Category Archives: Book Reviews

They Both Die at the End – Adam Silvera – Review

1487621303004What 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.

 

Quotes:

“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)

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).

 

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.

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.

The Magicians Land – Lev Grossman – Review

51Z4SYyeUSL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThe Magicians series did not end up being the series I was expecting when I started it. I thought it would be more of an epic tale, one where someone learns they can do magic and have to go on grand adventures exploring their new power and saving their new lives. It ended up being snippets of  Quinten growing up and finding out who is as a person. Each book could have stood alone. There was the loose thread of Fillory wound throughout but I felt like if I had read them out of order I wouldn’t have missed too much of the story. I liked this element though and I think the last book The Magicians Land was my favorite of the three books.

The Magicians Land picks up not too long after the last book ended. Quinten has been thrown out of Fillory and he is trying to find a new path in his life. After a short stint as a professor at Bakebills he gets caught up in a robbery plot.

Quinten and a number of others are hired to steal a cae. They don’t have any idea what they are stealing, just that they will get a big pay off when the job is done. Most of those involved need the cash to start a new path in life and are willing to take part even without much information.

The heist goes wrong and Quinten finds himself having to make some tough choices. Choices tied to his past and figuring out if he should save that past or let everything go. Quinten spent most of the series trying to find his path in life, trying to figure out if what has happened should influence what will happen later in his life.

Quinten was an interesting character. I never could quite determine how to read him throughout the series. He always seems lost and unsatisifed. I got a bit frustrated at times wondering when he was going to stop looking for something new. Every time he got what he wanted he felt empty. He became a magician but didn’t feel like he had a purpose as a magician. Then he became a king of Fillory and wanted epic quests. He didn’t want to just rule, he was always searching for something just beyond his reach.

At the end of the last book I felt like I finally understood him. Quinten was someone who grew up being told a number of things were impossible; magic and Fillory. Then he learns they are all real and he is part of them. He is in awe of this new way of life but reality quickly tramples over him.

Fantasy worlds and magic are complciated. It isn’t the utopia we all imagine it to be. We want to fall into our favorite stories, thinking things will be much better, easier. What Quinten learns is that these worlds and this way of life is just as complicated and difficult to process as the one he has walked away from. Nothing is simple. No land is perfect, no story has the perfect ending.

I loved this look into fantasy and fiction. Stories are our escapes but that is because we get to close the book. We don’t have to actually live those lives. The characters make the decisions and we get to watch safely from behind the pages. I love the Harry Potter series but living in that world would probably disenchant me with the whole series. Once you enter the world you see the flaws and the issues and if you live the story you have to live with the choices and consequences.

This series explained how it would be if we fell into those stories. Quinten learns quickly that there is no such thing a s perfect life and land. You, the one living the story, make the story itself. You make the turns and choices. Wanting that escape is natural and important but getting stuck in that idea will leave you feeling empty and lost. You have to find yourself outside of the story as well.

If you never find your place you will always feel lost. You need an identity that is real and solid. Life is complicated and stories can be difficult but once you find your place they have unmeasurable worth.

I enjoyed this series once I put aside my expectations. It was a fun story. It was a great look at life inside a story and see how finding a balance between fantasy and reality is essential.

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare- Review

tumblr_ogwcviAKSN1r3oy4vo1_500The second book in a series can be difficult to pull off. The first book tends to handle setting everything up. We learn about the world and the characters, we get a hint at the who the greater foe will and we set the stage for other side story lines. The last book in a series is the ultimate climax, everything ends and all of our questions get answered. The second book is the awkward in-between point. It has to continue the plot, develop the characters and make sure everything is set for the finale. A lot of the times this second book gets bogged down by a treading water feel. A lot of the times as a reader I feel like the second book is slower and stagnant.

Unfortunately that is what happened to this second book in Cassandra Clare’s Dark Artifices series, Lord of Shadows. There was plenty of set up but not much actually happened. We get to know our characters better but that is hindered by the lack of communication by almost every character. While the pieces are placed on the board, everyone  spends the book just hiding secrets from each other.

Lord of Shadows picked up a few weeks after Lady Midnight left off. Emma is fake dating Mark because she can’t be with Julian. She won’t tell Julian about the curse for his own “protection.”

This is the part of the book that I had the most difficult with. I have written a full post about why this type of storyline drives me crazy, here. So I won’t go into a full rant. Emma keeps saying throughout the book that she can’t tell Julian about the parabati curse because he could get hurt. She never specifies how he could get hurt or why that would be. She just uses that as her justification for not telling him.

This makes little to no sense to me. Julian has two main priorities in his life; his family and Emma. He will do anything to protect them, but ultimately his family comes first. This was well established in the last book and throughout this book. Julian would NEVER do anything that would end up hurting his siblings. If he had to choose between them and Emma, he would choose them in a second.

So why can’t Emma tell him about the curse? He isn’t going to throw away his family and say, “Screw it, I don’t care what happens. I still want to be with you.” He isn’t going to throw away everything that matters to him. He may want to find a cure or way out, but that does not mean that he will end up hurt. Julian loves Emma but he is sensible. He is smart and he thinks through his decisions. He won’t let the curse hurt his family, period.

I feel like this secret thing was put int place in order to create angst throughout this book. We go on this continued back and forth, Does she/he love me?, for hundred of pages. It wasn’t needed. This same feeling could have been conveyed better and more naturally if they both knew about the curse.

Their communication is one of their strongest points. They talk through glances, they know each other better than anyone else. They even have a special way of tracing letters on their arms or backs, to spread messages. They would have been able to handle this secret, I wanted to see them fight it together. Having this secret kept felt like cheapening that connection between the two of them. Instead of building their bond, the bond was weakened throughout the story.

While Emma is busy keeping her secret they learn that Kieran is going to be put to death for killing Iralath. Julian, Emma, Mark and Christiana go to Faire to find and rescue Kieran. In the process they make a deal to find The Black Volume.

While this is happening in the background we have a whole storyline with The Centurians and Cohort. There is a set up for a scary way of treating Downworlders and those who aren’t Shadowhunters. This storyline hit close to reality and was a bit hard to read at times just because I can see so much of it happening in our world today. I think I know where this part of the storyline is going and it is going to aggravate me in the next book.

Tucked into all of this there is the storyline from the last book about raising Annabel and her backstory. This was the storyline I thought we would stick with from the last book but it kind of got lost in the pages of the number of other plot lines going on.

One of my favorite parts of this book was what we learned about Kit. Kit is an interesting character and a type we haven’t seen yet in this series. Kit knows the mundane world, the shadowhunter world and the downworlder world. He has a connection to them all and he was raised with one way of thinking. Throughout the story we see Kit begin to change how he thinks and how he sees the shadowhunter world.

I loved his connection to Ty. Kit understands Ty because he know the mundane world and mundane medicine. I like that he never felt disconnected from Ty, he actually connected best with Ty. I am interested to see how the connection builds after the events of the finale. I have a feeling that the two of them are either going to enter into a relationship together or become parabati or both if the curse is broken.

Kit was the character that grew throughout the book. He development felt natural. He is accepted into this family, though he at first doesn’t want to be. He begins to understand how they operate and he sees that he may have a place in this world if he wants it. I am eager to see what happened with him in the next book.

I didn’t hate this book at all. I was just expecting more from it. I think the secret keeping is what made this book difficult for me. It might just be me and my dislike of that particular storyline. I felt like it was used in order to force storylines instead of finding ways to do it naturally. Emma and Julian could have had strife in their relationship without the secret keeping. Christina could have gotten closer to Mark without Diego keeping secrets from her. I just wish this idea wasn’t the main point of this book.

I am interested to see how this story ends. Julian is going to be interesting in the next book. After the way the book ended i think we are going to see a very dark side of his character. I hope we see his dark side, I hope he loses it and has to be brought back. That will be interesting and will give us an interesting moral gray line to focus on. I have hope that this series will end in a satisfying way, but we will have to see.

At the Edge of the Universe – Shaun David Hutchinson – Review

edge of universeShaun David Hutchinson’s books are going to be stories that have one thing going on the surface and another thing in the deeper story. At the Edge of the Universe is about moving on in life, not letting one soul or one event become the center of your universe. You have to see the world is larger than just you. Take one step beyond your personal circle and the world opens up.

Ozzie and Tommy have been best friends since they were young. They have been dating since 8th grade. One day Ozzie wakes up and Tommy has disappeared. No one remembers he existed at all, no one but Ozzie.

Ozzie is set on finding  his lost boyfriend, desperate for him to not be truly forgotten. Though complications arise when he falls for his physics project partner, Calvin. Can he let Tommy go? What should he do about the universe that is literally shrinking around him? No one else notices Tommy’ disappearance or the shrinking universe. Does it matter in the end? Was Tommy even real at all?

The plot of the universe shrinking and Tommy not being remembered are secondary to the fact that Ozzie has had an issue seeing the world beyond himself. At first he seems selfish. HIs parents are divorcing and he keeps speaking about in terms of how it will effect him. His brother is leaving for the army and he again centers the issue on how it connects to him. Things at first surround him, the universe is about him.

As the universe begins to shrink, Ozzie begins to understand that he isn’t the only one in the world. Everyone has their own problems, some much serious than his own.

I really liked the way these two ideas were juxtaposed with each other. The universe is literally shrinking just as Ozzie is learning that the world is much bigger than he initially thought. Just as he is looking around, wanting to experience more he is losing it all. He learns quickly not to let life center on one thing and one thing only. Just as he is learning all of this he becomes the literal center of the universe and it is the last thing he wants.

Just as with we are the ants the side characters in this story are well developed. No one came off as flat. I would say that we are the ants does a bit better job of it but I did appreciate that we learn about everyone in this book and not just Ozzie, Tommy and Calvin. Also this book has a very diverse set of characters.

Lua, one of Ozzie’s best friends, is a genre fluid character. This is the first time I have ever read a book with this type of character and I loved the inclusion. I also like the explanation, it is simple and succinct. Lua tells her friends that the pronoun to use with them can be based off their clothing. If he is dressed in a more masculine type outfit than everyone can use “he,” pronouns. If she is dressed more traditionally feminine then everyone can use “she” pronouns. It was easy to follow, and understand.

I also loved how everyone reacted to them. I never felt like anyone was preaching about it to the reader. This was who Lua was. No one fought with them. There was a bit confusion from some of the more antagonist type characters but once we find out why, it all makes sense. I like the inclusion that felt natural. Lua wasn’t forced into the story to have representation, they were included because that is who this character was. I like this type of inclusion, when it just feels like the character is anyone else, nothing different or special but just a person.

Lua wasn’t the only character of diversity. One of Ozzie’s friends is described as asexual and Tommy is black. The story doesn’t focus on just one of these characters, but they are included to show the reader that the world around is much more diverse than you may think. I appreciate books like this because, especially now, we have to see how diverse and beautiful our world is.

By the end of the book I wasn’t sure if Tommy was real or if that really mattered. What mattered was if Ozzie could see that the universe is this larger thing and we have to find a way to balance ourselves in it. If you don’t find that balance you may end up losing yourself.

I enjoy Shaun David Hutchinson’s stories because they are not only diverse but deep. He uses surface level fantasy to delve into deeper issues and ways to see the world. He is able to explore difficult topics with making you feel bogged down or preached at. The reader is comfortable as they read, eager to see how things turn out. You feel connected to the characters no matter how different than you they may be.

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