Review: Trust

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: TrustTrust by Kylie Scott
Published by Kylie Scott on July 18th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Incredibly engaging story that doesn’t let up from the first page. I loved that this book felt so real with all the traumas and difficulties of young love and teenage relationships. Edie and John are so sweet and yet their relationship feels authentic even with the incredible drama which moves the plot of this story.

THE STORY:  A robbery threatens the life of seventeen year old high school senior Edie Millen.  Saved by the actions of John Cole, Edie finds her world turned upside down as she tries cope with the traumatic events of the robbery.  Edie becomes more wild, wanting to try things for the first time in response to her near death experience.  Leaving her private girls school, Edie comes to the local public high school and finds new friends and John Cole.  John and Edie become friends and then things become weird between them as John’s offer to help Edie lose her virginity results in emotional turmoil between them.

OPINION:  This is a book that grabs the reader from the first page as there is no wait for the action to begin.  The scene is raw and scary and emotional. Seeing the events through Edie’s eyes made the fear more immediate and thus more enthralling.  This book may take place among high school students but it is raw and frightening and doesn’t pull its punches. It is also violent in parts.

Edie is the heart and center of this book.  And I loved her. She is intelligent, snarky, overweight and insecure, and funny. Even thirty years her senior, I could identify with her character and I had great empathy for her.  As she struggles with both the normal crises of high school — boys, classes and bullies — she also is dealing with the aftermath of the robbery and that changes her whole perspective on life.  And makes her a risk taker when she wasn’t one before. Sometimes I find depictions of teenage girls annoying but here she is perfectly balanced in that age of becoming an adult but still making silly choices.  And that was one thing I really liked.  Both John and Edie are changed by their experience and in that shared experience the two are able to talk through their choices.

John ends up being an incredibly sweet guy. He wants to protect Edie, but he is also willing to allow her to fight her own battles. It was also interesting to see how the robbery changed John’s life as well since he has similar but also different battles as result.  While we do not get John’s point of view during this book, Edie and John talk enough that his perspective is adequately represented in this book.

I really enjoyed the development of the relationship between Edie and John. Their relationship evolves over time and I thought the entire progression was well done.  I also liked the complications about sex between these two. There are no sugar sweet glasses in this book.  While Edie and John are sweet together, there is also something raw and real about them.

I didn’t think I would like this book when I first approached it, but it ended up being really good and I only wish I knew more about what happens between Edie and John in the future.

WORTH MENTIONING:  TRUST is a young adult novel with characters ages seventeen and eighteen in high school.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  TRUST is a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: Arcana Rising

Review: Arcana RisingArcana Rising (The Arcana Chronicles, #4) by Kresley Cole
Published by Valkyrie Press on August 15th 2016
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“All you have to do is surrender…draw on your hatred and pain. Become her: the Empress you were meant to be.”

FINAL DECISION:  Sad and powerful and a game changer for the series, this great adventure also has significant things to say about love and pain and grief and survival.  And what a cliffhanger!

THE STORY:  Beginning immediately after the events of DEAD OF WINTER, Evie is almost killed by the attack of the Emperor and the counter attack by Circe.  After witnessing the death of her beloved Jack, Evie is separated from her other love Aric.  Now Evie travels along to discover what happened to the two men in her lives.  Separated from friends and allies, Evie turns toward darkness as she meets new Arcana players.

OPINION:  I have started and rewritten this part of my review several times.  This is a difficult book to write about without spoilers and yet this is a book where spoilers can truly spoil the experience of the book.  Part of the beauty of this book and indeed the entire series is the surprising journey which always ends on a cliffhanger and leaves readers begging for the next book in the series.

So I’m now begging.  Luckily the next book is scheduled for next spring rather than next summer.

As this book begins Evie has lost everything. Throughout this series, just when Evie appears to have reached bottom, more is stripped from her.  Evie has been struggling for a while between herself and her red witch side (which Evie sometimes perceives as dark and evil).  Having been separated from everything that has meaning for you, Evie once again struggles against the darkness.

At this moment, she meets some new Arcana (so that most of the players are now revealed to to Evie and the reader).  I really enjoy the complexity of the characters and their continuing mysteries.  The motivations and the question of friends, allies and enemies remain a enduring complication in this book.  Friends might be ready to betray; enemies might be doing you a favor.

Something is going on with Evie.  She is not herself and it isn’t clear why.  One of the strengths of this series is that so much remains unrevealed.  As I read each book, I can’t help but ask how many more books are there…and yet, that mystery in itself gives an extra amount of anxiety which deepens the dissonance of the story.  After all, Evie doesn’t know where this story is going either.

This book while having all the secrets and action and surprises of an Arcana Chronicles book also has a lot to say about love and grief and surviving.  Evie has evolved from the high school student who appeared in the first book.

This book saddened me for several reasons dealing with the plot and relationships.  I don’t want to give anything away, but there are going to be some unhappy fans — and some very happy ones.  I can only say, despite the cliffhanger, I think things are more complicated than they appear.

I can’t wait until THE DARK CALLING to see if I am right.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Without giving spoilers, I want to note that this book made me sad and unhappy at the direction the story went in. Despite that I have great faith that Kresley Cole can make it all work out in the end even if it doesn’t follow what I expected.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ARCANA RISING is the fourth book in the Arcana Chronicles.  It is dependent upon the prior books in the series and should not be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Illuminae

Review: IlluminaeIlluminae (The Illuminae Files, #1) by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 20th 2015
Genres: Futuristic, Young Adult
Pages: 599
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Observations on a Unique Young Adult Futuristic/Sci-Fi/Romance Book

07:33

I don’t read many physical books anymore preferring the convenience and instant gratification associated with ebooks (plus I don’t have to find a way to store all those books).  ILLUMINAE cries out to be read in its physical form, however.

Consisting of texts and emails, official reports, observations and recorded dialogue, ILLUMINAE tells the story of Kady Grant, a teenager who lives on tiny planet in the year 2575.  On the day where the worst thing that should be happening is that Kady breaks up with her boyfriend of a year Ezra Mason, her planet is savagely attacked.  Kady and Ezra end up fleeing the planet with other refugees and end up a part of small group of space craft fleeing for their lives.  Tracing the story of what happened and what is happening and the complicated relationship between Kady and Ezra.

The odd format where the story is not told in a linear fashion will not be every reader’s cup of tea. The disjointed nature of the narrative demands that readers engage intellectually with the material rather than just sliding into the story’s narrative.  As is true when relying only on written documents, there remains much that is hidden from the reader as the narrative is constrained by documents themselves which allows much to be hidden from readers.  That literary device works beautifully allowing the story to build to an exciting and surprising conclusion. This is not a book to read the ending of too soon because the puzzle of the book is part of its appeal.

The first half of ILLUMINAE is an intellectual struggle — not because the book is poorly written (it is not) but because this book demands active reading and puzzling from its reader.  Once a base of knowledge is achieved, however, the pages of the book begin to quickly slide by.  I am a big fan of disjointed narrative books.  Whether it be Faulkner or Morrison or the postcards and letters of the Griffin & Sabine books by Nick Bantock, I enjoy the intellectual and then emotional connection that these books bring.  That being said, these books are not for everyone.  If you enjoy reading primary documents, historical letters or just want a mental challenge, give this book a chance.

What especially appealed to me was that while I began this book as an observer, the format eventually became one where the characters felt more real, less filtered.  When the characters face pain and desperation, I felt it keenly.  What began as an intellectual challenge became a deeply emotional connection with the characters.  Even the romance worked for me although it is non-traditional.

Why, you might ask, don’t I speak more about the plot?  I feel that the more a reader knows about the story going in, the less enjoyable this book will be.  The book’s format and how the narrative unwinds is an essential part of building the emotional conclusion to this book.

When I finished this book, I immediately began flipping back through the pages discovering what I had missed in the narrative. The secrets that are revealed are so neatly woven into the documents provided that this book almost feels like a good murder mystery. Only on reflection and review do the clues become obvious.

ILLUMINAE is the first of a trilogy of books which tell three different stories about the same event.  The next book will focus on other characters.

four-half-stars

Review: Dead of Winter

Review: Dead of WinterDead of Winter (The Arcana Chronicles, #3) by Kresley Cole
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on January 6th 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 303
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION:  My favorite of the series and it made me accept a well written love triangle as much as I dislike them. A perfect blend of emotion, drama and action, this book grabbed me and never let go.

THE STORY:  This book begins right after the events of ENDLESS KNIGHT.  Evie, one of the powerful Arcana is involved a game to the death with the other Arcana characters.  Now seventeen, Evie lives in a post-apocalyptic world without plants and only a few animals. The world is lawless and filled with danger and death.  Evie is on her way to rescue her mortal lover Jack while being emotionally torn between Jack and the Arcana Death himself.  Now Evie has to confront the devious Lovers to save Jack.

OPINION:  I really dislike love triangles. The fact that Cole made me believe and enjoy this one is a testament to how good this book is. (I have no idea how this is going to work out in the end).

A book about love and hate and the mistakes we make in the past coming back to haunt us. I found this book the most complex and sophisticated of the series.  Evie is torn between two men. I absolutely loved the interaction between the three characters as they traveled and worked together.  Evie’s choice is not obvious and I like the ambiguity as to which choice is the best.

The characters of this series are growing and changing and the relationships are complex and dangerous and the motivations of these people are not clear.  I am impressed by how deep and complex the mythology is in this series.  I hope that Cole has a great resolution because this series is raising my expectations with every book.

This book is not a traditional romance but very enjoyable nonetheless.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book ends on a cliffhanger.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  DEAD OF WINTER is the third book in the Arcana Chronicles. This series should be read in order.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Endless Knight

Review: Endless KnightEndless Knight (The Arcana Chronicles, #2) by Kresley Cole
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on September 2nd 2014
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  This book introduces the love triangle of the series, and I hate love triangles.  At the same time, the story is getting more complex and the motivations of the characters more murky.

THE STORY:  Evie has come into her powers as the Empress — who controls plants and uses poison as one of her weapons. She and the other Arcana characters are engaged in a battle to the death for immortality.  Evie is determined to thwart the game by forming alliances and then not killing her allies.  But before she can do that she must destroy Death who is after her.  When Evie and Death meet, Evie discovers that Death might be more complicated and attractive than she expected.

OPINION:  This book is about the murky and often hidden motivations of characters.  Things are not simple in this world and Evie is learning that things are not black and white for any of the characters.  Friends betray and enemies have justifications. Evie herself realizes that her own history is far more complicated than she imagined.

This book also introduces the love triangle between Evie, Jack and Death. It is a testament to the book that it is difficult to choose between Jack and Death both for the reader and Evie.  Death is a significant character in this book as some of his history and motivations are exposed.

I felt that the characters are developing well.  I don’t want to give away too much of the plot but things get more complicated and Evie has more allies, more enemies and more complications in her life.

There is significant action in this book and more Arcana characters meet their ends.  I believe this book was more consistent in its flow, and the reason I gave it a 4 is because I really dislike love triangles. Your mileage may vary.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book ends on a cliffhanger.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ENDLESS KNIGHT is the second book in the Arcana Chronicles series.  It should be read after the first book in order to understand whati s going on.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Poison Princess

Review: Poison PrincessPoison Princess (The Arcana Chronicles, #1) by Kresley Cole
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on August 19th 2014
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 369
Goodreads
four-stars

“The beginning is nigh….”

FINAL DECISION: The book has a great prologue, then a little bit of a slow part while the story begins to spin out, but the ending is fantastic.

THE STORY: Sixteen year old Evie Greene seems to have a charmed life. She’s popular, has a handsome and nice boyfriend and is smart.  But she has been having frightening nightmares and has so many delusions that her mother had her committed to a mental institution. She meets Jackson Deveaux, a Cajun boy from the wrong side of town and the two argue and strike sparks off of one another.  When it becomes obvious the Evie is not having delusions but rather visions. When the world is hit with an apocalypse, Evie and Jack must find out the meaning of Evie’s visions.

OPINION:  This is not my normal reading material.  Although there are romantic elements, there is not a straightforward romance in this book. There is no resolution, no HEA — at least not in this book.  But I am always looking for good books regardless of format or genre.

This book begins with a rocking suspense angle.  I was dragged immediately into the drama of the story.  Then the story goes back to the time before the apocalyptic Flash that begins the Arcana battle.  I thought the worldbuilding and concept was amazing.  I haven’t read a similar concept so I was captivated and my brain was engaged in trying to sort out the players. The agendas and motivations of the various characters remain opaque throughout this book.

I liked Evie as a character.  She discovers that she is one of the Arcana which are depicted on the Tarot cards. She is naive, immature and spoiled as the book begins, but her experiences begin to change her.  By the time the book ends, she has had an epiphany that makes me want to jump into the next book of the series.  I liked how Evie develops.  I like that she doesn’t start out as a 16 year old with a 30 year old’s mind. I believed her development.

Jack, the romantic interest as this book begins, is cocky and annoying and oh so attractive to Evie. A definite bad boy who has secrets of his own, he and Evie spend much of the book arguing and fighting with one another.  As two very different young people in a horrendous situation and forced together, they are merely developing their working relationship.  He is funny and annoying and I ended up liking him very much as well.

Once the prologue of the book ends, the book is a little slow for a while as the past is recalled and then the terms for this new world are defined and new characters are introduced. Then the book really takes off in action. The final third of the book was just extraordinary and the ending made me want to immediately turn to the next book in the series.  I’d give 4 stars for the beginning, a 3 for the middle and 5 stars for the end. I’ve averaged all that to give the book 4 stars.

This book is not complete in itself as it is clearly intended to be only the beginning of a long journey.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a young adult novel, but it has plenty to interest adults and in fact, I think it skews toward older teens rather than younger based on content.

CONNECTED BOOKS: POISON PRINCESS is the first book in the Arcana Chronicles.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars