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A Review of Arena, by Holly Jennings

Arena

Goodreads Rating: 3.76 Stars
336 Pages
Ace Publishing
Get a copy here!

A fast-paced and gripping near-future science fiction debut about the gritty world of competitive gaming…

Every week, Kali Ling fights to the death on national TV.
She’s died hundreds of times. And it never gets easier…

The RAGE tournaments—the Virtual Gaming League’s elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a no-holds-barred fight to the digital death. Every bloody kill is broadcast to millions. Every player is a modern gladiator—leading a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses.

And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.

Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world—until one of her teammates overdoses. Now, she must confront the truth about the tournament. Because it is much more than a game—and even in the real world, not everything is as it seems.

The VGL hides dark secrets. And the only way to change the rules is to fight from the inside…

– – – – –

4.5Penguins
Quick Reasons: THIS is the type of awesome virtual-gaming read I’ve been looking for!; epic, butt-kicking characters; lots of real-life drama, struggles, and honesty; this read touches on a very important, heavy subject throughout; action-packed, fast-paced from start to finish; lots of great imagery and world-building; just a bit of steamy romance and adorableness thrown in for good measure

Huge thanks go out to Holly Jennings, Berkley Publishing Group, and Netgalley for a free copy of this eARC in exchange for an honest review! This in no way changed my read or opinions of this book.

Crouched high on the tower’s parapet, I overlooked a sea of wheat fields. The scent of lavender and taste of wheatgrass wove together in the air, drifting with the breeze as it swept through my hair. I took a deep breath and smiled at the irony, as thick as the mountain air filling my lungs. Lavender. Wheat fields. Tranquility.

Peace, in a place anything but peaceful.

This was not the read I was anticipating going in. In fact, my expectations were not as high as they probably should have been. I have read a couple of novels with virtual reality recently, and been generally underwhelmed or disappointed by them. THIS book, though? I should have been much more excited about it.

It starts off in the thick of battle, the last before the tournament comes to a head in the virtual gaming world. Right away, Kali struck me as a complex, but selfish, character; throughout the entire beginning of this read, she was so focused on herself, she wasn’t really seeing—or connecting with—the rest of her team. I’ll be honest: I didn’t like her much at first. She was snarky, and confident…but it was the sort of negative attitude I’ve always despised in a character. She wasn’t snarky out of play, but out of meanness. She wasn’t confident in a positive way, but one that came off sort of spoiled and arrogant. She did NOT rub my nerves the right way at first. All of the characters face such trials and awesome growths throughout…but Kali’s stands out most to me. I had goosebumps scaling my skin many times during this read, it’s that powerful.

“You okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“No, you’re not. Most days, you’re so smooth, you move like a freaking ballerina with a sword. Today, you’re a mechanical wind-up toy.”

But like any good character (or wedding cake) Kali began showing her layers bit by bit after tragedy struck close to home. Instead of feeling annoyed by her, I began feeling sympathy and concern. Instead of suffering through the pages because I couldn’t find a way to connect…she leaped out of them, took my face in her hands, and said “you WILL pay attention to me.” And pay attention I did!

The rest of the characters also scream at you while you’re reading. While this remains Kali’s POV and story, there’s so much more happening in the pages. There are real life dramas, realistic relationships, and some heavy-handed, emotionally-charged situations. This book brings a certain taboo to the forefront, and immerses readers so fully into the plot, they won’t even realize they’re making connections to the real world until they close the cover having finished the final page. There are definite parallels to the real world made in this read that hopefully will not go ignored—they’re so important, and so beautifully done.

“There’s a well known Native American story about how we all have two wolves inside us fighting for dominance. One is full of hate, anger, and everything evil. The other is full of peace, clarity, and everything good. The one that wins is the one we feed. I’m not saying the virtual world is evil, but you’ve filled yourself with so much of it, you can’t see anything other than what’s fake.”

I really enjoyed this book—it’s a sort of virtual world of its own, to be honest, dragging readers into the thick of the story and refusing to let them go until the very end. While I didn’t fly through the pages—there are so many poignant, wisdom-heavy scenes pertinent to the read to speed-read—I did finish this in practically one sitting. I definitely recommend to lovers of video games, virtual reality, and crisp fantasy intertwined with heavy, realistic dramas. This is an awesome read!

 

3

Teaser Review: Arena, by Holly Jennings

25894059

Goodreads Rating: 4.00 Stars
336 Pages
Berkley Publishing Group
Expected Publication Date: April 5th, 2016

A fast-paced and gripping near-future science fiction debut about the gritty world of competitive gaming…

Every week, Kali Ling fights to the death on national TV.
She’s died hundreds of times. And it never gets easier…

The RAGE tournaments—the Virtual Gaming League’s elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a no-holds-barred fight to the digital death. Every bloody kill is broadcast to millions. Every player is a modern gladiator—leading a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses.

And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.

Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world—until one of her teammates overdoses. Now, she must confront the truth about the tournament. Because it is much more than a game—and even in the real world, not everything is as it seems.

The VGL hides dark secrets. And the only way to change the rules is to fight from the inside…

– – – – –

4.5Penguins
Quick Reasons: THIS is the type of awesome virtual-gaming read I’ve been looking for!; epic, butt-kicking characters; lots of real-life drama, struggles, and honesty; this read touches on a very important, heavy subject throughout; action-packed, fast-paced from start to finish; lots of great imagery and world-building; just a bit of steamy romance and adorableness thrown in for good measure

Huge thanks go out to Holly Jennings, Berkley Publishing Group, and Netgalley for a free copy of this eARC in exchange for an honest review! This in no way changed my read or opinions of this book.

I WISH I could give you all the nitty gritty, delicious review details now–I mean honestly, this read was AWESOME!–but rules are rules. Keep an eye out for my full review to come in late March. Sorry, guys!