Book Review: Burning Midnight


Book Review: Burning MidnightBurning Midnight by Will McIntosh
Release Date: February 2nd 2016
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher

Sully is a sphere dealer at a flea market. It doesn’t pay much—Alex Holliday’s stores have muscled out most of the independent sellers—but it helps him and his mom make the rent.

No one knows where the brilliant-colored spheres came from. One day they were just there, hidden all over the earth like huge gemstones. Burn a pair and they make you a little better: an inch taller, skilled at math, better-looking. The rarer the sphere, the greater the improvement—and the more expensive the sphere.

When Sully meets Hunter, a girl with a natural talent for finding spheres, the two start searching together. One day they find a Gold—a color no one has ever seen. And when Alex Holliday learns what they have, he will go to any lengths, will use all of his wealth and power, to take it from them.

There’s no question the Gold is priceless, but what does it actually do? None of them is aware of it yet, but the fate of the world rests on this little golden orb. Because all the world fights over the spheres, but no one knows where they come from, what their powers are, or why they’re here.

The start to this one is a bit slow. In fact, it took a good 20-25 pages until I fully understood what spheres were and why they were so important. Admittedly, this was slightly my fault since I didn’t re-read the description to refresh my memory before starting the book, but it also shouldn’t take so long to be introduced to the world. I almost wished that I had a little guide on  spheres, how they worked, and how many there were.

Once I grasped what was happening, I did enjoy the world. I thought it was an interesting concept, especially considering human nature. Who wouldn’t pay a couple hundred here and there for simple things like whiter teeth or ease of sleeping. People pay that now for different medications or gimmicks that aren’t always a sure bet. Of course, the super powerful spheres that increases intelligence or looks are rare and expensive.  Only those with lots of money could afford them. Maybe if you were a lucky hunter, you might who would find a pair to burn, but basically it was the rich get richer situation, which was fully realistic.

I will say the pacing was a bit off for me. There were times where the book moved along at a good speed, but then other times when it dragged. I loved the earlier hunting scenes with Hunter and Sully, but the scenes when they’re searching the water towers felt a bit too slow for me. I understand that McIntosh needed to show that it took a while, but I was quite bored. On the other hand, once they find the Gold, things seems to kick into super high speed. This is also where you have to start suspending belief. Almost nothing that happens after finding the Gold seems truly believable or possible. However, if you allow yourself to just roll with it, it’s a fun adventure.

The only part that I can’t quite get over is the ending. I don’t want to give anything away, but it felt extremely too easy. I could buy into what the spheres actually were, but how they solved it all seemed almost like a cop-out. It tied up way too nicely in a bow for my taste. I guess I wanted more than what I got.

I’m a little torn on how I feel about the love aspect. There is a nice build up between Hunter and Sully, but it also have the feel of insta-love. For most of the book, there a pretty big distrust between them, especially when a deal goes awry. However, they do actually spend a lot of time hunting together, so when you figure in that it’s probably been at least a couple of months it does sort of work. I think it was the out-of the blue declarations that didn’t work for me. Most of the book, Hunter keeps Sully at arm’s length and then suddenly she’s proclaiming how he’s the best thing ever in her life. It was a bit cheesy, but I know know of teens who will probably eat it up.

All that being said, this was a fast sci-fi read. I read it in one day, and while flawed, I couldn’t put it down. I would easily give these to my teens who are just starting in sci-fi or who are looking for an adventure book. It’s a bit on the big side for reluctant readers, but one I do think they’d enjoy.  It would also be a good pairing for 5th Wave, although there aren’t nearly as many mind games or heavy strategy in this one.

Final Verdict: A great new YA sci-fi book. While it does have some flaws, it’s a quick read filled with tons of adventure.

Book Review: Traveler


Book Review: TravelerTraveler by Arwen Elys Dayton
Series: Seeker #2
Release Date: January 12th 2016
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher

Quin Kincaid is a Seeker. Her legacy is an honor, an ancient role passed down for generations. But what she learned on her Oath night changed her world forever.

Quin pledged her life to deception. Her legacy as a Seeker is not noble but savage. Her father, a killer. Her uncle, a liar. Her mother, a casualty. And the boy she once loved is out for vengeance, with her family in his sights.

Yet Quin is not alone. Shinobu, her oldest companion, might now be the only person she can trust. The only one who wants answers as desperately as she does.

But the deeper they dig into the past, the darker things become. There are long-vanished Seeker families, shadowy alliances, and something else: a sinister plan begun generations ago, with the power to destroy them all.

The past is close. And it will destroy them all.

Often times, middle books in a trilogy (at least I’m assuming it’s a trilogy) can be lukewarm, that bridge between book one and three that gives just enough information to move the story along. Thankfully, that is not the case for Traveler. I love how much information we get from this story about Catherine (John’s mom) and the whole seeker history.  

The POV is multiple just like the first book; however, we get a couple of additional character perspectives with Catherine and Nott. While six characters seems overwhelming, the majority of the story is really told by Quinn and Catherine. I was a bit sad that Maud didn’t have as much of a presence in this book, especially since she is one of my favorites. I still don’t really connect to John or Shinobu very much, although Quinn is starting to grow on me. I did love John’s growth as well, even though he is not my favorite. Catherine was a great addition and I was glad that we got to see the story unravel through her eyes, especially since so much of what we know is thanks to her and her detective work.

The setting this time around felt a bit more jarring. I’m really not sure why it bothered me this time and not last time. Maybe because last time I had assumed it was a steampunk world, but I’m not longer sure that’s the case. It felt so more modern this time …  and yet not? I don’t know. I eventually just had to throw the whole setting thing out the window before it annoyed me to no end. I’ll go back to my initial recommendation of just rolling with it.  

The thing I liked the least was the romance between Quinn and Shinobu. Thankfully Dayton did not remind us constantly that they were distantly related; in fact, it may only be mentioned once. However, I just didn’t feel their relationship. I know they’ve known each other their entire lives, but it just felt super fast. While Shinobu has been in love with Quinn forever, she was set on John until just a few months ago. I guess, for the most part, I just didn’t feel the chemistry. Now, this could be that Seeker is a bit hazy in some details, but looking at my review of Seeker, I complained about it then as well. I suppose they’re just not the pairing for me. However, I do think it will be a big part of book three, especially considering how this one ended.

Speaking of how it ended, be ready for a cliff-hanger. Yes, most seeker history related things are answered, but my oh my, Dayton knows how to leave you hanging. I’ll be interested to see where book 3 goes, especially considering most things felt wrapped up in Traveler. I am sure there is a lot more to the story though, and I can’t wait to see it unravel.

Final Verdict: Great second book filled with much needed history and unraveled secrets. I’ll happily pick up book 3, especially considering the huge cliff-hanger.

 

This review is part of the Traveler Blog Tour. See below for other participants.

January 11 – Seeing Double in Neverland
January 11 – The Cover Contessa
January 12 –  Once Upon A Twilight
January 12 – Two Chicks on Books
January 13 – Take Me Away to a Great Read
January 13 – Lytherus
January 14Supernatural Snark
January 15Bookish Lifestyle
January 15The Eater of Books
January 16Adventures in YA Publishing
January 16Page Turners
January 17Winterhaven Books
January 17Black Dog Speaks
January 18A Dream Within A Dream
January 18Sci Fi Fan Letter
January 19Mundie Moms
January 19The Reading Nook Reviews

 

30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 4

Well, this week was rough. I only got 3 books read. Admittedly, one of them was over 800 pages though! That puts me at 22 books in 30 days. Not quite the full 30, but I’ll take it.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 4The Looney Experiment by Luke Reynolds
Release Date: August 4th 2015
Publisher: Blink
Pages: 208
Source: Library

Atticus Hobart couldn't feel lower. He's in love with a girl who doesn't know he exists, he is the class bully's personal punching bag, and to top it all off, his dad has just left the family. Into this drama steps Mr. Looney, a 77-year-old substitute English teacher with uncanny insight and a most unconventional approach to teaching. But Atticus soon discovers there's more to Mr. Looney's methods than he'd first thought. And as Atticus begins to unlock the truths within his own name, he finds that his hyper-imagination can help him forge his own voice, and maybe just maybe discover that the power to face his problems was inside him all along.


This was a middle of the road book for me. I can totally see middle school boys liking it, especially those reluctant readers who like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It was a bit predictable and I would have loved a bit more depth to it. An okay read that’s worth checking out.

 


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 4Boys Don't Knit (In Public) Release Date: March 24th 2015
Publisher: Macmillan
Pages: 272

I’m still not sure how I feel about this one. I was expecting something a little different. It had some funny moments, but nothing that I laughed hard about. (Well, except for the old granny chasing bullies with a giant knitting needle.) Language and  sex chatter move this one to solid high school. I will say that I didn’t like how Ben’s friends treated most women. There one scene, which was the worst, where they watched a girl on crutches putting her groceries into her car because when she bent over you could see under her skirt. The one friend even taped part of it, which ew! However, there was alway the implication/comment that what they were doing was wrong and that Ben needed new friends. Still doesn’t make it 100% better, but at least it’s not being applauded. But I will say they protected their friend when he needed it the most, which helped redeem their uncool behavior a bit as well.

 


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 4Winter by Marissa Meyer
Release Date: November 10th 2015
Publisher: Macmillan
Pages: 832

Aw, man, this book was a beast! Over 800 pages, whew. Main verdict is that I liked it and was happy with how the series wrapped up. The fight scenes with Levana and the ending dragged on a bit, which is probably my biggest complaint. Although, I don’t feel like things were a bit too open ended with Cinder and Kai. It would be years before Lunar would be under control again and it’s hard to believe that he would wait that long. I mean, long distance relationships are hard enough when you’re on the same planet. I can’t even imagine what it’ll be like for them. However, it was fitting at the same time so I can’t complain too much.

As a side note: I listened to about 1/2 of this on audio, which was absolutely fantastic. However, it was 23 hours long! I don’t get a lot of opportunity to listen to audiobooks (mainly in the gym) and simply could not wait to found out how this one ended, which is why I delved into the print book instead of listening it out.

 

30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 3

I wasn’t able to make up the books from last week (yet), but I was at least on track this week! Here’s what I read

 


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 3Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
Release Date: October 6th 2015
Publisher: Clarion Books
Pages: 192
Source: Library

When Jack meets his new foster brother, he already knows three things about him:
Joseph almost killed a teacher.
He was incarcerated at a place called Stone Mountain.
He has a daughter. Her name is Jupiter. And he has never seen her.

What Jack doesn’t know, at first, is how desperate Joseph is to find his baby girl.

Or how urgently he, Jack, will want to help.
But the past can’t be shaken off. Even as new bonds form, old wounds reopen. The search for Jupiter demands more from Jack than he can imagine.


I don’t want to say a lot about this one here. I’m doing a reader vs. reader feature over at TSU. It’ll be posting the first couple of weeks of Decembers, so I’ll be sure to link back then.

 


This was a rather sweet story for the most part. It does feel a bit weird saying that since it was between a 15 year-old and a 19 year-old, but nothing actually happened and it was portrayed in a kind of innocent/sweet way. It was more about Maggie coming to terms with who she was and how she felt. The art work just didn’t work for me. It’s not horrible, but not a style I really like.

 


This book is…intense. In a very, very good way. It’s timely topic that hits right where it hurts. The amount of passages I have marked is unreal. This is the book for my book club on Tuesday, so, I plan to come back and talk more about my and their thoughts.

 


I guess I decided that this week I didn’t want to hold back any punches. I’m trying to read more non-fiction. Shyima’s story is heart-wrenching, but it wasn’t that engaging. I felt for Shyima, but wasn’t emotionally attached to her or her story. Nonetheless, it was great read to see inside of child slavery and what Shyima had to overcome both in slavery and once she was freed.

 


I know, I know, my manga/anime cred is much lower admitting I haven’t read this series yet. However, I am not and I can see why it’s so popular. I love the cat and mouse game that has started and how smart it is. I’m sure the next couple of volumes will make their way into next week’s read pile.

 


I still have no idea what is happening in this series. I don’t know why, but I’m having a lot of trouble keeping the characters and storyline straight. It’s like there’s just too much going on for me to fully enjoy it. However, I can see the teens liking it, but I don’t think I’ll be continuing on with the series beyond this volume.

 


This manga wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t awesome either. There’s not really any storyline going one, which may be why I’m not completely on board yet. The set-up is intriguing though, so I’ll give it another volume or two before I fully set my opinion in stone.

Book Review: How to Be Brave


Book Review: How to Be BraveHow to Be Brave: A Novel by E. Katherine Kottaras
Release Date: November 3rd 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 272
Source: Library

Reeling from her mother's death, Georgia has a choice: become lost in her own pain, or enjoy life right now, while she still can. She decides to start really living for the first time and makes a list of fifteen ways to be brave - all the things she's wanted to do but never had the courage to try. As she begins doing the things she's always been afraid to do - including pursuing her secret crush, she discovers that life doesn't always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But once in a while, the right person shows up just when you need them most - and you learn that you're stronger and braver than you ever imagined.

I’m a bit mixed on how I feel about How to Be Brave. There are so many good things about this book, but at the same time there are some problematic things as well. The heart of the story is about Georgia and her dealing with the grief of her mother’s death. In a note that Georgia forces her to write, her mother tells her to do everything and to be brave while doing it. This sets Georgia to make a list with her best friend, Liss, of 15 things she’s always wanted to do/thinks she she should do.

The list itself is fine, but I questioned how the list made her tailspin out of control. Georgia is painted as a good girl who rarely, if ever gets into trouble. However, one day of cutting class and eating a bite of pot brownies sends her off the deep end. After that first time, she states she doesn’t cut too much “just once or twice a week”;getting high is the main event for these days as well. Last time I checked 2 times a week, even for a couple of weeks, is a lot. And the thing is she doesn’t stop on that day she’s called out by the teacher. As a goody-goody, it just seems so out of character that she would have a 180 that fast. Being brave or not, just seems like a really quick spiral and slightly unrealistic that no one at school would notice how many days are adding up and not mentioning something more about it. Her dad doesn’t even find out for another month and a half later when her art teacher calls and rats her out. (At least about the cutting class, the pot-use doesn’t come until much later)

The relationships (family, friends, & romantic) ring quite true. I love the ups and down of her and Liss’ friendship. Even their fight was highly realistic. Who wouldn’t get mad at a friend for screwing up like Georgia did, even if the bad pot was to blame. I love how honest Liss always is with her. She doesn’t sugarcoat anything, which makes her an often abrasive, but awesome character. And her relationship with her father. That whole having a parent be in your life, but not really seeing you and expecting you to be something that you’re not. I’m sure every teen can relate to that. It wasn’t even that he didn’t care/had a bad relationship, her dad was just too busy to see the truth. It was obvious that he loved her, he simply needed to be more proactive in her life, especially now that her mother is gone.

The idea of weight is where we get back into the problematic area. I want to start with Georgia first. She’s a size 16 and considered fat. I have no problem with that. As someone who fluctuates between a size 16 or 18, I do consider myself fat. However, it’s the descriptors that follow that size 16 that don’t work. First passage appears on 27

…I hoist my one-hundred-and-blah-de-blah self (the exact number is irrelevant and supersecret)…

This is where height is totally needed. If you’re say me, at  5’6, well,  I was a size 16 at 220. However, if Georgia is 5’3 or shorter than it’s plausible.  This is why height is so, so, so important. They paint a more accurate, although still not perfect, picture.

Then on page 242 we get this

..It’s called minus ten pounds…By all official medical charts, I should technically lose another 15 pounds.

There is no way that someone who only needs to lose 25 pound is a size 16. Using myself as the example again, when I’m a size 16 to be considered normal by medical standards I would need to lose another 70 pounds. I know this will vary from person to person, but the numbers just don’t add up! [edit: I should have said again this is where we need height/body shape instead of just dismissing it completely. It’s still important to press that a size 16 isn’t the same for everyone. We need more as a reader than just a few random numbers to make it believable/realistic.]

However, on the flip side, some of the things that Georgia has to go through are so relatable. Of course, she’s teased, which can happen at any size, but there’s a scene that took me straight back to my own childhood

I was twelve and I couldn’t find a pair of jeans in the Macy’s junior department that could fit me. I sat on the floor of the dressing room, sobbing. She had to take me to the adult section, where all I could find were this ugly, old-lady jeans that gave me high water.  pg 135

Oh man, I’ve been there. Although, for me it was that I was stuck in stretch pants (yes, I was a child of the late 80s/90s), but the rest rang true. When you’re a plus-size person shopping for clothes is so hard. A+ to Kottaras for capturing that so well. There are also plenty of passages where weight does not hold Georgia (or her mother) back from living life. And by the end, Georgia seems pretty solid in the skin she’s in.

While I’m on weight, I would be remiss not to talk about her mother. This is a spot where I wish there was more information on her mother. We know that she’s a size 24, but no height or weight mentioned. We know that she’s been sick with diabetes, kidney failure, and heart problems for a long time. Many people say that they took her mother’s weight as the cause of all the health factors plus her death. I’m a bit torn on this one myself. The implications are definitely there, especially when you take in the fact that her mother’s doctor told Georgia “don’t let this happen to you.” However, fatshaming by doctors is a very real thing. I’ve seen it happen to so many of my friends (and to an extent myself) that it’s not even funny. And of course, diabetes is tied often to weight, but it’s not the only cause. I think the one passage that give me a little pause is the following:

She could have done it. She could have controlled her sugar and eaten right and walked more, like she said she was going to, but she never did. Instead, she let herself gain weight and she didn’t control her sugar….pg 256

There are so many ways to read it. You can read it as the weight caused it all. Or you could read it as something bigger. Why wasn’t she controlling her sugar? And was it just sugar in food or was she not taking her medication to get her balance right? There’s such a lack of information surround her mom and her health. With all the stereotypes that being overweight means you’re unhealthy, it’s easy to see her mom and her death as something gross. My gut says there must have been so much more going on, but with the lack of information it’s truly hard to say what.

There is also a bit where someone tries to commit suicide. I wasn’t going to mention this part, but it keeps nagging at me. For me, it felt like a plot device. How it happened and how Georgia was involved allowed her to vent her frustrations about her mother not owning up to her problems/making Georgia and her father handle the final, crucial decision. It felt a bit out of place and nothing more than a way to tie up some loose ends. However, I will fully admit that I may be highly sensitive to this topic and that many readers won’t give it a second thought.

I know that I’ve pulled out quite a bit in the problematic area, but truth be told I did enjoy the story. I want to end with one of my favorite quotes, and one of the many things that readers take away from this book

But being brave isn’t about living every minute exhilarated. It’s about waking up and knowing that despite the worry and the sadness and the deep, dark fear, you’re going to go forth anyway. That you’re going to try anyway. That you have  choice, and you’re going to choose to live, today, bravely.

 

Final Verdict: A decent read, but not one without flaws. In fact, this will still be one I probably tell my teens to check out.