Mask of Shadows – Linsey Miller – Review

29960675How far will you go for revenge? Would you enter a contest where the only way out was to win or die? Would you be able to kill other contestants in order to reach the position that will allow you to avenge your family?

These are questions that Sal has to ponder when they find a flyer for auditions to become Opal, part of The Left Hand of The Queen. Sal is a street thief who has spent the last few years just trying to survive. They know that becoming The Left Hand will allow them access to those who destroyed their life. Sal enters into the auditions and learns that revenge is not as simple as they first thought.

(Note since Sal is genderfluid and uses he/she/they pronouns based on how they are dressed I will be using they to refer to them throughout this review to avoid misgendering them at any point.)

What I enjoyed the most:

One of the things that caught my attention about this book when I first heard about it was the fact that the main character is genderfluid. I have read a few books where a side character is genderfluid but never one where the main character was. I have also not heard of genderfluid characters in a fantasy novel. I was interested to see how this story was going to be done.

Now I do want to state that I am not genderfluid and I don’t know anyone who is so my opinions are based off the research I have done. I did read some reviews of this book by genderfluid reviewers who approve of Sal and the way they were represented.

The society in this world seemed very accepting. When Sal first meets the rest of The Left Hand they state how they are to be addressed. They base their pronouns off what they are wearing, if they are wearing more feminine clothes they use she, if they are wearing more masculine type clothes they are he and if their clothes don’t fall into either category they use they. Once their pronouns are explained it is accepted. No one argues with them or try to fight them about who they are.

There was one moment where they were purposely misgendered and it was done by a character to argue against Sal. The character did it to put Sal down and argue against them staying in the competition. This character was quickly corrected and reminded to respect who Sal was. But that was the only time that Sal’s gender was discussed in any negative fashion.

There were also a variety of sexualities in this story. One character is bisexual, one is implied to be asexual and another is gay. There are also a number of POC as well. I liked the diversity in this book and how it was just accepted. This wasn’t about accepting people for their sexuality or color, it was about these auditioners trying to become The Left Hand for a variety of reasons. In the end it mattered what they could do not how they identified or who they were attracted to.

Another aspect of this book that I enjoyed was the use of masks. Everyone auditioning was given a mask with a number and that was who they became until the end. The three other Left Hands had their own masks and no one got to see their real faces. This was an important part of this story.

The masks kept identities secret. We didn’t get to know who anyone truly was. It didn’t matter. What mattered was what they could do. Could they kill without thought? Could they do what was necessary to become an assassin? Could they remove who they once were and take up this new position in life?

Sal puts on their mask and they become twenty-three. They become someone who is out to do whatever is necessary to become Opal. They can’t let anyone get in their way. But even though this is mainly about a competition to kill the competition there are soft sides to the characters. I liked that feel. I was glad to see lighter moments, moments where care was shown. I think without these moments the story would have been hard to relate to. I found who I would root for and who mattered. If it was all about death, it would have been easy to write everyone off including Sal.

What I okay with:

One of my favorite parts of a story is the dialogue. I feel like through the dialogue I connect to the characters. I can learn if they are humorous, deep or intellectual. I can learn if they are more sarcastic or serious or if they hide behind words. I had a bit of trouble with the dialogue in this story. I felt like it was stilted and clunky. There were times that I wondered what the point of a conversation was or where it was going. Sometimes it felt like conversations just ended for no reason. I wish the dialogue was a bit more precise and relatable.

I also had a bit of trouble with the world building. It wasn’t bad enough that I couldn’t feel part of the story but it was enough that I never felt set in the story. I felt like we were fed pieces only when necessary creating more of a jigsaw puzzle image. I had trouble figuring out how things connected.

I wished we had gotten a bit more history. There is a timeline in the back of the book about how they land was created. I wish that had been peppered throughout the story instead. It wasn’t until I read that that I felt like I understood how certain pieces fit together but by that point I was done with the book. I think putting those pieces in the story would have helped me feel more grounded.

What I would change:

Characters are what keep me reading a story. They are the reason I feel connected to a tale. If a character is flat or undeveloped I find myself struggling to finish a book. Unfortunately for this story I felt little connection to Sal.

Sal is a thief who lost their whole family and is out to avenge them. That is about all I know about Sal. I wanted to know more about their connection to their family. I wanted to know more about their homeland. I wanted to know if they felt wanted or needed in their home if they were on the outside. I wanted more history about Sal.

I think if we had gotten some flashbacks to Sal’s life before we would have a better way of understanding their choices during the story. Sal has potential to be a deep character. I think making Sal a deeper character would have made this more than a simple revenge story.

 

In the end I gave this book 3.5 stars on Goodreads. I liked the pace, it was fast and never felt dull or slow. I just wish we had gotten a bit more about the world and a bit more about Sal.

Quotes:

“Most everyone wanted me to pick one, make addressing me easier to them by denying myself. I was already dressing so they could get it right. The least they could do was try. I didn’t see why I had to choose.” (pg. 79).

 

Is There More? An Exciting Book of Short Stories!

IsThereMore_AmazonNeed something to read this weekend? Something different, exciting and quick? Want a book that will make you rethink the world around you? Then my book of short stories, Is There More? is for you!

Is There More? is a book of 8 short stories. Each story sets you in a world you think you know but once you dive into the tale you realize things are not as they seem. Things feel and look different. The characters and plot make you rethink what you know about everyday things around you.

A set of books that seems  like a pile of pages becomes a group of souls that are calling out for you to read them. If you ignore them what will they do? A simple letter becomes a way to connect through the ages. The idea of resetting a computer takes on a whole new meaning when it is a person you are resetting.

These are just some of the topics and ideas you will get to explore in my book. Is There More? is available in paperback for $6.99 and in e-book for $2.99 on Amazon. Pick it up and explore a new world.

If you enjoy it be sure to leave a review either on Goodreads or on Amazon!

Have a great weekend!!

What does the Word Home Mean to Harry and Ron?

51jNORv6nQL._SX340_BO1,204,203,200_  The Wizarding World Book Club has moved onto Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets. The questions for the rest of book one were alright but none of them sparked any discussion post ideas for me.

From the week of August 4th there were two questions that interested me. Both of them centered around the concept of home and how it is defined. Home is one of those words that has numerous definitions. For most it is a house but it does not always have to be. A lot of the times people talk about the difference between a house and a home. The house is the building you go to at the end of the day whereas a home is where you feel safe and loved. Both of the questions from this week center around how Harry and Ron define home.

The first question was pretty simple to answer; “Why is The Burrow so appealing to Harry?” The Burrow is appealing to Harry because it contains what the Dursley’s house does not, love. The crooked structure contains a family that adores and loves one another.

Harry grew up with nothing but anger and disdain thrown his way. No one wanted him around, no one gave him a second thought, no one cared about him. He had no purpose and no power in the Dursley household. He just made it day to day. Privet Drive was just house to Harry, somewhere for him to sleep and eat.

Harry meets the Weasley and realized that life could be better. He is welcomed into their home and their family with a smile and a hug. Mrs. Weasley treats him as one of her own. He is treated as someone who matters, someone who has a life that matters.

The Burrow itself is falling apart, it is crooked and nowhere near perfect, but it is what is on the inside that matters. Ron is ashamed of his house, not realizing what it means for Harry.

The way Ron talks about The Burrow reminds me of the way my parents talk about my childhood home. It is too cramped, dirty and broken. To me and Harry all those marks and scars are what make the building a home. It represents a family, a safe place and love. When I go home I am content and happy no matter what dishes are in the sink or what holes are in a door. It is somewhere where I am wanted and loved and I think it is the same for Harry. For Harry The Burrow is the definition of what a home means, it contains love and comfort and makes Harry feel safe and wanted.

The second question was a little tricker and required a bit more thought. “Where do you think Ron feels most at home?” I don’t think there is a particular place where Ron feels at home. I think it is more about the people that around Ron and what they make him feel. For him most of the time he is at home when he is with Harry and Hermione.

Ron grew up overshadowed by his siblings. He never got a real chance to stand out. We see in the first book that when he looks into The Mirror of Erised he sees himself the best of all his brothers and sister. On top of that he has a piece of himself that feels ashamed for his family’s status.

Unlike Harry The Burrow isn’t Ron’s favorite place. It isn’t a bad place to him, he loves his family and he knows that he is safe at The Burrow. When he is at The Burrow he is reminded of the people that overshadowed him. It is a safe place but it isn’t a place where he can find who he truly is.

When Ron is with Hermione and Harry he is able to stand out. Ron has a place and a purpose inside their group. He is not just a name in the middle of a giant family. He is an essential part of the group. I think for him that is where he feels most a home, a place and time where he feels like he matters, is wanted and needed and can make a difference.

In the end Harry and Ron were able to provide homes to each other. Both of them felt loss and powerless at the time when they met and in the end they gave each other places where to they could feel safe, wanted, cared for and needed.

Aaru – David Meredith – Review

(I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. All comments and thoughts are my own).

35649191.jpgAaru is one of those books that you think you understand but by the last page you realize you were wrong. There are two stories here but one is much deeper than the other.

Rose is a 16 year old who is dying of cancer. All the treatments have failed and she is being made comfortable for her last days. As a last ditch effort  to save her, her parents sign Rose up for an experimental new system called Aaru.

Aaru is a computer system that copies and uploads a person’s brain and personality into a computer system. The person is able to live on digitally even though their body has died.

As Rose adjust to her new “life” her sister Koren is finding a way to live a new life of her own. She is made the spokesperson for the new technology but quickly learns what happens when you are forced into the spotlight at a young age. She is thrust into this role that begins to destroy who she is and puts her life and well-being in danger.

What I loved/enjoyed:

Aaru was a beautifully created world. I had no problem imaging this new place. It was vivid and alive. I felt like I was inside this computer program as they built it into a new home. I liked the system even though I didn’t quite understand why some aspects were chosen. Why there were Lords and  Ladies or rankings didn’t quite get adequately explained but that didn’t keep me from sinking into this new world.

I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of what could be done and how things were made and changed. There was one scene in particular where Rose and her friends play a game of soccer that was exciting. I was enraptured by the game and how they used their new home and powers to make it more than just a simple and easy game of soccer.

I also liked the way life, personhood and afterlife were spoken about in this story. Is Rose still Rose without a functioning brain and body? Without the brain to create new pathways and links, can she evolve beyond who she was when she died? Who is she in this new setting?

Also if you become part of this place are you excluded from a traditional afterlife? Can you die again and move on to either Heaven or another place you believe in? What if your family is unable to join you? Is it worth staying in this place then? I liked asking these questions as we read because it put this new technology into a stark and real perspective.

Koren’s story was handled well. I can’t say I “liked” it, because of the way it went but I respected it and its part in the story. Her side of the tale explained how thrusting a child into a spotlight can do irreparable harm to them. Putting them on TV, or in magazines all dressed up can cause people to view them beyond their age. We saw how dangerous this concept can get. It was a good look at the dangers of child celebrity, even if it did disturb me into almost stopping reading at times.

 

What I was was okay with (didn’t love/hate):

I had some trouble with the way accents were written. They felt out of sorts, almost forced. There was only one character who was written with an accent while a number of them were supposed to be foreign. I found his speech difficult to follow at times and it threw me out of the story at times. I don’t know if his speech was needed to be written the way it was.

 

What I was wished was different:

My biggest issues in Aaru was with a handful of decisions that were made. Koren accepts the role as spokesperson without a minute of thought. Her parents never step in and demand a contract. There is no waiting period to think it over, she shakes hands and that is it.

Koren and her parents just trust a company they know next to nothing about. It was hard for me to believe they wouldn’t want details. Even beyond protecting their daughter’s well-being they don’t verify the money or the details of the deal. Her parents don’t even speak up during the exchange and decision process. There was also no later indication that they ever talked the contract over with a lawyer or verified everything that was as they were told it would be.

I also had an issue with the fact that there were cameras throughout the house. I can’t see anyone being okay with that idea right off the bat. Maybe it would have made more sense if there had been a discussion about it. Koren’s parents were intent on gaining the power and money that comes with being celebrities. I think I would have bought the idea more if there had been a scene where they were convinced to allow the cameras to be set up everywhere from the living room the the bedrooms.

Koren doesn’t even seem to know about the cameras. She states multiple times she doesn’t know how they got the footage. Shouldn’t she have at least known they were there? I don’t think it is even slightly legal to set up cameras without the owner’s knowledge and permission. I wanted more discussion about that fact.

I also would have liked more background on Rose and Koren’s parents. The story is about the girls but the parents felt flat. They were almost cliche’s. All her mother talks about it things “happening as they should” or “that is how things are in show business.” Her father falls into drinking, quickly. We have no foundation for them so watching them fall is hard to follow. I wanted to understand them better and why they allowed certain things to happen as they did.

 

This wasn’t something I hated but what I found hard to read. The way the Magic Man’s actions and desires were written were difficult to read. I understood why his storyline was there but I did almost stop reading because of his chapters. The first time he appeared I didn’t know where the story was going and I wasn’t sure I could continue. I did end up finishing and I understood his part but I would say that anyone reading the story should be made aware of the thoughts and actions that may be triggering to some people.

I gave Aaru 4 stars on Goodreads. It wasn’t the story I was expecting but it was well written and did tell a story with an important warning about the dangers of celebrity.

Scavenger Hunt Book Tag

I came across this tag over on Zezee with Books blog. It looked fun and different. Took me a minute to find time to do it but I had fun with it. It is always fun to look through my books and see what I have and don’t have.


180px-World_War_Z_book_coverFind a book with the letter “Z” in the title or the author’s name: 
This one was quite easy. As soon as I read it I knew the exact book to chose, World War Z by Max Brooks. This was a unique book that spun the idea of zombies on its head. I appreciated the fresh take on an overdone topic.

Find a classic: I am not a huge classic’s fan but I did notice that I do A10S8AKStVLhave a few classics on my shelves. I chose Grimm’s Complete Set of Fairytales though for this one. I adore fairytales and to have a full collection of all these original ones is great. (Though some are quite strange and disturbing).

Find the oldest book on your shelves: I wasn’t sure if this one meant the one oldest publishing date or if it meant takes place in a long TheStandCover6ago time period or one I have had for a long time. I decided to go with one of the oldest that I own and that is The Stand by Stephen King. It was actually one of my dad’s old books so it is at least 30+ years old.

Find a book with a key on its cover: This one was by the far hardest one harry-potter-and-the-sorcerers-stoneto find. I realized that almost none of my books have keys on them. I did find that the first Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, has one on the back cover.

Find something on your bookshelf that isn’t a book: I have quite a few things on my shelves that are not books but by far one of my favorites are IMG_3740the book ends that I got while I was in Africa last year. (Though my cat did knock one off and I had to fix it).

Find a book with an animal on the cover: I have quite a few for this, most dogs. I ended up choosing To Say Nothing of the Dog By Connie Willis.  I read this a while ago but I remember it being a interesting take51Mz2zlXiQL._SX302_BO1,204,203,200_ on the idea of time travel and the way messing with time consequences work. I started a reread a while ago but got distracted by a new release. I am definitely going to have to go back to this one soon.

Find a book with a girl on the cover: Not many of my books have girls on the cover I discovered. I had a few but I ended up choosing Lady Midnight LM_coverby Cassandra Clare. This is the first book in the Dark Artifices series and I enjoyed the set up and introduction of new characters. Second book wasn’t my favorite but I have hope this series will end well.

Find a non Ya book – This one was super easy. It wasn’t until recently that I began reading Ya so I have a lot that fall outside that category. I 81D5KFHoLeLchose The Lucifer Effect. It is a nonfiction book that explore the idea of what makes people do evil or bad things. I specifically focuses on the Stanford Prison experiment. Interesting read!

Find a book with stars on its cover: I discovered that a lot of my books ofas-covertake place in space so this wasn’t that hard. I ended up choosing Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst. This was a cute love story that I got in a submission box. It could have had more depth to it but it was a cute and fun read.

Find a book with golden letters: Again  I realized just how many of these51ysrNDhV3L types of books that I have. I ended up choosing Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. It has been a while since I read the series but I remember it being a fun ride.

13638125Find a book with a male protagonist: This one was ridiculously easy. I chose Vicious by Victoria Schwab. This was an interesting look into the head of an antihero. She is currently working on the sequel which should be interesting.

Find a book with only words on it: This one was more difficult. Many 9781616956776of my books have characters or story images on them. I ended up choosing More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera. It has lots of colors but there are no images on the cover. This was a heartbreaking but beautiful read.

 

Find a book with illustrations in it: I didn’t even have to think about 0545790352this one. I chose the illustrated versions of the first and second Harry Potter books. They are beautiful renditions of the books. The illustrations add new life to the stories and I can’t wait for the third one this fall.

 

Find a diary (true or fictional): This one was almost impossible. I didn’t have anything 13262783that was specifically a diary. I chose Everyday by David Levithan. It is kind of like a diary. It is about the main character’s day to day life as they change bodies and lives over and over again. It was a great story about different lives with different people.

Find a book written by someone with a common name (like Smith): 23434061Many of the authors of my books have different and interesting names. I chose The Bone Labyrinth by James Rollins. Rollins is a decently common name. I love his Sigma Force series and this was one of the more recent additions to the series.

Find a book that has a closeup of something on it: This was probably my favorite thing to look for. I chose Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. It sixofcrowshas a close up of a crow’s wing. I loved this series because it was deep and the characters were new and fresh. I loved the look at characters were usually aren’t supposed to cheer for.

Find a book on your shelf that takes place in the earlier time period: I went far back with this one. I have a Precious Moment’s Stories from the Bible on my shelf that I have had as long as I can remember. Definitely takes place a long time ago!

Find a hardcover without a jacket: This one was more tough because most of my 9781435106345hardcovers have jackets. I do have the Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. It was one of Barnes and Noble’s special editions.

find  a teal/turquoise colors book: This was a fun one to end on. I found511DgWxbamL Blind Faith by Ben Eton. It was one I got when I did a study abroad in London, England. I haven’t read it in a while but I do remember it being a bit creepy with its dystopian themes. I’m a bit afraid to reread it now to see how close it could be to our current political situation.

 

 

I’m not going to tag anyone. If you think it looks fun and want to explore your shelves a bit more, feel free to do it!

Because You Love to Hate Me – Review

bylthm_covcomp19_ver25b15dVillains fascinate me. I think it is because their backstories are usually more in-depth and complicated than the protagonist’s. They make hard choices, even though they are usually the wrong choice. The path to making that choices is a twisting one that makes you reconsider your own choices. I like that even though we understand them we still feel some type of aversion to them.

Because You Love to Hate Me is a collection of 13 stories all told from the “villain’s” POV. Some are retellings or reimagining while others are involve original characters. The idea was for 13 Booktubers (Book bloggers on Youtube) to provide 13 authors with a villain centric prompt. The author then took the idea and created an original story for the collection. Each story was followed up by a quick piece by the Booktuber who provided the prompt.

What I loved…

I loved the way every story made you question who was supposed to be the villain. Some did it better than others but all the stories left you wondering if the “villain” was really that bad. I did not hate one of the main characters. I didn’t like some of the choices they made but I found myself not despising any of them.

By giving us the whole story from the “villain” POV only, we got to be surrounded by the idea that they were people facing tough obstacles. In these stories they were not the obstacles but were just people trying to find a way to solve a serious problem in their lives. I liked this because it allowed us to focus on them, their identities, their choices and the consequences of those choices. We as readers got to focus on what happens when you make poor decisions or choose based on selfish thoughts or ideas.

My favorite story was Victoria Schwab’s, “Death Knell.” Her prompt was “Hades wakes up after bring unconscious at the bottom of a well in Ireland.” She took this idea and twisted it to be about death in general. This is someone we don’t generally see a traditional villain. I loved the way she told her story.

It was a simple story but it was beautifully done. It focused on the idea of our fear of death and also created a new way to look at the idea. I loved how original and fresh the story felt. It was the one that stayed with me the longest.

Things I was just okay with….

Everyone of the stories had a Booktuber follow up with it. The small essays ranged from discussions about the story to quirky quizzes and how-to guides.

While most were entertaining in some fashion I wanted more from the commentary. I wanted to know they the topics were chosen. Why choose to ask for a story about a spy or giving Ursula’s backstory? Why did this intrigue you enough to ask for a story about the person or topic?

I felt like the stories could have had more depth if the explanations were deeper. Some were great, like the one after Victoria Schwab’s story but most were goofy or unconnected to the story. I wanted a better look into the ideas and thought processes.

What I wished was done differently….

I enjoyed most of the stories. They were fun looks at a different viewpoint. But many of the stories felt like generic retellings or just took the prompt given at face value.

I wanted the prompts to push more depth into the stories but many felt surface level. They didn’t dive into the psyche or thought process’s of the characters enough. I didn’t want what we already knew just told in a slightly different way. We have basics about many of these characters, I wanted that next, deeper layer.

On Goodreads I gave the collection a 3.5. It was a fun read but could have been improved by more depth from both the authors and the Booktubers providing the prompts.

Quotes:

“Most people din’t steal or kill or sell drugs because they want to, Holmes, or because they love being ‘bad guys’ so much. They do it because they’re born to a life with no exists. No chances. […]”  (pg 104).

“People are peculiar. They have a way of seeing only what they want, or not seeing anything they don’t.” (pg 208).

 

Changing My Review Format

1280px-Stipula_fountain_penI have been debating changing up how I do reviews for awhile. When I write book reviews I sometimes have trouble deciding what to discuss. I take longer to write some reviews because I feel like I want to talk about a lot and have trouble laying it out in a comprehensive manner that flows well. Some reviews never get written because I can’t formulate how I want it to flow.

I have also thought that sometimes the longer reviews can look intimating and too drawn out. After some thought I decided I am going to change up the way I write book reviews.

Instead of just writing out a long review, discussing points as I go I am going to break it up into sections. When I read there are always things that I love, things that I feel indifferent about and things I wish were different. So that is how I am going to write my reviews from now on.

There will be three sections:

Things I loved – This will be where I talk about my favorite aspects. The parts that I think worked the best, the things that made me smile or laugh or cry.

Things I felt indifferent about : This will probably be the shortest of the sections. It will be what I thought worked and was alright but didn’t overwhelm me.

Things I wish were different: This section will be where I discuss what I didn’t like or didn’t enjoy about the story. It will vary per book but it could be the setting, how the plot ended or how a character is portrayed.

Quotes: I will also include when applicable quotes that I liked. I always find at least one or two quotes in a book that I find endearing and bookmark for later. This is where I will share them.

This is how my book reviews will appear from now on. Instead of doing a general spoiler warning I will do one for each section because spoilers may come up if I am discussing something I loved or hated. That way too it doesn’t exclude everyone from the review, it will allow those who don’t want to be spoiled to read parts of the review still.

Hopefully this new format will make it easier to write reviews and make them faster to write as well.

The Book Jumper – Mechthild Glaser – Review

61KefxHUj6L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_  If you say you have never wanted to jump into a book you were reading, you are lying. A reader’s dream is to be able to jump into the pages of a story and live that story. I would love to be able to be apart of my favorite stories, even though many of the stories I love involve danger that I am sure would get me killed. The Book Jumper is a book that attempts to give the reader an idea of what that life would be like. It is an interesting take on the idea though I felt like it could have gone farther.

Amy and her mother need to get away from their lives. Amy’s mother just broke up with her boyfriend and needs somewhere to work on getting over him. Amy had some trouble in school and needs somewhere to get away from her so-called friends. In attempt to take a break from their problems they decide to visit Amy’s grandmother on a remote island.

While on the island Amy learns that she comes from a line of Book Jumpers. They are people who, until the age of 25 (though why 25 is not explained), can jump into books and interact with the stories. Amy begins to learn about her new power. She meets fellow book jumpers and learns that there is something going wrong in the book world.

A thief is stealing the main ideas of stories and destroying the book world. It is up to Amy and her new friend Will to find and stop the thief before all of literature is destroyed.

The premise of this story was fun and immersive. I loved the way it was described. Though I was fuzzy on the mechanics, I could picture Amy walking from story to story. To me it appeared like a quilt where all the stories were knit together and you could just wander from one to another. I loved the idea of all stories being apart of one world.

I also really liked how the characters were portrayed in the story. The characters from the stories could wander into these in-between places or even each others stories. They were portrayed as people acting out their story but between scenes they could go for a drink or just have a general conversation with someone from another story. I thought this gave them depth. The characters felt more real and alive, as if they were more than just the stories they were apart of.

The overall storyline was interesting. I can’t give too many details because it would involve too many spoilers. The plot moved quickly and at a steady pace. We found out pieces at a time. There was never a huge information dump or a ton of things thrown at you at once. You got one answer, a few more questions, that kept you reading. I kept moving through the book because I wanted to know what was happening. The pacing made the story flow well.

While I enjoyed the pacing and the concept of the story I had trouble with the characters. I love characters and unfortunately I felt no attachment to any character in this story.

I thought Amy would someone I could relate to but she felt very generic to me. She was your typical “reader, nerd.” She sees herself as plain and not pretty. She is portrayed as someone who cares about books only and not other relationships, at least at first.

I have an issue with this portrayal of readers. I hate how people, especially girls, who love to read are always seen as people who aren’t pretty or don’t think they are attractive. It is like because they enjoy reading they can’t appreciate themselves and that annoys me.

I would have loved to see Amy as more confident. She loves to read, she sees the world as bigger than it is. She could have been portrayed as someone who has pride in herself and that pride could have grown as she learned her new power. She could have been someone who walked around with confidence in not only her way of seeing the world but her appearance as well. Just because she is a reader does not mean she has to be seen as plain or unattractive.

I liked Amy’s relationship with Will at first. At the beginning it felt complicated but then it fell into the “insta-love” hole. They started as friends helping each other but as they built their relationship, it became about falling in love instead of helping one another anymore. I felt like that aspect wasn’t needed. They could have had a new relationship but it didn’t need that falling in love plot line.

My biggest issue though was with the adults in the story. The adults on the island are in charge of protecting literature. They spend their lives reading books and making sure things stay as they are meant to stay. You would assume that they would be the first to notice when the stories start falling apart, but you would have assumed wrong.

Amy tries to tell everyone what is happening but no one will listen to her. They pass it all off as a joke between the characters in the books. All they would have to do is open one book and see how much things are deteriorating. No one will listen to Amy. I could not believe that not a soul noticed what was going on or cared. That kept throwing me out of the story because I kept asking how it was possible for these people to be so naive.

In all I liked the plot of this book, it was a fast and fun read. I thought it explored the idea well. I just wish it had done a bit more to explore the concept and made the adults a bit more believable.

Our Dark Duet – Victoria Schwab – Review

32075662This Savage Song and Our Dark Duet ask the reader to rethink how you define the word monster. Is it a definition that applies to everyone or does it change based on the person and the circumstances they find themselves in? Our Dark Duet was a great end to a duology that makes you wonder about the grey areas in morality.

Our Dark Duet picks up 6 months after the conclusion of This Savage Song. Kate is in Prosperity hunting monsters and trying to start a new life. August is in Verity trying to salvage what is left of his life and city. Sloan has taken over for Callum and is letting the monsters rule and terrorize the North Side of the side.

Kate is drawn back to her past in Verity when she encounters a new threat, a shadow monster that is wreaking havoc. After an encounter with the new threat Kate knows she has to return to Verity and confront her past actions and choices.

August is trying to redefine himself. He is trying to become what the city needs, someone who can fight and can put his emotions aside. He believes that trying to become human is useless and futile now. He can only protect the people if he accepts who he is and uses his power to help instead of hurt.

When Kate returns home she finds a new August, a city falling apart, mistakes from her past in corporeal form and a threat she can’t name or see. She realizes that to save the innocent people and fix the mistakes her father made she has to accept her own mistakes. She also has to help August figure out that he has to find a balance between the two sides of himself to save the city.

What attracted me to this series initially was the idea of violence creating literal monsters. In this last book the definition of monster was explored, showing that a label does not always give you a full picture of the person you are dealing with. Labels are one way of classifying the people and world around us but it is a heavily flawed system.

This book took off from page one and didn’t slow down until the last page. We were on this constant chase to not only find the new monster but also to put a stop to it. Through the chase we learned who our characters were as full people and just what they were capable of.

Kate and August’s stories wrapped up in just the right way. Kate, who spent her life trying to prove her worth and strength, found an inner strength inside of herself. She realized she is flawed but that does not make her a bad person. She learned that you get to decide who you are. You will make mistakes, that is inevitable, but in the end it is about what you learn from those mistakes that matter. You can’t run from them and you can’t hide from them.

When danger and chaos is staring you in the face you fight and you fight without losing yourself. You can be strong without hurting the people around you. You define strength. You define who you are.

August spent much of the first book trying to fight who he was. He wanted to be human, didn’t want his power or to use that power. In the end he learned you can’t rum from who you are. Like Kate he learned it is about what you do more than what you are.

August learned he can find a balance between the park and light. He is a “monster,” which comes with power and responsibility but he is also human. He eats, sleeps, breathes and feels. He loves and that love, he learns, is not a weakness.

I loved that this book challenged the idea of labels and highlighted the detrimental power they can have. August was labeled a monster which made people fear him. They didn’t know him but that one word made them think that they did. Same thing happened with Kate. She was a “Harker,”which caused people to assume they knew what she valued and wanted.

Labels do nothing but gives us a simpler way to define things and people. Unfortunately we think that labels tell us all that we have to know. We think by hearing a few words were know a person or a group of people. In reality we know nothing but a preconceived notion. Labels won’t give you the inner person they will give you what people assume about a group or a person. In the end we have to learn that we need to approach people with an open mind and allow them to define themselves to us. Once we do we can learn that people are diverse and difficult to place into small little boxes.

The ending of this book was perfect. It was tragic but it was how this series should have ended. There were two paths one that was easy and predictable and another that hurt but was poetic and created hope. Victoria Schwab took the second path. We saw that the world is not doomed. Despite the dark that surrounds the city there is light and that light can be seen through the people you may have believed were capable of nothing but darkness. I like that the book ended on hope and showed that anyone can save everyone. You just have not allow yourself to be scared and to let your heart decide the way.

Why I think the Dursleys are afraid of magic.

House-editions-of-Philosophers-Stone-all-four-hardbacks_0.jpgMy obsession with Harry Potter is not a secret.  When Pottermore announced that they were going to start a Harry Potter book club a few months ago I was excited. One of my friends saw the announcement and passed it on to me. It sounded like a perfect place for me to geek out about Harry Potter with fellows Potterheads.

The bookclub officially started in mid-June, unfortunately for me it is limited to a Twitter chat (as of right now). The chat takes place on Friday at 11am which is when I am at work (damn bills needing to be paid!). So I can’t take part in the official chat. I glanced through the feed though and saw that some of the questions they asked were interesting.

After looking through the chat I decided that, once in a while, I am going to do blog posts on the questions that I really like or have a strong opinion about. It won’t be something I do every week, just when I like the questions asked. I figured this would be a fun way for me to still take part in the idea of the bookclub in some way.

The way it appears to be working is that they are going to break the books down into small sections. Last Friday was the first few chapter of the first book. They had three questions that they asked and the question that I found the most interesting was “Why do you think the Dursleys are so afraid of magic?”

From the first chapter I knew that the Dursleys were going to be people who feared and detested anything that was different or unexplainable to them. I knew that they were going to be people who liked life one way and one way only. Vernon came off as the worst of the three of them.

They are the kind of people who believe the world should run in a way that they can define and understand. If something different happens or comes up that is beyond their comprehension they want it gone. The last thing they want to do is learn a new way of life. For Vernon, especially if he can’t define it, it is dangerous.

The Dursleys are the type of people who don’t want to learn anything new. They don’t want to find out that their way of thinking may be wrong. To them the “other” is wrong and thus dangerous. Unfortunately today this attitude is all too prevalent.

I feel like Vernon was always this type of person from when he was a child. I feel like he grew up thinking he was superior and looking down on anyone different than him. Whereas Petunia was more open-minded at one time but jealously and resentment clouded that aspect of her personality. She was so hurt to not be a witch and to be rejected by Hogwarts that she internalized that anger and turned it into fear.

She met Vernon who thought in that narrow minded way and it fit in with her anger. He allowed her to build this wall and then hide behind it. She didn’t have to deal with why she was upset and angry, instead she made it so that the wizarding world and magic were to blame. She fell into this blackhole of fear and anger. It became so deep that it took having to hide and leave Harry behind to even begin to crack that exterior.

Dudley is his parents son and we know he inherited their narrow-mind set and fear of the “other.” Though his parting words with Harry showed that redemption is possible; if he wanted it.

Why do you think that the Dursleys fear magic?

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