23.11.18

review and cover mani: this splintered silence



The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Lindley Hamilton has been the leader of the space station Lusca since every first-generation crew member on board, including her mother, the commander, were killed by a deadly virus.

Lindley always assumed she’d captain the Lusca one day, but she never thought that day would come so soon. And she never thought it would be like this—struggling to survive every day, learning how to keep the Lusca running, figuring out how to communicate with Earth, making sure they don’t run out of food.

When a member of the surviving second generation dies from symptoms that look just like the deadly virus, though, Lindley feels her world shrinking even smaller. The disease was supposed to be over; the second generation was supposed to be immune. But as more people die, Lindley must face the terrifying reality that either the virus has mutated or something worse is happening: one of their own is a killer.

__

I love books set in space. The zero gravity, threats of instant death from a myriad of sources, and extreme isolation are always an excellent setting for a thriller. In THIS SPLINTERED SILENCE, all three were present and accounted for, with additional obstacles including a deadly virus and a bunch of teenagers who didn’t really know what they were doing. Oh, and there was also a possible killer on the loose.

*gets popcorn (metaphorically because of butter-staining on pages)* 


Jacket art and design by Jessie Gang


The cast in THIS SPLINTERED SILENCE felt like a return to young adult protagonists. Characters who, with a limited amount of life experience and loads of confidence, behaved like actual teenagers, a mix of critical thinking and impulsivity, passion and introspection. And with the majority of the space station grappling with the death of their parents and loved ones, grief played a pivotal role, underlying every decision and amplifying the stress of being stuck on a space station with no certainty of survival. A terrible combination in real life, but a fabulous one for fiction. *evil cackle*

Placing the narrative squarely on Lindley, from a first-person POV no less, set the stage for the story to unravel. Having just lost her mother—her only family—there wasn't time for Lindley to grieve after assuming her mother’s position in order to keep the station running. But that sort of sorrow can't be contained for long, and with an extreme lack of sleep, cracks began to splinter in Lindley’s stoic demeanour (see what I did there? 🤓). Moving from one emergency to the next, including second-tier emergencies (smooches! Strained friendships!) Lindley never had a moment to rest, and when the second-generation crew members (the teens/kiddos) started dying, she was stretched past her limit. So along with the uncertainty surrounding the new deaths, tension came from Lindley herself. The deep dive into her character gave the stakes another dimension, because I wanted her to be okay, both in a don’t-get-murdered way, and also emotionally.





Unfortunately, I got a bit lost in the cast of characters and would have liked more physical descriptions and mannerisms to set people apart, and I wasn’t completely sold on the romance. The first part of the book set up a lot of questions and most were answered by the end, with a sprint to the finish that had me burning through pages. The scientific elements seemed legit, although most of what I know about science I learned from The Big Bang Theory, so take that as you will. Overall, Olson really flexed her character-driven muscles in THIS SPLINTERED SILENCE, and the result was an entertaining read, perfect for YA sci-fi fans. 

Big thanks to HCC Frenzy for an ARC!



__

For this mani, I used:

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism

China Glaze – All Sun & Games and Can't Sandal This

Glisten and Glow – topcoat

So Nailicious – needle and spear brush



15.11.18

review and cover mani: empire of sand

 


The back jacket, from Goodreads:

A nobleman’s daughter with magic in her blood. An empire built on the dreams of enslaved gods. Empire of Sand is Tasha Suri’s captivating, Mughal India-inspired debut fantasy.

The Amrithi are outcasts; nomads descended of desert spirits, they are coveted and persecuted throughout the Empire for the power in their blood. Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited.

When Mehr’s power comes to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda.

Should she fail, the gods themselves may awaken seeking vengeance…

Empire of Sand is a lush, dazzling fantasy novel perfect for readers of City of Brass and The Wrath & the Dawn.

__

Turn down the volume on your speakers, friends, because I’m about to get S-C-R-E-A-M-Y. 

This book. THIS BOOK I CANNOT. 

Because Mehr! Oh Mehr. I loved her so much. SO VERY MUCH.

Let me break it down for you in legitimate sentences and not just a series of non-specific, enthusiastic exclamations.

Cover design by Lauren Panepinto

A strong character in quieter sense, meaning nonviolent, Mehr would give Marcella Morgan herself a run for her money. Jk they’d probably be best friends. But my point stands. Mehr’s toughness didn’t come from turning men to dust, or stabbing a sword into her enemy’s heart. Rather, it was her internal resolve. Not even Mehr’s privileged upbringing could stop her from being treated like an outsider. Kept separate from her sister and constantly told she was less-than, Mehr had to look within for acceptance. No matter what others said, no matter which whispered insult passed her by, Mehr stayed true to her beliefs. Her history. Her blood. Even when she was forced into impossible situations where it would have been easier to bend, there were moments she chose punishment over remaining silent—a next-level type of courage and yet, only a taste of Mehr’s strength. Astounding and admirable, to say the least.

I would like to briefly note that my esteem towards Mehr also extended to another character who isn’t mentioned in the description, so I won’t talk about them aside from saying I LOVE THAT CHARACTER SO MUCH MY HEART HURTS. I insist that you DM me when you read EMPIRE OF SAND so we can gush about this character who I can’t talk about, but also need to talk about, so let’s move on before I crack under the fangirl pressure.




Now that I’ve addressed the dynamic awesomeness of Mehr and Unnamed Character, it’s time for me to straight-up grab you by your beautiful cheeks and bring you close so I can whisper, “You have no idea how incredible Tasha Suri’s writing is,” in the least creepy way possible. And then follow-up by grabbing the lapels of your jacket (because it’s snowy here) and shake you a few times because FOR REAL THIS WRITING. An elegant delivery with a perfect amount of bite, EMPIRE OF SAND had the sort of voice that made the world fade away. Suri’s masterful ability to describe physical movement was among the strongest I’ve ever read, which I appreciated infinitely because dance played a key role in Mehr’s life, and it's often a challenge for me to imagine scenes of that nature. But not here. In this book, I could feel the movement in my limbs, and it was glorious.

So look, I know there are a lot of awesome fantasies out there, including a fair amount of debuts, and you may be thinking that you don’t have room for another. To this, I say “we both know that's not actually true because there's always room for more.” If you love fantasy, you NEED to read EMPIRE OF SAND. Like, it’s not optional. You’d be doing your brain and heart a disservice to not immerse yourself in this unbelievable tale of love, sacrifice, and determination. And I haven’t even mentioned the diversity and Indian setting, the intricate descriptions of lavish furnishings and clothing. Or the powerful way Suri incorporated feminism, spirituality, and faith. In short, I am completely obsessed with EMPIRE OF SAND and have full confidence that you will be too. Five stars plus a billion stars, for a total of one billion and five stars.

Big thanks to Orbit Books for an ARC!



__

For this mani, I used:

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché

OPI – A Good Man-Darin Is Hard to Find, Big Apple Red, I Just Can’t Cope-acabana, and Rollin’ In Cashmere

China Glaze – Chroma Cool, Wicked Liquid, and Slay Bells Ring

ORLY – Storyteller (custom shade)

So Nailicious – needle brush

Glisten and Glow - topcoat




9.11.18

review and cover mani: beasts of extraordinary circumstance


The back jacket, from Goodreads:

Orphaned, raised by wolves, and the proud owner of a horned pig named Merlin, Weylyn Grey knew he wasn’t like other people. But when he single-handedly stopped that tornado on a stormy Christmas day in Oklahoma, he realized just how different he actually was.

That tornado was the first of many strange events that seem to follow Weylyn from town to town, although he doesn’t like to take credit. As amazing as these powers may appear, they tend to manifest themselves at inopportune times and places. From freak storms to trees that appear to grow over night, Weylyn’s unique abilities are a curiosity at best and at worst, a danger to himself and the woman he loves. But Mary doesn’t care. Since Weylyn saved her from an angry wolf on her eleventh birthday, she’s known that a relationship with him isn’t without its risks, but as anyone who’s met Weylyn will tell you, once he wanders into your life, you’ll wish he’d never leave.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance tells the story of Weylyn Grey’s life from the perspectives of the people who knew him, loved him, and even a few who thought he was just plain weird. Although he doesn’t stay in any of their lives for long, he leaves each of them with a story to tell. Stories about a boy who lives with wolves, great storms that evaporate into thin air, fireflies that make phosphorescent honey, and a house filled with spider webs and the strange man who inhabits it.

There is one story, however, that Weylyn wishes he could change: his own. But first he has to muster enough courage to knock on Mary’s front door.

In this warm debut novel, Ruth Emmie Lang teaches us about adventure and love in a beautifully written story full of nature and wonder.

___

BEASTS OF EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCE reminded me a lot of Forrest Gump, only with the addition of magic and fewer trips to the White House. I’ll admit that landed this book the heartwarming side, not my usual cup of tea, but I’d heard great things and wanted to give it a try. Also, I’m a sucker for magic anything, so off I went. 

Along with the magical aspect, Weylyn’s uniqueness included the effect he had on others, which explained the story’s somewhat unconventional narration from characters around Weylyn, instead of through Weylyn’s POV. That decision, for me, proved to be the standout of BEASTS. Had the narrative come from Weylyn himself, I wouldn’t have been able to connect to him. Because for real, nobody has that pure of a soul. But instead of rolling my eyes and putting BEASTS down in lieu of something more murder-y, keeping the narration from those who knew him allowed me to become strongly attached to Weylyn. A little too strongly, actually. 


Jacket design by Ervin Serrano
Jacket photography of tree ©️Brian W. Downs/Offset.com

At some point in the first twenty percent or so, although I truly can’t identify the precise moment, I noticed a terrible sensation in the middle of my chest. A constriction of sorts, followed by an increase in my pulse, and it took me a second to realize that it was paralyzing worry. The melancholy vibe in BEASTS told me that Weylyn had a world of hurt in his future where he’d be let down, his truest wish of belonging never fully manifesting, and I wasn’t sure I could continue. Give me a crime thriller any day over a sweet and sad story about a perpetually misunderstood boy who longs for love and acceptance because DEAR GOD WHY ARE PEOPLE THE WORST? WHEN WILL HE FINALLY GET WHAT HE NEEDS? WHY AM I FEELING ALL OF THESE FEELINGS?!  I AM NOT EQUIPPED FOR THESE FEELINGS AHHHHHHHHH!




I honestly haven’t experienced that level of vulnerability while reading a novel, and waiting for each shoe to drop, whether it be somebody hurting Weylyn’s feelings, rejecting him, or being a straight up bully, meant that even when Weylyn was doing fine, I never stopped bracing myself for the next fall. Luckily (or strategically? *tips hat at Lang*) my extreme protectiveness of Weylyn was reflected in the characters who delivered each chapter, characters who saw Weylyn’s innocent nature for what it was and helped him as best they could. And, you know, the magical sweetness of fireflies making phosphorescent honey, storms vanishing in an instant, and other delightful unexplainable oddities didn’t hurt either. Plus, the writing’s lyrical quality included the sort of whimsical and detailed background stories found in fables, which elevated the overall story. 

A solid four stars from me, BEASTS OF EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCE is a fabulous choice if you’re in the mood for a quieter, more reflective sort of novel with magical quirks, and there’s also Merlin the horned pig, so this book really hit a lot of notes. 


Big thanks to St. Martin’s Press for a finished copy!



__

For this mani, I used:

Essie - after school boy blazer

China Glaze – Boujee Board, Emerald Bae, Foie Gras, and Street Style Princess

FingerPaints – Black Expressionism and Paper Mâché

ORLY – Skinny Dip

Julep – Sam

Glisten and Glow - Mother Terra

So Nailicious – needle brush