Review: ‘Retribution Rails’

Erin Bowman does it again with another western novel, set in Arizona in 1887! Now you may be thinking, “I don’t like westerns” but TRUST ME for a minute and give this story a try! You might be pleasantly surprised to find you love this world, just as I did! I’m not typical a fan of “westerns” either, and I can’t say I can name more western YA books, but this is a solid, fast paced, fun gun slinging horse riding railroad chasing read!

Title: Retribution Rails
Author: Erin Bowman
Series: Vengeance Road companion
Rating: 4/5 stars

Retribution Rails takes place ten years after its companion novel, Vengeance Road. (If you want to read our review of Vengeance Road, head right on over here!) While it is not necessary to have read Vengeance Road to read and enjoy Retribution Rails, I would recommend reading that first and it definitely helps as we see some of our favorites (and not so favorites…) from Vengeance Road return.

This story was action packed right from the get go, as one would expect from a western! It follows Reece Murphy and Charlotte Vaughn and is told in dual perspectives. Reece is forcibly dragged into an infamous gang. Charlotte wants to be a journalist and is seeking freedom from her conniving uncle. Their paths cross and our story is off!

Reece was just a kid who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, he isn’t a bad guy. Charlotte wants to become a journalist who tells the truth – because the entire truth is important to her. Both of these characters grew on me and grew as people as the story progressed and that’s what I love to see in a story – character development.

Reece and Charlotte quickly cross pass with our favorites from Vengeance Road and I will admit, I squealed. A lot. It’s nice to see some familiar faces in a new story. It feels like coming home after a long journey. If you loved Vengeance Road, you will, without a doubt, love Retribution Rails!

I should mention that I listened to the majority of this story via audiobook and I would highly recommend the audio! There are two narrators, one for Reece and one for Charlotte, and for me, hearing someone speak in the western accent really helps set the mood of the novel. It is written as western speaking accents and while my New Yorker self cannot easily speak like that, I found listening to the audio quite enjoyable! (I also listened on 1.75x or 2x speed, since, like I said, my New Yorker self naturally speaks at 2x speed HA!)

As noted in the authors notes, a lot of what is said in this story is historically accurate, including when and where the railroads were build in Arizona. As with any story, it is mentioned some pieces were fabricated, but its great knowing there is historical accuracy to much of this story as well!

The ending left me wanting more, I need more answers!!! It was a fitting ending though, and I am satisfied with it.

After reading these two novels by Erin Bowman, I am very much looking forward to what she writes next and will have to go and read some of what she has written before Vengeance Road! She has proven herself as a strong writer and can’t wait to see what she puts out next!

Charlotte and Reece, I hope we meet again someday!

~Missy

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Review: ‘All Rights Reserved’

“In a world where every word and gesture is copyrighted, patented or trademarked, one girl elects to remain silent rather than pay to speak, and her defiant and unexpected silence threatens to unravel the very fabric of society.”

This is the premise of All Rights Reserved, as taken from the Goodreads page. I loved the concept of paying for every word or gesture, that everything has a cost. That freedom of speech isn’t free at all. But unfortunately, this story fell short for me.

Title: All Rights Reserved
Author: Gregory Scott Katsoulis
Series: Word$
Rating: 2.5/5 stars

I really wanted to like this story. But as soon as I started reading, it immediately reminded me of both the Divergent series and the Uglies series. I liked both of those series, so ok, that wasn’t a bad thing. As I read on, there was just too much similarity to those worlds for me to really think of this one as unique. Don’t get me wrong – dystopian world isn’t trademarked (ha, irony) by those two worlds or any other dystopian YA novel – but this didn’t feel new to me, even with the concept of paying for words.

Every word or action you do has a price to it and after you turn fifteen, you will have a cuff attached to your arm and be charged for every single word or gesture – even shrugging or holding hands is something that you will be charged for. This world has found a way to copyright and trademark everything and the rights holders will be paid when you use what they own. If you run into debt, you will be put to work to pay off your debt. Oh yeah, and did I mention they can charge you for things your great-great-great ancestors did, such as illegally downloading music, movies, or other forms of media? They can and they do, which leads to most children in this world not being raised by their parents, who are taken in to pay off past debts.

For the majority of this book, I had a difficult time figuring out where this world was supposed to be set. It is said later on this is actually America and it seems maybe 30-40 years in the future. (This is just my estimate.) They live in a dome (feels like Divergent) but they know they are in a dome, which controlled weather and temperature and seasons, and that there are other domes out there. There are states, Texas as a state is specifically mentioned as being hot and somewhere you’re sent to work when you cannot pay your debt.

There are some moments that made me laugh and then actually stop and think. The concept of “liberties” where you can borrow books for FREE as long as you promise to return them seems like a myth to the main character Speth and her siblings. Freedom of speech is something we taken for granted here in America and I did appreciate that this book made me stop and realize that we are protected by the Constitution to be free to say what we want. We can speak, write, and put our thoughts out there without fear because we live in a free country – this futuristic world is not free. If I took nothing else away from this book, it was how important freedom of speech really is.

There were a lot of questions I had while reading this that were not answered. Goodreads says there will be a second book to this series but I’m doubtful it will answer my questions. Such as: How do you get a job? How much does your job pay you? You print your own food – how much do the printing supplies cost? If books are expensive because they are copyrighted, can people use the internet to read/learn or does that cost the same amount? Do they have cell phones if they have wifi? Do they have computers? Are you charged for talking over the phone/computer?

Those are just a few. I feel like this book poses problems or questions and does not answer any of them. It feels rushed. For me, this story just missed the mark of being good. I feel like if it was more fleshed out, if I were left with fewer questions at the end, I might have really enjoyed this. The ending really isn’t an ending, it feels very abrupt and I hope book 2 resolves some of this. You may enjoy this story more than I did, seeing as most of the Goodread reviews as of now are 4-5 stars – I might be in the minority here.

~Missy

Review: ‘A Semi-Definitive List Of Worst Nightmares’

Krystal Sutherland is now officially an auto-buy author for me. I will read anything and everything she writes. I LOVED A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares. L-O-V-E-D IT. And nobody is talking about it! Well, I’m here to talk about it and I hope you’ll decide to give this book a chance!

Semi-Definitive List and her previous book, Our Chemical Hearts, felt so REAL to me. Contemporary YA can easily be over the top and eye roll worthy lovey dovey no-way-this-would-happen-in-real-life feeling, but both of Krystal’s books have felt realistic to me and that’s what I have loved about both of them. (So yes, I also recommend her debut book, Our Chemical Hearts.)

Title: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares
Author: Krystal Sutherland
Rating: 5/5 stars

Trigger warnings: Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, self-harm, suicide attempt, and abuse. This book deals with mental health.

(I don’t want these warnings to scare you off from reading this and if you want more information about any of the above triggers in this book, please comment below, DM on twitter (@frayedbooks) or email and I’ll let you know more!)

Esther Solar’s family is cursed by Death himself and her entire family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime—a fear that will eventually lead each and every one of them to their graves.

Esther has created a list of everything that scares her, a Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares. She encounters an old elementary school classmate one day at the bus stop, Jonah, and he ends up stealing everything she had on her – her phone, all her cash, a Fruit Roll-Up she’d been saving, and her Semi-Definitive List. But this is the start of a rekindled friendship between the two. Jonah wants to study film and after reading her list, wants to help Esther face her fears and film each one as practice. A win-win deal for both of them.

Week after week, Esther and Jonah face one of the fears on her list – starting at the end and working backwards. In the process, their friendship also grows closer, with each of them learning about the other and their family life. Esther’s twin brother, Eugene, and her best friend Hephzibah also begin to join in, facing these fears as well. Eugene has his own great fear – of the dark. Slowly but surely, they work their way through the list, Jonah filming each fear, each fear having a different outcome. (Spoiler: facing your fear of geese will probably result in them attacking you. There’s no way around this.)

Esther truly believes in the story her grandfather told her and Eugene as a child – that he met Death and Death cursed their family. In reality, the members of her family each deal with a mental illness but they simply look at it as a curse instead of admitting something is wrong and asking for help.

It’s okay to not be okay. It’s ok to ask for help. That is something Esther and the other characters in this story need to come to terms with. It’s hard to say what happens without spoiling the story, but something major happens that makes Esther and her family all realize that things need to change before its too late. It’s okay to ask for help from your family or friends and seek professional help.

This book deals with important topics that still seem taboo even in today’s society, but mental health is real and needs to be addressed. This story also has a lot of lighthearted moments that had me laughing. In the beginning, Jonah accidentally hits a kitten with his moped but Esther’s father, previously a veterinarian, is able to save the kitten. Jonah decides to name the cat Fleayoncé.

Semi-Definitive List left me smiling at the end and also hopeful! THAT ENDING. YES. SO MUCH YES. Perfect ending to this story.

Mental health is never an easy journey, but it is just that – a journey. It’s okay to ask for help and just like Esther, you don’t have to face your fears alone.

~Missy

 

Review: ‘They Both Die At The End’

The title ‘They Both Die At The End’ leaves little room for imagination and you already know how this story is going to end. I first remember hearing about this book at an event at Barnes & Noble featuring Nicola Yoon, Adam Silvera, and Kara Thomas. I believe it was to promote “The Sun Is Also A Star” by Nicola Yoon and Adam mentioned his upcoming book and once I heard the title, I was instantly sold on it. It sounded fascinating! And it did not disappoint.

Title: They Both Die At The End
Author: Adam Silvera
Series: n/a – standalone
Rating: 4/5 stars

This is actually my first Adam Silvera book (shame on me, I know), but it will not be my last. TBDATE follows two boys, Mateo and Rufus, who both get the call from Death-Cast telling them that they will die in the next 24 hours. They both use an app called “Last Friends” and end up finding each other and deciding to spend their last day together.

This is told over the course of less then 24 hours, with Mateo and Rufus fitting an entire lifetime of living into that span of time. The narrative goes back and forth between the two boys with timestamps when the narration changes. Scattered throughout are short narratives from other people’s lives who unintentionally intertwine in some small or large way with Mateo and Rufus’. At first I found these random people to be quite…well, random. But as the story progresses, you see how everything and everyone can affect someone else, in the smallest or largest way and you may never even know it. I liked this concept of fate/destiny/chance/call it whatever you want. I like the idea of the domino effect. One event causes another and so forth and so on.

The idea that one small thing you do or someone else does affecting you really made me think. The concept of death is prevalent in this book and it made me wonder, what if Death-Cast was real? What if we were given 24 hours advance notice of when we were going to die? This book really made me stop and think about life and death and about living life to the fullest.

TBDATE is a LGBT representation book. Rufus says in his “Last Friends” profile that he is bisexual and is stated as having an ex-girlfriend. Mateo’s sexuality isn’t said until the end when its revealed he never really “came out” to anyone, but he is gay. Mateo has his first (and last L L L) kiss with Rufus before they both, you know, die at the end.

I listened to this as an audiobook and I highly recommend this audio! I felt an even closer connection with both Mateo and Rufus by hearing their voices. It made me feel like I was also a “last friend” with them, going along and experiencing all they could in one day. Mateo and Rufus each have a different voice actor with a third female voice narrating the other people scattered throughout. I think hearing the emotions in the voices added an extra layer to this story and I would recommend giving the audio a try!

I’m not a very emotional person so while this book was sad, I personally found it bittersweet more then anything else. These two young boys had their whole lives ahead of them and life was cut short. Despite knowing how this book was going to end, my stomach still dropped at the very last line. It shook me up. I knew it was coming but I didn’t see it coming like that. Adam really knows how to punch you in the gut when you’re down. Well done!

~Missy

 

Review: ‘Godsgrave’

Godsgrave is the 2nd book of the The Nevernight Chronicle trilogy and picks up a few months after where Nevernight left off. This review will contain spoilers for Nevernight, but none for Godsgrave. I listened to the majority of this as an audiobook and 10/10 recommend Godsgrave as audio! (Check out my review of Nevernight here!)

Title: Godsgrave
Author: Jay Kristoff
Series: The Nevernight Chronicle
Rating: 5/5 stars

Godsgrave begins with a lovely greeting from our favorite narrator and o how I missed them so. There is an o so helpful refresher on our beloved characters and where we last left off with them, with commentary from the narrator, of course.

From page 1, it feels like I’m returning home after a long journey. We are back with the narrator, back with Mia and Mister Kindly, and oh how I missed this world and the language used in this story.

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m now used to the writing style of Nevernight or not, but I feel like the writing in Godsgrave is easier to follow and comprehend. It’s told in alternating past and present tense once again, as Nevernight was, but it just overall feels more cohesive. Either way, I love the alternating time lines and it does not interrupt the flow of the story at all – honestly, it enhances it!

This story does not suffer from a sophomore slump as some second books tend to do but instead keeps up the pace and pushes the story along, giving us the reader and Mia more questions about who and what she really is. Mia has now become a full-fledged Blade by Lord Cassius’s hand before he died (I’m genuinely sad we didn’t learn more about/from him) but none of the Red Church are pleased about Mia’s status, as she ~technically~ failed her final test. Shortly into this story, she diverges from the Church’s mission and goes on her own path, selling herself into slavery to a gladiatorial collegium to be able to get close to Scaeva and Duomo and ultimately, hopefully kill them.

We learn more about Mia’s shadow abilities and her passengers, Mister Kindly and Eclipse, but not as much as I had hoped we would learn. I WANT ANSWERS and honestly, so does Mia. She doesn’t know anymore then we the reader knows. This is one of the biggest questions I hope gets answered before the story ends. I want to know about darkin – are there more? How do passengers come into existence and how/why can they move from on darkin to another if their original host dies? Is there a limit on passengers? Are they all shaped like animals or can they be something else*? (*I’M LOOKING AT YOU, CLIFFHANGER ENDING.) So many questions I hope we learn more about, as this is one of the things I’m most interested in about this world!

As with Nevernight, Godsgrave has explicit sex scenes. And more then one. There is an explicit f/f sex scene with Mia and someone I will not name, but it becomes pretty obvious early on who she is. And it’s a ship I never knew I shipped but. I ship it. And I ship it not only because hello hot steamy sex scenes, but because these are two strong females who seek each other out because it is their choice to do so. In a world where you are told what to do, having the choice of you can love is a powerful one and I’m glad it is one Mia has. Also hello bisexuality shown in a positive and healthy way in a f/f relationship. It’s a beautiful thing.

Of course in the world of Nevernight/Godsgrave, just when things seem to be going well, something is probably going to go wrong or someone is going to die, etc. And that is exactly what happens in this book time and time again. –shakes angry fist at book-

I knew it would end on a cliffhanger, because that’s just how this world works. But that ending. THAT. ENDING. It left me screaming, “WHAT THE ACTUAL F*CK” out loud in my car as I finished this audiobok. I can’t say I saw that one coming. And if you see that ending coming, TELL ME HOW YOU KNEW BECAUSE I HAD NO IDEA. Damn. Damnnnn. –slow clap-

Needless to say, Nevernight & Godsgrave are without a doubt in the top of my favorite books I’ve read this year. As Jay mentioned on Twitter, Nevernight 3 will hopefully be released by the end of 2018. As of now, there is no solid release date. (He has said we must sacrifice small and fluffy things in his name to insure this happens.) So I’ll just be over here crying and hugging my books and petting Mister Kindly until then. RIP me.

This was a (mostly) spoiler free review but please feel free to comment below to discuss or tweet/DM me @frayedbooks!

~Missy

Review: ‘Nevernight’

I put off reading Nevernight until close to the release date of Godsgrave because I just had a feeling this would be a series I would want (need) to read back to back.

And.

I was right.

Title: Nevernight
Author: Jay Kristoff
Series: The Nevernight Chronicle
Rating: 5/5 stars

First, please let me get my fangirling out. ALDSJLFJASLDFKAJDAFJLDASD ALL THINGS HOLY OMG CAPSLOCK TO INFINITY AND BEYOND THIS BOOK IS FREAKING A-MAZ-ING WITH A CAPITAL A.

I honestly don’t know if my review will be able to do this book justice, but I will try my damn best! This is a spoiler free review, so I will not be going into too many details.

You’ll either absolutely love and devour this book, or it’ll confuse the f out of you and you’ll hate it. There really is no in between. I LOVED THIS BOOK. I CAN’T BELIEVE I WAITED SO LONG TO READ IT but oh yes I can because now I can jump right into Godsgrave (and then sob as I have to wait for the final book).

I should also warn you, if books came with ratings, this book would be rated R. And I mean this in the best possible way. The main character(s) are technically teens – 16, 17 or so but this is not a young adult book. There is murder and blood and violence and sex and language and #stabstabstab and death. This is not for the faint of heart. This will not have a happy ending. (I hope I’m wrong on that…but I don’t think I am.)

This story is told by a mysterious narrator – by “someone who knew her true.” (I have theories on who this narrator could be, but we’ll save that for the Godsgrave review.)

The “her” the narrator speaks of is Mia Corvere – a strong, fearless, badass girl who wants revenge for her fallen family – she has people she needs dead, and becoming a member of the Red Church will hone her skills for her to achieve her goals of murder and revenge.

I will admit, the first 100-or so pages of this book, I was confused af. I listened to the majority of this as an audiobook. Part 1 of this book has a lot of back and forth from past to present was very confusing as audio (but its less confusing as text, as the past is denoted with italics where the present is regular text). I was really iffy about this book until Mia arrived at the Red Church, where she would learn to be a Blade (assassin) and then things started to click into place. I had to go back and reread some passages and then everything made sense. But its worth it! Push past the confusion! It’ll all make sense and BE WORTH IT I PROMISE!!!!!! 
The audiobook narration is EXCELLENT. I LOVE IT. I’m very hesitant about male narrators (especially when the main character is female?!) but Holter Graham did incredible with all the voices!!!!! I do recommend this audiobook but be prepared to be confused for the first half of the story, as I mentioned. And the audiobook is 20 hours. Good luck. (I started at 1.5x speed because CONFUSED about names/places/things/people/our friendly narrator giving footnotes, but I was able to do the second half of the book at 2x speed so its not too bad in terms of length.)

The writing is complex, especially with all the foreign names/places/things, but you will get used to it as you read and I’m finding myself thinking in the way they speak in this story now, o gentlefriends. Once I got into it, it felt natural for the world and natural to hear and read.

Please bury me with this book I haven’t been so in love with a story in a long time.

“Never flinch. Never fear. And never, ever forget.”

I’m so glad to be able to jump right into Godsgrave after Nevernight and if you were thinking about reading this series, now would be the perfect time! (But then you would have to wait for the final book of this trilogy…but that’s a minor detail. Come suffer with me.)

~Missy