Friday Favorites: Thing(s) about being a reader.

Hello all! If the space/time continuum is to be believed, it is Friday! I’m not sure quite how we got here, but here we are. I’ve been suffering a blogging slump lately but I’m actually really excited for this post because I’m about to talk about one of my favorite moments from my reading life.

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Want Now Wednesday: Magic for Liars

Magic for Liars
Author: Sarah Gailey
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Publisher: Tor
Synopsis: Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magic. She is perfectly happy with her life—she has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It’s a great life and she doesn’t wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha.
But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach.


So, to be honest, this is really a “Waiting on my own damn self to read this book Wednesday”, but that doesn’t work very well for a succinct blog post title. I was lucky enough to win an ARC of this book from Goodreads (I’m still happy dancing over it!). I am desperately hoping to get a chance to read this one either March or April. But enough about me, let’s talk about this phenomenal sounding book.

Private investigator with a slight drinking problem and an aversion to magic? Hello, is it me you’re looking for? Private magical academy with a murder problem? You’re all I’ve ever wanted. The stalwart detective losing herself in the case and the life she could have had? My arms are open wide. MYSTERY THAT SEEMS JUST OUT OF REACH? I want to tell you so much, I love you. (And now I’m going to have Hello by Lionel Richie stuck in my head all day…)

This book sounds so right up my alley I don’t even know what to do. What I do know though, is that you should probably get this book pre-ordered like I have. Pre-order links are here at the publisher’s website.

Side note: huge, massive, unending thanks to the publisher and Goodreads for hosting the giveaway in which I won this ARC.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Meant to Read In 2018 but Didn’t Get To

When I read the prompt for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) I actually laughed out loud. There are so many more than ten books I meant to read in 2018. So. Many. More. But here are the Top Ten (out of the like 200)

The Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima

I’ve had these books on my shelves for…4 years, I think. I have been gently yelled at numerous times by some of my booksta friends to get on this series. I had originally been determined to get to it in 2018. But…well…here we are…

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

I have a soft spot for books that emotionally destroy me and I’ve been told this one will do just that. I bought this with the intention of reading it immediately but honestly it worked out that I didn’t get to this one in 2018. I’ve decided to read nothing but heart breaking books in February and this one is definitely on the list.

Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch

“What would have happened if Harry Potter grew up and joined the Fuzz.” That’s the blurb on the cover of this book. HOW COULD I HAVE NOT READ THIS YET??? I LOVE cop procedural TV series, especially British ones, and I am definitely a Harry Potter fan. I feel like I’ll be pretty pissed at myself for not getting to this series last year like I intended.

The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater

This is my “forever on the TBR” series. I’m like 99% sure I’ll love it and I had really good intentions of getting to it in 2018. We all know what the road to TBR hell is paved in…


Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness

This is another series that I’ve been told will wreck me. I want to be wrecked. I need to be wrecked. But apparently I didn’t want to be wrecked enough to pick this one up in 2018.



The Devil’s Thief by Lisa Maxwell

I LOVED The Last Magician. LOVED! Give me all the Harte Darrigan. So even though I was totally anticipating the sequel, I never picked it up when it was released in 2018 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯



Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce

NUMAIR IS THE OG BAE! Well, maybe not true OG, but it sounds good and I’m sticking with it. He was one of my favorite characters in the Tortall books and I about lost my mind when I found out there was going to be a series focusing on him. But have I read it yet? OF COURSE NOT *facepalm*

The Falconer series by Elizabeth May

Scottish lore and steampunk and Fae? WHY HAVEN’T I READ THIS SERIES YET? Someone tell me!






The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer

Another one from my forever TBR. I thought 2018 was going to be the year, but I was wrong.






Keiko series by Mike Brooks

I’ve been told this series has a Firefly feel and y’all, that is the quickest way to get me to buy a book. I LOVE Sci Fi, but I’m super picky about it. But if there bounty hunters or smugglers or anything along those lines involved I will try it out. I bought the whole trilogy last year but have yet to touch a single page because I am the literal worst.

Beat the Backlist 2019

I have spoken many times about the amount of unread books I own. Frankly, the number of unread books I own is shameful. Enter Beat the Backlist, hosted by NovelKnight. Go check out her blog for all the official info about the challenge, but I’ll sum it up for you…

Basically, read your damn (pre-2019) books!

Me to me…

So, without further ado or abuse of gif posting ability, here is the beginning of my Beat the Backlist TBR for 2019:

  • The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
  • The Seven Realms and Shatter Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima
  • The final three books in the Jackaby Series by William Ritter
  • The Confectioner’s Coup and The Confectioner’s Truth by Claire Luana
  • Heartless by Marissa Meyer
  • Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series by Brian Stavely
  • Hunting Prince Dracula and Escape from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco
  • Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch
  • The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
  • All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness
  • The Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman
  • Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
  • Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
  • Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness
  • Scythe and Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
  • Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand
  • The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner

That’s just the beginning, mind you. On January 1st I will be taking an inventory of my current owned books and making a full blown list of books I plan to read in 2019. I really need to get my ratio of read to unread books in better shape. I will be setting my Goodreads challenge to 100, so I am aiming high next year.

Anyone else doing the Beat the Backlist challenge? And if yes, are you participating in the Hogwarts Houses? And if yes, what house are you in? Just wrapping up with a few rapid fire questions…

Happy New Year’s Eve eve! Cheers to many hours of reading in the new year!

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.

Want Now Wednesday: Never-Contented Things

Never-Contented ThingsNever Contented Things
Author: Sarah Porter
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: March 19, 2019
Genre: FAIRIES! (Okay, not a genre, but still…FAIRIES!)
Publisher Website/Pre-order Links

Goodreads Synopsis:

Seductive. Cruel. Bored
Be wary of…

Prince and his fairy courtiers are staggeringly beautiful, unrelentingly cruel, and exhausted by the tedium of the centuries―until they meet foster-siblings Josh and Ksenia. Drawn in by their vivid emotions, undying love for each other, and passion for life, Prince will stop at nothing to possess them.

First seduced and then entrapped by the fairies, Josh and Ksenia learn that the fairies’ otherworldly gifts come at a terrible price―and they must risk everything in order to reclaim their freedom.


Okay, first off: when you use words like “seductive”, “cruel”, and “fairy” that is a sure fire way to get me to pre-order a book. Which is exactly what I did when I stumbled upon this book. I cannot wait until I have this sumptuous looking book in my hands.

I love different author’s takes on fairy lore and I am excited to see what Sarah Porter brings to the table. I’ve never read anything by this author so I’ll be going in with a fresh slate when I get this book.

 

What are some key words that get you excited about a book?

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Audiobook Performances

The theme for today’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, was basically DO WHAT YOU WANT! And what I want to do is scream from my blog rooftops about my DEEP AND UNDYING LOVE FOR AUDIOBOOKS! I’ll save my full rant for another post next year (yay for future rants!), but I’m just gonna throw this out there: AUDIOBOOKS COUNT AS READING!

Okay, now that that is out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff…THE LIST!

  1. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher – Narrated by James Marsters
    Storm Front, the first book in the Dresden Files, was the first audiobook I ever listened to. I will admit that the first few books were a little rough with narration, but once Marsters gets into his groove it is AMAZING. His voice has always been highly pleasurable to listen to (anyone else a fan of his from Buffy?) and I will never say no to a chance to listen to a 14 book series read by him. Side note: his voice for Toot-Toot is stellar and never fails to bring a smile to my face.
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  2. Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown – Narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds
    The narration of this trilogy is bloodydamn brilliant! The rawness of Tim Gerard Reynolds voice brings such depth to this already fiercely beautiful story. There were moments where I had to stop what I was doing because I was so intensely drawn into the story through the narration.
  3. Iron Gold by Pierce Brown – Narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds, John Curless, Julian Elfer, Aedin Moloney
    Okay, yes…this is book 4 of Red Rising, which went from a trilogy to a saga this year. But I decided to do a separate entry because Iron Gold is told from 4 different POVs and there are 4 separate narrators. Each narrator brings a unique depth to their POV character and once again the intensity of Brown’s words are dialed up to 11 via the narration.
  4. Ready Player One & Armada by Ernest Cline – Narrated by Wil Wheaton
    I mean, was there anyone else more perfect to narrate these books?
  5. Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas – Narrated by Elizabeth Evans
    The voice of Elizabeth Evans IS the voice of Celeana Sardothian. There is no doubt in my mind. She brings to life the brash, confident, and vulnerable parts of Celeana. I intend to finish my audio reread of the series next year (I only made it through Heir of Fire before Kingdom of Ash came out and I HAD to read that book ASAP) and I am nervous about listening to the final book. Evans brings a lot of emotion to her narration and Kingdom of Ash was hard enough to read.
  6. The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli – Narrated by Pearl Mackie
    Pearl Mackie’s voice is like butter. Smooth, delicious, emotional butter. I actually couldn’t get into this book when I was trying to read the physical copy. But the moment I tried the audiobook, at the recommendation of Delara over at @bookwnoname, I was hooked.
  7. Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo  – Narrated by Jay Snyder, Brandon Rubin, Fred Berman, Lauren Fortgang, Roger Clark, Elizabeth Evans, Tristan Morris
    This was the first full cast audiobook I listened to. And with the exception of the person who narrates the Jasper chapters, I was thoroughly impressed with the narration in this duology. It was surprisingly easy to track each different narrators versions of all the character voices. My one problem was the narrator for Jasper. His voice was wonderful, but there wasn’t enough distinction in his inflection when he spoke for other characters. Other than that, the performances were spot on and full of emotions that added a whole other layer of “feels”.
  8. Lord of Shadows and Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare – Narrated by James Marsters
    Yes, James Marsters gets two mentions on this list because he is JUST THAT GOOD. Lord of Shadows had one of the most emotionally traumatic endings in a recent YA book and it was made all the more painful with Marsters’ narration. I was full on sobbing in my cubicle. He uses his voice to evoke such emotions. I’ve been listening to Queen of Air and Darkness while waiting for my physical copy to show up and it is tearing me apart listening to the subtle dread and despair he brings to the opening of this book. Also, as always, his pixies voices are spot on and delightful.
  9. Mistborn (ERA 1 AND ERA 2) by Brandon Sanderson – Narrated by Michael Kramer
    Kramer is like a narrating god. According to my friend who got me into audiobooks, Kramer narrates a lot (and often with his wife, Kate Reading). I’ve never listened to anything by him except the Mistborn books and if those are any indication of his talent, then I consider myself a fan. I am partial to Mistborn Era 2, and Kramer really shines with the rawness of Wax and the many accents of Wayne. This is one of my favorite fantasy series, in both physical and audio form.
  10. The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff  – Narrated by Olivia Taylor Dudley, Lincoln Hoppe, Johnathan McClain
    Okay, so…this is cheating a little bit because I haven’t actually listened to these yet but I just KNOW I’m going to love them. Illuminae was my favorite book I read this year and I’ve heard the audio is beyond stellar. I also realized as I was looking up the narrators that Olivia Taylor Dudley does some of the narration and I LOVE HER (y’all, go watch The Magicians RIGHT NOW! She plays Alice!). The books are incredibly unique in their format and I can’t wait to hear how it all plays out via audio. These will be my first audiobooks of 2019.

 

Do you listen to audiobooks at all? If yes, what are some of your favorites?

Top Ten Tuesday: Cozy/Wintery Reads

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt from That Artsy Reader Girl is Cozy/Wintery Reads. Y’all, this is it. This is my prompt! I’m not sure I’ve expressed it enough on this blog, but I LOVE WINTER AND ALL THINGS COZY! Give me all the snow, wind, rain, mugs of hot beverages, fluffy blankets, flannel pj pants, over-sized sweaters (preferably cable knit)…I should probably stop now or we’ll be here for a long time.

Fair warning, my definition of “cozy” is probably different than others. Cozy for me ranges from comforting teenage angst to stabby drama. Also, this list will be in no particular order with exception for the last one on the list. That one is my all time favorite cozy/wintery read.

Bear and NightingaleThe Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Yeah, okay…so I haven’t actually read it yet but LOOK AT THAT COVER! It just screams read me with a mug of hot cocoa that was brought to you by a big, brooding, bearded man.

 

 

Jackaby by William RitterJackaby

I think this book is the closest I’d come to a “cozy mystery”. Just thinking about this book makes me want to curl up with chunky knit blanket and an oversized mug of tea.

 

 

SweepThe Sweep Series by Cate Tiernan

Okay, this is kind of a Fall into Winter series for me. It starts in fall and works its way through winter and just I LOVE IT OKAY! I read this series numerous times when I was a teen so it’s also a huge comfort read for me. Also, it is angsty AF and I love that sometimes.

 

 

North and South by Elizabeth GaskellThornton Snow Gif

“I believe I’ve seen hell and its white, its snow white.” Everything about this novel is at once cold and hot: the cold setting, the broody yet longing glances from Mr. Thornton. Look, if reading classics isn’t your thing, at least go check out the BBC miniseries on Netflix. Richard Armitage plays Mr. Thornton so YOU ARE WELCOME!

Hunger GamesThe Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

These books are cold and harsh like winter and I am so here for that. Having recently watched the movies again, I have been struck with the intense desire to reread them. Must like the first time I read them, I’ll do my reading while ensconced in a fleece blanket on my favorite reading couch.

 

Nevernight and Godsgrave by Jay KristoffNevernight

The addition of these books on this list probably has a lot to do with the fact that I first read them at the end of December 2017. So, even though they aren’t set in winter, they make me want curl up and get cozy. Preferably with an obscenely large glass of red wine.

 

 

NoTWThe Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss

These books are so damn rich and delicious. The beauty in these books warm my cold, dead heart. I just want to burrow into them and live there forever.

 

 

Game of Thrones by George RR MartinnplKLWUd3j0Bi

You know the line…

 

 

Dresden Storm Front
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Another series that I started in winter and will always associate with the season. These were also the first audio books I ever listened to (James Marsters needs to narrate everything). I 100% would not mind spending a cold winter night curled up with Harry Dresden.

 

And now for the all time cozy/winter read:

HARRY POTTER by JK Rowling

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I mean, is there any series cozier? Can’t you just imagine watching the snow fall, while sipping fire whiskey at The Three Broomsticks while reading? I desperately wanted to reread these books this winter but I’m not sure I’ll have the time. I’ve got two trilogies ahead of it. But when I do get a chance for my reread, I shall be sure to have many cozy blankets and a good warming beverage to accompany me.

So, that’s it for me and my wintery reads. Were there any on my list that you’d add to yours? What other wintery reads would you recommend?

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

StrangeDays_BlogBanner

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!