You Have Me to Love by Jaap Robben

This debut novel by Dutch author Jaap Robben is absolutely beautiful.  Robben is a poet and children’s book author and you can see the influence of both of those writing styles in the books,  His writing is poetic yet sparse.  You Have Me to Love tells the story of a young boy, Mikael, as he grows up on a remote island.  Robben really explores what it would be like to go through puberty in a void, away from other teens and with his mother as the only female in his life.  I feel completely in love with Mikael and only wanted the best for him.  The entire time I was reading it, I just kept telling everyone at work, “You have to read this.  It’s amazing.”  A tough but definitely worthwhile read that will have you thinking about it for a long time after you finish reading it.

5-stars

Monstrous Devices by Damien Love

I wanted to like this book so much.  In fact, my co-worker, when I told her I didn’t like it said, “What? But it seemed right up your alley!”  Monstrous Devices is a cool concept but the book is a bit of a mess.  There is too much going on and none of it gets fully realized.  The grandfather in the book is constantly doing things that set a bad example for children.  He says “Don’t do what I do” but the characters only survive because of what he does.  A lot of things are brought up but never resolved.  Is the grandfather immortal?  He is a greater being? Is the bad guy Alex’s father?  Is the little girl his sister?  I didn’t believe it for a moment when he said that he didn’t care to know by the end of the book.  It felt like Love didn’t feel like making a decision one way or the other.  And then religion come in out of nowhere.  The characters need to know the true name of god to gain unlimited powers that come in the form of a golem.  It’s way too much stuff for such a short children’s book.  I am so disappointed that I didn’t like this one.

2-stars

Sabrina by Nick Drnaso

This intense graphic novel reads like an indie movie.  The focus of the novel is on the dialogue rather than the art, which is unlike any graphic novel I have read before.  Drnaso explores grief as well as the toxicity of the internet and fear-mongering.  I felt so deeply for each of the characters.  This is not an easy read but it is definitely worth it.  The deep, heart-breaking story is in contract with simple line drawings.  It is clear why this book was the first graphic novel long-listed for the Man Booker Prize.  Drnaso has perfectly captured how scary and depressing the world can be while still showing the importance of friendships and interpersonal human interactions.

4-stars

The Legend of Greg by Chris Rylander

I ignored people telling me to read this for WAY too long! So don’t make the same mistake I did! Pick this up immediately! In Greg’s Chicago, there is an underground world filled with Dwarfs and Elves! But Greg doesn’t know that. All he knows is that he has one best friend and a dad who is always off looking for weird natural remedies and teas. But all of that changes when his dad is abducted by a… troll?! This book is a crazy fun adventure filled with a fully thought out magical world set under my very own feet. As well as being fun and entertaining, it’s also a great story of acceptance of all people, regardless of race (even if those races are magical in this book). Greg is a powerful underdog and I wish that I had him around as a role model when I was growing up.

5-stars

Scream All Night by Derek Milman

I requested this at the library after seeing it on a bunch of lists, which I don’t usually do because I have so much other stuff to read that I already own. But I am so glad that I did. Scream All Night is a completely unique concept, pulling the reader into the bizarre world of cult horror films. Milman’s writing is great. I can’t count the amount of times I laughed out loud and said “This is SO GOOD!” more times than I can count. While the situations in the book are completely unique, they are somehow also incredibly relatable. I love these characters, this setting, and the writing. I just want more.

4-stars

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

This book is so adorable (and steamy, if that’s what you’re looking for). Stella Lane is an econometrician who has Autism. After a comment from a co-worker who she might have a crush on, Stella realizes that she doesn’t know how to be in a relationship. So she hires Michael, a super attractive escort, to teach her how to date people. This book is incredibly addicting and fun, as well as a great reminder that you don’t always appear to others in the way that you think you do. I love these characters so much.

5-stars

Genesis by Brendan Reichs

Nemesis left me hanging and so I inhaled Genesis.  And this book is so much more intense than I ever imagined it could be.  I love this series.  Set in our real world, Reichs messes with the reality around us and speculates a way in which the world could survive a horrible disaster.  If you haven’t read the first one yet, go out and get it as well as Genesis because you will need to read it immediately after.

The characters change and grow in this book more than they did in the first one.  Morals are questioned, status is commented on, and everyone is tested.  I breezed though this long book because I needed answers.  And now I need the next one!  What more could possibly happen to these characters?!?

4-stars

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

This short novel sure packs a punch.  It took me about 20 pages to relax into the writing style as it is very unique but once I was there, I was fully absorbed into this book.  Tin Man tells the story of different kinds of love, whether it be romantic or just friendly.  The three main characters are fascinating and I just wanted them to live the best lives possible.  Winman uses dramatic irony to completely rip your heart out.  Make sure to have tissues handy. A perfect quick, cathartic read.

4-stars

Just the Funny Parts by Nell Scovell

This book is a fascinating look into the comedy and television writing world.  Nell Scovell has accomplished so much and yet her name isn’t a household one, which is crazy to me.  Her stories are insanely topical at this time and it is amazing how much she has been able to get done in a world that is not really pro-women.  She is an inspiration and this book helped to reinvigorate my love of comedy and writing at a time when I was debating all of my life choices.

4-stars

Freddie Mole: Lion Tamer by Alexander McCall Smith

Freddie comes from a poor family and never feels like he has a purpose in the world.  That is, until he joins the circus.  He learns all about the circus and even becomes an understudy for some acts.  This was a fun beginning chapter book.  I loved the beginning the end but just felt like middle sagged a bit.  Kate Hindley’s illustrations, though, are so adorable.

3-stars

Relative Strangers by Paula Garner

I read this one for the Chicago Young Adult Book Festival and was shocked to find that my college, Lawrence University, was in this book!  That was such a great surprise in a great book.  Paula Garner deals with questions of identity in such an interesting way, telling the story of a teen girl who learns that she lived in foster care as a child.  Her adventure to find these lost years brings up questions of what really makes a family.  Plus, there is some impossible romance, which always is fun to read in a way that hurts at the same time.

4-stars

Noir by Christopher Moore

Christopher Moore is the king of weird.  This book started out so normal, following the format of a typical noir.  I was concerned that it wasn’t going to be his normal weird but I soon found that to not be the case.  Moore plays beautifully with the style and manner of storytelling that comes with a noir.  He takes real, historical events and weaves them into a tale involving aliens and government cover up.  The perfect fun read when life is getting you down.  Because no matter how bad you might have it, you won’t have it as bad as these characters.

4-stars