4 stars · science fiction · young adult

Full Tilt by Neal Shusterman; a crazy ride

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full tilt

author : neal shusterman

pages : [paperback] 208

memorable quote :

Who am I? The sum of your dreams, the thrill you refuse to grasp, the unknown you fear.

favorite character : blake

summary :

Sixteen-year-old Blake and his younger brother, Quinn, are exact opposites. Blake is the responsible member of the family. He constantly has to keep an eye on the fearless Quinn, whose thrill-seeking sometimes goes too far. But the stakes get higher when Blake has to chase Quinn into a bizarre phantom carnival that traps its customers forever.

In order to escape, Blake must survive seven deadly rides by dawn, each of which represents a deep, personal fear — from a carousel of stampeding animals to a hall of mirrors that changes people into their deformed reflections. Blake ultimately has to face up to a horrible secret from his own past to save himself and his brother — that is, if the carnival doesn’t claim their souls first!

review :

love Neal Shusterman’s writing. He’s been on my insta-buy list for years when he comes out with new books. I’m fairly certain this was one of his first novels, and it’s the only one of his I’ve read that isn’t part of any series. It’s my least favorite, but that isn’t saying very much, because I still really liked it. It’s creative, it’s fun, and I feel like younger audiences will definitely fall in love with Shusterman’s writing after reading this.

Full Tilt at its core is a story of two brothers. It’s also a story about not letting your past overtake your entire life. Blake and Quinn are nearly complete opposites. Whereas Blake is quiet and reserved, Quinn is reckless and an adrenaline junkie. Blake is the one invited to this very strange, very dangerous carnival, but Quinn is the one who actually wants to go and Blake only arrives because he needs to save his brother from himself.

I love the creativity here. The carnival rides are simultaneously things from nightmares and also things that kids love seeing in movies or video games–but it’s another thing entirely when the players are gambling with their lives. If they die at the carnival, it’s game-over forever, and they’ll be trapped there forever. Blake isn’t sure what the rest of the world will think happened to them, but isn’t sure he wants to find out. Although he just wants to take Quinn and get home, it isn’t as simple as all that. It feels like this carnival has been built specifically to cater to each individual’s personal fears.

I was rooting for Blake, because I wasn’t sure if I’d do as well in his position. This carnival can literally read into your mind and worst nightmares–I don’t think I’d be able to beat the kind of games he has to play. It was interesting to see how every individual has their own strengths–for example, what’s impossible for one person to get through, another can overcome quite easily. I loved how Full Tilt managed to show that on an even playing field, there can still be an individualized experience. Not everyone reacts to identical life experiences in the same way. Just like Blake and Quinn need to learn to empathize with one another, readers do too. I feel like this is an important book to be read, because of those important messages linking these thrills.

I’m so glad that I reread this book, and Neal Shusterman continues to be one of my top recommended authors. His books are so fun, creative, and smart–everything you could want in a YA novel.

4/5 stars

 

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4 stars · dystopia · Fantasy · reread review

Reread Reflection: Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

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How do you review a book after you’ve already read it? Review the reread!

I absolutely loved The Darkest Minds which was the first book in this trilogy. When I finally got my hands on book three, I remembered pretty clearly what happened in that book and was less certain about Never Fade. That calls for a reread!

First of all, I have to admit Never Fade suffers from the second book slump. I like it, but nowhere near with the passion of how I loved book one. This involves more of the political intrigue, a lot less of the action. There’s a lot happening but it’s all verbal plot twists, not exactly action scenes, except for probably the very first and last scenes of the book. Ruby shuts down so much when she’s around the League that it’s hard to get a read on her for . . kind of anything, which leads to an unfortunate monotone in places when she’s trying not to feel and all.

There are some pretty good plot twists in here, though, and those easily kept me reading. I mean, it’s kind of like you’re thinking nothing else could go worse, and then everything goes much worse than you could ever think possible.

Before this reread, I couldn’t remember too much about Never Fade apart from pieces of the end of the book. And then I kept thinking, no, that couldn’t possibly be how it ends . . . but it does, and it still makes me a mixture of sad and angry. All in all, it made me unsure if this is a trilogy I’ll reread in its entirety again. I still have a special place in my heart for The Darkest Minds, because when I read that it felt so clever and unlike anything else I’d ever read. Never Fade brings in more dystopian tropes, and, well, I’ll be putting up my review of book three in a few days.

So, while I really liked this book, I don’t feel like I absolutely need this book.

 

 

4 stars · fiction · young adult

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven: An important book about mental illness and suicide

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All the Bright Places

author : jennifer niven

pages : 387

memorable quote : The thing I realize is, that it’s not what you take, it’s what you leave.

favorite character : violet

summary :

The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning!
 
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.

This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

review :

Wow. This book.

For starters, I snagged this book at a library sale in perfect condition for only $1 and, after vaguely recognizing the cover and summary, thought it was a brilliant deal. Now I’m sure that I’ve gotten the better end of it, because I feel like this is a book you’ll need to read more than once. I’m sure in a year or so I’ll return to it, in spite of how difficult it was to read. This is a book about mental illness, suicide, and how those who haven’t personally experienced either may react to these important issues.

I think that an important thing to realize going into this is that the book isn’t perfect, but for the most part it’s realistic. Finch and Violet are both exaggerated and unrealistic in that they don’t feel like actual teenagers. Like a lot of YA, these teens are extremely eloquent, seem able to run around wherever they want at whatever hours of the day they want, and are obsessed with ‘cool’ things like 80s music, records, and the online equivalent of zines. It’s kind of annoying that all of the things that YA main characters scoff at are the ‘normal’ things that teens do, and it’s like they need to reach back thirty years to really express themselves. Honestly, I’m not sure how much of this phenomenon is the fact that most YA authors haven’t been young adults for a long while.

Another important thing about this book is how mental illness can be perceived and ignored by adults AND  young adults. Those who are ‘there to help’ might not always be there to help. For example, guidance counselors may not catch the same warning signs that another trained professional might. A friend might accept those signs as just part of their personality. When something might finally be seen as more than just a teenager acting out, getting into trouble–typical teen angst–it might be too late. In reading a few reviews, I could see how frustrated some readers were that no one was helping Finch or Violet even though in the first chapter they literally meet on the school’s roof because they’re both contemplating suicide. I was just heartbroken by how realistic it is that nothing is really done about it. People are so good at hiding what they’re feeling and what’s really going on in their heads. There’s such a stigma about acknowledging mental illness that most people don’t want to contemplate it about themselves, let alone suggest its existence to the people surrounding them.

Let’s talk about Finch and Violet’s friendship. It really isn’t healthy, even though it brings out great things (mostly hope) for both of them. The big red flag for me is how much Finch is bullied at school, most prominently by Violet’s closest friends, and how she does nothing to speak against this. Even in the portion of chapters that are through her POV she never mentally acknowledges that he shouldn’t be spoken to in this way, if she’s too afraid to speak up. In this case, silence speaks louder than anything else. Another wholly unrealistic aspect is how willing Violet is to go along with Finch’s random adventures, even at times like 3 A.M. She hardly knows this guy, owes him nothing, knows her parents will never trust her again if she’s caught–but she risks everything for him.

This book was nearly impossible to put down once I started to read it. The writing was captivating, the chapters alternating between viewpoints flowed together incredibly. I loved reading about the roadtrips (and now want to plan my own trip around my own state doing crazy things that no one really knows about). I loved that this was a story about two teenagers trying to take care of each other and seeing how much the support of just one person can affect someone.

I’d recommend this book to anyone. It’s a fast, meaningful read that will leave you thinking about the major topics discussed in the novel.

4/5 stars

 

4 stars · fiction

Me Before You reads exactly like the movie

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Me Before You

Me Before You #1

author : jojo moyes

pages : [hardcover] 369

favorite character : louisa

memorable quote :

You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.

summary :

They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . .

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A Love Story for this generation and perfect for fans of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

review :

Me Before You was an interesting read for me because I watched the movie first. I know, I know, that’s an extreme sin to some people. But I honestly can’t remember the last time I did that, and then read the novel afterward. Usually when I know that it’s coming, I take the time to read the book long before I get to the theater. Me Before You was a little different because I knew nothing about it before I went to see it. I’d literally only seen the posters for it, knew I loved the lead actor and actress, and it was what my friends wanted to do for the day. I thought it would be a nice, light-hearted romantic comedy.

Me Before You is something . . . other. I’m sure most people know what they’re getting themselves into, but when the “event” happens two minutes into the film, I grabbed my friend and demanded to know what they’d dragged me into. And then sat back for the rest of the ride.

Well, the novel reads exactly like the film. There was a few months’ gap between watching it and reading the book, so there may be some pieces that I’m missing. Altogether, apart from a few chapters of the book that are told in other characters’ perspectives, everything else is exactly like the movie. Which could mean either that the film was a great adaptation and exactly what readers who want every moment of the book included are looking for, or that the writing needed a little something extra. I think both are true. Both, because the plot does translate so well to screen, and I think part of that is because Moyes doesn’t provide us with anything superfluous. No real subplots that would need to be cut from a movie script. No minor characters that only pop in for a chapter or two.

It’s the kind of writing that I know appeals to a lot of people–and it shows, from the popularity of the book. It’s also the kind of troublesome book that is very entertaining, but doesn’t provide much meat for the mind, if you know what I’m getting at. The writing isn’t clunky, or awkward, and manages to make a plot that could have been predictable, entertaining and endearing. But it isn’t exceptional. It does the job, telling the story, without leaving behind much by way of style.

I think it’s kind of like a Nicolas Sparks novel (or at least like several I’ve read by him until they all, I realized, were basically the same), riding on peoples’ emotions for the tragedy of it all. And it works! I enjoyed it. Do I see myself reading the sequel? Probably not, because I don’t really see the necessity of there being a sequel. Would I read another book by Moyes? Maybe, but also a probably not because the back of my book included a few summaries of other novels she’s written and they don’t seem like my kind of book.

Did I enjoy Me Before You? Yes. Would I recommend it? Definitely, for a nice and easy read. But watching the movie was easily just as enjoyable.

4/5 stars

4 stars · fiction · science fiction

Marvel-ous Mondays: Black Widow Vol 3

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Black Widow Vol. 3: Last Days

author : nathan edmondson

illustrator : phil noto

pages : [paperback] 176

favorite character : nat

summary :

The world has turned against Black Widow. Her web is broken. How will she deal with this? The final path to Chaos is at her feet, but will her own demons keep her from finally taking it? What happened to Isaiah? Can Black Widow still turn to the Avengers, or even to S.H.I.E.L.D.? Natasha wants answers about Chaos and now she has a list of people who have them.

COLLECTING: BLACK WIDOW 13-20

review :

I liked this volume but it wasn’t an entirely satisfying conclusion to this story arc.

The volumes leading up to this have been filled with questions of identity, of loyalty, of how someone can be human if they never allow themselves to get close to others. While Last Days tried to give us a few of Natasha’s answers, she’s too much of an enigma. But there was no happy balance between the mystery and hints at what’s going on inside of her mind. It’s obvious that she’s grown much closer to Isaiah (and her cat) than she’d ever planned to. But her relationships with them, after she’s admitted this to herself, are disappointing. Nothing seems to change.

Nat is innovative as usual. She comes up with great stunts to get herself out of sticky situations and to protect those she (accidentally) cares for. But some of the situations were similar to others in previous issues, which was a little aggravating. Nat of all people wouldn’t fall for the same situation twice, especially when the incidents happen so close together.

I love Nat, and I’m going to keep reading about her, but I wish there was going to be another volume by this team coming out after this. The art is beautiful; I want more of it. But more than that I want a more satisfying conclusion.

4/5 stars

 

4 stars · children's books · fiction

Children’s Book Chat: The Day the Aunts Disappeared

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The Day the Aunts Disappeared

author : KayeC Jones

pages : [ebook]

summary :

Hungry and tired of bug bites, Greg the Anteater decided to go to town to find an easy meal.

He quickly finds out that there are aunts all around the town! But “aunts” and “ants” are not the same thing, as he quickly finds out.

Find out what happens to Greg and all the aunts in town in this colorful and nonsensical story that will make you laugh and giggle.

review :

This book was adorable! I’ve read one other of Jones’ picture books (Kitty Conquers the Big Bully) and I love the artwork in both. Greg is cute (even when he’s kind of terrifying the town) and the little details really make the story unique. I like the little things that you only notice if you really engage with the picture, like Greg’s tongue forming a heart, because it’s cute, tells so much more about the story, and shows us more about Greg.

I have to admit at first I was a little taken aback that Greg was actually eating people. He didn’t really mean any harm (no one would want to eat bugs ALL their life) but I feel like adults reading this book to or with their children will find it funny on a different level. We can imagine an anteater doing something like this and find it hilarious; kids might find it funnier that Greg thinks people are tasty, or because he’s so confused, or because of the (accidental) chaos he causes.

I’ve never read anything like this, so I think it’s great and unique just in that respect. Pair that with the great artwork and it’s a cute, fun little book. I think that a lot of people would enjoy it, so I highly recommend it!

4/5 stars

 

4 stars · nonfiction

Brother Bear: A Transformation Tale

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Brother Bear: A Transformative Tale

author : hiro clark wakabayashi

pages : [hardcover] 124

summary :

Rooted in the lore of Pacific Northwest culture, Brother Bear is a tale of the strong brotherhood between all living creatures. It is also about discovering the power of change in our world, whether it be the change from winter to spring, or from small to large, or the transformation of a boy to a man. This epic story combines humor and emotion with breathtaking images of nature and wildlife from a time long forgotten.

review :

I absolutely love to read the Disney art books, not only because there’s awesome artwork and even concept art included but because it’s always extremely fascinating to see the stories behind the final product. With Brother Bear, apparently, there was so much more of a struggle to get the film complete and epic than I ever would have realized.

This book was a little inspiring, too. Right in the first section it talks about the director’s career and how he got his start at Disney. He was an intern! It’s so awesome to see someone climb up the ladder like that, to really–eventually–make all of their dreams come true and create something that is such a classic.

It’s also inspiring to see what can come out of such hard word. This book details three other full scripts–full scripts–they had to use before Brother Bear settled into its final form. Can you imagine putting all of that time, love, and effort into something that just doesn’t quite end up working in the end and needing to rewrite it entirely? The important message her, however, was that the basic theme and heart of the movie remained the same throughout this process. It was just a journey needed to explore the characters that would be presented and how the story would unfold.

And it’s absolutely hilarious that they had the idea of the moose brothers early on and even when they weren’t working they were basically like “okay they’re going to end up being funny so we’re keeping them”. Author problems. And they ended up tying into the movie so well in the end, so it just goes to show that you can be stubborn about parts of the story you relentlessly love.

I’d recommend this book so, so much. It’s so inspirational and beautiful.

4/5 stars