Friday, December 30, 2016

A Monster Calls~Patrick Ness | Review

Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary/Fantasy
Length: 206 Pages (Hardcover)
Release: September 2011

I am somewhat conflicted about this book. It's the type of book you need to read with little background knowledge. Otherwise the experience is spoiled for you. The story just wasn't as hard hitting as I had hoped. 

This is a well written story, with an interesting premise. I expected it to be a little scarier or unsettling than it was. For me personally there wasn't really an element of fear associated with the monster, even in the beginning. 

The novel touches on some very difficult subjects and overall I think they are handled in a very believable way. The ending was somewhat too abrupt for me. I would have liked a little more information about certain characters and how our main character Conor was learning to cope with his situation, instead we just got hints of what could happen. 

What disappointed me most about the novel was that it didn't make me feel as much as I had hoped it would. I wanted a story that would break my heart and for me this wasn't it. I found it relatable and heart wrenching, I just didn't find it has emotional as I was hoping for. 

Overall this was an enjoyable and well written story. After seeing a preview for the film I am very excited to see it. It appears to be a very well done adaptation. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Crush Dilemma~Susan Hatler | Review

Title: The Crush Dilemma (Dear Aubrey #1)
Author: Susan Hatler
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Length: 198 Pages
Release: July 2016

I received a copy of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book follows Poppy, a high school junior who starts an anonymous advice column as both a way to speak her mind--without facing the consequences--and as an experiment to add to her college applications. What she doesn't know starting out, is how much of an impact this is going to have on her daily life. 

For the most part this was an enjoyable read. The main downfall was that it tried to tackle too much. Poppy had some self confidence issues, that she was trying to deal with by using Aubrey as her alter ego. There were boy issues--of course--with Poppy being torn between her long time crush and the new boy in town who actually seems to notice her. Friendship turmoil as Poppy and her two best friends are tested when they discover that they things they've always taken for granted about each other aren't the full reality. Then there is the family dynamic that we see behind the scenes of Poppy's life, where she struggles to make her single mom happy while her little brother seems to do no wrong. And don't forget the fact that she has a bully for a teacher and worries about her grade. And that is saying nothing of the that ensues because of her column, or the bullying that begins in relation to that drama. 

So this was enjoyable, and any of those things would be fine for a book on their own or in small clusters, but all of them at once was a bit overwhelming and left me feeling less than satisfied with the conclusion, which was rather abrupt. This is the first in a planned series, meaning that some of this could have spanned into the next book and made things smoother. 

The only other novels I have read by Susan Hatler are her Better Date than Never series and some of her Kissed by the Bay series, all of which are fairly self contained stories and geared more toward a grown up rather than teenage audience. So maybe the downfalls in this were the fact that the author is used to a one book story as well as writing for a different demographic. 

This was well written and I really enjoyed the premise. I will likely continue the series when book two is released, to see how it improves and where Poppy ends up in future installments. Overall it was an enjoyable read, I just wasn't wowed by it. Also, the cover is pretty great. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Fall of Hades~Richard Paul Evans | Review

Title: Fall of Hades (Michael Vey #6)
Author: Richard Paul Evans
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Length: 328 Pages (Hardcover)
Release: September 2016
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I was somewhat rusty on the details from the previous books, since I haven't read one since the release of book five in 2015, but I did find this one quite enjoyable. The main plot seemed to be furthered much more than it has been in the previous couple of installments, which I felt were mostly filler. Everything was not all great, however.

There was some teen romance angst that I found very annoying. It really did nothing for the character or plot progression, which would have been the only real reason to include it in the first place. Taylor was also very jealous throughout, which was very irksome. And why does everyone need to have a boyfriend or girlfriend? They are all like fifteen. 

The ending was fairly interesting and brought a ton of new questions, but somehow it still lacked something for me. Book seven will be released fall of 2017, and I do look forward to finishing the series, but I would have liked a little more from this book. Still, there are questions to be answered and I look forward to seeing the final outcome of Electroclan versus Hatch. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Catalyst~S J Kincaid | Review

Title: Catalyst (Insignia #3)
Author: S J Kincaid
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Length: 419 Pages (Paperback)
Release: October 2014
My Rating: 5/5 Stars

This final installment in the Insignia trilogy was even better than the first two, which is saying something. I honestly haven't been able to stop thinking about this book since I finished it at the beginning of the month. The term "book hangover" definitely applies here. 

Going into this I was worried that Kincaid would not be able to adequately wrap things up, because so much was left open at the end of Vortex. My fears were needless, however, because it was brilliant

This final book was 400+ pages of action, humor, heartache, and insane revelations. It made me absolutely love characters I had been unsure of, understand the twisted motivations that were driving characters, and fall in love with the world more fully. Tom is how I imagine I would have been had I been born a boy. Well, he's what I would have wanted to be. He grew so much in these final chapters of his journey. Everything he went through made me laugh out loud, cry, and just smile like a crazy person. 

Blackburn is one of the best characters through the series just for the sheer fact that he's so morally gray. You learn a lot more about him in this book, but you have to judge for yourself if it makes him a hero or not. He's done a lot of questionable things. But he's fascinating. And I, for one, loved him. 

Kincaid has created a world that I will visit again and again. It has vivid and distinct characters that are brought to life with descriptive and active writing. This is by far my favorite of the trilogy. The conclusion left me completely satisfied, but also wishing that I could live in this world with these characters for much longer. Definitely one of the highlights of my reading year.   

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Knife of Dreams~Robert Jordan | Review

Title: Knife of Dreams (Wheel of Time #11)
Author: Robert Jordan
Genre: High Fantasy
Length: 860 Pages (Paperback)
Release: October 2005
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

This was the last Wheel of Time book written by the original author and I am happy to say that he went out on a high note. I don't know that this was my favorite to this point, but it is definitely among the top three or four. The action that was somewhat lacking in the previous few installments has returned and things are progressing toward the Last Battle. 

Throughout the series I have never been able to become completely invested in any single character, which is hard for me because I love character driven stories. Perrin was my favorite character in the beginning of the series, unfortunately he has only gone down hill in the later books. His progression is definitely not one that has kept me interested. The relationship he has with Faile kind of makes me ill. It's bordering on abusive and is definitely obsessive. 

Mat is the character that has surprised me the most. He was my least favorite at the start and while there are still things that I don't particularly like about his character, I have grown to enjoy his portions of the story. They are generally more exciting than the others and right now progress the story more than anything else seems to. 

While I am not enthralled by the world that Jordan created it does fascinate me. The level of commitment and dedication that had to go into writing these novels is astounding. I am sure that I would not be able to keep track of everything. 

This was a solid installment in the series and I look forward to finishing out the final three books which were written by my favorite author Brandon Sanderson.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Christmas Kiss~Susan Hatler | Review

Title: A Christmas Kiss (Kissed by the Bay #5)
Author: Susan Hatler
Genre: Romance
Length: 137 Pages
Release: November 2016
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I received a copy of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Susan Hatler has a talent for creating fun and sweet romances that you can read in one or two sittings. This was definitely no exception. And one of the best things about her books is that even though most of them are a part of a series, you don't really have to read them in order. In the Kissed by the Bay series each story focuses on a different character, so it's not like you lose much by jumping around. 

Harper was a likable main character and easy to relate with. She was hurt in the past and thought that second chances were too good to be true. As a divorce attorney she was committed to helping people end hurtful relationships. 

Harper ends up stuck in a cabin over the Christmas holiday with the opposing attorney in her current divorce case. It was nice to see her thaw around him. He was really sweet and had never given her any reason to dislike him, but she was always wary of men, afraid that she would get her heard broken again. 

The romance in this was really cute (as usual), but it was a bit too faced paced for me. The entire story takes place over five days, which to me is not enough time to develop this type of a relationship. Sure the characters had met in the past, but other than a few interactions they didn't really know each other. I would have been more ok with it had they known each other on a more personal level to begin with. As is it was really cute and sweet, just not as deep as I would have liked. 

Another great thing about these is how clean they are. I am not a fan of romance novels in general because they seem heavy on sex and light on actual story. With these you get a sweet love story that focuses more on the characters getting to know each other. And of course some sweet kisses. Rarely is there anything more than that. And for me that is perfect. I really am not interested in reading explicit romance. It's just not something I want to do. So these are the perfect thing for when I want a love story because they give me that without everything else I typically associate with the romance genre. 

This was a really fun and sweet story that I very much enjoyed reading. I look forward to reading more of the books in the series in the future. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Alterations~Stephanie Scott | Review

Title: Alterations
Author: Stephanie Scott
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Length: 237 Pages
Release: December 2016
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I received a copy of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

There were certain things about this story that I really liked. While I am personally not a designer or into fashion, I appreciated the fact that Amelia was gifted and passionate about this. Her internship and what we got to see of her classes and experiences were a lot of fun. It was good to see a story that focused around someone furthering their talents. 

In the beginning Amelia goes to an internship in New York to study fashion and design. While I really enjoyed this aspect of the novel (and would have liked more of it, honestly), all of the lies Amelia tells were very frustrating. It started out innocently, but then progressed into a mess that I did not enjoy. I wanted to like her relationships that were developing in this new atmosphere, but until those lies were cleared away (which didn't happen for a long time), I had a hard time investing. 

The rest of the story revolved around Amelia being a fashion consultant to the girl dating the guy she had always been crushing on and helping Liam (said guy's twin) with a fashion app. With reality TV crews and confused emotions, things were bound to get out of control. 

Liam was a really likable character, but I wish he had been more confident. It seems like all computer geeks in fiction are shy or insecure, so I was hoping for a little more conviction here. Even so, he was mostly likable. I didn't feel like we got to know him all that well though. 

Amelia's conviction to take charge of her own life and not let obsessions rule her was nice and for the most part it panned out well. There were some times of relapse, but nothing overly cringe worthy. Once she realized how silly she had been for so long (and trust me, that was realistic. Many of us have been there), she started trying to figure out what she actually wanted. 

The ending to this is where I was bothered the most while reading. Everything in the last few chapters and epilogue was very rushed. There wasn't much resolution for a lot of the conflict, you didn't get to see much interaction between the characters once everything was out in the open, and it was just a little messy. I think it could have been stretched and explored a little more toward the end. 

Overall I had a lot of fun reading this and I thought it was quite well written. I will definitely consider reading any future novels from Stephanie. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Hello Me, It's You~Hannah Todd | Review

Title: Hello me, it's You
Editor: Hannah Todd
Genre: Nonfiction/Self Help/Mental Health
Length: 112 Pages
Release: October 2016
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Hello me, it's you

Right now you're sixteen, it's nearly Christmas, and you probably feel more alone than you ever have before. You feel lost, like there is a deep chasm in your heart that can not be crossed. And you're making everyone listen to really angsty music, when all they really want to do is listen to all the happy Christmas stuff.

But don't let me get you down. I'm you. But I'm twenty-five now. Crazy to think it's been nearly ten years! There is so much you have accomplished in that time, even with the drastic lows and the medium highs caused by your depression. Oh, and don't forget the constant lip picking. Unfortunately that's not something you've overcome--yet.

Right now you're feeling low. The only really bright thing in your life are the horses, hold onto that. Cherish it. Joe is one of the best things that ever happened to you. And soon you will have a new horse who will help you grow even more.

You think that everyone feels the way you do, that everyone suffers from the exact same issues and that you should just get over it already but that's not true. Depression runs in our family, which you know now and will learn even more. But that doesn't mean that the whole family feels this way, or that everyone else feels this way. People will try to make you think that this is just normal "teenage" behavior or feelings. It's not. Don't let them convince you otherwise.

In the past 9.5 years, you've graduated college (a degree in math! Who would have thought it, right?), written a few more novels (though you haven't tried to publish yet), become even more obsessed with reading (and found your two all time favorite authors--listen to mom when she talks about killer clowns, you won't regret it), seen David Cook in concert (four times!), traveled to London (I know, I know. I still freak out about this one.), and made some amazing friends both near and far.

But things aren't completely wonderful. The depression still hits, though it never overcomes you quite like it did before. Trust me when I say you should go to church. Right now it seems like just another place to pretend, but it will help. I promise. You've suffered some great losses, too. I won't tell you exactly what or when, but even now you blame yourself, to a certain extent. There is always that pesky what if lurking in your thoughts. Bur you're making peace with that.

Oh, and on top of depression you now have anxiety. It manifests itself in weird ways. I guess it was always there--you'll see it in the pattern of you're life when you look back, woven in and out of those depressive episodes so smoothly you can barely differentiate the two. But you're working on it. Sometimes it threatens to consume, drag you under to depths you will not be able to escape. But it can only do that if you give it the power. So stay strong.

You aren't over the depression or anxiety or paranoia, if these are things that can ever really be overcome. But you aren't consumed by them either. There is so much to live for. Talk to people. It really does help. Even when you don't think they are listening, they are. Also, don't ignore your talents. There is so much you can learn and do that will help you and others if you just keep practicing. It's hard, but it's possible.

There is beauty in the world. I know you don't see it right now, but it's there, waiting to be discovered. And you're on your way there. And so am I. So don't give up. You've got this. Look for the miraculous in the small things.  


The above is my quick attempt at recreating a piece of this book, which is a compilation of letters written by young adults to their sixteen year old selves. Each of these young adults has suffered from some mental health issue. And each one of them has found a way to work on it. Each person is in their own stage of the path. No one is "cured," they all tell you about the struggles they still have. But they share some words of wisdom with their younger selves. And those can be quite inspiring.

One thing that I think is great about this collection is the fact that everything is left so real. It hasn't been compiled into a narrative story, it's just the letters. And it showcases how different each person is. Some of these individuals have similar struggles, some drastically different. Just because you aren't the same as everyone else does not mean that you don't matter. That is essentially the message here.

This book also does a good job of showcasing how writing can be therapeutic. Each of these individuals seem to discover something about themselves in writing these letters. In that letter I've written to myself above I've discovered things about myself that I've had a hard time seeing before. So whether you write to your past self or your future self (something I want to do), writing helps.

It's ok to suffer with mental health issues, whatever they may be. Don't be ashamed to talk about your problems. Be real.

I would recommend this to anyone who either suffers from a mental health disorder or wants to learn more about it. This isn't a textbook that will give you details on all the things mentioned, but it is the thoughts of those who are going through it, which can be even more informative. It might sound depressing, when you hear what this is about, but it's definitely not. Instead it's inspiring, because all of these people have found hope somewhere.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Vortex~S J Kincaid | Review

Title: Vortex (Insignia #2)
Author: S J Kincaid
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Length: 390 Pages (Paperback)
Release: July 2013
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

This is the stunning follow-up to Insignia. This series definitely does not suffer from middle book syndrome.

Tom and his friends are still in training at the Pentagonal Spire and now have to try and schmooze there way into the good graces of the top tier of society-the organization directors. But of course this proves difficult for Tom, who doesn't like to bend for anyone.

In this installment we see Tom, Vik, Wyatt, and Yuri's relationship tested as it never has been before. You see them grow apart, grow together, and grow up. Sometimes it's painful, but it's all worth it. There's also new information on Blackburn, a character who lives between morally gray lines.

The world in this is frightening and fascinating at once. It's really well crafted and pulls you right in. All of the simulations that Tom and his friends go through are thrilling. You never know when something crazy is going to happen or in what form it will appear.

More information about Medusa is made known, rounding her character out more fully. And yes, you find out her real name! There are some great moments between her and Tom. And some terrible ones. It all depends on perspective.

This book made me laugh and it nearly made me cry. It was extremely powerful. And that ending was absolutely amazing. I highly recommend this to anyone who likes sci-fi for young adults that focuses around computers and a society ruled by technology.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The One Dollar Horse~Lauren St John | Review

Title: The One Dollar Horse (The One Dollar Horse #1)
Author: Lauren St John
Genre: YA Contemporary/Equestrian
Length: 326 Pages (Paperback)
Release: 2012
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I picked this book up earlier this year when I was in London. Being an equestrian, I'm always interested in trying out horse novels. And I had just been to cross country day at Badminton, so that was an extra encouragement for me to read this.

While I really enjoyed the overall flow of the story, I found it too unbelievable to really be pulled in. It had a very fairy tale vibe that I think it would have benefited without. Yes, it's possible this one dollar horse could become a champion, it's even possible that Casey could be the rider to get him there. It was more the amount of time and lack of experience leading up to this event that I found unrealistic. They just didn't have enough time or training to improve that much. I know everything doesn't have to be realistic, and generally I'm fine with that, I just would have liked a little more realism from this.

The characters were somewhat lacking in development. I found Casey's father completely infuriating and he never grew on me. After some of the things he did, I don't think I could have forgiven him. But maybe Casey is just a better person than I am. Casey and the rest of the characters were also lacking though. Although we followed Casey's story and spent a lot of time with her, I never really felt like I got to know her. It seemed like a strange dream that I was watching from a distance.

While this definitely had it's faults, I did enjoy it overall. The horsey descriptions were quite good and I felt like I was in the moment at times. It often reminded me of the bonds I've had with my horses over the years, which was nice. The underdog story is always a fun one to follow, so it was nice to see Storm and Casey come out on top, even if I didn't think the journey was the best.

The story does have some romance, but it's very minor. It almost reads like a middle grade book. I think it's targeted for young adults and adults, but would work for a younger reader. None of the romance or criminal activity is ever explored in too great a detail to be unsuitable for a nine or ten year old.

Enjoyable and overall well written story. I don't think I will continue the series, but I'm sure that if you like horses and equestrian competition you would enjoy this read.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets~J K Rowling | Review

Title: The Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2)
Author: J K Rowling
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Length: 341 Pages (Hardback)
Release: July 1998
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I first read this book when I was ten years old. My parents gave me the first two books for Christmas right after the movie came out. I don't remember my initial thoughts on first reading it, though I remember not enjoying it nearly as much as the first or third books, which I read just before and just after this one.

Over the years I've read this book four or five times and each time it's somewhat of a chore to get through. For some reason it has always been my least favorite of the series, though I can't place my finger on exactly why. This time I had no problem getting through it and really enjoyed finally reading this again, since my last read was probably ten years ago.

Fred and George continue to be my favorite characters. We only really ever get glimpses of them throughout the books, but they are genuinely good people. I don't know that I really appreciated them as much when I was younger, though I found them very funny.

This one was a lot spookier than I remembered, but not in a bad way. All of the dealings with the chamber of secrets and the writings on the wall were eerie and I could see how it would be an unsettling read for a young audience, though it wasn't for me at ten.

While I really enjoy this series and the overall world building for the books, I don't find the characters that well developed. For the most part they all seem somewhat flat to me. Harry, Ron, and Hermione have some character development, but it never really feels like you get to know them. The narrative style seems too removed from them personally, or emotionally, for me to really connect.

One thing that I find excellent in this volume (and likely in the ones to follow), is the foreshadowing. So many things are laid out for us here, if only we stop to look. I definitely noticed more things this time around.

Lockhart was a difficult character to read about, though he did add a lot of comic relief to the story. The ending was somewhat abrupt, without a lot of action or real resolution. Everything seemed to just be tied up in a couple of chapters.

This is another solid book in the series and I am really excited for my reread of book three. It's fun to see what my adult self thinks of the series so many years later.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Boy Who Runs~John Brant | Review

Title: The Boy Who Runs
Author: Julius Achon and John Brant
Genre: Nonfiction/Biography
Length: 272 Pages
Release: August 2016
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I received a copy of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I don't read a lot of nonfiction, but I've been wanting to broaden my reading in that regard so when I came across this on Netgalley I decided to request it. I don't know if I had ever heard of Julius Achon, but his story sounded inspiring and important.

This book goes through Julius's life, from when he was a small child in the village of Awake, to his adult life running a nonprofit organization to help the people of Uganda. He faced a lot of opposition through his life and I am sure continues to face it today. He was kidnapped as a young child and forced into a rebel army, he escaped and became a world class runner, he competed in two Olympic Games, and through all of this he felt a responsibility to his family in Uganda.

Julius has an inspiring story and I would love to learn more about the work he is doing to better the lives of his countrymen. This book was definitely eye opening about the things that have happened in Uganda in recent history. Julius Achon is only around forty years old right now, he was made a boy soldier only a few years before I was born. This information would be shocking to a lot of the people who live near me. So many people are blind to the happenings around the world; I know I am not nearly has informed as I could be. We live in a world information, where you can find out almost anything at the click of a button, but until someone points you toward it, there are lots of things you would probably overlook. For that reason alone this is a good book. It gives you an honest view of what life in Uganda was like for Julius, what it is like for his family.

One of the best things about this book is the style in which it is presented. It reads more like a novel than a textbook, which I think is important. It presents the facts but formatted into a story, sometimes jumping backward and forward in time to connect certain events, instead of being dry and a chore to read. And this does not lessen its impact or message in the slightest.

This is an important book and I think a lot of people would benefit from reading it. The Achon Uganda Children's Fund (the organization that Julius started alongside his close friends) seems to be a very helpful and inspiring organization. And having the background of where Julius came from, why he wanted to start the organization in the first place, and how it came to be makes it that much more powerful. It's something that I am looking forward to researching more.