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review 2019-06-22 15:03
Underdogs
Underdogs - Chris Bonnello

Overall, it was both a fun and an emotional story, with good pacing and an appropriate mix of calm moments and tense ones. Also, since I read it through Pigeonhole, the staves were cut in such a way that they stop just at the right moment: if they hadn't, I sure wouldn't have stopped reading until the next day.

I really liked the cast, and the choice of relying on different people for a change: not your typical teenagers, but clearly the "underdogs", those seen as "problem children", considered from the start as "inferior", "useless", and all other manners of stupid clichés by "normal" people (whatever "normal" means anyway, eh?). Our heroes were clearly much more than their differences: they were human beings, something that should never be forgotten. They were good people, with their positive and negative traits like everyone, with a hefty dose of bravery and a genuine desire to do the right thing. And without being bogged down by "regular" society's demands, they were given the space to grow into themselves as people.

Which is why it pains me not to give more stars to this book, because as much as I liked the characters, I also couldn't overlook the rest. Mainly:
- The plot holes. Because much time is spent with the characters (which is a good thing), too little is spent on the backstory, and the latter in turn looks very simplistic and cliché. Bad guy uses his money to acquire private companies and get the government to trust him, then surprises everybody with an army of clones, seizes power, and stuffs all the population of Great Britain into prison-cities. OK, I get a villain having a desire for power, but it still felt "empty". Also, clones wouldn't prevent another country from simply nuking his factories from above, so... What was the rest of the world doing?
- The bad guys in general were pretty cliché, too, especially Nat and Oliver. They made me laugh and roll my eyes more than thrilled me.
- The last point is one I hate making (although, to be fair, I've noticed this in other stories as well): when the main characters' neuroatypical aspects were mentioned, I most often found it too... didactic, so to speak. I have the same feeling when non-binary characters, for instance, are portrayed the same way: it screams "must show the readers how this character is trans/asexual/non-binary/etc., but surely most readers have no clue and are too lazy to do their own research, so let's spell it for them." Same thing here, only in this case, of course, it was about Asperger's, or Down's syndrome. And I get it, I really do: it's definitely hard to find the right balance, the one where enough is explained for most readers to receive the right information (and not lose them if, indeed, they don't care about doing some research), yet without slamming it in their faces either. Still, the fact remains that it tended to throw me out of my reading here.

Conclusion: 2.5 stars because of the clichés/holes and the explanatory tone. But without that, for the sheer entertaining factor and the very likeable characters, I'd have rated this book higher.

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review 2019-06-21 21:29
Daughter of Smoke & Bone / Laini Taylor
Daughter of Smoke & Bone - Laini Taylor

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands", she speaks many languages - not all of them human - and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

 

An enjoyable young-adult offering in the urban fantasy genre. This is my first novel featuring angels (or seraphs, as this author calls them).

It is very much a Romeo-and-Juliet tale, as a striking male Seraph (Akiva) meets and falls for a mysterious young woman (Karou) who is associated with the Chimaera, the seemingly evil, rather animalian opposition to the Seraphs. It quickly becomes apparent to the young couple that they are on opposite sides of this eternal conflict and that their continued relationship will probably bring them buckets of trouble. But, just like the Montague-Capulet characters, these two cannot deny their feelings. 

The author actually does a remarkably good job of delaying the grand romance, all the while treating us to a wonderful depiction of the city of Prague. It was quite wonderful to see urban fantasy set outside of the United States. She also manages to make war look like the senseless waste that it truly is, all the while making us smile with gentle humour.

Despite the very steep cliffhanger at the end, this is obviously a tale where True Love will conquer all. I prefer a little more mystery than that, a little more uncertainty before reaching that conclusion. Still, I can see myself reading further in the series at some point in the future.

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review 2019-06-21 21:09
Once & Future / Cori McCarthy & Amy Rose Capetta
Once & Future (Once & Future #1) - Amy Rose Capetta,Cori McCarthy

I’ve been chased my whole life. As a fugitive refugee in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur.


Now I’m done hiding.

My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.


When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.

No pressure.

 

A very intelligent and cheeky retelling of the King Arthur legend. Merlin has been recalled more than 40 times to train various versions of Arthur and since he is aging backwards, he better get it right this time, as he’s soon going to be far too young to be taken seriously! This time, his student is a girl and he is beginning to hope for a breakthrough.

Written by two people who identify as enby (non-binary) and demigirl, their characters are a delightful mix of male, female, and several other flavours of identification. All of them fit well in the story and the “explaining” is minimal and easy to comprehend.

I love the tag-line for the story: I’m Ari Helix. I’ve got a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.

With both Merlin and Morgause filling us in on the details of the Arthur legend as necessary, it’s easy to keep up with this Round Table in Space adventure. If you don’t care for cliffhangers, you may want to wait until the next book is published before you begin. I’m happy to have read it, although I think I’ll be quite comfortable waiting for the next part of the story.

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review 2019-06-21 21:03
Unearthed
Unearthed - Meagan Spooner,Amie Kaufman

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

I struggled a little to get into this book, and I admit that I skimmed over a few parts, but in the end, while clearly not-mind blowing, it was entertaining enough.

The dynamics between Mia and Jules is, overall, one that worked well throughout the novel. They have their moments of snarky banter, they peel their layers gradually to each other (sometimes because external circumstances don’t really give them a chance, and sometimes voluntarily), and they get to really look at each other, past their completely different backgrounds. While Jules was introduced at first as perhaps completely lacking common sense—seen through Mia’s eyes, of course he would come across as some unprepared, pampered rich kid who had no clue what he set his feet into, he is actually more savvy than that; and, conversely, he soon learns to see past the ‘filthy scavver’, and see the actual human being behind the mask. Both are also less ‘gender-coded’ than one would expect, which I appreciated, and make use of skills such as linguistics and mathematics to get out of various pinches, which is always cool in my eyes.

The plot itself was OKish. I would’ve liked more details about the state Earth was in and the bigger plot—in terms of the science in the science fiction part, it wasn’t developed at all, and the portal bit felt like a hasty shortcut and let’s be done with it. The puzzles and exploring and spelunking in alien temples were interesting, yet I felt a little distanced from it all, as they demanded a fair share of description to become something easy to picture. The beginning and the ending were more exciting in that regard; the middle dragged. Probably would’ve dragged less without the romance. (Yes, there is a romantic relationship, of course. It’s a young adult story, so having a bit of romance is as much a surprise here as finding a Tube station in the heart of London. I don’t have much to say about it. My personal sense of priority is much more geared towards “more escaping the dangerous situations, less snogging and finding the other person hot”, and even as a teenager, romance left me cold. I’m not a good target audience for this.)

The story picked up again in the last third, and the reveal at the end was something I half-expected and somewhat hoped for, so that’s that. I’m not sure if I’ll be interested enough to read book 2, but maybe if it’s available at the library?

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review 2019-06-18 16:40
This Was a Heck No Times Two
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce Series #1) - Alan Bradley

Seriously...I see that some of you all liked/loved this one but I am baffled. This is up there with "The Catcher in the Rye" with most loathsome young adult character I have read in like decades. Flavia is dancing towards being a psychopath. I would have brained her for the crap she was doing to her two sisters. And all of them were just the most dysfunctional family ever. I can't even tell you much about the murder. Someone was murdered. Flavia "investigated". Bah. At least I counted it for two separate games. 

 

So "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" follows Flavia De Luce. A man is found murdered in her family's garden and her father is soon taken into custody accused of the murder. Flavia who overheard her father fighting with the dead man thinks he did it, but is focused on getting him cleared of murder. Flavia's eleven and I guess could be called precocious. I don't know. I know she bugged the ever living life out of me. 

 

Look I don't know what to even say except I didn't like this one. Bradley didn't do a good job of developing Flavia beyond her being a terrible ass child. I can't say much about anyone else that is in this since they are merely there for Flavia to do terrible things to. My brothers would have buried me in our yard if I got up to half the stuff that she did.


The writing was unintentionally funny and circled back to Flavia being awful.

 

 

They’ll charge him with murder,” Ophelia said, “and then he’ll be hanged!”

She burst into tears again and turned away.

For a moment I almost felt sorry for her."

 

“What is it? My symbol, I mean.” “It’s a P,” he said. “Capital P.” “A P?” I asked, surprised. “What does P stand for?” “Ah,” he said, “that’s best left to the imagination.”

 

The flow was awful. Seriously. I had a hard time paying attention while reading this one. And it felt like sometimes that chapters went on forever. Bradley didn't do a good job of ending the chapters on a high or low note. Sometimes the next chapter was just following up with the action in the last scene so I was baffled why he chose to cut things off where he did. 


The book takes place in the 1920s in England. I don't know...it just read off to me the whole time. Maybe the dialogue was too modern and other times something seemed off. I don't know.


The book ended and I breathed a sound of relief. I have no intention of reading the other books in this series. 

 

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