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.  

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Review: Children of Blood and Bone

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Children of Blood and Bone by: Tomi Adeyemi

My Rating: 4 Stars

The B&N Exclusive Edition includes six pages of handwritten, behind-the-scenes material plus a map of Lagos, the capital city of Orïsha. The city map shows the Royal Palace, the marketplace, and the diviner slums that ring the marketplace.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: Genocide, slavery, torture, abusive parent, discrimination, assault, colorism, and oppression.

GR Ultimate Summer Reading Challenge: Sand Between My Toe’s, Hook ‘Em, and Sports-a-holic. Tome Topple Readathon Round 6.

Last year I got a sample from Netgalley. I was so intrigued and thoroughly enjoyed reading the sample! Naturally I bought the final version. I am happy to say that I enjoyed it!

11 years ago King Saran ordered the murders of the former Maji. The same day that the Maji lost their powers leaving them defenseless. Zelie witnessed her mother being murdered. The King also ordered all the dead Maji to be put on display. So as to make the diviners fear him.

In secret Zelie and other girls in her village get training from Mama Agba. Mama Agba teaches them how to defend themselves with a staff. To further make the diviners miserable the King increases the diviner tax. In an attempt to be brave Zelie angers the guard and nearly gets herself killed. Much to Zelie’s surprise Mama Agba allows Zelie to graduate and awards her with a metal staff.

Zelie arrives to terrible news. Her father nearly drowns in an attempt to keep her from becoming a slave. Zelie agrees to sell fish in Lagos which is the capital city. While there she runs into the princess who is on the run from her father. Zelie, Amari, and Tzain (Zelie’s brother) then embark on a journey to bring magic back.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read such an intense fantasy! I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The B & N edition comes with an annotated chapter, and the map of Lagos. The hardcover is also a different color. Narrated in first person the book follows Amari, Zelie, and Inan. There is also a one page prologue and an epilogue. The point of views’ are actually written well! You can tell that their different people.

The world-building and magic system were incredible! Zelie lives in a very gruesome and tough society. When magic makes a vague comeback it got really intense! I enjoyed reading about the journey to all the sacred temples. And the I really liked that there were objects tied to getting magic back. There a huge part that mythology and religion plays into the story. I found the whole concept to be original. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the culture. Such as food, clothes, and language.

I’m just going to say this first: I understand why people don’t like Zelie. Zelie spends a majority of the book being angry. And she usually took it out on Amari and Tzain was always stuck fixing the mess. The reason I actually liked all the characters is because they were understandable. While Zelie could be a real pain, I understood where she was coming from. And she did actually develop throughout the book.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading from Amari’s point of view! It was lovely to read about her journey and struggles. I liked how Binta was a strong motivation for Amari. In some books said dead character usually disappears 20% in. That didn’t happen. From the beginning to the end Amari is always thinking about Binta. I also liked how Zelie and Amari came to be friends. Their chapter together was fantastic!

I found Inan’s chapters to be the most insightful. His character was very interesting. I enjoyed watching him develop and reading about his outlook on the world around him. While he did a lot of questionable things I understood his motivations. I look forward to his journey in the sequel. 

I’m kind off hoping that for the sequel we’ll get Tzain’s point of view. I would love to read his thoughts! And hands down Tzain is my favourite character. He’s serious while also showing a goofy side. And he’s a very fair person. 

I really liked how there was a large focus on family! As someone who has siblings it was so much fun to read about the relationship’s between Amari and Inan, as well as Zelie and Tzain. Even the King’s relationships’ with his children. Mama Agba was a mother figure to Zelie and Tzain. And I really loved Zelie’s father! He was so sweet.

Onto the romance! I loved Amari and Tzain together! They developed such a sweet relationship and get along so well. They bring out the best in each other. I would love for them to be official in the sequel. As for Inan and Zelie I felt nothing. Yeah they got along but it came it off nowhere. It’ll be interesting to see where the sequel will take them.

I liked the involvement of Zu’s crew as well as Tzain’s opponents. They made the story and the journey to get magic back so interesting. I am really looking forward to reading about them again in the sequel! 

There are some deaths’. Starting from the beginning of the book. I appreciated that the author didn’t hold back. I’m sort of weary and curious as to who will die in the sequel.

I only had one problem. I honestly did not understand Zelie and Inan’s relationship. They spent a good bit of the book hating each other. Inan was trying to kill her. They had an opportunity to work together. Which lasted two days. And somehow in those two days they were basically in love. They moved very fast. It was very surprising.

Overall I really liked Children of Blood and Bone! I high recommend to fantasy fans.    

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! 

 

Review: Piecing Me Together

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Piecing Me Together by: Renée Watson

My Rating: 4 Stars

A timely and powerful story about a teen girl from a poor neighborhood striving for success, from acclaimed author Renée Watson.

Jade believes she must get out of her neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother says she has to take every opportunity. She has. She accepted a scholarship to a mostly-white private school and even Saturday morning test prep opportunities. But some opportunities feel more demeaning than helpful. Like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Except really, it’s for black girls. From “bad” neighborhoods.

But Jade doesn’t need support. And just because her mentor is black doesn’t mean she understands Jade. And maybe there are some things Jade could show these successful women about the real world and finding ways to make a real difference.

Friendships, race, privilege, identity—this compelling and thoughtful story explores the issues young women face.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: Racism and police violence.

Piecing Me Together was completed during #rimpysreadsathon. Piecing Me Together was a book talked about last year through booktube. Surprisingly I hadn’t heard about it through GR or Twitter. After reading some reviews and seeing that it was in my library, I requested a copy. I’m very glad I did!

Through her mother’s encouragement Jade has taken every opportunity her school has offered. The latest opportunity is Woman to Woman. A mentorship program. Jade is initially reluctant to accept. Jade feels that she won’t gain anything from it, and it’s not really for her. Until her guidance counselor mentions that if Jade completes the program then she’ll receive a scholarship for any university in her area. Naturally Jade accepts. Throughout the book Jade learns more about speaking up, and gains some vital experiences.

I was happily surprised about how much I enjoyed Piecing Me Together! I didn’t have high expectations. It is narrated in first person following Jade’s point of view. Each chapter has title, wherein there is a word in English and translated to Spanish. Some chapters were shorter than others.

Jade was such a great character! I found her to be relatable. I too have some trouble speaking my mind from time to time. I loved reading about her growth and how she gained the courage to speak up! Jade actually read mature for her age, which I appreciated.

Throughout the story Jade struggles balancing her two worlds. At school she has to act and dress a specific way. At home she reverts to normal but her friends are still a bit apprehensive with her attending a mostly white school. Spanish and art is a huge part of Jade’s character. Jade makes collages about her surroundings and the people in her life. Her biggest dream is go to Spain and experience the culture first hand. I enjoyed reading about her passions and how much work she put into achieving her goals!

I loved Jade’s family! Her mother worked as a caretaker and was such a strong woman. She had a lot of good advice to give Jade and Maxine! And for once a parent in YA actually gave meaningful and relevant advice. Jade’s relationship with her uncle E. J. was so sweet!

Jade’s best friend Lee Lee was also fantastic! These two supported each other and were for each other there in times of need. Jade’s relationship with her mentor Maxine was also well done! They had lots of rough patches but in the end they became close. Maxine was a good mentor to Jade and two helped each other grow. Maxine frustrated me in the beginning. But once she told her side of the story, realized her mistakes, and started to grow I grew to admire her. 

Jade’s relationship with Sam was complicated. Sam is a white poor girl, whereas Jade is a black poor girl. The author effortlessly shows the reader the difference between their situations and how it is linked to their skin tone. Sam does and says some pretty hurtful things to Jade. She realizes this comes back and apologizes. Jade also owns up to her own mistakes. Together they start their friendship anew with no more secrets from each other.

Woman to Woman was an amazing edition! I honestly wish there are books with this type of mentorship which I can read about. All the women had different experiences and supported each other! The trips that Sabrina assigned were fun to read about! I truly believe that all women should have access to this type of mentorship. Regardless of color and background. It’s necessary and you can gain so much knowledge.

Several different issues are brought up! From police violence, social class/status, racism, to catcalling. The author handles this all effortlessly without sounding preachy. I loved how Jade teams up with her fellow classmates and friends to do something to raise money for Natasha Ramsey, a black girl who was brutally attacked at a party. All the conflicts were realistic and I rooting for Jade.

I’m just going to mention two things that really surprised me. Towards the end of Piecing Me Together Jade confronts her teacher about not being nominated for the school trip to Costa Rica. He explains that he has to give other students a chance, and that Jade already has so many opportunities. Jade calls him out on his prejudice and leaves.

The teacher comes back around to Jade to apologize. He also mentions that she has been nominated for the trip next year. I found this to be truly beautiful! Rarely do you ever experience let alone read about a teacher realizing his/her mistakes. And actually acting upon that realization!

There is no romance! That’s right you heard me, a contemporary without romance. While it isn’t impossible it’s quite rare. Jade does make mention off maybe dating and getting married. Right now Jade remains focused on her life and school. I really appreciated this!

The only problem I had was that I wasn’t invested. I was enjoying reading but I just wasn’t invested. Then out of nowhere Piecing Me Together grabbed hold off me and never let go. I was invested in Jade’s life and all the characters. While this is a minor complaint it still prevented me from giving a 5 star rating. 

Overall I really enjoyed this! I recommend this book for everyone. You’ll all find something to relate too.           

Review: The Dark Divide

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The Dark Divide by: Danika Stone

My Rating: 3 Stars

Waterton is a town with dark secrets, and after a summer of murder and mayhem, American ex-pat, Rich Evans, knows exactly how far people will go to hide them. Jobless after the fiery destruction of the hotel he once managed, Rich is charged with arson. Only one person, local mechanic Louise “Lou” Newman, believes in his innocence. But even Lou’s love and support can’t dispel the darkness that’s spreading through the community. Dead animals appear on porches, strangers threaten the safety of the locals, and a fingerprint from the fire is linked to a decades-old murder.

The lonely border town has a new danger: a murderer willing to do anything to protect a web of secrets that links them to the arson.

As the risk of jail or death increases, Rich turns to Lou for guidance and she finds herself in an impossible position. Lou has her own secrets! Does she protect the border town where she grew up, or side with the man she loves… even if it means she can never tell him the truth about herself?

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: Animal deaths and gruesome murders.

I received this Arc via the author in exchange for an honest review and in participation of the Sunday Street Team. I was pretty excited to hear that Edge of Wild was getting a sequel. I didn’t hesitate to participate in the street team. I am glad to say that I liked The Dark Divide!

The Dark Divide begins with a prologue set in 1970 in Ohio. A student who was protesting for the Vietnam war is shot by a police officer. In the first chapter readers are told that Rich is going on trial for his hotel, which was burned to the ground in Edge of Wild. After a few chapters in it is revealed that the trial will proceed.

On Sadie and Jim’s (police officers) end they receive word from the Ohio police department that the unidentifiable finger print from the hotel break-in is linked to the prologue murder. After that student was murdered a fellow classmate at the time shot the police officer. And no one has been able to find the person. Waterton has yet another murderer in their midst.

The Dark Divide was a fun and twisty book! It is written in third person from various different characters’ points of views. There are emails and police documents. Also flashback’s and Lou’s visions. The Dark Divide takes place in 1999.

The trial was a lot of fun to read about! I was desperately awaiting an answer. I enjoyed Rich’s lawyer and long time friend Stu. He actually knew his stuff. Lou also played a big part in the trial. As did some of the townspeople.

Lou and Rich’s conflict’s about their relationship was well done! Lou has to try and mentally prepare herself to tell Rich some truths about herself. I enjoyed reading about Lou’s character development. And when Lou did tell Rich the truth, at first he was baffled. But then came around to support her.

Rich was under quite a bit of stress throughout the book. Which made it frustrating to read about his character. Although I did grow to like him towards the end. His character development was suburb!

The townspeople were definitely better in this installment. They were actually much nicer towards Rich and way more welcoming! Rich developed some friendships with a few of them. Which was nice to read about.

The mystery wasn’t as strong as it was in Edge of Wild. Nonetheless it was well done and pretty twisty. And yet again completely unpredictable. Some of the questions in Edge of Wild are answered. Jeff Chan makes an appearance. 

There is a new character that comes in, which rocks the townspeople’s relationships. His name is Alistair a movie maker who comes to Waterton searching for the ‘truth’. Alistair’s character does play a huge role in Lou’s story arc and character development.

The backstory regarding Lou’s visions was fun to read about. Alistair also has visions and the two may have known each other in an another life. The mythology behind it and Lou’s mother was really well done! I also liked how their is an expansion regarding Lou’s abilities. You find out that she can do much more than in Edge of Wild

Another towns-person comes in (was on vacation) Levi. He has a lot of hostility towards Rich and Alistair. Levi has some unfinished history regarding Lou’s mother. He was somewhere in between frustrating and interesting to read about. 

I really appreciated that the Japanese internment camps were brought up! Stone did an excellent job bringing it up and making it apart of the story. It was important to some characters’ arcs.

I had a few problems with it. The Dark Divide suffered a bit of middle book syndrome. It wasn’t as strong as Edge of Wild. I really don’t know what to make off the big reveal about Susan Varley. It was definitely not as ground breaking as the reveals in Edge of Wild. Alistair was utterly frustrating to read about! While his point of view was well done, I really really didn’t like him.

Overall I liked The Dark Divide. I will definitely be reading the last book. I highly recommend it. 

Review: Empress of a Thousand Skies

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Empress of a Thousand Skies by: Rhoda Belleza

My Rating: 5 Stars

Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an wants vengeance.

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, Rhee has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne – and her revenge.

Alyosha is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding – even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Empress of a Thousand Skies was taking the book community by storm. Not surprising considering that synopsis. Coupled with all the 5 star author reviews. I was hesitant to pick it up. While I enjoy Sci-Fi, I have found that the most popular YA Sci-Fi has not been for me. I was in the bookstore and I saw Empress of a Thousand Skies. I started to skim and knew that I needed to buy this book. I am happy to say that I enjoyed it!

Rhee is preparing for her coronation. She has finally come of age to take the throne. While preparing Julian’s (her best friend) father comes to see her. Much to Rhee and the readers surprise he attempts to kill her. In self defense Rhee murders him and creates a ceremonial killing. To let whoever sent him know that she’s coming from them. Before the whole ship blows up she is rescued by a stranger.

Aly is quite disappointed to hear that Rhee was murdered. Her murder disrupts a peace treaty between all the planets. After filming an episode for DroneVision Aly and his partner Vin go to investigate a mysterious space pod. While Vin goes off, Aly comes across the pod and opens it. Much to Aly’s surprise there is a grown man murdered in a ceremonial killing. Aly realizes that Rhee is alive and attempts to connect his superiors. After being chased by unknown droids Aly is framed for murdering Rhee.

Empress of a Thousand Skies really surprised me! I was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. The writing is in third person in the points of view off Rhee and Aly. There’s a planet map and a character list. It is divided into parts and in the beginning of the those parts there is a text of history. Which gave some interesting incite and provided for extra world building.

Once I begun reading I had my doubts. Rhee wasn’t exactly that likable and she could be really stupid. Every time I would think to myself ‘Huh that doesn’t make any sense’ or ‘This is really dumb’. I swear it was like the author could read my mind! Belleza would then come in to show and explain us why that certain thought process was written as such. This is how the whole book went for me. I came to appreciate this because it made the characters feel real and flawed. Not Mary Sue’s or Special Snowflakes.

My favourite thing about Empress of a Thousand Skies was how well the diversity was done. Aly is a black and Rhee is Chinese. Black stereotypes was actually used as a plot device to propel the war to come. Aly dispels all these stereotypes and I really felt for him. Rhee also mentions who everyone hints at her too small eyes and make other jabs at her.

Sometimes it felt like I was reading about our world. Belleza did an amazing job showing how fear, racism, and hatred can propel a war. And how easy it is for some people to believe everything they are told. 

Religion does play a huge part of the story. As there are so many races’ each one has their own religion and belief system. A part of the peace treaty is respecting each planet’s religion rather than colonizing them. 

Another plus is that there’s barely any romance! It is hinted but the romance takes a backseat for the plot. This is a journey book. There’s a considerable amount off travel/running away. I felt that it was done well! As it was actually fast paced. To be honest a lot of the plot is predictable. But I still found myself enjoying it and was eagerly awaiting the next chapter.

You know all those cheesy future movies which always show a cell-phone in the brain? Belleza actually does that. The Cube is inserted into the brain and has some cell-phone features. You can call people and even message them. You also have to update it. What’s most interesting is that you can replay memories. Rhee does this quite often.

Now of course once she escapes Rhee has to deactivate her Cube. Rhee begins to experience ‘Organic’ memories. Like flashbacks coming to her whenever she thought of something. It was really interesting to read about her comparisons of the Cube vs. Organic memories. Similar to how we discuss people missing out on experiences for their phone. The Cube becomes a huge plot point as it can be hacked.

Belleza doesn’t hesitate to kill off characters. There are 4(?) characters killed off in Empress of a Thousand Skies. I did think some of these characters would play an important role. I was surprised when they were killed off. I wonder how many people will die in Blood of a Thousand Stars?

Despite what the synopsis says Aly and Rhee do not meet each other. They vaguely look at each other but never actually interact. They happen to be in the same places at the same time but again no interaction. I really don’t understand why the synopsis states as such. 

Rhee spends a majority of her story arc consumed by revenge. Her point of view is written formally. Rhee’s family is a huge part of her arc, as she believes they were murdered. Her sister in particular was in a lot of flashbacks. I enjoyed reading about the flashbacks as they give some more insight into her past.

Rhee has a crush on Julian and the two have known each other since they were children. Surprisingly Julian will likely make an appearance in Blood of a Thousand Stars. He comes in the last chapter. Considering that she killed his father it would be very interesting to see where their relationship goes.

Rhee has a crew of sorts. The guy who saved her (Dahlan) brings a few people to help Rhee in her quest to take the throne. Dahlan himself is consumed by revenge. They each have that in common. Which made for an interesting relationship between the two. Rhee grows a bit past her revenge and chooses to act instead of chasing various people.

Aly’s point of view is much more chill than Rhee’s. There are made-up swear words and he uses them often. Aly is actually a refugee from one the planets that used to be at war with Rhee’s planet. His family also plays a huge role and why he does not want to go back home. There are some flashbacks about his family and his time in a refugee camp. I felt that they were well written and I enjoyed reading it!

Vin who is his co-worker on the tv show DroneVision is vital to the story. It is revealed that Vin is in fact a spy and has had suspicions of the attack on Rhee being staged. Aly doesn’t exactly take this too well. But I really couldn’t blame him as it was a lot to take in. Still their friendship was fun to read and well written.

Aly meets a girl whose name is Kara while on the run. Kara is looking for her mother who was a scientist. She went missing along with other important people at a summit meeting. The two make an alliance to help each other. It’s through Aly’s point of view that readers find out about the Cube experimentation.

I am giving Empress of a Thousand Skies an extra star for all the issues that Belleza discussed. Without getting preachy.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Empress of a Thousand Skies! I will definitely be reading Blood of a Thousand Stars. I highly recommend it for everyone.     

Review: Chaotic Good

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Chaotic Good by: Whitney Gardner

My Rating: 3 Stars

Cameron’s cosplay–dressing like a fictional character–is finally starting to earn her attention–attention she hopes to use to get into the CalTech costume department for college. But when she wins a major competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans.

When Cameron’s family moves the summer before her senior year, she hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse. Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town–her main destination for character reference–is staffed by a dudebro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop.

At her twin brother’s suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she’s shocked at how easily she’s accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt, handsome Lincoln, and her bro Cooper, dragged along for good measure.

But as her “secret identity” gets more and more entrenched, Cameron’s portfolio falls by the wayside–and her feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious.

Beware spoilers ahead!

Trigger warning: Cyber bullying

I heard about Chaotic Good through GR. It hasn’t really been that well advertised or talked about. The synopsis reminded me off Moxie which I read and thoroughly enjoyed. I am happy to say that I enjoyed it!

Cameron (Cam for short) and her family has just recently moved to Eugene. Cameron is a cosplayer and really wants to get into the university of her dreams. Chaotic Good begins with Cameron shopping in a comic shop where she is harassed by Brody. At some point Cameron gets a paid cosplay request. In order to make the costume properly Cameron has to make another trip to the comic shop. Although this time Cameron will go in as a boy.

I had fun reading Chaotic Good! It’s written in first person in Cameron’s point of view. There are chapter titles and a drawing of a dice with the chapter number. Comic strips of D and D are scattered around the book. Also there are text messages and blog posts.

I really liked all the comic references! There were so many throughout the book and it really did give the book a geeky feel. Cam’s cosplay costumes were so much fun to read about! Gardner clearly did her research. From the sewing, the fabric shopping. sewing machine terminology, Cam’s thimble collection, and to the costumes themselves. It was fantastic!

The D and D role playing was tons of fun! While I have heard of the game I didn’t know anything about it. The characters were so vivid as was the setting. The d-dice was also fun. For some reason I really like that dice. 

There was diversity! Wyatt was black and gay. And Cam’s twin brother Cooper was gay as well. Lincoln was fat. I liked how Gardner did a good job intergrating these characters into the plot without making their character arc’s only about their diversity.

I really liked Cam’s character! I totally understood and empathized with her plights. I liked how well done the idea and the act of courage was done for her story arc. Cam was nice and strong willed. But also had glaring flaws that were realistic. Her character arc definitely gave Moxie vibes and I was here for that.

I liked the relationship Cam had with her family! They were all supportive off each other. And some of their lines to each other were so funny. The twin aspect was done well. Cam and Cooper had nicknames for one another. I thought they were adorable!

The couples were cute! It was nice that Cam was actually attracted to a fat guy. Cooper and Wyatt also worked well together. The author also did a splendid job exploring unhealthy relationships. Cooper’s ex Farrin (real name is Brian) plays a huge role in his story arc. I felt that it was necessary and not just useless drama.

Cyber bullying is a main theme throughout Chaotic Good. Cam get death threats and essentially bullied simply because she’s a female cosplayer. Brody’s character plays a major role in this arc. As he believes that all females are fake and only into geeky things to get attention. I liked how as a boy Cam continuously gave it to him. It is implied that Brody does improve but it’s not really shown.

I do some have dislikes. For starters I think that Cam kept up the boy disguise far too long. To a point where Wyatt’s feelings were hurt. I do understand why she donned the disguise but it went on for an unnecessarily long time. Cooper was selfish and annoying. It felt that he turned the boy disguise situation about himself. He was definitely right and he didn’t know everything that Cam went through, but could’ve said it better. 

While the couples were cute it felt rushed. Chaotic Good is a small book that took place over the whole summer. I fell that maybe had it been longer that would’ve made a difference. Chaotic Good is supposed to be empowering for women. But I didn’t get that vibe. When it comes out that Cam is a girl and that Lincoln and Cooper knew, the only person truly blamed was Cam. Wyatt was upset for a short time at Lincoln but that’s it. This really grated on my nerves because I felt that it defeated the whole purpose of Chaotic Good.  

I really didn’t like how Wyatt and Cooper got together. Cooper glues himself to Wyatt after it comes out that Cam is a girl. He did this to cheer up Wyatt by lending him his shoulder and to also start a relationship with him. This put a bitter taste in my mouth. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t have gotten together. But I would’ve preferred another way for that to happen.

While I enjoyed Cam’s character I kind of wished we got a story arc with Brina (Brody’s crush). Brina was so brave! When she came to the comic store she didn’t freeze Brody, nor did she really care what he said to her and about her. Brina would’ve been an interesting main character.

Also it is stated that Cam and Cooper are going to be in their last year of high school after summer. Now what I don’t get it why is Cam applying for university this early? I know there are early admissions but I’m pretty sure those start later on. Could someone please clarify that in the comments? Thanks! 

Overall I enjoyed this book. I definitely recommend it to everyone. Especially if you liked Moxie.