Book Review: Nora & Kettle

I had seen some blogging friends express interest in Nora & Kettle, but when the e-book was on sale and I contemplated buying it, I checked Goodreads and noticed none of them had actually read it. The reviews from others on GR really piqued my interest though, so I bought it and read it not too long after. And I’m glad I did.

gr-nora&kettle

The pacing of the story is very slow, but the writing is beautiful. It also weaves in some elements from Peter Pan, though it is definitely not a retelling or an adaptation.

In the beginning we meet Nora, a girl who, to the outside world, seems to have a good life, but she’s harboring the secret of her father’s abuse. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to mention the inciting incident, as it happens so quickly, but her mother dies in a freak accident, and suddenly Nora is even more terrified because this means she has to endure her father and shield her sister from him alone.

Meanwhile, Kettle is a poor homeless boy doing his best to take care of other poor homeless kids alongside his friend and “brother” Kin. He takes his life in stride but is haunted by the past he barely remembers – the family who might not have wanted him, his childhood in internment camps, his mysterious mixed heritage. And he deals with the overwhelming burden of trying to provide for himself and others at the young age of 17 and no place to call home.

For more than half of the novel, we go back and forth between these two’s individual lives, with them skimming each others’ paths, but not properly meeting for a while. It’s very drawn-out and not a lot happens, and yet I was invested in these characters. I cared for them and wanted to know what would happen to them and how they would finally meet up.

When Nora and Kettle are finally involved in each others’ lives, it’s interesting to see how they compare and contrast to one another. I will say, however, that this portion of the story was more rushed and didn’t feel fully developed. Nora and Kettle grow interested in each other quickly, which is fine, but it felt more vague than sure, and then suddenly towards the end it seems to get very serious very quickly. However, the climax was really compelling and I think it played out perfectly. I just wanted maybe one more chapter afterwards for more of a final resolution.

Overall, it’s a beautiful story, and I would love to read more about these characters. I know so little about the Japanese internment camps and while this didn’t teach me much more, it did humanize those events for me through Kettle and Kin.

Rating: 4 stars

Trigger warning: domestic violence/abuse

Content advisory: Domestic violence described but not too graphically, some language.

Have you read Nora & Kettle? What did you think? 

Mini Reviews: Sci-Fi Edition

Loop by Karen Akins

gr-loop

Loop is a fun story set in a future where some are known as Shifters, people who are genetically capable of time traveling to the past. Something that really struck me about the book was the rules of shifting (it’s impossible to change the past, you can’t go to the future, etc), the animosity between Shifters and non-Shifters,  and the world in general. Even though the genetic ability to time travel part felt impossible, how things unfolded with it being possible felt realistic, and I felt like the technology was a realistic progression.

There are SO many things going on in the story; I don’t know how Akins kept up with all the plot threads! I think everything tied together pretty well in the end, though there are still some unanswered questions that will clearly be dealt with in the next book.

While I really enjoyed the book overall and was impressed with the story, I never LOVED the characters. I do like them, but they’re not new favorites for me or anything.

The end left me ready to read the sequel, Twist, very soon, and looking forward to more Karen Akins projects in the future!

Rating: 4 stars

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

gr-starsabove

Of course, any addition to The Lunar Chronicles is a must in my book (and now there are going to be graphic novels what what!). I had always meant to get around to reading some of the stories in this collection before, like Glitches, The Queen’s Army, and The Little Android, but never did, so I was happy for them to be all together in print format! I enjoyed most of the stories, but was still feeling a little underwhelmed until we got to the wedding story.

I think part of this was because the stories were isolated incidents of each character’s life (except I noticed poor Jacin was the only one of the major 8 who didn’t get his own story) and I really prefer it when they are all together. Also, The Little Android, late in the collection, really brought me down. I don’t know how to explain why, but it really put a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t think it’s poorly written, and even though the ending is sad I understand its purpose, but I just couldn’t come to care for it.

And then we had Something Borrowed. I won’t spoil any of the details but it was nice to see everyone come together again. I was enjoying but not loving the story though, but then in the last few pages the feels were strong. For me personally, the culmination of the entire series I had been waiting for actually came down to these last few pages of this short story for me. I know not everyone will agree with this sentiment, just because we are all looking for different things, but I enjoyed it more than the end of Winter, honestly.

Rating: 4 stars

Have you read either of these? What are your thoughts? 

Mini Reviews: Contemporary Edition

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

gr-thefixer

I’ve read and enjoyed the first two Naturals novels by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, so I was eager to see another contemporary from her, The Fixer. I expected to enjoy it. What I didn’t expect were some of the twists and most of the feels! There was one twist that literally just had me so shell-shocked. And I love that Jennifer was able to do that to me!

I loved the pace of the story and the D.C. setting. And while I liked Tess and other characters, I never completely loved them, but I am looking forward to seeing them again in the next book. If you have any interest in contemporary/thriller stories in the YA format, I’d definitely recommend this one!

Rating: 4.5 stars

Content advisory: I don’t recall any specifics, but I remember it was pretty clean. Some violence and possibly some mild language.

See How They Run by Ally Carter

gr-seehowtheyrun

I had a couple minor issues with the previous Embassy Row novel, All Fall Down, but was quite excited to read the follow-up. I thought Grace was an interesting character and really enjoyed her new friends and the storyline as well. This book jumps right back into things and amps everything up to an 11. The pacing was fast, the stakes are raised, and the tension between Grace and Alexi along with it. The end left me with a gut punch that was almost as compelling as The Fixer‘s plot twist, and I was not happy to finish and then learn that the next book doesn’t come out until next year (when this book was published last year!). *Shakes first at the injustice of it*

I do have some issues with this one as well though, which will be reflected in the rating. This is my third Ally Carter novel, and she’s published about a dozen or more books, so I was surprised to find the writing, from a technical aspect, lacking a little. The narrative felt extremely disjointed a lot of the time, and I have never experienced that with Carter before. I don’t know how to really explain it, but people would enter or exit scenes or move across a room without clear transitions, which left me confused many times, things like that. I think it could have been because Grace is so out of sorts herself that she isn’t always entirely aware what’s happening, but I feel like there could have been a better way to portray it.

But needless to say, I NEED THE NEXT BOOK.

Rating: 4 stars

Content: Some violence and mild innuendo, no language.

(Also, I still really want to see a Jennifer Lynn Barnes-Ally Carter collaboration.)

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

gr-everythingeverything

I decided to do this one last because there are spoilers, so don’t scroll on if you haven’t read it yet, or scroll on quickly to can leave a comment. 😉

A list of everything, everything that didn’t make sense in Everything, Everything:

  • That Carla couldn’t figure out that Madeline didn’t have a real condition a lot sooner. Because seriously, I saw it coming miles away.
  • The fact that Olly reaches out to Madeline by providing his email address. No 16 year old in 2015 would do that ever. It’d be a Snapchat or Instagram or some other username. I understand the author not wanting to be that specific, but she could have found a way to communicate that it was something along those lines. NOT an email address.
  • That Madeline never once gets reprimanded for opening a credit card and spending RIDICULOUS amounts of money on it that her mom will have to pay back. (Sadly I can believe she was able to open said credit card though it shouldn’t be that easy.)
  • That Madeline is able to fly to Hawaii WITH NO PHOTO ID.
  • That after a five hour flight to Hawaii, Madeline and Olly still have the whole day ahead of them. Hawaii is two hours ahead of California in time, so they gained two hours back, but still, it’s not like they left first thing in the morning.
  • They went on a five hour flight to Hawaii and weren’t served a meal. I mean, I’ve never been on a five hour flight before, it’s always been longer or shorter, but I feel like that’s a reasonable time frame to expect a meal.
  • That Madeline and her mom live in LA when her mom is a doctor who can live literally anywhere, their house has these crazy additions to add on to the already ludicrous pricing of LA living (this is somewhat explained by the fact that there was a settlement from the accident, but still), and since Madeline’s mom only seems to go out for work, she gets zero benefit of living in LA in terms of things to do, plus the traffic is horrendous and wouldn’t she be home late like all the time? It would make so much more sense for them to live somewhere more affordable and more low-key.
  • Maybe it’s because by the time everything comes to light Madeline is technically an adult, but I seriously think that doctor at the end should have been calling somebody about Madeline’s mom’s egregious child rearing.

Now here’s the thing – I understood, to a point, why Madeline’s mom did what she did. And maybe at the end I was supposed to be as freaking mad at her as I was. But this book did not carry that tone at the beginning. It was light and fun, and then it ends on a very dark note that did fit the overall tone of the book.

But I didn’t dislike everything about the book. I liked Madeline’s voice and enjoyed the various ways her story was communicated, but the end and the issues listed above left a meh taste in my mouth.

Rating: 3 stars

Content advisory: Some language, mostly mild. A mostly off-screen sex scene.

Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts? 

Also, while not a contemporary book review, be sure to check out my review of Between Shades of Gray on Val’s blog if you haven’t already! 

Am I Not Merciful? (Illuminae Review)

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Young Adult Science Fiction

Find on Goodreads

gr-illuminae

Baa baa black sheep… OK, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike this book. But wow, I don’t really understand the hype. I mean, yes, it’s a very unique book which gives it novelty and yes, there are some crazy plot twists I did not see coming. However, these two things do not a story make. So let me dissect this a bit…

The Characters

The number one thing that will make or break a story for me is the characters. So the characters in Illuminae were… OK? The main characters are Kady Grant and Ezra Mason, and you get a semi-decent feel for them. This book is told through documents, IM chats, interview transcripts, etc., so you definitely get a very good feel for how they talk, and thanks to Kady’s diary entries, a little of how they feel. However, I just never connected with them at all. I only kinda/sorta liked Kady and I barely tolerated Ezra. He could be kind of sweet but he was also kind of crude, especially when talking to McNulty (who I didn’t like AT ALL). And speaking of secondary characters like McNulty, I cared 0% about any of them.

*MILD spoilers in this paragraph* The most interesting character in this whole book is the AI, AIDEN, because he’s complex and we get a lot of his perspective in the latter part of the book. But as one who’s seen a few too many Star Trek episodes where Captain Kirk literally talked a computer to death, I wasn’t sure about him. First off, no, he does not get talked to death (I really thought Kady was going to do this), but he was definitely extremely affected by humans. Way more than made sense to me. Now, I have seen a lot of other Star Trek episodes where I liked this sort of thing, particularly if we’re looking at Data in The Next Generation, but I didn’t feel this really worked. Especially when I started to get the vibe that AIDEN might be kind of into Kady romantically even though he claims he can’t feel that way? Eh. (In fact, it feels like all the guys who know Kady seem to freaking love her for reasons unknown to me.)

totally-illogical

The Pacing

Another big thing for me is pacing, and the pacing in this book was very strange for me. It started off pretty good, the novelty of the story format kept me hooked plus we pick up right after a big event happens. Then after a little while I got bored as there is just a lot of talking about things but nothing actually happening, and I was a little confused about everything transpiring anyway, but wasn’t interested enough to go back and figure things out. Then about the halfway mark things got crazy and intense and good, so I was again into it. But then it kind of slacked off a little again, which theoretically is fine because breaks are nice, but I got bored of Kady and AIDEN and all that. Then the very end was pretty good but not super strong. There are enough reveals and action elements to keep the story flowing, but at the end I definitely didn’t understand why we needed 599 pages for this story.

The Format/The Voice

So overall I appreciated the formatting of the book, and it was particularly effective when we had the pages that showed outer space and the text was sparse and it felt very appropriate. However, there were a lot of transcripts and things of that nature included and all of them had the same exact voice. They were all sarcastic, unprofessional, etc. and did not make sense to me in the context of what they were supposed to be. It made a little more sense in the end (I’ll elaborate more on that when I get to spoilers) but it really threw me out of the book multiple times. You would think with two authors it would be easier for everything and everyone in the book not sound so much the same.

There were some other added elements that were interesting, like an ad for a TV show, a PSA, etc. that added context to the world that I appreciated, and weren’t as tainted by the overall voice thankfully.

The Ending (This Portion Contains *Spoilers*)

So in the end, if I understood correctly, Kady collected these documents and sent them to Leanne, so presumably a lot of the commentary was her own, which would explain the voice issue I had. At least, sort of, because I feel some of those documents should not have been tainted by her own tone. And Kady is starting *something* to fight against Leanne, the true big bad, who is behind *something* that is… uh… bad. Probably the initial attacks and stuff. This was all very fuzzy for me. I don’t understand why anything in the story happened, happened. Why were there attacks? Why was there a mutating plague? (And why do all sci-fi plagues result in people acting like zombies?) Are there going to be repressions of that in the future (other than, obviously, the detrimental death toll)? Why was the Lincoln chasing after the other ships? Why is everything that is happening such a freaking big deal other than, once again, the obvious death tolls? (And unrelated but another question I had of this book: What’s happening on Earth?)

bashir-questions

Basically, I felt like this was all one giant set-up for something bigger coming down the road, but after this book I can’t help but wonder if it will actually result in a satisfactory pay-off. I had issues with some of the plotting and the ending of These Broken Stars as well, another book co-authored by Amie Kaufman. I like some of the sci-fi ideas she presents, but they end up playing out in ways that feel kind of hollow to me. For me, I want my sci-fi to explore the nature of humanity and confront big questions, but this is more weird conspiracies from big corporations who plot terrible, universal destruction, and I don’t feel much from the people or don’t feel myself (or the characters) grappling with big, societal issues.

pewpew

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, this book is a low 4 star read for me, probably more like 3.75 stars if I was going to get very particular. It had some good elements to it, but it didn’t quite live up to all I wanted it to be. Will I continue the series? Eh, maybe. I’ll probably wait until it’s finished to see if it sounds like the pay-off is truly worth it. As it stands right now, I’m not dying to know what happened next, even if the ending wasn’t completely satisfactory on its own.

Content advisory: Moderate language – strong language is marked out for document censorship but milder language and taking God’s name in vain (g–d—, etc) is not. Some violence, though not extremely graphic. Some sexual discussion that is more implied and innuendo rather than graphic, but could be crude. 

So what are your thoughts on Illuminae? Do you feel I missed the point? 

Mini Review Roundup

It’s been ages since I’ve written a real book review (November to be exact), so I thought I was overdue to share a few thoughts on some of my reads from December and my first read of the new year.

Killer Instinct (The Naturals #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Contemporary/Thriller YA

gr-killerinstinct

I read The Naturals more than a year ago and I was slightly worried about remembering enough about Cassie and company after so much time away (yay book amnesia), but I had no problems getting back into the swing of things! I enjoyed this one even more than the first; I thought the pacing was spot-on and I was engaged the whole time. I hated the love triangle in the first book and I thought I had read in a review that it was even more pronounced in this one, but it actually bothered me less this time. She does choose someone at the end, but since there are at least two more books I’m a little curious if this is her final choice or not. I don’t have a strong preference between the guys but I’d hate for her to go back and forth. Overall though, I really enjoyed this book and look forward to the next one!

4 stars/Content advisory: some violence

My True Love Gave to Me, edited by Stephanie Perkins

Holiday Young Adult – Some Contemporary, Some Magical Realism

gr-truelove

I finally got to read this anthology this past holiday season and it was definitely a mixed bag for me. You can see my Goodreads review where I broke down my thoughts on each individual story, but I did not finish two of the stories, while a couple of others really stood out to me. My favorite overall turned out to be Stephanie Perkins’ story, which felt appropriate since it’s her anthology, and I was excited to find out that in her upcoming summer anthology, Summer Days and Summer Nights, we’ll get follow-up with the same characters!

3 stars overall/Content varies by story

In Between (Katie Parker Productions #1) by Jenny B. Jones

Contemporary Christian YA

gr-inbetween

I had gotten the e-book of this one for cheap or free a while ago and let it sit in my Nook for a long time. I had read one previous book by Jenny B. Jones and liked it but didn’t love it. I was also nervous because I feel that most Christian books are either not as well edited or they’re a little on the cheesy side, but I always want to find good Christian literature so I pick up something from the genre every now and then. I wouldn’t really recommend this book to people who are not familiar with church or Christian culture, even though Katie herself is not familiar with many of the terms used by others in the story either, however, I didn’t think it was cheesy at all.

The main character, Katie, has a great voice, and she made me laugh quite a few times! There were several great, quirky characters who felt natural and made the story fun, even with some serious elements thrown in. There was no romance for Katie in this book, which I missed a little but was OK with under the circumstances, but it looks like there will be in future books. There are three more books in the series and I definitely intend to continue!

4 stars

Quidditch Through the Ages (Hogwarts Library) by Kennilworthy Whisp (J.K. Rowling)

gr-quidditch

I love quidditch, but learning about it wasn’t quite as fun as I hoped it would be. There were some interesting tidbits though, and it was a fast read.

3 stars

The Archived (The Archived #1) by Victoria Schwab 

Young Adult

gr-thearchived

This was my first Schwab book! And it was very different from what I was expecting. I knew this book wasn’t a typical fantasy, but I thought it was going to be more fantasy rather than the contemporary/urban fantasy?/magical realism?/I have no idea what the heck to call this genre it was. That wasn’t bad though, just very unexpected. I had a hard time really grasping the idea of the Archived and Keepers and all that. I mean, it was explained well enough, but I never felt like I really understood why everything existed and why everything was the way it was. Maybe – probably – I was just supposed to accept it as it was, but it didn’t make sense to me.

I liked Mackenzie well enough but she also drove me crazy with how she would never tell anyone anything. The whole thing with Owen was kind of creepy and I did not like it. I did really like Wes though, and he’s pretty much the main reason I want to read the next book.

4 stars/Content advisory: Some language, violence

Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts?