0 In Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten (Three!) Tuesday: Characters I Liked That Were In Books I Didn’t Like

I start every book treating it like it could be my next favorite. I give every single story the chance to completely enamor me. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Is it the author’s fault? My own unrealistic expectations? Mercury in retrograde? Steve Jobs’? All of the above? The world may never know.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (as always, by the ever-amazing Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl) is about a similar issue: your top ten characters you liked that featured in books you didn’t like. There have been times I’d have totally abandoned a book were it not for a character that I felt particularly emotionally attached to. Not enough to redeem the book, but still redeemable enough to keep me from throwing the book into a dumpster fire. With that in mind, I will present to you my list! My list that is literally only three books long because I just … don’t read books I don’t like.


  1. Rose from The Cellar
    The Cellar is one of the most godawful books I’ve ever read – a kidnapping story about teenage girls that are forced to live in a creepy guy’s basement and do all sorts of weird, unmentionable things that don’t make a lick of sense. I’d have completely abandoned this book at one point, had it not been for Rose – Rose, who’d been in the basement the longest, who genuinely loved her captor and was afraid of the outside world. Her story was what kept me reading – I had to see if she made it to safety.

  2. Maddy from Everything, Everything
    Oh, Maddy. Your story was so trite and expected, I knew exactly what was going to happen, and I really detested that boy you fell in insta-love with for no real reason. But I was concerned about your livelihood, and that is what kept me reading – I had to make sure you were going to come out of this in one piece, even if it was in the world’s most unexpected fashion.

  3. Millie from Behind Closed Doors
    Let’s be honest – this book is a trash fire. Did I enjoy reading it? Yes. But it was like eating an entire bag of cotton candy – I finished with a stomach ache and an inescapable feeling of, “what the hell did I just consume?” The characters are ridiculous and the “bad guy” might as well be twirling an actual mustache and laughing by the train tracks with his wife tied to them … but then there’s Millie. Sweet, innocent Millie, the sister of the main character who is threatened with a horrible fate the entire book. I kept reading this one purely because I wanted to see Millie through to the end.

I really don’t have more than three because to be honest I get rid of books that are a ~waste of my time~, so I feel like I am sort of copping out of this one. Next week, hopefully!

5 In Wrap Up

March Wrap Up & April TBR

Somehow it’s almost April. I have no idea where March went, but I have my suspicions. I hate summer with a flaming passion, and I have always suspected that the final months of cooler, pleasant weather go quickly just to piss me off. It works, because here in Georgia, we live in the land of eternal Summertime Sadness. But I digress because this blog is not called Patricia Bitches About the Weather. (though to be honest, I’d read that blog …)

I completed ten books in March 2018, which surprises the Hell out of me. But I got smart with my Kindle app, and I read my NetGalley ARCs on my phone now when I’m at work and get down time, or walking somewhere. Or, yeah, sometimes in the bathroom. Look, we all have needs, okay?

 

 

 

 Pages Read: 3,754 – an average of ~375 pages a book

 Average Rating3.3

 Least Favorite: Soulstruck by Natasha Sinel

 Most Favorite: The Boy From Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis

 

I am always leery to make an ~official~ TBR post, because I am very much an “all over the place” type reader. I can preorder a book and want nothing but that book for months, but as soon as I get it in the mail I will shelve it and pick it up 3 months later when I am ready for it. So there is no guarantee at all that any of these books will appeal to me in the next 30 days, but I can at least set myself up to succeed partially!

Books I Have Every Intention of At Least Laying Hands On In April:

 The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

 Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

 Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter

 The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo (NetGalley ARC review)

 The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray by B.A. Williamson (NetGalley ARC review)

How many of these predictions will come true? Who knows, let’s find out together, shall we?

 

1 In Review

Review: Illuminae by Amy Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Review: Illuminae by Amy Kaufman & Jay KristoffIlluminae (The Illuminae Files, #1) by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 20th 2015
Pages: 599
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads
five-stars

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.
But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again.
BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

I don’t like sci-fi. I will probably repeat this to you when I am old and decrepit on my deathbed, leaning in for another sip of chicken broth as I grab you by the lapel, yank you close and hiss, “I don’t like sci-fi” into your face with my gross, old lady mouth. Wow, that was a little too much even for me. Sorry, guys.

Illuminae, though? It took all my expectations of what a sci-fi book means and slammed them into the ground so hard that they shattered. “You think sci-fi is boring?!” it yelled, doing the Cha-Cha Slide on my heart. “Not today!”

It was basically this, only instead of a basketball player, it’s a 600 page orange novel.

If I had any preconceived notions of what the dynamic duo of Kaufman and Kristoff (K squared?) were calling sci-fi, I was pleasantly wrong in all ways possible. I figured this would be Titanic in space. Boy, was I wrong.

Rating: 

How I’d Describe This Book to My Friends

Take your favorite sassy couple from any book of your choice. Add in life-threatening peril, a lifestyle of living in space not unlike the one from Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, and a pinch of zombie virus, and you have the beginnings of Illuminae.

When we first meet our heroes – Kady and Ezra – they just broke up. Terrible timing for them as, unfortunately, not long after the split they get caught up in a major attack on their little, remote planet. Kady ends up on one rescue ship, and Ezra the other. With the enemy bearing down on them, options are rapidly becoming smaller and time is running out. If that pressure wasn’t enough, what initially seemed like PTSD from survivors of the attack rapidly morphs into the start of a zombie-like virus, with deadly – and disgusting – results.

And just in case that isn’t enough pressure for you, let’s just go ahead and say that the AI that runs the ship Ezra is on it uh … a bit less than savory in his ethical actions, and is becoming worrisome as time goes on.

What follows is an action-packed book, told in everything from emails and IMs to ASCII art. I am a sucker for a good epistolary novel, and this is no different. I loved my time with Kady and Ezra (especially Kady, a badass young woman with an amazing skillset of coding know-how) a lot, so much so that I bought Gemina (book #2) immediately upon finishing Illuminae, and I was at a hotel in Tampa, Florida. I could have been at the pool, or even better – asleep. But instead I finished this book. That alone should tell you something.

Bottom Line

If you don’t really like sci-fi stories, but you do enjoy snark and the good clean fun that comes with it, you cannot pass up on Illuminae. The romance is realistic, the scary parts appropriately bone-chilling, and I never felt lost or confused, just nervous and anxious for our beloved star-crossed lovers. Please give this one a try, sci-fi haters. I promise you won’t regret it.

five-stars
4 In Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Take Place In Another Country

As always, Top Ten Tuesday is brought to us by the brilliant mind of Jana, over at That Artsy Reader Girl.

If I have learned anything from this TTT it’s that I … really only read books that take place in America. All over America, but when I looked at my “read” shelf on Goodreads, I realized that 3 things happened: the books have either have taken place in the USA, or they were books I didn’t like and cannot – therefore – in good conscience list as part of a Top Ten Tuesday. (Or, the third option, it’s in my TBR pile and I can’t say it’s a “top” anything yet). Yikes.

With that in mind, what I have put together here is a Top (T)Five Tuesday, because I have failed at life this week. Whoops.

  1. The Name of the Star – Maureen Johnson – London
    This first book in a series takes place in London, and is a good ol’ fashioned Jack the Ripper ghost story. Not the first of its kind, and I can’t remember a while lot about it, but I do remember enjoying my time spent in the foggy, modern streets of London.
  2. The Secret Place – Tana FrenchDublin
    French writes some of the most evocative things I’ve ever read, all set in and around Dublin, Ireland. I could have included any of her books here, but I decided to stick with my personal favorite – The Secret Place. I am a sucker for a boarding school story, and I was entranced by these students and the detective in charge of the case. I highly recommend this one, even if you only read YA – most of the characters being teenagers makes it go down easier.
  3. Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty – Australia
    I read Big Little Lies before the show came to fruition, but even if I hadn’t I’d probably still put it on this list. I really enjoyed my time in Pirriwee (a fictional city) in Australia (a real continent). You just can’t beat a good old fashioned domestic thriller about moms, wine and death.
  4. A Great & Terribly Beauty – Libba Bray – India & London
    Any of this trilogy could be here, but it’s been so long since I read these books that I just went with the first in the series. Bray’s beautiful Victorian trilogy takes place in England, but there are also touches of India here thanks to some memories the main character, Gemma, has. A must-read for just about any teenage girl in existence, and any of us who were once teenage girls.
  5. Stalking Jack the Ripper – Kerri Maniscalco – London
    Two of the five books here are straight up about Jack the Ripper. I don’t know what that says about me, except that I maybe like my books on the punchier, scarier side. Maniscalo’s book about old Jackie Poo takes place back when Jack was actually doing the Ripping, though, so I don’t consider this double dipping with Johnson’s book.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of these yourself, and thanks for reading! Hopefully next week will be slightly less of an abysmal failure, hahaha!

0 In Review

Review: Scream Site by Justina Ireland

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Scream Site by Justina IrelandScream Site by Justina Ireland
Published by Capstone Editions on August 1st 2018
Pages: 264
Format: ARC
Goodreads
three-stars

Sabrina Sebastian's goal in life is to be an investigative reporter. For her first big story, she researches a popular website called Scream Site, where people post scary videos and compete for the most "screams." While Sabrina's friends and her sister, Faith, talk nonstop about the creepy viral videos, Sabrina just hopes that covering this trend will get her the internship she's wishing for. But as she digs into the truth behind the website, she begins to suspect that these aren't only aspiring actors and videographers at work. Some clips seem a little too real. And when Faith goes missing, Sabrina must race against time to save her sister from becoming the next video "star."

Take two parts Blair Witch Project, and mix it with one part “nobody believes me, I’m just a kid” trope; mix in a rocks glass, salt the rim, and what we have here is Justina Ireland’s Scream Site.

Rating: 

How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend

Our main star of this little mysterious ditty is Sabrina Sebastian, a high school freshman who wants more than anything in the world to become an investigative journalist. Sabrina lost her father almost a year ago, and is coping with that loss. Combined with her overprotective nurse mom who is always working long hours and an older sister named Faith who plays the traditional role of “older sister” and can’t stand 95% of what Sabrina does, we have a fairly bog standard recipe for impending doom.

Honorable mention goes to Sabrina’s best friend Evelyn, who bucks all gender norms and stereotypes of her Asian upbringing and spends all of her free time when not working at her grandparents’ grocery store dying her hair, eating pizza, and trying to figure out how to get the school’s requisite hottie – Asher – to notice her. Evelyn is a force to be reckoned with, and I appreciated her a lot.

Trouble begins when Sabrina decides to investigate this website that has recently popped up called Scream Site – a popular YouTube clone run by two famous horror film director brothers. Contestants upload homebrewed scary movies and short films – they are then rated, and presumably at some point the directors will take notice of who actually has a modicum of talent, and invite this person to come work with them. In an attempt to get into a prestigious journalism camp, Sabrina is eager to write an expose more intriguing than one questioning the composition of the taco meat at school – but then she hears a spicy rumor: girls are going missing. Girls that were once number one on the Scream Site board. Well, that beats the hell out of the taco meat paper …

It takes off from there, Sabrina desperately trying to unravel the truth as it becomes more and more obvious to her that something is really going wrong here – unfortunately for her, she’s a young kid and nobody really believes her. She races against time to try to put a stop to these kidnappings, and to bring these girls home.

The Bottom Line

I enjoyed this book. To its credit, I had no idea what the hell the answer was until near the end, and when it came out it was 50% “oh, what?!” and 50% “… seriously?” – it felt a bit hamfisted in its wrapping the story up in a neat little bow. If we didn’t find out on the back summary panel that Sabrina’s sister Faith was going to be kidnapped, that might have come as quite a shock to us and made it even more enjoyable! I actually did not read the summary panel, so I didn’t know Faith was going to be taken from her family – that was a jolt I think that I needed, and if I had read the summary I wouldn’t have received said jolt.

Sabrina’s family is diverse and loving, if flawed. I enjoyed seeing a young woman of color as a main character in a book that does not focus solely on race – it’s merely a backdrop, a conversation piece. Overall, Ireland’s ride through Scream Site is an enjoyable one, and if you can suspend disbelief for its near-300 page jaunt, it is one worth taking.

three-stars
0 In Review

Review: The Boy From Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Boy From Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelisThe Boy from Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis
Published by Amberjack Publishing on May 8th 2018
Pages: 268
Format: ARC
Goodreads
five-stars

Josie and Alec both live at 444 Sparrow Street. They sleep in the same room, but they’ve never laid eyes on each other. They are twelve years old but a hundred years apart.
The children meet through a handpainted spirit board—Josie in 1915, Alec in 2015—and form a friendship across the century that separates them. But a chain of events leave Josie and her little sister Cass trapped in the house and afraid for their safety, and Alec must find out what’s going to happen to them. Can he help them change their future when it’s already past?
The Boy from Tomorrow is a tribute to classic English fantasy novels like Tom’s Midnight Garden and A Traveller in Time. Through their impossible friendship, Alec and Josie learn that life can offer only what they ask of it.

Currently, if asked to describe this book, my eyes would just sort of roll back in my head and I would go “ugh this book!” and you would be like “uh Patricia is that good or … ?” and I would look at you and my jaw would sort of uncomfortably shift to one side and you’d ask me if I’m okay and I would say, “read this book.” Anyway, that is how I feel about The Boy From Tomorrow.

Rating

How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend

I am still trying to figure out how to explain this one without giving too much away, and because I am still processing My Feelings™ I am not 100% sure I even can! I will try. Let’s try.

The Boy From Tomorrow is a middle grade book that ignites hope all of us have deep inside that still burns reverently that there is still some magic in this world. It explores the possibility of connections across decades, between people who will never meet. And yes, I repeat: this is a book for children. Because we often underestimate a kid’s capacity for “big” stories like this – definitely don’t.

It’s 2015. Alec moves into an old, run-down house that “has potential,” as some guy on HGTV with a bushy beard would say. His mom is recovering from a recent messy divorce and Alec is feeling all sorts of things – he is 12 years old, and that’s just the sort of thing that happens. He explores the old, creaking house, and discovers a Ouija board. With two of his new neighbor friends, Alec sets off to talk to a ghost, because that’s what a 12 year old does with a Ouija board, and frankly so would I at 28.

Only problem is, someone answers.  And it’s not what you would expect.

It’s 1915. Josie is 12 years old, and lives in the self-same house. She has a little sister named Cass, a beloved tutor named Emily, and their abusive mother, a psychic spiritualist who often has people over to her parlor to read their futures. One evening, Josie reaches for her mother’s spirit board, and connects with Alec, 100 years in the future.

When they discover that they aren’t talking to ghosts, but to actual living, breathing humans, they start to experiment. And both their worlds will never be the same.

Bottom Line

I absolutely adored this book. At under 300 pages, I still felt like each character was a friend of mine – sweet, gentle Alec, determined Josie, stubborn Cass. I hated Josie and Cass’s mother right along with them, begging her mentally to quit being a terrible person. I felt aligned with Alec’s mom, understanding how hard it is to rebuild from the ground up when you expected your way of life would last forever. I felt terrified whenever Cass would talk through her creepy doll, Mrs. Gubbins – seriously, Mrs. G is the reason I had to turn my lights on one night. May I reiterate that I am almost 29 years old and a grown adult? Okay, just checking.

This being a middle grade book is one of the best things that could have happened to it. Were this a YA book, about halfway through, Josie and Alec would fall in love and somehow find some way to transcend time and space and be together in 3D as real-live, beating-heart people. This – sorry to spoil your hopes and dreams – does not happen. Because Ms. DeAngelis is realistic with her Ouija board time travel stories, damn it. But I digress. There is no unnecessary romance, no long two-page description of the sunlight rippling in Josie’s hair. This is two 12 year olds who are growing up 100 years apart, in two very distinctly different ways, and I love both of them very much. Trust that you will not be disappointed, and read this book.

five-stars
1 In Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Spring TBR

Good morning everyone, and welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl came up with this one, and I am happy to participate! It’s led me to find some really cool blogs to follow on Bloglovin’!

This week’s theme is the top ten books on your Spring TBR – makes sense, since today is the first day of Spring! I combined my current TBR pile with my preorder pile, and sifted out the top ten books I am most looking forward to reading between now and June 21st, when it’s officially Summer*.

* – in the rest of the world, that is – here in Georgia it’ll be summer in approximately a week.

These are in no particular order, but rather just listed as I stumbled across them in my jumbled brain, which is currently addled by Springtime allergies and an intense desire to flee north. I was not made for the south, y’all.

First is Illuminae, because it’s what I am currently reading, and it’s Spring as of today, so take that social norms! Sorry, I got excited. I fell way behind on my TBR Pile, as you can see from this 2015 release I am just now reading. Whoops.

Next, we have To Kill A Kingdom – I hear nothing but good things about it, so I picked up a preorder copy at the last minute and it is currently sitting on my coffee table at home, begging me to come love it. “I will when I finish Illuminae!” I cry as I heft my 600 page tome at it. “It’s not a quick read, you’ll have to forgive me!” I can see To Kill A Kingdom‘s face darken. It does not forgive. It does not forget.

 

Can we talk about my unbridled love of Scythe? We can, but then I have to tell you about my unbridled love for Unwind, and that would take at least 3 blog posts. So suffice it to say that I slammed the “buy” button on Thunderhead the second I finished Scythe, and I cannot wait to crack the spine on this one. I rarely keep my books once I finish reading them, but I kept Scythe. That should tell you something.

And of course my darling preordered Aru Shah, who I am so here for. I am big into #OwnVoices lately, and having loved and adored all of Rick Riordan’s universes (except Egypt, sorry guys), I was so excited to find out that he was going to publish this business. Roshani Chokshi is one of my favorite Twitters (Tweeters? Twitterers? She writes hilarious tweets), and I cannot wait for this to be on my doorstep next week.

 

Ace of Shades was another one of my “skim the summary and immediately preorder” books. I love books of this type – Caraval, Night Circus, etc – and I also love casino/gambling/Oceans Eleven-type plots. This whole mafia-relationship, gambling, “city of sin” vibe is just …. unf. I can’t wait.

As for Children of Blood and Bone, if I have to tell you why it’s on my TBR list, I can’t even form words right now. Go look up Black Panther. Then go look up the concept of “own voices.” Then cry because this book is perfection encapsulated. After you’re done weeping, read it. I am still in the weeping stage, so I will have to pick it up soon.

 

As a teenager, I loved the movie Practical Magic beyond all reckoning. Things like The Craft, too. I was obsessed with Hocus Pocus … anyway, The Wicked Deep plot summary made my inner fourteen year old scream “reeeeeeeeee!” and jump up and down, screeching like a banshee while yelling “BUY IT OR I’LL TELL MOM I HATE HER,” which makes no sense because I am 28 years old and my mother knows I do not hate her … but teenagers work in mysterious, forceful ways. This one should arrive today. You win, inner seventh grader. Go eat a Snickers.

All of This Is True is a concept I have been low-key in love with for years. A sort of Gossip Girl-esque narrative about a YA book signing gone wrong … I mean, do I need to say more? I hope I don’t, because I am staying intentionally unspoiled about this one – these sorts of books go best for me when all I know is the information on the flap. I am so here for the ride, though.

 

Time Bomb is the March 2018 “Once Upon a Book Club” selection for the YA box, and it gives me One of Us is Lying vibes – perfect, since I absolutely adored and raved over OoUiL. Apparently it turns the entire “teen school thriller” genre on its head, and I am here. for. it.

Lastly but certainly not least, The Astonishing Color of After. This one will be here tomorrow and it might rocket up my list when I get my hands on it, depending on how saucy I am feeling. Suicide is a topic very close to my heart – I work hard at preventing it and volunteer with two organizations to do so – and you rarely see a truth bomb of a book for the YA set dealing with that. I am so, so excited to read this, even though I know it will absolutely destroy my heart in the process. Take me, Emily X.R. Pan, I’m yours.

Please go check out Jana’s Top 10 Tuesday post for today, where you’ll find many fun and interesting blogs linked about the exact same topic. Have fun out there, and happy reading!

0 In Review

Review: Love Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Review: Love Hate & Other Filters by Samira AhmedLove, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
Published by Soho Teen on January 16th 2018
Pages: 281
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads
four-stars

A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape--perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.
American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.
There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

Rating: 

Ohhhh, I have … well, a love/hate relationship with this book. Don’t get me wrong, it’s split about 80/20, but it’s still a bit of a cognitive dissonance issue.

I will confess that I was all ready to give this book 5 stars. But then I logged onto GoodReads to see what my peers were saying, and I realized that in my ignorance of the cultures represented in this book, I’d mentally glossed right over a couple of key issues that made themselves known to people who identify with this as an owned voices narrative. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

How I’d Describe This Book to A Friend

Meet Maya. She is 17 years old, a high school student with big dreams. Ever since she was little and her father gave her a camera as a “shut your mouth before I strangle you” gift in exchange for her cooperation in attending a wedding, she’s dreamed of being a filmmaker. Maya deals with typical high schooler issues: she’s in love with a boy – captain of the football team, no less – she’s known for years but she isn’t sure he thinks she exists, college acceptances, the whole nine yards. Except that Maya isn’t completely a typical high school student, because Maya is an Indian Muslim. Her normal teenager problems are exacerbated by this other world, where she has parents who love her but do so in a chokehold. Her house constantly smells like onions, and worst of all, her folks want her to go to a school close to home, major in something sensible like law, and marry a suitable boy they approve of. The captain of the high school football team is, most assuredly, not approved. Additionally, she’s gotten into NYU to study her passion, which her parents wouldn’t approve of either.

We really get into Maya’s head here, and what Maya loves most is film. She views her life in a series of panoramas and frames, speeding up and slowing down the footage at will. I really enjoyed my time with her – she’s a bright young lady, and these film concepts really help bring her emotions to life in a way that normal speech can’t always convey. Maya’s parents, however … that’s where the problems come in.

Maya’s parents are fairly one-dimensional. They exist solely to be a foil to Maya and to Maya’s aunt (her mother’s sister), Hina, who lives in a flat alone and does graphic design work – things Maya’s parents cannot even begin to understand. They are here to cook food, shake their heads at Maya, and insist that her feet stay planted firmly on the ground. This might be okay, but this couples with a point that I see many discuss on GoodReads – religion matters a great deal to her parents, but to Maya? If she had not straight-up told us she was Muslim, we’d have no idea. At no point does she pray, consider praying, think about any type of deity. Honestly, she might have been raised Muslim but at this juncture seems to be veering toward Agnosticism. Which is fine! But I am leery of referring to a book as “owned voices” and including Muslim in that when we barely see anything remotely resembling representation of that culture.

The other thing that keeps this from being a 5-star review for me is the love triangle. I am not a fan of insta-love, and I don’t like fluff for the sake of fluffiness. So when Maya met Kareem, a friend of the family’s, at a wedding and they started flirting almost perfectly, I gagged a little bit. Things fell into place like a perfect game of Tetris, and I gagged a bit more. Then when Kareem clearly made his feelings known, Maya turned him down for the football player she’d never really ever spoken to.

You can probably guess without me having to spoiler you what happens with ~Phil~, the cinnamon roll of a guy who she loves … but let’s just say that Phil gives the main love interest from Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl a run for his money, and that homebody is so full of cheese and cinnamon he could be a toaster strudel.

All of this to say, halfway through the book an act of terrorism occurs, and we begin to see rampant religious scrutiny that broke my heart to see Maya have to endure. She is, after all, American-born, but the slurs and threats she deals with are absolutely gut-wrenching. This book does not wrap up in a neat little bow, either – the epilogue is sort of ambiguous, and we don’t really know what happens – I appreciate that, because too often in YA you see everything end on a perfect note … Maya would say something about a Bollywood dance number here, I feel. If you want a perfect ending, this isn’t it. Ahmed doesn’t sugar-coat it for you – that’s Phil The Cinnamon Roll’s job.

The Bottom Line

I adored getting to know Maya, and I am sad that her book was so short. I felt sympathy and heartbreak for her; I cheered with her victories and frowned at her defeats. Maya is human – gloriously, painfully human, and we all know how seventeen year old girls act. She was a delight to get to know, and I really hope she is doing well now. If you are looking for an owned voices narrative about Islamic culture, maybe go look somewhere else. But if you want to read about racism and hatred in today’s age and learn a little something from it, if you want to laugh and remember being seventeen … this is the one for you.

“In recent times we’ve seen hate emerge out of dark corners, torches blazing in the night. We’ve witnessed so-called leaders not merely casually accept cruelty, but engender it. Worse, we’ve seen horrific violence. But all around us, we’ve seen people rise up, not merely against the forces of hate, but for equality and justice. Bigotry may run through the American grain, but so too does resistance. We know the world we are fighting for.”

four-stars
0 In Review

Review: Soulstruck by Natasha Sinel

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Soulstruck by Natasha SinelSoulstruck by Natasha Sinel
Published by Sky Pony Press on June 12th 2018
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Goodreads
one-star

Seventeen-year-old Rachel Ferguson is trying to get struck by lightning. Hopefully it will lead to finding her soul mate, like it did for her mother. And then maybe her mom will be as devoted to her as she is to her lightning strike survivors group.
When Rachel discovers a journal written by her mother's soul mate - the man she thought was her father - she begins to question everything she's always believed, including soul mates, fate, and even her mother. No longer sure of its power, she decides to quit chasing lightning.
Rachel feels abandoned and alone. Her best friend has ditched her, her boyfriend has dumped her, and a confrontation with her mom only made things worse. At least she still has her friend Jay. In fact, their growing attraction to each other seems to be the only good thing happening.
But when her relationship with Jay starts to unravel, too, the impulse to get struck by lightning resurfaces.
And there's a thunderstorm coming.
Set in a small Cape Cod beach town in the off-season, Soulstruck is about the search for love and the risk of losing it while waiting for destiny to happen

 

I am a big lover of the “sleepy, summertime beach romance” YA literature genre, so I snapped up Soulstruck when it was available on Netgalley in order to get a jump on the warm weather – and as a Georgia native, summertime comes pretty darn quick here. Unfortunately, this was not a book I could sink my teeth into like I can with many of the other more established “summertime romance” YA veterans – this was an interesting concept, but it ultimately fell flat to me.

Rating:

Ooooof. Let’s break it down, shall we?

How I’d Describe This Book to My Friends

We follow Rachel, a young lady in her early teenage years who lives with her mother near Cape Cod. We see this sleepy island town as the off season begins, the tourists are packing it in, and the rain starts coming. This in and of itself sets the stage for a quaint story, but Rachel herself has an intrinsic eccentricity: she wants desperately to get struck by lightning.

Apparently at one point, Rachel’s mother was struck by lightning. She now possesses the unique ability to determine who everyone’s soulmate is, and spearheads a support group for people who’ve been struck by lightning. She and Rachel have moved all over the place during Rachel’s formative years, and so now they are excited to settle down and put in some roots for Rachel’s high school season of life.

Rachel has two best friends: Serena, and Jay. The three of them are thick as thieves, BFFs! Besties! Nothing can eeeeeeeeeever go wrong!

You can probably see where this is going a mile away, but just in case you can’t … girl, it’s a love triangle and some broken, bruised friendships and fee-fees. Rachel was spurned by the boy she fell in love with when she had an accident, and has been trying desperately to get struck by lightning ever since, hoping it will bring her some romantic luck. She doesn’t know her father, but is positive her mother is keeping it from her because of a delightfully romantic backstory that she is just not privy to.

What follows is a 200+ page romp through the late summer months here, near beautiful Cape Cod, where our tragic heroine runs after lightning strikes and deals with having a crush on Every Boy. Unfortunately, what could be an interesting premise is mired and bogged down by clunky writing, and a plot with more drama than a high school theater production.

Bottom Line

Soulstruck is a neat concept, and it made me want to visit Cape Cod in the off season. But other than the few facts I learned about lightning strikes … I didn’t really get much here. It makes me sad, because this was clearly a labor of love, but it just didn’t hit the mark for me. If you want a deeper, more satisfyingly fluffy YA beach read, check out Huntley Fitzpatrick or the good ol’ standby, Sarah Dessen.

one-star
1 In Review

Review: Furyborn by Claire Legrand

Review: Furyborn by Claire LegrandFuryborn (Empirium, #1) by Claire Legrand
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on May 22nd 2018
Pages: 512
Format: ARC
Goodreads
one-half-stars

When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed...unless the trials kill her first.

A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable--until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world--and of each other.

Disclaimer: I received this ARC from NetGalley for review, and this in no way affects or shapes my opinions or rating on this book.

I heard a lot of amazing things about Furyborn, but I was leery to test the waters – I am not generally a fan of fantasy novels, especially high fantasy, and was not sure if I could commit to it, much less love it like it deserved to be loved. But I had had recent luck with being surprised by a sleeper hit in a genre I did not typically reach for, so I figured it was worth the try, requested the ARC … and received access! Quelle horror!

My rating: 

Yikes. Where do I begin? Let’s see.

How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend

Furyborn is a time traveling, high fantasy, girl power! novel with a heaping bowl full of romance as a side dish. The prologue on this book is amazing, by the way, and if it were published on its own as a short story I’d have demanded a book to go with it … which makes me wonder where, exactly, things went off the rails here. Let’s dissect it a bit and see, shall we? The prologue promises drama, introduces us in media res to some very interesting characters, and gives us a sneak peek of this whole concept of angel wars. Angel wars, now this I can sink my teeth into. In high school, I wrote an embarrassing number of short stories from the perspective of these guardian angels who adopted at-risk kids and I think one of them married his charge once she was of age and I don’t …. know. Anyway, suffice it to say, part of my head really enjoys Cool Angel Stories. Unfortunately, after the prologue we don’t get much of that at all.

We have two main characters: Rielle and Eliana. They live hundreds of years apart, and are separated by time, but still united by a prophecy foretelling that there will be two queens, one ~blessed~ and one ~wicked~. There are also a whole host of other, supporting characters, half of whom wind up just being there for lovemaking, but we’ll get to that.

 Rielle is a BAMF, and for a long time she was the only character I was truly interested in. In the world she inhabits, there are seven types of magic one could possibly possess. Rielle, our darling female main character, has all seven. This is Very Bad, and she is often drugged and locked away by her family because they don’t want her having a temper tantrum and exploding the whole town, etc. Anyway, Rielle eventually – through some vaguely climactic events – reveals her powers to everyone in her kingdom, and has to undergo seven trials to prove that she is the real blessed sun queen. So she goes through seven grueling, copypasta trials wherein she doubts her abilities, excels anyway, and moves on to the next one.

Wait, don’t scroll up. Oh, did you already do that? Is it because you thought I was reviewing Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas? You wouldn’t be the first. But no, this is its own thing.

 Eliana is The Best, and is The Dread of Orline [where they live]. She is skilled with a sword, takes no shit or prisoners, and is allegedly bisexual but we see this brought up twice maybe, and only once is it implied anything has ever happened between her and a female. Eliana and Rielle are both the most thirsty women on the face of the planet, but since they live far, far apart in timelines, they can’t ever be thirsty for each other. Also, at one point during some ~sexual escapades~, the ground shakes. This is not a metaphor. The ground literally. shakes.

Here? In front of my salad?

Angel wars? Glossed over. Prophecy? Confusing. Characters? A parade of them tromp through, and we barely see half of them again. Eliana could – would, and probably has – seduce a literal boulder if it meant getting something she wanted. I can only see home girl do this so many times before it’s like “Put your pants back on and just ask politely, girlfriend, I can’t deal with you any more.” Rielle … if you find animal abuse triggering, don’t read this book. That’s all I can say that is not a spoiler.

Oh wait, did you scroll back up again a minute ago after you read about who Eliana is? Joke’s on you! No, she’s not Celaena from Throne of Glass – made you look – twice! – but she is damn sure close! I didn’t like Throne of Glass either, and maybe that’s why I have no love for Furyborn. It’s just got such an interesting concept – angel wars, magic users, this whole dark undercurrent – and it’s turned into a High Fantasy Sex Party.

The Bottom Line

If you like your high fantasy with fighting, morally grey characters and interesting backstories, this is not the book for you. If you, however, like your high fantasy with lots of (literally) earth-shaking sexual escapades, barely-there bisexual representation, a girl who has seven kinds of magic at her disposal but still manages to be repetitive, and a girl who names everything she owns and therefore has a softball team’s worth of knives … this is the book for you!

one-half-stars