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Late to the Party ARC Review – The Clouded Sky (Earth & Sky #2) by Megan Crewe

23199305Title: The Clouded Sky (Earth & Sky #2)

Author: Megan Crewe

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: When seventeen-year-old Skylar escapes the time-bending Enforcers who secretly control Earth, her troubles have just begun. She and her friend Win take refuge on Win’s home space station with his fellow rebels, but the fate of Skylar’s planet still spins out of her control.

To avoid detection, Skylar poses as the Earthling “pet” of Win’s rival, an arrogant boy named Jule. Homesick and faced with a cool reception from the other rebels, she throws herself into the group’s mission: assembling a weapon to disable Earth’s restrictive time field. Gradually, Skylar’s skill for detail gains respect—even from Jule, who is more vulnerable than he lets on.

Yet challenges spring from every side. Not only must Sky navigate the muddy waters of romance, but suspicions of betrayal grow among the rebels as their work narrowly misses sabotage.

Huge thank you to Amazon Skyscape and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I really enjoyed Earth & Sky when I had read it last year, and part of me felt I needed that second book right away. Funny enough how things change, because the sequel, The Clouded Sky took me forever to get into — and it begins right where the last book leaves off!

I am struggling to put my finger on why I simply liked this sequel as opposed to loving it the way I did the first book. Part of it was I didn’t find myself instantly connected even though I still enjoyed these characters. I felt there was a bit too much going on, even though most of it was quite interesting. Weirdly this book felt more like a space thriller/mystery novel, and I liked and disliked that aspect. Again, it’s hard to put into words why this sequel didn’t entirely work for me.

I still love these characters, and I think the world building is still great. Being on Kemya the whole book was definitely quite the treat, and it was so fascinating the amount of detail Crewe put into the world. I still appreciate that the characters are in fact aliens and not just aliens looking like humans. Still, the action packed pacing in there, there’s lots of intrigue, and it is a solid sequel. I’m still on board for the last book, but for the life of me I wish I could figure out why I liked and not loved this one!

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ARC Review – Sparkers by Eleanor Glewwe

18762479Title:  Sparkers

Author: Eleanor Glewwe

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Marah Levi is a promising violinist who excels at school and can read more languages than most librarians. Even so, she has little hope of a bright future: she is a sparker, a member of the oppressed lower class in a society run by magicians.

Then a mysterious disease hits the city of Ashara, turning its victims’ eyes dark before ultimately killing them. As Marah watches those whom she loves most fall ill, she finds an unlikely friend in Azariah, a wealthy magician boy. Together they pursue a cure in secret, but more people are dying every day, and time is running out. Then Marah and Azariah make a shocking discovery that turns inside-out everything they thought they knew about magic and about Ashara, their home. 

Set in an imaginative world rich with language, lore, and music, this gripping adventure plunges the reader into the heart of a magical government where sparks of dissent may be even more deadly than the dark eyes.

Huge thank you to Razorbill Canada/Viking Juvenile for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I knew zero about Sparkers going into it other than it was a middle grade fantasy adventure. However, having finished it, I feel like that is only a partial description. This book is incredibly dark for a middle grade read and it takes some very unexpected turns — some that work incredibly well, and some that feel a touch awkward given the movement of the narrative.

First off, I loved that this story dealt with social justice issues and racism and made them such approachable topics for a middle grade audience. The moral choices and issues presented are very complex and rich without being overcomplicated or preachy. It helps, of course, that the novel is supported by a (mostly) excellent cast of characters.

Marah in particular, is vibrant, full of life and is someone with the desire to help others before herself. Although she’s selfless, her fatal flaw is that she’s very naive as well. She’s a heroine I think a lot of readers regardless of age will appreciate simply because of the traits she possesses and how Glewwe weaves them into the story. Furthermore, I was surprised with the amount of death that occurs in the book, something that often feels uncommon in middle grade, and the deaths that did occur were very well done.

This book did take me awhile to get into, if only because it’s a very slow burn and it needs to build its world and give just enough detail for the reader to be able to visualize it. However, sometimes I felt there was too little in terms of detail and I didn’t always feel like I could visualize the world Glewwe was painting. The book also pulled a here’s a villain in the last forty pages or so who is super evil and POOF! he’s gone, which I did not like. It felt rushed and simply anti-climatic, even though the twist surrounding said character was pretty solid. I think after the twist I was just expecting more than I got, making the ending feel a little cop outtish for me.

I think Sparkers is still a great debut middle grade novel and I think middle graders who love and dig fantasy will definitely find something to enjoy here. There’s simplicity in the writing and the story is easy to follow. I really loved the social issues in this book and I think they were the strongest aspect of the story, along with the characters, and those two reasons alone do make Sparkers a worthwhile book to check out.

ARC Review – I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

20820994Title:  I’ll Give You the Sun

Author: Jandy Nelson

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

Huge thank you to Dial Books for Young Readers/Razorbill Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I’ll admit, I’m one of the few folks out there who hasn’t read The Sky is Everywhere. After completing this book, I realized what it is about Jandy Nelson’s work that people enjoy so much: the woman knows how to tell an intricate, believable, and emotionally gripping story. I was completely swept away with both Jude and Noah’s narratives that I had a hard time putting this down, and I admit, I had to put it down a few times.

The thing about I’ll Give You Sun is that it’s not a read you can do in one sitting. The plot is very carefully crafted, and it often made me stop and reflect on a lot of what I was reading. There’s so much going on in the story that it is easy to feel overwhelmed or even a touch lost. The writing is beautiful, it’s engaging, but perhaps the book is even a touch over-written? I found I had a hard time at first with Nelson’s style (and a hard time believing Noah was thirteen based on how the book was written) and yet once I got into the style and understood how the story and pace was going to move, I found I was able to push through it all. There’s a challenging book here and I feel like it’s not something that is going to grab every reading — the style is unique and it really feels like you’ll either love it or hard it without much in between.

But damn that story. I loved these characters and for me, Jude and Noah’s trials and tribulations felt so real, so sad, and it’s easy to become emotionally invested in their lives. How do you go from being together forever to so far a part? There’s this style that twins have an intense connection, and Nelson really gives you that sense throughout the story. Nelson always keeps her reading thinking and as mysteries are unravelled, the more you realize the amount of threads in this story’s web. I admit a lot of the book and the connections really surprised me! And it’s no like these surprises felt out of the blue either, there’s such a gentle build about it that it’s easy to second guess yourself.

I hope more people check I’ll Give You the Sun out when it releases, because I think it’s a fantastic look at family, life, death, love and separation. Jude and Noah never feel whole, and it’s really heartbreaking. But, they are both so easy to connect to, that you want to see (or hope) that they will come back to each other in the end. I won’t spoil it obviously, but the journey this story presents is certainly worth taking.

Blog Tour – The Art of Getting Stared At by Laura Langston (Review)

22393838Title:  The Art of Getting Started At

Author: Laura Langston

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Sloane is given the biggest opportunity of her life—a chance for a film school scholarship—but she only has less than two weeks to produce a video. She also has to work with Isaac Alexander, an irresponsible charmer with whom she shares an uneasy history.

Then comes a horrifying discovery: Sloane finds a bald spot on her head. The pink patch, no bigger than a quarter, shouldn’t be there. Neither should the bald spots that follow. Horror gives way to devastation when Sloane is diagnosed with alopecia areata. The autoimmune disease has no cause, no cure and no definitive outcome. The spots might grow over tomorrow or they might be there for life. She could become completely bald. No one knows.

Determined to produce her video and keep her condition secret, Sloane finds herself turning into the kind of person she has always mocked: someone obsessed with their looks. She’s also forced to confront a painful truth: she is as judgmental as anyone else … but she saves the harshest judgments for herself.

Huge thank you to Razorbill Canada for this ARC and opportunity to participate in this blog tour.


Before I begin this post, Laura Langston and Razorbill Canada asked each of the blog tour participants the following question:  What’s the one thing you wish you could tell your teenage self about self image/body image?

I would tell myself that it’s okay to be an individual. In high school I was always afraid to wear what I wanted because I had a strong desire to fit in. It was so stupid too because at the end of the day, what did it really matter? I shouldn’t have been afraid to be myself, and I was. I loved my tube socks (they went great with my uniform infractions), I adored my side ponytails, and you know what? I would tell myself it’s okay to love me as well. Seriously, I loved this book and it has so many wonderful and beautiful messages. Be yourself, love yourself, and be fearless. 


Sam’s Review:

This is a difficult novel to read, and one I think many may have to be in the right mindset for. I think The Art of Getting Stared At is a rich story that deals with illness and body image, and does it in such a way that it’s easy to relate to, but also something to reflect on.

When Sloane is diagnosed with alopecia, she becomes what she hates. Sloane is someone who didn’t care about appearances or body image, but with her new circumstances, she becomes completely self-concious of the world around her. Sloane is an easy character to relate to — the discomfort that people are judging you, the fear of eyes all over you, it’s no wonder a lot of her personality takes such a drastic shift from the beginning of the novel. She’s very imperfect as well, and I think that is what I enjoyed most about her characterization: she judges others only to learn that if you judge others, expect to be judged in return.

Seriously, a lot of this book is about her transformation and character development. Sloane is not an approachable narrator, but she’s one that if you stick with, you learn a surprising amount from. Sloane also has to fight with her diseases and the world around her, so it was amazing to watch her grow and transform.

I did think Breanne was an odd character in the story. She is so mean and yet I don’t see what her point or deal was. Likewise, I was fine with the romance in this novel, but I didn’t entirely care for Isaac initially. Towards the end though, his character really grew on me and I could see the genuine care he had for Sloane and her project. The parental relationships were really done well in this story, and I had an insane amount of sympathy for Sloane’s step-mother, Kim. More than I thought I would because her characterization is someone who if I met them in real life, they’d probably drive me crazy. Still, the development between Sloane and Kim and how they finally connect together was perfect.

The Art of Getting Stared At is a fantastic look at body image, relationships, and the emotionally struggle of physical change. It’s a very thoughtful read and one that stays engaging throughout. This book is worth checking out if you’re interested in stories that deal with illness and overcoming personal struggles. I loved reading this book and despite some of my few complaints, I think it’s such an important story, and one that takes an overdone topic and makes it quite refreshing to read about.

ARC Review – All Four Stars by Tara Dairman

13598351Title:  All Four Stars

Author: Tara Dairman

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Gladys Gatsby has dreamed of becoming a restaurant critic for New York’s biggest newspaper–she just didn’t expect to be assigned her first review at age 11. Now, if she wants to meet her deadline and hang on to her dream job, she’ll have to defy her fast-food-loving parents, cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy, and battle Manhattan’s meanest maitre d’.

Huge thank you to Razorbill CA/Putnam for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Sometimes you read a book and it just makes you so darn happy. All Four Stars is that book — the one you read that is cute, funny, and with just the right level of spunk. Gladys is adorkable and not your average eleven year old. Let’s face it, not every eleven year out is watching the Food Network and trying to make their own unique creations… unless you’re those kids from MasterChef Junior, than you are just amazing.

But reading this book makes you hungry. This book is also a foodie’s dream because it makes reference to all kinds of high profile ingredients, cooking techniques, recipe substitutions, and I found that completely fascinating as someone who is a nervous cook. G;adys is cheeky and so invested in her hobby and I appreciate her portrayal because she isn’t a child who behaves like an adult, she is very much a kid. I also loved her friendship with Sandy, and who am I kidding/ I just loved Sandy. He’s such a cutie and I loved that he thought Gladdy wanted to cookie his pet bunnies. They have a very sweet friendship, which made me SO HAPPY. There was also so much humour with some of the other characters, and just, this book is FUN.

There was one element in this book I disliked, and that was the portrayal of Gladys’ parents. I found it really odd that they didn’t want to nurture her cooking gifts and feed into her creativity. I disliked that they treated her as though she was abnormal. They just felt unrealistic in sections of the book. Don’t get me wrong, burning curtains, I’d be upset too, but how they handled it? I’m not so sure. Some of how they reacted was justified, other times her parents just felt silly in ways they shouldn’t have. Meanwhile the other adults worked well in the story, I quite loved Mrs. Anderson and Ms. Quincy and loved their positive energy and encouragement.

Other than that one bit, this book is enjoyable and sosososo much fun. It’ll make you hungry, but if you love food and words, you’ll devour this book without much trouble. Check this one out!

Late to the Party ARC Review – Dreamwood by Heather Mackey

18667913Title:  Dreamwood

Author: Heather Mackey

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Lucy Darrington has no choice but to run away from boarding school. Her father, an expert on the supernatural, has been away for too long while doing research in Saarthe, a remote territory in the Pacific Northwest populated by towering redwoods, timber barons, and the Lupine people. But upon arriving, she learns her father is missing: Rumor has it he’s gone in search of dreamwood, a rare tree with magical properties that just might hold the cure for the blight that’s ravaging the forests of Saarthe.

Determined to find her father (and possibly save Saarthe), Lucy and her vexingly stubborn friend Pete follow William Darrington’s trail to the deadly woods on Devil’s Thumb. As they encounter Lupine princesses, giant sea serpents, and all manner of terrifying creatures, Lucy hasn’t reckoned that the dreamwood itself might be the greatest threat of all.

Huge thank you to Razorbill Canada/Putnam for this ARC!

Sam’s Review: 

Dreamwood is gorgeous, mysterious, and creepy. Just one look at the book’s cover and you get a sense that the world in this novel is beautiful yet deadly. Heather Mackey’s debut about a girl seeking the mystery behind her father’s disappearance and his fascination with the Devil’s wood, is a surprisingly rich and inviting novel to read.

I think what I loved about this novel is how much the mystery sucks you in. Like Lucy, Mackey makes the reader want to discovery the mysteries behind the dreamwood and why people fear its power. Furthermore, she provides minimal hints, only revealing so much at a time. When big reveals in this book happen, more questions generally follow.

I loved how inviting the characters were in this novel, particularly Lucy and Pete. I love how they are developed and the subtleness in there characterization works well here. Also this begins as a boarding school novel (which, I am a sucker for), and develops into so much more. Also the descriptions in this book are so beautifully written that I found myself sighing and rereading parts happily because Mackey made it so easy to feel immersed in this world. Also this book is creepy, has killer trees, ominous vegetation, and to me the descriptions just fed into how vivid this world is.

Dreamwood is a book you read if you want to get lost in a world unlike your own. It’s thoughtful, beautiful, deadly, and it makes you want to follow the path of Lucy and Pete and uncover the larger picture. I really cannot wait to see what Heather Mackey writes next because Dreamwood is fantastic.

ARC Review – Chasing the Milky Way by Erin E. Moulton

18371361Title:  Chasing the Milky Way

Author: Erin E. Moulton

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Lucy Peevy has a dream–to get out of the trailer park she lives in and become a famous scientist. And she’s already figured out how to do that: Build a robot that will win a cash prize at the BotBlock competition and save it for college. But when you’ve got a mama who doesn’t always take her meds, it’s not easy to achieve those goals. Especially when Lucy’s mama takes her, her baby sister Izzy, and their neighbor Cam away in her convertible, bound for parts unknown. But Lucy, Izzy and Cam are good at sticking together, and even better at solving problems. But not all problems have the best solutions, and Lucy and Izzy must face the one thing they’re scared of even more than Mama’s moods: living without her at all.

Huge thank you to Razorbill CA/Philomel for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Chasing the Milky Way may be one of the best stories I’ve read that deals with mental illness as a prime focus. The book follows Lucy, a budding scientist at the age of twelve, who has to grow up a little faster than the other kids because her Mama isn’t quite all there. Refusing to take her meds, and being… all out frustrating, Lucy questions what it means to dream, when her reality is something she is struggling to change where and now.

I loved reading about the relationship between Lucy, Mama and Grammie. Throughout the books you’d get these italicized bits that really looked deeper into how these three woman all co-existed, especially Grammie and Mama in the treatment and raising of Lucy. There’s so much emotion within these sections, especially the fighting and aggression. Lucy functions as an observer throughout the text, and she’s watching her Mama come a part at the seams. It’s heartbreaking and raw, and I think many of us understand and have been in this kind of situation — sometimes you just never know how you should respond.

I think what I equally loved about this book is the maturity aspect. This is a middle grade novel, but it’s one that feels light-years ahead in terms of the overall themes and concepts. Lucy is very intelligent and mature for her age, yet she responds in the way any twelve year old might when encountering mental illness — she attempts to rationalize it. But coming to terms with mental illness is never that simple, and I love how Lucy tries to find logic in her situation when there’s no easy way to respond to it. All her feelings are so real and that made the connection is.

And then there’s Mama. So frustrating and aggravating, and even hateful at times. There were moments where I should have hated her — hated the treatment of her daughter and mother, and yet I couldn’t. I just couldn’t hate this woman with good conscience because of her desperation — her need for help but her lack of acceptance and will to find it. There are so many people like this, and you always want to hope that they do get the help they rightfully need, but it’s not as simple as we think it is, and the book does an amazing job illustrating that point.

I was captured by Chasing the Milky Way from the very first page. Erin E. Moulton has crafted some wonderfully real characters who feel so human in how they respond to the world around them. Lucy is the kind of dreamer where you want all the good to happen to her, and the ending is so bitter sweet that when you get there, there’s almost this sigh of relief. This is one emotionally little book and one middle grade read that definitely should be on your radar.

Also Lucy wants to build robots. BEST CHILD EVER.