Reviews

2017 Reading Wrap-Up: Books #26-30

The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler – 4 stars

I can’t put my finger on why this wasn’t a five star read for me, but it just fell a little flat.

I appreciate the rawness of the monologues and the fact that I was uncomfortable when I was reading some of them. That means that they were making me think. I do think this is an important read and I am glad that I picked it up. I easily gave the monologues themselves 5 stars because of how personal they are and how I could relate to them in a way I didn’t expect.

I think one of my biggest issues was the fact that there was only one monologue for trans-women, so it kind of felt like it was excluding them in the discussion about women. Especially given the fact that V-Day is about fighting violence against women, and trans-women face some of the worst violence, it felt like a glaring omission to me. And yes, I realize that it is called The Vagina Monologues, but it just rubbed me (forgive the pun) the wrong way.

I thought that the additions at the end of the V-Day special were interesting because it let us see the impact V-Day is having on the world. They have accomplished so much, but we still have so far to go.

The Vagina Monologues

Wires and Nerve Volume 1 by Marissa Meyer – 5 stars

Iko is probably my favorite character from The Lunar Chronicles so I was ecstatic when I heard she was getting her own graphic novel. And I am happy to say that it did not disappoint.

I was a little apprehensive of the artwork when I first saw it, but I think that it really worked for the story. I also appreciate that due to the color scheme that was chosen, any blood from the fights is not in your face. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for it when I’m reading other graphic novels, but given the audience and the story, I appreciate the muted aspect of the violence.

It was just so much fun to see the entire gang. And I really enjoyed the new characters of the Kinneys. I know that we saw Sir Kinney in the other books, but he does play a bigger part in this. And I love the relationship between him and Iko. But I also loved Tressa. She was just so much fun!

I was so sad when it was over because I want to know what else happens! I want to continue seeing Iko being the badass, feminine, sassy person that she is. I also am so curious to see how the story goes from where it is to where it ends up in Stars Above. I cannot wait until volume 2!

Wires and Nerve

El Deafo by Cece Bell – 4 stars

This was so adorable!

I really love that this is a graphic novel for kids that focuses on not only what it’s like to live with a severe hearing impairment but also on teaching others how to interact with someone who has a hearing impairment. I love that whether or not you have a hearing impairment, you can related to a good majority of the stories. It features stories about trying to fit in, dealing with pushy friends, struggling at school, and first crushes.

The artwork is so cute and really conveys some great emotions. Even though the main audience for this is kids, I feel like anyone can read it and take something away from it. I also appreciate that Bell included an author’s note where she stressed that El Deafo is just her experience and that she is in no way speaking for all that are hard of hearing or Deaf.

Overall, this was a fantastic read and I think everyone should read it.

El Deafo

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander – 5 stars

What can I say? I’m Harry Potter trash. So when I heard that not only was there going to be a new edition of Fantastic Beasts but an audiobook narrated by Eddie Redmayne, I was sold.

I’m still in awe of the fact that Rowling came up with all of these creatures, what they look like, and their characteristics. My only complaint is that it isn’t longer and that there are several omissions of creatures mentioned throughout the Harry Potter series (such as hinkypunks and boggarts). I will never get tired of reading as much as I can about the wizarding world.

The audiobook is fantastic and it was like having Newt read it to me personally. If you can, I highly recommend checking it out.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery – 4 stars

This was the first time that I read Anne of Green Gables, and I must say, I really enjoyed it. I honestly had no idea what the story was going into it other than the fact that it was set in Canada.

I overall really loved Anne. She is smart, spunky, full of imagination, and so utterly driven. However, there were quite a few times that I was a little annoyed by her (especially when she went on long spiels about whatever is on her mind). It also was a little hard to imagine that she had so many disastrous things happen to her constantly. But like I said, overall, she was a wonderful character.

I also really ended up enjoying all of the side characters. And though I did expect a certain character’s death, I was still heartbroken when it happened.

Montgomery’s world is so easy to imagine as she does a beautiful job of painting a picture of what it would be like to live there. However, there were a couple of times where Montgomery’s writing was not my favorite. By the end of the book, I was over the fact that anytime Matthew said anything, he started with “Well, now, …”

I would highly recommend checking out the audiobook narrated by Rachel McAdams. She does such a great job with the story and it really enhanced my reading experience.

Anne of Green Gables

Reviews

2017 Reading Wrap-Up: Books #21-25

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – 5 stars

Have you ever inhale read something because it gripped you so much? And then kicked yourself because you inhale read it and now it’s over and you wish you had spent a little more time with it? Yeah, that’s what happened for me.

I need to sit back and digest what I just read because it’s so powerful and thought-provoking. But for now, I’ll just say this: A hairbrush is not a gun.

Update: so it’s been just shy of two days since I finished reading this and I’m honestly still thinking about it. I’ve grown up in America, reading about and seeing the unjust killings of African Americans by police in the news but since I am white and therefore extremely privileged, I have no clue what it’s like to have the police target me just because of my race. Angie Thomas has captured the African American experience so well in this book that I have been able to get a small glimpse of what it is like. I think that every white person needs to read this book in order to grow as a person and learn. It’s uncomfortable to read about Hailey and how blatantly racist she is, while claiming that she is absolutely not one. But when you say things like “that Black stuff” and ask questions like whether or not an Asian American’s family members eat cats for Thanksgiving, you are most definitely a racist. It’s micro-aggressions like these that minorities face everyday from white people and I’m glad that Thomas included them to highlight how you may think you are joking when actually, you are doing real damage.

One of my biggest complaints about YA in general is how the parents tend to be lacking, but I am so extremely happy to say that Starr’s parents are very much involved and have a healthy relationship. Yes, they fight, but they are mature about it. They want what is best for their children. They punish their children when necessary. They are just extremely wonderful role models and their relationship is so freaking cute to boot.

The story has a large cast of characters, but you end up rooting for all of them. By the end of the novel, I was praying that no one got hurt. Starr is such a fantastic character – she struggles throughout the book and is flawed, but is also completely strong and stands up for what she believes is right. Mav and Lisa are amazing (see above paragraph for my gush about them). Her brothers have great personalities and are a positive presence in Starr’s life. Chris is willing to learn about things that he doesn’t understand. DeVante wasn’t someone I wanted to root for, but as we learn more about him, I couldn’t help but love him. Uncle Carlos shows that there are good cops that get overshadowed by the bad ones. The community show just how close they are and how they stand together. It was just such a wonderful thing to read.

I hope that I’m doing this book justice – I’m still learning. This book is powerful, timely, and important and everyone needs to read it.

the-hate-u-give

Liar Temptress Soldier Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott – 4 stars

I honestly remember very little about the Civil War from what I learned in school. But when I heard about this book detailing the lives of some bada** ladies, I was all in.

Karen Abbott clearly did her research and presented the lives of these women in a way that was educational but also hella entertaining.

Emma Edmonds, Elizabeth Van Lew, Rose Greenhow, and Belle Boyd all believed in what they were fighting for. And despite my Southern heritage (Texas born and raised) I have to say that Emma and Elizabeth’s stories were more intriguing to me. I just did not care for Rose or Belle and how pretentious they both came off.

Emma disguised herself as a man so that she could fight in the Union army. Elizabeth created her own underground network. Rose and Belle both boasted about what they were doing and took it as an honor that they were arrested multiple times. Though these women never met (save for a couple of times with Rose and Belle), Abbott weaved their stories in the same chapters if they were occurring at the same time. Because of this, it was sometimes difficult to keep track of who I was reading about.

It was clear that these four women were willing to sacrifice for what they believed in. And it was really awesome to read a story about the Civil War that focused on women rather than the men. I started reading it back in November but I wasn’t really in the mood for non-fiction at the time so I put it off. It’s fitting that I finished this during Women’s History Month.

liar-temptress-soldier-spy

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – 5 stars

This short book packs a punch. I love how Adichie backs up each of her points with real-life experiences. I especially loved that she focused on her experiences in Nigeria, as it highlights the need for intersectionality within feminism. As a white woman in America, I have not had to face many of the experiences that she has faced and it opened my eyes to making sure that my feminism includes all women. I think that everyone should read this. Especially if you are new to feminism.

We Should All Be Feminists

Before Goodbye by Mimi Cross – 2.5 stars

The story was all over the place, especially with the random flashbacks that are not really identified as flashbacks. Also, I really couldn’t care less about either Cate or David and did not really see the supposed chemistry between them.

The author tried to handle issues like sexual assault, suicide, and teenage drug use, but because she tries to cover all of them, she really doesn’t do justice to any of them. She even tries to have a female/female relationship, but again, does not really do it justice.

It was pretty cool to read the music scenes as it is clear that music is something that the author is passionate about. But other than that, I just wasn’t very interested. And there were several plot points that I had a very hard time buying *cough* Bryn’s involvement with a crime going unnoticed and unreported by anyone *cough*.

This book also had the wonderful *sarcasm* trope of YA books having non-existent as well as abusive parents. I’m really really tired of this and I wish it would stop.

Also, the amount of times the author used ellipses was rather annoying.

Overall, I was rather bored with this and I’m glad that I got it through Kindle First since it means I didn’t have to pay for it.

Before Goodbye

Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul: Second Dose by Jack Canfield, Mark victor Hansen, and LeAnn Thieman – 4 stars

It always seems that about halfway through the semester, I need a reminder of why I want to go into nursing. And this book did not disappoint.

I cried during the stories. I laughed. I sat back and thought about the impact we can make as nurses.

I liked that there was a variety of stories and a variety of perspectives. It’s sometimes nice to hear from patients rather than only from other nurses.

Overall, this book was just what I needed as I gear up for my last seven weeks of nursing school.

 Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul
Reviews

2017 Reading Wrap-Up: Books #16-20

The Death Cure by James Dashner – 4 stars

This one was stronger for me than The Scorch Trials because I at least felt like there were actually things at stake. And I appreciate that several main characters died since lately I’ve been reading a decent amount where that is not the case. I read this one much faster than I did The Scorch Trials because I was actually invested in the characters. I’m not sure what was different about this one compared to The Scorch Trials, but I just felt compelled to find out what happened to them. Maybe it was the fact that I knew it was the last book so the story had to end. Who knows?

I’m still frustrated that there are several questions that Dashner did not answer. I know that there are a couple of prequels out there, but come on. Give us a little bit more. I did think it was a bit of a cop out that Thomas did not get his memories back. It felt like Dashner’s way of avoiding having to answer questions.

It was intriguing that there were those who were immune to The Flare and those that were not. And it was a little bit heartbreaking to find out which character was not. I thought it was interesting to have them end up back in the Maze and that the Grievers came back out to play. Seeing Gally again threw me for a loop and the whole Right Arm situation was a little weird for me. The way that they were treating Munies and the fact that it was just like WICKED made me doubt everything about the resistance. I thought the ending was interesting because I am really curious to know where exactly they were sent since the entire planet was supposedly screwed over. I kind of like that it is left open ended and you can imagine how the rest of the characters’ lives go.

Now I really want to read the prequels because I want to know more about this lab-created zombie virus plague thing that was created as a means of population control. I am intrigued to find out who in their right mind thought they could control something like that.

the-death-cure

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Dr. Sheri Fink – 3.5 stars

I picked this up at the recommendation of my clinical instructor after we went through a emergency medical training and I’m glad I did.

It is clear that this book was thoroughly researched and presented as true an account as possible about what happened at Memorial Hospital during and after Hurricane Katrina. I thought that the first part of the book was much more powerful as it described the five days. I was invested in the lives of the patients, family members, nurses, and doctors that were involved. It was heartbreaking to read about the lack of supplies, the increasing heat, and the lack of proper coordination from the parent company.

However, once it got to the part where the authorities came in to investigate, I found myself getting less and less interested. I found the investigation to get confusing at times and I did not particularly care for a couple of the individuals mentioned. It also got to be repetitive for me at times.

However, the discussion about medical ethics and disaster preparedness was intriguing. It really made me sit back and think what I would do if I were in the situations presented in this book. I also appreciated the epilogue, where there was discussion about what has been learned from Hurricane Katrina with regards to being prepared for emergencies.

Overall, I’m glad that I read this. I wish that the second part of the book was a little bit more succinct, but the beginning and epilogue were well worth it.

five-days-at-memorial

My Lady Jane by Jodi Meadows, Cynthia Hand, and Brodi Ashton – 5 stars

This was just so wonderfully delightful.

I absolutely loved this twist on Tudor history where the Protestants and Catholics are replaced with shapeshifters and non-shapeshifters. I think I may have a new ship and the slow burning romance was just so swoony. The wit and humor in this was absolutely fantastic and I loved all of the different references that were strewn throughout the entire book.

I was a little worried that once they really got off track with history that I would lose interest or the humor would decrease, but I am so glad to say that I was completely wrong. I absolutely adored the entire cast of characters from Jane to G to Edward to Gracie to Bess to Pet. Hell, I even loved the narrators interjecting their thoughts and opinions here and there.

I’ve had this book since it came in my June 2016 Owlcrate and I am absolutely kicking myself for waiting so long to read it. The premise should not have worked, but in the hands of these authors, it totally did and I can’t wait to read their next work together.

My Lady Jane

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells – 3 stars

So I knew approximately zero things about this other than H.G. Wells is a master of science fiction and it contains time travel (wow, I’m so good at deductions). I received it in my OwlCrate last February and was mildly intrigued, but set it aside for other books that piqued my interest more. I ended up picking it up now because I needed a quick classic that I could finish before the end of February to meet my goal of reading a classic a month (since I failed at January and finished reading Jane Eyre in February).

I was pleasantly surprised by this since I had no expectations for it. I thought that the story itself was an exciting adventure that also looked at what humanity will become in the future. I thought Wells’s take on the Eloi and the Morlocks was interesting and that he was trying to have a political and social commentary for his time. The Time Traveller wasn’t the most like-able character, but he also definitely wasn’t the most dis-like-able. I was pretty meh on him, to be honest.

Overall, it was a fun, quick read and I thought it was interesting that Wells had the Time Traveller go forward in time rather than backwards.

time-machine

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand – 4 stars

This was such an interesting look at the life of Louis Zamperini. I really liked that Hillenbrand didn’t just start off with Louie’s plane crash and subsequent life as a POW. Instead, she set up the story and let us get to know not only Louie, but his family and crew as well.

There were times where it was hard to read about what the men went through. But it was also amazing to read about how strongly they persisted and just how ingenious they were (mainly when they were on the raft and had to use what little resources they had available). I also really appreciate that Hillenbrand did not shy away from the fact that most of the men who were POWs suffered from PTSD once they got back to the United States. And it broke my heart that the men did not get proper help for their PTSD due to people wanting to tune it out and pretend that it didn’t exist.

I like that Hillenbrand included Louie’s flaws throughout the book. It made him seem all the more real and seeing him straighten out his life was really interesting to witness. It was clear that Hillenbrand did her research and was trying to paint Louie in as fair a light as possible.

This was definitely a hard read at times, but I think it sheds light on a rather dark moment in history. Louie’s struggle to survive was harrowing and his life after the war is something that is so rarely talked about. I’m really glad I read this.

unbroken

Reviews

2017 Reading Wrap-Up: Books #11-15

The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health by Colin T. Campbell – 2 stars

Ooof.

So I picked this up because one of my professors recommended it last semester.

I also read this on audio, so it’s not like I had the physical book to check the references. I just want to put that out there from the beginning.

I found it increasingly annoying that throughout the course of the book, there were simply mentions of research showed “in one study” (with references to different studies each time) rather than naming the actual studies. But again, I only had the audio, so I didn’t have the reference list. It was just sketchy to me that there were rarely, if ever, study names or authors mentioned. Unless the author was Adkins. In which case, he was mentioned several times.

I also thought that a majority of the time in the book was spent by the author congratulating himself on all of his work without really providing much to support his self-congratulations. For a book called The China Study, there was very little time spent on the study and very little data actually spelled out. But the author continuously said that “the data show.”

It was clear from the beginning that the author had his own agenda that he was going to push and it became super antagonistic towards others in both the medical and research field. Like, unnecessarily antagonistic.

I also have a huge problem with his repeated claims that by changing diets, you can reverse cancer and heart disease. I know I’m just a nursing student at this point, and we all know that I’m being taught by the pharmaceutical companies (or at least, that’s the author’s claim – spoiler alert, he’s wrong – we spend a good portion of each course talking about nutrition and changing life styles and that we need to work with our patients on providing education), but what I’ve been taught is that once you have heart disease, it’s a life-long process. You will always have to be on, say, anti-hypertension medication. Yes, you can stall it from becoming worse, but to claim that you can reverse it is really dangerous in my opinion because plaque doesn’t just go away. And again, with cancer, you don’t reverse it. You can become “cancer free” but that just means that you are in remission. There is always a chance that it will come back, unfortunately. But then again, that’s just what I have been taught.

I appreciate that we need to change our diets. I do. But I think that the heavy-handed manner in which this book was presented will do a lot more harm than good because the author a) repeats himself a lot without really saying much, b) is ridiculously antagonistic and comes off as being better than other researchers and c) presents the material in a “my way is the only way” fashion that is really off-putting. I could see using parts of the book as evidence, but overall, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend others to read this in its entirety.

the-china-study

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – 5 stars

I absolutely adore Jane as a character. She is fierce, strong-willed, compassionate, resilient af, educated, and just such a breath of fresh air of what was expected of women during that time. I loved reading about her relationship with Adele and how much she cared for her. I loved that she did what was best for her when the truth came out about Mr. Rochester’s wife. And I loved that despite all of the absolute sh*t she went through growing up, she never lost herself nor her beliefs.

I have very mixed feelings toward Mr. Rochester. It is clear that he loves Jane and is a pretty good master and can be kind but jeez. He is kind of an absolute d*ck to his first wife, lies to Jane about marrying Blanche, and then begs Jane to become his mistress once she finds out about his first wife. And he really treats Adele rather awfully. I was surprised at the end when Jane mentions they have a child because he was so very clearly against children for the majority of the book. But there’s still a part of me that was really intrigued by his character.

I absolutely adore Adele and Mrs. Fairfax. I loved seeing Jane interact with Mary and Diana and wish there could have been more time with the three of them being awesome together. St. John is just blah for me. Mr. Brocklehurst is the literally worst. The Reeds can all go where the sun don’t shine. And Bessie. Sweet Bessie. I was sad that we didn’t get more time with her, either.

I liked that the story takes the reader through the majority of Jane’s life and that we get to see her grow as a character. And I loved the little bits of feminism that shine through. Like how in the epilogue, she specifically points out that she married Rochester. I also liked the little breaks where she would talk directly to the reader. It made it feel more like a conversation than reading a book. If that makes sense. I just really enjoyed this book.

jane-eyre

Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance by Dr. Atul Gawande – 4 stars

This is the first book I’ve read from Dr. Gawande and it made me so excited to read the rest of them. The fact that he kept me engaged in an essay about hand-washing says a lot about his power as a writer. Despite the fact that he is writing about the medical world, Dr. Gawande manages to keep an almost conversational tone and manages to explain conditions in such ways that those who are not in the medical field can understand. I hope that one day I am able to do the same in my practice as a nurse.

I think the story that captivated my attention the most was the one about the doctors in Iraq during the war. It was amazing to read about the conditions and their solutions to the lack of resources. This story was followed closely by the story of the doctors and surgeons in India as my second favorite. Again, it was fascinating to read about how they coped with limited resources and the fact that they usually had to send their patients out to get the supplies they need.

This is a bit of a side-note, but I was really proud of myself for recognizing the symptoms of cystic fibrosis that Dr. Gawande wrote about before he actually called it cystic fibrosis. And I also loved reading more about the development of the Apgar score for newborns. I also thought the chapter on malpractice lawsuits was interesting since it feels almost taboo to talk about it.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and I loved the afterword where Dr. Gawande suggested his ways of becoming a positive deviant. I truly am looking forward to picking up another book by him soon.

better

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick – 3 stars

I don’t really know how I feel about this book. There were very high points (such as Herr Silverman) but the majority of the book was just blah for me.

It took way too long, in my opinion, to reveal what it was that Asher did that caused Leonard so much pain. And I was really confused by the letters from the future because at first they seemed so out of place. The flashbacks with Lauren also seemed a little out of place for me at first, but then it made sense when I realized it was setting up who the last gift was being given to. I didn’t really get the relationship between the two of them and didn’t understand why he wanted to kiss her so badly. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Baback and I thought he was a bit of an asshole when Leonard tried to give him the check for True Democracy in Iran. Walt was an interesting character and I liked seeing his interactions with Leonard, but I didn’t feel any particular attachment to him.

The true highlight of the book for me was Herr Silverman. It was so refreshing to see a teacher portrayed who actually saw the signs of a pending suicide and actually acted (unlike portrayals in other novels such as Thirteen Reasons Why). The fact that he dropped everything to go make sure that Leonard was okay and was able to talk him out of killing himself was really awesome to read. And the fact that Leonard just left the way he did really pissed me off. I honestly didn’t particularly care for Leonard as a main character throughout the majority of the book (especially after reading about him creepily following adults on the train and to their work – I kind of understood it, but don’t follow women down an alleyway for goodness sake) and his treatment of Herr Silverman really sealed the deal on my dislike for him.

My biggest gripe is the ending of the novel. It just felt so anti-climatic. For me, it would have been really powerful if he actually went and got the help that he clearly needs (especially since it would help to remove some of the stigma of getting professional help that is still very prevalent today) rather than just walking out. Also, I really really despise his mother. I realize there was a purpose to her being so awful as it helped to contribute to Leonard’s mental state, but oh my God. She is just so horrible at the end. Her saying that he isn’t suicidal and complaining about having to leave New York and not even acknowledging Leonard’s birthday was just so infuriating to me. It was easy to see how her treatment of Leonard contributed to how messed up he got after what happened with Asher.

I listened to the audiobook along with reading the physical book, and I’m glad I did because the narrator did a fantastic job of incorporating the footnotes into the narrative (much better than I would have if I was just reading my physical copy). I would suggest that anyone who has trouble with footnotes to try the audiobook. Also, the narrator did a really good job with the different characters and portraying the emotions of the story.

Overall, this was just an okay book for me. I don’t know what I was expecting when I went in, but it didn’t quite deliver for me.

forgive-me-leonard-peacock

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner – 3 stars

I read The Maze Runner back in 2014 for my young adult literature class and even though I didn’t re-read it before picking up The Scorch Trials, I found that I was sucked right back into the world and remembered a good majority of what happened in the previous book. But despite my initial reaction, I found myself not really caring about the characters or the world that much anymore.

I thought that the Scorch was a much weaker setting than the Maze since at least in the Maze, there was the logic part of it. And while I appreciate that this really is a survival story and Dashner tried to show that it wasn’t easy, there were parts that I thought didn’t work very well. The lightning storm seemed so weird and the fact that Minho was on fire and managed to survive without too much pain, little to no fluid loss, and was able to pretty much jump right back up to continue to fight was super unrealistic to me. Especially when later in the book, a reasonable reaction to an injury occurs.

I wanted to love the character of Jorge, but I was increasingly frustrated that he was the token Hispanic side character who always says key phrases like “hermano,” “compadre,” and “muchacho.” I didn’t particularly care for Brenda and from the beginning, I didn’t trust her, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens with her character in The Death Cure.

The whole thing with Theresa, Aris, and Thomas was annoying and I’m kind of sick of all of the twists and turns and people saying that WICKED made them do this or that. I also still don’t understand what the point of these trials are and how they will help cure The Flare. I hope we get answers in The Death Cure because at the moment, I’m really frustrated with the lack of information.

the-scorch-trials

Reviews

2017 Reading Wrap-Up: Books #1-5

So this year, I think I’m going to try doing my wrap-ups on here in groups of five rather than waiting until I have a group (such as YA) to post about. So here are the first things I read in 2017!

The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel Volume 2 by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell – 5 stars

I’ve had this volume for nearly a year now, but I kept putting it off for some reason. When I was looking at my 2016 challenge, I saw that volume 1 was my first book of 2016, so I thought it would be *significant* to have volume 2 be my first book of 2017.

I’m fairly removed from the story at this point since it’s been a year since I read volume 1 and over a year since I read the original novel, but I found that I had no problem picking right up where the graphic novel begins.

The artwork was gorgeous and really helped me visualize what I had trouble with when I was reading the novel the first time round, which is part of why I didn’t rate it terribly high. I really enjoyed the story and that this novel focused on the last two chapters of the book because I feel it gave those chapters the time they deserve to unfold. I like that we really see Bod grow up in this volume and that he has to deal with the consequences of his actions. I also love that Bod’s selfless side is shown when he steps in to stand up to the bullies when he goes to school.

This really was a great first read of the year and I’m kind of sad that I don’t have any more graphic novels to spend with Bod, Silas, Scarlett, the Owenses, Liza, and the rest of the graveyard family.

graveyard-book-gn

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness – 5 stars

I’m not sure how to put my feelings into words.

This was such a beautiful story told in such simple language. But that simplicity doesn’t take anything away – if anything, it adds to the story because it’s just you and Conor and the monster and all of the emotions that you’re all experiencing.

The illustrations by Jim Kay are simply haunting and perfect for the story. But the story in and of itself is not scary at all. Unless you count facing the truth to be scary.

I love that the stories that the monster tells shows that there are two sides of everything. No one is all good or all bad. Letting go of someone is hard. Wanting someone else’s pain to end can be difficult because you can feel guilty when it does (at least, that’s been my experience). I just love this story and look forward to re-reading it in the future.

*Side note: I went and saw the movie the day after I finished reading this and the movie absolutely broke me. It is hands-down 1 of my favorite movies of the year already and 1 of the best book-to-movie adaptations I have ever seen.

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The Force Awakens Graphic Novel by Chuck Wendig – 5 stars

Yes, this is exactly the movie in graphic novel format. But you know what? I don’t care. I thoroughly enjoyed this and loved seeing The Force Awakens in yet another form of media. The artwork is gorgeous (though there were a couple depictions of characters that could have been a little better). Would it have been nice to have a little bit of extra content? Yes. Was I disappointed that there wasn’t? No. If you haven’t seen the movie (you should, by the way), this is a great alternative.

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Winterspell by Claire Legrand – 3 stars

I have a long history with The Nutcracker and it’s something I hold dear to my heart. I performed in it for 12 years and could probably put on a one woman show with the roles I was cast in (minus, ya know, Clara, the Snow Queen, and Sugar Plum Fairy – minor details). I start listening to the music every year in November and see it at least once a year (either wherever I’m going to school or the one put on by my old ballet company). So when I heard about this dark re-telling, I was so there for it.

Until I started reading it…then I wasn’t quite sure what I had gotten into.

Yes, there were elements of the story that were here in this re-telling. And yes, re-tellings don’t need to be, nor should they be, a direct copy of the original work. But other than the statue coming to life, the fact that Clara has an odd Godfather, the battle in the ballroom, and the fact that Anise is a faery, I didn’t see much of the original fairy tale.

There were several times that I was just plain uncomfortable reading this. I didn’t understand the need for all of the sexual tension and focus on nakedness that happened whenever Clara was with Anise. I’m not against exploring one’s sexuality and I love that it’s implied that Anise is bisexual, but it felt unnecessary and sometimes forced just to be edgy. I get that this is supposed to be a dark re-telling, but I don’t get where this aspect fits in with regards to the original tale. Also, I swear the word “belly” appears approximately too many times in this novel.

And the weirdness with the statue in the beginning was a little too out there for me. I just couldn’t get behind a little girl basically having wet dreams about a statue. It also creeped me out that Nicholas was essentially 18 years old when he is cursed and then proceeds to watch Clara grow up to the age of 17 but they end up together. The scene on the porch at Pascha House enraged me to no end and I could not forgive Nicholas for his actions. Let alone what he did after it was revealed that Clara had her powers. I just never really saw the romance between Nicholas and Clara and thought there was way too much baggage for them to overcome to get their happy ever after.

I also didn’t understand the point of Dr. Victor. I also loathed the fact that he victim blamed her for his perverse thoughts about her. It was never her fault, but he made it so that she internally blamed herself for everything that he did towards her.

However, I thought the world building of Cane was fantastic. And I love seeing Clara explore her powers, though she really is annoying for the majority of the book. I really loved the character of Bo and would gladly read an entire novel about her life in Cane.

I think if I had gone into this story not knowing that this was supposed to be a re-telling of The Nutcracker, I would have enjoyed it more (though the scenes with Nicholas I pointed out above still would’ve pissed me off) and could get behind some of the more bizarre aspects of the story (and not be confused as to what they were doing in it, if that makes sense). That’s why I rated it at 3 stars rather than something lower.

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Homecoming (Winterspell #1.5) by Claire Legrand – 3 stars

I read this because I was curious to see what happened after Clara goes back since for her it’s only been 2 years but for Nicholas and the rest of Cane it’s been 8. I liked seeing how Cane was rebuilding itself after the war and how the humans, faeries, and mages were all working together (at least for now). But I still wasn’t there for the romance between Clara and Nicholas. Their already huge age gap just got even bigger and that made me even more uncomfortable. I just feel like there will always be a power imbalance between the two. However, I loved seeing Bo again, and what I said in my review of Winterspell stands – I would totally read a book all about Bo and Afa and her entire family. But mainly Bo. I feel like this did give the story a bit more closure than the book did, but I’m still not 100% behind Clara and Nicholas together.

Reviews

Reading Wrap-Up: Graphic Novels

From Hell by Alan Moore- 3.5 stars

Guess who finally finished this after reading it for nearly 6 months!

I don’t know why, but I had a really hard time keeping up with the story for some reason. It just seemed all over the place at times. I think part of it is because some of the characters looked the same, so it was hard to figure out who was who at times. I also easily lost interest in the story, which is surprising because I find Jack the Ripper kind of fascinating. Even the appendix, which was supposed to help clear up what was going on, didn’t keep my interest and I found myself wanting to skip over parts of it. I just really didn’t enjoy this very much, which stinks because I really enjoyed Watchmen and want to read A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, though now I’m a little worried about it.

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Black Widow Volume 3: Last Days by Nathan Edmondson – 4 stars

This still has some of my favorite graphic novel artwork. It’s just so gorgeous.

I wasn’t that keen on the Chaos part of this run, and there were times I wasn’t quite sure what was happening. But I loved all of the in-between parts, especially seeing Natasha in action as a new KGB operative. I love the idea of her trying to make up for her past deeds and wanting to just be on her own for a little bit after dealing with Chaos. I wish we were getting a little bit more since there was a bit of a cliff-hanger with the little boy, but I still really enjoyed this last volume.

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Superior Iron Man Volume 2: Stark Contrast by Tom Taylor – 3 stars

The art was really good, but the story was a bit lackluster. Taking away all of Tony’s humanity and morality is an interesting idea to play with, but I felt like the ending was really weak and I guess I need to read Secret Wars now, even though I hadn’t planned on it at this moment. I was hoping for a bit more of Pepper being a badass since she’s on the cover in her Rescue suit, but sadly, there was a real lack of her fighting. And where did the Daredevil storyline from the first volume go? Overall, this definitely wasn’t my favorite.

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up The Marvel Universe by Ryan North – 4 stars

This was my first Squirrel Girl graphic novel and I absolutely loved it! The writing was great – a wonderful mix of sassy, sarcastic, witty, and playful. The footnotes were fun little additions. The artwork was fabulous. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Allene, but you weren’t really supposed to be since she is the warped version of Doreen. I also loved the side characters and love that they are such a great friend group. It was really fun to read about a girl superhero that is also a super computer nerd and used her computer nerd knowledge to save the day. This graphic novel made me even more excited to read my other Squirrel Girl tradebacks.

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Reviews

Duology Review: Not A Drop to Drink

Not A Drop to Drink – 4.5 stars

Finally, a dystopian that doesn’t fit the normal dystopian model.

I love that Not a Drop to Drink isn’t a “Chosen One” versus the government type of story. Don’t get me wrong, I do have a soft-spot for those types of stories, but they just feel a little over-played at this point. I really enjoyed watching as Lynn grew as a character from a closed off survivor to one who opens her heart to those around her. But I also love that she never truly loses her hardness. I also appreciated that McGinnis wasn’t afraid to kill off a main character and that even though there was a love interest, it wasn’t insta-love. It’s scary how real the book felt, especially because if we aren’t careful with our resources, we could end up in the world of Not a Drop to Drink. McGinnis paints a picture of what it means to survive in a world with little to no water well and it is just such a good book.

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In A Handful of Dust – 5 stars

Mindy McGinnis is easily becoming one of my favorite authors.

I love that we got to see Lynn and Lucy travel across the country and that they struggle to do so. I really appreciate that McGinnis included things like altitude sickness because it made it all the more real. I loved seeing the difference in characters between Lynn and Lucy. I appreciate that Lynn still is untrusting of people, but I also appreciate that Lucy is open to everyone and willing to give them a chance. It makes sense for the world that they each grew up in. Yes, Lucy has had to struggle, but her world wasn’t quite the one that Lynn grew up in. I did miss Stebbs though, as I grew really fond of him in Not a Drop to Drink. I really enjoyed McGinnis’s look at humanity as a whole and how we would all react to a situation in which we are struggling and competing for something we all take for granted right now.

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Reviews

Series Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians

I already posted my review of The Lightning Thief on here, but just as a refresher, I’m going to include it here.

The Lightning Thief – 4 stars

So I was a bit spoiled because I had seen the movie well before reading the book. However, I also knew going into the book that the movie was one of the lesser faithful adaptations going around, so I knew that while the traitor was the same, the scenes in which the traitor was revealed were different. I also knew that the ages of the characters were not the same in the book and the movie, as they were much younger in the book. I have to admit that I do enjoy the movie on its own, but comparing it to the book, I can see why people did not enjoy the movie. Again, like with The Chronicles of Narnia, I am fairly late into the Percy Jackson game, but overall, I found the book to be fast paced with likeable characters who you can’t help but root for. I loved the rivalry between Annabeth and Percy and how it echoed the rivalry between their parents. I also appreciated that so far there is no romance between the two of them, given the fact that they are 12 years old. I loved all of the references to the Greek myths and I feel like Riordan really captured the gods well, though I had a hard time taking Hades seriously in the book because I could not get the mental image of Steve Coogan out of my head. I have a feeling that if I had read this when I was younger, I would have given it a 5 star rating, but since I am a bit older, it just didn’t hit the 5 star mark for me.

The Lightning Thief

The Sea of Monsters – 4.5 stars

I really loved the addition of Tyson to the gang of Annabeth, Percy, and (eventually) Grover. I did miss having Grover along for the journey, but his interactions with the cyclops were pretty funny. I really like how Riordan continues to weave in Greek mythology like the story of No One and including the Golden Fleece. I really liked the cliff hanger that the book ends on, which made me eager to pick up The Titan’s Curse to find out what was going to happen. I liked this one more than The Lightning Thief, but it did also feel rushed at times, which is why I took off a half star.

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The Titan’s Curse – 4 stars

The first part of this really dragged for me, to be honest. I really missed Annabeth and didn’t particularly care for Bianca or Nico or Zoe. I also wasn’t the biggest fan of Grover in this one. I did enjoy getting to meet Annabeth’s father and that he was able to save them. The ending definitely made up for the lack-luster beginning, but it is getting a little old that it’s a group of heroes traveling cross-country to try to complete a quest. It just feels a little formulaic right now.

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The Battle of the Labyrinth – 4.5 stars

I know I said in my review for The Titan’s Curse that the format was getting a little too formulaic for me, but I did enjoy the trip in the Labyrinth. I loved seeing Percy, Annabeth, Tyson, and Grover all working together again. I’m not the biggest fan of the Pan side-plot, but that’s just me. Nico grew on me a little bit more, but I’m still not his biggest fan. I did enjoy the battle at Camp Halfblood and thought it was a good lead up to the finale.

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The Last Olympian – 5 stars

This was a really great conclusion to the series. And I really liked that the majority of the book was set in New York City/Mount Olympus. I really liked that we got to see how the prophecy played out and how Riordan made it to where no one character was perfect. They all had a hand to play in what happened and I like that Riordan made them take responsibility for that. I really liked Hestia and wish we got more of her. I grew to really like Nico and loved when he came to be a badass. I’m glad there didn’t end up being a love triangle with Rachel, Annabeth, and Percy because my little shipper heart needed Percabeth to happen. I just really enjoyed this and am looking forward to starting The Heroes of Olympus.

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Overall – 4.4 stars

 

Reviews

Re-Read Series Review: Harry Potter + The Fantastic Beasts Screenplay

With the illustrated edition of Chamber of Secrets coming out, I decided it was about time I re-read the series since it had been a hot second since the last time I read it (okay, it had been over 3 years since I had re-read the entire series).

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (illustrated edition) – 5 stars

Originally read in October of 2015

Re-read in 2016 in preparation of the illustrated Chamber of Secrets

So what is there to say about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone other than I love it and I always will?

Okay, actual review. I absolutely adore these illustrated versions and cannot wait until I have all seven books in my collection. Jim Kay is just a master and the illustrations are perfect (though admittedly, I’m not the hugest fan of his portrayal of Snape).

I love that each time that I re-read these books, it somehow feels like a new reading experience. I love the introduction to the magical world that we get. I love that Hagrid just takes Harry under his wing and goes out of his way to send Harry a note with Hedwig just so that Harry would get something in the mail. I love the beginning of the Golden Trio and watching their friendship blossom. I just. I just have so many feelings about this book.

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (illustrated edition) – 5 stars

Chamber of Secrets is still my least favorite Harry Potter book, but there is no way I can’t give this book 5 stars for the illustrations. For the record, I give the story about a 3.5 star rating.

I know it’s a bit blasphemous to rate any Harry Potter book less than 5 stars, but for the story part, it definitely is for me. First off, we have to deal with the idiot Gilderoy Lockhart. Don’t get me wrong, I love to hate him, but jeez is he just annoying. Secondly, and I may be alone in this, but I kinda felt like this was way more plot driven than character driven. Thirdly, I’m terrified of snakes, so it doesn’t help that the basilisk is, ya know, A GIANT EFFING SNAKE. And fourthly, there is not nearly enough Hermione Granger in this one for my taste.

However, Jim Kay delivers yet again and this one has my absolute favorite picture so far with the scene of Harry going into the diary. It’s just so colorful and full of life and wonderful.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – 5 stars

So this is a very close second for my favorite Harry Potter book (Goblet of Fire being my favorite). It introduces 2 of my favorite characters (Lupin and Sirius), 1 of my favorite locations (Hogsmeade), and I love that even though Voldemort isn’t in it, you still feel his presence and how it’s making life hell for Harry. I also love that you can see the shift in tone as the books are starting to turn darker and more is becoming at stake. Also, Hermione is a badass and uses the Time Turner simply because she wants to gain as much knowledge (same girl, especially if I was at Hogwarts). And she punches Draco. Who doesn’t love that? Also, I love me some Wood and his obsession with winning the Quidditch Cup. I just really love this book.

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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – 5 stars

Still my favorite Harry Potter book.

The stakes are so high in this book and you feel it from the very beginning. I love that the Golden Trio still act like teenagers, especially with all of the jealousy that goes around. I still applaud Hermione for S.P.E.W. and still hate that the movies completely ignore it. I love seeing what Sirius is willing to do in order to keep Harry safe. And I love that we get to see the beginning of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. I just really love this book and it will always have a special place in my heart.

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – 4 stars

This is still my second least favorite Harry Potter book. But I did enjoy it better this time than any other time I’ve read it. Part of it is that I now recognize that Harry is dealing with PTSD rather than just being the whiny teenager that I always thought he was. Though there were times I still think he was being a little bit more angsty than was necessary. I still hate the 180 that Sirius does and how he is all “get expelled so that we can be outcasts together” when in Goblet of Fire, he is literally willing to live in a cave eating rats in order to keep Harry alive and safe. I also still don’t understand why they couldn’t use Polyjuice potion to sneak him out of the house and let him get fresh air. Also, Snape is just such a bag of dicks in this book. How can people still defend him when he is literally the worst? Yes, he was bullied by James and Sirius (I don’t condone their actions), but come on man. Why did he even want to be a teacher if he was going to bully his students just like he was bullied? But my favorite part of this entire book has to be the sass queen, Minerva McGonagall. I want to be her when I grow up.

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – 5 stars

I really truly enjoy HBP and I think it’s my third favorite in the series (following GoF and PoA). Sassy Harry is my favorite Harry and this book delivers one of my favorite lines when Harry tells Snape there is no need to call him sir. No matter how many times I read this book, I always find Voldemort’s backstory fascinating. I also appreciate that the relationships between the characters are messy and wrought with emotions – I feel like they are pretty consistent with teenagers. And it’s really refreshing to have Quidditch back in our lives after it being absent for all of GoF (save the Quidditch World Cup) and the majority of OoTP (f*ck you, Umbridge). I love seeing the relationship between Tonks and Lupin develop because I really do ship them (though, I will always ship Wolfstar until my dying day). My biggest gripe is that people still don’t listen to Harry when he is suspicious of things, aka Draco Malfoy. Also, holy shit is Snape just as big of an asshole as he is in OoTP (if not more so). Does he really expect these kids to just whip out non-verbal spells with NO instruction whatsoever? I wish we could have seen a bit more of the battle at Hogwarts, but I also understand that a) Harry is obviously not a part of it and b) it could become redundant given the battle at Hogwarts that happens in DH (aka why the film makers decided to get rid of it and instead included the battle at the Burrow that never happened). But my complaints are very minor compared to how much I enjoy.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – 5 stars

So fun fact: I read the part where that one character dies at that one place at the beach in the middle of Newark Int. Airport while waiting to come home from visiting family for the holidays and it took all of my willpower not to lose it and cry like a baby. It just hit me so hard.

But anyway.

I love this story, though it’s middle of the road for me in my love of the series. Huge reasons for this are that a) the entirety of both the golden and silver trios survive despite the huge battle (yes, I know other major characters die, but still, and no, I don’t actually want any of my babies to die – it’s just the principal of the matter), b) Hermione is a smart witch – she would have figured out the importance of the deathly hallows sign sooner and also, she should know by now to trust Harry’s instincts and when he says that there’s a horcrux at Hogwarts, she should believe him, c) the whole thing with Lupin ready to ditch his pregnant wife just to go on the run with Harry, and d) knowing what I know now about the Cursed Child and what supposedly happens during this book with certain characters.

However, upon this re-read, after seeing Fantastic Beasts, I am 100% convinced that Ariana Dumbledore is an obscurus. Aberforth’s recollection of what happened to her fits the description of obscurials to a T.

Also, I totally forgot about the fact that the sorting hat is set on fire by Voldemort while on Neville’s head. McGonagall continues to be a badass and I love the duel with her and Snape and how at the end she goes up against Voldemort before Harry steps in.

I also still love the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort. And I love that Voldemort suffers a mortal death (unlike the BS that is in the movie). I actually marked that passage on my audiobook.

Molly Weasley continues to be one of my forever favorites and I still grinned hugely when I got to “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!”

It’s been a while since I’ve done a re-read of the entire series and it was the perfect way to end 2016. It helped me remember what I loved growing up and I found new things in each book that I had forgotten about.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Screenplay – 5 stars

I absolutely adored this.

I saw the movie first and then read the script as I didn’t want to be spoiled for anything movie related, and I’m glad I did it that way because when I read the script, I was able to pick up on things I had missed in the movie (chaser shoutout, anyone?). This absolutely makes up for the trainwreck that is Cursed Child in my opinion. Newt is my new precious. I need him in my life. And holy hell did he remind me of Hagrid. Like, just yes. Also, I love Queenie. She is my kween. Just saying. And Tina. And Jacob. And Credence is my child. I thought it was a little (okay a lot) predictable, but it surprisingly didn’t bother me that much. I just really loved being back in the magical world. And I think I enjoyed this even more because it’s a new set of characters, so I have no set notion of what they are supposed to be like. Just yes. More please.

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Reviews

Reading Wrap-Up: YA

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie- 4.75 stars

It took me 3 days to figure out how to write a review of this.

I thought the writing was absolutely beautiful and, at times, graphic in just the right way. I liked how honest Alexie was in his descriptions of what it means to be an Indian teenager trying to escape life on the rez. I thought the characters were complex and yet, you felt like they were still teenagers. The lives of Junior and his family and friends are rough, but Alexie paints them in a way that makes you feel like you connect with them. The issues it tackles are mature from alcoholism to domestic violence to racism and everything in between, but it never feels preachy in any way. It just feels like a book chronicling a teenager’s journey. And I really appreciate that. I also thought the cartoons were pretty enjoyable. I honestly can’t quite put my finger on why I took off 1/4 of a star, but it just didn’t quite grip my heart the way I thought it would.

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Perfect by Ellen Hopkins – 5 stars

I really am kicking myself for waiting so long to finally pick up Ellen Hopkins’ books. I’m extra surprised that I like them so much because I really am not a big fan of poetry, but the way she writes it just works for me.

I think what really draws me to Hopkins’ books is that I tend to identify myself in almost all of the characters in some way or another. With Andre, I felt a connection through dance. With Kendra, I felt a connection with her body image struggle. With Cara, I felt a connection with the pressure put on her to be the perfect student (though the pressure I felt was nothing near what Cara felt from her parents). I didn’t really connect with Sean, but that’s honestly okay with me.

I like how Hopkins handles mental health issues and I feel like she is one of the more authentic authors that I’ve read (though admittedly, I haven’t read as many mental health books as I would like).

I love that we got a glimpse of Tony and Vanessa from Impulse, even though the situation in which we do is heart breaking.

I just really really loved reading this book.

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Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman – 5 stars

10/10 would recommend!

I read Illuminae for the first round of #TomeTopple, so it was only fitting that I read Gemina for the second round!

BUT EVERYONE GO READ ILLUMINAE (IF YOU HAVEN’T) AND GEMINA NOOOOW!

Okay, now that I’ve got that little freak-out out of the way, time for the review. I was hesitant at first when I figured out that we were going to have a new set of protagonists because I love Ezra and Kady so much. But Hanna and Nik were just as awesome in my opinion. I also absolutely ADORE Ella. She’s one of my favorite characters of 2016. I appreciate that they make Hanna fight for survival and take away some of her privilege. I loved seeing her and Nik and Ella work out how to save those remaining on Heimdall while also saving those on the Hypatia. I loved all of the twists and turns and how you think you know where the story’s going, only to have it flip itself on its head. And I absolutely love how it ended. I just really need this story to continue so I can know the fate of all of my space babies.

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Crank by Ellen Hopkins – 4 stars

I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as Impulse and Perfect. But I think it may have to do with the fact that I just really didn’t care for Kristina as a person. I did think it was fascinating to see how Kristina transformed into Bree, especially since I’ve seen first-hand what cocaine can do to a person (yes, I realize that Kristina used meth, but the transformation is surprisingly similar). It was difficult to read at times, but there were other times that I was a little bored with reading what felt like the same thing. It also bothered me that her mother suspected there was something wrong, but didn’t really pursue it more than just trying to talk to her, even when she recognized that Kristina was coming down from a binge. Also, if she could recognize it, that means that she knew her ex was a druggie, so why did she allow Kristina to go unsupervised? Idk. It just seemed a little neglectful to me. I still enjoyed Hopkins’ writing and do want to see how the rest of the trilogy plays out.

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Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – 4 stars

This was my first time reading this and I’m not sure how to rate it because I couldn’t help but compare it to the Disney film (yes, the Tim Burton one) and it’s so different that I think I let it affect me a bit. I definitely need to re-read it in the future to see if I enjoy it more knowing what actually happens. I had a bit of a hard time following the story at times and didn’t feel particularly connected to any of the characters. It confused me how the queen would be like “Off with his head,” but then do a 180 and decide not to kill the person. I didn’t understand the quarrel with the Duchess and what she had done that was so wrong. Like I said, I think I need to give it a re-read in the future to see how I feel about it.

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