Monday, October 15, 2018

Review: Honor Among Thieves (Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre)

Honor Among Thieves (The Honors, #1)
Title: Honor Among Thieves
Series: The Honors, Book 1
Author: Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: February 13, 2018
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Told: mostly First Person (Zara), Past Tense
Content Rating: Older Teen (some strong language, violence/murder, abuse and child abuse, brief teen drinking and substance abuse, fighting and scary situations)
Format Read: ARC (trade)
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Summary:

Zara Cole has been in and out of New Detroit’s rehab facilities for treatment of her antisocial disorder. There’s no adjusting Zara’s attitude, though. A painful past has made her stronger than most, which is why she chose life in the Zone instead moving with her family to Mars. In her eyes, living inside a dome isn’t much better than a prison cell.

Still, when Zara commits a crime that has her running scared, jail might be exactly where she’s headed. Instead Zara is recruited into the Honors, an elite team of humans selected by the Leviathan–a race of sentient alien ships—to explore the outer reaches of the universe as their passengers.

Zara seizes the chance to flee Earth’s dangers, but when she meets Nadim, the alien ship she’s assigned to along with fellow Honor Beatriz, Zara starts to feel at home for the first time, along with a devotion she’s never experienced before. Yet nothing—not her Honors training or her street smarts—could have prepared her for the dark, dangerous truths that lurk behind the glitter of starlight.

Honor Among Thieves is the first book in a daring new sci-fi series by bestselling authors Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre.


*          *          *

In a SentenceAn engrossing and exhilarating teen sci-fi with a kick-arse female lead and sweet but strong sentient ship. 

This was one of those books that I loved so much I had to read it twice to review it, and very happily did so. Blessed with getting my hands on an early copy it was my favorite read of 2017, and my 2018 reads have been hard-pressed to beat it out for best 2018 release.

Main character Zara was tough and kick-arse and, while a bit broken, her openness to embrace and bond with a sentient spaceship proved the recipe for now one of my favorite characters ever. Her story engaged me from Page 1, as did the original alien race of Leviathan and their mysterious motivations. Nadim was an absolute lamb, sweet and strong and curious and a bit broken himself, and his intimate (but non-sexual, they are completely different species) relationship with Zara has to be one of asexual me's favorite relationships of all time. 

The story was a rather relentless and engrossing thrill-ride packed with action and emotion and mystery that I did not want to put down and breezed through twice with ease. Although almost 500 pages long, the plot and setting and characters were so engaging I actually felt it wasn't long enough. I despaired over the whole week of Honors training that was skipped over, and feel it and more training time aboard Nadim could've, if nothing else, really opened up Beatriz's character. Although I really liked what she brought to the story, she never seemed quite a fully formed character, her actions driven by the story instead of a comprehensive personality. She was probably my only slight disappointment with this otherwise mind-blowing book, and I hope she will come into her own in the sequel.

Conclusion: I've said this about books in the past but with its strong main character, sweet sentient spaceship, and their intimate but non-sexual relationship all set in space, Honor Among Thieves has come the closest to being that book written just for me. I cannot begin to express how much I'm dying to get my hands on the sequel, Honor Bound, due to release February 2019!

Scribble Rating
5 of 5 Scribbles


Monday, September 3, 2018

Review: Love, Life, and the List (Kasie West)

Love, Life, and the List
Title: Love, Life, and the List
Series: standalone
Author: Kasie West
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: December 26, 2017
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Told: First Person (Abby), Past Tense
Content Rating: Teen (kissing)
Format Read: ARC (trade)
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Summary:

What do you do when you’ve fallen for your best friend? Funny and romantic, this effervescent story about family, friendship, and finding yourself is perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han.

Seventeen-year-old Abby Turner’s summer isn’t going the way she’d planned. She has a not-so-secret but definitely unrequited crush on her best friend, Cooper. She hasn’t been able to manage her mother’s growing issues with anxiety. And now she’s been rejected from an art show because her work “has no heart.” So when she gets another opportunity to show her paintings, Abby isn’t going to take any chances.

Which is where the list comes in.

Abby gives herself one month to do ten things, ranging from face a fear (#3) to learn a stranger’s story (#5) to fall in love (#8). She knows that if she can complete the list, she’ll become the kind of artist she’s always dreamed of being.

But as the deadline approaches, Abby realizes that getting through the list isn’t as straightforward as it seems... and that maybe—just maybe—she can’t change her art if she isn’t first willing to change herself.


*          *          *

In a Sentence: A quick and fun teen contemporary romance with an engaging contemporary story but cheesy romance I sadly didn't ship.

When it comes to teen contemporary romances, you can never go wrong with Kasie West thanks to her breezy writing style and signature witty banter. That said, the romance in Love, Life, and the List was not for me.

The contemporary part was awesome - girl creates and tackles a list of activities based on traits she admires in her loved ones to gain life experience and broaden her heart and her art for a show. I adored Abby and as a fellow creative could relate to her drive to expand her emotional range for her art, and really enjoyed following her adventures as she gained new perspective about her family, her friends (old and new), and herself.

But then there was Cooper. Don't get me wrong, Cooper was cute and energetic and generally a great best friend for Abby. But as a romantic interest, considering how he treated her and what happened over the course of the book, I did not ship him and Abby at all. I could see why she would be attracted to him, but didn't understand why she loved him. And Cooper's realization and end confession... it was so cheesy (complete girl service and not guy-realistic at all, in my opinion) that it just put me off them as a couple even more. I never felt the chemistry Abby insisted was between them, and don't feel they should have ever left the friend zone.

Now the requisite contrast boy, Elliot, was sweet and thoughtful and artistic, and if Abby had given up on Cooper like the smart girl I knew she could be and given Elliot a chance, I think they really could've been great together. Kasie perfectly set it up for him to win, but sadly that's not how these kinds of books work. Still, I hold out hope for that unicorn where the (truly) unexpected but totally worthy love interest actually wins. The day I finally find it, I will be the author's devoted reader forever.

Conclusion: While I enjoyed the artsy and inspiring contemporary story, the cheesy, chemistry-lacking romance just wasn't for me. I'm still a devoted Kasie West fan though and will continue to read anything she writes.

Scribble Rating
3.5 of 5 Scribbles


Monday, August 27, 2018

Paragraph Review: Dark Metropolis (Jaclyn Dolamore)

Dark Metropolis (Dark Metropolis, #1)Dark Metropolis (Dark Metropolis, #1)

Title: Dark Metropolis
Series: Dark Metropolis, Book 1
Author: Jaclyn Dolamore
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: June 17, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Alternate Dystopian
Told: Third Person Multiple, Past Tense
Content Rating: Older Teen (violence, death, fighting, zombies, human mistreatment, suicide)
Format Read: ARC (trade)
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Summary:

Cabaret meets Cassandra Clare-a haunting magical thriller set in a riveting 1930s-esque world.

Sixteen-year-old Thea Holder's mother is cursed with a spell that's driving her mad, and whenever they touch, Thea is chilled by the magic, too. With no one else to contribute, Thea must make a living for both of them in a sinister city, where danger lurks and greed rules.
Thea spends her nights waitressing at the decadent Telephone Club attending to the glitzy clientele. But when her best friend, Nan, vanishes, Thea is compelled to find her. She meets Freddy, a young, magnetic patron at the club, and he agrees to help her uncover the city's secrets-even while he hides secrets of his own.

Together, they find a whole new side of the city. Unrest is brewing behind closed doors as whispers of a gruesome magic spread. And if they're not careful, the heartless masterminds behind the growing disappearances will be after them, too.

Perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare, this is a chilling thriller with a touch of magic where the dead don't always seem to stay that way.


*          *          *

Don't let the somewhat innocuous covers fool you - this book is a dark one of necromancy and night clubs, disturbing city secrets and revolution. An alternate historical dystopian with magic, the story follows three teens who mire themselves in suicide and the undead, government conspiracies and violent rebellion to master their powers and rescue loved ones. They were diverse characters with good motivations and intriguing magical gifts, and the take on zombies was different and interesting. But while the writing style was quick and easy, the action and emotion were disconnected and choppy which made it difficult to feel and follow the violently charged story. Also, the city setting was too self-contained and the description minimalistic, and coupled with a plot that didn't make a lot of sense due to little-explained reasoning on both sides the second half was rather a mess of cutaway movement and two-second magic that had little to no emotional impact. For the most part it was a relatively engaging read with decent magic and zombies, but I won't be picking up the sequel.

Scribble Rating
3 of 5 Scribbles


Monday, August 13, 2018

Paragraph Review: The Prom Goer's Interstellar Excursion (Chris McCoy)

The Prom Goer's Interstellar Excursion
Title: The Prom Goer's Interstellar Excursion
Series: standalone
Author: Chris McCoy
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: April 14, 2015
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Science Fiction Humor
Told: First Person (Bennett), Past Tense
Content Rating: Older Teen (lesser innuendo, substance abuse, underage drinking, maybe a few words of language, murderous intent, death-like situations, words that make you shudder)
Format Read: Hardcover (purchased)
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Summary:

It's Superbad meets Spaceballs in this hilarious extraterrestrial road trip!

Just a few days before prom, Bennett pulls off something he never imagined possible: his dream girl, Sophie, agrees to be his date. Moments afterward, however, he watches Sophie get abducted by aliens in the middle of the New Mexico desert.

Faced with a dateless prom (and likely kidnapping charges), Bennett does the only thing he can think of: he catches a ride into outer space with a band of extraterrestrial musicians to bring her back.

Can he navigate alien concert venues, an extraterrestrial reality show, and the band's outlandish egos to rescue his date in time for the big dance? Fans of King Dork and Winger won't want to miss this!


*          *          *

If you love The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as much as I do, then you are in for a treat with The Prom Goer's Interstellar Excursion! With the same dry wit and wacky imagination, this YA version tells the story of a hapless teenage boy who hitches a ride to rescue his abducted prom date from the outrageous wonders of the galaxy. Bennett's teen male voice was realistic without being crass (bless you, Chris!), and I adored his detached humor and quick wit in the face of an utterly ridiculous situation. Despite playing with heavier subjects of abduction, substance abuse, death and death-like situations, murderous degenerates and more, the story was a lighthearted road trip/rescue mission packed with quirky characters (alien, human and ram alike), bizarre situations, destructive music, and outrageous outfits. Although I wasn't crazy about the day-long chapters, the fast pace and Adams-esque style made it a breeze of a read from foreboding Prologue to satisfactory More Epilogue. Thoroughly entertaining and laugh out loud funny, The Prom Goer's Interstellar Excursion was a highly enjoyable read and I highly recommend it for Hitchhiker's Guide fans.

Scribble Rating
4.5 of 5 Scribbles


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

WoW: The Lady's Guide to Petticoats & Piracy (Mackenzi Lee)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly blogging event in which one spotlights an upcoming release they are eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:


The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (Montague Siblings, #2)
Title: The Lady's Guide to Petticoats & Piracy
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Summary:

Felicity Montague is through with pretending she prefers society parties to books about bone setting—or that she’s not smarter than most people she knows, or that she cares about anything more than her dream of becoming a doctor.

A year after an accidentally whirlwind tour of Europe, which she spent evading highwaymen and pirates with her brother Monty, Felicity has returned to England with two goals in mind—avoid the marriage proposal of Callum Doyle, a lovestruck suitor from Edinburgh; and enroll in medical school. However, her intellect and passion will never be enough in the eyes of the administrators, who see men as the sole guardians of science.

But then a small window of hope opens. Doctor Alexander Platt, an eccentric physician that Felicity idolizes, is looking for research assistants, and Felicity is sure that someone as forward thinking as her hero would be willing to take her on. However, Platt is in Germany, preparing to wed Felicity’s estranged childhood friend Johanna. Not only is Felicity reluctant to opening old wounds, she also has no money to make the trip.

Luckily, a mysterious young woman is willing to pay Felicity’s way, so long as she’s allowed to travel with Felicity disguised as her maid. In spite of her suspicions, Felicity agrees, but once the girl’s true motives are revealed, Felicity becomes part of a perilous quest that will lead her from the German countryside to the promenades of Zurich to secrets lurking beneath the Atlantic.



Why I'm Looking Forward To It: As a lady of the Ace persuasion, I'm extremely eager to lay hands on this beauty with its Asexual main character! I've also heard great things about the author's delightful character and storytelling skills. Can't wait!


So what book are you waiting on?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Release Spotlight: COMPETENCE (Gail Carriger)


Today I'm delighted to spotlight Gail Carriger's latest novel, COMPETENCE! Set in her alternate historical paranormal parasolverse, it's the third in the Custard Protocol series but first from the point of view of the Tunstell twins. I had the pure pleasure of reading an early copy (you can peruse my paragraph review here), and it was a playful and witty adventure and my favorite of the series so far! Needless to say I highly recommend it, so if you haven't checked it (and the rest of the series) out yet, do so below!

Competence (Custard Protocol, #3)
Title: Competence
Series: The Custard Protocol #3
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Orbit Books
Release Date: 7/17/18

From New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger comes the delightful sequel to Imprudence.

Accidentally abandoned!

All alone in Singapore, proper Miss Primrose Tunstell must steal helium to save her airship, the Spotted Custard, in a scheme involving a lovesick werecat and a fake fish tail.

When she uncovers rumors of a new kind of vampire, Prim and the Custard crew embark on a mission to Peru. There, they encounter airship pirates and strange atmospheric phenomena, and are mistaken for representatives of the Spanish Inquisition. Forced into extreme subterfuge (and some rather ridiculous outfits) Prim must also answer three of life's most challenging questions:


Can the perfect book club give a man back his soul?


Will her brother ever stop wearing his idiotic velvet fez?


And can the amount of lard in Christmas pudding save an entire species?


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PURCHASE:
Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | Book Depository

Check out the first two books!

Prudence (The Custard Protocol, #1)Imprudence (The Custard Protocol, #2)

Book 1: Prudence

Book 2: Imprudence

Monday, June 4, 2018

Manga Review: Pandora Hearts Series (1-24) (Jun Mochizuki)

Pandora Hearts, Volume 1Pandora Hearts, Volume 24

Title: Pandora Hearts
Author: Jun Mochizuki
Volume(s) Reviewed: 1-24 (complete)
Publisher: Yen Press
Release Date: December 15, 2009 - March 22, 2016
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Horror Fantasy
Content Rating: Older Teen (heavy violence and disturbing images, monster violence, some child abuse and neglect, mental instability, murder, some minor language)
Format Read: Paperback (own & library)
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Summary:

Volume 1 Summary:

The air of celebration surrounding fifteen-year-old Oz Vessalius' coming-of-age ceremony quickly turns to horror when he is condemned for a sin about which he knows nothing. Thrown into the Abyss - an eternal prison from which there is no escape - Oz meets a young girl named Alice who is not what she seems. Now that the relentless cogs of fate have begun to turn, will they lead only to crushing despair for Oz, or will Alice provide him with some shred of hope?

*          *          *

Pandora Hearts is an extremely convoluted series with a multi-layered plot and extensive cast that hurt my brain more often than not. The paranormal fantasy story was an interesting one with many heart-stealing characters (darn you, Break *sniffles*) and intriguing twists, but with every volume the plot complicated more and more until I was less interested in the reveals and more in just finishing the series and being done with it. Despite my story frustration I really enjoyed following the character progression for most of the cast, especially my favorites - Break, Gil, Echo (although her climax still doesn't fully make sense to me) - but prepare your feels because with a violent and tragic story such as this one no one emerges unscathed, and many don't emerge alive.

Ultimately Pandora Hearts is a story of self-acceptance, grief, and forgiveness of yourself, your past, and the selfish and misguided actions of others. With seriously creepy monsters and several mentally unbalanced characters running about a twisted Alice-themed nightmare setting, it's a chilling tale of the darkness within us all, but ultimately ends in redemption. It's definitely not a read for the faint of heart, but if you enjoy epic, convoluted alternate dark/ horror fantasy stories then I recommend a Pandora Hearts binge.

Scribble Rating
3 of 5 Scribbles