Jay Kristoff’s Kinslayer Countdown!

Hey guys! I’ve been busy, busy, busy at uni because it’s that time of the year again – finals! (Woop?) So unfortunately I have not been reading and updating, but I thought this would be a good time to post anyway. (I’m procrastinating, you know how it is.)

Check out the following countdown widgets for author Jay Kristoff’s Kinslayer, the second book in his The Lotus War series!

UK Version

UK Version

Hopefully this flash widget works, I’ve never placed one in a post before so you’ll have to forgive my n3wbi3 skillz. 

UPDATE: Yeah, so I can’t figure out how to embed the widget, so here’s a picture of the countdown for now. I WILL GOOGLE GOOGLE GOOGLE UNTIL I FIGURE IT OUT, so watch this space. I will make this thing work.

If you’re as excited about this series as I am, spread the word about the countdown by placing a a widget on your blog. Follow this link to learn how!

About The Lotus War Book #2 – Kinslayer

A SHATTERED EMPIRE 
The mad Shōgun Yoritomo has been assassinated by the Stormdancer Yukiko, and the threat of civil war looms over the Shima Imperium. The Lotus Guild conspires to renew the nation’s broken dynasty and crush the growing rebellion simultaneously – by endorsing a new Shōgun who desires nothing more than to see Yukiko dead.

A DARK LEGACY 
Yukiko and the mighty thunder tiger Buruu have been cast in the role of heroes by the Kagé rebellion. But Yukiko herself is blinded by rage over her father’s death, and her ability to hear the thoughts of beasts is swelling beyond her power to control. Along with Buruu, Yukiko’s anchor is Kin, the rebel Guildsman who helped her escape from Yoritomo’s clutches. But Kin has his own secrets, and is haunted by visions of a future he’d rather die than see realized.

A GATHERING STORM
Kagé assassins lurk within the Shōgun’s palace, plotting to end the new dynasty before it begins. A waif from Kigen’s gutters begins a friendship that could undo the entire empire. A new enemy gathers its strength, readying to push the fracturing Shima imperium into a war it cannot hope to survive. And across raging oceans, amongst islands of black glass, Yukiko and Buruu will face foes no katana or talon can defeat.

The ghosts of a blood-stained past.

KINSLAYER will be released on September 17, 2013, through Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press in the US,  Tor UK in the United Kingdom and PanMacMillan in Australia.

(This excerpt has been borrowed from Jay Kristoff’s official website.)

Add the book: Goodreads

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Book Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Title: The 5th Wave

Author: Rick Yancey

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Genre: Science-Fiction, Mystery & Trillers, Young Adult

Published: 7 May 2013 by Penguin Books Australia

Format: E-book, 457 pages

Synopsis: The Passage meets Ender’s Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey.

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.” (Taken from Goodreads)

– – – –

“We’re here and then we’re gone, and it’s not about the time we’re here but what we do with the time.”

Everyone is raving about this book, because they’re right – this book is great! Some goes as far as calling this the next Hunger Games. While I’m not going to agree with that (nothing can really beat the intensity and originality of HG), The 5th Wave is definitely a good contender for being 2013’s most popular young-adult book, read by the masses.

Two things keep me hooked on a book:

  1. Plot line
  2. Characters

I’m not someone that dissects each and every paragraph looking for the themes the author has scattered through the book. I read for enjoyment, not to analyse. So what I need to keep me entertained is a well thought-out plot with a good pacing, and characters that I can invest my time in. If I’ve gone through 300 pages and want to punch everyone in the face, you know there is something wrong with your characters.

What makes this book great is that it meets both my criterias. Fast paced adrenaline pumping plot? Check! Amazing characters that have made me cry more than once? Double check!

While his writing is a little choppy, Yancey makes up for that with his cast of amazing characters that you just can’t help but root for. There’s Cassie for Cassiopeia, Zombie, Evan Walker and Sammy. Each has such a unique voice of their own, and it was sad to see one go as the chapter with their point-of-view ends.

In the midst of an alien invasion, it was so good to see a very sassy and bad-ass heroine take center stage. Cassie was so smart and intuitive, you can’t help but wait in bated breath every time she does something. It’s refreshing to see a female-lead stand on their own two feet and be able to SURVIVE by themselves, even when the world around them falls apart – literally. My only issue with Cassie was her behaviour after she meets Evan Walker. There was a point where I wanted to shake her and go, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING CASSIE. AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THIS!” but luckily, I doubted her too quickly. She is a bad-ass karate girl, I tell you! Her unwavering love for her brother and her need to keep the promise she made to find him was such an emotional part of the story. He is her drive to survive, and the reason she chooses to fight rather than give up.

Then there’s Zombie. I can’t say that his real identity was all that shocking, not with all the hints Yancey kept dropping about him. A lot of the ‘twists’ in the story was quite predictable, but The 5th Wave is much more a character driven story than a plot driven one. I really enjoyed reading the novel through his eyes as well, it was a good change to the pace of the story. What he goes through to survive is entirely different to Cassie, but like she has Sammy to fight for, he has the need to prove that he will not run away again when things get tough. Zombie crawled out of his grave as a new person, and his character grew stronger because of his will to change himself.

Evan Walker; now there’s an enigma. Once again, who he really is was not hard to figure out. Yancey’s plot twists are basically handed to you on a silver platter. At first, I found him extremely creepy, but he definitely grew on me. His devotion to Cassie transcends everything and I really, really need to know what has happened to him. How can you leave it off like that Mr Yancey?!?!!?

I am definitely looking forward to book two, but my gosh, August 2014 is to far away!

Thank you to Penguin Books Australia for providing an e-copy in return for an honest review. 

Book Review: The Quest of the Unaligned by A. L. Phillips

Title: The Quest of the Unaligned

Author: A. L. Phillips

Rating: ★ ★ ½

Genre: Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure

Published: 2013 by BorderStone Press LLC

Format: E-book, 356 pages

Synopsis: “In the city of Tonzimmel, where hover-cars zip over anonymous crowds, contracts are king, and education is everything, Alaric has worked hard to make a decent life for himself. As a level nine security chief, he needs no one and nothing, and is in control of his fate. Or so he thinks. When a stranger from neighboring Cadaeren suddenly appears, however, babbling of magic, quests, and long-lost princes, Alaric finds himself contractually obligated to undertake a journey that his training hasn’t prepared him for: the Quest of the Unaligned. Accompanied by Laeshana, a Cadaerian native who has reasons of her own for helping him on his quest, Alaric is soon plunged into a perilous adventure that will force him to confront a seemingly impossible truth and embrace his destiny, even as the fate of Cadaeren hangs in the balance.” (Taken from Goodreads)

– – – –

I thought this book started off a little shaky, but definitely picked itself up in the middle. As the story opens, we meet Alaric, a level 9 security officer who has been raised all his life in Tonzimmel. Tonzimmel supports a Gesellschaft culture where each person fights for themselves in order to move up the social ladder. When we meet Alaric, he seems rigid and unimpressionable, similar to the masses in his black uniform and boots. He was extremely bland until he meets Ruahkini, an air mage from Cadaeren who declares he’s the missing prince and heir to Cadaeren. Hearing this news, Alaric is both disgusted and amused as Cadaeren is depicted as a crazy place outside the walls of Tonzimmel. While Tonzimmel boasts hard work and science, Cadaeren encapsulates the ideas of a Gemeinschaft culture where your birth determines your status. Not only that, but the mage declares that he has magic, which Alaric almost laughs himself unconscious at.

Ruahkini convinces Alaric to take on a wager with knife-throwing (Alaric’s best skill). If Alaric won, his bar tab would be pre-paid for a month, but if he lost, he has to attempt the Quest of the Unaligned. This is a quest that the prince of Cadaeren must go on before their coronation ceremony. Of course Alaric takes on the wager as he considers himself the best knife-thrower in Tonzimmel – and of course he loses. And from there, we follow him as he leaves Tonzimmel and journeys to Cadaeren to begin his quest. On his way to Cadaeren, he is accompanied by Laeshana, a friend who he had believed was a mechanic/engineer back in Tonzimmel, but was in fact an aesh (a mage aligned with fire).

At this point, Alaric’s personality was really annoying and rubbed at me in all the wrong places. He was condescending and ignorant, which I knew was intentional. Because of his ‘Tonzemmelian’ traits, he almost gets both he and Laeshana killed when he declares that he would take the mountain path, even after she warns him of a dragon lurking there. Of course, as a person of science, he scoffs at the idea (fair enough) and declares that will do whatever he wants even though Laeshana was there to be his guide. He’s a level 9 security officer, of course he knows best! (Sarcastic) Not surprisingly, they meet the dragon which made for a very exciting read. However, it was pretty unbelievable as I kept wondering why the dragon didn’t bother to use fire to incinerate them. And Alaric definitely defeated it too easily.

Following that encounter, we see a little bit of change within Alaric, he becomes less sceptical of magic and of Cadaeren being as insane as he first thought. While he still exhibits many Tonzimmelian traits, his character was changing. After a while, they arrive at the Temple where the King’s Crown is held, but alas, it’s stolen! The second half of the novel follows Alaric, Laeshana and the apprentice of the temple on their journey to retrieve the crown. This was where everything got much more interesting and where Alaric definitely grew as a character. What I found a little sceptical was how much he changed in just a few weeks – while it was definitely nice to see, 21 years of upbringing within one culture does not equate to immediate assimilation into a culture that is directly opposite to what you’re used to.

What I do applaud is Phillip’s ability to develop her characters. I think character development is one of the most important things within a good novel, right after plot, and she did it really well with Alaric. Throughout his quest, he is faced with the themes of duty, trust, morality and the continual issue of statuses depicting a persons’ worth. This was done extremely well with Alaric. What I had problems with was his parents, the king and queen of Cadaeren and their decision to send Alaric away to be brought up in Tonzimmel in the first place. This was only explained briefly, and not even enough for it to make sense. From what I could tell, they sent him away so he could be ‘unbalanced’ and not lean towards any one element. What they essentially did was send him to a MAGIC-LESS place which was not only idiotic but what kind of parents does that make you when you send your ONLY child away to be brought up parentless. How are they even fit to rule when your actions show you don’t even love your child, let alone your people. I’m surprised civil war did not start while Alaric was away.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read as the action picked up in the second part of the novel. I liked Alaric’s character development but I can’t say I was invested in any of the other characters enough, which is a shame. Especially Naruhan for his selfless sacrifice to buy Alaric time and save him from death. It would have been good to get some insight into the monarchy of Cadaeren as the two rulers seem quite … oblivious to everything. Very fairy-airy to be exact. But the book does have a nice ending, which was a good close to the story.

Thanks to A. L. Phillips for providing an e-copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Cover Reveal and Giveaway: The Dragon Carnivale (The Queen of the Realm of Faerie #3) by Heidi Garrett

TheDragonCarnivaleCoverFinalWhy Do I Write Fantasy? or You Never Know Who Might Show Up at Your Front Door

By Heidi Garrett

__________

As long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with the truths that my physical senses cannot explain: the mystical things occurring on this planet. Writing fantastical stories is my testament to these other layers of reality.

There are many ways of looking at our world. Imagine sitting at home, perhaps in your living room. There’s a knock on the door. When you open it, a funny little woman is standing there. She is about half your height, and a plaid crimson kerchief—knotted under her hooked chin—covers her head. Her dress is sack-like over her square body. She’s wearing an apron that could use a good ironing and she’s carrying a battered brown suitcase that’s almost as big as she is.

“As long as you’re staring, a glass of water would be nice,” she says.

Despite her gruff manner, you sense something mysterious about this stranger, and to be honest, you’re dying to know more about her. When she crosses the threshold of your home, a strong wind slams the door behind her. You both jump. There hasn’t been a breeze all day. In fact, it’s sweltering and heat waves have been rising from the melting pavement for weeks.

When you offer it, she almost grabs the glass from your hand, and you can’t stop your staring—even though you know it’s rude—as she drinks in noisy gulps.

“What? You’ve never seen a spring faerie before?” she asks.

Before you can answer, she wipes her mouth with the back of her hand. “Guess not, there aren’t many of us left. And I haven’t been to the Mortal World, since…”

She stops. Her deeply etched face softens. Something like sorrow pools in her dark brown eyes. She waves her hand. “That’s not what I’m here to talk about.”

Your heart tugs. You want to pull her from that sad place. “What’s in your suitcase?”

She points to the table. “I’ll show you.”

The suitcase is filled with eyeglasses. There are so many. Some have square black frames, others have round wire frames; there are a few speckled frames with octagonal lenses. You spy a pair of purple ones.

She shoves a pair of thick black glasses into your hand. “Put these on. Tell me what you see.”

With the eyeglasses settled on the bridge of your nose, you can’t see anything but yourself. You blink. You can see your hands and feet, your legs and toes. But the spring faerie—if that’s really what she is—is just a blur. You pull them off. She trades them for a pair of wire rims. With these glasses you can see her and your home.

“What’s your name?” you ask.

“Flora.”

“Like flowers blooming.”

She nods and looks away with that whiff of sadness.

Again, there is something about her that pulls at your heart. You think of the miracle of spring after a long hard winter, and that she shouldn’t be sad—if she really is a spring faerie.

“But…you don’t have any wings,” you say.

She smoothes the wrinkles in her apron. “Not all faeries do.”

“But—”

She almost jerks the wire-rim spectacles from your nose. You reach for that purple pair. She doesn’t stop you. Now, you can see down the street; your eyes travel the highway. Your view elevates, as if you are a bird. Soon you see the entire city you live in. With each pair of glasses, you see the bigger world.

When Flora tucks the temple arms of a pair of red frames behind your ears, perspective zooms around you. It’s like the lens pulls you into outer space, and you can see the entire world and all the billions of people who live on Earth.

Your heart flutters in your chest; it’s a lot to take in.

“Now—” Flora hands you a pair of fuchsia glasses with tiny rhinestones embedded in the frames. “Try on these.”

When you put them on, you’re able to see beyond the physical entirety of the world into the things that you’ve always known exist, but since you can’t see, touch, smell, or hear them, sometimes you’ve doubted. But you’ll never doubt again, because now—with these special glasses—you can actually see the bonds of love that death can never sever, the strings of fate that wrap the brown paper package of all our lives with twine, the tide of time that alters us, even as we never change…

But most importantly, you’ve seen that you belong here, on this planet. And you know—without a shadow of a doubt—that everything fits. Including you.

“I don’t ever want to take these glasses off,” you say.

Flora is already cramming the rest of them back into her bag. “Then don’t.”

__________

The Queen of the Realm of Faerie is a fairy tale fantasy series that bridges the Mortal and Enchanted worlds. The main character, Melia, is an eighteen-year-old half-faerie, half-mortal. She lives in Illialei, a country in the Enchanted World, with her two sisters and their mother. Melia’s father has been exiled to the Mortal World, and her best friend is a pixie.

When the story opens in the first book, Melia is troubled by her dark moon visions, gossip she overhears about her parents at the local market, and the trauma of living among full-blooded faeries with wings—she doesn’t have any.

As the series unfolds, the historic and mystical forces that shape Melia’s life are revealed. Each step of her journey—to find the place where she belongs—alters her perceptions about herself, deepens her relationships with others, and enlarges her world view.

In The Dragon Carnivale, book 3 of The Queen of the Realm of Faerie, energies in the Enchanted World are shifting and new alliances are forming; the Battle of Dark and Light has begun. Melia is desperate to make things right with Ryder, the young priest from Idonne, but first she must warn the half-bloods in the Mortal World that Umbra is coming for them, and face the powerful Dragonwitch and her spectacular Dragon Carnivale.

The first two books in the series: Nandana’s Mark and The Flower of Isbelline are currently available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, and Smashwords. Nandana’s Mark is free.

The Dragon Carnivale is scheduled for a June 18, 2013, release.

Sign-up for Heidi Garrett’s new release email List and receive a lavender and gold Half-Faerie bracelet while supplies last…because you’re half faerie, too, right?

Half-FaerieBracelet

__________

Author Bio

Heidi Garrett is the author of The Queen of the Realm of Faerie series. Her personal message to all her readers is:

Once upon a time, you lived in an enchanted world, too…

There is magic in all our lives; sometimes we need to look through different eyes to see it.

The Queen of the Realm of Faerie includes many strong female characters within an intricate fantasy land. It is also a fairy tale fantasy.

The first book, Nandana’s Mark, is one of those free ebooks; the second book, The Flower of Isbelline, is now available; and the third book, The Dragon Carnivale, will be released in June 2013.

The series was inspired by the 15th century French fairy tale, Melusine.

Heidi’s hope is that when you read her books, you will rediscover the enchantment in your own life.

She currently resides in eastern Washington with her husband and their two cats. So far, she loves the snow. Being from the South, she finds it magical.

Learn more about Heidi and enjoy her stream-of-consciousness reading journal, Eating Magic, at: www.heidigwrites.blogspot.com.

If you want to say hello, give her a shout out on Twitter at @heidigwrites or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/heidigwrites.

Book Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Heidi-Garrett/e/B008Y61UYM/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/nandanas-mark-heidi-garrett/1112474235?ean=2940014866026

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/heidi-garrett/id554801992?mt=11

Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=%22Heidi+Garrett%22&t=none&f=author&p=1&s=none&g=both

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/HeidiG

__________

For your chance to win a $25 Amazon Express Giftcard, just follow the link below. Good luck! 

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Book Review: CyberStorm by Matthew Mather

Title: CyberStorm

Author: Matthew Mather

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Genre: Techno-Thriller, Science-Fiction

Publication Date: 15 March 2013

Synopsis: “Sometimes the worst storms aren’t caused by Mother Nature, and sometimes the worst nightmares aren’t in the ones in our heads…” (Taken from Goodreads)

– – – –

I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting into when I started reading CyberStorm — but it honestly blew my mind away. It is a story about survival, relationships and most of all, a terrifyingly real depiction of an event that may be plausible enough to actually occur in our present world.

Set in present-day New York City during a whole city snow-storm that has seemingly wiped out all forms of technological connectivity, CyberStorm presents to its readers a realistic account of one man’s perseverance through what was thought to be a foreign attack on a country governed by technology. When you are so incompletely connected via these networks, it is definitely viable that cyber attacks on those systems would eventually occur. While the loss of such connectivity was a tremendous blow, when partnered with a snow-storm only Mother Nature could conjure up, CyberStorm truly shows its readers a masterfully crafted tale of survival at the most detrimental of times.

I cannot praise this book as well as its author enough. Having had a little taste of Mathers’ work (read my review on Atopia Skies here) already, I knew this was a must-read as soon as I heard about it. Mather has a way of writing that pulls you completely into the story. His characters, environment and plots are so well drawn out that you feel completely immersed in the story as if you were right beside the characters. If you are looking for good books under the science-fiction category, then you can’t do wrong with picking up one of Mathers’ works!

Book Review: The S-Word by Chelsea Pitcher

Title: The S-Word

Author: Chelsea Pitcher

Rating: ★ ★ ★  ½

Genre: Young-Adult, Contemporary, High-School-Drama

Publication Date: 7 May 2013 by Gallery Books

Synopsis: “First it was SLUT scribbled all over Lizzie Hart’s locker.

But one week after Lizzie kills herself, SUICIDE SLUT replaces it—in Lizzie’s looping scrawl.

Lizzie’s reputation is destroyed when she’s caught in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend on prom night. With the whole school turned against her, and Angie not speaking to her, Lizzie takes her own life. But someone isn’t letting her go quietly. As graffiti and photocopies of Lizzie’s diary plaster the school, Angie begins a relentless investigation into who, exactly, made Lizzie feel she didn’t deserve to keep living. And while she claims she simply wants to punish Lizzie’s tormentors, Angie’s own anguish over abandoning her best friend will drive her deep into the dark, twisted side of Verity High—and she might not be able to pull herself back out.

Debut author Chelsea Pitcher daringly depicts the harsh reality of modern high schools, where one bad decision can ruin a reputation, and one cruel word can ruin a life. Angie’s quest for the truth behind Lizzie’s suicide is addictive and thrilling, and her razor-sharp wit and fierce sleuthing skills makes her impossible not to root for—even when it becomes clear that both avenging Lizzie and avoiding self-destruction might not be possible.” (Taken from Goodreads)

– – – –

The S-Word was overall a wonderful debut novel from Pitcher. The concept and execution of the novel was well done, interesting enough that I enjoyed it as a novel in its entirety. The issues the book brings up are not easy topics to talk about, especially for teenagers in high school. The death of a fellow classmate could very well shatter a person – and we see this happening through the main protagonist, Angie, whose best friend threw herself off the school’s clock tower following a series of bullying incidents.

The novel follows some cliche plots but breaks through the mould as well. It’s characters are more human than first expected with a story set in a high school environment. At first glimpse, when seeing ‘the s-word’, I thought, “Oh no, here we go again. A story about the popular people tormenting a girl into suicide…”, but this story was so much more than that. It is a story about survival, secrets and seclusion … well much high school. It is also a story about blame, revenge and forgiveness and about moving on from a tragedy.

We follow Angie as she tries to solve the mystery behind Lizzie’s suicide, laying blame on those that took part and most of all on herself. She spends the majority of the novel trying to figure out who exactly is responsible for pushing Lizzie to the edge and letting her fall to her death. I’ve noticed some reviews portray Angie as hypocritical in the sense that she herself played a major role in Lizzie’s death. This is definitely true, but Angie knows that – the person she blames the most is herself, for ignoring and abandoning her best friend when she needed her most, even when she believed Lizzie had betrayed her and broke her heart. I’m not sure how those reviewers could miss the many pages showing Angie’s torment, and blame on herself – so much so that she had carved ‘killer’ into her own skin for the part she believed she played towards her best friend’s suicide.

I found Angie to be a strong-willed and strong-hearted character. We watch with sadness as she falls deeper into the dark pit of loss and  holds our breath as we wait for her to finally snap and possibly self-destruct herself. If it wasn’t for the eccentric Jesse, she would probably have done so. His friendship and support played a major part in helping Angie get back on her feet. However, I thought the need for Jesse to become a romantic interest was unnecessary. I liked him the way he was in the beginning – free and individualistic. His friendship would have been enough to stabilise Angie’s state of mind, so the little twist of romance was unneeded in my opinion. But he was definitely my favourite character in the novel and it was nice to see a little glimpse of his backstory as well.

Another character that I liked was Kennedy. Portrayed as the most popular girl in school, her motives and actions depict a person that is completely different to the cliched queen bee. What we usually forget about the queen bees are the fact that they’re also people – with a past and their own memories. Readers usually jump to the conclusion that they’re the root of all evil in high school, but Kennedy breaks through this mould. That was refreshing to read about, even though her past was nothing short of horrific.

I think the one thing that kept me from giving this book a higher rating was the psych of its main character, Angie. Her need and thirst for revenge in bringing down everyone that played a role in Lizzie’s suicide was a little psychotic, to put it bluntly. I was surprised no one even suggested to her that maybe she should consider seeing a counsellor, especially when everyone knew she was Lizzie’s best friend. You would think that the school would at least hold a session for all of Lizzie’s friends, just to help them through this traumatic situation. But instead, we watch as Angie spirals downwards as all signs point to her going a little cray cray. And her parents, my god! I understand that she’s a neglected only-child, but jeez, there is bad-parenting and then there is what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-you parenting. Her mum seemed like she didn’t even know her daughter’s best friend had died. And her dad seemed like he was even worse off in stability of the mind than Angie did. With family that this, it was no wonder the girl was going a little cray cray.

/SPOILER/ I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was necessary to ruin someone’s life completely by ousting them as a rapist at their own graduation ceremony. While I know Drake deserved to be caught, I just can’t help but think the way Angie went about it was totally unfair and a little over the top. Everyone she went after for revenge was portrayed by her as evil-incarnate, but in reality they were just people who made a mistake, know they’re guilty and now have the live with the consequences. But with Angie, she was extreme enough to want to ruin their lives for it. I’m glad she kind of redeemed herself by not ruining everyone’s lives (just Drakes), but even so, it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth knowing that no one even bothers to think that what she’d been doing was wrong – especially the little twist revealed that she was the one behind the diary drop-offs and writing suicide slut in Lizzie’s handwriting. /SPOILER/

The S-Word is an overall very enjoyable read. It raises many issues for discussion and reveals a human side to many cliched characters that you wouldn’t expect in normal high school novels. I think Pitcher did a wonderful job in her debut novel and I look forward to her future work.

THANKS TO: Gallery Books on Netgalley for providing an eARC for me to read and review honestly.

Book Review: Taken by Erin Bowman

Title: Taken

Author: Erin Bowman

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½

Shelf: Read-in-2013, Young-Adult, Dystopian, 3.5-out-of-5, Released-in-2013, Debut Author, DAC Challenge, Kindle-eBook, Edelweiss-Review

Publication Date: 16 April 2013 by HarperTeen

Synopsis: “There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends…and he’s gone.

They call it the Heist.

Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.

Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?” (Taken from Goodreads)

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In Claysoot, a town enclosed by a wall with black mist on the outside, boys disappear as the clock strikes midnight on their 18th birthday. This is known as being ‘Heisted’. On the day after his older brother is Heisted, Gray discovers a peculiar secret that sets the story rolling.

Taken was overall a very enjoyable read. I found the dystopian town very engrossing from the beginning, although many questions do arise from it. Things like how they keep time, how they managed to learn to read and write without many materials and so forth. I did manage to push these thoughts aside though as Gray’s story was very engaging. From the start, the reader is thrust into the mind of this character who’s rash and stubborn. We’re shown someone that hits girls when he loses his temper, slams doors and is overall a little selfish. That, we learn, is the main protagonist. While he’s not entirely loveable, his natural instinct to follow his gut does highlight his character and helps him during his journey.

Gray’s adventure is very fast paced as he learns new information in each place he ends up. He and his ‘girlfriend’ Emma, escapes Claysoot and is brought to Taem, a domed city run by a man named Frank who explains his cities (AmEast) is continuously being attacked by AmWest who’ve lost once during the civil war between them two. Gray ends up in Taem for a little while, meeting Frank and being mesmerised by his fatherly gestures. /SPOILER/ What I really didn’t like about Frank was how bad of a villain he turns out to be. And by bad, I mean he just didn’t seem as evil as people make him out to be. I think Bowman tried to show his evil ways through rash death penalties and his organised armies … but for me, it just doesn’t work right. I don’t hate him as I should, and while I don’t support him, I just really didn’t care whether he won or lost his battles. /SPOILER/ I really would have rather learned more about the beginnings of the civil war between AmEast and AmWest … what brought it about and how the hell did Frank manage to dome a whole city? 

What I did care about a little was the love triangle. Ha, yes, there was a love triangle and I managed to care a little. This might be because it was written much better than the supposed one with a male protagonist in The Maze Runner by James Dashner. And speaking of which, much of this story is quite reminiscent of The Maze Runner. But I thought it was executed much better. While TMR was just full of weird scenarios and questions upon questions, Taken actually answers some of these questions. I’m so happy Bowman didn’t find the need to keep questions unanswered until the second installment.

Gray has liked Emma, a clinic worker’s daughter, all his life. While he manages to escape from Taem, Emma gets left behind within the city as he heads for the mountains where the Rebels of Frank’s Franconian Order is supposedly hiding. There, he meets Bree, a strong-willed girl – a complete opposite of Emma. While reading from a male’s perspective is a little different to the vast majority of female-led dystopians on the market, the two love interests pretty much take on the same feel. They’re obviously opposites of each other – I mean, how else will Gray otherwise fall for two people. I think the triangle played out well here because it manages to build Gray’s character. Rather than it being the centre of the story, it sits to the side but helps Gray realise how selfish he is worrying about it when there are people dying everyday due to the war. While it’s nice to read about some romance, it was much better to learn that this love triangle plays a bigger part than for no reason but to hook readers.

Taken was a very enjoyable read and I’m highly anticipating the second book. I hope Bowman manages to fill in some inconsistent holes scattered throughout the story, but other than that, a wonderful debut novel!

THANK YOU: HarperTeen on Edelweiss for providing me an electronic ARC for an honest review.