Quick Review: Legion by Julie Kagawa

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**I was granted a digital ARC of this book and read it a month ago.  Thank you Harlequin Teen for the advance**

Four books in and we finally learn what makes Ember so darn special and it’s creepy.  I won’t spoil it but let’s just say I look forward to seeing the leader of Talon being taken down.  She’s a real piece of work.  I also think she’s another argument as to why immortality or really Really long life spans are not a good idea.  It makes people do some really crazy insane things.  Anyways, fans of this series will be happy with this installment.  It picks up right where the cliffhanger ending of Soldier ended.  The stakes are higher now that the truth of the Order of St. George and Talon have been exposed.  The Order is complete disarray but Talon has a secret that we as readers know about but the characters don’t. So while, it was a good idea at the time to expose the leader of the Order, it also played right into Talon’s hands.  Talon has become the real big bad of the series.  The Order, while not at all innocent, has been played just as much as everyone else.  Their own prejudices and inability or willingness to try to think differently was their ultimate undoing.  As for our heroes.  They all do some growing up.  Constant near death experiences will do that to you.  The biggest lesson they have learned is if they are going to defeat Talon, they are going to have to work together and reach out to new allies, even if that means reaching out to old enemies too.  I believe there is only one more book left which is good because the ending really seems to have set up a potentially epic final battle between our heroes and Talon.  It’s been a fun ride.  I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Review: The Sun is also a Star by Nicola Yoon

the sun is also a star If you are not immediately charmed, heartbroken and uplifted after reading this then you should check your pulse. This is the perfect blend of romance, coming of age story and social commentary.  It centers around a day in the life of Natasha and Daniel, two teenagers on the cusp of major changes in their lives.  It also touches on the minor interactions that seem meaningless at the time but how that connection could and some times do change someone’s life.  Natasha and her family are illegal immigrants from Jamaica who are being deported at 10 o’clock that night.  She is trying to stop their deportation when she meets Daniel, a Korean-American boy who has the day off so he can prepare and meet for an interview for admission to Yale. From the moment they meet there is an immediate connection.  They both share the immigrant experience of being from two places at the same time.  Even, though Daniel was born in the US, he is often assumed to be from someplace else.  He’s never Korean enough or American enough.  Natasha was born in Jamaica but now has lived most of her life in the US.  Her friends are here, her future is here she doesn’t want to leave.  When they meet though, their futures couldn’t be different.  Daniel’s life has already been planned out for him while Natasha’s is now unsure.  Daniel’s parents are dead set on him and his brother to have a better life then they did, which means, Yale and becoming a doctor and marrying a Korean girl.  Natasha, was planning on going to college and was going to be a data scientist and now all of that is uncertain.  Anyway, they meet and while they don’t know anything about each other they know they have a special bond from the beginning.  Daniel is a poet and romantic.  He’s convinced that their meeting was fate.  That they are meant to be.  Natasha is a scientist and a realist.  She doesn’t believe in love is real or anything that can’t be scientifically proven.  As Natasha tries to kill time before she meets with an immigration lawyer Daniel convinces her to spend time with him to prove that love can be scientifically proven and so they go allover New York, getting to know each other and becoming first friends and then falling in love.  They meet each other’s parents and face each other demons.  While the story focuses on them, we get glimpses into the lives of the people around them.  From their own family but the random people that they briefly come in contact with.  The security guard that scans Natasha’s bag, the secretary of the lawyer.  They all paint a picture of how we all relate to each other and how our decisions big and small can change a complete strangers life.  It’s something to think about.  It was talks about how racism presents itself in other communities.  Daniel’s Korean parents own a black hair care store in Harlem but when his father and his brother meets Natasha they treat her in their shop.  They own a shop that caters to black shopper and yet they can’t even hide their own negative biases.  This was a beautiful novel that not only tells a perfect story of two kids struggling to figure out who they are while dealing with the forces outside of their control but also doesn’t shy from taking on tough issues of racism, immigration, depression and even family.  You need to read this book is all I’m saying.

Review: Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff

places Waverly is perfect except so can’t sleep so she spends her nights running.  Marshall is loser burn out, who spends his nights drinking and smoking pot.  They have nothing in common and since they don’t run in the same social circles they have no reason to interact, until Waverly decides to try an experiment to help her sleep and ends up in Marshall’s room.  I’m wrong they do have one thing in common.  They both have terrible coping habits.  Waverly has created this kind of ice princess persona. She is the perfect student, the perfect social butterfly, the perfect daughter and the perfect citizen.  Since junior high, she has planned her and her best friend’s ascent up the social hierarchy.  Now that she is there, she is trapped in this persona she has created and doesn’t know what to do with herself.  Her own fears of people seeing through her carefully crafted facade keeps her up all night.  She runs, she does homework, she watches horror movies late at night.  Marshall is the opposite, he’s almost too open.  He cares too much.  His home life is a mess.  He’s parents were going to get divorce but then his dad gets sick so they decide to stay together even though it makes them unhappy and everyone else unhappy.  To deal with it he does everything to know the pain.  He drinks until he gets sick.  He smokes until his stoned. He makes out with a girl that he knows he doesn’t like but that she likes him.  He rarely goes to class because what’s the point? He’s not going to college. Things start to change when Waverly magically appears in Marshall’s room.  It’s weird and uncomfortable and awkward as neither of them know what’s going on and Marshall is the only one who can see her.  To Waverly it’ a dream that helps her sleep but when she wakes up their remnants of the dream remain.  She has leaves on her feet from walking outside or a gigantic hickey from last night’s make out session.  At night they can be open and honest with each other but in the bright of day they can barely acknowledge each other existence.   Marshall wouldn’t fit in Waverly’s world.  However, they are just want each other needs.  Waverly shows Marshall that he matters, that he could be so much more then what he is right now.  And Marshall shows Waverly that she doesn’t have to be perfect all the time.  I was really drawn into these characters and I wanted them to find a way to each other.  It was satisfying when they both stood finally stood up for themselves to their various bullies.  For them to both realize what was truly making them feel unhappy and finally doing something about it.  At times I found myself identifying with both Waverly and Marshall.  There are times in my life that I felt I had a certain ways to fit in with my friends, especially in high school.  You say and do things that you know the other person wants to hear and do because it’s just easier to go along. I also know the feeling of just trying to numb the pain instead of dealing with it.  I like to think that I have good coping mechanisms but not always.  This book is just a reminder that sometimes the biggest obstacles to being happy is ourselves.  Literature is great like that. It’s entertaining and full of life lessons.

Review: Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

carve the mark 2 So let’s talk the controversy.  I was excited about reading this book because I thought it sounded interesting and was curious how Veronica Roth would follow up her Divergent series.  That was until reviews started to come in and people began talking about the racism surrounding the plot.  Now, I don’t necessarily think it is intentionally racist but it is definitely problematic.  So the plot revolves around two different races of people who share the same planet.  The fair-skinned, peaceful Thuve people and the dark-skinned warrior race Shotet.  Right there raised flags for me.  That the more violent people are described as being dark in skin, eyes and curly hair versus the more light skinned, blue eyed, straight hair peaceful neighbors.  Everything about the Shotet’s is described violently from their language to their tradition of marking their arms with every kill.  It brings up images in our society about we are programmed to think that those with darker skinned are more dangerous then those of us who have lighter skin tones.  That the lighter skinned people are somehow inherently just better people.  And that is why at first I felt a little uncomfortable reading it.  However, it didn’t turn me off either.  As the story continued, I became more invested in the characters Akos and Cyra.  I don’t think ever really got past the uncomfortableness of it but I did want Cyra to best her abusive brother and Akos to rescue his.  They compliment each other really well.  Cyra has a gift for pain. Pain that she inflicts on others but also lives in her while Akos gift is that he nullifies the current.  In this world, everyone has a gift granted by the current.  Each gift is different depending on the person.  Cyra brother is the ruler of the Shotet people and has been using her as his own personal torturer.  She has gained the reputation of being cruel when she is only doing what she is told to do but deep down she knows that she deserves the pain she feels thanks to her painful history.  Akos is kidnapped by the Shotet with his brother when their fates clash with the Shotet ruler.  Both Cyra and Akos really grow throughout the novel. They both see in each other that they don’t have to be what they raised to be.  That they can choose their own paths.  The ending was a little meh but it did pose one interesting question that makes me at least interested in the sequel.  It might be too late for Veronica to fix the unfortunate world building choices in the sequel but I do hope that in the future she takes more time to ask herself, why she is making these choices in her writing.  Is it because this is who the character really is or something that has been internalized in herself coming out on the page.

Review: Pyromantic by Lish McBride

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**Spoilers I was lucky enough to receive a Advance Copy back in September.  There will be Spoilers**

It was worth the wait. I really love Lish McBride’s writing. It’s fast paced and full of humor and just so wonderful.  Pyromantic begins a month or two after Firebug ended.  Ava and Cade are trying to figure out their relationship now that they know they are daughter and father.  Ava is still smarting from turning down Lock for a date.  Ava is still coterie but she can’t quite figure out her new boss, Alistair.  Like, when is he going to start killing people for no reason because that’s what Coterie does, right?  Let’s just say there is a lot to get used to.  That’s when this strange and unpredictable things start happening that Ava, Lock, Ezra, Sid and Bianca now must investigate.

I love Ava.  She’s funny, sarcastic and a little cynical.  She is full of insecurities and considering everything that she has been through it’s not surprising.  She lost her Mom after years of being on the run.  She is forced to work for Venus and the Coterie like an indentured servant.  She doesn’t have many friends outside of her team Lock and Ezra and Sylvie, who works at Cade’s bookstore.  When Lock asks Ava out it throws her off.  What if they break up?  How will that effect that their friendship?  So she avoids them both Lock and Ezra. When the strange a disease ravages the area they are forced to work together.  After all the twists turn it makes for a great book.  It’s so different. I mean who doesn’t love Kelpies who wear sweaters?  Or Werehares who knit and in a biker gang?  I love it all.  But most of all I love the friendship between Lock, Ezra and Ava.  They is a true sense of family with them.  They love each other and they are there for each other.  They tolerate each other faults and support each other when they are down.  I’m also loving the friendship of Ava and Sylvie.  They are both polar opposites.  Sylvie is all sunshine and rainbows and Ava is just fire but it works.  I’m know vague on the plot points but this was a wonderful sequel to a great book.  I really hope you all go out and support Lish because she really writes some amazing stories that are weird and funny.  I’m not sure what else to say but go read!

Review: The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon

song-rising**Spoilers.  I was lucky enough to get an Advance Copy of this book back in December.  Spoilers will happen in the review so be prepared.**

Well this is a game changer for the series.  We are getting to the Prisoner of Azakaban territory as we begin to expand the world and up the stakes.  Paige is now the Underqueen of the Unnatural Assembly but when Jaxon jumps over to the Rephaim side, she’s blindsided.  Not only does she have doubts about her abilities, her mentor is working with the enemies, giving them all of their secrets.  The Mime-Order’s partnership with the Ranthen is tenous at best.  She must first prove to the voyants that she is worthy to follow and to the Ranthen’s that she worthy to be funded.  After a disastrous mission to take down senshield, a device that can detect the auras of Voyants, Paige takes off to investigate leads in Manchester.  Trying to stay ahead of the evil military mastermind, Vance.  Nothing has been easy for Paige and that is definitely true but she really comes into her own.  Paige very much wants to what’s best for the voyant community and end Scion but she has to combat so many things.  She has to prove her worthiness to her people and to Ranthens.  Making things complicated is Jaxon, who many people still support and don’t believe that went over to the Scion.  Others see Paige’s youth as another drawback.  When Paige makes the mistake of acting on unproven intel and that makes sensheild even stronger, she has to move everyone underground.  Paige may not see it at the point but I think this was a pivotal point for her.  It proved her willingness to make the hard decisions but also it outsmarted her enemies.   Jaxon admits that even he couldn’t figure out where they disappeared too.  As the story plays out, we see more and more of cruelty of the Scion and how it’s not just the Rephaim who are committing it.  The introduction of Vance is an example of a human doing unspeakable things on other humans for advancement or for their own enjoyment.  It almost seemed like Vance sees her role as more of a game then anything else.  To me that makes her scarier then the Rephaim.  Samantha Shannon is getting better and better with each book.  It’s almost as a writer she is learning more about herself, as Paige is doing the same thing on the page.  The ending leaves as many answers as it does questions but also opens us to even more possibilities.  I will do my best wait patiently for book 4.

Quick Review: King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

kings-cage You know that moment.  That moment when the main character makes a declaration statement that you can’t help but groan because you know they are just going to be disappointed.  Yeah, that happened about midway in this book and yeah, Mare was crushed when she found out she was wrong.  It wasn’t all that big a surprise because it is the third book our of four, so there still needs to be some drama left.  She couldn’t be set in romantic life so soon but it was also like, C’mon Mare!  Haven’t you learned anything yet!?  Anyway, I think I’m getting ahead of myself.  King’s Cage was another fast paced thriller that fits in nicely with the previous two books.  Mare begins as a prisoner of Maven, who is using her as a propaganda against the Scarlet Guard.  As Mare is imprisoned she battles Maven in an emotional tug of war.  She is shackled in silent stone manacles, depriving her of her power and making it impossible to fight back.  Her only weapon is to use what she knows of Maven but this is not easy because her own feelings for Maven are complicated.  The first part of the novel was interesting as Victoria explores the effects of abuse and can you be held accountable.  This is an addition to previous themes of what makes a person a monster.  Mare is scared that her powers has made her cold and heartless, to easy for her to kill someone and move on with her life.  Thanks to Maven’s mother, he doesn’t have those thoughts because so much of his memories she took away from him.  She took away his fears and love of his father and brother.  I’m not even sure what you call this abuse.  She literally molded him to be the cold killer he is today.  The only sense of humanity he has is obsession with Mare but even that has been twisted.  Cal on the other hand is still Cal.  While he has shown some growth over the novels, he isn’t quite as developed as a character as Maven is.  There seemed to be a change in him as he seemed to be turning around about the Scarlet Guard and what they are trying to achieve but the first chance to return to his old life is presented to him the seems to have taken it.  The book is still Mare’s story but as the conflict expands beyond her, we are given new Point of Views from Cameron and Evangeline.  This is a welcome change as all three woman are different and come at the conflict from different views.  They obviously see this conflict from different point views but they all think they are in the right.  My one grip with this book was the ending.  After pretty cool cliffhangers of the first two books, this one sort of fell flat to me.  It wasn’t the game changer of the others.  Sure, it assured that Mare was going to have to stand on her without one the Princes beside her but it was also predictable.  I guess since this is what is leading us to the finale, I wanted it to be more.  That being said, I am super stoked to find out how this series is going to end.

Review: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

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Friends, oh my god this book. It deserves all of the praise and all of the awards. And, it did win the National Book Award for Fiction! You should read it. As soon as possible. This book.

 

This is the story of Cora, a slave who runs away and escapes from the South on the underground railroad. Whitehead weaves a tale here that is smart and funny and makes so much of America’s history real. Cora starts by telling you of her Grandmother Ajarry and how she was taken from her village in Africa, put on ship and bought and sold in America. Cora then tells us about her Mother, the only slave to runaway from Randall plantation to never be caught. Then, she tells us her story. The narrative from the start makes plain that even “good slave owners” were not good by contrasting Cora’s owner with his brother. Yes, her owner doesn’t go in for harsh punishments or random beatings. But, he’s still indifferent to the plight of the humans who live around him (And, he still owns people, which, I hope we can all agree, is fundamentally wrong). Cora and Caesar make a plan to runaway from the plantation and to take the underground railroad. This is a bit of genius on the part of Whitehead; in this novel, the underground railroad is a literal railroad with station masters, conductors, trains, the whole lot. This gave the novel that magical realist feel. It also gave the story some mystery and gave me, and Cora, something to think about. “Who built this?” she asks. And, person after person says to her, “Who do you think?”

Caesar and Cora’s first stop on the railroad is South Carolina, which Whitehead has set up as a place where former slaves are slowly integrated into society. As part of the integration into society, everyone is required to have regular health checks. Some of the former slaves in town have “blood disorders” and have to come in for regular check ups. But, do they have blood disorders? Or, is something more sinister going on. If you know your American history, you can guess probably guess that something more sinister is going on and what that something might be. Additionally in this part of the story, Cora works in a museum, which allows Whitehead to compare the narrative of American history with the lived experiences of Cora and other slaves and former slaves in the story.

From here Cora moves onto North Carolina, Tennessee and Indiana, all while being pursued by the slave catcher Ridgeway. This gives the novel some tension while also pointing out how society put a wedge between lower income whites and slaves by making catching slaves a lucrative business.

From reading other reviews on Amazon, it seems like people either other or hate this book. (I’m obviously in the love category). One other reviewer said that “there was nothing new here, we know all of this from history.” I feel like this misses the point. Yes, Whitehead has incorporated a lot of American history into this novel. But, he’s done it in a way that his interesting and shocking and he’s given us characters we can sympathize with. This is a book that dramatizes some of America’s racist past and that gives us room to think about and interrogate our understanding of that past and our feelings about it.

I listened to this book on audio. The narration was done by Bahni Turpin and she gave the characters life and personality. I really enjoyed the work she did on this.

I checked this book out from the Buffalo and Erie County Public Libraries.

 

Review: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

fifth-season This was a very interesting book.  I can see why it won so many awards.  It is beautifully written and has a well crafted world that brings you in.  That being said, I did find it hard to get into at first.  I think it had to do with the sort of complicated world the characters inhabit and having three different narrators that seem to living in the same nation but not at the same time. As one is living at the end of the world, while the other two are not.  Once I was able to grasp that the timelines of the three narrators were different, it made it much easier to enjoy the storytelling.  The story begins as Essun, is mourning the loss of his son who was murdered by her husband for being an Orogene.  Orogenes are powerful beings that can derive power from the earth but are feared for this power because it’s unpredictable and can destroy as easily as it can save.  Damasaya is also an Orogene, who has been locked in her families barns after she was discovered.  And finally Syenite, a powerful orogene who has been given two different assignments that involve the most powerful orogene in the world.  Each narrator is different.  Damasaya is young and unsure of her future as she is afraid of who she is while Syenite is the opposite.  She knows exactly who she is and how good she is.  She is confident in who she is and ambitious to boot. Essun is definitely a woman who has seen and knows way too much.  She is strong but even the strongest of us breaks.  When her husband kills her son and possibly her daughter she is at a loss.  Soon revenge becomes her only motivating factor.  Essun’s story is also effected by the beginning of the Fifth Season. Every so often the Earth turns against the people and sets off catastrophic natural disasters.  Some season’s last years while some last decades. It’s clear to Essun that this season is going to last centuries.  So she sets off to find her husband while knowing the world is ending soon.  Syenite and Damasaya are not experience the same end of the world troubles that Essun is and at first this was confusing since both were headed towards or living where the disaster had occurred.  This was what made me think that the narratives were not all happening at the same time.  The narrators do not seem to have much in common beyond they are all women and orogenes but it when it’s revealed what there relationship it was a gut punch.  I didn’t see it coming.  I think that  is because it’s so well written.  You could literally get lost in the writing as N.K. tells these women’s stories.  They all have such hard struggles as they live and work in a very rigid society.  People of this world are separated into different Comm names and it defines who they are what they do. If you don’t fit in a Comm you are in trouble when the seasons come. They all must try to do their best to find their own voice while still playing by the rules and of course there are far more rules for women.  So even though it’s a fantasy novel, it’s still very much set in real life too.

Review: Ms. Marvel Vols 2-4 by G. Willow Wilson

generation-why Ms. Marvel is every fan girl or boy who has ever wrote or read fan-fiction or squeed over their favorite celebrity.  She is everyone who has every suffered from self doubt but still fought through it.  She is everyone who still sees the good even though she has seen some pretty awful things.  Ms. Marvel is a hero.  I love her.  She is beyond funny.  She is smart. She is brave. She is relatable.  She is everything you want in in a hero.  Why isn’t she in the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet?

Since vol. 1, Ms. Marvel has defeated the Inventor.  Fought along side Wolverine and Captain Marvel and took down Loki. She’s making a name for herself. She discovered that she is an Inhuman, which I’m not sure what that is.  I think it has to do with the Kree, who we met in the Guardians of the Galaxy. I think.  I guess somewhere in her families past, they got some Kree blood in their bloodline and when the terrigan gas released that part of her DNA to give her superpowers.  This makes them different from Mutants and the X-Men because their powers are just natural part of human evolution.  Yeah, that sounds right.  Like the X-Men, there are good Inhumans and bad Inhumans and for Ms. Marvel, they may be the most dangerous foes of all.  In Crushed, Kamala meets Kamran, the son of an old family friend.  He’s perfect. He likes World of Warcraft, he’s Muslim and he is also Inhuman.  He kidnaps Kamala to get her to join in him in and off short of Inhumans who feel that their abilities make them superior to other humans and they should rule. When she turns him down and escapes, he then goes after her brother and tries to turn him.  He’s not a good guy but do you know who is a good guy? Bruno..Kamala’s best friend and really the closest thing she has to a sidekick.  He’s always there when she needs him, no questions ask.  I’m totally shipping Kamala and Bruno but I agree with Kamala decision that with everything that is going on.  Her powers, her family, high school that she needs to focus on her.  She’s only 16.  Romance can wait.  Now Last Days sort of ended on a hopeful but also the world is ending kinda note, that I need to read the next volume ASAP!  Ms. Marvel is truly the best!