Their Fractured Light: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

*Their Fractured Light is the final book in Kaufman and Spooner’s Starbound trilogy which began with These Broken Stars and This Shattered World. This review includes small spoilers for both preceding books.*

Their Fractured Light by Aimee Kaufman and Meagan SpoonerEveryone knows about Flynn Cormac and Jubilee Chase’s infamous Avon Broadcast that aired on year ago. The broadcast did its job of saving their planet. It also was largely  discredited much in the way Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen’s own stories of whispers on a far off planet after the crash of the Icarus were quietly ignored.

Now, in the center of the universe on the planet of Corinth, two teens are working to bring the evils of LaRoux industries to light once and for all.

Gideon Marchant is a hacker who has spent the the last year tracking a woman he thinks can help him bring LaRoux Industries to its knees.

Sofia Quinn left Avon a year ago and since then has worked her way across the galaxy to Corinth waiting for her chance to make LaRoux pay for her father’s death.

When their separate attempts at infiltrating LaRoux Headquarters are thwarted, Gideon and Sofia are thrown together in a frantic escape. These two have no reason to work together but if they can let go of their distrust and the hatred they’ve been harboring for so long, they might be the key to exposing LaRoux’s secrets once and for all in Their Fractured Light (2015) by Aime Kaufman and Meagan Spooner.

Their Fractured Light is the final book in Kaufman and Spooner’s Starbound trilogy which began with These Broken Stars and This Shattered World.

Like its predecessors, Their Fractured Light is written in first person narration that alternates between both characters’ (Gideon and Sofia’s) points of view. As the final book in a companion series, this novel introduces new characters and an independent plot–at least theoretically.

In reality, Kaufman and Spooner’s final Starbound book is a disappointing installment that lacks the substance or depth to stand on its own merits. Both Sofia and Gideon are intimately connected to the events at LaRoux Industries and to characters from earlier books. Their pasts and backstories become such a large part of the story that Sofia and Gideon’s present situation pales in comparison.

Compared to the other protagonists in the series, particularly Flynn and Jubilee, Gideon and Sofia fall flat. Their relationship feels forced (remember things start when the two are almost literally thrown together) and lacks any kind of chemistry even before a painfully contrived plot point comes along to make things even more difficult for both characters.

Ultimately Their Fractured Light does wrap up the series after a fashion however after building up to this climactic finish over the course of three books, the resolution felt anti-climactic and not quite as satisfying as it could have been.

Readers who have been faithful fans of the series since the beginning will find a lot to love in Their Fractured Light. Unfortunately, after struggling through These Broken Stars and being wowed by This Broken World, I have to admit that Their Fractured Light was a major letdown for me.

Possible Pairings: Avalon by Mindee Arnett, The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, Alienated by Melissa Landers, Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, Across the Universe by Beth Revis, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan, The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick, A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan, Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson

Birthmarked: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'BrienIn a future where the world has been baked dry and the Great Lakes are empty craters, sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone’s world is divided by the walls of the Enclave. The privileged few living inside the walls want for nothing; their lives the stuff of legend with decadence and comfort documented for all to admire at the Tvaltar.

Gaia Stone has always known that her place is outside the walls. The Enclave does not welcome people with scars or burns especially not when they are as visible as the one on Gaia’s face. Like her mother before her, Gaia works as a midwife helping the women in Western Sector 3 deliver their babies. Like her mother, Gaia also fills the baby quota each month by “advancing” a handful of newborns to live inside the Enclave walls.

It is only after her parents are arrested that Gaia begins to wonder about the true purpose of the baby quote and what else the Enclave might be hiding. Gaia knows she has to try to infiltrate the Enclave and rescue her parents no matter the risk in Birthmarked (2010) by Caragh M. O’Brien.

Find it on Bookshop.

Birthmarked is O’Brien’s first novel and the start of her Birthmarked trilogy which continues with Prized and Promised.

Birthmarked is utterly engrossing and atmospheric. Readers are immediately drawn into Gaia’s world and the complex politics surrounding the Enclave. Third person narration and flashbacks to Gaia’s past lend an introspective quality to this otherwise taut narrative.

Gaia’s arc throughout the story is handled extremely well as she begins to learn more about the Enclave and the politics surrounding it. O’Brien expertly demonstrates Gaia’s growth as well as her changing attitudes throughout the novel.

Every detail in Birthmarked is thoughtfully placed within a complex world and intricate prose where even the vocabulary is often unique and the dialog simmers with unspoken chemistry. Although this novel starts a trilogy, it also offers a self-contained story that leaves room to ponder and to savor. Birthmarked is a fast-paced, vibrant book that is absolutely brilliant. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, Eve by Anna Carey, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, Everless by Sara Holland, The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson, The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid, Skyhunter by Marie Lu, The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski, Vicious by V. E. Schwab, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Lady Thief: A Review

*Lady Thief is the second book in Gaughen’s Scarlet trilogy and picks up shortly after the conclusion of the first book Scarlet. As such, this review has major spoilers for the first book.*

Lady Thief by A. C. GaughenScarlet thought she escaped her past when she joined Robin Hood and his band to protect the people of Nottingham. That was before the thief taker Gisbourne arrived to capture Robin and his band. Before Scarlet was forced to marry Gisbourne in a gambit to save everyone she cares about.

Now, Scarlet is irrevocably tied to Gisbourne even as she sits in hiding with Robin, John and Much. Rob’s time in the Nottingham dungeon has left him scarred and broken. The entire band seems on the verge of collapse when Gisbourne returns with a shocking offer for Scarlet that has the potential to change everything.

When Prince John and the royal court arrive in Nottingham for the appointment of a new Sheriff, Scarlet is drawn into a game of politics and secrets where losing could be deadly in Lady Thief (2014) by A. C. Gaughen.

Lady Thief is the second book in Gaughen’s Scarlet trilogy and picks up shortly after the conclusion of the first book Scarlet.

While Scarlet is an excellent introduction to Nottingham and Gaughen’s version of Robin Hood, Lady Thief moves the series in new directions as the story prepares for the conclusion of the trilogy. Lady Thief brings Scarlet back to the courtly life she abhors and offers quite a few surprises and promises of more to come before the trilogy concludes with Lion Heart.

Lady Thief also introduces an especially frightening villain in Prince John. I won’t get into details here because it’s a spoiler, but some of what Prince John inflicts on Scarlet is so horrifying that I almost didn’t finish this book. (A year ago, I would NOT have finished this book, if we’re being honest.)

It’s fascinating to see more of court life and, horrible person that I am, I am quite fond of Gisbourne so I enjoyed seeing a slightly different side to him here. Lady Thief still has a lot of action as Rob and the band scramble to keep Prince John from appointing another horrible sheriff. Now that Rob and Scarlet have made their feelings about each other clear, readers also get a bit more romance along with the expected action and suspense.

This book focuses more firmly on Scarlet and her character. Instead of just doing what she has to in order to survive, Scarlet is now forced to consider not just what she is willing to sacrifice but also what she is willing to become in order to protect Nottingham and those she loves.

Lady Thief is a thrilling, fast-paced novel with a gut-wrenching ending that will leave readers anxious to get book three in their hands. Recommended for fans of Robin Hood and historical fiction with a twist. Not recommended for squeamish readers who prefer to avoid violence and gore.

Initially, I was going to end my review here. That was when I still had plans to read Lion Heart. Since then, I’ve taken a hard look at things and decided it was best for me to part ways with this series. My reasons are personal and spoilery but here they are: Basically Lady Thief came really close to giving me a breakdown. I did not handle it well when Scarlet’s fingers are cut off. It is never a favorite thing for me to read but it felt particularly visceral here to the point that for hours after reading about it, I had to talk through everything with Kayla. It brought back every bad memory I have of relatives who were sick and relatives who died and, honestly, I felt physically ill while I forced myself to finish the book. Will other people feel that way or have such a violent reaction? Probably not. But the more I thought about Lady Thief the more I felt like the book had betrayed me and the more I realized I could not continue with the series.

Possible Pairings: A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman, Fire by Kristin Cashore, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee, The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley, Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund, Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell, Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson, Montmorency by Eleanor Updale, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

All Fall Down: A Review

All Fall Down by Ally CarterIt has been three years since Grace has seen her ambassador grandfather or set foot in the country of Adria. Now, with nowhere else to go, Grace is once again home at the American Embassy in the city of Valancia.

Three years is a long time to be away, but distance has done nothing to dampen the painful memories of her mother’s death. In fact, returning to her mother’s childhood home only brings it all back in painful detail.

Returning to Valancia, Grace is more convinced than ever that her mother was murdered; even more convinced that she has to do everything she can to find the killer and make him pay.

Until then Grace has not one but two annoyingly present boys to deal with and a mess of secrets to untangle as she hunts for the truth.

Living on Embassy Row among the other international embassies is like living on a very thin ledge where one wrong move can push Grace over forever in All Fall Down (2014) by Ally Carter.

Find it on Bookshop.

All Fall Down is the first book in Carter’s Embassy Row series.

It’s hard sometimes to reconcile immeasurably high hopes for a book with the reality of reading said book. Ally Carter has already received wide (and well-deserved) acclaim for her Gallagher Girls and Heist Society novels as well as legions of loyal fans.

All Fall Down marks a dramatically different direction for Carter’s writing. Grace is still a witty and sharp narrator but she is also abrasive. Grace is also rash to the point of being reckless, something that can rarely be said for Carter’s other heroines. The pain and grief of her mother’s death is fresh and palpable throughout the novel. The sense of loss and regret is often so palpable that it is hard to read through.

In many ways, All Fall Down feels like the natural progression for Carter’s writing career as she continues to push her prose and her protagonists in new directions. The writing remains excellent and evocative as Grace delves into her new surroundings as well as a not-so-new mystery.

While the plot sounds sleek and polished, All Fall Down is much grittier with as many raw edges as Grace herself. Unfortunately, this darker tone also lessens the charm and humor readers familiar with Carter’s previous YA novels might expect to find here.

Unfortunately, with such a radically new premise (not to mention a country entirely of Carter’s own invention) almost all of All Fall Down is setup. Some parts of the initial plot are resolved but many are left dangling to be pursued in later installments. Instead of a start to a new series, this book feels more like a supplementary prequel as readers are left waiting for the actual story to start.

All Fall Down does once again highlight what Carter does so very well as she moves in an entirely new direction. A promising start to a new series for fans of thrillers and twisty suspense novels.

Possible Pairings: The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson, Dial M for Murder by Marni Bates, The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest, Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan, 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma, Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein, Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten, The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams

This Shattered World: A Review

This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan SpoonerJubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac never should have met–not when they stand on opposite sides of the decades long war on Avon.

Terraforming corporations promised to make Avon livable for the countless colonists who paid for land on the fledgling planet. But that was years ago and the planet is still no closer to being more than a murky swamp.

Captain Lee Chase is part of the military force sent to Avon to tamp down rebellious colonists. No one has ever lasted on the inhospitable planet as long as Lee–no one has even tried.

Flynn has been part of the rebellion since before he can remember–before he had a choice in the matter.

After a mission to infiltrate the military base goes horribly awry, Flynn holds Lee’s life literally in his hands.

Lee is as drawn to Flynn as she is repulsed by everything he stands for. But she also knows the stalemate of the rebellion can only last so long before something has to give.

When Flynn makes a shocking choice to help Lee escape, both soldier and rebel find themselves drawn into a web of secrets and lies surrounding Avon’s origins–not to mention in the center of a conflict that could destroy everything they hold dear in This Shattered World (2014) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner.

This Shattered World is the second book in Kaufman and Spooner’s Starbound trilogy which begins with These Broken Stars. Although this book is chronologically a sequel it functions largely as a companion novel and stands on its own without having read book one.

Once again Kaufman and Spooner deliver a story with chapters that alternate between our two narrators while also offering a little something extra in the between chapter transitions.

This Shattered World is a thrilling story filled with action and suspense as Flynn and Jubilee work together to unravel the conspiracy surrounding Avon. Readers are able to see the war from both sides as they get to know Flynn and the other members of the rebellion–a movement with strong ties to the Irish folklore of their ancestors–and the military as seen by Jubilee.

Jubilee is a tough heroine who refuses to take any nonsense from anyone. Although headstrong she is also compassionate, particularly as she learns more about the nuances of the rebellion on Avon. Like Flynn, Jubilee also has strong ties to her past–on her side in the form of a Chinese mother and black father.

Flynn is definitely the softer of the two as he struggles to find a way to end the war without violence. He is also a charming and often cocky character who is keen to be defined by more than his past.

Together Flynn and Jubilee are an unlikely pair who somehow make perfect sense together. Like the best literary relationships, Flynn and Jubilee complement each other and prove that they are stronger together. That isn’t to say This Shattered World doesn’t have it’s fair share of arguing and banter, it does.

While This Shattered World is the second book in a trilogy, it does have a very contained storyline and offers some degree of closure for all of the characters by the final page. Kaufman and Spooner deliver another sleek sci-fi story in This Shattered World which promises to build to an explosive conclusion to the Starbound trilogy in book three.

Possible Pairings: Avalon by Mindee Arnett, The Shadows by Megan Chance, The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, Alienated by Melissa Landers, Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, Across the Universe by Beth Revis, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick, A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan, Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson

*An advance copy of this book was acquired for review consideration from the publisher at a preview event*

Illusions of Fate: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Illusions of Fate by Kiersten WhiteAlbion is dank and cold; a dreary, grey thing far removed from Jessamin Olea’s tropical island home of Melei. Even the people of Albion are different with their harsh, staid manners and so many of them obsessed with wealth or status.

With her dark hair and skin, Jessa never stood a chance of blending in here–even if she wanted to do such a thing.

No matter the hardships, Jessa knows moving to Albion will be worthwhile once her fancy Alben education is complete and she can use all of her new knowledge to help Melei and its people.

If Jessa hadn’t tried to walk down an alley on her way home from class, that might have been the end of the story. Instead, after a chance encounter with a strange and charming man named Finn Ackerly, Jessa’s life becomes something very different.

Soon Jessa is drawn into a magical power struggle between Finn and the sinister Lord Downpike. Weeks ago Jessa’s biggest concerns were keeping warm and trying to afford her textbooks while staying at the top of her class. Now, as enemies circle, Jessa will have to decide whether to stay on the path that will bring her home to Melei or bind herself further to Finn in Illusions of Fate (2014) by Kiersten White.

Find it on Bookshop.

White offers a clever and original story here that is a fine historial-esque fantasy set in a well-realized world. With wit and humor aplenty, Illusions of Fate also features a nuanced commentary on what it means to feel and be seen as “other” along with the power that comes from claiming one’s heritage and identity.

Ideas surrounding feminism and imperialism are also handled as thoughtfully as race here. Jessa is a fierce heroine who knows exactly who she is and refuses to compromise that sense of self for anyone. Unapologetic, smart, and more than capable of saving herself, Jessa is sure to appeal to readers of all ages. Finn is her perfect foil as these unlikely allies bring out the best in each other with chemistry that is evident in every banter-filled exchange.

Illusions of Fate is a delightful blend of fantasy and romance with an action-packed plot with more than a few twists. The story builds slowly to reveal a story that is both engaging and thoughtful as Jessa tries to navigate the murky waters of Alben society. Although the ending is rushed in places, readers will finish this book with all of the pieces they need to imagine what other adventures might be in store for this truly wonderful heroine.

Possible Pairings: Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger, Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson, Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore, The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason, A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamology by Lucy Keating, Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal, A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee, Winterspell by Claire Legrand, The Keeper of the Mist by Rachel Neumeier, Sabriel by Garth Nix, For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope, An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson, A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab, These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas, The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye, Iron Cast by Destiny Soria, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, Enchantée by Gita Trelease, Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevemer

So Yesterday: A Review

“We are all around you.

“You don’t think about us much because we are invisible. Well, not exactly invisible. A lot of us have hair dyed in four colors, or wear five-inch platform sneakers, or carry enough metal in our skin that it’s a hassle getting on an airplane. Quite visible, actually, come to think of it.

“But we don’t wear signs saying what we are. After all, if you knew what we were up to, we couldn’t work our magic. We have to observe carefully and push and prompt you in ways you don’t notice. Like good teachers, we let you think you discovered the truth on your own.

“And you need us. Someone has to guide you, to mold you, to make sure that today turns to yesterday on schedule. Because frankly, without us to monitor the situation, who knows what would get crammed down your throats?

“It’s not like you can just start making your own decisions, after all.”

So Yesterday by Scott WesterfeldHunter Braque is always on top of the latest trends. Mostly because he helps make sure they become trends. As a seventeen-year-old with his own background in the whirlwind world of innovation and style, Hunter knows exactly how to spot Innovators–the people who do something before it’s cool. The people who define cool.

When Hunter’s best client disappears it will take all of his connections to track her down as he teams up with an Innovator, uncovers a mystery surrounding the coolest sneakers he’s ever seen and gets to the bottom of the shadowy world that lurks behind all of the trends and innovations in So Yesterday (2004) by Scott Westerfeld.

Find it on Bookshop.

So Yesterday is generally grouped into Westerfeld’s New York Trilogy which is not actually a trilogy. It’s one of his earlier novels, set in New York City and also a rare non-fantasy title. (The other books in this “trilogy” are the vampire-apocalyptic books Peeps and The Last Days.)

Although this book is a departure for Westerfeld’s usual fare of science fiction and fantasy adventures, the prose is still decidedly his with the expected blend of wit and trivia along with excellent turns of phrase. (True story: One of my all-time favorite quotes is from this book!)

Hunter is understandably interested in trends so the book is filled with odd bits of information about the origins of ties, or more specifically cravats, among other things. And don’t let the realistic setting fool you–there is still tons of action to be had as Hunter chases down sneakers, avoids thugs and seeks help from shady figures with names like Futura Garamond (another true story: This book introduced me to both of those font faces which I now use all the time!).

So Yesterday is a fast, strange book that readers who enjoy sardonic humor, New York City, or the stories behind the latest It Thing (or all of those at the same time!) is sure to enjoy.

Possible Pairings: The Brokenhearted by Amelia Kahaney, New York City: A Short History by George J. Lankevich, Proxy by Alex London, Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller, Vicious by V. E. Schwab