Review: Hello, Sunshine

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Hello, Sunshine by: Leila Howland

My Rating: 4 Stars

A Prep School Girl with a Hollywood Dream

Becca Harrington is a reject. After being rebuffed by every college on her list, she needs a fresh start, so she packs up everything and moves to LA, giving herself one year to land an acting gig or kill herself trying.

Unfortunately, not everything turns out as planned, and after a few grueling months, LA is looking like the worst idea ever. As hard as she tries, Becca can’t land an agent, she’s running out of cash, and her mom is hounding her to apply to more schools. In an act of desperation, Becca and her friend Marisol start posting short videos online—with the help of their adorable filmmaker neighbor, Raj—and the videos catch the attention of a TV producer. Could this be it? Her big break? Or will she have to move back home with nothing but some bad head shots and a monstrous credit-card bill?

Becca may not get the Hollywood ending she was hoping for, but perhaps she’ll learn there’s more than one way to achieve her dream.

Readers will love every page of this funny, romantic, aspirational, and ultimately triumphant novel about a girl who just wants to make it on her own.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Content Warning: A creepy neighbor who continues to harass and stalk the main character. There are some sex scenes but nothing explicit. And a nudity situation.

Book 2 for Monstrous March.

Becca and her boyfriend Alex are spending one last hoorah before Alex goes to college. All of the college’s that Becca applied for denied her. Upon her mother’s request Becca plans to look for a part time job whilst trying to became an actress. Much to her surprise Alex breaks up with her. Feeling lost Becca decides to move to LA and try to become an actress there.    

I had heard about Hello, Sunshine through Netgalley in 2017. I really liked the synopsis and heard good things, so I decided to purchase a copy. I am happy to say that I enjoyed it! The book is written in first person limited following Becca’s point of view. There are text messages, lists, as well as quotes from a book and online articles.

I really liked that this book is YA! I think this book would help so many teens before going into college. And it’s nice to see college YA. There are a lot of valuable lessons such as the value of work, a person’s worth, and money.

I really liked Becca! She was so happy and energetic. I rarely read about those types of characters and Becca felt so fresh and fun. Her growth throughout the Hello, Sunshine was amazing! I really enjoyed her standing up for herself. And learning and experiencing new things. Which in turn helped her grow and become a really good actress.

I loved the family aspect! Becca is really close to her mother and even her cousin Vivian. She had a fantastic relationship with her mother! I also appreciated that Becca didn’t mind that her father was out of the picture. As long as she had her mother she was all good. Becca’s mother plays a huge part in the story and in the decisions she makes. I wish more YA would bring in family.

I loved the friendship between Becca and Marisol! Marisol was also trying to become an actress. The two supported each other rather than tearing each other down. Which was so nice to read about! They had such a wholesome friendship which made the book all the more enjoyable.

I also really liked Raj! He was a good friend and a genuine person. His crush on Becca was so cute to read about. I did enjoy how it was slow burn. Also when Becca friendzoned Raj he came back and was cool with everything. They really did complement each other.

I did have some issues with Hello, Sunshine. I didn’t like that Raj got all giddy at the thought that he looked like a ‘criminal’. This didn’t feel realistic considering that he was an Indian. And Indian’s are primarily confused by ignorant people as Muslim’s therefore are terrorists.

While I’m happy that Becca got into California film school I am a bit muffed by it. I really thought that she would answer that question and grow even more. But that didn’t happen. I know that connections are everything and while I appreciated that aspect, I still would’ve liked to see her answer it. 

The conflicts at the end were weird. Marisol was rich and kept it a secret. And that whole thing with Raj kind of made sense but also felt thrown in there for some drama build-up. Not every contemporary needs that and this book could’ve done without it.

While I like Raj and Becca as a couple I’m not happy with how they got together. It read odd and felt rushed. And it affected how I felt about them as a couple. I think it would’ve been better had they gotten together earlier and maybe not had a conflict before.

Overall I really enjoyed Hello, Sunshine! I highly recommend.       

  

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Review: Famous in a Small Town

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Famous in a Small Town by: Emma Mills

My Rating: 4 Stars

For Sophie, small town life has never felt small. With her four best friends—loving, infuriating, and all she could ever ask for—she can weather any storm. But when Sophie’s beloved Acadia High School marching band is selected to march in the upcoming Rose Parade, it’s her job to get them all the way to LA. Her plan? To persuade country singer Megan Pleasant, their Midwestern town’s only claim to fame, to come back to Acadia to headline a fundraising festival.

The only problem is that Megan has very publicly sworn never to return.

What ensues is a journey filled with long-kept secrets, hidden heartbreaks, and revelations that could change everything—along with a possible fifth best friend: a new guy with a magnetic smile and secrets of his own.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: Mention of car accident, mention of prison, mention of fatal accident, and taking credit for someone else’s work.

Sophie and her friends are preparing to enjoy their summer break. Much to the group’s surprise a new boy August moves in. August is the brother of Sophie’s neighbor. While working Sophie overhears her band teacher talking about the upcoming fundraiser. The teacher mentions that they will likely not be able raise enough money to participate in The Rose Parade. Sophie takes action into her own hands and decides to get Megan Pleasant to come back and perform. Only Megan has sworn never to return home. 

Emma Mills has been on my radar since I enjoyed This Adventure Ends. I was hesitant when I heard about Famous in a Small Town. Ultimately I gave in to my curiosity. I am happy to say that I enjoyed it! This book is written in first person following Sophie’s point of view. There are flashbacks, text messages, online articles, and social media posts.

There’s something about reading an Emma Mills book. It’s like hugging a blanket. You know it’ll be fluffy and have a huge emphasis on friendship. It’s comforting. And no surprise this is what was present in Famous in a Small Town. 

I absolutely adored the friendship! Sophie has a large friend group and all of them get along with each other. Their conversations were also so funny! As well as relatable. Each character was unique and original. It was even better when August joined the friend group. 

I really enjoyed reading about Sophie’s growth! And her character in general. She wasn’t perfect and she knew that. Sophie genuinely wanted to work on herself and become a better person. She was sweet and caring. It’s a nice change to read about those kinds of characters.

I also really liked August’s nieces! They were so cute! And a delight to read about. I particularly enjoyed it when Sophie babysat them. Sophie would do anything to keep them happy. And wasn’t afraid to act a bit goofy in the process.

I found Famous in a Small Town to be the more romance oriented than This Adventure Ends. Early on Sophie realizes she has a crush on August and asks him out. He politely refuses and asks that the two remain friends. I really enjoyed reading about their relationship!

August was such a sweet character. I actually expected him to be brooding. And in a way he was. But not exactly. Through Sophie and her friend group, as well as his brother August came out of his shell. I really enjoyed reading about his character development!

I was really surprised about the mystery aspect! The whole Megan Pleasant situation was a bit bizarre in the beginning. I didn’t think much off it. Then it went in a direction that I wasn’t expecting. There is another mystery aspect that was also quite surprising. I liked how each mystery was handled.

My only problem with Famous in a Small Town was how Sophie’s parents weren’t really present. This isn’t that large off an issue and it didn’t effect my rating. I just would’ve preferred for them to be more present.

Overall I really enjoyed this! Highly recommend.    

Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea

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A Very Large Expanse of Sea by: Tahereh Mafi

My Rating: 4 Stars

It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: Violence, bullying, harassment, xenophobia, Islamophobia, discrimination, mention of divorce, mention of wars, mention of death and car accident, racism, blackmailing, and invasion of privacy via technology. 

A Very Large Expanse of Sea was read for The Dream Thieves: Badass Broads.

When I had first heard about this book I didn’t care. I’d tried reading some of the author’s previous works and they didn’t work for me. After reading all the rave reviews I caved in and gave it a shot. I am happy that I did so!

Shirin has spent most of her life moving from one school to another. She hasn’t stayed at one school long enough to make lasting friendship’s. With every move her parents try to put her in a better school, ideally make more money, and move into a better house. The latest move is no different. Another high school with mostly white people.

Shirin has been spending most of the schools’ she goes to putting up walls. She doesn’t talk to people and people don’t talk to her. Her hijab seems to be a large neon ‘Avoid this person’ sign. Much to Shirin’s surprise, her lab partner Ocean becomes her friend. And even more shocking they start to become more than that. Throughout the story Shirin starts to realize she may have been wrong about people.

Before starting A Very Large Expanse of Sea I didn’t read many reviews. I went into it with little to no knowledge but decently high expectations. It really surprised me! The book is written in first person following Shirin. It’s like Shirin is talking to you. Which I thought worked for the story. It’s really amazing how many times Mafi can change her writing style. There are some text messages, AIM messages, and chapter numbers. It takes place one year after the 9/11. The title of the book is also mentioned in the story.

Shirin was one of the best parts of this book! I found her so relatable, mature, and surprisingly funny. Seriously some of the things she says were on point and hilarious. Also completely vulnerable. Normally the character that puts up a lot of walls doesn’t admit they are vulnerable. Shirin on the other hand mentions so many times that she is vulnerable but wishes she wasn’t. Which I found to be rather refreshing.

Shirin and her brother Navid are born and breed American’s. Their parents are Iranian immigrants. There was quite a bit of mention about Persian culture. Such as the language and the food. Even some of the traditions. They are also Muslim’s. Islam play a large part in the story. As a Muslim I found the Islam rep to be amazing! Shirin also has a lot to say about wearing the hijab. Such as why she wear’s it and her views on the hijab. I also wear the hijab so I loved everything she had to say! Some of it brought tears to my eyes, and made me respect Shirin even more.

I really enjoyed reading about Shirin’s relationship with her family! Navid was such a sweetheart. And their parents were supportive in their own way. What really stood out to me was how much Shirin and her family love their religion and culture. Which is a rarity to read about.

Shirin has many interests. Breakdancing, fashion, books, tv, and music. These interests are always brought up throughout the book without being too in your face. Every tiny detail regarding Shirin as a person is weaved into the story effectively. 

I really liked all the diversity in this book! Navid has dyslexia. It’s treated like a part of him not something to ashamed off. Their breakdancing crew also has some diverse members. Bijan is gay and Middle Eastern. Not quite sure where exactly he’s from. Jacobi is black. Carlos I think is Hispanic. I’m not a 100 percent positive. It’s not really mentioned. But I have a feeling he’s not white either. 

I had so much fun reading about breakdancing! This is actually the first time I’ve read about the topic in a book. And I have to say that I did actually learn quite a bit. The competitions were the best to read about though. The relationship the crew had with one-another was also so cute!

Ocean really surprised me! I did not expect to like him as much as I did. He was really nice and of course due to his privilege a bit oblivious. I really liked that Shirin and Ocean were friends first then an actual romance formed. Rather than some insta-love. I loved their conversations! They were so cute together! 

Ocean as well as other characters allow Shirin to grow. And understand that Shirin was doing exactly what people did to her. Stereotyping everyone around her. Shirin herself allows Ocean to realize his privilege and allowed him to grow into himself more.

My favourite part about their relationship was that they were more than their relationship. Shirin still keeps up her breakdancing, and Ocean still stays within the status quo. Sometimes I find that when the romance takes a center stage the characters are just demoted to dating status. It was nice that it wasn’t the case here.   

Mafi did an excellent job with the ramifications off Shirin and Ocean’s relationship. There is a large focus on politic’s as well as the high school social dynamics. The school, neighbors, teachers, parents, and students all react to their relationship in different ways. Peer pressure is brought up, even feeling powerless to an adult. Each aspect was done wonderfully! And with great care.

I do have some issues. I wish that the Mr. Jordan situation was handled a bit better. And I do agree that some things were pushed off to the side when Ocean and Shirin started dating. Also the dating situation may make a few Muslims uncomfortable. I was perfectly okay with it. But I know others won’t be. I also wish that Amna would’ve been mentioned at the end. Ocean was as the two were spending a lot of time together at the end. But Amna isn’t. 

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed A Very Large Expanse of Sea! I highly recommend it!        

Review: Always Never Yours

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Always Never Yours by: Emily Wibberley and Austin-Siegemund-Broka

My Rating: 4 Stars

Megan Harper is the girl before. All her exes find their one true love right after dating her. It’s not a curse or anything, it’s just the way things are, and Megan refuses to waste time feeling sorry for herself. Instead, she focuses on pursuing her next fling, directing theatre, and fulfilling her dream school’s acting requirement in the smallest role possible.

But her plans quickly crumble when she’s cast as none other than Juliet–yes, that Juliet–in her high school’s production. It’s a nightmare. No–a disaster. Megan’s not an actress and she’s certainly not a Juliet. Then she meets Owen Okita, an aspiring playwright who agrees to help Megan catch the eye of a sexy stagehand in exchange for help writing his new script.

Between rehearsals and contending with her divided family, Megan begins to notice Owen–thoughtful, unconventional, and utterly unlike her exes, and wonders: shouldn’t a girl get to play the lead in her own love story?

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: Cheating, slut-shaming, mention of parental abandonment, mention of divorce, and aftereffects of divorce. 

Always Never Yours was really hard to miss. Back in December 2017 it was everywhere. I was pulled in because of the synopsis and cover. I am happy to say that I enjoyed it!

Megan is always the girl before. Over her high school years she’s come to terms with that. After all her best friend Madeleine is dating her ex-boyfriend of six months Tyler. Regardless of the situation the two best friends are as close as ever.

Megan’s dream is to go to SOTI her favourite university. Thus far Megan has met the directing requirements. The only thing she needs is an acting credit. Jody (the drama teacher) is holding auditions for Romeo and Juliet. Megan has never acted before therefore she safely assumes that she’ll have a small role. Much to Megan’s surprise she is going to be Juliet. 

I’m so happy that I liked this book! I was a bit hesitant at first but all in all it worked out. The book is written in first person following Megan’s point of view. There are chapter numbers, text messages, and at the beginning off every chapter there are quotes from Romeo and Juliet.

If I could describe this book in one word it would be ‘Natural’. Always Never Yours felt so real! Everything just made sense in the way the story progressed. All the conflicts felt realistic and also in the way said conflicts were handled. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the large emphasis on plays’! It wasn’t just Shakespeare, Megan and her drama friends mention various plays. It was fun to read about Megan’s directing experience and her skills.

I really liked Megan! She wasn’t afraid to go after what she wanted. Even if it meant her love life. I was surprised and pleased by how mature Megan was! She thought through conflicts realistically and didn’t look to blame everyone but herself. Her friendship with Madeleine was amazing! They supported each other through and through. It was nice that Madeleine didn’t judge Megan for her relationships.

Owen was so sweet! His interactions with Megan were so good! They really saw through each other. The two start off as friends then gradually grow to be something more. It did take awhile and I enjoyed how slow-burn it was.

Megan and Owen agree to help each other. Megan will help Owen with his play, while he will help Megan to get the attention off his friend Will. They really did bring out the best in each other. Their growth due to their relationship was amazing! Most off their conversations were so funny too!

There was diversity! Owen was Japanese, Anthony black and gay, and Alyssa Spanish. Each of the characters identities were integrated so well into the story. You do have the chance to see Megan’s exes. And see kind of a pattern with her relationships. Even in her new crush Will. It was interesting to see the difference between Megan’s relationship with Tyler vs. Madeleine’s.

All the main characters’ had fantastic development! It was nice to read about Anthony’s relationship woes alongside Megan’s. I liked how conflict arouse with her friends in the beginning of the book. Usually it happens towards the end but not here. Their conflicts made all them stronger and their relationships with one-another improved. I felt for all of them. 

Family also played a huge role. Megan’s parents are divorced. With her father remarried and half-siblings. Her mother was in a relationship, but Megan assumed her mother hadn’t moved on from the divorce. She truly believed that she was replaceable. As Megan’s step-mother was pregnant. Megan struggles with this for a majority of the book. I was happy when Megan realized she was wrong. I enjoyed reading about her relationships with each member off her family. Especially her half sister Erin. 

I did have some problems with the book. I was pretty mad at Owen for cheating on his girlfriend. I can’t believe it was Megan who had to remind him off Cosima! There was so much cheating. I didn’t expect that at all. And despite Megan being comfortable with herself there were still people who slut-shamed her.

I don’t really know how to feel about the Alyssa situation. Part off it felt like a cop-out. Just an easy way for Megan to the opportunity to play Juliet. While I do understand that Alyssa cut it close to the checks, it just wasn’t portrayed that well. 

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I recommend it for contemporary fans.  

Review: One Fell Sweep

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One Fell Sweep by: Ilona Andrews

My Rating: 4 Stars

Dina DeMille may run the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, but she caters to a very particular kind of guest… the kind that no one on Earth is supposed to know about. Guests like a former intergalactic tyrant with an impressive bounty on her head, the Lord Marshal of a powerful vampire clan, and a displaced-and-superhot werewolf; so don’t stand too close, or you may be collateral damage.

But what passes for Dina’s normal life is about to be thrown into chaos. First, she must rescue her long-distant older sister, Maud, who’s been exiled with her family to a planet that functions as the most lawless penal colony since Botany Bay. Then she agrees to help a guest whose last chance at saving his civilization could bring death and disaster to all Dina holds dear. Now Gertrude Hunt is under siege by a clan of assassins. To keep her guests safe and to find her missing parents, Dina will risk everything, even if she has to pay the ultimate price. Though Sean may have something to say about that!!

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger Warning: Mention of war, death, and mention of annihilating a species.

Despite being a tad disappointed in Sweep in Peace I was still looking forward to reading One Fell Sweep. I am happy to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it!

It’s been a few days since Sean and Dina went to the movies together. Gertrude Hunt has become quite. Sean and Dina are attempting to form a relationship. At night Dina senses a presence. It turns out to be Sean. Sean explains that he had a really bad feeling and came to the inn. A wormhole appears in the sky and a supernatural being emerges. Sean and Dina quickly deal with the situation.

The supernatural being is a Ku who has come to deliver a message to Dina. The message turns out to be from Dina’s sister Maud who is in trouble. Dina requests Arland to take her to Maud (who is on a different planet). All three then go to retrieve Maud and her daughter Helen. This journey will be the last of Dina’s problems.

I’m so happy that I enjoyed One Fell Sweep! The book is narrated in first person following Dina. There are some more pictures. And new characters. As well as an expansion on the world.

One Fell Sweep was more action packed! I enjoyed the additional new characters. Maud and Helen were awesome! I thoroughly enjoyed the relationship Maud shared with Dina. It gave readers an insight to Dina’s life before the book series. Helen was so cute! I really enjoyed reading about her interactions with all the characters.

The Hiru and Draziri situation was well done! The Draziri believe that if they kill one Hiru then they are guaranteed a place in heaven. It is not stated in any records why it is that the Draziri God’s preach this. A Hiru comes to Dina requesting help. The Hiru states that they have found a solution through the Archivarian. A sentient being of intelligence. In order to accomplish this the Hiru says that they will need to gather all the Archivarius. Once all the parts are gathered then they’re home free. In return Dina will get to ask the Archivarian a question. 

Dina wants to help but can’t really put her guests in jeopardy. The Draziri are known to not obey rules. And will likely reveal themselves to her neighbors. Which goes against the Earth treaty. However she ends up accepting as the Draziri launch an attack on her inn for housing the Hiru. Dina decides to ask the Archivarian about her parents.

Maud’s character was very intelligent. Maud’s ex-husband was a vampire who pulled a lot of stupid actions. This resulted in them being sent to Kahari an almost dead planet. Maud’s husband was murdered for his actions, leaving her to fend for Helen. Her insight into politics was awesome to read about! Also she was such a great parent!

The romance was really good! Maud and Arland had some of the best interactions. Arland falls hard for Maud. He’s also really great to Helen. Sean and Dina were adorable in this installment! I actually felt something for them. I didn’t feel much in the second installment. Sean’s parents also come in. They were actually really nice to Dina. Which I really appreciated.

George should truly get a medal for all his scheming. It’s revealed that George is the one that gave Maud the Ku and sent the Hiru to Dina. It’s really amazing how much he can accomplish in the name of good. Officer Marias gets involved in the supernatural war. He takes the information about the supernatural pretty well and proves to be helpful towards their cause. The Assembly and Ad-Hal is expanded upon. I really like how in every book that is some world-building. 

I really appreciated all the quirks in this installment. Gertrude Hunt, Olasard (Dina’s cat named by Helen), Caldenia, Beast, and Orro. Each off these characters made such a great addition to this installment. I especially loved Gertrude Hunt’s role. 

I’m just going to clarify something: One Fell Sweep is not a final book. It ends on a cliffhanger. Dina doesn’t find her parents (she does get some information), the Assembly summon Dina but you don’t get to meet them, and there is something that is hunting the Ad-Hal’s.

Considering how popular these authors are, I don’t think they mean to end the series on a cliffhanger. This series is self-published and over the past two years they’ve been really busy with other releases. There will likely be more books. It’ll just take some time. Thus far (on their website) they are working on a short story with Arland and Maud. I do still hope that it comes soon though.

Overall I really enjoyed One Fell Sweep! I highly recommend this series.       

Review: Sweep in Peace

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Sweep in Peace by: Ilona Andrews

My Rating: 3 Stars

Dina DeMille doesn’t run your typical Bed and Breakfast. Her inn defies laws of physics, her fluffy dog is secretly a monster, and the only paying guest is a former Galactic tyrant with a price on her head. But the inn needs guests to thrive, and guests have been scarce, so when an Arbitrator shows up at Dina’s door and asks her to host a peace summit between three warring species, she jumps on the chance.

Unfortunately, for Dina, keeping the peace between Space Vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde, and the devious Merchants of Baha-char is much easier said than done. On top of keeping her guests from murdering each other, she must find a chef, remodel the inn…and risk everything, even her life, to save the man she might fall in love with. But then it’s all in the day’s work for an Innkeeper…

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: Death and mention of war.

After finishing Clean Sweep I was excited awaiting my turn in my library. Sweep in Peace had a lot of expectations to meet. I am happy to report that I enjoyed it! 

Sweep in Peace begins with a prologue from a new characters point of view. Said character has just murdered somebody due to personal reason. The unknown character is confronted by Klaus (Dina’s brother) and offered a job. The character’s name is revealed to be George. George accepts Klaus’s job offer.

Life has become boring for Dina. There’s no Sean or Arland, and just nothing to do. Caldenia mentions as much and suggests Dina should do some better advertising. Much to Dina’s surprise an Artibrator whose name is George asks for her help. George needs an inn to host a peace summit. Dina is a bit reluctant at first as it will be quite difficult to maintain all the parties of the guests arriving. However she agrees once she sees the amount of money she’ll earn. Dina does not anticipate just how taxing this peace summit or George can be.

I enjoyed reading Sweep in Peace! The story follows Dina’s point of view in first person. There are pictures throughout the book. The book opens with a prologue in third person following George. New characters are introduced.

As the new characters were introduced the world building was expanded upon. I really enjoyed reading about the situation on Nexus and how it affected the vampires, the Hope-Crushing-Horde, and the Merchant Clan. I was surprisingly interested in all the politics. I usually don’t care for politics. So this was a nice change.

There was an emphasis on understanding everyone’s side in the story and realizing that everyone has emotions. Which I appreciated and thought it was really important. Considering the different sides of the war.

As usual Dina was fantastic! She really does get better every time I read about her. Of course Caldenia played a vital part in the story. I’m also really surprised that Caldenia is treated very well for a criminal. All the new characters respect her and when speaking refer to her title. Orro and Dina’s cat were my favourite new additions!

Orro is a former chef that Dina hires to cook for the peace summit. The descriptions of the food he made was fantastic! It can really get you hungry. Orro himself is quite the character. Very dramatic but truly cares for people and what others think off him. The cat was a bit of surprise to Dina as well. I enjoyed reading about their interactions.

Sean does come in but much later on. And there was a plot twist regarding his appearance. He goes through quite a few changes in this book. It did hurt but it also made for good character development.

George, Jack, Gaston, and Sophie are some of the new characters. They play a major role in the book. George was extremely intelligent and manipulated a lot of the situations that occur. His role as an artibrator allowed him to get away with most things. Of course it came to a point where Dina stopped taking his nonsense. The Sci-Fi elements are expanded upon as George is from another Earth.

I did have some issues. I thought that because Klaus was introduced in the prologue that he would make an appearance. That didn’t happen. It almost felt like the prologue was written for the purpose of enticing the reader, but the information was never expanded upon. The mind games that all the guests (mostly George) partake in became very frustrating. When it all came together it made sense, but that didn’t really help.

Overall I enjoyed Sweep in Peace! I highly recommend the series.     

Review: Defy the Stars

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Defy the Stars by: Claudia Gray

 Nate Begle (Narrator) and Kasey Lee Huizinga (Narrator)

My Rating: 4 Stars

Noemi Vidal is a teen soldier from the planet Genesis, once a colony of Earth that’s now at war for its independence. The humans of Genesis have fought Earth’s robotic “mech” armies for decades with no end in sight.

After a surprise attack, Noemi finds herself stranded in space on an abandoned ship where she meets Abel, the most sophisticated mech prototype ever made. One who should be her enemy. But Abel’s programming forces him to obey Noemi as his commander, which means he has to help her save Genesis–even though her plan to win the war will kill him.

Together they embark on a daring voyage through the galaxy. Before long, Noemi begins to realize Abel may be more than a machine, and, for his part, Abel’s devotion to Noemi is no longer just a matter of programming.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: War and death. Dystopian society.

Part of Defy the Stars was read during #rimpysreadsathon. 

Defy the Stars was recommended to me by my dear GR friend Elise! Click on her name to read her review. When I heard that Claudia Gray was releasing a new book I didn’t particularly care. I’ve never read any of her books nor did I care too. Then I came across Elise’s review and was instantly captivated! Listening to the audiobook sample sealed the deal. I am happy to say that I enjoyed this!

Noemi along with the rest of the pilots is about to go on a suicide mission. She isn’t necessarily comfortable with this, but is still ready to die. However Noemi is considered with her adoptive sister and best friend Esther. Plunged early on into the an attack from Earth Noemi sees Ether’s ship in the far distance. Steering herself to it, Noemi comes across an abandoned looking ship.

The two land on the ship, while Noemi quickly tries to save Esther’s life. In the process she runs into Abel. A mech that has been abandoned for the past 30 years. Abel swears himself to Noemi and proclaims that he will follow her every order. Thus shenanigans ensue.

Defy the Stars is a unique Sci-Fi! I had a lot of fun reading. It is narrated in third person omniscient following Noemi and Abel. There are some flashbacks. The narrators did an excellent job bringing the characters to life! Nate Begle was especially impressive as he did a monotone robot like voice for Abel.

Let me start off with saying that Defy the Stars is a journey book. I mean this in a literal sense. Abel and Noemi travel to many different planets. This took up a good 20 percent. So if you don’t like that then I would suggest that you read another book. Or you could finish this, as each planet had it’s own culture and religious views. Which was written beautifully!

My other point is that there is a large focus on religion. Noemi identifies as a Christian and throughout the book she is questioning God’s existence. And how she fits into this world. I personally thought that the author did an excellent job! It was relatable and I do think that others would relate. There are also several other religions and races. Yay for well done diversity!

And lastly Defy the Stars deals with refugee’s, assimilation, and the messy war. Each planet has a different culture and in order to fit in to said planet you have to assimilate to said culture. Also when Earth was in terrible condition they migrated to the other planets and assimilated. The refugee’s actually had a name but because I was listening to the audio I have no idea how to spell it. The refugee’s travel the galaxy and try to find a home. The Liberty War and all the different sides was handled excellently! It was messy and really great to read about all the different sides and opinions.

Defy the Stars is very similar to most YA dystopian books. I personally think that this book is much better than a lot of dystopian books. Earth is the villain, which is a surprise because most books have another planet as the main villain. There is a man made disease, a rebellion, and a war. Regardless all these points are handled really well where as some books aren’t.

Noemi and Abel’s relationship was fantastic! They don’t agree with each other at first. And all Abel is to Noemi is a tool and a means to a mission. As they spend more time together Abel grows to genuinely care about Noemi. From her health to her mental well being. Noemi too grows to really care for Abel. They develop a really great friendship! The romantic aspect doesn’t come until the end of the book. I appreciated that the author develops Noemi and Abel through their friendship. 

Noemi’s relationship with Esther and Esther’s family is a huge part of her character. She thinks that she’s always angry and not compassionate. Abel is the one to point out that isn’t true. Noemi overcomes a lot of her misgivings with the Gatson’s and tries to move on with her life. Her parents and baby brother died in a car accident. Noemi is a Lationa! Her culture isn’t mentioned but her religion is.

Abel’s fatherly relationship with his creator Mansfield is a huge part of his character arc. Abel truly loves Mansfield and wants to see him one day. Throughout the book Abel comes to terms with the fact that he has feelings. And even begins to question Mansfield and his motivations. This is partly due to Noemi. Also Abel’s sarcasm was really funny! And it was surprisingly sweet to read about his love for Casablanca. 

While on their journey Abel and Noemi come across various people. They come across the Razors. A group of hackers who aid Noemi and Abel. The leader of the Razors is Virginia and she was awesome! Her and Noemi’s friendship was really sweet to read about. Also Virginia is implied to be LGBTQ. Virginia’s lines were some of the best. Like so on point and hilarious. 

Harriet and Zayan are a biracial couple. Harriet a black and Zayan an Indian. They were so nice! Riko and Ephraim are a part of Remedy which is a rebellion. Both were very interesting as was their relationship to one-another. All the side characters are useful to the plot and have their own back stories. Which is quite rare in YA.

There are multiple hints throughout Defy the Stars about Mansfield’s questionable motives and the reason behind creating Abel. I still have to admit that I did not see that plot twist coming! I look forward to reading about more of his motivations in the sequel. 

The book does end on a sort of cliffhangers. Noemi and Abel are separated. With Noemi being back on Genesis and Abel seemingly starting up a business of sorts. Considering how high the stakes are I am excited for the sequel!  

I only had a few problems with Defy the Stars. I wasn’t invested in the first 20%. This is a character driven book, so in the beginning I wasn’t that into Abel and Noemi’s story. However the more I read the more I grew to love Abel and Noemi! Seriously those feelings kind of snuck up on me!

With the amount of POC and religions I was really surprised that there wasn’t any racism. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s just kind of odd. And logically speaking it doesn’t make sense. To be honest I didn’t really mind while I was reading. But now that I’m typing this review I’ve come to realize this. Maybe this will come up in the sequel. We’ll have to see.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Defy the Stars! I am looking forward to the sequels. I highly recommend it!