Book Review: Plank’s Law

Plank’s Law
By Lesley Choyce

My Edition:
ARC paperback, 179 pages
2017, Orca Book Publishers
ISBN: 9781459812499
Expected Publication Date: September 12, 2017

Trevor has known for a year that he has Huntington’s disease, but when he’s sixteen he finds out he might only have a year left to live. Wafting between apathy and depression, Trevor isn’t doing much with what could be his last days on earth, until he meets ninety-three year old, Plank. The old man gives Trevor some simple advice: just live. Trevor finally begins to make the most out of his time and starts by speaking to the beautiful cancer patient he’s often seen at the hospital, Sara.

I requested this book from the LibraryThing giveaway because even though the protagonist is sixteen, the book was giving me middle-grade vibes and also I thought it would be moving. Unfortunately, this book was a huge flop for me.

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Book Review: The Serpent King

The Serpent King
By Jeff Zentner

My Edition:
Paperback, 372 pages
Andersen Press, 2016
ISBN: 9781783443819

Dill’s snake-handling, priest father is in prison and he’s become a pariah at school, so he clings to the little moments he has with his two friends, Travis and Lydia. But their senior year of high school is starting and Lydia’s dreams of leaving their small town in Tennessee are making Dill realize how dark his life will become without her. Feeling trapped and left behind, the darkness from Dill’s past threatens to overwhelm him.

As part of my genre switch up challenge (I really need to come up with a more concise name for this damn thing – any suggestions?) I asked my friend Chels to recommend a YA contemporary  with NO LOVE TRIANGLES (I don’t have time for that shit, bro) and this is what she sent me for Christmas. If there’s anyone I trust to recommend YA based on my stipulations, it’s her. This book did not disappoint!

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Judging A Book By Its Cover: Prisoner of the Palace

This is my weekly post where I highlight and appreciate cover designs and the general physical appearance of books. We all judge book covers to some extent. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I have purchased special editions of books or multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

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Book Review: Piratica

Piratica
(Being a Daring Tale of a Singular Girl’s Adventure Upon the High Seas)
By My Queen Tanith Lee

My Edition:
Hardcover, 288 pages
2003, Dutton Children’s Books
ISBN: 0525473246

Art has been banished to the Angels Academy for the last six years of her life, learning deportment and other ladylike qualities that bore her to death. A fall down the stairs and a knock to the head suddenly causes her to remember her childhood, which was spent at her mother’s side on a pirate ship. Art quickly escapes the academy, finds her mother’s old crew and revives their spirits by basically forcing them back into a life of piracy as she lives in the spirit of her legendary mother, Piratica.

-screams- TANITH! Er, ok, so, I’ve read a ton of middle-grade this month and, sadly, none of it has impressed me. It was time for a change and I knew just what would do the trick – Tanith Lee! I’ve been sitting on this Piratica series for FAR too long and I don’t know why. I love how atmospheric her Claidi series is and my semi-recent re-read of The Unicorn Trilogy made me recall the special place her middle-grade/teen (I feel like all these series fall somewhere in between) books have in my crusty little heart.

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Judging A Book By Its Cover: Gemina

This is my weekly post where I highlight and appreciate cover designs and the general physical appearance of books. We all judge book covers to some extent. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I have purchased special editions of books or multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

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Book Review: Illuminae

Illuminae
By Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

My Edition:
Hardcover, 599 pages
2015, Knopf
ISBN: 9780553499117

When Kady and Ezra’s home planet is brutally attacked by a competitor in the mining industry, they are lucky to escape the planet alive when a nearby group of military ships responds to their distress call. The small fleet of three ships houses the refugees and they’re fleeing for their lives as one of the enemy ships pursues them. Any useful refugees are quickly conscripted as they try to outrun the enemy, but after a tragic incident, it becomes clear that all is not well in their fleet. Kady, expert hacker, works to find out the truth as Ezra trains to become a fighter pilot. The secrets they uncover are more deadly than the enemy ship that’s hot on their trail.

Ok, my blurb is shit, but there’s a lot going down in this book and it’s hard to sum up without spoiling anything – though why I even tried to sum up Illuminae is beyond me because even if you haven’t read this, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of it and at least have some idea what it’s about. I should have just said, crazy shit goes down in space and is revealed to readers through found documents.

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Book Review: Timekeeper

Timekeeper
By Tara Sim

My Edition:
E-book, 424 pages (hardcover)
2016, Sky Pony Press
ISBN: 9781510706187 (hardcover)
Expected Publication Date: November, 18 2016

I received this book for free from Sky Pony Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.

In an alternate version of Victorian England, time is controlled by clock towers and if one is destroyed, a whole town could be stopped, its citizens trapped, possibly forever. At seventeen, Danny Hart is one of the youngest mechanics to earn his license to maintain clock towers and the flow of time they create. His father is trapped in a stopped town and Danny is desperate to get a position working on the new tower being built, in hopes that it will free the town and his father. But Danny’s obsession with the new tower has instead landed him in the small town of Enfield with a tower that seems to have one problem after another. There Danny meets a mysterious boy who turns out to be a clock spirit and as Danny falls head over heels for him, he’ll risk everything he’s worked for in order for them to be together.

I was very excited about the premise of this book. I love steampunk stories and with the added elements of clock spirits and a gay protagonist, I figured this book would really wow me. Unfortunately, I didn’t care for any of the characters and that left the story feeling lackluster.

Danny felt less like a character and more like a stereotype. Rather possessing a solid personality that evoked empathy in me for his situation, Danny felt whiny and almost pathetic. He felt people around him were treating him like a child, but he was acting like one.  That, paired with the fact that his homosexuality felt more like a stereotypical personality trait than a real part of who he was, made it very hard for me to immerse myself in his life. He is also apparently a prodigy at repairing these clocks, yet (aside from the very end of the book where he randomly develops superpowers) we’re never given any evidence of this other than people talking about how he’s the youngest mechanic ever.

Colton, the clock spirit, didn’t stand out either. He’s essentially a pretty boy for Danny to fall “in love” with. He has no real personality other than curious, because he’s not human and so he doesn’t understand much about human life – despite saying he’s watched the people of his town for an unknowable amount of time. He feels overly innocent (or perhaps ignorant is the right word?) and it makes his relationship with Danny awkward and forced. Their bond borders on insta-love with Danny feeling immediately comfortable around Colton, which leads to them chatting a bit, and then suddenly they’re in love.

The story is mostly from Danny’s perspective, though it is broken up here and there by some interludes about the gods and how time was managed before it fell into human hands. There are also a couple random chapters voiced by a few of Danny’s enemies, but rather than deepen those characters, those chapters felt abrupt and left me wondering why we only heard from them once or twice.

I did like the idea of a clock tower controlling the time of the town it resided in and I found it interesting that a town could stop. I was fuzzy on the details of a stopped town though. Towards the end, we do get a feel for what it’s like inside a stopped town, but the rules of how they work seemed arbitrary and changeable based on what Danny needed to be able to accomplish.

The ending wrapped the book up with a neat bow and made me roll my eyes. Since I never cared for Danny, the conclusion wasn’t satisfying because at that point I didn’t care if he ended up with everything he wanted or not. I do have questions about how one maintains a relationship with someone who is actually made of time, but I don’t want to know badly enough to read another book, should this be made into a series. I wasn’t impressed, but I didn’t hate the book.

If you’re looking for a light, LGBT YA read with some steampunk and semi-magical elements thrown in, I’d recommend checking this out.

You can visit Tara’s website here.

Book Review: Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass
By Sarah J. Maas

My Edition:
Paperback, 404 pages
2012, Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9781408832332

Celaena Sardothien is the most badass assassin in all the land, though aside from her title of “Adarlan’s Assassin” we’re given little evidence of this. Young, achingly handsome Prince Dorian, with his piercing sapphire eyes, and his equally young and devastatingly handsome captain of the guard, Chaol, drag her from the depths of a salt mine where she’s been slaving away for a year. The King will hold a tourney, comprised mostly of criminals who he gives almost free reign of his castle to, in order to choose a champion to do his dirty work. Can Celaena eliminate her competition to regain her freedom, tactfully handle the oodles of compliments she receives from two sexy men, and pick which sexy man she’ll fall in love with, all while embarking on a side quest from an ancient ghost?

If you can’t already tell, I wasn’t a fan of this book (and I realize I’m in the minority on this), so if you don’t want to read my rant, here’s the short version: the characters were cardboard cutouts and walking clichés, the dialogue was clunky and full of our heroine and heroes constantly interrupting important conversations with thoughts of how attractive they find each other, and the plot had too many elements with no real focus. I feel like Maas wasted an opportunity to actually portray a badass young assassin and instead wrote a half-assed love triangle set inside a castle and called it a fantasy novel.

Here are a few highlights from my Twitter:

Started a YA novel. Page two and I’m hearing about how beautiful our heroine is 😧

YA adventures continue: page 6, a handsome youth appears! Page 8: another boy! This one “achingly handsome”!

Special snowflake eyes, glimmering golden hair, thin: our heroine is a strikingly lovely, highly skilled, totally average teen! Even when she’s so thin she’s skeletal, she’s still so beautiful!

Yes, I too, often remark mid conversation on someone’s looks when it’s not at all relevant to what I’m discussing.

Confirmed by our hero, our heroine is still beautiful even when sweaty! Thank gourd!

Our heroine is wild and has “impossible anger.” What even does that mean?

Hero B pauses his thoughts of important political intrigue to think about our beautiful, strong but secretly fragile, heroine.

Guest tweet by @redstarreviews: he ponders how her inner brokenness draws him to her while her rough sarcastic exterior confuses his emotions….

I struggled to gather my thoughts on this book. I know it is part of an incredibly popular series and while I don’t read YA as often as I used to, I do still enjoy the genre. Throne of Glass could have featured an intimidating, strong-willed female lead delivering some serious ass kickings. Instead we’re beaten about the head with Celaena’s title of “Adarlan’s Assassin” (re: the best in all the land at only eighteen) but aside from a few fleeting scenes, readers are never given any real taste of her skills or even her past. I at least wanted to know about who she’s killed in the past! Mass failed to impress me with her lead character, to make me feel invested in the story and to excite me.

The majority of the book follows the “tell, don’t show” format. We’re constantly told how beautiful the three young heroes of our love triangle are, what they’re wearing, and how attractive they find each other. Snore! While romance isn’t my genre of choice, if it had at least been well written, I would have considered this book to have some redeeming quality. But the characters lacked personality and their “relationships” lacked depth.

Celaena wavers between a petulant teen starved for the attention of the sexy men who are actually her captors and a tough girl who occasionally thinks of murdering people and escaping. She wants to be seen as a serious threat, but she also wants to be invited to royal parties and play dress up. She wants to hide in her room and read, but really she’s just lonely and wishing she had friends! None of her thoughts or actions solidified her personality for me. Dorian and Chaol are just pretty faces that waver between not trusting an assassin (as they shouldn’t, if she were actually a threat) and wanting to smooch her.

The dialogue is clunky and unrealistic. As I mentioned in some of my tweets, our characters often stop serious conversations to remark, mentally or aloud, about how attractive they find each other. Celaena also fails to exhibit her strong, independent personality with gems like this:

(A competitor tells her that he thought she’d have run off. Celaena “trembles with rage” and Chaol tells her to save it.)

“I’m going to kill him,” she breathed.

“No, you’re not. If you want to shut him up, then beat him. He’s just a brute from the king’s army – don’t waste your strength on hating him.”

She rolled her eyes. “Thank you so much for interfering on my behalf.”

“You don’t need me to rescue you.”

“It still would have been nice.”

Ok what!? Chaol says it lightly, but yes, she shouldn’t need rescuing. ALSO RESCUING FROM WHAT? Ahem – sorry. But seriously, her competitor did nothing but comment that he thought she’d have abandoned the competition. Its conversations and actions like that which stopped Celaena from being a convincing character.

The whole competition aspect of the story didn’t make sense either. I could see no reason why the king would have two dozen or so people competing for the position as lead assassin and allow them (many of whom were known criminals) free reign of his castle and attendance to royal parties. Because there were so many characters and so many weekly skill tests, most of them – characters and tests alike – are skimmed over, draining any tension from this story line and leaving Celaena a lot of down time (for parties and pining over cuties!)

On top of all this muck, there’s a side plot involving the ghosts of dead royalty, faeries, outlawed magic, and evil beasts. Maas spread herself too thin trying to tackle too many subjects and instead left them all feeling haphazard and unfinished.

If you read my whole review – I applaud you! I just had too many thoughts on this book and unfortunately, none of them were pleasant. I can say the cover art is gorgeous though – it’s certainly a beautiful looking series!

You can find Ms. Maas on the internet.

Book Review: Golden Son

Golden Son
By Pierce Brown

Not My Edition:
Hardcover, 446 pages
2015, Del Rey
ISBN: 9780345539816

Golden Son takes place two years after Red Rising. Darrow has gone through further training at the Academy, this time in a mock-war in space. But Darrow is tricked and when he loses the final battle, his Gold patron loses faith in him. This could devastate his plans to take down the society that has repressed his people for generations. But the tables turn once again and Darrow sees his chance to start a real war between all the colors. 

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