The Adventures of Jewel Cardwell - Fumi Hancock
I won this in a GoodReads First Reads Giveaway in order to give an honest review.

When I first saw the beautiful cover and read the blurb, I was instantly intrigued and wanted to read this book, so I entered the giveaway.

And I won!

Needless to say, I was excited to dig in once the book arrived.

Then the struggle started once I hunkered in and started reading.

I would still recommend this book for lovers of YA Paranormal genre to give it a try. It's not a ringing endorsement due to my struggle with the majority of this book though. However, I'm not writing off the series completely since it did grow on me. I can see why others have rated it so high. I'm just unable to do that. Sometimes you just don't connect or fit with a book no matter how much you want to like it or how much others like it. There were minor things I noticed but really my biggest hurdle to liking the book was Jewel herself. I just didn't click with her. I wish I could sing its praises with other reviewers but hopefully the next book will work better for me. I'm optimistic about it because of Jewel's progression as a character; that's what really helped me get into and enjoy the book more towards the end. The sneak peak for the sequel The Sorcerer’s Purgatory really clinched my interest into continuing with the series as well. I had my issues with this book, which is why I have to be honest and give a lower rating of 2.5 stars. This isn't to scare away people from the series necessarily, since I'll be looking for the sequel myself. I'm just reporting my rocky reading experience truthfully. It's rare that a book redeems itself from such a rough start but this series I think is capable and worth a shot.

The places are described beautifully and I did enjoy learning about South Africa. I wish there was more of that actually – I really couldn't get enough. I liked every other character besides Jewel and thought they worked well. They made me smile, sympathetic or sad. This is the first book in a series so it's mainly set up, build up and more questions than answers. There's a lot happening but not much movement forward until the last part of the book, which of course is more suspense ending with a massive cliff hanger. If you get along or accept Jewel, I think you will really enjoy the book.

Hopefully, I can explain why I had such trouble with Hydra's Nest constructively.

(Note: I've consciously tried to avoid spoilers and putting them behind tags, but I can't guarantee none are to be found below. There might be minor or soft spoilers.)

When there's a story with one main character the world revolves around with there's no subplots or characters to get involved in, it is really important for a reader to connect and 'get' the main character. I unfortunately didn't connect with Jewel. It was like Jewel zigs when I zag. There were moments where I appreciated her and cheered for her. Otherwise I was annoyed and didn't understand her, with her waffling resolve and wild swinging moods. She was consistently inconsistent. Then she does makes terrible decisions, defends them and the part that is suppose to be redeeming for her fell flat for me. She should have been apologizing and the other parties involved didn't have anything to apologize for. It would have felt better if she'd realize that.

When adults think teenagers are acting irrationally there's usually a reason they just can't express or deal with. YA fiction gets inside teenagers heads and explains it well usually. I didn't get that here personally. I felt as conflicted and confused by Jewel's actions as the people around her, even though I was reading her thoughts. Jewel came off as really immature for a 16 year old girl. She is sheltered so it's kind of understandable but it was hard to like her. I kept thinking she was a 14 years old at first, which worked. I got her, liked her and understood her if she's 14. I did a double take when I found out her sister was 14 years old. There's just something about her immaturity that I find hard to buy as a 16 years old. Maybe she's just really, really sheltered and a late bloomer. That works as an explanation but even so, I didn't enjoy riding along with Jewel for most of the book.

She does grow, have realizations about herself and makes better decisions so the Jewel at the end of the book is more relate-able and likeable for me. That's the biggest reason why I got more involved with the story and actually wondering what was happening next; I was freed from fighting Jewel almost every step of the way. This is also the main reason I'm willing to continue with the next book in hopes of getting more answers and getting along with the maturing Jewel.

The only other thing that stuck out to me is the inconsistent reporting of Jewel's age.

On pg. 29, “What do you know at sixteen riding on seventeen about those jittering feelings in the pit of your stomach?” - from Jewel herself.

On pg. 40, “Well, lucky for you, you're seventeen,” she [Mum] snapped.
Almost eighteen mom, Mum, in a few months,” I corrected right away.

The blurb for the book talks about Jewel being 17, but is that referring to her “almost 17” or her actually being 17 going on 18? There's mention of time passing like 8 months, 5 months, 3 months, and such. All total 2 years have passed since the start of the book yet there is no other mention of age. I have no idea how old Jewel really is currently. If she's 16 almost 17, then she's 18/19 at the end of the book. If she's 17 going on 18, she's 19/20 at the end of the book.

Yes, it can easily be put down as an accident to be corrected but while reading it threw me off. It made me stop to try and figure it out. I had a hard time with Jewel as 16 going on 17, so her being 17 going on 18 was harder to buy. I'm thinking she's 16 since that goes along with finishing the last two years of school but I don't know. Yes, even little things can disrupt the flow of reading; it disengaged me from the story, which really hampered my enjoyment.

Other Issues/Notes/Comments:

In the beginning I kept wondering why these people were acting that way. Like Darwin doing that whole scene in front of every one? And only one person noticed? With the kids I knew and know, a guy pulling a girl away for a private talk would get all kinds of attention and glances. Even if they grew up together at that age, teenagers usually separate into gender groups and interaction between the two are heavily monitored by all parties.

It starts out talking about a bike race then does an info dump for 4 pages. I found it off-putting. When I first read it I kept thinking that all the exclamation marks being used made her sound younger than I expected. I read a lot of YA so that's not unusual, there was just so much that it Like it was too much for a 16 year old. It's weird but I've noticed in YA the younger the character is, the more exclamation marks are okay. Older teenagers usually get the bold, italics, all caps or underlined treatment for emphasis with occasional exclamations. (I know, this is all just IMHO and not everyone is going to agree.) I've gone back trying to pin point or correct my opinion but still my eyes skip around and gaze off when I try to read the first several pages. It might just be me but I found the start disengaging, which set the tone for stumbling through most of the book. It was hard to continue but I did want to like this story so I pushed through until it got better.

---------These pressure applying, reputation oriented, competitive parents allowed Jewel to stay home a week for being "sick"? Come on, either they are stupid for not being able to tell she's sick or they are stupid for letting her start late. Every parent as dealt with children not wanting to start school or move so they should know better. Her starting late just set her up for failure, or at least struggle. We know Jewel's parents love her, want the best for her and push her so, why the sudden slack given? And Jewel thinks she's slick for pulling it off? With all of the talked about issues in school in the previous year on top of all these factors, I just don't buy the parents letting her slide on a whole week of school. The very first week of school no less. They should be used to this kind of thing and I don't buy that those kind of people would let her go late.

--------Why did Lokinia talk to Jewel while she was talking a shower? I mean I get doing that with close friends, family and romantic partners but to introduce yourself to someone you've never met while that person is taking a shower seems...weird to me. Why not wait? Are there people that actually do this? How rude!

---------At the end there was multiple tear gas bullets fired hitting someone yet no one else was affected by it? Not at all? They even talked about listening to foot steps since they couldn't see the soldiers through the fog. Yeah, that's not how it works usually. There's an immediate effect, even for the mild version and it was supposedly fired right at them. They knelt on the ground in the area of effect, yet went unaffected. I don't buy it.

-------On pg. 69 the dorm room has 6 bunks for 12 girls, and Brie tells Jewel,”You're lucky to get a lower bunk.” Yet Jewel talks about “jumping down” from her bunk on page Doesn't work with my mental picture due to bottom bunks not being high enough to jump down from. Maybe swinging legs down, hopping, springing from but jumping down has a different connotation that doesn't fit in my mental image correctly. There were a couple more instances like this that was just jarring for me.

Yeah, it's mostly minor things but added all up with my struggle to adjust to Jewel the overall effect wasn't pleasant. I'm admittedly the nit-picky type. I know other people will not have a problem with these things but I do, so omitting that fact feels like a lie. I feel responsible when doing reviews, especially for those from giveaways, to be completely honest and as detailed as possible.