Review: “Fire & Flood” by Victoria Scott


23555803Title: “Fire & Flood”

Author: Victoria Scott

Publication Date: February 15, 2014 (Scholastic – North America)

Genre: YA, dystopia, contemporary

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Summary: Time is slipping away….

Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can’t determine what’s wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She’s lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she’s helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It’s an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother’s illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there’s no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can’t trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?

☆: 4/5 stars – dystopia plus social commentary? yes please.

Review: It’s only taken me this long to figure out that the “Fire & Flood” series is really not just a dystopia piece (like so much of YA right now), but it’s also a huge social commentary on how big pharma/big biopharma is really starting to harm our lives. The proof? “The Brimstone Bleed”. A lot of reviewers have panned this book as being a “Hunger Games” ripoff, but only after this long (and starting to read the second book), have I really started to see this book as what it is. I’m not sure the actual YA age set will get it, but I hope they will. I really enjoyed this one, and am currently enjoying the second one. If you’re looking for something with grit and heart, and a little bit of finger-wagging at our current society, “Fire & Flood” is for you.

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Double Trouble Review: “Ignite Me (Shatter Me #3)” and “Unite Me (Shatter Me #1.5, #2.5)” by Tahereh Mafi


13188676 18481271Title: “Ignite Me (Shatter Me #3)” and “Unite Me (Shatter Me #1.5, #2.5)”

Author: Tahereh Mafi

Genre: SERIOUSLY AWESOME, dystopia, YA, fantasy/sci-fi

Publication Date: February 4, 2014 (both – HarperTeen – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided finished copies

Summary:

IGNITE ME: Juliette now knows she may be the only one who can stop the Reestablishment. But to take them dowPerfect for fans of Tahereh Mafi’s New York Times bestselling Shatter Me trilogy, this book collects her two companion novellas, Fracture Me and Destroy Me, in print for the first time ever. It also features an exclusive look into Juliette’s journal and a preview of Ignite Me, the hotly anticipated final novel of the series.

UNITE ME: Destroy Me tells the events between Shatter Me and Unravel Me from Warner’s point of view. Even though Juliette shot him in order to escape, Warner can’t stop thinking about her—and he’ll do anything to get her back. But when the Supreme Commander of The Reestablishment arrives, he has much different plans for Juliette. Plans Warner cannot allow.

Fracture Me is told from Adam’s perspective and bridges the gap between Unravel Me and Ignite Me. As the Omega Point rebels prepare to fight the Sector 45 soldiers, Adam’s more focused on the safety of Juliette, Kenji, and his brother. The Reestablishment will do anything to crush the resistance . . . including killing everyone Adam cares about.n, she’ll need the help of the one person she never thought she could trust: Warner. And as they work together, Juliette will discover that everything she thought she knew – about Warner, her abilities, and even Adam – was wrong.

☆: UNITE ME – 4/5 stars – a must-have for any “Shatter Me” series fan!

IGNITE ME: 5/5 stars – because who am I kidding? This was ridiculously awesome.

 

Review: Now that, ladies and gentlefolk, is an ENDING. Between “Ignite Me”, “Infinite” by Jodi Meadows, and “Into the Still Blue” by Veronica Rossi, I definitely have three contenders for best concluding trilogy books of the year. But Mafi goes all out in this last installment of “Shatter Me” trilogy – so much so that there’s bullets flying everywhere, as well as broken hearts, and a main character that has made such an amazing progression/evolution that just remembering it takes my breath away. There’s also “Unite Me” (the paper publication of the novellas) to talk about, and we’ll get to those in a bit. But seriously, guys, one of the best novels of the year? It has to be “Ignite Me”.

 

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Review: “Once We Were (Hybrid Chronicles #2)” by Kat Zhang


Once We WereTitle: “Once We Were (Hybrid Chronicles #2)” by Kat Zhang

Author: Kat Zhang

Genre: Alternate History, Sci-Fi, YA contemporary, Dystopia, Biopunk

Publication Date: September 17, 2013 (HarperTeen – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Synopsis: “I’m lucky just to be alive.”

Eva was never supposed to have survived this long. As the recessive soul, she should have faded away years ago. Instead, she lingers in the body she shares with her sister soul, Addie. When the government discovered the truth, they tried to “cure” the girls, but Eva and Addie escaped before the doctors could strip Eva’s soul away.

Now fugitives, Eva and Addie find shelter with a group of hybrids who run an underground resistance. Surrounded by others like them, the girls learn how to temporarily disappear to give each soul some much-needed privacy. Eva is thrilled at the chance to be alone with Ryan, the boy she’s falling for, but troubled by the growing chasm between her and Addie. Despite clashes over their shared body, both girls are eager to join the rebellion.

Yet as they are drawn deeper into the escalating violence, they start to wonder: How far are they willing to go to fight for hybrid freedom? Faced with uncertainty and incredible danger, their answers may tear them apart forever.

☆: 4.5/5 stars – Not quite as breathtaking as book one, but still a really, really awesome follow-up to it.

Review: “What’s Left of Me” was definitely in my top ten of my favorite debuts of 2012, and so I was really, really happy to get a copy of this next installment in the series, “Once We Were”. While not quite in frenetic in its pace (except for the last quarter or so), “Once We Were” is a quieter book that reflects on what has happened in book one, and what’s on deck for Addie, Eva, and the rest of the hybrids on the run, as well as delves a little deeper into the differences between Addie and Eva in pretty much every way. So for those that want that non-stop action from book one may be a bit let down, but “Once We Were” is just every inch as good as its prequel – just a little emotionally deeper.

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Review: “Horde (Razorland #3)” by Ann Aguirre


10596724Title: “Horde (Razorland #3)”

Author: Ann Aguirre

Genre: Biopunk

Publication Date: October 29, 2013 (Macmillan Children’s – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Synopsis: The horde is coming.

Salvation is surrounded, monsters at the gates, and this time, they’re not going away. When Deuce, Fade, Stalker and Tegan set out, the odds are against them. But the odds have been stacked against Deuce from the moment she was born. She might not be a Huntress anymore, but she doesn’t run. With her knives in hand and her companions at her side, she will not falter, whether fighting for her life or Fade’s love.

Ahead, the battle of a lifetime awaits. Freaks are everywhere, attacking settlements, setting up scouts, perimeters, and patrols. There hasn’t been a war like this in centuries, and humans have forgotten how to stand and fight. Unless Deuce can lead them.

This time, however, more than the fate of a single enclave or outpost hangs in the balance. This time, Deuce carries the banner for the survival of all humanity.

☆: 5/5 stars – The best possible ending to a series I’m really going to miss.

Review: This trilogy, you guys. I’ve been keeping score since book one, and the way that Aguirre has grown in her writing for YA has grown in such measure that I can’t even. Really. Seriously. This book is the best possible ending, and yet, the most the most painful, as I’ve really grown to love Deuce and the boys. In this final book in the “Razorland” trilogy, we see a major tribute paid to the US Civil War, almost re-enacted, and prairie life come back to life in a hell of a future created by humanity itself. If there’s a final book in a trilogy you’ve got to read this year, or better yet, start, it has to be “Horde”.

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Review: Once We Were by Kat Zhang


Once We WereTitle: Once We Were

Author: Kat Zhang

Genre: Dystopia, Alternate Universe

Publication Date: September 17, 2013

Source: e-ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss

Synopsis: “I’m lucky just to be alive.”

Eva was never supposed to have survived this long. As the recessive soul, she should have faded away years ago. Instead, she lingers in the body she shares with her sister soul, Addie. When the government discovered the truth, they tried to “cure” the girls, but Eva and Addie escaped before the doctors could strip Eva’s soul away.

Now fugitives, Eva and Addie find shelter with a group of hybrids who run an underground resistance. Surrounded by others like them, the girls learn how to temporarily disappear to give each soul some much-needed privacy. Eva is thrilled at the chance to be alone with Ryan, the boy she’s falling for, but troubled by the growing chasm between her and Addie. Despite clashes over their shared body, both girls are eager to join the rebellion.

Yet as they are drawn deeper into the escalating violence, they start to wonder: How far are they willing to go to fight for hybrid freedom? Faced with uncertainty and incredible danger, their answers may tear them apart forever.

☆: 5/5 stars – THIS is the kind of dystopian I want to see more of!

It’s easy to look at dystopian novels nowadays, roll your eyes, and keep going. Many of them sound the same and it’s easy to pick out which books use the dystopia as an obstacle for the romance or the drama, which ones have premises so laughably weak you can write a paper on why it will never happen based on just the jacket copy, and which wants are actually trying to say something about society. Zhang’s masterful Hybrid Chronicles is one of the strongest, if not THE strongest, YA dystopian series on the market right now and there’s nothing about it I don’t love at this point.

Now that Addie and Eva have semi-equal control of their body, they deal with a whole new set of issues, what with Eva liking Ryan and Addie liking a boy who is not Ryan or Devon. Oh, and not telling Eva that for a while. Their struggle with compromise–because they don’t always want the same thing;Eva agrees to foreboding plans Addie strongly disagrees with and both girls start keeping things to themselves when it’s something both girls need to know–is one of the conflicts at the forefront of the novel.

The other major conflict? Oh, some of the hybrids wanting to delve into terrorism in order to show the single-souled populace they refuse to be incarcerated and lobotomized any longer.

Eva/Addie act as more of vehicles through which we get the story instead of an actual character taking part in the action on occasion, but such moments aren’t enough to dampen my enthusiasm for this novel. It may even be better for them to be reduced to this when their fellow hybrids are planning terrorism because we get a greater understanding of how they got to their current mindsets and what the anti-hybrid sentiment has done to them.

What makes this so strong as a dystopian novel is the metaphors through which it examines our world and what might happen if our Islamophobia/xenophobia goes too far. Reading this so soon after the Boston Marathon bombings makes the parallel of hybrid discrimination and Islamophobia/xenophobia even clearer than it was during What’s Left of Me. Once Sabine, Christoph, and like-minded hybrids make their plans and build their bombs, they become the parallel to Islamic extremists in our world. It’s easy to think of Islamic extremists as pure evil, but like the terrorist hybrids, they’re people too. Their motivations may have arisen from maltreatment and they want change, but both the hybrids and the extremists are only going to make things worse and hurt their cause.

The ending leaves where they’re going from here clear about three feet ahead and beyond that, they’ve got to be trailblazers because what they’ve been doing isn’t going to work anymore. I’ll be awaiting and dreading the third and final book of Zhang’s beautiful trilogy in equal measure. Why would I want the only dystopian series I honestly love to end, after all?

Review: “Love in the Time of Global Warming” by Francesca Lia Block


16059426Title: “Love in the Time of Global Warming”

Author: Francesca Lia Block

Genre: YA contemporary, magical realism, fairy tales retold, post-apocalyptic, AWESOME

Publication Date: August 27, 2013 (Macmillan – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Penelope (Pen) has lost everything—her home, her parents, and her ten-year-old brother. Like a female Odysseus in search of home, she navigates a dark world full of strange creatures, gathers companions and loses them, finds love and loses it, and faces her mortal enemy.

In her signature style, Francesca Lia Block has created a world that is beautiful in its destruction and as frightening as it is lovely. At the helm is Pen, a strong heroine who holds hope and love in her hands and refuses to be defeated.

☆: 5/5 stars – another knock out of the park for Block in this gorgeous new novel!

Review: It never fails to amaze me how much better my mentor gets with each book she releases. Seriously. I’m feeling stupid for putting off (though there were circumstances, to my credit) reading this for so long, and I finished it in one sitting. Blending her trademark lyrical magical realism style along with a post-apocalyptic setting and a semi-retelling of “The Odyssey”, “Love in the Time of Global Warming” is a wonderful book that makes one fight to survive, and to evolve – yet not lose one’s heart doing it. I can’t recommend this one enough, guys – and yeah, I’m slightly biased because this is my mentor we’re talking about, but at the same time, it’s definitely one of the best of 2013.
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Review: “Perfect Ruin” by Lauren DeStefano


17339241Title: “Perfect Ruin”

Author: Lauren DeStefano

Publication Date: October 1, 2013 (S&SFYR – North America)

Genre: YA, dystopian/utopian, mystery, AWESOME

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Summary: On Internment, the floating island in the clouds where 16-year-old Morgan Stockhour lives, getting too close to the edge can lead to madness. Even though Morgan’s older brother, Lex, was a Jumper, Morgan vows never to end up like him. She tries her best not to mind that her life is orderly and boring, and if she ever wonders about the ground, and why it is forbidden, she takes solace in best friend Pen and her betrothed, Basil.

Then a murder, the first in a generation, rocks the city. With whispers swirling and fear on the wind, Morgan can no longer stop herself from investigating, especially when she meets Judas. He is the boy being blamed for the murder — betrothed to the victim — but Morgan is convinced of his innocence. Secrets lay at the heart of Internment, but nothing can prepare Morgan for what she will find — or who she will lose.

☆: 5/5 stars – an absolute knock out of the park for DeStefano, sealing her fame in the YA canon!

Review: Wow. If you guys thought the “Chemical Garden” trilogy was good, “Perfect Ruin” will absolutely knock your socks off. DeStefano has improved in her craft so much, it was almost as if it were someone else writing – though it did have her familiar prose landmarks here and there. “Perfect Ruin” is the question of the divide between dystopia and utopia, and whether the two really can be the same thing, or if they’re just two sides of the same coin. Can humans as they are now (or at least, by the time Internment exists) really create a fair utopia for all? “Perfect Ruin” delves into these questions and more with a murder mystery and a curiosity that may destroy all of these characters. Absolutely gorgeous, even if you haven’t read the previous trilogy, this is one 2013 release that simply cannot be missed.

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