People Like Us – Review

“I was determined to redesign myself completely into a Bates girl, and as soon as I took that dive, I knew exactly what kind of girl I would be. The kind who jumps first and stays under ten seconds too long.”

Kay Donovan has more than a few things she doesn’t want people to know about her past. She’s worked hard to ensure that the girls at the exclusive and private school she attends have no reason to pry. She’s a soccer star and friends with the prettiest, most powerful girls in the school. Who she was doesn’t matter. It’s who she is now that counts.

When Kay and her friends find a dead body in the school lake, she begins to fear that her past may be haunting her. But it’s when she gets an email from the dead girl herself that Kay really panics. Being blackmailed from the grave isn’t exactly what Kay had planned for her Senior year.

The scavenger hunt/revenge blog pushes Kay to the limits; alienating her from her friends while threatening to expose all the secrets Kay is desperate to keep. It will take everything she has to ensure she isn’t exposed. After all, the truth is what you make it.

“A sharp edge of doubt creeps into my mind. There are consequences to not believing your friends.”

People like us is an intense ride. Part murder mystery, part thriller, this YA unravels secrets and lies at nearly every turn. High School is generally unpleasant for everyone involved. Unless you’re the part of the small percentage that rules the school. Take that general division of social hierarchies and popularity, and add exclusive, private, and wealthy to the mix. That gives you a good idea of the toxic levels of hell that Bates Academy is.

There are some fantastic issues examined in this book. Bullying, power, wealth, popularity to name a few. But further than that Mele shows us what it’s like to have your first love and heartbreak, how confusing coming out can be, the general confusion of growing up.

“I know that look. I’ve worn it a thousand nights alone in my room, staring into the darkness, trying to will myself into another person or place or thing.”

Of course, wrapped into this typical High School story are much darker issues as well. Death, murder, lies, and betrayal. It isn’t just the murder that Kay ends up investigating to save her own name. It’s the things she has to do to keep the revenge blog satisfied. Each task like a cut to the cloak of confidence and invincibility she has woven around herself. Each cut revealing more of her darkest secrets to us.

Mele weaves an intoxicating blend of psychological suspense in this incredible YA thriller. While I guessed at who was behind the entire thing, the reasons why they did it and what tied it all together blew me away. There isn’t anything predictable about this book when pieced together. Even the more obvious plot points are painted to life in shocking ways.

It’s a difficult thing to paint the mean girls of any school in a sympathetic light. And while Mele isn’t trying to make us see Kay or her friends as victims necessarily, she does expose their humanity. We all have things we want to keep hidden. Some more than others. Some more damaging or damaged than others.

“Sometimes you can be in the middle of everything and still be completely alone.”

There is a tragic heartbreak in Kay. In how she fails to see her own role in the parts of her life that hurt the most, until it’s too late. How she blames herself for things she is blameless in. Mostly, in how sometimes things spin so far out of our control, so quickly, so devastatingly, that there isn’t anything to do but bear the weight of the consequences.

People Like Us will resonate at some point with nearly every reader. We’ve all been alone, or lost. We’ve all made choices we regret, felt overwhelmed with the way life has unfolded. Especially as teenagers.

Beyond the plot, the writing is sharp, with dark humor lightening some seriously dark passages. It’s scandalous and devious, and will have you unsure of who to even root for. It’s Mean Girls but with a much deeper bite. It calls out wealth and power and privilege, while also reminding us that revenge isn’t always as satisfying as we think.

If you enjoy YA, especially YA thrillers, and want a dark but delicious experience into the elusive world of boarding schools, this book is seriously for you. I loved every single scandalous moment!

A million thank you’s to Penguin Teen and Putnam Books for sending me a copy!!!


The Midnights – Review

“Even as time passed, as my fingertips hardened into calluses, as I slipped into those awkward early teenage years, my father’s studio remained the sole place where I felt the most extraordinary, and most alive.”

Susannah Hayes wants to follow in her musician father’s footsteps more than anything. She writes song lyrics in her spare time and spends countless late night hours with her father in his studio. They live and breathe music the way other people breathe air. When the unthinkable happens, and her father dies in a sudden car crash, her world is torn from beneath her.

In a tidal wave of grief, her mother uproots them both and moves to a new city. Leaving behind the house that holds the ghost of her father, Susannah is determined to hold on to him by diving into his past. She follows the stories and memories told to her a thousand times, desperate to find a glimpse of him one more time.

“While my father proudly built his mysteries into an aura, put them on display and let them define him, my mother buried hers like evidence of a crime.”

The one upside to moving is finding Lynn. Susannah quickly realizes that in this new school, she can be anyone she wants, including someone who is best friends with cool-girl Lynn and her friends. Who also happen to be in a band. She clings to the idea that holding onto her father means chasing the dream that would make him proud of her. Music. But the more Susannah tries to be the musician her father would cheer for, and the harder she chases down his past, the more she uncovers secrets meant to stay buried.

Like any good coming of age tale, The Midnights is a profound look at how to find your own voice before you know who you are. Smetana writes teenagers that feel very real. Susannah is lost in her grief. She doesn’t know who she is without her father guiding her. Even harder is when her mother uproots them, making the ground feel as if it’s continually shifting beneath her feet.

“We had really shared something special here, my father and I. But no one else would ever know about it.”

The hardest part for Susannah isn’t that her father is dead. It’s the thing we all face as we grow up. Learning that there are things about our parents that we don’t understand. Complicated facets of their marriage, pieces of their personality hidden from us. Susannah has to face all of that in addition to her grief, and her reaction is to rebel against it all. Which feels very raw and very real.

In addition to discovering things about her parents that are difficult to face, Susannah also has to find herself. She wants to be the musician that would make her father proud. But in chasing his dream, she loses her own. And being far away from her childhood home pulls her farther from the people who ground her. She wants to redefine herself, become a new person shrouded in the same mystery her father built. Except, in doing that, she changes and hides the person she was. The person her father knew.

“No one tells you how to keep living.”

Smetana uses music to weave the world Susannah lives in, where the wind creates melodies and harmony can be found everywhere. The way Smetana chose to illustrate finding her voice in terms of music gives this book an extra dimension that I loved. We all struggle at various points in our lives to figure out how to say what we need, to be who we are. Showing that externally, through music, highlighted that struggle in a clear and beautiful way.

Smetana doesn’t give us an apologetic teenager. There is vivid pain as we read this book. Susannah makes bad choices, and she does and says things she regrets. While she frequently texts her childhood crush, Nick, song lyrics telling him how much she misses him; she blatantly pursues Cameron, among others.

“I knew that I had made horrible accusations; my behavior sickened me, and I was guilt-ridden and sorry, but I didn’t know how to say this to my mother. So instead, I hid from her, tried not to engage in any conversation, and moved forward in the only way I knew how: through distraction.”

This is a book on the more mature spectrum of YA, and has more mature content as a result. There isn’t anything graphic, but there is underage drinking and sex, among other rebellious acts like ditching school, smoking pot, and sneaking out. All of these make sense in the world Susannah lives. Smetana doesn’t exploit these topics, using them cheaply for an edgy character. Instead, because it feels so real, your heart breaks as Susannah goes through these difficult life lessons.

What I really liked about this journey with Susannah, is how lost she gets before she finds herself. This isn’t a story with a neat ending. It isn’t tidy. It’s messy. Being a grieving teenager is messy. Susannah finds the answers she searches for, but like most things in life, they aren’t what she expected them to be. This book is about the journey of self-discovery and finding who you are. And, like in life, this is a never-ending process.

“Maybe it’s less that you find your true self, and more that you feel okay allowing others to see it.”

The writing in this debut is gorgeous. There are stunning sentences that grab your heart and pierce your soul. As a woman who once struggled through my own painful adolescence, this book struck a chord deep within. Smetana perfectly captures the pain that accompany growing up. The way regret can be bitter, and sometimes the things you need the most, are the things right in front of you the entire time.

The Midnights is a beautiful debut, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys more contemporary, mature Young Adult books. You won’t regret it!

Thank you BookSparks for sending me a copy to read and review for your pop up blog tour!

Renegades – Review

“We were all villains in the beginning.”

Renegades, though made to feel as if ripped from the pages of comics, is actually far from the typical comic-book style story. While we deal with heroes and villains, the more you read, the more you realize that the lines between those two aren’t quite as clear as we’d like them to be. It’s this exploration of what it means to be good, what it means to be evil, and if the two are perhaps closer to each other than we realize, that makes Renegades such a spectacular novel.

We land in a world where some people are known as ‘prodigies’. Whether they are born with their abilities or develop them, to everyone without powers, they are simply a threat. Persecuted. Hunted. Tormented. The prodigies found themselves oppressed, terrified and often at the mercy of a mob. All that changed when one prodigy, Ace Anarchy, rose up and destroyed the foundation of that society.

“Sometimes the weak much be sacrificed so that the strong may flourish.”

Vicious gangs rose in the chaos, bringing their own tidal wave of terror and fear in their wake. Until a group of prodigies decided that the world needed heroes. The Renegades challenged the gangs, fought the villains, ultimately winning the battle for power and restoring peace and structure to the city. Fast forward and The Renegades are still in power, training prodigies from all over the world. All in the name of heroism. All to help other countries establish the peace they’ve built.

Nova believed in The Renegades once. She believed they would come and save her family when the gangs came. She believed they would make her safe. Except they didn’t. Her uncle, Ace himself, is the one who did that. Raised with the remaining villains, segregated to the abandoned subway tunnels and at the mercy of Renegade harassment, Nova doesn’t believe in The Renegades. When the chance to undo the system under Renegade control, to free everyone from the grasp of superheroes emerges, Nova jumps to seize it.

“They were not superheroes. They were frauds, and this whole system that was meant to protect and serve was nothing more than a failed social experiment.”

Adrian was adopted by to of the original Renegades. Raised by superheroes, it’s only natural that he becomes one. He believes in everything they stand for. Doesn’t he? As Nova’s mission brings her closer to Adrian, and his own search for the truth brings him closer to buried secrets, they’ll discover that the line between vengeance and justice is thinner than they ever thought possible.

I am a huge fan of books that explore that dingy gray areas that force the reader to question everything they think they believe in. The line between good and evil in not clear cut, or neatly defined in this story. As we learn more about The Renegades, and even The Villains, we realize that they both have valid reasons for their beliefs. To make things more complicated, as Nova discovers new information on programs The Renegades are planning, the line between good and evil blurs even more.

“Now, they weren’t so much vigilantes as celebrities. Celebrities who had an important job to do, but celebrities nonetheless.”

Secret identities, betrayal, action filled fight scenes, and even superhero tryouts, Renegades has it all! It’s fun, and complex, and just enough of a slow-burn romance that even the blackest of villain hearts will melt just a little.

If you stay on the surface of Renegades, you’ll have a good time. You’ll be entertained and shocked in equal measure. The themes of good and evil are obvious and predominant. However, it’s the more subtle study of power that make Renegades far more than just an addition to the good versus evil trope. The Renegades were founded on a mountain of good intentions. Unfortunately, good intentions don’t always translate to good public policies. We see multiple examples of this sprinkled throughout the pages.

More interesting than that, is Meyer’s discussion on the reliance of power. How ordinary people stopped believing they could make a difference, that they could be part of the power structure because of their lack of abilities. That is a fascinating analysis of how people can give up their own individual power. While this is in a universe where the powerful have actual powers, the correlation that we can draw to actual events is frightening. How often have large portions of the public given up their power with detrimental and atrocious results? Too many.

“How long before all of humanity gave up on personal freedom and responsibility? How long before they forgot what that felt like at all?”

I also loved how Nova is presented throughout the book. Raised by the villains means she isn’t quite as enamored with the Renegades as the rest of society. So she comes across as bold, when really she’s simply the only one questioning what she sees. We don’t always need people rebelling in a society. A little active participation and asking questions rather than trusting good intentions is always the better course of action in terms of citizenry.

By the end of the book, who is good and who is evil is nearly impossible to decipher. Meyer forces the reader to really sit back and examine the information presented and form your own opinion. But she doesn’t make it easy. No one is entirely good, and while there are a few characters easily classified as proper villains, they aren’t all as simple to categorize. Even if they ally themselves with the villains.

“Heroism wasn’t about what you could do, it was about what you did.”

Renegades is the first in a Duology, with the sequel due out this fall. The title was also just announced: Arch Enemies. If you’ve read this and know how it ends, you’ll die screaming a thousand deaths at all the promise held in those two words! If not, you’ll know what sweet agony is promised as soon as you finish the final page.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Meyer’s, and am once again enthralled with her writing. She handles diversity and inclusiveness like no one’s business. I’m dying for November!

I read this as part of Mary Weber’s Facebook Book Club. The book was a gift from the best #bookfairy I’ve ever known, Tracy @thepagesinbetween. She’s an awesome blogger and is Queen of Thrillers! Go check her out!

The Hate U Give – Review

“When I was twelve, my parents had two talks with me. One was the usual birds and bees. The other talk was about what to do if a cop stopped me.”

The Hate U Give has been at the top of the New York Times Bestselling list for an impressive 51 weeks. Once you open the cover and read it, you immediately know why. This isn’t a novel relying on a plot full of catch phrases and timely references, THUG is a heartfelt, profound, and intricately deep look at one girls experience as a black teenager in America.

Starr Carter is torn between two worlds. The poor black neighborhood she lives and grew up in, and the mostly white prep school where she goes to school. Lives that she keeps mostly separate. The result of this separation is that Starr doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere.

“Funny how it works with white kids though. It’s dope to be black until it’s hard to be black.”

When her childhood best friend takes her home from a party one night, her world changes irrevocably. Pulled over and pulled out of the car, Khalid gets shot. By the officer. And Starr was right there.

The story that follows is one that should make most people uncomfortable. Yes, you read that right. You should be uncomfortable. There should be moments that you cringe. That you tear up. That you literally feel your heart break. For any child in this country to feel a tiny fraction of what Starr goes through is simply unacceptable. The heartbreaking reality is that this novel hits home way closer than it should. Because so many children feel exactly what she goes through, on some scale, every day.

When we watch the news, it’s easy to dismiss what we hear. In the specific instance of police shootings, to condemn the victim. To question how they lived, what they were doing, why this happened to them. Thomas examines all of those things through Starr. Seeing the news unfold. Watching the reports of Khalil’s history being brought into the discussion. How the perception of a person is enough to mark them guilty, or innocent.

“I hate that I let myself fall into that mind-set of trying to rationalize his death. And at the end of the day, you don’t kill someone for opening a car door. If you do, you shouldn’t be a cop.”

Somehow it’s become easy in this country to condemn people for the neighborhoods they live in, or the clothes that they wear, or the color of their skin. It becomes easy to justify small actions until they lead to big actions. And then it becomes easy to condemn those actions. And it’s impossible for ANY novel to fully encapsulate, explore, examine, and come to any meaningful conclusions on the topics of police violence, poverty, race, racism, white privilege, or any of the extremely important issues raised here.

Thomas doesn’t give us answers. She doesn’t wrap the conclusion up with a tidy bow. She doesn’t write easy answers, or give us superficial promise. Instead, she focuses entirely on Starr, and the journey she needs to go on.

While this is a story about all of those things, it is also a story about a girl finding her identity in a modern world. Should she confront a friend who says some borderline racist things under the guise of jokes? Should she break up with her white boyfriend because of the misunderstandings they’ll inevitably have, or the judgement others will inevitably heap on them? Should she fear white people because of how a select few behaved? Should she speak up and face backlash, or should she remain quiet and safe?

“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”

Everyone should read this book. Everyone. It isn’t a book for only young adults. This is a book for everyone. This book is full of real issues that youth in our country face today. That they have to navigate, and figure out. Literature is about introducing an understanding. Helping readers develop empathy and examine alternate perspectives. Thomas gives us a stunning glimpse into an issue that needs this more than ever.

I want to say so much more, but this really isn’t the post or forum to get into the discussions of race and racism. But, given how much controversy this book has stirred up, I will say this. If you are stuck on some of the commentary or scenes regarding Chris, or white people in general, in my opinion, you’re missing the point. The point is to understand Starr. To see the world as she sees it. To step back and see the humanity that is often forgotten when events like a police shooting scream across the headlines.

“It would be easy to quit if it was just about me, Khalil, that night, and that cop. It’s about more than that though. It’s about Seven. Sekani. Kenya. DeVante.

It’s also about Oscar.













It’s even about that little boy in 1955 who nobody recognized at first — Emmett.”

Take away statistics and studies. Take away the opinions. Take away the excuses. The justifications. The reasons. Read this book and envision Starr as your child. Don’t overthink it. Just feel it. Feel. Look at the list of names and feel.

We often get lost in the nuance of news. Who was right. Who was wrong. Thomas strips away the line between the two and forces us to recognize the fundamental fact that behind every story there is a person. A family. She isn’t asking you to pick a side. To solve the problem. THUG simply presents an opportunity for conversation. One that I hope everyone participates in.

I obviously recommend this book to EVERYONE! If I could, I’d hand it out on the streets. Needless to say I’m looking forward to anything and everything that Angie Thomas writes in the future!

Otherworld – Review

“A future in which there’s only one all-powerful Company doesn’t seem totally preposterous anymore.”

Otherworld is the reboot of a virtual reality game that people swore was like heaven, it was so perfect. What we actually get in this book is Otherworld 2.0, the revamped version brought back from the virtual dead by a young billionaire.

Initially the headsets are limited, and Simon manages to get a set for him and his not girlfriend, Kat. Apparently this is the only way he can see her, and he goes to some pretty extreme lengths to do it. Obviously things fall apart fairly quickly, and both headsets end up getting destroyed.

But when Kat ends up in an accident, Simon is convinced it wasn’t an accident after all, and that Otherworld holds the answers he’s looking for. Stumbling into a top secret test program that eliminates the need for a headset at all, Simon begins to see the plans the Corporation actually has for Otherworld. Suddenly, he’s not just playing a game, but the game of his life. Literally.

“This is true virtual reality — not just sight, sound and touch. Tap into the brain and you can engage all five senses.”

It’s been a few weeks since I finished Otherworld, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. It’s still a solid three star read for me. I don’t know if I read it too soon after Ready Player One, which just blew the virtual reality parts of this book to bits, or if I just wasn’t that impressed. It was a fun read, and I enjoyed reading it, don’t get me wrong. But, if you’re looking for smart science fiction, this isn’t it.

Otherworld is definitely a YA book. It is written for a Young Adult audience, and while it has some humorous parts that adults and more mature readers will like, it’s still firmly in the mid-teen YA spectrum.

Simon is an interesting character. He is a weird mix of likable asshole. I had an easier time visualizing him when I pictured Jason Segel’s humor, but if you aren’t familiar with his previous movies and shows, I’m not sure it comes across on it’s own merit. He is a bit spoiled, very privileged, and while his loyalty to Kat is impressive, he just didn’t find his way into my heart. That said, I didn’t hate him either. I think he could have been a bit better developed.

We end up with a story within a story, or rather two different plots taking place. One inside Otherworld and one in the real world. Simon has to straddle both, and figure out how the two are related to each other.

“It’s not virtual if it changes who you are.”

Otherworld does bring up important conversations about technology. When does virtual reality just become reality. At what point can that technology take over our every day lives? Can it influence and change the way we behave as a society? I think presenting these questions to a generation that will have to explore these questions in more detail is smart. I wish it presented more for them to analyze, but to raise the questions is a valid start.

The plot inside Otherworld is also fairly interesting, and I wish it was a lot more developed, or that they continue to develop it in future books. The idea that somehow a virtual world could “create” it’s own new characters and rules. Sort of an advanced AI or sorts, limited to existing in just this world.

This war between the original components and The Children was an fascinating discussion into implications of technology and what happens when we humans begin developing things that we really have no control over, or really understanding of. I think that this would have been an endlessly fascinating thread to really examine. But, in the scope of that younger YA audience, the world building in that regard was minimal. Again, I hope they dive down this rabbit hole in the future.

I think pieces of Otherworld are unique and fun, but really, it’s fairly standard video game “levels” presented within a virtual world. It raises important questions but doesn’t really explore them in any meaningful way, at least not yet. But it is a fun read, and goes by fast.

A Short History of the Girl Next Door – Review

“I am completely in love with my best friend from childhood, she has absolutely no idea, and now she’s interested in older, more popular guys. This sounds like a bad movie already.”

A Short History of the Girl Next Door starts with Matt Wainwright catching us up on his lifelong friendship with Tabby, the girl next door, and how he went from being her best friend to being in love with her.

The first half of the book is very funny. This is very typical come of age YA, told from the perspective of a teenage boy. The internal observations and dialogue veer from quite insightful to highly inappropriate. To me, this made Matt feel like a very real adolescent boy.

Instead of being in friends with the beautiful popular girl while he himself is an awkward geek, Matt instead is just a normal freshman jock. He plays basketball, and while he is awkward and strange, Reck writes him in that normal freshman awkwardness that most of us probably remember feeling and being. Which I really liked. Because this isn’t a typical unrequited love story. It is something far better.

We meet his younger brother Murray, an adorable four year old that you can’t help but smile at in nearly every scene. His grandparents and his parents. There is nothing dysfunctional or odd, other than normal quirky human personalities. And Tabby. Who is as much a part of this family as anyone.

It is the second half of this novel that we get hit in the gut with tragedy. An accident shifts everything for Matt, and his story changes into one of grief. How powerful and overwhelming it can be. How it shifts your perspective on everything in life. And how it can be so deep, that it changes who you are.

This isn’t a normal come of age tale. This isn’t a story about a boy loving a girl. This really is a novel about the power of family and love. About how growing up can mean facing some of the hardest things, about how out of control life can be, and what we can do in the face of helplessness.

The thing I like about this novel is that while the point of the plot is grief, Reck doesn’t take the easy road. He doesn’t hold back in how he portrays Matt. Matt makes some really strange decisions. And behaves from the moment of the accident rather badly most of the time. As a mother, and someone far outside of adolescence, seeing these decisions is even a bit more heartbreaking, because you can see what’s happening and understand it. But it is an unflinching dive into those emotions that is so stunning. There is no right way to grieve, and there is no easy answer. These are important lessons and Reck writes them so vividly, it’s impossible not to be moved.

Outside of the grief, there are some fantastic lessons about life written in these pages. One observation that struck me was about locker room talk. We see it, and hear it. We get to read Matt’s reaction to it, how he wishes he reacted, how he actually did react. But, Reck takes us even further and discusses the implications of that talk.

“They’re automatically going to see Tabby differently. Even if it’s just a dumb joke. Every time one of them sees her, that though is going to pop into his head. And he’s going to wonder. I’m doing it right now, and I hate myself for it. Meanwhile, the flawless perception of Branson goes unchanged.”

I mean, can we all just take a moment and stop to really examine the profound truth of that excerpt. And not just the truth behind it, but the fact that it’s in a YA novel, from a teenage male perspective? This is such a phenomenal message.

There is more in these pages. Observations on friendship, family, love, growth, competition and forgiveness. This is a book that should be introduced to teenagers and talked about with them. It isn’t a book of cliche moments and happy endings. Rather it is an honest look at what life can hand us at any given moment. It is about how we recover from the bad decisions we make. How we ask for forgiveness when we hurt the people we love, and how we forgive ourselves.

The Short History of a Girl Next Door is a powerful book. It is one worth taking the journey into, especially if you know or are an adolescent facing grief in any capacity. It is a book that can help you grow and can help you learn. Highly, highly recommend it. Just make sure you have a box if tissues nearby.

Thank you Blogging for Books and Knopf books for sending me a copy to read and review!

Ready Player One – Review

“Going outside is highly overrated.”

Virtual Reality has been the stuff of science fiction for a long time. Simulated worlds, offering everything that real life simply can’t. And as a society that is closer to achieving the immersion into these worlds than ever before, I think the idea of exploring these virtual worlds is more important than ever.


Not only do I find the idea behind virtual reality so fascinating, but honestly, I am slightly in love with anything that is fully dystopian ready. And virtual reality screams dystopia. An entire system that appears on the surface to be utopia, exploited or manipulated by one or the many to be turned into a nightmare. I think the question we need to be asking ourselves is why there isn’t MORE virtual reality dystopias in the world!

Ready Player One shows us a grim future. A world where resources have dwindled, forcing people to build gigantic towers of haphazard homes near cities for the hope of power, food and water. It’s a dismal world, where reality is unpleasant. The only thing most people look forward to, the only thing that makes life bearable, is the alternate world of the OASIS.

“For me, growing up as a human being on the plant Earth in the twenty-first century was a real kick in the teeth. Existentially speaking.”

The OASIS is an entire virtual world, or worlds, where people work, go to school, vacation, and live their best lives. People don’t choose to spend time in reality. They choose to spend their time in the OASIS.

“You don’t live in the real world, Z. From what you’ve told me, I don’t think you ever have. You’re like me. You live inside this illusion.”

The world building alone in this virtual reality system is something I easily could have spent hours reading about. The level of detail and imagination that went into the systems, and these worlds was incredible. This is an example of writing that could have become bogged down with too much information, but Cline was smart in how he wove in the details of the world to be relevant to the plot. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by details, I was instead transported into a lush landscape that is mind-boggling in scope but sharp in focus.

Wade, our protagonist, is just trying to graduate his virtual high school and find his way in a world where jobs are scarce. His only plan is to find Halliday’s Easter egg, a hidden prize embedded deep within the OASIS world, coded by Halliday himself, and found only by solving a series of clues and puzzles. The person who finds this egg wins the entire fortune of Halliday, which means billions of dollars.

Here’s where the fun of this book begins. Rather than take us through a meandering bombardment of virtual worlds, Cline instead focuses the hunt in a specific way.

“The Hunt, as the contest came to be known, quickly wove its way into global culture. Like winning the lottery, finding Halliday’s Easter egg became a popular fantasy among adults and children alike.”

The creator, Jim Halliday, grew up in the 80’s. A time when he met his best friend and co-creator, Ogden Morrow, and they started a little company that grew into one of the largest corporations in the world. When Halliday died, an email with a video and a link to his website were sent to every player in OASIS. The only clue was an obscure riddle and a link to an Almanac. The Almanac itself was over a thousand pages long and went into Halliday’s thoughts on movies, music, video games and all things pop culture 80’s.

Suddenly, a decade once looked down on for it’s decadence and abundance, one that would have been forgotten, is thrust into back into relevance and popularity. Personally, I thought this twist was pure genius.

The 80’s was not the end all be all for science fiction, or video games, or even technology. So I get why some people may not see the connection between the future we are reading about and that particular decade. But, the 80’s was known for its greed, for its excess. To show it as an obsession in a time that knows only poverty and thin resources was subtle but brilliant.

Beyond that, the main competitor and threat to Wade after he stumbles on the answer to the first clue isn’t other gunters, the name he and fellow egg hunters are known as, but IOI, a giant corporation willing to throw any and all resources at finding the egg and owning OASIS. They want to take something that is very inexpensive and available to the masses, and turn it into a money making machine where only the privileged few can really thrive. Which fits in with 80’s greed. We may see that behavior in corporations now, but that mentality was born in the 80’s.

The writing is full of wonderful dry sarcasm, and there’s a subtle mocking tone to the absurdity of living life in a virtual world woven throughout the plot.

“It suddenly occurred to me just how absurd this scene was: a guy wearing a suit or armor, standing next to an undead king, both hunched over the controls of a classic arcade game.”

It also carries a really good analysis of what technology can do to a civilization. Or rather, the possibility of what can happen. The entire plot is carried primarily within a virtual world, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t see the wasteland the unvirtual one has become.

“It had become a self-imposed prison for humanity,” he wrote. “A pleasant place for the world to hide from its problems while human civilization slowly collapses, primarily due to neglect.”

I find that good dystopian shows us both the good and the bad of the world it presents. It may carry a message, or even a warning, but the information is merely presented for us to digest and interpret. We are given characters to embody the arguments and it is then up to us to form our opinions. Ready Player One does this spectacularly.

Ready Player One is fun science fiction. It takes us into a future that on the surface seems to be going backwards, but has the technology to move it forward. While it will appeal to video gamers by its sheer plot subject alone, I think even non-gamers will delight in falling into the virtual world Cline has created. I also cannot wait to see what magic Spielberg gives us on the big screen.


Hinder – Review + GIVEAWAY


Ethan Sutcliff seems like a normal seventeen-year-old—at least that’s what he’s trying to portray. In a secret society run by the Supernaturals, Ethan is what witches call a Bender. Benders are Witches’ Guardians, who are able to control a witches’ ability, bend it, or move it away from harming humans. In Ethan’s case, he is able to bend the Earth element. But at the age of fifteen, he lost all connection to it, and the reasons behind it could only mean one of two things: His Wielder is either dead, or hiding out somewhere.

Alex Burgendorf has been living in her aunt’s locket for the past sixteen years with her mother—a Fire Wielder, and her father—a Water Wielder. For sixteen years, her parents vowed to protect her, and they have, as she is the last Earth wielding witch. However, time is running out. Alex must find her Bender, or the fate of the Supernaturals might be at stake.


Hinder is a very creative take on the supernatural world. Benders rely on their compatible Wielder to give them the power for the element they are meant to control. Ethan, being a rare Earth Bender, is hunted from a young age because of it. When he loses his abilities, everyone assumes his Wielder is dead.

Alex has been hidden in a magical locket for years. Her parents know that being an Earth Wielder is a dangerous fate and would do anything to protect her. But it is time to reconnect her with her Bender so they can learn to control their powers together.

When they finally meet, albeit under a powerful glamour hiding Alex’s true identity, they immediately feel the pull between them. They have to resist or risk one destroying the other.

As if High School isn’t enough, or fighting your own teenage impulses, Alex and Ethan have to figure all that out while fighting for their lives. Oh, and the fate of the Supernatural world.

Fans of paranormal romance will enjoy this unique supernatural novel.

Thank you Rockstar Book Tours for including me on this tour and sending me a copy to read and review! Make sure to take a look at the rest of the tour (listed below) and check out the AMAZING giveaway!!! Also, stop by Rockstar Book Tours website for past tours and to see what’s coming up! Link HERE or click the banner at the top of this post!




Author: Kristin Ping

Pub. Date: May 15, 2018

Publisher: Fire Quill Publishing

Pages: 443

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Find it: GoodreadsAmazonB&NiBooksKoboGoogle Play Books




Kristin resides in South Africa with her husband, two beautiful girls and two bulldogs that tries to eat her house. She has been writing for the past eight years and her first debut novel, Hinder: A Bender’s novel will be published 2018 by Fire Quill Publishing. When she isn’t writing, she is spending her time with her family, or trying to teach her two bulldogs to not eat her house.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads




Want to win a Mac. Every two to three months, Kristin Ping is giving away a mac, all you have to do is subscribe to her newsletter, confirm to the confirmation email that will either be in your inbox or spam, and open the letter. Find the secret facebook group, join and enter the giveaway. It’s as easy as that. We even give you extra entries by inviting your friends to subscribe too. We already gave away the first laptop.

There are two ways to do this.


CLICK HERE and fill out the Google Doc!


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Crows of Winter Pre Order Prize

PRE-ORDER HINDER FOR JUST $0.99! Yes, you’ve heard right! There’s a pre-order special for only $0.99. For the first month, Hinder will be only $2.99, as part of a release month blitz. After that, it will increase to it’s normal price of $4.99. So this is a major deal to get this fantastic pre-order price of just $0.99. GRAB YOUR COPY NOW AND CLAIM YOUR GIFT: CROWS OF WINTER.

CROWS OF WINTER is a bundle of three stories. Two of them were exclusively written for Hinder Pre-Order drive. They will not be available for purchase.

CROWS OF WINTER includes Lucian’s Ascension, written by Adrienne Woods; Venom, a Novelette also by Adrienne Woods; and introductory short story to Guardian of Monsters, written by Kristin Ping.

Be sure to click the link below and fill out the form in order to claim your free gift:

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

1/1/2018- Book-o-Craze – Review

1/2/2018- Darque Dreamer Reads– Review

1/3/2018- Adventures Thru Wonderland– Review

1/4/2018- Jena Brown Writes– Review

1/5/2018- Book Huntress’ World– Review

Week Two:

1/8/2018- Books and Ladders– Review

1/9/2018- Fire and Ice– Review

1/10/2018- Jrsbookreviews– Review

1/11/2018- The Inked In Book Blog– Review

1/12/2018- A Gingerly Review– Review

Week Three:

1/15/2018- Hooked To Books– Excerpt

1/16/2018- Pervy Ladies Books Review

1/17/2018- books are love– Review

1/18/2018- Literary Musings– Excerpt

1/19/2018- Hauntedbybooks13– Review

Week Four:

1/22/2018- A Reader’s Life– Review

1/23/2018- Wishful Endings– Excerpt

1/24/2018- SimplyAllyTea– Review

1/25/2018- Dani Reviews Things– Review

1/26/2018- A Dream Within A Dream– Excerpt

Week Five:

1/29/2018- Blushing Bibliophile– Review

1/30/2018- BookHounds YA– Review

1/31/2018- Abooktropolis– Review









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!

Green – Review

“It seemed like the smoke of those riots spread all across the continent, all the way to Boston.”

Green is a unique coming of age story, told from 12 year old David Greenfield, growing up in Boston in the early 90’s. The year Green focuses on for the entirety of the novel, is the year 92-93. We start when Dave is entering 6th grade, and the novel ends right before his 7th grade year begins.

The year is significant, because this school year is a milestone year for Dave. He has the only chance to take an entrance exam to get into Latin, a school that grooms students for college. The school is also notoriously a feeder school for Harvard. And Dave feels that Harvard is the answer to all of his problems. Or at least out of the ghetto he believes he and his family lives in.

Even more significantly, Dave feels very self-conscious attending King Middle School. He is one of a very small population of white kids, and he feels after the riots and Rodney King trial, that suddenly, his being white is more noticeable to his peers than before.

His first few weeks of school are exactly as he expects: being ignored, or hassled, feeling left out and left behind. His parents won’t buy him new shoes or stylish clothes. Even his quasi best friend ditches him for cooler friends. But life begins to look up when Marlon Wellings sticks up for him to a bully and their friendship begins to grow.

“It’s starting to hit me: Mar isn’t just my best friend, he’s my first. Up until now I had no idea just how lonely I’d been.”

I am on the fence with this book, and my review may contain some mild spoilers, though I will try and avoid them as much as possible.

This novel is based on the author’s own childhood and experiences. And, in that sense, I can’t argue. I can say, however, that I didn’t really connect with Dave and the style that it’s written is very distracting. Mostly, I’m referring to the language. So. Much. Slang.

Here’s the thing with slang. I get that kids use slang words. It’s that this is a book written from Dave’s perspective, solely in the first person. And I just don’t buy that a kid would talk this much slang, all the time, as the voice in his head. It didn’t feel natural or real to me. I’ve never met anyone who talks like this kid. Maybe they exist, maybe this really is how a kid would hear himself speak. I don’t know. But for me, it didn’t feel real.

It’s hard to say if the author chose to write that way to highlight the way Dave felt out of place and was trying so hard to fit in. Because the kid does try to fit in. He is ashamed of his own personality, or so it seems, and only wants to fit in with the cool kids. So perhaps the slang is simply really driving home how hard he tries and how awkward he really is. It certainly felt awkward reading, so I can see that angle.

I also have an issue with how his brother Benno is handled. We know that Benno has chosen not to speak for over a year. That he had an accident, where he cut himself, and since then has been under therapeutic care and attends a special school. Dave often resents the treatment Benno gets. One example is how Benno gets tater tots with meals, while Dave is forced to eat homegrown vegetables and rarely gets processed food. Benno often gets to stay home from school and has little rules dictating his behavior at home.

I find it odd that parents who are so invested in one child, would be so oblivious to the anxiety of their other child. I suppose it happens, parents often can make a healthy child feel overlooked in the face of a sick one, but they rarely even try to explain what’s going on with Benno when Dave tries to talk to them about his own struggles. Even worse, we never even get to understand or learn why or what Benno is going through.

But what really bothers me about the book the most, is that Dave doesn’t seem to learn any lessons at all. He complains, often and loudly, about no one having his back. Yet, he repeatedly lets his friends get beat up and picked on. Even when Mar spells this out to him, he can’t muster the courage to even speak up, let alone jump in to help. He acknowledges his fear, but never seems to comprehend that no one will defend him unless he starts defending either himself or others.

Dave is obviously a kid so desperate for attention and approval, that he is willing to sacrifice his friends feelings and needs if someone ‘better’ is around and offering either of those things. And he doesn’t seem to understand why his relationship with Mar changes after betrayal after betrayal occurs. He is oblivious. Which I would expect of a kid, but Mar is patient and explains his reactions multiple times. Dave just doesn’t want to settle for anything he perceives as less. Unfortunately, Mar falls into that less category too frequently to maintain a semblance of a friendship. And while Mar seems to realize this, Dave never sees his role in the distance.

“His head is tilted to the universe, but he looks more lonely than awed. Everyone else is smiling and pointing, and he’s just standing there, squinting, biting his upper lip.”

A good come of age novel should have an “aha” moment. A moment where the main characters realizes where he went wrong and attempts to fix it. Dave sort of has this moment at the end, a moment where he confronts his old best friend and tries to talk to Mar one last time. But it felt like very little, and far too late. And even then, I never got the sense that Dave really understood why Mar distanced himself from Dave.

This book is supposed to be about class and privilege. And while it’s clear to the reader that Dave is sort of spoiled and immature and very privileged, Dave himself never really seems to have his “aha” moment. He realizes he has made wrong choices in regards to his friendship with Mar, but it’s completely unclear by the end of the book whether he really understands how much easier his life is simply because of the color of his skin.

He feels a lot of resentment towards the other kids in his neighborhood because of the color of his skin, but he never seems to piece together that this resentment is because of his privilege not him. Maybe that realization is difficult for a sixth grader to comprehend, but since so much of this novel hinges on that dynamic, it’s hard to sympathize with a kid who feels picked on, and can identify racist behavior without understanding at least on some level that he lives a far different life than his peers. Especially when he visually sees the drastic differences in their living conditions and lives.

I’ve read books that I’ve enjoyed without liking the main character. But, this is a tough one, because he is the story. And I just didn’t like him. Maybe I was meant to sympathize with him feeling ostracized and confused about who he is. But he just didn’t come across as likable. He needed more redeeming moments and to become aware of his privilege far earlier in the novel.

Thank you to the First To Read program for sending an early copy to read and review.