Review: Fire and Heist

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Fire and Heist by: Sarah Beth Durst

My Rating: 4 Stars

In Sky Hawkins’s family, leading your first heist is a major milestone–even more so than learning to talk, walk, or do long division. It’s a chance to gain power and acceptance within your family, and within society. But stealing your first treasure can be complicated, especially when you’re a wyvern–a human capable of turning into a dragon.

Embarking on a life of crime is never easy, and Sky discovers secrets about her mother, who recently went missing, the real reason her boyfriend broke up with her, and a valuable jewel that could restore her family’s wealth and rank in their community.

With a handpicked crew by her side, Sky knows she has everything she needs to complete her first heist, and get her boyfriend and mother back in the process. But then she uncovers a dark truth about were-dragon society–a truth more valuable and dangerous than gold or jewels could ever be.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: Trauma regarding absent parent, mention of murder, blackmailing, imprisonment, mention of blood, abusive parent, and physical violence.

Sky Hawkin’s used to have it all. The perfect family, friends, and boyfriend. Until her mother disappeared. Now shunned by the wyvern society, Sky’s family is dealing with the aftermath regarding her mother. Her father doesn’t smile anymore. Her brothers ignore her. And the Hawkin’s family refuses to speak about what happened.

Much to Sky’s surprise her ex-boyfriend Ryan gives her information regarding her mother. Sky decides to put her foot down and complete the mission her mother failed. With a rag-tag crew, Sky sets out for answers. 

After reading the author’s previous works’ I was highly anticipating this! I am happy to say that I enjoyed it! Fire and Heist is written in first person limited, following Sky. There are chapter numbers and one list.

I had such a blast reading! So much fun but also had it’s serious moments. I particularly enjoyed the play on history! The Hawkin’s are distantly related to King Atahualpa and other historical figures.

I absolutely loved the Hawkin’s! They had such a great relationship, despite all they’d been through. Charles is the oldest. He had this tough guy attitude. Tuck and Liam are fraternal twins. And like most twins had a close relationship. Sky’s the youngest and the baby of the family. Her father and brother’s do their best to keep Sky out of everything. Which just makes Sky even more inclined to look for answers.

There’s a large focus on ‘Before’. As in before the events of this book. When Sky and her family used to be happy, and when they actually had a place in society. After being shunned and dumped by her boyfriend, everyone else followed suit. Sky’s wyvern friend’s ditched her. No one wants to do business with the family. Naturally Sky is angry with all these people. Even when Ryan comes back in her life Sky still holds some resentment.

The world building was excellent! There are a lot of rules within the wyvern society. Even regarding a person’s first heist. Wyverns’ history plays a huge role in the story. Most of it is nothing new. Though I felt that Durst did a good job making it unique.

I really liked Sky! She was a great character. Realistic with her own insecurities. Also very mature which seems to be a thing with Durst’s heroine’s. I enjoyed reading about her character development and journey throughout the story.

Gabriela is Sky’s human friend. Now that Sky doesn’t have any wyvern friends. She is Spanish and loves to do research. Also very self-assured, whilst some insecurities. The friendship between Sky and Gabriela was sweet! They really grew from their relationship with one-another.

Maximus is a wyvern who can also use magic. His character was quite something. At first I didn’t know how to feel about him. As the story continued I grew to appreciate his character. He’s very dramatic which makes for a fun reading experience.

Ryan’s character surprised me. When I read the synopsis I figured the audience is supposed to like him. I did not except him to be helping Sky in her heist. Let alone encourage it. He was sweet and a total dork. I liked the romance between them. I thought they were cute together. It also didn’t take away from the plot.

The heist was so much fun! I really enjoyed reading about their practice. And the part each character had to play. Once all the twists came into play, there were a lot of genres explored. Such as some Sci-Fi elements. I didn’t see anything coming! And enjoyed all the tibits of the world building explored.

The main themes were forgiveness and power. I respected Sky when she said that she would forgive Ryan and the rest of her friends. It showed character growth. I thoroughly enjoyed the discussions about power. It was very interesting and thought provoking.

Overall I really liked it! I highly recommend it.   

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Review: Defy the Stars

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Defy the Stars by: Claudia Gray

 Nate Begle (Narrator) and Kasey Lee Huizinga (Narrator)

My Rating: 4 Stars

Noemi Vidal is a teen soldier from the planet Genesis, once a colony of Earth that’s now at war for its independence. The humans of Genesis have fought Earth’s robotic “mech” armies for decades with no end in sight.

After a surprise attack, Noemi finds herself stranded in space on an abandoned ship where she meets Abel, the most sophisticated mech prototype ever made. One who should be her enemy. But Abel’s programming forces him to obey Noemi as his commander, which means he has to help her save Genesis–even though her plan to win the war will kill him.

Together they embark on a daring voyage through the galaxy. Before long, Noemi begins to realize Abel may be more than a machine, and, for his part, Abel’s devotion to Noemi is no longer just a matter of programming.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: War and death. Dystopian society.

Part of Defy the Stars was read during #rimpysreadsathon. 

Defy the Stars was recommended to me by my dear GR friend Elise! Click on her name to read her review. When I heard that Claudia Gray was releasing a new book I didn’t particularly care. I’ve never read any of her books nor did I care too. Then I came across Elise’s review and was instantly captivated! Listening to the audiobook sample sealed the deal. I am happy to say that I enjoyed this!

Noemi along with the rest of the pilots is about to go on a suicide mission. She isn’t necessarily comfortable with this, but is still ready to die. However Noemi is considered with her adoptive sister and best friend Esther. Plunged early on into the an attack from Earth Noemi sees Ether’s ship in the far distance. Steering herself to it, Noemi comes across an abandoned looking ship.

The two land on the ship, while Noemi quickly tries to save Esther’s life. In the process she runs into Abel. A mech that has been abandoned for the past 30 years. Abel swears himself to Noemi and proclaims that he will follow her every order. Thus shenanigans ensue.

Defy the Stars is a unique Sci-Fi! I had a lot of fun reading. It is narrated in third person omniscient following Noemi and Abel. There are some flashbacks. The narrators did an excellent job bringing the characters to life! Nate Begle was especially impressive as he did a monotone robot like voice for Abel.

Let me start off with saying that Defy the Stars is a journey book. I mean this in a literal sense. Abel and Noemi travel to many different planets. This took up a good 20 percent. So if you don’t like that then I would suggest that you read another book. Or you could finish this, as each planet had it’s own culture and religious views. Which was written beautifully!

My other point is that there is a large focus on religion. Noemi identifies as a Christian and throughout the book she is questioning God’s existence. And how she fits into this world. I personally thought that the author did an excellent job! It was relatable and I do think that others would relate. There are also several other religions and races. Yay for well done diversity!

And lastly Defy the Stars deals with refugee’s, assimilation, and the messy war. Each planet has a different culture and in order to fit in to said planet you have to assimilate to said culture. Also when Earth was in terrible condition they migrated to the other planets and assimilated. The refugee’s actually had a name but because I was listening to the audio I have no idea how to spell it. The refugee’s travel the galaxy and try to find a home. The Liberty War and all the different sides was handled excellently! It was messy and really great to read about all the different sides and opinions.

Defy the Stars is very similar to most YA dystopian books. I personally think that this book is much better than a lot of dystopian books. Earth is the villain, which is a surprise because most books have another planet as the main villain. There is a man made disease, a rebellion, and a war. Regardless all these points are handled really well where as some books aren’t.

Noemi and Abel’s relationship was fantastic! They don’t agree with each other at first. And all Abel is to Noemi is a tool and a means to a mission. As they spend more time together Abel grows to genuinely care about Noemi. From her health to her mental well being. Noemi too grows to really care for Abel. They develop a really great friendship! The romantic aspect doesn’t come until the end of the book. I appreciated that the author develops Noemi and Abel through their friendship. 

Noemi’s relationship with Esther and Esther’s family is a huge part of her character. She thinks that she’s always angry and not compassionate. Abel is the one to point out that isn’t true. Noemi overcomes a lot of her misgivings with the Gatson’s and tries to move on with her life. Her parents and baby brother died in a car accident. Noemi is a Lationa! Her culture isn’t mentioned but her religion is.

Abel’s fatherly relationship with his creator Mansfield is a huge part of his character arc. Abel truly loves Mansfield and wants to see him one day. Throughout the book Abel comes to terms with the fact that he has feelings. And even begins to question Mansfield and his motivations. This is partly due to Noemi. Also Abel’s sarcasm was really funny! And it was surprisingly sweet to read about his love for Casablanca. 

While on their journey Abel and Noemi come across various people. They come across the Razors. A group of hackers who aid Noemi and Abel. The leader of the Razors is Virginia and she was awesome! Her and Noemi’s friendship was really sweet to read about. Also Virginia is implied to be LGBTQ. Virginia’s lines were some of the best. Like so on point and hilarious. 

Harriet and Zayan are a biracial couple. Harriet a black and Zayan an Indian. They were so nice! Riko and Ephraim are a part of Remedy which is a rebellion. Both were very interesting as was their relationship to one-another. All the side characters are useful to the plot and have their own back stories. Which is quite rare in YA.

There are multiple hints throughout Defy the Stars about Mansfield’s questionable motives and the reason behind creating Abel. I still have to admit that I did not see that plot twist coming! I look forward to reading about more of his motivations in the sequel. 

The book does end on a sort of cliffhangers. Noemi and Abel are separated. With Noemi being back on Genesis and Abel seemingly starting up a business of sorts. Considering how high the stakes are I am excited for the sequel!  

I only had a few problems with Defy the Stars. I wasn’t invested in the first 20%. This is a character driven book, so in the beginning I wasn’t that into Abel and Noemi’s story. However the more I read the more I grew to love Abel and Noemi! Seriously those feelings kind of snuck up on me!

With the amount of POC and religions I was really surprised that there wasn’t any racism. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s just kind of odd. And logically speaking it doesn’t make sense. To be honest I didn’t really mind while I was reading. But now that I’m typing this review I’ve come to realize this. Maybe this will come up in the sequel. We’ll have to see.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Defy the Stars! I am looking forward to the sequels. I highly recommend it! 

 

Review: There Once Were Stars

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There Once Were Stars by: Melanie McFarlene

My Rating: 1 of 5 Stars

Peace. Love. Order. Dome. That’s the motto that the Order has given the residents of Dome 1618 to live by. Natalia Greyes is a resident of Dome 1618, a covered city protected from the deadly radiation that has poisoned the world outside for four generations. Nat never questioned the Order, until one day she sees a stranger on the outside of the dome. Now Nat wants answers. Is there life outside the dome and if so, what has the Order been hiding from everyone?

Beware spoilers ahead!

I had heard about this book through Twitter. There was a blog tour going on at the time. It sounded interesting so I added it to my shelf. I came across some reviews that mentioned cluttered writing style. Rather than buy this I downloaded a sample. I didn’t enjoy it. 

The book begins with Natalia’s 18th birthday. Her parents died when they exited the dome due to the radiation. Since then Nat has been living with her grandparents. Now that she is officially an adult she has to start working.

Behind everyone’s back she sneaks out and spies on the outer edge of the dome. She wants a better understanding of what happened to her parents. She falls asleep and wakes up to seeing strangers roaming outside of the dome. This shouldn’t be possible because of all the radiation.

This was a case of ‘It’s not you but me’. When I started reading this it felt off. Yes the writing style was a bit of a mess here-and-there. But for some reason it felt really weird to read the sample. I wasn’t interested in knowing about Nat’s life so I ended up skimming a lot of it. I also found it somewhat boring. I never felt any anticipation when she fell asleep and woke up to strangers. I felt nothing the whole I read and skimmed it. I could not bring myself to read more. 

Overall this book was not for me. But I still recommend it. I think it would actually be a good Sci-Fi. 

Review: Wolf by Wolf

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Wolf by Wolf by: Ryan Graudin

My Rating: 1 of 5 Stars

Her story begins on a train.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

Beware spoilers ahead!

DNF

This book was recommended to me by my dear GR friend Chantal! Click on her name to read her review. 

I had been hearing about this book for quite a while. I never paid attention to it. It wasn’t until I came across Chantal’s review that I decided to give it a go. Unfortunately it wasn’t for me.

The book begins in the year 1944. Yael and several other Jews are being transferred to a death camp. Everyone around Yael is either screaming or crying. Once they reach their destination the men and women are separated. Yael sticking to her mother comes across a very peculiar man. He continues to stare at Yael. Eventually he tells one of his people to get Yael sent to a lab for experiments.

The reason I couldn’t finish this book is because of the experiments. Yael was 6 when she was experimented on. To me it was horrifying. I kept on cringing when I read the first chapter. I should’ve known that I wouldn’t be able to finish this because of the experiments.

Overall this book was not for me. But I still recommend it to fans of dystopia and sci-fi.  

Review: Under the Never Sky

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Under the Never Sky by: Veronica Rossi

My Rating: 2 of 5 Stars

Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.

As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.

They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers a barbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love – one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY

The first book in a captivating trilogy, Veronica Rossi’s enthralling debut sweeps you into an unforgettable adventure.

Beware spoilers ahead!

DNF

This book was recommended to me by my dear GR friend Reynita! Click on her name to read her review.

I had heard about this book a few years ago. Back when it came out Under the Never Sky was extremely popular. At that time dystopian books were popular. I didn’t think much of it at that time. It wasn’t until I got a personal recommendation from Reynita that I considered reading it. I was in the mood for a well done dystopian book with a good romance. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy it. 

The book begins with Aria and her friends sneaking out. She hasn’t heard from her mother for awhile so Aria assumes the worst and wants to find her. She’s convinced some guys to take her and her best friend Paisley.

Things don’t really go that well. They manage to sneak out but Aria finds out that the guy leading them keeps wanting to touch her. And he tells her that if she doesn’t agree to him he’ll rat her out. Realizing what a terrible position their in Aria and Paisley try to come up with ways to sneak out. 

I couldn’t bring myself to finish this book because of the weird sentences. While the writing style was alright there were odd sounding sentences here-and-there. I had a hard time trying to understand some of these sentences so I DNFed it. I’ve rated this a two star because the plot does sound interesting as is the world they live in.

Overall I did not enjoy this book. I recommend it to fans of dystopian books and anyone who likes a well done romance. 

Review: The Winner’s Curse

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love… 

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. 

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. 

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

Updated thoughts:

I have since realized that I don’t have a problem with political fantasies. When I initially read this I thought that was the case.

But it wasn’t. I think that this ship has sailed. While I acknowledge that this book series is good I’ve moved on.

Still recommend.

Original review:

Beware spoilers ahead!

DNF

I’d been hearing about this book for months. At the time I saw all the good reviews from so many of my friends. I gave in and decided to request from the library. Then back in early January I’d started hearing about the bad reviews. Hesitant I went on iBooks to read a sample. I didn’t like what I read.

The book begins with Kestrel doing some shopping with her best friend Jess. Her and Jess have separated. She finds Jess at a jewelry booth. Jess holds up a pair of earring and asks for Kestrel’s opinion. Kestrel says that the earrings are fake. The woman selling them is a slave. Kestrel realizing that this woman would get in trouble for lying to them fake inspects them and claims that she was mistaken. Jess buys the earrings and leaves.

The two get lost and find themselves at an auction booth. Selling slaves. Having no way to turn back they have no choice but to remain. During the auction the man brings out a slave that reminds Kestrel of herself. Something about the way he defies the man whose selling him. Out of nowhere she decides to buy him. She wins because she offered to pay the most money.

I’m going to stop right there. The reason I did not read further is because this is not a book for me. I prefer my fantasies with some supernatural aspects to it. This book seems to be more of a dystopian then a fantasy. There is a lot of focus on the politics. Giving you the idea that it is a political and romance book. And personally speaking I do not enjoy political books. This book is also based off of some history. I believe it’s Roman history. When the Romans invaded Greece and took over they took some of the Greek as slaves.

I also felt that Kestrel was selective about her sympathy for the slaves. She did care about the slaves outside of her house like the woman from the beginning and Arin. But she didn’t really think about the slaves in her house. Maybe she does much later on in the book.

I did like some things. There is no insta-love. Which I was happy about. I thought she bought Arin because he was good looking. The writing style was nice. And I liked the friendship between Jess and Kestrel. And the complicated relationship between Kestrel and her father. I didn’t read enough about Arin so I have nothing to say about him. Kestrel while selective of her sympathy was smart and made some good points. I liked how the author wrote her as a piano player. It’s nice to read about characters who love music.

Overall this book is not for me. But I still recommend it to others. It does develop into a better series with good plot and character development and I don’t think it should be missed. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it more than I did!

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Review: Noir

NoirNoir by Jacqueline Garlick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With Urlick imprisoned for the murder of Professor Smrt, Eyelet must find her way back through the Infirm-infested woods, to the forbidden city of Brethren, to free Urlick before it’s too late. 

Along the way, she elicits the help of Crazy Legs, Urlick’s longtime friend. Together they overthrow a travelling freak show train destined for Brethren, with plans to use it to distract the city, so Urlick can make an escape. But Eyelet is lead astray, when a haunting image from her past appears in an abandoned factory at the edge of town. There she unearths a series of ungodly secrets and soon finds herself, imprisoned. 

Will C.L. be able to save them both from their fates? 

Or will he too, fall prey to the tyranny of Brethren’s newest Ruler? 

Rumor has it the Ruler has secrets of her own. 

Secrets she’s determined to keep. 

Seems an heir may have been overlooked. 

The true heir to the Commonwealth throne. 

Beware spoilers ahead!

I recieved this arc via Netgalley and Skyscape and Two Loins in exchange for an honest review.

Going into this book I was worried that it would suffer second book syndrome. But I was happily wrong as this book was amazing!

Noir picks up with Flossie’s point of view where the readers find out that she is alive and has become one of the turned. Readers also get to see from her eyes Urlick’s arrest scene. During the chapter Flossie finds out that she has some leverage over the infirmed and uses them to do her bidding throughout the whole book. We are then taken to Eyelets point of view as she makes her way to Urlick’s place. Upon reaching there the group devise a plan to save Urlick. As a mode of transportation Eyelet suggests they make wings for Urlick’s horse. They all agree. C.L. then suggests getting his old circus friends to help them. His plan is to kill the ring master and convince his old friends into helping them save Urlick. Meanwhile Urlick is in jail and is miserable. A boy whose name is Sebastian agrees to be Urlick’s eyes and ears until his execution and in return Urlick agrees to bail Sebastian out of jail.

It was nearly interesting to read all about the new characters and how they play a role in the overall plot. We get to read new point of views in this book and delve into some of the characters pasts. This book takes place within three days so it is much faster than the first book. We find out more about how the world came to be the way it is. It ends on a cliffhanger which means that there will be a third book.

If you did not enjoy the first book I would still give this one a shot considering how much better this book is compared to the first one. If you don’t want to try this then considering your experience with the first book then I completely understand. For those who haven’t read the series I would definitely recommend this! To be honest this is one of the most unique series I have ever read! I can’t wait for the third book 🙂

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