Nyxia (The Nyxia Triad #1)

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I received this book courtesy of Random House & Crown Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.

Emmett is a tough kid with a tough life full of tough breaks.  In the not so distant future the world is full of much of the same: poverty, war and discontent.  When Babel Corporation gives him the opportunity to leave earth and compete for a place on a distant planet, he goes.  He goes for the money, for his family, for a better life.  Emmett is learning about the mysterious substance they are to mine on Eden-Nyxia-while battling nine other kids for his spot on the planet.  The kids come from all over the world but he has to cast notions about their similarities aside and win.

You may think you have nothing in common with each other, but in the expanse of deep space, you will soon discover that your shared humanity is the most precious commodity of all.

Emmett is one of the most most relatable protagonists I’ve come across as of late, maybe ever.  He’s a diamond that has been shaped by constant pressure from birth.  While he wants nothing more than to win, his introspection and awareness of what transpires around him astounded me.

It’s hard to tell the difference between rich and wrong.

All he wants is a better life, he doesn’t want to step on the backs of anyone else to achieve it.  His internal monologue had me hooked almost from the first page.

We still dig and fight and scrape for each point, but there’s something human beneath every mask now.  I know their secrets, and I know their stories.  I know now that I’m not the only one who comes from a broken world and I’m not the only one who’s desperate to fix it.

Pick this one up.  Journey with Emmett and his competition across the universe.  This is a tale of soul searching, hope and friendship.  I would definitely recommend this one to anyone looking for something a bit different.

Fear thunders in my chest.  I’m afraid it won’t work and I’ll blow my one chance.  But I’m also afraid of what might happen if it does work.  I’m afraid of breaking something I don’t know how to fix.

I look forward to the next book.

Not everything is lost or broken.  There’s still hope.

Four stars.

Expected Publication Date: September 12, 2017

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The Marriage Pact

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I received this ARC courtesy of Random House Publishing Group and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Boy meets girl, they fall in love, they get married and live happily ever after.  That’s the dream, eh?  Jake is a therapist and Alice is his rocker turned corporate lawyer wife.  They have it all, a house in San Francisco, thriving careers and true love.  Enter “The Pact”.  Introduced to them by a rockstar client of Alice’s, it seems like a great program for maintaining the loving and healthy marriage they have as newlyweds.

With The Pact, the best policy is to always do the thing that will attract the least amount of attention.

Cookie cutter people in cookie cutter marriages with zero marital strife.  Sound to good to be true?  It is.

You hold things together every second of every day, then one time, just for an instant, one person loses concentration, lets go of the thread, and the whole thing unravels.

 Their marriage is no longer two people, it’s part of a machine.  A strange, omniscient machine.  As they struggle to fit in, they only stand out more.  After all, when your marriage is governed by a set of laws you don’t fully understand, you’re bound to be punished.

Each one of us becomes so used to the person we think we are.  In our minds, we carry a vision of ourselves, naïvely certain of our own moral boundaries, what we would and would not do.

The walls have eyes, the streets ears.  Will they escape with their marriage in tact?  Their lives?

Four stars.

Expected Publication Date: July 25, 2017

The Waking Land

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I received this ARC courtesy of Random House Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.

Lady Elanna has been raised a hostage in a foreign land-well treated by the king, educated, castle dwelling-but a hostage just the same.  She cares for botany, for her best friend and dreams of heading off to study under a master.  Her memories of her hometown have faded to nearly nothing, her home is Laon now.  The rumors of magic from her homeland all but forgotten.

Then the nightmares faded; my tutors taught me that, while magic is considered anathema, in truth it simply has no place in the rational, modern world.

Everything changes when her father comes for her, at long last.  Accused of regicide, her “otherness” has never left her.  To Caeris she must run, to a land and a people she no longer knows.  It’s time for a revolution, birth land against homeland.

No one in this revolution is ever alone.

A motley crew of assorted figures fill out our cast of characters and Bates’ writing shines.  I loved the prose, loved the plot, loved the world-building.  Follow along as El goes to war against an empire, and herself.

All the gods damn it.  I hate battle, El.  I hate it-I hate what it makes me into.  It makes people’s lives seem not to matter.  But they do.  No one should have to die like that, not even for freedom.

You see, Elanna isn’t just a hostage.  She has the power to wake the land.  What does that mean?  Read and find out!

4 stars.

Publication Date: June 27, 2017

Letters To A Young Writer

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I received this ARC from Random House in exchange for an honest review.

This is not my first dance with Colum McCan and I now know it won’t be my last.  This man has a way with words, a humble regality.  Is that possible?  I highlighted sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph in an attempt to preserve the words in my mind.

I am not a writer.  I read, I read unceasingly.  I read at home, at work, on planes, in foreign countries and in the wilderness.  Reading this work, meant for writers, made me consider putting the book down for a bit and picking up the pen that I mostly use to correct the work of others.

A story begins long before its first word.  It ends long after its last.

This is a collection of letters on various subjects, aimed at encouraging the young writer.  What constitutes a young rider?  McCann himself isn’t concerned with that.  He points out that beloved Frank McCourt (who surely is reading this one in heaven) was 64 when he began.

To not know exactly where your story is going is a good thing.  It may drive you mad for a little while, but there’s worse things than madness: try silence, for instance.

I could gush on endlessly and copy, paste quote after quote.  Just read it.  It’s short.  It’s beautiful.  It’s the work of Colum McCann.  What a great book to beckon me back to this blog.

Stories matter.  They send our kids to war.  They open up our pockets.  They break our hearts.

Five of the brightest stars.

Expected Publication: April 4, 2017

Gilded Cage

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I received this ARC from Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review, which I am a couple of weeks late getting out!

There are two types of people in Britain (and the world); those with skill, the Equals, and those with none, Commoners.  Skill equals power, over nature and society.

Government is not what defines us, Chancellor. Nor is power.  Not wealth.  Skill is what defines us…

Ten years.  All Commoners are required to do ten years slavedays.  Ten years of serving the Equals as a slave.  Abi is lucky, she and her family will complete their decade on the estate of the most powerful Equal family.  She thought so anyway, until her younger brother Luke is sent to a slavetown instead.  The slavetown are factory neighborhoods, six day workweeks under brutal conditions.

Things aren’t what they seem.  The Equals aren’t known to be benevolent but are they entirely evil?  Will Abi and Luke do their time or will they dismantle the very foundations of Equal rule?

Your allies aren’t always who you think they are, Miss Matravers.  And neither are your enemies.

This book is in no way reinventing the wheel. The troupe isn’t new but it is interesting.  I’m keen on extraordinary powers and dystopia, this fits the bill.  I will definitely read the next book in the series.

Three stars.

Publication Date: February 14, 2017

 

The Best Place On Earth

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I received this ARC from Random House Publishing Group and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Lush.  This is a word I’ve often seen used to describe writing but until now never quite understood.  Tsabari’s collection of short stories is unimaginably lush.  I poured over the pages, going back and rereading sentences and paragraphs. savoring them in the hopes that I could capture the emotion forever.

We felt like we were part of a generation, and that life had been made just for us and we’d never be sick and never grow old and nothing bad would ever happen to us.-Tikkun

These snapshots into the life of Israelis was fascinating, if fictional.  I know very little about the Yemini Jews that are the focus of most of these stories but I was inspired to do some research, to learn.  These are stories of war.

This is my generation’s war.  A war fought with plastic sheets and duct tape, a wet towel stolen from a hotel room in Eilat, a picture of a sandy beach on a sunny day.-The Poets in the Kitchen Window

These are stories of longing.

Sometimes Israel and the Philippines would blend in her head, overlap, the smell of dusty concrete in August, the outpouring of orange after sunset, the musk of old, musty homes, the ripe stench of the vegetable market.  Some nights, like tonight, delighting in the cool fall air, tipsy after an evening among friends.-Invisible

These are stories of faith and despair.

When I still believed in God, I used to make deals with him to bring Dad back.  I promised I wouldn’t watch TV on Shabbat, mix dairy and meat behind Mom’s back, or steal money from her purse.  When that didn’t work, I offered up Mom.  If I had to have one parent, I wanted one who saw me.-Warplanes

These are stories about human frailty.

Maybe there’s something good about knowing it could all end at any minute.-The Best Place On Earth

I have a book hangover and the literary liquor I imbibed over the last week is going to be coursing through my veins for many a sleepless night.  Brava, Ms. Tsabari.  This is a must read, an objective masterpiece.

Five stars.

Expected Publication: March 8, 2016

Thirteen Ways Of Looking

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I received this ARC from Random House Publishing Group and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I have read very few collections of short fiction in my life.  There isn’t any particular reason why, I just seemed to have jumped from board books as a child straight to novels.  It was the cover art and description of this book that drew me in, I had to read it.  This collection features one novella and three short stories, I enjoyed them all.  The title comes from a poem “Thirteen Ways Of Looking At A Blackbird”, a nod to how much of life is about perception.

The first story “Thirteen Ways Of Looking” is about an elderly man standing in the twilight of his life.  It flips back and forth between the immediate past and the present (after his death) told from his view and that of a commentator type narrator.  I didn’t want to like Mr. Mendelssohn at first, he seemed a combination of stereotypes but he grew on me.

I was born in the middle of my very first argument.

In brief snippets of his past and his musings on the present we get a clear portrait of man who has lived a good life, a life he is reflecting on.

And how is it that the deep past is littered with the characters, while the present is so housebroken and flat?

The second story “What Time Is It Now, Where You Are?” was my least favorite but still offered a few moments of clarity.  A journalist is writing a story on a deadline and he struggles to connect the pieces.

Out beyond the outpost, nothing but the dark and the white frost on the land.  The stars themselves like bulletholes above her.

The third “Sh’kol” really resonated with me, if only because of the title.

She had come upon the word sh’khol.  She cast around for a word to translate it but there was no proper match.  There were words, of course, for widow, widower, and orphan, but no noun, no adjective, for a parent who had lost a child.

A woman on the Irish coast is raising an adopted special needs child alone.  She wakes up one morning and he is missing.  Will he be found?  Will she glean anything about her life in the process?

Sh’khol…She knew the word now.  Shadowed.

The final story “Treaty” was truly touching.  An elderly Maryknoll nun sent for respite in Long Island.  A traumatic event in her life haunts her and the potential emergence of a villain spurs her to action.

She preferred to think and talk of other things, life in the village before she was captured, the volume of blue sky, the children in the schoolhouse, the fall of rain on the in roof…

I truly enjoyed reading these stories.  I found myself stopping to highlight and ponder often, bits and pieces of my own life coming to mind.  McCann is a gifted wordsmith, his framing of the concept of perspective a thing of beauty.  I have several people in mind already that I will personally recommend this collection to.

Sometimes it seems to me that we are writing our lives in advance, but at other times we can only ever look back.  In the end, though, every word we write is autobiographical, perhaps most especially when we attempt to avoid the autobiographical.  -Colum McCann

4 stars.

Publication Date: October 13, 2015