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ARC Review: Girl at the Grave by Teri Bailey Black

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ARC Review: Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston

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Seventeen-year-old Ana is a scoundrel by nurture and an outlaw by nature. Found as a child drifting through space with a sentient android called D09, Ana was saved by a fearsome space captain and the grizzled crew she now calls family. But D09—one of the last remaining illegal Metals—has been glitching, and Ana will stop at nothing to find a way to fix him.

Ana’s desperate effort to save D09 leads her on a quest to steal the coordinates to a lost ship that could offer all the answers. But at the last moment, a spoiled Ironblood boy beats Ana to her prize. He has his own reasons for taking the coordinates, and he doesn’t care what he’ll sacrifice to keep them.

When everything goes wrong, she and the Ironblood end up as fugitives on the run. Now their entire kingdom is after them—and the coordinates—and not everyone wants them captured alive.

What they find in a lost corner of the universe will change all their lives—and unearth dangerous secrets. But when a darkness from Ana’s past returns, she must face an impossible choice: does she protect a kingdom that wants her dead or save the Metal boy she loves?

review

**** Huge thank you to HarperTeen for approving me for an eARC in exchange for an honest review****

I can’t help but feel slightly disappointed with “Heart of Iron”, I was expecting a lot from it especially since it’s not only a sci-fi but also a retelling of ‘Anastasia’. I just felt like nothing lived up to these expectations and while the book was enjoyable overall it really wasn’t anything that blew me out of the water. I DID still like a lot of elements within the story though, just not the story as a whole.

PLOT

As I already briefly mentioned this story is kind of supposed to be “Anastasia in Space”, (and whether you want to compare it to the real story of Anastasia Romanov or the animated movie based off of her ‘Anastasia’ doesn’t really matter. Whichever you prefer, it makes no difference) but apart from the fact that it features a lost princess….I don’t really see what it has in common with ‘Anastasia’ at all. Just because one element of the original is present in the story doesn’t make it a retelling in my eyes.

The plot was a little confusing at times, like what’s going on? What’s supposed to be happening? What is the overall POINT of the entire story? I just felt like the “plot” described in the synopsis is resolved too early and the rest of the story is kind of directionless. Don’t get me wrong: things were definitely happening, but to what end? I have no idea, and I don’t really know what’s going to happen in the sequel either. As for the plot twists, those were very predictable and didn’t really surprise me whatsoever.

I did like how fast paced the story was though, we are thrown into action right from the start and it keeps the pace up throughout the entire book pretty evenly. There was also a decent amount of action and it did keep me interested.

I wish there had been more world building provided, I loved what little bit I got and I’m very curious about a lot of it! I wanna know more! I loved how well it blended sci-fi and fantasy elements together. I’m definitely looking forward to more of it in the sequel, hopefully it’s expanded on.

One thing I didn’t really like was that there are 4 different POVs and while each character had a very distinct “voice” and were easily distinguishable, I thought it was a bit much to keep track of.

characters

There are four main characters, and as I mentioned all have a POV during the story. I actually did like them all for the most part, they were good characters with quite a bit of personality. However, I did still feel like they could have used a little more complexity, but I understand that’s a little bit harder to accomplish with 4 differing POVs!

I also wish the secondary characters were developed a bit more, they are clearly very important to some of the main characters but to me they just didn’t feel very “real”. At times it felt these secondary characters were used solely for the purpose of being “cannon fodder” and I just couldn’t care much about them since they were never really developed at all. Shock for the sake of shock, is what it was.

However, one secondary character that was a freaking awesome queen was Captain Siege! I loved her! She was a total badass and also a POC and lesbian, she needs her own damn book because she is a godess.

Captain Siege’s crew also reminded me A LOT of ‘Firefly’, I know people compare things to that show frequently but trust me! I wish they would have been a little more important to the story because there was some serious ‘Firefly’ retelling material there. Plus space pirates are always awesome.

Last but not least we had a diverse cast of characters! Captain Siege, as I already mentioned, is black and lesbian, Ana has darker skin as well, and two characters (that will remain unnamed because of spoilers) are both gay. So there is quite a bit of diversity in the story!

romance

I’m a little “meh” on the romances in this book, they weren’t terrible but they really didn’t have me swooning either. They were pretty cute but at times I felt that the two different romances between main characters got to be too much and overshadowed the plot a bit. Now of course, I’m not a big fan of romances taking over especially in an action packed sci-fi. BUT like I said the pairings were adorable so I didn’t mind too much.

Although one of the romances was very, very insta-lovey and I didn’t like that. I ended up rooting for that pair but it was some hardcore insta-love which annoyed me.

Also diversity in the romances as well with F/F and M/M pairings!

in conclusion

Overall I liked the story but I didn’t love it, which was  disappointing because I was definitely excited for a sci-fi ‘Anastasia’ retelling. It’s definitely a three star rating right up the middle.

What I Loved:

  • Fast pacing
  • Decent amount of action
  • World building was interesting
  • Diverse characters
  • Space pirates comparable to ‘Firefly’
  • Characters were likable
  • Romantic couples were adorable
  • Captain Siege!!!!

What I Didn’t Love:

  • ‘Anastasia’ elements weren’t very big or important
  • Plot twists were predictable
  • The story and overall plot got “lost” at times and confusing
  • Wish there was a little more character development
  • Romances took over the plot too much at times
  • Insta-love

RECOMMEND

If “Heart of Iron” sounds interesting to you I say go for it, you may enjoy it more than I did! It isn’t a bad book whatsoever, it just wasn’t 100% for me but it did have enjoyable parts.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository / Barnes & Noble

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The Sassy

ARC Review: This Mortal Coil (This Mortal Coil #1) by Emily Suvada

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Catarina Agatta is a hacker. She can cripple mainframes and crash through firewalls, but that’s not what makes her special. In Cat’s world, people are implanted with technology to recode their DNA, allowing them to change their bodies in any way they want. And Cat happens to be a gene-hacking genius.

That’s no surprise, since Cat’s father is Dr. Lachlan Agatta, a legendary geneticist who may be the last hope for defeating a plague that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. But during the outbreak, Lachlan was kidnapped by a shadowy organization called Cartaxus, leaving Cat to survive the last two years on her own.

When a Cartaxus soldier, Cole, arrives with news that her father has been killed, Cat’s instincts tell her it’s just another Cartaxus lie. But Cole also brings a message: before Lachlan died, he managed to create a vaccine, and Cole needs Cat’s help to release it and save the human race.

Now Cat must decide who she can trust: The soldier with secrets of his own? The father who made her promise to hide from Cartaxus at all costs? In a world where nature itself can be rewritten, how much can she even trust herself?

review****Huge thank you to Simon Pulse for approving me for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!****

Trigger Warning: Mild Gore & Graphic Description of Medical Procedures

This was a pretty good book, definitely creative and fast paced! It held my attention and made me curious about the sequel, but overall it wasn’t anything that blew me completely away.

PLOT

“This Mortal Coil” started out pretty strong with action right off the bat, we are also provided with a good amount of backstory/world building as well but it never felt like info-dumping which was great. It’s also very much a survival story as mentioned in the synopsis humanity has been brought to its knees due to the deadly plague that has spread across the Earth, and the main character Catarina does anything she can to survive on the surface and is also recruited to help find a cure. I liked the details on the virus that were provided I thought it was a pretty unique plague too, if it wasn’t too weird to think a plague was cool I would think this one was cool. I don’t won’t to spoil anything though!

I really enjoyed all of the science and genetics aspects that were included as well, and it was all very believable there wasn’t anything I felt that was too over the top or unrealistic. Normally things such as DNA and the gene-hacking that people did would fly over my head or be boring but it was actually pretty interesting! I also loved that certain aspects of the story felt very “X-Men” and “Resident Evil”, which of course are two franchises I adore so there’s that but I won’t spoil anything by going into too much detail!

The pacing was pretty fast throughout the entire book and things were in a constant state of tension for the most part, it really kept me on the edge of my seat! There were also more than a few completely mind blowing twists, I almost couldn’t keep up! However, there was one twist that kind of confused me and seemed a little….far fetched but it took me by surprise nonetheless. Also even though I thought the pacing was fast it still felt like the book was too long and it felt like it was taking me forever to finish. I think if the book could have been maybe between 50-100 pages shorter it would have been better.

Another thing that I liked was that the world and characters were morally grey, everyone does what they have to do in order to survive. It made things very exciting because you never knew what to expect!

characters

The characters were alright, I didn’t feel overly invested in any of them though. They weren’t overly complex or developed but they were interesting enough to keep me reading.

I felt that Catarina was a bit of a Special Snowflake at times because she was this “brilliant prodigy” and was the “only one who can figure out a cure” so that got kind of old but in general she was an alright protagonist.

As for the other side characters I enjoyed them but as I said I just wasn’t overly attached. Don’t get me wrong, I had moments where I was concerned about their well being but overall “meh”.

romance

The romance got a little too intricate for me since Cat is in love with Dax and Cole is in love with Jun Bei and they’re all sort of in relationships but there wasn’t ever any affirmation, if that makes sense. Then Cat and Cole start to develop feelings for each other but then still have feelings for their other significant others/crushes. What? Why? Sorry, but I would have preferred if you’d ended the other crushes and then initiated the Cat/Cole romance because that just feels like emotional cheating?

Yeah, I was over the love square and got pretty tired of keeping track of everything. I also don’t like when plots start to focus heavily on the romances either, which it felt like it did the more the story proceeded.

in conclusion

Overall I did enjoy this book, did it blow me away though? Not really. I find myself pretty in the middle as far as the rating and feelings go.

What I Loved:

  • Interesting World Building (No info-dumping)
  • Fast pacing, lots of action
  • Science!
  • Morally grey ambiguous characters
  • Plenty of plot twists

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Felt too long, could have been shorter
  • Dragged on in spots
  • Characters were kind of “meh”
  • Romance was overly complicated and also “meh”

RECOMMEND

I definitely recommend checking this one out if you enjoy books with a little more science in them and also just plague/dystopian type novels in general.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy

Book Review: Shutter (Shutter #1) by Courtney Alameda

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Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat—a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She’s aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera’s technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.

When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn’t exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die. Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she’s faced before . . . or die trying.

reviewThis is a bit tough to rate because I did really enjoy this book but there were a lot of parts where I felt really bored and had to kind of force myself to read. So a middle rating is kind of perfect!

Trigger Warning: Physical Abuse/Child Abuse

PLOT

The cover on this is actually a little misleading as you would think it was a horror book when really it’s just kind of an urban fantasy featuring paranormal/supernatural creatures. There wasn’t anything super creepy or horrifying about it which, in my case, was slightly disappointing since I wanted to be scared out of my mind but that’s okay it was still pretty interesting. Was it completely non-creepy? No, there were a few parts that were awesomely creepy but I wouldn’t say this book is really scary.

I really loved the world building in this book and I was not expecting there to be any but it was a pleasant surprise. “Shutter” is set in a world where the existence of supernatural creatures is public knowledge and the descendants of the characters in Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula”, including Stoker himself, fight these creatures. It’s pretty badass and being the fan of “Dracula” that I am I was in love with all of the references! Unfortunately it was a lot to take in at first since there is quite a bit of info-dumping at the beginning of the story.

The pacing was pretty fast and full of action throughout most of the book but there were also quite a few parts that got really bogged down and I’m not sure why. It would just slow down a ton and I’d have to force myself to read through which wasn’t fun.

As for the plot itself it just kind of felt a little lacking? Plus the twists were utterly predictable and I was not surprised at all when they came to light because I’d guessed them right away, which isn’t any fun. I hate when things are predictable!

The ending is left with quite a few things unresolved leaving the way open for a sequel but one that I don’t think we are going to get. The ending also felt pretty rushed and big plot elements were kind of quickly resolved but not really in a satisfying way, in my opinion. It was all a little abrupt.

Alameda’s writing was pretty decent as well and a little heavy on the metaphors at times but I enjoyed it, looking forward to whatever else she’ll write up!

One last thing about the “plot related story elements” though, as you can see in the trigger warning I listed above there is an instance of physical abuse from a parent towards a child (teenager but legally still a child). I don’t like how it was skated over and the character didn’t want to mention it ever and deal with it even though it was child abuse, I also don’t like how easily the parent was forgiven.

characters

The characters were just kind of “meh” in which I mean I didn’t really love them or hate them. They were all kind of likable enough and there’s no denying that they’re good at their jobs which is pretty badass. However, I kind of felt like no one was really developed or complex and the characters didn’t really change at all throughout the story, at least not with reason.

There’s Micheline (the MC), Ryder, Oliver, and Jude that make up our main ghost butt kicking squad. Ryder is the love interest and honestly he’s just kind of there for that reason alone and never really grows as a character, boring and I didn’t get what was so great about him. Jude is extremely sexist and kind of annoying, also he “changes” by the end of the story but there really is nothing to justify why he did which annoyed me. Oliver was my favorite character but guess what? Hardly any “page time” for him which was a disappointment.

As for Micheline, our protagonist, I didn’t really think much of her at all, she wasn’t a terrible character but she was pretty self-absorbed and I didn’t like that. She runs headfirst into danger thinking only of how great it will be for her to exorcise this ghost and be the hero and instead she gets her team into a life threatening situation. Yeah, not my favorite kind of character.

There are a few side characters such as Micheline’s dad Leonard Helsing, Oliver’s dad Dr. Stoker, Father Marlowe, and Damien Drake which they were all pretty interesting in their own way and I would have liked to have learned a bit more about each of them. Especially Damien Drake who seems like a total badass and I would have liked to have learned more about his and Jude’s strange powers. That would have been awesome!

romance

The romance was another “meh” aspect for me. I liked that it was sort of a forbidden romance because that’s the one romance trope that I really enjoy but it just didn’t feel like there was any chemistry between the characters. It was kind of romance for the sake of romance. On the plus side the romance never takes over the plot and it’s more on the side lines which I appreciated.

in conclusion

Overall as I mentioned earlier there were both pluses and minuses to this book and I did enjoy it for the most part, it was definitely entertaining.

What I Loved:

  • Mostly fast pacing
  • Plenty of action
  • Great world building
  • Characters were okay
  • Good writing
  • “Dracula” references!

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Pacing slowed down in some parts
  • Not as creepy as I would have liked
  • Predictable twists
  • Rushed ending
  • Self absorbed main character

RECOMMEND

I would recommend this book if you’re looking for something slightly on the creepy horror side but you don’t want the crap scared out of you, it’s full of ghosties but wasn’t terrifying! I also recommend checking this one out if you’re a “Dracula” fan, like myself, because the references made reading through a lot of fun!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository / Book Outlet

The Sassy

ARC Review: Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel

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A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.

Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human.

What’s more, she knows something most don’t. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.

review

**** Big thank you to Entangled Publishing for sending me an copy in exchange for an honest review!****

This was definitely a very unique and dark story and unlike anything I’ve ever read before, I won’t be forgetting this one any time soon! Remember when paranormal romances were big? This is how a majority of them SHOULD have been, engaging and well written! However, there were just a couple things that didn’t work enough for me to full rate this at 4 stars.

PLOT

I loved how the story opens up with some interesting happenings right away, there are some mysterious new neighbors next door in the house where a family was brutally murdered. Pretty good attention grabber, right? From here the plot takes off with Angie being drawn to the new boy next door, Reece, and she starts to notice odd things happening around town such as a significant increase in the local crow and bee populations and she thinks Reece has the answers.

The plot is very fast paced and stays that way for the duration of the book, which was nice, and there definitely isn’t a lack of action at all! You’ll be able to zip right through this book! I loved how Kassel kept things interesting and kept you reading for answers and when you finally got them she’d leave you with more questions too! Her writing was spectacular and I’ll be interested to see what she’ll write next.

One of my favorite aspects of this book was the world building and mythology, it was extremely creative and I wanted to know everything about it! The curses of the Harbingers and Beekeepers were really interesting but I would have liked to have known a bit more about their origins as well as the history of the magic and other magical entities that are mentioned, such as Strawmen. I would have loved a lot more depth into the world building for sure, it would have made the story even better but I did love what I got!

I also really liked how the general atmosphere of the story was kind of creepy as well since we are dealing with Harbingers of Death after all, it’s a perfect book to read for Halloween coming up here if you don’t like horror but like something a little spooky!

I also have to say that the second half of the book is where things got pretty dark and dangerous but it was also really thrilling to read through. Best part of the book, in my opinion! However, the ending to the book felt a little too…..convenient for me? I didn’t like how they are dealing with a problem for the majority of the story and then at the end it is magically solved for them, just a little too cheesy for me.

characters

The characters were a little tricky for me in this book, while they were decent I just didn’t feel connected to any of them and felt they lacked depth.

Angie was an alright narrator and main character, she had a pretty tough break as a child but has learned to deal with it. I think one of my favorite parts about her character was her love for making and mixing music and the parts where she would DJ were a lot of fun! When she DJs she uses an alter ego she likes to keep separate from herself which she has completely understandable reasons for. However, there is a moment where she has to choose between learning more about why her life might be in danger or to reveal her DJ persona to Reece and I thought it was a bit ridiculous because come on girl your life could be in danger!

Other than Angie there are a few other characters who get “screen time” such as her friends Deno and Lacey, her father, Roger (her dog), and of course Reece. I did really like all of these characters and they did have a little background and personality but overall they just didn’t have a whole lot of depth. Like I said though I really like them, they were very supportive of Angie the entire story. (I adored the dog though, seriously)

Reece is the other central character and love interest and he does get quite a bit of background as well but he doesn’t ever really develop. He doesn’t change or grow, the only character that did that was Angie. Overall I thought Reece was just sort of okay, I didn’t love or hate him he was just kind of…there.

One character I did not care for AT ALL though was Kiera Shaw who is basically the “high school mean girl” trope and she lives to make Angie’s life miserable. I did not see the point to her character at all and even towards the end where Angie and Kiera’s pointless “rivalry” is resolved it still felt really flat and not genuine. Even Rafette who was technically the story’s main antagonist was way more sympathetic than her!

romance

I actually did enjoy the romance between Angie and Reece and while there is an instant attraction the romance is not insta-love at all. I liked how it was slow at the start but it did feel a little rushed towards the middle of the book but it is explained so I forgive it. I actually really liked the tension that was between them at the beginning where they felt that attraction initially and it just had me rooting for them from the get go!

There was a sort of side romance between Angie’s two friends and honestly I felt it wasn’t needed at all. I liked the two characters but did we really need a side romance?

in conclusion

Overall I loved how unique the concept of this book was and the world building and mythology were fantastic, although I didn’t care a lot ton for most of the characters. So I’d like to give this a full 4 stars but the issues I had with the book it just doesn’t feel right to rate it anything more than 3.5.

What I Loved:

  • Concept and general plot
  • The writing was engaging
  • World building and mythology were creative
  • Very fast paced and full of action
  • Loved the musical side of Angie, the main character
  • The romance was slow burn and adorable
  • Roger, the dog, was just the best

What I Didn’t Love:

  • The ending felt WAY too convenient
  • Could have used a little more expansion with the world building
  • Characters were just kind of alright, didn’t really connect
  • Pointless girl on girl rivalry with school mean girl

RECOMMEND

I highly, highly recommend checking this book out though especially if you’re looking for a very unique story concept or a creepy (but not terrifying) book to read this fall!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository

The Sassy