Bite-Sized Reviews of Long Way Down, Nyxia, Hanna Who Fell from the Sky & My Heart and Other Black Holes

October 27, 2017 Reviews 23

I’ve got four bite-sized reviews today. Three new(ish) releases and one backlist book. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!


Bite-Sized Reviews of Long Way Down, Nyxia, Hanna Who Fell from the Sky & My Heart and Other Black HolesLong Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books on October 24th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Verse, Contemporary, Magical Realism
Pages: 320
Source: ALA
My content rating: YA (Mature themes such as murder and some mature language)
My rating:
5 Stars

A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator? Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.

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I honestly don’t even know how to describe in words how I felt about this book. You almost just have to experience it for yourself to understand its brilliance. When I started the book, I was both delighted and scared to see that it was written in verse (it’s all free verse, with one concrete poem thrown in there). How would Reynolds convey the story with so few words and still connect us to the characters? Would I know what the heck was going on? Turns out that Reynolds did indeed convince me to care about Will in a sparse number of actual words—and time, really. Most of the book takes place during a sixty-second elevator ride (though it tells a story that actually spans generations). And, yes, I knew what was happening. Free verse lends itself well to telling a story. But since it is poetry, there’s some room for interpretation—especially with the ending. (If you’ve read the book, I’d LOVE to talk about that ending! Oooh—maybe that should be a spoiler-filled discussion in and of itself. I have to go see what Reynolds himself has said about it. I have definite feelings about what’s happening at the end, but I can’t be sure I’m right.)

This book gives lyrical resonance to the cyclical nature of violence in inner cities—a pattern that can be nearly impossible to break out of. It asks questions about why (without actually asking the question). I loved it! You can read this entire book in an hour (but you’ll want to ponder it more), so there’s no excuse not to. Go pick it up now!

(By the way, I hear the audiobook for this is read by Jason Reynolds himself, so now I need to listen to that too!)

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via ALA Annual in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***


Bite-Sized Reviews of Long Way Down, Nyxia, Hanna Who Fell from the Sky & My Heart and Other Black HolesNyxia by Scott Reintgen
Series: The Nyxia Triad #1
Also in this series: Nyxia Unleashed
Published by Listening Library, Crown Books for Young Readers on September 12th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Pages: 384
Narrator: Dominic Hoffman, Sullivan Jones
Length: 10 hrs. and 6 min.
Source: NetGalley, Library
My content rating: YA (Some violence)
My rating:
4.5 Stars

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.

Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

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First off, I have to say that I listened to this audiobook along with my 15-year-old son and he LOVED it. In fact, he got tired of waiting for me (since I was pretty much only listening in the car) and he took it upon himself to forge ahead of me.

I really loved this book too, though I was a little disappointed to learn that there was a competition element to the story. I would have loved to have focused more on their actual mission than on a battle to be one of the ones chosen to go. The competition did lead to a lot of cut-throat action, though! The best thing about this book, in my opinion, is the distinct voice of the MC (which is perfectly portrayed in the audio by the narrator, Dominic Hoffman). I loved the sort of urban sci-fi vibe that the book exudes. And the rest of the cast of characters is incredibly diverse, so we have that as a plus as well.

There are some major twists that kept things interesting, and I’m definitely eager to find out what will happen next.

Loved the narrators for this book, by the way!

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***


Bite-Sized Reviews of Long Way Down, Nyxia, Hanna Who Fell from the Sky & My Heart and Other Black HolesHanna Who Fell from the Sky by Christopher Meades
Published by Park Row Books on September 26th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Literary Fiction, Magical Realism
Pages: 342
Source: NetGalley
My content rating: YA? (The main character is 17 and the romance feels like YA; There are themes of abuse and some discussion of sex, but nothing graphic)
My rating:
3.5 Stars

From highly acclaimed, award-winning author Christopher Meades comes a magical, provocative tale of forbidden love and one girl's struggle for liberation

Hanna has never been outside her secluded community of Clearhaven. She has never questioned why her father has four wives or why she has fourteen brothers and sisters. And in only one week, on her eighteenth birthday, Hanna will follow tradition and become the fifth wife of a man more than twice her age.

But just days before the wedding, Hanna meets Daniel, an enigmatic stranger who challenges her to question her fate and to follow her own will. Then her mother tells her a secret--one that could grant Hanna the freedom she's known only in her dreams. As her world unravels around her, Hanna must decide whether she was really meant for something greater than the claustrophobic world of Clearhaven. But can she abandon her beloved younger sister and the only home she's ever known? Or is there another option--one too fantastical to believe?

With lush, evocative prose, Christopher Meades takes readers on an emotional journey into a fascinating, unknown world--and, along the way, brilliantly illuminates complexities of faith, identity and how our origins shape who we are.

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I think I really liked this book. Okay, so that might sound a bit odd, but the book itself is a bit odd, and I wasn’t always sure what I was reading. The book chronicles a young woman who is trapped in a polygamous cult community. She is supposed to become the fifth wife of a much older man very soon. She is torn between horror at this thought and duty toward her family (her abusive father is depending on her to bring the family out of poverty). In the meantime, she starts to fall for the son of one of the other men in their community. Unfortunately, the romance was a bit too close to instalove for me, so I wasn’t particularly invested. And even though I understood that Hanna had loyalties to her family, especially her mother and slightly disabled sister, I still couldn’t help but just want to scream for her to leave!

But then, there’s a bit of magical realism that’s introduced, and the book got a whole lot more interesting to me. I found myself intrigued by this element and trying to figure out if it was real or if there was some other explanation. I ended up liking the book a lot more during the second half—both because I enjoyed the magical realism and because I started to develop a bit more sympathy for Hanna and her impossible situation.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***


Bite-Sized Reviews of Long Way Down, Nyxia, Hanna Who Fell from the Sky & My Heart and Other Black HolesMy Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Published by Harper Audio on February 10th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 320
Narrator: Rebecca Lowman
Length: 8 hrs. 14 min.
Source: Library
My content rating: YA (Themes of suicide)
My rating:
4.5 Stars

Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There's only one problem: She's not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel's convinced she's found her solution--a teen boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman), who's haunted by a family tragedy, is looking for a partner.

Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other's broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately,she must choose between wanting to die and trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together.

This is a gorgeously written and compulsively listenable novel about the transformative power of love, heralding the arrival of an extraordinary new voice in teen fiction, Jasmine Warga.

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I’ll admit that I was a bit concerned when I started this book. I was nervous that it was going to somehow romanticize suicide pacts, but thankfully, that wasn’t the case. It starts out on quite a depressing note, as you might imagine. Aysel is sure that it would be best for everyone if she simply disappears—she doesn’t want to take the chance that she might be like her father and someday crack under the pressures of life and hurt someone. Roman is living with the heavy burden of guilt. They’ve both decided that life isn’t worth living, and they’re ready to end things. Aysel figures a partner will help her go through with it, and Roman just needs help to set up his suicide. But the more time Aysel and Roman spend together, the more Aysel realizes that she might not be seeing things clearly.

The book explores dark truths about how painful circumstances can lead to feelings of helplessness and depression, but it also shines a spotlight on hope—and on the fact that those painful circumstances don’t have to define us or overshadow the possibility for good in our lives. I was occasionally nervous about where the book was going, but I was very happy with the message in the end.

I should mention that there was a slight element of “love cures depression” to this story, but this was a case where the characters were sad because of horrible things that had happened in their lives not due to an actual mental illness necessarily—and while it ends with hope, everything isn’t “fixed” by the end. I wished we’d had a bit more closure with some elements of the story (subplots), but I ended up really enjoying this one overall.

The narration for this book was great, too!


That’s it for now! Have you read any of these? What did you think?

 

23 Responses to “Bite-Sized Reviews of Long Way Down, Nyxia, Hanna Who Fell from the Sky & My Heart and Other Black Holes”

  1. Cee Arr

    My TBR hates you right now. I just added everything except ‘My Heart and Other Black Holes’ (I’ve read other reviews of it, and I’m not too keen. And I hate the ‘love cures mental health’ trope.)

    Quick note (not a criticism! Honest!) – a lot of disabled people find the word ‘crippled’ offensive. I thought I’d just let you know.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a TBR to go drown in… 😉

  2. Sam@WLABB

    I have been wanting to check out a Jason Reynolds book since I saw him in a panel at BookCon. I may opt for the audiobook, because I think he would tell his story in a most amazing way. I have a copy of Black Holes and have been trying to get to it. Your review might be the push I need, and I am so glad you mentioned that it is hopeful. I need a little hope with my sadness. Great reviews!

    Sam@WLABB recently posted: In a Nutshell:
  3. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    I’d not heard of Long Way Down. It’s a book which probably wouldn’t work for me but I think it definitely sounds really cool. Nyxia is sat on my TBR, I got a physical ARC and everything. The fact you enjoyed it so much definitely makes me excited to read this one. I actually have My Heart and Other Blackholes to read, I read Warga’s Here We Are Now and quite enjoyed it and so that was on my radar. I admit I was hesitant to read when it was released as the whole suicide bit didn’t appeal but I may have to check it out from your review.

    Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity recently posted: My Blogging Problems // Why Am I So Forgetful?
  4. Karen Blue

    Your reviews make me want to read all of these books! Long Way Down is something I simply have to read. I loved, loved Nyxia. I really liked the competetion element so that is probably why. I have to admit that the magical realism element turned me off a bit in Hanna who fell from the Sky. My Heart and Other Black Holes has been on my radar for a while. I just dont have it yet.
    Great reviews!

    Karen Blue recently posted: Weekly Wrap Up #144
  5. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    This sounds like a pretty good mix of books! I was a bit nervous about Nyxia- some people seemed to love it, others not at all- but if you liked it, I should be good haha. Definitely interested in Long Way Down (you got it at ALA? How did I miss it!?) and My Heart and Other Black Holes, so I am glad they were wins for you too! And I must admit, Hanna sounds kind of cool because I love cults? (Er, love reading about them, I’d prefer not to join one.) Great reviews!

    Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight recently posted: The Wicker King by K. Ancrum: Blog Tour & Guest Post
    • Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

      There was a signing for Long Way Down, but the line was forever long so I didn’t go. But then later, I asked if they had any more of the book and they did! I did like Nyxia, though I wish there’d been less of the competition element. I loved the voice though and my son LOVED the book, so that edged my enthusiasm up too.

  6. Olivia Roach

    The review that I really wanted to read was of My Heart and Other Black Holes because I have that one and haven’t read it yet. I am so glad to hear it handles the topic well and isn’t promoting anything it shouldn’t be promoting. The title was what intrigued me about the novel. But some of the others here sound pretty good too! I hadn’t heard of Nyxia or Long Way Down before, but both look interesting to me.

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