Reviews, Special Review

ARC Review: Recoil by Joanne Macgregor

Recoil

Goodreads Summary:

When a skilled gamer gets recruited as a sniper in the war against a terrorist-produced pandemic, she discovers there’s more than one enemy and more than one war. The Game is real.

Three years after a series of terrorist attacks flooded the US with a lethal plague, society has changed radically.

Sixteen year-old Jinxy James spends her days trapped at home – immersed in virtual reality, worrying about the plague and longing for freedom. Then she wins a war simulation game and is recruited into a top-secret organisation where talented teenagers are trained to become agents in the war on terror. Eager to escape her mother’s over-protectiveness and to serve her country, Jinxy enlists and becomes an expert sniper of infected mutant rats.

She’s immediately drawn to Quinn O’Riley, a charming and subversive intelligence analyst who knows more about the new order of government and society than he is telling. Then a shocking revelation forces Jinxy to make an impossible decision, and she risks losing everything.

Recoil is the first book in a Young Adult dystopian romance trilogy, and makes great reading for lovers of Rick Yancey (The Fifth Wave), Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games), and Veronica Roth (Divergent).

My Review:

Recoil is the most recent work by Joanne Macgregor. It takes place in modern day United States, three years after a terrorist attack used biological chemicals to unleash a plague. The story is very realistic dystopian fiction. It’s full of elements that terrorist attacks cause- hyper-awareness of foreign residents, larger defense industry, mass media reporting on threats, politician comments about terrorists.

Jinxy starts out naive, playing a game that eventually leads to recruitment with the military. She takes the words of the media, politicians, and her unit commander Sarge for face value- believes they have the people’s best interests at heart. At 16, it makes sense that she would trust those older than her. It isn’t until Jinxy meets Quinn that she starts to question her missions, especially when he finds out she is a sniper. Jinxy understands why she needs to shoot the infected rats, but when she is required to shoot other animals, and eventually is given more classified missions, she has a difficult time, trying to reconcile herself and her values with the values of her unit and the military. Macgregor does an excellent job of showing Jinxy’s progression from being naive to doubting herself and her missions to taking matters into her own hands, making her own educated decisions.

Quinn is a fascinating character. He is also super hot with an Irish accent (swoon). He does what is required of him, but also has his own secrets that are kept from Jinxy. He helps Jinxy open her eyes and understand that her missions are not what she is being told. There is a strong attraction between them, but her missions separate them- pit on against the other. I will say I had a difficult time with the start  of their relationship. It just sort of happens and I couldn’t figure out what drew them to each other. But by the end Macgregor had me rooting for their relationship. And the way the book ends, I just need to know what happens next.

There is a quote in the book- “We’ve repatriated hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of foreign residents, refugees, and workers. We’ve insulated ourselves, sealed our boarders against immigrants and imports and competition… And as a nation we’ve channeled billions into a defense industry that was sitting idle after the last wars fizzled out.” It is scary how closely it describes our current country. We have a presidential candidate who wants to build a wall on the US/Mexican boarder to keep illegal immigrants out; we have alienated anyone who looks middle eastern and have grouped all those who practice Islam into the terrorist stereo type. This novel is so realistic I can see something like this possibly happening.

If you enjoy dystopian settings, this is a great start to a fascinating realistic series.

Rating: 4 out of 5

I’d like to thank Joanne Macgregor for providing me with an ARC. Receiving this ARC for free does not influence my opinion in any way.

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Contemporary Conversations, Reviews, ya contemporary

ContempConvos: Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Firsts

GoodReads Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward, fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time- the kind Mercedes never had herself.

Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy- so far. Her absentee mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn- or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed.

When Mercedes’ perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her reputation and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process. Funny, smart, and true-to-life, FIRSTS is a one-of-a-kind young adult novel about growing up.

My Review:

Flynn’s Firsts is gritty, blunt, and truthful. She takes the topics of sex and high school from conventional to out of the box direction.

Mercedes uses sex as a control factor for her, otherwise, out of control life. Her mother is completely negligent, telling Mercedes, from an early age, she has to be skinny and pretty, and treating her like a best friend rather than a daughter. Her father basically abandoned her at the age of eight. Mercedes believes she is helping these guys, by taking their virginity, and giving them direction for their first time with their girlfriends. It isn’t until everything blows up that she has to re-evaluate her life, who her friends are, and what she really wants. This is a true coming-of-age story, one where Mercedes believes she is an adult, making adult decisions, but in reality she is lost, alone, and confused… and still a child in some ways.

When I first read the synopsis for Firsts I was intrigued. The topic of sex, high school students, and virginity is something Americans have a difficult time talking about. Especially when it comes to the pressures put on both guys and girls. Most high school sex-ed programs focus on abstinence only in a society where, more often than not, students are having sex earlier and earlier. I think this book portrays high school sex in the most accurate way possible.

Reading this book really took me back to high school, the pressure of sex from my boyfriend, my first time (and those subsequent times after), and what it all really meant. Everyone has a first time story and it really hit home. Guys are expected, by society, to know how to have sex, and how to make their girlfriend feel good. But in reality, it’s a learning curve, one that lasts for a very long time. And, as a society, we put too much stock into virginity and pureness, so girls believe that they have this precious thing  that has to be protected; that they can only give away at the right moment, right time.  It’s absurd.

“They have the hard part, physically and emotionally. Virginity is supposed to be something a girl gives up only when she is ready and feels comfortable, something a girl discusses at length with her friends and flip-flops over a million times in her mind before actually doing it. A guy is expected to be born ready.”

Above is the perfect description of society’s expectations. This topic is near and dear to my heart and Firsts really captures the truth of sex for teens today.

Rating: 5 out 5

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Reviews, ya romance

Book Review: The Love That Split The World by Emily Henry

The Love That Split the World

GoodReads Summary:

Natalie Cleary must risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves.

Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start… until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.

That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.

Emily Henry’s stunning debut novel is Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, and perfectly captures those bittersweet months after high school, when we dream not only of the future, but of all the roads and paths we’ve left untaken.

Review:

The Love That Split The World is an enchanting read about young love and time travel. Natalie can see two different versions of her hometown, Union, and meets an intriguing guy, Beau, when she slips into the alternate town. Her grandmother, a “spirit”, tells her at the beginning of the book that she has three months to save “him”, but Natalie doesn’t know who “he” is. She spends the summer trying to discover who this guy she is supposed to save is, but also who she is and what she wants.

I found this book to be very interesting. There are stories within the overarching story itself. These stories come from old Native American tales passed down through generations, but also stories out of the bible. For Natalie, these stories have meaning because she is part Native American. Natalie is a complex character trying to find out who she is and where she fits in with the world. Since she is adopted, and one half Native American, she finds it difficult to determine where she fits in. When she meets Beau, who is an equally complex character, she is certain she has found someone who understands her circumstances because he is having a difficult time determining where he fits into the world as well.

Grandmother is a curious character. She tells stories that you don’t fully understand until the moment the Natalie understands them. She is an odd duck, only appearing to Natalie during the nighttime speaking in riddles.

Beau is my favorite character. He is chivalrous and benevolent. He is, generally,always there for Natalie when she needs him the most. And the bond that is formed between them is unbreakable.

Emily Henry’s writing is wonderful. I loved her use of the story within a narrative. As a reader, we are being told that these tales are important to the character in her quest to save a boy and discover herself. They play a major part in the plot and are a kind of foreshadowing, though at the time of reading them I didn’t know what they were foreshadowing.

I enjoyed the book, but I am not a fan of the ending. I was left with questions and wasn’t fulfilled. I need closure from my characters.

**SPOILERS** Don’t read below this point if you haven’t read! **SPOILERS**

If you have finished The Love That Split The World, great! I truly did love this book, HOWEVER, I did not love the ending. I was left with so many freaking questions and it made me angry (Veronica heard all about how angry it made me).

The second to last chapter leaves us with Natalie making the choice to try and change history, the accident’s that left both her and Beau dead in their own worlds. GREAT! I love that idea. However, the last chapter is another story, telling us how a girl had never met a boy but she had missed him. I get the continuity with the story, and metaphorically, we can draw our own conclusions- Natalie succeeded in saving them both and they live happily ever after. I am not one to assume these things. I enjoy solid closure. I like to know FOR CERTAIN that she changes their timelines and they end up together.

This is why a star was knocked off for me.

**End Spoilers***

Rating: 4 out of 5

Reviews, YA Paranormal, ya romance

Book Review: Oblivion by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Oblivion (Lux, #1.5)

GoodReads Summary:

I knew the moment Katy Swartz moved in next door, there was going to be trouble. Lots of it.

And trouble’s the last thing I need, since I’m not exactly from around here. My people arrived on Earth from Lux, a planet thirteen billion light years away. Plus, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that humans can’t be trusted. We scare them. We can do things they only dream about, and honestly, we make them look weak as hell. ‘Cuz they are.

But Kat is getting to me in ways no one else has, and I can’t stop myself from wanting her—or wanting to use my powers to protect her. She makes me weak, and I’m the strongest of our kind, tasked with protecting us all. So this one simple girl…she can mean the end for us. Because the Luxen have an even bigger enemy—the Arum, and I need to stay on my game.

Falling for Katy—a human—won’t just place her in danger. It could get us all killed, and that’s one thing I’ll never let happen…

Review:

So this book is a retelling of the first three books in The Lux Series: Obsidian, Onyx, and Opal from Daemon’s point of view, but only if you purchased eBook. The published paperback is only a retelling of Obsidian because it would’ve cost the publisher and the reader a lot more as the eBook is over 1,000 pages.

As I loved The Lux Series, it’s no surprise that I loved this retelling from Daemon’s point of view. When a book is told from one POV, I always wonder what the other characters are doing.  Clearly we can’t have every single character in every single scene. This retelling is helpful because in Origin and Opposition we do get to read from both Daemon and Katy’s POV.

It was nice to see a more well-rounded, fully formed Daemon. His attitude hasn’t changed- still the same narcissistic personality. But we do see the sweeter side of him. It is immensely helpful to finally understand where his brain is when he is making his decisions about Kat and his family.

Great add to The Lux Series.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Tuesday Meme

Top Ten New-To-Me Favorite Authors I Read For The First Time In 2015

TopTenTuesday

Thank you to The Broke and The Bookish for this wonderful meme! If you want to learn how to participate, click here and check it out. Promise you won’t regret it.

Top Ten New-To-Me Favorite Authors I Read For The First Time In 2015

Liz’s Picks

I have read so many books by so many author’s this year that I hadn’t heard of before 2015. Each author is perfect in their own way and their own writing. I am so looking forward to these author’s releases in 2016!

Laini Taylor

Laini Taylor Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1)

Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4)

Jennifer L. Armentrout

Deity (Covenant, #3)

Marie Lu

Marie Lu The Young Elites (The Young Elites, #1)

Amy A. Bartol

Amy A. Bartol Inescapable (The Premonition, #1)

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Reviews, YA Fantasy, ya romance

Book Review: Winter & The Lunar Chronicles By Marissa Meyer

Goodreads summary:

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

review:

Since this is a review of the last book in The Lunar Chronicles series. Short reviews for the first three books are first, followed by the review for Winter.

Cinder:

I liked the introduction to the main character Cinder. She does get on my nerves, but her family was so much worse. I love that she is a cyborg. Iko is so feisty. Oh Kai, what a dream boat! I love that she and Kai have a connection right away. Dr. Erland is mysterious. And I kept thinking Konn Torin worked for Queen Lavana.

3 OUT OF 5

SCARLET:

This is my favorite book of the series. I connected to Scarlet on a psychological level. She just wants to find her grand-mere and run her farm. And Wolf- ugh love him. Their chemistry is everything a relationship should be. We get a lot of Scarlet’s point of view, which is a nice break from Cinder. Captain Carswell Thorne- YUMMY! He can be my captain any day. Lots of character growth from all the characters- it was needed immensely. Except Cinder made alllllll the wrong decisions.

5 OUT OF 5

Cress:

I did enjoy Cress but not as much as I enjoyed Scarlet. I figured out who Cress was at the beginning and where she fit in with the group. She annoyed me a lot because all of her experiences were so “oh it’s so beautiful” or she was scared the whole time. I feel that some of the descriptions could’ve been taken out. I skipped some pages of Cress’ because it was too much. We got a lot of reading time with other characters which I loved! Also, how all the characters end up together is just too convenient. Cinder wasn’t as annoying as she was in Scarlet but her decisions, which have annoyed me from the beginning, don’t get any better.

4 OUT OF 5

WINTER:

It. Was. Too. Long. My ebook was 1,169 pages. Hard copy is about 800 pages. And the length wouldn’t bother me so much if there weren’t many scenes that felt unnecessary. I don’t need to be told that Winter is crazy. Over. And over. And over again. Yeah, I get that Levana wants to kill Cinder. How many times do we have to watch her try and fail? The constant dividing and bring back together of Scarlet, Kai, Iko, Wolf, Cinder, Cress, Thorne, Winter, and Jacin was just too much. Also the final scene between Cinder and Levana- it took too long. I was so excited to start this book but by the end I was just like “is this over yet?”. I will concede that there were moments where my heart hurt and I was worried about the love the author created- whether these couples would end up together or if someone would die.

It didn’t end how I pictured it. My ideal ending would have been Scarlet abdicating the throne, Winter getting an implant to help with her Lunar Gift and becoming Queen- the people loved her so much. Cinder would then have gone back to the Commonwealth and married Kai and become Empress. It. Just. Makes. Sense.

I liked Winter but it could have been better. Bright side- everyone get some kind of happy ending.

2.5 OUT OF 5

OVERALL:

It was a different take on Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White. I love the futuristic and sci-fi elements. I want to be a cyborg now. I want hover-pods. I want to live on the moon. I want to find an alpha mate like Wolf. Scarlet was my favorite character. She didn’t make stupid decisions like Cinder. She wasn’t afraid all the time like Cress. And she wasn’t crazy like Winter. She was independent and a great leader. She thought about her actions before taking action.

3.5 OUT OF 5

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Guest Post

Blog Tour Part 2: Liz Maccie Talks about the Importance of Research

LINLAMA_banner

 For Part 1 of the LINAMA Blog Tour Click Here.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, Today I bring you Ms. Maccie’s thoughts on the importance of research when writing a novel. Many of us know research is an important part of the writing process, but sometimes we forget how crucial it is we do it. Especially when it comes to young adult fiction. Many young adult writers have not been teenagers for several years (and sometimes more than a decade) and it is important we immerse ourselves in a teenager environment. Thank you Ms. Maccie for taking the time to write this for my blog. Without further ado, Ms. Maccie:

Ms. Liz Maccie:

Since I had been out of high school for many years once I started writing “Lesson I Never Learned…” it was important for me to do some hands on research.  I had the wonderful opportunity to go back to my old high school and spend an entire day talking to kids and simply observing a day in the life of a teenager.  It’s funny because many things were how I remembered them to be, but then there were other aspects that I didn’t clearly remember.  One of my favorite parts of my day of research was walking back out to the reservoir behind the school.  The way it looked and sounded and smelled was so specific.  I even found a poem posted to a tree stump that I wound up putting in the book.  It certainly isn’t necessary, but since I was essentially writing about my old high school, it was a wonderful thing to get to go back and allow for my memory and imagination tmarry one another.
 
Besides that day, I really spent time looking back into my own past.  There are fragments of my personal experience woven throughout the entire book and in every character’s story.  So I feel there was an element of “personal research.”  I wrote down an entire list of events that had happened to me and deciphered which I most wanted to talk about.  I would say it was pretty obvious to me the issues I wanted to try and tackle right from the very beginning.  When writing a novel, you really need to open your own life up to be examined.  I do think it’s true, we write what we know, but sometimes its beneficial to research what we know.  What I mean by this is that you really have to get honest with yourself.  You have to do some personal excavation in order to tell the truth about things and that isn’t always easy.  
 
I was also lucky enough, at the time I was writing this novel, to be volunteering at a couple of schools with an organization called “The Young Storytellers.”  This is a fabulous group who helps kids find their voice and then write their very own screenplay, which eventually gets acted out by professional actors.  So even though these kids were younger, I think just being around kids was a great way to do research.  Really, when it comes down to it, we all care very much about a lot of the same things.  We all want to matter.  We all want to love and to be loved.  Kids are so candid and real.  It was great research to just be around such youthful honest energy.   

Author photo

AUTHOR BIO

Liz Maccie was born and raised in New Jersey and attended Bucknell University.  After college, she moved out to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television writing.  She has had two movies produced, “The Thirst” and “Black and Blue.”  She went on to work at The Disney Channel until she found a home at the breakout ABC Family show, “Make it or Break it.”  She is currently adapting the wildly popular YA book, “The List” for MTV as a television show.  “Lessons” is Liz’s debut novel.

If you would like to know more about Liz Maccie or follow her on social media:

LINKS

Websitehttp://lizmaccie.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LizMaccieAuthor

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/Lmaccie

Purchase LINLAMA: http://diversionbooks.com/ebooks/lessons-i-never-learned-meadowbrook-academy