24hr #CleanSweepThon wrap-up

Caffeinated's 24 HR ARC Readathon
And the 24 hour Clean Sweep ARC Challenge is over – for me, at least, in my time zone! I was so excited for this read-a-thon – well, I am always excited for any chance to read!

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I had planned to read for the entire 24 hours and so had decided to take a little nap on Friday evening, which proceeded to a 11 hour sleep to make up for the sleep deprivation of the week. Never make plans for 24 hour marathon reading sessions on a busy week’s end. Lesson learned! So, even though I had lost nearly half the time, I was determined, did my calculations and guestimated that I could still manage that goal. Well, did I? Not really. I did read two ARCs:

The Hunt Emancipated

Total pages = 368+400 = 768 pages

One is science-fiction and the other contemporary – so it made for a changed pace and less likely to get the two worlds entangled. It is always a good plan to mix up genres in cases of marathon reading sessions. Makes it easier to keep up the reading pace.

While chatting with my friend during breaks, who was still wondering how I manage to read this fast, I said – It’s about reading continuously, not reading fast – which I think pretty much sums up my reading style and the hungriness with which I reach for fiction. I agree that is not a realistic option all the time, but I feel it helps to always be in the middle of reading a book, to help be in the zone.

Sadly, I wasn’t that involved with the challenges posed – I was feeling way too lethargic to go beyond reading. Even my meals were simple and – wait, I think I missed dinner! Whoops! Well, that is bad – don’t forget to hydrate and replenish yourself while in a reading cave. I did manage to drink copious amounts of orange juice throughout.

Overall, I wouldn’t call this a raging success – I was still short on one book to complete my goal, but I am satisfied with myself anyway.

ARC Review: Emancipated

Emancipated
Emancipated by M.G. Reyes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The good girl, the bad boy, the diva, the hustler, the rock star, and the nerd. Six teens legally liberated from parental control for six different reasons, all with one thing in common: something to hide. Now they’re sharing a house in Venice Beach, acting like a family, and living their lies. No parents. No limits. No alibis. One witnessed a crime, another might be a murderer—and one’s been spying on them all. As they cling to a fantasy of freedom and slowly let down their guards, the past creeps up on them. And when one of them gets arrested, everyone’s carefully constructed facade comes crumbling down.

So, this story about six teens who come to live together in a house, for various reasons, is half mystery and half heart-warming contemporary. They have pasts, and it is very well coming to bite them in the ass. Candace and Grace are stepsisters who moved to LA to pursue Candace’s dreams of being a star. John-Michael is a gay kid who has been homeless for over a year, but now in the aftermath of his father’s death is in for some inheritance as well as some suspicion. Paolo is learning the hard way of life and also re-evaluating his promiscuous lifestyle when he meets Lucy, the troubled musician who is running from demons of her past. Maya, the youngest, comes with big secrets of her own.

The emancipation has been liberating for some of them, and living together with kids their own age, handling responsibilities like running a house, makes them all grown up. But they are also teenagers, which means they have their own insecurities and doubts. All that lends to the aura of mystery around each member, because even if they are friends, they don’t entirely know each other. They admire each other but can’t trust the others to hold their dark secrets. And some of those tie the members together – and I was interested in how it will play out, once I realized it. But while this book certainly has a lot of mystery attached to it, in the end it is only serving to set up events, characters and plots for the sequel, because the ending delivered that the real danger is about to come. Which makes this, while a well-written book circling the various character arcs, mostly an introduction, making the pace relatively slow. Despite that, I found this book entertaining to read, and so I would give it about 3.5 stars.

Received a free galley from Katherine Tegen Books, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.

P.S. I don’t get that cover. Why are there only 5 people on it? Where’s the other guy?

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ARC Review: The Hunt

The Hunt
The Hunt by Megan Shepherd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Release date: May 24, 2016

After their failed escape attempt, Cora, Lucky, and Mali have been demoted to the lowest level of human captives and placed in a safari-themed environment called the Hunt, along with wild animals and other human outcasts. They must serve new Kindred masters—Cora as a lounge singer, Lucky as an animal wrangler, and Mali as a safari guide—and follow new rules or face dangerous consequences. Meanwhile, Nok and Rolf have been moved into an enormous dollhouse, observed around the clock by Kindred scientists interested in Nok’s pregnancy. And Leon, the only one who successfully escaped, has teamed up with villainous Mosca black market traders.

The former inhabitants of the Cage are threatened on all fronts—and maybe worst of all, one of the Hunt’s Kindred safari guests begins to play a twisted game of cat and mouse with Cora. Separated and constantly under watch, she and the others must struggle to stay alive, never mind find a way back to each other. When Cassian secretly offers to train Cora to develop her psychic abilities—to prove the worthiness of humanity in a series of tests called the Gauntlet—she’ll have to decide fast if she dares to trust the Kindred who betrayed her, or if she can forge her own way to freedom.

After the utter betrayal Cora faces at the hands of Cassian, she is now in a different form of captivity. The kids from the enclosure of The Cage are now either placed in a menagerie for Kindred amusement or in a dollhouse for Kindred research. Either way, they are still slaves to these higher beings. When Cassian comes around urging her to help out the Fifth of the Fives and participate in the Gauntlet, which would raise the stations of humans throughout the galaxy, she gives in, partly to save their skins and partly because of her lingering feelings for him. Told from six perspectives, the plot builds a cohesive storyline around the fact of slavery and subjugating lesser species. Also, it builds on the plot that just because they are of the same species, that doesn’t mean humans can be trusted.

So, in The Cage, the primary ideology was what would happen if humans were treated the way we treated out wildlife. Now, they are a part of that wildlife, and they see the way they are being treated. Out of this, Lucky comes out strongly with his morality, his belief that their fight is not just for humans but for all lesser species. Seeing the animals in the safari, his heart empathizes with them and he wishes to free them, too, from the circular hell they all are going through. On the other side, Leon is learning about things he is willing to fight for. Basically, the disjointed mess of rage and aggression that these teens were in The Cage, who were so envious and ready to tear each other apart, are now the best of friends and care for each other immensely. The fact that there could be a world for them to return to is a big temptation that they have to overcome if they want to fight for the enslaved humans. The ending was, well, on a cliffhanger which makes me simultaneously dread and anticipate the next installment. This was a sequel that went ahead of its brilliant predecessor.

Received a free galley from Balzer&Bray, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.

Previous books in series

The Cage

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ARC Review: The Cage

The Cage
The Cage by Megan Shepherd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Cora Mason wakes in a desert, she doesn’t know where she is or who put her there. As she explores, she finds an impossible mix of environments—tundra next to desert, farm next to jungle, and a strangely empty town cobbled together from different cultures—all watched over by eerie black windows. And she isn’t alone.

Four other teenagers have also been taken: a beautiful model, a tattooed smuggler, a secretive genius, and an army brat who seems to know too much about Cora’s past. None of them have a clue as to what happened, and all of them have secrets. As the unlikely group struggles for leadership, they slowly start to trust each other. But when their mysterious jailer—a handsome young guard called Cassian—appears, they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: Their captors aren’t from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers for an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans.

As a forbidden attraction develops between Cora and Cassian, she realizes that her best chance of escape might be in the arms of her own jailer—though that would mean leaving the others behind. Can Cora manage to save herself and her companions? And if so . . . what world lies beyond the walls of their cage?

The Cage presents an intriguing speculation – what if, there was a higher form of life which treated us like the way we treat wildlife here on earth? There have been plenty of alien abduction stories, but this one is in a different vein, because it takes the cruel fact that we humans like to lord over what we consider ‘lesser beings’ because they lack sentience; the aliens in the world of Cage consider humans lesser evolved because they (humans) aren’t as evolved as them to have telekinetic and telepathic abilities. It surely raises an interesting question as to how it would be to live like the animals we consider primitive, and I kid you not, this provoked me to ruminating on it through my day.

The story starts with these six strangers (gathered from all over the world for diversity’s sake) waking up in a strange ‘habitat’ created for them by aliens called Kindred, who want to take care of them like we stick animals in a zoo. They are expected to eat and sleep well, be content in captivity and more importantly, reproduce. The teens have been told that Earth is gone and they are being kept to propagate and preserve the species – if you can see the lie for what it is, the teens saw it too. Unfortunately, they are out of ideas, and out of ways to challenge these aliens who can read their very thoughts. Cora, who was in a juvenile prison before this, doesn’t take well to this prison and starts looking for a way out. Their Caretaker, Cassian, seems to sympathize with her but he can’t let her out. Even the way he feels about her doesn’t mean he is going to free her, and that plays a big role in that mind-blowing climax.

The Cage is a big mind manipulation, at its root level. The teens are being pushed to their psychological limits, and Cora soon realizes that it is the Kindred’s doing. What she can’t understand is why, and the questioning is driving her crazy. The others, too, have their own reasons for unleashing their worst sides. Nok, the model, is manipulating the others for her survival. Rolf, the bullied, is becoming the bully – he is quick to blame Cora for the troubles they face. Leon is haunted by the girl that had died before – one of the six, who is now replaced by the quiet Mali, the latter raised in captivity by the Kindred.

As they are being set against each other, you see how deeply they were being manipulated, and that was the most scary part because they do this to each other willingly. Honestly, the characters well so well-written, that I couldn’t even judge them for their faults. Well, besides Cora – she was being all starry-eyed over Cassian (typical YA girl), even when he was her captor (like, ugh, it is slavery, girl!) and that repetitive praising of his unearthly beauty *eyeroll* (which I couldn’t get, because fully BLACK eyes) but she is the driving force of the plot so, you know, she gets a break for it. I didn’t see the point of Lucky, much, even with the reveal at the end, because however you look at it, he didn’t have much pressure on him throughout the book. But with the next one, I am interested in seeing the direction the plot takes, as well as what the future of humans is! In short I would say, this book was one hell of an opener.

Received a free galley from Balzer&Bray, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Blogger Hop: May 20-26

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer

This week’s question is:

Do you keep a Blog Roll List?

Answer:

Not really. I just use Feedly to organize the blogs I follow.