Book Review: The Iron Warrior by Julie Kagawa

Written by: Julie Kagawa
Release Date: Oct 27th 2015
Pages: 384, Paperback
Series: The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten, #3
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The Iron Prince—my nephew—betrayed us all.

He killed me.

Then, I woke up.

Waking after a month on the brink of death, Ethan Chase is stunned to learn that the Veil that conceals the fey from human sight was temporarily torn away. Although humankind’s glimpse of the world of Faery lasted just a brief moment, the human world has been cast into chaos, and the emotion and glamour produced by fear and wonder has renewed the tremendous power of the Forgotten Queen. Now, she is at the forefront of an uprising against the courts of Summer and Winter—a reckoning that will have cataclysmic effects on the Nevernever.

Leading the Lady’s Forgotten Army is Keirran himself: Ethan’s nephew, and the traitor son of the Iron Queen, Meghan Chase.To stop Keirran, Ethan must disobey his sister once again as he and his girlfriend, Kenzie, search for answers long forgotten. In the face of unprecedented evil and unfathomable power, Ethan’s enemies must become his allies, and the world of the fey will be changed forevermore.

LetsTalk

This series was one of the series I binged a couple years back, and while it is rather a simple series, it’s one that has made its way into my heart. I’ve been keeping up with this one through the new books and I’m so sad to see it go. I know Kagawa has moved onto other series that I really love, but it’s hard to say goodbye to old characters. I just kinda want to keep them with me always, with always new stories….and yet not have them be sad anymore. Trust me it’s a complex life I lead.

That being said The Iron Warrior works as an amazing goodbye to both new and old characters. We get amazing moments with both Ash and Meghan, alongside amazing moments for Ethan and Kenzie! Not to mention all of the side characters we’ve always adored. I just, ugh, guys. I love a lot of series in it’s kinda cliche and wonderful way.

I’m gonna try to wrap this up in the best way I can with it being the end of a series, and the end of a world… But there might be spoilers for at least the original four Iron King books, if not for past books in this series.

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DNF Review: Ugly by Margaret McHeyzer

Written by: Margaret McHeyzer
Release Date: October 26, 2015
Pages: ???
Series: Standalone
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Thanks so much to NetGalley for this eARC!

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If I were dead, I wouldn’t be able to see.
If I were dead, I wouldn’t be able to feel.
If I were dead, he’d never raise his hand to me again.
If I were dead, his words wouldn’t cut as deep as they do.
If I were dead, I’d be beautiful and I wouldn’t be so…ugly.
I’m not dead…but I wish I was.

*This is a dark YA/NA stand-alone, full-length novel. Contains violence.

DNF

Around 70%. For a while I was going to finish it because I was curious to see how it ended, but then school started and my reading time was cut in half and I’m not going to waste what little I have on a book I’m not really enjoying.

LetsTalk

I really wish I liked this book better than I did. I respect what the author was trying to do–show the effects of abuse on a young woman, and how, with the help of those who loved her and through her own strength, she survived the horrors of her past and built a life for herself. Unfortunately, the writing in the book was so cliche and lacking that, as much as I appreciate the intentions behind it, I can’t appreciate the book itself.

Most of the characters are just so one-dimensional. Stereotypical abuse victim, stereotypical abusers #1 and #2, stereotypical best friend, etc. Once you get beyond the tropes, there isn’t much to them at all. Lily, the protagonist, is by far the best developed, but even she feels thinly sketched out. Everything is completely black and white. Every other character is either perfectly supportive and thinks Lily is the best thing under the sun, or they’re cruel to her For The Evulz and probably kick puppies in their spare time.

It also doesn’t help that the dialogue is so cringeworthy. Nearly every line that Lily’s father and Trent said was so over-the-top, look-at-me-I’m-a-terrible-person that I found myself rolling my eyes a lot. It didn’t feel like the dialogue came from the characters–it felt like they were saying it because it was something an abuser would say. It felt more like a health class PSA than a book.

Actually, the overall writing is…not great. Lily’s voice sounds the same when she’s twelve, seventeen, and twenty-five. At first I thought it was intentional, to show the effects of her abuse. After all, having no contact with anyone but her abusive father her entire life would definitely have an effect on her development. But I kept reading, and even when Lily grew, her narrative voice didn’t.

Finally, certain bits of the book just seemed very implausible. For example, at one point Lily’s principal calls her to the office to tell her that she had been sent full scholarships from a bunch of universities she hadn’t applied to, and that admission officers from the universities (the top universities in the country!) had contacted him to find out why she hadn’t replied. Now, Lily’s GPA of 3.9 is a good one, but thousands of teenagers all over the country have GPAs that high and higher, and a lot of those teenagers also have extracurricular activities and leadership experience, and, oh yeah, actually applied to these schools. That kind of thing was overly convenient and just lazy writing.

DidWork

Even if the portrayal of abuse was cliched, it was realistic. The long-lasting effects of the abuse Lily experienced were accurately shown, and watching her struggle to overcome them made for some genuinely powerful moments. Her growth and her journey towards hope and happiness felt true-to-life and very satisfying. I appreciated that Margaret McHeyzer directly challenged victim-blaming mentality and showed why it was so difficult for abuse victims to leave their abusers (but also showed that it could be done).

I also enjoyed some secondary characters, such as Lily’s best friend Shayne and Shayne’s husband Liam. They were so wonderfully supportive of Lily that it warmed my heart, and they were responsible for some of the funniest lines in the book.

At the time I left off, there was a guy who it seemed was being set up as a love interest for Lily. I like that, while said love interest was helpful to Lily, he was never credited as the one who “saved” or “healed” her; that honor would go to Lily’s friends and to Lily herself. There are so many stories about love healing someone from a traumatic experience that it was really refreshing to see Ugly deviate from that. (Also, he has a stutter, which isn’t something I’ve seen in his type of character before. That was a nice detail.)

tl;dr: I wish this book had been better written, because it has some messages a lot of people need to hear. Unfortunately, instead it was…this.

Sondra

ARC Review: What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

Written by: Robin Talley
Release Date: October 27, 2015
Pages: 416, hardcover
Series: Standalone
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Thank you to Harlequin Teen for sending me an ARC!

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From the critically acclaimed author of Lies We Tell Ourselves comes an emotional, empowering story of what happens when love isn’t enough to conquer all.

Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They’ve been together forever. They never fight. They’re deeply, hopelessly in love. When they separate for their first year at college—Toni to Harvard and Gretchen to NYU—they’re sure they’ll be fine. Where other long-distance relationships have fallen apart, their relationship will surely thrive.

The reality of being apart, however, is a lot different than they expected. As Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, falls in with a group of transgender upperclassmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship.

While Toni worries that Gretchen, who is not trans, just won’t understand what is going on, Gretchen begins to wonder where she fits in Toni’s life. As distance and Toni’s shifting gender identity begins to wear on their relationship, the couple must decide—have they grown apart for good, or is love enough to keep them together?

LetsTalkWhat We Left Behind is different from other YA books in three major ways. First, it takes place in college–pretty self explanatory, and an interesting change of pace for me, since I am also a college student. Second, it focuses on a romantic relationship between two characters who have already been together for quite some time, who obviously love each other a lot but are going through a difficult period. Again, a pretty different dynamic from a whole lot of contemporary YA, which focuses on the process of getting together. But of course, there’s more to it than that; people change, situations change, relationships change. The book dealing with this gave it a more mature edge that I liked a lot. Third, one of the two protagonists, Toni, has an arc focusing on exploration of gender identity, which, for obvious reasons, is something we need more of in the book world.

To be honest, I don’t know if it handled the issues it wanted to handle as well as it could have; I plan to talk about some of the problems I had later on. The book also didn’t always keep my interest, and I sometimes had trouble keeping track of the secondary characters. Compared to Lies We Tell Ourselves, I actually found this book pretty disappointing. However, I loved the relationship between the two main characters, the way both of them grew throughout the story, and the portrayal of long-distance relationships. More than anything, I hope the ideas discussed in this book will act as a stepping stone for more representation of different gender identities in YA.

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ARC Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Written by: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Release Date: October 20, 2015
Pages: 608, Hardback
Series: The Illuminae Files, #1
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Thanks to RandomHouse for the ARC!

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This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

LetsTalk

Alright, Illuminae. Who isn’t talking about this book? Who hasn’t heard about this book already? It seems like everyone has been super crazy excited about this one. For those of you who don’t know about the book, yes it’s a space age war with a pandemic, and a good old evil Artificial Intelligence(AI) thrown in for balance. But the thing that sets Illuminae apart from every other book you’re going to read this year is it isn’t set up in the typical book format. The story is told through documents, transcripts, sometimes even drawings or propaganda that’s been found. It’s all compiled by the Illuminae group for reading.

There are few things I love more than high fantasy but sci-fi is one of those things. But it has to be well done sci-fi. Or else I wind up comparing it to my one true love: Star Trek. I’m such a Trekkie it’s a life-long problem honestly, and I’m okay with that, it’s in my blood. My mother watched Next Generation as it aired live, I watched from my high chair ‘cause I was three. (Fun side story: My parents had a groomsman in their wedding that had a hanger set up as the full deck of the Enterprise, and he and friends dressed up and acted out episodes. Forever will I be angry that I never got to go.)

But back on track now, Illuminae, and my love of it. I feel like I could make my entire review ALDFJLEIORHALSDKJ and still not fully encapsulate how much I LOVED THIS BOOK. But I swear I’ll get more in depth of this book once I get through this next section…somehow.

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ARC Review: Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch

Written by: Sara Raasch
Release Date: October 13, 2015
Pages: 479, Hardback
Series: Snow Like Ashes #2
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Thanks to HarperCollins for the ARC!

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It’s been three months since the Winterians were freed and Spring’s king, Angra, disappeared—thanks largely to the help of Cordell.

Meira just wants her people to be safe. When Cordellan debt forces the Winterians to dig their mines for payment, they unearth something powerful and possibly dangerous: Primoria’s lost chasm of magic. Theron sees this find as an opportunity—with this much magic, the world can finally stand against threats like Angra. But Meira fears the danger the chasm poses—the last time the world had access to so much magic, it spawned the Decay. So when the king of Cordell orders the two on a mission across the kingdoms of Primoria to discover the chasm’s secrets, Meira plans to use the trip to garner support to keep the chasm shut and Winter safe—even if it means clashing with Theron. But can she do so without endangering the people she loves?

Mather just wants to be free. The horrors inflicted on the Winterians hang fresh and raw in Januari—leaving Winter vulnerable to Cordell’s growing oppression. When Meira leaves to search for allies, he decides to take Winter’s security into his own hands. Can he rebuild his broken kingdom and protect them from new threats?

As the web of power and deception weaves tighter, Theron fights for magic, Mather fights for freedom—and Meira starts to wonder if she should be fighting not just for Winter, but for the world

LetsTalk

I’m honestly not sure how to describe this series? The first word that comes to mind is “fun”, but that’s not really accurate, especially after this book–while Meira’s humor and playfulness still sometimes makes an appearance, it’s far less frequent here, and both this and the first book had scenes that brought tears to my eyes. At the same time, I’m not deeply attached enough for it to be heartbreaking. The writing mostly isn’t exciting, but there are bits that surprise me with how good they are. I have a fairly strong sense of affection for this series, one I’m not sure I can fully explain or understand. I just want to take the characters to my apartment and give them some hot chocolate and hang out with them for a while, you know?

I also enjoyed this book a bit less than I did Snow Like Ashes, and I attribute some of that to the fact that I was reading the book and not listening to the audio. Kate Rudd’s reading of Snow Like Ashes emphasized the humorous aspects of the book more, helped smooth over some of the most awkward passages, and really allowed me to “get” Meira. Or at least, that’s my theory; I don’t exactly have an audio for Ice Like Fire that I can compare the book to. Either way, Ice Like Fire felt a lot slower and longer than Snow Like Ashes.

Which isn’t to say I didn’t still enjoy Ice Like Fire, because I did! Meira and Mather both had some spectacular character moments. At first I was dubious about Mather’s POV sections, and Mather in general, but I ended up quite enjoying them; they provided a nice contrast to Meira’s, and he went through some solid character growth. I liked Meira’s arc as well. I can’t talk too much about Theron without spoiling everything, but there were more than a few tears involved.

My opinions on some characters changed for the worse, as well. William…will not be winning any parenting awards anytime soon, that’s all I’ll say.

We also get to explore the world of Primoria a little more. I think the worldbuilding is…not the greatest part of the series, but it was still fun to see more of the different kingdoms and be introduced to some great new characters. (Hello, Ceridwen!)

I liked Ice Like Fire. It wasn’t everything I had hoped it would be, but it was a solid continuation of the series and I will read book three when it comes out.

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ARC Review: The Rose Society by Marie Lu

Written by: Marie Lu
Release Date: October 13, 2015
Pages: 424, Hardback
Series: The Young Elites, #2
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Thanks to Penguin for the ARC!

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From New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu comes the second book in the exhilarating Young Elites series

Once upon a time, a girl had a father, a prince, a society of friends. Then they betrayed her, and she destroyed them all.

Adelina Amouteru’s heart has suffered at the hands of both family and friends, turning her down the bitter path of revenge. Now known and feared as the White Wolf, she and her sister flee Kenettra to find other Young Elites in the hopes of building her own army of allies. Her goal: to strike down the Inquisition Axis, the white-cloaked soldiers that murdered her love, the Crown Prince Enzo Valenciano.

But Adelina is no heroine. Her powers, fed only by fear and hate, have started to grow beyond her control. She does not trust her newfound Elite friends. Teren Santoro, leader of the Inquisition, wants her dead. And her former friends, Raffaele and the Dagger Society, want to stop her thirst for vengeance. Adelina struggles to cling to the good within her. But how can someone be good, when her very existence depends on darkness?

LetsTalk

The Rose Society was one of my most anticipated new releases of 2015 (how could it NOT be, after the way The Young Elites ended) and it wasn’t everything I expected or hoped it would be, but in the end, it paid off. The end of this book was so devastating and terrifying and made my heart race, and it was the perfect culmination for Adelina’s character arc. Marie Lu has proven once again that she is willing to Go There and I respect her for it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Rose Society picks up where The Young Elites left off, with Adelina vs the Elites vs Teren and the queen. And wow, I already said this in my review of the Young Elites, but I love that none of those sides are exactly people you want to root for. They’re all messed up. They’re all willing to cross into morally gray territory to achieve their goals.

Adelina has gotten 200% more terrifying. Remember how in the first book her murders were mostly accidental, and how she felt ashamed and scared of what she was becoming even as she enjoyed her power? Now, Adelina has moved on to intentionally torturing and murdering people, and she. loves. it. She’s angry and calculating and ruthless and quickly spiraling out of control. She still wants love and acceptance, like she did in the first book, but she’s moving further and further away from that. I love that Marie Lu takes a premise that’s done so frequently in young adult books–a girl with a terrifying power and a capacity for darkness–and takes it into completely the opposite direction from what’s expected, making it into a slow-simmering villain origin story.

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