January 18, 2016

ARC Review: We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson


We Are the Ants
by Shaun David Hutchinson
464 pages
Expected publication: January 19th 2016 by Simon Pulse
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Henry Denton doesn’t know why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

Since the suicide of his boyfriend, Jesse, Henry has been adrift. He’s become estranged from his best friend, started hooking up with his sworn enemy, and his family is oblivious to everything that’s going on around them. As far as Henry is concerned, a world without Jesse is a world he isn’t sure is worth saving. Until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.
THIS BOOK!! This book. THIS BOOK. *shoves book into your face, but in a polite way* MAN. THIS BOOK WAS SO SO GOOD. SO GOOD. LIKE REALLY GOOD. I teared up quite a few times while reading even though I'm not usually a book crier, it's just, We Are The Ants is such an emotional book! I know you might be thinking..IF THIS BOOK WAS SO AMAZING WHY DID YOU ONLY RATE IT 3 STARS SAM? Well..I shall explain that right now. Due to the subject matter of this book there are constant mentions of male masturbation, porn, quite a bit of male nudity, talk of anal probing (because like...aliens you know), and urination. I get that this is very realistic and all, but just because it's realistic and all doesn't mean that I, a 15 YEAR OLD GIRL, would have any enjoyment reading those parts. So yeah, aside from all those parts that made me QUITE A BIT UNCOMFY, THIS WAS A GREAT BOOK. Honestly, I think all those parts just added to the story, they made it grittier and realistic, but as I said, I was still beyond weirded out by them. 

Okay so now that we understand where that one star went let's talk about the rest of this totally fabulous book! Every once in awhile aliens, who Henry calls the sluggers, come and abduct him. The sluggers will destroy the earth, but they give Henry the chance to save it. He has 144 days to make his decision, and all he has to do to save the earth is press a big red button. Henry isn't so sure he wants to press it though. His boyfriend recently committed suicide, his grandmother has alzheimer's, his dad left his family, he is tortured at school, called "Space Boy" by the other kids in his grade, and is even brutally assaulted in the showers after gym one day, he's sleeping with someone who aggressively bullies him one second but makes out with him the next, and his older brother practically tortures him. 

As we follow Henry in his search for closure over his boyfriend's death and in his pursuit of answers about Diego's past we feel all of his pain. The aggressive taunting he faces in school is so upsetting, especially when his bullies take to physically attacking him. It is so hard to watch so many horrible things happen to Henry over and over. I itched for him to reach out to someone and I wanted him to get his closure so so badly. The length of this book really allowed for Hutchinson to showcase Henry's grief and struggles, but it also lends itself to the development of strong, well developed, relationships between all of our characters (which I will talk more about later). 

There are these really surprising and unique chapters placed throughout the book about these groundbreaking scientific discoveries. Each has the potential to change the world for the better, but each can also lead to the demise of humankind. and in every single one of these chapters the new innovation helps tremendously at first, but always eventually leads to the annihilation of the planet, typically on January twenty-ninth, which is the day the world will end if Henry doesn't press the button. 

Another amazing amaaaaazing thing this author did was that we do not have the typical "Oh look, here if your new love interest! LET ALL OF YOUR PROBLEMS BE SOLVED." That is not what goes on here at alllll. Henry is really, really suffering, and as a result of his internal struggles his relationships with his family and best friend suffer as well. He sure as hell isn't going to get right into an amazing relationship that changes him forever and motivates him to save the world, and so his relationships are complicated and filled with struggles and premature separations and hurt and sadness and fighting and yelling. But as Henry grows, so do his relationships with all of the important people in his life. This was such a satisfying part of the story, I especially liked the mending of Henry's relationship with his brother Charlie. Henry's family dynamics were just truly spectacular and done so well. There is never one person who changes Henry, it is a combination of his mom, his brother, Diego, Zooey, and Audrey, who all work so cohesively in this story. Also, can we just take a second to give it up for Audrey. She is literally an amazing friend and I loved her so much. 

Shaun Hutchinson also really explores this "morally grey area" with lots of his characters. Of course, there's going to be the characters that simply deserve a swift kick to the groin, but there are also the characters that are assholes that turn really vulnerable and caring at times, but then revert back to being even bigger assholes. It's infuriating yet riveting to read, because you're hoping for redemption at points but thinking to yourself "How in the world could they do that!" at others. 

We Are the Ants is an amazing book that explores themes of family, sexuality, suicide, depression, friendship, and bullying in a flawless manner. The entire book just flowed so seamlessly. I completely recommend this book and I am definitely going to look into some of Shaun Hutchinson's other books! 

January 10, 2016

Review: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Passenger (Passenger #1)
Alexandra Bracken
496 pages
Published January 5th 2016 by Disney-Hyperion
passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are play­ing, treacherous forces threaten to sep­arate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home . . . forever.
Oh gosh. I am honestly so so sad to be writing this review. I in no way tend to bash Passenger in this review, so I am sorry if any of what I say comes across as harsh, but I honestly just did not like this book. I wasn't fond of the characters, plot, or settings and felt very confused while reading. Alexandra Bracken's Darkest Minds series was one of my favorites. I was in love with her TDM characters and every book was so fast paced and kept me on edge, I reread them all multiple times and could clearly picture every character and every setting in my head. This is, most likely, why this book fell short for me. I had very high expectations that stemmed from the Darkest Minds and I just felt let down. 

I'll start with my problems with the characters. The first big issue for me was that I couldn't picture them. I kept trying and even when I thought I had a inkling of something it never seemed right, like the picture just didn't fit with the character I was reading. I thought Nicholas and Etta's relationship was very cute but things did seem to move a little fast. Also, Nicholas was a "pirate" but he was not anything like your stereotypical pirate (which I guess made him very unique). I mean, he was literally a legal pirate, which was so not what I was expecting (but I sort of got over that). 

Now, maybe I'm just dumb, but I was so confused with the whole ship (not romantic ship, but literal ships) situation. Like, one ship was shooting at another ship but then the ship was fine, but then the mast was falling or something and something was sinking but everyone was fine? I was honestly so lost no matter how many times I reread it. The ship fighting wasn't the only thing I was confused about. I kept getting lost in the entire Ironwood family tree and I just didn't have it in me to go back and remind myself of who these people were. 

What I did appreciate about this book was Etta's deep love for Alice and her determination to do anything for her. I also liked how flawlessly time travel was explained. I thought the time travel in this book was unique because you had to travel to the exact day it currently was, so although you could go back years if you wanted to interfere with something that happened in August but it was currently November you would have to wait almost a year. Since this is the first time travel book I've read I don't really know if this is the norm for time traveling but to me it felt new.  

I'm not a fan of historical fiction or time travel, I dislike boats, and I can't enjoy a book when I'm confused. Passenger was obviously not a book for me. I mean, it's literally historical fiction and time travel, possibly my two least favorite "genres", but I was hoping since it was Alexandra Bracken she would do something that made me enjoy it tons, and I just didn't feel that. Maybe if you like time travel and historical fiction you'll love this. Maybe it was an "it's not you, it's me" thing, since so many others love this book. I don't know. All I do know is that I really was not a fan of this book. 

I'd love to hear anyone else's thoughts of Passenger! Were you disappointed? Did you love it? Link me to your reviews as well & thanks for reading! 

January 9, 2016

2016 Challenges


About almost a year ago I signed up for this challenge in 2015, and unsurprisingly, failed epically. Now, I'm back this year with the hope of coming up with new and creative discussion posts! The 2016 Discussion Challenge was created by Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts at Midnight with the intent to encourage book bloggers to create more discussion posts! 
This year I will be attempting to achieve Creative Conversationalist, which amounts to at least 13 discussion posts throughout the year. 
13-24 – Creative Conversationalist

Good luck to everyone participating in this challenge!


The commenting 365 Challenge is hosted by Nori and is a way to discover new blogs in 2016. The goal is to find and comment on 365 blogs! I'm so excited to be participating in this and I hope that it will expand my social circles in the blogging world!

As of now these are the only two challenges I'll be participating in. What challenges (if any) is everyone participating in this year? 



January 7, 2016

An Ember in the Ashes



An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1)
Sabaa Tahir
446 pages
Published April 28th 2015 by Razorbill
Source: Purchased
4/5 Stars
Laia is a slave.

Elias is a soldier.

Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
This book was very fast paced and pretty badass. An Ember in the Ashes is about a girl named Leia who’s older brother is arrested for treason. She seeks out rebels and makes a deal with them that she will risk her life spying within the empires greatest military academy in exchange for her brothers rescue. There Leia meets Elias, the schools greatest solider who secretly plans to desert, but must stay once he is chosen for a brutal competition to be the next emperor.

Leia is such a unique character in YA. In many young adult fantasy novels the main female character has some sort of special power, or can fight really well, but this is not the case with Leia. She has absolutely no fighting skill and she isn’t leading any rebellions or escaping from dire situations with her superb fighting. She’s afraid and she’s going to admit it, she’s got almost no means of protection while her life and body are in constant danger.

I really liked Helene and Elias’s complicated relationship. They went through so much together and I adored their devotion to each other and how hard they tried to protect each other. Even though they did have different ideals, Helene was extremely devoted to the Empire while all Elias wanted was to be free of the Empire, they still tried to protect eachother.

An Ember in the Ashes really surprised me because I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did. It was so shocking and unique with such amazing characters and a very coherent world.

January 5, 2016

Firsts

Firsts
Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
320 pages
Expected publication: January 5th 2016
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Source: eARC (Thank you St. Martin's Griffin!)
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward, fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time- the kind Mercedes never had herself.

Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy- so far. Her absentee mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn- or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed.

When Mercedes’ perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her reputation and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process. Funny, smart, and true-to-life, FIRSTS is a one-of-a-kind young adult novel about growing up.
Mercedes sleeps with other girls boyfriends so they can give their girlfriends a good first time. Except it wasn’t supposed to be a long time thing, but Mercedes reconciles it with herself by saying “this will be the last one” and then when another one happens she goes “ok no, for real, this is the last one”, and then some really shady guys get into the mix and her whole life begins to falls apart. 

The biggest issue I had with this book was that Mercedes was helping these guys cheat on their girlfriends. Even though she was doing it with the mindset that she was somehow “helping them” to give their girlfriends a good first time, I just couldn’t support it. The entire premise that the book is based off of is something I am completely against (cheating), but in its entirety it’s about a lot more then just sex, so don’t shy away from the book if you're against cheating because although it plays a large part of the story there is so much more to take away from Firsts. 

I really did grow to sympathize with Mercedes as the book went on. She messes up quite a lot, but she’s a pretty tough and unique character. She’s one that doesn’t slut shame and one who uses sex to empower herself. In the beginning of the book she is very distant. but she really grows as a character and you get to see her more vulnerable side as the book goes on. I also related with her love for chemistry. I'm a science geek and I definitely haven't read many main characters in contemporary novels who have a deep liking for science. 

Firsts was a book I was not expecting to love as much as I did, just based off of the premise, but I was so pleasantly surprised and even moved by it! Once I got over the cheating thing I was so immersed in Mercedes story I finished Firsts in just one sitting! 

January 1, 2016

My Most Anticipated Releases of 2016!

Happy New Year! In honor of the new year I've decided to share my most anticipated releases of 2016!