ARC Review: The Traitor’s Tunnel by C.M. Spivey

Title: The Traitor’s Tunnel34031351

Author: C.M. Spivey
Genre: Fantasy

Publication date: June 20, 2017
Purchase links: Kindle Edition

Rating: N/A

Distinctive qualities: asexual main character, a relationship between two men, a relationship between two women, magic, witches.

Summary:

Witch-blooded robber Bridget has made a reputation for herself in the capital city, but she’s not interested in the attention of the Thieves’ Guild–and she’s not bothered by the rumors of urchin kidnappings, either. With winter coming, she’s looking out for herself and no one else.

Until she picks the wrong pocket, and recognizes her estranged brother Teddy.

Young craftsman Theodor arrives in the capital ready to take the final step toward his dream career as Lord Engineer of Arido. His apprenticeship with a renowned city engineer comes with new rules and challenges, but it’s worth it for the exposure to the Imperial Council.

While spying on her brother, Bridget overhears a secret meeting that reveals a cruel plot. After more than a decade apart, Theodor and Bridget must reunite to stop a traitor whose plan threatens not only their city, but the whole empire.

Set seven years before the events of From Under the Mountain, The Traitor’s Tunnel is the story of two young people presented with a choice–to protect themselves, or to protect others–the consequences of which will change their lives forever.

 

Review:

Thanks to C.M. Spivey for my ebook copy of The Traitor’s Tunnel!

If you read my posts for my April TBR and ARCs I haven’t read yet, you know I was extremely excited about reading The Traitor’s Tunnel. Unfortunately, I was let down. I don’t have a lot to say about the story, so this review is going to be short. Here are my thoughts:

I liked that it was the norm to use gender-neutral pronouns for people whose gender was unknown. I also liked that there was a relationship between two men, and a relationship between two women. That was it. I didn’t enjoy anything else.

My problem with the story is probably an effect of it being a novella. We didn’t get to know the characters at all and the world was widely unexplored (I know that there is a full novel set in this world; maybe that is better developed than this). For those reasons, I wasn’t able to become attached to anything or anyone, and I found myself feeling bored whenever I tried to read.

Additionally, there is a paragraph at the very end of the novella that compared an actual eye condition (myopia) to naivety, which struck me as ableist. I really don’t like when people use words such as “blinded” to signify ignorance.

I might read more from this author in the future because I think the world he created has a lot of potential to be amazing. But for now, it’s time for us to part.

ARC Review: Girl out of Water by Laura Silverman

Title: Girl out of Water33226621

Author: Laura Silverman
Genre: YA Contemporary

Publication date: May 2, 2017
Purchase links: Kindle Edition | Paperback

Rating: ★★★★

Distinctive qualities: Surfing; skateboarding; Samoan side character; black love interest who is adopted (and has a Vietnamese father) and has one arm; family dynamics (father-daughter relationship and cousins who love each other a lot); road trip; f/f side couple.

Summary:

Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves?

 

Review:

“Why do so many people equate growing up with leaving?” 

Thanks to Sourcebooks Fire and Netgalley for providing me with an e-ARC of Girl out of Water!

Girl out of Water is a stunningly-written novel. The prose flows smoothly and slowly. It creates the illusion of calmness and imitates the feeling of a lazy yet happy summer day. I like taking my time with books, to process and absorb each sentence carefully. Girl out of Water was the most perfect book to read that way; it seems to be naturally made to be read like that.

Anise is a relatable character. Even though we’re very different, I could empathize with her feelings, her decisions and her fears. It was so realistic that she wanted to help her family but she also yearned to be home with her friends, even if it made her feel selfish. She was struggling with wanting the best for both her family and herself, knowing that she couldn’t have both things at the same time. I also appreciated her struggle with missing her friends, but not wanting to talk to them because she felt left out of everything they were doing. That felt very realistic as well.

Another great thing about this book is how diverse Anise’s group of friends is. Her best friend, Tess, is Samoan. Two of her other close friends are girls in a relationship. Her love interest, Lincoln, is black, adopted and has one arm. His dad is Vietnamese and his brother is also adopted. This world is way more realistic (do you see a theme in the things I’m pointing out?) and amazing than one in which everyone is white, straight and able-bodied. The real world doesn’t look like that. It’s nice whenever an author makes an effort to include different identities in their work and does it respectfully.

I don’t have anything to say else to say about Girl out of Water aside from this: Read it! It’s beautiful and meaningful without being sad, and it’s the perfect summer read. It’s my favorite YA contemporary of the year so far.

ARC Review: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Title: Noteworthy32933947

Author: Riley Redgate
Genre: YA Contemporary

Publication date: May 2, 2017
Purchase links: Kindle Edition | Hardcover

Rating: ★★★★

Distinctive qualities: Bisexual Chinese-American main character, who pretends to be a boy so she can join an a capella group, amazing friendships, set in a performing arts high school.

Summary:

It’s the start of Jordan Sun’s junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. Unfortunately, she’s an Alto 2, which—in the musical theatre world—is sort of like being a vulture in the wild: She has a spot in the ecosystem, but nobody’s falling over themselves to express their appreciation. So it’s no surprise when she gets shut out of the fall musical for the third year straight.

Then the school gets a mass email: A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshiped… revered… all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

Review:

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an e-ARC of Noteworthy!

“But,” she went on, “remember. It’s the greatest strength to know your weaknesses. It just means you have a question to answer: How hard will you work to get what you want? And that’s the heart of it: from your career, from your time here, from everything, really—what do you want?” I stayed quiet. The world, I thought. The whole world, gathered up in my arms.

The main two words I would use to describe Noteworthy are “relatable” and “fun.” While the relatable part might not apply to everyone, I think anyone who enjoys reading YA contemporary might end up laughing a few times while reading this book. The book had the kind of sense of humor that’s understated and needs context but is still amazing. I kept wanting to update my Goodreads status with all of the quotes that I found funny, but they wouldn’t have made sense without context.

The characters were by far the best part of the story. It took me a little while to get to like Jordan, but as she grew more and more comfortable and confident in who she was, the more I rooted for her. The Sharps were great characters too, and I loved every single one of them. My only complaint is that I wish we’d gotten more backstory on some of the characters, but they were still fleshed out enough that you kind of got a sense of who they were and why they were that way.

 Kensington, probably because it was an arts school, was such an overwhelmingly liberal place when it came to social issues—I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have that sort of opinion around campus. Or anywhere, really. It was a strange thing to have an opinion on somebody else’s existence.

Something that I appreciated a lot about Noteworthy is that it is more diverse than most books. Most of the students at Kensington are white (around 55-60% of them, judging by something Jordan thought about near the beginning). However, Jordan herself is Chinese, bisexual and poor. One of the members of the Sharps that is more involved in Jordan’s story is Indian, Sikh and gay; another has a Japanese surname (Nakahara), so I’m guessing he is Japanese (though it’s never specified). Jordan’s father is paraplegic. And, very importantly, while Jordan is a girl pretending to be a boy, trans identities are recognized.

The plot of the story was interesting and unique (I mean, had you ever heard of a book in which a girl pretends to be a boy to join an a cappella group?). Some moments were kind of hard to believe, but the story was so engaging that I just did not care. I’m a slow reader, but I read most of the book in one day; it was too good to stop reading. I thought Noteworthy was going to be a five star book.

There came a point, though, at around 60% of the book, where I lost interest. I didn’t feel as excited to read and had to force myself to keep going. I stopped reading for the night with only one chapter left because I was no longer interested enough. This is actually a normal thing for me with most books, so maybe other people won’t have this problem. Ultimately, I gave it four of five stars.

If you love YA contemporary and are interested in music (or even acting) at all, this book is a must-read. Oh, and I totally recommend listening to the soundtrack either before reading the book or when you reach the scenes in which the songs are mentioned!

“It’s kind of funny,” Isaac said.

“What is?”

“It…” He paused. “I mean, we’re so comically, laughably tiny. You know? The universe is expanding forever, and there are nebulas a hundred billion miles away, like, spectacularly shitting out stars, and suns collapsing every twenty seconds, and essentially what I’m trying to say is that we’re the tiniest speck of dust on an infinite space plain and our lives are these insignificant little minuscule pinpricks on the timeline.”

ARC Review: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Title: Queens of Geek 31696213
Author: Jen Wilde
Genre: Contemporary

Publication date: March 14, 2017
Purchase links: Kindle Edition | Paperback

Rating: ★★★★

Distinctive qualities: Comic convention, nerdy and geeky cast of characters, bisexual Chinese-Australian main character, fat main character with social anxiety and autism, black love interest, Latino love interest.

Summary:

Three friends. Two love stories. One convention.

Charlie likes to stand out. She’s a vlogger and actress promoting her first movie at SupaCon, and this is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star Reese Ryan. When internet-famous cool-girl actress Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with her best guy friend Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about a fan contest for her favorite fandom, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

Queens of Geek, an empowering young adult novel by Jen Wilde, is all about fandom, friendship, and finding the courage to be yourself.

Review:

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with a digital ARC of Queens of Geek!

“Haven’t you heard? Nerds are cool now.”

I had high hopes for Queens of Geek. It turned out to be different from what I expected, but in a good way. I thought it would be a lighthearted story about a group of friends’ adventures at a convention, but it was so much deeper than that.

“I fight every day, and too many times it’s just not enough and the fear wins. I’m so fucking weak and everything is so fucking intense and sometimes I really hate it.”

One of the main characters, Taylor, has social anxiety and autism. Being the biggest comic convention, SupaCon is overwhelming and very out of her comfort zone. Along with her worries for the future, she’s having a really hard time coping. <i>Queens of Geek</i> highlights her struggles and her realization that it’s okay to be weird and she shouldn’t want to change to be like everyone else. Her chapters were so relatable that I ended up with more than five pages’ worth of quotes, which is a lot for me. (I never write down quotes, unless I’m planning to write a review of the book. In that case, I usually end up with three of four quotes max.)

“This is so weird. How have I gone from shooting videos in my bedroom to talking to Alyssa Huntington while Stefan and Damon walk by?”

The other main character, Charlie, is completely different from her best friend. She is confident, unapologetic and a YouTuber and movie star on the rise. She goes to SupaCon with plans to let the entire world know that she is over her ugly and semi-recent breakup, which the media and her fans won’t let her forget. At the same time, she finds herself meeting her favorite YouTuber, Alyssa Huntington, whom she has a crush on and who seems to like her back. Throughout the weekend, Charlie realizes that she must come to terms with the media criticizing everything she does and choosing to be herself regardless.

The entire book is about accepting who you are, even when you are different from everyone else and they try to tear you down for it. Some parts could be really cheesy, but overall the story had an important message and a very enjoyable story.

“I don’t understand it. Don’t people know that when they say stuff, it affects others? Don’t they ever just stop and think, ‘Hey, if I said this, how would it make that person feel?'”

ARC Review: It Happened on Love Street by Lia Riley

Title: It Happened on Love Street (Everland #1)It Happened on Love Street (Everland #1)

Author: Lia Riley
Genre: Romance

Publication date: April 25, 2017
Purchase links: Kindle Edition | Mass Market Paperback

Rating: N/A

Distinctive qualities: N/A

Summary:

The most romantic place she never wanted to be . . .

Pepper Knight moved to Everland, Georgia, as step one in her plan for a successful legal career. But after this big-city gal’s plans go awry, going home with her tail between her legs isn’t an option. So when the town vet-and her sexy new neighbor-offers Pepper a temporary dog-walking job, she jumps at the chance. No one needs to know that man’s best friend is her worst nightmare . . . or that Everland’s hot animal whisperer leaves her panting.

The last thing Rhett Valentine wants is to be the center of small-town gossip. After his first love left him at the altar, he’s been there, done that. These days, life is simple, just the way he likes it. But sultry southern nights get complicated once sparks fly between him and the knockout next door. When she proposes a sexy, secret fling-all the deliciousness and none of the prying neighbors-it seems too good to be true. And it is. Because Pepper’s determined to leave Love Street, and when she goes, she just might take his heart with her . . .

Review:

Thanks to Lia Riley and Netgalley for providing me with an ARC of It Happened on Love Street!

DNF at 7%.

I found out about It Happened on Love Street when I quoted someone’s tweet about a book and said something among the lines of, “For a moment there, I thought this was about a veterinarian. Now I need a book about a veterinarian.” She directed me to this book, and I was instantly interested in reading it (even if the plot about a veterinarian that I had in mind was very different than the plot of this book).

My decision to stop reading is 100% a case of “it’s not you, it’s me.” Judging by the fact that yesterday I also gave up on a book without even reading 10% of it, it’s safe to say that I am in a dreaded reading slump.

It Happened on Love Street starts with Pepper arriving in Everland, Georgia for a work opportunity. She gets lost, has a scary encounter with a dog, talks to some children and is off on her way. That is just the start of a bad day, though, because after relocating from Manhattan to Everland, she finds out her job offer was revoked and she was never notified of it.

I only read two full chapters and the beginning of the third, but here’s what I know: there’s two points of view, Pepper’s and Rhett’s; Pepper is only in Everland temporarily; Rhett does not want love after having a bad experience with it; Pepper has a great relationship with her sister; and Rhett’s mother passed away and he has no relationship with his father after he turned down a prestigious university and chose to pursue a career as a veterinarian.

All of this would be interesting to me if: a) it didn’t take place in a small town in the south, which I don’t particularly enjoy and b) it were possible for any book to hold my attention right now. I’m hoping to return to this book once I’m out of this slump and in the mood for a romance story, but it’s gonna go unfinished for now.

ARC Review: Future Threat by Elizabeth Briggs

30201520Title: Future Threat (Future Shock #2)

Author: Elizabeth Briggs
Genre: Sci-Fi

Publication date: March 1, 2017
Purchase links: Kindle Edition | Hardcover | Paperback

Rating: N/A

Recommended for: N/A

Summary:

Six months ago Aether Corporation sent Elena, Adam, and three other recruits on a trip to the future where they brought back secret information–but not everyone made it back to the present alive. Now Elena’s dealing with her survivor’s guilt and trying to make her relationship with Adam work. All she knows for sure is that she’s done with time travel and Aether Corporation.

But Aether’s not done with her–or Adam, or fellow survivor Chris. The travelers on Aether’s latest mission to the future have gone missing, and Elena and her friends are drafted into the rescue effort. They arrive in a future that’s amazingly advanced, thanks to Aether Corporation’s reverse-engineered technology. The mission has deadly consequences, though, and they return to the future to try to alter the course of events.

But the future is different yet again. Now every trip through time reveals new complications, and more lives lost–or never born. Elena and Adam must risk everything–including their relationship–to save their friends.

Review:

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with a digital ARC of Future Threat!

“And so we remain, trapped in this strange limbo where he takes one step forward and I take another back. A never-ending dance that leaves us both unsatisfied.”

DNT at 8%

I am the kind of person who mostly feels as though she needs to finish a book once she has started it. But my TBR is so big that I’ve gotten to a point where I tell myself the following: If I am not enjoying a book, I will not read it.

I didn’t get far enough into Future Threat to be able to say if it’s a good book or not. It might be fantastic for all I know but at this point, I am not willing to figure that out.

My biggest problem with the book is this: I  read Future Shock recently, and I feel as though it would have been just fine as a standalone. The first book had an open ending, but it gave enough closure and an idea of what the characters’ lives would be like from now on. I already had the sequel on my Kindle, so I felt like I had to read it. But if I had not had it by then, I may not have ever wanted to read it.

The story opens up with Elena having nightmares and feeling like she’s not good enough for Adam. She pushes him away because of it and feels bad about it, but does nothing to fix or end her relationship. Reading about it was really annoying. She never tried to push him away in the first book because she wasn’t “good enough for him” so the fact that she’s doing it now makes little sense. I assume it’s only happening to add drama to the story. I don’t like it when couples fight or push each other away for no reason instead of just communicating, so this is really off-putting.

For the few weeks (or months?) that Elena has been free, she has been followed around by people from Aether Corp. At the point that I stopped reading, she and Adam were picked up by a car that would take them to the Aether Corp facility. I should have been intrigued about what they wanted with Elena, Adam and Chris. Instead, I was just bored.

And so, I am DNF-ing this book for now. I hope to pick it up again in the future, since Elizabeth Briggs’s books tend to be quick reads. I’ll save it in the hopes that someday I will miss these characters and want to read more about them. Even if it does feel like their story should have ended in book one.

ARC Review: The Paths We Choose by M. Hollis

Title: The Paths We Choose (Lillac Town #2) 
Author: M. Hollis
Genre: New Adult

Publication date: April 6, 2017
Purchase link: Kindle Edition

Rating: ★★★★★

Recommended for: People looking to read f/f romance with Latinx characters, and like stories that focus on characters and their day-to-day lives.

Summary:

Lily Ferrari enjoys having control over every detail of her life. Ever since she left her parents’ house to gain her freedom, she decided to fully own her autonomy. But an unexpected visit from her little brother may change the path she chooses to follow.

Add to that a casual fling with the bright architect Mayte González, and Lily’s summer is turning out more interesting than she expected. It certainly beats the routine of working extra shifts at Johnson’s Bookstore.

A few weeks before her college life begins, Lily needs to figure out if she’s wrong about the past or if she should continue to protect her heart at all costs.

Sometimes moving forward is only possible if you have the right people by your side.

Review:

Thanks to M. Hollis for my e-ARC of The Paths We Choose!

In just a few seconds, she is being embraced by all her roommates. She thinks about all the bad that happened to her in the past few years, and how they have changed her. Losing her family, leaving her old life behind, picking herself up and starting all over again. But it was all worth it because of the love she gained from her new friends.

If you’ve been around for a while or have seen my Goodreads, you may know that I didn’t like The Melody of You and Me a lot. I had a couple of problems that prevented me from loving the story like I hoped I would. Its companion sequel had a few of these problems too, but I enjoyed it a lot more.

I don’t have too many complaints, so I’m going to get what I didn’t love out of the way first: the storytelling. The main thing that affected my enjoyment of this book was that there was a lot of telling and not enough showing. We would be told that the character felt this and that, but there wasn’t anything in the text to back up those feelings. There were also some paragraphs that felt like they ended awkwardly; the main character, Lily, would begin to describe something and end abruptly, saying that she would deal with it later. This is something minor, but I feel like reinforcing little things like that would have made the narration stronger.

Another thing that I felt could use some reinforcement was the present tense narration. I used to write, so I know how hard writing in present tense can be, especially for those of us who don’t speak English as a first language. That being said, I noticed that sometimes the wrong tense was used, especially when switching from describing a scene in the past to the present. This only happened once or twice, so it’s not something that actually made me like the story less. But it’s another thing that can make the story stronger when done correctly.

One thing you must know about the Lillac Town novellas is that there isn’t a big plot. The stories revolve around the daily lives of the main characters and mostly focus on the romance. This was something that threw me off while reading The Melody of You and Me, but this time around I knew what to expect and I ended up really liking it. The Paths We Choose had a relaxing feeling to it; it is the kind of story that would make for a really good read in between big, exhausting books, or simply when you want to relax and have a good time.

Now… on to the positives. Brace yourself because there’s a lot of them.

“We are your best friends. Your family. You can always count on us. You need us to move mountains? We’ll do it. You need us to hide a big secret? We’ll do it.”

The characters were awesome! I didn’t love the main characters from The Melody of You and Me, but Lily and Mayte were a lot more interesting, in my opinion. Lily was a sort-of-grumpy mom friend who was the glue of her friend group. Mayte was a talented artist and architect with a heart of gold. Lily’s roommates were funny and the kind of supportive friends you’d like to live with. And… almost. no one. was. straight. Most of the girls liked more than one gender, which was

Image result for dancing squidward gif

And can we take a moment to talk about how many of the characters were Latinx and/or PoC?!

*coughs* Okay, moving on.

Lily’s story felt like it had more substance than Chris’s story, maybe because I got to know the people in her life and how they shaped her into who she was. I got to know her friends, her brother, her… parents, and I saw how she was before and how she was by the end of the novella. Her character development was noticeable; I got to see her go from being reserved and unwilling to have relationships with people to finding out that there are some people that she might want to have her in life.

Also.

I can’t wait for the next novella. I already ship the couple it will feature.