November SST: Timekeeper (Review + Giveaway!)

Sunday, November 27, 2016
Timekeeper by Tara Sim
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/Steampunk/LGBTQIA+
Page Length: 368 pages
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Publication Date: November 8, 2016



About Timekeeper (via Goodreads):

In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.

But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.

The stunning first novel in a new trilogy by debut author Tara Sim, Timekeeper is perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare and Victoria Schwab.


REVIEW

Timekeeper by Tara Sim was an extremely delightful and imaginative book. Sim's writing style was particularly beautiful—it was so rich and vibrant that I was captivated from page one to the very end.

The world and world-building was probably the strongest aspect of  the book. Timekeeper was absolutely brilliant and definitely had one of the most unique worlds/concepts I've ever read about. From tracing back to the mythology of time every few chapters to the detailed descriptions of how time functions, how timekeepers' powers work, and the lives of the clock spirits, I felt truly transported into the world.

Danny may not have stood out to me as a protagonist overall, but he was an admirable and lovable character that I just wanted to give a hug constantly throughout the book. What struck me the most about him was how real and relatable he was. And yes, this did stand out to me more than other protagonists of other books. He was flawed, but he was a good person. A lot of characters seem to always know what to do in any situation, but he didn't and he realized it. And I kind of loved him for that. Were there times when I wanted to hiss at him to stay focused? A few. But did I still love him anyway? Absolutely.

I felt like a lot of the characters were pretty much secondary. Although some played more pivotal roles than others, the focus was mainly on Danny. Which I'm fine with, but I would have enjoyed diving deeper into some of the other characters' personalities and histories. Sim did briefly touch on a lot of their backstories, but I would have liked to see more interactions between them.

Speaking of interactions, I'd like to talk about the romance. I thought Danny and Colton were ADORABLE together, and I wanted them to be happy and unhurt and never live in fear and have a happily ever after, but at the same time, it didn't quite work for me. I loved Colton, and I know as a clock spirit he didn't have many opportunities to explore and grow since he was stuck in his tower for who knows how long, but I disliked his lack of a history. A lot of the faith that I put into my OTPs has to do with the couple's individual personalities, pasts, and growth, and that was hard to see in Colton (and thus their relationship).

Overall, I really enjoyed Timekeeper. While some minor characters fell flat for me, I believe there are so many opportunities for them to become stronger as the series progresses and Tara Sim already has a great foundation for that development. In addition, there were so many other amazing details throughout the book. Sim's writing was absolutely exquisite and her world-building was equally as extraordinary, and I cannot wait to see what she will explore in the rest of the series.

My Rating: 3.75 stars





About the Author:


Tara Sim can typically be found wandering the wilds of the Bay Area, California. When she’s not chasing cats or lurking in bookstores, she writes books about magic, clocks, and explosives. TIMEKEEPER is her debut novel. Follow her on Twitter at @EachStarAWorld, or check out her website tarasim.com for fun extras.


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The Sun is Also a Star (Mini ARC Review)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary
Page Length: 384 pages
Format: ARC won at B-Fest (Barnes & Noble's Teen Book Festival)
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press



About The Sun is Also a Star (via Goodreads):

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon was an incredible read. The characters felt so palpable and relevant, and I really connected Natasha and Daniel, on both the personal and more global level (especially after the events of the last few months). Although I do not believe in love at first sight, Yoon made me want to believe in it.

The series of chance encounters leading to Natasha and Daniel's love was a bit improbable, but Yoon's overall execution of the story was superb. She plunged deep into the character's minds and hearts and drew out a wealth of thoughts and feelings throughout the story, regarding not only the romance, but also family love and second chances. I fell in love with the characters and loved seeing them grow and develop into the people they wanted to be, rather than who they were expected to be.

The family dynamics and relationships in this book were definitely strained, and it was a bit painful to read about them, but I appreciated Yoon's honesty in conveying the relationships between parents, their children, and siblings, as well as expressing the mindset of many people regarding inter-racial relationships even today.

All in all, The Sun is Also a Star was an earnest and beautifully written story about love, loss, and serendipity. It was about taking chances, not letting hate win, and learning to empathize with those we don't know as well as those we love with all our hearts.

My Rating: 4 stars

Waiting on Wednesday (64)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that you are eagerly anticipating.


Frostblood by Elly Blake
Series: Frostblood Saga #1
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Page Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 17, 2017



About Frostblood (via Goodreads):


Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a fireblood who must hide her powers of heat and flame from the cruel frostblood ruling class that wants to destroy all that are left of her kind. So when her mother is killed for protecting her and rebel frostbloods demand her help to kill their rampaging king, she agrees. But Ruby's powers are unpredictable, and she's not sure she's willing to let the rebels and an infuriating (yet irresistible) young man called Arcus use her as their weapon. All she wants is revenge, but before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to take part in the king's tournaments that pit fireblood prisoners against frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her and from the icy young man she has come to love.


Fast-paced and compelling, Frostblood is the first in a page-turning new young adult three-book series about a world where flame and ice are mortal enemies—but together create a power that could change everything.

Waiting on Wednesday (63)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that you are eagerly anticipating.


A List of Cages by Robin Roe
Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary
Page Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: January 10, 2017



About A List of Cages (via Goodreads):


When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he's got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn't easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can't complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian--the foster brother he hasn't seen in five years.


Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He's still kind hearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what's really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives.



Of Fire and Stars (ARC Review) ~ The Fiery Romance of Two (Not So) Star-Crossed Lovers

Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/LGBTQIA+
Page Length: 400 pages
Format: ARC (won in a giveaway!)
Publication Date: November 22, 2016
Publisher: Balzer + Bray

I'd like to thank Audrey Coulthurst for hosting the giveaway. Although she provided me with a copy of her book, it in no way whatsoever affected my thoughts/opinions about this book. These opinions are completely my own.


About Of Fire and Stars (via Goodreads):

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.

Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine (called Mare), sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, each discovers there’s more to the other than she thought. Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. Soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.
Of Fire and Stars was an enchanting read. It took me a few chapters to get into the book, but Coulthurst's beautiful writing thereafter quickly had me hooked.

While the story was not the most unique, I still greatly enjoyed Coulthurst's debut. Certain plot devices were a bit stale, such as killing off characters (in my opinion unnecessarily) to heighten the tension, but there was almost always something going on and I was never bored by the story.

I thought the protagonists, Dennaleia and Mare, were written extremely well. They both had their own unique personalities and I think their character arcs matched their upbringing and overall character really well. However, secondary characters are also important to a story, and I thought they were mediocre in Of Fire and Stars. They just weren't all that special. A few of them were distinct, but I thought that a lot of them could have been interchangeable with a secondary/minor character from another YA fantasy and I wouldn't have known the difference.

Denna and Mare's romance started off kind of as a mutual hatred toward each other, which slowly developed into friendship, and eventually blossomed into something more. Across any romance, I love a good slow burn. It takes time to develop relationships with people in real life, and books need to reflect that. The only thing that bothered me about Denna and Mare's relationship (which might actually be a big deal) was how quickly they got physical after confessing their love to each other. Like I know they were excited/exhilarated/whatever, but it just seemed like they moved too fast into the intimate stuff. So while I appreciated that it wasn't instalove, the minute they realized they were in love (and their love was reciprocated), their hands were all over each other. So in a way they still moved way too fast for my comfort while also going slow (if that even makes any sense at all). Also, I know that it was a forbidden romance, but it seemed too easy for them to overcome the obstacles that separated them from each other. Like, I'm pretty sure guards would notice if a figure was climbing up a rope into the princess's rooms at night. Just saying. But enough about the romance. Let's talk about something else now.

I really enjoyed the concept of the world and magic, but I really would have liked to know more, especially in regard to the religious aspect. I still have so many questions. Why do some believe that the magic is a gift from the gods, while others shun it? Like honestly, what made Mynaria so opposed to magic? Why do/did only some kingdoms have magic surging through its people's veins and others don't? How does the bloodline for magic work?

Despite all my complaining, I did like this book immensely. It tells a wonderful story about overcoming obstacles and finding yourself, and although I did voice some complaints, it was a story that left me captivated from start to finish.

My rating: 3.25 stars


October SST: Interview with Bound by Blood and Sand Author Becky Allen (+ Giveaway!)

Sunday, October 16, 2016
Bound by Blood and Sand by Becky Allen
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Release Date: October 11, 2016


About Bound by Blood and Sand (via Goodreads):

Jae is a slave in a dying desert world.

Once verdant with water from a magical Well, the land is drying up, and no one remembers the magic needed to keep the water flowing. If a new source isn’t found soon, the people will perish. Jae doesn’t mind, in a way. By law, she is bound by a curse to obey every order given her, no matter how vile. At least in death, she’ll be free.

Lord Elan’s family rules the fading realm. He comes to the estate where Jae works, searching for the hidden magic needed to replenish the Well, but it’s Jae who finds it, and she who must wield it. Desperate to save his realm, Elan begs her to use it to locate the Well.

But why would a slave—abused, beaten, and treated as less than human—want to save the system that shackles her? Jae would rather see the world burn.

Though revenge clouds her vision, she agrees to help if the kingdom’s slaves are freed. Then Elan’s father arrives. The ruler’s cruelty knows no limits. He is determined that the class system will not change—and that Jae will remain a slave forever.

INTERVIEW


When did you realize you wanted to be an author?

I don't remember exactly, but it must have been somewhere around fifth grade. I was a voracious reader as a kid, and that's when I can first remember writing stories for class - my creative short story was at least three times as long as everyone else's. (Also, it was fantasy, as I recall, something about a girl who turned into a phoenix.) Over the next couple of years I wrote more and more, with stories getting longer and longer all throughout middle and high school - I wrote my first (not very good) real novel in college. (It is never going to see the light of day.)

Have you ever/do you ever plan to write novels outside of the genre of Bound by Blood and Sand (if so, what genre)?
I definitely want to write some science fiction, too - I love scifi and fantasy both.

What's your favorite thing about being a writer?
Ooooh. That's tricky - there are pieces in all parts of the process that I love, and pieces that are pretty awful. But I think there's something magical about the time an idea is just starting to take shape, when you can play with it and brainstorm and worldbuild. In that stage, the idea feels shiny and perfect, without any actual words messing things up yet.

What is your writing process like?
I usually set aside time to do three to four  writing sessions a week: at least one evening after work (I have a full time job), plus both Saturday and Sunday. On those days, I take my laptop to a cafe and work for at least an hour. Usually I start by pre-writing for about 10 minutes to figure out how the scene is going to play out, and then I write in 30 minute chunks.

How long does it typically take you to complete a draft?
Usually three to four months, working three to four days a week. By the time I hit that last month I am always so impatient to be done already!

What is the most important lesson you've learned throughout your journey to become published?
When it comes to revising, don't ever dismiss an idea for being too hard or because you know pursuing it would take too long. Often, it's those time consuming, massive plot overhauls/rewrites/etc that will make your book the strongest it can be - and at the end of the day, that's the most important thing.

Do you have any advice to young writers who want to be published one day?
Yes! There are a lot of things I could say, but to focus on one: write for fun for yourself before you worry about getting published. For one thing, because if you don't find writing in and of itself to be fun, trust me, you're not going to find writing for publication fun either (because it's more of the same, but with WAY more stress).

But more than anything else, writing just for fun takes off so much pressure. Give yourself the freedom to write without caring if it's any good, if it makes any sense, if anyone else would ever want to read it. Tell yourself stories you love. Experiment with writing anything that interests you - whether that's fantasy or romance or essays or poems. Anything! The more you write, the more you'll figure out what it is you love to write, and the more you'll find your own voice. Publication can come eventually (sooner for some of you - a bit later for me!) but giving yourself the freedom to experiment and learn in an environment that's just fun is vital.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Becky Allen grew up in a tiny town outside Ithaca, New York, and graduated from Brandeis University with a major in American studies and a minor in journalism. She is the website director of TheBody.com, an online HIV resource, and loves New York, brunch, and feminism. Becky lives in New York City.

GIVEAWAY:

Waiting on Wednesday (62)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that you are eagerly anticipating.


Girls in the Moon by Janet McNally
Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary
Page Length: 352 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: November 29, 2016

About Girls in the Moon (via Goodreads):

Everyone in Phoebe Ferris’s life tells a different version of the truth. Her mother, Meg, ex–rock star and professional question evader, shares only the end of the story—the post-fame calm that Phoebe’s always known. Her sister, Luna, indie-rock darling of Brooklyn, preaches a stormy truth of her own making, selectively ignoring the facts she doesn’t like. And her father, Kieran, the cofounder of Meg’s beloved band, hasn’t said anything at all since he stopped calling three years ago.

But Phoebe, a budding poet in search of an identity to call her own, is tired of half-truths and vague explanations. When she visits Luna in New York, she’s determined to find out how she fits in to this family of storytellers, and to maybe even continue her own tale—the one with the musician boy she’s been secretly writing for months. Told in alternating chapters, Phoebe’s first adventure flows as the story of Meg and Kieran’s romance ebbs, leaving behind only a time-worn, precious pearl of truth about her family’s past—and leaving Phoebe to take a leap into her own unknown future.