Review: We’ll Never Be Apart by Emiko Jean

We’ll Never Be Apart
by Emiko Jean

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

Source: Library

Synopsis:

Murder.

Fire.

Revenge.

That’s all seventeen-year-old Alice Monroe thinks about. Committed to a mental ward at Savage Isle, Alice is haunted by memories of the fire that killed her boyfriend, Jason. A blaze her twin sister Cellie set. But when Chase, a mysterious, charismatic patient, agrees to help her seek vengeance, Alice begins to rethink everything. Writing out the story of her troubled past in a journal, she must confront hidden truths.

Is the one person she trusts only telling her half the story? Nothing is as it seems in this edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller from the debut author Emiko Jean.

My Review:

3 of 5 Stars

The best way I can describe this book is that I liked it but, I didn’t love it. If you don’t see the big reveal at the end, the answer to the mystery, you’ll probably adore this book. If however, like me, you can sense what’s about to happen, it kind of takes the energy out of what’s supposed to be a thriller. I enjoyed the story but I wasn’t overly surprised by any of it. Most of it takes place inside a psychiatric facility which was portrayed in certain ways with a fair amount of accuracy and in others.. dreadful. Both Alice and Chase are able to steal keycards and wander the hospital seemingly at will. In a real setting, this would never happen for any number of reasons. First, if a staff member were to ‘lose’ a key or keycard the entire hospital would go on lockdown. Second, most hospitals have cameras in all public halls which are watched by extra security. I wouldn’t say something like this couldn’t ever happen, but not as often as it does in this book. Especially not with a patient who has a history of escape attempts and would forever be marked as a flight risk. Second, they’d never be allowed electronics of any kind in this type of facility. It made absolutely no sense to take away her toothbrush (which most facilities allow) but give her an I-Pod.

The errors took away some of the credibility of the story for me but I enjoyed the characters enough to still appreciate the book. I connected to Alice in a way, mostly due to her circumstances. I had already guessed at the ending and was always looking for clues to lead in that direction. That’s what brings me to my biggest gripe about the book. I like psychological thrillers that give me enough clues to be able to figure out what’s going on my own. My assumptions with this book came not from the story itself but previous experience with this trope. It mirrored many others that I’ve come across and didn’t feel that different. That said, I wanted more clues to either lead me astray or lead me to my already formed conclusion.

Overall, as I’ve said, I liked this story. It was a fast read and stayed interesting though a little predictable. If you don’t know the way it turns out before hand you’ll most likely enjoy this much more than I did.

Review: The Map of Bones by Francesca Haig

The Map of Bones (The Fire Sermon #2)
by Francesca Haig

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

Source: ARC from Netgalley, Gallery Books, physical copy from Library

Synopsis:

Four hundred years in the future, the Earth has turned primitive following a nuclear fire that has laid waste to civilization and nature. Though the radiation fallout has ended, for some unknowable reason every person is born with a twin. Of each pair, one is an Alpha—physically perfect in every way; and the other an Omega—burdened with deformity, small or large. With the Council ruling an apartheid-like society, Omegas are branded and ostracized while the Alphas have gathered the world’s sparse resources for themselves. Though proclaiming their superiority, for all their effort, Alphas cannot escape one harsh fact: whenever one twin dies, so does the other.

Cass is a rare Omega, one burdened with psychic foresight. While her twin, Zach, gains power on the Alpha Council, she dares to dream the most dangerous dream of all: equality. For daring to envision a world in which Alphas and Omegas live side-by-side as equals, both the Council and the Resistance have her in their sights.

My Review:

3.5 of 5 Stars

I am really enjoying this series and after reading the second book, am very impatient for the third. I had a few issues with the first book and many of those continued. I connected more with Cass in this book but still found myself getting frustrated with her. I appreciate that she’s an ever growing character, that she’s deeply impacted by the events that happen. Ongoing survival isn’t just altering her mood or causing PTSD, it’s changing the way she views herself and the world around her. I loved this evolution that she went through. I also really liked getting to know the other characters more. I’m fascinated by Zoe and hope she appears more in the future.

While I relished the characters in this book, the plot was incredibly slow. Often with trilogies, I’ve found that the second book ends up being a lot of filler. This book felt like the journey we had to take to get from book one to book two. Frequently, it’s slow and scenes are drawn out with a lot of internal struggle going on for Cass. I was able to stay interested for the most part but admit that a faster pace or more action would have resulted in a higher rating.

Overall, I’m still really excited about this series. I can see where it falls into some of the cliche’s of young adult dystopia but the premise is different enough for me that I enjoy it anyway. I classify this as science fiction for sure but love how it’s different than most that I’ve read previously. I’m very curious as to where it will go in the future, especially after the ending of this one! Don’t worry, it’s not a cliffhanger but it does leave a lot of questions to be answered.

Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff, Marie Lu

Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2)
by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff, Marie Lu (Illustrator)

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

Source: Library

Synopsis:

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

My Review:

5 of 5 Stars

I put off reading this book for quite a while, for a number of reasons. The biggest being that I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the first book in the series. I absolutely adored that book and loved how different it was. I saw this at the library however and had to grab it, and finally, I’ve read it. Admittedly, I think I still like the first more but I still loved this book. I was more adjusted to the alternative formatting this time so it wasn’t as big of a shock. For me, the story started off a little slow. I remained confused as to what was going on and how this related to anything from the previous story. I pushed on and even though I was still a bit lost, quickly found myself getting completely immersed into the action.

I adored the characters in this story which helped with my disappointment that we didn’t hear much from either Kady or Ezra. Hanna reminded me quite a bit of Kady though she’s definitely her own person. I found myself being skeptical of her on multiple occasions but over and over again she remained an incredibly strong female character. One of my favorite aspects of these stories is the presence of an incredibly strong female lead who has romantic interests but doesn’t allow them to completely take over. I was incredibly thankful that this story avoided the many cliche’s that populate young adult, especially when it comes to romance.

This story is filled with suspense and numerous twists, all of which had me on the edge of my seat, glued to a book for hours. The alternative formatting only served to bring the story to life in a way that a regular book wouldn’t have been able to. I adored Hanna’s journal entries, especially her sketches. I wouldn’t say the ending is a cliffhanger but it’s definetly open ended and leaves you wanting more. I’m looking forward to the third and I believe final book in the series which is due to be released later this year in October.

Fast Reads and Binge-Worthy Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish featuring a list based on a theme. I love to read in large chunks and can easily get sucked into a book for many hours at a time. I’m equally bad about staying up way too late finishing a book. For this week’s theme, I chose eight either short or binge-worthy books for my list.

1. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff 

I adored this book, largely in part to its alternative format. The entire story is told through chat logs, evidence documents, and transcribed video feed. I devoured this book and recently read the second in the series just as quickly.

2. The Giver by Lois Lowry

I’m not sure how old I was when I first read this book, maybe twelve? It’s still one of my favorites, many years later. It’s not a large book and would be easy to read in one sitting.

3. Meals from Mars: A Parable of Prejudice and Providence by Ben Sciacca

This is an amazingly profound book that I truly think everyone should find the time to read. It talks about race issues in a way that I hadn’t thought of before. In addition, this is a very short and fairly easy read which makes it accessible to a wide audience.

4. The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace

I don’t read a lot of poetry but I really enjoyed this collection. While I’ve written a bit myself, it’s not a genre I normally explore. Even if you read through this numerous times like I did, it’s a very quick read.

5. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan (Writer), Fiona Staples (Artist)

Including graphic novels in this list seems a little like cheating but I have to include Saga. Right now there are seven volumes available and I highly encourage a binge of them all if it’s not a series you’ve read before.

6. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

I’m still surprised as to how much I enjoyed this series because it’s not something I’d normally like. I’m not sure if it was just great timing or what, but I devoured this entire series. This series is like binging on junk food but for your brain.

7. Legion (Legion #1) by Brandon Sanderson

In many ways I wish this book didn’t fit on this list because I loved it that much. The entire book is under 100 pages long and is a very quick but also very intense read. I’ve not checked out the rest of the series yet but I plan to in the future.

8. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, Jim Kay (Illustrator), Siobhan Dowd (Conception)

I really enjoyed this book and read it fairly quickly, all in one sitting. Format wise it’s a combination of regular novel and illustrations. I expected it to be scary but instead it was deeply emotional and moving. If you dive into this, bring tissues!

Review: Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Exit, Pursued by a Bear
by E.K. Johnston

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

Source: Library

Synopsis:

Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don’t cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.

In every class, there’s a star cheerleader and a pariah pregnant girl. They’re never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she’s always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn’t the beginning of Hermione Winter’s story and she’s not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.

My Review:

3.5 of 5 Stars

I have a bunch of mixed feelings about this book and I honestly can’t decide exactly what my thoughts are. I didn’t relate to any of the characters personally but I did really like them. My stint in cheerleading was incredibly short lived and I found it hard to imagine the world this group of teens lived in since it differed so much from my own experience. That said, once I was in, I was hooked. I loved the support of the team and the common goal that linked them all together. Hermione is an incredibly strong female lead and remains so even through some intense struggles. Her friends are amazingly supportive even when they aren’t sure what to do or after having done the wrong thing.

I appreciated this book in the sense that all survivors of sexual assault experience recovery differently. Not everyone has the event completely take over their lives or consume their sanity. I enjoyed a book that looked into this serious issue in a different way than most literature. That said, there were many times it just felt a little too neat and tidy. A variety of topics came up but most issues were able to be resolved relatively quickly. Even the ending seemed to tie everything up fairly neatly leaving only a slightly open ending. It’s not that I don’t think it could play out this way in a real situation, but that it’s not likely.

Even though I had some misgivings about certain aspects of the book, I also really enjoyed it. I was moved on several occasions by the strength of not only Hermione but also her friends and family. I relished the idea of having two loving and fully present parents in a young adult novel. My only wish is that all teens who face an awful event like this in their lives could have the amount of emotion support found here. I’m still a bit mixed about this book but I do highly encourage it as a read, especially for book groups. It’s a fairly quick read and has plenty of discussion material.

Review: The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

The Fire Sermon (The Fire Sermon #1)
by Francesca Haig

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

Source: Library

Synopsis: 

Four hundred years in the future, the Earth has turned primitive following a nuclear fire that laid waste to civilization and nature. Though the radiation fallout has ended, for some unknowable reason every person is born with a twin. Of each pair, one is an Alpha – physically perfect in every way – and the other an Omega burdened with deformity, small or large.

With the Council ruling an apartheid-like society, Omegas are branded and ostracized while the Alphas have gathered the world’s sparse resources for themselves. Though proclaiming their superiority, for all their effort Alphas cannot escape one harsh fact: Whenever one twin dies, so does the other. Cass is a rare Omega, one burdened with psychic foresight. While her twin, Zach, gains power on the Alpha Council, she dares to dream the most dangerous dream of all: equality. For daring to envision a world in which Alphas and Omegas live side by side as equals, both the Council and the Resistance have her in their sights.

My Review:

4 of 5 Stars

This is a series that I just kept putting off for one reason or another and I’m so glad I’ve finally started it. I was actually first interested in reading it after I heard about the second book in the series on NetGalley. The premise caught my attention even though it heavily compared itself to other dystopian novels like The Hunger Games. I chose to ignore that and I think that’s how I was able to enjoy the book more.

I really appreciated the characters that I got to know in this story, especially Cass and Kip. Cass is our strong female lead, and like most, she’s always doubtful of her own true power. She falls into several of the cliche’s that are popular in young adult but still somehow stood apart for me. I wouldn’t say I always connected with her personally but I often felt like I understood her motives and emotions. On the other side, there are numerous side characters that I still don’t fully know how to feel about. Zach is Cass’s twin and I’m so confused about him and very eager to see where his character takes us in the future.

The world building was really good in this story and at times it seemed to slow the progression of the plot. I didn’t mind this too much but admit that a more consistent pacing would have resulted in me giving this a higher rating. What really got me was the ending I didn’t see coming until seconds before it happened. My kindle nearly went sailing across the room. I’ve already got the second book waiting for me and I’m thankful that the third and final part of the trilogy will be published sometime in April.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, more than I expected. Even if you are sick to death of all the cookie cutter dystopian trilogies that have trended for years now, this is different enough to be enjoyable. It falls into a few common traps but manages to stay away from some of the bigger ones which helped make it really refreshing, at least for me.

Review: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Queens of Geek
by Jen Wilde

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

Source: NetGalley, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

Synopsis:

When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever.

Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star, Jason Ryan. When Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

My Review:

4 of 5 Stars

I went into this story hopeful but skeptical. I can’t remember exactly what drew me to it, but when it came time to read it I hesitated. I’m not a big fan of romance or contemporary fiction so I was doubting my previous choices pretty heavily. Once I started reading I started enjoying the characters. It wasn’t a head over heels thing, but it was fun and light and a good break from the other books I’ve been reading recently. As the story progressed I just liked it more and more. Each chapter alternates perspective between Charlie and Taylor which was nice. We were able to see quite a few different perspectives of the two romantic situations happening and it gave the reader details they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

I connected most with Taylor because she struggles with social anxiety and a lot of self doubt. There are some amazing passages sprinkled all through her chapters that really spoke to me. Jamie is just about the perfect boy ever. He’s cute, funny, geeky, and completely understanding of her struggles. I didn’t connect with Charlie as much personally but I still really liked her. I found myself imagining having her as a best friend, perhaps even entering this world as Taylor and taking part in it! As I said before, I’m not a fan of romance usually but this book was just worked for me, magically.

I’ve come to realize after reading this book that sometimes I need a wonderful, happy, teary, happy ending book. While each character goes through some really rough emotions and personal growth, this book wraps up very neatly. It’s the slightly more realistic version of “and they lived hapily ever after.” Usually, these types of endings turn me off, I want something to mull over or questions left unanswered. I didn’t really get either of those things but I did get a very happy glowy feeling after the last page that has lasted for hours now. Even if you aren’t a fan of romance you might just like this book!

Review | Open When: Letters to Lift Your Spirits by Karen Salmansohn

Open When: Letters to Lift Your Spirits
by Karen Salmansohn

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

Source: Blogging for Books

Synopsis:

Happiness expert Karen Salmansohn presents a unique interactive book that invites readers to literally open letters of encouragement, wit, and wisdom whenever they need a boost.
Inspired by the trend of “open when” letters sweeping the nation, Instant Happy author Karen Salmansohn has created a bound collection of 12 notes for readers to flip open whenever they need a pep talk. With categories like “Open when you need a laugh,” “Open when you’re feeling stressed out,” and “Open when you need courage,” these little happiness-boosters are based on Salmansohn’s viral posters that combine witty sayings with colorful graphics.

My Review:

5 of 5 Stars

I’ve got some strange mixed feelings about this book because I absolutely adored it but doubt it’s something I would have actually purchased. I really appreciate the premise behind it because little quotes and anecdotes are things that often help me out of a panic attack or through a rough time. I didn’t like all of the letters equally but a good majority would work for me in various situations. What I loved most was the artwork which I found incredibly inspiring. The colors are all very vibrant and most of the artwork has a feel of watercolor which is currently the medium that I’m working in myself.

This brings me to why I most likely wouldn’t actually purchase this book. I loved the artwork, but I didn’t see much that I wouldn’t be able to do myself. I’m really curious to see if I could somehow make my own ‘open when’ envelopes to give out as gifts to family. I keep coming back to the thought that this is something that I could do myself, so why would I need to buy it? I think it’s a really lovely idea but to make it something that I’d purchase I’d need more. Either more actual letters or more detailed artwork.

Basically, I don’t think I the exact right target audience for this. Even though I loved it and the idea behind it, I’d rather be the creator on a project like this than the consumer. That said, anyone who appreciates art but isn’t as interested in making any themselves will love this book. I’m also really thankful to be given a whole new creative project to try my hand at.

Review: These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker, Kelly Zekas

These Vicious Masks (These Vicious Masks #1)
by Tarun Shanker, Kelly Zekas

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

Source: Library

Synopsis:

England, 1882. Evelyn is bored with society and its expectations. So when her beloved sister, Rose, mysteriously vanishes, she ignores her parents and travels to London to find her, accompanied by the dashing Mr. Kent. But they’re not the only ones looking for Rose. The reclusive, young gentleman Sebastian Braddock is also searching for her, claiming that both sisters have special healing powers. Evelyn is convinced that Sebastian must be mad, until she discovers that his strange tales of extraordinary people are true—and that her sister is in graver danger than she feared.

My Review:

3.5 of 5 Stars

My biggest pull toward this series was my ongoing curiosity to try more historical fiction. I’ve had my eye out for something different in that genre, and this fit that perfectly. The story is an interesting mix of historical high society, mystery, suspense, and fantasy. Evelyn is our main character and while she’s a very strong female lead, I never fully connected with her. I usually love a strong and independent protagonist but in this case, it felt like those traits were used to weaken her rather than help her grow. As much as I didn’t connect with her and often found myself frustrated, she was still a great character. I felt engaged with the task of finding her sister Rose and really enjoyed the mystery that went on with that and with the other characters.

Both Sebastian and Mr. Kent are great supporting characters. I wonder now if an alternating perspective in the story would have helped the reader get to know them more. This story only touches on romance but I am very curious as to how the hint of a love triangle will continue to develop as the series continues. For the first time I can remember, I’m torn on who to root for. I like both men for different reasons. The ending of this book only cemented my confusion. I won’t reveal too much of my reaction because I don’t want to give anything away, but it did throw me. I also recommend bringing tissues to the final few chapters.

Overall, fans of historical fiction who want to dip their toes into fantasy will enjoy this book the most. My rating is largely due to the fact that I’m not as interested in the historical setting that this book was placed, even though I tried to be. That said, I think this would also be a wonderful choice for a book group who could discuss a number of social issues like gossip, class, wealth, the impact of personal decisions on family, and reputation.

 

Graphic Novel Review: Siberia 56 (#1-3) by Christophe Bec, Alexis Sentenac

siberia-56Siberia 56 (Siberia 56 #1-3)
by Christophe Bec, Alexis Sentenac

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

Synopsis:

Trapped on a planet millions of light years away from Earth, five scientists must survive sub-zero temperatures and horrific alien creatures as they make their way across the dead, frozen landscape to their base in this action-packed graphic novel.

It is the age of space exploration, and five scientists travel 80 million light years from home to study the planet of Siberia, the location of Earth’s 56th colony. Completely covered with dense snow and steep mountains, Siberia’s poles reach temperatures of -300° F with icy winds of close to 200 mph.

After their shuttle crashes, the surviving scientists must walk across hundreds of miles of frozen wasteland to find the terrain basecamp. Between the biting cold, devastating snow storms, and horrific alien creatures, their chances of survival are close to absolute zero. In Siberia 56, author Christophe Bec imagines a hostile and fascinating world that harkens to the very best of the science fiction and horror genres. Superbly illustrated by Alexis Sentenac, this stunning work offers a chilling tale of survival in the vast recesses of a dying planet.

My Review:

Story 3 of 5 Stars

Artwork 4 of 5 Stars

What pulled me to this graphic novel at first was the style of art on the cover. I love the colors and the way it looks painted. I’m not sure what medium the illustrator used but I found myself examining quite a few frames to see how I could do something similar with watercolor. This was especially true for the landscapes which featured a lot of ice, snow, and rock. I also enjoyed the scenes which depicted a lot of space – I thought those were done really well. Unlike the artwork devoted to the environment, I was kind of back and forth with the way the characters were portrayed. I appreciated that it wasn’t cartoony and admired how well it was done. I liked certain frames but disliked others, especially those that got a lot darker.

Story wise, this was just okay for me. The alternating timeline confused me on a few occasions which made it difficult to get fully immersed in the story. Violence starts fairly early in this graphic novel and I think it would have had more impact for me personally if I’d gotten to know the characters a little more before some of them died. As for the ending, I’m still really confused by it. I expected more loose ends which would lead to future volumes in the series but there really aren’t many. I am not sure if there will be more for the series or not but I’d be willing to read them if there are.

Overall I enjoyed this far more for the artwork than the story though I did enjoy both. If you are a fan of graphic novels with a space exploration theme and don’t mind a little blood and guts this is a great graphic novel to try.

Big thanks to Insight Editions and NetGalley for providing me an advanced readers copy of this graphic novel in exchange for my honest review.