The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie Review

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily SkrutskieThe Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie (TASU #1)

Publisher: Flux Books

Release Date: February 8, 2016

Pages: 320

Summary: Cas has fought pirates her entire life. But can she survive living among them?

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

My Rating:★★★☆☆ ½

My Thoughts: The Abyss Surrounds Us is a YA Sci-Fi that is set in a fascinating futuristic U.S. with sea monsters and pirates! Wonderful characters and its unique setting will keep you turning the page!

I think I just went into this book with completely different expectations (hyping it up in my head) + based on edits and praise I’d heard, I was personally expecting a completely different story than I got! So sadly, TASU did let me down.
However…
I will absolutely be reading the sequel!! I am still very invested in the story and intrigued to see where the plot goes!

Cassandra (or Cas) Leung is a Reckoner trainer who’s worked with her parents her whole life to understand Reckoners (giant + genetically-engineered sea monsters) and use them to accompany ships and avoid trouble with pirates.

However, when she gets assigned her first solo mission, things go very wrong! She gets captured by pirate queen Santa Elena and is forced to train Elena’s own Reckoner pup or face serious consequences!

What I really loved about this novel was the world! Set in our world, the U.S. is now divided among much larger territories, such as the Northern and Southern Republics of California.

In this futuristic U.S. there are now floating cities, pirates, genetically engineered sea monsters! So many great elements were introduced to this world and that is what really set this sci-fi novel apart from other’s that I’ve read. I just loved how focused it was on the science of this world!

Additionally, I loved the diversity! From the main character Cassandra who is Chinese-American + a f/f relationship that develops!

Aside from that, there’s so much girl power + I loved that this novel had a large cast of female characters! Many, such as the girls on Santa Elena’s ship (& Elena herself) were morally grey and it was clear they had so much depth and complexities to their characters! Above all it was just great to see a large cast of females at the center of this novel!

I also really enjoyed the writing-style! I love reading from 1st-person POV, because we learn so much more about the protagonist from seeing the world and everything that encompasses it from their eyes and that really allowed me to connect with Cas along the way as she finds her strength to prove herself as she trains a Reckoner pup for Santa Elena!

Through the writing (perhaps this is just me) it always felt like I was in a piratey-sci-fi! Skrutskie did a fantastic job at creating the atmosphere that really made you feel like you were out at sea with sea monsters, Cas and the crew!!

This was very character-driven story which I really loved too! As the story progressed, I could see Cas changing and growing as she spent time on the ship.

Now as to why my rating is rather low…I was expecting a lot more action and from my personal reading experience I didn’t really get much from the plot, aside from months passing by with Cas training with the Reckoner and some interactions here & there with the crew. Personally I just wanted more :/

Additionally, I wanted more development from the world. While it was discussed in a broad sense, it would have been great to get a more in-depth look at the politics, etc. of this unique setting!

As mentioned above, just because of my personal expectations, I was a little let down and did feel the pacing was rather slow at points (which did take me out of the story).

Regardless…

The Abyss Surrounds Us is a YA Sci-Fi which delivers a wholly unique story with pirates and sea monsters, fascinating characters, and a complex world that will immerse you from page 1!

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December 2016 Wrap-Up

# Of Books Read: 6

the-queen-of-blood-review1.The Queen Of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst (Queens Of Renthia #1)

The Queen Of Blood Full Review

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Release Date: September 20, 2016

Pages: 353

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: I loved this book so much, the characters, world, EVERYTHING!! Its a magical story with themes of family and friendship I won’t ever forget! Daleina works very hard to prove herself as potential queen + along the way comes to meet Ven, a disgraced Champion. When things don’t seem right in the world of Araty w/ its magic/spirits, they team up to figure out what’s going on!

goldie-vance-vol-12. Goldie Vance Vol. 1  by Hope Larson + Brittney Williams (Illustrator) (#1-#4)

Goldie Vance Vol. 1 Full Review

Publisher: BOOM! Box

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Pages: 112

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: A retro, 60’s-style comic featuring Goldie Vance, detective! There is so much diversity from characters to family dynamics, etc.! The plot unfolds quickly and I can tell there’s more mystery and adventure to come in Volume 2!

descender-volume-2-machine-moon3.Descender Volume 2: Machine Moon by Jeff Lemire + Dustin Nguyen (Artist)

Descender Volume 2 Full Review

Publisher: Image Comics

Release Date: May 10, 2016

Pages: 116

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: Slower paced than the previous volume, but delivers much needed expansion on characters/development! But its filled with twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat!

the-weight-of-zero4. The Weight Of Zero by Karen Fortunati

The Weight Of Zero Full Review

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Pages: 387

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: Fortunati delivers an unforgettable YA Contemporary which introduces the reader to Catherine, who has bipolar disorder and depression and over the course of the novel, as she fears “Zero” is returning she finds hope in the new friendships/relationships she creates along the way. Fortunati’s writing style brings a rawness to Catherine’s story and overall is a wonderfully written YA Contemporary!

monthly-girls-nozaki-kun-volume-15.Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun Vol. 1 by Izumi Tsubaki

Full Review To Come

Publisher: Yen Press

Release Date: November 17, 2015

Pages: 114

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: I loved this manga so much! It pokes fun at classic High School/Romance tropes! The plot jumps around rather quickly, so I was watching the anime while reading along and I love the characters! My favorite character is Mikoshiba ❤ ❤ He was so funny!! + He appears to be the typical heart throb that all the girls are after, but over the course of the story you figure out just how shy/anxious he is around them & really struggles to talk to them!  I can’t wait to learn more about him in later volumes!! I adored the characters & the plot was a little slow at times but it was definitely a blast to read and had me laughing! Can’t wait to read the other volumes!

ever-the-hunted-book-review6.Ever The Hunted by Erin Summerill (Clash Of Kingdoms #1)

Ever The Hunted Full ARC Review

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Release Date: December 27, 2016

Pages: 400

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: An enjoyable first book to a new fantasy series!  Summerill’s plotting and character development keeps the story moving and really brings an element of mystery to the characters! However my biggest issues were the lack of world-building and heavy focus on romance (mainly through Britta’s 1st person POV)! However the ending definitely has me interested to see how it wraps up in book 2!

Additional Posts From This Month:

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Ever The Hunted by Erin Summerill ARC Review

ever-the-hunted-book-reviewEver The Hunted by Erin Summerill (Clash Of Kingdoms #1)

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Release Date: December 27, 2016

Pages: 400

Summary: Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ½

My Thoughts: A fun murder-mystery/fantasy mashup! Summerill delivers wonderfully written characters, with the plot setting up for an epic conclusion in the sequel!

Overall I really enjoyed reading this book there were strong elements of this story that made it really good, yet there were some elements (that I didn’t like as much) that have me unsure of how to rate this still! (Though will most likely stay at 3.5!)

Summerill did a fantastic job with plotting and pacing. The plot went in directions I wasn’t expecting which kept me invested and with each chapter I found myself hooked on the murder-mystery of Britta’s father and wanted to figure out what happened!

While the pacing was slow, due to Summerill’s plotting and character development it never felt like it was dragging which is a plus!

Along with plotting and pacing another great element to this novel was the characters. Even the side characters I really enjoyed! Summerill wrote them with enough depth/mystery to have me wanting to know more about them, while also giving them enough depth to get the full picture even if they sporadically appear through out the story.

The writing itself was well done. Reading from Britta’s POV (1st person) really made me attached to the characters and world, even though there were some moments I wasn’t really a fan of Britta as much. And in general, I could picture the world/characters rather well.

However there were 2 issues that prevent this from being a full 5-stars!
1.World-Building
We are thrust into this world quickly and along with Britta we come to understand it, however because she is just learning about certain aspects (like the magic) it makes it very difficult to have a rich view of the kingdoms/politics. Much of it is told from other characters Britta encounters which makes the world itself feel rather underdeveloped and difficult to grasp.

Additionally there were moments where the side characters made things a little too convenient for the plot/world and while it did help it to keep the pace moving, I will admit that it didn’t do much in terms of developing to create a richer/fuller atmosphere.

Also I felt there were times when the descriptions of locations + setting were very surface level and didn’t go into much depth which could have really helped with the world building!

2.Romance
I do enjoy reading romance in books, however I felt it was given too much of a central role. With the novel in Britta’s POV, I felt taken out of the story because instead of developing the rules/magic of this fantasy world, I felt there were way too many passages about her feelings for Cohen.

While near the end I liked the relationship more, I definitely felt if it was focused on less, it could have helped expand the world and make the story run a little smoother.

Regardless of the minor issues, I will definitely be reading the sequel/finale to see how it wraps up!

Overall this was a solid YA Fantasy! If you’re looking for a fun murder-mystery/fantasy mash-up with twists and turns along the way I definitely recommend Ever The Hunted!

*Received ARC from a giveaway*

The Weight Of Zero by Karen Fortunati Review

the-weight-of-zeroThe Weight Of Zero by Karen Fortunati

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Pages: 387

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Catherine Pulaski knows Zero is coming for her. Zero, the devastating depression born of Catherine’s bipolar disorder, almost triumphed once; that was her first suicide attempt.

Being bipolar is forever. It never goes away. The med du jour might work right now, but Zero will be back for her. It’s only a matter of time.

And so, in an old ballet-shoe box, Catherine stockpiles medications, preparing to take her own life before Zero can inflict its living death on her again. Before she goes, though, she starts a short bucket list.

The bucket list, the support of her family, new friends, and a new course of treatment all begin to lessen Catherine’s sense of isolation. The problem is, her plan is already in place, and has been for so long that she might not be able to see a future beyond it. 

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Fortunati delivers a  YA Contemporary with an informative look at bipolar disorder, strong emphasis on the bonds we create with others, and the hope to keep going when all seems lost.

Catherine struggles with her bipolar disorder and depression. Her grandmother passed away right in front of her and her friends have left her, so she knows “Zero” will return. Because of that she’s made a plan to take her own life. After making new friends (Krystal at therapy & Michael her history classmate and soon boyfriend) she begins to feel hopeful again.

However, her fear of admitting to her new friends of her bipolar disorder makes her worry that they won’t understand and abandon her as her ex-best friends did years ago. She then begins to withhold the truth from them and with “Zero” never too far, she’s not sure what to do.

Fortunati doesn’t shy away from the elements of Catherine’s illness and what made the novel so much more richer in terms of plot/characters was the inclusion of how Catherine’s illness affected the people around her like her mother, friends, etc.

The writing itself is very captivating and reading from Catherine’s POV really brings such rawness and honesty to this story.

Reading Catherine’s struggles felt very realistic because it was clear to see after what happened to her in the past she truly feared being judged for her disorder and being abandoned again. It took her quite a while for her to open up to people as she withheld the truth about her illness from her therapy group and lied to Michael about it. Over the course of the story begins to see her lies catching up with her.

Now she must face her truths in order to save these newly forged relationships that mean the world to her

Additionally another great aspect of this novel was the emphasis and positive messages about therapy and treatment. Fortunati delivers these messages all through out the novel through Catherine’s interactions with her therapist, her new friend Krystal, and mother. With Catherine’s therapy and new relationship with Michael, Fortunati shows the mental illnesses/difficulties many families may have when one notices, but that there is always a way to make the best of tough situations.

Out of all the friendships/relationships in this novel, I adored reading the relationships Catherine made with Kristal and Michael and seeing just how happy she became because of them.

Another plot point of this book that I loved was the soldier history project! Michael + Catherine have their plan to report on Jonathan Kasia but after a trip to the local museum with Kristal, she discovers Jane Talmadge (part of the 6888th, the first black female unit to go across Europe during WW2!) Through reading her archived letters, Catherine comes to find her story inspirational and moving! The letters help Catherine through difficult times throughout this story and through her POV you could really see just how inspired she was from learning more about Jane!

There is also a big emphasis on family, especially through the relationship between Catherine and her mother + the strong relationship Catherine sees between Michael and his family. While I do wish Fortunati gave more page time to the side characters, she managed to bring them to life and show just how flawed they were as well through Catherine’s eyes.

I did take away .5 stars because once I neared the end, I did feel it was a bit rushed and just wanted more from Michael & Catherine. Additionally, as mentioned above I also wish there was more interactions/page-time with Catherine and the side characters!

Overall Fortunati’s debut delivers a realistic, raw and engaging story about mental health. Through Catherine’s POV, you’ll join her on her journey to recovery as she finds happiness again during dark times and sees that there is always hope!

 

Bound By Blood And Sand by Becky Allen Review

bound-by-blood-and-sandBound By Blood And Sand by Becky Allen (Bound By Blood And Sand #1)

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Pages: 320

Summary: Jae is a slave in a dying desert world.

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

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

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

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

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Allen delivers a character-driven fantasy that shows a dark and oppressive world, but the bravery and lengths characters will go to bring change!

The best part of this novel was definitely the characters. Allen created her characters with such complexity and wasn’t afraid to show their dark and flawed sides. In doing so, Jae,Tal, Shirrad, and Elan go through immense character development and really come to life on the page.

Additionally there was no romance! Which was definitely a plus for me. With that, more development and focus is given to the characters and plot.

Jae is a slave living in a fantasy desert world. She lives in a house with other slaves (Closests) called Aredann where she among others are forced by their Curse to follow orders by the owner of the property Lady Shirrad to care for it and have minimal freedoms.

From page 1 Jae, is out for vengeance to free herself and her twin brother Tal from the awful Curse and escape after years of oppression.

She discovers there is magic on the property and figures that will be the only way she can bring water back to the land and free herself and other Closests just like her.

A prince from a neighboring land comes to inspect and reveals that the minimal water will leave Shirrad no choice but to vacate.

As the novel progresses prince Elan discovers Jae’s magic and wants to use her to find a magical Well which can bring water back. However, Jae who has been seen as less by Elan’s people (the Highest) is skeptical of his motives and doesn’t trust him.

As Jae learns more about her magic, she discovers there is more to her world’s history than she is lead to believe and that she may be the only one who can bring back the water and free herself once and for all.

However there were 2 issues that prevented this from being a full 5!
1.Pacing: A majority of this novel moved extremely slowly for me personally and that really took me out of the story at times.
I will admit, for me it definitely picks up around the ~70-80% mark and I was hooked to the very end.

2.Elements of world-building:
I felt the world-building (in terms of background history + magic) was quite under-developed. Flashbacks were the general bulk of the historical aspect of the world building and b/c of that I felt the world didn’t feel as rich and developed.

However I applaud the author with her writing style because I could really picture the setting and the characters and overall the plot itself is very unique!!

There were definitely many heart-breaking and emotional moments in this book! Allen weaves in and discusses many topics in this novel such as abuse/assault and social class.

I felt so connected to the main characters Jae, Tal and Elan and could definitely understand their differing points of view + individual struggles over the course of this story!

Bound By Blood And Sand is filled with rich and captivating characters that definitely drive this story and an intriguing world/plot that shows promise for the next installment!

October 2016 Wrap-Up

# Of Books Read: 7

175645191.Walk On Earth A Stranger by Rae Carson (The Gold Seer Trilogy #1)

Walk On Earth A Stranger Full Review

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Release Date: September 22, 2015

Pages: 436

My Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Thoughts: An immersive mash-up of Fantasy & Historical Fiction! I loved the atmosphere Carson weaved into this story and the characters are all well developed! However, due to slow pacing and not getting enough from the plot, I was a little disappointed. But once I reached the end, I definitely found myself interested to see what happens in the sequel!

the-female-of-the-sepcies2.The Female Of The Species by Mindy McGinnis

The Female Of The Species Full Review

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Release Date: September 20, 2016

Pages: 344

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts:  McGinnis discusses rape/rape culture through multiple POV’s among other topics that weave together to craft an important read with phenomenal writing and complex+well-developed characters.

forest-of-memory-by-mary-robinette-kowal3.Forest Of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal

Forest Of Memory Full Review

Publisher: Tor Books

Release Date: March 8, 2016

Pages: 88

My Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Thoughts: A mysterious and immersive short story! There were so many unique concepts from an antiquities dealer, AI tech part of daily life, and a futuristic setting of the Pacific Northwest! Its a quick read and unlike anything I’ve ever read before. My only issue was the slow pacing and there were some aspects discussed that I wish were given more of a central role! Highly recommend if your looking for a short but different Sci-Fi story!

4.The Universe Of Us by Lang Leavthe-universe-of-us-lang-leav

The Universe Of Us Full Review

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Release Date: October 4, 2016

Pages: 240

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: A delightful collection of poems about love and loss with a central theme/backdrop of space and the universe. However I did take away 1/2 a star b/c not all of them revolve around this theme, which is what I was expecting. Regardless, its a quick but very moving collection.

when-the-moon-was-ours-anna-marie-mclemore5.When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

When The Moon Was Ours Full Review

Publisher: Thomas Dunne

Release Date: October 4, 2016

Pages: 240

My Rating:★★★★★

Overall Thoughts: A beautifully written magical realism novel with so much diversity and important themes, remarkable characters, and a writing style that is truly magical! I highly recommend this book. With character development at its core, McLemore delivers a story of the importance of family and self-identity!

our-chemical-hearts-krystal-sutherland6.Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

Our Chemical Hearts Full Review

Publisher: G.P. Putnams Sons Books For Young Readers

Release Date: October 4, 2016

Pages: 313

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: A YA Contemporary with equal parts humor and heartbreak! What I loved about this novel was definitely the characters! They were wonderfully written. If you’re a fan of Rainbow Rowell or John Green, definitely check out Our Chemical Hearts! Its an engaging and honest tale of first love! Highly recommend

descender-volume-1-tin-stars7.Descender Volume 1: Tin Stars by Jeff Lemire + Dustin Nguyen

Full Review To Come

Publisher: Image Comics

Release Date: September 24, 2015

Pages: 160

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: A fascinating Sci-Fi comic which features AI Tech + Robots!! I don’t usually read much sci-fi, but this comic had been on my radar for quite some time, so I decided to give it a shot & wow I loved it! The watercolor art-style is absolutely stunning and the story is very unique! More to come in my full review!

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What Did You Read This Month? 🙂

 

 

YA Book Recommendations For Hispanic Heritage Month

Every September 15- October 15 is Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month!

Being Latina myself, I’d love to celebrate by sharing with you a recommendation list of 12 YA Books that are written by Hispanic/Latinx authors and/or feature Hispanic/Latinx characters!

If you have additional recommendations or have read any of the books I’ve listed below, feel free to leave a comment so we can discuss! 🙂

YA-book-recommendations-For-hispanic-heritage-month-graphic

1. Aristotle And Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

2. Gabi, A Girl In Pieces by Isabel Quintero

3. History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

4. Hollywood Witch Hunter by Valerie Tejeda

5.Juliet Takes A Breath by Gabby Rivera

6. Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler

7. Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1) by Zoraida Córdova

8. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

9. Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

10. The Weight Of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

11. Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

12. When The Moon Was Ours by Anne-Marie McLemore