ARC Review: The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

the walled city by ryan graudin

There are three rules in the Walled City: Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife. Right now, my life depends completely on the first. Run, run, run.

Jin, Mei Yee, and Dai all live in the Walled City, a lawless labyrinth run by crime lords and overrun by street gangs. Teens there run drugs or work in brothels—or, like Jin, hide under the radar. But when Dai offers Jin a chance to find her lost sister, Mei Yee, she begins a breathtaking race against the clock to escape the Walled City itself.

Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book via the publisher in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.

From the very beginning, it’s apparent that THE WALLED CITY is extremely rich in description and character. The world-building is stellar, even though sometimes the book doesn’t read like it’s actually set in that world. Everything and everyone is so clearly visible in my mind that this portrayal of the actual Kowloon Walled City that by the end of this story, I was completely enraptured and horrified by it all.

One of the disappointing things about this book for me is that over the course of time, that beautiful world-building writing style diminishes a little bit and description becomes minimal at times. However, when it does come back I really appreciated Graudin’s writing style in a way that I didn’t at all in her other stories and I thought she did an amazing job of portraying the Walled City.

And then there’s the characters. This book is split between three different perspectives–Jin, Mei Yee and Dai. The complete and utter lack of hope that is scattered in the minds of all the characters in at least one part of the book was nothing short of beautifully written and haunting. I loved the narrative to THE WALLED CITY and how the three perspectives tied so closely together, even when the characters were apart. I also thought that many of the moves that were made throughout the book were realistic and clever.

If I had to name a favorite character, it would probably be Mei Yee. Yes, I did love Jin’s strong personality and her desire to save her sister. I completely loved Dai and the way the romance in this story built up slowly and never overtook the need to survive. I thought his first interactions with Jin and the way that their relationship grows as well was great, but overall Mei Yee took the cake. I loved the way that she was written and truthfully, I thought that some of Graudin’s best moments came out of her through Mei Yee’s perspective and the desperate situation she was in.

There was so much to THE WALLED CITY that I loved, especially the ending. It’s definitely very hardcore and while it could constitute in some aspects as urban fantasy or some kind of the-terrible-future kind of story, it’s not technically dystopian or even sci-fi. If you’re looking for an equally haunting story that strikes much closer to home, I would recommend The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin. Otherwise, I would definitely recommend this book.

4 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 432

Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White Tour Recap w/Natalie Whipple + Giveaway

About a week ago, I was able to attend one of the tour stops on Kiersten White’s tour for ILLUSIONS OF FATE, her latest fantasy stand-alone that was released early this month. It was a lot of fun and both Natalie and Kiersten were great speakers during the event. They talked about their writing processes, the way that they met, the nature of fangirling over authors/publicists/editors/etc. and cracked various jokes.

It was great to see both of them, and I was glad to get one of my favorite books ever–TRANSPARENT, and Kiersten’s new book that I’m extremely excited about, signed. Below are pictures of the event as well as various swag. You can also enter to win a hardback copy of Illusions of Fate or bookmarks from Natalie Whipple here! You can find my review of ILLUSIONS OF FATE on the blog on September 26th, 2014.

ARC Review: Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin

tabula rasa by kristen lippert-martin

The Bourne Identity meets Divergent in this action-packed debut thriller with a Katniss-esque heroine fighting to regain her memories and stay alive, set against a dystopian hospital background.

Sarah starts a crazy battle for her life within the walls of her hospital-turned-prison when a procedure to eliminate her memory goes awry and she starts to remember snatches of her past. Was she an urban terrorist or vigilante? Has the procedure been her salvation or her destruction?

The answers lie trapped within her mind. To access them, she’ll need the help of the teen computer hacker who’s trying to bring the hospital down for his own reasons, and a pill that’s blocked by an army of mercenary soldiers poised to eliminate her for good. If only she knew why .

Description taken from Netgalley. I received an advance copy of this book via the publisher from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.

There really was just one issue when it came to me and my experience with TABULA RASA. I’ve been really excited for this book for a long time, mainly TABULA RASA is a thriller, it’s a stand-alone, it’s a debut and because Kristen is a part of the YA Valentines–and they’re all awesome.

The thing that went wrong for me was the issue of drawn-out suspense and teasing when it came to answers to all the questions that are asked throughout this book. Too many times, the teasing just didn’t work for me. I got so frustrated trying to figure out what was going on and how the questions were being answered only to realize they weren’t being answered at all. I felt like as a reader, I had to know what was going on in certain parts of the story, but I wasn’t getting anything, and the teasing approach in TABULA RASA just didn’t work.

Not to mention that the way everything was answered at the end in one huge dump was entirely anticlimactic. I don’t think that the one thing that went wrong for me and TABULA RASA should reflect on the author, because it’s a skill that requires time and patience to master, and I believe that Kristen can fully do that in her books to come.

I did like a variety of things in TABULA RASA though. I loved the descriptions and how graphic it was without being too much. I thought the world-building was excellently done and believable, and the memory issues were realistic. I really enjoyed the way that Sarah never gave up, and her relationships grew and developed. I wasn’t a fan of the romance at first, but I grew not to mind it and enjoy parts of it. The pace is very fast and the book goes by really nicely. The action elements and themes didn’t get bogged down by the journey and search part of it, and I really liked the steady pace.

Overall, not the best debut I’ve ever read or the best thriller, but I did enjoy this book and appreciate many aspects of it. I’m really looking forward to what else Kristen comes up with, and I would recommend it. 3 stars. Be sure to check out this interview with Kristen to learn more about her and the book!

pg count: 352

Once Upon a Gif: Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan

Once upon a gif is a feature by Hafsah and Asma at Iceybooks, where a pre-review is written with gifs. My full review of NOT IN THE SCRIPT, to be published October 7th, will come out on RealityLapse on September 30th, 2014. 

not in the script by amy finnegan

Millions of people witnessed Emma Taylor’s first kiss—a kiss that needed twelve takes and four camera angles to get right. After spending nearly all of her teen years performing on cue, Emma wonders if any part of her life is real anymore . . . particularly her relationships.

Jake Elliott’s face is on magazine ads around the world, but his lucrative modeling deals were a poor substitute for what he had to leave behind. Now acting is offering Jake everything he wants: close proximity to home; an opportunity to finally start school; and plenty of time with the smart and irresistible Emma Taylor . . . if she would just give him a chance.

When Jake takes Emma behind the scenes of his real life, she begins to see how genuine he is, but on-set relationships always end badly. Don’t they? Toss in Hollywood’s most notorious heartthrob and a resident diva who may or may not be as evil as she seems, and the production of Coyote Hills heats up in unexpected—and romantic—ways.

This novel in the deliciously fun If Only romance line proves that the best kinds of love stories don’t follow a script.

Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advanced copy of this book via the publisher from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own. 

NOT IN THE SCRIPT is the third book in the If Only line by Bloomsbury, but each book stands alone and I have to say–NOT IN THE SCRIPT truly stands alone.

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In the beginning, I wasn’t too impressed or unimpressed. It was really just another contemporary that had an interesting premise.

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But then the author started showing off, subtly, what she was able to do with the characters. I began to love them

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and hate them

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but it was because they were real (even though I had to remind myself of that fact on certain occasions). Even the supporting/minor characters had depth.

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And even though Jake and Brett, as well as Emma and Kimmi, were extremely annoying/shallow at times,

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the characters really well the highlight of this book–even though the plot and pacing shined as well. And there definitely were these kind of moments as well:

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And I LOVED it. Be sure to come back to read my review with my full thoughts on the book and all the ins and outs of it (as well as who I would recommend it for) on September 30th!

pg count for the paperback: 272

Series: If Only #3

ARC Review: The Bodies We Wear by Jeyn Roberts

the bodies we wear by jeyn roberts

People say when you take Heam, your body momentarily dies and you catch a glimpse of heaven. Faye was only eleven when dealers forced Heam on her and her best friend, Christian. But Faye didn’t glimpse heaven—she saw hell. And Christian died.

Now Faye spends her days hiding her secret from the kids at school, and her nights training to take revenge on the men who destroyed her life and murdered her best friend. But life never goes the way we think it will. When a mysterious young man named Chael appears, Faye’s plan suddenly gets a lot more complicated. Chael seems to know everything about her, including her past. But too many secrets start tearing her world apart: trouble at school, with the police, and with the people she thought might be her friends. Even Gazer, her guardian, fears she’s become too obsessed with vengeance. Love and death. Will Faye overcome her desires, or will her quest for revenge consume her?

Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book via the publisher from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own. THE BODIES WE WEAR will be available on September 23rd, 2014.

This book started off AMAZING. The world-building, the drug culture and the characters themselves were believable, realistic and haunting. The book drew me in right away and I was excited to read it.

..Until Faye starts her pity-me-even-though-I’m-super-tough approach.

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This method basically consists of two things. 1) Faye talks on and on about what a terrible life she’s led, all the bad things she’s done and gone through and how tough she is, meaning she doesn’t need people. During this phase which seems to repeat every five pages or so (the phase takes at least a page) Faye continually draws people in and pushes them out, yet one example of the very hypocritical way that she’s written. As if that isn’t bad enough–

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–2) There are so many things that are just wrong or off about Faye’s character and the way the book is narrated through her, but one of the more annoying ones is how her desire for revenge doesn’t feel real. There are SO MANY characters in fiction that are driven by revenge, and Faye doesn’t feel genuine in any sense of this motivation. She’s cheesy and it feels like the author was trying to press all these different traits upon her, which was annoying in itself because I personally really enjoyed Jeyn Robert’s DARK INSIDE and RAGE WITHIN and thought she actually does a great job portraying these kinds of characters in those books.

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This book is hard for me to talk about my opinions in terms of the themes, because I think that Roberts does a pretty good job, especially in the beginning, building up the world and showing how drugs has really taken a toll on it. Admittedly, the story’s world-building becomes a lot less everything that is was and I had expected it to be as time goes on, but I still enjoyed the story along those lines. I also admired the fact that Roberts does not take part in any slut-shaming in this story, but there are moments when she lets the characters make comments that point towards rape, and that’s not cool at all.

Overall, this book had a lot of potential but there were so many things (mainly the characters) that fell short in this story. The love interest is one of the creepy/stalker variety and the supporting characters have no dimension. The plot falls into a pit of romance and deviates away from the actual premise several times. I would not recommend this book because I believe there are much better books out there that are a lot like this that are better reads, such as maybe Ryan Graudin’s THE WALLED CITY. 1.5 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 368

Series: The Bodies We Wear

Once Upon a Gif: The Unhappening of Genesis Lee by Shallee McArthur

Once upon a gif is a feature by Hafsah and Asma at Iceybooks, where a pre-review is written with gifs. My full review of THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE, to be published November 4th, will come out on RealityLapse on November 3, 2014. 

the unhappening of genesis lee by shallee mcarthur

Seventeen-year-old Genesis Lee has never forgotten anything. As one of the Mementi—a small group of genetically-enhanced humans—Gena remembers everything with the help of her Link bracelets, which preserve memories perfectly. But Links can be stolen, and six people have already lost their lives to a memory thief, including Gena’s best friend.

Anyone could be next. Which is why Gena is less than pleased to meet a strange but charming boy named Kalan who claims that they’ve not only met, but that Gena knows who the thief is.

The problem is, Gena doesn’t remember Kalan, she doesn’t remember seeing the thief, and she doesn’t know why she’s forgetting things— or how much else she might forget. As growing tensions between Mementi and ordinary humans drive the city of Havendale into chaos, Gena and Kalan team up to search for the thief. And as Gena loses more memories, they realize they have to solve the mystery fast.

Because Gena’s life is unhappening around her.

Description taken from Goodreads. 

The first thing I noticed about THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE is the cover, which just happens to be really cool. It’s intriguing and different. Just… what is it?

the unhappening of genesis lee

In the beginning, THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE had me totally hooked. I loved the writing style, the premise and the way that Shallee McArthur wrote so many of the themes and elements.

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I do have to say though that after awhile, the fact that the MC keeps getting her memory taken away from her was really annoying, but I could see why it was necessary.

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And the MC made quite a few rather… shall we say disappointing decisions over the course of THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE, even though she was quite smart and likable when she wasn’t being dumb.

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But at other times, the mystery themes, plot and characters made me an extremely excited reader.

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And you can also come back around the time (October 22nd!) and find out about who, exactly, the author herself would cast for the roles in her book as well as win some awesome swag!

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As you can see, there were quite a few things I disliked about this book but this story was so entertaining though, and I liked so many things about it as well. There were lots of small things that I appreciated, such as the lack of contact between the Mementi. It brought a new aspect into love, especially with the society we live in. So what did I think of it all in all? Come back and find out on November 3rd!

Review: Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

of metal and wishes by sarah fine

There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally.

Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her … for a very long time.

As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her … and she might go down with it.

Description taken from Goodreads.

I didn’t even know this was a retelling of the Phantom of the Opera until I was about halfway through the book, but that said–I began to see more and more how well this book is written as a retelling. It doesn’t fell dated or predictable, and the characters (which all really shined in this story) all come out with Sarah Fine’s own personal twist to them.

I was very impressed with the backstory to the Ghost and the way that Fine developed their character so that even though he is pretty creepy in the beginning, I began to feel bad for him. The motivations, romance and world-building elements to OF METAL AND WISHES are extremely well-written.

There are many great things about this book, the best being the characters. The relationships were awesome to see grow as well, mainly the romance. Normally I enjoyed well written friendships better than well-written romances, but OF METAL AND WISHES was an exception to this rule. The romance was amazing because of how it’s placed between two cultures with prejudice against one another. Melik defends Wen and Wen defends the Noor and the two of them grow closer together in a way that isn’t rushed or annoying, but they also have to face their own prejudices against each other.

Overall, I loved this book. The Asian influence was cool to see, and I greatly enjoyed the steampunk traits as well. I thought that at times the retelling aspect of it made things a little predictable, but Fine’s fresh twist on the plot, characters and her prose really put this storyline in a new light for me. Fine has announced that she will be releasing a sequel to this story, and I’m looking forward to it. The ending didn’t really tie everything up for me. 3.8 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 320

Series: Of Metal and Wishes