Hello everyone! If you celebrated the holidays this month, I hope it was great to see family, eat a lot of food and enjoy the holiday atmosphere! I decided to have a mini hiatus this past little bit due to the car problems I had mentioned and then time with family for Christmas. But now I’m back with another round of mini reviews. These are review copies I’ve read recently and wanted to share with all of you 🙂 Funny enough, there’s some variety in here and some surprise ratings as well. Let’s jump in!
Author: Naomi Hughes
Genre: YA Sci-fi
Release Date: November 5th 2019 from Page Street Kids
Format: Library finished copy
Goodreads Synopsis: After an attack on earth, all reflective surfaces become weapons to release monsters, causing a planet-wide ban on mirrors. Despite the danger, the demand rises, and 17-year-old Marty Callahan becomes a distributor in an illegal mirror trade—until he’s caught by the mayor’s son, whose slate is far from clean. Both of them are exiled for their crimes to one of the many abandoned cities overrun by fog. But they soon realize their thoughts influence their surroundings and their deepest fears begin to manifest.
With fast pacing and riveting characters, this is a book that you’ll finish in one sitting.
*I originally received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, but I did end up reading a finished library copy due to not reading the ARC in time. But all thoughts and opinions are my own and no quotations will be used. Thank you to the publisher for the review copy!*
Sadly this was book was another ARC in my “Death by ARCs” pile that I’m reviewing late. (It needs to stop being a trend) That pile nearly killed my reading this year to put it lightly. But since I didn’t read the ARC before the release date, I decided to read the copy my library had. This book is very short, only 303 pages in the US hardcover. While this was a quick read, the 3 star rating feels very generous and this really feels more like a 2 star rating to be honest and I have now changed my rating to 2 stars. But I stuck with the 3 star rating, since I had enough curiosity to keep reading instead of having that feeling to DNF it.
This book revolves around Marty, a boy with OCD who deals in illegal mirror trading and one day he gets in involved with the mayor’s son and they try to figure out why these aliens appear through reflective surfaces. There’s also a ring of shattered metal around the Earth and there’s a permanent fog surrounding the planet. Marty lives in an island by Florida and they feel cut off from the rest of the world. I will say right off the bat that this idea of aliens coming through reflective surfaces sounds really cool on paper. It’s a creative idea that made me request the book in the first place. But this book completely lacks an atmosphere of isolation, tension and the actual horror of these aliens. Even some sentences were very jarring and weird to read out loud. Never once did I feel any danger or stakes for these characters. The world is very plainly explained to the reader and that’s it. Nothing in the writing builds any of the aspects I mentioned, so that was a major disappointment.
Another disappointment were the two male characters of Marty and the mayor’s son Elliot. While I am glad that we have another YA book with male protagonists (which needs to happen more often), both of them were one dimensional and only surface level characters. While Marty’s OCD was well done (it is own voices for the author), both of them were very harsh and not very likable. Once Elliot learned about Marty’s OCD, he was much nicer to Marty, giving Marty a pass for some of the really dumb stuff he did. Both of them didn’t change much in the story and I just didn’t care for either of them.
The final disappointment was the plot itself. While it sounded great on paper, this book was too short to explore the sci-fi elements. I personally felt like part of the plot with the fog felt like a “deus ex machina” plot device, which is a personal pet peeve and made things way too easy for the characters. This made any survival aspect of the story void and again, removed any stakes or giving room for the characters to come up with ideas on how to survive. Even the aliens weren’t in the book that much. While I did like the description of what the aliens looked like, they were hardly the threat they’re made out to be. Once you learn the truth about the alien invasion, it’s something that can be predicted if you really think about it.
Overall: This was another case of an idea sounding really fun on paper but failed to execute it. While I didn’t want to DNF the book, due to the quick moving plot and it being an easy read, I didn’t like the writing style, lack of atmosphere and forgettable characters. I think the OCD rep will resonate with own voices readers, but this is a sci-fi book to skip.
Title: Crown of Coral and Pearl (Crown of Coral and Pearl #1)
Author: Mara Rutherford (Debut)
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release Date: August 27th 2019 from Inkyard Press (formerly known as Harlequin Teen)
Format: Audio Book
Narrator: Amanda Dolan
Listening Time: 12 hours, 45 mins
Goodreads Synopsis: Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.
Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen… and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.
In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie.
**I originally was able to download this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review. But I did end up listening to the audio book after the release date. But thank you to the publisher for the review copy and all thoughts and opinions are my own**
*DNF @ 35%*
This was seriously the year for DNFs for me! I was looking forward to this book when the beautiful cover was revealed and reading the synopsis. I was interested in a story about two sisters from a small kingdom on the water. But this was another ARC that I ended up not getting to before the release date, so I listened to the audio book in order to try and get through it. But this was another DNF due to the lack of originality with this type of story, annoying protagonist, recycled themes and slow moving plot. Plus I will say that the audio book quality was not very good, with hearing white noises in between chapters and every time after the narrator spoke. It didn’t sound like it was recorded very well, which you don’t get often anymore. I was so bummed that this was ANOTHER YA fantasy that sounds too similar to older YA titles and never going anywhere new except the setting.
The one thing I did like was the ocean/island setting in this book, along with the idea of the blood coral. We are getting more fantasy books with river, island and ocean settings which is a nice change. This setting is a fun world and you get moments of diving for pearls and mentions of this deadly blood coral, which can scar or kill you depending on how much you interact with it. This blood coral was the result of Nor’s scar on her face during her childhood years. The world is built well enough to get an idea of, so that was the best aspect of the book for me.
Pretty much everything else didn’t work for me. Nor and Zadie sounded like many heroines from older YA titles, with having a tight bond but often keeping secrets and acting very dramatic over little things. While it is normal for siblings to keep secrets, I did feel like each sister was pretty selfish and didn’t think to care about what the other sister thought, which felt didn’t feel genuine to their bond. I also hate the recycled theme of how beauty is everything in this story; a girl who is chosen as the “most beautiful” is taken away to marry the prince of the other kingdom so the small kingdom can keep receiving supplies. Along with this theme of beauty, the two sisters obsess over it and of course, the mother is a terrible person for picking Zadie and tearing down Nor due to her imperfect appearance. Both sisters worry about beauty so much that there isn’t much else to their personality. Nor is the more grounded sister, with dreams of leaving their kingdom and daring to defy their mother. But I never felt like the author took this theme of the perception of beauty anywhere new and I was bored with this recycled story I’ve read or seen many times before. I have read books like The Kingdom by Jess Rothenburg, who approach of beauty and the value of perfect beauty in an interesting direction, while this story felt like a cookie cutter story. Since this plot aspect never took off, I ended up stopping the audio book at 35 percent. By the time I stopped the audio book, which past the 100 page mark, Nor has JUST left her kingdom to take Zadie’s place and goes to the other kingdom. The beginning felt like a lot of filler info, with dramatic secrets, crushes on boys and the same conversation and thoughts about beauty and how they “have” to play their roles.
Overall: I had hopes that this book would be another fun YA fantasy with an ocean/island setting, but this ended up being a cookie cutter fantasy that I’ve read/seen many times. I think younger teens might like this if they’re getting into fantasy, but I don’t get the glowing reviews on Goodreads about this book. The setting and the blood coral were the only things going for this book when I was listening to it, but the boring story and poor audio book quality made me decide to quit the story. I think this is another book to skip.
Title: The Liars of Mariposa Island
Author: Jennifer Mathieu
Genre: YA Contemporary/Historical Fiction
Release Date: September 17th 2019 from Roaring Book Press (Macmillan)
Format: Library finished copy
Goodreads Synopsis: Every year, summer begins when the Callahans arrive on Mariposa Island. That’s when Elena Finney gets to escape her unstable, controlling mother by babysitting for their two children. And the summer of 1986 promises to be extra special when she meets J.C., the new boy in town, whose kisses make Elena feel like she’s been transported to a new world.
Joaquin Finney can’t imagine why anyone would want to come to Mariposa Island. He just graduated from high school and dreams about going to California to find his father and escape his mother’s manipulation. The Liars of Mariposa Island follows siblings Elena and Joaquin, with flashbacks to their mother’s experience as a teenage refugee fleeing the Cuban revolution.
**I originally received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review, but this is a late review post publication and I ended up reading a finished library copy of this book. But all thoughts and opinions are my own and no quotations will be used in this review.**
This book kinda took me by surprise after I finished it. This was another late review book that I read just this week. I had been putting it off, due to the low 3.5 rating on Goodreads and not hearing the best things about it. But after finishing this book, I had a stronger emotional reaction to this than expected and this is a necessary book to the stark reality of how families can hurt and trap each other and how the cycle can be hard to break. I didn’t expect to feel as bad or as angry as I did and I respect the themes and the dark turns this book took.
This books is set in 1980’s and also back in the 1958, 1961, 1971 and 1972, with the older dates being in the mother’s POV. The 1980’s POVs are from Elena and Joaquin, as they try to figure out their lives and live with their terrible mother Caridad. Their mother was rich back in Cuba, waited on hand and foot but was forced to leave the country by her parents once Castro took over Cuba. We see through the past how her mother’s lies and decisions shape who Joaquin and Elena have become in the 1980’s. Elena has a babysitting job but is secretly seeing a boy and getting into drugs and alcohol, while Joaquin is suffering from his mother’s abusive and manipulative behavior and he’s desperate to leave Mariposa Island.
While this book was hard to get into, I did want to know what the lies were in the family. I wanted to know what these revelations were that all the reviews and the synopsis mention. While some of the revelations can be easy to predict, they still hit me in the feelings and I had to know what would happen after knowing these truths. These lies really shaped who their mother becomes and her story is cautionary tale of how some people turn ugly inside due to the circumstances forced upon them. Caridad is forced to learn English in the US, her new home and the contact with her parents back in Cuba becomes limited over the years. She eventually changes her name to Carrie, a more American name, but no matter what happens, Carrie only becomes more bitter and angry as the years go by. While I understand why Carrie turns out the way she did, I still hate her so much! She is never grateful with what she does get in her new life and I hated how she treats her children and the people who help her. She starts the vicious cycle of substance abuse, verbal and mental abuse and manipulation and doesn’t see anything wrong with her behavior. She isn’t a redeemable character but I still grew to hate her more than pitying her and once you read the book, you’ll understand why.
Overall: By the end of this book, I really felt for Joaquin and the courage that he built up. He wanted to take control of his life and not want to be under his mom’s control anymore. The way he found out the truth was sad but also very true in how some people learn the truth that their families keep from them. Elena’s fate isn’t clearly shown but you can guess where she ends up, as well as the mother. This book is about how some people want to get out of their circumstances, but don’t know how and allow themselves to still be stuck. This is a mature YA book that talks about how leaving a culture behind and having to adapt to another is hard and also how family secrets can break your loved ones. I respect the themes the author shows in this book and while it’s not a 5 star read, I still am glad that I gave it a chance.
Title: The Iron Will of Genie Lo (The Epic Crush of Genie Lo #2)
Author: F.C. Yee
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy/Fantasy & Mythology
Release Date: January 21st 2020 from Amulet Books
Format: Kindle ARC via Edelweiss
Goodreads Synopsis: The fate of the heavens is at stake in this hilarious and highly-anticipated sequel to the The Epic Crush of Genie Lo!
Genie Lo thought she was busy protecting the Bay Area from demons. But now, as a Heaven- appointed Guardian, even the well-being of demons is her responsibility—and their numbers are multiplying. Guanyin and Quentin are doing their best to help; but what they really need is for the Jade Emperor to get off his butt and deal with the crisis. While he’s AWOL, Genie nominates Guanyin to fill in his shoes, unaware that the role will go to the god who can defeat a mysterious threat to the supernatural order. Along with a few other contenders for the throne, including a former enemy, Genie and her friends embark on a Heavenly quest to an in-between world. But when faced with true danger, the group realizes that what will save the universe this time is sacrifice, not strength.
**I requested and received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for a free and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and no quotations will be used. Thank you to the publisher for the review copy!**
I read the first book in this series earlier this year and enjoyed the Chinese mythology, the urban fantasy vibe and the snappy and hilarious writing. So I was excited to be approved for this sequel. Sadly, according to the author’s note, this is the final book in this duology. So knowing that, I was curious about how Genie and Quentin’s story would continue. While this is a fun and solid sequel, I do feel conflicted about a few aspects and because of that, I didn’t love this as much as the first one. There was a lot to unpack in this sequel/finale and I’m not quite sure how I feel about some things. But we’ll start with the positives!
The first positive of this sequel was of course the humor. Yee really excels at witty, sharp and funny dialogue. His dialogue really delivers on the humor, whether it’s an awkward conversation or someone sharing too much. There were a few times where I was cracking up in the beginning and this is one of Yee’s writing strengths in this series. Quentin and Yunie had the best comedic lines in the whole series and I would recommend this series for the humor alone.
The next positive was seeing how Genie is finishing high school and now has to focus on college. Part of this book is about growing up and trying to figure out what you want to do with your life. You have to pick which school to go into and also worry about having the money for school. Genie is also afraid of how her parents will be after she leaves and also leaving Yunie and Quentin behind. I liked these moments where Genie showed her vulnerability and uncertainty. It can be overwhelming after high school, where it feels like you have to decide so much at once.
Another positive was the interactions that Genie had with the pantheon of gods like Guanyin, the Great White Planet, Erlang Shen and many others. I learned a lot about Chinese mythology in this series and the story of Sun Wukong (the Monkey King, who is also Quentin) and also other mythology about monsters and wars for the throne of Heaven. If you love reading books with other cultures at the center like Rick Riordan Presents imprint, this is a YA series to check out for Chinese mythology. It’s action packed, funny, educational and overall really fun.
But one thing that I feel conflicted about is Genie and Quentin’s relationship. While I see so many glowing reviews about Genie as a character, she’s a bit polarizing for me. At times, she is a normal high school girl with big ambitions and at times doesn’t know what to do with her new supernatural gifts and other times, she is a very sharp tongued and often times mean character who doesn’t apologize for how mean she is. She doesn’t treat Quentin very nicely when he doesn’t do what she wants and that’s not healthy. There were times where they could’ve had some serious moments to talk but they don’t happen. The author had many opportunities to have Genie and Quentin question their future and also talk about it like a couple should. But that wasn’t taken and therefore, the relationship feels one sided and even a bit controlling at times. Quentin apologizes for some behavior that was his fault but at times, it’s Genie that should be apologizing.
Another conflicting thing was the plot itself. There are literal stakes for Heaven in this sequel, but the stakes weren’t as high as the synopsis says. Part of this book really dragged, since there’s a few too many god characters and not enough time to get to know them/get attached them before serious things start happening. Then, there’s a big sacrifice at the end and while that did have an impact, that sacrifice was then made void by the way things end and you’ll understand what I mean once you read it. As a reader, if there is a sacrifice that is made, stick with it! Don’t change it at the end just to make things happy. Also, the final fight was too easily handled after all that build up for most of the book.
Overall: I feel like this series needed to be at least a trilogy to flesh out character growth, relationships and also the plot with the Chinese pantheon of gods to feel balanced. This sequel had too much packed into a book that’s less than 400 pages and it really shows. I feel Quentin really took a back seat which bummed me out, since he’s my favorite character. Many moments for growth were missed and I feel like a book between this one and the first one would’ve helped the series end naturally. I do still really recommend this series, but I’m bummed that this sequel missed the mark a bit.
Rating: .5 stars
There we go! Thanks for sticking with me if you’ve made it to the end. Have read these books? If so, do tell me your thoughts in the comments!