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review 2017-07-18 00:00
Arena - Holly Jennings *I received a copy from Blogging for Books for review. This in no way effects my review*

A thrilling ride! While it reads like it's for older teens, I still enjoyed it, and am excited to read more of Jennings' work! The plot is well written and exciting, characters fun and realistic, setting is well described and the action is easy to follow. Perfect for fans of the Hunger Games! I'm excited to learn this is the start of a series, and can't wait to get my hands on the next book!
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review 2017-04-10 05:51
Review: Gauntlet by Holly Jennings
Gauntlet (Arena) - Holly Jennings



After falling in love with Holly Jennings’s intense, exciting world of virtual gaming in Arena, I had extremely high hopes for its sequel. Gauntlet was everything I’d hoped for and more. It’s imaginative, addictive, and tense. You never know what will be thrown at Kali and her team next, and that’s just the way I like it.

Kali Ling, the youngest team owner in the history of virtual games, is out to change the world of gaming. In a world where gamers are celebrities, their images managed, their moves dictated, and their addictions covered up, Kali is determined to have a team that’s clean, honest, and the players can be exactly who they are. But being a manager is a hell of a lot harder than being a captain. Kali’s drowning trying to be a manager, player, and friend, and that’s without the added problem that her actions have pissed off the Virtual Gaming League. Even with all that on her shoulders, Kali has another new challenge: her team has been invited to play in a new all-star tournament. But this game is unlike any anyone has ever seen. It learns, it adapts, and it will push Kali and her teammates to their very limits, both physically and psychologically.

Like Arena, Gauntlet is suspenseful, engaging, and just plain cool. The added twist of the new game that learns and adapts (plus a few other elements I can’t reveal without spoiling the story) upped the ante. The obstacles facing Kali, Rooke, Hannah, Lily, and Derek forces them to grow, and I loved watching them develop as characters and come together even closer as a team. While Kali is the heart and soul of the book, I cared about each member of team Defiance and loved seeing more of their true selves come out.

Compelling characters aside, I loved the new challenges thrown Kali, both in the game and outside of it. I enjoy not knowing what’s coming next, loved facing each new challenge alongside Kali. Her frustration, pain, and determination were palpable and had me reading late into the night, wanting to see what she would do next. I hated having to put Gauntlet down, and my only complaint is that the end of the book left me on the edge of my seat, eager to see what happens next.

It’s difficult to write about Gauntlet without revealing things that would spoil the story. The fun is in not knowing what obstacles Defiance faces and what internal and external challenges they will have to overcome. I’m not a gamer, but I loved all the detail Ms. Jennings has put into her elaborate world of virtual gaming. The Arena series is vivid and wonderfully entertaining. I can’t wait to see where Ms. Jennings takes Defiance next!

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Source: witandsin.blogspot.com/2017/04/review-gauntlet-by-holly-jennings.html
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review 2016-07-02 05:40
Quite good
Arena by Holly Jennings (2016-04-05) - Holly Jennings

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...



Dear Holly Jennings,

Your book was awesome, exactly what I needed at the time. I picked it up because I saw your publisher on Twitter promoting books with LGBT characters and I figured why not. There is indeed lovely f/f side romance and the side characters who are a couple have pretty important roles. I liked both girls, what I did not expect though is to like the main character so much. I have read some reviews and I totally agree that you will either love Kali or will be completely turned off by her. She has this no nonsense attitude which for me suited her very well, considering her choice of the career – professional gaming as it developed in the year 2054. Actually let’s learn a little bit about how professional gaming developed in the world of this book.

“Video games. Once a child’s plaything. Once blamed in part for the obesity epidemic that plagued our country decades ago. Now, eSports are the fastest rising trend in history. Thanks to advancements in virtual reality, participants have to be in top physical and mental condition as the games place extreme demands on both body and mind. Tonight, you’ll be meeting one of the hottest teams in the country. But first, we’ll look into the history of gaming, how the Virtual Gaming League formed, and why these games have become so popular. Let’s just say, we’ve come a long way from Pong.”

So, there are several leagues of the players and several tournaments going on – I believe one can switch between them or move up on the ladder, or do several tournaments, but I am not sure, at least for this book the organizational specifics ( most of them anyway) were not terribly important. What important is to realize that in order to play those games the participants may have to still plug into virtual reality but they have to be in top physical condition to compete because a lot of what they are able to do depends on what their real bodies can do. Their avatars are basically their own bodies.  They also have to be great gamers – apparently when e-sports initially started the owners tried to teach professional athletes how to be good gamers and they failed. They then decided to train gamers to be in top physical form and that was much more successful.

So basically we have the book not just about gaming but about gaming industry which also became a sport industry with all the problems facing professional athletes. Sponsors want to make more money, owners wanting to make money and of course gamers wanting to play because it is fun but also very well paid work. Drug use is a problem for many (not all) but the owners try to sweep it under the rug. When Kali’s teammate overdoses for a while it is not well known to the fans (or not known at all) why he dies. Things do change for the better as the story progresses, no worry.

Despite what I said above, the book is lighter than I expected it to be. Yes, Kali and her friends are dealing with serious issues, but it is dealt with a lighter touch. Kali’s troubles are not over when she remembers about the balance and goes back to Taoism which she loved studying before she started playing professionally, but she gets much better pretty fast. She knows she will have to be careful and pay attention to her issues maybe all her life, but it was almost, I don’t know, glanced over? Still some resolutions felt too simplistic I guess?

“And you’re not wrong with thinking that games are supposed to be fun more than anything else,” he continued. “You just need to retrain your mind to think that way. The virtual world is just for fun, and reality is the place worth living.”"

I am not complaining much, this is the kind of book I needed and wanted to read ; but just want you to not expect “Hunger Games” if that’s what you are thinking about based on the blurb.

I said before that I liked Kali, and I did; flaws and all. She does have very strong voice and I thought of her as very strong character, I thought she made mistakes, but owned them and I really did think she was a good captain for her team.

There is also a pretty significant romance for Kali in the story which blurb is completely silent about and I guess I should be too. I enjoyed their banter, which had occasional humor too which I always like.

As an aside, I often like sport themed books where other side, other team is an adversary but not a villain. And I liked that this is how their main competitor was portrayed.

Yes, I think it is a first book in the series, no I am not happy about that, but will definitely pick the second one up when/if it is out.

Grade: B

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review 2016-06-12 18:49
Arena - Holly Jennings

Kali Ling is the first female captain of a gaming team in the RAGE tournament. But after her friend-with-benefits and fellow team member ODs and it is swept under the carpet, Kali realizes the world of competitive gaming is not as perfect as she thought it was.


This was a rather strange book. There were some things I really liked, but other things I couldn't buy, no matter how much I tried. For one, all the gaming that takes place is some sort of capture the flag which includes a lot of hitting each other. Also, they need to physically train for it daily. Lastly, they only figure out during the story that using drugs is bad for you. You don't say!


At times it was very nice and quick, at other times more of a struggle. Some things were glanced over a little bit too superficially, and the insta-love between the two main character (even though Kali's sort of boyfriend only died a few days before).


Mixed feeling, but I certainly didn't regret reading it.


Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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review 2016-04-05 05:44
Review: Arena by Holly Jennings
Arena - Holly Jennings



Arena is a thrilling, high-octane read that will appeal to gamers and non-gamers alike. Holly Jennings’s debut is like an excellent popcorn flick – blockbuster action, cool characters, a hint of romance, and a story that will keep you glued to your seat.

In the near future, virtual gaming has been taken to a whole new level. Pro gamers are like athletes, complete with all the perks and problems that come with fame and fandom. Kali Ling has loved gaming all her life, and even among her teammates is known as the “warrior.” Kali has worked her butt off to go pro, and at twenty has become the first female captain in RAGE tournament history. But when one of her teammates dies, Kali begins to realize she’s losing her grip on reality. The lines between what’s real and what isn’t, what’s image and what’s truth, are blurring, and unless she does something, she’ll lose herself forever.

I absolutely loved Kali. She’s got a strong voice, a sometimes ruthless personality, and her dedication to the game and her teammates is absolute. Yet Kali isn’t invulnerable, and it was fascinating to watch her struggle to overcome the obstacles – many of which she has created for herself – in front of her. As Kali realizes her problems with addiction, she begins to peel back the layers of the world around her. Helping Kali is her new teammate Rooke, an enigmatic warrior with secrets of his own. Rooke, along with Kali’s other teammates Derek, Hannah, and Lily, are an interesting and diverse group. The dynamic of the team is one of the things I liked best about the story. The banter between them and the way they grow, work, and bond as a team balanced out the book’s action sequences perfectly. I also love that Ms. Jennings seamlessly worked Kali’s Chinese-American heritage and the teachings of Taoism into the book. Ms. Jennings truly made this a well-balanced story.

I’ve seen this book compared to Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One and Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, but having never read the former and with only a passing familiarity with the latter, I can’t honestly say how Arena compares. Taken on its own, Arena is tons of fun to read and the world Ms. Jennings has created has so much possibility that I can’t wait for the sequel!

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Source: witandsin.blogspot.com/2016/04/review-arena-by-holly-jennings.html
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