The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe

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I loved The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe. Even though it’s about gold mining by boat, this is a story about the human race’s future and not their past.
Poe and Call are out on the deck during the evening while there mining ship travels down river. Call is Poe’s best friend and soul mate but his life is cut short when he is killed by raiders, savages that left their civilized town to strike out on their own. Poe channels her revenge into building armor and weapons or the boat; she will find a way to kill every last raider. Usually, Poe stays behind on these voyages but her captain has something different in mind on the next outing: they will collect the gold and she will go with the ship to insure that it comes to no harm. Poe finds herself conflictingly on the water once again. Will she be able to make it up to Call? What kind of leader will she be? And who is spying on her?
Alley Condie always takes you deep into her world and immerses you in the story. By blending past events and give them a future glaze, Condie has created a new world that isn’t just a mimic of other dystopian fiction. Placing them in a river environment gave our characters new challenges instead of rehashing old clichés.
I loved the character of Poe. Poe is not your typical captain of this genre. She is not arrogant or uppity. While she fights to be a strong captain, she has doubts. She second guesses herself and others. It is this inner dialogue that makes you like Poe. There is more than just revenge here; she also wants to be a good captain to her crew.
My only criticism is the ending. It is the same one from Matched and Atlantis: you never see them put their world back together. These stories are how they get away from the danger and the damage. But never do we get to see the world these characters create.
Overall, I loved the book and would encourage everyone to read it.

Publication: March 26

I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own

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The Lost Night

What if your best friend committed suicide while you were black out drunk? What if you had killed her and can’t remember? That is the premise of The Lost Night, a thrilling storying with some iffy characters.

Lindsay hasn’t seen her friends from college for ten years–since the night Edie committed suicide while they were all at a party upstairs. Lindsay doesn’t want to meet up with Sarah but something compels her. Sarah tells her that she always thought Edie was murdered. She also tells Lindsay that she wasn’t there that night. Lindsay is confused by this; she could swear she was there. This leads Lindsay to start and investigation of how Edie really died and what she

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might have had to do with night she couldn’t remember.

The Lost Night has great pacing. This is Andrea Bartz’s greatest asset; the story moves quickly. The story keeps advances  and a new piece of the mystery is constantly revealed. I love that it didn’t get hung up on philosophy or other life issues that didn’t have to do with the main story.

The pacing can’t make up for the fact that you don’t like the characters.  Lindsay was annoying and hippie pretentious. While her friends seem to have grown out of it, she hasn’t. While she doesn’t drink after her last black out, Lindsay still hides so much from herself. It is this search for herself that really brings out the bad in her friends that she had sugar coated.

That’s another issue. Her friends are all insufferable and cannot be the leading e of the college graduates of the time the author tries to paint. Once again, this is rich kid New York and they are all drinking and getting high and doing stupid things. It is only the fact that Lindsay thinks she killed Edie herself that keeps it moving. And, honestly, I hope she had.

While I can set aside a group of past unlikable characters, I couldn’t set aside the writing style. The author writes like a second grader who teacher keeps getting onto her for using cliché metaphor so she comes up with her own. It pulls you from the narrative instead of giving the main character a flavorful perspective.

The Lost Night moves quickly and doesn’t ask too much of you. But its writing style is amateur and her characters are unlikeable staling from the exciting and shocking premise. Overall I give The Lost Night two starts.

Publication Date: February 26

I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

The Bird King

The Bird King is a colorful tale set in the times when Spain is expanding its land. Magic and luck fill this tale of adventure.
Fatima is a concubine to the sultan of Granada. She lives a pampered life as the Sultan’s favorite but has no freedom. She dreams of the world outside the palace. Placating her is her friend Hassan, a red headed scribe who has a magical talent.  Whatever map he draws become reality and Fatima has him draw her windows showing off the world she will never see. When a delegation comes to Granada to discuss the sultan’s surrender, Fatima makes a friend with the woman who comes with them. But soon Fatima finds out there are ears everywhere and Hassan is wanted for crimes against the Holy Church. Fatima breaks him out of the palace with the help of djinn. But what is next? Where will they go? How will they create a new start?
G. Willow Wilson (of Ms. Marvel fame) spins an intricate tale capturing the tales of djinn and magic. I was swept away with the imagery of lands I hadn’t seen a

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nd loved getting an inside look. It is the writer’s lush descriptions that pulls you into the world and the magic found inside it.
Unfortunately, the characters are flat. There isn’t much growth. Fatima finally breaks out of her self-importance at the very end of the book. While she does things that admirable, most of the time it is not because of a good heart and care for others; it is all selfishly motivated. She continues to act like a pampered palace dweller throughout the novel ever fully adapting to her surroundings. It is truly only her anger that motivates her and keeps her gong. She is brave but she doesn’t understand any life outside her own. The other characters are just as flat with very little, if any, character growth.

But the overall tale of magic and faith make the book worth reading. My favorite part is the last portion of book when magic is explored more in depth. It is here where you wish you had more insight into the characters and time in the magical lands.
Over all the Bird King is fantastical and magical but many of its characters fall short of the same magic

 

Publication Date: March 12

I received an ARC for review; All opinions are my own

Beautiful Bad

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Beautiful Bad goes for the shock value mimicking the twists other books have done better.

Maddie needs a therapist. She is having issues with anxiety as well as the fallout after a major physical trauma. She relates to her therapist about losing her best friend years ago and the issues with her husband and her profound fear for her son. It’s time to do something, but what?

Beautiful Bad focuses on three perspectives: a cop the day of a murder, Maddie as she gets therapy and Maddie telling her past. The first two perspectives are intriguing pushing me to want to know more. The past though is uninspired and takes me out of the pacing of the first two perspectives. These chapters are painfully boring; we get it, Ian is crazy, Maddie is a bad friend and lets Ian run her life. Too much time is spent in the past than what is actually going on in the plot.

By the time we get to the present and the twist, I am uninterested in the characters other than Jo.  I didn’t predict the twist but I wasn’t surprised at all; I’ve seen similar plots written better.

The book tries to play with the idea of head trauma and how it changes personalities, but the novel spends so little time on it, that it’s really just an excuse instead of thoughtful insight.

Here’s what I liked about the book: I loved the therapist sections. I love the writing therapy; Annie Ward put a lot of effort into that making both scenarios that are playing out fit in the story. These sections were beautifully done and this is what kept me compelled to know what would happen. Ward has a lot of potentials and looks forward to seeing how her work grows.

Sometimes riveting, sometimes boring Beautiful Bad is an uneven novel of suspense.

 

Publication Date: March 5

I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

Daughter of Moloka’i

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I give Daughter of Moloka’i 3.5 stars. The novel starts with a strong story but loses its footing mid-book.

Ruth is given to a convent as a baby to help foster an adoption. But Ruth is like no other girl: she is hapa, half Japanese and half Hawaiian. If that wasn’t enough, her parents live in Moloka’i and have been forced to give up their daughter because they have leprosy. Ruth is luckily to grow up in a stable Japanese home, but when Pearl Harbor is bombed, Ruth must go to the internment camps and give up every part of her life she has fought for.

I vaguely understood this was a sequel to another, much older novel. That being said, the book sets itself up with a great story about Ruth, and I didn’t feel like I was lost without reading the first one. This intoxicating story gives readers a look into what it was like in the camps and was emotionally moving. But suddenly the book takes a sharp turn, and it becomes about the original novel. I suddenly found myself not understanding what was going on. I felt sorry for the character of Ruth because this book is used to finish that character’s tale from the first novel putting Ruth on the backburner. Since I had not read the original, I was not invested in Rachel, and I wanted to see more in-depth what Ruth’s family would do after the internment camps.

The book is lush and beautiful. I loved reading the descriptions of Hawaii and learning more about not just Hawaiian culture but also and Japanese. I am personally very fond of learning about the Oriental cultures and how those who follow those cultures adapt to life in America. So the first portion of the book was just my style.

Unfortunately, Alana Brennert lost Ruth along the way and lost my interest. I highly suggest you read the original novel Moloka’i first.

 

Publication Date February  19

I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.