Mini Reviews: Magonia, Rook, and The Prom Goer’s Interstellar Guide

April 23, 2015 2015, 3 star books, 3.5 star books, Kim, mini reviews 25

Genres: dystopian, fantasy, science fiction

I have a nice little round up of April releases for you today! I think most of these have flown under the radar so far so I’m happy to shed a little spotlight here. We’ve got a dystopian (but sort of historical–you’ll see), a beautifully creative fantasy, and a science fiction-light romp that had me in stitches. Let’s dive in!

 

 

rook by sharon cameron cover

Title: Rook
Author: Sharon Cameron
Rating: 3 stars

This is one of those times where I fear I just couldn’t connect with a book not through any fault of its own, but because I just wasn’t really in the mood at the time. I saw this initially billed as a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and while the threads of relation are definitely there, this is mostly an original story. In a dystopian future, Sophia spends her days as an English gentlewoman, but in her spare time is a daring rebel in the ruins of Paris risking life and limb to save innocents from the guillotine.

This is technically a future dystopia but it reads like historical. The society is non-technology (in fact, fervently anti-technology the reasons for which are hinted around and related to the fall of our modern world) and the fashions and social structures of the 18th century are in vogue. There’s not really a difference between this and reading about any fictionalized account of derring-do during the French Revolution. Though there were some nods to this being the future that I genuinely enjoyed, like when Sophia finds a Nintendo 64 controller (yes really!) in her brother’s collection of ancient artifacts.

There is strong writing, a slow burn romance, and plenty of intrigue and mystery. Sophia is a worthy heroine and her banter with Rene (the love interest) is enjoyable and witty. There’s enough surprise and emotion to carry the story but I felt that it just ran overlong (this is a good deal longer than the average YA book). There were too many scenes that just tread water. Still, I think this was more a case of me not being quite in the mood than it is anything against the book. If you’re normally a fan of dense historical fiction you should definitely give this one a shot!

 

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magonia by maria headey cover

Title: Magonia
Author: Maria Dahvana Headley
Rating: 3.5

Magonia absolutely gets points for originality and for crush worthiness of its lead boy (he is such a dream, honestly). I adored the first 30% of this book. Aza has such a strong voice-she’s been mysteriously and terminally ill for her entire brief life and she’s pissed about it. I loved that she was angry, and messy, confused and imperfect. She has had the incredible benefit of having the unbelievably sweet and earnest Jason as a best friend, there for her through thick and thin. And oh my word, is he swoon worthy! Seriously, this guy makes chocolate eclairs for Aza. I can suspend my disbelief for such deliciousness.

But at around 30%, Aza discovers who she really is and the reason why she has been constantly ill. She finds herself suddenly swept up into an entire other world full of strange creatures and stranger society. This would normally be the point where the story kicks into high gear: adventure! mysteries unfolding! True Heritage revealed! Sadly this was exactly when the story started to lag for me. Maybe it’s just me. I mean, SHIPS in the SKY…come on. This is interesting! How can a story start to lose interest when a main character suddenly finds herself part of a secret society of Sky Pirates and Bird People?

I just enjoyed Aza more when she was a pissed off, but sure of who she was, “normal” human teenager. The disorientation of finding Magonia leaves her with a sort of helplessness and struggle for agency that was hard for me to read through. Perfectly understandable, but not exactly compelling reading. I also really, really missed the Aza x Jason dynamic once she is spirited away. I fully admit that that half star is basically because of how awesome Jason is, and he is really awesome, so feel free to take all of these words with a giant grain of salt. This is definitely beautifully written, and absolutely one of the more unique fantasies I’ve read in quite a while. You might just like Sky Pirates and Bird People more than I happened to. If nothing else, this novel will always have Jason. <3 <3

 

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the prom goer's interstellar guide

 

Title: The Prom Goer’s Interstellar Excursion
Author: Chris McCoy
Rating: 3.5

After a lifetime of social stagnation in his New Mexico town, Bennett gets to go to prom with his dream girl, Sophie. Unfortunately, shortly after saying yes, Sophie is abducted by aliens in the middle of the desert. What choice does Bennett have but to hop a ride with a an alien band (they’ve stopped briefly at an In N Out because they have excellent tastes) on an intergalactic tour?

This sweet and light hearted novel reads like both science fiction and contemporary. Bennett and Sophie are dealing with impending graduation and important life decisions. Then she gets whisked away by (nefarious?) aliens. Oh no! It’s also just flat out funny. Honestly, I don’t laugh out loud at a lot of books but I was non-stop smiling with this one. The hijinks that Bennett and the alien band get up to are so ridiculous in the best way possible. All I can tell you is that a performance in the stomach of a Dark Matter Faloptopus is about as dangerous as it sounds.

Also, don’t worry. Sophie is no damsel and can more than hold her own. In fact, she’s long been accepted to Princeton while Bennett flounders on the waitlist. I enjoyed both characters, and their quick fire banter, so much. This is an adorable, imaginative, and hilarious sci-fi adventure that I breezed right through. When you want really funny YA pick this one up.

 

Advance copies were provided by the publisher for Rook and Magonia

 

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Have you read any of these? Has your interest been piqued? Do you feel a strong and fervent desire to tell me how wrong I am? Please do feel free! :p

 

kim teal

 

 

 

 

 

 

25 Responses to “Mini Reviews: Magonia, Rook, and The Prom Goer’s Interstellar Guide”

    • Kim

      Yeah give it a shot! It’s really weird that I enjoyed the contemporary part of the novel more than the fantasy part. I’m intrigued to see how other bloggers react to it!
      Kim recently posted…An Ember in the Ashes: Review

  1. Debby (Snuggly Oranges)

    Ahh, I saved this up until I wrote my review of Magonia, and I have to say I agree with all your thoughts. The first part, the contemporary part, was so interesting and well written and cool, and Jason is SO CUTE. But then the fantasy part was just… weird. I lost interest, and I definitely think it was in large part because Aza’s awesome voice faded.

    I’m super intrigued by both ROOK and PROM GOER – glad to see you enjoyed them! They both got like ZERO buzz, which is such a fail on the part of the publishers.
    Debby (Snuggly Oranges) recently posted…ARC Book Review: Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

    • Kim

      Agh I knowwwwww. I loved the contemporary part! Which is really weird because it is generally pretty difficult for me to find contemporary that I like. If this novel had just been a contemporary “sick-lit” about Aza and Jason I am fairly certain I would have adored it. Their banter was so adorable and I had actual goosebumps from the tension in that basement scene! So, you know, it’s super weird for me to read a fantasy novel and then end up only really liking the contemporary part! I think you’re on target when you say it’s largely due to the loss of Aza’s prickly voice. And also I just found the worldbuilding of Magonia to be rather lackluster. *sigh*

      I think you should definitely give PROM GOER’S a try, Debby! I was laughing from the first page so you’ll know right away if the humor is to your liking or not. But I do really think you will enjoy it. I’m just happy to see this sort light-hearted, funny sci-fi making its way to shelves.
      Kim recently posted…An Ember in the Ashes: Review

  2. Carina Olsen

    Aw, gorgeous reviews Kim. <3 Love reading your thoughts about all three books :D I still do not think that Magonia is a book for me :p maybe one day :D It looks so pretty. Sigh. But Rook! Rook I am really excited about reading :D Soon. Just hoping I will like it too. So glad that you mostly enjoyed it, despite some issues :\ but yeah. It just looks really awesome, lol. Thank you for sharing about these books sweetie. <3
    Carina Olsen recently posted…In My Mailbox #182

    • Kim

      Oh I think you go into Rook really wanting to like it there’s nothing there that will prevent you! I just wasn’t in the mood for it when I read it. I almost feel guilty passing any judgment because it’s like, there’s nothing wrong with the book I just couldn’t really get into it at the time because I was distracted by other things/books/the length. Just be aware that it’s mostly a dense historical rather than a dystopian, really, and that it’s a pretty long book and you should be set. Hope you enjoy!!
      Kim recently posted…Classic Readalong Discussion: A Ring of Endless Light

  3. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

    The scene of Rook sounds really interesting, future dystopia that is actually historical? Sounds really interesting, although it’s weird to think of our current technology being ancient lol.

    Awww Magonia sounds great, too bad it lost steam for you. I really want to get to know Jason, he sounds dreamy. The secret society sounds incredibly fascinating as well!

    The Prom Goer’s book sounds like a really fun ride, it reminds me a lot of Outcast by Adrienne Kriess which I really enjoyed. That one seemed a bit darker though, but the banter, the quirkiness, it’s all there. Sounds great Kim!

    Thanks for the awesome reviews!
    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence recently posted…Chatterbox: Emotional vs Critical Reviewers

    • Kim

      Yeaaaaah. Rook is…interesting. For all intents and purposes it might as well be the 18th century. But it’s actually several hundred years in the future. It’s about history repeating itself and all that jazz. It’s just frustrating when you can tell there isn’t really any fault you find with a book, but you’re just not really in the mood. Sometimes I need to just relax and enjoy and not worry so much about being critical about a book. Turn off the reviewer’s mind, you know?

      Ha I think with Magonia it’s just that I don’t really like books that take place on ships? What an odd thing to not like! But it seems to be true. Ships are weirdly uninteresting to me. I think readers without my anti-ship stance will fare much better. Also, the book has Jason which is always a wonderful thing for a book to have (he’s really really great).

      Prom Goer’s really is such a wacky, fun romp. I wish there were more books like that in YA. Ones I know I can just pick up and laugh along and enjoy the ride. I’m going to check out the book by Kriess. I hadn’t heard of it before so thanks for the rec!
      Kim recently posted…Classic Readalong Discussion: A Ring of Endless Light

  4. J. Oh

    Ooh, thanks for these! The only one I’d heard of was Magonia, which I’d been planning to read, but I think I’d like the other two as well. :)

    • Kim

      Oh it’s such a cute book, Stephanie! And just really, really funny. I’m so glad I found it because I think it’s especially good for reluctant readers. I Booktalked it just last week at a high school and it got a lot of interest. Whatever gets kids reading, you know? I hope you enjoy!
      Kim recently posted…Classic Readalong Discussion: A Ring of Endless Light

    • Kim

      Yeah, I set ROOK aside for several weeks right in the middle of it because I had to get to other books and I wouldn’t’ve been bothered if I never picked it up again. It just didn’t hook me. It’s frustrating because I could see the ways in which it so easily could’ve, but I think I just wasn’t in the mood. Oh well. It happens!
      Kim recently posted…Classic Readalong Discussion: A Ring of Endless Light

  5. Pili @ In Love With Handmade

    I do want to read both Rook and Magonia! I have Magonia preordered and I’m hoping to get my hands on Rook eventually, once the book buying ban can be lifted! I’m firmly adding Rook to the wish list, because I get a good vibe for it from your review!
    Thank you, Kim!
    Pili @ In Love With Handmade recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday #91!!

    • Kim

      Yeah, ROOK does drag a bit I am sad to say. I think if you’re in the mood to settle in (perhaps with a glass of wine *wink!*) and just take some time with a book and be patient with it then it’s definitely worth a shot. And oh my goodness is Jason adorable! I’m excited for Book 2 in that series because I thiiiiink they will be together more (if not most of) that book so odds are high I’ll be enjoying it more.
      Kim recently posted…Classic Readalong Discussion: A Ring of Endless Light

    • Kim

      MAGONIA is definitely unique and I’m happy to see that in the saturated YA fantasy market. I just adored how pissed off and angry Aza was. It’s so refreshing to see a teen girl character just be angry and unpleasant (for entirely justified reasons). She’s not a bad person at all; it’s just totally realistic. I loved her. I wish I’d been able to connect with it more, though.
      Kim recently posted…Classic Readalong Discussion: A Ring of Endless Light

    • Kim

      I think they’re all worth a read really! With ROOK I could tell that I just wasn’t in the mood. If you normally like dense historical, like I said, I think it would be super enjoyable. And if you want to laugh (honestly, I don’t find many books that make me laugh out loud and keep it going) than you can’t go wrong with PROM GOER’S!
      Kim recently posted…Classic Readalong Discussion: A Ring of Endless Light

  6. Nikki

    I’ve been wanting to read Magonia but the other 2 sound good as well, I’ll be adding them to my TBR pile :)

    • Kim

      Oh good! I can definitely confirm that PROM GOER’S is hilarious and adorable, and MAGONIA really has its moments too. I hope you have better luck with ROOK than I had. I think it’s one of those rainy day, just curl up with tea and a candle books. I wasn’t in the mood for it with all this spring sunshine!
      Kim recently posted…Classic Readalong Discussion: A Ring of Endless Light