The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B (Book Review)

Want an example of how not to write a romance? Try this book.

TheUnlikelyHeroOfRoom13B

When Adam meets Robyn at a support group for kids coping with obsessive-compulsive disorder, he is drawn to her almost before he can take a breath. He’s determined to protect and defend her–to play Batman to her Robyn–whatever the cost. But when you’re fourteen and the everyday problems of dealing with divorced parents and step-siblings are supplemented by the challenges of OCD, it’s hard to imagine yourself falling in love. How can you have a “normal” relationship when your life is so fraught with problems? And that’s not even to mention the small matter of those threatening letters Adam’s mother has started to receive . . .

Teresa Toten sets some tough and topical issues against the backdrop of a traditional whodunit in this engaging new novel that readers will find hard to put down.

I think that Adam’s OCD was very well portrayed. It totally messed up his life, but it also didn’t totally define his character. Near the end of the book, you could really feel his downward spiral, and his desperation to get better. I felt sympathetic for him through about half of the story (more on the other half later).

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The mystery portion of the story felt well written. It didn’t take center stage in the story- it was definitely a subplot- but it was enough to keep the tension up, which was nice. I don’t remember ever feeling like the story was dragging too badly. Without the mystery, it definitely would have dragged.

The superhero codenames were such a cute idea, too! And it was an interesting concept, too- the ultimate fake it ’til you make it.

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Adam said some really icky stuff though??? Like, most of the time he was a total sweetheart but he was REALLY demeaning to girls (all girls except Robyn, of course) and he was somehow an elitist about mental illness? He would be like “I may have OCD, but at least I’m not anorexic, haha! Anorexics are the REAL crazies!!!” and it was really gross. Basically, he thought OCD was okay, but anyone who was anorexic or a hypochondriac or self harmed was “crazy”. He thought he was somehow better than everyone else in his support group.

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this was Adam basically

Robyn was totally cardboard, which is weird considering that she was one of the most major characters in the story. I just didn’t GET her character. I didn’t really see any motivation for her except being in love with Adam.

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This story should’ve been told in first person, and you could tell that the author felt the same way, at least subconsciously. It led to some really wacky storytelling. It was third person omnipotent most of the time, but there would be moments where she wrote things like “Adam must have nodded because…” which doesn’t make any sense??? It’s third person. There’s no “he may have nodded”. He either nodded or he didn’t nod. So… I don’t know. The voice felt weird and awkward, and it was confusing for the reader.

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Why was it even written in third person? Who knows?

I WAS NOT AT ALL SOLD ON THE LOVE STORY and it makes me really angry because it had so much potential for cuteness. It was bizarre. Adam was obsessed with Robyn, in a totally unhealthy way. Their relationship was not love, it was infatuation- mostly on Adam’s side. And so little characterization was given to Robyn that it was impossible to feel any chemistry between the two of them. I’ve heard people raving about how cute this story is, and just… no??? It’s not cute??? It’s creepy as heck and totally unbelievable and I just DON’T GET IT.

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It had potential to be a great story about struggling with mental illness but it was kind of ruined for me by a crappy instalove plot (not to mention Adam’s weird elitism).  So… my reaction to this one is basically “no”. I’m going to be generous and give it two stars for a good premise and some redeemable parts.

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2/5 stars

Recommended for: as I said- anyone who wants advice on how not to write romance

This Song Will Save Your Life (Book Review)

WOW TWO REVIEWS IN ONE MONTH. I must be on a roll or something (That was sarcasm, by the way. I call this a book blog but I almost never review anything).

Anyway, I’ve just joined a book club at my library, and we’re meeting on Saturday to discuss This Song Will Save Your Life, so I figured I would review it here first to get my thoughts sorted out a little. And let me tell you, this book was AMAZING. I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to actually intelligently review the book or just sit there and flail my arms around. It was that good.

This is a spoiler free review!

ThisSongWillSaveYourLife

Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, This Song Will Save Your Life is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together.

I love books about music! Playlist for the Dead, If I Stay, basically anything music related I am pretty much guaranteed to at least enjoy, if not love. So music in books is always a bonus for me. And not only was this one about music, but it had a bunch of little playlists at the end!!!

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Her family felt more realistic than a lot of families in YA. Elise’s parents weren’t just obstacles in the way of an epic romance or something – they cared for her, and they wanted to protect her as best they could. They tried their hardest to understand her, instead of grounding her the moment she did something wrong. They were reasonable, and I find that a lot of parents in YA aren’t.

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Also, the romance subplot felt really realistic. If you’re looking for a fluffy romance, this is most definitely not the book for you. The “love interest” (although that’s a questionable term when it comes to him) was a pretty horrible guy, and, although it wasn’t entirely clear, I think Elise realizes that in the end. She was sixteen. It would have been rather ridiculous if she had fallen in Love with a capital L, seeing as she’s so young. I enjoy YA romances now and then, yeah, but they also tend to seem pretty ridiculous most of the time (*cough* The Fault in Our Stars *cough*).

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ALL OF THE CHARACTERS WERE SO FLESHED OUT. And, I mean, sorry for the all caps, but this makes me excited because I love well developed characters. This wasn’t just a story about Elise. It was a story about Elise and the people around her who helped shape who she was as a person. For example, Elise’s two friends, Sally and Chava, at first seemed to be two super shallow, giggly gossip girls with overprotective parents. Elise assumed that they only hung out with her because they weren’t popular enough to have any other friends. In the end, though, you see that Sally and Chava really did care about Elise. Elise had plenty of friends- she just wasn’t able to see that.

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I felt that Elise was a really relatable protagonist. It wasn’t just her misfit status, or her hatred of pop music, or the way she would immerse herself in all-encompassing projects (although those are all traits that I share with her). She just felt… real. She didn’t act like a character in a book who was just acting to further the plot, she reacted in ways that a real person would. This was very much a character driven novel. The plot was there, yeah, but characters who really made the story.

Most of my problems with this book are just minor things. Like… I liked Elise’s character, yeah, but some parts of her arc didn’t make sense to me. Like, how did she learn to be a master DJ in two weeks while also keeping up with school and spending the entire night at a dance club once a week? Also, Mel, the gay bouncer for the dance club, was a bit of a cliche, but then, I did enjoy his protective father/daughter kind of relationship with Elise. And I didn’t get how Elise got away with walking all night, alone, especially considering that her parents knew she was suicidal and she had said herself that they kept a close watch on her.

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I love this book. I’ve read mixed reviews of it, but man, was this one good. It’s made it onto my shelf of Favorite Books (that I don’t actually own), right up there next to The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

5

Four out of five stars

Recommended to: indie music fans, people who liked The Perks of Being a Wallflower, anyone who enjoys character driven novels

Afterworlds (Book Review)

THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING AND EVERY WRITER NEEDS TO READ IT AND LET ME TELL YOU WHY.

This is a spoiler free review!

Afterworlds

Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she’s made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings…

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy’s novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the ‘Afterworld’ to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved – and terrifying – stories need to be reconciled. And when a new threat resurfaces, Lizzie learns her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she loves and cares about most.

I’ve been in a bit of a writing slump lately. Well, okay, a major writing slump. It’s been almost impossible for me to get any motivation to write, even just a short blog post. But Afterworlds gave me that extra motivation I needed! It’s partly a contemporary story about the life of a writer and partly that writer’s paranormal novel. So it was basically just looking at authors and saying “Hey, look, this is what you can achieve!”

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The whole idea of two stories being told in one book kind of weirded me out at first. It seemed like it would be really confusing. But it actually worked really well! There were a lot of parallels between the two worlds, but they’re still very, very different, and it was really easy to keep track of each more-or-less separate story.

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It was a pretty diverse book, too. The main character was a queer person of color, and I felt as though the representation was very well handled. Darcy’s race and sexuality affected her, but it wasn’t like her whole life revolved around being a queer person of color, either. Afterworlds handled some tricky subjects like cultural appropriation and coming out quite well, without making itself into a “problem book”.

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Unfortunately, this book wasn’t exactly perfect.

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Lizzie’s story felt suuuuuuper cliched, and at a few points, it did get kind of boring, especially when compared to the AMAZING first chapter. But I think that proves one of the points that the story overall was trying to make- your first novel may have a great concept, and a great plot, and great characters, but it’s not going to be perfect, because it’s your first novel, and writing takes practice.

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Some of the secondary characters in both stories felt a bit cardboard and two dimensional, too, like Lizzie’s friend (I don’t remember her name) and Yamaraj (the death god who Lizzie falls in love with). But Darcy, Imogen, and Lizzie all felt very well developed, so I didn’t really mind!

So, I mean, overall…

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Critically, it’s a little rough at some points, but I still LOVED this book. Recommended to any writer who’s finding themself in a bit of a slump.

4

4 out of 5 stars

Recommended to: any writers, and YA fans who want to know a little more about the craft

My Favorite LGBT+ Books

The US now has marriage equality- even Texas!!! The fight isn’t over yet- we have a long way to go before we reach true equality. But this is such a huge step, and a cause for celebration!

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So, I’ve decided to compile my top ten books (and comics) starring LGBT+ protagonists to celebrate. There should be something for everyone on this list, whether you like fantasy, contemporary, or anything in between!

Hero

1. Hero by Perry Moore was actually one of the first LGBT+ books I read. It wasn’t really one of the best books that I’ve read, but it stuck with me, because, I mean, even if it’s not perfect, it’s really good. It was partly about the gay protagonist having to grow up with his extremely conservative dad, and partly a really funny parody of superhero stereotypes, so it has a really nice blend of seriousness and comedy.

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2. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth was amaaaaazing and I’m so glad that I finally read it (many thanks to everyone who recommended it to me!). It’s a fantastic contemporary coming-of-age story about a lesbian girl growing up in the Midwest. Also, isn’t the cover just sooo pretty? I’m not usually a fan of covers with photos on them- I prefer artwork, especially the minimalist ones- but this one is really pretty and perfect for the story.

Ash

3. Ash by Malinda Lo is one of my favorite books ever. It’s basically a lesbian retelling of Cinderella, and I loved it, especially considering that LGBT+ fantasy is pretty sparse. Like, I’ve found plenty of good queer contemporary stories, but hardly anything in the way of fantasy??? Anyway. Ash is amazing and 5/5 would recommend!

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4. Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis is AMAZING and LET ME TELL YOU WHY. It’s an epic fantasy with tons of people of color- I don’t think any of the main characters are white- and the main character is bisexual (and bisexual characters are ridiculously hard to find. And excellent representation aside, the world was just beautiful, and the way the magic in this world worked was so interesting. So, basically, this is one of my favorite books of all time.

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5. Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley was another ABSOLUTELY AMAZING book that EVERYONE needs to read RIGHT NOW. Like, if I had to pick a single favorite book, it would probably be this one. It’s a fantastic story that does a really amazing job at discussing race, sexuality, and gender inequality. And the CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT oh my god. Each of the main characters grows so much over the course of the story and just GO READ IT NOW okay?

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6. Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz is another great book. You know how I was mentioning how hard it is to find bisexual characters in books? Well, Not Otherwise Specified is a really good story about growing up, falling in (and out of) love, and never quite feeling like you fit in, starring a very clearly bisexual protagonist.

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7. Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli is a really cute, fluffy book. It does a really good job of blending serious themes with humor and general cuteness, which is something that I really appreciate in books. Unlike a lot of the other books on this list which are either about characters who are already out (like Not Otherwise Specified) or are unable to come out (like Hero and Cameron Post), Simon is mostly about Simon’s coming out. It’s a really heartfelt, realistic book, and I’d definitely recommend it.

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8. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray is absolutely glorious. It’s, like, a feminist take on The Lord of the Flies. There are a lot of main characters, but a good amount of them are queer, and they’re all really diverse. It makes a lot of serious points but it manages to be SUPER funny and sarcastic while it does so. If you’re into comedy and/or social justice, I would definitely highly recommend this one.

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9. The Young Avengers by Kieron Gillen is one of my all time favorite comics. While it admittedly doesn’t have the best plot, it does have really well developed, three dimensional characters, and not one of them is straight! Tommy, Billy, and Miss America are, like, super gay, Noh-Varr, Kid Loki, and Prodigy are bisxual, and Kate is most likely bisexual as well.

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10. The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys by Gerard Way and Shaun Simon is another of my favorite comics, and the world in which it takes place was intentionally created to be very, very queer. The main character, The Girl, has no romantic interest, and in the way of side characters, there are quite a few LGBT+ characters, like the runaway robots Red and Blue (in the picture above), the rebel assassin Korse, and the freedom fighter Party Poison.

What are some of your favorite LGBT+ books?

Vanishing Girls (Review)

A good book, sure. But kind of a disappointment based on the expectations I had going in. Just think “the off brand version of We Were Liars“.

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This is a spoiler free review!

VanishingGirls

New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver delivers a gripping story about two sisters inexorably altered by a terrible accident.

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara’s beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it’s too late.

In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.

“Alarming and uplifting, a rare psychological thriller that has a kind heart at its center. Read it with all the lights on.” — E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars.

First off, I do not understand why anyone would call this book a “thriller”. The pacing was sooooo slow at the beginning, and it didn’t really feel even close to a thriller until the very end. Most of the book just felt like buildup to the very last few pages, instead of a story of its own. It was more like a reaaaaally long prologue than a story. I went in expecting and edge of your seat, heart racing, maybe a little creepy kind of book. But that’s not what it was. And I feel like that’s what causes a lot of my disappointment about this one. It was made out to be something that it’s not.

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The plot twist at the end was really confusing, too. It’s hard to discuss without spoiling it, so I’m just going to stick with saying that it didn’t makes sense. Over the several pages during which it was explained, I was totally lost and had no idea what was going on.  It totally erased what happened over the last several hundred pages- even more so than We Were Liars did- and didn’t accomplish much aside from leaving me feeling confused and lost.Really

But on to the things that I did like.

I really enjoyed the little letters, news articles, and stuff. I love epistolary novels!! Diaries, letters, websites, I don’t care. Just give me more epistolary novels. And, while Vanishing Girls wasn’t exactly an epistolary novel, it did have some epistolary bits that I really enjoyed.

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The relationship between Dara and Nick was also really cool. They were so different, but also so alike, and I really enjoyed that. They were really well fleshed out. The secondary characters left quite a bit to be desired (I want to know more about their mom!) but Dara and Nick at least were interesting, flawed characters. They were both far from perfect, but I still felt really sympathetic for them- and I can say from experience that writing characters like that is definitely not easy! The two of them felt like such cliches at first- Dara was the bad girl and Nick was the good girl. But there was really so much more to it than that.

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So, I mean, in the end, I feel like I would have liked this book waaaay better if I had just expected something different. Read this book. It’s good- not amazing, but good. It has its problems, and the ending is kind of weird when compared to the rest of the story. So don’t go in looking for an “alarming and uplifting psychological thriller”. Look for a slow moving story about two sisters and their journey to forgive each other.

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Three stars out of five. Read it before you read We Were Liars and you’ll enjoy it a lot more.

My Summer To-Do List

Summer is here, and I am totally ready for it. Despite the gruelingly hot summer weather where I live and my hatred for shorts (why is it impossible to find girl’s shorts at a reasonable length?!), I’m still really excited for this summer. I’ve been working on a ton of different lists of different things I’d like to achieve- reading lists, craft lists, music lists. If you can think of it, I probably have a list for it.

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Anyway, here are my goals for this summer. Maybe you’ll get some ideas for yourself!

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Reading

This summer, I’d really like to branch out a little more in terms of what I’m reading, and also focus more on LGBT+ books, especially nonfiction. I tried to keep that in mind while creating my reading list, and in the end came up with a very diverse list, ranging from OCD, The Dude, and Me to 1984. I’ve also found some really interesting looking nonfiction, like a book about psychology (it’s aimed toward teens but not patronizing, which is nice) and some really cool books about the riot girl movement.

I’ve also signed up for the teen summer reading program at my library! I did it last year too, but joined late and was only able to participate in one of the activities. This year, it’s superhero themed, so I’m really excited (and a little nervous, admittedly, but I’m always nervous about meeting  new people, so that’s nothing new). I know I haven’t been posting about it as much lately, but I’m still a massive Marvel fan!

Music

I’d like to learn a little bit more about my ukulele and teach myself a few more songs. As of yet I only know one, so it’ll be fun to learn some more.

I’m also going to start doing some extra chores to earn money for a guitar, because, I mean, the main reason I’m teaching myself ukulele is to get practice for when I have a guitar (I’ve heard that the ukulele makes good practice because the chords are very similar- same shapes, different names). Wish me luck!

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Also, I’m going to keep working on my flute, and hopefully start private voice lessons.

In terms of listening to music (as opposed to playing it), I’d like to branch out a little more. I really do have a pretty wide range of musical tastes, but lately I’ve been sticking pretty closely to my favorite bands and not really trying to find anything new. So this summer I’m going to be enlisting Pandora’s help in finding new music, especially some more punk rock. I’ve listened to a little teeny bit of the Ramones and Joan Jett, but that’s about it.

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Art

I’d like to work on my drawing skills a little, but I don’t really have anything in particular in mind aside from… well, draw more!

My mom found a really cool website called DIY that basically lets you work toward different badges, and it has a lot of cool project ideas that I’m going to try. If you want to see my progress/ what activities I’ve done so far, just check out my profile!

Writing

I don’t have a whole lot of writing-specific goals, but I would like to post more frequently on this blog and try to finish a short story I’ve been working on.

What are you working on/ looking forward to this summer? Do you have any book or music recommendations for me?

Mila 2.0 and Beta (Double Review!)

I’m so sorry for disappearing for such a long time! Some things came up, and I kinda needed a break from blogging anyway. And unfortunately, I’m SUPER busy in May, so posting will probably be pretty irregular until summer.

But anyway, to make up for all of that, I’m doing a super special double review! I did a lot of reading over my break- and, coincidentally, two of the books I read most recently were about cyborgs. So I’m going to be reviewing them together. Enjoy! The reviews are both totally spoiler free, so don’t worry if you haven’t read the book(s) yet.

MILA 2.0

MILA

Mila 2.0 is the first book in an electrifying sci-fi thriller series about a teenage girl who discovers that she is an experiment in artificial intelligence.

Mila was never meant to learn the truth about her identity. She was a girl living with her mother in a small Minnesota town. She was supposed to forget her past—that she was built in a secret computer science lab and programmed to do things real people would never do.

Now she has no choice but to run—from the dangerous operatives who want her terminated because she knows too much and from a mysterious group that wants to capture her alive and unlock her advanced technology. However, what Mila’s becoming is beyond anyone’s imagination, including her own, and it just might save her life.

Mila 2.0 is Debra Driza’s bold debut and the first book in a Bourne Identity-style trilogy that combines heart-pounding action with a riveting exploration of what it really means to be human. Fans of I Am Number Four will love Mila for who she is and what she longs to be—and a cliffhanger ending will leave them breathlessly awaiting the sequel.

Mila 2.0 was a quick read, despite its length. I finished it in about a day, and although it wasn’t really the sort of book that sits in my head for days and makes me wish for more, I did enjoy it.

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On the good side, this book is totally action packed. I really do enjoy a good thriller on occasion, and Mila 2.0 was definitely satisfying. There was always tension and a question or two left unanswered- it was one of those un-put-downable books.

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I also found the characters to be pretty interesting. They weren’t amazing or anything, but most of them had their own hopes, dreams, and motivations. Mila’s worries about her android side were very realistic and not brushed over. And the fight scenes were very well written- I can’t speak for how realistic they were, but they kept me at the edge of my seat and interested in seeing what would happen next, without being overly graphic.

The book had a very good balance of Mila’s internal thoughts and worries balanced with super intense fight scenes and car chases. It was well paced, and I almost never felt like things were moving too quickly or too slowly.

But I said “almost” for a reason. The beginning of this book was admittedly not very interesting. At all. Mila was very whiny and angsty. It was all for a good reason, yet I didn’t feel like I understood her or her backstory enough to really care.

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And, as the cherry on top, the first several characters had a very irritating cast. Mila’s mom was the stereotypical absent parent that pops up a lot in YA, and her friends were totally irritating. I didn’t really see and form of friendship between Mila and Kaylee, yet Mila insisted that Kaylee helped her and was a good friend. And then all of that supposed friendship when- guess what- a boy entered the scene.

Now, I don’t have anything against romance (when it’s well done), but I absolutely hate it when authors neglect friendship in lieu of romance. Which is exactly what happened in Mila 2.0.

Also, I didn’t really understand what was going on with the romance. The book leads you to believe that Mila and Hunter (the boy who she and Kaylee fight over) are going to get together in the first couple of chapters, but then Hunter is totally forgotten about for the rest of the book and another possible love interest is introduced later on.

And, finally, there was no real ending or closure. I’m going to avoid any spoilers, but it felt like a lead in to the next book in the series, not its own self contained story.

3

Recommended for: fans of thrillers and faster books with an interesting plot (even if characters are sometimes neglected), people who are in a reading slump and what to get out of it.

Beta

Beta

Elysia is created in a laboratory, born as a sixteen-year-old girl, an empty vessel with no life experience to draw from. She is a Beta, an experimental model of a teenage clone. She was replicated from another teenage girl, who had to die in order for Elysia to exist.

Elysia’s purpose is to serve the inhabitants of Demesne, an island paradise for the wealthiest people on earth. Everything about Demesne is bioengineered for perfection. Even the air induces a strange, euphoric high, which only the island’s workers-soulless clones like Elysia-are immune to.

At first, Elysia’s life is idyllic and pampered. But she soon sees that Demesne’s human residents, who should want for nothing, yearn. But for what, exactly? She also comes to realize that beneath the island’s flawless exterior, there is an under­current of discontent among Demesne’s worker clones. She knows she is soulless and cannot feel and should not care-so why are overpowering sensations cloud­ing Elysia’s mind?

If anyone discovers that Elysia isn’t the unfeeling clone she must pretend to be, she will suffer a fate too terrible to imagine. When her one chance at happi­ness is ripped away with breathtaking cruelty, emotions she’s always had but never understood are unleashed. As rage, terror, and desire threaten to overwhelm her, Elysia must find the will to survive.

The first in a dazzlingly original science fiction series from best-selling author Rachel Cohn, Beta is a haunting, unforgettable story of courage and love in a cor­rupted world. Praise for Beta: “A terrific premise that is equally well executed…Readers can only hope [the sequel] will be as thrilling as this series kickoff.”–Los Angles Times

Beta was an interesting book. I’ve wanted to read it for a while now, and I was really looking forward to it. But unfortunately, it didn’t really satisfy my high hopes.

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On the positive side, the worldbuilding was very well done. Although the central setting of the book- a private island resort for wealthy elites- was absolutely boring, the world overall was really interesting and I never really felt like I didn’t know enough to understand what was going on. Cohn knows how to build up a futuristic world without confusing readers, that much can be said for her. The setting was lush and intricate and very well explained.

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The plot also had a lot of potential to include some really fabulous commentary on artificial intelligence, classism, free will, and protecting the earth.

And that’s about where the good points come to an end.

This book had a lot of potential, as I just mentioned. But it did not follow through. At all.

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The downside to having an emotionless android as your narrator- in first person point of view, may I add- is rather obvious, I would think. Elysia is boring. She’s one of the dullest protagonists I’ve ever read about, and the rest of the characters were all cardboard caricatures as well. I didn’t care about anyone in this story. They were all so one dimensional.

And that potential political commentary I mentioned? Hahaha nope. It’s brought up a couple of times, but never really developed.

The book is really slow, too. On one hand, we get a lot of detail- but on the other hand, we don’t really figure out what the plot is until the book is almost over.

And the instalove. Oh, god, the instalove.

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Elysia falls in love with a similarly cardboard boy. It doesn’t work out and, five pages, maybe ten before the book ends, she meets another guy and decides that he’s, like, her second choice. What?!

But all this aside, the book was remarkably problematic. It emphasized the themes of free will, and then threw all that out the window with an ending in which the main character is forced to stay with a boy she doesn’t love and carry an unwanted pregnancy, even though it threatens her health. Oh, and did I mention that she’s only seventeen years old?

So, yeah. Good plot that’s ruined by flat characters and a blatantly pro-life ending (even after tons of discussion about the importance of making your own choices).

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Recommended for: people who want to learn more about world building. That’s it. Read it for the intriguing world and don’t expect interesting characters or a well done plot.

The Book Lover’s Questionnaire Tag

Many thanks to Horse Feathers for tagging me in this!

BookLover

Do you have a specific place for reading?

I’m not really all that picky, but I do have two spaces that I especially like. One of them is on my bed… mostly just because it’s familiar and comfy. The other on our couch. There’s this perfect spot in the corner where I can lean back on the cushy part and also prop up my arms on both sides so it’s really nice for reading and writing. And there’s an end table right next to me for tea and stuff.

Comfy

Bookmark or random piece of paper?

It used to be random pieces of paper, but I’ve luckily gotten back into the habit of using actual bookmarks. My brother, on the other hand, will use anything nearby, including blankets and other books.

Can you stop anywhere in a book or do you have to finish the chapter?

Usually I’m fine with just stopping in the middle of the chapter. I have a somewhat decent memory so I can usually figure out where I left off pretty quickly. Sometimes I’ll use needing to finish the chapter as an excuse to finish reading, though.

OneMorePage

Music or TV while reading?

I can’t focus with the TV on, especially if it’s something that I enjoy. Sometimes if it’s really bad then I can read, but that’s about it. I do listen to music while I’m reading, though. I’m almost always listening to music, honestly.

Do you eat or drink while reading?

Yes. Usually just a glass of water and a bowl of Goldfish or something (I freaking love Goldfish). I also read while I eat sometimes. A lot of my older books, like Harry Potter, have food stains on the pages from that, but over the years I’ve gotten better at it and by now I can almost always keep my books clean when I read while eating.

One book at a time or several?

I can only read one novel at a time without getting distracted, but I can read books of different genres and still keep them all straight in my head. Usually I’m reading a novel, a comic book, and a nonfiction book at basically any given time. Sometimes I just need to tell myself “okay, no more comics until you finish this novel” but I mean I can usually read several books at a time as long as they’re different genres.

Reading at home or elsewhere?

I’m kind of easily distracted unless I’m SUPER into whatever I’m doing at the moment, so it’s usually easier for me to focus when I’m at home and have a stable work environment.

Squirrel

Read out loud or silently?

I absolutely loathe reading out loud. I have a bit of a stutter (one of the many reasons why I love drama and acting- I know exactly what to say and so I don’t stutter) and so reading out loud is always kind of awkward, especially if I’m reading it for the first time. Reading in my head just feels more comfortable, you know?

Do you read ahead or skip pages?

Never

But seriously. I never, ever read ahead. It ruins the book.

Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?

I always crack the spine. It’s one of my worst habits with books and I’d really like to stop doing it, but I can never figure out how to comfortably read a paperback without cracking the spine.

Do you write in your books?

I tried doing it once in third grade and I felt so horrible afterwards and up until recently I’d never done it again. Now I have to do it for certain school assignments and write annotations in my books (although they usually end up less like “scholarly notes” and more like “snide comments”). I kind of enjoy it, really, but I still doubt that I’d do it unless I had to.

I’m not tagging anyone in particular, but feel free to do this if you want to!

Playlist for the Dead (Review)

It’s been a long time since I reviewed anything. Oops. Anyway, Playlist for the Dead was… very good, but flawed. It was by all means not a perfect book, but I still really liked it.

PlaylistForTheDead

A teenage boy tries to understand his best friend’s suicide by listening to the playlist of songs he left behind in this smart, voice-driven debut novel.

Here’s what Sam knows: There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, his best friend, Hayden, was dead. And all he left Sam was a playlist of songs, and a suicide note: For Sam—listen and you’ll understand.

As he listens to song after song, Sam tries to face up to what happened the night Hayden killed himself. But it’s only by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him that he will finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story. And maybe have a chance to change his own.

Part mystery, part love story, and part coming-of-age tale in the vein of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Tim Tharp’s The Spectacular Now, Playlist for the Dead is an honest and gut-wrenching first novel about loss, rage, what it feels like to outgrow a friendship that’s always defined you—and the struggle to redefine yourself. But above all, it’s about finding hope when hope seems like the hardest thing to find.

I’m going to start off with the positive things here- because even if I didn’t love this book, I still really enjoyed it.

Playlist for the Dead was a complex story. It dealt a lot with how a lot of the time, people aren’t really what they seem at first glance. Almost every single one of the characters had more to them than Sam initially realized, which was something that I really enjoyed. The novel seemed quite shallow at first, but as the story progressed, you started to realize that everyone had their own motivations and struggles.

Also, I actually recognized quite a few of the songs and the bands they mentioned! Sam and Hayden’s musical tastes were pretty similar to mine. They brought up Paramore, The Ramones, Vampire Weekend, Blink-182, Florence and the Machine, and even Fabulous Killjoys/ Umbrella Academy (not sure which one, just that it was “a comic book series written by the lead singer of My Chemical Romance”). That was a nice surprise.

I also really liked the writing style. It was concise and not all purple prose and pointlessly confusing metaphors (I’m lookin’ at you, We Were Liars).

But now on to the not-so-good stuff. Because it was definitely there.

Meh3

The ending was a ginormous disappointment. It felt like the entire book was leading up to something that just… didn’t happen (spoilers in the white text because I REALLY NEED TO DISCUSS THIS). The playlist was just a McGuffin. It had absolutely nothing to do with the mystery? Sam spent the entire book trying to figure out what it meant, and then there was just… nothing. And the Athena “plot twist” was completely predictable. I know who Athena was from the start. I guess I kind of get it- the point of the story was mostly that Sam needed to stop dwelling on the past and learn to move forward- but I think that needed to be hinted at throughout the story, instead of treating it like a mystery and then suddenly spinning around and completely forgetting the playlist. It was frustrating.

I think that was partially because of another difficulty with this book- it didn’t have anything specific it wanted to accomplish plot-wise. It was a romance, a mystery, a coming of age story, and a bunch of other stuff. I feel like it would’ve been a lot more heartfelt and meaningful and stuff if it had just decided what story it wanted to tell.

Really

Anyway, one last thing I’d really like to discuss, because I have very mixed feelings about it as well- the book’s treatment of suicide.

On one hand, it did a very, very good job of pointing out the fact that even when it seems like you’re completely alone in the world, there are people who care. Hayden’s death pretty much shattered the worlds of the people around him, even though he made it pretty clear that he felt as though he was alone and didn’t matter.

NotAlone

But then, on the other hand… the fact that it’s told from Sam’s point of view instead of Hayden’s gives it a sort of emotional distance. And there was the fact that it gave a huge impression that there’s always a reason for suicide. Although I’ve never been in that position myself, from my understanding, there isn’t always a set in stone reason. I dunno. I don’t feel completely qualified to discuss this, but Feminist Fiction does a very good job with it.

Anway… a good book that had a heck of a lot of potential but just didn’t really accomplish everything that it could have.

3

Three stars out of five, but definitely recommended to people who like three dimensional characters.

The Chocolate Book Tag

ChocolateBookTag

Thanks to Musings From Neville’s Navel for tagging me in this one! It looks like a lot of fun, and it combines two of the best things in the world- chocolate and books!

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ViciousDark chocolate: A book that covers a dark topic

There are plenty of them, but I think I’m going to go with Vicious by VE Schwab because wow that was a dark book. It was all about how power corrupts, what happens when people take it upon themselves to be the judge and the jury, and whether the lesser evil counterbalances the greater evil (didn’t word that as well as I could have, but oh well). Basically, a dark book, totally full of moral dilemmas and stuff like that (which I love). It’s a fantastic story, though. Definitely worth a read.

White chocolate: Your favorite lighthearted/humorous read

(White chocolate isn’t real chocolate, y’all. But oh well.)DiaryOfAWimpyKid

It’s slightly embarrassing, but… I really do love the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. I’ve loved them for a while now- my fifth and sixth grade teachers both had all of the books that were out at that point sitting on a shelf in the back of the classroom, and if I finished my work early (which I often did), I would go read one of them because they were funny and only took me about half an hour to read. They’ve always been a bit of a guilty pleasure series for me- at first I  would even hide them under my desk because people were used to me reading big huge novels that doubled the weight of my backpack- but eventually I got over that, and now I read them more or less shamelessly. They’re so funny! They make me laugh every time, even if they’re just a teensy bit juvenile.

FairestMilk chocolate: A book with a lot of hype that you’re dying to read

Fairest by Marissa Meyer- I know, shame on me, I haven’t read it yet. I really, really love The Lunar Chronicles, but Queen Levana always struck me as a rather flat villain. It was strange, considering how well developed the other characters were. So I was super excited to hear that Queen Levana was getting her own novella because character development! Yay! And I’ve hear such good things about it, too- the way that it gives Levana motivation without taking away her creepiness and evilness. An impressive feat. I’d really love to read, I just need to wait until I can get a copy from my library.

Chocolate with a caramel center: A book that made you feel all gooey in the middle EleanorAndParkwhile you read it

I always feel gooey inside, technically speaking. I mean, I have organs, right? They’re pretty gooey.

OrgansSwishSwish

OrgansSwishSwishPart2

But okay, serious answer now. One book that I got super fangirly over was Eleanor and Park. It’s suuuuper cute and fluffy but it’s also far more relatable (for me, at least) than other teen romance novels. Both of the protagonists are nerdy, love comic books and punk rock, and are pretty insecure. It’s nice to read a romance novel (or any novel, really) where you can actually see yourself in the main character’s shoes, and that’s something that doesn’t happen for me often. Also Eleanor and Park are such a perfect couple. I couldn’t help but fangirl a little.

WeWereLiarsWafer Free Kit Kat: A book that has surprised you recently

…Wafer Free Kit Kat? That’s a thing that actually exists? But… doesn’t that totally defeat the purpose of a Kit Kat? i’m so confused right now. Why would you do that? Isn’t it just regular milk chocolate?…

Still confused about that. But anyway, We Were Liars was a pretty big surprise. After hearing so many good things about it, I expected a lot. And, I mean, I still liked it. The plot twist really was amazing, but the rest of the book was super mediocre and not really all that impressive. It was okay, I guess. Just not even close to what I thought it would be. It was pretty disappointing, to be honest. I’d probably have liked it better if I’d gone in without the expectations that I did.

Snickers: A book you’re going nuts aboutOtherbound

There… honestly aren’t any lately. I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump. I am about halfway through Otherbound, though, and it’s been super awesome so far! The story is amazing, and I really love Amara’s world- it’s so, so interesting. And the book is also super diverse! One of the two main characters is disabled (he has a prosthetic leg), I don’t think there’s been a single white main character as of yet, and I’m pretty sure Amara is bisexual. It’s always pleasant when you find a book like that, and it doesn’t happen very often. It really emphasizes how so many YA books lack diversity. Anway, you should all definitely read it because I’m really liking it so far.

HarryPotterHot chocolate with cream and marshmallows: A book that you would turn to for a comfort read

The Harry Potter books, no question! Especially The Sorcerer’s Stone, since it’s so much more lighthearted than the other books. The series has been by my side for a long time, and I’m sure it will be by my side for years to come.


I’m not tagging anyone in particular, but if you’re reading this (and you have a blog), consider yourself tagged!