Books & novels & stories, oh my!, Ramblings

{Review} Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

After the trainwreck that was Zenith, I felt like I needed a break from young adult fiction/fantasy for a while. I tried reading some general fiction I had lying around, some ARCs that have been waiting in the corner with cold, judging stares, but I couldn’t read anything. You know the kind of book hangover you get when a book is so awful that it almost ruins the concept of literature itself for you?

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Yeah, that. But then I picked up Nevernight, and having only attempted to read Illuminae by Jay Kristoff (and failing miserably, because my brain couldn’t process it), I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew was that I wanted something good to read after having spent a month bashing my head against a wall with the trainwreck book. And lo and behold, I freaking LOVED IT. So much so, that I’m including gifs. Why hadn’t I picked this book up sooner?!

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Okay, so before I get to the part where I ramble on about how awesome Nevernight is and how much I’d love to have a cussing battle over a couple of whiskeys with Mr. Kristoff, I’ll give you a little summary.

Summary:

Nevernight is the first novel in a series called The Nevernight Chronicles, and it tells the story of Mia Corvere, a young but deadly assassin with a vendetta. When Mia was only ten years old, her family was ripped apart by the treacherous and power-hungry consul and his lackeys. As she grew up, she trained in the art of death and vowed to avenge her family, no matter the cost. With powers that even she can’t fathom, she embarks on a perilous journey to a famed school of assassins that will either turn her into one of the deadliest killers in the world or leave her dead before she even gets the chance.

Thoughts:

  • Writing: Okay, firstly, I absolutely adored Kristoff’s writing style. It’s unique and weird in all the right ways, and needless to say, HILARIOUS. It was hard to get used to, at first, but once you get over the novelty of it, it becomes one of the best aspects of this book. I wasn’t expecting the amount of colorful language, but I loved that, too. As someone who is a fan of linguistic embellishments of this sort, I applaud Mr. Kristoff on his expertise in this fine art. Also, Mister Kindly is one of my new favorite characters and I don’t even like cats.
  • Characters: I fell in love with Mia within the first couple of chapters. That doesn’t happen very often. In contrast to many (if not most) heroines of modern YA/NA fantasy, she was no wilting flower pretending to be a badass. No, she is a badass. Hell, even I was kind of afraid of her at some points. The rest of the cast was also very well-written and every character was well-developed, even the ones you’re meant to hate. And without spoiling anything for those who haven’t read this book: the fact that I was completely horrified and flabbergasted by the outcome with that one character is just a testament to Kristoff’s story-weaving skills. Holy shit. I wish that character were real so that I could junkpunch them. To say that I was lulled into a false sense of security would be a tragic understatement.
  • Plot: The plot itself was so complex and intricate that I found myself stressing out about it. I wanted Mia and the supporting characters to be okay, to win, to succeed. While the first 30% took me a couple of weeks to get through (because I had a metric shit-ton of editing to do and couldn’t really focus on reading), the remaining 70% took me a few hours. I wanted to go to sleep, but I needed to know what happened next more than I needed sleep (at 5-freaking-AM).

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Verdict:

I thought that this was going to be another one of those assassin-chick stories, where the heroine goes on an adventure, meets a stupidly handsome guy, and they bring down the bad guys together between bouts of awkward sex. But it was nothing like that. Sure, the main character is 16 years old and she happens to be this ridiculously gifted assassin (and there are a couple of awkward sex scenes), but the way it was executed made you forget her age and the love arc in this book was perfect in its harsh reality. All the things that other authors executed with an unhealthy dose of cheese, this author executed with finesse and originality (and no hint of dairy products). So many YA/NA fantasy novels or series make the mistake of foisting off their MCs as these prodigies who act like adults before they’ve even hit puberty, but this book makes it clear that Mia is young, messed up, and imperfect.

So, with all that being said (and be glad I’ve only rambled this much, because if I could mention spoilers, this would be much longer and more rambling), I give this book 5 bright and shiny stars. If you’re a fan of fantasy, badass heroines, non-cheesy love arcs, and witty banter, then I would highly recommend this book. This book is now tied for first place with Artemis (by Andy Weir) in my top five list.

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Hats off, Mr. Kristoff.

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Books & novels & stories, oh my!

The Witch Doesn’t Burn in this One by Amanda Lovelace

34518216-_uy768_ss768_Having heard such rave reviews of Lovelace’s first book of poems, The Princess Saves Herself in this One, I knew that I was in store for a great experience with her second collection, The Witch Doesn’t Burn in this One. I wasn’t disappointed. Though it was a short read, it was a roller-coaster of emotions, making me smile, tear up, and swell with pride as a woman. Here’s a quick review of what I liked and disliked.

What I Liked:

  • The issues discussed: With movements like #metoo and #timesup filling our screens and feeds, it’s easy to think that they’re just hashtags for people to throw around. But this poignant collection reminds its reader that movements such as these are the start of a revolution in global mentalities and a shift in society. It tells women that it’s not normal for us to feel unsafe when we walk down a dark street, that it’s not okay for us to take abuse from loved ones or strangers, that it’s not right for us to judge ourselves based on what society tells us is right.
  • The message: No matter where we live, women have had to live with the consequences of a patriarchal society. That is to say that we are expected to go along with the status quo, to accept the way things are, but this book reminds us that we don’t have to do that. We each have a voice, and no matter who or what tries to silence it, there will always be another voice to accompany our own.
  • The experience: Reading this brought up some difficult memories and thoughts, but in a way that made me feel less alone in the world. It made me feel angry and sad and hopeful and rebellious. It made me want to hunt down every person who had ever made  me feel less than human and throw their judgment or actions in their faces. It made me feel like the strength and resilience of every wronged woman that came before me was flowing through my veins, and that was an awesome experience.

What I Disliked:

  • The structure: The only thing I didn’t love was the structure of the poems themselves, as it made it hard to focus sometimes. But that’s also the beauty of contemporary poetry, that it doesn’t have to follow the rules. It was definitely interesting and fitting in some poems, but some just felt weird on the page.
  • The length: I don’t even think this is an issue per se, but I wish that the poems were longer. Some were little more than a sentence spread across a page and I wanted more.

Verdict:

I really loved this collection and I’ll be reading the first one to accompany the experience. I give this book 4 stars and encourage all my fellow witches (and wizards!) to read this book, as it’s not just for women, but for humans as a whole. There is nothing as powerful as the knowledge that across the globe, there are others who stand beside you. Whether you’re a fan of poetry or not, this is a short and wonderful book to read and experience, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. As always, happy reading!

Books & novels & stories, oh my!

{Book Review} Zenith by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings

31394234I was so excited to read this book and I was so happy to receive an eARC, that when I got it, I dropped everything else I was reading and started it. And that did not work out the way I expected it to.

Okay, I wanted to like this book. I really did. I love watching Sasha’s BookTube videos and I, like so many other bookstagrammers, live vicariously through her Scotland adventures on Instagram. But after trudging through it for nearly a month, I ended up skimming through the last 100 pages or so, because I wanted to at least finish it in order for this review to be honest and accurate.

Quick Summary:

Zenith, a young adult science fiction adventure, is the first book in the Androma Saga, which revolves around Androma, a.k.a. Andi, a.k.a. The Bloody Baroness, as she fights to save her crew, her galaxy, and deal with enemies from her past, all while trying to avoid an all-out galactic war.

Thoughts:

  • Okay, so the problem with over-hyped books is that they stand the risk of being huge disappointments – and that’s exactly how I felt with this book: hugely disappointed. While the premise itself was actually intriguing, the story and the characters were not. The main plot line of the story is solved about halfway through, so it made me wonder why there were 250 pages left for me to suffer through. It was also very repetitive at some points and I found myself getting bored and moving on to reruns of Frasier.
  • The characters were either completely one-dimensional or utterly unlikable and I didn’t relate or care about any of them. The main character, Andi, was like a sci-fi rip-off of Celaena Sardothien and other female YA heroines who just happened to be assassins/queens/mercenaries. Also, never have I cared this little for a main character. Like, I don’t even hate her. I just don’t feel anything. If the main character were a lamp, I’d have enjoyed those long-winded Andi moments a sliver more.
  • As for the general mood of the book, while I loved the fact that the story was so “woman-centric”, it felt like the whole “Lookie there! Is that a woman piloting a spaceship?! Female empowerment, yay!” was just so pushed that it somehow made it stereotypical in its attempt to crush stereotypes.
  • And the writing. Oh, god, the writing. I don’t even know where to begin. The cliches? The typos? The grammatical or syntactical errors? The weird and gratuitous metaphors? There’s so much to choose from! It was juvenile, all over the place, and it felt like someone forgot to edit half the book. It was also difficult to keep track of all the worlds and characters and subplots, because I felt like the  chapters and POV switches were just incomprehensible and useless sometimes. Honestly, I think this book needs a superhero editor, because it’s just… not good. It’s not even that their writing styles are bad, it’s just that books need editing, or else they come out looking completely unprofessional, which was the case here.
  • Then, there’s the issue of Andi suffering from PTSD, which, as someone who suffers from PTSD, was woefully inaccurate and it actually bothered me. If you’re going to have your characters suffer from a serious mental health issue like that, then at least do your research. Besides, it only seemed to come up when it suited the story (or lack thereof) or the author’s whims. But I can tell you for a fact, that PTSD (as with every other mental illness EVER) is not polite enough to show up when it’s convenient. Okay. I’m done ranting now.

Verdict:

Despite my disappointment with this book, it doesn’t mean that there wasn’t time and work put into it. It just needs more time and work. And lots, lots, lots of editing. But these are just my opinions. You might enjoy this book if you are looking for a fun YA sci-fi adventure. Just don’t expect to be blown away. So, I give this book 1 star, because at least I liked the cover, and I think that with a metric shit-ton of refinement and editing, this could actually live up to its hype.

*Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Teens (US & Canada) for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review – Sorry if it was too honest 😛 *

Books & novels & stories, oh my!

{Book Review} Herding Cats by Sarah Andersen

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As you well know, dear readers, I am a big fan of Sarah Andersen and her hilariously relatable scribbles, and here she is with yet another awesome collection of them! Here’s a quick introduction if you aren’t already familiar with her work:

Sarah’s Scribbles is a web comic by cartoonist, Sarah Andersen. It generally revolves around the protagonist, Sarah, as she struggles with issues such as social anxiety, laziness, body-image issues, and adulthood.

But Sarah’s Scribbles aren’t just about providing us the opportunity to laugh off those awkward moments or situations that affect all of us at some point, but they also illustrate some powerful issues and sentiments that we might relate to as well. Sarah also writes about the struggles of being a creative in the Internet age, how scary it can be to put your work out into the world, and how important it is to nourish creativity despite fear. I just finished writing my very first novel and now it’s in the hands of beta readers and editors, so I could definitely relate to that fear of criticism or rejection. Part of me wants to roll up into a blanket-burrito with my manuscript tucked safely in my arms, while another part of me wants to share it with the whole world. THE STRUGGLE IS REAL, GUYS. But Sarah manages to make this struggle come through her writing and her illustrations so wonderfully, that it sort of makes you feel a little less anxious about it.

All in all, I loved this collection almost as much as the last one. So, I’m giving it 3.5 stars, based on both the illustrations and the writing. If you’re interested in seeing more of Sarah’s work or getting your very own copy of this book, you can find her website here and a copy of the book here. Happy reading!

*Thank you to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

Books & novels & stories, oh my!

{Book Review} Sea of Strangers by Lang Leav

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@thejoyceanbooknerd

Before discovering Lang Leav’s poetry a few years ago, I was completely unimpressed and uninterested in contemporary poetry, preferring instead to read and reread the classics. However, with every stanza, Leav manages to fill you with emotion and thoughts, based solely on the poignancy and beauty of her words. Having read all of her books so far, I knew that this her new collection of poems, Sea of Strangers, would not disappoint, and it certainly didn’t.

This collection is a beautiful homage to love lost and found, to memories that refuse to let you go, and to the promise of love that swept you away in its waves. It was beautiful, simple, and enrapturing, reminding the reader that love is not always what we expect or want it to be, but it is always there nonetheless, in its many forms and states.

If you haven’t yet read anything by Lang Leav, then I would highly recommend this book or any of her other books, because she is truly one of my favorite poets and I think that her poetry has something for everyone to connect to on some level. Her books are short but full of beauty, so I promise it won’t be as daunting as trying to wade through Shakespeare’s sonnets (despite how awesome they are).

So, this one gets 5 gleaming stars from me! And if you’re interested in finding your own copy, you can one here! Happy reading!

*Thank you to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

Books & novels & stories, oh my!

{Book Review} Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

1513973304704I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first opened this book. All I knew was that it was a collection of short stories by one of my favorite actors of all time. I figured, since Tom Hans was so good at bringing stories to life on the screen, that perhaps he was just as skilled at bringing them to life on paper. Now, I won’t lie and say that Mr. Hanks is the best wordsmith to grace our bookshelves since James Joyce, but I was actually very impressed with this wonderful debut.

The premise of this book is simple; a bunch of short stories, each unique in its own scenes and characters, with only one common thing: a typewriter. It should be noted early on that I am obsessed with typewriters. I just find them magical and it is one of my goals in life to write an entire novel on my very own typewriter (preferably one that is at least a few decades older than me). So, when I realized that common aspect weaving itself seamlessly into the stories, I was sold.

Thoughts:

In general, I thought this collection was well written and that the stories themselves were well thought-out. They’re connected in a subtle and unique way, without being glaringly obvious or too in-your-face. There were a couple of stories that I loved, some that I liked, and some that just didn’t tickle my fancy. But that’s normal when it comes to short story collections; you might not like every single one. However, even the ones I didn’t like as much were written with the same graceful prose as the ones that I loved and I was very pleasantly surprised by Hanks’ writing prowess.

Verdict:

I give this book a shiny 3.5 stars, based on that fact that it was pleasant to read, well-written, and shows some great promise from this legendary Renaissance man. If you’re interested in getting your own copy, you can find one here.

Happy reading!

*Thank you to NetGalley and Randomhouse UK for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*