ARC Review - The Loneliest Girl In the Universe

Title: The Loneliest Girl In The Universe 
Author: Lauren James
Publisher: HarperTeen
Series: n/a
Published: July 3, 2018
Source: e-ARC for review
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The daughter of two astronauts, Romy Silvers is no stranger to life in space. But she never knew how isolating the universe could be until her parents’ tragic deaths left her alone on theInfinity, a spaceship speeding away from Earth.
Romy tries to make the best of her lonely situation, but with only brief messages from her therapist on Earth to keep her company, she can’t help but feel like something is missing. It seems like a dream come true when NASA alerts her that another ship, the Eternity, will be joining the Infinity.
Romy begins exchanging messages with J, the captain of theEternity, and their friendship breathes new life into her world. But as the Eternity gets closer, Romy learns there’s more to J’s mission than she could have imagined. And suddenly, there are worse things than being alone….


As you can see from the synopsis above there's not a ton of information, so I wasn't really sure what I was going to get with this one, but it had been recommended to me so I decided to give it a shot.  In the end what I did get was a quick, interesting read that, while not outstanding, was fresh enough to keep me turning pages and wrapped up nicely with the potential for more books about the same main character in the future.

There are a few things that I really want to talk about with this book, and in my head, they're all screaming to be talked about first but in the end, I think the thing that needs to be front and center is this; for almost two thirds of the book there are really no other characters.  The main character, Romy, is the only remaining occupant of a deep space exploration headed for another planet, and for over 200 pages the only interaction she has with other characters are basically through email.  She sends emails and she gets emails, so it's not 100% accurate to say that there aren't any other characters, because technically there are, but they might as well be long dead because Romy can't actually have a conversation with them.  They send her messages and she sends them messages, but the lag-time between when messages are sent and when they arrive is about 2 years for most of the book.  That might sound a little weird, and it is, but for the most part, I think it works.  There are enough incoming messages from those few other characters and enough other things going on that it's not a huge detriment to the story.

The other thing that really jumped out at me was the fact that the main character had anxiety.  The story takes place in the future and lightyears away from Earth, but despite all that there's still that piece that connects it to the here and now, because so many people now live with anxiety, and the chances of it going away are next to nothing, so that being included makes it seem more real.  I also appreciated the fact that while it was a part of the story Romy was able to do things despite being anxious.  It was a part of the story, a part of her, but it wasn't the ONLY thing that defined her.

I don't want to talk too much about the plot because I think part of what makes this book work is that there isn't an enormous amount of information given in the synopsis.  Individually the pieces of the story aren't entirely original, but as a whole, they come together into something I can honestly say I don't think I've seen before.  This is a thriller, so if you were expecting some kind of extremely thoughtful sci-fi story about humanity this isn't it, but I think there are some things that would be an interesting starting point for some discussions.  All of the action is really packed into the end of the book, but there's enough going on throughout that you shouldn't be bored getting there, and there are certainly mysteries abound (perhaps more than there should be, considering the whole book takes place out in the middle of space).

There were a few things I didn't love, and surprisingly my main problem also had to do with Romy's anxiety.  I loved that it was included, but the fact that she was able to keep it under control when she had had no direct contact with another human being for several years (and only had contact with a therapist via messages that took forever to go back and forth) she had it remarkably under control.  I also felt like some of the big reveals kept being hinted at but were kept from us just to prolong the story.  Things could have been revealed earlier on, although I suppose part of that had to do with Romy's anxiety; there were pieces she had under control and pieces she didn't.  I was really surprised that the whole isolation aspect wasn't really addressed.  Humans are social creatures and I can't imagine what it would be like to be completely cut off from all human contact for several years and that such a thing wouldn't cause some serious psychological harm even with messages coming in every day from a therapist.

Overall I would consider this book a fast (I read it in two days), fresh addition to the YA world that will probably appeal to people who don't like their sci-fi quite as technical, along with first time/newer sci-fi readers.  In the end, I'm not sure that years from now I'll remember many specifics of the book, but it kept my interest, which is more than can be said for all books.  There's sequel potential here, and I would be interested enough to see what happens when humans finally reach this new planet that I would at least put any kind of follow-up (I don't think there is one scheduled at this point) on my TBR list and attempt to work my way around to it should it come out.  In the end, the biggest thing I probably got out of this book was that Lauren James has some interesting ideas and that I'll for sure be keeping an eye out for some of her other novels because I imagine that as time goes on her writing and stories will only get better.

Review - Lifel1k3

Title: Lifel1k3
Author: Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Knopf
Series: Lifelike #1
Published: May 29, 2018
Source: bought
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On a floating junkyard beneath a radiation sky, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap.
Eve isn’t looking for secrets—she’s too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she’s just spent six months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, and the only thing keeping her Grandpa from the grave was the fistful of credits she just lost to the bookies. To top it off, she’s discovered she can destroy electronics with the power of her mind, and the puritanical Brotherhood are building a coffin her size. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it.
But when Eve discovers the ruins of an android boy named Ezekiel in the scrap pile she calls home, her entire world comes crashing down. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic conscience, Cricket, in tow, she and Ezekiel will trek across deserts of irradiated glass, infiltrate towering megacities and scour the graveyard of humanity’s greatest folly to save the ones Eve loves, and learn the dark secrets of her past.
Even if those secrets were better off staying buried.


Despite having Kristoff's solo adult novels on my shelves since 2012 I had only ever read the Illuminae series that he co-wrote with Amiee Kaufman (which you totally need to read if you haven't), but when I heard he was writing a solo YA novel that was coming out this year I decided I would finally dive into a book written entirely by him.  I honestly wasn't too sure what to expect considering I'd only read his co-written YA work and his adult stories have been known to be somewhat hit and miss, but in the end, I was pleasantly surprised with what I got.

First things first I went into this book thinking that it fell more into the sci-fi genre, but having finished it, it feels like more of a dystopian novel with sci-fi elements.  There's nothing wrong with that and either way it was still good, but in case you were looking for something hard-core sci-fi like Illuminae just be prepared for something different.  That being said the sci-fi elements were really strong in some parts of the story, and what I consider a huge part of what makes a good sci-fi story, some kind of larger question about humanity/life/ect., was something I found very prominent in the book.  The setting though, completely dystopian, through and through.  It might sound a little weird, a dystopian world with a mostly sci-fi plot, but I thought it worked surprisingly well and really enjoyed it.

While the plot was fairly original and I enjoyed a lot of the questions brought up in the book I think my favorite thing about it has to be the side characters.  Now, I don't want to say that there was anything wrong with the main character and her love interest, they were fine, but I found myself hoping to see more of Lemon Fresh, and getting excited when we got to see things from her point of view.  If Kristoff wrote a book about Lemon Fresh I would read that in a heartbeat, doesn't even matter what was happening in it.  I'm really hoping we'll see more of her in book two because she's probably my favorite character.  Cricket probably came in second as far as favorites go, and even the Preacher was interesting enough that I'm also hoping we'll get more from him in book two as well.  No

There were a few things that I felt detracted from the book slightly, the main one being that you're just dumped into the world without much explanation.  When I was discussing the book with some bookseller friends of mine I noted that it felt very Maze Runner-esque in the sense that we're just dropped into a world that has it's own unique slang without explaining what any of it means.  Most of it can be figured out from the context and there were some explanations, but it still would have been nice if the explanations that were provided were given earlier.  I also pretty much saw all of the plot twists a mile away.  The last thing that bugged me was the fact that almost every aspect of plot could have been avoided if someone had just told the main character the truth.  Granted, this is probably true of SO MANY books out there I'm not entirely sure I can fault this book for doing it too, especially because the very last twist is something that probably SHOULD have been kept a secret for the main character's protection, whereas of all the other things didn't need to be kept secret at all and were obviously going to come out eventually so keeping them a secret was stupid to begin with.

As a whole, this was a really entertaining book and I can't wait to see where the next one goes.  The fairly unique concept, along with the fascinating world and delightful side characters combine to create a story that kept me flipping the pages until the very end.  It also hits the ground running and never lets up, which makes it an excellent choice for reluctant readers.  There's a lot to think about with this book, which is something I really loved, and there were some surprisingly deep quotes to go along with all of the deep thoughts I was having while reading.  Based on how I felt about this book I hope I'll have time to get to some of his previous titles, and I certainly can't wait to see what he comes up with next, both alone and with Amiee Kaufman, because he's one to watch.

ARC Review - The Hazel Wood

Title: The Hazel Wood
Author: Melissa Albert
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Series: The Hazel Wood #1
Published: January 30, 2018
Source: e-ARC for review
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Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”
Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.


This book has been on my goodreads shelf for over a year now because from day one it sounded like it was going to be right up my alley.  Something about "pitch-dark fairy tales" just called to me, and let's be honest, that cover is gorgeous so I was pretty much guaranteed to read it if I had the time.  Thankfully I did, and I'm really glad.

The best thing about this book, hands down, was the writing.  Not everyone is gonna love it, but I'm a huge sucker for those lush, lyrical books that wrap around you and make you want to pull quotes from them to write on your walls or ink on your skin (or maybe that's just me).  Albert has definitely joined my ranks of Laini Taylor, Taherah Mafi, and Lauren Oliver with her writing skills and how they seem effortlessly beautiful.  This is a story about fairy tales, in fact, one could argue it is one itself, and it certainly lives up to it in the writing department.

Along with the writing, the other thing that I think really worked for this book was the story.  I don't want to give too much away so I'm gonna be a little vague here, but I very much enjoyed the path this story went down.  It had an Alice in Wonderland feel to it, story-wise, what with it being about a girl who ends up in a world that's not quite right, but the twists and turns that it included, along with the fact that the Alice in this story actually meant to find her Wonderland, managed to keep it fresh.  

There were a few things that kept me from really loving this book, though.  I was talking with a friend trying to pinpoint what it was exactly and I think I finally figured it out.  First I want to note that the pacing of the story was a little odd.  It took almost 150 pages to actually get to anything resembling Wonderlander (or in this case Hinterland), and then we only got about 100 pages inside of it.  That being said I think my main problem was the characters.  They were perfectly fine characters, but they seemed a little flat, and we really only got to know Alice, but even then we didn't really get to know her.  I also noticed that there were things, characters and situations, that were introduced and then never addressed again. 

Overall this was a magical debut that I definitely enjoyed.  It was exactly as advertised; a lush fairytale with bite that kept me entertained from start to finish.  While there were a few little bumps in the road for me this is still a book that I would recommend to people looking for a new fantasy to fill the wait for something else, and I'll certainly be checking out what Albert writes in the future.  I'm gonna be honest, I'm not really sure where book two in this series is going to go because despite what I mentioned about a handful of things that were introduced and never given a resolution the story really does seem to stand on its own as a finished arc.  I'll be curious to see where Albert ends up going with book two, and while I may or may not check that one out, depending on what it will be about, I'm pretty sure I'll check out the collection of stories that will be released the after that that's supposed to be the fictional book of stories this one revolves around.

ARC Review - Everless

Title: Everless
Author: Sara Holland
Publisher: HarperTeen
Series: Untitled #1
Published: January 2, 2018
Source: e-ARC for review
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In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.
No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.
But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.


When I first heard about this novel my interest was piqued enough to add it to my TBR shelf on goodreads but I have to admit I wasn't sure if I really had any intention of reading it anytime soon.  That changed when I saw that the author was coming to my city for an event, so I decided to download the e-ARC from Edelweiss and give it a go.  While it was, in fact, an interesting read I didn't end up loving it as much as everyone else seemed to.

First, lets talk about the things I really did like.  The premise was fantastic.  The only thing I could even think of that came anywhere near the basic idea for this book was the movie In Time, so as far as ideas go it's pretty darn unique.  It's not just the idea of paying for things with time, it's how they pay, extracting the time from blood and turning that into coins that then appear to be consumed.  Everything about the world was just fascinating and for a debut novelist, the entire thing was not only well thought out but well executed. 

Along with the premise and the worldbuilding, the other thing I liked was the female characters, particularly their relationship.  There's something called the Bechdel test, which basically asks if two female characters talk about something other than a man, and this book passes with flying colors.  In fact, I don't even think there's more than a page cumulatively between the main female characters where they discuss men.  The friendship that forms is great, and seeing something like that in YA makes me really happy, especially in a fantasy novel.

Like I said above there were some really great things about this book, but there were also some things about it I had some major problems with.  I mentioned above that there wasn't a ton of talk about the men in the book, and while that was great it kind of seemed like the love interest was just kind of stuck in there because all YA fantasies have a love interest. The main thing that really drove me up the wall though was the fact that the ENTIRE story would never have happened if someone had told the main character what the heck was actually going on.  You know what's not helpful?  Telling the main character to "leave now because it's dangerous" but then refusing to tell them what is dangerous.  Cryptic messages to scare people you care about into doing something when there appears to be no reason you can't tell them the truth make no sense.

Overall I'm not 100% sure how I feel about this book.  While there were pieces of it that I didn't care for the good seemed to outweigh the bad enough for me to want to keep reading, it just wasn't a home run.  It was by no means a bad book, and obviously there are a number of people who really enjoyed it (it just made the NYT list, too), so in the end my thoughts boil down to this; think about if the things I mentioned are a deal breaker, but either way if it's something you might be interested in read a couple of chapters and see what you think.  I'm not sure if I'll read the sequel or not, there was certainly potential there, so I guess I'll just have to wait and see.  Either way, I'll certainly be looking for Holland's next series because while this particular story might not have been a winner for me the next one very well could be and I'll be interested to see what she comes up with next.