Waiting on Wednesday: Chainbreaker by Tara Sim and Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

New WoW

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we highlight a title we’re looking forward to reading. You can find their website here.

There are a lot of books coming up in the next couple of months, never mind the next year. I couldn’t pick just one to share with you today so here are two titles that I’m really looking forward to.


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Chainbreaker (Timekeeper #2) by Tara Sim

Clock mechanic Danny Hart knows he’s being watched. But by whom, or what, remains a mystery. To make matters worse, clock towers have begun falling in India, though time hasn’t Stopped yet. He’d hoped after reuniting with his father and exploring his relationship with Colton, he’d have some to settle into his new life. Instead, he’s asked to investigate the attacks.

After inspecting some of the fallen Indian towers, he realizes the British occupation may be sparking more than just attacks. And as Danny and Colton unravel more secrets about their past, they find themselves on a dark and dangerous path–one from which they may never return.

I got to listen to Timekeeper as part of an audiobook tour earlier this year and fell in love with Danny and Colton. The idea of a clock having a spirit to protect it was a new one to me and the steampunk theme of the book added to my enjoyment. Chainbreaker is the second book in the Timekeeper Trilogy and while it’s sure to have some dangerous plot elements (maybe heartbreak?!), I’ll definitely be looking into preordering it from Audible. 🙂

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Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.

But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).

When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.

Alice sounds like an awesome character to begin with. I think we’d have a lot in common: particularly her library job but let’s not forget marathoning t.v. shows and all-you-can-eat-buffets! I do want to read more books with asexual characters, so I can’t discount that aspect of this book.


Lucky for me both of these books come out sort of soon: Chainbreaker just two days after my birthday in November and Let’s Talk About Love in January (which really needs brightening up as it’s middle of winter here at that point!).

Have you read arcs of either of these titles? Are you looking forward to them? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

 

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.
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Review: Mr. 60% by Clete Barrett Smith

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Published: 22 August 2017

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers

Category: Young Adult/Contemporary

Matt Nolan is the high school drug dealer, deadbeat, and soon-to-be dropout according to everyone at his school. His vice principal is counting down the days until Mr. 60% (aka Matt) finally flunks out and is no longer his problem. What no one knows is the only reason Matt sells drugs is to take care of his uncle Jack, who is dying of cancer.

Meet Amanda. The overly cheerful social outcast whose optimism makes Matt want to hurl. Stuck as partners during an after-school club (mandatory for Matt), it’s only a matter of time until Amanda discovers Matt’s secret. But Amanda is used to dealing with heartbreak, and she’s determined to help Matt find a way to give life 100 percent.

Rating: 2 Stars

Mr. 60% has an entertaining enough premise, something I’d expect to see as the basis of a Lifetime movie special perhaps, but it also has the substance of that sort of movie. That is to say, while you may enjoy the movie or, in this case the book, while consuming it, there isn’t enough meat to it to stick with you for long after you’ve closed the cover.

The main character Matt is dealing drugs in his high school to pay for his uncle’s pain management medication due to cancer. Told from his perspective, the seriousness of his responsibilities is felt intensely as he delves deeper into his commitment to his drug supplier in order to not only secure his uncle Jack’s morphine, but the money to keep a roof over their heads.

The supporting cast for this book is slight, comprising of Uncle Jack, fellow student Amanda, a smattering of Matt’s nameless customers, Vice Principal Gill (out to expel Matt), Officer Hershey (school assigned police officer), & Mr. Marsh (the guidance counselor). Amanda becomes something of a presence in Matt’s life due to a school commitment and, through him, a friend of Jack’s. Her assistance proves helpful if ultimately futile to Matt’s high school career, but her friendship was the important thing. Having support after a devastating loss is one of the few things that I think saves Matt from withering away.

Vice Principal Gill was a complex character. The reader was supposed to hate this “bad guy” who was working hard to expel Matt, but I couldn’t blame him. He was a vice principal that was fighting to deal with a drug problem in his school. Matt being the main character doesn’t negate the fact that his actions were illegal and morally dubious. Even his inevitable loss of business isn’t a solution to Gill’s problem because apparently a transfer student swoops in and fills the hole. That school is trouble and I’d have been interested in hearing what happened to the vice principal’s efforts to clean it up.

I was shocked that Officer Hersey gave a known drug supplier so many chances and I have to wonder if it was because Matt was white. He got a lot of leeway from the school, what with Officer Hershey and Mr. Marsh giving him warnings about pat downs and busts, for one, not to mention the ease of his border crossings between the U.S. and Canada. Everything in relation to the drug business was skewed in his privileged favor. He even gets out of the business with no repercussions from Big Ed, the supplier. There were no real consequences for him outside of school; this baffled me when I thought back on it.

The emotional output from this book, coming from the relationship between Matt and Jack, was the best part of the novel. While their lives aren’t the easiest, what with Matt’s childhood alluded to as rough (his mother is jailed for an unrevealed crime) and Jack’s vagabond existence until Matt needed him, there was real family bonding there.

There are details lacking and the story doesn’t leave a lasting impression, but the time it takes to consume the book isn’t a lot and if you’ve got time to kill, I wouldn’t give this book a hard pass, though I would say borrow it if at all possible.

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

August #TheBookieBox Unboxing (Spoiler Post)

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When I heard about a new subscription service starting and the fact that it was having a sale (I forget the % but it was good!), I thought I’d give it a try because a) subscription services are an addiction and b) I only have OwlCrate going at the moment so why not have an extra box?

I received the box today and was very pleased with the contents, all of which I’m going to share with you today! If you don’t want to see the pictures…well, this is a SPOILER post so be aware of that!

The box itself was attractive because it was a bright color and I liked the quote chosen for the outside.

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Inside the box everything was wrapped so nicely, like presents. I like the filler (yellow tissue paper) because it cleans up a lot easier than the crinkled paper in some other boxes, plus it contrasted nicely with the outside color.

The first item I removed was a candle from That Bookie Candles.

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The scent is citrus, chili pepper, and black sea. I think it fits with the book, both in name and scent. The wax is glittery on top, too, so it was pretty.

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The next item is a lovely crescent moon necklace. This wasn’t on the insert card so I’m not sure what company made it, but it is quite lovely with the filigree on the moon and the chain itself. It’s a little short for me, but I think it’s a standard chain length. I’ll just have to get some extenders or something.

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An outer space themed notebook from Mustard was next. This isn’t my favorite item only because the pages aren’t lined, but it is good for a pocket notebook and quick notes.

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I loved the Wonder Woman movie and more merchandise with Diana’s person on it can’t hurt! This bookmark is also laminated so it’ll last longer, which is great because most bookmarks I get in boxes are not protected like this. This exclusive bookmark is from The Bookie Bookmarks.

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A Goddess lip balm, exclusively from Geek Fire Labs, had an interesting flavor to it that I wouldn’t have thought to pair together: cherry and chai. I don’t think they came out strongly, but the mellow feel is good.

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StudiofactotumUK has a sticker in the box that looks like the full moon. The card says it’s perfect for a laptop sticker, so I may end up using it as that because I usually don’t do much with stickers.

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A print from Artstoy. The illustration was nice, not too sure about the yellow on white text/background, but the print is laminated like the bookmark, so its lasting quality might make up for that.

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Next came the best part of the box: the book! It was wrapped really nicely. Getting to unwrap it like a birthday present was fun, even though I could see right through the paper. *lol*

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How fortuitous that I got this box today on the book birthday of Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo. I’d actually preordered this so I got two copies today. Haha, the coincidence of it all. 🙂 The DC Icons series looks to be a lot of fun coming in the next year (couple of years?). Wonder Woman wouldn’t have been my first choice to get because I prefer Catwoman as a character, but after having seen the movie and knowing Leigh is writing this book, I feel good about having this on my shelf.

Outer Space and Badass Women was a good theme, though I’m not sure it was accurate to the items in the box. All of the items were either Outer Space themed or specifically Wonder Woman, so not really badass women. The variety of the items is what I’d expect in a YA book subscription box, though I liked the flavor/scent of the candle and lip balm which were ones I did not already have.

As to the value: I got a significant discount because I was a first time subscriber so I paid about $15 less than the usual price. I can’t really say I’d pay the full price for it because the items in it were fine, but not really something I’d pay more for as compared to other boxes I’ve gotten in the same or slightly higher price range. If you can get a discount code, by all means give this a try. If you’ve got a couple extra bucks, maybe the full price ($39 and change with shipping for me in the US) won’t be a deterrent.

 

 

 

 

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Sandwiches!: More Than You’ve Ever Wanted to Know about Making and Eating America’s Favorite Food by Alison Deering (Author), Bob Lentz (Illustrator)

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Published: 1 August 2017

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Category: Food and Drink (Cookbook/Food)/Non-fiction

Anyone can make a great sandwich that’s the beauty of America’s favorite food. And thanks to this fully illustrated cookbook, kids can easily assemble and enjoy a variety of delicous sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert. With fun factoids and sandwich trivia, plus an array of vegetarian sandwiches and regional specialties, this truly is the ultimate guide to what takes place between the bread.

Rating: 4 Stars

As the parent of a six year old, I make a lot of sandwiches. They’re practically their own food group in our house. While my son has his preferences (peanut butter & jelly, turkey & mayo), he is open up to trying a variety of new flavors so I thought that checking out this book would be a good way to find new sandwiches and to include him in their preparation.

This book will appeal to both adults and children with a combination of fun graphics and handy information. Each recipe is full of simple illustrations about how to prepare the sandwich, including a symbol for the tools (i.e. knives, etc.) necessary and side pics for possible alternative ingredients like different cheeses, proteins, or sides.

There’s a lot of useful information that will appeal to older readers, though sharing it with younger readers may make the experience of preparing food more fun. Each recipe, besides the appealing layout, has snippets of information that vary between each recipe: origins of the sandwich, regional names, significant dates in history, etc.

Split up into five sections that progress from easy prep (Plate & Knife) and end with more skilled handiwork (Extra Cooking, Recipes, & Prep Work), there’s a variety of flavors for every palate. Oftentimes there are recommendations for quick fixes to kick a sandwich up a notch, but each chapter also has a “We Dare You” page for wacky, out of the park things to add to a sandwich, like apple pie filling or apricot jelly, bananas or ranch dressing to a grilled cheese. Maybe tasty, maybe gross, who knows? It’s up to the reader to experiment!

I appreciated how, as new techniques were introduced and prior to the recipes using one, the book took the time to guide the reader through them in an accessible manner that will leave bellies and mind full.

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey

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Published: 11 July 2017

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Category: Contemporary/Young Adult/Mental Health

I’m never going outside again. 

Mallory hasn’t left the house in sixty-seven days–since the day her dad left. She attends her classes via webcam, rarely leaves her room (much to her brother’s chagrin), and spends most of her time watching The X-Files or chatting with the always obnoxious BeamMeUp on New Mexico’s premier alien message board.

But when she’s shockingly nominated for homecoming queen, her life takes a surprising turn. She slowly begins to open up to the world outside. And maybe if she can get her popular jock neighbor Brad Kirkpatrick to be her homecoming date, her classmates will stop calling her a freak.

In this heartwarming and humorous debut, Mallory discovers first love and the true meaning of home–just by taking one small step outside her house.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

A main character that likes aliens? That’s new to me! Attending school via web cam? Okay, well how’s that going to work? Let’s request this book and find out.

To start, I’d have liked it if there were more alien moments, maybe a bit more focus on Mal’s interest in extraterrestrials. While her interactions on the message board We Are Not Alone did lead to a pretty important connection, it didn’t feature in the book as much as I thought it might. She lives an hour outside of Roswell, I’d have thought maybe there’d be a few more tidbits about aliens or talk from someone in her life.

The love aspect of the book was good in that there was a bit of a love triangle, but the side of the triangle that doesn’t get picked isn’t made into a horrible person. This almost never happens and I can’t think of an example other than Walking on Knives by Maya Chhabra. Both Brad and Jake were decent characters and while I wouldn’t say they were especially deep, they were light, fun characters that got the story told.

Mal’s friend Jenni was cool and I kept picturing Lilly Singh playing her because Jenni was a YouTube personality of Indian descent with a big personality. She had many quotes preceding each chapter that proved she had a lot of insight into not only her friends, but life in general. Her tips and tricks for dressing up were interesting, but I also liked her support of Mal, even if we do discover something she did toward the end that shocked me.

The most educational thing to me was learning about the concept of agoraphobia in a manner that I hadn’t considered before. I didn’t realize when I started reading this book that I had a narrow view of that MI and as I was reading about Mal and her dealing with her anxiety disorder with agoraphobic tendencies, I discovered that there was a lot more to it than I had known in the past. That being said, it still felt strange that Mal was able to set aside the overwhelming feelings about going outside when Brad and Jake were around, people that she didn’t know well at that point. Also, I wasn’t 100% thrilled with out Mal’s mother and brother were treating her anxiety/agoraphobic tendencies. A lot of the time it felt like they were treating it like she was overreacting to her father leaving the family and that she should get over it.

This contemporary novel reminded me of a 90’s movie where the main character, the one you’d never expect to be homecoming queen or what have you, gets changed to be that kind of person. She gets the spirit points, she goes to parties, she gets the crown. This all brought to mind She’s All That or 10 Things I Hate About You.

Love and Other Alien Experiences is a light book that is a pretty fast read that has some pop culture references, an unintended (or is it?) fellow author reference, and a determined main character who has her difficulties and makes her way through them, even if she doesn’t realize it all the time.

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: Black & White by Nick Wilford

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Published: 18 September 2017

Publisher: Superstar Peanut Publishing

Category: Young Adult/Dystopian

What is the price paid for the creation of a perfect society?

In Whitopolis, a gleamingly white city of the future where illness has been eradicated, shock waves run through the populace when a bedraggled, dirt-stricken boy materialises in the main street. Led by government propaganda, most citizens shun him as a demon, except for Wellesbury Noon – a high school student the same age as the boy.

Upon befriending the boy, Wellesbury feels a connection that he can’t explain – as well as discovering that his new friend comes from a land that is stricken by disease and only has two weeks to live. Why do he and a girl named Ezmerelda Dontible appear to be the only ones who want to help?

As they dig deeper, everything they know is turned on its head – and a race to save one boy becomes a struggle to redeem humanity.

Rating: 1 Star

Dystopian fiction be a fascinating genre, a look into what our world could be like if one thing goes wrong or if a chain of events leads to a horrific outcome. Young Adult Dystopian novels have been popular for a long time and while they’re not my favorite, I thought I’d give more titles from the genre a chance.

Black & White was not the good first step I had hoped it would be for several reasons, starting with the characters.

Ezmerelda, one of the main characters, felt like a bit of a smarmy person. She made incredible leaps in logic, bordering on a know-it-all personality that was insufferable. It was an annoying trait that didn’t seem to have a basis or to have been earned. Her deductions were luck. One quote in particular felt particularly silly:

“…I refuse to believe we’re the only ones who feel like this – it’d be too much of a coincidence that we’re the same age and in the same school.”

In the entire city of Whitopolis, with all of the children attending the same school, this is not that much of a coincidence and her making it seem like a grand deal had me shaking my head at how proud she acted of coming to the conclusion that it was a clue of some sort.

Wellesbury, the primary character, was a bland character that I don’t think had anything to do with the sterile whiteness of his society. I didn’t feel much personality coming from him, not even as an annoying know-it-all like Ezmerelda. Something else that was off about his character was his having knowledge throughout the story about things that he shouldn’t know, like what straw was early on when he went to Fusterbury or near the end of the novel when he knew the name of the country that Fusterbury was located in when it had never been revealed to him and he had no way of learning it on his own. These slipups in the narrative gave Wellesbury a bit of confusion to his name, but that doesn’t bulk up a personality.

I will admit that the language that Wellesbury uses to describe the things he sees in Fusterbury are accurate to what I’d think he’d use, if a little overly simplistic. He didn’t have much of an imagination; illustrating this with his brevity of word use was a good tactic on the author’s part.

For as important as Mallinger seems in the summary of the novel, the mysterious boy that appears in Whitopolis one day, he doesn’t have that much time on the page. The ultimate reveal of his character was, to me, meant as a shock factor meant to prop up an otherwise dull story because it felt like it came out of nowhere regarding a character that hadn’t done much or been around much the entirety of the story. I had no real time or opportunity to care about Mallinger, so why would the ending’s shock value have any real meaning for me?

There were other characters in the novel, such as Ezmerelda’s father and the doctor that ends up helping Wellesbury and Ezmerelda, but even the adults in the book didn’t seem to be very bright. A lot of what they did or why they did it felt like pure spur of the moment or luck. No one had meaning behind their motivation other than it being convenient to the plot at the moment. I couldn’t get behind anyone’s ideas.

As for the people of these parallel “worlds”, with the amount of surprise at the possibility of another world in Whitopolis, I was shocked at the lack of any kind of reaction from the people in Fusterbury. There didn’t seem to be any shock, any reaction to Wellesbury and Ezmerelda’s questions other than “You really aren’t from around here, are you?” No one was suspicious of these strangers, of the possibility that they harmed Mallinger; they just went along with their appearance and quest for information.

In a dystopian book, I’d expect to feel some kind of dread of the world to come, some kind of genius from the bad guys, or something to inspire from the revolutionaries aka the good guys in all the mess. Considering they were the main characters, Wellesbury and Ezmerelda were both incredibly lucky and incredibly naïve about their own revolutionary idea. I couldn’t believe they were able to get away with half of what they did with little to no repercussions in the end. I really couldn’t believe the doctor that helped them turned out to actually be truthful, or that any of the things he revealed about Whitopolis and Fusterbury. These last minute revelations felt stuffed in to extend the series, one of the worst things a book can do in my opinion.

I wasn’t pleased with the book for the above reasons nor, sadly, with the writing style either. A book with nothing happening in it besides real life can be enjoyable if the writing it gripping and the characters done well, but Black & White wasn’t able to do it for me.

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: Starswept by Mary Fan

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Published: 29 August 2017

Publisher: Snowy Wings Publishing

Category: Young Adult/Romance/Science Fiction

Some melodies reach across the stars.

In 2157, the Adryil—an advanced race of telepathic humanoids—contacted Earth. A century later, 15-year-old violist Iris Lei considers herself lucky to attend Papilio, a prestigious performing arts school powered by their technology. Born penniless, Iris’s one shot at a better life is to attract an Adryil patron. But only the best get hired, and competition is fierce.

A sudden encounter with an Adryil boy upends her world. Iris longs to learn about him and his faraway realm, but after the authorities arrest him for trespassing, the only evidence she has of his existence is the mysterious alien device he slipped to her.

When she starts hearing his voice in her head, she wonders if her world of backstabbing artists and pressure for perfection is driving her insane. Then, she discovers that her visions of him are real—by way of telepathy—and soon finds herself lost in the kind of impossible love she depicts in her music.

But even as their bond deepens, Iris realizes that he’s hiding something from her—and it’s dangerous. Her quest for answers leads her past her sheltered world to a strange planet lightyears away, where she uncovers secrets about Earth’s alien allies that shatter everything she knows.

Rating: 2 Stars

The concept of an interstellar connection is a fascinating one. What would happen if Earth made contact with some alien race? To be honest, I don’t think it would go all that well and, behind the facade of Papilio, it looks like I would be right in this futuristic world.

I wanted to like this story and for a little while I did, but the inconsistent pacing made it difficult to truly connect with any of the characters. The first quarter of the book was alright, if a bit bland. Between it and the second quarter of the book, there were things happening that I could tell were meant to be suspenseful, but actually reading it never gave me that feeling.

The second half of the book, when things finally did start happening, felt convoluted and dull. I thought that being introduced to the alien world that everyone on Iris’s Earth aspires to go to, Andrye, would be interesting, but it wasn’t really delved into. There was enough description to place the reader alongside Iris, but aside from a view descriptions of ornate clothes and buildings, I didn’t find anything special about this world. To me it lacked development.

There were some story points that weren’t resolved that frustrated me. I could’ve seen if the resolution was put off until the end, but once I finished the book and found myself without answers, I was annoyed. For instance, when the story beings Estelle is a violist who is much higher ranked than Iris, yet seems to view her as a threat. This wasn’t really explained, except for some other characters saying Iris was able to turn her personal feelings into musical arrangements. Her low ranking and this potential never meshed for me, nor did Estelle’s suspicion of her.

Then there is the incident that catapults Iris into the sight of the Andrye citizens that become her patrons. The only reason she was able to perform a solo on that crucial night was because the person intended for it, Estelle, was poisoned and couldn’t perform. However, the identity of the person that did this is never confirmed. Iris suspects that Estelle choked, but given what was revealed about her previously, I find that hard to believe. This whole occurrence felt like a deus ex-machina.

Once Iris is on the ship to Andrye, I noticed some inconsistencies with the telepathy that they’re able to use. They should have been able to read a person’s mind without question and yet before Iris puts up the mental block, the Andrye pilot can’t figure out how she knows about the mechanics of their telepathy. It didn’t make sense to me and made me question what were the real “rules” of this ability.

The love story components were dissatisfying. Iris reveals herself to be in love with Damiuel. This borderlines insta-love because they only communicated a dozen or so times before meeting in person and I never understood where her strong emotion or connection came it. It rang false; her friendship with Milo, someone she’s know her whole life, would’ve made more sense despite her telling Damiuel she regarded him as a brother. Her actions said otherwise, hence my apprehension about her declaration to Damiuel.

The book ends on a cliffhanger of sorts. I don’t think this book was billed as the first in a series of any length, so if it is indeed a standalone, I dislike the ending because there’s a lot left open. The underground movement, for example, is still around. What happens to them? To their plans?

This book might satisfy those that enjoy a slower paced novel with a rather quickly developed love story. I personally didn’t care for the mish-mosh of pacing, cardboard characters, and unanswered questions without indication of resolution.

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.