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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You Made Me by Kelvin Reynolds and Mia Dakin

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Kindle Price: $2.99

Official Rating: 1/5

Synopsis:

“You think you know your mum and dad. But you don’t. My name is Coral and I’m fifteen years old. One photograph changed my life. Without the photo I would never have met Tilly, the nastiest girl in the school or had my first fight. Without the photograph I would never have met and lost Joel, the fittest boy on the planet. Without the photograph I would never have flown an eagle owl or sang in a rock band. And without the photograph I wouldn’t be crouching on a sheepskin rug soaked with blood, looking up into the barrel of a shotgun. And it’s not true what they say. THE CAMERA DOES LIE. This is my story but it could so easily be yours.”

My Review:

I wish I had something to compare this book to so that everyone could understand how painful it was to read it, but I don’t. Hopefully, the rest of my review will clear everything up.

Actually, I do have an analogy. Once, I watched a video where a guy put two-hundred (200) pieces of gum in his mouth and then proceeded to chew it. Not to be too graphic, but there was saliva cascading out of his mouth, he couldn’t close his mouth, and the gum was a disgusting mess. In two words, I could describe two-hundred pieces of gum and this book: Too Much.

The synopsis. Completely misleading, especially this part: “This is my story but it could so easily be yours.” Don’t quote me, but I’m pretty sure that the probability of someone having the same life as Coral in You Made Me “easily” is around a 1/100,000,000,000. Make no mistake, everything in the synopsis does occur in the novel, the issue is that it makes you think this book will be interesting. That’s why it is misleading.

The main character, Coral Matthews, was empty. I don’t mean in the “I feel like I have no purpose” type of empty; I mean the “Is this what is supposed to realistically represent the female teenagers in our society?” empty. The whole truth, and nothing but the truth, is that Coral is one of the worst characters I have come upon. She wasn’t clever, had no brains, “acted out” in the name of being a teenager, wasn’t interesting, was quite rude to multiple people without reason, and was just…awful. I’m not saying she is impossible to love…I just don’t see what reasons the people around her could give as to why anyone could. Is that harsh? Probably. To give an example without spoiling anything, Coral ends up having to leave a place that she’s made many friends in. Instead of talking to said friends or at least thinking about her response beforehand, she responds by lashing out at everyone because “it’s better this way.” (Cliche line, by the way) Or another example, a certain person is told very important information for the first time with Coral present. Instead of thinking to herself, “Wow, I didn’t know you didn’t know that. We’re both in shock,” Coral decides that that certain person has blatantly lied to them. She screams, “You lied to me! I hate you, I HATE YOU!” How does that make sense? If Jane is chatting to Jack about her new dog and Austin walks up and tells Jane that her dog just died, is Jack entitled to call her a liar? What has Jane lied about? How do you lie about information you don’t know yet? Final excerpt from the story, Coral is angry at a certain person for not making the attempt to contact her, even though Coral is the one who has actually done wrong. Coral’s response? “I am still angry, very angry after all these years but I needed to know the truth, you can’t blame me for trying can you?” If I were in this novel, I would most definitely blame her, but instead, the person she’s talking to does not in order to continue this poorly thought out plot.

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A Time to Reap (The Legend of Carter Gabel series) by Jonas Lee

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Kindle Price: $0.99

Official Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

Pemberton Academy is not just a school, it’s a gathering place for the children of the future that are afflicted with Temporal Displacement and Telepathy; in short, time travelers and mind readers who have been diagnosed with this “disease.” The Academy is not all as it seems after an explosion nearly takes one of its classmates, but not before Carter Gabel rescues her by using an unknown symptom related to his described illness. An unsanctioned group called the Program begins taking notice as the two classmates exhibit stronger abilities when they are together. Carter’s sense of reality begins to unwind as he learns more about his estranged father’s involvement with it all.
Carter will have to overcome the past of his father leaving, the present of an unknown adversary hunting him down and a future that seems to change with each decision he makes. He will have to learn who to trust out of the people in his life if he wants to conquer the looming notion that the government may be hunting him down because of his developing abilities.

My Review:

A book about time travel that I can understand without a migraine? By all means, let me read it.

I sincerely enjoyed A Time to Reap and here’s why.

Carter Gabel is a Leaper. That is, he can “leap” through time, which is an interesting ability; the only problem is, he can’t control it, all he knows is when it’s about to happen. And to make matters worse, when he gets back to the present, he’s stark naked. Unbeknownst to everyone, but his mother, Carter is a lot more powerful than he could fathom and things are about to get pretty rocky in the boat of life.

Carter was a rather well-rounded character and I enjoyed him. He had a genuine mother-son relationship with his mom; they were friends but his mom made sure he knew who wore the pants in the house. I don’t recall much about his life outside of being a Leaper, but he still had depth. The main focus of his life wasn’t just being a Leaper, but a compilation of being a teenaged leaper and being a teenager in general. He had flaws, struggled with anger, feelings of abandonment, strong feelings of love, and many other things that made Carter who he was as a character. He was a true hero with some snarky comments that made him loveable.

Maureen “Mo” Zester is just as interesting as Carter. Mo is an Eventual, someone with a low-level ability that’s hidden quite well, but occasionally have telepathy or telekinesis (sometimes both). I loved how Mo wasn’t a cliché “damsel-in-distress” love interest, but was more than just a beautiful girl who the hero loved, she was a beautiful heroine. Carter could have never done what he did throughout the story without her and vice versa. I liked that Mo kept him calm when his anger was consuming him and also knew when he had his anger under control. There isn’t too much about her and hopefully in the sequels book she will get more of a back story, but for now, the information that was given about her was enough.

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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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Forgiven (The Trouble series) by Rachel Morgan

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Kindle Price: Free!

Official Rating: 1/5

Synopsis:

Three hundred and six days ago, Julia ran away from home. Abandoning her family, friends, boyfriend, and university plans, she fled with no explanation. She can’t hide forever, though, and now it’s time to face the mess she left behind.

My Review:

If you listen very carefully, you can hear me sighing loudly. If you’ve ever been at an amusement park at least once, and I’m sure you have, there’s always that one ride that kind of bothers you. It’s that single ride that has all of those twists and turns, but ends too quickly for the thrill to actually hit you. That’s what Forgiven felt like. Forgiven follows a girl who ran away from home. But she didn’t just run away from home to a town nearby, she ran all the way to London.

I didn’t like this very much, which is surprising since I liked a different book from her that I reviewed, and it’s one of the last few prequels/novellas that I’m probably going to read. The story deals with rape and I don’t appreciate how it presented it. The whole story was based on how a rape was handled the wrong way and it left a bad taste in my mouth. In all honesty, it seemed to me that the book was mainly “romance with a dash of rape to add character.” It would take quite an author to convince me that a story that covers a girl who is raped, can be wrapped up with a cheery ending in seventy-six pages. It wasn’t quite disrespectful (from my limited point-of-view), but it didn’t accurately cover the physical and psychological effects of rape. It just left it all out. (spoiler) One minute she left because she didn’t want to ruin all of the relationships because of what happened and the next she’s completely fine. Maybe she got therapy during her time in London, but if the reader doesn’t know that, then you can’t not include that.
There wasn’t enough time to develop Julia or any of the characters. I couldn’t relate to her, not even remotely, and she was dull. I would be shocked (and I was) to find out that she was the spice to someone’s life. Maybe that’s a bit too harsh, but it was true. I notice that in a lot of “0.5” and novellas and prequels there isn’t a lot of development. It’s never a good idea to write a novella without the intention to have development in it. Even if it’s to provide a tiny bit of background, definitely make those 76 pages worth the time you spent writing it and the time the reader spends reading it.

The Cure by Stephanie Erickson

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Price: $3.99

Official Rating: 5/5

Synopsis:

“One life will make the difference.” Macey Holsinger has been hearing that promise her whole life. But it hasn’t saved anyone yet, not even her little brother.
The disease has claimed countless lives in the last hundred years, and the government is working hard to find a cure through human testing. Testing that has killed nearly as many people as the disease.
At sixteen, Macey has better things to think about than saving lives and submitting to any rule other than her parents’. As a budding artist, she has her whole life ahead of her, at least until she faces her own testing.
Questions plague Macey. Questions that make everyone else nervous. How can death be justified with more death? What’s the point of all this?
Answers evade her until she’s left with only one question: How much will she sacrifice in the name of the cure?
If you liked The Hunger Games or Divergent, you’ll love The Cure!

My Review:

I’m always very skeptical about books in the free section and in the dystopian, Young Adult genre. The abundance of the less-than-riveting choices is astounding and not in a good way. But, The Cure shocked me and I loved it.

The first thing that I noticed was that this is under the dystopian genre, but if you look at the title of this review, this isn’t a series. Yes, this is a young adult dystopian book that is not a series. Everything is tied up in just one book and that is amazing.

Macey Holsinger is the heroine, and she honestly is. Macey is in tenth grade, loves art, misses her little brother, has two parents and a best friend who’s like a brother, and a whole lot of questions. Her questions and natural instinct to defy what everyone just accepts gets her in trouble in school, but lands her an opportunity she would’ve given almost anything to participate in. Macey had a well-developed personality. She went through a range of emotions: anger, sadness, fear, depression, determination, and so on. Her main objective wasn’t to take down the government nor was it to just let the government do whatever it wanted and I respect Erickson for pulling that off. Macy was real, a person who just happened to live inside of a book. She loved, cried, screamed, defied, glared, stayed in a vegetable state for a week, stood up for herself, questioned everything including herself, thought outside the box, cared, and never stopped being human.

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Land (Stranded series) by Theresa Shaver

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Official Rating: 1/5

Synopsis:

Five go by Land – Five go by Sea

A group of teens on a class trip to Disneyland are left stranded. An EMP over North America has destroyed everything electronic. No cars, no planes, no phones, no electricity. Refusing to wait for someone else to help them, ten courageous young people take charge of their future and choose to begin the long journey home. 1500 miles of adventure and lawless country await. Will their determination be enough?
Alex, Quinn, Josh, Cooper and Dara – setting out on foot with nothing more than some soon to be worthless cash and a little advice from a trusted teacher, they walk through a burning city that has come to a halt. The devastation they see as they make their way out of the city is a small part of the horror that the nation will become. As the days go by with no food deliveries and no water flowing from taps, civilization will start to crumble and it will be survival of the fittest. With five States and half a Province to cross they will need to plan well, count on each other and pray for a little luck. Even with that, chances are slim of getting home when you are Stranded.”

My Review:

This book was the epitome of ridiculous. A bunch of teens go to Disneyland from Canada and a nuclear bomb is dropped which causes an EMP. That’s not the ridiculous part. The ridiculous part is that in three seconds everyone starts freaking out. One of the teachers DIES, the teachers left start calling students expletives, the teachers are telling each other to shut up, all the adults somehow have thousands of dollars on their person, and the teachers calmly let a bunch of kids go off on their own because they’re “leaders.” Everyone is convinced that a group of sixteen year olds can make it from Disneyland to Canada on their own. What? Why? The whole scenario was absolutely ludicrous and it was painful to read. It takes one day before everyone just starts looting and gangs start to rise and all manner of order is one-hundred percent gone. Also, “five go by land, five go by sea.” If two groups are mentioned, why doesn’t the book ever follow the group that goes by sea? I would have liked to know what happened to them. (Further research shows that we find out in the next book.) (spoiler) At the end, all we are told is that “the other kids are dead” by a “former” bad guy that was friends with Cooper’s dad.

The characters. Each one of the characters were bland and annoying stereotypes. And almost all of them had alcoholic parents. Why? There was the goth girl (Dara), “Mr. Responsibility” (Quinn) (yes, they said that), the bad boy (Cooper), and the class clown/jokester (Josh). They even managed to create a love triangle. You know how in a lot of teenaged movies, adults play the teenagers? That’s what it was like. Only the adults are in clothes that are too small and they have stereotypical voices and sometimes forget that they’re teens and use their natural adult tone.

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