Review: “The Gender Game” by Bella Forrest

Review: “The Gender Game” by Bella Forrest

A review by Vanessa.

I purchased this book from Amazon after an advertisement linked me to it and the synopsis seemed interesting.

In a world where your gender rules your fate, Violet Bates is happy being a woman born in Matrus, where the females rule the government. Violet doesn’t know what exactly caused the great war that brought such destruction upon them, but everyone knows why the surviving populace living in the only fertile mountainous area left, split into two different ruling factions. Men had proven to be monstrous, and violent, and had already brought about the eradication of their previous way of life. Women thought it was time for females to lead. The men disagreed, and the majority of the women left, with those men who agreed, to form a separate government in the flat lands beyond the toxic river. Peace reigns in Matrus; power and masculinity reigns in Patrus.

Even though 19-year-old Violet committed a crime that put her in jail until her upcoming 21st birthday, she was better off than in Patrus where women were no more than property. Still, when her brother was marked at an early age as unfit to reside in Matrus, she loved him too much to see him condemned and tried to smuggle him across the river. She failed, and he was taken away. Now all she wants is to get through the rest of her sentence without trouble. But fate has other plans when Violet’s scuffle with another prisoner ends in womanslaughter. The Queen has made Violet an offer: help with a secret mission to recover something that was stolen, or face death as punishment. The mission comes with a heavy price. Namely, marriage to the Queen’s spy in Patrus. If she succeeds, she might just get the chance to see her brother again. But first she must survive having no rights, and no bodily autonomy. Still, it’s not all bad. Violet has always loved the thrill of physical combat, which is outlawed in Matrus. But in Patrus she is drawn to a lean handsome fighter who serves as a warden for the government her new scientist husband works for. Things just aren’t what they seemed to her before, and she finds herself torn between her mission and her heart.

The classic futuristic dystopian genre gets an interesting twist in this book. Focusing on the gender dichotomy as the source of the main conflict is an all too familiarly painful, and eerily possible, future. The turns the story takes are expertly executed, and will definitely keep the reader engaged. Violet, the main character, is a highly relatable lead to the story. Her personal journey is particularly captivating, as she discovers more about the world outside of her own experience. A rather large flaw in the world building, however, is the complete lack of acknowledgment of what happens to those who would be transgendered, non-gendered, or outside of the societal expectations for sexual orientation. Considering that this world is supposed to be the future fate of our own world, it is insanely disappointing that such a large part of humanity is simply not addressed. I have to hope that the great potential for what could have been a fascinating conflict within this world will be covered in future books. That being said, it has been a very long time since a book has actually kept me up all night to finish it. And though the prose could be just a little bit stiff at times, it flowed just right in all the places that mattered the most; the first moments of Violet’s real self-discovery, the height of the romantic tension, and the shocking twist of the story’s climax. I will definitely continue on in this series.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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Review: “Ride the Storm (Cassandra Palmer #8)” by Karen Chance

Review:

A review by Amanda.

This review contains spoilers from the previous books in this series.

Ride the Storm picks up right where the last book ended. Cassie is still chasing after Pritkin’s soul with Rosier, hoping to counter the deadly curse that has been cast on the rugged war mage. Cassie’s court had just been attacked, and losses and injuries are everywhere. Betrayal from those she has been trying to help has affected Cassie’s usual good spirits. Even vampire master Mircea is struggling to recover from the recent events. Cassie is yanked back and forth in time, shifting from Arthurian times, where they have tracked down a young Pritkin and are awaiting the arrival of his soul, to present day at Dante’s, where the attacks keep coming from all sides. Exhausting both the Pythia power and her personal energy takes its toll, with devastating consequences. An unexpected revelation from a trusted person in her small circle of allies has Cassie (and readers) questioning everything that has happened since the events set in motion in the very first book.

This book is an absolute whirlwind of action and exposition. The first half of the story is nonstop action, with a few too many back-and-forth shifts, making it difficult to follow. No rest for our protagonist means no rest for readers. It feels as though the author tried to fit two books’ worth of plot into one book. Thankfully, the story slows down a bit and the pace evens out by the second half. Long-awaited answers to burning questions come to light, and the romantic entanglement that Cassie has found herself in might finally be unraveling. While some long-standing issues get wrapped up, others, frustratingly, do not. Cassie heroically maintains her snarky and irreverent sense of humor despite the adversity. There are a couple of steamy sex scenes, although these are somewhat mild compared to previous books. I, for one, am looking forward to the next book with the great hope that we won’t be strung along for too much longer (at least in certain areas). While the convolution of the first half of this book did affect my overall rating, the second half still makes it worth reading.

If you would like to start this series from the beginning, book one is Touch the Dark. Karen Chance also has a crossover series, featuring characters we know and love (or hate), and exciting new ones. The first book is Midnight’s Daughter.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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Review: “Rise of the Chosen (Lifeblood #1)” by Anna Kopp

A review by Amanda.

Samantha Shields lives in a post-apocalyptic world, but it isn’t exactly the one we were expecting based on movies and books. Almost two decades ago, a mysterious blood disease began infecting every person on the planet. Called Lifeblood, it wakes the dead (no matter the cause of death), turning 99% of them into mindless creatures with enhanced strength and senses. Unlike traditional zombies, the Woken have no interest in devouring flesh or brains; they only want to kill as many people as quickly as they can. A small percentage of the infected become Chosen instead. These lucky few get the super strength and enhanced senses but retain their sense of self.

Some cities, like Savannah, Georgia, where Sam lives, are protected by the Watch, a military-like installment that exists to protect the living. Steel walls surround the city, with guarded gates to let people pass in and out. The Watch is made up of both humans and Chosen, sworn to protect the citizens from the Woken. At eighteen, Sam is about to be given her first official Watch assignment when a series of tragedies strike, changing the course of her future and bringing new information to light. She has to make one difficult decision after another, without knowing who she can truly trust.

Rise Of The Chosen took a unique approach to the post-apocalyptic genre. The city of Savannah is described as safe, clean, and comfortable. Technology did not cease when the world ended, it simply adapted to suit the world’s new needs. The use of tech in this world was both creative and logical, and the overall world-building was excellent. The characters, however, were lacking just enough depth that they did not feel complete. Perhaps this had to do with the Chosen’s emotional limitations, which could be expanded upon in the next book. Sam was likable, if naive and indecisive, as teenagers occasionally are. She was revealed early on to be bisexual, which was a nice change from the typical romantic storylines in the YA genre. Some of the writing felt disjointed, as though the author jumped from one scene to another without the necessary transitions, but otherwise this book had me intrigued. It ended on a curious note and I am interested in seeing how the story continues in book two.

Fans of Struck by Jennifer Bosworth, Amy Tintera’s Reboot series or Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris may enjoy this book.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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Review: “Argonauts” by Kevin Kneupper

Review-"Argonauts” by Kevin Kneupper

A review by Vanessa.

Medea and Jason have never met before.  Of course they haven’t met; she is merely a stakeholder in the major corporation turned ecosystem/city that is Argos, while Jason is a shareholder.  The corporation runs everything.  In a world where nearly all of the jobs are run by artificially intelligent robots Madea just happens to have a unique and valuable talent for being able to manipulate genes, known as genomancy, in order to give people special traits.  She works for the corporation’s warriors, known as the Argonauts, giving them whatever attributes they wish.  She can give them a bear’s strength, fur, and claws, or even a fish’s gills and ability to swim.  Where her heart truly lies though, is with the work she is allowed to do for the poor stakeholders of Argos.  She can fix a little girl’s stutter, or remove the genes prone to cancer.  But despite her talent, and her enviable possession of one of the few remaining jobs still done by people, she gets no respect. Especially not from the warriors, who refuse to acknowledge her importance to their accomplishments, and not from Jason when they meet for the first time.

Jason, unlike Medea, is a shareholder; rich, powerful, and most importantly he has a voice in the management vote for the CEO of Argos.  This is of particular significance to Pelias, the current CEO.  When Jason’s father Aeson dies of the overindulgences that are often thrown at shareholders to keep them happy, Jason finds an unexpected opportunity.  He has always wanted to join the Argonauts, but with an unsupportive father his dream never came true.  Now, with a CEO who is salivating over the opportunity to get his hands on Jason’s shares, and most importantly his votes, he is going to get his dream.  Jason though, wants nothing to do with Medea.  He has spent his entire life honing himself into the perfect warrior, and he believes that what she does is nothing more than a way to cheat.  Medea is none too happy about being forced along on Jason’s first mission, either.  But the two of them realize quickly that they have to find a common ground, as one thing after another goes wrong on their mission to Colchis. They have been sent to the competing corporation’s city in search of the golden fleece; a data bank of genetic information that just may change the rules of genomancy forever.

I think it is beneficial that I was not aware of the specific details of Jason and Medea’s story before reading this book.  I knew enough of the basics so that I could understand when the author was pulling in recognizable places and characters from the original story.  But the distinctive twists on those elements made it like a whole new story for me.  Kneupper weaves the classic Greek elements into a fascinating new world in which many of the current world’s fears, and dreams, about the future are essentially realized.  All the jobs have been taken over by robots, nobody works so the government has to give out a basic minimum to each person, while the corporations that run everything constantly compete to convince people to invest their basic minimum with them.  Gene therapy has leapt forwarded to the ability to change people’s genes almost however they want, and extend lives.  This makes for a really interesting setting in which the story takes place. The characters, while recognizable, do lack in growth and tend towards the one dimensional.  The romance between the two characters was bit hurried, and the secondary characters were underutilized.  Overall, though, I liked this book.  Despite my choice to rate it 3.5 out of 5 stars I would recommend it for an interesting and entertaining read.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “A Criminal Magic” by Lee Kelly

BOOK TOUR Review, "A Criminal Magic" by Lee Kelly

A review by Domoni.

Joan is desperate to take care of her family. Since the awful day her mother died, her main concern is caring for her young sister Ruby and making sure to keep a roof over the heads of her sister, cousin, and even the uncle she despises. Their family barely survives off the money they make selling her uncle’s shine. In Prohibition times, the bottled magic gives a high that can’t be beat. But that magic is illegal and since her uncle drinks as much as he makes, the money doesn’t come in as much as it is needed. Joan hid her own magic abilities from everyone in her life. Until the day that Gunn came offering her uncle an opportunity to turn their fortunes around.  When her uncle Jeb’s wasted form doesn’t impress the gangster, Joan steps up and confesses her abilities. Now she is caught up in a job that could save her family, or ruin her.

Alex despises magic and its allure. He used to help his father bottle shine before his father’s arrest. Then he hid his abilities and even began training to become a Prohibition agent. He claims to hate magic, but really he just hates the life he lost with his father’s arrest. When he is brought before some top Prohibition agents and unmasked as a sorcerer, he can either go undercover as a sorcerer to the mob, or face prosecution of his own. Maybe he can get back the life he wants, but trying to take down this gang could take all he has left.

This book takes place in an alternate reality. The time of Prohibition and gangs ruling the streets are alive and well, but magic is the center, not alcohol. The world the author created was a shadow to the story though. I found myself often forgetting the era that was supposed to be portrayed. It could literally be anytime or place. So if you are looking for a story that embraces the mob culture, this is not it.  That does not make this a bad story though. I did enjoy the tale.

Joan and Alex are well developed characters with personalities and conflicts that evolve and grow through the story. With their evolution, my enjoyment and opinions of the characters also changed. I found myself becoming more invested in Alex as time passed and more disappointed in Joan. The smaller characters were not as fleshed out and I do wish there was a bit more about them included in the story. In the end, the idea of the story itself held me more than the events taking place in the pages of this book.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: "A Criminal Magic" by Lee Kelly

A Criminal Magic
Lee Kelly
Publication date: February 2nd 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult

THE NIGHT CIRCUS meets THE PEAKY BLINDERS in Lee Kelly’s new crossover fantasy novel.

Magic is powerful, dangerous and addictive – and after passage of the 18th Amendment, it is finally illegal.

It’s 1926 in Washington, DC, and while Anti-Sorcery activists have achieved the Prohibition of sorcery, the city’s magic underworld is booming. Sorcerers cast illusions to aid mobsters’ crime sprees. Smugglers funnel magic contraband in from overseas. Gangs have established secret performance venues where patrons can lose themselves in magic, and take a mind-bending, intoxicating elixir known as the sorcerer’s shine.

Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer from Norfolk County, Virginia accepts an offer to work for DC’s most notorious crime syndicate, the Shaw Gang, when her family’s home is repossessed. Alex Danfrey, a first-year Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated past and talents of his own, becomes tapped to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaws.

Through different paths, Joan and Alex tread deep into the violent, dangerous world of criminal magic – and when their paths cross at the Shaws’ performance venue, despite their orders, and despite themselves, Joan and Alex become enchanted with one another. But when gang alliances begin to shift, the two sorcerers are forced to question their ultimate allegiances and motivations. And soon, Joan and Alex find themselves pitted against each other in a treacherous, heady game of cat-and-mouse.

A CRIMINAL MAGIC casts a spell of magic, high stakes and intrigue against the backdrop of a very different Roaring Twenties.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iTunes / Kobo

 

Lee Kelly

Author Bio:

Lee Kelly has wanted to write since she was old enough to hold a pencil, but it wasn’t until she began studying for the California Bar Exam that she conveniently started putting pen to paper. An entertainment lawyer by trade, Lee has practiced law in Los Angeles and New York. She lives with her husband and children in Millburn, New Jersey, though after a decade in Manhattan, she can’t help but still call herself a New Yorker. She is the author of A Criminal Magic and City of Savages. Visit her at http://www.NewWriteCity.com.

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Review: “Shadow Fall (Shadow Fall #1)” by Audrey Grey

Shadow Fall (Shadow Fall #1) by Audrey Grey

A review by Amanda.

Maia Graystone lives in a world held hostage by catastrophe. An asteroid is poised to pass so closely to Earth that utter destruction is unavoidable. The Emperor has seized this opportunity to solidify the elitist segregation that keeps him in power. Those of Gold and Silver status have a secure place in the space station that was built when the danger first became clear. Those of Bronze status will have to earn one of the limited remaining spots by competing in the Shadow Trials; a series of challenges designed to weed out the weak and unworthy.

Maia is the child of a Gold mother and a Bronze father. She was Chosen, matched with a Prince to be married at eighteen, and elevate her from a life of comfortable means to one of luxury. However, when her mother abandons the family and her father is executed for treason, young Maia and Max are forced to beg and steal to live. Maia is caught stealing and thrown into the Pit to be forgotten. After six years of fighting for survival, she escapes with assistance from an enigmatic group of rebels. In exchange for her help in a dangerous mission, they will help her find her brother. For the mission to succeed, she must ally with a brooding and murderous boy from the Pit. She must also become someone else entirely to compete in the Shadow Trials. Can she fool those who knew her as Maia into believing the lie?

This book has the bones of an excellent apocalyptic story. The characters are complex and interesting and the plot is fascinating at its core. The first half of the story sets up the world, the danger, and introduces the heroes and villains, but it moves too slowly to keep the reader’s attention for long. There are also too many elements introduced too soon, making the plot feel over-complicated and convoluted. The second half moves at a faster pace and has a simplified feel to it. In contrast to the first part, readers will be glued to the pages, waiting to find out the fates of Maia and her cohorts. There are similarities to The Hunger Games franchise, but nothing that screams “rip-off” in an obvious manner. The romantic allusions are somewhat cliché but it doesn’t detract from the story once the over-arcing plot gains traction. I will be interested to see where the story goes from here, and will pick up the next book.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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Review: “DC Comics: Bombshells Volume 1: Enlisted” by Marguerite Bennett and Marguerite Sauvage

DC Comics: Bombshells Volume 1: Enlisted by Marguerite Bennett and Marguerite Sauvage

A review by Courtney.

I’m not going to lie, I picked up this comic after I saw all the amazing posters coming out and then Hot Topic released a Bombshells line of clothing but before I jumped completely on the bandwagon, I decided to read the comic first. I try to be a well read fangirl, but that involves the long story of my nosedive into comics in the first place. Long story short, there is a lot of Bombshells merchandise out there, and I wanted to find out if I actually liked the Bombshells before I bought any of it.

Volume 1 of Bombshells covers several introduction stories because there are five main bombshells and then we also have to meet a couple other characters that I’m not entirely sure how to classify at the moment.  Bombshells takes place during World War 2, or definitely sometime in that era (the United States is engaged in war against the Nazis). It starts off with Batwoman, Kate Kane, who is a baseball playing vigilante until she gets recruited by Amanda Waller to be a Bombshell and help win the war. Wonder Woman and the Amazons get tired of their people getting hurt and killed by the bullets and bombs that keep falling on the island during air battles and decide to take matters in their own hands and destroy the planes overhead indiscriminately. Wonder Woman teams up with Mera to rescue a fallen soldier who is sentenced to death because of the crimes of his fellow soldiers. We also meet Super Girl and Star Girl who hail from Russia and are on the run after discovering that their government is lying to them and attempting to trick them into killing their own people who are outspoken against the government. This is barely the tip of the iceberg of the characters and stories that are introduced in this volume.

This volume is hard to digest in terms of the sheer amount of characters and backstory you have to keep track of. I was already familiar-ish with most of the characters so it wasn’t as bad for me because I already had a previous connection with most of the characters. If I hadn’t known anything about any of the characters, it would have been a tough read. Even trying to summarize all of the characters is a struggle because there are just so many. I did enjoy getting to read Zatana’s plotline because she is a character I have never read before and wanted to read and I was given enough to pull me in. At the moment, the characters aren’t interacting with each other very much, but this volume only covers the first six issues and there is a lot in there. I do appreciate where the story has the potential to go and I’m hopeful for the direction it will take. It reads like a novel that someone attempted to put into comic book form.

The art and the costumes are fantastic. I really appreciate the 40’s feel to it that everything has and because it takes the characters in a fresh direction. I get why this book has been so commercialized; the looks that each character has are just very throw back, retro in an oddly empowering way. I am looking forward to reading more of the story to see if the characters do get more depth and to see how they interact with each other in the future. I would recommend this comic to anyone who is curious about what the fuss is about, who has also read at least a couple of comics about any of the main Bombshells because I think a little background character knowledge is helpful in following the storyline.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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