Entwined by Heather Dixon

21 May

Entwined

author : heather dixon

pages : hardcover, 472

memorable quote “Down with tyranny!’ Bramble cried. ‘Aristocracy! Autocracy! Monocracy! Other ocracy things! You are outnumbered, sir! Surrender!” 

favorite character : lord teddie

summary :

Just when Azalea should feel that everything is before her—beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing—it’s taken away. All of it. And Azalea is trapped. The Keeper understands. He’s trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. So he extends an invitation.

Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest, but there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things. Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.

review :

I’ve been excited to read this book for a while and on a long car ride finally got around to opening it up on my ereader. Unfortunately, even though I did like some elements of Entwined, it didn’t sweep me off of my feet.

At first, I was enchanted with the twelve princesses and their incessant need to dance. I loved that they all had distinct personalities so even though there were far too many girls to keep track of, it was easily managed. Jessamine and Bramble were two of my favorites, though honestly there wasn’t a single one that I truly disliked. Except, perhaps for Azalea, which is unfortunate because as the oldest sister (and they were named alphabetically, which helps you to keep track of their ages) she is our protagonist. And sometimes, for the future Queen of the kingdom (if it is a kingdom? They talk about prime ministers and how poor the royal family is so much that it’s a wonder they’re significant at all) she doesn’t make the best of decisions. Other times, I was frustrated because characters around her haven’t been teaching her the things she’ll need to learn in order to rule wisely. Even if they give the King most of the responsibility, Azalea doesn’t seem to know about much besides dancing and keeping her sisters happy.

The book started fairly slow and I wasn’t certain of where it was going to go, beyond the parameters of the fairy tale it’s loosely based on. There are several gentlemen present within the book and I liked how it wasn’t immediately obvious which one would become involved with Azalea (and the suspense wasn’t generated by a love triangle, either!). When magic entered the plot more prominently, that interested me, and action picked up alongside my interest. And yet . . . Azalea always seemed to faint or get herself knocked out at the most interesting moments.

Books based on fairy tales are my favorites. I love to see where the author was inspired and where they decided to deviate from the well-known plotline. Even though Entwined references a tale that doesn’t see much love these days, I still don’t think it was strong enough for me to happily recommend it to anyone. There were bits and pieces I enjoyed yet, overall, I was left immediately wanting to grab for a better book.

2/5 stars

Let Me Die In His Footsteps by Lori Roy

20 May

Let Me Die in His Footsteps

author : lori roy

pages : [hardcover] 336

favorite character : annie

summary :

In the spellbinding and suspenseful Let Me Die in His Footsteps, Edgar Award–winner Lori Roy wrests from a Southern town the secrets of two families touched by an evil that has passed between generations.

On a dark Kentucky night in 1952 exactly halfway between her fifteenth and sixteenth birthdays, Annie Holleran crosses into forbidden territory. Everyone knows Hollerans don’t go near Baines, not since Joseph Carl was buried two decades before, but, armed with a silver-handled flashlight, Annie runs through her family’s lavender fields toward the well on the Baines’ place. At the stroke of midnight, she gazes into the water in search of her future. Not finding what she had hoped for, she turns from the well and when the body she sees there in the moonlight is discovered come morning, Annie will have much to explain and a past to account for.

It was 1936, and there were seven Baine boys. That year, Annie’s aunt, Juna Crowley, with her black eyes and her long blond hair, came of age. Before Juna, Joseph Carl had been the best of all the Baine brothers. But then he looked into Juna’s eyes and they made him do things that cost innocent people their lives. Sheriff Irlene Fulkerson saw justice served—or did she?

As the lavender harvest approaches and she comes of age as Aunt Juna did in her own time, Annie’s dread mounts. Juna will come home now, to finish what she started. If Annie is to save herself, her family, and this small Kentucky town, she must prepare for Juna’s return, and the revelation of what really happened all those years ago.

review :

By the time I’d gotten to reading the e-arc I received of Let Me Die in His Footsteps, I’d forgotten the concept of the novel. But I like going into books not knowing much about what may happen and thought that I’d enjoy the journey and process that would come with discovering what the story was going to tell me. Unfortunately, I feel like this novel was much too slow in its buildup, and failed to keep me interested even though there was an attempted air of mystery and intrigue.

The characters were what made it fall flat for me. Even those who were supposed to be menacing felt dull around the edges. There was nothing particularly exciting or memorable about most of them. In fact, I finished the book just yesterday and already the names and roles are starting to blend together confusingly–I’m sure other readers would struggle with this, too, and yet it seems like there are many out there who would enjoy this book more than I did.

Reading this was getting me a little out of my book comfort zone but it was a disappointing reach for me as unfortunately I didn’t find something to love in this book. I may attempt to read another novel by Lori Roy at some point in the future but as of now, basing all judgement on this read, I think I would take a pass on that. It wasn’t so much the storyline that got to me–though it did drag on and lost my interest–as the writing style that was boring and flattened to me.

While some readers may enjoy this book, I won’t be recommending it. There are better mysteries out there to captivate all types of readers and I’d reach for those before this one.

2/5 stars

Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas

15 May

Because You’ll Never Meet Me

author : leah thomas

pages : 344

release date : june 2, 2015

favorite characters : ollie & moritz (obviously!)

summary :

In a stunning literary debut, two boys on opposite ends of the world begin an unlikely friendship that will change their lives forever.

Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie is allergic to electricity. Contact with it causes debilitating seizures. Moritz’s weak heart is kept pumping by an electronic pacemaker. If they ever did meet, Ollie would seize. But Moritz would die without his pacemaker. Both hermits from society, the boys develop a fierce bond through letters that become a lifeline during dark times—as Ollie loses his only friend, Liz, to the normalcy of high school and Moritz deals with a bully set on destroying him.

A story of impossible friendship and hope under strange circumstances, this debut is powerful, dark and humorous in equal measure. These extraordinary voices bring readers into the hearts and minds of two special boys who, like many teens, are just waiting for their moment to shine.

review :

For some strange reason, I ended up receiving advanced copies of a few different books that were all slightly similar in that their main characters all needed to deal with illness and it factored into their lives in different ways. This one was my favorite.

I loved Moritz’s and Ollie’s strange little pen pal relationship. I know how excited I am when I receive a letter in the mail and can’t imagine how much that must be amplified when you’re a hermit out there and it’s one of your only communications to the world, like it is for Ollie. Or feeling so incredibly isolated, even in the world, that a letter is the only place where you can express yourself–like it is for Moritz. They were such different characters that it was great to see them interact with each other in the beginning. Ollie was really like a hyper little puppy whereas Moritz was much more refined and held back. I won’t give anything away but there’s a great amount of character development in this book which was just awesome to see.

I love books that have interesting secondary characters, too, and this one is filled with them. Not only do they play into the mysteries that linger in Ollie and Moritz’s past (and made me feel like I was suddenly reading a science fiction novel!) they’re just as captivating to read about as the main two boys. Of course, they’re the only ones really writing the letters, so the reader only gets to see it all through their perspectives. Unreliable narrators all the way through.

I couldn’t possibly choose which of the two was my favorite to read about. Moritz was at first, partially because he was so stubborn and I wanted to know more about his secretive life. Then Ollie’s hermit life fell to bits and I felt so horribly for him that I wanted to keep reading on about him because I had to find out what was going to happen next!

I’m definitely going to be recommending this book. The characters were great and I rooted for them through their best and worst moments. This is a book most people would enjoy!

4/5 stars

Butter by Erin Jade Lange

13 May

Butter

by : erin jade lange

pages : [hardcover] 294

memorable quote : “If you just stop expecting perfection from everyone and everything, you might see the good stuff outweighs the bad. And then maybe someday you’ll look in the mirror and see the same thing.”

summary :

A lonely obese boy everyone calls “Butter” is about to make history. He is going to eat himself to death-live on the Internet-and everyone is invited to watch. When he first makes the announcement online to his classmates, Butter expects pity, insults, and possibly sheer indifference. What he gets are morbid cheerleaders rallying around his deadly plan. Yet as their dark encouragement grows, it begins to feel a lot like popularity. And that feels good. But what happens when Butter reaches his suicide deadline? Can he live with the fallout if he doesn’t go through with his plans?

With a deft hand, E.J. Lange allows readers to identify with both the bullies and the bullied in this all-consuming look at one teen’s battle with himself.

review :

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while so I’m glad that I finally got around to reading it, though I didn’t end up enjoying it quite as much as I was hoping I would.

Butter follows to story of an obese boy who can’t see himself as anything but that. In fact, he only refers to himself as ‘Butter’, the cruel nickname handed to him after his classmates bullied him terribly. His life isn’t easy. He’s struggling to lose weight as well as find himself, because he has no friends and his family life is rocky. In fact, his father hasn’t directly spoken to him in a few months, and the only way his mother can think to make him feel better means giving him comfort food–which only adds to the weight problem.

I loved how Lange referred to Butter’s home life and environment so much to point out how even though he did play a huge role in getting himself to an unhealthy weight, he also had no supportive environment to keep him from hurting himself in that way or to help him improve consistently. The book follows Butter through these family meals, as well as doctors visits and other events that become necessary when you are obese and health complications come with that.

Butter takes a turn for the worse when he spontaneously decides to announce that he’ll be committing suicide–and not only that but turning his death into some kind of show. The majority of the book focuses on this and whether or not Butter will decide to go through with the action. I honestly had no idea of how this was going to turn out and ended up satisfied with the ending, even though it wasn’t enough to make this one of my favorite books. While I did think that the plot and characters were well-done, Butter didn’t leave as much of an emotional impact on me as I thought that a novel involving such heavy themes could have done.

I would recommend this book to people looking for something different to read, as it is an interesting perspective that isn’t often seen in the YA genre and is a quick story!

3/5 stars

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

8 May

Red Rising

red rising trilogy

author : pierce brown

pages : [hardcover] 382

memorable quote You do not follow me because I am the strongest. Pax is. You do not follow me because I am the brightest. Mustang is. You follow me because you do not know where you are going. I do.

favorite characters : mustang & darrow

summary :

(note: I found this book more fun to read without reading this summary, which now that I see it I feel gives away a little too much of the plot!)

The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity’s last hope.

Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it’s all a lie. That Mars has been habitable – and inhabited – for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.

Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield – and Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.

review :

I’ve been wanting to read Red Rising for a while because I’ve heard great things about it! I’m glad that I finally took a chance on it and picked it up as a great ebook deal, because I think that I’m going to end up really liking this trilogy.

Darrow’s world is really interesting. Of course it has a few of the same elements as other dystopian novels, excepting the fact that this one is set on Mars and humans have colonized many moons and a few planets–if you can call them human anymore. People are classified by their color, which determines everything about their lives. Where they work and live, what resources they have available, who they answer to. Darrow is a Red, on the bottom of the ladder,  and he’ll live and die beneath the surface of Mars. Never to see the sun or the fruit of his labors as he strives to make Mars habitable.

As a main character, I liked Darrow. He was more complicated than I’m used to seeing in novels like this, where a rebellion will rally around a single individual for their cause. He wanted nothing to do with the rebellion and finds himself swept up in it–so, obviously, he isn’t perfect, and isn’t inclined to follow orders either. I loved that I couldn’t quite tell what his decisions would be because he was continuously struggling to consider whether he should do things for his own good, and his personal agenda, or if he should follow the guidance of the rebellion.

One thing I disliked about this book is how much time and how many events are covered and rushed through. The transition between Darrow’s ignorance and then his involvement is very abrupt, with not enough writing to emphasize his transformation to make it up to me. Obviously anyone going through that extreme of a change would be greatly affected and I feel like the writing kind of skimmed over what that would end up doing to him, in favor of pushing forward plot points and then, confusingly, throwing him into games where people really aren’t supposed to die but surprisingly end up dying pretty often. You would think the Golds would either realize they shouldn’t be killing all of their best and brightest, or that they should change their rules so they aren’t contradicting themselves.

I do really look forward to the second book, because I can’t really imagine where it will go and I love the overall concept of these novels. I feel like I would have liked Red Rising a lot more if it hadn’t suddenly gone from cool, unique science fiction into a Roman gladiator Hunger Games, but I’ll still give it four stars because it was great enough to leave me wanting to read more.

4/5 stars

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

6 May

Made You Up

author : francesca zappia

pages : [hardcover] 448

favorite characters : . . . all of them?

publishing date : may 19th

summary :

Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. Made You Up tells the story of Alex, a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion. This is a compelling and provoking literary debut that will appeal to fans of Wes Anderson, Silver Linings Playbook, and Liar.

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

Funny, provoking, and ultimately moving, this debut novel featuring the quintessential unreliable narrator will have readers turning the pages and trying to figure out what is real and what is made up.

review :

I really, really loved reading this book. Because I’ve been so busy lately, it’s been hard to push myself to read when I have a little free time, and this is the first book I’ve reached for in a while that’s had me shoving everything else aside in my life so I’d be able to finish this.

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia is a great take on how people suffering mental illness struggle to find some kind of normalcy in their lives. Because Alex is normal; she has her own hobbies and life goals, striving to get into a great college like any other high school senior. Except she’s the one who needs to worry that someone will find out that she’s schizophrenic. She’s the one who needs to remember to take her medication or else risk her hallucinations getting worse–and she already can’t tell what’s real and what’s not. I like how Zappia wrote the novel so that it’s even difficult for the reader to decide what is reality and what’s the hallucination. It’s painful to experience Alex’s struggle, made so much worse because most people are afraid to talk about mental illnesses and they’re so stigmatized.

As such, I thought it was important and awesome that Zappia included a cast of characters who reacted to Alex and her situation in a variety of ways–ignoring it, criticizing it, or helping it. And the novel isn’t completely focused around the illness, either. More than that, it’s about a teenage girl trying to get her life together, and at the same time seeing if she can help a classmate into a better life. Miles was just as awesome of a character to me as Alex was. I loved that he had his own quirks and issues. No one is perfect in reality and that’s reflected accurately in the book. His relationship with Alex was equally sweet and nail-biting as with most high school romances, it’s uncertain of whether things will blossom between them or fade completely. I love that this book isn’t a cookie-cutter contemporary romance. I honestly had no idea of where the book was headed or what could come next. It’s hard for me to find a book set in a modern setting, in high school, that doesn’t feel absolutely predictable. I didn’t see this ending coming, and it only makes me more excited to read more by Francesca Zappia. Whatever she happens to come up with next!

I’m going to recommend this book to anyone, and you should read it too!

4/5 stars

Review: My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me

2 May

My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me

edited by: kate bernheimer

pages : [paperback] 576

summary :

The fairy tale lives again in this book of forty new stories by some of the biggest names in contemporary fiction.

Neil Gaiman, “Orange”

Aimee Bender, “The Color Master”

Joyce Carol Oates, “Blue-bearded Lover”

Michael Cunningham, “The Wild Swans”

These and more than thirty other stories by Francine Prose, Kelly Link, Jim Shepard, Lydia Millet, and many other extraordinary writers make up this thrilling celebration of fairy tales—the ultimate literary costume party.

Spinning houses and talking birds. Whispered secrets and borrowed hope. Here are new stories sewn from old skins, gathered by visionary editor Kate Bernheimer and inspired by everything from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” and “The Little Match Girl” to Charles Perrault’s “Bluebeard” and “Cinderella” to the Brothers Grimm’s “Hansel and Gretel” and “Rumpelstiltskin” to fairy tales by Goethe and Calvino and from China, Japan, Vietnam, Russia, Norway, and Mexico.

Fairy tales are our oldest literary tradition, and yet they chart the imaginative frontiers of the twenty-first century as powerfully as they evoke our earliest encounters with literature. This exhilarating collection restores their place in the literary canon.

review :

This collection of fairy tales fully consumed me as I read through the book.

With a plethora of contemporary authors adding their retold fairy tales to this anthology, there’s definitely a story in here for anyone. While I’m not sure that all will enjoy every story (that’s a rare thing, to really love every installment in a collection like this) there are so many different styles present and takes on the well-known tales that there’s a good thing for anyone here.

I particularly enjoyed (and expected to love) Neil Gaiman’s ‘Orange’. He’s one of the few authors I immediately recognized by name from the list of those who contributed to this work–for others, I know their stories better than their names.

Because I had to read this for school, I didn’t have as much time to sit and think on each story as I would have preferred to do, should I have read this collection in my free time. I could spend hours on each one, to be frank, going on about what did or didn’t work for me, what I loved about the individual writing styles and what I detested about the fairy tales chosen to be retold. Unfortunately, not having the time for that kind of involvement, I was left instead with vague impressions of the stories I’d read one after the other. So if you happen to read this anthology, I would recommend taking the time to enjoy it, rather than speeding through it. Not only is it a fairly hefty volume, the text inside is so dense with wonder and symbolism that you simply need to focus on it rather than the end goal of finishing the book.

I loved how some of these stories are influenced by more remote and less well-known tales, some more gruesome or heartbreaking than others. While I do love my Americanized classics, there are still so many folk tales and mythologies out there left to be explored and understood by the masses so I was ecstatic (though not particularly surprised, judging by the fabulous array of authors) to see the variety there!

I would highly recommend this collection to anyone interested in fairy tales, modern writing, and short stories. I think that this is something I’ll return to again, to reread favorite stories and linger over those I still need to puzzle out.

4/5 stars

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