Review: The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

Publisher: Macmillan

Publication Date: May 16th, 2017

Genre: YA Contemporary/LGBTQIA

Pages: 384 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★ (4 Stars)

Cover = Goodreads

Amazon/Barnes & Noble

*HUGE thanks to Macmillan, Netgalley, and Cale Dietrich for the eGalley of The Love Interest in exchange for a honest review. All opinions are my own.

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

If you’re anything like me, after reading the Goodreads blurb for The Love Interest, you immediately got This Means War vibes. You know? the one with Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and Tom Hardy? yea, that would be the one! & just like the rom-com, The Love Interest doesn’t take itself too seriously & this alone made it a fun read. This book is a satire of all those YA tropes we either love or hate. It’s self aware & as such, is chock full of laugh out loud moments that will leave you shaking your head. We first get introduced to the love interests Caden & Dylan while they’re in the facility that houses others like them while they get all of the necessary spy training. A spy is said to have been taken from their home (voluntary/involuntary is unknown) from childhood & sorted based on personality to either be a Bad or a Nice. Depending on which you were sorted under, you’d receive specific training & skill sets to ultimately be paired up with a person of importance in the outside world. Julia is a high school student who is set to have her pick of universities based on the fact that she is a GENIUS inventor. Targeted as a V.I.P. by the secret organization that deals with selling secrets for top dollar, Julia has no idea she’s about to be highly sought out. Caden is a Nice & Dylan is a Bad, both sent in to better the odds of Julia picking one of them as her love interest. These guys go out of their way to woe Julia in their own ways & will offer you non-stop entertainment. However, it’s not all fun & games for these guys who have the constant threat of death over their heads if they fail. Whoever Julia doesn’t choose will be put to death which only serves as motivation in the race to Julia’s heart. What happens when a Love Interest falls in love for someone other than their intended target? *GASP*

Told in first person point of view, we get Caden (the Nice) as our narrator. Caden is your cliche blonde guy with blue eyes and abs for days haha! I don’t want to give away too much but just know that the spy organization plays no games when it comes to perfecting their love interests. Caden will come off as self absorbed & I believe it’s purposely done. I love my YA books but if we’re being honest, we all know that Caden is a representation of what we see as the male lead interest. Now Dylan doesn’t fall short either lol he plays the broody bad boy, so dark & mysterious with his book of poetry & leather jacket. Then we have Julia who is a a genius inventor in high school who has that quiet beauty. She’s so focused on her inventions that dating isn’t at the forefront. By the end of this book, Julia was hands down my favorite of the characters but no spoilers here lol. We get two other supporting characters, Natalie & Trevor who also attend the same high school and are in a relationship. They also happen to be best friends with Julia & so we get to see them join in on the battle of the Nice vs. Bad. These characters are over the top versions of what we see in the YA genre & I enjoyed the satirical take. I’ve seen other reviews critique the one-dimensional characters which is true…but I don’t think the author set out to have us connect with these extremely tropey characters. If you’re looking for characters you can connect with, this isn’t the book for you. This is the book you pick up if you’ve read tons of YA, love it to death but can still poke fun at the many tropes we often see in our beloved books.

This is Cale Dietrich’s debut album & I love that it was so much fun to read. I took it for what it presented itself to be…a parody of all the YA tropes you can possibly find in the YA genre lol. I laughed so hard reading this book, an overall good time. Those who have been with my blog for a while now know how much I love YA & that I read/review tons of it. I also love good humor and The Love Interest provided a few hours of comedy. I docked it a star simply because it wrapped up too quickly in the end. I recommend this one for all those looking for some light hearted fun & a plot that will keep you guessing the outcome 😉

The Love Interest is out today (links to buy can be found at the very top), have any of you awesome bookworms picked up a copy? if you’ve already read it, what are some of your thoughts?

Review: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Publisher: Amulet Books

Publication Date: May 2nd, 2017

Genre: YA Contemporary/LGBTQIA

Pages: 400 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★ (4 Stars)

Cover = Goodreads

*HUGE thanks to Amulet Books, Netgalley, and Riley Redgate for the eGalley of Noteworthy in exchange for a honest review. All opinions are my own.

A cappella just got a makeover.

Jordan Sun is embarking on her junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, hopeful that this will be her time: the year she finally gets cast in the school musical. But when her low Alto 2 voice gets her shut out for the third straight year—threatening her future at Kensington-Blaine and jeopardizing her college applications—she’s forced to consider nontraditional options.

In Jordan’s case, really nontraditional. A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshipped…revered…all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

Jordan finds herself enmeshed in a precarious juggling act: making friends, alienating friends, crushing on a guy, crushing on a girl, and navigating decades-old rivalries. With her secret growing heavier every day, Jordan pushes beyond gender norms to confront what it means to be a girl (and a guy) in a male-dominated society, and—most importantly—what it means to be herself.

In another case of “The Goodreads Blurb Does It Best” lol, I’ll try my best not to reiterate what’s listed above. Noteworthy by Riley Redgate is one of the most unique Young Adult books I’ve come across in a long time. I knew I had to request it when I saw it pop up on Netgalley simply because I am a big fan of the Pitch Perfect movies & most recently the Pentatonix. As a matter of fact I am listening to Bohemian Rhapsody by Pentatonix while typing up this review 😉 Acapella as a whole has always interested me possibly because as mentioned in this book, there’s humor in it. The idea of a student cross dressing in order to join a all male Acapella group & leading a double life…sounds exhausting no? Jordan Sun manages to pull off try outs for Kensington’s uber popular & exclusively all male Acapella group the Sharpshooters securing the 8th spot in the group.

She goes on to live on campus as both Jordan and Julian successfully since for the most part, she has no friends on campus. After her in school boyfriend broke up with her, Jordan realized that she had made him her center focus & that with him gone, she is pretty much alone on campus. Jordan has a small group of gal pals back in California, but life in New York attending Kensington Blair has pretty much isolated her from them. Attending Kensington also hasn’t been without it’s challenges, Jordan’s parents are struggling to keep food on the table & we see her spend holiday breaks alone on campus to avoid burdening her parents with the cost of travel. Jordan’s dad is also disabled & the subpar healthcare system in the United States is briefly touched upon. We see Jordan going through her day to day routine while handling the very sobering reality that is her financial situation.

“The problem was the money this place asked us to drop on textbooks and supplies, even those of us on financial aid. A lot of other boarding schools were adopting full-ride scholarship options that paid for books, travel, laptops-the whole deal. Kensington hadn’t caught on yet. Every semester, I calculated my textbook costs, usually three or four hundred dollars, and prayed it was offset by the money my parents weren’t spending to feed me”

In getting accepted into the Sharpshooters as Julian, she finds a home away from home with a distinct group of guys. We get to see Jordan’s perspective as “one of the guys” when she’s dressed as Julian. Jordan’s insider pass grants her access to male friendships & bonds as well as the first stirrings of sexism in young males. As we see Jordan grow accustomed & more comfortable living as Julian, we see her question her sexuality & identity. Noteworthy touched on so many subjects that are not written about as much in YA making it a much more relatable read.

Noteworthy has to have one of the most unique and awesome cast of characters in YA at the moment…I’ve convinced myself of this lol. Starting with our main protagonist Jordan aka Julian a Chinese-American student attending a boarding school in NYC, I’ll be honest and say that it took me a bit to warm up to her during the beginning chapters. I almost felt like she was in a haze going through every day life which I pinned most of on her stress levels lol. It was hard to connect with her in the beginning but then you see her start to develop & show her personality and I started to look forward to her coming & goings. She does mention that as Julian, she feels a confidence that is missing as Jordan. The Sharpshooters are as follows:

Trav- leader of the Sharpshooters, also composes pieces for the group & takes his position very seriously (barely cracks a smile lol)

Jon Cox- is your typical popular guy with good looks & a little muscle only he is described as having an operatic voice

Mama or Theodore-My 2nd fave, Theodore was given the nickname Mama for his tendency to clean. He is described as a big lovable guy who also happens to be Jon Cox’s roommate & best friend. He’s described as having the type of deep voice you’d find in movie trailers

Nihal-hands down my FAVE of the group! Nihal is also a Tenor 1 like Jordan, he introduces himself as being Sikh & not Muslim, Indian & from Jersey who wears his turban. Nihal is very outspoken, sarcastic (LOVE!), and loyal

Isaac-Trav’s right hand man, is described as being a tall man bun rocking type of guy. He’s lively & often times the glue that holds everyone together

The 2 Rooks aka Freshmen Erik & Marcus- these 2 guys get stuck with all the grunt work since they’re freshmen & pretty much operate as one.
Riley Redgate gave each of these characters a distinct voice making it very easy to follow each one & learn their individual character traits. All very well fleshed out, these characters were a ton of fun 😉
 With Noteworthy, Redgate has gifted the YA genre with a magically diverse book. I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel reading about a cisgender character cross dressing. These concerns are addressed when Jordan thinks of the Transgender community and how they’d feel if her secret of cross dressing for a spot in the group were to be revealed. In many ways, this book felt very much aware of the tough topics it was trying to grasp. I appreciated that it included many issues that we often do not see in YA such as socioeconomics, Healthcare, and disability as it pertains to the head of household. I also really appreciated the Chinese-American cultural experience we got a glimpse of through Jordan’s character. The fact that this is a Own Voices YA book only added to my love for it. On another note, I do wish that Jordan’s sexuality was explored a bit more because we were seeing her question her sexuality as well as the gender she identifies with.  This is one of the reasons I docked it a star, Jordan’s development towards the end felt unaddressed. The other reason would be strictly pacing which was a bit slow in the beginning. I’ve heard other readers say that Noteworthy is a much quieter read than it appears & I’d have to say that I agree. Around the 40% mark it does pick up & maintains until the very last page. I highly recommend Noteworthy to lovers of diversity & Acapella 😉

Have any of you awesome bookworms picked up a copy of Noteworthy?  if you’ve already read it, which character was your favorite? and why? <3<3<3

April Wrap-Up & Book Haul

April was a solid reading month & I finally beat my 4 book per month streak! I read 6 books & only 2 were in the 3 star range so I’d say that it was one of my best months when it comes to quality 😉 I’m pinning the reason for breaking my 4 book streak on the fact that my hubby, 2 tiny humans, and I were sick for about 2 weeks. It honestly felt like a never ending battle since we were all taking turns lol. Other than reading, it was a quiet month with an occasional miserable sick whimper on the home front but I welcomed it nonetheless. The next few months are always crazy with my 2 tiny humans & this one won’t be any different with Bookcon (tickets arrived yesterday! eeeeK!) right around the corner. I did manage to squeeze in my monthly date with the hubby but more on that towards the end of this wrap-up/haul <3’s

I was supposed to have mixed in a few graphic novels in honor of Saga Volume 7 being released however, that didn’t happen. I did get to read the final copy of my twin Gretchen’s poetry book. Ladies & Gents I can’t stop raving about it, I related to her writing on a personal level but what I loved the most was how there’s a little of something for everyone. Gretchen is also a book blogger who shares her love for books & poetry on her blog @ChicNerdReads 😉

On to my…

     Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis ★★★ (3 Stars)

A Million Junes by Emily Henry ★★★★★ (5 Stars)

A Flame in the Mist ★★★★★ (5 Stars)

Spindle Fire ★★★ (3 Stars)

The Upside of Unrequited ★★★★★ (5 STARS)

Love & You ★★★★★ (5 STARS)

If you’d like to support Gretchen’s beautiful writing, please purchase a copy of love, and you at one of the following:

Amazon (also available worldwide)

Barnes & Noble

Book Depository

CreateSpace

*currently free for those who have Kindle Unlimited

Ok so…lol…in preparation for the heavy book releasing month of May, I wasn’t trying to buy ANY books. Of course, every bookworm who tries to adhere to even a small book buying ban sees themselves tempted by the Book Gods smh. I myself purchased 4 physical books & 3 e-books however, thanks to my AMAZING book blogger friends Debby @AlwaysBooking, Danielle @BooksVertigoandTea, and my twin Gretchen @ChicNerdReads the book gifts were a plenty lol. I’m seriously happy to have met these lovely ladies, they make my work day go so much faster ❤ 

Click on pic to follow my gram @Lair_Of_Books for more snaps 😉

Strange The Dreamer, Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1), Empress of a Thousand Skies (Empress of a Thousand Skies #1) (gift from Debby), Queens Of Geek (gift from Gretchen), Dream Waters (giveaway win-Dream Waters #1), The Broken Empire trilogy (gift from Danielle), Saga Vol. 7, Avenged (Ruined #2) (Goodreads win), Traitor to the Throne (Rebel of the Sands #2), Nemesis (Project Nemesis #1), Thirteen Reasons Why

*April’s BOTM & Owlcrate Unboxing

Timekeper (Timekeeper #1), The Handmaid’s Tale, The Queen of Blood (The Queens of Renthia #1), Love, & You

Date night’s are always tough for the hubby & I who don’t have a night sitter so we opted for a US day. A personal day where we take off from work & catch a flick, some good food, visit a bookstore or 2, and walk around the city indulging in our free time sans the 2 tiny humans. In April’s day off we caught Fate of the Furious aka Fast 8. Now I had my doubts, the franchise is 8 movies deep & after the tragic loss of Paul Walker I was feeling like maybe it’s time for them to write the final chapter. I also contemplated not watching at all but hubby really wanted to see this one as a fan of fast cars & things that explode. I was pleasantly surprised to see the way they flipped the tables in this one with the team going up against Don. I was also very happy to see some old familiar faces return after being absent in the last movie. The plot twists & revelations leave many roads this team can take. There are strong rumors that Universal is in the process of creating a spin-off with Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, and Charlize Theron (see here). For now I think i’ll keep watching where this team that I’ve been following since day 1 goes…

This post is on time with being late of course & May is well underway. I already mini hauled 4 books smh BUT they are ones I’ve wanted to read for a while now. I’m actually currently reading The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich & enjoying it so i’m glad to have chosen it in my May’s Book of the Month subscription box. 

What are you lovely bookworms currently reading/watching/enjoying/dis-liking?

Review: A Million Junes by Emily Henry

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A Million Junes by Emily Henry

Publisher: Razorbill

Publication Date: May 16th, 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/Magical Realism/Contemp

Pages: 350 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 Stars)

*HUGE thanks to Razorbill and Emily Henry for the ARC copy of A Million Junes.

goodreads-synopsis-2

Romeo and Juliet meets One Hundred Years of Solitude in Emily Henry’s brilliant follow-up to The Love That Split the World, about the daughter and son of two long-feuding families who fall in love while trying to uncover the truth about the strange magic and harrowing curse that has plagued their bloodlines for generations.

In their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, the O’Donnells and the Angerts have mythic legacies. But for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them, except to say it began with a cherry tree.

Eighteen-year-old Jack “June” O’Donnell doesn’t need a better reason than that. She’s an O’Donnell to her core, just like her late father was, and O’Donnells stay away from Angerts. Period.

But when Saul Angert, the son of June’s father’s mortal enemy, returns to town after three mysterious years away, June can’t seem to avoid him. Soon the unthinkable happens: She finds she doesn’t exactly hate the gruff, sarcastic boy she was born to loathe.

Saul’s arrival sparks a chain reaction, and as the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers conspire to reveal the truth about the dark moment that started the feud, June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored. And she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all of the O’Donnells before her—to let go.

plot-banner

At first glance, A Million Junes is hands down a Romeo & Juliet re-telling in the country. However, at its core A Million Junes can also read as a open love letter from a father to his daughter. June O’Donell lives with her mom, stepdad, and half brothers in Five Fingers Michigan where the O’Donell’s are sort of famous in their own right. June’s dad who passed away, made sure June knew to stay away from the Angerts aka the other infamous family in Five Fingers. The bad blood has run for 3 generations however, no one can pinpoint the exact moment the feud started or the cause of it. Both the O’Donell’s & the Angerts believe they’ve been cursed so that whenever their paths cross (often they do) bad things happen. June’s dad may no longer be living but this doesn’t stop June’s mom from continuing to keep a healthy distance from the Angerts. This of course all changes when June goes to the fair with her best bestfriend Hannah & bumps into Saul Angert. Saul is a few years older than June & has just returned from a pricey artsy school for writers. No one really knows why he’s back in town other than that he is staying with his dad who was a former top bestselling author. Although Saul has heard all about the curse over both their families, he is a non-believer and crossing paths with June soon changes that. For June is a O’Donell through & through, she believes in the curse and in the magic thrumming in Five Fingers. She sees a spirit with a pink feathery aura & a fox who appears every so often in their backyard waiting for them to give it their shoes. To June, her dad was a hero and a wonderful story teller & she believed each and every last story no matter how outlandish they may have seemed at the time. The more June tries to avoid Saul, the more they are thrown together. The spirits in and around her home are trying to tell her something, they keep transporting her to others memories. Memories of her dad from his recollection when she was just a little girl. Each & every time the “Whites” (aka little puffs of white that can be seen on her windows) come to show her a new memory, June gets to know her dad a little more. Everything she thought she knew to be true may or may not be a fact. To June, these trips to the past through the “whites” offer her so much insight on her father, grandfather, and great grandfather but are they harmless? And can June let go of what she & every O’Donell before her has always believed in & follow her heart?…

Starting with Five Fingers, this town is its own character filled with spirits, ghosts, and forest animals that steal your shoes. I fell in love with this strange little town even though at times it did creep me out just a little bit. Everything from the famous O’Donnell Cherry tree to the haunted lake kept me hooked in Five Fingers. June herself is sarcastic and blunt, making her a fun character to follow. Her best friend Hannah is one of my new fave sidekicks! From their own made up way of greeting eacother to how she has June’s back no matter what, Hannah is an instant fave. This right here was A+ female friendship goals 🙌🏼 Saul Angert aka the Romeo in this book, wasn’t THE BEST on the interesting meter but he scored some major brownie points towards the end. Now, last but not least is June’s dad. Although deceased, he is definitely a character all throughout this book. We get to know him and his love for June in a way perhaps that wouldn’t have been possible if were alive. He clearly had tons of love for June, enough for it to transcend beyond the veil of the living & dead. It was this relationship in particular that will stay with me for a lifetime. I myself lost my dad, a man who loved to tell stories just like June’s dad & I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I picked this book up…I’m glad I did though 😉 these characters are endearing, strange, and filled with magic.

I’m usually very weary when it comes to Magical Realism & A Million June’s was no exception. I love MR but it’s not always an easy experience to read & enjoy. This book is for those that may even be a little intimidated by Magical Realism. I found the writing style to be easy to digest which only heightened my level of enjoyment. This was a very atmospheric read that will ask you suspend all disbelief which I found myself doing immediately (leave it a Fantasy lover lol) once I entered the town of Five Fingers. I mentioned in the beginning that on the surface this is inspired by Rome & Juliet however, it was so much more than that. By the time I finished the last sentence I found myself in a puddle of tears at the realization that this story is more about a father’s love for his daughter. I’ve never read anything by Henry but now I am absolutely buying her last book The Love That Split The World if only to get a bit more of her unique writing style 😉

Have any of my bookish peeps read A Million Junes? or are planning to? Sound off in the comments below <3’s! 

Also, if any of you have read The Love That Split The World please let me know if I should pick up a copy 😉

April Owlcrate & Book of the Month Unboxing

April’s subscription boxes arrived with their vibrant colors & I am more than happy with the selections. earlier in April I read & reviewed The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli & fell hard for the characters & Becky’s writing style. This book brought me so much happiness that I flew right through it. My smile lingered for many days after & I still think about Molly Peskin-Suso & crew. This means that I am all the more curious about Simon who had a small cameo in Upside. I own the e-book so I suppose it’s all a matter of timing now 😉

Click on pic to follow my gram @Lair_Of_Books for more snaps 😉

April’s theme was Head Over Heels, in the box were the following items: 

1 Hardcover copy of The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (5 star read)

1 signed bookplate sticker

1 Decal sticker (not pictured above, found this waaay after photo was taken lol)

1 Storiarts Pride & Prejudice book headband (I’ll prob wear indoors since I feel I don’t have the head for this lol)

1 Simon Vs. the Homosapiens Agenda keychain from the Bookworm Boutique (maybe once I read Simon, I’ll feel less fraudulent about carrying this item on my key chain ha!)

1 Anna and the French kiss Chocolate Cherry Bomb Tea from The Tea SPot (will be trying this one out this wknd but it smells delish!)

1 Novelly Yours Candle inspired by one of Rainbow Rowell’s books (1 of 3 scents were sent), I received Baz & Simon in Raspberry & (GAHHHHH! smells SOOooooO Good! fave item besides book of course lol)

1 Evie Bookish print inspired by A Court of Thorns & Roses (least fave item simply because i’m not big on these small art prints)

1 Umberland (Everland, Book 2) by Wendy Spinale PREVIEW (Amazon buy link for finished book here) (Never read the 1st book soooo yea…lol)

1 Owlcrate exclusive themed pin (goes right on my book tote)

My Box Rating: ★★★★ (3.75 STARS)

April’s BOTM pick was a bit tricky, but there was one name in the blurb that sealed the deal for this one: for readers/fans of Mindy Khaling…moment of silence for my Queen…K, I’ll pretty much read any non-fiction with a bit of humor so I was so happy to come across Scaachi Kohl’s short story collection. Goodreads has since edited the blurb to exclude any comparisons to Mindy K. but I read some reviews & they maintain that it is in fact along those lines. Besides this though & most importantly is that this is a short story collection by a woman of color, daughter to Indian immigrants based on relevant issues affecting many woman of color. I may get the audiobook to read along since I prefer to listen to memoirs narrated by the authors themselves 😉

 

Click on pic to follow my gram @Lair_Of_Books for more snaps 😉

Goodreads Blurb

A collection of essays about growing up the daughter of Indian immigrants in Canada, “a land of ice and casual racism,” by the cultural observer, Scaachi Koul.

In One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter, Scaachi deploys her razor-sharp humour to share her fears, outrages and mortifying experiences as an outsider growing up in Canada. Her subjects range from shaving her knuckles in grade school, to a shopping trip gone horribly awry, to dealing with internet trolls, to feeling out of place at an Indian wedding (as an Indian woman), to parsing the trajectory of fears and anxieties that pressed upon her immigrant parents and bled down a generation. Alongside these personal stories are pointed observations about life as a woman of colour, where every aspect of her appearance is open for critique, derision or outright scorn. Where strict gender rules bind in both Western and Indian cultures, forcing her to confront questions about gender dynamics, racial tensions, ethnic stereotypes and her father’s creeping mortality–all as she tries to find her feet in the world.

Every time I consider canceling my BOTM subscription just so that I can catch up with the ones I have so far…They hit me with the ALL STAR LINE-UP of books I can’t resist smh. I’ll tell you right now, May was no different since I’ve already selected my books & they sweetened the deal lol. Another perk to this box is that at least one of the books in the box (as of late) is a pre-release which I think is AWESOME! So, since they’ve already charged me the renewal fee, you can expect to see at least 3 more of these un-boxings LOL!

What are your thoughts on the April Owlcrate box? Have any of my bookish peeps read The Upside of Unrequited? For my fellow BOTM subscribers, what were your selections for April? also, if you subscribe to any other boxes & have done a unboxing, drop your link down below <3’s!

Review: Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Flame In The Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: May 16th, 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 368 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 Stars)

HUGE thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, and Renee Ahdieh for the ARC copy of Flame in the Mist.

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she’s quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she’s ever known.

A Fantasy with a feudal Japanese setting?!?! YES PLEASE! I wasn’t expecting to love my 1st Ahideh book SO MUCH! but I’m so glad that I did. When we first meet our main protagonist Mariko, we hear her internal thoughts on what it means to be born female vs. male. She isn’t at all acceptant of the old school ideals & traditions of her culture but is also very mindful & respectful of her parents wishes. On her way to Inako, the city of her betrothed, her carriage is attacked with intent to kill. Mariko does manage to escape, and it is her ingenuity that drives her to take the clothes off one of the attackers & go undercover dressed as a boy. It is her belief that the attack is the work of the Black Clan & infiltrating their ranks will lead her to answers. Her course quickly changes however, when she is captured by the Black Clan and taken back to their leader. Mariko manages to keep her cover & slowly gains their confidence. Nothing is as it truly seems with the Black Clan Or the Goodreads blurb (in a good way lol). I’ve seen comparisons to Mulan & although I can see why, I myself did not take it as a re-telling. Set in a fantastical feudal Japan, Ahdieh infuses FITM with tons of culture & it is obvious she did her research. We not only get a gender bender story but we’re also given some politics via the Bushido code which are the laws followed by the Samurai’s of the land. This played an integral part in the story, specifically the Black Clan & I won’t go into too much detail for fear of spoilers. We also get the aspect of the Geiko’s (gave me Geisha feels) who are females living & providing entertainment in tea houses where men of important affluence frequent. Mariko’s encounter with both the Black Clan & the Geiko’s leave her questioning her reality & the morality/intentions of those closest to her. I enjoyed the discussion that took place regarding both Bushido law & the existence of Geiko’s as it only helped build a more well rounded world. The second half of this book had me feeling like I was watching an episode of Game of Thrones & that is a very good thing lol! So many players on the chess board now, all with their own motives & as I previously stated…NOTHING is as it seems 😉

When we first are introduced to Mariko, we learn that she is VERY intelligent, observant, and strategic. Often looking on her twin brother Kenshin’s privilege at having been born male with a bit of envy. Mariko loves Kenshin aka The Dragon of Kai but she also wishes she didn’t have to submit to the social norms of marriage & domesticity. At the same time, Mariko doesn’t wish to bring shame to her family and this is what keeps her on course to fulfill their wishes to marry in hopes of elevating their status. It was a ton of fun following Mariko’s progression via infiltration of the Black Clan. Extremely resourceful & loyal, Mariko has now joined my small hall of fave fictional characters. Now, we also meet Kenshin her twin brother who is hot on her trail trying to find her. Kenshin who is under the impression that Mariko has been abducted, will stop at nothing to find her. I found myself liking Kenshin’s bond to Mariko but more importantly his acceptance of her “non-ordinary” nature. He may have wished she would conform just a little to make things easier but he never forced her to change. He’s always been aware of her passion for more in life, something not typically voiced or seen in the women of this world. Once in the Black Clan, we are introduced to a few members but the two that are focused on are Ranmaru and Okami. These two have a ton of history binding them, not all of it is good but goes back to their fathers. They are more like brothers now who watch eachothers back with Ranmaru being the leader & Okami the shield. LOVED these two! there’s also more than meets the eye with these two haha! discovering what hides beneath these complex characters was one of the best parts of this book. The ending of FITM brings some background characters to the forefront & begins to lay the framework for the sequel. With tons more cut throat characters coming out of the woodwork, i’m highly anticipating the sequel.

I’m a HUGE fan of lush worlds both real & fantastical, with Flame In The Mist Ahdieh delivers a huge dose of culture set in a fantasy feudal Japan. I LOVE when an author’s research jumps off the page & feeds my imagination vividly. Starting off with the very first page that lists the Bushido Code, I knew I was in for some serious story telling & that is what I got! complete with a glossary in the back of the book, FITM is a feast for any lover of cultural anthropology & Fantasy. I LOVED the underlying message of female empowerment in this book, especially seeing as it was coming from some of the male characters. Its been a while since I’ve come across male characters I truly enjoyed, Okami & Ranmaru are hands down two of my faves. Well paced, FITM unravels bit by bit leaving you with some OH I DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING! moments haha! There is a romance & I appreciated that it was a slow burn (my favorite!) with all of the back & forth banter that made me smile & shake my head. The last half of this book took on a different tone once the plot thickened & motives were made known. You’ll see power play moves being made that may leave you feeling like you’re in a game of Chess. Add to the mix the fantastical aspect & I just couldn’t stop flipping the pages fast enough. Filled with culture, politics, intrigue, subterfuge, and double-crossings… Flame In The Mist is hands down one of my top Fantasy reads of 2017 😉

Have any of my bookish peeps read this one yet? or planning to pick it up next week? This is one series (I think it’s a series lol) i’ll be keeping a close eye on…

Review: Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer

Spindle Fire By Lexa Hillyer

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: April 11th, 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/Re-telling

Pages: 351 pages

Format: eGalley & physical ARC (giveaway win)

Rating: ★★★ (3 Stars)

HUGE thanks to HarperCollins, Edelweiss, and Lexa Hillyer for the ARC copy of Spindle Fire.

A kingdom burns. A princess sleeps. This is no fairy tale.

It all started with the burning of the spindles.

No.

It all started with a curse…

Half sisters Isabelle and Aurora are polar opposites: Isabelle is the king’s headstrong illegitimate daughter, whose sight was tithed by faeries; Aurora, beautiful and sheltered, was tithed her sense of touch and her voice on the same day. Despite their differences, the sisters have always been extremely close.

And then everything changes, with a single drop of Aurora’s blood—and a sleep so deep it cannot be broken.

As the faerie queen and her army of Vultures prepare to march, Isabelle must race to find a prince who can awaken her sister with the kiss of true love and seal their two kingdoms in an alliance against the queen.

Isabelle crosses land and sea; unearthly, thorny vines rise up the palace walls; and whispers of revolt travel in the ashes on the wind. The kingdom falls to ruin under layers of snow. Meanwhile, Aurora wakes up in a strange and enchanted world, where a mysterious hunter may be the secret to her escape…or the reason for her to stay.

A dark tale is spun in Spindle Fire…when baby Aurora is born, the last of the powerful faeries that used to rule the land pay the kingdom a visit. They bestow certain gifts of beauty & grace in exchange for tithing her voice and sense of touch. The King & Queen accept these tithes but it is when the Faerie Queen interrupts & asks for the child’s youth that they draw the line. The Queen then places the curse of death on Aurora by her 16th birthday. It is her half sister’s involuntary sacrifice that offers up some hope, Isabelle’s sight is tithed by another fairy who claimed she could reverse the curse & instead of dying…Aurora would one day be put into a deep sleep…

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As preparations are made for Aurora’s wedding, plans are also being made to send Isabelle away since she is viewed as troublesome. Isabelle who is very much a free spirit makes a run for it with her best friend & love interest Gil who worked in the castle. Aurora hears of Isabelle running away & decides to go and look for her. She stumbles upon a cottage with a Spindle & whelp we all know how the story goes lol. I appreciated the turn this story took in originality. After Aurora pricks her finger she finds herself in another world created by the Faerie Queen’s sister. So, it’s not like she’s just asleep the duration of the story, she’s busy in her sleep trying to get some answers. It is within Aurora’s dream world that we get to know the story of Malfleur (Faerie Queen) and her twin sister Belcoeur…

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Aurora & Isabelle are our MC’s, they are half sister’s with a language all of their own making. Isabelle is blind & Aurora is mute, they communicate via a series of taps on each other’s hands. They’ve had years to perfect their way of communication and can easily finish each others thoughts. Although they are half sister’s, Aurora is the daughter to the Queen and therefore is treated as a royal. Isabelle on the other hand receives less than royal treatment & is viewed by the court as trouble for her rebellious nature. Since this story is told in alternating first person POV chapters, we get to know these girls and their individual traits. Aurora loves romance novels that end with the prince swooping in & Isabelle can’t fathom the idea of being tied down by anyone. The sister’s are complete opposites, Aurora knows she was born to marry into royalty and is OK with that. Isabelle on the other hand would rather be chasing the next adventure far away from the castle. I was much more a fan of Isabelle, her chapters were def more exciting and even her approach to love seemed more realistic. We get introduced early on to Isabelle’s best friend Gil who is also her “love interest” and theirs is a complicated relationship. It seems like Isabelle has love for Gil more so than actually being in love with Gil. Later on in the story she meets the one that makes her question her actual feelings. I appreciated that her feelings were made known from the start of the story & it made for a more interesting progression. Now I can’t say the same about Aurora’s love interest which felt like a bad case of insta-love. I say this because typically insta-love doesn’t really bother me but I guess when contrasted against Isabelle’s, it stood out more in a bad way. I actually really enjoyed the Faeries that were introduced and their dark history. Perhaps more than Aurora & Isabelle’s story line, I looked forward to learning more of Malfleur & Belcouer. The faeries may have played the role of supporting characters yet it felt at times that they held the real meat of the story. I hope that the sequel sees more from these dark magical beings that once ruled the land.

 I’m a sucker for all things Sleeping Beauty, probably because she’s the princess who I feel got the bad end of the stick. She doesn’t have little birds cleaning & sewing her clothes while she sings. She doesn’t get talking tea cups & kettles to keep her company or a vast library to sulk in. No, she legit gets put to sleep & laid to rest in a glass case while the 7 dwarfs try to get her true loves kiss *major eye roll* LOL! so it’s safe to assume that Spindle Fire caught my immediate interest. I loved the darker tones in this re-telling & the fact that Hillyer changed something that I for one could’ve done without in the original lol. However, Spindle Fire was told from Aurora & Isabelle’s POV’s and if i’m being honest, I found myself enjoying Isaeblle’s chapters way more than Aurora’s. It wasn’t until the last chapters that Aurora won me over & by then I kind of felt short changed. This may just be my preference however, I will say that even with this holding me back, the pacing was on point with non-stop action. The world building was A+ particularly the faeries and their fall from positions of power as well as their need to tithe. This re-telling is unique, creative, and the story itself was enjoyable but it may be just be a case of writing style that made this a 3 star read for me. Spindle Fire is told in present tense/third person POV which makes for an awkward reading experience. I see tons of ways this story can go & have some wishes for it myself. I’d love to see more of Aurora reclaiming this re-telling & more of the faeries in this world in the sequel to come. The ending sets up the groundwork for book 2 nicely which means that yes, I will be reading the sequel 😉

Have any of my bookish peeps read Spindle Fire? if so, which sister’s POV did you enjoy more? 😉

Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited

Published by: HarperTeen

Publication Date: April 11th 2017

Genre: YA Contemp/LGBTQIA/Diverse

Pages: 338 pgs

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 STARS)

*HUGE thanks to Balzer & Bray/HarperTeen, Edelweiss, and Becky Albertalli for the eGalley of The Upside of Unrequited in exchange for a honest review. All opinions are my own.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?

Honestly, a more Feel Good plot I have NOT come across! Molly Peskin-Suso is many things: a fraternal twin to Cassie, prone to harboring a high # of secret crushes, a DIY Queen, Pinterest aficionado, and baker who also happens to be plus size. Molly’s best friend is her twin sister Cassie, they are inseparable & with their twin bond, they hold no secrets from each other. When Molly introduces Cassie to a girl she meets in the bathroom; who she thinks would make a perfect match for Cassie…she never would’ve guessed they’d fall in love. Both Molly & Cassie see their relationship shifting and with it comes a fear of losing their bond. Cassie tries to play match maker in hopes that it will help Molly feel less lonely. The issue with this is that although Molly has had plenty of crushes, she hasn’t actually dated or kissed anyone. In fact, for Molly it’s all about that feeling that you get when you have a crush…

“And it’s a little different with every guy, so it’s kind of hard to generalize—but if I had to describe the feeling of a crush, I’d say this: you just finished running a mile, and you have to throw up, and you’re starving, but no food seems appealing, and your brain becomes fog, and you also have to pee. It’s this close to intolerable. But I like it.”
Becky Albertalli, The Upside of Unrequited

Ok so I’m just going to start off by saying I was Molly Peskin-Suso sans her craftiness lol. I too carried on way too many crushes & gave them all pseudonyms for easy recollection lol. That new crush feeling she describes? yea all too familiar smh, and I also never found the courage to say anything to said crushes *awkwardly looks away from screen* lol. Molly’s character brought back some fun memories and as a plus size gal myself, I found I could relate to her even as a grown adult. Her honesty about the feelings she has rang true to me. Molly has moments where she doesn’t feel comfortable with her weight, she doesn’t want to be just “the girl with the very pretty face”. At the same time, she has moments of empowerment & never once feels the need to be thin just to get a boyfriend. Molly has the same thoughts we’ve all had about our bodies & her inner monologues mirrored my own at that age. Needless to say, I LOVED Molly! I also really enjoyed reading her twin sister Cassie who is the complete opposite of Molly. Cassie & Molly have a great sibling relationship & because they’re twins (same age haha) they have the same circle of friends. Cassie is the extroverted twin, described by Molly as being very attractive & also happens to like girls. Seeing Cassie fall in love while still trying to be there for Molly and even play match maker was super cute. Molly and Cassie also spend time with their cousins (same age) over Skype videos & YAY for female friendships and seeing more of that in our books! *whoop whoop*  

I realize this is getting lengthy but Albertalli really knows how to make you fall head over heels with all of her characters. Last but not least are the AMAZING parentals! Molly’s moms are in tune with their kids and by no means are they your traditional types. I loved seeing their genuine interest in seeing their kids happy. They aren’t holding tight leashes on their kids but instead trust them enough to right. Some may think they were a bit too understanding but when it mattered they stepped in. Also loved seeing each mom’s personality pop on the page. They weren’t just background characters, their own experiences are woven into the story which gives you a more well rounded look at this family.

This is my 1st Albertalli book & I’m quickly making her an auto-buy author. I have Simon waiting for me on ibooks & can’t wait to see what the buzz is with that guy. Simon does do a cameo in this book & that Becky knew what she was doing! I need to know more about Simon!!! haha! this was a fun feel good contemporary. I smiled from start to finish and loved all of the diversity and plus size representation in Upside. Also in the mix, Albertalli found a way to include a quick conversation between Molly, Cassie, & friends on a comment made by another and how it is considered problematic. This then led to a healthy discussion and I found it refreshing to see how it was handled. Upside of Unrequited is now a top 2017 fave & will probably make the cut at the end of year for top 10. I can’t recommend this book enough! PLEASE BUY IT. PLEASE READ IT. PLEASE LOVE IT. 😉

Have any of you wonderful bookish peeps read The Upside of Unrequited? fave character? quote? I mean Molly did have quite a few good lines lol…



Review: Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis

25314447Given to the Sea (Given Duet #1) by Mindy McGinnis

Published by: Putnam’s Children’s

Publication Date: April 11th 2017

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Pages: 352 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★ (3 STARS)

*Trigger warning for attempted rape & suicide

HUGE thanks to Putnam’s Children’s, Penguin’s First To Read, and Mindy McGinnis for the eGalley of Given to the Sea in exchange for a honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Khosa is Given to the Sea, a girl born to be fed to the water, her flesh preventing a wave like the one that destroyed the Kingdom of Stille in days of old. But before she’s allowed to dance – an uncontrollable twitching of the limbs that will carry her to the shore in a frenzy – she must produce an heir. Yet the thought of human touch sends shudders down her spine that not even the sound of the tide can match.

Vincent is third in line to inherit his throne, royalty in a kingdom where the old linger and the young inherit only boredom. When Khosa arrives without an heir he knows his father will ensure she fulfills her duty, at whatever cost. Torn between protecting the throne he will someday fill, and the girl whose fate is tied to its very existence, Vincent’s loyalty is at odds with his heart.

Dara and Donil are the last of the Indiri, a native race whose dwindling magic grows weaker as the island country fades. Animals cease to bear young, creatures of the sea take to the land, and the Pietra – fierce fighters who destroyed the Indiri a generation before – are now marching from their stony shores for the twin’s adopted homeland, Stille.

Witt leads the Pietra, their army the only family he has ever known. The stone shores harbor a secret, a growing threat that will envelop the entire land – and he will conquer every speck of soil to ensure the survival of his people.

The tides are turning in Stille, where royals scheme, Pietrans march, and the rising sea calls for its Given.

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The Goodreads Blurb for Given to the Sea gives a pretty detailed account of the plot and how all of the characters are tied together. So instead I’ll talk about some of the plot points and the things I enjoyed…

  • We start of our story with the main protagonist knowing that her whole existence is meant to serve as a sacrificial lamb to appease the Ocean.
  • Khosa (main protagonist) is no heroine jumping at the chance to save Stille and her people. She is also in no hurry to fulfill her role’s main requirement which is to bear a female child prior to being given to the sea.
  • Similar to many other stories of court life, we see politics at play. Khosa’s path does cross with that of the young prince who is 3rd in line to the throne.
  • While getting to know Khosa’s fears and wants, we are also introduced to other pivotal characters through multiple POV chapters.
  • Dara & Donil are Indiri brother & sister who were adopted since birth by the Prince’s mother. They lost their entire native race and since then have lived to protect those who took them in. The twins are feared by the people; known to have the ability to talk & walk from birth, they also possess certain abilities (a pretty cool superhuman ability lol) that make them excellent hunters.
  • We get introduced to the Pietra who pose a threat to Stille, the Pietra are led by Witt who obtained his rank or position by being the most fearless. Unlike in Stille, the elderly aren’t in positions of power. It’s up to Witt to cast away the elderly once they  can no longer physically contribute.
  • The Pietra however, aren’t the only threat to Stille who has yet to yield the Given to the ocean. A tradition that they believe is necessary in order to pacify the ocean & keep it from wiping them out completely.
  • I however, found the outside forces such as the Pietra to be the most interesting part of the story. There’s a bloody history tying the Indiri & the Pietra that was touched upon and think we will get more of in the sequel.

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Our main protagonist Khosa is strong willed & full with the desire to live although her fate has been decided since birth. Born into the line of women that have all been sacrificed to the ocean as the Given, she appears to have accepted her fate. Internally however, Khosa is angry & despises the idea of being set to breed at all. She wants to save her people & Stille however, a part of her resents them all. There wasn’t anything about Khosa that stood out to me as a likable quality, then again I would be bitter too if I was existing only to be sacrificed. Prince Victor gave me Dorian from the Throne of Glass series vibes & I could take him or leave him. Just like with Dorian, I wasn’t a fan of this Royal. I was however, VERY intrigued by Dara & Donil who are the Indiri twins adopted as Victor’s siblings. I LOVED their relationship with one another & how fiercely loyal they are. I also loved that Dara is actually made out to be the more lethal & stronger one (YAY Girls Rule! lol). Witt, the leader of the Pietra is a character I didn’t feel much towards even though he’s written as having a struggle with morality. Whether it’s the years of sending elderly to their deaths in handmade boats, or the brutal murders he’s witnessed & committed himself…we are made to believe that he doesn’t enjoy any of it. I however, wasn’t able to feel any empathy towards this character since all throughout this book he carries on sending people off to their deaths. I was satisfied with most of the characters development since the multiple POV’s allowed me to see things from each character’s perspective. I did wish that Dara & Donil’s POV’s were actually separated in order to get more from Donil.

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Given to the Sea is broken into multiple POV chapters, the focus being: Khosa, Victor, Dara, and Witt. As I mentioned before, Donil’s perspective is meshed in with Dara’s even though he has as big of an arc as Dara. I also struggled with half of these characters perspectives being told in first person while the other half is told in third person. Often times stopping while reading because of the awkwardness. It is the supporting characters and their histories that really drew me in and made for compelling story telling. The Indiri’s birth into this world was a bloody & painful one filled with loss & I found myself wanting to know more. I flagged this review for the following trigger warnings: attempted rape & suicide…the suicide is the “willing” sacrifice made by each of the women born to the lineage of the first given. There are also scenes of attempted rape that are a bit generous with the details. The reasoning behind the attempts is that the clock is ticking, the sea is angry, and the Given is not with child. Although I flew through this book,  found myself feeling uncomfortable with many parts. Some i’ve described in this review & others i’m still sorting my feelings on. Perhaps one of the most uncomfortable scenes for me, was one between a woman from a group of outcasts that is described as missing all of her limbs and one of Witt’s men. I won’t go into detail other than to say that I felt this character was very much sexualized because of  her missing limbs. This being my 1st Mindy McGinnis read, it’s clear to me that I may not be a fan of her Fantasy however, I am still very interested in her other books some of which I already own & will be reading later this year. Given to the Sea ended off possibly stronger than it’s slower start & for this reason alone, I will probably read the conclusion to this duology. I am attached to the Indiri twins and it is their story I would like to see to the very end 😉

Have any of my bookish peeps read Given to the Sea? what are your thoughts on Mindy’s first full fledged YA Fantasy? did you connect with any of the characters like I did with the Indiri?

Review: Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

Defy the Stars (Defy the Stars #1) by Claudia Gray

Published by: Little Brown Books

Publication Date: April 4th 2017

Genre: Young Adult Sc-Fi/Diverse Reads

Pages: 512 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★ (4 STARS)

HUGE thanks to Little Brown Books, Netgalley, and Claudia Gray for the eGalley of Defy the Stars in exchange for a honest review. All opinions are my own.

She’s a soldier.

Noemi Vidal is a seventeen years old and sworn to protect her planet, Genesis. She’s willing to risk anything—including her own life. To their enemies on Earth, she’s a rebel.

He’s a machine.

Abandoned in space for years, utterly alone, Abel has advanced programming that’s begun to evolve. He wants only to protect his creator, and to be free. To the people of Genesis, he’s an abomination.

Noemi and Abel are enemies in an interstellar war, forced by chance to work together as they embark on a daring journey through the stars. Their efforts would end the fighting for good, but they’re not without sacrifice. The stakes are even higher than either of them first realized, and the more time they spend together, the more they’re forced to question everything they’d been taught was true.

Defy the Stars is the story Noemi Vidal who lives on Genesis, the only planet left in the solar system to reflect what Earth used to be before it self-destructed. Genesis is a planet that has closed its doors to technology & maintains a green environment because of it. Earth on the other hand is only a shell of the planet it used to be, dying and desperate to get its people re-located.

Quick 411 On This Galaxy…

Defy the Stars takes place in the solar system, mostly in a ship but there’s plenty of traveling to the surrounding planets. Our main Protagonist Noemi is from Genesis known as the planet with the beautiful green lands, clean air/water with temperate climate. Abel the A.I. is from Earth which eerily enough is described as having self destructed & the opposite of Genesis. Kismet (my fave) described as a water-world with tropical weather & fun loving people/culture. Downside: only the privileged wealthy can afford to lay up on Kismet. Cray is where the smartest of the smart reside underground enjoying total nerdom (2nd fave haha!). Too hot to live on top, scientists live down below where they are spoiled with all the fun gadgets to make it a total nerd paradise *heart eyes* Stronghold is quite the opposite of Cray, here is a cold cold and gray planet suitable for the strongest (think military).

Back to the Plot…

Genesis has closed itself off from Earth to preserve their planet from a people they know will only continue destroying wherever they go. This in turn has kept these two planets at war with Earth attempting to conquer Genesis through a Galaxy gate. Genesis may not know how to destroy the gate, but they have an idea on how to temporarily disable it…a suicide mission to be carried out by their youth. Noemi Vidal is 17 & ready to die for her planet and the belief that her sacrifice will gain Genesis an advantage. In preparation for this mission she and the other youths engage in training however, things take a turn when their training turns into the real deal. Noemi finds herself in an abandoned enemy (Earth) ship unaware how much her life is about to change…

We get introduced to Noemi Vidal, a 17 year old of Chilean descent who was orphaned and taken in by her best friend’s family. A family she very much appreciates but still can’t help but feel like an outsider looking in. Noemi is very protective of her best-friend going as far as volunteering for the Massada Run aka the suicide mission aimed at helping Genesis. This would fill the requirement per family and her best friend wouldn’t have to be sacrificed. We often see female protagonists in YA playing the role of martyr, the difference here is that Noemi is just one of the many youths who believe it’s their duty (side note: this didn’t make sense to me & i’m glad its addressed in the story lol). Noemi sees herself as having a unappealing personality because she angers often however, I did not find her to to be as unpleasant as she sees herself lol. Smart & resourceful are more adequate descriptions of Noemi, I liked her just fine. However, the stand out character was Abel the machine/Artificial Intelligence left behind on the abandoned Earth ship. Abel has been stuck in a room on the ship since the last war 30 years ago. The 1st of his kind, he was made with superior intelligence & human like qualities. Over the course of 30 years however, Abel has continued developing & growing. I enjoyed Abel so much, i’ll even go as far as saying he’s up there with my other fave A.I. AIDEN (Illuminae Files). Abel’s sarcasm & self ego stroking had me shaking my head quite often. It’s funny because it makes sense that he would have these traits given he’s not human but quickly developing at the speed of one who is. He has learned human mannerisms but its his self awareness that trips him up. I really grew to love this character and often compared him to Gepetto’s creation minus the lying haha! Last but not least, the diversity in this book was absolutely one of my most favorite aspects. Not only does Gray give us POC’s but she also gave us robots (the setting is in the future) that were also made to resemble all people. The entire cast is diverse & it made my reading experience much more enjoyable.

I love me some gooooood world building & Defy the Stars delivered on this front and so much more. This being my first Claudia Gray book (still want to read the Firebird trilogy), I found her writing to be very enjoyable. Given that this story takes place in space, I didn’t go into it thinking I’m going to get a super fast paced story but was pleasantly surprised. So, what can you expect? adventure, humor, interesting diverse characters, action, and a bit of romance. The only reason I docked it a star was because I would’ve liked to have seen more from Earth being that they are the “enemy”. We meet leaders on Genesis but who is leading the war on behalf of Earth? and what of their people (other than Abel’s creator of course) The ending left me SO curious of what’s to come & a bit anxious for the sequel, I’ve even offered my housekeeping services to Claudia if it would help her any…jk but I so would haha!

Have any of my bookish peeps read Defy the Stars? Did you happen to get Illuminae vibes? If you had to choose a bestie…would you go with Abel or AIDEN? 😉