Tag Archives: YA

Review of The Girl and the Clockwork Cat (Clockwork Enterprises Book 1), by Nikki McCormack

I picked up a copy of Nikki McCormack‘s The Girl and the Clockwork Cat when it was a freebie on Amazon.

Description from Goodreads:

Feisty teenage thief Maeko and her maybe-more-than-friend Chaff have scraped out an existence in Victorian London’s gritty streets, but after a near-disastrous heist leads her to a mysterious clockwork cat and two dead bodies, she’s thrust into a murder mystery that may cost her everything she holds dear. 

Her only allies are Chaff, the cat, and Ash, the son of the only murder suspect, who offers her enough money to finally get off the streets if she’ll help him find the real killer. 

What starts as a simple search ultimately reveals a conspiracy stretching across the entire city. And as Maeko and Chaff discover feelings for each other neither was prepared to admit, she’s forced to choose whether she’ll stay with him or finally escape the life of a street rat. But with danger closing in around them, the only way any of them will get out of this alive is if all of them work together. 

Review:

Not bad, though I thought it a tad over-long and (as always) I was annoyed to find a love triangle. Beyond that, I liked Maeko as a character and appreciated the somewhat dystopic steampunk London. I would have appreciated a bit more world-building though. My main complaint however, is that the whole premise of the book is anchored in a decision Maeko is supposed to have made at six, based on an overheard conversation. Even in a dystopian world, I can’t believe a six-year-old would do what she’s supposed to have done (and never gone back on the decision). This really undermined the believability of the story for me. It also made the predictable “Oops, my misunderstanding” exceedingly annoying. All in all, I didn’t not like it. I just had niggles with it.

As a side note, I’m additionally annoyed to find a girl in fishnets and a frilly skirt on the cover of a story about a girl who spends the whole book dressing as a boy and ACTIVELY tring to hide that she’s a girl.

Review of The Abyss Surrounds Us, by Emily Skrutskie

I purchased a paperback copy of The Abyss Surrounds Us, by Emily Skrutskie.

Description from Goodreads:

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water. 

There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea. 

Spoilerish Review:

Those in my book circle seem to love this book and I can see why. Perfectly readable writing, YA lesbian leads, a bad-ass female pirate captain, racial/identity/economic diversity, acknowlegement of power differences, dads and brothers who play domestic roles while women work, all things it’s nice to encounter, and even better when gender norms are perverted, not just swapped. The characters are natural in their role and the author doesn’t play it up for points. 

But the simple overall fact of the matter is that, despite liking aspects of the book, I didn’t enjoy the book. I felt that Cassandra’s sudden siding with her captors simply because she’d gotten to know some of them was beyond plebeian. Her sudden willingness to kill her own because she’d become attached to one person made me grit my teeth. It’s far too weak a motivation. 

And the ending? Well, I feel like the villain won. Nothing in the ending felt satisfying. I didn’t feel like Cassandra accomplished anything or grew. In fact, she put herself in the hands of her enemy. Nope. I was not happy with the ending.

Review of The Reluctant Sacrifice (The Aramithians), by Kerr-Ann Dempster

I In March of 2017 The Reluctant Sacrifice, by Kerr-Ann Dempster, was free on Amazon. I picked up a copy of it at that time.

Description from Goodreads:

Centuries ago, sibling rivalry tore Aramith apart. As punishment, the losers were stripped of their immortal birthright and banished to Earth. There, they wasted away from old age and diseases. However, there is hope… 

If a Shaw child, born on the 12th day of the 12th month offers her soul in a public sacrifice, then the exiles will be forgiven and welcomed home to Aramith. 

Aubrey Shaw is that child, but dying for the exiles is not on her to-do list. Using her gift as a Jumper, Aubrey leaps between bodies to escape relentless shape-shifting hunters. Only, shedding her skin is not enough. Not when Joshua, her best-friend-turned-hunter, is hell-bent on dragging her to the altar. 

Will Aubrey’s love for Joshua change his mind? 

Or, will she have to trust the scarred stranger who shows up out of the blue cloaked in lies and secrets? Doing so means giving up on Joshua. But betting on Joshua’s love could do more than break her heart. 

It could kill her.

Review:

This wasn’t bad, so much as just uninspired. It has all the cliched YA tropes people are tired of seeing: the love triangle, the chosen one, the ‘let me throw myself at a boy sexually to forget my problems,’ the heroine who doesn’t do her hair or make-up normally, the prom-style dress that makes her a pretty-pretty princess for a night, the sassy best friend, etc. There’s nothing new or exciting here.

The writing was perfectly serviceable, but again, not anything marvelous. And there were a few big editing mishaps, like someone touching the exposed skin above a waistband, when we’d been told the character was in a dress. However, there was also a lot left too shadowed in the universe and plot. So much feeling and decision-making is supposed to hinge on the feelings and events from childhoods that we don’t see that it felt baseless.

There were also some strange things going on with age. 12-year-olds French kissing, 15-year-olds expertly manipulating people with sex, and no one questioning how a 16/17-year-old has numerous tattoos, for example. Not that such things can’t happen, it’s just that they felt truly strange and out of place here. Like the author imagined all her characters as just a bit older than she made them and then forgot.

I’d have said this was just a meh book, if not for one big problem. The whole premise that puts the three main characters together is preposterous. To say I was incredulous that the character that wanted Aubrey dead as badly as he did would have the compassion to allow the events of this story is putting it mildly. I suspect it was supposed to make him a grey character, instead of a villain. But it just red as wishy-washy and unbelievable. And if the very bedrock a book is build on is as shaky as this, nothing else stands on it. The book is supposed to be about life and death and a fight to survive, but the things that actually happen….a party, and getting to school everyday, and flirting, and going to work. None of it really hung together, I’m sorry to say. And then the unfounded mysticism was dropped in at the end. Nope, none of it worked.