Wednesday, June 3, 2015


Announcement: If you haven’t already checked out Cait’s lovely blog, Paper Fury, she’s got some great content—and her giveaway is still open, so you should totally head over there (you know, if you want). Also, Sierra at Yearning to Read is now celebrating her darling blog’s fifth birthday, and I might cry if you don’t visit it. (Plus, there’s a giveaway.)

Now on to the reviews, and just so we’re on the same page, here’s my rating system:

One Star—Ick
Two Stars—Meh

Three Stars—Good

Four Stars—Great

Five Stars—ajklsdflk (when words fail to describe how wonderful a book is)





First off, I want to thank Karen Bao for giving me a free copy of her book as well as Literary Rambles for hosting said giveaway! (Also, I read this book right after it came out in February, so I’m a little late in reviewing. *sheepish face*)


Rating: Four out of Five Stars—Great


Okay, can I just say—the cover is gorgeous. I mean, look at it. Initially I thought it seemed like she’s running on the ground with the rising moon as a backdrop. When I studied it more closely, though, I found she actually appears to be running around the curve of the moon itself. Very interesting. For whatever reason, I’m certain this has some deep, philosophical meaning pertaining to the story. But now you’re probably all looking at me like I’ve finally cracked, so I’m going to move on to discussing the book itself before you start breaking out the strait jacket.

Right away I fell in love with the setting. I mean, if a novel features anything even remotely related to the moon, it gets bumped pretty high on my list of Cool Things. Unfortunately for Karen Bao, she’s trying to break into a genre that started to cool down a while ago—the dystopian market is already so flooded, you have to write something pretty spectacular (like DIVERGENT) for it to stand out. However, while Bao may not find herself hurtling toward the same level of fame that Veronica Roth and Suzanne Collins enjoy, I do believe she included some fresher elements that might appeal to jaded dystopian addicts.
In the lunar environment (people living on the moon!!!! *cue ecstatic hyperventilating*) the prying, claustrophobic government seems almost logical. Because the terrain is unforgiving, and because the colonies require constant supervision, it makes sense that that those in charge would have to encroach on personal privacy to a certain extent. After all, even one little mishap could kill everyone, so it’s essential to keep an eye on everything. However, somewhere along the line, this supervision has gone beyond the realm of reasonable. Now Phaet and her friends and family have to cover the listening devices implanted in their hands just to have a personal conversation (because Big Brother is totally listening in *nods*). So because I see the progression from a benign use of power to a malignant abuse, the world of DOVE ARISING feels more believable than some other dystopian novels.

On top of that, I appreciated Phaet’s introspective personality. Now, I realize that others don’t share this sentiment—some found her steady internal dialogue and not-so-steady outward expression annoying. Maybe this is an introvert vs. extravert issue, because I’m, like, 70% introverted, and Phaet is basically my hero.

But, I did have a few issues with this book. For one, despite her signature silence (I don’t even think she speaks until about fifty pages in, but I didn’t exactly take notes), Phaet still sounds a lot like Tris. She is relatively humorless, practical, brave, and just generally Tris-ish. When she joins Dauntless—I mean, the militia—in order to avoid becoming Factionless—I mean, homeless—her instruction is divided into stages. Initiates—I mean, recruits—are given a ranking system. The higher their final rank, the better the job they get. Phaet is even attacked during this training by some of the recruits she has bested. Oh, and I won’t mention the cute, mysterious guy who helps train her, because I don’t want to spoil the WHOLE story for you. But you see—there are definitely some DIVERGENT parallels there. (To be fair though, this takes place on the moon, so Bao still has that unique aspect going for her. And this book features an explosion or two, plus no trains. So it’s totally original—ignore everything else I said.)

Also, as for Katniss in THE HUNGER GAMES, the loss of Phaet’s father has greatly affected her personality and the way she views the world. And is it just me, or does it seem like Phaet’s best friend Umbriel is going to be Gale 2.0 by the end of the trilogy?

Because Phaet is so reserved and uncommunicative, the plot lacked emotional punch, though that’s not to say nothing interesting/sad/scary/I-can’t-tell-you-because-it-would-ruin-everything happens. On the whole, though, I didn’t feel I could connect with her as well as I could with other protagonists. And about half the time I wanted to yell at Phaet and everyone else to just COMMUNICATE WITH EACH OTHER ALREADY BECAUSE THEN YOU WON’T HAVE SO MANY STUPID MISUNDERSTANDINGS!!! Seriously, Phaet, sometimes you make me want to lick a cheese grater. But I do wonder if some of Phaet’s emotionlessness comes from her inability to process the grief in her past and the uncertainty in her present, so I will give her some slack on that. It’s not exactly easy to be yourself in a Socialistic environment.

To summarize, I felt the book lagged a bit in the middle and leaned—perhaps a little too heavily—on its forebears. Yet despite its weaknesses, its fresh twist left me more satisfied than disappointed, and I look forward to reading the final two books in the trilogy whenever they come out. And, considering Karen Bao began DOVE ARISING, her debut novel, when she was seventeen (or so I’m told), she is definitely an author to watch.





Thank you to Donna Galanti for giving me a free copy of her book and to Literary Rambles for hosting said giveaway! I received this book in the mail on Friday and finished it on Saturday, so I’m pretty proud of myself for getting to the review so quickly. Does this mean I get a gold sticker?


Rating: Three out of Five Stars—Good


Now, let me just say, I really, REALLY, wanted to give this book four stars. After all, I don’t like tearing apart a fellow writer’s work. I know how it feels to receive criticism. And Donna asked me to review her book, so I feel like a monster giving her three stars after she sent me a sweet card and everything. Excuse me while I retreat to the Corner of Shame. So I want to preface this by telling you that I did enjoy JOSHUA AND THE LIGHTNING ROAD, and I know that if I were in the intended Middle Grade age range, I would be quicker to give it four stars. After all, I don’t read much MG, so I may not be the best judge of this genre. But before I tell you why I’m giving it three stars, let me start with what I liked about the book.

Even though Joshua doesn’t leap off the page like many memorable MG characters do (and seriously, it’s important for MG characters to have a strong, unique voice), he is still an admirable protagonist. While he makes hasty/stupid decisions from time to time (though seriously, would we have any books if characters didn’t?), he has a good heart. On a number of occasions, he risks his welfare, his happiness, and even his life for others without considering—even for a moment—the consequences of his actions. Granted, not many twelve-year olds actually think they’re going to die if they do something dangerous. But I don’t want to undermine how genuinely unselfish Joshua is. Like, I think my cold, dark heart shed a few tears.

He isn’t arrogant, even when he has reason to be, and he doesn’t call attention to himself or assume that he’s the best. Instead, he puts others first like the gentleman he is. And while he disobeys his grandfather by taking the Lightning Orb, his reasons are almost honorable enough to justify his actions (not that I advocate disobeying your guardians, and the end never justifies the means). But hey, tell a twelve-year-old not to touch the mysterious, glowing thing, and what do you expect them to do?

Also, I loved the mood and the setting. I loved the feel of the story and the color scheme (my color scheme for letters and numbers applies to stories as well—don’t laugh). I’m almost certain that, if I were younger and less hard-hearted, I would have been swept along with the plot. It wasn’t as predictable as I expected coming in, and the supporting cast was interesting—to say the least. I could never quite figure out Leandro, Hekate was a delightfully icky villain (don’t even get me started on Cronag, the Child Collector), and I fell head-over-heels for Charlie. He speaks French—am I swooning? (No, because he’s like, thirteen, and that would be totally inappropriate.)

So here are the reasons I chose to give only three stars when I wanted to give four. I understand that, with children’s stories, authors are expected to use a simpler writing style. After all, it might be a little much to ask an eleven-year-old to read CRIME AND PUNISHMENT (great book, by the way). So maybe my judgement is a little unfair—please forgive me. But be that as it may, I felt the writing lacked some of the artistry I’ve enjoyed in various other MG novels (like Stefan Bachmann’s THE PECULIAR and THE WHATNOT, J.M. Barrie’s PETER PAN, and Cornelia Funke’s INKHEART). That’s not to say there wasn’t any at all—Galanti included some great similes and some vivid word pictures. Her descriptions appealed to all five senses (though maybe she dwelt too much on how things smelled—my nose was starting to hurt). And she avoided the dreadful, book-killing info dump. (Not to mention, art is very subjective—so this is just my opinion, folks.)

But on the whole, I felt that her sentence structures tended toward the weaker side, and her grammar needed shoring up in places. (Slap me if I sound too much like a pretentious little snob. I assure you, I’ve only read, like, five grammar books.) It’s one thing to use commonly accepted grammatical errors in dialogue, especially when children are speaking. They wouldn’t sound like real kids if they talked like they’d just come home from prep school (unless, of course, you’re writing about characters who just came home from prep school, in which case, knock yourself out). But I’m a little less forgiving of grammatical errors embedded in the narrative itself. After all, kids learn English usage and grammar through reading as much as schooling, if not more. They’ll pick these things up without even realizing it. And there’s a fine line between striving for authenticity and setting a bad example. That, more than anything, is why I chose three stars instead of four. (Now excuse me while I go hide in the corner, because I’m sure there have been grammatical errors in my blog before.)  

To summarize, because of grosser elements (like descriptively stinky people and snot), JOSHUA AND THE LIGHTNING ROAD may appeal more to boys than girls—or at least, that’s the impression I got. While it doesn’t have the same humor and breadth, it may still appeal to fans of PERCY JACKSON AND THE LIGHTNING THIEF. Not everyone will love it, but I don’t think it was a waste of time, and I look forward to reading the sequel, JOSHUA AND THE ARROW REALM.


What about you? Have you read either of these books, and if so, what did you think? What are your criteria when you rate books? Do you read grammar books for fun? Have you found grammatical errors in my blog before?


  1. I haven't heard either of these books. Living on the moon definitely seems interesting! I'm glad you found both books worth your time. I don't read grammar books for fun, although I'd consider reading one for my writing craft. :P

    1. I'd actually never heard of them either until Literary Rambles put up the giveaways. And I would LOVE to live on the moon--but I'd probably be too scared to. :( Some grammar books aren't all that interesting since the subject matter can be dry, but my all time favorite is Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. It's hilarious. (The only downside is that it's British, so the rules of punctuation are a little different over there. But it's still well worth the read.)