ARC Review – The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares

The Whole Thing Together

Author: Ann Brashares

Publication: April 25th, 2017

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Format: e-ARC, 304 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Read: April 2017

Ann BrasharesGoodreads

I received an e-ARC of this book from Random House Children’s and Delacorte Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

Synopsis
Summer for Sasha and Ray means the sprawling old house on Long Island. Since they were children, they’ve shared almost everything—reading the same books, running down the same sandy footpaths to the beach, eating peaches from the same market, laughing around the same sun-soaked dining table. Even sleeping in the same bed, on the very same worn cotton sheets. But they’ve never met.
Sasha’s dad was once married to Ray’s mom, and together they had three daughters: Emma, the perfectionist; Mattie, the beauty; and Quinn, the favorite. But the marriage crumbled and the bitterness lingered. Now there are two new families—and neither one will give up the beach house that holds the memories, happy and sad, of summers past.
The choices we make come back to haunt us; the effect on our destinies ripples out of our control…or does it? This summer, the lives of Sasha, Ray, and their siblings intersect in ways none of them ever dreamed, in a novel about family relationships, keeping secrets, and most of all, love.

Critically

Plot – 1.5 out of 5 stars
So much disappointment guys. This book doesn’t really have a linear plot, it’s all about the drama of the family that we’re reading about, that’s it. It was slow, boring and didn’t feel like a YA book at all since two thirds of the main characters were adults. There’s girl hate, an unnecessary and kind of gross romance as well as racism and sexism. Just a mess.

Writing Style – 2 out of 5 stars
The narrative style of this book was really jarring and confusing. It’s third person omniscient with multiple point of views but no real distinction between any of the voices. It was unnecessarily flowery and it dragged. It was hard to keep every character straight and the narrative was almost impersonal, I couldn’t connect to any of the protagonists.

Characters – 2 out of 5 stars
This is the first time that I’ve ever been in a complete blank in this section when writing down my thoughts after reading. There’s no life to any of these characters and no characteristics that stands them out in my mind as complex and multidimensional individuals.
The synopsis mentions two protagonists, Ray and Sasha, but there are actually three more protagonists, their siblings: Emma, Quinn and Matty. All of them are just bland characters. They are almost cardboard cutouts and stereotypical personalities. None of them feel like real people. In fact, I can’t really say anything beyond this about them. I sat for half an hour trying to come up with specific things about their personalities that set them apart from each other but there was nothing there. It didn’t help make the book any more entertaining specially since characters are a huge part of what makes books for me.

Emotionally

Read More »

ARC Review – The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz

Publication: March 7th, 2017

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Format: e-ARC, 464 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, LGBTQ+

Read: April 2017

Benjamin Alire SaenzGoodreads

I received an e-ARC of this book from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group and Clarion Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

Synopsis
From the multi-award-winning author of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe comes a gorgeous new story about love, identity, and families lost and found.
Sal used to know his place with his adoptive gay father, their loving Mexican-American family, and his best friend, Samantha. But it’s senior year, and suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and realizing he no longer knows himself. If Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he? This humor-infused, warmly humane look at universal questions of belonging is a triumph.

Critically

Plot – 3 out of 5 stars
Like other books from this author, there’s no linear plot, these books are generally focused on the characters and their growth throughout. This book deals with love, death, family, friendship, grief and anger. It deals with how all these things affect your relationships with people and how they affect you as a person. Unfortunately there’s a scene that mishandles a sexual assault and that’s not something I can take lightly.

Writing Style – 3.5 out of 5 stars
I’m a really big fan of this author’s writing style but in this particular book, there were some misses. The writing style is lyrical and poetic. It reads really quickly and it’s engaging. It’s very emotional and very powerful. However, there were instances with unfortunate phrasing in terms of gender norms and “standards” for representing your ethnicity. There was constant use of a derogatory term as well as ableist language and none of that was necessary for the story.

Characters – 3 out of 5 stars
Again, another area that unfortunately didn’t sell itself completely. I liked a lot of the characters and their relationships were very real and powerful. But there were some things that really got on my nerves.
Salvador is a good main character. His point of view was really intense and emotional. He’s quiet and sweet but almost in a practiced way which I totally related to. He was almost afraid of his anger and where it came from and I have definitely been through that. He’s really lost and confused and I wanted to wrap him in my arms a lot of the time.
However, I had some issues with the side characters. Sam, who is Sal’s best friend, was my biggest issue by far. Her personality just really rubbed me the wrong way. She’s very pushy and argumentative. I really don’t like the kind of people that try to dictate the way that you should act or feel and she was like that not only with Sal but with everyone around her and that was so annoying. She has a kind heart which I appreciated and I liked that she was really in tune with her emotions but those moments when that other side came out would ruin her for me. I really loved how the entire cast was predominantly Mexican and how that culture was integrated so deeply into the story. It was just so nice to read about Latinx family and culture so genuinely expressed.

Emotionally

Read More »

Book Review – Dawn Study by Maria V. Snyder

Dawn Study (Soulfinders #3, Study #6, The Chronicles of Ixia #9)

Author: Maria V. Snyder

Publication: January 31st, 2017

Publisher: Mira Books

Format: Kindle Edition, 478 pages

Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Paranormal

Read: February 2017

Maria V. SnyderGoodreads

 

Synopsis
New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder brings her Poison Study series to its exhilarating conclusion.
Despite the odds, Yelena and Valek have forged an irrevocable bond and a family that transcends borders. Now, when their two homelands stand on the brink of war, they must fight with magic and cunning to thwart an Ixian plot to invade Sitia.
Yelena seeks to break the hold of the insidious Theobroma that destroys a person’s resistance to magical persuasion. But the Cartel is determined to keep influential citizens and Sitian diplomats in thrall and Yelena at bay. With every bounty hunter after her, Yelena is forced to make a dangerous deal.
With might and magic, Valek peels back the layers of betrayal surrounding the Commander. At its rotten core lies a powerful magician and his latest discovery. The fate of all rests upon two unlikely weapons. One may turn the tide. The other could spell the end of everything.

Critically

Plot – 4.5 out of 5 stars
I am running out of things to say about these books because you all know that I absolutely love this entire series. This book is just as action packed and full of suspense and drama and mystery. All the pieces that have been floating around since the beginning finally begin to fit together and spread. There’s danger and intrigue. The climax itself was kind of disappointing but the ending was really sweet and it gave me all the feels.

Writing Style – 4 out of 5 stars
Again, not really sure what more to say. The writing style for these books is always really engaging and addicting, it’s very easy and fast to read through. There are several points of views throughout the book and they all feel very distinct and unique to each person. The story is fast paced, intricate and full of description and detailed.

Characters – 5 out of 5 stars
I love and adore every single freaking character that is in this single book. This is the ninth book in the general series and this book has almost every character that has ever been on page with dialogue in the rest of the series in this book and it was amazing to be able to have them all together.
Yelena is one of my favorite characters of all time and it was great to have a whole new adventure with her. She’s smart and determined. She’s really protective and I love her devotion to the safety of her loved ones. She’s in a very special state throughout this whole book and it was quite terrifying because it was dangerous for her, more than it’s ever been. But I also love getting to see more of these characters and their lives and how they’ve grown as people. They feel real because I’ve seen them since their very humble beginnings.
Valek is one of my favorites of this particular series. I’ve always loved him but as a partner to Yelena and in this series and in this book as well, I got to see more of his personality. He’s much more emotional and accepting. His personal growth was astounding. Janco is great because he’s the most lighthearted of all the points of views and I really liked seeing his perspective on the things that were going on. Leif’s narrative tends to be focused on his wife and family and his feelings on protectiveness of them. There’s a new small point of view in this book and that’s Heli, who was an important side character in the Glass trilogy. She’s really smart, kind and sweet and I liked seeing the little bit of her perspective that we got.

Emotionally

Read More »

Book Review – Night Study by Maria V. Snyder

Night Study (Soulfinders #2, Study #5, The Chronicles of Ixia #8)

Author: Maria V. Snyder

Publication: January 26th, 2016

Publisher: Mira Books

Format: Kindle Edition, 400 pages

Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Paranormal

Read: February 2017

Maria V. SnyderGoodreads

 

Synopsis
Ever since being kidnapped from the Illiais Jungle as a child, Yelena Zaltana’s has been fraught with peril. But the recent loss of her Soulfinding abilities has endangered her more than ever before. As she desperately searches for a way to reclaim her magic, her enemies are closing in, and neither Ixia nor Sitia are safe for her anymore. Especially since the growing discord between the two countries and the possibility of a war threatens everything Yelena holds dear.
Valek is determined to protect Yelena, but he’s quickly running out of options. The Commander suspects that his loyalties are divided, and he’s been keeping secrets from Valek… secrets that put him, Yelena and all their friends in terrible danger. As they uncover the various layers of the Commander’s mysterious plans, they realize it’s far more sinister that they could have ever imagined.

Critically

Plot – 4.5 out of 5 stars
This series always manages to be action packed and full of drama. There’s a lot of mystery and suspense in this one as the characters don’t really know what they’re up against. There’s danger and intrigue and you’re never really sure if things are going to be okay in the end. In this book, there’s several plot lines that are coming together in an explosive way that foretells an amazing finale to come.

Writing Style – 4 out of 5 stars
The writing style is fast paced and engaging. It’s addicting and intricate and each of the characters has a distinct voice. It’s detailed and descriptive though it shares a lot of different plot lines and complications. There’s a lot going on and you fly though the book so it might be hard to grasp some of the smaller details.

Characters – 5 out of 5 stars
I’ve spent a lot of time talking about how much I love the entire cast of characters that is a part of this series and the cast just keeps growing and growing. There are several new characters that shake up things a bit for a main character and I just loved seeing that.
Yelena is in a precarious situation. Again haha. She’s out of magic and has a lot of problems that are plaguing both Ixia and Sitia and as liaison between the two countries, she feels like she has to save the day. I love how fierce and determined she is. She’s always looking for a way to keep people safe, not only those she loves, but to help keep the peace between the countries that she’s a part of because she comes from both. She’s practical and cunning. She’s very protective and loving and I just really enjoy reading from her point of view. I’m gonna miss her after the next book.
Valek, surprisingly, has a lot of emotional growth in this book and I wasn’t really expecting that. We learn a lot about his past and see some flashbacks about his life before being with the Commander and how he became the assassin he is. I loved seeing him more emotional and vulnerable. It was a different side to him. Janco is a great point of view to have in this particular trilogy. I love his humor but we also get to see how smart he is. He takes risks and sometimes they pat off haha. Then we also have Leif’s point of view which was an addition in this book. He’s really worried but determined to keep the peace and to have his loved ones safe.

Emotionally

Read More »

Book Review – Shadow Study by Maria V. Snyder

Shadow Study (Soulfinders #1, Study #4, The Chronicles of Ixia #7)

Author: Maria V. Snyder

Publication: February 24th, 2015

Publisher: Mira Books

Format: Kindle Edition, 384 pages

Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Paranormal

Read: January 2017

Maria V. SnyderGoodreads

 

Synopsis
New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder wowed readers with Poison Study, the unforgettable story of poison taster Yelena. Now she’s back with a new tale of intrigue.
Once, only her own life hung in the balance…
Oddly enough, when Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. But she’d survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia. Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands—and protect her relationship with Valek.
Suddenly, though, they are beset on all sides by those vying for power through politics and intrigue. Valek’s job and his life are in danger. As Yelena tries to uncover the scope of these plots, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. She must keep that a secret—or her enemies will discover just how vulnerable she really is—while searching for who or what is responsible for neutralizing her powers.
Yes, the days of tasting poisons were much simpler. And certainly not as dangerous…

Critically

Plot – 4 out of 5 stars
It’s no surprise how much I love this series so obviously, I have an amazing time when reading. These books tend to be filled with non-stop action and drama and this book is no exception. There’s suspense and mystery and intrigue. This book is filled with dangerous situations and the characters are bombarded with problems the entire time I have to say that while this series is marketed as YA, the grand majority of the characters are adults which definitely affects the themes explored here.

Writing Style – 4 out of 5 stars
Unlike the previous trilogies I’ve read from this author, this book has a lot more POV’s. It was really awesome to see inside the minds of some of my favorite side characters and I love how distinct each voice felt. The writing is really fast paced, engaging and addicting. It’s detailed and descriptive and super easy to read through. The magic system is complicated and tends to have continuous holes but it’s also so freaking entertaining that I can’t complain haha.

Characters – 5 out of 5 stars
All of these characters are basically my babies and I don’t think I could think critically about them even if I tried. So forgive me while the rest of this review is basically me gushing about these guys with a few exceptions.
Yelena is my favorite character of all time and I am so incredibly happy to be back in her head in this book! She’s much more vulnerable and scared than I’ve ever seen her before, this book definitely takes her out of her comfort zone and makes her confront the way she’s lived for so long. She’s worried, protective but definitely just as reckless as she’s always been which yes, is still as frustrating as it’s always been haha. I’m looking forward to seeing how she grows throughout the rest of the series because she’s in a completely new situation now and it’s going to be challenging for her.
There’s various side characters that are becoming more prominent in this book, from hearing from their points of views for the first time or to being introduced to them for the first time. Valek is my favorite, I honestly can’t quite grasp how old he is in this book, it’s insanity. But I loved seeing inside his head and his growth though! I don’t think I’ve ever seen his explore his emotions as much before, it was great. Janco is one of my favorites in this series because he’s just so hilarious with a side of annoying. He’s that character that brings comic relief and he does it well. Finally, I’ll mention Onora who’s a brand new character who throws a wrench in the entire dynamic of the team and that was really interesting. She’s defensive and guarded so I hope to learn more about her in the next few books.

Emotionally

Read More »

Book Review – Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate

Seven Ways We Lie

Author: Riley Redgate

Publication: March 8th, 2016

Publisher: Amulet Books

Format: Kindle Edition, 352 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, LGBTQ+

Read: February 2017

Riley RedgateGoodreads

Synopsis
In Seven Ways We Lie, a chance encounter tangles the lives of seven high school students, each resisting the allure of one of the seven deadly sins, and each telling their story from their seven distinct points of view.
The juniors at Paloma High School all have their secrets, whether it’s the thespian who hides her trust issues onstage, the closeted pansexual who only cares about his drug-dealing profits, or the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal. But it’s Juniper Kipling who has the furthest to fall. No one would argue that Juniper—obedient daughter, salutatorian, natural beauty, and loyal friend—is anything but perfect. Everyone knows she’s a saint, not a sinner; but when love is involved, who is Juniper to resist temptation? When she begins to crave more and more of the one person she can’t have, her charmed life starts to unravel.
Then rumors of a student–teacher affair hit the fan. After Juniper accidentally exposes her secret at a party, her fate falls into the hands of the other six sinners, bringing them into one another’s orbits. All seven are guilty of something. Together, they could save one another from their temptations—or be ruined by them.
Riley Redgate’s twisty YA debut effortlessly weaves humor, heartbreak, and redemption into a drama that fans of Jenny Han and Stephanie Perkins will adore.

Critically

Plot – 3 out of 5 stars
The first half of this book was painfully slow, it took me so long to get interested in it. I didn’t really want to pick it up but as I continued, the second half improved and was much more entertaining. Some things were kind of boring and it wasn’t as engaging as I was hoping it would be. It’s a coming of age story with important themes throughout but it just didn’t capture my attention.

Writing Style – 3 out of 5 stars
It was really confusing and complicated, it was really hard for me to understand what was happening. I understand what the author was trying to do but there were way too many POVs. However, they were each distinct to each character which was good, I just couldn’t keep up with them, even though the writing style was very simple and easy to read.

Characters – 3.5 out of 5 stars
Usually this is the section where I talk about the main characters and a little bit in general about side characters, but this book in particular has seven main characters so I’m just gonna share my thoughts in general. First off, seven is way too many main characters for me. I thought the concept was a really interesting one, each character is meant to represent a deadly sin (you can hypothesize who is who which was great discussion in my book club). However, because there were so many, I didn’t connect with the majority of them. I enjoyed some of their points of views, I hate others, but in general, I just had a meh feeling towards them, specially added with the fact that the first part of the book was slow. Olivia is spunky, Matt is kind and quiet, Valentine is pretty peculiar, Juniper was okay, I hated Claire with a passion and I felt like Kat wasn’t really needed. I just realized that I didn’t mention Julian in my notes at all. I liked him but that just further proves that I was overwhelmed with the amount of characters.

Emotionally

Read More »

Series Review – Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

The Girl of Fire and Thorns, The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns #1, #2 and #3)

Author: Rae Carson

Publication: September 20th 2011, September 18th 2012 and August 27th 2013

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Format: Kindle Edition 448 pages, Kindle Edition 416 pages and Kindle Edition 449 pages

Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Paranormal

Read: October 2016 and February 2017

Rae CarsonGoodreads

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Synopsis
Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one. But she is also the younger of two princesses. The one who has never done anything remarkable, and can’t see how she ever will.
Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king–a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs her to be the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.
And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies, seething with dark magic, are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior, and he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.
Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young. Most of the chosen do.

Critically

Plot – 4 out of 5 stars
The plot is medium paced but it doesn’t really seem like it. There’s a lot of adventure and travel. This book sets up the world which is Catholic/Hispanic and Latinx inspired which is amazing and it also sets up the conflict for the future books. It’s all about magic, religion and so much mystery. I loved getting swept up in this story since it hadn’t happened in a long time. There’s also very little romance which was refreshing for the first book in a YA fantasy series.

Writing Style – 4 out of 5 stars
This author’s writing style is really simple, but also descriptive and detailed. However, it’s also really intense and powerful. It’s emotionally heavy but the narrator has kind of a dry narrative. In this book, she’s very unsure about everything that’s happening with her but it’s still entertaining and engaging to read.

Characters – 4 out of 5 stars
I feel like this group of characters is going to take over my heart very quickly. There’s so much for me to connect to, not only with the main characters but with the culture and the world in this book. I’m slowly drowning in the depths of these dynamics.
Elisa is a very shy and quiet main character. Usually, main characters in fantasy are tough and ready to take on the world and it was a nice change of pace to see someone much more unsure and lost. She’s been kept in the dark about things pertaining to her and she spends a lot of time trying to get on the same playing field as everyone else which was a very interesting point of view to see. But we learn that she’s really smart and a great strategist. I love how she becomes more confident, honest and strong throughout the book.
There are quite a big number of side characters in this series which tends to happen in high fantasy. Each one is complex and interesting on their own and kept me guessing and wondering how they were going to shift the plot. I’m a shipper so I like to mention the romance but it’s very unclear in this first book. I know there is one because of what I’ve heard people talk about from this series but there’s practically nothing in this book.

The Crown of Embers

Synopsis
She does not know what awaits her at the enemy’s gate.
Elisa is a hero.
She led her people to victory over a terrifying, sorcerous army. Her place as the country’s ruler should be secure. But it isn’t.
Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from foreign realms and even from within her own court. And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.
To conquer the power she bears, once and for all, Elisa must follow a trial of long-forgotten—and forbidden—clues, from the deep, hidden catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her go a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man whom—despite everything—she is falling in love with.
If she’s lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost.

Critically

Plot – 4.5 out of 5 stars
I am falling in love with this series, really and truly. This book is full of adventure and travel (again). There’s much more information on the world and the background of it, like how it was created and what led to the setting we see here. It deals with magic, religion, action, drama, politics, war and death. And just to sweeten things up a bit, we have a bit more romance in this one haha.

Writing Style – 4 out of 5 stars
The writing style is descriptive and detailed. It’s simple but at the same time, really powerful and intense. There’s a lot of emotion that pours out of the page through the writing style. It’s medium paced but intricate and entertaining, I could’ve read this book in one sitting honestly. There’s some drama in here but it’s such an enjoyable read.

Characters – 5 out of 5 stars
I’m so obsessed guys! I am officially in love with every single character in this series. They all have a place in my heart, they are my babies and I will protect them with my life!
Elisa astounds me. I loved her character development in the first book, but I’m also super glad that it wasn’t that she had an “easy fix” to the personality she had. She was still unsure and worried about the things happening around her but she’s determined to be the best Queen she can possibly be to this kingdom she now has control of. She’s defiant and selfless. She’s a really strong, smart and honest leader and I think she’s a total badass to be quite honest.
The side characters also continue to grow and astound me. They’re each complex and intricate individuals and the relationships they create between them are just as real and powerful. They feel like real people while reading. The romance also makes a more obvious appearance and I loved it! I’m a huge shipper and this romance gave me the most wondrous feels!

The Bitter Kingdom

Synopsis
The epic conclusion to Rae Carson’s Fire and Thorns trilogy. The seventeen-year-old sorcerer-queen will travel into the unknown realm of the enemy to win back her true love, save her country, and uncover the final secrets of her destiny.
Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save Hector, Elisa will face hardships she’s never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as champion – a champion to those who have hated her most.

Critically

Plot – 5 out of 5 stars
IT’S SO GOOD, GUYS! This was the epic finale to end all the finales for me. It was action packed, full of even more adventure and more travel. We see even more of the world and it continues to astound me how big this creation is. There’s politics, magic, religion and so much more romance that just made me ecstatic! There’s a war going on but it’s almost Cold, it deals with stealth and strategies first which was super interesting.

Writing Style – 4 out of 5 stars
The writing style is powerful and intense, it packs an emotional punch and took me through the wrenches haha. It’s detailed, descriptive yet simple. There’s drama, there’s entertainment and everything is intricately woven together. Though it has a medium pace, the writing flies by and the book can be easily finished in one sitting.

Characters – 5 out of 5 stars
I LOVE THEM SO MUCH! These characters give me life and happiness more than the majority of the characters that I’ve encountered lately. They are all so amazing and beautiful and just so awesome!
Elisa is my Queen! I absolutely adore her. She’s confident and determined. She’s facing upheaval and mutiny within her advisors and she’s going into extreme enemy territory as well. She’s smart and strong and has such a resilient spirit. I liked being able to see much more of her compassionate side in this book. I consider her such a badass that even though that has a “tough only” connotation, it just reminds me of how complex she is as a character. She’s a defiant individual but also in tune with her emotions and her faith. She’s grown so much throughout the series that it’s kind of mind blowing. It makes me so proud of her which sounds kind of weird but that’s the kind of feeling she brings up in me.
Just like the side characters who are complex and intricate individuals. One of my favorite things about this series is the slow build of relationships. From friendships to romances to alliances, every thing is done with care and each one grows exponentially as the stories continue.

 Emotionally

Read More »

ARC Review – The Pants Project by Cat Clarke

book-review-the-pants-project

the-pants-project-cover

The Pants Project

Author: Cat Clarke

Publication: March 7th, 2017

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Format: e-ARC, 272 pages

Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary, Coming of Age, LGBTQ+

Read: March 2017

Cat ClarkeGoodreads

I received an e-ARC of this book from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

Synopsis
My name is Liv (Not Olivia)… I’m not technically a girl.
I’m Transgender. Which is a bit like being a transformer. Only not quite as cool as cool because I probably won’t get to save the world one day.
A Transformer is a robot in disguise. Liv is a boy in disguise. It’s that simple. Liv knows he was always meant to be a boy, but with his new school’s terrible dress code, he can’t even wear pants. Only skirts.
Operation: Pants Project begins! The only way for Live to get what he wants is to go after it himself. But to Liv, this isn’t just a mission to change the policy- it’s a mission to change his life. And that’s a pretty big deal.

I am a cisgender, straight woman and I know very little about transgender issues. If I say anything in this review that can be seen as offensive to the transgender community, please let me know!

Also here’s a review by a multigender writer which I found on this list of reviews of trans/non-binary literature by trans/non-binary reviewers. If you know of any #ownvoices reviews of this book, let me know so I can share them here!

Critically

Plot – 4 out of 5 stars
This book was really entertaining and cute. There’s a lot of passion and several themes that I enjoyed reading about and that I think are important within a middle grade specially. This book talks about acceptance, honestly, family, friendship and sticking up for yourself. Overall, it was a really nice read, super fast and just generally feel good even with the integration of serious topics.

Writing Style – 3 out of 5 stars
The writing style was really fast paced and easy to read. I could’ve finished the book in one sitting if I had had the time to do so. The main character has a very distinct voice and personality which I liked but it also felt very disjointed and there were some weird metaphors. Some things were not explained in the best way in my opinion and kind of made me raise my eyebrows a bit.

Characters – 3 out of 5 stars
I liked the characters in this book, most of all the relationships between them and how they grew and developed as the book went on. Liv was pretty great. He was very determined and had a lot of tenacity which I appreciated. He was very adamant about what he wanted to accomplish with The Pants Project and what it meant to him and I love his purpose. However, he also had a temper that had gotten him in trouble a few times and it was interesting to see that kind of growth, learning how to feel his anger without physically lashing out. He was really vulnerable and secretive for various reasons but he was really kind as well. Like I said above, I really liked the relationships that were explored in the story. The family dynamic is really great and Liv has a sibling with whom he gets along well, as well as you can with a younger sibling and I loved their relationship! There are quite a few side characters and the ones that had most page time I felt were well developed and interesting to read about. I want to mention that there is one character who does say transphobic and homophobic things. They are clearly condemned in the text and the author makes a point to call them out for being bad things to say and to believe but I want to make sure people know before reading in case it’s triggering.

Emotionally

Read More »

ARC Review – Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon

book-review-done-dirt-cheap

done-dirt-cheap-cover

Done Dirt Cheap

Author: Sarah Nicole Lemon

Publication: March 7th, 2017

Publisher: Amulet Books

Format: e-ARC, 336 pages

Genre: Contemporary, Coming of Age, Romance

Read: February 2017

Sarah Nicole LemonGoodreads

I received an e-ARC of this book from Abrams Kids and Amulet Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

Synopsis
Tourmaline Harris’s life hit pause at fifteen, when her mom went to prison because of Tourmaline’s unintentionally damning testimony. But at eighteen, her home life is stable, and she has a strong relationship with her father, the president of a local biker club known as the Wardens. Virginia Campbell’s life hit fast-forward at fifteen, when her mom “sold” her into the services of Hazard, a powerful attorney: a man for whom the law is merely a suggestion. When Hazard sets his sights on dismantling the Wardens, he sends in Virginia, who has every intention of selling out the club—and Tourmaline. But the two girls are stronger than the circumstances that brought them together, and their resilience defines the friendship at the heart of this powerful debut novel.

Critically

Plot – 3.5 out of 5 stars
This book doesn’t have a linear plot in my opinion, it’s much more character oriented. But there’s a lot of amazing themes expressed and developed in this story. It’s a coming of age and it talks about hope, ambition, trust, friendship, honesty, bravery and just general girl badassery. It took me awhile to get into it but it caught my attention after the first quarter.

Writing Style – 4 out of 5 stars
This author’s writing is one of my favorite things about this book. Contemporaries tend to have very simple and easy to read writing, and while this has that, it’s also really poetic and lyrical. There are some really beautiful lines in this book that paint a detailed picture with descriptions that are intense. This book has dual POVs since the two main characters narrate the story but the distinction is very subtle and I wish it could’ve been more obvious to have an easier time transitioning between narrators.

Characters – 4 out of 5 stars
This is the selling point of this book. Not only are there two amazing female protagonists but they build such an incredible friendship that is pretty much the most important part of the story. I am kind of obsessed with these girls and their bond to be honest. Tourmaline is kind of the more naive of the two. She’s been sheltered her entire life and has a certain perception of the world because of who her father is and what he does. She feels really guilty for what she did when she was younger. However, she’s learning a lot about what is really happening around her and she’s defiant and determined. I loved seeing her become more confident as the story progressed. Then we have Virginia (it got a bit confusing sometimes since the setting is also Virginia) and she’s kind of like rough and tough. She’s definitely been through hardship and her life isn’t really what she envisions for herself. She makes the most of what she has but slowly things start to unravel and she wants to look to escape. She’s very vulnerable and scared, she’s dealing with a lot of anxiety but she’s also learning to open up and depend on others. Again, the friendship between these two characters is absolutely incredible and the best part of this book. But there are also a lot of complex and interesting relationships and romances that I feel were very well developed but didn’t take away from the friendship being the focal point of the story.

Emotionally

Read More »

Series Review – Age of Legends by Kelley Armstrong

book-review-age-of-legends

Sea of Shadows, Empire of Night and Forest of Ruin (Age of Legends #1, #2 and #3)

Author: Kelley Armstrong

Publication: April 8th 2014, April 7th 2015 and April 5th 2016

Publisher: HarperCollings

Format: Kindle Edition 406 pages, Kindle Edition 432 pages and Kindle Edition 448 pages

Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror

Read: October 2016 and February 2017

Kelley ArmstrongGoodreads

Sea of Shadows Cover

Sea of Shadows

3-stars1

Synopsis
In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.
Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.
Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court—one that will alter the balance of their world forever.

Critically

Plot – 3.5 out of 5 stars
This book is really slow paced and there was some action that kept me entertained but it wasn’t what I was expecting. The world building was really confusing and it took me awhile to really get into the story and to grasp everything that was going on. This book deals with death, monsters, religion and rituals. There’s a lot of play on legends and magic which was everything interesting.

Writing Style – 4 out of 5 stars
This particular writing style is really verbose and old fashioned. It’s at a slow but steady pace and it’s descriptive and detailed. However, the world building is really confusing and messy. I didn’t understand it at all and it kept me from automatically getting lost into the story. In general, it took me awhile to get into the story because of the older style writing.

Characters – 3 out of 5 stars
This is probably my least favorite part of this book. I felt like the majority of the characters fit into certain boxes or stereotypes and it didn’t help me connect to any of them. The two main characters are twins, Moria and Ashyn. First thing first, it took me a really long time to get comfortable with the names. They are much more complicated than they need to be. I kept reading Moria as Moira and it drove me nuts honestly.
Both of them are stereotypically completely different. Moria has a really strong personality. She’s kind of defensive and temperamental. She’s definitely more of a warrior type and spends a lot of time investigating and practicing fighting. She’s really protective of her sister but not overly emotional. She tends to be seen as the tougher one, with a kind of coldness and practicality to her personality.
Ashyn on the other hand is really shy, meek and quiet. She’s much more book smart and the more romantic of the twins. She’s really naive and almost overprotected in a way. She feels very much out of her depth and completely unsure of how to stay safe and stay alive. She knows more about medicine and tending to wounds but is kind of useless in a battle.
There are also a lot of side characters in this book, each with their own complex personalities. It took me awhile to keep everyone straight in my head because there’s a lot of different players in this complicated story. Because of that, it was harder for me to connect to them and I wish I could’ve seen them grow more then they did in this book.

empire-of-night-cover

Empire of Night

4-stars1

Synopsis
Sisters Moira and Ashyn are the Keeper and Seeker of Edgewood.
or at least, they were.

Their village is gone. Their friends have betrayed them. And now, they are all but prisoners in court, forced to watch and wait while the Emperor decides whether to help the children of Edgewood, who remain hostages of the treacherous Alvar Kitsune.
But when the emperor finally sends the girls on a mission to rescue the children – accompanied by Prince Tyrus and a small band of men – the journey proves more perilous than any of them could have imagined. With lies and unrest mounting in the empire, Moria and Ashyn will have to draw on every bit of influence and power they possess to unite their people and avert an all-out war.

Critically

Plot – 4 out of 5 stars
This book picked up the pace a bit more and it’s much more action packed as well. Thankfully, there’s much more information on the world and how the empire they live in actually works. It’s still a bit confusing though with this second book, I’m definitely getting the hang of things. There’s more romance in this one, lots of twists and turns and monsters. It was definitely a lot more exciting than the first book.

Writing Style – 4 out of 5 stars
The writing style is, luckily, really easy to read and has a steady pace to go along with the plot. It’s really descriptive and detailed though it can still get kind of confusing sometimes. It’s really verbose and old fashioned. The characters voices sound much older than they are because of the way their empire is. However, the world building has definitely improved in this one and things make much more sense.

Characters – 3.5 out of 5 stars
This is still the section in which I’m struggling with the most in this series which sucks because characters are my favorite parts of books. Though it’s definitely improved from the first book as well.
Moria is really freaking angry in this book. The ending of the last book kind of shook her and she’s now questioning the things she thought were right. She’s hurt and she feels betrayed. However, she’s still smart and confident in who she is and the plot of this book pushes her to become much more open and honest.
While I’m not the biggest fan of Ashyn, I really like the development she had in this book. She’s much more confident and much more outgoing but without losing her personality and the person that she is. She’s still smart and is becoming much more aware of her surroundings but still can’t really fight and is overprotected by some of the male characters.
There are more side characters added in this book, much more than I was expecting, but at the same time, they’re all fleshed out much more than in the first book. I enjoyed that there was much more development for all of the characters.

Forest of Ruin Cover

Forest of Ruin

4.5-stars1

Synopsis
The empire rests on the edge of a knife, and sisters Ashyn and Moria are the handle and the blade. Desperate to outmaneuver the evil Alvar Kitsune, whose hold on the people grows stronger every day, Emperor Tatsu begs Moria to put aside past grievances and ally with Gavril—at least long enough to make an attempt on Alvar’s life. Meanwhile, reunited with her long-lost grandfather, Ashyn discovers that she is the key to a ritual that could reawaken an ancient dragon and turn the tide of the coming battle in their favor.
But with lies and betrayal lurking around every corner, Ashyn and Moria will have to decide once and for all where their allegiances are. And it may not be where their hearts would lead them…
In this breathtaking final book in her trilogy the Age of Legends, author Kelley Armstrong blends fantasy, action, and romance to give readers the unforgettable ending they’ve been waiting for.

Critically

Plot – 4 out of 5 stars
This book is set at a steady, medium pace but the action keeps going. There’s also some mystery in this one, revolving around dragons which is pretty cool. There’s a lot more focus on romance in this one as well and it’s so much easier to understand than the rest of the books have been. There’s twists and turns and lots of violence (it can get graphic) but I feel like the ending was very solid and conclusive.

Writing Style – 4 out of 5 stars
The writing style as always is descriptive and detailed. There’s a steady pace that flows with the plot and I really enjoy that the POV’s are very distinct. The characters speak with big words and it’s all very old fashioned in style. It’s easy to read and I ended up enjoying it much more as the series continued.

Characters – 4 out of 5 stars
Finally, one of these books where I don’t have some huge complain about the characters. They will never become favorites of mine but I have to say that they definitely improved as the series went on.
Moria is a freaking badass lady. She’s so logical, smart and crafty. She’s gotten better at working through her emotions but it doesn’t stop her from continuing to be brave and fiercely protective and strong. She’s super blunt and is always looking at things in a different perspective than other people. Though she had a lot of development, I think it was more of building on who she already was and making her even better.
Ashyn on the other hand had the most extensive development out of everyone in the series. She started out really shy and timid and pretty much scared of a bunch of things. But as things progressed and she started to become more confident, she blossomed. She’s passionate, determined and smart. She’s kind as always but much more blunt and honest with herself and others. I love how self-confidence helped her become a much more well rounded person and someone that can kick ass in her own way.
All the side characters now feel much more three dimensional and fleshed out. They’ve always been complex but since there were so many, I never felt like I got to know them as much as I wanted to but that was definitely fixed in this book.

Emotionally

Read More »