Review: Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray

35959679*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Defy the Worlds

Author: Claudia Gray

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 9780316394109

Synopsis from Goodreads:
An outcast from her home — Shunned after a trip through the galaxy with Abel, the most advanced cybernetic man ever created, Noemi Vidal dreams of traveling through the stars one more time. And when a deadly plague arrives on Genesis, Noemi gets her chance. As the only soldier to have ever left the planet, it will be up to her to save its people…if only she wasn’t flying straight into a trap. A fugitive from his fate — On the run to avoid his depraved creator’s clutches, Abel believes he’s said good-bye to Noemi for the last time. After all, the entire universe stands between them…or so he thinks. When word reaches him of Noemi’s capture by the very person he’s trying to escape, Abel knows he must go to her, no matter the cost. But capturing Noemi was only part of Burton Mansfield’s master plan. In a race against time, Abel and Noemi will come together once more to discover a secret that could save the known worlds, or destroy them all.


Defy the Worlds continues the story of Noemi and Abel in the second instalment of the Constellation series. Noemi is an outcast at her home planet and Abel is on the run. A scheme thought up be Abel’s creator, Burton Mansfield, quickly puts both characters back into danger, pawns to other peoples’ plans with very few option to escape or succeed. Gray’s writing is as intense and fast-paced as ever as these two race against the clock to save the lives of so many innocent people, and hopefully, themselves.

Although this is still an excellent book, I think it’s my least favourite of Gray’s so far. I still really like Noemi as a character with her defiant attitude and her set mindset that is not to be defeated. Her relationship with Abel pushes boundaries and comes up against barriers at all turns, yet she moves forward with him unflinchingly. Even in the worst of circumstances, she’s always thinking on her feet and searching for solutions to better things for the greater good. In this series, Gray has created an expansive and ever growing world with new surprises to behold as the story unfolds. I believe I’ve said this once, but I’ll say it again, Gray is a master world-builder. Her imagination is boundless and even if the plot isn’t your thing, the world is sure to mesmerize you.

POTENTIAL SPOILIES. READERS BE WARNED:

I only gave this book three stars on Goodreads because I feel like it tried to do too much, reaching a little too far and not in a great way. As new characters are introduced and new plot lines explored, the story becomes quite erratic. I will try to not reveal to much, but there is a young character that we meet for the first time who is representative of an enormous technological change in this world, however who causes undue chaos in the plot–an unnecessary device that is seemingly meant to cause more suspense and action, but in my opinion, only serves to distract from the main story. The chaos is not what I first imagined it would be, but quickly becomes more of an annoyance to get through when reading. When there are so many antagonists and threats in this book, it seemed to be a bit superfluous to add an additional one.

Still, Gray has become one of my top YA authors to read and that remains the case despite the few issues that I have with this recent edition. She crafts beautiful and clever characters and settings, so I will most assuredly be on the lookout for more of her stories in the future.


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Review: The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin

35142025*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Queen of Hearts

Author: Kimmery Martin

Publisher: Berkley

Publication Date: February 13, 2018

ISBN: 9780399585050

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Zadie Anson and Emma Colley have been best friends since their early twenties, when they first began navigating serious romantic relationships amid the intensity of medical school. Now they’re happily married wives and mothers with successful careers–Zadie as a pediatric cardiologist and Emma as a trauma surgeon. Their lives in Charlotte, North Carolina are chaotic but fulfilling, until the return of a former colleague unearths a secret one of them has been harboring for years. As chief resident, Nick Xenokostas was the center of Zadie’s life–both professionally and personally–throughout a tragic chain of events in her third year of medical school that she has long since put behind her. Nick’s unexpected reappearance during a time of new professional crisis shocks both women into a deeper look at the difficult choices they made at the beginning of their careers. As it becomes evident that Emma must have known more than she revealed about circumstances that nearly derailed both their lives, Zadie starts to question everything she thought she knew about her closest friend.


I love finding a new book that you absolutely CANNOT put down. This was one of those wild, exhilarating reads for me. The Queen of Hearts is a story of lifelong friendship between women, what sustains it and supports it, and ultimately, what it can overcome. Zadie and Emma have been friends since meeting just before medical school. They experience the rush and intensity of learning the ropes at the hospital together during their rotation. They experience the beauty and whirlwind of first love together, and they experience the absolutely devastation of loss together. Theirs is a friendship that has survive and endured all the ups and downs of life, work, motherhood, romance, and so much more–until things start to come apart at the seams.

I totally devoured this book. It did take me a few days to get through because of some time constraints, but in between blocks of reading, I was obsessing over finishing this book and getting back to the story. The characters, Zadie especially, are so alive and so genuine. Although they are both successful doctors–not an experience that I completely relate too–they are both just women who are mothers, lovers, friend, and neighbours. They and their husbands have witty and hilarious banter (perhaps a tad unrealistic that all of them are this happy-go-lucky, supportive, and witty, but I’m willing to give the author this one because it was so entertaining), and the story itself is intense and fully of hooks and cliff-hangers to pull you forward onto the next chapter. Martin masterfully grabs hold of your attention, keeping you riveted so that you have no choice but to turn to the next page to find out what happens next.

To top everything off, it’s got one of the most visually appealing and striking covers of any book I’ve seen in a while. This is definitely one I know I’d pull off the shelves at the bookstore–I’m a sucker for a beautiful cover.

This novel had it all. I laughed and I cried. I was on the edge of my seat, needing to know more. I related to the characters in a way that had me ruminating on my own close friendships with my girls, imagining what our lives together look like in the future (hopefully with a little less drama than Zadie and Emma! :P). It’s such a good read. I highly recommend it. The only extra thing that this book could have used was a comfy beachside chair and a nice cold drink–I settled for reading this one while curled up under a quilt on my couch which isn’t a bad alternative at all. 🙂


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Review and GIVEAWAY — Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi

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

Scroll down to enter for your chance to win a finished copy of the awesome book from Mary H. K. Choi, Emergency Contact, plus a CUSTOM iPhone case!

35297272Title: Emergency Contact

Author: Mary H. K. Choi

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 9781534408968

Synopsis from Goodreads:
For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind. Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him. When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.


5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads for Mary H. K. Choi’s Emergency ContactI ripped through this book so quickly, I just couldn’t put it down. These characters are unique, honest, and so tangible. Choi writes characters who could so easily step off the page–Sam is a broke-as-hell film student, covered in tattoos and skinnier than he’d like to be, who’s life has been upended into a complicated mess both in terms of his love life and his relationship with his mom. Penny’s a freshman at college and is learning to be away from home for the first time. She’s looking to discover who she is as a writer  and who she’ll be apart from her mother, but her own anxieties and idiosyncrasies may make or break relationship with the woman who raised her. These two form a sort of oddball friendship, one that’s definitely unexpected, and find they have more in common than they thought.

What I enjoyed most about this book is that it explores a “friends-first” relationship that blossoms into love in the form of a whisper and then a great explosion. Penny and Sam connect intellectually, learning who the other person is through witty banter that expands into sharing of intimate hopes and fears, all evolving from a single text message. As Penny says of Sam, he “speaks Penny” and gets her so naturally that it’s a breath of fresh air. They develop a camaraderie and a language that is all their own, understanding and getting to know each other in that effortless and exhilarating way, through texting first and then later in person. They are both amazed at how deeply they are able to connect with one another in a virtual space, but it creates a forum of honesty–a place without pretense. They fall in together. Their relationship is easy in the way that real love is. The story’s focus is on the connection these two have as friends and the excitement leading up to the relationship–the butterflies, the anxiety of not knowing how things will work out.

This story is light, but heart-warming and page-turning simultaneously. Choi’s focus seems to be on character building and development, a skill at which she is extremely talented.  Choi successfully conveys Penny’s awkwardness and her total obliviousness at traditional friendships. Penny is hilarious and so incredibly relate-able. I felt such a deep connection, my own tendency to overthink things sometimes reflected in her, but in a way that is so positive. It’s Penny’s internal monologue that makes her so real and so loveable. Sam, as well, is endearing and heart-breaking in his struggles and fears. He gains strength as his world expands and really begins to take charge of his own life, even if it hurts him. Their story will make you smile, but it will also make you cry. An excellent book, well worth buying!


GIVEAWAY: Enter to win a finished copy of Emergency Contact and a custom iPhone case! 
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Review: The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso

34219880*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Tethered Mage

Author: Melissa Caruso

Publisher: Orbit

Publication Date: October 14, 2017

ISBN: 9780316466875

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In the Raverran Empire, magic is scarce and those born with power are strictly controlled — taken as children and conscripted into the Falcon Army. Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire. Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations.But fate has bound the heir and the mage. And as war looms on the horizon, a single spark could turn their city into a pyre.


This was a great book that I would have absolutely adored as a teenager. It’s so reminiscent of everything I read and got addicted to in high school. Reading The Tethered Mage was a pretty nostalgic experience for me. Although this book has been classified as adult fantasy, it’s definitely solidly in the YA category. It’s got a youthful narrator who is coming of age, it’s got innocent romance that blooms throughout the story, and the majority of it’s key characters are young or very youthful. It reminded me a lot of various Tamora Pierce books I read voraciously throughout my young reading life.

Lady Amalia Cornaro is the heir to her mother’s thrown. She is set to be a political leader and has a life set out ahead of her. A huge wrench it thrown into her path when she accidentally becomes a Falconer, tethered to a powerful fire mage, Zaira. Their relationship is tumultuous but these two are tied together for life. Their story is full of disaster, with sparks of friendship, and romance with other thrown in their providing glimmers of hope. The world they’ve both always known is threatened and everything verges on the edge of collapse as war looms in the distance. Amalia is trying to find herself and forge new friendships in this turbulent world. She is attempting to emerge from under her mothers shadow but with the ever present and unknown threat closing in, she’s risking everything, even her life, to try and make a change for the better.

I really like Amalia as a character. I think she’s got a lot of tenacity and fire. It’s no wonder her paired Falcon is a fire mage. She comes from a life of privilege, yes, but she is deeply empathetic and desires to learn as much as she can from whomever she can. She wants to use her position for good, but learning how best to do that does take time. She’s young and makes many mistakes, but she want to succeed and works hard to show everyone what she’s made of. She’s a take-charge kind of girl who possesses a lot of perseverance and moral strength. Her mage, Zaira, is wild and strong. She presents herself to be tough as nails and unforgiving. She is unyielding and often reckless. But as we get to know her, there is a soft side under that shell. She’d never admit it, but she’s as loyal as she is rebellious, connect most with those who show her true devotion and honesty.

The plot as a whole is quick and interesting. There are high stakes deceptions, threats around every corner, and an intricately weaved conflict that wages and builds as the novel progresses. The world that Caruso has created is vast and multi-faceted. This Empire is political and magical. The people within it try to balance both to create a civilization that is safe and secure. Difference societies have different views on what that means which is a point of contention throughout the novel and is a strong factor is the push towards war. I’m curious to see how this story continues in the subsequent books in the series. I think this world has a lot to offer. I’m a new fan.

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.

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! 🙂