Q&A Review: District Ballet Company Series by Katherine Locke

Q&A

Written by: Katherine Locke
Release Date: April 13, 2015
Series: District Ballet Company

Book

Four years ago, a car accident ended Zedekiah Harrow’s ballet career and sent Philadelphia Ballet principal dancer Alyona Miller spinning toward the breakdown that suspended her own. What they lost on the side of the road that day can never be replaced, and grief is always harshest under a spotlight…

Now twenty-three, Zed teaches music and theatre at a private school in Washington, D.C. and regularly attends AA meetings to keep the pain at bay. Aly has returned to D.C. to live with her mother while trying to recover from the mental and physical breakdown that forced her to take a leave of absence from the ballet world, and her adoring fans.

When Zed and Aly run into each other in a coffee shop, it’s as if no time has passed at all. But without the buffer and escape of dance—and with so much lust, anger and heartbreak hanging between them—their renewed connection will either allow them to build the together they never had… or destroy the fragile recoveries they’ve only started to make.

 

1) Best Part of this Book?

I have three things to talk about here, and I’m not how to because they’re all intertwined: the writing, the love story, and the portrayal of mental illness.

When I say love story, I don’t just mean between Aly and Zed (though that too, they’re absolutely beautiful and electrifying and soul-shattering together) but between both characters and ballet. And this is where the gorgeous, lyrical writing comes in–the way Aly and Zed think about each other and about dance is powerful and brimming with emotion. During some of the dance numbers in the series, I could actually hear music in my head.

And then Aly has anxiety and an eating disorder, and Zed is a recovering alcoholic, and the portrayal of that is excellent as well. There are short chapters where Aly talks to her therapist throughout the books, and a lot of what she says completely mirrors what’s in my head at times. Also, I love that the series consistently treats mental illness not as something to be fixed, but as something to be managed.

2) Favorite character?

Aly has a special place in my heart, just because her issues with anxiety mirror my own so much. She also has very good taste in tea.

3) Worst part of this book?

The pacing was not great–particularly a quarter of the way into the second book, when Aly and Zed were rehashing the same issues over and over, which is true to real life but not the most interesting thing to read about. I was also very bored by the prequel, though maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I’d read it after the other two and not before.

4) Favorite Quote?

“There will be bad days. What if the bad days are too bad?”
“There were bad days before this, and we’ll handle any bad days to come. I promise. That’s what we do, Aly. We’re pretty good at weathering storms.”

5) Was it what’s Expected?

In terms of the general outline of the story, yes. In terms of the writing and its effect on me, definitely not. I ended up a lot more invested than I thought I would be.

 

Pickup

Yes! If you’re interested in ballet, or second-chance romance, or mental illness (and physical disability) representation, or writing that will make you Feel Things, you should definitely pick up this duology.

Sondra

Q&A Review: Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Q&A

Written by: Katie McGarry
Release Date: May 28th 2013
Pages: 456, hardcover
Series: Pushing the Limits, #4
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Book

Ryan lowers his lips to my ear. “Dance with me, Beth.”

“No.” I whisper the reply. I hate him and I hate myself for wanting him to touch me again….

“I dare you…”

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk’s home life, they’d send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom’s freedom and her own happiness. That’s how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn’t want her and going to a school that doesn’t understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn’t get her, but does….

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can’t tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn’t be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won’t let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all….

1) Best Part of this Book?

Aside from the fact that Beth goes from a crazy person to someone who warms my heart and makes me smile? I think that’s probably a huge thing. I wasn’t a fan of Beth and I wasn’t sure how I would handle her book. I was absolutely surprised by how amazing Beth was, and absolutely blown away by her character development.

2) Favorite character?

As surprising as you might think it would be, it’s actually Ryan. Not Beth. She was wonderful, don’t get me wrong. But Ryan is precious and I love him and I just want to hug him and his precious heart.

3) Worst part of this book?

This book seemed a little bit more angsty than the other McGarry books. Which isn’t a bad thing I didn’t mind angst, but this one had some seriously painful moments. Painful guys.

4) Favorite Quote?

“How many more of us are faking the facade? How many more of us are pretending to be something we’re not? Even better, how many of us will have the courage to be ourselves regardless of what others think?”

5) Was it what’s expected?

When I’m reviewing a series I might change up this one because when you’re reading a series you’re pretty good at what you’re gonna get. I knew that things were gonna get bad (Admittedly maybe not that bad) but it would all be okay at the end of the day.

PickupIf you haven’t picked up any of McGarry’s series then you should pick this one up. Because it really changed how I felt about Beth as a whole, which made me really happy.

Sondra

Q&A Review: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Q&A

Written by: Jeff Garvin
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Pages: 352, hardcover
Series: standalone
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Book

The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is…Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

 

1) Best Part of this Book?

“The fact that it exists” is pretty much a given here–it’s about time YA books started featuring more nonbinary characters and exploring the complexity of gender.

That being said, I loved:

  • Riley’s blog entries, which could easily have felt like infodumps but didn’t, because Riley’s voice was so powerful throughout. 
  • the way Riley’s anxiety was portrayed–the fact that it didn’t magically go away at the end of the book but was something Riley learned to cope with better, Riley’s conversations with their therapists, the depiction of the anxiety medication’s effects.
  • Riley’s heartwarming friendships with Solo and Bec.

2) Favorite character?

Riley is very believable as a teenager who has been through a lot and is trying to figure out what to do next, who is fantastically snarky with great taste in music, who shows a mix of strength and vulnerability and grows so much.

3) Worst part of this book?

Can I say I’m jealous of the fact that Riley got five thousand followers in a week? Does that actually happen to people?

On a more serious note, Jeff Garvin made the decision not to reveal Riley’s assigned-at-birth sex, and I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, it means readers will (hopefully) question why the want to know that information when that isn’t the gender Riley identifies with. On the other hand, someone’s assigned sex does influence how people treat them, and that contributes to who they are.

4) Favorite Quote?

“The world isn’t binary. Everything isn’t black or white, yes or no. Sometimes it’s not a switch, it’s a dial. And it’s not even a dial you can get your hands on; it turns without your permission or approval.”

5) Was it what’s Expected?

Honestly, it was. Other than Riley’s gender identity (which I haven’t seen many books feature), this was a pretty garden-variety coming out story, with both the good and the bad that this entails.

PickupI’d say yes!

Polina

ARC Review: We Awaken by Calista Lynne

ARC

Written by: Calista Lynne
Release Date: July 14, 2016
Pages: 180, e-book
Series: standalone
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Thank you to Netgalley and Harmony Ink Press for the ARC!

BookVictoria Dinham doesn’t have much left to look forward to. Since her father died in a car accident, she lives only to fulfill her dream of being accepted into the Manhattan Dance Conservatory. But soon she finds another reason to look forward to dreams when she encounters an otherworldly girl named Ashlinn, who bears a message from Victoria’s comatose brother. Ashlinn is tasked with conjuring pleasant dreams for humans, and through the course of their nightly meetings in Victoria’s mind, the two become close. Ashlinn also helps Victoria understand asexuality and realize that she, too, is asexual.

But then Victoria needs Ashlinn’s aid outside the realm of dreams, and Ashlinn assumes human form to help Victoria make it to her dance audition. They take the opportunity to explore New York City, their feelings for each other, and the nature of their shared asexuality. But like any dream, it’s too good to last. Ashlinn must shrug off her human guise and resume her duties creating pleasant nighttime visions—or all of humanity will pay the price.

 

LetsTalk

 

It’s going to be a bit difficult for me to review this book. I wish I could give it five stars and scream about it to everyone in my immediate vicinity, because it has so many things I love–beautiful prose, girl friendship, mysterious and unusual worldbuilding, and of course, f/f romance with well-written asexual representation. We Awaken had all the pieces I wanted to see, and I really wish it had gone through another round or two of editing–something to make the pieces come together more fluidly.

We Awaken is about Victoria Dinham, a dancer whose father recently died in a car accident and whose brother is in a coma. One night, she dreams about a beautiful girl who creates good dreams and claims to have a message from her brother. You can guess where the story goes from there. She falls in love, learns about asexuality, reconnects with her former best friend, and comes to terms with what happened to her family.

Ultimately, We Awaken was enjoyable, but left me feeling like something was missing. The romance was cute, and the asexual representation was amazing, but so much about the characters and the world could have been fleshed out and wasn’t. While I would still recommend this book, I feel that it did not live up to its potential.

 

Didn'tWork

 

I really wish all the characters had more depth. Victoria was a pretty well-developed character. Ashlinn had hints of things that made her interesting, but the narrative utilized her more as a love interest and a way for Victoria to learn about asexuality than as a character in her own right. Victoria’s family and friends are pretty much tropes (though her best friend, Ellie, was at least an enjoyable one).

Victoria and Ashlinn’s relationship, while adorable, was rushed and very much insta-love. How did they fall in love? What brought them together besides Victoria thinking Ashlinn was pretty and a couple of lines of flirting? Who knows?

The world was underdeveloped as well, and it made me grit my teeth in frustration because anything dream-related is fascinating to me. I wanted to know more about Ashlinn’s history, and about her counterpart who creates nightmares, and whether there are others like them. (Because really, Ashlinn is only one person, and unless something timey-wimey is going on, which the novel did not imply, there’s no way for her to visit everyone’s dreams every night). (I know that’s exactly the type of thing I need to suspend my disbelief on, but it bothered me). The ending, too, was very anti-climactic–very much a case of “let’s resolve that troublesome plot so they can cuddle!”)

 

DidWork

 

My favorite thing about the book was the portrayal of asexuality. While it felt a little info-dump-y at times, it was still great to see a character go through pretty much the same process I went through a couple of years ago. Both Victoria and Ashlinn are asexual, and one thing I appreciated was that they both experience asexuality differently–for example, Ashlinn likes kissing and Victoria doesn’t. The narrative makes it clear that there is no one way to be asexual–everyone’s experience is different. Victoria and Ashlinn’s relationship also exemplified how it was possible to be intimate without being sexual.

While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the dialogue (which I found extremely clunky and forced), the actual descriptive prose was beautiful. Victoria’s thought process, the running theme of permanence and lack thereof, and the images of the dreams Ashlinn creates were perfectly illustrated.

Because I always have a weakness for things like this, I loved Victoria reconnecting with her friend Ellie. They had a fun dynamic, and I liked that they were both good friends in some ways but lacking in others, and balanced each other out. Ellie’s reaction to Victoria being asexual–both the initial response and how it changed later–was also very realistically written.

 

Pickup

 

I had my problems with this book, but in the end, it’s an enjoyable, fluffy story that provides some much-needed asexual representation. Definitely give it a look if you have the chance.

Sondra

Book Review: On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

BookReview

Written by: Corinne Duyvis
Release Date: March 8, 2016
Pages: 455, hardcover
Series: standalone
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Book

January 29, 2035.

That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one. Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter near their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time.

Then a last-minute encounter leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship that’s scheduled to leave Earth behind and colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But each passenger must have a practical skill to contribute. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister?

When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?

LetsTalk

If you haven’t read a Corinne Duyvis book, I highly, highly recommend you start. Just like her first book Otherbound, On the Edge of Gone is captivating, complex, and intertwines the characters’ diverse identities with the plot in a meaningful way.

On the Edge of Gone takes place in the aftermath of a comet hitting the earth, and focuses on an autistic girl, Denise, trying to secure a place for herself and her family on a spaceship about to leave the planet. Like Denise, Corinne Duyvis is autistic, and the nuance she is able to add to her character makes this book a welcome change from numerous others where autistic characters are treated as tragedies, learning experiences, or problems to solve. As someone who has long suspected that I might be on the autistic spectrum, I very much appreciated her.

This is a story about survival, about family about the choice between a few individuals and the greater good, how we as a society decide who is valued and why these assumptions might not always be right. It’s a powerful, important, ultimately optimistic story and one of my favorite books of 2016.

Didn'tWork
Nothing, really, for me. It’s not a plot-heavy or fast-paced book, but I didn’t really need it to be those things.

DidWorkDenise is a wonderful character, and I emotionally connected to her right away. She’s smart and brave, and gets excited about cats and organizing information. Her autism is handled realistically, and, as I’ve said before, refreshingly. She struggles, and doubts herself, and gets overwhelmed, but she also comes up with good ideas that often succeed. Above all else, she is the heroine of her own story. The end of the book shows her starting to value herself more.

Just in general, the book is really diverse. In addition to being autistic, Denise is half-Surinamese, and the fact that she’s a biracial girl (as opposed to a white boy) makes it much more difficult for her to get an autism diagnosis. Her sister Iris is trans and bisexual, and there are plenty of secondary characters of different races and sexuality.

The apocalypse part of the book is amazing as well. First, the fact that it’s happen relatively close to now, and not two hundred years in the future, made it resonate so much more strongly because what if that happened during my lifetime? Second, Denise’s fight for survival is handled in a really complex way. Everyone wants their loved ones to live, and choosing the people who would be most useful in building a new world seems like a good idea–until you look at the people you’re leaving behind, who may not be “useful” (whatever that means) but still don’t deserve to die. Iris has this one line that I really loved: “Whether someone is useful only matters if you value people by their use.” (This may be a misquote, since I don’t have the book in front of me). Without giving away spoilers, the middle ground the book was able to find on this issue (at least in Denise’s situation) was a very satisfying solution.

Third, it’s one of the most optimistic apocalypse books I’ve read. Bad things happen (obviously) but the focus is on the power of people to survive and endure, on people banding together and helping each other survive painful situations. The ending filled me with hope for the characters and the world.

PickupAbsolutely! Corinne Duyvis’ voice is one you need to hear. (And if you enjoy this book, Duyvis has a short story called “And the Rest of Us Wait” in the Defying Doomsday anthology, which takes place in the same world.)

Sondra

Q&A Review: We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

Q&A

Written by: Shaun David Hutchinson
Release Date: January 19, 2016
Pages: 455, hardcover
Series: standalone
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Book

There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t.

Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.

What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving. That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.

1) Best Part of this Book?

The characters are so vivid and well-drawn. Everyone, from Henry’s asshole brother to his science teacher, has hidden depth, and it makes the story all the richer and more layered. Henry asks everyone what they would do if the world was ending and they could prevent it, and their answers reveal so much about them. Because the character are nuanced, the relationships are as well, and there’s a balance between family, friendship, and romantic love, which I always appreciate.

2) Favorite character?

Henry. His voice is very believable–raw and painful, but also sometimes hilarious. Sometimes his headspace reminded me of mine during the worst parts of my high school years, and I read the book with my fingers crossed for him to make it through.

3) Worst part of this book?

It was hard for me to take the aliens seriously at first, to integrate their weirdness with the serious themes of the book. By the end, I didn’t really care. It wasn’t about the aliens.

4) Favorite Quote?

The universe may forget us, but our light will brighten the darkness for eons after we’ve departed this world. The universe may forget us, but it can’t forget us until we’re gone, and we’re still here, our futures still unwritten. We can choose to sit on our asses and wait for the end, or we can live right now. We can march to the edge of the void and scream in defiance. Yell out for all to hear that we do matter. That we are still here, living our absurd, bullshit lives, and nothing can take that away from us. Not rogue comets, not black holes, not the heat death of the universe. We may not get to choose how we die, but we can choose how we live. The universe may forget us, but it doesn’t matter. Because we are the ants, and we’ll keep marching on.

5) Was it what’s expected?

Definitely not. This is one of the most unique books I’ve read.

PickupThis book is gorgeous and complex and original, and I definitely recommend that you pick it up, especially if you enjoyed More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera.

Sondra

ARC Review: Run by Kody Keplinger

BookReview

Written by: Kody Keplinger
Release Date: June 28th 2016
Pages: 288, hardcover
Series: standalone
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BookBo Dickinson is a girl with a wild reputation, a deadbeat dad, and a mama who’s not exactly sober most of the time. Everyone in town knows the Dickinsons are a bad lot, but Bo doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

Agnes Atwood has never gone on a date, never even stayed out past ten, and never broken any of her parents’ overbearing rules. Rules that are meant to protect their legally blind daughter — protect her from what, Agnes isn’t quite sure.

Despite everything, Bo and Agnes become best friends. And it’s the sort of friendship that runs truer and deeper than anything else.

So when Bo shows up in the middle of the night, with police sirens wailing in the distance, desperate to get out of town, Agnes doesn’t hesitate to take off with her. But running away and not getting caught will require stealing a car, tracking down Bo’s dad, staying ahead of the authorities, and — worst of all — confronting some ugly secrets.

LetsTalk

As anyone who knows me can probably tell you, I live for books focusing on friendship, especially female friendship. While the book world has given me more of these stories lately (thank you, book world) there still aren’t nearly enough. So when I read this book’s summary, I basically whispered “thank god” to myself. And when I read the book itself, my heart basically turned into a pile of jelly and I cried a lot because the story was so beautiful.

Run is up there with Code Name Verity for me as one of the loveliest friendship love stories in YA. The POV is split between Agnes, a legally blind girl heavily sheltered by her parents, and Bo, who has a troubled home life and a bad reputation. Agnes narrates the past, telling the story of how the girls met, while Bo’s POV’s show their escape months later. Both Bo and Agnes have authentic and distinct voices, and I loved the ways they helped each other grow. Both Bo and Agnes feel trapped in their small town, and both know what it’s like to be boxed in by others, seen as a stereotype rather than a full person. By the end of the book they’re each other’s home and I cry a lot.

I can’t talk enough about how gorgeous this book is. Kody Keplinger builds this vivid rural setting and makes it feel so vivid and so suffocating. Bo and Agnes’s friendship is sincere and gutwrenching, as is their amazing development throughout the book. In addition, Kody Keplinger, like Agnes, is blind, making this a really important portrayal of disability in YA. Run is gorgeous, and a must-read if you’re interested in contemporaries that focus on girl friendship or accurately portray disability.

Didn'tWork

I’m starting to understand why Sondra has so much trouble with this section. I did rate this book 4.5 rather than 5, but that has less to do with any concrete issues I had and more with the fact that I save my 5’s for books I want to shout to everyone I ever met about, and this book isn’t quite that, although now that I’m writing the review I’m thinking it might be. I maybe would have liked more fall-out after the end (but I’m also fine with the way it was).

DidWork

Bo and Agnes are just 100% solid characters. They may seem like archetypes at first, and maybe they are, a little, but Keplinger’s writing fills out the lines and makes them so heart-achingly believable, and they don’t always make the decisions you would expect them to make based on their descriptions. And the character development! Agnes standing up for herself and actively pursuing her independence, Bo learning to run to people instead of just running away…it all felt so beautiful and nuanced and real. And I’ve already talked about how much I love the friendship, so I’ll just leave this here.

The pacing is excellent, and I love the format with alternating POVs. Agnes shows us a beautifully developing friendship and the frustration of growing up with such a limited future, and Bo’s chapter’s are basically a combination of tension and excitement and PAIN. I always felt like we spent just the right amount of time in one POV before switching over to the other. The book kept me waiting for the reveal of why the girls ran away, and when I got there it was worth the wait.

As noted before: Agnes is a blind character written by a blind author, and even though I don’t know enough to comment on specific details, I could absolutely tell the author understood what she was talking about.

Other things I loved: Bo’s bisexuality. The fact that Agnes has to grapple with her religious beliefs when she finds out that Bo is bisexual (because that kind of thing is rarely ever included, and even more rarely given the nuanced treatment it has here). Believable secondary characters. Poetry.

PickupPick up. It will make you feel things.

Sondra

Reread Challenge: Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

The 2015 Re-Read Challenge

WHEN I First Read:  When I was twelve or thirteen, I think? I’d just read what existed of the Books of Bayern series and I wanted more Shannon Hale in my life.

WHAT I Remember: Literally nothing. There were two girls in a tower? and then they get out? and one of them falls in love? vaguely Mongolian setting? and there’s a cat? somewhere? maybe? That was pretty much all I remembered. I do know I liked the book, though. Just the memory of reading a Shannon Hale book is enough to give me fuzzy feelings.

WHY I Wanted to Re-Read:  I saw a copy at Half-Price Books for one dollar and knew I had to have it. Later, a Twitter friend of mine who was also a Shannon Hale fan mentioned this book, and my need to reread it increased. 

HOW I Felt After Re-Reading: Warm fuzzy happy feelings. Dashti is a wonderful heroine with strength and humor and loyalty and compassion, and her voice stands out. She’s human and flawed–she can be naive, get angry, say the wrong things–but she’s such a genuinely good person that I couldn’t help loving her. I think I appreciated Saren more on this reread too–her self-doubt and depression in the first half of the book are painful to read, and I love that narrative portrays her sympathetically even during her lowest moments, and that her eventual growth, small as it may seem, is celebrated. This book is just so good and so underrated and I wish more people knew about it.

WOULD I Re-Read Again:  Definitely. As I’ve probably said before, Shannon Hale is a hot-chocolate-and-blankets kind of author.

Sondra

ARC Review: Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh

BookReview

Written by: Julie Eshbaugh
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Pages: 384, hardcover
Series: Ivory and Bone, #1
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Book

A prehistoric fantasy—with allusions to Pride and Prejudice.

Hunting, gathering, and keeping his family safe—that’s the life seventeen-year-old Kol knows. Then bold, enigmatic Mya arrives from the south with her family, and Kol is captivated. He wants her to like and trust him, but any hopes of impressing her are ruined when he makes a careless—and nearly grave—mistake. However, there’s something more to Mya’s cool disdain…a history wrought with loss that comes to light when another clan arrives. With them is Lo, an enemy from Mya’s past who Mya swears has ulterior motives.

As Kol gets to know Lo, tensions between Mya and Lo escalate until violence erupts. Faced with shattering losses, Kol is forced to question every person he’s trusted. One thing is for sure: this was a war that Mya or Lo—Kol doesn’t know which—had been planning all along.

 

LetsTalkTo be honest, if I hadn’t read this book as an ARC, I wouldn’t be reviewing it at all.

There wasn’t anything glaringly wrong with it. The writing was solid, the setting was interesting, the characters were…characters. But I remember about an hour after trying to finish the book, I tried to find something that stood out to me, and I couldn’t. It all just felt very one-note, predictable, and generally meh.

Ivory and Bone is, as the summary says, basically a prehistoric Pride and Prejudice, featuring two clans with a dark history between them and the love story between two young people who begin with conflict but learn to understand each other. Everything about the summary sounds great, and there were some lovely moments in the writing, but something was just missing for me.

Didn'tWork

There were so many secondary characters, many of whom were only barely developed and whose voices sounded pretty much the same. There were so many times when I would see a name and have to flip back to remind myself who that person was. The secondary characters just did not make an impression at all.

I also found the connection to Pride and Prejudice very thinly sketched out and not all that necessary. There were some similarities–a new family coming into town, misunderstandings, the lovers not getting along at first–but honestly, most of those are present in pretty much every romance. Other times, it seemed as though the author was forcing certain scenes in just because they resembled Pride and Prejudice scenes.

DidWork

I liked the writing. It was lovely and descriptive, and made a very different world come alive to me. The second-person POV also helped to draw me in, even if the reason Kol is using it requires suspension of disbelief.

The tension and build-up of the story led to something very significant and not underwhelming, which I was worried about. The fallout from Lo’s actions made the ending of the story very interesting. This goes for the romantic tension as well, actually–even though I wasn’t too invested in the romance, I could appreciate how well it was built up. The first half of the book, at least, was pretty compulsively readable for me.

Pickup

It fell pretty flat for me, but I can understand why it might appeal to others. Your call, I guess.

Sondra

ARC Mini Review: Defying Doomsday Anthology

MiniReviews

Edited by: Tsana Dolichva, Holly Kench
Release Date: May 31st, 2016
Pages: 432, Paperback
Series: Standalone
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BookTeens form an all-girl band in the face of an impending comet.

A woman faces giant spiders to collect silk and protect her family.

New friends take their radio show on the road in search of plague survivors.

A man seeks love in a fading world.

How would you survive the apocalypse?

Defying Doomsday is an anthology of apocalypse fiction featuring disabled and chronically ill protagonists, proving it’s not always the “fittest” who survive – it’s the most tenacious, stubborn, enduring and innovative characters who have the best chance of adapting when everything is lost.

In stories of fear, hope and survival, this anthology gives new perspectives on the end of the world, from authors Corinne Duyvis, Janet Edwards, Seanan McGuire, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Stephanie Gunn, Elinor Caiman Sands, Rivqa Rafael, Bogi Takács, John Chu, Maree Kimberley, Octavia Cade, Lauren E Mitchell, Thoraiya Dyer, Samantha Rich, and K Evangelista.

MiniHere’s a fun game for you: go through the sci-fi/post-apocalyptic/generally apocalypse related shelf of your bookcase and see how many books feature disabled characters. Now see how many of those characters are NOT magically cured, to the point where they don’t experience any negative effects of their disability. How many are protagonists rather than side characters moving someone else’s plot along. How many display complex attitudes towards their disabilities, and are allowed to be complex characters themselves.

Yes, that’s right. Not a whole lot. And that’s why this book exists.

The stories here are varied in so many ways–in the type of apocalypse, the world, the character’s disability, the role the disability plays in the character’s life (an added difficulty or an advantage or a mix of both). However, all the stories share a nuanced portrayal of life with a disability. In all the stories, the disability is an important part of the character without being all there is to that character.

And of course, all the stories are excellent survival stories of their own right; with many of them, I was left holding my breath for the characters, or terrified of the apocalyptic threat (shout-out to that one story with the spiders here!) or having warm fuzzy feelings about certain relationships, or tearing up, or all four. My one issue with the book was how technical and science-y some of the stories were (I got lost in the technical terms), but that was really my fault, and anyway it’s sci-fi and I don’t what I expected. The only authors I was familiar with before I started were Corrine Duyvis and Seanan Maguire (whose stories I loved, no surprise), but a lot of the stories impressed me enough that I’ll try to check out the writers’ other works.

Some of my personal favorites:

  • And the Rest of Us Wait by Corrine Duyvis: an excellent intro to the anthology with a strong message, taking place in the same world as her novel On the Edge of Gone with some recurring characters. I love that the main characters respond to their situation through pop songs.
  • Something in the Rain by Seanan Maguire: For some reason the apocalypse scenario here was the scariest to me, plus I loved Holly’s voice and this story was relevant to my interests as a cat person.
  • Did We Break the End of the World? by Tansy Rayner Roberts: Surprisingly cute and banter-y, with an excellent ending. I would like to read more in that world.
  • In the Sky with Diamonds by Elinor Caiman Sands: After I finished this one, I put my phone down, took a deep breath, and said, “Well, that was intense.”
  • Selected Afterimages of the Fading by John Chu: I loved the way the disability (muscular dysmorphia) was intertwined with the worldbuilding (things fade if not given attention).
  • Spider Silk, Strong as Steel by Samantha Rich: A good mix of scary and heartwarming. This is the one with the giant spiders, so be careful if that’s not your thing.
  • No Shit by K. Evangelista: For the cute relationship between the main character’s and for Jane’s hilarious voice, which brought lightness into the anthology.
  • I Will Remember You by Janet Edwards: This one made me cry a little bit. Again, I wouldn’t mind a follow-up a few years afterward.

And the fact that I listed so many stories for favorites says a lot, I think! Pick this one up if you want something different and original.

 

Sondra