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Search tags: multi-povs
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review 2017-05-26 06:02
Review: The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares
The Whole Thing Together - Ann Brashares

Quick review for a somewhat quick read for me, though it felt like I had to push myself through this novel several times. "The Whole Thing Together" has many issues, but I would echo concerns that much of this novel suffers from rampant cliches, insensitive references in the measure of racial attribution (considering it uses a racial slur casually and struggles constantly to accurately and sensitively portray the multiracial character who struggles with her identity) and sexism (slut shaming and odd fixations on physical details of the characters). In addition to those issues, I think the biggest downfall of this novel really came in that I just couldn't find a space to connect with the characters. Not as much as I wanted to, because there were parts of the narrative that had the potential to go interesting places, but never quite reached that point and abruptly halted in places where the development could've provided more intimacy than the narration allowed.

At its heart, "The Whole Thing Together" is a family drama, showcasing teens as well as young adults in a separate sections of the same family struggling through multiple phases and revelations in their lives. Think "Parenthood" or "Brothers and Sisters" in terms of TV dramas, only I think the characters in this novel were far less fleshed out. As ambitious as this narrative sought to be, it tried to take on far too much in a narrow scope, to the point where nothing really worked well. The narrative voices blended far too much for me to truly connect to them (I don't mind third-person omniscient POV, I read it quite often in many genres). I would hesitate to call this YA, it feels more like it straddles the line between YA and New Adult (at least if you think about certain themes tackled in this book).

The surprise revelation towards the ending was emotional, but I honestly think that it could've had more impact if the character constructions were stronger. In the end, it's a narrative with strong intentions, but the execution leaves an unmemorable and sometimes offputting portrayal that doesn't showcase the best of what Brashares can do, and as someone who liked the Sisterhood series, this left me greatly disappointed.

Overall score: 1.5/5 stars.

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.

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review 2017-05-13 06:16
Review: Empress of a Thousand Skies (Empress of a Thousand Skies #1) by Rhoda Belleza
Empress of a Thousand Skies - Rhoda Belleza

Quick review for a somewhat quick read (at least as far as audiobooks are concerned). I honestly enjoyed "Empress of a Thousand Skies", though it took me a while to really get started with it. The challenge for this story lies in the fact that it has multiple narrators, has a very extensive set of worldbuilding rules and jargon that may be difficult to adjust to at first, and follows different storylines that eventually converge and reveal themselves in terms of the link between characters. It also starts very sluggish with pacing and development, which to me was probably the narrative's biggest achilles heel through the beginning of the story. However, once I found the flow with the story, I honestly couldn't put the book down and I loved the experience. I honestly can't wait to see where this series ultimately goes, considering the stakes established and the character relationships.

In sum, this story follows two characters. The first is Rhee, a princess who is the last surviving member of her family after a tragedy befell them many years before. But Rhee knows it wasn't just an accident, and is bent on revenge against the person whom she believes is the culprit behind her family's death. It isn't long that she realizes that there are traitors in her inner circles who want her dead, and that her fight to keep her throne will cost more than she realizes. The other character is Aly, a reality star (DroneVision) who often faces conflict because of his racial background and war refugee status. Yet his world is turned upside down when he stands accused of murdering Rhee. The two have very different storylines and encounters, though both have to go into hiding and find themselves manipulated in a sinister plot that involves political and technological manipulation. The way the story is crafted with respect to the technologies and ambitions of the characters is very well done, and I was intrigued and taken in by the respective aims and motivations of the characters here. Sure, they start off as naive and driven by their own motivations, but as events and encounters come to light, they grow in significant ways, utimately facing losses, revelations about their role in events, and determination towards reclaiming their lives on their own terms.

I really enjoyed the audiobook narration by Rebecca Soler - she captured the emotional delivery and investment of the characters down to a tee. The only thing that I would say about the story that didn't strike me as well as most was the pacing and some meandering points in the worldbuilding that could've been tightened better, but the story itself was well done. I can't wait for the next book.

Overall score: 4/5 stars.

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review 2017-05-05 04:26
Review: The First Wife by Erica Spindler
The First Wife - Erica Spindler

Quick review for a rather quick read. Well, I definitely didn't see the end of this book coming. It's a multi-level mystery that takes its time working through the motions. The story revolves around Bailey, a woman who falls madly in love with a man with a suspicious past. Logan's family is a complicated one, and as Bailey follows him to Louisiana, she finds that he keeps secret after secret from her about his family, particularly involving the disappearance of his first wife, True. When Bailey suffers from an incident that leaves her with retrograde amnesia, she struggles to know who to trust and tries to put the pieces of her fragmented memory together in order to discover the culprit, but *he* or *she* might be closer to Bailey than she can guess.

I definitely liked the fact this novel kept me in due suspense. I couldn't guess who the culprit was, particularly because when you think it might be one person in particular, the plot would reveal some other aspect of the crime and throw those guesses out the window. Every single person in this particular book came across to me as shady (save for Bailey), and even in its OTT presentation of drama in moments, there were also moments where the story would poke fun at itself through the characters (which didn't bother me in the least). In the end, I was satisfied that it managed to be a quick read and lead to a satisfying solution. Though if I'm honest, this book gets about 3.5 stars from me because I felt moments where the development of the characters wasn't really as full as it could've been, and the pacing dragged to heck and back (When the story was slow, it was slowwww).

Overall score: 3.5/5 stars.

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review 2017-03-21 04:45
Review: The Leaving by Tara Altebrando
The Leaving - Tara Altebrando

Quick review for quite a strenuous read. I think "The Leaving" had good ideas and intentions, but in the end, none of it worked for me. I'll admit I really had to push myself in a marathon just to get through this book. It was very sluggishly paced (for little to no reason at all), the characters were lacking (you have three perspectives: two of the abducted kids and one who's the sister, and there seems to be a mismatch with the gravity of the emotional events with the voices of the characters, who seemed very removed from it all despite having gaping holes in their memory and a potential missing kid that they don't even remember who might still be out there somewhere), and the mystery had little to no buildup. Matter in point, the story ends with such a telegraphed ending with very little expansion that I just felt underwhelmed at the whole deal despite this being in a genre I usually like. I spent more than 3 hours in spurts just to get that ending? *sighs*

The variant font stylistics also added nothing to the story, so don't think you're missing much if you don't get the inclusion or why it was done that way.

In the end, not my cuppa and not really worth the time I spent on it. A shame since the premise and certain reveals in the book had potential, but the cast of characters, pacing and narrative focus just weren't there.

Overall score: 1.5/5 stars.

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review 2017-03-15 01:16
Review: American Street by Ibi Zoboi
American Street - Ibi Zoboi

Initial reaction: I enjoyed every moment of this novel because it was an emotional and realistic journey with a strong protagonist whose narrative voice stayed with me long after I finished the story. It's a difficult read to swallow in places because of the actions of some of the characters, but in the end, I was rooting for Fabiola to find her footing.

Full review:

I have so many emotions upon finishing "American Street" - and that's a very good thing.

It's a story with many layers to its narrative, brought to life by the vivid narration and characterization throughout. "American Street" tells the story of Fabiola, a Haitian immigrant arriving in the United States, but separated from her mother along the way when she's detained by authorities at the airport. Fabiola ends up in Detroit, living with her aunt and three cousins as she tries to adjust to life in America between waiting for efforts to get her mother back and pursuing her own ends to make it happen. This is only part of the story, as Fabiola reflects on her experiences in Haiti, struggles to fit in alongside her cousins at school, discovers some tough truths involving the people around her, both friends and enemies alike.

I think Fabiola is one of the most well rounded and voiced protagonists I've read in a YA work in a long time. She's fiercely loyal to her family, faith (she practices Voudou, which is probably one of the few times it's actually portrayed in a non-stereotypical way that I've seen in many works, including YA), and goals. She's not without flaws, and the way she recounts her experiences in Haiti alongside her difficult adjustment to life in Detroit is vibrant and vivid. The relationship between her and her cousins (Primadonna, Chantal, and Pri) is wonderfully done. I liked the rolling banter between them in places, allowing the reader to get to know them in the way that is close to Fabiola, but also for their own motivations. The narrative allows a deeper eye into some of the side-characters through monologue snippets delivered between chapters in a seamless way. I was even taken by the scenes of romance and relationship building that I saw through the narrative. The diversity of the characterization feels natural, well established, and refreshing to read in many respects.

I'll admit "American Street" hit me hard on a number of emotional levels because of the way the story unfolds and the turns of conflict. The narrative takes an honest look at relationship abuse, drug dealing and abuse, inner-city life, cultural clashes, among a number of other subjects. One could say that in some ways, there quite a few threads that aren't completely tied, but its Fabiola's resilience and transformation that carries the momentum of the story despite places where the story could've had better closure. The weight of Fabiola's decisions also factor into the story and give some raw moments of grief and coming to terms that really stood out for me. In the end, I really appreciated the narrative journey that "American Street" took me on, and it's one I'd definitely read again.

Overall score: 4/5 stars.

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