Tarnished by Kate Jarvik Birch



author : kate jarvik birch

pages : [hardcover] 304

favorite character : missy

summary :

Freedom comes at a cost…

Ella was genetically engineered to be the perfect pet—graceful, demure…and kept. In a daring move, she escaped her captivity and took refuge in Canada. But while she can think and act as she pleases, the life of a liberated pet is just as confining as the Congressman’s gilded cage. Her escape triggered a backlash, and now no one’s safe, least
of all the other pets. But she’s trapped, unable to get back
to Penn—the boy she loves—or help the girls who need her.

Back in the United States, pets are turning up dead. With help from a very unexpected source, Ella slips deep into the dangerous black market, posing as a tarnished pet available to buy or sell. If she’s lucky, she’ll be able to rescue Penn and expose the truth about the breeding program. If she fails, Ella will pay not only with her life, but the lives
of everyone she’s tried to save…

review :

I was so excited to get my hands on Tarnished because with the ending of Perfected, the first book, I absolutely needed to know what was going to happen next in Ella and Penn’s story. While I feel like Tarnished suffered from second-book syndrome, it really did a great job of building itself up to a conclusion in what I’m pretty sure is a trilogy. I guess I’ll need to wait for book three to find out if I’ll get all of my answers there!

In Tarnished, Ella’s story begins in Canada, where she’s being looked after as a fugitive pet. She desperately wants news of what is happening to Penn back in New York because of what happened during their escape. She teams up with an unlikely ally to smuggle herself back into the United States, not only so that she can reunite with her boyfriend but so she can expose the kennels and win freedom for herself, and other pets, once and for all.

I think what’s unfortunate for this book is that there are several others extremely similar to it that came out around the same time it was published. Just one that comes to mind is The Jewel; I’mc certain there are many more. I don’t understand what it is about authors who were all tempted to write about the forced enslavement/servitude of girls, all with an insanely creepy edge, but Tarnished manages to stand out so far because Birch really talks about the politics that go into play when some standard like this is being ‘normalized’ in society. It’s kind of scary, knowing that this same thing happens, with different results, in reality. Ella doesn’t know who to trust because the politicians are the ones who own all of the pets, the police are being bought, and half of the population doesn’t consider pets like her to be even close to human. Her actions bring about a kind of unrest that isn’t exactly foreign in the US today.

Although pieces of this book were predictable, perhaps because the genre has become so over-saturated, Tarnished still kept me on my toes. I wanted to know what was going to happen to the girls because even when I knew something terrible was going to happen, I didn’t know how that horrible moment would take shape. I think some readers might be slightly put-off by how naive Ella seems to be. But she’s been cloistered throughout her entire life so, really, it doesn’t make sense that she would put together answers that the reader will inevitably guess at. I want Ella to get her happy ending, after all of the horror she’s endured and had to learn about, just as much as she wants it for herself.

This book was a quick read, with some great action and an interesting premise. I’d recommend it.

3/5 stars

Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George

Silver in the Blood

Silver in the Blood #1

author : jessica day george

pages : [hardcover] 358

favorite character : lou

summary :

Society girls from New York City circa 1890, Dacia and Lou never desired to know more about their lineage, instead preferring to gossip about the mysterious Romanian family that they barely knew. But upon turning seventeen, the girls must return to their homeland to meet their relatives, find proper husbands, and—most terrifyingly—learn the deep family secrets of The Claw, The Wing, and The Smoke. The Florescus, after all, are shape-shifters, and it is time for Dacia and Lou to fulfill the prophecy that demands their acceptance of this fate… or fight against this cruel inheritance with all their might.

With a gorgeous Romanian setting, stunning Parisian gowns, and dark brooding young men, readers will be swept up by this epic adventure of two girls in a battle for their lives.

review :

I first heard about Silver in the Blood because I’ve read some of Jessica Day George’s work before. She tends to publish works influenced by fairy tales, which are always my absolute favorite stories to read. Coupled with this gorgeous, intriguing cover, I had to pick this up when I finally spotted it at the library.

Silver in the Blood is nothing like I anticipated. Although it has a slow pace, it has an interesting setting, premise, and characters. Leading ladies Dacia and Lou are polar opposites; Dacia is outspoken and wild whereas Lou is quiet and prone to panic in social situations. From the very beginning, I related and loved Lou. I loved how her character developed and rooted for her from the start. I do think that her personal journey went on a little quickly, though of course there are mysterious forces at work in this book so I’m assuming that ‘magic’ aspect might have had an influence on her personality. Because that was never expressly started, I had a little issue with it.

I don’t think that I would have enjoyed this plot so much if it hadn’t been for the setting. Not only was it fantastic to read a book set in Romania, because there aren’t many of those on my shelves, but both ladies are well-bred women at the end of the 1800s and have several social stigmas to fight against. I love how neither of them differed to men or once considered her limitations (apart from some complaints about how their dress limited their movement!). Lou and Dacia need to keep their reputations pristine in society, of course, but they find ways around that and, when it comes to their true happiness, neither seems to care what ‘society’ thinks of them.

The magical aspects of this book are fantastic; I won’t go into it in detail because it takes practically half of the book to get to the great reveal to the girls about what their family is. And I’m thankful I didn’t read the book summary before I picked it up, or else it would have all been spoiled for me before I’d be able to read and use context clues to figure the mystery out for myself. It’s utterly disappointing that they’d have so much detail on the summary when they know readers won’t get to it for hundreds of pages!

There were many tiny details that frustrated me because I wanted further explanation; I didn’t know until I finished this book that it was obviously setting itself up for a sequel. While I do think that an entire, faster-paced story could have been told about this world and these characters, I’ll be picking up the sequel. Now that the basics of the story have been established, I’m hoping that the plot will really pick up speed!

3.5 stars

The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott

The Wonder of All Things

author : jason mott

pages : [hardcover] 304

favorite characters : ava & wash

summary :

From critically acclaimed and New York Times bestselling author Jason Mott comes a spellbinding tale of love, sacrifice and the power of miracles.

On an ordinary day, at an air show like that in any small town across the country, a plane crashes into a crowd of spectators, killing and injuring dozens. But when the dust clears, a thirteen-year-old girl named Ava is found huddled beneath a pocket of rubble with her best friend, Wash. He is injured and bleeding, and when Ava places her hands over him, his wounds miraculously disappear. Ava has a unique gift: she can heal others of their physical ailments. Until the air show tragedy, her gift was a secret. But now the whole world knows, and suddenly Ava is thrust into the spotlight. People from all over the globe begin flocking to her small town, looking for healing and eager to glimpse the wonder of a miracle. But Ava’s unusual ability comes at a great cost, her own health, and as she grows weaker with each healing, Ava begins searching for an escape. Wash agrees to help Ava, but little does she know he has his own secret he’s been harboring, and soon Ava finds herself having to decide just how much she’s willing to sacrifice in order to save the one she loves most.

review :

I was fortunate enough to be approved to read this book on NetGalley a long time ago and finally got around to reading this one. I realized after requesting it, because it sounded incredibly interesting, that the author–Jason Mott–also wrote the novel The Returned. That book was turned into a TV series and, I have to admit, wasn’t a great read for me, so I was wary going into this one.

In the end, I did like it a lot more. The Returned bothered me mostly because I failed to connect with the writing style. The Wonder of All Things didn’t give me such problems. I loved the choppy way the story was told because the multiple perspectives added suspense, increased the aura of mystery, and gave a broader view of how the world reacted after Ava helped Wash.

Ava and Wash’s relationship was one of my favorite aspects of the novel. In the murk of political talks, philosophical hypotheses, and crazy people trying to get to Ava, their childhood friendship was so incredibly normal and sweet. They’re best friends and clearly made for each other. I loved seeing how they so fiercely tried to protect one another while not thinking of themselves. For thirteen year olds, they’re incredibly unselfish.

What didn’t captivate me about the book was the lack of a conclusion. It felt like the novel was building up to something, carefully setting up the pieces of a puzzle involving Ava’s mother and the glimpses we get of her through Ava’s memories. Many characters have their own tiny plots that never see a resolution. The end of the book, while enjoyable, was less than satisfying when set in combination with all of the other things we don’t get to find out about these characters.

I do think that I’ll pick up Jason Mott’s next novel, whenever it comes out and whatever it might be. I have to admit that he’s a skilled writer, though I’ve yet to try one of his books that I’ve really loved!

Placebo Junkies by J. C. Carleson

Placebo Junkies

author : j.c. carleson

pages : [hardcover] 304

favorite character : dylan

summary :

Going Bovine meets Trainspotting in this gritty portrait of at-risk teens gaming the prescription drug trial system.

Meet Audie: Professional lab rat. Guinea pig. Serial human test subject. For Audie and her friends, “volunteering” for pharmaceutical drug trials means a quick fix and easy cash.
Sure, there’s the occasional nasty side effect, but Audie’s got things under control. If Monday’s pill causes a rash, Tuesday’s ointment usually clears it right up. Wednesday’s injection soothes the sting from Tuesday’s “cure,” and Thursday’s procedure makes her forget all about Wednesday’s headache. By the time Friday rolls around, there’s plenty of cash in hand and perhaps even a slot in a government-funded psilocybin study, because WEEKEND!

But the best fix of all is her boyfriend, Dylan, whose terminal illness just makes them even more compatible. He’s turning eighteen soon, so Audie is saving up to make it an unforgettable birthday. That means more drug trials than ever before, but Dylan is worth it.
No pain, no gain, Audie tells herself as the pills wear away at her body and mind. No pain, no gain, she repeats as her grip on reality starts to slide….

Raw and irreverent, Placebo Junkies will captivate readers until the very end, when author J. C. Carleson leans in for a final twist of the knife.

review :

 Placebo Junkies was nothing like I thought it would be, in some good ways and some bad.

J.C. Carleson can definitely write. I’ll be checking out more by this author to see if there’s another book that might appeal to me a little more. With this novel, the premise is what really made me pick it up, because it’s so unusual. People who make their living testing dangerous, unknown drugs? Audie is involved in so many trials that she often can’t even remember what the drugs she’s taking (or lies about taking) are supposed to be doing for her. It isn’t like she’s really sick and needs help with something; she just needs the money. It’s business, simple and clean.

Throughout the novel, things are pretty dark. Audie is very open about her experiences, the ups and downs she has with the side effects of her medication, and it seems like everyone who was supposed to care for her in the world has abandoned her. Things are bleak for the others in her apartment, too. A bunch of people in the testing business all live in the same apartment and seem to understand her like no one else will ever be able to. Her boyfriend, Dylan, who’s now cancer-free and not part of the drug trials, doesn’t seem to relate to her testing fixation.

And then things took a turn that I wasn’t expecting and didn’t know if I would enjoy. Around halfway through the novel, something changes that will make you want to go back and reread the entire book from the start again through this new perspective. I’m not sure if I would have enjoyed Placebo Junkiesmore without this twist (which I would never spoil for you) but it just didn’t work for me. It wasn’t as satisfying and intriguing as the perceived idea and original characters had been.

I think this is one that most people would need to read for themselves to see if they’d enjoy this type of novel. It’s the kind that appears to be one thing and ends up something else entirely. Both sides of it were well-written and I did like the ending, apart from it being a little ambiguous. Audie wasn’t exactly relatable, and I didn’t so much sympathize her as want to understand her, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from her story.

I’d recommend this book to people interested in a gritty look at the world of clinical drug trials, a great plot twist you’ll never expect, and complicated characters.

3/5 stars

The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

The Chaos of Stars

author : kiersten white

pages : [hardcover] 277

memorable quote I do believe in fate and destiny, but I also believe we are only fated to do the things that we’d choose anyway.

favorite character : ry

summary :

Kiersten White, New York Times bestselling author of Paranormalcy, is back with The Chaos of Stars—an enchanting novel set in Egypt and San Diego that captures the magic of first love and the eternally complicated truth about family.

Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up—which comes with the territory when you’re the human daughter of the ancient Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris. Isadora is tired of living with crazy relatives who think she’s only worthy of a passing glance—so when she gets the chance to move to California with her brother, she jumps on it. But her new life comes with plenty of its own dramatic—and dangerous—complications . . . and Isadora quickly learns there’s no such thing as a clean break from family.

Blending Ally Carter’s humor and the romance of Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly, The Chaos of Stars takes readers on an unforgettable journey halfway across the world and back, and proves there’s no place like home.

review :

If there’s anything I can’t resist it’s a book that says it references mythology. The Chaos of Stars tells the tale of children of gods, but not one like those seen out there in the industry today. These kids have no powers, no destiny, no immortality. Imagine how it would be, a human living among the immortal and powerful gods. That’s Isadora’s life and she’s tired of it. As soon as she found out that her parents weren’t willing to save her, allowing her to not only die a mortal death but to decorate her tomb, she tries to cut herself off from her family.

Unfortunately for her, the gods don’t want her to get away so easily. Her mother remains controlling and something dark, evil, and able to kill a god is lurking in Isadora’s dreams.

This story was fairly simple. I knew going in that it was a standalone, which was kind of shocking to me because most books today have a million installments and the plot here moves slow. I mean, slow. So much happens in the last twenty pages of the book because of that molasses buildup. In the beginning, I enjoyed it. I wanted to get to know Isadora’s home life and what the Egyptian gods were like in their ‘modern’ forms, in relation to her. Learning more about Egyptian mythology (with snarky quips from Isadora about how these myths lend to the modern day) was a lot of fun. But as soon as she got to America, I didn’t see the need for anything but speed.

Despite how much the mythology and the way gods were portrayed captured my interest, the book was painfully predictable. I’m not entirely sure if any of it was really supposed to be a plot twist. Well, there was an attempt for a red herring, which didn’t quite work, and another ‘twist’ about her relationship with one of her friends that Isadora found out about oh, thirty pages from the end, and I called from the very moment she met this kid.

Still, I enjoy Kiersten White’s writing. I loved her Paranormalcy trilogy and while this definitely wasn’t a favorite for me, I’ll read more by her. Next time, though, I’ll be checking it out of the library.

Mythology: 100%
Writing: 70%
Characters: 80%
Action: 65%
Plot: 70%
Overall: 77%

3/5 stars

Prodigy by Marie Lu


Legend #2
Book 1: Legend

author : marie lu

pages : [hardcover] 371

memorable quote He is beauty, inside and out.
He is the silver lining in a world of darkness.

favorite character : day

summary :

Injured and on the run, it has been seven days since June and Day barely escaped Los Angeles and the Republic with their lives. Day is believed dead having lost his own brother to an execution squad who thought they were assassinating him. June is now the Republic’s most wanted traitor. Desperate for help, they turn to the Patriots – a vigilante rebel group sworn to bring down the Republic. But can they trust them or have they unwittingly become pawns in the most terrifying of political games?

review :

I have a feeling that this is a trilogy that only keeps getting better. While it isn’t one of my favorites (and I wanted so badly to love it!) these books have some great elements that I think everyone should take a look at. I love a book that makes you think.

For instance, just as soon as you’re sure you have it all figured out in Prodigy . . . something comes along and blows it all away. In an amazingly realistic sense. It’s hard to pinpoint who, exactly, is the bad guy here because everyone has their different motivations, their evils and kindnesses, and there are so many agendas going on that it’s difficult for June and Day to know who their real allies are. Apart from each other, of course. The way their relationship progressed was pretty sweet, too.

Again, I just have a problem with the writing style. I’m unsure of whether it’s Marie Lu or simply the way she crafted these books. I’m tempted to continue following her writing even after I finish Champion because she has amazing ideas and I WANT to be able to enjoy them more.

Something I really did love? The action. Yes, these books are perfect for people looking for an adrenaline rush–and if you need nothing else, I’m certain you’ll love them. There’s never a dull moment here because even when the characters are resting, it’s usually only because they’ve discovered a new and terrible plot twist that’s about to make a whole other mess come down on them.

 Day is still my favorite character to read because, come on, who doesn’t prefer the rebellious badass. I love June for who she is, the strength she has, and the beautifully sharp mind she’s got . . . but there’s just something about vigilante justice that’s that much cooler.

While these aren’t my favorite books, I’ll recommend that others at least give them a go. I know there are others out there who’ll love them more than me!

Writing: 55%
Characters: 80%
Romance: 60%
Action: 100%
Plot: 70%
Overall: 73%

3/5 stars

Kisses and Curses (Short Story Collection)

Kisses and Curses

edited by : lauren burniac

pages : [paperback] 400

featuring : marissa meyer, leigh bardugo, marie rutkoski, and many more!

summary :

A fabulous collection of short stories from your favorite Fierce Reads authors, perfect for fans and new readers!

Beloved of readers and booksellers, our Fierce Reads program has garnered tons of enthusiastic fans since its inauguration in 2012. Now, the authors you know and love are coming together in one book! With standalone short stories from a handpicked set of FR authors, this fabulous collection will include a mix of original content and popular favorites, and will often feature characters or worlds from existing Fierce Reads books. Extended, personal introductions from each author will make this a must-buy for fans as well as a fantastic portal for engaging new readers with the program. With a wide range of genres and subject matter, there will be something here for everyone!

review :

I LOVE short story collections! I grabbed up this one as soon as I spotted it in the store because it had Marissa Meyer, Leigh Bardugo, and Marie Rutkoski included. Three of my favorite authors! I immediately sat down to read this and hit an unfortunate snag. Although all of these short stories can, technically, be read on their own, all except one are inspired by these authors’ well-known series. This is less annoying when, as in the authors I mentioned above, I knew the context these stories were going into and could enjoy the extra insight into the characters or world these little bits provided. For other stories that I haven’t yet had the chance to get to the series . . . It was frustrating. These snippets would rarely have a conclusion and in one instance I couldn’t even read the story because I was warned it would spoil the book. Who knows if I’ve managed to spoil something else for myself already?

I wouldn’t say there was any one story in this I didn’t like. Overall, the writing was pretty solid (after I got over the whole blow about none of the stories being original). The one unique story was told in a twitter exchange between two authors, which was a surprisingly entertaining way to read the unconventional Sasquatch love story. If that isn’t enough to convince you to try this collection, I don’t know what else could.

I had to rate this collection lower than I wanted to (because I LOVE these authors and know that there are other favorites in here just waiting to be discovered when I actually read the series’ I just spoiled). The stories weren’t satisfying on my own. I feel like they would have been better suited in their own domain rather than this bind-up. Hopefully, I won’t get tricked into a collection like this again.

3/5 stars