Tag Archives: time travel

Late to the Party ARC Review – Invictus by Ryan Graudin

Title: Invictus

Author: Ryan Graudin

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past. 

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.

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

Sam’s Review:

So, epic fail on my part. I got this book last year around the time it released and somehow only got to it this year. I LOVED Wolf by Wolfand it’s sequel by Ryan Graudin, and I was so excited to read this and yet it slipped my mind. What’s not to love about a story that focuses on time travel and being a space pirate?

Invictus is such a different beast from Graudin’s other books, especially given that a lot of her previous titles were historical fiction. I admit, this book took me a lot longer to get into because it was science fiction, and I found the first hundred pages to be a bit on the slow side. There’s a lot being explained and developed, which normally I don’t mind, but in this case I found it challenging given I was expecting a similar style of writing that wasn’t here. It’s the same with the characters — I didn’t enjoy them right off the bat and it took pages upon pages before I truly found myself engaged with them as people.

I will say, I did enjoy the science fiction elements a lot. I think what I enjoyed the most was Graudin’s treatment of Invictus, giving the ship such a wonderful personality. I loved the way in which the cast was over protective of her, and even in times of crisis it was all about the damn ship. I liked that! I appreciate and love space stories where the ship feels like a character and one with great importance. Made me think of Firefly in some ways. I also loved the jumping through history element of the novel. I think it was done in such an accessible and approachable way for readers who may not entirely be history buffs.

I am happy I finally read Invictus. It’s no Wolf by Wolf and it was ill of me to expect the same caliber of work. I think this is novel that stands well on its own, and it’s definitely for lighter science fiction fans. I think this is a rough first “space” science fiction novel, but I am still so curious if Graudin will come back to this universe or attempt science fiction again. There’s a lot of good in this novel, and I think for me the issue I had were more my own than the book itself.

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ARC Review – Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson

Title: Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach

Author: Kelly Robson

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Discover a shifting history of adventure as humanity clashes over whether to repair their ruined planet or luxuriate in a less tainted pass.

In 2267, Earth has just begun to recover from worldwide ecological disasters. Minh is part of the generation that first moved back up to the surface of the Earth from the underground hells, to reclaim humanity’s ancestral habitat. She’s spent her entire life restoring river ecosystems, but lately the kind of long-term restoration projects Minh works on have been stalled due to the invention of time travel. When she gets the opportunity take a team to 2000 BC to survey the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, she jumps at the chance to uncover the secrets of the shadowy think tank that controls time travel technology.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Walking around the Ontario Library Association Super Conference, I tend to pick up a lot of random titles. While I was stopping over at Raincoast, Kelly Robson was beginning to sign her latest, Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach. I had zero idea what it was about and I had to know what tis “lucky peach” was. I also didn’t realize that Kelly Robson was married to a sci-fi author I love, A.M Dellamonica.

This delightful piece of candy reading is about time travel, octopus, and an ecological crisis. Minh, our protagonist, is tasked with reclaiming humanity’s ancestral habitat, Earth. Earth is no longer as habitable as it once was, and her group of merry companions are the last hope in changing the world for the better. For such a short novel, I loved how it was written. It had a great pace, the characters were fairly entertaining given how little time is spent on each one. The story next felt confusing or bloated, and it moved at such a brisk pace.

I liked that there were two stories at work and I enjoyed how they both connected in the end. The story at the beginning of each chapter with the battle between gods and monsters was just so interesting, and part of me wishes we had that story on it’s own as well. The other half, Minh’s story is very technology focused, and Robson’s take on time travel is a lot of fun.

I am crazy glad I read this, and knowing that Robson has other short stories to check out as me very excited. There was a lot to love in this story given how short it was, and the journey to finding out “the lucky peach” was pretty fun in itself. I would highly recommend checking out this novella, especially if you like time travel stories, when it releases in March.

ARC Review – A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith

27414389Title: A Darkly Beating Heart

Author: Lindsay Smith

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: No one knows what to do with Reiko. She is full of hatred. All she can think about is how to best hurt herself and the people closest to her. After a failed suicide attempt, Reiko’s parents send her from their Seattle home to spend the summer with family in Japan to learn to control her emotions. But while visiting Kuramagi, a historic village preserved to reflect the nineteenth-century Edo period, Reiko finds herself slipping back in time into the life of Miyu, a young woman even more bent on revenge than Reiko herself. Reiko loves being Miyu, until she discovers the secret of Kuramagi village, and must face down Miyu’s demons as well as her own.

Huge thank you to Macmillan for sending me an ARC of this book for review!

Molly’s Review:

Okay, so I know that this book doesn’t come out until October, but I HAD to read it as soon as I got it. For those of you who DON’T know, I lived in Japan for seven years and I generally find a lot of issues with YA books set in Japan. I’ve kinda taken it upon myself to read them and pick them apart. So I went into this book both excited and leary because I don’t believe that the author has actually lived or even spent a significant amount of time LIVING in Japan (I did read her author’s note and she went there for a vacation, I know).

That said I REALLY enjoyed this book. This is the story of a troubled Japanese-American girl who goes to Japan to stay with her Uncle and cousin while she tries to work out her issues. She’s waiting to hear back from colleges and planning her own perfect revenge against… well you find out later on who and why, but for most of the book you just get glimpses at those who wronged her.

Reiko is an angry girl. She’s a cutter (trigger warning) and she spends A LOT of time thinking about how she’s going to kill herself and get revenge on her ex-girlfriend, brother, parents, and later this extends to her cousin and friends. We find out that Reiko had a passionate relationship with a girl named Chloe who unleashed Reiko’s dark artistic side. Reiko is swept up in Chloe’s orbit and does thing that she normally wouldn’t, which later gets her into a lot of trouble.

While in Japan Reiko works for her Uncle’s web design company and spends time with her cousin and the other employees who are also employed by the cousin, Akiko, who is trying to become a J-Pop idol. Akiko has her own lifestyle brand that she’s trying to sell via her youtube channel, blog, cell phone novel and website. The other employees are basically her entourage as she tries to find ways to get her name out there. And Akiko’s boyfriend, who is a washed up idol himself, gets Akiko a gig at a culture festival in a remote Japanese village.

So the group travels to Kuramagi village where Reiko is swept away to another time, the Edo period, where she inhabits the body of a young woman who is filled with her own rage and revenge plots. Reiko loves being in Miyu’s body and feeling all of Miyu’s hate. At first, when Reiko time travels, she thinks that her antidepressants are making her crazy and she gets rid off them. But we later find out that something much more sinister is happening, something that happens every year at the festival, something that the village is desperately trying to stop.

So the story was good, I really enjoyed it. As for the writing I thought that the whole”I walk the path of vengeance, I must get my revenge” parts were a LITTLE heavy handed. Like, we got it, Reiko is angry. And while I liked the glimpses of what had happened, and we do get the full story by the end, I was sometimes frustrated that I didn’t have a full picture and was just filling in gaps and wasn’t quite sure if I was even right.

As for the Japanese aspects a lot of them were pitch perfect. My only two nitpicks are:

1. Why in the world did Smith keep using the world “pallet” for a futon!? This boggled my mind to no end. She uses TONS of Japanese words (well) in the text with either direct translation or translation that follows not too long after. But the entire time they were sleeping on “pallets”. And I really don’t see why the word futon wasn’t just used, defined, and then used for the rest of the book.

2. Names. In Japan it’s Surname followed by Given name. There are many different honorifics that are used much like Mr/Mrs, Sir/Ma’am etc. Usually these name conventions fall away around foreigners. In the group and at work they should have ALL been referring to each other by Last name + san. Instead they all use first names. I chalked this up to them being around Reiko and falling out of the convention because of her, but from my own experiences even around myself the Japanese people (especially while speaking Japanese) would not have used first names. So while Reiko was being called Reiko and using everyone’s first names, Akiko would NOT have been calling Kenji by his first name unless they were VERY good friends and even then she probably should have added “kun”.

And then in the Edo period it was very odd that everyone was again using first names. Especially for Miyu who was so hated. And she would not have called Jiro by his first name from the very start. I’m not even sure if she would have used it after they got closer.

So yeah, those were my only two real issues. The rest of the Japan stuff felt very authentic and true to my experiences as well as those around myself. I enjoyed that Smith didn’t get too heavy with the “weird” Japan and that she really seemed to have a grasp on the lifestyle brand culture that Akiko was going for. Major props.

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

I love books set in Japan despite having never visited. There’s always something very atmospheric and lore driven, which A Darkly Beating Heart follows to a tee. I loved how well put together the story was, I thought the characters were very interesting, and the use of time travel was something quite special given our heroine goes backwards in time.

I loved Reiko and I thought she was a great character. I feel like we get such a huge sense of her emotions, her desire for revenge, and how she is struggling to define her anger given her circumstances. I also loved the Miyu half, because I think it perfectly manifests angry and aggression in a way that feels almost symbolic given Miyu’s story. They were a neat fusion of characters, and I liked how Smith blended them together.

I also thought the way idol culture was presented was really interesting here. Aki comes across like quite the nutjob at times, but it’s because you spend a lot of the story seeing her as her brand rather than a person. She’s malicious and calculating at times, but it’s interesting because you see it more from her being a businesswoman than just that type of person outright. It also doesn’t help that certain characters really pander to her branding, which made for some great moments in the story. Personally, I liked Kazuo. He likes the PlayStation Vita, which makes me happy given that no one seems to love the Vita.

While I think the ending wraps up a bit too neatly, I do love this story and I think Smith has a knack for doing balanced research and transforming it into an interesting narrative. I loved reading her Author’s Note where she explains where her inspiration came from, as well as the extent of her research went. There’s a great sense of tension and emotion in A Darkly Beating Heart and if you love books that feel dark and mysterious, check this one out.

ARC Review – Once Was a Time by Leila Sales

25777460Title:  Once Was a Time

Author: Leila Sales

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: In the war-ravaged England of 1940, Charlotte Bromley is sure of only one thing: Kitty McLaughlin is her best friend in the whole world. But when Charlotte’s scientist father makes an astonishing discovery that the Germans will covet for themselves, Charlotte is faced with an impossible choice between danger and safety. Should she remain with her friend or journey to another time and place? Her split-second decision has huge consequences, and when she finds herself alone in the world, unsure of Kitty’s fate, she knows that somehow, some way, she must find her way back to her friend. Written in the spirit of classic time-travel tales, this book is an imaginative and heartfelt tribute to the unbreakable ties of friendship.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I adore Lelia Sales’ writing, though last year I admit my disappoint when it came to Tonight the Streets Are Ours. However, when I heard she was writing a middle grade novel, I had high hopes, and even higher expectations. I loved this book! In fact, I loved it so much I read it in a day.

This is a novel about time travel and friendship. More particularly can a friendship transcend through time and still survive. When Lottie jumps through a portal during a critical moment in time, she is transported to 2013. She spends a lot of time blaming herself into believing that the Nazi’s had murdered her best friend Kitty, and father. Interestingly, however, beyond this premise, this book has more to do with how a time traveler adapts to a new environment.

Lottie struggles a lot in this novel in regards to who she thinks she is, and who she perhaps wants to become in the “future.” I felt for her in the story, because trying to feel apart of a world that isn’t your own, it’s awkward and uncomfortable. There’s so much loneliness and isolation in this book as well, and even when Lottie makes friends, it never feels comfortable or “right.” I loved the relationship that Lottie forms with Miss Timms, the town’s librarian, and anytime she discussed funding cuts, and budget issues, my heart sank (as a library worker anytime you hear those words your heart sinks). But I loved their friendship and I loved how genuine it was, especially since Miss Timms encourages Lottie to try and find herself through the library. I also loved Lottie’s desire to read the whole Children’s Collection — a girl of my own heart.

I wanted to smack Dakota and friends throughout this book. Especially anytime they would coarse Lottie into bullying Jake. I was so sad Lottie kept caving to the peer-pressure, but I also loved how much of a wonderful friendship she strikes up with Jake! He’s such a darling character, full of energy and life, and being a kid like Jake who was bullied, I felt for her a lot during the story. The latter half of the novel where they are together in the search for Kitty was priceless, and I loved his level of encouragement. The ending made me cry like a baby, because it’s just so bittersweet and wonderful.

Once Was A Time is just such an enchanting novel that will tug at your feelings and hang on for dear life. It’s emotional, thoughtful, and very much a book-lover’s book as well. If you can suspend your disbelief and enjoy the small science fiction aspects within the story, then you’ll find a lot to enjoy here. I can’t wait to re-read this one in the future!

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.

 

ARC Review – The Girl from Everywhere (The Girl from Everywhere #1) by Heidi Heilig

21979832Title:  The Girl from Everywhere (The Girl from Everywhere #1)

Author: Heidi Heilig

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Heidi Heilig’s debut teen fantasy sweeps from modern-day New York City to nineteenth-century Hawaii to places of myth and legend. Sixteen-year-old Nix has sailed across the globe and through centuries aboard her time-traveling father’s ship. But when he gambles with her very existence, it all may be about to end. The Girl from Everywhere, the first of two books, will dazzle readers of Sabaa Tahir, Rae Carson, and Rachel Hartman.

Nix’s life began in Honolulu in 1868. Since then she has traveled to mythic Scandinavia, a land from the tales of One Thousand and One Nights, modern-day New York City, and many more places both real and imagined. As long as he has a map, Nix’s father can sail his ship, The Temptation, to any place, any time. But now he’s uncovered the one map he’s always sought—1868 Honolulu, before Nix’s mother died in childbirth. Nix’s life—her entire existence—is at stake. No one knows what will happen if her father changes the past. It could erase Nix’s future, her dreams, her adventures . . . her connection with the charming Persian thief, Kash, who’s been part of their crew for two years. If Nix helps her father reunite with the love of his life, it will cost her her own.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me an advanced copy for review!

River’s Review:

I am afraid this book was over-hyped for me. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as mind blowing as I’d been expecting.

The biggest issue I had with this book was that it felt like something was missing… like a whole other book perhaps that explained how things worked, what was going on… because a lot of this was just left up to the reader to infer and figure out. I wanted WAY more backstory (especially about Kash! Like we find out how he came to be on the ship, and a little about why he ended up there, but I wanted SO much MORE! And like how did he react when he found out that he was basically stowing away ON A TIME TRAVELING SHIP?! How was this explained to him?! To any of them?!) I felt like there were little hints dropped here and there as to how things worked, but nothing was every fully explained. And I’m not talking about info dumps. But I would have liked more mechanics. Especially when it came to the actual time traveling. I also would have liked more world building in the sense of how they GET AWAY with all the time traveling they do. There is a mention about how they dress and speak for the time, but how did they learn about that? How did they learn anything about the different times they’re going to? And just wearing the clothes and trying to talk the talk was enough to fool everyone? This stuff I felt was just kinda glossed over and I was sitting there saying I WANT MORE INFORMATION!!!

The writing in this is very good. I don’t think it’s the best writing ever, but it’s not horrible. I think that Heilig can only improve and in another book or two she’ll be a force to reckon with. The characters could have used a bit more characterization, but I did enjoy Kash (he was my favorite character) and I liked the relationship that Nix had with her father. Blake was kinda okay, and I would have liked a little more from the side characters on the ship because they seemed really interesting! Also… Swag was the cutest and I am concerned about his fate at the moment…

The time travel in this was really cool for me at first! The way it’s done (with the maps) is very clever! But then we got into paradoxes and loops and I got lost and confused and I really hate that kind of time travel because then it just doesn’t make sense and makes me think too much about how it DOESN’T work and it hurts my head. I’m not a time travel fan (did I mention this yet? I guess I should have from the start). So that might have been part of what put me off a little bit. And also the lack of actual pirates (they pretend to be? But aren’t really? But they live on a pirate ship?) was a little disheartening as well.

Overall if you can get past the issues I had you’ll probably love this book. It seems to be THE book for 2016 and I know it’s going to do well despite how I feel about it… so enjoy!

ARC Review – Hollowgirl (Twinmaker #3) by Sean Williams

24892730Title: Hollowgirl (Twinmaker #3)

Author:  Sean Williams

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: Clair’s world has been destroyed – again. The only remaining hope of survival is for her and Q to enter the Yard, a simulation as detailed – and as real – as the home they have lost. But in the Yard there are two Clair Hills. The other Clair is headstrong, impulsive, suspicious – just like Clair herself used to be, and their very existence is causing cracks. As Clair searches for a solution, a surprising new ally emerges from the ashes. Together they fight their way through the digital and political minefield in the hope of saving Jesse, her friends and the whole of humanity.

HUGE thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy for review!

River’s Review:

I. LOVE. THESE. BOOKS!

I read Twinmaker back when it first came out and LOVED it. Then I read Crashland and while I really enjoyed it, I remember being confused about some things that I’d forgotten fromTwinmaker. So when I got a copy of this book I knew that I was going to be even MORE confused because I’d forgotten so much from the first book… so I did a re-read. I almost NEVER do this, and I am SO glad that I did. I HIGHLY recommend reading these books one after another, if not very closely after having finished the previous book because these books ARE complex. There IS a lot of science, a lot of people (and people dying, and then coming back… and then dying…) and just so much going on that if you can keep track of it all you’ll enjoy these books MUCH more than if you read them spaced out and forget important things.

I’m really surprised that in the WE NEED DIVERSE books movement and culture that we’re currently participating in that these books aren’t mentioned more. The MC is a POC and they live in a futuristic world where genders are fluid and same sex couples are the norm. It’s a very beautiful world (sadly not without terrorists and dictators) that I actually would love to live in. Science has advanced beyond our wildest imagination (or so we think! I wouldn’t be shocked to know that a lot of this stuff IS going to be happening soon if it hasn’t already happened). I don’t remember exactly, but I think the author is doing (was doing) his PhD on some of the science that he fictionalizes in this book. I’m going to need to check that out…

I LOVE the characters in this book. I love how diverse they are and how they all grow and make mistakes (some are HORRIBLE mistakes) and how they are always trying to do what’s right. There’s a lot of philosophy in these books and a lot of debate about ethics. Some things discusses in these books rings very true about our current society.

I highly recommend these books and really hope that everyone will check them out. Despite being on the thicker side, these are a quick read (I flew through all three in a week) and there are so many unpredictable twists and turns being thrown at you that you wont want to put them down!