Review: Invictus by Ryan Graudin

 

33152795*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Invictus

Author: Ryan Graudin

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: September 26, 2017

ISBN: 9780316503136

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past. But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems. 


The author of The Walled City, Graudin, has written another incredible, thrilling, and heart-stopping novel, Invictus. This young adult novel has everything you could want in a book: friendship, romance, family, time travel, inter-dimensional travel, and so much more. It’s a standalone novel, and as much as I would LOVE to read a whole series about these characters, it is entirely strong on its own. I appreciate Graudin’s decision to leave this one alone. She reached great heights with this book, and a series would only take away from what this book has to offer. This novel is history meets sci-fi perfectly blended together to create an intense story full of mystery and imminent threat with an ending that is so completely perfect.

I loved each character, unique with their own quirks and completely loveable for it. Farway Gaius McCarthy, the main protagonist, is confident and is a strong leader. He’s quick on his feet and is a true romantic at heart. His lady, Priya, has a kind heart and is strong and steadfast, the perfect qualities for their medic. Imogen is so much fun, full of silliness and burst with colour, literally. She changes her hair colour with every mood and makes it her mission to infuse every situation with a spark of happiness. Gram is the quiet and incredibly intelligent one. He gets them where they need to go in space and time, finding comfort in the certainty of numbers and problem-solving. Together these characters make up the Invictus. Their group works together seamlessly, joined by the bonds of love and friendship. They’ve endured all sorts of worlds and missions before and we can see the trust and strong relationships that this past has built. Everything changes when Eliot joins the picture, but I will save that for you to discover for yourselves.

What I loved most was the theory of time and dimensions. This book goes into much depth in it’s exploration of time travel and inter-dimensional travel. Graudin invents plausible machines and technology to move characters from time to time. It creates a very interesting concept for conflict across the ages and eras, adding an extra level of excitement to the rising action and climax of this story.

I found the characters to be likeable and relatable. Some were family, some were friends, and others were romantically involved, yet the romance element was not too overwhelming in the slightest. It just existed and wasn’t the focal point of the story. There was more about the bonds of friendship and the strength of family which I felt was refreshing. This world that Graudin’s created is fantastic and beautiful. There are so many interesting elements to discover throughout. I’m going to have to read it again to really take it all in, but upon first read, I so, so enjoyed.

I’d definitely recommend this novel. Graudin has yet to disappoint and I look forward to whatever she’s cooking up next.

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Review: How to Fall in Love with Anyone

32620333*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: How to Fall in Love with Anyone

Author: Mandy Len Catron

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: July 2017

ISBN: 9781501137440

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In a series of candid, vulnerable, and wise essays that takes a closer look at what it means to love someone, be loved, and how we present our love to the world, Catron deconstructs her own personal canon of love stories. She delves all the way back to 1944, when her grandparents first met in a coal mining town in Appalachia, to her own dating life as a professor in Vancouver, drawing insights from her fascinating research into the universal psychology, biology, history, and literature of love. She uses biologists’ research into dopamine triggers to ask whether the need to love is an innate human drive. She uses literary theory to show why we prefer certain kinds of love stories. She urges us to question the unwritten scripts we follow in relationships and looks into where those scripts come from in the first place. And she tells the story of how she decided to test a psychology experiment that she’d read about—where the goal was to create intimacy between strangers using a list of thirty-six questions—and ended up in the surreal situation of having millions of people following her brand-new relationship.


This book was incredibly engaging and fascinating. I love reading about love and relationships, and what other people think and experience. Catron discusses love through a series of her personal anecdotes and her reflection on the relationships of her parents and grandparents. Catron is witty and hilarious as she recounts various stories of her past, but she’s also insightful as she explores how people date and marry differently then the did even one or two generations ago. I couldn’t stop turning the pages, staying up well past an acceptable hour to sleep in order to finish reading.

Many of you might know Catron from her New York Times Article, “To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This.” This book expands on the ideas that she presents in this article, applying them to the different stages of love in her life, through the ups and downs of different relationships. Not only does she explore her experiences with me, she discusses in depth her time alone when she learned invaluable lessons about herself. In this period of time she is able to ruminate on how her young and young adult dating life was driven not by her own confidence, but by her lack thereof and her feelings that as a woman she was defined in terms of how men appreciated her. In her time of being single, she gains the confidence to find out what it is she’s looking for love and to know that her self worth lies in being who she is and being true to herself.

I absolutely loved this book. It’s one that I’ll gladly keep in the permanent collection and read again, and recommend to other readers. If you enjoy learning about others and how we define love, this book will certainly appeal to you.

Review: Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

31423196*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for and honest review.*

Title: Defy the Stars

Author: Claudia Gray

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 9780316394031

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Noemi Vidal is seventeen years old and sworn to protect her planet, Genesis. She’s willing to risk anything—including her own life. To their enemies on Earth, she’s a rebel.
Abandoned in space for years, utterly alone, Abel has advanced programming that’s begun to evolve. He wants only to protect his creator, and to be free. To the people of Genesis, he’s an abomination. Noemi and Abel are enemies in an interstellar war, forced by chance to work together as they embark on a daring journey through the stars. Their efforts would end the fighting for good, but they’re not without sacrifice. The stakes are even higher than either of them first realized, and the more time they spend together, the more they’re forced to question everything they’d been taught was true.


I am a huge fan of Gray’s previous series, so I was thrilled to hear about her brand new series, starting with Defy the Stars. This is a coming-of-age story of changing the world, or in this case, the universe. Noemi Vidal’s purpose in life is to protect her planet, Genesis, from the attacks of their enemy, Earth.  During a mission, she goes to help a dying friend and encounters Abel, a mech who is superior to all others. He seems so human, it’s hard to forget that he is AI. Their chance encounter leads to a galaxy wide adventure to put a stop to the interplanetary war that neither of them chose to be apart of. Both characters end up on a track that the could have never even dreamed of as they risk everything to save all of humanity.

I love a good accessible sci-fi and this book landed squarely in that genre. I love the tech, the AI, the intergalactic travel, and so much more. As a whole, this book is about the advancement of technology and what it’s done to the human race. Yes, there is that hint of romance, but it doesn’t detract from the story, and in many ways–both in this fictional world and our own reality–the romance raises ethical issues that I suspect will be a focal point in later books in the series. I am excited to see how this romance plays out in further books. I don’t want to spoil too much here, but I think this book will raise a lot of questions and discussions for readers surrounding artificial intelligence and how it can infringe upon and call into question our own humanness.

This book was very complex despite it’s fast pace and introduces many topics such as technological advancement, romance, friendship, loss, grief, respect for the dead, rebellion, war, political extremism, and so on. Claudia Gray is a masterful world builder, as we saw in her previous series, and she constructs and incredibly vast reality in this new book. She does so amid action packed fighting sequences and exploration of new worlds. I hope, dear readers, that you’ll find this book as interesting as I did. If nothing else, it is a fast-paced and thrilling story of an adventure to new and unknown territories in search of a way to save humankind, and that’s enough to draw me in! 🙂

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi

28458598*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: When Dimple Met Rishi

Author: Sandhya Menon

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication Date: May 30, 2017

ISBN: 9781481478687

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?  Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.  The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not? Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.


AHHHH I really loved this new YA! It’s light-hearted, sweet, and too good to pass up for a summer read. Dimple Shah is a kick-ass young lady. She loves to code and has a dream to create an app that’ll help her Papa track his diabetes. She’s a no nonsense kind of girl who’s got her mind focused on her career and her passions. She’s not afraid to speak her mind and to ask what she wants. She knows she couldn’t live with herself if she didn’t just go for it. She is flawed in her quickness to act, her over the top fervour, and her occasional irrationality, but these flaws make her so incredibly real and relatable.

Mirroring her is Rishi Patel, a traditional boy from a traditional family who just wants to live up to the dreams that his parents have for him. He believes deeply in his religion and culture and has a deep desire to share them with the world. His devotion to his family may just stamp out the one passion he’s ever had, the one thing that makes him who he is — his art.

Menon writes a hilarious and endearing story of Dimple and Rishi–their meeting, their friendship, their romance, and so much more. Her writing had me laughing out loud continuously through the novel. Not many other books have this same power, YA or otherwise. Dimple and Rishi are both incredibly intelligent young people who are witty and who have insights that are perhaps a bit beyond their years, but we can forgive them of this minor details because in their navigation of love and romance they are as hopeless as any teen in the first throws of love. Their relationship is very touching and sweet and these two characters make an incredible team.

My only criticism would be the development of secondary characters like Celia and Ashish. Both characters play important roles in the lives of the protagonists and they are important to the plot, but we don’t really get to know them at all. Their characterization seems a bit half-hearted, but they both have important and interesting things to contribute to the book as a whole. I would have loved to see even more time spend on them, fully rounding them out and bringing them to life.

I can see this being the YA book of the summer. It’s fun, it’s incredibly relevant, and it’s so easy and enjoyable to read.

Review: Strange the Dreamer

28145767*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Strange the Dreamer

Author: Laini Taylor

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 9780316341684

Synopsis from Goodreads:
The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever. What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving? The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?


I was a HUGE fan of Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, so I was absolutely thrilled to receive an advanced copy of her newest book. The start of a new series, Strange the Dreamer, follows the story of Lazlo Strange, a junior librarian who is known to be a dreamer. He does not have prestige or fame. He’s an unassuming young man who has a love for a mythical lost city called Weep. When presented with the opportunity to finally see the city that has consumed his thoughts and dreams for so long, Lazlo–even surprising himself–jumps at the chance.

I really liked Lazlo as a character. I found him endearing and a little silly. He’s a great tabula rasa, ready for the story to build itself around him. He comes from nothing and really has nothing, and Taylor has set him up to perhaps be an unlikely hero as the series continues to progress.

Lazlo functions in what is a very complex and beautiful world. Taylor has built a very tragic and tangible history for the city of Weep. This history very much enslaves this city, leaving it seemingly without hope. But Lazlo the dreamer sees Weep as it once was when it really was a thing of beautiful legend. The descriptions are so vibrant and real, Taylor brings the story to life in front of the readers eyes.

There is so much to this story: love, hate, death, sadness, life, ghosts, romance, gods, and so much more. I have a feeling as this series progresses, we’re really going to see more of these things come to fruition. Strange the Dreamer offers us an introduction to this magical world and I cannot wait to see what comes next!

Review: The Sun is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

28763485*I received this book in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Sun is also a Star

Author: Nicola Yoon

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Publication Date: November 1, 2016

ISBN: 9780553496680

The Sun Is Also a Star

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.
Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.
The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?


Nicola Yoon is back with this wonderful and moving story of a single, but profound moment in time where two young people meet and fall in love. This is a story of epic passion and about believing in something against all odds. The timing isn’t ideal and that makes the feelings all the more desperate and full. It asks the question, if you only had one day to spend with that one person who you’re meant to be with, how would you spend it? I’m not one for believing in fate or that there is one special person on Earth for each of us to fall in love with. But Yoon presents a story that will have you believing in fate and the purest, truest love.

Natasha and Daniel meet on Natasha’s last day in the USA before her family is deported back to Jamaica. Natasha loves facts, but Daniel is a hopeless romantic. He bets Natasha that he can get her to fall in love with him using facts. Natasha is swayed into giving the experiment a try.

This book spans the course of one single day. It savours each moment exploring each second that Natasha and Daniel spend together. They develop an honesty with one another that some adults don’t have over the course of the lifetime, and the the reader is privy to each special moment. They accept each other’s faults and insecurities in this fleeting time together. They move from topics like music, to their families, immigration, deportation, the future, as they work through a series of questions that will supposedly make them fall in love. They are both incredibly beautiful people in a beautiful story that will tug at your heart strings.

I’m a huge fan of Yoon and I hope she keeps the novels coming because I haven’t been disappointed in the slightest!

Review: Tell Me Something Real by Calla Devin

25372971*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Tell Me Something Real

Author: Calla Devin

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: August 30, 2016

ISBN: 9781481461153

Tell Me Something Real

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Three sisters struggle with the bonds that hold their family together as they face a darkness settling over their lives in this masterfully written debut novel. There are three beautiful blond Babcock sisters: gorgeous and foul-mouthed Adrienne, observant and shy Vanessa, and the youngest and best-loved, Marie. Their mother is ill with leukemia and the girls spend a lot of time with her at a Mexican clinic across the border from their San Diego home so she can receive alternative treatments. Vanessa is the middle child, a talented pianist who is trying to hold her family together despite the painful loss that they all know is inevitable. As she and her sisters navigate first loves and college dreams, they are completely unaware that an illness far more insidious than cancer poisons their home. Their world is about to shatter under the weight of an incomprehensible betrayal…


Devin’s book is completely shocking and gut-wrenching. The outcome of this novel is something I could never have guessed, not in a million years. And I really liked it for this twist! Even though the twist was hard to stomach. This is a story of a family wracked by terminal illness. Three sisters have united together to survive and to help keep the family afloat. With their mother’s declining health and their father constantly at work, it falls on the shoulders of Adrienne, Vanessa, and Marie to join their mother on trips to the hospital in Mexico, to cook, to clean, and to take care of each other. When Beth and the adorable Caleb move in, suddenly their lives have structure again. But just when things look like they’re turning around, things get completely out of control.

I really connected with the protagonist, Vanessa. She’s a piano genius who processes and feels her emotions best through her music. She wants so badly to pursue this passion, but her complicated life means that she may have to give up everything she’s ever dreamed of. Her sister, Adrienne, is an artist, but she’s also angry, vulgar, and seems constantly on the edge of breaking. I felt her to be the most realistic, although not the most likeable. Her fear and pain is channeled through anger. She’s beautiful, but she lashes out. You see her softer side emerge in her love for her sisters, especially Marie, who she takes care of and crafts with.

Romance provide a bright spot in the story that is absolutely necessary in a very tragic tale. I’m not always a fan of a romance thrown into stories like this, especially one about family struggling in the most terrible time of their lives, but I think it does well here to provide a happier juxtaposition to the tragedy unfolding. It’s necessary and it’s a breath of fresh air in all the darkness. Caleb is recovering, but he is by no means healthy. He’s near-death experiences give him a much wider perspective of his world. He’s no-nonsense and straight to the point. He encourages Vanessa to be open and honest. He wants only for her to be herself and loves her for it. Their relationship is sweet and provides some much needed relief.

Overall, I was quite enthralled by Devin’s text. I read it in a night and would definitely read it again. It didn’t make me cry like I thought it would but it certainly gave me all the feels. I hope you’ll give it a chance!