“The Left Hand” by Jordan Allen, indie author of sci-fi/dystopian YA

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Listening to The Left Hand by Jordan Allen on Audible, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. This futuristic sci-fi/dystopian was a surprisingly fresh and original book involving saber fights, a DNA-based segregated society, and one young man’s realization that it is our actions that define us, rather than any physical attributes.

Plot

When a terrorist group targets Victor Wells, a young noble man, he is forced into hiding with the Sinisters—people whose DNA is supposedly inferior. Joining forces with a fringe Sinister group, Victor reconnects with old friends (and an old crush) and realizes there is more going on in the supposedly perfect Noble society than he ever imagined.

My Thoughts

Predictable, yet surprising, I really enjoyed listening to the book. Personally, I can’t listen to super complicated books because I’ll get confused (I’m a visual learner), but this one was perfect to listen to. Simple, but not overly so, it had plenty of cool twists and turns that kept me engaged through the end and left me wanting more. Plus the writing was good. Good plot+good characters+good writing=good book.

If you like science fiction, or dystopian YA, this is a great book to pick up. It was clean too—no profanity or sex scenes—and so very appropriate for middle grade on up. Definitely give this one a try.

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“The Queen’s Rising,” Rebecca Ross Debuts

4 stars

Summary:

Brienna, a descendent of both Valenian and Maevian blood, is a student at a bording school where she has chosen to master the passion of knowledge and hopefully be chosen by a patron upon graduation. 

However, when she beings having visions of her ancestors memories, she is abruptly offered patronage by a disgraced lord, and pulled into a plot to overthrow the king of Maevana to restore the right queen. As Brienna learns more about her heritage she is forced to choose between blood-ties and the family she has been taken in by.

Brief Thoughts:

The Queen’s Rising is a romantic foray into the renaissance-France inspired country of Velenia and Maevana, about a brave young woman who risks her life to save the two countries of her ancestors.

With themes of belonging to two different cultures, the bonds of friendship, choosing your family, in addition to a slow-burning romantic sub-plot, this was an enjoyable read. The writing was good, the characters were interesting, and the plot was, though somewhat predictable, was creative and well-thought-out.

***Note to the reader: Don’t read the family tree charts on the first couple of pages. They are overly helpful and spoil some of the best potential surprises in the book.

“P.S. I Like You” a YA romance

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Genre: YA Romance, Contemporary Fiction

Quirky Lily Abbot wants to be a song writer, the only problem is that she’s never actually finished a song, let alone shown anyone anything she’s written. And with her crazy family and packed house Lily doesn’t really have the space or time to work on her music. Stuck with writer’s block, Lily finds herself doodling the lyrics from one of her favorite bands on her desk in chemistry. When she comes into class the next day, she discovers that someone has written back, kicking off a spree of letter writing that may help her find not only her muse, but the courage to show her music to the world as she realizes she may be falling for her mystery pen pal.

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West is a quirky, cute, and wholesome love story of two teenagers who learn the difference between their perceptions and reality, and the value of family relationships. I picked it up, expecting bubblegum and tropes galore, and while there definitely were some high school tropes in there, West’s storytelling is just so absolutely fun that I didn’t even care. This book really brought me back to the excitement and mystery of young love. It reminded me of that classic 1912 epistolary novel Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster (one of my favorites), a book about a college girl who writes letters to her mysterious benefactor, a man she’s never seen but who is paying her tuition and housing, and ultimately

*Spoiler below*

 

****

****

****

falls in love. Surprise!

****

****

****

Both books deal in letters, although P.S. I Like You is not a true epistolary novel, and both have a similar sort of charm that can only come from the most innocent and, in my opinion, inspiring characters.

Overall, I think this book would be a great introduction to the YA genre for those interesting in the YA Contemporary genre, or YA Romance. But even for readers like me, who normally prefer something more fantastical, P.S. I Like You was a really nice break from my normal genres.

Update: I just finished By Your Side, also by Kasie West, and it was just as good. Same genre, similar tropes and themes, different characters, different situations, and still very fun. But this one delves into mental illnesses and the stigma associated specifically with anxiety disorders. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I found the main character very relatable, and the book had a little extra draw for me.

 

 

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Renegades by Marissa Meyer is a story of Superheroes and Supervillains, a premise that continues to fascinate  and attract people (like me) with each new adaptation of the epic battle between good versus evil.

Because I’d so recently read Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart, I was a little skeptical going into this story. Both are about supervillains, and at first glance the premises seemed oddly similar. But thankfully, Meyer’s Renegades takes this premise for a new spin, with two narrators: one from the villain league, the Anarchists, and one from the hero’s group, the Renegades. These two narrators from opposite ideologies find their preconceived notions of the world and how it should be run challenged, and they begin to find who they are and who they want to be as well as the difference they want to make in the world.

I enjoyed Meyer’s exploration of two opposite ideologies, the roots of which you can see in our own political sphere. I also enjoyed her exploration of themes such as: the importance of family and friends, the connection between freedom and safety, and the value of independence.

While I was very impressed with Meyer’s main characters and the connection I felt to both of them despite their differences, I was a little disappointed with her antagonists. Meyer relied a lot on insanity to explain certain villain’s actions which felt like lazy storytelling at times.

Overall, this book left me with more questions than answers, but I am looking forward to reading the next and final one in November.

“Steelheart” an intro to Brandon Sanderson and Supervillains

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his will.
Nobody fights the Epics…nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.
And David wants in. He wants Steelheart — the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning — and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.
He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

Brandon Sanderson is a big name fantasy author, and for a couple years now I’ve been dragging my feet to read any of his things. Mostly because a lot of his books are super long (Way of Kings is 1,007 pages), and I prefer to read books that I can finish within a week. However, after some urging from my husband, I decided that I would give his YA books a chance since they are much more manageable.

So I picked up Steelheart and was blown away. This is a great book. Full of fantastic world building, hilarious narration, a good ensemble cast, and plenty of surprise twists and turns that I thought I was expecting, but really wasn’t.

One of Sanderson’s biggest strengths is his world-building. He is talented at furnishing his stories with details of the world without bogging down the story or characters. In Steelheart takes place in a world much like our own, except that in this world, a star appeared in the sky that turned people into supervillains. In that, Sanderson takes something that has been done time and time again (X-Men, Marvel, DC) and turns it into something different. This isn’t your normal superhero story, this is a story where there are no superheroes. Only supervillains and regular people trying to stand up to them, and it was really good.

Another reason it is so good is due to the fluid writing and clever characterizations. Steelheart is written in first-person, and the narrator is hilarious. David is a quirky, persuasive and optimistic young man who has a lot of trouble with metaphors. Seeing the story through his eyes made me snort a lot, and laugh out loud almost as much. Honestly, in a book that is so action packed I was really surprised that it was so funny.

All in all, this is a great, fun book, full of super powers, misguided metaphors, quirky characters, and even a little romance.

5 Stars.

 

“Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell, A Coming of Age Story

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is a very cute coming of age story that fits right between YA and the bookshelves of adulthood.

Cath is fan fiction writing fiend. With several thousand followers, fan fiction, specifically Simon Snow fan fiction, is her life. And it used to be something that brought Cath and her twin sister, Wren, closer together. But after graduating high school, Wren starts to distance herself from fan fiction and from Cath, electing to room with someone else at the college they are both going to. Forced room with a stranger, an older girl with an ever-present boyfriend, Cath’s social anxiety is worse than ever. In addition to her feelings of abandonment, Cath is also challenged in her classes, with a professor that wants to her give up her fan fiction and start creating her own stories. In this coming of age story, Cath must decide whether she can make it through college without her twin, and whether she can leave behind her obsession with Simon Snow and wildly successful fan fiction.

Set in a classic university setting, this book brought back memories for me of what it was like to suddenly become technically an adult, but not quite an adult, when entering the college sphere. The loneliness, the embarrassment, the new relationships, and the ability to look at the world with new eyes—seeing details and perspectives that a high schooler can’t possibly dream of. From the perspective of a introverted, anxiety-ridden, literature obsessed young woman, this novel spoke to me on many levels.

Despite Rowell’s clever writing, the first half of this novel dragged a little. There was just too much self-pity and fear embedded in the main character, which I think helped make Cath believable, but also made it hard for me to feel anything other than pity for her. But by the second half, Cath finally starts to change and Rowell’s writing consequently shines, feeling very fluid and natural, especially in the dialogue. I loved seeing Cath start to come into herself, pushing her limits and making genuine friendships, all while continuing to worry and care about her loved ones that were purposely distancing themselves from her. It was partly her relationships with people that made her feel like such a complex character, and made this such a memorable book.

Something to be aware of if you are thinking about picking up this book, Fangirl does use a lot of language for a YA book, and contains multiple drug and alcohol, and sexual references, things you would probably expect to find on a college campus. There were several times I considered putting it down as I’m not very comfortable with strong language, but obviously I decided to finish it anyway. I also wouldn’t classify it as a YA novel, though it isn’t quite an adult novel either. It sits comfortably in between the two categories, and may be a good bridge novel for those transitioning between the two genres.

3 Stars

 

Dark and Light in “Three Dark Crowns” by Kendare Blake

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake began much darker than I expected, or cared for. In fact, after the first two chapters I put it down, not expecting to finish it.  But circumstances resulted in me picking it up again a week later because I couldn’t find any of the other book I’d been planning to read that day. And I am so glad I did.

The premise is this: triplet sisters are born to the queen, each with their own special gift, and tradition dictates that only one sister may live to rule, the others must die at the hands of the others.

The basic premise of this story demands a certain gravity, but Blake balanced it excellently with lighter elements that kept the story moving, and gave the reader hope without turning it into a melodrama. It was dark at times, but it also had enough light that I didn’t feel bogged down, but rather pulled in.

Written from multiple perspectives, this story switches between several characters, each one brilliantly developed, relatable, likable, and unappealing in their own ways. Each perspective forms a puzzle piece that fit perfectly between all the others to create a wonderful piece of work.

Blake infused this book with of feminist themes such as the objectification of women, equality within love, and respect in relationships. The first theme I found particularly interesting as Three Dark Crowns is based in a largely matriarchal society, and the way each female character encounters and deals with objectification is very interesting.

If you are looking for a story about family, sisters, feminism, love, and heartbreak, and you aren’t scared of a story infused with a more serious and darker tone, this is a good book for you. Brilliantly written, and very engaging, I really am so glad I read this one. 5/5.