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Friday, November 10, 2017

The Love Interest | Book Review

The Love Interest 

Written by: Cale Dietrich
Number of Pages: 375

Average Rating: 3.16/5 stars
My Rating: 2/5 stars

Published: May 2017
Read in November 2017

Summary According to Goodreads

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets. 

Caden is a Nice: the boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: the brooding, dark-souled guy who is dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose the Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be - whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

My Thoughts

This novel was one that I was beyond looking forward to, but if I had to summarize my reading experience in one word I would say: disappointment. The plot seemed like one that I would really enjoy, even though it had been a while since I’ve read something dystopian-ish. 

The plot seems very contemporary, but unfortunately it was more angst and drama than romance. I am struggling trying to find the right words to describe this, but it was just so poorly done. There was no action or thrill, even when we got to the climax of the story it was boring. I was captivated by the idea that teenagers were being trained as spies and having people fall in love with them to learn their secrets - for me it totally went against the cliche romance story - but it was not realistic. The main girl, Juliet, is a shy science nerd with only a couple close friends and has never been on a date. But suddenly two hot guys show up at her school in the middle of the semester and are smitten with her? Only in young-adult literature. 

The characters were so dramatic, so cliche, and so unrelatable. One of my biggest draws into picking up this novel was the idea that the two boys end up falling for each other, and I am still so angry at the hot mess that scenario became. I was so aggravated by that “twist” that I put the book down for a solid 24 hours and even then struggled to pick it back up and finish. I don’t want to give away what this moment was, but I felt as though it downplayed the importance of an LGBTQIA character, while also making it seem like a joke. As I say in almost every review, the most important thing to me in a novel (especially contemporary) is characters, and I didn’t care what happened to any of these characters. The society they worked for could have killed them all off, and I wouldn’t have batted an eye. 

I think this novel could have been stronger if it was about 100 pages shorter. There were so many scenes or expanded dialogue that added absolutely nothing to the overall story, and slowed down the pacing. There is also a short epilogue at the end of the novel, which I also found unnecessary. Reading it I could tell that it took on a different tone, not in the way that our character grew but that it was written later as a last-minute addition. The characters felt different and the atmosphere was different, it just didn’t add anything redeeming. 

Overall, this is a novel that had potential to be great, but was just poorly executed. I hate that this review sounds so negative, but I was so sure this would be on my favourites list for the year. I give a little credit to the fact that it is a debut author, and I like the uniqueness of the spy-lovers plot line, but there was a lot of room for improvement. This is definitely not the first spy/contemporary novel that I would recommend, but I didn’t hate it enough to say it isn’t worth the read. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The 100 | Book Review

The 100 | Book Review

Written by: Kass Morgan
Number of Pages: 320

Average Rating: 3.56/5 stars
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Published: September 2013
Read in November 2017

Summary According to Goodreads

Ever since a devastating nuclear war, humanity has lived on spaceships far above Earth’s radioactive surface. Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents - considered expendable by society - are being sent on a dangerous mission: to recolonize the planet. It could be their second chance at life… or it could be a suicide mission.

Clarke was arrested for treason, though she’s haunted by the memory of what she really did. Wells, the chancellor’s son, came to Earth for the girl he loves - but will she ever forgive him? Reckless Bellamy fought his way onto the transport pod to protect his sister, the other half of the only pair of siblings in the universe. And Glass managed to escape back onto the ship, only to find that life there is just as dangerous as she feared it would be on Earth.

Confronted with a savage land and haunted by secrets from their pasts, the hundred must fight to survive. They were never meant to be heroes, but they may be mankind’s last hope.

My Thoughts

I have recently gone through all of the old NetGalley arcs I had been approved for, but never got around to reading - and this was one of those books. This was very hyped for a while, and was definitely on my radar even before the TV show was released. I’m not sure if it was my high expectations, or lack of interest in science-fiction, but this didn’t blow my mind.

Although this was a very quick read, I never felt completely engaged in the story nor was I able to connect to the characters. As I mention often in my reviews, being able to relate to a character or at least care remotely, is HUGE in my ability to enjoy a novel - but I couldn’t have cared less if they’d all died on their way to Earth. I think the majority of disconnect for me was the four alternating perspectives. It was the best way to tell this story, especially since we are able to know what is happening back on the ship, but these perspectives were told in third-person so the reader isn’t able to feel how the character feels, if that makes sense? I think that even if we did get that connection, I would have still been weary on them just because none of them had redeeming qualities and were instead whiny, annoying, and dramatic. It was also frustrating to be reminded of the teen angst, and slight love-triangle, but that was minor enough that I could see past it. 

I don't read a lot of sci-fi, so I really appreciated that this one was very simple and didn't go too far over my head. It was more action/thrilling than science fiction, but a good transition novel for anyone getting into this genre. It is shelved as young-adult, but I would say it reads quite young even though majority of the characters are in their late teens. 
 I originally wanted to read this novel because of the plot, but now feel disappointed because it wasn't anything spectacular. It was very reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, or even the TV show "Lost" (both of which I am a fan of). I was not at all surprised by the big twist at the end, but I did like that it wasn't dragged out to the point of being completely obvious. It was acknowledged, like an "ahh" moment, and then the story ended. Was it a cliff hanger? No. Was it enough to get me to read the sequel? Maybe.

Overall, this was nothing special but also not something I regret picking up. It was a fun audiobook to listen to while at work, and I’m happy to have crossed another off of my NetGalley list! I think I might watch the first episode or two of the show, and if I pick up the sequel I would expect more action and less drama because it weighed this one down for sure.  

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Mystery Boxes | Graphic Novel Review

The Mystery Boxes (Explorer #1)

Edited by: Kazu Kibuishi
Number of pages: 128

Average Rating: 3.98/5 stars
My Ratings: 4/5 stars

Published: March 2012
Read in October 2017

Summary According to Goodreads

What’s in the box? 

Find out in these seven clever stories by eight incredible comics creators!

My Thoughts

Overall, I really enjoyed this collection more than I initially thought I would. It was interesting to see how so many people can take an idea of a single box, and do completely different things with it. This idea of an anthology just goes to show how creative and unique people can be!

I decided to rate each story individually, and in order they appeared in the novel:

Under the Floorboards by Emily Carroll: 4 stars

     • I really enjoyed this one, which surprised me as I didn't care for Through the Woods. The art style was creepy to fit the plot, and I liked how she relied more on pictures than words to tell the story.

Spring Cleaning by Dave Roman and Raina Telgemier: 4 stars

     • This was fun, a little bit young, but a very cute story!

The Keeper's Treasure by Jason Caffoe: 3 stars

The Butter Thief by Rad Sechrist: 4 stars

     • I really liked this one! It was funny, but action-packed and concluded well.

The Soldiers Daughter by Stuart Livingston with Stephanie Ramirez: 4 stars

     • I loved the art style of this story, and also the sweet but important message it conveys to readers!

Whatzit by Johane Matte with Saymone Phanekham: 3 stars

     • This was okay, the bright art style was easily my favourite part of the story. It was fun and light, a perfect addition to a fairly dark anthology

The Escape Option by Kazu Kibuishi: 2 stars

     • I was quite disappointed by this one, as I had enjoyed his Amulet series but I appreciate the work he did in editing this anthology together. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Dead House | Book Review

The Dead House 

Written by: Dawn Kurtagich
Number of Pages: 448

Average Rating: 3.71/5 stars
My Rating: 2/5 stars

Published in September 2015
Read in October 2017

Summary According to Goodreads

Three students: dead.

Carly Johnson: vanished without a trace.

Two decades have passed since an inferno swept through Elmbridge High, claiming the lives of three teenagers and causing one student, Carly Johnson, to disappear. The main suspect: Kaitlyn, “the girl of nowhere.”

Kaitlyn’s diary, discovered in the ruins of Elmbridge High, reveals the thoughts of a disturbed mind. Its charred pages tell a sinister version of events that took place that tragic night, and the girl of nowhere is caught in the center of it all. But many claim Kaitlyn doesn’t exist, and in a way, she doesn’t - because she is the alter ego of Carly Johnson. 

Carly gets the day. Kaitlyn has the night. It’s during the night that a mystery surrounding the Dead House unravels and a dark, twisted magic ruins the lives of each student that dares touch it.

My Thoughts

I went into this novel not knowing much about the plot. It was a random bookstore find, and I'd never heard anyone talk about it before. I love spooky things and the brief synopsis on the back had really grabbed my attention. However, I ended up quite disappointed.

This novel is told in a variety of medias including diary entries, interviews, and video clips (all transcribed for the sake of a novel). There is a lot of bouncing back and forth between "before the incident" and "after the incident" and other random periods of time, and it was not easy to keep up with. Some of the entries seemed very scattered, and I think that was supposed to be some of the thrill and mystery, but it got lost on me. 

I enjoyed the characters enough to continue reading the novel in its entirety, but would have preferred if she kept to one theme; horror or mental illness/psychological. It is hard to take a character dealing with a personality disorder, and transform it into a character that is “possessed”. I am diagnosed bipolar and struggle in similar ways as this character did, but felt like it was portrayed poorly. For me this just struck the wrong chord and I think it could have been a stronger novel without a crossover.

I think my biggest complaint about this novel is that it was just too long. There were so many things that could have been cut out since they didn't add anything to the story, and just slowed down the pacing. It is also shelved as “horror”, but I did not find it scary at all. Granted I watch and read a lot of horror, so I don’t spook too easily, but there were so many opportunities for a fright that never came. 

Overall, I was very disappointed by this novel as it had so much potential. I am a little bit slack considering this was her debut novel, but I think it could have used some more editing and re-working of the order of events. The ending was rushed and chaotic, and I’m not even 100% sure of what happened, so I don’t really recommend it.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

There's Someone Inside Your House | Book Review

There’s Someone Inside Your House

Written by: Stephanie Perkins
Number of Pages: 287

Average Rating: 3.59/5 stars
My Rating: 3.75 stars

Published: September 26, 2017
Read in October 2017

Summary According to Goodreads

One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted. 

My Thoughts

Let it be known, I love Stephanie Perkins and her Anna trilogy. so this was very high on my anticipated releases. I wasn’t disappointed, but I was definitely expecting more. 

I am a huge fan of the thriller/horror genre, and would pick one up before I would a romance. I love to be scared, and this one did keep me on the edge of my seat at times, but never spooked me. When I first read the synopsis I was hooked, and as I mentioned earlier, I have been waiting for this novel for a very long time. Unfortunately, the plot was not anything unique, and didn’t completely grab me. Reading this novel was almost like reading a screenplay for another Scream movie, as the motives, the drama, and the characters were similar. As I reader I was never questioning who was safe and who the killer was, because it was revealed fairly early on in the novel - probably even by the halfway point - which was a total let down as I love to be kept guessing! There wasn’t enough suspense or thrill in this novel for me, and the most horror was the gruesome killing. I would have loved to see something more developed and diverse, but I don’t think horror is Stephanie’s strongest genre. 

The characters were much stronger than the plot was, but still basic YA. I enjoyed watching the relationship develop between our two main characters, and loved how they were both so realistically awkward with each other. I also enjoyed watching our main character Makani grow into herself and become a little bit more confident than the beginning, but I think her “big secret” was a bit overreacted. Writing a novel with this dark of a plot, I was expecting a much darker secret.

Stephanie Perkins has such a smooth writing style, she can make a grotesque scene read poetic. To make this novel even better I would have loved multiple perspectives, because a killing spree like this affects so many people and I think it would have added a lot more dimension to the story. I was still never completely sucked into the plot, but I couldn’t stop reading because her writing flows from one page to the other that I flew through it. 

Overall, this was an enjoyable read. If you are interested in the plot I would suggest going into it expecting more romance than horror, which isn’t what I was hoping for. This is a good read for the time of year since Halloween is coming up, and I think it would be enjoyed by many!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

We All Fall Down | Book Review

We All Fall Down

Written by: Natalie D. Richards
Number of Pages: 368

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Published: October 3, 2017
Read in September 2017

Summary According to Goodreads

Theo’s always been impulsive. But telling Paige how he feels? He’s obsessed over that decision. And it’s time. Tonight. At the party on the riverbank, under the old walking bridge, site of so many tales of love and death. 

Paige has had a crush on Theo since they first met, but she knows her feelings are one-sided. She’s trying to move on, to flirt. A party at the river is just what she needs. Except a fight breaks out, and when Paige tries to intervene - Theo’s fist lands in her face. 

All Theo and Paige want to do is forget that fateful night. But strange events keep drawing them back to the bridge. Someone, something is determined to make them remember…and pay for what they each did. 

My Thoughts

I received an ebook copy of this novel to review from NetGalley, but that does not influence my opinion.

This novel was just okay for me. It was a very quick read, but the plot or characters weren't completely engaging. It reads as a young adult contemporary, but tries to delve into some supernatural aspects that I wasn’t a fan of. t gave it three stars, but officially would rate it two and a half because it was overall just meh - I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it.

I feel as though this novel could have been done much better without the supernatural aspects. There was a lot of mental health issues brought up in this novel, but I felt as though everything was over-represented in a way. The readers are constantly reminded of these characters' issues, and it got extremely repetitive and annoying. As some of you probably know, I am diagnosed manic-depressive, meaning I suffer from bi-polar disorder. I take these kinds of novels very seriously, and I was quite disappointed. It was clear that the author did do some research regarding panic attacks and general anxiety disorder, but I think she overrepresented in order to get her point across.

The characters were cute but again, felt like their biggest character trait was their mental disorder. Paige had that she was smart, but she didn't have any drive. Theo really only had his compulsive-aggravated behaviours, and didn't come across as a loveable narrator. Our two main characters relied very heavily on the other, but went through enough growth in the novel to be tolerable and stand on their own.

I appreciated this novel being told from the two perspectives, because I think it added a well-rounded aspect to the story. I still think it was very repetitive and could have been developed a bit more - I would have liked to see more emotion. At no point did I feel attached to the characters, or care if they reconciled their differences - which is quite unlike me. I am a reader who loves to emphasize with characters, and being that these two share similar disorders to my own, I expected to get a lot out of this. Maybe my expectations were too high. The writing was quick to read, but the transitions were not as smooth as I’d expect from an experienced author. 

Overall, this novel let me down. I was beyond excited to receive an e-arc, but the mental health aspects weren’t enough to redeem it for me. I’m glad I picked it up around this time of year, because it definitely has a darker atmosphere that reads well for fall. I would like to give this author another chance because I see a lot of potential in her storytelling, but I’ll have to research which one appeals to me the most. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Reconstructing Amelia | Book Review

Reconstructing Amelia

Written by: Kimberly McCreight
Number of Pages: 382

Average Rating: 3.82/5 stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Published: April 2013
Read in September 2017

Summary According to Goodreads

Litigation lawyer and harried single mother Kate Baron is stunned when her daughter’s exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn, calls with disturbing news: her intelligent, high-achieving fifteen-year-old daughter, Amelia, has been caught cheating.

Kate can’t believe that Amelia, an ambitious, levelheaded girl who’s never been in trouble would do something like that. But by the time she arrives at Grace Hall, Kate’s faced with far more devastating news. Amelia is dead.

Seemingly unable to cope with what she’d done, a despondent Amelia has jumped from the school’s roof in an act of “spontaneous” suicide. At least that’s the story Grace Hall and the police tell Kate. And overwhelmed as she is by her own guilt and shattered by grief, it is the story that Kate believes until she gets the anonymous text:

She didn’t jump.

Sifting through Amelia’s emails, text messages, social media postings, and cell phone logs, Kate is determined to learn the heartbreaking truth about why Amelia was on Grace Hall’s roof that day - and why she died.

My Thoughts 

This novel was such a roller coaster. At some points I was sure I would give it five stars, and at other times it was sitting at a three. Considering this is a debut novel, I am very impressed with how well she managed to keep the pacing and suspense. It was also written in a way that could lead it to be classified as either adult or young adult, which I think makes it a good transition novel for readers. 

The plot was captivating, I love thrillers, and I really enjoyed how this was told in different perspectives and writing styles. It was interesting to go back and forth between perspectives, but also across different periods of Kate’s life. We meet many different characters along the way, but almost everyone played a role in the outcome of Amelia’s death. Since the reader is given clues, as well as the text messages, Facebook posts, etc., it makes it feel as though you are a part of the investigation. I think telling a story in this format really opens some doors about the struggles a teen can go through in this new digital age. It was a very powerful plot, from the beginning to the end.

As I said earlier, there were a lot of characters in this novel - some that I liked more than others. Amelia was your typical fifteen-year-old teenager, even if she sometimes seemed older than she was. Throughout the novel her personality changed, and not always for the better. She got mixed up with the wrong group of friends, and she lost who she was for a while. Kate was an interesting woman to read, as she seemed to become more involved in Amelia’s life only after she was dead. She claimed they had this great, open relationship, but also acknowledged that she worked a lot and often didn’t see Amelia during the week. Amelia’s best friend, Sylvia, might have been my favourite character to read. She was very believable, if not a little bit exaggerated. Since this is a novel about the investigation of a potential murder, it was a very character-driven story which I think Kimberly McCreight did very well. 

One of the issues that I had with this novel was the fact that Kate was almost leading the investigation. Granted I am not employed in a criminal justice occupation, I just found it very hard to believe that a Lieutenant would take the mother of the victim to his suspect’s interviews and such. Seems like a conflict of interest in my opinion. 

Overall, I enjoyed this novel and will likely pick up another work of hers. I got through this very quickly, by listening to the audiobook during a stock shift at work. It was captivating listening to this, and I didn’t want it to end! If you enjoy murder-mystery and thriller novels, I would recommend you check this one out!