Tag Archives: netgalley

ARC Review – Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor

26028989Title: Into the Dim

Author: Janet B. Taylor

Rating: ★

Synopsis: Being “the homeschooled girl,” in a small town, Hope Walton’s crippling phobias and photographic memory don’t help her fit in with her adoptive dad’s perfectly blonde Southern family. But when her mother is killed in a natural disaster thousands of miles from home, Hope’s secluded world crumbles. After an aunt she’s never met invites her to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic. She’s a member of a secret society of time travelers, and is actually trapped in the twelfth century in the age of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Now Hope must conquer her numerous fears and travel back in time to help rescue her mother before she’s lost for good. Along the way, she’ll discover more family secrets, and a mysterious boy who could be vital to setting her mother free… or the key to Hope’s undoing.

Thank you to HMH Books for Young Readers & Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I can’t remember the last time I was angry reading a book. Like, really angry. But here you have it,Into the Dim managed to set me off as I was reading it, because I simply couldn’t get over what people think teens are like. Part of the issue is — this isn’t a YA novel at all. It doesn’t feel like one, and if anything it has the trapping of an adult romance novel, which I didn’t like one bit. Furthermore when it tries to be a YA novel, it just fails because it spends more time focusing on stereotypes that are already exemplified in other novels.

This book is being marketed as Outlander for teens, but if I’m being frank, teens should go readOutlander over this novel. The kinds of cliches that exist in this novel are so problematic, and I think if teens wanted a good romance novel, they could do better than Into the Dim. This book is big on slut-shamming, and suggests that aggressive and abusive men are perfectly suitable love interests.

Hope disgusts me as a heroine because she falls into the trapping of the “poor girl who doesn’t know she’s beautiful, but omg everyone thinks she’s beautiful.” The worst part is she makes such stupid decisions throughout the novel and is perfectly okay with an abusive male character. Collum is worst than Hope, as he’s described as being perfect looking, yet his only personality trait is that he is “aggressive.” Because all Scottish men are aggressive, and angry, and mopey. Again, we could do better than this. His treatment of female characters in the novel is so problematic and thinking back to the story just makes me seeth with anger.

Then there’s the time travel element which is just a hot mess. It makes very little sense, and while it’s important to the story between Hope and her mother, it doesn’t feel as prevelient as it should. The level of stereotyping, especially the intrpretation of Scottish people is just odd. It’s hard to really care about the characters in this story because they are either so mean or just have zero personality beyond “he’s handsome but mean” and “she’s pretty, but so so plain.” Again, readers can do so much better.

I think there’s this notion that teens aren’t smart enough to go beyond sterotypes and trappings within the genre, and that’s disappointing. I kept hoping it would get more interesting considering how much I love time travel stories, but this one just felt flat and confusing a lot of the time. I didn’t feel like I fully grasped what the author was trying to get at in the Dims usage beyond it being a connection between mother and daughter. It’d be interesting if both characters didn’t behave like such horrible people.

And that is ultimately my issue with this book. Nothing felt cohesive or even interesting! What this book represents is this logic that slut-shamming and one dimensional story telling is an acceptable practice. There are better written adult romance novels than this book. I just can’t recommend Into the Dim, because it just offers a message that I can’t get behind, and further perpetuates stereotypes that don’t need that. Don’t waste your time on this chunker of a novel, it’s easily worth the skip.

 

Advertisements

ARC Review – Ava XOX (Ava and Pip, #3) by Carol Weston

25679827Title: Ava XOX (Ava and Pip, #3)

Author:  Carol Weston

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: In Ava XOX, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and Ava couldn’t care less. That is, until a new girl, Kelli, asks out Ava’s friend Chuck…and he says yes! What?!? Ava is NOT okay with this. But since when does she think about boys? For the first time ever, words fail Ava. She isn’t sure what she’s feeling (Like? Love? Friendship? Frustration?), or what “going out” even means. After all, fifth graders aren’t allowed to go anywhere by themselves, are they? To top it off, Pip’s friend Tanya is being bullied for her size. Ava wants to help—but, it’s not as easy as she imagines.

Huge thank you to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

If there is a series I adore and hold close to my heart, it’s Ava and Pip. This series does an amazing job of being something middle graders can relate to, and isn’t written in a way that feels dumbed down. This time around, this third novel focuses on Ava having a secret crush and all the crazy surrounding that.

If I’m being honest, this was the book of the bunch that I connected with the most. I knew what it was like to be Ava’s age and having a crush on a boy who seemed off limits. Moreover, her feelings of inadequacy and jealousy were totally something I could relate to. That wanting to be the girl, but it not being in your favour. I equally love the reveal when she discovers that she does have a crush, and that sort of explosion that occurs in her mind because it’s something she struggles to articulate. I really just loved the portrayal of Ava’s emotions and found them to be done in such a realistic way.

If there was one part of the book that made me a bit uncomfortable, it’s what happened to Tanya and Pip. I get that that kind of bullying still very much exists, but it still made me uncomfortable. I also didn’t like Ava’s approach to helping Tanya either with her problem because while I get that she meant very well, it’s also none of her business. However, I was a bit more forgiving when the novel showed how Ava learns her lesson, and more specifically when she learns about issues with body types. I feel like applauding Weston for that just because it’s something that often goes undiscussed by parents.

With each installment I continue to fall in love with this series, simply because there’s a genuineness in Ava’s voice that just sucks you in. She’s a good kid, and the books do such a fantastic job of teaching morality, but also still having fun in its presentation. Ava XOX is a solid entry into this series, and I can only hope Carol Weston has more adventures in store for Ava very soon.

 

ARC Review – This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

24529123Title:  This Is Where It Ends

Author: Marieke Nijkamp

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: 10:00 a.m.
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03
The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05
Someone starts shooting.

Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

Huge thank you to Raincoast Books/Sourcebooks Fire and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Ever read a book where you read the synopsis and it turns out to be exactly as the back says? To the letter, no less? That is what reading This Is Where It Ends was for me, and in a lot of ways I was surprised I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the synopsis would have led me to believe.

I love diverse YA, I equally love tough issue YA, and yet this book didn’t draw any emotion from me. That bothers me too given a lot of what the synopsis promised, but I found this book very hard to connect with. Part of it was that we have some many points of view, which is both a point in the books favour, but a point against it. I loved the multiple points of view and how it was used to layer the disturbance present in this novel, but I disliked that the characters didn’t have much personality or something to connect with. It made for both a great and frustrating experience, because while I loved seeing Tyler from each of their eyes, I still felt like I didn’t know these characters very well, even up until the end.

For a book about a school lockdown and shooting, there was a lot that felt very convenient in the story to move it along. Perhaps it’s me comparing it to school shootings that have occurred in the news in the past, but part of me expected a bit more of an onslaught from Tyler’s part, given the level of revenge he wanted to take on his classmates and the school. I wasn’t shocked or surprised by the outcome of this book, and I felt as if it was the only way the author could have ended the book… but I was mad that I didn’t show any emotion over the story or its characters. I should have given their horrific circumstances, but alas, it didn’t happen.

That’s not to say that this is a bad book! Far from it, the writing is quite good and engaging, and it’s a quick read too. I think I just would have connected to this book more had I found characters to latch onto, and you know, hadn’t readViolent Ends earlier in the year. This book is an interesting perspective of school shootings and how people crack under emotional pressure, and if you like that sort of thing, I’d recommend it. If you love a character driven novel, you won’t find that here, I’m afraid.

 

ARC Review – Manners & Mutiny (Finishing School #4) by Gail Carriger

24539011Title: Manners & Mutiny (Finishing School #4)

Author: Gail Carriger

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: When a dastardly Pickleman plot comes to fruition, only Sophronia can save her friends, her school, and all of London…but at what cost? Our proper young heroine puts her training and skills to the test in this highly anticipated conclusion of the rousing, intriguing, and always polished New York Times bestselling Finishing School series!

 

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

Sam’s Review:

It pains me to see that this series is over. Gail Carriger is one of my favourite authors and she always writes these unforgettable, crazy bunch of characters who get under your skin and stay a part of you. That’s how I felt about Sophronia and her friends.

Once more, I think of all four books and this one made me laugh the hardest at times. While it didn’t feature much of my favourite character (Sidheag), the focus on Agatha, who has been quite the allure this whole series, was fantastic. I loved how Carriger wrapped up the mystery of her character in particular, and I’m always happy to see when there’s more to a grumpy character.

This was also probably the most intense and action oriented of the four novels, and with good reason when you hit the ending. Unlike the other three books, the majority of the action in this book is far more serious than comedic (though that isn’t entirely true). There’s so much humour in these characters, and I love the wit and cheekiness of them. It’s hard to let them go.

The action, the etiquette, the zaniness! There’s just so much this series embodies, and I thought that Carriger did a great job bringing this world to a close. While I’m sad it’s all over, I’m excited to see where things go with this universe now that Prudence is an adult. While I’m having a hard time letting these characters go, I won’t forget the mayhem they caused, and the joy they gave me as a reader.

ARC Review – The Trouble with Destiny by Lauren Morrill

18982137Title: The Trouble With Destiny

Author:  Lauren Morrill

Rating:  ★★★

Synopsis: With her trusty baton and six insanely organized clipboards, drum major Liza Sanders is about to take Destiny by storm—the boat, that is. When Liza discovered that her beloved band was losing funding, she found Destiny, a luxury cruise ship complete with pools, midnight chocolate buffets, and a $25,000 spring break talent show prize.

Liza can’t imagine senior year without the band, and nothing will distract her from achieving victory. She’s therefore not interested when her old camp crush, Lenny, shows up on board, looking shockingly hipster-hot. And she’s especially not interested in Russ, the probably-as-dumb-as-he-is-cute prankster jock whose ex, Demi, happens be Liza’s ex–best friend and leader of the Athenas, a show choir that’s the band’s greatest competition.

But it’s not going to be smooth sailing. After the Destiny breaks down, all of Liza’s best-laid plans start to go awry. Liza likes to think of herself as an expert at almost everything, but when it comes to love, she’s about to find herself lost at sea.

Huge thank you to Delacorte and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I adored Lauren Morrill’s Being Sloane Jacobs. It was chock full of humour, showed fantastic relationships, and in all was a fun experience. I was so excited to get my hands on the Trouble With Destiny, and while it’s definitely not Being Sloane Jacobs, it was still a fun book to read.

I think what is important to note about the Trouble With Destiny is that you need to go into it understanding that it’s essentially a comedy. It’s Pitch Perfect meets Titanic, sprinkling some Breaker High into the mix. A lot of the antics that the band students face often come across as comedic or downright ridiculous, and I think understanding that going in makes for a much better reading experience. This isn’t a fluffy contemporary read, it’s kinda crazy, a bit silly, but you roll with it.

That being said, Liza drove me kinda crazy and I found her way too melodramatic at times. However, I adored her rivalry with Demi, because Demi is the kind of hilarious mean girl you want to read about — the one that gets their comeuppance in the form of the ultimate humiliation. Which really brings me to my issue with this novel — the characters don’t really feel like characters, but feel somewhat two-dimensional. You don’t get any sort of deep development from them.

Furthermore the romance was a love triangle, and a predictable one at that. But if I’m being frank, I don’t feel like the boys were well characterized beyond just their actions. I didn’t feel like Lenny or Russ were real people, nor did I feel like I entirely understood Liza’s complete interest in them.

But this book is pretty funny at times. The it’s so crazy-how-could-this-be-real kind of crazy, and sometimes I think you need that element in a story. Sometimes it’s great to read a book that tastes like candy and you can turn your brain off, which was how The Trouble With Destiny played out for me. It lacked a lot of the elements that I loved from Being Sloane Jacobs, such as strong, well defined characters, and a cute romance, but this book was just silly and I enjoyed it for that.

I think I may have gone into The Trouble With Destiny with some slightly higher expectations than I should have. In the end, I did enjoy the book despite it’s problems, and it still makes me want to continue to read Lauren Morrill’s stories because for what it’s worth, they are always at least fun in the end.

ARC Review – Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

23395680Title:  Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1)

Author: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Rating:  ★★★ 1/2 /  ★★★★

Synopsis: This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Huge thank you to  Knopf Books for Young Readers & Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

 

Huge thank you to Knopf Books for Young Readers & Netgalley for this ARC!

I feel like Illuminae the book that all the bloggers are raving about, and I’m going to be real here: I merely liked it. When you’ve played enough science fiction video games, or watched or read enough classic science fiction, the plot in this story is far from original. Illuminae at times reads like a love letter to old school science fiction, but it also has the problem of style over substance.

I’m going to be real here, I don’t mind books that use an abstract style to tell its story. There’s books that for me did an amazing job such as Blood & Guts in High School and others where I hated every second of it (see House of Leaves). Since the story is told through dossiers, it’s an interesting concept because the story has all this tension and you start to see the growth of the crisis that exists aboard the ship. I’d even argue that the portrayal of space madness through the use of the dossiers is one the best I’ve seen in a long time, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that the world building in Illuminae is sadly paper thin.

The reader is forced to accept so much at face value because of the style of the story, but there’s all these larger holes that don’t get filled in, leaving the reader to guess how or why aspects of this story are happening. That’s the main issue here: the use of abstractions in the story don’t allow for real world building to be provided. The format also is somewhat problematic if only because you get pulled into the narrative and then immediately sucked out of it when there’s a picture or a random advertisement. Again, I get why it’s being done, but truthfully I didn’t enjoy it nor did I find it successful.

The first 1/3 of this book for me was just very bland and boring. It took me awhile to get into the story and once the space madness started to hit the ships I found myself on board and the book became a page-turner. I think the way in which Kaufman and Kristoff show tension and anxiety in space is so spot on, and I like the way that through the dossiers you get this sense that everything has gone sour. I also appreciate the two classic science fiction plot twists that were thrown into the story, even if they were predictable both times. I still like that specific plot twist, and I do think it works well here.

I also wanted a bit more characterization. Kady in particular gets so much development, and I adored her character. I loved how sassy, strong-willed and reckless she is, but I found Ezra to be lacking in the character department. I didn’t see what was so great about him, nor did I feel the connection of him as the love interest. There was no pull for me at all. I will say, I LOVED Byron, and I thought he was far better developed than Ezra was. But let’s be real here, there’s not a lot of character development and the stylistic choice is a major part of why it’s lacking.

Here’s the deal: I liked and enjoyed my time with Illuminae. Once I got 1/3 of the way through the story, I couldn’t stop turning the pages and I had to see how it ended. I actually adored the ending, but overall Illuminae is a story I’ve read and seen numerous times before and sadly done better. However, I do think this book is worth checking out, especially if you aren’t the biggest science fiction fan, because I think those are the people who will get the most out of the big reveals and surprises within the story. Still, Illuminae is a fun read, and I will be checking out its sequel, but admittedly I wanted more from it.

River’s Review:

I am SO happy that I didn’t have to read this on my iPad. The format of this book is amazing and I loved it. To be honest the story wasn’t really THAT amazing, and I would have liked a lot more background and world building, but the format blew me away. And that is what I loved about this book. Pages with casualty names. Cute children’s posters with horrific graffiti scrawled over it. Swoops of text illustrating missiles or fights in space. I love some of the empty pages or pages with one word on them best. I did get a little tired of reading chats between characters, but thankfully they were broken up with enough other things. And I did appreciate that there WERE sections that were in more traditional novel formats. The whole mix of everything just worked so well for me.

I did see a few… idk if they were allusions or shout-outs or what, to other popular scifi work. I didn’t mind this, but for some reason I kept picturing this taking place in the Battlestar Gallactica world with a dash of Firefly thrown in. Thus I would have liked some more unique world building.

I really liked the ending and I didn’t see it coming and I can’t wait for the next one now (whenever that will be hahahah).

ARC Review – Another Day (Every Day #2) by David Levithan

23923007Title:  Another Day (Every Day #2)

Author: David Levithan

Rating:  ★★

Synopsis: In this enthralling companion to his New York Times bestseller Every Day, David Levithan (co-author of Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green) tells Rhiannon’s side of the story as she seeks to discover the truth about love and how it can change you.

Every day is the same for Rhiannon. She has accepted her life, convinced herself that she deserves her distant, temperamental boyfriend, Justin, even established guidelines by which to live: Don’t be too needy. Avoid upsetting him. Never get your hopes up.

Until the morning everything changes. Justin seems to see her, to want to be with her for the first time, and they share a perfect day—a perfect day Justin doesn’t remember the next morning. Confused, depressed, and desperate for another day as great as that one, Rhiannon starts questioning everything. Then, one day, a stranger tells her that the Justin she spent that day with, the one who made her feel like a real person . . . wasn’t Justin at all.

Huge thank you to Knopf Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am going to be in the minority here, but I didn’t want to see a Rhiannon story made. I thought Every Day was such a unique enough experience and that A’s perspective worked so well given it was about transformation. Still, I was curious about this and requested it any ways. As expected, it didn’t add very much toEvery Day, and while I get that it’s a companion, I didn’t feel like having events told from Rhiannon’s perspective were at all interesting, nor difference really.

I liked Rhiannon in Every Day, but in this novel she read so flatly, de-voided of any personality or any way to make a reader’s connection. I wanted to feel connected to her, but I couldn’t make it. Furthermore, I disliked her group of friends, and Justin once again drove me up the wall, but I feel like she stays with these people for really stupid reasons. These characters just lacked any sort of spark, and it made for such a tough reading experience because I feel like Rhiannon’s side of this story feels so empty and dull. There needs to be something that grabs the reader’s attention, and Rhiannon is just too shallow and bland a character for the story to feel like it has legs to stand on.

When the book was about her relationship with A and her meetings, those were still fascinating to read about. I still enjoyed the e-mail exchanges and the scene where A begs Rhiannon to come and help out this one girl still got me the way it did in Every Day. But I needed more of this and less about Rhiannon’s boring school adventures with crummy and uninteresting people, and that weighed more heavily than what I was wanting or expecting. At the end of the day even if I didn’t want this story, there’s a part of me that wishes it had been better than what I actually read — I didn’t want to be disappointed, just proven wrong.

Another Day was such a miss for me — it lacked the charm and presentation of Every Day that kept that book’s perspective unique and interesting to read. I generally love David Levithan’s stories, but Another Day was such a boring experience, and when it had highs of interesting moments, they were completely few and far between.