I’ve got four bite-sized reviews for you today: two middle grades, a YA audiobook and a YA anthology. Unfortunately, I didn’t absolutely LOVE any of these, but I did enjoy them all. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
Dare Mighty Things by Heather Kaczynski
Series: Dare Mighty Things #1
Published by HarperCollins on October 10th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Narrator: Soneela Nankani
Length: 10 hrs and 12 mins
Source: Edelweiss, Library
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing)
The Selection meets The 5th Wave in this heart-racing debut duology about a girl competing for a spot on a mysterious mission to the outer reaches of space.
THE RULES ARE SIMPLE: You must be gifted. You must be younger than twenty-five. You must be willing to accept the dangers that you will face if you win.
Eighteen-year-old Cassandra Gupta’s entire life has been leading up to this—the opportunity to travel to space. But to secure a spot on this classified mission, she must first compete against the best and brightest people on the planet. People who are as determined as she is to win a place on a journey to the farthest reaches of the universe.
Cassie is ready for the toll that the competition will take; the rigorous mental and physical tests designed to push her to the brink of her endurance. But nothing could have prepared her for the bonds she would form with the very people she hopes to beat. Or that with each passing day it would be more and more difficult to ignore the feeling that the true objective of the mission is being kept from her.
As the days until the launch tick down and the stakes rise higher than ever before, only one thing is clear to Cassie: she’ll never back down...even if it costs her everything.
I had high hopes for Dare Mighty Things, but when I started reading it originally, I was in a reading slump and couldn’t get into it. I eventually put the book down and then got the audiobook from the library. This was a good choice for me for this book. I enjoyed the narration by Soneela Nankani—I thought it enlivened the story since the MC’s (Cass’s) voice can be a little dry (she is a very logical thinker and, especially at the beginning of the book is a bit detached from others and from her own emotions).
The story was somewhat similar to Nyxia, and I’ll confess that I had a hard time not comparing the two in my mind (often). But this was told in a different manner (much less focus on the competition itself, which I appreciated) and in a completely different voice (I preferred the MC in Nyxia). I did like that the MC in this book is Indian and asexual—reps we don’t get often, and certainly not together. My one complaint about the book was that even though things in the competition were supposedly extremely difficult, it all came off as a bit too easy for Cass. She was almost too perfect, so I never felt like there was a huge struggle to win the competition. She was practically perfect—only Luka was ever better than her, but he had a major flaw that made it completely unbelievable that he would be chosen over her. Because of this, I felt like the book lacked some dramatic tension.
The ending threw me for a major loop, and I’m really curious to see where it all leads! In the end, I gave this book 3.5/5 stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart by Lauren DeStefano
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on September 13th 2016
Genres: Middle Grade, Paranormal
My content rating: MG (Some possibly disturbing themes)
Lionel is a wild boy, who doesn’t much like to be around other people. He’d rather be a purring cat or a wolf stalking the woods.
Marybeth is a nice girl. She doesn’t need to be told to comb her hair or brush her teeth, and she’s kind to everyone at the orphanage . . . Lionel most of all.
Different though they are, Lionel and Marybeth are best friends in a world that has forgotten about them. So when a mysterious blue spirit possesses Marybeth—and starts to take control—they know they must stop it before the real Marybeth fades away forever.
This was a really interestingly creepy middle grade read. Marybeth is possessed, and her friend Lionel is determined to help her. I was sort of torn over this book because I liked it but I sometimes wondered where it was going. The third person omniscient POV isn’t my favorite, so that distracted me occasionally as well. The story gets a little dark, but very few details are given, so I think it’s still okay for middle grade readers who enjoy creepiness to their stories (my daughter wouldn’t like this one, but she tends to veer away from anything disturbing—this book has some disturbing elements). I really loved both Lionel and Marybeth and especially loved their friendship. I also loved the message about family and how it’s not always the family you’re born into. Overall, I give this one 3/5 stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via BEA ’16 in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
The List by Patricia Forde
Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky on August 8th 2017
Genres: Middle Grade, Dystopian
My content rating: MG (Some MG level violence)
In the city of Ark, speech is constrained to five hundred sanctioned words. Speak outside the approved lexicon and face banishment. The exceptions are the Wordsmith and his apprentice Letta, the keepers and archivists of all language in their post-apocalyptic, neo-medieval world.
On the death of her master, Letta is suddenly promoted to Wordsmith, charged with collecting and saving words. But when she uncovers a sinister plan to suppress language and rob Ark’s citizens of their power of speech, she realizes that it’s up to her to save not only words, but culture itself.
This dystopian had such a unique concept—what would the world be like if we were allowed to say less. Significantly less—What if there were only a short list of words that we were allowed to say? Letta lives in that sort of society, and she is tasked with keeping track of the words, both the words that people are allowed to say and the forbidden words that must be hidden. She believes in her society’s tenets, but she starts to realize that the leader has sinister plans and that perhaps the society she has always lived in and loved isn’t actually what’s best for people.
I really enjoyed and appreciated the concept, but for some reason I never completely connected to Letta or her journey. I also had a really hard time understanding how this society came to be and why the leaders made the choices they made and why others went along with it (it is eventually explained, and I could understand it more then, but I had already built up such a level of doubt by that time that I had difficulty accepting it—at least that’s the best reasoning I could come up with for the fact that I never completely bought it).
This was a really interesting exploration of language and what the ability to express ourselves means to society. It was a unique and thoughtful read, but I never completely found myself engaged in the story. I gave it 3/5 stars.
***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.***
Welcome Home by Eric Smith
Published by Flux on September 5th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Short Stories
Welcome Home collects a number of adoption-themed fictional short stories, and brings them together in one anthology from a diverse range of celebrated Young Adult authors. The all-star roster includes Edgar-award winner Mindy McGinnis, New York Times bestselling authors C.J. Redwine (The Shadow Queen) and William Ritter (Jackaby), and acclaimed YA authors across all genres, like Adi Alsaid, Lauren Gibaldi, Sangu Mandanna, Karen Akins, and many more.
I was really excited to read this anthology because of my personal connection to adoption: my youngest is adopted. The very first story threw me a bit because it was so very strange. And there was one story that was downright negative toward adoption (especially international adoption by Christians) and made me sad, even though I know these situations exist and need to be talked about. In general, the stories were very short, which made them a bit harder to connect to. Still, some of these were gems.
A few of my favorites were “Up by a Million,” “Happy Beginning,” “The Take Back,” “Jar of Broken Wishes,” and “Upon the Horizon’s Verge.” That last one was my favorite and has stuck with me the longest—it had a really interesting twist and a bit of magical realism. Overall, I gave this one 3 stars (but some stories were definitely higher than that).
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via ALA Annual ’17 in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
That’s it for now! Have you read any of these? What did you think?