Late to the Party ARC Review – The League of Lasers (Star Scouts #2) by Mike Lawrence

Title: The League of Lasers (Star Scouts #2)

Author: Mike Lawrence

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Avani has found the one place in the universe where she fits in: Star Scouts. The League of Lasers is the second volume of this action-packed graphic novel series by Mike Lawrence.

During a troop meeting, a robot messenger delivers Avani some exciting news: she has been invited to join a secret society of elite scouts known as the League of Lasers. She is eager to join their ranks, but first she has to survive her initiation challenge.

Stranded on an uncharted planet, Avani must contend with the methane atmosphere, hostile frog-like inhabitants, and her dwindling supplies of food and water. But even worse: her arch nemesis, Pam, is stranded there, too.

Huge thank you to First Second for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Back in the Spring I was invited to do a blog tour showcasing strong females in comics, and somehow I missed out on including Star Scouts. Sadly, I hadn’t read the first volume of this, and truthfully that might be why I liked, but didn’t love this.

I will say, I LOVED the designs of the space aliens in this book. They were colourful, quirky and so cute looking! I thought the characters were pretty engaging as well, especially our heroine, Avani, who is just so strong-willed and passionate. The characters were very fun and engaging, and I can totally see why kids would love this series.

I may have to do a reread of this one at some point and once I can get my hands on the first book. I think truthfully that was what hampered my enjoyment, and given it always has lots of holds at work, I suppose I really should just put myself on the list.

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Late to the Party ARC Review – Invisible Ghosts by Robyn Schneider

Title: Invisible Ghosts

Author: Robyn Schneider

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Rose Asher believes in ghosts. She should, since she has one for a best friend: Logan, her annoying, Netflix-addicted brother, who is forever stuck at fifteen. But Rose is growing up, and when an old friend moves back to Laguna Canyon and appears in her drama class, things get complicated.

Jamie Aldridge is charming, confident, and a painful reminder of the life Rose has been missing out on since her brother’s death. She watches as Jamie easily rejoins their former friends–a group of magnificently silly theater nerds–while avoiding her so intensely that it must be deliberate.

Yet when the two of them unexpectedly cross paths, Rose learns that Jamie has a secret of his own, one that changes everything. Rose finds herself drawn back into her old life–and to Jamie. But she quickly starts to suspect that he isn’t telling her the whole truth.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I have loved all of Robyn Schneider’s books that she has published. I figured given her track record and my enjoyment, Invisible Ghostssurely was going to be a new favourite. I was expecting to love this, and it was just okay. Saying that it was just okay breaks my heart a little bit, but that is the truth.

When this book was being pitched to me, I was told it was an exploration of grief. That statement is true to an extent, given this is a story about Rose believing that she can see the ghost of her best friend and brother, Logan. The parts of the story where Rose and Logan interacted were easily some of the best parts of the story, and I really enjoyed those moments.

Where I struggled with this book was the romance between Jamie and Rose. I just couldn’t connect with it, I felt very hollow at times, and frankly, I was bored. I know part of Jamie’s story is that he is helping Rose through her grief, but I felt like at times the book made this element a bit too easy, undermining what it means to feel a sense of loss. I think what frustrated me more is that Robyn Schneider has explored the topic of grief before, and I think it was done much better in her other books than Invisible Ghosts.

While I love Robyn Schneider’s writing style, I found that this book and I just didn’t connect the way I was hoping. Perhaps I put too high an expectation on this book given past experiences, or maybe I just wanted something with a lot more depth on a topic that I connect with than this book provided. I think there will be plenty of readers who will love Invisible Ghosts and not much the surface level discussion of grief, but I won’t lie, my expectations were just a bit too high.

ARC Review – Finding Yvonne by Brandy Colbert

Title: Finding Yvonne

Author: Brandy Colbert

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Since she was seven years old, Yvonne has had her trusted violin to keep her company, especially in those lonely days after her mother walked out on their family. But with graduation just around the corner, she is forced to face the hard truth that she just might not be good enough to attend a conservatory after high school.

Full of doubt about her future, and increasingly frustrated by her strained relationship with her successful but emotionally closed-off father, Yvonne meets a street musician and fellow violinist who understands her struggle. He’s mysterious, charming, and different from Warren, the familiar and reliable boy who has her heart. But when Yvonne becomes unexpectedly pregnant. 

Huge thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Finding Yvonne is a book I would have accidentally avoided if it hadn’t been for the fact that it is penned by Brandy Colbert. I am generally not a huge fan about books that involve teen pregnancy or pregnancy in general. However, I think what drew me to this book is that it is a portrait of a girl well on her way to a successful career, how he life gets thrown off course, and how she ends up making one of the most difficult decisions of her life.

This book is intense. I felt so much reading this book because Yvonne felt like a girl whom you’d chat with, seeming so down to earth, and very kind. Her feelings for the men that she gives herself to is also so genuine. The discussion of sex and sexuality is well captured in this book, and this is a very sex-positive book. This book also has a fantastic discussion supporting pro-choice as well. I also loved the family dynamics in this book, especially between Yvonne and her father. Her family relationships felt so realistic as well.

Finding Yvonne is an amazing book with a lot of loaded discussion questions. I think adults and teens can relate to a lot of what happens in this story, and Yvonne is just such a lovable character. If you don’t mind character studies or books focusing on teen pregnancy, please read this book. It’ll spark fantastic discussion.

Late to the Party ARC Review – Tess of the Road (Tess of the Road #1) by Rachel Hartman

Title: Tess of the Road (Tess of the Road #1)

Author: Rachel Hartman

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons can be whomever they choose. Tess is none of these things. Tess is. . . different. She speaks out of turn, has wild ideas, and can’t seem to keep out of trouble. Then Tess goes too far. What she’s done is so disgraceful, she can’t even allow herself to think of it. Unfortunately, the past cannot be ignored. So Tess’s family decide the only path for her is a nunnery.

But on the day she is to join the nuns, Tess chooses a different path for herself. She cuts her hair, pulls on her boots, and sets out on a journey. She’s not running away, she’s running towards something. What that something is, she doesn’t know. Tess just knows that the open road is a map to somewhere else–a life where she might belong.

Huge thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I should have read this book sooner. Seraphina is one of my favourite fantasy novels, and I was beyond thrilled to find out that Rachel Hartman finally had a new book coming out set int he same universe. I also haven’t been reading as much fantasy lately, so it was so nice to pick this up and fly through it. Plus, this book has dragons, and dragons are A+ in my books.

This is a rich and character driven fantasy novel. Tess is a fantastic, snarky, lovable heroine and I loved being on this journey with her. I loved how sassy and take charge she is! And she wasn’t even my favourite character! That crown goes to Pathka, who just made this book everything I wanted it to be and more. But in all seriousness, this book is about Tess’ growth as a character, and it looks at her life in alternative perspectives in how she’s grown and her connection with the dragons. Tess goes through some horrific things in her life, yet you cannot help but root for her.

Also some of the deaths in this book ruined me. RUINED ME. No spoilers, but they were so heartbreaking and I may have yelled at the book for it. I recognize the book cannot talk back to me (and if it did, it would tell me it’s feeding on my tears).

I think for a lot of fantasy readers Tess of the Road might be too much of a slow burn. Personally, I love fantasy novels that gradually build to its climax. This book lacks a lot of the fantasy tropes that people love — there’s no complicated magic systems or intalove — just a story about a girl out on the open on the road, forging a new path for herself. What’s not to love?

Late to the Party ARC Review – Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now by Dana L. Davis

Title: Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now

Author: Dana L. Davis

Rating: ★★ 1/2

Synopsis: For sixteen-year-old Tiffany Sly, life hasn’t been safe or normal for a while. Losing her mom to cancer has her a little bit traumatized and now she has to leave her hometown of Chicago to live with the biological dad she’s never known.

Anthony Stone is a rich man with four other daughters—and rules for every second of the day. Tiffany tries to make the best of things, but she doesn’t fit into her new luxurious, but super-strict, home—or get along with her standoffish sister London. The only thing that makes her new life even remotely bearable is the strange boy across the street. Marcus McKinney has had his own experiences with death, and the unexpected friendship that blossoms between them is the only thing that makes her feel grounded.

But Tiffany has a secret. Another man claims he’s Tiffany’s real dad—and she only has seven days before he shows up to demand a paternity test and the truth comes out. With her life about to fall apart all over again, Tiffany finds herself discovering unexpected truths about her father, her mother and herself, and realizing that maybe family is in the bonds you make—and that life means sometimes taking risks.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

When I heard about the premise for Dana L. Davis’ Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now, I was intrigued. The focus on a girl with two potential fathers definitely means there is doing to be some drama, and I love stories that focus on unique familial circumstances. I may have hyped this book in my mind, and sadly it didn’t live up to the expectations I gave it. It’s a good book, but it’s not without some issues.

First off, this book took me awhile to get into. Like, I would pick up and read, then completely forget about it. The first hundred pages were not holding my attention. However, once I hit the latter half of the book, I was completely glued to the pages and needed to know what was happening. It’s weird for a book to do such a mad 180 degree turn, but that was my reading experience with this book. Sometimes I so invested in the story, and other times I was just bored because the story wasn’t engaging me.

I will say that I really did like Tiffany as a character. She’s got a good head on her shoulders, she’s smart, kind, and she means well. She’s also a girl questioning her family and her faith. This book is uncomfortable at times… especially Tiffany’s estranged father, who does some borderline abusive things to her. His treatment of her mental illness in particular disgusted me, as the idea of keeping medication away from someone who needs it is just revolting and wrong. But him being an uncomfortable person is what drives a lot of the story, especially given that before he and Tiffany met, they lived such different lives.

The way in which religion is portrayed in this book is also a difficult subject matter. It’s a weird kind of zealotry, and it’s no wonder why Tiffany fights it. Why she’s trying to protect her siblings from it. There’s so much complication in how Tiffany’s father is portrayed in this book, and some of it works, and some of it does not. I will say… I really disliked the treatment of the autistic character in this book. There was something about it that just screamed power-trip and again, it’s unnerving and disturbing.

I am all for tough subject matters in YA, and I liked how some issues were portrayed in this book. This is definitely a hard book to review because there’s a lot going on, and if I am being honest, this was just an okay ride for me. I wish the book had hooked me sooner, and I do think this book could have been a bit shorter. I think Tiffany as a story is interesting, I just think the execution left a lot to be desired.

Book Review – A World in Blue by Danni Maxwell

Title: A World in Blue

Author: Danni Maxwell

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: At just eighteen years old, Oliver was offered a publishing deal. The very same day, he lost his mother to suicide. Two years later, he encounters a tall, dark, and handsome stranger. Never thinking he would write again, he is inspired once more.

Just as Oliver is launched into fame from the success of his book, the handsome stranger comes back into his life. His name is Blue and happens to be flirting with Oliver. 

Sam’s Review:

Full disclosure: the author is a friend of mine, but I purchased the book with my own funds.

I really couldn’t be more proud of Danni and the release of A World in Blue. This is such a sweet male/male romance story looking at a young man who has reached his dreams of becoming a famous author, but is lacking fulfillment and inspiration… until he meets Blue.

What I liked about this story was Oliver. I thought he was a very well developed protagonist, and I felt for him and his struggles. He’s a character whose negative traits were something I could relate to in so many ways… I saw myself in him. A lot. I also liked the development between Oliver and his friends, and I really appreciated how organic Oliver’s relationships felt throughout the story. I also love how Oliver’s confidence builds slowly throughout the story, and I loved how Blue restores parts of it for him. Blue was just darling, though I kept wanting to know more about him, which is my only real criticism of the story. I wanted more about Blue, I wanted to truly feel like I knew him.

I devoured this story in one sitting, and it filled me with many emotions. It’s short, sweet, but a very enriching story experience to say the least. Great work, Danni!

#FearlessWomen – THE CALCULATING STARS

the calculating stars

THE CALCULATING STARS –

I shivered and looked up at the odd ochre haze in the sky.

Mrs. Lindholm saw my shiver and misinterpreted it. “Let’s get inside before you catch your death.”

“Oh, I’m getting good at outrunning death.”

Mrs. Lindholm’s face blanched. “I’m so sorry! I forgot about what you went through.”

Sometimes my humor doesn’t work to diffuse a situation. This was one of those cases. “No, really. It’s fine. It’s just . . .  I’m the one who should apologize. That joke was in poor taste.”

“No, it’s my fault.”

“Really—no. You have nothing to apologize for.”

“I was being thoughtless.”

“I—” I stopped and narrowed my gaze. “I should remind you that I’m Southern, and you’ll never win a politeness battle with me.”

She laughed, and people down the sidewalk turned to glare as if she had begun cursing in public. “Truce?”

THE CALCULATING STARS Summary:

On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.

Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too.

Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.

Mary Robinette Kowal color - c. Rod Searcey 2018

 

About Mary Robinette Kowal:

Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of the historical fantasy novels Ghost Talkers and the five books in The Glamourist Histories series. She is also a multiple Hugo Award winner. Her short fiction has appeared in Uncanny, Tor.com, and Asimov’s. Mary, a professional puppeteer, lives in Chicago with her husband Robert and over a dozen manual typewriters.

#FearlessWomen_BlogHeader

About #FearlessWomen:

Women are shining in every genre of speculative fiction, and it is no longer enough to say “Women are here.” Instead, #FearlessWomen everywhere are taking a stand to say “Women will thrive here.”

Highlighting major titles from bestselling authors V.E. Schwab, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jacqueline Carey as well as titles from acclaimed and debut authors such as Mary Robinette Kowal, Tessa Gratton, Sam Hawke, and Robyn Bennis, #FearlessWomen will be a coordinated social media celebration encouraging fans to start a dialogue about women in publishing, their worlds, their voices, and their unique stories.

Tor Books’ handles across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@torbooks) will be using the hashtags #FearlessWomen (and #FearlessFantasy and #FearlessSF) to promote excerpts, exclusive content, quizzes and giveaways beginning in May. There will also be exclusive giveaways at BookCon, San Diego Comic-Con, and New York Comic Con. Follow Tor Books online, join the conversation – and get reading!