Book Review: The Afterlife of Holly Chase

The Afterlife of Holly ChaseHolly Chase
Author: Cynthia Hand
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: October 24th, 2017
Genre, as told by Kibby: YA contemporary with a dash of weird magic/science-y realism
Rating: 5 Stars!
Synopsis: On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.
She didn’t.
And then she died.
Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge–as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.
Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable. But this year, everything is about to change. . . .

Let me start by saying that I DO NOT like YA contemporary novels. qG2h9G9NMRRE4I’ll read them only in the most exact of situations (The Charlotte Holmes novels, for instance), but this book was the selection for my Bookstagram Book Club (GO #TEAMKINGWHALE) and the synopsis had just enough vague magic-y/science-y weirdness to intrigue me.

But The Afterlife of Holly Chase melted even my cold, dead old lady heart.

The novel follows failed scrooge, Holly Chase, through…you guessed it: her afterlife. There is no heaven or hell for her, just the life as a sort of ghost/zombie vagueness that works for Project Scrooge. I felt like some of the intricacies of Project Scrooge could have been fleshed out more, but this novel is about the human aspect, not the technical. I can forgive it leaving out that part of world building.

I was worried that I would hate Holly Chase. There is nothing I hate more than a “poor rich girl” but Cynthia Hand deftly wrote Holly as flawed human that has depth and the ability to grow. I did dislike Holly at first, but very quickly I was drawn into her loneliness. Not the loneliness of her rich, teenage life, but the loneliness of her afterlife. I felt for her and found myself rooting for her to somehow get a happy ending (which is surprising since I’m usually a fan of tragic endings).

There was a fairly large supporting cast in this book and while some were not well explored, I felt I was able to get enough about them to work within the story. I think Boz and Stephanie were my favorite of the supporting cast. And while we got quite a bit of Stephanie’s backstory, I wish we’d gotten to know Boz a bit more. But at the same time, the unknown gives the novel the right feel.

I think what I liked most about the book was that even though I knew something was going to be all plot-twisty, I never could quite put my finger on it. It kept me invested and constantly wondering where this was all going. There were some bits that could be classified as clichéd but they were written in a way that I enjoyed and therefore didn’t care about the cliché.

And then there was the ending…

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I will not say any spoilers but I will say that I cried a lot because even though I try to hide it, I am a total sap. I called one thing about the ending, but not everything. And regardless, I loved everything that came to pass.

At the end of the day, this was not a perfect book. But it made me cry AND it made me happy, which is what I love in a book. So 5 stars on enjoyment alone, 4 stars if I was being critical about clichés and some lack of world building.

Book Review: Pride by Ibi Zoboi

PridePride
Author: Ibi Zoboi
Release Date: September 18, 2018
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Goodreads Synopsis: Pride and Prejudice gets remixed in this smart, funny, gorgeous retelling of the classic, starring all characters of color, from Ibi Zoboi, National Book Award finalist and author of American Street.

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

In a timely update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.
Okay, I have to start this out by saying that I am NOT a contemporary reader. I just…always want to smack these teens upside the head and tell them they are being dumb. Teens in fantasy or sci-fi are just easier to stomach for me. But this was a Pride and Prejudice retelling, so I decided to overlook my aversion to contemporary for my love of Austen. That all being said, I mostly enjoyed this book.

Let’s start with what I liked: the setting and supporting cast. The author brings Bushwick, New York to life in a way that dropped me right into the streets inhabited by the Benitez family. You can hear it, you can smell it, you can taste it. I truly felt like I had experienced a piece of life in this neighborhood.

Then we have the supporting cast, who were all so perfectly characterized. Specifically, Carrie (Caroline Bingley) and Warren (Wickham). Carrie is snobby and uptight, but also has a likable side that her counterpart lacked in the original story. Warren on the other hand, is somehow more despicable than Wickham ever was. The updated version of his past discretions are so good, but in a way that just makes you sick. The Benitez family is also nicely updated and are just as wonderfully ridiculous.

My main problem lies in Zuri Benitez (Elizabeth Bennet) and Darius Darcy (Mr. Darcy). Darius, while aggravating at times because he is a teenage boy, was not that bad. He just lacked any smoldering or brooding or chemistry. He wasn’t a lovable grumpy rich guy, he was a teenage boy and nothing more. And then there is Zuri. I kinda hated her and it is really hard to like a book when you strongly dislike the main character. Zuri, at first glance, is smart, streetwise, and wants to take care of her family. But the moment the Darcy boys move in to the newly renovated Mini Mansion across the street, all that goodness goes out the window. Zuri is ridiculously rude, judgmental, and hypocritical, in ways that go beyond her original counterpart’s flaws. She gets all twisted about her sister, Janae (Jane), being happy with Ainsley (Mr. Bingley) and constantly complains about how she’ll have no time with her. But then once her sister is heartbroken, Zuri decides that trying to date two guys and spending NO TIME with her sister is what she wants to do. Um, excuse me? The more the story went on, the more I disliked Zuri and it just wore me down because I love the character of Elizabeth Bennet.

As I stated before, I mostly enjoyed this book. I think it is a smart and well-done update of Pride and Prejudice. It is not a carbon copy of the original story, but instead a timely retelling that tackles gentrification and classism. This book makes no apologies in how it portrays the lives of characters that are usually relegated to token ethnic characters and I know that we need more books like this. At the end of the day, I’ve decided to give this book a 3.5 star rating because while I thought the writing was phenomenal for the most part, I felt the two leads had zero chemistry and I didn’t like either of them.

I was blessed to have a reading buddy for this book, which helped immensely, and that buddy was Sabreena over at Books And Prosecco. You should 1000% check out her blog and #bookstagram.

Have you read Pride? What did you think?

Blog Tour: Strange Days by Constantine Singer [Review + Author Guest Post

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Happy Tuesday all and welcome to day two of the Strange Days Blog Tour! I was ecstatic when Penguin Young Readers reached out to me to be a part of this blog tour. I have been craving a good science fiction book lately and this one definitely hit the spot for me.

Strange Days by Constantine SingerCover
Release Date: December 4, 2018
Genre: Contemporary/Science Fiction (YA)
Publisher: Penguin Teen
Rating: 4 stars
Synopsis: Contemporary fiction with a sci-fi edge, perfect for fans of Ernest Cline and Marie Lu. 

Alex Mata doesn’t want to worry about rumors of alien incursions–he’d rather just skate and tag and play guitar. But when he comes home to find an alien has murdered his parents, he’s forced to confront a new reality: aliens are real, his parents are dead, and nobody will believe him if he tells. On the run, Alex finds himself led to the compound of tech guru Jeffrey Sabazios, the only public figure who stands firm in his belief that aliens are coming.

At Sabazios’s invitation, Alex becomes a Witness, one of a special group of teens gifted with an ability that could save the Earth: they can glide through time and witness futures. When a Witness sees a future, that guarantees it will happen the way it’s been seen, making their work humanity’s best hope for stopping the alien threat. Guided by Sabazios, befriended by his fellow time travelers, and maybe even falling in love, Alex starts feeling like the compound is a real home–until a rogue glide shows him the dangerous truth about his new situation.

Now in a race against time, Alex is forced to reevaluate who he can love, who he can trust, and who he needs to leave behind.

Debut author Constantine Singer’s fresh-voiced protagonist leaps off the page in this captivating novel that weaves sci-fi and contemporary fiction.

Strange Days by Constantine Singer is a fun science fiction/contemporary YA novel that will keep readers invested and intrigued in Alex’s journey through his new reality of alien invasions and time travel. Singer deftly brings Alex and all of his inner turmoil to the page in a way that is accessible to readers, regardless of their age or gender. I have always had issues feeling anything for male POV characters in contemporary fiction besides wanting to smack them upside the head. While I did want to throw things at Alex every once in a while, I also genuinely felt for him and understood why he did the things he did. I think many young readers will see themselves in Alex. The rest of the characters in the novel are well written and while there is a pretty full and diverse cast, each character gets enough time for you to know and love them.

The technology was one of my favorite parts of the story. I loved the idea of “glides” and how they worked. While I consider myself a huge fan of time travel (where my Whovians at?), I have a hard time with time travel novels. But the way time travel was used in this story was unique and it didn’t make my brain hurt.

While I did figure out the plot twist early on, it did not mar my enjoyment of this novel at all. This story is one heck of a ride and I’m glad I went on it. The writing style is pretty straight forward and while it isn’t the usual fantastical style I go for, it felt right for this story. There was a grittiness and immediacy to this novel that got its claws into me. I read the book in a day and a half because I just wanted to know how it was all going to play out. Strange Days is the kind of book that will act as a gateway for readers of all ages looking to get into science fiction.

Thank you to Penguin Young Readers and Constantine Singer for the opportunity to read an advance reader copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own and not influenced in any way.

About the Author

2148587_singer_constantine_jConstantine Singer grew up in Seattle, then earned his BA from Earlham College and his Masters from Seattle University. He currently lives in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles with his family, and teaches history at a high school in South LA. He is of the opinion that all foods are better eaten as a sandwich or a taco. This is his first novel.

Author Guest Post

Top Sci Fi Books for people who are just starting to get into SciFi

I put out a request on my Facebook feed for help with this list and was overwhelmed by suggestions from a horde of middle-aged sci-fi nerds like myself, so I drew up some criteria.  To be on this list, a book:

  1. has to have stood the test of time (nothing less than 10 years old),
  2. have at least one tentacle in a realm outside of science fiction,
  3. have wormed its way into the broader literary psyche on its merits as a piece of literature,
  4. use science fiction as a tool to explore human things
  5. be a book I still think about years after reading it.  

I figure if a book has done all of that, even if someone isn’t that interested in science fiction they might be willing to give it a read.

The list, in no particular order:

  1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
    Still one of the silliest, funniest, strangest books ever written in any genre.  Follow Arthur Dent as he travels the universe with his friend who he’s just learned is an alien.  Original home to 90% of the dorkiest references ever made on the internet. If you don’t like sci-fi, don’t worry, it’s so cleverdumb you won’t even notice the spaceships.
  2. The Tripods Series by John Christopher
    Published in 1967, they may be the first YA sci-fi and have all the hallmarks of YA literature – character-based conflict, young mains, and a focus on friendship/interpersonal relationships.   The story is amazing – Europe in a future where alien colonizers have control of the Earth and maintain their control by “capping” all humans in their early teens. The caps render the people compliant, but there’s a small but growing resistance….
  3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
    It’s the first great book of science fiction.  I read it in high school because I was forced to, but I’ve read it a dozen times since because I love it.  We all know the essential story – a man dabbles in God’s realm, creates life, and it all goes wrong – but the nuance and beautifully human rendering of the monster and the reflections on the nature of humanity and love are what bring me back.  If you like Gothic lit like the sisters Bronte, this would be a great intro to science fiction.
  4. Octavia Butler – Anything but I’d suggest the Earthseed Series
    I don’t think any list of introductory science fiction would be complete without Ms. Butler.  She used science fiction as a venue for exploring the ramifications of and circumstances which created our current issues, specifically with race and gender.  The Earthseed Series also explores climate change and the origins of faith, which make it the ultimate book series for the current time even though it was written 25 years ago.
  5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Not the whole series)
    To me, Hunger Games is the ultimate blend of science fiction and young adult sensibilities.  The intimate personal relationships are defined by the setting and the setting is a perfectly drawn hidden future-history in which the clues to what led the world to its current place are believable, allowing us to reconstruct the events which created the Hunger Games without ever being told.  On top of that, the technology is astonishingly well visioned.
  6. Rendezvous with Rama Arthur C. Clark
    This series has fallen by the Sci-Fi wayside in recent years, but I’m hoping that the speculation surrounding Oumuamua will bring it back to the forefront.  The story is essentially a visitor from space story but is beautifully rendered and doesn’t bother answering any of the questions it raises until much later in the series.  It is the purest science fiction book on this list because its entire focus is on discovering and interacting with an alien race’s technology, but it reads like a grand adventure.
  7. Contact by Carl Sagan
    Carl Sagan wrote a lot of incredible books and it was a toss-up between this and Childhood’s End for the list.  I went with Contact because it’s a great introduction to science fiction in that it focuses entirely on the human story and uses the sci-fi elements to accentuate the humanity in its characters.  It gets a little ethics-heavy at places because Sagan, but it’s well worth the read.
  8. Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo
    We can’t ignore graphic novels or anime if we’re talking science fiction – they’re the largest and most fecund subsets of the genre and are the well-spring of amazing ideas and great art that filters into everything we see and read.  Akira is one of the earliest Animes to cross over to the “mainstream” here in the West, and it’s a great story even if you don’t generally think of yourself as an anime fan.
  9. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
    I read this book as an early teen and images from it have stuck with me ever since.  I didn’t understand it at the time – it’s very heady in terms of both science and politics – but it turned me into an anarcho-syndicalist for much of my teens and early twenties.  It’s on this list because it speaks to what sci-fi does best – explores our current world’s problems in a controlled petri-dish scenario and allows us to think through the ramifications of our decisions, our political ideas, our religions, and our social structures.  The other book that would’ve been here is one of my favorites of all time, 1984 by George Orwell, but us teachers ruin that book for too many kids so I left it off.
  10. Cats Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
    I hemmed and hawed about including this on the list.  Vonnegut can be problematic, especially in how he draws women, and this book is no exception.  Even so, it’s still one of my favorites and a good introduction to science fiction for several reasons.  First, it is a perfect exploration of why humans mess things up – the world ends in the book because individual people made a series of understandable and very human decisions which collectively led to disaster.  Secondly, it’s the book in which Bokononism is developed and the world needs more Bokononists.

 

Thank you to all for stopping here for this blog tour! Be sure to check out tomorrow’s stop over at The Young Folks with an Author Q&A!

Book Review: Descendents of War: Magic’s Demise

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Descendents of War: Magic’s Demise
Author: Ruby Fitzgerald
Release Date: June 26, 2018
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 2.5 stars
Goodreads Synopsis:Magic’s Demise’ is the first in the ‘Descendants of War’ series. The novel is a fantasy that embodies depression. 

Thousands of years ago, the Ancients bestowed the Nine Energies of Magic to certain humans known as Descendants. When Aurora, briefly in possession of all Nine Energies, defeated King Zagan during the Battle of Venom, peace returned to the war-torn queendom of Thurnadan. However, a new adversary has emerged: The Jinx. Far more threatening than Zagan and his army, The Jinx is a disease with a one hundred percent mortality rate. The race to find a cure is on; it is only a matter of time before the disease mutates and becomes capable of killing every living thing in its path. Terror spreads. The Jinx seems to be unstoppable, especially when fate rests in the hands of the disheartened. A disturbing Seer’s vision and long-neglected maps are the only guidance the people of Thurnadan have in their frantic search for a cure. Turning to lore of the Ancients for answers, a dark Prophecy threatening the end of mankind’s reign is discovered, but a sliver of hope is also found within its riddle of verses. Do the Ancients still live? Will the disease mutate and grow more powerful? And how much time does the queendom have before all are certain to perish?

Thank you to the author and publisher for providing me with a copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own and are not influenced in any way.

I wanted to like this book so much. It had everything I needed in the synopsis: an interesting magic system, a queendom, a magical disease, and journey to find the cure. For me, it never really came together. There are numerous POVs and the voice never really changes between them, which made it very hard to connect with any characters and to know who I was with at the time. I thought the story was good and intriguing, but it felt rushed at times and I got tangled in all the prophecies. I think one of the problems is that Magic’s Demise is kind of a second book. I was not aware of this and felt like I was missing a layer of background that could have helped me get into the world a little better.

One thing I will say is that I liked is the way the author writes the characters as manifestations of depression. Though I wasn’t able to connect with any of the characters, as some who suffers from depression, anxiety, and addiction, I appreciate the thought that went behind this characterization.

I would recommend this book to fantasy lovers. I don’t think it was a bad book, I just don’t think it was for me.

Book Reviews: The Spellwork Syndicate

Hello bookish peoples! I’m here today with TWO reviews. I stumbled upon Sugar Spells (The Spellwork Syndicate #2) on NetGalley the other month and once I got approved to read it I immediately went and bought a copy of the first book, Deadly Sweet, on Amazon. I’ve recently found that I have a sweet spot for magical murder mysteries that involve food magic. So let’s dive into this scrumptious story…

Deadly Sweet (The Spellwork Syndicate #1)deadlysweet
Author: Lola Dodge
Release Date: January 16, 2018
Genre: Urban Fantasy (YA/NA)
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Goodreads Synopsis: Anise Wise loves three things: baking, potion making, and reading her spell books in blissful silence. She might not be the most powerful witch, but enchantment is a rare skill, and her ability to bake with magic is even rarer. Too bad no one wants witchcraft on their campus. Anise’s dream of attending pastry school crumbles with rejection letter after rejection letter.

Desperate to escape her dead-end future, Anise contacts the long-lost relative she’s not supposed to know about. Great Aunt Agatha owns the only magic bakery in the US, and she suddenly needs a new apprentice. Anise is so excited she books it to New Mexico without thinking to ask what happened to the last girl.

The Spellwork Syndicate rules the local witches in Taos, but as “accidents” turn into full-out attacks on Anise’s life, their promises to keep her safe are less and less reassuring. Her cranky bodyguard is doing his best, but it’s hard to fight back when she has no idea who’s the enemy. Or why she became their target.

If Anise can’t find and stop whoever wants her dead, she’ll be more toasted than a crème brûlée.

Who knew baking cakes could be so life or death?

Deadly Sweet is fun, if sometimes slightly aggravating, YA urban fantasy that involves two of my new favorite things: magic and baking. Anise Wise is our plucky main character who leaves her sheltered life behind after unfortunate incident and goes to live with her Great Aunt Agatha in the witch friendly town of Taos. Once Anise gets to Taos she finds it is not exactly what she expected. Not only is she sent to beginner baking classes to improve her skills but she is saddled with an extremely rude bodyguard with no real explanation as to why. After a near death experience, Anise decides to try and find out what happened to Agatha’s previous apprentice.

In general, I liked this book. It was a fun, quick read with a unique setting and magic system. The problem was I wanted to learn more about the magic system. I felt like we just got the bare bones of witches could do in this world. I liked that witchcraft was known to the world at large and that there were specific cities where witches basically ruled.

There were a lot of characters but I only want to focus on Anise and Wynn, the bodyguard. One thing I like about Anise is she is not some all powerful witch. She is average, she is a young adult who has young adult thoughts and attitudes, and she struggles like so many young adults do. However, she can be very fickle in her thoughts and sometimes make really, really poor choices. And then there is Wynn. Look, I like a grumpy love interest as much as the next book nerd, but Wynn is just an asshole. And not for any good reason. This guy…I just want to punch him. ALL THE TIME. His interactions with Anise are pretty degrading. I get that he is a bodyguard and his duty is to protect Anise, but all this guy does is sleep and act like a misogynistic prick. And Anise’s reactions to him are aggravating to say the very least. There is no communication at all. Like, Anise should have called out his attitude to her aunt and then they all could have had a nice little chat to get any bad feelings out in the open and the move the heck on. But, the antagonism between Anise and Wynn serves to create conflict that leads to the action at the end so I guess there is that…

All in all, this a decent paranormal YA/NA book. It did feel like it was lacking a little bit of magic, but I generally enjoyed reading it. Read this book if you love baking and/or need a quick and fun read.

FYI: There are spoilers for Deadly Sweet below.

sugarspellsSugar Spells (The Spellwork Syndicate #2)
Author: Lola Dodge
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Genre: Urban Fantasy (YA/NA)
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Goodreads Synopsis: After her run-in with a jealous warlock, apprentice baker Anise Wise can’t wait to get back the kitchen where she belongs. But thanks to her brush with death, the land of the living isn’t all cupcakes and marshmallows.

Anise’s magical mojo is way out of whack and her evolving powers are stirring up trouble. As the town buzzes with news that Anise can bake deathly spells, unsavory characters start lining up for a taste. They’ll stop at nothing for the chance to use Anise and her witchcraft to further their own plots.

She plans to hole up researching magic recipes until the attention dies down, but then she discovers the horrifying terms of her bodyguard’s contract. Wynn has saved her life so many times, she can’t leave him trapped. But doing the right thing will mean risking death or worse—being cast out of her dream job.

For this witch, justice might not be as sweet as advertised.

Sugar Spells was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher at my request. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own and are not influenced in any way.

I’m going to start this off by saying the first book in this series should have been called Sugar Spells, and this book should have been called Deadly Sweet. I mean, the whole book is about death magic…okay, now that that is out of the way (seriously, it’s been bugging me for weeks), let’s get to the actual review.

Also, since this is the second book in the series there will be some spoilers for the first book, Deadly Sweet.

Sugar Spells jumps straight into Anise Wise’s next set of woes in her life: after her near death experience with the villain in Deadly Sweet, her magic has become tainted with death magic. All her bakes are self destructing and she is banished from Great Aunt Agatha’s bakery incase her death magic messes with the aura of the bakery. On top of that, Anise learns the terms of Wynn’s shield contract and decides to help him buy out the contract so he can go live his life. Both these issues lead us to the creepiest character, Girrar. He is a vampire, which also inhabit the witch friendly town of Taos, and is the ultimate creeper. He wants Anise’s death magic baked goods and is willing to pay a lot for them. I won’t go into too much more, but we all know nothing good can from all of this.

Wynn and Anise were a little less antagonistic in this one. Wynn, getting his tragic backstory finally told, is a little more relaxed in this. But honestly, it doesn’t make up for how much of an ass he was in the first book. I see where things seem to be heading with Anise and Wynn, and while I’m not 100% on board with it, I can handle it. I think my main problem is I don’t really care for either Anise or Wynn. I don’t hate them, but I haven’t found myself rooting for them either.

Again, this was a quick, fun read, but it felt like it was lacking a layer of the story. The villain situation was weird in this one and while I won’t go into details for spoiler reasons I can say that the big bad they have to face is forgettable. Like, I don’t remember anything about it. I don’t want to use the term “fluffy read” because it’s not a fluffy book, but it is lacking a bit of depth. Still, I enjoyed myself while reading it and I am looking forward to the third book.


While I enjoyed these two books for the most part, there was just something missing. It was like one of those cute, delicious looking cakes you see in a shop window but when you actually get to eat it you find out it is mostly over sugared frosting and very little cake. And as much as I like frosting, you need a solid cake to make things really good.

Book Review: Haze: The Devil of Dublin

Title: Haze: The Devil of Dublinhaze
Author: Haze O’Hagen
Release Date: October 31, 2018
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads Synopsis: Dublin Ireland 2050. Cursed as a boy, now dreaded as the Devil. Join Haze O’Hagan on his quest for justice and redemption as he battles against forces he cannot understand or explain. God, no longer a necessity to prosperity became a hindrance in the eyes of many, causing Haze to grow up in a world where men through science could perform their own miracles. As technology became almost indistinguishable to magic, a new god was born: “Patrick Lynch” the father of neo micronisation. The Devil of Dublin is an epic tale of good vs evil, but within our telling, good and evil are not always what it seems. What defines good? What defines evil? Why does evil seem to prosper while the good perish? One man’s search for immortality awakens an ancient evil, forcing Haze to fight for freedom, identity, faith and love in this thought-provoking tale. As darkness plagues across the Emerald Isle, a light will rise to meet it. (Goodreads)

Haze: The Devil of Dublin is a fantastically unique novel. At its core, it is a story of good vs evil and how power influences that fight, but this novel approaches it in an intriguing way. Haze, the titular main character, is strikingly real in ways that one does not always see in books these days. He is a teenager, and though he finds himself with superpowers, he is STILL a teenage boy and that is felt in his characterization.

The world building is intriguing. The story is set in 2050 Dublin and the futuristic setting is well built around the already established city of Dublin. I am by no means a science minded person, so I cannot comment on if the science-y aspects of the story check out in any way, but they were intriguing. I liked the inclusion of the game Rush, even though I did feel like it threw off the pacing of the story a little bit.

While I did enjoy the story, the writing style was a little off for me. It was a bit blunt and straight. Maybe it comes from reading too much epic fantasy, but I do like a bit of flair in descriptions. For lack of a better term, I believe in “show, don’t tell” and this book told more than showed. There was good dialogue and humor throughout the story and that kept this fantastical novel feeling real.

At the end of the day this is a solid debut novel. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes books that are a little bit Science Fiction and a little bit Fantasy, with an examination of power and how it influences people.

An eBook copy of this novel was provided to me by the author. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own and were not influenced. Thank you to the author for the opportunity to read this novel.

The Backlist: The Illuminae Files

Hello all! I’m back with another set of backlist reviews. This time around I look at The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. This trilogy was one of my surprise reads of 2018. I constantly avoided these books, honestly, because I hated the bright orange cover of Illuminae. Well, you know the saying about judging book covers and ooooh boy did my aversion to orange kick me in the teeth because The Illuminae Files are STELLAR!

 

Illuminae | Read March 1 -3, 2018 | 5 Stars

HOLY HECK I LOVED THIS BOOK! I didn’t know to expect going into this read, but a fast paced, hilarious, and INTENSELY CREEPY science fiction story that was told in an incredible and unique format was not it.

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Me for basically the entire book.

To say this book exceeded my expectations would be a vast understatement. The story stars Kady Grant, a spectacularly snarky computer hacker, Ezra Miller, her very pretty and very recent ex-boyfriend, and AIDAN, who I won’t say much about because I’m not sure if it’d count as spoilers but hot damn they are the best character. There is inaudible profanity, snark, slow burn creepiness, snark, space battles, snark, dire situations with dire consequences, and oh, did I mention the SNARK? This little quick review doesn’t even begin to describe all the awesome held within the obscenely orange cover of this book. If you like science fiction, or want to dip a toe into this genre pool, I 1000% recommend this book. Honestly, it is probably my favorite book read in 2018.

 

Gemina | Read March 7 – 16, 2018 | 4.5 stars

Oh boy, was I full of trepidation going into this one. I’m never a fan when a story suddenly shifts to the perspectives of whole new characters for large chunks of the story. What if these new characters didn’t fill the snarky, murder-y desires of my heart? But my fears were for naught BECAUSE HOLY HECK I LOVED THIS BOOK! Honestly, I have but one issue with this book and I’ll save it for the very end of this review because it is a spoiler (don’t worry, I’ll put up a warning before it hits). In Gemina, we get a new main trio to love, along with a cast of awesome and/or villainous characters. Hanna is the rich, spoiled, but well-trained daughter of Jump Station Heimdall’s captain. Nik is the attractive bad boy from the station’s crime family who supplies Hanna with drugs and snark. And Ella is Nik’s cousin who put’s Kady’s wit and hacking skills to shame. All three of them are forced to work together as a BeiTech strike team attack the jump station. But there is another sinister and creepy plot going on throughout the jump station and basically everything crescendos into glorious chaos. This book is another intense and snarky space adventure told in the same amazing format as the previous book. And now we come to the…

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SPOILER ALERT!

Literally the ONLY reason I knock this book down to a 4.5 is because of the author’s fall back on killing off a main character in an emotionally traumatic way and then bringing them right back. I LOATHE when this becomes a repeat thing. And while it was handled in a different way than in Illuminae, it still irritated me a bit.

END SPOILERS!

 

Obsidio | Read March 17 – 24, 2018 | 4 stars

I struggled with the rating of this one. Honestly, as I write this I am still wavering if I should kick it up to 4.5. Because this was a fantastic end to this trilogy. But I can’t explain much without being completely spoilery. I’ll dance around it for a bit and see if I can figure out how to say it. This book brings us yet another new set characters and I think these are the ones that deeply explore the emotional trauma of war/invasion the most. The scenes on the occupied surface of Kerenza are intense. It reminded me a lot of Season 3 of Battlestar Galactic. But even with how emotionally impactful the concept of the Kerenza scenes were, I felt like I had very little left to give the new characters. I think they were still well written and the Kerenza plot was good, but I spent most of the time waiting for scenes with the original crew. The plot is tense, and the action is superb. There are twists and turns and some damn fine writing. Certain things that are revealed in this book kinda blew my mind a little bit. As an ending goes, it was wholly satisfying.

SPOILERS BELOW FOR WHY I KNOCKED THIS ONE DOWN TO 4 STAR

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The authors pulled the “dead but not dead” fake out AGAIN! I was so damn angry with this. So angry. It’s lazy and I saw it coming a mile away. It makes me even angrier considering how often Jay Kristoff harps on other writers for lazy writing (his Instagram stories are amusing AF). And now that I’m typing this out I am fully okay with a 4 star. Either kill your darlings or don’t. You shouldn’t have it both ways. Especially more than once. Ugh.

END SPOILERS

 

All in all, I am angry at myself for staying away from these books for so long (*shakes fist at orange cover of Illuminae*). While I had one consistent issue with these books, I still consider them one of my new favorite Sci Fi series. I’d give the trilogy as a whole 4.5 stars. Kaufman and Kristoff have a new Sci Fi series that they are working on and HOLY HECK I CANNOT WAIT!

 

Thanks for joining me for another Backlist post! I’m not sure which ones I’ll be doing next. I must go stare at my shelves and see what jumps out at me.

The Backlist: Weregirl Trilogy

Many moons ago, when I was first starting to gain traction in the #bookstagram community I was asked by Chooseco Publishing to review their upcoming book, Weregirl: Typhon. I got the book and then realized that it was third in a series. I managed to snag a copy of the first book in a used bookstore and then I got a copy of the second book through NetGalley. This is all to tell you that 2 out of the 3 reviews below are from books that were provided to me by the publisher. All opinions are my own and are in no way impacted by the publisher providing me a copy of the book.

 

Weregirl | Read August 31 – September 3, 2018 | 3 Stars (Goodreads)

Weregirl is not your average werewolf story. Instead of pack mentality and alpha wolves, we are given a shadowy bio-tech corporation and a newly turned werewolf who must figure out her new powers on her own. While I appreciated that the main character, Nessa, wasn’t a typical YA MC, many of the side characters were not fleshed out nearly enough and fell flat for me. There was also quite a bit of focus on Nessa’s high school struggles. While I tend to read a lot of YA, I have to be in the right mood to handle high school stories and I don’t think I was in quite the right mood when I read this. Though, I do feel that Nessa’s personal struggles make her relatable and vulnerable to the reader. The book was at time predictable, but I appreciated a different take on a “new werewolf” story.

 
Weregirl: Chimera | Read September 3 – September 5, 2018 | 3 Stars (Goodreads)

The 2nd book in the Weregirl trilogy, Chimera, takes us back into the life of Nessa and her newfound status of werewolf in the small town of Tether. If you thought Weregirl was wild, well, Chimera kicks it up a few notches. Which is both good and bad…
In Chimera we get more background into Nessa’s mother and her estranged father. All that background could be a trilogy of its own. Chimera felt at times, slow and then suddenly fast paced, because of all the plot and twists. This book is much heavier on the science side, with more exploration into hybrids and chimeras (whether or not the science holds up is beyond me). I also really enjoyed the relationships between characters in this book and how they evolved.

One of my biggest complaints is the writing style and this may come from the fact that C.D. Bell is actually a group of six authors all writing one book. I find that sometimes Nessa will realize something important, seemingly forget it, and then remember it all over again. Which really throws off the pacing. While I am all for collaboration, this is something that should have been noted and fixed in editing.

All in all, Chimera was a decent second book to this series. I truly enjoy the “evil science corporation” side of this werewolf story and this makes it stand out over more traditional werewolf books. A lot of this book felt like set up for the third book and that made it a little less enjoyable than the first book.

 
Weregirl: Typhon | Read October 19 – October 22 (ARC read) | 3 Stars (Goodreads)

From start to finish the Weregirl trilogy has been a solid and unique werewolf story. Weregirl: Typhon continues much in the same fashion as the first books: new characters are introduced, the story is intriguing, and I enjoy the science-y edge these books bring to the werewolf genre. However, like the first two books, there are times when the plot slows down and sometimes I want to yell at Nessa A LOT for her choices. Which, I get it, she is a teenager and teenagers are supposed to make stupid choices sometimes. Honestly I want to yell at a lot of teenagers for their choices (I swear, I’m not a bitter old lady AT ALL). Anyways, I do like how the friendship between Nessa and Bree stayed solid throughout the series. This is a great representation of friendship, especially female friendship and that is sometimes quite hard to find in YA books.

At the end of the day, there is nothing particularly groundbreaking in these books. I found them enjoyable enough, but they didn’t make my reread list which is a true sign to me of a great book (at least, a great book in my opinion). I would recommend them to anyone who likes werewolf stories and is looking for a slightly different take on typically werewolf mythology.

The Backlist: Jay Kristoff

Throughout my many years of reading I never knew the importance of book reviews. I figured the reviews left on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. didn’t matter and that the ones that mattered were only by people who did reviews professionally. Now that I know the error of my thinking (Thanks #bookstagram) I am trying to work through reviewing all the books I’ve read in the past. Hence, The Backlist.

Nevernight – Read October-November 2017 – 5 stars!
This book. This damn book. I avoided Nevernight for ages because that cover (specifically the font) just did not work for me. Yes, avoiding a book for the cover is pretty lame but whatever. At the end of the day I was the loser because I kept myself from this gloriously blood soaked book. Mia Corvere is the strong, vicious, yet beautifully vulnerable female main character that this world needs. The world building in this book is…unique. Footnotes, people, there are so many footnotes. At first I thought it was going to drive me crazy but it settled down after a while, so don’t let it deter you! There is great mystery and OMG THE PLOT TWISTS! All the characters are well developed and I found myself liking all of them, even the assholes. This was my first Kristoff book and hot damn was it a good introduction. FYI: if you don’t like lots of metaphors and a wee bit of smut, this might not be the book for you.

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If The Princess Bride existed in Mia’s world, Inigo would be her hero.

Godsgrave – Read December 22-31, 2017 – 5 stars!
This was the last book that I read in 2017 and a way to end the year. Literally finished it at about 11pm on the 31st. AND I STILL AM NOT OVER THAT ENDING. Godsgrave takes what we experienced in Nevernight and dials it all the way up until the damn thing breaks. The banter between Mr. Kindly and Eclipse is one of my favorite things in this book. There are some slower parts to this book, but the action packed parts wholly make up for it. There is a fantastic relationship at the center of this book (which I won’t go into because SPOILERS!) and it was done so darn well. Have I mentioned the ending? BECAUSE OMG. I was devastated when I found out the Darkdawn (book 3) was being delayed, even though I totally understand the reasoning behind it. Godsgrave continues the dark, bloody adventures of our favorite pale daughter.

LIFEL1K3 – Read May 25-25, 2018 – 5 stars!
I read this book in 24 hours. If I wasn’t such a sleep addict I probably would have read it in less. One of my dear friends on Booksta described this book as a fever dream that Jay Kristoff had one night and then turned it into a book. I didn’t know what to expect from this book but it was not this. The cast of characters in this book is so varied and unique. The world building is STELLAR (have you sensed a theme with Kristoff books?). I really feel like I can’t say much about this book without spoiling the fun and surprise of the read. If you want a crazy, fever dream adventure, then this is the one for you.

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Me, at the end of LIFEL1K3.

 

I’ve also read the Illuminae Files by Jay Kristoff (and the awesome Amie Kaufman) but those are going to get their own post because they are just that good.

I hope you enjoyed this new feature! I’m looking forward to doing more in the near future considering I’ve got a backlist of a couple hundred semi-recently read books I can pull from!

Book Review: Sea Witch

Sea Witch by Sarah Henning
Published: July 31, 2018
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: Fantasy (YA)
Rating: 2.5/5
Review type: SPOILER-Y
Goodreads synopsis: [HERE]

Okay, where to begin with this one. I don’t think I would have enjoyed this book half as much if I didn’t have my online book club to chat with about it afterwards. I so wanted to love this book, and while there were little bits of awesome (BREAD FESTIVAL!), it was generally a let down.

Evelyn, she who becomes the Sea Witch, is the most interesting character. While I constantly wanted to smack her for her dumb decisions, I understood her deep loneliness and grief over losing her best friend. I wish there had been more exploration of her magic, though we did get a good background into why magic was outlawed in this world.

The rest of the cast of characters really don’t warrant much, mostly because they are fairly flat. Annamette is the obviously returned and wrongly pissed off Anna. Iker is the roguish cousin of Prince Nik. And poor Prince Nik, that boy deserved so much better.

This book had a lot of promise but it was just missing a layer of depth. Honestly, the character I felt most connection with was the whale that killed Iker in the wrap up at the end of the book (#teamkingwhale). I definitely think that this author has a lot of potential. Her writing was beautiful, but there needed to be more work on the characters.

I have to specifically shout out the best scene in the book, the bread festival. It was a fun scene and the whole concept was amazing. Also, it gives me a reason to end this review with the mildly disturbing yet intensely funny bread gif that my book club found during our discussions:

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Alright, y’all…tomorrow I’ll be back with Top 3 Thursday. And then if the blogging gods shine down upon me, I may even have another review up on Friday! Look at me, regularly blogging like a real blogger.