Contained by S.E. Green

Contained

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Kindle Price: $2.99

Official Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

“After a viral attack from Screechers left the Earth desolate, a safe house rose from the disease ridden ground; a place where people are protected from the virus and the wrath of the creatures that delivered it to their doorstep. Life outside of the man-made walls of Containment became a distant memory.
Eighteen-year-old Reverence Arthur is thirsty to escape the Container she has spent her entire life in and bring justice to the Screechers. When she becomes the first female to join the Watch, the Containment military, enduring cat-calls while she showers is the least of her problems. The Watch has fired shots declaring war, her cold shouldered mother has become particularly arctic, and a rumor about her father, a Watch General killed in action, raises questions about the motives of the officials within Containment.
Then, amid the battle for Earth, Reverence sees a human. A living, breathing human surviving unprotected in a world where the air is toxic, and she uncovers a truth about her home that is vile enough to kick-start a war of its own.”

My Review:

I was completely caught off guard because of Contained. My expectations were admittedly lowered when I saw the usual one-word title (that are on most dystopian books), the words ‘Screechers’ and ‘Watcher,’  and the heroine’s first name, Reverence. I was expecting a generic dystopia, where there’s some type of war against some type of creature that is out to kill humans and the heroine is named differently than everyone and is the only one with questions and eventually starts a rebellion. When I say, I was pleasantly surprised and impressed, I truly mean it.

I did roll my eyes at Reverence’s name, but half-way undid my eye-roll when I saw that there were other out of the ordinary names like “Force,” “Brute,” and “Apollo.” I appreciated Reverence, much more than I thought I would. She wasn’t a perfect heroine with no flaws who immediately steps up to any challenge. Instead, she was an eighteen year old girl who had many questions, a rebellious streak, but a rather good head on her shoulder. She was a leader, an actual one. Her leadership abilities weren’t something she was conveniently blessed with and everyone wanted to follow her like mindless zombies. Reverence earned respect and her role as a leader. She didn’t cry when things got hard, she understood that she had to have a cool and calm exterior, even if she was falling apart inside. I recall her crying maybe four times, twice it was somewhat detailed and once it was merely mentioned. I said four because I like even numbers. Reverence preserved, didn’t allow hormones or ridiculous love triangles get in her way of being the heroine she is, and made great decisions under pressure. She had obvious room for improvement, but it made her realistic.

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Frey (The Frey Saga) by Melissa Wright

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Kindle Price: Free!

Official Rating: 3/5

Synopsis:

“Unaware she’s been bound from using magic, Frey leads a small, miserable life in the village where she’s sent after the death of her mother. But a tiny spark starts a fury of changes and she finds herself running from everything she’s ever known.
Hunted by council for practicing dark magic, she is certain she’s been wrongfully accused. She flees, and is forced to rely on strangers for protection. But the farther she strays from home, the more her magic and forgotten memories return and she begins to suspect all is not as it seems.”

My Review:

Firstly, I was drawn to this book by the cover. Frey, who I assumed was the girl behind the flames, looked powerful, mysterious, and emotionally strong. The hawk that lurked behind the smoke only seemed to heighten my expectations. The hawk seemed to be a hint, meant to lead me to believe that Frey’s powers reached beyond expectations. Dare I say it, that her powers soared. The hawk didn’t mislead me either.

Frey was powerful. She had yet to reach her full potential, which I understand, Frey is just the first book. Frey is learning herself and the ways of magic and I, as the reader learned alongside her. I assumed that Frey is around sixteen or seventeen, but I don’t recall it ever being mentioned inside the actual book or synopsis. Granted, the book does fall under the Young Adult category, so I believe that her being around the young adult age group is a safe assumption. As I said, Frey was powerful. I loved reading about her small adventures while she tested out her magic. They were interesting and I wish she had fully embraced the magical elf in her much more quickly than she did. Sadly, Frey had no emotional strength.

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Skinniness is Next to Goddessness? Lacey’s Story (Skinniness is Next to Goddessness? series) by Julia Keanini

TRIGGER WARNING: BOOK TOPIC IS ABOUT EATING DISORDERS

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Kindle Price: Free!

Official Rating: 3/5

Synopsis:

“Hate is a powerful word, especially when you’re using it against your own reflection.
In fourteen-year-old Lacey Steele’s world, being “skinny” equals no more caustic remarks comparing her to Shamu the Whale, meriting the attention of her ten-year crush aka the beautiful quarterback next door, and finally deserving her distant mother’s love- pretty much goddess status. But diets, nor health food, nor exercise bring Lacey desired results and her future looks everlastingly chubby.
Unexpectedly, Lacey and her friend Ashley stumble on an easier method. Extreme calorie cutting may seem a little drastic, but of course it’s better than … an eating disorder. Unfortunately, the easy route has a price neither girl planned to pay, but it comes due anyway, for one of them.
A story of hope and eventual acceptance, Skinniness is Next to Goddessness?Lacey’s Story, takes a brighter approach to an age old tale.
Book One in the Skinniness is Next to Goddessness? Series.”

My Review:

In the Author’s Note, Keanini’s first sentence is, “An eating disorder, in any form, is never something to take lightly.” Then she explains that she’s “heard the criticism that if I write about such a heavy issue in a light, or as I like to think of it, bright manner, it slights the importance of the issue.” She goes on to say that she hopes Skinniness is Close to Goddessness? accomplishes the exact opposite. And it would have, if the eating disorder aspect of the story was focused on more.

Meeting Lacey Steele was an event that started off sad. You receive a glimpse into the life of rejection, insecurity, and disgust that she has lived since her days of being overweight. From being constantly teased by her peers to her mother always being ashamed of her, Lacey isn’t sure what to do with herself. As the story progresses, Lacey and her best friend, Ashley, as the synopsis says, “stumble on an easier method.”

Lacey Steele was somewhat of an admirable character. She has dealt with humiliation all of her life, yet she still hasn’t given up on herself yet. Although she is ashamed of her waistline and the number that shows up when she steps on a scale, she still hasn’t let herself go. Her first words to her sister and father after not seeing them for four years were, “So we’ll pretend the last four years never happened? Sounds like a plan to me. The kitchen rug seems plenty big enough to hide that amount of baggage.” Lacey was a real fourteen year old girl with insecurities, worries, concern for others, normal anger issues, and she was very loveable. She accepted things that came her way and found a way to deal with them, not always in a negative way like her eating disorder. I appreciate her as a character and her relationship with the other characters were adorably innocent.

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Star Struck by Jamie Campbell (Review)

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Kindle Price: Free!

Official Review: 5/5

Synopsis:

Melrose Morgan was your typical teenager, flipping burgers and surviving high school the best she could. Yet all that changed after a chance encounter took her face to face with the world’s biggest superstar.
Living every girl’s fantasy, Melrose falls for one fifth of the most successful boy bands on the planet, Cole Newton. He invites her on a date and she can’t help but fall in love with her idol.
But in a world that is full of shining stars, can one small town girl really capture the heart of a supernova? Find out in the first installment of the Star Kissed series.

My Review:

WARNING: NOVELLA/NOVELLETE/SHORT STORY AUTHORS TAKE NOTE

This is a short story done right. After all of the novelettes that I have read, this one has actually felt like it was worth my time. It took me maybe thirty minutes to read; I was bored, it was late, I didn’t want to try to tackle a two-and-a-half-hour book at nine at night so I thought, “Why not?” And as it turns out, that was a really great idea.

I feel that the main issue in novelettes is that authors feel the need to make their characters develop somehow. If you have around seventy pages to impress a reader, you don’t have the time to have a character develop. For the most part, at least. Unless you can write a seventy page book and make it feel like a two hour long action or romantic comedy or adventure movie, don’t try to include character development. That doesn’t go to say that these authors can’t write if they can’t pull that off, far from it, because Campbell can write.

Melrose Morgan isn’t your average teenager working at a fast food joint. It’s obvious that she isn’t, but you aren’t explicitly given a reason why, which was fine. It wasn’t necessary. What I did notice about Melrose, and I’m not sure if it was just placed to add depth or if it was foreshadowing for the next book, was how observant she was about how her sister Jemma was feeling. Even when Melrose wasn’t in the mood to talk, she still made sure that Jemma was okay and if she wasn’t, she spent time with her until she was. When I think about it, that might have been just to add depth, but it added the right amount of depth. It showed me, as a reader, that Melrose wasn’t the type of person to discount a person’s emotions just because they were younger. Instead, she truly cared and did her best to ensure that Jemma knew she cared.

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From the Ashes (Legend of the Liberator series) by Shelby K. Morrison

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Kindle Price: $3.99

Official Rating: 3/5

Synopsis:

“For eighteen years Aia Wynnald has lived a lie. Raised as a highborn in the Kingdom of Tharien, she’s filled her days with tutors and archery lessons. But simmering beneath her polite surface is a dangerous gift, one which she must keep a secret. Aia is a Bender. And in Tharien, Benders are feared and hunted.
When her unruly power breaks free with dire repercussions, Aia’s lifelong goal of independence shatters. As she scrambles to piece her life back together while evading capture, she disturbs a vengeful force intent on destroying the kingdom.
Now, with the help of an unlikely ally, Aia will decide the fate of Tharien. To rescue those she cares about will require accepting what she is. But can she risk becoming the monster she’s dreaded to save the very citizens baying for her blood?

My Review:

This book wasn’t bad. There were some undertones that I felt were put in subtly and not-so-subtly, but it was good overall.

The heroine is Maia Wynnald and she’s a Bender. A Bender is someone with paranormal powers that runs through their veins and gives them the ability to Bend. Bending is a bit like telepath but a lot less predictable and a lot harder to control; especially when you spent the first eighteen years of your life suppressing it.

I liked Maia, who prefers to be called Aia and will be from this moment forth. She was rather calm in some situation and had amazing compassion for people who hated her. Though I think the compassion was half foolish and half brave, but not to the point that it was the definition of courage. Would I have done the same thing? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know. At times I wasn’t sure what Aia stood for. I know that she never received the full truth from both parties, but she just seemed very undecided. One moment she would be totally ready to fight for Side A and then she would feel something or see something and suddenly she’s completely Team B. I feel that Aia should have understood that you can’t always bake your cake and eat it, considering she’s eighteen. Yet, I don’t think she ever did. I didn’t see much character development and I had really wanted her to embrace who she was a lot more than she did by the end of the book. Such a long time of suppression would no doubt make it hard for her to accept herself and I’m not saying that “it took her too long,” just that I wish she had experienced more acceptance. I don’t see her as much of a leader, but that’s definitely something that could change in the later books. There was obvious room for improvement in Aia, but I think that that may have been done on purpose so that there was a gradual and realistic change in her. Aia wasn’t a terrible character, she wasn’t even bad. I didn’t love her, but I didn’t dislike her. I would’ve liked to have seen a more fiery side of her, but she’s learning more about herself so I’ll let it slide.

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The Starter Boyfriend by Tina Ferraro

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Kindle Price: Free!

Official Review: 1.5/5

Synopsis:

“17 year-old Courtney is completely stressed. There’s the rift with her softball teammates, homework, housework, her part-time job at the tux shop, her dad’s upcoming wedding…enough! Would it be too much to ask for someone special in her life, a boyfriend she could talk to, count on, even lean on a little?

The best she’s got is a blue-eyed surfer boy who seems to save his biggest moves for his board, and a “friend date” to Homecoming with a guy still in love with his ex. Oh, and then there’s the tuxedo mannequin in the shop window, who happens to be reliable and an amazing listener.When the mannequin gets stolen in a senior prank, Courtney finds herself in a midnight pursuit along beach boulevards, trying to save more than the mannequin, but the job she’s come to love. After turning to the unlikeliest of people for help, and finding that surfer boy is as resourceful as he is good-looking, her load begins to lighten. In fact, she soon might find not only what she needs, but what she wants, too.”

My Review:

I’ll be honest, this is one of the weirdest books I have ever read. It was decent, but also pretty creepy.

Courtney is seventeen and using a mannequin in the clothing store she works at as her “starter boyfriend.” He’s supposed to be simple something she can make mistakes on without experiencing heartbreak. Yet, she calls it ‘him’, named it “Tux,” imagines how his breath might smell, how his lips might feel, and what his manly scent might be. (spoiler) She even goes as far as breaking into (she had a key though) the clothing store in order to sit and talk to him. The mannequin effectively distracts from the main point of the story and it was painful. I cringed every time I heard her mention Tux or any time she thought about it. To each their own, but I thought that was a bit weird, Courtney might need counseling.

There was little to no character development with Courtney, besides maybe she stops lying. I don’t understand why she felt the need to lie to everyone though. It was so unnecessary. She goes from pretending that she’s stressed out and feeling sorry to herself to realizing that everything is pretty great in her world. I didn’t see what she learned besides that.

Almost all of the rest of the characters were unfortunately very uninteresting. The antagonist, the love interest, the best friend…all of them except for Courtney’s stepmom. She was so energetic and lively. A little over the top, but she was fun to read about. Did she need more book-time? No. She had enough, but I do think that she should have been seen bonding with Courtney more in the time that she was given.
The book itself wasn’t terrible exciting. It was just a quick read that wasn’t completely boring, but not very intriguing either. It didn’t seem to be going anywhere, just simply stating what was happening in Courtney’s life. Even the conflict seemed rather minor, just a simple spat between high-schoolers that didn’t have much foundation to it. Everything consistently worked out for Courtney, no matter what it was. In the end, she has a wonderful stepmother, a great best friend, a boyfriend, good news about her mother…it was all too much. Courtney’s world is too perfect and that honestly made me want to side with Saffron. What Saffron did was wrong and there’s no excuse for that (plus her execution for her plan was terrible), but I at least see why she was so upset. Overall, this book was a kind of weird, had a decent ending, but it wasn’t memorable.