Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner

5 stars (It was amazing!)

This was book 2 on my read-YA-science-fiction-with-male-protagonists list, and it did not disappoint. It did remind me in feel of the Illuminae Files series, so if you like that, maybe check this out. And if you don’t like that, then maybe this won’t be for you either.

Is this book going to change the world? Absolutely not. Was the romance swoony and believable? Oh yes. I loved watching the two leads gradually increasing in respect for one another, which slowly developed into love. The plot also kept surprising me, and a series of twists blew my mind.

It’s fun science fiction and fun romance. The YA voice is just right. I’m not sure it would be the sort of thing my 13 year old son would love at this moment in his life, but maybe it would be. Who knows?

There is a pretty tame sex scene, so I guess parents should know about that.

Review: Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

2 stars (It was okay).

So, about six months ago, I came across a list of great science fiction YA published recently. I think it was bemoaning the lack of marketing publishing companies are putting into their sf lists. I love both science fiction and YA, and so do my two oldest sons (ages 13 and 11), so I checked out the list.

And while I did come away with some things to add to my to-read list, I also noticed something that left me a bit unsettled. ALL of the books on the list had female protagonists.

Okay, so maybe it’s just an attempt to catch up after decades of a heavily male-dominated genre. And boys can read about girls–my boys do all the time!

But.

We talk about representation. And the truth is, my boys seem to enjoy books written in the last 20 years or so more than they enjoy older books. And if none of the books in their preferred genre have boys in the starring role, then . . . ahem . . . I think we may have a representation problem.

It feels weird to say it.

Surely, I thought, there must be some YA science fiction with male leads. So I did some Googling and found a list of 100 of the best science fiction YA published in the last 10 years. Perfect!

I read down the list. And you know what? Out of those 100 books, a grand total of 15 had at least one male protagonist (some had dual boy/girl leads). That means over 85 had girls as main characters, and fewer than 15 had only boys.

I decided then to read those 15 books (no promises I won’t abandon any of them part way through, since I am definitely not one to feel compelled to finish a book I’m not enjoying). Nyxia was the first.

And I have to say that while this was only a 2 out of 5 stars *for me,* it’s a book I’m wholeheartedly recommending to people. Its voice and characters are great. The plot clips along nicely. It’s got mystery and plenty of cool science fiction elements.

I almost feel guilty writing down what my biggest problem with it was: It was just so, so alpha male that I didn’t relate with it much at all. *laughs* Lots of high-stakes competition, fight scenes, problems with authority, anger management issues . . . you name it.

I did like it, but sometimes it got to be too much for me. And that’s okay! I am not this book’s target audience!

If you or someone you love might be the book’s target audience, give this one a try. I bet you’ll love it.

Review: The Defiant Heir by Melissa Caruso

5 stars.

The Defiant Heir cover (link to Goodreads)

I mentioned before that I was completely invested in the first book in this series, The Tethered Mage, from the beginning to the end. Caruso is a master of pacing. In this one, too, there’s never a moment where it failed to keep my attention.

But there were a few things it did even better than the first book.

  1. The problematic aspect in the first book is treated as problematic rather directly. I’m beginning to trust that a satisfying end to that whole situation can be achieved.
  2. KATHE. I won’t spoil anything, but holy cow, that’s an interesting character, and a VERY interesting love triangle.
  3. A deeper look into the magic of the world, which is weirder and cooler than I thought it would be.

This series is a lot of fun. I highly recommend it if you like fantasy with lots of court intrigue, weird magic systems, and romance.

Review: The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso

4 stars (I really liked it)

I was completely invested in this book from the first chapter on. The premise is that there’s a world where people with magic can lose control whenever they use it, especially some of the more powerful, and accidentally, like, burn down a town or something. So to keep everybody safe, mages are “tethered” to a “falconer,” someone who can release the power and stop it with a magic word. There’s more to it than that, but I don’t want to spoil anything.

It’s intriguing and romantic and exciting, and more. It was a really, really fun read.

Still, I constantly felt uneasy about the fact that the tethered mage in the book is an orphaned, fiery black teenage girl, and her accidental falconer is a white noble’s daughter. It seemed like it was trying to make statements about slavery, but at the same time, it was trying to make the main character (the noble’s daughter) relatable, which is hard to do when she’s essentially a slave owner. But, yeah, nobody wants whole towns destroyed accidentally, so this system might actually be necessary?

I had to wonder if discomfort at relating to the main character was part of the point, and I enjoyed the book enough to read book 2 (review coming in a few days).

Year in Reviews

A few years back I realized I had only read three books all year. I made a new year’s resolution to read more books, and I did. When I first started querying Parallelogirl, I decided to read more middle grade so I would know my genre and age category. At the time, I was posting reviews to a private message board for some friends. When I created this website, I repurposed a lot of those reviews for my blog, and I started out with quite the backlog. Despite posting new reviews 1-3 times per week all year, I’m still behind.

I will eventually catch up at the rate I’m going (I read at least a book a week, but definitely not three), but it might be a few months down the road, depending on how often I post reviews. Still, I want to share the list of books I read in 2019 now. They’re not really in any sort of order, but I did put my favorite books of the year in each category at the top and bolded them. Full reviews for middle grade and YA books are coming eventually. 🙂

I completed about 60 books this year. It’s a bit of a fuzzy number because there are a few books I read 80% of before giving up on, and I still keep track of those for my own sake, though I have labeled them “did not finish” in the list below. Including the DNFs, there are 62 books on this list. (There were a handful of others I abandoned early on, simply because it was immediately apparent they were not my thing. They are not on the list.)

First, middle grade books:

  1. Planet Earth Is Blue, by Nicole Panteleakos
  2. The Terrible Two, by Mac Barnett and Jory John
  3. Bob, by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead
  4. Nevermoor, by Jessica Townsend
  5. The Unteachables, by Gordon Korman
  6. The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau
  7. The Terrible Two Get Worse, by Mac Barnett and Jory John
  8. Wundersmith, by Jessica Townsend
  9. Alcatraz 2: The Scrivener’s Bones, by Brandon Sanderson
  10. Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy 2 Furious, by Dean and Shannon Hale
  11. Alcatraz 3: The Knights of Crystallia, by Brandon Sanderson
  12. Shouting at the Rain, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
  13. Best Friends, by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham
  14. Other Words for Home, by Jasmine Warga
  15. Space Case, by Stuart Gibbs
  16. Where the Watermelons Grow, by Cindy Baldwin
  17. Pi in the Sky, by Wendy Mass
  18. Snow and Rose, by Emily Winfield Martin
  19. Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, by Dusti Bowling
  20. The Terrible Two Go Wild, by Mac Barnett and Jory John
  21. Liar and Spy, by Rebecca Stead
  22. The Strangers, by Margaret Petersen Haddix
  23. Chasing Vermeer, by Blue Balliett
  24. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, by Jeanne Birdsall
  25. Percy Jackson 1: The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan (did not finish)

Next, YA:

  1. The Defiant Heir, by Melissa Caruso
  2. These Broken Stars, by Amie Kaufman
  3. On the Come Up, by Angie Thomas
  4. Gift Child, by Janci Patterson
  5. Obsidio, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  6. Blood Water Paint, by Joy McCullough
  7. Magonia, by Maria Dahvana Headley
  8. Mirage, by Somaiya Daud
  9. Two Can Keep a Secret, by Karen McManus
  10. Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi
  11. The Light Between Worlds, by Laura E. Weymouth (did not finish)
  12. Renegades, by Marissa Meyer (did not finish)
  13. The Tethered Mage, by Melissa Caruso
  14. Nyxia, by Scott Reintgen
  15. Everything We Might Have Been, by Megan Walker and Janci Patterson

And finally, adult, which I don’t generally review on the blog but still read some of. I will include star ratings for these, since reviews are not forthcoming:

  1. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson *****
  2. Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik *****
  3. The Book of M, by Peng Shepherd *****
  4. Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty **
  5. Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie ** (but Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey did the audiobook, and he was terribly entertaining)
  6. Legion, by Brandon Sanderson *****
  7. Legion 2: Skin Deep, by Brandon Sanderson ****
  8. Legion 3: Lies of the Beholder, by Brandon Sanderson ***
  9. The Extra, by Megan Walker and Janci Patterson *****
  10. The Girlfriend Stage, by Megan Walker and Janci Patterson ***
  11. Everything We Are, by Megan Walker and Janci Patterson **
  12. The Five Books of Jesus, by James Goldberg ***** (Though this book has a very small audience, I’m in it. I can’t say whether a poetic, human retelling of the New Testament from the POV of the people who loved Jesus will be for you.)
  13. Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer ****
  14. Authority, by Jeff VanderMeer *
  15. Acceptance, by Jeff VanderMeer **
  16. Chaos Queen 1: Duskfall, by Christopher Husberg ****
  17. Vinegar Girl, by Anne Tyler *****
  18. The Wonder, by Emma Donoghue * (full disclosure: I didn’t quite finish this book. I was getting the feeling the ending was going to make me really mad, so I read spoilers, and yeah, it was going to make me really mad, so I stopped reading.)
  19. The Expanse 8: Tiamat’s Wrath, by James S. A. Corey ****
  20. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman ****
  21. Uprooted, by Naomi Novik ***
  22. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrick Backman ****