ARC Review: See All the Stars by Kit Frick

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Release Date: August 14, 2018

synvia Goodreads 

It’s hard to find the truth beneath the lies you tell yourself.

THEN They were four—Bex, Jenni, Ellory, Ret. Electric, headstrong young women; Ellory’s whole solar system.

NOW Ellory is alone, her once inseparable group of friends torn apart by secrets, deception, and a shocking incident that changed their lives forever.

THEN Lazy summer days. A party. A beautiful boy. Ellory met Matthias and fell into the beginning of a spectacular, bright love.

NOW Ellory returns to Pine Brook to navigate senior year after a two-month suspension and summer away—no boyfriend, no friends. No going back. Tormented by some and sought out by others, troubled by a mysterious note-writer who won’t let Ellory forget, and consumed by guilt over her not entirely innocent role in everything and everyone she’s lost, Ellory finds that even in the present, the past is everywhere.

The path forward isn’t a straight line. And moving on will mean sorting the truth from the lies—the lies Ellory has been telling herself.

review3 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley &  Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing

I had a hard time rating this book because on one hand, I couldn’t put it down, and on the other hand, it dragged so badly at some points that had I not wanted to figure out what happened, I would have DNF’d and moved on. 

But I needed to know. Despite the blatant toxicity of the friendships in this book, despite so-so characters, and a shrug of a love story, that hint of a good mystery was all I needed to push forward. No spoilers and I should have seen it coming because the book comparisons alone were enough to give it away. Do yourself a favor and DON’T read the full Goodreads synopsis from the top. 

If you read this book for what it’s marketed as, you’ll be disappointed. If you read this book for what it really is, an ode to friendship and a navigating through loss (whether it’s of friendship or tragedy) you won’t be disappointed. 

At its heart, See All the Stars is a gripping mystery that explores the complexity of friendship and how toxic relationships can shape us into who we are and it might not be what you desired for yourself. When you let someone take the reins of your life and lead, you might not be happy where you end up. This book is about 4 friends who are all connected by their fiercely independent and adventurous ringleader, Ret. Ret is the center of their universe and without her leadership, the girls have nothing in common, so you can see where the drama comes into play. Lies, punishment, pitting the girls against each other is all part of Ret’s hold. The story is from Ellory’s POV. She’s really into metalworking and dealing with some stuff. Her world revolves around Ret in a very unhealthy, almost obsessive fixation. She checks her actions against Ret and looks to her to see how she responds. Why Ret has such power over these girls is a mystery. When Ellory starts to pull away things quickly go downhill and in comes the romance. 

As romance goes, this one was kind of bland. There wasn’t any real fire, not even really a connection-it just was. Don’t get me wrong, at times there was really beautiful writing and gorgeous metaphors but the words did not match up with the actual feelings between the characters-or at least, it didn’t read that way. The emotions weren’t there. 

I liked that the story was told between the past and present. Towards the end it all collides and it gets a little confusing. I had to reread one section because I wasn’t sure whether it was in the past. There are flashbacks in the now sections as well. 

There’s colossal build up. Tension is high because as the reader you know something terrible happened but not the magnitude. When you get to the end everything suddenly makes sense with startling clarity. 

Keep reading, 

Jordan

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ARC Review: Burning Bright by Chris Cannon

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synvia Goodreads

Bryn is back for her senior year at the Institute for Excellence, also known as shape-shifting dragon school. She isn’t sure which is scarier, the life-force sucking dragons stalking campus or the fact that she’s officially betrothed to Jaxon, a guy who will never love her. Not that she could ever love him, either… That’s just ridiculous.
 
Senior year should be fun. Her parents are alive, she’s finally fitting in, and she’s learning how to be a Medic. But what’s with Jaxon giving her strange looks? He runs hot and cold, and he doesn’t even have the excuse of being a hybrid fire-and-ice-breathing dragon like her. One minute they’re having a great time and the next, she wants to blast a fireball at his head. The marriage contract of doom looms over them–unless this match not made in heaven kindles a flame…

review3/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Entangled Teen 

I think part of the reason I was underwhelmed by this book is because I loved Bryn’s story so much. I was so invested in her story, that I yearned for a happy ever after. I was not disappointed. Watching the love blossom and evolve and grow was like a sudden discovery of something that has always been there. Bryn is one of my all time favorite characters. She’s sarcastic, headstrong, brilliant, and so brave. A risk-taker, a leader-she breaks down walls and questions authority, unwilling to give into the archaic ideas of gender roles-especially for the upper class dragons. Bryn is a true warrior and she deserves someone equally as fierce. 

My biggest issue with this final installment in the Going Down in Flames series was not the plot, because that was epic, but the uneven focus. So much time was spent dwelling on the will they/won’t they of the impending relationship that it disrupted the pacing, making it much slower than the previous books. 

I adored Bryn’s internal dialogue. How she questions herself, sorts through her feelings, and pushes herself to be bold, further, to see things in a new light made me admire her even more. Everything was so genuine, from the confusion to the surprise lust. 

Jaxon. What a powerful shift. From the cold, calculated, and arrogant jerk he originated the series as to the compassionate, loving person he becomes. His walls were high and armored but he was willing to take a chance. I have crushed on Jaxon since book 1. There’s something about a bad boy, semi-villain that is so intriguing. Jaxon has much more depth and heart than he was ever given credit for and it’s finally in this book that we get to see Jaxon broken and bare, with his heart on his sleeve. ❤ ❤ ❤

All in all, this was a quick, fun read, but not all that I hoped for the conclusion of the series. 

Read on, 

Jordan

Review: Of Jenny and the Aliens by Ryan Gebhart

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synvia Goodreads

Ten years after Earth sent messages out into deep space, there has been an answer. Music from a distant planet has reached the our radios. Are aliens about to invade? No one knows, and almost-eighteen-year-old Derek doesn’t really care, because at a wild end-of-the-world party, Jennifer Novak invites him to play beer pong. And things…progress from there. Derek is in love. Deeply, hopelessly in love. He wants it all—marriage, kids, growing old on a beach in Costa Rica. Jenny is The One.

But Jenny has other plans, and they may or may not include Derek. So Derek will try anything to win her—even soliciting advice from the alien who shows up in his hometown. This alien may just be the answer to Derek’s problem. But is Derek prepared to risk starting an interstellar war to get his girl? And just how far is he willing to travel to discover the mysteries of the universe—and love?

review1/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Candlewick Press

I read this book in June of 2017 and it has taken me this long to write the review because I thought I’d DNF and try again, but after a second foray into this story…I just can’t. I made it a full 25% before I had to back away or risk throwing my Kindle. 

Of Jenny and the Aliens is the worst parts of The Catcher in the Rye meets Bright Lights Big City. It’s full of crude and sometimes downright repulsive and exploitative depictions of women from the mind of a sexually frustrated teenage boy. Maybe it’s honest. Maybe it’s accurate, but as a female reader, I was more than a little creeped out by it. I understand angst. I understand finding people attractive but for the love of all that is holy, did it have to be worded in such a gross way?

But I kept going…at least for a while anyway. 

First, let me say this: I would not put this on a shelf for 13 year olds. Upper YA-if that. Between the language usage and fantasizing and the weird locker room talk objectification. 

The story itself would have been interesting if the characters weren’t so unlikable…for the most part. Jenny is unique. She has depth and a past. There’s mystery and a genuine urge to solve the puzzle of her character, but it is quashed by the love interest. He’s stereotypical. Obsessive in an unhealthy and weird way. The plot is bizarre but intriguing. Except, you don’t know if it’s real or some random, hallucinogenic episode while the character was stoned out of his mind. 

What I liked about this book was THE COVER. It’s what attracted me to the book. That, and the fact that it featured aliens. I was desperate for a new alien book, a little Jennifer Armentrout meets The X-Files, but sadly, this was more teenage male fantasy than sci-fi. 

Desperately searching for alien YA, 

Jordan

ARC Review: The Life and Death Parade by Eliza Wass

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Release Date: June 26, 2018

synvia Goodreads

One year ago, Kitty’s boyfriend Nikki Bramley visited a psychic who told him he had no future. Now, he’s dead.

With the Bramley family grieving in separate corners of their home, Kitty sets out to find the psychic who read Nikki his fate. Instead she finds Roan, an enigmatic boy posing as a medium who belongs to the Life and Death Parade–a group of supposed charlatans that explore, and exploit, the thin veil between this world and the next. A group whose members include the psychic… and Kitty’s late mother.

Desperate to learn more about the group and their connection to Nikki, Kitty convinces Roan to return to the Bramley house with her and secures a position for him within the household. Roan quickly ingratiates himself with the Bramleys, and soon enough it seems like everyone is ready to move on. Kitty, however, increasingly suspects Roan knows more about Nikki than he’s letting on. And when they finally locate the Life and Death Parade, and the psychic who made that fateful prophecy to Nikki, Kitty uncovers a secret about Roan that changes everything.

From rising star Eliza Wass comes a sophisticated, mesmerizing meditation on the depths of grief and the magic of faith. After all, it only works if you believe it.

review3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Disney-Hyperion 

When I first started reading this book, I was struck by the style-it’s like The Great Gatsby meets Rebecca and has dinner with The Diviners. There’s something whimsical, yet dark and Gothic about the word choice and overall atmosphere of the book-because that’s what was created here, an extensive and powerful atmosphere of mystery, magic, and yearning. 

Here’s the thing, while I have an English degree and love the classics, I’ve never been one for magical realism. Something about it feels false but to tell this story, it was the perfect choice. The Life and Death Parade is unsettling. It will make you question what is real and what is cleverly promoted through lies, smoke, and mirrors. There are many times when it seems you’re on the verge of answers but when they come, they’re to a different question or not all what you expected. And some things are started and left unfinished. Whether it was an intentional decision or not, it’s as much of a mystery as the truth itself. 

There’s a kind of lazy, upper-class entitlement that threads through the book. Like Holly Golightly in male form. The characters are…eclectic and not exactly likeable. They did have unique, if odd, personalities. I wish I would have liked them enough to become invested in their future, but really, I just cared about the story itself. 

The plot was intriguing. It sucks you in and holds you prisoner. You need to know what happened and there are so many possibilities. I loved the blend of magical, traveling performers, and praying to specific saints for favors. The Life and Death Parade is a culture in itself and so cool. There’s a New Orleans vibe set in the English countryside. The crafting of altars, psychic readings, and sensationalization drags the reader right into that world, and begs them to question whether they believe and how much it matters.

At its heart, this is a story of grief and trying to process how it happened after the fact. The characters are lost in the past and don’t know how to move forward because of their tragic loss. They all mourn in different and arguably unhealthy ways because they were waiting for closure that would not come on its own. 

I liked that there wasn’t really an in-your-face consuming romance, but one that hummed beneath the story and yet was the entire foundation for the events that occured. 

All in all, this was a strange, enjoyable read. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this: 

Read on, 

Jordan

 

Lost Review: Throwaway Girl by Kristine Scarrow

 

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“We are ‘throwaway girls,’ kids that are too old to be cute and cuddled, too set in our ways, and too old to be saved because the damage has already been done. But to each other we are sponges, soaking up every bit of love and praise we can find. We’re warriors of our pasts, searching for the part of ourselves that want to grow into something more than we’ve been told we’ll ever be. We long to be accepted and loved so we create the only family we’ve got.”

***

“I run the shard up and down my arms, making my body as broken as my spirit. I imagine myself dead, lying in a pool of blood in the dark, damp stairwell and cry even harder.” 

syn

Andy Burton knows a thing or two about survival. Since she was removed from her mother’s home and placed in foster care when she was nine, she’s had to deal with abuse, hunger, and homelessness.

But now that she’s eighteen, she’s about to leave Haywood House, the group home for girls where she’s lived for the past four years, and the closest thing to a real home she’s ever known.

Will Andy be able to carve out a better life for herself and find the happiness she is searching for?

review

3.5/5 Stars

***I received this book in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley and Dundurn.

***Contains graphic scenes of abuse, mutilation, and rape. May not be appropriate for some readers. Upper YA.

Throwaway Girl is an incredibly raw and piercing emotional journey into the psyche of a beautiful young girl, broken but undefeated, recovering from the scars of her past. A collision of the past and the present, Throwaway Girl reads almost like a diary, full of poignant memories of loss, abuse, and the struggle of the human spirit to overcome life’s horrors. An achingly brutal and realistic look into child abuse, self-mutilation, and dangerous coping mechanisms, Throwaway Girl empowers the and awakens a sense bittersweet sorrow and admiration for Andy.

Throwaway Girl is a gritty, dark, and introspective journey into the heart of the most twisted and prevalent injustices in our society. The things we look away from because they seem too overwhelming, like we can’t make a difference, that it’s too much, these are the very things that we need to stand up for. Those children who are beaten and broken by their loved ones, who live on the streets, who have no one and are shown “love” in the most violent, horrific, and sickening ways, they’re everywhere and they’re growing in number. Throwaway Girl is harsh and eye-opening. It shows a reality that is mean and cruel and threatens to destroy so many people. 

There are many subjects and scenes in this story that are graphic, violent, and mature. For a YA audience, this may be too adult for some readers. However, these subjects are a part of our world and happen every single day. The number of people who have been sexually assaulted is 1 in 4 in the United States. AND that’s the number reported. Awareness is crucial. 

Andy is strength embodied, though she doesn’t know it. She fights hard against her circumstances. No matter how hard she’s hit, how many people take from her things that are precious and steal her sense of safety, she bounces back and comes out stronger and more determined. Sometimes, Andy doesn’t know how to cope and she lives in pain, anguish, and distancing herself from reality-much like an out of body experience. Her world is devoid of happiness, it’s bleak and brutal, and made of those who want to damage her for their own selfish reasons. Andy may have her downs, she may feel suicidal, broken, and defeated, but she never ever gives up on her dreams. The moment she discovers the therapeutic value of writing is like a revelation-it’s absolutely beautiful and written so well. 

Emotions are off the chart. You’ll feel everything. Love, elation, despair, depression, betrayal, and a need for safety so poignant that it feels as if you’re living the emotions as they happen. It’s powerful.

The love story was a serendipitous event that’s sudden and becomes a little like a plot filler. It’s glossed over and while the build up is talked about, it’s summarized, without any true scenes.

The discovery of her mother after ten years have passed is not traumatic or even psychologically explored. It’s just there, from one scene to the next with no effect on Andy’s character growth. It’s there and then gone, this should have been a pivotal moment for Andy, one that spiraled into deep emotional reflection and processing and it’s disregarded. The transition from this scene to the next is abrupt and feels as through an entire plot point was completely forgotten or even ignored.

Andy’s healing process is mentioned but barely. How Andy made such a dramatic change and recovered emotionally is left out altogether except for a fleeting mention of therapy at the Haywood House. By not including this it takes away from Andy’s character growth and makes it seem as though magically she’s okay after everything she went through.

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Compelling reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: A Whisper in Time-Elizabeth Langston

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2.5/5 Stars

A Whisper in Time (Whisper Falls, #2)

Release Date: April 8, 2014

Spencer Hill Press

***I received this e-book as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley and Spencer Hill Press

I loved the feel of her mouth under mine. I loved the way she tried to give back. It wasn’t enough, but t wouldn’t be much longer before it was too much. I wrapped her in my arms and swayed to the music that only we could hear.

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I have never been useless in my life.

Rescued from a life of servitude by the boy she loves, Susanna Marsh escapes across two centuries, only to be plunged into a world she’s ill-prepared to face. Unable to work or go to school, Susanna finds herself dependent on others to survive.

Immersed in the fun and demands of his senior year of high school, Mark Lewis longs to share his world with the girl who’s captured his heart. But first he must tackle government bureaucracy to prove Susanna’s identity.

Overwhelmed by her new home, Susanna seeks refuge in history and in news of the people she left behind. But when she learns that danger stalks her sister, Susanna must weigh whether to risk her own future in order to save Phoebe’s happiness.

-via Goodreads


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  • There’s something sweet, innocent, and natural about Mark and Susanna. They just fit. Some scenes of them just being together are uplifting, warm, and just so freeing. Their love is simple despite the fact that she’s not even from the same century, it’s strong and sturdy, able to withstand the problems of impending college life and Susanna’s impediments trying to gain citizenship without a birth certificate.
  • The story concept is wonderful. The sheer magical, temperamental nature of Whisper Falls makes it almost alive.
  • Susanna’s most compelling trait is her fierce protectiveness for her sister, Phoebe. Susanna is giving, open-hearted, and will risk everything for her loved ones. Often this means she makes rash, stupid decisions without considering the consequences from multiple angles. This bull-headedness is infuriating at times, you might want to strangle her a little or slap some sense into her.
  • Susanna’s issues gaining status without any legal proof of citizenship or birth was a really interesting look at the system and the steps to work around these conditions. At times, it felt hopeless and impossible but Susanna and Mark never stopped fighting for her place as a legitimate person in this century.
  • Mark adores Susanna. It’s in his image of her as this perfect, angelic creature. Mark’s internal dialogue on Susanna is honest and worshipful, she’s his everything and this makes Mark a bit more likeable. Mark is more developed than Susanna and his warring desires to enjoy his senior year and be with Susanna, who is many ways is mentally stuck in the 1800s is palpable.
  • Phoebe has dreams and desires, she’s young but she’s fierce and determined to make something of herself despite her circumstances. She’s unafraid to speak her mind and though this does earn her a few raps on the knuckles and doesn’t do much for her job as a maid, she’s certainly courageous.

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  • The plot is ridiculously slow. It takes quite a while to get into anything interesting and this is very much so because of the plotline in general being about trying to obtain legal rights as a person.
  • Mark gets irrationally angry and says some seriously jerky comments that make you second guess his character. Sure, he’s frustrated and a little fed up but chill out, if you’re in love you need to have patience.
  • The characters are bland. Susanna is from another time period where there wasn’t really much to do besides domestic work but she’s so headstrong and never thinks things through, and her sections are mindnumbingly boring. All she does is think about Mark or her sister, I was looking for her feelings, what makes her Susanna but it kind of got lost in the plot. I was left feeling unsatisfied and unable to come up with many characteristics about her.
  • Most of the secondary characters aren’t even that. There are flashes of them without much development or purpose.

If you like any of the following, you might enjoy this:

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Pleasant reading, 

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ARC Review: Shattered Veil-Tracy E. Banghart

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Shattered Veil (The Diatous Wars, #1)-Tracy E. Banghart

YA Dystopian

Release Date: February 28, 2014

*I received this ARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley and Tracy E. Banghart

Goodreads/Amazon/Barnes and Noble

Warmth rolled in slow, heavy waves from her cheeks down low into her belly. For a while, Aris didn’t think. She lived in the heated space between their bodies, in the slick warmth of Calix’s mouth. Every thought, fear, memory faded and the world was reduced to the wildness of the ocean throwing itself to the shore, the fathomless swish of rain against the sand. To the hardness of the rocks that enclosed them, the hardness of his body beneath her.

***

Galena fell to her knees, powerless to stop the flames from curling around his body, powerless to stop his writhing. The heat licked at her knees, at her hands and she was on fire too, screaming as it engulfed her, the demons of hell licking her cheeks, giggling and skittering in red-edged shadows before her eyes. Locked in torment forever, she burned.

Shattered Veil is one of those books that you want to read in one sitting and curse life for getting in the way; one of those books that leaves you breathless and wanting, savoring the wonderful escape from the world into one fueled by desire, danger, and political intrigue; Shattered Veil is one of those books that you need to recover from, to slowly wean yourself away from and come back to reality. The world stops, everything is suspended, and in that perfect moment when you read the final page, you won’t know whether to laugh or cry. The bittersweet, fantastic journey has left a whirlwind of emotional carnage behind and yet somehow, the world seems brighter, and that contented, satisfied feeling that only comes when finishing an amazing book will cocoon you in its warmth.

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When everything that defines you is stripped away, who do you become?

War has invaded Atalanta’s quiet villages and lush woodlands, igniting whispered worries in its glittering capitol. Far from the front lines, 18-year-old Aris Haan, a talented wingjet flyer, has little cause for concern. Until her beloved Calix is thrust into the fray, and a stranger makes her an impossible offer: the chance to join a secret army of women embedded within the all-male military.

Aris’s choice to follow Calix to war will do more than put her in physical danger; it will make her question everything she believes about herself. When she and her enigmatic commander uncover a deadly conspiracy, her expert flying may be the only hope for her dominion’s survival…and her own.

It’s Mulan meets Battlestar Galactica, with a heroine who is strong enough to save a nation…but only if she’s willing to sacrifice everything, even the one promise she swore she’d never break.

-via Goodreads

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  • The cover is beautiful. It’s thought-provoking, colorful, and each link in that bracelet features little pictures that are almost like a hidden objects game, waiting to be discovered and pieced together to create a bigger picture. The opalescence, the tagline, everything draws you into the mystery of the book.
  • Aris is the bravest, fiercest protagonist. She’s a survivor through and through. Her self discovery is poignant, brilliantly written and full of raw, striking emotions and truths.
  • Some scenes are almost whimsical, they’re poetic and romantic, while others are graphic, grotesque depictions of the horrors of war and torture. These are balanced by the alternating perspectives of Aris and Galena. Both are compelling, dominant female warriors in their own right, one in the military and the other as Ward of Ruslana. They overcome terrifying, sadistic obstacles and put everything on the line to protect the ones they love and gain their freedom as women. The sheer feminism is striking in that each woman is unique in her reasons for aiding the war cause, their conflicted feelings about how to function and keep their secret as men but still maintain their sense of self as women is complex and delves acutely into what exactly it means to be a woman in a masculine world like the military. I admired and was very impressed with the fact that although the female characters had to become men essentially to achieve their goals, they were never unaware or damning of their gender. They recognized what others perceived as their weakness as women and blatantly challenged that idea.
  • Often in YA, physical beauty is a key component to how the female protagonist views herself and how others see her. Shattered Veil transcends that idea, physical beauty is not mulled over or focused on but attributes are highlight, what these women can accomplish is paramount to their character and their development as both women and people in general.
  • Shattered Veil deals with very relevant political issues regarding gender inequality and resource allocation. Banghart depicts the underlying motivations and manipulations in a somewhat farfetched but real way.
  • The dystopian world, dividing into 5 regions and different sectors is meticulous. Everything is detailed from the geographical attributes to the cultural characteristics of the people there. That the names of the regions are so close to what they are in reality adds another layer of foreboding and suspense to the story.
  • Galena is such a heartbreaking, agonizing character. Her suffering is almost unbearable. The nostalgic, dream-like state that she collapses into in order to cope is a revelation of her heart. She’s a magnetic, driven woman with a broken heart and perseverance beyond anything imaginable. That she continues to fight in the face of her trauma is remarkable and inspiring, no matter how dismal and dark her situation, her strength sparks desperate hope for a happy ending.
  • Romance is dealt with in an open, realistic way. That defeated, sad realization that people change and what we once thought was no longer works is so well written and easy to identify with.
  • Dysis. I wish I could have seen more of her internal dialogue because this woman is a fire starter. She’s violent, opinionated, determined, and kind of crazy at times but has the biggest heart. Her love for her brother and the ends she’s willing to go to for him is out of this world. The battle within herself to keep up the charade and to uncover intel about her brother is brutal. You’ll want to hug her and restrain her at the same time. Her heart is so open to love but her past makes truly taking the risk almost impossible.

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  • The male characters are just fleeting glimpses apart from the protagonists’ respective love interests, whether it be filial or romantic.
  • The story starts out a little slow and the gushing romantic sections may irk some but as Aris learns more about who she is as a person, it’s hard not to become enraptured with her yearning for flight, autonomy, and matters of the heart.

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

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Pleasant reading, if you like dystopian or powerhouse female protagonists, pick this up!

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