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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 Rest of Us Just Live Here- Patrick Ness- Review

34ad44f0-5318-0133-4ca9-0e3f8b958f63Not everyone gets the privilege of being the “chosen one,” or one of the “chosen ones,” sidekicks. There are people who are just trying to live their semi-normal lives in these towns or worlds. They also have stories of their own, which is what The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness is about. It is not a story set from the hero’s POV. It is about all those people who surround them and how they are trying to live their own lives.

Mikey is our main protagonist. Mikey is just a normal teenager who is trying to get through to graduation. He wants to ask out a girl he has had a crush on for a while. He wants his family to fix their own problems and he wants to hang out with his friends before they all move onto the next stage of their lives. Unfortunately he lives in a town where strange things are constantly happening. These events affect him slightly but nothing major.

I was intrigued by the concept of this story. I have read numerous books about the “chosen one.” I know how their story usually goes. I know how to see life from their POV. I liked the idea of getting to see how everyone else views these events and how they are trying to keep their lives as normal as possible. I was expecting to read about a group of friends trying to keep themselves safe while also living lives that mean something to them. What I got was more of a meandering through Mikey’s life. It was almost like we just followed him around for a while. Not much actually happened.

In the book each chapter starts with a small paragraph about what is going on with the “chosen ones.” We get to have some context of the two versions of life in this town. Unfortunately I found myself more interested in what was happening with those kids then with Mikey and his friends.

None of the characters felt very alive to me. They were all surface level. We didn’t dive too far into anyone or any part of their lives. There is a sort of tagline on the front of the book that says: “Sometimes you have to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.” The problem was I never found that in any of the characters. They all remained pretty ordinary and nothing really pulled them out into the spotlight for me.

Even Jared who could communicate with cats was not developed very far. I wanted to find myself enthralled by these people. I wanted them to jump out and show that you don’t need powers or destinies to have an amazing life. What I got was what I would assume of the side people in these stories. Just people living their lives and surviving. This very well may have been the intent of the story but I found myself getting a bit bored at parts.

I will say that I thought the way OCD/anxiety and anorexia were handled in the story was very well done. They are not the main issues the characters dealt with but they are mentioned and I thought they were represented well. There was one chapter which was Mikey having a conversation with his therapist that felt very real and poignant to me.

In the end I wanted more from this book than I got. I wanted a story of adventure from the more ordinary person’s POV. I wanted to be given characters who shined despite not living in a world where they were meant to shine. I may have gotten my expectations too high; it was a fun book just not what I was hoping for.

Vicious – V.E. Schwab – Review

13638125I picked up Vicious because it was by V.E. Schwab. She has quickly become one of my favorite authors of this year and I am working on getting through all her books. I have heard this one is one that is recommended for those who want to start reading her books. I didn’t know much about the story, other than it was a revenge plot. But I have been impressed by her other books, and the depth she brings to her characters, and this one did not disappoint me.

The story itself is pretty basic. Victor and Eli are college friends. They are working on their thesis’s and Eli decides to do his on EO’s or ExtraOrdinarys. ExtraOrdinarys are basically people who have super powers. The thesis becomes an experiment. The experiment goes wrong and Victor ends up in jail. After ten years he gets out and he is set on revenge against a man he used to call a friend.

If this story did not have strong characters I would have lost interest fast. The plot is not one full of twists or turns. There is nothing too innovative about the plot itself. The addition of the super powers makes it a bit more interesting but nothing too new. Victor blames Eli for what happened and Eli blames him. At the end of the day it is a story about simple revenge.

What makes it more complex and what held my attention was Victor and Eli. These two are complicated people. To start off they aren’t two people who are real close friends. They are tolerate friends in the beginning. They find a kinship in each other. Both of them are selfish. They both don’t trust others and they both don’t trust each other.

We learn quickly that while they get along they still hold each other at arms length. Victor resents Eli for getting a girl they both liked. Eli starts to resent that Victor became part of his experiment. They both state that they can tell there is something not quite right about the other one. They can see in each other the darkness that is in their hearts, but it doesn’t make them run.

Neither one of these men are “good” people. They both make some pretty bad decisions and they both hurt people. I think this is what made the story. I knew that because we primarily focused on Victor that we are supposed to be on his side. He is our primary narrator so we should want him to win, we should understand him. The thing was that even though I understood him, I didn’t actually like him.

Victor has a soft side, which is needed because otherwise there is no way we could relate or want to listen to him. But that soft side doesn’t last long term. He makes one good decision and then runs backwards ten feet. The man is set on his plan and in the end people will get hurt, he can’t stop that. He cares about Sydney and Mitch (his sidekicks) but he doesn’t care enough to turn away from what he wants.

Eli thinks he is doing what is right. I understood where Eli was coming from but I couldn’t sympathize with him. He comes off as delusional most of the story. I found it interesting that I didn’t hate him. Usually in these type of stories you take sides. You choose either the hero or the villain, usually the hero. But in this story there was no side to take.

Both men made choices to help themselves and only themselves. Both of them hated each other for a series of events that really both of them could be blamed for. I didn’t want Victor to “win” or for Eli to “lose.” I wanted them to find a way to see the darkness inside themselves and realize that what they were doing would do nothing for anyone, even themselves.

The end of the book was a bit of a let down. I expected a major confrontation between the two men. I expected them to go at each other, or to have a long talk; one that laid everything out and put who they were out there in the open for everyone to see. The book led up to that point and it took a handful of pages to complete. I predicted it from half way through the book. I wanted more from the ending. I wanted it to end with a bang and what I got was more a whimper.

I enjoyed this book. It is not my favorite by V.E. Schwab (that is still This Savage Song). I liked the characters and that neither were good people. I liked not knowing who I was supposed to like. I liked the way it was told by flipping between past and present, it made the story feel like it was always moving. I just wish the end had had more of an impact.

Library of Lost Souls By: Ransom Riggs (Review)

51jx3zbrjul-_sx320_bo1204203200_(This is a review for the third book in a series so there are minor spoilers for the previous two books.)

Library of Lost Souls is the final book in the Miss Peregrine’s series. I am always worried about final books. I worry that questions won’t get answered or something will be resolved but not in the fashion that I think works for the story. I am glad that this final book was not any of those things. This was a good way to end this series. The loose ends were wrapped up and the story came to a satisfying conclusion. I was not left wondering anything or upset at not knowing what had become of a character.

This final book finds Emma and Jacob having to travel through a dark time loop called Devil’s Acres in order to save their friends. They have to team up with some unsavory characters and make tough decision to save those they care about. They go on a fast-paced adventure to save their world.

Throughout this series Jacob was my favorite character. He started off the series as a naive kid. After his grandfather’s death he is told by his parents and doctors that he has gone crazy. For a short time he believes them, thinking his grandfather’s death has driven him out of his mind. But that doesn’t stop him from trying to find out the secret his grandfather left behind. He finds Miss Peregrine and the peculiar world and his life changes.

This last book was the wrap up of Jacob’s character transformation. In this book he keeps talking about two separate Jacobs. There was the “then,” Jacob and there is the “now,” Jacob. “Then,” Jacob lived in a straight forward world. People did not fly, no one was invisible and there were no monsters. Nothing extraordinary ever happened to him. “Then,” Jacob went to school, hung out with his one friend and spent time with his parents. His life was simple and normal.

“Now,” Jacob lives in a brand new world. All the things he thought were impossible are now possible. The word impossible doesn’t even have a true meaning to him anymore. This new world is one the requires him to be brave and couragous. He can’t rely on anyone else. He needs to make quick decisions and trust himself. He no longer can just sit around and wait for something to happen in life. In this last book it is up to him and Emma to save their friends. He had to grow up fast.

I liked this book because Jacob had to find a balance between the two sides of himself. He couldn’t let his old life intrude too much because then fear would take over. He wouldn’t be able to find his friends and fight to save not only their lives, but their world. He had to find a tougher side of himself.

On the other side though, he couldn’t let “now,” Jacob have full control. He had to remember how to have sympathy and how to be cautious. He couldn’t always act, sometime he had to let others take over. It was nice to see a character that did not go through a total trasnformation. Jacob retains parts of who he used to be and integrates them into this new version of himself.

Most of this book takes place in Devil’s Acres. This is a time loop where those who have been banished or ostracized from the peculiar world live. It is a dark and horrible place. I thought it was a proper place to end this series. This was a series that got darker as it went on and to end here felt right. I liked that this series showed the darker side of the world as well as the light. No matter the world there is always some dark aspect and in the end the dark and light create a balance. I liked this setting, it was interesting and I thought created the right mood for this final story.

I loved almost every aspect of this series. The characters were all unique and interesting. The inclusion of the photographs helped create an eerie and interesting atmosphere. I thought it was paced well, balancing the exposition with action. The only issue I had was the relationship between Emma and Jacob.

I did not think that Emma and Jacob needed to be romantic interests for each other. I felt like their relationship was forced in order to have some romance in the story. I did not feel any real connection between the two of them. I wish they had just become a very close friends.

I think sometimes people forget how powerful a close friendship can be. Romance is not the only way to show a deep connection between two people. And not every girl and boy who meet each other need to fall for one another. Sometime I wish that some of these characters would just become best friends. It would create a new dynamic and I think would have felt more natural for these two.

Despite my issue with that relationship I loved the rest of the series. It is a unique story, one full of adventure. I loved the world. The addition of the photographs gives it a unique feel. If you are looking for a bit dark, yet fun series I would highly recommend this one.

The Messiah Secret- James Becker- Review

8527542The Messiah Secret is an adventure novel where the characters are out to find an artifact from history that could change how religion is perceived. Generally these novels are about hunting down something that can completely change how a historical figure or time in history is seen and understood. This novel was no different. Angela and her ex-husband Bronson go on a chase through Egypt to find what they at first believe is the Ark of Covenant. They are trailed by a religious leader and a greedy business man who are all out to find the same thing. It is a race against time to decipher the clues and find the object first. The one twist or turn this novel took that was different from the other novels of this type that I have read is that what they initially think they are searching for isn’t what they actually end up finding. It was more this element then anything else that made me continue to read the book until the end.

I love dialogue in a book. Dialogue can show so much about a character. One conversation can tell us almost all we need to know about someone. The way they speak, the tone and the word choice are extremely telling elements of a story. Unfortunately I found the dialogue in this novel lacking. The dialogue was very hard to find realistic. The words were very crisp and almost business like a lot of the time. I found it hard to believe that some of these conversations would actually take place.

Much of the dialogue was used to clarify or restate what we already know is happening. Such as they are being chased and we get a description of the chase while the characters say out loud that they are being chased. They didn’t seem to be reacting to the situation, more just saying out loud what was happening. As a reader I like the dialogue to tell me how they feel about the situation. I just found the dialogue taking me out of the story sometimes.

What I did like was the backstory to what they are looking for. The fact that they were wrong at first was refreshing and realistic to me. Generally in these type of novels the pursuers figure out exactly what they are looking for right away. All the clues end up pointing them to one place without much question or debate. Rarely are the protagonists wrong in their deduction of the puzzles.

In this novel that isn’t entirely the case. They spend half of their time believing they are looking for the Ark of the Covenant. This assumption turns out to be wrong. What they are actually looking for turns out to be still connected to Christianity but in a much more serious manner.

What they are actually looking for is something that I have read about before, but the backstory and explanation was much different and interesting. It definitely made me think which is a result I love. Any story that makes me reconsider an idea or person or moment in history gets extra points in my book. I love questioning something and even though the characters don’t question the discovery too much the reader is able to.

This story flowed very quickly and was an easy read. I just wish the characters had been stronger. I honestly didn’t care who won in the end. I just wanted to know what they were actually searching for. I kept turning pages because I was intrigued by the end result of the quest or the “treasure.” It made no difference to me who won or who got it in the end.

One character in particular, Donovan, had a very interesting reason for this search. I desperately wanted to know more about him and why he was putting so much effort and time into this search. He seemed like he could have been fascinating but we only got the surface of him. All the characters were the same, they all had their initial reasons for their mission but nothing deeper. These types of stories are fun but they are even better when we get multiple motives and are invested in why the character are searching.

For an adventure novel this is a fun and quick read. The “treasure,” is a new take on a known idea that makes you stop and think for a moment. This element and the fact that the end result is different then what the initial search was for are the reasons to enjoy this quick read.

Ghost Country Review- Patrick Lee

51W7f5oIgILI picked up Ghost Country because it seemed like an interesting dystopian type novel. I have always loved novels that explore what life would be like after the world has come to an end. There are many different ways this has been done and I was very interested to see what angle this book would take. Disease? War? Some nature event? In the end it was none of these but a new, kind of complicated, idea.

This is the second novel of Patrick Lee. I have not read the first one, The Breach, but I was able to follow the story line regardless. Though I am sure it would explain better what The Breach is and what the entities that come through it really are.

In this novel an entity comes through, two black seemingly plain cylinders. When turned on they give a glimpse into a future seventy plus years from the present. A future that is desolate and dead. Travis gets dragged into a fight to find out what happened and how to stop the events that lead to the destruction of the planet. It is a constant, on the run adventure to get away from the corrupt leaders while working towards saving the world.

Normally when I read it is the characters that I fall in love with. Strong interesting personalities are what usually keep me turning the pages. This novel was very different. The characters were decent but they were not what kept me invested in the story. It was purely the plot that held me captive. Lee slowly reveals the details of what happens in the future and why the world has ended. Each revelation takes you an inch closer. You don’t get an information cascade pushing you off the cliff and into the whole dilemma. You get small pieces that give you more questions until you have all the pieces and fully comprehend what has transpired. As if you were actually part of this race for answers.

I liked getting pushed further and further into the story but the descriptions used sometimes took me out of the story. The descriptions of where people were standing or how they were looking were very precise and, too me, a little over complicated. Such as, “They moved east across the southern span of the building,” (Lee, pg 205). He uses very specific directions that I had a lot of trouble envisioning. It felt very military and scientific and unfortunately that isn’t how my brain functions.

The reason for the destruction of the world is a very different, very scientific idea. It is an idea I had never even heard about. It is a little bit hard to comprehend if you don’t have a good grasp of science, but you can get the basics of it and it still makes you squirm a little thinking about what it could mean in the context of our world. What happens when a seemingly good, save the world, idea goes horribly wrong.

Ghost Country is a chilling tale of what a few high powered people can do if they put their minds and effort into it. Though the characters don’t remain with you, the plot and revelations will, making you wonder and ponder what is all means at the very end.

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