August 22, 2016

Lindsey Roth Culli: "This Above All" (ARC Review)

Title: This Above All [on Amazon: from Aug 29th | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Lindsey Roth Culli [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary
Year: 2016
Age: 12+
Stars: 3/5
Pros: Original premise. Funny and heartfelt. Likeable main character, with a clear, pleasant voice.
Cons: The last third of the book takes a dive into tropes land.
Will appeal to: Those who like theater/acting. Those looking for a coming-of-age story.

Blurb: When sixteen-year old Piper is cast as Romeo in her school’s production, she’s as surprised as everyone else. Not only because she’s a girl, but also because she’s from one of the region’s most notorious ultraconservative families. But when the school principal demands that the part be recast “appropriately” or the show cannot go on, Piper faces a choice: become the figurehead to appeal the principal’s decision or accept the message the administration’s ultimatum sends to the school’s gay students, including her new friends. Namely, that they should be ashamed of who they are or whom they happen to love. (Goodreads excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I received this novel from Curiosity Quills in exchange for an honest review. To be more precise, I specifically requested a review copy. That didn't affect my opinion and rating in any way. Here goes...

OFF TO A GOOD START

I have a confession to make: I'm a sucker for stories about teens performing (Fame, anyone? I grew up with it, as this post reveals). Also, in this case, a girl cast as the male lead in a school production was a hell of a premise. Especially since Piper comes from an over-religious, ultra-conservative family. But when I started on the book, I found out that TAA was somehow exceeding my expectations. For one thing, we are thrust mid-action (or better, mid-acting), with Piper auditioning for the main female role in Romeo and Juliet, all while her inner monologue gives us enough backstory about her and her family without sounding info-dumpy. I could practically smell stage dust :) - and I took an immediate liking to Piper's voice. Her passion for acting, and Shakespeare in particular, dates back to when her deceased mother read "secular" books to her younger self - books that, of course, are frowned upon (to put it mildly) by Piper's pastor father. The author is able to convincingly shape a character caught between her family's and church's expectations (and the kind of God she's been taught to believe in) on one side, and her consuming passion for all things theater on the other - which, in turn, will lead her to question her whole upbringing and the dogmas surrounding it. [...]

August 16, 2016

A Round of Appreciation

I don't know what's gotten into me. After I spilled my 10+1 secrets a couple of weeks ago, I realised that not only I am no longer afraid of being a little more personal with my posts, but I indeed NEED to. Of course, there's a valid reason for it...it's not like I really have someone to talk to in real life. I managed to go from lonely child to lonely teen to equally lonely middle aged woman with zero friends - especially the kind of friends you REALLY talk to, the ones who know your real self and your deepest thoughts, the ones whom you can bare your soul to and who bare theirs to you. On a level it's a relief, because I've never been that good at the sharing-everything game - which, of course, it's one of the reasons why I've never had THAT kind of friends in the first place. I am, essentially, a very private person...at least when it comes to certain sensitive matters. What happens at home stays at home - especially if it involves, say, your family or your significant other. I can't allow myself to talk about things that implicate someone else than me. I've never been the kind of girl who goes to the bathroom with her pairs (um, gross?). I've never been one to follow trends or - goodness forbid - to CONFORM. And apparently, I haven't had much luck with finding kindred spirits. This is why, for all purposes, I've been friendless all my life.

August 11, 2016

GL Tomas: "The Mark of Noba" (Blog Tour Review and Giveaway)


Title: The Mark of Noba [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: The Sterling Wayfairer Series (1st of 4 books)
Author: GL Tomas [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Urban Fantasy (more precisely, Portal Fantasy)
Year: 2015
Age: 14+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Unconventional approach to girl-meets-boy and chosen-one tropes. Reversed stereotypes. Funny moments. Diverse characters.
Cons: The worldbuilding is a little confusing. What I thought a pivotal theme in the book gets abandoned later (that's the most I can say without spoiling anything). This is a debut book, so the writing still needs strenghtening.
WARNING! A few references to male physiology and making out.
Will appeal to: Those who like modern fantasy with a solid comedy undertone and a role reversal.

Blurb: Sterling Wayfairer has one goal for his senior year: make his mark. But things don’t go as planned when he starts to encounter his mysterious classmate Tetra. Tetra not only has answers to the recent disappearances, but Sterling will soon find that making his mark isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sterling discovers he shares a spiritual bond with Tetra, and that only their power has the ability to stop the malevolent evil they face. They must work together or risk the destruction of their world. (Amazon)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I have been friends with the authors since I was still a newbie blogger. Therefore, I was reluctant to review their work, for fear of either being perceived as biased or hurting their feelings. But after reading the unedited version on Wattpad, I realised there wasn't any need for me to tiptoe around this book - I found a lot to like, so I thought I'd just review it as if I had stumbled upon it by chance. Also, turns out that GL Tomas are able to handle criticism like the best of them ;). Bottom line: being virtual friends with the authors didn't influence my rating in any way :).

I BEG TO DIFFER

The first thing you notice while diving into The Mark of Noba is that the male white lead (whose POV we get in the first few chapters) is not your average teen. And I don't mean it in the sense that he's MORE - on the contrary. Sterling is insecure, a bit clumsy, and doesn't excel in any sports (actually, he hardly plays any). Also, he has to tend to his schizophrenic mother more often that he would like to. Now, my description might make you think he's the classic nerd with no friends and a house full of books, but nope - not even that. Actually, he does have a couple of friends who are far more popular than he is, but hang out with him no matter what - and his favourite reading material seem to be Playboy magazines ;D. I found Sterling relatable precisely because the authors weren't trying hard with him - he sounded like a normal, flesh-and-blood teenage boy, which was refreshing. As it was refreshing how TMON managed to reverse the classic cute-new-boy-at-school-tells-girl-she's-a-chosen-one trope. Here we have a new (black) girl, Tetra, who comes from a world called Noba and is going to turn Sterling's world upside down with her revelations. Also, she kicks ass. Sterling will need a huge dose of extensive training in order to do that ;D. [...]

August 06, 2016

...In Which I Spill My Secrets

Hi sweeties!
So I thought that - with almost 4 years of blogging under my belt - I'd hit you with a few relevant (but also funny...I hope?) facts about myself. I've seen posts like this around, usually in the TTT meme. I know, I lost a chance to get visitors by not joining the proper TTT when it was around - but you should all know by now how much me and memes don't get along ;D. So, here goes...ten of my quirks, plus a bonus...

1. I would do ANYTHING to have naturally curly hair - the curlier the better - even give all my Christopher Pike books away (...I can hear everyone say "OOOOOH!"). I've been perming my hair once a year (cutting the old bits away) since I was 15 or 16, but of course, it's not the same. Oh, in case you're wondering, I have a nice and healthy mane :). And I'm VERY MUCH AWARE that it's unpopular to have, let alone LIKE, curly hair. It's one of the reasons why I love to wear mine that way (like in my avatar, only much curlier). And I do wear it proudly, because it says I'm wild at heart and I can't be tamed.

This is Brian May from rock band Queen (well, the back of his head) in the '70s. ENVYYYYY.

July 30, 2016

Robert Schell: "The Mariner King"

Title: The Mariner King [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Temporal Affairs (2nd of 3 books)
Author: Robert Schell [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Time Travel, Fantasy
Year: 2016
Age: 12+
Stars: 3/5
Pros: Well written, with a few fresh ideas. Fantasy and science blend nicely.
Cons: Everything happens so fast...Like I said, a few fresh ideas, but their potential often remains unfulfilled.
Will appeal to: Those who like time travel aimed at the past. Those who are in for a mix of historical and fantasy.

Blurb: Caroline’s junior year at Diaz High School was hard enough. Her best friend Tony was behaving oddly, and she was suffering from a mystery illness that had claimed the life of her older sister, Elizabeth, years ago. If that weren’t enough, Caroline gets kidnapped by a time-traveling would-be god.
For N’Nae, daughter of the Adjunct King of Atuaxan, eking out a living in a small city-state at the tail-end of an Ice Age was challenging enough. But she was also expected to comport herself in a manner befitting her station, which entailed sacrificing her life for the good of the kingdom. And then the Shadows from another Universe appeared.
Now Caroline, N’Nae, and Tony are drawn together into a conflict in which the combatants must warp reality itself to do battle: the stakes are no less than the survival of life on Earth itself. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review. This didn't influence my rating in any way.

FANTASY FLIGHT

For the record, I read and reviewed the first installment last year (link at the end of this review), and I have to say that the sci-fi aspect is less prominent in this one. Yes, of course time travel is the core of this series, but in Book 2 the fantasy/magic angle definitely steals the scene. What I mean is, while time travel is the reason why Tony and Caroline have their adventures, those are firmly rooted in alternate historical fantasy. I'm still putting this one in my Sci-Fi Room because 1) it has a sci-fi premise and 2) I don't even have a Fantasy Room, since I don't usually read fantasy. Sorry for any inconvenience.

OUT OF TIME

There are a few interesting ideas in this book. My favourite? Well, without giving too much away, not everyone is necessarily linked to a particular time frame. You can always land back to your native time stream, but what if you don't have one?...How can it be, you ask? Well, suffice to say, it can. The book explains the logic behind it, and the consequences (because OF COURSE there would be consequences) that ensue from such a state. This is actually a pivotal point in TMK, and it links back to something that was mentioned back in Book 1 and left hanging. [...]

July 21, 2016

Author Interview: Edward Aubry ("Unhappenings")

Hello my darlings! 
Today I'm sitting (well, from across a whole ocean) with US author Edward Aubry, whom I've only recently discovered via his adult book Unhappenings (my review here). Edward was so kind as to reach out to me after I reviewed it - I tossed an interview proposal, and he gladly accepted. Now, I know that usually people are wary of reading interviews with authors whose work they aren't already familiar with, but believe me, Mr. Aubry has a few interesting (and even unexpected) things to say about writing and the birth of a novel (or series). Also, with my questions, I tried to spotlight the most peculiar aspects of his catalogue, and I hope to steer some new readers towards his books, present and future!

Before we get to know Edward Aubry a little better, here's a spotlight on his ongoing debut YA-NA series...

Static Mayhem's
(now Book 2 in the Mayhem Wave series)
original cover
Title: The Mayhem Wave (4 books)
           Book 1: Prelude to Mayhem
           Book 2: Static Mayhem
           Book 3: Mayhem's Children
           Book 4: Mayhem's Reign

Author: Edward Aubry

Genres: Sci-Fi, Dystopian, Fantasy

Year: 2016+

Age: 14+

Release: From Nov 26th 2016 (1st book)

Prelude to Mayhem (book 1 in The Mayhem Wave series) on Goodreads

Blurb for Prelude to Mayhem: In the ruins of his world, Harrison Cody follows a mysterious voice on the radio as he and his pixie sidekick travel on foot across a terrifyingly random landscape. They discover Dorothy O’Neill, who has had to survive among monsters when her greatest worry used to be how to navigate high school. Together they search for what remains of Chicago, and the hope that civilization can be rebuilt. (Goodreads)

Interview: So, first off, thank you Edward for agreeing to a Q&A session on Offbeat YA! Would you like to introduce yourself?

Sure! Hi everyone, I’m Edward Aubry, author of Unhappenings and the soon to be released Mayhem Wave series. By day, I teach high school math. I am currently at work on my sixth novel, with plans for many more.

July 17, 2016

Nova Ren Suma: "The Walls Around Us"

Title: The Walls Around Us [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Nova Ren Suma [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary with a Twist, Supernatural
Year: 2015
Age: 12+
Stars: 5/5
Pros: Engrossing story (or stories) told in a lyrical prose that never feels overdone. Surprise ending in a magical-realism vein that still feels very rooted in the story - and emotionally satisfying..
Cons: May sound confusing to some. One of the characters is NOT likeable - though the author does a great job making us experience her feelings. 
WARNING! Some violence, both graphic and implied. A sex scene (not overly graphic).
Will appeal to: Those who love ballet. Those who love prison stories. Those who don't necessarily love either, but can't resist strong - if flawed - leads, and ghosts, and magical realism.

Blurb: On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom. Tying their two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries. A supernatural tale of guilt and of innocence, and of what happens when one is mistaken for the other. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: I love this book. Can we leave it at that?
Um, I suppose not. Maybe you want my reasons for loving this book. Also because, hello? this is a book blog - set up in order to REVIEW books. It's just that...it's hard not to spoil this one. Harder that with any other book I've reviewed in almost four years. And mind you, I'm not saying that TWAU loses its charm once you've read it for the first time and discovered all its secret. NO. EFFING. WAY. I'm just saying that I have to do this book justice and still let you go blind into it, which is a challenge. Well, OK, I'm up for a challenge. I CAN DO IT I CAN DO IT I CAN...*repeats self-motivating mantra* 

OFF TO A GREAT START

I always read the opening pages on Amazon when I plan on buying a book. No mindblowing story idea can convince me to read a book if me and the writing don't click. And boy, this one. Mind you, I don't do flowery prose. And TWAU doesn't have it. This is writing at its best - lyrical and poignant (but also raw when needed...I mean poetically raw...if you get what I'm trying to say) without turning into an exercise of style. This novel has one of the strongest first chapters I've ever read, for three reasons:
  1. it's told from a choral perspective, in a first-person plural which is fresh and powerful;
  2. it thrusts you knee-deep into the action;
  3. have I mentioned the writing already?

CUTS BOTH WAYS

The story is told in alternate chapters, by two narrators: up-and-coming ballet dancer Violet and juvenile detention center inmate Amber. And despite what you may think of them, BOTH girls have been through their own private hell, and are still stuck in there. Because yes, there's also a hell in wanting something so desperately that your whole life becomes your goal, and everything gets blown out of proportion, until you snap and do the unforgivable. It should be easy to hate one of the girls and to pity the other. But then again it isn't, because your heart will ache for both of them, AND of course for the third girl, Orianna. And even for all the other inmates at Aurora Hills. Because here's the fact: sometimes there's guilt in innocence, and innocence in guilt, and there's always pain in being human, whether you're at fault or not. And Nova Ren Suma makes us feel that pain - oh so bittersweetly. [...]

July 07, 2016

Why I Don't Suffer from ARC Envy (I Swear I Don't)

...And now you're thinking "the hell you don't".
Have I ever lied to you, my friends? my enemies? my in-betweens? The hell I did :).
In my little corner of the net, I rarely catch wind of bookish-blogging drama - usually, I hear about it from fellow bloggers who have a much more massive follower count, both on their blogs and on their social media accounts. Anyway, it sounds like ARC envy is, indeed, a thing. And you know, I don't understand.


Mind you, I do realise that ARCs are a symbol of blogging success. Not to mention, potential readers are usually more interested in your reviews if they are about ARCs. Not to mention, the lucky fews who do get the same ARCs probably bond over them. But if you want the truth, ARCs have their own minuses - besides NOT being the end of the world, one way or another (that is, either because you got one or because you didn't). And here is why one can NOT suffer from ARC envy...completed with my beloved song-title headings ;).