Penguin Teen Social 2019 - Recap (May 23, 2019)

Right before going to NYC for BEA/BookCon, I got to be at Penguin Teen Social event at Penguin Random House Canada HQ - effectively, kicking off my bookish 2 weeks. I was trying to write and upload this post before I left, but there was just too much happening!

I love going to book events in Canada as I get to see lots of bookish friends and bloggers! Not to mention get my hands on the newest releases. And this event was not an exception.

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Book review: “City of Ghosts” by Victoria Schwab

City of Ghosts

One of my main goals for BookCon 2018 was to meet one of my all-time favourite authors, Victoria Schwab. Sadly, I missed out on the opportunity to get my copy of new US Vicious signed by Victoria, but after standing in the line for an hour on the second day of the convention - I got an advanced reader’s copy of “City of Ghosts”. I was over the moon!

As a matter of fact, I have several vlogs on my YT channel from the BookCon this year.

I wanted to start “City of Ghosts” as soon as possible but didn’t want to rush into it either. So, I decided to pick City of Ghosts” for #ARCAugust challenge.

Synopsis

Cassidy Blake's parents are The Inspectres, a (somewhat inept) ghost-hunting team. But Cass herself can REALLY see ghosts. In fact, her best friend, Jacob, just happens to be one.

When The Inspectres head to ultra-haunted Edinburgh, Scotland, for their new TV show, Cass—and Jacob—come along. In Scotland, Cass is surrounded by ghosts, not all of them friendly. Then she meets Lara, a girl who can also see the dead. But Lara tells Cassidy that as an In-betweener, their job is to send ghosts permanently beyond the Veil. Cass isn't sure about her new mission, but she does know the sinister Red Raven haunting the city doesn't belong in her world. Cassidy's powers will draw her into an epic fight that stretches through the worlds of the living and the dead, in order to save herself.

Review

I could not wait to read “City of Ghosts”! I was very excited! I was, however, trying to be very mindful of the fact that not only I am reading an ARC, but it is also middle grade, so I can’t expect the same depth of world building and character development from “City of Ghost” as from some other Victoria’s books.

I was right. “City of Ghosts” is precisely what Victoria multiple times said, it was. It is the book that she wrote for her 12-year-old self. It is spooky and wonderful, and I kept thinking of Cassidy as Victoria in that age. It is a lovingly crafted narration set in Edinburgh, which is a special city for Victoria, and her current place of residence.

“City of Ghosts” is a fun read full of adorable characters and unexpected adventures. I adored this book. However, no matter how much it pains me to say this about Victoria’s work - this is not the best story she has written.

In her Instagram Stories, Victoria said that she saw some early readers complain that “City of Ghosts” is too simple or the plot is not layered enough, and she explained saying that middle-grade books do not have the same complexity as young adult or adult books because they simply can’t be. That is the whole point of the genre. I wholeheartedly agree.

I felt that “City of Ghosts” was written perfectly aligned with the target audience. It has just the right combination of fun and thrill that is so attractive to the younger audience. I did, however, expect more originality of the plot than there was. Even the title surprised me, as there are dozens of novels with the same title out there.

“City of Ghosts” has haunted places, travelling beyond the Veil and ghost friends. While reading this novel, I kept having a deja vu feeling. Some of the elements reminded me of Fantastic Five by Enid Blyton, some of Susan Cooper’s books (perhaps, due to the setting). Which resulted in me lowering the overall rating of the book.

The writing in the novel is excellent and very typical of Victoria’s style, even though the ARC I got started “uncorrected proof” on the cover. I was impressed by the lack of obvious mistakes. I did pre-order the final copy and received it the day after I finished the book. I am tempted to re-read it again. “City of Ghosts” is supposed to be a duology, so I can not wait to see what other adventure Cassidy and Jacob would get sucked into next.

Rating: 3.5

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Book review: “Seafire” (Seafire #1) by Natalie C. Parker

Seafire

I heard of “Seafire” months ago, and the plot of a new Young Adult fantasy book with all female pirates appealed to me greatly. I was dying to get my hands on it early and jumped on the opportunity to ask the publisher for the ARC. (Meaning, I begged. More than once.) I was so excited to receive it in the mail from Penguin Random House Canada and immediately put it on my ARC August TBR.

Synopsis

After her family is killed by corrupt warlord Aric Athair and his bloodthirsty army of Bullets, Caledonia Styx is left to chart her own course on the dangerous and deadly seas. She captains her ship, the Mors Navis, with a crew of girls and women just like her, whose lives have been turned upside down by Aric and his men. The crew has one mission: stay alive, and take down Aric's armed and armoured fleet.

But when Caledonia's best friend and second-in-command just barely survives an attack thanks to the help from a Bullet looking to defect, Caledonia finds herself questioning whether or not to let him join their crew. Is this boy the key to taking down Aric Athair once and for all…or will he threaten everything the women of the Mors Navis have worked for?

Review

Before I got to “Seafire”, I read a short story “The Sweet Trade” by Natalie C. Parker in the anthology “All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages” (edited by Saundra Mitchell). It did not click in my head immediately that I was reading the story by the same author, whose book I was anticipating so much (yes, I am that bad with names), but once I did, I felt a surge of uneasy. Because “The Sweet Trade” was not one of my favourite stories. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t even be able to recall its plot now.

That did not make me very happy. I am a demanding reader, and I expect short fiction to be of the same quality as novels.

Nevertheless, I started “Seafire”.

Oh well.

Let me start by saying that I liked the world and the idea behind the book and ultimately gave the book 3.5 stars, which is not a bad rating. But I was very underwhelmed.

My biggest problem with “Seafire” came from the prologue. The prologue should not have been written. It gave us the background to the novel, explained why the characters were who they were, etc. The whole prologue was just a huge chunk of exposition. Instead, it would have been better to weave in that information into the plot through flashbacks - even that device would have been better. The readers would have been left to guess why Caledonia Styx was the way she was and why she hated Bullets so much.

Instead, everything was laid out in front of us in the prologue. More so, Caledonia is not that young in the prologue to make a mistake that big. If someone kept telling you all your life that those people were not to be trusted, would you have trusted one of them after five minutes of meeting them?

I don’t think so.

The prologue of “Seafire” annoyed me so much, I was getting stressed, thinking that the book would be like that as well. Thankfully it was not.

I do not think that Pisces would have been as trusting as we were led to believe in the book. Her insistence to trust someone who saved her life was valid but a bit too exaggerated. I even was confused by the timeline between she was off the ship and then back on it as it felt as if it was minutes but obviously could not have been. That was a weird timeline.

Certain parts of the book are really well developed. For example, everything that has to do with the navigation and running the ship was described in much detail and fabulous to read. There were certain things though, like running water in showers on board of the ship that seemed a bit too out of place, when everything else was just bunk beds and wooden furniture. (Well, I get that the author wanted to keep her girls clean, but it stuck out to me.)

The world building was intriguing, but very few things were explained. I went into the book thinking that it was a piracy age book, a colonist era, so to say. But there were mentions of the old world, and some of the technology was apparently inherited from a different time period, so the book should be classified as more of a dystopian adventure book, rather than fantasy. There were no fantasy elements in it, no magic, no supernatural abilities. Can’t say I was too let down by the lack of those, but “Seafire” turned out to be not what I had expected.

My second pet peeve with the book - besides the unfortunate prologue - was the love plotline. “Seafire” is full of teen girls, who live and fight side by side. Some of the same sex relationships were implied, but almost nothing stated outright. I was entirely sure that Caledonia was in love with her best friend and was in the relationship with her until another person came into the picture. The way the author kept throwing Caledonia together with another person felt as if she was trying to create a love triangle on purpose. But since nothing that Caledonia did or said reflected her true feelings - except for her eternal guilt for what had happened - it was really frustrating.

Do not get me wrong - I did like other characters and other pairings, but I assumed that the book written by a queer author would have more queer relationships in it. Big, visible, spelt out relationships, and not just a hint here or there. I think there was only one same-sex kiss in the book, but even that was not between lovers. I know that it can be argued that “Seafire” is not about sexuality or coming out - and I agree with that and would love to have any book in any genre with characters who just naturally happen to be in love, regardless of gender or sexuality, and not a coming of age story in a contemporary setting - but when you have the plot where all prerequisites of it exist, but the book still goes like “Nah, they are just BFFs who have been through a lot”, that is a tad upsetting.

I do want to stress that I adored the concept of “Seafire”, and all the action in the book. I was there for epic sea battles, and we got them. I did have some problems with the execution, but the way the book left off, I am very excited about the sequel. I want more books like “Seafire”. I am just sad that it did not fully live up to my expectations.

Overall, “Seafire” was a fun read, and I am very grateful to Penguin Random House Canada for providing me with an ARC.

“Seafire” is coming out on August 28, 2018.

Rating: 3.5 stars

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Blog: ARC August TBR

ARC August Guess what I am doing in August? ?

A book blogger friend at Read.Sleep.Repeat is hosting an annual ARC August challenge, and I decided to participate! This means that in the month of August I have to try and read as many ARCs as I can. It is a great way to tackle some of those books that have been sitting on my shelf.

There will be a readathon on August 4-5, which I doubt I would be able to participate in since I will be in NYC, but I will try. There is also going to be a bookish bingo, that I am very excited about! And the best part - you can potentially win some bookish prizes!! ?

Use hashtag #ARCAugust on social media to track your progress and see how others are doing. (You can follow me @foxcloudsblog on Twitter and Instagram.)

Now, onto my ARC August TBR.

My main goal is to read a bunch of eARCs that I have sitting on my Kindle - and I have a lot of them. Some of them have been waiting to be read for months. (It is making me rather anxious.) But of course, I have physical ARCs on my TBR too.

My top priorities are "City of Ghosts" by Victoria Schwab, "The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein" by Kiersten White, and "Seafire" by Natalie C. Parker. The rest I will read if I have time. (I hope I will as I am very excited about all of these!)

*"The Unbinding of Mary Reade" is actually not an ARC. This is the final copy from the library, but I was sent an eARC of this book, I just didn't read it on time in June. ?

ARC August TBR

Aren't they all wonderful books? ?? Can't wait to start ARC August!

I will have an ARC August TBR video on my channel next week.

Cheers!

N.

My book reviews

Book Review: "The Savior's Champion" (The Savior's Series #1) by Jenna Moreci

The Savior's Champion  

I received an advance copy of The Savior’s Champion from the author in return for an honest review.

 

I have been following Jenna on YouTube for some time and heard good things about her first book, Eve: The Awakening, but I never had a chance to read her writing. Jenna is a fellow authortuber, and her writing advice videos are hilarious and on point. So, naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to read an ARC of her new upcoming novel The Savior’s Champion.

 

Synopsis

 

Tobias Kaya doesn't care about The Savior. He doesn't care that She's the Ruler of the realm or that She purified the land, and he certainly doesn't care that She's of age to be married. But when competing for Her hand proves to be his last chance to save his family, he’s forced to make The Savior his priority.

 

Now Tobias is thrown into the Sovereign’s Tournament with nineteen other men, and each of them is fighting—and killing—for the chance to rule at The Savior's side. Instantly his world is plagued with violence, treachery, and manipulation, revealing the hidden ugliness of his proud realm. And when his circumstances seem especially dire, he stumbles into an unexpected romance, one that opens him up to unimaginable dangers and darkness.

 

Review

 

I have a lot of thoughts about The Savior’s Champion - some of them are a bit contradictory, in fact. That’s why this review took me so long to put together. I think it is an excellent book, in certain aspects, but rather weak in the others. Most importantly though, it is a very memorable and exciting book. Something that I haven’t been able to say about a self-published book in a long while.

 

I often fall prey to intriguing summaries and premises but then get disappointed, quite often in fact, by the book itself. I was extremely relieved when I realized that The Savior’s Champion held my attention from the very start.

 

The prologue and first chapter serve as scene setters; they are engaging enough, but not too stunning, I am afraid to say. Which explains why some people after reading 1-3 chapters from Jenna’s website, ended up giving the whole book lower rating. In my opinion, even though the purpose of a prologue is clear once you get halfway through the book - or maybe even sooner, - it feels weak compared to later chapters.

 

I did not like Tobias from the very beginning, but I grew to like him way more in later chapters, once his morality and goodness of character began to shine. He did get a bit whiny, in my opinion, at the very end - but he went through a lot, so I guess it is understandable and realistic.

 

I loved all of the female characters in The Savior’s Champion, and I think Jenna did a great job creating a pleiad of strong women. Even secondary female characters were well developed and had their distinct storylines and purpose. I loved Leila from the start - her fierceness and strength, just like her name, reminded me of Princess Leia. Leila can stand up for herself and does not need rescuing (for the most part). In fact, she quite often rescued Tobias and others. That was so much fun to read.

 

All women in The Savior’s Champion were well-written, except for the two most important women in Tobias’ life: his mother and sister. And this is where I had a problem.

 

Tobias’ mother throughout the beginning of the book was only concerned about keeping Tobias away from the championship. For no reason. As for Naomi, her only purpose in the book seemed to be of an unfortunate “cripple” to provide Tobias with an excuse to enter the competition. Although it may sound like a legitimate and noble reason, the fact that we did not get to learn anything about Naomi or her relationship with Tobias - although he thought and talked about her during the tournament - sours it. It feels as if the disability and disfigurement were used as a plot device. I understand why, but I think it should have been handled better. (There is a connection between what happened to Naomi and Tobias’ mother’s comments and the plot line. However, I feel that it was not explained at the end of the novel. We were left hanging there.)

 

Same goes for LGBTQ+ representation. There is no real conversation in the book in regards to sexuality. There were characters who mentioned having sex with the members of their own gender, but it was either hidden or mentioned in an offhand way, which did not sit well with me. I fully understand that the purpose of the championship was for men to compete against each other for a woman - which is as heteronormative as it can be - but I was still hoping for better representation. And, most certainly, better handling of the topic. I am tired of reading about unhappy gay couples or promiscuity. Just saying. It was not something shocking given the plot of The Savior’s Champion, but I just hoped for better representation.

 

Now onto the things, that I really liked.

 

The action, oh goodness, the action! Once you get past those two or three chapters at the very beginning, you are constantly kept on your toes. The first death came as such a big shock; I had to do a double take. I just couldn’t believe it would happen this soon and that quickly. And let me tell you, Jenna seems to enjoy killing and torturing her characters. It took me some time to realize that I should stop caring for anyone beyond the main protagonists as everyone would get killed eventually.  

 

The Savior’s Champion reminded me of a weird mix of Royal Battle, Kill Bill, and The Gladiator. The book is full of action, blood, death, gore, more death, more gore, etc. I must give it to the author, as she created the most intricate and creative set of challenges (aka ways to kill off her characters). The Savior’s Campion is not a tiny book - I think it is probably about 90K words judging by the time it took me to read it - but the narrative keeps you hooked as you are often deceived into thinking there is a break in torture, but it is only an illusion.

 

I think this book has one of the best executions of action and fight scenes I have read in awhile! Some dialogues were brilliant too, very snarky and funny. There is, however, a lot of swearing and crudeness that almost put me off. But once again, it served very well for the setting and atmosphere of the book. Some tagged it as Young Adult on GoodReads, but I disagree. The characters are between 18-21 years old, plus there are older characters too, and considering mentions of sex, level of violence and swearing, it is more of a New Adult or even an Adult novel.

 

The world itself is reminiscent of Ancient Rome or Ancient Greece. The society's structure and the tournament - just like that of a gladiators’ era. Even though it is a fantasy novel, the magic is only present in the powers of The Saviour, which takes the form of a blessing or a transfer of powers. The Saviour is treated like a goddess, although she is not referred to as one, and quite often characters exclaimed 'oh my God', which I found a bit confusing, as there was no depiction of religion in this world. All people seem to believe in is The Saviour’s powers - and that’s all.

 

The romance was not too bad either - definitely a slow burn, which is excellent, as I am not a huge fan of romance-focused books and “instalove” as a trope should die already. There was a lot of teasing and sexy innuendo, once again only heteronormative, naturally, but it was well written.

 

The main plot twist was good, but I figured it out very soon into the book. However, I must say, I enjoyed the way Jenna weaved different hints and plot lines together in The Savior’s Champion from the very beginning. Considering how well put together all the plot lines are, I was a bit let down by the ending. The revelation scene was perfect, but what followed was not a real resolution, but more of an open ending. And I was a 100% sure that it was going to be a stand-alone.

 

Now I feel cheated, as I need a sequel because we were left hanging, but as far as I know, Jenna is currently writing a companion novel and not the sequel. I am not sure what to make of it. Surely, The Savior’s Champion ended well for certain characters, but for the kingdom - not so well. Plus, certain things were hinted at but never explained.

 

This is why I was torn for some time about what rating to give this book. The Savior’s Champion held my attention enough that I didn’t notice how fast I went through it, which is usually the sign of 4 star read. But the representation and small things that could have been improved disappointed me. My rating overall is the representation of that conflict. It is a solid start of a series if it is what it is, but I was also left disappointed in certain aspects.

 

Regardless of my conflicted thoughts, I decided to give this book a bit of a higher rating on GoodReads and Amazon, as it has a well-constructed plot, and it is very option something that lacks in the books of late. I am very grateful to Jenna for giving me an opportunity to read and review The Savior’s Champion, and I hope to read more of her books soon!

 

 

Rating: 3.5 stars

 

P.S. I feel, as if it is one of my longest reviews to date - oh boy!

 

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Book review: "Keeper" by Kim Chance

  Keeper

I received an ARC of "Keeper" from the author during the giveaway on Twitter and promised to provide a free and honest review in exchange.

Description

 

Magic always leaves a mark.

 

When the ghost of a 200-year-old witch attacks her on the road, sixteen-year-old bookworm Lainey Styles is determined to find a logical explanation. But even with the impossible staring her in the face, Lainey refuses to buy in to all that “hocus pocus nonsense”—until she finds a photograph linking the witch to her dead mother.

After the library archives and even Google come up empty, Lainey gives in and consults a psychic. There she discovers that, like her mother, she’s a Keeper: a witch with the exclusive ability to unlock and wield the Grimoire, a dangerous spell book. But the Grimoire is missing, stolen years ago by a malevolent warlock who is desperate for a spell locked inside it—a spell that would allow him to siphon away the world's magic.

 

With the help of her comic-book-loving, adventure-hungry best friend and an enigmatic but admittedly handsome street fighter, Lainey must leave behind her life of books and studying to prepare for the biggest test of all: stealing back the book.

 

Review

 

I have been following Kim Chance on social media, and especially YouTube, for a while, so I knew of "Keeper" way before the release date. It is Kim’s debut novel that she spent years working on. So, I was very pumped to read the book. However, my opinions are all mine and are unaffected by the fact that I like Kim Chance as a person and fellow AuthorTuber.

 

Allow me to start my review by stating that for a debut novel - and I was given an ARC, so not the final version - it is a very well put together book. The writing flows well, and the plot has enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes.

 

However, I struggled with Lainey’s character. She is very likeable, but I found it hard to like her myself. She seemed to be very all over the place and very gullible, especially when it came to the sudden reveal of her powers. Her relationship with her uncle is, however, wonderfully written, and I adored it.

 

Maggie was my favourite in the book. She is very “no-nonsense” and stands by Lainey’s side through thick and thin. And this type of friendship is really precious.

 

I liked the character of Ty too, although his character development did not go the way I expected it to. The romantic attraction and the first meeting between Lainey and Ty were very cliched, although well executed if you are into contemporary romance, but the big twist that came at the end of the book was hardly surprising. Although Kim did a great job with inserting a couple of red herrings. The ending saddened me, as I felt that it went against the nature of the story but it was a bold move, so I approve it from the writing perspective.

 

There are a lot of dreams and flashback scenes in "Keeper" that add an atmosphere of southern gothic to the story - those were my favourite parts of the book. I wish there had been more elements like that and that they had led to a darker type of a story. I have a feeling as if the author wanted to both write this story and not hurt her characters way too much. I definitely would have preferred "Keeper" to be darker as it had a lot of promises of dark urban fantasy, but failed to deliver it to my taste. (When I think of southern gothic, I think of Anne Rice and Poppy Z. Brite - so, yes, my expectations of it are rather high.)

 

Like I said already, "Keeper" is a well put together novel. However, it has way too many cliches and tropes for my liking. Its saving grace is rather solid prose for a debut novel and the aspects of southern gothic which is not too common in YA literature. It is a very easy read with some lovely humourous dialogues between Lainey and Maggie, but while reading, I had trouble fully grasping the concept of Grimoire or why the Master wanted it so badly, and how come some of the magic folk obeyed him, while others defied him. I felt that it was a bit too jumbled in the narrative, and made it difficult to follow. I think that the aspect of the supernatural world existing in parallel with our world should have been explained and developed better.

 

"Keeper" has an absolutely stunning cover. And I am saying this as someone who dislikes green colour! Kim has a video on her channel, in which she talks about the development of the cover, and I recommend you watch it.

 

As it stands right now, "Keeper" is a stand-alone novel. However, the ending is done in the way that it offers a possibility of a sequel. I hope that Kim gets an opportunity to write and publish the sequel, as it would wrap up some loose ends left. I am looking forward to seeing what kind of book Kim will write next.

 

In spite of my opinion regarding "Keeper" and writing style, I am very grateful to Kim for providing me with an opportunity to read and review her book.

 

Rating: 3 stars

 

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Book review: "Ibuki" by Kathryn Sommerlot

Ibuki  

I have requested a copy of “Ibuki” from NetGalley. It was marked as LGBTQIA and Fantasy read, which is one of my favourite genre combinations.

Description

 

Ibuki: the gift of healing through breath. Chiasa has possessed the ability since childhood and shares it with her father as they care for their Inuru community. Chiasa has never doubted the stability of her simple life. That is, until Namika, a water-gifted priestess, shows up outside the Ibuki shrine gates with information promising Chiasa’s doom.

 

With Namika’s help, Chiasa is determined to find the secrets behind the ritual that will claim her life, but her growing feelings toward the other woman reach beyond her control, adding to the confusion. Time is rapidly running out, and Chiasa can’t seem to sort out the lies woven through the magic of Inuru and its emperor.

 

Caught in a tangled web of immortality, betrayal, and desire, Chiasa must find the right people to trust if she hopes to stop the ritual—or she will pay the consequences.

 

Review

 

“Ibuki” is a novella long story set in a semi-alternative version of Imperial Japan. The magic in this world is elemental, and only few priests and priestess possess it. It reminded me a lot of various anime series that I watched years ago. The magic system is integrated seamlessly into the narrative and I liked the depictions of the life and everyday tasks that Chiasa had to do.

 

However, the story lacks depth, and the narrative is rather bland, once you look past trite metaphors and cliches. Even the big twist at the end of the story was obvious from ahead and made me only roll my eyes. There was almost no tension or suspense, and the ending didn’t surprise me at all.

 

“Ibuki” is a sweet story if you are okay with cliches and glaring plot holes. I did not find the relationship believable but it was not the worst I read in a short story.

 

I love Japanese culture and language and I studied it for some time years ago. It was lovely to read a story set in Japan, however, I did have issues with the writing.

 

In spite of my opinions on the writing, I am thankful to the publisher for giving me an opportunity to read and review “Ibuki”.

 

Rating: 2.75 stars

 

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Book review: Petra by Marianna Coppo

Petra  

Petra by Marianna Coppo

 

Publication Date: 06 Feb 2018

Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada, Tundra Books

Genre: Children's Fiction

 

Description

 

The humorous adventures of an irresistible little rock who finds herself in constantly changing circumstances, Petra is a picture book that celebrates the power of perspective and believing in yourself.

 

Review

 

I rarely read picture books and, more so, request them for review but Petra looked too cute to pass on. I requested a digital copy from NetGalley and was very happy to be approved for it.

 

I loved Petra! It is an adorable narrative about a little rock that dreams of being many different things. The art looks like it is done with watercolours and has a very simple and clean design. It made me want to a have a sticker with Petra, the rock. It is short but, nevertheless, meaningful in its message: you can be anything or anyone you want if you dream of it! I thought it was well executed. If I had any kids of the appropriate age, I would definitely be buying a copy of the book.

 

My only complain = the book is too short! Would love to read more about Petra’s adventures and learn what else she can be!

 

Definitely recommend.

 

Rating: starstarstarstar

 

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Book review: "Long Way Down" by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds  

I received this book from NetGalley. I requested it after reading the description and thought it would be very interesting to read. I didn’t have much hope for getting the ARC as I am not always successful with big publishers, and Long Way Down is published by Simon & Schuster Canada.

 

Long Way Down is the first book by Jason Reynolds that I have read, even though I heard about All American Boys before.

 

Short synopsis

An ode to Put the Damn Guns Down, this is National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller Jason Reynolds’s fiercely stunning novel that takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother.

 

This novel is written in verse and is saturated with grief, anger, and pain. I read it in one sitting - and this is how you are supposed to read it, in my opinion - because I couldn’t put it down. It was a very raw and emotional read that was making me more and more uncomfortable and horrified.

 

ALERT: Do not read the full synopsis on NetGalley or GoodReads as it will spoil you the whole thing. And it is too wonderful to be spoiled. I didn’t read past that first paragraph and found the prose to be very profound.

 

 

This book is a cry for help; an angry shout-out. It talks about gun violence, gang violence, poverty, loss, grief. The narrative is both heartbreaking and brutal. It strong enough to leave the mark. It sure did leave the mark on me. It is a hard to describe because it has to be experienced.

 

Read it. And weep. Because this shouldn’t be our reality in this day and age.

 

Publication Date: 17 Oct 2017

 

Links

 

Jason Reynold's website
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Book review: "Black Bird of the Gallows" by Meg Kassel

 

"Black Bird of the Gallows" is a stand-alone, young adult urban fantasy novel with lots of supernatural and even slight horror notes. Let me start the review by saying that this is the most gorgeous cover I have seen this year! I was definitely attracted to the book based on the cover and the prospect of an urban fantasy (because crows and harbingers of death? Hell ya!) and was extremely lucky to receive a NetGalley copy from Entangled Teen. The book is officially coming out on September 5th, and I will provide the links at the bottom of my review.

 

Here is the official synopsis:

 

A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.

Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human.

What's more, she knows something most don't. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.

 

I was rather excited to read this book, but, unfortunately, it did not live up to the hype. It is not a bad debut novel, but it lacked depth and solidness of the plot and characterization. The idea of the crows being the supernatural creatures and harbingers of death is not a new one but Meg Kassel takes an interesting spin on it, adding more supernatural forces into the mix. However, a lot of the explanations of the magic and the rules of it were vague, undeveloped, and the ending had a very rushed and ‘Deus Ex Machina’ feel. (Considering how many of YA books tend to have an ending that can be summarized as “well, this happened because it happened”, I am starting to think that a lot of people have never read any classic literature. Go and read the Greeks. It has all been done before.) It was not the worst ending ever but I could tell that this was going to happen a mile ahead.

 

I did not like the fact that the author decided to title every chapter - it is my personal preference not to know what is going to happen in the chapter that I am about to read as all of those titles were basically spoilers. It sometimes took out the fun out of reading the story.

 

I liked all of the characters in the book, which is rare. Well, almost everyone - I am not counting the bullies at school. Angie is lovely, and her father is one of the best supporting characters in YA, as he has both a distinctive voice and is not just a plot device, as it often happens with parents or relatives in the genre. Angie goes through some serious character development, that was well-written and thought through. Her friends are great too - they were both funny, and reliable, and supportive, and everything about them was great for the story. The relationship that they had with Angie was great and I loved how close they remained throughout it all.

 

Let’s talk about Reece now. Okay, first things first: I love angsty and dark characters. I can live off angst. However, in case with Reece it was a  bit overdone. I liked the way he was introduced in the story, as well as his background, his family, etc. But as the book progressed, we were not given any new information or anything else, the author just recycled the same facts over and over again. The plot concerning Reece, his family and the curse can be summarized in a couple of sentences. It is a very alluring plot, but it lacks depth and, ultimately, originality.

 

Have you ever watched the movie "Meet Joe Black" with Brad Pitt? Reece sometimes reminded me of Joe. The Fernandez family had a very strong vibe of Edward Cullen’s family, just on a less violent side. Overall, I did get occasional Twilight vibes from the book (a lonely, angsty girl, who comes to live with her father; a supernaturally attractive and dangerous boy; “the death follows me around” sort of thing, etc), but I guess it can be said about a lot of supernatural or urban fantasy YA books that came out after Twilight Saga (by the way, I am not fan of those books at all).

 

I am not a huge fan of “insta-love” either but it somehow worked in this book. The amount of romance was a bit too much but it was not overly too sweet. I did, however, roll my eyes whenever those kids wanted to make out when the world was basically going to an end around them.

 

I found a couple of copy-editorial mistakes, where things disappeared or appeared out of blue, but since I was reading the ARC, I can not tell if those made it into the final version.

 

I have always loved crows but this books just reinforced my love for these birds. I will never look at the bees in the same way, though.

 

I would have been able to deal with all of those if the style was more solid. The author’s writing suffers from a very common mistake of ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’. The details of the curse are repeated over and over, as well as descriptions of things that happen at school, during the day, etc. Even with the first POV, it is still possible to avoid that. There was a whole passage almost at the very end of the book which was the repeated information, almost word to word, to what the characters had said just a page ago. It was glaringly obvious and redundant. A lot of things that happened during “the tragedy event” were told instead of described, and some of the details were so vague that I felt as if the author rushed through this part, when it should have been one of the major parts of the book.

 

Like I said, "Black Bird of the Gallows" is a debut novel, not the worst but not the best either. I found it cute, but not too original. It was refreshing to read a stand alone novel though. I do feel that the author has a potential to produce great stories, but lacks the skill at this point. Will definitely keep an eye on her future projects.

 

In spite of my opinion of the book, I do appreciate the opportunity provided to me by Entangled Teen to read and review the ARC.

 

Personal rating: ~ 3 stars

 

More of my reviews on my blog.

 

Buy the book:

Black Bird of the Gallows