Ahgottahandleonit by Donovan Mixon

Boy oh boy did I not enjoy this book.  It was very clearly a debut novel.  There was too much going on.  Too many characters that we followed.  Passages of poetry that didn’t move the story forward and didn’t seem to connect to the characters.  Yes I realize that Tim, the main character, is a poet, but these poems just didn’t connect to the story for me.  Sometimes it felt like the author was writing this based on things that he learned in his high school English class.  Ahh yes, there must be metaphors and similes.  Let’s have some imagery.  I feel like this could have been a really important book with an important story to tell but it just didn’t work for me.

1 Star

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy

I don’t know why but I had a hard time getting through this book.  I usually enjoyed it when I was reading but I just couldn’t get myself to sit down and read it.  In fact, I read an entire different book in the middle of reading this one, which I rarely ever do.

I very much enjoyed the sections of the book where Ariel Levy discussed her life as a writer and the assignments she worked on.  I loved hearing about her adventures, the people she talked to, where she went to track down a story.  The writer in me loves hearing about how other writers work.

I know her personal struggles were what was supposed to be important here, and while I felt for her and everything she was going through, it was hard for me to connect with her.  Maybe I am just too young and can’t relate to what she is talking about but I found that there was very little tonal shift in her storytelling.  The beginning of the book tells you exactly what terrible things are going to happen and then the remainder of the book has this heavy, foreboding shadow hanging over it the whole time.  I didn’t really believe her when she said that she was happy and so I didn’t feel like her life changed drastically when she lost some of those things.

I think that this would have worked better for me as a collection of essays rather than a memoir.  I feel like she got lost in the idea of writing a memoir and the story arc that needed to be created in that manner.

3-stars

Afterlife with Archie, Vol. 1: Escape from Riverdale by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

I have scoffed at the idea of this since I heard it existed.  “Zombie Archie?  Why do we need that?”  But, after reading Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, I decided that I needed to give Afterlife with Archie a try.  And boy is it silly.  Well, and a bit scary.  But mostly silly scary.

After the interesting plot and storytelling in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, I was disappointed in this one.  It’s pretty much just a straight-forward zombie story.  The one thing that this one had the Sabrina didn’t have, though, is amazing artwork.  Where the story was lacking, the beautiful art made up for it.  I just wish that we could have the story from Sabrina with the art from Afterlife.  Then, Aguirre-Sacasa would have a great, highly entertaining graphic novel on his hands.

3-stars

Need by Joelle Charbonneau

Holy crap.  This book was intense.  And it reminded me of how truly terrible teenagers can be.

Joelle Charbonneau’s teenage thriller took me on quite the adventure.  I was actually incredibly angry when I looked at the clock and realized that I had to go to work because I NEEDED ANSWERS.  I always judge a good thriller by whether or not I can see the twist coming and, for the majority of the book I didn’t see what was coming.  Until I did.  And that’s where the book got confusing for me.

I was sure while I was reading the first 3/4 of the book that this was going to be a 5-star (or 5-sequinbeast, in my judging system) book and then I hit the end and it completely lost me.  I still don’t understand the ending and the motivations that caused all of the action in the book to happen.  Maybe I just need to go back and re-read it cause there is the possibility I missed something.  But it all seemed confusing and, at least to me, was not the ending I was hoping for.  I know, I know, authors don’t have to end books how I want them to.  I was just hoping to have more answers, to finally understand what was happening.

That said, this is a great YA thriller.  Just be warned that there is some terrible violence, so keep that in mind when thinking about what age to recommend it to.

4-stars

Lust & Wonder by Augusten Burroughs

Years and years ago I read Running with Scissors and decided that I needed to read everything ever written by Augusten Burroughs.  And then I promptly got distracted by other books and haven’t read a book of his since.  When Lust & Wonder came out, my interest in his books returned but, since I didn’t have a copy in my room and my room is filled with more books that I can count, I didn’t read it.  Until we got the call that we would be doing an event with Augusten for the paperback release of the book.  Then I had a reason to read it and promptly got to work doing that.

Augusten Burroughs has a great way of telling his life story in a way that makes it feel like a novel, and one that I couldn’t put down at that.  I actually sat down to start reading this on a day off and didn’t stand back up until it was done.  His apocalyptic views of the world and life add an extra layer of drama and intrigue, so much so that I had to keep reading because I was so worried about how it would end.

Augusten Burroughs really in the master of memoir and he reminded me why I love reading this genre of book.  He made me laugh at sad and horrible things, cry at happy things, and caused me to loose an entire day off doing what I love best.

(Also, he is a great speaker.  If you ever have a chance to go see him, do yourself a favor and go.)


4-stars

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Vol. 1: The Crucible by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

I had no idea that this book existed but, the second I learned of its existence, I had to read it immediately.  I was a huge fan of the TV show “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” as a kid (and have watched it on and off as an adult) and so I was incredibly entertained by the idea of a dark and scary Sabrina.  I am also super into watching the new show Riverdale with my roommates so reading a story from the same guy who created that show really appealed to me.

I have never been a big graphic novel reader but I am totally on board with these.  Like, I am now counting down the months and days until the next collection of these comics is available.

The story entertained me to no end and was even incredibly shocking at times.  (I made my roommate read it so I could talk to someone about the plot twists.)  I enjoyed seeing these characters I knew in these strange, dark, grown-up situations.  It was the perfect amount of cheesy and horny Harvey was just terribly great.  Also, there was a drama teacher named Mrs. Lovett who was clearly just Angela Lansbury and my theatre geek brain is still extremely pleased with that.

I would have to say that, while I loved the story, I was not impressed by the art.  The artist doesn’t seem to really understand how faces work which resulted in some incredibly derpy moments that distracted from what was happening. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying these comics way more than I was ever expecting.  Yes, it was great, but know that it was great in an incredibly stupid but entertaining way.

4-stars

After the Fall by Kate Hart

This book ripped my heart out of my chest and made me cry tears onto it.  It upset me to no end but I loved every minute of it!  I’m also not sure how to talk about this book without giving stuff away so this review is mostly going to just be my emotions about the book.

Kate Hart’s characters were so incredibly real.  I felt like I actually knew all of them in real life, like we were actually friends and so it hurt me when things happened to them.  My roommates had to deal with me going through insane waves of emotion while reading this because I became so incredibly invested in these characters and their lives.  After I finished the book, I called my mom and took a long walk while I talked to her about it because I just had to unpack it.  I never saw any of the twists coming and, after talking to my mom about it, I realized it was because the characters were so well written, so fully developed, that I was completely living in the moment with each and every one of them as I was reading.  I wasn’t thinking ahead because I was so invested in what was happening in each and every moment.

This is not a book to read if you are looking for a light and happy read.  That said, it is definitely a book you should read.  It is amazingly written and incredibly powerful.  Pick this one up when you need a good cry.

A sign of a good book, to me, is one that I can’t stop thinking about.  And I finished this book a month ago and I haven’t stopped thinking about it.  Great, great work, Kate Hart.

5-stars

The Date to Save by Stephanie Kate Strohm

I love love love love Stephanie Strohm and couldn’t handle my excitement when the galley for this book arrived.

When I heard that Stephanie was writing a sequel to It’s Not Me, It’s You, I thought that she must be a little crazy.  That book was awesome and the format was cool and unique.  How could she follow it up with something as awesome?

Well, not only did she follow it up, she outdid herself.  The Date to Save follows Angelica Hutchinson as she realizes that all of the big fall events at her high school are scheduled for the same night.  Filled with crazy antics, nerdy references (one of the many reasons I love Stephanie), and tons of interesting characters, I was with Angelica each step of the way as she navigated the forces that were trying to stop her reporting while still managing to figure out how to save the day.

Stephanie’s voice rings clearly throughout this book.  I like each of her books more than the last.  She is a powerhouse not to be messed with.

(Also, on a completely personal note, I may or may not have started happy crying when I saw that she mentioned The Book Cellar in the acknowledgements.  I never expected to kinda see myself talked about in a book!)

5-stars

Zenn Diagram by Wendy Brant

I was not expecting to love this book as much as I did so oh boy was this a surprise.  I saved it for the end of my YA Fest reading because I assumed it would be a light, fun read following all of the incredibly heavy books I read for the fest.  What I ended up getting was an absolutely great YA read that masterfully checked all of the boxes of things that are expected of a YA book without at all sounding cliched or stereotypical.

Brant’s characters are complex and multi-dimensional.  They felt like real teenagers, thinking real thoughts and having real conversations. While some books get lost trying to explain the interesting and unknown, Brant explains Eva’s fractals with extreme grace, causing you to understand them right away.  Also, Brant never lets her characters struggles become the story.  Instead of being a “oh poor me” story, it is a hopeful one, showing that there is always a positive light even in the darkest of times.

I read this book in a single day, picking it up because I had some time to kill before work. Before I knew it, I was most of the way through and almost late for work.  I didn’t want to leave these characters and their lives.  I wanted to know what was going to happen and get to hang out with them.  The amount of times I found myself saying “aww shit!” when the plot twisted and turned was surprising and awesome, especially considering that I was just expecting this to be a typical YA romance.

I think that I am driving my co-workers crazy cause I keep saying, “Oh man, guys.  I really really liked Zenn Diagram.”

5-stars

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Wow.  This book was a completely delightful awesome surprise.  When it arrived in a galley box, it immediately caught my attention with the cover.  When I read the description and saw that it was about a family of psychics, I knew that I had to read it.

This book was better than I could have expected.  I did not realize that there was a giant hole in my reading life that could only be filled by a book about a family of psychics until I read this book.  It was a book I needed in my life.  Following three generations of the Telemachus family, this book introduces you to a crazy cast of characters, each one weirder than the last.  I loved every character as I watched them try to navigate life, work, the mob, love, and puberty, all while dealing with their differing psychic abilities.  A must read.

5-stars

The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

When I first started working at a bookstore, I decided that I was going to be really into psychological thrillers.  And so I read and read and read them and then stopped and thought to myself, Why did I decided I needed to be this kind of reader.  I really wasn’t enjoying what I was reading.  After I stopped and looked back on what I had read, I realized that I was really only reading these books for the twist.  I was reading them because I wanted to know what was going to happen rather than for the writing or the greater story.  Really, I would have been just as happy reading a plot synopsis.

So I was a little resistant when our Penguin Rep kept telling me to read The Marsh King’s Daughter.  And then I received a galley in the mail (along with an adorable tiny jar of jam) and I no longer had any reason to put off reading it.  And while I am still not the biggest fan of this genre of book, I did enjoy this one and I’m glad that I read it because it will be a thriller that I will feel good about recommending at work.

The Marsh King’s Daughter tells the story of Helena, a woman whose father abducted her mother.  Flipping between her life in present day  (where she is dealing with the fact that her father has escaped from prison) and telling the story of her life growing up off of the grid, Dionne masterfully weaves a tale.  While the whole book was interesting, I really found myself enjoying the sections that talked about her time growing up.  Dionne also weaves through Hans Christian Andersen’s story of The Marsh King’s Daughter to add an extra dimension to the story.

My one complaint with the book is a personal one.  I have a really hard time with blood and gore but can usually deal with enough of it to be alright reading a thriller or a mystery.  Because of the fact that this book was set in the marsh where Helena and her father had to hunt for food, I quickly found that I had hit my threshold for the subject.  I found myself skimming sections that described in detail how animals were shot and skinned and how they died.  While I understand why these passages were in here, they really took some of the shock of the human on human violence away.

All of that said, if you are a plan of thrillers, this is a book you should definitely check out.  I think that this book will find great success upon its release.

4-stars

The Castle in the Mist by Amy Ephron

Reading The Castle in the Mist took me back to when I was a kid discovering the magic of reading.  In a world of children’s book filled with crazy amounts of face paced adventure, post-apocalyptic worlds, and extreme fantasy worlds, this story takes us back a beautifully simpler time.

The Castle in the Mist follows the adventures of siblings Tess and Max as they spend the summer with their Aunt in a remote part of England.  One day, after a fight with Max, Tess runs off and discovers a large fence and a magical key that opens the gate.  Inside she finds William, a boy around her age, who she befriends immediately.  What follows is a magical adventure that tells a great story about the importance of friendship, a story that I believe is important for readers of all ages.

This short book took me very little time to read but was a great break from my world and, for the time it took me to read it, I became a child again, feeling the magic of the book coming out through the magic of reading.

In a world of very gendered children’s books, Ephron’s The Castle in the Mist is refreshingly accessible for all readers, making it one that children and adults can enjoy together.

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4-stars