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Books, Reviews

Book Review: History is All You Left Me

History is All You Left Me

Author: Adam Silvera

Publisher: Soho Teen

Published: January 17, 2017

Rating: 3 / 5 Stars

For Those Who Enjoyed: Perks of Being a Wallflower, We All Just Live Here, At the Edge of the Universe, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, We are the Ants, Two Boys Kissing, Every Day

History is all you left me

I’ve received requests to review this one and I’m sorry it took so much longer than I expected to write it up! But here it is!

I struggle to explain myself when it comes to review contemporaries because I feel like at the end of the day, I’m commenting on the same exact things every time. I like reading at least one contemporary per month, just to keep up with the types of important topics are being addressed in the YA market, because it’s a huge priority for my work in the publishing industry. So this one was my March contemporary read.

I do have to say, I definitely feel like I was not the target audience for this novel. I am not a young, gay boy, and thus I don’t appreciate the nuances of what Silvera’s doing with his plot and characters as other readers would. I have heard this book has earned a handful of starred reviews, which means that it must be doing something right. I just couldn’t tell you of any of its accuracies in terms of queer representation because I’m just not that demographic. Since I’m clearly not the target audience for this novel, my opinions may be incredibly biased based on my own experience, or lack thereof with the LGBT community.

My biggest thing was that at some points, it became all about the sex and it felt like almost too much, even though it was hardly graphic in any way. And it wasn’t that Silvera was falling into a gay stereotype; he wasn’t. It’s just that from my observations, that’s the conversation that always comes about when it comes to gay men and I almost wish gay narratives could take a more Troy Sivan route and give a more romantic perspective. My other issue, which may be a controversial statement, but I’m gonna make it anyway, is that by the end of it, everyone was gay. I make these two complaints not from a heteronormative point of view. I’m not looking for a chaste, heterosexual love story. I’m actually just coming at this from the point of view of an asexual reader who’s tired of seeing both sex and one single sexual orientation being showcased. It’s great that there’s so much mlm gay representation and it’s amazing that Silvera can reach out to boys out there who have experienced what Griffin has. I fully support that and wouldn’t want to take away from that conversation. But I would love for authors to take the next step and engage even further with the concept of bisexuality (which Silvera does do, however briefly), and the general LGBT+ spectrum. It seems very much as though publishers are only approving novels involving a binary of gay, straight, or bi characters and I would love to see engagement with pansexuality, asexuality, demisexuality… just all of these rich aspects of the sexual spectrum that teens are really starting to explore at this point.

A positive though, Silvera does do an amazing job of creating characters that feel real. Multiple times while I was reading, I’d find myself coming home and thinking “gosh, I wonder how Griffin’s doing. I hope he’s doing okay.” I was genuinely concerned for him and his grief. I wanted him to find closure and positive coping mechanisms for both his loss and OCD. In that sense, I liked that these were just normal people, going about their normal lives. These are just high school kids, obsessing over video games, comic books, and Harry Potter. They’re just trying to figure out who they are and I feel for that.

I do have a lot of questions for the teen runaway trope though. I think in all the contemporaries I’ve read, they’ve included the protagonist running away, whether on their bike, or bus, or car, or plane. As the pretty darn well behaved teen I once was, I can’t fathom going against my parents and hopping on a plane across the country. How does this happen? How do these kids find the money to do this? It just goes right over my head.

They’re just too crazy for me to handle, I guess… these new fangled kids, hanging out in exclusively gay social circles and hopping on planes on their own without parental consent… It’s not something I understand, so I’ll just leave it to the teens who do relate to that. Because I know they exist. And I respect that.

Books, Reviews

Book Review: The Beast is an Animal

The Beast is an Animal

Author: Peternelle van Arsdale

Publisher: Mary K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster)

Published: February 28, 2017

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

For Those Who Enjoyed: The Sineater’s Daughter, Stardust, Blair Witch Project, Dracula, The Raven Cycle, Carmilla, RoseBlood, A Darker Shade of Magic, This Savage Song, The Grisha, Six of Crows, “Goblin Market”, “Pied Piper of Hamlin”

Beast is an Animal

This book felt the way my soul feels. The irony if this is delicious, considering the plot follows a pair of spooky soul-eating sisters of Welsh lore. The first 50 pages of Beast is an Animal took my breath and raised goosebumps on my arms in ways a YA novel hasn’t done since Libba Bray’s The Diviners. Real, intense suspense is a rare feat in YA and for a debut author, I’m impressed by how solidly van Arsdale nailed it. It’s dark, it’s haunting, it’s gothic, it draws you in, chews you up, and spits you out, and it’s just so so good.

Those first 50 pages could almost be a completely separate novel from the rest of the story. If anything, if you’re interested in picking up this book, but don’t want to commit, at least read those first 50 pages, because it’s literary magic. The remainder of the narrative follows Alys, whose village was brutally ravaged by the soul-eaters, leaving every adult dead. What follows is a slow-moving coming of age plot as she comes to grips with the darkness within her that has allowed her to survive the sisters’ wrath. It’s one of those stories that really needs to be savoured until the very end before outright dismissal. The middle segment drags and it doesn’t become clear where van Arsdale’s going with it until you’ve hit the final act.

Although the middle lulls compared to the rest of the novel, it offers hints of Neil Gaiman level storytelling. It’s quiet, yet ominous. Alys and the remaining children get sent to a neighbouring town, which is extremely Puritanical and suspicious of them all. Fearing the threat of the soul eaters, they build a wall around the town, where Alys and her kin are forced to guard it every night while the townsfolk sleep well in their self-righteous, religious beliefs. There’s something akin to Stardust here (which I love), injected with surprisingly accurate witch-hunt context. Taking the Puritan witch hunt angle is hardly a new one, yet it still speaks to modern society more than ever. The religious, pearl clutching fear mongering does not rely on facts, but rather savage gossip against the unknown in order to justify actions. The town is, as one might expect, all white, in fear of the other. All races not like their own are labelled children of the Beast, also wrongfully assumed to be evil incarnate.

Alys’ own character arc is here to showcase how evil isn’t just evil and good isn’t just good, there is no black and white. She slips into the grey areas pretty seamlessly, giving her moments of solitude with the Beast and moments of melancholy in her power struggle against the sisters. She learns the true evil is with those who believe themselves to be morally superior above all else, despite their hypocrisy. It says a great deal about modern so-called Christians, who preach only what conveniently applies to their outlook, without any concept of empathy toward people who differ from them. Van Arsdale’s social commentary on how these people can justify racism and damnation of the Other is weaved into her narrative with such ease, there’s not an ounce of preachiness to it. It’s just raw, honest discussion of humanity and what makes us beastly.

Had I only read the first two thirds of this book, it would’ve only earned 4 stars, but stepping back, and seeing the plot as a whole, van Arsdale has three very clearly laid out acts. I love a well-thought out narrative, and I have a lot of respect for her for it. I know exactly where she split her plot in even thirds. From the extended prologue of the sisters’ attack on Gwineth, to the watchers of the wall, to the climax in the tranquil Lakes. I got it. It’s organised, not overly complicated in any way, and it makes for beautiful storytelling.

Another thing I appreciate in Beast, is that the romance takes a backseat to Alys’ confronting her fears. In fact, her love interest doesn’t show up into more than halfway through. I have to say, I approve of fantasy authors doing this more often, because it gives so much room for the protagonist to develop beforehand. Alys has a clear objective (even though she doesn’t fully confront it until years after it’s set for her; the only pitfall of the novel) and not even falling for a boy will stop her. Her relationship with Cian instead feels like an added bonus to an already fantastic plot. The romance doesn’t feel forced or intrusive or tacked on. He’s just there for her in the background, willing to wait for her while she does her thing. That’s how I write my fantasy romances…

I should also note that the Welsh folklore of the soul-eaters is the exact same myth that A.G. Howard struggled to recreate in RoseBlood. It wasn’t until near the end of Beast that I made this connection, and understood why Howard would make that leap from soul-eaters to vampires. Van Arsdale’s soul-eaters are undoubtedly vampires in that same hair-raising way that Dracula is undoubtedly a vampire. The only difference is, van Arsdale doesn’t bother bashing you over head with this parallel like Howard does (repeatedly. With a nail-spiked iron bat). She’s subtle and just lets them be what they are, and it pays off.

I loved everything about this novel. I loved that it was quiet, and atmospheric. That it made me feel like I could take my time, like an unencumbered walk in the woods. That she used the witch and vampire tropes without being cheesy about it. That her villains were flawed supernatural women giving some creepy Lucy Westenra Bloofer Lady realness. That van Arsdale wasn’t afraid to murder her entire cast. This novel made me want to get back to my literary roots. Reread all my Victorian gothic faves.

Go read this book. And then go read Dracula. Both are fab depictions of spooky creatures of the night.

Reviews

ARC Book Review: Proof of Concept

Proof of Concept

Author: Gwyneth Jones

Publisher: Tor

Published: April 11, 2017

Rating: 3 / 5

For Those Who Enjoyed: Never Let Me Go, Arrival, Signs, Star Wars, H.P. Lovecraft, H.G. Wells, Apollo 13

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I read the first two chapters of this novel and was immediately into it, despite the fact I had no clue what was going on. I was under the impression that everything going on would become clearer as the plot unfolded. That’s… not exactly what happened. In fact, I’m even more confused than when I started out.

Proof of Concept follows Kir, a girl saved from post-apocalyptic Earth by a super-genius scientist who puts an Artificial Intelligence computer in her brain. For some reason, because this happened when she was still very young, this stunted her growth and I suppose, her ability to conceptualise everyday situations. Either that, or the character development and explanations within the narrative are so flat, Jones misses the point entirely… Anyway, Kir sets off on this experiment expedition to subspace, where they’re looking for somewhere new for humanity to settle. That’s barely what I was able to decipher from this plot and even that I’m unsure of.

This novel feels like what would happen if a scientist, with no previous background in writing fiction, wrote a book. There are people, doing sciency things, and the readers are just expected to understand what the author means with very little to go on. Because Kir’s so emotionally stunted and insular, we don’t get the full scope of exactly what’s going on in terms of anything happening around her. Which is maybe the point. But this suffers from the same issues as Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, as well as any novel involving characters completely lacking in social cues. There are too many instances where Jones drops an interesting little nugget of information and I want to delve into it further, but then it’s gone again, and I’m left with nothing to go on. I have no clue what this experiment they’re doing is. I don’t understand the population control situation. I don’t have any grasp on the simulated intimacy that apparently goes on between coworkers… I just don’t understand.

I think the biggest reason this narrative struggles so hard with it’s plot is because it’s way too short. The plot and world building is stretched way too thin across a 175 page novella. There is not enough room there to fully develop characters and the experiment they’re doing, as well as a full breakdown of the futuristic setting. This is something I find most science fiction novels suffer from. Either there’s not enough background information for casual readers to latch onto or there’s far too much to fully appreciate the plot. With Proof of Concept, it feels like Jones took the iceberg principle, wherein an author should develop characters and world building as much as possible, but only show what the readers absolutely must know to understand the plot, and cut out far too much of all her development. She may know exactly what all her characters’ motivations are and how they relate to each other, and what kind of dystopian world we’re in, and how the science works, but she doesn’t share that with the reader. She simply assumes that we already know.

We can’t read your mind, Gwyneth Jones. You have to spell it out for us.

Another really weird tonal thing going on is the fact that this is a murder mystery? I don’t read many murder mysteries (haven’t read a single Agatha Christie novel in my life…) but if I did, I’d want to be at least emotionally attached to these people before they die. There’s no buildup and no real character development for anyone who died, so I didn’t particularly care if they lived or not. It wasn’t shocking, it was just there.

I went into this expecting there to be some Lovecraftian spookiness to it. And I think Jones was really reaching for it, but didn’t quite reach the mark. I was expecting some The Descent level scare-fests. They’re going deep, deep down into these caves, where maybe there are some pre-civilisation humanoids living down there. I wanted people to be picked off one by one that way. I wanted the AI in Kir’s head to take over and really mess things up in a disturbing way without her realising he’s controlling her mind. Give me some “I’m sorry, I can’t let you do that” realness! That’s what I wanted out of this novel!

I wanted a straight up space science horror novel and that’s not what this was at all.

Sneak Peek Weekends

March Sneak Peek Weekends #1

The first sneak peek of March releases is another set of YA fantasies! Let’s see if they’re worth a read!

Hunted

Hunted

We always know before the change comes. When a storm approaches, we feel it in the thickness of the air, the tension in the earth awaiting the  blanket of snow. We feel the moment the wind changes direction. We sense a shift of power when it is coming.

Author: Meagan Spooner

Publisher: Harper Teen

Published: March 14, 2017

For Those Who Enjoyed: Beauty and the Beast, The Lunar Chronicles, The Shadow Queen/The Wish Granter, Long May She Reign, Court of Thorns and Roses, The Bloody Chamber, Cruel Beauty, Robin Mckinley, The Beast is an Animal, Wintersong, Uprooted

As an agent or acquisitions editor, would I select this for publication?

As I’ve mentioned in previous sneak peeks, fairy tale retellings are very in, and for some reason, Beauty and the Beast is especially hot right now. I’m not sure what the draw is to be honest (though the new movie was a dream). I find this particular fairy tale hasn’t done many authors any favour recently. Sarah J Maas and Rosamund Hodge have both tried their hand with varying success, but I can’t really say either have done anything revolutionary or beautifully written with it.

This one might finally break the cycle.

I’m not sure why almost every single Beauty and the Beast retelling has to start with Beauty and her sisters doing something mundane before the action picks up, but I want something more exciting to open the story for once… Sarah J. Maas almost does it, but her downfall is her weak character development and terrible writing… This is beautifully written, but slow on the pick up.

Because Beauty and the Beast has been done over and over and over so often, would my instinct be to give this one a go as an agent? I don’t know. I don’t know if there’s enough to set it apart, but I genuinely hope there’s something here!

Blood Rose Rebellion

Blood Rose Rebellion

I did not set out to ruin my sister’s debut. Indeed, there were any number of things I deliberately did not do that day. I did not pray for rain as I knelt in the small chapel of our London town house that morning, the cold of the floor seeping into my bones.

Author: Rosalyn Eves

Publisher: Knopf

Published: March 28, 2017

For Those Who Enjoyed: Throne of Glass, Red Queen, Hunger Games, Rebel of the Sands, Divergent, Dark Days Club, These Ruthless Masks, Stalking Jack the Ripper,The Tempest

Would I select this for publication?:

This one has a nice flip to the current fantasy YA trend of special magic girl who wants to be normal. Instead, everyone’s magical and she’s not. I like it… but is that enough? This could go one of two ways: this means she got non-magical talents, or she’s more powerful than anyone else and hasn’t grown into her power yet. If it’s the former, I’m into it. If it’s the latter, we’re just falling back into the usual fantasy conventions which drive me up the wall… I do find the immediate introduction of a love interest concerning. It feels like the protagonist is going to seek validation based on a boy’s interest in her and that’s never a good sign. Unfortunately, what I’m getting most from this opener is that the protagonist is useless and boring and everyone keeps treating her like a child. The inciting incident is showcasing her fighting over a boy with her sister and it’s not endearing in the least. This one would go in the no pile, for sure.

Books, Reviews

ARC Review: True Born & True North

True Born and True North

Author: L.E. Stirling

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Published: May 2016 and April 4, 2017

Rating:

True Born: 3 / 5 Stars

True North: 2 / 5 Stars

For Those Who Enjoyed: The Hunger Games, Firstlife, Snowpiercer, The Diabolic, The Selection, The Stand, The Strain

This is not a spoiler-free review!

True Born

True North

I received an ARC copy of True North from the publisher in exchange for an honest review!

Yikes. Another DNF series… I feel less terrible about not finishing True North than I do about Nexis and Redux because I actually made it 75% of the way through before packing it in. In any other situation, I would push through the last quarter of the book, but this was just so boring, I knew whatever happened wouldn’t be what I wanted to see out of the plot.

This series started out with an interesting premise. The world’s fallen to a plague epidemic and has been split between a hierarchy of Lasters (plague sufferers), Splicers (people who have received treatment for the plague), and True Borns (those who are completely immune to the plague). The lowest of the lower classes can’t afford treatment, and are left to inevitably die of the plague, while most of the wealthy upper class are Splicers, hogging all the possible treatments for themselves. True Borns for some reason I still don’t comprehend, are completely ostracised for being barbaric because they’re genetically different. Many of them have combined human-animal genetics, which I didn’t particularly care for. All it did give me was some pretty spectacular bloody fight scenes, which I could have had way more of. That’s what earned True Born its barely deserved third star…

Somewhere within this plot, Stirling’s trying to speak toward upper class greed destroying the world, but she just… misses the mark. The problem with this series is that she put her protagonist in the wrong class. I’ve read a hell of a lot of YA lately and far too much of it follows a princess, empress, or politician’s daughter and she’s kind of a privileged brat. All that privilege keeps getting in the protagonist’s way and it acts like a smoke screen over any message Stirling’s trying to express. The poor are depicted as disgusting and wallowing in the filth they created for themselves and there are far too many pervy old men sexually harassing girls who aren’t even legal adults yet being treated like “oh, haha, yeah, isn’t it funny how this happens so much in wealthy society??” These are things that go right over Lucy’s head and I kept waiting for her to become aware of her privilege and do something about it.

But it never happens.

There’s a little more of that in True North, where at least she’s aware of how horrible her wealthy social circle is and she tries to break away from it. But it doesn’t quite go beyond her hating the life she was brought into and feeling sorry for the Lasters for how lowly they are. She never has a real resolution to fix the problem plaguing the poor. She never considers convincing any of the elites to donate money to the cause, give them food and housing… Or even, you know, offer some kind of free clinic to help these poor people dying everywhere…

This is even more frustrating when it’s revealed that she and her twin sister, Margot, are genetic anomalies that literally hold the cure for the plague. Why doesn’t she immediately offer up her blood samples, or bone marrow to cure these people???

It may have something to do with the fact that she’s spending almost all her time falling into one of the worst YA romance traps of them all. She and True Born cat-man (yes, actually), Jared don’t even like each other. Nor do they enjoy each other’s company. They can’t have a single civil conversation with each other, but whoops! Guess they have to stick together, because they’re inexplicably in love! (Ok, but you don’t even like each other…) They spend more time arguing, then making out, then arguing again than they do making any cohesive plan to do any good. They also have one of the most bizarre meet-cutes I’ve ever read. He somehow manages to save her from falling over a school stairwell railing. They then spend ten whole pages having a conversation, while he’s holding onto her skirt the entire time. Ten. Pages. When my characters go on and on for that long in a precarious situation like that, that’s when I have to dial it back and rewrite the scene.

Girl, you have to rewrite the scene!

The romance is so dominating over everything else, it’s all the more clear that Lucy (and Margot) are utterly useless, which is shocking, considering they’re upper class girls in the middle of a plague apocalypse. Because they come from a wealthy family, they’ve been brought up to look pretty, talk eloquently during political events, and find a husband. They have absolutely no combat training, not even once Lucy joins the True Borns, who are predominantly either armed guards or soldiers. Whenever Lucy gets caught in a sticky situation, a man conveniently shows up to save her.

Because she’s a useless sack of beans.

Her sister is equally useless, if not more so. She spends the majority of the first book obsessing over boys and then playing the victim (which, admittedly was based on a horrible, traumatic incident). She’s so useless, she gets herself kidnapped and sent to Russia. That’s where True Born ends, which led me to automatically assume True North would pick up in Russia, where she’s off to find her missing sister.

Nope. We spend 300 whole pages faffing about with useless information instead. The author needed to get there from page one. I don’t need to know about how all these experiments are taking forever, and how all these socialite events are doing nothing to help her find her sister…

I know, because she’s all the way in Russia!

All of this could have been summed up within a chapter. Give me the run down, get her on a train, give her some information about her genetics, great. I’m there.

Oh, look. They’re in Russia already? Fabulous. Let’s get back to gory ass kickings and to the matter at hand. That’s all I needed.

Because we didn’t get to the actual plot until three-quarters of the way through, there was no way it was going to wrap up in the last 100 pages the way I envisioned it. True North feels more like a bizarre interlude before the series finale than anything else and I don’t appreciate it. Just make it a duology and cut the entire middle book.

There. Problem solved.

You can probably tell by now that this series in not well written. Not even the writing style has some saving grace. I often had moments where I wondered whether English wasn’t Stirling’s first language because she mixes up a lot of words with the wrong meaning. I would often read her similes and metaphors more than once just to check to make sure they were actually describing the thing she was describing. At some point, a character’s neck “bunches like grapes”. His neck. Bunches. Like grapes. Because he has more than one suddenly? I don’t know what’s happening or why Inigo Mantoya didn’t show up to inform her that he does not think that word means what she thinks it means…

I was going into this expecting kick ass blood and guts fight scenes, with maybe a zombie or two. Instead, I came out of it criminally bored.

Books, Reviews

ARC Book Review: The Inconceivable Life of Quinn

The Inconceivable Life of Quinn

Author: Marianna Baer

Publisher: Abrams/Amulet

Published: April 4, 2017

Rating: 3 / 5

For Those Who Enjoyed: Juno, Jane the Virgin, Asking For It, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, Lost Girls, To the Lighthouse, Chopin’s The Awakening

This is a spoiler-free review!

Inconceivable

I was given an ARC copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review!

Don’t ask me why, but I’ve always been fascinated by pregnancy plots. Anyone who’s familiar with my fiction writing knows I sneak it into my narratives at least once. So I was instantly interested in checking this book out. Given how taboo teen pregnancy is, I’ve seen very few books on the topic in the young adult market, so I was shocked when a chick lit type fluffy novel showed up. Why would a lighthearted book about teen pregnancy be out there in the world? I had a lot of questions about it and I needed the answer.

The plot itself isn’t a particularly original one, given Jane the Virgin’s been doing the same schtick for three years now. But the magical realism element gave it its unique heft. Unlike Jane the Virgin’s hook of an artificial insemination gone wrong, Inconceivable doesn’t tie itself to a logical explanation for Quinn’s virgin pregnancy. Most of the novel is spent trying to make sense of it and the mystery is what keeps the narrative afloat. I could have easily set this one aside one chapter in, but something about the intrigue of it all kept me going. There are so many I need to know where this is going paths that just about excuses the almost mediocre writing style.

Baer addresses possibilities for how Quinn may have been impregnated without knowing in ways I haven’t seen YA authors address female sexuality before. Going into this novel, I didn’t think she would be touching up on drugs, rape, incest, and PTSD that might come with it as much as she did. And because this is supposed to be such a light fluffy novel, I found the tonal shifts very jarring. The assumption is that something horrible has happened to her to give her regressive memory, so much so that her parents are more willing to lie and convince her she’s been victimised than they are to believe something extraordinary has happened. There’s a really serious, intense, important message building there that Baer doesn’t quite drive home. As if she’s not fully committed to the severity of the situation.

Her use of multiple narratives throughout gives Quinn’s character development some interesting depth. Quinn takes on the majority of the narration, but the novel is peppered with outsider narratives that really challenge her reliability as a narrator. There is nothing I love more than an unreliable narrator, so I would have liked Baer to really go there and make the reader seriously question whether she really is suffering PTSD or if she did have a divine experience. It would have been a far darker story, but I think it would’ve been stronger and more meaningful for it, especially as a novel written to counteract slut shaming, rape culture, gossip media and religious extremism.

I really hope Abrams and Amulet market this with all those messages in mind, because this book is definitely trying to say more than it appears on the surface. It’s opening that dialogue, in however a fluffy way, and I think that’s important.

Books, Reviews

Book Review: Empress of a Thousand Skies

Empress of a Thousand Skies

Author: Rhoda Belleza

Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin Random House Canada)

Published: February 7, 2017

Rating: 2.75 / 5 Stars

For Those Who Enjoyed: Star Wars, The Diabolic, Jupiter Ascending, The Martian, Firefly, Serenity, Starflight

This is a spoiler-free review!

empress

I’ve been conflicted about this one for months now, flip-flopping back and forth between 2 and 3 stars. It’s not that it’s poorly written, it’s just boring. Which is madness, because it should be impossible for space capers to be boring! Since this novel is so one-note, I could not tell you what happened in the plot any time I picked it up to read. The Cantina Band from Star Wars could’ve been playing in my head on a loop every single time I turned on my ereader for all I know. It would’ve by far been more exciting than what happened in this book.

The problem with Empress is that it’s essentially Star Wars, from every angle. A princess (sorry- empress) loses her entire family in a political maneuver and suddenly everyone’s out to capture her. Meanwhile, a pair of ragamuffin pilots who are clearly Han and Lando get embroiled in the mess alongside their sarcastic droid. I’m pretty sure a planet or two blew up. The Death Star was there. Gosh, I don’t know.

There’s the Cantina Band again…

The only remotely interesting thing going on in this plot is that Han and Lando– ah, Aly and Vin are dreamy to-die-for reality tv stars. Unfortunately, this nuance does nothing to further the plot. In fact, Alyosha is completely isolated and his stardom is kind of a non-entity to his character in general. I find everyone’s motives and actions in this novel baffling. The plot twists are one part “yeah, I know…” and two parts “wait, did I skip a chapter?” for how predictable and lacking in the real meat of the story it is. This is an instance where the dual narrative doesn’t do the plot justice whatsoever. Belleza has a nasty habit of ending chapters right on the climax of a scene, moving on to the second narrative, and returning to it later, completely resolved.

Did I zone out with my internal Cantina Band for half the book? Am I missing something? Wait, when did that important character die? How’d they go from being on a space bus to being on a completely different planet halfway across the galaxy? When’d they get off the bus??? I can’t answer any of these questions, because none of it actually happened on the page!

For the most part, I’m disappointed. I love a good space opera, but if I wanted Star Wars without any of the actual action, I’d squirm my way through the prequels instead…