Book Review: Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions.

Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family’s island mansion called Tu Reviens.

Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.” With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn’t know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price. 

This whole book is basically the episode of Doctor Who, Season 4, Episode 11 “Turn Left.” Each decision has a specific reaction that could change the outcome of the universe and Jane, Unlimited takes that idea to 5 different extremes.

At first glance, Cashore’s novel seems like a fun romp of an orphaned girl going to a private island with her rich acquaintance to get away from the hardships of every day life.  But it becomes so much more than that

I need a Jane Umbrella.

once the first part’s introduction is done.

This is a spoiler, so if you are looking for non-spoilery…I’m sorry, I find it almost impossible to review this book properly without being able to explain a certain aspect of the plot.  That is the theory of the multiverse.

Cashore does an excellent job creating what could be almost 5 separate novels based on one decision by Jane toward the beginning of the book.

Jane is a complex and yet somehow still simple character. I love that the umbrellas she creates represent her need to protect herself from the outside world that robbed her of her parents and her aunt. It’s excellent.

I think the crowning achievement in this is that the ending makes it seem like it is up to the reader to decide which ending is THE ending, if that makes sense.  Sure, there is the last scenario in the possibilities as explained in the novel, but it isn’t definitive that this is the clear ending. I love it.

I know this novel is probably going to be divisive between Cashore fans and those readers who haven’t read her previously, because of the nature of the narrative.

However, for my purposes I’m giving this book 4 Bards. It has romance, diversity, intrigue, fantasy, and so much more.

Give it a shot, I promise it will be an interesting read.

Book Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire. 

Truth time: I’ve only read the Legend series by Marie Lu and I am now kicking myself in the ass for not reading my copies of The Young Elites before now because holy hell Warcross kept me on my toes and was absolutely wonderful.

It has everything a modern reader could want: advanced technology, a love story, rags to riches narrative, an intricate game, and so much more.

This book was addicting!

Emika is a seriously relatable character. I found myself completely invested in her narrative, the struggle she had from her parental background and her monetary problems. (Let’s be honest, what millennial wouldn’t relate to that?) Her intense love for art in all forms, her hair, her father’s, and the graphics of Warcross was so believable and it made Emika truly breathe off of the page.

I was completely engrossed in this story from start to finish.

Lu picks up with a chase for a criminal and then snowballs into a hacker being given all she ever dreamed of…but it comes with a price.

I think the only thing I wish had been elaborated on further was the friendships created within the Phoenix Riders.  Why? Well, I just wish I could have spent more time with these characters that Lu created. I know that they should be back for the sequel and I can only hope we get more of their development as well. Although I know the narrative for Warcross was so fast paced (and it needed to be) that some of this development had to be sacrificed, I just wish there was more!

On Twitter there were people complaining about one of the twists in the novel and I have to say that I whole heartedly disagree with their feedback on that. I found it absolutely twisted and excellent. Kudos to Lu for putting that in. Want to know what it is? Buy a copy of the book now.

4.5 Bards for Warcross

Book Review: The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead

Big and sweeping, spanning from the refined palaces of Osfrid to the gold dust and untamed forests of Adoria, The Glittering Court tells the story of Adelaide, an Osfridian countess who poses as her servant to escape an arranged marriage and start a new life in Adoria, the New World. But to do that, she must join the Glittering Court.

Both a school and a business venture, the Glittering Court is designed to transform impoverished girls into upper-class ladies who appear destined for powerful and wealthy marriages in the New World. Adelaide naturally excels in her training, and even makes a few friends: the fiery former laundress Tamsin and the beautiful Sirminican refugee Mira. She manages to keep her true identity hidden from all but one: the intriguing Cedric Thorn, son of the wealthy proprietor of the Glittering Court.

When Adelaide discovers that Cedric is hiding a dangerous secret of his own, together they hatch a scheme to make the best of Adelaide’s deception. Complications soon arise—first as they cross the treacherous seas from Osfrid to Adoria, and then when Adelaide catches the attention of a powerful governor.

But no complication will prove quite as daunting as the potent attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric. An attraction that, if acted on, would scandalize the Glittering Court and make them both outcasts in wild, vastly uncharted lands… 

Richelle Mead’s novel The Glittering Court is a #1 New York Times bestseller for a reason; it is more than meets the eye. The story centers around noblewoman Lady Elizabeth Witmore, Countess of Rothford–otherwise known as Adelaide.

While born into privilege, economic problems in Adelaide’s family pressure her into an arranged marriage, “Better circumstances for me. A better title for him,” Adelaide sums up. She is also told by her grandmother that even marrying a successful businessman is out of the question as doing so would mix her noble line with “common blood.” The extreme classism in Adelaide’s society is overtly impressed upon the reader in the first few chapters–this is a classist society, “pure” blood is of utmost importance, and sacrifice is something that one does to benefit their own family. Adelaide’s grandmother succinctly sums this situation up by saying, “There’s nowhere else you can go. It’s the price we pay for this world we live in. For our rank…You’ll have people making choices for you your entire life. Get used to it.”

This proclamation seems to be the driving force behind Adelaide’s decision to abruptly run away from her family and rank and hide herself among women with a more common upbringing than her own in order to secure a marriage contract of her own choice in Adoria, the mysterious country across the ocean!

Adelaide competes among her now peers in a competition consisting of ladylike skills such as dining etiquette, needlepoint, dancing, and hosting. After being ranked based on their skill levels they depart to the “new world” to secure marriage contracts with the “new nobility.” However, complications arrive when she realizes that she has fallen in love with Cedric Thorne, the recruiter for the Glittering Court, and a man without the means to purchase her marriage contract.

And while Adelaide’s love story with Cedric drives the plot for the rest of the story, Mead instead chooses to focus the novel on important issues including sexism, freedom of religion, and classism. These focal points are no small feats, but Mead examines each of them with a deft hand. She addresses important current social issues and their implications for our own society while still providing the escapism of reading a good book.

While some of the groundwork that Mead has to lay in order to present her own versions of religious oppression and classism can drag on, overall The Glittering Court is a great read with engaging characters and a refreshing outside look on important social issues. It’s a great book to finish off the summer with those last few beach trips and pool parties that you’re trying to squeeze in!

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: June 27, 2017

Lada Dracul has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself. After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.

What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?

As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won . . . and souls will be lost.

 

 

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that’s why she’s cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically.

When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm’s length. But Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged, now that he’s met the one girl he really wants.

Blog Tour: Q & A with Carrie Mac

Welcome to the Midsummer Reads day on the 10 Things I Can See From Here Blog Tour!

I had the pleasure of interviewing the lovely Carrie Mac about her new book and about some of the content!

You can keep an eye our for review of 10 Things I Can See From Here, coming soon!

Interview Key: Italics= Midsummer, Bold = Carrie Mac

  1. Carrie, as someone who struggles with anxiety, it is so great to read a book that depicts the spiraling thoughts that come along with it.  Did you do a lot of research to show this accurately?

Anxiety is a very unwelcome houseguest in my own imagination.

It’s always there, and even when I kindly—or very unkindly—suggest that it’s time to go, it hangs around. Sometimes when I’ve tried to get rid of it, it hides and I think it’s finally gone, but then it burns a piece of toast in the kitchen and starts a small fire and before you know it there are sirens and then the fire trucks are outside and the house has burnt down. Or no, wait, it hasn’t. Just the smoke alarm went off.

That little shit Anxiety never left. It just hid in a closet until I was finally calming down. Oh, I know Anxiety well. I don’t like it, but we are close.

Same for a couple other dear members of my family, so it was all too easy to write. And all too easy to give to Maeve.

Sorry Maeve. Love you, hon.

 

2. What was your thought process of not having Maeve attend therapy while staying with her family in Canada?

There are a couple of reasons.

As much as Maeve’s dad and stepmom are on board with whatever Deena wants to do to support Maeve, they have their own ideas and beliefs about mental health and truth be told, they’re not that into formal supports, if at all avoidable. Maeve’s dad doesn’t give much thought to any particular ‘approach’ to Maeve’s mental health at all, other than to love her for who she is and support in any given moment to calm down or take it easy or change the subject. Claire is big into anything supporting Maeve’s mental health, but only if it rings as true and helpful. Claire—having experience with it herself — is not that into talk therapy, so that’s not something she wouldn’t leap at. But hikes and sleep and diet and homeopathy? Knitting? You bet!

Now that things have settled down, Maeve will sort herself out and find a therapist. Unless she’s going to use the six months to try other things.

Not knitting though.

Or marimba lessons.

 

3. I think I’ve only read one or two books that were explicit about being based in Canada! It was so nice to read about Vancouver. Since you live in Canada was this a natural choice, or was it a secret plot to make us all want to visit? (But seriously, I want to go to Vancouver now.) 

            This story lives in East Van. I’m sitting in my usual coffee shop writing now, looking out on the neighborhood where Maeve’s parents live. Most of my novels don’t need to be set anywhere in particular, but Maeve’s story is an East Vancouver story. This neighborhood is special, and it is exactly what I needed for Maeve. Her community needed to be healthy and vibrant and supportive and delightfully weird because she was already dealing with her anxiety and a very real mess at home, and then the added flurry that comes with falling in love. This neighborhood is an anchor in the book.

Absolutely come visit! This is a charmed city in so many ways, even if our dark underbelly can be exceptionally dark at times.

 

4. On your Twitter you mentioned that the bus beheading was a real story that inspired one of Maeve’s spirals, are the others she references real as well? 

Most of them are, yes. To name a few, the bus beheading, the women taken from the Downtown Eastside and murdered at a pig farm, the young women shot by a gunman while at college, the man who drove off the ferry dock, bedbug infestations, the suicide pact, cholera, the woman driving the ‘school bus’ van, and then others are more general, like someone jumping in front of a train, earthquakes (very real threat here), or being kidnapped from a city park. Real or not, though, I bent each one to make it fit. Like Emily Dickinson wrote, “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.”

 5. Speaking of, how much of your research for this novel was on disastrous statistics? 

            I only dipped into actual statistics when absolutely necessary because they freak me out. So much that I’m getting anxious just answering this question. Maeve needs facts. They both fuel her anxiety and set limits to it, so I researched for her. If it were up to me, I’d never ever look that shit up.

Now, what are ten things I can see from here …?

 

6. What is the most exciting thing about having 10 Things I Can See From Here being published with such a large advertising campaign? I swear most bloggers I talk to have either read your book or have had it pre-ordered for a long time! 

            I love actually seeing it everywhere. The cover just pops right out of websites and news releases and tweets sings “Hi! Look at me! I am so beautiful and you should read me and we will be such good friends!” And when I see the book pop up I think, “Oh! There’s my super famous friend!” and then I remember that 10 Things is my baby. It’s really exciting. I can’t wait for everyone to read it. And I cannot wait for people to send selfies of them reading it all over the place, with that gorgeous cover doing a song and dance on a dreary subway train or a dark bedroom on a rainy day.

 

7. What advice do you have to young writers who struggle to sit down and finish a story?

            Write all the way to the end. Don’t look back. Don’t re-read, don’t revise, don’t do spellcheck, just keep going all the way to the end. That’s when you can start to be precious about it. Wait until you have a first draft, and then you can worry, and revise, and change things around.

First drafts suck.

They should.

Write the damn thing, and then you get to move on to the second draft, which is so much better.

Don’t believe in writers’ block. It’s a myth. It doesn’t exist. Just because you can’t write the thing you want to write doesn’t mean you can’t work on something else.

Write.

Just write.

Imagine if you wrote only one single page a day, you’d have a 365-page novel at the end of the year.

Yay, you!

 

8. If you had to say one thing to a young reader after they read 10 Things I Can See From Here, what would you say? 

“What did you think of it?”

And then we’d get to talking because of their answer. Maybe they want to talk about Maeve, and how they identified with her anxiety, or maybe they loved how being queer was no big deal because it’s a huge taboo in their community. Or maybe they want to critique me on the book, because they’re a writer and would’ve done it differently.

I don’t have any one thing to say, but I would love to hear what readers have to say.

 

 

Thanks so much to Carrie Mac for stopping by A Midsummer Night’s Read!  You can pick up 10 Things I Can See From Here now!

 

 

 

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: May 30, 2017

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
    Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
    Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
    Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
    Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
    And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
 
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
 
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

 

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: March 7, 2017

When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across the back of the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural.

Her supposed best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her two mothers set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she’s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student. The last thing she has left is her art, and not even Banksy himself could convince her to give that up.

Out in the ’burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. But Julia soon learns that she might not be the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off—and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a full-blown graffiti war.

 

 

Book Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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

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

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

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

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

So, I’m not going to lie to you: I liked Gemina soooooo much more than I liked Illuminae.  Not that Illuminae was bad, but I think that I really identified more with the Captain’s daughter with a naughty streak and her attraction to the bad boy with a golden heart. Hanna is sarcastic, a bit rebellious, maybe a little callus, but it masks her soft spots for her father and for her boyfriend.  Plus, what is more bad ass than a girl who has utilized her stranding on a remote waystation in space to get extremely strong and fast in a dojo?

Really, I mostly am just a giant Hanna fan, because she seems to continually prove to herself that she can do whatever she needs to survive in this situation.  Plus, when she doesn’t understand something scientifically, she just accepts that something needs to be done and gets it DONE. Nik, on the other hand, I was prepared to dislike a bit, if only because he was set up to seem like a guy who tried to hard. So it took a while for me to really grow to like him as a character.  Basically it was the scene with the cow that sold him to me.  I won’t spoil that for you, but you definitely should check that out.

Is it a stereotypical love connection? Probably.  BUT, the circumstances of everything that happens within this world is what makes it so much more fun to read.

Exactly like Illuminae, the story of Hanna and Nik is told through the style of dossiers, a case file that has redacted statements, etc.  However, I think that part of the reason I did enjoy this one more was the inclusion of hand drawn illustrations, which were provided by Marie Lu, and the ever growing bloodstain on the pages.

I think that one reason I’m really drawn to this series, and one that I’ll use as a suggestion for those looking for a Holiday gift for a Doctor Who fan, is that I really connected with these books on a Whovian level.

While neither are exact replicas of storylines on Who, both remind me of very specific episodes (See my Illuminae review for the episode comparison for that book).  Gemina is almost the story of Pete’s World or Doomsday from Season 2 of the new series with Rose and the Tenth Doctor.  *SPOILER ALERT* There are duplicate outcomes with different circumstances and in two different realities.  Death plays a role in both those episodes and the novel, and I really admire the scientific research that Kaufman and Kristoff did for the book to make it…easier to understand than it would have been normally.

I’m giving this one 4.5 Bards and recommend it as a Christmas gift!

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

30269126

Release Date: February 7, 2017

Empress
Rhee, better known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.

Fugitive
Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a holo-vision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he’s forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.

Madman
With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.

 

 

 

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