Saturday, February 17, 2018

OwlCrate: February 2018

OwlCrate is a monthy subscription box where you get sent a new YA book and all sorts of cool merch and goodies, all pertaining to a certain theme.

This month's theme was HIDDEN WORLDS! Here's all the stuff I got in my box this month. If you want to sign up for OwlCrate, their website is here.




This month's box included...

  • The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. Alice's grandmother is famous for writing a collection of dark and sinister fairy tales, and her rather... peculiar fans. When she passes away on the grounds of her extensive estate, the Hazel Wood, the impossible happens: Alice's mother is kidnapped by one of the characters from the stories. Forced to team up with a fan of her grandmother's book, Alice ventures into the estate, and the dark side of fantasy, to rescue her mother. This was one of my most-anticipated 2018 releases, so I'm pumped to have a copy -- and that I didn't already order it!
  • A sticker sheet inspired by The Hazel Wood.
  • A candle inspired by The Chronicles of Narnia, smelling like mint, pine, and vanilla.
  • A wall tapestry designed exclusively for OwlCrate!
  • A necklace in the shape of a key, inspired by Coraline.
  • A sticker inspired by Alice in Wonderland.
  • A zipper pouch with a quote from Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
There's also a preview for next month's theme: ACROSS THE GALAXY. Can't wait!



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Stay tuned for that giveaway!


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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

NOTE: This book has not yet been released. I was given a free Advance Reading Copy by HarperCollins and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This book will be released on June 5, 2018. If you would like to send me an ARC, please see this page.


TITLE: Monday's Not Coming

AUTHOR: Tiffany D. Jackson

GENRE: mystery

PLOT SUMMARY: Claudia only has one friend: Monday Charles. For years, Monday has been more like a sister than a friend, and Claudia has no idea what she'd do without her. So when Monday doesn't respond to any of Claudia's letters all summer, she's confused. When Monday doesn't show up for the first day of school, she's worried. As days turn into weeks, it becomes increasingly clear that something isn't right. Worried for her friend's safety, and scared to face the world without her, Claudia's search for the truth leads her down a twisted path -- one that she may not come back from.

FIRST THOUGHTS: I was super-excited to be given this ARC. I'd heard amazing things about this author's previous book, Allegedly, which is still on my TBR list, so when I saw she had an upcoming release, I just had to try it. While it took me awhile to get into, Monday's Not Coming gradually drew me in, and by the time I was a hundred pages in, I just had to keep reading so I could find out what happened. While not perfect, this is a dark, extremely interesting mystery, one that I think would be perfect for fans of Reconstructing Amelia and Dare Me.

THOUGHTS ON PLOT:  I tend to really like "missing persons" stories, especially in YA, and I thought that the mystery in this book was really well-done. While I had a pretty good idea of how the story would end, I was genuinely shocked by a few revelations, and I was super-invested as Claudia's search for her best friend continued. However, there were a few weak points that really detracted from it, at least for me. There's a romantic subplot between Claudia and a boy from her church, Michael, and while I liked Michael a lot as a character, I thought that the romance between him and Claudia was really unneeded, and didn't add much to either of their characters. It's not so in-your-face that it ruins the book or anything, though. It's just kinda... there. My second issue is the fact that the story is told in anachronic order. While jumbled timelines can be a great storytelling device, this particular use of it felt confused, and made it pretty hard to keep a hold on what was happening when. Given the nature of a couple plot twists (no spoilers), I think this may have been intentional, but this didn't become apparent until the last couple chapters. Up until then, it just felt really disconcerting.

7 / 10

THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: One pitfall of the "missing BFF" plotline is that, more often than not, the BFF is underdeveloped and hard to care about. This was a very welcome exception, with Monday being a fully fleshed-out and lovable character. In another story, she could make a great heroine in her own right. But in this book, we have Claudia, who I found to be quite engaging and endearing. While she sometimes does really, really dumb things, you almost always understand why. (Spoiler alert: stressed-out, panicking fourteen year olds are prone to making poor choices. What a surprise.) I really liked a lot of the side characters, especially Claudia's favorite teacher, her parents, and Monday's older sister April, and I wish the narrative had spent more time letting us get to know them. Especially April, which surprised me, since at first, I didn't like her much at all. But as the book goes on, she turns out to be surprisingly interesting -- in addition to being kind of a bitch.

7 / 10

THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: As I mentioned above, the story is told out of order. This is both a strength and a weakness of the narrative. Jackson is great at writing Claudia's narration, and she did a pretty good job at keeping the conflicting timelines straight, but the further I got into the book, the more confused I got as to what was happening when. (This did not get better by the ending.) I found it was helpful to treat each chapter as its own separate thing, rather than a chunk of a larger story. All the chapters were connected, of course, but not so entwined that I couldn't do that. Overall, I thought that the prose and dialogue were excellent, but the story structure could be a tad disorienting.

7 / 10

THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: In terms of representation, this book is great. It features an entirely black cast, and Claudia has a learning disability. Dyslexia, to be precise. I can't speak for how accurate the portrayal of the dyslexia is, but it's treated with sensitivity and respect, with much emphasis being given to the fact that being dyslexic does not make Claudia stupid. The novel also focuses a lot on class differences, and how the fear of not being able to make enough money just to survive from day to day can affect someone's life. I have mixed feelings about the way mental illness is portrayed in the novel, but I can't get too much into it without going into spoiler territory. I will say that the book isn't ableist, at least not to me -- you read it and be the judge.

7 / 10

FINAL THOUGHTS: While this wasn't the best mystery/thriller I've read, Monday's Not Coming is a solid novel about friendship, fear, and the search for the truth. If you're not put off by the anachronic order, I'd suggest giving it a read, especially if you're searching for more diverse fiction. From what I've seen in other people's reviews, fans of Jackson's other works have not been disappointed, and it has definitely made me want to finally get to reading Allegedly. I think Monday's Not Coming will appeal to a lot of people, and make for a great reading experience.

FINAL GRADE: 7 / 10


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If you've read or are planning to read Monday's Not Coming, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!



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Thursday, February 8, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills


TITLE: Foolish Hearts

AUTHOR: Emma Mills

GENRE: contemporary

PLOT SUMMARY: After overhearing a messy breakup at a party, Claudia finds herself in hot water with the school mean girl, Iris Huang. Being dumped by her girlfriend, Paige, has left Iris in an even fouler mood than normal, so Claudia intends to stay out of her way. This plan is thrown off-course when Claudia and Iris get forced to work together on the school play. (In Iris' words, their teacher is High School Musical-ing them.) As the school gets ready for their performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Claudia and Iris begin to get to know one another... and develop a shaky friendship.

FIRST THOUGHTS: SHOULD'VE BEEN GAY. Okay, okay - technically, it IS gay, since Iris is a lesbian. But still. I was honestly shocked when Claudia was not, in fact, Iris' love interest. (Shoutout to my friend Annie, who got to hear me scream about the Claudia/Iris ship the entire time I was reading.) Honestly, I had a hard time writing this review, because I'm having difficulties articulating my thoughts on this book. I thought it was good, and it's a really cute, lighthearted story, but I'm not sure what to SAY about it. But, I can't put off reviewing forever -- and this was, overall, a good book. I'm just having trouble getting my thoughts down into words.

THOUGHTS ON PLOT: The plot was... lacking. I was excited when I heard that the two leads would be forced to work on a school play together, having a background in theater myself. So it was a bit disappointing when we didn't get to see much of the action backstage. Instead, we get mostly scenes of characters bouncing off one another at school, at parties, or over the phone. And don't get me wrong, those scenes are nice, but it's not what I was expecting. There was very little tension in the story, which was also a source of frustration. (I mean, there is ONE moment about 3/4 of the way in, but it's resolved in fifteen pages and could've easily been omitted.) Overall, this is a very, very "slice of life" novel. If you like that genre, you'll probably like this plot more than I did.

6 / 10

THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: Claudia is a pretty good main character. She's likable and easy to relate to, and has a very easygoing personality. However, by far the best-developed character is Iris, who is surprisingly three-dimensional, especially once she begins to make friends with Claudia. These two had one of the best and most believable friendships I've read in YA, and their banter was just a delight. It was really great to see these two grow and change because of each other, especially as Iris goes from a selfish, unlikable ice queen to a much more compassionate and openly vulnerable person. And, as much as I ship Claudia with Iris, I wound up liking Claudia's actual love interest, Gideon, a lot, too. He's not quite as compelling as Iris and Claudia, but he was a surprisingly easy-to-like guy, compared to other YA love interests. I felt that the side characters were a bit underdeveloped, though. I especially feel like more could've been done with Paige, Iris' ex. We know that she's nice, and... that's it. That's not to say a character's main personality trait being "nice" is bad; it's not. But it's good to have more than that, you know?

7 / 10

THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: Claudia serves as our narrator here, and that's probably a good thing, since the most we got about her personality came from her internal monologue. As I mentioned before, this book is light, fluffy, and easy to read -- Claudia's narration draws the reader in, and is well-written enough to keep you invested, even when the plot is kind of dragging. I was also pleasantly surprised at how well the scenes where Claudia is playing her favorite MMORPG were written; it's easy for scenes that describe characters playing a game or sport to be overly-wordy or tedious, but these weren't at all. Overall, this had some very nicely done narration, and a compelling voice to keep the reader drawn in.

7 / 10

THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: One of the main characters is an Asian-American lesbian, and her ex-girlfriend is a prominent side character. There's also a side character that's epileptic. While this is about it in the representation department, I did like how neither of these characters were tokens. They both have personalities, motivations, and development completely unrelated to their identities. Iris, in particular, could've been straight, and the book wouldn't have been different at all. But she's not straight, and that's a very welcome change from the norm. It's so good to see YA slowly becoming more and more diverse.

7 / 10

FINAL THOUGHTS: Foolish Hearts is an easy, lighthearted read that I think most people will really enjoy. The friendship between Claudia and Iris is, by far, the best part of the book, and it's more than enough to carry the story through its weaker moments. If you're looking for a sweet, optimistic contemporary novel, give it a look. (But seriously, why wasn't Claudia/Iris the endgame? WE COULD'VE HAD IT AAAAAAAALL...)

FINAL GRADE: 6.75 / 10


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Thank you so much for reading this review. If you liked it and would like to support my work, click on either of the buttons below to donate -- Buy Me a Coffee is a small, one-time donation, but becoming a Patron has several benefits and rewards. Either way, it's a huge help to me. A special thanks to those of you that choose to contribute! Even if you can't donate, you can feel free to follow me on social media; the links are in the top-right corner.

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Monday, January 29, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry

NOTE: This book has not yet been released. I was given a free Advance Reading Copy by HarperCollins and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This book will be released on August 7, 2018. If you would like to send me an ARC, please see this page.


TITLE: Heretics Anonymous

AUTHOR: Katie Henry

GENRE: contemporary, humor

PLOT SUMMARY: Michael is about to face his worst nightmare: being an atheist in a strict Catholic school. Fortunately, he won't be alone in his struggles, because on his first day, he meets Lucy. Lucy is a devout Catholic, but she has issues of her own with the Church; specifically, the way it treats women, and that she'll never be able to fulfill her dream of becoming a priest. Upon finding out about Michael's discomfort at the school, she invites him to join Heretics Anonymous, a secret club for students who don't fit in, for one reason or another. What begins as simply airing their grievances in private turns into a campaign to change the school for the better, one prank at a time. But what happens when things go too far?

FIRST THOUGHTS: This is one of those books that I knew I had to read, just based on the title. Fortunately, it didn't disappoint; in fact, it exceeded my expectations. Having had an extremely mixed experience with religion myself, I found many parts of this novel to be extremely relateable. This reminds me a lot of the works of Adam Selzer, an author I've mentioned my love for elsewhere on this website. While I went in expecting this to be more of an ensemble piece than it was, this is an incredibly enjoyable comedy, with a great cast of characters to back it up. I can very easily see this becoming a young adult mainstay in the future. Regardless of your religion or lack thereof, give this book a try. I think you'll enjoy it.

THOUGHTS ON PLOT: I really loved the initial setup of this book -- a Breakfast Club-style group of students who, despite their contrasting personalities, band together to take down a school that's against them. The first half of this book was excellent, with Heretics Anonymous' pranks and rebellion against the administration. Really, the book is worth reading just for that first half. While the second half isn't bad, it is a bit of a letdown compared to the first part's hijinks. I can't say where the turning point is, exactly, due to spoilers, but you'll know it when you get there. However, the story is incredibly entertaining and funny throughout, even if I enjoyed the buildup more than the conclusion.

7 / 10

THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: At first, I wasn't so sure I'd like Michael, but he wound up being a pleasant surprise. Yeah, he can be a self-involved tool sometimes, but no more than any other teenager, and he's got a lot of compassion and wit that makes him very likable as a main character. I also loved all the other Heretics, though I felt like Eden and Max were woefully underused compared to Lucy, Avi, and Michael. I had a similar complaint about the book's pseudo-antagonist, Theresa. Theresa's mostly there to harass and annoy our protagonists, and while she does a good job at that, what little we know of her backstory pointed to her having some sympathetic qualities, and possibly needing a group like Heretics Anonymous herself. However, she doesn't get developed, and she doesn't change at all throughout the story, which is a real disappointment, since I think there were plenty of opportunities to give her depth. Overall, while the lead characters were well-written and very developed, I would've liked to see more done with the side characters.

7.5 / 10

THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: This, like a lot of contemporary YA, is written in first person, and it follows the increasing trend of writing in the present tense. I thought that the author captured Michael's voice really well, and she did a really good job at creating a different "voice" for each Heretic, and most of the minor characters, as well. Overall, this book is incredibly easy to read, moving at a fast pace. I got through it in one sitting, and I'm sure several other readers will do the same.

8 / 10

THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: The author has described herself as having a "complicated religious background," and it shows. However, I think the religious aspect of Heretics Anonymous is handled extremely well. One of my pet peeves is when atheists and agnostics are treated as inherently smarter than theists; I'm agnostic myself, and I know firsthand that that just isn't true. I liked that this book treated religion -- all religion -- and atheism with the same amount of respect. Jokes are made about religions, sure, but never at the expense of those that believe in it. There's also a nice amount of POC and queer people in the cast, although the protagonist is straight and white. One of the characters is also heavily coded as autistic; at least, that's how I read him. I wish that had been explored more in-depth, especially in how that would make him feel out of place at the school.

8 / 10

FINAL THOUGHTS: This is a wildly funny, heartwarming story about five misfits that's almost guaranteed to brighten your day. Regardless of your religious leanings and background, there's a little something for everyone in Heretics Anonymous. So, count me among the raving advance reviews for this book, and be sure to check it out once it hits the shelves.

FINAL GRADE: 8 / 10


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If you've read Heretics Anonymous, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! And if you haven't read it yet, do you plan to once it's for sale?


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Thursday, January 25, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Best Story by Maggie Lehrman

NOTE: This book has not yet been released. I was given a free Advance Reading Copy by HarperCollins and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This book will be released on August 7, 2018. If you would like to send me an ARC, please see this page.


TITLE: The Last Best Story

AUTHOR: Maggie Lehrman

GENRE: contemporary

PLOT SUMMARY: Grant was stunned when his friend Rose quit the newspaper out of nowhere two months ago. For four years, the two of them had worked faithfully on the paper, planning to go to Northwestern and become the star reporters they were always meant to be. But now, Rose seems to want nothing to do with the paper -- or Grant. That is, until prom night, when a sudden, real, dead serious, this-is-not-a-drill lockdown causes everyone to think one thing: gunman. Grant is stuck inside the gym, while Rose is caught outside and finds herself hiding in a classroom. Grant is determined to find out who the gunman is and what can be done to stop him -- but Rose quickly finds out that something much, much stranger is going on, and the night becomes a mad dash to get the real story before anyone can get hurt.

FIRST THOUGHTS: I read this all in one sitting, and I doubt I'll be the only one once this book hits the shelves. It's extremely easy to get through, with a fast-moving plot and a compelling voice. I was mostly satisfied by the ending, but honestly, my main thought after the book ended was, "Well, that was fun." This isn't normally the sort of YA I like, so it's probably not surprising that this didn't grab me the way other books do. That said, I liked it well enough, and I'd recommend it to others. There's plenty to like about this book, as I'll detail below.

THOUGHTS ON PLOT: Okay, so apparently, this novel was inspired by His Girl Friday, a classic movie. I've never seen it, and I never would've guessed this was a retelling of another story. It stands on its own, and that's good. The book is told in anachronic order, jumping around from the night of the prom to scenes that took place months or even years before. While the prom night plot was very well-written and kept me engaged, some of the flashback scenes felt a bit pointless. Definitely not all of them -- a lot of them deepened character or foreshadowed later events. But a few of them, I didn't see why the author chose to include them, and that made it drag a little bit. The mystery aspect of this book was a bit of a mixed bag; I was wondering who the culprit was, but I can't say I was truly invested. As I'll elaborate on in the next section, I think the book has some really great side characters, and I wish the story had focused on them a bit more; I think it would've been a better book for it.

6 / 10

THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: This book is a good example of how one bad lead character can drag it down for everyone else. I liked Rose a lot, though I didn't always understand her motivations. Maybe it's because I can't personally relate to many of her struggles -- a reader who has had an identity crisis like hers might feel differently. But her personality and wit were more than enough to win me over. It was Grant I hated. I know that him starting the story as a self-centered, insufferable tool is kind of the point, and I'm glad he undergoes some serious character development, but seriously, Rose, you can do better than him. So can Nick, Grant's best friend -- a side character I really liked. Actually, I really liked most of the side characters, especially Jenna, Rose's best friend. Had the book been about Jenna and Rose, I probably would've liked the book more -- I wish I'd seen more of their dynamic, especially when Grant and other drama wasn't getting in between them.

6 / 10

THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: As mentioned above, I got through this entire book in a single sitting, which is a testament to how easy it was to get drawn into the story. The book shifts between Grant's and Rose's perspectives, and while for the most part it works well, I will say that it felt a bit... jarring when it happened mid-page. (I'd say mid-chapter, but this book was more broken up into "sections" than "chapters." Read it and you'll see what I mean.) The third-person narrator wasn't quiiiite omniscient, but we didn't feel 100% in either of our leads' heads. Sort of like we were in both their heads at once. I think this might be one of those things that gets cleaned up just before publication, and it's not a huge issue -- just something to consider.

7 / 10

THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: This book is far more political than I thought it would be, but honestly, that was the best part. Along with the commentary on casual sexism and normalized assault, especially when the perpetrators are cute, white jocks, there's also some great commentary on gun control. Maybe that shouldn't be so surprising, given the plot, but I was impressed by how the author just went for it instead of dancing around the issue. Major props! The Last Best Story also has some of the best casual representation I've ever seen in YA contemporary. The multitude of POC, queer characters, and disabled characters isn't a big deal, nor should it be. They're not there as tokens or because their diversity is relevant to the plot; they're there because in the average American high school... you will see a multitude of POC, queer people, and disabled people. No matter what certain people say whenever they start crying about authors "forcing diversity." Seriously, folks -- real life is diverse, and if your preferred fiction is all straight, able-bodied, and white, that's your problem. Representation and diversity in fiction matters, because the real world is diverse. Die mad about it.

10 / 10

FINAL THOUGHTS: This is an enjoyable, fun contemporary novel. It's not what I'd call a "favorite," but it's certainly very good -- if you're a fan of His Girl Friday, or contemporary in general, I'd definitely suggest checking it out. The unexpectedly good political commentary is something I hope other books of its kind will choose to emulate in the future, and I'd be very curious about anything else Lehrman publishes in the future.

FINAL GRADE: 7 / 10


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Thank you so much for reading this review. If you liked it and would like to support my work, click on either of the buttons below to donate -- Buy Me a Coffee is a small, one-time donation, but becoming a Patron has several benefits and rewards. Either way, it's a huge help to me. A special thanks to those of you that choose to contribute! Even if you can't donate, you can feel free to follow me on social media; the links are in the top-right corner.

If you've read The Last Best Story, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! If you haven't, I'd love to hear if you plan to read it when it comes out.

I am currently running a giveaway! I'm giving away a free copy of The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. It closes January 29, 2018, so enter now!



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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Warcross by Marie Lu


TITLE: Warcross

AUTHOR: Marie Lu

GENRE: science fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Warcross is a virtual reality game that, over the past decade, has become the most popular form of entertainment in the world. Some people play it competitively, or to make money, while others simply want to escape from real life. Emika is a hacker and bounty hunter who's about to be evicted from her apartment. Desperate and willing to try anything, Em decides to try and hack Warcross' airtight security system during the opening ceremonies of the yearly championships. Instead, she manages to hack herself into the game, on international TV. Em is sure she's going to be arrested, but instead, she gets the shock of her life when the creator of Warcross, Hideo Tanaka, instead offers her a job. Acting as a spy for Hideo, Emika is tasked with figuring out who's been trying to hack Warcross' system for the past few months, and what, exactly, it is that they want.

FIRST THOUGHTS: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. I just finished reading this book and my mind is REELING. I haven't read any really good sci-fi for a while, so this was a breath of fresh air... until it punched me in the gut. (In the best way possible.) This book is the first in a series and, honestly, thank God, because that ending made me feel so many things. I need to read more about this world and these characters! I've never read anything by Marie Lu before, but now, I see what all the hype around her is about. If you're looking for a new, exciting sci-fi story that makes great use of the technology the characters have access to, read Warcross. You won't regret it.

THOUGHTS ON PLOT: Okay, so the ending of this book personally came into my home, punched me in the face, lit me on fire, and left. At least, that's how it felt. Right from the first page, I was sucked into the world and the story of Warcross, and that ending has me craving the next book. (Which doesn't have a release date yet... or even a title... AAAAAAAAAGH.) If you like the anime Sword Art Online, you'll probably like Warcross. The element of competition and the espionage plot with Emika being Hideo's spy kept the stakes almost unbearably high for this one, and I honestly didn't see the ending coming. Like, at all. Go into it blind; trust me on that.

8 / 10

THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: Emika is a great heroine for this new series. I've seen her compared to Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, and that comparison is an apt one, but Em is definitely her own person. She has an edge to her, but she's incredibly noble and her struggles are so relatable that it's near-impossible not to root for her. I had a feeling from the summary that I'd like Hideo, and for the most part, I was right. But what really surprised me was this book's villain. I can't give too much away right now, but I genuinely love them, in that horrified, exhilarating way you love a really great bad guy. I can't wait to see them in action in the next book, now that the groundwork for their plan has been laid.

9 / 10

THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: This novel has some really great worldbuilding, which is good because the way Warcross works is a bit confusing at first, at least for me. (Then again, I do have an unparalleled talent for missing the painfully obvious, so you'll probably be fine.) While there are some spots that feel a bit infodumpy, these are few and far between. I really loved Emika's voice as she takes us through the story, and introduces us to this world that is so unlike our own, but could be our own in the not-so-distant future. And my... er... emotional reaction to the ending, as detailed above, is a testament to how good Marie Lu is at metaphorically sucker-punching her audience.

8 / 10

THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: There's been a cry for more diversity in fiction, especially in fantasy and sci-fi. Where contemporary YA has steadily been getting more inclusive, a lot of the more outlandish stories have remained straight and white. Warcross is a very welcome exception. There are two Asian leads, multiple POC side characters, and some characters who are implied to be queer. (Hopefully this'll be expanded on in the sequels.) There's also a character that's in a wheelchair, and I thought it was interesting how he's able to perform incredible physical feats in Warcross that would be impossible in real life. I also thought that the debate the book presents about technology is interesting, though I can't really comment on it without totally spoiling it. I'm curious to see how the sequels will handle it.

9 / 10

FINAL THOUGHTS: This is gonna be a series that takes over my life for awhile, I can tell. I could totally see this as a TV show, or a blockbuster movie -- it's action-packed, full of amazing descriptions that would make really cool visuals, and it has a very timely message about technology and the anonymity of the internet. And holy crap... that ending. I can't wait for the sequel. I've heard rumors it's due out in 2019, but I'm not holding my breath until the author or publisher officially announces it. Here's hoping we get word soon!

FINAL GRADE: 8.5 / 10


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Thank you so much for reading this review. If you liked it and would like to support my work, click on either of the buttons below to donate -- Buy Me a Coffee is a small, one-time donation, but becoming a Patron has several benefits and rewards. Either way, it's a huge help to me. A special thanks to those of you that choose to contribute! Even if you can't donate, you can feel free to follow me on social media; the links are in the top-right corner.

If you've read Title, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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Monday, January 22, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: The Dalai Camel by C.E. Rachlin

NOTE: This book has not yet been released. I was given a free Advance Reading Copy by MindBuck Media in exchange for an honest review. This book will be released on February 8, 2018. If you would like to send me an ARC, please see this page.



TITLE: The Dalai Camel: A Bizarre Tale of UnBEARable Bliss and Bewilderment

AUTHOR: C.E. Rachlin

GENRE: humor

PLOT SUMMARY: Born to a literal camel, the Dalai Camel (or, DC, for short) is a 500-year-old, 100% enlightened spiritual leader. Of course, being the Dalai anything isn't easy, and it was an uphill climb to get to where he is today. In order to share his wisdom with the world, he is now composing his autobiography (with a bit of help from a hopelessly inept typist). In a series of vignettes, follow the DC through his very odd life, as he treads on the twisted path to enlightenment.

FIRST THOUGHTS: ...Okay. So. The publishers of this book reached out to me, and asked me to review it. It was pretty much an instant "yes" from me, since I was so jazzed to be asked. (Still am, by the way. Means a lot.) I'd never heard of the book before, so I really had no clue what to expect. Now that I'm finished, I'm left with a sense of, "What the hell did I just read?" This is an extremely strange book, and while I'm glad I gave it a go, I'm not sure I'd recommend it to anyone else. It's far from the worst book ever, and I can see why other people might like it, but it was really not for me. More on why below.

THOUGHTS ON PLOT: The summary of the book that I found online told me that this book would be... odd. But I really was not prepared. And don't get me wrong: odd can be good. Odd can be great! But my personal brand of weirdness is clearly very different from this author's, and the plot of the DC's life story really didn't hook me enough to make up for it. If I hadn't gotten this as an ARC, I probably wouldn't have finished. Luckily, this was a pretty quick read. (Though that's probably helped by the fact that I work a job where I sit at a desk and do nothing for 20 hours a week, so I had plenty of time to knock out a few chapters each day.) It may have something to do with the fact that this was told in a series of vignettes, and I'm not much into those in general, at least not in prose. I like it in theater, but that's a completely different medium.

2 / 10

THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: The Dalai Camel himself was a pretty good lead character. Which is good, since this book is literally the story of his life. He's goofy, but still pretty likable, and he helped me stick with the story. However, the supporting characters left something to be desired. (Case in point: I just finished the book and I can remember maybe... two of their names?) I think one pitfall of a story that covers such a long period of time, and is told in a series of scenes rather than an overarching plot, is that it's hard to develop a lot of characters really well. So while we had a good enough lead, the rest of the cast fell flat, at least for me.

4 / 10

THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: Probably the biggest disappointment of this book was how underutilized the framing device was. The idea is that we're reading the DC's autobiography, as dictated to the author. I think the author could've done a lot more with this concept -- maybe had some back-and-forth between dictator and typist, thrown in some footnotes and sidebars? It did that a little, but I think the humor could've been played up a lot more. There were a couple lines that made me chuckle, but overall, the narration and writing was rather lacking.

3 / 10

THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: Nothing worthy of note here. There was nothing particularly offensive or progressive about this book. I will note that I know next to nothing about Buddhism, the religion this book pokes fun at, so maybe I'd feel differently if I did. I also don't know if the author is a Buddhist, or what, if any, relationship he has with the religion. (To be fair, I don't think this book was mean-spirited in its jokes about Buddhism, and it really made fun of absolutely everyone. This was a point in its favor. Religious humor really only works if everyone's fair game.)

5 / 10

FINAL THOUGHTS: If I had to sum up this book in ten words or less, I'd say, "Weird, but not in a good way." I tend to like quirky, eccentric stories, but this didn't work for me for so many reasons. If you like kind of bizarre humor and are in the mood for something different, maybe give this a go, but overall, this was really not my cup of tea. Now... onto other things!

FINAL GRADE: 3 / 10


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