ARC Review: REIGN OF SHADOWS by Sophie Jordan

Check out what I thought about a new YA Fantasy Retelling of Rapunzel!

reign of shadows coverTitle: REIGN OF SHADOWS
Author: Sophie Jordan
Pub Date: February 9, 2016 from HarperTeen
Amazon: Pre-order it here!
B&N: or here!
Goodreads: Add it to your shelves

Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

Thanks to HarperCollins for sending me an ARC!

REIGN OF SHADOWS was an enjoyable read. I flew through it, and it had nothing to do with its slim volume. It kept me turning the pages and rooting for the main characters, Luna and Fowler. Despite my enjoyment though, there were a lot of things I disliked about the novel.

My biggest complain is that there’s no reason for it to be a 2 book series. So little actually happens in book 1 that some of the romantic tension could have been cut to add in more plot and conflict that has to do with Luna’s true identity, the secret she’s keeping, and how it affects her world. A lot of scenes are repetitive and don’t establish anything new. Luna and Fowler trek through the forest and bump into people and have sexual tension and almost kiss but then don’t and then do more walking and almost kiss again. The interesting stuff like the bounty hunters slaughtering teenage girls and the main plot line of Luna being the true heir to the throne are barely present. Sometimes I also felt Luna was kept from making decisions purely to stretch the thin plot.

ugh hook

There isn’t really an ending since it just ends on a massive cliffhanger very abruptly, after a massive plot twist is revealed. I have no problem with a cliffhanger when it feels natural, like some questions have been answered or a character arc has progressed, but this book was devoid of character arcs for me and the world building still left so many questions (a forest in a world that has no sun? what do dwellers look like/what are they/how did they even come to be? how does the city above the trees have a lake?), that the end doesn’t provide any closure while still leaving the story open. It just cuts out, like if you were in a movie theater and the screen goes black in the middle of the film.

reign of shadows

As a Rapunzel retelling, it had some interesting subversions. I liked that Luna was blind instead of her “prince.” I just don’t know if she was written as Magical Disabled Person instead of simply a normal disabled person who knows how to take care of herself and isn’t solely her disability. Luna has a lot of skills, but I don’t know how she could maneuver around foreign parts of the forest without a walking stick or anything perfectly. Maybe that’s just my ignorance.

While this is a retelling, it also reads like a romance novel. Words like “heady” and “sinew” were used multiple times, which isn’t a big deal, but it just changes the feel or aesthetic of the novel. The plot was basically made up of romantic tension and almost kisses, as mentioned. I’d also call it insta-love, though some might dispute me on that point. Also, the first “moment” they share when Fowler nearly kisses her seemed to come out of nowhere, since he was very closed off before then. Fowler and Luna both fulfilled some very common, cliche romance tropes. Fowler is the gruff alpha male closed off to love, and Luna is the bright-eyed, optimistic innocent  girl. I just wish something else was done with their characters so the trope wasn’t so pronounced.

Despite that, I still enjoyed this story! Fowler and Luna had some great sass, their POVs flowed well, and I liked the side characters of Perla and Sivo. I hope we see them again! Side note: When Luna leaves the tower and begins to run out of food Perla gave her and she had feels, that gave me feels. Loved that.

feeeeels

Some might be bothered by the pace of the novel, but I wasn’t. The lead up to the end feels vaguely episodic with stuff Happening, Dramatic Break Ups and Getting Back Together compared to how slow the previous 250 pages were. All in all, REIGN OF SHADOWS needs some fine tuning, but kept me hooked to the page. Recommended for romance and fairy tale fans, rather than someone looking for a good fantasy.

Cover Thoughts
enchanted

Favorite Quote (From an ARC, so check the final version)
“Being a little dangerous in this world was a requirement.”
ouat hook once eyebrow

Favorite Character 
Maybe Fowler…? 🙂
asfdgh emma

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ARC Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Check out what I thought about DUMPLIN’, a YA contemporary novel by Julie Murphy.

dumplinTitle: Dumplin’
Author: Julie Murphy
Pub Date: September 15, 2015 from Balzer + Bray
Amazon: Here!
B&N: Or here!
Goodreads: Add me to your shelf!

Julie is also running a pre-order campaign. Get the info here.

 

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . . until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine— Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

Thanks to my good friend Carrie for loaning me her ARC of Dumplin’!

dumplin 2

Dumplin’ was one of my most anticipated reads of this year. Did this hold up? Not entirely, but that doesn’t mean this book wasn’t enjoyable. I still tore through it in one evening because I couldn’t put it down. I’d say, “After this chapter… no, this one… no, THIS one!”

I stopped after chapter sixty-one (spoiler alert: cause that’s the end).

i regret nothing parks and rec

So how did this book make me read it in one night?
*Willowdean: She’s a great character, the heart of this book, smart, fat, and beautiful.
*The supporting cast of women (Ellen, Hannah, Millie, Amanda): Awesome! More of them, please!
*Willowdean’s part time job: I have no idea why I loved the scenes that took place in Harpy’s so much. It just added a layer of realism to an already realistic contemporary and was a lot of fun.

If you’ve been waiting for this book for months or only just heard about it recently, my suggestion is to go into it not thinking about the hype or your expectations and just enjoy it for what it is. Willowdean is an awesome character who stands up for herself and makes new friends, people she had previously misjudged. I loved seeing her see them clearly for the first time. DUMPLIN’ is a page-turner with good characters and a good theme at its core. Definitely read it!

Cover Thoughts
totally-awesome-starkid-reaction-1

Favorite Line
A few stick out to me but the one I’m going with is: “If I could avert my eyes from all the kissing people ever, I’m positive that my life would be at least 2 percent more fulfilling.” [ARC, page 3–final quote may change]
I FEEL YOU, WILLOWDEAN. I really do.
gatsby cheers

Favorite Character
Gotta be Millie or Hannah. Here are gifs that summarize both characters… you guess which is which.
liv and maddie peppy rainbow liv and maddie dead inside

ARC Review: Zero Day

Check out what I thought about ZERO DAY, a YA political thriller from debut writer Jan Gangsei!

zero dayTitle: Zero Day
Author: Jan Gangsei
Pub Date: January 12, 2016 from Disney-Hyperion
Amazon: Click Here!
B&N: Or Here 🙂
Goodreads: Add it to your ‘to-read’ shelf

 

 

Eight years ago, Addie Webster was the victim of the most notorious kidnapping case of the decade. Addie vanished—and her high-profile parents were forced to move on.

Mark Webster is now president of the United States, fighting to keep the oval office after a tumultuous first term. Then, the unthinkable happens: the president’s daughter resurfaces. Addie is brought back into her family’s fold, but who is this sixteen-year-old girl with a quiet, burning intelligence now living in the White House? There are those in the president’s political circle who find her timely return suspicious.

When the NSA approaches Darrow Fergusson, Addie’s childhood best friend and the son of the president’s chief of staff, he doesn’t know what to think. How could this slip of a girl be a threat to national security? But at the risk of having his own secrets exposed by the powerful government agency, Darrow agrees to spy on Addie.

It soon becomes apparent that Addie is much more than the traumatized victim of a sick political fringe group. Addie has come with a mission. Will she choose to complete it? And what will happen if she does?

Thanks to Hannah at Irish Banana for giving me her ARC!

I am not a big thriller fan, but the premise alone drew me in. I was curious about Addie, what had happened to her, and who she was now. I also am a sucker for stories about the president’s kid and happen to adore a Secret Service romance every now and again. The problem is I have a hard time finding them [note: there is no Secret Service romance in this book] [note note: but that’s okay!] and finding one I enjoy.

So let’s talk about this book. I was hooked right away. The first 150 pages worked SO well for me. I loved all the multiple POVs and the plot threads. It was fast-paced and written in a very accessible way. I have a hard time with thrillers because a lot of times they feel very distant and have way too much set-up and angsty characters. Do not worry about any of that in Zero Day.

What didn’t work for me was the believability aspect of some moments–namely Addie’s hacking skills. The ease of it kind of made certain moments convenient instead of having the characters earn them. The book builds towards Darrow being approached by the NSA, something the blurb isn’t clear about, and then very quickly thisthisthisandthis happens to make it happen which robbed some of the emotional impact for me.

Addie is the heart of this story: what side she is on, what happened to her, who is she now. She was super active the first half of the book, something I loved. I need active characters who drive a story. So when Addie became relatively passive after learning something life-altering it bothered me. But I loved seeing her development, how she reconnected with her family slowly and saw how they had changed and also stayed the same. I loved seeing how everyone coped with her kidnapping differently and Addie realizing everyone was affected by what had happened.

Darrow is the second main character and I was happy to see a person of color represented. I felt like there was a lot of Darrow still to explore, but I don’t want to say too much.

Addie’s kidnapping, though. I need to talk about all the amazing ways *spoiler* psychologically messed with her mind. But I can’t because *spoilers.* So trust me, this was done so well.

On the whole I think Zero Day is a fun read and would definitely pick up book two. Give it a try if you’re not a huge fan of thrillers. The multiple POVs and relatively short chapters make it enjoyable. It’s always moving, always changing. Even seemingly throwaway characters (and moments) reappear and have meaning, which gives it depth.

Cover Thoughts:
owl-fangirl-hearts-happy1

Favorite Line:
“Like I said,” Liz sighed. “It was how I coped. A part of me believed that if I could just make the world more secure, you never would have been taken in the first place.” [ARC, pg263–final quote may change]
emma stone sobbing ice cream emotions

Favorite Character:
Agent Alvarez!! Boss secret service agent like:
winning try it regina ouat