ARC Review – The Revealed by Jessica Hickam

The RevealedTitle: The Revealed

Author: Jessica Hickam

Genre: Dystopian, Sci-Fi

Publisher: SparkPress

Publication Date: June 17, 2014

Paperback: 314 pages

Stand alone or series: First in a projected series

How did I get this book: e-ARC via NetGalley

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to SparkPress for letting me read this.

Let’s start with a brief synopsis (via Goodreads):

Lily Atwood lives in what used to be called Washington, D.C. Her father is one of the most powerful men in the world, having been a vital part of rebuilding and reuniting humanity after the war that killed over five billion people. Now he’s running to be one of its leaders.

But in the rediscovered peace on Earth, a new enemy has risen. They call themselves the Revealed – a powerful underground organization that has been kidnapping 18 year olds across the globe without reservation. No one knows why they are kidnapping these teens, but it’s clear something is different about these people. They can set fires with a snap of their fingers and create a wind strong enough to barrel over a tree with a flick of their wrist. No one has been able to stop them, and they have targeted Lily as their next victim.

But Lily has waited too long to break free from her father’s shadow to let some rebel organization just ruin everything. Not without a fight.

What I thought:

I was both really surprised and really impressed with Hickam’s debut novel.

I requested this book on NetGalley because of that amazing summary (and that absolutely beautiful cover!). It sounds super cool, right? Well, it was. Take a dystopian novel then add in what are essentially X-Men mutants, and you’ve got The Revealed. The novel begins with our narrator, Lily, describing the current situation in what is now called the “North American Sector”, which is basically the ruins of the US after a huge war. The US has been mostly destroyed and everyone who survived the war all live on the East Coat. Lily is the daughter of one of two presidential candidates in the first election since the war. Roderick Westerfield is the other candidate, who has a son named Kai. Since the war, a group of people with special abilities called The Revealed has been kidnapping 18 year olds sometime before their 19th birthday. Lily has been marked to be taken, and as such, has been locked up in her home for the year just like every other 18 year old. I’d like to mention that her house is a freaking mansion.

So one of the things I really liked was that Hickam hints at the war, but never truly reveals any details. We don’t know what caused it, how it happened, and we only get a few details for what’s happened since then. I thought this was quite clever, and it kept me reading. I do hope, however, that we get more details as the series progresses. Another thing I liked was how well-done Westerfield was as a villain. He feels positively slimy and icky. When he is touching Lily while they dance at a party, my skin crawled.

The writing was fantastic. I’m surprised this is Hickam’s first novel. She’s a wonderful writer. Hickam’s got great descriptive abilities; I could picture everything she described and her characters are really well done (well, except one, which I’ll mention in a sec). Her writing was my favorite thing about this novel.

Okay. What I didn’t like was Lily actually. She was seriously inconsistent and selfish and immature. She’s gone through so much in her young life that I felt her immaturity was strange. All she wants to do is rebel against her family and she tries (and succeeds) to escape her house several times, which I do understand because her mother is horrible; however, she begins the novel saying her father came to her for advice all the time on his speeches and cared about her opinion, but later she says that since he announced his candidacy, they’ve been on bad terms. Um, what? Also, her love interest in Kai is crazy. Her family used to be close to his but then the war happened and her father and his announced their candidacies; things changed. He betrayed her when they were in high school then joined the military. Now he’s back and she trusts him again, even when he really doesn’t give her much reason to. It wasn’t exactly insta-love, but it was a little too close for my comfort. She was basically like this, “I hate him. I like him. I don’t like him. He’s so hot. I can’t like him. I do like him.” UGH. I would like to say that I thought Lily started off the novel so strong, independent and forceful, and then suddenly she’s whiny, vulnerable, and weak. This was strange, and it happened too quickly to be a believable change.

On the other hand, I really loved Rory, who is an intern in Lily’s mansion’s kitchen. Oh, yeah. She lives in a freaking mansion, but she keeps trying to rebel and escape. What? Anyway, Rory is Lily’s best friend, and she’s great. She’s feisty, strong, and rambunctious, and I would totally be friends with her.

Also, there’s a twist about ¾ of the way through that I thought I knew what was going to happen and was totally SHOCKED. So that’s really awesome. Additionally, I won’t give too much away, but when we finally meet The Revealed and they explain themselves and what’s been happening, I loved that. It was a really cool way to explain their powers. Just all around great ideas in this novel.

The bottom line:

I really liked this novel, and I think this series has a whole bunch of awesome potential. I will most definitely read the next in the series, but I hope that our main character has grown some and gotten over herself. I would recommend this book for sure.

Rating: 7.5 – between pretty good and freaking fantastic

You can learn more about Jessica Hickam on her website. You can also pre-order The Revealed on Amazon.

Reading next: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

Sneak Peek Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Isla and the Happily Ever AfterTitle: Isla and the Happily Ever After

Author: Stephanie Perkins

Genre: YA, Contemporary

Publisher: Dutton

Expected Publication Date: August 14, 2014

Stand alone or series: Last in a trilogy

How did I get this book: Sample via NetGalley

NOTE:I was provided with an e-ARC of this sample via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Dutton and Penguin Young Readers Group for letting me read this.

YOU GUYS! Josh is back!! AHHH. This sneak peek was the first five chapters of the book. My review will be pretty short because of that, but I just had to talk to someone about it.

Let’s start with a brief synopsis:

From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

What I thought:

YES. I kind of almost just want my review to be that and only that. YES.

I’ve only read five chapters so far, but I think Isla might actually be my favorite of the three girls. She’s quirky, a bit of a loner like me, sarcastic, kind, and adorably crushing on Josh. I took several notes that were basically the same thing: “hahahaha” or “aw” or “cute!” Isla’s secret crush on Josh is charming. It reminds me a lot of myself when I was younger: totally head over heels for someone but pretty much unable to speak properly when they’re around. Here’s an example of an exchange I lol-ed over:

He watches me quietly for another minute. “So…you were serious? You wouldn’t mind if I sketched you?”

“Yeah, I’d love that.” I love youuuuuuuuu. “What should I do?”

I doubt anyone is really worried, but this book is going to be just as adorable and sweet and funny and lovely as the other two in the series. Isla’s best friend is named Kurt Donald Cobain Bacon, and while I seriously hope we get an explanation for that name, I know I’m going to love him, too. I don’t want to give too much away, but he’s very literal in the way he interacts with other people and I can just tell he’s going to be a source of humor in the book.

I can’t wait to see how Anna, St. Clair, Lola, and Cricket tie in. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing Cricket again. 😉

The bottom line:

Is it August yet?

Have any of you guys read the sneak peek of Isla and the Happily Ever After? What did you think? Or if you haven’t read it, can we just fangirl over the fact that Josh is back in the comments?

Make sure you add the book to your Goodreads shelf!

ARC Review: Paradigm by Ceri A. Lowe

ParadigmTitle: Paradigm

Author: Ceri A. Lowe

Genre: Dystopian, Speculative, YA, Literary fiction

Publisher: Bookouture

Publication Date: June 13, 2014

e-book: 1,382 pages (Goodreads says this is how many pages will be in the paperback edition)

Stand alone or series: First in a trilogy

How did I get this book: NetGalley

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Bookouture for letting me read this.

Let’s start with a brief synopsis:

What if the end of the world was just the beginning?

Alice Davenport awakens from a fever to find her mother gone and the city she lives in ravaged by storms – with few survivors.

When Alice is finally rescued, she is taken to a huge underground bunker owned by the mysterious Paradigm Industries. As the storms worsen, the hatches close.

87 years later, amidst the ruins of London, the survivors of the Storms have reinvented society. The Model maintains a perfect balance – with inhabitants routinely frozen until they are needed by the Industry.

Fifteen-year-old Carter Warren knows his time has come. Awoken from the catacombs as a contender for the role of Controller General, it is his destiny to succeed – where his parents failed.

But Carter soon discovers that the world has changed, in ways that make him begin to question everything that he believes in. As Carter is forced to fight for those he loves and even for his life, it seems that the key to the future lies in the secrets of the past…

What I thought:

I’ll admit: I was first drawn to this title on NetGalley by its cover’s similarity to that of the Divergent series (though it is kind of a rip-off, isn’t it?). Then I read the summary. It sounded fascinating, like a unique and interesting take on dystopian fiction. I was really excited when I was granted access to the e-ARC.

I wasn’t disappointed in the book, but I think my hopes were a little too high for it. There were things I liked and things I didn’t like.

The things I liked:

-The novel alternates between chapters set in 2015, with Alice, right before and after the Storms ravaged London, and 87 years later, with Carter, as he is awoken from his slumber (is that the right word? I don’t know), his time in the Catacombs where he has been in stasis for the last fifteen years. This was very cool because, at the same time, we got to see how the Community was formed, how life got to be the way it was for Carter, and then how he saw it change and become something else entirely. I thought that switching between the two of them was a perfect way to have both a prequel and a sequel, if that makes sense (though I will comment later on how I preferred one character more than the other).

-The novel had some very beautiful descriptions, for both the emotions of the characters and the atmosphere/setting. Here’s an example:

What was the point, thought Alice, of that headstone now? She imagined it anchored under acres of water-sky, sitting alongside supermarket trolleys and broken glass with her father flying high in his coffin, floating amongst the clouds made of buildings.

I was able to completely picture the scene with this description. And “water-sky”? I don’t know, I just really liked this. Another example:

She felt the weight of the earth and the world and the stars melt from her shoulders and rise upwards to meet a cloud-shaped like the moon in the sky of the canteen ceiling.

-The idea behind the novel is just fascinating: Storms have ravaged London (we don’t actually hear anything about the rest of the world, though it’s probably safe to say the same fate has befallen the whole world) and a company called Paradigm Industries was already fully prepared. Alice, and many other survivors, are taken down into their underground bunker where they live for the next five years as the Storms continue to rage. Carter, who lives 87 years in the future, was raised as a Contender for the leader of the Community. In the Community, some people are frozen, put in stasis, for a time so that others may live. The Model, a computer program, decides when certain people are needed based on their knowledge and skills. I mean, how cool is that? Also, I seriously hope that we learn more about how the Model works; how has it been programmed to know when people are needed? I loved the idea. And overall, I thought it was really well-developed, and we get a good idea for how the Community is formed, though we should learn more about this in subsequent books. I thought Lowe’s dystopian novel was so unique because we actually got to see how the dystopian society was formed and exactly why it was dystopian; the problems were so very evident for the reader.

-I honestly don’t know how this makes sense, but as I have sat here and written this much of the review, I have realized just how much I liked this book. Though there were several parts that I just didn’t enjoy while I was reading, I realize now that I liked it A LOT. Weird.

The things I didn’t like:

-Carter. This is the note I wrote after I finished the book: “What the hell with Carter? Carter’s boring until about ¾ of the way through. Then really good. Then boring. Then interesting.” Haha. I found myself pretty bored with him for most of the middle section of the book. I kept reading his parts really fast so that I could get back to Alice, whose chapters I really, really enjoyed. Then about ¾ of the way through, his chapters got super cool and I was reading them fast for a completely different reason. Then, his chapters were kind of boring, but his last couple of chapters were interesting. I don’t know. I had mixed feelings about him.

-Although the novel had some very beautiful and wonderfully descriptive parts, it also had several that had me rolling my eyes or questioning if this was even the same author. Seriously. Some parts/sentences were almost juvenile in their descriptions. Though I will say that it helped the prettier parts stand out even more in their stark contrast.

-The cover art. Now that I have read the novel, I’m actually really disappointed with the choice for the cover. It is an obvious attempt to attract readers, specifically teens, I think, that read and loved the Divergent series. This novel is so unlike Divergent, and many other recent dystopian novels, and I think giving it a cover like that doesn’t actually do the content of the book justice. This is a pretty adult book in that it asks a lot of hard questions about what we, as a society and as individuals, focus on; we care so much about materialistic things that we don’t realize that we are ignoring our planet. Alice says, “Instead of doing something about the planet, about wars, about the madness, people just hoped things would improve.” Of course, things didn’t, and won’t, improve. This novel was a lot more serious than I thought it’d be. It is less action-packed, less focused on the romance than several dystopian novels recently published. I thought Paradigm was actually more like literary fiction with a dystopian plot thrown in. So, yeah, bad cover choice.

What these things mean:

I want to say that I didn’t really realize that I really liked Paradigm until after I’d finished it and started my review, so I don’t know what that has to say about the book; it’s probably good that I was still thinking about it and considering exactly what it was trying to say after I was finished. Alice was so compelling. She is an 11-year-old girl who lives with her mother, a prostitute, in council housing. She’s gone through a lot in her short life, and, therefore, doesn’t feel much in the way of emotions and favors logic over everything else. She was actually a little off-putting at first because of how unemotional she was through everything; I mean, she’s 11 and she doesn’t cry when she realizes her mother is probably dead and she is completely alone. I suppose she has always been alone. I was pulled into her story right from the start.

The bottom line:

While there were some parts that I thought were a little boring and unnecessary, overall, I really liked Paradigm. I’m looking forward to the next in the trilogy to see what becomes of both Alice and Carter and how their lives are even more interwoven than they though.

Rating: 7 – pretty good

If you are interested in reading Paradigm, it is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Reading next: The Revealed by Jessica Hickam

Book Review: Coin Heist by Elisa Ludwig

Coin HeistTitle: Coin Heist

Author: Elisa Ludwig

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery

Publisher: Adaptive Studios

Publication Date: June 10, 2014

eBook: 225 pages

Stand alone or series: Standalone

How did I get this book: NetGalley

NOTE:I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Adaptive Studios for letting me read this.

This book is available as an eBook on Amazon HERE. It will be released on June 10th.

Let’s start with a brief synopsis:

The last place you’d expect to find a team of criminals is at a prestigious Philadelphia prep school. But on a class trip to the U.S. Mint – which prints a million new coins every 30 minutes – an overlooked security flaw becomes far too tempting for a small group of students to ignore.

United by dire circumstances, these unlikely allies – the slacker, the nerd, the athlete, and the “perfect” student – band together to attempt the impossible: rob the U.S. Mint. The diverse crew is forced to confront their true beliefs about each other and themselves as they do the wrong thing for the right reasons.

Elisa Ludwig’s Coin Heist is a fun, suspenseful, and compelling thriller, told from the revolving perspectives of four teens, each with their own motive for committing a crime that could change all of their lives for the better—if they can pull it off.

What I thought:

The Netgalley page for this title promised this book was “The Breakfast Club meets Ocean’s Eleven”, which is why I requested it. I LOVE both of those movies, so a book that was a combination of both? Sign me up!

Other than the fact that Coin Heist mentions Ocean’s Twelve at one point, I wouldn’t say this book is anything like it. I was bored throughout the whole thing. Honestly, the only reason I finished it was because I kind of felt obligated to as I received it for free.

Alice, Jason, Benny, and Dakota are four kids who go to the same private high school but they aren’t friends. They run in different circles, but after the school loses most of its money, they team up to rob a US mint. The novel switches between each of their perspectives with every chapter; I know this was an attempt to hear the story from these characters’ points of view and to find out why they were agreeing to do something like this, but none of the voices were unique. Each chapter felt like it was being told by the same character. When I read a book that changes perspectives, I expect to be able to know which character is narrating without the author having to tell me. I couldn’t tell in this book. Their voices were not original or unique, which made for a pretty bland experience for me. None of their emotions were true and I couldn’t relate to them at all. Their emotions were all flat and were described kind of clinically, and I just didn’t feel any of them. I could tell that the author tried to make them distinctive occasionally: Alice is the brain and a few times she comments on what’s happening through “social math” (describing life events and situations through math); Benny is Hispanic and once or twice he uses a Spanish word in his inner monologue instead of an English one. But neither of these things happened enough. Benny only does this about two times in the whole novel, and Alice’s “social math” isn’t really explained or used enough to make sense. I think that if these had been expanded upon, it could have made their voices really unique.

And then there’s the plot. Wait, what plot? This book is about a coin heist, right? Nothing actually happens until more than 75% of the way through! I was just bored. I will say that it was a really light read and I read it really quickly, so that was a plus. But other than that, I didn’t like this book. I thought the idea behind the book was super cool, and I was excited for it, but it just didn’t live up.

The bottom line:

This book was bland and boring, and it was pretty close to being a DNF for me several times. The characters’ perspectives were not distinct and the plot was practically non-existent.

Rating:  3 – Horrible; why am I reading this?

Reading next: The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder