Gunslinger Girl – Review

“She should have seen it coming. Six months and she’d be lawfully released from his control. But he couldn’t let that happen easy, not him.”

From the very first moment I saw photos of this gorgeous book being released at BookCon, I knew I had to have this book. A dystopian with a Western twist? For fans of Westworld?! Katniss Everdeen meets Annie Oakley??? Um, YES PLEASE!!!

I was thrilled when I opened a package and saw that my request had been approved and have been hugging this book EVER SINCE!

Serendipity Jones is a sharp shooter. She’s the best in her commune, but that doesn’t matter. She was born the wrong gender. A woman with the potential to be fertile is more valuable than a woman who can shoot. But she has plans. Plans to leave, plans to escape to the Capital. Unfortunately, her father also has plans. And they don’t involve her freedom.

When her best friend offers her the chance to escape before her father can sell her, Pity jumps at the chance. But the world outside of the gates of the communes is deadly, and Pity quickly finds herself a prisoner headed to the lawless city of Cessation, the last bastion of freedom standing against the oppressive forces of CONA, the Confederacy of North America.

“Is this a city, she thought, or an asylum?”

Now she has something resembling freedom being offered to her by the city’s leader, the beautiful and lethal Selene, but there is a price. With little options in front of her, Pity accepts and tries to navigate the treacherous path that she finds herself on.

This book is incredible! Pity is such a delightful protagonist. This is YA that sucks you in from the very beginning and doesn’t let go. I love when characters are so real you feel like you could know them. Pity is strong and determined, but she is also a little unsure of the path before her. She makes mistakes, some with horrific consequences that haunt her and make her doubt herself. I enjoyed reading her journey on that path to self-discovery.

“The low burn of anger that had been coursing through her exploded suddenly, fury hot and vicious cold at the same time, and tinged with guilt.”

This guilt and sureness over who she wants to be, combined with the battle of hesitation and unsurety over whether she actually could be that person made Pity so heart-achingly good. I like a character who has to face the idea versus the reality of their inner selves, especially when outside forces raise the bar on the consequences of that struggle.

Beyond Pity, we get introduced to an array of diverse characters. Duchess, Luster, and Max are a few of my favorites, but even Selene and Halycon add to the complicated deliciousness of the world Pity finds herself in.

Clean was the first for that popped into Pity’s mind as his raptor’s gaze tracked them. Dangerous was the second.”

The vast cast of characters all give the world in Cessation a rich texture, with each character highlighting a distinct piece of that world. We get to see through the eyes of security and performers. People escaping lives in communes that are unthinkable. Each accepting their role with varying degrees of success and hiding from a past that haunts each one of them in it’s own way.

Each characters gives you the sense of what a real oasis this city can be, while simultaneously being a gilded prison. This dichotomy really drives home the idea that everything has a price. Especially freedom.

“What others did to secure themselves wasn’t for her to judge – not when their situations were dire enough to make her wonder what she might do in the same place.”

It isn’t just the world of Cessation or the colonies that we get to see, although the bigger world of CONA is something I suspect we’ll begin to see more of in future books. We know that this world is what we are left with after a Second Civil War. We know the rumors of the Capital, and then we learn the reality. At least, some of the reality. But the history of the War, and the reality of other communes are things only hinted at in this book.

I tend to like my dystopian worlds to be revealed to me slowly. The horror of the future our characters find themselves in showing itself in unexpected and surprising ways. Gunslinger Girl did not disappoint in this way. Just as we accept the world as it is, new details emerge that really stab you in the gut with the terrible reality of what the world really can be. And I love when authors give us a slow road into hell, bringing us deeper into the world with more revealed in each new book. It gives the world a rich texture that just can’t be accomplished all at once.

Gunslinger Girl is a unique new dystopian and I adored every moment of it. The characters are complex and fun. The world is intoxicating and horrifying. The writing is beautiful and brutal.

“When someone brought her a cup of ice water, she took it without a word. It slid down her throat and into her stomach like a blade.”

Lyndsay Ely has created something incredible with this book and has quickly made me a fan rabid for more. Her voice and imagination are both stunning and I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us next!

Thank you Little, Brown & Jimmy Patterson Books for sending me a copy to read and review!

Awaken – Spotlight + Giveaway

AWAKEN

Good morning! Good morning! I am so happy to be a part of the Rockstar Book Tours blog tour for Awaken! Be sure to check out the rest of the tour, (links found below), or click the banner above for their website. They have amazing tours happening all the time. And don’t forget to scroll down for an awesome GIVEAWAY!!!!!

In the city of Daventry, citizens live without question of authority, liberty or even the ability to dream. Your purpose is determined by your placement within the Sectors of Society. 16 year old Ethan Drake is quiet and awkward without a lot of friends. Plagued by nightmares of people and places he doesn’t recognize, he struggles to fit in. Much to his classmates surprise, he is placed in the esteemed Technology Sector alongside the city’s top leaders. Soon his vivid and frightening dreams consume his life. He turns to his mentor, Dr. Godrik Stevens, a geneticist and the holder of many secrets to help him figure out what’s wrong with him. In their search for a cure, they uncover a secret about their beloved city so horrifying, it could change their lives forever. Of course, there are those who want the secret to remain hidden and soon Ethan finds himself in the middle of a war. Will he be able to find the answers he so desperately seeks before its too late?

Does that sound intriguing or what?! Awaken goes on sale December 5, links are below!

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Title: AWAKEN

Author: Georgina Kane

Pub. Date: December 5, 2017

Publisher: Fierce Girl Publishing House

Pages: 278

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Find it: AmazonGoodreads

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Georgina Kane – I graduated from St. Cloud State University with a BA in English Writing and Literature. I’ve been writing since childhood but I’ve recently started writing full length novels and short stories.

My first book is called Awaken – a YA scifi dystopian story of a 16 year old boy who finds out the secret his society has been keeping for hundreds of years.

I’m currently working on my second novel, Midnight Wolf – a YA supernatural thriller that follows three caster brothers who are sent to a high school to investigate supernatural attacks.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

DID SOMEONE SAY GIVEAWAY???

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Click the giveaway photo above for a chance to win:

3 winners will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card, US Only.

3 winners will receive a signed finished copy of AWAKEN, US Only.

And don’t forget to check out the awesome blogs below for more reviews, interviews, guest posts, and amazing excerpts for this upcoming book!

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

11/13/2017- The Desert Bibliophile– Review

11/14/2017- Life Within The Pages– Interview

11/15/2017- Jrsbookreviews– Review

11/16/2017- Jena Brown WritesSpotlight

11/17/2017- PC Book Reviews & Book Tours– Guest Post

Week Two:

11/20/2017- Bibliobakes– Review

11/21/2017- BookHounds YA Interview

11/22/2017- TeacherofYA’s Book Blog– Review

11/23/2017- Wonder Struck– Excerpt

11/24/2017- Owl always be reading– Review

 

Sip – Review

“The sun was up, so the dark could start. All about the ground, all in the same direction, shadows sprawled. And this is what he was after.”

Oh how deliciously dark Sip is! A novel where we find ourselves 150 years in the future. A future where people can drink their shadows and change their bodies to float and distort in ways not possible before. But there is a heavy price. Once you drink, you must always drink. And if you drink too much, you are lost forever.

We follow two main characters, Murk, a shadow addict, and Mira, a girl who can hide her shadow. Mira’s mother is a shadow addict herself, but her fate is far worse than Murk. For when an addict sips your shadow, if they don’t stop they can steal the entire thing. And you are left the shell of who you once were, forced to sip shadows or face the madness beyond.

Of course, Murk doesn’t have life easy either. His leg was stolen from him. Chopped and taken, sold to the black market to be kept alive for a time on a machine invented for creating shadows. But he lost his leg before he lost his shadow, which offers him some protection as his shadow will never be whole.

This world is dark and gruesome, full of violence,  and run wild with madmen. But within this world are pockets of people trying to live normal lives, away from these addicts. Called domers, for they live beneath a dome. Blocking the sunlight and moonlight so that the addicts can’t steal their souls. The perimeter blocked by a perpetually running train and guarded by soldiers trained to shoot if anyone gets too near.

“Bored soldiers slaughtering innocents predates the naming of war, will go on after the words we call it are broken.”

Mira’s ability to control her shadow catches the interest of a domer, Bale. But his interest is expensive, and he gets thrown out of his dome as a penalty for not shooting her on sight.

Now the three of them, an unlikely trio, set off to test the theory that if you kill whomever stole your shadow before Halley’s Comet appears again, after the comet passes, you will return to normal. Mira desperately wants her mother back, and so she sets off on her quest. Time running out, since the comet is due within days.

Sip does not hold back on the brutal reality of a world overrun with addicts. I actually found the use of shadow addicts an interesting way to show the desperation and extremes addicts will go through for one fix, for one more high, for just one more. In a world where they are the majority, things can become chaotic and bleak very quickly.

We don’t see the world outside of the rural Texas area that Mira, Murk and Bale live, but we hear hints of other dome communities scattered about. All with trains running in circles to protect them. I thought it was fascinating how the addiction was also like a virus, contagious and rampant, and hit before people knew how to fight it. It is a unique dystopian unlike anything I’ve ever read before.

This book is dark in nature but shines bright within the characters it creates. Mira and Murk, unlikely friends, but friends all the same. And even Bale, with his knowledge of nothing but life within the dome will cause you to root for them, to root for their success. Because the journey is difficult, and filled with unexpected stops and obstacles along the way.

If you can’t stomach gritty, raw violence or the stark yet simple brutality of an apocalyptic future dominated by ruthless addicts, this is not a book for you. It will make you cringe, and your stomach turn, for death and violence is simply the way of life in this world, and Carr does not shy away from immersing the reader into the full experience of it.

“Some madnesses are so bizarre that they entice witnessing. Those in the bar who had been preoccupied with debauchery, who had been lost in the melee of drinking and lustful deeds, tapered their pursuits in order to watch this grimy operation.”

It is a book that requires you simply accept things as fact without necessarily understanding them. I didn’t ever get the full sense of why people could drink their shadows, or how it made them addicts. It isn’t that Carr doesn’t offer a brief history through the characters eyes, he does. But it is done in the way you would expect stories to be told. Vaguely, details lost or misunderstood with each telling, the decades between the event and the present altering it, diminishing it, leaving only what they deem important. You don’t get science, or factual information. However, not understanding didn’t take away from the rich narration of this world, or make it’s reality any less detailed.

The before and the after are less relevant to this story than the here and now. Which, if anyone has ever dealt with addiction, first hand or otherwise, it felt like this focus on the present story was a nod to the adage ‘One Day At A Time’ that you hear in meetings and therapy over and over. For addicts, there is only today, and so in that same way, we get the present. It felt poetic to me.

If it feels that perhaps the book may be ‘too out there’, or ‘weird’, I assure you it’s my own reluctance to delve into too many details. The world sounds difficult to picture, and the concepts may be hard to envision, but once you dive into this world, as gruesome and violent as it is, it is worth the journey. Once you begin, the characters pull you in and the sheer determination they have to move forward will move you forward too. It is a dark world. A violent one. Full of mayhem and criminality that makes the Wild West look like playtime in preschool. But you still can’t help but hope with the characters that life can always get better.

For my dark readers out there, this is a novel you do not want to miss! I will be reading Carr’s short stories and will for sure read anything he puts out next. I am a fan!

Thank you Soho Press for sending me a copy to read and review.

The Dying Game – Review

“This is where we’ll place you when you’re dead.”

These are the words that Anna hopes will lead to her freedom.

Anna Francis is a single mother living in a future totalitarian Swedish society. The year is 2037 and the future is bleak. Anna is back at her old job, barely surviving her day to day life, when she is called to meet with The Chairman. In the meeting she is given the opportunity that may save her life. Participate in one task, 48 hours of service, and in exchange receive a sum of money that will enable her to live the rest of her life in peace.

A group of individuals will be placed on an isolated island, Isola. They are all being evaluated for a position high in the government. Anna will be murdered the first night, and then remain hidden behind the walls to observe how each candidate handles the stress of this extreme situation.

Of course, things aren’t quite what they seem, and the moment she sees Henry, a man from her past, things get complicated for Anna very quickly. First, the Doctor with whom Anna is partners in the truth with, also gets murdered. Or does she? Anna sees her dead body, but is knocked unconscious. When she wakes up, neither the body or the Doctor is anywhere to be found. And then the others begin to disappear, one by one.

While we try and figure out what is actually happening on the island, we learn that Anna was suffering already from some fairly serious PTSD from her previous assignment. And the more we learn about her past, the more we begin to wonder what the true intention of this test is. And if anyone was intended to make it off the island at all.

Anyone who is a fan of Black Mirror will love this novel. As in the show, the plot and twists aren’t shocking for the sake of shock, but more subtle and nuanced. They are events that unfold slowly and then all at once. Each glimpse into Anna’s past makes the current events more foreboding and suspicious. And the reality of what could be happening is frightening.

Avdic does a brilliant job with the details of writing this society. The drabness of clothing, details within elaborate government buildings to contrast the rest of the surroundings, even cobblestone bombed streets, all serve to paint a dreary picture. You feel that you are in Cold War-esque Germany or Russia. A society where everyone is the same, trying to blend in while the leaders show their differences in opulence alone. It all lends to a sense of reality that sometimes dystopians are lacking. There aren’t high tech tricks to move the plot along. It simply drives forward in the uncomfortable reality we can so easily envision.

Woven into alternating narration are chapters from Henry’s perspective. These are fewer than Anna’s, but serve to give us a better look at Anna herself. How Henry sees her. Which doesn’t seem important on the surface of the story, but it is vital to the ending.

The final twist isn’t so much shocking, as it is twisted. You feel complicit in the manipulation, even though you’re just the reader. This is a book of political intrigue, yes, but also one of psychological warfare. How far will a government go to control their people. What extremes will they consider? As you read the end, it isn’t so much the extreme of events but how realistic they could be that are the most haunting.

It is the chilling reality of this novel that makes is so terrifying. The day to day lives of citizens in this society is in all ways controlled. The extremes that Anna’s mother took, and that even Anna herself considers, all illustrate this control. While it may seem that Anna had a choice in the initial assignment we know she doesn’t. ‘No’ is not something this government humors.

The Dying Game is a classic dystopian reminiscent of Huxley and Orwell. It isn’t lengthy but packs a concise punch within it’s pages. And like Huxley and Orwell, this isn’t a novel about the government or the world they live in. It is a dissection of human experience. Of how psychology plays a role in submitting to such a totalitarian regime. It is an examination of the human psyche.

I read this book in a day. Anyone who has a love for the classics, and especially an appreciation for the twisted manipulations of Black Mirror should enjoy this novel.

Thank you Penguin Random House and their First To Read Program for the opportunity to read this early copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Arena – Review

“This wouldn’t be the first time I died.”

Welcome to the future. The year is 2054. Virtual gaming has swept the world and virtual gamers are the celebrities of the time. And the RAGE tournaments in the Virtual Gaming League are where the worlds best face each other to fight to the death. Digital death, that is.

Kali Ling is a player on Team Defiance. She has everything she thinks she could want. Playing professionally in RAGE is her dream. She has fame, fortune and loves every moment in the Arena.

But life isn’t as predictable as it is in the virtual realm, and quickly everything Kali thought she had becomes unravelled. When Nathan, one of her teammates overdoses, she realizes that everything she worked for could be slipping through her fingers.

“Funny thing about being on top: It’s a long way down when you crash.”

This book is such an interesting concept. Gaming is something that is evolving as fast as all other technology. Using virtual reality as a way to propel sports into the gaming world is incredibly creative. And plausible. I can picture tournaments like this somewhere in the future, and scary enough, this book is realistic enough to be frightening in that aspect.

There are a lot of good themes in the book. Drug use is the main one, obviously with Nathan’s overdose driving some of Kali’s struggle. But her own reliance on not just drugs and alcohol but virtual reality itself was very insightful. I suspect that having the ability to escape reality could, and probably would be, just as addictive as any other substance.

For Kali, the real world seemed more fake to her than the fake world. In reality, men and women bought fake bodies, had fake features, presented fake personalities. In her own world, she was forced to maintain an image based on what the team owner and sponsors wanted. They created relationships, rivalries, whatever would push viewers and increase ratings. So to her, the Arena was realer than reality.

“Reality was more programmed than the virtual world.”

It’s only when the newest team member, and replacement for Nathan begins to break through her walls, that she starts to realize maybe she has been trying to escape for longer than she cares to admit. With his help, she starts to find her way back, not just to the top of the RAGE scoreboards, but to herself.

“The virtual world is just for fun, and reality is the place worth living.”

As she fights her way back from the bottom, Kali begins to notice things in the VGR world aren’t as great as they seem. VGR controls their lives. If they want them to go out, they have to go out. If they want them dating someone, they have to make the appearances look legitimate. Yet, for all that is expected of them, the relationship is very one-sided as they can be dropped with one loss.

To top all that off, Nathan’s death is getting not just swept under the carpet, it is flat out being erased.

Kali has to figure out how to turn her team into a team, what her feelings actually are towards Rooke, and keep her own struggles at bay week after week. Oh, and they can’t lose a single tournament or they all go home.

This novel was amazingly complex. The idea of using virtual reality along with actual substance abuse and addiction is brilliant. To further drive the appeal, gamers are celebrity, the most envied people in the world. Combine these addictive components into one, and you have a sure-fire path to an all encompassing addiction. Already we struggle with people, especially children, becoming dependent on technology and social media. What could happen if we ramp that up to a subversive, completely interactive environment? I think something like this book, is what.

The other really smart thing is how Jennings used corporate greed, in the form of sponsors and owners to highlight how profits can easily trump everything. They sidestep drug testing, push their gamers beyond reason and when they die or go crazy, they simply replace them and move on. The allure of fame and fortune is enough to entice gamers to play, but is it really worth the risk?

Kali is a strong character. But, she is also flawed enough to be believable and realistic. She doesn’t always make good choices, and the road back to redemption is really tough for her. But she does find a way to put the team first and to find her way forward. She even figures out how to play the corporate game so against both the team owner and their sponsors.

I think that anyone with a love of gaming, or even an interest in gaming would enjoy this book. It is a smart and creative approach to how gaming could evolve in the future. Jennings has created a world that ties celebrity, corporate greed and virtual reality. The effect is fun but also sobering. We see the highs and we see the lows.

I loved the battle scenes. The writing is fast paced and intense, keeping you on the edge of your seat. Each scene within the Arena plays out so vividly, you can hear the swords and smell the blood.

All the characters are very fun to read as well. Hannah and Lily are wonderfully complex, Jennings doesn’t go for easy lesbian stereotypes in her depiction of them. Their relationship is one of the sweetest I’ve read, especially given the scenery. All of the characters are complex, nuanced, flawed but extremely likable. And the writing is filled with tons of gaming references and sarcasm that it stayed fun, even though it is also violent and brutal. There are very funny moments written into what is otherwise an intense non-stop action book.

This was a solid 4 stars. I devoured this book in a day and cannot wait to dive into the sequel.

Thank you to Blogging for Books for sending me this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

No Ordinary Star – Review

“If you’re watching this, I’m dead.”

From the very beginning, we are thrown into a world that is simultaneously beautiful and brutal. This is a future where humans have solved basic human needs. There is no need to eat. There is no need to sleep.

Honestly, on the surface this is a future that sounds like something I would love. I have been obsessed with the idea of food in pills ever since The Jetsons! And, isn’t the most alluring part of being a vampire not ever having to sleep??? Imagine all the books I could read!

We are welcomed into this world. A utopia. A future where disease and conflict and struggle do not exist.

Most dystopians begin in a dark and dreary future. Bleak and oppressive, where immediately you know who to root for. You can see the injustice from a mile away.

Here, in this world, the bleak and oppressed are hidden. Frank gives us a future where animals have gone extinct and all human needs have been overcome. But the negative facts are painted over in light of all the accomplishments and progress made.

We are given the view of the world from Felix, a soldier who identifies with his place in this society. He has no reason to question, no reason to dissent.

In No Ordinary Star, we know things aren’t what they seem. We know right away that there is something else at play, but the mystery of the horrors are given in snapshots. Even though we are given alternating perspectives, really, we see the world unfold as Felix does. An unraveling of the carefully structured reality he has been fed.

This book is a dystopia disguised as a utopia. And there is art within that deception. Because, in life, this is usually how horrors unfold. In a beautiful lie. Which is why I liked this book so much. This is how I imagine a future could really unfold.

This isn’t a future where dramatic events shattered reality and formed a new society. Rather, we learn of small advances. Changes made one breakthrough at a time, slowly corralling us towards these changes. So small that maybe they aren’t even really noticeable as they occur, and only seem extreme and shocking once enough distance is in place.

The politics behind this sort of future make sense to me. They feel real.

Another realistic aspect of this book is how the horrors of this world are presented. They are simply stated, in a way again, that feels real in the most chilling way. There is no massive cover up, since history is accepted.

The very fact that it is openly referred to as “The Revision” is most telling of all. Reading those words, you know that history has been changed, facts altered irreparably. But they are accepted as truth. Accepted as fact. And what was revised unspoken and unquestioned.

Some of the revisions are obvious.

Women are separate from men. Science making reproduction clinical and wombs unnecessary. The only thing they need are the eggs, which are taken, regardless of a woman’s willingness or cooperation.

Not only are women kept separate. They are really slaves. Kept on islands for their eggs and labor. Never to birth the children, but to work. Or to endure time in the Box. Touching is not allowed between the genders, but does it matter when men rarely see women in person? Another human need eliminated through Science.

Prisons are where people go to suffer and die. Referred to as The Box. Noted because the only space you are given is a single square of space, large enough for you to stand, and nothing else. Hunger pills given once a day to stave off starvation.

Prisoners are forced to ensure this treatment. The only relief given in the form of attending executions or having your eggs extracted.

We get most of the horror of the world told to us through Astra, the young girl Felix finds and saves. Even though his years of training tell him this is a mistake, some shred of conscious from his buried past doesn’t let him walk away. They begin to form a friendship, each trying to understand the world and their role in it.

By far, the most compelling thing about this world and the control the government has over it, is in the weapons. Weapons, you see, are books. Information is power, and this world intends on making sure no one reads anything outside of their control. Women aren’t even allowed to read at all, which assures their role as subservient slaves, powerless and weak.

The writing is done in a way that paints a magical world, even if it is only magical on the surface. This simply makes the realness of this possible future feel even more striking. There is a real understanding of human emotion and human nature in this book.

Frank understands how to complicated these things are. You cannot strip down a human to basic functions and bodily needs. Not completely. Not entirely. You will always be left with something else. Something more. This book explores the what if scenarios of these endeavors.

I enjoyed this first piece of the story. It is short, 150 pages. It is Part 1, not book 1, which makes for a fast read. The world building is done with enough detail to really get a feel for the world we are in, without feeling bogged down in too many details. And there was a lot left that Parts 2 & 3 can answer and resolve.

M.C. Frank has written the exact type of dystopia I like. It is a solid representation of a world we could find ourselves in. I don’t have to struggle to imagine scientific advances answering questions of human needs. In this future, we solve what the body needs, and ignore what the soul needs. We eliminate any form of passion for the sake of peace. It is something I can imagine only too vividly.

I look forward to the next 2 parts. I hope to see more world building. Why are animals extinct? What led to this? What do societies outside of Earth look like? They are hinted at, but not shown to us. And, what is the Clockmaster’s work, and why is Felix the only one to continue it?

Many, many questions. I look forward to reading the answers.

Also, there is a polar bear who is sort of the hero of the entire thing. Who wouldn’t want to read about that???

I was given this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review, and as part of the Street Team for M.C. Frank.