Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi

Furthermore was one of my favorite books of last year and so I shook with joy when this was handed to me.

While still a great book, it didn’t live up to Furthermore for me.  And, as a bookseller, I am incredibly confused by this book because I am not sure how to sell it.  It is incredibly dark, dealing with a lot of death and very violent and gory descriptions of things.  (Bodies walking down the street without their skin will always haunt me.)  On the other hand, it was a great story of accepting help.  Seeing the characters from the last book interact with a new character and a completely new world was also a great experiences.  I love Mafi’s characters and her worlds are fully rounded out.  I liked that this is a companion book rather than a sequel but I just wish I could read Furthermore again for the first time.

4-stars

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

As a fan of Scooby-Doo, this book was a blast to read.  Cantero does a great job of sprinkling references to Scooby-Doo and the gang throughout the text while still keeping the story completely his own.  His gang is different and their dog doesn’t talk.  (In fact, it reminds me a lot of what Rainbow Rowell did with Harry Potter in Carry On.)  You don’t need to have ever watched the cartoon to have a good time reading this book.

Cantero has created a spooky and enthralling mystery that takes twists and turns that I could have never expected.  He brings together a group of adults who had once been a mystery-solving gang as tweens and makes them revisit their last and most successful case.  I deeply cared for each of these characters and wanted them to solve the mystery and get their lives back!

A fun, fast read that will keep you on your toes.  Just a warning: it gets surprisingly gory with no warning.

4-stars

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

This book had me laughing out loud so many times and then, turning the page, I would find myself sobbing. Reminiscent of Tom Robbins and Christopher Moore, Poore sees what is deeply funny in the dark absurdity of life. The characters are incredibly honest and true and remind you that, regardless of in the past, present, or future, what is means to be human and good is always the same.

I was a little surprised to see how much of the book took place in the future, sometimes finding myself wishing that more of it would be set in a more familiar world to the one we live in now, but those thoughts would quickly be pushed aside when Poore would show the way the each life connect, such as his use of floating fish robots that help to make everyone’s lives easier. Each incarnation of Milo has certain things that carry through each life, creating a fun puzzle that had me saying, “Oh man! I see what you did there!”

This book made me question myself as a person as I found myself rooting for Milo to die each time, something I’ve never experienced with a book before. It made me think about death in a whole new light. I have spent time since finishing the book thinking about the ideas Poore sets out, wondering what past lives I could have lived.

Reincarnation Blues is a great darkly funny and absurd book that introduced me to a new literary talent. I look forward to seeing what Michael Poore has in store for us in the future.

4-stars

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

This book was such a fun adventure.  Following Jane through 5 different possible timelines, the book goes from most realistic timeline to bizarre as the book goes on.  Jane is a fun character who is stuck in a strange house with people she barely knows yet she is always up for adventure.  Cashore does a great job of making each timeline its own story while pulling details throughout them, which kept me incredibly invested as a reader.  And she left me questioning what was actually real.

This book is incredibly fun and I flew through it, wanted to know how much weirder it could get.  Cashore created some awesome characters and it was great to see how they were different in each timeline while still being the character you had grown to love.  It’s a great puzzle of a book and I loved attempting to solve it.

4-stars

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

I’m going to start this review by saying that this book is so out of the realm of what I usually read.  So keep that in mind.

First, the stuff I liked.  The world that Veronica Roth created for this book is fascinating and incredibly well formed.  The characters are wonderful (even when they are absolutely horrible).  It was incredibly creative and I always felt like Roth knew what was going on, which I don’t always feel reading sci-fi/fantasy.

Now the stuff I didn’t like so much.  First, there was the format.  The book flipped between two perspectives and one of them was in first-person while the other was in third-person.  I was incredibly distracted by this and it made me feel really connected to one character and I just couldn’t bring myself to care as much about the other.  Also, this book is incredibly graphic in its violence.  I have a low tolerance for this sort of thing and, to be honest, it makes it hard for me to recommend it to teenagers.  I think that passages could have been just as powerful if they didn’t describe every terrible moment of a horrific incident.

3-stars

Gork, the Teenage Dragon by Gabe Hudson

I had such high hopes for this book and it just didn’t live up to them.

I was really excited by the concept: a loser dragon tries to find a partner before graduation.  What I ended up getting was a book that spent too much time focusing on one day and using a made up organizational system that was never fully explained.  A lot of my problems with the book could have been fixed with a single chart that explained the levels the different dragons went through.  I was never really clear as to how well Gork was doing at any given time, which really made each of the changes he went through less exciting than they were supposed to be.

This book was also incredibly violent and bloody which I wasn’t expecting.  I know, I know, it’s a book about dragons but really, come on.  There were constantly dragons being killed in the most gory and bloody ways and they happened to often that it started to take away from the plot.

This book got points for a fun concept but when it came to actual carrying out of that concept, it fell quite flat.

2-stars