December 18, 2018

Severance by Ling Ma

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I recently resubscribed to Book of the Month, and this was my December pick. Severance by Ling Ma promised plagues and zombies, and a post-apocalyptic New York City. While it did deliver on those promises, it did not deliver in the way that I had hoped.

Candace lives in New York City, and works at a company who outsources the publishing of books. When a major pandemic hits, people are left as shells of their former selves, technically alive but forced to repeat the mundane tasks in their lives over and over again in a zombie state. Candace escapes New York after being found by a group of survivors, and embarks on a journey with them to a promised safe-house facility.

I just could not get behind this story. It was told in alternating chapters of before the plague and after, and I thought most of the before parts were unnecessary and didn't add anything to the story. I thought Candace was boring, and I didn't care what happened to her character. So many of the plot elements didn't make sense with what had been established already, and lots of questions were left unanswered. I also hated the way it ended.

When I saw this was a post-apocalyptic novel with zombies caused by a plague, I was excited, but this story just left me bored. The zombies aren't scary. There are no real high-stakes. It had all the bad parts of The Walking Dead with none of the excitement. I did enjoy the pieces about the NY Ghost blog, and the descriptions of desolate New York were good.

I found myself barely skimming towards the end just to get through it. Maybe there was a deeper meaning here that I just missed. All I know is I wanted an exciting zombie story and did not get it.

Overall Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars

December 17, 2018

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Like I said in my last post, my disdain for holiday reads has completely vanished this year, so I had to pick up a few new books to get into the spirit of the season. The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand was one of them. This YA fiction is a modern twist on the classic story of A Christmas Carol. 

Holly Chase is not a nice girl. When she is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve who beg her to change her ways, Holly laughs it off and refuses. Then she dies. At least, she thinks she does.

When she wakes up, trapped somewhere between dead and alive, she is the newest employee of the top-secret company Project Scrooge, the same organization who tried to save her before her death. Now she has to work with them year after year as the Ghost of Christmas Past to help save each year's chosen Scrooge from the same fate that Holly endured.

This book was really cute, and had some unexpected twists as well! I liked how this really didn't end up being centered around romance or a relationship (although parts of it do lend itself to that).  I was very satisfied with the ending. It reminded me a lot of that really obscure movie from ABC, Teen Spirit. It was a little slow in parts, but I really liked all the characters. I mean come on, they all had nicknames based on Dickens' stories! 

This story definitely has the perfect Christmas message, and would be enjoyable for both teens and adults (even if you don't commonly read YA!). I can see this being a read that I revisit each holiday season.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

December 14, 2018

The White Christmas Inn by Colleen Wright

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Aside from Halloween, I don't typically buy into holiday books. But at the last minute this year, I decided to participate in the Tistheseasonathon and just so happened to have the perfect book for it. The White Christmas Inn by Colleen Wright had been sent to me unsolicited by Howard Books and since, like I said, holiday books aren't normally my thing, I had just put it to the side after I received it. Since it fits the readathon theme, I grabbed it on a whim and ended up really enjoying it! In fact, I placed an order for 5 more Christmas books after reading this, so I guess my disdain for holiday reads is gone thanks to this book!

The White Christmas Inn follows a cast of multiple characters who end up getting stranded in a quaint bed and breakfast over Christmas due to a bad snow storm. During their time at the inn, they bond with one another and realize that the problems each of them had in their lives might not be so bad after all.

The chapters were short, and transitioned seamlessly from one character to the next. It was a warm and fuzzy, clean, feel good story appropriate for any age. 

The one thing I didn't like about this book is that I felt that all the characters had the same voice. They all kept calling each other honey, and without being told, it was hard sometimes to determine who exactly was speaking.

Overall Rating 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Howard Books for sending me a copy of this read! The White Christmas Inn by Colleen Wright is out now!

December 3, 2018

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
YALL THIS BOOK BLEW ME OUT OF THE WATER. That's all there is to it. I saw like 20 amazing reviews of this book in the span of a week or so and knew I had to pick it up. Those reviews were not wrong. Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand is a supernatural YA horror/thriller that actually managed to give me nightmares. 

This story follows three teen girls who live on Sawkill Ridge: Marian, the new girl who has just lost her father; Zoey, the police chief's daughter who is pretty much an outcast; and Val, the disgustingly rich popular girl who tends to run the show. Sawkill has a history of girls going missing, and Marian's sister Charlotte becomes the newest girl to disappear. Zoey is hellbent on figuring out what happened, as her best friend Thora went missing not too long before Charlotte did. And Val might be more involved in the disappearances than she wants anyone to know.

This book was amazingly atmospheric, with a setting that took on a persona of its own. There were monsters and magic, feminism and friendships. The lesbian and asexual representations were amazing, and done in such a way that made them just a normal part of everyday life. This book is full of kick-ass girls taking control of their own destinies and fighting against the way things have always been. 

I almost got really mad at the ending, but it turned itself around just in the nick of time! I will completely lose it if this becomes a movie, because I can just see it being so good!

Definitely read this. Just maybe not late at night before bed.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

November 30, 2018

This Cruel Design by Emily Suvada

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Last week, I reviewed the fantastic YA sci-fi, This Mortal Coil. This Cruel Design by Emily Suvada is its sequel. Like my other sequel reviews, this may contain a few spoilers for the first book in the series so consider yourself warned.

In This Cruel Design, the Hydra virus has mutated, no longer responding to the vaccine that Cat fought so hard to figure out. And worse, the virus has now infected someone close to her. It's spreading more quickly and differently than before, leaving the clock ticking on finding a patch for the vaccine. On top of all this, Cat is still trying to defeat her evil genius father. This leads the gang to Entropia-a city of genehackers that deals completely in code-in order to solicit help. Will they find the assistance they are looking for and stop the Hydra virus? And what other things might Cat uncover in the process?

There were a few twists in this book that completely blew me away! Also I loved the tie in of the birds from the first book. They were mentioned so much in This Mortal Coil and now you get to see why! The new characters introduced in this installment were great additions to the cast, and I really enjoyed getting to see some plot set in the city of Entropia.

There were a few times this book got to be a little confusing. There was definitely a lot to absorb and you must pay very close attention or you could miss an important detail that may come into play later. But it's this elaborate world building and complex plot that really gives this book that extra something.

There will be another book in this series, and I can't wait to see what Suvada has in store for us!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

A big thanks to Simon Pulse for sending over a finished copy of both This Cruel Design and the first book, This Mortal Coil! Both books are out now!

November 28, 2018

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I reviewed Riley Sager's book Final Girls a while back, and absolutely loved it. I knew I had to give this one a shot and really hoped it would deliver as well as Final Girls did. Fortunately, The Last Time I Lied lived up to all my expectations! I do want to place trigger warnings on this book for drowning and mental illness.

This story follows Emma, whose three cabin mates mysteriously disappeared without a trace during her first summer at Camp Nightingale. The camp was shuttered, and the girls were never found. Now, years later, Emma is headed back to Camp Nightingale as an adult, at the request of its wealthy owner. Emma hopes returning will give her closure, and hopefully uncover some answers to what happened to Vivian, Natalie, and Allison all those years ago. But what answers could she possibly find that the police could not? And what are these answers going to cost her?

This had a very similar vibe to Final Girls, with the plot focused heavily on something that happened in the woods, as well as the main character seeking closure after a traumatic incident. It was fast-paced and read extremely quickly. I really enjoyed all the characters, and thought the twists and turns of the plot were all interwoven beautifully. This story was part teen movie, part urban legend, part treasure hunt, and part mystery all wrapped into one.

I loved that it was told through both flashbacks and present day scenes, and I really enjoyed getting to know Emma's cabin mates through those flashbacks. I also appreciated how Emma coped with her trauma, by hiding the missing girls in her now-famous artwork. 

I did think there were a few unnecessary elements, but nothing that distracted from the story in a major way. Overall I really enjoyed this book, and I can't wait for Sager's next book, Lock Every Door, which comes out this coming summer!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

November 21, 2018

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I have just been itching for a good sci-fi and This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada sure did deliver! In this dystopian society, a fast-spreading new virus called Hydra has split the world in two: those hiding out in bunkers and those trying to still survive out in the world. Catarina Agatta is one of the latter. 

Having been abandoned when her father, a famous geneticist, was captured by the shady organization Cartaxus, Cat has been doing everything she has to in order to survive, including trying to hack Cartaxus systems and eating human flesh to remain immune to the Hydra virus. But when a Cartaxus agent shows up saying that Cat's father is dead, and he has left a message requesting her help with a Hydra vaccine, Cat has to go against all that she has believed about the evil Cartaxus to try to save the human race.

This world was just incredible. The gene manipulation, the apocalyptic plague that literally makes people explode, and just the technology in general were all amazing. There were some crazy plot twists that I absolutely loved, and in no place did this book get slow or drag whatsoever. The characters were very likable and it was so easy to visualize everything taking place. 

If you liked The Hunger Games, Zombieland, or any book about having to survive in a dystopian world or dealing with a terrifying virus epidemic, this read is definitely for you!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

A big thanks to Simon Pulse for sending over a finished copy of both This Mortal Coil and its sequel, This Cruel Design! Both books are out now!

November 20, 2018

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Hearts Unbroken, an own voices YA contemporary by Cynthia Leitich Smith, follows Louise Wolfe, a Native teen navigating the difficult worlds of high school and racism. When her boyfriend makes some inappropriate remarks about Native people, she dumps him through email and moves on with her life. But when inclusion casting for the upcoming school musical The Wizard of Oz stirs up trouble, Louise realizes that racism and hatred go much further in the community than just her ex-boyfriend.

I really wanted to love this book. I think it brings to light a lot of issues and shows how we can all be more educated and do better regarding stereotypes and cultural appropriation (a specific instance mentioned is people dressing up like Native Americans for Halloween). I just think it could have been done better. 

This book tried to tackle so much: racism, cultural appropriation, slut shaming and sexism, bullying, the list goes on. I think the overall message was lost because the author tried to address so much. There were also an insane amount of side characters and subplots. The story often got confusing when the author would cut off a chapter at an awkward place then start the next chapter with something completely unrelated.

I liked the story fine, and enjoyed the main plot overall. This book read extremely quickly, which was good because I'm not sure how much longer I could have handled the awkward, jerky chapter transitions. Even though there were a lot of errors in execution, this book is an important one in the issues it addresses, which is why I'm still giving it a middle of the road rating.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

A big thanks to Candlewick Press for an ARC of this read! Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith is out now!