Thursday, December 31, 2015

ARC Review: Passenger

Title: Passenger
Author: Alexandra Bracken
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Format: eARC*
Goodreads | BookDepository

“In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles, but years from home. And she's inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she's never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods-a powerful family in the Colonies-and the servitude he's known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can't escape and the family that won't let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, his passenger, can find. In order to protect her, Nick must ensure she brings it back to them-whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods' grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home forever.”


Ever since BEA earlier this year, the hype has been all too real for Alexandra Bracken’s upcoming YA time travel novel, Passenger.  I adored The Darkest Minds trilogy, a gritty X-Men-esque survival story, so I had high hopes that Bracken would knock it out of the park with her new novel, out January 5. At the end of the day, however, I’m not sure how I feel about this. Nearly every review I’ve read of Passenger has sung its praises, touting it as Bracken’s best work. But I felt a bit underwhelmed, which is disappointing. Passenger was a highly anticipated 2016 release, but it ended up being a pretty middle of the road read for me.

I should have loved this book. It’s got time travel, epic romance, adventure, and secrets. Some of my favorite things! Plus there’s a healthy dose of pirates, and a portion of this book takes place at sea. The concept of this novel is so intriguing – a girl gets whisked into the past and discovers that she comes from a family of time travelers, but she has to go on a mission to find a missing object in order to return to her time. (This is like Outlander meets Doctor Who, amiright?) Every character in this book is ruthless, and that really enriched the reading experience for me, knowing that although there are some very likable or seemingly bland characters, each of them is willing to betray whoever it takes to achieve their ends (even in the name of good). We all know I love moral ambiguity.

Although this is billed as an adventure tale, Passenger is ultimately a love story. The romance between Etta and Nicholas, while bordering on insta-love, is sweet and pretty swoony, I can’t lie. They come from drastically different times, so seeing them try to bridge the cultural gap throughout their travels adds so much to their relationship. The tensions that arise between an 18th century guy and 21st century girl (hello, bare calves!), help to provide greater nuance to these characters, who on their own sometimes feel stiff. But the moments between them are very romantic, and I was absolutely rooting for these two throughout the story. I loved that we have an interracial couple front and center in a YA fantasy (YA anything, for that matter).

While I adored the relationship between Etta and Nicholas, this was not just a romance story. And it’s the time travel aspect that was a huge letdown for me. I found the world building and actual time traveling to be very confusing, and the explanations we get are sporadic and unclear. The reader is told that the stakes are incredibly high throughout the novel, but I never quite felt it. That’s probably because the book is so put-downable, which is a word I made up to describe how easy it is to put a book down and walk away from it. I did this several times during the first half of the book, because it took ages for anything to really happen. It isn’t even until halfway into this 400-page tome that Etta is actually tasked with the quest that is supposed to propel the entire duology’s storyline (yes, Passenger is the first in a series so hopefully the second book will clear up my issues with this one).

Passenger was a good read, especially after the halfway points when the action (and romance) picks up. But I was expecting a great read, and I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I pick up a time travel adventure story, I want to be unable to turn the page fast enough. So ultimately, while Passenger was a solidly good first book, it wasn’t as amazing as I’d hoped, and I ended up underwhelmed. Hopefully the sequel, Wayfarer, will hit the ground running and pick up the pace from this first installment.

I’d still recommend this for fans of Alex Bracken and time travel stories, especially if you like your adventures with a healthy dose of romance.

Rating: 3.5 stars

*I received a free ARC via Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Top 10 Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases For the First Half of 2016

Today is a Top 10 Tuesday post! TTT was created by the awesome ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish, check out their blog for great reviews and future TTT topics!


1. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater. The fourth and final installment of the Raven Cycle Quartet comes out April 26, 2016, and I’m already planning to take the day off of work to read it. With a lot of tissues and all my feelings.

2. A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab. This sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic is released February 23, 2016, and I cannot wait to dive back into Schwab’s fantastic world of alternate dimensions based in London. Hopefully this time there are more kisses. I don’t care who’s kissing, as long as there are more kisses. I’m easily pleased.

3. The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye. Released on May 17, this YA fantasy sounds like the Tsarist Russian version of The Night Circus – a magical competition will pit our two main characters against each other, but I get the feeling there will be just as much angsty romance as magic, and I’m very excited.

4. Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop. The fourth book in The Courtyard of the Others series will hopefully answer my most burning question: WILL MEG AND SIMON FINALLY GET TOGETHER?!

5. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Y’all, this book. I need this book. After falling in love with Between Shades of Grey, I know that this February 2 release about a ship that sinks during WWII will break my heart in the beautiful way that Ruta Sepetys does best.

6. The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood. This May 3 release is a YA scifi of sorts that encompasses time travel, quantum physics, and romance. SIGN ME UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.

7. The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski. After the cover change that was-and-then-wasn’t-and-will-be, I was momentarily put off of this third and final book in the Winner’s Trilogy, coming March 29. But regardless of the cover, I need to know what’s going to happen to Kestrel and, if the title is any indication, just how much she’ll be kissing Arin. Please let the kisses be Kestrel/Arin kisses. (This is becoming a very kiss-focused post.)

8. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas. After not being super impressed with A Court of Thorns and Roses earlier this year, I am still looking forward to its sequel, coming out May 3. ACOMAF is apparently going to have some Persephone/Hades aspects, which we all know I’m trash for. Hopefully the Night Court lives up to my swoony expectations. Hello, Rhysand.

9. The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine. This is a Snow White retelling, coming out on February 16, and I always keep coming back to fairytale retellings. This seems to have even more magic that the original, and a feistier female protagonist. So fingers crossed this story is deserving of that cover, and we don’t have another Red Queen situation.

10. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows. I’ll be honest, the thought of three authors writing this June 7 release makes me pretty anxious. Three authors, really? But the undeniably truth of the matter is that I love Jane Grey and that cover is fantastic. This is pretty much a done deal for me. Plus the synopsis sounds super sassy, so I’m fully committed.

What are your most anticipated releases for the first half of 2016? Let me know!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

DNF Diaries: The Casquette Girls

Title: The Casquette Girls
Author: Alys Arden
Publisher: Skyscape
Publication Date: November 17, 2015
Format: eARC*

“After the storm of the century rips apart New Orleans, sixteen-year-old Adele Le Moyne and her father are among the first to return. Adele wants nothing more than to resume her normal life, but with the silent city resembling a war zone, a parish-wide curfew, and mysterious new faces lurking in the abandoned French Quarter, normal needs a new definition.

Strange events—even for New Orleans—lead Adele to an attic that has been sealed for three hundred years. The chaos she accidentally unleashes threatens not only her but also everyone she knows. Caught in a hurricane of myths and monsters, Adele must untangle a web of magic that weaves the climbing murder rate back to her own ancestors. But who can you trust in a city where everyone has secrets and keeping them can mean life or death? Unless…you’re immortal.”

I should have posted my review a long time ago – this book was released in November, and I had the ARC for a month or so before then. But the truth is, I didn’t know what to say. This book sounds so intriguing from the synopsis: New Orleans! Magic! Secrets! I thought I’d be reading a post-Katrina version of American Horror Story: Coven. I thought, since the author herself is from New Orleans, there was little chance I wouldn’t love this story. Turns out, I couldn’t even force myself to finish it.

Welcome to DNF Diaries.

I’ve decided to start a new series of sorts on my blog, DNF Diaries, to discuss the books that I simply did not finish. I feel like DNFing books is still a slightly taboo topic in the book community, and many people think that once they start a book, they have to finish it. Life’s too short to read bad books, so I’m going to use this series as a means to have a more open forum about DNFing books, and what leads us to ultimately abandon a book.

For this first installment of DNF Diaries, I’m discussing The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden. Now, I had high hopes for this book. It’s published by Skyscape, Amazon’s self-publishing teen imprint that also put out the Penryn and the End of Days trilogy by Susan Ee. I’ll admit that I have my reservations about self-published novels, which is perhaps elitist of me, but nonetheless true. Unfortunately, this book didn’t change my opinions.

The Casquette Girls tells the story of Adele, who returns to New Orleans after The Storm (never actually named, but obviously meant to represent Hurricane Katrina) and uncovers secrets of the magical sort when she starts exploring in her attic and attending a new school.
The Good: I really enjoyed the concept of this story, and thought a YA novel about post-Katrina New Orleans would be brilliant. There is so much potential! So much of New Orleans’ history and culture is woven into the story in a way that isn’t all Mardi Gras and whatever tourists expect when they visit Louisiana. However…

The Bad: The author is from New Orleans, and she never lets you forget it. The reader is constantly beaten over the head with long, winding, and unnecessary exposition about the neighborhoods in the city, the street names, and how much Adele LOVES NEW ORLEANS OK SHE LOVES IT SO MUCH. This book is over 500 pages long and it felt like the vast majority of the first 200 were wasted in this manner.

The Ugly: The fact of the matter is that the writing is the biggest downfall. Characters are unbelievably written, with little to no personality between them except to fulfill recycled YA tropes. It’s the interaction between characters, however, that was especially unpleasant to read. Every conversation feels forced, like the author is just trying to connect plot points, and the way Adele converses with people is unrealistic at best. I made it to 25% of this novel and literally nothing had happened other than Adele waxing poetically about New Orleans and having contrived interactions with a handful of other characters.

You can probably see why I had to DNF this book. Nothing felt natural, or enjoyable, or gave me any hope for improvement as the story progressed. I had to quit at the 25% mark because I was so frustrated. As someone who experienced Hurricane Katrina and lived close to New Orleans, it’s disappointing that this book fell so short of my expectations. But ultimately, there are far better urban fantasy novels out there to read. I highly recommend you pick up any one of those instead, or watch AHS: Coven.

I hope you enjoyed this first installment of DNF Diaries! Let me know what it takes for you to DNF a book.

*I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.