What do they call a road trip in space? | Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray [ARC]

Defy the StarsNoemi is determined to save the planet Genesis even if it means sacrificing her own life to do so. But when she finds out there might be another way to save her home planet, she’s willing to travel all around the galaxy to make it happen. In this scenario, the only sacrifice would be a mech that she found aboard an abandoned ship. She’d almost feel bad about it, but mechs aren’t human and don’t have opinions or feelings¬†anyway, right?

I’m starting to think that sci-fi might not be my genre. I either find it really confusing or the explanations of the technology is too boring. I just have a hard time when there’s all this future technology that I don’t really understand. On top of that, this book has multiple WORLDS that I need to try to understand. It’s not easy, I’ll tell you that. I felt like I got a pretty good handle on Earth (obviously), Genesis, and Kismet, but then Stronghold and Cray are toss-ups. I have no idea which world is which. Overall, I wish that there had been a little more world(s) building. Gray had such a huge opportunity to create these awesome new planets, but in the end I feel like I didn’t really get a sense of “there-ness” for any of them. They might as well have been all one planet. Also, I wish the characters had actually gone to Kismet instead of just landing on its moon. That almost felt like a cop-out to me. Like the author didn’t really want to go into all the detail that Kismet would require so she just said, “Here, I’ll have them go to this more boring place instead.”

Noemi was okay as a character. I didn’t hate her, but I didn’t love her either. I don’t really feel like we got to know her that well. We get some of her background, but it’s more telling rather than showing. I didn’t¬†feel anything about her history. Like, I felt bad that she’d lost her whole family, but it didn’t feel like something tragic in her backstory even though it was. Does that even make sense? I did like the religious aspect of her character though, it gave her a little more depth. Abel was a little more interesting. There were times when you could almost forget that he’s a mech (basically a robot) but at the same time, you never really could. There were times throughout the book when his abilities were a little too convenient. Oh, the characters are in a bind? Luckily Abel can do this thing and get them out of it! I mean…everything that he did was plausible with who his character was, but still…too convenient. And I thought all the details about how he’s programmed to be really good at sex was weird and unnecessary to ANY aspect of the plot. Honestly, it just made me feel super uncomfortable every time he brought it up. Secondary characters were alright. They were really just there to help the main characters keep the plot moving.

The relationship between Abel and Noemi just seemed so obvious and contrived. Like…of COURSE they’re going to fall in love. Never mind that Abel is NOT HUMAN. Here’s the thing. I always have a really hard time when a human girl falls in love with an alien, a being who is technically hundreds of years older than her, or robots. Basically anything that isn’t really human. It just feels so weird to me! Like…we wouldn’t have a YA book where a human girl falls in love with a dog, right? So what makes these other non-human love interests okay? In my opinion, nothing. Nothing makes it okay. I’m still creeped out. WHY COULDN’T THEY HAVE JUST BEEN FRIENDS???

Overall, I thought this book was just okay. It was really slow for me to get into, but once I was about halfway through the pace really started to speed up and I finished the last half fairly quickly. It looks like this is going to be a series though and I just don’t see myself having the motivation to pick up the next book even though I wouldn’t necessarily mind finding out what happens next. But if you’re already into sci-fi, then I think you might like this book.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Moderate. No actual sexual encounters, but it is mentioned openly at times.

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A book about grief and growing up too early | Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer [ARC]

Letters to the LostThe accident happened months ago, but to Juliet, it feels like it was just yesterday. Her mom took an earlier flight home as a surprise because Juliet begged her to. Now she’s dead. Hit and run. So Juliet writes her letters. Of course, she knows that her mom will never read them, but it feels good sometimes to put those emotions down on paper. When Declan finds one of Juliet’s letters at the cemetery where he’s doing community service, he can’t help but respond. They become pen pals of sorts and under the cover of anonymity they can admit things that they never had the courage to admit before.

I did not expect this book. It was deep and meaningful and was a really intense look at grief from all kinds of different angles. All of the characters in this book are flawed and the author doesn’t shy away from the ugly parts of their lives or personalities. Juliet and Declan are both kind of angry people, but I didn’t find that I minded like I have with characters from other books. Mostly I just felt sad for both characters. They’ve both had these huge events in their lives that completely change how they interact with the rest of the world. I wouldn’t say that either of them are particularly likable, but I still felt for them and I think that’s a sign of really well developed characters.

The cast of secondary characters was also amazing. I loved both Rev and Rowan, but especially Rev and I’m very excited that he’ll be getting his own book¬†coming out next year. They were a great support system for the two main characters and honestly just seem like really good people. At the same time, they had their own flaws that we don’t really have time to get into in this book–but they’re there. I also just want to give a shoutout to the fact that Rev is an unashamed Christian and isn’t portrayed as a complete freak. Then there are the adult characters. Frank, Juliet’s dad, Declan’s mom and step-dad, Rev’s parents, Mrs. Hillard, and Mr. Gerardi. A lot of times YA books portray adults as the enemies or like they just don’t understand or completely absent. There is a little bit of that in this book, but there are also a lot of times when adults are present and they are every bit as flawed as our teenage protagonists. Despite those flaws a lot of the adult characters are also super enabling. I especially loved the interactions that Declan had with Frank and Mrs. Hillard. It’s not always an us vs them thing when it comes to teens and adults–sometimes adults are on your side! So I give a big thank you to the author for illustrating that. I also loved Juliet’s gradual appreciation for her father.

There is a bit of a plot that runs as a constant thread throughout the book, but it’s definitely not the focus–we’re much more focused on the development of our main characters. I think my overall takeaway from this book is that we really shouldn’t judge other people before getting to know them. I think this is most apparent in the judgments that Rowan and Brandon make about Declan and Rev. Rowan and Brandon are nice, good people, but they don’t take the time to try to get to know either Declan or Rev. They only listen to the things they’ve heard about Declan and Rev is guilty by association and because he dresses strangely. How many of us are exactly like Rowan and Brandon? Let’s get to know and love the Declans and Revs of the world.

Overall, I thought this book was really great. While there were some¬†overused¬†elements (the “evil stepparent” for one), I also thought that the author included several refreshing elements. I think this book will, deservedly, stand apart from other books in the YA category.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Moderate
Violence: Moderate. Some brief descriptions of child abuse.
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate. Mostly due to one scene at the end of the book–not graphic.

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The book to read if you ever wanted to learn more about autism | Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik [ARC]

Things I Should Have KnownChloe doesn’t have what anybody would call an “ideal situation”. Sure she’s pretty popular at school, but her dad died a few years ago and her mom married a total tool. On top of that, she has an autistic older sister to worry about. Her friends are supportive, but don’t really get it–not that she expects them to. When Chloe tries to set her sister up on a couple of dates, Chloe begins to see one of her classmates in a completely different light. She starts to think that maybe there is someone who can understand her after all.

This book was truly great. The author has a child who is autistic and I felt that that really shows in the book. It feels real and authentic and I learned a lot more about how to interact with people who are on the autism spectrum. This is the kind of diversity in characters that I can appreciate. The author has first-hand experience with autism and can portray it in a way that somebody without that first-hand knowledge never could in my opinion.

Chloe and David are both just really great characters. The love that they have for their siblings is obvious throughout the book. They’re definitely flawed, but I can’t help but feel that they’re still better people than I am. They have normal lives, but at the same time, their worlds kind of revolve around their siblings. Chloe and David make me want to be a better person when I’m around those with disabilities for sure. Their relationship with each other felt real and progressed at a natural pace. I thought they really balanced each other out. As far as secondary characters go, I felt that both sets of parents could have been developed a little more. More depth was shown at the end of the book, but it almost felt like too little, too late. James and Sarah were both really flat characters as well and didn’t contribute much of importance to the story.

One criticism that I have is with Chloe’s relationship with her step-dad. It just seemed so obvious to me. For once I would like to read a book where the main character looses a parent that they had a good relationship with, but then they also love their step-parent as well. Does that ever happen in real life? Does it even exist? Or am I just wishing for a unicorn here? It just feels like a really cheap way to add drama.

Ethan and Ivy were also great characters. I felt like they really showed how differently autism can manifest itself. Not all people with autism act the same way or have the same triggers. Also, I thought the author did a great job of showing that even their loved ones get fed up with them sometimes. People who have autism don’t necessarily need to be babied–they just need to be treated like normal people. The LGBT aspect of it was interesting as well. I don’t want to spoil too much, but I think the author brings up an important topic here.

Overall, I thought this book was fantastic. I’ve really liked LaZebnik’s books in the past and while this one was different, it didn’t disappoint. I definitely look forward to reading anything else that she comes out with.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Moderate
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

March Reading Update

For some reason, writing reviews has become SUCH a struggle for me lately. Any tips on staying motivated?

ARCs
Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge – Read, and reviewed
These Ruthless Deeds by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas –¬†Read¬†and reviewed
Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik –¬†Read, review coming
At First Blush by Beth Ellyn Summer
Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer
Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray – Currently Reading
The Takedown by Corrie Wang

Other
When We Collided by Emery Lord
Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger
The Crown by Kiera Cass –¬†Read, review coming
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – Currently Reading

So far I have finished 4 books this month. How’s your reading going?

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week there is a new topic and this week’s topic is: Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR

So many. There are so many books on my Spring TBR (and TBR in general) that I don’t know what to do with myself.

ARCs

The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares
Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson
The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

Books I Own

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson
Calamity by Brandon Sanderson
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
When We Collided by Emery Lord

What do you have on your Spring TBR? Anything in common? Which books do I NEED to move to the top of my Spring TBR?

Sunday Fun-Day Mini-Reviews

Okay, I’ve had a few books on my list to review for a VERY long time. So I’m just gonna knock out a bunch here if that’s okay with you guys.

Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill [ARC]

Ever the HuntedI honestly can’t even with this book. The characters were SO BORING. Think of the most generic special snowflake female protagonist = the protagonist of this book. Think of the most generic super good-looking male love interest = the love interest of this book. The premise of the book sounded so interesting too! There was going to be conflict because her ex-best friend who she’s had a crush on forever is suspected of having murdered her father and she’s the only one who can find him! In reality, the book was just “I’m on a horse. Oh, I found the guy. Oh, I can tell when people are lying and so I know he didn’t kill my dad. Oh, he’s so handsome and still smells good even though we’ve been riding a horse for 50 days in a row. Oh, I need to save the kingdom now that I know I’m a special snowflake. Oh, but he really is handsome and really does smell good.” That was basically the whole story so now you don’t have to read it. You’re welcome. In the grand scheme of things, the romance/relationship should have taken a backseat to the rest of the plot. Instead, it’s shoved in our faces at every turn. Not a fan. I’m honestly surprised I didn’t DNF it. 2/5

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

HeartlessI really wish I had had the time to review this book right after I’d read it because it really does deserve a full review. I really liked this book. Not as much as the Lunar Chronicles, but I still really loved it. Cath is such a fascinating main character. We never really get to know the Queen of Hearts, you know? But there has to be some kind of backstory and the one that Meyer gives us is just as plausible as anything else. I thought the world-building in this book was AMAZING. I mean, the world already existed, but the way that Meyer describes it is so matter-of-fact and magical all at the same time. It’s hard to describe so I’m just going to plead with you to READ THIS BOOK. Throughout everything, the main source of suspense is just the knowledge of how the story ends. Meyer didn’t write this book to change the ending so we know that things are not going to end up happily ever after for our protagonist. With that being said, you really can’t help but to root for her. It’s terrible and awful and agonizing but wonderful all at the same time. 4/5

Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

Blood for BloodThis is another book that really does deserve a full-length review. I adored the first book. Seriously, there are not words to describe how much I loved Wolf by Wolf. In my opinion, Blood for Blood wasn’t as good, but at the same time I didn’t really expect it to be. A part of the first book that I really fell in love with was the setting of the motorcycle race. Without that subplot driving the main plot as well as the pace of the book,¬†BfB¬†feels almost…relaxed in its pace. It’s definitely slower than the first book, but that does have its own advantages. The Holocaust is always a tricky subject, right? But I thought that the author did a great job being so respectful with it but not sugarcoating it either. Even though this is an alternate history, there are some facts that remain the same. With this book having a more relaxed pace, it allowed for the author to dive into the characters a little more and that made some passages especially powerful. Before reading this book, I had read a review that criticized Graudin for romantically linking a Holocaust survivor with a “Nazi poster boy” so I went into the book a little apprehensive about how the romance was going to go. Honestly, I thought it was really tastefully done and I didn’t feel like it was inauthentic to the characters. Overall, I would definitely recommend this one. 4/5

The Sky Between You and Me by Catherine Alene [ARC]

The Sky Between You and MeFirst of all, I didn’t expect this book to be written in verse, but it was. I never really know what to expect from books written in verse. I almost…don’t get them? I mean, they’re nice and all, but I just don’t always understand why the author chose that format instead of standard prose. Anyway. That’s just a me thing and does not reflect on this book in any way. This book is about a girl with an eating disorder but she really doesn’t acknowledge that to herself until the end. The thing I found really interesting about this book is that we never find out how much she weighs. I mean, we might know at the beginning, but we’re stuck in the main character’s head. So as the story progresses she’s obviously losing weight, but we have no idea how much it’s been or if the people around her should start getting worried. Honestly, this book really made me think about some things internally. I had never really thought that I would at all be susceptible to an eating disorder since I love eating food and I hate throwing up (not that those are the only types of eating disorders, but those are the ones I’m addressing right now). Recently, however, I’ve been trying to lose the ten pounds that I’ve gained since getting married and to do that I’ve started keeping closer tabs on the amount of calories that I consume. I’m not overweight by any means, but after reading this book I can see what a slippery slope any kind of weight loss is. While I’m still not concerned that I might be developing an eating disorder, for the first time I really felt that I could (at least partially) understand why somebody would. 3/5

Note: ARCs were received free from NetGalley in exchange for honest reviews.

The Jane Austen/X-Men Crossover Continues | These Ruthless Deeds by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas [ARC]

These Ruthless DeedsEvelyn is still trying to cope with the loss of her sister and the discovery of her healing powers. The last thing she needs is for the Society of Aberrations to barge into her life once again. When they give her the opportunity to help people with her power, however, Evelyn knows that’s what Rose would have wanted her to do. But even though she’s joined the society, Evelyn still doesn’t trust them. There are some things that don’t quite add up. Like, who exactly is the head of the Society? And why are some people with powers being locked up for no good reason?

I really liked the first book in this series (see my review for it here) but in this book I had a really hard time remembering characters from the previous book. I think that may be a sign of having a few too many characters and those characters not being very important. The main characters themselves are fine and pretty well-developed. At the very least, they seem like they probably have depth even if that depth is not explored to the fullest (*ahem* Mr. Kent *ahem*). In the last book I was pretty torn between our main character’s two love interests, but in this book I found myself firmly rooting for one in particular. I won’t name names or spoil whether or not Evelyn ends up with him though. As I said in my previous review, I hate love triangles, but this one was okay. Not GREAT, but okay.

The plot fit together really nicely. I remember from the last book I enjoyed that Evelyn had to stop her investigation every once in a while to participate in society. For some reason that just seemed humorous and realistic to me. In this book, there are still some obligations that Evelyn has to meet, but for the most part the book is focused on the other part of her life. This just means that the book is a little more action-packed and mostly occurs at night. Evelyn as a character was pretty much the same as she was in the first book, but I did feel that she made some really annoying decisions at times. Mostly what I wanted from her was just some transparency. It felt like that was really lacking between characters and that always frustrates me to no end.

The last part of the plot was…interesting. It was unpredicted, I’ll say that. I felt that the first book had this really powerful conclusion that I didn’t necessarily agree with, but appreciated nonetheless. But then this book comes in and basically reverses that really powerful conclusion but then it also has its own huge ending. All of that serves to almost cheapen the ending for me. I feel like the third book is going to come along and be like, “JK we’ve actually found out a way for none of that to have happened.” In the end, I guess we’ll just have to see what the next book has in store.

Overall, I really did like this book. I appreciate that the authors aren’t afraid to make big moves. I like the main cast of characters that we have and as I get to know secondary characters, I start to appreciate them more as well. I would definitely recommend this book for people who are fans of both Jane Austen and X-Men.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Mild
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.