Posted in book review

Sky in the Deep: Reviewed

Sky in the Deep
cover links to goodreads

Description from goodreads:

OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient, rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

Review:

Mmmkay. I’ve wanted to read this book since before it came out, and I feel like I was on the Overdrive waitlist for years (it actually just came out eight months ago). Scroll to the end if you don’t want to read my babbling.

When I finally (finally) got it, I was in a tiny slump. I ended up finding the audiobook on Overdrive (miraculously available) and checked it out, too, because my ebook loan was ending in like 2.5 days. I finished it in almost exactly one day.

If I’m honest, I’m slightly disappointed because of my genre expectations. I kept seeing this shelved as fantasy, so, you know, I kind of expected some fantasy. Dragons, or maybe magic of some sort, other creatures, something. Maybe I’m being too picky about this, but really the only “fantasy” element was that it was set in a not-quite-real, but probably-Scandinavian-like place. Kind of like Ravka or Kerch from the Grishaverse (minus all the magic).

This reminded me a little of The Valiant by Lesley Livingston (reviewed here). That one was also a female warrior story (gladiators!), marked as fantasy, but it was (imo) historical fiction. Historical fiction is the closest thing I could think of to shelve this one. I mean, I don’t think the gods from this are taken directly from any Norse names (or other pantheons), but I haven’t studied the mythology so extensively as to know the name of every god from every region, so… Ok, if a couple of gods were invented for this, maaaaybe it counts as fantasy?

Anyway…

I really liked this book. I didn’t love it enough to add it to my favorites shelf, but I did enjoy reading it, and I read it super fast. Once things got going, I didn’t want to put it down.

I liked Eelyn. I think she reacted the way a young warrior would react to the situations she was placed in, and we weren’t spoon-fed things about her character and her life. Things might have been said or otherwise pointed out by another character, but it was after we’d already seen those things in multiple incidents. So, the showing and not telling was good.

The worldbuilding was great, at least for me. I felt like I could see the mountain, the fjord, the villages, everything. It wasn’t super heavy with the descriptions, but it was just enough for my imagination to create the scenes. The character descriptions were a little more vague, I think, but good enough for me to be able to kind of “see” the characters. I do remember there being descriptions of things like their hair, scars, and maybe some clothing. Basically, I never got characters confused because they were all distinct, I just couldn’t imagine what they looked like in perfect detail.

I liked watching Eelyn’s development through the book. It didn’t feel forced or rushed. Maybe a tiny bit fast at times, but there were reasons, and those reasons were good reasons for her to change her mind about things as quickly as she did. And, even after she changed her mind, it wasn’t immediately the exact opposite of her previous beliefs. She still had doubts and questioned whether or not she was doing the right thing.

The romance was just meh. I don’t have anything against romances, but honestly I get tired of it being in so many books sometimes (this is all me, and sometimes I love romance in books, it just depends on my mood). It’s fine. I don’t hate it, I don’t love it. It wasn’t quite insta-love, so that was good, but it just seemed weird and unnecessary to me. (While it wasn’t insta-love, there were definitely bits early on that were like flashing neon signs saying, “Hey! These two are going to have a thing!” Honestly, if I’d re-read the description before picking this up, I might have passed on it because the romance is mentioned there, I just forgot about it :/ )

My personal “meh” feelings about romances in books aside, it was handled pretty well. It wasn’t insta-love, as I said, and it felt pretty natural. There weren’t any tropes like the two being separated by some BS reason, or driven apart by miscommunication, which I appreciated. So, I’m not crazy about the romance in here, but it’s honestly probably one of the best I’ve read in a while.

Even though I liked Eelyn, and most of the characters we got to know for more than a few scenes, I think Halvard was my favorite. He’s an adorable and sweet kid, and I loved how the story ended for him oh my gosh.

I think if you’re wanting to read this because you want non-stop action, you should adjust your expectations, though. The very beginning drops you straight into battle, and then last maybe 20% or so of the book are pretty fast paced (it actually ended a lot faster than I would have liked), but the rest of the book is not as action-packed. The middle is pretty character focused, which I liked. I never felt like the pace was too slow.

Possible spoiler alert for the trigger warnings that follow: Also, this book can be brutal. Definitely trigger warnings if you have issues with battle scenes, blood, sacrificial animals, physical violence descriptions, and (kind of) sexual assault. That last one, there was no rape. But one character made it pretty clear that they were strongly considering raping a character, and then bound her–half naked–to a tree, and left her to freeze to death.


The short version:

I really liked this book. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting (no mythical creatures or magic or other things I would associate with “fantasy,” the characters weren’t exactly Vikings, but Viking-inspired, and there was a romance thrown in), but I still enjoyed it for what it is.

The beginning and end are pretty fast paced, with the middle being slower, but not in a bad way. It held my attention, and watching the characters develop and go through stuff was interesting, for me.

It wrapped up a little abruptly, but it wasn’t horrible. It just went from super-action-packed scenes on one page, to normal, everyday life on the next. But, I don’t think anything was left unaddressed, so it’s fine.

I didn’t love the romance, I didn’t hate it. I just feel like it was unnecessary :/


I gave it 4 out of 5 stars, and I would probably recommend it.

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The Wicked Deep– Review


Genres/Descriptors:
 YA; Fantasy/Paranormal

Why I read it: I had this on my list for months, anxiously awaiting release day.

Who I’d recommend it to: Ok, this book was promoted as a meeting of Hocus Pocus, Practical Magic, and the Salem Witch Trials. If that sounds appealing to you, I say check it out.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ (maybe 3.5 stars?)

 

Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books a Million | Amazon | IndieBound


Goodreads Description:

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.


Review:

First, I just have to say how weird my acquisition of this book was. It was one of my most anticipated 2018 releases, but I’d forgotten when it was coming out. I was at a bookstore, saw it, squealed with delight, and bought it. It was only later (like, days later) that I realized I’d bought it within like 48 hours of its release. I almost never buy brand new release books. It’s like it was fate.

Anyway…

I read this in a day, and this has not been the best reading year for me (so. many. slumps.), so that’s saying something. I really enjoyed it, and thought it was a fun book, but there were a few things I didn’t love (which I’ll get to).

What I did like was the general concept. After reading it, I totally get the Hocus Pocus and Practical Magic comparison. It’s not a copy of either of those, but there are familiar elements (the three sisters, the small town thing, etc.) that reminded me of both.

The story just kind of floated along. The only way I can describe how I felt while reading it is “enchanted.” This book definitely had me under its spell, and I completely lost track of time while reading it. It’s a bit dark, spooky, and haunting without crossing over into horror, with a touch of mystery. Honestly, it read a lot like a fairytale.

It alternated between the present and the past in a way that didn’t bother me (I hate random time jumps, but this one wasn’t like that at all) and let the story unfold gradually, giving you little pieces of past and present until the end when the whole picture was revealed.

I kind of suspected a few of the twists really early in the book that turned out to be right, but I was still a little surprised by how everything eventually played out. All in all, I was pretty satisfied with the mystery aspect of the story.  

The setting for this (Sparrow) was one of my favorite parts of this book. Shea Ernshaw did such a good job creating an atmospheric place that seemed to exist just a little outside the rest of the world. 

This is kind of a spoiler, but not really, so I’m just going to say it: insta-love. I generally hate it, and I didn’t love it in this book, but I was able to just kind of roll with it. By the end of the book, I had really mixed feelings about it, but I won’t go into that because that would definitely be spoilery.

One of my biggest complaints is probably the characters. I like really getting to know the characters in a book, and I didn’t really get that with this book. Some were better developed than others, but I wanted to know more about pretty much everyone.

I can’t talk about the thing that I disliked the most about this book without giving away a lot of stuff, but (while I’d guessed it early on) some things towards the end were not my favorite.

Still, I really enjoyed this book, and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for more books by Ernshaw in the future, because I loved her writing.


Have you read it? What did you think?

Posted in book review

Book Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Genres/Descriptors: YA; sci-fi

Why I read it: I read and loved Illuminae (it’s one of my all-time-favorite books), so of course I wanted more from the Illuminae Files.

Who I’d recommend it to: People who loved Illuminae.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ (4.5/5 stars)

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books a Million | Book Depository | IndieBound


Description (from goodreads):

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 Illuminae continues 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.


Review:

This book. Took me. For-ev-er to get into. I ended up checking out the audio book and reading as I listened, which really helped. I think I’d read about 40 pages in 3 weeks on my own, but then finished 90% of the audio book (I listened at 2x speed, but that was still about 6 hours of listening) in one day. I’m not sure why it was so hard for me, because I absolutely loved Illuminae, but I feel like if I hadn’t gotten the audio book, I would have been trying to read this book all year.

First point, the freaking audio book. Oh my gosh, it is so good! So good! I struggle a lot with audio books, but because I was reading along, I guess that helped my issues (basically, when someone is talking to me, or I’m just listening to something, I “see” the words kinda floating around/scrolling/whatever which is super distracting and hard to follow, but I can usually kind of block it out during conversations if I focus hard enough). The cast is fantastic, and I wish my library had Obsidio so I could listen and read it, too. I was really nervous about listening to any of these books, because they’re so visual, but they made it work. I feel like I wouldn’t have lost out much by just listening, if that was my only option, but having the visual with the cast was freaking awesome and I highly recommend it.

I really, really ended up loving Hanna, Nik, and Ella. At first, I wasn’t sure about Hanna, but she grew on me pretty fast. She was awesome and so freaking strong. I thought Kady went through a lot in Illuminae, and of course she did, but Hanna’s experience was a whole new level of “WTF?!” I also really loved how she was a mix of “could totally kick your ass 100 different ways and you’d like it,” “daddy’s girl/rich girl/princess” and a a healthy dose of artsy. It was an interesting combination, and I don’t feel like I’ve read a thousand incarnations of female characters like her in the past, which was nice. (I also felt like Kady stood out, but I’m trying to limit my comparisons between the two because they’re different, from different books, and I love them both.)

Nik really cracked me up on and off throughout the book, and I liked him a lot. There were a few times I just wanted to hug him, though. I was cheering for him from the beginning because he struck me as the kind of guy who only kinda-sorta pretends to be a bad boy, but is mostly just a soft, caring guy.

His cousin, Ella, was also really fun, and I’m kinda sad there weren’t more parts with her. (Crossing my fingers for more in Obsidio.) She was smart, sneaky, and snarky. And a total badass, it turned out. I can see her and Kady either getting along great and being good friends, or hating each other. And I really want to know what happened to the fish.

I kinda saw the thing with Nik near the end coming earlier in the story, but I wasn’t sure if it would happen. By the time it finally did, I’d almost forgotten about my guess, so it was still almost a surprise, which was fun. Well, not exactly “fun” because the shit was hitting the fan, but it was entertaining, I guess. I also saw the thing with Jackson coming from a mile away, but I’m not going to talk about either of those things in any more depth because ~spoilers~ will definitely happen.

 Going in, I knew this was a companion kind of sequel, with a totally new cast, but it was really nice to get a little update on our friends from Illuminae. I am kind of afraid of how much I realized I’d missed AIDAN, though :/ (AI is honestly probably one of my biggest fears and I have no clue why, but AIDAN scared the crap out of me.) Its presence in this book was both frightening (not as much as in Illuminae, though) and entertaining. I think at one point I snorted chocolate almond milk because of something he said, but I can’t remember the exact line now.

I have to take a moment to completely agree with Ella: poor cow cows 😦 (I shall say no more, because ~spoilers.~)

The things…Whatchamacallits… The slimy space lizard-y, worm-y things that make the drug (“Dust”)… What the actual hell? I am very afraid of Amie & Jay’s brains right now, because those things were terrifying. Even the initial description of them freaked me out. It was interesting having such different enemies to face in this book, though. Humans and space creepy-crawlies. Fun combo, and I definitely read with the lights all on, and freaked the hell out when something slimy feeling slithered across my arm (it was my cat’s tail, most likely damp from dropping it in the water bowl like he does about 10 times a day) while reading one particularly tense scene -_-

And that ending, oh my gods. I cackled. (But honestly, that last line is probably the cheekiest one I’ve ever read, and I loved it.) 

Oookaaay, I need to wrap this up because it could just go on and on as I babble.

Basically, this was almost a 5 star book for me, but because it took me so long to get into it, and so long to become invested in the welfare of the characters, I knocked off a star :/ I’d still call it 4-4.5 stars, though, and I’m super excited about starting Obsidio (which I will have already started, hopefully, by the time this review goes up).

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Book Review: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Genres/Descriptors: contemporary; YA; poetry (a novel in verse)

Why I read it:  A novel about poetry/a poet, written in verse? How could I not pick it up?

Who I’d recommend it to: If you’re into poetry at all or have enjoyed verse novels in the past, and/or if you enjoy YA contemporary stories, I highly recommend this one. Even if you’re not sure if a novel in verse is for you, I’d still recommend checking it out.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books a Million | IndieBound


What it’s about (from Goodreads):

A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.


Review:

Are you screeching in excitement yet? Folks, I don’t know how this evaded me for so long (ok, I do know, it’s because I intentionally pulled back from the bookish world because I knew I couldn’t buy books for a long time, and I didn’t want to be sad). I didn’t hear anything about this until….well, actually until I happened across it on Over Drive and looked it up on Good Reads. Seriously, did I just miss all the buzz because I was getting my hermit on, or was there just basically none?

First up, let’s talk about that cover. So pretty, right?! That caught my eye first, followed quickly by the word “poet” in the title. The artist was Gabriel Moreno and I’m kind of obsessed. It’s just so gorgeous and perfect and I feel like it really goes with the book. Check out more of Gabriel’s art here, if you’re interested (I was, and I’m really loving it).

Ok, onward to the book itself!

As most novels in verse are, this was a pretty quick read. It’s a little over 350 pages, but I could have easily read it in one afternoon if I’d been able to sit long enough. (Don’t  you hate it when you’re really loving a book but things like laundry keep interrupting?) I tore through this book and I’m really thinking about buying a copy. I feel like I could re-read this one a few times.

Xiomara…oh gods, where do I start? This girl is a fighter, in more ways than one, and I feel like this book is very timely. I think teenagers today need more books like this in their lives, and I wish I’d had this book when I was 10-12 years younger, because it would have hit me even harder and inspired me even more. I can honestly see this making it onto reading lists at some point (I’m really not sure how that works, but I know it’s going to be on my kid’s reading list in a few years).

The home life Xiomara had really hit close to home for me in some ways. She grew up with a Catholic family, while I grew up in a Protestant home, but her relationship with her mother reminded me of my life a bit. I didn’t actually expect to relate a lot to anyone in this book, because their life experiences are very different than mine in pretty much every way, but it happened anyway and broke my heart. But Xiomara, wow. She handled things so well (I can’t think of a better way she could have handled anything, really), definitely better than I would have, and I felt so proud of her. There was this one scene with her mother that made me go cold all over because it brought back memories, and my heart ached for her. I had to take a break for a while after reading that bit.

I had so many feelings while reading this. I seriously laughed and cried, I cringed a little, I whispered “oh no,” I cheered internally (and might have had a little fist pumping at some point). So many feelings. It was a journey, and it was wonderful and so real. I felt inspired by Xiomara, and I feel like this book would have been amazing for teenage me. (It was amazing for adult me, but it would have been more amazing for teenage me.)

I enjoy more flowery writing with novels in verse sometimes (or poetry, or novels, in general, honestly), but the contemporary and sometimes very blunt writing in this novel, mixed with metaphors and imagery was refreshing and very well done. Which I guess shouldn’t be surprising considering Elizabeth Acevedo is an award-winning slam poet herself. This book was kind of a diary, and I feel like it read like that, if that makes sense. Like, this could have been a real diary, just written in verse. It felt very personal and raw a lot of the time, and it definitely (as I’ve said) gave me feelings

This book was just so good and I think I’ll be recommending it a lot.

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Spooky Book Recs & Discussion: Children’s, Middle Grade, and Young Adult Books

Earlier in the month, I did “Snack Sized Stories” (short stories, novellas, comics & graphic novels), and I’d intended to post one of these book recs lists every Monday in October (replacing my usual “Must Read Mondays” this month), but…I forgot because it was a really busy time :/

I remembered this week, though!

I actually don’t read a lot of middle grade or children’s books these days, except re-reads of books I loved when I was growing up, or reading aloud with my kid. But, I’ve read a few as an adult, and I remember some from when I was a kid, and I do somewhat regularly still read YA, so hopefully this list won’t be only like 3 book long 😛 (I’m including both things generally considered horror, and some things I just think are creepy/spooky/scary.)


Middle Grade & YA

  • Goosbumps by R.L. Stine– Just, all of them, basically. If you never read a Goosebumps book, try picking up one of the classics (Night of the Living DummyGhost BeachStay Out of the BasementSay Cheese and Die!, etc.) to see what you think.
  • The Fear Street Saga by R.L. Stine– These were more for teens, I think, and I only read about 2 of them, but really liked them.
  • Shivers by M.D. Spenser– There weren’t many of these, and I don’t think they were quite as good or well-known as Goosbumps, but I really liked them.
  • Bone Chillers by Betsy Haynes– I think I only read like 2-3 of these, but I think I liked them in grade school.
  • Scary Stories (all 3 volumes) by Alvin Schwartz– Creepy folklore? Yes, please! I think I almost wore out my school’s library copies of these books, and I still love them and sometimes re-read them now that I have my own copies.
  • Christopher Pike’s books– I can’t remember if these were in a series, but I read a few and remember them being super popular for a while.
  • Bunnicula by Deborah & James Howe– I…can’t remember if I ever actually read this, or if my BFF read it so much I just knew the story and think I read it :/
  • Point Horror series– These were books written by different authors (R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, Caroline B. Cooney, etc.), and there was at least one spin off (Nightmare Hall, I think).
  • Haunting With Louisa series by Emily Cates– I might have only read the first one, but I remember liking it, at least.
  • Sweet Valley Twins Super Chillers by Francine Pascal– Yep, that Sweet Valley. My cousin had tons of the different Sweet Valley books, but I think I liked her Super Chillers most.
  • Neil Gaiman– I started to list a couple of books, but pretty much just read any of them and you’re probably going to find something creepy.
  • Doll Bones by Holly Black– I read this a couple of years ago and really liked it.
  • The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle– This was one of my absolute favorite books of 2015 ❤
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs– Not super scary, but still has some kinda creepy bits.
  • The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black– I really loved this one, too, and I feel like it’s really underrated.
  • The Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray– Partially because I will use any excuse to talk about, and partially because it has some creepy parts (but it isn’t a horror series at all).
  • The Witches by Roald Dahl– My favorite Dahl book growing up ❤
  • In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz– I don’t think this was as well known as Scary Stories, but still great.
  • Scary Stories for Stormy Nights by Mark & Michelle Kehl– I remember having 1 or 2 of these, and liking them, but I don’t remember much about them now :/
  • Bruce Coville– I think I had the Book of Monsters and… at least one other.

For the pre-school(ish) kiddos (or grownups if you like picture books):

  • Ten Timid Ghosts by Jennifer O’Connell– I read this one to my kid around Halloween and we both loved it. (This one is mostly for pre-school aged kids.)
  • Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler– This one is also very cute.
  • The Night Before Halloween by Natasha Wing & Cynthia Fisher– I think this was my favorite to read to kid a few years ago.
  • There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat! by Lucille Colandro & Jared Lee– This one was fun the first 12 times, then it got old. (This was probably kid’s favorite.)
  • Check for spooky versions/additions to your favorite series, like Berenstain Bears, Splat the Cat, Fancy Nancy, Little Critter, Disney, etc.

Did you read scarier books when you were a kid?

What was your favorite scary book/series?