Elena is a loner. She has one best friend. She is the product of a virgin birth, there is science behind it, just look it up. She has a secret crush on a girl she has never spoken to. Then things come crashing down around her. She witnesses her crush being shot, desperate to help she listens to the voices and heals her. Not a mark is left behind.
Then things really start to go crazy. The voices tell her the world is ending and it is up to her to save everyone. Elena is left wondering if it is okay to make such a monumental decision for herself let alone the whole world.
What I loved:
Shaun David Hutchinson is one of my favorite authors. I fell in love with We Are the Ants and At the Edge of the Universe. I quickly learned that he is an author who puts depth and life into his stories. I always feel uplifted and enlightened whenever I read his books and this one was no different.
One of the things I liked most about this book was that it followed a different formula that the other two. Both We are the Ants and At the Edge of the Universe had subtle magic to them. No one else but the main characters knew about the supernatural elements of what was going on. The supernatural elements were real for just the main characters.
In this one, the magic was right out there in the open. Everyone found out about Elena quickly and they believed her. She didn’t hide that she could heal people. Everyone knew what was going on, even if they didn’t know the finer points. I liked this element. Sometimes an author can get into a routine and books can feel the same, even if the message is different. Having everyone know about Elena made this book feel fresh and new.
I also loved the nods to the characters in We are the Ants and At the Edge of the Universe. I love that we are still in this same universe. The characters are thrown in a natural way. If you haven’t read the other two you wouldn’t know they were significant. They serve their purpose in the story but it is a fun easter egg for the reader as well.
The message of this book was about choices. Who has the right to make choices for others? What does making a choice mean? Choices are good and bad and that is okay. You can’t hide from choices because you are afraid of the consequences. Choices rule our lives and we have to find a way to make use of that.
I loved how we saw the idea of choice reflected in each of the characters. We saw how choices affected them, and those around them. I liked that we got the different angle of choices. Some understood the importance while others were as scared as Elena. I enjoyed this round look at the idea and how many different opinions are attached to the idea of making choices.
I enjoyed Elena’s journey. I liked how she was always going back and forth. She didn’t know what to do and that felt real. Just like Henry in We are the Ants, it felt natural to have this constant questioning of her decision. I felt a deep connection to her because of that. As an indecisive person, I could relate to her plight. I would also have a serious issue trying to figure out what was right and if “right” even existed in this situation.
As always Hutchinson provides a very diverse cast without feeling forced. Sometimes you can tell that diverse characters are included just to be diverse. All the characters in this book felt real and there for a reason. They weren’t there just to represent a culture or sexuality, there was no preaching about them. They were there because that who the story was about, period.
What I was just okay with:
While I loved the story I didn’t feel as connected to Elena as I have to past main characters. I also felt like some of the side characters weren’t as developed and deep as his side characters have been before. Not that it was bad, I just am used to a certain level from his other books. I still loved the story and the characters, I just noticed that I didn’t feel as connected to them as I have to his other characters in the past.
I actually liked Javi’s story arc the best. At first his character seems shallow and I thought I was going to detest him. I learned quickly that he was a seriously complicated young man. He was a teenager who was fighting what was around him. He showed how kids are being told one thing by friends, one thing by parents and one thing by society. I thought it was a great representation of how we forget what these kids are going through sometimes.
What I wished was different:
I can’t think of anything that really took me out of the story. The pace as good, the characters were alive and whole and it left me thinking.
Shaun David Hutchinson has a great way of taking a “fantasy” story and making it feel relevant to our everyday lives. I enjoy his take on life and the way his stories make me think. I gave this one four out of five stars on Goodreads. It is not my favorite of his but still a great read all the same.
“It’s easy to allow the world to collapse down to our own stories. To see ourselves at the central figure in the only story worth knowing and forget that every person we encounter is living their own, is the center of their own universe.” (pg. 12)
“Sometimes a person can believe a thing so hard that not even beating them over the head with facts will change their mind.” (pg. 42)
“We were each living our own story, and while some, like Mama, were fighting to change the narrative, others struggled to escape the circumstances of their past and the specter of their future, while a few had given up completely.” (pg. 47)
“Who got to determine the baseline for what was normal and what wasn’t, and who appointed them to make that decision?” (pg. 89) ( love this quote!)
“No one’s innocent, Elena. Not even the Cedric Diggory’s of the world.” (pg. 217) (This was a fantastic discussion that actually made me look at certain characters from Harry Potter differently. I adored this passage because of how enlightening it was!)
“Guess what happens when you don’t make a choice?
“Nothing. Maybe you don’t fuck anything up, but nothing gets better either.” (pg. 314) (Sums up the message of this story and how important it is for everyone to realize how important making a choice can be. They are scary but they are necessary).
“We can’t make choices for others.” (pg. 351)
Need a new house? Want an old lover back in your arms? Want to become a singer or actor? Need money, a good grade or new car? Simple, make a deal with a demon and you can have whatever you want. Of course, there is a catch. You will be asked to give up your arm, leg, hand or if you are really unlucky your heart.
Dee is a teenager whose life is complicated. She goes to a private school that is her safe place. Here she is safe from her alcoholic parents and her emotionally abusive father. Here she can try to find her way in life. Then she finds out her scholarship is ending and she is left with no choice but to make a deal. She has to stay in school and thus she gives up her heart.
She loses her heart for a short period of time and learns what is means to exist without it. She learns that something more is going on with those she joins called the “heartless.”. She also meets a strange boy who she finds stealing what has already been taken from her. In the end Dee has to find what courage means and what she wants out of life.
What I loved:
Dee was a great character. She was much deeper than I originally thought she would be. I had no idea what this story was truly going to be about. I thought it would be more about learning to love without a heart and what that could mean. In the end it was about Dee finding courage in herself.
Dee is a character that has been stepped on and downtrodden for a long time. Her father is emotionally abusive and she hides at her school. She wants her mom to help her but her mom has taken to alcohol to help her deal with their reality. In the end Dee has to find her own courage. She has to find a way to stand on her own two feet. I liked the progression of her journey.
Dee becomes stronger in a very real way. She faces the trials around herself and she finds how she can fight. She starts unsure of herself and then starts to find that her opinion matters.
I also really liked James’s character. At first her seemed like a punk and I thought he was going to be a one-note character. Early though we realize there is something else to him. He has his own issues and wants. His character didn’t grow as much as evolve. I started with one opinion of him and ended with a completely different thought about him. I felt his journey was more of an evolution for the reader than for his character specifically.
I also loved the ending. I won’t go into detail as to not spoil it, but it was the ending the book deserved. Too many times these YA love stories can have a neat and unrealistic ending. This book ended as it should have ended. It felt right and left things in a encouraging place.
What I was just okay with:
All of the “heartless” characters, literally have no heart. They can’t feel their heats. It is gone but I felt like we didn’t see any real consequences of that. Dee talked about not feeling her heartbeat and not hearing it in her ears. Nothing more though. There was little to no discussion what is meant to live without a heart.
The story was more about the demon’s mission and why he created heartless when no one else would. I liked the story but I wished we could have had more about what living without a heart meant. Do you feel love the same? Is that a brain thing or does that come from the physical heart? Can you die in the normal sense of the word? Are you actually living if your heart isn’t beating? These are things I wished we would have explored more in the story.
What I wished was different:
I enjoyed the story but some of the writing threw me out of the story. The writing was very repetitive at times. The author would state that Dee was sending a text message, give us the body of the text and then end the paragraph with, “she texted.” We know she texted, she was just texting!
Or there was a part later in the book where we are told Dee has a backpack on. Then we are told that same thing about four more times throughout the next few paragraphs. The backpack never moved or did anything, it was just in her character description over and over again.
Description is good but there is no need to say the same thing over and over again. You have to trust the readers to pay attention and pick up on what is happening with a character. If an object moves and becomes important than mentioning it again is fine. If she gets interrupted while texting and then goes back to texting mentioning it again is fine. But if nothing changes, then it throws the reader out of the story. I felt myself getting a bit irritated at times because of this element.
The story was fast paced with a well-paced love story. The story came to a satisfying conclusion. I had fun reading it and I was glad it came in the book subscription box. In the end I gave it 3.5 stars on Goodreads.
“You get what you asked for.” – pg. 46
“….I like to think that I was the one who made the choices that brought me to this moment.” (pg. 128)
“I just want to matter.” (pg. 162).
Time for the third trip through my TBR shelf! Isaw this tag on on Howling Libraries It was originally created by Lost in a Story and seems like a good way to go through some of my TBR on Goodreads and see what is there and what I can get rid of or push me to start reading.
Links will be on the titles for the books Goodreads page. (I am going to do ten for this round of this tag).
It works like this:
- Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
- Order on ascending date added.
- Take the first 5 (or 10 or 15 or 20, if you’re feeling adventurous) books
- Read the synopses of the books
- Decide: keep it or should it go?
- Keep track of where you left off so you can pick up there next week!
Current TBR – 246
Outlander (Outlander #1) – Diana Gabaldon – Date added: May 19th – 2014
I have heard so many things about this series. I am interested in it, but it seems like a long series. I have to wait until I am in the place to go through a longer series.(I have multiple parts of this series on my To- Read shelf. I am going to include them all in this one, instead of doing them all separate).
Decision – Keep
A Discovery of Witches – Deborah Harkness – Date added: May 19th, 2014
My mom just recently finished this book and she liked it but wasn’t thrilled. I still want to read it eventually but I think it will stay on the list for a much later time.(I have all three books in the series on my list so again I am just going to put them all into this one decision).
Guardian (Eyes of the Republic #2) – Claire Delacroix – Date added: January 17th, 2015
I remember reading the first book in this series a long time ago. I do remember enjoying it. I think when I get back into the mood for some paranormal romance I will go back to these.
Fantasy Lover (Hunter Legends Sereis #1) – Sherrilyn Kenyon – Date added: January 17th, 2015
I read part of another series by Sherrilyn Kenyon and I remember really enjoying it. I actually think I have most of that series but never finished it. I sort of got tired of the paranormal romance genre but I will go back to these one day I am sure.
Night Pleasures (Dark-Hunter #1) – Sherrilyn Kenyon – Date added: January 17th, 2015
Another series that sounds interesting. Maybe one day I’ll just go on a binge of all of these. (Though there are like 14 of them or more so we shall see if that actually happens).
Dogs and Goddesses – Jennifer Cruise – Date added: January 17th, 2015
My mom read this one and she really enjoyed it. I definitely want to get to this one soon.
One Year Gone (Supernatural #7) – Rebecca Dessertine – Date added: January 17th, 2015
I was obsessed with Supernatural at one point. I read most of the books but then got bored of them. I still watch the show but don’t think I have any desire to go back to the books.
Pattern Recognition (Blue Ant, #1) – William Gibson – Date added: January 17th, 2015
I believe I have this book on my shelf. I know I have read other books by this author before and remember liking them. Now that I see this I want to go back to it and see if it lives up to what I remember.
The Xeno Solution – Nelson Erlick – Date added: January 17th, 2015
I have had this book on my shelf for ages. I haven’t even thought about picking it up. I think it is time to just realize this one holds no interest for me.
Fall Back – Peter Niesewand – Date added: 17th, 2015
So this is on my list because it was a book my dad owned. I don’t think I will ever actually read it but I will keep the physical book because it was his.
Percentage Removed: 30%
Many of these were part of a series so I technically went through a lot more than 10 books on my shelf. Didn’t remove much but did remind myself of some fun books that I might pick up soon.
What are your thoughts on any of these? Do you agree or disagree with my decisions?
The Great Library of Alexandria was not destroyed, instead it flourished and became the prime location for all knowledge. All books and writings are housed in the Great Library. All knowledge comes from the Great Library.
Jess Brightwell is the son of a smuggler. In this society owning an original copy of a book is illegal. You own Blanks that are preloaded with books. Jess’s family makes their living off smuggling these original books for the wealthy.
In order to get closer to the library and become an assist to his family Jess is trained to enter into the Library’s services. He quickly learns how much control the library has. When his friend makes a mistake and invents something that could undermine everything the Library stands for, Jess and his friends have choices to make. Do they stay loyal to a broken system or do they join forces with those trying to tear down all that they have known?
Note: This review is for the first 3 books in this series. The fourth book will be published in July. Because of that fact there may be minor spoilers for the second and third book in the series.
What I loved:
The characters are what won this book for me. Thomas, Wolf and Sanit in particular.
Wolfe and Santi were my favorites. They are the most complex characters. I felt like there is so much more to them both. There is a history to Wolfe and his love/hate relationship with the Library. His relationship with his mother is complicated. His relationship with Sanit grounds him. I felt the biggest connection to Wolfe.
Wolfe has a duty to perform. He loves books. He adores knowledge but he is stuck. He is trapped in a system that will kill him if he tries to do anything to hurt it. He wants to fix things but his love for Santi makes him unable to do what needs to be done.
I liked this turmoil. I enjoyed reading how he oscillated between his feelings of duty and his heart. I also really liked how this translated to his relationship with the core group. He feels this fatherly attachment to them that grew throughout the books. I enjoyed him showing his more caring side. I hope in the next book we see more of that and see how he starts to fight for himself instead of being afraid.
Thomas was another great character. Thomas is the epitome of nice guy. He has a big smile that everyone loves. He is always looking on the positive side of situation. He love of books and knowledge is huge and can be felt by every character.
Thomas was the ray of positivity that was needed throughout the story. Even with everything he goes through, he still holds onto hope. I loved hearing him talk. His enthusiasm was infectious. I want to just hug him and keep him safe.
I do hope that in the next book his bravery continues to grow. I want to see him become even more independent and make some difficult choices.
I enjoyed the pace of the plot for much of the first and third books. That pacing disappears in the second book, which I will get into more in below. The pace is quick and things just keep happening. They move and never have time to really think or reflect on what has happened to them.
This pace I think helps keep a lot of the characters separated. There are about seven main characters in this series and sometimes that can become hard to keep track of. But since they are in constant motion, all doing something at all times it was pretty easy to keep them in their own places. None of them get bogged down or felt like they are pointless.
I also enjoyed the diversity in this story. Those training for the library are all from different countries. Our core group is made up of a number of nationalities, cultures and religions. It is always nice to have a broad group of people who work together without focusing on their differences.
What I was just okay with:
Jess is our narrator and our main protagonist. Unfortunately I felt like we don’t get much about him until the third book. I felt like he was very surface level for much of the first two books. I knew that he was confused about his place in the world and that he was falling for Morgan. That was about it.
It wasn’t until the third book that was saw how cunning and clever he could be. In that book we saw how well he understands the fight they are in. I wasn’t surprised by the choices he made. He made choices that would help them in the war and not keep his friends. I am eager to see how this progresses throughout the rest of the series. I think there is potential for Jess and I hope that is realized.
I wish that the technology of Mirroring and Blanks was explained better. I can’t quite explain how it works. It was vaguely explained and kind of left as a just go with it idea. I like the idea but I wish I understood how it worked better. It might have helped me feel more connected to the rest of the plot.
What I wished was different:
The first book did a good job at setting up the world and introducing us to the characters. I got a good feel for where the story was going from that book. I also had a good idea of who our characters were and where they were going. I expected that to be elaborated on in the second book.
Instead the second book felt like it was going in circles. The whole point was to rescue Thomas which they did early in the story. After that it felt like they had no idea where to go or what to do. We went from one location, did nothing and moved to another location and did nothing. They kept running around until they got to the end and ended up in Philadelphia. I felt like the whole point of the book was to get them there.
I honestly think we could have combined the second and third book into one. I think it would have made the pace better, and not felt like the second book got stuck. The third book set up the war coming and the sides everyone is on. You could literally have cut out 3/4 of the second book, added in 1/2 of the third and had a great book.
I am curious how the next book goes. I hope it really pushes us to a conclusion. I think there are supposed to be five ultimately in this series. I hope the fourth book doesn’t come out as a repeat of the second book.
Overall I gave this series between 3 and 4 stars out on Goodreads. I love the premise. I love the way knowledge is good and evil. I like the idea of the Great Library still existing. I love a number of the characters. I just wish the plot was a bit tighter.
“A life is worth more than a book” (pg. 35, Ink and Bone) ( I wish this had been more central to the earlier plots. I hope it becomes so in the later books)
“The Library might have brought the wisdom of ages into the lives of the common folk; it might have kept humankind from falling into the darkness of ignorance and despair and superstition. But that didn’t mean the hands of those in charge were clean.” (pg. 97, Ink and Bone)
“Because revolution rarely comes from those in charge.” (pg. 74, Paper and Fire)
“This is the graveyard where they buried our future.” (pg. 308, Paper and Fire).
“It was a hard truth that right now, they didn’t need to be purely good. They needed to be capable for anything.” (pg. 278, Ash and Quill)
I decided I wanted to start doing monthly wrap-up posts. I will go through the books I managed to read throughout the month as well as the posts that I did as well. I might occasionally add movies and tv-shows.
During February I only managed to read three books. I think this was because one of them was slower and also because I did a lot of writing. I also did some rearranging of my apartment that took time away from reading.
Books I read:
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee – This was a quick read. Fun, funny and interesting. Eager for the second book!
Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Beck Albertalli – I adored this book. My favorite of the year so far. Made me so happy.
Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang – Short stories but took me a while to get through. Some were better than others. I will do a full review soon with my thoughts.
I have been trying to post more often. I have a back-log of books to review which makes it easier. I am hoping to be able to keep up a steady posting schedule.
Down the TBR Hole #1
The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein- Review
Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli – Review
The Everything Box – Richard Kadrey – Review
Down the TBR Hole #2
New Writing Space
The Book Feels Tag
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue – Mackenzie Lee- Review
Queer Eye – I have been obsessed with the reboot of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” on Netflix. I binged all the episodes in a weekend. I loved the original but I think I love this reboot even more. The guys are great with all separate personalities, and every episode just has such an air of positivity and happiness. I can’t wait for more episodes!
What was your February like? What were some of your favorite reads, movies, tv shows or songs?
Monty is a rich aristocrat. He sets off on a tour of the continent with his best friend Percy and his sister, Felicity. He is ready to see the world and have an adventure. He is eager to spend a year closer to Percy, his secret crush. He has plans, all which go to hell when he steals something that makes them a target. Their tour becomes a run for their lives adventure. Along the way Monty learns a few things about himself, life and love.
What I loved:
This book was fun. It was fast paced and full of adventure. Once it got moving, it flew right by. Things never quite slowed down, which made it a quick read. I like when there is little time to sit around. Sometimes in these stories there can be a point in the middle where the characters meander around trying to figure out what to do. Not true here. They moved from one point to another.
Monty was a great character. I knew from page one that I was going to love him. His attitude was hilarious and I loved how it was juxtaposed to who he was SUPPOSED to be. He was raised with money and prestige but he was the playboy who wanted none of it. He just wants to have fun and the way he talks and jokes makes that obvious. I liked his sense of humor and his sarcasm. I love a good sarcastic character and Monty met that.
Monty was an interesting character because we saw how flawed he was from the very beginning. Monty was trying to escape the abusive home he found himself in. He was trying to find his own place. He had no say in his life and we watch him find a way to gain control over things.
Monty grew in a very obvious way in this story. He started off as a seemingly selfish character. He doesn’t seem to care about anyone else, other than Percy. We learn quickly that that is just a facade he puts up. He KNOWS his is flawed and I loved that. I loved how self aware his character was. That can be hard to write sometimes.
I also really liked his relationship with Percy. I thought this would be a book where the love interest was oblivious for much of the book. It turned out not to be true. We saw that the interest was there from the start but Monty’s character had to grow to make it work. I felt that it was much more real that way. It made it feel less stale and not cliche, which was nice.
I also thought the discussions around sexuality, race and women’s rights was interesting. This time period made it easy to talk about those issues. I liked how Lee was able to make connections that felt real to our time here and now. The talk about Monty not being able to not be attracted to men was poignant and important. Same with some of the realizations about race relations. I liked how it was all integrated into the story without making it feel like it didn’t belong there and was only to make a statement.
What I just okay with:
I enjoyed the overall plot. It was interesting and different. It was not what I expected but I was able to suspend disbelief about aspects without too much issue. The only real issue I had was with how convenient things were for the group.
There was no wrong turns or dead ends. They ended up right where they needed to be right away. If they needed information it was right there. There was no challenge to the plot. Things just worked out exactly as they needed them to.
Sometimes there are too many obstacles for a group. It can seem like no matter what they are never going to get where they need to go. This went the opposite direction and left little in the way. It was almost as if they just kept walking to each new plot point without an issue. I wanted a bit more challenge for them.
What I wished was different:
I loved Percy’s character but I felt like much of the time he was just there as Monty’s love interest. He was Monty’s foil and I do like that he played off Monty’s character. I just wished we knew more about him. We got a handful of details but not really enough to flesh him out.
I wanted to feel a greater connection to him. I think without Monty I wouldn’t have cared that much about Percy.
I gave this one four out of five stars on Goodreads. It was fun and thrilling, had some great characters and great lines. I just wish it had a bit more detail to some of the characters and storyline.
“Perhaps this is what the Grand Tour is meant to do – show me the way other people live, in lives that are not like my own. It’s a strange feeling, realizing that other people you don’t know have their own full lives that don’t touch yours.” (pg. 168)
“It is meant to symbolize that things can be more beautiful for having been broken.” (pg. 184).
“Which still doesn’t entirely make sense to me- perhaps it can’t.” (pg. 396) (End of a very interesting discussion on race and race relations).
“It was never a barrier until I knew, so it’s not something wrong with him.” (pg. 423). (Interesting discussion on medical issues and handicaps and the view people have about them.)
Over the last year I have been trying to figure out why my motivation for writing has been lacking. I could remember when I wrote everyday. I remember feeling like I didn’t have the choice but to write. I would write no matter what had gone on throughout the day. I never was too tired, or too preoccupied.
Over the last year that feeling has been gone. I have been trying to desperately figure out where it went. I thought at first it was because I spent so much time looking for a job, then I had multiple jobs. I put it all off as being too tired. I was not just physically tired but mentally as well. I was trying so hard during the day to prove myself, to show that I was worth hiring into a full time position that I used up all my motivation and strength. There was nothing left for me.
Then at the end of last year I was offered a full time position at one of my jobs. I took it with excitement. It was exactly what I had been hoping would happen from the start of my journey. I thought, “Perfect, that worry is now gone. I can pay my bills doing a job I love.”
I thought my writing motivation would come back in a flood. My weary mind had room to do something else now. But that didn’t happen. At first I put it off as the holidays. Christmas and New Years was stressful this year, in a good and bad ways. Life was stressful in and of itself. I thought if I could just get through December that I would get a routine back and everything would fall back into place.
Again, that didn’t happen. I found excuse after excuse to not write. I was tired. I had other things to do. I began to wonder if I cared about writing the same way again.
I then began watching the reboot of “Queer Eye” on Netflix. (It is a reboot of the show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” a makeover show from the early 2000s I believe. It was one of my favorite shows back then. The reboot is fantastic!) One of the things they tend to do in that show is talk about creating a place specifically for the guy’s either hobby or way of life. It is usually about creating a space designed for them.
I realized that is what I was missing. In college I had a writing space. I had my set up, that was supposed to be for school work but became where I went to write. It had no distractions. It was about work and a spot for specifically for that and only that.
I did not have that in my apartment. It had a desk but it was used as a trash heap. I had my supplies but they had no home. I wrote on the couch, my back yelling at me. I wrote on the floor but could never get comfortable. Also each of those spots required me to do a lot of set up, a process that I never wanted to do.
So I went out and bought some things to create my writing space. I cleaned off my desk and moved it to a central part of my room. Moved my bed to the side and surround the desk with bookshelves. I found signs with sayings that can inspire me. I bought whiteboards and calendars to keep myself organized.
I transformed my room from a bedroom to a writing space. It has a new purpose now. I have somewhere, where I can sit down and begin to work without a set up process. It has no TV to be distracted by and my cat can easily curl up in my lap as I work without getting in the way.
Is this a magical cure to my block? No, but it is a start. It is a space that can inspire me. It is a space where I can feel like my writing has a home. I can see my progress whenever I walk in the room on my whiteboards. I want to be here and I am excited to see how far I can go now.
Do you have a writing space? How do you push yourself to get writing done around the rest of your life?