[Review] Gilded Cage by Vic James

Gilded Cage by Vic James30258320
(Dark Gifts #1)
Published: February 14th, 2017 by Del Rey Books
GenresFantasy, dystopian, young adult, alternate universe
Trigger Warnings: violence, death, gore, slavery, gun violence, torture
Pages: 368 pgs.

Goodreads

***I received a copy of this book free from the publisher & Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.***

 


Synopsis:

Not all are free. Not all are equal. Not all will be saved.

Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?


Review:

In a world where only few are truly Equal, what does it take to level the playing field? Though this question is the same one we’re asking ourselves in light of recent political developments, it’s one that becomes the main point of conflict in Vic James’ Gilded Cage. While, at first, I wasn’t completely feeling this book, I soon learned to eat my words as the story progressed on. It’s not without criticism, but Gilded Cage completely exceeded my expectations.

Set in an alternate timeline of our world, a race of powerful humans — calling themselves Equals — have gradually taken over major governments across the planet. Due to their magical abilities, the Equals have assumed dominion over everyone who does not share the same gifts. As a result, every normal person is required to spend ten years of their lives serving in slavery to the Equals. However, unrest is growing in the UK in one of the many slavetowns around the country. Will there be an end to the deliberate inEquality, or will the peoples’ sacrifices be for naught?

The major gripe I had about Gilded Cage was, truly, how long it took for the history of this world to unfold. While I can definitely understand the logic of James wanting to leave somewhat of an air of mystery surrounding this alternate timeline, but I felt that it got to the point where it truly was excessive. I shouldn’t have to wait nearly half the book in order to get an answer on how Equals came into power across the globe; it should have been a point introduced early on with the concept of Slavedays. There are still some other, more minor details, character decisions, and disappearances that have me scratching my head, but I’m assuming these might be addressed in the next book — and I don’t want to reveal any spoilers.

What I will say, however, is that James can write some nuanced, interesting characters. It’s a struggle enough to make sure that one’s singular main character is fully-fleshed out like Luke and Silyen are, but James has chosen to tackle a rotating point of view: a different narrator for every chapter. While this trope is becoming increasingly popular in modern fiction (hey, George RR Martin), it takes a skilled writer to not only undertake this approach to POV, but also completely nail it. At no point did I feel like narrators were blending together, like they weren’t coming equipped with their own unique takes on situations that at least three or four other characters were also facing. I commend her on pulling this off as well as she did.

Of course, being able to tackle that many characters at once also lends itself to being able to write a plot fascinating and engrossing enough for readers to remain interested, despite the swapping of narration. While this may not have been James’ intent — or even on her political radar — when she first wrote Gilded Cage, seeing the parallels between the growing revolution amongst the oppressed as they take on the aristocratic, power-hungry Equals and the individuals currently sitting in positions of power in both the US and the UK truly is an interesting thing to behold. Gilded Cage is packed with tons of fast-paced action, which is great for fans of the dystopian genre. However, there’s still enough of the thrilling, dramatic politics that will make fans of cozy mysteries and the like want to pick this up.

Is Gilded Cage a perfect book? No, but what book is nowadays? (Not even Harry Potter, and y’all know how I feel about HP.) However, all I’m looking for when reading is having an entertaining, gripping story that doesn’t make me hate every single character I come across, which is exactly what Gilded Cage did for me. There are some hiccups along the way, and I really wish exposition didn’t take up a huge chunk of the book, but I’m okay with that. By the end of it all, I left the book feeling satisfied — and that’s more than I can say for most books these days.


Amazing Pug Scale:

f897e2e871ed90d572f23b0539397432f897e2e871ed90d572f23b0539397432f897e2e871ed90d572f23b0539397432f897e2e871ed90d572f23b0539397432

Teaser Tuesday: Defy the Stars

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by The Purple Booker!

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This Week:

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

“Shocked back into alertness, Noemi clutches the armrests as if she can keep herself from falling into the Gate. And it feels like falling, now — the Gate shimmers brighter as they near the event horizon, growing more and more silvery until it looks like a pool they’re diving into.”


Does the teaser pull you in? What’s your book teaser for the week? Let’s chat in the comments below!

[Mini Review] Crystal Cadets by Anne Toole, Katie O’Neill, & Paulina Ganucheau

26486384Crystal Cadets by Anne Toole, Katie O’Neill, & Paulina Ganucheau

Published: January 12th, 2016 by IDW Publishing
Genres: Graphic novels, fantasy, young adult, magical girls
Trigger Warnings: light violence
Pages: 128 pgs.

Goodreads

***I received a copy of this book free from the publisher & NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***

 


Synopsis:

“Tantalizing” and “lively” – Booklist
Cadets Go! Join this team of darkness-fighting, world-saving, power-packed teen girls from all over the world on their first adventure!

Zoe has always felt out of place; her foster parents are great and all, but she’s long felt like something was missing. That is, of course, until she discovers a mysterious gym left to her by her birth mother and her whole universe gets flipped around! When the crystal grants Zoe mysterious powers of light, she becomes the Diamond Cadet, and she’s not the only one; suddenly she’s meeting new friends who shoot flames and glowing green arrows. It’s all fun at first, but when The Darkness possesses Zoe’s foster parents her only choice is to join this wild group of action-hero girls, traveling the globe to defeat The Darkness and find a cure!


Review:

Upon first glance, one would think that Crystal Cadets would have all of the makings of being yet another Sailor Moon rip-off. You’ve got a squadron of girls uniting to fight the forces of evil, all in cutesy school-girl outfits. There’s a faceless, yet ominous Darkness that threatens to take over the world. All we need is a little bit of Moon Tiara Magic to get this crossed over into Sailor Moon territory, right?

Wrong. Crystal Cadets’ strengths lie in many other ways that set it apart from that quintessential magical girl story. O’Neill and Ganucheau’s art is absolutely beautiful, which drew me in from the start. While on first glance, the whole aesthetic feels like a watered-down version of Ganucheau’s other magical girl-themed comic, Zodiac Starforce (also great and highly recommended), however, it’s perfect for the younger, middle-grade audience for which it’s reaching. Furthermore, the story isn’t filled with the most substance and is fairly predictable, yes, but younger readers always could use more feel-good stories promoting positive friendships between girls. And, hey, the Crystal Cadets squad is far, far more diverse and inclusive than the Scouts who started it all.

If you’re looking for a graphic novel series that will challenge your pre-conceived notions of society, then Crystal Cadets probably is not for you. But if you’re wanting a cute story that empowers girls of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds, then definitely give this book a try — or at least pass it to your little sister.


Amazing Pug Scale:

f897e2e871ed90d572f23b0539397432f897e2e871ed90d572f23b0539397432f897e2e871ed90d572f23b0539397432f897e2e871ed90d572f23b0539397432

Whatcha Readin’ Wednesday: February 22nd, 2017

It’s that time of the week again where we ask the lovely blog owner: WHATCHA READIN’? In this weekly segment, I give a brief glimpse into the books that are currently occupying my spare time, as well as a little recap of the past seven days, overall.

So, Amber, whatcha readin’?

Howdy from Washington, DC again! Last week was one hell of a doozy with the traveling here, there, and everywhere, but a metric ton of things were completed both in my business and blogging lives. However, I’m proud that I was able to accomplish a few major tasks here that I was hoping to get done while on my trip, including the review of Mind of the Phoenix. After this week, I’ve only got one more Galley to read and review, then another to review (hopefully to go live this week)! When Operation: Clear the Galley is completed, then Operation: Eyes on iBooks will commence! #letsdothis
26486384A YEAR AND A HALF LATER, everything’s all said and done with Crystal Cadets! This was my second read-through of the graphic novel and it was just as enjoyable as the first go-round! As corny as this sounds, I picked this back up because I desperately needed to get caught up again on my reading pace, as I was two books behind where I needed to be as of last week; this was such an easy read to breeze through while waiting for all of the passengers to board my plane from Dallas to Chicago last Saturday. As I mention in my review (which will be posted tomorrow), it’s a perfect iteration of the magical girl genre for the type of feminist, diverse generation that follows us. Read it for you, pass it to your sisters, pass it to your brothers — but just spread the message.

30258320Man, talk about your sleeper hit with this book. As of last week, it was pretty clear that I just was not feeling anything about Gilded Cage whatsoever. It took me two weeks just to get through the first thirty percent of the story, but once I started getting into it more throughout my travels, everything fell more into place. By the end of it all, I was engrossed in the uprising building in Great Britain against the Equals and the institution of the Slavedays. I don’t want to get too much into my thoughts and feelings on this book, since I have a review going up on Friday, but just definitely do know: it was a pleasant surprise. I just wish that it didn’t take peeling away layers for all of the plot’s action to get truly rolling.


So, whatcha readin’ this week? Any interesting updates or books you want to start soon? Let’s chat in the comments below!

Teaser Tuesday: Gilded Cage

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by The Purple Booker!

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This Week:

Gilded Cage by Vic James

“‘Well, a dangerous beast has its claws pulled. So what to do with a dangerous Equal, hmm?'”


Does the teaser pull you in? What’s your book teaser for the week? Let’s chat in the comments below!

[Review] Mind of the Phoenix by Jamie McLachlan

25257653Mind of the Phoenix by Jamie McLachlan
(The Memory Collector #1)
Published: September 28th, 2015 by Penner Publishing
Genres: Adult, fantasy , romance, mystery
Trigger Warnings: Murder, gore, rape, violence, sexual content, physical abuse, torture
Pages: 350 pgs.

Goodreads

***I received a copy of this book free from the publisher & Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.***

 

 


Synopsis:

Moira is a powerful empath, a psychic graced with the ability to read emotions and memories. Her skill is as much a curse as a gift, for in the harshly stratified city of Braxton empaths are slaves. Clever and beautiful, Moira has learned to rely on no one but herself. Determined to escape life as a concubine, she kills her master, and is imprisoned for the crime.

This could be the end for Moira, but the government has need of her skills. A mysterious serial killer known as the Phoenix has been planting suggestions in his victims’ minds that drive them to murder and suicide. To gain her freedom, Moira partners with Keenan Edwards, a handsome young detective, to stop the killer.

Hunting the Phoenix will bring Moira on a more dangerous road than she imagined, forcing her to confront dark minds, twisted moralities, and her growing feelings for the detective.


Review:

Sometimes, an average gift is just an average gift, no matter how much you try to dress up the package with frilly bows and wrapping paper. The same can be said for most paranormal romances these days, as well. Jamie McLachlan’s Mind of the Phoenix ended up giving me the same feeling of being let down once I got past the decorative outside. Beyond the corsets, the balls, and the allure of empaths, this wannabe steampunk adventure ended up being a few cogs short of a steam-powered engine.

Mind of the Phoenix follows Moira del Mar, a courtesan-turned-criminal with the power of emotional and mental manipulation. Recently jailed after killing her most recent master, Moira feels like she’s finally ready to give into her impending execution. However, there’s been a string of recent deaths of the Elite – a group of wealthy individuals who run the various empath service houses – and she might just be the only person with the abilities to find out who the killer is. After enlistment by the troubled, yet striking Detective Keenan Edwards, will Moira finally see freedom, or is she bound to be yet another wayward empath to swing from the gallows?

I wish I could say that this book lived up to the potential that the plot presents, but it, ultimately, end up leaving me wanting more. What is initially presented as the main plot gradually moves more and more to the backseat as time goes on through the book. The original idea was good and intriguing enough; it didn’t need to veer off into a million other directions in order to remain interesting. I realize that I need to tread lightly here to avoid spoilers, but there are other characters, other plotlines that come into play, yet never see any true resolution.  More often than not, things are left to the wayside to float around, which makes for a very frustrating and confusing reading experience. Maybe some of these loose ends are tied up in the next book, but you’d think minor plots are resolved by the end of the first.

Where I will give her credit, though is in where her characters’ internal monologues could cross over into the realm of navel-gazing, McLachlan also was able to rein in these elements when they started to veer off the rails. A lot of newer authors aren’t able to quite master that part of controlling their characters, so I’m glad that she was able to realize when Moira was starting to get a little bit ranty.

Another big gripe I had about Mind of the Phoenix was that Moira herself was a major Mary Sue, probably one of the most egregious examples that I’ve read in quite a few years. As a main character, she hit almost every one of the major points of the Mary Sue Litmus Test: she’s alarmingly beautiful, she’s strongly desired for her looks and her abilities as an empath, every male character that crosses her path is enthralled by her mere existence, she’s got heterochromia, and, of course, she’s got powers that blow the next most-skilled person completely into the stratosphere. If I were to list every single point of Moira’s existence as a Mary Sue, this review would be annoyingly long, and I don’t necessarily want to do that to you lovely readers. While I appreciate that the author is doing what she can to make her main heroine appear like an interesting person, there definitely comes a point in which the character is a bit too perfect. The Litmus Test has been around nearly since time immemorial and should be a crucial element in someone’s character drafting at this point. This is disappointing.

However, I can’t fully say that McLachlan’s writing is terrible. Despite what I’ve pointed out above, it was actually very easy to imagine the world of Brixton and its intricacies. While the world-building started out a little slow, it gradually came together nicely and seemed like an interestingly gritty type of place to be. She can craft a setting exceptionally well, to the point where I could picture myself in the room, boudoir, jail cell — wherever — with the rest of the characters. I could see with ease into the recesses of the minds Moira explored. I just wish the same attention to detail that she gave her settings was applied to controlling some other, more glaring problems with the book.

Overall, I don’t completely abhor Mind of the Phoenix. There are definitely individual elements within the author’s writing that demonstrate her promise as a writer. She describes the story’s settings with nearly picturesque detail and makes it a very intriguing place to visualize. However, problems within keeping the plot and characters on track with their intended goals make it difficult for me to really feel at ease with the story. But I’m not quite giving up just yet.


Amazing Pug Scale:

f897e2e871ed90d572f23b0539397432f897e2e871ed90d572f23b0539397432

Whatcha Readin’ Wednesday: February 15th, 2017

It’s that time of the week again where we ask the lovely blog owner: WHATCHA READIN’? In this weekly segment, I give a brief glimpse into the books that are currently occupying my spare time, as well as a little recap of the past seven days, overall.

So, Amber, whatcha readin’?

Howdy from Dallas, y’all! I’ve been here since Sunday afternoon for a work trip and it’s been an absolute dream so far. I achieved a good chunk of reading and writing over the weekend while traveling, but now that I’m in Dallas for the rest of the week, the reading has slowed. However, there’s going to be more downtime tonight and over the course of the next few nights after filming wraps each day, so I anticipate that there’s going to be even more progress! I’m hoping to finish two more books before I touch back down in DC on Saturday night.

30337432Now that I’ve finished Pro, this book has become my main project. If I finish Gilded Cage this week like I intend to, it’ll be the fastest I’ve turned in a review to NetGalley since I first started collecting galleys! Since I started reading the book, I’ve learned that my first impressions weren’t exactly hitting the mark. This is actually an alternate reality, so it’s interesting to see the characters talk about slightly-altered historical events. Each chapter comes from the point of view of an entirely different character: while this is an interesting, Game of Thrones-esque technique, I’m curious to see exactly how she’s going to roll it out as the book moves on. Will characters repeat or will we continue getting the different perspectives? And why is there a naked dude on a leash? How did we get to that point? I need to learn more about the history behind this society, honestly.


So, whatcha readin’ this week? Any interesting updates or books you want to start soon? Let’s chat in the comments below!

Teaser Tuesday: Gilded Cage

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by The Purple Booker!

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This Week:

Gilded Cage by Vic James

“But nothing erupted from the forest floor. No slavering fangs snapped at them; no claws knifed through the air toward them. Nothing.”


Does the teaser pull you in? What’s your book teaser for the week? Let’s chat in the comments below!

Whatcha Readin’ Wednesday: February 8th, 2017

It’s that time of the week again where we ask the lovely blog owner: WHATCHA READIN’? In this weekly segment, I give a brief glimpse into the books that are currently occupying my spare time, as well as a little recap of the past seven days, overall.

So, Amber, whatcha readin’?

Reading has, unfortunately, been at a minimum the past few days because I’m so caught up in getting everything ready for my trip to Dallas next week! While I’ll be hella busy during the day all next week, I’m still going to have so much time during my flights and after work to sit back and relax with my digital TBR. Since I finished Mind of the Phoenix, though,  last week, I ended up starting my final Netgalley ARC and then received my own copy of ProReclaiming Abortion Rights in the mail. Oh, and I’ve been stepping up my Instagram game the past few weeks, so go check me out at @onlytruemagic!

20518909The original copy of Pro that I was reading from a few weeks ago was actually borrowed from the library and I stupidly put off reading it for months (literally, 2 months) before starting, not realizing that people might actually put a hold on it. Once I had to turn it in, I recognized that, yeah, this is something that I need in my personal library. In the chapter I just finished today, Pollitt expertly approaches different arguments against legal abortion and breaks them down individually to get to the root of each argument. (Hint: it essentially boils down to thoroughly-entrenched misogyny.) Thus far, her writing and exploration into what it really takes to start turning the tide in the battle of keeping abortion legal in the US is approachable, understandable without being condescending, which is always welcomed in what can be an isolating space.

30258320You know when you’re already overwhelmed with galleys from NetGalley and then you decide on a whim to get a book? Yeah, this book is the result of one of those whims. (But at least I’m finally catching up!) While I’m not too far into this book, I can admit that I’m excited about the premise. In a not-so-distant future, England has fallen under the rule of aristocrats gifted with extraordinary powers. The ordinary folks, however, are required to submit 10 years of their lives to slavery to the aristocrats before they are considered fully Equal. I’m a little lost so far within the plot and how it’s unfolding, but then again, I’ve only finished through the prologue and the first chapter. I’m sure as time goes on within the story, things will clear themselves up. We’ll see how it goes!

532939In a bit of a panic, I realized I was a few books behind on staying on track with my reading goal for 2017 — and so I pulled I Can’t Tell You from my shelves. This book is one that I’ve had in my personal library for about 10 years at this point, so it’s basically a relic of a different time in my reading career. After a blow out with his former best friend, college freshman Jacob Jacobsen (yup, his actual name) decides to undergo a vow of silence in order to avoid any further verbal ruin. This book follows a different storytelling structure than most: the entirety of the plot is told through notes passed between Jacob and his friends as he works through his feelings about friends, family, and what it truly means to embrace the silence.


So, whatcha readin’ this week? Any interesting updates or books you want to start soon? Let’s chat in the comments below!

Teaser Tuesday: Pro – Reclaiming Abortion Rights

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by The Purple Booker!

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This Week:

Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt

“In Virginia, an investigation by NARAL Pro-Choice America found that the state’s Department of Health refers low-income women to a list of CPCs where they can have a free ultrasound before having an abortion. It does not matter that CPCs have been repeatedly exposed as presenting themselves as abortion clinics to lure in the unsuspecting, that they proselytize Christianity, or that the tell women lies: that abortion will harm them in all sorts of ways, that birth control pills are ‘abortifacients’ and condoms don’t prevent sexual diseases.”


Does the teaser pull you in? What’s your book teaser for the week? Let’s chat in the comments below!