Starswept by Mary Fan

Starswept

Starswept by Mary Fan

Published by Snowy Wings; Scheduled for August 29th

Genre: Young Adult, Sci-fi

Pages: 400

I just realized the irony of this: the last two books I read were called Starswept and Starfish, both with Asian MC’s! How coincidental. I love it.

Starswept by Mary Fan

All the Wrong Chords Book

In 2157, the Adryil—an advanced race of telepathic humanoids—contacted Earth. A century later, 15-year-old violist Iris Lei considers herself lucky to attend Papilio, a prestigious performing arts school powered by their technology. Born penniless, Iris’s one shot at a better life is to attract an Adryil patron. But only the best get hired, and competition is fierce.

A sudden encounter with an Adryil boy upends her world. Iris longs to learn about him and his faraway realm, but after the authorities arrest him for trespassing, the only evidence she has of his existence is the mysterious alien device he slipped to her.

When she starts hearing his voice in her head, she wonders if her world of backstabbing artists and pressure for perfection is driving her insane. Then, she discovers that her visions of him are real—by way of telepathy—and soon finds herself lost in the kind of impossible love she depicts in her music.

But even as their bond deepens, Iris realizes that he’s hiding something from her—and it’s dangerous. Her quest for answers leads her past her sheltered world to a strange planet lightyears away, where she uncovers secrets about Earth’s alien allies that shatter everything she knows.

Starswept by Mary Fan

I was immediately intrigued by the premise of Starswept. I honestly went into it expecting to love it more than I did. But there is a lot to love here, and the premise is a huge part of that.

First, there’s a lot going on. It’s dystopian, there are aliens, there’s this whole music school element. It doesn’t seem like it should all mesh but it does, very well for me.

The music school where we start is great because it feels almost commonplace, though it’s run, to a degree, by aliens and holograms. There’s so much pressure, so much realistic detail of band kids, and I really enjoyed that. The descriptions of the school, the performances, are all beautiful to me.

I found the dystopian aspect of this fascinating, though for the most part I’m burnt out on that. I love that this is an entirely new take on that. Aliens that could easily have taken over Earth don’t, because they’re so intrigued by human art. Instead they “sponsor” humans they like, and bring them to their planet. Meanwhile, everyone on Earth has it pretty terrible.

I like the aliens, too. I think their powers are fun and interesting, and the way they’ve chosen to interact with Earthlings is very cool.

So, overall, I like the story very much. I will say I’m confused because as far as I’m aware, this isn’t part of a series? Or at least it wasn’t introduced to me that way. If this is a stand alone book, the entire world remains unresolved at the end. That may seem like a spoiler, but I think it’s important to know because I would have liked to have known. I am left feeling distinctly unfulfilled because the parts with closure weren’t the parts I cared about.

The Characters

Our narrator, Iris, I have mixed feelings on. I think she could be a little boring at times, but I did root for her, which is mostly what I’m looking for. The problem for me is that I’m mostly interested in the story, the world that has been built, but the big focus is on Iris and Damiul, and I couldn’t really get invested in either of them.

Damiul is the alien that Iris meets. I wanted to like this so much, I am SUCH a sucker for interstellar love. This was a little too insta-love for me. There was a lot going on behind the scenes that we didn’t see, we saw few of their meetings. But they were short and Damiul had to keep so much from Iris that their love didn’t excite me, it confused me. I can understand how it happened, when we have a girl so obsessed with finding “her prince,” but I couldn’t connect with their love story.

My two favorite characters are side characters, and both are only around for one half of the book or the other. I love Milo, Iris’s best friend on Earth. He’s fun, and considerably less naive. Then, on Adryil, we meet Cara, whom I also adore.

Starswept by Mary Fan

Overall, I liked it. The descriptions were beautiful. The world-building, especially during the second half, are phenomenal.

There are some pacing issues, and I think that’s the biggest problem I’m having overall. Some parts moved quickly and were really fascinating, some parts were too slow and it was hard to stay engrossed in the world.

Starswept by Mary Fan

Is that I would have LOVED for this to be split into two books. I think if the story between Iris and Damiul had been given more time to develop, I could have been on board with them. And I will be very disappointed if there is no closure for the world itself.

Thanks to NetGalley for advanced access to this book in exchange for an honest review!

Nyxia novel

Nyxia: I’m Conflicted

Nyxia (The Nyxia Triad #1) by Scott Reintgen

Published by Crown Books; scheduled for September 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Sci-fi

Pages: 384

I was super intrigued by the premise of Nyxia, and after a reading/blogging slump after a bad mental health week, I was so excited to jump into it! It met my expectations in some areas, missed in others, so here’s a pro/con list review for you! A little different from my usual format.

Nyxia by Scott Reingten

All the Wrong Chords Book

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.

Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden–a planet that Babel has kept hidden–where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human. 

Pro:

I thought this was a really cool concept, and I was intrigued right away. I love the space travel, the competition between kids who thought they were shoo-ins. The people who have recruited you maybe not being who they seem. I love it. And there is a lot to love about the way it was handled.

Con:

Now I want to start by saying I am in no way trying to insult anyone, at all, whatsoever. This isn’t even a con. It’s a con-ish. I immediately saw the bible references in the description, Eden, Babel, etc. I am not a religious person, and I’m not currently, particularly interested in reading biblical allegory. I asked on Goodreads, before reading, whether the story was religious, and the author answered me (which is so polite, so wonderful) and gave me a really awesome, full description saying that the story wasn’t necessarily an allegory.

There are some pretty heavy undertones, though. The story of Babel being turned upside down with the kids all coming together to speak the same language, as opposed to the opposite. Rest days being called the Sabbath. Some bible quotes. What threw me off is that this was never really explained? They’re a company called Babel, on a ship called Genesis, going to a planet called Eden, populated with people they’ve called the Adamites. That’s pretty explicit, right? But there’s no talk of why they’ve named anything the way they have. Is the Babel corporation trying to be/reach God? Idk. I’m only putting this out here in so much detail so you can see why it kind of threw me off, even though there’s nothing wrong with it.

All the Wrong Chords Book

Pro:

I love an ensemble cast, as I’ve spoken about before. I did enjoy the group, watching the dynamic between them twist and change throughout. I especially love that the kids are poor, or as one character describes them all, broken. They come from messed up situations, which is how Babel has convinced them to go on the mission in the first place.

 Con:

I don’t know if this is just the nature of the beast, because it’s first person from only Emmett, so we can only see through his eyes. But I didn’t get a great feel for the whole cast. It’s a decent amount of characters, but even halfway through I’d sometimes have to remind myself who one of them even was. I just didn’t care about a lot of them. With how closely Emmett interacted with them, I’d liked to have had a better feel for all of them. Especially since some of them will be returning in later books, and I know I won’t remember the characters when that time comes.

There is one point, huge spoiler so I won’t say too much, but there is a death on the ship. I should care, but I don’t. I don’t know how else to explain that. I really care about Emmett, and I care about his reactions to things, but I don’t care about the ensemble enough to care about such a huge moment, and that’s not the best.

 

All the Wrong Chords Book

Pro:

The writing is beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous. It’s first-person, present-tense, so you really get into Emmett’s head through the whole competition. His emotions come through, loud and clear. His issues with poverty are beautiful and realistic. His constant fight to grow and change while not turning into something ugly is gorgeous to watch.

Con:

I did have some issues with the pacing. I found myself occasionally getting bored, because I like my sci-fi (at least of this nature, with spaceships and crazy new substances and other planets) to be really sci-fi, and a lot of this was character driven. Which is great in its own right, and I definitely feel connected to Emmett, so there’s that. I just found the story to move too slowly in many areas.

 

Pro:

There are actually a few, but one big one right at the end had me yelling, which you know I love. I give props to any story that can make me make noise, and this definitely did.

 

Pro:

Is wonderful. The whole point is pulling kids from all different backgrounds together and forcing them to speak the same language and interact regardless of culture differences. We look at poverty/brokenness from all over the world, rather than just what that looks like in America.

 

Overall, I think there are tons of people that would/will really enjoy this book! For me, it had its hits and misses.


Contribute by Kristy Acevedo

Contribute: An Awesome Contribution to the Book World

Contribute (Holo #2) by Kristy Acevedo

Published by Jolly Fish Press; scheduled for July eleventh, 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Pages: 330

Wow! I finished both books in this series in three days. They are SO good. I also really like that they’re not too long. I’m finding YA books are getting longer and longer, and a lot of it is for no reason? These books are beautifully written and concise and exactly as long as they needed to be.

SO yesterday I wrote my review of Consider, the first book in this series, and you can read that here.

I found these books on accident, and I’m so glad! They broke my streak of bad books. The sequel did not disappoint!

Contribute by Kristy Acevedo

Contribute novel by Kristy Acevedo

Contribute by Kristy Acevedo

The holograms lied to everyone on Earth and only Alexandra Lucas knows the truth. Now she’s trapped in the year 2359 without family or friends—worse, without her anxiety medication. Alex attempts to reconcile the marvelous scenery, technological advances, and luxurious living with the knowledge that the holograms weren’t being completely honest—what else are they lying about? With a secret that could shatter her society, Alex tries to find her place among strangers, convicts, and a rebellion striving to bring the holograms down. Alex struggles to find the best way to reveal the truth and reunite with those she loves. But when surrounded by beauty and every convenience, Alex wonders if truth becomes irrelevant in a perfect world.

Contribute by Kristy Acevedo

It’s almost even unfair to be judging this one as a sequel! It’s honestly like two stand-alone books with familiar characters. And I like that! The first book is way more focused on the everyday life and what’s happening on Earth. Well, when we start the second, Alex is being transported through the vertex to the new planet, the setting of the second novel.

Consider relies heavily on character building, and less on setting. It almost reads like a contemporary or dystopian, with sci-fi elements.

Contribute, though, is full on sci-fi with fantastic world-building and words like magpod and biohologram. It can’t even be compared to the first book, because they are seriously different genres.

I like that! I have never read a two-part series where the two books differ so drastically. The first book left me so raw and emotional and invested in the characters, and the second gave me the action and world-building I need from a sci-fi. I love it so much. I can’t say that enough.

Contribute by Kristy Acevedo

Most characters from Consider are also in Contribute. But other than Alex, the characters from Consider play mostly smaller roles. What’s exciting is that we get a whole new cast of people to love and dislike and count on and be emotional about.

We get another kickass female friendship, this time between Alex and Katherine, a crazy amazing hacker and former convict. We also get a totally innocent, not creepy in the slightest friendship between Alex and Doctor A., an older man. I really, really like odd relationship dynamics, so I dug this one a lot.

I will say that I wasn’t as emotionally invested here. There were some deaths here that, had they happened in the first book, I would have taken a lot harder. But again, the characters weren’t as much the focus of Contribute, and I’m okay with that.

Contribute by Kristy Acevedo

is gorgeous in a completely different way from the first. The first had me so emotional and obsessed with Alex’s anxiety (the most realistic depiction of the disorder I’ve seen in fiction, as I mentioned in the first review).

The world-building in Contribute is top-notch. I want to draw fan art. I want to journal about this place. This one also had a lot more going on in terms of a fast-paced plot, and some of the twists had me yelling out loud. Here’s a screenshot of my reading update on Goodreads:

Contribute by Kristy Acevedo

I wrote “WHAT?!?!” Because I actually yelled “WHAT?!?!” aloud. There is no greater compliment I can give than yelling/speaking/cursing aloud as I read.

Contribute by Kristy Acevedo

Is that there is so much pressure and so many high expectations about a sequel. I ended up giving Contribute four out of five stars. Is that fair? I don’t know. You can see I obviously enjoyed it. I did feel some things were a little rushed at the end, and I can’t describe the feeling I have been left with. It’s possible that discovering a new book you ADORE is an experience that can’t be repeated, so no matter how good the sequel is, it can’t match up. That’s what I’m going with here, because that’s the only explanation I’ve been able to come up with.

I would recommend Consider and Contribute to absolutely everyone!

Contribute by Kristy Acevedo

*Note: My reviews are full of opinions. I may love a book. May want to marry it like the kid in the commercial for Peanut Butter Crunch (1999 was a great year for cereal and commercials, look it up). I may say a book is the best thing to happen to me since I started shaving my big toe. None of these things mean it is objectively good. I recognize that. Many times throughout my life, I have given a book I swore to be a life-changer to a friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/hot-dog vendor. Shaking, quietly weeping, I’d hand it (and my heart) over. Only to find out several weeks later that for them the book was good, maybe even great, but not the life-giving, soul-renewing magic I’d purported. You may not like a book I recommend. Sue me.

**Please don’t sue me, I just write here.



 

 

13 novels to read in one sitting

13 Novels to Read in One Sitting

You know the feeling: it’s late, you should be sleeping. Instead, your bedside lamp is on and you are cozy af, with a good book in your arms long after you ought to have gone to bed.

I love that feeling. I live for that feeling.

To that end, I have gathered thirteen novels (in several genres) to keep you up at night. Novels you will read compulsively. Novels you won’t want to put down.

Without further ado, in no particular order:

Science Fiction

Archetype by M.D. Waters

Archetype Novel by M.D. Waters

I was lucky enough to have bought this as an impulse purchase at the Dollar Tree! They seriously have amazing books for just $1 just because they’re a few years old.

So Archetype is about a woman who wakes up and can’t remember her past, and almost anything else about the plot is a spoiler, unfortunately. But it’s science-y and written beautifully and so worth your time. I stayed up until one in the morning, after having read Archetype in one sitting.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Why everyone needs to read Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter explores a fun idea in physics that’s been floating around for a while now, but in a way I hadn’t yet seen! It’s also about love and regret and is just totally, beautifully heartbreaking. I read it in one sitting for my 27th birthday.

Consider by Kristy Acevedo

Consider novel by Kristy Acevedo

Consider is newest to my list! About holograms/portals that show up all over the world, telling the people of earth that they are there to save them from impending doom. SO good. So original. Written gorgeously.

Also, lots of nerdy sci-fi references to Dr. Who and Star Trek. Fun stuff.

 

Romance

Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein

Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein

I don’t know that I’ve ever read another romance that kept me up reading at night, but Shuffle, Repeat definitely did! About two kids forced to ride to school together, who bond over their hatred of each other’s music.

The characters are so hilarious and you’re rooting for them so hard and there is a compulsive need to turn page after page.

 

Fantasy

The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron

The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron

Fantasy is a little difficult for this because it tends to run so long, which is what makes The Spirit Thief perfect! About wizards that can speak to the spirits inside of objects, not to reduce it too much.

It’s a short, quick, uber entertaining read. I laughed out loud on the very first page, got to love that!

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

I saw this a few years ago and had to buy it. What a funny idea! Dorothy has become a tyrant in Oz, Glenda the good witch is creepy af, and the munchkins curse and have tattoos.

I love re-tellings, and I loved the idea that our beloved childhood characters could be so broken. Dorothy Must Die is delightfully morbid.

 

Mystery

One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

One Of Us Is Lying novel by Karen M. McManus

I had mixed feelings about One Of Us Is Lying, but ultimately, I did read it in one sitting (as did many others, from the reviews I read). About five kids who go to detention, but only four make it out, as the fifth has died in the room.

It is an exciting journey with these four kids, and my mind was genuinely blown by the twist.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon

The beauty of this book is in its simplicity, and in its singularity. A kid finds his neighbor’s dog dead, and tries to solve the mystery of who killed him.

The narrator is a teenage boy with autism (the author had worked with children with autism, so it’s very, very realistic). I have a soft spot for any and all things autism, as my dad has Asperger’s. Reading a mystery from such a POV is so completely fun.

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

This one genuinely surprised me! About a guy named Odd Thomas who sees dead people and tries to help them move on. He has a premonition that something bad with massive casualties is going to come to town, and tries to stop it.

I had never been a fan of Dean Koontz, and I’m still really not, yet Odd Thomas remains one of my favorite books of all time. Because it moves through a period of one day, it’s so easy to keep reading and reading until the devastating, gorgeous end.

 

Children’s

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

The Westing Game by Ellen Raikin

I had to throw some children’s books in, because they’re my favorites. This is about a millionaire who dies, and in his will is a mysterious game that sixteen strangers have to play to see who wins his fortune.

I read The Westing Game in school, in sixth grade. I re-read it as an adult to see if I was romanticizing it, sure it couldn’t be as brilliant as I remembered. But oh my god. It is a hilarious, mind-bending game, and whether you have kids or not, you should read it.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver by Lois Lowry

I still haven’t watched the movie, because I’m nervous about how well this could have been adapted. The Giver is a gorgeous masterpiece, and it should be required reading for every single person.

 

Thriller

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain

Heart Sick by Chelsea Cain

I don’t read a lot of thrillers, it’s probably the one area I avoid most. They have to be really particular for me to enjoy them. I read Heartsick because Chuck Palahniuk, who is one of my favorite authors, said the female serial killer in this was amazing. A recommendation from Chuck P plus a female serial killer? I was in, and Heartsick doesn’t disappoint. The series did get a little meh after this one, but the first book is so worth it.

 

Horror

Diary by Chuck Palahniuk

Diary by Chuck Palahniuk

I hesitate to even call Diary horror, but it’s probably the closest genre we’re going to get. It’s written in the form of, get this, a diary. A woman writes to her husband who is in a coma, and whom she occasionally stabs with pins because she hates him. It is weird and disgusting and so, utterly fantastic.

***

What about you?

What books have you read in one sitting?

 

 



Consider: My Happiest Accident of 2017

Consider (Holo #1) by Kristy Acevedo

Published by Jolly Fish Press in 2016

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Pages: 288

Oh my god, y’all! I get to break the streak of bad reviews! Three in a row had really upset me, and I was desperate to find a book I really love to review next. Enter Consider, by Kristy Acevedo!

Funny enough, I found this book on accident. So, I was approved for yet more ARC’s I had forgotten I signed up for. One of which is called Contribute. Now, somehow, when I asked for Contribute on NetGalley, I totally missed that it is a sequel! I hate that, and I am obviously still obligated to read and review it. I have really been craving some sci-fi, so I bought the first book and figured I’d hope for the best. Anyway, this is now perfect timing, because if you haven’t read Consider (and you need to), you can read it before Contribute comes out in July.

Consider novel by Kristy Acevedo

Consider by Kristy Acevedo

As if Alexandra Lucas’ anxiety disorder isn’t enough, mysterious holograms suddenly appear from the sky, heralding the end of the world. They bring an ultimatum: heed the warning and step through a portal-like vertex to safety, or stay and be destroyed by a comet they say is on a collision course with earth. How’s that for senior year stress?

The holograms, claiming to be humans from the future, bring the promise of safety. But without the ability to verify their story, Alex is forced to consider what is best for her friends, her family, and herself.

To stay or to go. A decision must be made.

With the deadline of the holograms’ prophecy fast approaching, Alex feels as though she is living on a ticking time bomb, until she discovers it is much, much worse.

Consider by Kristy Acevedo

I immediately LOVED this concept. I knew right away that part of the fun would be trying to figure this out. Are the holograms lying? Telling the truth? Is there or isn’t there a comet? Regardless of the comet, would I leave to a world I know nothing about? It is SO fun.

In Consider, the holograms show up, complete with portals (called “vertexes” in the book) and say they will remain there until the comet comes, so people can ask them questions and decide whether to go through. The questions and answers are so great, and it really helps add to the mystery of it all. Some of their answers suck, like that you can’t bring your pets (I’m not going ANYWHERE without Buffy, for serious) . Some sound too good to be true, like that there’s no war. It really makes it more exciting to try to figure out how WE feel, as a reader, about what we would do in their shoes.

I also think it’s worth noting that parts of this fall into the “dystopian” category. Now, I am sick of this fo sho. I don’t typically buy dystopian novels at all, anymore. Especially not in YA, particularly because of the “chosen one” trope, which, you know, no fucking thank you. Dystopian works here for a couple of reasons. One, this is about a normal girl and her life and family. She’s not the chosen one, she can’t save the world, it’s just about her life dealing with the aftermath of the arrival of the holograms. Also, we watch this place’s descent into madness, and it’s slow and realistic. It’s not sudden or crazy and horses don’t eat each other. The bad is gradual, the desperation is palpable, and it’s fantastic.

Consider by Kristy Acevedo

Make this SO good, because every character is necessary. How often can you say that?

Alexandra, our narrator, is phenomenal. SO real. Also, she has a significant problem with anxiety, and it is the most accurate portrayal I have ever read. Now, obviously, anxiety is not one-size-fits-all. I can only speak for myself, and I will say that while it is not as bad as Alex’s, I have a significant problem with anxiety as well. Mine happens to be of the same variety as hers, wherein I picture every bad thing that could possibly happen until I’m convinced I’m actually dying. I enjoyed reading about Alex’s attacks, not the least of which because I like to see characters with anxiety and/or depression that are still totally lovable, intelligent, reasonable people. Alex is amazing. I can’t say enough good things about her.

Her relationship with her boyfriend is realistic for their age and situation, which I like. She calls him out when she doesn’t feel he’s treating her anxiety the way he should, which I love, because so many people with anxiety (in my experience) will let people treat them terribly, convinced poor treatment is deserved.

Alex’s relationship with her best friend, Rita, is also wonderful. I LOVE stories about female friendship, and theirs plays a significant role.

Her family. Oh my god. Her dad is one of those characters I absolutely love to hate. I’ve been mentioning, lately, that there are a lot of antagonists that are just boring. Not good, not bad, just blah. I can’t stand feeling meh. I want to love my antagonists (this makes it way more complicated) or I want to reeeeally hate them. Well, I hate Alex’s dad. BUT, I also understand him, and totally see why he is the way he is, and watching his journey is just as exciting as Alex’s. That is awesome.

Consider by Kristy Acevedo

is gorgeous. One thing I don’t mention a lot but is really important to me: metaphors. Nothing irritates me more than overuse of metaphors and similes. No matter how good a story is, if there are too many of these, I can’t stand it. Consider has only a few, and they are REALLY GOOD ONES. They’re sticking with me, they are that good.

The pacing is perfect. There are just enough OMG moments and little bits and pieces I didn’t expect. The ending surprised the actual fuck out of me.

Consider by Kristy Acevedo

Is that I cannot wait to jump into the second book! I’m also terrified. Is there anything scarier than starting the sequel of a book you really love?? So much pressure. Such high expectations.

I would recommend Consider to everyone!

Here’s a link, if you’d like to purchase Consider on Amazon! It’s definitely worth it!

*Note: My reviews are full of opinions. I may love a book. May want to marry it like the kid in the commercial for Peanut Butter Crunch (1999 was a great year for cereal and commercials, look it up). I may say a book is the best thing to happen to me since I started shaving my big toe. None of these things mean it is objectively good. I recognize that. Many times throughout my life, I have given a book I swore to be a life-changer to a friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/hot-dog vendor. Shaking, quietly weeping, I’d hand it (and my heart) over. Only to find out several weeks later that for them the book was good, maybe even great, but not the life-giving, soul-renewing magic I’d purported. You may not like a book I recommend. Sue me.

**Please don’t sue me, I just write here.

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