Book Review: Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston

Book Review: Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston

 

He never liked that tone. It usually ended with them trapped in a mine on Cerces, or caught in the middle of a territory war between mercenaries. She wore trouble like royalty wore the Iron Crown, and it fit her a little too well.

Heart of Iron is Ashley Poston’s newest YA novel and the first in a series that will take place in this fantasy world. The story follows a seventeen year old Ana, an orphan who grew up on a pirate space ship and doesn’t remember anything of her previous life before the Metals revolted and killed the Royal Family. When Ironblood (aristocrat) Robb steals the coordinates she needs, they enlist in a long journey to find the ship together and learn that Ana may be the only one who can save the Iron Kingdom.

What I Love About This Book:

  • IT’S AN ANASTASIA RETELLING!!!- I can’t believe I had to go back and add this first. I didn’t know this when I first saw the book at my library, but the book jacket sounded really interesting anyway. It was actually weeks later when someone else had it checked out that I learned it was a loosely based Anastasia retelling in SPACE and knew I had to find it.
  • Found Family- Poston really explores the found family trope where a character finds their family through a group of friends/fellow outcasts. This happens not only with Ana, who was adopted into the Dossiers crew when they found her and her best friend (a Metal) floating in space at 14, but also with Robb, a boy who has never fit in or followed his family’s expectations.
  • The Character Development- Robb and D09/Di are the ones who really develop over the journey. Robb starts out as a spoiled, rebellious aristocrat. In his time with the Dossier‘s crew, he’s able to find himself and who he wants to be.
  • The Quick Plot- There were a lot of things happening very quickly. This through me off because I was expecting this to go slower. After all, it takes an entire film for the Death Star to be destroyed, but Poston did not limit herself to typical timing, instead blowing up the metaphorical Death Star early on to make way for the deeper plot and character development to take place.
  • D09/Di- I didn’t think I would immediately enjoy the relationship Ana had with this Metal that had kind of raised her, but I did. Very much. Even more so, I loved D09’s journey through what it means to be an unHIVE’d Metal (which is when the Metals lose free will and are controlled by the Iron Kingdom- It is illegal for a Metal to be unHIVE’d). Di was honestly out here doing his best.
  • Jax- A STAR KISSER. Basically, he can read the stars in someone’s body to see their future. Love love love.
  • The Dossier‘s Crew- Mostly this means Captain Siege and her wife Talle who were both kick-ass. The remaining members are actually pretty easily forgotten, but, man, did Captain Siege make up for that.

What I Did Not Love About This Book:

  • Ana- Ana wasn’t necessarily bad. I just felt she was being written out of the novel while remaining the main character everything revolved around. Her character did not develop at all after finding out her family background, and she dragged the second half of the book. She goes through a tough loss, but I don’t see her mourning after the initial heartbreaking hours following this loss. The next day it seems she’s off to save the world. When her loss was mentioned, it felt more Tell than Show.
  • So Many Male Perspectives- Because the POVs switch between Ana and other characters, this novel is told overwhelmingly from male perspectives. The book was filled with Strong Female Characters but they didn’t get much screen time. When it was there, I soaked up every second of it, but I’d like to see more in the sequel.
  • More Worldbuilding- I would also like to see more worldbuilding in the sequel. While this one definitely had some, there were many moments I was confused by what was happening and who certain people were and why they were relevant and how this world worked. I loved the world it was set in, but I’d like to see and understand more of it.
  • Um, That Ending- You’ll understand once you’ve read it.

Home wasn’t always warm, and wasn’t always safe, but home was hers. And it was not this prison.

Heart of Iron was an amazing novel from an amazing writer. Ashley Poston is also the author of Geekerella which I now want to read, and she has a Tumblr if anyone liked her book and wants to tell her so. I’m super excited for the sequel and upset that I’ll have to wait a year for it. This is the first sci-fi/fantasy book I’ve read in a while, and it was a great jumping point for getting back into the genre. Everyone go read Heart of Iron right now!

Advertisements

Book Review: I Stop Somewhere by TE Carter

Book Review: I Stop Somewhere by TE Carter

Someone should be covering how three men can hurt so many women in one town.

I Stop Somewhere tells the story of a fifteen year old girl after she’s brutally raped and murdered in the small factory town of Hollow Oaks. Ellie was a shy girl who was bullied a lot in middle school and who was mostly ignored by everybody in high school. Except Caleb Breward. Caleb tells Ellie she’s beautiful and special and that he love’s her, and Ellie knows that she shouldn’t like Caleb Breward. His father buys eviction houses for cheap and makes money off of the poor in Hollow Oaks. Ellie’s father has warned her about the Brewards before, but Caleb is different. He is nice and soft and sad.

Except he’s pretending.

Caleb hurts Ellie and many other girls in their small town, most who feel powerless to speak out about the assault. TE Carter’s novel follows Ellie’s spirit as she remains in Hollow Oaks, invisible to all but able to watch Caleb and his brother continue their assault on different girls. Until one goes to the police and Ellie thinks the brothers will finally come to justice.

Twelve people heard it all. Or at least enough. They heard enough not to trust them. Not to believe their stories, but they still couldn’t be convinced that it wasn’t my fault.

This book was very difficult to read, partly because of the graphic rape scene that begins the first 20 or so pages of the novel, but also because it was a pretty slow read for the most part. In fact, I didn’t really feel invoked in Ellie’s story until about 150 pages in. I continued reading because even though it wasn’t easy, it felt important to continue. I couldn’t ignore this girl’s story when she was no longer alive to tell it. I was the only one who could hear Ellie’s voice, and I felt that I owed it to her (and other victims of rape or murder) to stick with her.

The second half of the novel kept me on my toes. It was still a slow read, but I wanted to skip ahead and find the verdict. Do the brothers get caught? Do they get murdered? Are the other girls okay? What’s up with the newswoman, Cassie, and Gena Lynn, and Officer Thompson? What role do these women play in Ellie’s story?

I wanted to see Ellie get justice for what happened to her, but TE Carter doesn’t sugarcoat. There is no justice for rape. Nothing can ever make up for what’s taken from these girls, and far to often, there is no punishment for rapists, because it’s difficult to prove. Carter does her best to explore rape culture and its influence and that’s why the end won’t feel satisfying. However, it will feel hopeful, and maybe that’s more important.

A room full of girls holding on to each other’s hopes and stories. They’re not the same story, but that’s okay. Because all the things that make us different are also what we need to believe in when they try to break us.

You can break a girl. You can destroy several parts of her, but a girl is made up of so many things.

 

They Both Die in the End- Adam Silvera

They Both Die in the End- Adam Silvera

“I cannot tell you how you will survive without me. I cannot tell you how to mourn me.  I cannot convince you to not feel guilty if you forget the anniversary of my death, or if you realize days or weeks or months have gone by without thinking about me. I just want you to live.”

If someone could tell you the day you’re going to die, would you want to know? In Mateo’s and Rufus’ world, they don’t have a choice. An employee of Death-Cast, an organization created to call people the day they die, called both of them one midnight, and they now know they’re going to die within the next twenty-four hours. They don’t know the where, the how, or a more specified when, just that in the next day, they will somehow die.

Mateo is a shy, vibrant eighteen year old who spends his time at home on the computer playing video games and reading the Death-Cast forums where people can record how they spent the last day of their life. He’s spent years making sure he’d stay safe, so this call comes as a bit of a surprise to him (although who wouldn’t be surprised by a call announcing their death day?). Rufus gets his call as he’s beating the life out of his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend, Peck. Rufus returns to his foster home to have a funeral with his best friend’s/foster bros. “the Plutos” and his foster family. Peck calls the cops on Rufus, interrupting his funeral and causing Rufus to go on the run. Lonely and wanting a friend on his last day, Rufus finds Mateo on the Last Friend App message boards and agrees to help the other boy truly live for one day.

“…you’re supposed to be a lifer.”

Adam Silvera broke my heart over and over again throughout this book. The first time I cried was thirty pages in and boy was that nothing compared to the next three hundred. This is a sad book, but it’s also a very important book. If you typically shy away from sad reads, I recommend giving this a try anyway, if not for the overarching message to live each day like your last, then for the beautiful, honest relationships these boys have with their friends and each other. Each chapter makes me want to be a better version of myself.

“I may not be able to cure cancer or end world hunger, but small kindnesses go a long way.”

As emotionally distressing as this book is, there were fair number of times I wished Silvera gave more information about this world. How DOES the Death-Cast know when people will die? It felt like a shrug off when he writes that no one really knows how it works. In the fanfic version that I’ll never write, Mateo, Rufus, and the Plutos plot together to take down an evil overlord behind the Death-Cast calls.

There were a few other minor aspects of this world that confused me. I wish Silvera had done more world building. Whether that got scrapped in the editing or it never had a place in this story, I do not know, but it would’ve been nice to see. That being said, I still greatly enjoyed and LOVED this read.

Don’t be afraid to fall head over heels in love with this book. Just keep your heart and mind open and enjoy.

Stories can make someone immortal as long as someone else is willing to listen.

Book Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by MacKenzi Lee

Book Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by MacKenzi Lee

Let me start off by saying The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a really incredible, fresh, fierce, fun book. Henry “Monty” Montague, son of an earl, and his best friend Percy, a light skinned, orphaned nephew of a member of the Admiralty Court (something that just means upper class and fancy in my understanding) are gallivanting across Europe for their last grand hurrah before they are expected to return to Cheshire as grown men and settle into stable lives. However, before the boys can drop Monty’s sister, Felicity, off at finishing school and depart for Italy, the group gets:

  • stopped by highwaymen
  • chased by the ex-Prime Minister to King Louis XV (although Monty does steal from the man)
  • forced to walk for days without money and only the clothes on their back
  • captured by pirates (although rather nice ones)
  • arrested in order to talk to an alchemist/musician/political prisoner
  • forced to dissect a comatose body
  • beaten
  • shot at (many times) and actually get shot (once)
  • and beaten some more (like a lot more)

Lee writes an adventure novel at its best, and let me tell you how she does it.

The Characters 

Monty

  • the biggest bisexual asshole in England
  • self pity galore and a tragic past to make me not just put up with him but somehow fall in love with him???
  • an alcoholic
  • like seriously alcoholic
  • a smart, clever, positively delightful trouble magnet who does not “court trouble” so much as “flirt with it”
  • hella narcissistic and total douche-bag (like typically I would hate this dude, but I don’t???)
  • super alcoholic
  • a chihuahua (a tiny, shaking body always panicking)
  • honestly, he can’t help but get in trouble, and when he does you can be 100% sure he’ll find a way to make it worse
  • Monty, really, I didn’t expect to like you at all, but you’re my son now. Hope you like The States
  • Best Lines: “It occurs to me then that perhaps getting my little sister drunk and explaining why I screw boys is not the most responsible move on my part.”; EVERY OTHER LINE IN THE BOOK

Percy

  • the boy Monty has been in love with since he was 16 and the only person who can put up with Monty’s shit
  • a fully developed character on his own and someone who is honestly too good and pure for this world
  • a black man living in an upper class English home as a member of the household (somewhat)
  • hates parties (me too Percy)
  • a disabled man living in an upper class English home as a member of the household (somewhat)
  • very gay and in love with Monty
  • too good for anyone, even my new adopted son, Monty
  • a smart, funny, caring, well written boy who just wants to spend this last year with Monty before he goes off to Holland
  • Best Lines: “I don’t think I have to be well to be happy.”; “It isn’t easy and it isn’t very enjoyable but it is what I’ve got to live with. This is who I am, and I don’t think I’m insane.”

Felicity

  • The best character in this book
  • a science girl living in a finishing school world
  • she takes the covers off of amatory novels and covers science books with them so her family won’t know what she’s really reading
  • not here to party AT ALL
  • possibly asexual???
  • WILL RESORT TO SEDUCTION IF FORCED TO
  • 100% snooper
  • part-time surgeon, full-time bad-ass
  • all around great character
  • Best Lines (there are so many): “Men are such babies.”; “Ladies haven’t the luxury of being squeamish about blood.”; “It’s not broken.”

The main characters are essential to any novel but the side characters are what determine a good novel from a great novel, and this book is a great novel.

The Pirates

  • Scipio- the black captain of the pirate ship; all around decent human being and Monty’s new dad if Monty would allow it; also realizes Felicity is the most important character in the book from pretty early on
  • The men who make up the crew of Eleftheria (Greek for Freedom) were based on a real slave uprising that occurred on a ship in the eighteenth century, but in Lee’s story, they were slaves left behind in a jail cell after the war between France and Spain ended. Once they escaped, they stole a ship and re-branded themselves as pirates
  • Scipio teaches Monty how to fight once he realizes that Monty has also lived under an abusive tormentor
  • The men are astounded that someone like them (Percy) could belong in the upper class and have money and stature and respect (somewhat, somewhat, and somewhat)
  • Best Lines: “There is nothing good about watching another man claim your ship because your skin is too dark to do it yourself,” he says, each word a glancing wound. “So in future, you needn’t demand apologies on my behalf.”; “Next time someone takes a swing at you, you swing straight back at him, all right? Promise me that, Henry.”

The Villain– AKA the Duke of Bourbon (AKA the Douche of Bourbon)

  • all around villain
  • I mean, Monty did steal from him, but like, chill dude
  • Also Monty does try to have sex with a woman in the Duke’s bedroom
  • Cool motive, still murder
  • tries to kill them multiple times
  • wants an alchemical (not a real word?) heart to get back in good terms with the sick King of France
  • literally will chase them to the ends of the earth (or at least where the sinking earth meets the sea)
  • likes to play dress up?
  • At least the dude looks for his enemies himself instead of hiring others to do so for him

Many other amazing side characters appear from the fumbling, stuffy bear-leader, Mr.  Lockwood, to two Catalan grandmothers who dupe The Duke of Bourbon to the grown children of a famous alchemist who have their own plans for the trio.

However, any great adventure novel also need the adventure. Lee sends the trio tumbling through a series of ridiculous, ill-fated, harrowing events (entirely Monty’s fault) that caused me to laugh from one page to the next. From Paris to Catalonia to Venice to Greece, the trio do their Grand Tour in the most unpleasant, unfortunate, impossibly ludicrous manner possible. They con their way from one adventure to the next.

The racism, homophobia, and sexism of the 1720s comes up repeatedly, and even Monty gets called out on his privilege as a rich, white male many times, which is probably why I can put up with him. Percy and Felicity never let him forget what they are capable of and how they are perceived even though he likes to get into scraps that are easiest to escape from as a privileged, white male. Lee does well to make sure Percy’s race and Felicity’s sex are never forgotten or hidden under an “author’s creativity” moment. She lets the scenes play out as they would in Europe at this time, and let’s social issues be addressed as they should be, which was something I found refreshing to read. She does not let Monty get away with his narrow minded statements, nor does she let many of the side characters who express narrow-minded sentiments escape without being corrected. I was really pleased with the way she handled everyone’s identifying traits and the ways she used them to further the story along.

Although this book was 500+ pages, I simply did not want it to end. Fortunately for me, Lee is publishing a sequel in 2018 (The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy) told from Felicity’s point of view, and I for one will certainly be looking forward to it!

“There was a fellow I knew
Named Henry Montague
He drinks lots of liquor
And never gets sick-er
And he’s four inches longer than you.”
-Percy Newton

 

Book Review: Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Book Review: Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

“He can be killed, Nate,” Andy affirmed. “The wheezers killed him once… If that necrodouchebag thinks I’m any less nasty than those wiggly spiderarmed motherfuckers, he’s got a Pennaquick Telegraph Breaking News Edition coming.”

In Edgar Cantero’s newest supernatural thriller, Meddling Kids, a group of once teenage detectives get back together to figure out the real man behind the mask of their last solved mystery. The Blyton Summer Detective Club (Andy, Kerri, Nate, Peter (deceased), and their Weimaraner, Tom) are back together to hunt down the lake monster that has haunted them for the past thirteen years. Now in their twenties, the group must return to the place they fear the most—Sleepy Lake and the haunted house on Deboёn Isle—to solve this mystery once  and for all. Once they arrive though, they learn that the stakes are much higher than a man in a mask and that this job might be one that only the Blyton Summer Detective Club can handle.

Cantero has got a real treasure in this book. As someone who was is a huge Scooby Doo fan, I read the title of the book and made an immediate connection. At first drawn in by the beautiful cover, clever title, and obvious tie to my favorite cartoon TV show, I became further entranced in the witty dialogue, slapstick escape plans, and cartoon-like scenarios. Not only does Cantero use Scooby Doo humor as a way to set the scene, but he includes all the ways the Scooby gang could’ve been improved. For example, the gang now has a rule that they never split up. A trend that had always bothered me in the show came to an end as Andy refused to let the gang be separated.

One thing I really liked about this book was the action packed sequences. When the Detective Club gets chased by monsters and must fight to escape with their lives, I was glued to the page, unable to move. He does not write short scenes. Reflecting real life, one problem rolls into the next. Another thing I liked was the honesty to the characters. Each one has different, unique traits and stays true to their selves. Andy steps up to be the leader once Peter dies but refuses to make a plan without unanimous consent. Nate, although not a coward, fights with his visions of Peter, trying to finish the monster once and for all. Kerri, biologist turned party girl, returns to her scientific roots to find a solution to their town’s rising carbon dioxide problems that might be connected to the beast below. Together they pull from their talents to fight the lake creature once and for all.

Cantero’s book is a hilarious, thrilling, chilling take on our favorite gang of monster fighting detectives. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a fun, adventurous, heart pounding tale of friendship and lake monsters.

Book Review: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Book Review: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Helene Wecker’s spellbinding debut novel, The Golem and the Jinni, weaves a tale of two lost souls looking for a place to belong in New York City at the turn of the twentieth century. In 1899, a Golem awakens on a ship bound for America to find her master on his death bed. At the same time, in the Little Syria neighborhood of New York, a blacksmith releases the Jinni from an oil flask he has been paid to repair. The Golem, struggling to find a place where she belongs, and the Jinni, striving to uncover the past he has forgotten and find the man who trapped him for over a thousand years, must band together to stay alive in this brave new world.

Wecker writes with an intensity that captivates the reader, forcing me into this world of make believe. She beautifully details the separate neighborhoods of the Lower East Side and the rooftop streets that connect them all. Her decision to set this tale in 1899 allows the Golem and Jinni’s awakening to reflect the awakening of New York at the turn of the century. Although cars were not yet invented, public parks and the Brooklyn Bridge were still new developments, and the underground subway system was still being constructed. The city and the Golem and Jinni all were forced to adapt to this fast paced world. Wecker gives the city an innocent, youthful glow without ignoring the very true aspects of the time (drunkenness in the streets, prostitution, thievery, etc.).  To read this is to be drawn into New York’s history, which is not an easy feat to accomplish.

The Golem and Jinni are also reflections of the immigration process and what it meant to leave your home behind and find yourself in an unfamiliar place. The Jinni struggles with his new name, knowing it is not his and doesn’t belong to him but that he must now go by it if he hopes to survive. Wecker also shows other characters forced to change their names to appear more American.

“Let’s call you something more American,” he [the Immigration Officer] said. “It’s for the best.”

The Golem must learn new customs in America like the immigrants who must leave their own culture behind. Wecker references the ties the upper class New Yorkers had with the police and how immigrant neighborhoods often lived in fear that they would be the next target of police brutality.

The Golem and the Jinni delivers a heartfelt, exciting, refreshing tale of friendship and adventure in the New York City nights. Wecker’s novel is an incredible piece of art and history that allows readers to escape into a world of magic and science and love.

Book Review: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

Book Review: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

Maybe it’s small, my territory, but inside it I can still love what in front of me with all the heart I have left.

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter weaves a fantastical story of a talking doll, night incarnate, a witch who runs a department store, and severed arms that behead “shoplifters.” Retelling the Russian folktale, Vassilissa the Beautiful, Vassa enteres a BY’s department store one night for light bulbs and finds herself on an unimaginable mission to save her life and survive the evil witch who manages the store. Porter stays true to the original story but uses ingenuity to modernize the tale. Vassa is a relatable, endearing character with a heart as pure as any fairy-tale hero. Porter’s language sends me whirling through a mirror image of our world where the nights can last for days. This was a lovely fairy tale to read and something I never knew I wanted till I found it!

One thing I know from my own experience: beauty doesn’t make anybody into a whole person.