Tag Archives: strange chemistry

Sad News About Strange Chemistry + Giveaway

17345314I’ve heard sad news from all over the blogosphere that Strange Chemistry/Angry Robot is officially no more as a publisher. What breaks my heart moreover is yesterday I posted a review for the second Soul Eater book by Eliza Crewe and none of you will likely be able to read it unless it gets saved or self-published.

My friend Katharine @ Ventureadlaxre is hosting a giveaway where you can win copies of Laura Lam’s fantastic novels, Pantomime and its sequel Shadowplay. I decided I’m going to join her in this endeavour. These were my two favourite books published by Strange Chemistry and while I am sad about the publisher being no more, I want people to still read these books.15797050

So I am offering up to one winner a paperback copy of both Cracked & Pantomime. This giveaway is open Internationally as long as the Book Depository ships to your country. Remember there’s plenty of SC authors out there so support them by buying eBooks or paperbacks of their work while they still exist at this time. Meda and Micah’s stories may be some of my favourites, but this was a fantastic publisher with some other great authors who were a part of it. Please support them in any way you can. If you run a giveaway, let me know and we can spread the support together!

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ARC Review – Crushed (Soul Eaters #2) by Eliza Crewe

20758278Title: Crushed (Soul Eaters #2)

Author: Eliza Crewe

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Meda Melange has officially hung up her monstrous mantle and planted her feet firmly on the holy and righteous path of a Crusader-in-training. Or, at least, she’s willing to give it a shot. It helps that the Crusaders are the only thing standing between her and the demon hordes who want her dead.

After all, everyone knows a good girl’s greatest weakness is a bad boy.The problem is, the only people less convinced than Meda of her new-found role as Good Girl are the very Crusaders she’s trying to join. So when a devilishly handsome half-demon boy offers escape, how’s a girl supposed to say “no?”

Huge thank you to Strange Chemistry and Netgalley!

Sam’s Review:

You know what I love about this series? It’s blunt, gorey, and absolutely dripping with sarcasm. There’s nothing more interesting or engaging than an assassin/demon that actually follows through on their urges. I get so sick of romantic plotlines in YA where it’s like “omg I am a demon/werewolf/vampire/whatever and we are from different worlds, but I love you!” nonsense. That doesn’t exist in the Soul Eaters series, as Meda and Co. are exactly who they are and want you to take them at face value. Huge props to Eliza Crewe for creating a memorable cast of characters who don’t fall into bad stereotypes.

But series, Meda is fantastic. She’s sarcastic, sure of herself, and even when she makes a mistake, she rolls with it. While she isn’t much for positives, you read this because Meda is a narrator who tells it like it is: no sugarcoating, no lies, just blunt truths that ooze with sarcasm. This series is fun, and this book was just as good as the first because the action was solid, the writing was so focused, and the humor was just spot on.

I’m not going to spoilt his book for those interested because it builds right off the first one, but I love how much the secondary characters like Jo evolved. I loved the friendships between the characters, and I loved that the friendships were built on some violence, some truths, lots of humor and can I just say how awesome this book is for its female friendships? So good.

Plus, Meda is a demon who KILLS! I appreciate that she fits the bill of who she is. Also I love how she has to cope with the fact that she’s not allowed to eat people because she’s stuck with the Crusaders, and I’m just going to keep fangirling. This series isfun with the right amount of complexity and humour. Seriously, you’ll love Meda and friends. They are just so cracktastically awesome, and I keep hoping even with that ending that perhaps there will be more in the Soul Eaters universe. Read this series — it’s fantastic.

ARC Review – The Wizard’s Promise by Cassandra Rose Clarke

17790234Title: The Wizard’s Promise

Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: All Hanna Euli wants is to become a proper witch – but unfortunately, she’s stuck as an apprentice to a grumpy fisherman. When their boat gets caught up in a mysterious storm and blown wildly off course, Hanna finds herself further away from home than she’s ever been before.

As she tries to get back, she learns there may be more to her apprentice master than she realized, especially when a mysterious, beautiful, and very non-human boy begins following her through the ocean, claiming that he needs Hanna’s help.

Huge thank you to Strange Chemistry and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I really enjoyed Clarke’s The Assassin’s Curse duology. It had a lot of my favourite, excluded elements in fantasy, particularly pirates, sailing the high seas AS a pirate, and a kick butt heroine who becomes a pirate-assassin. The Wizard’s Promise definitely shares quite a number of elements with its big sister, and while I wasn’t sold immediately, Clarke really has a way of building a story.

The Wizard’s Promise is slow. In fact, it took me about 30% for I found myself really engaging with the story. It has a lot it has to establish right away, something that will break even the most patient reader, but implore you — it’s worth sticking with to see how Clarke builds the world, crafts her characters, and the last 25% percent of this book, where hell really breaks lose, it’s quite the delightful, if eerie romp.

I feel like I’m not doing a the best job of representing this book, but it really is going to be one of those novels that will have a very polarizing affect. In one sense, how do you keep reader’s going when your beginning is molasses slow? How do I compel people to get to that last 25% which really makes the story shine? You can’t ask that of every reader.

Clark’e prose is stunning. She has this way of articulating her descriptions that just makes me shiver. Everything is vivid, so easy to visualize, and I feel like since a good chunk of this novel takes place on the high seas, that she’s trying to play to our inner-pirate’s again, which is fine by me. I wasn’t entirely sold on the characters right away, but Hanna grew on me. She wants to be a full-fledged wind witch, and she has so much persistence in what she wants. She never gives up, never lets people tell her she can’t — we need more of this in YA. She’s definitely hard-headed, but her supporting cast really helps keep her in check for most of the story.
However, she is entitled, a bit bratty, but it worked for me because when she had her ass handed to her, it was handed hard. Really, it was the supporting cast and their issues that kept a lot of the novel fresh for me. No love triangle, though the male cast was quite entertaining in how they handled Hanna’s behavior at times.

Admittedly, there were times where the book took it’s dear sweet time to where it was going, and sometimes I found myself engaged, other times I was screaming to get one with it. The best way to approach The Wizard’s Promise is to have patience, because isn’t the most smooth of sailing from start to finish. However, the events that do transpire are both scary and clever that I have to handle it to Cassandra Rose Clarke for including those moments, in what mostly felt like a long introduction. I do hope the pacing issues get ironed out for book two, because I am interested in seeing where Hanna’s adventure will take her next.

ARC Review – Stolen Songbird (The Malediction Trilogy, #1) by Danielle L. Jensen

17926775Title:  Stolen Songbird (The Malediction Trilogy, #1)

Author: Danielle L. Jensen

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Netgalley and Strange Chemistry for this ARC.

The Stolen Songbird is an all right book for the most part. It suffers from some awkward pacing issues, on top of some equally interesting, if blandly written ideas. I think for a lot of readers either the writing style is going to grab you and you will adore it, or be like me, and just doesn’t feel as invested in it as I should be.

I think my issue with this book is that I wanted more from it. More characterization, less one dimensional, awkwardly described characters who have motive, yet the motive doesn’t feel exciting or even interesting. That’s not to say it was bad, but when the plot was on it was great, but this novel suffers from a lot of bloating, and parts of it felt longer than it should have been. I do love the overall story about the girl with the angelic voice set to break a curse and failing, and I loved that she is forced to live among the trolls and ultimately find out her true purpose. These story aspects were great! And the book even has moments where it’s genuinely funny (if a touch corny), and there are parts that shine and are even really fun.

Cecile and Tristan are also super cute together. They have a really strong relationship that starts off rather awkwardly and yet they behave like a real couple. They fight, argue, make up, and there’s nothing really insta-lovey about their relationship. I think it helps that the secondary characters are also well woven into the story and adds to this relationship further, making the reader care about the predicaments of the characters. I did find it a bit odd that this novel shifts points-of-view considering Cecile’s POV dominates over Tristan’s. I thought it was even odder that I’d read five Cecile POVs and then one Tristan and then the cycle would repeat itself. I wish in a lot of ways that was more consistent because a lot of the time I would forget when the POV with shift to Tristan, which I feel was unfair to his character.

The Stolen Songbird is a decent debut, but it’s stuck being a bloated and predictable read at times which can definitely suck away some enjoyment the reader might have. The world is interesting and the characters are interesting enough, but the writing just often leaves a enough to be desired, and I found I struggled to really invest myself in the narrative. With the right reader The Stolen Songbird could be a real hit, but for me, it fell flat in too many places for it to be something I’d easily recommend.

ARC Review – The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare by M.G. Buehrlen

17878473Title: The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare

Author: M.G. Buehrlen

 

Rating: ★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Fifty-six lifetimes to explore: the prospect is irresistible to Alex, especially when the same mysterious boy with soulful blue eyes keeps showing up in each of them. But the more she descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone doesn’t want Alex to travel again. Ever.

And will stop at nothing to make this life her last.

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Strange Chemistry and Netgalley for this advance reader copy.

I feel like based on the synopsis that this book would have been right up my alley. The problem with The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare is that it’s going to be a very polarizing read for most lovers of young adult.

I’m throwing this out there, but this book is beautifully written, right down to it’s detailed and intricately written descriptions and use of imagery. However, there’s beautifully written and then there is beautifully written but going nowhere. That really is how I am going to sum up my feelings about this book because it has such a fabulous premise, but the size of it hinders the story more than develops it.

I get frustrated sometimes with larger books because you want to hope that everything within the texts fits and its something important to the plot or makes the readers want to turn pages. For example, in a series like Game of Thrones the reason that those books are such page turners is because (for the most part) there is always something happening. While this may be an unfair comparison for Alex Wayfare, I feel like because a good chunk of this is flashback, it gets harder to invest oneself in where the real narrative is moving. I had so many moments where I found myself saying something was fantastically done or very clever, because Alex is a heroine who gets crap done. On the other side of the coin, however, there are so many parts of this book that drag and often feel as if it’s going nowhere, and that really saddens me. I don’t mind reading a large book, but give me substance that makes me want to turn the pages.

I had a hard time with a lot of the side characters. I never felt connected to them or care about what they were doing. Alex, I had moments where I loved and cheered for her, and other moments where I was smacking my face into a desk because of hos idiotic she’d behave. She’s a very polarizing heroine in this sense because you feel like she’s balanced, but her flaws don’t feel as fleshed out as they could be.

So in the end, I’m torn and confused by Alex Wayfare it’s a great idea that really could have been cut down by a number of pages. It’s one that I’d recommend requesting from the library or reading an expert before making a decision because I feel like with the right reader, it could be an amazing experience for them. Unfortunately for me, I was clearly the wrong reader in the end for this timeslip.

ARC Review – The Almost Girl by Amalie Howard

17397481Title:  The Almost Girl

Author: Amalie Howard

Rating: ★

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Riven is as tough as they come. Coming from a world ravaged by a devastating android war, she has to be. There’s no room for softness, no room for emotion, no room for mistakes. A Legion General, she is the right hand of the young Prince of Neospes, a parallel universe to Earth. In Neospes, she has everything: rank, responsibility and respect. But when Prince Cale sends her away to find his long-lost brother, Caden, who has been spirited back to modern day Earth, Riven finds herself in uncharted territory.

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Strange Chemistry and Netgalley for the advance copy of this book.

I should learn not to force myself to finish books if I am not enjoying them. There’s a part of me that says “Well, may be it will change its tune and get better.” I always try to give the benefit of the doubt if it’s an author I’ve never read before.

The Almost Girl‘s premise is misleading, and with good reason: the book is completely all over the place. It never finds its set tone and has such convoluted world-building. Truthfully, I never understood even as I was reading why I should care about the high school aspects in what was labelled a very futuristic story. The problem is, the futuristic side of the story is just so messy and all over the place that its hard to tell really what kind of story Howard was trying to tell.

A lot of what happens in this novel, despite being confusing sometimes, is also strangely familiar and easily predictable. Riven is special, then not special, then special, and the cycle simply repeats itself. In fact, I had a lot of problems with Riven. She comes across flat, one dimensional and just plain boring to read through the eyes of. She also suffers from insane melodrama based on everything she comes into contact with. I’m fine with melodrama, but we get so much back and forth with macguffin reasons behind her sister’s “death”, the relationship she has with her and her family, and Howard gives too much of the run around without good reason for it.

I struggled because these characters didn’t make me care about their causes. In a lot of situations I found myself shaking my head at all the insta-love and forced flaws on the characters. They never felt genuine, and if anything they were boring and uninspired. I didn’t care about Shae and Riven’s relationship, I didn’t care about the romance, I was mad that the story gave me nothing to get invested in.

And then there is the writing. It’s flat on all sides, no matter which way you slice it. I’ve heard great things about Howard’s writing, particularly her description, but this book made me feel so lost sometimes, and to the point where I was frustrated more than anything. I wanted more from this world and these characters! The pacing in this book moves at lightning speeds though I felt lost when one minute I was in high school and the next in futuristic-land. There’s no ease in the change of scenes which bothered me as well.

This cover is so beautiful, yet the contents inside are for a special kind of reader. One who’s okay with suspension of disbelief. I’m usually fine with that, but this book never felt like it had a genuine stride and I never found myself caring about the contents within it. I just can’t recommend The Almost Girl — the writing is dull, the characters are flat, and the plot is too messy to make sense of.

ARC Review – Shadowplay by Laura Lam

17694650

Title:  Shadowplay

Author: Laura Lam

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: The circus lies behind Micah Grey in dust and ashes.

He and the white clown, Drystan, take refuge with the once-great
magician, Jasper Maske. When Maske agrees to teach them his trade, his embittered rival challenges them to a duel which could decide all of their fates. People also hunt both Micah and the person he was before the circus–the runaway daughter of a noble family. And Micah discovers there is magic and power in the world, far beyond the card tricks and illusions he’s perfecting…

A tale of phantom wings, a clockwork hand, and the delicate unfurling of new love, Shadowplay continues Micah Grey’s extraordinary journey.

Sam’s Review: 

Huge thank you to Strange Chemistry and Netgalley for allowing me to review this book in advance.
I adored Pantomime and it was easily one of the best reads I encountered this year. Shadowplay it’s direct sequel, might be just as amazing as its predecessor. With Micah and Drystan having left the circus in ashes, they begin a new journey at each other’s side.

Micah has some major growth in this story. So much so that it’s easy to continue to love his thought process for how he views the world around him. While in Pantomime he seems more innocent, in Shadowplay Micah moves into the role of the experienced, showing less fear than he once felt. I also love the relationship growth between Drystan and Micah and I think Lam writes them to be such a sweet, I-would-do-anything-for-you couple without making them excessive. They are still individuals, just as much as they are a couple. Those are my favourite types of relationships.

Sadly though, Micah got dethroned as my favourite character in this book. Shocking, I know, considering how much fangirling I did in the first book. Cyan completely won me over and stole my heart. She faces so many trials and tribulations, but she’s so easy to root for. She’s not always likable in the way that Micah is, but I appreciate her tougher exterior. Cyan is so complex, yet her motivations with and against Micah are so well integrated into the novel. I love her and I hope she comes back at some point.

Once again I have to praise the atmosphere of Lam’s work. She has this way of making readers feel so deeply connected to her characters and the world they inhabit. Everything has ebb and flow, there’s no kinks along the way that transport you out of what you’re reading. She also handles gender and gender identity issues with such wonderful ease, making them comfortable like a warm blanket.

And then there are the Shadows. Stalking Micah and Drystan, yet never knowing where they actually are. The Shadows are genuinely creepy, and I know as I was reading whenever they appeared or were mentioned I felt uneasiness. We also learn about Micah’s feature as a chimera, something I hope gets explored more because there’s pockets of information, but never the full story.

Lam once again gives readers a wonderfully woven, extensively smart novel that handles topics of sexuality, discrimination and transition with such ease. It’s so easy to fall in love with her characters and follow their lives — they always give you just enough information to pull the reader along, but always with a sense of gentleness. I loved Shadowplay as much as I lovedPantomime, if not more, and I look forward to seeing where Micah’s adventure lead him.

Although with that ending? It’ll be interesting to see where things go.