Midnight

The Opposition, #1
by Stefani Chaney

When I finished this book, I had so many feelings: I went right to Goodreads and saw there were only three reviews – HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? THIS BOOK IS AMAZING! Midnight is insanely good, and one of my new favorite novels. Stefani Chaney is a new author to watch – get ready world! get ready to meet… Midnight.

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Jo Harding never thought of herself as a villain. At seventeen, her only adversary was her chronic illness. Yet, when a group of superheroes separates Jo from her brother, nothing will stop her from getting Jamie back. 
After waking up in a morgue, Jo finds herself with no money, nowhere to go, and no way of letting her famous twin brother know she is still alive. To make matters even worse, she starts exhibiting uncontrollable powers. Afraid and in a body she can’t rely upon, Jo scours the town with help from a bookstore owner and his former-military husband. Each encounter leads the superheroes to believe they are fighting a villain. However, the real villain is the leader they are following, the doctor that left Jo to die.

Musings

If you like superhero novels, then this book is for you. It’s not your run-of-the-mill story, it’s unique in more ways to count, but I’m going to try to tell you all about it right here, right now.

Meet Jo: she just woke up in a morgue, it’s three months since she lasts remembers anything, and her brother is missing. And what’s most surprising (other than not being dead) is that the pain of her constant chronic illness is just… gone. She’s not limping, heck, she can run again. And she’s running with a vengeance.

Her last memories are of being betrayed by the doctor – Morgan – who was claiming to heal her. Learning that her brother Jamie was being tricked by the same doctor to take a mysterious drug. Where is he now? The only way for her to find him is to suit up: with help of bookstore owner and his husband the depressed war vet, she’s going after the man who turned against her.

And this leads to one of the coolest aspect of the novel: Morgan has been running tests on other teens in the city, turning them into superheroes. And in their eyes? Jo is the villain. Jo has been chasing them, after all, maybe even stalking them. So they’ll fight tooth and nail to protect their team.

Jo’s the most brilliant protagonist you could ever want. She’s smart, she’s strong, and she’s determined. She gets stronger and stronger, grows with every superhero encounter. She loves her brother more than anyone else, and will stop at nothing to find him. And the other characters… they’re so diverse, and fun! I think Jamie is Ace, and it’s really cool to see a character like him. You also get to see the effects of mental abuse and manipulation.

I really can’t recommend this enough. It’s a complex, fast paced novel that will have you hooked from page one. So excited for the rest of the series!

I got this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review. It in no way affected my feedback. I know I’ll be buying the sequel!

No Plain Rebel

No Ordinary Star, Book 2
By M.C. Frank

Have I told you recently how I’ve fallen totally, and irrevocably, in love with this beautiful series? Well I can say with certainly now that the love for book one – No Ordinary Star – extends into book 2. No Plain Rebel delves deeper into the world Frank has created, and into the true meaning behind the mysterious clock that has captivated not only the people of the One World, but every reader as well. Potential spoilers from here on out if you haven’t read No Ordinary Star!

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In No Plain Rebel, Felix finds out the truth.
Or so he thinks. He’s trying to come to terms with that, as well as with the fact that the Clockmaster’s shack has been discovered by his fellow-soldiers, but he can’t exactly concentrate. The match girl’s fiery curls appear before his eyes every ten seconds, distracting him, and then he starts talking to her in his head.
Because she’s no longer there.
The Stadium is looming in the distance.
It’s ten heartbeats to midnight.

Musings

It’s ten heartbeats to midnight – my favorite line of so many fantastic lines in this gem of a novel. It’s incredibly short: I started it as my plane taxied out of Tampa airport, and finished it before we began our descent into Baltimore. But I definitely needed that time before landing to reflect on what I just read.

While the first book read more like a love letter to humanity, the second feels like it has more like a manifesto. It has gusto, ambition, and drive: just like its main characters, Felix and Astra. The two of them, secluded in the North Pole, are slowly discovering what mankind has lost to the past,  as well as discovering what it’s like to be close to another person. But they’re also seeing what they’re about to lose to the future, if no one steps up to take charge and change things.

Frank carefully weaves in mystery through the plot, leaving the reader wondering why things are the way they are. New discoveries answer questions but new ones arise just as quickly: while the world Felix lives in becomes clearer (both to us as well, as well as to him, now completely off the pills) confusion about their current predicament takes over. Twists and turns arrive at an increasingly rapid pace, until at the end they’re staggering and putting the reader in shock.

There’s so much character growth, too! While I do miss Ursa (where’s my big bear when I need her?) the focus is drawn on Felix and Astra completely – as well as their lineage. The way Frank writes complex characters is astounding: Astra dealing with the trauma from the Box and the tests that went on there, panic attacks as she tries to cope with simple things like showers. Or the way she writes Felix wrestling with the betrayal he’s feeling from the people he’s been trained to protect. Or the way they’re feeling towards each other – feeling they don’t have words for.

One thing is clear: everything hinges on this crazy clock. And it’s ten heartbeats to midnight. And ten heartbeats until my heart explodes.

I need the finale NOW!

 

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.

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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.

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The Castaways

By Jessika Fleck

This book captivated me by the cover alone, so when the author offered me a copy to review, I pounced. I could not wait to read it. A combination of Lord of the Flies and maybe even Heart of Darkness, though set on the island from lost, dropped out of time. Sounds cool, right?

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The Castaway Carnival: fun, mysterious, dangerous.

Renowned for its infamous corn maze… and the kids who go missing in it.

When Olive runs into the maze, she wakes up on an isolated and undetectable island where a decades-long war between two factions of rival teens is in full swing.

Trapped, Olive must slowly attempt to win each of her new comrades’ hearts as Will—their mysterious, stoically quiet, and handsome leader—steals hers.

Olive is only sure about one thing: her troop consists of the good guys, and she’ll do whatever it takes to help them win the war and get back home.

Musings

Olive Maxi Gagmuehler has been bullied her entire life. Her name is the main source of her punishment, and a trio of mean girls at school have been tormenting her, even torturing her, using it as an excuse. When Olive lashes out, then runs in terror, she finds herself on a mysterious island, lost in time with other children from long ago.

The idea refreshing and bold; children, from different decades, end up on this mysterious island. Take Neverland, and turn it sour.  Each of them was running away from something, for the most part actual people, or in Tilly’s case the bombs if WWII, which sent them running for safety. And then, they were here. But while the Island might be safe from their bullies and fears, it offers new problems. Thirteen children trying to understand what put them there, and how to survive. Split into two factions at war with each other, Olive must find her place before she can hope to make a change.

The metaphor here obvious:  You can’t run away from your problems, you need to face them and move on. And this lesson has very physical repercussions on the island.  It might be a little preachy, but it’s an important one to learn.

While the plot was exciting and new, it was the clichés that got me. A friend posted a “YA trope bingo” the same day I started reading The Castaways, and I filled my squares quickly. Bullied MC? Check. Token minority best friend? Check. Olive falls for a boy that she shouldn’t fall for? Double check. There were a lot of cliché-ed lines that pulled me out of the story.

But while the clichés were there, they worked. The relationship between Olive and Will, while at first seeming forced, actually built into something healthy and supportive. And Olive being bullied, and growing and fighting back, was actually a major plot of the novel and so, so important to read. It’s amazing to see her strength grow!

I have to give it to Fleck, she sure knows how to write tension. There are some scenes in there that make me really clutch my tablet as I read faster and faster. She makes us really care about everyone, especially the tiny kiddos. And the lesson Olive learns is so important and profound. That, and the lesson Will learns too.

And it’s refreshing to see a well written, enjoyable novel that stands alone! With a happy ending! Gosh I love happy endings!

All in all, a fun read, if a little clichéd. Perfect for lovers of YA!

Published April 3rd 2017 by Entangled TEEN

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.

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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!

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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!

Our Dark Duet

Monsters of Verity, Book 2
By V.E. Schwab (or Victoria Schwab)

I’m always excited when V.E. Schwab releases a new book! Especially one that ends a series. I read This Savage Song last year, and loved it, so I had high hopes for Our Dark Duet! It did not disappoint: though the reading experience was quite different.

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THE WORLD IS BREAKING. AND SO ARE THEY.

KATE HARKER isn’t afraid of monsters. She hunts them. And she’s good at it.

AUGUST FLYNN once yearned to be human. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

THE WAR HAS BEGUN.

THE MONSTERS ARE WINNING.

Kate will have to return to Verity. August will have to let her back in. And a new monster is waiting—one that feeds on chaos and brings out its victims’ inner demons.

Which will be harder to conquer: the monsters they face, or the monsters within?

Musings

Six months have passed since the events of This Savage Song, and Verity is in disarray. The northern half of the city has been taken over by Sloan, along with Alice, the malachai born of Kat’s actions from the end of the first book. Kate has run away to prosperity, as August has risen to lead the FTF. A new sunai has been born, Soro.

I don’t know how to really write this review, because I’m still reeling from the ending. I was entranced, per usual, by Schwab’s fantastic style, which flows seemingly effortlessly on the page – and elevated through short passages written in verse. Her short poems depicting the point of view of a monster unlike any other were by far my favorite part of this book. I would love it if there was a companion story entirely in that glorious style of hers, as it offered not only insight into the new enemy, but a real depth to the story.

I was excited to see my favorite characters again. Both have grown (or changed) since the last novel. Kate is shaken from her own actions, while August is more determined in his resolve. We find Kate in Prosperity fighting the monsters both of her past and the ones that plague a city that turns a blind eye on what lurks in the dark. Her isolation is at the forefront of her arc. August has got the voice of Leo in his head, pushing his monstrous side out as he tries to be a good leader. This is what Schwab writes the best: messed up people with confusing, conflicting feelings. She weaves complex characters that are relatable through their massive flaws.

And then, there are the monsters. Sloan gets his own POV, as he ruthlessly tries to satiate his thirst for Kate’s death. There’s Alice, Kate’s dark shadow. And then there’s something new: a creature that kills by inciting others to kill in a frenzy, whose reflection lives in a sliver in Kate’s eye, who we see through poetry. The author has managed to make monsters musical. It’s outstanding.

But there was something… missing. I don’t know what it is! The novel has a slow build, and an incredibly fast ending that left me shattered. The ending is magnificent. Heartbreaking. All the feels. Everything about it is amazing. And yet, the novel as a whole doesn’t feel as poignant as the other books by Schwab. I think it might be because so much of the strength of TSS came from the connection between Kate and August. The growth they experienced at each others’ side. I’m not even talking about romantic chemistry, just how well they work together. And here, we only get one small scene where they open up to each other. It was insanely beautiful.

But their own personal isolations made it harder for the reader to connect with them, and the story. And this is intentional, I see the novel couldn’t be written any other way. But this lack of connection made it feel less powerful than the last book.

Nevertheless, it was a fantastic conclusion to the duology. I highly recommend these two books.