Review: "The Scar Boys" by Len Vlahos

22318571~o~Rating~o~
4 tp

~o~Goodreads Synopsis~o~

Playing in a punk rock band brings peace to a bullied teen in Len Vlahos’s debut novel.

A severely burned teenager. A guitar. Punk rock. The chords of a rock ‘n’ roll road trip in a coming-of-age novel that is a must-read story about finding your place in the world…even if you carry scars inside and out.

In attempting to describe himself in his college application essay–help us to become acquainted with you beyond your courses, grades, and test scores–Harbinger (Harry) Jones goes way beyond the 250-word limit and gives a full account of his life.

The first defining moment: the day the neighborhood goons tied him to a tree during a lightning storm when he was 8 years old, and the tree was struck and caught fire. Harry was badly burned and has had to live with the physical and emotional scars, reactions from strangers, bullying, and loneliness that instantly became his everyday reality.

The second defining moment: the day in 8th grade when the handsome, charismatic Johnny rescued him from the bullies and then made the startling suggestion that they start a band together. Harry discovered that playing music transported him out of his nightmare of a world, and he finally had something that compelled people to look beyond his physical appearance. Harry’s description of his life in his essay is both humorous and heart-wrenching. He had a steeper road to climb than the average kid, but he ends up learning something about personal power, friendship, first love, and how to fit in the world. While he’s looking back at the moments that have shaped his life, most of this story takes place while Harry is in high school and the summer after he graduates.

~o~Review~o~

Don’t judge a book by its’ genre is a lesson I am starting to understand. I have only recently started reading more contemporary books and they’re actually not all that bad. I went into this book expecting it to be a two star, three at most. So when it ended up being four star worthy, I was joyous!

Harbinger (Harry) Jones went through a traumatic childhood experience in which he was tied to a tree during a lightening storm. On top of that being absolutely terrifying, he was literally and metaphorically scarred for life. His face was deformed and he was forever cast an outsider.

The Scar Boys is basically Harry’s story of how he became comfortable with himself. It’s about society and what being different really does to someone’s confidence. It’s about friendship and how much impact friends have on your identity. It’s a search for identity story told through a college admissions essay.

Short review, I know. Read it though!

Inside & Out Tag

Hello everyone! This is the Inside & Out Tag created by MathomBooks over in BookTube. I was tagged by Stellah in The Little Book Nerd’s Life (you should check her out, she’s awesome).

I Inside flap/Back of the book summaries: Too much info? Or not enough (Discuss)
It honestly depends on the book. Some books give you a glimpse of the entire plot while some don’t give any clue as to what the story is about. Personally, I like to know the premise of a book before starting it to see if it is something I would be interested in. It annoys me when all a book blurb has is dialogue or a few sentences from one scene that occurs somewhere in the book because the entire time I’m reading the book, I’m waiting for that one scene so I can put the blurb into context.

New book: What form do you want it in? Be honest: Audiobook, E-Book, Paperback, or Hardcover?
I love holding new hardcover books. Not even reading but just holding because those things are beautiful. So yes, hard-cover. 

Scribble while you read? Do you like to write in your books, taking notes, making comments, or do you keep your books clean clean clean? (Tell us why)
Not in the least bit. Writing in books is a huge pet peeve of mine. I don’t even like writing in my most loathed school books, using post-its instead. Books are meant to be read, not written on.

In your best voice, read for us your favorite 1st sentence from a book.
Slightly impossible since whoever’s reading this cannot hear my voice. One of my absolute favorite start of a book though:

“I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one. Or at least as close as we’re going to get.”

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. I love this book to death; it’s one of the very few books I can reread as many times as possible and not get bored. (Even though Orson Scott Card can be kind of a jerk).

Does it matter to you whether the author is male or female when you’re deciding on a book? What if you’re unsure of the author’s gender? 
No, it does not matter at all. And it’s something that shouldn’t matter when you’re deciding on a book.

Ever read ahead? or have you ever read the last page way before you got there? (Do confess thy sins, foul demon!)
No, reading ahead is another one of my pet-peeves. It ruins the fun of uncovering the book’s secret as you keep reading.

 

&

 

Organized bookshelves, or Outrageous bookshelves?
Definitely organized bookshelves. I don’t have a specific order in which I put my books; they’re mainly where they are based on size and whether or not the shelf has room.

Under oath: have you ever bought a book based on the cover (alone)?
I don’t like buying books I haven’t read in case I don’t like them, so no. I have checked out books from the library based on their covers though (like A Thousand Pieces of You and These Broken Stars)

Take it outside to read, or stay in?
I take my books everywhere and I do mean everywhere. My purses have one requirement, they have to be big enough to hold at least a paperback.

I tag anyone who wants to do the tag. Tag away!

Review: "A Thousand Nights" by E.K Johnson

21524446~o~Rating~o~
4.5 tp

~o~Goodreads Synopsis~o~ 

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister’s place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin’s court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.
Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.

~o~Review~o~

I know, the synopsis sounds quite a bit like Arabian Nights (also known as One Thousand and One Nights) and the two concepts are similar but this story is nothing like Scheherazade’s.

To readers who are looking for typical YA books filled with action and romance: this is not for you. A Thousand Nights is a thought provoking, slightly eerie but beautiful book. It’s like an elegantly written folk tale.

The story is set in a Fantasy world which takes a few traits from the early Islamic era in the Middle East. In this world, djinns (more commonly referred to as genies) roam the earth. Lo-Melkhiin is the ruler of a desert kingdom. Every girl he marries dies; everyone knows this but no one has tried to stop him from marrying because his rule has brought peace to the kingdom.

None of the characters except Lo-Melkhiin have names which, in my opinion, fits the story very well. The book starts off a little slow and full of details but the details were necessary for later chapters.

The two dynamics between the men and the women were also interesting to see. The men of-course believe they hold all the power, not realizing the strength and complexity of the women characters.

The main character is witty, determined, and fiercely loyal. She beautifies herself so Lo-Melkhiin will definitely pick her as his wife and spare her sister. I thought she was a great character. Growing up in the harsh desert land made her strong and confident in her abilities. She has rightfully earned her place as one of my favorite YA heroines.

Review: "Red Queen" by Victoria Aveyard


22328546~o~Rating~o~
2.5 tp

~o~Goodreads Synopsis~o~

This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.

The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.

That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.
But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart …

~o~Review~o~

“Words can lie. See beyond them.”

Like a lot of other people, I have very mixed feelings about this book. Standing alone, Red Queen isn’t a bad book, a pretty good one actually. But see, it doesn’t stand alone. Every new book I read, I automatically compare to every other book I have read because that’s how my mind judges books. And comparatively, this book seemed… unoriginal. Not because the plot wasn’t good but because so many books like this already exists. If you’ve read Pawn by Aimee Carter, Red Queen is basically that but with people with superpowers. Maybe mix a little of The Selection in there. It’s also being compared to Red Rising by Pierce Brown, which I haven’t read, but judging by the blurb it seems very similar to this book.

Red Queen combines a few popular tropes together. A Fantasy land with corrupt monarchs who don’t care about the lower classes. Lower class girl is somehow “special” and finds herself mingling with royalty and of-course falling in love with a guy from the upper class (in this case, the prince). And the inevitable rebellion in which, very conveniently, the girl becomes the face of.   

Mare as a whole seemed bratty and selfish. The type of selfish who doesn’t realize she is selfish nonetheless. Characters like Katniss know they are selfish. Characters like Mare have no idea and then get upset at the world for not liking her.

She’s also rash when it comes to big decisions, which isn’t unlike a lot of YA main characters, but it’s her reactions that bothered me. She takes a huge risk and when all doesn’t go according to her plans, she’s all “*gasp* what have I done?!” (This is not a direct quotation). What in all of HADES did she expect?!

And don’t even get me started on the love triangle/square. I disliked all three guys. None of them are appealing and I felt no connection whatsoever. The only guy I felt a bit of sympathy for was Lucas (the security guard).

However, there are pros to the book. The description of the world was well done. You could clearly see the contrast between the lifestyles of the Reds and the Silvers. And I liked the end scenes. The ending is why I’ll continue this series.

Give it a try, you might enjoy it.

~o~SPOILER ALERT~o~

Something that kept bothering me is the fact that Mare is supposed to be this powerful Red who makes electricity but she never had any inclination of it before. She can suddenly feel electricity buzzing wherever she goes but where was that sense when she lived in the Red village? She mentions once that she wasn’t around electricity much but that doesn’t mean she was completely without it. And since she had the ability to create electricity, wouldn’t that mean she could just create some? (I know she did that one time when the lights were off at her house but that was just once in what? Seventeen years?) Shouldn’t she have at least figured out she wasn’t completely normal? Just doesn’t make any sense.

Review: "Passenger" by Alexandra Bracken

 ~o~Rating~o~
4 tp

~o~Goodreads synopsis~o~

passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are play­ing, treacherous forces threaten to sep­arate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home . . . forever

~o~Review~o~

“The only way out is through.”

My expectation for this book was very high. I mean, I have declared Alex Bracken as my favorite YA author because the Darkest Minds books. So when I started reading this book and didn’t have that gripping feeling of finishing it as soon as I could, I was slightly disappointed. But as I said, my expectations were unnaturally high and that doesn’t in any way mean Passenger was a bad book. It’s a good book. It just isn’t the masterpiece I was expecting it to be. Which, again, isn’t very fair to expect anyway.

It took me a while to get into the book. The first half of the book is mostly world-building and character development, which is great don’t get me wrong, but it’s also dull. I was left confused for the first hundred pages or so and kept wondering what was going on. Now, even though I did have to sludge on through a few chapters because of the heavy description, it’s a known fact that Alex Bracken is a fantastic writer. (Well…known to me at-least). Once I got past the first few chapters, it got A LOT better. I loved reading about the different time periods they traveled to.

Passenger is written in two perspectives: Etta and Nicholas. Etta is a violin prodigy with an eccentric mother who has a very strange ways of showing affection. She has no other family, her mother never talks about Etta’s father. The only other present person in her life beside her mother is her violin instructor: an elderly woman named Alice. Etta is your typical YA female protagonist: smart, stubborn, doesn’t take no for an answer, determined, doesn’t listen to authority figures, prideful and thinks she can do anything alone, etc. But as far as protagonists go, she’s actually pretty cool. She’s confident but isn’t ashamed of accepting help when she needs it.

Nicholas is a black man (or boy, I guess. He’s about 20ish) living in the very racist society of the 1770s. The two perspectives actually sounded like two different people which is a rarity in YA fiction. Nicholas grew up as a slave and his freedom was later bought by a captain of a ship. Coming from a society that judged him openly for his skin color, all Nicholas wanted was complete independence and a ship that he could own.

Their relationship is gradual and doesn’t overpower the plot which is a huge bonus for Bracken. And sadly, Nicholas is one of the only African-American main love interests I’ve encountered in YA so far.

It might seem boring at first, but it does get better. Read it! And if you haven’t already, pick up The Darkest Minds books which are also by Alexandra Bracken.

Review: “Then I Met My Sister” by Christine Hurley Deriso

8494435~o~Rating~o~
4 tp

~o~Goodreads Synopsis~o~ 

It’s not exactly easy living in a shrine to your dead sister. Since birth, I’ve known that everyone loved Shannon. She was perfect–beautiful, smart, talented. And me? Not so much. My parents always expected me to live up to her greatness. But I could never measure up to her, so why even try?

This summer, I’ve started reading the journal Shannon kept just before she died . . . and suddenly nothing is what I thought it was. The more secrets I learn about Shannon and our family, the more everything changes. And as it turns out, facing the truth is no cakewalk, either.

~o~Review~o~

The blurb of a book doesn’t usually catch my attention but this one did. And it was fairly small so I picked it up. For a book I had never heard of before, it was an interesting and mostly enjoyable read.

Summer’s parents had her as a coping mechanism after they lost their daughter, Shannon, in a car accident. Her sister was pretty much the perfect daughter: straight A student, never acted out, etc. Summer hates being in her shadow so she tries to act as different from Shannon as possible. Then one day, her aunt gives her Shannon’s journal and Summer “meets” her sister for the first time.

Now, when I read the blurb, I was expecting Summer to be one of those typical rebel teenagers who go out of her way to do the exact opposite of what her parents say. Gladly, that was not the case. Summer was, for the most part, pretty sensible and smart.

Although the story had a romantic aspect, it was more focused on family and Summer’s relationship with her parents. While getting to know who her sister was, Summer was also getting to know who her parents were before the accident.

The romantic interest, Gibs, was actually my favorite character. After some long and painful YA books with overbearing bad-boy boyfriends, sweet and intelligent Gibs was a nice change. And he was a good influence on Summer instead of the other way around which seems to be the norm these days.

Cons: The writing, though not bad, could have been better. And some of the characters felt a little one-dimensional to me, but that’s understandable since it was a small book and the author was mainly focusing on Summer.

Overall, it was a nice read.

Review: “Nearly Gone” by Elle Cosimano

13409664~o~Rating~o~
2 tp

Warning: I read this a while ago and am writing this review only now.

~o~Goodreads Synopsis~o~ 

Nearly Boswell knows how to keep secrets. Living in a DC trailer park, she knows better than to share anything that would make her a target with her classmates. Like her mother’s job as an exotic dancer, her obsession with the personal ads, and especially the emotions she can taste when she brushes against someone’s skin. But when a serial killer goes on a killing spree and starts attacking students, leaving cryptic ads in the newspaper that only Nearly can decipher, she confides in the one person she shouldn’t trust: the new guy at school—a reformed bad boy working undercover for the police, doing surveillance. . . on her.

Nearly might be the one person who can put all the clues together, and if she doesn’t figure it all out soon—she’ll be next.

~o~Review~o~

Another book I would not have finished if it weren’t for something school related (Reader’s Rally, anyone?). Nearly (yes, that is her name) is kind of horrible. And the paranormal aspect of the book (Nearly can taste people’s emotions when she touches them) was completely unnecessary and unrelated. This could’ve been a perfectly good mystery novel if the paranormal aspect was missing. Instead of adding to the plot, it just made it more confusing and left a lot of questions unanswered.

And not to mention her horrible people skills. She has the perfect best friend: someone who knows her, has been with her through thick and thin, steals money from his abusive father so she’ll be able to pay rent. And who does she choose? The bad boy, of-course! Doesn’t every teenage girl?

This book frustrated me.

~o~SPOILER ALERT~o~

One thing that really bothered me was her friendship with Anh. It never really seemed like a friendship. The tension is high between the two (they’re both competing for a chemistry scholarship); they barely talked let alone bonded. I didn’t understand why Nearly kept referring to her as one of her closest friends when she is always trying to avoid her. And let’s not forget that even when she CHOSE Reece over Jeremy, she would still always get jealous when Anh and Jeremy were together. Make up your mind!

Review: “Hostage Three” by Nick Lake

~o~Rating~o~
3 tp

~o~Synopsis~o~ 

Amy is forced to take a trip on a yacht with her father and stepmother. Aboard the Daisy May, Amy almost starts to enjoy herself… until one day, the ship is captured by Somalian pirates. The passengers aboard the ship are taken hostage. Amy finds herself drawing closer to one of the pirates, a boy who didn’t want this life any more than Amy wanted hers.

~o~Review~o~

Hmm… lots of mixed feelings about this book. I still don’t know if I liked it. I’m rating this three stars Goodreads style which means it was okay.

My biggest issue with this book was the structure. I understand Nick Lake was trying to be stylistic by not using quotation marks for dialogues, but lack of punctuation bothers me. A lot. I definitely would not have finished this book if it wasn’t for something school related.

Going past structure, Amy bothered me quite a bit too before I started warming up to her. After her mother’s death, Amy desperately seeks her wealthy father’s attention by lashing out (you know, the usual: getting drunk; smoking; piercings; etc). Her behavior in the beginning took away any chance of me liking her but she was developed in a realistic way.

In a cruise with her family, their yacht is captured by Somalian pirates. The book explores the idea of Stockholm Syndrome, or tried to at-least. The romance between Amy and Farouz seemed forced and unrealistic. I don’t know how you can start to like the person who is holding a gun over your head (but to her credit, neither did Amy).

What I really liked was getting to know the pirates. Everyone steals for a reason and theirs is a pretty good one.

Review: "Free to Fall" by Lauren Miller

18500665~o~Rating~o~
4 tp

~o~Goodreads Synopsis~o~

What if there was an app that told you what song to listen to, what coffee to order, who to date, even what to do with your life—an app that could ensure your complete and utter happiness?

What if you never had to fail or make a wrong choice?

What if you never had to fall?

Fast-forward to a time when Apple and Google have been replaced by Gnosis, a monolith corporation that has developed the most life-changing technology to ever hit the market: Lux, an app that flawlessly optimizes decision making for the best personal results.

Just like everyone else, sixteen-year-old Rory Vaughn knows the key to a happy, healthy life is following what Lux recommends. When she’s accepted to the elite boarding school Theden Academy, her future happiness seems all the more assured. But once on campus, something feels wrong beneath the polished surface of her prestigious dream school.

Then she meets North, a handsome townie who doesn’t use Lux, and begins to fall for him and his outsider way of life. Soon, Rory is going against Lux’s recommendations, listening instead to the inner voice that everyone has been taught to ignore — a choice that leads her to uncover a truth neither she nor the world ever saw coming.

~o~Review~o~

This book pleasantly surprised me. Judging by the title and synopsis, I was sure it would be another YA romance taking place in the future to assign itself the sci/fi genre. What I found was a gripping story of an intelligent protagonist unraveling the mysterious past of her mother. To my immense relief, the romance didn’t take over the plot and what was there was relevant to the story. And it’s not often you find a Young Adult sci/fi standalone these days.

The concept of this world is fantastic and slightly eerie because I can definitely see our world turning into a completely technology dependent one. The way people are turning to their phones every two minutes, we are already headed there. While reading this book in the lunchroom in school, I would look up every few minutes and see most of the student body glued to their phones at all times. And seeing how there is an app for almost everything, we are not far from creating a decision making app that makes your decisions for you.

I’m not giving it five stars because I wasn’t a big fan of the character interactions. Rory’s relationship with both Hershey and North could have been developed a lot more.

~o~SPOILER ALERT~o~

Even though he was barely in there, Beck was the character I liked the most. He thought for himself (very unlike Rory in the beginning). I was devastated when Rory met him at the Gnosis place and he had transformed into this submissive Lux user. A big part of the reason I was rooting for Rory to be successful was to get Beck back to normal.

Even though the solar flare was completely coincidental and a little too convenient with its timing, I really liked the ending.

Review: “A Thousand Pieces of You” by Claudia Gray

~o~Rating~o~
3.5 tp

~o~Goodreads Synopsis~o~

Cloud Atlas meets Orphan Black in this epic dimension-bending trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray about a girl who must chase her father’s killer through multiple dimensions.

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their groundbreaking achievements. Their most astonishing invention, called the Firebird, allows users to jump into multiple universes—and promises to revolutionize science forever. But then Marguerite’s father is murdered, and the killer—her parent’s handsome, enigmatic assistant Paul— escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite refuses to let the man who destroyed her family go free. So she races after Paul through different universes, always leaping into another version of herself. But she also meets alternate versions of the people she knows—including Paul, whose life entangles with hers in increasingly familiar ways. Before long she begins to question Paul’s guilt—as well as her own heart. And soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is far more sinister than she expected.

A Thousand Pieces of You explores an amazingly intricate multi-universe where fate is unavoidable, the truth elusive, and love the greatest mystery of all.

~o~Review~o~

I liked this book but not as much I thought I would. I was expecting more sci-fi and less romance but overall it was a nice read. The book follows Marguerite whose parents have figured out how to travel in between dimensions. Her father had recently died and she sets out to find the killer Paul Markov who travelled to another dimension and kill him.

The entire time I was reading this book, I kept comparing it to “All Our Yesterdays” by Cristin Terril. Great book if you haven’t read it and both books have similar concepts. And I really loved the overall story line but it could have been a lot better. And there were still a lot of questions that need to be answered but there will be more books so I’m hoping the next installations will be more thorough.
And I have to say, this was the best book cover I have seen in a while. It is absolutely beautiful!

~o~SPOILER ALERT~o~
 
The idea of all these different dimensions existing was terrifying. A single decision you make could create an entire different dimension. And honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was proven to be true sometime in the future.

I thought Marguerite was way too impulsive at times, too quick to judge and made some rash decisions. And I really thought she should have told her physicist mother about the other two Firebirds because the mother would have most likely figured out the whole Theo-is-the-spy thing sooner. I mean, the woman figured out how to travel to other dimensions.

And a lot of the decisions Marguerite made as her other versions would have made things difficult for them. The Marguerite of Russia was to be married off to the Prince of Whales as a virgin bride. It seemed like Marguerite just did what she wanted and then went “Oops”. (For her sake, I hope Russian Marguerite remembered what happened.) And it was also because of her that Lieutenant Markov died. If she hadn’t ordered him to back to the encampment, he wouldn’t have had to go fight.

I wish the author developed their characters more. I understand their basic personalities but they weren’t in depth. Paul was the only character I loved in the book. He is intelligent and very loyal to Marguerite and her family who have pretty much adopted him as their own. He seemed more real to me than even Marguerite. And it wasn’t their dimension’s Theo’s fault but I still dislike him.

I am looking forward to the next book to see what happens with Triad and the dimensional spies.