Rating: 3/5

overall

As I approached the final few chapters, this was going to be a 4/5 star read for me. Unfortunately, this story just felt a little rushed at the end. It’s a great story about gender roles/expectations but it isn’t a romance by any stretch of the imagination.

Read if You Like: dystopia, reversed gender roles
Avoid if You: want a romance
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Series Review: The Sky by J W Lynne

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Above the Sky (from Goodreads):

HER FIRST EIGHTEEN YEARS WERE FILLED WITH LIES.
SHE IS ABOUT TO DISCOVER THE TRUTH.

Eighteen-year-old Seven and her best friend, Ten, live where all is peaceful … except for the violent war raging above the sky. Lifelike humanoid robots and self-operated drones tend to everyone’s needs, leaving people free to spend their time stimulating their minds and enjoying life’s pleasures. But there are strict rules and few choices.

Every year, on Assignment Day, the path of each eighteen-year-old’s life is laid out. Some are given the jobs for which they have shown exceptional aptitude and are “paired” for mating. The others are sent off to fight in The War and never return.

When Assignment Day comes for Seven, the assignments shatter everything she’s ever believed. The rules force everyone to accept their fates, but Seven decides to do something unprecedented: to go against the Decision Makers’ wishes.

breakdown

Series: The Sky Trilogy; Above the Sky Series
Author: J W Lynne
# of Books: 3 (Above the Sky, Return to the Sky, Part of the Sky)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Romance
Heat Rating: warm *more suggestive than descriptive*
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: July 2015 – January 2017
Source & Format: Author–eARC

thoughts

**This is a review of the first book only: Above the Sky**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I love dystopian novels but lately I’ve been reading more high fantasy than science fiction. So I was really interested in reviewing this series because:

ABOVE THE SKY is perfect for readers who enjoyed THE HUNGER GAMES (by Suzanne Collins), DIVERGENT (by Veronica Roth), THE MAZE RUNNER (by James Dashner), ENDER’S GAME (by Orson Scott Card), and THE GIVER (by Lois Lowry)

While I’ve only read the first three series listed there, I did enjoy them (some more than others). But those are big shoes to fill. So, I was excited to see what this series could bring to this genre and how it would stand out from its predecessors.

The Concept / The World:

Like any dystopian novel, there are certain staple features to the world but it never felt like a copy-cat. There are enough unique flares to make this story original and engaging for the readers.

My favourite aspect was the mystery element to the world. What is happening around Seven? What is “the war”? What does it mean to be a “warrior”? Why did society resort to this? I had so many questions and I could’t wait to get the answers! It was great getting those little reveals on the way.

The Plot:

While there isn’t a lot of physical action (ex. fighting, etc), the story moved at a consistent pace that never left me bored. Part of the drive to keep reading was the mystery of the world but also the society Seven is a part of.

Throw in some interesting twists along the way and you’ve got an intriguing story. The plot itself is something I haven’t really come across yet in the genre and I found that to be really refreshing.

The Characters:

Seven is a bit of an unintentional unreliable narrator because she too is exploring the world. But I liked her curiosity and her willingness to learn to adapt to the situation. It was nice to see her character grow as the situation changes.

The rest of the cast is also solid. Again, you only get tidbits when the time is right and I loved that.

The Romance:

While this aspect is important, it doesn’t become the sole focus like so many other dystopian novels. It’s super cute.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I have so many questions I need answered! I can’t wait to see how the next one picks up!

Series Rating: 4/5

Above the Sky 4/5 | Return to the Sky TBA | Part of the Sky TBA

overall

If you like your dystopians to be more mystery than high paced action, this is a great series to try!

Read if You Like: Science Fiction, mystery
Avoid if You: want more romance, want more action
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Series Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Red Rising (from Goodreads):
Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fave Read 2016
Series: Red Rising Trilogy

There is a spin-off series in the works, the Iron Gold Trilogy.

Author: Pierce Brown
# of Books: 3 (The Red Rising, Golden Son, Morning Star)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult/Young Adult, Science Fiction, Action, War, Dystopian
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: January 2014 – February 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Red Rising caught my eye around the time it was released in 2014 but I didn’t think much else of it. The synopsis sounded intriguingly vague and so I decided to “wait and see” if I should pick up the series. As time passed, it seemed to be getting lots of positive reviews and I made the decision to wait until everything was released so I could binge read it all.

I admit, I was a little worried when I first saw the cover of Red Rising, touting it to be like “The Hunger Games”. Lots of series of have tried but nothing has ever lived up to the rush I got reading the first Hunger Games novel. But, the promise of a male protagonist and a dangerous, political game made me excited to dive into this series.

The Concept / The World:

This is one dark, dangerous world–and it sucks you in. I adore dystopian stories that are rich in politics and strategies and this series has it in spades. You don’t know who to trust; you don’t know what games are afoot and if the characters are aware; and you definitely don’t know who will live to see another day.

In that respect, it reminds me of Game of Thrones. You have all these players vying for power in a world that is simple but complexly layered. And no one seems to be safe from the violence. Sure, get attached to the characters but be prepared that some might not make it far.

I also see where the Hunger Games links occur. The idea is very Katniss Everdeen-esque. Darrow is picked to the be face of the rebellion (like Katniss) but unlike Katniss, he doesn’t hesitate to do so. The plot of Red Rising is also very similar to the Hunger Games themselves–and I think fans will embrace the concept with open arms even if it is more politically driven than the need to survive alone.

The Plot:

This series is one of those 5 star reads you give simply because it is beautifully crafted from start to finish. You don’t give it 5 stars simply because you couldn’t put it down–you give it 5 stars for its methodical execution. Simply put, I’ve never read a series like this before. Though I found these novels addicting, I really took my time with them–averaging 7 days to read them instead of my usual 2-3 days.

These books have so many layers; so many doorways for the plot to move down. The twists were amazing. I love stories that have so many games afoot you don’t know fact from fiction or who is in on the betrayal or not.

That being said, I can see why people wouldn’t enjoy them that much. They do start slow, each book rebuilding itself after the amazing ending of the last. I know the violence and murder will turn a lot of people off. People may have a hard time liking the characters. And if you don’t enjoy the mind-games of characters and the charades of politics, you might find this series dry as well.

All I can suggest is to try the sample or give the first book a shot because this whole series builds up beautifully. I feel like these books are ones you appreciate more in hindsight, when you can see how everything unfolded and how it all works together.

The Characters:

Most YA dystopian reads that I pick up have female protagonists. Honestly, I think Winston from 1984 is the only male dystopian lead I can think of off the top of my head if pressed. And while I love reading about strong female protagonists, I always enjoy seeing a male hero rise to the occasion.

Darrow is an interesting character. He easily garnered my sympathy early in the series and maintained it throughout. I loved the way his mind worked–it was endlessly fascinating. His plans, his manipulations, his compassion–they make him unique and a joy to watch. Seeing him grow over the course of these novels was a real treat.

I won’t say much about the other characters because it will lead to a lot of spoilers but I really grew attached to a lot of them. Some I didn’t even realize until something awful happened. I definitely loved and hated these characters and I love when a series brings that out in me!

The Romance:

This is such a minor part of the series but I love how it adds to the depth of the story. This isn’t a romance series by any stretch of the imagination.

My Expectations for the Spin-off Series:

I have my hypotheses for what will happen next but I can NOT wait to see what happens next!

Series Rating: 5/5

Red Rising 5/5 | Golden Son 5/5 | Morning Star 5/5

overall

If you love a good science fiction novel rich in action, political intrigue and many, many plot twists, you NEED to read this series!

Read if You Like: politcal dystopians, male protagonists, science fiction
Avoid if You: dislike violence, want more romance

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Series Review: The Prodigy Chronicles by C L Denault

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

The Prodigy Chronicles

book3 book4

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Gambit (from Goodreads):

In Earth’s battle-ridden future, humans have evolved. Those with extraordinary skills rise to power and fame. Those without live in poverty.

Sixteen-year-old Willow Kent believed she was normal. But when a genetically-advanced military officer shows up in her village and questions her identity, long-buried secrets begin to emerge. With remarkable skills and a shocking genetic code the Core and its enemies will do anything to obtain, Willow suddenly finds the freedom she craves slipping through her fingers. Greed, corruption, and genetic tampering threaten every aspect of her existence as she’s thrust, unwilling, into the sophisticated culture of the elite Core city. To ensure peace, she must leave the past behind, marry a man she’s never met, and submit to the authority of a relentless officer with a hidden agenda of his own.

Her life has become a dangerous game. How much will she sacrifice in order to win?

breakdown

Series: The Prodigy Chronicles
Author: C L Denault
# of Books: 1+ (Gambit, book 2, book 3, book 4)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 2 will be released
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Action, Dystopian
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: March 2015 – ongoing
Source & Format: NetGalley–eARC  |  Thanks REUTS Publications!

disclaimernetgalley

thoughts

**This post was originally posted as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to reflect my conclusion to DNF this series. It will not be further updated.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Gambit had been on my NetGalley personal wishlist for a long time. It was always at the top of my “request” list because the synopsis sounded kick-ass. It sounded like a science fiction dystopian novel rich in political intrigue and danger. I LOVE stories like that and I really wanted Gambit to join that list of awesomeness.

What I Liked:

–The Genetics Aspect–

I thought the abilities of these characters were really intriguing. As someone who has studied biology for many years, I liked the approach this novel took. Society’s focus on making the human race stronger by selective breeding and other methods–ethics aside–is very interesting and gives this world a depth I really enjoyed.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Pacing–

I felt like this book moved at a slow pace. I thought more of it would take place in the Core, leading to more politics and the like, but it took a long time to get there. And once it did, I had lost interest.

It doesn’t help that Willow just lets things happen around her. She doesn’t push back too much–at least that’s the case earlier in the novel–so she was a bit of a lump on a log for the vast majority of this story.

But another reason the pacing seemed so was…

–Too Many Unanswered Questions–

I kinda felt like things were thrown out there but never really worked upon. Things were mentioned earlier and then randomly reappear later and I had a hard time keeping everything straight. Maybe part of the problem was I read this book sporadically over a week and with mild interest, thus dampening my memory but things just didn’t seem to add up for me.

–The Romance–

At first, I worried there was going to be a love triangle but that is not the case in the slightest. The arranged marriage trope takes a backseat for the longest time and the other potential triangle goes away quickly.

But with the potential love interest, I wasn’t feeling it. It seemed to appear out of nowhere and I didn’t like the unhealthy approach it had. Shame, because a good romance might have kept me interest.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

There are a lot of things left unanswered that might make this story more interesting. However, in the long run, I didn’t enjoy this one all that much and my investment is pretty much zilch in continuing on to the next one.

My Rating: 2/5

Gambit 2/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

This one just took too long to get anywhere. The potential was there but it just didn’t work it to its full advantage. I would seek a second opinion if you are interested in reading it because I know a lot of people did enjoy it.

Read if You Like: slower stories, science fiction
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance

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