The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

18044277The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Length: 336 pages
Genera: Paranormal
Subjects: magical realism, juvenile detention centers, thriller
How I obtained the book: NetGalley eARC

Rating: 

“Ori’s dead because of what happened out behind the theater, in the tunnel made out of trees. She’s dead because she got sent to that place upstate, locked up with those monsters. And she got sent there because of me.”

The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices—one still living and one long dead. On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of a girls’ juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom. Tying these two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries.

We hear Amber’s story and Violet’s, and through them Orianna’s, first from one angle, then from another, until gradually we begin to get the whole picture—which is not necessarily the one that either Amber or Violet wants us to see.

Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and innocence, and what happens when one is mistaken for the other.

We were still alive, and we couldn’t make heads or tails of the darkness, so we couldn’t see how close we were to the end.

Haunting and eloquent, The Walls Around Us is a chilling story of two girls, whose lives are forever tied together in both life and death. Simultaneously feverish and ethereal, Amber and Violet’s paths towards the truth are both compelling and soul-crushing. The Walls Around Us is a unique ghost story, as it is ultimately about the death of dreams and ghostly lingering of hope.

The Walls Around Us is a desperately, achingly sad book. Nova Ren Suma wove ounces of melancholy into each and every chapter, making your heart ache for all the girls within its pages, and their wasted potential. From Violet to D’amour, each character brought something new to the novel, and without even side characters, the atmosphere wouldn’t be the same.

Despite their actions, both of the main characters were relatable and immensely well written. Throughout everything, Violet has squirreled her way into my heart with her conniving and morally grey ways. Amber, while not personally my favorite in the book, was an extraordinary character whose actions garnered my respect and love. Orianna’s personality was the most likable of all of them, and I felt incredibly sad for her and everything she went through.

The writing is light and airy on one page, and dark and desolate on the next. With poignant detail, the world of The Walls Around Us is hyper-realistic and I could practically feel the cold, harsh walls of the Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center and watch Ori’s solo piece from the dance of the Firebird.

Suma’s novels have never been the fastest or the easiest to read. Despite their gift with writing, their books can often be difficult to get through, and fully understand the book. While Suma’s issue isn’t completely resolved and at times I found my attention slipping, I found The Walls Around Us much easier to read than their other books, like 17 & Gone. The plot is much easier to understand here, though some chapters took me a couple extra readings to fully comprehend.

Like most Nova Ren Suma books, the plot feels very faraway, tying everything together but never the focus of the book. While The Walls Around Us is certainly not lacking in plot, it is sometimes hard to find it through the thick prose, and it’s easy for important strands of the story to slip through your fingers.

Told in half truths, the reader is forced to sift through the chapters in order to find the truth. Heavily character driven, Suma focuses on character development in order to tell the story. As we learn about the two girls and their stories, it becomes increasingly obvious what truly happened. The Walls Around Us is most definitely not a quick read, as it requires more comprehension and focus than most books.

Beautifully crafted, Nova Ren Suma continues to delight their readers with stories of guilt, innocence, and the price of the truth. It’s dark and somber, yet strangely beautiful and peaceful. The Walls Around Us is an all-around must read.

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The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth

11595276The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Length: 470 pages
Genera: Contemporary
Subjects: Queer lit, Romance, Self Discovery
How I obtained the book: 
Library; hardcover

Rating: 

When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.

Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship–one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self–even if she’s not exactly sure who that is.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a stunning and unforgettable literary debut about discovering who you are and finding the courage to live life according to your own rules.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a very important book. It’s something much more influential and significant than an average contemporary and its impact is something I can’t fully describe. There’s something so powerful about well written, fully fleshed out queer lit – it’s something that helps validate our identities. Representation is important, but well written representation can change lives because there’s something about a well written queer book that tells us that we’re worth the time and effort to make a good book.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is one of these books.

Cameron Post is a remarkable protagonist. She’s one of the most fleshed out protagonist that I’ve encountered, a gemstone of YA lit. Yes, everyone will be able to relate with Cameron Post, regardless of sexuality or gender, the most important thing is that queer kids everywhere will be able to look up to Cameron Post and relate to her and her troubles.

What makes Cameron Post stick out to me is how resilient and headstrong she is. Authors often make the mistake of equating strong characters with unfeeling characters, which is a huge mistake. Strong characters cannot be described in one way but Cameron’s strength lies in her resilience. She experiences ups and downs and moments of weakness but throughout her incredible hardships, she perseveres and manages to not only survive it but find light in it too.

The secondary characters are all nicely written and unique and memorable in their own ways. emily m. danforth wrote a bunch of interesting and diverse characters including a disabled lesbian who hides pot in her prosthetic leg and a two-spirit Native American teenager.

emily m. danforth’s writing style is gorgeous in a very simple way. It’s not flowing or what I would usually describe as gorgeous. There are just some writers that can manage to convey so much more beyond what they said and emily is one of them. It’s simple and eloquent and reminds me a lot of the pastels used on the cover.

I can’t explain why exactly but pastel is one of the most accurate words I can think of to describe this book. It’s summer nights, quiet walks in a park, going out to eat ice cream, fireflies, and pastel colors all rolled up into one. Yeah, it sounds very odd but it’s true.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a book that should have been written years ago because there are a lot of queer people out there that needed this book while growing up. But at least, kids like me can look at it and say, “yes, this is who I am and there’s no problem with it.” Hopefully, emily m. danforth’s will make a change for the better in YA lit, opening us up to queer storylines with beautiful prose and even more beautiful characters.

Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican

18404289Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Length: 416 pages
Genera: Contemporary
Subjects: Bullying, Religion, Relationships, 
How I obtained the book: 
Netgalley, eARC

Rating: 

Three freshmen must join forces to survive at a troubled, working-class Catholic high school with a student body full of bullies and zealots, and a faculty that’s even worse in Anthony Breznican’s Brutal Youth
With a plunging reputation and enrollment rate, Saint Michael’s has become a crumbling dumping ground for expelled delinquents and a haven for the stridently religious when incoming freshman Peter Davidek signs up. On his first day, tensions are clearly on the rise as a picked-upon upperclassmen finally snaps, unleashing a violent attack on both the students who tormented him for so long, and the corrupt, petty faculty that let it happen. But within this desperate place, Peter befriends fellow freshmen Noah Stein, a volatile classmate whose face bears the scars of a hard-fighting past, and the beautiful but lonely Lorelei Paskal —so eager to become popular, she makes only enemies.

To even stand a chance at surviving their freshmen year, the trio must join forces as they navigate a bullying culture dominated by administrators like the once popular Ms. Bromine, their embittered guidance counselor, and Father Mercedes, the parish priest who plans to scapegoat the students as he makes off with church finances. A coming-of-age tale reversed, Brutal Youth follows these students as they discover that instead of growing older and wiser, going bad may be the only way to survive.

Brutal Youth tells the inspiring story of three teenagers, each with their own troubles. While, technically, Brutal Youth was written as an anti-bullying book, it doesn’t feel like the average one. Most of the books I’ve read have extremely heavy messages that bog down the actual story and taint the overall experience. Often the characters are weak and flimsy as well. At the end of the day, the message fails to make a lasting impact with the reader.

However, Brutal Youth doesn’t seem to want to go with the flow and instead tells one of the most brutal and harsh stories I’ve ever read with characters abounding with personality and a story that really resonates with the reader. It’s one of those once in a blue moon reads that I’ll treasure for a long, long time.

The three main characters -Peter Davidek, Noah Stein, and Lorelei Paskal – were all incredibly realistic and well developed. I couldn’t really call any of them likable in the traditional sense, but I enjoyed seeing the story through their eyes. Their individual strengths and weaknesses added yet another layer to the book.

Lorelei was my favourite character in the book, and also one of the most complex characters I’ve ever read about. Nothing is ever simple with Lorelei. She’s selfish and self-centered and an all around awful person. But she’s also incredibly pitiful and weak. She is bullied mercilessly by her peers, yet she also does a lot of the bullying herself.

One of the shining aspects of the book was how Breznican addressed the theme of bullying. There’s nothing black and white in Brutal Youth. It’s all in shades of grey. Even the bullies are bullied.

The main characters aren’t completely innocent, like you’d expect from your average book. They’re sympathetic while still being at times awful people. It’s really amazing what having realistic, multifaceted characters can do to a story. I haven’t stopped thinking about this book since I put it down almost a month ago.

Overall, Brutal Youth is one of the best books I have ever read. It’s gorgeously written and incredibly heartfelt. I cannot wait to read any other works by this author. I loved it and I recommend Brutal Youth to anyone looking for a book that is unlike any you’ve read before.

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

16045088Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Length216 pages
GeneraFiction
Subjects: Werewolves, Contemporary, Sociology
How I obtained the bookLibrary; hardcover

Rating: 

When you’ve been kept caged in the dark, it’s impossible to see the forest for the trees. It’s impossible to see anything, really. Not without bars . . . 

Andrew Winston Winters is at war with himself.

He’s part Win, the lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts all his classmates out, no matter the cost.

He’s part Drew, the angry young boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who spent a fateful, long-ago summer with his brother and teenage cousins, only to endure a secret so monstrous it led three children to do the unthinkable.

Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles both the pain of his past and the isolation of his present.

Before the sun rises, he’ll either surrender his sanity to the wild darkness inside his mind or make peace with the most elemental of truths—that choosing to live can mean so much more than not dying.

“Because blood is blood, and every family has its own force.
Its own flavor.
Its own charm and strange.”

Charm & Strange is a beautifully haunting book about a hurt little boy and a confused young man. It’s a heartbreaking and painful read, yet completely worth it. In many ways, Charm & Strange reminds me of another book that I read last year called Liar, and if you liked that one, it’s very likely that you’ll like this one as well.

In this case, the less you know about the book the better. I found this book after reading a very poorly worded library summary and it greatly diminished my overall enjoyment around this book. Charm & Strange is one of those books which, ideally, should be picked up without knowing anything about it.

Suffice it to say, Charm & Strange is about a boy with a wolf inside of him that is begging to come out and show itself to the world.

Kuehn’s expertise and ingenuity is what really sells this book. Their skill in storytelling is absolutely unmatched and gorgeous. Charm & Strange, for much of the book, is told in chapters alternating from Antimatter (past) and Matter (present). At the beginning, the chapters aren’t very clear, but as the story continues, things slowly come into place and the harshness of the world becomes more and more apparent.

Andrew is one of the complex characters I’ve encountered. He’s the Will Graham of the book, where you can practically see the flimsy threads that hold him together. Throughout the book you watch, one by one, the threads snapping and the wolf growing.

The supporting characters are weaker – especially those from the Matter chapters – yet I didn’t mind it all too much. It gave Kuehn more room to toy with Andrew and strengthen his character.

In my opinion, I felt the ending was a bit too neat. Everything came together and people were happy. It felt out of place in the book. While I wasn’t expecting a soul crushing ending, I just wish that it were a bit less ‘happily ever after’.

Charm & Strange is a marvel of YA literature and literature in general. It encapsulates the reason why I still read YA books. Kuehn’s debut is a novel that which still lingers in the back of my head and will continue to do so for a time to come.

Rise Again Below Zero by Ben Tripp

13547546Rise Again Below Zero by Ben Tripp
PublisherGallery Books
Length352 pages
Genera: Science Fiction
Subjects: Zombies, Dystopia, Action, Adult
How I obtained the bookLibrary; paperback

Rating: 

It began with isolated reports of mass hysteria. Screaming mobs. Sudden death. The plague spread around the world, slaughtering billions. For the survivors knee-deep in corpses, it didn’t seem things could get worse. Until the dead stumbled to their feet. Mindless, shambling, they were repulsive—but harmless. And then a warning came, too late…

Sheriff Danielle Adelman, a troubled war veteran, has pursued her runaway kid sister across the end of the world, and now Danny realizes her problems have only just begun. Danny thought she had seen humanity at its worst in war-torn Iraq, but nothing could prepare her for the remorseless struggle to survive in a dying world being overrun by the reanimated dead. Now, Danny’s epic and dangerous journey challenges her spirit—and brings her to the precipice of sanity itself.

Filled with adventurous human drama, and shocking inhuman horror, this sequel to the acclaimed novel Rise Again continues a vivid and powerful fiction debut

It look me a long time to get into the zombie hype. Zombies just felt flat to me, compared to the surplus of other, far more interesting, monsters. Why go for zombies when you can fight a kaiju or a wendigo? However thanks to a certain television show with a hot cowboy, I think its time to apologize to zombies, and all the fantastic books like Rise Again Below Zero I would have missed out on if I continued to refuse to read zombie books.

Rise Again Below Zero is my first encounter with Ben Tripp and I’m hungry for more. I haven’t read the first book of the Rise Again duology, but it was not necessary to fully enjoy this book.

Ben Tripp doesn’t fall for the same mistake that many authors do in sequels. The relationships between the characters aren’t taken for granted, but instead are reinforced and reintroduced in the second novel. Even the characters experience growth throughout the book. In fact, the relationships were extraordinarily strong and they played a large part in the book.

I’m less interested in the zombies and more interested in the human interactions. Rise Again Below Zero showcases this aspect of the subgenre incredibly well. Character driven at its core, Rise Again Below Zero keeps the reader going because of the very well conceived characters and relationships.

Tripp took an interesting turn with his monsters, as he added a sort of “class” system. Class systems are rarely utilized in zombie books, from what I’ve seen and this was an enjoyable edition to the book. It definitely helped to keep the action aspect of the book from getting stale.

While the plot and world building is well crafted, it’s obvious that Tripp’s main strength is in his character building. Danny is a beautifully flawed character who’s actions are not always commendable but understandable and relatable. She breaks the mold, as Tripp refuses to let her fall into neither the Cold Warrior trope nor Damsel in Distress trope.

While the book has a large focus on Danny and her reflections, the secondary characters are incredible in their depth. Rise Again Below Zero is full of genuinely good people, despite their flaws. Tripp was able to create the depth needed for this book and he did it perfectly. He was able to create multi-dimensional characters, instead of making black and white; good and bad archetypes. “Good” was not completely and utterly pure. “Bad” was not despicable, nor one sided and flat. Showcasing some of the most morally grey situations and characters, the characters of Rise Again Below Zero were strong, flawed, and respectable.

Despite Rise Again Below Zero being a heavily character driven book, the plot was not lacking. It could be pretty slow at times, especially during the heavily retrospective sections, but the tension and excitement was perfectly utilized. The circumstances which Danny found herself in were engaging and at times genuinely frightening. The plot twists were brilliant and kept me at the edge of my seat.

Rise Again Below Zero was a fantastic, entertaining read with characters that I felt connected with and genuinely cared for. I recommend it to anyone looking for something other than the average zombie/dystopian book.

Winger by Andrew Smith

11861815Winger by Andrew Smith
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Length439 pages
Genera: Contemporary
Subjects: Boarding school, Romance, Friendship,
How I obtained the bookLibrary; hardcover

Rating: 

Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy. With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.

Filled with hand-drawn info-graphics and illustrations and told in a pitch-perfect voice, this realistic depiction of a teen’s experience strikes an exceptional balance of hilarious and heartbreaking.

It seems like the community has, for the most part, overlooked this title, which is a very, very sad thing. Andrew Smith has done something truly amazing here with Winger and it’s a bit sad when you see how few people have read this book.

I originally only picked Winger up because of my beloved Andrew Smith, but I was a bit apprehensive because well, the last two Smith books I’ve read were dark, depressing, and violent and I really couldn’t see him write a contemporary book.

But the moment I started reading, I realised that I had made a huge mistake and that Winger was definitely as good, if not better, than the Marbury Lens series.

Winger follows the story of Ryan Dean West ‘Winger’ as he traverses high school as a fourteen year old junior. He recently landed himself in the Opportunity Hall of his boarding school, where they keep all the school’s worst cases, after stealing his teacher’s phone. And of course, he manages to get put in the room with his arch-enemy, Chas Becker.

Ryan Dean’s voice is one of those rare ones that are very unique. It was a voice that made it extremely hard to drop the book even for a few minutes, and to quote Cecil Baldwin, ‘and I fell in love instantly’. I knew from very early on that Winger was not going to be a book I’d forget anytime soon.

As a character, Ryan Dean West was easily one of the most relatable characters that I’ve ever ‘met’, yet also one of the most average characters out there. He wasn’t special, not really – not in the way that most YA characters are. Ryan Dean was a very normal character, and I think that contributed much to his appeal because much of popular YA has the main character special somehow, whether they be vampires or the next Katniss Everdeen.

Smith’s writing was absolutely superb. He manages to trap the essence of a young fourteen year old boy, with all its ups and downs, amazingly well. He takes you on an amazing ride that will make you laugh and fall deeper and deeper in love with the characters and the school and the book, but by the end, all the book’s hidden severity comes at you like a wrecking ball and you’re left gasping for air by the end.

Under all of Winger’s hilarity and romance is a very deep story however, I’m going to step around because the last thing I want to do is spoil the discovery for you.

One more aspect worth mentioning is the absolutely fantastic artwork. Sam Bosma’s art is just brilliant, oh my god, just look at it! The art adds another beautiful layer to the book.

In all, Winger is a book that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. I recommend it to everyone!

Skulk by Rosie Best

17155389Skulk by Rosie Best
Publisher Strange Chemistry
Length387 pages
Genera: Paranormal
Subjects: Urban Fiction, Shapeshifting, Mystery, Murder, Romance
How I obtained the bookPaperback ARC provided by publicist

Rating: 

When Meg witnesses the dying moments of a shapeshifting fox and is given a beautiful and powerful stone, her life changes forever. She is plunged into the dark world of the Skulk, a group of shapeshifting foxes. As she learns about the other groups of shapeshifters that lurk around London – the Rabble, the Horde, the Cluster and the Conspiracy – she becomes aware of a deadly threat against all the shapeshifters. They must put aside all their enmity and hostility and fight together to defeat it.

Skulk starts off very slowly and awkwardly. In fact, these pages were so off-putting to me, that I dropped it the same day I picked it up, around the 60 page mark, for a few weeks before reading it again. The writing coupled with the main character just put me off entirely.

But today I picked it up again. I also finished it on the same day because I didn’t stop reading for an hour and a half after picking it up again. After the initial hundred pages, the plot picks up at an extraordinary speed and the book really starts. I am so so happy that I did end up picking Skulk up again because I really enjoyed it. It’s not a brilliant book in terms of originality or writing or plot, but it’s very enjoyable.

The novel begins with Meg, our protagonist, escaping from her house, with a backpack filled with spray paint, with one goal – to cover the walls of her high school with her art. However, things take a turn for the worse when she finds a dying fox. A fox which changes into a man. From then on, her life is forever changed when she develops the ability to shapeshift into a fox and discovers a group of secret organizations of ravens, rats, spiders, butterflies, and foxes.

The first quarter of the book was bogged down by rich girl idiocy, you know the average ‘oh my god I’m so rich and ugh my life sucks I’m going to be rebellious because I’m bored’. But it doesn’t take Meg to get her head back into the game, thankfully.

One of the first things that will strike you while reading Skulk is how Meg’s voice really shines through. She’s not your average heroine. She doesn’t have an overwhelmingly large hero complex, nor a damsel one.

Meg did not adhere to any YA stereotype of either a damsel or an ultra Strong Silent type. She wasn’t scared to be assertive or tell people that they’re being douches, but wasn’t above makeup.

Also, guess what, we’ve got a larger main character who’s pretty fine with her weight and doesn’t end up skinny by the end!

The shapeshifting aspect was very original, as instead of confining itself to the “normal” shapeshifting types, Best branched out to include other creatures that I haven’t seen considered anywhere else such as spiders.

The plot was fast paced, enjoyable, and well put together. Along with Best’s colloquial writing, Skulk was a very easy and entertaining read. The plot was a bit predictable, but once you read a certain amount of books, what plot isn’t?

I really recommend this book to everyone. The beginning is a bit rocky but the rest of the book makes up for it. It’s got everything you’d ever want – a badass main character, shapeshifting, cute boys, cute girls, murder. Go get a copy now!

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

16068905Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Publisher
 St. Martin’s Press
Length
416 pages
Genera:
 Contemporary
Subjects
Romance, Writing, Fanfiction, Fandoms
How I obtained the book
Netgalley, ecopy

Rating: 

A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love. Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

Or will she just go on living inside somebody else’s fiction?

Fangirl isn’t going to be a book for everyone. There are going to be a lot of positive reviews but it’s going to have it’s fair share of negative reviews as well. Fangirl isn’t going to become the next big thing. Fangirl isn’t going to be everyone’s favorite book.

Fangirl is going to be a book for some people because Fangirl is a book for the people who live in world’s created by others, whether it be the Harry Potter fandom or the Supernatural fandom.

You may not believe me at first, but once you read the book, it’ll become quite obvious. This book wasn’t meant for the average reader who casually watches some tv or casually reads. It was quite obviously marketed to the fanperson. While anyone could read the book, this book is much more enjoyable when you can truly understand Cather, and her obsession/love relationship with the fictional Simon Snow.

The main reason I connected with Cather was for the fact that I totally got how her love for Simon wasn’t just something she liked – it was so much more important. Cather wasn’t always the most likable character but I understood her and her pain of having her best friends live hundreds of miles away. I understood how she felt to see her sister drift away from her and start to dislike her. I got her.

If you can’t relate to Cath in any of the ways I mentioned, you’ll mostly likely like the book less. Cath does some really irritating and stupid things in the course of the book that should have made me hate her. But oddly, none of them made me like her less but others may be less forgiving.

Cather isn’t always a likable protagonist, as I said. She reminded me a bit of myself to be honest- if it’s not too vain to say. She was angry and angsty but she was funny and adorable at the same time. She writes fanfiction and her bffs live half way around the country or even the world.

The love interest, Levi, was probably the most adorable thing ever. Granted, he wasn’t the most original or fully developed, but I do think the personality and the lack of extreme douchebaggeryness helped. I’m just glad he didn’t make any rapey advances or stalk her.

He did do some… less than gentlemanly things during the course of the book. While it wasn’t exactly his fault or something that would make me feel like I don’t like him, it was certainly not a positive to his character.

One part that was less than positive was the fact that pretty much every character other than Levi, Cather, and Wren were absolutely irritating in every possible way. I wanted to slap practically every single character because they were all bitches for no goddamn reason.

Even the characters I liked could be so irritating and annoying that I just wanted to scream and ragequit, which doesn’t happen very often. I can usually take irritation and anger fairly well but this was magnified by the fact that the rest of the book was just so amazing.

The plot was a fairly standard find-yourself thing but I really enjoyed it. I really like writing (in case you haven’t noticed) and a book revolving around writing and Cather’s inability to write anything other then Simon Snow fanfiction left me all but drooling.

The fanfiction aspect left me very satisfied but some readers might find this very gimmicky and tacky. If you didn’t like the gimmicky aspects of How to Lead a Life of Crime, this may be very forced and annoying.

However, I found it absolutely amazing. How can a few snippets of fanfiction of a series that doesn’t even exist make me want to read more? Um, because it’s amazing – that’s why. Absolutely fucking fantastic. If I don’t see more Simon and Baz, I will probably be very disappointed.

This review is getting a bit way too fangirly so here’s the tl;dr version: Lisbeth like. Lisbeth recommend. You read.

Erebos by Ursula Poznanski

12930791Erebos by Ursula Poznanski
Publisher Annick Press
Length434 pages
Genera: Thriller
SubjectsVideo games, horror, mystery,
How I obtained the bookNetgalley, ecopy

Rating: 

An intelligent computer game with a disturbing agenda.

When 16-year-old Nick receives a package containing the mysterious computer game Erebos, he wonders if it will explain the behavior of his classmates, who have been secretive lately. Players of the game must obey strict rules: always play alone, never talk about the game, and never tell anyone your nickname.

Curious, Nick joins the game and quickly becomes addicted. But Erebos knows a lot about the players and begins to manipulate their lives. When it sends Nick on a deadly assignment, he refuses and is banished from the game.

Now unable to play, Nick turns to a friend for help in finding out who controls the game. The two set off on a dangerous mission in which the border between reality and the virtual world begins to blur. This utterly convincing and suspenseful thriller originated in Germany, where it has become a runaway bestseller.

As someone who has wasted fruitfully spent countless hours and weekends gaming or doing things related to gaming (aka crying about how I don’t have pc Skyrim or Guild Wars 2), this book was something that I obviously had to read. I was fairly nervous about it though because I had no idea how someone could write a good book about a video game. It’s not really something that is easy to write since video games are a very visual and auditory experience that can’t very well be replicated on paper.

Yet, somehow, even with Erebos’ shitty translator, Erebos manages to convey the feeling of playing a fantastic video game while having an amazing plot at the same time. Many chapters are from the point of view of the video game character, which makes Erebos a wholly original experience in many ways.

Like I said, one of Erebos’ biggest drawbacks is the absolute awful translator. Sentences are completely weird and often, whole paragraphs don’t make any sense at all. The translator is German but obviously, they don’t know how to translate at all. I can’t really say anything about the writing because there is a high chance that Poznanski is an amazing writer with a really sucky translator. I’ll have to get my mom to read it in German one of these days so she can tell me if the writing is decent or not.

Horrible translation aside, the story is amazing. I couldn’t put the book down once I picked it up. The story was incredibly engaging and entertaining. Like a good thriller, Erebos kept you guessing for much of the book. It was a bit erratic at times and it wasn’t very tight but I loved it anyway.

While you don’t have to be a gamer to find the concept absolutely brilliant, but it definitely helps. A game that interacts very directly with the player and adapts itself to you? How awesome is that? It’s both scary and amazing.

I am happy to say that the concept was executed brilliantly. I am still in awe of how Poznanski handled the incredibly hard subject. It had the perfect feeling to it, one that put you right into the character’s shoes. I fell headfirst into the world of Erebos and I’m still not over it. I really wish I could wipe my memory of it and reread it and re-experience it.

Another flaw to the book are the characters. They lack life and energy for the most part. I never really connected with any of the characters.

The main character, Nick, was the worst. He felt more like a filler character that was created simply because Poznanski needed a main character. He didn’t really have a personality and felt like a character that you should use as, I don’t know, a body for you to put your personality into? I’m not sure how to describe it but Nick didn’t feel like a normal character.

I know I’ve said words like perfect a lot in this review but that’s really all I can think of for the book. Overall, I’d recommend Erebos to people who either like thrillers or video games – or both. It was an awesome read that deserves lots of readers.

Splintered by A. G. Howard

12558285Splintered by A. G. Howard
Publisher
 Amulet Books
Length
371 pages
Genera:
 Fantasy
Subjects
Retelling, Horror, Adventure, Romance
How I obtained the book
Library, hardcover

Rating: 

Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together.
For now.When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family.

She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own. 

I really don’t know how to tell you how much I love this book. I’m pretty much sitting here thinking “wHAT IS WORDS” even though I finished the book two days ago and should, theoretically, know how to write this review by now.

But, I don’t because I’m still in a state of “fhalkjsdhfjlkasdhfkjhhasjkld awesome”, and while accurate, a review consisting of keyboard smashing does not make a proper review.

Splintered is an Alice in Wonderland retelling, a type of retelling I’m not exactly a novice about. I’ve read many retellings, watched many retellings, and for gods’ sake, I’ve played American McGee’s Alice (which, by the way, I wholeheartedly recommend). I’m definitely not new to the genre, yet Splintered still was an entirely new experience for me.

Instead of being a traditional retelling Splintered acts more like an addition or a sequel. It didn’t really retell the story we all know, nor did it have any similarities when it came to storyline. In fact, the only similarities were characters. It functioned much like an AU fanfiction with the same characters but a completely different storyline.

While I could definitely see the similarities to American McGee’s Alice in the world-building and overall feel to the book, Splintered was wholly original and beautiful. If you are not familiar with McGee’s Alice, it’s an very odd, yet thoroughly enjoyable, horror game in which Wonderland is turned upside down and about 217% wackier than the original. Likewise, Splintered was insane and unsettling at times, yet still lyrical. It managed to retain the Alice-ness of the original book, while still being a fairly original novel.

The best part of Splintered is most definitely the world-building. The world is as disturbing and unnerving, as it is beautiful and wonderful. The descriptions are vivid and bright, making the reader feel as if they are down the rabbit hole themselves, something often absent in average Alice retellings.

The first fifty pages of Wonderland are absolutely impossible to put down because of the vivid imagery and absolute magical-ness of the whole scene. It’s incredibly surreal and just, a+ your parents should be proud of you Mrs. Howard. Honor on you and your cow.

However, Splinted wasn’t entirely perfect as there was one problem, whether it is minor or major is up to you.

The majority of the characters of Splintered are very nicely done. Alyssa is a very nice heroine – appropriately kickass but also vulnerable. She is actually pretty likable, though admittedly not amazing. Morpheus, the star of the book, is extremely likable (which may be just me because he’s not exactly the good guy nor a good guy). He is awesome and insane and brilliant.

And then, there’s Jeb who’s basically the one character who doesn’t really fit in with the book. He’s supposed to be Alyssa’s human anchor to the mortal world but, to be honest, he was more of a pain than anything. Just because you’re flipping gender standards and having a guy be a Mary Sue and have him be damsel distress doesn’t mean it’s any less annoying and stupid. Damsels in Distress are annoying no matter the sex.

Admittedly, this is only one character among four or five many. This may annoy you more or less than it annoyed me. It’s a relatively minor complaint, I suppose but it still managed to annoy me and pull me from the story because all I could think was, “Are you kidding me Jeb? Dude, seriously, again?”

Overall, Splintered is an absolutely beautiful, magical read that I recommend to anyone who loves Alice in Wonderland and even to those who don’t necessarily like it that much. Splintered is a fantastic book that should be read no matter what.