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The Loneliness of Distant Beings by Kate Ling

The Loneliness of Distant Beings

“…this is the way things are. You know they can’t be any different. The only person you hurt by kicking against everything is you.”

‘It is that quick, it is that strong, it is that beautiful. And it is also totally impossible.’

Even though she knows it’s impossible, Seren longs to have the sunshine on her skin. It’s something she feels she needs to stay sane. But when you’re floating through space at thousands of kilometres an hour, sometimes you have to accept there are things you cannot change.

Except that the arrival of Dom in her life changes everything in ways she can barely comprehend. For a while he becomes the Sun for her; and she can’t help but stay in his orbit. Being with him flaunts every rule designed to keep their home in order, but to lose him would be like losing herself.

In the end they must decide what is most important: loyalty to the only home they’ve ever known, or to each other?

Book Links: Amazon | Book Depository | Goodreads | iBooks

Personal Thoughts:

The Loneliness of Distant Beings is a space opera novel that tell the story of Seren, a teenager who lives in a spaceship called Ventura, along with a whole community who follows rules and protocols assigned to them. Their jobs are assigned according to their skills, their homes are assigned based on the location of their work, and their life partners are chosen by the system that ensure genetic diversity and continuation of the human race. Most of them just go with it, never question the system nor the order and the rules but not Seren, especially after she met and fall for a young man who isn’t her assigned life partner.

On its surface, The Loneliness of Distant Beings is an affecting romance, but beneath the romance is a story of society trying to survive in outer space with all the rules and regulations that keeping them intact.

Kate Ling descriptions of Ventura spaceship and the life aboard in it is vivid and easy to follow. The world development is pretty flowing and absorbing making the story and situation easily believable in-spite of the outer space settings. The space settings actually reminds me of the novel/TV series The 100, while the controlled society reminds me of dystopian novels such as The Giver and Divergent.

“Funny that you never believe what people tell you about fear until you feel it for yourself.”

Seren maybe hard-headed and stubborn but those qualities actually makes her stronger than other characters. Her stubbornness makes her brave enough to question the order and the rules that they insist to them. She’s the only one who think and act of going against the system and the people who run it in order to have the life she wants. Her plans are not perfect, but at least she tried to do something. Even at times when I think what she is doing is idiotic or unreasonable I still root for her.

Captain Kat as the villain is very effective on her role. She’s strong enough to make readers believe that she is capable of harming Seren and Dom which add tension to the plot. She’s also a complex character, because in-spite of all her villainy act, she actually believe that what she is doing is right. She’s a victim of a system – a system that she and other like her believes as the key to the survival of humanity. She is willing to sacrifice few in order to save majority of her people. Sometimes cruel and unfair but she actually think that what she is doing is for the benefits of the community.

“…sometimes life can seem unfair, but things are as they are for a reason.”

Then there’s Ezra, Captain Kat’s son and Seren’s fiancée. Though the story mainly focused on Seren and Dom’s relationship, Ezra actually play an integral part at the end of the book, which for me is a huge deal. I find his character more interesting than Dom and I wish there’s more of him and his background in the story. As a son of Captain Kat, with all the privileged and top level access he has, I’m sure Ezra has interesting stories to tell.

Overall, The Loneliness of Distant Beings is a well-structured, thought provoking, and easily accessible science-fiction novel. If you don’t mind reading the romance which basically out-weight the science-fiction part then I’m sure you will enjoy this space opera novel with its interesting world and interesting take on lack of free will and making choices.

*  This review is based on a copy I received courtesy of the publisher, Little Brown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Hachette Children’s Books UK in exchange of honest opinion.

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The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star-Touched Queen

“A memory is a fine legacy to leave behind.”

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

Personal Thoughts:

Roshani Choksi’s debut novel, The Star-Touched Queen, re-imagines a Hades and Persephone storyline with a touch of Indian mythology using lyrical prose and beautiful imagery.

Mayavati (Maya) is born with a bad horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction. With this, she grew up feeling cursed by the stars, scorned by her own people, and unloved by her own family except her sister Gauri. When her father, the King of Baratha announced that she is to be marry to one of the royal princes from other Kingdoms, Maya can’t believe the news, because who would want to marry a cursed girl like her? And when the King revealed to Maya the real plan behind the wedding, which is a lot worse and complicated, Maya has no choice but to do her father’s biddings. But before she can execute the final plan, a mysterious Prince, Amar arrives and whisk her off to his mysterious kingdom, Akaran. There, Maya will soon learn about the true nature of the Prince who saved her, his kingdom and her own past.

Roshani Choksi’s wordings is something I can soaked myself into anytime of the day. Those beautiful prose, meticulously picked and arranged words are lyrical and almost melodious. Not only they are beautiful but sometimes also thought-provoking which surely capture readers’ attention.

“The worms do not take heed of caste and rank when they feast on our ashes,” the Raja said. “Your subjects will not remember you. They will not remember the shade of your eyes, the colors you favored, or the beauty of your wives. They will only remember your impression upon their hearts and whether you filled them with glee or grief. That is your immortality.”

Roshani Choksi’s description of things and surroundings are rich and vivid which makes the world of The Star-Touched Queen easily get lost into. The Kingdoms of Baratha, and Akaran are carefully woven to capture readers imaginations.

“I know emptiness. I know the taste of blood against my teeth. I know what it is to fill your belly with iron. I know pain. I know memories that won’t stay. I know the ghost of life and the perfume of souls.”

With rich and elaborate descriptions of things and surroundings, I am surprised that the characters appearance are not given so much emphasis by the author. Which for me, makes the characters more intriguing, and give readers a chance to work with their own imaginations. I actually prefer this than those novels where characters descriptions are mentioned every now and then by sickly-in-love protagonist.

Few YA books incorporated Indian mythology and folklore in their plots and I like how Roshani Choksi worked it through it this book. Not just with the settings, and characters appearance but also with the main plot line and twist that basically run the whole story. It really all blended well together. Not a thing feels force or out of place.

The only mild complaint with this book is the little character developments for both of Maya and Amar. If the next book will be a continuation of Maya and Amar’s story, then the little character development is forgivable. But since the next book is a companion story which will focus to a different character, then I feel like Maya and Amar’s characters were not given enough arc to play with. Mostly because of the reincarnation plot line. Which is one of the reasons why I don’t like much reincarnation stories. Reincarnation is a good excuse for instant connections between characters, which easily push the story to the express lane, and in return will affect my journey as a reader who will surely enjoy a slower ride with the characters.

That one quibble aside, The Star-Touched Queen is still an engaging and gorgeously written debut novel. Anyone who appreciates good writing, especially poetry, I think would love this book. And if you also love reading about fantasy, mythology, kingdom’s politics and reincarnation, all the better. I myself is looking forward to the companion novel that will focus to Maya’s sister Gauri, which I hope has more actions, given that Gauri is a warrior Princess.

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Soldier (Talon #3) by Julie Kagawa

Soldier

The price of freedom is everything.

When forced to choose between safety with the dragon organization Talon and being hunted forever as an outcast, Ember Hill chose to stand with Riley and his band of rogue dragons rather than become an assassin for Talon. She’s lost any contact with her twin brother, Dante, a Talon devotee, as well as Garret, the former-enemy soldier who challenged her beliefs about her human side.

As Ember and Riley hide and regroup to fight another day, Garret journeys alone to the United Kingdom, birthplace of the ancient and secret Order of St. George, to spy on his former brothers and uncover deadly and shocking secrets that will shake the foundations of dragons and dragonslayers alike and place them all in imminent danger as Talon’s new order rises.

Book Links: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Personal Thoughts:

Soldier is the third installment of Talon Saga which I initially thought the final installment of the series – a mistake that ruin this book for me. I go reading the book with so much expectations, particularly answers and revelations about the two organizations – Talon and St. George, and more about dragons.

“There are two type of cages, hatchling,” the Archivist said, holding up a bony finger. “One is where you have no choice in the matter. The door is locked, and your freedom has been forcibly taken from you. But the other is where you become a willing captive, caging yourself, because the alternative is not acceptable.”

Though I enjoy the first two installments, enough to make me feel excited to read Soldier, I end up a bit disappointed with this one. It feels like a filler book to me – something to bridge the first part and the end part of the series. There’s nothing new in the plot except those I already anticipated or guess from the the first two installments. The rebellion, St. George and Talon’s secret alliance, the romance, and illegal operations are things I already see coming and expected. The only new thing that I get from this third installment is the new character Jade, and even that wasn’t explore much. I wish there are more details about her and her kind. Some history to back up her very own existence and reasons for helping Garret.

Ember and Riley are still the same character. I don’t see or feel any character development from these two. It’s like Ember has nothing much to contribute in the story, and Riley unfortunately pining on her also lose his shine. All Ember do in this book is act torn between Riley and Garret and throw few flames here and then. Garret also lacked some character development, but between these three Garret is less irritating at least. The little revelations about his family near the end though little at least give something new to his character. Though most of the time, these three are just a repetition of what they are from the first two books.

Soldier though entertaining lacked depth and thrill that the first two books introduced. As much as I enjoy reading Ember and Riley adventure as rouge dragons and Garret’s attempt to uncover the connection between St. George and Talon there are just so many repetitive scenes and romantic plot lines that take away my interest. If only there are more dragons stuff than romance and rebellion I might enjoy this one more.

* This review is based on an eBook I received courtesy of the publisher, Mira Ink UK via NetGalley.

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And I Darken (The Conquerors Saga #1) by Kiersten White

And I Darken

“Souls and thrones are irreconcilable.”

NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL.

And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

Book Links: Amazon | Book Depository | B&N | Goodreads | iBooks | Local Book Store

Personal Thoughts:

And I Darken is fiction story about the historical figure Vlad The Impaler without any relation to the bloodsucking vampire that other fiction novels tried to portray him too. At least not yet from this first installment.

In this version, we have Lada as the girl version of Vlad The Impaler, who as a young Princess tried her best to excel in everything to get his father’s attention, including being cruel and heartless. Later on she and her brother Radu were taken hostage by Sultan Murad of the Ottoman Empire. Away from their land and family, both Lada and Radu find ways of coping up. Radu embrace Islam and its God, Muhammad while Lada focus on physical training with a group of soldiers who fights for the Ottoman Empire. During their stay at the palace, they met Mehmed, one of Sultan’s son who become a constant companion and close friend to them.

“Lada had a sense for power–the fine threads that connected everyone around her, the way those threads could be pulled, tightened, wrapped around someone until they cut off the blood supply. Or snapped entirely.”

Lada is cruel, heartless and vicious, and I hated her for the most part of the book, but that’s sort of the point. As a character base on Vlad The Impaler, it is expected for readers to not love or like Lada. Unless you are one of those who love heartless and sadistic characters. But in-spite of Lada being totally unlikeable and daunting, I still understand her. The way she wants to gets her father’s attention to please him, so he will finally recognize her value despite her being a girl shows her determination.

Kiersten White does an excellent job of blending fact and fiction in this book. Vlad’s background and life are weaved to Lada’s story in a way where readers will feel the rawness and reality of the story. All the heavy topics in the book are real issues from history, and worst we still have them now. Feminism, homosexuality, religion and war are just few issues that exist then and now. Though, Kiersten White doesn’t favor any side in this book nor sell propaganda it is still a good eye-opening or reminder for readers. I myself learn new things about religion and Islam from Radu and Mehmed’s lines and inner thoughts.

Another best thing that this book accomplished beside reminding me important political and social issues, is that it throws me online to check history and more facts where the story is based from. After reading, I had to read more about Vlad The Impaler and some of the characters mentioned in the story. A good refresher for me about the history of Eastern Europe during the Middle Ages.

“You once told me some lives are worth more than others. How many deaths before the scales tip out of our favor?”

Since the story is mostly based on Lada’s younger and teenage years, where she and his brother Radu are taken hostage by Murad, we don’t see yet her reign in Wallachia, which is one of the things I am excited about. If the next installment will follow history where this story is based from, then Lada in her throne in Wallachia will cover more of the wars and battles that Vlad The Impaler fought for his small kingdom. With that, I am excited to see Lada in battle, making all the decisions, tactics and sacrifices to win wars.

On the whole, And I Darken is an interesting take to Vlad The Impaler’s early life if he was born as a girl. An excellent start to anti-heroine’s journey that will surely intrigue readers about its main character, Lada and the real life historical person where she is based from.

* This review is based on a copy I received courtesy of the publisher, Delacorte Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

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Life Before by Michele Bacon

Life Before

“Running back to something takes a lot longer than running away from it.”

Seventeen years is a long time to keep secrets, so Xander Fife is very good at it: everyone believes he has a normal family. If he can just get through this summer, he’ll start his real life in college with a clean slate–no risk, no drama, no fear.

Xander’s summer plans include pick-up soccer, regular hijinks with friends, an epic road trip, and—quite possibly— the company of his ideal girlfriend, the amazing Gretchen Taylor.

Instead of kicking off what had promised to be an amazing summer, however, graduation day brings terror. His family’s secrets are thrust out into the open, forcing Xander to confront his greatest fear. Or run from it.

Armed with a fake ID, cash, and a knife, Xander skips town and assumes a new identity. In danger hundreds of miles from home, one thing is clear: Xander’s real life is already in progress and just getting through it isn’t enough.

Book Links: Amazon | Book Depository | B&N | Goodreads | iBooks

Personal Thoughts:

Life Before tells an emotional and realistic story of Xander’s Fife – a teenage boy who has a violent and abusive father, Garry. Though Xander and his mother are not living anymore with Garry, they still both suffer from his mistreatment, which later resulted to his mother’s death, and him on the run, hiding and on his own for the first time in his life. How long can Xander outrun his father? Will Xander survive on his own with only a few cash, fake ID and a knife?

For a debut novel, Life Before is surprisingly good read. It has enough drama and realism to hook readers from start to end. Xander’s story despite painful and emotionally draining is thought provoking and something that need to be told.

Xander as the main character feels like real teenager – someone we probably know in real life. His life and situation is something that anyone may go through, not just the trying to grow up in matter of days but also the abusive part of his life. We may not be on the run like Xander but we can easily find our selves trap in hard situations where we don’t have much choice but try our best to fight and try survive life.

Xander’s conflicting emotions easily mirror our own questions. Like when he is blaming himself for being a coward, when in truth, no one can really tell how someone will react in his situation, especially with the history he previously undergo. Xander sometimes made bad choices, but with few choices he has how can we blame him? He is picking one even if all the choices are poor, because he needs to.

“You weren’t living a life, Xander. You were ashamed of your parents. You kept secret the things that were happening in your life. You didn’t keep yourself from people. The Garry stuff, your mom? It’s tragic, it’s awful, but those are things that happened to you, not who you are.”

Michele Bacon didn’t show in graphic details all of Xander’s sufferings but with Xander’s raw and honest dialogues, readers will still feel Xander’s emotional journey. His hatred to his father show how much he and his mother were mistreated, his closeness to his best friend Jill and her family shows how much he wants to have a normal life, and him running away shows how much he wants to live more.

Aside from Xander, there are few characters in the story that leave wonderful thoughts and reminders for readers. Like Curt who showed Xander’s that strangers can also be friend or family who will surprise you if you let them in. Curt’s Mom and Xander’s Mom who both remind us that life is short and fragile and that we need to value it before it’s too late. And Jill and her family who shows kindness and unconditional love to Xander.

“Maybe that’s what life is: a series of tearing your heart into tiny pieces and giving them to other people. Maybe as soon as you detach yourself from someone you love, you can never be whole again.”

All in all, Life Before is a powerful novel. With compelling storyline, and realistic characters this book is an engaging read from start to end. For a debut novel, Author Michele Bacon does an incredible job telling a sensitive and dark story through Xander’s raw and honest voice. Looking forward for more books from this talented new author.

* This review is based on an a copy I received courtesy of the author & her publicist. 

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The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout

The Problem with Forever

“In their minds, they still had forever. But we knew better. Forever was something forever was something we all took for granted, but the problem with forever was that it really didn’t exist.”

For some people, silence is a weapon. For Mallory “Mouse” Dodge, it’s a shield. Growing up, she learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime.

Now, after years of homeschooling with loving adoptive parents, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at public high school. But of all the terrifying and exhilarating scenarios she’s imagined, there’s one she never dreamed of—that she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.

It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet the deeper their bond grows, the more it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with the lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory faces a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants, and the truths that need to be heard.

Book Links: Amazon | Book Depository | B&N | Goodreads | iBooks

Personal Thoughts:

Mallory and Rider grew up in a foster home where the adults who are supposed to take care of them failed them. Neglected and mistreated these two try very hard to survive together everyday. Silence becomes Mallory’s shield aside from Rider who took the role of her protector. Until the night of a horrific incident that lead to their separation. Mallory found a new home with a couple who love her as their own child. While Rider is still part of the foster care. Though his foster family take care of him, he still doesn’t feel owning them. Years later, Mallory and Rider’s path cross again in high school. Rider is a reminder of the past – a past that Mallory is trying to bury behind in order to moved forward to her new life. But no matter how hard she tried, Rider is part of her life that she cannot erase.

Right from the prologue, Jennifer L. Almentrout trust the readers to the dark and heartbreaking scene of Mallory and Riders childhood life. Though I’m not really familiar with the whole foster system of America, I can easily feel the reality behind those scenes. And it is sad and heartbreaking to see how these children were failed not just by their foster parents but also by the system that supposed to take care of them.

Mouse and Rider are characters that are easy to sympathize with. They are both flawed characters but they are survivors. Both scared and imperfect but they are fighting their battles with everything they got.

Mallory is afraid of public speaking since she was conditioned to be silent when she was a child in order to save herself from beating. Now, growing up she can’t say much words to people around her. She’s literally counting every words that pour out her mouth in front of other people. It’s like she needs a reward when she utter few words. Readers will feel her struggle from her inner monologues.

“Words were not the enemy or the monster under my bed, but they held such power over me. They were like the ghost of a loved one, forever haunting me.”

Rider who usually neglected and unloved doesn’t see his own value. It’s easier for him to act tough and strong than to show feelings and let other people let in to his life.

Aside with Mallory and Rider’s battle, this book has lots of important message to tell. Like when one of the characters suddenly died, it reminds readers that we don’t have “forever”, and that we should start living our life. And with what happened to Mallory’s best friend, it reminds us to take care of the things that we usually took for granted.

“It’s not about getting it right the first time and it’s most definitely not about perfection, but if you try, you succeed. Just like you would in art. Or in life, for that matter.”

All in all, The Problem with Forever is an emotionally haunting, beautifully told, heartbreaking and hopeful read. More than the romance between Mallory and Rider this novel is a powerful story of survival and living.

* This review is based on an eBook I received courtesy of the publisher, Mira Ink UK.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

JenniferLArmentrout# 1 New York Times and International Bestselling author Jennifer lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. When she’s not hard at work writing. she spends her time reading, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, and hanging out with her husband and her Jack Russell Loki.
Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent most of her time writing short stories….which explains her dismal grades in math.
Jennifer
also writes Adult and New Adult contemporary and paranormal romance under the name J. Lynn.

Find Jennifer

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


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