15 May 2018

Review: We Are All That's Left

We Are All That's Left
by Carrie Arcos

Publisher: Philomel
Publication Date: May 15, 2018

WE ARE ALL THAT’S LEFT by Carrie Arcos is an unflinching look at the terror of war and in contrast, the lasting power of love. The story switches back and forth between the life of Zara in present-day Rhode Island and the childhood of her mom, Nadja, in the midst of the Bosnian War two decades prior. After a terror attack at a local farmer’s market leaves Zara injured and her mom in a coma, Zara races to find out more about her mom’s hidden past and to rebuild her life on an unstable foundation. 

In WE ARE ALL THAT’S LEFT, Arcos has intricately woven together two unique but related storylines. The characters are believable and the plot is set at an excitingly rapid pace, keeping the story going while still advancing the character development. The story and writing of WE ARE ALL THAT’S LEFT make it into a thrilling, remarkable novel with a powerful message of love and all of the forms it can come in. I recommend this book for lovers of historical fiction, gripping storylines, or strong heroines.

Review: All of This Is True

All of This Is True
by Lygia Day Peñaflor

Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: May 15, 2018

When four teenagers befriend their favorite YA author, they don’t suspect that anything will go horribly wrong. Miri Tan just figures that her plan to get to know the author has been successful. Soleil Johnston is happy because the mysterious new boy Jonah Nicholls has started to hang out with them. Penny Panzarella hopes that with their newfound friendship, she can show her school that she is more than just an airhead party girl. Yet things can’t always go your way, and the teens figure that out when author Fatima Ro’s pleas for them to be "transparent" with her turn into her manipulating them so they become the plot of her newest book. And we all know you can’t write a book without a good twist.

This book has so many amazing aspects. For one, it has an amazing method of communicating the story: through "documents" gathered about what happened. These documents include transcripts of interviews, diary entries, and snippets of the book that Fatima wrote on the protagonists. I really enjoyed this because it made you feel a lot like you are actually in the story and experiencing it just like a real scandal is going on.

On to the actual story. At first I was a bit bored. Peñaflor pretty quickly revealed what the big "twist" was that made the group so scandalized. After I read this, I figured what more could they do? But this idea was quickly dismissed in the middle of the book when things began to pick up. This was very interesting because a lot of times when authors reveal the twist too early, the rest of the book feels pale and weak in comparison. In this book, the author did the opposite of that. The author even made it so readers feel almost like they are spoiling the book for themselves through the "excerpts" of Fatima Ro's book.

Another great aspect of this book was the characters. I don’t think I have ever read more relatable characters in a YA book before. The three main girls were all book nerds in love with YA (which many readers could relate to) who each have different distinct teen personalities from the suck up, to the victim, and the one who just wants to fit in.

Overall, I recommend this book for fans of ILLUMINAE because even if they are not in the same genre, they utilize similar methods of storytelling. Also, this book is best for teenagers because of references to rape and mild violence.  

08 May 2018

Review: A Lite Too Bright

A Lite Too Bright
by Samuel Miller

Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: May 8, 2018

A LITE TOO BRIGHT by Samuel Miller is the story of Arthur Louis Pullman the Third. Arthur’s grandfather was an author and his only book became one of the most famous books ever written. But five years before Arthur the Third’s story takes place, his famous grandfather, severely disabled by dementia, sets off on a bizarre trip across the United States and turns up dead two thousand miles from where he began. At the beginning of the novel, Arthur Louis Pullman the Third discovers a clue left for him by his grandfather and begins on an adventure that would finally teach him the truth behind his grandfather’s life.

Miller’s debut novel was a delight; equal parts charming, intriguing, thrilling, and puzzling. Arthur’s journey is fast-paced and exciting, and Miller’s writing is extraordinary. Often incorporating bits of writing from the style of Arthur’s grandfather, Miller’s skillful writing pulled me in and kept me interested. The settings of the places Arthur visits are described so vividly, I felt like I was there with him. A LITE TOO BRIGHT is a figurative journey inside a literal journey, and Miller executes the story to perfection. In addition, the themes discussed in this novel are powerful and immensely meaningful, such as loss, healing, family, friendship. For any readers interested in mysteries, adventure, or just really good writing, A LITE TOO BRIGHT is a must read!

Review: We'll Fly Away

We'll Fly Away
by Bryan Bliss

Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: May 8, 2018

WE'LL FLY AWAY by Bryan Bliss is the story of two best friends, Luke and Toby, and their senior year of high school. With the promise of a college wrestling scholarship for Luke, the two boys make their plans to leave their town, Toby’s abusive father, and Luke’s distant mother at the end of the school year. Carefully woven within the story of the boys’ year are Luke’s letters to Toby from death row. 

These letters ultimately allow readers to piece together the events leading up to Luke’s incarceration and complimented the other aspects of the novel well. However, the best part of reading WE'LL FLY AWAY was the vulnerability of each of the two main characters. This, along with the strength of the boys’ friendship made reading the novel and their growth apart from one another especially heartbreaking. 

Warnings: physical abuse 

Review: Moonrise

by Sarah Crossan

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: May 8, 2018

Warning: this book will make you cry. MOONRISE by Sarah Crossan is a poignant novel that explores the far-reaching impacts of capital punishment in modern society. The book is written from the perspective of Joe Moon, whose brother, Ed, is on death row. It would have been easy for Crossan to make the novel purely a political statement, but, luckily for the readers, she doesn't. Instead, she uses complex characters to convey a nuanced perspective on this issue. 

The novel is written in verse rather than prose; if I'd known this when I was looking for a book, I probably wouldn't have chosen it, but don't let it stop you! The short lines ensure that each word packs a punch and add to the overall feeling of urgency. In all, MOONRISE is a truly incredible reading experience and is sure to stick with you for a long, long time.

01 May 2018

Review: Brightly Burning

Brightly Burning
by Alexa Donne

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 1, 2018

BRIGHTLY BURNING is about the crew (plus one civilian) of the Rochester, a spaceship orbiting the moon. Captain Hugo Fairfax, Grace Poole, Commander Xiao, to name a few of the crew. Our civilian is ten-year-old Jessa, younger sister of our Captain. The crew is dedicated to taking care of her. She has had governesses in the past, but they never stay long, and the newest one, Stella (our protagonist), is trying to figure out why. She sorts through rumors of murder and ghosts, all the while drifting closer and closer to the mysterious, wild Hugo. He drags her to parties and has her teach Jessa for most of her day each day, but usually, a few hours at the end of the day are reserved to them, in which they both come out of their shells and read together. But Stella hears laughter outside her room at night, and after Hugo nearly dies in a fire and is immediately aware of the cause, she begins to suspect he has a part in the conspiracy. 

I loved BRIGHTLY BURNING. It is said that BRIGHTLY BURNING is an update of JANE EYRE in all the best ways; I wouldn’t know, as I’ve never read JANE EYRE. Alexa Donne has a magical, kind way of writing-–I cared for every single character, even Mari Hanada. Especially Hugo, right from the beginning. He is overdramatic and showy and rowdy and broken. And he does not like himself very much. He is quick to blame himself, no matter what happens. He lets his guilt nearly destroy him, more than once. I feel strong sympathy for him, because he reminds me of me, but worse. I too would feel it necessary to take over a spaceship at a young age, rather than letting someone out of the family captain it. Stella is a relatable protagonist, excellent narrator, and good friend, but she wasn’t my favorite character, despite her kind heart. No, my favorite character is Rori, the Rochester’s artificial intelligence. I’ve read the book, I know the world inside; for you, I will reveal no spoilers but tell you that throughout the book, Rori brings light and humor to the darkest situations, and often is our hero’s hero. She’s mighty good at troubleshooting and telling people what to do without sounding overbearing. And she seems quite aware. If I were ever to have an AI anywhere, I would want her to be like Rori. (Rori x Lori forever!!!) 

The quality in Donne’s writing actually improves with the chapters. At the beginning, it wasn’t that interesting and it felt cliché. If you run into the same problem, don’t let that stop you. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. By which I mean, at around page 36 (don’t skip), the momentum increases, the tension speeds up, and I read the rest of it in one sitting. The book is much darker than you first think. And I deeply appreciated every element of it. You will not be able to put it down. The ending for me lacked in what I like to call “reader looseness.” It was adorable and romantic and special and healing, but it told you what happened after the climax and sorting-out-of-plot, rather than letting you imagine. It shoved us too far into the future, but other than that, the book was far better than I expected. I beg you to read it. It is diverse for the sake of realism--humanity really does have that much variety--and compassionate in nature.

Review: The Smoke Thieves

The Smoke Thieves
by Sally Green

Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: May 1, 2018

What do a princess, soldier, demon hunter, thief, and servant all have in common? They all live in a world where four nations, soaked in the barest bit of magic, are at the brink of war. In Brigant, Princess Catherine prepares for a marriage arranged by her scheming father. In Calidor, March seeks revenge on the prince he serves for betraying his people. In Pitoria, Edyon steals for the fun of it, as he travels from town to town. And in the far north, Tash runs for her life as bait for the demon hunter Gravell. But as alliances shift and old feuds are dug up, each of their lives will be affected as they eventually come together because of a single jar of the illustrious drug, demon smoke.  

Though this book started out slow, it certainly did not stay like that for long! In fact, this was the book that brought me out of my reading slump! As the story progressed, I could feel myself fall quickly in love with the plot of each chapter. The author did this by writing tons of mini high stakes situations that make the reader unable to put the book down from chapter to chapter. Another thing Green did with the plot that really interested me personally, was how she hinted about connecting all of the point of views at some point of the book. Because of this, I was constantly searching for what could be hints of connection. This sort of active reading made me super absorbed into the plot because I really felt like I was there with the characters, trying to figure out the political plots and twists with them.

Another aspect of the book that I really enjoyed was the characters. Each had a very distinct “role” but the book made sure to stay away from falling into the stereotypes that came with them. One thing that I found to be very interesting was how the author had a character that felt very similar to a character in her previous book. I enjoyed how she added this in because I loved that character, but at the same time I thought it was interesting how she made sure the character was still unique in his own right.

If you love books full of amazing world building and a bit of magic, this book is for you! You will not be bored with all the amazing subplots and excellent writing.