Blog Archives

Feral Youth – Shaun David Hutchinson (and Nine other authors) – Review

31556153.jpgTen teens are left out in the wilderness to learn how to come together as a team and make their way back to the Zeppelin Bend an education camp for delinquent children. On the journey they begin to tell stories in order to not only learn more about each other, but to also stay sane.

Interesting thing is that stories tend to help you learn about the people around you, even if they don’t mean to let anything about themselves be known. As they journey they realize they have more in common then first thought. Connections are built as they work to survive this final test.

 

What I Loved_-4
I picked up this book because Shaun David Hutchinson was one of the authors. I don’t know if I would have picked it up otherwise, the story itself didn’t seem all that interesting to me but I figured I would give it a shot. I am glad I did. While it didn’t amaze me it was an enjoyable read.

I really loved the use of storytelling in this book. Each character gets a chance to tell a story, whether it is about them or about something completely unrelated. We learn about the characters through each of the stories. I loved how stories are used to get to the heart of the characters. We don’t have to just watch them trapeze through the woods and make assumptions.

We get stories that tell us something about all the characters. We don’t learn everything but we do learn that they all have something to relate to. They all are put into this situation because they are perceived as a problem. They made poor choices and are labeled as problem child. In the end we learn that they are all young people trying to figure out what they are doing in life.

While it is a cliche the characters do form a connection to one another. We know that at the end that connection is not going to last but it was a nice element to the story. I liked that each of them realized that they weren’t the only ones to have hit a rough patch.

What I was just okay with
There was nothing surprising or out of the ordinary in this story. It was a classic understanding one another story. They all had issues, tell stories and come to understand that they are alike. There is nothing that I couldn’t have predicted from reading the summary.

The journey through the woods was just the backdrop to the story. They hit a few snags but I never felt like they were at risk. I didn’t feel like this was much of test of survival for them. It was just a place for them to tell the stories. I kind of wanted a bit more from the walk.

What I Wished was Different_
I enjoyed the story but as I said there was nothing out of the ordinary in the story. It was pretty simple. I kind of wished for a twist. Maybe not to have a feel good ending. Maybe even though they tell each other their stories they don’t form an understanding. Maybe having one person or a few of them just not find a place would have made it seem different.

I gave this book four stars on Goodreads. I enjoyed the storytelling aspect of it. I liked that this was how we learned about the characters. I just wished for a bit more depth or twists to the story.

 

Copy of What I was just okay with
“And sometimes when you’re telling a story, you can’t let stupid shit like the truth get in the way.” (pg. 1)

“It’s not that they lie intentionally, but when people describe themselves they’re really describing what they see in the mirror, and most mirror are too distorted to show the truth. If you listen hard enough, there’s more truth in fiction than in all the other shit combined.” (pg. 6)

“I guess what I like are stories that don’t just make you scared of what’s out there, waiting to get you. I like the ones that make you scared of what might be hidden somewhere inside of yourself. Not knowing one’s own secrets, never mind anyone else’s.” (pg. 161)

“None of that makes a difference, though.[…] Not if all people see is what we’ve done rather than who we are.” (pg. 266)

“You could spend a lifetime exploring the vastness between a person’s words and still never really know them. ” (pg. 305).

Thunderhead- Neal Shusterman – Review

91mya47EdnL(Since this is a review for a second book in a series there will be spoilers for the previous book. )
Citra has been given the role as Scythe, taking the name Anastasia. She is determined to be merciful and respectful to the lives she chooses to end. She will not take a life without giving them the proper time for that person to come to terms with their death. She is determined to make the Scythe purpose closer to the original purpose, taking life to help society but to never enjoy the act.

Rowan was not give a ring, though he does have one. He is out for revenge. He is out to take down those he believes are destroying the Sycthedom. He has taken on a name fitting to his purpose.

When an old threat resurfaces and is determined to destroy all those in its path it is up to Citra and Rowan to save the society they have come to respect and hold dear, even if it costs them everything.

What I Loved_-4
I was curious where this story was going to go in this sequel. I thought I had an idea, and I was partially right but it was much deeper than what I thought it was going to be. We got to see Rowan’s character develop as well as Citra’s.

I again felt partial to Rowan’s story. I think it is because his is a much more complicated storyline. I have always been partial to the storyline where someone tries to be good while doing bad things. I love to see the way their mind twists and tries to keep a moral high ground while doing things that we would normally find reprehensible.

Rowan starts this book as a vigilante. He is out to take down all the Scythe’s who abuse their power. He is ruthless and he even adopts the name Scythe Lucifer. I understood his point, he knew these were the Scythe’s that were destroying the true nature of the work they were supposed to be doing. The way he stalked them and killed them though was hard to read at times.

I wondered if he was going to end up a god-like figure. Someone certain people admired for his work but that wasn’t the case. He was feared, he was understood but never admired. I liked that part way through he understood that what he was doing wasn’t going to solve anything. He was helping to take out part of the problem but wasn’t solving the problem. I liked that this distinction was made.

I liked too that Citra seemed to come into her own in this book. We saw her decide to give her targets time to get their affairs in order. We saw her take great respect in taking a life. I liked how she was understanding enough to do what needed to be done while also still having the fighting spirit when necessary. I think her character plays well against Rowan’s character.

I also really enjoyed the addition of the Thunderhead as a sentient character. In the first book it was just a concept but in this one the in-between portions gave the Thunderhead a personality. I found myself feeling bad for it. It just wants to help the world. It wants to save humanity and yet it isn’t all powerful. I liked that it got frustrated and upset while, making it feel very human.

I am very curious how its character will develop in the next book. I can see it really becoming human like which will be interesting. The storyline of AI becoming human has been done many times before but I am still very interested to see where this one goes.

I also really enjoyed the ending, while the middle again felt a little slow the ending threw everything out the window. I have zero idea how this is going to play out. I am very curious where the story will go. How much time will pass and how this will all end?

What I was just okay with
I am still not a fan of the romance between Citra and Rowan. It is still feeling forced to me. I think a lot of times authors feel like YA books have to have a romance storyline but that isn’t always true.

These two feel very much to me like best friends. They care about each other but there is no real romantic feelings between them. I want to see them bond as friends who will go to any lengths to protect each other. I want to see them center their relationship on their shared experience and their shared desire to bring respect to death. I don’t need to see them try to find a way to be romantically involved, that would change the direction of the story which would hurt the story I think.

What I Wished was Different_

There was nothing that I really found out of bounds or threw me out of the story. I enjoyed the pacing. I enjoyed the story itself. I enjoyed the characters. I am eager to see where the story goes from here.

I gave this four of five stars on Goodreads. I loved the continuation of the story. I enjoyed seeing the characters evolve and loved the ending. I just hope this doesn’t swerve into a romance story.

Copy of What I was just okay with
“Did people miss the dizzy extremes of imagination as they lived their endless, uninspired lives?” (pg. 15)

“Simply put, humanity had a need to be bad. ” (pg. 99)

“While freedom gives rise to growth and enlightenment, permission allows evil to flourish in a light of day that would otherwise destroy it.” (pg. 176)

“Faith is an unfortunate casualty of immortality.” (pg. 241)

“….finding an easy scapegoat for complicated problems had been a human pastime since the first mob of cavemen struck someone down with a rock.” (pg. 326)

 

 

Scythe – Neal Shusterman – Review

28954189Death has been conquered. You hit your head on the sidewalk, fall off a building or end up in a car crash and you are taken to a revival center. You body is mended and you are able to live your life again. Humans are immortal.

Death has been conquered but the world is not perfect. The population has to be controlled, a job left to an elite group known as Scythes. They are charged with “gleaning” or killing people in order to keep the world’s population under control.

The Scythedom appears like a well oiled machine on the outside but on the inside it is falling apart. Something that two new apprentices Citra and Rowan begin to learn quickly. They can become masters of death but is that something they want? What does it mean to be the one that controls if people live or die? What does that do to a person? Can you keep your moral heart and do this job?

What I Loved_-4

The concept of death being conquered is what drew me to this story. I loved the idea of a story that centers around reapers or scythes. This group is not one that you find in stories very often and I was eager to find out how this concept was interpreted.

I thought the idea of no one dying and what that means for the people was really interesting. It is pointed out numerous times that without the fear of death and an end to life, people have become complacent. They just live to live. They don’t work towards anything. They know they have literally eternity and no one really strives to make anything of themselves. They are all alive to be alive.

There are no more issues to conquer. There is no hunger, no war, no real crime and no death. All of life is controlled by an AI called the Thunderhead. Life is literally perfect and simple. But without anything new to discover and no problems to conquer what does life mean then? What do you do when you can’t change anything? What do you do when your job is to just keep you from being bored? What does life mean in this world? I loved exploring that concept.

I also really enjoyed Citra and Rowan’s journey’s. In this book Rowan stood out to me more than Citra did. I think it was because Rowan was thrown into a situation where he had to find a way to keep the good side of him alive. I really enjoyed watching him struggle between two sides of himself.

Rowan gets caught up with a group of Scythes that love to kill. They enjoy bringing death to people. In our world they would be classified as Sociopaths. They show no care or remorse for their actions. They take in Rowan and we watch as he struggles to not become them though that is not an easy task.

For a character who has always felt invisible or like “lettuce” as he puts it, he finds his new role enticing. There is power at his fingertips. There is meaning to his actions. People notice him. He is caught up in that feeling at times and we watch him struggle to keep himself from falling down a wormhole. I love watching characters struggle with their darker sides.

At first I thought I had an idea of what this story was going to be about. These two apprentices coming to terms with their new roles and then fighting to right any wrongs. It had some of that but there were some serious twists throughout the story. I actually found myself shocked at points. Any book that can throw me for a loop is one that I will enjoy.

What I was just okay with
There was a middle chunk where Citra was running away, for a reason that I won’t state to no spoil anything, that I thought was not necessary. It was there more to give her something to do while Rowan was completing a part of his story. It was also an update on another character.

I thought it felt like it was just there to buy time. There was no real consequences of the whole ordeal other than some character development. For the plot thought it really didn’t do to much. I think there are other ways for those moments to happen without needless running around.

I also had a little issue with how resolute Scythe Curie was about Rowan having turned dark while he was with his tutor. She was firm that he was not on their side anymore and that Citra could not trust him. I thought that seemed harsh. They didn’t even talk to Rowan at first. It was a decision made quickly without thinking about why he did what he did.

I think Curie’s character was smarter and could have seen that some of the things Rowan did was to save himself and Citra. I just felt like her character was not the right character to have this doubt. It just didn’t fit with what we knew about her.

What I Wished was Different_
The only true issue I had with the book was the romance aspect. I did not feel any chemistry between Citra and Rowan. I thought of them more as best friends. There was no reason for them to have a romance storyline. I think it would have been better to keep them as close friends and nothing more.

 
I highly enjoyed this book and went out at ten o’clock to Target to get the next one to continue the story. I ended up giving it four stars on Goodreads. It is a fun story about what life and death mean in this “perfect” world.

Copy of What I was just okay with
“So then, if we are no longer human, what are we?” (pg. 110)

“The sanctity of the law… and the wisdom to know when it must be broken.” (pg. 114)

“Immortality has turned us all into cartoons.” (pg. 191)

“Without the threat of suffering, we can’t experience true joy. The best we get is pleasantness.” (pg. 244)

“My greatest wish for humanity is not for peace of comfort or joy. It is that we all still die a little inside every time we witness the death of another. For only the pain of empathy will keep us human. There’s no version of God that can help us if we were lose that.” (pg. 386)

A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness – Review

8621462Connor’s life is in turmoil. Everyday is uncertain and he is beginning to become lost inside his world. He is expecting one type of monster to rampage through his life but ends up with a much different one. This one tells him he will tell him three stories in exchange for Connor telling him one.

Connor is apprehensive, not knowing what to expect from this new force in his life. As he hears each story he realizes how to deal with another part of his world. A world that is slowly crumbling and not even a monster can stop it.

 

What I Loved_-4
I have heard about this book for a while. It was recently made into a movie and that sparked my interest further into reading it. I knew the atmosphere of the story.  I knew that Connor was dealing with his mother being sick and her inevitable death. I also knew that this was going to be a  tough one to read and I was not wrong.

The atmosphere of this book is somber and haunting. I felt like I was almost in a fog while reading it. I felt his somber air hang over me as I went through the story. Connor is trying to deal with his mother’s illness, his grandmother stepping into his life, his father stepping father away from his life and the rest of those around him tip-toeing around his every move. He is lost in a  fog of his own, trying to figure out what life will be like and I fell right into that same pit.

I knew where the story was going from the very beginning. You know that his mother is not going to beat her cancer. We know this is a story about dealing with that pain. I thought it was interesting how the monster tied into all of it.

The monster is a manifestation of all of Connor’s fear and frustrations. Each one of the stories is about him dealing with a piece of his life. Whether that is his grandmother and how he relates to her. Or his anger at the situation he finds himself in or the invisible feeling he has to those around him at his school.

I loved the way the stories were used to explore these ideas. One of the reasons I love books and stories so much is because they give us a way to see situations and the world around us in a new way. We get a chance to come to terms with things that can hurt or harm us. We come to term with ideas or feelings that are building up and that we can’t necessarily explain in a concise way. The monster’s stories did that for Connor. Gave him a way to deal with things he couldn’t otherwise deal with.

I also found the parts of Connor at school and how he is treated at school interesting. While he is at school his teachers and other students kind of treat him as if he is untouchable. They are all afraid of doing anything to him because they don’t want to hurt him. In the end they are shunning him, making him feel even more disconnected from the world that he already is.

I thought the way this idea was explored was done well. By trying to help they were actually hurting him worse because they left him no one to turn to. They didn’t want to upset him and yet gave him no one and nowhere to vent his frustrations and pain.

I also liked the addition of the pictures in this version as well. I thought the pictures really enhanced the story itself. They kept the atmosphere darker and most somber. It also helped me visualize the monster better.

What I was just okay with
I wasn’t a huge fan of the father’s character, which I don’t think we were supposed to be. I found it hard to believe that he would not try to be there more for his son. His son’s mother is dying and going to leave this kid all alone and he was barely there for him. He seemed more concerned about his other life while Connor was just a side issue.

Personally that bugged me because I have parents for who we (their children) are  their whole world and I could never see either of them doing that. I thought it made the father shallow but then again it did enhance the grandmother’s character. We saw how caring she was. When you juxtapose the two of them you definitely come out rooting for the grandmother and are thankful for her taking care of Connor.

What I Wished was Different_
I can’t think of anything that stood out as a real issue for me. The story flowed well. I understood what each of the stories were about and how they connected to the rest the situations at hand. I liked the metaphor of the yew tree and the monster itself. It was  quick read that was emotional, poignant and powerful.

I gave this one 5 stars on Goodreads. It was an emotional story that was told well and did the story matter justice.

Copy of What I was just okay with
“Stories are the wildest things of all. […] Stories chase and bite and hunt.” (pg. 35)

“Storis are wild creatures. […] When you let them lose, who know what havoc they might wreak?” (pg. 51)

“Belief is half of all healing. Belief in the cure, belief in the future that awaits.” (pg. 109).

“Stories are important. […] They can be more important than anything. If they carry the truth.” (pg. 141)

The Raven King – Maggie Stiefvater – Review

51LlOUzjzYL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThe end of the search for Glendower is here. All that Gansey and his friends have been  searching for will reveal itself. Will they get their one favor? Will the prophecy about Blue and her true love come to pass? What will become of Cabeswater? More importantly who will everyone be after this adventure is over?

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I Loved_-4

The character development in this series was fantastic. I fell in love with Ronan, Adam, Gansey, Blue and Noah in the first book. The way they grew throughout the story was great. They all started out as pretty simple people but they gained more and more depth throughout the story.

This series is a character story. There is mystery, adventure and romance but none of those trump the character’s journeys. Each one of them find themselves throughout this hunt for Glendower. They all find their strengths and weakness. They learn who they are as individuals and as a group.

I think one of my favorite parts of this story was how each one of them learned that they can be individuals as well as a member of this friendship group. I think that was most evident in Adam. He was so desperate to be his own person he pushed people away. He thought any help was only going to make him feel weaker. We saw him learn how he can stand on his own two feet, as with his power over Cabeswater but he also needed the support of his friends. They were what kept him grounded and whole.

Gansey’s growth was interesting because we saw  how in the beginning it was all about him finding Glendower and taking care of his friends. As the story moved forward we saw him question his long time need to find the sleeping king. We saw him come to terms with the fact that he can’t live his friends lives. He had to let them make their own choices. He can support them but he can’t force them to be anyone they are not.

Ronan as my favorite throughout the series. He was so rough at the start but we learned quickly why he was that way. He slowly began to open up and let others help him. I liked seeing him getting control over his dream power and seeing him use it help. I am eager to see how he continues to grow in his own trilogy.

Blue was great as well. She was separate in the start of the series. She was the odd one out and she pretended to be okay with that. I enjoyed watching her open up, accept who she was and find people who accepted her. She gained more confidence and it was great to see that journey.

I also loved the slow burn romance in this book. I spoke about Gansey’s and Blue’s in the last review. It continued to spark in this one. Again there was no huge revelation or anything, it was just as if it was another character. It grew and we saw it become part of who they were as characters. It was natural and gentle and I liked that.

The other romance in this story (which I won’t mention to avoid spoilers) was great as well. It was built up over time and again so subtle yet powerful. There was no hesitation about it either. It was accepted and taken forward. It felt as if it was always meant to happen and I loved it.

What I was just okay with

I am not sure what I thought about the ending itself. It was very tough to follow and for me it left me wondering what exactly happened. I got the main points of it but it felt vague. I liked it because it fit the story. The story itself was vague and not detail heavy.

I had a bit of an issue with it just because I was expecting a bit more. I wanted a few more answers form the ending. I got some but not as many as I initially wanted. I think I would have been more upset over it if it wasn’t for the way all the character turned out.

I mentioned in my review for the first book that if I didn’t love the characters so much I probably would have disliked the plot. That same thought goes for the ending as well. I was satisfied with where everyone ended up. I didn’t get held up on the ending as much as I am sure I would have in a different book with different characters.

What I Wished was Different_

My only major issue with this book was Henry. What was the point of him exactly? The talk he has with Gansey could have happened with anyone. He appears, becomes fast friends with Gansey and that is it.

His robobee invention helped but I am sure there could have been a different way of dealing with that problem. Or Henry himself could have been introduced earlier in the series. I liked him but he felt unneeded. I think if we had gotten him earlier he could have grown like everyone else and that would have been interesting to see.

Also we kind of lost the women of Fox Way in this story. I wanted a more satisfying resolution to them. I liked their involvement in the other books but I think they got pushed to the side of the ending. I think they could have been utilized and made the ending a bit more dynamic.

I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads. I found it a great end to the characters. I do wish the plot ending was a bit tighter.

Copy of What I was just okay with

“It’s not always running away…..to leave.” (pg. 79)

“It was easier to tell hero from villain when the stakes were only life and death. Everything is between gets harder.” (pg. 121)

“If you can’t be unafraid…..be afraid and happy.” (pg. 210)

“I stopped asking how. I just did it. The head is too wise. The heart is all fine.” (pg. 338)

Origin- Dan Brown – Review

OriginLangdon is called to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain for a special presentation by a former student and good friend of his, Edmond Kirsch. A presentation that is heralded to change the way the world thinks. It promises to answer the questions, “Where did we come from?” and “Where are we going?”.

Before he can make his announcement Edmond is killed. It is  up to Langdon and the museum director Ambra to find a way to release the presentation to the world. They are not alone though, there are those who will stop at nothing to make sure the revelations of this presentation never see the light of day.

What I Loved_-4

I liked the character of Winston. I enjoyed the way the AI seemed so human. I forgot more than once that he wasn’t a real person. I enjoyed the play between him and Langdon. I thought it was an interesting touch to the story.

I wanted to see him involved more. I felt like there was potential for Winston to play a much bigger part in this story. I did like the reveal at the end that involved him, that was a fun twist. Though it wasn’t an unexpected one.

I also found the “Where did we come from?” question’s answer interesting. I have heard theories about that question and this was a different take on it. I felt like this could have been the whole presentation and that would have been perfectly fine. I thought it provided enough shock value to move the story and justify the other events of the book. It tied into the region theme well.

What I was just okay with

(Spoiler for the presentation at the end of the story.)

I wasn’t thrilled with the second part of the presentation. The answer to the question of “Where are we going?” was very anticlimactic. I saw that coming from a mile away.  How many times have we heard that technology is going to consume us and destroy human life as we know it? Probably about a 1000. It is on the TV all the time. There are always new studies about it. We hear numerous doctors talking about the danger of screen time. There was nothing new or astounding about this revelation.

He used a computer to run a simulation about the timeline of this takeover. Anyone could do that without a computer. It takes half a minute to see where technology is going. I was not shocked at all by this aspect.

I didn’t understand why people were scared by it in the story. Is this world different then our own? Have they also not read the studies or heard the news stories? Do they not live with the people who are constantly talking about how much worse this generation is because of technology? (Something I firmly believe is over-exaggerated).
Why is this new information? Why did it affect the world at all?

If I had seen that presentation the first part would have intrigued me. I would have probably shut off the announcement at the second part. I have heard it, not going to change anything and moving on.

I also kind of understood why Langdon wanted to get Edmond’s presentation out the world. He was a good friend and he trusted the man. But I still wondered why he didn’t at least preview it before posting it to the world. Edmond was killed because of it. Don’t you think you may want to know what you are responsible for letting out to the general public? He could have been calling for the extermination of a race and Langdon would have had to bear the guilt of hurting people. I just thought it was odd to see him trust the man so much.

What I Wished was Different_
I have read all the Langdon series books. I loved Angels and Demons and Da Vinci Code. I thought both of those were different. They were fast paced, had intriguing plots and fascinating ties into history and art. This one has little to none of that.

I read Da Vinci Code because of the tie into art. I loved how there were hints and symbols in famous paintings. I actually was in Italy and France and found some of the pieces mentioned. I thought it was fascinating to see the different interpretations of these famous paintings and sculptures.

This one had a little history about places in Spain and William Blake but nothing significant and nothing that tied the plot together. None of the happenings truly hinged on the clues in history or literature or art. All of it felt very surface level. It felt flat compared to what I have read from him before.

I wanted the fast pace as well. I am used to seeing Langdon and his companion running around searching for clues. They always have someone on their tale and always are just lucky enough to escape. They go around whole countries and many times across other countries. They are always running.

This one felt like they were barely running. There never felt like there any real threat to them. Even when they encountered the main villain, it was a short fight with no satisfying resolution. It all felt too easy.

This books was also way too long. You could have cut about 2/3 of it out . There was so much repetition that it started driving me insane. We did not need to be told who someone was ten times. We are literally told that Monica Martin is the PR Coordinator for the palace every time she appears. After the fourth time I was getting angry. I know who she is, you told me already. There is no reason to repeat it over and over and over again. You have to trust the reader to pay attention. There is no reason to repeat details unless they are going to drive the plot forward somehow.

I gave this book 2 stars on Goodreads. I finished it because I just wanted to get to the end. I hoped it would get better but it never did. I hope that Dan Brown gets out of this form like writing he has fallen into and one day gives us a completely new and different story.

Copy of What I was just okay with

“Well, science and religion are not competitors, they’re two different languages trying to tell the same story. There’s room in the world for both.” (pg. 14)  ( I think if this had been more central to the plot the story would have been so much better.)

“But uncertainty is always a precursor to sweeping change; transformation is always preceded by upheaval and fear. I urge you to place your faith in human capacity for creativity and love, because these two forces, when combined, possess the power to illuminate any darkness.” (pg. 412).

“Sometimes all you have to do is shift your perspective to see someone else’s truth.” (pg. 437)

The Hearts We Sold – Emily Lloyd-Jones – Review

34538054Need a new house? Want an old lover back in your arms? Want to become a singer or actor? Need money, a good grade or new car? Simple, make a deal with a demon and you can have whatever you want. Of course, there is a catch. You will be asked to give up your arm, leg, hand or if you are really unlucky your heart.

Dee is a teenager whose life is complicated. She goes to a private school that is her safe place. Here she is safe from her alcoholic parents and her emotionally abusive father. Here she can try to find her way in life. Then she finds out her scholarship is ending and she is left with no choice but to make a deal. She has to stay in school and thus she gives up her heart.

She loses her heart for a short period of time and learns what is means to exist without it. She learns that something more is going on with those she joins called the “heartless.”. She also meets a strange boy who she finds stealing what has already been taken from her. In the end Dee has to find what courage means and what she wants out of life.

What I loved:

Dee was a great character. She was much deeper than I originally thought she would be. I had no idea what this story was truly going to be about. I thought it would be more about learning to love without a heart and what that could mean. In the end it was about Dee finding courage in herself.

Dee is a character that has been stepped on and downtrodden for a long time. Her father is emotionally abusive and she hides at her school. She wants her mom to help her but her mom has taken to alcohol to help her deal with their reality. In the end Dee has to find her own courage. She has to find a way to stand on her own two feet. I liked the progression of her journey.

Dee becomes stronger in a very real way. She faces the trials around herself and she finds how she can fight. She starts unsure of herself and then starts to find that her opinion matters.

I also really liked James’s character. At first her seemed like a punk and I thought he was going to be a one-note character. Early though we realize there is something else to him. He has his own issues and wants. His character didn’t grow as much as evolve. I started with one opinion of him and ended with a completely different thought about him. I felt his journey was more of an evolution for the reader than for his character specifically.

I also loved the ending. I won’t go into detail as to not spoil it, but it was the ending the book deserved. Too many times these YA love stories can have a neat and unrealistic ending. This book ended as it should have ended. It felt right and left things in a encouraging place.

What I was just okay with:

All of the “heartless” characters, literally have no heart. They can’t feel their heats. It is gone but I felt like we didn’t see any real consequences of that. Dee talked about not feeling her heartbeat and not hearing it in her ears. Nothing more though. There was little to no discussion what is meant to live without a heart.

The story was more about the demon’s mission and why he created heartless when no one else would. I liked the story but I wished we could have had more about what living without a heart meant. Do you feel love the same? Is that a brain thing or does that come from the physical heart? Can you die in the normal sense of the word? Are you actually living if your heart isn’t beating? These are things I wished we would have explored more in the story.

What I wished was different:

I enjoyed the story but some of the writing threw me out of the story. The writing was very repetitive at times. The author would state that Dee was sending a text message, give us the body of the text and then end the paragraph with, “she texted.” We know she texted, she was just texting!

Or there was a part later in the book where we are told Dee has a backpack on. Then we are told that same thing about four more times throughout the next few paragraphs. The backpack never moved or did anything, it was just in her character description over and over again.

Description is good but there is no need to say the same thing over and over again. You have to trust the readers to pay attention and pick up on what is happening with a character. If an object moves and becomes important than mentioning it again is fine. If she gets interrupted while texting and then goes back to texting mentioning it again is fine. But if nothing changes, then it throws the reader out of the story. I felt myself getting a bit irritated at times because of this element.

 

The story was fast paced with a well-paced love story. The story came to a satisfying conclusion. I had fun reading it and I was glad it came in the book subscription box. In the end I gave it 3.5 stars on Goodreads.

Quotes:

“You get what you asked for.” – pg. 46

“….I like to think that I was the one who made the choices that brought me to this moment.” (pg. 128)

“I just want to matter.” (pg. 162).

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue – Mackenzie Lee – Review

518zN4ZSZiL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Monty is a rich aristocrat. He sets off on a tour of the continent with his best friend Percy and his sister, Felicity. He is ready to see the world and have an adventure. He is eager to spend a year closer to Percy, his secret crush. He has plans, all which go to hell when he steals something that makes them a target. Their tour becomes a run for their lives adventure. Along the way Monty learns a few things about himself, life and love.

What I loved:
This book was fun. It was fast paced and full of adventure. Once it got moving, it flew right by. Things never quite slowed down, which made it a quick read. I like when there is little time to sit around. Sometimes in these stories there can be a point in the middle where the characters meander around trying to figure out what to do. Not true here. They moved from one point to another.

Monty was a great character. I knew from page one that I was going to love him. His attitude was hilarious and I loved how it was juxtaposed to who he was SUPPOSED to be. He was raised with money and prestige but he was the playboy who wanted none of it. He just wants to have fun and the way he talks and jokes makes that obvious. I liked his sense of humor and his sarcasm. I love a good sarcastic character and Monty met that.

Monty was an interesting character because we saw how flawed he was from the very beginning. Monty was trying to escape the abusive home he found himself in. He was trying to find his own place. He had no say in his life and we watch him find a way to gain control over things.

Monty grew in a very obvious way in this story. He started off as a seemingly selfish character. He doesn’t seem to care about anyone else, other than Percy. We learn quickly that that is just a facade he puts up. He KNOWS his is flawed and I loved that. I loved how self aware his character was. That can be hard to write sometimes.

I also really liked his relationship with Percy. I thought this would be a book where the love interest was oblivious for much of the book. It turned out not to be true. We saw that the interest was there from the start but Monty’s character had to grow to make it work. I felt that it was much more real that way. It made it feel less stale and not cliche, which was nice.

I also thought the discussions around sexuality, race and women’s rights was interesting. This time period made it easy to talk about those issues. I liked how Lee was able to make connections that felt real to our time here and now. The talk about Monty not being able to not be attracted to men was poignant and important. Same with some of the realizations about race relations. I liked how it was all integrated into the story without making it feel like it didn’t belong there and was only to make a statement.

What I just okay with:

I enjoyed the overall plot. It was interesting and different. It was not what I expected but I was able to suspend disbelief about aspects without too much issue. The only real issue I had was with how convenient things were for the group.

There was no wrong turns or dead ends. They ended up right where they needed to be right away. If they needed information it was right there. There was no challenge to the plot. Things just worked out exactly as they needed them to.

Sometimes there are too many obstacles for a group. It can seem like no matter what they are never going to get where they need to go. This went the opposite direction and left little in the way. It was almost as if they just kept walking to each new plot point without an issue. I wanted a bit more challenge for them.

What I wished was different:

I loved Percy’s character but I felt like much of the time he was just there as Monty’s love interest. He was Monty’s foil and I do like that he played off Monty’s character. I just wished we knew more about him. We got a handful of details but not really enough to flesh him out.

I wanted to feel a greater connection to him. I think without Monty I wouldn’t have cared that much about Percy.

I gave this one four out of five stars on Goodreads. It was fun and thrilling, had some great characters and great lines. I just wish it had a bit more detail to some of the characters and storyline.

Quotes:

“Perhaps this is what the Grand Tour is meant to do – show me the way other people live, in lives that are not like my own. It’s a strange feeling, realizing that other people you don’t know have their own full lives that don’t touch yours.” (pg. 168)

“It is meant to symbolize that things can be more beautiful for having been broken.” (pg. 184).

“Which still doesn’t entirely make sense to me- perhaps it can’t.” (pg. 396) (End of a very interesting discussion on race and race relations).

“It was never a barrier until I knew, so it’s not something wrong with him.” (pg. 423). (Interesting discussion on medical issues and handicaps and the view people have about them.)

The Everything Box – Richard Kadrey – Review

25989974In 2000 B.C. an angel is set to end the world. He reaches into his pocket only to find the device is gone. The world won’t be ending on that day.

Fast forward to 2015 and we meet Coop. He is a pretty decent thief, except for he has been caught. He is facing jail or working with special client to retrieve a mysterious box. In the process of trying to find the box he becomes entangled with the Department of Peculiar Science. They tell him the box is not just a trinket container, it is a doomsday box. It will destroy the world. Coop is set on finding it, and meets just about everyone else who is out to get the box as well. No one is qualified for this search and things start falling apart more and more as time goes on. It becomes pretty plain that starting the apocalypse is not an easy task.

What I liked:
This book was just plain fun. The humor was great, the running around in circles was entertaining. I love a book that is just pure fun. It felt like a sitcom to me. One person would get the box and then lose it to someone else. Each time we were introduced a new cast of characters that were more ridiculous then the last group. I laughed over and over again as I read this story.

The characters were also so much fun. Coop’s sarcasm was on point. I love a good sarcastic character. Coop had an attitude and it fit well with the story. It wasn’t out of place. It helped extend the humor of the book.

I enjoyed the “cults” as well. I loved how they were introduced as these groups who were demon worshippers but then held bake sales. This juxtaposition between the two ideas was great. It fit right in with the ridiculous feeling of the story. They were all bumbling idiots and you would never picture them being able to summon a demon or end the world.

Sometimes you need a book that is just ridiculous. It doesn’t teach you any lessons or make you rethink the world. It is just fun. You just read it to laugh and feel relaxed from the rest of the world.

What I just was okay with:
While I highly enjoyed the back and forth pace of the book I do wish there had been just a bit more to the plot. The entire point of the plot was to run around trying to get this box, lose it and meet another group that was after it. I think by the middle if somehow the groups had banded together or there had been another revelation it would have elevated the plot a bit more. I like things a bit more complicated.

This story literally made use of every type of magic you could imagine. Not only were there demons and angels, but you had wizards, werewolves and vampires. Then there were ghosts and magic spells on top of all of that. While this was fun, I felt like it was a lot at one time. It was like throwing everything in and seeing what happened. The story might have benefitted from picking only a handful of magical elements and focusing on those.

What I wished was different:

I can’t think of anything that was outright annoying or that I disliked. This wasn’t a complicated, life altering tale but it was fun and that is exactly what I wanted from it.

I gave this four stars on Goodreads. It is not going to change your life. It is going to provide an escape from life. It is fun and has great humor. Life won’t change but it will lighten the mood for a bit.

Link on Goodreads and Amazon.

The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein – Review

51aqyzJkv1L._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Denny’s dream has always been to be a champion racer. His dog Enzo has been by his side since he was a puppy. They have built a strong, unbreakable bond. A bond that is desperately needed as Denny’s life begins to unravel around him. Life is complicated but seems a bit more understandable and bearable when seen through the unique eyes of man’s best friend.

What I loved:
A book told from a dog’s POV; that had me hooked from the very start. This is actually a book I have been meaning to read for ages now. My aunt got it for Christmas from my cousin and I borrowed it from her.

I lovd Enzo. His insight into human behavior is interesting. He sees things we can’t see. He sense things we can’t sense and he understands the world around him much better than I initially imagined he would. I thought he would have a goofy sense of the world.

I always imagine a dog having a childish perspective of the world. Enzo had a much more mature voice. Enzo learned from his environment and he made observations based off what he learned. Enzo was smart.

I loved how we see the connection between man and dog from the dog. If you have had a pet you know the deep connection that can exist between a person and their furry friend. We have numerous stories about how a dog has helped someone make it through the toughest time in their lives. In this story we got to see how a dog manages to be that support system.

The look at the universe  and life was refreshing. Even with all the things that Denny had to go through, Enzo still held hope. He had Denny’s best interest at heart and he was not going to let anyone do anything to take that away from him. I loved some of the ways he had to help Denny see reason or make a decision. Seeing how he got his “voice” heard was great.

The end made me cry. I don’t cry easily and those last few pages hit home in a major way for me. It was uplifting and satisfying. It felt perfect. As someone who has a deep connection with a pet, I appreciated the sentiment at the end.

What I was just okay with:

While I loved Enzo and his voice I had a serious issue with the way the plot played out. It was just very aggravating to me. Everything that happened to Denny wasn’t his fault. He had no control, he was a victim of circumstance and crappy people.

Particularly the “Evil Twins,” made me want to hit someone. It wasn’t bad writing or anything it was just those circumstances and type of people infuriate me. I wanted the book to end because I just couldn’t read about their horrible way of behaving anymore. It was a sign of great writing that I emphasized with Denny so much and hated some of the other characters. I just get annoyed quick with that kind of storyline though.

What I wish was different:
There was one minor scene that really bugged me. When Enzo is taken to stay with Denny’s friend Mike, he introduced to Tony as well. When Enzo meets him he refers to Tony as Mike’s “wife.” From this description I understood as them being a couple.

This may just me being sensitive but I didn’t like Tony being referred to as a “wife.” Enzo is a smart dog. He understands racing in all its terms, he understands the legal system and can sense sickness. So I don’t understand why he would think of Tony as a “wife.” He could have easily observed him being close to Mike, think they are together, and say something like “He is acting like Eve does to Denny, as if he was his wife. But he is a man, so I guess that would make him his husband? Can a man be another man’s husband? I don’t know, I haven’t seen that before. But nevertheless this is where I find myself right now.”

Sometime simple like that. Observe that it is different than what he knows, apply language he already understands in a new sense and move on. It is only one scene but it still prickled me a bit. I have a brother who is gay and that may be why it annoyed me. I wouldn’t want him or his boyfriend be stereotyped that way. It wasn’t enough to make me stop reading but it did throw me off during that chapter.

 

All in all this was a sweet, heartwarming book. I enjoyed it. I liked seeing life from Enzo’s point of view. I had an issue with the harsh nature of the plot line but that did solidify the significance of Enzo and his role in Denny’s life. I gave it four stars on Goodreads and would definitely recommend it.

Quotes:

“Because memory is time folding back on itself. To remember is to disengage from the present.” (pg. 11)

“Be it through intention or ignorance, our success and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves.” (pg. 43)

“Learn to listen! I beg of you. Pretend you are a dog like me and listen to other people rather than steal their stories.” (pg. 102)

“The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles – preferable of his own makings – in order to triumph. (pg. 135)

 

Link to find it on:  GoodreadsAmazon

%d bloggers like this: