Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray, 4 Stars

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31423196Title: Defy the Stars (Constellation #1)

Author: Claudia Gray

Published: April 4, 2017

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction

Synopsis: Noemi will to do anything for her best friend and planet. Even sacrifice her life, but when Noemi discovers an abandoned Earth spacecraft and a chance to end the war between her world and Earth, Noemi’s plans change. Noemi might not need to sacrifice her life to save her planet anymore, but she’s not sure she can make it in time.

Abel, a humanoid robot, was locked in an abandoned spaceship for thirty years. Now, he’s been freed by one of his maker’s enemies. Abel wants nothing more than to find his master and serve his purpose, but a flaw in his programming won’t allow it. Abel has no choice but to do everything his new master says, even if it means helping his enemy.

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Review: This is the sort of science fiction novel I love. For whatever reason, I can’t get enough of plot lines where a non-human protagonist has to blend into human society, and along the way learn they have much more in common with humans than they thought.

I adore Abel for this reason, and his personality in general. I love it when authors manage to make readers sympathize with characters that might otherwise come across as things rather than people.

After all, in the end, none of the characters we read about exist in real life. Therefore, I see little reason why we can’t have robot characters come across as just as developed as the human ones. All characters are products of human imagination.

Noemi is a strong character, too. Noemi’s devotion to her planet gave her strong motivation. That said, at times I felt as though Noemi had less personality than the robot.

I think part of this had to do with her character. Noemi’s life has been full of loss, she’s just experienced another tragedy, and believes herself due for another as her planet sends it’s young people on a suicide mission. That seems like enough to make anyone harden to emotions.

Noemi’s seeming less human than her robot companion could also be seen as symbolism, and perhaps allow room for readers to grow stronger attachments to Abel despite his inhuman nature.

Another thing I loved about this book was that it posed philosophical questions. This is an element YA novels often lack, but I love the YA novels where it is present anyway. Many of the adult novels that strive to make readers think can get a little preachy. YA novels that make readers think often avoid this, or at least, the ones I’ve read do.

That said, I would have liked more exploration of the philosophical elements, but since this is YA I’ll take what I can get.

Another element I don’t often see discussed in nonsecular novels is religion. This book touches on religion more than most novels, particularly YA, that I’ve read. Noemi was raised Catholic and her planet’s culture places much value on religion. While it, again, does not come across as preachy, this influences Noemi’s actions throughout the novel.

I’m split on what I thought about the worldbuilding. On one hand, I like that readers were shown so much of it. The protagonists visit just about every habitable world. On the other hand, visiting so many places leads to a lack of depth.

That there were only enough robot models in the future for each one to be assigned a letter of the alphabet also seemed unlikely and of limited vision. Then again, this also seemed a means by which the author simplified her plot to keep it from overwhelming the story.

The author did the same thing with the planets. Each one is defined by a key characteristic. There is a resort planet, a planet for geniuses, and a planet for devoutly religious people. This is a big part of why I say that the worldbuilding lacked depth.

The worldbuilding also reminded me of Star Wars. Perhaps this shouldn’t surprise me seeing as Claudia Gray is also contracted to write Star Wars novels.

I added this one to my TBR because I’d read and enjoyed Gray’s Star Wars novel, Lost Stars. I’m glad I did, because I liked this one even more.

Rating: I keep going back and forth between 4 and 4.5 on this one. If I did quarter ratings I would. There were some things I didn’t like about this book, but there were even more things I loved. It’s one of those books I can’t stop thinking about. That makes me want to rate it higher.

In the end, I settled on 4.

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Do you plan to read Defy the Stars? Have you read it already? What did you think? 

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Ten Series I Want to Start

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is “Top Ten Series I’ve Been Meaning To Start But Haven’t.”

This theme proved easy because there are so many series I want to read, but haven’t started.

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The Raven’s Shadow Series


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The Fulfillment Series


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Reign Of Secrets


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Lightbringer


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The Balance Keepers


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The Nevernight Chronicle


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Wayfarers


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The Nightside Saga


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Adventurers Wanted


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Shadow Magic

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What series are you looking forward to? Any on this list? Which should I read first? 

Novels With Real, Live Father Figures (i.e. Not dead ones)

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is a Father’s Day related freebie.

At first, I wanted to do my ten favorite Dad’s in fiction, but this proved difficult. Instead I’m focusing on books with Dads who have not not: a.) died or B.) abandoned/abused their children. It turns out they are rare indeed.

The first nine are my selection, and the tenth is a selection made by my father when I asked which book had is favorite father is from.

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Challenger Deep

Thoughts

I don’t really remember much about Caden’s father, but from what I remember he was alive and seemed to care for his son.

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Dark Life

Thoughts

It’s been a long time since I read this (my freshmen year of high school to be exact), but I remember Ty’s parents being caring. Though, I think the other main character was an orphan.

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Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings

Thoughts

The main character’s father seems like a pretty nice guy, even if it does get more than a little awkward at times as he tries to fulfill what would otherwise be the role of our protagonist’s mother.

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Splintered

Thoughts

I don’t remember much about the father’s involvement in this first book, but he became very involved later in the series.

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Mister Monday (The Keys To the Kingdom #1)

Thoughts

Okay so, technically, the main character’s biological father is dead. However, Arther loves his adoptive family a lot, so I’m counting it. Also, I think I read this book in elementary school? I feel so old! (Hint, I’m not.)

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Found (The Missing #1)

Thoughts

Okay, so this is another one where the main character is adopted, but the main character is close to his adoptive parents.

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The Sun is also a Star

Thoughts

The parents in this book have major conflicts with the protagonists, but they aren’t horrible parents, either. The protagonists’ parents are also, most importantly,  not dead. Yes, this is seriously the best I can do. . . sorry.

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Alienated (Alienated #1)

Thoughts

One of the protagonist doesn’t have parents, (he is an alien clone) but the other one has two very supportive ones.

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Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1)

Thoughts

Okay, this is another case where the parents are a major source of conflict for the protagonists. Hey, at least they’re not dead.

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White Noise

Thoughts

Okay, so I know nothing about this book. I asked my father what book he thought contained the best father figure he’d ever read. This is what he came up with. So, there you go.

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Wow, that was oddly depressing. I had to resort to a book I read in elementary school just to list ten books where the father wasn’t dead?

Who are your favorite literary fathers? Are all these real, live fictional dads hiding someplace beyond my notice? Can you name any other books where characters have fathers who aren’t dead and haven’t abandoned their children?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Camp NaNoWriMo: How to find an active cabin

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For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is an annual writing event. You can learn more about on their website here. Camp NaNoWriMo is an twice annual offshoot event featuring virtual “cabins” with up to 20 participants. Learn more here.

I’ve participated in Camp NaNoWriMo seven times now. In the past, I’ve had both cabins that were active and others that were inactive. I’ve found cabin activity critical to staying motivated.

The NaNoWriMo forms have some good tips for finding cabin mates, but today I’m sharing some things I personally have found result in an active cabin.

Disclaimer: This is only what has worked for me, and most of this post is speaking in general terms. No doubt there are exceptions, and your results may vary.

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Private cabins are more active.

The camp NaNoWriMo website allows users to choose to not get put in a cabin, get sorted with other campers based on private criteria, or create/be invited to a private cabin.

Many people who plan to participate in Camp NaNo won’t write a single word. It’s like new years resolutions. Many people don’t complete their goals. Therefore, the best bet for an active cabin is to meet other enthusiastic people on the NaNoWriMo Finding cabin mates forum.

The earlier you join a cabin the better.

Some people will join camp late. However, in general, more active people will be excited to find a cabin as soon as possible. This leads to a greater chance of more active members if you start looking early in the month.

Barriers to entry lead to more active members.

This mostly applies to those who are starting their own cabin by looking for people in the forums. The forums allow people to specify criteria for the participants they’re looking for.

By barriers to entry I mean specify certain criteria. This can be anything from an age range to a specific genre or time zone.

Specifying you’re looking for people who have done something  that requires them to have taken action at one point, like winning NaNoWriMo/Camp NaNoWriMo in a previous year, can be even more effective because it requires people to have a track record of active participation.

Just make sure these barriers to entry are not so high as to be unattainable by the majority of people because that could lead to a lack of interest.

Overestimate the number of people you want.

20 people seems like a lot, but it’s likely some people will disappear throughout the month. Yes, even following these tips. So, add more people than you think you’ll want to your cabin. This will allow you to have enough people left to stay motivated at the end of the month.

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Have you participated in Camp NaNoWriMo or NaNoWriMo? Are you participating in July? Do you have any tips?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Ten Fantasy Books I Want to Read

Top Ten Tuesday

Top ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is “10 Books From X Genre That I’ve Recently Added To My TBR List.” I’ve chosen to discuss the 10 most recent fantasy additions to my to be read list on Goodreads.

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Wicked Like a Wildfire

Why I added it:

Okay, I’ll admit it. I added it because of the gorgeous cover. I also think it had something to do with an ARC review I read, but can’t remember for sure.

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Whichwood

Why I added it:

I saw the beautiful cover on a tweet as I was scrolling through Twitter. I clicked to learn more and realized it was a companion novel to a book I’ve read, so I added it.

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House of Purple Cedar

Why I added it:

I added this one because I saw it on a list recommending diverse books and thought the description sounded like something I might enjoy.

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Akata Witch

Why I added it:

I added this book because of the same list as the book above. I was attracted to this one because it’s a fantasy novel set in Africa. I have not read many books set in Africa and enjoy reading about places that I haven’t been.

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Traitor’s Blade

Why I added it:

I read a review, though I can’t remember whose, in which the reviewer stated they loved this book. The reviewer and I seemed to have similar reading taste, so I added it to my TBR.

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The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #3)

Why I added it:

I added this one because it’s the third book in a series that I’ve read the first two books of. . . . I really don’t think that requires further explanation.

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The Gauntlet

Why I added it:

I added this book because the author was giving pep-talk emails for Camp NaNoWriMo last April. I clicked on the description of her novel. It sounded like something I might be interested in, so I added it to my TBR.

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Assassin’s Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy #1)

Why I added it:

I added this one because I keep hearing such great things about Robin Hobb, but have never read any of her books.

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The Dream-quest of Vellitt Boe

Why I added it:

I honestly don’t even remember adding this novella. I think it had something to do with it being nominated for an award.

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Before She Ignites (The Fallen Isles #1)

Why I added it:

I follow the author on Twitter and have read one of her previous series.

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Are any of these books on your TBR list?

What books have you added to your TBR lately?

Anyone have a method other than Goodreads for keeping track of a TBR list? 

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

April and May 2017 Wrap-Up

Monthly Wrap-up

Reading

Between April and May I read eight novels.

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Title

The Sun is also a Star

Short Synopsis

Two teenagers meet and fall in love on the day that one of them is being deported.

Note: I received an advanced copy from the publisher. However, this is is with regards to the final audiobook, which I did not receive from the publisher. Opinions are my own.

Thoughts

I liked this book more than I expected. The characterization is great, and the novel was more thought provoking than I thought it would be.

Rating

4 blue jays

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Title

Gemina (Illuminae #2)

Short Synopsis

Large corporations plot to get away with mass murder to make profits in space.

Note: I received an arc from the publisher. I read the first half this way, but decided to wait for the release date because so many details were to come. I listened to the second half of this book in audiobook form. Opinions are my own.

Thoughts

The gap between my reading of the first and second half of this book comes down to bad timing more than anything else. I started reading this book right before going on vacation, and a million things started the moment I got back from vacation, so this book sort of fell by the wayside.

Apart from that this was a really fun, suspenseful read.

Rating

4 blue jays

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Title

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3)

Short Synopsis

The third book in a trilogy that I cannot write a synopsis of without spoiling books one and two.

Thoughts

I enjoyed this book, but it was a slower read than the previous books. Also, I didn’t get all of the resolution I’d been hoping for. For more of my thoughts on the Shades of Magic series see my series review.

Rating

4 blue jays

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Titles

The Scrivener’s Bones (Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians #2)

The Nights of Crystallia (Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians #3)

Short Synopsis

Alcatraz fights against the cults of evil librarians that secretly rule the world.

Thoughts

I thought the second book was hilarious, but the third book started to get a little old. I think I would have enjoyed book three more if I hadn’t read them so close together.

Rating

Book two gets a 4/5. Book three gets 3/5.

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Title

The Robots of Dawn (Robots #3)

Short Synopsis

Bayley must visit a Spacer world to prove a man’s innocence.

Thoughts

I enjoyed this novel and am sad that this seems to be the last book with Baley as the protagonist. However, I think this was my least favorite book in the series. This has a lot to do with the fact that Asimov’s romance writing skills are rather cringe worthy.

Rating

4 blue jays

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Title

Strange the Dreamer

Short Synopsis

Young man who loves libraries goes on a long journey.

Thoughts

‘I really enjoyed this book. See my review for my full thoughts.

Rating

4.5 blue jays

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Title

The Revealed (The Missing #7)

Short Synopsis

Seventh book in a series about missing children from history.

Thoughts

This series has drawn out a little too long for my tastes. This book was fun, but I won’t be reading the final novel.

Rating

3 blue jays

Writing

I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo in April. Most of the month was spent revising short stories. I wanted to do more editing on one of my novel length project, but at least I met my goal.

Camp April 2017 Stats

I’m planning to participate again in July. As of the moment, my goal is to get a significant portion of the way through the short story I talked about in my Beautiful People for Writers post this past May.

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Any thoughts on these books? 

What did you read last month?

Anyone participating in Camp NaNoWriMo next July? 

Share your thoughts in the comments below!