Clap When you Land by: Elizabeth Acevedo

Summary:

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance – and Papi’s secrets – the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

Papi’s death uncovers all the painful truths he kept hidden, and the love he divided across an ocean. And now, Camino and Yahaira are both left to grapple with what this new sister means to them, and what it will now take to keep their dreams alive.

In a dual narrative novel in verse that brims with both grief and love, award-winning and bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives

The Review: 

I became a huge fan of Elizabeth Acevedo’s work ever since I read The Poet X, one of eh first novels I read that was in verse. Clap When You Land, is another novel also set in verse, this time telling the story of two POVs, Yahaira and Camino

It was great to ready about the two POVs, and she does a good job at giving them their own distinct voice to them. Both of them seeing the different sides of their father’s death. With the death of their father revealed that family secret that they are sisters.

With Camino, she is from the Dominican Republic, who lives with her aunt and dreams about moving to New York and going to Columbia University and becoming a doctor. Her aunt is the neighborhood medical healer, and one of my favorite highlights of the book was seeing her aunt use the herbal mixes and helping out her neighbors.

With Yahaira, she is from New York, who is a smart girl who plays chess mainly with her father.

When both receive the news of their father’s death, they both deal with a lot of emotions. Also they deal with the emotions of finding out about each other, and seeing the man they look up to as someone who had kept a secret.

Acevedo, does a good job at giving them their own distinct voices and seeing them navigate the grief of their father and the discovery of their sister. The verses feel so lyrical and every line of the book mattered.

In the end, Clap When You Land is an amazing book, that does a good job at tackling grief and secrets. Both characters are amazing, and it makes you want to root for them.

Grade: 5/5

Ahsoka by EK Johnston

Summary:

Fans have long wondered what happened to Ahsoka after she left the Jedi Order near the end of the Clone Wars, and before she re-appeared as the mysterious Rebel operative Fulcrum in Rebels. Finally, her story will begin to be told. Following her experiences with the Jedi and the devastation of Order 66, Ahsoka is unsure she can be part of a larger whole ever again. But her desire to fight the evils of the Empire and protect those who need it will lead her right to Bail Organa, and the Rebel Alliance…. 

The Review:

I have always been interested in the story of Ahsoka since I started watching the Clone Wars on Disney Plus, (I’m on season 2 right now) and very intriguied by her story. She was Anakin’s apprentince during the Clone Wars, and one of the very few Jedi that survived Order 66.

This book is set after the events of Revenge of the Sith, when the Empire took over and starting to hunt down any surviving Jedi, so of course Ahsoka is trying to lay low and not draw attention towards herself.

With Ahsoka, there is a lot of elements of her reeling from the events of the Clone Wars, and surviving Order 66, and you really feel a sense of isolation with her, realizing that she has no one. The story is very character driven and the plot is very simple as to mainly being Ahsoka in hiding, and fleeing from Inquisitors.

She meets with a few characters, and goes by the name Ashla to hid her identity, and then tries to protect them from her past. I love a lot of the meditation chapters that peak into her memories of her time during the Clone Wars including her fight with Darth Maul, giving him more glimpses of her character.

The story was very character driven, and a little light on plot, however, I did like a few of the cameos including Bail Organa and little Princess Leia. Hopefully if there is a sequel I want to see the Ahsoka, and how she ended up on Fulcrum in Star Wars Rebels.

In the end, I really enjoyed Ahsoka. It was a nice character piece about one of my favorite Star Wars characters and how she dealt with the events after Revenge of the Sith, and puts Ahsoka. I know EK Johnston wrote other Star Wars stories and I am more than happy to read them

Grade: 4/5

Nocturna by Maya Motayne

Summary:

Set in a Latinx-inspired world, a face-changing thief and a risk-taking prince must team up to defeat a powerful evil they accidentally unleashed.

To Finn Voy, magic is two things: a knife to hold under the chin of anyone who crosses her…and a disguise she shrugs on as easily as others pull on cloaks.

As a talented faceshifter, it’s been years since Finn has seen her own face, and that’s exactly how she likes it. But when Finn gets caught by a powerful mobster, she’s forced into an impossible mission: steal a legendary treasure from Castallan’s royal palace or be stripped of her magic forever.

After the murder of his older brother, Prince Alfehr is first in line for the Castallan throne. But Alfie can’t help but feel that he will never live up to his brother’s legacy. Riddled with grief, Alfie is obsessed with finding a way to bring his brother back, even if it means dabbling in forbidden magic.

But when Finn and Alfie’s fates collide, they accidentally unlock a terrible, ancient power—which, if not contained, will devour the world. And with Castallan’s fate in their hands, Alfie and Finn must race to vanquish what they have unleashed, even if it means facing the deepest darkness in their pasts

The Review:

I picked up this book on kinda of a whim, okay so mainly it was because of the cover, and the fact that it is an Latinx-inspired fantasy, which I am trying to read more of.

This book follows two main POVs. Finn Voy, is a thief who can shape shift into anyone which of course makes her a good thief, and has a good hustle going on, and tries to stay as far as possible. Alfie is a prince, who is dealing with the death of his older brother, who would have been king. He is mainly dealing with grief and trying to find ways to bring back his brother.

When Finn and Alfie meet I immediately liked their bond, even though they were bitter towards each other at the beginning they did manage to find some common ground and want to help each other out.

The plot involves how Alfie accidentally let on an evil spirit and now they have to work together to stop it. While it may seem thinly veiled what makes it work is the characters and the magic system.

I also really loved the world building. A lot of it was tied to Latinx culture and ideals, which even did a good job at discussing colonialism, which didn’t like info dumps and actually made me more invested in the story. The book also touches a lot of themes on abuse and grief. With Finn, a lot of her character arc deals with trying to escape from an abuser who would constantly gaslight her, which I felt was extremely well done.

In the end, I loved Nocturna. It had extremely well done characters and themes tied to Latinx culture. Finn and Alfie are amazing characters I want to see them continue their stories

 

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson

Summary:

All her life, Spensa has dreamed of becoming a pilot. Of proving she’s a hero like her father. She made it to the sky, but the truths she learned about her father were crushing.

Spensa is sure there’s more to the story. And she’s sure that whatever happened to her father in his starship could happen to her. When she made it outside the protective shell of her planet, she heard the stars–and it was terrifying. Everything Spensa has been taught about her world is a lie.

But Spensa also discovered a few other things about herself–and she’ll travel to the end of the galaxy to save humankind if she needs to.

The Review:

This was a sequel that I was very excited for, seeing that I really loved Skyward, so of course I wanted to see how this story goes on. Spensa is still dealing with learning the truth about her father and now she has been tasked with another mission to be a spy.

Spensa is still an awesome character and I love her relationship with M-Bot, and with this book it begins to grow a lot more, and M-Bot even gets a little snarky for a bit.

The main mission revolves around her infiltrating the Krell, the alien race that been in war with the humans, by using a holographic disguise from an Alien named Alanik, who is a Urdial, a species who has had an alliance with the humans. What made it great was seeing the Krell more up close and personal and begins to see the war from their perspective. Throughout the book she trains with the Krell and even begins to make some friends, which makes her mission very hard.

There is also a lot of political intrigue in the book, and you get to learn a lot more about the Krell politically, and it was not just the Krell, but other alien races and their relationship with the Krell, and differences they have.

I would have like to have seen more of the  other characters that was in Skyward, which was one of my only minor gripes with the book. But I did like the new characters that was introduced.

Like a great sequel, this book really upped the stakes, and also fleshed out the world or galaxy and making the world more expansive. It also has a really great cliffhanger, which makes me beg for the next book.

In the end, I enjoyed Starsight. It was an amazing sequel up there with Torch Against the Night. The characters and world became much more expansive.

Grade: 5/5

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

Summary:

Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish—to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she’ll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age—her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

And as Nannerl’s hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true—but his help may cost her everything.

In her first work of historical fiction, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu spins a lush, lyrically-told story of music, magic, and the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister. 

The Review:

I was very excited to pick up this book, mainly because it is from Marie Lu, who is one of my autobuy authors. Also because it is very different from her usual books, and I like that she isn’t afraid to dip into other genres, this one being an historical fiction with some light fantasy elements.

This is the story about Mozart sister who is very unknown in the history books who goes by Nannerl in this book. She is also a musical prodigy, but couldn’t rise up in the ranks like her brother because of her gender.

Nannerl’s character is very well written, because this is a Marie Lu book, she knows how to write these complex characters. One of the highlights I really liked was seeing the relationship between Nannerl and Wolfrel. She always seem to care a lot by her brother, and that is how they come up with the Kingdom of Back, their own world that they made up for themselves.

The main plot of the story is Nannerl and Wolfrel, are basically touring and visiting Kings and Queens to show off Wolfrel’s talent as a composer with Nannerl, of course in the background. There is a lot of time when Nannerl wants to break free but is confined by the gender norms of that time, and there are times when she writes his music.

The Kingdom of Back, is a very fantastical world, and Marie Lu does a good job at describing the details of that world. It has it’s own world and stakes involved within that world. My only main gripe is that we didn’t spend a lot of time in that world and I wanted to see more of it.

In the end, I really enjoyed The Kingdom of Back. Like most of Marie Lu’s work she knows how to write these very complex characters, with a very compelling plot. This also gives a voice to the forgotten women in history.

Grade: 4.5/5

Lost Stars by Claudia Gray

Summary:

Eight years after the fall of the Old Republic, the Galactic Empire now reigns over the known galaxy. Resistance to the Empire has been all but silenced. Only a few courageous leaders such as Bail Organa of Alderaan still dare to openly oppose Emperor Palpatine.

After years of defiance, the many worlds at the edge of the Outer Rim have surrendered. With each planet’s conquest, the Empire’s might grows stronger.

The latest to fall under the Emperor’s control is the isolated mountain planet Jelucan, whose citizens hope for a more prosperous future even as the Imperial Starfleet gathers overhead… 

The Review:

This book was on my TBR for quite a while, I remember buying the book a couple years ago then putting it on my bookshelf and never reading it, which seemed odd because I am a massive Star Wars fan.

The story takes place a few years after Revenge of the Sith in which the Galactic Empire is taking their reach across the galaxy beginning with a planet called Jelucan, which is on the Outer Rim, also the home planet of our two main characters Ciena and Thane.

If I were give an elevator pitch I would call it an Imperial and a Rebel fall in love, or trying not to fall in love. As they both entered the Imperial Academy together, they were childhood friends, but after a series of events Thane falls in and joins the Rebel Alliance, while Ciena joins the empire.

As the book goes on it does a good job at knowing their viewpoints and why Ciena joined the empire, while Thane was with the Rebels. It also showed a lot of their conflicts seeing their friend on the other side of the war. I also really enjoyed the romance. While on the surface it would be an average friends to lovers to enemies story, the romance was a lot more well rounded.

Throughout the book, it plays through the Original Trilogy, but from there perspective. The story really picks up after the deconstruction of Alderaan. It really has a lot of discussion about war, and showing that was the destruction a way to prevent war or not. It was nice seeing it from the Empire’s perspective. Which lead with the destruction of the first Death Star, it really put in perspective of both sides arguing that their side is right.

Seeing a Star Wars story from the viewpoints of the Empire was also very refreshing. As a kid I loved playing Tie Fighter on my computer because it should the events of Stars Wars from a new perspective.

In the end, I really loved Lost Stars. If you are a Star Wars fan, this is a book that I will highly recommend, and it makes me even more excited that Claudia Gray is writing more Star Wars stories.

Grade: 5/5

 

Rebel by Marie Lu

Summary:

Eden Wing has been living in his brother’s shadow for years. Even though he’s a top student at his academy in Ross City, Antarctica, and a brilliant inventor, most people know him only as Daniel Wing’s little brother.

A decade ago, Daniel was known as Day, the boy from the streets who led a revolution that saved the Republic of America. But Day is no longer the same young man who was once a national hero. These days he’d rather hide out from the world and leave his past behind. All that matters to him now is keeping Eden safe―even if that also means giving up June, the great love of Daniel’s life.

As the two brothers struggle to accept who they’ve each become since their time in the Republic, a new danger creeps into the distance that’s grown between them. Eden soon finds himself drawn so far into Ross City’s dark side, even his legendary brother can’t save him. At least not on his own . . .

The Review:

As a fan of the Legend trilogy, I was very excited for this book, mainly because I was very excited to see more of the Legend universe, and also the fact that Eden was one of the POV chapters.

The book takes place about 10 years after Champion, mainly after the epilogue of Champion to be a bit more precise. Day is now more of a legend, after the events of the trilogy and now works in Antarctica, which was briefly seen in Champion, and there was aspects of the points system that they had.

Eden is now a lot older, and is sort of genius. He is also still living in his brothers shadow, and is trying to make a name for himself in Ross City. After his studies he would often go underground mainly with drone racing, and making bets. During that time he befriended Pressa who was a janitor at the school. I love Eden’s arc in this story and he had a lot more depth in this book, mainly because in the Legend trilogy he was always the support for Day.

With Day, as he works in Ross City, he still is very worried about Eden, and throughout the book, he tries to pick bits of his memory, and June, would sort of be the catalyst, and it always nice to see them working together like old times. It also tied up their story very nicely.

With Ross City as a setting it was nice to go a bit deeper in their points system and how it affected those who lived there. It was also the main plot. If I were to have a negative, it would be that the plot felt a bit short. While it was very good, and tied a lot to the point system, I honestly felt that it could have been expanded upon with another book, because I felt there was a duo-logy in there because it was such a good concept to explore.

In the end, I enjoyed Rebel, it was a very nice epilogue to the Legend series, and Eden really got a chance to shine in his own story, while also concluding the story of June and Day.

Grade: 4/5

Slayer by: Kiersten White

Summary:

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.

As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…

But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next.

One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

The Review:

I am a Buffy fan. I love the show, I have watched the entire series so many times now that I cannot even count the number of times. I still almost cry during Becoming and The Body. So, of course I was excited that a book set in the Buffyverse was coming out and also written by one of my favorite authors, Kiersten White who wrote the And I Darken series.

It starts with Nina or Athena as her full name, whose twin sister Artemis is training to become a member of the Watcher’s council who are tasked to guide the slayers as they hunt the demons and the vampires. The story is set at least 3 years after the Buffy series finale, in which she saved the world, but it had a price and with what happened at the end of the series, which had every young girl become “chosen” to be a slayer which resulted in too many slayers and not enough watchers. What surprised me, was how much the characters really hate Buffy, it was almost too funny to believe, but it added a lot to the story and created kind of deconstruction of Buffy as a character through the eyes of others.

With Nina, while her sister is training at the Watcher Academy, she is being trained as a healer, but in a course of events has her become chosen to be the slayer, a job she definitely has not trained for. Nina is a very different character from the Buffyverse, in which she is not prepared to take on this responsibility. While Buffy in the TV show has done the same, it took Nina a long time for it to get through to her. Throughout the book, she is trying to figure out her place in the slayer world, mainly because she spends most of her time blaming Buffy for the death of her father, who was her first watcher before Giles.

This book also had a few Easter eggs to the Buffy verse, my favorite was the Wyndham Prices, who are related to Wesley, who was mentioned as a watcher in training who moved to LA to work with a vampire. Also a dark haired girl, who is basically Faith.

The supporting characters were also good, There is Leo who is a watcher in training who is helping to train Nina, and there are also Rhys and Cillian. They reminded me a little bit of the Scoobies from Buffy and with the setting of the Watcher Academy, we got to see the research in what goes on with the world of the demons, from Buffy.

My main criticism, with the book was the pacing. The beginning of the book, was very info dump heavy, and I think it was made for people who aren’t familiar with the Buffyverse, and the book was not as plot heavy and it was mostly character focused, hopefully with next book we could also see more vampires which was lacking in this book.

In the end, I really enjoyed Slayer, I think it is a great series for those who are fans of the Buffyverse. It did a good job at introducing the new status quo in the world, and I kinda want to see more of what the world has to offer.

Grade: 4/5

Undead Girl Gang by: Lily Anderson

Summary:

Mila Flores and her best friend Riley have always been inseparable. There’s not much excitement in their small town of Cross Creek, so Mila and Riley make their own fun, devoting most of their time to Riley’s favorite activity: amateur witchcraft.

So when Riley and two Fairmont Academy mean girls die under suspicious circumstances, Mila refuses to believe everyone’s explanation that her BFF was involved in a suicide pact. Instead, armed with a tube of lip gloss and an ancient grimoire, Mila does the unthinkable to uncover the truth: she brings the girls back to life.

Unfortunately, Riley, June, and Dayton have no recollection of their murders, but they do have unfinished business to attend to. Now, with only seven days until the spell wears off and the girls return to their graves, Mila must wrangle the distracted group of undead teens and work fast to discover their murderer…before the killer strikes again. 

The Review:

This book was on my TBR for a long time, ever since last year and I finally got it at the bookstore, with the much better soft cover.

The book is very  much a zombie murder mystery novel which reminded a lot of the 90s movie The Craft, especially when dealing with the supernatural.

The story begins with the “suicide” of Mila’s friend Riley, and Mila obviously believes that it wasn’t a suicide, even when two other girls; June and Dayton who also have committed suicide much earlier. Mila using Wiccan powers brings them back to life to try to find out who killed them, but they don’t have any memory of their murders.

Mila is very sarcastic and snarky, and a lot of her light dialogue adds a lot of humor throughout the book.

The resurrected girls provide a lot of the humor throughout the book, especially when they find out that they are in fact dead. Some of my favorite scenes included the “mean girls” June and Dayton haunting their friends in order to find out who killed them. While June and Dayton are the stereotypical mean girls but they become a lot more fleshed out as the story goes on.

Another highlight was the relationship between Riley and Mila. As they are best friends, you really get a sense of how much Mila missed Riley after she died.

As a murder mystery book, it does cover a lot of the mystery formula in which Mila and other girls would have to find clues about their murder. There was a couple of red herrings, in which when you meet this one character you would think that he is the killer, but it turns out to be false.

My one main issue with the book was the rushed ending. The real killer’s identity I felt was not as fleshed out as I wanted it to be, while it sort of was hinted at the beginning of the book, but it was way to rushed. Also with the rushed ending it didn’t give enough time for me to really sink in what has happened.

In the end, I did enjoy Undead Girl Gang. It was a nice supernatural story with lots of humor throughout. I did enjoy the characters a lot, and even though it was a stand alone I kinda want to see more of Mila.

Grade: 4/5

Skyward by: Brandon Sanderson

Summary:

Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters. Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her. Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul. 

The Review:

I was always a fan of Brandon Sanderson, I loved Mistborn and the Reckoners series, and while his writing may seem very dense but he is very good at world building, and I always wanted to read this book ever since I got a sample at BookCon 2018.

It was also nice to see Brandon Sanderson write a space opera, since he has done a lot of fantasy, most of which I would highly recommend to readers so it was a nice change of pace.

The main character is a girl named Spensa, who wants to be a space pilot like her father. She also has to tend with the the fact that her father was branded a deserter and coward and has to live with the fact everyday since she entered the academy. She was always told by her grandmother how she was descended from people such as Beowulf, Sun Tzu and Genghis Kahn, while she may have known it was obviously fake it have Spensa something to look up towards and the learning of Old Earth.

The main setting is on a planet called Detritus, which is inhabited by humans who live underground because of the Krell who keeps attacking. It seemed like an odd setting for the book, but I like that it was very different and using an underground city made it a lot more cramped and added a lot to the characters.

One of the main highlights was the relationship between Spensa and M-Bot an AI -driven ship. M-Bot was very snarky and I really liked it. I liked that she would confined in M-Bot, especially when dealing with everything that she is going through at the academy.

When Spensa is at the academy, while still being the daughter of a coward, she begins to learn more about what happened when her father died. It takes a lot of good twists and turns, and it kinda begs the question of what makes a hero and what makes a coward, with the consequences that come with it.

A lot of the supporting characters are also well developed. One of my favorites is Jorgan, and there back and forth is amazing, and I like how it kinda grew into a friendship between them and learned to respect each other.

In the end, I really liked Skyward, it of course has the same Sanderson style. Spensa is an amazing character and I really want to follow this series and see where it goes.

Grade: 5/5