Review: Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas

Dangerous BoysPublished: August 14, 2014
Pages: 328
Format: Kindle Edition

Three teens venture into the abandoned Monroe estate one night; hours later, only two emerge from the burning wreckage.  Chloe drags one Reznick brother to safety, unconscious and bleeding; the other is left to burn, dead in the fire.  But which brother survives?  And is his death a tragic accident?  Desperate self-defense?  Or murder?

Chloe is the only one with the answers.  As the fire rages, and police and parents demand the truth, she struggles to piece together the story of how they got there – a story of jealously, twisted passion, and the darkness that lurks behind even the most beautiful of faces…

OMG, this book.

When this book arrived on my Kindle at 12:04 AM on August 14th, I basically put all other books aside to throw myself into it, and I don’t regret it. I read Dangerous Girlslast year and it was one of my favorite reads of 2013, so I went into Dangerous Boyswith some very high expectations, and it met them. While there are a lot of similarities between the two in terms of how the books are structured, Chloe’s story is wildly different from Anna’s, and this was one book I couldn’t put down.

I loved watching the threads in Dangerous Boys come together. I loved how my opinions changed about the characters in an instant, loved making guesses of where the story would go next or what was going to happen, loved piecing together the clues Chloe gave us as she told her story. I was both repulsed and amazed by the characters, and I so badly wanted to see how it would all turn out while also desperately not wanting the book to end. I both loved and was horrified by the ending.

I can’t wait to see what Abigail Haas comes out with next. :D

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were LiarsPublished: May 13, 2014 by Delacorte Press
Pages: 228
Format: Kindle Edition

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends – the Liars – whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution.  An accident.  A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

When I started this, I commented that I liked it but wished I had an idea of where it was going. Looking back on that status update, I am both amused and so glad I didn’t know. I highly recommend going into this book with only a basic idea of what it’s about, if anything. We Were Liars is lyrical and well-crafted, and won’t disappoint.

I would have read this in a day if I hadn’t gotten super sick the day after I picked it up. Cadence has a beautiful voice and the writing is just… really beautiful. It drew me in and didn’t let me go. As things were being tied up, I was alternatively amazed and horrified.

I had two minor complaints – I was a little thrown by Cadence referring to her mother as Mummy and her aunts as “aunties” – I don’t know any 17-year-old who does that, and a few of the other things kind of struck me as things that teenagers wouldn’t say. I had no other complaints, though. I loved piecing together the mystery of this story piece by piece alongside Cadence. I loved the concept of the Liars and the atmosphere of the story.

Amazing and manipulative and fucked up and great.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Review: One is Enough by Love

One is EnoughPublishing Date: August 12, 2014
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 148

Matsumoto-kun is just about to turn sixteen when he accidentally bumps into and injures his mysterious high school senpai, Mizushima-kun.

Now he is bound to make it up to him.  But the lines aren’t so clear on just how far this new angst-filled, steamy relationship will go. 

One is Enough is a bit of a mixed bag. The artwork of the characters is generally very pretty, but they sometimes look different from page to page (either in appearance or in style), and the backgrounds are very hit or miss, sometimes clearly drawn and other times extremely basic. It can be difficult to tell where/how things are happening due to the really simple backgrounds at time. The very simplistic backgrounds combined with a sometimes-detailed and other times basic artwork of the characters is also just a generally strange combination. Combine all this with a typical storyline for this type of manga, and there isn’t a lot of new stuff here for anyone who has read a lot of these stories.

That said, it was enjoyable enough, though I really disliked the romance – neither character was truly likable, and I can’t say that I wanted their romance to work out. The one character I really liked had very little page time and I was more interested in his story than the main characters’ stories. I was hoping the story would go in a different direction than it was toward the end, but it didn’t. If it had, I definitely would have liked this work a lot better. One is Enough isn’t terrible, but I didn’t think it was great, either – there are just too many other works out there with a similar storyline to this one that simply execute it in a better way.

I received a copy of this manga from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Review: The Hollows – The Beginning of the End by Amanda Hocking, Tony Lee, and Steve Uy

The Beginning of the End (The Hollows: Graphic Novel, #1)Published: May 29, 2013 by Dynamite
Format: Kindle Edition
Pages: 26

This comic series is a prequel to Amanda Hocking’s YA horror series The Hollows. This review is for the first of ten installments.

It’s Day One as a new pandemic sweeps the globe, and all over the world people are turning into mindless zombies.  But for five people – siblings Remy and Max King, med student Blue Adams, rock star Lazlo Durante, and teenager Harlow Smith – it’s the start of a journey they can never return from!

The first issue of The Hollows comic series gives the reader a look at the beginnings of Remy, Max, Blue, Lazlo, Harlow, and Ripley, and squashing that many characters into a 26-page comic is an interesting feat. The comic jumps around from situation to situation, only spending a handful of time with each. I’m not sure when or if I will be reading the rest of the story, but I hope subsequent issues choose maybe one or two characters and stick with them for the duration. That said, it was an interesting look at characters whose beginnings were not discussed in much detail, if at all, in the books, so it’s worth it for that alone, at least while it’s still free. :)

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Review: Hollowmen by Amanda Hocking

Hollowmen (The Hollows, #2)Published: November 8, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Pages: 169

This review is for the second book in The Hollows.  There are some spoilers in the blurb if you have not read the first book, but there are no spoilers for the first book in my review itself.  My review of the first book, Hollowland, is here.

After six months in the quarantine, Remy finds out things are much worse than she feared.  Her plans to escape come with a heavy cost, and she realizes that zombies aren’t the worst of her problems.

Hollowmen picks up six months from where Hollowland left off, and it’s pretty abrupt, with next to no explanation of anything that’s happening. I had read the first book in the series about 2.5 years ago, so after characters were introduced in the second book with no explanation of who they were (and I knew they had been in the first book, but couldn’t recall the circumstances), I had to go back to Hollowland and reread it before continuing on. While there is a little bit of explanation here and there later on, there isn’t much, so if it’s been a long time since you’ve read the first book, you may want to go back and reread it before picking this one up. Also, while I’m not an advocate of reading series out of order, this would definitely not be a good book to do that with regardless, since it doesn’t really explain much of anything to new readers.

There are a ton of new characters introduced, but unfortunately, none of them have much in the way of a personality. They’re very basic and there’s honestly not much aside from their names to distinguish them from one another. While bonds between these new and old characters are formed, and are a lot more believable than bonds between the characters in the first book, there still isn’t enough background given to them to really become attached to them from a reader’s standpoint. I knew I was supposed to care, but I just didn’t, and that was kind of frustrating.

Ultimately, Hollowmen suffers from a lot of the same problems it’s predecessor, with pretty weak characterization and a lot of telling instead of showing what’s going on. That said, it was an interesting enough continuation of the story, and while Remy was still pretty badass, she was also an extremely frustrating character who did things simply because she thought they were right, without really considering the overall wellbeing of the group, and I just wasn’t on board with that. :( But I am happy that I finished a series.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Review: Odeful by Jennifer Recchio

OdefulPublished: February 27, 2014 by Createspace
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 38

In this collection of poems about coming of age in the modern world, critically acclaimed author Jennifer Recchio takes on such thrilling subjects as math, groceries, and oil changes.  The collection includes poems that have been published in online magazines such as Word Riot and Defenestration, and other poems that have never been seen before.

I’m not a big reader of poetry, but when I saw Odeful on NetGalley, I was intrigued enough to give it a try. There are several different types of styles here, so if one poem isn’t to a reader’s fancy, the next may be more appealing.

I hadn’t read a poem anthology on my Kindle before, so I did need to change the font size, unlock the screen, and turn my Kindle so the display changed, in order for the line breaks to match what the author originally intended, so I would recommend that to anyone reading on an eReader. If that isn’t done, it can be difficult to tell where a line break is intended and where the previous line is simply spilling over into the next. I read this one a couple of times before reviewing, and I think it was worth the reread – knowing where a poem is going to go when I start helps ground me a bit.

The poem “Cliches Get Stuck Under Your Fingernails” is my favorite from this collection, with a kind of twist at the end that I didn’t see coming, but there were several others that I enjoyed as well. Recchio touches on a wide range of subjects in her anthology, among them the lives of characters in commercials after the commercial ends, from her poem “After These Messages.” While I couldn’t recall every commercial she referenced in that particular work, I still found it amusing, and it wasn’t something I personally had thought about before. “Dangerous Things,” a poem about writing poetry, also interested me as someone who mainly writes prose, and the lines about “bloody deleted chunks” of prose being thrown away while poetry “boils out of the atmosphere” really stood out to me. Some of Recchio’s imagery is really vivid, and I loved lines like that.

Odeful is a very short collection, but there is a lot to like here, and I think between all the different styles and subjects, there is probably something for everyone. I’d say it’s a good starting point for someone just getting into poetry, or someone just trying it out. Like with any anthology of stories or poems, some of Recchio’s works spoke to me and others didn’t, but overall, I found it to be a fairly enjoyable collection.

I received a copy of this collection from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Review: Hollowland by Amanda Hocking

Hollowland (The Hollows, #1)Published: October 5, 2010 by Createspace
Format: Kindle Edition
Pages: 291

“This is the way the world ends – not with a bang or a whimper, but with zombies breaking down the back door.”

Ninteen-year-old Remy King is on a mission to get across the wasteland left of America, and nothing will stand in her way – not violent marauders, a spoiled rock star, or an army of flesh-eating zombies.

So after picking up Hollowmen recently, I got about 5% in and then I was like, okay, don’t remember who that is… and I don’t remember who this person is, either… and decided that if I wanted to have any idea of who was who, I was going to have to reread the first book. I recently finished it and there was a lot of stuff I didn’t remember from my first read, so it was interesting enough to reread 2.5 years later.

Overall, I thought Hollowland was okay. There were several spelling and grammar issues that grated on me quite a bit, though, aside from my issues with the book itself. I think having people nod and shrug for dialogue tags is one of my #1 pet peeves.

Anyway, on to the book!

Hollowland had a really strong opening, and while the pacing didn’t necessarily slow down, a lot of ridiculous things happened that made me raise my eyebrows and didn’t necessarily invest me in the book. The lion was really over the top and hard to believe, and I found myself inwardly eyerolling at a lot of stuff. But yep… there’s a lion.

While some of the characters had the potential to be interesting, they are basically introduced and then not really developed any further, so the dangerous situations the characters get themselves into don’t carry as much weight as they otherwise might. I didn’t find myself that attached to anyone, which was a disappointment, since I think growing attached to the characters is an important part of a book like this – you want to see them safely through the story – but if the attachment isn’t there, it’s a lot harder to find yourself caring about what is happening.

Remy is badass, but she’s too badass to be believable. While she is driven by her desire to protect her little brother, that’s where her motivations end. She’s almost robotic and what few emotions she does feel are there for a moment and then gone, and generally not brought back up later. Unfortunately for the book, she’s the only character with any driving force – the other characters are interesting enough when introduced, but by the end of the book, I knew as much about them then as I did when they were introduced. The reader gets maybe a sentence or two of backstory about most of the supporting cast and that’s it.

One thing that bugged me – Remy always insists that she is better off alone and whatnot, but as far as the reader knows, she has NEVER been alone during this whole zombie apocalypse thing. She was with her brother up until they reached the quarantine, and then she was with Sommer and Harlow… so she has never traveled alone. I couldn’t understand why she kept thinking that other people would only slow her down and she had always been better off alone before, because… I can’t think of a situation in which she would have been traveling alone.

There were some other weird continuity-type things that bugged me, or other rationalizations that simply did not make sense. For example, Remy tells the reader that the “zombies” aren’t really living-dead zombies, but people infected with a virus and essentially driven mad by it, but then the book basically goes on to just treat them as zombies anyway. I was also a little confused on what would and wouldn’t kill a zombie, since some seem like they are 90% rotted and still basically unstoppable, and others seem to be downed by one attack.

All of that aside, Hollowland was a pretty fast read. Remy was a badass, which is cool despite my issues with her characterization, and I enjoy zombie books quite a bit in general. I liked the world Hocking introduced us to, even though I wish we had a better idea of how things had started – even a guess would have been better than nothing, and I found it strange that Remy didn’t once wonder about it.

I would say that Hollowland is worth at least checking out, especially seeing that it’s free right now. And I definitely still prefer it over Hocking’s other novel that I read, Switched.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Review: The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell by Mira Grant

The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell: A Newsflesh NovellaPublished: July 15, 2014 by Orbit Books
Pages: 84
Format: Kindle Edition

Portions of this short story take place after the events of Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy.  No spoilers for the trilogy are in my review, but I would not recommended reading this story without having read the trilogy first.

Outside the classroom walls the Rising was spreading, but inside was a carefully protected sanctuary against the growing threat.

Or so the teachers and students thought.

As a warning, some blurbs contain spoilers for the story, so be careful!  That said, on with the review.

This short story was incredibly hard to read for me. Knowing it takes place at an elementary school made me almost not want to finish, in a way. I read it over the course of the day because I kept having to put it down because I was sad or horrified or both. I just knew horrible things were going to happen and that was hard sometimes. But I loved the story and I found it very hard to stop reading even while being horrified and sometimes needing to give myself a break.

An interesting, if heartbreaking, look into another angle of the Newsflesh world.

(As a note to the curious, the story takes up the majority of the pages.  There is a short excerpt from Mira Grant’s Parasite at the end.)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Review: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

The Lovely BonesPublished: August 7, 2002 by Little, Brown and Company
Pages: 324
Format: Kindle Edition

“My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie.  I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.”

So begins the story of Susie Salmon, who is adjusting to her new home in heaven, a place that is not at all what she expected, even as she is watching life on earth continue without her – her friends trading rumors about her disappearance, her killer trying to cover his tracks, her grief-stricken family unraveling.

The Lovely Bones, at its start, was horrifying and made me feel sick to my stomach, but I really wanted to know how things were going to be resolved, so I powered on. I felt like the book made me pretty invested in this family and their healing after what had happened to them, and then threw that all out in the window at the last minute.

I think part of my issue with the book was knowing Susie’s killer from the beginning. Seeing him evade police and others over and over again was extremely frustrating and didn’t keep the book interesting for me. I just wanted him to get caught and for it to all be over, but he kept narrowly avoiding being caught, or characters would come close to some bit of evidence and pass it by for whatever reason, and I found it absolutely infuriating.

Another complaint, though minor in comparison, is that we are introduced to a bunch of characters up in Heaven who seem to have little role in the story. There seemed to be a fair number of them and they would be dropped for 50-100 pages and then namedropped and I’d be like, wait, who? That pulled me out of the story a lot, especially towards the end, or any time there had been a big gap between the Earth and Heaven scenes.

I also was just not interested in Susie’s version of Heaven at all. It didn’t resonate with me for several reasons and I didn’t care for those aspects of the story. I wanted to know how Susie’s family was doing on Earth, and how things were going in the investigation, and I wanted things to be resolved, and the scenes in Heaven didn’t move any of those things forward. The handful of things I did like about this part of the story won’t be mentioned here due to spoiler reasons.

I liked the writing, for the most part (there were a few lines and phrases that I definitely side-eyed, though), but the story just went in a different direction from what I was expecting. Especially toward the end, I was just beyond enraged with the direction it went, and it really soured my opinion on a book I was already kind of teetering with in terms of my opinion.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Review: The Language Inside by Holly Thompson

The Language InsidePublished: May 14, 2013 by Delacorte
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 528

Emma Karas was raised in Japan; it’s the country she calls home.  But when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Emma’s family moves to a town outside Lowell, Massachusetts, to stay with her grandmother while her mom undergoes treatment.

Emma feels out of place in the United States, begins to have migraines, and longs to be back in Japan.  At her grandmother’s urging, she volunteers at a long-term care center to help Zena, a patient with locked-in syndrome, write down her poems.  There, Emma meets Samnang, another volunteer, who assists elderly Cambodian refugees.  Weekly visits to the care center, Zena’s poems, dance, and noodle soup bring Emma and Samnang closer, until Emma must make a painful choice: stay in Massachusetts, or return early to Japan.

I originally picked up The Language Inside because I thought the cover was gorgeous, then I turned it over and saw it was about a girl who was raised in Japan returning to America for the first time since she was a baby, and became intrigued. I was also pleasantly surprised to find it was written in verse. I haven’t really read any other books like it, so I thought I’d give it a shot, and ultimately, it was a fun experiment for myself and I thought it worked fairly well. Thompson’s imagery is really lyrical and beautiful at times, and it definitely pulled me in in a way I wasn’t expecting. I’m neither big on poetry nor on dance, and those are two topics that are discussed pretty heavily in this book, and I liked that Thompson was able to pull me in despite all that, and that is probably due at least in part to the fact that the book is written in verse.

I will admit there were some areas where I wished the book had been written in prose – there were some parts, particularly those discussing Cambodian culture, where I wanted more background or explanation, and I’m not sure that telling the story as verse really allowed for that. There were also some… I guess more “mundane” scenes where I wanted a little more sense of place, but due to the format, each scene is relatively short, so again, not sure something like that would have made a lot of sense, even if I wanted it. That said, those feelings (of wanting more of a sense of place and wishing the book had been written in prose) weren’t constant by any means.

While I was familiar with several aspects of Japanese culture that are discussed in this book, I learned a lot about Japanese dance and Cambodia. I liked that the book educated the reader in parts without necessarily making it feel weird. It felt natural to me, since Emma was learning at the same time. The only thing I wished had been a little more clear were some of the pronunciations – Emma goes into them quite a bit early on, and then it drops off almost entirely, so I wasn’t sure if I was pronouncing the Cambodian words and names correctly.

I really enjoyed the relationships between the characters – Emma’s relationship with her mother felt pretty authentic, and I liked her interactions with Samnang as well. It was interesting seeing the three cultures (American, Cambodian, and Japanese) through Emma’s eyes.

The book made me cry quite a few times, particularly when Emma talks about the Tohoku earthquake. The Language Inside takes place in September of that year, so the events are fresh in Emma’s mind and the passages dealing with the aftermath are particularly heartbreaking. I felt those were some of the strongest aspects of the story. While the grand majority of the book takes place in Massachusetts, the quake and tsunami are often in the back of Emma’s mind, and I thought that her feelings of helplessness – between not being in Japan to help her friends rebuild their lives and feeling lost when it comes to her mother’s cancer treatment and her family’s future – were handled really well in this book.

I will admit, I don’t know any teenager personally who feels about poetry the way that Emma does, so some of her explanations about poetry, imagery, and meaning felt a bit forced at times, and there were some areas where I felt writing the book in verse worked beautifully and others where I felt it lacked something, but overall I really liked this. I’m glad I picked it up and I’m looking forward to eventually reading Thompson’s other books!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars