The Sandcastle Empire

The fire pops, hisses. War is like this: consuming, ravenous, feeding and feeding until there’s nothing left to take and all that’s left is ash.

Title: The Sandcastle Empire

Author: Kayla Olson

Series: Standalone (for now)

Publication:  June 6th 2017 by HarperTeen

Pages: 464

Source: OwlCrate

Summary from Goodreads:

Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—air conditioning, ice cream, long days at the beach. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed.

Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. Eden has lost everything to them. They killed her family and her friends, destroyed her home, and imprisoned her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.

Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves—but the solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected.

This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.


My Thoughts:

I had no idea what to expect from this book when I pulled it out of the June OwlCrate box a week ago. I distantly remembered hearing some people talk about The Sandcastle Empire and adding it to my Goodreads TBR, but that was it. I didn’t know what it was about, who the characters were, or even what genre it was. However, I was excited to start it, and so I did. It’s not often that I read a book where I go in completely blind. Usually, I’ve at least heard something about it before – but, for The Sandcastle Empire, that blindness gave way to an amazing, unpredictable reading experience.

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Arena

Death is not something to be cheated. It’s simply the end of a journey. The best thing we can do is move on, live the best life we can, and always remember them and everything they taught us.

Title: Arena

Author: Holly Jennings

Series: Arena # 1

Publication: November 1st 2016 by Ace Books

Pages: 400

Source: Publisher in exchange for a honest review

Summary from Goodreads:

The RAGE tournaments the Virtual Gaming League s elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a fight to the digital death. Every kill is broadcast to millions. Every player leads a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses.
And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.
Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world until one of her teammates overdoses. Now she s stuck trying to work with a hostile new teammate who s far more distracting than he should be.
Between internal tensions and external pressures, Kali is on the brink of breaking. To change her life, she ll need to change the game. And the only way to revolutionize an industry as shadowy as the VGL is to fight from the inside.


My Thoughts:

I was very pleasantly surprised by this book. In all honesty, despite my excitement, I sort of put off reading it because I was afraid it would be a mash up of Divergent simulations and The Hunger Games. However, Arena completely proved me wrong.

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Arena as much as I actually did. It was exciting, fun, entertaining, and unique in ways I thought would be lacking. There were interesting characters, wonderful relationships, and a whole lot of action. Arena was a treat to read in so many ways, perfect for the upswing after just finishing finals.

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A Torch Against the Night

Perhaps grief is like battle: After experiencing enough of it, your body’s instincts take over. When you see it closing in like a Martial death squad, you harden your insides. You prepare for the agony of a shredded heart. And when it hits, it hurts, but not as badly, because you have locked away your weakness, and all that’s left is anger and strength.

Title: A Torch Against the Night

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Series: An Ember in the Ashes # 2

Publication: August 30th 2016 by Razorbill

Pages: 452

Source: Purchased

Summary from Goodreads:

Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.


My Thoughts:

Last year, An Ember in the Ashes quickly became one of my favorite books and a new favorite series. It was brilliant, brutal, and breathtaking. Fast forward a year, an extremely painful year of anxiously waiting for the second installment, and here we are. A Torch Against the Night far exceeded my expectations. It ripped my heart out until there was nothing left. It made the events of An Ember in the Ashes look like child’s play. A Torch Against the Night throws us headfirst into the reality of war, grief, horrific politics, and most importantly of all, hope.

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Glitter

On Wednesdays I’m now required to enter the grand assembly in the Hall of Mirrors on his arm like a glowing trophy. Not the kind of trophy one wins for completing a challenge, the kind one stuffs and hangs on the wall after killing it.

Title: Glitter

Author: Aprilynne Pike

Series: Standalone

Publication: October 25th 2016 by Random House Books for Young Readers

Pages: 384

Source: Netgalley

Summary from Goodreads:

 Outside the palace of Versailles, it’s modern day. Inside, the people dress, eat, and act like it’s the eighteenth century—with the added bonus of technology to make court life lavish, privileged, and frivolous. The palace has every indulgence, but for one pretty young thing, it’s about to become a very beautiful prison.

When Danica witnesses an act of murder by the young king, her mother makes a cruel power play . . . blackmailing the king into making Dani his queen. When she turns eighteen, Dani will marry the most ruthless and dangerous man of the court. She has six months to escape her terrifying destiny. Six months to raise enough money to disappear into the real world beyond the palace gates.

Her ticket out? Glitter. A drug so powerful that a tiny pinch mixed into a pot of rouge or lip gloss can make the wearer hopelessly addicted. Addicted to a drug Dani can sell for more money than she ever dreamed.
But in Versailles, secrets are impossible to keep. And the most dangerous secret—falling for a drug dealer outside the palace walls—is one risk she has to take.

My Thoughts:

My gosh. My head is spinning so quickly I cannot begin to fathom what to say. Perhaps “Glitter… a novel that sparkles and shines much in the same way as its namesake”. Or maybe “Glitter the high stakes fairy tale that is made from the glimmering dust of nightmares.” You get the idea. Glitter is the type of book that just builds, and builds, and builds itself up so high on the most unstable foundation in existence. It is the epitome of anxiety inducing bliss, as it were. High stakes, indeed.

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Everland

“To die will be an awfully big adventure”

Title: Everland

Author: Wendy Spinale

Series: Everland # 1

Publication: May 10th 2016 by Scholastic Press

Pages: 312

Source: OwlCrate

Summary from Goodreads:

London has been destroyed in a blitz of bombs and disease. The only ones who have survived are children, among them Gwen Darling and her siblings, Joanna and Mikey. They spend their nights scavenging and their days avoiding the ruthless Marauders — the German army led by Captain Hanz Otto Oswald Kretschmer.

Unsure if the virus has spread past England’s borders but desperate to leave, Captain Hook hunts for a cure, which he thinks can be found in one of the survivors. He and his Marauders stalk the streets snatching children for experimentation. None ever return. Until the day they grab Joanna. As Gwen sets out to save her, she meets a daredevil boy named Pete. Pete offers the assistance of his gang of Lost Boys and the fierce sharpshooter Bella, who have all been living in a city hidden underground. But in a place where help has a steep price and every promise is bound by blood, it will cost Gwen. And are she, Pete, the Lost Boys, and Bella enough to outsmart Captain Hook?


My Thoughts:

I find myself growing increasingly disappointed as I sit here to write this review. Everland had the serious potential to be mind-blowing, amazing, and delicious. It mixed one of my all time favorite legends/fairy tales with a dystopian, virus riddled reality and steampunk architecture. It had everything it needed to succeed, except the most important thing of all: the writing.

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Alight

“If it’s war they want, they messed with the wrong girl.”

Title: Alight

Author: Scott Sigler

Series: The Generations Trilogy # 2

Publication: April 5th 2016 by Del Rey

Pages: 448

Source: Netgalley

Summary from Goodreads:

Alight reveals to readers the further adventures of Em, Spingate, O’Malley, Bishop, and the other young heroes introduced in Alive. In Alive, Em fought to assert herself as leader and her friends tried to comprehend their own mysterious identity; now she must wrestle not with the challenge of winning power but the grave responsibility of having assumed it, and she and her friends must contend with a grim fact: the revelation of their identity is not an answer but another question—and one with terrifying implications.

My Thoughts:

Scott Sigler, you have done it again you slimy bastard. This book… ugh.. how am I even supposed to talk about this book? Much like Alive, Alight has left me in a very peculiar predicament. I CAN’T TELL YOU WHAT I LIKE AND DISLIKE ABOUT THIS BOOK WITHOUT SPOILING EVERYTHING! Alight is a wondrous tomb you must explore for yourself to get the full effect of the mummy jumping out of the corner, you get me? I can’t tell you about the characters, I can’t tell you about the plot, I can’t do didily squat. So, instead, I’m going to do one of the things I do best and leave a string of gifs in my wake. Enjoy, you precious people you. Interpret this as you will.

Do with those gifs what you will, the meaning is up to you (though it will make sense when you read the book). Alight is an amazing adventure with twists and turns so catty-wompus you won’t know what hit you until it’s too late. You will be left with unanswered questions, surpassed expectations, and a mind full of so much ‘wowza’ you won’t know what to do with yourself until October. If you haven’t started this series yet, shame on you. Get on this bandwagon, it’s a darn good one.

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Tell The Wind and Fire

Maybe that is the only thing I have ever learned about love: love is when you save someone no matter what the cost.”

Title: Tell The Wind and Fire

Author: Sarah Rees Brennan

Series: Standalone?

Publication: April 5th 2016 by Clarion Books

Pages: 368

Source: Publisher in exchange for honest review

Summary from Goodreads:

In a city divided between opulent luxury in the Light and fierce privations in the Dark, a determined young woman survives by guarding her secrets.

Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised. Lucie alone knows the young men’s deadly connection, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.

Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?

My Thoughts:

Well, right out of the bat I had no idea this was a retelling of A Tale Of Two Cities when I jumped into this book. Zip. Zilch. Nada. So, I found myself pleasantly surprised at recognizing little details here and there throughout Tell The Wind and Fire. I cried, I laughed, and I did everything that this book wanted me to. I felt just as broken as when I read the original – and that’s saying something.

Tell The Wind and Fire was, for lack of a better description, pretty awesome. I mean, there was enough of the old to bring back that hint of nostalgia – but there was also a fresh twist, a sense of vibrancy that breathed new air into an old classic.

I think, despite the obviously amazing scope of pretty much everything, that one of the best parts of this book is the complexity of the character development. Each character has a specific line they follow. A carefully hand-crafted and intricate thread that winds through each and every element of the story. There is not one thing that is not important – and it makes this book all the more wonderful. Everyone has a secret and everyone’s secret is either their downfall or their salvation. Each piece is an unstoppable force – each character is an irreplaceable role in the story. Lucie, Ethan, Carwyn… they’re all pieces of a larger puzzle.

Overall, Tell The Wind and Fire was a surprise in more ways than one. The writing was astounding, the character development was, and the plot was both wholly original all while paying homage to its predecessor.  This is a story of the battle between good and evil, between light and dark. It is a story that will strike you with its subtle power and even more subtle message. Balance is the most important concept of all, what are you willing to do to achieve it?

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