[684]: Metaltown by Kristen Simmons

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Metaltown by Kristen Simmons
Tor Teen | September 20th, 2016
Source: Publisher, Finished Copy
Young Adult Fiction | Steampunk
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


Metaltown, where factories rule, food is scarce, and hope is in short supply.

The rules of Metaltown are simple: Work hard, keep your head down, and watch your back. You look out for number one, and no one knows that better than Ty. She’s been surviving on the factory line as long as she can remember. But now Ty has Colin. She’s no longer alone; it’s the two of them against the world. That’s something even a town this brutal can’t take away from her. Until it does.

Lena’s future depends on her family’s factory, a beast that demands a ruthless master, and Lena is prepared to be as ruthless as it takes if it means finally proving herself to her father. But when a chance encounter with Colin, a dreamer despite his circumstances, exposes Lena to the consequences of her actions, she’ll risk everything to do what’s right.

In Lena, Ty sees an heiress with a chip on her shoulder. Colin sees something more. In a world of disease and war, tragedy and betrayal, allies and enemies, all three of them must learn that challenging what they thought was true can change all the rules.

An enthralling story of friendship and rebellion, Metaltown will have you believing in the power of hope.


I have not had the most successful reading experiences with Kristen’s books in the past. Because I’m a romance reader first and foremost, I often found the lack of romance a detriment. Colour me surprised when Metaltown changed all that.

As what you’ve probably already know, this book is a brutal take on a world of absolute desolation. With a metal industry in the background, and a ruling caste intent on enslaving the poor, it was not the easiest book to get through. What it has an abudance of, however, are stories of survival and determination from the cast of characters. There’s something to be said about the torturous struggle the characters go through. I, as a reader, was able to feel a deeper appreciation for their successes – no matter how big or small. And because the world is not especially pleasant, you can say the characters have strong hearts and even stronger stomachs.

Kristen Simmons knows how to create a world out of the deepest despair you can imagine. There was never a doubt about that going into Metaltown. In fact, I braced myself for what was to come. This time around though, I savoured every single sliver of glittering metal shavings. It’s so effectively visceral that you can almost smell and taste the iron in the air.

Metaltown took me by surprise. It may  have started a bit slow at first, but once you get past that hurdle, it’s smooth sailing from there. If you like to read about underdogs exacting due justice to those who’ve wronged them, this book might give you a bit of satisfaction. I enjoyed the gritty world – no matter how difficult it was at times. I especially love Ty. She’s a spunky girl with a big heart even if the person who was supposed to watch her back treated her unfairly on more than one occasion.

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[674]: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

19542841 More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Soho Teen | June 2nd, 2015
Source: Bought
Young Adult | LGBTQIA
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.

Why does happiness have to be so hard?


Oh, but this book hurts. It hurts in the most profound, most beautiful way. The growing pains of being a teen is hard enough. Even more so when you put a troubled, abusive father into the mix and the constant fear of hostility and violence that comes from being gay in today’s society.  Aaron Soto just couldn’t catch a break. He went from one upheaval to the next further leaving the readers breathless merely from imagining the kind of struggles this boy went through. But even though the reader is put through the wringer that was this book, More Happy Than Not is a gorgeous, remarkable novel that offers an insight to the fragility of one’s mind. Memories created cannot be manipulated no matter how much we’d like to forget about the bad stuff. But above all, it’s also about finding the best in the worst situations and forging on even if taking a step forward feels like you’re dragging the whole world behind you.

As in the case of many LGBTQIA YA books we’ve read, this book tackles self-acceptance. Something that unfortunately does not only affect the lives of many gay and lesbian teens but most of the teens in general. Heck, even I, a forty-year-old woman still struggle with this. At the beginning of the novel, we see Aaron as a mostly laid back teen who only cared about being a good son and a good boyfriend. But his seemingly ordinary life will change as soon as he meets Thomas.

This book also has a bit of Science Fiction mixed in (if you can believe it). On the surface, the technology is based on the idea that memories can be suppressed by going through a memory-bending procedure. And as Aaron goes through his heartbreak, he will consider going through with it if only to help him deal with the pain. As always, messing with the natural order of things is never a good thing. There are consequences – both good and bad. But in Aaron’s case, it’s probably the worst case scenario he’s been warned about.

More Happy Than Not teaches us to appreciate the hardships life throws our way. Because only then can we truly value the small bits of happiness that come from living. At the same time, this book makes me want to live in fear and denial that other kids can’t be this cruel to other kids. It’s a reality check I never want to deal with.

 

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[673]: Menagerie by Rachel Vincent

18350798 Menagerie by Rachel Vincent
Series: Menagerie, #1
MIRA | September 29th, 2015
Source: Bought
Adult Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger’s Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus black-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah in her black swan burlesque costume is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she’s forced to “perform” in town after town.

But there is breathtaking beauty behind the seamy and grotesque reality of the carnival. Gallagher, her handler, is as kind as he is cryptic and strong. The other “attractions”—mermaids, minotaurs, gryphons and kelpies—are strange, yes, but they share a bond forged by the brutal realities of captivity. And as Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, she’ll discover a strength and a purpose she never knew existed.

Renowned author Rachel Vincent weaves an intoxicating blend of carnival magic and startling humanity in this intricately woven and powerful tale.


Freaks of A Different Breed

I was, for the most part, obstinately set against reading this book when it first came out. Circus freaks never did hold any appeal. But if anyone has told me these freaks aren’t your run-of-the-mill freaks, then things would’ve turned out differently. I’ve been trying to come up with the proper word to describe the kind of circus Rachel Vincent came up with here but I’m failing miserably. There’s no bearded lady or a two-headed, conjoined twins. What you’ve got is every single monster that ever walked the pages of an Urban Fantasy novel. Don’t let Rachel Vincent hear that, though because she’d vehemently deny it. Let’s do a quick run down: minotaur, empaths, sirens, fae, werewolves, trolls, shape-shifters, and a being whose killing abilities are powered by revenge. I’m sure there’s more I’ve missed but you get the picture.

Delilah Marlow did not expect to find herself inside a cage after she witnessed a werewolf pup being tortured for the crowd’s benefit. Her rage was so complete that all she could think about was inflicting the same pain to the pup’s torturer. To everyone’s shock, her appearance quickly changed into a monstrous being with claws; black veins, and hair with a life of its own. When she woke up from her trance, the handler was reduced to a bloody, mindless mess. Unable to explain what she was (other than she’s not human) to the police, she was sold to the Menagerie.

Supernatural Beings Are Not Welcomed Here

In this world inhabited by humans and supernatural beings alike, the former are superior of the two. They suppressed the Cryptids’ freedom and treated them like the subspecies that they think they are. Reading about their oppression was difficult to take at times. Kids were separated from their parents; they were hunted, drugged on a daily basis, then caged like animals. They went through unthinkable abuse and all because of an incident that happened in the 80s. It’s called The Reaping. When human children were swapped with cryptids. Ever since then, they’ve been stripped of any rights.

So you can just imagine Delilah’s life after they determined that she’s not human after all. In Menagerie, she’ll have a first-hand account to the extent of maltreatment her kind goes through in the hands of the handlers: malnutrition, sexual and physical abuse in the general sense.  But the mental and emotional toll on the cryptids scar deeper above all the other abuse. Imagine a father feeling helpless for his teen daughter. She’s made to dress skimpily day in and day out. And if she doesn’t perform, she’s tortured with a cattle prod. He sees it happen every day but he can’t help her because, he, himself is caged. He hears every whimper and sees every burn marks on her body. But there’s very little he could do but to encourage her not to give up hope – and this from a distance. Theirs is just one example of the struggle I went through while reading this book.

Uprising

But all hope is not lost. You can say that the appearance of Delilah was determined by fate. She is the one that will help this caravan of freaks to gain their freedom – at least, you would hope. But of course,  freedom has a price. And Delilah must first gain their trust. With Gallagher’s help, she hopes to offer them a chance at a life free from oppression.

Menagerie was so different from anything I’ve ever read before. It is as lovely as it is grotesque; tender as it is painful. This book tested my angst threshold and at times, I pushed myself to the limit. But oh, it’s a beautiful discovery and I loved every minute of it – even the painful ones. Delilah is a character who fought tooth and nails not to lose herself despite the cost. For the most part, I admired her. But man, there were times when I wanted her to submit just so she can save herself from the torture.

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[634]: Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop

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Marked in Flesh

by Anne Bishop


There’s a myriad of reasons why I love this series. As a reader whose tastes tend to lean towards stories that are more in touch with reality, The Others is one of the few paranormal series that slipped through that filter. Typically, I’m drawn to the romance that a book promises. This series, however, doesn’t offer much in that respect. And that is why it’s astounding (especially to me) that I’ve consistently rated them high with every installment. So what is it about them that keep me coming back?

For one, Ms. Bishop has created a world that to me, is fascinating. Now if you’re a regular reader of paranormal fantasy, you would probably consider hers as one of many. But since I have no basis for which to compare it to, I remain amazed. After all, I can only name at least one other series that I follow in this genre: The Black Dagger Brotherhood. And that’s about the extent of my experience.

Second, Meg and Simon themselves know how to tease me enough with their budding romance. Confounding, really. Because if it were another book, the slow as molasses progression would have me running out the door faster than you can say DNF.  That is not the case here.  I love how seemingly innocent they are. Simon has no experience whatsoever in handling a relationship with a human. Meg does not have any experience with any healthy relationships period. Together, they are sweet, funny, and more often, silly – which makes them so irresistible.

Third, the anticipation of reading the demise of the Human First Last Movement. Truth be told, I thought it was unrealistic how far The Others have let them. It took too long to snuff them out considering how easily they can destroy their enemies. It’s just silly, I thought. So with every installment, I waited upon bated breath.

There is an underlying social relevance to these books that I’m just now realizing. Nowadays, talks of climate change and its deniers persist in social media platforms. Some political groups insist that humans are in no way responsible for the increasing greenhouse gases that contribute to Earth’s rising temperatures. But scientists insist that we are destroying the only place we call home. We have the same scenario in this series, albeit the humans were only too happy to accept responsibility. Sometimes, I wish that we have the same creatures governing the world’s natural resources.  Because if you think about it, we would probably live more harmoniously in a world where war can easily be eradicated by much more superior supernatural  beings. The conflict in the Middle East would not exist because the land would not be owned by Israel or Palestine. Countries cannot invade other countries. There will be no Axis of Evil. World peace is not just a wish uttered by beauty pageant contestants. It could be a reality if The Others actually existed.

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[632]: Mr. and Mr. Smith by HelenKay Dimon

27876307 LOVESWEPT | May 24th, 2016
E-Arc via Net Galley
Suspense | Romance | M/M
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


Fisher and Zach are CIA agents in a secret relationship. But that’s not all they’re hiding. Neither of them disclosed their true occupations to each other. So when Zach got kidnapped by an organization supplying arms to terror cells, Fisher had no choice but to give in to their demands and surrender himself to rescue Zach. What Fisher doesn’t know, however, is that Zach was neck-deep in a case that he himself has been working on for months.

I feel like I should insert an ominous soundtrack right here. Actually, I would have to insert them in random spots throughout the story because it was certainly that suspenseful. This book was so much fun. It had enough humor to cut through the tension. And the relationship drama between Fisher and Zach was oh, so addictive. At times, I wanted to slap Fisher because he refused to see what was in front of him. All he kept focusing on was that Zach lied (as much as he did, mind you!). He was so stubborn.

There was no doubt how much Zach loves Fisher, though. He was ready to sacrifice himself just to save Fisher. These two has chemistry in spades, and even though they frustrated me on many occasions, I rooted for them. Oh, man. The sex scenes were hot. Lol. Nothing like the threat of death to amp up the intensity in the bedroom.

But this book is not only all about sex and romance. After all, they are CIA agents who were up against some very dangerous criminals. The torture sessions were a bit hard to take. It was suspense all the time, so it left very little room for boredom. Ms. Dimon melded romance and suspense well. A one-sitting type of read, honest.

 

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