Mini Review: Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini

Trail by Fire
Josephine Angelini

Feiwel & Friends
I received a copy from the publisher in return for an honest review:
Released September 2, 2014
374 pages
YA / Magic / Witches

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This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying experiences that others in her hometown of Salem take for granted, which is why she is determined to enjoy her first high school party with her best friend and longtime crush, Tristan. But after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class, Lily wishes she could just disappear.

Suddenly, Lily is in a different Salem—one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruelest of them all is Lillian . . . Lily's other self in this alternate universe.

What makes Lily weak at home is what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. In this confusing world, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone and a love she never expected.

Trial by Fire is an interesting mash up between science fiction and more traditional witch fantasy. Lily Proctor is seemingly allergic to everything in this world, constantly having to fear going into anaphylactic shock and possibly dying just for going out and experiencing life. When she’s invited to a party by her best friend who she has long since had a crush on, she tempts fate only for fate to punch her in the face repeatedly. Embarrassment after embarrassment eventually leaves her hating everyone and wishing that she could be anywhere else.

Then she wakes up to find herself anywhere else and she just wants to go home. Funny how things work that way, huh?

After landing in an alternate version of her world where a coven of witches rule the government and monstrous science experiments haunt the vast forests, Lily discovers that what makes her allergic to everything in her world acts as a conduit to magic in this one. She, of course, meets a boy who can train her and protect her from this crazy unfamiliar land until she’s able to help his cause in defeating the evil witches, who just so happen to be led by Lily’s doppelganger from this world.

I really enjoyed the alternate Salem that Angelini developed along with the complex magic system she embeds within it. She’s conceptualized the magic system around physics, making the rules tied to science as much as you can when creating magic. Instead of just hand-waving the differences between Lily’s world and this alternate magical one, Angelini tries to ground the entire thing in realty and it works without getting in the way of the fun.

Lily grows quickly into a dominant character that is driven more by her own will even when she’s placed into the hands of caretakers after landing in an unfamiliar world. She doesn’t make too many stupid choices to assert herself either, which is a rare occasion in a story like this. She’s cautious, but headstrong and incredibly determined to do what’s right even when it’s hard.

This is a solid introduction to a world of magic that leans heavily on a pseudo-scientific basis. There’s a lot hinted at, especially regarding motivations, that aren’t fully explored, so many doors are left wide open for subsequent sequels. Angelini created an interesting world with plenty of world-building rules that make the characters and surroundings jump off the page and breathe. I’m normally not one for witches, but this is a series I’ll be following.

Author Blog Tour Review: Relativity by Cristin Bishara

Welcome to the Working for the Mandroid stop for Cristin Bishara's blog tour for the recently released Relativity. Hosted by Rockstar Book Tours, the Relativity love will be spread across several blogs through September 20. As part of the tour, Cristin is hosting TWO contests, which you can enter through the Rafflecopter embedded below after the cut. But first our review:

Cristin Bishara

Walker Books (Bloomsbury)
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.
Released September 10, 2013
288 pages
YA / Parallel Worlds / SciFi


If Ruby Wright could have her way, her dad would never have met and married her stepmother Willow, her best friend George would be more than a friend, and her mom would still be alive. Ruby knows wishes can't come true; some things just can't be undone. Then she discovers a tree in the middle of an Ohio cornfield with a wormhole to nine alternative realities.

Suddenly, Ruby can access completely different realities, each containing variations of her life—if things had gone differently at key moments. The windshield wiper missing her mother’s throat…her big brother surviving his ill-fated birth…her father never having met Willow. Her ideal world—one with everything and everyone she wants most—could be within reach. But is there such a thing as a perfect world? What is Ruby willing to give up to find out?

I went into Relativity a bit blind. Other than a vague notion of parallel worlds and a cover that is captivating in how different it is from current YA books, I didn’t really have an expectations going in. It didn’t take me long to realize that this book is unlike most others, that it’s a smart YA story with serious science fiction themes weaving the plot together. It’s not just hand-waveium and “because I said so”, but a logical explanation tied with a little bit of mysticism that creates a smart, truly science fictional universe.

I’m not going to claim that the science is accurate or if I handed it over to a physicist that they would confirm that all the science works out, but I will say that this book doesn’t treat me like I’m stupid. That’s something I can appreciate. There is a lot of “science babble” with basic string theory and other physic principles scattered around the pages like so many stars connecting the plot pieces together. And it all makes sense. Ruby is a prodigy science geek, who thinks in a way that a 15-year-old prodigy science geek would if they were also emotional damaged and seeking a better life.

Ruby has recently been transplanted to middle of nowhere Ohio, far from her happy home in the San Francisco home where she hung out with George – the sweet artist boy, who she majorly crushed out on but never did anything about it. Her mother died in a freak car accident when she was four and her father recently remarried to a seemingly nice enough artistic lady after a short long-distance courtship. Along with the nice enough artistic lady comes along a demon spawn step-sister, who spends most of the book being little more than a two dimensional mean girl on steroids, who is possibly homicidal.

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Week of July 15 Pull List: Football Playing Zombies vs. A Cook From Hell?

Anyone with a fondness for books knows how quickly a To Be Read pile can get out of control.  It seems the more I read, the more books end up on that pile.  These are the books that hit my radar and got added to that list over the past week.

Parallel worlds, zombies, citizens of hell, delusional protagonists… this week I came across some weird books.  It’s a good thing I like weird.


Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris
Delacorte Press (7/12/11)

Buy it on Amazon here

Someone's been a very bad zombie.

Kate Grable is horrified to find out that the football coach has given the team steroids. Worse yet, the steroids are having an unexpected effect, turning hot gridiron hunks into mindless flesh-eating zombies. No one is safe--not her cute crush Aaron, not her dorky brother, Jonah . . . not even Kate!

She's got to find an antidote--before her entire high school ends up eating each other. So Kate, her best girlfriend, Rocky, and Aaron stage a frantic battle to save their town. . . and stay hormonally human.

I first saw the cover of this book a few weeks ago, but there was no description with it so it looked like a Pretty Little Liars / Gossip Girl / fashion-and-boys-are-the-most-important-thing-in-my-teenage-life sort of thing.  Then I read a friend’s review on Goodreads and I realized there were zombies.  High school football playing zombies.  And that just made me laugh.  But really, what does that cover have to do with high school football or zombies?  It sounds like it probably gets a bit hokey and that the protagonist could be a very one dimensional flaky stereotype, but I felt like I went to high school with zombies.  It will be like a nostalgic trip for me…

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