Your Next Great Read: Amy's Book Reviews

Published Thursday, April 25, 2019
Polaris Rising
by Jesse Mihalik

5 out of 5 stars

Ada von Hasenberg has been on the run for two years. What is she’s running from, you ask? Her family—most notably her controlling father. Why? House von Hasenberg is one of three ruling Houses within the Royal Consortium, powerful families that rule the galaxy. Ada is the fifth in line which means—in her father’s view—her one asset lies in which House she could be married into that would yield the most benefits for House von Hasenberg. Suffice it to day, Ada is not here for that, so she ran away from an engagement before it could happen.

To get her back, her father has put out a bounty for her return. As Polaris Rising opens, Ada has just been captured and expects to arrive home any day. That is, until she strikes a deal with her fellow detainee, Marcus Loch—known as the Devil of Fornax Zero who notoriously killed his commanding officers during a rebellion on, you guessed it, Fornax Zero. As they help each other escape, they both are drawn into the rising tensions between the Houses and discover some secrets that could profoundly change the Consortium.

I absolutely loved Polaris Rising from beginning to end. The pacing was spot on with thrilling moments perfectly interspersed with the calmer more contemplative moments of political intrigue.

Ada is a heroine in the vein of my favorite heroines in that she’s strong-willed, daring, independent, not the type of person you want to dismiss because they always have a plan going even if it’s dangerous to their well-being. And for all that she grew up privileged and oftentimes likes the finer things in life, she still thinks of others and tries to do right by them. Jessie Mihalik gives Ada the right mix of fight and vulnerability. She’s a character that’s easy to like and root for.

I loved the slow buildup between Loch and Ada. Their tentative partnership is tested numerous times as they start out as somewhat-willing partners whose trust is tested as they have to rely on one another since they’re on the run from multiple factions. Their relationship progresses to so much more over the course of the book as that trust is built. The attraction is there from the beginning, and it burns hot. Part of me wishes we got Loch’s point of view on a few occasions because, by the end, he still has a lot of mystery to him that will be difficult to decipher as it seems this series will follow a different couple with each new book.

Family obviously plays a big part in Polaris Rising and it’s also one of my, many, favorite aspects. I love that despite their father’s intentions, the von Hasenberg siblings seem to be a close-knit group. I only say “seems to” because we haven’t met all of them, yet, but the way Ada talks about them and the interactions with the couple we do meet speak of a bond that’s closer than political allies and powerful gain.

Since it appears as though each book will have a different couple at the forefront of the story, while House tensions and potential war runs throughout, I look forward to meeting and learning more about the von Hasenberg’s.

I know it’s relatively early in the New Year still, but Polaris Rising was a wonderful read that makes me excited for what is still to come.

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The Matchmaker’s List
by Sonya Lalli

4 out of 5 stars

When Raina Anand finally agreed to let her grandmother play matchmaker in the way of a traditional Indian family, she didn't realize the pressure that would start mounting at the mention of dates and marriage. Things are further exacerbated by the fact that her best friend is getting married and Raina is a bridesmaid so she's surrounded by wedding stuff nearly 24/7. In the back of Raina's mind, though, is Dev, her first, and last long-term boyfriend. They met at work, and unfortunately, work took precedence over having an actual relationship and future. They broke up nearly two years ago, but Raina still carries feelings for him. Then Dev is relocated to the Toronto branch of their company, with Raina. She keeps this information from her family, but eventually the secrets and lies begin to spiral out of control spilling over into her closest relationships. Raina has to take a hard look at herself, her life, and what she truly wants even if it might mean going against the views of her close-knit community.

I sped through The Matchmaker's List even when I found it, at times, hard to read about Raina on the spiral she's found herself on. But I felt in Sonya Lalli's words a book that spoke to me on a very fundamental level. Not because of the family traditions that Raina has to contend with - although I loved seeing how much a community can become an extended family, and how one's family can be the best (and sometimes the worst) thing to happen in a person's life - but because Raina is at a precipice in her life. On the verge of thirty and the pressure to start a family, be successful at work, have a relationship, get married, yet she starts to question what it is that she wants, what makes her happy. Is she really happy with her job? Working long hours, missing out, and never really getting the payoff of a job well-done. Still harboring feelings for the first man she was in a relationship with, is that because it was real love that ended too soon, or is it because she doesn't know anything more? I feel like anyone who picks up The Matchmaker's List could see the various issues that Raina faces and at least relate to one of them.

I had started reading The Matchmaker's List fully prepared to become invested in a romance. As soon as we learn that Raina still harbors feelings for her ex, Dev, I was figuring this to be a second-chance romance. I was so happily surprised, and delighted, when Sonya Lalli didn't take the path I was expecting as I ended up much rather enjoying seeing Raina's journey that wasn't necessarily tied to romance. It was more self-discovery with a dash of romance on the side. It speaks to the fact that what's important within the story first is Raina figuring out what she wants in her life, and somewhere down that list, if she so chooses is a relationship.

I loved the role that Raina's family played within the story. In this case by family, I'm going to lump friends and community in there as well because Raina is part of a very close Indian community of the type where everyone knows everyone else's business and feels they are entitled to have an opinion on said business. It's also the type of community that values tradition. I loved seeing that beautiful tradition and the reasons why some of these ceremonies have been passed down through the ages, but the flip side of tradition is the fact that it's, to put it bluntly, old. Old ways, old thinking. Raina's secrets and lies challenge the long-held opinions of her community. You see where there are instances that change is needed amid the traditions that are held sacred. Sonya Lalli really did a great job of putting these types of things in perspective in a simplistic and easy to connect with kind of way.

Overall, I really enjoyed this debut. It was surprising in all the best possible ways. I look forward to seeing what Sonya Lalli has for us next.

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