Book Review – Valiant

Title: Valiant
Author: Merrie Destefano
Published: December 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Rating: 1 Star
Cover: Like It

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Synopsis:

The Valiant was supposed to save us. Instead, it triggered the end of the world. Earth is in shambles. Everyone, even the poorest among us, invested in the Valiant’s space mining mission in the hope we’d be saved from ourselves. But the second the ship leaves earth’s atmosphere, our fate is sealed. The alien invasion begins. They pour into cities around the world through time portals, possessing humans, forcing us to kill one another. And for whatever reason, my brother is their number one target. Now the fate of the world lies in the hands of me, a seventeen-year-old girl, but with the help of my best friend, Justin–who’s suddenly starting to feel like more–maybe if we save my brother, we can save us all…

 

“We don’t talk about things that break our hearts.
But it doesn’t mean our hearts aren’t broken” (chapter 13)

Thank you Entangled Teen and Merry Destefano for a free eARC of this book in return for an honest review.

I had pretty high hopes for this book. I love seeing more sci-fi books in the YA genre, and the cover is exciting. However, I had issues from the first page, starting with the very short and repetitive sentences. There was nothing about the writing that was engaging.

In the beginning of Valiant, Sara watches the launch of the much anticipated Valiant ship to usher in the future everyone needs. After the celebrations of the coming future, the world is turned upside down with an alien invasion from the very planet the Valiant is headed to. Sara watches everyone in her life die, only to then be confronted by one of the aliens, who tells Sara that she needs to go back in time to save her brother, who will save the world.

I wish Sara didn’t travel through time. Maybe the alien could’ve come earlier to tell her what she needs to know about this horrible day–I’m thinking more along the lines of The Terminator. But there was a lot of inconsistencies and confusion and I’m not really sure why she has to KEEP mentioning that she has done this fifteen times and this timeline is different. It would be better and less repetitive if this wasn’t part of the plot at all–it doesn’t add anything. The Valiant’s launch is constantly regarded as the thing to end the world, but the plot isn’t very clear that it’s because of the mining trip, so I spent most of the book confused what they had to do with each other.

The concept could’ve been great, but it needs a lot of work to get there, tying up all the inconsistencies and focusing more on character development. Sara and Justin’s relationship is so flat, as well as the character development between the crew, that I didn’t feel engaged or really any emotion for them. I wanted so much more than I was given.

Book Review – Toxic

Title: Toxic
Author: Lydia Kang
Published: November 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars
Cover: Like it

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Synopsis:

Cyclo, the first and largest biological ship of its kind, is dying. A small crew of mercenaries have handed over the rights to their life to document the death of the ship, but the abandoned ship is anything but abandoned―one girl has been left behind.

Hana has known nothing but the isolation of a single room and the secret that has kept her there for seventeen years. When she meets Fennec, the boy assigned to watch her, she realizes that there is a world she has yet to experience but she is doomed to never meet.

When crew members begin mysteriously dying, Hana and Fenn realize that they are racing against the death of the ship to find a way to survive―unless someone kills them even before Hana’s truly had a chance to live.

“Somewhere outside of Cyclo, stars are colliding, black holes are collapsing, and galaxies are being born. People are dying, and people are opening their eyes for the first time in their lives. But right now, Hana is the only thing in my universe” (chapter 20).

Thank you Entangled Teen and Lydia Kang for a free eARC of this book in return for an honest review.

Hana wakes up one day in the room she has never once left and realizes that everything is wrong, there is a world outside her door that is dying and she’s never had a chance to explore it because she was never meant to be. When a group of criminals are assigned to a death mission to document the death of this biological ship, the first of its kind, Hana realizes that all the knowledge she has acquired in her studies are no substitute for actual human interaction.

Fenn (goodness, I love his name!) has been enjoying the thrill of stealing since he was quite young, but this death mission is the push he needs to recognize how his lifestyle affects other people—a little too late. When he learns that the ship isn’t as empty as he was told, he discovers how to live, as he counts down the days until they die.

Young adult sci-fi lovers, get this book in your hands! Kang writes with such urgency, you can feel the emotions radiating off the page. Plus—it’s in space! As Hana and Fenn learn more about their biological ship’s abnormalities, as they learn more about each other, you can’t help but feel drawn to their charming personalities and their desperate search for meaning and fulfillment. Every moment that death looms closer, every secret unearthed, every refocus of perspective, every curve ball thrown into their plans—you’ll be hooked onto every word.

Book Review – No Vain Loss

Title: No Vain Loss (No Ordinary Star #3)
Author: M.C. Frank
Published: November 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia

Rating: 2 stars
Cover: Like it

no vain loss cover

Synopsis:

A soldier is summoned to the North Pole, days before the year changes, told to fix the great Clock for a celebration. He has no idea what to do.
A girl, hunted for the crime of being born, almost dies out on the ice. She is rescued by the last polar bear left alive.
A library waits for them both, a library built over a span of a hundred years, forgotten in the basement of an ice shack.
The world hasn’t known hunger or sickness in hundreds of years. It has also forgotten love and beauty.
This is the One World.
The year is 2524.

Inspired by the short stories of Ray Bradbury, this futuristic young adult novel in three parts is set in a world where Christmas—among other things—is obsolete and a Clock is what keeps the fragile balance of peace.

Written in three parts, this is the breathtaking story of how two unlikely people change the world, and each other, one book at a time.

In No Vain Loss, the world is on the brink of the greatest war humanity has ever known. Lives will be lost. New truths will be revealed.

*I received a free eARC of this book from the author in return for an honest review. Check out my reviews for the first two books in the series HERE and HERE.*

 The long awaited finale of the No Ordinary Star series is finally arriving November 25th. I’ve loved following along the journey of Felix and Astra in their dystopian world. This final book answers a lot of questions, while bringing me back to this creative world Frank has dreamt up and the characters I’ve grown to care about. The first two books have built up to this big struggle of powers in the final book, and Frank did a good job of keeping the foreshadowed action exciting.

However, I had quite a few problems with this installment. While the ideas are good and the twists have been built up, the writing itself seems incredibly rushed and spacey in comparison to the other books. I found myself getting frustrated because it felt like Frank was talking in circles, frequently repeating herself several times before moving on to the next thing—and I’m not even talking about the different perspectives. Often times I’d finish a page and wonder why it took so long to say one thing. Everything felt scattered and it was exceedingly hard to stick with it. I even feel like the synopsis shows signs of this, and it doesn’t actually tell you anything about the story.

In the first two books, getting Felix’s perspective AND Astra’s perspective added to the plot immensely, especially because they both came from different backgrounds of knowledge. In the third book, the different perspectives seem pointless because they don’t add anything different to the story. There were also these moments where Felix and Astra would have entire conversations with their eyes: fully fleshed out thoughts being conveyed without a sound. I definitely feel like you can tell someone something with your eyes, but these conversations felt like such a stretch, I had a hard time believing it was anywhere near possible. The suspension of disbelief was just not there.

I was so excited about this final installment and, while I felt like my questions were answered and some of the plot twists were long awaited, I just felt like it missed the mark by a mile. I wanted to love it, but I just ended up confused by the circular writing.

Looking at the Artists Behind the Book Covers

Who judges books by their covers? *tentatively raises own hand* If you think about it, from a marketing standpoint, it’s totally natural to be drawn to something that is presented better than another. Books that are released with the whole package are way more exciting than ones with disappointing covers. Plus, I grew up in a very artistic-centered family, so a cover that disappoints is significantly less likely to be picked up than one that’s well done. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the correlation between what a cover looks like and the probability that you’d pick it up to read or buy. Are covers important to you?

As I spend more time in the bookstagram community, working with authors and publishers, and writing reviews, I’ve noticed a growing trend of cover revels for upcoming titles. Cover reveals help cultivate more excitement over an upcoming book and the author’s work, but most of the time I’ve noticed that there is no recognition for or mention of the artist who created the cover. To me, that’s just ridiculous. Why create hype over a piece of art without crediting the artists who made it? We credit the author and the publisher, but often times the artist gets completely overlooked for their contribution, unless they’re a big name like Jim Kay. I wanted to take some time today to show you some beautiful covers and let you know who made them. I hope you enjoy! Let me know which are your favorites in the comments.


CLASSICS

catcher-in-the-ryeThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Artist: E. Michael Mitchell

TheGreatGatsby_1925jacketThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Artist: Francis Cugat

61aqO0sPF+L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Artist: J.R.R. Tolkein

LITERARY FICTION

51Ok9FmXxbLExes by Max Winter
Designer: Strick&Williams
Illustrator: Zohar Lazar

The_goldfinch_by_donna_tart.pngThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Designer: Keith Hayes
Artist: Carel Fabritius

22237161The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Designer: Rodrigo Corral
Illustrator: Matt Buck

Wolf_in_White_VanWolf in White Van by John Darnielle
Designer: Abby Kagan

FANTASY

039360909xNorse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Artist: Sam Weber

SCI-FI/FANTASTY

Annihilation_by_jeff_vandermeerAnnihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
Designer: Abby Kagan

9781101873786The Vorrh by B. Catling
Designer: Jaclyn Whalen

PaperGirls_Vol01-1.pngPaper Girls by Brian Vaughan
Artist: Cliff Chiang & Matt Wilson

9780316261241_p0_v3_s1200x630 by Ben H. Winters
Designer: Oliver Munday

vermilion-cov300.jpgVermilion: The Adventures of Lou Merriwether, Psychopomp by Molly Tanzer
Designer: Osiel Gòmez
Artist: Dalton Rose

THRILLER/HORROR

51fLeSBiAuLGet in Trouble by Kelly Link
Designer: Caroline Cunningham

1501143107.1.zoomMisery by Stephen King
Designer: Will Staehle

Rant_by_Chuck_PalahniukRant: The Oral Biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk
Designer: Michael Collica

29939268.jpgUniversal Harvester by John Darnielle
Designer: Abby Kagan

51xmzRflX5LWe Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley
Designer: Maria Carella

NON-FICTION

519sg-ItOaLThe Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson
Designer: Matt Dorfman
Art Director: Helen Yentus

NEW ADULT

AnimalThe Animal Under the Fur by E.J. Mellow
Designer: E.J. Mellow
Typography: Dan Covert

YA CONTEMPORARY

28504676Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
Designer: Kristin Logsdon

18718848Mosquitoland by David Arnold
Artist: Eileen Savage

28588459Sill Life with Tornado by A.S. King
Designer: Kristin Logsdon

25372971Tell Me Something Real by Calla Devlin
Artist: Jill De Haan

9780525425892We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
Designer: Samira Iravani
Artist: Adams Carvalho

YA HISTORICAL FICTION

23719270Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Artist: Teagan White

YA MYSTERY

Wink_poppy_midnight_book_coverWink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke
Designer: Nancy R. Leo-Kelly

YA FANTASY

31369411The Graces by Laura Eve
Designer: Maria T. Middleton
Artist: Spencer Charles

9780399538537Tales of Peculiar by Random Riggs
Artist: Andrew Davidson


12180226Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby
Designer: Sheila Smallwood
Artist: Evan B. Harris


Thanks to my brother, Dylan, for helping me with this special blog post. Check out his artwork HERE

Book Review – Waters of Salt and Sin

Title: Waters of Salt and Sin (Uncommon World #1)
Author: Alisha Klapheke
Published: April 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Goodreads

 Rating: 4 Stars
Cover: It’s Okay

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Synopsis:

When seventeen-year-old salt witch Kinneret learns of a lost island of silver, she sets out to find it, raise her status, and finally have a chance to wed Calev, the high-caste friend she secretly loves.

But when a madman enslaves her sister, Kinneret must make a deal with the local ruler: Find the island to secure the ruler’s place in history. In return, the woman’s fighting sailors will rescue Kinneret’s sister.

Using Salt Magic to navigate cursed waters, Kinneret and Calev struggle to hide their taboo, caste-breaking feelings, knowing if the ruler witnesses the attraction, she will cancel the agreement. But when Calev makes a terrible mistake, Kinneret must choose between the life of her only remaining family member and saving the boy she loves from a traitor’s death.

“Courage isn’t not being afraid,” Calev said. “It’s standing and fighting through your fear. Protecting those you love” (chapter 7).

Waters of Salt and Sin was such a fun read. I found myself captivated, unable to stop worrying about the characters and their safety. That’s one thing you need to know about this book—it is dangerous. No one is safe. However, not only do we get some kickbutt fighting scenes and many encounters with death, but we also get lovey dovey butterfly feelings and the fight for a non-traditional family. Plus, everything happens on the sea! You can’t get more excitement than this.

One theme that is engrained in the whole plotline is the tension between class statuses. More than anything, Kinneret just wants the safety and security that comes with a higher class status (or caste) than her own. Though this is a fictional world, this specific theme holds true to our world today. By putting such a focus on the quality of life between classes, Klapheke is commenting on the prejudices in our own society. It was such a bold commentary that no reader can come away from this book without considering how our own world handles these very issues. Kinneret even makes remarks that make it hard to ignore: “Caste meant nothing when it came to death” (chapter 40).

The world Klapheke created is so immersive, filled with beauty, ugliness, sorcery, and tales of treasure. The characters are even better! Kinneret is a badass who is loyal to the bone and won’t let anyone tell her she can’t do something. I love this about her. This quality makes her worth rooting for. But, where Kinneret can be a hothead, easily worked up about things, Calev is more grounded and rational. They are the perfect mixture, each having strengths that help the other person’s weaknesses. Be careful, you might get so connected with these characters that you can’t put the book down—don’t worry. There’s more books to come!

Hold on to your hats because Kinneret and Calev are about to take you on a trip across the seas that you’ll never forget!

“If we kept to safe things forever, we’d have no kind of life at all” (chapter 40)

No Plain Rebel – Book Review

Title: No Plain Rebel (No Ordinary Star #2)
Author: M.C. Frank
Published: July 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia 

Rating: 4 Stars
Cover: Like it

51jlw2ncnml-_sx326_bo1204203200_Synopsis:

A soldier is summoned to the North Pole, days before the year changes, told to fix the great Clock for a celebration. He had no idea what to do.

A girl, hunted for the crime of being born, almost dies out on the ice. She is rescued by the last polar bear left alive.

A library waits for them both, a library built over a span of a hundred years, forgotten in the basement of an ice shack.

The world hasn’t known hunger or sickness in hundreds of years. It has also forgotten love and beauty.

The year is 2525.

Inspired by the short stories of Ray Bradbury, this futuristic novel is set in a world where Christmas—among other things—is obsolete and a Clock is what keeps the fragile balance of peace.

Written in three installments, this is the breathtaking and sensual story of how two unlikely people change the world, and each other, one book at a time.

In No Plain Rebel, Felix finds out the truth. Or so he thinks. He’s trying to come to terms with that, as well as with the fact that the Clockmaster’s shack has been discovered by his fellow-soldiers, but he can’t exactly concentrate. The match girl’s fiery curls appear before his eyes every ten seconds, distracting him, and then he starts talking to her in his head. Because she’s no longer there.

The Stadium is looming in the distance.

It’s ten heartbeats to midnight.

“Silence is not peace, Felix, my hope” (p. 188).

*I received a free copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review*

The truth is out there. *Cue “The X-Files” theme music.*

No Ordinary Star ended with a cliffhanger, so naturally I scrambled to continue the story with No Plain Rebel. (You can see my review for NOS here.) I love reading about Felix and Astra and watching them learn, and as they learn, their worlds grow so much bigger. I love how they learn about how humanity was before it was taken away from them, and watch them marvel at it: “They stand for a few more minutes there, absorbing all the newness of the Old World” (p. 25). Felix and Astra learn what knowledge, ideas, beauty, and love are when the world they live in is void of it. This continuation of their story was perfect.

All of the questions left in NOS are answered in the second installment. Felix learns the truth about who he is, who his family is, and where the world is headed. I think I could feel his mind blowing as his knowledge grew. Both characters learn who to extend a trusting hand to and who is perpetuating the bleak future of their world. There is a delightful part of NPR where Felix is forced to swallow a giant pill of humility and face reality in the fact that he can’t help change the problem without recognizing he’s part of the problem. Whoa! The character growth is through the roof!

Astra and Felix {finally} start realizing their feelings for each other, even with the knowledge that any sort of romantic relations is illegal. Heck, everything they do in this book is considered illegal. I can’t imagine living in a world where reading is treason! I was disappointed, though, that this story seemed to be mostly focused on Felix, and we don’t hear much from Astra in the second half of the book. I am a fan of that feisty red head.

Ultimately, I think book one is my favorite of the two, specifically because of the world immersion rather than the overflow of information. However, as I said, this book didn’t disappoint – and of COURSE it ended on another cliffhanger. Where’s book three?

Love. Hurt. Betrayal. The story continues.

No Ordinary Star – Book Review


Title:
No Ordinary Star (No Ordinary Star #1)
Author: M.C. Frank
Published: November 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia 

Rating: 5 Stars
Cover: Like it51pe2yum8l-_sx324_bo1204203200_

Synopsis:

A soldier is summed to the North Pole, days before the year changes, told to fix the great Clock for a celebration. He has no idea what to do.

A girl, hunted for the crime of being born, almost dies out on the ice. She is rescued by the last polar bear life alive.

A library waits for them both, a library built over a span of a hundred years, forgotten in the basement of an ice shack.

The world hasn’t known hunger or sickness in hundreds of years. It has also forgotten love and beauty.

The year is 2525.

Inspired by the short stories of Ray Bradbury, this futuristic novel is set in a world where Christmas – among other things – is obsolete and a Clock is what keeps the fragile balance of peace.

Written in three installments, this is the breathtaking and sensual story of how two unlikely people change the world, and each other, one book at a time.

“How can such a small person cause so much chaos?” p. 74

*I received a free copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review*

In the beginning of No Ordinary Star, the author writes an introduction about how these books are inspired by the short stories of Ray Bradbury. When I saw this, I knew immediately that this was something I needed to read—Ray Bradbury is a genius. While M.C. Frank has her own unique voice, I can definitely see the influences from Bradbury. Frank does not disappoint.

NOS takes place a couple weeks before the turn of the New Year—2525. This futuristic, dystopian novel explores ideas that are not completely new, specifically creating a world of advancements that have lost touch with humanity and the beauty of the world around them. Though this concept, wrapped up in a dystopia, is becoming increasingly popular, M.C. Frank does an excellent job capturing the reader’s attention and describing something that feels completely new, creating vivid descriptions and wonder inducing images of things we consider the norm in our world today.

In this new world, people don’t have families and pills keep them alive. Each person is created, their personalities and characteristics are chosen, and their flaws basically eliminated. This is why it comes as a surprise when, one day, the soldier receives a message from his grandfather—a familial role he had never heard of. The people in this future have no need for sleep, no need to eat, and are just driven to keep moving. Food, vitamins, health maintenance including rest otherwise gained by sleep—all these necessities are rolled into pills taken every day. Food is just an excessive attempt to connect with the old times, and animals are far less populous. With no need to sleep, many of the men join the military and run drills and missions for 23 hours a day. Ideas are discouraged and the norm of society is to follow orders. Those who rebel are thrown into “the Box,” along with the women, who are punished for even being alive. Diversity, beauty, and love are non-existent. What a bleak, hopeless future. However, one man begins a new awakening that begins to blossom in this book, and, I’m assuming, will reach full bloom in the next two.

One of my favorite things about NOS is that Frank doesn’t take an extended period of time to build the world, but rather dunks you right in and explains the absolute necessary things as you go. This allows for more of an immersive experience that calls for collaboration with your imagination. This book does not explain the world, but shows it. Plus, let me tell you, the descriptions and writing are just so beautiful: “…he feels himself falling away from sight, sinking into the snow, its crystals parting to welcome his weight” (p. 6).

Frank uses this book as a commentary on society, much like her hero, Bradbury. If our world were to strive for perfection and order, would we lose our humanity? Our choices, uniqueness, ideas, and even our mistakes are the building blocks that create the rich world we live in. I look forward to see how Frank continues to weave this world, knowing I will struggle to put the next book down just as I did with this one.