17 October 2017

Review: A Line in the Dark

A Line in the Dark
by Malinda Lo

Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 17, 2017

A LINE IN THE DARK by Malinda Lo is a suspenseful yet heartfelt novel that explores concepts of privilege, sexuality, and friendship. Protagonist Jess Wong has had unrequited feelings for her best friend, Angie Redmond, for as long as she can remember. When Angie starts dating Margot Adams, a wealthy girl from a nearby boarding school, Jess feels more alone than ever. The plot takes a dark turn when Margot’s best friend is murdered, and Jess, Angie, and Margot find themselves at the center of the investigation. Overall, I enjoyed this book; I found Jess to be a relatable, three-dimensional character, and I enjoyed hearing her narration. To add suspense to the murder, the book switches from first to third person halfway through the book, but I missed hearing Jess’s unique voice.

This book did an excellent job of shedding light on the power of storytelling and artwork, as Jess works on a series of comics that mirror her own journey throughout the novel. The one downside to A LINE IN THE DARK was the loose ends remaining at the end; the conclusion felt abrupt and I was left wanting more. Despite this, I would recommend this novel to anyone looking for a fast-paced mystery novel with a compelling protagonist. 

10 October 2017

Review: All the Crooked Saints

All the Crooked Saints
by Maggie Stiefvater

Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: October 10, 2017

ALL THE CROOKED SAINTS by Maggie Stiefvater is a heartwarming story about overcoming your mistakes and accepting who you are. The story centers around the Soria family, a family with the unusual power to perform miracles. Pilgrims come from all over the United States to see the Saint of Bicho Raro, Daniel Soria. Daniel performs a miracle that exposes the darkness within a pilgrim and then the pilgrim performs the second miracle, expelling the darkness forever. The pilgrims must do the second miracle on their own; if a Soria helps a pilgrim in any way a very powerful, almost unbeatable darkness will fall on the Soria and anyone who tries to help will also experience the same darkness. The conflict arises when Daniel falls in love with a pilgrim and tries to help her, bringing the darkness on him. He flees into the desert to isolate himself and keep other Sorias from meeting the same fate. His two cousins, Joaquin and Beatriz, are compelled to help him and with the help of some pilgrims devise a plan to save Daniel.

This book has a great cast of characters. Each Soria family member and pilgrim is given a history and attitude. Some of the characters include: a fourteen foot radio host named Tony, a school teacher named Jennie who can only repeat back what is spoken to her, a pilgrim who is constantly rained on and wears a wedding dress with live butterflies stuck to it, a priest with the body of a man and the head of a wolf, and two twins made inseparable by the snake that twines them together. Each character has to overcome their own darkness in order to help Daniel overcome his. The story is also very inventive and creative; Stiefvater invents a convincing reality in which characters interact and live in the presence of miracles. I also really enjoyed the satisfying and exciting conclusion to the book. I would love to read other books by this author and recommend this book to readers of any age who like a character-driven, intricate, and creative story.

Review: Turtles All the Way Down

Turtles All the Way Down
by John Green

Publisher: Dutton Books for Young People
Publication Date: October 10, 2017

John Green has done what I thought was impossible: he has out-John Greened himself. This is TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN in a nutshell: an emotional tale riddled with obscure literary references that only someone who has read an entire library would understand, the quirky best friend(TM), and too many internal monologues to count ...and I loved every second of it. More than just a romance, or a look at teenage friendship, or a coming of age adventure, TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN is about personal struggles with mental health and the inescapability of one's own mind. Aza, the main character, tries to live her life and not be controlled by her "thought spirals", but is held back by the very thing only she has control of: herself.

This book was a bit different from some of Green's other books, in that it was less plot based and more based on the internal emotions of the main character, but I think that he was really able to convey true and raw depth of the characters, especially Aza. His own personal experiences with mental health are visible through Aza; her struggles don't seem fake or exaggerated and are grounded in the roots of John Green's own fight. This is not a book to read passively; it demands a deep connection from the reader to actively root for and against the characters, often at the same time. Following the publication of this book, there is likely to be a trend in YA focusing on mental health, as seen in the effect of Green's other books after their releases, yet I doubt any of them will be able to match the caliber and power of TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN. There were definitely some problems, don't get me wrong. The freedom of these 16 to 17 year olds to do whatever they wanted is highly implausible, and the lack of any actively responsible parental figures is a bit strange, but these are commonly overlooked in YA fiction, whether it be a misunderstanding of the lives of modern teens or the need to further the plot, but it doesn't have too much of a negative effect on the novel as a whole. I was really impressed at this book overall, and hope that John Green doesn't take as long to write his next one. 

Review: This Darkness Mine

This Darkness Mine
by Mindy McGinnis

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: October 10, 2017

The novel THIS DARKNESS MINE tells the story of Sasha Stone, the perfect straight-A student who plays first chair clarinet with her boyfriend on her side. At least she was until Isaac Harver comes around, the bad boy who seems to know all about her despite the fact that she has never talked to him before. Suddenly, Sasha learns of a twin sister she absorbed in the womb. She doesn’t think that it would explain the gaps of missing time in her schedule and the memories of things she never thought she would do, but would it? With the knowledge that her body might not be hers alone, Sasha must now figure out what she is willing to do to take her life back.

It has been a while since I have read a psychological thriller and this book made me wish that I have read more. I love the way that the author twisted seemingly normal things and made the reader question whether or not they were true. The main character’s mental state is one the reader must continue to question, adding to the mystery of the novel. All the layers the author added to this book were breathtaking as well, with the many different sides of characters to the main character herself. Most people always love the main character, but in this book, you will find yourself wondering how good she really is. This book is clearly well researched adding new information to things most people wouldn’t think twice about.

If you are looking for a psychological thriller with complex characters, this book might be perfect for you. With surprises at every corner and high stakes, this book is a fast-paced page turner perfect for fans. I would recommend this book for mature readers because of the language the author uses and some of the scenes featured, but if you are willing to look past that you will enjoy the book greatly. At the end, this book will leave you questioning who the real antagonist is: something dark and evil, or Sasha herself.

03 October 2017

Review: Satellite

by Nick Lake

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 3, 2017

SATELLITE by Nick Lake follows the narrative of 15-year-old Leo and his friends Orion and Libra as they make the transition from living in space to going ‘home’ to Earth for the first time. Having been born on a satellite that orbits Earth, the trio is forced to navigate the challenges of living on an unfamiliar planet that turns out to be much less welcoming than they’d hoped. 

While this book was emotionally compelling and had plenty of depth, it was written in ‘text-speak’ which replaces words like “you”, “see”, or “someone” with “u”, “c”, and “some1”. This is certainly unique, but it makes the book frustrating to read and made me feel like I was reading the text messages of a kid who hadn’t learned how to spell out full words yet. The author also uses lots of complicated space terms without ever explaining what they are, leaving the reader feeling out of the loop. However, SATELLITE’s concept was very interesting and it felt so much deeper than lots of other Sci-Fi books I’ve read. In all, this book has the potential to be something truly amazing for people that aren’t bothered by lack of complete words. I recommended this book for ages 14 and above due to inappropriate language.

Review: The Last Namsara

The Last Namsara
by Kristen Ciccarelli

Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: October 3, 2017

THE LAST NAMSARA follows the story of Asha, a dragon slaying princess, disliked by her own people because of the crime she committed as a child that almost destroyed the kingdom. To make up for her mistake, she must kill dragons to protect her people. To top it all off, in order to unite the broken kingdom, she’s being forced to marry a man she hates: Jarek, the cruel commandant. However, the king gives her a choice: she can either marry Jarek or slay the most powerful dragon to gain her freedom. 

Ciccarelli nails it with this fantasy novel. It’s got the perfect amount of our favorite fantasy clich├ęs (sword wielding princesses and fire breathing dragons) but mixes things up with an uncommon romance between a princess and her betrothed's slave. Complex characters, forbidden love, a compelling plot and beautiful writing make THE LAST NAMSARA the perfect fall fantasy read for fans of ERAGON and THRONE OF GLASS. 

02 October 2017

Review: Blood and Ink

Blood and Ink
by Stephen Davies

Publisher: Charlesbridge Teen
Publication Date: September 19, 2017

BLOOD AND INK by Stephen Davies is about a boy and girl named Ali and Kadi. Ali is a member of Al Qaeda and Kadi is a Muslim who lives in Timbuktu. When Ali helps occupy Timbuktu and discovers secret manuscripts, Kadi fights to keep them safe. The only thing is Kadi and Ali are in love with each other. I enjoyed reading this book. It was written from two points of view, Ali and Kadi's. I like that style of writing. The book was very fast paced and exciting. The only thing I didn't enjoy was that the book was about a very heavy topic, but it was written with a very light style of writing, which I think took away from the seriousness of the topic. Other than that there were many plot twists and you couldn't really guess the ending, which is a good thing. Overall, I really liked this book. I recommend this book to fans of fiction drawn from recent history.