Review: Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

The Details

Publisher:   Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published: April 4, 2017
Genres:  YA, Science Fiction, Fantasy
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

31423196GoodReads Blurb

She’s a soldier.

Noemi Vidal is seventeen years old and sworn to protect her planet, Genesis. She’s willing to risk anything—including her own life. To their enemies on Earth, she’s a rebel.

He’s a machine.

Abandoned in space for years, utterly alone, Abel has advanced programming that’s begun to evolve. He wants only to protect his creator, and to be free. To the people of Genesis, he’s an abomination.

Noemi and Abel are enemies in an interstellar war, forced by chance to work together as they embark on a daring journey through the stars. Their efforts would end the fighting for good, but they’re not without sacrifice. The stakes are even higher than either of them first realized, and the more time they spend together, the more they’re forced to question everything they’d been taught was true. 

My Review

I was skeptical about this book when I started it. I’m not the biggest sci-fi fan, I got this book through Uppercase in April, and I haven’t been completely let down by an Uppercase book yet, so I figured there had to be something that makes this books one of the best of April. I also signed up for Uppercase to read outside my comfort zone, and this kind of book is not one that I would have picked up on my own. Different can be good if you give it a chance.

This story is told in two in two different third-person narratives, one through the eyes of a young woman from the “new Earth” planet Genesis: Noemi. The other is a Data from Star Trek style robot guy named Able. The two stories have voices just different enough, Noemi thinking with her heart and Able thinking with his robot brain.

I mentioned in my WWW Wednesday post when I had just started reading this book that I was worried about human/robot love. The romance was not a big part of this story, I mean, it’s there, but the love in this story is more of a growth thing than a love thing. Both Noemi and Able have a growth arc that was interesting to read.

It took a little bit for me to get into this book, again because Sci-Fi isn’t exactly my thing, but I did greatly enjoy it. As our pair of heroes travel to the different planets that Earth has colonized, I became more interested. There’s a lot of really interesting elements that evolve as the story continues. I liked the Greek Myths that get intertwined in the story, as well as the religious aspects. Neither are overt, just themes that weave through the story and become part of the mythos of this series.

Watching the evolution of Able was an interesting aspect of the book. He starts out as a robot, just a machine with orders that he can’t walk away from. As Able learns and grows how he adjusts to the differences in the new world is cool to read about. His arc is the biggest of all the characters in the book.

Overall I think this book is an excellent one, even for a read that doesn’t exactly love Science Fiction stories.

I look forward to seeing the sequel, which is expected sometime next year. (My 2018 TBR is already getting pretty long lol)

Have you read this book? What did you think? I would love to hear from you!

Until next time Internet,

Deanna

Review: Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan

The Details

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster UK
Published: August 29th, 2013
Genres:  YA, romance, paranormal, Gothic,
My Rating: 3 Stars

15801763 GoodReads Review 

It’s time to choose sides…. 

On the surface, Sorry-in-the-Vale is a sleepy English town. But Kami Glass knows the truth. Sorry-in-the-Vale is full of magic. In the old days, the Lynburn family ruled with fear, terrifying the people into submission in order to kill for blood and power. Now the Lynburns are back, and Rob Lynburn is gathering sorcerers so that the town can return to the old ways.

But Rob and his followers aren’t the only sorcerers in town. A decision must be made: pay the blood sacrifice, or fight. For Kami, this means more than just choosing between good and evil. With her link to Jared Lynburn severed, she’s now free to love anyone she chooses. But who should that be?

A darkly humorous take on Gothic romance, Sarah Rees Brennan’s Lynburn Legacy weaves together the tale of a heroine desperate to protect those she loves, two boys hoping to be saved, and the magical forces that will shape their destiny.

My Review

Just as a note this is the second book in a series so this review may contain spoilers of the first book. You can read my review of that book here

This book starts out with a great action scene with scarecrows come to life and fire and a battle. It’s great.

However, this book really reads like the middle book in a series. It feels like it’s building up to something that’s going to happen in the next book. I liked the first book more than this one because I felt like more happened in the first book. This book does dwell on what happened at the end of the last book with Kami and Jared and their link. They spend a lot of time avoiding each other because they think the other one is angry at the other one about the link. It’s a classic case of “communication used for drama” which I find annoying.

This book does develop the rest of the characters which is something I felt was missing from the first book. We learn more about Angela and Rusty’s life. We learn a lot of Rusty and his life and backstory. We also learn about Holly. These characters feel much less flat in the second book than the first.

There is a lot of coming up with a plan, and very little acting on the plan. A lot of build up for very little result, this is an issue that I find a lot of in second books. It feels like a bridge instead of a complete story.

Kami is an interesting and fun character. She’s a great narrator, and I enjoy reading her interpretation of the story unfolding around her. She has a distinct way of talking, that can be a little hard to follow, especially if you are unfamiliar with British colloquialisms but once you get used to it, her way of talking becomes easy to understand and follow.

I am interested in finishing these series. I want to know what happens in the battle with the Lynburns. I find Sarah Ress Brennan to be a very interesting writer and I’m attached to the characters.

So far I am recommending this series as a different and witty view of a gothic novel. It’s a different way of looking at magic and small towns. Kami is a great strong character. I will be reading the third book of this series soon (I got a couple ARCS and a book club books to read first). I will be writing a review of that book when I finish it.

Have you read the Lynburn Legacy novels? What did you think?

Until next time Internet,

Deanna

Review: Everything Must Go by Jenny Fran Davis

I received an E-read ARC of this book from Netgallery in exchange for an honest review.

The Details:

Publisher: Wednesday Books
To Be Published: October 3rd, 2017
Genres:  YA, Contemporary, Coming of Age
My Rating: 4.75 Stars

29401441Goodreads Blurb

Flora Goldwasser has fallen in love. She won’t admit it to anyone, but something about Elijah Huck has pulled her under. When he tells her about the hippie Quaker school he attended in the Hudson Valley called Quare Academy, where he’ll be teaching next year, Flora gives up her tony upper east side prep school for a life on a farm, hoping to woo him. A fish out of water, Flora stands out like a sore thumb in her vintage suits among the tattered tunics and ripped jeans of the rest of the student body. When Elijah doesn’t show up, Flora must make the most of the situation and will ultimately learn more about herself than she ever thought possible.

Told in a series of letters, emails, journal entries and various ephemera, Flora’s dramatic first year is laid out for all to see, embarrassing moments and all.

My Review

This book was something else. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but the blurb and the cover intrigued me as I clicked through the net gallery listings. When I saw the “told in series of letters” bit, I knew it was something that I had to try to check out.

The book is about a young woman, Flora, finding herself. She does it in a very weird way, but as the story unfolds you (as the reader) can see the change in her.

As I read the first part of the book, I read Flora’s voice with that obviously fake British accent, kind of like Madonna does sometimes. Flora is an upper east side Manhattan private school obsessed with fashion, but the fashion of the late 50’s early 60’s– very Jackie Kennedy. Her crush/ mild obsession with her history tutor/photographer Elijah reads exactly like something like that would read in my high school diary. I mean, it was just so relatable. Would I have applied to go to a somewhat ridiculous artsy private school in the middle of the woods to be close to a guy? No, but for Flora, that choice felt like something that could happen.

There are parts of this book that feel a lot fantastical, but then, it’s written in journal entries and emails by people who over exaggerate and love drama. So maybe the narrative isn’t exactly what happened, but that’s how Flora wants to tell them. Once the slightly ridiculous stuff starts to happen, as a reader, I was so used to how Flora spoke and saw things that it wasn’t that big of a deal.

I liked the Miss Tulip subplot. I think it balanced Flora’s life before Quare and after Quare. It’s a great reflection of the end of the book to the start of the book.

The other characters are also fun to follow. Especially as Flora begins to see them outside the view she comes to Quare with. There is a “no shell speak” policy at Quare, which means students can’t talk about how people look. Flora enters the school as someone who definitely is very into the shell and not much about what’s inside, so as she grows, reading how she sees people is interesting. It’s a first impression versus actually talking to people kind of thing.

I had some issues with formatting. Part of it is personal preference, and part of it was probably that I wasn’t used to how things look in an e-reader, and truth be told I read about 75% of this book on my phone which probably messed up the formatting a little bit. I feel like it a physical copy of the book the spacing will be different. Some of the journal entries seem to butt up against each other when I would think they’d be on a different page. But, again, I did read most of this book on an iPhone, so the formatting isn’t going to be perfect.

Overall, I loved this book. If you like coming of age/self-discovery stories, this is a book to look out for in the fall. Flora’s character is a very interesting one, and I found the format of this book different and interesting. There is also a bit that could very much read a slight to Lena Dunham, which I’m all about not giving praise to Lena Dunham.

I read a lot of books where the main character is a shy introverted outcast girl. Because those are the books that are being written and there is nothing wrong with those characters of books, Flora, however, isn’t that kind of girl. She’s shallow and thinks very highly of herself. I wouldn’t call her a mean girl exactly, but she’s definitely the kind of person that would look down her nose at a middle-class person. However, she wasn’t depicted as annoying, I mean, she a little annoying in the beginning, but when you start to imagine people complexly, they change a little.

This book was great, and I appreciate the opportunity to read and review it from Netgallery. I hope that Jenny Fran Davis has more books in the works because she’s an author to look out for in the future.

 

Until next time Internet,

Deanna

Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

The Details

Publisher: Flatiron Books
Published:  January 31, 2017
Genres:  YA, mystery, romance
My Rating: 4.75 Stars

27883214GoodReads Blurb 

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless, she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

My Review

I wasn’t sure about this book when I first heard about it when I started blogging earlier this year. I’m a fan of fantastical TV shows, but I usually have a hard time getting into fantasy books, but there was something about this one that dragged me in from the first page. Maybe it was the letters, it was different than anything I had read before. I was transported to this different world quickly. I learned enough about Scarlett and her family within a few hundred words through those letters.

I loved the synesthesia, how Scarlett feels colors. How she would say that things felt purple or how people radiated different colors. The thread of purple throughout the whole story was interesting too. From her grandmother’s purple dress, to how her father smelled like rotten plums, and there many any other examples. The metaphor and the thoughtfulness that Garber used in creating this world is beautiful.

I, also, really enjoyed the sibling relationship. I don’t think I’ve read too many books that are about sisters, definitely few that are about sisters that actually like each other. Positive female relationships and friendship are for whatever reason are rarely shown in media, so I think that the love Scarlett and Tella have for each other is so deep and pure. I try very hard not to give spoilers in my reviews, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say that their love is very important to the whole story.

The world of the Caraval, was so cool. I would love to read about a person who was playing while not so personally involved in the game, just a casual player to see how the world is different for them. This may be a stretch but, the Caraval world reminds me of  GisHwHes and the world that that creates for the players of the hunt. In that week reality is suspended. Nothing is normal. GIshwhEs has strange little riddles and messages from a Misha Collins, who at times in the scavenger hunt, becomes a person much like Legend: a mysterious, somewhat insane, somewhat cruel puppet master. All of a sudden you are out trying to get permission to be on a Nuclear submarine with a hammock while the rest of the world looks at these people wearing pineapples for shoes and lettuce skirts and wonders what the heck. That’s how reading about Caraval felt to me. I was the person looking at the people in the cheese dresses wondering why on Earth anyone would do that. Caraval had that same feel. A feeling of suspended reality, if only for a few days. The biggest difference is the suspension of reality in the book is real, separate from the rest of the world. GisHwheS co-exists with the real world.

I didn’t feel like the romance with Julian was exactly necessary, but I do understand it’s purpose. The idea of choice, which is so huge in the story. This book is just a giant story about choosing what is right for you, taking a leap, running outside your comfort zone.

I would most definitely recommend this book widely. Although there are fantastical elements, and magic does play a large part of the book, it is so rich with metaphor and symbolism. I am going to re-read it before I read the sequel when it comes out next year, I know have my first got to read book of 2018.

Garber has created an amazing world with Caraval, and I anxiously await the second book of this series.

Have you read Caraval? Were you dazzled by the world?

Until next time Internet,

Deanna

President Lincoln: The Nerd President.

This week I finished listening to the Biography of Abraham Lincoln by David Herbert Donald.

I mentioned in my WWW Wednesday post last week, that while being super into history, I don’t know all that much about the Civil War and President Lincoln. I mean, I know the basics, the big battles, the Gettysburg Address, the assassination, but I didn’t know much else.

This book was really good. I have read a couple different biographies of famous political people, and this one is pretty par for the course of what I’ve read, but what I really loved about this one is that it didn’t talk too much about the other people around Lincoln, it focused on the President.

For example, in the Alexander Hamilton biography, there were large pieces about Aaron Burr, a half chapter each about Presidents Washington, Jefferson, and Madison, a bit about Eliza’s family, and Hamilton’s father. This book focused almost entirely on Lincoln. It doesn’t focus much on Mary Todd Lincoln, or his parents, it’s all about Lincoln, which I loved. It was 30 hours of Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln reminded me a lot of my dad. My dad is also from the Midwest, and also tells super random stories. Lincoln had a very dry sense of humor that many people in Washington didn’t get. Lincoln came across to me as just a Midwestern man who said amazingly Midwestern things and loved his family. He was awkward and weird and loved to read and greatly enjoyed being a lawyer. He worked hard and tried to keep to himself, for the most part, but that’s a little hard when you’re six foot four and like to wear top hats, you stand out a little.

Lincoln was a strange man, but also a person who struggled with what we, over a hundred years later, would recognize very quickly as anxiety and depression. He while engaged to Mary Todd, he wrote her a letter breaking up with her because he got nervous and felt that she would never be happy with him. This sent both of them into deep sadness, and depression, but it worked out in the end. Mary Todd, what little I learned about her through this book, was the perfect counterpart to the weird, nerdy, Abrabram.

This couple lost two children at a very young age, Eddie (at age 3 in 1850) and Willy (at age 12 in 1862). Willy while they were in the White House. Although it was not mentioned in the book, after President Lincoln died, Mary lost another child, Tad, when he was 18 in 1871 after the assassination. Only Robert lived to be an Adult.

Tad, by the way, was probably my favorite character in the book. He had a pet goat named Nanny that basically ruled the White House. He was just a kid and silly and enjoyed himself.

Robert Todd Lincoln, oddly enough, I know a bit about. Robert Todd Lincoln attended a prestigious private school in New Hampshire near where I live, Phillips Exeter Academy.  The Academy is a huge part of that town, which is the town my grandmother lived in most of my life. Phillips Exeter students are known for running in front of cars while going to different buildings on campus because “the streets are our corridors.” They also make giant messes of the all the retail stores they go to in groups and are a general nuisance. I’m sure they weren’t like that in 1860, although if they were, my opinion of Robert Todd Lincoln changes dramatically. Anyway, Robert Todd Lincoln read the Declaration of Independence at a park near the school, and there is a rock monument. If you know where this rock is at Stratham Hill Park, which is half way up a very very steep hill in the middle of the woods, you remember it.

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Because I enjoy conspiracies, I also know that Robert Todd Lincoln was near two other assassinated Presidents: Garfield and McKinley. He wasn’t, like, there, I don’t even think he was in Ford’s theater, but he had either just met or was planning to met the other two Presidents shortly before they died. And that’s weird.

Lincoln didn’t really want to be President, he wanted to be a Senator, but through a series of unfortunate events, he wound up in the White House. An accidental President who ended up being one of the greatest and most influential men in the history of our country.

As one would imagine, quite a bit of the book is the Civil War. Little is about battles, but more on Lincoln’s thoughts how he tried to fight a war that seemed like it would never end. How the accidental president struggled with future of the country and how to deal with the end of slavery. It discusses Lincoln struggling with the group of men he chose as his cabinet, very few of whom actually got along or similar political beliefs. It was interesting, he had high hopes when he took office that having the different opinions would help guide him since he was unfamiliar with war and strategy.

John Wilkes Booth is discussed twice. The first, which was my favorite part of the whole book, because it was hilarious, was in a section about 3/4 of the way through where the book is discussing the ways that Lincoln relaxed during while the War was winding down. He loved going to the theater, and the narrator starts listing the actors in the different plays Lincoln enjoyed. At the end of that list, in a voice much more dramatic than was necessary, he said “John Wilkes Booth.” It felt as if there should be the classic DUN DUN DUN! Music after he said it. It was great. The second time was in the second half of the last chapter, a very quick background of the assassin was given. His father’s name was Julius Brutus Booth, which I think should be discussed at length– because wow. John Booth was apparently an amazing Shakespearean actor and quite the Hamlet. He also did this cool thing during some plays where he jumped 12 feet from one of the balconies and was an excellent acrobatic actor.

I was expecting the book to have a little bit of an epilogue, like the Hamilton biography. A short chapter that tells us, the reader, what happened to everyone else. However, the book ends when Lincoln does. If I want to know more about Mary Todd Lincoln (which I do) I have to look it up on my own. At the start of the book, it is stated that this book is about Abraham Lincoln, and it was very true to that message.

If you enjoy biographies, this is one to add to your TBR. It is well researched, and I greatly enjoyed the narration. The voice was a little bit like the voice that does the voice over on the old TV show The Waltons. It’s not that guy, but to me the voices are similar. It’s a good reading voice– calming.

I recommend this biography highly. It’s not war or battle heavy, it’s the story of a man. A very tall, weird, nerdy, man who ended up being the President of the United States (or really the un-united states) on accident.

Until next time Internet,

Deanna

 

 

 

Review: Shine by Lauren Myracle

The Details

Publisher: Amulet Books
Published:  May 1st, 2011
Genres:  YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, LGBT+, Mystery
My Rating: 5 Stars

8928054GoodReads Blub

When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.

Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author.

My Review

This is a book about being “different” in a small town. It’s a story about what being gay in a small town with deep-seated bigotry is like. This book is raw and heartbreaking. What happens to Patrick, the best friend of the main character is terrible, and it’s doubly terrible because it doesn’t take place now, and we still see things like what happened to  Patrick happening. I’m a little older than the average YA reader (well, the intended audience of a YA reader), so I remember seeing what happened to Matthew Sheppard on the news and watching those Dateline stories. What happened to Patrick is very close to what happened there, and it’s terrifying to think that things like that still happen.

Shine doesn’t glamourize southern-ness if that makes sense. It doesn’t paint a picture of the whitewashed, clean, version I think comes to mind when people think of the south. It’s not big houses and old ladies sitting on porch swings drinking sweet tea. It’s dirty and shows that there are terrible things happening.

This book was hard to read because of how raw and emotional it was as Cat tries so hard to figure out how and why this happened to Patrick since it seems like no one else cares. In order for her to do that, she has to go into herself and learn to be honest with herself and speak up for herself in ways she never thought she could. There are a lot of things that could trigger people within it.

Cat is something. Cat is a great character. The importance of being true to yourself and speaking the truth even when it’s hard or scary or has consequences is developed throughout the whole book.

I found this book amazing, and I highly recommend it. I would recommend that anyone looking to read it, look into the trigger warnings, there is sexual assault, homophobia, and a bunch of other topics that I know make some things extremely hard, or impossible to read. However, this book is great. Myracle did something wonderful with this book and her characters. I have never read a book like it, and I doubt I ever will again.

 

Until next time Internet,

 

Deanna

Personal note: I know I’ve been lacking a little with my blogging. Late May and Early June are difficult times for me, which if you’ve been following my posts I’m sure you caught. I will be falling back into my regular blogging schedule this week.  Thank you for following my blog and liking and commenting. Happy Reading!

Review: The Impossible Knife Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Details

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Published:  January 7th, 2014
Genres:  YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Mental Health
My Rating: 4.75 Stars

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GoodReads Blurb

For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

My Review

Laurie Halse Anderson’s books hold a special place in my reader’s heart. Her books always touch on difficult issues that aren’t discussed fully, in my opinion, in the YA community, yet are issues that teens and young adults face. Most of us know of or have read Speak, Anderson’s amazing book about a young girl dealing with the aftermath rape. Speak is top 10 best books I’ve ever read. Anderson also tackled eating disorders in Wintergirls. I found that book heartbreaking and brilliant. The Impossible Knife Memory discusses PTSD, and mental health issues is a way only Laurie Halse Anderson can deliver.

Hayley’s voice throughout the story stuck with me. She has a pessimism about life, that feels so real. She’s snarky. And everything about her worldview makes sense as we are introduced to her father, a man who is a war vet suffering from PTDS.

To be honest, I don’t know much about PTDS, I do know that Laurie Halse Anderson does research that anyone who does research should be envious of. I have been following her blog for a long time, and while she was writing this book as well as Wintergirls, she shared some of her research and discussed her ways of learning and understanding the issues that she was writing about.

Hayley’s snark and voice hides deep issues that she is struggling with while trying to deal with her father and what he’s living through. Hayley trying to fix everything and everyone while not dealing with herself is, just, so relatable.

This book is wonderful, I could never praise Laurie Halse Anderson enough. This book is another excellent example proving that Anderson is one of this generation’s best and most powerful writers.

Have you read this book? Have you read Laure Halse Anderson’s other books? What did you think?

 

Until next time Internet,

 

Deanna