Review of Sugar by Deirdre Riordan Hall

SugarCoverSugar
By: Deirdre Riordan Hall
Release Date: June 1st 2015
Publisher:  Skyscape
Format: Paperback
Source: McDuffie Communications

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

Summary:
I’m the fat Puerto Rican–Polish girl who doesn’t feel like she belongs in her skin, or anywhere else for that matter. I’ve always been too much and yet not enough.

Sugar Legowski-Gracia wasn’t always fat, but fat is what she is now at age seventeen. Not as fat as her mama, who is so big she hasn’t gotten out of bed in months. Not as heavy as her brother, Skunk, who has more meanness in him than fat, which is saying something. But she’s large enough to be the object of ridicule wherever she is: at the grocery store, walking down the street, at school. Sugar’s life is dictated by taking care of Mama in their run-down home—cooking, shopping, and, well, eating. A lot of eating, which Sugar hates as much as she loves.

When Sugar meets Even (not Evan—his nearly illiterate father misspelled his name on the birth certificate), she has the new experience of someone seeing her and not her body. As their unlikely friendship builds, Sugar allows herself to think about the future for the first time, a future not weighed down by her body or her mother.

Soon Sugar will have to decide whether to become the girl that Even helps her see within herself or to sink into the darkness of the skin-deep role her family and her life have created for her.

My Thoughts:
I’ll admit, when I saw this show up unsolicited on my doorstep I wasn’t overly enthused to read it. I’m not huge into contemporary books and so I didn’t think I’d get much enjoyment of this particular book.

I try to always give every book that lands at my house a chance so decided one night to give it a start. I was surprised with how quickly I was sucked into the story and how much my heart hurt for Sugar. I became really interested in her plight, home life and really the story. I felt her pain and was as excited as she was as she started to become friends with Even.

Her family drama was awful and painful to read. It felt like it could be someone’s life so that made it even harder to read. The people in Sugar’s life were so abusive and uncaring it broke my heart. I tried to find something likeable about Mama or Skunk but I just couldn’t. It did feel realistic that Sugar would have stuck with them though. I could see her point of view clearly and it was really insightful.

The author used a bit of a heavy hand on the issues she presents. I felt like it was maybe a bit too heavy here and there but it did not detract me from the story. Once Even really enters the story we get to see some hope for Sugar-he shows her kindness which she was so very lacking in every aspect of her life. This book was a painful read and though I do wish that Sugar could have found strength less from her feelings towards a boy I still felt the chemistry between them and rooted them on. I wanted Sugar to find happiness and learn to love who she was.

Final Thoughts:
This book was so out of my normal genres but once I started I was hooked and I had to know where Sugar’s story was headed. This was emotionally difficult to read and it brought me to tears which isn’t all that common.

Review of End of Days by Susan Ee

EndofDaysEnd of Days
By: Susan Ee
Release Date: May 12th 2015
Publisher: Skyscape
Format: Print ARC
Source: McDuffie Communications

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

My Rating:
star

Summary:
After a daring escape from the angels, Penryn and Raffe are on the run. They’re both desperate to find a doctor who can reverse the twisted changes inflicted by the angels on Raffe and Penryn’s sister. As they set off in search of answers, a startling revelation about Raffe’s past unleashes dark forces that threaten them all.

When the angels release an apocalyptic nightmare onto humans, both sides are set on a path toward war. As unlikely alliances form and strategies shift, who will emerge victorious? Forced to pick sides in the fight for control of the earthly realm, Raffe and Penryn must choose: Their own kind, or each other?

My Thoughts:
How to write the review for the end of a series that has been one of my very favorites? It’s impossible to express how much I adore Susan Ee’s writing and the characters she has created. I fell so deeply in love with Penryn, Paige and Raffe I was devastated before I even began reading End of Days, knowing I’d have to say goodbye to them.

I don’t know if you follow the series but originally it had been said that there would be 5 books total. While reading World After I thought that I’d have 3 books remaining but in between then and late last year it was announced that instead the series would end after this next book, End of Days. I’m not entirely sure of the reasoning but I was so sad because I looked forward to years to come with these characters and world.

Knowing that this would be it for this series I was highly emotional even receiving the book to review. I wanted to savor my reading of it but once I started I couldn’t put it down. It was painful to stop to do anything else. I’ll admit, I was worried that something would be off about the novel, Ee wouldn’t be able to pull me in, etc. None of that happened. The first page had me entranced and I knew I’d love the book.

I would hope if you are reading this review or have followed me for any length of time I’ve convinced you to give this series a try. Just think, you could get all three books and binge read them now. Well, this last installment ups the stakes–well, I’ll say, what made all of these books incredible is that there has always been tension, fear and really high stakes. I never felt that Susan was going easy on me as the reader. I was scared of what might happen next.

End of Days picks up from where World After left us. I was so thrilled to see Raffe and Penryn sharing scenes again and having their classic banter and that incredible attraction. I ship these two so much it’s insane. Seriously, this ship is one of two of my favorites. I can’t get enough of both Raffe and Penryn and the entire series I’ve just waited for them to smooch together and never leave each other’s side. I will say there are a few swoon-worthy scenes, but as always Susan leaves you wanting so much more.

I felt that the first third of the book was absolutely amazing. There were scenes that had me in tears and moments I’ve thought about long after having read them. But, I’ll admit (and it pains me) that the last third didn’t work as well for me. It felt rushed and the climax sort of felt to easy? It just didn’t feel as true to the series as I’d hoped but it was still good just not amazingly epic. Do not let that detract you though! The first third of the book is some of the most emotional and breathtaking writing I’ve read of Susan’s.

Final Thoughts:
If you find that you have similar taste in books as I do then please, for the love of all that’s good, give these books a shot. Of course, if you don’t love them don’t tell me! These books are high on a pedestal for me.

Extras:

Review of Blackout by Meredith McCardle

blackoutcoverBlackout (Annum Guard #2)
By: Meredith McCardle
Release Date: January 13th 2015
Publisher: Skyscape
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher

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

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Amanda Obermann (code name: Iris) has more on her mind than usual. As a member of a covert government organization called the Annum Guard, which travels through time to keep history on track, Iris has been getting some particularly stressful assignments. Plus, Jane Bonner, the Guard’s iron-fisted new leader, seems determined to make life as hard as possible. Thankfully, Iris has Abe (code name: Blue), her boyfriend and fellow Guardian, who listens to her vent—and helps her cope with her mentally ill mother’s increasingly erratic behavior.

When Guardians start to disappear on their assignments, Iris makes a terrifying discovery: a “blackout” squad is targeting anyone who gets in the way of a corrupt force that’s selling out both the Annum Guard’s missions and Guardian lives. Together, Iris and Blue must go undercover to untangle the Guard’s elaborate web of secrets and lies. But when Iris discovers that the terrible truth may involve her own father, a former Guardian undone by his own greed, she must decide how much she’s willing to risk to rescue her friends…and how dangerous the consequences will be for all of humanity.

My Thoughts:
Blackout is the sequel to The Eighth Guardian and was highly enjoyable continuation of the story. The overall feel of the book was slightly different than the first since it focused on the mystery behind the Annum Guard and why certain members were disappearing. Time travel was obviously a large part of the story though it wasn’t as detailed as in the first book. The time periods that Amanda (code name-Iris) visited weren’t described as vividly as in the first book. She wasn’t looking to change the past in this one as much as witness events take place to help her solve a mystery.

The same cast of characters were present in this installment and we get to see more of Abe since he’s joined the guard. The relationship between Amanda and Abe had some adjusting to do so we see a bit of a rocky patch between the two. I’m still not shipping them as much as I’d like though I do enjoy both of the characters. I have really grown fond of Red and was happy to see many more scenes with him. I’m so curious to learn more about his background and I’m hoping McCardle delves into that in the next book.

The first part of Blackout moved slower to me but I was still interested in learning about the characters and the scenes focused on Amanda’s mother’s mental disorder. I appreciated getting insights into her home life as sad as it was.

The action picked up midway and moved at a break-neck pace and be aware…this one ends on a killer cliff-hanger. I couldn’t believe it left me hanging like it did. There isn’t any info for the third book on Goodreads and I’m somewhat distraught being left hanging for I don’t know how long. I hope that the next book will release soon and some info is updated soon.

Final Thoughts:
Blackout was a strong follow up to the first book though it was a tad slower paced in the beginning. I enjoyed the slower sections for the character growth and look inside of Amanda’s home life. Once things get going the pace quickens to an ending with a great twist that left me crying since it was such a cliff hanger. I need the third book immediately and look forward to the ride McCardle with put me through.

Review of The Eighth Guardian by Meredith McCardle

8thGuardianCoverThe Eighth Guardian
By: Meredith McCardle
Release Date: May 6th 2014
Publisher: Amazon Children’s
Format: E-book and Paperback
Source: Kaye Publicity and giveaway

A copy of this book was provided by Kaye Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Amanda Obermann. Code name Iris.

It’s Testing Day. The day that comes without warning, the day when all juniors and seniors at The Peel Academy undergo a series of intense physical and psychological tests to see if they’re ready to graduate and become government operatives. Amanda and her boyfriend Abe are top students, and they’ve just endured thirty-six hours of testing. But they’re juniors and don’t expect to graduate. That’ll happen next year, when they plan to join the CIA—together.

But when the graduates are announced, the results are shocking. Amanda has been chosen—the first junior in decades. And she receives the opportunity of a lifetime: to join a secret government organization called the Annum Guard and travel through time to change the course of history. But in order to become the Eighth Guardian in this exclusive group, Amanda must say good-bye to everything—her name, her family, and even Abe—forever.

Who is really behind the Annum Guard? And can she trust them with her life?

My Thoughts:
When I was offered a copy Blackout I couldn’t resist saying yes to it and the first book, The Eighth Guardian–the covers are beautiful and they are about a secret government agency focused on time travel.

I was easily drawn into this book because of the fast pacing and ease of which time travel was approached. We are introduced to the main character, Amanda, on her testing day. Testing Day puts the students in hard-core situations for an undetermined length of time to test their physical prowess as well as mental fortitude. I found it to be remarkably easy to disband disbelief to imagine an elite school training teens for specialized work. A tad like X-Men minus the super powers.

The story progressed seamlessly from Amanda’s life at Peel Academy to her life in the Annum Guard. I loved McCardle’s approach to time travel and the mechanics of how it worked. It wasn’t overly sci-fi heavy…this book focused more on the action and mystery of what the Annum Guard’s role is.

There was a touch of romance between Amanda and her long time boyfriend Abe. It was sweet though I never was able to fully get behind them together. I wanted to, but since we’re dropped into them being a couple already I didn’t  have that attachment that I get when I read about how a couple begins. The story also doesn’t have all that many scenes between the two so it’s easy to not feel  much for Abe. There wasn’t a love triangle in this but I could see one developing later on (I tend to be able to see the possibility in most series). I couldn’t say if anything will develop or not.

The secondary cast of characters mostly focused on the other members of the Annum Guard. There was never a lot of backstory or time spend on any one character though the author did give a nice taste to some of their backgrounds. I think we’ll see more development in future books.

Final Thoughts:
I found The Eighth Guardian to be a successful action book with time travel thrown in. The characters are fun, pacing fast and generally a great read. The side characters were slightly ignored and I never could get fully invested in the romantic aspect but neither detracted from my overall enjoyment.