Blog Tour, Review, and Giveaway: Temper by Beck Nicholas

Tour banner for Temper by Beck NicholasAbout Temper

Book cover for Temper by Beck NicholasFREEDOM COMES WITH A PRICE.

Free from the spaceship and reunited with Samuai, Asher should be happy. But thoughts of her dead family weigh heavily on her mind.

Things worsen when temper problems in camp lead to a murder. When Asher volunteers to get the drug needed to calm people down, tension ignites.

Loyalties are questioned.

Jealousy rears its head. Sparks fly.

And when rumor of a second ship hits close to home, all bets are off.

Have the aliens returned? Is this the end of everything Asher has ever known?

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Review

three stars

 


*This review contains spoilers for Lifer, the first book in Beck Nicholas’ Lifer series.*

Ever since I finished Lifer in 2014, I’ve been checking Goodreads and Beck Nicholas’ website for news of a sequel. After continually coming up empty-handed, I began to despair that Lifer had been a stand-alone novel instead of the start of a series. Then, lo and behold, I got an invitation from Chapter By Chapter to participate in the Temper blog tour. Cue the “Hallelujah Chorus!”

Temper begins several weeks after the Lifers’ and Fishies’ escape from The Pelican. The camp the Lifers, Fishies, and Green Robes have established together is a simmering cauldron of fear, distrust, and tension. As Samuai notes, “Freedom sounds great, until people who’ve always lived a certain way are dragged kicking and screaming into a new way of life.” Not only does each group have a very different opinion about how to proceed in their fight against the Company; they’re also dealing with strange after-effects from the experiments the Company performed on them. Violent outbursts erupt and tempers flare at the slightest provocation; the camp is a simmering cauldron ready to boil over.

In hopes of finding a cure for the strange behavioral changes, Asher and Davyd set off on a mission into the heart of Company territory. Samuai is left behind to keep the peace among the camp’s factions until his brother and sweetheart return. This is a hard enough task in and of itself, but it proves even more challenging when Samuai discovers that the Green Robes have been keeping secrets, secrets that could change everything for the people in the camp.

Something I really enjoyed about Temper – as terrible as this is going to sound – was watching Samuai shift from the bright, optimistic boy that Asher first fell in love with to a more practical, somewhat cynical young man. He’s still the great guy I fell for in Lifer, but he develops a harder edge in Temper, growing more suspicious and more disenchanted, his faith in people shaken by the secrets he’s unearthed. It made him an even more interesting character than he’d been before.

Davyd, too, remains one of my favorite characters in this series. He’s just as unpredictable and fun as he was in Lifer, and I loved his role as instigator, charmer, and manipulator. You never know for sure which side Davyd is on or what his motivations are; what you do know is that he’ll always keep things exciting.

One complaint I had with Temper is that there wasn’t quite as much romantic drama as I anticipated. One of the aspects I liked most about Lifer was the love square that developed between Megs, Samuai, Asher, and Davyd; to be perfectly honest, I was more concerned with their relationships than the rest of the plot. That being said, I couldn’t wait to see what would transpire between the four of them when they were all brought together in Temper. I was hoping for some fireworks, or at least some confrontations and awkwardness. There was a little of this, but I can always use more relationship angst!

Temper also suffers from a mild case of second book syndrome. At times I felt like its primary purpose was to set up events for Fighter, the next book in the series, and serve as a bridge between books 1 and 3. That being said, it was still an engaging read, and I remain a big fan of this series. I’m anxious to find out more about the mysteries of the Company, the direction the characters’ relationships will take, and what the heck will come of Temper’s cliffhanger ending!

I received a free copy of this book from Chapter By Chapter in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

Beck-Nicholas-head-shot-248x300

I always wanted to write. I’ve worked as a lab assistant, a pizza delivery driver and a high school teacher but I always pursued my first dream of creating stories. Now, I live with my family near Adelaide, halfway between the city and the sea, and am lucky to spend my days (and nights) writing young adult fiction.

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Giveaway

You could be one of 5 winners to receive a digital copy of Temper by Beck Nicholas! To enter the giveaway, please fill out the Rafflecopter below. The contest is open internationally and ends March 11, 2016.  

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Review: Feud by Avery Hastings

Feud Book Cover Feud
Avery Hastings

In this breathless story of impossible love, perfection comes at a deadly cost.

For Davis Morrow, perfection is a daily reality. Like all Priors, Davis has spent her whole life primed to be smarter, stronger, and more graceful than the lowly Imperfects, or “Imps.” A fiercely ambitious ballerina, Davis is only a few weeks away from qualifying for the Olympiads and finally living up to her mother’s legacy when she meets Cole, a mysterious boy who leaves her with more questions each time he disappears.

Davis has no idea that Cole has his own agenda, or that he’s a rising star in the FEUDS, an underground fighting ring where Priors gamble on Imps. Cole has every reason to hate Davis—her father’s campaign hinges on the total segregation of the Imps and Priors—but despite his best efforts, Cole finds himself as drawn to Davis as she is to him.

Then Narxis, a deadly virus, takes its hold--and Davis’s friends start dying. When the Priors refuse to acknowledge the epidemic, Davis has no one to turn to but Cole. Falling in love was never part of their plan, but their love may be the only thing that can save her world...

Review:

Feud has a lot of elements that usually appeal to me – a dystopia, forbidden love, ballet, even cage fighting – but I just couldn’t get into this book. The plot’s insipid, the world building’s lackluster, and there’s a horrific case of instalove that I just couldn’t stomach.

Normally I’m not really bothered by instalove, but in the case of Feud it’s so bad that it undermines any potential the book has. The only thing that Cole knows about Davis is that she’s a Prior who’s into ballet, and the only thing that Davis knows about Cole is…oh, wait; nothing. I mean it – not a thing. And yet the two fall in love, to the point where they’re willing to sacrifice their families, their friends, and their own well-being for each other. Um, what?

Their romance could have been so, so great if Hastings had just given them time for their relationship to develop. Cole and Davis are from opposing social classes; Davis is rich, beautiful, and smart, with every luxury available to her. Cole, on the other hand, is poor, discriminated against, and forced to fight for his life in a cage for other people’s entertainment. You’d think this would provide for some great tension between Cole and Davis – I was anticipating a great hate-that-gradually-turns-to-love relationship reminiscent of Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse – but it just doesn’t happen. Instead, Feud skips the hate completely and goes straight to unfounded, head-over-heels passion. I enjoyed the attraction between Davis and Cole, the tingles and make-out scenes and sexual desire, but them being in love? I didn’t buy it, and this made it incredibly difficult to be invested in their relationship.

Another thing I found strange is that even though they’re supposedly so madly in love, Davis and Cole sure don’t have a lot of faith in each other. They’re constantly misconstruing each other’s motives and falling for other people’s lies. You’d give the world for each other, yet you so easily believe that your other half would betray you? Doesn’t make sense to me.

The storyline and setting underwhelmed me, too. I know I should describe the plot, set the scene by giving some context about the Priors and Imps and the world in which they live, but I was so disenchanted and unengaged by this book that the thought of delving into its events is about as appealing as doing my taxes. Just take my word for it that the plot and world building are lackluster and not nearly scintillating enough to compensate for the poor romance.

Feud isn’t wholly without merit. Cole may be way too free with his heart, but he is a sexy guy, and I liked the intrigue of him being bribed to get close to Davis. I was also really into the idea of him being a cage fighter. My husband and I are huge fans of mixed martial arts and even got tickets to an Ultimate Fighting Championship event as a wedding gift, so Cole’s occupation as a fighter really appealed to me. I was especially intrigued by his mixed emotions towards the fights, the way his fear and guilt and self-loathing temper the rush he gets from fighting.

Another thing I liked was Davis’ non-cliché relationship with her stepmom and half sister. Her stepmother is a sweetheart and really loves Davis, which is a nice change from the “wicked stepmother” trope in fiction.

Ultimately, though, the bad in Feud far outweighs the good. The only thing that kept me reading to the end was the fact that I really hate not finishing books, and even that was barely enough to get me through.

Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising Book Cover Red Rising
Pierce Brown

Darrow is a Helldiver, one of a thousand men and women who live in the vast caves beneath the surface of Mars. Generations of Helldivers have spent their lives toiling to mine the precious elements that will allow the planet to be terraformed. Just knowing that one day people will be able to walk the surface of the planet is enough to justify their sacrifice. The Earth is dying, and Darrow and his people are the only hope humanity has left.

Until the day Darrow learns that it is all a lie. Mars is habitable - and indeed has been inhabited for generations by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. The Golds regard Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.

With the help of a mysterious group of rebels, Darrow disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside.

But the command school is a battlefield. And Darrow isn't the only student with an agenda...

Review:

(Actual rating: 4.5 stars)

Red Rising is definitely one of those books that improves with re-reading. It’s been touted as the next big thing, a book that will knock you off your feet and fill the void left by The Hunger Games. When I finished my first read of the book, I couldn’t decide whether the hype was justified or not; Brown blew me away in the first few chapters, failed to wow me in the next few, and then alternated between “pretty good” and “outstanding” for the remainder of the book.

There were times when I struggled with the believability of Brown’s world, when I felt he wasn’t being consistent with his characterization or was losing the thread of his story. At other times, though, there were moments of true greatness, where I glimpsed the tremendous potential of this trilogy.

When six months had gone by and I still couldn’t stop thinking about Red Rising, I decided to buy a copy and read it again. The second time, I was blown away. I found myself describing it to friends as “epic,” “spectacular,” and “out of this world,” and it’s become one of my favorite books.

Red Rising takes place on Mars hundreds of years in the future, when a person’s station and function are determined by the Color they’re born into. The Reds, for example, are tasked with toiling in the underground mines of Mars to collect the elements that will be used make the planet inhabitable.

One of these Reds is Darrow, a young man respected and loved by his people for his quick hands and sharp mind. Working conditions may be hellish, living conditions bleak, but Darrow is proud to do his part for the good of humanity. His wife, on the other hand, views the Reds’ toil as slavery and urges Darrow to use his reputation and talents to free their people. Darrow, head-over-heels in love with his wife and unwilling to risk her safety and the life they’ve built together, resists.

“What do you live for?” I ask her suddenly. “Is it for me? Is it for family and love? Or is it just for some dream?”

“It’s not just some dream, Darrow. I live for the dream that my children will be born free. That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”

“I live for you,” I say sadly.

She kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”

It’s only after tragedy strikes that Darrow is forced to rethink his world view and realize his wife’s dream is one worth fighting for. Transmuted by grief and rage, Darrow joins a rebel force in a plot to bring down the Golds, the elite who rule all the other Colors. Darrow undergoes an extensive and painful transformation to pass as a Gold, the plan being for him to fight the Golds from within and rise through the ranks to a position of influence where he can start a revolution.

The first step in this ascension is to enroll in the Institute, a training ground for young Golds. Unlike traditional schools, the Institute is less of a college, more of an immense, high-stakes game of Capture the Flag or Risk. The students are divided into 12 houses and thrown into the wilderness, the objective being for one house to conquer all of the others.

This is where most people begin comparing Red Rising to The Hunger Games. While there are definite similarities, such as the fact that young people are fighting one another in an arena-like field, there are key differences between the two. The principle way Red Rising differs from The Hunger Games is that the game of Capture the Flag is not a free-for-all where only one can be left standing at the end. To succeed in the Institute you need allies, an army. You need to become a leader, bring people to your side, rally and unite your troops. You need strategy and inspiration. Watching Darrow figure out how to become not just a victor, but a leader and a legend, is one of the biggest selling points of the book.

I would say Red Rising feels more reminiscent of Braveheart than The Hunger Games, mostly due to the setting and to Darrow himself. The game of Capture the Flag is played out in a land of castles, highlands, forests, and vales. There are battle cries, ferocious warriors galloping around on horseback, animal pelts, and war paint. And like William Wallace, Darrow is fighting against oppression and has an inner fire and charisma that win people’s hearts and loyalty.

Darrow is everything you could ask for in an epic hero. For one thing, he’s self-aware and able to make sacrifices and tough decisions because he knows they are required. He regrets some of the things he must do in order to get ahead but recognizes that those actions must be taken in order to realize his wife’s dream. He’s brilliant and strong but not infallible; a leader, but one who must trust and rely on others for his ultimate success. His victories are epic, but so are his failures. I’m in awe of him and can’t wait to see his meteoric rise continue in the rest of this series.

The supporting characters in the Institute also played a huge part in winning me over. Darrow may be the grand hero, but don’t let that fool you into thinking the rest of the story’s cast are lesser beings. There are some serious power players in this book, and they each feel like real, distinct, memorable people. They’re not just characters, they’re titans, and without them Red Rising wouldn’t be half so successful.

Were there problems with Red Rising? Certainly. It can be overwhelming at times, slow at others, and there are moments when it feels like Brown is writing not a story, but Ideas, with a capital “I.” Ultimately, though, this is a brilliant book. It wowed me, moved me, and left me stunned, and I am rabid to know how the trilogy will proceed.

Blog Tour, Giveaway, and Review: I Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen

Blog tour banner for I Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen

I’m so excited to be today’s stop on the blog tour for I Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen!  This book is completely, utterly wonderful, and I’ve been dying to talk about it ever since I finished it last month. So, without further ado, here are a synopsis and review of I Heart Robot. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of this post for a chance to win a copy of the book!

About I Heart Robot

Book cover for I Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen

Sixteen-year-old Tyri wants to be a musician and wants to be with someone who won’t belittle her musical aspirations.

Q-I-99 aka ‘Quinn’ lives in a scrap metal sanctuary with other rogue droids. While some use violence to make their voices heard, demanding equal rights for AI enhanced robots, Quinn just wants a moment on stage with his violin to show the humans that androids like him have more to offer than their processing power.

Tyri and Quinn’s worlds collide when they’re accepted by the Baldur Junior Philharmonic Orchestra. As the rift between robots and humans deepens, Tyri and Quinn’s love of music brings them closer together, making Tyri question where her loyalties lie and Quinn question his place in the world. With the city on the brink of civil war, Tyri and Quinn make a shocking discovery that turns their world inside out. Will their passion for music be enough to hold them together while everything else crumbles down around them, or will the truth of who they are tear them apart?

Review

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 10.01.47 PM
A free copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I Heart Robot is easily one of my favorite books of the year so far. It’s got wonderfully realistic characters – including a lovable protagonist – and raises fascinating questions about artificial intelligence and what it means to be human.

The book is set in a world where robots are utilized for everything from housekeeping to childcare to intelligence operations. They cook food, serve in the military, and even provide “companionship.” The most advanced robots are capable of thinking, feeling, and creating, but in spite of this they are still treated as nothing more than machines to be used – and in some cases abused – by their owners. It isn’t long before the robots begin to demand rights, and protests, uprisings, and violence abound.

Caught up in this civil unrest are the book’s two narrators, Tyri and Quinn. Tyri is a teenage girl torn between her passion for music and the expectation that she follow in her mother’s footsteps and pursue a career working with robotics and technology. Quinn is a run-away companion droid whose dearest wish is to be human and move people with his music. When the two musicians’ paths intersect at a prestigious orchestra, neither realizes just how big an impact they will have on each other’s lives and on the fight for robot autonomy.

I loved just about everything about I Heart Robot, but my favorite part would have to be Quinn. He’s such a sweetheart: adorable, shy, and vulnerable, with an air of innocence about him. Suzanne van Rooyen possesses a remarkable ability to demonstrate Quinn’s humanity without ever letting the reader forget he’s an android, and I enjoyed seeing how she translated human needs, wants, and habits in robots. Getting “drunk,” for example, involves a robot inserting a flash drive in their USB port and downloading a code that scrambles their electronics and leaves them with a pleasant buzz. Becoming tired is caused by a fuel cell that is running low on hydrogen, and forgetting something is due to a software glitch or processing error. Even feelings are a result of programming, and Quinn spends most of his money on emotion upgrades, “complex code packages unraveling emotions in [his] core and throughout [his] circuits.”

“The uncertainty in my voice sounds so natural, so human. Sometimes I forget that under the layers of synthetic flesh, I’m a snarl of electronics.”

This begs the question: Can a robot really be considered a person if their emotions and abilities are dictated by coding and programming? Does this make their feelings less valid? Aren’t humans also dependent on a kind of programming – DNA? How do personality and choice factor in? What exactly does it mean to be human? I loved exploring the answers to these fascinating questions!

“We have shared something more than a smile, but I cannot name it. A glitch in my software or some intangible human thing my AI simply cannot process.”

Something else that makes this book a stand-out is how believable and multi-dimensional the secondary characters are, especially Tyri’s boyfriend and best friend. They’re not the perfect friends or the asshole friends but the real friends, the ones who mess up and disappoint you and anger you but also love and support you. They’re insensitive and hurtful at times, caring and helpful at others. Life and friendship aren’t black and white, and I like that this book reflects that.

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About Suzanne van RooyenAuthor photo for Suzanne van Rooyen

Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. She currently lives in Sweden and is busy making friends with the ghosts of her Viking ancestors. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When she grows up, she wants to be an elf – until then, she spends her time (when not writing) wall climbing, buying far too many books, and entertaining her shiba inu, Lego.

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Giveaway

Want to win a copy of Heart Robot? Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below for a chance to be one of five readers who will receive a digital copy of Suzanne van Rooyen’s book.  The contest is open internationally, and winners will be selected on April 27, 2015.

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Trailer Reveal: I Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen

Banner for I Heart Robot trailer reveal

I hope you’re ready for a treat, because today I’m revealing the book trailer for I Heart Robot, a new novel by Suzanne van Rooyen! I Heart Robot will be released on March 31, 2015, and trust me when I say you should mark that date on your calendar right now; this is a book you’ll want to run out and buy as soon as it hits the shelves in the bookstore. I’m currently a third of the way through an ARC of the book and have loved every minute of it so far. There’s music, a robot revolution, an adorably sweet android boy, the promise of forbidden romance…I can’t wait to finish this post so I can get back to reading! So, without further ado, here’s a synopsis of I Heart Robot as well as the trailer!

About I Heart Robot

Book cover for I Heart Robot by Suzanne van RooyenSixteen-year-old Tyri wants to be a musician and wants to be with someone who won’t belittle her musical aspirations.

Q-I-99 aka ‘Quinn’ lives in a scrap metal sanctuary with other rogue droids. While some use violence to make their voices heard, demanding equal rights for AI enhanced robots, Quinn just wants a moment on stage with his violin to show the humans that androids like him have more to offer than their processing power.

Tyri and Quinn’s worlds collide when they’re accepted by the Baldur Junior Philharmonic Orchestra. As the rift between robots and humans deepens, Tyri and Quinn’s love of music brings them closer together, making Tyri question where her loyalties lie and Quinn question his place in the world. With the city on the brink of civil war, Tyri and Quinn make a shocking discovery that turns their world inside out. Will their passion for music be enough to hold them together while everything else crumbles down around them, or will the truth of who they are tear them apart?

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Ready for the trailer? Here it is!

About Suzanne van RooyenAuthor photo for Suzanne van Rooyen

I’m a YA author with a penchant for the dark and strange. I primarily write speculative fiction but enjoy literary writing as well. I occasionally delve into adult genres too.

I’m a musician and have a Master’s degree in music, but I prefer writing strange stories, baking peanut butter cupcakes and playing with my shiba inu.

I’m repped by Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Agency.

Publicity manager for Anaiah Press.

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