Review: Salt & Stone by Victoria Scott

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Salt & Stone by Victoria ScottSalt & Stone by Victoria Scott
Series: Fire & Flood #2
Published by Scholastic Press on February 24, 2015
Pages: 320
Source: the publisher
Buy on Amazon

What would you do to save someone you love?

In Fire & Flood, Tella Holloway faced a dangerous trek through the jungle and across the desert, all to remain a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed for a chance at obtaining the Cure for her brother. She can't quit--she has to win the race, save Cody, and then fight to make sure the race stops before it can claim any more lives. In the next legs of the race, across the ocean and over mountains, Tella will face frostbite, sharks, avalanche, and twisted new rules in the race.

But what if the danger is deeper than that? How do you know who to trust when everyone's keeping secrets? What do you do when the person you'd relied on most suddenly isn't there for support? How do you weigh one life against another?

The race is coming to an end, and Tella is running out of time, resources, and strength. At the start of the race there were one hundred twenty-two Contenders. As Tella and her remaining friends start the final part of the race, just forty-one are left--and only one can win.

I went into Salt & Stone feeling excited and anxious. I absolutely LOVED Fire & Flood (I gave it 4.5 stars!) and I was desperate to see what happened next. Sadly, Salt & Stone disappointed me. I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I had hoped to, the characters got on my nerves, the Pandora scenes were heartbreaking and the writing seemed… off.

Let’s start with the characters. In Fire & Flood, Tella was a strong, fierce warrior. She came a long way from beginning to end. But in Salt & Stone, I felt like Tella regressed. She acted out of impulse and she was constantly making the wrong decisions. Or if the group followed Guy instead of her, she threw mini tantrums, like they were doing it just to spite her and her authority. Tella knew it was smarter to follow Guy’s lead, yet she still tried to force herself into a leadership role and, in some cases, it really landed the group in trouble. By the end of Salt & Stone, Tella seemed more like herself again. She was angry, exhausted and fed up – She was once again ready to fight for her family, friends, and Pandora’s. I’m confident she’ll have a ton of character development in book three, but I was very disappointed with her attitude in this book.

Guy annoyed the crap out of me. I know I just went off on a tirade about how Tella acted stubborn and immature, but Guy also wasn’t without fault. Yes, he knew what he was doing and Tella should have listened to him more. However, he really treated her like an ignorant child who knew nothing. I think the way he treated her fueled her actions and contributed to her acting out the way she did. If he had treated her more like an equal, or maybe opened up to her and explained himself better, I think things would have gone smoothly – Or, at least a little bit more so than they did.

And that brings me to their ship. In Fire & Flood, I shipped the crap out of Tella and Guy. They had a slow build-up, they questioned if the relationship was real or just a result of the circumstances they were in and they were slow to trust each other. In Salt & Stone, when Guy would chastise Tella or talk down to her, I pictured Guy as a giant and Tella as a tiny dwarf – Or I would picture them as a father scolding a child. I could not, no matter how hard I tried, picture them as lovers. I DID like the scenes where Tella told Guy to either open up to her or they were going to go back to just being teammates. That’s not something you often see – usually, the girl just swoons over the guy. So I liked that she put her foot down.

Harper was really cold and distant, too. I understood why to a certain extent, but her attitude kind of contradicted her mission in the Brimstone Bleed, so it was a bit frustrating. I wanted to punch Mr. Larson for 98% of the book. Every once in awhile, though, he had his moments. And then the thing that happened with him.. Wow. His good moments didn’t make up for his bad moments (since his bad moments were VERY bad), but it made me feel a little bit sympathetic towards him.

I couldn’t stand Willow. At all. And I never trusted her. But she didn’t deserve that fate.. I felt bad for Olivia throughout most of the book and I appreciated that one scene with her and Harper near the middle/end. I didn’t trust Cotton from the very first time we were introduced to him, but whoa.. I did NOT see that twist coming!

My biggest issue with Salt & Stone was the Pandora abuse. I absolutely adore the Pandora’s more than anything else. They’re the reason I read this series. I know, because of what they are and what they represent, that they can’t just go skipping through the story and never have any conflict.. And I tried to stay open minded about that when something bad happened to them. But.. Some of the scenes.. I really just couldn’t handle them. I tried to let it slide, tried to remember it had to happen.. It couldn’t NOT happen because that would be unrealistic. But.. What happened broke my heart and made me sick to my stomach. Especially after the ending of Fire & Flood.. I just couldn’t. The Pandora abuse almost made me DNF several times. I really don’t know how I was able to get through those scenes and it’s a huge part of the reasoning behind my rating.

My other big issue with this book was the writing. I’ve only read Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott. I haven’t read her Dante Walker books. So maybe this is something she always does and I just didn’t realize. But some of the writing was so cheeseball, I was grimacing and groaning as I read, especially when it came to some of the metaphors and descriptions. I didn’t notice that in Fire & Flood, so it felt like it came out of the blue in Salt & Stone. Victoria is an amazing writer and the cheesyness felt below her.

The ending, despite the Pandora abuse that absolutely broke me, was pretty crazy and epic. It sets up very nicely for the third book, which I do still want to read, though I’m crossing my fingers for less Pandora abuse.. Based on the ending of Salt & Stone, these characters are ready for an epic showdown and I can’t wait to see how this journey ends for them. Despite the issues I had, I still recommend this book for those who enjoyed Fire & Flood, since I seemed to be in the minority with some of those feelings.


Review: The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda SalisburyThe Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury
Series: The Sin Eater’s Daughter #1
Published by Scholastic Press on February 24, 2015
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: the publisher
Buy on Amazon

Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she’s engaged to the prince, Twylla isn’t exactly a member of the court.

She’s the executioner.

As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month she’s taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla’s fatal touch, avoids her company.

But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he’s able to look past Twylla’s executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla’s been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen.

However, a treasonous secret is the least of Twylla’s problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favor of a doomed love?

I went into The Sin Eater’s Daughter expecting to love it and give it all the stars. It had everything I could hope for in a book – The court/castle setting, the mythology, gods and goddesses.. What’s not to like? Unfortunately, I didn’t end up enjoying it as much as I had hoped to. While I loved some aspects of this book, there were certain things that annoyed and confused me.

My biggest issue with this book was that I felt very detached from the story and the characters. And since I’m very character-driven, that always spells trouble for me.

I wanted to love Twylla because of who/what she was supposed to be. But, honestly, nothing about her stood out to me. I neither liked nor disliked her. She had some moments where I really rooted for her and felt like she was finally coming into her own, but then she would do something really stupid or frustrating and I’d be annoyed with her all over again.

I absolutely adored Lief from the very moment we were introduced to him. He was charming and kind, yet bold enough to speak his mind with Twylla. He didn’t fear her and he treated her like a human being instead of a goddess or, worse, a monster. And then that ending… Wow. I really don’t even have words for that ending because I just can’t believe it.. That was – in my opinion – the second biggest plot twist in the book and I didn’t see it coming at all. I still have hope though..

Merek was a frustrating character. I wanted to like him.. And he didn’t really do anything to make him unlikable until the end, and even that has an explanation. Yet.. I don’t know. I just didn’t swoon over him. I definitely shipped him and Twylla more than Twylla and Lief. Yet I didn’t feel as many swoons as I would have hoped to feel.

Obviously I couldn’t stand the queen. She was so incredibly vicious, cruel and power hungry.. Honestly, almost all the women in this book were cruel and conniving. The king didn’t seem like a bad guy, though. I wish we could have gotten to know Tyrek more. And Dorin. I almost cried at that one moment with Dorin..

Detachment from the characters aside, the other issue I had with this book was how confusing it was, especially in the beginning. For the first few chapters, I had NO IDEA what was going on. It was like we were thrust into this world and nothing was explained and nothing made sense and I had no idea what something had to do with anything. I stumbled my way through and, eventually, understood enough to get through the book. But I think I would have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t been so confusing.

Bouncing right off that frustration, the writing was also an issue. At times, it was wonderful; smooth and flowing, dragging me into the story and refusing to let me stop reading. At those times, it definitely felt like one of those books where you keep saying “just one more chapter” and you can’t stop reading until you’re forced to put the book down. At other times, the writing felt choppy and flat and I struggled to get through a single chapter.

For all the reasons stated in the above two paragraphs, I feel this is the kind of book you need to read a second time in order to catch what you didn’t understand the first time. I think if I were to read this a second time, I’d pick up on more things and enjoy it a LOT more.

All that said, I still enjoyed this book. The mythology, though confusing at first, was intriguing and – at times – creepy as all hell! I’m fascinated by the Sin Eating and would love to learn more about that. Though we did receive a lot of detail on the different food, I’d love to learn more about the whole ritual in general. Also, I think it would help if the book had a page with a key, detailing which foods stood for which sins. A lot of that was thrown at us and I couldn’t keep track, so it would be handy if there was a page the reader could just reference as the need arises.

The biggest plot twist in the book only partially shocked me. There were enough hints that I was able to figure it out. Despite that, it – as well as the second major plot twist – really kept me on my toes, trying to figure out what would happen next. And one thing that happened at the end shocked me in a good way and gave me a feeling of justice.

But then the very end.. The epilogue… I know this is supposed to be part of a series (supposedly), so some things are going to be left open and unanswered. But even so, that epilogue was so odd and left me feeling completely unsatisfied. I’ve never been more frustrated with the ending of a book.. That said, I do truly hope we get a second book because I need more! I need to see what happenes next for Twylla, Merek and Lief. I need to know if things get resolved and what that ending means for all of them. I’d even settle for a short novella to wrap things up, if we can’t get a book two for whatever reason.

Overall, despite feeling confused and being unable to connect to the characters, I still did enjoy this book. I think if I read it a second time, I would understand more and enjoy it more. I would definitely read book two if it came out and I would definitely recommend this book because there seems to be a pretty firm divide between those who loved it and those who didn’t love it, so I highly recommend reading it and forming your own opinion – you may end up loving it!


Review: Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Fire & Flood by Victoria ScottFire & Flood by Victoria Scott
Series: Fire & Flood #1
Published by Scholastic Press on February 25, 2014
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: the publisher
Buy on Amazon

A modern day thrill ride, where a teen girl and her animal companion must participate in a breathtaking race to save her brother's life—and her own.

Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can't determine what's wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She's lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she's helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It's an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother's illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there's no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can't trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?

Fire & Flood was mind-blowing and amazing on so many levels. My first thought was that it was like The Hunger Games – but way, way better. From there, the comparisons to The Hunger Games faded away and the book became even better. This was my first Victoria Scott Book (I swear, the Dante Walker books are on my TBR! Soon.. Very, very soon…) and I could tell right from the start that Scott was an amazing writer. I was captivated by her writing, her characters, her world-building, all of it.

First of all, I loved Tella. She was a strong, fierce and determined character. Used to living a mostly pampered life, she really came into her own as the story unfolded. She had a few moments of weakness, but that only made her feel more real and more relatable.

Guy was completely swoon-worthy. I adored him from the beginning, even though he was kind of mean to Tella at first. Guy was strong, a fighter and a protector. There was something about him from the beginning that had me curious and interested. Though Tella meets Guy early on, we aren’t formally introduced to him until further into the story. But I had heard so many things about him, I knew who he was immediately and I was eager for more of him!

I loved that Tella and Guy’s relationship had a slow build-up, that it took time for them to trust each other and like each other. And even then, Tella still questioned it. My favorite part of their relationship was when Tella questioned if they liked each other for the right reasons – was it true attraction or due to circumstance? It’s not something often addressed in Dystopian books and it was great seeing the character question the relationship in such a way. It felt realistic.

There were a lot of secondary characters in this book and sometimes, that can feel overwhelming and confusing. But all of Scott’s characters were so distinct, with strong voices, that they stood out and were incredibly memorable. I loved Harper, though I didn’t completely trust her. I was always waiting for.. something to happen. I’m not sure what. And my hunch was pretty accurate. I was pretty wary of Caroline and Dink, too, and for good reasons! Titus was a complete a-hole and he got what was coming to him!

Now, let’s discuss my favorite part of this book – Pandoras! I LOVED LOVED LOVED the Pandoras!!!!!!!! Seriously, Victoria Scott needs to team with GUND to create a stuffed animal line of Pandoras!! I want a stuffed Madox!!!!!!!!!! I feel like the Pandoras were a huge part of the story, so I can’t say too much or I’ll get spoilery on you guys, but they were amazing and cool and amazing and… Did I say cool yet? I just absolutely adored them!

And that brings me to the reason I rated this 4.5 stars instead of 5 stars… Near the very end of the book, there was a… situation. And it upset me terribly. Like.. I was literally sobbing and hysterical. And it bumped this wonderful book down half a star rating. I can’t say a single thing about what it was, what it concerned or why. It’s too big a spoiler. But it seemed unnecessary and completely ridiculous and out of the blue. My heart broke. So yeah..

Moving on. The ending was insanely amazing. I don’t know if I can wait a whole year for book two! I NEED to see what happens next! Especially with the crazy, insane revelations we learned in the last seven pages or so. Victoria Scott is an amazing writer, amazing story-teller and overall awesome person. Not only am I eager for the next book in the Fire & Flood serious, but this makes me even more eager to read her Dante Walker books. And I would DEFINITELY and HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone and everyone!


Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Defy by Sara B. LarsonDefy by Sara B. Larson
Series: Defy #1
Published by Scholastic Press on January 7, 2014
Pages: 336
Source: the publisher
Buy on Amazon

A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle.

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

Defy had so much potential to be a great high fantasy read, but the romance overtook it and the rest of the plot took a back-seat. Honestly, I was scared to read this book after the negative reviews I had read. I tried to push those reviews to the back of my mind and I tried to go into this book with a clear head. Overall, it wasn’t an awful read. It was still enjoyable, but the negative parts were too negative to be ignored.

One of the biggest positives for this book? Sara B. Larson is a stunning writer. Her prose was beautiful and flowed nicely. She was descriptive and vivid and I could see everything perfectly in my mind.

I’m not sure if it’s possible to like a character’s voice, but not like the character. If it is, then that’s how I felt with Alexa. I didn’t dislike her, necessarily. But I certainly didn’t like her. There was nothing about her that stood out, nothing that made me want to cheer for her, to see her succeed. I very rarely felt bad for her. She was VERY repetitive – There was a certain revelation between her, Damian and Rylan. And once that revelation was known, Alexa constantly brought it up. I know that’s kind of vague, but it’s a big spoiler if I say more. But it was something that she just kept harping on and saying over and over, every time Damian or Rylan did something she didn’t like. There’s also a LOT of useless inner monologue and thought.

I loved Damian. He was an awesome character. I should have hated him, because he was very cocky and slightly full of himself. He even admits at one point that he’s a spoiled brat. But there was something about him that drew me to him, especially when he let his guard down. In those moments, we saw the real Damian.

I hated Rylan. I just did. He was so unnecessary, it was almost laughable. The love triangle was so forced. This book did NOT need a love triangle. Some books work well with love triangles and some books just DON’T need it. Defy did NOT need it. Rylan didn’t even do anything – He was like Damian’s shadow – he did the things Damian did AFTER Damian did them – like running after Alexa after she had stormed away. Damian got there first and it took a good 5-10 minutes before Rylan showed up, like it was an after-thought.

The deaths in this book were pretty devastating. Two of my favorite characters were killed – one very early on. That definitely made me sad. There were some very powerful moments in Defy, though. Some very touching, some very emotional. Those moments definitely made some of the other things a little more.. tolerable. But not completely. The ways in which we were shown the King’s cruelty were.. despicable, overdone and – I’m using this word a lot in this review – unnecessary.

There were a lot of revelations near the end, some of which I had a feeling about and some that took me by surprise. One revelation at the very, very end.. Well, I expected more of a reaction from a few people when something was revealed, and we didn’t get that reaction. So that was unfortunate.

The ending did not need to be left open for a sequel – and there is a sequel, apparently. Everything could have been wrapped up perfectly. This book reads like a stand-alone and would have been perfect as a stand-alone. The only thing left hanging was the love triangle.. Which was unnecessary and annoying.. And that could have been wrapped up in Defy, too. So.. See where I’m going with this?

I know some people loved Defy. So I’m not going to say I wouldn’t recommend it – I’m sure there are some people who will love what I hated. Especially those who love books that focus on the romance. But I won’t be going out of my way to recommend it, either. And I likely won’t bother reading the sequel.


Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Series: The Hunger Games #1
Published by Scholastic Press on September 14, 2008
Pages: 374
Format: Paperback
Buy on Amazon

Winning will make you famous. Losing means certain death.

In a dark vision of the near future, a terrifying reality TV show is taking place. Twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live event called the Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed.

When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her sister's place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

I want to preface this review by saying this was a re-read for me. I first read The Hunger Games trilogy about three years ago. I HATED them when I first read them. If I had to rank them from the first go-around, I’d say that my favorite was Mockingjay, second favorite was The Hunger Games and least favorite was Catching Fire. So I plowed through them, didn’t enjoy them and moved on. I figured I was done with them and would never think about them again.

And then The Hunger Games movie came out and curiosity got the best of me. I watched the movie when it first came to DVD and LOVED it. Then, about two weeks ago, I saw Catching Fire in theaters and SERIOUSLY loved it. It made me want to re-read the trilogy because I thought, maybe now that I’ve seen and loved two of the movies and I can picture the cast when I read, I might enjoy them more – especially since Jennifer Lawrence is epic as Katniss.

Unfortunately, that’s totally not the case.

The writing was completely flat and boring, first of all. And I felt completely detached from the characters, especially Katniss. I know she views the Games as a death sentence, so she’s not going to be all chipper and cheerful and animated – she’s more like a zombie, numbed to what’s going on around her – but still. She was flat, the writing was flat and I couldn’t connect with her. As opposed to Movie Katniss, whom I felt for, cared for and cried for.

There are a bunch of scenes – the reaping when Katniss volunteers, Katniss saying her good-byes to her family and Gale, Rue’s death, the scene with Thresh and Katniss – that made me ugly cry when I watched the movie. But the book… I know I’m going to over-use this word in this review, but it was all flat. And I felt completely detached (another word I’ll likely over-use).

The movie definitely stayed true to the book. But the movie was better – And I’m a complete book nerd who almost always loves the book better, so that’s definitely saying something. Most of the changes from book-to-movie seem to have involved shortening some of the more drawn-out moments – Changes that all seem to make a lot of sense, in my opinion. I think the big thing is this: The actors brought these characters to life and made them amazing. Jennifer Lawrence, Stanley Tucci and Lenny Kravitz are my absolute favorite actors in the movie and they made their characters shine. They did wonderful jobs and they definitely made the movie what it was. Because in the book? I really don’t give a crap about any of the characters. Again.. Flat and detached.

There was one scene in the book, at the end of Rue’s burial, that was left out of the movie. I understand why, but it was an amazing scene – one of the few I truly loved and felt emotion for – and I’m kind of sad it didn’t make it to the big screen.

You guys can get ready to throw the tomatoes now.. Cause the next thing I need to discuss? The love interests. Umm.. I don’t ship Katniss with Gale OR Peeta. I don’t like either guy that much – in the book OR the movie. They’re flat and I see them both as friends, not boyfriends. I do love that Suzanne Collins DIDN’T focus on the love interests and this WASN’T a love triangle. That makes it unique from a lot of popular young adults franchises. But still. I didn’t care about either guy or who Katniss ended up with or what any of it meant. And book Peeta is a complete bore.

On that same train of thought.. The cave scene with Katniss and Peeta totally dragged. I like the way it was shortened in the movie and I like how it was handled in the movie. Honestly, the whole third part of the book (For those who don’t know, the book is divided into three sections) was boring for me. I remember it being boring the first time I read the book, so I was dreading it to begin with. I tried to remain neutral (as I did with the entire re-read), but it sucked just as bad on the second go-around.

Overall, I’m not sorry I re-read it. It was nice reading it on my own terms (the first time I read the books, my brother practically forced them upon my mom and I, right around the holidays. And those of you who know me, know that I hate being forced to read things). It did have a handful of moments that were enjoyable, and maybe two scenes that did make me cry. But I absolutely, 100% prefer the movie to the book.