November TBR

Hello all,

WIth October coming to a close it is only fitting that I give by TBR for the month of November. I may not read all of these and I may add some books as the month goes on.

They Both Die at the End by: Adam Silvera

Because I am a masochist. I read his previous two books and they were both amazing books that really emotionally gripping and from what I heard this one is too.

Renegades by: Marissa Meyer

One of my favorite auto-buy authors, I am very excited to be reading this. This is one of my most anticipated of 2017 and the fact that it deals with superheros just makes it more awesome. I am a huge fan of her Lunar Chronicles series and I am very excited to read this new series.

Timekeeper by Tara Sim

As a Whovian I am always a fan of time travel, and this seems like a great time travel book with a lot of Victorian elements. I have heard great things about this book and I am excited to read it.

Beasts Made of Night by: Tochi Onyebuchi

At Boston Book Festival over the weekend, I heard him speak about his book and it made me want to read it. It is an Nigerian-inspired fantasy novel. Also the premise sounds really interesting with the use of sin eaters.

Rebel Seoul by: Axie Oh

The author had me at Pacific Rim meets Korean dramas. I am a fan of Pacific Rim and I always like stories with big mech type vehicles. I heard great things about this book and I am excited to read it.

Those are my TBR for November. Do you have any suggestions to add to my TBR? Let me know in the comments below.

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The Nowhere Girls by: Amy Reed (CW: Misogyny, Sexual Assualt)

Summary:

Three misfits come together to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate and in the process trigger a change in the misogynist culture at their high school transforming the lives of everyone around them in this searing and timely story.

Who are the Nowhere Girls?

They’re everygirl. But they start with just three:

Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.

Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.

Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.

When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.

Told in alternating perspectives, this groundbreaking novel is an indictment of rape culture and explores with bold honesty the deepest questions about teen girls and sexuality.

The Review:

This was a book that was recommended to me after reading Moxie, which dealt with the same issues that Nowhere Girls has which is the issue of sexual assault and rape culture.

The book starts with Grace, moving to Prescott after her mother has a “feminist awakening” and getting run out of her old town. She lives in the house where Lucy, a sexual assault lived before she was run out of town after accusing the boys on the football team of rape. After meeting Rosina and Erin she begins to figure out what happened to Lucy and hopefully tries to find justice for her.

Rosina, is a queer latina who spends most the book dealing with her huge extended family and also working at her families Mexican restaurant. Her main arc deals with how she has to deal with her family values, especially with her being a queer latina and being forced to choose between family and a normal life.

Erin, is one of my favorites. Mainly because she is a Trekkie and any book that makes references to Star Trek especially TNG is fine in my book. But she is also a character on the autism spectrum. While I am not on the spectrum, it was nice to see a fully fleshed out character on the spectrum.

This book also reminded me a lot of Moxie. mainly due to the fact that it deals with high school girls trying to combat sexual assault on their campus. This dealt with a more proactive approach in which the girls withhold sex from their boyfriends or other boys at school, and it starts a movement with the school.

There is also a very misogynist blog post that keeps popping up with the book called The Real Men of Prescott, which is just as vile as I could describe it. It is basically a Pick up artist blog that brags about the number of women he is “scoring”. I would also say trigger warning when reading those parts of the book, it gets pretty graphic.

There is also a lor of great minor charcters who are also fleshed out such as, Margot, who is the student body president, Melissa who is the head cheerleader and Sam who is in drama club. Even though they didn’t have POV chapters like the core three girls, they still were fleshed out characters that added a lot to the story.

This book also does a good job at tackling the issue of rape culture especially in high school and how a lot of young girls don’t really have a support system when it comes to rape, and also what happens if a girl accuses a boy of rape. The main idea of The Nowhere Girls is to make sure that girls has a voice to be heard and come together. The main strength of the book lies in sisterhood between the girls and with what is going on right now I feel that it is needed.

It also does a good job at tackling religion. Grace’s mom is a pastor for a Congregationalist church, which is a very open minded church, and it provided some much needed religious commentary especially coming from her mom.

This book was an extremely powerful read that does a good job at tackling the issue of sexual assault. This is the first book I read by Amy Reed and I may pick up more of her books. It also deals with female friendship and working together to fight an injustice. For fans of Moxie, I highly recommend it. It also has great characters that you would love to root for

Grade: 5/5

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by: Mackenzie Lee

Summary:

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores. 

The Review:

This was another anticipated read of 2017 and it was also a genre that I don’t really gravitate towards which is a period fiction that doesn’t have a lot to do with fantasy.

This was also a very fun read, and it had a lot of great comedic moments within the book. Monty, who is the main character is a someone who was born to be a gentlemen and to also run his families estate. He is set to go on a European tour before he trains to manage is families estate. He is someone who has a carefree attitude and spends most of his free time taking parts in vices; such as gambling and drinking.

Monty has a sister, Felicity. Even though she is a women living in the 18th Century she challenges the gender norms such as reading, and learning. She does not want to go to finishing school in order to become a proper lady. I love the relationship between Monty and Felicity and they have a great sibling bond, especially when dealing with their father. She was also very smart and used a lot of her brilliance on their journey and always knew an answer to something.

Percy, is Monty’s best friend, but also crush. He is bi-racial, which is nice to see in a book especially with the 18th century setting. Even though is a friend of Monty’s, he still deals with a lot of racial issues that was going on in 18th century Europe. There was places where he couldn’t go  and also some of the back handed compliments he would receive. He also has epilepsy, and of course during that time period, having epilepsy meant that “you had the devil in you” and it wasn’t properly treated as it is right now.

The main plot of the book deals with Monty stealing something that a lot of people want, including highway men and rival Dukes who wants it. It is suppose to be a “cure all”. Monty is hoping to us the “cure all” to maybe cure Percy of his epilepsy. So Monty, Felicity and Percy go on an adventure to find the “cure all”. There is also several obstacles in the way, my favorite being them getting captured by “pirates”.

The pirates were one of my favorite aspects of the book, and I want to see more of them. I think in the second book, which is mainly be from Felicity’s perspective they will be in it. There is also a huge story of how they became pirates is actually pretty compelling.

Mackenzie Lee, also takes full advantage of its setting, and the book takes you to London, Marseilles, Spain and Venice and it feels as if I was also taking part in the European tour, and I would love to go on a tour of Europe, but lack of funds is keeping me from doing that.

While the plot was good, the main strength of the book is in its characters. The main three characters are all fully fleshed out characters. The relationship between Monty and Percy was also well done. While yes, most of it was them playing “I love you” chicken, I the entire book shipping them and hoping they will finally tell each other how they feel.  It also ties a lot to abuse which Monty went thorough at the hands of his father and how he wants to try to be his own man, and not be like his father.

In the end, Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was a fantastic read and I loved every page of it. The characters are all enriching and fleshed out. It deals with a lot of complex issues such as, racism, mental health and abuse in the 18th century. I really hope to see what this author puts out.

Grade: 4.7/5

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by: Julie C. Dao

Summary:

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

The Review:

This was a book I sorta picked up on a whim mainly because I found out that the author was in the Boston area last week, and I had to work late so I missed it. It was also the premise that caught my interest mainly because I like fairy tale retelling, especially those from the villain perspective.

This is an East Asian retelling of the story of Snow White from the view of the future evil queen. This book also took full advantage of its setting and does a good job incorporating the East Asian setting and also a lot of its cultures and mythologies.  I also like how magic is used in this setting. Julie Dao put a lot of emphasis on Eastern magic and it really provided a lot of layers which made this fantasy world unique. While it was a retelling of the Evil Queen story from Snow White it did take a few liberties with the story. It also set up a lot of lore and myths throughout the book which I hope would be more fleshed out in future books, especially the one about the thousand lanterns.

The main character is Xifeng, and she was destined by a prediction by her aunt, Guma to be Empress of Feng Lu. She spends her life as a peasant and takes in her destiny into becoming Empress. Throughout the book you begin to see Xifeng’s progression into villainy and that is what I love about this book.  It was a slow and gradual progression and at times you really do feel for her and what she is going through. Xifeng is a character that had a lot of layers to her, and she reminded me a lot of Adelina, from the Young Elites.

There is also a small romance between Xifeng and Wei. While she does love Wei she keeps having to turn him away mainly because she has to focus on her mission into becoming Empress and feels that Wei would only get in the way in doing so. Even though I keep knowing how their relationship would end up, I still kept shipping them throughout the book.

With the world building, the book does a good job at also setting up the royals. It touches upon how the Emperor has a wife, the Empress but he also has concubines and the head concubine, Lady Sun, is a very wicked one. She is basically a scarier version of aunt Lydia from Handmaid’s Tale who is very obsessed with keeping her status as head concubine.

There is a lot of great secondary characters such as; Shrio who is a dwarf, who reminded me a lot of Tyrion Lannister, as he always gives wisdom to Xifeng and was little snarky while doing so. There is also the Crowned Prince who is said to be next in line for Emperor, who is also the commander of the King’s army. I almost did think that he would become a suitor for Xifeng, and it would turn into another love triangle but it didn’t. He was also a nice well rounded character.

In the end, I loved Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. It was great to read a fantasy book set in East Asia and Julie C. Dao really did a good job at impressing myself into this fantasy world. Xifeng, is a great character that I could really see go through a dark path in future books. It was also a great, enriching world to be in and would also see more of. I am excited to see where this story goes.

Grade: 5/5

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Summary:

When geek girl Elle Wittimer sees a cosplay contest sponsored by the producers of Starfield, she has to enter. First prize is an invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. Elle’s been scraping together tips from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck behind her stepmother’s back, and winning this contest could be her ticket out once and for all—not to mention a fangirl’s dream come true.

Teen actor Darien Freeman is less than thrilled about this year’s ExcelsiCon. He used to live for conventions, but now they’re nothing but jaw-aching photo sessions and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Federation Prince Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the diehard Starfield fandom has already dismissed him as just another heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, closet nerd Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

The Review:

This was another author who I met at Boston Teen Author Festival, and hearing her talk about her book at the Out of Character, made me want to know more about this book.

This was a modern retelling of Cinderella, which reminded me a lot of the Hilary Duff movie, A Cinderella Story. It almost follows the same beats as Cinderella, in which a young orphan girl has to live with her step mother and evil step sisters, she puts up with abuse until she meets prince charming at a ball and live happily ever after. But this is a different set within the fandom of Sci Fi.

Danielle or Ella, is the main character. She is a nerd for Sci Fi, especially for the series Starfield, which is a semi based on Star Trek: The Original Series, a short lived series that has a huge following. There is a a movie based on the series coming out and she of course has some reservations. Ella is very much a fan girl, and that’s what I like about the character.

Darien, is another character in the novel, who is a young teen heart throb who is set to play Federation Prince Carmindor. Of course when he has cast, he really didn’t know what to make of the casting, and it had a lot of push back from the fandom, mainly Ella. It reminded me a lot of when Chris Pine was cast of Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek movies and the amount of push back he got. But Darien is someone who was a closet nerd, and most people don’t see that due to his good looks and “insured abs”.

Ella and Darien’s started off online on her blog, and they would chat about Starfield in general, and than it moved to a semi romantic online relationship, they also don’t know who each other are which makes it a nice sweet relationship. That’s where the comparison to a Cinderella story comes in.

The supporting characters are also great. Sage, her co-worker at the food truck acts as the stand in for her fairy god mother, and she is also her best friend. Chloe is the evil step sister, and basically acts like one, and would constantly belittle Ella. Callipe, or Cal is the other step sister, who is actually nice to Ella. Catherine is her evil step mother, who would also belittle Ella and also her late father especially in regards to Starfield.

I also like some of the Easter Eggs it had in regards to the original Cinderella. It was a pumpkin food truck, and the ball is a Excelsior Con, which is a sci fi convention. While it was a modern retelling of Cinderella, it did have its own twist to it.

Starfield, just by reading about the show, makes me want to watch the show, but alas the show doesn’t exist. The book was a love letter to the Sci Fi fandom and it really shows especially once Ella makes it the convention. It also talks a lot about Hollywood in regards to sci fi. One aspect I really liked is the fake relationship Darien has with his costar Jess. While they weren’t meant to be together, they poke fun at their relationship and Hollywood in general. I kinda would have like to see the character of Jess, a bit more fleshed out because I did like her character.

In the end, Geekerella was a great read. It was one half of a Cinderella retelling and another half a love letter to Sci Fi fandom. It had a cute love story that made you want to root for the main characters.

Grade: 4.5/5

Invictus by: Ryan Graudin

Summary:

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 Review:

This book had me at “the crew of Firfely entering the TARDIS” and it really felt like that throughout the story. Earlier this year I read Ryan Graudin’s Wolf-by-Wolf, which is an alternative take of WWII. This deals with the concept of time-travel, with a lot of wibley-woobly timey wimey stuff.

Farway, or Far, is someone who was born “outside of time”, in which he was born within a time stream and doesn’t have a specific birthday, this was mainly due to his mother having a relationship with a Roman gladiator in 95 AD, she gave birth outside of time and defying the laws of nature. Years later he is pursuing a career in time travel, but during his final exam, it gets hacked and he fails the exam and expelled for the Academy.

Far is a great main character. He sort of had a Malcolm Reynolds vibe to him, throughout the story, and always wanted to get the job done. He also cares a lot about his crew on the Invictus, but he also deals with the fact that his mother disappeared on her own time travel mission on the Ab Aeterno.

The crew of the Invictus all have very distinct personalities which reminded me a lot of Firefly. Priya, who is Far’s girlfriend acts as the ships doctor. The relationship between Priya and Far was extremely well done and you can tell from the text that they actually care about each other. She is also fully fleshed out, and has her character fully realized through a few flashbacks of her time in the Academy.

There is also Imogen, Far’s cousin. She also puts together a lot of the “captains’s log” throughout the story, and a lot of the “captains log” are very humorous. She also has a good relationship with Far and also acts as his confidant.  Throughout the story she also has a crush on Gram, the ships pilot, and it always seems funny how she tries not to act of her crush even though people know about it. While I did like the character Gram, I thought he could have been fleshed out a bit more.

The main plot of the story is the crew planning a heist abroad the Titanic right before it sinks, in order to steal an object. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until they come across Eliot, a mysterious time traveler, who steals the item and will trade it in order to have a spot on the crew.

Eliot, basically serves the Sixth ranger role on the team, and throughout the book there is always a sense of mystery surrounding her character, and you always feel that there is some twist that is about the happen. Once you find out Eliot’s main motivation it actually starts to make sense, and adds a lot to the story.

What made the book great was the concept of time travel. Time travel is always a tricky thing to really pull off, because there are times when it could introduce a lot of plot holes, Ryan Graudin actually provided a good use of time travel through multiverses. I will not go much into detail in case of spoilers, but the idea of multiple universes makes a lot of sense in regards to the story, and sets up a lot of stacks for the story.

Also the world building was really well done as well, especially the world of time travelers. One of my favorite aspects is a clothing store that specializes in different period of clothing when one goes time traveling. So they could get jackets from the 1950s, and dresses from the Victorian era. It also set up rules with time travel in order to not disrupt the timeline.

In the end, Invictus was a really great book that deals with the concept of time travel. Mainly as a Whovian, time travel has always captivated me. The characters make the book such a good read, and I am a little disappointed that it is a stand alone novel, because I could read a series about these characters.

Grade: 4/5

Stalking Jack the Ripper by: Kerri Maniscalo

Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

The Review:

This was another book from my TBR that I really wanted to read, mainly because Hunting Prince Dracula was coming out soon and also meeting Kerri Maniscalo at Boston Teen Author Festival, and hearing her at the Out of Character panel, I finally decided to read this book.

What I like about this book is that it reminded me a lot of sort of film noir set in the 1800s, and also the murder-mystery plot. The way Kerri describes most of the setting it feels like a Gothic thriller.

Audrey, was a great leading character, I like that she always wanted more out of life. She always works at her uncle’s forensics lab, studying corpses. Kerri, puts a lot of thought into the description of the study of forensic science, which really adds to the book. I also like how Audrey is very forthcoming with her knowledge and very brilliant with solving cases.

The main plot of the story is the murder mystery plot surrounding the deaths of many prostitutes in the area, and I really like how it tests Audrey’s knowledge of forensic science and wondering if she could find out who the killer is before Scotland Yard. It reminded me a lot of elements of Sherlock.

It also was sort of an origin story of Jack the Ripper. What made it great was that it was Kerri Maniscalo’s own interpretation of the story of Jack the Ripper. I also like that he wasn’t called Jack the Ripper, the Apron murderer. She really made Jack the Ripper her own, which could have been challenging.

Throughout the book there is several clues into finding out who the killer is, and what I liked about is that it kept me guessing throughout the book, and I thought I sort of knew who the killer was and than it would introduce another element and catch me by surprise. It had good use of the red-herring plot and it didn’t waste too much time on red-herrings. I did feel that the ending was a bit rushed, and while the twist of who Jack the Ripper was good, I felt it could have been fleshed out a bit more.

The supporting characters were also great such as, her uncle, the relationship they have. Her uncle does care for her and pushes her to be smarter with forensic science. Her father felt as if Audrey should be more ladylike and not pursue forensic science.

Thomas Carswell, was one of my favorites out of the supporting characters. He is a student of her uncle’s and sort of assists Audrey in the murder mystery. While there is a subtle romance between the two it doesn’t take up much of the book. He also had a certain charm about him, it reminded me a lot of Richard Castle.

In the end, Stalking Jack the Ripper was a great book. The murder mystery element kept me guessing throughout the book. Aubrey was an amazing main character who was very knowledgeable about the mystery. It also kept up with the film noir setting

Grade: 4/5