BOOK REVIEW: Francesca Zappia “Eliza and Her Monsters”

eliza-and-her-monstersTitle: Eliza and Her Monsters

Author: Francesca Zappia

Genre: Contemporary

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

 

Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the screen name behind the creator of the world-famous web comic, Monstrous Sea. However, she leads this life of anonymity because offline, Eliza is quiet, anxiety-ridden and terrified.

Then she meets Wallace, who she finds out is one of the most famous Monstrous Sea fan-fiction writers around, and she struggles to tell him her true identity. Instead, she befriends him, quietly reading the fan-fiction that he gives her to beta read. She fangirls about Monstrous Sea with him. They grow closer.

But obviously, it’s never that easy, is it?

My thoughts:

There were a lot of things to love about Eliza and Her Monsters. I love any book that represents fandom culture accurately and this was definitely a lot of fun. I used to write fan-fiction years ago so this was also very interesting to read for that reason.

Wallace was a sweet, in-depth character and it was fun to see the relationship between him and Eliza develop.

Sadly, I found myself frustrated with Eliza for much of the book, for simple things. Not knowing the basic interests of her younger brothers. Being angry at her parents for not understanding her life but refusing to tell them that she’s a world-famous web comic creator. Her unpleasant attitude. And for someone who struggled with anxiety and low-self esteem, she had quite a high opinion of herself, basically looking down on everyone she went to school with.

I don’t fault Eliza for her mental illness. I completely understand and suffer from anxiety sometimes myself, although definitely not as extreme as hers. What I don’t understand is being so thoughtless and self-centered that you won’t just try to get to know your own family. I just couldn’t get on board with her character.

Also, was definitely not a fan of the time when Wallace got angry with Eliza for being unable to finish her series just so he could further himself and his own career. When he literally just chapters ago was saying he wouldn’t fault an author for not finishing a book if it caused them misery or pain. Nice going, Wallace.

This was a page-turner and I definitely was into the story. Unfortunately, there was a disconnect between me and the main character that just really kept me from enjoying this more.

 

Francesca Zappia: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

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BOOK REVIEW: Kerri Maniscalco “Hunting Prince Dracula”

33784373Title: Hunting Prince Dracula

Author: Kerri Maniscalco

Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Historical Fiction

My Rating: 3/5 stars

 

In this second installment in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series, Audrey and Thomas are on their way to Romania which homes one of the finest forensic schools around. It also happens to be the castle of Vlad the Impaler.

Audrey is still recovering from the events surrounding the Ripper case, which hit much closer to home than anyone outside of her family and Thomas realizes. She struggles to maintain her spot in the school, where she’s already unwanted but now has to fight the panic she feels every time she sees a dead body.

So Audrey decides that if she can solve the mysterious murders that have been occurring around the castle lately, she can prove to the headmaster that she’s worthy of attending his school.

My thoughts:

I definitely didn’t love this. Which was truly a disappointment because Stalking Jack the Ripper was my first 5 star read of 2018. It was entertaining and interesting and swoon-worthy – everything I want in a book. Unfortunately, I found I had a much more difficult time clicking with Hunting Prince Dracula.

For one, I found myself bored for the majority of the book and felt that it could have been condensed a good bit. Audrey’s inner struggles, while understandable, were frustrating because she refused to do anything to remedy it. I obviously sympathized with her but it’s like my mama said: Don’t complain about a problem if you’re doing nothing to fix it.

I also thought that them going to school in a castle, a castle that happened to be Vlad the Impaler’s, was a little far-fetched. I can reach a lot when I’m reading, and I can ignore a lot of stuff if I want to. Still, for historical fiction, this seemed a little much.

That’s not to say that I hated this book. In the last bit, it started to pick up. The big reveal was interesting and exciting and everything I want in a murder mystery. I absolutely adore Thomas and Audrey. Could their flirting become a little much? Maybe. Was it annoying that Audrey went along with the flirting constantly but insisted she didn’t want to be with him? Yeah, definitely. Did I still swoon? Heck yeah.

And honestly, while I didn’t love this book, it’s not like it’s going to keep me from reading the rest of the series. I’m totally here for a kick-butt, progressive heroine who goes against the grain and her totally adorable side-kick/boyfriend. Bring ’em on, Maniscalco.

 

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

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: 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

The Best Books I Read in 2017

This year was full of many duds when it came to new releases or even old releases that I finally got around to, but there were a few stand-outs that really caught my attention and became new favorites of mine, the first of which was Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham.

CpH4ANsVUAE5OwOGilmore Girls is one of my favorite TV shows, and Lorelai is one of my favorite characters. She’s sassy, spunky, quirky, and hilarious, and I hoped that reading Graham’s memoir would make me love the actor who played her. (PS – it did.)

This reading experience was so much fun; Graham’s voice was so clear through her writing, and I can only imagine how wonderful this audiobook must have been. I loved reading about her life and some behind the scenes tidbits from Gilmore Girls, Parenthood, and A Year in the Life. This was my first 5 star read of 2017 and really just made my heart so happy.

29772863Next up was a graphic novel by none other than Marissa Meyer, a personal favorite of mine and a staple in the YA book community. That book would be Wires and Nerve, which is a sort of spin-off of the Lunar Chronicles following the adventures of Iko the android. Seeing as Iko was never a favorite character of mine, I was surprised by how much fun I had reading this and how much I now anticipate book two! This was my second experience reading a graphic novel and it has also given me a thirst for more. (PS – if anyone has any recommendations for other good graphic novels, comment below because seriously, I need more.)

DocumentAnother surprise was Caraval by Stephanie Garber. You can read my full review for this book here, but basically this book was incredible. It had everything I ever wanted and checked all of my boxes and was absolutely amazing. There was magic and mystery and action and romance and twists and family drama, and truly I cannot recommend this book enough. I want to buy copies for everyone I know and force them to read this except I don’t have that kind of money, so all I can say is: do whatever you can to get your hands on a copy of Caraval.

9781250050748Another book that I loved was This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales. For some reason, this received a 4 star rating according to my Goodreads, but that may change upon further inspection because really, this book was so incredibly moving. Not only did I relate to the main character, I felt that it was a beautiful story of redemption and growth and moving past the pain of your past. I wrote a full review for this book here, so feel free to check out my complete thoughts on it and then hopefully pick up the book for yourself.

34538054The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones is another book that snuck up on me and became a quick favorite. The story was very unique and sucked me in fairly easily, but ended up really tugging on my heart-strings as well. I didn’t expect this to be such an emotional read, although I should have based on other people’s reactions. This was such a special book with such a heart-wrenching ending, but I can see myself rereading this for sure. Definitely check this pick out, and also my original review for it.

29385546Marie Lu’s most recent release definitely made it on the list; Warcross exceeded my expectations. I didn’t want to get too caught up in the hype lest it let me down, but this book is well-deserving of the praise. It was cool and modern, with interesting characters, a steamy love interest, and an awesome concept. This book made me want to get sucked into video game culture and participate in this world of virtual reality and technology. Check out my full review for Warcross here.

81uGB-QT1hLGeekerella by Ashley Poston was not a surprise favorite for me. I went into this book 100% certain that I was going to love it, and I was not disappointed in the slightest. This fairytale retelling of a fangirl Cinderella was adorable, funny, fresh, and such good fun. I wrote a review for Geekerella here, but you can just take my word for it: this retelling is so worth it. You may think that this story has been wrung dry, but I think there are still so many new and special ways to tell this classic tale.

Xpress-YA-Bardugo-TheLanguageofThornsThe last favorite of 2017 was The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo. Sometimes I have issues with short story collections because typically, there are a few in the batch that aren’t as good as the others. This was not the case with this compilation. Every single story included in The Language of Thorns was exceptional, and I was so pleased with the entire reading experience. The illustrations on every page were stunning, and the stories were all beautiful and unique. Check out my review for this book here, and then buy it for yourself because you know you want to.

This was such an incredible batch of books and I’m so excited for the new stories I’ll be introduced to in the coming year! What are some of your most anticipated 2018 releases?

BOOK REVIEW: C.J. Tudor “The Chalk Man”

519g-w0P6xL.SX316.SY316Title: The Chalk Man

Author: C.J. Tudor

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

My Rating: 2/5 stars

 

Eddie and his friends used the chalk figures as a secret code to use amongst them; they’d draw on each other’s driveways to invite one another to different areas of the little English village they all lived in. That is until one day, the figures led the boys into the forest to the remains of a young girl’s body.

That was back in 1986. It’s 2016 now, and Eddie is a school teacher, still living in the village he grew up in. The events of 1986 still haunt him, though, and he’s determined to forget everything that happened; even when he and the rest of the old gang receive chalk men in the mail.

Except one of them dies. It seems that Eddie and the remaining gang members must work together and face their demons in order to solve the murder, or else more of them may die.

My thoughts:

This is going to be a difficult book for me to review. Let me start out by saying that I really wanted to like this, and I found myself justifying several things that made me uncomfortable throughout, hoping that it would turn out better. I hoped that the end would just blow me away and it would make everything else seem inconsequential. Unfortunately, the end was not mind-blowing, and the parts I had concerns about remained concerning.

First of all, I’m a religious person. I’m a Christian, but I am also aware that there are many people in the world that consider themselves religious that are also horrible people, and they tend to ruin it for the good people. So to be clear: just because you call yourself a Christian does not make you a good person.

So one of the adversaries in this book was the village vicar, who was an absolutely terrible person. I do not dispute this. He did awful things throughout the duration of this story and he should have suffered major consequences. Still, the author seemed to make anyone who was remotely religious out to be evil, spiteful, hateful people, and all the non-religious characters were understanding and kind and knowing. And I have issues with that.

I won’t get into it more than that. I only feel like I need to stick up for the people in my life who associate themselves with this type of belief system and say that neither I nor any of my peers are like the religious folk in The Chalk Man.

Moving on, the pacing of this was very interesting and well done. The chapters alternate between 1986 and 2016, and each chapter ended in some sort of cliff hanger. So if you wanted to find out how the events of the previous chapter play out, you have to read at least 2 more chapters. This is an interesting strategy but all in all I think it worked out nicely. I finished the book quickly due to both this aspect and of course wanting to get to the end to find out what happens.

Unfortunately, the author made the villain out to be quite obvious from the very beginning. Whenever this happens, I tend to guess that it’s a character you wouldn’t think of, somebody you’d least suspect. I ignore the villain that the author is trying to throw in my face and distract me with because no, it can’t be this guy, it has to be the goofy, side character that no one thinks twice about.

No, it was the character the author was trying to throw in my face.

This is so frustrating for me as a reader who likes to be surprised and see major twists occur. The author did include a morsel of a twist in the final chapter, but it was definitely not enough to satisfy me. The Chalk Man was creepy and at time good, thrilling fun, but was ruined by a disappointing conclusion.

 

C.J. Tudor: Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Jenny Han, Siobhan Vivian “Burn for Burn”

1442440759Title: Burn for Burn

Author(s): Jenny Han, Siobhan Vivian

Genre: Contemporary

My Rating: 1/5 stars

 

As I may have mentioned before, I don’t typically write full reviews for books that I’ve DNF’d. However, there have been an awful lot of DNFs on my book log lately, so I at least wanted to offer an explanation about this one.

Burn for Burn is a book about three of your high school stereotypes getting revenge on more classic “mean girl”-esq characters. I knew this before going into this book and I even predicted that I was going to hate it, but I opened it anyway in hopes that it would surprise me.

It did not.

Maybe it’s because lately I’ve been reading more adult books, but I’m just no longer drawn to this high school scene where everyone is stabbing each other in the back and doing horrible things to one another. However, if I were honest, I don’t think I’ve ever been drawn to stories featuring this kind of high school.

Sure, are there people in my life that have wronged me or made me feel like less that I would just love to get revenge on? Yes. And I think that’s what this book tried to be. Han and Vivian probably wrote this with good intentions; to stoke a fire and give strength to the beaten and downtrodden.

However, I can say for certain that I’ve never had any desire to harm any of the people that have hurt me. All I’ve ever really wanted was the courage to tell these people how they made me feel, and for them to magically understand my pain and be genuinely sorry. Obviously, this is just as much a fantasy as anything this book had to offer, but I think that the message this book is sending is dangerous.

Instead of plotting horrid schemes and wishing ill on the people who commit cruel acts, we should teach today’s young people to instead speak out against these acts and to use their words to create good.

As for this book, maybe the three protagonists were able to build a special relationship amongst themselves and somehow redeem this story, but based on other reviews that I’ve read, I don’t think this stops them from their spiteful plotting of revenge. People get hurt, emotionally and physically, and overall it’s not the kind of message we should be sending to teenage girls.

 

Jenny Han: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Siobhan Vivian: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Leigh Bardugo “The Language of Thorns”

Xpress-YA-Bardugo-TheLanguageofThornsTitle: The Language of Thorns

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Genre: Fantasy

My Rating: 5/5 stars

 

After my last two experiences reading the works of Leigh Bardugo, I admit I was beginning to lose faith. Shadow and Bone is one of my all-time favorite trilogies, and Six of Crows is hailed by many. However, after reading Wonder Woman: Warbringer and her short story included in Slasher Girls and Monster Boys, I was disappointed to say the least. I thought that maybe she had lost her touch.

I am happy to say I was wrong.

The Language of Thorns is a collection of short stories set in the world of the Grisha, (aka the Grishaverse). While originally meant to be a prequel to Shadow and Bone, Bardugo took a different route: what are some tales that some of our favorite characters may have been told as children? What are some legends or stories from the Grisha’s past that might interest fans of this world?

Each story was beautifully told and left me feeling breathless, gasping, excited, heartbroken, surprised. It’s a series of stories with no real duds; every one of them was enjoyable and well told. Bardugo admits that she drew inspiration from some classic fairytales, but gave either a darker spin or a beautiful origin story.

Without giving too much away, there are stories originating from different regions of the Grishaverse: from Zemeni, Ravka, Kerch, and Fjerda. Each story is unique with stunning illustrations on every page that pertain to the story. Then at the end of each tale is a full-page illustration, also pertaining to the story. All are in the same style, and all are absolutely beautiful. I didn’t think I’d care much for the pictures before I picked up the book, but now that I have, I appreciate them fully.

Truly, this is some of Bardugo’s most awe-inspiring work. I’m ashamed now that I didn’t read it the moment that I owned it. I hate to leave a review with barely 300+ words, but there’s not much I can say that won’t spoil any of the stories. All I can say is that this is worth the read, and it comes highly recommended.

 

Leigh Bardugo: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Jennifer Niven “Holding Up the Universe”

28686840Title: Holding Up the Universe

Author: Jennifer Niven

Genre: Contemporary

My Rating: 1/5 stars

 

Once known as “America’s Fattest Teen”, Libby Strout used to be so big that she was unable to fit through her bedroom door. Firemen were called, and she was lifted by crane from her home. After losing much of the weight, though, Libby is ready to go back to high school after several years of homeschooling.

As for Jack Masselin, he has a problem that’s not as easily spotted: he’s unable to recognize faces. He manages to make it through school by being charming, knowing just what to say and learning to recognize people by other traits. He manages to fake it so no one knows his secret.

My thoughts:

Through a series of unlikely scenarios, these two characters come together to form a friendship, and I’m forced to assume more than that? I wouldn’t know because I only made it about 1/3 of the way through this book.

I don’t typically review books that I’ve DNF’d, but I find it difficult not to share my concerns about Holding Up the Universe. There was so much that was unrealistic about this that it was hard for me to take it seriously. I couldn’t help but wonder how this idea ever made it past Niven’s agents, or whoever decides what books get published.

I’m fully aware of how real of a problem that bullying is. While I never attended public school myself, I was definitely not well-liked in the private schools/homeschool groups that I attended in middle school. I was always the odd ball and occasionally made fun of. I was never bullied for my weight; I was a skinny kid so at least I didn’t have that going against me. However, I have such a hard time believing that a fat girl can’t walk down the hall without one person snickering at her or making fun of her. It seems unnecessarily cruel.

Please correct me if I’m wrong. As I stated, I never went to public school, but most of the people I know who did say that it’s never as bad as it’s portrayed on TV. And even though I was never a part of that scene, I was still a kid who spent plenty of time with other kids, and I gave many of them plenty of reasons to bully me. I seem to have come away from it only slightly scarred.

While I wasn’t overweight as a teenager, I’m a little on the plus size now. I read this book and I have a hard time believing that Jennifer Niven understands at all what it’s like to be fat. I’m not saying that a writer has to be fat in order to write the part of a fat character; however, she doesn’t seem to understand Libby herself, so it was hard for me to connect with the character regardless of me being overweight as well.

I’m all for a story about empowerment and self-love, but even though Libby had seemed to come to terms with her body and the way she looked, she based her happiness and her self-confidence on whether or not she could get a boyfriend. She literally walked into school on her first day back hoping to find a boy who would “sex the weight right off” of her. Um, what?

Don’t even get me started on Jack. His character was even less believable, and I couldn’t connect with him on any level. He was cocky and confusing and shallow.

I closed the book for good during a part where the two MCs are in the car together. Jack thinks in his head something along the lines of: “I can feel the electricity between us” (paraphrased). Excuse me? What electricity? These two were hardly friends, let alone romantic. There was no chemistry between them. Niven literally forced these two to fall in love and it was cringe-worthy to say the least. Can someone say “instalove”?

This book was trying too hard to be Eleanor & Park, and frankly, I think you should go read that instead. And for the record, this is the second time I have DNF’d a book by Jennifer Niven. Seeing as we’re 2/2, I think we should stop seeing each other. Bye.

 

Jennifer Niven: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: E Lockhart “Genuine Fraud”

https___blueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com_uploads_card_image_346502_3ea5e24d-98fb-49fd-9586-7269cef4e243Title: Genuine Fraud

Author: E Lockhart

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

My Rating: 2/5 stars

 

This is the story of a woman who is a master of disguise and reinvention. Jule’s cleverness and quick thinking (and constant costume changes) keep her out of trouble and living her luxurious lifestyle.

Unfortunately, that’s about all this book is about.

You’ll find that it’s difficult to even summarize this book because I feel as though very little actually happens. I’m not quite sure what the main plot truly is. The concept is intriguing and I like the idea of the story, but it never goes anywhere.

This is so terribly difficult to review. I was disappointed by this, to say the least. We Were Liars by E Lockhart had such a shocking twist, and I was expecting much the same from this novel. The story is told in backwards chronological order, and while I understand why, it didn’t make things any less confusing. And I was expecting a solid ending that wrapped things up and left [at least most] everything explained. Ultimately, I closed the book feeling dissatisfied, puzzled, and confident I had just wasted several hours of my life.

I wish I had more to add to this review, but seeing as very little happened in this book, I have very little to say about it. All in all, Genuine Fraud was anticlimactic. frustrating, and pointless. By all means, however, read Lockhart’s earlier work We Were Liars, or another thriller I recently read, Little Monsters by Kara Thomas.

 

E Lockhart: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads