Monday, June 17, 2019

Review: To Best the Boys by Mary Weber

Title: To Best the Boys
Written by: Mary Weber
Published: March 19, 2018 by Thomas Nelson

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: The task is simple: don a disguise. Survive the Labyrinth. Best the boys.

In a thrilling new fantasy from the bestselling author of the Storm Siren Trilogy, one girl makes a stand against society and enters a world made exclusively for boys.

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port have received a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. The poorer residents look to see if their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women train in wifely duties and men pursue collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone is ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the deadly maze.

This book was recommended to me by a friend who doesn’t read a lot of fantasy. I decided to pick it up from the library and give it a try. And despite a good beginning, this book was a bit of a disappointment for me.

The best thing about this book is the world. The author did a great job of establishing the setting. It was one of those fantasies where the changes are subtle but enough to interest you. It honestly felt more like a dystopia. There is this place where the haves and have nots are in sharp contrast and there is rumblings of rebellion within the two oppressed lower class. Then on top of that you have this disease ravaging the poor people. It made for a great set up for the story and motivation for the characters. Unfortunately that’s all it was, set up. The general rule of thumb is to show instead of tell and that less is more. But in some cases, less is less and this was one of those cases. After awhile I was less intrigued and more confused. I wanted more from this world because it was actually very interesting.

The character, however, were fine but nothing special. The main character of Rhen was interesting enough. I appreciated the way she was torn between the two worlds, not really fitting in either. I also felt her motivation to find the cure for the disease and go to university. But I still kind of kept her at arms length for some reason. I just don’t know if she was fully fleshed out as an individual. She felt more like a symbol, which is fine but you kind of have to address that. The other thing is, I think some of what made Rhen likable is the fact that I detested basically every other character. I didn’t want her to beat the boys because feminism, I wanted her to win because the boys were truly terrible. It wasn’t about her succeeding, it was about then failing. This might not be a problem for a lot of people but for me if just felt a little off.

My biggest frustration however was with the plot. This book started out very strong with a great introduction to the world and a fascinating plot full of action and adventure. But it just didn’t stick the landing. The ending really fizzled and it never really resolved some of the more interesting aspects it introduced in the beginning. The sections individually were really interesting. The diseases and unrest had me excited for what was to come, the character dressed as a boy to play with conventions and stick it to those in power added some drama, and the maze was definitely thrilling. But as a cohesive story, they just didn’t work. If this was the first book in a series I would have said that it had first book syndrome and moved on, but this was a standalone. If just felt rushed and incomplete at the same time. I’m a plot-driven reader so that was a big disappointment for me.

I had high hopes for this book, but by the end of it my hopes were kind of dashed. It’s not a bad read it just isn’t one that I felt I connected with enough. I think there are much tighter of fantasy stories.

I give To Best the Boys by Mary Weber 7 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Bypass. As I mentioned, I think there are much tighter fantasies. I think the premise for this one is great but it didn't deliver for me and because of that I hesitate to recommend it.

Have you read To Best the Boys?  What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stooping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Review: Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Title: Daisy Jones and the Six
Written by: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Published: March 5, 2019 by Ballantine Books (Random House)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

I had recently read Maybe in Another Life and really loved it so when this one came out I knew I wanted to read it as well. And while it was definitely an interesting and engaging read but didn’t blow me away.

One of the more interesting things about this book is the style in which it is is written. It is told in an interview format that made it feel like a rock mockumentary. It’s kind of a year in the life kind of story as each of the characters is explaining what happened and they wrote their most famous album and toured together. I listened to the audiobook which was a great decision because it is a full cast made up of mostly film actors, so you really got the personality and different perspectives. In that sense, it was a really unique and interesting story.

However, the plot itself wasn’t the most interesting. Yes, there was a lot of drama with the band and their goings on. It was the late 70’s and so you had that classic rock ‘n roll mentality of sex, drugs, and partying. You also had the band who didn’t totally see eye to eye and wanted to be stars in their own rights. It reminded me a lot of Almost Famous which used to be one of my favorite movies. But I was not impressed with the ending. There was one twist that caught me by surprise but then it just sort of fizzled out. Plus then a larger purpose for telling the story was revealed and I just didn’t connect with that. I wouldn’t say that it made the whole book seem pointless, but the book did lose some points for me after that.

I will say, however, that this is probably a much more character-driven story anyway and I did like the characters. Because the audiobook had a full cast each character had their own unique feel and personality. The two main characters were probably the titular Daisy Jones and Billy Dunne. Billy and Daisy were interesting but they felt a little bit predictable. There was nothing that really blew me away about them. The characters I found the most interesting were side characters. Karen Karen was probably my favorite. She’s the keyboardist and definitely had the most engaging side plot. She was also voiced by Judy Greer which was a real plus in her column. The other character I found interesting was Eddie, the guitarist. He added a lot of drama to the book and I wish they had played up his dislike of Billy more. There could have been a lot more to the plot if these two had come to blows more often.

The thing about the characters though is that, they all kind of had an unreliable narrator thing to them. Not only are they telling this story 40 years after it happened, so obviously they don’t remember it fully, but there are other reasons why they might remember things differently or not be completely honest. I really enjoy books with unreliable narrators and for me, it was something that made this book and the characters interesting and unique.

All and all, this was an interesting story but not my favorite from the author. I’m interested to read more of her books because she is tremendously talented at developing characters and hooking a reader but I this one just wasn’t what I was hoping for.

I give Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reed 8 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Bypass. I would recommend it to anyone who likes books about rockstars or wants a character-driven book with unreliable narrators. I picked this up from the library and I would maybe suggest that. It's a pricey book.

Have you read Daisy Jones and the Six? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Review: Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Title: Aurora Rising
Series: The Aurora Cycle #1
Written by: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Published: May 7, 2019 by Delacorte Press (Random House)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: From the internationally bestselling authors of THE ILLUMINAE FILES comes an epic new science fiction adventure. 

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch… 

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm 
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates 
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder 
An alien warrior with anger management issues 
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering 

 And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy. 

They're not the heroes we deserve. They're just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.

Wow! This book was fantastic. I mean, I am not surprised because both Amie and Jay are fantastic science fiction writers and I have loved all their books (both together and apart).

 The squad was completely amazing. My favorites were probably Scarlett and Fin. Scarlett gave me some amazing Nina Zenik vibes, Nina is space kicking ass and being fabulous. Fin was the comic relief for sure but he also is a big old softie. But honestly, every character was fantastic and likable. I didn’t even mind the multiple perspectives because I enjoyed each character so much. Although, I listened to the audiobook which definitely helped with that. Each character had a different narrator, including some of my favorites, which I enjoyed.

The world was also really fantastic. It’s a complex and engaging science fiction world with a deep history that I think we are only just beginning to scratch the surface on. This is one of those books where when it was all over I’m theory crafting about what it all means and what the big reveals are going to be for the next book. Honestly, that usually only happens in a fantasy so the fact that it is happening in a science fiction says something.

My favorite thing however was the plot. One of the best things is that it has classic space opera vibes but goes even deeper than that. Because you guys... this is a heist novel. That’s right... SPACE HEIST! I’m a huge fan of heist novels. The world definitely needs more of them. But they have to be done right. They need to hit the right emotional notes, the reveals need to be slow and steady, and there needs to be big surprises. This book did all of that. It was an emotional roller coaster full of surprises and I loved every minute of it.

 I really needed a book like this right now. I have been going through a pretty serious reading and blogging slump and this book pulled me out of it I think. It might be the catalyst to get me going again. But even if it isn’t, it was a fantastic read and an a great start to what I am sure will be an amazing new series.

I give Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff 9.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. I definitely recommend this book. I read a fair amount of YA science fiction and these two are masters of the genre. If you like science fiction or want something with found family or unlikely teams definitely check this one out.

Have you read Aurora Rising? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, June 3, 2019

May Wrap Up and June TBR

Read in May: 

Remember in April when I said I was in a blogging slump? Oh boy was that true. I mean I think I posed only twice last month and one of the times was a blog tour so I had that added obligation.  But I think I am starting to come out of it. I actually wrote reviews on Goodreads which is a good sign and I wanted to do this wrap up post so I would say that is progress. As for reading, it was an okay month. I was travelling a lot for work and pleasure which made it a little bit challenging. I read 10 books this month which okay. Not where I want to read but again, April was awful so we will take this.

For challenges, I am once again low key doing challenges. The only one I am legit doing is how many books in a year. I set a Goodreads goal of reading 150 books in a year. My original goal last year was 150 but I had to lower it so I want to make that happen this year. Adding these 10 books in May brings my total to 54 for the year which is definitely behind. I should lower it to 120 again just so I don't feel bad about missing it. For the rest of the challenges I only low key set them. I want to read 20 debuts this year and I read 3 this month and 2 last month which is 12 for the year and on track. I want to read 15 books from Netgalley/Edelweiss this year. I read 3 this month and 1 last month which is a total of 8 for 2019. I also want to read 20 backlist books. This month I read 1 backlist books and last month I read 2 which is 10 for the year. I am on track for all of these goals which is definitely good.

The Books

1.) The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman Rating: 8 out of 10
2.)  The Hummingbird Dagger by Cindy Astley Rating: 7 out of 10
3.) The First Scream by R.L. Stine Rating: 7 out of 10 [Podcast Website]
4.) Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff  Rating: 9.5 out of 10 [Review to Come]
5.) Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small Rating: 8.5 out of 10
6.) Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy by Ray Terciero and Bre Indigo Rating: 9 out of 10 stars
7.) The Near Witch by V.E. Schwab Rating: 9 out of 10 stars
8.) There's Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon Rating: 9 out of 10 stars
9.) We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal Rating: 9.5 out of 10 stars [Review to Come]
10.) DEV1AT3 by Jay Kristoff Rating: 9 out of 10 [Review to Come]

To Be Read in June: 

And here is hoping that I can continue the strong reading month and actually get more blogging done. I am going to ALA in a few weeks and that usually reinvigorates a lot of my desire to reconnect with the bookish internet so here's hoping that happens. I am hoping to read at least a dozen books this month but I am honestly not sure which books I want to read. I have a busy month but I that might mean more time to read.

Books for Review

The Raven's Tale by Cat Winters - Add to Goodreads
I have an e-ARC of this one and I wanted to read it but haven't been able to yet. I love a historical mystery and this one sounds really fantastic. Not only is it about Edgar Allen Poe but it's Cat Winters which is always a good thing.

Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen - Add to Goodreads
This is another one I have an e-ARC for and have not yet had the chance to read. I have heard really good things about this author and the book sounds really good.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power - Add to Goodreads
This debut sounds totally amazing. I love a mystery/thriller set in a boarding school so this feels totally up my alley.

Romanov by Nadine Brandes - Add to Goodreads
A historical fantasy reimagining of Anastasia? Yes please. My friend Michelle let me borrow her ARC and I am going to see her at ALA so I want to finish it beforehand.

New Releases

Comics Will Break Your Heart  by Faith Erin Hicks - Add to Goodreads
I recently read one of Faith Erin Hicks' graphic novels and it was really good so when I saw the audio for this from the library when I needed a new one, I picked it up.

To Best the Boys by Mary Weber - Add to Goodreads
This is another book Michelle recommended. I picked it up from the library and have yet to read it. I feel like I'm in the mood now so we'll see.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid - Add to Goodreads

I have heard great things about this book and the audio looks really good. It's a full cast and I am all for that. I put a hold on the audio from the library and my hold should be coming in.

These Witches Don't Burn by Isabel Sterling - Add to Goodreads
Another debut that sounds really fantastic. I love modern witch books and I am totally excited to read this one. I have a hold on a book from the library so I'm hoping it comes in soon.

Backlist Books

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik - Add to Goodreads
I really like Uprooted and I am super interested in reading this one as well. It's another book I put a hold on from the library and the hold should come in soon. I'm not realizing all my lirary holds are going to come in at the same time.

Other than that, I have no plans. I want to keep my options open and read whatever I feel like or if I get any good books at ALA I want to read. There you have it. Some of the books I hope to read in June. As always, these are subject to change. I may read all of these or I may only read a few and then read a bunch of different ones. But honestly I think this list I can stick to. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!