Author Archives: BrittneyRz
What would you do if you knew today was your last day to live? You will die before the day is over, there is no way around your fate. Would you live the life you always wanted to live? Would you open yourself up to a complete stranger? They Both Die at the End explores this idea through a bittersweet tale that will make you smile and cry at the same time.
Mateo and Rufus have both received their Death-Cast call. They will die within the next 24 hours. Mateo becomes trapped by fear in his apartment, afraid to take a step outside and truly live for his last day. While Rufus, a foster child, has lost himself in grief and survivors guilt after surviving the car crash that killed his family. He has no idea who he is anymore but he is determined to live his last day as the person he always wanted to be and not as the one other’s have started to see him as.
They both turn to the Last Friend App to find someone to live their last hours with. Together they extract their real selves from one another. Mateo puts fear aside and truly lives. Rufus lets go of his guilt and shows his true soft and loving side that got lost in the tragedy. They find not only friendship but love and a connection with one another on their last day.
What I loved:
Adam Silvera is the king of emotion. He knows how to invoke that tightness in the chest and that sting of tears in the eye. He knows how to create heartache from sadness and a bittersweet pull as well. He is among a handful of authors who make me fall into my emotions. It is rare I feel so connected to a set of characters. I desperately wanted this to end differently.
Mateo and Rufus were so well written. It is difficult to create round and dynamic characters with only one day of time to work with. Both of these characters start off one way and do a complete turn around by the end. In less than 24 hours Silvera manages to bring both of these boys out of hiding and put them into the lives they were always meant to live.
Mateo is lost and scared. He is a little obsessive. He is scared to experience life. He has no support system life, his mother having died giving birth to him and his dad in a coma.He would have stayed inside, letting his last day slip away.
Instead he uses the Last Friend App to find someone to spend the day with. He wanted to truly live but he doesn’t know that in this last day he will end up living the life he always dreamed of living.
Watching Mateo open up and be purely happy was sweet and heart wrenching at the same time. I felt a rock on my heart knowing he couldn’t get to truly live with this new side of himself. I imagined him making it though the day and becoming this full and whole person.
I felt connected to Mateo. I have always had a fear of taking risks and experiencing the world. His fear hit close to home for me. I have recently walked outside my fears and the feeling is freeing and exhilarating. I wanted Mateo to feel that full experience and see how awesome life can be.
Rufus is lost in his grief. He survived a crash that killed his family. He doesn’t know what to do with himself. He lashes out and hurts other without meaning to. He is lost and scared, much like Mateo.
Watching him push off that guilt and live with Mateo was exhilarating. He showed Mateo that he was a kind soul. He was able to show that he was someone to be loved. His transformation was satisfying. I wanted him to be able to show the world who he truly was. Knowing he wouldn’t leave that impression with everyone was hard to read.
I also really enjoyed the short snippets from other lives that we saw in the story. Each one had some small connection to Rufus and Mateo. Not all the connections ended well but it was this glimpse at how connected everyone in life is. No one exists in a vacuum. We touch lives in some way everyday.
I thought this was a nice touch to alleviate some of the pain and sorrow that clouded the story. The idea that we got to take a step away from the story for a moment and recollect and see that life went on for the people was a good way to ease some of the heavier emotions in this story.
What I was just okay with:
The only thing I was sort of only okay was the concept of Death-Cast itself. There is no explanation of how it works, which bugged me for the beginning of the story. I found myself asking questions about it but once I got into the story I realized it didn’t matter how it worked. Death-Cast wasn’t the main element of the story, it was the vehicle by which these boys were able to change. The story was about two boys connecting and living while discovering love and was not about the technology itself.
What I wished was different:
I honestly wouldn’t change anything in this tory. I read it in 3 days. There was nothing that help me back or anything that I couldn’t manage to get past. Even the insta-love aspect didn’t hold me back because of the finite time line that we were working inside of.
I gave this 5 stars on Goodreads. If you want a story about living life to its fullest, young love and finding your true self you will love They Both Die at the End.
“It’s just the fear of disappointing others or making a fool of myself always wins.” (pg.109)
“I may not be able to cure cancer or end world hunger, but small kindnesses go a long way.” (pg. 126)
“Entire lives aren’t lessons, but there are lessons in lives.” ( pg. 334)
How 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.
“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).
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.
(I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. All comments and thoughts are my own).
Aaru 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.
Villains 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.
“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).
I 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.