I’m still around, I promise.

Life has been super busy, you guys. In January, my husband and I and our cat and parrot moved about 600 miles away from the county where I had lived since I was in preschool. We got a gorgeous new apartment, I started working a crazy-but-amazing new job, my husband got a new job, and we adopted a dog. All within the span of two months. Things are just settling down now to the point where I’m making myself take some time to read.

(Oh, and did I mention that I’ve been pretty much constantly sick since we moved? My lungs do not agree with the new climate, even though it’s not THAT much different from where I used to live. Cough drops, cough medicine, my inhaler, tissues, Vicks VapoRub and Sudafed have become my best friends.)

Anyway, so I am getting back into reading. Slowly. Very slowly. So I’m still around, I’ll still be posting (hopefully a little less intermittently!), and I will do my best to read the books I have lined up to review! You know who you are. 🙂

One of the perks of moving from a rural area to a much more urban area is that the library here is amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I love the small town library where the librarians knew who I was… but I am much more pleased with the collection of (physical) books that the library here has! Also, they have a reading room with comfy chairs and big windows. I don’t think there are words to describe how happy this makes me! I love being able to go there on a weekend and curl up with a big stack of books with my iPod playing, and just lose myself in a world that someone else has created. It’s one of the most soothing things I can do.

Another interesting “change” since we moved is that I’ve become more interested in nonfiction. I’ve started reading various humor authors – from Dave Barry (I like him but he is a bit repetitive) to Joan Rivers (don’t like her, too offensive on all levels) – as well as true crime (not right before bed though) and just various other books (for example, right now I’m reading Unmentionable: A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners – it’s pretty interesting! although I already knew some of the things written about in it). I’m also reading a variety of fiction – on my Kindle app on my phone, I’m STILL working toward finishing Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (I didn’t like Gone Girl – I think because I took too long to finish it so I lost threads of the plot – but I decided to give Flynn another shot). From the library, I’m reading Let’s Get Lost by Ali Alsaid, Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume (classic! I’d never read any Judy Blume prior to earlier this year, when I finished Forever…), and Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake. And here at home, I have Fahreinheit 451 by Ray Bradbury waiting for me as well as The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, which I’m buddy-reading with my mom. 🙂

So all is (fairly) well here. I’m happy to be posting an update; I’ve missed being more active on here.

xx April.

They Mostly Come Out At Night – Benedict Patrick

Many thanks to the author for providing a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

5/5 stars.

I am just going to make a note at the beginning of my review: this is an honest review. I’m not giving this 5/5 stars as a favor or anything like that. I don’t do that stuff.

But… Wow. Just wow. When I initially received a copy of this book, I read 70% of it in about 2 days. I knew I would probably give it a 5/5 rating, but I wanted to give myself some time/space away from it just in case I was a little too excited about it to be fair.

So I set it aside. The week or two that I meant to set it aside for, turned into about four or five months (or 6 months…). I picked it up again today, and finished it.

Why am I telling you this? Well, so you know that my 5/5 stars was not just the starstruck “Oh my gosh this book was amazing” high that I sometimes get after reading a novel that gripped me. This is a starstruck “Oh my gosh this book was amazing AND I WANT MORE” high that has lasted for months.

As a voracious reader as well as a writer myself, I have a very vivid imagination. As such, I don’t watch TV – I read instead. Seeing things like book adaptations on TV/in movies can be somewhat frustrating since they’re not always portrayed as I’d like to see them portrayed. I know for some people, TV is relaxing and more distracting.

Again – why am I telling you this? Because reading They Mostly Come Out At Night is like watching the action-driven portion of a movie, except you get to fill in what the characters and places look like yourself. I could completely envision myself there, with Lonan, with Artemis, with the Magpie King… fighting in the forests, running through the halls of the Eyrie, seeing the destruction in the Eyrie, seeing the darkness that overtook the forest. I could also very vividly see the more gory scenes even though they were not extremely gorily written (so the enchantment of “seeing” what I read, especially evident in this book, was not always a blessing).

I don’t entirely know how Benedict Patrick managed to write They Mostly Come Out At Night the way he did. I don’t know how this book, above all others that I’ve read in recent years, plays out in my brain like a movie, with none of the issues that watching movies/TV comes with for me. I don’t know what it was about his writing that pulled me in, but whatever it was, I want more.

I loved how myths and legends were the backbone of this book. It was not a unique idea, but the way that it was carried out was, in my opinion, unique and wonderful. I definitely recommend this to anyone, but especially those who love fantasy combined with myths/legends.

Warning, though: They Mostly Come Out At Night does have portions that are dark and sad. So be ready to be pulled into the world that Benedict Patrick has created, and be ready to feel All The Things™.

This Is Where It Ends – Marieke Nijkamp

Many thanks to SOURCEBOOKS Fire, via NetGalley, for an opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!

3.5/5 stars

This is the first book of this nature that I’ve read – a YA novel that deals with a school shooting, told by 4 different POVs over the course of only 54 minutes. It was interesting, and I enjoyed it to a degree, but I never really felt a deep connection with any of the characters.

* Autumn – She was the character I felt the closest to. The dancer. She wanted to escape Opportunity, Alabama, and had been accepted to Juilliard for ballet. The sections of the book that involved her seemed to be the most emotionally laden, because of her abusive father and how he discouraged her dancing once her mother died…

* Sylv – Autumn’s girlfriend (but this was kept a secret until the shooting occurred, due to worries about what people would think – including Sylv’s family, who had very traditional values. And again, this takes place in Alabama, which is Bible Belt territory). I didn’t really ever feel connected to Sylv – it was clear that she cared for Autumn, but aside from that I found her to be a fairly forgettable character.

* Tomas – Sylv’s brother. Not forgettable at all, due to the fact that (view spoiler)

* Claire – the only one of the four who was not in the school when the shooting began. The one who went to get help. Yet she also was not terribly memorable nor did I feel any sort of emotional connection from her.

Perhaps that was intentional – the lack of emotional connection to the characters. Because of the horrific nature of the shooting, the disengagement might serve a purpose… because if it were too real, too emotionally-laden, then the readers might… oh, I don’t know. I’m really just bullshitting here.

And Ty. It was never really clear why he went on the rampage. He felt like no one was there for him… he was bullied and then dropped out of school, but it wasn’t clear what he was bullied about, since he seemed to be fairly popular when he was at school. He and Claire had dated for a time. I… really don’t understand. I mean, from what was shared in the book, the bullying had been fairly bad, but the point of it (him being awkward, a social outcast, a geek – any “reason” that kids bully other kids) was not really ever stated clearly. Then again, kids don’t always need a reason for bullying others…

Also, Sylv stated near the end of the book that Ty had hurt her in some way. It was alluding – I think? maybe? – to sexual assault (I’m thinking this due to a few other passages earlier in the book) but I don’t know and this was also never made clear.

Overall, it was the lack of emotional connection and lack of clarity about several key points that knocked this book down from a 4/5 or higher to a 3.5/5. It was interesting enough but the blurb pretty much tells the story… there wasn’t really anything hidden or any surprises throughout the book.

A Cure for Madness – Jodi McIsaac

Thanks to Thomas & Mercer, via NetGalley, for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

5/5 stars.

Those of you who have been following my blog for awhile know that I love to dissect books about mental illness, especially when the author has done a terrible job at the research involved in the book (for examples, see this review of The Asylum Prophecies or this review of Switching Time).

There was none of that nonsense in A Cure for Madness.
(Can I tell you how much I adore authors who present a realistic picture of mental illness??)

Anyway. I think what really caught me up in A Cure for Madness was not so much the fact that there was a pathogen that created an extremely contagious and incurable disease that was very similar to schizophrenia… but was more the relationships. I loved seeing how Clare slowly realized that her brother, Wes, was right in a lot of what he said, regarding her running away from Clarkeston. I loved seeing her character growth throughout the novel. And I loved Wes’ brotherly jabs at her (“my friends aren’t dickheads… unlike yours”).

I would’ve liked to see more romance between her and Kenneth, but given the hectic and tense situations that they continuously faced, it makes sense why there wasn’t (and honestly, given the setting of this book, it would’ve been more of a distraction had there been more of a spark between them). That being said, the book ended on such an amazing cliffhanger-but-not-quite-cliffhanger so if there is a follow-up/sequel to A Cure for Madness, I definitely want to see more Clare-and-Kenneth interaction in there (even if it’s not super romantic).

My honest opinion – Jodi McIsaac has a lot of talent. And I’m very interested to see where she will go from here. I’m definitely going to be putting some of her others books on my TBR pile (which is about the size of Mt. Everest now… and growing!).

Relentless – T.L. Childs & T. Deebs

Many thanks to SOURCEBOOKS Fire, via NetGalley, for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

4.5/5

I loved this book.

I didn’t read the first in the series (Powerless) but I think I’m going to – at some point – because I loved the world that Childs and Deebs created. A world where maybe the heroes aren’t all good, and maybe the villains aren’t all bad…

Kenna and her “gang” were very much enjoyable – hilarious, fun, and interesting – although I felt a little like I was missing some information since I hadn’t read the first book in the series. However, Relentless is standalone enough that I understood the majority of what was happening. That being said, for anyone who wants to read this, I’d recommend starting with Powerless for a smoother ride through Childs’ and Deebs’ world.

Nitro cracked me up.

I did get a little tired of Draven being “the bad boy” at the start, but then that illusion disappeared.

The ending was amazing, and I could totally see it playing out in my head like one of Marvel’s movies. (And that is a definite plus!) That being said, I’m not vying for this book to be the next YA made into a film, since I think that would do it an injustice. Though I do think that it would be a very interesting and enjoyable movie, I am more excited about the world and the action scenes being so vivid on paper alone.

I’m not sure what else I can say about this without spoiling elements of the story, but I do recommend it to those who want a rather different take on the hero/villain world. 🙂 I whizzed through Relentless and even though I’m a fast reader, I’m pretty sure it would be a fairly speedy read for anyone.

Now I want to get my hands on Powerless… 🙂

Surviving Haley – Brenda Baker

Thanks to Pelican Book Group, via NetGalley, for an opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!

2/5 stars.

Well, there’s a list of pros and cons about this book. And although I zoomed through this, I have a feeling that the list of “things I hated” is going to be a lot longer than “things I liked/loved.”

The things I liked/loved
* The fact that this book dealt with (or attempted to deal with) the difficult topics of grief/loss and how blame gets “passed around.”
* The fact that the disordered eating portrayed in the book was overeating, rather than undereating. That’s pretty rare, at least in my experience, regarding protagonists with eating disorders (or disordered eating).
* The fact that the school psychologist, who was the person that really ended up helping Protagonist, was cool and off-beat. 🙂

The things I disliked/hated
* Mean Girl was introduced, it was exposed that she had bulimia, but there was NO follow-up to that, and then suddenly, magically Mean Girl and her posse are being kind to Protagonist?
* Insta-insta-love. Jonah’s “God thing” was so humiliating, although he himself was and is adorable, and then BOOM…. all of a sudden after he shares that he’s not perfect, Protagonist loves him and he loves her, and they tell each other that…?
* Therapist (school psychologist) – who seemed REALLY cool, I loved that part – told Protagonist to friend her on Facebook “so they could chat”?? VERY SKETCHY ETHICS, YO. That’s not how therapy works…
* Introduction of Jazz and soccer and then again, surprise!!… NO FOLLOW-THROUGH. Granted, this is not a major part of the story, but I wanted to hear more about it!!
* Eli. Random guy who has a face full of pimples and ragged clothes, who is never anything but nice to Protagonist (and to whom Protagonist, who is herself an outcast, is mean and dismissive), is found by Protagonist in the art room cutting after having seen her and Jonah kissing…? and there is NO FOLLOW-THROUGH, once again.
* When the family moves to the new area, it’s only been TWO MONTHS since Haley died? How is that remotely logical?!! Two months after a child dies… I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure no family that I’ve ever met would be “put together” enough to move from Minnesota to Nebraska and have jobs lined up, etc. TWO MONTHS. Not two years. Not even a year. MERELY SIXTY (yes, 60) DAYS, and the family is up and moving. NOT REALISTIC.
* Mom goes into rehab, once she magically realizes that her drinking has become dangerous… bada-bada-BOOM… and once again, NO FOLLOW-THROUGH. And one month (ish?) into rehab, surprise honey, the family is going on a cruise BECAUSE WHY NOT?!

I guess a lot of magic happens in this book, because so many things just magically get better.

It’s really irritating.

That being said, I can’t totally say this book isn’t worth reading. Baker has done a pretty amazing job of introducing overeating and the obsession regarding using food to soothe. It’s not something you see much, if at all, in YA, and I think it needs to be talked about/written about more because it is a problem, just as much as anorexic and bulimic behaviors.

Also, I liked the honesty of how parents (and people in general) can blame specific people (in this case, Protagonist) for the death of a loved one… Seeing how this was dealt with in the novel was interesting. Although again, I don’t buy how Mom and Protagonist “made up.”

I’ll also admit that this book yanked me in. It was very interesting and despite all of the things I disliked, it was what could be called “compulsively readable.” I am interested to see what else Ms. Baker comes out with, because I do think that there is talent there… there was just too much shoved into this book for it to completely work. But that’s a common error for debut novels, at least from what I’ve seen.

Haven – A.R. Ivanovich

Many thanks to Alloy Entertainment, via NetGalley, for letting me read this book in exchange for an honest review!

5/5 stars.

I’ll be honest. I’ve read a lot of lackluster YA fantasy in the past couple of years – not enough that my interest in the genre is burnt out, by any means, but there certainly seems to be a lot of reuse regarding world building, etc.

I found nothing in Haven that I would consider a trope.

I also found myself enjoying Haven far, far more than I thought I would.

Yes, our protagonist, Katelyn, can be a bit of a brat. Yes, there is instalove (although I didn’t really find myself getting annoyed by that, since there was a lot of other stuff going on throughout the book as well).

But the world was amazing. Many of the scenes – if not all – that took place outside of Rivermarch (and even some that took place there) were ones that I could easily envision, almost like I were watching them unfold on a TV screen. The characters, the places – everything, pretty much – came alive for me.

I don’t really have any complaints about this book, at least not that I can think of right now. If any do pop into my brain, I’ll definitely edit this and add them. But for me at least, this was one of the rare 5/5 stars as well as a book that I think I’d be happy rereading (which is generally what I mean by giving 5/5 stars to a book).

Definitely do recommend to any fantasy lovers, YA lovers, etc. 🙂