Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (2/18/20)–One Giant Leap (Dare Mighty Things, #2)

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Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Ever since I finished up Dare Mighty Things about a year ago, I’ve been absolutely ITCHING to read the sequel. I’m excited to say that One Giant Leap was almost better than its predecessor, delving deeper into complex themes while still retaining everything that made book 1 so spectacular.

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Dare Mighty Things, so if you haven’t read it (and plan to), I suggest you turn away right now. In the meantime, click here for my review of book 1! 

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Enjoy this week’s review!

 

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One Giant Leap (Dare Mighty Things, #2)

The competition that landed Cassandra Gupta on an exclusive mission into the vast reaches of space is finally behind her. But before her is an extensive mass of trouble.

What appeared to be a mission to explore extraterrestrial life on other worlds turns out to be humanity’s entrance into an intergalactic war. Luka, the one other cadet chosen to accompany the more experienced astronauts on the mission, is not who he seems: he is one of the few, extraterrestrial survivors of an unprecedented, near-extinction attack on his species. Now, Cassandra and the others must grapple with their newfound truths, and take action against the vrag, the perpetrators of this intergalactic war. But is it all so black and white?

 

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After the absolute whopper of a cliffhanger that Dare Mighty Things left us on, One Giant Leap was a smooth transition into an entirely new novel. Kaczynski dealt with a wildly different subject matter, and her storytelling proved to be just as deft–if not more so–that the previous novel.

Cassandra and Luka had the best chemistry, and I immensely enjoyed spending more time with them. Plus, I’m all for male-female friendships that automatically end in romance. Cassandra’s asexual, anyway, and though they only touched on this in book 1, I’m still giddy about that representation. 🏳️‍🌈

Kaczynski’s handling with the aliens was equally deft. I was worried at first, because we’ve stumbled onto yet another trope that I positively despise in YA sci-fi…aliens that look exactly like humans, but with a few minor changes in eye color/powers that make them oh-so-special.

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I was so afraid that One Giant Leap had fallen into this trap, but Kaczynski explains it an inventive way: Luka’s species (I forget what they’re called, though I believe it started with an ‘M’…oops…) gave themselves genetic modifications in order to blend in with humans on Earth, and therefore look just like them. (Permanently.) So thank you for that reprieve, Mrs. Kaczynski! The vrag as well were very well designed, making for some stunning and gorgeous imagery that I might just want to draw. I’ll get back to you all on that one.

Beyond that, One Giant Leap explored the theme of the gray areas that exist during war; in this instance, both species had their reasons for going to war with one another, and one had trouble grappling with who was the “hero” and who was the “villain”. And truly, that’s how things are in real life; as my teachers have said countless times during my various history classes, history is written by the victors of these wars, and therefore, they’re painted as heroes. The losers might have equally reasonable motives, and have gone to similar lengths to get their way. And in reality, there are no clear heroes and villains. So kudos to Kaczynski for tackling this subject matter.

If nothing else, come for the POC/LGBTQ+ representation, stay for the aliens in book 2. All in all, an incredibly satisfying end to a masterful duology. 4.5 stars for this one. 

 

Today’s song:

I watched The Life of Brian on Sunday night, and it was an absolute RIOT. This song’s been stuck in my head ever since. Easily the best end to a film in cinematic history.

 

That just about wraps up this review! Have a lovely day, and take care of yourselves!

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Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (2/11/20)–Anya’s Ghost

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Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

In my recent scouring of my early TBR (which also included Zenn Scarlett), I came upon this little graphic novel and decided to give it a go. Though my expectations were just above average, I was pleasantly surprised at how clever, sarcastic, and spooky it turned out to be!

Enjoy this week’s review!

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Anya’s Ghost

As far as Anya is concerned, her life is decidedly the opposite of perfect; alienated from her Russian immigrant family, and all but friendless in high school, there’s little that interests her anymore. To make things worse, she falls down a well on her way to school one morning, and is trapped there for the whole night. But what she finds at the bottom of it may be the key to changing her life.

For residing in the well is the neglected ghost of a girl named Emily. With one of Emily’s tiniest bones with her at all times, Anya can confide in Emily at any time she wants, whether it be to cheat on a test or get secret intel on her longtime crush. But the more time she spends with Emily, both she and the ghostly girl begin to change. The ghost is hiding far more than Anya knows, and if they continue on as they are, it may cost Anya her very life.

 

 

Anya’s Ghost was an absolute joy to read!

First off, let me just say, this had the perfect balance of paranormal spookiness and teenage angst–similar to comics like Courtney Crumrin (which I highly recommend, if you haven’t read it). The art style is very stylized, but not so much in a way that it distracts from the writing or the plot–perfectly cute, if you ask me. 🙂

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Beyond that, the story spoke partially to some of my own experiences. As someone who’s fallen into the trap of manipulative relationships, Brosgol’s use of an arguably parasitic ghost as a sort of metaphor for these sorts of friends was a masterfully executed move. She perfectly captures what it feels to be a teenager, both in writing and in art style, and the feeling of being an outsider vying for clarity and friendship in an environment that feels so unkind. Though I wouldn’t quite award it the full five stars, Anya’s Ghost was a graphic novel that undoubtedly spoke to me, and perfectly balanced paranormal fantasy with the drama of high school. Four stars for me! 

 

Today’s song:

Alright, sorry, I know I pummel you with David Bowie and Radiohead, but I personally think this is a masterpiece. Plus, it managed to lodge itself in my head all morning, so there’s that.

 

That just about wraps up this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (2/4/20)–Zenn Scarlett

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Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

For the past few weeks, I’ve been attempting to scour the older reaches of my TBR. Zenn Scarlett has been on my TBR for ages, and I’d forgotten about it for a year or two before deciding to pick it up, in hopes of an inventive new twist on a sci-fi book. In theory, it had loads of potential, and while it delivered in some aspects, a select few flaws unfortunately dragged the rest of the book down with them. Quite entertaining, at the end of the day.

Enjoy this week’s review!

 

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Zenn Scarlett

For as long as she can remember, 17-year-old Zenn Scarlett has made her home on the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars, a veterinary clinic that specializes in alien life forms. In her rigorous training to become a professional exovet, Zenn must wrangle all manner of bizarre creatures. But strangest of all may be the unusual occurrences that have been popping up all over the clinic–several animals, many of them potentially dangerous to Mars’ human population, have been found outside of their enclosures under mysterious circumstances. And with growing unrest from Mars’ towners about the off-world wildlife, Zenn, with the help of her uncle, Hamish, the clinic’s insectoid sexton, and Liam, a towner boy who can’t hide his feelings for her, must convince the populace that these animals are worth saving.

 

Despite the lowish rating on Goodreads (currently at a 3.44), I was immediately hooked on the premise.

Let’s start out with the positive aspects of the book. It’s pretty clear that Schoon is a biology nerd, and it shows in the best way possible. He’s taken so much care into creating a plethora of fascinating alien life forms, even going so far to dish off some Latin names for them. Kind of unnecessary, but it did make the circumstances seem a little more real. And while I loved all of the critters, I had one major problem with them: almost all of them were described as mammalian or mammal-like.

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Okay, don’t get me wrong, mammals are cool, but to have almost all of the alien species be mammalian sounds preeeeetty preposterous. At least there were a few creatures that were reptilian, or outside of the animal kingdom altogether, but that took away from my excitement.

Beyond that, Zenn Scarlett as a whole felt unrefined. The writing was rather choppy, and often times clunky and unpleasant to read. The plot twists were predictable from the start, and while I liked the possible connotations of commentary on xenophobia, it felt far too easy to figure out. It might have been a bit more tolerable if this was geared towards a younger audience, but Zenn Scarlett is branded as young adult, as opposed to middle grade.

Going off of that, I really did feel like this could have passed for middle grade–and I don’t say that in a degrading way, but the characters and plot seemed easy enough for that age range to swallow. Zenn herself could have been anywhere from 12-15, from the way she acted and spoke, but I had a bit of trouble believing that she was 17. But if I can stretch my imagination for aliens, I can try to suspend my belief for that. Either way, I didn’t feel attached to her, or any of the other characters. I suppose they were a bit cliched, but it almost seemed intentional. Even Hamish, who was the only one of the bunch that I liked (I guess I have a soft spot for bumbling alien sidekicks), was a little tropey, at worst.

Finally, I felt that this novel could have been cut by about 30 pages. The storyline came to a satisfying conclusion, but abruptly transitioned into another plotline that could have been saved for book 2. A cliffhanger would have actually been a good thing, in this situation.

All in all, a premise that lost some of its potential along the way, but entertaining all the same. Three stars for me. 

 

Zenn Scarlett is a part of a duology, followed by Under Nameless Stars. I’m unsure if it was meant to be longer or not, but that’s where the series has stopped as of now. I don’t think I’ll read book 2, but it’s got a higher rating than book 1, so I suppose that might count for something.

Today’s song:

(You ever just have the urge to…go into a parking garage and have a dance-off with a bunch of your clones?)

(LADIES NIGHT!!!)

That just about wraps up this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a lovely rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books, Music

Book Review Tuesday (1/28/20)-Stranger in a Strange Land

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Happy Tuesday, earthlings!

After Ray Bradbury opened my eyes to the vast world that is older sci-fi, I began receiving more and more similar recommendations on Goodreads. This one, in particular, caught my eye–mostly because of the beautiful cover art, not gonna lie, but what I found inside its pages was so much more. Though dense at times, and not without its flaws, but an incredible feat of literature nonetheless.

Enjoy this week’s review!

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Stranger in a Strange Land

Valentine Michael Smith is a newcomer to planet Earth, the famed Man from Mars that has recently captured the public imagination. Curious–and a bit afraid–of what this strange planet has in store for him, he ventures out into the vast world, with the help of  Jill, the nurse who broke him out of the hospital. The more Valentine learns, the more he realizes how different he truly is–though he looks like a human on the outside, he possesses powers far beyond human ability. Powers that could put his life–and the lives of those he holds dear–in jeopardy.

 

WHEW. Man, what a unique book!

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The further you read, the more you realize the level of care that Heinlein put into this piece. Every detail, from the political ramifications of Valentine’s existence, to his native Martian customs, is so wonderfully complex. Of course, that did lend itself to an impressive amount of info-dumping, which made reading some portions of the book a bit of a headache, but hey, at least the guy’s taking the time to think all of this out.

Even almost 60 years on, much of the book still holds up. Definitely not all of it–we’ve still got a heady dose of problematic sexism and such peppered in, but hey, I wouldn’t exactly expect a white guy in the early sixties to be the wokest author on the market, not by a long shot. Not that this makes it okay, but I wasn’t exactly expecting a feminist work from this. But other than that, the writing, the lovely imagery, and the startlingly realistic public backlash to the very existence of the Man from Mars speaks to many of our issues regarding xenophobia today. Even the absolutely scathing commentary on organized religion found within the pages–I mean, the main branch of Christianity that’s evolved in this future world sounds like a religious version of a high school assembly–doesn’t seem far off from what could evolve in the near future.

And beyond that, I’ve always empathized with alien characters. I’ve felt like something of an outsider my whole life, and part of me felt such pain for poor Valentine. Mostly in the first half of the book, at any rate, but nonetheless.

All in all, a solid four and a half stars for me. 

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Before I go, here’s a fun fact: according to John O’Connell’s Bowie’s Bookshelf: The Hundred Books that Changed David Bowie’s Lifethere was almost an adaptation of Stranger in a Strange Land in the early seventies, with David Bowie as Valentine Michael Smith. And by Bowie, I mean ZIGGY ERA BOWIE.

ZIGGY ERA.

I WOULD’VE WATCHED THE EVER-LOVING HECK OUTTA THAT, LET ME TELL YOU…

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aaaAAAaAAAaAAAAaaAAAAAAAA

 

Today’s song:

4:49–4:54: TURN YOUR VOLUME DOWN A BIT JUST A WORD OF ADVICE

 

That just about wraps up this post! Have a lovely rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (1/21/20)-Half Bad

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Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

 

After reading what’s been released of Green’s Smoke Thieves trilogy, I figured I’d delve farther into her works: namely, the Half Bad series, which I’ve seen get a lot of praise over the years. However, I personally found it a bit of a slog to get through. Green’s signature world-building and attention to detail was still present, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to save the book.

God, I sound like a Chopped judge…

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Sheesh, I haven’t watched this show in ages…

Enjoy this week’s review!

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Half Bad (The Half Bad trilogy, #1)

In a modern, magical London, witches rule the streets. White witches watch over the populace, delivering justice with their healing magic, while the dark Black witches cause chaos.

For as long as he can remember, Nathan has been divided between two worlds. Born of a White witch mother and a Black witch father–and a notorious serial killer, at that–he is on the run from both sides, hunted for his divided identity. Perpetually on the run, he must grapple with his half-and-half identity–and stay alive.

Let’s start with the pros. As always, Green excels with her world-building, creating an intricate society and culture of Witches. The history was thoughtfully explained without much info-dumping. Unfortunately, that’s the one aspect of this novel that I truly liked, other than the descriptive (perhaps a bit too descriptive?) writing.

The plot was largely character-driven. While that isn’t always a negative thing, I wasn’t very attached to Nathan as he grew older. Sure, I felt a great deal of sympathy for the brutal abuse he suffers throughout the novel (that’s what I meant by “too descriptive”), but he didn’t have much of a personality, and I didn’t quite “feel” for him, and I didn’t feel for any of the characters. The side characters, speaking of which, were overtly expendable; they seemed to pass by in a blur, and you only saw them in groups for a good 100 pages or so before they disappeared completely.

But hey. Half Bad is Green’s debut novel. Everyone makes mistakes. Good thing is, she’s come so much closer to mastering her craft since then, producing such gems as the Smoke Thieves trilogy. All in all, I’d give Half Bad two stars. (DNF at about 76%.)

Half Bad is part of a trilogy, followed by Half Wild and Half Lost. There’s also two prequel spin-offs in the Half Bad universe, Half Lies and Half Truths. 

 

Today’s song:

I couldn’t care less about this movie, but I must say, there’s some great stuff on this soundtrack! This, Soccer Mommy (“Feed”), and The Aubreys (“Getting Better [otherwise]”, Finn Wolfhard’s new band)…[happy indie rock noises]

 

That just about wraps up this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a great rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (1/14/20)–Sanctuary

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Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I found this one whilst digging through my TBR recently. The premise–a mash-up of both the superpowered/trapped on a ship plagued with murderous, extraterrestrial who-knows-what intrigued me, and so I decided to give it a go. (Now that I think about it, Sanctuary is kind of an X-Men meets Aliens kind of deal.) My thoughts? Not amazing, but certainly a fast-paced and multilayered plot!

Enjoy this week’s review!

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Sanctuary (Sanctuary, #1)

All her life, Kenzie has known nothing but the Omnistellar Corps, the organization that keeps Earth safe from harm–and keeps those with superpowers at bay. At 17, she’s already in training to be a prison guard on one of Omnistellar’s many orbiting prisons, this one for delinquent, superpowered teenagers. But when she isn’t watching her back, she’s taken hostage by the ship’s prisoners, and witnesses an entirely new side to the superpower story. Before she can escape, however, the ship faces a threat–prison guards and prisoners alike are being picked off unawares.

Some are reduced to corpses in the hall.

Others simply disappear.

Can Kenzie and the prisoners find the source of the mysterious killings–or will the killings come to them instead?

 

 

First of all, hats off to Lix for a successful and well-executed mash-up of these sci-fi subgenres! Though wildly different, they worked well together, creating a cohesive, original story.

Beyond that, there was loads of attention put into the world-building, as well as the state of Earth in the near future. I’ll try not to spoil *much*, but the *things* that are going bump in the night aboard the prison ship were fascinating to delve into. My only complaint (half-complaint?) is the characters. There was such a wide range of them, and at times, there were a handful that seemed interchangeable, and didn’t contribute as much to the story. However, I did love seeing Kenzie’s arc come into play, from being sheltered and naïve to realizing that the world around her was built on lies.

Overall, a fascinating and creative twisting of common sci-fi tropes. Solid 3.5 stars for me! 

 

Sanctuary is part of a trilogy, which consists of Containment (2019), and the forthcoming conclusion Salvation (2020). I think I like it enough to continue with the trilogy, though I know that I might forget about it…as I do with…every trilogy that I come across…

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Today’s song:

(Is it just me, or does this just…transcend music?)

 

That just about wraps up this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a great rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

 

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Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (1/7/20)–Supernova (Renegades, #3)

 

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Hey there, fellow bibliophiles!

I’ve mentioned this one several times before, as it was one of my most anticipated 2019 releases. And man, am I glad to say that this book was not only my first read of 2020, but an incredible conclusion to an unforgettable, action-packed series.

WARNING: This post may contain some spoilers for the previous two Renegades books. For my reviews/Goodreads reviews for books 1 and 2, click here:

Renegades (Renegades, #1)

Archenemies (Renegades, #2)

 

Enjoy this week’s review!

 

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Supernova (Renegades, #3)

Nova and Adrian. Both battling their forbidden romance and their inner demons. Both with double lives, days from being exposed and shattering each other’s relationships.

As an old enemy resurfaces in Gatlon City, the two Prodigies must reconcile their pasts and save their beloved city from the brink–even if it means exposing themselves and those who they love. And the further Nova and Adrian entrench themselves in their webs of lies, the more they realize…is the line between heroes and villains as clear as it is made out to be?

 

 

Marissa Meyer truly outdid herself in this final installment to the Renegades. With such a wide cast of characters, I’m still astounded by the way that they were all intertwined so seamlessly, without muddying or confusing the story. (Though, I suppose the very high body count thinned the cast out a bit, but mostly for character development. Mostly.) The theme of the moral gray area between good and evil was stronger than ever, and Meyer’s clever writing and world building truly shined in this novel. Clocking in at 548 pages, I was worried for the last 100 or so that the rest of the plot would be filler, but boy, we almost had not one, but two incredibly climactic battles that served the plot well and furthered the story in a satisfying way.

My only qualm, is, I’ll admit, pretty nit-picky. One thing that bothered me a little bit was the dialogue; some of the characters (Nova, etc.) seemed a bit…too eloquent in the way that they spoke. I get it, she and some of the others are intelligent characters, but their lines read like they were reading from a ghostwritten speech. It made for a bit of discordance in some of the more climactic scenes, but I’m glad to say that it didn’t take away too much of my enjoyment.

Overall, a simultaneously shocking and satisfying conclusion to a YA superhero series that may well become the benchmark for the sub-genre to come.

Solid 4.5 stars! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

 

Supernova is the end of the Renegades trilogy, but I’m almost certain that Marissa Meyer has another whopper up her sleeve, though nothing’s been confirmed yet. I just have a gut feeling. 😉

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Today’s song:

[heart eyes] SOOOOOPPPHHHHIIIIIIIEEEEE

 

That just about wraps up this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Stay tuned for more content later in the week! Have a great rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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