Showing posts with label ya. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ya. Show all posts

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Recommendation: Girl on the Verge - Pintip Dunn: Being Thai and New Girls

In GIRL ON THE VERGE, Kan's mother offers to take care of Shelly, who eagerly becomes Kan's new best friend, but also arrives with a mountain of secrets.

What intrigued me: Wanted to read more from Pintip Dunn.

Young Voice and Creepy Vibes

GIRL ON THE VERGE needed a while to get me interested. I didn't quite know what to expect, I thought this would be some kind of angsty contemporary. But once Shelly arrives and weasels the way into the reader's (and Kan's) heart, you'll immediately know something is wrong. There's a strange air of uncomfortable mystery around her that you can feel oozing from the pages the entire time. Dunn definitely knows how to orchestrate a mystery and make you feel uneasy. 

Aside from Shelly and her secrets, a large portion of the novel is spent gushing over love interest Ethan. He's your typical high school cool kid with the twist that he unapologetically enjoys traditionally feminine things. I really enjoyed seeing a character like that, though the romance aspect didn't do much for me, which is highly, highly subjective. Generally, GIRL ON THE VERGE  is one of those reads that exist at the lower end of YA, a little over upper MG in my opinion, which is definitely not a bad thing, just something you have to take into consideration when reading this. I certainly didn't expect a fairly younger than YA-sounding voice in a thriller story, so GIRL ON THE VERGE definitely caught me off guard. Had I known from the beginning, I probably would've liked this a lot more, but this is subjective.

#Ownvoices Excellence

I was immediately impressed with the way Dunn managed to put that unique diaspora feeling of not feeling like you belong in either worlds into words; this definitely warrants a recommendation alone. I've seldom seen authors go there and explore this feeling in as much detail, honesty, and eloquence as Dunn does. Especially if you're Thai diaspora, or Thai-American, this hopefully might mean even more to you, you need to get your hands on this book. 

GIRL ON THE VERGE definitely does a lot for diaspora readers in terms of validating and normalizing their experience, which I am immensely grateful for. The amount of strength, sheer talent, and determination it must have taken to put these feelings into words renders me speechless. GIRL ON THE VERGE perfectly illustrates to me what #ownvoices really is and what it means. For that alone, this deserves a glowing recommendation. Even if the other aspects don't really sound like something you'd be interested in, GIRL ON THE VERGE deserves all the support for its radiant and heartfelt portrayal of what it means to be diaspora.


Rating:

★★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

If you're diaspora, or even Thai diaspora, this is an absolute must-read. Doesn't matter what your reading preferences are, I've seldom seen an author provide such poignant and moving representation for diaspora readers in terms of feeling like you don't belong. Definitely recommend this to your diaspora friends.



Additional Info

Published: June 27th 2017
Pages: 256
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: YA / Thriller
ISBN: 9781496703606

Synopsis:
"In her small Kansas town, at her predominantly white school, Kanchana doesn’t look like anyone else. But at home, her Thai grandmother chides her for being too westernized. Only through the clothing Kan designs in secret can she find a way to fuse both cultures into something distinctly her own.

When her mother agrees to provide a home for a teenage girl named Shelly, Kan sees a chance to prove herself useful. Making Shelly feel comfortable is easy at first—her new friend is eager to please, embraces the family’s Thai traditions, and clearly looks up to Kan. Perhaps too much. Shelly seems to want everything Kanchana has, even the blond, blue-eyed boy she has a crush on. As Kan’s growing discomfort compels her to investigate Shelly’s past, she’s shocked to find how much it intersects with her own—and just how far Shelly will go to belong…"
(Source: Goodreads)

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Sunday, June 4, 2017

[Review] Uprooted - Naomi Novik: Magic, Fairy Tales, and Evil Trees




In UPROOTED, Agnieszka gets taken by the powerful wizard the Dragon and trained to become a witch. Together they try to protect the surrounding villages from the evil forest that's trying to kill everything near it.

What intrigued me: Recommended!

Incredibly Unique

UPROOTED is arguably the most unique fantasy novel to come out within the last two years. It is advertised as based on a Polish folk tale, and I have to say, I really felt it.

It reminded me a lot of the fairy tales I grew up with, but turned dark. 
The premise is very reminiscent of CRUEL BEAUTY, but don't let that deceive you. UPROOTED is not a story about a captive girl slowly falling in love with her rude captor, but more the story of a girl realizing her power. It's a coming-of-age novel if you will, but with magic.

The characters, mainly the Dragon and Agnieszka, are extremely well-written. I instantly loved the Dragon for his cold, mean, and downright condescending personality and adored Agnieszka for being the clumsy, likeable, and brave girl who'd try her best to annoy him as much as possible.

Too Dense?

The biggest criticism I have is definitely the writing. Novik has a very peculiar, unique writing style, composed of lots of descriptions, metaphors, etc. Very much more telling than showing. It reads slowly, taking long paragraphs for something to happen, and I found myself zoning out so often that it took me a catastrophically long time to read this.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, if you read this in your native language this might not bother you as much, and if you like flowery writing, you might enjoy this even more. I personally don't like this and it made it very hard for me to continue, even though I really, really like the story. It's undoubtedly an incredibly unique novel that's very skillfully written and more art than writing, but certainly not for everyone.

There is no way around saying that UPROOTED definitely would have benefited from being turned into a series. Because it is a stand-alone, set in such a complicated, intricate world with so many rules and peculiarities, it is extremely densely written. This just lowered my enthusiasm for it as I was reading, because it is really hard to concentrate when you're constantly being overwhelmed with background information in form of info dumps and flashbacks.

It really feels like UPROOTED is trying to be three books in one, and the relationships just don't come across as genuine as they could have been because the book is hurrying so much. Novik's writing style really doesn't work in combination with so much dense storytelling, sometimes she rushes from scene to scene, sometimes she needs one page to tell one action. Even though I am an avid advocate for stand-alones, I have to say I wish UPROOTED was the first in a series instead.

Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

UPROOTED is definitely not for everyone. It's exceptionally well-written, unique book, but I suggest you pick this up in your native language and for you to be ready for lots of flowery writing. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend UPROOTED, but it's just one of those books that are hit or miss.


Additional Info

Published: May 19th 2015
Pages: 438
Publisher: Del Rey
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9780804179034

Synopsis:
"Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
 "(Source: Goodreads)

Have you read UPROOTED?

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

[Review] Three Dark Crowns (#1) - Kendare Blake: Triplets, Witchery, and Wasted Potential

In THREE DARK CROWNS, triplet heirs to the throne must compete in a deadly battle for the crown.

What intrigued me: I love reading about magic!

Misses the Mark So Hard...

THREE DARK CROWNS was so much not my thing that I genuinely wanted to quit blogging over this. There are DNFs and books that don't match your taste, and then there are books that make you forget that you're supposed to enjoy reading. I really wanted to like THREE DARK CROWNS desperately. I didn't though. I really, really didn't.

It's just one of those books that hooks you with a cool premise, but that's that. I expected an action-filled THE HUNGER GAMES style battle to the death, but really just got a slumberous High Fantasy story with a side of blown up insta romance. Kudos to the marketing team here, they honestly exaggerated this so massively, it's hard to even find the connection between the super fun things that the blurb and cover hint at and the actual book.

So much Wasted Potential!

THREE DARK CROWNS is supposed to be a dark, dark story about sisters planning to kill each other for the throne. Actually, it's just a super boring YA romance times three with genuinely zero plot, zero potential to connect or care about the characters, and very peculiar POV choices. I can only describe the writing and execution as extremely irritating. The POVs are all over the place, not necessarily even from the actual sisters, but from random side characters sometimes, and it's a nightmare to even make it past the point where you know who the characters are. I had immense problems trying to get into this, which is why it took me weeks to finish this. 

The magic system and all is fine and interesting. Poisoners, elementals, and people who talk to animals! Sounds fun! I really enjoyed reading about the whole poisoner storyline and Katharine. Poison mixers! This alone could've sold me on this book. I feel like if it had been executed differently and had stuck to one POV, or even just three POVs (of the sisters), I would've felt completely differently about this! All that instant love and lack of action could even just be excused a little if the writing and execution weren't so terribly irritating and weird, and unnecessarily extra. 

The biggest problem I have with this - the story has so much potential that it's just SO frustrating and stressful to see how Blake absolutely doesn't even come close to using it. The blurb is so great, I could actually cry, this is supposed to be a story about anti-heroines and darkness, maybe a bit creepy and vengeful and stabby. But it's none of that. THREE DARK CROWNS is yet another of the gazillion stories about princesses with magical powers that fall in love. That's it. I'm so frustrated and sad.


Rating:

☆☆☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

THREE DARK CROWNS is a disaster if you're picky about your High Fantasy and like to form connections to characters. I almost quit blogging altogether over this because it made me forget that reading is supposed to be fun. This wasn't fun in the slightest, the exact opposite of it. Clearly, this is highly, highly subjective.



Additional Info

Published: May 9th 2017
Pages: 448
Publisher: Penhaligon
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9783764531447

Synopsis:
"When kingdom come, there will be one.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown."
(Source: Goodreads)

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Recommendation: Wild - Hannah Moskowitz: Deafness and Bisexuality

In WILD, Zack wants to meet up with his online girlfriend, but has no idea that she's Deaf.
What intrigued me: Bisexual Jewish #ownvoices! Hardly any white people in the main cast! Deaf romance!

Hilarious and Authentic Romance

WILD has one of the most authentic teen voices I've ever encountered in YA. I'm super picky with contemporary romance, most of the time it's like pulling teeth for me, but not with WILD.

The combination of a great voice, teens who truly feel like teens, great humor, and diverse, non-white protagonists (Guatemalan/Jewish Deaf bisexual love interest and Filipino bisexual protagonist), make this one an absolute success for me. I couldn't get enough of WILD and read it super quickly. Despite being short, I feel like Moskowitz made the most out of this story and wrote a fast-paced, compelling, and adorable romance that will make you laugh out loud.
I can't emphasize enough how funny this is, I seriously had to pause sometimes, because I couldn't breathe. I can confidently say that I have never ever seen any author write believable chat convos between teens until I read WILD. Honestly, you guys, it's so good. Moskowitz writes teens a little dorky, a little dirty-minded, and 100% authentically. I'm so in awe. It hasn't been that long since I was a teen, but this is the first time I'm not painfully aware that this is an adult writing teens while reading chat convos and texts. Bless.

Deaf Culture and Organic Romance

While WILD is a romance at heart, it really shines more with the protagonist and side characters instead of being a straight-up romance. I didn't really feel like it's about Zack and Jordan getting to know each other or falling in love, because this is an established relationship and they've sort-of been dating since long before the events of the novel start. Zack and Jordan truly feel like people who genuinely enjoy each other as friends first and foremost, which is very rare to find in YA, and I'm all about this. This is as far from instant love and tropey romance as it gets. 

My favorite element and the one that you have to definitely prepare for when you're picking this up, is Deafness. It plays a really big role in WILD. I am not D/deaf, so I cannot speak for the accuracy of the representation, but it does feel like to me that Moskowitz put a lot of research into this: There are bit of bobs you'll learn about Deaf culture while reading and all signed conversations are written in <<>>. Zack and Jordan communicate either through sign language or texts. 

Signing plays a big role, too, because Zack starts learning ASL for her (and is terrible at it, which is just hilarious to read). A lot of the characters are either Deaf and/or signing, which is super refreshing and interesting. Again, can't speak for the accuracy of the rep, but I did learn a lot about Deaf culture that I didn't know before. WILD is unlike anything I've ever read, and an absolutely refreshing and fun delightful Deaf romance.




Rating:

★★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

WILD is probably my favorite romance of 2017. Even if you don't like contemporary romances, give this one a shot, I beg you! Who can say no to a hilarious and adorable romance between a Deaf Guatemalan/Jewish bisexual girl and Filipino bisexual boy?

[If you're D/deaf and have reviewed this, I'd be happy to link your review! Let me know.]


Additional Info

Published: April 26th 2017
Pages: 228
Publisher: Amazon
Genre: YA / Romance
ISBN: B06ZZMBMVS

Synopsis:
"Zack Ramos is training for two things: being a parent to his twelve-year-old sister once his mother's early-onset Alzheimer's (the same kind he and his sister each have a 50% chance of developing--but let's not think about that) progresses too far, and running a one hundred mile race through the mountains of Tennessee. His support system is longtime girlfriend Jordan Jonas, who's sweet, sarcastic, and entirely virtual. They've been talking for years but still have never met in person. Because Jordan, it turns out, was still waiting for the right time to tell him that she's Deaf. 

The revelation brings them closer together, and Zack throws himself into learning sign language and trying to navigate their way through their different cultures. But with the stress of a tumultuous relationship, a new language, a sick mother, and his uncertain future, there's going to be a breaking point...and it might be out there in the Tennessee wild."(Source: Goodreads)

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

[Review] Never Never - Brianna R. Shrum: Captain Hook goes to Neverland



In NEVER NEVER, James Hook decides to follow Peter Pan into Neverland and leave his family behind.

What intrigued me: I always found Hook more interesting than Pan!

Chapter book writing?

NEVER NEVER tells the story of James Hook. And when I say that, I mean legitimately all of it.

Shrum decided to show us everything from his childhood to going to Neverland to becoming a captain. The novel spans many years and is separated into different parts that each span a different time of his life. This leads to the novel really not reading like a regular YA book. Shrum's writing is very juvenile, reads like an actual fairytale, but in a way that makes you feel like you're reading a children's chapter book. While I do think that Shrum is a fantastic writer whose work is very easy to get lost in, I just wasn't looking for a Middle Grade novel.

This is exactly what NEVER NEVER appears to be for the first 80 pages. There are many other parts of the book that all deal with more mature themes, but if you start your novel like that, it's very likely that most readers who don't like Middle Grade won't even get to the more mature stuff.

I find the mix a little awkward, to span from Middle Grade to Mature/Upper YA and expect the reader to just roll with it. The story isn't engaging enough to even make me interested in all of James' life. I didn't like anything about James' childhood, since everything Shrum tells us about could've just been left out. It's all implied knowledge, a boy choosing to leave for Neverland because he feels neglected, Pan slowly starting to act shady - I felt like I genuinely wasted my time with the first 80 pages. 

Lacks creativity - where's the retelling part?

Huge time gaps are always a gamble, and it absolutely disconnected me from the narrative to have James go from 13 to 18 all of a sudden. I believe the novel would've been better off without all the childhood shenanigans if it's marketed as YA. Shrum's writing definitely fits the MG range and I think she's be marvelous at writing MG.

I just think that NEVER NEVER fundamentally lacks in creativity to the story. Yes, it's told from the a different perspective, the anti-hero/villain if you will, but it might as well could've been any other lost boy. The story Shrum is trying to sell isn't very innovative, captivating, or even well-crafted enough to make this a noteworthy read that I'd recommend. It could've been a gloomy and sad story about a boy who wanted to escape into a dreamland, but instead it's just a very awkward story that's rehashed for the thousandth time with about zero creativity and originality.

Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

I expected something different. I didn't want to read half of a Middle Grade novel, I wanted to see a new spin on the so often retold story - I didn't get any of that.



Additional Info

Published: September 22nd 2015
Pages: 356
Publisher: Spencer Hill
Genre: YA / Magical Realism
ISBN: 9781633920392

Synopsis:
"James Hook is a child who only wants to grow up. When he meets Peter Pan, a boy who loves to pretend and is intent on never becoming a man, James decides he could try being a child - at least briefly. James joins Peter Pan on a holiday to Neverland, a place of adventure created by children's dreams, but Neverland is not for the faint of heart. Soon James finds himself longing for home, determined that he is destined to be a man. But Peter refuses to take him back, leaving James trapped in a world just beyond the one he loves. A world where children are to never grow up. But grow up he does. And thus begins the epic adventure of a Lost Boy and a Pirate. This story isn't about Peter Pan; it's about the boy whose life he stole. It's about a man in a world that hates men. It's about the feared Captain James Hook and his passionate quest to kill the Pan, an impossible feat in a magical land where everyone loves Peter Pan. Except one."
(Source: Goodreads)


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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

[Review] Someone Else's Summer - Rachel Bateman: Bucket Lists and Losing a Family Member

In SOMEONE ELSE'S SUMMER, Anna finds her late sister Storm's bucket list and decides to go on a road trip to check off all the things Storm didn't get to.

What intrigued me: I totally didn't read the blurb and went off the gorgeous cover.

Fantastic Characters

SOMEONE ELSE'S SUMMER is an unexpected gut punch. I immediately grew very attached to the characters, from protagonist Anna to her ex-boyfriend Jovani to her neighbor Cameron - I loved them all! 

This is very much a character-driven story that takes its time to get to the actual premise and get the plot started, so it's always fantastic to connect with the characters. Bateman excels at conveying the emotions of her characters and portraying their grief and sorrow over Storm's passing realistically and beautifully. 

It truly feels like Bateman took her time creating realistic and fleshed-out characters with intricate and sometimes complicated relationships to each other.

Quite unoriginal and following tropes

However, there just isn't that much to this story after all. This is your typical bucket list / road trip story with absolutely no spin to the topic, no originality, and nothing memorable about it aside from the nice characters. Every twist and turn the plot takes is extremely predictable if you've read a handful of novels with similar themes. 

As soon as everything is settled introduction-wise the story just starts to become really dull and boring. Anna and her sidekick Cameron embark on a journey to tick off all the bullet points on the list and that's it. You have to be a fan of those types of novels to enjoy this and specifically enjoy bucket list narratives. Because this personally isn't really my thing, I found the narration and plot to end up feeling very stoic and boring. 

SOMEONE ELSE'S SUMMER really has its peak within the first 80 pages, which are just brilliant, but then simply recedes to boring bucket-list-novel tropes. 


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

I really enjoyed the first third of SOMEONE ELSE'S SUMMER but quickly grew uninterested when I realized that this is quite unoriginal with little to no variation to other novels that feature bucket list storylines. If you enjoy these types of contemporaries, SOMEONE ELSE'S SUMMER surely is among the better of these books, if you don't and like me enjoy variation, original plot, and surprises, you might want to skip this one.



Additional Info

Published: May 9th 2017
Pages: 320
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9780762462193

Synopsis:
"Anna's always idolized her older sister, Storm. So when Storm dies in a tragic car accident on the night of her high school graduation, Anna is completely lost and her family is torn apart. That is, until she finds Storm's summer bucket list and decides to honor her sister by having the best summer ever—which includes taking an epic road trip to the coast from her sleepy Iowa town. Setting out to do everything on Storm's list along with her sisters best friend Cameron—the boy next door—who knew that Storm's dream summer would eventually lead to Anna's own self-discovery?"
(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite road trip read?

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Monday, May 1, 2017

[Review] The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - Holly Black: Vampire Segregation and An Actually Quite Fun Love Triangle


In THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN, Tana is among the sole survivors of a vampire attack. Supported by a vampire and her infected ex-boyfriend she now has to find a way to save her ex from fully turning.

What intrigued me: I'm attempting to read every vampire novel ever published.




Fresh concept, but a very, very frustrating read

THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN definitely brings a fresh concept to the table and surprised me with it. I love the idea of Coldtowns and the way Black treats vampires in this new world. 

However, the execution of it all couldn't really grip me as much as I would have liked. The writing is very difficult - it reads like you're trying wade through mud and the reading flow is often broken by narrative passages.

There are flashback-like narrative info dump passages at the beginning of every chapter that annoyed me immensely. The story is very interesting and getting thrown off the main storyline by having to read through these flashbacks is a little irritating. All of these do serve a purpose, but I think they could've been implemented into the story more elegantly. Because of all this narration the concept is basically trampled down and it took me ages to read even a couple of pages of this. I never really got really into the story, couldn't possibly because of all those flashbacks, and it's really sad because I love the basic idea.

The first love triangle I tolerate, but an annoying cliche vampire

The characters are interesting, If you're going to do a love triangle, please do it like Black. I loved how her annoying ex-boyfriend tried to compete for her attention while vampire Gavriel wasn't even trying. I absolutely loved the relationship Tana and Aiden have and it's super amusing to read - I almost wish there was a contemporary novel about the two. 

However, it doesn't get more vampire cliche than Gavriel. Strangely talking in a weird accent, extremely aware of every phrase he speaks. 
I have a huge problem with characters who speaks in awkward, archaic lingo and it almost never works. The entire time Gavriel was on screen I pictured the author trying to come up with a witty, deep line rather than the character. He seemed utterly one-dimensional and pretty unappealing to me. It's kinda sad that this otherwise so fresh and promising read plays into the typical vampire stereotype personality-wise with him. 


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

Ugh, difficult. I think it's not a must-read. I like that it's a stand-alone, but the writing made this terribly difficult for me to read and I just am not a fan. Probably not. 



Additional Info

Published: September 3rd 2013
Pages: 419
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Genre: YA / Paranormal / Vampires
ISBN: 9780316213103

Synopsis:
"Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown's gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself."(Source: Goodreads)

What's your favorite vampire novel?

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

[Review] We Are the Ants - Shaun David Hutchinson: Alien Abductions and the Apocalypse





In WE ARE THE ANTS, Henry is frequently abducted by aliens and presented with the choice to either prevent the apocalypse or let the world end.


What intrigued me:
 Alien abductions and the world is ending? Count me in!

... is that it?

WE ARE THE ANTS has a fantastic premise and an equally great narrative voice. Hutchinson absolutely had me from the first page, the cynic and observant way he writes Henry is incredibly entertaining and fun. However, all this can't mask the fact that there really isn't much to WE ARE THE ANTS aside from the premise. 

All characters in this are painfully obvious plot devices. The main problem I had with everyone in this book that Henry doesn't show any attachments whatsoever to the people surrounding him. How is the reader going to be enamored with the characters if they are all introduced like worthless scum bags? Henry's cynicism may be entertaining for the first 100 pages, but it quickly gets insanely tiring. 

Getting abducted? What else is new...

Another problem I had is that Hutchinson romanticizes depression. Protagonist Henry get depressed very early on when he realizes that the world's fate is in his hands and I just don't like the way this gets handled. The whole atmosphere just screams "your typical depressed kid from a broken home finds love and gets cured", and that's exactly what you're getting in WE ARE THE ANTS. The story has so much potential, but I think Hutchinson absolutely ruined everything that lured me to this story with the execution. 

Especially the abduction part is written so frustratingly boring that I can't wrap my head around it. Henry doesn't theorize about it much, or appears scared or worried about it! The only emotion he displays is annoyance, which seems to be pretty much his default.

WE ARE THE ANTS is nothing short from being a regular novel about a kid's high school troubles. The alien part is so redundant that this doesn't even feel like Sci-Fi. Absolutely a disappointment.


Rating:

★★½☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

WE ARE THE ANTS is just an average contemporary with a side of aliens. If you like that, and aren't expecting too much world building or fantastic characters, go ahead!



Additional Info

Published: 19th January 2016
Pages: 455
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Sci-Fi / Aliens
ISBN: 9781481449632

Synopsis:
"There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t.

Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.

What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button. 

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving. That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that."(Source: Goodreads)


Do you like books about alien abductions?

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Friday, April 21, 2017

[Review] Caraval (#1) - Stephanie Garber: Magical Games and Insensitivity

In CARAVAL, sisters Scarlett and Tella finally receive an invitation to a mysterious game.

What intrigued me: Pretty much the hype.

Lacks in World Building

CARAVAL is one of those books that charm you with flowery writing and hide the fact that there isn't really much else interesting going on. The biggest weakness is the world building. Hardly anything gets explained and the reader has very little time to get acquainted with settings, concepts, and unique elements before the sisters embark on their journey to attend Caraval. 

I assumed this would be a magical-realist read like THE NIGHT CIRCUS, which it has been so famously compared to, but CARAVAL is nothing like that. The story would've been so much better off had it been told in a Contemporary setting in my opinion. The High Fantasy world is hastily built, which lots of made-up names for existing things and for some reason half of it is in Spanish. No clue what that's all about. The setting itself is a very meager attempt to distract the reader from the fact that hardly anything in this book makes sense, the plot twists come out of nowhere and are incomprehensible, and there are also a handful of Deux Ex Machina situations.


Suicide as a Plot Device 

I was surprised to see that it's pretty much a reproduction of L.J. Smith's THE FORBIDDEN GAME series, which is one of my favorite series of all time. CARAVAL tries to hide that with a High Fantasy setting, but the comparisons are simply uncanny: Both feature a love interest named Julian and a mysterious and dangerous game that the protagonist must win to save their loved ones. Where THE FORBIDDEN GAME amazes with atmospheric truly dark and dangerous setting and characters, CARAVAL strikes me a little as PG-13. It's such a strange reading experience, because the writing is very juvenile at parts and then you have scenes involving heavy physical abuse, emotional manipulation, rape, and suicide. 

There is one scene that still renders me speechless and makes me feel sick thinking about it - at some point a character commits suicide as part of the game, only to be later resurrected with magic. I find it extremely inappropriate to use this as a plot device and for the shock value, and worse when it turns out that the character planned for this to happen all along. It's disgusting, really, and just the proverbial cherry on top of this very problematic cake. You'll find that most of the scenes involving abuse and rape are plot devices. The sisters have a very abusive father who's just there for conflict, which I can still forgive, but then there are also scenes where the love interest forces himself physically on Scarlett. He violates her consent by asking her to reconsider and/or straight up ignoring it when she says no. This is never addressed and just horrifying. I would've given this book a solid three star rating without all the problematic content, because I can still recognize that this is a book that may not be for me, but might delight other readers. But like this, I'm simply horrified and shocked and would advise you to be very careful should you plan on reading this.


Rating:

☆☆☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

CARAVAL is the disappointment of the year. Lush prose can't really hide that the concept and world building are mediocre at best. This book is a prime example why we need trigger warnings in mainstream YA, a lot of the very mature themes are used as plot devices. The suicide one hit me the worst, I can't believe they'd put this in a book for teens.

Trigger warning: rape, physical and emotional abuse, suicide, slut-shaming, violence, kidnapping


Additional Info

Published: March 20th 2017
Pages: 400
Publisher: Piper
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 978-3-492-70416-8

Synopsis:
"Remember, it’s only a game…

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."(Source: Goodreads)



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Sunday, April 9, 2017

[Review] Red Queen (#1) - Victoria Aveyard: Special Snowflakes and Silverblooded People





In RED QUEEN, Mare gets mistaken for a silver-blooded princess and is able to escape her fate as a red-blooded peasant to be forced to fight in a deadly war.

What intrigued me: Recommendation by a friend.

Wait, I've seen this before

RED QUEEN is the epitome of late to the party. It's a weird mix between futuristic dystopia and your average high fantasy class revolution. 
During the height of the 2011 dystopia hype, this maybe would've been original, this maybe would've been able to keep my interest, but having read dozens of dystopian books that follow the exact same scheme, this isn't anything special. If you haven't read lots of books in the genre, this might strike you as quite interesting, I just found it dull and repetitive. 

Especially the beginning is so reminiscent of THE WINNER'S CURSE that I thought I had picked up the wrong book for a moment. 
The social divide between two people, one overpowering the other because of their almost supernatural skill, is so annoyingly overdone that I couldn't take this seriously. The red-blooded and silver-blooded people, peasants and nobles respectively, didn't even seem interesting to me. I find the premise pretty silly to be honest, the only thing that's missing to make this novel read like a bad fan fiction is that the silvers all have unusual eye and hair colors. The weirdest thing is that the set up suggests we have a straight up class war situation, but then the book does a 360 and turns into THE SELECTION, revolution style.

Let's play cliche bingo

Although there is lots of world building, it only made me shrug. Aveyard is unable to mix the futuristic influences into her medieval-ish fantasy world without making it seem lazy and strange. RED QUEEN consists of all cliches you've seen in dystopian and high fantasy books, smashed together and pretending it's something new. And adding a dreaded love triangle between the childhood friend and the forbidden lover, AND another guy (!) just made me sigh endlessly. 

Paired with a special snowflake protagonist that inexplicably has ~magical powers~, RED QUEEN comes more across as a parody on the genre than a novel that's to be taken seriously.

Without an ounce of originality, RED QUEEN reads like a half-baked cross between your average fantasy novel and the x men, in the worst way.


Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

No. I found it boring and full of cliches. RED QUEEN stuns with consisting of so many tropes that I'm surprised nobody has created a bingo sheet based on this.



Additional Info

Published: February 10th 2015
Pages: 383
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9780062310637

Synopsis:
"This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.

The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.

That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.

But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart."(Source: Goodreads)



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Friday, April 7, 2017

Recommendation: Girl Out of Water - Laura Silverman: Surfing and One-Armed Skaters

In GIRL OUT OF WATER, surfer girl Anise has to move from Santa Cruz to Nebraska when her aunt has an accident.
What intrigued me: Always there for cute contemporaries!

Bittersweet and Unique

GIRL OUT OF WATER hit me out of nowhere. With lyrical prose and a voice that packs a punch, it reads like it's written from the heart. Silverman's narration is captivating, sassy, essentially teen, and just an absolute delight. 

I'm especially happy to see a protagonist in YA contemporary that I'm very sure I've never seen before. When was the last time you read about a surfer girl-turned skater? So interesting to read about and the nuanced way Silverman writers about the bittersweet experience of leaving home hit very close to home for me personally.

GIRL OUT OF WATER is a story about family, friendships, and growing up. It's quiet, it's funny, it's bittersweet - it's just the perfect read for spring and summer and I'm very happy that I chose to give this one a shot. However, don't expect fast-paced action when picking this one up, GIRL OUT OF WATER is quiet first and foremost and capitalizes on its fantastic characters. If you fall in love with them, this will be even more fun for you and I can wholeheartedly recommend this if you like character-driven contemporaries.


Diversity Done Right

I was especially happy about the casual diversity. Anise's best friend Tess is Samoan, there are sapphic background characters, and the love interest is a black one-armed skater. It's very rare that you'll find a book that doesn't capitalize and advertise with its diversity, but uses it as a given. Our world is diverse. People are diverse. 

I absolutely enjoyed about these characters who just happen to be marginalized and whose marginalizations don't involve huge plot complications or are used as plot devices - I have to remark that because unfortunately a lot of books do this. Not this one though. GIRL OUT OF WATER reflects our diverse world beautifully in a quiet manner that just made me squeal with joy. I wish this was the norm. More like this please.


Rating:

★★★★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

GIRL OUT OF WATER is quiet and fun contemporary with a sassy narrator that I'm sure teens will love. If you like Ashley Herring Blake and Jenny Han, you'll adore this. With a black amputee love interest, a Samoan BFF and sapphic side characters, the background diversity made me really happy. That's so nice to read.



Additional Info

Published: May 2nd 2017
Pages: 320
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 9781492646860

Synopsis:
"Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves "
(Source: Goodreads)


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Monday, April 3, 2017

[Review] Riders (#1) - Veronica Rossi: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - Teen Edition





In RIDERS, Gideon is resurrected as the incarnation of War, a horseman of the apocalypse, and immediately captured to be interrogated.

What intrigued me: The concept! I'm always ready for apocalyptic ya!

Not really an apocalyptic slaughterfest -... sadly

Rossi made the decision to have protagonist Gideon tell the story of how he became War in retrospective, under the influence of a truth serum. There's a sense of mystery to the story because we only get bits of it at a time, and this is just what had me on my tiptoes the entire time and really got me invested. However, because Gideon is narrating, the story sort of loses its focus on the paranormal aspect early on and turns into a typical contemporary story with a nauseating amount of filler that's super exhausting to read.

Because the majority of the book is spent dealing with the origin story, we have to wait for things to get really going. I was hoping for action from the first page and chaos and destruction. Instead of a dystopian, chaotic read with a side of fast-paced fighting scenes, this reads more like a paranormal YA with a twist. This is where I think this book completely fails, because you can't just turn a killer premise like that into a boring origin story book when it has the potential to be epic. I assume we'll find the epicness in the sequels (which I'm not going to read)

Great characters saving the day

Even though the synopsis suggests it, there isn't much romance in this book, and I'm very thankful for that. Because it has a male narrator I was very skeptical and weary of this maybe turning into a cheesy instant love romance. What ultimately breaks this book's back isn't the romance but the sheer lack of world building and plot. Nothing really happens in this, and it's just an awkward, almost road trip feeling kind of contemporary. It's really, really, really a way calmer read than I expected.

Well, at least I liked the protagonist. Gideon is a class A macho army kid, and yeah, I dig it. His voice is interesting, his character well thought-out, and his perspective seems very realistic. I especially enjoyed his relationship with his sister, it's always nice to see siblings who love each other and stand up for each other. Gideon really is what ultimately gained the two stars because the plot is absolutely boring. I like Gideon, I like the idea of this book, but with a massive lack of world building and poor pace, RIDERS isn't anything special and definitely not a must-read.


Rating:

★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

RIDERS wasn't really what I expected and bored me more than it fascinated me. The interesting premise is pretty much wasted through the snail pace, which is a pity - I was ready to love this.



Additional Info

Published: February 6th 2016
Pages: 384
Publisher: Tor Teen
Genre: YA / Urban Fantasy
ISBN: 9780765382542

Synopsis:
"Nothing but death can keep eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does.

While recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself with strange new powers and a bizarre cuff he can’t remove. His death has brought to life his real destiny. He has become War, one of the legendary four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Over the coming weeks, he and the other horsemen—Conquest, Famine, and Death—are brought together by a beautiful but frustratingly secretive girl to help save humanity from an ancient evil on the emergence.

They fail.

Now—bound, bloodied, and drugged—Gideon is interrogated by the authorities about his role in a battle that has become an international incident. If he stands any chance of saving his friends and the girl he’s fallen for—not to mention all of humankind—he needs to convince the skeptical government officials the world is in imminent danger.

But will anyone believe him?(Source: Goodreads)


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Friday, March 24, 2017

[Review] The Kiss of Deception (Remnant Chronicles #1) - Mary E. Pearson: Runaway Princesses and Assassins

In THE KISS OF DECEPTION, princess Lia runs away from home on the day she is supposed to get married to the prince of a nearby kingdom.

What intrigued me: I don't know. I guess I wanted a decent high fantasy read.

Romance and Love Triangles

Ebony Dark'ness Dem- ... um I meant Arabella Celestine Idris Jezelia is your typtical runaway princess with special powers who finds herself torn between the prince she was supposed to marry and the assassin sent to kill her for fleeing the wedding.

It doesn't sound very original and really doesn't read that way either. THE KISS OF DECEPTION really reads like a very lengthy set up for a boring love triangle in a world that isn't interesting or original either. If you're generally a romance reither, you may like this, but since I was looking for fantastic world building and epic high fantasy, THE KISS OF DECEPTION fell more than just flat for me. There is just too much plot convenience and instant love to make all that even remotely interesting. THE KISS OF DECEPTION really is just a read for hardcore romance fans. The rest of the story is filled out with aimlessly wandering around, reminiscing, and of course the obligatory run-ins with the evil peoples of the surrounding kingdoms. 

Very uncreative world building

What instantly irked me about THE KISS OF DECEPTION is the world building. The protagonist's home kingdom is surrounded by other kingdoms whose inhabitants are described as vicious barbarians that dance around fires and bite heads off, and dangerous vagabonds (often called g*psies). It's quite obvious that both of these peoples are very clear allusions to the very common savage aggressor trope and of course a questionable portrayal of Romani people. Generally, I just wish authors would stop inlcuding that in their books. I'm done reading about it. If it's not #ownvoices or historical fiction, can we stop basing our fantasy races on real people or disgusting stereotypes of them? It's not 1930 anymore. It's fantasy - make something up instead of halfheartedly writing down maybe/maybe not offensive portrayals of real peoples.

THE KISS OF DECEPTION generally severely lacks creativity when it comes to the world and the plot. Nothing happens for the majority of the narrative and blank spots are filled with ramblings and passive narration. Considering that this book is more than 490+ pages long (550 in my translated version!), this is a tough read.


Rating:

★☆☆☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

THE KISS OF DECEPTION really is just your average not-so-special high fantasy read with a love triangle. The lack of plot and questionable world building made me raise eyebrows more than actually get me invested.

[If there are any Romani reviewers who read this - let me know, I'd be happy to link your review here.]

Additional Info

Published: July 14th 2014
Pages: 489
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9780805099232

Synopsis:
"A princess must find her place in a reborn world.

She flees on her wedding day.

She steals ancient documents from the Chancellor's secret collection.

She is pursued by bounty hunters sent by her own father.

She is Princess Lia, seventeen, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan.

The Kingdom of Morrighan is steeped in tradition and the stories of a bygone world, but some traditions Lia can't abide. Like having to marry someone she's never met to secure a political alliance.

Fed up and ready for a new life, Lia flees to a distant village on the morning of her wedding. She settles in among the common folk, intrigued when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deceptions swirl and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—secrets that may unravel her world—even as she feels herself falling in love."
(Source: Goodreads)



What's your favorite high fantasy read?

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