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ARC Review: Dreamstrider

9.21.2015
Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith
Expected Publication: October 6th, 2015 by Roaring Book Press
Source: NetGalley
*I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinions.
A high-concept, fantastical espionage novel set in a world where dreams are the ultimate form of political intelligence.

Livia is a dreamstrider. She can inhabit a subject's body while they are sleeping and, for a short time, move around in their skin. She uses her talent to work as a spy for the Barstadt Empire. But her partner, Brandt, has lately become distant, and when Marez comes to join their team from a neighborhing kingdom, he offers Livia the option of a life she had never dared to imagine. Livia knows of no other dreamstriders who have survived the pull of Nightmare. So only she understands the stakes when a plot against the Empire emerges that threatens to consume both the dreaming world and the waking one with misery and rage.

A richly conceived world full of political intrigue and fantastical dream sequences, at its heart Dreamstrider is about a girl who is struggling to live up to the potential before her.

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The first thing I need to say about Dreamstrider: confusing. Confusing, confusing, confusing. Confusing from page one. I'm finished with the book and I still don't fully understand the different kingdoms and how the Dreamworld works and how Livia does what she does or how the Barstadt society works. Livia came from a life in the Tunnels, but I don't know what that life was like or how people live their lives there. I have a lot of unanswered questions. Too many. I'm getting kind of irritated as I type this because I DON'T KNOW IF I UNDERSTAND ANYTHING AT ALL.

But. BUT. Despite the confusion, despite the details I think were left out, I enjoyed Dreamstrider. The highlight was the main character. Livia has an ability no one else has - but she's not a Special Snowflake who conveniently runs perfect missions every time, tricks and fools everyone into giving her whatever information she needs. You're not going to see her in an action sequence in the style of Black Widow. She's a spy, sure. But she's clumsy. And not in an "oh oops I tripped look how cute I am!" Clumsy in a way that can put people in danger on missions. She doesn't have the sharp eye that others working for the Ministry have, can't talk her way out of a situation. She's only there because she's the only person with the ability to dreamstride. She is constantly surrounded by people who are forced to rely on her, people who don't really believe in her. She's a spy who definitely doesn't know how to be a spy in any conventional sense, and I loved it.

I think some people might end up annoyed by all of Livia's insecurities and pining, but I think it added character, made her feel more real, gave her depth. Take your pick. I actually really loved it.

And I did love the concept of dreamstriding. Livia can enter someone else's body while they sleep, impersonate them, move in their body, dip into their memories. But if she goes too far, she risks waking them up when they can take back control - and throw her unconscious into a place it might never come back from. I'm just really fuzzy on some of the details of how she holds the inhabitant back - there were bits about lizards and foxes and not making them angry and I DON'T KNOW. I JUST DON'T KNOW.

I think the world-building could have used some work, too. I never really felt like I got a clear picture of what Barstadt looked like, how its economy worked, what the people did. All we see is their devotion to the Dreamer - their version of God - and just tiny glimpses of the inequalities. Livia's best friend, Brandt, is an upper class man who's eventually going to have to leave the Ministry - and Livia - to be a Real Man with his family. Or something. Basically I'm just going to say "I don't know" again. And the surrounding kingdoms/empires/cities? We find out very little about them. BUT. But. I really enjoyed what we did get to see. It sounds like a really cool world.

As for the overall plot, I can't say there was anything particularly astounding to me. There were definitely quite a few weak points, but I keep coming back to loving the idea of dreamstriding. And I know I've sounded really negative about it all but the truth is that I enjoyed Dreamstrider. I enjoyed reading about a heroine who was so different, and despite all my confusion about the Dreamworld, it still felt very unique to me and the author did a great job of making it its own world.

And I was, of course, rooting for the romance. I'm a sucker for best friend romances, for people in totally different classes who find love. I wish that Brandt and Livia had had more intense or passionate moments together, but overall, I really liked it. (And there's no love triangle. Not really. Promise.)

tl;dr: Personally, I definitely suffered from confusion. I wish there had been a lot more detail concerning the aspects of dreaming and the entire world. But Livia was one of my absolute favorite characters to read about. Lindsay Smith did something really special with her. 3.5 stars.


ARC Review: Spinning Starlight

9.18.2015
Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis
Expected Publication: October 6th, 2015 by Disney Hyperion
Source: NetGalley
*I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinions.
Sixteen-year-old heiress and paparazzi darling Liddi Jantzen hates the spotlight. But as the only daughter in the most powerful tech family in the galaxy, it's hard to escape it. So when a group of men show up at her house uninvited, she assumes it's just the usual media-grubs. That is, until shots are fired.

Liddi escapes, only to be pulled into an interplanetary conspiracy more complex than she ever could have imagined. Her older brothers have been caught as well, trapped in the conduits between the planets. And when their captor implants a device in Liddi's vocal cords to monitor her speech, their lives are in her hands: One word and her brothers are dead.

Desperate to save her family from a desolate future, Liddi travels to another world, where she meets the one person who might have the skills to help her bring her eight brothers home-a handsome dignitary named Tiav. But without her voice, Liddi must use every bit of her strength and wit to convince Tiav that her mission is true. With the tenuous balance of the planets deeply intertwined with her brothers' survival, just how much is Liddi willing to sacrifice to bring them back?

Haunting and mesmerizing, this retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's The Wild Swans strings the heart of the classic with a stunning, imaginative world as a star-crossed family fights for survival in this companion to Stitching Snow.
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Spinning Starlight is one of those books that's incredibly hard to review because you really don't have much to say about it. I didn't have particularly strong feelings about either way, so I spent a lot of time staring at a blank screen and glancing at the keyboard.

In Spinning Starlight, we experience the story of Liddi Jantzen struggling to get her 8 brothers back after they've mysteriously disappeared. Her brothers are all Liddi has. She's meant to inherit the company once she turns 18, even though she's the only one in the family who's never been able to live up to the Jantzen name - the Jantzen who are techno gurus who are always inventing. But Liddi hasn't been able to come up with a single astounding idea, and so instead the vid-cams follow her every move and report on her fashion and belittle her. We get to see glimpses of her brothers, both through flashbacks and other means, and I really liked the family element of the novel.

For a great majority of the book, Liddi can't speak. On her planet, the ability to read and write has all but been done away with. But Liddi finds herself on another planet, where the "handsome dignitary named Tiav" tries to teach her so they can communicate in some small form. I love how frustrated Liddi gets - it's a very slow process that they eventually adapt so that a computer can speak for her in short, fragmented sentences that make her feel stupid. She had other insecurities that I empathized with and a fierce determination to save her brother. 

The romance was kind of underwhelming, which is how I feel about the entire book, I think. Tiav is sweet, seems to respect Liddi, genuinely wants to help her. But I never felt a real connection between them, never really felt any passion. Which I feel like I say about a lot of books? I dunno. There's definitely nothing WRONG with their relationship; it just didn't intrigue me personally. 

My biggest problem comes with the world-building and the technological jargon that made hardly any sense and was used to explain away everything. I envisioned this super cool and advanced world when I read the synopsis, but honestly, I have no idea what anything was like. The descriptions could have been beautiful. The world could have been incredible and enthralling and there's always so much potential in a futurist world, but Spinning Starlight did not deliver. I was just left with a very vague impression. 

Also: THERE ARE ALIENS! But once again, Spinning Starlight didn't really deliver. I wish we would have learned more about them, and I wish they had been more creative/exciting. They weren't.

As for the science stuff, it felt very weak. There are portals that exist between planets, but the explanations about them and how they work - and why they're not working - were . . . not that great. Liddi understood some of it, but not all. And me? It all just felt like it was haphazardly thrown together. 

tl;dr: Spinning Starlight was a pretty quick read for me. But I was very underwhelmed by the science, the world-building, the romance. Liddi wasn't an astounding character, but I did enjoy her. 2.5 stars.

ARC Review: Never Never

9.16.2015
Never Never by Brianna Shrum
Expected Publication: September 22nd, 2015 by Spencer Hill Press
Source: Won (ARC)
James Hook is a child who only wants to grow up.

When he meets Peter Pan, a boy who loves to pretend and is intent on never becoming a man, James decides he could try being a child—at least briefly. James joins Peter Pan on a holiday to Neverland, a place of adventure created by children’s dreams, but Neverland is not for the faint of heart. Soon James finds himself longing for home, determined that he is destined to be a man. But Peter refuses to take him back, leaving James trapped in a world just beyond the one he loves. A world where children are to never grow up.

But grow up he does.

And thus begins the epic adventure of a Lost Boy and a Pirate.

This story isn’t about Peter Pan; it’s about the boy whose life he stole. It’s about a man in a world that hates men. It’s about the feared Captain James Hook and his passionate quest to kill the Pan, an impossible feat in a magical land where everyone loves Peter Pan.

Except one.
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I will fully admit that I might be totally biased about this book. Though I'm not a Disney superfan and haven't seen most of the movies since I was three years old and too young to remember, the story of Peter Pan and Neverland is one I definitely know. (Also, Once Upon a Time, anyone?)

Never Never is, essentially, a Captain Hook origin story - and more. I can tell you that from what I remember of the Disney movie, Never Never doesn't share that problem that A Whole New World has where basically nothing has changed.

I sympathized with James throughout. He was, of course, tricked by Peter Pan and now he's suddenly trapped in Neverland, pretending to be a Lost Boy while he grows up, defying Peter Pan's #1 rule. My heart ached for him. Especially when he finds himself falling in love with quite the forbidden flower. I knew it was probably a doomed ship but I HAD TO SAIL IT ANYWAYS. A few of their moments together did make me roll my eyes, though.

Never Never is quite a dense book. It felt a lot longer than it appears; James is in his head quite a bit, plotting or angsting and such. I wouldn't say it was super light on dialogue, but there would be pages of internal monologues or descriptions of what was happening, and that made it a little hard sometimes.

In addition, Never Never did feel like it dragged on at times. The fights with Peter Pan could get very repetitive and it often felt like the plot wasn't advancing at all. Beyond the rivalry between Hook and Pan and the forbidden relationship, there didn't always appear to be much else in the way of plot.

I will say, however, that Never Never is filled with emotions. (By which I mean THE FEELS ARE EVERYWHERE.) I couldn't help but feel pity for Peter Pan, who fails to understand the reality of life and forgets everything that he doesn't believe is of consequence to him. James never wanted to be a Lost Boy. As he transforms into the infamous Captain Hook, he crosses lines he never wanted to cross. And the other Lost Boys? EVERYTHING JUST MADE ME SO SAD. And you don't even want to get me started on Tiger Lily. I don't have anything to say that doesn't qualify as a spoiler besides SAD.

I did love the world of Neverland, of course, and felt like the world-building was pretty great, although I do think the details of Neverland could have been more intricate and, well, detailed. Just little things, you know? We got mermaids. We got a magic bar. But it just felt as if something was missing, I guess.

tl;dr: NEVERLAND! PETER PAN! EMOTIONS EVERYWHERE THAT HURT MY SOUL! Plus a kind of slow and dragging plot. Of course, I definitely think this is something that every Peter Pan fan should check out. 3.5 stars.


ARC Review: The Scorpion Rules

9.14.2015
The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
Expected Publication: September 22nd, 2015 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Edelweiss
*I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinions. Thank you to Edelweiss and S&S!
A world battered by climate shift and war turns to an ancient method of keeping peace: the exchange of hostages. The Children of Peace - sons and daughters of kings and presidents and generals - are raised together in small, isolated schools called Preceptures. There, they learn history and political theory, and are taught to gracefully accept what may well be their fate: to die if their countries declare war.

Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan-Polar Confederation, is the pride of the North American Precepture. Learned and disciplined, Greta is proud of her role in keeping the global peace, even though, with her country controlling two-thirds of the world’s most war-worthy resource — water — she has little chance of reaching adulthood alive.

Enter Elián Palnik, the Precepture’s newest hostage and biggest problem. Greta’s world begins to tilt the moment she sees Elián dragged into the school in chains. The Prefecture’s insidious surveillance, its small punishments and rewards, can make no dent in Elián, who is not interested in dignity and tradition, and doesn’t even accept the right of the UN to keep hostages.

What will happen to Elián and Greta as their two nations inch closer to war?
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I saw a lot of awesome reviews for The Scorpion Rules in the beginning, so I definitely had high hopes going in. But I went in and it took me more than a week to get through the first 15%. After that? I just put it on hold. The writing was great and I was definitely intrigued, but I guess it just wasn't enough to pull me in. I knew I needed to finish it, so I committed to it for ARC August. It was still a little slow-going, and I honestly don't think I can really explain why.

I was definitely a little confused. There's an explanation for why children have become hostages, there's a system behind it all, but I guess I didn't really believe it? There's artificial intelligence involved, but I still feel like people would become a lot more desperate if their children were constantly being taken from them. There are quite a few characters - or maybe not and I'm just dumb - and it took me a while to get a handle on all of them. By the end, I still couldn't really tell you who Grego or Hans were besides some names. Greta would mention things about the Precepture or her world and I would have no idea what was going on.

The AI aspect is, however, awesome. (And it definitely leads to a great ending for the novel!) I love the idea of Talis, the once-human AI who keeps the peace by enforcing the Preceptures. If a country declares war? Their hostage child dies. He likes to blow things up, too, which is always fun to read about. For a computer, he sure has a strong personality.

I did feel a disconnect with the story and the characters, which I think was a problem with the writing for me. The words and the narration just felt a little too stiff for me at times. I will say that Erin Bow has a VERY strong voice in her writing which I really enjoyed. There's definitely plenty of humor woven throughout the book.

"Anyone who thinks goats are less destructive than lions on fire does not know goats well."

Still, most of the time I felt as if the characters felt nothing. There was no emotion in the writing for me. Which made the romance (which is more sort-of-romance) kind of hard to read, because there was nothing there. Not to mention I never really felt any connections - between either of the characters that Greta ends up kissing. (And yes, one of them is a girl!) I just honestly didn't feel any genuine emotions from these characters most of the time. They said words, sure. But the way Greta sees and narrates things? Nothing comes out. I don't know. I don't know what it is. I DON'T KNOW WHY I'M STILL TALKING.

I did love the concept of taking children hostage in order to prevent war. (I loved in a totally non-crazy way, I swear.) The entire story is a question of whether the ends justify the means. And the end wasn't all wrapped up in a pretty little bow where the system has been defeated. (There is resistance to the system, though not nearly enough, if you ask me.)

tl;dr: Confusing. For me, at least. Fantastic story with a fantastic voice and bits of humor, but that wasn't enough for me. Ultimately, I just wasn't always interested in what was happening. I did still enjoy it, so I give The Scorpion Rules 3 stars.

Books That Made Me Cry

9.11.2015
Look, I'll be honest. I cry. A lot. Like, a lot a lot. Random things in books will make me cry. The acknowledgements of Sarah Ockler's The Summer of Chasing Mermaids made me sob for a good twenty minutes.


So I took to Twitter to ask for cute contemp recs - that WOULDN'T make me cry. Kasie West was, of course, a popular answer. I also had several people rec I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios. People said it was raw but it would make me smile and not cry!

THEY LIED. YOU ARE ALL DIRTY, FILTHY LIARS. I just empathized with the trapped feeling they had in their tiny little town, read the author's note about our troops and couldn't help the tears. I cried for Skylar who didn't deserve all the shit her mom made her deal with. YOU ALL LIED TO ME.

So anyways, here's some more books that made me cry. Take note so that next time I ask for happy books, YOU GIVE THEM TO ME.



Incarnate was beautiful and painful to read because of the main character's heart-aching loneliness. As for Maggie Stiefvater? Well. Her words are almost too beautiful. She has this way of connecting you with the characters so well that it's impossible for me not to feel their pain, their desperation. (Also, Gansey.) Say what you will about Twilight - I don't like it either - but I've never been able to get over my love for The Host. I cried buckets. Emmy & Oliver made me tear up a few times, though I have no idea why. This is a pretty limited look at what's made me cry - I know there are SO many others, but they were borrowed from a friend/library books and such, so I don't have them sitting on my shelf to look at and go "OH, THAT ONE MADE ME CRY, TOO."

However, I know I haven't read several of the popular books that are known tear-jerkers - TFIOS, All the Bright Places, Code Name Verity. I'm always very hesitant to go into a book that I know will make me sob endlessly, especially because it's so easy for a book to make me cry.

More importantly, what books have YOU read that made you cry? Melted you into a puddle of tears? Why did it make you cry? OR ARE YOU A STONE-COLD ROCK WHO FEARS NO EVIL? (Also how can I be you?)

Do You Write Every Day?

9.07.2015

Because I don't.

Are you a writer? 
I started writing (very bad) YA novels when I was 14. Don't think I ever got past 30k on anything, and then I just totally . . . stopped for a few years. And then I started again, and you know what? I don't write every day. You hear a lot of people saying "write, write every day, it doesn't matter what it is." But I don't. And sure, I haven't finished a project yet. But I personally don't find forcing myself to write and making myself miserable in the process helps me.

Some people? The words pour out, sure. Maybe you're lucky enough to be that way. I'm not, no matter how much I love the project. And I am far too easily distracted and will fully admit that if I turned the internet off every once in awhile, I'm sure I could get more written. But I still wouldn't write every day, because the words aren't usually burning to get onto a page. Like, I'm not going to turn into this if I don't write for a few days:



ARC Review: Serpentine

9.04.2015
Serpentine by Cindy Pon
Expected Publication: September 8th, 2015 by Month9Books
Source: Publisher
SERPENTINE is a sweeping fantasy set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology.

Lush with details from Chinese folklore, SERPENTINE tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns sixteen, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell.

When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time.

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Reviewing Serpentine is hard because I didn't have particularly strong feelings about it in either direction. In the beginning, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing but wasn't totally invested in the story. And that's pretty much how it went the entire way. The story definitely did get more intriguing, but it didn't feel as if it had enough intricate and fleshed-out details to seem believable, and so instead I found myself rolling my eyes sometimes.

Still, the mythology of Serpentine is something I haven't seen a ton of before, which was refreshing. I felt so immersed in the setting and could picture it so easily. The dark forests, the huge manor, the monks right next door. I know I already used the word refreshing, but it applies here as well.

Another good thing that Serpentine does? It tells its tale through the handmaiden rather than the privileged girl who owns the handmaiden. It's obviously not the first book to do so, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a nice break from the upper class. However, Skybright and her mistress, Zhen Ni, are practically sisters. They've known each other since they were babies, grown up together. But there's still a pretty big divide, if you ask me. Zhen Ni is still a mistress. Skybright can never herself marry or have children, and sometimes I feel like the book didn't really make a big enough deal of that. Now, those are things that I don't personally want, but the thing is that I have that choice. I have an option to want it, to do it someday. Skybright never has.

Nevertheless, Skybright and Zhen Ni have quite a strong connection. Until, of course, they both start keeping their own secrets from each other. You just know that's not going to end well.

As characters, I didn't find either of them particularly interesting. Maybe it's because I couldn't connect to them, I don't know. But not a single one of the characters in Serpentine was particularly remarkable to me. I didn't hate them, no. Skybright's love for Zhen Ni and her strength as she dealt with her own changes were important, sure. But beyond that I just . . . didn't care much, I guess. I was intrigued to find out what was going on with Skybright, where the story would go. But that wasn't really about her.

The romance is probably where I have the strongest feelings, because it was just so unbelievable to me. It happened too fast and I didn't feel a genuine connection. I rolled my eyes. Quite a bit. They meet and talk a handful of times throughout the entire novel. In the beginning, Skybright sees Kai Sen for the first time from very far away and she suddenly can't stop thinking about him. Which kind of set the tone for the entire romance. And, of course, a third party sort of enters the picture and I just. WHY. NO THANKS.

Of course, Serpentine also features a f/f relationship. YAY! FINALLY! I feel as if we didn't see enough of one of the characters involved, but it was still something nice to see, and it actually does play a part. (AKA it doesn't feel as if it was just thrown in to check off a box.) It's so unfamiliar to many of the characters in the book, unacceptable to some. It was a little heartbreaking to see the damage that simple love between two people could cause.

Plotwise and in terms of what's happening to Skybright, it had its weak moments and its stronger moments. The stronger moments were definitely at the end where there were a few plot twists.

tl;dr: Serpentine brings a lot of fresh stuff to the table - new mythology, a great setting, a f/f relationship. It features a strong female friendship. But for me, there's a bit of an execution problem. It was hard for me to stay interested and the romance between Skybright and Kai Sen wasn't believable. Still, I enjoyed the writing for the most part and did find a lot of stuff refreshing. Will I be reading the sequel? Probably not. But I do think Serpentine deserves 3 stars.


9.21.2015

ARC Review: Dreamstrider

Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith
Expected Publication: October 6th, 2015 by Roaring Book Press
Source: NetGalley
*I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinions.
A high-concept, fantastical espionage novel set in a world where dreams are the ultimate form of political intelligence.

Livia is a dreamstrider. She can inhabit a subject's body while they are sleeping and, for a short time, move around in their skin. She uses her talent to work as a spy for the Barstadt Empire. But her partner, Brandt, has lately become distant, and when Marez comes to join their team from a neighborhing kingdom, he offers Livia the option of a life she had never dared to imagine. Livia knows of no other dreamstriders who have survived the pull of Nightmare. So only she understands the stakes when a plot against the Empire emerges that threatens to consume both the dreaming world and the waking one with misery and rage.

A richly conceived world full of political intrigue and fantastical dream sequences, at its heart Dreamstrider is about a girl who is struggling to live up to the potential before her.

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The first thing I need to say about Dreamstrider: confusing. Confusing, confusing, confusing. Confusing from page one. I'm finished with the book and I still don't fully understand the different kingdoms and how the Dreamworld works and how Livia does what she does or how the Barstadt society works. Livia came from a life in the Tunnels, but I don't know what that life was like or how people live their lives there. I have a lot of unanswered questions. Too many. I'm getting kind of irritated as I type this because I DON'T KNOW IF I UNDERSTAND ANYTHING AT ALL.

But. BUT. Despite the confusion, despite the details I think were left out, I enjoyed Dreamstrider. The highlight was the main character. Livia has an ability no one else has - but she's not a Special Snowflake who conveniently runs perfect missions every time, tricks and fools everyone into giving her whatever information she needs. You're not going to see her in an action sequence in the style of Black Widow. She's a spy, sure. But she's clumsy. And not in an "oh oops I tripped look how cute I am!" Clumsy in a way that can put people in danger on missions. She doesn't have the sharp eye that others working for the Ministry have, can't talk her way out of a situation. She's only there because she's the only person with the ability to dreamstride. She is constantly surrounded by people who are forced to rely on her, people who don't really believe in her. She's a spy who definitely doesn't know how to be a spy in any conventional sense, and I loved it.

I think some people might end up annoyed by all of Livia's insecurities and pining, but I think it added character, made her feel more real, gave her depth. Take your pick. I actually really loved it.

And I did love the concept of dreamstriding. Livia can enter someone else's body while they sleep, impersonate them, move in their body, dip into their memories. But if she goes too far, she risks waking them up when they can take back control - and throw her unconscious into a place it might never come back from. I'm just really fuzzy on some of the details of how she holds the inhabitant back - there were bits about lizards and foxes and not making them angry and I DON'T KNOW. I JUST DON'T KNOW.

I think the world-building could have used some work, too. I never really felt like I got a clear picture of what Barstadt looked like, how its economy worked, what the people did. All we see is their devotion to the Dreamer - their version of God - and just tiny glimpses of the inequalities. Livia's best friend, Brandt, is an upper class man who's eventually going to have to leave the Ministry - and Livia - to be a Real Man with his family. Or something. Basically I'm just going to say "I don't know" again. And the surrounding kingdoms/empires/cities? We find out very little about them. BUT. But. I really enjoyed what we did get to see. It sounds like a really cool world.

As for the overall plot, I can't say there was anything particularly astounding to me. There were definitely quite a few weak points, but I keep coming back to loving the idea of dreamstriding. And I know I've sounded really negative about it all but the truth is that I enjoyed Dreamstrider. I enjoyed reading about a heroine who was so different, and despite all my confusion about the Dreamworld, it still felt very unique to me and the author did a great job of making it its own world.

And I was, of course, rooting for the romance. I'm a sucker for best friend romances, for people in totally different classes who find love. I wish that Brandt and Livia had had more intense or passionate moments together, but overall, I really liked it. (And there's no love triangle. Not really. Promise.)

tl;dr: Personally, I definitely suffered from confusion. I wish there had been a lot more detail concerning the aspects of dreaming and the entire world. But Livia was one of my absolute favorite characters to read about. Lindsay Smith did something really special with her. 3.5 stars.


9.18.2015

ARC Review: Spinning Starlight

Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis
Expected Publication: October 6th, 2015 by Disney Hyperion
Source: NetGalley
*I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinions.
Sixteen-year-old heiress and paparazzi darling Liddi Jantzen hates the spotlight. But as the only daughter in the most powerful tech family in the galaxy, it's hard to escape it. So when a group of men show up at her house uninvited, she assumes it's just the usual media-grubs. That is, until shots are fired.

Liddi escapes, only to be pulled into an interplanetary conspiracy more complex than she ever could have imagined. Her older brothers have been caught as well, trapped in the conduits between the planets. And when their captor implants a device in Liddi's vocal cords to monitor her speech, their lives are in her hands: One word and her brothers are dead.

Desperate to save her family from a desolate future, Liddi travels to another world, where she meets the one person who might have the skills to help her bring her eight brothers home-a handsome dignitary named Tiav. But without her voice, Liddi must use every bit of her strength and wit to convince Tiav that her mission is true. With the tenuous balance of the planets deeply intertwined with her brothers' survival, just how much is Liddi willing to sacrifice to bring them back?

Haunting and mesmerizing, this retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's The Wild Swans strings the heart of the classic with a stunning, imaginative world as a star-crossed family fights for survival in this companion to Stitching Snow.
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Spinning Starlight is one of those books that's incredibly hard to review because you really don't have much to say about it. I didn't have particularly strong feelings about either way, so I spent a lot of time staring at a blank screen and glancing at the keyboard.

In Spinning Starlight, we experience the story of Liddi Jantzen struggling to get her 8 brothers back after they've mysteriously disappeared. Her brothers are all Liddi has. She's meant to inherit the company once she turns 18, even though she's the only one in the family who's never been able to live up to the Jantzen name - the Jantzen who are techno gurus who are always inventing. But Liddi hasn't been able to come up with a single astounding idea, and so instead the vid-cams follow her every move and report on her fashion and belittle her. We get to see glimpses of her brothers, both through flashbacks and other means, and I really liked the family element of the novel.

For a great majority of the book, Liddi can't speak. On her planet, the ability to read and write has all but been done away with. But Liddi finds herself on another planet, where the "handsome dignitary named Tiav" tries to teach her so they can communicate in some small form. I love how frustrated Liddi gets - it's a very slow process that they eventually adapt so that a computer can speak for her in short, fragmented sentences that make her feel stupid. She had other insecurities that I empathized with and a fierce determination to save her brother. 

The romance was kind of underwhelming, which is how I feel about the entire book, I think. Tiav is sweet, seems to respect Liddi, genuinely wants to help her. But I never felt a real connection between them, never really felt any passion. Which I feel like I say about a lot of books? I dunno. There's definitely nothing WRONG with their relationship; it just didn't intrigue me personally. 

My biggest problem comes with the world-building and the technological jargon that made hardly any sense and was used to explain away everything. I envisioned this super cool and advanced world when I read the synopsis, but honestly, I have no idea what anything was like. The descriptions could have been beautiful. The world could have been incredible and enthralling and there's always so much potential in a futurist world, but Spinning Starlight did not deliver. I was just left with a very vague impression. 

Also: THERE ARE ALIENS! But once again, Spinning Starlight didn't really deliver. I wish we would have learned more about them, and I wish they had been more creative/exciting. They weren't.

As for the science stuff, it felt very weak. There are portals that exist between planets, but the explanations about them and how they work - and why they're not working - were . . . not that great. Liddi understood some of it, but not all. And me? It all just felt like it was haphazardly thrown together. 

tl;dr: Spinning Starlight was a pretty quick read for me. But I was very underwhelmed by the science, the world-building, the romance. Liddi wasn't an astounding character, but I did enjoy her. 2.5 stars.

9.16.2015

ARC Review: Never Never

Never Never by Brianna Shrum
Expected Publication: September 22nd, 2015 by Spencer Hill Press
Source: Won (ARC)
James Hook is a child who only wants to grow up.

When he meets Peter Pan, a boy who loves to pretend and is intent on never becoming a man, James decides he could try being a child—at least briefly. James joins Peter Pan on a holiday to Neverland, a place of adventure created by children’s dreams, but Neverland is not for the faint of heart. Soon James finds himself longing for home, determined that he is destined to be a man. But Peter refuses to take him back, leaving James trapped in a world just beyond the one he loves. A world where children are to never grow up.

But grow up he does.

And thus begins the epic adventure of a Lost Boy and a Pirate.

This story isn’t about Peter Pan; it’s about the boy whose life he stole. It’s about a man in a world that hates men. It’s about the feared Captain James Hook and his passionate quest to kill the Pan, an impossible feat in a magical land where everyone loves Peter Pan.

Except one.
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I will fully admit that I might be totally biased about this book. Though I'm not a Disney superfan and haven't seen most of the movies since I was three years old and too young to remember, the story of Peter Pan and Neverland is one I definitely know. (Also, Once Upon a Time, anyone?)

Never Never is, essentially, a Captain Hook origin story - and more. I can tell you that from what I remember of the Disney movie, Never Never doesn't share that problem that A Whole New World has where basically nothing has changed.

I sympathized with James throughout. He was, of course, tricked by Peter Pan and now he's suddenly trapped in Neverland, pretending to be a Lost Boy while he grows up, defying Peter Pan's #1 rule. My heart ached for him. Especially when he finds himself falling in love with quite the forbidden flower. I knew it was probably a doomed ship but I HAD TO SAIL IT ANYWAYS. A few of their moments together did make me roll my eyes, though.

Never Never is quite a dense book. It felt a lot longer than it appears; James is in his head quite a bit, plotting or angsting and such. I wouldn't say it was super light on dialogue, but there would be pages of internal monologues or descriptions of what was happening, and that made it a little hard sometimes.

In addition, Never Never did feel like it dragged on at times. The fights with Peter Pan could get very repetitive and it often felt like the plot wasn't advancing at all. Beyond the rivalry between Hook and Pan and the forbidden relationship, there didn't always appear to be much else in the way of plot.

I will say, however, that Never Never is filled with emotions. (By which I mean THE FEELS ARE EVERYWHERE.) I couldn't help but feel pity for Peter Pan, who fails to understand the reality of life and forgets everything that he doesn't believe is of consequence to him. James never wanted to be a Lost Boy. As he transforms into the infamous Captain Hook, he crosses lines he never wanted to cross. And the other Lost Boys? EVERYTHING JUST MADE ME SO SAD. And you don't even want to get me started on Tiger Lily. I don't have anything to say that doesn't qualify as a spoiler besides SAD.

I did love the world of Neverland, of course, and felt like the world-building was pretty great, although I do think the details of Neverland could have been more intricate and, well, detailed. Just little things, you know? We got mermaids. We got a magic bar. But it just felt as if something was missing, I guess.

tl;dr: NEVERLAND! PETER PAN! EMOTIONS EVERYWHERE THAT HURT MY SOUL! Plus a kind of slow and dragging plot. Of course, I definitely think this is something that every Peter Pan fan should check out. 3.5 stars.


9.14.2015

ARC Review: The Scorpion Rules

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
Expected Publication: September 22nd, 2015 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Edelweiss
*I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinions. Thank you to Edelweiss and S&S!
A world battered by climate shift and war turns to an ancient method of keeping peace: the exchange of hostages. The Children of Peace - sons and daughters of kings and presidents and generals - are raised together in small, isolated schools called Preceptures. There, they learn history and political theory, and are taught to gracefully accept what may well be their fate: to die if their countries declare war.

Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan-Polar Confederation, is the pride of the North American Precepture. Learned and disciplined, Greta is proud of her role in keeping the global peace, even though, with her country controlling two-thirds of the world’s most war-worthy resource — water — she has little chance of reaching adulthood alive.

Enter Elián Palnik, the Precepture’s newest hostage and biggest problem. Greta’s world begins to tilt the moment she sees Elián dragged into the school in chains. The Prefecture’s insidious surveillance, its small punishments and rewards, can make no dent in Elián, who is not interested in dignity and tradition, and doesn’t even accept the right of the UN to keep hostages.

What will happen to Elián and Greta as their two nations inch closer to war?
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I saw a lot of awesome reviews for The Scorpion Rules in the beginning, so I definitely had high hopes going in. But I went in and it took me more than a week to get through the first 15%. After that? I just put it on hold. The writing was great and I was definitely intrigued, but I guess it just wasn't enough to pull me in. I knew I needed to finish it, so I committed to it for ARC August. It was still a little slow-going, and I honestly don't think I can really explain why.

I was definitely a little confused. There's an explanation for why children have become hostages, there's a system behind it all, but I guess I didn't really believe it? There's artificial intelligence involved, but I still feel like people would become a lot more desperate if their children were constantly being taken from them. There are quite a few characters - or maybe not and I'm just dumb - and it took me a while to get a handle on all of them. By the end, I still couldn't really tell you who Grego or Hans were besides some names. Greta would mention things about the Precepture or her world and I would have no idea what was going on.

The AI aspect is, however, awesome. (And it definitely leads to a great ending for the novel!) I love the idea of Talis, the once-human AI who keeps the peace by enforcing the Preceptures. If a country declares war? Their hostage child dies. He likes to blow things up, too, which is always fun to read about. For a computer, he sure has a strong personality.

I did feel a disconnect with the story and the characters, which I think was a problem with the writing for me. The words and the narration just felt a little too stiff for me at times. I will say that Erin Bow has a VERY strong voice in her writing which I really enjoyed. There's definitely plenty of humor woven throughout the book.

"Anyone who thinks goats are less destructive than lions on fire does not know goats well."

Still, most of the time I felt as if the characters felt nothing. There was no emotion in the writing for me. Which made the romance (which is more sort-of-romance) kind of hard to read, because there was nothing there. Not to mention I never really felt any connections - between either of the characters that Greta ends up kissing. (And yes, one of them is a girl!) I just honestly didn't feel any genuine emotions from these characters most of the time. They said words, sure. But the way Greta sees and narrates things? Nothing comes out. I don't know. I don't know what it is. I DON'T KNOW WHY I'M STILL TALKING.

I did love the concept of taking children hostage in order to prevent war. (I loved in a totally non-crazy way, I swear.) The entire story is a question of whether the ends justify the means. And the end wasn't all wrapped up in a pretty little bow where the system has been defeated. (There is resistance to the system, though not nearly enough, if you ask me.)

tl;dr: Confusing. For me, at least. Fantastic story with a fantastic voice and bits of humor, but that wasn't enough for me. Ultimately, I just wasn't always interested in what was happening. I did still enjoy it, so I give The Scorpion Rules 3 stars.

9.11.2015

Books That Made Me Cry

Look, I'll be honest. I cry. A lot. Like, a lot a lot. Random things in books will make me cry. The acknowledgements of Sarah Ockler's The Summer of Chasing Mermaids made me sob for a good twenty minutes.


So I took to Twitter to ask for cute contemp recs - that WOULDN'T make me cry. Kasie West was, of course, a popular answer. I also had several people rec I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios. People said it was raw but it would make me smile and not cry!

THEY LIED. YOU ARE ALL DIRTY, FILTHY LIARS. I just empathized with the trapped feeling they had in their tiny little town, read the author's note about our troops and couldn't help the tears. I cried for Skylar who didn't deserve all the shit her mom made her deal with. YOU ALL LIED TO ME.

So anyways, here's some more books that made me cry. Take note so that next time I ask for happy books, YOU GIVE THEM TO ME.



Incarnate was beautiful and painful to read because of the main character's heart-aching loneliness. As for Maggie Stiefvater? Well. Her words are almost too beautiful. She has this way of connecting you with the characters so well that it's impossible for me not to feel their pain, their desperation. (Also, Gansey.) Say what you will about Twilight - I don't like it either - but I've never been able to get over my love for The Host. I cried buckets. Emmy & Oliver made me tear up a few times, though I have no idea why. This is a pretty limited look at what's made me cry - I know there are SO many others, but they were borrowed from a friend/library books and such, so I don't have them sitting on my shelf to look at and go "OH, THAT ONE MADE ME CRY, TOO."

However, I know I haven't read several of the popular books that are known tear-jerkers - TFIOS, All the Bright Places, Code Name Verity. I'm always very hesitant to go into a book that I know will make me sob endlessly, especially because it's so easy for a book to make me cry.

More importantly, what books have YOU read that made you cry? Melted you into a puddle of tears? Why did it make you cry? OR ARE YOU A STONE-COLD ROCK WHO FEARS NO EVIL? (Also how can I be you?)

9.07.2015

Do You Write Every Day?


Because I don't.

Are you a writer? 
I started writing (very bad) YA novels when I was 14. Don't think I ever got past 30k on anything, and then I just totally . . . stopped for a few years. And then I started again, and you know what? I don't write every day. You hear a lot of people saying "write, write every day, it doesn't matter what it is." But I don't. And sure, I haven't finished a project yet. But I personally don't find forcing myself to write and making myself miserable in the process helps me.

Some people? The words pour out, sure. Maybe you're lucky enough to be that way. I'm not, no matter how much I love the project. And I am far too easily distracted and will fully admit that if I turned the internet off every once in awhile, I'm sure I could get more written. But I still wouldn't write every day, because the words aren't usually burning to get onto a page. Like, I'm not going to turn into this if I don't write for a few days:



9.04.2015

ARC Review: Serpentine

Serpentine by Cindy Pon
Expected Publication: September 8th, 2015 by Month9Books
Source: Publisher
SERPENTINE is a sweeping fantasy set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology.

Lush with details from Chinese folklore, SERPENTINE tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns sixteen, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell.

When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time.

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Reviewing Serpentine is hard because I didn't have particularly strong feelings about it in either direction. In the beginning, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing but wasn't totally invested in the story. And that's pretty much how it went the entire way. The story definitely did get more intriguing, but it didn't feel as if it had enough intricate and fleshed-out details to seem believable, and so instead I found myself rolling my eyes sometimes.

Still, the mythology of Serpentine is something I haven't seen a ton of before, which was refreshing. I felt so immersed in the setting and could picture it so easily. The dark forests, the huge manor, the monks right next door. I know I already used the word refreshing, but it applies here as well.

Another good thing that Serpentine does? It tells its tale through the handmaiden rather than the privileged girl who owns the handmaiden. It's obviously not the first book to do so, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a nice break from the upper class. However, Skybright and her mistress, Zhen Ni, are practically sisters. They've known each other since they were babies, grown up together. But there's still a pretty big divide, if you ask me. Zhen Ni is still a mistress. Skybright can never herself marry or have children, and sometimes I feel like the book didn't really make a big enough deal of that. Now, those are things that I don't personally want, but the thing is that I have that choice. I have an option to want it, to do it someday. Skybright never has.

Nevertheless, Skybright and Zhen Ni have quite a strong connection. Until, of course, they both start keeping their own secrets from each other. You just know that's not going to end well.

As characters, I didn't find either of them particularly interesting. Maybe it's because I couldn't connect to them, I don't know. But not a single one of the characters in Serpentine was particularly remarkable to me. I didn't hate them, no. Skybright's love for Zhen Ni and her strength as she dealt with her own changes were important, sure. But beyond that I just . . . didn't care much, I guess. I was intrigued to find out what was going on with Skybright, where the story would go. But that wasn't really about her.

The romance is probably where I have the strongest feelings, because it was just so unbelievable to me. It happened too fast and I didn't feel a genuine connection. I rolled my eyes. Quite a bit. They meet and talk a handful of times throughout the entire novel. In the beginning, Skybright sees Kai Sen for the first time from very far away and she suddenly can't stop thinking about him. Which kind of set the tone for the entire romance. And, of course, a third party sort of enters the picture and I just. WHY. NO THANKS.

Of course, Serpentine also features a f/f relationship. YAY! FINALLY! I feel as if we didn't see enough of one of the characters involved, but it was still something nice to see, and it actually does play a part. (AKA it doesn't feel as if it was just thrown in to check off a box.) It's so unfamiliar to many of the characters in the book, unacceptable to some. It was a little heartbreaking to see the damage that simple love between two people could cause.

Plotwise and in terms of what's happening to Skybright, it had its weak moments and its stronger moments. The stronger moments were definitely at the end where there were a few plot twists.

tl;dr: Serpentine brings a lot of fresh stuff to the table - new mythology, a great setting, a f/f relationship. It features a strong female friendship. But for me, there's a bit of an execution problem. It was hard for me to stay interested and the romance between Skybright and Kai Sen wasn't believable. Still, I enjoyed the writing for the most part and did find a lot of stuff refreshing. Will I be reading the sequel? Probably not. But I do think Serpentine deserves 3 stars.