[The Dream Protocol: Descent] Adara Quick

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What would a world be like if dreams were controlled by the government and your place in life determined at age 15? What would a world be like if nightmares were weaponized and you could be punished for anything they determined were wrong? In The Dream Protocol, your life is lived in a grey world and your only escape is the dreams that you can afford. Then at age 35, you’re no longer wanted and you take your Descent. Deirdre is no longer content with living this way. As her mother’s Descent creeps steadily closer, she begins to rebel against the norm. When who she loves is threatened, she discovers that she will do anything to protect them–even if it means putting herself in danger.

So I will begin by saying that I’ve never had a novel length story published. But I have written and read a lot of stories, particularly young adult ones, in the last year and a half or so, so I know what I like to see in novels such as these. The Dream Protocol has everything that I like to see in a dystopian novel, but sadly, they all never go beyond the idea. I felt that this novel was built around the bare-bones of a plot, but was never fully fleshed out. As it’s the first novel in a series, perhaps this is explored in the next novels. However,  because it’s a first novel, the fact that it’s full of big ideas that aren’t fleshed out kind of damns it.

There are so many interesting things that are introduced in The Dream Protocol but never pan out into something more. There’s a prophecy, but we’re never shown how it’s connected to Deirdre and her family. We’re teased with hints of what the Dream Protocol truly is as we’re given accounts and reactions periodically throughout the novel, but this never expands into something more. One of my big disappointments was that I wish it had been described more. Instead, we’re given small details that don’t really flesh out the world. Everyone wore grey, the walls were grey, there was no sky…grey overwhelmingly describes the blandness of the book.

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[The Raven Boys: The Raven Cycle I] Maggie Stiefvater

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I really don’t know where to start with this one. The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater (an author whose last name I’ll never be able to spell without referencing goodreads) is a book that is so lyrically beautiful that I had to stop reading it late at night because I wanted to enjoy the words instead of plowing through them.

Blue Sargent is the daughter of a psychic–in fact, most of her family have some sort of psychic ability, except Blue. She’s come to terms with that fact, just as she’s come to terms with the fact that there are some things she can’t escape: namely, that her kiss is going to kill her true love. Her mother foretold it, her aunts foretold it. Blue decided when she was much younger that she’d never kiss any boy. This year, staying away from boys proves to be difficult when she gets wrapped up in the quest of four of the Raven Boys, normally well-off students from the local private school. As Blue gets to know them, she realizes that each of the Raven Boys have something that they can’t get away from. And there’s the possibility that their quest may be more dangerous than the five of them expect.

The Raven Boys is a great start to a series. With a focus on how the paranormal relates to the real world, I was impressed with the balance that the author had created. It doesn’t focus to heavily on one over the other, which gave the plot realness even as it dealt with mystical elements. The mystery gradually builds as the story progresses, but I never found it boring or too fast paced. Things have their beginning in The Raven Boys, but they were not concluded. There’s going to be threads that run through the series which I found really nice. It makes me want to continue the series when not everything has been answered. However, enough has been answered in this first book that I feel satisfied at its conclusion.

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[Dandelion on Fire: Greene Island Mystery I] Sherry Torgent

I recently became a reviewer for a small publishing company located in North Carolina called Blue Ink Press. Dandelion on Fire is the first novel I’ve received to review from them. Blue Ink Press was founded in 2015. Their aim is to represent and publish young adult authors, but they also represent local authors from their area. I’m very excited to work with them!

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Hardy only wants one thing: to make it through his senior year of high school unscathed so he can escape Greene Island for college on the mainland. Unfortunately for Hardy, things never go the way he plans. When a mistake lands him in community service with a strange new girl named Darcy, things begin to unravel. Darcy has a secret. And suddenly, that secret connects Hardy and Darcy in ways that begin to spiral out of control. Everyone says that Greene Island is cursed. Hardy is starting to believe it.

The plot of Dandelion on Fire was steady throughout the novel. Unfortunately, steady doesn’t always make for quick reading. I felt very relaxed while reading this, even during the moments that were meant to be fast-paced and nerve wracking. There was a calmness to the writing style. The plot did pick up toward the end of the novel, but because of the earlier meandering of the plot, it didn’t feel very balanced. All of the action was clustered at the end. As a result, I ended up being a little surprised at the conclusion because it seemed so sudden. I expected more pages.  The action at the end made me excited about what Sherry Torgent was doing with the story. It was just unfortunate that it hadn’t been included earlier.

Dandelion on Fire is a mystery with slow pacing. There weren’t enough moments where Hardy and Darcy discovered something that gave answers toward the larger mystery; instead, I felt that it focused on the mundane moments of Hardy’s day-to-day life too much. Something exciting would happen, and I would think “this is it, this is when we find out– –” but then it would seem to backtrack. Hardy would be concerned about a senior picnic instead of being worried about the murder that had taken place on the island. The book also  has a supernatural element to it. For some reason, the Curse of Viola has given certain individuals powers. Throughout the novel, these supernatural things are mentioned, but never really focused on. I hope that a more solid explanation is given to us in the next novel.  Like much of the action, the supernatural points of the novel were clustered at the end. Because of that, the ending seemed abrupt. There’s no return journey to “normality” with a greater understanding of what has happened to Hardy.  There were a lot of questions, both about the supernatural and the mystery, but few seemed to be answered. It’s a good start to a series because we’re not given the complete answers in this first book. It pushes readers to check out the next book in the series.

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[Haven: War of Princes 1] A.R. Ivanovich

 

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Katelyn Kestrel has always had a knack for finding missing things. All she needs to do is think about what she wants to find, and her gut tells her where to go.When she decides that she wants to check out the forbidden outside world, it’s not difficult to find. A quick look and then she’ll return to the idyllic Haven with a tale of a secret adventure. Unfortunately, Katelyn quickly finds out that there was a reason that access out of Haven was blocked hundreds of years ago. Suddenly thrust into a violent world with warring princes, people with abilities, and the frightening possibility that she’ll never be able to return to Haven, Katelyn has to figure out a way to escape without bringing this violence down on the  home she left behind.

Haven was a quick read with likable enough characters.  But, as a whole, I feel that the story could have used a little more character building because I felt that a lot of their actions were sudden and not thoroughly explained. There wasn’t really any buildup to events; they just occurred in a fly by the seat of your pants way. Which made it very easy to flip through chapters, but not very easy to connect to characters. I understood why they were in danger, but I didn’t feel the danger. Katelyn was a typical teenager who–surprise!–is slightly different than her friends. She’s not incredibly popular, does things that alienates her from her peers, and longs for adventure. It becomes a little bit of a story of how special she is, which may have been meant as an ah ha! moment but had been obvious from the start.

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[The Diviners] Libba Bray

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I love the cover of my edition.

I read this the year it came out and loved it. 1920s and supernatural, what’s not to love? It’s odd that just the other day I was thinking about this book, wondering if the sequel was out or if I should just reread the Gemma Doyle trilogy. I checked NetGalley to see if there was anything that sounded interesting, but any other book flew out of my head when I saw that the sequel was being offered as an advanced reading copy! I knew it had to be my next read. So instead of continuing the next mammoth of a book in George R.R. Martin’s series, I’m rereading The Diviners so I can start the second with the story fresh in my mind.

Evie is a girl who believes that she is better than her Ohio hometown. After a particularly bad mistake that labels her again as “that awful O’Neill girl,” Evie is carted off to New York to live with her Uncle who runs the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult.  She’s a dreamer, and believes that New York will give her everything she needs in order to make her dreams come true. She can be anyone, and she wants to be noticed.  She’s always felt too large for her small hometown; hopefully New York will be a better fit. It’s too bad that her scholarly uncle doesn’t exactly approve of her late night romps about the town.

Evie talks with the vibrancy of a young woman growing up in the 1920s. There’s a lot of flapper slang in the book and it makes Evie’s voice very distinct. Although she can be annoyingly bubbly at first, she has to mature fast when her uncle is brought on as a consultant for a crime because of his knowledge of the occult. I really appreciate the effort Libba Bray went in creating the 1920s world of flappers, Prohibition, and the occult in The Diviners. The 1920s are a particular era that I really love, and adding the element of the supernatural was a perfect way to get me to pick up this book. With a cast of characters that include a numbers runner from Harlem, a thief who is itching for justice, a chorus girl who is running from her past, as well as a mysterious former ward of Evie’s uncle, The Diviners refused to let me put it down, even the second time around. These characters stand out from the page. You learn who they are through their actions and what they do or do not share with the other characters, not in a word dump the first time you meet them. They change, but they still have their main desire that drives them. Often at the center of that desire is their gift.

The setting of 1920s New York was well researched and vivid on the page. It acts as a beautiful, glittery contrast to the starkness of the mystery presented in The Diviners‘ pages; bloody and disturbing, even those hardened by age have a hard time stomaching it. Although it may be the time of Prohibition, it is also the time of the Beast. The mystery of what that means for Evie and the city’s inhabitants slowly builds, hints dropping in nearly every chapter as the terror grows. Libba Bray knows how to build a mystery that forces me to stay up until the early hours of the morning in order to see the end. It doesn’t hit you over the head like a bag of bricks, like other young adult mystery novels do. It keeps you guessing, instead of allowing you to see its secrets coming from a mile away.  It helps too, that The Diviners has several smaller mysteries interspersed between the points of the main one.

It seems like every character has their own mystery that it teased in The Diviners. While some of them are solved by the end of the book, others are not. It allows for some great character building. I hope that more answers will be given in the next book. The Diviners may focus on Evie most of the time, but the other characters are also interesting and real. I wanted to spend time with them all. There is romance between them, but it is gradual and not the focus on the story. The Diviners isn’t a secret romance story wrapped in the guise of a mystery. I’m very glad I have the next one in the series in my hands.

5 stars.