Reviews

Welcome to “Reviews in a Minute”! These are the previously titled “bite-sized reviews”, but they’re the same thing. Just a different name.

As the title of the post suggests, I really liked two of these, and one of them… not so much. So read on to see which ones are which! 

Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan
The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie Sue Hitchcock
Marked by Laura Williams McCaffrey


Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan
Series: Reign of Shadows #1
Published by HarperTeen on February 9th 2016
Pages: 304
Format:eARC
Source:via Edelweiss
GoodreadsAmazonBook Depository

Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.


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Reign of Shadows is a dark book- literally and figuratively. In the literal sense, the whole world is dark, due to some kind of crazy perma-eclipse. Can you even imagine how awful it would be to never have sunlight? Well, welcome to this hellish world! Obviously, things aren’t going great. Which brings me to the figurative sense. The world is brutal. I guess people must have turned into real assholes when they weren’t able to sunbathe, or maybe they’d invested too much money in Ray-Bans, I don’t actually know, but they’d kill you just as soon as look at you. As such, Luna ends up having to escape the only place she’s ever known, because people want to kill her, even more than they want to kill everyone else, because she is a princess they thought was dead, after all. So off she goes into the dark woods with Fowler to try and be not murdered.

So the story boils down to survival and a very interesting dynamic between Fowler and Luna. Fowler wants to love exactly zero people. And Luna, she just wants a chance to live after being cooped up in a tower for most of her life. The loathing-turned-romance was very slow and believable, and I like it. I like it a lot. I cannot wait for more of it, frankly, and I am SO excited that we get more of it. Luna and Fowler both undergo great development as characters too, and it’s really sweet to see their personalities unfold during the story.

The atmosphere of the book was on point too. I absolutely sensed the darkness, the fear, the unsettling creepiness that permeated this whole world. The only actual problem I had with the world was that while I felt the misery and discomfort, I didn’t really understand what led it to be that way. Yes, the eclipse, but I had a lot of questions, which I will just go ahead and assume, for now, will be answered in the sequel.

My other issue was that I don’t completely understand the world. I don’t understand who (or what?) the “Dwellers” were (can’t even explain them because I don’t get them- just some kind of… non-human entity? Former human? Seriously, no idea.) or how this world was set up. There was the tower, and then a bagillion miles of woods, and then a city in the trees…. and I guess the kingdom from which Luna came from. That all probably sounded confusing, but that’s just because I am a little confused, clearly.

And then the plot really picks up. And one page into that, the book ends. So, this is the definition of cliffhanger. The cliffhangiest of all the cliffhangers. So do with that what you will.

Bottom Line: Loved Luna and Fowler and their development. Loved the atmosphere and suspense. Loved the questions that remain to be answered. Didn’t so much love my confusion. Overall, definitely worth it for me, especially because hopefully the second book can answer my burning questions! (And more Luna and Fowler, please and thank you!)


The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
Published by Wendy Lamb Books on February 23rd 2016
Pages: 240
Format:eARC
Source:via Netgalley
GoodreadsAmazonBook Depository

In Alaska, 1970, being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. This deeply moving and authentic debut is for fans of Rainbow Rowell, Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, and Benjamin Alire Saenz. Intertwining stories of love, tragedy, wild luck, and salvation on the edge of America’s Last Frontier introduce a writer of rare talent.

Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance, with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.

Four very different lives are about to become entangled. This unforgettable book is about people who try to save each other—and how sometimes, when they least expect it, they succeed.

Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock was born and raised in Alaska. She worked many years fishing commercially with her family and as a reporter for Alaska Public Radio stations around the state. She was also the host and producer of “Independent Native News,” a daily newscast produced in Fairbanks, focusing on Alaska Natives, American Indians, and Canada’s First Nations. Her writing is inspired by her family’s four generations in Alaska.


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Ah, I have wanted to read this book since it was a title on Goodreads with not even a synopsis. Because the title. Sorry, but anything with that magnificent of a title has to be a win, right? Right. And then along came a cover and synopsis, and have you seen those? Also magical.

I was intrigued from the start, because Alaska. Also, it wasn’t present-day Alaska. It was Alaska in 1970, and I had no idea what that would be like. So, curiosity had me hooked, and then the book definitely delivered. The story is told through four young people who lived in this setting, and while at first it seems they have nothing in common, their lives being to intersect.

I learned quite a lot about Alaska and the time period in this book. First, Alaska is just a world unto itself. I suppose being so isolated and having a completely different climate than the rest of the country will do that. Plus, at the time the book is set, they’ve only been a state for eleven years- and not all the residents are happy about their statehood. Also, I learned that I would be everyone’s least favorite neighbor. FireShot Capture 83 - Goodreads I Shannon (It_ - https___www.goodreads.com_user_status_show_84926855

Life is not easy in Alaska, especially for our characters. Some have it easier than others, but really no one’s life is unicorns and rainbows. There’s rampant poverty, which leads to absent parents, ill-equipped parents, clueless parents, abusive parent, sand yes, some really amazing parents. That’s one of the things I loved most about this book. It’s not generalized, there’s a clear indication that a person’s circumstances don’t have to define them.

I loved the characters, too. Even though we don’t get to know them all in huge depth and detail, their development is clear. And as the story progresses, it becomes incredibly apparent that people are not always what they seem. I judged some characters, and actually reprimanded myself later for doing so- because you never, ever know what someone else is going through. Such a huge and important life lesson contained in this lovely story.

The write was positively exquisite. Ms. Hitchcock had me captivated from the first chapter, and never let go. The story was told in a delightful manner that had me not wanting to put the book down.

One part that didn’t wholly work for me was that even though there were four points of view, there were a lot of characters. Because each main character’s life had within it a whole set of side characters, of course. And when those side characters would inevitably intersect with other side characters… well, I would get a little lost. There was an awesome chart in the beginning that kind of explained it, and if I’d been reading a physical copy it would have been pretty easy to switch back and forth, but not so much on my Kindle. I didn’t even mind the characters, or being lost at times, but it did take away from the flow of the story, which otherwise was done beautifully.

Bottom Line: I fell in love with the characters, the setting, and the writing, and never wanted to leave. As long as I didn’t have to get into a fishing boat myself.

4s


Marked by Laura Williams McCaffrey
Published by Clarion Books on February 16th 2016
Pages: 368
Format:eARC
Source:via Netgalley
GoodreadsAmazonBook Depository

Sixteen-year-old Lyla lives in a bleak, controlling society where only the brightest and most favored students succeed. When she is caught buying cheats in an underground shadow market, she is tattooed-marked-as a criminal. Then she is offered redemption and she jumps at the chance . . . but it comes at a cost. Doing what is right means betraying the boy she has come to love, and, perhaps, losing even more than she thought possible. Graphic novel-style vignettes revealing the history of this world provide Lyla with guidance and clues to a possible way out of the double bind she finds herself in.


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I really, really wanted to love this book. I mean, dystopian and I are pretty tight, and I love when I hear an intriguing premise for a new one! The synopsis is quite vague, but I enjoy that, so I eagerly jumped in.

But I don’t even know where to start with this, because none of it made a whole lot of sense to me. The beginning was decent, and I was able to keep up, even though a lot of the terms meant nothing to me. But I got the general idea of Lyla being in school to hopefully work her way into a higher socioeconomic class, and then getting into serious trouble for stealing just to help her parents’ health conditions. That was solid, and I was getting into it. But then I started to get really confused, really quickly. Why?

  • The world in itself. There wasn’t really any explanation for why this society became as it was. Nor was there any indication of the outside world. The story starts without any explanation, and I expected one to unfold as the book went on. It does not.
  • I don’t know what any of these terms mean. Some of them, like “slagging” or “merde”, are slang, I guess. Though I have no idea why they are slang, because usually a slang words makes a semblance of sense to a world, but these didn’t.  But then there’s actual, legitimate terms that matter to the plot that left me going back in the book to see if I missed a chapter or seven. “Protean”, which is one of the biggest aspects of the story I still don’t fully understand. Nor do I understand the Alchemyk thing, but I am pretty sure it has to do with the Protean? Or something?
  • And then everyone had names. Red Fists and Bluecoats, and Marked… but then they all had other name too. Lyla and her friend Gil had special names given to them by other Marked kids- like Bright and Knife and Scooter (fine, I made up Scooter)-  and I had no damn clue who was talking to who half the time, since Gil and Lyla still used their real names to each other. I was pretty sure my brain would explode.
  • I don’t understand the point. At all. I get that Lyla wanted her mark removed, of course. But the broader plot? Seriously, no idea. I guess it would be ideal if the miners didn’t get sick. And maybe if people weren’t attacking each other on the regular. But no one but Lyla, Gil, and a handful of others seemed to even care about that stuff.
  • The ending felt like there was to be a sequel, but there’s no indication that there is. It felt to me that most of it was left unresolved, but I guess maybe that’s just how it was supposed to be.
  • The graphic/comic portions of the story were cool, but I didn’t really understand how they came into play other than “Lyla likes this Alchemyk Origin comic”. Because I still didn’t understand any of it.
  • Lyla became acclimated into the underground seedy world very quickly. She went from Mary Sue to Lara Croft in about ten minutes. She learned all the nuances and terms and politics as though she’d been doing it for years. So that was kind of unbelievable. Especially since I couldn’t even figure it out by the end of the book… 

Bottom Line: Oy. I suppose maybe, if you can comprehend all the elements of the book, it may go better for you? On the other hand, even without those issues, I still was disappointed by the world building and lack of resolution. The characters and the little hint of romance were the saving grace for me.

Shall we chat about these books? Any that you have read or are particularly looking forward to?

Would you be content in Alaska, circa 1970? Because I am going to assume everyone is a strict “no” on the dark, evil stuff… 

Posted February 7, 2016 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in In a Minute, Review / 25 Comments


25 responses to “Reviews in a Minute: Two Hits and a Miss

  1. omg Alaska-ing. XD Ahem. But seriously now, Shannon, you liar…it took me a longer than a minute to read these reviews. BUT I’LL FORGIVE YOU BECAUSE YOU ALWAYS WRITE SUCH FANTASTIC REVIEWS. I really want to read The Smell of Other People’s Houses now!! Even though I hate the smells of other people’s houses. I mean, no. My house is the best and greatest. I shall never leave it. *decides upon hermitage forever*

    And I reeeeeeeally want to read Reign of Shadows. LIKE REALLY REALLY REALLY. But I also don’t, because i’ve really only seen 3-star reviews for it??!? BUT OMG THAT COVER. <3 And retellings. So I'll probably cave one day soon. XD

    • SORRY, nothing I say should ever be taken literally 😉

      The aforementioned smells are NOT always good, I must warn you. It isn’t all cookies and pies in Alaska, you see. You should probably stay home and bake, and then invite me over.

      Reign of Shadows is pretty good. Worth the read- it’s quick too. Especially how fast you ingest books, you’d be done in no time! Like I haven’t seen people go CRAZY in love for it, but I also haven’t seen a lot of hate? So I don’t know if that is good or bad basically.

  2. First, I’m glad to see your review for Reign Of Shadows because I’ve seen some not so great ones from other reviews I trust and it’s good to hear that not everyone hates it. Though, I mean, I’m getting a little tired of all the books who’s worlds aren’t explained/developed at all. I’m tired of being confused! But I am excited about this slow building ship! <3

    Okay, so I wrote that part^ before reading your Marked review so I can firmly say that I will probably not be reading Marked. Again with the confusion and never explaining anything and is this becoming a trend because I do not like it?!? The names thing, I think is what would really get me with this one.

    And um, well I don't know a lot about Alaska in 1970 but I've actually always wanted to move to Alaska though I think the version in my head is probably cozier than actual Alaska. =)

    • I definitely didn’t hate it. I mean, it isn’t my new favorite either, but it’s decent. The ship IS good though! VERY good. And I feel like the sequel will bbe good. I hope, anyway!

      Dude, Marked was such a mess. I wanted to like it SO. MUCH. But alas… 🙁

      WOW Alaska is badass, good for yoU! I think it’s probably less badass now? But back then they were like, barely a state. And a lot of people were poor, and they didn’t yet have the technologies of the lower 48, you know? So it’s probably better now, but still not what we are used to, I assume! You should go live there and then write us a book about it! 😀

  3. Oh man, I just could not finish Marked. I just couldn’t. Like you, I kind of got the gist at the beginning (even with the weird terms), but once she got marked, it was just crazy. I swear, I felt even more confused reading this book than when I try to read Italian. I admire you for actually being able to finish it.

  4. Thanks for sharing and it’s good you enjoyed two of these at least. I have to laugh though, because to ME, these aren’t mini or short reviews at all! LOL It’s great though. I’m glad to hear you liked The Smell of Other People’s Houses. I just love that title!!!

    -Lauren

  5. Reign of Shadows sounds really interesting to me but so far all of the reviews I’ve read for it have gotten a 3-star rating…nothing more than that. It seems that like you, people still have a lot of questions so I might give it a chance….but at the same time ALL of the unanswered questions might drive me crazy o.O The Smell of Other People’s Houses though…well, it’s new-to-me. I LOVE the cover and original title and judging from your review, I want to read it now! I’m oddly fascinated by Alaska so thanks for putting it on my radar! Lovely reviews all around^^

    • Thanks so much! I hope you enjoy TSoOPH (Even the acronym is ridiculous hahah) and yeah- the unanswered questions at the end of RoS ARE a bit rough. But- and this is weird- I think because it WASN’T like, the best book EVER, the uncertainty bothered me less? But I still liked it enough to want to read the next one? Weird, I know 😀

  6. I’m excited for Reign of Shadows, which I am supposed to be reading right now but I haven’t started yet *shame*
    I haven’t even heard of the other two but I love the title and premise of the second one.

  7. I did have a physical ARC of Marked, so maybe that changed things and moved them along a little better for me? I’m sorry that you really couldn’t like it though. There were some elements I liked more than others. I do think some things should’ve been fleshed out better, like the world building. AND FEWER NAMES. I think that ended up being the thing that bothered me the most. Although it does look like those two other books were worthwhile! I am gonna admit though, I did question the title The Smell of Other’s Houses a little…

  8. I’m currently reading Reign of Shadows, I’m 35% in and so far I like it, we’ll see how it goes, so far it’s okay if the world isn’t explained, but if I don’t feel I know the world enough at the end of the book, I’ll be disappointed. For the dwellers, I’m picturing them like the mutts in Mockingjay part 2, but I’m not sure? Well, I hope I’ll enjoy it, because I was disappointed by Uninvited by this author…

  9. Reign of shadows definitely sounds like a darker book, and that romance sounds like it has the potential to be sizzling with that sort of romance! My gosh, it sounds super creepy, but that lack of the world building is a bit of a concern.

    I’ve never heard of the second book before but love that it covers Alaska in the 1970s! I haven’t heard of any other books set in Alaska before, and I’m glad you learnt a lot from it.

    The 3rd book sounds like a dystopian gone wrong.

    Lovely reviews Shannon!

  10. I just finished Reign of Shadows yesterday and I definitely loved it! I agree- I had a lot of the same questions as you, and I hope they are answered in the sequel and OMG evil cliffhanger. I was like, NOOOOO. I’ve seen The Smell of Other People’s Houses around, and I guess I was put off by the title. LOL. It just seemed weird to me. But I might need to give it a try since so many love it! And eww on that third one. HAH.

  11. I would have ran from that last book like I had fire licking at my heels if I would have read that synopsis. I’m totally picky when it comes to that kind of story. I do have Reign of Shadows so I’m hoping to enjoy that one!

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