Review of Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto

RevengeandtheWildRevenge and the Wild
By: Michelle Modesto
Release Date: February 2nd 2016
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
The two-bit town of Rogue City is a lawless place, full of dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters. But it’s perfect for seventeen-year-old Westie, the notorious adopted daughter of local inventor Nigel Butler.

Westie was only a child when she lost her arm and her family to cannibals on the wagon trail. Nine years later, Westie may seem fearsome with her foul-mouthed tough exterior and the powerful mechanical arm built for her by Nigel, but the memory of her past still haunts her. She’s determined to make the killers pay for their crimes—and there’s nothing to stop her except her own reckless ways.

But Westie’s search ceases when a wealthy family comes to town looking to invest in Nigel’s latest invention, a machine that can harvest magic from gold—which Rogue City desperately needs as the magic wards that surround the city start to fail. There’s only one problem: the investors look exactly like the family who murdered Westie’s kin. With the help of Nigel’s handsome but scarred young assistant, Alistair, Westie sets out to prove their guilt. But if she’s not careful, her desire for revenge could cost her the family she has now.

My Thoughts:
I really had no clue what to expect from Revenge and the Wild. I assumed with “wild” in the title I’d get some wild west but I did not expect all the fantasy and paranormal elements. It was a really wonderful inclusion and so unique. Modesto was able to weave together a wild west setting with vampires, cannibals, magic with a dash of steam punk. How was this even possible?

Had I known that all these elements would collide in one story I think I’d have been pretty hesitant because wow….that’s just so much to throw into one setting and story. But Modesto somehow succeeded in having me believe that her world was plausible and that all these characters could all be inhabitants. Rogue City was actually pretty easy to visualize and imagine.

I really loved Westie, the main character. She was so incredibly flawed and yet so heartfelt. She struggled with addiction and insecurity and these elements made her more intriguing to me. I found it easy to love her and hurt for her past and the pain she dealt with presently. This poor girl really had it rough. As a child she lost her family to cannibals and barely made it out alive. Yes. Cannibals. And somehow it all works. I’m not entirely sure how!

The secondary characters were beautifully executed for the most part. I found the vampire, Costin, to be a particular favorite as well as Westie’s adopted family- Nigel and Alley. Each character had depth and I could easily understand their point of view and motivations. The interactions between the characters and dialog were great and each character had their own voice. And there was chemistry! I fully shipped Westie with two folks in this book. That might lead to the question- was there a love triangle? Hmm, I guess technically yes but it worked for me. I think Westie’s emotions were explained well and completely understandable.

Where the novel sort of dipped for me was in the development of the bad guys. I felt the majority of them (yes more than one bad guy) were flat and though a motivation was given I didn’t exactly feel it.

This book was fast paced and the writing easy to read and digest. I felt it was straight to the point and Westie’s voice, in particular, was beautifully done. I found the very ending of the book to be lacking some. With the crazy mixture of genres I expected an ending that would blow me away with how strange it was but instead it was rather cliché. It wasn’t overly predictable but at the same time it was a bit of a let down. I felt the novel was strong enough not to suffer too much with the lackluster ending though.

Final Thoughts:
I found Revenge and the Wild to be a riveting and incredibly unique book. I’ve yet to see all the elements Modesto threw together work in one book but somehow it did in this one. I loved the main character and felt that this was an immensely entertaining read.

Review of The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

TheShadowQueenThe Shadow Queen
By: C.J. Redwine
Release Date: February 16th 2016
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

My Thoughts:
I was eager to read The Shadow Queen because of the Snow White retelling element. Snow White has always been a favorite of mine and I was excited to see how Redwine would morph the story into a more fantasy setting. Once I started reading I was even further excited to realize that this was fantasy WITH dragons! Hooray! Well, my excitement didn’t last too long. Sadly, I wasn’t a huge fan of this book. The writing, pacing and characters fell a bit flat to me and I was never able to get invested.

I really, really wanted to love everything about The Shadow Queen and I believe that a good amount of readers will enjoy this reworking of Snow White. For me, I found the writing to be a bit simplistic and I was unable to really sink into the words. I had trouble immersing into the world or feeling anything for the characters. I felt that the author provided enough insight and description of the world to allow me to visualize the setting and understand what had driven the characters to their actions. Though I had all the information what I lacked was feeling.

You know, you’ll read a book and not connect and you honestly can’t pin-point why exactly and that’s how I feel about this book. When I look at all the elements, dragons, Snow White retelling, strong female main character, romance, and fantasy in general these things equal to all the things Kristen loves. But, for some reason, it didn’t mesh for me. From the start I struggled with getting into the story and pushing myself to read. For a bit in the middle I found myself enjoying it much more and thought I’d finally gotten into it and would fall in love. The further I read though-my interest waned. It became more and more a struggle for me and I could clearly see where the book was headed.

As I said earlier- I did really love the concept behind the book. Some of the imagery Redwine employed (especially in regards to the evil queen, Irina) were amazingly graphic and SO CREEPY. I loved that she created a heroine that was strong willed, brave and heroic. And who am I kidding- there were dragons so that was pretty damn awesome.

Final Thoughts:
Sadly, The Shadow Queen, wasn’t a hit with me due to my lack of becoming invested in the story or characters. I did appreciate the creative reworking of Snow White and the fact that Redwine incorporated dragons and some incredibly gruesome/disturbing elements in regards to the evil queen.

Review of Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

CrimsonBoundCover

Crimson Bound
By: Rosamund Hodge
Release Date: May 5th 2015
Publisher:  Balzer + Bray
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?

Inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Crimson Bound is an exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption.

The Story:
I was really excited to see a retelling/retake on Little Red Riding Hood and I’ll tell you…the prologue to Crimson Bound was spectacular. I was immediately swept away and fell in love. We experience Rachelle’s life as a 15 year old- bold, and as the summary says, reckless. It was an incredibly powerful start to the book and I couldn’t wait to see where the story would go next.

The first chapter picks up with Rachelle being much older, guilt ridden and horrified by her choices. It was a bit of an adjustment for me since three years had passed but after a few chapters I was entranced with the world Hodge has created. I think the reason it took me a few chapters to really get into the story after the prologue was because the world was a tad complicated and it took me some pages to get the characters straight. Once this was achieved I was very interested in the story progression. As with her debut, Cruel Beauty, the writing was beautifully done. Some of the pacing felt uneven to me with some sections dragging just the slightest bit but not enough to really detract from my reading experience.

I had never heard of The Girl Without Hands which was an inspiration for this book. After some googling I was impressed with how Hodge was able to combine both this tale as well as Red Riding Hood.

The Characters:
I enjoyed Rachelle’s character and felt that she was well constructed and a very interesting character to follow. Hodge does an excellent job in this book as well as her debut with creating really complex characters that are incredibly well rounded.

I love unexpected allies and enemies having to work together so this aspect from the summary was a selling point for sure. I wasn’t 100% sold on Rachelle really hating Armand but it was still fun to read about them having to team up and learn to trust each other or not.

One of the most interesting characters was Erec, Rachelle’s mentor of sorts. I loved the complexity of his character and my inability to ever really like him but to completely understand why Rachelle was drawn to him in some ways. I enjoy a character that has me guessing at their motivations.

My biggest issue with Crimson Bound was some of the dialog between characters. I would love to show examples but most of it was very centered on things that progressed the plot so I’ll not quote it here but a lot of it was really cheesy for me. I felt nothing with declarations of love and really a lot of the pivotal character interactions fell flat. I was reading the advanced reader copy so I’m really hoping that some of it is fixed before the final printing. It felt more like filler lines than finished dialog.

Final Thoughts:
I really love how creative, vivid and imaginative Crimson Bound was. If you are expecting a  retelling don’t- look for Red Riding Hood and The Girl Without Hands as inspiration for the story. It might be fun to brush up on both tales prior to reading so you can catch references here and there. My biggest complaint was that the dialog was weak in many important places which really hurt my emotional connection to story events.

Review of The Cage by Megan Shepherd

TheCageCoverThe Cage
By: Megan Shepherd
Release Date: May 26th 2015
Publisher: Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
When Cora Mason wakes in a desert, she doesn’t know where she is or who put her there. As she explores, she finds an impossible mix of environments—tundra next to desert, farm next to jungle, and a strangely empty town cobbled together from different cultures—all watched over by eerie black windows. And she isn’t alone.

Four other teenagers have also been taken: a beautiful model, a tattooed smuggler, a secretive genius, and an army brat who seems to know too much about Cora’s past. None of them have a clue as to what happened, and all of them have secrets. As the unlikely group struggles for leadership, they slowly start to trust each other. But when their mysterious jailer—a handsome young guard called Cassian—appears, they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: Their captors aren’t from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers for an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans.

As a forbidden attraction develops between Cora and Cassian, she realizes that her best chance of escape might be in the arms of her own jailer—though that would mean leaving the others behind. Can Cora manage to save herself and her companions? And if so . . . what world lies beyond the walls of their cage.

The Story:
I really didn’t know what to expect with The Cage. I read 2 of Megan Shepherd’s last series and really love hear writing style but wasn’t a fan overall of the books. I was excited to see her going in such a different direction and knew I’d want to see what she’d do with a science fiction edge. I will say, The Cage was highly readable. I started it expecting to read a chapter and read about a third of the book before I knew what I’d done.

There was no hesitation to jump into the story. Shepherd plops us right into the alien habitat and we are immediately introduced to the surroundings and characters. I felt that this was a great way to start the novel and felt pretty strongly about what I was reading. I was as curious as the characters to find out where they were and why.

As the story progresses the pacing slowed down for me and I felt that a good chunk in the middle dragged. It was still easy to read but I could have done without some of the details. I did love that we got to venture out of their zoo enclosure a view times though the world outside of their ‘cage’ was very vague. Such a small amount was described I look forward to learning more.

Now, I think I’ll be one of the only people to think this book mimicked another book, The Bone Season. I saw some similarities that I couldn’t ignore. We have a Warden, alien-type characters that wear gloves and the people be treated as less (okay this is a really common theme but still). The summary suggests that the characters are part of a human zoo (ala Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter House Five) but for me it really didn’t come across as a zoo. It felt more like experiments on humans and a way to control rather than a way for an alien species to view humans in their habitat (which is how I think of a zoo).

The Characters:
Now, I could take all the above about the story pretty easily. It did feel like a rework of other books and nothing felt overly original to me but with every chapter I began to loathe the characters more and more. By the end of the book I downright hated every single character in the book. I’m not sure that’s ever happened before. Not a single character stood out to me as someone I cared for or wanted to succeed. They could really all blow up and I’d be A-Okay with it. That’s awful, right?

The main character, Cora,  was determined…I give her that. But determined to the point of stupidity. She was dead set on a course of action through a large part of the book-she wanted to escape. But really, if you are not even on your own planet and floating out in the universe even if you get out of the enclosure how will you get far? She didn’t seem to really care about anything other than getting out. It was somewhat frustrating for this reader though I could see why she wanted to leave. Things sorted out towards the middle and end but it was a bit too late in the game. I’d already spent a good amount of time wondering what she was thinking.

The secondary characters were so bad to me. Not even in the start did I care for them. They each were fairly shallow though there was an attempt to give them depth. I never cared about their backstories. I imagine it was given to show the reasoning for their actions in the enclosure but it didn’t work for me. As the story progresses the characters all get more and more unhinged. Things did improve for me the more awful and crazy they each became. It got a bit creepy in a few places and I highly enjoyed those bits.

For those curious about a love triangle–there was one…sort of? The main character’s feelings are pretty easy to decipher and I never felt that she truly was drawn to one of the love interests. There are two men that had feelings for Cora and I did prefer one over the other. I’ll not go into spoilers but I felt it was obvious who she was attracted to. So I’m not sure it’s a traditional triangle but it might bother some of the more triangle sensitive readers out there.

Final Thoughts:
As many problems as I had with The Cage I will say that Megan Shepherd is a gifted writer and this book was able to gain my interest and keep me glued to the pages. I was never surprised of the outcome or twists but it was a fun ride. Will I read the sequel? I really don’t know. I do think that other readers will really enjoy this book especially if they are able to enjoy the characters (or at least a few of them).

 

Review of Polaris by Mindee Arnett

PolarisCoverPolaris
By: Mindee Arnett
Release Date: Balzer + Bray
Publisher: January 20th 2015
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Following the events of Avalon, Jeth Seagrave and his crew are on the run. Jeth is desperate to find the resources and funding he needs to rescue his mother from an ITA’s research lab and leave this whole galaxy behind for a new life somewhere else. But the ITA is just as desperate, and soon Jeth finds himself pursued by a mysterious figure hell-bent on capturing Jeth and his crew—dead or alive. In a last-ditch effort to save everyone he holds dear, Jeth enters into a bargain with the last person he ever thought he’d see again: Dax Shepherd, the galaxy’s newest and most fearsome crime lord. And he’s not the only one: upon arriving back at Peltraz spaceport for the first time since he witnessed the death of his old employer, Jeth discovers Dax has a new partner: Jeth’s mother, Marian.

This shocking turn of events is only the first in another breathless, action-packed sci-fi adventure rife with danger, love, and betrayal, as Jeth has to once again ask himself how much he’s willing to invest in a morally bankrupt galaxy in the hopes of saving those he cares for.

My Thoughts:
I read Avalon, the beginning of this dualogy, last year and found it to be an enjoyable read. It had a creepy atmosphere that I had hoped would span into this novel but did not. I thought that would disappoint me but I was nicely surprised. In Polaris Arnett really upped the tension and heartbreak for her main character Jeth.

There must be something wrong with  me because I love for a main character to be pushed to the brink and be generally tortured emotionally. I felt that Arnett really put her characters through much more strife in this book than the first. I felt that Jeth, in particular,  had a lot of emotional growth throughout the series and I really began to connect to him in this second book. So many horrible things were done to him and those he loved it was actually painful to read (which I loved). I wanted to see his world be turned inside out. I wanted to see his nightmares become reality–isn’t that awful of me? Arnett delivered and for me, it made this novel (and series in general) stronger.

One of my problems with the first book was my lack of emotional connection to the characters and their welfare. Thankfully I was able to connect to the cast of characters and began to find myself fearing for them. Even the secondary cast seemed better rounded and their interactions and dialog more fulfilling. The romance still fell a tad flat for me but since it was such a small part of the story it worked out.

As for the story itself, I enjoyed where Arnett took things and I really liked that we got to learn more about Marian (Jeth’s mother). The action felt consistent with the first novel and really these two books flowed very well together. I felt that the loose ends were tied up well and nothing was left unexplored.

Final Thoughts:
I felt that Polaris took the series to a better place because I was able to find an emotional attachment to Jeth and the rest of the characters. I liked that Arnett went darker in this final book and still managed to bring things around and provide a good conclusion.