[Zeroes] Scott Westerfield, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti

Zeroes was a confusing mess of names and events that were loosely tied together by the time the book ended, but it was a long road to get there. Unfortunately, having three big authors write a book together does not automatically make it a success. Scott Westerfeld is an author I really enjoy reading. I loved the steampunk Leviathan series, and his Uglies series was probably the first young adult dystopian novels that I read. But in Zeroes I felt nothing that drew me in the way that these other series did. I haven’t read the other two authors so I can’t speak for their writing style or series, and I don’t know who wrote what characters or if it was a collaborative effort. I don’t know what happened with Zeroes, but what should have been an interesting and exciting novel about teenagers with powers became a rather dull novel with a lot of internal reflection and coming to terms with controlling your powers.

This is the first novel I’ve read this year where I’ve been disappointed. And I can’t believe it’s a Westerfeld novel. Part of the problem was that although the writing was very good, the story was super long. If things had happened, I think I would have been more engaged. But the pacing was off. Everything was clustered at the end and I feel like most of the middle could have been condensed down. There needed to be more events in the middle to justify the length of it.

I will say that the ending was very exciting. I saw the potential for the series there. If more of that had been in the middle I definitely would have loved this book. The characters all came together, the threads that had been woven throughout the novel brought the story to a close. I loved that we were finally able to see all of their powers when they were working together to achieve something. They became more than just teenagers who were playing around with their powers in that moment; they had a purpose. That’s something that I can get behind.

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[Starstruck] S.E. Anderson

Starstruck is the first book that I received through The Book Robin Hoods, a group of authors and reviewers started by M.C. Frank. More information on my own involvement may be found here and here.

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Sally’s life is not going according to plans. A college dropout, she’s barely able to hold down a steady job and keep a roommate to help pay the rent. When Sally loses her job, it seems like everything is going from bad to worse––culminating in her hitting someone with her car. But it’s not just any someone. He happens to be an alien. She beyond relieved when there seems to be no lasting damage, and she thinks this weird encounter is the last of it. But when he calls her to bail her out of jail, she realizes that hitting him with her car was only the beginning. Starstruck is a fun and fast-paced read that keeps the reader engaged in the story as Sally tries to figure out where she fits into this larger universe that’s suddenly open to her.

Zander is the other main character in Starstruck, and the main cause of Sally’s woes. Although Zander looks human, he still has a lot to learn about being human. I really enjoyed the chaos that he caused in Sally’s life because of that; I loved reading how she had to teach him how to wear clothes properly and the socially accepted way of bathing. It was entertaining to read. I liked that he didn’t instinctively know what to do.

Was there a handbook that could tell me what to do next? There were thousands of books that taught parenting; I was pretty sure there wasn’t a self-help book about alien roommates. If there was, it was probably about abductees, not subletters.

S.E. Anderson’s writing was great. I felt like the humor was genuine and I enjoyed the mixups that sometimes occurred between Sally and Zander. The words and the story flowed together nicely, giving the reader a fully coherent story that had me curious about the larger world contained but not explained. It looks like the next books in the series will be about this world that S.E. Anderson created. I was glad that the book was focused like this. It made the book more detailed because it focused on one place instead of focusing on it all at once.

I thought that S.E. Anderson created a really good protagonist in Sally. She had a great voice and personality that I enjoyed following. The way that the story was told was also slightly different than what I’m used to; it was a combination of Sally looking back on her past, asides to the reader, and current events in the novel. Sally’s earnestness made the story really enjoyable. She was very grounded in her reality even when the world was becoming more complicated.

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Top Ten Tuesday: How does it end? I’ll look it up online, because I’m not continuing these ones

I thought that it was going to be a bit challenging to find series that I’m not going to complete. Turns out I was wrong. There’s actually a ton of firsts in series that I started but I’ll never finish. Sometimes it’s because I didn’t enjoy the characters; other times it’s because I found the plot lacking. And sometimes, they just aren’t my thing, even though the synopsis made it sound super interesting. Usually I stop with the first book, but there are a few series where I’ve gone on to read the second or more. Basically that comes down to my mood.

The series I’m listing here are books I’ve read over the past few years. Some of them are extremely popular and are loved by many readers. But for me, these are books I just didn’t connect with on a level that’s needed to commit to three or more books. It’s purely my opinion, though I am curious if anyone feels the same!

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1. An Ember in the Ashes and A Torch Against the Night: I didn’t particularly love the world. It was very harsh, which is fine, but it felt like the world building relied too heavily on the reader to fill in the blanks. The characters were okay. The problems I had in the first book basically became more problematic in the second, so I decided not to continue this planned four book series.


2. The Bone Witch: I wanted to love this one. I think the dual perspective killed it for me. Both followed the main character, Tea: one in the past as she’s finding her powers and the other in the present as she’s trying to explain her actions. It split the book in a way that was confusing and kept me from fully immersing myself into the story. I did love the cover, though! There’s three books planned.

3. The 100: Maybe if I had read this one before seeing the show I would have liked it. I feel like the ideas in this book––though interesting––are undeveloped. It may get better in the next ones, but I think I’ll just stick to the show. Apparently the things I like about the show aren’t even in the books, which is weird. There’s four books in this series.


4. The Graces: The reason I wanted to read this in the first place was because there’s witches in it. I’m a huge fan of Charmed, and have been constantly chasing that witch high ever since then. (Send me witchy read recommendations!) This had an unreliable narrator and I found that I just didn’t particularly care about anything that happened. So far there’s only two books in this series.

5. Blackhearts: I knew going into this that it was a prequel to Blackheart becoming Blackheart, but I still expected more pirate action than there ended up being.

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[Shadowsong] S. Jae-Jones

What are monsters but mortals corrupted?*

Strange and queer, the lot of them. Elf-touched, they were called in the old days…The mad, the fearful, the faithful. Those who dwell with one foot in the Underground and another in the world above.*

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We were grotesques in the world above, too different, too odd, too talented, too much. 

S. Jae-Jones is a brilliant writer.

I will admit that I didn’t love the entirety of Wintersong––I loved the first half but thought the second was a little slow––but I always thought that S.Jae-Jones’ writing was beautiful and spectacular. Her writing shone in Shadowsong. The images she creates with her words are utterly beautiful, forming Liesl’s world for the reader in a very poetic way. It’s perfect for the setting of fairy-tales and goblins and music. S.Jae-Jones is someone who can create a world with her words that I just want to immerse myself in. Couple that with the fact that Shadowsong is a fantasy novel with a historical setting and I’m hooked.

Although Shadowsong is fiction, S. Jae-Jones gives her readers an author’s note at the beginning warning that not everything inside of this novel is so easily read as a fiction. Shadowsong deals with the very real subjects of self-harm, addiction, reckless behaviors, and thoughts of suicide. The author is open with her own diagnosis of bipolar disorder and how she gave it to Liesl. There were moments that were difficult to read because of how Liesl was struggling. I could relate to certain thoughts she had regarding creation of art and fear of failure and doubt. I thought it was wonderful that S. Jae-Jones was completely open about this at the beginning of her novel.

I waited for some mood or inspiration to strike me, for the desire to play to overtake me, but there was nothing. Solitude around me and silence within me. I had not dreamed once since we came to the city. The voice inside me––my voice––was gone. No ideas. No drive. No passion. My nights were quiet. Blank. The dullness was seeping into my days.*

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Fangirling Friday: Details, details, details

I recently got my hands on a copy of Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince. While this is a book that I added to my TBR list before there was even a cover, it ended up being a complete cover buy. But not because of the dust jacket. Because of what lay hidden beneath and in between the pages:

Completely stunning. This is one of the best designs I’ve ever seen. It’s so intricate and I love how the black makes the gold shine so brightly. I also really like the pairing of a white dust jacket with the black hardcover.

Books with maps. I probably will have a separate fangirling post about maps in books because I love them so much. I get so excited when I see that there’s a map in a book! It makes the world so much more detailed.

The dandelion seeds are darling. I love how the illustration frames the bottom of the poem.

These reasons. These beautiful, beautiful reasons.

I will be the first to admit that I am very extremely taken in by books with beautiful covers. I really love when you take off the dust jacket and there’s details underneath that are unexpected.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Relationships in Young Adult Novels

Although the prompt for this week is romance, I wanted to focus on other relationships instead. Relationships often drive the story of young adult novels, whether it’s a contemporary romance or a subplot in a fantasy. There’s nearly always a relationship. Romantic relationships fill readers’ hearts with joy, anger, and hope as they read about their journeys and wonder if they’ll ultimately end up together. But love comes in many forms. To say that friendships are any less important than romantic relationships means that you’re missing out on a lot of vibrant relationships and books.

So for today’s Top Ten Tuesday, I wanted to focus on different types of relationships in young adult novels. So without further ado, the relationship post!

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Best Female Friends

In young adult, there’s a ton of times that women are often super catty toward each other. It’s a common trope, especially in contemporaries set in high schools. Everyone isn’t going to be friends, but I really don’t like when women shame other women. A little bit is realistic, because to pretend it doesn’t happen is naïve, but when it becomes the focus of the novel it’s a little uncomfortable for me. To use the quote from Mean Girls: “You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.” That quote has really stuck with me. So here’s some novels I’ve loved where friendships between women are displayed.

There’s a little bit of the aforementioned woman on woman hate in this book, but I like how the friendships evolve. This is also a historical fiction fantasy novel, which is one of my favorite combinations.

While I didn’t love this book entirely, I did love the friendship between Hermione and Polly. In Exit, Hermione is date raped. Exit deals with the aftermath of that and Polly is constantly there for Hermione even when she has her own struggles. I loved reading their friendship.

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Best Friend Groups

Sometimes it’s impossible to chose between only one best friend. I love books where friends explore and discover together. Sometimes you love them in ways that are created when you are crushed into the same space, experiencing the same things and bonding over them. Other times you just stumble upon them and a light of connection flares up inside of your chest. I really enjoy the dynamic of a group of friends. Where there used to be one character, suddenly there’s more. These are my favorites.

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[Tash Hearts Tolstoy] Kathryn Ormsbee

Tash hearts Tolstoy. Like, a lot. So much so that she’s created a web series about Anna Karenina called Unhappy Families with her friend Jack. They’ve been filming for awhile and have a few loyal followers, but nothing too big. They’re both happy that they’re getting the experience for future projects and for college–which is looming on the horizon. Toying with the idea of fame is fun, of course, but they know that it will never happen…until it does.  When they’re thrust into the internet limelight, Tash and her friends are suddenly dealing with followers in the tens of thousands. No longer an obscure web series, dealing with their sudden fame is both exhilarating and terrifying. Being famous isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and Tash and Jack need to find a way to deal with both the good and the bad if they’re going to make it through.

Tash Hearts Tolstoy was a cute contemporary read. I loved that it was about producing a web series and what happens when your dreams are realized. Ormsbee did a good job about giving filming details without allowing the book to be bogged down with too many; it allows us to be in the world of web series but not be bored by it. I wish that Unhappy Families existed outside the book! It sounded really interesting. While the focus is on how the web series becomes famous, the book is about so much more.  At its core is a coming of age story. I liked that Tash’s “coming of age” wasn’t about one specific thing. They’re all struggling to find their place in the world and learning how to navigate the messy reality of friendships and family where lines sometimes cross.

Because the book focuses on Tash and Unhappy Families, there’s a lot of focus on her friendship with Jack and her brother, Paul. These are two people who have been in Tash’s life for a long time and who know her in a certain way. I appreciated how Ormsbee explored their friendship and the expectations they’d placed on one another. Friendships change as you get older and as you’re moving to a different part of your life,  and I liked how that was shown against this backdrop of blossoming and distracting fame.

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