The Pilots

The Pilots by Juliana Marguerite

My rating: three stars

Genre: YA Dystopian

Edition: ebook/ARC

Goodreads Summary: LILY is top of her class and ready to accept a Government position in Safe Zone One. Her whole life is turned around when she’s handcuffed and thrown into The Pilot, a series of challenges she must complete before a Government position is offered. Who knows, this may be just another test. But, why are kids not making it past trials and why is this happening right before the end of her senior year?

JACKSON is chosen as a junior to embark on a mission outside the confining walls of Safe Zone Two. A mission of discovery called The Pilot. His designated trek will have him testing the environment for traces of MX, a deadly biological weapon used in the drug trade. Jackson will find himself tested by the land once sprawling with people. What will be found along his path?

A chilling tale of discovery and finding strength in one’s self. Take the plunge into, The Pilots.

First off, I would like to thank Juliana Marguerite for giving me the opportunity to be a beta reader/ARC reviewer. I was so happy to be able to read this book early and help her find any major errors before publication, it was a great opportunity! I will say that even though I was given the ARC of this book to review, everything I say in this review will be my honest opinion. Juliana did not ask me to give a good review, a certain number of stars, or anything like that. All she wanted was people to read her book and give her honest feedback, so that is what I will be doing!

Likes: This is such an interesting world with interesting storylines (there are two separate stories going on within The Pilots)! I was constantly intrigued about what was going to happen next, especially within Lily’s story. I liked the different tests that Lily had to go through, they were challenging but crazy and unexpected at times. I also liked the characters. They were smart, fun, and came together in a way that was inspiring. I was interested in almost every character so much, I wanted to know more – unfortunately one of the negatives is that I didn’t feel like I got to see the deep inner workings and thoughts of the characters. I also liked the way the two stories were related, though I wish we could have seen more of Jackson’s story – I think that would have made me even more invested. The mystery that comes about makes me wish the second book was out already so I could see what happens.

Dislikes: I feel like this story has such good bones – a great world, storyline, and characters, it just needed a few more rounds of deep editing. There were grammatical instances that I found strange, and interactions between characters that I found awkward and confusing. I think that she did a good job explaining the surroundings, I had an easy time picturing what was happening, but as for character feelings and interactions, they were lacking. The only way I can think to explain is that it felt like the story was missing a sentence/paragraph every once and a while (if you are techy, then it was like frames were dropping). A character would go through something traumatic and wouldn’t seem too deeply bothered, relationships would be created or destroyed without much explanation, etc. This made me not able to immerse myself in the story because I was frequently being pulled out of it by some strange interaction or wording. There were definitely instances where she had wonderful interactions, but overall, I think that there could have been some more editing to improve this.

The Pilots had an extremely good foundation. The characters and plot had great “bones” and I enjoyed them. However, the main problem that I had, and why I gave it three stars, is that the book felt like it needed some more editing to improve the grammar, character interactions, and character depth. I look forward to reading the sequel. I truly believe this story has the potential to be incredible, and with the ending of The Pilots, I can’t wait to see what is going on!!

Red Rising

Red Rising (Red Rising, #1) by Pierce Brown

My rating: five stars

Genre: YA Dystopian

Edition: paperback

Goodreads Summary: Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children. But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

Red Rising is one of my friend’s favorite series in the world, so of course I had to pick it up and see what it was about. Let me just say I am so glad that I went into this book not knowing very much about it. It completely went in a direction that I did not expect, and I will not spoil that in this review.

Likes: The main thing that I appreciated was how crazy it got. I did not expect the book to go in the direction it did, and I love that! I wish I could say more about it, but I think it is best for people to go into this book not knowing much. I also liked the characters. Pierce Brown wrote the characters in such a way that they are both likable and not likeable at the same time. There are some villains that I couldn’t help but like, and there were some “good” people that had to do terrible things. This is a wonderful aspect to the story, I love complex characters. This book goes into the fact that not everything is black and white in life, there are a ton of shades of grey. Darrow went into life thinking a certain thing (that I can’t really talk about), but towards the end of the book he discovered that what he thought he knew was not completely correct. I love this growth and the philosophical aspect to the story.

Dislikes: There is a feud that starts between Darrow and another character later in this book and it makes no sense to me. It is hard to explain without giving spoilers, but basically this person tries to destroy Darrow’s life for something that Darrow could not control. It just seems so outrageous and completely out of character. It seems to happen for no other reason than for the plot. Another problem that I had with this book is that Darrow seems to always have a solution to everything. He is usually always smarter than everyone else around him and it just seems illogical and improbable. It is hard to imagine that he could be that much smarter than everyone else, to a point where it seems like he can read their minds.

Overall, I loved this book! I gave it five out of five stars because, even though there were some aspects that I did not enjoy, I still had a wonderful time reading it and think that it is a well written book. I wish that the feud had come about differently to where it made more sense, and I wish that Darrow’s level of intelligence didn’t seem completely illogical. However, I am still so excited for the rest of the series, the ending left me having no clue where the next book is going to go, and I love that!

Cruel Crown

Cruel Crown (Red Queen, #.1-.2) by Victoria Aveyard

My rating: three stars

Genre: YA Fantasy

Edition: paperback

Goodreads Summary: Two women on either side of the Silver and Red divide tell the stories no one else knows. Discover the truth of Norta’s bloody past in these two revealing prequels to #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestseller RED QUEEN.

Queen Song: Queen Coriane, first wife of King Tiberias, keeps a secret diary—how else can she ensure that no one at the palace will use her thoughts against her? Coriane recounts her heady courtship with the crown prince, the birth of a new prince, Cal, and the potentially deadly challenges that lie ahead for her in royal life.

Steel Scars: Captain Farley was raised to be strong, but being tasked with planting the seeds of rebellion in Norta is a tougher job than expected. As she travels the land recruiting black market traders, smugglers, and extremists for her first attempt at an attack on the capital, she stumbles upon a connection that may prove to be the key to the entire operation—Mare Barrow.

Plus a Glass Sword sneak peek!

I have been loving the Red Queen series, and since I read King’s Cage, I decided to read this one next. I was most excited to read about Queen Coriane since what happened to her is a huge secret so far, though I do like Captain Farley so I was interested in her story as well.

Likes: I did like that the secret of Queen Coriane was finally talked about and looked at. I was so engrossed with this story, I honestly wish that it was a whole book. I loved the characters and the suspense. I also liked the second story about Captain Farley, though it did seem unnecessary. It was okay, but I didn’t feel like there was a point to it, or that there was a need for it.

Dislikes: Let me just say that I did not expect the Glass Sword sneak peek to be so long, it seemed like it was half the book! (I know it wasn’t, but I think it was an absurdly large part of it.) I don’t understand why there was such a huge chunk of Glass Sword in this book, I wish we had gotten another short story. This really upset me so much, because I feel like the other two short stories were so short that I could not enjoy them as much. I wish that they were longer and/or that there was a third short story instead of the Glass Sword preview. Also, the Captain Farley story just seemed to be put in there for content, which is annoying. Sure, I like her character. However, it just didn’t seem necessary. I would have much rather had the entire book about Queen Coriane instead of having a strange pointless story about Captain Farley and an extremely long preview to Glass Sword.

Overall, I did like the short stories. I thought they were fun and finally gave some answers to questions that I have been asking for the entire series so far. However, they seemed way too short and not flushed out at all, when they could have been longer and more complete if the Glass Sword sneak peek was not there! I took off two stars because there was the Glass Sword sneak peak that took up so much space that the other two short stories needed because they were lacking depth. The first short story was so good, which makes the other two seem so much worse. I just wish the whole story was about the Queen…

The Hidden Power of F*cking Up

The Hidden Power of F*cking Up by The Try Guys

My rating: five stars

Genre: Nonfiction

Edition: Audiobook

Goodreads Summary: The Try Guys deliver their first book—an inspirational self-improvement guide that teaches you that the path to success is littered with humiliating detours, embarrassing mistakes, and unexpected failures.

To be our best selves, we must become secure in our insecurities. In The Hidden Power of F*cking Up, The Try Guys – Keith, Ned, Zach, and Eugene – reveal their philosophy of trying: how to fully embrace fear, foolishness, and embarrassment in an effort to understand how we all get paralyzed by a fear of failure. They’ll share how four shy, nerdy kids have dealt with their most poignant life struggles by attacking them head-on and reveal their – ahem – sure-fail strategies for achieving success.

But they’re not just here to talk; they’re actually going to put their advice to work. To demonstrate their unique self-improvement formula, they’ll each personally confront their deepest insecurities. A die-hard meat-lover goes vegan for the first time. A straight-laced father transforms into a fashionista. A perpetually single sidekick becomes the romantic lead. A child of divorce finally grows more intimate with his family. Through their insightful, emotional journeys and surprising, hilarious anecdotes, they’ll help you overcome your own self-doubt to become the best, most f*cked up version of yourself you can be!

I have been watching the Try Guy’s videos for many years – basically since when they started at Buzzfeed. I think they are hilarious and put out content that is both entertaining and informative. I went to one of their tour stops and my goodness it was so good! I hope that they go on another one, because it was phenomenal. This book is basically a bunch of stories about their life, and how they got to where they are. As soon as I heard what it was about, I had to get it. I love self-help books, and one written by some of my favorite Youtubers was a must-read.

Likes: If you are planning on getting this book, I recommend the audiobook. The Try Guys are the narrators which is so funny! They are honestly great at it, and they add little comments and sound affects that add to the book. I am so glad that I decided to get the Audible version. The book is full of a bunch of short stories where each of the Try Guys try something new. Some of them were lighthearted, and some of them were deep, but most of them had a great wisdom that they passed on. I loved that they got so vulnerable in some of the stories, it showed how difficult it can be to put yourself out there and try new things. This story gave so much hope and so many good life lessons, I really enjoyed it.

Dislikes: Even though there were several stories that were vulnerable, I felt like some of the stories were just put in there for content. Sure, I liked hearing about them trying something new, however, I didn’t feel like I had as much fun listening to those stories, and there didn’t seem to be a lesson to them. I just wish some of the Try Guys had been a little more vulnerable, instead of trying something just for content’s sake.

Overall, I gave this book five stars. I loved listening to the Audiobook, I thought it was creative and fun to have the Try Guys narrate it. It was a unique listening experience that I have never had before. I loved the lessons that came out of the stories. I appreciated the vulnerability, and I enjoyed hearing more about their lives. Even though I wish some of the stories had more content and meaning to them, I am not going to deduct a star simply because I love this book so much.

Soul of the Sword

Soul of the Sword (Shadow of the Fox, #2) by Julie Kagawa       

My rating: five stars

Genre: YA Fantasy

Edition: Hardback

Goodreads Summary: One thousand years ago, a wish was made to the Harbinger of Change and a sword of rage and lightning was forged. Kamigoroshi. The Godslayer. It had one task: to seal away the powerful demon Hakaimono.

Now he has broken free.

Kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko has one task: to take her piece of the ancient and powerful scroll to the Steel Feather temple in order to prevent the summoning of the Harbinger of Change, the great Kami Dragon who will grant one wish to whomever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. But she has a new enemy now. The demon Hakaimono, who for centuries was trapped in a cursed sword, has escaped and possessed the boy she thought would protect her, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan.

Hakaimono has done the unthinkable and joined forces with the Master of Demons in order to break the curse of the sword and set himself free. To overthrow the empire and cover the land in darkness, they need one thing: the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. As the paths of Yumeko and the possessed Tatsumi cross once again, the entire empire will be thrown into chaos.

Shadow of the Fox left at such a cliffhanger I wanted to start Soul of the Sword as soon as possible, I just needed to know what happens! Especially since the last book just recently came out in hardback, it would be great to read the whole series this year.

Likes: In this book Yumeko seems to have matured and grown from the events that took place in Shadow of the Fox. I like seeing this change in her, it shows how seriously she is taking this quest she is on, and how seriously she is taking what happened to Tatsumi. She is not only more mature outwardly, she is also trying to look inward and come to terms with who she is. I love that we see this internal struggle and how she is trying to become more comfortable with who she is. That was a beautiful aspect to the story. Another thing that I liked was how much was shown of the other character’s backstories and thoughts. Relationships form and growth happens in these side characters and I love that. This book has continuous world building and goes more in-depth about the history and magic of the land. The new creatures that are shown are awesome, I loved that we got to see more!

Dislikes: In this book there is a character that is shown every once and a while and this character is a complete mystery. They were a mystery in the first book and still are throughout this second book. I like that we get to learn more about them, however, I wish that more would have been shown. This is just a personal preference that I feel like there was a lot left out that should have been added about this character, however, I am guessing that this character will become more prevalent in the last book which is why I am not that upset about it.

Overall, I enjoyed this book a ton. The characters are so much fun, and I love that this story has a lot of growth and self-reflection for each character. I love the new creatures that we see, and I like how we get different POVs that weren’t shown previously. I do wish that a certain character would have been flushed out more, but I am hoping that they are in the next book.

The Last Wish

The Last Wish (The Witcher, #.5) by Andrzej Sapkowski

My rating: three stars

Genre: Adult Fantasy

Edition: Kindle

Goodreads Summary: Geralt the Witcher — revered and hated — holds the line against the monsters plaguing humanity in this collection of adventures in the New York Times bestselling series that inspired the Netflix show and the hit video games.

Geralt is a Witcher, a man whose magic powers, enhanced by long training and a mysterious elixir, have made him a brilliant fighter and a merciless assassin. Yet he is no ordinary murderer: his targets are the multifarious monsters and vile fiends that ravage the land and attack the innocent.

But not everything monstrous-looking is evil and not everything fair is good…and in every fairy tale there is a grain of truth.

I have been playing through The Witcher 3 on my PC for a while, and watched and loved the TV show recently, so I just had to pick up the books. It seemed like everyone had the same idea because when I went to buy them The Last Wish was sold out and the first three books sold out right after I bought them!  That’s why I read the Last Wish on my Kindle, though I would have preferred the physical version.

Likes: I like that since these short stories take place with large time gaps between them we get to see vastly different portions of the world and Geralt’s life. There is a ton of worldbuilding, so many different characters and character relationships, and a bunch of magical creatures that are shown. There is also so much history to this world that I love. I can tell that the author put in a lot of time and effort creating this world and the characters in it. I also liked the magic in this story. I think I might have been confused about it if I had not played the game before reading this because it is not really explained. However, I still like how Geralt uses magic and potions in the story.

Dislikes: I don’t know if it is just because I am not used to Andrzej’s writing style or what, but the book seemed disjointed to me. It would skip from story to story so quickly and with no introduction to the new story, that I was left confused at times. I did like that this book showed so much in terms of worldbuilding because it was made up of short stories, however, I think they could have had a smoother transition. I also feel like some of the short stories weren’t that exciting to me and served no purpose. Some of them I was just not interested in the entire time, and I didn’t see what I was gaining out of reading them.

Overall, I rated this book three out of five stars because I was left confused at times and that decreased my enjoyment of the story. I would have to backtrack sometimes to figure out what was going on, and that wasn’t enjoyable. The confusion that I felt, the dull short stories, and my lack of enjoyment made me deduct two stars for this book. I still look forward to the other ones because I did love the world, the characters, and the magic so much, I was just a little disappointed in this book.

A Dangerous path

A Dangerous Path (Warriors, #5) by Erin Hunter

My rating: four stars

Genre: Middle Grade

Edition: Paperback

Goodreads Summary: ShadowClan has a dark new leader, but will he be satisfied with his power now — or does his desire for revenge burn even more strongly? Fireheart fears that there is a connection between the rise of Tigerstar and the terrible dreams that haunt his nights, murmuring of danger and death.

Meanwhile, a mysterious and vicious threat unlike any other has invaded the forest, placing every cat’s life in peril. Fireheart’s beloved leader has turned her back on their warrior ancestors, and Fireheart can’t help but wonder if she’s right. Has StarClan abandoned them forever?

I low-key wasn’t looking forward to this book too much because of how the last book went, but it surprised me in how much I liked it! I had completely forgot all of the crazy things that happened in this book.

Likes: The previous book was not my favorite in terms of plot progression, and so I really enjoyed this one because it had a lot happening in terms of the tension between Fireheart and Tigerstar. This book does have a good amount of suspense that left my heart racing. It made me worried about the characters, and afraid of what was going to happen to them. This story had good pacing. It never seemed to lull, and there were several plot points that were happening at once, and they were all interesting. The end of this book had me crying. It wasn’t necessarily unexpected, it was just destressing and yet felt right.

Dislikes: It still seems so unrealistic that all of these clans are putting up with Tigerstar’s crap. Like seriously, he is killing cats and doing all of these terrible things, and yet almost no one is doing anything to try and stop him. That is just frustrating. Bluestar’s character also continues to go downhill for most of this story and I am over it. I understand what is troubling her, but at the same time I don’t think that she would have this type of reaction based off of what she had to go through in her past. She went through very traumatic times in her past without breaking like she did in the past couple books, and so I don’t think it is realistic that she became so unstable in these books.

Overall, this book was a great read! Bluestar’s character confused me, and the clan’s actions frustrated me. However, I loved the pacing, the plot progression, and the suspense enough to get over those dislikes. I gave it four out of five stars because of the frustrations that I had, but I still did love this book.

Heir of Fire

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3) by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: five stars

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Edition: Paperback

Goodreads Summary: Consumed by guilt and rage, Celaena can’t bring herself to spill blood for the King of Adarlan. She must fight back…

The Immortal Queen will help her destroy the king – for a price. But as Celaena battles with her darkest memories and her heart breaks for a love that could never last, can she fulfil the bargain and head the almighty court of Terrasen? And who will stand with her?

OH MY GOSH can I give this book a million stars?? The Assassin’s Blade was my favorite book in the series before I read this one and I did not think it could get any better. Boy was I wrong! This book is my new favorite and took this series in a direction I did not expect.

Likes: There are so many new characters in this book, and I love them! We finally meet characters that are magical, and it is so interesting learning about their culture and abilities. And this book doesn’t only introduce “good” magic characters, it also shows morally grey (if not evil) characters. The witches and elves are so cool, I really hope that they are in the next book often! This book also goes more in depth about Celaena’s background and powers. She is forced to learn more about them, and I loved seeing that side of her. There are also a ton of sub-plots in this book which made for a fast paced story. There always seemed to be something important or fascinating going on somewhere. Even though the book was quite long, it didn’t seem like it because of the pacing and because of how well it was written.

Dislikes: The only dislike I have – and I am really reaching here – is that some of the “immortal” characters seem more immature than I would have thought. There are characters that have been alive for hundreds of years, and I assumed they would have been more in tune with their emotions and more wise than they were. I don’t even know if I would consider it a dislike though because of how much the characters have been through to make them the way they are. I suppose it was more of a surprise than a dislike.

Overall, this book blew me away. I loved it so much and hope that the next books are just as good. The new characters are incredible, the sub-plots were fascinating, and the magic is mind blowing. I loved it through and through.

Rising Storm

Rising Storm (Warriors, #4) by Erin Hunter

My rating: four stars

Genre: Middlegrade

Edition: Paperback

Goodreads Summary: Fireheart’s traitorous enemy Tigerclaw has been vanquished and exiled from Thunder Clan — but Fireheart can’t shake the feeling that he’s lurking in the forest, waiting for his chance to strike.

That’s not the only problem facing the young warrior in these blazing summer months, as he struggles to handle sinister omens, an apprentice with a shocking secret, and a devastated Clan leader who is a shell of her former self.

Meanwhile the forest gets hotter and hotter … and everyone braces for the coming storm… Ages 10+.

Continuing with my re-read of the series, we have gotten to one of my least favorite books of the original six book series. It is still an enjoyable read, I just think that it had a weaker storyline than the rest in the original arc, and I think the characters themselves didn’t go in a great direction.

Likes: I did like the growing relationship between Yellowfang and Cinderpelt. It was heartwarming and I love learning more about the medicine cats. I also enjoyed that there were more dangers to the clan than just Tigerclaw. There are some natural disasters and humans that come into play, and this opened up my eyes to see how the cats not only have to worry about troubles in the clans, they also have to worry about outside forces hurting them. There is also a relationship development between Fireheart and another cat that I found that to be adorable. 

Dislikes: Though I did like that this book includes other types of dangers, Tigerclaw is the main villain and he seems to barely be in this book. There is little progression in the plot because of this. I also did not like the direction Bluestar’s personality is taking. I understand that she is shocked by Tigerclaw’s betrayal, but at the same time she has endured much worse than that and I feel like she would not have been as broken as she is in this book. The naivety of the other clans also surprises me. I recognize that they are having their own troubles, however, I don’t think that they would allow the things that they do just because they are having a difficult time. It seems very unlikely that they would allow Tigerclaw to do the things he does.

Overall, this isn’t as strong as a book as the other ones in the original series, but I still enjoyed it immensely. The relationships that develop in this book are heartwarming, the natural disasters that happen are shocking, and this book did wrench my heart which is a sign of a well written book. Because this story was relatively stagnant in terms of plot progression, and the actions of most of the cats weren’t believable, I am going to deduct a star. However, I still recommend this book and this whole series!

Catching Fire

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2) by Suzanne Collins

My rating: four stars

Genre: YA, Dystopian

Edition: Audiobook

Goodreads Summary: SPARKS ARE IGNITING.



Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol – a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest that she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying. Katniss is about to be tested as never before.

In preparation for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (the prequal to The Hunger Games), I am trying to re-read the whole Hunger Games trilogy. Catching Fire was my favorite movie, and though I don’t remember much about the book because it has been so long since I have read it, I am hoping it is as good as I remember.

Likes: I like how we get to see the “behind the scenes” of the games, in that we get to see Katniss and Peeta travel around on the Victory Tour. The first book only really showed the hunger games, and so I liked seeing another aspect to it. I also liked the arena in this book. It required strategy and planning, unlike the arena in the first book. The arena is fluid and dynamic, and I thought that was interesting to read about – all the different elements the Gamemakers can add to the arena. I also like all the new characters that are introduced. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there are a ton of new characters that add interesting elements to this story. They all have differing personalities, and it is interesting to learn how the games have affected them personally.

Dislikes: I did not care for the romance in the first book, and I still do not care for it in this book. Peeta is kept in the dark about so much it doesn’t make sense. If everyone would just be open and honest, there wouldn’t be so much drama. I don’t believe that people would keep Peeta in the dark, and I don’t believe he is as ignorant as they make him out to be. Another thing that I did not like was how long the beginning seemed to drag on. I did like seeing a different side to the games, however, it just seemed to drag on and on and it wasn’t that enjoyable to me.

Overall, I gave this book four out of five stars because, while I did enjoy it immensely, I did not like it as much as the first book which I gave five out of five stars. There were just too many secrets, too much unnecessary drama, and it seemed to drag on. I did still love the characters, the behind the scenes glimpse of the games, and the updated arena. The new characters were interesting and made the book intriguing. I would definitely recommend this book, it was a lot of fun to listen to, and the narrator was incredible!