REVIEW: Want

Book Review: Want
book cover Book title Want
Series/standalone Want #1
Author Cindy Pon
Pages 336
Year published 2017
Category | Genre Young Adult | Sci-Fi | Dystopia
Rating

Official Summary

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother, who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is or destroying his own heart?

Review

In A Nutshell

A group of teens trying to pull off dangerous mission in this futuristic dystopian YA sets in Taiwan.

Highlights

  • An authentic Taiwan setting. Want is an #ownvoices book and as such, it’s to be expected that this book has a rich cultural background, including language, literature, and history. I was pleasantly surprised to find multiple references to “Dream of the Red Chamber”, one of the most famous Chinese literature from the 1800s. Despite it being sets in the future, you can still feel the vibes and the influence from the current Taipei in Want.
  • Diverse cast of characters. Even though it’s set in Taiwan, the author made sure to include other Asian characters in the main cast. While Zhou (the lead) is Taiwanese, Victor is Filipino, Arun is Indian, while Lingyi is Chinese. There are also bisexual and lesbian main characters in the book, and this made my heart so happy. The best thing about these characters was that they were not just best friends, they’re a family and I am a sucker for this kind of relationship (six of crows anyone?)
  • The action scenes. Want was my first Cindy Pon’s book and I was truly impressed by what I found. Cindy’s action scenes were well-written and exciting. The story climax was executed well although not as adrenaline pumping as I originally thought it would be.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • My only minor complaint about Want is the sometimes uneven pace. There were times when I felt the story skipped ahead too far, and some scenes were rushed. It’s only for a small part of the book, though, and the overall plot was still delivered nicely.

Final Score


4.5 stars (out of 5 stars)

Verdict

Want is an exciting, well-executed dystopian novel. Moreover, it is an ownvoices with a diverse cast of characters and an authentic Taiwan setting. What else could I ask for?

REVIEW: Flame in the Mist

Book Review: Flame in the Mist
book cover Book title Flame in the Mist
Series/standalone Flame in the Mist #1
Author Renee Ahdieh
Pages 393
Year published 2017
Category | Genre Young Adult | Fantasy | Romance
Rating 3.5 stars

Official Summary

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

Review

In A Nutshell

A tale of political intrigue, betrayal, and romance with the backdrop of feudal Japan.

Highlights

  • The beautiful prose. Ahdieh has a gift for writing gorgeous prose and it’s getting even better here. In ‘The Wrath and the Dawn”, I found her writing to be coming too close from being purple prose at times, although admittedly still beautiful. In Flame in the Mist, Ahdieh has stepped up her writing even more. Her words are gorgeous, but not flowery, vivid without being excessively descriptive.
  • Worldbuilding. The author surely knows how to paint a world with words, filled with imagery that could transport her readers back in time. Although at times, it feels a little too gimmicky, the combination of history and mythology was balanced nicely. Ahdieh’s attention to details when describing a building or a scene contributes well to this book’s great worldbuilding.
  • The moral dilemma. I was absolutely delighted with the way the characters were written so that no one is inherently bad nor good. Nothing and no one was morally black and white.The moral dilemma faced by Mariko was one I could sympathize with and she’s an earnest character capable of making readers invested in her arc.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • The romance. Oh my, I truly want to like the romance. After how TWATD (The Wrath and the Dawn) melted my heart despite me not liking Shazi that much, I was fully prepared to ship the main pairing in this book. After all, I liked Mariko better. Unfortunately, it felt forced and I have no idea where it came from. It was not an insta-love, but I didn’t see the chemistry developing between them so it baffled me. There is, however, less of romantic scenes in this book than in TWATD.
  • Logical fallacy and unconvincing explanation. The first part of the book left me in a state of disbelief. The unconvincing explanation, such as how Mariko – the naive and sheltered girl – could fool all of those people into believing that she is a boy. It was partially explained near the end of the book, but I still cannot buy it 100%. She also made several decisions that were quite out of characters and yet she conveniently escaped the consequences of her poor decisions.
  • More times for secondary characters, please. I know it’s not their story, but Yumi and Amaya were some of the characters I wish to know better.

Final Score

3.5 stars
3.5 stars (out of 5 stars)

Verdict

Ahdieh’s gorgeous writing and lush worldbuilding could capture my attention and enchant me throughout the book despite some issues in the narrative. I will be reading the second book for sure.

REVIEW: The Evaporation of Sofi Snow

Book Review: The Evaporation of Sofi Snow
book cover Book title The Evaporation of Sofi Snow
Series/standalone The Evaporation of Sofi Snow #1
Author Mary Weber
Pages 352
Year published 2017
Category | Genre Young Adult | Fantasy | Dystopia | Alien| Sci-Fi
Rating 2.5 stars

Official Summary

Ever since the Delonese ice-planet arrived eleven years ago, Sofi’s dreams have been vivid. Alien. In a system where Earth’s corporations rule in place of governments and the humanoid race orbiting the moon are allies, her only constant has been her younger brother, Shilo. As an online gamer, Sofi battles behind the scenes of Earth’s Fantasy Fighting arena where Shilo is forced to compete in a mix of real and virtual blood sport. But when a bomb takes out a quarter of the arena, Sofi’s the only one who believes Shilo survived. She has dreams of him. And she’s convinced he’s been taken to the ice-planet.

Except no one but ambassadors are allowed there.

For Miguel, Earth’s charming young playboy, the games are of a different sort. As Ambassador to the Delonese, his career has been built on trading secrets and seduction. Until the Fantasy Fight’s bomb goes off. Now the tables have turned and he’s a target for blackmail. The game is simple: Help the blackmailers, or lose more than anyone can fathom, or Earth can afford.

Review

I received an electronic galley from the publisher in exchange of an honest review.

In A Nutshell

A political alien dystopian story exploring human relationship and social issues.

Highlights

  • The first part of the book was about the game (aka the part that caught my attention). The protagonist of this series, Sofi Snow, was a gamer/hacker, and her brother, Shilo, acted as her avatar in the arena. You might think that you have read way too many dystopian-influenced competition (The Hunger Games being the most famous example), but Weber – for once – took us to the backstage and not to the bright light of the arena and it was a welcomed change. Sofi’s job, alongside her team, the triplets called the three Ns, and Heller, was to send codes to program her brother’s armor, weapons, and tools. It was a fun take as we were shown the team’s banter and strategy.
  • Diverse cast of characters. The protagonist, Sofi, is Native American, the the other lead, Miguel, is Hispanic. Now, the only time Weber touched on Sofi’s cultural background was when describing her owl necklace and her appearance. As this book is not an ownvoice, I respect Weber’s decision to not getting too deep into the Native American belief and culture. As for Miguel, he did talk in Spanish quite frequently, but his background was not described in details.
  • Political and social issues. There were some social issues explored in ‘Sofi Snow’, the most prominent one were human trafficking and technology advancement at the expense of human right. I won’t get into details here as I’m trying to avoid giving out major spoilers. Politics also played a big part in this book since Miguel, the lead, worked as an ambassador.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • Is there such thing as too many plots? Because this book sure has a lot of it. One minute, it was about curing diseases, the next it tried to be all political, and then it went all alien sci-fi on me. Considering how short it was, there were just not enough space to explore each in sufficient depth. The results is a jumbled mess of plots, none of which got adequately explored.
  • The character arc. It shouldn’t be difficult to sell me on Sofi. Seriously. A gamer? Check. Hacker? Check. Sassy? Check. She loved her brother and knew what she want. All of these should make me like her a lot. The problem is I don’t find anything in her personality to make me want to root for her. She is okay, but she didn’t make me fully invested in her cause. On top of that, I don’t see a lot of character growth throughout the book. There were some revelations, yes, but not a lot of growth.
  • Speaking of Sofi, is there anything she cannot do? I understand the need to give your lead at least a sprinkle of special snowflake syndrome. However, in the evaporation of Sofi Snow, everything came to easy for Sofi and Miguel. *MINOR SPOILER WARNING* “Oh, you need a top-secret chip that is nearly impossible to get? Here you go!” “Need a living and talking alien to help you crack a code? What a coincidence, we have one just in tow.” *END OF SPOILER* Furthermore, I like to see my protagonists fight their way instead of being handed solutions in silver platter.
  • The ending. There’s cliff-hanger, then there’s the ending of ‘Sofi Snow’. That may be too harsh, but when I read a book I expected some sort of resolutions of at least a couple of major plots. After that, feel free to drop a plot twist on me and throw me a cliffhanger. I don’t mind (okay, maybe a bit). Everything about the ‘ending’ of Sofi Snow screams sequel and it definitely cannot be read as a stand-alone. I was reading this book on my Kindle when the pages just suddenly ended. I even had to double check whether my e-ARC has missing pages or did they just send me 90% of the book.

Final Score

2.5star
2.5 stars (out of 5 stars)

Verdict

I have mixed feelings about this book. At one end, it certainly has the potential with its concept, political and social themes, and cast of characters. On the other end, it tried to be so many things that it ultimately failed to deliver a single coherent story. There is also the factor that it’s set as a duology and cannot be read as a stand-alone, which means if you read the evaporation of Sofi Snow, you’d need to be ready to invest your resources on two books, instead of just one.

REVIEW: The Love Interest

the love interest header
Book Review: The Love Interest
book cover Book title The Love Interest
Series/standalone standalone
Author Cale Dietrich
Pages 384
Year published 2017
Category | Genre Young Adult | Sci-fi | Contemporary
Rating 2.5star

Official Summary

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: the boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: the brooding, dark-souled guy who is dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose the Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be—whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

Review

In A Nutshell

A book aiming to subvert tropes in YA fiction, but eventually suffers from lack of worldbuilding and poor execution.

Highlights

  • Let’s start with the positives. This book aimed to subvert YA tropes, specifically the love triangle trope. In that regards, I’d say that Dietrich largely succeeded. Even though I never felt the potential of a love triangle brewing at any point in the book, it’s refreshing to see a protagonist who didn’t ultimately fall in love with their chosen one.
  • The blurb. The premise. The concept. The marketing of the book. The Love Interest has this great concept, that behind every great person, there is a spy reporting their every move to a secret organization. I really liked the concept and it’s actually could be made believable. It was, I believe, what made most people read The Love Interest. Well, that and the promise of gay romance.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • Plot holes and poor worldbuilding. The Love Interest was supposed to be a blend between contemporary and SFF. Unfortunately, as science fiction, it failed to deliver due to inconsistency, unexplained plot holes, and convenient timings of things to cover those holes. I could go on and on listing things, but I’d just give some examples to avoid giving out major spoilers.
    One, there was a teenager building dangerous weapons (I’m talking about Avengers-grade weapons, here) in her shed at home, and no one – authority or bad guys – was getting concerned?! At no point in the book, Juliet’s inventions were shown to be kept top secret – she talked freely to Caden about them – yet no one attempted to recruit or kidnap or end her? I found that hard to believe.
    Two. Kaylee was supposedly monitoring Caden’s every move. However, she was conveniently ‘not listening’ at crucial moments. Also, the implant, there were problems with that too.
    Those were just a few things I noticed. Overall, the tech was also not explained very well in term of how they work, which is a let down for me.
  • Awkward dialogues and lack of chemistry. When it comes to romance in SFF books, I have mixed feelings. I am okay with them most of the time, as long as they’re not taking over the story and turned the protagonist into a blabbering mess around their love interest. The dialogue in The Love Interest, though, brings awkward to another level. And it’s not just the interaction between Caden-Dylan or Caden-Juliet either, it’s the whole thing, the whole book. This book is Dietrich’s debut and it certainly feels like one. I do think his writing has potential so here’s hoping for better written dialogue in the future.
    Speaking of chemistry, there was just nothing between Caden-Juliet or Dylan-Juliet that showed us that they have something special so it’s truly surprising to me that Juliet bought it. But then again, this book is a satire, so maybe that is intentional?

Final Score

2.5star
2.5 stars (out of 5 stars)

Verdict

The Love Interest was an attempt to subvert tropes, and as such Dietrich’s effort is appreciated. Ultimately, however, it was a disappointment due to plot inconsistency, plot holes, thin worldbuilding, and awkward dialogues.

REVIEW: Unearthly Things

Book Review: Unearthly Things
book cover Book title Unearthly Things
Series/standalone standalone
Author Michelle Gagnon
Pages 288
Year published 2017
Category | Genre Young Adult | Retelling | Mystery | Supernatural | Contemporary
Rating 3star

Official Summary

Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre retold against the backdrop of San Francisco’s most fabulous—and dangerous—elites.

After losing her parents in a tragic accident, surfer girl Janie Mason trades the sunny beaches of Hawaii for the cold fog of San Francisco and new guardians—the Rochesters—she’s never even met. Janie feels hopelessly out of place in their world of Napa weekends, fancy cotillions, and chauffeurs. The only person she can relate to is Daniel, a fellow surfer. Meeting him makes Janie feel like things might be looking up.

Still, something isn’t right in the Rochester mansion. There are noises—screams—coming from the attic that everyone else claims they can’t hear. Then John, the black sheep of the family, returns after getting kicked out of yet another boarding school. Soon Janie finds herself torn between devil-may-care John and fiercely loyal Daniel. Just when she thinks her life can’t get any more complicated, she learns the truth about why the Rochesters took her in. They want something from Janie, and she’s about to see just how far they’ll go to get it.

Review

In A Nutshell

A modern retelling of Jane Eyre with biracial MC, 100% more wave, and more … ghost? Or was it an actual ghost?

Highlights

  • Biracial protagonist. Janie Mason, the lead/narrator is half Filipino. She spent her childhood in Hawaii before being transported against her will to San Fransisco to live with the Rochesters. Janie didn’t know much about her ancestors since her parents, specifically her mother, didn’t want to talk about her painful past. Despite not knowing much, Janie is curious and trying to learn more about her roots, something many readers may find themselves relate to.
  • The story pace. I recalled vehemently trying to finish Jane Eyre on two separate occasions before finally succeeded. It took me sometime around 2 years?! Unearthly things is definitely faster paced than its predecessor. For some readers, this might be the book’s Achilles heel, trying to fit so many things in less than 300 pages and truth be told, characters development suffered slightly from it. However, for me, the pace is probably the saving grace of this book. It made Unearthly Thing a fun ride and compulsively readable.
  • The contemporary part. Honestly, I opted to read this book for its paranormal/mystery aspect since I’m now focusing on reviewing speculative fiction. However, the part I enjoyed the most is the story of Janie, the surfer girl, moving to new family and meeting new people. She is a sympathetic protagonist and easy to root for. Her interactions with her evil and not-evil ‘siblings’ are hilarious and occasionally heart-breaking.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • Stereotypical characters. The necessary evil siblings, nerdy best friend, and hot boyfriend were all there and made it felt formulaic. For readers who have read Jane Eyre, let me tell you that this is a loose retelling and for most part, the author just borrowed the names and slap them to completely different characters. Unfortunately, for Unearthly Things, character depth is lacking and I found no chemistry between Janie and her love interest. It was so insta-love, I couldn’t get on board with it even if I liked the person who became her love interest. Similarly, Janie was said to have close friends, but there was nothing in the book that suggest the close relationship between them.
  • The book is a mystery, but somehow it’s lacking in atmosphere. Jane Eyre might take me forever to read, but one thing it truly delivers is Gothic atmosphere. Unearthly Things is more generic in comparison; the description not nearly as haunting and the scenes didn’t scare me.
  • Compare to its predecessor, Unearthly Things didn’t deliver as strong message of female empowerment. Granted this might be an unfair comparison seeing that Jane Eyre is a classic. However, when I hear ‘Jane Eyre retelling’, I’m hoping for a book in a similar vein. Unearthly Things is surely fun, but it didn’t have the same power nor did it make an effort to.
  • Some of the key plot and twist are not convincing enough. There were scenes that made me think, “did they actually buy that explanation?” and they did! Sure, it’s fiction and a speculative one at that, but readers still want logical explanation.

Final Score

3star
3 stars (out of 5 stars)

Verdict

Unearthly Things is a fun, modern retelling of Jane Eyre. The author’s effort to support diversity by putting a biracial protagonist at the front and center is commendable. However, stereotypical secondary characters, plot holes, and the lack of convincing atmosphere made it fall short from being a truly satisfying read.

REVIEW: Every Heart A Doorway

Book Review: Every Heart A Doorway (Seanan McGuire)
 book cover Book title Every Heart A Doorway
Series/standalone Wayward Children #1
Author Seanan McGuire
Pages 173
Year published 2016
Category | Genre Young Adult | Fantasy | Novella
Rating

Official Summary

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

Review

In A Nutshell

Atmospheric, beautifully written novella about identity and belonging.

Highlights

  • What will happen to Alice if she got kicked out of Wonderland and have to live among us? 

    What if there’s a magical land out there, far from perfect, yet fits you perfectly?

    What if you found a way to that magical land?What if they kicked you out and you are again stranded in the world where you’ll never fit in?

    Such a perfect premise.

  • Ace protagonist. I feel like we haven’t gotten a decent amount of asexual representation in Young Adult, and to have one as a lead is definitely a welcome change. Another thing I appreciate is that McGuire put it in the narrative that Nancy (the protagonist) is asexual and even pointed out the difference between being asexual and aromantic.
  • It also tackled the issue of identity, specifically but not limited to gender identity. The teenagers in this novella were kids who didn’t fit in at first place, and now after they were back from magical world, they found it even harder to blend in. Even within this group of outcast, there were hierarchy and cliques; bullying was mentioned and witnessed, as each of the character struggle to find their place or keep trying to go back to their magical world.
  • It was dark, mysterious, and haunting, yet I didn’t find it too violent or gory. As a matter of fact, I think McGuire nailed those darker scenes as they were some of my favorite passages.
  • Well-written characters. It’s like high school, but where all of the students were misfits. As I mentioned before, there were cliques among the teenagers: the queen bee, the new kid, and the outcast. Just like your regular high school. Only weirder and with more magic and charm. All the main characters were unique and well thought out. I won’t get to details here as it’s better if you meet them yourself.
  • It’s thought-provoking. I’m honestly surprise that a book this short could challenge my opinion and thought. Should you a) kill people’s hope to force them to live in the now when you know the chance of their wish will ever get fulfilled is next to nothing? Or b) nurture the hope and let these children keep hoping even though you know it might hurt them in the long run? I am choosing b) right now, but we’ll see.
  • The length. It’s perfect as novella. Too short and we’ll get less character development, too long and it’ll get too convoluted. It’s short, simple, and beautiful. McGuire said what needs to be said and ended it before it got too complicated.
    Speaking of…
  • The ending. It sorts of open-end, but by no means a cliffhanger. It lets readers decide for themselves and made their own conclusion based on their perspective.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • Couldn’t honestly think of one.

Final Score

4.5star
4.5 stars (out of 5 stars)

Verdict

Highly recommended for both contemporary and speculative fiction readers as it has enough of both and leave many things to readers’ imagination/interpretation. Asexual protagonist and transgender main character accompanied by strong diverse cast of characters were another highlight of the novella. In short, it is well worth your time.

REVIEW: Dreadnought

post header
Book Review: Dreadnought (April Daniels)
 book cover Book title Dreadnought
Series/standalone Nemesis #1
Author April Daniels
Pages 276
Year published 2017
Category | Genre Young Adult | Science-Fiction | Superhero
Rating 4star

Official Summary

Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, Danny was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But before he expired, Dreadnought passed his mantle to her, and those secondhand superpowers transformed Danny’s body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl.

It should be the happiest time of her life, but Danny’s first weeks finally living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. Between her father’s dangerous obsession with “curing” her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and her fellow superheroes arguing over her place in their ranks, Danny feels like she’s in over her head.

She doesn’t have much time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer—a cyborg named Utopia—still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction.

Review

In A Nutshell

An action-packed superhero story with a transgender protagonist about saving the world and being true to yourself, whatever the cost.

Highlights

  • First and foremost, a book with transgender lead who refused to be put down by her surrounding. YES, please.
  • The thing I liked the most about Dreadnought is how unapologetic it was. Danny as the protagonist carried the heaviest weight on bridging superhero life (aka caping) with the ‘real world.’ She’s a flawed, realistic character, and so very relatable.
  • If you like science and physics, you’ll probably geeking out with the amount of science Daniels put into her book. The “hypertech” was creative and fun.
  • At its core, Dreadnought is a superhero story. It then came at no surprise that it’s filled with action sequences. The author has a knack on writing action scenes and I enjoyed them a lot.
  • It’s hearbreaking and then some. As a teenager, Danny was forced to face her family and friends at school after her physical transformation, many of them refused to accept that she is and has always been a girl. A lot of cussing, cursing, and words that shouldn’t be said to a girl (or anyone really) were spoken. I found myself disgusted and angry at them, yet at the same time the realization that this is happening in real life today – to people with no superpower to defend themselves – hits me.
  • Consequences and cost. You’re not getting a free pass for being a protagonist. The battle Danny has to go through for coming out and standing up for herself is very tough, never-ending, and costly. It was shown that it’s worth it, though, and I think that’s important.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • The uneven pace. The book starts out slow, then build up halfway through. Afterwards, it became nearly unputdownable.
  • More depth on some of the characters, especially the villain. As much as I do think that some people are jerks, adding a cardboard-cutout villain just doesn’t make sense in a book as heavy-weight as Dreadnought. When I said heavy-weight, what I mean is that it tried to tackle a lot of important issues about living as a transgender. The villain felt too superficial, and a bit insignificant, compared to what Danny has to wake up to everyday

Final Score

4star
4 stars (out of 5 stars)

Verdict

Dreadnought is a powerful superhero story about a transgender girl facing the consequences of coming out and standing up for herself while trying to save the world. The parallel between her struggle to save the world and her struggle to be accepted as a girl is one that blew my mind as April Daniels showed again and again that one is not more simple or easier than the other.

REVIEW: The Weeping Books of Blinney Lane

Book Review: The Weeping Books of Blinney Lane (Drea Damara)
 book cover Book title The Weeping Books of Blinney Lane
Series/standalone Blinney Lane #1
Author Drea Damara
Pages 448
Year published 2015
Category | Genre New Adult | Fantasy | Romance
Rating

Official Summary

Sarah Allister just wants a normal life running her book shop and enjoying the smiles of handsome delivery man, Henry. She almost has one in spite of the three hundred-year-old curse that rules her life and the rest of the shop owners on Blinney Lane, a niche shopping district in historical Salem. Just when Sarah thinks she is content with the unusual phenomenon that occur in her shop everything goes awry when her brother sends his troublesome teenage son Ricky to stay with her for the summer. Now Sarah must work to keep Ricky from discovering the curse of Blinney Lane and worse yet, awakening its full power.

Will Ricky listen to Sarah without question? Will he unknowingly awaken the Weeping Books of Blinney Lane forcing Sarah to lead them on a journey to a land she swore never to return to and to people she has long tried to forget? Hold on as the characters must balance family, love, and duty in a suspenseful tale of two worlds and passionately flawed characters. The Weeping Books of Blinney Lane will make you never look at a book the same way again.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Review

In A Nutshell

A Narnia-esque fantasy for new adults/older spectrum of YA.

Highlights

  • The writing was good. For a debut novel, Damara’s words flow smoothly between pages.
  • The world building was a reminiscent of Narnia, blended with romance and politics.
  • The curse incorporated in the story was a nice touch and it helped in building the background behind the existence of the weeping books.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • There were some scenes that show how a character view other characters that made me feel uncomfortable. One such scene was the way Sarah’s nephew described her in rather sexual way. Of course, Blinney Lane is a new adult/adult novel so romance and steamy scenes are to be expected, still there were scenes that I felt was out of place.
  • I really don’t get the appeal of the Lords and Ladies in the story. They were rather bland, and somewhat infuriating. Maybe that was on purpose, though?
  • This being a fantasy, I wish there was more explanation on how the bodies could survive for days or weeks without liquids and nutrients. Also, aren’t those people worried that something’s going to happen to their bodies when they’re taking those family trips? In short, I think the “magic system” still needs work, but the concept was alright.
  • More diversity please. (You’ll probably hear this a lot from me from now on). Both the real world and the world inside the weeping book would benefit with inclusion of people of colors and other marginalized groups. It should be workable too, since the protagonist’s ancestor basically wrote the weeping book – and wouldn’t they want their family to meet all kinds of people they wouldn’t be able to see in real life because of the curse?
  • Unexplained plot holes. How could one learn the instinct of sword fighting in one day is one example where I found the explanation was not believable enough. Sure, there was magic, but even then how could the character read the opponent’s movement and has the instinct of veteran fencer was beyond me.

Final Score

3star
3 stars (out of 5 stars)

Verdict

The Weeping Books of Blinney Lane was an enjoyable read and quite a solid debut. It still needs work in regards to world building and characters, but overall if you’re looking for a new adult fantasy novel that’ll take you to a magic land, you might want to give it a try.

REVIEW: These Shallow Graves

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Book Review: These Shallow Graves (Jennifer Donnelly)
 book cover Book title These Shallow Graves
Series/standalone Stand-alone
Author Jennifer Donnelly
Pages 488
Year published 2015
Category | Genre Young Adult | Historical | Mystery
Rating 3.5star

Official Summary

Jo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing she wants. Jo secretly dreams of becoming a writer—a newspaper reporter like the trailblazing Nellie Bly.

Wild aspirations aside, Jo’s life seems perfect until tragedy strikes: her father is found dead. Charles Montfort accidentally shot himself while cleaning his revolver. One of New York City’s wealthiest men, he owned a newspaper and was partner in a massive shipping firm, and Jo knows he was far too smart to clean a loaded gun.

The more Jo uncovers about her father’s death, the more her suspicions grow. There are too many secrets. And they all seem to be buried in plain sight. Then she meets Eddie—a young, brash, infuriatingly handsome reporter at her father’s newspaper—and it becomes all too clear how much she stands to lose if she keeps searching for the truth. Only now it might be too late to stop.

The past never stays buried forever. Life is dirtier than Jo Montfort could ever have imagined, and the truth is the dirtiest part of all.

Review

In A Nutshell

These Shallow Graves is a rare blend of young adult fiction, historical, sleuthing, and romance about an upper class white girl who was trying to solve the mystery of her father’s death.

Highlights

  • The feminism and female empowerment is strong with this one. The main character, Jo Monfort, tried to balance her curiosity about the world outside her upper class upbringing with being a good girl and doing her duty. What I really like about Donnelly’s book is that she managed to do this without getting overly preachy and ridiculing other girls of their choice to adhere to the social norm. There is also a scene of female friendship that might be my favorite scene of the book.
  • The balance between romance and mystery. Yes, there is a romance in this book, but it was not the main point of the story. To add to the point, the protagonist kept her wit about her despite her feelings – which is refreshing too see after reading countless stories where the protagonist simply lost all kind of rational thinkings due to angst or insta-love.
  • This is not a fairy tale. Often, I read books with great premise and characters that eventually fell short because the author cannot resist the temptation to solve all of their characters’ problems and give everyone a happy ever after. On the other side, there are those who go the extreme opposite way. These Shallow Graves fall somewhere in between the two extreme. I liked how Donnelly handled the story conclusion as it felt realistic, albeit rather convenient.

Things I Wish Were Different

  • It is too … white. I get that the main character is a white upper-class girl and all of her friends are too. And it is not to say that the cast is ALL upper-class white socialites. The book actually did quite well in term of socio-economic representation. It’s just that I wish for more diverse cast on a book sets in New York City. I honestly couldn’t recall one single important character that is not white.
  • The mystery part was not very well written. There were things so obvious thrown at our face that made it so clear that X is blablabla, yet the main character did not connect the two things and we have to spend hundreds of pages waiting for her to connect the dots. Then, there were other stuffs that were kept hidden from the readers then revealed as plot twist. To be honest, what kept me reading was not the mystery itself, rather it’s the character arc.

Final Score

3.5star
3.5 stars (out of 5 stars)

Verdict

Three and a half star for great character arc and good take on feminism theme. It could have been more with addition of more diverse cast and with better executed detective sleuthing.

FBCYA Blog Tour: Diversity Talk with Tara Sim, Author of Timekeeper

timekeeper tour

Hello everyone! As I mentioned a couple of posts back, I am very excited to be a part of blog tour for Timekeeper by Tara Sim. As part of the tour, I got to interview the amazing Tara Sim. Tara, if you’re reading this, thank you for taking your time to answer the questions! I also would like to thank Bianca for organizing the blog tour, my fellow book club members at FBCYA, Sky Pony Press, and Tara herself for this opportunity.

Lack of representation is always one thing fictions, especially Science Fiction and Fantasy, kept getting called on. I am a big fan of fantasy books, and even as a fan, I could admit that it’s true. Science Fiction and Fantasy, especially what’s known as epic fantasy, is still dominated by white straight cis male authors. In term of characters, the existence of proper POC representation and own voices in mainstream SFF genre still needs to be improved. That is why when I had the opportunity to interview Tara, I decided to tackle this lack of diversity issue. In the interview, Tara explained about her view on diversity in SFF fictions, the danger of misrepresentation, the importance of #ownvoices stories, and give us some recommendations for diverse books.

About Timekeeper

Timekeeper (Tara Sim)
book cover Book title Timekeeper
Series/standalone Timekeeper #1
Author Tara Sim
Pages 368
Publisher Sky Pony Press
Year published 2016
Category | Genre Young Adult | Science Fiction, Historical, Fantasy

Synopsis

Two o’clock was missing.

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

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

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

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

The stunning first novel in a new trilogy by debut author Tara Sim, Timekeeper is perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare and Victoria Schwab.

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