Mini Review: A Candle From The Far East by Y.T. Kim

acandlefromthefareastA Candle From The Far East by Y.T. Kim

My Rating: 2/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: October 3rd, 2017

Publisher: Mill City Press

Pages: 114 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads

Synopsis: In his first collection of English poems, Korean writer Young-Tae Kim (Y.T. Kim) presents a remarkable anthology of work with themes ranging from political musings on an international scale to living well in an increasingly global world. Kim offers a unique blend of the modern and traditional, as overtones of the poet’s Eastern cultural roots permeate each page.

In addition to musings on present-day society, A Candle from the Far East (Poems) offers reflections on more emotional themes—such as the growth of deep and profound love, alienation of once close friendships over time, and finding purpose through spiritual growth—culminating in a beautifully rich collection of works that have universal applicability. The end result is a collection that readers will turn to time and time again and one that successfully shares wisdom and contributes to the well-being of all.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

While I can appreciate the themes and meanings Kim tried to convey through his poetry, I personally did not get caught up in his writing. There were only a small number of poems that really resonated for me. This collection ranges from reflections on Kim’s personal life to commentary on history, modern technology, and the current state of our society and the world as a whole. Even though these are all interesting topics, there were many poems that felt less like poetry and more like reading a textbook or list of facts—this took away from the fluidity of the writing.

The poems that focused on history or his more intimate thoughts on his own experiences spoke to me the most. The history aspect, as well as the wonderful photographs that accompanied it, really caught my attention. In just small snippets of text, I felt that I learned a lot of new information I hadn’t come across before. His short reflections on his own life were the most poetic of the collection. Kim created beautiful snapshots of his view of the world around him as well as his relationships with family and friends. Again, the placement of pictures coinciding with these poems really brought his meaning to life.

As for the actual writing itself, apart from a few select instances, I found the overall flow of these poems to be quite rough and choppy. There were some attempts at rhyming that really did not come across well and ended up being a detriment to the piece. There were many occasions where I felt as if I were reading a list of facts rather than poetry, so many of the poems were quite stilted. The moments where he focused on subjects like A.I. just did not come across like poetry in my opinion, and I found myself skimming through these.

Of course, poetry is always subjective, and my personal experience is going to be unique to me. Therefore, I still encourage you to check out this collection if it appeals to you. Kim’s talent is obvious, and I’m sure his poetry will touch the lives of readers for whom the depth of the work is more easily accessible than it was for me.

2.0 TARDISes

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Top 5 Most Anticipated Releases of Summer 2017

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Hey Everyone!

I apologize for posting this list so late! I’ve been running pretty far behind on blogging this past month or so. I’ve spoken a bit before about some of my recent struggles with my mental health and, unfortunately, that is what has been getting to me lately. I’ll probably speak a little more in depth about things in some upcoming posts, but—in a nutshell—I’ve been in a bit of an everything slump. However, I am hoping to pull out of it a bit over the course of this month, so I will hopefully be getting out plenty of new posts for you guys! Thank you so much for all of your support and patience with me! 🙂 ❤

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (June 27th, 2017)

thegentlemansguidetoviceandvirtue

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.
But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.
Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

The Color Project by Sierra Abrams (July 18th, 2017)

thecolorproject 

Bernice Aurora Wescott has one thing she doesn’t want anyone to know: her name. That is, until Bee meets Levi, the local golden boy who runs a charity organization called The Color Project. 
Levi is not at all shy about attempting to guess Bee’s real name; his persistence is one of the many reasons why Bee falls for him. But while Levi is everything she never knew she needed, giving up her name would feel like a stamp on forever. And that terrifies her.
When unexpected news of an illness in the family drains Bee’s summer of everything bright, she is pushed to the breaking point. Losing herself in The Color Project—a world of weddings, funerals, cancer patients, and hopeful families that the charity funds—is no longer enough. Bee must hold up the weight of her family, but to do that, she needs Levi. She’ll have to give up her name and let him in completely or lose the best thing that’s ever happened to her.
For fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson, THE COLOR PROJECT is a story about the three great loves of life—family, friendship, and romance—and the bonds that withstand tragedy.

All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis (August 29th, 2017)

allrightsreserved 

In a world where every word and gesture is copyrighted, patented or trademarked, one girl elects to remain silent rather than pay to speak, and her defiant and unexpected silence threatens to unravel the very fabric of society.
Speth Jime is anxious to deliver her Last Day speech and celebrate her transition into adulthood. The moment she turns fifteen, Speth must pay for every word she speaks (“Sorry” is a flat ten dollars and a legal admission of guilt), for every nod ($0.99/sec), for every scream ($0.99/sec) and even every gesture of affection. She’s been raised to know the consequences of falling into debt, and can’t begin to imagine the pain of having her eyes shocked for speaking words that she’s unable to afford.
 But when Speth’s friend Beecher commits suicide rather than work off his family’s crippling debt, she can’t express her shock and dismay without breaking her Last Day contract and sending her family into Collection. Backed into a corner, Speth finds a loophole: rather than read her speechrather than say anything at allshe closes her mouth and vows never to speak again. Speth’s unexpected defiance of tradition sparks a media frenzy, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps, and threatens to destroy her, her family and the entire city around them.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (September 5th, 2017)

theybothdieattheend

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.

Warcross by Marie Lu (September 12th, 2017)

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From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu—when a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths.
For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.
Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.
 In this sci-fi thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all.

What books are you guys looking forward to reading this summer? What new releases have you already read? Let me know in the comments!

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Review: Birthrights by J. Kyle McNeal

birthrightsBirthrights by J. Kyle McNeal

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Revisions to the Truth: Book One

Date Published: June 6th, 2017

Publisher: Elevate Fiction

Pages: 402 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: To escape the burden of his family’s past, Whym accepts an apprenticeship with a master his parents fear and revile. He soon finds himself entangled in a web of treachery and on a perilous journey to locate a creature of myth and magic-a journey that will transform Whym and shape the future of the realm. 

Meanwhile, Quint, the son of a powerful religious leader, abandons his faith to join the fight against a corrupt council. As the adviser to a remote tribe, he must find in himself the wisdom and fortitude to save the people from the invading army-and their own leaders.

Civil war looms, defeated foes plot revenge, and an ancient deity schemes to destroy them all. While navigating the shifting sands of truth, the two young men must distill what they believe, and decide on whose side they will stand in the coming conflict.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

This was an extremely solid start to a very promising new fantasy series. Richly detailed, thought-provoking, and highly intriguing, I was very easily pulled into the narrative. Though it took a little while to fully immerse myself in the world and its history—the lore at the heart of every character’s life—once everything was set up, I felt completely absorbed into the words. There was something to find engaging about every moment of the narrative. This is intrinsically a coming of age story, but past that, you begin to see the intricate complexities of not only the characters but the of society they live in.

In this novel, we follow multiple characters’ lives as they weave together into one, captivating picture of the Lost Lands. Primarily, we follow two young men named Whym and Quint. Whym has reached the point of his life where he must begin an apprenticeship, and he is willing to do anything to break away from the poverty of his parents’ lives—even if it means working with a potentially dangerous man who has a past that connects darkly with his own. Quint comes from the most powerful religious family in the Lost Lands, his future laid out solidly before him. But when his long-held faith is ripped from him, he begins a journey to bring the truth to light.

Despite its initial appearance, this is not just a simple tale of two young people coming of age. It is a story about faith and beliefs. About corrupted politics and the inciting of a rebellion. About history and finding out where you fit into that which is being made around you. About discovering the meaning of truth and extracting it from the harshness of deceit. These characters are having their eyes opened to the society they are living in, one where the foundation is deception and the currency is lies.

By Fire

As in most fantasy novels, there are always some aspects that take a little while to fully grasp. Building up the world, introducing the many characters, laying down the backstory and lore, all take a while to set up and for the reader to become involved in. It took me about a third of the novel before I felt I had truly gotten into things, so the beginning was a bit slow. However, this minor sluggishness in the beginning took the place of a short but massive and confusing information dump. The opening chapters are not fast-paced and packed with action, but are a gradual and meticulous composing of an intricate world.

I was a bit confused toward the start as I began piecing the backstory together but, at the same time, there was never a moment were I did not feel very engaged in the plot. The measured construction of each and every element ended up serving the narrative well. By using this method, McNeal allows the reader to take the time needed to become connected to the story and its expansive cast of characters. He also saves them from the confusion that can come with trying to convey too much information to quickly. As a whole, though the pace might feel slow, it establishes a solid foundation for the reader right from page one.

McNeal did a wonderful job building and growing his various, multi-dimensional characters, as well as giving them each a distinctive voice and personality. They were vivid and very easy to like or dislike, as the case may be. Whether hero or villain, each one was memorable and well-developed, which worked favorably with the regularly shifting perspectives of the narrative. I also highly enjoyed the dynamic and relationships between the various characters—they were very interesting to follow. I was particularly intrigued by the relationship between Whym and Kutan.

Wood Pile

I have to admit, there were a few times where it was difficult to remember who a minor character was and what role they had played in previous chapters of the novel. This was due in part to their short appearances, stemming from the frequent jumps in perspective. Another issue that I had character-wise was that I never quite understood the concept of “the Rat-Man”. I also wish that there had been a bit more of a glimpse at some characters’ storylines, but I am hoping this will be rectified over the course of the rest of this series. All-in-all though, these were very small problems for me, and did not detract much from my overall reading experience.

McNeal’s writing in this novel was absolutely spectacular. The scope of this enchanting world that he has created leaves him endless opportunities to spin an absorbing story in his unique voice. I found him to be a brilliant storyteller; the prose was beautiful. His writing flowed incredibly well, and it was very easy to be carried away by his words. This was a strong debut novel, and I believe that he has shown a great talent and will go far in the future.

Overall, I had quite an enjoyable time delving into this tale. Once I began to feel involved in the characters’ lives, I found myself lost among the pages. This novel held so many of the elements that make me love the fantasy genre. I now feel extremely invested in these characters and their futures, so I am highly anticipating the upcoming installments in the series. If you are a fan of high fantasy or, especially, if you are just discovering the genre, this is a series that I would definitely recommend giving a try.

4.0 TARDISes

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Review: The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate by Eric Bower

themagnificentflyingbaronestateThe Magnificent Flying Baron Estate by Eric Bower

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: The Bizarre Baron Adventures

Date Published: May 16th, 2017

Publisher: Amberjack Publishing

Pages: 242 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Waldo Baron awakes one morning to find his inventor parents have turned their house into a flying machine, and they intend to enter into a race across the country in the hopes of winning the $500 prize. His parents’ plans go astray when they are kidnapped by Rose Blackwood, the sister of notorious villain Benedict Blackwood, who intends to use the prize money to free her brother from prison. But Rose is not what she seems to be, and Waldo finds himself becoming friends with their kindly kidnapper as they race across the country in the magnificent flying Baron estate!

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

This is such a fun, adorable, and hilarious little novel. It is an extremely quirky adventure on a crazy flying machine, filled with ruthless bandits, insane inventors, and quite possibly the clumsiest kid in the world. While it is an incredibly over-the-top and outlandish story, I personally loved the randomness and absurdity of these characters’ journey. Every aspect of this novel is charming, having an overall atmosphere of warmth, family, and love. Though I am far from the target age-range of the intended audience for this book, I still had a fantastic time reading it—I could hardly keep a smile off my face.

In this novel, we follow a young boy named Waldo “W.B.” Baron as he wakes up one day to find out that his crazy inventor parents have renovated their house into a flying home. They plan to enter a competition where they are meant to fly around 1890’s North America on a scavenger hunt—the first people to return with every item on the list will win five-hundred dollars.

However, their plans take a twist when Rose Blackwood, the sister of the country’s most notorious criminal, sneaks aboard their flying house and holds W.B. and his family hostage. Her plan? To complete the race with the Baron family, then rob them of the prize in order to break her brother, Benedict Blackwood, out of jail. But, Rose Blackwood turns out to be much different than W.B. expected, and soon, relationships change and unexpected alliances form as they flounder through one outrageous event after another.

I absolutely flew through this novel, and not only because of its length—with nonstop action, there was not a single moment that dragged along. The readability as well as the weirdness of this story are really what pulled me in. There is a twinge of childishness to it, which is to be expected from a middle grade novel, but personally as an adult, this did not deter me in any way.

Bower’s characters were a fantastic part of this novel. W.B. was loveably dorky and clumsy, and someone you can’t help but root for. His parents are welcoming and kindhearted, and unabashedly goofy, but also highly intelligent scientists. Rose Blackwood was easily the most complex and interesting character in the whole story—and she has quite a bit in common with W.B. They both feel like outcasts in their own lives, in their families, and are struggling to assimilate. But along the way, they both learn their significance and where they fit in the world, as well as how to love themselves, faults and all.

This novel felt very jumbled, which many times negatively impacts a story—however, in this case, that was not necessarily true. Each individual event that occurs all come together in one nonsensical escapade—and honestly, it works, at least it did in my experience. It adds to the craziness and quirkiness of the characters and how they handle the obstacles that are thrown their way. Much of the humor comes from this element of as well—from both how utterly random and out-of-the-blue every event is, to how the characters flounder around on their way through each stage of the challenge.

This is a novel that readers will only enjoy if they suspend their disbelief and just immerse themselves in the unique world of W.B. and his gang. There are parts that become a bit repetitive, and certain scenes feel like they are rushed through much too quickly, but these are really just signs of the genre and length of the novel. That is one of the reasons I found this to be one of those middle grade books that is going to primarily garner a younger following rather than a much more universal one.

As for the actual writing itself, I really liked Bower’s style. His writing flowed very well and carried the story along at a fast yet easy to follow pace. Bower’s humor was wonderful and absolutely perfect for a middle grade novel. There is a very child-like feel to this story overall that makes it, as I said, something that is a bit less of a multi-generational read than some other middle grade stories.

This primarily focuses on being a novel for a younger audience. However, I do think that it can be fun for both children and those who are children at heart. It is a novel that anyone of any age can fall right in to and love every second of. With plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and heartwarming relationships, it’s hard not to become invested in the lives and escapades of these characters.

It is a big-hearted story of learning to accept both who you and the people in your life are. It is about learning to hold your own, be happy with yourself—inside and out—and finding out where you fit into the great puzzle that is life. Though the eccentricity of the plot might not strike the right chord with everyone, I would wholeheartedly recommend giving this story a try.

4.0 TARDISes

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Review: Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault by Candace Robinson

quinseywolfesglassvaultQuinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault by Candace Robinson

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: The Glass Vault Series

Date Published: May 16th, 2017

Publisher: CreateSpace

Pages: 242 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Some see it… Some don’t…

 People in the town of Deer Park, Texas are vanishing. There is a strange museum, known as Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault, that appears overnight. Perrie Madeline’s best friend and ex-boyfriend are among the missing. Perrie, along with her friend August, go on a pursuit to search for them in the mysterious museum. Could the elusive Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault have anything to do with their disappearances? 

A book that intertwines horror elements and retellings, with humor and darkness.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

I tend to frequently gravitate towards retellings or reimaginings of well-known stories that have a bit of a twist into horror and darkness—and this is definitely one of those novels. Just as the museum itself proclaims, this story is not for the faint of heart. We follow characters who are falling into the gruesome and gritty parts of dreadful worlds, based in both reality and fiction. Though, as I said, this book may not be for those on the squeamish side, it takes those who are not “faint of heart” on a macabre adventure through multiple retellings.

In this novel, we follow a young woman named Perrie Madeline as she is thrown into a dark realm of nightmares come to life, in her efforts to rescue those she cares about. The town of Deer Park, Texas is being plagued by a string of inexplicable disappearances that leave absolutely no traces of the victims or potential leads to follow. These mysterious occurrences seem to center around a museum that appears overnight—in fact, it appears and disappears at the most random, and sometimes inopportune, moments.

It came out of nowhere, this giant stone structure claiming to be a museum named “Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault”. Though it comes as quite a shock when she first sees it, Perrie doesn’t think much of this strange place until her ex-boyfriend disappears after mentioning it, followed rapidly by her best friend’s disappearance after the first night she should have spent working at the Glass Vault. Soon, Perrie puts two and two together, and journeys with her friend August into the bizarre and twisted world of Quinsey Wolfe in a desperate attempt to save Neven and Maisie.

I thoroughly enjoyed how unique this story turned out to be—it was a fun and highly imaginative experience. Robinson definitely breaks away from many of the commonalities of the genre, creating her own surprising and highly effective twists and turns to what could have been a typical retelling. There is very little predictability in this complex and atmospheric plot that she weaves. This not only pulls her readers in, but keeps them hanging on every moment, over every turn of the page.

There were only a few elements of this novel that were a bit problematic for me. This narrative is sort of split up into two halves—it begins in the natural world and moves into many fantastical alternate realities. Though I enjoyed being in both settings, I felt that the transition between the two was really rough. The way it came across was less fluid and more like being plucked out of the first story and dropped into a completely new one.

Though Perrie and August were equally confused at their new surroundings, they both seemed to handle this sudden change a bit too well at times. It didn’t take them as long as it probably should have to come to terms with the fact that something extraordinary and magical was taking place—though they were pretty freaked out, they also appeared as if they knew and understood almost exactly what was going on in a matter of minutes. One would expect them to have to take far more time to process their situation, and therefore, this made the transition into the fantasy side of the novel seem very rushed.

The characters were a very strong part of this novel—in fact, this is a very character-driven novel overall. Each one was very well-portrayed and likeable, and Robinson did a good job building up their personalities. She took the time to make each character very three-dimensional and distinctive—highly relatable and memorable. Perrie was a fairly strong narrative voice, and I really loved how her relationships with the other main characters, particularly Maisie, were portrayed. I fully connected with, felt for, and rooted for all of them throughout the trials they experienced, and that really drew me further in to the novel as a whole.

Though Candace Robinson’s writing did not flow with me quite as well as I would have liked, I could definitely see a huge amount of talent and strength in her words. She built up the worlds and the atmospheres with ease, and her depictions of the various settings were very vivid and not at all difficult to place oneself in.

One of the only negatives I came across in the writing itself was the tendency to rely on brief and concentrated info dumps, which simultaneously bogged down and rushed the plot. Robinson did a considerable amount of telling rather than showing, which did not serve a story as intense as this one could be well. This is a narrative that needed to feel fast-paced, not rushed, and while it was a mesmerizing story, too much of it dragged on with explanations.

I would have liked to have seen and experienced more of what the characters were going through rather than read paragraphs of them flat-out explaining where they were and what was happening. Because everything about this plot was so unique, I really wish that this novel could have been a bit longer, allowing Robinson time to flesh out each individual setting and its accompanying retelling, as well as Perrie’s and August’s experiences handling the hurdles of each one. In the end, it felt like there was a bit too much information crammed into too short a space and timeframe.

Though I had some mixed feelings on certain aspects of this novel, I overall really enjoyed reading it. With unique and vivid world-building, Robinson creates a very gripping reading experience. Though it is not devoid of some minor issues and the pacing does not quite hit the mark, it is still an intriguing, humorous and, at times, chilling read. If you are a fan of dark retellings or horror stories, I would highly recommend giving Robinson’s book a try. This novel ends on a massive cliffhanger, so I am definitely looking forward to picking up the next installment once it’s released.

3.5 TARDISes

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Review: Alice by J.M. Sullivan

alicewanderlandAlice by J.M. Sullivan

My Rating: 4.5/5 TARDISes

Series: The Wanderland Chronicles

Date Published: May 16th, 2017

Publisher: Pen Name Publishing

Pages: 360 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: “Always protect your queen.”

Ever since the outbreak of the Plague, life hasn’t been easy, and for seventeen-year-old Alice Carroll, it just got worse. Her sister, Dinah, has contracted the ‘un-deadly’ Momerath Virus and without a cure, will soon be worse than dead. She’ll be momerath.

Alice must leave the safety of the Sector and venture into Momerath Territory to find the antidote – if it exists. Chasing a rumor about a mysterious doctor with the cure, Alice falls down the rabbit hole into Wanderland, where ravenous momerath aren’t the only danger lurking.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

“Always protect your Queen.”

I always love a good retelling—if it is a retelling with a dark and gritty twist to it, even better. For me, this novel checks off all the boxes. It is a wonderful reimagining of Alice in Wonderland that has plenty of its own creativity and uniqueness, while devotedly paying homage to the original work in clever ways. It even takes the classic zombie plague idea and turns it on its head as Sullivan puts her own intriguing spin on the idea. With a post-apocalyptic setting, a witty and resilient heroine, and an abundance of gory and riveting fight scenes, this debut novel is a magnificent addition to young adult literature.

In this novel, we follow a young girl named Alice Carroll, who is living in a fortified sector with her sister, Dinah, as the world around them succumbs to the Plague that has rapidly broken out. This virus has taken hold of many people, turning them into undead creatures that survivors have dubbed “Momeraths”—rage-filled zombie-like beings that ravage the land and many of the stragglers that remain unprotected in this post-apocalyptic society. The residents of the Sector do not dare venture past the safety of their borders into this frightful landscape.

When Dinah begins to show signs that she has contracted the Momerath Virus, Alice will go to any lengths to find a cure to save her life. After hearing a rumor that an antidote may exist, or at least be in progress, Alice decides to risk everything to venture out into Wanderland—still crawling with Momerath—in order to track down the doctor who purportedly has the one thing that can restore balance to her world. This journey won’t be an easy one, but Alice steps up to the plate, ready to tackle any challenges thrown her way.

I was pulled into this story right from the very start. It takes off at a fast pace and continues to hold on to that until the final page. It is impossible not to get completely wrapped up in this fascinating story, and I found myself tearing through it, dying to see what would happen next. Every single aspect of this novel is beautifully built up—it is easy to fall into the world and let it take form around you. You feel a part of the journey, running right alongside Alice as she navigates all the perils—those both expected and unexpected—of Wanderland.

One of the many reasons that made me fall in love with this novel was that is felt a lot like two of my favorite video games—Alice: Madness Returns and the Fallout series. It was as if these two settings fell together, which resulted in an absolutely incredible reading experience.

On a similar note, this felt very much like a game or a movie due to the wonderful descriptiveness in the narrative. Sullivan is a master at showing rather than telling. Her intricate details assist the reader in visualizing the settings and characters without hindering their own imagination. She achieves that perfect balance that allows each person’s experience with this novel to be a unique one—each mind will add its own little spin on things.

The creation and development of the characters was, by far, one of the strongest points of this novel. I personally adored the way Sullivan showed the key traits of the original works’ characters in their Wanderland counterparts. Alice is an incredibly solid and believable heroine. It was wonderful to see her continually find that strength inside her, and watch her sort of emerge from her shell into a snarky, witty, and strong fighter.

The cast of quirky characters, both villains and heroes alike, were very well-developed and three-dimensional. Though it is hard to choose, I’d have to say that my particular favorites were Chess, Bug, and Dr. Abbott. I thought that she connected them to Carroll’s classic characters in absolutely brilliant ways. It was aspects like this that really left me appreciating how much effort she put into staying true to the original story while making one that was entirely her own.

J.M. Sullivan is a fresh voice in young adult literature, and definitely one who is sure to go very far. Her immense talent for writing shines through in every aspect of the narrative. This novel was a deliciously intense ride through the world of Wanderland, as we follow some well-loved characters on a journey we have never before seen them take. Whether you are a fan of Alice in Wonderland or not, I would very highly recommend giving this novel a read. With twists and surprises around every corner, this is a book that I believe will have every reader finding themselves swept up into Alice’s adventures. I know that I am truly looking forward to reading future installments in this series.

4.5 TARDISes

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Review: A Chosen War by Carly Eldridge

achosenwarA Chosen War by Carly Eldridge

My Rating: 2/5 TARDISes

Series: A Chosen War Series

Date Published: April 25th, 2017

Publisher: REUTS Publications

Pages: 500 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Author’s Website | Publisher’s Website

Synopsis: Nineteen-year-old Maia has spent her life haunted by dreams of a man with uniquely brilliant blue eyes. She never expected she’d actually come face-to-face with him, or that he’d be the harbinger of a chaotic new life. But as shocking as meeting Blake is, it’s less unsettling than her sudden ability to adversely affect electronics and seemingly control—even heal—plants.  

Before she can figure out what’s happening, Blake’s cryptic warning about the impending approach of something big manifests as a freak earthquake, destroying Maia’s home and killing her parents. Devastated, Maia has no choice but to turn to Blake, where she learns that the earthquake was not as natural as it seemed. The reigning Terra guardian, or Mother Earth, has gone rogue, wiping out her replacements in a series of orchestrated natural disasters around the world—and Maia is next.

Worse, she’s the only one who can stop the Terra guardian from destroying not just Earth, but the fabric of the universe itself. Now, thrust into a world of celestial beings charged with the protection of the universe, Maia must come to terms with her new powers, and the idea that her destiny was shaped long ago. And she must do it all before she faces off with the woman who controls nature itself.

Intelligent and thought-provoking, A Chosen War takes the idea that everything is connected and wraps it in globe-spanning adventure with just a tinge of romance.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Sadly, I have to admit that I did not end up enjoying this novel as much as I thought I would. I tried so hard to get into this story—to connect with the characters—but I had absolutely no luck. This was quite a struggle to get through, and there were many times where I wished to put it down. There was very little that motivated me to keep coming back to this story—to this world—and continue on, because it felt like a battle I was losing. The more I pushed through it, the more confusing it became, and the less rewarding it was to my attempts to carry on.

The pacing is incredibly slow, not helped by the extremely confusing plotline and under-explained elements, which are the key to the understanding that the reader desperately needs. In a story like this that is so character driven and centered around such fantastical beings and powers, the pace becomes bogged down when the reader cannot mentally connect with any aspect of the narrative.

There were so many instances of info-dumping in this novel, and yet I felt that they did not make anything clearer, at least not anything of importance to what was transpiring in the plot. This slowed down what could have been a fast paced story immensely. I had to go back and review parts over and over again because I felt that I was missing the main point the author was attempting to convey.  But in my frustration, I eventually reached a point where I just had to push on through these moments and give up any hope of trying to truly understand what was happening.

This is a third person narrative that follows a young woman named Maia as she attempts to navigate a whole new way of life, as well as come to terms with who she is. After a morning of inexplicable events—some of which include the sudden healing of dying plants and explosions of electronic devices—the day turns worse as Maia loses her family to an earthquake that seemingly comes out of nowhere.

Maia is thrust into a world that has been existing silently among humans for years, intervening in many aspects of the life—even the planet—she thought she new. There is a whole other life that has been waiting for her, lingering in the depths of her thoughts as she grew up. In a world of celestial beings that guard Earth with their unique powers, Maia has to come to terms with her own power, while simultaneous taking on the role of being the strongest and only one of her newfound group of friends that can stop the destruction of the universe caused by the reigning Terra guardian.

I wanted so badly to love this novel. I thought the synopsis sounded very intriguing—I am totally a sucker for any story that involves a unique magic or power system. However, this may have just been me, but I found it impossible to understand what was going on from one page to the next. As I said, even the information dumps that regularly occurred throughout the story served only to make things more confusing for me.

This novel was also sort of hovering slightly toward the heavy side of the romance spectrum. Though I am not the biggest romance fan in the world, I do enjoy a little bit of it on the side in a story. I am usually very tolerant of it, and I absolutely do not mind reading a bit of it. I have no problem when it begins to become particularly intense, or even very graphic. However, this novel not only made the romances feel really uncomfortable to read about, it also took up a huge part of the beginning and middle of the story.

Romance took center stage instead of an explanation of just what on earth was happening and how we had gotten to this point. While still confused about the plot, I had to sit there and read page after page of people hanging onto and pawing all over each other. Aspects of it could have been sweet if only they had taken the chance to answer some questions first. Maia sometimes seemed equally as confused as I was, but somehow fell into her new role with ease. She seemed to know exactly what to do, even as she groused at everyone about not giving her any helpful answers. I definitely connected with her on the latter.

The characters were actually one of the best parts of this story, in my opinion. They were interesting and engaging, and they helped to drive the narrative forward a bit better. Eldridge’s characterization was very three-dimensional, and she really brought the characters to life. They all had a unique personality that was clearly defined right from the start. I did end up feeling moderately invested in some of them, and one of the only reasons I continued on with this story was my urge to see what their fates would be in the end.

Another one of the high points in this novel was Eldridge’s writing. She very clearly has a wonderful talent for stringing words together and painting detailed mental pictures for her readers. Her descriptions and the language she used were beautiful, and her words flowed well despite the slow pace of the novel. She has a very lyrical style of writing, which suited the atmosphere and setting of the story quite well.

The only complaint that I had about the writing style and the text itself was something that I have been mentioning all throughout this review. Info dumps. Very long, very confusing info dumps. Despite this, the writing was still very engaging, which only added to my conflicting feelings about the novel as a whole.

As always, I enjoyed the reading experience even though this turned out to be a book that was not really my cup of tea. Though these opinions are my own and clearly may not reflect the general feelings of other readers, I personally cannot recommend this novel. However, this is only based on my experience with the novel, so yours may be very different. I would definitely encourage anyone who thinks the synopsis sounds interesting to give it a try. For me, at this point, I do not think I will be picking up any of the upcoming books in this series.

2.0 TARDISes

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