Review: “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” by Holly Black

Coldest Girl in ColdtownThe Coldest Girl In Coldtown, by Holly Black

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Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

4 stars

Read this book if: you’re looking for adventure, fantastic worldbuilding, and vampire fiction that thinks outside the box.

Do not read this book if: you’re looking for sweet-and-broody vampire romance, or you don’t like blood.  Seriously.  There’s a lot of it.

I read the short story this book started with a while back, and when I found out she was writing a book off the idea, I was very, very excited.  The short story was an interesting take on the vampire myth, free of stereotypes and surprisingly believable.   The novel absolutely lives up to that, and more.  

In this take on the vampire myth, vampirism is well and truly a disease: once infected, people must either drink human blood and turn into vampires or find someone to lock them up for 88 days while they scream and throw up and try to attack anyone who comes close.  If the government finds out you’re infected, you’ll be quarantined in a Coldtown–a walled vampire city–and never, ever allowed to leave, even if you beat the infection.  Due to the existence of the Internet and TV, the public has a somewhat unhealthy fascination with the goings-on in Coldtowns, and lots of people dream of being infected.  In a way, I think what made this book work so well is that it’s not about vampirism so much as it’s about people’s reactions to vampirism.  Some people dream of being turned, romanticizing the idea; some people fight the idea for all they’re worth, even after being infected.  Some people become vampires and stay exactly the same, and some people turn into bloodthirsty maniacs.  Some families lock infected family members in the basement for 88 days and suffer through the screaming, and others turn them in to the police and ship them off to Coldtown.  There’s a broad range of humanity explored through the idea of vampirism here, and I really love how multidimensional the idea gets.

Tana is a very…appropriate main character for her setting.  She’s got some nastiness in her past and some problems in her present, and she ends up going to Coldtown for not-very-good reasons, with minimal preparation and a vampire chained up in the backseat.  Once she gets there, though, she is no helpless vampire-romance heroine.  She is drugged and locked up with two very bad options to choose from, and instead of playing along she makes a third option.  She is threatened and she doesn’t back down; she’s attacked and she defends herself.  Often writers of vampire fiction play up their human characters’ helplessness in the face of such supernatural strength and give the vampires all the agency, but Tana seems to be at her strongest and most formidable when surrounded by people who think she looks yummy.  She gets involved in big, dangerous events and refuses to be sidelined.  She is not taking any of your bloodsucker BS.

I think one of this book’s biggest strengths is its ability to produce character development and worldbuilding without slowing the action down at all.  The author really does her ensemble cast justice here, and it’s delightful.  Even the jerk ex-boyfriend mentioned in the blurb actually gets some interesting character development and does some good things.

Romance didn’t play a very big part, and I was pretty happy with that.  Gavriel, the obligatory mysterious/hot vampire boy, is a good character, there’s no denying that: he’s driven, he’s angry, and he is insane–legitimately crazy–in ways that make a really weird amount of sense.  He fits right in in the opulent, bloody environment of Coldtown: extravagant, devious, gleefully mad, and dangerous in ways even the other vampires can’t guess at.  Which brings me to a plot element I had to think about a LOT before I decided what I thought of it…

–WARNING: Thoughts on relationships ahead.  Spoilery, but only with plot elements that you probably guessed anyway!–

Gavriel is everything I could ask for out of a character, but NOT someone I would want my friend dating.  He and Tana circle each other throughout the book, which, anyone who’s read any YA at ALL knew from the blurb that there would be romantic tension there, right?  I’m super-happy that it’s mostly just romantic tension–these people are REALLY BUSY, they don’t have TIME for smoldery vampire sex.  And Gavriel is not…safe.  He’s unstable, and a self-acknowledged monster.  But he never shows any violence or cruelty or even abuserish tendencies towards Tana (which is better than I can say of 99% of vampire boyfriends out there), and although any relationship between them is going to be inherently abnormal and a bit twisted…I think that’s more because both parties are really abnormal.  They live in a weird, violent world, and they’re both weird, somewhat violent people (okay, Tana’s only violent out of necessity, but she doesn’t seem to have much of a problem with it).  So although it’s certainly not a normal relationship,  it doesn’t seem inherently damaging, just a product of Coldtown and of the two people involved–and I actually am glad that the weirdness of it is acknowledged.  Gavriel gives me the creeps, but he’s supposed to.  At least the narrative acknowledges that he’s not stable, and Tana is aware of it.  And honestly?  I think she can handle him.

–End Predictable Spoilers–

So, basically: this book is dark and bloody and sometimes twisted.  The world is extravagant and insane and manipulative.  People are desperate.  Some of the vampires are still people, and some of them turned into monsters as soon as their bodies gave them permission.  This book has a lot of desperate people (human ones) in it, and also a lot of blood.

If those are not turn-offs for you, I definitely recommend this book.

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ARC Review: “Gold” by Talia Vance

GoldGold (Bandia #2) by Talia Vance

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Descended from an Irish demigod, Brianna has fled to Ireland to escape destruction at the hands of her sworn enemies, the Sons of Killian. Taking refuge at the estate of her former nemesis, Austin Montgomery, Brianna discovers a rift in time that opens to an era before the feud began.

Wrestling with her newfound feelings for the more innocent Austin, Brianna begins to wonder if she can alter the past. But when Brianna and Austin learn that the Sons are raising an army of mythical beasts, the pair will need to use their magical strength in the present to avoid a tragic end.

Four stars

Thanks to Flux and NetGalley for this eARC! This title will be released September 8th.

WARNING: This review WILL contain spoilers for book #1. Please see my review of Silver for more!

If you read my review of book one, then you know that I died in all the right ways during Silver. I had so much fun with the action and the sexiness (both books have a PG-13 rating for sure), and I was completely depressed when it ended. When Gold popped up on NetGalley, I hit the request button so hard I thought my mouse would break. Whatever I expected out of Gold, though, was not what I got–but in a (mostly) good way.

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Review: “Vortex” by S. J. Kincaid

VortexVortex (Insignia #2) by S. J. Kincaid

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The impossible was just the beginning. Now in their second year as superhuman government weapons-in-training at the Pentagonal Spire, Tom Raines and his friends are mid-level cadets in the elite combat corps known as the Intrasolar Forces. But as training intensifies and a moment arrives that could make or break his entire career, Tom’s loyalties are again put to the test.

Encouraged to betray his ideals and friendships for the sake of his country, Tom is convinced there must be another way. And the more aware he becomes of the corruption surrounding him, the more determined he becomes to fight it, even if he sabotages his own future in the process.

Drawn into a power struggle more dramatic than he has ever faced before, Tom stays a hyperintelligent step ahead of everyone, like the exceptional gamer he is—or so he believes. But when he learns that he and his friends have unwittingly made the most grievous error imaginable, Tom must find a way to outwit an enemy so nefarious that victory seems hopeless. Will his idealism and bravado cost him everything—and everyone that matters to him?

Filled with action and intelligence, camaraderie and humor, the second book in S.J. Kincaid’s futuristic World War III Insignia trilogy continues to explore fascinating and timely questions about power, politics, technology, loyalty, and friendship.

4 stars

WARNING: This review WILL contain spoilers for the first book, Insignia. Read my review of that one HERE!

I already knew, when I started reading this book, that there was no chance of me having the ridiculously enthusiastic reaction that I had to the first book. Still, I was excited to open the pages and get into a story I was sure to make me laugh. What I found was a plot in two, strange parts.

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Review: “The Crown of Embers” by Rae Carson

The Crown of EmbersThe Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns #2) by Rae Carson

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In the sequel to the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.

Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone’s power. That is not all she finds. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy.

4 stars

WARNING: This review WILL have spoilers for The Girl of Fire and Thorns! Read my review of the first book HERE.

Oh Rae Carson, Rae Carson, Rae Carson – how dare you pull at my heartstrings like that? Thank God I waited to start this book until I had an ARC of The Bitter Kingdom in hand as well. Also, hip hip hooray for authors who GET characters and write REAL characters and ohmygosh guys I can’t get over these CHARACTERS. Erm, anyways, let’s get reviewing, shall we?

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Review: “Venom” by Fiona Paul

VenomVenom (Secrets of the Eternal Rose #1) by Fiona Paul

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Cassandra Caravello is one of Renaissance Venice’s lucky elite: with elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, her own lady’s maid, and a wealthy fiancé, she has everything a girl could desire. Yet ever since her parents’ death, Cassandra has felt trapped, alone in a city of water, where the dark and labyrinthine canals whisper of escape.

When Cass stumbles upon a murdered woman—practically in her own backyard—she’s drawn into a dangerous world of courtesans, killers, and secret societies. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a mysterious artist with a mischievous grin… and a spectacular skill for trouble. Can Cassandra find the murderer, before he finds her? And will she stay true to her fiancé, or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco?

Beauty, love, romance, and mystery weave together in a stunning novel that’s as seductive and surprising as the city of Venice itself.

4 stars

When I first heard about this book, I knew I had to have it. I’m a huge historical fiction buff, and this was BEGGING to be on my shelf. So I picked it up. I opened the pages. As it turns out, the historical fiction was not the only complex piece of the puzzle – the plot surprised me, the main character made me smile … and I had a weird reaction to the love triangle.

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ARC Review: “Dare You To” by Katie McGarry

Dare to uDare You To (Pushing the Limits #2) by Katie McGarry

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If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk’s home life, they’d send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom’s freedom and her own happiness. That’s how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn’t want her and going to a school that doesn’t understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn’t get her, but does….

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can’t tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn’t be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won’t let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all….

4 stars

Thanks to HarlequinTeen and NetGalley for this eARC! This title is now available.

In the beginning I accepted one thing. I knew that I could in no way love this book as much as I loved Pushing the Limits. But I had faith in Katie McGarry to come through and write something that would rip at my heartstrings. Thank God I had so much faith, or I might not have made it past the first part of the book.

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ARC Review: “Transparent” by Natalie Whipple

TransparentTransparent by Natalie Whipple

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Plenty of teenagers feel invisible. Fiona McClean actually is.

An invisible girl is a priceless weapon. Fiona’s own father has been forcing her to do his dirty work for years—everything from spying on people to stealing cars to breaking into bank vaults.

After sixteen years, Fiona’s had enough. She and her mother flee to a small town, and for the first time in her life, Fiona feels like a normal life is within reach. But Fiona’s father isn’t giving up that easily.

Of course, he should know better than anyone: never underestimate an invisible girl.

4 stars

Thanks to HarperTeen and Edelweiss for this eARC! This title is now available.

This is one of those instances where the blurb did not adequately prepare me for what was about to happen. As it turns out, it’s even better than I could have imagined.

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