Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Adult Fic Pick! THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS by Elizabeth Gilbert Review {with Audiobook Notes}

The Signature of All Things 
by Elizabeth Gilbert
Published by Viking Adult
Publish Date: October 1, 2013

512 Pages

Source - Book: Bought, Audiobook: Library
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon / B&N


Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry's brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father's money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma's research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction—into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist—but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life.


Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who—born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution—bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. (summary excerpt from Goodreads) 



The Signature of All Things 
by Elizabeth Gilbert

My Thoughts:  According to my Goodreads, I read this book during November - and by "during November" I mean that it took me the majority of the month to read it where normally I breeze through a book. To those of you that know ME and my reading habits, this is probably quite telling - of what, exactly? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE LET ME TELL YOU. 



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When I decided to read The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, I was SO EXCITED. I was not-long off of the heels of finishing Eat Pray Love by the same author and ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT, so I was thrilled when I planned to discuss Gilbert's newest novel with some great reading friends. I eagerly placed myself on the wait list in two different county library systems (hoping to get a copy as soon as possible - I'm such a dork) and I also placed myself on my library's Overdrive audiobook wait list. When I realized that my turn at the library would NEVER EVER get here before our projected let's-start-reading date of the-beginning-of-November, I decided to just buy my own copy. And you guys, when it arrived, I GASPED. This book is so beautiful - the cover, the spine, and even the inside. Such beautiful choices in font on the cover and art on the inside! I remember showing it to EVEN MY FATHER-IN-LAW, who was very gracious as he acted completely interested. Then I did what many of us do - I Instagram'd it. YES I DID. 

Inside the front cover of the book. SO LOVELY.
It is just as gorgeous in the back cover. 

Needless to say, I had a copy and I was going to discuss a book with friends. Things were looking up! 

HOWEVER. 

Not long into my reading (print + audiobook, y'all know me!), I realized that the book was...a little WONKY. What I mean is that there are some things that I absolutely LOVE about it, and I will tell you about them. But there is also something that I found more than a little strange about the book, and I will tell you about that too. I think the best way for me to do this is with bullets. Not my normal blogging style, but just bear with me. 

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What I loved
  • The Leading Lady:  I loved the life story of Alma Whittaker - from her childhood all the way until the point at which the book ends. I love the way the author chose to make Alma an expert in her field. I love the way that it was an unusual field for a woman during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but Alma did not let this deter her. I loved many of her thoughts and even though I did not always agree with her scientific theories or discussions, I loved reading about them. Alma interested me quite a bit. 
  • The Secondary Characters: The secondary cast in this book is FANTASTIC. Alma's family has some likable characters and some that I'm not sure are meant to be likable - but they are all interesting to read and there are a few that made me laugh and at least one that I just adored. She has sisters that challenged me because I felt like I knew them, but over the course of the book I realized that perhaps I was only judging them and my thoughts CHANGED. (I LOVE THIS.) There are colleagues and love interests - some are very likable and grabbed my heart wildly and some are...interesting and made me make faces while I read. All in all, I found a very strong secondary cast that is quite colorful and extremely discussable at the very least. 
  • The Travels: Alma's life and career take her all over the world. Once again, this is quite unheard of for a woman during this period of time, but Alma proves to us in this book that she is not conventional in the way of normal standards for women nor is she very concerned about it. The best part of her travels is that the author describes them so vividly. I could picture every place Alma visited and lived SO CLEARLY that I could probably draw them somewhat accurately - I know from reading the author's previous work that travel is important to her so it does not shock me in the least that she allowed her main character (and others) to travel in this book, and she described the details of the travels and destinations so perfectly. Very well done. (I also want to mention that Alma's homeplace was very vividly described and stood out to me as a very lush and beautiful landscape that I enjoyed reading about - it was not only the travels.) 
  • The Science: I will admit that I normally do not read books that delve too deeply into "enlightenment" or botany or science of any nature because I often find myself WAY over my head - I read to escape, you guys, not to become bogged down. But the author found a way to enmesh the science that Alma loved into the story in a way that was not generally overbearing. It is there and there is plenty of it, but it is interwoven into the rest of the story so that you understand that it is a part of who Alma is. Also, I had no trouble separating myself from the parts of the science that I do not really believe and the parts that I just enjoyed reading. The science of the story is just part of the story - a part of a greater whole. 
What I didn't love
  • Alma's obsession with her sexuality. I'm sorry, you guys, I GET that humans are sexual beings. And I get that it is a part of life. But 1) I was LISTENING to this book along while I was reading it and 2) Alma was OBSESSED with her sexual frustration. To be fair, Alma has some reasons for this and they largely have to do with her self-esteem and how she feels about her looks (I think?), which is really unfortunate - I'll leave that to you all to read for yourselves. And not everyone will have this problem with the book. But hearing the actual words chosen to represent the body parts just made me...embarrassed. YOU GUYS, IT MADE ME EMBARRASSED. Both for myself and for Alma. AND FOR MYSELF. I repeat - I was listening to the audiobook, often in the car and in my house alone, and I would get embarrassed. At word choice and how often those words were used






Audiobook NotesThe audiobook format of The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert is published by PenguinAudio and is 21 hours, 44 minutes, Unabridged. It is narrated by Juliet Stevenson - her voice and accent was absolute perfection for this book. It really was. (This narrator has read many classics before and I felt that classical tone/quality to her reading when I listened to this book, which I thought was really special since Elizabeth Gilbert has a really wonderful turn-of-phrase and beautiful prose.) I would not hesitate to listen to this narrator again and I would recommend this audiobook to listeners that are not easily affected or off-put by, um, unusual language. Please understand that this is no fault of the narrator and I would like to repeat that I loved the performance except for the few choice words that kept popping up. (They were not swear words.) 


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Ultimately, The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert is a book that I feel SO CONFLICTED
I was ready to discuss!
about that it has taken me MONTHS to finally sit down and write about it. On the one hand, the things that I loved about it - I REALLY LOVED. But the thing that I didn't love really made parts of the story difficult for me and left me with an overall average impression. This is disappointing because 1) I was enamored with the sheer physical beauty of this book 2) I never really ended up discussing the book with my friends because I'm pretty sure not all of us finished it and 3) I had high hopes for this release after loving Eat Pray Love so much. In fact, you guys, I actually stopped listening to the audiobook at around maybe the halfway point or perhaps a little before and decided that I couldn't lend my ear to the words that I found unappealing in the narrative any longer - I chose to read the remaining portion of the book in print format only. 

Because of all of this and despite the things that I LOVED about the book, I would be hesitant to freely recommend this book to the general public without specifically knowing the likes and dislikes of the person to which I am recommending. I am not one to become easily offended but the sexuality in this book is, in my opinion, unnecessary and excessive and misplaced within the story AND the language used to portray Alma's frustrated emotions regarding this are strange and offensive (I literally had never even heard these words before). 

I will say, though, that I would not hesitate to read more by Elizabeth Gilbert - I can quickly think of two unread books by this author currently on my to-read list - and I am eager for more fiction by this author so I can read something lovely to cover up what I consider to be a very awkward reading experience. 


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The Signature of All Things will appeal to fans of:

Adult Fiction & Historical Fiction
Strong Female Character
Great Secondary Characters
Books including Travel/Other Cultures
Some Romance 
Science

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
is currently available for purchase.

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I feel really split on my feelings about this one! 

Is it on your to-read list? 
Or have you already read it? 
TELL ME!


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Monday, February 24, 2014

The Rule of Three by Eric Walters Review

The Rule of Three by Eric Walters
Series: TBA #1
Published by 
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publish Date: January 21, 2014

405 Pages
Source: Publisher
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon / B&N


One shocking afternoon, computers around the globe shut down in a viral catastrophe. At sixteen-year-old Adam Daley’s high school, the problem first seems to be a typical electrical outage, until students discover that cell phones are down, municipal utilities are failing, and a few computer-free cars like Adam’s are the only vehicles that function. Driving home, Adam encounters a storm tide of anger and fear as the region becomes paralyzed. Soon—as resources dwindle, crises mount, and chaos descends—he will see his suburban neighborhood band together for protection. And Adam will understand that having a police captain for a mother and a retired government spy living next door are not just the facts of his life but the keys to his survival, in The Rule of Three by Eric Walters. (from Goodreads) 



The Rule of Three by Eric Walters 

My Thoughts: I love survival and adventure stories. Add a dose of apocalyptic action in there, and I'm even more interested. When I first read the synopsis for The Rule of Three by Eric Walters, I thought it sounded fun. BUT! When I took the time to look at the book - the book jacket and the first few pages on the inside - that's when I really became interested in the book. The book is not actually illustrated but there are a few illustrations that are provided for readers that are really compelling. This helped to attract me to the author's story and ultimately made me pick up the book right away. 



 
It's hard to see here but you can even make out the types of
cars parked along the sides of the street in these illustrations.
Love the detailing. 

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The Rule of Three opens as sixteen-year-old Adam is helping his friend Todd with an essay in their school's computer lab during study hall. The two are joking around - Todd is teasing his friend Adam because Adam is taking flying lessons - just regular teenage banter. Suddenly the lights go out and the computer screens all over the room go blank - a obvious power shortage. What is odd is that devices like cellphones and laptop computers that were not even using electrical outlets also went dead and will not power back up. When it becomes obvious that power will not be restored any time soon/during the school day, school administration decides to let school out early. As Adam and Todd are filing out of school to load into Adam's old 1970's-something clunker of a car, they begin to notice that none of the other cars in the parking lot are cranking up - students everywhere are looking under their hoods to try and figure out their problems. Adam has no trouble turning his car on, however, and the two (plus Adam's crush Lori) leave the school quickly. It seems that the newer vehicles have electrical wiring and therefore are suffering the same fate as the earlier-mentioned cellphones and laptop computers. Adam drops Lori off at her farm on the edge of town and picks up his younger twin siblings, then he heads home. 

During the drive to drop off/pick up and head home, Adam and Todd notice that people everywhere are stranded because of their newer vehicles. Roads are blocked, people cannot get home, kids aren't being picked up from school. People are having to walk home and it is taking hours. The population is in the very early stages of confusion and panic, and the boys realize that they quickly need to get home as they watch situations slowly escalate before their eyes. Upon arrival home, Adam's older, seemingly eccentric neighbor Herb greets them with not only hypotheses for what is occurring but suggestions and a few requests. The boys realize that Herb is extremely smart and may know a thing or two about what is going on - they begin to listen to him, learn from him, help him, and do what he says - realizing that if this event is what he thinks it may be, their very survival may depend on Herb's knowledge and skill set. 

The event, I think, ends up being much bigger than any of them realized. 


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Back Cover
The Rule of Three by Eric Walters is a very exciting and action-driven apocalyptic survival and adventure story starring a teenager, his 70-something-year-old neighbor, and his mother who is a ranking police officer. I've read quite a few apocalyptic stories (I love them) but what strikes me as different about this one is that others typically take place AFTER some big catastrophic event while in this one, the catastrophic events unfold before our eyes, right on the pages. We are privy to the decline of civilized behavior and panic and an increase in what appears to be a mob-mentality over the course of day one, then day two, then day three, and so on. I found this really exciting and nerve-wrecking and very, very cool. It was also very cool that I was able to witness this through the eyes of a young boy as it occurred, so I was privy to his wide range of thoughts and concerns as everything unfolded. 

Adam has to take some huge responsibilities and grow up super fast - for several reasons. First of all, his mother is gone for much of the time as one of the community leaders in charge of keeping order among the citizens, so Adam is left with taking care of his younger brother and sister. Not only that, but he is one of the few people around that has a working vehicle, so Adam is also tasked with driving people back and forth to various places when it is necessary, particularly Herb. For a teenage boy that was goofing off a little in the opening of the story, Adam certainly matures quickly - perhaps this is due to the mentorship of neighbor Herb (I'll get to Herb in just a second). Before long in the book, Adam is thinking critically with very important decisions, and then he is making very important decisions for the community and there are even times when the community leaders defer to him strategically. This is all great and good, but Adam is sixteen and still crushing hard on his classmate Lori, which keeps Adam as realistic as possible in these circumstances. Also, remember that I mentioned that Adam's friend Todd makes fun of him for taking flying lessons? Well, Adam ends up being the only one in the community that can fly and this is a HUGE part of the book. 

Neighbor Herb is probably the most interesting character in the book, in my opinion. Herb has this crazy-huge knowledge of how to survive in situations such as this one and is one of those people that prepare for years for events such as this. He has food and weapons and supplies galore in his basement. He has the capacity to remain calm when everyone around him is freaking out, and because of this people trust him when he begins to delegate tasks and responsibilities (including the actual town officials). Herb has the ability to anticipate what is ahead and plan accordingly. And what is interesting to Adam is that Herb already seems to be one or two or even five steps ahead of everyone else - he already seems to know what to do. He has the survival of the community already planned out in his mind, but he only reveals what the people need to know little by little so as not to overwhelm them. Herb keeps the community on a need-to-know basis to keep chaos and mayhem to a minimum. So far, Herb is the community's saving grace and the smartest guy they have. 

Adam trusts Herb and becomes a side-kick of sorts. When Todd sees this, and then Lori, and then Todd's mom - they follow suit. This then has a ripple effect and more and more people begin to trust Herb. This is important because Herb does not hold any official seat on town councils or boards and he isn't a member of the police department or any other rescue department. However, the author makes reference to time Herb spent working for the government as some sort of classified agent doing work that required many of the same types of survival skills and rescues and plans that he is performing and teaching and leading now. Adam questions Herb on more than one occasion about his former job, but I (as a reader) never was able to get a firm grasp on what exactly Herb did before the book began, before his retirement, to give him the knowledge to know everything. Herb just knows everything. And Adam learns everything and becomes a respected young leader by being around Herb. 

There is a pretty large cast of secondary characters and I have to admit that I find them likable for who they are. Even the ones that are written as questionable - I liked them as characters. Great job in that regard, author! The setting is a surburban area and an outlying farm, all of which are easily imaginable and visualized because the author describes his scenes well. BUT...I really feel like The Rule of Three stands out in world-building - readers are basically plopped right down in the middle of this peaceful suburban neighborhood that experiences some thing and we watch as chaos happens and civilization breaks down and people begin to distrust one another and battles begin. People lose lives, people die from lack of necessities and basic needs. People have to learn to go back to almost-primitive ways of living - growing their own food, cleaning their own water, things like that. I LOVE THIS part of the story. Not only do we get a glimpse of how this particular community chooses to do these restorative actions, but we get a general sense of how dependent we are on things like electricity, refrigeration, grocery stores, working vehicles, air travel, entertainment, etc. 

In my opinion, the action-driven plot, the unfolding of the catastrophic/ apocalyptic event as it occurs, and the great world-building make this book adventurous and therefore appealing to a broader target audience. PLUS the marketing as far as the cover goes also works in to pull in those younger male readers and reluctant readers. I recommend The Rule of Three by Eric Walters to fans of middle grade and young adult adventure and survival stories, apocalyptic tales, male leading characters, and great world-building. 


**I would love to see this book in libraries and classrooms specifically for the reluctant readers that I have mentioned and I noticed that on the author's website there is a reading/study guide provided, which I think is AWESOME.** 
Sidenote:  I finished this book thinking it was a little "open-ended" or maybe a bit unresolved because I initially thought it was a standalone. HOWEVER, I read the author's STUDY GUIDE that he has graciously provided on his website (LINK HERE) in which he mentions that there will be two additional books in this series. This is exciting to me because I know 1) my questions will be answered and 2) we will get to see further into the future of this community that is in chaos and devastation, and hopefully things will turn around for them! YAY for news of more to come! 

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The Rule of Three will appeal to fans of:

Young Adult Apocalyptic
Romance: Very light (like a crush). No triangle.  
Survival & Adventure  
Great Secondary Characters
Great World-building
Action-Driven Plot

The Rule of Three by Eric Walters
is currently available for purchase.

**I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts and they are completely my own! Thank you so much Macmillan! 

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How awesome is it that the author included a study guide on his website? I REALLY hope this book ends up being used in classrooms. 

How do you guys like the photos I included of the title page and cover/spine art?



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Sunday, February 23, 2014

This Week In A Snapshot {1}



How do you guys like that picture up there? 
That is my current facebook profile picture. 
It is me. 
I think it is hilarious, but I have a weird sense of humor. 

Earlier in this week - Well, last Saturday to be exact - 
being a more organized blogger, including some specific places to start in my organization process. I had a ton of traffic to this post and received some great input from those that decided to leave me advice. 


THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH!! 

If you would still be willing to weigh in, TRUST ME, I'm still up for any suggestions you'd like to give as I'm still trying them all out. I'm finding that a combination of many of them is what is working best for me right now. Please visit HERE to leave me advice or suggestions or being a more organized blogger!

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WHILE I'm working both behind the scenes to get organized and catching up on some review posts and performing general blog maintenance, I have decided that I'm going to slow down on reading some of my review books. NOT TOO MUCH, THOUGH, SO NO FREAKING OUT. (You guys, I am such a voracious reader that I'm not keeping up with reviewing as quick as I am reading - and this is for various reasons that I can talk about later. THIS is one of the organizational things I'm working on...) 

DO YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW I'M SLOWING DOWN A BIT? 
DO YOU?? I know you do. 


The Darkest Fire (Book #0.5) 
The Darkest Night (Book #1) 
The Darkest Kiss (Book #2)

I've started reading Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underword Series - this is a paranormal fantasy romance series that has an urban fantasy-feel - and I'm FLYING thru them. I'm reading along with my pal Book Rock Betty and MAN I'm thankful to her for this stellar and perfect-for-me suggestion. Friends, it is a rare occasion that I read series books back-to-back, but these are so much fun. PLUS they're allowing me to continue to get lost in reading while working on my blog in the background and thankfully I do not feel like I'm falling behind. 

**I think there is something to be said for having FANTASTIC reading friends that are able to give great recommendations and that allow you to jump on their reading kicks with them. Thanks, Betty! 

As an added bonus, I've taken myself with some pictures of these books. Would you like to see? SURE YOU WOULD. 


Left: Things are getting good in The Darkest Fire
Right: Starting The Darkest Night



Left: Oh look! Where I go, the Lords of the Underworlds go. 
Right: No time to waste! Start The Darkest Kiss immediately. NOW.
(I didn't even get up from my seat. I finished the previous book and clicked right over.)

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I'm currently brainstorming a feature along with a secret someone else that involves this book: 


This would hopefully be a co-feature and would be a regular event on the blog, but it is still in the early stages of planning and this is just the FIRST BOOK. The following books would be all different types, categories, and genres. I'm very excited and hopeful! 

This particular book is written by a North Carolina author and takes place in the Appalachian mountains in the 1960's - it has a very interesting style and a very interesting story. You may recognize the author as the gentleman that wrote the book Cold Mountain (and yes, that is the same book that became the movie). 

True to my own quirky self, I am both reading this in print AND listening to the audiobook because the narrator is one of my favorites: Will Patton (who is also the voice of The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater). 

I can't wait to see IF and HOW this sweet little newborn baby feature of mine pans out and what book we come up with next! The next book is my choice!

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Squeaking back into things slowly on the blog, 
I DID manage to write a few reviews: 

Forever by Karen Ann Hopkins - this is the final installment in her Temptation Series - I LOVED the series from beginning to end. Check out this post to win an incredible prize pack from HarlequinTEEN. It's so great, you guys. Books and Amazon Gift Cards. 

Give Me Something by Elizabeth Lee - this is the first book in the Give Me Something Series by one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Lee. 

Taking Something by Elizabeth Lee - this is the companion sequel to Give Me Something from the Give Me Something Series. You guys, I loved it even more than Give Me Something. Check out this post to win great things from several great authors and an Amazon Gift Card. Monies, y'all! 

Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci - this is a space opera that had a few things that I liked and some things that appeared a bit wonky. Check out my thoughts to see what's what and to peep at one of the prettiest covers so far this year. 

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Anything look interesting up there? 

Have any of you read the Lords of the Underworld Series by Gena Showalter because OH WOW they are so much fun! 

Stop by the reviews I have listed if you haven't already and leave some love. It warms my heart in these cold February days. 

Has anything interesting been happening in your blogs or on blogs that you read that I should know about? 
TELL ME TELL ME TELL ME!! 


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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci Review

Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci 
Series: Tin Star #1
Published by Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan
Publish Date: February 25, 2014

240 Pages
Source: Publisher
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon / B&N


**Read Chapters 1-5 for FREE for Kindle
**Read Chapters 1-5 for FREE for NOOK

On their way to start a new life, Tula and her family travel on the Prairie Rose, a colony ship headed to a planet in the outer reaches of the galaxy. All is going well until the ship makes a stop at a remote space station, the Yertina Feray, and the colonist's leader, Brother Blue, beats Tula within an inch of her life. An alien, Heckleck, saves her and teaches her the ways of life on the space station.

When three humans crash land onto the station, 
Tula's desire for escape becomes irresistible, and her desire for companionship becomes unavoidable. But just as Tula begins to concoct a plan to get off the space station and kill Brother Blue, everything goes awry, and suddenly romance is the farthest thing from her mind. (from Goodreads) 


Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci

My Thoughts:  I was attracted to Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci because of the beautiful cover and the excitement of reading a space opera - I mean, who doesn't love a great story set in space? (especially after these books which are amazing)

As Tin Star opens, young Tula Bane's ship, the Prairie Rose, has sustained some damage and has stopped off at the Yertina Feray space station for repairs. As one of the few humans that knows the Universal Galactic language, she has been allowed off of the ship with Brother Blue to assist him with communications. Brother Blue, leader of this group of humans, is someone Tula trusts and works under as part of the Children of Earth, which is a group of isolationist humans that has set out to colonize in outer space. While Tula was off the ship with Brother Blue, she trusted him and felt that he had her best interests at heart...HOWEVER she began to realize that something wasn't quite right when she noticed that the precious grain cargo belonging to the Prairie Rose was now OFF of the ship and was not being reloaded. What is the reason for this? If it is in error, it must be fixed right away! Tula's efforts at bringing this to Brother Blue's attention and discussing this with him were met with not only opposition but a firm rudeness and basically an insistence that she stand down. Why won't Brother Blue answer her questions? She had already sort of squashed some of her previous questions about some of Brother Blue's decisions, rules, and demands in the past, but she trusted the man and felt he was helping her to establish herself in a position of leadership, so she didn't outwardly question him...until now. Tula realized that the people of the Prairie Rose would be in a poor position for survival fairly quickly if the cargo was not loaded back onto the ship, so she pressed Brother Blue on the issue which was a HUGE mistake on her part. To her credit, she felt it was possible that he genuinely didn't realize that the cargo needed to go back onto the ship. 

Instead of reassuring her, instead of talking to her and making her aware of his plans - Brother Blue took Tula Bane to one of the docking bays and beat her until he thought her dead. Then he left her there and lied to her family and the other colonists about her whereabouts. It wasn't long before a resident alien species rescued her, took her to their medical clinic, and nursed her to health. And THIS begins Tula Bane's unusual time aboard the Yertina Feray AND her mission to hunt down Brother Blue and make him pay for what he did to her. 

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Tin Star is my first experience with Cecil Castellucci's storytelling and I found it to be a fun story and very imaginative. I very much enjoyed the vivid imagery created with the different alien species at Yertina Feray and how different they all were. I enjoyed being able to imagine and learn Tula Bane fairly easily in my head - I felt like as a leading character, I knew her quite well, and I appreciated this. However, while the story was a quick, fun read there were a couple of things that I felt were just a little underdeveloped for what I needed. 

First of all, let's talk about Tula. I liked her. Right away, we learn that she is a smart young girl and very useful to the people of her colony. It is her usefulness and resourcefulness that gets her in trouble with Brother Blue, and although we don't initially know WHY, we can see exactly how threatened this man is by this young girl - which is, I think, quite telling and made her very interesting to me. After Tula was nursed back to health, she acclimated to her surroundings as quickly as she possibly could for a human stuck in outer space - THE ONLY human in a place with many different species of aliens - and I think that proves my point of her resilience. Tula was quick to find a friend in a fellow cast-off alien who was very helpful to her in terms of teaching her the ropes of survival as a minor/lower species in a place such as Yertina Feray. Tula was able to learn the art of trading - she traded both favors and objects - and this is how she made her living. Again, resourceful. Tula was settling into life there (with hope that she would one day run into Brother Blue and her family) when suddenly she sees that a group of three additional humans have arrived - Reza, Caleb, and Els. 

Tula is smart - she takes her time and observes these three humans. They are together, she notices, but they are all very different and seem to have different goals. While they all want OFF of Yertina - just as Tula does - they are all willing to do different things to leave and they all have varying levels of loyalty to each other and to Tula, being that Tula is another human just like them. ALSO, these three know that because of Tula's trading skills and camaraderie with the residing species on Yertina Feray, she has something that they all want. Tula is not stupid - she can see that some of this group of three are trying to use her to get these precious things that she has, but some of them are actually trying to get to know her in hopes that she will share what she has (because they have taken a liking to her). 

Speaking of 'liking' Tula, there a little bit of romance scattered among the pages of this book - and this is where I had such a hard time. I felt like 1) none of the romantic encounters or relationships felt very personal or developed or real, so they had an almost-but-not-really comedic feel to them. Also 2) I think the story could have moved along quite nicely and made much more sense without the romantic encounters - ALL of them with the exception of perhaps one. I would have to say that there is one interaction/relationship/friendship in this story that I felt would make a much better romantic relationship than any of the others, but it was never once explored in this way, which was a little odd to me. Ultimately, I think leaving out these relationships would have been great EXCEPT that this is a series and I wonder if perhaps what I've read is set-up for future installments? If this is the case, I maintain that what I read is a little open-ended without enough closure for this first book to carry over into the second. I suppose we'll have to wait and see what happens with the whole "romance" thing in the next book. BUT! The romance aspect of this book is actually not very large when compared to the story as a whole - it is just something that bugged me a bit and I wanted to talk about it. The story is much bigger than any of the romance inside of it - at this point, in my opinion. 

I LOVED the aliens in this story. They are all so very different and sort of weird and kind of gross and just...very alien. That part was done very well. I loved that I was able to picture this story easily taking place in space with the stars surrounding the docking stations and out every window...and I loved that there was a planet nearby that Tula and some of the others liked to catch glimpses of every now and then because it made them feel a connection to Earth. I can sense a bit of political something going on as there is this galactic tug-of-war for control or leadership taking place, and I'm wondering what is going on out there (meaning, outside the scope of the novel as I'm reading) and I'm excited to see what happens with the politics of the universe in the next installment. And as far as the ending goes, there is a revelation made that was not the most shocking as I think I could see it coming, but I liked it and I want to know more about it! Also, the OTHER part of the ending is left wide open for another book and I'm eager to see where this takes us - I'm feeling like it will quite literally broaden the setting quite a bit and that could be exciting when you think of adding the galactic politics and the potential romances that may or may not be involved. 

Overall, Tin Star was a very interesting book. It is not the best book that I've read this year but my interest is up and I will be watching for the next book in the series because I'm certainly interested enough that I want to keep up with these characters (especially the secondary characters) and see how several of the plot lines continue to play out. I recommend Tin Star to fans of space operas, science fiction, female leading characters, and aliens. I think it would be a fantastic book to recommend to male young adult readers - even younger ones - particularly reluctant readers. 


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Tin Star will appeal to fans of:

Young Adult Science Fiction
Romance: Nothing heavy. No love triangles. 
Female Lead
Fun Secondary Characters
Great Setting - Space!
Aliens

Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci
will be available for purchase on February 25, 2014.

**I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts and they are completely my own! Thank you so much Macmillan! 

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Do YOU like books set in space? 
I do. Do you have any recommendations for great ones? 

Don't forget: 

**Read Chapters 1-5 for FREE for Kindle
**Read Chapters 1-5 for FREE for NOOK

Also, how do you like that cover?
I think it is really great.  



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