Showing posts with label Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reviews. Show all posts

Thursday, January 18, 2018

#TBT Review: Zarox


In order to catch up from reviews I didn't complete last year, I'm going to start doing #tbt reviews every other Thursday, as there were a lot of books that I didn't get to. I believe these books still need reviews, so to start, I'm reviewing Zarox, a book I received from Louis Smith on Instagram. 

On a dare, four kids decide to go to the creepy Churn Zone at night, proving that they are each adventurous and brave. But the unthinkable happens while they're there: they're transported to another world, called Zarox. In Zarox, they're the only ones that can save the world from the Glothers. Supported by Rotlier, the wizard Lupar, and the Book of Zarox, the children are off on a magical adventure that they're not likely to forget.

The beginning was a bit of a rocky start for Zarox, as we're thrown into the world much like the main characters without a clue of what's happening. But once you get into the story and the children start their training to save the world, you're much more able to transition into the world of Zarox. And what a magical world it is.

One of my favorite things about this book was the uniqueness of the world. While some of the plot points were familiar, the world of Zarox felt unique to me. This could especially be seen with the different characters that the author created, like the Glothers and Rotlier. Once we get a sense of these characters, it's easy to fall into the world Smith has created. It's magical and fast paced, and you'll hand on until the very end.

Overall, between the characters and the unique world, this is a middle grade fantasy that stands out from the rest. It's a fun, enjoyable read that you'll not want to put down until the very end.

4/5 stars

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Review: The Raven King

"He was a book, and he was holding his final pages, and he wanted to get to the end to find out how it went, and he didn't want it to be over." 
-Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven King

In the last book in the Raven Cycle, Blue and the Raven Boys are getting closer and closer to finding Glendower as a darkness starts to takeover Cabeswater. Their interference with the ley line has expanded to the town of Henrietta, and each is as desperate as the other to save the life of Gansey, Blue's true love and in mortal danger. By the end of the series, so many different stories are intertwined that it's difficult to tell who's the real hero of the story.

Oh my goodness. Where to even begin with this series? This past month has been my foray back into Maggie Stiefvater's work, and I forgot how absolutely lyrical her writing is. She's often given the title "Master Storyteller" and for good reason. Every single one of her books is woven so smoothly together, giving the reader all of the right pieces at the right time, inserting a magical quality that's entirely believable. If you haven't read any of her work, I highly recommend it.

One thing I specifically like about this final book in the series was the way that you could see the development in the characters. Blue, Gansey, Ronan, and Adam all bear marks of their journey toward finding Glendower, and by the end, they're all trying their best to save Gansey. Always Gansey. Ronan was probably my most favorite character (check out my playlist for him!), just because he put up such a hard shell, but you knew he would do anything for the people that he loved. Absolutely anything. The well-developed characters help to flesh out the emotions that emanate from the book, the emotions that draw you into the story and won't let you go until it's over.

The structure of the plot will have you on the edge of your seat until the very last breath of this story. Stiefvater expertly shifts between characters throughout the text, showing how the darkness seeps into each aspect of the story. Stiefvater's plot is poetic and original, living through the complex characters she creates. Overall, a fantastic ending to a well-crafted series.

5/5 stars 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Review: Nemesis

"The world might be about to end, but what did I care? My world ended all the time." 
-Brendan Reichs, Nemesis

Since she was eight-years-old, Min has been murdered on all of her even birthdays, just to wake up again in a forest clearing completely unharmed. No matter what she does to stop it, the black suited man comes to murder her without fail. Noah has also struggled with nightmares of death and destruction, until a shocking discovery turns his world upside down. Everyone he trusted has been lying to him. As the Anvil, a giant asteroid threatening Earth, looms closer, Min and Noah realize everything is more connected than they could possibly imagine. Min vows to figure out the conspiracy at the center of their town before it costs more people their lives.

I'll start with this: the premise of this book is fascinating, the first third to a half of the book easily pulls you into the world of Min, Noah, and Fire Lake, Idaho. You're in the dark, much like Min is, and you desperately want to figure out why she has to go through these gruesome murders. Events are unfolded at just the right pace to get you interested in the conspiracy at the center of the town, and whether or not the world is actually going to end. 

Once I got to about the halfway point, the book started to get a bit repetitive for me. Min and Noah just kept asking why, without getting any real answers until the very last 50 or so pages. While Reichs keeps up the action between the middle and the end, peppered with a few twists that will keep you hooked in the story of Min and Noah (and Tack), I eventually just wanted to know what was happening. And by the end, I still didn't have any clear answers, meaning that I'll have to pick up the second book when it comes out in March. Maybe I should have just waited until they were both out to read them!

The other thing that bothered me about the plot of the novel was that it wasn't quite believable to me. Most dystopian texts that I read seem to based in reality, expanding on a social flaw or societal fear. This one seemed a bit far-fetched. In turn, this made the plot seem a little disjointed by the end. I was left a little disappointed, but there's hope that this can be changed with the sequel.

Overall, if you're looking for a fast paced book with a lot of twists and turns, the action in Nemesis doesn't disappoint. Brendan Reichs has left enough intrigue to make me want to pick up the sequel when it comes out in March.

3/5 stars

Friday, December 8, 2017

Review: Girl in Pieces

"That's how hearts get broken, you know. When you believe in promises."
-Kathleen Glasgow, Girl in Pieces

Charlie uses pain in order to forget all of the people that she's lost over time. Her father, to the river. Her best friend. Your mother. Each loss pushes Charlie further to the edge, so she learns how to forget. But as she starts to heal from her trauma, forgetting might push her back to where she began.

This is another book that I listened to on audio, and I think the story worked beautifully in that format. The narrator of the audiobook, Julia Whelan, gives a unique voice to Charlie, while still giving unique voices to the other characters. The subject matter didn't make this the easier book to listen to, but it was still beautiful.

Cutting is a topic that is often covered in young adult literature, but this book felt the most realistic to me (of the ones that I've read). Glasgow has crafted realistic, flawed characters struggling through the act of recovery, struggling through their triggers. This is an important book for many teens to read because of how carefully Glasgow tackles the issue of mental illness, and how realistic it truly is for a lot of the teen population.

The author's note at the end of the book makes the book all the more personal, offering support to girls that may be in the same position. Though this book isn't plot heavy, the characters aptly make up for it. Each character has their own challenges to overcome, but they're not defined by their mental illnesses, which is so important for the book's readers. 

The combination of the characters and the delicacy with which the issues are tackled makes this one of the better young adult books on mental illness. I'd recommend also picking it up on audiobook, if you can. It's definitely worth a listen!

4.5/5 stars

Review: They Both Die at the End

"No matter how we choose to live, we both die at the end."
-Adam Silvera, They Both Die at the End

Both Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio receive a call from Death-Cast that tells them they're going to die today. They both download the Last Friend app, desperate for a friend on their last day. Together, they're able to conquer their fears and pack a bunch of new adventures into their last day on Earth.

Death was a theme in the books I read this summer, apparently. Adam Silvera is currently the king of writing emotionally devastating books, because every single book he's written makes you feel. He has a way of writing this book that gives you hope that maybe Mateo and Rufus will find a way to defy the Death-Cast call even though you know that that's probably not the case. This is an Adam Silvera book, after all. You often end the book with a lot of different emotions.

The characters in this book are so relatable and well-developed, with characteristics that I think many teens will be drawn to. What's interesting about this book, and connected it to More Happy Than Not, was that we get no explanation as to how we get this technology that predicts death, it's just there. And while that might be frustrating and confusing to some people, I think Silvera's writing allows us to just accept that there's this new technology, and new vocabulary, which allows us to focus on the characters and the story.

Adam Silvera's books are so emotionally driven, and I'll definitely keep reading everything that he puts out. None of his books have disappointed me so far, and I hope that continues to be the case in the future. A beautifully written story about living life to the fullest.

5/5 stars

Review: Scythe

"Hope in the shadow of fear is the world's most powerful motivator." 
-Neal Shusterman, Scythe

Humanity has cured every illness--including death. In order to continue to control the population, scythes are the only ones who can bring about death. The wield the most power in this new society, mimicking the nature of death in the best way they can. Rowan and Citra have been chosen to apprentice a scythe, a role that neither of them actually wanted. The apprenticeship quickly turns into a deadly competition, with both of their lives on the line.

The premise of this book was absolutely fascinating, and Shusterman did not disappoint with the plot. The plot took a different turn than I was expecting, and the detail that was put into the entire scythe community was fantastic. Shusterman did everything possible to mimic natural death with the introduction of scythes, and shows very different perspectives on the position: ones that do it for the power, and ones that do it because no one else will.

The multiple perspectives also help in the building of this post-modern world. There's an interesting moral question that sets itself in center of the novel that builds throughout the text, presenting itself differently in each of the scythes that narrates the story. Both Rowan and Citra find themselves thrown into this complex community, navigating it the best they can.

The romance aspect of the story wasn't completely necessary, as the story would have still functioned just as well without it. I was addicted to the story right from the beginning, reading almost the entire book in one sitting. As a fan of young adult dystopia, this book was new and refreshing and I can't want to read the next book in the series. I think more of the "bad" will be expanded on as the corruption within the scythe society is slowly reveal. Definitely a series to keep your eye on!

4.5/5 stars

Review: Our Dark Duet

"I'm willing to walk in the darkness if it keeps the humans in the light." 
-Victoria Schwab, Our Dark Duet

The monsters have taken over Verity. Kate hasn't stopped fighting them--August has finally decided to become one of them. In order to win the fight against the monsters, Kate has to return to Verity once more. To fight the new monster, the monster that feeds on fear and chaos, both Kate and August have to forget the past and create an alliance. But will it be enough to pull Verity into the light?

Schwab doesn't disappoint in this second book of the Monsters of Verity duology. She somehow makes the tone darker and grittier in this book than the first book, with both Kate and August battling demons that threaten to overtake them. The world of Verity is dark and menacing, and crafted beautifully.

One of the things that I absolutely loved about this series was that while there was definitely chemistry between Kate and August, it never evolved into a full-fledged relationship. It was mostly left to the reader's imagination, leaving Kate and August to fight the darkness of Verity together. Because the vast majority of young adult texts feature a romantic relationship of some sort, the lack of one in this story is a breath of fresh air. Not to mention each of their characters are beautifully constructed.

Overall, I'm glad that I received the first book, This Savage Song, in an Uppercase box. Schwab is not afraid to play with the emotions of her readers, gorgeously crafting a dark, twisty world, underscored by the light of hope. The plot is fast-paced, accented with new, unique monsters that haunt the night. If you're looking for a book that doesn't back down, this one is definitely for you.

5/5 stars

Friday, December 1, 2017

Review: One of Us Is Lying

"Some people are too toxic to live. They just are."
-Karen M. McManus, One of Us Is Lying

Five unlikely students go into detention: Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, Cooper, and Simon. Simon, the creator of the school's most popular gossip app, doesn't make it out alive. Word on the street is that the day after he died, he was going to post juicy secrets about each of his four fellow classmates in detention, secrets that would shatter each of their reputations. Their secrets make them suspects in his murder. Or are they being framed? As police dig more into Simon's death, one thing's for sure: who would go the furthest to protect their secret?

I listened to this book on audio, and I actually really enjoyed it in that format. There were four different speakers for each of the narrators, making it easy to tell who's story you were on. Listening to it on audio also helped to build the suspense--who really did it?

The suspense was built really well with the plot, intertwined with plot twists and red herrings that drew your attention away from who the real killer was. At the surface, the characters seem to be just portrayals of typical high school stereotypes: the nerd (Bronwyn), the popular girl (Addy), the bad boy (Nate), the jock (Cooper), and the outcast (Simon). But as we learn the secrets each character is hiding, we learn there's more to their story than meets the eye. McManus artfully reveals each of her characters while the suspense is unfolding.

McManus's book is a bit like a modern day Breakfast Club with a murder mystery thrown in. If you're a fan of the show Riverdale and are looking for a twisty, high school mystery, this is definitely the book for you.

4/5 stars

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Review: Middlesex

Middlesex cover

"Biology gives you a brain. Life turns it into a mind."
-Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

Calliope Stephanides has an intricate and complex family history, traveling from Mount Olympus in Greece to Detroit during the prohibition. The key to Calliope's identity is hidden deep within their family history, a secret that leads to a genetic defect that causes Calliope to question her own identity. Told in alternating narratives between the past and the present, readers get the full scope of Calliope's family history, and a deeper understanding of her transformation into Cal.

This is a book that has been on my to-read list for a long time, mostly because I've always been interested in gender analysis, and this book does fascinating things with gender. While it took me a bit to get into the story, once I started to see how everything was connected I couldn't put it down. The story was intricate and detailed, the family history finally unfolding into everything in the very end.

Not only was Calliope's/Cal's story extremely fascinating, but Eugenides is able to accurately capture the various time periods as well. They're described in immense detail, immersing the reader completely in the time period and the story. This is one of those books that makes you keep thinking once it's finished, and it is a wonderfully crafted piece of literature.

4.5/5 stars

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Review: More Than This

More Than This Patrick Ness

"A book...it's a world all on its own too. A world made of words where you live for a while."
-Patrick Ness, More Than This

Seth Wearing drowns in the cold ocean coast off of the state of Washington, alone. Suddenly, he's awake, desperately thirsty, but alive. But why? What is the place he has woken up in? As he struggles to figure out where he is, if it's real, hope starts to snake its way in. Hope that Seth hasn't felt in a long time.

All I can say about this book is wow. It's hard to provide a summary for it because doing so would give a lot of the plot away, but it's way more than you expect it to be. Like most Patrick Ness novels, this one transforms as you read it, pulling you into the story and not letting go until the very end. And then you don't even want it to end. Patrick Ness has quickly become one of my favorite YA authors because he has yet to disappoint.

The first thing that blew me away about this novel was Ness's description of Seth's drowning in the beginning. It feels so realistic, the small details all coming together to fully encompass the reader in Seth's death. And what a way to begin the novel. Man. The emotions started there and they never stopped coming. It's a commentary on perception and reality and makes you think and it's everything that I love in a novel.

All in all, this book was an intense emotional journey filled by a cast of vivid characters in an absolutely desolate setting that makes you question the difference between reality and perception. Ness delivers an absolutely strange story that despite its desolate setting presents an ultimate message of hope. Definitely a must-read.

5/5 stars

Friday, October 13, 2017

Review: The Forgetting

The Forgetting Cover
"The past is never really gone. It only lies in wait for you, remembered or forgotten."
-Sharon Cameron, The Forgetting

The Forgetting occurs every twelve years in Canaan, when everyone forgets friends, family, and memories--unless they're written down. Everyone, that is, except Nadia. As Nadia starts to use her memories in order to solve the mysteries at the heart of Canaan, she discovers truths that will alter the structure of Canaan forever. As the Forgetting looms nearer, Nadia and Gray must figure out how to stop the threats at work in the heart of the city, before everyone forgets.

The core idea behind this novel was so fascinating to me. It explores a lot about the importance and truth behind the written word and people's ability to manipulate the truth. At first, it seems like your typical dystopian novel; some event has happened and thrown everyone back into the Middle Ages, they're sheltered from the rest of the world, and hidden behind a wall everyone is afraid to cross. However, when you throw in the Forgetting, everything becomes more interesting--no one knows how long they've been there or how long this cycle has been happening.

While the writing wasn't necessarily the best I've read (it was a little repetitive at times), the characters and the plot kept me going throughout the book, and the need to understand what the Forgetting actually was. The ending was complex, filled with twists that kept me turning the pages until I finally reached the very end. Like any good first book of a series, there's a cliff hanger that's sure to keep you hooked for the next book (which just came out this week!).

Overall, an engaging read certain to make you think about the way the truth can be warped.

4/5 stars

Friday, October 6, 2017

Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One Cover

"Being human totally sucks most of the time. Videogames are the only thing that make life bearable."
-Ernest Cline, Ready Player One

Up next on Amanda plays catch-up on her reviews is Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This book got lots of attention in the media, and is getting a movie next year. I made a playlist for this book a few weeks back, and now I'll finally give it my full review.

In the year 2044, pretty much everyone lives in a virtual reality, called OASIS, because life outside of it is miserable. Wade Watts exemplifies this, living in a trailer stacked on top of other trailers, barely scraping by and dedicating his life to figuring out the puzzles hidden within the game by the creator James Halliday. Whoever figures out the clues gets the rights to OASIS, and Wade has just solved the first clue. Thus the race begins--and the only way Wade is going to survive is by winning.

I'm definitely not a gamer, and my pop culture knowledge is often pretty lacking (unless it's about books), but I still absolutely loved this book. It was packed with action, and I love quests spurred by riddles. Cline created a story that I was able to immerse myself, and of course, I always have a weakness for dystopian worlds. And this one is pretty believable, which is...scary.

Cline's ability to build worlds is one of the strongest aspects of this book. He's able to explain things enough so that non-gamers (like myself) can understand everything he's created. There are a plethora of 80s references throughout the book, given that James Halliday is a huge fan/nerd of the 80s. While I didn't understand all of them, I had enough base knowledge to understand most of them. Wade is relatable and realistic, adding to the colorful tapestry that Cline has created in his world.

Though the book is a little on the long side, and drags a little before the end, it's still an a fantastic work of science fiction. Engrossing, entertaining, and great for science fiction fans of all kinds.

4/5 stars

Friday, September 29, 2017

Review: Bad Feminist

Bad Feminist Roxane Gay cover


"Books are often far more than books."
-Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist

I'm still a little (re: a lot) behind on reviewing books I've read for the past 3 or 4 months, so bear with me while I attempt to catch up! This particular book I read back when I was in England in June, and though I don't read a ton of nonfiction books, I think that's going to be one of my goals for the coming year, at least until I go off into graduate school world. Then, reading for fun might be few and far between.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay is a series of essays on her own journey as a woman of color, taking readers through the culture of the past few years while commenting on the state of feminism today. The essays within the book range on a series of topics, from television shows to her personal experiences, working together to create an overall commentary on where we find ourselves in relation to feminism. Gay's essays really make the reader think about the way that they consume culture, and inspires readers to take action to do better.

This is a book that had been on my to-read list for a long time, and I'm so glad that I finally got the chance to read it. As a literature student, I've already been trained to critically consume culture, analyzing the way things are portrayed and what they're reflecting from society as a whole. Gay took this to another level for me, as I come from a place of privilege (being white) that she doesn't. Her viewpoint on different elements of culture opened my eyes to the ways that others might view some of the pieces of culture that I loved, forever showing that reading is one of the ways to help open someone's eyes to someone else's struggles.

The essays themselves are well paced, and flow easily from one to the next. Gay's essays certainly helped me to expand my thinking, and is a balance between social commentary, memoir, and critical analysis. Her points throughout left me thinking long after I finished the book, and there's certainly much to return to throughout her series of essays. Definitely a conversation opener about the topic of feminism.

5/5 stars

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Review: When She Woke

When She Woke Cover
"She'd crossed into a place where truth, even if it was brutal, was all she had to offer."
-Hillary Jordan, When She Woke

In a not-too-distant future, people who commit crimes are coded by color. In this new America, one of the worst crimes to commit is that of abortion. If you have an abortion, you are dyed red, and considered a murderer. Once you serve out your sentence in prison, you're forced into world, to survive as best you can in your newly acquired skin.

Hannah is a Red--she has been convicted of murder. As she lives out her sentence as a Red best she can, she's forced to re-consider the values she once held true, and navigate her way in a country that politicizes faith.

I originally picked up this book on my trip to London, downloading it on my phone because it sounded similar to The Handmaid's Tale, and I do quite love a good feminist dystopia. I loved the concept of this novel, because it presents a pretty realistic future, and was a somewhat different concept than what I had read before. The idea of chroming (or dying the skin of) people who had committed crimes was interesting, and I wish that the author had delved into more of this particular aspect of the society. We learn about Hannah as a Red, and a few of her other comrades when she's let out, but the colors are never clearly outlined. I feel that if they were, I would have had a better grasp of the society.

Despite the fantastic concept, an issue I had with the text was the pacing. It didn't quite feel even throughout the text, and there were definitely times where the plot slowed way down, almost to the point that it was difficult to keep reading. The ending felt a bit open to me, which I normally don't have a problem with, but in this instance, I felt like there was almost no resolution. It felt like it should lead to something more, like a sequel, but it doesn't seem like that will be happening.

All in all, this is a fascinating concept that I wish was done a bit more cleanly. But, if you're looking for a novel that will make you think about the way we treat criminals, and perhaps the direction our justice system might be going, the core concept is interesting enough that it should drive you through the slow parts of the plot.

3/5 stars

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Review: Things I Should Have Known

"It's like people have a place in their brain for normal, and they have a place in their brain for something obviously wrong, but they can't deal with something just a little bit different. And that makes them uncomfortable. And when people are uncomfortable, they act like jerks."
-Claire LaZebnik, Things I Should Have Known

Chloe knew that her sister was lonely, and the only way to cure her loneliness was to help her make some friends--maybe even set her up on a date. So, she tries to play matchmaker, setting up Ivy (who is on the autism spectrum) with another boy from her special needs class, Ethan. However, Ivy and Ethan refuse to go out on their own, forcing Chloe to interact with Ethan's brother, David. The four quickly form a bond, making Chloe rethink her own romantic choices and realize it's okay not to follow everyone else's expectations.

Portrayals of autistic characters in YA literature is pretty non-existent--in fact, besides this book, I can't think of a book that has an autistic character off the top of my head. The fact that this book exists does inspire hope for the future, though, and YA fiction is slowly starting to become more inclusive. But that doesn't mean that it still doesn't have a long way to go. 

LaZebnik's creates really realistic characters in her novel, and while it would be even more progressive to have the book narrated by the autistic character, she shows the lengths siblings will go to in order to make their own sisters or brothers feel safe. The character that most intrigued me was David, who had two totally different sides depending on the people he was dealing with. He felt incredibly real to me, and once we learn his backstory, 

There's also a twist in the story that adds even more diversity (one of the characters ends up being gay), and is done in a realistic way. Though stories that deal with this many challenges might become bogged down by the negative aspects of the situation, this story still remains funny, endearing, and hopeful, making it even more true to life. This book definitely deserves more hype than it originally got--and I hope more people are able to discover it.

4/5 stars

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review: We Are Still Tornadoes

We Are Still Tornadoes Cover

"If you can't forgive someone you're close to for making a mistake, then why do apologies even exist?" -Michael Kun and Susan Mullen, We Are Still Tornadoes

As Cath gets ready to leave for college, she promises to stay in touch with her best friend, Scott, as she starts her new adventure. Meanwhile, Scott is trying to get his band off the ground while he stays home and works at his dad's store. Neither of them realize how difficult their first year outside of high school is going to be.

Through their letters, the two are able to support each other through annoying roommates, dumb family drama, and broken hearts; not to mention they have to figure out what they want to do for the rest of their lives. As something more slowly grows between the two friends, are they sure that it's something they want to pursue?

I read this book a few months ago, finishing most of it on the train ride back to Chicago from Michigan. The letter format really helps to bring the characters to life, through their writing quirks, letter lengths, and gaps in writing. Some of the references they use throughout, especially music, help to place the reader more squarely in the time period (the 1980s).

The romance aspect of the book is slightly predictable, but that doesn't take away from the entertainment quality of the book itself. Readers who are fans of romance, especially young adult romance, will find this book endearing. Fans of writers like Sarah Dessen will definitely enjoy Kun and Mullen's writing.

3.5/5 stars

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Review: True Letters from a Fictional Life


"I've always wanted to wake up one day in a world where I liked the right people, and they liked me in return. I worry it'll never happen." --Kenneth Logan, True Letters from a Fictional Life

James Liddell's written and actual live are two very different things. To anyone who knows him, James is a well-rounded, well liked athlete, dating the equally well liked Theresa. But when he's alone, he tells a different story--he fills his drawers with letters to people that he never intends to send, about things that he could never say aloud. When these letters mysteriously start getting sent, he grows worried that everyone will find out his darkest secret: that he likes boys. Will James ever get to escape his life of fiction?

This book is much more lighthearted than most LGBTQ fiction that I've read, especially recently. I liked the concept of the story, as using fiction as an escape is a familiar notion for a fellow writer. James uses his letters to say things that he never thought he'd be able to say aloud--but, when they actually get out, they allow him to fully accept who he is.

Though he was the protagonist, James wasn't my favorite character in the book. At times, he felt a little flat to me, despite his vivid inner life shown through his writing. Some of the side characters, like James's love interest (the name is escaping me), I found to be more interesting, adding intrigue to the story.

Overall, I think this is a story that many teens will relate to, with heart-melting romantic moments that will please romance fans.

4/5 stars

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review: The Female of the Species





"You see it in all animals - the female of the species is more deadly than the male." 
-Mindy McGinnis, The Female of the Species

When Alex's older sister, Anna, was murdered, Alex unleashed what she knows best: violence. She knows how to kill someone. And though she doesn't feel bad about it, as her crime goes unpunished, she quickly folds into the shadows, hiding from her fellow classmates.

At least, so she thinks. Jack and Peekay see her. Jack, the star athlete, the jock that everyone wants, in the running for valedictorian. But all Jack wants is to know Alex. Peekay is the preacher's daughter, which doesn't stop her from acting out once in a while. Peekay and Alex begin working together at the animal shelter, where Peekay sees Alex's protective nature.

Brought together through unlikely circumstances, Alex, Jack, and Peekay navigate the waters of their senior year. Until Alex's true nature breaks out at a party one night, sending the three on a path that's going to change their lives forever.

Though probably not for the squeamish or sensitive, this book is an absolutely important read. Mindy McGinnis exposes rape culture through the story of Alex and her desire to get revenge for her sister. Alex's character in particular points out the flaws of our society when it comes to dealing with rape, especially in the way that we help to perpetuate it with things like "boys will be boys," as Alex points out:

"But boys will be boys, our favorite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll."

These kinds of statements punctuate the novel, forcing the reader to think about rape culture and gender and how they might contribute to that.

In addition to the morally grey center of the novel, McGinnis also creates realistically complex characters that aid in the exploration of important themes. Told in alternating perspectives from Alex, Jack, and Peekay, the reader gets a glimpse into each one of their characters, each one as complex as the next. The three main characters as supported by an almost equally complex supporting cast, expertly destroying the stereotype that teenagers can't be complex.

Overall, if you can get past some of the descriptions and violence against animals (which I'll admit was difficult for me), this is definitely a must-read. Add it to your TBR shelf immediately.

5/5 Stars

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review: The Girl with All the Gifts


"Melanie thinks: when your dreams come true, your true has moved."
-M.R. Carey, The Girl with All the Gifts

Melanie is brought to a school room everyday at gunpoint, wheeled into a room with other kids that are just like her. They're all under heavy guard, strapped into their chairs, and surrounded by a constant chemical smell. But, they just might be the answer to saving humanity.

I think this book has been out long enough that this isn't a spoiler--Melanie is a zombie. A virus/fungus has taken over the Earth, turning everyone into zombies, and the base that Melanie lives at is one of the last strongholds of humans. At the military base, Dr. Caldwell is studying Melanie and the other children to find a cure for the virus. Because the novel is narrated by multiple points of view, the way morality and the survival of humanity is presented is fascinating.

This definitely isn't your typical zombie novel, and it isn't for the faint of heart. There were passages that I had to skip over because they were simply too graphic for me--and some of the science explanations went over my head. However, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book; the writing was sound and the world created was intricate and well-thought out.

Overall, in my knowledge and reading of dystopia, this one definitely rates at the top of the list!

4/5 stars

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review: History Is All You Left Me

History Is All You Left Me Cover
"History is nothing. It can be recycled or thrown away completely. It isn't this sacred treasure chest I mistook it to be. We were something, but history isn't enough to keep something alive forever."
-Adam Silvera, History Is All You Left Me

Griffin doesn't know how to cope with his best friend and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dying in a tragic drowning accident. Though Griffin hasn't seen much of Theo since he moved to California for school and started dating Jackson, he believed that they would one day find their way back to each other. Now, that future has gone far off course and Griffin is quickly falling into a downward spiral. His obsessions are getting worse and he is lashing out at people that truly care. In order for Griffin to finally move passed Theo's death, he must confront their history and everything that's tearing him apart.

Adam Silvera has done it again. Though I didn't review it (apparently), More Happy Than Not was heartbreaking and beautiful and this book was no different. Silvera has a gift in writing raw teenage emotion, fully encompassing pain so well that it makes your heart hurt. The story feels effortless, and Silvera has created characters in Griffin, Theo, Jackson, and Wade that drive it forward, drawing you in deeper and deeper as you go. 

The complexity of the characters and the reality of their stories is what makes this novel, I think. Though none of the characters were particularly likable, with Wade as a possible exception, you still become invested in their stories and want them to turn out okay in the end. This is what makes them the most realistic, adding to the realism of the story as a whole.

All in all, this novel is absolutely heartbreaking, much like Silvera's other work as well. A bonus was the portrayal of OCD in the novel, which felt real to me and was something that Griffin always had to deal with. He couldn't just turn it on and off when he wanted, like is portrayed in some young adult literature. History Is All You Left Me feels real, which is essential for young adult literature.

P.S. What is with the theme of friends dying in young adult lit lately? I feel like I've read quite a few books like that recently, more so than usual. 

5/5 stars