Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab Review

our-dark-duet-victoria-schwab-cover-revealOur Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab (Monsters Of Verity #2)

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Release Date: June 13, 2017

Pages: 510

Summary: THE WORLD IS BREAKING. AND SO ARE THEY.

KATE HARKER isn’t afraid of monsters. She hunts them. And she’s good at it.

AUGUST FLYNN once yearned to be human. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

THE WAR HAS BEGUN.

THE MONSTERS ARE WINNING.

Kate will have to return to Verity. August will have to let her back in. And a new monster is waiting—one that feeds on chaos and brings out its victims’ inner demons.

Which will be harder to conquer: the monsters they face, or the monsters within?

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Through Schwab’s character-driven and immersive finale, a new monster emerges in the world of Verity as Kate and August’s adventures conclude in Our Dark Duet!

It saddens me that this novel wasn’t a full 5 stars similar to This Savage Song (which I adored! <3) however it is definitely a solid conclusion! 

Similar to all of Schwab’s other novels, I love how she builds the atmosphere of her worlds! Through her writing, her stories/worlds are always immersive and unique!

It was great to see August and Kate develop as they are set on their own paths, especially August since This Savage Song.

Kate now in works as a monster hunter, but when a new monster emerges she finds herself heading back to Verity.

As their stories progressed, it was heartbreaking to read them come to accept difficult truths not only about the fate of their city, but of themselves.

As a new monster emerges, it was also fascinating to get a lot of POV chapters from Alice and Sloan. They get much more development than in Book 1 and it really brought more depth the story overall to see their plans unfold over course of Our Dark Duet.

Additionally, what made them so fascinating to read about, was being able to get into their head and learn more about who they are and what their goals/plans do to them along the way.

I also loved the inclusion of Soro’s character, another Sunai (who identifies as gender fluid) and used they/them! They were a great character who was such a supportive friend to August when he found it difficult to use his Sunai abilities and coming to terms about humanity and what it means to be human. Above all Soro was an amazing character and even though they were just introduced in this novel, definitely became one of my favorite characters.

As mentioned above, through the inclusion of Sloan + Alice’s chapters, we got even more depth into the hierarchy and inner workings between the Malchai and Corsai!

As for world-building, there is a little more in terms of the different monsters and their role in Verity, which I loved because they were such an interesting part of the world. However, in terms of setting I do wish there was a little more description.

Schwab’s writing especially in this novel, really shows the stark differences between Kate & August, with that, we see the dark truths of humanity and the divide between good & evil which really built into the story.

As to why I took off a star, I did find that since this novel read as a dystopian (for me personally) and found there to be some tropes I usually find in those novels, present in this one, which really made this novel feel difficult to get through at points.

I felt what made TSS so much fun, was the interaction/connection of August & Kate and I felt they really didn’t have that many scenes together in Our Dark Duet which made me so sad :'(!

There were also a couple important plot points that felt super rushed as I neared the end, which really made it difficult to really grasp their severity.

Above all, it felt like there was just something missing from this novel that made it quite different from This Savage Song.

Regardless…

Our Dark Duet is a solid, action-packed conclusion to this dark, character-driven duology! Monsters still roam the streets of Verity and with that, Kate and August must face the difficult truths of who they are!

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie Review

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily SkrutskieThe Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie (TASU #1)

Publisher: Flux Books

Release Date: February 8, 2016

Pages: 320

Summary: Cas has fought pirates her entire life. But can she survive living among them?

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

My Rating:★★★☆☆ ½

My Thoughts: The Abyss Surrounds Us is a YA Sci-Fi that is set in a fascinating futuristic U.S. with sea monsters and pirates! Wonderful characters and its unique setting will keep you turning the page!

I think I just went into this book with completely different expectations (hyping it up in my head) + based on edits and praise I’d heard, I was personally expecting a completely different story than I got! So sadly, TASU did let me down.
However…
I will absolutely be reading the sequel!! I am still very invested in the story and intrigued to see where the plot goes!

Cassandra (or Cas) Leung is a Reckoner trainer who’s worked with her parents her whole life to understand Reckoners (giant + genetically-engineered sea monsters) and use them to accompany ships and avoid trouble with pirates.

However, when she gets assigned her first solo mission, things go very wrong! She gets captured by pirate queen Santa Elena and is forced to train Elena’s own Reckoner pup or face serious consequences!

What I really loved about this novel was the world! Set in our world, the U.S. is now divided among much larger territories, such as the Northern and Southern Republics of California.

In this futuristic U.S. there are now floating cities, pirates, genetically engineered sea monsters! So many great elements were introduced to this world and that is what really set this sci-fi novel apart from other’s that I’ve read. I just loved how focused it was on the science of this world!

Additionally, I loved the diversity! From the main character Cassandra who is Chinese-American + a f/f relationship that develops!

Aside from that, there’s so much girl power + I loved that this novel had a large cast of female characters! Many, such as the girls on Santa Elena’s ship (& Elena herself) were morally grey and it was clear they had so much depth and complexities to their characters! Above all it was just great to see a large cast of females at the center of this novel!

I also really enjoyed the writing-style! I love reading from 1st-person POV, because we learn so much more about the protagonist from seeing the world and everything that encompasses it from their eyes and that really allowed me to connect with Cas along the way as she finds her strength to prove herself as she trains a Reckoner pup for Santa Elena!

Through the writing (perhaps this is just me) it always felt like I was in a piratey-sci-fi! Skrutskie did a fantastic job at creating the atmosphere that really made you feel like you were out at sea with sea monsters, Cas and the crew!!

This was very character-driven story which I really loved too! As the story progressed, I could see Cas changing and growing as she spent time on the ship.

Now as to why my rating is rather low…I was expecting a lot more action and from my personal reading experience I didn’t really get much from the plot, aside from months passing by with Cas training with the Reckoner and some interactions here & there with the crew. Personally I just wanted more :/

Additionally, I wanted more development from the world. While it was discussed in a broad sense, it would have been great to get a more in-depth look at the politics, etc. of this unique setting!

As mentioned above, just because of my personal expectations, I was a little let down and did feel the pacing was rather slow at points (which did take me out of the story).

Regardless…

The Abyss Surrounds Us is a YA Sci-Fi which delivers a wholly unique story with pirates and sea monsters, fascinating characters, and a complex world that will immerse you from page 1!

The Becoming Of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin Cover Reveal

MaraMichelle Hodkin’s Mara Dyer Trilogy, centered around Mara Dyer who “survives the traumatizing accident at the old asylum, it makes sense that she has issues. She lost her best friend, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s sister, and as if that weren’t enough to cope with, her family moves to a new state in order to give her a fresh start. But that fresh start is quickly filled with hallucinations—or are they premonitions?—and then corpses, and the boundary between reality and nightmare is wavering. At school, there’s Noah, a devastatingly handsome charmer who seems determined to help Mara piece together what’s real, what’s imagined—and what’s very, very dangerous.

Ever since the trilogy’s finale with The Retribution Of Mara Dyer and the announcement of a Mara Dyer spin-off trilogy (announced back in 2015), The Becoming Of Noah Shaw finally had its cover reveal!

As of May 8, EW revealed not only the cover, but also a sneak peek which you can read Here!

Now for the cover of The Becoming Of Noah Shaw

The Becoming Of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin

I fell in love with the immersive, dark and thrilling story of Mara Dyer back in 2014 and I cannot wait to return to the world of Mara Dyer with this new story!

This cover is fantastic! I love how it goes with the originals, but still has its own unique style! ❤ ❤

It definitely has a darker + more mysterious tone than the original covers, but is still incredible all the same!

The Becoming Of Noah Shaw is set to be released November 7, 2017!

Riveted Lit also made a cover reveal post, which you can check out Here!

What Are Your Thoughts On This Cover? 🙂

If you’ve read Mara Dyer, are you eagerly anticipating this new series?

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! 🙂

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!

Warcross by Marie Lu Cover Reveal

Marie Lu, author of the New York Times Bestselling Legend Trilogy + The Young Elites Trilogy just had her cover reveal for Warcross, her latest novel set to hit shelves this fall!

When a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths.

Summary: For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

I’m such a big fan of Marie’s books and being a gamer myself, I am beyond excited to read this book! ❤

Now for the cover…

Warcross Cover Reveal

Oh gosh! I really like this cover! ❤

It really gives off a “video-game”-type of vibe & I love that!

The bright colors + rainbow element really makes it stand out and I cannot wait to see how it’ll look in hardcover!

I also love how the pattern really brings a unique delivery for the title!

It did take me by surprise, but I love the general theme of it and feel its an overall really fun and bright cover and as always Marie’s covers are so unique!! (´▽`ʃƪ)

Originally released from Entertainment Weekly, there was both a cover reveal and excerpt which you can check out Here!

Warcross is set to be released October 3, 2017!

So what are your thoughts on the Warcross cover? 

Lets discuss in the comments below! 🙂

The Valiant by Lesley Livingston Review

the-valiant-by-lesley-livingston-book-reviewThe Valiant by Lesley Livingston (The Valiant #1)

Publisher: Razorbill

Release Date: February 14, 2017

Pages: 384

Summary: Lost to history, the story of the female gladiator has never been told. Until now.
Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king and the younger sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha. When Fallon was just a child, Sorcha was killed while defending their home from the armies of Julius Caesar.

On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is excited to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in her father’s war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured by ruthless brigands who sell her to an elite training school for female gladiators owned by none other than Julius Caesar himself. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon s family might be her only hope of survival.
Now, Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries, deadly fights in and out of the arena, and perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier and her sworn enemy.

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

*Received a finished copy through a giveaway*

My Thoughts: Livingston delivers a character-driven tale about a Celtic princess turned gladiator!

Recently announced, The Valiant will b getting a sequel!! I can definitely see how the ending would be nice to it conclude it as a standalone, but I truly fell in love with this world + characters and I’m so happy there’ll be a second book!

The first few chapters alone, really pull you into the story and wastes no time showing the complexity and depth of the main character Fallon.

While this novel does have action, it is definitely more of a character-driven story and the gladiator aspects do appear throughout the novel, but a really featured more at the end!

Fallon truly changes over the course of this story, but above all changes for herself and is an independent and determined heroine! I loved reading from her POV!

On the evening she is hopeful her father will add her to her to the warband, she gets captured and is forced to become a gladiator for Rome. Once there, she is determined to get her freedom, however along the she learns more about herself and her family, but mostly the enemy territory that invaded her home years ago.

While forced to train as a gladiator, she learns more about the people who brought her to Rome and what the costs truly are if she is to find a way back home.

The other side/main characters were also very well written and developed. Through Livingston’s writing, you really get to understand these characters, even with just a few passages! (Cai & Elka were my favorites!)

There’s so much girl power + amazing female characters. Over the course of this novel, Fallon finds friendship between her gladiatrix companions (especially Elka) even the Achillea  and its clear while they may not always get along, they are there to look after each other!

They were very much like sisters and overall I loved how the females were given a central role in this world/story!

Reading about these female gladiators was truly fascinating and it sucks there isn’t much historical record of them, but it was definitely wonderful to get a chance to read about them from this novel!

Fallon struggles with the loss of her sister and it’s clear that both her sister Scorcha & the loss of her, pushes her and has molded Fallon into the person she is.

I felt it had the perfect amount of romance! Wonderfully done! It never felt too forced and it never felt like it took over the plot or changed Fallon’s motivations in any way! Through out the novel she really focuses on earning her freedom on her own personal development, with out help from Cai and it showed just how determined she was to prove herself.

I did take off 1/2 a star b/c I felt the pacing was slow at times & I wanted more action!

Regardless, this is a very character-driven novel with twists + turns and delivers a tale about honor, family and sisterhood + foreshadows an even more epic journey to come in the sequel!