The Fallen World Trilogy by Laura Thalassa

It’s been awhile since I’ve been sucked so wholly into a story, and The Fallen World Trilogy by Laura Thalassa was an addicting read.

21422225In the future, the world is at war.

For the last decade, King Lazuli of the Eastern Empire has systematically taken over the world. No one knows much about him other than a series of impossible facts: he cannot die, he has not aged since the conflict began, and he wants to rule the world.

All Serenity Freeman has known is bloodshed. War has taken away her mother, her home, her safety. As the future emissary of the Western United Nations, the last autonomous region of the globe, she is responsible for forging alliances where she can.

Surrender is on the horizon. The king can taste it; Serenity feels it deep within her bones. There is no other option. Now the two must come face to face. For Serenity, that means confronting the man who’s taken everything from her. For the king, it means meeting the one woman he can’t conquer. But when they meet, something happens. Cruelty finds redemption.

Only in war, everything comes with a price. Especially love.

Recommended by @Twinbookmarks, I decided to give it a try based on their gushing, and they were absolutely right. This book is a fast-paced, action-packed, hurts-so-good romance story. Half-way into the first book, I immediately purchased the rest of the series. Don’t let the covers fool you. This is a great read by an indie author.

Let’s start with Serenity and Montes’ relationship. Never have I read a more excruciatingly delicious, slow-burn, enemies-to-lovers trope. Their relationship was so toxic yet engulfing that I can only describe it as dying a slow death of arsenic poisoning, where it’s included in your favorite nightly tea. It’s both indulgent and destructive. The love and hate pull between them was dynamic, magnetic and most of all entrancing. I Could. Not. Stop. Reading.

This story isn’t all romance. In fact, there’s less sexy times with even less details than I usually expect from a romance novel. HOWEVER, the action in this story was relentless. Serenity is one badass chick. In every book, she’s taking down bad guys like it’s just another day in the life. Her targeted deadliness is balanced by her innate yearning for justice and peace. She’ll do anything to save her people. ANYTHING. That includes a bullet hole through the eyes with absolutely no remorse.

The author created a world with very high stakes. The post-apocalyptic world was both realistic and devastating. Every day is life or death. Every day one must sacrifice to help those in need. I’ve steered clear of post-apocalyptic novels as of late because I was tired of the same old, same old, but this world really stands apart – mainly that we get to see it from the dictator’s point of view. The cruelty of the King and the determination of Serenity drive this story forward like a high-speed car chase.

My favorite book of the three had to be the second book Queen of Traitors. The first book The Queen of All that Dies was a great introduction, but the depravity of both the King and Serenity is unleashed in book two. And the finale, The Queen of all the Lives, was a satisfying end to this whirlwind of a story.

If you like action-packed adventure in a post-apocalyptic world with badass heroines and a dark and twisted love interest, this book is for you.

STARS: 5 out of 5

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Take Me Tomorrow by Shannon A. Thompson

I really enjoyed Shannon A. Thompson’s Timely Death series, so I thought I’d give Take Me Tomorrow a try.

22054027Two years after the massacre, the State enforces stricter rules and harsher punishments on anyone rumored to support tomo – the clairvoyant drug that caused a regional uprising.

But sixteen-year-old Sophia Gray has other problems.

Between her father’s illegal forgery and her friend’s troubling history, the last thing Sophia needs is an unexpected encounter with a boy.

He’s wild, determined, and one step ahead of her. But when his involvement with tomo threatens her friends and family, Sophia has to make a decision: fight for a future she cannot see or sacrifice her loved ones to the world of tomorrow.

Take Me Tomorrow started out really strong. The female heroine, Sophia , is practicing knife throwing in the forest behind her house when she runs into the mysterious and dangerous Noah. I was immediately intrigued. The story continues to build as Sophia’s friend’s secrets are slowly revealed and Noah’s presence starts to impact her life. The story is set in the stark backdrop of a dystopian future, where America is no longer a free country and the drug, Tomo, is widespread, causing unknown havoc to society.

I really enjoyed the dynamic between Noah and Sophia. Noah had this gritty sarcasm and who-cares attitude, where Sophia was all at once guarded yet wide-open. I enjoyed the tender scenes between them, where Noah showed vulnerability and Sophia admitted her feelings (at least to herself). Their relationship slowly progresses, but there wasn’t a big romantic payoff. By the end of the novel, their relationship status is convoluted and confusing. I wasn’t sure what either one of them wanted by the end so I didn’t know how to feel about their relationship.

The overall plot was intriguing and exciting, filled with plenty of action running from police and sneaking out at night. The mini-twist regarding Sophia’s father was an interesting plot point and I enjoyed the secondary characters.

I enjoyed reading this book, but as a dystopian, I thought it was missing something. Perhaps it’s because this book is lacking in the romance department, which affected my perception of the novel because it didn’t offer that how-far-would-you-go-for-the-one-you-love theme that I’ve come to expect from a dystopian. I wanted to see more fight and actual involvement in a solution to the tyrannical society. However, the ending was open-ended enough that I’m hoping there is a sequel in the works, which might be able to shed more light on Noah and Sophia’s relationship as well as the world they live in.

STARS: 4 out of 5

Landry Park by Bethany Hagen

When I saw that Landry Park by Bethany Hagen was described as “Downton Abbey meets The Selection,” I almost couldn’t believe it. I love both of those things, like a lot, so could something that fantastic actually exist? I had to get my hands on this book.

13479780In a fragmented future United States ruled by the lavish gentry, seventeen-year-old Madeline Landry dreams of going to the university. Unfortunately, gentry decorum and her domineering father won’t allow that. Madeline must marry, like a good Landry woman, and run the family estate. But her world is turned upside down when she discovers the devastating consequences her lifestyle is having on those less fortunate. As Madeline begins to question everything she has ever learned, she finds herself increasingly drawn to handsome, beguiling David Dana. Soon, rumors of war and rebellion start to spread, and Madeline finds herself and David at the center of it all. Ultimately, she must make a choice between duty – her family and the estate she loves dearly – and desire

Landry Park is a high-stakes love story set in a dystopian future, where the rich and the poor are on opposites sides of both money and war. I was intrigued by the setting, with the beautiful descriptions of the main character Madeline’s home and the contrasting darkness of the rootless (those in poverty). I was fascinated with the economic infrastructure and the blue lanterns, the saving grace for the elite and Madeline’s family legacy.

I really enjoyed the writing in this book. I could tell the writer was a reader and I really loved this quote:

“I could tell you were a reader when I first saw you, David said. You have that dreamy look in your eye, like you’re wishing yourself onto a page.” (Page 61)

If only I wanted to wish myself onto the page in this book. The writing was good, but it didn’t build a connection for me. My biggest struggle was I didn’t feel connected to the characters. I didn’t feel her love for David. I understand she wanted him and longed to be with him, but I didn’t feel the heat of her desire or the bite of her jealousy. I wanted more.

This story is very mysterious. From the get-go, Madeline must unravel mystery after mystery, working to figure out hidden motives and expose secrets. This aspect of the story kept me reading, wanting to know more. However, when all was said and done, the truth seemed to come out of nowhere, explaining away mysterious actions with mundane excuses.

Overall, this is a very pleasing story, with an intriguing plot and interesting characters, but I didn’t fall in love with them or their struggles.

STARS: 3 out of 5

Here Lies Love by Dan Thompson

I received a copy of Dan Thompson’s Here Lies Love in exchange for an honest review. I was honored to be part of his cover reveal back in January, so I was excited to get a chance to read it!

Here Lies Love Promo CoverWould death be less painful than life?

When she is sold by her father, Abbey discovers that nightmares can occur when you’re awake. Trapped inside a wooden cage, Abbey is forced to listen to the horrors and atrocities above; time ticking down until it is her turn. But Abbey isn’t prepared to become a victim; she will escape.

Although, what Abbey isn’t prepared for, is how harsh and unfair the world can be. With the sun turning its back on humanity long ago, life gives no opportunity. The only thing Abbey can do is learn to survive. To exist. And that means stealing any opportunity that comes her way. Haunted by the unpleasant memories bestowed upon her only nurtures Abbey’s paranoia, until she realises that to truly live in the world, she must confront the person who was responsible for her misfortune – her father.

Here Lies Love is a New Adult tale of actuality, of facing up to the fact that love comes in many guises. Can Abbey find the one glimmer of hope or will she be overcome with the darkness of revenge?

This is going to be a tough review to write.  I was really excited to read this story once I read the synopsis but I feel like my expectations were too high.

This is the story of Abbey, her escape from confinement, a pit stop sleepover with two boys and a revenge-filled adventure back to her father. This is a controversial story; it covers some sensitive subjects, such as rape and suicide. The writing was great and the plot was brilliant, but something just didn’t connect.

I couldn’t relate to Abbey. Her emotions were all over the place and there were wild swings in her personality. She went from survivor to suicidal, from shy to vengeful. I couldn’t figure out who she was. I really enjoyed Tristan and Ryan. I felt their voices were genuine and their characters were a bit better fleshed out. They showed a better range of human emotion, and compared to Abbey, they didn’t carry the same kind of madness inside them. I found both men rather intriguing and wanted to know more about them and their survival, more so than continuing Abbey’s story.

I feel like this story was two books in one. In the beginning, she is trying to escape and undergoes unspeakable torment, but the story doesn’t take off until Abbey meets Tristan and Ryan. I feel like her time in captivity could have been better explained through flashbacks, similar to the story of how she was sold by her father. Even though there was a lot of action in the beginning, there was a noticeable shift once she gets free, like an entirely new story with an entirely new set of characters. There was a disconnect there. I wanted it to be one cohesive story, where it was either the first part or the second half, but not both.

The world-building was well done and I loved the science behind what caused the sun to go away.  Plus, the writing was great, but it didn’t fit the story. The main character can’t read; she’s uneducated and because the world had gone to pot, a lot of history was lost. With this characteristic, it made no sense that she used words such as “callous” and “uncouth” in conversation. The whole narrative around her was well-worded and what I’d call “literary,” but it didn’t fit the descriptions of the main character. In this case, the author overwrote this story and for whatever reason, I couldn’t get past it. The writing distracted me from the story to the point that I didn’t want to read it, no matter how exciting the plot.

In the end, there were some parts I really enjoyed but I kept getting distracted by things that caused me to disconnect from the story, whether it was the writing style or the main character’s personality. Here Lies Love comes out on June 28, 2014.

STARS: 2 out of 5

Thanks to Dan Thompson for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

Crewel by Ginnifer Albin

Crewel by Ginnifer Albin was the last book on my #UtopYA2014 reading list. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations.

11556960Incapable. Awkward. Artless.
That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen-year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: She wants to fail.

Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen to work the looms is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to manipulate the very fabric of reality. But if controlling what people eat, where they live, and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.

Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and used her hidden talent for a moment. Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her dad’s jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.

Because tonight, they’ll come for her.

Once I turned the last page of Crewel, I was speechless because I couldn’t believe I didn’t like it. I mean, it had everything I usually go for: a dystopian, a love triangle, the whole works. But once the story was over, I didn’t care to continue. I didn’t wonder about the characters or their futures. I literally went over to my large TBR pile and picked up another book in the hopes that I could feel something from another story. And maybe that’s it. I didn’t emotionally respond to Albin’s tale, despite the fact that the main character’s parents were dead and her sister held captive.

I really enjoyed the creative aspect of the story with the time-weaving and the dystopian world-building. However, the weaving went way over my head at times and I found myself skipping entire sections of description. The plot itself was interesting but the plot twists were so obvious you could see them coming a mile away. The biggest issue I had with this story was the relationship dynamics. The main character’s relationship with various characters was so confusing. Who’s supposed to be the best friend? The enemy? The love interest? I think in an effort to muddle the obvious plot twists, the author tried to make the status of each character mysterious but I was just left confused. It was like the main character had interactions with all these characters but didn’t care either way how she felt about them.

By the end of the novel, I was a bit disappointed that the author went “there.” I don’t want to ruin the plot for anyone but it was incredibly predictable. I found my mind wandering many times while reading which usually indicates I’m not feeling it. So I’m going to end with that. I just wasn’t feeling it and there are many other better dystopians out there in the YA genre so I can’t bring myself to recommend this book.

STARS: 2 out of 5

The Modified by C.A. Kunz

The Modified by C.A. Kunz is another book on my #UtopYA2014 reading list.

15986049What would you sacrifice to save the one’s you love? To save the one who holds your heart? To save the world?

Kenley Grayson is all too familiar with these questions.

After Earth is thrust into its first intergalactic war with an unknown race called the Bringers, our military forces begin to suffer heavy losses. Desperate for a solution, the Allied Federation issues a worldwide draft for every able seventeen year old to enlist. As Kenley turns seventeen, she finds herself thrown into the very war that took her older brother’s life.

This year’s draft is a little different than in the past though. A new program, known as the Magnus Project, has been introduced, and only the best and brightest qualify. Kenley is amongst a select few whom are chosen to join this elite group of soldiers, and as a part of this project, undergoes a modification procedure that leaves her and her peers endowed with powers beyond their wildest dreams.

As Earth continues in its struggle against the Bringers, Kenley is transported to a high-tech training facility, the Magnus Academy, to prepare for the major battle that lies ahead. It’s here that she meets the California heartthrob, and son of a legendary war hero, Landon Shaw. As unexpected feelings toward Landon begin to develop, Kenley wonders if this is the right time or place for romance to bloom, especially when those feelings start to interfere with her training.

With the weight of the world on her shoulders, Kenley is constantly reminded of how important she and the rest of the Magnus cadets are to the fate of humanity. She is one of the Modified, Earth’s last line of defense against utter destruction.

The Modified had everything to be a great dystopian novel, but it just didn’t hit the mark for me. I felt like there were a few key things missing that would have really put this book on the map.

First, this book was written by a Mother-Son team, which is so unique and I have to give mad props for that kind of passion and coordination. However, that may be the reason this story felt a little disjointed.

I loved the premise for this novel. The idea of a war with an alien race and recruiting the best of the best to train for battle was compelling.  I really enjoyed the different kind of powers they were given, which made for an action-packed story. The world building around the characters was spot on. It’s when you get to the relationships between the characters that it fell short.

Kenley is a strong, female heroine. The way she missed her brother who was killed in battle was a believable and heartbreaking characteristic. However, her relationship with Joey, the guy best friend, and her love interest, Landon, who were both alive, seemed too forced. For example, Joey only seemed to be in the picture if he was needed for the scene. Nothing is really done to grow his character, the reader is just informed as the story goes on. With Landon, there was no chemistry between Kenley and Landon. Their stolen kisses seemed awkwardly placed and lacked description to capture the emotion of the moment. I feel like if these relationships were better cultivated it would add a whole other dimension to the story.

I did enjoy the story itself, but I felt like an outsider looking in, not as part of the story or characters. The story had chronological momentum that had edges that needed to be smoothed to prevent the “and then..and then” type of story telling, where it always jumps to the next set of actions without stopping to check in with the feelings or status of the characters.

The Modified is the first book in a series. I’m not sure if I’ll read the next book, but we’ll see.

STARS: 3 out of 5

Fire & Flood By Victoria Scott

From the moment I read the synopsis of Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott, I was sold. I had to get my hands on it. Fortunately for me, I was awarded an eARC from NetGalley, and I was beyond excited!

16069167A modern day thrill ride, where a teen girl and her animal companion must participate in a breathtaking race to save her brother’s life—and her own.

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?

Fire & Flood is the best thing I have read all year, hands down. Five beautifully fantastic, wonderfully amazing stars. I couldn’t put this book down. I couldn’t bear to look away.

This story is everything it claims to be and more. The race itself was complex and exciting, similar to the fight for your life in Hunger Games and the alliances in The Testing. Except, this book has pandoras —  animal companions with awesome abilities to help you through the race. I LOVED every minute of it! Tella’s love for her Pandora was endearing and her compassion for everyone else in the race was heart-warming. I loved her spunk, spirit and will to win. Plus, she’s hilarious! I laughed out loud more in this book than any book I’ve read in a long time. I truly, truly enjoyed it.

The complexity and depth of the relationships between the characters really brings this story to a whole other level. The alliances quickly set in but the doubting and betrayal doesn’t come out right away. I particularly loved the relationship between Guy and Tella. It’s so complicated because it’s new, inconvenient and happening during a race where you might die. At any given time, Tella doesn’t know if Guy is using her or falling in love with her, this uncertainty adds a bit of anticipation, creating some lovely tension. Overall, their relationship was sweet but forged in fire, where they had to define their relationship little by little with each challenge they had to face.

I just loved the concept of this story and the race, the reason behind the contenders, each of which play for their own reasons. I loved the action, the will to survive and the will to live and save their loved ones. This book plays up the theme: What would you endure to save the one you love? Tella falling in love during the process complicates things a bit, but that’s what makes this book so good.

I have nothing bad to say about this book other than it ended and now I want to see what happens next! The next book is still untitled without a future release date. I just hope that it comes out soon, very, very soon. Fire & Flood was released today so go get yourself a copy.  If you like survival stories with action and romance, this book is for you.

STARS: 5 out of 5

Thanks NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review!