Category: sky without stars

Title: Sky Without Stars

Authors: Jessica Brody and Ruth Rendell

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: System Divine, book one

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               I’ve been intrigued by this book, and it’s been sitting on my library stack for a while now. As soon as I was finished with You Must Not Miss, I dove in, uncertain what to expect. What I got was an ambitious, atmospheric science fiction epic with memorable characters, fantastic worldbuilding, political intrigue and romance. It was one of my favorite musicals, Les Miserables, told in space! It was so cool to see Victor Hugo’s classic in a completely new way. I’m long overdue for a rewatch of that film, and as I was reading, I got several of the musical’s songs stuck in my head. There were a lot of characters to keep track of, and at times it was difficult to distinguish between them, but overall, Brody and Rendell have penned a knockout. I can’t wait to see what comes next for The System Divine series!

               On the planet of Laterre, the Second and Third Estate are forced to forage for scarps, while The First Estate live in Ledome, a sheltered paradise for the rich, ruling class. Five hundred years have passed since The Last Days, and revolution is brewing once again. The winds of change force three young people together, all from different walks of life. There’s Chatine, the scrappy daughter of thieves, desperate for a way off of the planet to forge a new life. In her quest for escape, she is forced by the brutal Regime to spy on Marcellus, the son of a traitor and grandson of one of the most powerful men on Laterre. Aloulette lives in a secret, underground refuge, where she guards the last library on the planet. But when she goes up to the surface for the first time in twelve years, she finds a world she barely knows or remembers, and is plunged into chaos when she goes searching for answers. Will Laterre rise from the ashes anew due to the revolution, or will chaos rule entirely?

`               I loved this heady, darkly wrought debut! Les Miserables is one of my favorite musicals, and to see it through a futuristic, science fiction-tinted lens was so cool! The pacing was breakneck, and I really liked the way the authors went from Chatine, Marcellus, Aloulette, and back. As I said, there were a lot of characters to keep track of, and I had to go back and reread every now and then to make sure I had the person right. To say this book is Les Mis in space is accurate, but it also doesn’t completely embody the feel of the story: the characters, all embodied with flaws and very real troubles, cyborgs and secret societies and political intrigue. This book is an amazing work to add in the growing body of YA space operas, and I loved it. There were many characters, but I loved them, despite my disorientation at the sheer number. This book was soulful, heart-wrenching, dark and funny. And all the references to the musical had me grinning from ear to ear. (When I realized, I had the entire soundtrack on loop in my brain as I was reading… And I wasn’t mad at it!) I cannot wait for the next book in the System Divine series, because this ambitious, meaty debut novel was fantastic! I loved every dark, charged moment of it. I will happily wait for what books come next in the series. And meanwhile, perhaps I’ll actually be brave enough to watch the musical? The bottom line: Ambitious, finely wrought, and darkly beautiful, I was utterly captivated by Sky Without Stars! What a fantastic series starter! Next on deck: Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales by Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link!

Title: You Must Not Miss

Author: Katrina Leno

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Horror

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               Katrina Leno is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve been following her work ever since she wrote The Half-Life of Molly Pierce. I’ve been curious about You Must Not Miss since before I came out, and I was finally able to snatch it at my local library. As soon as I was finished with Under the Moon, I dove into this novel, not really knowing what to expect. This book was like a crazy fever dream that reminded me of Stephen King’s early work, like Carrie and several of his creepy, fantastical short stories. I loved every dark, scary moment, and this book is one of my favorites of Leno’s work, even though the ending seemed a little forced. Nonetheless, Leno has penned a book of darkness, dreams, rage and revenge, and the monsters that hide within us all.

               Margaret ‘Magpie’ Lewis once had the perfect life. A great best friend, a loving family and home. But that all unravels when she accidentally walks in on her father and aunt having sex. Her family, as a result, falls apart. Her mother becomes an alcoholic, her older sister, Eryn, leaves, unable to cope with her mother’s neglectful behavior, and Magpie loses everything. She is labeled a slut and quickly becomes a social pariah. Friendless, alone, and desperate for revenge, she begins to write in a notebook of a mysterious, magical place called Near. But when Magpie discovers that Near is actually real, a dark reflection of her town of Farther that she alone can control, she begins to realize that revenge is indeed possible. But once her world continues to spin out of control, Magpie must decide whether to give in to the monsters inside of her, or to begin the journey back into the light…

               I really loved this book; it might be my favorite in Leno’s entire body of work. Her prose is signature, dreamy and sparse and not altogether real. It was a book practically written with a scalpel. It made me want to rage, scream, and howl; I will never, ever forget Magpie or the dark, cruel trail of violence she leaves in her wake. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately spellbound by Magpie’s story, as ugly and awful and monstrous as it was. The transitions were also good; I liked the way the book flowed between the past and present, explaining the before and after of Magpie’s life. I also adored the way that Leno portrayed her; the way that she was so unapologetically wrathful. I could understand why Magpie felt that horrible, awful need for revenge; some wounds just require retribution. I liked the way that the book was written; it felt as if I was caught up in a compelling but terrifying nightmare. The only thing that I didn’t like was that the end, and Magpie’s bloody revenge, seemed really forced. But nonetheless, I really think that this book is my favorite of all of Leno’s books. I love stories about angry girls, and You Must Not Miss really fits the bill, despite its minor flaws. The bottom line: Dark, furious, and bloody, I loved You Must Not Miss! Easily Katrina Leno’s best novel, despite its flaws. Next on deck: Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Ruth Rendell!