Monthly Archives: November 2013

ARC Review – Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci

17255996Title: Tin Star
Author: Cecil Castellucci
Rating: ★★★  1/2

Synopsis: On their way to start a new life, Tula and her family travel on the Prairie Rose, a colony ship headed to a planet in the outer reaches of the galaxy. All is going well until the ship makes a stop at a remote space station, the Yertina Feray, and the colonist’s leader, Brother Blue, beats Tula within an inch of her life. An alien, Heckleck, saves her and teaches her the ways of life on the space station.

When three humans crash land onto the station, Tula’s desire for escape becomes irresistible, and her desire for companionship becomes unavoidable. But just as Tula begins to concoct a plan to get off the space station and kill Brother Blue, everything goes awry, and suddenly romance is the farthest thing from her mind. 

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Macmillian and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to review this book.

Tin Star was an impulse grab from Netgalley. I loved the cover and the premise sounded like something I’d dig. I wasn’t expecting to love the book as much as I did though.

This is my first fore ray into Castellucci’s work, and I feel like she’s a lovely writer. Her descriptions are very methodical and well-detailed, and she made it very easy to visual Tula’s world and her struggles. However, this book is a slow burn and it’s not best read when you’re aren’t in the mood to be thoughtful. There’s definitely some confusing instances in the book as well, and I found I had to reread passages for the sake of clarity.

That being said, I loved Castellucci’s portrayal of extra-terrestrials. It was interesting to learn about their hardships and distrust, it’s a familiar take on “the other,” but one that is quite easy to comprehend. We have humans again being see as the potential monsters, which worked for me.

One thing I wish the novel had more of was emotion. There’s such a huge focus on the world building and establishing who is truly the other, yet there isn’t enough focus on creating the emotional drive that the story needs so that the reader can attach themselves to the situation and really feel like they understand Tula and the conflict within the world. I enjoyed Tula’s character (especially towards the end), but I felt like she and her cast of characters could have used just a touch more development to make them memorable.

The world-building however, is fabulous. It’s very deliberate and thoughtful and I found myself very much a part of the world as I was reading the book. There’s such fleshed out descriptions of desolation and desertion, and the way it surrounds both human and alien life was completely fascinating to me. Castellucci made me enjoy aliens, which is something I’m not huge on (unless you count Mass Effect), and she made me appreciate how they can be written and even at times, sympathized with. I also LOVED the ending of this book, and I’m curious to see if this is a world Castellucci may revisit.

Tin Star is going to be a tough sell for a lot of science fiction fans, because while it has a lot of classic trope (right down to the very descriptive prose), it lacks a lot of the YA tropes that many readers may be looking for when selecting a YA science fiction novel. Still, this book plays homage to classical science fiction literature, it has a wonderful sense of discovery, the only item it lacks to make it work an emotional drive to make readers want to be a part of this world.

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ARC Review – Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

17573559Title: Roomies
Author: Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando
Rating: ★★★★ / ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: It’s time to meet your new roomie.

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl’s summer — and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they’ve never met.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr and acclaimed author Tara Altebrando join forces for a novel about growing up, leaving home, and getting that one fateful e-mail that assigns your college roommate.

Huge thank you to Little Brown Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for a copy of this book!

River’s Review – 4 Stars

Sooooo this book hit me a lot of ways. Some very weird. Others not. I connected with BOTH girls a lot because I’ve been through both of their situations college-wise. I actually went to school just 1 hour away from my parents… it was a good school and I had no real desire to move across the country or leave my family. I did want to get away but not that far away… so this worked. I went home on weekends to do laundry sometimes and my mom bought me food and I could see my dog. So I connected with Lauren on that.

Then at the end of college I moved to Japan for study abroad. Talk about moving across the globe! So I was able to relate to EB a lot, especially when she was going through all of the ‘last times…’ at the end. God, I did that when I moved to Japan the first time, left Japan the first time, and then moved back to Japan. It’s really something that you can’t even understand until you experience it.

I ALSO connected to the ‘first roommate’ thing. When I went away to school I did the random roommate thing and emailed a bit before going… we didn’t have much time to email so I didn’t get into that deep of a friendship with her, but we did the whole ‘who brings the microwave’ thing and decided we were going to be BFF and what-not. That blew up in my face 2nd semester when she basically single-white-female-ed me… but that’s a whole other story and doesn’t really connect to this book… but yeah. Totally understood the ‘first roomie’ thing.

I also liked the overall story, the way that the whole ‘spilling your guts to someone you don’t know’ phenomenon works. I’ve been one of those ‘friends with people I only know through correspondence’ people since high school. I had pen pals all over the country and then we all moved to the internet and blogging and twitter and I know how it can be to totally spill your life story to someone you’ve never met and then have them do something that makes you feel weird or awkward and think ‘why did I tell this total stranger this personal stuff’. I thought this was pretty interesting and loved the focus.

The writing was good, and I flew through this. Both girls had a clear voice (if you know me you know I HATE alternating first-person POV with a passion) and I really enjoyed reading their emails (sometimes this kind of thing in a book bothers me).

I did have trouble with the way some of the race/sexuality stuff was handled. At times it felt preachy and overall it was just really awkward. When I was reading it I often felt like ‘wow, this could have been done differently…’ or ‘was that really necessary’. But after thinking about it for awhile I came to the conclusion that maybe it was good that it was so awk. Teens and race and sexuality IS AWKWARD. Hell, it’s awkward for adults. There is no real good way to approach this kind of stuff. I hate it when books breeze over it like ~everybody~ accepts people of other races and different sexual orientations because it’s NOT TRUE. So while it did make me feel weird to read it, maybe that was the point. I’m very torn over this now because I dislike how it took me out of the story, but it did make me think… so yeah. I’m not even sure what could have been done. Maybe, just maybe, only one could have been focused on because both seemed to be just dealt with on a very shallow, surface level and if there was only one focused on we could have possibly gotten some deeper revelation or growth out of the character dealing with it. I guess EB’s dad being gay didn’t really feel like it was needed for anything more than the reason why her mom is the way she is… but Keyon being black and Lauren dealing with dating someone out of her race… that did feel like it was useful to the story and could have been handled in such a way that showed some growth in her… when really the growth that she experienced was with her family. Ah, I don’t even know!

So yeah… over all really liked this and was able to relate to it A LOT, but some stuff just felt like it could have been handled differently to make the story benefit from it more.

Sam’s Review – 3.5 Stars

Unlike most readers of this novel, I wasn’t fortunate enough to go away for college, nor did I ever find myself in a situation with a roommate. This may be way I had a hard time making connections while reading Roomies. I feel as if I was in the boat of going away for college this book would have likely had a bigger impact on me.

I think Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando did a great job with the alternating points of view and characterization. Both Elizabeth and Lauren’s voices were so easy to fall into that I never felt confused as to whose perspective I was reading. I think both girls come full of baggage, with their own personal trials and tribulations to overcome and that’s what I enjoyed most about the story. I think it helped that good chunks of the narrative were also written in e-mails because it added that extra personal touch to make each girl really come to life.

Admittedly, I had a harder time connecting to Elizabeth. In fact, she reminded me of someone in my past whose behavior I can honestly say I wasn’t fond of a lot of the time. It’s not to say Elizabeth is a bad person, its more so that she plays her only child card up so hard at times that she does come across very selfish, spoiled and demanding, yet it makes perfect sense because she suffers from abandonment issues. Parts of her behavior were grating, but I feel like the authors justified it well for the most part.

I will say, Lauren was the character I had an easier time with. Her problems of trying to do what she feels is expected of her is something I can relate to easily. Lauren wants to give so much of herself, to the point where she doesn’t acknowledge that she herself should matter equally in her family equation. That’s where I really saw our similarities and I feel like what I can appreciate with Lauren is that (for the most part) she’s honest and stays true to herself. She knows the truth hurts yet she’s someone who is able to accept it and even learn from it, something that takes Elizabeth a lot longer to process.

There is such a clarity in both girl’s voices, yet there were a few aspects of this book that bothered me, particularly how race and sexuality were handled. It’s weird how important sex is in this book to Elizabeth, yet sometimes it was glossed over and brushed aside in a very hush-hush way. I kept asking myself in this was necessary, and moreover I found the way race was handled to be even more awkward and unnecessary just because Elizabeth again behaviors like race is this very “foreign thing.” These aspects remove the reader from the story and I did find myself (and talking to my co-blogger about it) because I kept asking myself what the point of adding these aspects were and how little in a way it meant to the overall story. These two situations truly spoiled parts of the narrative for me. Also Elizabeth’s gay dad? There could have been a better way to handle that situation, and its just so tacky the way its done because you’re never really told why this is such a big deal, yet Keyon being black — that is a huge deal. There’s no consistency for these subject matters, something I wish the book would have addressed in a much more focused way. They feel phoned in, but not well explained.

While I think Roomies is an enjoyable read, I think the problems are something that need to be addressed because it really does kill the immersion of the story in a lot of ways. I think this book would have definitely clicked with me more had I had the quintessential college experience, but as an outsider, I was okay with this. Roomies has its problems, but it is a fast and engaging read, one where if you can overlook the book’s issues, can be fun to read.

We <3 Melissa Giorgio + Giveaway

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It is absolutely not secret that River and I adore Melissa Giorgio’s work. While we are a bit biased in that we’ve been friends with her a long time, and we couldn’t be prouder of Gabi and Rafe’s debut!

Seriously, we loved The Sight Seer. In fact, we fangirled it so hard when it released because it did so many things RIGHT for YA in terms of not rehashing the same stereotypes and tropes, and the characters being  so wonderfully believable. The characters are amazing, the writing is snappy and fun, what’s not to love?

Here’s the synopsis!

Gabi, Rafe, and all of their friends are back in three exciting short stories that bridge the gap between books one and two of the Silver Moon Saga. Join them as they celebrate Halloween in A Sweet Treat—can they make it through the night without Gabi destroying her costume? Find out what Rafe’s really afraid of in Indiana Rafe, a story told exclusively from his perspective. And in An Autumn Dream, Gabi struggles to make amends with a painful part of her past. Filled with laughter and tears, demon battles and plenty of kissing, this novella is a must read for fans of The Sight Seer!

Sounds awesome, right?

Well, River and I are celebrating the release of An Autumn Dream, a novella of A Silver Moon Saga, which does not release until November 14th with a giveaway. Enter for a chance to win a copy of the book and also spread the love of The Sight Seer! You have until November 15th to win a Kindle eBook copy of An Autumn Dream and while you are at it check out these two other awesome Silver Moon Saga giveaways, one over at Amy McNulty’s Blog also well as a huge prize pack over at Melissa’s Blog! 🙂

GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! ENTER TO WIN!

November TBR

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A new month, a new TBR. I’ve been meaning to share my TBR each month, but life has been getting in the way more than I’d like! Here’s a few of the physical books I’ll be reading this month, some which I have had for awhile like Prophecy (signed by Ellen Oh!) and In Stitches by Trent Seely (also signed). As you can see I’ve already got book marks in The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch (halfway!) and Chimes at Midnight (also halfway!) so those will definitely be finished. Finally, my random pick is Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger whom I absolutely 100% adore with every fibre of my being. I’ll be lucky if I get to anymore physical books because this is really going to be a month of e-ARCs. Here’s what’s up for review!

  • Crash Into You by Katie McGarry – while River already tackled our main review for it, I’ll be playing catch up since I decided to tackle Pushing the Limits & Dare You To LAST month. Once I finish Crash Into You, I’ll be sharing my feelings on the series thus far.
  • Pawn by Aimee Carter – River also did the main review on this one. I am actually 31% into this book and it’s definitely interesting so far! Look forward to seeing how it develops.
  • These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner – I’ve had this ARC for awhile and it releases next month. I need to get on it.
  • Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci – fired this one up on my iPad and read a chapter. Seems interesting.
  • Shadowplay by Laura Lam – IT’S REAL AND MINE TO REVIEW. SQUEE.
  • The Almost Girl by Amalie Howard – Because it sounds wonderfully creepy.

This seems ambitious, but totally do-able I hope since I’d like to get my e-ARC pile in a manageable state. Hopefully I’ll get through a huge chunk of it and River and I will have some new reviews, and may be even a new giveaway or two or share with you all soon. What do you think of my picks for the month? I’d love to hear your thoughts in our comments!

ARC Review – Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma Trevayne

18332010Title:  Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times
Author:  Emma Trevayne
Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Ten-year-old Jack Foster has stepped through a doorway and into quite a different London.

Londinium is a smoky, dark, and dangerous place, home to mischievous metal fairies and fearsome clockwork dragons that breathe scalding steam. The people wear goggles to protect their eyes, brass grill insets in their nostrils to filter air, or mechanical limbs to replace missing ones.

Over it all rules the Lady, and the Lady has demanded a new son—a perfect flesh-and-blood child. She has chosen Jack.

Jack’s wonder at the magic and steam-powered marvels in Londinium lasts until he learns he is the pawn in a very dangerous game. The consequences are deadly, and his only hope of escape, of returning home, lies with a legendary clockwork bird.

The Gearwing grants wishes. Or it did, before it was broken. Before it was killed.

But some things don’t stay dead forever.

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Edelweiss and Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for this advance reader copy.

When it comes to Middle Grade fiction, I have a strong love for the ones that incorporate parallel universes or cities for the sake of providing strong character growth. Emma Trevayne’s Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times falls perfectly into my favourite type of middle grade novel, as she uses an alternate London (Londinium) to provide the backdrop and growth for her protagonist, Jack, a young boy who simply wants people to accept him for who he is.

This novel is very easy to gravitate towards. It has the right amount of action, two strong antagonist (if you can call Lorcan an antagonist, he’s a tricky fellow to pin-point), and a main character who is easily likable and you understand his decisions. Jack’s behaviour is so idealistic and innocent, but when he is forced to face reality, he learns his harsh lessons and attempts to grow from them rather than throw a fit. He’s lucky too, he gets a clockwork dragon as a companion, which I am horrifically jealous of!

There’s a lot to love about this alternate London that Trevayne has crafted. It’s a vibrant and vivid world, so it’s easy to imagine. Middle Grade often can have this problem that if the world isn’t easy to imagine or participate in, it can be difficult to keep interest, and I feel like Trevayne just makes everything feel so effortless — she knows her audience and creates an engaging world, one that is insanely active and easy to just fall into. When we follow Jack, we aren’t just seeing the world through his eyes, and when we are, it’s truly a joyous experience.

I really adored all the characters in this story. Beth made me smile because although she is a character who has had a lot of suffering, she doesn’t let it destroy her. I LOVED Lorcan, even if a few times I wanted to punch him in his book balls for hurting Jack. His motivations were fabulous, a bit cheeky, and he was easy to engage with. I especially loved how subservient he was to The Lady. I could go on and on about these characters, but then I’d be spoiling the novel.

This is my first book by Emma Trevayne, and it definitely will not be my last. While I’m disappointed my digital ARC did not have the illustrations, I can only image how perfect they probably are when coupled with the story. It’s a shame this novel isn’t releasing until May of next year, because it’s hands down one of the best Middle Grade adventure novels I’ve read in awhile, and it’s a book I know I’ll be buying for everyone. Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times asks for so little of its reader, but packs such a meaty punch in its storytelling, that it’ll be perfect for even the pickest reader.

Seriously, pre-order this book now. You will not be disappointed.

River’s Review: 

Coming Soon.