BOOK REVIEW: Kasie West “By Your Side”

By-Your-SideTitle: By Your Side

Author: Kasie West

Genre: Contemporary

My Rating: 3/5 stars

 

When classmates Autumn and Dax are accidentally locked inside a library together for the weekend, things are pretty awkward. These two were from such different worlds: Autumn is pretty and popular, her mind occupied by Jeff, her almost boyfriend; and Dax is mysterious and, while handsome, supposedly dangerous. There are many rumors surrounding the aloof Dax Miller, and Autumn decides to use their newfound time together to find out if they’re true.

While she tries to get Dax to warm up to her, Autumn finds herself warming up to him. She realizes that he’s much more complicated than he appeared, and feelings of more than friendship blossom within her. But how can she dream of a relationship with a boy who’s as afraid of commitment as this one?

My thoughts: 

This book started off very sweet. I loved reading about their time spent in the library together, and there was something very fantastical and romantic about it. Seeing these two characters draw closer to one another and seeing their relationship flourish was so rewarding and special. It was all very swoony.

Much to my dismay, Dax and Autumn didn’t stay in the library for the duration of the book. In fact, they were out and back in the real world by the halfway mark, which I found disappointing. After that, this became a very frustrating read.

Maybe this is due to my impatience, but I didn’t like the second half of the book and how long it took for Autumn and Dax to get together. Sure, it was probably to add suspense and tension to their romance, but I felt it took away from the progress they made and the time they spent together in the library. I didn’t enjoy the second half of the book at all and was relieved when everything finally resolved itself and the story had ended. I shouldn’t be relieved for the end of a book, though. I should be sad and wistful. Disappointed to be separated from characters I had grown to like. But no, I was just ready to be done.

This is my second experience reading Kasie West, and even though I was disappointed in the ending, I’m definitely planning to read more of her books. You can read my thoughts about the first book I read by hers, P.S. I Like You here.

 

Kasie West: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Reyna Biddy “A Psalm For Us”

9781449493837_frontcoverTitle: A Psalm For Us

Author: Reyna Biddy

Genre: Poetry

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

 

A Psalm For Us was my second attempt reading poetry in a row. My first was The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace, and it was a quick, powerful read. I’ve always been fascinated by poetry but I’ve rarely tried it, which is why I wanted to branch out.

I didn’t dislike this, just like I didn’t dislike TWDBITO. It just wasn’t something I was in the mindset to read right now.

This had some heavy elements to it, content ranging from depression to love and then to heartbreak again, all things I’ve experienced and can connect with. I think this would have made a world of difference to me if I had read it a year or two ago when I was struggling and hurting. There’s something about reading about other’s pain that can be healing in itself, if that’s not weird to say. A Psalm For Us was poignant and beautiful but not at all what I needed to read right now.

Don’t let that pastel, cutesy cover fool you; if you open this book, you’ll face some rough seas. However, I think all in all, it was also a rewarding read, and anyone who has experienced hurt in any form could relate to this collection of poetry.

I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

 

Reyna Biddy: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Amanda Lovelace “The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One”

34518216._UY768_SS768_Title: The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One

Author: Amanda Lovelace

Genre: Poetry

My Rating: 2/5 stars

 

The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One is a collection of poetry and a sort of sequel to The Princess Saves Herself in This One. Before I get into this review, I should note that I haven’t read the first in this series of poetry books. Fortunately, though, I don’t think that it matters too terribly much what order you read these in.

I have never been a reader of poetry. I used to write poems years ago, but there was never much rhyme or reason to them. No snapping fingers or banging bongo drums accompanied my work. My knowledge of poetry is very limited sadly.

That being said, I was excited to read this, and I felt that all of the poems in this collection were done well. Objectively, I can tell you that this was a good piece of literature, but I’m not the person to appreciate it. I wasn’t aware of the subject material before going into this, and I found that I didn’t relate to the content.

That definitely does not mean this was poorly done, or someone else won’t find things to love or hurt over in The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One. This was obviously written to empower women and as a letter against rape culture, which I’m on board with completely. Sadly though, I felt there was much generalization about men and how terrible and awful they are, which I don’t agree with.

That’s not to say there aren’t horribly crappy men out there. There are also horribly crappy women. Our world is inherently evil, so there are massive amounts of horribly crappy people in the world. So I think there are plenty of ways to empower women without spitting fire and hatred. Speak out against the rapists and the pedophiles and the creeps. Fight to make sure they get their just desserts. But try to do so without stomping on the men who don’t deserve it.

I think men and women alike will find many things to love about what Lovelace has to say, and she should be applauded for writing such a deeply personal and powerful piece. Just because I couldn’t connect with it doesn’t mean many others won’t.

I received this eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

 

Amanda Lovelace: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Janet McNulty “Solaris Seethes”

51CdjRZBt6LTitle: Solaris Seethes

Author: Janet McNulty

Genre: Science Fiction

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

 

Solaris Seethes is the story of a space ship with a personality, a Lanyran named Rynah with a revenge complex, and 4 unsuspecting humans from different eras of Earth’s history forced to unite and save the day. After Rynah’s planet is destroyed and she takes refuge in Solaris, her grandfather’s old ship, the ship’s AI explains to her that the only way to save her planet is to retrieve the crystal that was stolen. Unfortunately, the same villain who stole Lanyr’s crystal is now attempting to steal others, hoping to use it as a weapon. Solaris explains to Rynah that according to prophecy, the only ones that can stop him are 4 humans from the Terra Sector, each with specific and unique gifts. So begins a crazy, out of this world adventure with six crazy, out of this world characters.

These characters were so much fun. Solaris, the ship herself, was snarky, quick, and often more compassionate than most soul-baring beings. Rynah was strong, yet unfortunately quick-tempered, which caused her to snap at the four humans she had little patience for. Still, forced to work together, the humans become fast friends.

Despite coming from different times periods of Earth’s history, they found they had much in common and quickly became fierce and loyal friends. There was Solon, a scribe and philosopher from ancient Greece; Alfric, a warrior and Viking with a taste for blood and a heart of gold; Brie, a teenager from modern time, and Tom, an ambitious inventor from the late 2000s.

These characters and their interactions were absolutely precious. Alfric the Viking immediately took a liking to Brie, and he became her teacher and protector. Their banter was quick and silly, something to lighten the mood in case their mission became heavy. Even stone-hearted Rynah began to warm up to her crewmates toward the end of the story, their friendship heartwarming and sweet.

There’s something about the story that put off Guardians of the Galaxy vibes for me, which I loved. Characters from different places and backgrounds coming together for one common goal: it’s the ultimate origin story.

I was worried in the beginning that I wasn’t going to enjoy this. In the opening chapters, I was put off by how quickly the author dove into the story and how little build-up there was to the massive attack on Rynah’s planet, Lanyr. I figured from then on that everything was going to move quickly and was concerned about the pacing of the story; however, there were no issues after that.

Had the beginning eased me into the story a little better, this would have been much more enjoyable. However, I enjoyed it nonetheless and I’m happy to have read this sweet, colorful story. Mythology, science, and adventure come together in this book of betrayal, humor, family, friendship and sacrifice, a book anyone could enjoy.

Janet McNulty: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Anna Kendrick “Scrappy Little Nobody”

14-scrappy-little-nobody.w245.h368.2xTitle: Scrappy Little Nobody

Author: Anna Kendrick

Genre: Memoir/Non-fiction

My Rating: 2/5 stars

 

How the heck are you supposed to write a review or rate a book about someone else’s life? Like, “Uh, yeah, your life sucks, 2/5 stars”? How dare I?

For the record, Anna Kendrick’s life doesn’t suck. Anna Kendrick herself does not even suck. The way she wrote this book does, though.

This was oh so painful for me to read and I have a hard time putting a finger on why. I think there’s a part of me that expected this to be funny, and it wasn’t. Not really. At least, I didn’t think it was funny. The sad thing is, I think it was intended to be funny, but I didn’t think it was. Anna Kendrick is an incredibly funny person, so I truly don’t understand why Scrappy Little Nobody wasn’t funnier.

And the really sad thing is I could tell that she was trying to be funny, but I think I maybe chuckled once while reading this.

The way the book was written seemed incredibly choppy to me. It didn’t flow at all, she just moved on from topic to topic like, bang, bang, bang, bang, too fast for me to keep up, and I’m like, “Hey, what?”

Kendrick talked a lot about Broadway. Which is great, that’s incredibly interesting but like, she talked about it A LOT. She talked a crap-ton about making the movie Camp, which again, super interesting, but I haven’t seen Camp. I don’t understand all these obscure references. I don’t care that much.

Girl honestly, I wanted to read about Pitch Perfect, but she literally mentioned it, like, once. What the poop, Anna Kendrick? (PS – she may have mentioned it more, but I wouldn’t know because I skimmed the last half of the book because it was boring as crap. She definitely didn’t write some big segment about it like she did about her time in High Society ((which nobody cares that much about)).)

Fact is, this was a disappointment. I was looking forward to reading this, laughing, and getting some inside scoop on the creation of one of my favorite movies ever. Instead, all I did was chuckle once and learn a bunch of useless information about Broadway. Boo.

 

Anna Kendrick: Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Margaret Rogerson “An Enchantment of Ravens”

30969741Title: An Enchantment of Ravens

Author: Margaret Rogerson

Genre: Fantasy

My Rating: 3/5 stars

 

In this world of fair folks, the fair seek out the “Craft” of humans. In other words, they themselves are talentless and unable to do the simplest things like cooking and writing, so they pay humans to do these tasks for them. Their payment? Enchantments.

In this story, Isobel is a human whose Craft is to paint. She’s highly-sought after by the fair folk, actually, her talents astounding. They come from far and wide for her to do portrait paintings of themselves and in return, gift her with enchantments of her choosing. Isobel asks for things to protect her and her family, mostly, even though the fair folk laugh at her practicality.

Unfortunately, after doing a portrait for the autumn prince, Rook, and making a terrible mistake, Isobel is taken against her will to stand trial.

My thoughts:

I’m afraid I didn’t do a good enough job of explaining the world in my summary, but sadly it was difficult to do in a way that flowed. I hate to give too much away since I went into this story fairly blind, but know that it’s a beautifully done world with a very interesting concept. I loved the idea of humans having Crafts and that the fair folk were imperfect, as they are rarely anything but supermodels in many other fairy stories.

The beginning of An Enchantment of Ravens was interesting and I found myself hooked from the beginning. Sadly, that’s where it seemed to peak.

There is an obvious attraction between Isobel and Rook, but love between fair folk and humans are strictly prohibited. The punishment: death.

I did not feel their romance at all.

I never got behind their relationship. I never liked Rook. This was a horrendous case of instalove that I could never believe. After spending a few days in the woods with Isobel, Rook decides that he loves her, even though he literally knows nothing about her. She’s immersed in his world so her eventual love for him makes a tiny bit of sense, but he knows nothing of hers. He doesn’t understand the ways of humans; not even their simple mannerisms. There’s no way he loves her.

And sadly yet, the conclusion was so abrupt and sudden.

This book had such a lovely beginning, and it sports some absolutely beautiful writing. However, for it being part romance, I have to actually believe in the couple. And I did not.

 

Margaret Rogerson: Website | Twitter | Tumblr | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Neil Gaiman “The Graveyard Book” Graphic Novels Volume I & II

Title: The Graveyard Book Graphic Novels Volume I & II

Author: Neil Gaiman

Adaptator: P Craig Russell

Illustrator(s): Kevin Nowlan, P Craig Russell, Tony Harris, Scott Hampton, Galen Showman, Jill Thompson, Stephen B Scott, David Lafuente

Genre: Fantasy/Horror

My Rating: 5/5 stars

 

The only exposure I’ve had to Neil Gaiman before this was Trigger Warning and Norse Mythology, both excellent representations but both collections of short stories. I’ve had about the same amount of experience with graphic novels; nonetheless, I was excited about this read.

Full disclosure, I have not actually read The Graveyard Book, but I fully intend to now. I never knew what it was about and just happened to see both volumes of the graphic novel edition at my library, so I didn’t think it would hurt to pick it up. Selfishly, I also know that graphic novels tend to be quick reads and I was thinking about my 100 book reading goal for 2018, but we won’t get into that.

The Graveyard Book is a story about a little boy, affectionately named Nobody Owens, who was raised by ghosts in a graveyard. The rest of his family had been murdered, so the inhabitants of the nearby cemetery take it upon themselves to protect the infant boy and keep him safe.

The only not-dead resident of the graveyard is Silas, who is presumably a vampire but I’m not sure if we’re ever expressly told this. I think it was more implied, and based on his illustrated form, I think it’s safe to come to this conclusion. Since Silas is the only one who can come and go from the graveyard as he pleases, he becomes Nobody’s (nicknamed Bod) guardian, bringing back food, clothing, and other things needed to take care of a growing boy.

This story follows Bod as he grows up in the graveyard and the people that take care of him. We watch him develop and learn new things, watch him make friends, mostly with ghosts, sometimes with humans. We can see how his upbringing has affected him and has made him a more naïve, yet more interesting, person. Bod is curious and brave, but he also likes to get into trouble. We get to follow him on those adventures, too.

Neil Gaiman is oh so creative and this story is unique, special, breathtaking at times, heartbreaking at times, and all-around mesmerizing and beautiful. I truly loved basically every moment of this story. I loved Bod’s interactions with the other ghosts, particularly his relationship with Silas. I loved seeing this entirely new world of the dead and seeing how Bod and others react to it. I loved the mystery surrounding Bod’s family’s deaths. Throughout the story, we get the impression that their murderer is still searching for Bod, and we’re left to wonder why.

As for the illustrations, each chapter or section of the book was done by a different artist. The color scheme remained the same, and basic character’s traits, but the drawings each had a unique look to them which made the reading experience all the more interesting.

This was an absolutely beautiful adaptation of what I assume is a work of art. I’m so excited to read The Graveyard Book but until then, I highly recommend this version.

 

Neil Gaiman: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Markus Zusak “I Am the Messenger”

51Qn-Z31z-LTitle: I Am the Messenger

Author: Markus Zusak

Genre: Contemporary/Mystery

My Rating: 2/5 stars

 

Ed Kennedy is barely living. He’s an underage cab driver, he’s hopelessly in love with his best friend who has friend-zoned him for life, and he basically lives in a shack. He’s a dead-beat. But through a series of strange events, he stops a bank robbery and several days later is served the first ace.

On this playing card, he finds 3 addresses, and upon visiting these addresses finds different people that he needs to take care of; to either hurt or help them. This book follows Ed’s journey as he receives more cards, involves himself in other people’s lives, and ultimately learns an important lesson.

My thoughts:

I feel it should be noted that this book was written by the author of The Book Thief, which I loved. However, I never went into this expecting more of the stuff that The Book Thief has to offer, nor should anyone else. This definitely reads as Markus Zusak with his unique writing style and his John Green way of thinking. You know what I’m referring to: having consistently beautiful and poetic thoughts that are voiced always just ever-so-perfectly. It’s great, don’t get me wrong. However, there was definitely something missing for me this time.

It’s hard to say what it was. Something about the way this was written just didn’t click with me, but I can see how it might appeal to others. I just had a difficult time connecting with Ed, which ended up making this a difficult read. For being such a dead-beat, he thought an awful lot of himself apparently because he felt so entitled to his best friend’s affections. I hate this attitude, and I know many others do as well.

This book is definitely a little more heavy content-wise. If you’re triggered by rape, you may want to steer clear of this book.

Part of me was frustrated by the unrealistic air of the story. What, Ed receives 3 addresses in the mail and he just feels like he has to go there? And then once he gets there, he always knows exactly what he’s supposed to do?

Did I see what this book was trying to do? Yes. The message of the story is obvious, and I can appreciate what Zusak was trying to convey, but I don’t think it was as poignant or moving as it could have been. However, maybe this book didn’t resonate with me, but I can’t say how it might make some other reader feel. Perhaps it’s a matter of taste because I have seen many 4 and 5 star reviews on Goodreads. I’m glad that there are people that took good away from this book; unfortunately, I did not.

 

Markus Zusak: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Kerri Maniscalco “Stalking Jack the Ripper”

28962906Title: Stalking Jack the Ripper

Author: Kerri Maniscalco

Genre: Historical Fiction/Thriller/Mystery

My Rating: 5/5 stars

 

In a time when women were only supposed to be interested in social gatherings, potential suitors and stitching, Audrey Rose was interested in forensic medicine. That is, studying the remains of bodies to determine cause of death.

Audrey studies under her uncle, which she’s grateful for, but she longs to learn more and is forced to keep her apprenticeship a secret from her father. Ever since her mother’s death, her father has been even more protective of Audrey, and he would be mortified to discover how she truly spends her time.

However, a serial killer is on the loose now, and after some investigation, it appears the case hits closer to home than Audrey ever anticipated.

My thoughts:

I positively adored this. I’ve always loved mysteries and thrillers, and this books was the perfect blend of those two things, plus some romance and humor thrown into the mix. This story was complete with a strong female lead, an equally intelligent, charming, sometimes pompous side character, and an intriguing string of murders that keep you guessing throughout.

Audrey Rose was amazing. I typically have a difficult time rooting for YA female leads because they tend to irritate me, but Audrey was smart, clever, quick-witted and could think for herself in a time period where women were encouraged not to. It was easy for me to like her, and there was never a time when my feelings for her wavered.

Our secondary character, Thomas, started off as a jerk, frankly. He’s observant, smart, good looking, and he knows it. Normally, this quality in a character drives me insane, but in Thomas, it was almost a defense mechanism for him: he turned off his emotions and played the part of the devil’s advocate so he didn’t have to open himself up. However, he made it clear from the very beginning that he had feelings for Audrey.

Thomas was complex and interesting and incredibly entertaining to read. His and Audrey’s banter was so much fun, and it was easy to see the chemistry and connection between the two. There was no instalove here: some obvious attraction at the very beginning, with feelings that slowly grew throughout the book. Thomas is amazing and I ship them for the rest of my life.

As for the ending, it was definitely a shock. Technically, I guessed who Jack the Ripper was from about page 50; however, I definitely doubted myself plenty, and I wouldn’t have been surprised had it been anyone else. There was some very subtle evidence pointing toward this person, and it turned out I was right. And while I did guess who Jack was, I never could have guessed his motive.

I’ve said this before and I stick by it: it doesn’t matter if I guess the ending to a story as long as the delivery is still good. In the book One of Us is Lying by Karen M McManus, the author’s reveal of the killer was lame and disappointed me quite a bit. In Stalking Jack the Ripper, the ending still kept me tense and on the edge of my seat, which is exactly what a thriller is supposed to do.

I have all the good things to say about this read. Stalking Jack the Ripper was so much fun, and my first 5 star read in 2018! I will admit, I didn’t think it would come so early in the year, but I hope this is a sign of even better things to come.

Kerri Maniscalco: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads