ARC Review: Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

34514721Title: Defy the Stars

Author : Claudia Gray

Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Release date : April 4th, 2017

Rating : 3.7/5

☯ Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

Noemi Vidal is a teen soldier from the planet Genesis, once a colony of Earth that’s now at war for its independence. The humans of Genesis have fought Earth’s robotic “mech” armies for decades with no end in sight.

After a surprise attack, Noemi finds herself stranded in space on an abandoned ship where she meets Abel, the most sophisticated mech prototype ever made. One who should be her enemy. But Abel’s programming forces him to obey Noemi as his commander, which means he has to help her save Genesis–even though her plan to win the war will kill him.

Together they embark on a daring voyage through the galaxy. Before long, Noemi begins to realize Abel may be more than a machine, and, for his part, Abel’s devotion to Noemi is no longer just a matter of programming.

⚜ Review :

I had high expectations for Defy the Stars, among other things because Claudia Gray’s Firebird series was such a hit. In spite of the fact that it checked off some of my expectations, I still feel it fell a bit flat. But let’s start with the positive!

First of all, as the summary suggests, romance is one of the centerpieces of this novel. As a reader who’s been through too many failed romance plots, I was cautious and prepared for the worst. However, I was soooo pleasantly surprised when I realized that… hey, it develops at a slow, realistic and romantic way! The romance wasn’t rushed, nor did I find any trace of insta-love. On the contrary, Abel and Noemi didn’t like each other at first. Considering they’re on opposite sides, it’s understandable that they completely distrust each other, even when it is clear that Abel’s programming forces him to obey the “highest authority on the ship”. One of the highlights of the romance was, ironically, the subtlety of it. There was a good buildup to the romance, but it never takes too much space, nor does it ask for 15 minutes of fame. One of my friends told me once that he thought too many authors are unable to properly include romance without slowing down the entire storyline. Therefore, Gray did a pretty good job with Defy the Stars in terms of a love story. Which was actually adorable, by the way.

But the romance is Noemi’s and Abel’s dynamic as a duo. Unfortunately, as individuals, I wasn’t very invested. Don’t get me wrong; they aren’t annoying, or anything. They both have honorable qualities, and their banter is often enjoyable, but they just didn’t stimulate me enough. I had close to no reaction whatsoever about them.

Noemi is a good-hearted, selfless person. Her reputation is one of a bad-tempered and unpleasant young woman, but as a reader, I learnt that she’s quite bright and loyal. She’s also an incredibly brave and strong person, especially after what happens at the beginning of the book.

Abel, for his part, is an AI. But I thought his mind wasn’t robotic enough? I’m not saying that’s a character flaw, more like a writing flaw. To indicate he’s, after all, a robot, Gray adds in big numbers and calculations, and conscious thoughts about his difference to humans. Yet, the flow of his thoughts, the cadence and the rhythm are too human. The summary suggests he may be more than just a robot, but I guess I assumed this information would only affect the content of his thoughts, not the way they circulate. Be that as it may, as my reading progressed, I did get the sense that he became more human than before. I just wish I could have noticed a bigger development, instead of his being too human from the beginning.

The pace is good, and the plot didn’t leave room for dull moments. But I’m disappointed at the lack of “awe” I got from Gray’s world. Considering that it’s set in space, where possibilities abound, I expected more of a Wow Factor. We’re talking about whole new worlds, here! But maybe it was the goal, who knows? To showcase the Loop’s misery and desperation to find other planets to colonize. Still, I wonder what kind of research did Gray do? It seems like she touches a lot of subjects, from medicine to mechanics. She also included a lot of diversity (as we’re talking about Earthlings in general). Noemi herself has Chilean ancestry.

Throughout the story, there’s the recurrent theme of what it means to be human. I often see this theme, but I think it’s particularly relevant in Abel’s case, as his humanity and his “robocity” (?) are questioned. And it was amazingly well-handled, because I’m thoroughly convinced. There are other important themes, such as the environment and protecting our world, patriotism and following one’s path. It wasn’t a particularly remarkable story; it was blander than I expected from an intergalactic novel. But I admire the moral dilemmas highlighted in this book, and although the characters don’t always have the same values, they still help each other based on individuality.

Although my rating isn’t very good, I’m still looking forward to reading the sequel because the plot, in general, is interesting, and I want to follow the development, as it is still crucially relevant to our days.

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ARC Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor


28449207Title: Strange the Dreamer

Author : Laini Taylor

Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Release date : March 28th, 2017

Rating : 5.3/5

☯ Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep.

⚜ Review :

I cannot begin to express my admiration towards this work of art, simply because there are no words to properly convey the absolute awe I felt during my reading. The story is so so so unique, like, how did someone even come up with this idea?! Strange the Dreamer is an ode to dreamers, and readers, and underdogs, to those who follow their dreams despite the odds, to those who dream differently than what they already have, and to so many more that I can’t possibly name them all.

Strange is the first book I’ve read of Laini Taylor, but from the reviews I read of her Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, I already knew her writing was beautiful. But I didn’t know at what extent. Strange is uncommon and strange and dense and rich, and it’s definitely not for anyone. There are some hard scenes, very hard and horrifying, things you discover about what happened to Weep that will make you weep in turn. It was actually so difficult to read about those, but also so vital to the comprehension, that I had to stop reading and imagine what it could entail.

“You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,” she pleaded. “Something beautiful and full of monsters.”

“Beautiful and full of monsters?”

“All the best stories are.”

(ARC, p. 115)

Beautiful and full of monsters; a dreamer belittled and put aside because of his improbable dreams, who is given the opportunity to follow them, to a mysterious and mythical city once ruled by terrible beings, who have done horrendous deeds. But even my own summary pales in comparison to what the story is really about, because it’s so much more than just Lazlo and Weep. These two are the ones who hooked me to the story. The mystery was intriguing and so intense, I just had to know what happened to Weep, and what its real name is. I was as invested in its riddle than Lazlo was.

And this just attests to the magnificence of the world Taylor created. Not only the world, but also the inhabitants: people with two hearts, pumping not only blood but also spirit. How awesome is that?? They live in a world exquisitely built by its author, from the hierarchy, to the mythology, to the geography. But despite all those details, I still feel there’s an immense potential to all the things we could still learn from Lazlo’s world. Laini Taylor is a master at unfolding her world with her writing and her timing.

I know some people think the beginning was slow. I admit that it was, but I’m one of the people who were captivated from the very beginning. And although it’s nearly two hundred pages into the story when Lazlo reaches Weep, I say they are two hundred necessary pages. It’s essential to understand Lazlo and the importance of his dreams, and to know the rest of the world apart from Weep, and although the beginning is slow, it is engrossing and it prepares you for the rest of the plot.

And how the words flow on her pages, ohhh… The way Taylor uses words is lyrical, evocative, lovely… The imagery is stunningly vivid, some passages are so dreamy you wish you could cocoon yourself in them. Some scenes feel so surreal, but so beautifully relevant at the same time. The sentences are so perfect, in fact, that sometimes they seem too perfect, but it fits perfectly with the dreamy and magical aspects of the story. When I said, above, that it is an ode, I meant it: Taylor’s words caress us just like a poem would. I was struck from the beginning by the elegance of her flow.

That was the year Zosma sank to its knees and bled great gouts of men into a war about nothing.

(ARC, p. 5)

Lazlo and Sarai were great characters as well, though I wouldn’t say they are YA-typical. I absolutely loved Lazlo and his absolute love of Weep. Being in his head while discovering things was a joy. But Lazlo, independently of Weep, is not the typical hero you would imagine. He’s unimpressive in almost all aspects, he isn’t swoony, isn’t flamboyantly brave. But he is very attractive in other ways, he is quiet and unselfish, has always been so. He loves books, and stories, and he is desperately loyal to his dreams. He’s thoughtful and kind and bright. In the summary, Sarai is the blue-skinned goddess, a mystery to all of Weep. Therefore, I won’t spend much time on her, except to say that she is just as good as Lazlo, and haunted by her own demons and inner conflicts, yet still retains her innocence. The cast of secondary characters are no less great. They are all so very complex and fleshed out, and I don’t think the story would have stood up so well without them. The banter and wittiness were incredible, and their interactions with each other helped to showcase the very best of Lazlo’s personality.

I think the romance verged a bit in insta-love, or “insta-fascination”. But it is so sweet, and well done, and I loved BOTH characters so much, and I think that is why I feel great with this insta-love. Because we already know them apart, each in their own individuality, their doubts and their hopes, and so when their stories finally merged, it felt as if it was completely natural that they feel an attraction to each other because of their personal stories.

All in all, Strange the Dreamer was a fantastic book, from top to bottom, in all aspects of literature, and it definitely is part of my Favorites list. I would recommend it to everyone who loves rich, intricate and beautiful stories.

**Thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for providing me with this book!

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!

Picture sources : 1, 2

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!

Picture sources : 1, 2

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)

Picture sources : 1, 2

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)

Picture sources : 1, 2

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!

Picture sources : 1, 2

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