Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi NovikUprooted by Naomi Novik
Published by Del Rey on May 19, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 438
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Book Review:

UPROOTED’S description likens the book to a Grimm fairy tale, and that’s a comparison I’d agree with. The scariest thing in the book isn’t a particular bad guy, but an entire forest: the Wood. It’s malevolent and corruptive, and if you venture inside, you won’t come out the same.

Agnieszka lives on the edge of the Wood. Her valley is protected by the Dragon, a great wizard who demands a girl every ten years to serve in his Tower as payment. Everyone expects that Kasia, beautiful and talented Kasia who’s prepared all her life for this indenture, will be taken. Agnieszka’s devastated about it, because Kasia’s her best friend. But when she herself is chosen, everything Agnieszka knows changes.

UPROOTED has an Eastern European folk tale feel, and since so many fantasies are set in pseudo-Western European countries, I appreciated that. I also liked how different types of magic were presented. Agnieszka’s chosen because she has magical ability, but when the Dragon tries to teach her his spells, they don’t work and tire her. Why? Because her magic is intuitive; she feels her way through spells rather than commands them.

I really liked the Wood in UPROOTED. It’s delightfully creepy, and I liked how the author slowly revealed information about it. The Wood was my favorite part of the book; I especially liked the ultimate reveal about its creation. Agnieszka’s stubbornness also endeared her to me, because I felt her attitude and reactions to events were quite realistic (and probably ones I’d have myself).

UPROOTED did have a couple of downsides for me. At times, I thought the pace was really slow, and my attention would wander while reading. I also wasn’t a fan of the relationship that develops between Agnieszka and the Dragon. Thankfully the romance isn’t in your face, but I just didn’t see why they were attracted to each other. Lastly, I wanted more character development for the Dragon and Kasia. A lot of development was put into the Wood; I wish even a bit of that had been given to the Dragon and Kasia, since they are important characters.

As far as I can tell, UPROOTED is a standalone, and I did like the way it ended. It’s always nice to get a complete story in a book, rather than have to wait 2-3 years or more. But at the same time, I wouldn’t mind a return to this world.

Socialize with the author:

Naomi Novik:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman

Book Review: Legacy of Kings by Eleanor HermanLegacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman
Series: Blood of Gods and Royals #1
Published by Harlequin Teen on August 18, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Imagine a time when the gods turn a blind eye to the agony of men, when the last of the hellions roam the plains and evil stirs beyond the edges of the map. A time when cities burn, and in their ashes, empires rise.

Alexander, Macedonia’s sixteen-year-old heir, is on the brink of discovering his fated role in conquering the known world but finds himself drawn to newcomer Katerina, who must navigate the dark secrets of court life while hiding her own mission: kill the Queen. But Kat’s first love, Jacob, will go to unthinkable lengths to win her, even if it means competing for her heart with Hephaestion, a murderer sheltered by the prince. And far across the sea, Zofia, a Persian princess and Alexander’s unmet fiancée, wants to alter her destiny by seeking the famed and deadly Spirit Eaters.

Weaving fantasy with the salacious and fascinating details of real history, New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Herman reimagines the greatest emperor the world has ever known: Alexander the Great, in the first book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.

Book Review:

I love historical fiction, especially historical fiction that covers less popular time periods than Tudor England or WWII. There’s nothing wrong with those periods, but there are thousands of years of stories to tell rather than rehashing the same thing over and over. So, I was obviously excited to start LEGACY OF KINGS. Alexander the Great as a boy? Bring it on!

LEGACY OF KINGS is the first in the Blood of Gods and Royals series. It’s over 400 pages, and for the first book in a series, it felt about a hundred pages too long. Part of the reason why I felt it was too long is there’s a huge cast of main characters. There are seven! The author had to spend a lot of time introducing everyone and setting up their arcs. I’m sure all the characters are important in their own way, but a few were boring for me, because they didn’t get a lot of page time and I didn’t know enough about them. Yes, I know that’s contradictory, but I wish the author had slimmed down her cast and really focused on characters such as Alexander and Cynane.

Due to the large cast, LEGACY OF KINGS has a slow start. It takes the book a while to get going, and switching perspectives didn’t immerse me in the time period at first. But I kept going, and after I’d gone through everyone’s perspectives at least once, the book got better. I swore I was reading a historical soap opera — but in a good, really entertaining way.

I think the author did a great job of showing life in ancient Macedonia. I really liked the little details, such as how there’s a bucket of sand in most rooms in case of fire. I also like how there’s some magic in LEGACY OF KINGS, and hints of more to come. It’s the end of the Age of Gods … or is it? I don’t know, and I can’t wait to find out.

I wavered between three and four stars for LEGACY OF KINGS. It’s a book I liked because of the time period and the story. But I didn’t love it, due to the large cast of characters and the slow pacing. Based on the ending, I think the author’s going to really amp things up in the next book, EMPIRE OF DUST, so this is a series I’m eager to continue.

Socialize with the author:

Eleanor Herman:
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– leeanna

Book Review: All We Have Is Now by Lisa Schroeder

Book Review: All We Have Is Now by Lisa SchroederAll We Have Is Now by Lisa Schroeder
Published by Scholastic on July 28, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 272
Source: Blog Tour, Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
What do you do with your last day on earth?

Just over twenty-four hours are left until an asteroid strikes North America, and for Emerson and everyone else who didn't leave, the world will end. But Emerson's world already ended when she ran away from home. Since then, she has lived on the streets, relying on her wits and on her friend Vince to help her find places to sleep and food to eat.

The city's quieter now that most people are gone, and no one seems to know what to do as the end approaches. But then Emerson and Vince meet Carl, who tells them he has been granting people's wishes -- and gives them his wallet full of money.

Suddenly, this last day seems full of possibility. Emerson and Vince can grant a lot of wishes in one last day -- maybe even their own.

all we have is now by lisa schroeder blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for ALL WE HAVE IS NOW by Lisa Schroeder. This tour is hosted by CBB Book Promotions and you can visit all the stops here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway, and also my answer for Make-A-Wish-for-the-Apocalypse.

Book Review:

ALL WE HAVE IS NOW asks one important question: what would you do with your last day on earth? What if you knew an asteroid was going to wipe out North America — would you spend your last day with loved ones, righting wrongs, or hiding? Or would you do something else?

Emerson and Vince, two homeless teenagers, don’t want to wait the last few hours until the end. They’re about to take their end into their own hands when they meet Carl, who has spent his time granting wishes to people. Helping them do something they’d always wanted to, but hadn’t for one reason or another. Carl grants Vince’s wish of having money, and asks that the two pay it forward if possible.

Emerson and Vince have been concerned with surviving on the streets for so long that they’ve forgotten how to really live, how to enjoy themselves. But as they grant wishes and help people, their own wounds start to heal. ALL WE HAVE IS NOW is a hopeful story about the end of the world, one that shows how important human connections can be at the end. I like that the book tries to remind the reader that it’s important to live in the moment and enjoy yourself, rather than always looking to the future.

ALL WE HAVE IS NOW also follows Carl, and I liked that while the book is young adult, we also get the perspective of an adult. It was good to see how he felt about events compared to how Emerson and Vince felt. I was a little let down by the ending, which was too open for me, but overall I liked the message and tone of the book. I think it’s hard for a book about the impending end of North America to be uplifting, but the author accomplished it.

Make-A-Wish-for-the-Apocalypse

Make-A-Wish-for-the-Apocalypse- There’s just a little over 24 hours until a meteor is scheduled to hit the US. What do you wish for?

Okay, so I wish I could say I’d go out and do something like Emerson and Vince. Or that I’d grant some wish of my own, of things I’ve always wanted to do but never did. But in reality? I’d probably just stay in my house all day. Maybe read some of those books on my TBR pile that I’ve always wanted to read, but haven’t. Or maybe I’d read old favorites, so I’d be assured of enjoying a good book before the end. Or maybe I’d take a nap so I wouldn’t have to count down the hours. Yeah, I’m exciting, aren’t I?

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the author:

all we have is now author lisa schroederLisa Schroeder is the author of over a dozen books for kids and teens, including the YA novels I Heart You, You Haunt Me and The Bridge From Me to You. She loves tea and cookies, flowers, family hikes, books and movies that make her laugh and cry, and sunshine. Living in Oregon, she doesn’t get nearly enough sunshine, but the hikes are amazing.

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Buy links: Amazon | B&N

– leeanna

Book Review: Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan

Book Review: Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie RyanDaughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan
Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers on May 26, 2015
Genres: Romance, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 375
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
I’m the daughter of murdered parents.
I’m the friend of a dead girl.
I’m the lover of my enemy.
And I will have my revenge.


In the wake of the devastating destruction of the luxury yacht Persephone, just three souls remain to tell its story—and two of them are lying. Only Frances Mace knows the terrifying truth, and she’ll stop at nothing to avenge the murders of everyone she held dear. Even if it means taking down the boy she loves and possibly losing herself in the process.

Sharp and incisive, Daughter of Deep Silence by bestselling author Carrie Ryan is a deliciously smart revenge thriller that examines perceptions of identity, love, and the lengths to which one girl is willing to go when she thinks she has nothing to lose.

Book Review:

The summary for DAUGHTER OF DEEP SILENCE makes it sound like the kind of book I’d love. Frances is one of the few survivors of the destruction of the Persephone; more importantly, she’s the only survivor who’s willing to face the truth of what happened. The two other survivors, a Senator and his son, claim a rogue wave destroyed the ship, but Frances knows everyone on board was murdered at gunpoint. After rescue, she takes on the identity of Libby O’Martin, a girl she met on the ship. Frances is determined to get revenge for the murders of her parents and the life she lost.

Fast forward four years. Frances has seamlessly become Libby, and now she’s out to destroy the Senator and his son for covering up the truth about the Persephone. The only snag in her plan? The Senator’s son – Grey – is her first love. They also met on the ship, and somehow fell in love in a few days. When she sees him again, Frances is torn between her revenge and loving Grey.

I found DAUGHTER OF DEEP SILENCE skewed too far in the unbelievable romance direction for me to enjoy the book at all. I wanted to put the book aside by page 8, after I read, “It didn’t matter that I’d known him barely a week, it had been long enough to fall for him with an intensity I’d never experienced before (p. 8).” Okay, I get that they’re both fourteen at the time, and swept away by each other, but when Frances encounters him years later? When she’s putting her revenge plans underway? She’s pretty much in love with him all over again, and the Frances part of her that’s hiding inside the Libby disguise wants to throw all caution to the wind and be loved again. To top that off, I’m not sure why Frances liked Grey at first — maybe because he was the first boy that showed her attention? I don’t know. You can’t just tell me that they fell in love in a few days and it’s a “relationship” that overcomes her desire to get revenge for the murder of her parents and hundreds of other people.

DAUGHTER OF DEEP SILENCE requires a lot of suspension of disbelief: that Libby and Frances looked enough alike for Frances to assume Libby’s identity; that Frances and Grey fell in love at first sight; that Frances can carry out such a complicated revenge plot without any real experience; etc., etc. I also found the author’s writing style to be somewhat stilted, with lots of telling that didn’t add to the suspense for me. The pace was super slow, and I skimmed a lot of the book because I just wasn’t interested in what was going on. The only reason I kept reading? I wanted to find out why everyone on the Persephone was murdered. But even that wasn’t too interesting. I wish I’d gone with my instincts and put DAUGHTER OF DEEP SILENCE down after the first few chapters.

Socialize with the author:

Carrie Ryan:
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– leeanna

Book Review: About a Girl by Sarah McCarry

Book Review: About a Girl by Sarah McCarryAbout a Girl by Sarah McCarry
Series: Metamorphoses #3
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on July 14, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Diversity, LGBT, Mythology, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 256
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
Eighteen-year-old Tally is absolutely sure of everything: her genius, the love of her adoptive family, the loyalty of her best friend, Shane, and her future career as a Nobel prize-winning astronomer. There's no room in her tidy world for heartbreak or uncertainty—or the charismatic, troubled mother who abandoned her soon after she was born. But when a sudden discovery upends her fiercely ordered world, Tally sets out on an unexpected quest to seek out the reclusive musician who may hold the key to her past—and instead finds Maddy, an enigmatic and beautiful girl who will unlock the door to her future. The deeper she falls in love with Maddy, the more Tally begins to realize that the universe is bigger—and more complicated—than she ever imagined. Can Tally face the truth about her family—and find her way home in time to save herself from its consequences?

Book Review:

Based on the cover and summary, I thought ABOUT A GIRL was a contemporary romance about two girls falling in love. That’s somewhat accurate, but there’s also a strong fantasy/mythological element I didn’t expect, which turned out to be my favorite part of the book.

ABOUT A GIRL is the third in a trilogy. Each book is about different characters, so I wasn’t lost. From reading the summaries of the other books, ALL OUR PRETTY SONGS and DIRTY WINGS, I can see the stories are connected, but I didn’t feel like I needed to read those books to enjoy ABOUT A GIRL.

I really liked Tally. She reminded me somewhat of myself — a girl who has no trouble saying she’s smart, a girl who has her life mapped out, a girl who’s rocked to the core when something unexpected comes along and disrupts all her plans. In Tally’s case, it’s a sudden attraction to her best friend Shane. As Tally considers attraction and feelings an inconvenience, it’s quite annoying she can’t ignore her new feelings.

After a fumble with Shane, the mysterious Mr. M sends Tally on a quest to find her possible birth father. But when Tally gets to there, to a place that’s utterly unlike New York City, she’s swept away by Maddy. Another inconvenient romance — but this time Tally’s ready.

One of my big complaints with YA novels is instalove — all too often characters declare they love each other within pages of meeting. Rarely do authors realistically explore the gamut of feelings that can result from sudden attraction. Sarah McCarry does a stellar job of it here, combining the heady feelings of first loves with a mythical, what’s happening here setting. I was never 100% sure of what was going on, and usually that’s something I don’t like, but I enjoyed every page of the ride in ABOUT A GIRL.

The author’s writing style won’t be for everyone, and I did have a bit of adjustment. I recommend checking out a sample if you’re unfamiliar with her work. Her writing is super descriptive, almost purple prose, but I really liked how she had such unique descriptions for everything from weather to sex. Reading ABOUT A GIRL is almost a WTF experience, but in a good way. A “is this really happening, yes it is, no it isn’t, everything is gorgeous and confusing and creative.”

Socialize with the author:

Sarah McCarry:
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– leeanna

Book Review: A Royal Romance by Jenny Frame

Book Review: A Royal Romance by Jenny FrameA Royal Romance by Jenny Frame
Published by Bold Strokes Books on May 12, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Romance
Pages: 264
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
Georgina, Princess of Wales, has always known her destiny, but she never expected duty to call so soon. When her father dies suddenly, she is called back from her Royal Navy post to assume the crown. While the people acclaim their new Queen, Great Britain’s first openly gay monarch, all George feels is the isolation of her station.

Beatrice Elliot’s staunch anti-monarchist views have always been a point of gentle contention with her working class, royalty-loving parents. When Bea—director of a hospice charity—must spend six months working with Queen Georgina, her charity’s new patron, sparks fly and passion blooms. But is love enough to bridge the gap between Bethnal Green and Buckingham Palace?

Book Review:

I was looking forward to reading A ROYAL ROMANCE because I wanted to see how the author would pull off an openly gay monarch. The answer? Pretty easy and plausibly, in my opinion. The book is set in 2053, not too far in the future, but far enough that Great Britain adores Georgiana, and there’s medical advances to take care of that pesky heir issue.

George and Beatrice are thrown together when the new queen picks the charity where Bea works as her main charity leading up to her coronation. Bea isn’t happy that she’ll have to spend time with the Queen — she’s a republican and thinks the monarchy should be abolished. But of course, once the two start interacting on a personal level, and Bea sees that Queen Georgiana is much more caring and responsible than she expected. George, isolated by her position as monarch, finds Bea’s bluntness and honesty refreshing.

A ROYAL ROMANCE was a guilty pleasure read for me. It was just fun to see the relationship develop between George and Bea, to see George’s life as queen and Bea’s as a commoner. It was also refreshing to see that both of their families were encouraging, even when Bea doubted that things could work between them because of their class differences. I did think the ending was a tad rushed, considering all the buildup and back-and-forth on their relationship. But A ROYAL ROMANCE left me wanting a sequel, and romances don’t usually do that to me.

Socialize with the author:

Jenny Frame:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler

Book Review: Under the Lights by Dahlia AdlerUnder the Lights by Dahlia Adler
Series: Daylight Falls #2
Published by Spencer Hill Contemporary on June 30, 2015
Pages: 312
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
Josh Chester loves being a Hollywood bad boy, coasting on his good looks, his parties, his parents' wealth, and the occasional modeling gig. But his laid-back lifestyle is about to change. To help out his best friend, Liam, he joins his hit teen TV show, Daylight Falls ... opposite Vanessa Park, the one actor immune to his charms. (Not that he's trying to charm her, of course.) Meanwhile, his drama-queen mother blackmails him into a new family reality TV show, with Josh in the starring role. Now that he's in the spotlight—on everyone's terms but his own—Josh has to decide whether a life as a superstar is the one he really wants.

Vanessa Park has always been certain about her path as an actor, despite her parents' disapproval. But with all her relationships currently in upheaval, she's painfully uncertain about everything else. When she meets her new career handler, Brianna, Van is relieved to have found someone she can rely on, now that her BFF, Ally, is at college across the country. But as feelings unexpectedly evolve beyond friendship, Van's life reaches a whole new level of confusing. And she'll have to choose between the one thing she's always loved ... and the person she never imagined she could.

Book Review:

I am picky when it comes to contemporary. Very, very picky. I originally picked up UNDER THE LIGHTS because I knew it had a girl/girl relationship, and those are all too rare in YA/NA.

By the way, this is the second book in a series, but you don’t need to have read the first, BEHIND THE SCENES, because UNDER THE LIGHTS is Vanessa and Josh’s story, not Ally and Liam’s.

I got that relationship and so much more. Honestly, I was surprised at how deftly the author wove in many big important things, including:

♥ Diversity. Vanessa is Korean American. She’s part of the main cast for Daylight Falls — not to fulfill a racial quota, but because she’s a good actress. Her parents want her to quit playing around and go to college, get a real job. But she wants to be an idol to girls just like her. So when she realizes she’s attracted to Brianna, and that she might be gay…

♥ Sexuality. Vanessa’s not so sure she can survive in Hollywood being a minority and being gay. Parts just don’t exist when you fit into those slots. As it is, she’s typecast in movies as the med student or science nerd. Her boyfriend, Zander, has never made her tingle like Bri does, and he’s pushing for her to make a purity pledge so they can be even better role models. Meanwhile, Josh, the other main character, makes no apologies that he likes to have sex with a different girl every night. His sexuality is praised — a reality TV show wants to follow him around.

♥ Celebrity culture and expectations. Josh’s mom, an aging soap star, wants a reality TV show to replace her canceled show. The only condition? Her famous bad boy son must be a part of it. It’s totally okay for him to be a jerk to his fake girlfriend and woo girls in clubs. But for Vanessa? It’s not okay for her to even be seen in a club — it goes against her good girl image.

There’s so much good stuff in UNDER THE LIGHTS. I loved the author’s voices for both characters and her writing style. I was in a reading slump when I started this book, and it helped pull me out. On one level, UNDER THE LIGHTS is fun and includes some very yummy scenes between Vanessa and Bri — including a non fade-to-black sex scene. On another level, UNDER THE LIGHTS has great commentary and observations on so many important cultural and life issues.

UNDER THE LIGHTS has so much of what I want to see in YA and NA that I’ll be recommending the hell out of it. And reading everything else Dahlia Adler writes.

Socialize with the author:

Dahlia Adler:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

Book Review: The Winner’s Crime by Marie RutkoskiThe Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
Series: Winner's Trilogy #2
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on March 3, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 402
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
Book two of the dazzling Winner's Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement... if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

Book Review:

I wasn’t a huge fan of THE WINNER’S CURSE last year, but I decided to give the second book in the trilogy, THE WINNER’S CRIME, a try because I was curious about the world. One of my big complaints about book one was the lack of worldbuilding, but there was enough to hook me and leave me wanting more.

Unfortunately, I shouldn’t have bothered with THE WINNER’S CRIME. Because I wasn’t a fan of Kestrel and Arin’s relationship in the first book, I really couldn’t stand all the time they spent angsting about each other in this one. THE WINNER’S CRIME is incredibly slow paced, with Kestrel and Arin going back and forth on liking each other, on reasons why they can and can’t trust each other, on why they can and can’t be together. I found Arin to be somewhat of a bully in this book, trying to force Kestrel to admit she likes him when he knows both of their lives are in danger anytime they meet, even in secret.

THE WINNER’S CRIME also has a huge pet peeve of mine. Kestrel is supposed to be incredibly intelligent, but now that she’s in love with Arin, she acts like an idiot. She’s under the Valorian emperor’s nose, and he repeatedly shows and tells her that even thinking about Arin isn’t a good idea if she wants to stay alive. But Kestrel thinks she’s above every warning, and stupidly spies for Herran. For what reason? I have no freaking clue, other than maybe she enjoys putting her life in danger?

THE WINNER’S CRIME suffers from middle book syndrome: not very much happens. Seriously, I think you could skip this book and move right onto the third book if it was available.

Socialize with the author:

Marie Rutkoski:
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– leeanna

Book Review: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

Book Review: More Happy Than Not by Adam SilveraMore Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Published by Soho Teen on June 2, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Romance, Speculative Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
The Leteo Institute's revolutionary memory-relief procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto -- miracle cure-alls don't tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. But Aaron can't forget how he's grown up poor or how his friends aren't always there for him. Like after his father committed suicide in their one bedroom apartment. Aaron has the support of his patient girlfriend, if not necessarily his distant brother and overworked mother, but it's not enough.

Then Thomas shows up. He has a sweet movie-watching setup on his roof, and he doesn't mind Aaron's obsession with a popular fantasy series. There are nicknames, inside jokes. Most importantly, Thomas doesn't mind talking about Aaron's past. But Aaron's newfound happiness isn't welcome on his block. Since he can't stay away from Thomas or suddenly stop being gay, Aaron must turn to Leteo to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he is.

Adam Silvera's extraordinary debut novel offers a unique confrontation of race, class and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx.

Book Review:

At first, MORE HAPPY THAN NOT seems like a contemporary novel. Yes, it examines some pretty awesome and important things, such as being a possibly gay boy in the Bronx. Aaron starts off the book with a great girlfriend who’s understanding; she held him when he cried after his father committed suicide. But when he meets Thomas, a boy unlike any he’s met before, Aaron starts to wonder — is he gay? Does he love Thomas?

Aaron’s happier than he’s ever been before, but his old friends aren’t. They don’t like that he might be gay. And that’s when the book transforms, shifting from contemporary to speculative fiction with the Leteo Institute. In a near future world, the Leteo Institute has invented a way to help people forget memories they don’t want anymore. Aaron wants to forget that he’s gay.

About 60% through MORE HAPPY THAN NOT, there’s a real bam! moment. It’s when little things scattered throughout the previous pages suddenly made a lot more sense. It’s when I felt even more for Adam and his family. It’s when I realized the author was a genius. The last 40% or so of the book is heartbreaking, but in the best possible way.

Aaron has such a great voice. He felt incredibly real to me, as did his friends, family, and the Bronx. I enjoyed every uplifting and grueling second of him questioning himself, his sexuality, and loss. MORE HAPPY THAN NOT is a book that really made me think and feel, and I bet you’ll go “Woaaaah” at the end, just like I did.

Socialize with the author:

Adam Silvera:
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– leeanna

Book Review: A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

Book Review: A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen BaldwinA School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin
Series: Stranje House #1
Published by Tor Teen on May 19, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
1 Stars
It’s 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England’s dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don't fit high society’s constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies—plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.

After accidentally setting her father’s stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible—until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads—or their hearts...

Book Review:

I was super excited for A SCHOOL FOR UNUSUAL GIRLS. At Stranje House, unmarriageable girls are supposedly reformed. But in reality, their unusual qualities and abilities are further developed. Sent to Stranje House after she sets her father’s stables on fire while trying to create invisible ink, Georgiana wants to escape … until she meets Sebastian Wyatt and learns that Miss Stranje wants her to create that ink.

The summary strongly hints at romance, but I didn’t think it would take over the whole book. The “relationship” that springs up between Georgiana and Sebastian caused me to dislike A SCHOOL FOR UNUSUAL GIRLS. Georgiana’s supposed to be smart, but she falls in love with Sebastian after about two seconds of looking at him. Or that’s what it felt like. I think they spent less than a week together, but they were falling in love by the middle of the book. I can’t stand that type of undeveloped relationship, and it influenced how I felt about the book.

Aside from the insta-love romance, I didn’t get Georgiana. Again, she’s supposed to be smart, but where does this come from? Why is she the only one who can develop the ultra-important invisible ink spies need in the war effort? Where do her special skills come from? We’re not told of her successes, just her failures: setting the stables on fire, jumping out a window and hurting her arm, etc. And when Georgiana works on that ink, she nearly kills Sebastian and then makes another mistake because they’re swooning over each other. And Stranje House itself? It sounds like an interesting place, but Georgiana doesn’t partake in very many lessons because she’s busy with Sebastian.

Ultimately, A SCHOOL FOR UNUSUAL GIRLS just wasn’t what I expected it to be. Instead of a history-filled, girl-powered jaunt through 1814, it’s an unrealistic romance with a tiny dash of adventure.

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– leeanna