Reread Review: Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) by Robin LaFevers

This is a new feature of 52 Letters: Reread reviews! These are for books that I already reviewed on this blog, but that I read a second (or third, or fourth…) time. I’ll be comparing my thoughts when I reread the book to the first review I wrote.

Hopefully, this is something that interests you as a reader!

cover grave mercy

First read: June 2014

First rating: umm…this was before I did ratings for books, but I think I liked it enough for 4.5/5 stars

My first review can be found here

What I remember: I loved this book. I was head-over-heels in love with Ismae and Duval’s budding romance, and the historical-political background onto which it was set was compelx without over-powering the story.

Second read: February 2015

Second Rating: 4/5 stars

My reread review

I railed against the amazon description of this book in my first review, so you can go read my substituted synopsis with the link above. The amazon description doesn’t bother me as much as it did (or maybe they changed it?) so here it is:

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage to the respite of the convent of St. Mortain. Here she learns that the god of Death has blessed her with dangerous gifts and a violent destiny. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others. But how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who has stolen her heart?

I enjoyed rereading Grave Mercy, but I did not like the story as much the second time.

The parts of it I still loved included the intricate web of castle intrigue, politics, alliances, and backstabbing (which I originally referred to as a giant game of FMK). I’m a sucker for books like this, and I enjoyed the historical setting LaFevers created. The politic subplot was never too complicated and never overpowered the book. My one complaint would be that there were a lot of times when characters would explain the political situation, and it started to feel repetitive. I could keep track of what was going on and found myself frustrated that the plot halted for a redundant recap.

The side characters, subplots, and the writing of this book are all extremely well executed. Every character feels alive, and I genuinely cared about the “good guys” and hated the “bad guys.” LaFever’s commentary on abusive males and political wargames was powerful in its subtlety. I could not put this book down, and I have to admit that my schoolwork probably suffered for it–which is the sign of a really good book.

The religious elements LaFevers drew in–specifically the existence of nine saints who are being swept out by the spread of Christianity–helped to create a pleasantly alternate-historical fiction feeling. Though the book would probably be categorized as fantasy, I liked that the magical elements were kept to a minimum and that most of what happened was character driven instead of relying on divine intervention. Ismae’s struggle to reconcile her faith in Mortain–the god she serves–and her loyalty to the convent in which she was raised made her character relatable and human. As secrets were exposed, Ismae had to redefine her faith, driving her character to chose where her loyalties really lay.

However, I did not connect to Ismae’s character as much as I would have liked this time around. I think part of what caused this was remembering the ending of the book–I knew how her character’s conflicts were resolved, so I was impatient with her in her tumultuous journey to get there. Knowing the ending of a book generally doesn’t have this effect on me, but in this case I found myself less enthusiastic about the book the second time around.

The romance with Duval was fun to read, but less emotionally captivating when I knew that the couple did actually get together. I remember the first time I read this book I felt like there was no way that their conflicting personalities could fall for each other, and watching it happen was perfectly adorable and heart-warming. Knowing that it happened lessened–but did not destroy–the magic of Ismae and Duval falling in love.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed Kristen Cashore’s Graceling or Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass. Though I did not enjoy the book as much as I remembered doing so the first time, it is still an amazing, powerful read and a tremendous beginning to as trilogy.

Poetry: To Show You Why

Here’s the thing

I hate, a lot

And I’m angry more than that

About big things and little things

And I know that it doesn’t all make sense, to you—

But a lot of it does make sense

To me—

Even if I don’t know how to take the

Jumbled timeline of my life

And iron out the kinks

To make each event fall into line

(Exhibit A, B, and C reporting for duty, sir!)

To show you the how or the why

Of the what.

My Top Ten Favorite Heroines

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week, they post a new Top Ten topic and other bloggers respond with their own lists. I take part in this meme when I have something to say for the topic and I remember what day it is.

The Meriam Webster definition of heroine is

1. a woman who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities

2. the chief female character in a story, play, movie, etc.

That being said, I’m focusing on female characters that I feel are emotionally, mentally, and–to some extent–physically strong. Characters that command the story they are in and grow throughout. Most of all, characters that I connected with as a reader–the kind of protagonist that I would befriend in a heartbeat if they were real.

In no particular order…

  1. Vin from Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy
  2. Cammie from Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girl Series
  3. Celaena from Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series
  4. Miriam Black from Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds series
  5. Gemma Doyle from Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy
  6. Puck from Maggie Stiefvater’s Scorpio Races
  7. Viola from Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy
  8. Verity from Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity
  9. Kat from Ally Carter’s Heist Society series
  10. Rose from Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series

Short Story: Entropy, Human Style

I’ve never wanted to kill someone before today.


I swallow, pressing my tongue against my teeth, testing out the idea of conversation. “…Hey.”

“I’m glad we’re talking.”

I’m not. “Me, too.” I glance around the room: a metal cube, with a table and two chairs. I know there is a door behind me—locked.

“This doesn’t have to be awkward.”

God, does my nose twitch like that when I talk?

“And yet, it is.”

Her jaw swerves as she bites her tongue. “What do you want me to say?”

I bite my own tongue, a reflexive mirror. “Whatever. Just—talk.” I should have a notebook or a voice recorder or—something. But those jobs have been passed off to people and machines working outside the cube while I slowly go insane in here with her.

I can’t remember why I thought this was a good idea. Any of this. Screw fame—I want my sanity.

“I don’t remember everything yet,” she says. “But the doctors say all of it will come back over time. Probably just a few weeks more.”

“Great,” I say, tight-lipped.

“I remember the last day of second grade, when your mom bought us ice cream—mint chip, because it’s our favorite.”

“I like vanilla now,” I say.

“I know that, too.”

She plays with the tip of her hair, twisting it around her finger. “And I remember middle school graduation, when you got that plaque for Best Science Student.”

“Ironic.” My fingers itch to find my hair but I keep them firmly clasped in front of me.

“Prom night,” she jokes, winking. My insides clench, not because the memory is bad—it’s pretty fantastic—but at the idea that she knows about it.

“It’s like being twins,” she finally offers. Then a shrug and a smile, like a mix between a beaten puppy and a flirty preteen. Both of them just trying to get the right type of attention—from me.

I lean back. “No, it’s not. Twins are separate people. Twins have different dreams at night. Twins have different hobbies and have read different books. Twins have different strides and like different condiments on their burgers.”

She counters, “Twins have the same birthday. Twins have the same genes and the same home lives and the same inside jokes about chores and crushes.”

Identical twins,” I clarify. “And only if they have a good relationship and grow up together and—there are variables you haven’t considered.”

“I know.”

Variables. I’m the math/science genius and I still can’t figure all of them out.

It’s making me twitch, being in the same room with her. I can’t stop noticing every little thing she does: worry the hem of her shirt, shift her shoulders, crack only the knuckle of her index fingers.

“Can you just—stop?”

She freezes. “Stop what?”

I’m trying not to scream and I know she can tell. “Stop—being me? Can you, I don’t know, learn ballet or get a scar or go to the South and pick up an annoying accent? Just something that makes you be different?”

“That’s not the point.”

“Well, the point can fuck off, okay?” I yell.

She flinches. I want to feel guilty, but my anger shoves the rest of my emotions out of my brain and locks the doors.

“You’re not supposed to exist. You’re impossible. You’re a mistake. And just because I agreed to talk to you doesn’t mean that any of that has changed.”

Her eyes—my eyes—meet mine. “I’m the greatest thing you’ve ever done.”

“Smartest. You’re the smartest thing I’ve ever done. The most impressive. Maybe the most influential. But Prometheus stole fire and all he got for that was saying goodbye to his liver—and not in the fun, alcoholic way. Marie Curie fried her own brain so that we can make microwave pizza. Let’s ask Nobel and Oppenheimer about the most influential things they ever did, huh?

“Science doesn’t reward scientists. Achievements don’t make your own life better, no matter how happy everyone else around you is.”

She laughs. “I’d say you’ve been working on that speech for a while, but I don’t have any memory of it.”

Wow, she’s a bitch. “You don’t have to be obnoxious about it.”

“Right, because you’re a poster child for kindness.” That kills the conversation, and we sit in tense silence.

She taps her forehead. “Damn, you’re smart.”

I can almost see the memories as they flood into her mind, but I know she is past middle school moments and exes. Her eyes are slightly glazed, her mouth open the tiniest amount. It is an expression I have never worn, and I am suddenly struck by the fact that someone else—someone I can’t control—has my brain. She knows every math equation I’ve ever learned, every idea that I’ve ever had.

I’ve had a lot of bad ideas over the years.

I stare at her, really look at her.

She’s me. We’ve got the same eyes, the same hair, the same crooked front tooth and mole just above our lip. She’s my height and weight. We’ve got the same fingerprints and the same genes. She remembers the same life that I remember. The only difference is our ages.

I’m twenty-five years old. She’s been alive for barely one week.

She’s my ticket into every science journal, every prestigious conference, every history book in the world. She’s a Nobel Prize taunting me with memories of elementary school.

She’s the world’s most successful clone—pushing past gene replication to factor in life chronology and outside influences—and it’s my own romantic, dumbass fault that she’s…me.

“Why do you hate me?” she asks, leaning in. “I’m you. I have your head. And I know you don’t hate yourself.”

What makes a person themselves? Memories—she has mine. Genes—ditto.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

We were only clones for one second

And then she existed and I existed, separately, and both of our selves branched out from there and we’ll never come back to where we started. Entropy—human style. A study of human identity locked in a box—is she me, or someone else?

Ask Schrodinger.

The history of the world is the development of weapons: rocks to spears to bows and arrows to cannons to guns to tanks to missiles to the A-bomb to chemical warfare to this—putting someone in a box with themselves and watching them slowly rip each other apart.

Book Review: Slash by Evan Kingston

This book surprised me with its stylistic writing and unique premise, but left me conflicted over the success of its execution.

3.5/5 stars

cover slash

 I received a copy of Slash from the author in exchange for an honest review. 

Author’s description of Slash:

Alex Bledsoe would rather die than reveal her secret crush. As a star of TV’s #1 family drama, she’s certain coming out of the closet would end her career. Worse still, her one true love is America’s hottest young actress, Lissa Blaine, who just happens to play her older, prettier, and smarter big sis each week on Koop’s Kitchen. So Alex hates Lissa too, wishes her dead every time she stumbles onto the tabloid covers with a Long-Island in hand and some new B-list beefcake on her arm.

Desperate for an outlet each night after filming wraps, Alex closes the shades on her trailer and reads slash stories on internet fan-fiction forums: trashy little tales written by viewers about an imagined romance between her character and Lissa’s. All unbelievable moans and trite whispers, the fantasies are so incestuously metafictional, Alex believes them best taken to her grave—until an anonymous author begins to post violent slash stories, and Alex’s lusty dreams start to open up graves of their own.

As Alex struggles to decide whether she is turned on or disturbed, Koop’s Kitchen’s real-life actors start dying in suspiciously similar scenes. Sure that the parallels are more than coincidence, she begins to search the stories for suspects and clues instead of steamy caresses. But as she works to catch the killer before he slashes again, Alex realizes that revealing the secrets she’d die to hide might be the only way to save the lives of everyone she loves.

Slash was originally released as seven “episodes” from 2013 to 2014, and has recently been released as a collected edition.

There was a lot to enjoy with this book. For me at least, the premise was outside of anything I’d really ever read before. I loved the way Kingston incorporated slash fan fiction. Fan fic is something that I’ve encountered the fringes of on the internet, but that I’ve never really gotten into, so it was interesting to see it play a significant role in a novel. The stories and the forum onto which they were posted felt realistic, as did the digs Kingston worked in about the writing quality of most fan fic, especially slash.

The reality TV angle of the book was fun to read. Koop’s Kitchen is a fascinating mixture of writers who want a platform to preach “family values” and network specialists determined to use scandal to score high ratings. I loved the subtle cynicism infused throughout the descriptions of filming the series and the Hollywood world in which the story takes place.

The mystery was compelling. The way the stories played out in real life worked well with the story, and I liked that all of the deaths were “suicides,” adding an extra level of confusion to the early episodes. Each “episode” essentially focuses on investigating a different suspect. I could usually tell that the main character, Alex, was jumping to the wrong conclusion as to who the killer was, but for the life of me, I had no idea who the murderer could be. The last episode, when everything starts to come together, still kept up the suspense and the surprises. In the end, I liked the resolution of the mystery and of the overall plot.

The characterization wasn’t overly complex, but it got the job done. I loved Perry, he was hilarious. By the end of the story, I had a clear sense of who each of the major characters were. I loved the way Kingston worked in each character’s backstory. The flashback style would have come off as clunky with a different story, but it actually really worked in Slash.

I’m on the fence about a few parts of the book.

Alex, the main character, is one of them. I can’t decide if I connected to her. Parts of her personality–her most basic fears, her feelings about acting and Koop’s Kitchen, her drive for the truth–were very compelling and relatable. I honestly wanted to like Alex. Though the ages of the characters put the book in the NA genre, Alex’s voice had a YA feel. I didn’t feel like this took away from the story at all, and it was nice to have the familiar narrative style in an unfamiliar genre.

When I picked up the first episode of Slash, my first thought about Alex was basically “wow this girl is screwed up.” I thought that Kingston was going for the broken protagonist, but in fact, he presented her personality in a way that I realized she wasn’t screwed up psychologically that much. She has issues, of course, and her addiction to slash is one of them, but Kingston presents them with no judgement in his tone or plot structure, so that you end up sympathizing with her as a struggling individual rather than looking at her as damaged goods. Especially with the subject matter Kingston decided to tackle, I appreciated the matter-of-fact-ness of his writing throughout the book, making sure that Slash avoided what could have had an overwhelmingly preachy tone.

However, there were other parts of her personality that I understood on a conceptual basis but that I never emotionally connected with, especially her love/obsession with Lissa.

You learn fairly early on that Lissa is…a bitch. I really didn’t like her, though the characterization that made me hate her was skillfully done. At times, Alex sort of admitted that Lissa’s personality sucked, but her obsession (and that is a fair word to use–even Alex admitted it) never wavered. Kingston did provide psychological reasons for this (which tied in to her fears/doubts about her sexuality), but I never emotionally believed them; I still felt like her obsession was shallow and unreasonable, and I couldn’t connect to it. If the psychology had been more clearly shown–instead of basically just told to the main character by other people–it might have been a very different story.

One part of the story that was different from what I expected was the darkness of the plot. From the synopsis provided, I got the impression that I was in store for a seriously dark and screwed up story (along the lines of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects, which I read last year). In reality, the novel was a lot more mellow than I expected. Horrific things happened, sure, but most of them were told second-hand (much in the style of Macbeth, where someone runs off screen, dies, and some poor messenger has to relate the gruesome details). It wasn’t until the seventh and final episode that things got super horror-esque.

I was actually okay with this aspect of the plot. It was kind of nice to read a story that deals with dark topics and horror elements without throwing themselves headlong into scaring or scarring the reader.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes the idea of reading horror but maybe isn’t ready for nightmare level plots. The story has a good amount of humor, characterization, and voice.  The writing is stylistically interesting and very readable–I breezed through the seven episodes in a few days of light reading. While there were specific areas of the execution that I feel missed the mark, the story in its entirety is definitely worth reading.

Book Review: Atlanta Burns (Atlanta Burns #1) by Chuck Wendig

I’m a huge Chuck Wendig fan, but this was his first YA book that I read. It was well written–with powerful social messages–and I ended up enjoying it almost as much as Wendig’s Miriam Black series.

Series: Atlanta Burns #1

4.5/5 stars

cover atlanta burns

Amazon description

You don’t mess with Atlanta Burns.

Everyone knows that. And that’s kinda how she likes it—until the day Atlanta is drawn into a battle against two groups of bullies and saves a pair of new, unexpected friends. But actions have consequences, and when another teen turns up dead—by an apparent suicide—Atlanta knows foul play is involved. And worse: she knows it’s her fault. You go poking rattlesnakes, maybe you get bit.

Afraid of stirring up the snakes further by investigating, Atlanta turns her focus to the killing of a neighborhood dog. All paths lead to a rural dogfighting ring, and once more Atlanta finds herself face-to-face with bullies of the worst sort. Atlanta cannot abide letting bad men do awful things to those who don’t deserve it. So she sets out to unleash her own brand of teenage justice.

Will Atlanta triumph? Or is fighting back just asking for a face full of bad news?

This book is intended for mature audiences due to strong language and violence.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about that disclaimer at the end. The book is undeniably dark and touches on very real issues that affect the real world. There is a difference between reading about dog fights and hate crimes and reading about violence in a fantasy setting, but I would say that most YA readers who would be interested in the plot of Atlanta Burns will have read enough dark or violent scenes in other places to handle this book.

Or I’m just biased. I’ve read a lot of dark stuff, including some adult horror-esque novels, so this book really didn’t bother me.

Also, Wendig wasn’t talking about rape, hate crimes, and dog fights for fun or to add drama. The book is written to condemn these actions, and does a fantastic job. His message would have been undermined if he didn’t portray the evils he was condemning, and the overall themes of the book are far too important to drop the book because of a few trigger alerts.

Now to actually talk about the plot and characters.

I loved Atlanta. She was screwed up–no way to sugar coat it–but it didn’t overpower the story. Though the book was told in third person, I got a powerful sense of Atlanta’s voice. It was cynical, broken, and pissed, but in an endearing way. I cared about her, and her actions made sense in the context of her DRAMATIC BACKSTORY (which I’m not going to tell you, but the book spells out pretty clearly early on). The way other characters responded to the backstory made the story more complex.

Wendig did a great job painting the rest of the side characters as well. Each one of them had a distinct personality, and the most important ones had enough backstory to be well-rounded. I never connected to Atlanta’s “friends” as much as I connected to her, but they still felt alive and complex on the page. My only complaint in this area is that there were a lot of characters, especially creepy older men, and I started to get them confused about two-thirds into the book. But that was a minor complaint–I could have just paid more attention.

The plot doesn’t follow a clear three-part structure. Atlanta Burns was originally two separate books, and it shows in the way the plot develops. However, even with this, the plot never drags. It just felt like it took the scenic route to get to the main plot line. Longer, but it allowed for a strong subplot and extra character development–which I loved. In the end, I actually enjoyed the unconventional plot style, though while I was reading it was a little confusing as to what was the focus of the book and what was subplot.

In the same vein, the plot talks about a lot of different societal issues, though most of them center around hate crimes: sexual harassment and rape, homophobia, neo-Nazism, dog fighting, bullying. Though the plot focused mostly on the dog fighting, Wendig was able to have strong messages about all of the different crimes he discussed. Again, this leaves the book a little unfocused while you read it, but powerful when you consider it in its entirety.

The writing is fantastic. Stylistically, it is unique. Sometimes I forget what it feels like to read really amazing writing, but this book brought it back. Wendig’s writing style doesn’t hit you in the face with literary devices or poetic turns of phrases–at first, it feels like you are reading just another YA novel, but then you realize: that was the perfect way to describe that. Wendig used dialect subtlety, but it transformed the book, adding to the setting and to Atlanta’s character. Though there is a lot of cursing and obscenities, the book never feels crass or vulgar. The writing actually gets more poetic and impressive with the addition of curses and dark material. Wendig is a wordsmith who arranges words in such perfect ways, you don’t even realize what he’s doing.

Crazy–something everyone should read.

Top Ten Book Related Problems I Have

top ten tuesday

 Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week, they post a new Top Ten topic and other bloggers respond with their own lists. I take part in this meme when I have something to say for the topic and I remember what day it is.

I like this week’s topic, and I’m taking it as a combination of funny problems and serious ones I encounter in the bookish world.

  1. Books are expensive. 
    • I have never liked libraries (“You have to give them back?”), so I end up buying basically every book I read. Most of this is financed by gift cards I get from my birthday or Christmas, but I do end up paying some out of pocket. I love owning books and being able to lend them out to my friends, but it is not cheap. 
  2. When a book makes me cry but I’m in public. 
    • I love it when a books makes me cry; it is a cleansing experience for me. However, I do a lot of reading at school, and I’ve had some awkward times trying to hold in tears. Nowadays if I can tell that a book will have a sad ending, I’ll leave it at home and start a new book at school to avoid awkwardness. But sometime books don’t give you a warning…
  3. Massive hardcover books.
    • Again, I do most of my reading at school, which means I’m carrying around a book in my backpack 24/7. Massive hardcover books take up a ton of space in my backpack and are really heavy. Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas nearly killed me, as did The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray.
  4. Organizing my bookshelves.
    • As you can tell from my Top Shelf page, I obsessively organize books by how good they are. My sister and I have to agree. Sometimes, I’ll look at my bookshelves and freak out because I feel like a book is in a totally wrong place–and then we have to reorganize the entire system of bookshelves.
  5. Trying to decide what to read next.
    • I never know what to read next. I usually leave the decision until the morning before school. I’ll have five minutes until I need to leave and I’m just staring at my bookshelves going, “what mood am I in?” This is why I suck at “what I’ll read next” posts–they always end up being lies.
  6. Trying to get the people around me to read.
    • I love recommending books to people! It’s a game for me: matching books to people. I’ll even lend them the books (my friends joke that I’m their “book dealer”). But then they will return the book months later and will admit, “I read the first chapter.” Disappointing, but I still love them.
  7. Deciding what to do with books I didn’t like.
    • Again, I buy all my books, so if I really didn’t like a book, I still have it sitting around in my room. Sometimes I’ll put books on (an amazing website!!!) right away, but a lot of times I just leave them on my “I hated this” shelf until I run out of bookshelf space and need to clear them out. It feels like such a waste though, to buy a book and then hate it, which is why I almost never DNF books.
  8. Reading a book too fast/too slow
    • The amount of time I have in my life to read isn’t consistent, so I end up reading some books with giant gaps of time between chapters, or reading a book in one sitting. Both of these things can negatively impact my impression of the book. Read a book too slowly and I’ll forget what I was enjoying about it. Read a book to fast and I miss important details and feel like I didn’t absorb the book in its entirety.
  9. When romance in books is so adorable it makes me give up on reality.
    • This one is basically a joke, but sometimes couples in books are so adorable it is hard to believe in “real life love.” Also, I’m in high school and most boys are jerks, so that can’t help.
  10. When really good series end
    • What are you supposed to do? I want MORE. I’ll fall in love with characters and plots and then boom–it’s over. Heart, crushed.

Book Review: Frindle by Andrew Clements

This is a book my little sister, Maleia, read and really enjoyed. She asked me to read it and I suggested that we post a join review of the book here.

Maleia’s rating: 4.5/5 stars

My rating: 4/5 stars

cover frindle

Amazon description of Frindle

Is Nick Allen a troublemaker? He really just likes to liven things up at school — and he’s always had plenty of great ideas. When Nick learns some interesting information about how words are created, suddenly he’s got the inspiration for his best plan ever…the frindle. Who says a pen has to be called a pen? Why not call it a frindle? Things begin innocently enough as Nick gets his friends to use the new word. Then other people in town start saying frindle. Soon the school is in an uproar, and Nick has become a local hero. His teacher wants Nick to put an end to all this nonsense, but the funny thing is frindle doesn’t belong to Nick anymore. The new word is spreading across the country, and there’s nothing Nick can do to stop it.

Maleia’s (age 9) review:

This book is very funny, especially the characters. Nick is the main character.  I liked that he was impulsive and that his plans worked out for other people, but definitely not himself. Nick is a trouble maker, but is smart as well. Making up the word caused trouble for the grownups in his life, especially Mrs. Granger, but he hadn’t really done anything wrong, and the other kids thought he was smart to make up a new word.

Mrs. Granger is his English teacher and she loves the dictionary (almost worships it). She hates getting rid of the word pen because of its history, which starts a battle with Nick. In the end, the reader ends up liking her character, even if we thought she was the “villain.”

The plot was kind of realistic but did not feel like it could actually happen in real life. This made it fun to read because it was like going into another world. Each event hooks you into the next event and makes you keep reading. I liked how the adults got involved in it. I thought it was funny how the parents supported their son even though everyone else thought it was a problem.

I loved the way the author packed so much into the small book. I would recommend this book to people who like humor and pranks.

My review:

I actually really enjoyed reading this book. It was quick–barely two hours, I think–but there was a lot of plot crammed in (as Maleia said).

I was expecting the plot to be ridiculous, but it actually came of pretty realistic. The way the word spread across the world–which could have been cheesy–surprised me with its simplicity and believably. My father (who works in marketing) said that the licensing aspect of the plot was also accurate. Overall, the plot was crazy enough to be in a middle grade book, but relatable enough for older audiences to enjoy.

I liked Nick as the protagonist. He was smart and creative with his pranks, and none of them were crazy enough to destroy believably. His pranks–and the dynamic they created with Mrs. Granger–reminded me of Love and Other Unknown Variables.

The book’s focus on word origins and language was well done. Clements conveyed his message and factual information in a fun and engaging format. For me, it felt like it told its message rather than showing it, but for a younger audience I don’t think that was so much of a problem.

The back cover says it is appropriate for ages 8-12. Personally, it read younger than that, but since the main character is in fifth grade, I understand where this ranking came from (maybe). I would recommend it to kids in elementary school (especially in 2nd or 3rd grade) who want to read a book written with simple vocabulary and voice but with a more advanced message.

Book Review: Splintered by AG Howard — DNF

I hate not finishing books, but I just could not get myself to enjoy the writing or the plot of this one.

Did Not Finish = 0/5 stars

cover splintered

Amazon description:

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

I loved the premise of Splintered and had seen a lot of excitement abut the later books in the series coming out recently, so I was ready for a great read when I started reading it last weekend.

And then it was horrible.

The writing–GAH. It was killing me. It felt cheesy and forced. Most debut authors have a few kinks to work out (that’s the nature of writing and it’s not a bad thing), but this was just too many cliches and awkward phrasings for me to handle.

And the plot? It read like bad TV. Again, cheesy and unrealistic. It dragged, focusing on scenes that I felt unnecessary. I wanted to get into Wonderland (the point of the book), but I got a good fifth of the way into the novel and it never happened. Other scenes were supposed to be dramatically mysterious, but it was so obvious that a reveal was coming or that supernatural forces were at work that I found myself rolling my eyes and skimming the text.

The Wonderland aspects felt forced. The family history of insanity wasn’t explained enough, nor was the connections to the real story. (I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland last year and talking to bugs doesn’t play any role, so I was really confused when that was the “mental illness” Howard decided to go with.)

The other characters just added confusion. The romance–weird tension between maybe-jerk/lifelong-crush Jeb and mysterious poster/memory guy–was just plain awful. I had no idea what was going on with it. Her “sudden attraction” to the mysterious guy was painfully obviously supernatural and was one of the main reasons I dropped the book.

What really bothered me was the author’s portrayal of her protagonist. It felt strangely disdainful of teenagers and teenage life in a way that did not fit with the YA audience. Something about the descriptions of her personality and clothing made me feel like the author was scorning her main character’s teenageness. The way she portrayed Alyssa’s secret crush on Jeb, her ridiculously stupid and short-sighted actions, her “rebellious” fashion sense–all of it grated at my nerves. I understand authors satirically commenting on teenage life, but this just felt pointed and cynical. If you want to do that, don’t write a book whose audience is teenagers. (And it wasn’t even the popular conception of drugs/sluttiness/hormone idiocy that a lot of adults run with. It was just…weird.)

Alyssa’s reactions to the crazy events going on in her life made no sense. Half the time, she immediately accepted the magical elements at work, and half the time she was in denial, but it was never clear what distinguished between the two reactions.

All connection I could have had to the main character flew out the window, and with it all the damns I gave about her story. Meanwhile, the plot dragged, taking forever to get to what I assumed would eventually be her entering Wonderland. I gave up before I even found out if she ever got there, because the writing was just so–no.

But here’s my thing: other people seem to have liked this book. Does it get better later in? As I was reading, it felt like it would get better once she got into Wonderland, but the plot kept rambling, and I just dropped it.

I hate stopping books, and if you guys feel like I’m missing out on a great (if poorly written) story, I’ll pick it back up. (maybe)

Am I the only person to be so put off by the writing style and the plot of this book?

Book Review: Love and Other Unknown Variables by Shannon Lee Alexander

That’s okay, I didn’t need my heart and soul, I’ll just let them bleed.

Sorry, I sobbed at the ending of this book. But it is soooooo good, and for the most part it is HILARIOUS!!!! And romantic. And perfect.

5/5 stars!

cover love and other unknown variables

Amazon description of Love and Other Unknown Variables

Charlie Hanson has a clear vision of his future. A senior at Brighton School of Mathematics and Science, he knows he’ll graduate, go to MIT, and inevitably discover solutions to the universe’s greatest unanswered questions. He’s that smart. But Charlie’s future blurs the moment he reaches out to touch the tattoo on a beautiful girl’s neck.
The future has never seemed very kind to Charlotte Finch, so she’s counting on the present. She’s not impressed by the strange boy at the donut shop—until she learns he’s a student at Brighton where her sister has just taken a job as the English teacher. With her encouragement, Charlie orchestrates the most effective prank campaign in Brighton history. But, in doing so, he puts his own future in jeopardy.
By the time he learns she’s ill—and that the pranks were a way to distract Ms. Finch from Charlotte’s illness—Charlotte’s gravitational pull is too great to overcome. Soon he must choose between the familiar formulas he’s always relied on or the girl he’s falling for (at far more than 32 feet per second squared).

(I read this book like two weeks ago and am just now getting around to reviewing it…whoops)

I absolutely loved this book. I usually avoid “cancer books” because I don’t like reading something that focuses on sadness (especially doomed romance) but the cover/title of this book was waaaay too cute to pass up. I’m so glad I decided to read it.

First of all, this is more than a romance, and way more than a “cancer book.” It is freaking hilarious–I literally laughed out loud dozens of times–and the characters and side plots ensure that the story has more depth than a normal contemporary romance.

The premise of this book doesn’t fully encapsulate the relationship Charlie and Charlotte have in the beginning (and for a large portion) of the book. Yes, the pranks draw them together, but the pranks were going to happen anyway (school tradition) and their relationship is based much more prominantly on Charlotte’s friendship with Charlie’s socially awkward sister.

I loved the sister dynamic. It added conflict to the growing romantic tension between the pair because of the fact that they were “stealing” a BFF from a girl whose social life outside of Charlotte was nonexistent. It also exposed new sides of Charlotte’s character, helping to round her out as a love interest.

Charlie was a perfect protagonist. Voice wise, he reminded me a lot of David in Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. They have the same geeky teenage boy voice. I’ve only ever read a few romances told solely from the male perspective, but it really worked in this one. I connected to Charlie as a character and found him to have a deep and complicated personality; his feelings for Charlie acheived an impressive balance of horny-teenager and guy-who-actually-appreciates-a-girl’s-personality.

The math element of this book was great. I was afraid that it would just be a cute title and a half-assed joke running through it, but Alexander surprised me by making (appropriately complicated for his level of geekiness) math a major part of Charlie’s character, the plot, and of course the humorous elements of the book. It all worked, and created a fascinatingly mathematical (while still being romantic) lens through which the story was told.

Charlotte’s character was good too. I liked the way her illness affected her personality. The dramatic irony created while Charlie is in the dark about her illness added to the story’s tension but also allowed the story to be about more than her illness. The truth of her cancer doesn’t come out until at least halfway through the book–which I loved. Their relationship was already tense, sweet, and complicated before the book’s focus turned to her impending doom.

The rest of the characters were well-developed and added to the story without overpowering it. The subplots moved the plot along without cheesily projecting THEMES into the characters’ lives.

I don’t want to say too much (no spoilers!) but I loved the ending of this book. It was exactly what it needed to be without being overpowering or cheesy. I cried (duh) but I was also laughing. Conflicts were resolved and the book left me with a positive note (again, without cheesiness–YAY).

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes cutesy romances, witty banter between characters, stories with a sad twist, deep characters, math humor–EVERYONE basically.