Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

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fullstar fullstarfullstarhalf star
(3.5/5)

Plot: Amani has two choices in her dusty, desert, gun-toting town: stay and marry her uncle or her best friend, or travel to the big city where her aunt lives with a mysterious foreigner on a wild, magical horse. Amani, forever the big dreamer, the best sharpshooter in the Last County, chooses the latter. She and Jin, the handsome foreigner, travel across the desert, find a caravan and get taken off course from Amani’s dreams of going to the big city. As Amani begins to realize that the magical tales she was told as a child are actually more than true, she finds herself torn between helping herself find her aunt, or helping a rebel prince take the kingdom from a vicious Sultan with a dangerous, secret weapon. Always thinking for herself, will Amani take the easy way out, or finally decide to think about someone else for a change?

Review: If we’re being totally honest here, and let’s be real this is my blog so I’m gonna be honest, this was just a typical YA novel. First person and female protag, sexy male love interest, an adventure, things go wrong, drama, etc, etc. However, that doesn’t mean that it was a bad read! I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this. I loved that the setting wasn’t the typical setting that you see in YA novels. The time frame of when exactly this takes place was the only confusing thing to me. They’re in Northern Africa, probably close to Egypt, but they have gun factories and trains. It sort of felt like a Western, just in a different desert.

The writing reminded me surprisingly of my own, which, I’m not gonna lie, made me a little excited and gave me a boost in confidence. A small boost, but one none-the-less. Some of the lines within the writing really packed a punch, and if I were a tagging person, I would be able to write some of these down but alas I don’t tag my books. Just trust me…there is some really great imagery and similes in here.

The main character I really wanted to like, but she wasn’t very likable. She was both a little flat, and a little too selfish for me to truly enjoy reading. She got a bit better in the last quarter of the book but she definitely was not one of those protags that you want to take home and wrap in blankets and give tea to. I think that’s actually a positive though; if you like every protag of every book you read, there’s no excitement. I didn’t hate Amani, that’s for sure, but she didn’t stand out to me any more than any other of the characters in the book.

And yes, through all of the typical YA tropes, I knew just about every “twist” before it happened, except for a small one near the very end. I like being at least a little surprised when I read a book, so that was great for me. It was a very quick read and I would recommend this to anyone who wants a quick YA read without a sappy romance that’s set in a place not often represented in fiction, especially YA.

The Best Zombie Show Out There?

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In a world of media that has been dragging down the zombie genre for about a decade now, it’s hard to find something new and fresh on the zombie front. There’s not too much that can be done about zombies…they’re undead, they usually look gross, they’re hard to kill, and they eat brains. The Walking Dead in its original medium, comic books, was really great. I thoroughly enjoy the tales they spin. Even the old school video games are good. However, the translation from comic to television, in my opinion, very nearly killed the zombie genre. We have great movies like Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead and Warm Bodies, and then we have The Walking Dead. Can anyone pick up what’s the leading difference between those movies and the infamous tv show?

I can, I can! Humor! Comedy! Zombies are outrageous, slow, dumb creatures generally speaking. They’re scary because they have the potential to become real if humans really decide to mess up in the next century. So to lighten up the load of “Holy shit, this could actually happen and that’s terrifying”, add some comedy to the fight-or-be-eaten tone that accompanies zombies and you get…

Z Nation!

Okay, okay, I will admit that I am 100% biased toward the Syfy channel. Their movies are laughable, but their television? It’s amazing! Great acting/casting, amazing unique storylines…I’ve watched every show they’ve aired in the past five or six years and I have never been disappointed. I didn’t watch Z Nation when it aired on Syfy (I don’t have cable) but when I saw it pop up on Netflix, I was like…”It’s Syfy, gotta check it out”. I had tried watching The Walking Dead a few months prior and vowed to never watch another zombie show ever again, but I have faith in Syfy and I have never looked back.

The show does not take itself too seriously. It’s cast of characters in episode one already grabs the viewer. There’s Charlie, the group’s leader, and his right hand woman, Roberta Warren, a military woman. Need I mention she is a black character who becomes the group leader/lead role in the series?? There’s the younger characters: Matt and Addy, the love birds whose final year of high school was interrupted by the zombie outbreak, Cassandra who is not the best fighter but is still human and becomes an integral part of the group, and the quiet, but deadly 10k. He calls himself 10k because that’s the number of zombies he intends to kill. And then there’s Doc, the oldest of the bunch, who is very much the zen hippie of the bunch who is, surprisingly, the voice of reason a lot of the time when he’s not smoking z-weed or getting high off pharmaceuticals. And, of course, the twist that Z Nation brings to the table: a criminal named Murphy who gets bitten by zombies but lives. The entire first season (and most of the rest of the show) surrounds the mission (code name, Operation Bitemark) of getting Murphy to a facility in California to make a vaccine from his blood.

And there we go. There are a few other characters, but, like most zombie shows or movies, not everyone lives through to the end. The stakes are high in this show; they’re not afraid of killing people and mixing up the cast. However, amidst the seriousness of fighting for their lives and for the hope of humanity coming back from the apocalypse, there is humor. It’s rare to watch an episode without laughing at least once. The show is based around family, the connection the main group has is something that really carries the show. Characters are allowed to grow and go on their own paths, but they always end up coming back to each other in the end. There is a lot of heartbreak too. We slowly get introduced to the main characters’ back stories and sometimes it will actually make you cry. It’s intense; they don’t sugar coat anything. And, of course, an ever-present theme is: how messed up humans are.

Sometimes, the show showcases how the zombies are piddle next to the psychotic nature that some humans have. It’s startling, realistic, and terrifying because of both of those reasons. It’s a show that is a hodgepodge of so many things you’d think it won’t work. But it does. If you watch the first episode and are hesitant to keep going…KEEP GOING! I urge you. I’ve never watched a zombie show or movie like this. It’s rough and gritty and everyone is morally and ethically gray. It’ll shove the realities of what humans will do to survive in your face and make you rethink your entire lives.

And it’ll make you laugh. That’s the most important thing.

Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima

Just as a fair warning, this is a companion series, there may be some spoilers for the original Seven Realms series!

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5)

Plot: Flamecaster takes place 25 years after the end of the Crimson Crown. Raisa is queen, and Han Alister is still the High Wizard, but this book follows their middle child, Ash, after the death of his older sister, Hana. Ash is a healer who specializes in horses, and he has a strong relationship with his father. However, after Han Alister’s untimely death, Ash runs away, thinking it was his fault. He goes under a false name, Adam Freeman, to Oden’s Ford, a school on neutral ground that teaches spirituality, magic, and combat. Parallel to Ash’s story is that of Jenna Bandelow, a young girl who works in the mines at Delphi. After the horrific death of her two best friends at the hands of the King of Arden, Jenna makes it her life goal to destroy Arden’s hold on Delphi and to kill the king. The story fast forwards four years to when Ash and Jenna are teenagers. Ash is found out as the son of Raisa and Han Alister and Arden’s vampiric priests come after him. He escapes, and travels to Arden to try to get close to the King of Arden so he can kill him. Meanwhile Jenna is being searched for by the King of Arden as well. As death and ruin and suspicious characters surround Ash and Jenna, their lives will eventually come together in a startling and powerful climax that will be sure to change the fate of the Seven Realms forever.

Review: Okay, to start off, I am so excited to finally have my hands on this book. I read the Seven Realms series last year and gobbled up the books so quickly. They were just so good! I thoroughly believe that Cinda Williams Chima is up there with JRR Tolkien and George RR Martin and Tamora Pierce when it comes to so effortlessly writing an entirely new world. I don’t mean to say that it was easy for her to write it, I just mean that reading it is effortless; I don’t get confused when she talks about the politics of each of the kingdoms, or about the religious practices in different parts of the world, or about past monarchs. I trust her as a reader to give me the information I need to understand her tale and I have never been disappointed.

Flamecaster is one of those stories where I was like “Oh yay, new story” followed by “oh no, it’s a next generation story”. I’ve been burned by next generation stories before. However, I went into this knowing that Chima is such a stellar writer, and I was not disappointed at all. Even though it followed new characters–Ash and Jenna–I still was attached to the world they live in and the stories took place close enough to each other where many characters from the Seven Realms series were also in this one.

The new characters were super intriguing and definitely felt like their own people, rather than a repeat of the original series, both in their actions/personalities and the roads their lives took. I found Ash particularly interesting, as he was a good mixture of both of his parents, especially young Han’s darkness and Raisa’s desire to help and heal. Jenna was a little spitfire, and while I was confused about her “birthmark” since I don’t remember it being mentioned until she was much older in the story, I was intrigued by the vagueness of it and especially that little twist in the epilogue! She was such a powerful female character because she cared so much for her family and those she loved on top of my favorite trope of “girl dresses as boy to avoid detection” mixed up with the huge reveal for her later in the story…it was hard not to love her!

I read this book super quickly. Probably a little too quickly. I definitely will go back and reread it soon. However, some last minute thoughts: I really, really wish the next novel also followed these characters! I know, I know, I’m greedy! But the ending just left so much open with so many questions I need to know what happens right now! Though, I do have full faith that even though the next book follows Ash’s youngest sibling, it will tie together with Flamecaster enough to sate my need to know what the heck happened in those last few chapters, but especially the epilogue! I need answers, and unfortunately I am not very patient!

This book was everything I could have asked for and more. It is an amazing fantasy series that everyone should read, starting with The Seven Realms. I highly recommend this to anyone who is looking for a fantasy novel that I would consider closer to Game of Thrones than Lord of the Rings in fantasy, as there are no elves/dwarves/hobbits, but there is magic and the world is entirely made up. It’s a very politically driven series, but it focuses so much on the characters that you’ll hardly notice!

The 100: Rebellion (#4) by Kass Morgan

Just as a fair warning, this is the 4th and final book in a series! There will be some spoilers for previous books in this series!

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4.5/5)

Plot: In the final installment of the series, the hundred, the Colonists, and the Earthborns are all working together to create a new home for themselves. They’ve come down from the mountain and the woods to accommodate their growing population size. Everything is cheery and beautiful as they start a harvest celebration. A celebration that is suddenly attacked by brutal male intruders sporting guns, white clothes and mask-like faces. Among our favorite characters, Wells, Glass, Octavia, Eric (and also Graham) get taken, leaving Clarke, Bellamy and Luke with those who survived. As the storyline splits between the captured and those left behind we have Clarke, Bellamy and Luke making plans to follow and get their friends back amid the carnage left behind. Those captured find themselves taken to what was once the Pentagon, and are faced with the calm before the storm and their time is quickly ticking down. Will the hunting party be able to get to them in time?

Review: I bumped this down half a star for only one fact: yet again, just as things seem to be going perfectly well, some new obstacle comes along. I mean, I know that’s how plot works, but the show takes this to an extreme that has me so tired, especially when my favorite characters are involved. Anyway, like book 3, this was a bit more fast paced, and there was once again a face to put toward a protagonist. When the white-clothed men showed up I thought we were going to find something similar to the Mountain Men of the TV show, but I was taken by surprise about what actually happened! I don’t want to spoil it, but trust me, it’s really weird and takes a surprising turn that had me hooked.

I was glad to see that Glass had a little self-growth in this book, as she’s felt pretty stagnant this series. Wells continued to be a good strong character, dealing with the grief of losing Sasha and his father but also gaining a family in Bellamy and Max. Clarke always stayed true to herself the entire time, and yet she made some mistakes as any 18 year old would do when put through these circumstances. I was glad that they addressed Bellamy’s PTSD, even though after a while it was sort of tossed under the rug, but the timeline within the pages was very short so it’s possible, realistically, that he’ll be dealing with it for years or the rest of his life.

It was a perfect little ending, with “surprising” characters showing that they didn’t need saving and showing just how innovative and powerful they could be on their own because a lot of them had been on their own most of their lives, OR they always had some parent around and were pampered. There was a nice mixture of side characters, Octavia got a little romance, and the ending tied up nicely with a bow (something the show could learn from *coughs*) that had me satisfied and content with the future of my beloved characters!

The 100: Homecoming (#3) by Kass Morgan

Just as a fair warning, this is the 3rd book in a series! There will be some spoilers for previous books in this series!

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5)

Plot: The one-hundred convicts from space have been on earth for about three weeks now. They have a working community, there is romance blooming between Clarke and Bellamy and Wells and Sasha, and, as we learned in the last book, Wells and Bellamy are half-brothers! Things are starting to look up for the hundred until drop ships start falling from the sky, setting fire to the forest and disrupting the calm on the surface of the planet. As we’ve seen, most of the hundred were in jail for petty crimes, and yet, with the arrival of armed guards and Vice Chancellor Rhodes, the peaceful camp gets turned quickly into a prison for those who traveled to earth first. With Rhodes being a general shithead of a human being, he starts a war with the peaceful Earthborns of which Sasha is a part of, and doesn’t believe the convicts when they explain to him that there are violent Earthborns out there as well. Things get heated as Rhodes starts punishing kids for crimes committed on earth, and lives hang in the balance as our main PoV characters each take their own separate yet intwined journey.

Review: My, my, my rating for this book jumped compared to the first two! I’m not sure if it’s because of my frame of mind, or if this series is genuinely getting better. With the arrival of Rhoads and more adults, the hundred now have a physical embodiment of human evil to be their protagonist. Thus far the only protagonist of this novel has been faceless Earthborns and, on the space shuttle, the lack of oxygen. Having guards and adults around propelled the story forward with a momentum that hardly ever let up.

Clarke and Bellamy (#Bellarke forever, according to the Author’s Acknowledgements at the end!) are still going strong. Wells and Sasha are so cute it hurts, and Glass is becoming more tolerable as a narrator, though her single minded obsession with her boyfriend, Luke, is sort of tiring but very reminiscent of typical YA behavior.

One of my favorite things about this series thus far is that every character has stayed true to their characterization. Yes, they’re teenagers so they will grow with each new situation thrust upon them, however, as people I believe we have a default setting imbedded deep inside of us that doesn’t change and Morgan does an amazing job of keeping these characters in line. So many novels, especially series, start to see a slip in characters as it goes on, and yet this one is keeping everyone on an even keel that is unsurprisingly pleasant to read.

There is a sense of finality at the end of this book, but I know there is one more where lots of shit is going to go down, I am sure! I cannot wait to finish this series.

If anyone has read this, wants to read this, or has watched the show, comment below about what you think!

Writing Update #3

If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m pretty flighty when it comes to finishing projects. I can and do finish projects but only a first draft. I have a weird psychological, Mozart complex where, while I don’t think my writing is perfect by a long shot, I have SUCH a hard time revising and editing anything I write while doing it on my own. Workshops in college helped a lot. I also find it easier to edit short stories than full manuscripts.

That being said, I have a lot of stress and things to think about over the next 5 weeks. In 5 weeks, I’ll be moving 700 miles away from all of my friends and family (yahoo! on the family bit) and living completely on my own away from the cushion of college for the first time. Because of that, and many other psychological ticks that I have, I am finding it very hard/impossible to revise my full manuscript as planned. I have it all printed, I have ideas and notes written all over the place…I just can’t do it right now. Not on my own, at least.

So, to push through any dumb writer’s block my mind is tricking my into thinking I have, I am going to polish off some short stories I’ve written during college and also new ones since I graduated a year and a half ago, and get them submission ready. I want to submit to magazines and journals as much as I can until something gets picked up and I can finally accomplish something that I’ve been dying to do since I was 12 years old: call myself a PUBLISHED author. I feel like it will do a great deal for my mental state and self-esteem when it comes to my writing ability as well. (My writing ability, in my eyes, has greatly waned since I graduated, as I haven’t written anything of significance since then, unable to focus on a single project on top of other life stresses.)

I hope this will work out for me, and I cannot wait to post everywhere across social media when I officially get published. The story I’m working on right now is titled “The Blue Plains of Oblivion” and it is a love story (star-crossed lovers style) in a surreal setting!

Stealing Time by KJ Waters

To start I just want to say that I was sent this book for free for an honest review from Indie Book Connector. Thank you for sending it to me!

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ (3/5)

Plot: The reader is put in the midst of the 2004 Hurricane Charley in Florida. We meet the main characters of the story, Ronnie, her best friend Steph, and her boyfriend, Jeremy. In the middle of the storm, Ronnie goes to see Jeremy at his super secret science lab for a birthday evening in safety. However, she passes out in the bathroom and wakes up in 1752 in the body of seventeen-year-old Regina Ingram. The rest of the book follows Ronnie in 1752 trying to get back home and accidentally being accused of witchcraft, as well as with Steph back in Florida trying to survive the storm. The biggest catch: the 1752 that Ronnie ended up in is not the same one from our history books; it reads more like a parallel universe that is similar, but with some major differences: aka the hanging of witches frequently and something called a “time-slip” which is a big mystery that takes place over the course of the novel.

Review: I always review a book in its entirety, from cover to cover and everything in between. Let’s start with the plot itself. The plot, not only just time-travel, but time-travel into another body, was so unique. It pulled me in right away! I thoroughly enjoyed following Ronnie through 1752. On the other hand, I felt that Steph’s chapters were unnecessary as I didn’t connect with her as a character and I mostly just skimmed her chapters to get to Ronnie’s chapters. (Another note, Jeremy has 2 separate chapter in this that I felt gave away too much to the reader (remember, your readers are smart, you don’t have to dumb stuff down for them!) and I really hated reading them and found them unnecessary to the plot.)

It took me a long time to read this book, mostly because of the formatting/editing errors. There were so many inconsistencies with punctuation and so much wrong with the formatting of dialogue that it pulled me out of the story more often than not. The same can be said for Steph’s accent/slang which felt extremely forced, and having to read all of Mathias’s dialogue with a written accent was more distracting than helpful. (I know that there was sort of a reason for this, but I still feel that, as a reader, I could have been introduced to his accent in a different way.) I rarely write in books, but I marked all of the punctuation and grammar errors while I read this one. All of these little things took away from the story and stars out of the rating; even if independently published, I expect a polished manuscript. I felt as if I were reading a lightly edited first draft. However, as stated above, the storyline was super intriguing and I loved every minute of it. I just wish the author had gone through a bit more content editing to really bring her writing up from mediocre to a fluid personal style, and also to catch all of the errors.

I really connected to Ronnie even though she was a bit older than me and had a very different life experience than me. I felt like the other characters were either thought about too little or too much, which made them inconsistent, but I still found them entertaining to read. (AKA I totally loathed Jeremy through the entire book, but especially after his second lone chapter!) I felt the ending lacking, but I can see that it will easily lead to the rest of a series and if the other books are a bit more polished, I would be interested to read them to see if some of my suspicions about the time-travel are true or not!