Dove Arising by Karen Bao • Estelle Reviews

Dove Arising by Karen BaoDove Arising by Karen Bao ( web | tweet )
Part of Dove Chronicles.
Publication Date: 2/24/2015
Publisher: Viking (Penguin)
Pages: 336
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: science fiction, Moon, family, bravery
Format read: ARC from Publisher. (Thanks!)

Summary: Phaet does her best to remain incognito as she lives her life on the Moon with her mother and siblings. But when her mom is taken away, she only has one option when it comes to supporting her and her siblings — to join the Militia. Being away from her family and her best friend combined with being the youngest training for a position weighs on Phaet, but unexpected bonds and the future of her family keep her going.

I may not be a huge science fiction reader but I am a big fan of eclectic reading palettes and debut writers — especially when those debut writers wrote their book secretly during their senior year in high school. It’s so darn impressive!

I felt a strong Mulan vibe from the moment I started Dove Arising. Main character Phaet (“fate”) and Mulan have a lot in common — both are willing to go to great lengths for the ones they love, even if it means putting themselves in danger. Phaet is only 15 years old but when her mother is arrested she steps up to the plate in a big way — willing to leave her siblings and her best friend to join the Militia and earn money to pay her mother’s bail and support the household.

It’s bold, it’s crazy, and, with a ton of training, it just might work.

Author Karen Bao isn’t presenting the Moon as a must-see destination by any means. It’s dismal, heavily monitored by the government, and sounds like the kind of place where life is all about going through the motions. Very few of the Moon citizens shake things up, and when/if they do, they become a target. Even Phaet’s tone is filled with defeat through most of the book. She is a product of her environment: extremely quiet and shy but full of observations and emotions she’s never comfortable expressing. Later, I liked how this trait morphed into one of her strengths.

Not only is Phaet making a huge decision about her future, but she struggling to gain her mother’s acceptance, mourning her deceased father, and coming to terms with feelings she has for the most unexpected person. She’s forced to grow up so fast, and I trust the repercussions from that sacrifice are only just beginning. Will it all be worth it? Does she have the power to help change her world?

In series, I find many of the first books focus a ton on world-building and providing readers with a foundation. There were so many great details here (particularly, Phaet’s hair) and the more action packed scenes felt like I was in the middle of a simulator ride. (Even if the urgency wasn’t turned up where it needed to be.) It’s my hope with the next two books, Bao dives deeper into Phaet’s character development and her emotions. In Dove Arising, I admired Phaet for her loyalty but I wished I had connected with her on other levels too.

I did discover something about myself while reading this. I’m really fascinated about the details that lead to Earth’s demise in books like these. Does this make me a sadist? Or maybe a secret sci-fi geek?

One final thing: I can’t tell you much about the ending. I mean, I won’t tell you anything about the ending, but I got a little giddy when I realized just how Bao was challenging Phaet next. It’s going to make for a very interesting second book, that’s for sure.

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My Heart and Other Black Holes • Estelle Reviews

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine WargaMy Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray
Pages: 320
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: depressing, suicide pact, family problems, friendship
Format read: ARC from Alex @ Little Wing Book Reviews. (Thanks!)

Summary: After trolling a website called Smooth Passages, Aysel decides to answer Roman’s ad for a suicide partner. They meet and agree to a “deadline”, yet their new-found “friendship” has Aysel thinking in a way she hasn’t in a long, long time.

Aysel reminded me a little bit of Joey Potter — forced to deal with the aftermath of her father’s sins, the girl “wrong side of the tracks” who can’t go anywhere without whispers following her. Though in Aysel’s case, her father has murdered someone and she is now living with her mother, step-dad, and half-sister in a home where she feels incredibly unwelcome. Aysel is convinced her family and everyone who lives in her small Kentucky town thinks being a murderer is hereditary, and she’s dangerous too. Lonely, she spends her time at a job she doesn’t like, and visiting a website called Smooth Passages. She’s ready to make the ultimate leap and commit suicide.

Smooth Passages opens Aysel up to the idea of a “suicide partner” and upon reading an ad, she meets Roman and decides to commit to his date. It’s an odd relationship because even though they are planning to die together, they are still strangers. Strangers who are trying to trust each other in 24 days. As Aysel gets to know Roman, she can’t help but feel confused. His mom is thoughtful (even if she’s overbearing), he’s been in relationships, he has talents, and people actually want to talk to him. How can this guy want to end his life? The more she gets to know him, spend time with him, and understand his sadness, the more her dark cloud seems to be moving somewhere else. Could they possibly help each other and forget about their end date? Would Roman ever go for it?

My Black and Other Black Holes is a compelling debut. I honestly had no idea how it was all going to end, feeling so anxious as each chapter counted me down until the day. Like Aysel, I was rooting for both of them to take a different path and Warga did a noteworthy job of building up this wall of depression, and the lengths it takes to penetrate it. It is frustrating, scary, heartbreaking, and any reader wants to make life easier for these two, wants to believe that this friendship makes the difference. The writing was great (even if I wanted a bit more development especially when it came to Aysel’s “new” family), I loved the details that made up both of these characters, and, it must be said, I loved how it called itself out for being a little cheesy at times. Tough to read but well-worth the rocky ride.

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Something True with Kieran Scott | #TrueLoveTrilogy

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

Whether you love or loathe this holiday, you’re here today because of one common love: reading. We’re thrilled to host Kieran Scott today (you may know her as Kate Brian), who released the final book in the wonderful, charming, funny TRUE LOVE trilogy. Cupid is punished and banished to NJ where she moonlights as True and has no clue how to be a “normal” teenager. True is focused on pairing up meant-to-be couples so she can return to Mt. Olympus (and hopefully fulfill her own love story, which got her in this mess to begin with) so in the spirit of love and fate and all that good stuff, Kieran was kind enough to share her own love story with her husband, Matt.

You are going to love it. Take it away, Kieran!

♥  ♥  ♥

Kieran Scott and the True Love Trilogy

My husband and I never would have met if my best friend’s parents hadn’t gotten divorced. I know, it sounds like bad karma, but let me explain.

My bestKieran Scott, author of True Love trilogy friend Shira went to one high school all the way through ninth grade, where she was friends with my future husband, Matt. Then, in tenth grade, her mom and her new stepdad decided to move their family, which took her out of Matt’s high school and plopped her down right in front of me in sophomore English. (The first thing I thought about her was “Holy crap, I’d kill for that hair.” It’s the exact opposite of mine.) Now, Shira is one of those people who stays friends with everyone she’s ever met, which turned out to be lucky for me and Matt, because ten years later, we met at Shira’s 25th birthday party, which was packed with her middle school friends, high school friends, Hebrew school friends, college friends, camp friends AND work friends.

Actually, all things considered, how we found each other in the crowd is beyond me. What I do remember is Matt asking me if I wanted the last mozzarella stick instead of just taking it for himself. I remember the fact that he readily admitted to watching Party of Five and Dawson’s Creek. I recall that he mentioned he was going to be exhausted at church in the morning and that he couldn’t talk to me about politics, because, well, most people didn’t agree with him and he didn’t want me to walk away just yet.

We hung out throughout the party and at four in the morning, I was lying awake in my friend Wendy’s roommate’s bed (she was away for the weekend), staring at the ceiling with this huge smile on my face. I knew something big was happening. I just never would have been able to predict how big.

After that party, Matt went away with his friends for a week and I heard nothing. If he wanted to call, he couldn’t have, because he was in Jamaica. So of course, I was obsessing. What was he doing in Jamaica? Was he hooking up? What if he met someone there? I spent that whole week stressing that I was going to miss out on this great guy just because of a previously scheduled vacation. Then, a couple weeks later, I went out to dinner with my three best girlfriends and Shira asked me what I thought of Matt. This was the moment I’d been waiting for. But I didn’t want to give away the farm, so I played it cool and said, “Why do you ask?” She said that she’d spoken to Matt and he’d said, “That Kieran is my kind of girl.”

Oh my God, it sounds so hokey now, but I almost died. We set up a big group date and the rest is history. Over the years we’ve found out that our relationship didn’t exactly begin the night of Shira’s birthday. We’d been at other random parties of hers together over the previous couple of years and whenever he walked into a room I’d ask my friends, “WHO is that again?” And they’d say, “It’s Matt! God, if you think he’s so hot, you could at least remember his name.” I also found out that he’d asked Shira about me once before, but it was when I was in a serious relationship with someone else, so she’d told him I was off the market. We’d been circling each other for years, but that birthday party was the first time we were both single, and both in the mood for mozzarella sticks.

All of this goes to show that you never know. You may have already met the guy you’re destined to be with, but the timing might just be wrong. Or you may have already met the girl who’s eventually going to introduce you to the guy you’re going to be with (don’t even get me started on how Wendy and her husband Barry ended up getting together). So, yes, it was lucky for me that Shira’s parents got divorced (they are both VERY happily remarried, by the way). Otherwise, I might never have met the person I was meant to be with.

P.S. The priest called Shira up at our wedding so everyone could meet our matchmaker. It was so awesome.Kieran Scott (YA author) wedding


Thanks so much for sharing today, Kieran!

The love is not over yet, folks. The great people at Simon Kids are providing one lucky winner with a hardcover set of TRUE LOVE trilogy.

Open to U.S. and Canadian readers. Enter below!

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