Linked by Susanne Valenti

27141878 Linked by Susanne Valenti is book two of the Cage of  Lies series. We rejoin Maya, Coal, Hunter, Taylor, Laurie and Alicia (and Kaloo!) where we left off, planning to return to the City and rescue Maya’s and Taylor’s parents.

This book focuses on Maya coming to terms with the new world around her. She is grappling a new family, new responsibilities and new love. Maya stands on the precipice between ‘childhood’ and adulthood and this novel follows that personal growth.

I really enjoyed the exploration of the new supporting characters. Hunter and Alicia are well thought out, well presented and jump off the page. Their personalities are real and their story lines engaging.

Coal is Coal. He is a striking main character and a typical YA love interest. Valenti’s use of restraint with this character especially during his exchanges with Taylor shows her growing skill as a writer of YA fiction.

Taylor is Coal’s solar opposite in this instalment of the series. He is petulant, childish at times, and unable to deal with the adult emotions that are being thrust on him. I found a couple of the exchanges with Taylor frustrating but that is obviously the intention of the story.

The action in this novel propels faster with each chapter to its intense conclusion. It is a gripping finale that will leave any reader wanting to find out what happens.

Valenti’s world building has gone from strength to strength with this novel. I was again impressed with this world that we discover with Maya. I am looking forward to reading the next instalment.

4/5

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Chained (Cage of Lies #1) by Susanne Valenti

I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Chained by Susanne Valenti tells the story of Maya and her best friend Taylor who live in a post-apocalyptic world cut off from the contaminated world around them. The city is highly organised and built off the efforts of the many in the hopes of improving their standings and being rewarded with luxuries afforded to the rich families and politicians.

During a routine field trip into the outer limits, an accident occurs that irrevocably changes Maya and Taylor’s life. They encounter the brutality of the justice system, the violence without and discover that things may not be as they seem.

I enjoyed this story. For a first novel it is written very well. Valenti has obviously taken great care to ensure that the story flows without interruption or gaping holes. The action is cut and dried and keeps pace to its conclusion.

I really liked Maya. She was strong yet vulnerable, sweet but not naïve. I cared about what happened to her and enjoyed watching her evolve. The supporting cast was strong and I’m not ashamed to admit I fell in love with Kaloo. Read the book and you’ll see for yourself.

This is book one in the Cage of Lies series and it sets the story arc for the next offering. I nope tat the writing continues to gather the momentum it began in book one.

I found this novel reminiscent of Divergent and Maze Runner, with a little Wayward Pines to boot. If you enjoy YA dystopian fiction, check this story out.

3.75/5

Dead Ringer by Jessie Rosen

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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From the moment Laura Rivers steps foot into Englewood High, she notices the stares—and they aren’t the typical once-overs every pretty new girl endures. The students seem confused and…spooked. Whispers echoing through the halls confirm that something is seriously off. “That new girl looks just like her,” they say.

It turns out Laura has a doppelgänger, and it isn’t just anyone—it’s Sarah Castro-Tanner, the girl who killed herself by jumping into the Navasink River one year ago.

Laura is determined not to let the gossip ruin her chances of making a fresh start. Thanks to her charming personality and California tan, she catches the eye of Englewood’s undisputed golden boy, Charlie Sanders, and it’s only a matter of time before they make their relationship official.

But something is making Charlie and his friends paranoid—and Laura soon discovers it has to do with Sarah Castro-Tanner.

What really happened to Sarah? Why is Charlie unraveling? And how does Laura Rivers fit into it all?

After all, she’s the dead ringer for a dead girl.

Dead Ringer by Jessie Rosen is an exciting and suspenseful read. A YA cosy mystery, we follow the story from multiple points of view. There is no confusing jump around and each past tense story shines a light on the death of Sarah Castro-Tanner.

An intriguing and refreshing story, I felt engaged with these characters. It was suspenseful and the author kept us along for the slow reveals throughout the novel. I loved that there were no outright good or bad characters. Each person is well rounded and flawed. They are human and relatable.

The story is interesting and deals with the subject matter in a different way. It does not preach and it does not attempt to be a guide in how to think or act. The story is presented and it is up to the reader to decide how they feel about what has occurred and if it changes their perspective or actions.

4/5

Last Light Falling: The Covenant by J E Plemons

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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If your fate has already been chosen for you, would you change it? Fifteen-year-old Arena Power blindly accepts her destiny in a world filled with tragedy, chaos, and a lingering wickedness that will tempt every man’s soul until the last days on Earth. Set in the United States in the year 2053, America, like most of the world, has undergone catastrophic earthquakes, famine, and an economic collapse, which has rendered the nation hopeless. It has turned to other nations, like Russia and China, to help restore what was once a world power. Unfortunately, the new America has grossly caused civil unrest that will eventually be the precursor to a much bigger war of biblical proportions.

Last Light Falling was a book I was intrigued with from the cover and the blurb. I have been reading and enjoying a lot of dystopian novels of late, so I was keen to get my hands on a copy.

Reading this, for me, was hard work.

I found the narrative to be more telling rather than showing. Our main character is 15 years old and I just didn’t believe half of the things she said, or said she felt. Supporting characters were, at times, cardboard cut outs of cliched characters.

World-building had promise but I was always left asking more questions. Parts of the dialogue didn’t sound like the characters compared to other sections of the book. Additionally, phrasing and word usage sometimes didn’t match the characters.

Going in, I really wanted to like this book. But I found it derivative and unpolished. I won’t be reading any more of the series.

2/5

A Killing Among Friends by Toni Morrow Wyatt

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Sennie Lacefield has always felt safe at her family’s peaceful mountain lodge . . .

The only break in her tranquil life was the death of her boyfriend Patrick Devon, which left her heartbroken and unable to understand Patrick’s sullen, withdrawn brother Lonnie. But when her best friend Reatha Alcoker disappears, her sense of security is shattered. With the help of Reatha’s boyfriend Milo Durham, she launches a search for her friend.

More girls disappear, and bodies begin turning up . . .

A rural cozy mystery, A Killing Among Friends, is set in a small community impacted by secrets and lies. Our main character, Sennie, is starting her junior year of high school and a burgeoning adult world threatens to rob her of her innocence.

Sennie is a proactive heroine, eager to solve the mystery and find her best friend. I liked her but wish her character had been expanded slightly. She seems to be an analytical thinker but where does she know how to conduct an amateur investigation? If she’s a sleuth is it because she’s obsessed with Nancy Drew books? I wanted a little more to explain how she could jump straight in to her investigation.

Supporting characters were interesting and it was nice to see a functional normal family engaged with and supportive of the main character. I enjoyed the older residents, a pastoral relief when dealing with a dark subject.

Morrow Wyatt has created a genuine setting and likable characters. As you read through the book you can see her love of this place and the people she has created to inhabit it. Some of the dialogue doesn’t seem to match up the characters but that may just be my interpretation.

3/5

The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Set in New Orleans after ‘the Storm’ has ravaged the iconic city, The Casquette Girls tells the story of Adele Le Moyne just returned from Paris to her home town and a family secret that threatens to consume the whole town.

Alyse Arden has created two starkly different but emotive worlds. We are introduced to the desolate wasteland of New Orleans after ‘the Storm’ has wiped out most of the City reverting it to a time before the abundance of the modern world. Our second world is the dawning of New Orleans as we know it today and the dangerous journey faced by those coming from the European continent to start a new life.

I find these two worlds perfect together. Adele is having to start her life over again and it is nothing like the world that was taken from her before the storm. It is a dangerous world of dark deeds and magic. This is perfectly juxtaposed with Adeline’s story, coming from the extravagance of Paris for the savage new world.

I loved the characters in this book. They were beautifully characterised and jumped off the page. I believed Adele as a real person and cared for her from the moment we were introduced. She is real and believable and Arden has done a great job of remaining true to her character throughout the book.

I couldn’t put this book down (^can you tell?!). I read it with my eyes struggling to stay open late into the night. It was different, it was interesting and I am VERY looking forward to the next installment.

4.5/5

Insurgent (Divergent #2) by Veronica Roth

Book two in he Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth, Insurgent picks up where Divergent left off. Our main characters continue on their quest to uncover the truth about their world and who they are.

This book, for me, is a bridging novel. That’s not to say I didn’t like the book, I did. It jumps straight into the action and propels towards another cliffhanger that will lead us into the final instalment.

I felt that certain scenes in the Tris and Four story arc were a bit repetitive. In fact, on occasion I wanted to skim over the scene and return to the action. Upon reflection, this is actually well done. Tris is a teenager. Teenagers are immersed in their emotional growth which usually expresses itself by equal extremes of confusion and passion. After the fact, it’s not nearly as tiresome as I thought it was at the time of reading.

There was so much to remember in Insurgent. So many characters were introduced. The customs of each faction were explored, opening up new worlds to us as readers. This was welcome. It was also an exercise in trying to remember it all! There is no question that Roth spent a great deal of time building this world. It pays off. The reader is never left wondering what something looks like, where it is, or why it is.

I have the final instalment to read next. I’m taking a quick break from YA to read an auto-biography (which I will also review here). As soon as I’m done with it (50 pages to go!) I will be jumping right into Allegiant. I’m looking forward to it.

My confession – I went on YouTube and marathoned BookTube videos. I then bought books via my favourite online store, Booktopia. Many reviews to come 🙂

3.5/5

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