4.5 star, YA

ARC Review: The Other Side of Infinity by Joan F. Smith

They Both Die at the End meets The Butterfly Effect in this YA novel by Joan F. Smith, where a teen uses her gift of foreknowledge to help a lifeguard save a drowning man―only to discover that her actions have suddenly put his life at risk.

It was supposed to be an ordinary day at the pool, but when lifeguard Nick hesitates during a save,
seventeen-year-old December uses her gift of foreknowledge to rescue the drowning man instead. The action comes at a cost. Not only will Nick and December fall in love, but also, she envisions that his own life is now at risk. The other problem? They’re basically strangers.

December embarks on a mission to save Nick’s life, and to experience what it feels like to fall in love―something she’d formerly known she’d never do. Nick, battling the shame of screwing up the rescue when he’s heralded as a community hero, resolves to make up for his inaction by doing December a major solid and searching for her mother, who went missing nine years ago.

As they grow closer, December’s gift starts playing tricks, and Nick’s family gets closer to an ugly truth about him. They both must learn what it really means to be a hero before time runs out.

Overall Recommendations:

The Other Side of Infinity packs a punch while also drawing a more reflective side in its readers. Following an intriguing protagonist who knows everything, past and future, I loved learning how December sees the world while also figuring out what happened to her mother, the one thing she didn’t know. Balancing both complexities in character with an underlying plot driving the story, there’s something about this book that stays with you long after the final page is turned. A definite must read!

**The Other Side of Infinity comes out April 25, 2023**

Thank you SparkPoint Studio for this copy in exchange for an honest review

What would you do if you knew everything that has happened, and everything that has yet to pass? Do you let these events occur as you know it will, or do you wish you could be more than just a passive observer, especially for bad events?

That’s something that was super interesting about our omniscient protagonist, December. All her life she knew what has happened to other people, both present and past, as well as events directly related to her. Knowing something will happen is largely different from feeling what it would be like in that moment when it is about to happen. And that is how December finds herself changing events by her interactions with Nick.

Before I dive more into Nick and December’s story, I just want to say that Joan made such an interesting analogy about December’s ability. It’s hard to understand from her perspective otherwise, but comparing each memory or event to a gumball in a large jar was super helpful. December just happens to have access to more than only her own past gumballs, but also everyone’s that she can mentally search through if she wanted. I love that analogy and it made December’s POV very enjoyable to read.

The storyline with Nick was what I anticipated. The only reason why this isn’t a 5 star read is the rapidness of their growing relationship. When December knows they’re going to fall in love and Nick just fell super hard super quickly, it doesn’t leave us much room to allow feelings to grow organically with these two at the pace they did. However, I did end up loving their relationship and how they each tried to help the other in their own way.

There is one major plot line focused on each of them. Nick’s guilty conscience as a hero when he might not have deserved all that praise alone took perhaps too much page time, especially the lead up to the big reveal for whatever event in his past that further aggravated his feelings of guilt in the present. I feel more time could’ve been given instead to December’s missing mother, the big Blank Spot among her gumballs of knowledge. What happened to her and why is anything related to her disappearance missing in her ability? I didn’t feel this wasn’t focused nearly as much, and the resolution left me yearning for more.

That being said, I don’t want to give away anything more, but I will add that I enjoyed the ending. I thought it was fairly predictable – if you know other books and what this one is being compared to – but I thought it was perhaps a lovely way of bringing this book to an end. Do I wish for more? Sure. It felt a bit rushed and abrupt at the end with no real build up to this climactic peak, but perhaps that’s just how things were meant to be.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book when I first jumped into it, but I can say it was hard to put down and I’m still processing all of my feelings now that I’m done. I fervently hope you give this book a chance when it comes out! It just may surprise you like it did for me.

4.5 star, adult

Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

Overall Recommendation:

Piranesi was this disorienting and immersive read that took me through the many Vestibules and Hallways of a grand House Piranesi introduced us to. I had no idea what I was signing up for in the beginning but by the end, I can honestly say I’ve never read anything quite like this book. The journalistic entry style made every new discovery interesting, and I was so excited to see where Piranesi’s journey would take him.

I’ll be honest, Piranesi is not a book I would’ve picked out for myself from the synopsis or even the first few chapters. Full disclosure, I read this book for a book club I’m joining at my work. BUT, that being said, this was perhaps one of the better books I’ve read so far this year. And here is why.

We are immediately dropped into this strange and disorienting world, seeing it through the eyes of someone who refers to himself by no name except “Myself”. It’s only later that we realize his name, maybe, is Piranesi, or so he’s called by the only other living person in this world of many endless rooms, hallways, antechambers, etc. There are statues everywhere depicting all sorts of people, scenery and items. A raging sea washes below in tides in the lower halls of this House, while clouds move about in the upper halls that occasionally provide rain.

Written in journal entries by Piranesi, the information we glean about this world comes in pieces. This makes it less confusing in some ways – definitely no information overload – but it’s also a little slow in the beginning for that reason. However, I will say having this story written in journal entries is truly a highlight for the story. We discover things in real time along with Piranesi as we learn things are not as he originally understood the world to be. So in later sections, the anticipation of what would pop up in the next entry is practically palpable.

The writing itself presents in a dreamlike state. Piranesi’s voice is calm, detail oriented and descriptive. Yes, this may not be for everyone, especially for those who enjoy more conversational writing. But this quality was needed, in my opinion, to immerse us into this world that is nothing like our own. I felt like I was walking those Halls with him, seeing the birds fly above, catching that fish for food and drying seaweed for clothes. By the end of it, I felt a little sad that I would no longer be reading about this calm world and its interactions with Piranesi. That’s the sheer beauty of Clarke’s writing that evoked such a 180 turn of emotion in me. I will say I was quite jaded at the beginning, and not the least bit annoyed, that this book was so wordy and full of descriptive pages. Oh how everything clearly changed!

Aside from the writing, there is in fact a plot in here. I know, right? But immediately after a couple of meetings with the “Other” as Piranesi calls him, there definitely seemed to be more information out in this World than what we were understanding from Piranesi’s POV. The mystery surrounding our gap in knowledge was intriguing, although I guessed quite early on what may be the case. I don’t think it’s a mystery meant to be unknowable to us, the reader. It’s seeing how Piranesi would have to reconcile with the changes in his own world perception that is highly interesting. And of course, what would be the ultimate outcome upon reaching such a conclusion about the World?

I’ve been raving so many positive things about this book so far, but the thing that sticks out the most is how much I adore Piranesi as a character. He’s such a pure and innocent soul, yet he also feels realistic even though none of us are really like that. What makes or breaks a book for me is whether your narrator is someone you can stand because we see the world through their eyes. And oh boy, it was truly a wonder to see the world through Piranesi’s eyes.

To conclude, I don’t think this is everyone’s cup of tea, but I didn’t think it was going to be a book for me either in the beginning. This is so far out of the norm of my reading genres, yet I’m so profoundly happy that I got to immerse myself in Piranesi’s story. All the accolades are very well deserved, and I encourage you to give this a shot even if the synopsis sounds like nothing you have ever read or wanted to read before. It may just change your perspective.

5 star, YA

ARC Review: The Luminaries by Susan Dennard

Series: The Luminaries #1

From Susan Dennard, the New York Times bestselling author of the Witchlands series, comes a haunting and high-octane contemporary fantasy, about the magic it takes to face your fears in a nightmare-filled forest, and the mettle required to face the secrets hiding in the dark corners of your own family.

Hemlock Falls isn’t like other towns. You won’t find it on a map, your phone won’t work here, and the forest outside town might just kill you. 

Winnie Wednesday wants nothing more than to join the Luminaries, the ancient order that protects Winnie’s town—and the rest of humanity—from the monsters and nightmares that rise in the forest of Hemlock Falls every night. 

Ever since her father was exposed as a witch and a traitor, Winnie and her family have been shunned. But on her sixteenth birthday, she can take the deadly Luminary hunter trials and prove herself true and loyal—and restore her family’s good name. Or die trying.

But in order to survive, Winnie enlists the help of the one person who can help her train: Jay Friday, resident bad boy and Winnie’s ex-best friend. While Jay might be the most promising new hunter in Hemlock Falls, he also seems to know more about the nightmares of the forest than he should. Together, he and Winnie will discover a danger lurking in the forest no one in Hemlock Falls is prepared for.

Not all monsters can be slain, and not all nightmares are confined to the dark.

Overall Recommendation

The Luminaries sets a new secret society within our world that guards humankind from nightmarish creatures lurking in the forests at night. Beautiful worldbuilding and mystery subplots keep the momentum going that I couldn’t put this book down at all. The ending was abrupt and most things were not concluded in a satisfactory manner, but this definitely makes me all the more excited for what’s to come in the next book.

Continue reading “ARC Review: The Luminaries by Susan Dennard”