Review: The Gauntlet

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Goodreads Synopsis:

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.

I did not reread the previous two books before I started this finale, and it left me feeling very unconnected with the characters, or interested really. I was not in the mood for this type of book when I picked it up, and I know that affected my view of it because I enjoyed the previous two in the series, as well as Shepherd’s other series.

This picks right back up from where the second one left off and I felt a little lost at first, but pretty quickly got back into the swing of events and the new goal. The time spent on the moon with the human colony didn’t make much sense to me until towards the end of the book. I felt like we were wasting time in the beginning and I think there could have been some altering to the timeline to pick up on what our main threat was faster. When the twist is revealed and we find out what the main threat is, it brings in a whole other layer of subterfuge, and I would have loved to see that revelation earlier in this book.

Though I was a bit underwhelmed with the pace of this finale, I was pleased with the amounts of growth all of the characters are going through. Leon is finally seeing himself as a good guy and trying to act like one; Rolf and Nok have let go of their selfish naivety and are taking on leadership roles; and in general they all coming full circle, learning how to use their best skills to represent humanity and achieve the goals needed in their own personal and group challenges.

While I had hoped Cassian would have a larger role in this, when he is back I really enjoyed the interactions between him and all of the group. The end of this was bittersweet, but it really fit with all of the characters and their personalities. I would have loved an epilogue though!

Overall this was a satisfying ending to a good series. I think I will enjoy it better on the second go around.

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Review: The Hunt

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The Maze Runner meets Scott Westerfeld in the second novel in this gripping and romantic YA series about teens abducted from Earth by an otherworldly race—from Megan Shepherd, the acclaimed author of the Madman’s Daughter series.

They’ve left the cage—but they’re not free yet.

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.

While the first book in the series stays close to the questions of insanity we saw in Shepherd’s first series, this book moves beyond that to test the mettle of all the characters we got to know in The Cage. I really enjoyed watching them move beyond the various forms of madness they all experienced in the first book. They each draw a new strength from what happened to them in the habitat and in the aftermath of escaping. This brings us such a broader sequel, no longer is the only focus on their habitat and the 6 of them, but on the overall treatment of humans in this Kindred world, and what they are willing to do about that.

It seemed to me Cora was having a much harder time in this installment than the rest of the characters, but she did have them most emotionally scaring ramifications from the events of the first book. It was interesting watching her try to navigate who to trust in this round, and how willing she would be to forgive, and to work beyond herself and her 5 habitat buddies. For me Lucky really became the hero of this book, he finally took on the role of moral guide that he had failed to do in the first book. However, everyone really stepped up their game. I loved watching Leon become a central pillar to the gang and their success, watching Rolf and Nok mature, and seeing more of Mali under all her mysterious layers.

I loved Cassian from the beginning of this series, he is such an interesting character. Well, he just gets better in this, in my opinion. We see more of him uncloaked and see how similar he really is to the humans he is fighting for. I loved that he and Cora finally united, and am so eager to see where their relationship goes based on how this ended. There are so many new possibilities/challenges introduced in the last couple chapters and I have no idea how the entire cast is going to be able to achieve all their goals.

Can’t wait for the 3rd book!

Revisiting: The Cage

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Re-reading this, and my previous review, I don’t really have much to add. I was still just as enamored of the world as I was the first time I read this through.

I guess the only thing that I really felt myself questioning was that, knowing the twist in the end, I didn’t really see any links that made it make sense. If that sentence even made sense. I guess for the general purpose of the experiment I can understand, but I also feel like it was kind of a split personality for the character it centered on – he was the one he wanted to be when presented to us, and the one he was required to be when hidden from us?  

Anyway, still really enjoyed this re-read. 

Goodreads Summary:

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?

There are a lot of mixed reviews on Goodreads about this book, but personally, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

This is such a different alien story than other that I have read. There is the usual attraction between the alien and human, but it is so different, neither of them turn against their own people or abandon their core beliefs of what humanity is. And the way it ends! Oh my goodness there was a twist I didn’t see coming!

The other characters were all really interesting in their own ways as well. I started out liking Lucky and Rolf and disliked them to certain degrees as we got deeper into the book, then they both redeemed themselves a bit. Then there was Nok, who I didn’t like or trust from the beginning and was proven right about. And then there was Leon, who seemed like he’d be the stereotypical bully but ended up extremely complex and I enjoyed every time we got to hear from him. Mali, I don’t even know how I feel about her but she’s definitely an important one.

I loved how Shepherd mapped out how twisted all the characters were becoming. I didn’t know who was crazy and who was sane at moments. And while Cora was pretty rash sometimes, I sympathized with her the entire time and loved how determined she was to not be a victim. She had let so many things slide in her life and had grown accustomed to doing what others said that I really appreciated that when she decided to be strong she didn’t let it go. And as we learned more about her past it became clear that she had always had that strength and it wasn’t a stretch for her at all.

Cassian is so interesting. His interest in humans and their humanity is really intriguing considering what his people value in society. And when we bring in the evolution of the people in the cages it just gets more complex. I can’t wait to see what happens between he and Cora in the next books, I think it’s going to be a hard road for them, but I have faith because I really like them together.

The “love triangle” in this was also really well done. As well as the general originality of it all, the world building was fantastic and the character development so interesting. Overall, another great book from Shepherd.

Coming This Week: June 13

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It’s another four-day weekend for my husband in celebration of the Army’s Birthday, so we are having a pretty relaxing go of it. Lots of reading, TV watching, and some museum going. Even though most of you don’t have a long weekend, I hope you also got to do a lot of relaxing things like reading and binge watching TV shows too!

This week we’ll be revisiting one of last years debuts in a new series, and continuing with it’s newly released sequel. So keep an eye out for:

I still really enjoyed The Cage in my re-read, and The Hunt did not let down in the series continuation. Shepherd remains to be an impressive author and I can’t wait till the next book in this series comes out.

July 365DaysofYA Link Up

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This will be one of the slower months for me. With the vacation my reading has gotten a bit behind, and I have read a couple historical fictions this month, and those take me a bit longer. However! These four books are all pretty different from each other, so we definitely have some good diversity being represented with the challenge. One review has already been up, the sci-fi of the months picks, then we’ve got a sci-fi/fantasy, a contemporary/adventure/magicy mash up, and finally a contemporary.

So keep an eye out for these four book reviews throughout the month:

As always, it’s not too late to join the reading challenge and enter for the chance for great giveaway’s, just head over to What Sara Read for the link ups.