Insurgent ~ Veronica Roth

  • Title: Insurgent
  • Author: Veronica Roth
  • Series: Divergent #2
  • Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian, YA
  • Format: Audio book
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewer: Val
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  One choice can transform you, or destroy you.

Every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves, and herself, while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Review:   Insurgent, the second book of the Divergent series, picks right up where Divergent left off. The factions are at war, following the massacre of much of the Abnegation faction at the hands of the hypnotized Dauntless warriors. Having stopped the attack, Tris and Four find themselves outlaws on the run.

This book was just as much of a rush to read as the first, maybe even more so. There is plenty of action, as Tris and Four face danger trying to uncover the truth about what is going on. Roth takes the political undertones even deeper, creating a delicious tension throughout the story. It is a constant struggle to sift truth from lies, or more importantly, whose truth is more compelling.

As the plot thickens, the character also become more complex. It is no longer as simple as good versus bad. Roth reveals the good intentions behind some of the terrible actions of her “bad guys”, and that good misguided “good” characters have faltered onto dark paths. I am so tempted to mention some specifics here, but I think I will let you discover that for yourself.

Tris, herself, is very conflicted throughout the story. Her actions in the previous book have her questioning what kind of person she really is and erodes some of her recently won confidence. This internal struggle results in conflict and tension between Tris and Four. There is also continued tension among Tris and her new Dauntless friends.

I will say one thing for Roth, she didn’t really hold anything back. She is telling a dark and gritty tale and she’s not afraid for bad things to happen to pack the necessary emotional punch. Roth is by no means a George R.R. Martin (who seems to kill off characters just so the reader won’t get attached), but she does not shy away from the death of a likeable character.

While the first book focused primarily on the Abnegation and Dauntless factions, Insurgent gives a closer look at Amity and Candor. Herein lies the brilliance behind Roth’s unfolding saga. Each faction has its specific social mores, which are both a strength and a weakness when isolated without divergent thinking (um, yeah, guess that explains the series theme in a nutshell). Another theme throughout this book is how far people will go to avoid accepting a harsh reality out of fear, often failing to act and thus making them fall victim to that fear.

The cover for Insurgent is equally eye-catching as the Divergent cover. This time, it features the faction symbol for Amity with the Chicago skyline at the bottom. The color scheme and layout are complimentary to the Divergent cover, clearly identifying the series.

There is one bad thing about this book that I do not like so much . . . that I will have to wait until October for the third and final book of the series!

Divergent ~ Veronica Roth

  • Title: Divergent
  • Author: Veronica Roth
  • Series: Divergent #1
  • Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian, YA
  • Format: Audio book
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewer: Val
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are–and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Review:   I was really torn on whether or not to read this book, even though I had heard good reviews. On one hand, I have been avoiding anything approaching YA lately, unsure if I can handle yet another teen-angst fest. On the other hand, I really like dystopian fiction. A good recommendation from a trusting source convinced me to give it a try. I am so glad that I did.

Divergent takes place in Chicago years after some society changing disaster. In order to survive, the isolated population has divided itself into five factions, each of which is characterized by specific personality traits that make them especially suited to serve the societal roles assigned to their faction. If someone fails to conform for some reason, they become ostracized and relegated to the lowest tier of society, the factionless.

The story follows Tris, who like others her age must make the difficult decision to choose her faction, an irrevocable decision. If the wrong faction is chosen, there is no going home, the only option available at that point is to become factionless. However, Tris isn’t like everyone else. She is Divergent, having aptitude for multiple factions. She is not sure what it means exactly, other than it puts in danger, so she must conceal it.

Tris is a complex character of a young girl trying to discover who she is within a world that seems to be crumbling around her. She is bold yet unsure of herself, selfless without being self-sacrificing, and clever, if at times slow on the uptake. There were definitely times that I felt a discrepancy between how clueless Tris could be and her portrayed intelligence.

Because of her very nature, Tris is portrayed as a bit of an underdog character. Despite being an outcast, the author created some great relationships with her among her underdog friends. The author also did a great job of creating chemistry between Tris and Four, capturing that spark of young love without the usual overdose of angst.

The world-building was really good in this book. The mental images evoked by the descriptions of dystopian remains of Chicago were fairly vivid. It was painted as a harsh world with limited options, yet the author was able to include a hopeful element.

It was easy to get swept away in the scenes depicting the dauntless actions. The author did a great job of capturing the heady combination of fear and freedom that Tris felt during these scenes.

The cover of this book is very eye-catching. It features a flaming rendition of the symbol for the dauntless faction. The rest of the cover is muted, in stormy shade of blue/grey, lending itself to the dark, cold tone of the story, depicting clouds and a distant Chicago skyline.

Divergent starts this trilogy off well. It does a great job of introducing the world and the main characters without sacrificing on plot or adventure. If felt like a complete book, capable of standing on its own, yet there was enough foreshadowing to make the reader want to continue the series.

Blaze of Glory ~ Michael Pryor

  • Title: Blaze of Glory
  • Author: Michael Pryor
  • Series: Laws of Magic #1
  • Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Steampunk
  • Format: eBook
  • Source: Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Soo
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  Aubrey Fitzwilliam is the son of a prominent ex-prime minister. He’s also brilliant at magic, but he’s stuck at military school. At least he has his best friend, George, there to back him up. George would follow Aubrey anywhere – and with Aubrey’s talent for thinking up impulsive and daring schemes that will get them both in trouble, that’s no easy thing to do.

At a weekend shooting party at Prince Albert’s country estate, the boys find themselves in a hotbed of intrigue and politics. They discover a golem, a magical creature built to perform one task: to kill Prince Albert. Aubrey and George are hailed as heroes for foiling the attempt on the prince’s life – but who sent the golem, and why? Aubrey is far too curious to let the authorities handle this one, and he and George start investigating.

Review:  Whoever heard of a hero named Aubrey? Is it terribly American of me to feel that it’s a girl’s name? Perhaps! I just looked up the origin of the name and Aubrey is a mutation of the name Alberich. The name means Fair Ruler of the Little People. I wonder if the author had that in mind when he picked out the name for the story? Intentional or not, it makes for a good start to an entertaining tale!

Aubrey Fitzwilliam has big shoes to fill. His family is from a titled lineage and both his parents are striking individuals who are one of the best in their careers. In a world of industrialization and magic, Aubrey’s curiosity and zeal for pushing boundaries causes him to fall flat on his face–so to speak.

Aubrey Fitzwilliam hated being dead. It made things much harder than they needed to be.

Yup! That’s the hero! A young man almost done with his studies and ready to venture into college or something else. He has a little problem. He made a tiny flaw in a magical experiment and accidentally died for a bit. Now his soul is haphazardly tied to his body with several magical slap dashes and no one is the wiser about the whole affair. Well, except for George, who is Aubrey’s oldest and best friends.

You would think that would be more than enough for Audrey to deal with but that’s not all. Life wouldn’t be fair or normal without death, espionage, international intrigue, monstrous beasts, spooky atmosphere, blushing babbles, cool magic enhanced machinery, a carefree sidekick, meandering mysteries and a band of heroes to save the day! It all starts and ends with a brain numbing run about the Hummocks. Take a gander at the story! I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I have.

I’m delighted to find a new author to enjoy reading. I’m excited to see what else Michael Pryor has created and shared in his writing.

The Angel ~ Tiffany Riesz

  • Title: The Angel
  • Author: Tiffany Riesz
  • Series: The Original Sinners #2
  • Genre: Erotica
  • Format: eBook
  • Source: Own Copy
  • Reviewer: Soo
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  No safe word can protect the heart. Infamous erotica author and accomplished dominatrix Nora Sutherlin is doing something utterly out of character: hiding. While her longtime lover, Søren—whose fetishes, if exposed, would be his ruin—is under scrutiny pending a major promotion, Nora’s lying low and away from temptation in the lap of luxury.

Her host, the wealthy and uninhibited Griffin Fiske, is thrilled to have Nora stay at his country estate, especially once he meets her traveling companion. Young, inexperienced and angelically beautiful, Michael has become Nora’s protégé, and this summer with Griffin is going to be his training, where the hazing never ends.

But while her flesh is willing, Nora’s mind is wandering. To thoughts of Søren, her master, under investigation by a journalist with an ax to grind. And to another man from Nora’s past, whose hold on her is less bruising, but whose secrets are no less painful. It’s a summer that will prove the old adage: love hurts.

*Potential Spoilers*

Review:  If I had to describe the book with one word, it would be uncomfortable. The story isn’t about rosy love. The elements that make up this novel are similar to the one before: dark, edgy, painful, luxurious, decadent, devious, delightful, sad, terrifying and a different kind of happily ever after.

Michael is a young man whose father labeled as a monstrous fag when he found his son looking up information on bondage and erotic pictures of men. In despair, Michael tried to kill himself and Soren helped to pull him away from the edge with a promise. Several years later, Nora and Micheal are sent away for the summer as the church becomes a political hotbed. At Griff’s family home in the wealthiest boonies, the trio spend a riotous time together as Michael learns about BDSM and how to be a good submissive.

Soren lives in the shadows and pulls strings upon the complicated web that he weaves amongst those he loves and guides.

Nora must face her heart but she won’t until Soren gives her no choice but to see.

I wasn’t shocked by anything that came up in the story but man I felt really uncomfortable with certain aspects. Sexual abuse is terrible! Especially abuse with young children. To read that Soren & Elizabeth had an incestuous relationship when they were children was profoundly icky. Marcus raping a nanny, his wife and daughter. Terrifying.

Soren. Too brilliant for his own good. He’s intelligent, caring, twisted, and really horrifying. Definitely someone I would want to hug and kick at the same time. His need to cut and bleed Nora is not okay. It’s not normal and it’s not something even Nora is comfortable with. In the first book, I came away with the thought that while Nora may not be entirely into BDSM, she does love it and enjoys it quite a bit. Sex isn’t sex without the violence for her and I can get that. I can understand that’s how it is and that’s what she needs. That’s why the relationship with Soren is the only one she thinks she needs. After reading the entirety of this book, I’m not sure BDSM is what Nora wants or really needs. The cutting? Oh, she doesn’t like it at all. She justifies why she won’t hate it and why she will do it. All for the love of a man who has been the very foundation of her life and heart.

I didn’t care for Suzanne at all. She was in the story as a tool to move the plot along. She should have made the story more alive, interesting, complicated, etc. Instead, those scenes felt mostly forced, whiny and not really necessary.

Going by the first two books in this series, I’m not sure if the relationship between Soren and Nora will work. If he needs her to be his slave without question 24/7, she will die from not being able to grow into her potential. She’s a very strong character, and Soren does know how to push her to certain points but he is blind to how much she will sacrifice to be with him.

The pregnancy. Hm. That scare was talked about before and brought into entirety here. I don’t think it was enough to make her leave him. I don’t believe it. That memory, the scenario as Nora told Micheal… it’s harsh, painful and vivid but it doesn’t really resonate with how I see Soren or Nora in my mind.

I’m guessing the next book is going to describe how Nora is going to try to have both of the men she loves in her life but it won’t work. Their love, in their shaded ways, are too possessive and devouring in its need for the whole of Nora’s heart, mind & body. If the three of them could live together, that would be what Nora wants the most but there is no way in hell Wes will be able to stand seeing the damage on Nora’s skin that Soren needs to inflict.

There are beautiful moments! Watching Mick and Griff fall in love was tender, loving, raunchy and heartbreakingly awws. Wes remembering Nora and why he loves her. Soren meeting Suzanne at Adam’s grave. Nora playing with Owen.

This book was difficult for me to read because there’s a lot of dark elements. Love is complicated. However, I don’t think it’s a wound that never heals. I don’t like that imagery. I do like how this story shows that love is complicated, comes in all forms, some you understand and others you won’t but it’s all in varying shades of light and dark.



I may have to hold off on reading the next book. I think I rather have the last one in my hands before I read the next. That way, I won’t have to wait to see what happens!

Seven Day Loan ~ Tiffany Riesz

  • Title: Seven Day Loan
  • Author: Tiffany Riesz
  • Series: The Original Sinners #0.5
  • Genre: Erotica, Short Story
  • Format: eBook
  • Source: Own Copy
  • Reviewer: Soo
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  A trained submissive, Eleanor will do whatever her master commands…even spend a week with a stranger. Daniel has been a recluse since his wife’s death, and Eleanor’s lover thinks spending time with her will be therapeutic–especially since Daniel is also a Dom.

Despite her defiant streak, Eleanor can’t resist giving in to Daniel’s erotic demands. But while she’ll let him have her body, she’s determined to keep a guard around her heart. Even if Daniel wants to make Eleanor his permanently…

Review:  The first small tale of Eleanor and how her exuberant, rebellious spirit charms a lonely man to run heedlessly past the gates he imprisoned himself within. I grinned, snorted, rolled my eyes, grimaced, felt warm & fuzzy, and wistful as I read this short story. I kind of wish the ending was different but if it was, that would change all that follows and that wouldn’t be right.

The Selection ~ Kiera Cass

  • Title: The Selection
  • Author: Kiera Cass
  • Series: The Selection #1
  • Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian, YA
  • Format: eBook
  • Source: Own Copy
  • Reviewer: Soo
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description:  For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself–and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

Review:   I’m not a huge fan of the lead character’s name, America. Nor is the world believable. I would cut out the history lesson that’s dropped into the story towards the end. Regardless of all that, I really DO like America. I had a great time reading about how she learns and adapts to be worthy of a Prince. I’m definitely on Team Maxon!

A story about a girl who chooses to follow her heart and see where it will go. It’s not easy to open your heart. It’s not easy to admit that you’re still in love with someone who let your love go. It’s even harder to admit that you may care for more than one person. Come along on a journey with America and find out what she goes through to follow her heart in the Selection.