ARC Review: The Gauntlet

The GauntletThe Gauntlet by Megan Shepherd
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cora and her friends have escaped the Kindred station and landed at Armstrong—a supposed safe haven on a small moon—where they plan to regroup and figure out how to win the Gauntlet, the challenging competition to prove humanity’s intelligence and set them free. But Armstrong is no paradise; ruled by a power-hungry sheriff, it’s a violent world where the teens are enslaved and put to work in mines. As Nok’s due date grows closer, and Mali and Leon journey across space to rescue Cassian, the former inhabitants of the cage are up against impossible odds.

With the whole universe at stake, Cora will do whatever it takes, including pushing her body and mind to the breaking point, to escape Armstrong and run the Gauntlet. But it isn’t just a deranged sheriff she has to overcome: the other intelligent species—the Axion, Kindred, Gatherers, and Mosca—all have their own reasons to stop her. Not knowing who to trust, Cora must rely on her own instincts to win the competition, which could change the world—though it might destroy her in the process.

The conclusion to the Cage series has Cora as the savior of the human race throughout the galaxy in the form of being their champion in the Gauntlet. However, interstellar politics means she has to first fight her way across to even reach the planet where the gauntlet will be held. The squad has to face many challenges, including separation from one another, betrayal and mistrust, and what they learnt through the Cage, the Menageries, the Dollhouse and the Hunt comes to save them now in this test. As the plot evolves, we learn that running the Gauntlet is not just about elevating humans to a superior race, but also about protecting the existing ones.

As a conclusion to the series, The Gauntlet works but I was not overly impressed with it. I remember (even though it has been almost a year) that The Cage and the Hunt were involved books – you could connect to the characters. Here, we get fewer perspectives (Lucky died *sob*) and even with more pages devoted to Cora, I felt essentially out of touch with her. Moreover, once the secret of the Gauntlet was revealed, the plot kinda lost the individual meaning to the characters. It became a Plot Ex Machina at the same time – tying up the threads raised by the new threat in this book too soon. There is much more unbelievable science (or is it spirituality?) involved in this book, and that kind of renders the threats impotent. A series of conveniences and boom, the book ends on a hopeful note. Overall, if you had loved the series, chances are you might still like this book and the ending, but you might not be awed by it.

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Balzer & Bray, via Edelweiss.

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Book Blogger Hop: May 26-June 1

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer

This week’s question is:

What is the most fun part/aspect of being a book blogger?

Answer

Interacting with followers/other bloggers.

I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see comments on blog posts – well, partly because someone READ the post, but also because there is another person out there who loves books as much as I do! Book blogging is a social activity in some aspects, and it is good to know that I am not shouting mumbling into the void.

And when somebody says they got interested in reading the book, as a comment in my review, well that just makes my day.

Review: The Love Interest

The Love InterestThe Love Interest by Cale Dietrich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

One of the books I was looking forward to eagerly was this one – The Love Interest. The premise of two spies who were supposed to the rival honeypots, instead falling in love with each other had me excited. As a concept, it is definitely novel and I was excited to see how the story would play out. When I did read through a third of it, though, I was starting to get disappointed. I don’t know if I hyped it in my mind, but it was not the amazing novel I was hoping for.

In the world of the Love Interest, a secret organization above the law keeps and brings up orphan or foster kids as Love Interests, spies whose only mission is to integrate themselves into their assigned targets’s lives and pass on information. Now, this of course makes you suspend belief because it assumes that the person has to be a lifelong partner – like they are expecting them to hang on in relationships in this century! (It is explained away in the ending, but I was not wholly convinced) Caden and Dylan are a Nice and a Bad, respectively, a call out to the trope of the nice guy and the bad boy, often found in YA lit. In fact, the novel subtly and sometimes even overtly pokes fun at YA lit tropes, especially those that are usually found in contemporary fiction.

Anyway, Caden and Dylan start to bond and form a friendship, and before long Caden starts to realize that he is falling for Dylan. Their being rivals for their target, Juliet, and a death sentence for the one who fails, their relationship is of course the opposite of ideal circumstances. It grows and they sneak around, but neither can deny that there is no future for them. It is kind of a YOLO love plot, and it is cute, but you know what would have been better? If we had a Dylan POV as well! And the whole targeting teenagers for lifelong spy partners was on shaky ground. Aged up characters (like maybe college or post-college) would have probably been more apt for this storyline.

Moving onto the world-building, I felt it was very basic and explained away simply as – secret spy organization so secret that even the government does not know. They have all this cool tech and all, and are hiding away these kids in centers all over the world, but nah – NO ONE KNOWS! *sigh* I expected better. Even Juliet and her tech comes across as rudimentary. The girl is a freaking genius, but it is all pushed aside for teenage angst. The science fiction element of the plot felt wasted when Caden had a handler who sometimes could listen to him, but sometimes did not. The whole implant thing itself was barely explained! It is speaking telepathically or reading thoughts? Because it seemed to be both at once!

Overall, I was sort of disappointed in the book. Don’t get me wrong – it was enjoyable, and the writing is pretty good, but it felt like the book tried to be many things and just settled on being a gay romance plot, rather than being a genre fiction with gay characters.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Beach Reads For People That Aren’t Into Contemporaries

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish wherein each week bloggers list out their Top Ten. Now, I know that when it comes to beach reads, everyone’s mind goes to contemporary romances – you know, the ones usually set in summer, maybe on a vacation or something. But I am not a person who likes the genre so much, so when it comes to ‘beach reads’ for me, I lean more towards horror standalones (what can I say? I’m weird like that). There’s nothing like a chilling novel in the middle of the heat. Maybe check out some of these books?

Shallow GravesShallow Graves by Kali Wallace

An urban fantasy about paranormal creatures blended into our very society, the story is told from the point of view of a girl who can see if a person has a murderous past. There is a cult involved, and it has a foreboding feel to it.

Wink Poppy MidnightWink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

One part weird, one part whimsy, one part confusion and one part ingenuity, this novel will stun and surprise you, as well as make you question things. To be honest, I wasn’t sure in the end if I really understood the why of the characters, but I think I like it for it.

Welcome to Night ValeWelcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor

Night Vale doesn’t even try to be like a normal American town. There are hooded figures in the dog park, angels that aren’t acknowledged, mysterious lights in the desert and a radio host who talks as if this is all is the epitome of a normal town. Night Vale is reminiscent of Twin Peaks, so fans of that show will love to travel to this mysterious town in the middle of the desert.

DevouredDevoured by Amanda Marrone

Sometimes you need dark retellings of a classic fairytale to complement a hot sunny day, so dive into this Snow White-ish ghost story that is set in modern times.

GenesisGenesis by Bernard Beckett

Considering this is technically a short story, it would also be a pretty fast read. This is not exactly horror, but this speculative science fiction will leave you feeling cold by the end.

Prom Nights from HellProm Nights from Hell (Anthology)

What’s better that one chilling short story? Why, an anthology of horror-themed stories, of course!

RelicRelic by Gretchen McNeil

Seriously read this book in daylight – it is very scary. Maybe read it on a beach? (On second thought, considering the theme of the book, maybe not)

What do you love to read in summer? What do you consider as ‘beach reads’? Tell me in the comments below 😉

 

Book Blogger Hop: May 19-25

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer

This week’s question is:

What do you do with books you no longer want? Do you donate them? Do you take them to a half-price bookstore? Does a friend or family member benefit?

Answer:

I donate them or sell them off in a half-price store, depending on which happens first.