Divided

The Untamed Series, book 3
By Madeline Dyer

Madeline Dyer has done it again! She has crafted a perfect YA novel, one that kept me turning the pages until the very end. It’s got action, it’s got love, it’s got heart, and it’s got yet another punch-to-the-gut ending. Seriously, Dyer is the master of crafting the most emotional endings.

Summary29559221

Having been tricked into binding herself to the Enhanced Ones in the War of Humanity, Untamed human Seven Sarr has never felt more exploited or used. When Raleigh forces her to develop her Seer powers and use them on a most innocent target, Seven knows it’s only a matter of time before the Enhanced Ones use her to wipe out the rest of her people.

Certain that the only way to save the Untamed would be to get back full control of her soul, Seven must get the Gods and Goddesses to trust her again. Only they can destroy her Enhanced Promise Marks, and prevent her enemy from controlling her.

But these are the same Gods and Goddesses who have already branded Seven a traitor, and exiled her from the Dream Land, fearing she will cause their deaths. With no way to contact the Gods and Goddesses herself, Seven needs help. And she needs it quickly, before the war is over and she loses Corin, and the rest of the Untamed, for good.

Yet, in a world as dangerous as this, only one thing’s for sure: no one trusts a traitor twice.

Musings

Divided is a lot more psychological can the first two novels. The first two thirds take place in an Enhanced compound, where Raleigh is trying to convert Seven by any means possible. But she’s not going to make it easy for him, despite his total control over her through the promise marks. Jeb did indeed sell her soul to him, and she’s completely under his power. But she’ll fight him every step of the way.

I’m starting to see Seven, and this series, as being powerful feminist work. Not in an obvious, in your face way. But in the obstacles Seven has to face. What we saw with the Zharat were a tribe of masochistic men, a patriarchal society where they claimed to uplift their women while jamming them into the ground. And now, with Seven under Raleigh’s control, she’s constantly being told what’s good for her without having any say in the matter. It’s like an abusive marriage, really, where he gaslights her every movement, her every thought. Part of the reason I’m so hooked on these novels, and genuinely scared for Seven, is because it calls to the primal fears in my brain of being in that same situation. Despite being far into our future, people like Seven do exist today. And it’s terrifying.

What I loved most about Divided is how the author expanded on the spiritual lore she created. Seven has to unlock her Seer powers in order to save the Untamed – or doom them all. Raleigh’s methods to librate here, however, are just as awful as you can expect, and yet he justifies them all with cringe worthy reasoning. The ends justify the means, and he’ll make Seven show her Seer powers, even it it means manipulating her own mind.

The first two thirds are a little slow going, since more of the action is psychological. Seven has a very turbulent mind at the moment, and discovering latent abilities is making it a whole lot more complicated. But the last third speeds up exponentially, and ends in a final battle climax scene which will leave you breathless. Once again, a gut wrenching ending.

Divided is a powerful novel full of disturbing mental manipulation and a powerful protagonist who is determined to pull through. It’s highly addictive, and impossible to put down. Best cliffhanger yet!

I was lucky this time, I got the ARC of Divided right after finishing Fragmented. But now I have to wait for the next book and I don’t know if I can!

Divided is out TODAY! Get your copy here.

18870052_1680432231970487_2064226621_o.jpg

Ash and Quill

The Great Library #3
by Rachel Caine

Great news, everyone! The Great Library series is not a trilogy anymore, but it will have five whole books. So this will not be the last installment! It’s time to throw yourselves once more into an alternate reality where the Great Library of Alexandria never burnt down, and instead grew to control most everything into the world. And for those of you who, like me, maybe didn’t enjoy book 2 as much, DON’T PANIC! Book 3 is exciting and thrilling and everything you want from this series.

Summary30956356

Hoarding all the knowledge of the world, the Great Library jealously guards its secrets. But now a group of rebels poses a dangerous threat to its tyranny….

Jess Brightwell and his band of exiles have fled London, only to find themselves imprisoned in Philadelphia, a city led by those who would rather burn books than submit. But Jess and his friends have a bargaining chip: the knowledge to build a machine that will break the Library’s rule.

Their time is running out. To survive, they’ll have to choose to live or die as one, to take the fight to their enemies—and to save the very soul of the Great Library….

Musings

Jess and his band of librarian rebels are now in Philadelphia, base for the Burners who want to see the Library torn down. Even if they share a common enemy, they’re not to happy to see a bunch of librarians on their doorstep, even if they claim to hate what the library stands for.

They have one card to play: Jess and Thomas will build a functioning printing press, in order to make books a commodity and crush the strength of the library. But Philadelphia is under siege, food is lacking as well as resources, and the library is right at their doorstep. Bombs of Greek fire are frequently thrown over their massive wall, and could burn through them at any time. Jess and Thomas must work fast not only to make a functioning press, but also to find a way to save themselves and their friends.

Just like book two, this sequel is split into two distinct parts: Philadelphia, and England. The first half takes place behind the wall of the city, and the second half is a return to the Brightwells, in an estate Jess himself has never even seen. In both, the band of rebels are kept as prisoners, and must prove their worth to survive.

Once again, I found Jess to be a bit of a bland protagonist. He’s fantastic in that way because he’s a stand in for the reader: we can really take his place in the story, and interact with the amazing characters. Khaliah is AMAZING in this book, proving herself to be once again one of my favorite characters in fiction: bold, unashamed by her religion and standing tall against abuse, the smartest person you will ever read. Her relationship with Dario is growing, and I’m starting to like this Spaniard more and more. Thomas is struggling to recover from his time in Rome, but proves once again that engineering is an art. Wolfe and Santi seem a little sidelined, but we get to explore their relationship more, too. And I really, really like how they’re portrayed. It’s great to see this kind of love in YA literature.

While I still find the relationship between Mogan and Jess forced, I adored her character growth in this book. She’s becoming something I wasn’t expecting of her, getting stronger and a little terrifying. I really can’t wait to see what the author does with her.

And then, there’s the ending. The reason I’m sitting here typing in the middle of the night, my heart racing. That. Effing. Ending. It’s INSANE. I couldn’t follow it half the time and had to go back and reread what just happened, not believing the words on the page. This is… this changes EVERYTHING.

My only questions is – WHERE IS BOOK FOUR?

Expected publication: July 11th 2017 by Berkley

No Ordinary Star

(No Ordinary Star #1)
by M.C. Frank

One of the best things about being a blogger is being a part of a ‘street team’. I had been seeing this book everywhere on Tumblr and Instagram, and the summary had me intrigued. So when the author asked if anyone was interested in reading, reviewing, and possibly joining their team, I saw it as a perfect opportunity to finally see what the hype was about. Oh gosh, I’m so glad I did!

Summary27419429

A soldier is summoned to the North Pole, days before the year changes, told to fix the great Clock for a celebration. He has no idea what to do. 
A girl, hunted for the crime of being born, almost dies out on the ice. She is rescued by the last polar bear left alive. 
A library waits for them both, a library built over a span of a hundred years, forgotten in the basement of an ice shack. 
The world hasn’t known hunger or sickness in hundreds of years. It has also forgotten love and beauty. 
The year is 2525. 

Inspired by the short stories of Ray Bradbury, this futuristic novel is set in a world where Christmas -among other things- is obsolete and a Clock is what keeps the fragile balance of peace. 

Written in three installments, this is the breathtaking and sensual story of how two unlikely people change the world, and each other, one book at a time. 

Musings

The year is 2525 (and yes, the song will get stuck in your head every time you read that number). The world is completely different to what we know now: men and women live apart, born from test tubes and raised on pills that stop them from feeling hunger, exhaustion, or even emotions. It is a world without love, or Christmas. Only one man is left from the old days: a clockmaker in the north pole.

When a soldier is called upon by the clockmaker, only to discover the man is his grandfather, who has recently been murdered, his world changes forever. And when a young woman, a felon, escaped her execution only to find herself at the north pole, she and the soldier must depend on each other for survival. It is together that they discover the clockmaker’s secret library, and together that they must discover what it means to be human.

The feel of this novel is so unique. It reminds me a little of “The Northern Lights”, but combined with “The Giver”, along with a strong foundation of dystopia. But it has something special to it that truly sets it apart from the massive sea of YA dystopians we have available. Some spark that makes it truly beautiful.

The characters are strong and relatable, despite their different world. Astra is one of those protagonists you just want to know more about. The author feeds us a trickle of information about her painful past, building the world Astra lives in and making us cringe at her torment. In many dystopians, women are reduced to their wombs, but here it’s even worse: they’re reduced to their eggs.

And yet, it reads like a love letter to humanity. A reminder of all things beautiful we need to cherish now. Like books, or like clockwork. Family and love. There’s a heartbreaking scene where the two read “The Steadfast Soldier” together, which stirred up emotions inside I didn’t expect: I didn’t think the novel would hit me so hard.

It’s a slow, silent beauty, like snow falling at night. It probably sounds incredibly odd for me to say this about a book, but hey, I’m as surprised as you are. If there’s one criticism is that it is too short: it really is “Part 1” and not “Book 1”, as we only get the worldbuilding and the beginning of character growth. I wonder if the author will release all three parts (when the third one comes out) as one book one day.

All in all, this series is going to quickly become my newest obsession!

A massive thank you to the author for sending me a copy of this book to review. She’s definitely got a new fan!

Fragmented

Untamed, Book 2
By Madeline Dyer

Those of you following my Instagram might have seen my middle-of-the-night post, where an exhausted me at 2 am finished reading the last page of Fragmented and found myself in a whirlwind of emotions. I hadn’t even realized how late it was, I simply could not put the book down. I’ve been so excited I could barely wait until today to tell you about it. Well, it’s Self Published Saturday, and I’m here to tell you about Fragmented!

Summary33804767

After the terrible battle against the Enhanced Ones, Seven and Corin find themselves on the run. With the Enhanced closing in, Seven knows they need to find other people on their side. So, when the opportunity arises to join the Zharat, one of the last surviving Untamed tribes, it seems like the perfect solution.

But the Zharat lifestyle is a far cry from what Seven’s used to. With their customs dictating that she must marry into their tribe, and her relationship with Corin breaking down, Seven knows she has to do something before it’s too late. But that’s easier said than done in a tribe where going against the rules automatically results in death.

And, with the Enhanced still out there, nowhere is truly safe for the Untamed–least of all for the most powerful Seer in the world…and Seven soon discovers how far people will go in order to ensure she’s on their side in the War of Humanity.

Battling against the emerging web of lies, manipulation, and danger, Seven must remember who she was meant to be. Her life has never been more at stake. Nor has humanity itself.

Musings

Many series suffer from a weak second novel. But Fragmented is the Empire Strikes Back here, and is even stronger than the first book.

I was captivated by the world that Dyer created in Untamed: a future where most of humanity live with chemical ‘augmenters’, and those who refuse the drugs are hunted down. Unlike most dystopias I know, there’s this incredible spiritual element: Seven, the protagonist is a seer capable of speaking with them through dreams. The spirits have a massive, sometimes physical effect on the land, able to change it or roam it at will. All in all, this is astounding worldbuilding which made me desperate to read Fragmented.

Fragmented has a much faster pace because of the short timeframe. While Untamed took place over weeks, months, Fragmented is the course of just a few days. Seven, Corin and Esther are all that is left, and decide for their safety to band with a massive tribe called the Zharat. But just because they’re Untamed does not make them good people.

The Zharat are an incredibly patriarchal society, and part of what I loved about Fragmented was how on edge I was the entire time. To put it simply: these guys are absolute creeps. To keep humanity going, their only weapon is their babymaking. Women are nothing but a tool in this regard. Seven’s strength and abilities are put to the test when the Zharat community refuses to treat her as a real person. I was cringing the entire time they were with them.

The character growth is also pretty incredible here. Seven is not only trying to make her voice heard in this new community, but also trying to keep her relationship with Corin alive and healthy. Not to mention that her Seer dreams are strangely stopped now that she’s with the Zharat, and she can’t mention that fact to anyone, because Zharat culture sees Women-Seers as demons. Not to mention the guilt she feels from the last battle…

We also learn more about the place of the Spirits and Gods within not only this culture, but the war itself. At the climax of the book, I was gripping the page as things became clear and the mysteries unraveled. I wanted to scream at the book.

This book has honestly been very difficult for me to review with a level head, because I’m still shattered from the ending. I just cannot wait to get my hands on Divided, the next book in the series!

You can pick up a copy right here!

State of Grace

by Hilary Badger

Reviewed by SA

Oh my Dot this book is good.

Fair warning: this book is very different from what you’ve ever read before, but in the greatest way possible. It’s one of those books that tries to defy definition, definitely already defying labeling (is it utopian? Dystopian? Science Fiction? WHAT IS IT) and still making my mind spin. Think Margret Atwood meets Brave New World, with some Drugs thrown in. It is strange, it is beautiful, and it is amazing.

Summary

Ever since she was created, Wren has lived in an idyllic garden with her friends. Wren’s deity Dot ensures the trees are laden with fruit and the water in the lagoon is crystal clear. Wren and her friends have everything they could possibly need right there, in Dot’s Paradise.
If only Wren could stop the strange, disturbing visions she’s started having. Do these visions make her less worthy of Dot’s love? And what does Blaze, the most beautiful and mysterious of Dot’s creations, know about what’s going on in Wren’s head?
Wren is desperate to feel Dot’s love, just like everyone else. But that’s harder than ever when a creation she’s never met before arrives in the garden. He claims to be from outside and brings with him words and ideas that make Wren’s brain hurt.

First of all: I got this summary from Goodreads, as I always do, but I cut it short. Do not read the full Goodreads summary! It spoils a major plot twist that is in the last one hundred or even fifty pages, so to avoid the spoilers, avoid the full summary. It’s under the cut so you should all be ok. This has been a public service announcement.

The first chapter had me rolling on the floor laughing, sending IMs to my boyfriend about how “ridiculous my new book is”. It seems as though you’re thrown into a nudist colony, or a hippie retreat, with ideas of free love and bathing nude with infantile names for genitalia. I was ready to put it down right there – what possible drama can you have in a nudist colony? (Note to self – write nudist colony rom com). But then, things started to change. My IMs stopped, and I became fully engrossed in the novel.

What changed? Wren did. Our main character, a lovely young lady who loves her creator, Dot, and her friends, and her idyllic life, begins to have doubts. She slowly starts to see through it all, and she begins to see the world differently. As she does, our opinion of her world changes too, and we see the utopia  less and less as the perfect, tiny world it claims to be. It’s slow and gradual, not an immediate transition, which really allows the reader to follow Wren down the rabbit hole, so to speak.

If you take the religious plot, the one that takes place outside of Wren’s head, it seems like a strange concept for a YA indeed: a loving deity named Dot dropped her creations off, brand new and fresh and fully grown, inside a small beautiful universe, along with the books that guide their belief, and a new language that removes all negativity (prelight for dark, precalm for scared). Every day, her creations will sing to her in the gazebo, pick the newfruit (the only one they shouldn’t eat, I see Eden in here somewhere) and give it as an offering to their loving goddess, then they ride horseback, swim in the lagoon, hook up freely. It’s now almost one year later, and the excitement grows for “Completion Night”, the night where Dot will chose her favorite creations. But as this time draws near, tensions rise: Gil claims to be Dot’s mouthpiece, and believes their world is infected with unholy things, and leads a witch hunt to purify it all before the big night.

But Wren is changing: she begins with a certain belief in Dot, but slowly, this belief is getting cracked and crumbling. When Dennis, an outsider, accidentally gets stuck inside their perfect world, she is sure he is a test from Dot… but Blaze, the only other person who seems to be ‘waking up’ around her, has other theories. Slowly the paradise fades: the songs become more annoying, the hooking up more ridiculous. I was amazed at how the author really started to pull us away from the perfection she created: It was skillful writing, and probably why I liked this book so much.

It’s slowly paces, but in the best way possible. It allows the intrigue to develop, and allows the ready to grow anxious over what’s going to happen next. What is this world? If it’s not Eden, then what is it? Why are they really there? And why is it that Wren and Blaze don’t see it like anybody else?

The ending will leave you breathless. The entire last hundred pages or so cut a sharp contract with the rest of the book, speeding up, answering questions, even breaking your heart. What an amazing book, it’s something completely new that no one is soon to forget.

State of Grace comes out today, September 1st. It would be presmart not to read it.