August 12, 2020

Reviews: With or Without You + Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything + Where Dreams Descend

pub 8/4/20 by Algonquin Books
Adult Fiction - Contemporary
Received e-ARC from pub for review


⭐⭐ 2 stars | Even though the circumstances were sad, I was intrigued by the overarching premise behind With or Without You – this idea that you could wake up with a whole new artistic talent and what does that mean to you as an individual to suddenly have this brand new path laid out in front of you. Stella and Simon have been together for twenty years and their wants have clearly diverged. Simon has been pursuing the idea of becoming a famous musician for as long as they've been together and when his band gets an unexpected opportunity to go on the road, he's ready to go. But when Stella falls into a coma as he's about to leave, he has to choose between that dream and her. Then she wakes up an entirely different person with an artistic skill she never had before and both parties need to re-evaluate what they want in life and from each other. However, the least interesting thing about the book were the characters themselves and their relationship. I just didn’t care for Stella, Simon, or anyone else introduced on a personal level. I get that we’re supposed to see the shades of grey in each individual’s circumstance but while I do understand they’re all flawed, I still didn’t like any of them. It’s partially because the author didn’t dive deep enough to give us certain insights or it was done too little, too late. Given that the main relationship spanned twenty years, I expected a lot more angst, heartbreak, and love, quite frankly. The only reason why I kept reading was because I wanted to know what Stella's journey would be concerning her new talent. It made me wonder how much of our creativity is innate (I think it is) versus what you can be taught. But even that journey with her had a pretty lackluster ending. 

Do I recommend? No, it's nothing I would personally recommend since it didn't work for me. 



pub 8/11/20 by Simon Pulse
Young Adult - Sci-Fi/Magical Realism
Received e-ARC from pub for review
⭐⭐💫 2.5 stars | I clearly did not read the synopsis carefully enough when I picked up this book because it took a Roswellian turn I did not see coming at all. Granted, I still would have read it since I love Roswell anyway but I think it's good know ahead of time so you're not surprised like I was. In a nutshell, Sia Martinez's mom was deported and taken in an ICE raid thanks to the bigotry of someone in her tiny (read: small-minded) Arizona town. And three years ago, her mom then disappeared but is presumed dead. That doesn't stop Sia though from driving to their spot in the desert to light candles for her mom, as a way to guide her home. Until one day, a blue-lit spacecraft crashes in front of Sia's car and reveals her very much alive mother. From there, shenanigans, conspiracies, and more ensue as Sia tries to save her mom from the government and aliens, with the help of her dad and their friends. I’m torn because I liked the characters a lot – everyone from Sia, to her best friend, the cute boy introduced (there's always a cute boy!), and the big role family played even if it was only through flashbacks. Not to mention, the themes were super relevant as well. But the execution of the alien aspect got pretty messy, particularly towards the last 25% of the book. I think for that part to have worked, it really needed to be developed a lot more and a lot sooner. And I genuinely wish it had been because it was interesting but the explanations and the ending were just too rushed.

Do I recommend? I'm 50/50 on it. If you're curious, I would highly recommend borrowing it from the library rather than purchasing it. 


pub 8/25/20 by Wednesday Books
Young Adult - Fantasy
Received ARC from pub for review
⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars | Where Dreams Descend has been on my radar for quite some time. Not only is the author Janella Angeles a huge fan of Moulin Rouge (which serves as inspiration for this series), she's Filipino-American and I got to her meet her during the 2020 ALAMW in Philadelphia (she's a total sweetheart!). The series is set in a mysterious city where a group of magicians have entered a competition to become the next headliner of the Conquering Circus. But with each task they have to perform, magicians are injured or go missing, and it becomes clears there's an unknown threat lording over them all. The three perspectives we get belong to Kallia, Jack and Demarco. Kallia is the main protagonist and a powerful magician and showgirl who's determined to show the world what she can do. Jack is the keeper of the club she's been a performer at and it's never truly clear which side he falls on, good or bad. And lastly, Demarco is a judge for the competition but has a past that he can't shake no matter how much he tries to ignore it. I particularly liked Kallia and Demarco's chapters but it did take a while for the story to capture my interest. With Kallia, I admired her feisty spirit but I wanted to learn more about her beyond the desire to win. It honestly felt like that's all she wanted and without a deeper reason for her ambition, it was difficult to connect to her journey. Likewise, Jack's mysterious nature didn't work for me either. I'd say almost too much of the story and the background were a mystery and I would've liked to learn more in order to feel more invested. That said, I do think the premise is intriguing and by the latter half, especially the last quarter, it hit a stride that made me curious for what will happen next.  

Do I recommend? I feel it's important for me to admit that I've been struggling a bit with YA Fantasy. It's a genre I've loved forever and continue to love but it's also heavily saturated and I find myself becoming pickier in terms of what I look for in a story to truly reel me in. I say all this because a bunch of my friends loved this book so I definitely think you should give it a shot. 

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