Book Review: More than Maybe by Erin Hahn

More than Maybe

More than Maybe Book Cover

Title: More than Maybe
Author: Erin Hahn
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Date of Publication: July 21, 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books


Synopsis

“Growing up under his punk rocker dad’s spotlight, eighteen-year-old Luke Greenly knows fame and wants nothing to do with it. His real love isn’t in front of a crowd, it’s on the page. Hiding his gift and secretly hoarding songs in his bedroom at night, he prefers the anonymous comfort of the locally popular podcast he co-hosts with his outgoing and meddling, far-too-jealousy-inspiringly-happy-with-his-long-term-boyfriend twin brother, Cullen. But that’s not Luke’s only secret. He also has a major un-requited crush on music blogger, Vada Carsewell.

Vada’s got a five year plan: secure a job at the Loud Lizard to learn from local legend (and her mom’s boyfriend) Phil Josephs (check), take over Phil’s music blog (double check), get accepted into Berkeley’s prestigious music journalism program (check, check, check), manage Ann Arbor’s summer concert series and secure a Rolling Stone internship. Luke Greenly is most definitely NOT on the list. So what if his self-deprecating charm and out-of-this-world music knowledge makes her dizzy? Or his brother just released a bootleg recording of Luke singing about some mystery girl on their podcast and she really, really wishes it was her?”

Goodreads

My Thoughts

More than Maybe is like a music-nerd’s heaven.  It’s chock full of references to great bands and artists, and as I was reading, I kept wanting to listen to the songs they were talking about.  (In case you were wondering, lounging on the couch listening to The Neighbourhood’s “Sweater Weather” while reading a good book is the perfect way to spend a Monday night!)

While More than Maybe is well written, and I truly connected with the characters, it was missing that X-Factor.  Parts of the book felt a lot stronger than others. In particular, the prologue had me itching to read the novel, but it did start off very slow.  It gradually becomes clear that Vada and Luke already know who each other is (which isn’t entirely obvious from the description of the book), and they’ve been casual acquaintances for the last 3 – 4 years. We don’t get a meet cute, and the very beginning is so vague that it’s hard to tell how long they’ve known each other or how well they know each other until a little too far into the book.  

I loved both Vada and Luke and their dynamic, but I felt like the plot was lacking… something. There weren’t many obstacles for them to overcome in their love, unless of course both of them suffering from varying degrees of shyness is truly an obstacle.  Also–Luke is shy, and he’s had a crush on Vada since they met, BUT he’s had a bunch of girlfriends in the past? That part I don’t get. If he liked Vada, why didn’t he ask her out? There needed to be an explanation for this, and it could have been something simple and cliche like “He didn’t really like the other girls as much as he liked Vada, and he was afraid of rejection”. It would be cheesy, but still a solution to this little plothole.

Both Vada and Luke have issues in their lives that keeps the plot fresh.  Vada wants to go to college, and she’s dealing with navigating her relationship with her deadbeat dad and trying to find the courage to ask him for the money she needs.  Luke’s father is a former rock star, and Luke is dealing with the problem that his family doesn’t respect that he doesn’t want to perform music, and he’s writing his music in secret for himself.  There is a very subtle and well-executed character arc that Luke goes through as he discovers who he is.  (Super vague, I know, but I don’t really want to spoil anything).  

While the plot isn’t quite what I was expecting, this romance is very cute, and the novel has a nice, fulfilling conclusion.  

More than Maybe

I recommend this book to those looking for a music-themed young adult romance.  

*Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc to review*

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Book Review: The Love Square by Laura Jane Williams

The Love Square

The Love Square

Title: The Love Square
Author: Laura Jane Williams
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Date of Publication: June 29, 2020
Publisher: Avon Books UK


Synopsis

She’s single. But it can still be complicated…

Penny Bridge has always been unlucky in love.

So she can’t believe it when she meets a remarkable new man.

Followed by another.

And then another…

And all of them want to date her.

Penny has to choose between three. But are any of them The One?

The bestselling author of Our Stop will have you laughing, crying and cheering Penny on in this funny and feel-good exploration of hope, romance and the trust it takes to finally fall in love. Perfect for fans of Mhairi McFarlane’s If I Never Met You and Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

After having devoured Our Stop and falling in love with Laura Jane Williams’ characters, humour, and writing style, I had high hopes for this novel. But this one is nothing like Our Stop, and I think that’s what made me have a hard time with it. It’s much more heartfelt and serious, with very little humour. 

Penny is an old soul, and I say that because while reading the first few chapters, I was sure she was an older woman. When it was revealed that she’s only thirty, I was shocked.  I think it’s a combination of her irritability, her having given up on finding love, the success she’s already found in her career, and her general outlook on life.  I have to say that I wasn’t a fan of Penny’s. She’s indecisive, which I can accept, since that’s honestly a critical aspect of the plot of the book. (If she wasn’t indecisive, she would be able to pick her man right away!)  But one part that really got to me was her jealousy. Can she honestly be upset that the men she’s with aren’t monogamous when she herself isn’t? That said, there was a little bit of slut shaming in this book that really upset me, and honestly made me dissatisfied with the man that she ends up choosing in the end.  

The blurb for the novel is a little misleading, and she isn’t truly dating three guys at the same time.  While the book has feminist themes, I wanted her to genuinely date these three men for the majority of the book, but she only starts to date the third man around the 60% mark. Based on my experience reading Our Stop, I had assumed that there would be humorous scenes where she bumps into one man while on a date with another, and other romantic comedy situations, but this book only has one or two of these, and the tone was all off. I felt more of a sense of dread than being overwhelmed with the giggles like I was during awkward scenes in her previous book.  

I know I shouldn’t be so critical, but when the blurb tells you that you will be laughing and crying while reading a “feel good book” I expect to laugh and “feel good” while reading it. Oh well. I’ll still check out the author’s next book, and I hope that she’ll return to the romantic comedy genre.  

The Love Square

I recommend this book to those looking for a heartfelt novel about a woman trying to figure out her identity.

*Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc to review*

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Book Review: Bookish and the Beast by Ashley Poston

Bookish and the Beast

Bookish and the BeastTitle: Bookish and the Beast
Author: Ashley Poston
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Series: Once Upon a Con #3

Date of Publication: August 4, 2020
Publisher: Quirk Books


Synopsis

In the third book in Ashley Poston’s Once Upon a Con series, Beauty and the Beast is retold in the beloved Starfield universe.

Rosie Thorne is feeling stuck—on her college application essays, in her small town, and on that mysterious General Sond cosplayer she met at ExcelsiCon. Most of all, she’s stuck in her grief over her mother’s death. Her only solace was her late mother’s library of rare Starfield novels, but even that disappeared when they sold it to pay off hospital bills.

On the other hand, Vance Reigns has been Hollywood royalty for as long as he can remember—with all the privilege and scrutiny that entails. When a tabloid scandal catches up to him, he’s forced to hide out somewhere the paparazzi would never expect to find him: Small Town USA. At least there’s a library in the house. Too bad he doesn’t read.

When Rosie and Vance’s paths collide and a rare book is accidentally destroyed, Rosie finds herself working to repay the debt. And while most Starfield superfans would jump at the chance to work in close proximity to the Vance Reigns, Rosie has discovered something about Vance: he’s a jerk, and she can’t stand him. The feeling is mutual.

But as Vance and Rosie begrudgingly get to know each other, their careful masks come off—and they may just find that there’s more risk in shutting each other out than in opening their hearts.

Goodreads

Plot

This is by far the best instalment in this series. I think it might be the last, but I’m hoping there will be more. There’s always Calvin to pair up with a love interest, right? RIGHT? 

I absolutely love the interpretation of the Beauty and the Beast story to fit the romance between Rosie and Vance.

There are a few parts that require a suspension of disbelief, but these are easily forgiven, because if it’s destined to happen, maybe these aren’t eyeball-rolling coincidences and are actually the fates working their magic.  After reading the first two in this series, I’d already jumped on the bandwagon of believing that ExcelsiCon has some sort of sorcery that makes the cast of Starfield fall in love with mere commoners. I guess I just took each of these silly little “coincidences” in stride.

Characters

Vance is my favourite of the love interests in the Once Upon a Con series. He’s a ladies’ man, a child actor born into the business, and he has a lot of well-concealed self-loathing.  We met him in The Princess and the Fangirl, albeit briefly, and he was presented as quite the a**hat.  I was surprised to learn that he would be in the third book in the series, based on the way he was presented.  But then I realized that this was incredibly exciting, allowing for the opportunity for an compelling redemption arc, just like his character General Sond in the Starfield universe.

Rosie is my favourite type of protagonist. I love that she’s the bookworm type who also sometimes gets attention from boys – which is evident in the case that Garrett (essentially Gaston from Beauty and the Beast) won’t take no for an answer when he repeatedly asks her to Homecoming. In books like these, I like to see that the protagonist has seen some interest from boys but turns them down, because then when Vance falls for her, we don’t think that she’s falling for him back because she’s never had someone interested in her before.  If that makes sense?  She loves him for him, not because of the attention he’s giving her (despite the fact that the attention he gives her is a lot sweeter and more romantic than that douche Garrett–but that really adds to the humour of the entire situation).

Worldbuilding

The parallels between the world of Starfield and what is happening in the novel are just as pronounced in this book as they are in the previous instalments. However, as mentioned in my review of The Princess and the Fangirl, if you haven’t read Geekerella, the world of Starfield might be somewhat confusing and harder to appreciate in this book.  We don’t learn as much about the original television series, but this novel focuses more on the series/ book adaptations, which allows for General Sond to have a redemption arc and far more screentime than the original series.

Bookish and the Beast

I recommend this book to any nerd at heart who is looking for a sweet and funny romantic retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

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Book Review: The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston

The Princess and the Fangirl

GeekerellaTitle: The Princess and the Fangirl
Author: Ashley Poston
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Series: Once Upon a Con #2

Date of Publication: April 2, 2019
Publisher: Quirk Books


Synopsis

The Prince and the Pauper gets a modern makeover in this adorable, witty, and heartwarming young adult novel set in the Geekerella universe by national bestselling author Ashley Poston.

Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off from her favorite franchise, Starfield. The problem is, Jessica Stone—the actress who plays Princess Amara—wants nothing more than to leave the intense scrutiny of the fandom behind. If this year’s ExcelsiCon isn’t her last, she’ll consider her career derailed.

When a case of mistaken identity throws look-a-likes Imogen and Jess together, they quickly become enemies. But when the script for the Starfield sequel leaks, and all signs point to Jess, she and Imogen must trade places to find the person responsible. That’s easier said than done when the girls step into each other’s shoes and discover new romantic possibilities, as well as the other side of intense fandom. As these “princesses” race to find the script-leaker, they must rescue themselves from their own expectations, and redefine what it means to live happily ever after. 

Goodreads

Plot & Characters

I wanted to love this book as much as the first, but unfortunately I had a few qualms about it. I think it’s in the nature of the story itself. It takes place over a single weekend, so already the plot is rushed.  

Because we’re following two separate love stories in this book, I never felt that I really connected with either of the love interests. Half of me wanted this book to just ignore the romance, and focus on a potential sisterly/platonic relationship between Jess and Imogen as they discover the hardships each of them have to face in their own lives. That said, there were some adorkable romantic scenes – particularly when Jess and Harper were singing karaoke, and I wouldn’t trade that scene for anything.  Unfortunately, because we don’t get to dive into the heads of Harper or Ethan, to me, they felt like two-dimensional characters, and I was disappointed in the romances in general.

An important message about toxic fandom that was hinted at in the first book was explored more fully in this one (to be honest, in Geekerella Elle seriously perpetuated that toxicity with her own blog posts about Darien Freeman playing Carmindor in the reboot.)  I appreciated the admission that Jess disliked Elle because of this–it’s a hint of realism in an otherwise over the top sweet book series.  

This isn’t a spoiler because nothing came out of it, but why was there a whole scene in the beginning of the book when Imogen was talking about her moms having a sperm donor to have her, and griping about how much she must look like her dad, if there wasn’t going to be a realization/discovery somewhere along the line that she and Jess are half-sisters? They’re not, at least, if they are, it’s not discovered in the book, so I’m assuming they aren’t. One of my favourite relationship types in literally any book is sisterly bonds, so I was super disappointed that this was hinted at, but then nothing came out of it.

Worldbuilding

I mentioned in the review for Geekerella that the worldbuilding was one of its strong suits.  While that’s the case in the this second installment in the series, unfortunately the Starfield TV series isn’t heavily described, and the reader has to recall what was revealed in Geekerella to fully understand the references. I read the two books nearly back to back, so I didn’t have a problem with this, but others might assume this book is a standalone, when this is not quite the case. You can catch on about what happened in the previous book easily enough, but the Starfield references, which are what truly makes this series phenomenal, won’t make as much sense if you haven’t read Geekerella already.

The Princess and the Fangirl

I recommend this book to those who loved the first, and who want some more ExcelsiCon magic in their lives. 

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Book Review: Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Geekerella

GeekerellaTitle: Geekerella
Author: Ashley Poston
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Series: Once Upon a Con #1

Date of Publication: April 4, 2017
Publisher: Quirk Books


Synopsis

“Cinderella goes to the con in this fandom-fueled twist on the classic fairy tale.”

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom. Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

Goodreads

Plot 

One of the problems with fairy tale retellings is that there is a formula that needs to be followed. We are all ultra-familiar with the story of Cinderella–not just because of the animated and live-action movies that Disney released, but because of the loads of retellings that have amassed over the last few years.  That said, Geekerella brings such a sweet and fresh take on the retelling genre. 

The story is familiar, but it doesn’t feel old.  The way that Poston takes geek tropes and flawlessly incorporates them into this classic is really quite ingenious. I loved every nerd-reference soaked page.  

When Elle finds out that Darien Freeman is cast as the lead in Starfield, she’s devastated, because, quite frankly, he’s a soap actor.  She writes an angry and opinionated blog post about it, which receives far more hits than she could have ever expected.  She and her late father watched the show together, the show which sparked her father to start an annual convention in its honor.

Darien Freeman is a closet-fan of Starfield, but he can’t let the world know because it will hurt his “image”.  He doesn’t want to go to ExcelsiCon or the ball afterwards, so he texts who he thinks is the person who runs the convention.    Of course, the person he texts is Elle.

Characters

Elle is basically every nerdy girl out there. Darien is a nerdy boy in a movie-star’s body. It’s like destiny.

I’m a sucker for the trope of the two love interests hating each other while not really knowing each other. They fall in love over texts, while geeking out over Starfield quotes, all the while neither of them know who the other really is.  

Side characters were also interesting and surprisingly three dimensional. Her friend and coworker Sage is a hoot, and I was disappointed when I realized that she wouldn’t be the protagonist in the sequel. I want a book from her POV. 

Worldbuilding 

It genuinely feels like Starfield is a real TV series.  The worldbuilding and the little nods to existing series made the nerd inside me squeal with glee. I also adored references to other fandoms, like Firefly (I’m a proud Browncoat), which added to the authenticity of the story. It’s clear that the author herself is a fangirl, which makes this read all the more relatable and genuine.

Geekerella

I recommend this book to all nerds who like fairy tale retellings and copious amounts of nerd culture references.

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Book Review: The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young

The Girl the Sea Gave Back

The Girl the Sea Gave Back

Title: The Girl the Sea Gave Back
Author: Adrienne Young
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Series: Sky in the Deep Book 2

Date of Publication: September 3, 2019
Publisher: Wednesday Books


Synopsis

When she was just a child, Tova was found washed ashore by the Svell.  She was the child of an enemy clan, but she bore the marks of a Truthtongue–born with the unique ability to cast runes and see the future. Despite their fear and hatred of her kind, the Svell have used her power for their own gain, and now they plan to use it to inform their future conquests.   All Tova wants is to find a place where she belongs, and she wants nothing to do with the Svell and their insatiable thirst for power.

Halvard was just a boy in Sky in the Deep, but now he is a man, being groomed to lead his clan into peace.  But fate is far more complicated than he ever could have imagined, and he must do whatever it takes to save the clan he’s sworn to protect.

Language and Setting 

It’s rare that I talk about language or setting first for a book that is plot-driven, but Adrienne Young’s writing style is so phenomenal, that I fully believe that it is the reason why her novels are so popular.  

The world Young has created is so rich in detail, with elements of magic and myth blended into every aspect of her storytelling.  Each word she selects paints a finely-detailed landscape of this fantastical Viking-era world.  Everything is so beautiful, reading like poetry on the page, from her description of myths or visions to the bloody fight scenes on the battlefield. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the craft of writing, as I’m sure Young has something to each every one of us about metaphor and poetry in fiction.

Characters

I fell in love with sweet little Halvard in Sky in the Deep, and I was absolutely thrilled to see that he would be featured more prominently in this book.  His character remains true to the essence of the little boy we met in the first instalment in this series, but now he is a man, and he must lead his people during a time where the peace they’ve fought so hard to protect is at risk.  

Tova is a fascinating character, and I was consumed by her backstory. Hated by the people who took her in, her parts of this story can be hard to read, and I genuinely felt for her every time she was forced to cast the runes and read the future of the people who despised her and what she represented. 

The Girl the Sea Gave Back has lower ratings on Goodreads than its predecessor, Sky in the Deep. I think I know the reason. The plot of this book is similar to the previous, in that it’s about two Viking clans clashing and the boy and girl in the middle of it. The only problem with this book is that Tova and Halvard barely interact, and they don’t meet until far into the story.  I would have liked for them to have scenes together, where they get to know each other and fall in love in a more traditional way. That said, their love is quite fascinating to read, and for once I was okay with destined love/love at first sight in a young adult book, and didn’t feel like it was a cop-out in any way whatsoever.

Plot 

As mentioned in the Characters section, I would have liked for the two protagonists to have had more time together in this book. Or maybe, what I really want, is for the book to have been a hell of a lot longer. It was over too quickly, and I wanted to immerse myself even deeper into this world.

There are multiple flashbacks throughout the story, but Young expertly wove these scenes in with the rest, and I was never confused nor felt jarred when slipping from one scene to the next.  This is another reason why I think the book could have been longer, because while I loved the flashbacks, I often kept checking how many more pages were left in the book, being like “I NEED MORE PRESENT DAY STUFF”. Just to reiterate–I loved the flashbacks, I just had an intense need to find out what would happen in the present-day plotline.  

The Girl the Sea Gave Back

I recommend this book to those who want to immerse themselves in a lyrical, captivating story about Vikings, magic, and destiny.

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* Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the ebook to review*

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Book Review: Beauty by Robin McKinley

Beauty

Book Cover Beauty

Title: Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast
Author: Robin McKinley
Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Romance, Young Adult
Date of Publication: 1993, reprinted 2018
Publisher: Greenwillow Books


Synopsis

A strange imprisonment…

Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage.

When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, “Cannot a Beast be tamed?”

Robin McKinley’s beloved telling illuminates the unusual love story of a most unlikely couple, Beauty and the Beast. – Goodreads

Plot

I wanted to love this book, but it lacked for me in plot. The book concentrates on Beauty’s family life prior to moving into the castle to live with the Beast. This is the focus of the book, which I had not been expecting at all. I wanted to read about the castle and whatever mysterious magic goes on there, but this only took up the last little bit of the book.  While the events that unfolded in her home life with her father and her sisters were interesting, I couldn’t quite enjoy it because I was waiting for the real story. It almost felt like two books ideas were slapped together, when they would have served better as two separate stories.

Language & Setting 

The major appeal for this story is the writing style. Robin McKinley has an exquisite writing style, and the way that she describes the settings and the characters makes it seem like they could leap off the page and into the real world.

Characters

I had a hard time connecting with Beauty, even though she was an ordinary girl with a love for books. It might be an artifact of the writing style – when the writing focuses on style and beauty of language, I personally find it harder to connect with the protagonist.  While we frequently get glimpses into her head and what she’s thinking, I never connected with her on a deeper level. 

Unfortunately, her family was far more developed than any of the characters in the castle. We don’t get to truly meet any of the servants, since they’re invisible, yet it’s understood that they’re there. The Beast is somewhat of a caricature, and, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure why Beauty fell in love with him.  However, if Beauty’s time in the castle had made up as much of the book as the events leading up to it, I do feel that I would have had enough time to grow to appreciate the Beast and his idiosyncracies.

Beauty

I recommend this book to those who are looking for a different take on a magical medieval life, but aren’t expecting the story to exactly mirror the movie.  There is a much greater focus on her family than on her time with the Beast, and knowing this before reading the story might increase your enjoyment of it.

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Book Review: The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

The Sound of Stars

The Sound of Stars

Title: The Sound of Stars 
Author: Alechia Dow
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Date of Publication: February 25, 2020
Publisher: Harlequin Teen


Synopsis

Two years prior to the beginning of this book, aliens named the Ilori took over Earth, effectively oppressing mankind as they plan to transform the planet into a new vacation spot.  Ellie Baker is a teenage girl who lives in her old apartment building, which has been completely taken over by Ilori.  Books and other forms of artistic expression are no longer allowed, but she runs an illegal library in the basement.  M0Rr1S (Morris) is a lab-born Ilori, but he isn’t like the rest. He listens to forbidden music, and he has a soft spot for humans. When he meets Ellie and discovers her library, it’s his duty to turn her in for execution.  But there’s something about her that he is drawn to.  He confides in her that he just might have the solution to save mankind, but he needs her help…

Setting

This novel is set in a not-too-distant future where aliens have invaded.  They’re in the process of changing the world, because they hope it will become a vacation destination for their kind. The atmosphere of the story is dark and ominous, and gave me serious Hunger Games vibes early on. Despite this darkness in the plot and the setting, there is quite a bit of hope. Ellie hopes that books will save them, and Morris believes that music will be their redemption.  These themes carry throughout the novel, making it stand out from others like it.  

Plot & Characters

I wanted to love this book. A teenaged librarian living in a dystopian future? The novel starts off really strong, with several great twists early on, despite the slow pace and information dumping about aliens and how the new world works.  I assumed that after this information dump had occurred, the pace would pick up. Quite the opposite, actually. After this first third of the novel, the plot slows even more, and the focus clearly becomes on the budding romance between Ellie and Morris, not on saving mankind.  For a character like Ellie, who put her life in danger every single day by lending out books to other captives living in her building, I find it hard to believe that she would be so easily distracted from her ideals.  Whereas books like The Hunger Games focus on the dystopia and changing the world for the better with the romance being a side plot, The Sound of Stars takes the opposite approach, which is particularly evident in the latter half of the book.

There are many fun literary references throughout the novel. Every chapter begins with a quote from a classic book, and there are quite a few references within the text itself, which made the bookworm inside me squeal with glee. That said, the author was a tad too heavy handed with the themes early on in the book. I didn’t need to be spoon-fed the fact that alien invasions are the science fiction version of oppression.  Unfortunately, these themes were not shown, but told through the dialogue of characters within the first 15% of the story.  I expected this to be a theme throughout, but I didn’t expect the characters to notice and comment on this right away, which in essence ruined the discovery of this for me. 

I think this ties into my major complaint about this book.  There was far too much talking about what was happening, and not enough actual action. Again, too much telling, not enough showing. 

My favourite relationship in the entire book was that between Ellie and her best friend, Alice, who she had feelings for romantically prior to the start of this book.   I wanted more of a discovery of this relationship, but instead, the author decided to focus on Ellie’s relationship with Morris.  

The romance between Ellie and Morris was stilted and uncomfortable but masquerading as cute and progressive. I grimaced more than a few times when they were talking about their feelings, something that comes pretty easy to a cyborg that had to learn to hide his human-like emotions since they are forbidden among his kind. 

The Sound of Stars

I recommend this book to those looking for a slow-paced young adult science fiction that’s very heavy on the romance.

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* Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for the arc to review! *

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Be Not Far From Me

Title: Be Not Far From Me
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller
Date of Publication: March 3, 2020
Publisher: HarperCollins


Synopsis

When Ashley and her friends decide to spend the night camping in the vast wilderness outside their small town, she has no idea what’s in store for her. After a horrible fight with her boyfriend, she runs away from the group, falling and seriously injuring her foot. She soon realizes that her friends thought she went home. They won’t be looking for her. Ordinarily, she’d be fine—she’s a survivor. But she’s far from the path markings and her foot is getting worse and worse by the hour. Does Ashley have what it takes to survive, or will she end up “missing” in the woods like so many others before her?

Plot

I really wanted to love this book. The premise is fantastic, and there are a couple of twists and turns along the way.  However, the pacing is not phenomenal. The book starts with a bang, but there are a few too many flashbacks that weigh down the action in the middle of the book, and I often found myself skimming because I wanted to find out what would happen in present day.  While these flashbacks serve to flesh out the main character and her relationships and motivations, they didn’t seem particularly cohesive. It’s rare that I say this, but I think the book might have benefited from a dual timeline. Perhaps the novel could have began with her lost in the woods, injured, with another timeline/flashbacks revealing what happened to get her there. However, the rationale for her being in the woods in the first place is quite shallow, so maybe the author would have had to have spent more time focusing on this in order to make a dual timeline work.  The lack of focus of the flashbacks made them feel unnecessary, when in fact, they do provide some insight into Ashley’s backstory, making the novel read a little more literary than thriller.

That said, the best parts of the novel are the thrilling bits. We get a few intense sequences while she’s lost in the woods, but not quite as many as I’d hoped. The book gets more graphic than I’d expected, which was a pleasant surprise. The novel itself is a very quick read, so the issues with pacing shouldn’t deter you from this fun night of reading!

Continue reading “Book Review: Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis”

Book Review: Catfishing on Catnet by Naomi Kritzer

Catfishing on Catnet

Catfishing on Catnet

Title: Catfishing on Catnet
Author: Naomi Kritzer
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Date of Publication: November 19, 2019
Publisher: Tor Teen


Synopsis

This book is marketed as a dark thriller. I mean, look at that cover (Which, by the way, is not the cover it had when I requested it through NetGalley. That cover had cute cyber-kitties on it). Doesn’t this cover make the book look dark and spooky? Even the description and the initial reviews made it sound like a dark thriller about an AI that goes off its rocker.

On the contrary, this is a light book about a girl who’s always been on the run with her mother. They always have to move to different towns, so Stephanie doesn’t have any friends–in the real world. She has friends in CatNet, a chat room where pictures of cats and other adorable animals are like currency.  It’s quickly revealed that one of these friends is an artificial intelligence, and this AI wants to come out of the closet.  Meanwhile, Stephanie will do whatever it takes to keep from having to move to another town, because there’s a girl in her class who she isn’t ready to leave.

Plot

This book has a lot of great ideas, but I was disappointed in the execution. I’ll start with one of my favourite parts. In school, the students are expected to learn sex education from a robot, because adults find that topic uncomfortable. This part had me laughing (and a little angry, because it’s so darn accurate), and every time students would ask an unsanctioned question (about LGBTQ+ issues, for instance) the robot would tell them to ask their parents.  This was a hilarious and interesting projection of the current political climate, and I do wish this book had had more of these types of funny (yet upsetting) insights.

I absolutely loved the metaphor of the AI coming out as an artificial intelligence. However, for a book that is very Social Justice Warrior-y, the characters were often insensitive, and a lot of the metaphors really didn’t work. Stephanie should not have been running around telling everyone that [spoiler] was an AI, because that ruins the metaphor.  It was the AI’s choice to tell people, not Stephanie’s.  *Sigh*

I enjoyed the main story arc of the novel, but again, it wasn’t particularly suspenseful or dark. I would have liked for there to have been a few twists or turns in the storyline, to keep me asking questions.  Maybe I’ve been reading too many psychological thrillers, but I usually expect a twist or two in my books. At least one. (And that twist can’t be the one in the first chapter that reveals that one of the main characters is an AI).

Characters

I didn’t particularly like Stephanie, the main character. I felt for her plight, particularly the fact that her mother had lied to her her entire life, and her inability to make real-life friends–because she knew that these relationships could only be temporary. However, there were a few times when I really couldn’t stand Stephanie. In particular–when her mother is in the hospital, and Stephanie doesn’t know what’s wrong with her or if she’s even dying–and she doesn’t check on her for a very long time. Her mother has been essentially her only real-life friend her entire life, yet she doesn’t come across as particularly worried. She’s more concerned about her budding romance–which may be authentic for a teenage character, but this doesn’t make for a sympathetic character.

The saving grace for this book Stephanie’s relationship with Rachel. It was gradual, not insta-love, and they had cute interactions. However, I don’t understand why characters in non-fantasy YA books need to be so quirky these days. Why can’t the main character’s love interest be a normal girl who doesn’t draw on people and who has a normal number of birds waiting for her when she gets home (And for those asking, I’d say a normal number of birds would be 1-4).  

Catfishing on Catnet

I recommend this book to those who are looking for a YA quasi-thriller about artificial intelligence and contemporary social justice warrior issues. Just don’t think about the metaphors too much, and you might enjoy this book.

starstar

*Thank you to Tor Teen and NetGalley for the advanced reader copy for review*

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