Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman Review

Retribution Rails by Erin BowmanRetribution Rails by Erin Bowman (Vengeance Road #2)

Publisher: HMH Books For Young Readers

Release Date: November 7, 2017

Pages: 374

Summary: REDEMPTION IS NEVER FREE
When Reece Murphy is forcibly dragged into the Rose Riders gang because of a mysterious gold coin in his possession, he vows to find the man who gave him the piece and turn him over to the gang in exchange for freedom. Never does he expect a lead to come from an aspiring female journalist. But when Reece’s path crosses with Charlotte Vaughn after a botched train robbery and she mentions a promising rumor about a gunslinger from Prescott, it becomes apparent that she will be his ticket to freedom—or a noose. As the two manipulate each other for their own ends, past secrets are unearthed, reviving a decade-old quest for revenge that may be impossible to settle.

My Rating:★★★★☆ 

My Thoughts: Retribution Rails takes readers back into the world of Vengeance Road! Set 10 years later, we follow an outlaw and an aspiring journalist as the unlikely duo team up to bring down the infamous Rose Riders!

Honestly, I’d never really read westerns until Vengeance Road (back in 2015), but since reading it I found I really enjoyed them and can always expect tons of action and adventure. When I finished Vengeance Road, I’d always felt there was much more to tell from this era of the wild west. With Retribution Rails, I was so happy to be able to return to this world again & with new characters!

Following the POV of Reece Murphy and Charlotte Vaughn, they find themselves crossing paths and joining forces to bring down a dangerous gang, which Reece himself is a part of.

When a train robbery led by the Rose Riders goes wrong, Reece not only crosses paths with aspiring journalist Charlotte, but sees it as the perfect opportunity to escape.

But knowing he’s still tied to the Rose Riders, he follows a hunch that could finally earn him his freedom.

Reece was definitely my favorite character! From the moment he is introduced you can see the guilt and anger he feels as a member of the Rose Riders. Being forced to ride with them ever since they killed his loved ones, he can’t help but also feel obligated towards them, especially the leader Luther (having no one else by his side). However, its clear he wants to regain his life and no longer be known as the “Rose Kid” but Reece. So when he gets a tip on where the infamous cowboy is (the one who gave Reece a gold coin that got him caught up with the Rose Riders in the first place), he wastes no time following the lead & tracking him down!

Charlotte is determined to break her way into the world of journalism with her story on the unveiling of a new railroad. However, with her uncle rumored to be taking over her family’s fortune left behind by her late father, she knows this story will allow her to support herself and her mother, allowing them a way out. She soon finds herself caught up with Reece and the Rose Riders as she sets out for a new story. When she finds herself with no one else but Reece, she is left unsure whether she can trust this “dangerous” member of the Rose Riders who claims he’s ready to be free of the gang once and for all.

What I loved about Retribution Rails so much was how plot-driven the story was and how unique Charlotte & Reece were. I just adored them both so much and really felt they came alive, through their own engaging voice. Written through 1st person POV, we follow them as their paths cross and learn what they are willing to do for their freedom.

~It was also great to see diversity within this novel, with Reece being biracial (half Mexican).

Over the course of Retribution Rails, you really become connected to the characters and I loved the dynamic between Reece & Charlotte! What made their relationship so well done was the development that builds from them not really trusting each other to slowly relying on one another and having that trust gradually form, even well towards the end! I just loved their relationship so much & loved how there was practically no romance, but you could definitely see their connection!

It was great to see cameos from Vengeance Road & have them be such an integral part of the story as it progresses, but overall Retribution Rails really stands on its own!

The writing delivers so much to the characters & plot, you really feel immersed into this era of the wild west. From the setting to the integral development of railroads and strives of journalism, the writing makes these aspects such huge parts of the story which really bring it to life! The main characters, Charlotte & Reece especially, just come alive and you really understand them by the end of this novel.

While the plot was so engaging, I couldn’t help but feel the pacing to be pretty slow towards the middle and found the plot started to drag just a bit! I also felt some side characters could have had more development. Additionally, while the ending really builds to a great conclusion I did find it felt somewhat rushed and just wanted more from Reece & Charlotte <3!

Character-driven and immersive, Retribution Rails is a fantastic addition and conclusion to Vengeance Road!While it does have cameos and builds off some of the events of Vengeance Road, its a unique tale that really stands on its own. The wild west will come alive as you follow Charlotte & Reece on their adventures to bring down the Rose Riders as they also attempt to gain their own freedom! 

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Literary Listens: Podcast Recommendations Based On YA Books

literary-listens-podcast-recommendations-based-on-ya-booksIf you’re new to my blog, Literary Listens is a feature I created to share my love of podcasts while also incorporating my love for books! When I’m not reading, I also love listening to podcasts, especially audio dramas!

Its a blog feature I always have fun writing about & my hope is to introduce readers to cool new podcasts!

You can also check out my most recent feature, which was “Publishers and Podcasts” where I discussed TorLabs and speculated how Young Adult and Teen publishers could incorporate podcasts into their publishing!

Today I will be recommending and pairing up some Audio Drama Podcasts with Young Adult Science-Fiction Books!

YA Sci-Fi is a genre is a genre I’m just starting to get into, but hopefully the recs. I share today inspire you to pick up the books or podcasts mentioned!

Empress Of A Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza Cover Reveal 20171.If You’ve Read: Empress Of A Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza OR Shadow Run by AdriAnne Strickland + Michael Miller

Listen To: The Strange Case Of Starship Iris

Why:They feature rag-tag crews as they chart across space! All 3 are very character-driven and have such unique and immersive worlds/world-building!

Shadow Run  Cover RevealShadow Run + Starship have a fantastic group/squad dynamic that will have you rooting for them even in the wackiest situations!

Additionally, there’s diversity both in the novels + podcast!

~Empress: Features a predominantly diverse cast (Filipino + Black characters)

~Shadow Run: Features POC main/side characters + gender-fluid and gay representation

The Strange Case Of Starship Iris~Starship: Features a w/w relationship/romance, nonbinary, Chinese and Indian MC’s/representation

Summary: In 2189, Earth narrowly won a war against extraterrestrials. The Strange Case of Starship Iris is about what comes after. It’s a story of outer space, survival, espionage, resistance, identity, friendship, found family, romance, and secrets.

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada2. If You’ve Read: This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

Listen To: The Elysium Project

Why: Both heavily feature science, scientist parents, genetics in a near-futuristic U.S., and have tons of action/adventure!

The fascinating characters, world, and world-building will have you hooked from the very beginning! They are very plot-driven The Elysium Projectstories and will keep you guessing as to what’ll happen next!

Summary: The Elysium Project follows those who are pulled into the world of a powerful formula that allows its subjects to manipulate the world around them based on thought and desire.This is an independently produced audio drama series created and produced by Natalie Van Sistine.

No More Heroes by Michelle Kan3.If You’ve Read: No More Heroes by Michelle Kan

Listen To: The Bright Sessions

Why: Both feature groups of people with superpowers/supernatural abilities and have great diverse representation in their casts of characters (POC, anxiety rep., characters with different sexualities)

The Bright SessionsSummary: Dr. Bright provides therapy for the strange and unusual; their sessions have been recorded for research purposes. The show documents these patients’ struggles and discoveries as well as the motivations of their mysterious therapist, Dr. Bright.

If your looking for more space podcasts, definitely consider checking out, Girl In Space! Its a fairly new podcast with 4 episodes out and it has Girl In Space Podcasteasily become one of my favorites! The writing and plot are absolutely incredible! I highly recommend it (´▽`ʃƪ)♥♥~

Here’s a summary: Nothing fancy here — just the simple audio diary of a girl in space. Also, there’s this weird and potentially ominous light in the distance that seems to be growing steadily closer. Listen biweekly for science, guns, trust, anti-matter, truth, beauty, inner turmoil, and delicious cheeses. It’s all here. In space.

If you’ve read any of the books mentioned or have suggestions for other YA Sci-Fi titles that would go along with any of these podcasts, definitely leave a comment!

Additionally, if you’ve listened to any of the podcasts mentioned, are planning to, or have other sci-fi podcast recommendations, lets discuss in the comments!  😄🎙✨

Warcross by Marie Lu Playlist

Warcross PlaylistTo celebrate its release day, today’s Reading Playlist is inspired by Marie Lu’s Warcross!🕹🎮✨🎧

I was lucky enough to get an ARC earlier this year and flew through it in less than a day! It was everything and more I expected from a Marie Lu book and I absolutely adored it!

Warcross by Marie LuMarie Lu blended action, intrigue, world-building, pacing, character development, basically everything so perfectly!

If you’ve read Warcross or are planning to, you can check out my full ARC Review Here! {It’s spoiler-free}

Tracks featured in today’s playlist are from Final Fantasy XV, Fire Emblem Awakening, Kingdom Hearts 3D, & Kindom Hearts World Tour Orchestra!

Not only did I feel video game soundtracks went perfectly with Warcross, but I really felt the songs really captured moments from the story and especially the world!

Hope you enjoy! + Let me know your thoughts on this playlist in the comments below! 😀❤

Songs:

• Access The Grid (Kingdom Hearts 3D) • The World Of Dream Drops (Kingdom Hearts 3D)

• Majestic Wings (Kingdom Hearts 3D) • The Nightmare (Kingdom Hearts 3D)

• Rinzler Recompiled (Kingdom Hearts 3D) • Prelude~Fire Emblem Awakening

• The Fight Is On! (Final Fantasy XV) • Sacred Distance (Kingdom Hearts 3D)

• Veiled In Black (Final Fantasy XV) • Wave Of Darkness~Kingdom Hearts Orchestra World Tour

• Link To All (Kingdom Hearts 3D)

May 2017 Wrap-Up

# Of Books Read: 7

Amina's Voice by Hena Khan1. Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Amnia’s Voice Full Review

Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: March 14, 2017

Pages: 208

My Rating: ★★★★★

Overall Thoughts: This book was incredible from the writing, to plot & characters! Khan weaves in so many themes such as family, friendship, and identity! Following Amina’s journey through middle school, she begins to question as people and things around her begin to change. This novel has so many different and complex layers, that anyone can find an aspect of Amina’s Voice to relate to! Highly recommend this gem of a novel!

Another Castle Grimoire2.Another Castle: Grimoire by Andrew Wheeler + Paulina Ganucheau

Another Castle: Grimoire Full Review

Publisher: Oni Press

Release Date: February 28, 2017

Pages: 152

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: Another Castle: Grimoire is a graphic novel that puts clever twists+spins on classic fairy tale tropes! Following Princess Misty, she sets forth to Grimoire to defeat Badlug and keep her kingdom safe. While the story is a little slow paced, its filled with action and adventure! The art is bright and colorful too! There’s a big emphasis on friendship and its filled with empowering female characters!

Shadow Run  Cover Reveal3.Shadow Run by AdriAnne Strickland + Michael Miller (Kaitan Chronicles #1)

Shadow Run Full Review

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: March 21, 2017

Pages: 400

My Rating:★★★★☆

Overall Thoughts: Filled with action + adventure and a diverse cast of characters, you’ll be immersed in Shadow Run as you follow Captain Qole and Prince Nev and as they learn more about “Shadow” and how it impacts their world. I adored the characters so much! While I definitely wanted a little faster pacing + more world-building/development, this book is one I recommend if you’re looking to get into Sci-Fi! It’s very character driven and above all, a fun story! Can’t wait for Book 2!

Teenage model in hear shaped glasses laughing4.I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

I Believe In A Thing Called Love Full ARC Review

Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux (BYR)

Release Date:May 30, 2017

Pages: 336

My Rating: ★★★★★

Overall Thoughts: A delightful YA Contemporary with the perfect blend of humor, romance, and has themes of family and friendship weaved throughout. Told through 1st person POV, you follow Desi Lee as she creates a plan with the help of K-Dramas to help her find love. 

Flying Witch Volume 1 by Chihiro Ishizuka5.Flying Witch Volume 1 by Chihiro Ishizuka {Flying Witch #1}

Flying Witch Volume 1 Full Review

Publisher: Vertical Comics

Release Date: March 8, 2017

Pages: 160

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: A slow paced manga that follows Makato as she continues her training to become a witch. The story is very character driven and the story while it has its quiet magical elements, follows a “slice of life” approach. I did want more plot-wise, but above all this is a lovely manga! Highly recommend!

when-dimple-met-rishi-cover-reveal6.When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi Full ARC Review

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: May 30, 2017

Pages: 380

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: Balancing humor with more serious and heartfelt moments, When Dimple Met Rishi is a perfect summer contemporary! Its very character driven, and the magic & spirit of first love is captured through 3rd person POV as you follow Dimple and Rishi who have been set up in an arranged marriage. They have differing views of life and love, but throughout the story their relationship slowly develops and they learn more about themselves and each other along the way!

The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren7.The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren

The Last Thing You Said Full Review

Publisher: Amulet Books

Release Date: April 4, 2017

Pages: 320

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: Ben and Lucy have lost Trixie (a dear sister + friend). Told through dual POV, you follow them as almost a year has passed since Trixie’s death and the complex emotions that’s still with them and how they are coping. Biren does a fantastic job with developing the emotional complexity of her characters and its present all throughout the story. Slow pacing and difficult character decisions made this novel a little disappointing. However, with strong elements in terms of character and development, this novel is very unique in its discussion of grief. 

Additional Posts From This Month:

May 2017 Book Releases I’m Looking Forward To

Literary Listens: Publishers & Podcasts

The Becoming Of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin Cover Reveal

Literary Listens: Publishers And Podcasts

literary-listens-24hryabookblog-feature-bannerLiterary Listens is my newest blog series/feature where I discuss podcasts & books!

My most recent post was “YA Books That Need Podcast Adaptations,” which you can check out Here!

This weeks post is all about publishers and podcasts!

As of May 1, Tor Books announced it would be launching ” ‘Tor Labs,’ a new serialized fiction podcast imprint.

Their first project is set to be “Steal The Stars” written by Mac Rogers, the award-winning writer of podcast thrillers The Message and LifeAfter, which will have weekly episodes starting August 2-November 1. This “Noir Science Fiction Thriller” plot is set to center around the “story of Dakota Prentiss and Matt Salem, two government employees guarding the biggest secret in the world: a crashed UFO.

According to Senior Editor Marco Palmieri, from The Verge “no US book publisher, as far as we knew, was doing audio dramas — plays written to be performed by voice actors.

With podcasts gaining such popularity right now, this got me wondering, “Would YA/Young Adult and Teen publishers consider getting into podcasts?

If they did, how could it work?

After some thought here are some ideas I considered that could link a print book with audio:

~Author interviews

~First chapters/excerpts or bonus content converted to an audio drama format

~Behind The Scenes

~Similar to Tor Labs, perhaps teaming up with established audio drama podcast creators to deliver an original serialized podcast

Considering podcasts are free to find/download through iTunes, it could also be just a fun way for readers to hear more from their favorite authors or books!

Aside from the traditional book this is an interesting venture to deliver/experience stories!

Storytelling can come in a number forms whether its books, podcasts, etc. and considering the dynamic, groundbreaking, and immersive power of podcasts and audio dramas, I can definitely see this as a new way for publishers to connect with readers in a different way!

What are your thoughts on this?

Do you think more publishers will/should consider podcasts as a way to deliver stories?

Let’s discuss in the comments below! 🙂

Literary Listens: Podcast Recommendations For Writers

literary-listens-24hryabookblog-feature-bannerLiterary Listens is my newest blog series/feature where I discuss podcasts & books!

You can also check out my first post recommending podcasts based on YA Books Here!

Today’s post is all about storytelling!

While I do love reading, I also enjoy writing and there are so many ideas for novels that I’m eager to draft and that’s where podcasts come in.

When I find myself feeling unmotivated to write or find myself getting writer’s block, I listen to podcasts featuring authors and hosts that discuss writing/storytelling. After listening to authors or hosts discuss writing, writing tips, etc. it just inspires me to get back to my current WIP and keep on writing!

Storytelling is something I enjoy in a number of forms (Books, TV Shows, Video Games, etc.) and these podcasts are ones that I highly recommend if your looking to keep yourself inspired to create stories!88 Cups Of Tea With Yin Chang

1. 88 Cups Of Tea with Yin Chang

Summary: 88 Cups of Tea with Yin Chang is a podcast for the aspiring and professional storyteller alike. On the show, Yin chats with international bestselling novelists, screenwriters, and filmmakers about their journey to success. They also discuss career advice and “how-to’s” for listeners to apply actionable steps towards their own storytelling careers. 88 Cups of Tea with Yin Chang is a safe space for listeners to learn, and to feel empowered, inspired, and motivated. Welcome to our tribe of storytellers!

Why: Ranging from 30 minutes to an hour, Yin Chang’s interviewing brings such a great energy to the chat while following each storyteller’s journey, while providing great tips and advice for those eager to tell a story!

First Draft With Sarah Enni2. First Draft Podcast 

Summary: A podcast series featuring interviews with young adult and middle grade authors, about books, creative writing, an epic road trip, music, bookstores, tall tales & more.

Why: Sarah Enni (host) delivers a great in-depth conversation with authors interviewed both from Young Adult & Middle Grade. Its a fun podcast to listen to because I learn more about the authors themselves aside from just their path to publication among other aspects to their writing.

PubCrawl Podcast3. PubCrawl Podcast

Summary: Authors & publishing pros blogging about all things reading, writing, books, and booze. Reading You Under The Table Since 2012.

Why: I’ve just started listening to this podcast and I love the “Writing Mechanics” episodes! From what I’ve seen it also features a number of series surrounding tips for writing, authors, publishing, etc.  It offers a wide variety of writing and publishing advice and really goes in depth on a number of topics! Some of those include:

~Characterization: Discussing different character types such as protagonists + villains

~Publishing 101 (201, 301, Etc.): Discussing aspects of publishing + the publishing industry

~Troubleshooting Craft: Expanding on issues or elements that come up when plotting/drafting (Killing off characters, Expanding/Elaborating, and Earning Emotional Payoff

Have you listened to any of these podcasts?

Any recommendations for more writing podcasts to check out?

Let’s Discuss In The Comments Below! 🙂

Empress Of A Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza Review

Empress Of A Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza Cover Reveal 2017Empress Of A Thousand Skies (Empress #1)

Publisher: Razorbill

Release Date: February 7, 2017

Pages: 314

Summary: CROWN PRINCESS RHIANNON TA’AN WANTS VENGEANCE.

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, RHEE has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne – and her revenge.

ALYOSHA is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding – even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Belleza delivers a character driven sci-fi space opera that discusses very timely issues + politics as a princess + a tv celebrity find themselves on the run!

Empress had so many great elements! It was very plot + character driven and had little to no romance for most of the novel.

Being told through dual POV (3rd person) and it worked extremely well for this story! Because both characters aren’t exactly together for most of the novel, we get to see the politics, culture, etc. of the unique worlds from differing perspectives.

Aly, due to his Wraetan background is seen as different by others and fears if he is to do anything to damage his reputation while on TV, it would look bad for all Wraetans. Reading that made me feel so bad for Aly (with all the pressure upon his shoulders). Reading from his POV brought up very relevant and timely issues one could mirror to our own world that is sadly still seen today, how there are those out there who aren’t as accepting when they view people from other cultures and see them only as “different.” Which is so wrong!

Through Aly’s POV we see that just because he is Wraetan, he is framed from Rhee’s assassination.

Aly really goes into depth about his war-torn home and the struggles he’s faced to get to where he is. I loved the expansion on this subject, not only because it mirrors our own and gives perspective, but it shows how wrong/harmful these ideas are and can be.

As with Rhee, she flees her home planet after she nearly escapes an assassination attempt on her own life. She finds herself charting across different planets to track down who she suspects is behind her assassination and reclaim her throne!

She was very determined and came up with plans, however usually hesitated when the moments to enact her revenge finally came. With this all suddenly upon her, it would make sense that she would have her reasons for hesitation. Regardless, while she does make mistakes, she grows and no matter what happened along the way, she stayed true to herself and her goal. She never strayed away from it!

My heart broke reading what he had faced! I loved reading from both POV’s however Aly’s was definitely my favorite! Aly lost his family, his home, faced discrimination but no matter what, he kept pushing forward and never gave up fighting to clear his name.

From what I’ve read, I’m pretty sure there is a sequel! So I’m hoping with the next one, Rhee, Aly and the other characters introduced are given even more background and development, because there was so much mystery surrounding these characters.

I loved the unique aspects that Belleza was able to weave into this story, from the memory cube technology to the unique creatures found across the planets.

Additionally, a majority of the cast of characters were people of color, which is amazing!! I’m always happy to read a book with a diverse cast!! ❤

For the plot as a whole, I was kept surprised with each and every page! I could never guess where the story was headed which I adored, because it kept me invested from start to finish!

As for the pacing it was rather slow for me, however the mysteries that unfold had me turning the page to figure out who was behind it all!

As mentioned + introduced above, Belleza continued to discuss very timely issues such as immigration, politics, views on technology & privacy + so much more!

That is an aspect I loved so much about Empress! She really makes them an integral part of the plot and overall themes of the novel that really have you thinking all through out the entire story.

Additionally, there are so many layers to the story as a whole. Essentially, from Rhee’s perspective you learn there is a treaty in place and while it made the worlds stable when Rhee’s father established it, there’s still discrimination and tension between the planets.

Now as to why it wasn’t a full 5-stars:

First off I will admit, the summary was a little misleading for me, because going into the book I assumed Rhiannon + Aly would be together for most of the novel, however that wasn’t the case which is what I was expecting.

There were some moments I wish the worlds themselves were fleshed out a little more, while a lot of social issues are brought up within each world and discussed when Aly or Rhee visit them, in terms of descriptions + atmosphere I wanted a little more!

Empress Of A Thousand Skies is a thought-provoking story which takes the time to discuss very timely issues, introduces multi-layered politics and world-building, puts characters and plot at the center, and overall delivers a refreshing and unique tale in YA Sci-Fi!