• Reviews

    Review: Willful Machines by Tim Floreen (2015)

    “As my datelike thing with Nico drew closer, the fears careening around in my head multiplied. What if Nico got flirty again? What if he didn’t get flirty again?”

    Willful Machines, Tim Floreen

    Rating: ★★★
    Genre: Science fiction, YA
    Categories: M/M, futuristic, robots

    Content Warnings (highlight to read): Some terms & references to race that were… cause for pause. White mc calling himself ‘Kamikaze Lee,’ exoticising the love interest, etc.

    Description: Equal parts romance and sci-fi thriller, Willful Machines is the story of the closeted son of the US president unraveling an elaborate plot involving robots & artificial intelligence… while also falling in love with the new boy at school. (And I think you can see where this is going, but I’m not going to outright spoil it for you).

    “In the near future, scientists create what may be a new form of life: an artificial human named Charlotte. All goes well until Charlotte escapes, transfers her consciousness to the Internet, and begins terrorizing the American public.”

  • Reviews

    Review: The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater (2016)

    “Strange he hadn’t had a premonition of what this place would become to him all those months ago. But maybe not. So much of magic—of power, in general—required belief as a prerequisite.”

    The Raven King, Maggie Stiefvater

    Rating: ★★★★
    Genre: Urban fantasy, YA
    Categories: M/M, M/F, YA, multiple narrators, wizards/magicians, mythology, ghosts

    Content Warnings (highlight to read): N/A

    Description: A sharply-written YA series about slowly uncovering the magic underneath the mundane day-to-day world. The series follows Blue, slightly put-upon daughter of a house of psychics, and her adventures with the Raven Boys—private school boys with their own evolving mysterious pasts and destinies. Boys that could be kings, men that might be trees, magic dream worlds, ghosts, fortune-telling, high-maintenance murderers, cars, and bees?—There’s a lot there.

    “For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.”

  • Reviews

    Review: Timekeeper by Tara Sim (2016)

    “Danny had most certainly fallen down the rabbit hole. He didn’t know if he ever wanted to return.”

    Timekeeper, Tara Sim

    Rating: ★★★½
    Genre: Fantasy, YA
    Categories: M/M, alternate history

    Content Warnings (highlight to read): N/A

    Description: Danny is a clock mechanic, tasked with keeping the world’s clocktowers running in an alternate Victorian world. These clocktowers literally keep time: if a town’s tower is broken, time around it grows out of sync, or may even stop entirely, trapping those inside its influence in an infinite loop. When a series of bombings starts attacking clocktowers around England, Danny urgently works to solve the mystery, alongside a mysterious clock spirit that he becomes very invested in protecting.

  • Reviews

    Review: Half Wild

    4.5/5 stars. Buy at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

    Half Wild by Sally Green is the fantastic sequel to Half Bad, which I reviewed here.

    Things have gone from bad to… well, still bad for Nathan, who now has his Gift but can’t control it, transforming into a wild animal at night and waking up with blood in his teeth. But he’s determined to stay positive, to try to find the best in things, though situations that crop up make that very, very hard.

    I loved this book even more than Half Bad. Nathan is fantastically sympathetic even while he makes mistakes, or does things for the wrong reason. In my previous review, I mentioned that although we sympathize with and love Nathan, we don’t see what Gabriel sees in him. That’s clarified in this book, and we get a much deeper understanding of how Gabriel feels. Which is done fantastically well; Gabriel has rocketed up to one of my favorite characters.

    The writing is still incredible. It’s experimental, and although I think some of these experiments don’t entirely work—the changing font sizes and repeated sounds can get a bit tiresome; we know what it sounds like by then, and I don’t need the visual—I still appreciate the desire to experiment, and other things work very nicely for me to build emotional effect.

    The central conflict for Nathan is always one of emotional entanglements. How he feels for the girl he loves, Annalise; how he feels for the boy he knows loves him, Gabriel; how he feels for the father he never knew, how he feels for people who have hurt him but who now need him, how he feels about death and how he feels about hope.

    And Green sells it to us. Nathan’s feelings are genuine and important and his desire to hope for the best shines through. As a middle book in a dark YA trilogy, things are pretty bleak at this point. I love Nathan, though, and I hope so much that his hope bears fruit.

  • Reviews

    Review: Half Bad

    4.5/5 stars. Buy at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

    Half Bad by Sally Green is a dark and evocative take on the YA hidden magical world genre.

    I should note up front that I picked this book (the first of a trilogy) at random off a list of Gay YA, so that informs my reading and my review, although to my uninformed understanding, the queer content is developed more later in the series.

    Witches hide themselves among normal people—or fains, as they call them—but have a very real, very dangerous, very regulated society. There are White Witches and there are Black Witches, and these aren’t in terms of how they choose to use their magic but is genetic, and informs the sort of gifts they have available to them. Nathan, the protagonist, is a child at the time this story starts—and is half-Black, half-White, the son of the worst Black Witch, Marcus. Hated, tortured, and being kept and trained in the hopes he’ll lure in and/or kill his father, Nathan has little love for the society of White Witches, but he’s left with little choice but complying with them. For one thing, they keep him in a cage. For another, if he isn’t able to get three gifts and a drink of blood on his seventeenth birthday, he’ll die.

    The writing style in Half Bad is incredible. I was uncertain, at first, when I was dropped right into a second person POV, but the use of second person is limited, and the connotations of it, of Nathan telling things to himself because he is lonely (and alone) and needs to remind himself to focus on who he is in the midst of what he’s going through… it blew me away. I was glad that the main book was first person instead, though, and the writing was beautiful there too. Strong, evocative text.

    This book may be hard to read if you can’t stomach dark scenarios. Nathan is beaten, emotionally and physically abused, and some scenes in the book are certainly tantamount to torture; Nathan has self-healing magic and advantage is taken of this. But the writing itself doesn’t turn it into “agony porn”, imho; there’s no sense of delighting in it so much as just presenting it. And although the book’s dark, and Nathan’s anger and distress and longing to be loved is transparent on each page, it feels hopeful as well. There are people who love him, and he is trying to seize his chances, and he does feel like the moments of happiness are worth living for.

    If I had to pick something to be critical about, it’d be that we as the readers are sympathetic to Nathan and we know what he’s gone through, so his explosions of anger are easy for us to dismiss. It’s hard to see sometimes what other people like Gabriel or Annalise see in him, based only on their onscreen interactions. Since it’s so thoroughly in Nathan’s POV, I’m willing to buy the assertion that (for example) Gabriel loves him, but their interactions haven’t yet shown us what in Nathan he does love; Gabriel is an enigma. On the other hand, with two more books (and several ebook short stories) to go, that may well be answered in the future.

    And probably that means it’ll be answered for me quite shortly—I went out and bought Half Wild right after I finished reading Half Bad!