Showing posts with label three stars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label three stars. Show all posts

Saturday, April 15, 2017

[Review] Be My Girl - Nina Sadowsky: Marriage and Murder


In BE MY GIRL, Ellie and Rob get married and slowly realize that they are both keeping monumental secrets from each other.

What intrigued me: I was in the mood for an adult thriller.

Great Beginning and Dual POV

BE MY GIRL really surprised me and snuck up on me with it's brilliant premise and beginning. Told in two alternating storylines, one set with protagonist Ellie in a hotel room with a corpse, and the other one right after her wedding to Rob, it's surely a unique read. 

You'd think the flip-flopping back and forth through the timeline would get confusing, but it really doesn't. Mainly because it's executed flawlessly and there are lots of secrets to explore in both past and present. BE MY GIRL is an absolute page-turner. For the first fifty pages that is.

Offbeat Pace and Over-the-top Story

As much as BE MY GIRL delighted me in the beginning, it absolutely lost me somewhere around the middle. The writing is quite strange and very slow, focused on telling rather than showing. While I didn't have a problem with the characters and found them quite intriguing and longed to find out more about them - the pacing is terrible. It takes so much time for things to get interesting and once they do, everything happens at once. BE MY GIRL has the most over-the-top storyline involving, murder, kidnapping, terminal illness, serial killers - it's like every action movie and thriller thrown together at once. While that can work for some people, it really didn't for me. I was hoping for a very satisfying and linear mystery instead of a mixture of ... everything. It's really messy to read and definitely lowered my enthusiasm despite the excellent start.


And honestly? This story is just ridiculous. Again, this is highly subjective but that amount of secrets and twists and turns rather made me roll my eyes than actually care about the story. Maybe this will work better for you, but BE MY GIRL was a little too much for me personally.



Rating:

★★★☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

BE MY GIRL is a very over-the-top thriller/action read that combines all tropes you've ever seen in a book. For me this wasn't really fun, but you might feel differently.

Trigger warning: blood, gore, murder, death, terminal illness, abuse, violence


Additional Info

Published: February 17th 2017
Pages: 336
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: Adult / Thriller
ISBN: 9783328100041

Synopsis:
"Balanced on the razor edge of moral ambiguity, this sexy and seductive debut novel asks: How can you find out that the person you love is a killer...and continue to love him anyway?

On the night of her wedding to Rob, Ellie's perfect world suddenly collapses. Her suave, charming, sophisticated husband is not the man she believed him to be. Could he really be a killer?

Ellie is rapidly swept into a lethal vortex of betrayal, lies, and uncertainty: Who is the man she married, really?
And how far will she go to protect him?

From Manhattan to the Caribbean, Rob and Ellie struggle to escape the grip of Rob's former life - a life his employers are determined to ensnare him in for good.

When faced with a terrible choice -- to become a murderess herself to save the man she loves, or to let him die -- Ellie's decision propels her into a whiplash-paced adventure, filled with cinematic twists and a startling sense of unease."
(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite thriller?

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

[Review] A Million Worlds With You (Firebird #3) - Claudia Gray: Parallel Universes and Evil Twins




In A MILLION WORLDS WITH YOU, Marguerite's evil parallel universe self is hell-bent on killing every version of Marguerite in every single universe she can so she can't sabotage the plans of Home Office.

What intrigued me: The conclusion to my favorite series of all time. It hurts.

Chasing through universes

A MILLION WORLDS WITH YOU picks off right where the sequel left off. And I gotta say - that premise didn't do it for me. While Firebird is and will always remain my favorite book series, I wish it had been a duology. See, this whole Evil Twin coming to destroy the world storyline does feel a little over the top in my opinion and I just didn't enjoy it as much as the other books and found myself wishing for the story to get wrapped up more quickly. This is absolutely subjective.

The universes Gray shows us this time around are interesting, but not explored nearly as much as they could have! But because the premise is so reliant on the chasing part I was a little sad to see Marguerite spend very few time with the individual Pauls or even just in the universes. Where is the fluff! I feel like sometimes along the complicated plot lines and the excellent world building, the romance fluff got lost. Sure, we had Russia. But that was it? 

Arguably the most interesting parts of  A MILLION WORLDS WITH YOU are those when Marguerite returns to previously visited universes. I really loved that in TEN THOUSAND SKIES ABOVE YOU already and I just can't get enough of checking in with the other scientists.  But regardless, A MILLION WORLDS WITH YOU feels like a wild goose chase, jumping from universe to universe so fast and filled with barely plausible plot conveniences, I didn't like this nearly as much as the other books in the series.

Still grieving my husband

I have a confession to make: I don't think I ship Paul and Marguerite. I don't think I ever did. The problem is that both the reader and Marguerite get to know Paul on a deep emotional level in the Russia!Verse, where he is the Grand Duchess' protector Lieutenant Markov. And I never got over him. 
See, Lieutenant Markov shows the tender side of Paul, the romantic side - and in "real life" he's this grumpy smart-aleck who's angry all the time. The swooniness and the magic all poofed away with Lieutenant Markov's passing. A moment of silence. Anyway. I'm complaining on a high level here and this might not even ring true for you because you probably really loved Paul. I'm just a sad widow because my book husband was taken from me. 

But I'm so happy that we got another cuddly version of Paul with the sweet Father Paul from the Rome!Verse who has to choose between letting himself love Marguerite or staying celibate. Be still my beating heart! I'll definitely go back to TEN THOUSAND SKIES ABOVE YOU and reread the Rome!Verse parts with him, he's such a gentle flower that must be protected and made up a bit for the chronic lack of calm romantic fluff in this series. 

The Firebird books are excellent and just like the predecessors A MILLION WORLDS WITH YOU presents an interestesting journey through the universes. It would've wanted more action and a compelling narrative from this than it actually delivered - it very much feels like an unnecessary sequel with a very disappointing and too convenient ending. However, if you've read one, you gotta read them all. I'm sad to say goodbye.




Rating:

★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

A few words to mourn the ending of this series: Despite A MILLION WORLDS WITH YOU's lack of my favorite thing about this series, my darling Russia!Verse including my favorite Paul, I loved visiting these different worlds.

I surely wouldn't mind returning to the world of Firebird with a prequel about Conley and Josie's romance from the Home Office!Verse. So if Claudia's up for that, I'll be back.

The rest of the series reviewed
A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU (1) | TEN THOUSAND SKIES ABOVE YOU (2)


Note: A thing that seriously worries and confuses me is that out of ALL the worlds and universes we visit, there isn't a single one where Marguerite/Paul/Theo are lgbt. There is only one universe where one of them is disabled - deaf, actually - though the time spent there is so short that you can barely call this representation. (Well then there's one where a character loses a leg but they don't appear on-screen after that so that doesn't count either.)

While there is an explanation for this lack of marginalizations/diversity in the books ~wishy washy we're meant to be together fate yada yada~, I think it wouldn't have been that hard to even just add -one- universe where they're lgbt. Out of all the decisions they have to make to lead to Marguerite and Paul's epic love 90% of the time, you can't try to tell me that there isn't a single universe where Paul ended up with Theo, or Marguerite decided she liked neither and is a lesbian or is bi and ended up with a girl. [Totally seeing her and Romola. Yes.] What do you guys think?



Additional Info

Published: November 1st 2016
Pages: 419
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA / Sci-Fi / Parallel Worlds
ISBN: 9780062279026

Synopsis:
"A million universes. A million dangers. One destiny.

The fate of the multiverse rests in Marguerite Caine’s hands. Marguerite has been at the center of a cross-dimensional feud since she first traveled to another universe using her parents’ invention, the Firebird. Only now has she learned the true plans of the evil Triad Corporation—and that those plans could spell doom for dozens or hundreds of universes, each facing total annihilation.

Paul Markov has always been at Marguerite’s side, but Triad’s last attack has left him a changed man—angry and shadowed by tragedy. He struggles to overcome the damage done to him, but despite Marguerite’s efforts to help, Paul may never be the same again.

So it’s up to Marguerite alone to stop the destruction of the multiverse. Billions of lives are at stake. The risks have never been higher. And Triad has unleashed its ultimate weapon: another dimension’s Marguerite—wicked, psychologically twisted, and always one step ahead."
(Source: Goodreads)


Have you read any books by Claudia Gray?

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

[Review] Soulmated (Joining of Souls #1) - Shaila Patel: Soulmates and Empaths

In SOULMATED, royal empath Liam is looking for his soulmate and finds them in Indian-American Laxshmi "Lucky" who has to choose between an arrange marriage with someone else or going to medical school.

What intrigued me: I love reading about soulmates.

World Building Issues

Part of why SOULMATED didn't work for me is probably that I had the wrong expectations. I was looking for something à la THE SELECTION, set in a fantasy world. SOULMATED is an Urban Fantasy book that doesn't read any differently than the average Contemporary. 

The fantasy elements aren't nearly as explored as I personally like my Urban Fantasy to be - Liam's empathy isn't explained in detail or even just introduced. You're just thrown into the cold water when it comes to him and that massively impacted how much I enjoyed the story. This is subjective, but I do like my fantasy to be laid out, explained, and properly introduced. Especially the empathy remains hardly explained and I'm still not sure if I understand how it works. In general there is very little mythology and world building behind all this to make it more captivating. It almost reads somewhat Magical Realist minus the world building necessary to qualify as such. 

Fantastic #Ownvoices POV

SOULMATED is told from a dual POV, one being Liam's and the other being Lucky's. This is #ownvoices book, meaning that it's written by an Indian American author - and oh boy, does that show. Lucky's POV is approximately a trillion times better executed and more fun than Liam's. I especially struggled with the way Patel tries to make him seem authentic through extremely aggressively Irish choice of words. It's really extremely heavy and does read very awkwardly. I can't say much for authenticity because I am not Irish - but it doesn't come as naturally and reads ... well, awkwardly. 

Lucky on the other hand is so much more interesting, her POVs flow seamlessly, the little nods to Indian culture, her complicated relationship with her mother who just wants her to become a doctor - ahhh. It's so good. I loved her and I loved following her storyline. In my opinion SOULMATED would have massively benefited from being told from a single POV and invested a little more in that world building. 

Together, Lucky and Liam are just adorable. I think that Patel definitely gets away with instant love in this case because this is literally the premise of SOULMATED and it does work pretty well! If you're generally a romance reader, SOULMATED is a treat for you.


Rating:

★★★½

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

SOULMATED is probably a must-read for you if you're Indian American, love romance, or are just looking for an Indian heroine. Because it's quite sparse on the world building and the dual POV couldn't convince me, it didn't impress me, but that doesn't mean that you won't like it.



Additional Info

Published: January 24th 2017
Pages: 300
Publisher: Month9Books
Genre: YA / Urban Fantasy
ISBN: 9781944816643

Synopsis:
"Two souls. One Fate. 

Eighteen-year-old Liam Whelan, an Irish royal empath, has been searching for his elusive soulmate. The rare union will cement his family's standing in empath politics and afford the couple legendary powers, while also making them targets of those seeking to oust them.

Laxshmi Kapadia, an Indian-American high school student from a traditional family, faces her mother's ultimatum: Graduate early and go to medical school, or commit to an arranged marriage. 

When Liam moves next door to Laxshmi, he’s immediately and inexplicably drawn to her. In Liam, Laxshmi envisions a future with the freedom to follow her heart. 

Liam's father isn't convinced Laxshmi is "The One" and Laxshmi's mother won't even let her talk to their handsome new neighbor. Will Liam and Laxshmi defy expectations and embrace a shared destiny? Or is the risk of choosing one's own fate too great a price for the soulmated? "
(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite read with an Indian heroine?

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

[Review] One Moment - Kristina McBride: Memory Loss, Death, and Secrets

In ONE MOMENT, Maggie's boyfriend Joey dies in an accident and she has memory loss after it happens.

What intrigued me: I was in the mood for a nice thriller.

Unique concept

ONE MOMENT is a very unique contemporary with thriller elements. The premise is simple, yet the writing and the voice really make this stand out. It's very fast-paced even though very little happens and you keep rereading about the accident and flashbacks with Joey and Maggie as you uncover the story. Everything centers around Joey's death and the secrets everyone may or may not be keeping.

Especially the voice really is the strong suit of ONE MOMENT. As you read you will suffer with Maggie and her memory loss is pictured realistically and easy to understand for the reader. It absolutely does not feel like a gimmick but like a well-researched addition to the story that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Difficult structure and flat characters

Because the story is so heavily focused on the characters' internal dialogue and flashbacks, it's a hard read. I did like the concept but ultimately I think that ONE MOMENT would have benefited from more action, more side plots, possibly even from making Maggie a side character and telling the story from another character's perspective. Like this, ONE MOMENT really feels a little messy and unstructured which really did impact my reading experience negatively.

In general I had the most problems with the characters. The are six friends that the story centers and I just kept confusing their names. Too many people are running around in every single scene and it's just terribly difficult to keep up. In addition to that, the side characters have no personalities, especially Maggie's female friends Shannon and Tana absolutely just seem like decoration. 

I feel like ONE MOMENT has a lot of potential to be an even more excellent story if the narrative was a little more cleaned up and polished and the characters had been worked on a little more.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

ONE MOMENT really is a unique book with an interesting premise. You have to be in the mood for it though, while I did like it overall, I was hoping to get a little more into it and really get sucked into the pages. If you like reading about characters with memory loss and enjoy thriller elements, this will surely be a great read for you.



Additional Info

Published: January 3rd 2017
Pages: 288
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: YA / Thriller
ISBN: 9781510714557

Synopsis:
"This was supposed to be the best summer of Maggie’s life. Now it’s the one she’d do anything to forget.

Maggie Reynolds remembers hanging out at the gorge with her closest friends after a blowout party the night before. She remembers climbing the trail hand in hand with her perfect boyfriend, Joey. She remembers that last kiss, soft, lingering, and meant to reassure her. So why can't she remember what happened in the moment before they were supposed to dive? Why was she left cowering at the top of the cliff, while Joey floated in the water below—dead?

As Maggie's memories return in snatches, nothing seems to make sense. Why was Joey acting so strangely at the party? Where did he go after taking her home? And if Joey was keeping these secrets, what else was he hiding?"(Source: Goodreads)



Do you like books about memory loss?

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

[Review] Timekeeper (#1) - Tara Sim: Steampunk and Time-Controlling Clocks | #ReadIndie

In TIMEKEEPER, time is controlled by clock towers in an alternate Victorian Era. When the clock towers start getting bombed, mechanic Danny grows curious.

What intrigued me: I heard about a bisexual character in this and immediately needed to get my hands on a copy.

Incredibly Original

TIMEKEEPER impressed me instantly with the rich world building. The second you open this book, you're sucked into the story, a Victorian-Era-inspired Steampunk world controlled by clocks. It sounds strange but works so well and is so delightfully refreshing and new. I've never read anything like this before.

As a Steampunk skeptic I was hesitant about picking this up, but Sim managed to convert me fully. TIMEKEEPER is absolutely not only a novel for fans of the genre, but also for people who'd like to try something different.

Lack of Urgency

The world building is the biggest strength but also the biggest weakness of TIMEKEEPER. A good chunk of the novel is spent feeding background information and letting protagonist Danny walk around to get a good look at everything that it has to offer. This leads to the premise quite quickly growing a little bit wonky. 
The idea with the clock towers getting attacked isn't necessarily the focus of it all and it did bother me because I felt like the story was deriving from its intended path a lot, in order to give the characters more screen time or to info dump. It just feels like urgency of the story just isn't addressed enough and that there isn't any real danger, else the characters would probably proceed more quickly or in the least with more caution.

The lack of urgency is probably due to the story's other plot line, mechanic Danny following in love with a physical manifestation of a clock tower he's repairing. It sounds strange and reads a little strange, too, it reminded me a little of those people who fall in love with inanimate objects. The concept is interesting, but I just didn't grow fond of it at all. Which is probably also due to the quite flat love interest whose only attribute is that he is incredibly lovely and adorable.



Rating:

★★★½

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

TIMEKEEPER is a cute little story for steampunk-enthusiasts and those who like their romance fluffy and superficial. It stuns with fantastically diverse characters in leading roles (PTSD, bisexual, gay, POC) and a very innovative world.

What's #ReadIndie?



Additional Info

Published: November 1st 2016
Pages: 368
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: YA / Historical
ISBN: 9781510706187

Synopsis:
"Two o’clock was missing. 

In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.

But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever."(Source: Goodreads)


Do you like steampunk?

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Saturday, December 3, 2016

[Review] Other Systems (#1) - Elizabeth Guizzetti: Aliens and Human Colonies | #ReadIndie





In OTHER SYSTEMS, future humans are coming back to Earth because their colonies can't survive without human DNA much longer.

What intrigued me: I love everything related to aliens!

What's happening?

The initial idea is absolutely brilliant, I was very excited about reading this. However, OTHER SYSTEMS really, really lacks in execution. 
The story is told from the POV of Abby, a girl that is taken to Kipos, the future human colony's home planet, and Cole, a space traveler. I especially struggled with Cole's POV because just didn't understand what was going on. 

There are so many specific terms in this that are hardly explained, it took me too long to even understand what the different kinds of humans are and what happened to Earth. I can safely say that I spent the first 150 pages being absolutely confused and not really knowing what was happening. You'll definitely need to be invested and/or don't mind about not really understanding all details to finish this. I feel like there are different stories in this, three books tried to be told in a single volume. Resulting from this, OTHER SYSTEMS seems very chaotic and difficult to read.

Fascinating idea, but too very complicated

Even though it is difficult to read, the idea is just too fascinating to toss OTHER SYSTEMS aside and give up. I absolutely love novels about humans going to space, even more so when everything has already taken place and the humans are going back! The world building truly is impeccable and there is a lot to explore. I would have liked this a lot more, had I been given the opportunity to actually have those elements all explained instead of just getting bombarded with information.

Generally, OTHER SYSTEMS really would have benefited from being told from one person's POV. Abby's chapters are significantly easier to read and it does feel like you're actually reading a YA novel. With Cole's POV thrown in, the book just gains a strange dynamic, again, it's just multiple stories fused into one. 


Rating:

★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

OTHER SYSTEMS displays a magnificently built, fascinating world, but simply makes the mistake to leave out explanations. It portrays an interesting possible human future that is truly fun to explore.



What's #ReadIndie?



Additional Info

Published: 10th April 2013
Pages: 532
Publisher: 48Fourteen
Genre: YA / Sci-Fi / Space & Other Planets
ISBN: 9781937546144

Synopsis:
"Without an influx of human DNA, the utopian colony on Kipos has eleven generations before it reaches failure. Earth is over ninety light years away. Time is short. 

On the over-crowded Earth, many see opportunity in Kipos's need. After medical, intelligence, and physiological testing, Abby and her younger siblings, Jin and Orchid, are offered transportation. Along with 750,000 other strong immigrants, they leave the safety of their family with the expectation of good jobs and the opportunity for higher education. 
While the Earthlings travel to the new planet in stasis, the Kiposi, terrified the savages will taint their paradise, pass a series of indenture and adoption laws in order to assimilate them. When Abby wakes up on Kipos, Jin cannot be found. Orchid is ripped from her arms as Abby is sold to a dull-eyed man with a sterilized wife. Indentured to breed, she is drugged and systematically coerced. 

To survive, Abby learns the differences in culture and language using the only thing that is truly hers on this new world: her analytical mind. In order to escape her captors, she joins a planetary survey team where she will discover yet another way of life.(Source: Goodreads)

What's your favorite book about aliens?

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Monday, November 21, 2016

[Review] Trollhunters (#1) - Daniel Kraus & Guillermo del Toro: Trolls and Abduction

In TROLLHUNTERS, children are disappearing and supposedly abducted by trolls.

What intrigued me: I love del Toro's movies and was hoping for some creepy vibes.

Middle Grade Horror - Not YA

I think I went into this with the wrong expectations. TROLLHUNTERS is a story intended for a Middle Grade audience even though it seems to be marketed as YA. The writing reminds me a lot of the FEAR STREET books maybe with a side of Stranger Things and definitely comes across as Middle Grade horror. Protagonist Jim doesn't quite read like a fifteen-year-old, I feel like everything about TROLLHUNTERS just screams Middle Grade and it's quite irritating that it poses to be something else.

Del Toro and Kraus absolutely manage to capture this unique feeling of uneasiness that I enjoy a lot when reading books in this genre. However, even though the feeling is spot on, the world builing fantastic, it just wasn't my thing. I wasn't looking to read Middle Grade horror, but if you're specifically looking for that this will be an excellent and fun read. 

Great world building

The highlight of TROLLHUNTERS is a combination of the brilliant black and grey illustrations and the fantastic world building. I absolutely believed Del Toro and Kraus that this is something that could've happened - TROLLHUNTERS threads a fine line between horror and what I would probably most accurately describe as paranormal magical realism (totally just invented this). The trolls are such a fantastically eerie element of the story that absolutely feels organic and terrifying. TROLLHUNTERS makes for a terrifying bedtime story for badass kids. 

The world of TROLLHUNTERS is fantastic, spell-binding, and the trolls are nothing short from terrifying and unsettling. For a younger audience this definitely is a must-read if you enjoy stories on the spookier, creepier side. I wish TROLLHUNTERS had been published when I was in the Middle Grade reading age!


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

TROLLHUNTERS is the book I wish I would've come across when I was eleven or twelve. The perfect horror read for Middle Grade readers, but because this isn't what I was looking for or expected, it didn't really impresss me.



Additional Info

Published: October 31st 2016
Pages: 416
Publisher: Heyne Fliegt
Genre: YA / Horror
ISBN: 978-3-453-27049-7

Synopsis:
"In San Bernardino, California, children are going missing. 

The townspeople don't believe the rumours of trolls, but fifteen-year-old Jim Jnr knows that they're a very real threat. At night, is anyone safe? 

TROLLHUNTERS is a funny, gruesome and undeniably del Toro-esque adventure perfect for teen readers and fans of Pan's Labyrinth."
(Source: Goodreads)



Do you like reading Middle Grade?

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

[Review] The Sun Is Also A Star - Nicola Yoon: Diversity and Deportation

In THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR, science geek Natasha and poet Daniel fall in love right before Natasha is supposed to get deported back to Jamaica.

What intrigued me: I was curious about Yoon's books, after the success of EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING.

Unique narrative style

THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR is an incredibly unique novel. From the beautifully emotional writing to the narrative style; the story is told from multiple POVs of random strangers the protagonists meet in the story. The chapters are all very short, five pages at most, and anything that isn't told from Natasha's or Daniel's POV reads more like a footnote than a continuation of the story. 

This may sound strange, but Yoon absolutely is able to pull this off seamlessly without interrupting the narrative flow. Through all those POVs we are presented with an eclectic view of Natasha's and Daniel's world that is truly entertaining to read about. It's especially noteworthy how effortlessly diverse her cast is and how pleasant and organic it feels to read about these two non-white teens falling in love.

However, aside from the fantastic world and the undoubtedly incredibly multi-faceted characters, there isn't really much to THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR. We have the side plots involving Natasha's deportation and Daniel's worries concerning his future career path, but that's it. It truly reads like you're following these characters around, like the story is making itself up as it goes along.

Eccentric and Romance-Heavy

THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR doesn't try to trick you into thinking that it's more than just a romance at any point. The story itself dabbles along but never quite deviates from the course; if there even is any to begin with. The lack of structure is evident very early on and irritated me, because I was expecting the side plots to grow more important and the romance to be more of a side plot.

Personally, I do like my contemporaries less on the romance-heavy side and more on the plot-driven side which is ultimately why I had a hard time concentrating and truly making peace with the lack of story. THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR is a very eccentric and unique novel that will ultimately be hit or miss for you.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR is incredibly unique, incredibly well-written, and if you love romance, absolutely a novel that I'd recommend to you.



Additional Info

Published: November 1st 2016
Pages: 344
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: YA / Romance
ISBN: 9780553496680

Synopsis:
"Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?
 "(Source: Goodreads)


Have you read one of Nicola Yoon's books?

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

[Review] Angelfall (Penryn & The End of Days #1) - Susan Ee: Angels and the Apocalypse




In ANGELFALL, the world has been destroyed by angels and people are forced to hide in the ruins of their cities. 

What intrigued me: Angels. I missed the angel hype a couple of years ago and am now in full obsession mode.


A typical post-apocalyptic dystopia

The setting of ANGELFALL isn't much different from what you'd expect from a dystopia, and the only thing that makes this world differ from the usual apocalyptic wasteland in YA, is the occasional angel flying above their heads.

It's a survival story at the core, a lot of walking, a lot of stalling time. Naturally, this isn't always easy to read, I caught myself skimming the generic descriptions of building ruins and empty streets and litter. The scenery is so generic that it almost doesn't need any descriptions at all if you've ever seen a post-apocalyptic movie in your life.

I longed for every little bit of explanation about the angels that didn't quite come. With novels with supernatural elements that are out there in the open in the real world, it's very important to me to understand how this happened. The only glimpse we get is that Penryn mentions that the messenger of God Gabriel came down to Earth and was immediately shot. That's it. Very frustrating, generally the book just throws things that happen at you and doesn't explain a lot, probably a technique to make people buy the second book. And yeah, I shamefully have to admit, it works.

Thank the heavens (or not?) for a realistic romance plot

Ee absolutely had me hooked through the character of the angel Raffe. Penryn's and his dynamics are hilariously wonderful and his dry humor and arrogance incredibly entertaining. Of course we have some obligatory side romance, but it's very subtle. 

The first time in a long time that I actually thought to myself that this story could really happen. It's very realistic, they actually take time to even just not be awkward in conversation. No premature declarations of love here. They don't even really care about the other one surviving this whole ordeal until 60% in. It's refreshing to see a relationship and friendship(!) develop at a realistic pace.

Another thing that absolutely needs to be mentioned is the ableism in this one. I was so happy to see a wheelchair user in the form of Penryn's little sister. This is a magical cure narrative. If you're a wheelchair user looking for representation, this isn't the book to pick. I'm extremely disappointed with Ee making that decision and it severely impacts my rating and opinion of this book.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

ANGELFALL is easily one of the better dystopias out there, however it could use some more world building and is ableist. Leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.



Additional Info

Published: August 28th 2012
Pages: 288
Publisher: Skyscape 
Genre: YA / Dystopia
ISBN: 9781444778519

Synopsis:
"It's been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels' stronghold in San Francisco where she'll risk everything to rescue her sister and he'll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again."(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite book about angels?

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

[Review] Elsewhere - Gabrielle Zevin: Afterlife and Aging Backwards


In ELSEWHERE, Liz dies in a bicycle accident and goes to Elsewhere, where everyone ages backwards until they are reincarnated on Earth.

What intrigued me: Amazing premise. Wow.

Quiet and comforting

Stories about the afterlife are very tricky to write in my opinion. Zevin decided not to play into any of the expectations I had, let them be religious or not. The concept of death being just another life, this time in reverse, is strangely comforting. Comfort is definitely the first word I'd use to describe ELSEWHERE. It's a very quiet, almost shy story that absolutely lives from its beautiful premise, but is also, sadly, crippled by it.

Beyond the neat idea of a utopian afterlife, there isn't anything memorable about this story unfortunately. The voice is very reserved and the main character Liz strikingly colorless and forgettable. Most of the novel is spent exploring Elsewhere, without actually gaining much insight on the world. The world building is almost non-existent, the interesting bits happen within the first 50 pages and from then on it feels like you're just observing awkward mundane tasks. ELSEWHERE has a nice premise but absolutely relies on this.

More of a MG read

The writing is extremely simple and plain, lacking descriptions, but nevertheless I had images in my head non-stop. The concept is definitely powerful enough to make you think up your own expectations of the afterlife, and I really love that. ELSEWHERE's approach to life after death is open, but still imaginative. I longed for every piece of information about this world.

I would definitely say that this is lower YA, even upper Middle Grade because of the language and the approach to the topic. You won't find any typical YA tropes in this.


Rating:

★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

ELSEWHERE has a nice concept, but that's about it. I think this could really appeal to Middle Grade readers more than it did to me - I expected typical YA, and was disappointed.



Additional Info

Published: May 15th 2007
Pages: 277
Publisher: Square Fish
Genre: YA / Urban Fantasy
ISBN: 9780312367466

Synopsis:
"Welcome to Elsewhere. It is warm, with a breeze, and the beaches are marvelous. It's quiet and peaceful. You can't get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere's museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe's psychiatric practice.

Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen again. She wants to get her driver's license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. And now that she's dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn't want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well. How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward?"(Source: Goodreads)



What's your favorite book about the afterlife?

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Sunday, September 18, 2016

[Review] Assassins: Discord (Assassins #1) - Erica Cameron: Girls Who Like Girls, Murder, and Action, Baby!

In ASSASSINS: DISCORD, assassin Kindra who has been raised to follow the rules, starts rebelling.

What intrigued me: f/f. Enough said.


Fast-paced action-style writing

I was really excited for ASSASSINS: DISCORD. I really really wanted this to succeed, because of the winning combination - fast-paced action + assassination + lady-loving ladies? 
Who doesn't need this in their lives? Unfortunately it was the writing style at the end of the day that irked me the most. 

The way the reader gets thrown into the story isn't written elegantly enough to make it that kind of smooth action-filled, thrilling story ASSASSINS: DISCORD wants to be. It definitely is written like an action movie - cut scenes, lots of different scenery, no time wasted. Murder, car chases, walking away from explosions, spying - you'll find all of that in this book. That's all without exception a great thing, however combined with the writing it doesn't translate very well in my opinion.

I had tremendous problems even establishing the characters, even understanding what is going on and why it is going on. I went in blind without reading the blurb, which I really don't recommend you do. You're going to want to cling to every little bit of information you can find without spoiling the novel for yourself, because ASSASSINS: DISCORD doesn't waste time explaining anything. It simply reads like the second book in a trilogy. I actually went back and checked because I was afraid I had accidentally picked up the second book instead of the first.  

Very plot-driven

A fantastic asset of ASSASSINS: DISCORD is the representation. You'll find characters of many different sexualities in here and also a cheeky little f/f romance that I won't say too much about, only that I enjoyed  that but that we got tremendously. At times I was hoping that the author went more for it, and really really pursued that romance. However, this is a plot-driven book and that's really minor criticism.

But again, I have to criticize a bit; because this is so fast-paced the characters are lacking slightly. From the start I couldn't really identify with anyone or even get attached to anyone, simply because they aren't really introduced. Of course this will also then have an impact on how you perceive the romantic subplot, and how you read this story. 

ASSASSINS: DISCORD is a really really fast, quick book. Sometimes you have to be careful, because it may overtake you.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

Sure. ASSASSINS: DISCORD is the read for people who like their thrillers diverse and their ladies loving ladies. It gains a lot of sympathy points with that and really makes me turn a blind eye to the couple of issues I had with it. You will, too.



Additional Info

Published: September 5th 2016
Publisher: Riptide Publishing / Triton Books
Genre: YA / Thriller

Synopsis:
"Kindra’s moral compass has never pointed north, but that’s what happens when you’re raised as an assassin and a thief. At sixteen, she’s fantastic with a blade, an expert at slipping through the world unnoticed, and trapped in a life she didn’t chose. But nothing in her training prepares her for what happens when her father misses a target.

In the week-long aftermath, Kindra breaks rank for the first time in her life. She steals documents, starts questioning who their client is and why the target needs to die, botches a second hit on her father’s target, and is nearly killed. And that’s before she’s kidnapped by a green-eyed stranger connected to a part of her childhood she’d almost forgotten.

Kindra has to decide who to trust and which side of the battle to fight for. She has to do it fast and she has to be right, because the wrong choice will kill her just when she’s finally found something worth living for."(Source: Goodreads)



What's your favorite assassin book?

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Monday, September 12, 2016

[Review] The Form of Things Unknown - Robin Bridges: Hallucinations, Schizophrenia, and Ghosts





In THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN, Natalie struggles with hallucinations and suddenly starts seeing ghosts when she's chosen to play Titania in her schools rendition of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

What intrigued me: I've read the first companion novel DREAMING OF ANTIGONE and was curious to see more of Bridges.



Character-driven coming-of-age story

THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN is a companion to DREAMING OF ANTIGONE, featuring some characters you might recognize, but it's by no means necessary to have read the latter. Both novels are coming-of-age stories that feature chronically/mentally ill protagonists and are essentially retellings of Antigone and A Midsummer Night's Dream respectively. 

THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN surprised me by being a lot more hands on and to-the-point than DREAMING OF ANTIGONE. I quickly grew very invested in Natalie's story and was very intrigued by the paranormal (? or not ?) sub plot. Brigdes cleverly intertwines Natalie's mental illness with the past-tense story though I found the novel a little too slow at times. The plot doesn't advance as quickly as I would've liked and aside from the premise, there is sadly not much to THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN. It's purely a character-driven coming-of-age story and you certainly do have to have a soft spot for that to enjoy this. Personally, I'm not a fan.

Belittling mental illness?

I loved Natalie dearly and grew fond of almost all the supporting characters, which ultimately warrants my interest in this story and had me stick around until the end. Without Natalie's entertaining voice and narration I wouldn't have finished this. The truth is, there are a couple things that are problematic about THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN. Love interest Luke is/was suicidal and depressed and has been at rehabilitation facility with protagonist Natalie (who`s been treated there for her hallucinations). 

At no point do both these illnesses feel genuine, realistic, or even just well-researched. Luke is one of those generic mysterious love interests whose depression is belittled, paraphrased: "he doesn't look like he's depressed". Natalie's hallucinations are shrugged off and merely a gimmick to give this novel at least some kind of plot with them searching for ghosts in the theatre. 

It just irked me, though I love that Bridges tries to tackle mental illness in many forms (Natalie's grandmother also suffers from schizophrenia), the lack of research is blatantly obvious. THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN is spiked with microaggressions and slurs that may not be as obvious to a neurotypical reader. Despite all that, there's no story to begin with. 

Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

I certainly liked THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN more than DREAMING OF ANTIGONE, but because mental illness isn't handled very respectfully and the novel overall lacks direction and plot, I wasn't really a fan. The high rating is mostly warranted by the great voice and characters, and trying to include neurodivergent characters.



Additional Info

Published: August 30th 2016
Pages: 240
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781496703569

Synopsis:
"Natalie Roman isn’t much for the spotlight. But performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a stately old theatre in Savannah, Georgia, beats sitting alone replaying mistakes made in Athens. Fairy queens and magic on stage, maybe a few scary stories backstage. And no one in the cast knows her backstory.

Except for Lucas—he was in the psych ward, too. He won’t even meet her eye. But Nat doesn’t need him. She’s making friends with girls, girls who like horror movies and Ouija boards, who can hide their liquor in Coke bottles and laugh at the theater’s ghosts. Natalie can keep up. She can adapt. And if she skips her meds once or twice so they don’t interfere with her partying, it won’t be a problem. She just needs to keep her wits about her."(Source: Goodreads)



Have you read novels that portray mental illness accurately?

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Friday, September 2, 2016

[Review] Leave Me - Gayle Forman: Heart Attacks and Leaving Your Family





In LEAVE ME, the overworked mother of twins Maribeth decides to leave her family after she had a stress-induced heart attack.


What intrigued me: I've read other books by Gayle Forman and liked her writing style, so I was eager to try something else by her.

Devastating premise

The premise of LEAVE ME is a very devastating one, which is half of the reason why I wanted to read this. 

Having read other novels by Forman before, I'm confident in her ability to portray strong emotions. She didn't disappoint me. LEAVE ME manages to portray this horrible scenario in a very realistic, emotional way. 

Maribeth is an incredibly relatable character and I did understand her choices, however cruel they are. I'm not really a fan of the perspective, I'm positive I would have enjoyed this even more if Forman had decided to write this in first person instead of third.  This perspective makes it hard to connect to to Maribeth and to really see things the way she does, which is in my opinion crucial to enjoying and understanding LEAVE ME. Forman tried to incorporate little flashback-like scenes to establish relationships, mostly the one between her former best friend and now-boss Elizabeth and Maribeth. I'm not a fan of flashbacks generally and inserting them right into an ongoing scene just confuses me and throws me right out of the story. However, this is really minor criticism. 

The difficult thing about LEAVE ME is that it doesn't follow a straight plot line, there is no real goal that Maribeth is working towards in the story. I was expecting leave me to start with Maribeth's departure, instead we get about 70 pages of what I'd call introduction. I do like that we get an insight view of Maribeth's life and that indeed makes it more easy to understand why she would leave her family just like that. 

Very literary and definitely recommended

At the end of the day, there's no way around saying that LEAVE ME really could have used more structure. I did enjoy following Maribeth into her new life and I read the book fairly quickly, however I just personally like novels to follow a clear storyline. The reason why this novel just worked for me is undeniably because of Forman's uncanny ability to portray emotion. 

Maribeth is relatable, her experiences very real, and it just reads less like fiction, but more like something that might actually happen.

If you don't mind novels that go more into the literary direction and are a fan of Foreman, this is a must read. 


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

LEAVE ME is an interesting, thought-provoking novel that I enjoyed. However I can only recommend this to you if you don't mind the slow pace and the lack of action.



Additional Info

Published: September 6th 2016
Pages: 352
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Genre: Adult / Drama
ISBN: 9781616206178

Synopsis:
"For every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, for every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention--meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who's so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn't even realize she's had a heart attack.

Afterward, surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: She packs a bag and leaves. But, as is so often the case, once we get to where we're going, we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is finally able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from those she loves and from herself."(Source: Goodreads)


Have you read books by Gayle Forman?

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

[Review] The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) - Maggie Stiefvater: 2 Edgy 4 Me


In THE RAVEN BOYS, not-so-psychic girl Blue sees a ghost for the first time, in form of local, rich,"raven boy" Gansey. The only way a non-psychic can see a ghost is when they are their true love, or were killed by them.

What intrigued me: Nagging friends trying to force me to read this.

Do we really need Blue in the story?

The concept in itself is interesting, well though-out and could very much hold my attention. I do love a good psychic story, the great base frame is absolutely overshadowed by the annoying characters. The main dilemma of the novel is that Blue can never kiss Gansey, because then he'll die. Simple solution: Just don't kiss him?!

I didn't really get why Blue was in this story in the first place. As a reader self insert I suppose. It would have been way more interesting to simply read about the raven boys themselves, since they are a on a far more interesting side quest themselves that involves a lot less annoying teenage romance angst. Gansey and his friends are looking for a ghost themselves and I wish the whole book would have just been about this, rather than awkwardly trying to mesh the two storylines. It'll probably all get explained and make sense in future sequels (which I will not read).

Sometimes unique isn't good

It would be absolutely unfair and a blatant lie if I were to say that this is a poorly-written book. The characters are very well-developed (even though you could argue about everyone's right to exist in the story). The writing isn't bad by all means, the entirety of it clearly planned down to every detail. But when reading this, you can't help but feel like it's trying to be something that it's not. Every sentence wants to hold a deep meaning so badly and could as well be splattered on a wall as an inspirational quote. Some people like that. I do not. I find it annoying and very difficult to endure to have a cast of characters that basically speak in Bukowksi quotes.

And even worse, narration like that throw you out of the story and makes you focus more on the foreshadowing and ~deep meaning~ than the actual story. I had a tremendously hard time trying to connect to the narrative, even understanding what's going on because of this. The plot moves forward insanely slowly, switching POVs so often that trying to read this equals an erratic carnival ride. 

THE RAVEN BOYS didn't have a single character that even felt remotely like a real person. They are walking jars full of little quotes that someone thought up and then tried to weave a story around. Again, this isn't a reason to call this book bad, it's simply just not my cup of tea, and these kinds of novels will never be.

THE RAVEN BOYS has all the potential to be a masterfully-crafted novel with a literary feel that's more of an artwork than a book, but fails, simply because it's trying too hard to be exactly that.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

It's not my thing, but it would be downright mean, ignorant, and unfair to give this any less than three stars. I can't stand overly poetic writing just for the sake of it and I am not a fan of self-insert narrators that don't do much, aside from awkwardly swooning over their love interest.

My rating is mostly this high because of the craft aspect - Stiefvater definitely did paint an impressive world, but somewhere along the way forgot that the story has to entertain, too. Maybe you'll feel differently.


Additional Info

Published: September 18th 2012
Pages: 416
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: YA / Paranormal / Ghosts
ISBN: 9780545424929

Synopsis:
"There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,”  Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.(Source: Goodreads)


Have you read THE RAVEN BOYS?

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