Reviewing BooksForAri – Vic James’ “Gilded Cage”

Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts, #1)Gilded Cage by Vic James

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: A free advanced digital copy of this book was received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wow.

Just.

Wow.

This is my attempt at making this review as spoiler free as possible, please bear with me during this brave endeavor.

Okay… *deep breath* So, when I read the synopsis, my expectation of the book was completely skewed. Because the romance was the plot mentioned first and then the revolutionary and then the ambiguous wild-card character, I automatically assumed that this would be the hierarchy for the amount of time spent on each character in relation to the plot and, subsequently, that it would be a clear indication of each of their significance. Add on the fact that the prologue tainted my perception from the beginning, and bam – I went through the first portion of the book expecting things that weren’t going to happen.

Well, color me pink with pleasure! Shame on me for going into a story with presumptions. There’s romance, but it’s not the main artery in this network of plots – so it’s a bonus, not the focus. There’s revolution, but it’s so nuanced and ubiquitous that your blood thrums along with the growing dissention. And then, of course, there’s Mr. I-could-be-destruction-or-salvation-but-who-knows that throws ALL OF YOUR THOUGHTS INTO DISARRAY. *heavy breathing*

I am so freaking happy with this book. I am ecstatic that I got to read it before it was released because I know I want a physical copy in my personal library so I can re-read and annotate it. Every few chapters brought to light new information that slightly altered the reader’s scope. The concepts introduced took on a broader, and more heady, tone as I digested the author’s words. Each storyline was a slow, slow burn that got me to feel for the characters and their circumstance before engulfing everything in flames. While I didn’t particularly like a few of the characters, I understood each of them and I fully appreciate the author’s dedication to character growth and three-dimensionality. It made for a compelling and wretched story of privilege, inequality and strife.

Most of my favorite books took me less than a day to finish, but this one took me a little over a month. Why? This actually correlates with some of the points I made above. The author packed so much information into the each part of the story. The setting, the people, the world… It was… a bit too much at times, for me. The story is set in England (a place I’m not familiar with) with modern details (I was constantly trying to pinpoint an exact time) and there wasn’t any clear divide on who was ‘good’ or ‘evil’ (which drove me absolutely crazy). Throw in the common excuses of work and daily chores, and you have a recipe for delayed literary completion.

Is the book perfect? No. Does that matter? No. BECAUSE IT’S NEW, REFRESHING, UNRUSHED, AND DIVINE. I absolutely love social hierarchy drama. I can’t wait to see where this is all going. Will it be a happily ever after? Will it be just death and destruction? Can a world change at the hands of the oppressed or must it be destroyed before it can be reborn again? I don’t know and I don’t think any of the characters know either but I will follow them every freaking step of the way.

Also, side note, I love Silyen. Please give me more Silyen, forever and ever. Vic James, if you’re reading this, please know – he is the most interesting megalomaniac I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading and no matter where his life takes me, I don’t believe I will be disappointed with its direction. Thank you.

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Reviewing BooksForAri – Elizabeth O’Roark’s “Waking Olivia”

Waking OliviaWaking Olivia by Elizabeth O’Roark

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: A free digital copy of this book was received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sooo… I’ve been in a book funk. *sigh* I know, I know. We’ve all been there. There are those off us that have been there so many times, that we don’t even worry about it anymore and just ride this funky wave until our hand steers us right back into Literary Land. There are times that seem like we’re in a book funk more often than we get into a book frenzy and it concerns us so much that we contemplate our identity as book lovers. Alas, I found instant cure in this cute novel on my kindle.

Sometimes, all it takes is a fluff book to do the trick. You know those kinds of books, the ones that are a bit mindless, somewhat predictable and traditionally YA romance? It’s the books that are enough of a quick read that you’re not mentally drained when you’re finished but you’ve engaged enough with the content to get the juices flowing? It’s the book that takes you less than half a day to get through and you’re not even guilty about the empty calories because it was a fun read. THIS BOOK was exactly that – and precisely what I needed.

Though the author handles a couple of heavy topics, including but not limited to, child abuse, mental illness, familial issues, doomed romance and rape, the book did not delve deep enough into those particular topics to bring the reader down with the character. It was very much centered around the romance and bringing the characters’ issues to light so that they can deal with them. I like the fact that both of the characters had issues, and it wasn’t just the guys “saving” the girl. I like that the romance played out a bit more rocky than usual.

What I didn’t like was the lack of diversity. Additionally, I would have liked to see more development with the friendships and some more writing dedicated to explaining (view spoiler) I liked the fact that Olivia was equally fierce and vulnerable; I not-so-secretly wanted to see more equally obvious vulnerability in Will. And, I enjoyed that Olivia’s mental struggles didn’t just miraculously disappear when she fell in love.

Overall, it was a sweet book and I don’t really have many bad things to say. I think readers will know what they’re getting into when they’ve read the description and when they decide to read it, they won’t be disappointed. The chapters are relatively short – quick and to the point, which is just how I like these kinds of books. The plotline continues consistently and the twists are fluid and interesting. I would definitely recommend this quick-read to anyone in a book funk or that need a good fluff book between two intense novels.

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Reviewing BooksForAri -Britt Holewinski’s “Schism”

SchismSchism by Britt Holewinski

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: A free digital copy of this book was received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Anyone that knows me knows that I’m a complete groupie when it comes to utopian/dystopian novels and anything ethically or morally questionable. So when I saw “[kids rule the world because all the adults are dead]” I thought to myself, YESSSS, TINY HUMANS ARE JUST UNTRAINED PEOPLE WITH MINIMAL MORALS. If there are no adults or societies to train them, what would they make of the world?! I didn’t exactly get what I… expected? I guess, it was a lot more traditional dystopian than I originally anticipated.

Hmmm… My feelings on this book were fairly divided… The summary was intriguing enough to request on NetGalley, and the story line was very Lord of the Flies meets The Walking Dead which kept me interested enough to finish; yet, I felt like the writing was somewhat lacking.

Every character is white, except for a secondary character that plays the role of Maria, the daughter of a Hispanic drug lord. *eye roll* The lack of diversity is something that I’m used to. And because it’s such a commonality, I don’t usually let it affect my rating of a book, but I always feel like it’s something worth mentioning in my reviews. (Not going to lie, the whole drug and slut trope constantly being applied to Hispanic/Latinx/Spanish-speaking/South American characters really irks me, but that’s an issue to be addressed at a later time.)

The author also makes an effort to point out that everyone involved in the story is beautiful and skilled things they’ve obtained via osmosis from all the dead adults lol. Andy is damn-near a surgeon before she’s 20. Charlie is a certified genius and youngest. Ben and Jim have military physique and mental capabilities without any prior training. There is no gray characters; it’s all black and white. Everyone fits a kind of purpose and specific criteria for the stereotypical good or bad qualities. They lack that sort of depth that usually accompanies dystopian novels, which are constantly filled with characters that toe the line of benevolence and malevolence. Where are the ugly people? Where are the kind-of-decent-looking characters that struggle in this new world because they literally only know the Pythagorean Theorem? Where are the ones that can’t even tell the difference between good and evil anymore?

Granted, there’s a huge gap of time missing, given that the story jumps forward 5 years, but I would have liked to see the cultivation of this new world and how the children established their hierarchy after they’ve fully exhausted anarchy. I wanted to see more dimensionality with the characters. I felt like they were too perfect. And so dry. The writing made each of them seem unintentionally straight forward and very much no-non-sense, which could be a result of the new post-virus world, but if that’s the case, then where’s the internal monologues? The explanatory chapters flashing back to the instances hopefully from the 5-year gap that led up to these stoic moments? WHERE IS THE PASSION?! THE THRILLS?! SUSPENSE?!

FYI: the suspense in this book never lasted long, which kind of boggled me. Every issue that arose was solved before the next issue arose, instead of being suggested and weaved across plot. Maybe I’m just missing the interwoven plotlines because this is only the first book? But there wasn’t really much of a build up and because the characters were so direct, the reader always knew where the story line was headed…

… It wasn’t… bad? I think the author lays down all these beautiful ideas that were itching to be explored, which I think is as equally a positive as it is a negative one. Positive, because it gives the reader the opportunity to fill in the blanks and take it upon themselves to explore possible outcomes and what-if situations that result from the post- apocalyptic virus world that the author has created. Negative because there just wasn’t enough information for the implied ideas to be thoroughly appreciated. Though the writing is as simplistic and thought-provoking as a book like The Giver, the target audience doesn’t share the same age group which and the expectations for each are different. The content of Schism seemed for an older crowd. Because of the author’s background, there was an almost-personal feel to the ideas of government conspiracies and terrorism, but that same effort wasn’t put into other aspects of the book, like setting, history, and character development.

Overall, it wasn’t a waste of my time. I relatively enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t recommend it to my friends. I would, however, recommend it to my philosophy partners just to get their take on such situations.

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Reviewing BooksForAri – Molly McAdam’s “Taking Chances”

Taking Chances (Taking Chances, #1)Taking Chances by Molly McAdams
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Honestly, I don’t even know why or how I finished this book. I guess I should start by indicating why I found this title attractive. Yes, love triangles are an exhausting and tedious subject at this point in YA fiction, but I have to admit I’m still drawn to it (probably because I gamble with myself on who will get chosen & I secretly hope everyone just stops being jealous and loves one another – yay polyfidelity!) So, inside my head, Baxter (that’s the name of my noggin) says to me, ‘Hey Arielle, it’s over 400 pages with a 3.9 overall rating and nearly 40K people voted on that rating. It shouldn’t be so bad…’ Boy, was he wrong.

If you’re not annoyed with the characters and plotline within the first two chapters, then by all means, continue reading. Perhaps, it just wasn’t my type of writing style or maybe the target audience is for an age group much younger than me. I’m a 24 year old NY college graduate with a tendency to be sleep-deprived and, though this aspect hasn’t really affected me before in determining whether or not I enjoy a particular book, I think it’s worth it to acknowledge the possibility that these parts of myself could be the cause for my dislike. Also, let me make it known, I am an amateur book reviewer – still wet behind the ears – AND I have an affinity for peculiar books… but now that I’ve proclaimed to be no professional and admitted to my flaws, let me get to the four main things that bothered me:

The Dialogue
Every. Freaking. Line. Was sooooooooooooooooo dry. It was like reading a playwright for what parents think kids are doing when they’re not around, and not what is actually happening. I couldn’t connect with the friendship between Bree and Harper. Their conversations and interactions felt completely superficial and the friendship happened way too quick for my liking – probably even quicker than the romance. Any kind of relationship, even platonic ones, need development and dimensionality. And with that said, I definitely could not get on board with the love at first sight infatuation that had Chase and Brandon duking it out from the first few pages. Though this phenomenon is common with books that are centered around a specific romantic relationship(s), I feel like there are way to make it feel less… cheap. They just looooooved Harper and everything that came out of their mouth was so zero to sixty that I nearly puked from the momentum. But stepping back for a second, the playwright-like conversations just seemed entirely too strained – kind of like when you’re playing Sims and you set your person up to do a whole bunch of tasks and your Sim is just like in robot-mode because you’ve already decided its future… That’s what it was like reading the conversations in this book; every word was predetermined.

The Descriptions
Though setting isn’t always a make-or-break for me, the lack of really substantial dialogue made me search for descriptions, which were (surprise, surprise) also very lacking. Baxter, my brain, struggled to get any real solid picture while I was reading. Any type of description I came across was very generic and supremely unfulfilling. I don’t know about any one else who read this book, but this was honestly grounds for abandonment. Alas, I persevered like the warrior that I am, and developed quite an issue with…

The Plot Line
It was like the author took every single YA fiction cliché and threw it in at any available chance – kind of like when my best friend went on a juicing diet and didn’t know any recipes so she just chucked random vegetables in the blender. Yup. It was disgusting. But, oh my gods. I could’ve made this book into a drinking game called Guess The Next Plot Twist using a fill-in-the-blank method of standard YA clichés, and I would have been sufficiently plastered by the time I got to the middle of the book. There wasn’t any development of the issues and the issues were so obvious that I kind of just rolled my eyes when they finally played out. No wonder the book was over 400 pages.

The Characters
Alright, so the crux of my dislike for this novel definitely falls in this category. I found myself hating the main character, which is always a negative sign. Harper was always f*cking harping (haha, I made a funny). Pun completely intended. She was so judgmental of others (especially females) and haughty just because she grew up on a military base. I don’t understand why everyone was falling over themselves trying to please the virginal princess like she was this almighty perfect seductress. Her character wasn’t even that interesting. Harper wasn’t the only one though, everyone in this book was two-dimensional. Even the peripheral family members lacked any real substance. There was no diversity, severely strict archetypes, and no progression of character. I gave up on hoping for change once Harper called someone a slut for the 3rd time.

Goodness. This was a long review. I’m sorry guys. I definitely ranted. I guess I felt way more passionately about this book than I thought, but hey, here’s the end of my review.

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