Review: Beast by Brie Spangler

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Title: Beast
Author: Brie Spangler
Pub. Date: October 2016
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Description:

Tall, meaty, muscle-bound, and hairier than most throw rugs, Dylan doesn’t look like your average fifteen-year-old, so, naturally, high school has not been kind to him. To make matters worse, on the day his school bans hats (his preferred camouflage), Dylan goes up on his roof only to fall and wake up in the hospital with a broken leg—and a mandate to attend group therapy for self-harmers.

Dylan vows to say nothing and zones out at therapy—until he meets Jamie. She’s funny, smart, and so stunning, even his womanizing best friend, JP, would be jealous. She’s also the first person to ever call Dylan out on his self-pitying and superficiality.

As Jamie’s humanity and wisdom begin to rub off on Dylan, they become more than just friends. But there is something Dylan doesn’t know about Jamie, something she shared with the group the day he wasn’t listening. Something that shouldn’t change a thing. She is who she’s always been—an amazing photographer and devoted friend, who also happens to be transgender. But will Dylan see it that way?


The Review

Despite the fact that there were barely any characters that were likeable, I enjoyed Beast so much!

I hated JP from the beginning until the end. I didn’t care for Dylan/Beast too much either. Dylan just seemed very whiny and woe is me. I know part of that woe is me is a premise behind the book, but it just bothered me every time I read him degrade himself and the whole relying on what someone – including himself – looks like for happiness.

Of course I really loved Jamie’s character . . . she was real from the beginning to the end, didn’t take anyone’s shit, and could handle her own. Not once did she want Dylan’s help at all, despite his constant offering of protection.

Sometimes I felt like Dylan was trying too hard. He was obviously trying to prove something to himself and to Jamie, and it just felt forced. However, I could really tell it was all because of his internal struggling with everything that happened with Jamie. Having never dealt with this particular situation myself, I could completely understand his mentality.

The main topic of Beast is something I really think needs to be addressed more frequently, especially in YA! It’s something that’s not widely understood and it definitely should be. If more people took the time to understand and weren’t so close minded, maybe there wouldn’t be so much ignorance and hate.

If you or someone you know needs more information on transgender equality, please visit the National Center for Transgender Equality or visit GLAAD for further resources.

Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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Title: Caraval
Author: Stephanie Garber
Pub. Date: January 2017
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Description:

Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.


The Review

I followed a lot of the hype for Caraval, and I went back and forth on whether I wanted to read it or not. One minute it sounded really good, the next I just wasn’t sure. It was on my wishlist and figured I’d get to it eventually, but then I won an ARC.

The rest is history. I didn’t think I’d like it . . . the first chapter or so was a little off putting, but it still kept me intrigued and kept me reading. I didn’t want to put it down, even long after my eyes wouldn’t stay open any longer! Such an amazing book, and I am so glad I read it!

I immediately loved Julian the second he called Scarlett by the name “Crimson.” I shipped them pretty hard from then on. I still worried about his intentions the further into the story we got, because we find him in so many questionable situations.

I really liked Scarlett and her determination to find Tella. I am technically an only child, so I guess I don’t understand the sister dynamic. With that said, I am torn on how to feel about Scarlett and Tella’s relationship. Scarlett is the responsible one while Tella is the more wild and carefree one. However, it just felt like Scarlett was saving or protecting someone who didn’t care. It’s almost like Tella knew that Scarlett would do whatever and would be there no matter how careless she is, so she’s taking advantage. And I get it . . . if I had a sister, I would do everything and whatever I have to for her. It just felt awkward with Scarlett’s protectiveness and Tella’s “whatever” mentality.

Everything was so detailed and descriptive, that it made it feel like I was experiencing Caraval myself! It was such a fun read to get pulled into the world. And Legend is definitely an interesting character and I couldn’t get enough of the world of Caraval. There’s a story behind Legend and Caraval, and it was very fun to learn the history.

There’s magic, intrigue, a story to tell. And one hell of a cliffhanger!

Review: And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich

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Title: And the Trees Crept In
Author: Dawn Kurtagich
Pub. Date: September 2016
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Description:

When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt’s home, it’s immediately clear that the “blood manor” is cursed. The creaking of the house and the stillness of the woods surrounding them would be enough of a sign, but there are secrets too–the questions that Silla can’t ignore: Who is the beautiful boy that’s appeared from the woods? Who is the man that her little sister sees, but no one else? And why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer?


The Review

I’m not usually big on horror/scary reads – I’m rarely ever touched by a scary book. I’ve seen so many people say that this book is very creepy with just enough scare, so I figured I could give it a try. I didn’t want something that would creep me out too much, because that’s just not my thing anymore.

To be honest, there were chapter intros – for instance the way it was broken down into “books” – that made me question exactly what their purpose was but it didn’t really alter the overall feel of the book. Despite that, And the Trees Crept In was a really well written book. The writing was so superb that it left just the right about of creepy tingles. There were some elements that made me cringe, too. Very detailed.

I love the ending to And the Trees Crept In, and I didn’t really see it coming. It made for a nice twist to an otherwise typical type of spooky story. I think this would make for an amazing movie, too. For some reason, I also got a little bit of a Flowers in the Attic vibe. For being “trapped” inside the house and nowhere to go.

Is there a true legend behind The Creeper Man or is it specific to this book? I know I’ve heard of Slender Man – it’s been in the news, and my six year old plays a game that has a Slender Man – that’s very similar to the description of The Creeper Man. It’s a nice little legend to tell over campfires and things like that.

Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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Title: The Girl on the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
Pub. Date: March 2015
Pages: 325
Format: Hardcover
Rating: ⭐⭐

Description:

EVERY DAY THE SAME

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

UNTIL TODAY

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?


The Review

There was so much hype surrounding this book and movie. So. Much. Hype. And it let me down. Majorly. I’m going to see the movie just to see if the movie had more . . . oomph. This felt like Gone Girl all over again, and I didn’t finish that!

I don’t even know why I finished The Girl on the Train. I guess I wanted to see if Rachel would turn herself around because she was a complete mess. I was convinced she was simply off her rocker, and in a way she was. Her drunken escapades were exactly the same, so it was like reading the same things over and over again.

Then the ending just felt forced. It didn’t feel fluid and natural. Almost like it was just jammed into the last 50-ish pages because the author didn’t know how to transition into it. I started to realise what was happening before it was revealed, and that’s rare for me – I’m horrible at guessing mystery type things. It was a little predictable.

Review: The Blazing Star by Imani Josey

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Title: The Blazing Star
Author: Imani Josey
Pub. Date: December 2016
Pages: 304
Format: eBook
Rating: ⭐⭐

Description:

Sixteen-year-old Portia White is used to being overlooked—after all, her twin sister Alex is a literal genius.

But when Portia holds an Egyptian scarab beetle during history class, she takes center stage in a way she never expected: she faints. Upon waking, she is stronger, faster, and braver than before. And when she accidentally touches the scarab again?

She wakes up in ancient Egypt—her sister and an unwitting freshman in tow.

Great.

Mysterious and beautiful, Egypt is more than they could have ever imagined from their days in the classroom. History comes alive as the three teens realize that getting back to the present will be the most difficult thing they’ve ever done. Stalked by vicious monsters called Scorpions, every step in the right direction means a step closer to danger.

As Portia and the girls discover that they’re linked to the past by more than just chance, they have to decide what it truly means to be yourself, to love your sister, and to find your way home.


The Review

Okay, I’ve been struggling with this review. My thoughts are all over the place and nothing is really coherent and solid (even after thinking about it for a few weeks now). This was a DNF for me at around 60% and it’s not because the book was bad because it wasn’t.

I just didn’t see it going anywhere and it was a very slow read for me. Which is saying a lot, because The Blazing Star was strong in the beginning . . . we’re introduced to the bad-ass Portia and her twin sister Alex who is a genius, and the first few chapters cover their dynamic with one another and Portia’s jealousy toward her sister. But once Portia went back to Egypt, it just s l o w e d down.

Then it felt like it was just one repeating event after another, and just “getting by” until something big happened, and nothing happened. There were a few moments of something happening but nothing worthwhile. Maybe I was expecting more action or just needed to keep reading, but it just wasn’t doing it for me.

It’s a shame, too, because there was an entire cast of female POC characters. Portia knew how to handle herself – even if she was snarky and some of it was uncalled for or came up in inappropriate situations – so I could see her as a great heroine. Even before they went to Egypt, she helped Selene even after her twin sister told her not to and she was feeling ill.

Also, as a white woman . . . I feel a little awkward saying this, because it might be something I’m reading into, but Selene’s character was described as having dark black skin and then treated a slave while in Egypt. I know that in today’s society, that darker black skin is considered unattractive, etc., and that makes me worry if that was intentional somehow.

I was hoping The Blazing Star was going to be much better than it actually was, and I wish I could’ve finished it. It might not be my cup of tea, but I’m sure it’ll speak to many others.

Review: The Exo Project by Andrew DeYoung

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Title: The Exo Project
Author: Andrew DeYoung
Pub. Date: April 2017
Pages: 455
Format: ARC
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Description:

This fast-paced, sharply written multiple-perspective YA science-fiction debut opens on a future Earth ravaged by solar radiation. Desperate for money to save his sick mother, seventeen-year-old Matthew agrees to participate in the Exo Project, a government plan to save the human race by flying across the galaxy in search of a habitable planet for resettlement. He thinks he’s been given a death sentence: 100 years in cryostasis, followed by a quick death on some barren world. But then he lands on Gle’ah, discovering the strange, beautiful creatures who live there, including Kiva, the captivating teenage girl who leads her planet’s matriarchal society. Kiva views Matthew as a threat and for good reason—if he tells Earth that he’s found a suitable planet, it will mean the end of her people’s way of life. But then Kiva and Matthew discover an emotional connection they never expected—and as they begin to delve into the secrets of Matthew’s mission and the dark truth behind the seeming paradise of Gle’ah, the choices they make will have consequences for both of their worlds.


The Review

I’m not really that into sci-fi type of stories, but I’m trying to branch out of my comfort zone a little and I was given the chance to read The Exo Project early and it sounded really good. I thought it sounded more dystopian than sci-fi, which had me sold!

While The Exo Project is a sci-fi read . . . it didn’t really read like one, which was good. I mean, there were several elements and concepts throughout the book to indicate as such, but I was so engrossed in the story that it didn’t stick out and feel overwhelmingly so.

I saw a plot twist coming, but it was nothing that I predicted. I was using Kiva’s (and Kyne’s) visions from the Ancestors to guide my predictions, but I was wrong. Which made the twist and ultimate feel of the book even more exciting.

I knew Sam was trouble, even before they took off on their mission. His story was intriguing to learn more of, and he completely reminded me of a white supremacist. Not only with the way he acted and the things he said once they landed on Gle’ah, but hearing the backstory with his dad.

There were so many aspects of The Exo Project that I’ve had conversations with people about . . . before reading the book, so it was really fun reading a lot of this and feeling so familiar with my thoughts. Then talking about it after reading it! I finished reading almost a month ago and I’m still thinking and talking about it,  🙂

The Ancestors . . . I had so many thoughts about them. I was thinking there was an underlying “god” thing with the Ancestors. Reading the history and the concept behind the Ancestors, I think, was my favorite part of the book. It really tied everything together and made everything pan out to a broader picture.

I was engrossed from beginning to end, in a fast-paced world with plenty of twists. A book that is worth the read, gets you thinking about the world we currently live in and the possibility of life outside of Earth. Now with the discovery of TRAPPIST-1, anything is a possibility!  🙂

Review: The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson

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Title: The Vanishing Season
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Pub. Date: July 2014
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Description:

Girls started vanishing in the fall.

For Maggie Larsen, the town of Gill Creek is only a stopgap before college and freedom. Until she meets Pauline and Liam. What starts as an uneventful year suddenly changes. Someone is killing teenage girls, and the town reels from the tragedy. As Maggie’s and Pauline’s worlds collide and change around them, they will both experience love and loss. And by the end of the book, only one of them will survive.


The Review

I’ve read Anderson’s Peaches series and enjoyed them. I really like her writing and the draw to friendship, so when I saw The Vanishing Season had all that . . . I had to give it a whirl.

There is the friendship element, with a little love triangle – I need more two girls, one guy love triangle in my life! – tossed in. But it also had a dark undertone, and a twist at the end . . . which I saw coming; foreshadowing was on point.

I really liked this book, don’t get me wrong. Some of it felt cut off short – the Door County killer wasn’t who they thought it was and then never mentioned it again. And I think some of the narrating from the “ghost” was unnecessary. It wasn’t until the end that I kind of saw its importance, but even so.

And let me tell you – the whole thing with Maggie, Liam, and Pauline was inevitable and something that Maggie said to Liam was the truth . . . they were bored, and Maggie should’ve known better. The drama with them felt so much like Dawson’s Creek, and Joey, Dawson, and Pacey. No shame. I love that stuff!

The love triangle is probably the main reason I kept reading after the whole letdown with the killer and not knowing who it was.

I wish the ending was different. Not only with who the “ghost” is, but with what they see in the past and how things turned out after they died. However, it’s still a great read that left me wondering and patiently waiting to find out what will happen.