Bites
August 15, 2017

Published: November 1, 2016
Publisher: Ace Books
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

The RAGE tournaments the Virtual Gaming League’s elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a fight to the digital death. Every kill is broadcast to millions. Every player leads a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses.

And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.

Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world until one of her teammates overdoses. Now she s stuck trying to work with a hostile new teammate who s far more distracting than he should be.

Between internal tensions and external pressures, Kali is on the brink of breaking. To change her life, she ll need to change the game. And the only way to revolutionize an industry as shadowy as the VGL is to fight from the inside. (goodreads.com)

I’ll admit ARENA started a little slow for me. It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying it but I wasn’t engrossed in it either. Just kind of reading the words as words and getting myself from one end of the book to the other.

But once Kali’s issues really started developing, and Rooke came into play, that’s when things got good, in my opinion. It became less of a focus on these games that the group played in order to win some tournament (where there wasn’t a whole lot at stake a la Hunger Games, just contracts and prize money and fame) and focused more on the individual, the group dynamic, and bucking the system through peaceful protests. It all really grew on me the more Kali came into herself and broke out of her role within the Games.

I like the world that Jennings develops, especially since it’s not much different from the world we know today. It’s a relatable distance in the future where tech has changed enough that we have these immersive gaming arenas and virtual gaming is a televised sport (although the fact that the players can actually feel the things being inflicted on them is disturbing in a skirting-the-edges sort of way), but the rest of the world hasn’t changed all that much. It’s not this super-distant into the future look. Just a couple decades where Nintendo is still relevant in a nostalgic sort of way.

Kali is a great character that has to rocket herself over a ton of hurdles in order to get from one side of the book to another. She has a major event happen to her toward the beginning that rocks her world in a rather destructive way. Because of that she practically nose dives off a cliff before being dragged back over by the last person she thought would help her, and the last person whom she thought she’d learn anything from.

I like how the story, despite all of the technological advances in gaming, fell back on very old world philosophy in order to get the team through the Games. It was refreshing. As was Kali working through her issues. It bordered on a Lifetime movie sort of read where things fell into place a little too nicely and a little too neatly, but not so much that I couldn’t suspend my disbelief nor did I stop rooting for the characters. I was okay with some sweetness and the more I read the more I liked the message the book was sending.

If I say much more I’ll spoil things, but I liked it enough to add GAUNTLET, the next book in the series, to my want list. I want to see where Kali takes everything, especially after where she left it off at the end of ARENA. The book was different than what I thought I was getting. It just feels that it’s further in the future than it really is, but that really worked in its favor. Definitely worth a read for older YA and the NA crowd about a young woman trying to find out who she is and where she fits in on her own terms. Really enjoyable.

4

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

August 8, 2017

Published: September 4, 2016
Publisher: Self
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Rhianwyn of the Caderyn is conflicted about giving up a warrior’s life to become a wife and mother, but her love for her new husband is enough to at least make her consider it. However, with the conquering Gaians moving ever closer to her homeland a peaceful life may no longer be an option, for Rhia or for any of her people. With rival tribes, old suitors, and the dangerous General Lepidus to contend with, Rhia soon finds her new family in unprecedented danger, and her choices now must be about more than just herself… (goodreads.com)

It’s a LONG book, that’s for sure. But even with that I didn’t find myself bored with the story. It’s not a fast-moving plot. It’s a slow burn that takes its time developing the world and the characters. It definitely has more plot than something character-driving, but a lot of time is spent on the characters as well and how they react and deal with the situations that arise around them. I was really afraid it was going to be a slog, but it wasn’t. I didn’t begrudge reading the story at all, and I thought Harker balanced detail with story excellently.

Rhia is an incredibly self-aware woman who adapts to change really well despite everything. She’s brutal but sympathetic, able to be demure when the situation calls for it, but not afraid to speak her mind when it’s rendered either. She’s a dynamic character who is a breeze to follow from one situation to the next.

The story itself is vividly painted. I was able to picture everything that happened, down to details, without actually being inundated with them. Sometimes with these books you get authors who go LOOK AT ALL THE RESEARCH I DID and instead of weaving those details seamlessly into the story you get great big heaps of unnecessary detail-dumping. That didn’t happen here. I felt the world-building and the story wove together seamlessly. Some of it was a little strange, like the communal bathing where Rhia’s dad was just hanging out with her and her friends while they bathed, all tits out and making vague sexual innuendos. Not sure how necessary that particular scene was, or how historically accurate, but at least it was a one-off. For everything that happens there isn’t any gratuity in the story, sexual or violent.

Harker created some excellent characters that were really easy to follow and blended them into a great story that felt like nothing to read despite how long it was. Personally I think that’s a sign of a good writer, someone who can write these longer books without having them FEEL like longer books. The only issue I really had was the WHY of the world. The blurb says it’s influenced by Iron Age Britain, which would have heavy Roman influence. Except 95% of this wasn’t influence, it WAS Roman and old Britain. There’s a hint of magic toward the end and I’m wondering if that element of the world is fleshed out better in the next book. But as WILDCAT stands I didn’t really see a reason why it couldn’t have just been set in that real world time period and the magical element thrown in. Not like artists haven’t taken liberties with history before. Just that thought kind of dogged me throughout the book. I couldn’t help but think that a book like AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is Roman influenced. It’s a vague homage, but the author really went her own way with it. WILDCAT isn’t influenced. It’s too heavily and too closely Roman/Britain to be just influenced. It didn’t make the story bad, but it did linger a question mark over my head about it.

Ultimately it’s really good, slow burn story that begs you to take your time reading it. Harker’s taken a lot of care in researching and developing this world and he’s created some really great characters doing it. I look forward to the next book!

4

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

August 5, 2017

Got a tiny haul last month, especially compared to the month before with all the BEA books in there. Just four this time around.

ARENA by Holly Jennings is one of the books I’m reading now. Got that from Blogging for Books. And SATELLITE by Nick Lake is for the blog tour in October. Come back around toward Halloween to check that review out. AMERICAN ASSASSIN by the late Vince Flynn is the first in the Mitch Rapp series. I really liked TERM LIMITS and my husband is a fan so I figured why not? PaperBackSwap is a great website, let me tell you. It’s also where I got ARCHANGEL’S KISS by Nalini Singh, the second book in that series. I couldn’t not after reading the first. I got more wrapped up into it than I intended.

And I just realized I should probably include the books I have sitting in my inbox waiting to be reviewed right now. Those count, right?

This one’s from Penguin’s First to Read program.

I got this one for review at the end of June and just didn’t think to add it to that haul list. Oops.

Another one I got at the end of June that I forgot to add to that haul pile. But I’m reading it now so that counts for something, right?

I actually did get this one in July. Along with this one:

Published: August 1, 2011
Publisher: Arthur A Levine Books
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Selene grew up in a palace on the Nile under parents Cleopatra and Mark Antony – the most brilliant, powerful rulers on earth. But when a cruel Roman Emperor takes the country and whisks the princess to Rome against her will. She finds herself torn between two young men and two possible destinies – until she reaches out to claim her own. (goodreads.com)

Whatever you do don’t read CLEOPATRA’S MOON and CLEOPATRA’S DAUGHTER by Michelle Moran too close together. They’re the same story. Luckily it’s been long enough since I’ve read the latter that I can’t remember details although I did remember some of the big details. For instance I knew how the story ended before I got there. Granted if you’re more familiar with the history you’ll know it already anyway. Two excellent authors writing the same story. Other than I loved the latter I won’t be comparing the two because I don’t remember enough detail.

That being said, CLEOPATRA’S MOON was excellent. Shecter did a fantastic job of inserting all of this historical information and making it a part of the story instead of piles of unnecessary information for the sake of having done the research. The world became its own character, weaving itself into the story and thriving around the characters themselves. I saw, smelt, and felt everything Shecter was writing.

The story itself was incredibly moving. It truly is heartbreaking watching what is rightly a child (although don’t tell her that) struggle to remember where she came from and grasping onto the last shreds of her life while being thrust into such terrifying unknown. And the ending, major historical event aside, was fantastic for Cleopatra Selene’s dawning realization. It was exactly what she needed. I certainly found myself tearing up in spots. Shecter has a knack for drawing feelings out of characters and making you feel every little bit of what they do. Little Ptolly. Ugh. My heart.

I loved how Cleopatra Selene fought for her mother’s and father’s memories every step of the way. She never let anyone sully her memory of her parents even when Augustus tried to drown out their excellence in his own smear campaign in order to make himself look better. It’s the author bucking against history too and I love it. History smeared Cleopatra into the dirt and the more books, fiction or non-fiction, that we can get that attempt to erase that craven vixen image the better.

If you want history to come to life before your eyes and read an excellent story with finely crafted characters while you’re at it, read CLEOPATRA’S MOON. You won’t want it to end.

5

Published: October 8, 2014
Publisher: Image Comics
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Everything you thought you knew about witches is wrong. They are much darker, and they are much more horrifying. Wytches takes the mythology of witches to a far creepier, bone-chilling place than readers have dared venture before. When the Rooks family moves to the remote town of Litchfield, NH to escape a haunting trauma, they’re hopeful about starting over. But something evil is waiting for them in the woods just beyond town. Watching from the trees. Ancient…and hungry. (goodreads.com)

Not to be confused with volume 1, which collects the first six in the series. This is just WYTCHES #1.

That being said, it’s creepy as hell. Between the art and the story itself . . . because I needed another reason to be afraid of the woods. Lucky for me I don’t live around them anymore so NO WORRIES.

It’s certainly a compelling story that starts decades in the past with a woman basically being consumed by a tree, which is horrifying. And then fast forwards to the present about a girl being heinously bullied and that ending . . . poorly. Not for the victim, though. Although it’s not anything she’s going to be able to forget for a while.

It’s got a bit of a chosen one syndrome going on with the main character there although I doubt her path is going to be saving the world. Eaten by tree wytches, maybe.

I do like how the witches in this world aren’t traditional witches, which is why they’re spelled wytches. They’re these gnarly, beastly things that require blood sacrifices in order to stay alive. Again, horrifying. Didn’t need another reason to fear trees. Really didn’t. But this is good because I actually find the story creepy. And the art. The art is kind of terrifying too. I need to get me the rest of the series now.

4.5

I received a copy of this comic from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.