Review of Want by Cindy Pon

wantcoverWant
By: Cindy Pon
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Format: Print ARC
Source: Convention

My Rating:
star

Summary:
From critically acclaimed author Cindy Pon comes an edge-of-your-seat sci-fi thriller, set in a near-future Taipei plagued by pollution, about a group of teens who risk everything to save their city.

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits, protecting them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is, or destroying his own heart?

My Thoughts
Want was my first book to read by Cindy Pon and it was a really wonderful and unique read. I loved that the setting was futuristic Taipei and that the world has been ravaged by pollution. This doesn’t seem all that off base to a possible future for our world so it was easy to relate. The story was fast paced and played on some sort of typical futuristic tropes such as an evil business but it felt fresh and I easily became attached to the cast of characters.

Zhou was the main character and I enjoyed learning about his history and watching him navigate his world and that of the wealthy. The idea that social classes would be divided by the ability to wear suits that protect them from disease seemed all too plausible. The reader can’t help but compare aspects of Jason Zhou’s world with our own which really gave heart to this book and increased the level of intensity.

Though there are a lot of action and it does have the feel of a heist book/movie there was ample character development and relationships. I thought the characters had great chemistry and I was worried for them all.

Pon did a brilliant job putting the reader in her setting- she vividly created the atmosphere with descriptions of the setting, foods and people. It was so easy to imagine everything- even the special suits. Nothing about this read felt unreachable- though this would be classified science fiction it really didn’t lose me in technical talk like some Sci-Fi’s do. I can so imagine this as a movie and it reads like you are watching one.

Final Thoughts:
In Want-Cindy Pon introduces her readers to a beautifully rendered futuristic Taipei which feels incredibly realistic. The characters are very well developed and easy to love. The action kept me flipping the pages and fretting about the outcome.

 

Review of Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

DaughteroftheBurningCityDaughter of the Burning City
By: Amanda Foody
Release Date: July 25, 2017
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Format: Print ARC
Source: Convention

My Rating:
star

Summary:
A darkly irresistible new fantasy set in the infamous Gomorrah Festival, a traveling carnival of debauchery that caters to the strangest of dreams and desires.

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

My Thoughts:
I went into reading Daughter of the Burning City with no real knowledge of what it would be about. I have this habit of not bothering to read the summary prior to reading. The cover and title were enough to sell me on this one and it ended up that I loved the storyline and felt this was a very original story with wonderfully unique characters set in a living, moving festival.

We follow the story from Sorina’s point of view. The book was written in first person (my fave) so we see her world and the Gomorrah Festival from her eyes. Sorina was a very likeable main character and I could easily relate to the dedication she felt to her family and role in the festival. I appreciated how determined she was to protect those she loves. I loved that she fought through her own fear and insecurity to push herself to help others and work to finding the killer. Her magical ability- to create illusions- was beautifully written and executed. I loved that she had a very unique characteristic about her (which you’ll have to read the book to find out about).

The way magical abilities were approached in general was really wonderful. I loved that we got to see a range of jinx/spell types. The festival itself and Gomorrah- whish was an always moving city- was a character all itself. I loved all the different aspects and people populating this world. It was fascinating. You have so many unusual characters and each area of the city (upworld, downworld, etc) was described beautifully. I could really visualize the people and places. The world outside of Gomorrah was much foggier though. We really didn’t have a full knowledge of the outer happenings of the world but it worked for me since, to me, it felt that we had about the same knowledge as Sorina. Any details we get of that world outside of Gomorrah was as Sorina learned about it.

As the summary says- there was a forbidden romance. I shipped it very much and really loved the chemistry the characters had with one another. Luca was such an incredibly loveable character! I only wish there was a novella from his point of view. His magical ability was so gruesome and wonderfully morbid. That’s the thing with this book- Sorina had a really innocent, almost sweetness about her, but there are aspects of the book that are really dark.

This book never felt like an overly heavy read even though some of it was a bit on the sad, darker side. I did find the pacing to be slower (I’d say more on par with Laini Taylor’s work) but I think that was also me savoring the writing and world. I looked forward each night to picking this book up to read (always a great sign).

Final Thoughts:
Daughter of the Burning City was a beautifully constructed story full of original characters, magic, love and dedication to family.

DotBC

Review of Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis

GiventotheSea

Given to the Sea
By: Mindy McGinnis
Release Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: Putnam’s Childrens
Format: E-Arc
Source: Publisher

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Everyone has a place.

Khosa was born to be fed to the sea, to prevent the kind of wave that once destroyed the Kingdom of Stille. She can’t be sacrificed until she produces an heir, but human touch repulses her…except for the touch of the Indiri.

Dara and Donil are the last of the Indiri, a native race with magic that’s seductive—a force of nature—but dwindling since the Pietra slaughtered their people.

Witt leads the Pietra, the fierce warriors who are now marching on the Kingdom of Stille. The stone shores of Witt’s kingdom harbor a secret threat, and to ensure the survival of his people, he’s prepared to conquer every speck of Stille’s soil.

Vincent stands to inherit the throne of Stille, but has no wife to share it with. When the beautiful and mysterious Khosa arrives without an heir, Vincent knows that his father will stop at nothing to make sure she fulfills her duty. Torn between protecting his kingdom and protecting the girl whose fate is tied to its very existence, Vincent’s loyalty is soon at odds with his heart.

While royals scheme, Pietrans march, and the Indiri struggle to survive, the rising sea calls for its Given, and Khosa is destined to answer.

My Thoughts:
I really love that McGinnis’ style and genre changes for each book she releases. When I saw she was venturing into fantasy I had to have this book. It was a tad different than I expected but it did have some of the McGinnis trade marks- it wasn’t an overly happy story and it had a complex world. The story was told from 4 point of views. I am a fan of multiple POV so I didn’t have trouble with this though I did sort of mix up a character or two. For some reason the Witt story line had me confused each time it went to his chapters. I don’t know if I couldn’t get a good feel for his character or what but I was always having to remind myself who he was.

I thought at first that I would enjoy Khosa’s character the most but I never did really connect to her. I thought the idea of her family history and her draw to the sea was so interesting though. What a completely original story idea! Her constant draw, even against her will, to the ocean was mesmerizing. The fact that she felt dancing in her bones and the need to dance to her death? Wow, that’s dark and awesome.

The characters I really grew to like were Dara and Donil. The fact that they were the last of their race was so sad to me. I loved their magical abilities and how much it really weighed on them and their actions. The unrequited love Dara felt had my heart breaking for her. Really- they just had such a sad story.

Vincent was likeable and easy to read about. I enjoyed his POV and I might have felt he was the easiest to connect to. With the combination of all these characters and their stories it was a really complex storyline. I admit, there were times I wasn’t sure what was happening! I still felt the draw to continue reading regardless.

Final Thoughts:
Given to the Sea wasn’t what I expected exactly but regardless I found the characters and story to be incredibly interesting even if I didn’t follow everything throughout my entire read. It all pulled together and the further I read the more I could grasp the world and reasoning behind character’s actions. As with most McGinnis books, this one wasn’t overly happy but it had a realistic quality to it that I really appreciated.

Review of Duels and Deception by Cindy Anstey

DuelandDeceptionDuels and Deception
By: Cindy Anstey
Release Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Format: Print arc
Source: Publisher

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Miss Lydia Whitfield, heiress to the family fortune, has her future entirely planned out. She will run the family estate until she marries the man of her late father’s choosing, and then she will spend the rest of her days as a devoted wife. Confident in those arrangements, Lydia has tasked her young law clerk, Mr. Robert Newton, to begin drawing up the marriage contracts. Everything is going according to plan.

Until Lydia—and Robert along with her—is kidnapped. Someone is after her fortune and won’t hesitate to destroy her reputation to get it. With Robert’s help, Lydia strives to keep her family’s good name intact and expose whoever is behind the devious plot. But as their investigation delves deeper and their affections for each other grow, Lydia starts to wonder whether her carefully planned future is in fact what she truly wants…

My Thoughts:
Duels and Deception was exactly what I expected and wanted! It was a fast, fun read that had that Jane Austen feel and such a cute story. Have you read any of Tessa Dare’s historical romance novels? This book had that feel but for a YA audience.

The pacing was quick and this was one of those books that’s perfect for vacation reading, waiting for an appointment- really- the kind of book you stick in your purse and read whenever you get a few minutes. The driving force in this novel was by far the characters and the chemistry they have with one another. I immediately liked the main character Miss Lydia Whitfield. She’s pragmatic and knows exactly what she wants out of life. She’s got everything planned (if only others would play by her rules a little easier).

The law clerk, Mr. Rober Newton, was so cute. I shipped these two quickly and looked forward to their interactions. I loved their misadventures and how they brought out the best in one another.

This book wasn’t overly mysterious- I thought it was obvious what the outcome would be but that didn’t diminish the fun of reading for me at all. It was, as they say, the journey that mattered and not the destination. Reading about these two characters was so much fun. I loved the historical setting and felt that the author did a great job of taking the reader there.

Final Thoughts:
Duels and Deception was an adorable read with quirky characters you love and a fun story line. It’s a standalone and perfect for a vacation read or something quick to pick you out of a reading slump.

Review of The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

thevaliantcoverThe Valiant
By: Lesley Livingston
Release Date: February 14th 2017
Publisher: Razorbill
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

Summary:

Lost to history, the story of the female gladiator has never been told. Until now.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king and the younger sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha. When Fallon was just a child, Sorcha was killed while defending their home from the armies of Julius Caesar.

On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is excited to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in her father’s war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured by ruthless brigands who sell her to an elite training school for female gladiators owned by none other than Julius Caesar himself. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon s family might be her only hope of survival.
Now, Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries, deadly fights in and out of the arena, and perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier and her sworn enemy.

My Thoughts:

The Valiant by Lesley Livingston is a fiercely addictive tale pulling from the vastly untold history of female gladiators in Ancient Rome. The pacing is fast and I was immediately drawn into the writing, story and characters. There’s no time wasted before we have action and even some kissing.

We, as the reader, follow Fallon as she falls from Celtic princess to slave to a gladiatorial- fighting for her life in the colosseum. Livingston makes tangible the horror of losing the right to guide your own future by detailing what it might have been like to have been taken from your home and sold to the highest bidder. I feel that following Fallon on this journey enabled me to really feel a connection to her.

The historical details and vividly described world made it is easy to visualize what it might have been like in the time period and to feel the grit, sweat and blood of the coliseum. I loved how well the fighting was depicted and honestly I was able to play it all out like a movie while I read.

The secondary cast was well developed and I loved that historical figures such as Julius Caesar and Cleopatra were included in the story line. I loved the portrayal of Cleopatra especially. As Fallon drew closer to her sister gladiators so did I. I became entrenched in the drama between the girls. There were so many different types of characters in this story- from the powerful to the weak I loved seeing how Livingston gave them all a backstory and motivations. One of my favorites was Caius Varro. He was such a great character and I loved seeing Fallon’s feelings for him change.

Final Thoughts:
With themes of family, loyalty and betrayal interwoven with a whirl wind of intense battle scenes and a touch of romance you will be clamoring for more.