Review: These Broken Stars

Overall, I liked These Broken Stars, but I’m afraid the hype monster got me on this one. I expected it to be truly epic, but… it fell a little short for me.

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What I really enjoyed from this book…

– I loved the Icarus and I really wish we could have had more time there! It sounded so interesting, and I would have loved to learn more about the in’s and out’s of the ship, seen more parties and experienced the observation deck. It all sounded so neat! I liked what details we got of the ship.

– I also liked any details we got of this world, and the world itself is honestly what makes me most interested in reading the next book Spooner and Kaufman produce from this universe. I’m curious to know more about the war (which I think the next book is focusing on) and how we discovered all these other planets. (And are there aliens? It didn’t seem like there were.)

– The sci-fi aspect that comes up on the planet was intriguing and felt like something that could be on an episode of Star Trek (pretty much always a good thing!).

garak-jazzhandsWhat I did not enjoy as much…

– I never felt a deep connection with Lilac and Tarver. I thought Lilac was annoying at first, but as she came to accept her situation, I grew to like to her more. But even so, I liked both Lilac and Tarver both just enough to care enough to keep reading. I never felt truly emotionally invested in them.

– While I believed in Lilac and Tarver’s attraction and affections for one another, I did not believe in the depth of their supposed epic love. They went from not standing one another (but being attracted to each other) to admitting feelings, which made sense, but they were willing to completely abandon their families to stay together forever on the God-forsaken planet. Of course, I guess hormones are to blame for that.

urban-bones-poetic– As they started their trek across the planet and Lilac was being whiny, I thought, Oh no, it’s Under the Never Sky all over again… 

bashir-sleepyBut I liked the characters slightly more so I decided to stick with it. But that being said, I don’t think I’m a huge fan of survivalist stories. All this walking around a barren or foreboding place with so little to do or say doesn’t really suit me unless I LOVE the characters.

What I wish we could have seen… 

(These are vague inclinations about the ending here… I don’t think it’s too spoilery, but none of this will really make sense if you haven’t read the book yet)

– I wish the book had ended with Lilac and Tarver going to Tarver’s parents’ house. The ending as it was was interesting, but I think this would have been a nice final scene. I’m also upset we didn’t get to learn more about the planet, but I understand why the mystery is left as it is at the end.

– I wish we could have gotten more insight into Lilac’s medical test results.

– I wish there had been an explanation as to why people avoided Lilac at the beginning of the book. Did I miss something? Was it JUST because of who her dad was? No one knew what had happened with Simon except her and her dad. And why does she need Anna as a bodyguard? I never felt like these things were fully explained.

Overall…

There were moments that I was engaged and interested, and moments where I was slightly annoyed. I liked Lilac and Tarver fine, enough to care for their well-being, but I don’t care too much about what happens to them beyond the story and I don’t care about their relationship too much. I wish there had been more of the science fiction elements and the ship, less of the boring trekking across the planet (though I understand the realistic nature of how long that could take), and that the relationship had developed more naturally.

3.5stars

Content Advisory: One off-screen sex scene and moderate language.

What were your thoughts on These Broken Stars? 

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Review: Across a Star-Swept Sea

Where do I even begin?!

I LOVED AND ADORED Across a Star-Swept Sea, even more than For Darkness Shows the Stars! Basically, it had everything Amy looks for in a book. Adventure + genetic engineering + fascinating world building + strong heroine + smart hero + love story + pretty dresses + the sea + description that is so delicious I want to eat it like ice cream = perfect Amy book!

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Across a Star-Swept Sea is a companion novel to For Darkness Shows the Stars, taking place in the same universe. I have to admit, at first I was confused by this, because while there were similarities between the two books, there were also enough differences in terms that were being used and in the names of the places that were supposedly the only places left on the world, that I was wondering how it all fit together. Thankfully, when you keep reading it does eventually make sense. So while I was confused sometimes, it did not overshadow how I was instantly transported into and captivated by Persis’ secret life as a spy. In this retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, we see that by day, Lady Persis Blake plays a silly aristo who cares about nothing but her appearance. But secretly she is playing the role of the famous spy, The Wild Poppy, trying to change the way of the revolution. As someone who was not familiar with The Scarlet Pimpernel, I had no problem getting into the story. In fact, I think it was easier for me to get into this book than FDSTS, as I was not trying to get caught up into the minutia of which character is representative of which character from the original story (which for FDSTS was Persuasion).

The secondary main character, Justen Helo, meets Persis early on and is forced to pose as her love interest when he seeks asylum from Princess Isla. I really loved Persis, who was brave and smart and cunning, and I loved Justen just as much! He was also extremely smart, very focused and ambitious. He holds on to regrets from his past and his family’s past and uses them as the driving force for his work. He slowly recognizes over time that Persis is much more than a pretty face, and the way these two thought about each other, interacted with each other, and misunderstood each other could be so frustrating, but it was in all the right ways. It was never a frustration that made me want to throw my book across the room, but I was definitely close to shouting at the characters: “Justen, Persis is the Wild Poppy! Persis! Just tell Justen who you are!”

quotes-starsweptseaThe plotting and pacing were perfect, except maybe at the very end, when things seemed to wrap up a little too quickly. I was always intrigued and loved so many of the characters (and hated some as well, as you’re supposed to!). And I absolutely loved hearing about the world of New Pacifica, which sounds completely gorgeous and heavenly (I want to vacation there now please!) and about Persis’ wardrobe, because I’m a sucker for pretty dresses. There were so many detailed elements that Diana Peterfreund included that just made everything feel so real.

I also felt the romance more this time than I had in FDSTS, and it was such a nice slow burn, which I’m also a big fan of.

We do get some cameo appearances from Elliot, Kai, and some of the others from FDSTS. It was sort of weird to see them through Persis and Justen’s eyes, because they viewed them differently than I did. But of course, to them they came from this strange land and they didn’t know anything of their back story. It was almost a little sad to see Elliot and Kai again but not get their perspective, but I was glad to see them, and Ro. But not Andromeda. Bleh.

All in all though, I pretty much loved everything about this book! If you love intriguing world building, have an interest in genetic engineering, and just love a good story, you have to check out these books! And does anyone know if another one is coming out? Because I need one now.

need-itContent Advisory: This one is really clean. Language, sexual content, and violence are all either mild or nonexistent in this book.  

5stars2Have you read Across a Star-Swept Sea? Did you love it as much as I did?!

Review: There You’ll Find Me

There You’ll Find Me is a Christian YA book by Jenny B. Jones I heard good things about on a couple of different blogs, and the premise sounded fun so I decided to try it out.

synopsisGrief brought Finley to Ireland. Love will lead her home.

Finley Sinclair is not your typical eighteen-year-old. She’s witty, tough, and driven. With an upcoming interview at the Manhattan music conservatory, Finley needs to compose her audition piece. But her creativity disappeared with the death of her older brother, Will.

She decides to study abroad in Ireland so she can follow Will’s travel journal. It’s the place he felt closest to God, and she’s hopeful being there will help her make peace over losing him. So she agrees to an exchange program and boards the plane.

Beckett Rush, teen heartthrob and Hollywood bad boy, is flying to Ireland to finish filming his latest vampire movie. On the flight, he meets Finley. She’s the one girl who seems immune to his charm. Undeterred, Beckett convinces her to be his assistant in exchange for his help as a tour guide.

Once in Ireland, Finley starts to break down. The loss of her brother and the pressure of school, her audition, and whatever it is that is happening between her and Beckett, leads her to a new and dangerous vice. When is God going to show up for her in this emerald paradise?

Then she experiences something that radically changes her perspective on life. Could it be God convincing her that everything she’s been looking for has been with her all along?

thoughts2Overall, I liked this story, but I felt it lacked in some ways.

The Good

Finley’s character arc was interesting and pretty good. She starts off clearly broken, still grieving over the tragic death of her brother a year ago. She is on her way to Ireland hoping to connect with God there the way her brother did, because she feels He’s been distant from her life. Instead of magically feeling better once in Ireland, she still struggles with a myriad of emotions and problems, both old and new, as she deals with a dying senior citizen, a famous and charming movie star who won’t leave her alone, a mean girl at school, and her audition for music conservatory looming over her head. She makes some frustrating decisions at times that just made me want to shake her, but towards the end she starts to realize where she has gone wrong and at the end she makes a decision that I didn’t even see coming, but was clearly the right thing for her to do. The ending itself gave it an extra half star, almost a whole star. I just really appreciated it.

The Christian aspect felt mostly natural, not forced or preachy. I think this is important for a Christian book. Even if most of the audience is Christian, it can still feel fake if spiritual discussions feel forced, just in there for the sake of it. Finley also deals with an issue I think many people can relate to, which is feeling distant and isolated from God, but believing that He is there.

there-you-find-me

The Not As Good

Finley and Beckett’s relationship was just OK for me. I didn’t dislike them being together, but it definitely did not give me all the feels, which is kind of how I’m gauging these relationships now that I have been exposed to a couple of really swoon-worthy ones. I felt like it could have been built up more, where they could have acted like actual friends for a little while first before crossing into romance territory, and that then I would have actually been excited for them when it happened. And though Finley was frustrating many times, I just really wanted to yell at Beckett for insisting over and over to Finley that he wasn’t the way everyone thought he was, but never bothering to explain WHY. Communication, people. Seriously.

I wanted more between Finley and her host sister Erin, and really the host family in general. There with these great secondary characters, especially the host family and Sister Maria, that did not get enough book time. I felt the opportunities that could have happened between Finley and Erin were especially missed. I remember thinking, while reading, that maybe that was the point, that Finley would miss doing so much with Erin and they would have a conversation about it when Finley figured it out and they would hug and cry and eat chocolate cake but NOPE. No such apology ever happens. That made me sad for Erin, because she deserved it. There might have been one “off-screen” but I wanted to know about it!

There were a couple of time leaps that confused me. I don’t want from Point A to Point B to always be spelled out because that’s boring, but there were time leaps that left me feeling disoriented in time. The worst was when a chapter opened with Erin and Finley’s dates coming to pick them up from the dance, but last we knew neither of them had one. I wasn’t surprised by the outcome of who the dates were, and I suppose it was meant to be some big reveal or surprise, but it didn’t work that way for me.

The prologue and epilogue felt meaningless. The prologue and epilogue take place in time before and after the main story, respectively, and both had analogies with kites. I guess it was supposed to be a theme and mean something but it just fell flat for me.

Most of the opening chapter snippets felt meaningless too. Before each chapter there was a little snippet. The ones I liked were from Will’s travel journal when he went to Ireland. The ones that were just OK were Finley’s eating, running, and practicing music counts, which showed what Finley was doing, but it seemed a little unnecessary since it was pretty well explained in the story. Then the ones that I was not a fan of was communications with her family back home. Now, this is a good idea in theory, since there is almost no interaction with them within the story (which I also think was a missed opportunity), but none of it advanced the story line. Also, I was distracted by the fact that it would have a text message from her brother and it would say “sent to my iPhone,” and then later there would be a text from her dad and it would say, “sent to my Blackberry.” Why does she have an iPhone and a Blackberry? And why did she need both in Ireland? It seemed really silly and threw me off. One last thing that threw me off…

I hate pop culture references! This book was published in 2011 and thankfully nothing was irrelevant yet, but I’m sure some of it will be before too long. I find pop culture references to generally be avoidable and unnecessary, and annoying because they date the story and sometimes feel more forced than natural.

But overall, despite these nit-picky things, I really did like the story and the characters! I just wish I could have had more of the good and less of the mediocre. I think one more edit could have done a world of good. For all reasons listed above, I’ve decided on a 3.5 stars.

3.5stars

Content Advisory: Nothing here, really! Just a little bit of kissing. 

If you’ve read There You’ll Find Me, what are your thoughts? If not, what’s your favorite book where a character travels to a foreign country? 

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