Book Review: Banana: The Fate Of The Fruit That Changed The World by Dan Koeppel

Book: The Fate Of The Fruit That Changed The World by Dan Koeppel

Published December 2008 by Plume|304 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperback

Series: None

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction/Food History

In the vein of the bestselling Salt and Cod, a gripping chronicle of the myth, mystery, and uncertain fate of the world’s most popular fruit

In this fascinating and surprising exploration of the banana’s history, cultural significance, and endangered future, award-winning journalist Dan Koeppel gives readers plenty of food for thought. Fast-paced and highly entertaining, Banana takes us from jungle to supermarket, from corporate boardrooms to kitchen tables around the world. We begin in the Garden of Eden—examining scholars’ belief that Eve’s “apple” was actually a banana— and travel to early-twentieth-century Central America, where aptly named “banana republics” rose and fell over the crop, while the companies now known as Chiquita and Dole conquered the marketplace. Koeppel then chronicles the banana’s path to the present, ultimately—and most alarmingly—taking us to banana plantations across the globe that are being destroyed by a fast-moving blight, with no cure in sight—and to the high-tech labs where new bananas are literally being built in test tubes, in a race to save the world’s most beloved fruit.

I thought this was an interesting read.  I didn’t love it, of course, and by the end, I started to lose interest, but there is a lot that I learned about one of my favorite foods.

Like, there’s over 1,000 types of bananas worldwide.  To me, all bananas are the same.  It’s not like, say…apples, where you know there’s a lot of different varieties.  But bananas are pretty consistent, apparently, because they all ripen at around the same the time, no matter what.

What I also didn’t know was that the bananas we eat are basically grown by cloning, and need a lot of human help.  And because bananas are the same, they’re equally susceptible to diseases and stuff.

I could go on and on about the different things I learned about bananas.  It’s something I never really thought about before, and there’s a lot I never realized.  The history and politics behind bananas and how they’re grown and shipped was something I never thought about.  We all know about Dole and Chiquita, but I never realized that they were two different brands of the same type of banana.  It’s something I never really paid attention to before.

Still, it was interesting to read what they did in order to outdo and compete with each other.  Particularly Chiquita (which used to be United Fruit).  What they did in Central America was absolutely horrible.  I won’t go into it, but it sounds like some pretty horrible conditions were there all because of, well, money.

One of the main things we see in the book is the book to save bananas from disease.  There’s a lot of different research going on to save the fruit we all know and love.  It sounds like it’s pretty hard, though, because bananas don’t have seeds, so banana scientists are trying to figure out what to do.

While the book was pretty informative, I did start to lose interest.  The book wasn’t told in a completely linear fashion, and it jumped around a lot.  One minute, you’re reading about banana plantations in the 1950’s, and the next minute, you’re reading about some researcher in the 1930’s.  It was hard to keep up with what was going on because the focus kept jumping around, both in time and with people.  I ended up skimming  some parts about halfway through the book.

I will say that if food history is your thing, this might be worth checking out.  Or if you just want to know more about bananas.

3 stars.  While I learned a lot, it also jumped around a lot, and that made it hard to keep all of the information straight.

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Book Review: Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix, Illustrated by Michael Rogalski

Book: Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix, Illustrated by Michael Rogalski

Published September 2014 by Quirk|248 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the paperback from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Horror/Humor

Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.

To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of the night, they’ll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.

A traditional haunted house story in a thoroughly contemporary setting, Horrorstör comes packaged in the form of a glossy mail order catalog, complete with product illustrations, a home delivery order form, and a map of Orsk’s labyrinthine showroom.

This was a book I’ve been wanting to read for a while, and I finally got around to reading it!  I didn’t love it, but it is an interesting take on the haunted house story.

It is set in an Ikea-type store, and throughout the book, we see references to the store itself and the products that the store has.  Each chapter has an interesting header- different products that Orsk has, and they get more interesting as the book goes on.

I did like the format of the book- we get a map of the showroom floor, there’s an order form, coupons for Planet Baby, and other cool catalog type stuff.  I did think the format would be more catalog-like, but at the same time, it did have a story to tell, so it makes sense that we’d see more story, and less…interesting formatting.

I was a little disappointed by that, because while there was some interesting stuff throughout the book, it wasn’t like that for the whole book.  Maybe I just made a lot of assumptions about the formatting itself.

Sometimes, things like letters and emails and any other variation on the typical paragraphs don’t work- not that I read a lot of books where we see that sort of thing- but I think Horrorstor could have used a little bit more of that.

It’s definitely a cool take on the haunted house story- obviously, it’s a haunted store, and I liked the story behind it. There is a point where the police can’t find the exit for the store, and I couldn’t help but wonder if they were ghosts or if there were other forces at work.  I did like the setting, and a fictional Ikea-type store is a really good setting for a haunted house story.

The characters where what I expected for the story.  While I’ve forgotten names already (and the book has since been returned to the library, so I unfortunately can’t reference it), the characters are pretty typical.  There’s the management type who drinks the company Kool-Aid because the store saved him, there’s the long-time retail worker who is beloved by employees and customers alike, and there’s the disgruntled retail worker struggling to survive, and hating every minute of her job.  We see a few other characters as well, but the three mentioned above are the ones we see the most.

I think, of the three, disgruntled retail worker is the one the book follows.  It is more her story than anyone else we see in the book, and she is the one I could relate to the most.  Not completely, but I definitely see where she is coming from.

I will say that the book is an interesting mix of horror and humor.  I thought it worked, but I don’t know that the humor is necessarily for everyone.  It’s not laugh out loud funny, and it seemed more horror and parody than horror and funny.  But overall, it’s an interesting combination.

3 stars.  I liked it, and it’s a cool concept.  I didn’t love it, and the characters were pretty typical, but worked for this story.

Book Review: Saints And Misfits by S.K. Ali

Book: Saints And Misfits by S.K. Ali

Published June 2017 by Salaam Reads/Simon Schuster Books For Young Readers|325 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

There are three kinds of people in my world:

1. Saints, those special people moving the world forward. Sometimes you glaze over them. Or, at least, I do. They’re in your face so much, you can’t see them, like how you can’t see your nose.

2. Misfits, people who don’t belong. Like me—the way I don’t fit into Dad’s brand-new family or in the leftover one composed of Mom and my older brother, Mama’s-Boy-Muhammad.

Also, there’s Jeremy and me. Misfits. Because although, alliteratively speaking, Janna and Jeremy sound good together, we don’t go together. Same planet, different worlds.

But sometimes worlds collide and beautiful things happen, right?

3. Monsters. Well, monsters wearing saint masks, like in Flannery O’Connor’s stories.

Like the monster at my mosque.

People think he’s holy, untouchable, but nobody has seen under the mask.

Except me.

I wanted to like Saints And Misfits more than I actually did.

I was never completely invested, and while Janna seems to like photography and books, it wasn’t as explored as it could have been.  For the most part, I was bored reading it but I was determined to finish the book.

As for the monster that we see referenced in the book, I knew where it was headed, and I waited quite a bit for the reveal.  Unfortunately, I found that I could care less, since I I was pretty sure of what was coming.  And it didn’t have the effect that it should have.  It was built and then it just sort of…went nowhere.  Well, that’s not completely right.  I thought it was built up for nothing, and it didn’t go in the direction I thought it would.  Which is unfortunate, because I thought it could have been interesting.

Still, I thought Janna was a pretty normal teen.  She has a crush, who is a non-Muslim boy.  She hangs out with her friends and takes a neighbor to game night at the local senior center.  She has to deal with people sharing pictures of her without her hijab.

I’m not Muslim, but it seemed like it was a really big thing.  It’s not something I completely understand, of course, but I can understand her being upset that those photos were posted on Facebook.  I was bothered by how easily her classmate posted that photo, without a single thought about how Janna might feel about it.  I’m not sure if it didn’t occur to her classmate that it was inappropriate and disrespectful (particularly because said pictures were taken during gym), or if her classmate knew and just didn’t care.

I did like how important her faith and identity was to Janna, and it was nice to see how, no matter what your beliefs are, we all have to with school and not-so-cool people and dating.  I also liked the interfaith conversations and that there wasn’t any Islamophobia.  At least that I saw, but it’s possible I missed it so…

I didn’t care for Janna, and she did keep people at a distance.  She was judgemental and mean and hard to like.  I’m fine with unlikable characters, but in this case, Janna was just…sort of…there.  Which is a weird thing to say, since the book is about her, but this book clearly isn’t my cup of tea.  I’d still recommend it, because it does seem like a good representation of a Muslim teen dealing with things a lot of teenagers deal with.

2 stars.  I was bored reading this book, and it’s clearly not for me, but I still think it’s worth checking out.

Book Review: Menagerie by Rachel Vincent

Book: Menagerie by Rachel Vincent

Published September 2015 by MIRA|429 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Menagerie #1

Genre: Adult Fantasy

From New York Times bestselling author Rachel Vincent comes a richly imagined, provocative new series set in the dark mythology of the Menagerie… 

When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger’s Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus big-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she’s forced to “perform” in town after town. 

But there is breathtaking beauty behind the seamy and grotesque reality of the carnival. Gallagher, her handler, is as kind as he is cryptic and strong. The other “attractions”—mermaids, minotaurs, gryphons and kelpies—are strange, yes, but they share a bond forged by the brutal realities of captivity. And as Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, she’ll discover a strength and a purpose she never knew existed. 

Renowned author Rachel Vincent weaves an intoxicating blend of carnival magic and startling humanity in this intricately woven and powerful tale

I really liked Menagerie!  It’s a really cool concept and I liked the mythology behind it.

I felt really bad for Delilah and everyone at Metzgers.  They’re treated horribly, and they’re seen as not human, even though quite a few of them have the appearance of being human.  It’s creepy and awful and you slowly realize how helpless Delilah, and everyone else at the Menagerie are.

I did like the mystery surrounding what type of cryptid Delilah was.  It fit her pretty well, and I thought it worked really well with the story.  While I wasn’t trying to figure it out, I can’t say I’m completely surprised by it.  Considering what we see of her, it does fit.  I can’t say I’m surprised by a character like Delilah, because I kind of figured that we’d have a character like her.

We do have multiple POV in Menagerie, and while the writing style was pretty much the same for each one, I thought each perspective was very different, and showed what it was really like at Menagerie.  It seems like Delilah has a pretty…unique…experience there, and not completely representative of life at Metzger’s Menagerie.

There is violence (and rape) so this book is definitely for adults, though some older teens may be able to handle it.  It is unsettling, and makes it clear that the many people in the book will do whatever they want to the cryptids.  There is no fighting back for the cryptids, because no one cares what happens to them.

One thing I wish we got more of was the Reaping.  We do get snippets of an event called the Reaping, where hundreds of thousands of children go missing or dead, and their entire families are killed.  I wish it were more clear what it was, and what was behind it.  I mean, there are two more books after this one, so there’s always the chance we’ll learn more about what happened.  It’s clear that something led to how the cryptids are treated, and I did want more about what happened.

Still, VIncent created a pretty convincing world, and I feel like you could draw a lot of parallels between the world of Menagerie and our world.  She doesn’t refer to real world events or atrocities, and she has her own story, but still, I think you could draw your own conclusions.

4 stars.  I really liked it, and I thought the world was unique but familiar.  I wish we had more about the reaping and the cryptids, but perhaps we’ll see that in the next book.

Book Review: The Afterlife Of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

Book: The Afterlife Of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

Published October 2017 by HarperTeen|389 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Paranormal/Re-Telling

On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn’t.

And then she died.

Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge–as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change…

I’ve been a fan of Cynthia Hand since her Unearthly series, so when I saw this book at the library, I knew I had to pick it up!  I wasn’t sure what to expect, since I loved her Unearthly series but didn’t care for My Lady Jane.  It’s not at all like Unearthly, but the writing did remind me of My Lady Jane.

I really liked Afterlife, and it’s a really interesting take on A Christmas Carol.  I like that they try to do some good, and actually help people.  It’s light and silly and Holly is not a likable person, in life or death, but I do think she learned from her time at the Project Scrooge.  At least, that’s what I’d like to think.  She seems to try at the end of the book, and it really did seem like she wanted to make an effort to be a better person.

It is interesting that Ethan is what gets Holly to start seeing things differently.  Even years after her death, she was still the spoiled brat we saw int the beginning of the book.  Why Ethan changed things, I don’t know.  It is explained, but…I don’t know.  It’s just interesting that someone her age is what got her to change.  It seems like she was more changed by making this work than he was.

It is a quick read, and it’s fun.  It’s entertaining, and while it’s not this meaningful look at changing yourself, it did get the point across.

I also liked how each group had a team, and everyone worked together to make it happen.  It’s definitely a lot of work, and while you think it’s about Ethan, it’s really about Holly.  I don’t know about anyone else, but that did surprise me a little.  I wasn’t too fond of Ethan, and while I wanted to like some of the other characters we see in the book, we unfortunately didn’t see them enough.  At least, not long enough to have a strong opinion of them.

I remember liking some of the other characters we saw in her Unearthly series, but with Afterlife, we didn’t have enough time to get to know the other characters.  We probably saw Stephanie the most (after Holly and Ethan), but even with her, I had a hard time really caring.  Again, I know it’s about Holly, and Ethan (a little bit) but still.  I wanted a little bit more to some of the other characters.

3 stars.  I liked The Afterlife Of Holly Chase, and it is a cool take on A Christmas Carol, but I wish we saw more of some of the other characters.

Book Review: Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee and Susan Elizabeth McClelland

Book: Every Falling Star: The True Story Of How I Survived And Escaped North Korea by Sungju Lee and Susan Elizabeth McCelland

Published November 2016 by Harry N. Abrams|336 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Nonfiction/Memoir

Every Falling Star, the first book to portray contemporary North Korea to a young audience, is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains. Sungju richly re-creates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, his “brothers”; to be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist.

I really liked Every Falling Star, and I’m glad I picked it up!  I feel like it’s rare to see YA Non-Fiction, and even though I know it’s something that’s out there, I don’t really read it or seek it out.  But this was worth reading, and in a lot of ways, it read like a novel.  Quite frequently, I forgot it was a memoir.

I don’t know anything about North Korea- I know they’ve come up a lot on the news a lot lately, but otherwise, my knowledge of them is virtually nonexistent.  I think this book is great look at what life is like in North Korea, and how not falling in line can change everything.

I can’t begin to imagine life on the streets and having to beg, steal and fight just to survive.  I am curious about what his father did in the military, and I get why he doesn’t talk about what happened, for fear of what would happen to his relatives still in North Korea.  It has to be bad if it puts them at risk, and they did have to leave where they were living because of it, but I am curious about what really happened.  To me, though, it seemed like his did something that would have been fine nearly anywhere else in the world.  It’s sad and horrifying what they’ll apparently do to people who don’t follow along and who aren’t compliant with what the government wants.

It’s hard to wrap my mind around that, and once again, it’s hard to imagine not knowing what happened to your family and friends, particularly friends who are considered family.  I hope his mother and friends are okay, and that one day, if it’s something he wants, he will learn what happened to him.  I doubt it, if the entire book is any indication, but one can hope.

It was interesting to see how much of a deity Kim Jong-Il was.  People had their own opinions, as we see in the book, but it’s amazing how much people believed in him and looked up to him.  It was definitely clear to me, while reading Every Falling Star, that you really had to be careful about what you said and did, because you never what happen if people thought you weren’t anything other than a model citizen.

Every Falling Star is an eye-opener, and though it’s YA, it’s one of those books that everyone should read.  You see how quickly Lee changed when he realized that not everyone is cared for, like he originally thought, and what it must be like for most people living in North Korea

4 stars.  I thought this book was a great read, and an insight into a country that most only hear about on the news.

Book Review: The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith

Book: The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith

Published March 2016 by Margaret K Elderberry Books|367 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

In the tradition of Speak, this extraordinary debut novel shares the unforgettable story of a young woman as she struggles to find strength in the aftermath of an assault.

Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.

What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.

Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year—this provocative debut reveals the deep cuts of trauma. But it also demonstrates one young woman’s strength as she navigates the disappointment and unbearable pains of adolescence, of first love and first heartbreak, of friendships broken and rebuilt, and while learning to embrace a power of survival she never knew she had hidden within her heart.

Before I start reviewing, rape, drugs and drinking are things that we see in the book, and therefore, are mentioned in this review.

When I saw that this book was in the tradition of Speak, I knew I had to read it.  Unfortunately, I didn’t like it, and if the reviews and ratings are any indication, I am clearly in the minority.  It definitely didn’t live up to Speak, though I do see some comparisons between the two- both books follow a teen as she deals with the aftermath of rape, and not saying anything, I do think speak did it a lot better

I felt for Eden, I really did.  No one should have to go through what she went through, and unfortunately, her story in one that happens frequently.

Even with everything she’s going through, I found that Eden was a hard character to like.  She had some self-destructive tendencies, and it was hard to watch her downward spiral of sex, drugs and alcohol.  There are some great books about teens dealing with rape, like Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and Some Boys by Patty Blount, and I think those add a lot more to both YA in general, but particularly when discussing rape, its aftermath, and how we treat rape victims.  I thought this book didn’t really add anything to that.

The span of time could have been interesting, but the structure of the book didn’t work at all, and I thought it was, well, a mess.  I felt like huge gaps of time were missing.  I know things for Eden weren’t easy, and she was dealing with something traumatic on her own, and she didn’t know who she was anymore.  She didn’t seem interested in things she really liked, and clearly the drugs, sex, and alcohol were her way of numbing the pain and trauma of what happened.  I get everyone deals with things differently, and by no means am I judging her for that.  I hope she gets the help she needs.

The structure, though…one minute, she’s hanging out in the library during her lunch and has glasses, and the next thing you know, she’s wearing contacts, has dropped out of things like band, and is the complete opposite of who she was just months earlier.  Her parents are another good example of missing time- one minute, they’re mom and dad, and they are seen talking, but the next thing you know, she’s calling them by their first name, and they communicate solely by notes in the kitchen.  When did that happen?  I feel like things needed to be filled in a little more, because it felt like parts of her downward spiral were being skipped in favor of nothing that I actually care about.

I don’t know what to think of her relationships with her family and friends.  And by friends, I really mean Mara, who seemed to be her only friend.  She’s fighting with her parents, her brother doesn’t seem to care about her, and Mara tries, but eventually can’t take Eden’s behaviour anymore.  I mean, she seemed to change pretty drastically, and yet, we never see her parents question it.  So either she was really good at hiding things and sneaking around, or they didn’t seem to care, at least from what we see in the book.

But when you consider the fact that it seemed like Smith skipped over some things, maybe her parents did try to do or say something but we never saw it.  And why did it seem to take so long for Cameron and Mara to say something to her?  I don’t get it, but sure, let’s take a while to say something about how our friend is acting.

Let’s talk about the ending before I wrap this up.  I am glad that she finally said something, but I was a little sad by what it took for her to say something.  I know everyone is different, and like I said earlier, I hope she gets some help and deals with what happened in a healthy way.  Was the ending emotional?  Of course it was.  I’m not completely heartless, and I was crying.  I hate saying this, I really do, but I’m going to say it anyway: by the ending, I just didn’t care what happened to Eden, and it was too late.  While I didn’t like Amanda (from the glimpses we saw), Amanda saying something led to Eden finally saying something, and hopefully that is a good start for her.

What happened to her shouldn’t happen to anyone, and the sad reality is that it does happen.  While this book clearly isn’t for me, it could be for someone else.

1 star.  The structure of the story didn’t work for me, and it felt like parts of Eden’s story were left out.  This book didn’t work for me but don’t let that keep you from picking up this book if it’s up your alley.

Book Review: The Final Six by Alexandra Monir

Book: The Final Six by Alexandra Monir

Published March 2018 by HarperTeen|345 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Sci-Fi

When Leo, an Italian championship swimmer, and Naomi, a science genius from California, are two of the twenty-four teens drafted into the International Space Training Camp, their lives are forever altered. After erratic climate change has made Earth a dangerous place to live, the fate of the population rests on the shoulders of the final six who will be scouting a new planet. Intense training, global scrutiny, and cutthroat opponents are only a few of the hurdles the contestants must endure in this competition.

For Leo, the prospect of traveling to Europa—Jupiter’s moon—to help resettle humankind is just the sense of purpose he’s been yearning for since losing his entire family in the flooding of Rome. Naomi, after learning of a similar space mission that mysteriously failed, suspects the ISTC isn’t being up front with them about what’s at risk.

As the race to the final six advances, the tests get more challenging—even deadly. With pressure mounting, Naomi finds an unexpected friend in Leo, and the two grow closer with each mind-boggling experience they encounter. But it’s only when the finalists become fewer and their destinies grow nearer that the two can fathom the full weight of everything at stake: the world, the stars, and their lives.

I had a hard time getting into this book, to the point that I did not like it.  At all.

I mean, sure, I read this book in three days, but the more I read, the more I didn’t like it.  Is it an interesting idea?  Absolutely.  A book about a group of teenagers trying to start a settlement on Jupiter’s moon sounds cool.  But this book just didn’t work for me.

One of my biggest issues were the narrators.  The Final Six follows two teens, Naomi and Leo, as they go through training at the ISTC.

For starters, their chapters/sections sound EXACTLY the same.  The 24 teens are divided into different groups, and of course, Naomi and Leo are on the same team.  It makes no sense to have both of them narrate, at least for most of the book.  It isn’t until the end of the book where it made sense to see two different perspective.  Are they doing different things for most of the book?  No, they most certainly were not.  They’re together  for most of the book, especially with the training exercises, and that is what a lot of the books are.

Their chapters sounded exactly the same, and if it weren’t for the header of Leo or Naomi, I wouldn’t know who we were supposed to be following.  Not that it would have made a difference, because there was no shift in perspective.  Well, for the most part.  The few times they aren’t together…let’s just say that even when they’re not together, there isn’t much difference between their voices.

And the other thing with the narration is this: for the most part, each chapter focuses on either Leo or Naomi.  There are times at the beginning where we change narrators mid-chapter.  Thankfully, that was just at the beginning, when we’re still figuring out what’s going on, and we’re seeing how they’re dealing with being drafted into this program.  It was jarring, though, and really put me off of the narration.

It didn’t help that I didn’t care for Naomi or Leo.  Or any of the other characters.  But especially them, since we see them the most.  I get Naomi wanted to take care of her brother, and didn’t want to leave him or her family, but I also didn’t like how she seemed to hate having to go.  I mean, I get it, but you were chosen, and it doesn’t mean you’ll be part of the final six.  It’s a stark comparison to most of the other 24, who have nothing to return to if they’re not selected.  Like Leo.  I get he didn’t want to go back to Italy, and that being selected meant everything to him, but in case, it did get tiring.  Instead of feeling sympathy, I felt irritated at how whiny they seemed.

There were some twists, but if I’m being honest, I had a hard time caring about anything.  I didn’t care about some of the reveals, or some of the things that were hinted at.

And that ending!  At first, when I finished it, I was thinking that I wasn’t sure if I was interested in continuing with the series.  I really hated this book, and that is not something I say lightly.  But I was curious about what would happen next…and to my surprise, this book seems like a stand alone.  It is weird, because it seemed like it was setting up for future books, and it ends on a note that would make you think that there is more to come.  And yet, there is no series information, which makes me think this was a stand alone.

Though I probably wouldn’t continue with a series, it really felt like a first book to me.  I’ve read (and started) more than my fair share of series, and this book gave off a first book vibe.  So either series information isn’t out yet, or it might be coming, or it’s a stand alone.  I’m actually not sure where I’m going with this, but I did finish the book feeling like there should have been more answers if it is indeed a stand alone.

1 star.  I feel like my rating isn’t a surprise at this point, and if you, for some reason, didn’t pick up on this, I didn’t like The Final Six.  It’s a cool idea, but if you like people settling on a different planet (or moon, in this case), Across The Universe is a much better book to read.

Book: Everless by Sara Holland, Narrated by Eileen Stevens

Book: Everless by Sara Holland, Narrated by Eileen Stevens

Published January 2018 by HarperAudio|Length: 9 hours, 59 minutes

Where I Got It: I borrowed the audio book from the library

Series: Everless #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.

No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.

I really liked Everless!  I really liked the idea of time being currency, and how how they go about getting time from people.

Some of the characters weren’t what I expected.  You think you know who the goods guys and the bad guys are, and then you’re taken off guard because people are not what you thought.  It did make the book interesting, because I liked that things weren’t what they seemed.

I also really liked the world-building.  It was a little confusing at times, particularly towards the end, but I think a lot of it is probably because I was listening to the audio.  I felt like I needed to write it down to figure it out, which would have been a bad idea because I was driving.  Maybe I’ll check out the print version and re-read it to see if it makes more sense.  Anyway, I did like that we learned things as Jules learned things, and I think that’s why things weren’t what they seemed.  At the same time, though, I think it also made things feel a little bit muddles because I wasn’t completely sure what was going on mythology wise.  And I think there is a lot to explore, so hopefully we’ll learn more in the next book.

Jules is definitely different.  There were times I thought she was really reckless, and she did put herself in harm’s way on more than one occasion.  I have the feeling not everyone will like her, and while I didn’t hate her, I also didn’t love her.  I felt bad for her, but overall, I think I’m neutral towards her.  I did like the friendship she had with Ina, and she didn’t seem jealous of her, considering Ina was set to marry Rowan.  That was nice for a change, because I feel like it would have been really easy to do the complete opposite.

The book did feel a little slow at times, particularly in the middle, but I got through it.  I thought Eileen Stevens did a great job narrating.  I did feel like she was Jules, and she did pretty well with the different voices.  While I’m not running out and adding everything she’s narrated to my audible wish list, I also wouldn’t mind listening to a book she’s narrated if it was something I wanted to read.

4 stars.  I really liked Everless, though I thought some of the world-building/mythology a little confusing. I’d still recommend Everless, and the concept is pretty cool.

Book Review: Empress Of A Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza and Reign Of The Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

Book: Empress Of A Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

Published February 2017 by Razorbill|314 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Empress Of A Thousand Skies #1

Genre: YA Sci-Fi

Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an wants vengeance.

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, Rhee has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne – and her revenge.

Alyosha is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding – even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.

This was a book I was really excited about reading, but unfortunately, I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.

The book follows Rhee and Aly, and their stories didn’t match up the way I thought it would.  I felt like the story in the summary was completely different than the story I actually read.  The alternating POV’s didn’t really work for me (which is usually what happens), and I didn’t care for either of their stories.  Also, I felt like it made things more confusing than they needed to be.

If you’re going for similar books, Carve The Mark and These Broken Stars come to mind.  Especially Carve The Mark, so I think if you liked that one, you’d probably like this one.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really like Carve The Mark, so it’s not that surprising that I didn’t like this one.  It’s your typical lost princess out for vengeance who is also trying to re-claim her throne story.  It’s different enough, though, because someone gets accused of murder who didn’t actually do it- this happens pretty early on, so while it is a spoiler, I don’t consider it too big of a spoiler.

I did feel bad for Aly, because he really had to think twice about his behavior.  Things that other characters could do without a second thought, Aly had to think about because he faces a lot of prejudice.  There are some parallels to things we see, and I thought that part was really well done.

Overall, though, I just wasn’t into the story.  As pretty as the cover is, and as cool as the book sounds, I had a hard time getting into it.  I also had a really hard time picturing where all of the planets were in relation to each other.

My Rating: 2 stars.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t a big fan of the book, but if fantasy in space is your thing, this is a book worth checking out.

Book: Reign Of The Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

Published January 2018 by Razorbill|375 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Reign Of The Fallen #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

Odessa is one of Karthia’s master necromancers, catering to the kingdom’s ruling Dead. Whenever a noble dies, it’s Odessa’s job to raise them by retrieving their souls from a dreamy and dangerous shadow world called the Deadlands. But there is a cost to being raised–the Dead must remain shrouded, or risk transforming into zombie-like monsters known as Shades. If even a hint of flesh is exposed, the grotesque transformation will begin.

A dramatic uptick in Shade attacks raises suspicions and fears among Odessa’s necromancer community. Soon a crushing loss of one of their own reveals a disturbing conspiracy: someone is intentionally creating Shades by tearing shrouds from the Dead–and training them to attack. Odessa is faced with a terrifying question: What if her necromancer’s magic is the weapon that brings Karthia to its knees?

This was another book I was excited about but ended up not really liking.  It’s a cool idea, and the world was really interesting, but for the most part, I thought this book was confusing.

Though the world itself was interesting- and somewhat unique- I also thought it didn’t make a lot of sense.  Things weren’t explained very well, at least for me, and as the book went on, I had a hard time caring about Odessa and everything she lost.

The loss of a loved one in a world where the dead can be raised had a lot of potential, but I didn’t think the execution was quite there.  It was boring, and there were a lot of things I didn’t care about.  I felt like the things I did care about didn’t really come up or weren’t really explored, and the things I didn’t care about were coming up a lot.

I was bored.  I didn’t feel anything, though it seemed like I should have.  While I wasn’t expecting a lot of action, I still felt like I was struggling to get through it.  How I did, I have no idea, because this book seemed so slow.

Her grief and addiction were really well done, I will say that.  Her not wanting help from people after losing someone was easy to understand.  Part of me really wishes that my disinterest in the book was reading it at the wrong time, particularly because it’s about a character who is dealing with grief.  But I’ve read a few other books recently that have a character dealing with grief, and I was really invested in those books, so maybe this one just didn’t work for me.

My Rating: 2 stars.  It’s a cool idea, but it didn’t work for me.  I thought the world was interesting but boring, and while I wanted to like it, I just couldn’t.