Tag Archives: book

Stone Faced Angel

Stone Faced Angel Book Cover Stone Faced Angel
The Stone Angels Saga, Book 1
Marie McKean
February 1, 2015
275

There are some things I know for sure:

I died . . . A long time ago
Even in death I was always aware of him.
Love has a way of making even angels choose to leave their heaven above.

 

Review:

If I could give half stars, “Stone Faced Angel” would get 3 1/2.

The story of an angel coming to earth looking for love is definitely an intriguing plot, and it did deliver in moments.  As is too often not the case, there was an actual love interest that is a good example of what to look for in a partner as opposed to being obnoxious and overbearing.  The love story moved too quickly in my opinion, but it was not unrealistic enough to distract from the romance.

The main problem with the book is the pacing.  The beginning seemed to be from an entirely different novel, then it sped up, then slowed down again.  I would have preferred it to be more consistent, settling into a happy medium.  At times things became a little too unrealistic, but overall it was a sweet story.

I would recommend “Stone Faced Angel” to those who are fans of “Fallen Angel” type stories and those who enjoy fantasies between this world and the next.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations

The Here and Now

The Here and Now Book Cover The Here and Now
Ann Brashares
Juvenile Fiction
Delacorte Press
2014
242

Seventeen-year-old Prenna, an immigrant who moved to New York when she was twelve, came from another time and she and the other travelers must follow strict rules to avoid destroying the new life they have worked so hard to get, as well as the one personPrenna is desperate to protect.

 

Review:

I don’t know whether I had high expectations because I loved “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” so much, or whether it was the book itself, but I found “The Here and Now” to be underwhelming.

The premise is original, and there is no real fault in the storytelling, but it seems like it would have been more suited to a short story.  There was quite a bit of filler in regard to the plot and the romance felt sudden, jarring, and forced.  The only character that seemed to be fully developed was the protagonist.

All of those being said, while there are sexual situations, it is a very easy and quick read that can easily appeal to younger middle readers.  In spite of there being plot filler, it does flow well, and it is technically well-written.

I would recommend it for the younger set, but not for older young adults or adults.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Mild Language, Brief Sexual Situations, Violence

Since You’ve Been Gone

Since You've Been Gone Book Cover Since You've Been Gone
Mary Jennifer Payne
Juvenile Fiction
Dundurn PressLtd
2015-01-24
224

On the run from her abusive father, fifteen-year-old Edie Fraser and her mother flee to London, England for a fresh start. But one day, Edie's mom doesn't come home from work. Afraid to phone the police and risk being returned to her father, Edie begins a desperate search for her mother, and finds an unlikely ally along the way.

 

Review:

“Since You’ve Been Gone” was a very difficult book to rate.  It tackles some very difficult subjects, including domestic violence and racism.  To be honest, I had no idea how rampant racism was in Great Britain until reading this novel, and the valuable education alone raised it from two stars to three.  I’d like to thank the author,  Mary Jennifer Payne, for making me more aware.

The problem with the book was not the plot but the pacing.  It all seemed very rushed from one event to the next in a way that did not allow the reader to gain much understanding of each situation.  It would have been much better had there been more details offered, even though it would have significantly increased the length.  A story about such heavy topics deserves to be fully explored.

There were also a large amount of secondary characters that were completely unnecessary.  They presented conflicts that had no resolution in some cases, and in others they just served to muddle the story.  One character in particular did nothing for me but make me have an intense dislike of Edie, the protagonist.

It was not terrible, and I can neither recommend nor say it is to be avoided.

This book is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Brief Sexual Situations, Violence, Domestic Violence

Golden Son

Golden Son Book Cover Golden Son
Red Rising, Book 2
Pierce Brown
Fiction
Del Rey
2015-01-06
464

With shades of The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, and Game of Thrones, debut author Pierce Brown’s genre-defying epic Red Rising hit the ground running and wasted no time becoming a sensation. Golden Son continues the stunning saga of Darrow, a rebel forged by tragedy, battling to lead his oppressed people to freedom. As a Red, Darrow grew up working the mines deep beneath the surface of Mars, enduring backbreaking labor while dreaming of the better future he was building for his descendants. But the Society he faithfully served was built on lies. Darrow’s kind have been betrayed and denied by their elitist masters, the Golds—and their only path to liberation is revolution. And so Darrow sacrifices himself in the name of the greater good for which Eo, his true love and inspiration, laid down her own life. He becomes a Gold, infiltrating their privileged realm so that he can destroy it from within. A lamb among wolves in a cruel world, Darrow finds friendship, respect, and even love—but also the wrath of powerful rivals. To wage and win the war that will change humankind’s destiny, Darrow must confront the treachery arrayed against him, overcome his all-too-human desire for retribution—and strive not for violent revolt but a hopeful rebirth. Though the road ahead is fraught with danger and deceit, Darrow must choose to follow Eo’s principles of love and justice to free his people. He must live for more. Advance praise for Golden Son “Pierce Brown is a prodigy. As great as the first book of the Red Rising Trilogy is, Golden Son is even better. A wild ride full of suspense, intrigue, and serious ass-kicking bravado, it’s expertly written and emotionally engaging, with top-notch universe-building that begs for further exploration. I want more!”—Christopher Golden, New York Times bestselling author of Snowblind “The stakes are even higher than they were in Red Rising, and the twists and turns of the story are every bit as exciting. The jaw-dropper of an ending will leave readers hungry for the conclusion to Brown’s wholly original, completely thrilling saga.”—Booklist (starred review) “Dramatic . . . the rare middle book that loses almost no momentum as it sets up the final installment.”—Publishers Weekly “Darrow is an assertive hero. . . . Comparisons to The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones series are inevitable, for this tale has elements of both.”—Kirkus Reviews Praise for Pierce Brown’s Red Rising “[A] spectacular adventure . . . one heart-pounding ride . . . Pierce Brown’s dizzyingly good debut novel evokes The Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies, and Ender’s Game. . . . [Red Rising] has everything it needs to become meteoric.”—Entertainment Weekly “[A] top-notch debut novel . . . Red Rising ascends above a crowded dystopian field.”—USA Today “Compulsively readable and exceedingly entertaining . . . [a] must for both fans of classic sci-fi and fervent followers of new school dystopian epics.”—Examiner.com “A story of vengeance, warfare and the quest for power . . . reminiscent of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones.”—Kirkus Reviews “Fast-paced, gripping, well-written—the sort of book you cannot put down.”—Terry Brooks From the Hardcover edition.

 

Review:

The first thought I had when I finished reading “Golden Son” is that there is no way I can wait an entire year to find out what happens next.  My second thought was a mass of self-pity that I have no choice but to wait.  Finally, my third thought was that it was an amazing follow-up to “Red Rising” and was actually even better than the first in the series.

Pierce Brown has built an amazing world and mythology for the Red Rising series.  Everything is fully fleshed out and even when not explicitly written, you can tell he has a backstory in mind for all of the races.  It’s a pleasure whenever you find out more, and at no point does it contradict anything that was previously written.

One of my favorite aspects of the characters in “Golden Son” is that none of them are perfect.  Darrow, the protagonist, is extremely flawed.  No character is good or bad, even those who are the clear villains of the story.  All of the characters from “Red Rising” experienced a great deal of growth in “Golden Son”, with many not taking a route you would expect.  There were some particularly bold moves by the author when it comes to Eo, but I will leave those for the reader to discover on their own.

At no point does the plot lag, and that is saying quite a bit for a novel the length of “Golden Son”.  It is filled with war, adventure, gore, fantasy, science-fiction, romance, and anything else you can fit into a book.  If you are a fan of “Red Rising”, make sure you clear a couple of days on your calendar, because you will not want to put this one down.  If you have never read the first in the series, I highly encourage you to do so and to be certain you have “Golden Son” ready to begin as soon as you finish the last page of “Red Rising”.

In short, I highly recommend “Golden Son”, but do need to caution that it is not for the squeamish.  It is also not a young adult novel, though I saw “Red Rising” categorized in many places as such, so that is something for parents of middle readers to keep in mind.

5 stars all the way.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 
Content Warning:

I generally only do these for young adult books.  However, this book is extremely violent and gory, and it does have just about every adult theme imaginable.  You have been warned.

The In Between

The In Between Book Cover The In Between
Olivia Pierce
Full Fathom Five Digital
November 26, 2014
344

Tara Jenkins and Justin Westcroft used to be childhood BFFs. Now in high school, Justin’s a popular, all-star athlete, and Tara spends her days admiring him from afar. But when Tara saves Justin from nearly drowning in a freak accident, he’s unable to get her out of his mind. In no time at all, Tara and Justin fall deeply in love. And even though it’s only high school, they seem destined for a Happily Ever After.

Until tragedy strikes—and this time, Justin’s not so lucky. Tara passes through her days as a shell of her former self: Justin’s dead, but she can still feel his presence, and she can’t seem to let him go.

But there’s a reason for that, and it’s not just grief: Justin is In Between, and he’s still holding on.

They say that when someone saves you, you’re tied to them for life. But what about the afterlife?

 

Review:

I really did want to enjoy “The In Between”, with the description of a romance combined with a unique idea of the afterlife sounding very intriguing to me.  Unfortunately, after a promising beginning, it went off of the rails and turned into a chore to read.

There were many inconsistencies in the plot and characters.  The age difference between the main character and her sister changed at least three times, and all of the qualities of the main character that were previously developed in the first two-thirds of the novel were completely thrown out to force her personality to fit in with the plot.

Also, one of my pet peeves is any novel that portrays an overbearing love interest as something to aspire to in romance.  It’s bad enough in adult fiction, but I hate it even more in novels meant for young adults.  “The In Between” is a particular offender in this category, with an extremely selfish boy who is, quite literally, defined as the epitome of perfect and pure love.  I don’t want to spoil the plot, but he was pretty much willing to do anything for his own wants, and then the plot seemed to bend to make him the hero.  It was more than a little off-putting and the reason I gave the book one star instead of two.

The plot itself is excessively busy.  Around the halfway mark the “in between” portion seems to turn into its own novel with a host of characters and various plotlines that are introduced and then either left unresolved or brought to an abrupt, not to mention contrived, conclusion.  It feels like the author wanted every story she ever thought of to be crammed into one book.  One plot had so little to do with the other that I do not think it would have even worked if stretched into an entire series.

I cannot recommend “The In Between”.  The ideas in it could have made for two interesting novels, but the combination and execution simply did not work.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Sexual Situations, Bullying, Eating Disorders

All the Bright Places

All the Bright Places Book Cover All the Bright Places
Jennifer Niven
Knopf Books for Young Readers
January 6, 2015
Hardcover
400

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

 

Review:

I can summarize my thoughts on “All the Bright Places” by saying that this is a book that anyone in the upper middle grades and up absolutely needs to read, including adults.  It may be one of the most important books written in this decade, and I will be extremely disappointed if I don’t see it start popping up on school reading lists within a year.

The writing, complete with witty dialogue and two distinct narrator voices, is witty and solid.  You feel in the moment along with them, as opposed to reading about their own moment.  The characters are well-developed when they should be and not developed when they should not be.  That sentence makes little sense before you read it, but please keep it in mind when you get to the end.

Jennifer Niven is a brave woman with bold and risky decisions concerning the plot, and all of those decisions come together to form a masterpiece.  I can’t say much else, because the journey is the most important part of “All the Bright Places”, so I do not want to inadvertently spoil even the smallest of moments.  I will say that it is a story that will most likely stay with you for life.

In short, here are three things I know to be true about “All the Bright Places”:

  1. There will be a movie adaptation starring Elle Fanning.
  2. There will be angry posts all over the internet no matter who is chosen to play Theodore Finch, because he will be so loved by fans, and that is the nature of fandom.
  3. It will save lives.  Literally.

Five stars in this instance needs to be rounded up to 500.  Please read it, and please take its messages to heart.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Sexual Situations, Talk of Suicide and Self-Harming

We Should Hang Out Sometime

We Should Hang Out Sometime Book Cover We Should Hang Out Sometime
Josh Sundquist
Juvenile Nonfiction
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
2014-12-23
336

When I was twenty-five years old, it came to my attention that I had never had a girlfriend. At the time, I was actually under the impression that I was in a relationship, so this bit of news came as something of a shock. Why was Josh still single? To find out, he tracked down each of the girls he had tried to date since middle school and asked them straight up: What went wrong? The results of Josh's semiscientific investigation are in your hands. From a disastrous Putt-Putt date involving a backward prosthetic foot, to his introduction to CFD (Close Fast Dancing), and a misguided "grand gesture" at a Miss America pageant, this story is about looking for love-or at least a girlfriend-in all the wrong places. Poignant, relatable, and totally hilarious, this memoir is for anyone who has ever wondered, "Is there something wrong with me?" (Spoiler Alert: the answer is no.)

 

Review:

All I really want to write about “We Should Hang Out Sometime” is a bunch of keyboard slamming with “EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS NOW” at the end of it.  Oh, and a whole bunch of “lols”.   It really is that good, and Josh Sundquist is a master storyteller.

The book is a somewhat scientific exploration of all of the author’s failed relationships and an attempt to find out where, exactly, they went wrong.  He is a Christian homeschooled amputee with a nerdy side, making him atypical in many ways, but I dare anyone not to find parts of the story that they feel do not come straight out of their own lives.  This is where Sundquist’s genius comes in: He can make us all relate to him, and therefore learn from him.  I, by the way, fell (and still do) solidly in the “let me make a flowchart to minimize the pain of rejection during a social interaction” category.  But I digress.

There are a lot of laughs in “We Should Hang Out Sometime”, including some of those uncomfortable “should I be laughing at this?” moments.  My advice is to go with it, because trying to keep it in will hurt.  It isn’t only words.  There are hand-drawn charts graphs that are worthy of being made into posters illustrating many key points.

By the end of the book, the Josh Sundquist has shown remarkable growth as a person and managed to teach us some very good inspirational life lessons.  An excellent, and important, read for middle readers through adults.

So, in closing:  Mr. Sundquist, we should hang out sometime.  (But not in that way.)

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Risk of Urinary Incontinence While Laughing

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock Book Cover Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
Matthew Quick
Juvenile Fiction
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
2014-07-01
304

In addition to the P-38, there are four gifts, one for each of my friends. I want to say good-bye to them properly. I want to give them each something to remember me by. To let them know I really cared about them and I'm sorry I couldn't be more than I was--that I couldn't stick around--and that what's going to happen today isn't their fault. Today is Leonard Peacock's birthday. It is also the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather's P-38 pistol. Maybe one day he'll believe that being different is okay, important even. But not today.

 

Review:

If there is any book that is important to read, it is “Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock” by Matthew Quick.

I feel like I could hit a character limit for reviews simply by listing all of the life lessons to be found in the book, but I will try to keep it at a minimum.  It gives excellent insight into the mind of someone who feels they have nothing left to live for, as well as all of the attempts made at reaching out that go unnoticed by most.  However, it also makes it very clear that someone does care, even though Leonard may not know it at the time.  There is another hugely important issue raised that is very seldom touched on and took quite a bit of bravery to tackle as bluntly as it was, but I don’t want to spoil what happens.  Trust me when I say that it will make you think.

The characters are all very quirky and well-written, which is typically the case in anything written by Matthew Quick, and I really appreciated that Leonard is an extremely flawed character.  All too often books for young adults tend to portray a victim of bullying and/or someone with suicidal tendencies as being a perfect human being.  That is not the case here, nor is it the case with any person on earth.  It makes the entire story even more relatable by keeping it realistic.

The writing flows well, and given its subject matter, it is an incredibly quick read.  However, the story will stay in your mind long after “Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock” ends.

Everyone should read “Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock”.  I know that I will think more carefully about those around me and look for signs of distress, and I hope that others will, as well.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations,  Violence, Suicide, Rape

 

Anomaly

Anomaly Book Cover Anomaly
Schrodinger's Consortium, Book 1
Tonya Kuper
Juvenile Fiction
Entangled: Teen
2014-11-25
400

Reality is only an illusion. Except for those who can control it… Worst. Birthday. Ever. My first boyfriend dumped me—happy birthday, Josie!—my dad is who knows where, I have some weird virus that makes me want to hurl, and now my ex is licking another girl’s tonsils. Oh, and I’m officially the same age as my brother was when he died. Yeah, today is about as fun-filled as the swamps of Dagobah. But then weird things start happening… Like I make something materialize just by thinking about it. When hottily-hot badass Reid Wentworth shows up on a motorcycle, everything changes. Like, everything. Who I am. My family. What really happened to my brother. Existence. I am Oculi, and I have the ability to change reality with my thoughts. Now Reid, in all his hotness, is charged with guiding and protecting me as I begin learning how to bend reality. And he’s the only thing standing between me and the secret organization that wants me dead…

 

Review:

This is one instance where I really wish half stars were an option, because I wanted to give “Anomaly” 3 1/2 stars.  I chose to round up, because aside from one specific issue (which I will expand upon later), it was a solid 4 star book, in my opinion.  Giving it 3 stars would be taking off too much.

“Anomaly” is a fun dystopian YA thriller based on the works of Schrodinger and his fellow scientists.  Josie is able to “Push” things into reality by her thoughts, and because she can also “Retract” them, she is an anomaly.  It’s a fun premise with a well-timed plot that keeps you guessing.  Also, there is a good romance in there that isn’t forced into a love triangle.  Build me a ship, and I will sail it.

The only concern I have with the book is that it may be almost too reliant on references to pop culture.  A good many the average reader will get, but some are very obviously related directly to fandom.  That’s great if you’re in the fandom, but a little more explanation may be necessary for others.  One example I can think of is the use of the name Benedict in reference to two posters.  I’ll give a spoiler here, because I do not want that to keep YA dystopian romance lovers from reading the book: Cumberbatch.  IMDB. You’re welcome.

Overall, I really enjoyed “Anomaly” and am looking forward to reading the next.

This review is based upon an advanced copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Sexual Situations

 

The Pornographer’s Daughter: A Memoir of Childhood, My Dad, and Deep Throat

The Pornographer's Daughter Book Cover The Pornographer's Daughter
Kristin Battista-Frazee
Biography & Autobiography
Skyhorse Publishing Company Incorporated
2014-09-30
280

More than forty years after Deep Throat arrived on the cultural scene and inspired a sexual revolution, questions about the ethics of pornography and its impact on society are still being asked today and remain as controversial as ever. Kristin Battista-Frazee was only four years old in 1974 when her father, Anthony Battista, was indicted by the federal government for distributing the now famous porn film Deep Throat. As her father unexpectedly became an early pioneer in the emerging porn industry and transformed himself from Philadelphia stockbroker to porn broker, this indictment threatened his family’s stability. The stress drove Kristin’s mother, Frances Battista, to worry endlessly if her husband would be put in jail. She became so depressed that she attempted suicide. Kristin survived this family trauma to live a surprisingly normal life. But instead of leaving the past behind her, she developed a burning curiosity to understand her family’s history. Why did the federal government so vehemently prosecute this case? And why did her father get involved in distributing this notorious porn film in the first place? Did the influence of pornography in fact make Kristin a better person? Answering these questions and reconciling her dramatic family history with her life as a wife and mother became her mission. The Pornographer’s Daughter is an insider’s glimpse into the events that made Deep Throat and pornography so popular, as well as what it was like to come of age against the backdrop of the pornography business.

 

Review:

Every single person who wants to write a funny, readable, and memorable memoir needs to read “The Pornographer’s Daughter” before they write a single word.  It is everything anyone could ask of a book, whether it be fiction or non-fiction.

As the title suggests, Kristin Battista-Frazee’s father worked as a distributor of porn, specifically the ever-famous “Deep Throat” starring Linda Lovelace.  The entire story of “Deep Throat” is a fascinating one in and of itself.  Add in the mob, the feds, the morality wars of the times, an extended Italian family, and a cast of characters that includes at least seven variations of “Anthony” and “Tony”, and you have a story that is beyond improbable.  Yet, it is.

Along with all of the above, “The Pornographer’s Daughter” is a beautiful homage to the author’s unusual family and childhood.  None of it is sugar-coated: she puts it all out there, flaws and all.  The love is obvious, even in the context of such a unconventional childhood.

In short, I laughed, I cried from laughing, I cried from beautiful passages, and then I wished I knew most of the eccentric characters in my own life.  I am extremely excited to see the television show that is being developed!

This review is based upon a copy from the Goodreads First Reads program given in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Do I really need to put one here?  Pornographer is in the title, along with the iconic porn “Deep Throat”.