Book Review: Emergency Contact

Title: Emergency Contact

Author: Mary H. K. Choi

Publisher: Simon& Schuster Books for Young Readers

Format: Hardback

Penny Lee is heading to college and glad. High school wasn’t for her, and she’s happy to be spreading her wings and staring her journey to being a writer. Her first day, she meets Sam, her roommates “uncle” and is immediately attracted. Meanwhile, Sam is overwhelmed with the idea his ex-girlfriend might be pregnant and not in the best place in his life. When a panic attack causes him and Penny to cross paths again, they agree to become each other’s emergency contact and start texting each other. The more they text, the more attracted they are toward each other, but each is unsure if they’re ready to take the next step.

I struggled with this one. I just found Penny to be so unlikable. She judges everyone from her mom to her new roommate and just… I don’t know. Isn’t very nice. Now, I know characters don’t need to be nice to be likable, or a character doesn’t need to be likable for a story to be good, but in this case, it was detrimental to the plot. 

However, I think Penny’s likability was part of her journey as a character. The more Penny and Sam communicated, the more understandable Penny became. She opened up to the world, she faced her flaws, and she became more well rounded.

Sam didn’t go through quite the same journey. He had issues that he had to work through, and he did, and was changed from the beginning, but I don’t feel like he experienced quite the same growth and awakening as Penny did. I liked him better than Penny, but I wasn’t as invested in him.

This book overall was interesting. The characters went through growth and helped me relate to and understand them better. I struggled in the beginning, and I feel there were some threads that were left unfinished or hanging, but it was a solid read with a good ending.

Book review: We Rule the Night

Revna is a factory worker who can illegally manipulate the Weave, a form of magic that holds the world together. Linne is a soldier who defied her father, dressed herself as a boy, and ran away to join the army. When the two are caught, they are offered a chance to serve the Union: use their magic and join an all-female squadron of pilots to fight against the enemy. The problem is, the two girls can barely stand each other and the plane, made by “living metal” that can sense emotions, becomes difficult to manage with the tension in the cockpit. Can the two young women set aside their differences and become a team? Or will the tension become too much for them to overcome?

This was a really relentlessly depressing book. That’s not a knock on the book, because the plot was interesting, the characters were well developed, and I liked the descriptions of how the girls trained and became a unit. But everywhere, there was resistance and sexism and the threat of torture and death. Revna and her squad spend the whole book convinced that the moment the war ends, they’ll all be arrested for using illegal magic. And, really? I think that fear is well founded. The government and the secret police are terrifying and oppressive to the extreme.

Also depressing was the relationship between Linne and Revna. Individually, I like both the girls. Linne has been a soldier for the past few years and is adjusting to having to be a woman again. She’s disdainful of the women in her squadron and prejudice against Revna because of Revna’s prosthetic legs. In fact, she’s outright cruel, and sometimes it was hard to like her. Revna was much easier to take. I understood her fear and depression over the state of being. She’s torn between hating the Union for what it’s done to her and wanting to be a good Union girl. She desperately wants to be a pilot to save her mother and sister, but finds personal freedom in it as well.

This book has some adventure and a lot of intrigue. It’s just a very heavy book and hard to handle at times. I also wish there had been a little explanation as to what the Weave and living metal was. I got it from context, but I’d have liked to delve deeper. All in all, it was an okay book.

Book Review: Clockwork Angel

Title: Clockwork Angel

Author: Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Format: Paperback

Tessa Gray travels to Victorian England to live with her brother, Nathaniel, after the passing of their aunt. But instead of the quiet life she expects, she’s abducted by the mysterious “Dark Sisters” who teach her to use a power she never knew she had: the ability to change shape into another person. Under threat from the Pandemonium Club and the Magister, the head of the organization, Tess despairs of ever being free again. However, she is rescued by a group of warriors called the Shadowhunters, who free her from the clutches of the Dark Sisters and thrust her into a world unlike she has ever known.

I really enjoyed this book. I picked it up sort of on a whim when I was at the library the other day. They didn’t have another book I wanted, and my sister has told me that she thought I’d enjoy this one, so I decided to give it a try. I found the plot really engaging and didn’t want to put the book down. I was intrigued by the magic system and the Nephilim and Downworlds. I thought the organization and rules of the world were very clever.

The character were interesting, but they do feel a little unfinished somehow. They’re painted in broad strokes. Will Herondale, who is sharp, caustic, clever, and beautiful, borders on being more of a cliche than a fully realized character. However, he has some depth to him that pops up throughout the book that saves him from being too shallow (in fact, for all that I feel he’s not quite a fully realized character, yet, he reminds me a lot of someone I know in real life. So I’m not quite sure what to do with that.) I think, however, it’s less to do with the writing and character and more to do with the fact this is the first book in the series and just an introduction. The ending certainly suggests there’s a lot more to Will.

I also really liked Tessa. She’s your typical heroine where she thinks she’s average and ordinary, and then is thrust into extraordinary circumstances. I like how she adapts to her situation, and I especially like that one of the main ways she adapts is through books and reading. I like how she deals with Will and how sure of her own worth she is.

I’m a little less than thrilled that there appears there may be a love triangle in the series. I’m not totally opposed to them, but I’m not usually happy when they appear. I am very concerned as to how it will play out.

This book was a really fun read. I almost wish I hadn’t read it first out of my selections, because I have three more books to read before I go back to get the other Infernal Devices books. Unless, you know, I say screw it and just go and get them anyway. We’ll see.

Book review: Last Sons of America

Title: Last Sons of America

Author: Phillip Kennedy Johnson

Illustrator: Matthew Dow Smith

Colorist: Doug Garbark

Format: Graphic Novel

Publisher: Boom!Studios

After a biological attack on America makes everyone infertile, the only way to have children is to adopt from other countries. Jackie and Julian are adoption agents stationed in Nicaragua. They go to families with children, those who are poor and need money, and negotiate on behalf of prospective parents. But it’s becoming harder to do this legally because child abductions are on the rise. Desperate, Jackie decides to kidnap a child to sell. Of course, he chooses the exact wrong child, the daughter of a local crime lord. Now, Jackie and Julian find themselves in the midst of a conspiracy that will turn their world on its head.

This was a kind of tough read. It started really well and the consistency of the writing stayed high throughout. It was the subject matter that was hard to deal with, especially by the third volume. I found I had to put it down and read something else just because it was so horrifying. The entire concept is difficult. It reminded me a little bit of Children of Men, where no one was having children, but in this case, it’s just America and not the whole world. The idea of people buying and selling children–and more–his terrifying in the extreme.

I liked the characters. Julian was more sympathetic and a good guy. Jackie was the “older” brother, but he really acted immaturely and in desperation. My favorite character was Sara. She had a good heart, was bold and brave, and is a Star Wars fan, which is awesome.

Personally, I didn’t find the art anything to write home about. It was serviceable and got the story across, but there wasn’t anything noteworthy about it.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was sobering and scary, but action filled and tense. I liked the characters and the plot and thought the writers and artists did a good job.

Book review: Aurora Rising

Title: Aurora Rising

Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Format: e-book

When Tyler Jones sneaks off to venture into the Fold, he never stops to consider that he might lose his ideal place in the Draft. But, thanks to a last minute rescue operation, he does Now his squad if filled with the cadets no one else wants. But that’s not his biggest problem. The biggest problem happens when a routine mission to deliver aid to a space station goes to hell thanks to Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he rescued from cryo-sleep where she’d been trapped for over two hundred years. Now, he and his squad are on the run from their own people, unsure why they’re running or what, exactly, they’re up against.

Oh my goodness, this book was so much fun! It was seriously great. I love all the characters, especially Aurora and Kal. Aurora is just amazing. Her entire world has just fallen apart, and she manages to hold it together even as her body starts doing things she can’t control. She’s smart and savvy and thoughtful. I just love her.

Kal was practically made for me. I’m not usually into warrior races, but there’s just something about him that really resonated. Plus, he gets a trope that I love and pulls it off in a way that makes me ache for him and root for him and want to scream at him all at once.

Scarlett was also great. She’s the squad’s diplomat and she’s very good at her job. She’s compassionate and empathetic, but also sarcastic and sassy. She flouts rules and regulations, but never fails to do her job to the best of her ability. It’s wonderful.

The plot was very well done and kept me on the edge of my seat. I usually get a little frustrated with multiple points of view, and this book gave chapters to every single squad member which could have been annoying, but it wasn’t. All the characters had really distinct voices and inner lives. It was very compelling.

I am so glad I read this book and the wait for the next one is going to be agony.

Book review: The Alchemist

Title: The Alchemist

Author: Paulo Coelho

Publisher: Harper Collins

Format: audio

Narrator: Jeremy Irons

Length: 4 h 1 m

When a young shepherd has a dream that he finds a treasure in Egypt, he never imagines it will lead him on a journey both physical and spiritual. An encounter with a man claiming to be a king leads the boy to sell his flock and journey to Africa. There, he is met with a series of adventures and misadventures, all which lead him to a deeper understanding of the language of the world.

I’m honestly not quite sure what to say about this book or how to talk about it. I definitely enjoyed it. I listened to it on audio and it was a very pleasurable experience. The story was interesting and moved along at a good pace. I was rooting for the boy to both find his treasure and realize his spiritual journey. I was satisfied with the ending.

But, a little over halfway through, I did get a little tired of how everyone the boy met seemed to speak the same language. Everyone talked to him in terms of personal legends and the language of the world and the language of the desert and, for a little while, it got to be a little tedious. But then it was saved again by the flow of the story, so my irritation went away.

The book did give me a lot to think about in a good way. I’m not the most comfortable in the realm of spirituality, but this book offered food for thought in a way that was palatable and understandable to me. It was really interesting, and I’m glad I finally got around to reading it.

Book review: King of Fools

Title: King of Fools

Author: Amanda Foody

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Format: e-book

Having survived the Shadow Game, Enne Salta and Levi Glaisyer find themselves with prices on their heads and a newfound notoriety. Levi plans to use this to gain more power and status in New Reynes. He forms an alliance with Vianca Augustine’s son, Harrison, in a complicated plot to bring Vianca down. Enne, in the meantime, under the guise of Seance, begins to make her name as a street lord and build her own gang. Both are still trapped by Vianca’s binding, and must navigate the world of politics, street gangs, and high society in order to come out on top.

This book was a lot of fun. There was a lot of political intrigue going on, which was interesting to read about. I liked Enne’s story line the most. She is determined to take down the people who killed her mother and stake her own claim on the world, and she’s going to do it on her terms. She makes a lot of uncomfortable compromises and isn’t always happy with the choices she’s forced to make, but she’s a force and enthralling while making them.

I continue to be less interested in Levi, although I am sympathetic to his plight. He wants fame and fortune, but is sensitive and feels remorse when his choices are bad for his friends. I really like that he’s bisexual and that plays a large part in this book. I like that, even if he’s not my favorite character, I can empathize with him and root for him, wanting him to succeed. 

Overall, this was a gripping book that was hard to put down. It moved at a good pace and had lots of surprises that kept me guessing. I loved seeing Enne start coming into her own power, and the ending makes me desperate for the next book. Darn those cliffhangers!