ARC Review: Bang by Barry Lyga

31420736Title: Bang

Author : Barry Lyga

Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Release date : April 18th, 2017

Rating : 3.8/5

☯ Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

Sebastian Cody did something horrible, something no one–not even Sebastian himself–can forgive. At the age of four, he accidentally shot and killed his infant sister with his father’s gun.
Now, ten years later, Sebastian has lived with the guilt and horror for his entire life. With his best friend away for the summer, Sebastian has only a new friend–Aneesa–to distract him from his darkest thoughts. But even this relationship cannot blunt the pain of his past. Because Sebastian knows exactly how to rectify his childhood crime and sanctify his past.

It took a gun to get him into this.
Now he needs a gun to get out.

⚜ Review :

I realize I don’t have the same enthusiasm towards this one than most people.

Maybe I watch too many Hollywood movies, but I was expecting more “bang” from Bang, you know what I mean? However, it was a great read, thoughtful-wise (I think I just invented a word, English not being my first language, woopsieeee).

I was very impressed with the subject Lyga tackled, and the message it delivered. We hear too often about gun violence, victims, guilty and how to properly handle such an issue. In the political realm, that’s great, right? It MUST be fixed. But here we have another part of the story: the aftermath. What happens to the family left behind? What happens with the killer? But more shockingly, what if the killer is part of your own family, and you have to live with it? With such a plot, I was immediately attracted to it.

BANG met my storyline, characters and depth expectations. No, honestly, it SURPASSED those expectations. Really, it deserves a standing ovation!

Let me start with the characters: Sebastian is the one who killed his baby sister (nop, not a spoiler). His desire to die is well-structured, he’s very reasonable about it. Although he’s not the most fun and engaging MC I’ve ever read about, his character development was masterfully done. It was believable. It wasn’t white to black in a second. There was no epiphany, there were no life-changing, tearful arguments. And it all contributes to the fact that he’s quite complex, as a character. Lyga managed to capture his state of mind and his shifting thoughts in a well-paced and well-structured way.

But the real joy was Aneesa. Personally, I felt as if the spotlight was on her, as I liked her very much and she was the only sunshine in this rainy novel. Aneesa’s the new girl in the very-white neighborhood. Why is that relevant? Because she’s a Muslim who wears a hijab in a very-white neighborhood. I particularly enjoyed and appreciated the theme of islamophobia, as she often referred to it to talk about her worries of living in America, and the very real discrimination against Muslims. Apart from this awareness, she is so sweet, and funny, and smart and creative. Fiercely proud and supportive till the end, she’s the kind of friend you’d like to have.

What makes Bang truly remarkable, however, isn’t the characters. What made it soar beyond my expectations was the realness and unflinching honesty of the aftermath’s depiction. We see the difficulty of reconciling a terrible mistake Sebastian did as a 4 y/o with who he is now. Not only is he trapped in this ordeal, but he’s also painfully aware of how others see him, his reputation as a sister-killer, and it taints every relationship he has. While I was reading through it, I had to have several times this thought :”Wow…” (in a good way!). I don’t have enough English vocabulary to describe how I felt, or how it is. It was just so… realistic.

I highly recommend this book for… well, everyone. Awareness of this kind of mental and social issues is to be spread like a virus because it’s too easy to blame, to judge, without taking into consideration all the details. But I’d advise not to dive in with expectations of excitement. Often, I found it very dull. But that’s just a matter of opinion.

** I’d like to thank NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing me with an e-ARC of this novel!

 

ARC Review: The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

30095464Title: The Bone Witch

Author : Rin Chupeco

Publisher : Sourcebooks Fire

Release date : March 7th, 2017

Rating : 3.8/5

☯ Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha — one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.

⚜ Review :

As a lasting impression, the book really wasn’t that bad!

The biggest disappointment would be caused by the lack of “exciting” events, if I may say so. One would say it was too boring. Indeed, when reading the summary, or just solely based on how fantasy YA books usually work, one would expect a profusion of “exciting” events. And The Bone Witch didn’t offer much in that department. There was no sense of real danger, no fear about those ominous “dark forces”.

BUT, luckily for me, I came in without much expectation because… I’d forgotten what the synopsis was. I just opened the ebook and started reading, because I was attracted to the cover *woops*. But it saved me quite a few sighs (disappointment) and burnt up neurons (anger). I’ve got to say, though, that the writing wasn’t exceptional. If the book was any less good, I wouldn’t have survived the entirety of it.

So how did my no-expectation attitude get me to be okay with The Bone Witch? As I didn’t know what to expect, I just gulped down every plot line Chupeco offered. As I read on, I came to understand that it was an intricate tapestry of the asha’s world. I’m the kind of person who loves to learn new things, and in this case, I was learning about a new culture, down to the tiniest details… And I greatly appreciated that. I think Chupeco’s main focus with her first-in-a-trilogy was to set the pieces on the board before making us dive into the next books. Therefore, she teaches us about asha’s mores and traditions, and how their social roles and reputation built their way of living. Asha have a strong resemblance to geisha, in the sense that they are professional entertainers, but in addition to that, they are also trained fighters. So, for an informative book, I think there was enough action.

However, at the beginning, I was confused a few times because there were many new words, so there were a few parts that lost me. Also, Chupeco could have taught us more about the other kingdoms, instead of just mentioning them.

If you think real (too?) hard, you could see a hint of love triangle, but by no means an actual one. I know many people will consider it as such, though, but in my opinion, there was ever only one cute, little crush in the works.

Another aspect I thoroughly enjoyed was the alternating chapters between the past and the present, the still-innocent Tea (Tay-uh, 12-15 years old) and her now bitter, older self (17 years old). It’s very interesting to witness how much she changed because of her new life. We spend more time with the young Tea, who didn’t know anything about her abilities before resurrecting her brother Fox. In her ignorance, she is vulnerable, at a disadvantage and therefore, shy. But despite these circumstances, she tries very hard to learn, she is persistent. And the more she learns, the more she strengthens and asserts herself. I agree she’s a special snowflake, but at least she’s intelligent and capable (most of the time).

Some other characters could have been more developed, some others were purposefully mysterious, but I still believe Chupeco could have done a better job at exploiting her characters. She equally often tried to breach certain social issues, such as discrimination and various ethnicities, but she never lingered much on them, so they all passed under the radar rather easily. The only socially relevant subject she actually succeeded in bringing up was the gender expectations/stereotypes, as in the acceptable social roles of women and men.

 Then perhaps we should carve a world one day where the strength lies in who you are, rather than in what they expect you to be.

**I’d like to thank NetGalley and SOURCEBOOKS Fire for providing me with this ebook, in exchange for an honest review!

ARC Review: In the Shadow of the Gods by Rachel Dunne

9780062428134_98a84Title : In the Shadow of the Gods

Author : Rachel Dunne

Publisher : Harper Voyager

Release date : June 21st, 2016

Rating : 1.5/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

Eons ago, a pair of gods known as the “Twins” grew powerful in the world of Fiatera, until the Divine Mother and Almighty Father exiled them, binding them deep in the earth. But the price of keeping the fire-lands safe is steep. To prevent these young gods from rising again, all twins in the land must be killed at birth, a safeguard that has worked, until now.

Trapped for centuries, the Twins are gathering their latent powers to break free and destroy the Parents for their tyranny—a fight between two generations of gods for control of the world and the mortals who dwell in it.

When the gods make war, only one side can be victorious. Joros, a mysterious and cunning priest, has devised a dangerous plan to win. Over eight years, he gathers a team of disparate fighters—Scal, a lost and damaged swordsman from the North; Vatri, a scarred priestess who claims to see the future in her fires; Anddyr, a drug-addled mage wandering between sanity and madness; and Rora and Aro, a pair of twins who have secretly survived beyond the reach of the law.

These warriors must learn to stand together against the unfathomable power of vengeful gods, to stop them from tearing down the sun . . . and plunging their world into darkness.

Review :

I love fantasy, I really do! I have read many fantasy books in my life, and I must say… In the Shadow of the Gods was disappointing.

You know what aspect of epic fantasy I absolutely admire? The writing!! I already described it in other reviews of mine, but I’ll say it again: elegant and polished prose is my kryptonite, in fantasy. Think Tolkien, or Martin. Their writing is absolutely riveting, and draws us in their world, and manipulates our emotions and perspectives at every page.

Now, what kind of writing did Dunne offer in her book? YA prose, that’s what. I’m not saying YA authors write badly; oh no, most of them have pretty decent writing and it’s actually enjoyable. What I’m saying is that Dunne’s composition doesn’t belong in the Fantasy genre. It felt so out of place, that I was immediately turned off. Actually, my turn-off was so definite and complete, that I couldn’t find it in myself to even try to like the book. There was nothing epic about it. What would actually put this novel in Fantasy would be the world (we’ll talk about this later) and the excessive violence.

About what Dunne actually wrote, again, it left to be desired. Each chapter relates events set some years apart, but the author spends so much time referencing what has already happened in previous chapters, that really, I don’t see why I even bothered to read every chapter. The reading is redundant, as she repeats the same information over and over again. And the world. Gosh, such an underdeveloped world. The premise isn’t bad, okay? The gods, and the missing ones, the Twins, and the religion. I really liked the concept of how all of this affected their world. But, it seems like this myth and its impact are the only thing that ever happened in this universe, which is otherwise lacking a history, or culture, or politics. Everything, from the writing to the world, is just…empty. Nothing to keep my interest, apart from the inexplicable magic.

Joros’ character was okay. I didn’t really know where I stood regarding him, as I sometimes liked him, sometimes disliked him entirely. I really liked Scal, though. His story is filled with loss and loneliness and revenge, but it is so rich that Dunne could write an entire book about him. But apart from him, I could’ve used some other interesting characters, some that would spark up some life in this otherwise miserable world.

All in all, In the Shadow of the Gods is an okay book for fantasy beginners, as it lacks many things that would make up a great fantasy read.

** Thank you to Edelweiss and Harper Voyager for providing me with an e-copy of this book!

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ARC Review: Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet by H. P. Wood

27015411Title : Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet

Author : H. P. Wood

Publisher : Sourcebooks Landmark

Release date : June 7th, 2016

Rating : 4.1/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

May 1904. Coney Island’s newest amusement park, Dreamland, has just opened. Its many spectacles are expected to attract crowds by the thousands, paying back investors many times over.

Kitty Hayward and her mother arrive by steamer from South Africa. When Kitty’s mother takes ill, the hotel doctor sends Kitty to Manhattan to fetch some special medicine. But when she returns, Kitty’s mother has vanished. The desk clerk tells Kitty she is at the wrong hotel. The doctor says he’s never seen her although, she notices, he is unable to look her in the eye.

Alone in a strange country, Kitty meets the denizens of Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet. A relic of a darker, dirtier era, Magruder’s is home to a forlorn flea circus, a handful of disgruntled Unusuals, and a mad Uzbek scientist. Magruder’s Unusuals take Kitty under their wing and resolve to find out what happened to her mother.

But as a plague spreads, Coney Island is placed under quarantine. The gang at Magruder’s finds that a missing mother is the least of their problems, as the once-glamorous resort town is abandoned to the freaks, anarchists, and madmen.

 

Review :

Ok so, you know when you decide to taste a dish, and it tastes completely different from what you expected, but it was still very good, so you end up pleasantly surprised? That’s how I felt about Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet!

From the deep corners of my mind, I managed to find a comparison for Wood’s writing style: you’re watching someone you respect walk away from you, but suddenly, they realize they have a last thing to say, and so they toss behind them the words you’ve been waiting to hear. It’s that kind of careless, yet thoughtful prose that you can expect to find in Magruder’s. At every page, I found myself smiling a little, intrigued and charmed by the wittiness of Wood’s writing! It’s elegant, and polished, like something you’d find in the early 1900s, which is the era in which the novel takes place. Think of the way they speak in Downton Abbey. The early 1900s being the turn of the century, it is a period of wonder over technology, electricity and electronic gadgets. As far as I learnt in my history and economics classes, Magruder’s is historically accurate. Not only in the technology domain, but also about the illness, the locations, and other little things, while still managing to remain in the Fiction section.

The build up to the catastrophic plague is very good; it would be considered slow for some people, but it was well paced for me, and realistic, considering the fact that we follow the lives of freaks and outcasts, who have no quick way to learn anything except by figuring out everything by themselves. However, as my reading progressed, I realized I had yet to read anything truly exciting. If you’re looking for a Night Circus kind of feel, you’ll be disappointed: Magruder’s was a rather depressing story, coated in chocolate. Like in Night Circus, I expected a dreamy, foreign-like, mystical and strange atmosphere, and wonderful descriptions of the Unusuals and their oddities. But nothing really sparked up my imagination or made me dream… which was enormously disappointing. But the ending itself was suspenseful and fast paced, magnificently written. Throughout the book, Wood handled well the themes of gender roles and discrimination. It was direct and powerful, and sent a strong message of solidarity and self-esteem.

In every chapter, points of views alternate between characters, and it creates an intricate and complete painting of the events, from one person to the other. Through the story, you get a real sense of the Unusuals’ closeness and intimacy. There are heart-warming relationships, bonding together enchanting characters, like the gender fluid Rosalind, or the mute boy P-Ray. Each character is quite real, “three-dimensional”. They are complete, down to their background and quirks and way of speaking. Even when a conversation occurs among many characters, everything is said in each and every one’s particular tone. It was an amazing arabesque of personalities. We encounter the strong, the resilient, the lost, the determined, the confused, the selfish, the practical, and many more colorful figures throughout the story. Even though, as I’ve said, it’s a depressing story, they don’t let it get them down, and they bounce back.

In conclusion, Magruder’s was a delightful story, written by a master’s hand, touching many delicate subjects, but managing to make me root for all the characters.

** Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for providing me with an e-copy of this book!

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ARC Review: Devil and the Bluebird by Jennifer Mason-Black

25796637Title : Devil and the Bluebird

Author : Jennifer Mason-Black

Publisher :Amulet Books

Release date : May 17th, 2016

Rating : 4.5/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

“Devil-at-the-crossroads” folklore finds its way to YA via this moody, magical tale

Blue Riley has wrestled with her own demons ever since the loss of her mother to cancer. But when she encounters a beautiful devil at her town crossroads, it’s her runaway sister’s soul she fights to save. The devil steals Blue’s voice—inherited from her musically gifted mother—in exchange for a single shot at finding Cass.

Armed with her mother’s guitar, a knapsack of cherished mementos, and a pair of magical boots, Blue journeys west in search of her sister. When the devil changes the terms of their deal, Blue must reevaluate her understanding of good and evil and open herself to finding family in unexpected places.

In Devil and the Bluebird, Jennifer Mason-Black delivers a heart-wrenching depiction of loss and hope.

Review :

First of all, thank you to NetGalley and Abrams Kids for providing me with an e-galley of this book!

Wow… Remember my expectations for this book? Well, it met ALL OF THEM perfectly. It’s a one of a kind read!!

Devil and the Bluebird is as sweet and musical as a lullaby. The story is tinged with melancholy, a poem-like nostalgia, and a lovely kind of sadness. We follow Blue Riley’s journey as she’s searching for her sister, but you realize along the way that her journey in itself takes her from person to person, encountering every kind of individuals. Every character, as minor as they might be, are three-dimensional. They are here to add to Blue’s story, yes, but it’s so easy to imagine them having their own lives, and dreams, and problems. Mason-Black has a talent for exploiting her characters to the fullest. As Blue’s trip takes her further away from home, the meaning of true evil is revealed along the way. No, it’s not lurking in the devil’s eyes; Blue encounters good, helpful people, those who want to care for her just because she’s a person in need, but her path also crosses those of the worst kinds.

Blue Riley is a quiet (literally) kind of girl, but who’s burning from the inside. She’s driven, and determined, and flawed and confused. She pushes on, going forward, even when she’s scared and grieving. She’s the little sister attached to her lost family, trying to makes things all right. Although her family’s bonds weren’t conventional, and it wasn’t the perfect family she could have hoped for, she loved them and would do anything for them. I ached for her throughout her entire journey.

As was to be expected, as with any good road trip story, this one is about Blue’s self-discovery. She has always defined herself as a part of her mother, and her mother’s music. But, as she treks through the country, she finds out about where she belongs, and who she is as a whole and independent individual.

Only thing that was odd was, that the devil changed the terms of their deal after they made it. Which I think is against the rules, if I understood Supernatural correctly. But maybe I’m missing something.

Anyway, I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for young adult version of Wild, with music and magic as extras, and mainly centered about family!

P.-S.: Sorry, I posted this review a little late. I meant to post it on the 17th, but another review got the place x)

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ARC Review : The Season of You & Me by Robin Constantine

26116514Title : The Season of You & Me

Author : Robin Constantine

Publisher : Balzer + Bray

Release date : May 10th, 2016

Rating : 3.5/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

Cassidy Emmerich is determined to make this summer—the last before her boyfriend heads off to college—unforgettable. What she doesn’t count on is her boyfriend breaking up with her. Now, instead of being poolside with him, Cass is over a hundred miles away, spending the summer with her estranged father and his family at their bed-and-breakfast at the Jersey Shore and working as the newest counselor at Camp Manatee.

Bryan Lakewood is sick of nevers. You’ll never walk. You’ll never surf. You’ll never slow dance with your date at prom. One miscalculated step and Bryan’s life changed forever—now he’s paralyzed and needs to use a wheelchair. This is the first summer he’s back at his former position at Camp Manatee and ready to reclaim some of his independence, in spite of those who question if he’s up for the job.

Cass is expecting two months dealing with heartbreak.
Bryan is expecting a summer of tough adjustments.
Neither of them is expecting to fall in love.

Review :

Thank you to Edelweiss and HarperCollins Children for providing me with a digital galley of this book!

Honestly, I don’t have that much to say about The Season of You and Me. It’s a typical light, sweet and fluffy read, perfect for summer. I’m going to use my expression once more: it’s a candy book. Although, for a candy book, it wasn’t as good as, say, Lola and the Boy Next Door. Constantine didn’t really make me feel anything, which is surprising, considering that this kind of books isn’t very hard to write (based on the fact that I usually like candy contemporary YA romance). It was cute, yes, sweet, but… completely forgettable.

I liked Cassidy. I really loved her relationship with her father and his new family. In this kind of situation, we usually read about angry, mistrustful families, so it was refreshing to see something like this. Cassidy is close with her half-brother, Hunter, and with Leslie, her step-mom. They treat each other like family, and it was heart-warming. However, it did feel as if Cassidy was running away to avoid Gavin, and I’m not one who likes those kinds of actions. It’s one of the reasons why I didn’t give it 5 stars.

Bryan is a stronger character, in my opinion, overcoming a much bigger difficulty than a break-up. He seemed to handle well his new situation. His relationship with Cassidy was very cute, starting from a work relationship to a romantic relationship.

I know I should be loving this book, but I just didn’t connect with the characters and the story. I wouldn’t recommend it; summer book-wise, there are much better contemporary YA romance out there. If you need any recommendations, comment below! 🙂

P.-S.: Sorry, I posted this review a little late. I meant to post it on the 10th, but another review got the place x)

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ARC Review : Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay

25332566Title : Children of Earth and Sky

Author : Guy Gavriel Kay

Publisher : New American Library (NAL)

Release date : May 10th, 2016

Rating : 6/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request—and possibly to do more—and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor’s wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy.

The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he’s been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif—to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.

As these lives entwine, their fates—and those of many others—will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world…

Review :

Thank you to NetGalley and to Berkley Publishing Group for providing me with this one!

Children of Earth and Sky was wonderful, but is a hard book to review.

It reminded me a lot of Game of Thrones, and was just as genius (or even more so?) as George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series. The plots are complex, intertwining economics and politics and religion, and the characters are less psychotic than in GoT, but they are just as realistic and admirable. The story is told in their third-person perspective, shifting from narrator to narrator within the same chapter, so we have different point of views on same events.

This society’s issues and their importance are all put on the table, and we know exactly what needs to be done and how. The only uncertainty is the characters’ actions, and they surprised me quite a few times, always keeping me on the edge of my seat. Our protagonists’ names are Danica, Pero, Leonora and Marin. They are all delightful! Even the minor ones, like Neven or the Emperor, shone through during the (kind of) short time they were mentioned. Every dialogue involving one of these characters is witty and clever, and it brought out from the story a lot of liveliness. Their personalities were very distinct and well described through their actions, and nothing ever felt out of character. I was always entertained when they spoke, and enjoyed their cleverness immensely. I didn’t expect romance, but there was some, though it never took too much space in the storyline. My romantic heart did ask for more, but I knew it couldn’t be done this way, or it would take something away from the essence of the story.

One of the things that happen to me a lot when I read epic fantasy like this, is I get overwhelmed by the number of foreign names. Characters, kingdoms, social roles, alliances, and so on. It’s always hard to keep track, and truthfully, I only grasped all of it by the first half of the book. Thankfully, Kay had the bright idea to include a map and a list of all the characters, so it did help, and wasn’t all that bad. Also, there weren’t many confusing times, so I’m ready to dismiss this inconvenience (and partly because I’m used to it by now). Kay’s world is so vast and rich, there were bound to have a lot of characters, you know? If you have read Game of Thrones, Children of Earth and Sky will be just as easy to understand.

Finally, the real star in Kay’s novel is the writing. The author deserves a standing ovation and all my praises. As it seems to be the custom for epic fantasy authors, Kay writes in a… dignified way, very elegant and subtle and polished. But with Kay, he adds wittiness to his writing, not just in dialogues but even in the descriptions (appearance, events, etc.). It feels like a very smart erudite is talking to you. It’s true story-telling, in all its beauty. Kay writes with solemnity, bringing forth the enormity of every event. The book isn’t nearly as heavy as Game of Thrones, thankfully. It’s a much more enjoyable read. Its cutting precision and cleverness had me devouring the pages. The timeline doesn’t go from event to event. If I could compare the author’s writing style, I would say it is like taking twists and turns amidst a colorful, dynamic little market, where merchants give you little items in order to reach your destination. Or, I could compare to solving a puzzle. Every piece finds its place, eventually.

In conclusion, Children of Earth and Sky was a delight to read! I will certainly read other works of Kay’s, but I only recommend this book to seasoned fantasy readers!

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ARC Review : Admiral by Sean Danker

Admiral.jpgTitle : Admiral (Evagardian #1)

Author : Sean Danker

Publisher : Roc

Release date : May 3rd, 2016

Rating : 4/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

He is the last to wake. The label on his sleeper pad identifies him as an admiral of the Evagardian Empire—a surprise as much to him as to the three recent recruits now under his command. He wears no uniform, and he is ignorant of military protocol, but the ship’s records confirm he is their superior officer.

Whether he is an Evagardian admiral or a spy will be of little consequence if the crew members all end up dead. They are marooned on a strange world, their ship’s systems are failing one by one—and they are not alone.

Review :

I would like to thank NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for providing me with a copy of Admiral!

As a whole, this science-fiction book was highly entertaining and suspenseful and fast-paced! It’s the kind of books that could be made into a movie!

This novel got me like a roller coaster. As it is often the case with roller coasters, I ended up with a smile and the happiness to have gone through it. And a headache (from too much feels). Reading the title could equate to me strapping myself to the seat. Reading the summary and getting excited to read it would be the first ascent. The first 50 pages of the book are the first descent, and the rest of the book was… an infinite ascent? No, no. It would be an alternate between flat parts and ascents, and then the end is a slight descent.

In spite of how this review will start, I have to highlight the excitement I got from reading this book.

The beginning is just plain confusing and frustrating. There is close to no setting. I was as confused as the Admiral was, considering that, as it is stated in the summary, he wakes up to a strange situation. Although I could see that his style of writing would please me, because all descriptions were well-written and never took too much space, Danker just made us leap into the cauldron. We don’t know anything about this sci-fi world, and we are left to figure it out by ourselves, with almost no information to begin with. I mean, if the admiral is confused, how confused would we be? I’m aware that this puzzlement is purposeful since it’s a first person narrator, but having a confused narrator AND no setting is a quick and easy way to turn off a reader.

However, we quickly realize that the Admiral is a capable man. Despite his perplexity, he is cool-headed and goes straight to work, inquiring about their whereabouts and trying to figure out how to survive on this strange planet. The Admiral’s real identity is a mystery to everyone, but even his lack of name (on our part) didn’t stop me from liking him. He is smart, adaptive and highly resourceful. He reminded me a lot of Star-Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy, just less funny (but still funny!).

Honestly, all the characters grew on me. There are only 4, but I learnt to appreciate them each in their own way. Deilani was slightly annoying at the beginning, but now the respect I have for her surpasses the respect I have for the Admiral. They are both great, don’t get me wrong, but the ending did her more justice. Nils and Salmagard were amazing and smart and resourceful throughout the book. The interactions and the banter between the characters were enjoyable. Although the hierarchy of this world made me perplex a few times, the 4 recruits come from different backgrounds, and Danker made a point of playing with their different point of views on some subjects. 10 points for Danker.

There is one element I was very conflicted about in this book. Sean Danker knows a lot about computers, technology, engineering, and so on, you know the kind. I always appreciate very much when an author does his/her homework and uses it well. The military thinking was also on point. Really, it showed a lot of dedication and hard work, and I truly thank him for it. However, I myself am not familiar with so many aeronautics and mechanical terms. So, as it turned out, there were some parts where I was completely lost. The first rule of writing I learnt was never to assume the reader knows what I’m talking about. It doesn’t mean that an author has to treat their readers as idiots, but when their story takes place in a highly technology-advanced future and in a domain not everyone is familiar with (aeronautics), one would expect them to explain a little.

Danker’s writing is very good and precise. Not one detail was left to chance, and the military thinking, like I pointed out above, is well thought of. He perfectly conveyed the creepiness of the planet’s inhabitants; I had goosebumps when our protagonists first encountered them. Also, Danker described incredibly well the strangeness of the planet and its eerie atmosphere.

The ending was fast paced and incredibly exciting. It got my heart beating like crazy, and I couldn’t put the book down. I just HAD to know how it would end. I was literally cheering for every character. I sure as hell will read the sequel, because I just have to know what else will happen to them. It’s an amazing way to end a first book: no cliffhangers, but just enough unanswered questions that would push the reader to come back.

Admiral is a nice mix of The Martian and Prometheus. It was suspenseful, and a bit creepy, and there was a lot of action. It was really good! I would recommend it for sci-fi fans!

Picture sources : 1, 2

 

ARC Review : Nice Girls Endure by Chris Struyk-Bonn

27178702Title : Nice Girls Endure

Author : Chris Struyk-Bonn

Publisher : Switch Press

Release date : August 1st, 2016

Rating : 2.3/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

Chelsea Duvay is so many things. She’s an avid musical lover, she’s a gifted singer, and she has the most perfect, beautiful feet. But no one ever notices that. All they notice is Chelsea’s weight.

Daily, Chelsea endures endless comments about her appearance from well-meaning adults and cruel classmates. So she keeps to herself and just tries to make it through. Don’t make waves. Don’t draw attention. That’s how life is for Chelsea until a special class project pushes the energetic and incessantly social Melody into Chelsea’s world.

As their unlikely friendship grows, Chelsea emerges from her isolated existence, and she begins to find the confidence to enjoy life. But bullies are bullies, and they remain as vicious as ever. One terrible encounter threatens to destroy everything Chelsea has worked so hard to achieve. Readers will be captivated by Chelsea s journey as she discovers the courage to declare her own beauty and self-worth, no matter what others might think. A must-read for anyone who loves to explore the personal but powerful territory of everyday life.

Review :

I would first like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an e-galley of this book!

I have many mixed feelings about Nice Girls Endure. Overall, it deserved a solid “okay” from me.

The book first attracted my attention because the protagonist is called Chelsea, just like me! So, of course, I was expecting a lively and awesome character (hehe). Too bad that wasn’t what I got. Chelsea is… not whiny, exactly. On first impression, she’s just relating the hardships she goes through because of her weight, and how she feels toward herself afterward. But as I progressed through my reading, I realized that Chelsea blames everyone for her discomfort, even if they didn’t do anything against her. As soon as she’s uneasy with something, she thinks it is someone else’s fault to have put her in this situation in the first place.

She’s unhappy with her situation, but doesn’t stand up for herself. Like she said, everyone has their own approach to the world. Hers just doesn’t agree with me, and it got on my nerves from time to time. Her kind of passive attitude only managed to bore me and frustrate me throughout the book. She literally just smiles at her tormentors and shyly moves away. For real, she mentions her safe and practiced smile so often, I low-key had the urge to slap it off of her face.

She says she loves herself the way she is, and that’s awesome. Her belief is that the world itself should change its views on weight, and I totally agree with her, but she still lets her way of life be controlled by others around her. And there’s a flagrant contradiction amidst her opinions: She’s all about her feet, and singing. Honey, you don’t win people over with your feet. Granted, not with your weight or looks either; you win them with your personality. If she wants people to look past her body, she shouldn’t focus on a part of her body either. Unfortunately, her personality isn’t that great either: passive and distant and almost reclusive.

Also, another contradiction: if she loves the way she is, why is she still obviously ashamed of herself? For example, she gets anxiety when the teacher says the students would have to film themselves for a project. She’s so afraid of appearing on camera and showing her “flaws” to everyone that she gets rashes. So, where’s the truth? Yes, society has made her be ashamed of herself, and it’s really too bad, but I didn’t want to read about a girl who got beat up by the world and who, truthfully, couldn’t rise above it… until she got the help of pills. The yellow pills.

Nice Girls Endure brings up real questions and concerns about bullying and weight, but I dislike the fact that Chelsea had to start taking pills in order to gain confidence and confront her bullies. I understand that not everyone deals with these issues in the same way, but to have a book entirely dedicated to such a message? Nah, not for me. I’m a firm believer that pills are last resort only, if there’s no other way to fix a problem. And here, Chelsea had many opportunities to do so, but she turned to the pills.

Meredith, Chelsea’s friend, is a real gem, though. She’s really adorable and active (well, she’s hyperactive), and she really outshines Chelsea. She’s the real pleasure I got from the book.

I don’t think this book handled well the bullying, but the ending was a very nice idea. If we forget that Chelsea’s leaning on the pills, the ending showed a great way to stand up to bullies. So, that was nice. The lasting good feeling I got from the book ending convinced me to give it 2.3/5 instead of 2/5.

Picture sources : 1, 2

ARC Review : Who I Am With You by Missy Fleming

29637320Title : Who I Am With You

Author : Missy Fleming

Publisher : Missy Fleming/Amazon

Release date : April 25th, 2016

Rating : 5/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

After witnessing the devastating events of September 11th firsthand, Olivia Van den Berg turned to drugs in hopes of burying the horrifying memory of her parents’ deaths. Nine years later, she’s sober and back in New York for the first time to visit her dying grandmother. With no other heirs, the family business will fall on Olivia’s shoulders, but is she strong enough take her rightful place at the head of a multi-million dollar corporation?

Duncan McMurray is a FDNY firefighter and a hopeless mess. He lost so much that fateful day – his family, his department brothers, his will to live. Years later he’s still struggling to come to terms with his survivor’s guilt and he does it with any substance he can get his hands on. One thought keeps him going … the girl with the chestnut hair he saved as hell crashed down around him, the only proof he wasn’t a complete failure.

A strange encounter reunites Olivia and Duncan once again and the two feel an instant connection. As Olivia falls in love with the man from her past, doors to her future begin to open and she must decide which path to follow. Who I Am With You is a story of love, fear, addiction and coming to terms with who you are and who you are supposed to be.

Review :

First of all, I would like to thank Missy Fleming for entrusting me with her eBook. Go check it out on Amazon!

This book blew my mind away! The characters were incredible and I fully appreciate that the author knew what she was talking about.

At the beginning, it seems like a typically liked story: the beginning comes off a little bit biography-ish, the writing is good, but nothing exceptional. It was a pretty exciting read: it’s fast-paced when it needs to be, it never drags on (!), there’s even a bit of suspense and mystery. It feels like a movie on paper, a good movie, the kind that would remind you of Still Alice. The author seems to have done quite a lot of research on firefighting, business, drug addiction, rehab, and 9/11. I am always so grateful when an author does their homework, and in this book, Fleming did it well! The insight I got about what happened during 9/11, in and around the towers… Makes me wonder if she was actually there. It was THAT good, guys.

There were two bits that ticked me off a bit, and I’m going to quote them:

What a pussy (p. 54)

and

Y’all are a bunch of girls (p. 334)

I mean, really??? People still use those expressions?? Um… *disapproving look*

Anyway, all the characters are realistic; people you could encounter in your daily life. They have their problems, flaws and quirks. Let’s talk about Olivia. Oh, Olivia *clutches my heart*. She is AMAZING. She is my GIRL CRUSH. Ok, let me tell you something: I usually read a lot of Young Adult (YA) Fiction. The characters I read about are around 18 years old. And sometimes, being so young and not having sorted out their crap, I sometimes wonder what the hell are you doing?? Get a grip. But here, Olivia being an older protagonist, it makes her usually doubtful decisions more acceptable, because she’s independent, logical, and smart, autonomous, and mature. Oh yes, MATURE. Despite her addiction, and her struggle to overcome it, she’s been groomed for big responsibilities, and every reader could see that. Again, she’s mature, and she cares deeply for her well-being and recovery. She doesn’t let no man take her down with him, and it’s clear that she’s fighting her demons the right way. She’s a survivor, a role model. She’s so honest and open about her problems; it’s a perfect message to those who survived addiction and/or tragedies. It’s refreshing to have a protagonist who went through all these stuff and who didn’t become an unsentimental, emotionless zombie. The future and her recovery are her main concerns, and getting help is shown to be THE best way to help ourselves. She is THE BOSS.

Secondly, Duncan. I love Duncan. He’s a cutie, what with his love of kids and his willingness to visit the ones in hospitals. But, he’s a broken character, even worse than Olivia, because he’s still in the midst of his addiction. His attempts at stopping are brave and admirable, and strength is perceived in the way he wants to redeem himself. In any other book, one that focuses on him, his hardships and his recovery, he would’ve been a great character. But here, as the main love interest? Can you guys see the issues? I’ll let you see it by yourselves, when you read the book.

Who I Am With You tackles real issues, in a realistic way. It’s about moving on, and doing what’s best for you and who you want to be. However, for a story revolving around such a dark subject, it never failed to make me laugh and smile at times.

Adults didn’t possess the same resiliency. They gave into darker emotions, depression and hopelessness.

This was exactly what I feared would happen in this novel, but I was scared for nothing, because it wasn’t at all depressing. It shows us something concrete, and more accessible, to do to heal and to move on. It’s a great change from what we usually read in books about healing, which are usually monotonous and slow and introspective, like a 200-page therapy. Here we see two protagonists who are quite lively and driven.

All in all, it was the perfect contemporary romance fiction I needed. Recommended!!

Picture sources : 1, 2