Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano

The Glass Spare
by Lauren DeStefano
Publication Date: October 24th 2017
Publisher: Balzer+Bray
Find This Book: The Glass Spare
Rating: 4/5

An ARC of this book was provided to me by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.

I wasn’t quite sure where this book was going to go and was pleasantly surprised. The world-building is an interesting mix of industrial-revolution, mythology, alchemy, and “marvelers” aka magicians. The main character, Wilhelmina or “Wil” for short is everything I want in an MC; she’s feisty, strong, smart, and very skilled. Is she magically all of these things? No. She’s had years of training being the 4th in line to the throne (or the spare child). As Wil had trained to by the King’s spy her whole life, these skills come to great use on her journey.

Wil has an interesting dynamic with her parents and siblings, which only becomes more complicated when she discovers that an adrenaline spike will allow her to turn anything she touches into gemstones. I’m really excited to see how that continues! Viewing all of her options through the perspective of having a curse and how she might affect other people was really impactful. Here is a young girl in an unfortunate situation, and while she might think of herself and her power as a monster, her kind actions tell the reader otherwise. Maybe I’ve just read too many villain origin stories recently, but having such a noble character not cave to the treacherous world around her was really inspiring.

What knocks this down one star for me was the occasional switching of the POV. It happened only a couple times and wasn’t consistent. It felt like “oh the reader needs to know this but Wil doesn’t, what do I do?” sort of situation and it always felt a bit off when I was out in a different character’s shoes. The world building as I mentioned above was an interesting mix. The industrial-revolution wasn’t super impactful in this book as Wil’s father is pretty apposed to new machines, but I’d be into the weird plants and potions and then all of a sudden peanut butter was mentioned and I’d be briefly taken out of the scene wondering “wow they have peanut butter in this world?” All minor stuff but it did stop me from being fully immersed in the story.

Story-wise, there are a couple plot twists along the way, but what I really enjoyed was that the ending was a bunch of slow reveals. I wasn’t thrown for a loop or cliffhanger and I was still effectively steered into wanting reading book two which was a nice change of pace. I grew really attached to Wil and her companions Loom and Zay and will definitely be reading the next book!

Monday, December 11, 2017

This Darkness Mine by Mindy McGinnis

This Darkness Mine
by Mindy McGinnis
Publication Date: October 10th 2017
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Find This Book: This Darkness Mine
Rating: */5

An ARC of this book was provided to me by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.

I don’t think I can give a star rating to this book. I’m not even really sure what to think of it. This book was an experience. I’ve never read a Mindy McGinnis book before but I will definitely be checking out her other works. There was some really creative prose full of double meanings within conversations between Shanna and Sasha that were extremely impressive.

This book was weird as hell. Sasha has basically no memories whenever Shanna (the sister she absorbed in the womb) takes over her body. I’m still not sure if it’s an alternate reality where possession is an actual thing and the sister was real, or if Sasha has Multiple Personality Disorder. Sasha is a well-put together terrible person (she gets called abitch multiple times) and she’s the GOOD twin. By well put together I mean she is so smart and so sure of herself that as the POV it’s hard for the reader and for the characters around her to discern what’s the truth and what is Sasha’s delusion.

The book is dark, it has its graphically violent moments, and it’s a lot to take in. Handle this book with caution, but if you’re up for an effed up adventure- go for it. Don’t be hanging on to the edge of your seat for a resolution though- while things get tied up there are some intentional loose threads that personally bother the heck out of me.

This book is absolutely perfect for what it is: a psychological thriller. Whether that genre is up your alley is completely a personal preference, however; I will definitely be reading more from this author in the future.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Top Ten by Katie Cotugno

Top Ten
by Katie Cotugno
Publication Date: October 3rd 2017
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Find This Book: Top Ten
Rating: 5/5

An ARC of this book was provided to me by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.

So not even getting to the actual plot, I love how the story is told. It’s got a really cool nonlinear narrative and like the back of the book says- this narrative is compelling. I can’t imagine the novel being told in chronological order- it is perfect the way it is. That being said I can get how non-linear timelines are not for everyone. For those who want to read a creative experience pulled-off well- this book is for you! Instead of a start and an end, the reader gets taken through the 10 most important parts of Gabby and Ryan’s friendship. It starts with their senior year graduation and then goes back and skips around their high school career, their ups and downs, their best memories and their major fights.

The story is about the complicated relationship of Gabby and Ryan. Honestly, who hasn’t had that weird relationship where you don’t know how you became friends with the person? Gabby is a bisexual photographer (woot woot thanks for the rep) and additionally struggles with social anxiety (which I don’t have personal experience with but it seemed pretty realistic?). This book is not about discovering Gabby’s sexuality, or coming out to her family, or societal acceptance- she simply is bi which was nice to read about. Ryan on the other hand is a party-hard hockey player who the author does a great job of not stereotyping. He’s not a ‘dumb sports jock’ and his character is three-dimensional.
These characters are from two different worlds and their two beings somehow clicked and I feel like everyone has this bizarre experience at some point? Very relatable. The book is told from both POV’s so you really get a feel for both characters equally. How they met and continue their relationship made for quite the entertaining read (this book also got shelved with my tear-jerkers: books that made me emotional to the point where I almost cried). 

 This was the perfect stand alone book!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

The City of Brass
by S.A. Chakraborty
Publication Date: November 14th 2017
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Find This Book: The City of Brass
Rating: 3.5/5

I was given an eARC of this book by HarperCollins.

The hype for this book was so real that I somehow managed to get through this even though I can’t normally focus on ebooks. I loved how much cultural information was packed into this book and all of the political details between the daeva tribes and their magic system. I didn’t find much of the ending predictable in the slightest which was really refreshing but honestly most of it is hard to talk about and discuss unless you’ve already read it!

I must say I only vaguely new about Djinn, Ifriti, Marid etc. from my Bartimaeus days (I love those books and I love Jonathan Stroud) and that being said it really felt like I was getting thrown in the deep end with the MC Nahri who was also being introduced to everything around her. A paperback/ hard copy is definitely the way to go with this book because there are a lot of mythological/cultural terms that were a pain in the ass to flip back to the glossary of the ebook every time, but I did feel like I learned a bit which is always something I enjoy when reading. There where plenty of terms I didn’t know and just went along with not really knowing and getting context clues to work things out which was weird, but something I can appreciate. So many books are written by white women about white women for white women and I think this book had an all non-white cast with a minor side plot of lgbt diversity. A breath of fresh air, honestly.

What could have added to the experience for me might have been doing something similar to the beginning of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns where the author gives readers the pronunciations of the character’s names. I do understand this is a bit of a double edged sword though. On one hand, it’s ridiculous that names like Julia and Margot aren’t expected to have pronunciations accompanied with them while names like Darayavahoush are, but at the same time as a reader I want to completely respect the character’s name and the culture behind the story by not butchering their name. It’s certainly an interesting debate to say the least and I would love to hear other opinions on the subject, but I suppose this is a bit of a tangent in regards to my purpose being to review the book!

Another quick side note, there's a bit more swearing (the f word) and a bit more sexual content than I was expecting from a YA book. Not anything explicit, just more than expected i.e. insinuating sexual rumors, calling character whores etc. though that again could be a result of a more conservative culture being the background of the novel. 

Like I said, the last 100-200 pages (again this was on ebook I read on my phone screen so real page numbers are a mystery) were a wild ride with a lot happening at once and a lot of the stuff happening at once was really unexpected. Everything felt like it was really wrapping up into a stand alone book and I was wondering where the story was going to go since I had heard this was to be a trilogy. It only made me realize that what I thought was the big picture wasn’t actually the big picture! I will definitely be reading the next book but the hype won’t be as intense for me as I don’t think my favorite character will be receiving a lot of screen time especially considering how book twos are primarily just less interesting set-ups for the end of a trilogy. However, I seem to be in for an amazing book three and I anxiously await a conclusion (and my fav character better be stellar in it or I will fight someone)!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Merrett's Gift by Ian Mitchell-Gill

Merrett’s Gift
by Ian Mitchell-Gill
Publication Date: June 3rd 2016
Publisher: FriesenPress
Find This Book: Merrett’s Gift
Rating: 3.5/5

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for honest review.

I’m not going to lie, this book had a slow start. Why? Because the author tackled the challenging prospect of 6 (quickly down to 5) main characters and Merrett who I assumed was the main character wasn’t actually introduced until like page 80. The slowness comes with the prospect of lots of information getting flung at the reader from all sides about all topics. The POV floated from character to character. It was done in a super cool way format-wise, but this means it takes a lot longer to get attached to the characters since you are not getting to know and bonding strongly with any one character. It was a unique approach which I thought was really cool. Unfortunately, it meant that it took the first 150 pages or so for me to get really into the story. However, once I was into it I was *really* into it!

Imagine some super talented angsty teens with a wholesome mentor-mentee relationship attend a high-tech spy school. That’s this book. It was even more heart-warming finding out that this book was written chapter by chapter for the author’s own students and is now something they are sharing with a larger audience (aka me). I was a bit skeptical with some of the student behavior, as it’s extremely different from how my friends and I acted in middle school and high school, but I’m sure his students know better than I and of course there may be some behavioral differences as well being from different countries.

The most interesting part of the book was the 25-years-later epilogue. As there is a book two, I was pretty shocked! I’m genuinely intrigued as to what book two could possibly be about. There’s currently not a book description on Goodreads and I haven’t read the back cover yet, but I know I’m in for a plot-twist filled adventure! I’m hoping for a bit of improvement in the writing (while the plot was action packed and awesome, this story was a bit of tell-don’t-show) and I will be sure to update you all soon about my read of Book 2: Merrett’s Choice!

*Side note. Pretty sure Lydia is ace? But also it's hard to really get backstory and details about any one character when there are five MC's. My interpretation however is that Lydia is ace and I am I prepared to fight about it.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

BroodyBFF Challenge #9- Why I Love Reading Discussion

Today’s blog post is going to be a discussion. The topic is thanks to the #BroodyBFF’s Challenge #9- The Love of Reading!

I don’t think I have the knowledge about The Bookthat made me a reader, but I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember. My childhood classics- Lyle the Crocodile, Horrible Harry, Magic Tree House- grew into a lifetime of reading- Animorphs, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Harry Potter, The Inheritance Cycle.

My love of reading comes from a child-like sense of wonder and the desire for exploration. Reading gives me thousands of lives and experiences. I don’t have to make the same mistakes humanity has already made, there is learning on top of the emotional connect and sense of community. Additionally, reading will take me to places I will never get to see and experience. Whether the setting is far away and expensive to travel to or is a fictional location, reading is like going on vacation.

People I will never meet, plots that will never happen, things too terrible and too good to be true, that all occurs in the books that I read- especially since my favorite genres are Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Is it an escape from reality? I’m not quite sure. I feel like I am growing as a person through my reading, and that it is not quite the same as reality escaping but more of a way to further understand the reality around me. Reading makes it easier for me to imagine life from other perspectives, which I think is an important skill. Could my YA perspectives be written a bit more diversely? Heck yeah, and I know that we are getting there. The YA community seems to be the most outspoken about stereotypes and wanting real diversity from the publishing business and I know I am going to watch a new generation of writers bloom.

I love reading now, and I love the direction I’m seeing the industry head in. I’m currently reading Warcross by Marie Lu and one of her anecdotes about her writing was how long it took her to write an Asian-American character. It was a scary thing, the possibility of being rejected as a writer simply because publishing houses will only have a handful of token POC books each season. Her struggle about not openly describing characters the way she pictured them struck me, and it is so powerful that her MC in Warcross is Chinese-American. I hope all of the tremendous success this book is having will only propel the confidence of not only herself, but other authors to continue being true to themselves!

A toast to reading- may it never stagnate, and may the well of good literature never run dry.

You can check out my fellow #BroodyBFF responses on Twitter

Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me 

The BroodyBFF's street team will run from May to November, so check back here at Love at First Write regularly for new challenges and updates, and follow me and @broodingyahero on Twitter to see the hashtags, visual challenges, and #BroodyChats!