Book Review: Echo North

Echo Alkaev’s safe and carefully structured world falls apart when her father leaves for the city and mysteriously disappears. Believing he is lost forever, Echo is shocked to find him half-frozen in the winter forest six months later, guarded by a strange talking wolf—the same creature who attacked her as a child. The wolf presents Echo with an ultimatum: If she lives with him for one year, he will ensure her father makes it home safely. But there is more to the wolf than Echo realizes.

In his enchanted house beneath a mountain, each room must be sewn together to keep the home from unraveling, and something new and dark and strange lies behind every door. When centuries-old secrets unfold, Echo discovers a magical library full of books-turned-mirrors, and a young man named Hal who is trapped inside of them. As the year ticks by, the rooms begin to disappear, and Echo must solve the mystery of the wolf’s enchantment before her time is up, otherwise Echo, the wolf, and Hal will be lost forever.

Published January 15th 2019 by Page Street Publishing Co.

Another gem I would have missed if it weren’t for someone nominating it in the YA Speculative Fiction category. You could say this is Beauty and the Beast retelling, or you could say it’s an East of the Sun, West of the Moon retelling. It, for sure, has elements of both, but don’t think you know this story without reading it. For a new book, it reads like a Norweigan fairy tale from a long time ago.
Echo’s father goes missing for weeks, so she goes in search of him and finds him frozen in the snow, she’s then approached by a wolf and asked if she would like to make a bargain: she can come live in the wolf’s house for a year in exchange for the magic to release her father so he can go home. The house is magical too, with rooms that can disappear, you can go inside paintings, etc. It’s spellbinding.
I’ve read a few Beauty and the Beast retellings this year, and this is my favorite because it goes further and more profound than just a reimagining of a familiar story. It has similarities, and then as a reader, you plunge into it like falling down a well. I suffered a bit of book hangover after I turned the last page. I’d buy this as a holiday gift for any 11-year-old kid on up through adult that needs a good fairy tale immersing book.

Echo Alkaev’s safe and carefully structured world falls apart when her father leaves for the city and mysteriously disappears. Believing he is lost forever, Echo is shocked to find him half-frozen in the winter forest six months later, guarded by a strange talking wolf—the same creature who attacked her as a child. The wolf presents Echo with an ultimatum: If she lives with him for one year, he will ensure her father makes it home safely. But there is more to the wolf than Echo realizes.

Book Review: We Set The Dark On Fire

Ah, this novel checks all my boxes:

Own Voices? Check

LGBTQ Rep? Check

Smashing the Patriarchy? Check

Cool Dystopian, yet realistic setting? Check

Dani hides her poor background/illegal immigration status to get accepted into a sort of Wife Training Academy (Medio School for Girls) for high-class women. While they are there, they study to be one of two roles. A graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children. In this patriarchal island world, rich men buy two wives, generally from other wealthy families. 

The way the society is set up didn’t bother me in the least. Not the buying people part- of course, But, many women are stretched so thin that a dystopian fantasy of splitting it up isn’t far fetched. One woman as a business partner while the other handles the household seems like a fair split. In this case, it isn’t hard to hate Dani’s husband ( Mateo); he has like zero redeeming qualities, and her partner’s wife (Carmen) may or may not be a threat as the story begins. So things are complicated.

Without saying too much, Dani is blackmailed into helping La Voz, a rebel group, spy on the Garcia family. That part could have been plotted a little differently. I did like the story enough to set my doubts aside on the plausibility of some of that.

I’m looking forward to the sequel book in early 2020.

Book Review: Skyward

Spensa the starfighter pilot is right up there with Katniss and Tris as a girl-power hero as far as I’m concerned. I liked her and her family. Especially her Gran-Gran:

“People need stories, child. They bring us hope, and that hope is real. If that’s the case, what does it matter whether people in them lived?”

In this story, there was a battle between humans and aliens. The humans eventually landed on this planet and settled in small segregated groups. Anytime they built anything that advanced humanity, the Krell (alien race) would destroy it.

The Krell sounded very familiar to me. I knew I had heard the term before and google me that the word Krell is in Star Wars, Star Trek, and the Marvel Universe. If I ever write SciFi- I pledge to call the aliens something else. Other than that one name, I thought the World Building was terrific.

Anyhow, Spensa dreams of being a pilot and has to work twice as hard to achieve that goal, as most candidates because her Father died under mysterious circumstances as a pilot. Hardly anyone knows what happened back then until Spensa starts flying herself around in an AI-powered starship!

The author describes this plot as How to Train Your Dragon meets Top Gun and Enders Game. I think that’s an accurate description, and if that kind of book suits you- you’ll want to pick this up along with the sequel: Starsight on November 26, 2019.

Book Review: The Grace Year

Note that I wrote this back in June and just plain forgot to post a review here. If you are ever looking for a report from me, please be sure to check Goodreads also. It’ll be here or there or both- LOL. 

I’d describe this book as a Lord of the Flies if they were all girls. I’m also a fan of The Handmaid’s Tale and Vox; two books that rely heavily on the demoralizing of women and the fear that men have of the ‘weaker sex.’ The girls from the town get sorted into wives, farmhands, and prostitutes, but before they begin their “careers,” they go away to an island where they try and survive for the year. I spent a reasonable amount of time trying to figure out what the “magic” would turn out to be. 

It is all pretty gruesome, and for that reason alone, I would give it only three stars. If I could have read through my hands covering my face, I would have. If you like horror, you’ll give it a five. It’s incredibly fast-paced and is generally a fast, satisfying read for the genre. 

Book Review: Internment

Rebellions are built on hope.

Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.

With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.

Published March 19th 2019 by Atom (first published March 18th 2019)

Set just “fifteen minutes in the future,” this portrait of what life would be like in America if something in the story called the Exclusion Act passed into law. American-Muslims go into “camps,” where they live for the foreseeable future. Layla is justifiably furious when she and her family get rounded up and bussed away to a camp. As an adult reader, I felt worried about her safety as she seemed very ready to get herself hurt as she snuck around, seeking contact with her boyfriend. At the same time, it seemed very realistic as her first reaction to such an unthinkable reality.
For a nation who has said “Never Again,” more than once this story more than anything illustrated to me just how hard actual peaceful resistance is in practice. In conversation, every one of us thinks that someone would “do something,” but, as this story illustrates- it wouldn’t be easy at all to accomplish anything.
There is so much discussion fodder in this one; I’d add it to a high school government class in a heartbeat. It would also be great in a Heroes Journey discussion.

Book Review: Coral

Happy Book Birthday!!
It’s a big YA New Release week. I’m behind in typing my reviews up, but I’m slowly catching up.
Here goes- who doesn’t love the Mermaid Universe? I went into this knowing nothing more than that. This book tackles a lot: suicide, self-harm, emotional abuse, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, PTSD, and consent issues.
This book isn’t the Ariel retelling that I thought it would be. At least, I was happy to see most of these topics handled very well. The portrayal of mental illness treatment centers, for example, was completely accurate.
For Coral (a merperson), her society treats all emotions as diseases, and she and her sister struggle against those beliefs. Merrick’s sister attempts suicide/his mother leaves home, and while he is searching for his Mom, he finds Coral. Brooke is a human with depression that is in therapy. The chapters alternate somewhat, and the original Little Mermaid story is loosely included in the plot as well.
This is a heavy book, as all the characters are brought together by one mental illness or another. I think the plot is executed well, but it won’t be a re-read for me.

Book Review: Day Zero

Happy Book Birthday!!

I binge read this book over the last two days. I may be late to the review party, but I’m right on time to give you the gist just in time for you, dear readers, to get your hands on it.
Everything that can go wrong seems to for poor Jinx. The girl wants to get some snacks and play her video game when the world explodes around her. Luckily (unluckily?), her Dad is a published survival expert, and she and her family have been running “drills” of different apocalypse scenarios for as long as she can remember.

They are the center of the investigation into the wave of terrorism, which adds another element of intrigue to this adventure story.
By following the rules that her Dad grilled into them, they survive multiple disasters, because she’s learned to think for herself, she can stay one step ahead of the political unrest that her social experiences.
I thought that the different reactions to the chaos were accurate.

Speaking of her world and society: it’s so close to ours that it scared me a bit. There’s this new President who seems to have been elected by cheating his way into the office. Can you imagine? The country is polarized into taking sides when the wave of terrorism begins, and everyone panics. The chaos centers around technology, banking, and in general, made me quite uneasy about our situation in the United States.

I thought that it all played out very realistically and cannot wait to read what happens next in the concluding novel. The last 20 % of my ARC had me up reading well past my bedtime- what a ride!