Book Review: Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Published April 7th, 2020
432 Pages

A decade ago near Chicago, five teenagers defeated the otherworldly enemy known as the Dark One, whose reign of terror brought widespread destruction and death. The seemingly un-extraordinary teens—Sloane, Matt, Ines, Albie, and Esther—had been brought together by a clandestine government agency because one of them was fated to be the “Chosen One,” prophesized to save the world. With the goal achieved, humankind celebrated the victors and began to mourn their lost loved ones.

Ten years later, though the champions remain celebrities, the world has moved forward and a whole, younger generation doesn’t seem to recall the days of endless fear. But Sloane remembers. It’s impossible for her to forget when the paparazzi haunt her every step just as the Dark One still haunts her dreams. Unlike everyone else, she hasn’t moved on; she’s adrift—no direction, no goals, no purpose. On the eve of the Ten Year Celebration of Peace, a new trauma hits the Chosen: the death of one of their own. And when they gather for the funeral at the enshrined site of their triumph, they discover to their horror that the Dark One’s reign never really ended. – Goodreads

Sigh.  There is a spoiler ahead by the way.

This book had me in a fit of rage and it was all because of Sloane.

She is a selfish, self-centered, rude, ungrateful, entitled, does not acknowledge anyone’s pain but her own, does not care about the lives she ruins or the consequences, AND is in a “relationship” with a Black male that she does not care to understand OR even empathize with.

Sloane is the definition of a Becky and she made me literally upset. But I am not done yet. Going to her “relationship” with her Black boyfriend, Matt. She acknowledges that he, even after defeating the Dark One with her, experiences racism. She acknowledges the fact that he uses positivity and kindness to deal with the racism. However! She can’t stand him for it. She gets upset when he goes talks to teenage Black girls at an event. She starts a fight and uses the racism towards him (that came after HE came to stop her) as a reason why she reacts the way she does sometimes.

AND she isn’t even in love him. They are together 10 years. She is in love with another member of the group (like just call it what it is) but he does not have any sexual advances towards her.  Matt has both but she uses Matt for sex even while she talks about how he doesn’t really know her or understand her like the other dude does.

Sloane is trash. It is rare for me to hate a character but I hate her.

I understand PTSD. I understand not wanting to fight again. I understand trying to carve a piece of privacy when you are known for something you don’t actually want to remember. BUT NONE OF THIS IS GROUNDS FOR YOU TO BE A SHITTY PERSON.  She isn’t even a good friend. She resents her “friends” for not sitting in a dark hole with her and trying to move on with their lives the best way they can.

There is no getting past her. There is no “yeah the main character is horrible but the world building yadda yadda yadda.” There is none of that.  What makes this book “different” is the fact that it tells a story of what if the chosen ones had to do it all over again. But if you really think about it is not much different then reading a book two to a series that has another battle to go through. Because that is what this book feels like is a book two in which the main character turned out to be evil.

Overall, I tired to finish this book but when I put it down and picked it back up, I would get upset. It is a interesting read and I completely get that characters take a life of their own but Sloane made me uncomfortable and it made me think how much of this character is like the author or someone she knows.

For the sake of Goodreads, I have this listed as a 1. But for the sake of my site, this book gets no rating.

Book Review: Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai

Avon
Published April 1st, 2020
400 Pages

One minute, Katrina King’s enjoying an innocent conversation with a hot guy at a coffee shop; the next, a stranger has live-tweeted the entire episode with a romantic meet-cute spin and #CafeBae is the new hashtag-du-jour. The problem? Katrina craves a low-profile life, and going viral threatens the peaceful world she’s painstakingly built. Besides, #CafeBae isn’t the man she’s hungry for…

He’s got a [peach emoji] to die for.

With the internet on the hunt for the identity of #CuteCafeGirl, Jas Singh, bodyguard, friend, and possessor of the most beautiful eyebrows Katrina’s ever seen, comes to the rescue and whisks her away to his family’s home. Alone in a remote setting with the object of her affections? It’s a recipe for romance. But after a long dating dry spell, Katrina isn’t sure she can trust her instincts when it comes to love—even if Jas’ every look says he wants to be more than just her bodyguard…– Goodreads

This is my first book by Alisha Rai. I would like to note that this is the second book to her Modern Love series. Although they are separate stories with references to the first book, I did feel like I should have read the first book. When I was reading, I felt like I was missing something and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. With that being said, I probably would have found this more enjoyable if I would have read the first book.

But moving forward this book was cute. Although at times seeing Jas and Katrina act like middle school kids was frustrating, I enjoyed the slow build. If you aren’t interested in slow builds, you will not like this book because it is slow.

I liked Jas way more than I liked Katrina and it is not because she has so much going on. She is just boring. Adorable but boring. Jas was not only attractive, he was talented, spoke three different languages, had depth but was comfortably simple. I adored him and loved the fact that I was able to read from his point of view.

Beyond Katrina being stale, I am just going to say reading about her or Jas having sex was extremely uncomfortable for me. Not because I don’t read sexual activity in books but because it felt forced and it felt like the author just put it in there to appease the masses. It didn’t feel genuine at all. It read like the author was uncomfortable writing it.

*sigh*

But overall, this wasn’t a bad read. It was okay, cute (ish). It would have been nice if Katrina had more personality and if there was more chemistry.

2 Pickles

 

Book Review | Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West

Park Row
TBP June 16th 2020
352 Pages

When Ruby King’s mother is found murdered in their home in Chicago’s South Side, the police dismiss it as another act of violence in a black neighborhood. But for Ruby, it’s a devastating loss that leaves her on her own with her violent father. While she receives many condolences, her best friend, Layla, is the only one who understands how this puts Ruby in jeopardy.

Their closeness is tested when Layla’s father, the pastor of their church, demands that Layla stay away. But what is the price for turning a blind eye? In a relentless quest to save Ruby, Layla uncovers the murky loyalties and dangerous secrets that have bound their families together for generations. Only by facing this legacy of trauma head-on will Ruby be able to break free.- Goodreads

TW | Incest, Rape, Abuse, Violence, Murder

This book is heavy. It is emotionally draining heavy piece of literature that I have no idea how the author was able to write it and I hope that she is okay.

And honestly, I wish I can stop the review there. Not because this wasn’t a good book. It was good. Different point of views, which means you got the full story, its messy (good messy), its deep and it gives everyone and thing a voice.

History goes deep, especially history with secrets and while reading this book all I can think about is this someone’s truth? If it is, dang. Not only was I invested in this story, my heart and emotions was completely wrapped into what was going on.

This book isn’t just about Ruby or Layla. It goes way further than that. Its excellent writing to add so much without feeling like the book is dragging or overly complicated.

This is a good book but if you are not emotionally strong enough, then do no read this book. If you are, good luck.

4 Pickles

Blog Tour: Catalyst by Tracy Richardson

Brown Books Publishing Group
TBP June 2nd 2020
248 Pages

Marcie Horton has a sixth sense. Not in the “I see dead people” way, but . . . well, maybe a little. She feels a sort of knowing about certain things that can’t be explained-an intuition that goes beyond the normal. Then there was that one summer four years ago, when she connected with a long-departed spirit . . . But nothing that incredible has happened to Marcie since.

This summer, Marcie is spending time working at Angel Mounds, the archaeological dig her mother heads, along with her brother, Eric, and his girlfriend, Renee. The dig is the site of an ancient indigenous civilization, and things immediately shift into the paranormal when Marcie and her teammates meet Lorraine and Zeke. The two mysterious dig assistants reveal their abilities to access the Universal Energy Field with their minds-something Marcie knows only vaguely that her brother has also had experience with.

Marcie learns how our planet will disintegrate if action is not taken, and she and her team must decide if they are brave enough to help Lorraine and Zeke in their plan to save Mother Earth, her resources, and her history. It looks like the summer just got a lot more interesting. – Goodreads

Welcome to my stop on the Catalyst Book Tour!!!!

This was an interesting read because I felt like I should have read the first book. There were a few references to what happened previously but nothing specific in there that threw up a flag. However, the way the book was written it was as if the events from the first book was the elephant in the room that was only occasionally looked at from the side eye.

Beyond this the events of this book was not what I was expecting. It is science fiction but VERY science fiction and it was unexpected, which is a good thing. Predictability drops book ratings.

But the story. . .  not my cup of tea. Marcie is extremely honest and open. It not even her being naive, its her willing to be this way after the events from the previous book. She is young and she tries to come off older and wiser than what she is and it doesn’t exactly flow well.

What I liked about the book was the archaeological dig and the history that surrounds it.  I would have liked to have seen actual Natives discussing this history with the students and professors, it would have added much more depth to the novel. 

The pace of the novel moves pretty fast but there is a clear direction with some surprising turns.

Overall, the foundation of this novel  (because it is read as a standalone) is a good start to a series that can be detailed, historical and just genuinely cool.  I wanted more, especially seeing the science fiction aspect of it.

 

Book Review: Real Men Knit by K.M. Jackson

Berkley
TBP May 19th, 2020
320 Pages

When their foster-turned-adoptive mother suddenly dies, four brothers struggle to keep open the doors of her beloved Harlem knitting shop, while dealing with life and love in Harlem.

Jesse Strong is known for two things: his devotion to his adoptive mom, Mama Joy, and his reputation for breaking hearts in Harlem. When Mama Joy unexpectedly passes away, he and his brothers have different plans on what to do with Strong Knits, their neighborhood knitting store: Jesse wants to keep the store open; his brothers want to shut it down.

Jesse makes an impassioned plea to Kerry Fuller, his childhood friend who has had a crush on him her entire life, to help him figure out how to run the business. Kerry agrees to help him reinvent the store and show him the knitty-gritty of the business, but the more time they spend together, the more the chemistry builds. Kerry, knowing Jesse’s history, doesn’t believe this relationship will exist longer than one can knit one, purl one. But Jesse is determined to prove to her that he can be the man for her—after all, real men knit. – Goodreads

I was very excited for this book. Focusing on a man who not only was adopted but is dealing with grief and knows how to knit, were topics that I was all for. But by the end of the book I was disappointed. I wasn’t disappointed because of lack of writing skills or pace but more so this book felt like a foundation to a bigger novel. So many different topics were passed over. I wanted more details in Mama Joy’s past, background information on the store, more character background and more character description.

I found it really hard to believe that Mama Joy did not teach or leave any information about how to run her business with her boys or even on paper. Kerry knew pretty much everything but it still baffled me how ‘Mama Joy did not write anything down. So that was on my mind but also the fact that the reader knows nothing about the store itself. If the author took more time to give the store a story, I would have believed this story much more.

Also character development as well as character background is pretty much non-existent. The whole issue/conflict in the novel is lack of communication. Kerry stresses so much that she is a grown woman but acts like a middle schooner throughout the entire book. I don’t understand why.

What did love about the book was the slow burn romance. I didn’t think the conflict of the novel was going to be lack of communication and more so Jesse sleeping with most of the city, so it was interesting that the author highlighted that but didn’t make that the issue. Like the author was very specific on who he slept with as well as their interactions with Kerry.

The breakout character for me was actually Jesse’s brother Damian. I really was intrigued by his hard ass and anger. I would love to read his story next.

With that being said, this wasn’t a bad book and I would recommend it as a introduction to this author. I just wish there was more added to it.

Overall,

2 Pickles

Book Review: Hollow Dolls by MarcyKate Connolly

Sourcebooks Young Readers
TBP 2020

Simone is a mind reader. She knows a great many things about everyone she meets, but she can’t seem to remember anything about her past or where she came from. After finally being free for the first time in a long time, she sets off, determined to find her home.

When she stumbles across a man with two minds inside him – the real one, shoved deep down, and one of a body walker, someone who can take over a person’s body against their will – Simone is even more eager to leave her old life behind.

As Simone dives deeper into her history, she learns truths she never could have imagined. But when those she loves start disappearing around her, Simone knows only she can stop the evil.

Set in the same fantasy world as the Shadow Weaver duology, this series starter weaves a tale of secrets, power, magic, and the long path to home.- Goodreads

I initially did not realize that this book was geared towards middle school readers. Once I discovered that fact the entire book changed for me. What I mean by that was I was wondering why was Simone acting like such a child. There is a question of time within this book that even realizing she is about 12, I was still like but. . . . this?

But anyway, Connolly, the author, did a fantastic job of getting me into the book within the first 10 pages. The magic written within this book is great and Simone is powerful as heck and would be even more powerful if she just took a moment to build her skills as opposed to hiding from them. Granted she has a big ass reason for doing that but I am hoping that within the second book she works to improve her powers.

The pace of the novel could have been better. It is really easy to lose focus on this novel as there is a lot of nothing going on. However, it does include a massive as library with rare and historic books. I was all for it. Wish there was more detail and more drama going on in the library.

But moving on. I loved how the author tied everything together. Everything made sense and fell together lovely. I just wanted more from Simone. She went through so much. So. Freaking. Much. Connolly doesn’t dip too much into what she has done, which is unfortunate because there is so much there or at least that was what it was implied.

Maybe book two will dip more into it?

The one other thing about this book is although the world building is up there and clear as day, the plot was simple and a bit predictable.

Overall,  I enjoyed this read.

3 Pickles 

Book Review: The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Candlewick Press
TBP May 5th, 2020
368 Pages

Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian the man to earn the respect and protection of the crew. For Flora, former starving urchin, the brutal life of a pirate is about survival: don’t trust, don’t stick out, and don’t feel. But on this voyage, as the pirates prepare to sell their unsuspecting passengers into slavery, Flora is drawn to the Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, who is en route to a dreaded arranged marriage with her own casket in tow. Flora doesn’t expect to be taken under Evelyn’s wing, and Evelyn doesn’t expect to find such a deep bond with the pirate Florian.

Soon the unlikely pair set in motion a wild escape that will free a captured mermaid (coveted for her blood, which causes men to have visions and lose memories) and involve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, and the all-encompassing Sea itself.- Goodreads

There is a lot going on in this novel but happily enough the author broke down this book into different POC and sections. I loved that because it shows skills as a writer.

There is a lot of character building in this novel and it stresses the fact that not everyone is who/what they seem. I liked Flora. For everything that she had to do in order to live, to help her brother and Evelyn, she was honest with herself and that is oddly hard to fine in Young Adult books.  Flora was realistic with her environment and what she needed to do but she open minded and I liked that.

Evelyn, however, was alright. She was the typical I am not your average rich person. She played her role really well but there was nothing ground breaking about her. The aspect of this novel that I really enjoyed was the mermaid/the sea. I love magical stories even with realistic situations to them. I would have loved to see more history and details in this particular part of the story but I was entertained.

The pace of the novel was good. There were painstakingly slow moments, where nothing at all was going on but it was worth it. This is my first read by this author and I am looking forward to see what else she has in store.

Overall,

3 Pickles

Book Review: Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry

Algonquin Young Readers
Published March 24, 2020
288 Pages

The Torres sisters dream of escape. Escape from their needy and despotic widowed father, and from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of old San Antonio families and all the traditions and expectations that go along with them. In the summer after her senior year of high school, Ana, the oldest sister, falls to her death from her bedroom window.

A year later, her three younger sisters, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, are still consumed by grief and haunted by their sister’s memory. Their dream of leaving Southtown now seems out of reach. But then strange things start happening around the house: mysterious laughter, mysterious shadows, mysterious writing on the walls. The sisters begin to wonder if Ana really is haunting them, trying to send them a message—and what exactly she’s trying to say.- Goodreads

TW: Death

I seem to do better with heavy emotion books when there is some magic in it.  For me it makes the blow easier. This book is as heavy as it can get.  It is told through each sister’s POV and I am super thankful for that. You have Iridian, who is angry and trying to escape in her writing. Jessica, who is a walking ball of sadness and responsibility and Rosa, who is trying to be spiritual and magical at the same time. Although all of them were dripping with grief and depression, being able to read each of their POV made the book’s topic easier to read.

I can’t say that I liked any of the sisters but I enjoyed reading Iridian more. There was a very defined personality despite her grief and she was honest with what was her truth and I enjoyed reading that.

I have to say that if you are going through something right now in your life or recently went through the motions, you might want to put a pause on this. Ana’s death is described with clear imagery. You know what happen. You know the rumors around her death and you know what lead to it. If you are struggling with grief, I can’t recommend this book to you.

However, if you are not and love an emotional family read then this is for you.  Mabry, the author, does a great job telling this story. The pace is wonderful and the book is detailed. The way the magic in this novel is written is a mix of creepy and realistic. You feel it and I think that is what the author was going for.

Overall, this was a solid book that changes the way magical realism in YA is done.

3.5 Pickles 

 

Blog Tour Interview | Quickish w. Julie Kagawa

Via Goodreads

Name: Julie Kagawa

Who is Julie?  One of Tanya’s favorite fantasy authors (so I am bias)

Books: Shadow of the Fox series, Iron Fey series, Talon series, Blood of Eden series

Buy: Amazon and Barnes and Nobles

As I mentioned, I am bias. My first introduction to Julie Kagawa was her Iron Fey series. And I recently heard, she is coming back to that series and I am extremely excited. To be able to interview her and be part of the book tour makes my 16 year old self smile in glee.

I highly recommend reading her books. All of them. Enjoy this interview!

What were your biggest influences when creating this world in story, whether they be legends, folklore, anime, manga or other novels?

Anime, Manga and video games have been my biggest influences when writing the world of Shadow of the Fox, but also the works of Akira Kurosawa like The Seven Samurai, Yojimbo and Rashomon.   

The Iron Fey series was your first large published success. How did you feel as a writer when you reflect upon those books? How did/do you feel as a reader when you read or re-read those books?

The Iron Fey series holds a very special place in my heart as my first published series. I know I’ve grown since then, and when I re-read the Iron Fey I know I’ve come a long way as an author. But I also know that I wrote the best books I could at the time, so even though I wouldn’t write them the same way now, I’m happy with them.

What is it about fantasy that draws you to it?

Is everything a good answer? I love myths and legends, other worlds, magic, swords, wizards, dragons, evil gods, epic quests, and the battle between good and evil.  I read to escape, but also to travel to far away places and encounter creatures and beings I would never meet in real life. Who hasn’t daydreamed about flying on the back of a dragon?  I read fantasy for the same reason.  

How much research goes into your books and at what point do you stop using research and build off it?

It depends on how much I already know about certain aspects of the book.  For example, from the amount of anime and manga I’d consumed over the years, I knew a lot about kitsune, oni, tanuki, and various other Japanese monsters.  I still did a fair amount of research, though it was more about the samurai and the Sengoku Jidai, the era I was basing the book off of. I never really stop researching, though most of it goes into book one, which is where much of the world building takes place.

Would you ever write adult fantasy? If so, what would it look like?

I certainly have considered it, though it would look a lot like my YA books, just with older protagonists.   When I write, I don’t think “This is for teens,” I just write how I would always write. Really, the only thing that differentiates YA from adult is the age of the heroes and the lack of graphic sex in YA.  And even that is changing.

Out of all the books you have written, which has your favorite world and why?

Probably the Iron Fey series, though Shadow of the Fox is a close second.  I love fantasy and all the fantastic creatures that populate it, so the Nevernever is my favorite world for that alone.  Even though I wouldn’t last a day there without getting eaten by an ogre, a redcap or a kelpie. Maybe if I could find a big gray cat…    

Finally, what do you hope people remember about Night of the Dragon?

I hope people come away with a new appreciation of Japanese myth and folklore, particularly all the wonderfully bizarre yokai, yurei and bakemono that populate these stories.  From kitsune and tanuki to oni and kirin, I hope it inspires readers to learn more about the world of Japanese myth and legend. And I hope people remember how much they cried at the end of the story.

 

###

Twitter: @Jkagawa

Website: http://juliekagawa.com/

 

 

Cover Love 2020: Spring Edition

Despite everything that is going on, it is in fact Spring. For me, that means it is time for some cover love. (If you haven’t taken a look at my beginning of the year cover love, you can do so here.)

 

More than likely I will be getting a few of these books via Kindle. As much as I would love a physical copy of Ghost Squad or The Hero of Numbani I am taking the social distancing to heart. During this down time, what are you looking forward to reading?

Making and breaking your favorite reads since 2017