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Book Review: The Blackbird Papers

The Blackbird Papers Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

A rainy night . . . A stranded motorist . . . A Good Samaritan passerby … a Nobel Prize–winning professor . . . The setup for a shocking murder designed to cover up an even more sinister crime . . . 

The Blackbird Papers marks the debut of Ian Smith, a major new talent in crime fiction, and of Sterling Bledsoe, his smart and occasionally combative sleuth. 

World-renowned Dartmouth professor Wilson Bledsoe is returning from a party celebrating his latest honor when he encounters a broken-down pickup on the secluded country road to his home. The next day, the discovery of his body with a vicious racist epithet carved into his chest leads to the quick arrest of two loathsome white supremacists. The local authorities seem ready to accept the case at face value as a racial hate crime. But the murdered professor’s brother, FBI agent Sterling Bledsoe, has inserted himself into the investigation and isn’t ready to buy into this pat solution. A look around his brother’s lab and brief interviews with his students and colleagues pique Sterling’s curiosity about Wilson’s pet project: a nearly completed paper on the mysterious deaths of hundreds of local blackbirds. 

Fast-paced and cleverly constructed, The Blackbird Papers introduces a major new talent in mystery and crime fiction.

I found this book to be an immensely interesting read. It was fast paced and mostly kept me interested to find out what happened to Sterling’s brother. But near the end of The Blackbird Papers, I slowly found myself losing interest. Especially near the end when you find out who kills Sterling’s brother and why.

What made this murder mystery book so interesting to me was going through the process of uncovering the mystery. You have Sterling’s brother who is missing at first until they discover his body. Then when they find Wilson you see the whole process of them examining his body to find out how he was killed and try to find out why. From there, you see Sterling going through his brother’s research, trying to uncover more clues.

I found this part of the story especially to be interesting whenever he uncovered that his brother was trying to discover why an alarming amount of blackbirds were being killed. It made the story that much more interesting because it showed that Ian Smith did a little bit of research to add detail into this book. It also made me want to continue reading The Blackbird Papers to find out who killed Wilson.

I also found Sterling as the main character interesting. Especially since this whole case involved the murder of his brother. I thought the story would be a little different since Sterling was trying to uncover the murder of his brother. But if anything, he seemed more determined to find out who killed Wilson than anything else. I know a lot of that had to do with some emotional problems of his own when it came to his brother, and I appreciated that this book included those details within its pages. While you wish Sterling could’ve gotten some reconciliation with his older brother, you also see his character grow as a result of this case.

I also like that Smith ended the story by Sterling respecting his brother’s last wishes. I found that to be a very touching scene because he goes through a lot in order to solve his brother’s murder and he is finally able to feel peace that his brother is no longer there.

While I enjoyed these aspects of The Blackbird Papers, there was a lot missing from it for me to enjoy the story as much as I wanted to. For starters, while the pacing of the plot started off really wonderful for me, it soon was at a point where it slowed down completely and became predictable. The plot reached this point near the end of the novel when those who didn’t want Wilson’s research to get out tried to frame Sterling for his brother’s murder. Each time Sterling found himself unraveling another piece of the puzzle, he’d have to run away from law enforcement. For me, that started slowing down the storyline because I knew he was close to getting the information he needed. It also felt like Smith added those moments into the story so there’d be action and conflict for Sterling while he’s trying to get to the bottom of the case.

I also found the person responsible for the death of Wilson to be predictable. I don’t know if it’s because I already had a feeling whenever his character was introduced that he was responsible or if the plot in the story was just that predictable for me. The only thing surprising about that part of the story was that more people were in on it than I was expecting. But that overall doesn’t really change the way I feel about the suspect because I still had those feelings from the beginning that this person was responsible.

The Blackbird Papers is an interesting murder mystery novel. I enjoyed it because the overall story kept me wanting to find out what happened next, but I was also disappointed that the killer was too easy for me to predict. I also found the pacing of the novel close to the conclusion to be lacking, but also really enjoyed the ending because Sterling finally found some peace when it came to his own conflict with his brother. It was overall an enjoyable read that I would’ve liked more if the killer wasn’t so predictable to me and if the ending of the story didn’t move so slow.

Book Review: Girls Like Me

Girls Like Me Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

Fifteen-year-old Shay Summers is trying to cope with the death of her father, being overweight, and threats from a girl bully in school.  When she falls in love with Blake, a mysterious boy online, insecure Shay doesn’t want to tell him who she is.   But with the help of her two best friends, as well as an assist by Kermit and Miss Piggy, ultimately Shay and Blake’s love prevails. 
     

Girls Like Me is a fun and fresh poetic take on teen angst, social media and online anonymity, and high school romance.

This book was such a delight for me to read. It was quirky, had a diverse set of characters and the writing style was different from any of the young adult literature I’ve been reading recently. I enjoyed it a whole lot more than I thought I would and was sad when it ended. However, there were some things in the book that were a complete cliché that made the book a little less enjoyable for me to read.

For those who haven’t read this book before, Girls Like Me tells the story of Shay Summers, a teenager who struggles with her weight and trying to fit in at school. After the death of her father, Shay is stuck living with her stepmother Kara and tries to cope with her life by eating. She also makes two good friends who don’t fit in at school just like her. Then one day while online, she chats with a mysterious boy who gives her butterflies and knows how to make her laugh. What she doesn’t know is that this boy is actually the guy she’s had a crush on at school. He wants to meet her, but she’s so insecure about herself that she keeps pushing him away. Their relationship gets put to the test, but will their love prevail? Or are they not meant to be?

What drew me into reading this book was the cover and title. The cover is beautifully illustrated, making the reader want to pick up the book and read it. The title caught my eye too because it made me think this book would be relatable to me and that I’d understand the characters within its pages. While I don’t at all understand what it’s like being considered overweight, I feel like I can relate to Shay’s character anyway. I can relate to her because I love food too and I was bullied in school quite a bit myself, which made me lack a lot of self-confidence.

I also enjoyed reading Girls Like Me because of the writing style. It was written in free verse, which reminded me a lot of author Ellen Hopkins’s books, but also stood out from her work because of the use of social media in the story. It was unique storytelling to me because I haven’t seen too many other books written like this. I also enjoyed this writing style because it made this book an easy read for me.

Girls Like Me Text Image
An example of the text from the book. Can be found on page 4.

Another reason I enjoyed reading this book is because of the diverse cast of characters. There’s not only Shay, who is considered overweight, but her two best friends Dash and Boots are also unique characters too. Dash is her male best friend who struggles with being gay because of his upbringing in a Christian household. He especially has a really rocky relationship with his father because of his sexuality so he tries to change himself in order to please his dad. Boots on the other hand has cancer and is trying the best she can to live each day like it’s her last. But she’s dying and wants really badly to have sex since she knows she doesn’t have too much time left to live. She tries the best she can not to worry Shay and Dash with her sickness by trying to hide how unwell she’s doing, but they both know something is wrong.

And of course there’s Shay who struggles to cope with the loss of her father and eats because it helps her deal with the pain. She’s bullied in school relentlessly because of her weight by a girl named Kelly who enjoys nothing more than seeing Shay miserable. Her relationship with her stepmother Kara isn’t too great because Shay feels like she’s body shaming her. It isn’t until later on in the story that you find out that Kara understands exactly what Shay is going through. I like that this story has all of these characters with different problems and you get to see how they are handled. I also like that this book has a character with body issues because I haven’t read too many books that center around a character like Shay.

However, I do have some criticisms with Girls Like Me. While I overall enjoyed the writing style Lola StVil used, there were times where I found being able to understand it a little confusing. This confusing typically occurred whenever StVil had the story being told from the perspective of Dash and Boots. I was usually confused when this happened because their text didn’t at all have a different style from Shay’s. The only reason I was even able to tell the difference between the three was because of the change in font. Otherwise, I would’ve thought the text was just Shay talking about Dash and Boots’ personal lives.

Another criticism I have for this book is that while the set of characters are diverse, they are pretty cliché too. All of the characters that are really close friends are all of the social outcasts at the school, and they just happen to become good friends because of their differences.

Then, there’s the relationship between Shay and Blake, two people on opposite sides of the social pool. Blake is the typical popular kid who doesn’t notice how popular he is because he only pays attention to Shay. To the point that he doesn’t at all understand why Shay is hesitant about their relationship being out in the open. He’s so clueless, especially close to the end when Shay finds out about the website students at the school made about her and she asks him if he knew about it. He doesn’t at all understand why it’s such a big deal to her, which bothers me since they are supposed to be a couple and he doesn’t at all see why her weight is an issue to her. Their whole relationship was just a big cliché to me and I didn’t really like it because it was too much insta-love.

I also wasn’t a big fan of the ending of Girls Like Me. I thought there’d be a big reveal where we found out why Kelly doesn’t like Shay. Instead, we get no sort of reason other than she just doesn’t want her to be happy, which isn’t really much of a reason at all. If anything, it just shows that Kelly isn’t a great person and she’s just a character in the story put in to cause Shay conflict. I also thought it was a little cheesy because even though I like the Muppets, I just thought the whole thing was a little corny. But at the same time, I also liked the ending because we finally see Shay stand up for herself and call Kelly out on her bullying. We also see her act confident in herself for once, which was something we didn’t see a whole lot of throughout the book. And I feel like Blake finally gets to see the real Shay and understand why she’s the person she is in the story.

Overall, Girls Like Me is such a fun, quirky read. It has a style unlike any other book I’ve read with a set of diverse, relatable characters and was such a delight to read. I definitely recommend this book to people with body issues and people who want to read a book with free verse poetry.

Book Review: A Ship Made of Paper

A Ship Made of Paper Book Cover

Rating: 2 stars

No novelist alive knows the human heart better than Scott Spencer does. No one tells stories about human passion with greater urgency, insight, or sympathy. In A Ship Made of Paper, this artist of desire paints his most profound and compelling canvas yet.

Daniel Emerson lives with Kate Ellis and is like a father to her daughter, Ruby. But he cannot control his desire for Iris Davenport, the African-American woman whose son is Ruby’s best friend. During a freak October blizzard, Daniel is stranded at Iris’s house and they begin a sexual liaison that eventually imperils all their relationships, Daniel’s profession, their children’s well-being, their own race- blindness, and their view of themselves as essentially good people.

A Ship Made of Paper captures all the drama, nuance, and helpless intensity of sexual and romantic yearning, and it bears witness to the age-old conflict between the order of the human community and the disorder of desire.

Overall, A Ship Made of Paper was an okay read for me. I didn’t hate it, but I wasn’t necessarily enthralled by the story and characters either.

The main plot centers on Daniel Emerson, a lawyer who moves back to the small town he grew up in with his girlfriend Kate Ellis and her daughter Ruby. While back at home, he meets Iris Davenport, an African-American woman whose son is best friends with Ruby. He becomes deeply attracted to Iris Davenport and begins to explore a deeper relationship with her one snowy night in October when a blizzard traps them inside her home. But this secret relationship ends up affecting every aspect of their lives.

What I enjoyed about the story was the writing. It was very descriptive to the point where I felt like I was right in the story as these events transpired. I especially enjoyed seeing the dialogue in the story because it brought the characters to life even better for me.

What I also enjoyed when reading A Ship Made of Paper is the variety of topics that can be discussed when it comes to this book. These topics include racism, sexual desire, infidelity, interracial relationships, justice (these events take place around the time of the OJ Simpson trial), alcohol addiction, and pedophilia (one of the married characters in the story is in love with a blind girl who he’s fancied since she was a child).

I feel like each of these aspects was wonderfully woven into this story through some of the characters who in some ways represent one of these topics. For example, Daniel’s girlfriend Kate Ellis is a writer who to me seems like a good example of what racism and alcohol addiction look like. She denies being racist (of course), but is convinced that OJ Simpson is guilty and writes about the trial throughout the story. She also calls the police when two boys brake into her home during the storm and is convinced that the boys who broke into her home are the recent prisoners who escaped from jail in the story, despite not at all getting a glimpse of their appearance. She also drinks heavily throughout the book, doesn’t matter what’s going on in her life. She always finds a reason to drink even when her relationship with Daniel is starting to fail. She’s a wonderful example of what racism and alcohol addiction look like and I feel like I can see other topics of discussion through all the other characters too.

While I enjoyed reading A Ship Made of Paper because of the writing and the different topics that can be discussed, there are a whole lot of things I overall don’t like about this story that make it difficult to give it a higher rating. While I enjoy the way the story is written, I found the pace and plot of the book to move very slow. It made reading this book all the more difficult for me because I kept waiting for the plot in the story to move along, to reach a climax that made me reading this book worthwhile. But the story kept disappointing me again and again. There were only two moments in the story that really made me want to continue reading to see what happened next: the night of the blizzard and the night when Marie Thorne goes missing. But even that was short lived for me, especially the night when Marie Thorne goes missing, because excerpts of what happens during the search for her are at the beginning of each chapter. So even the most exciting parts of the book become mundane for me because I already catch a glimpse of what’s going to happen even if I don’t get to see all of it.

I also don’t like that none of these characters are at all relatable to me. I especially don’t understand Daniel and his stalker-like behavior towards Iris Davenport, the woman he desperately wants to be with despite already being in a committed relationship with Kate Ellis. His behavior throughout the book screams creepy to me when it comes to Iris, and I found the way he felt about her was more sexual desire than actual true love. The only time I ever believe their relationship to be real at all is whenever they both have serious discussions about what they’re doing. Otherwise, I’m not really convinced that their loving relationship will last. It just seems like a fantasy relationship to me throughout with nothing substantial holding them together. I know a lot of it has to do with them both being unfaithful to their partners. I guess I just don’t understand why someone who’s already in a relationship would stay with their partner if they knew they were developing feelings for another person.

The biggest criticism I have for A Ship Made of Paper is the last half of the book after Marie Thorne goes missing. It felt as if the plot after this point in the story took a complete nosedive, leaving the reader feeling confused about what’s going on. While I understood what happened that changed everything, I feel almost as if this part of the story was a whole lot worse than the first half of the book, which wasn’t that much better either. While I liked that the end of this book was ambiguous, the rest of the story just lacked any sort of plot. We know Daniel feels guilty about Hampton’s condition, but the way Scott Spencer decides to take the story with him wasn’t at all an improvement. And then I felt like the robbery at the bar didn’t really add anything to the story because everyone then screamed they were robbed by black people. So all it did was show the prejudice of these characters, that they haven’t at all changed since the beginning of the book started.

So overall, A Ship Made of Paper was an okay read for me. I liked that there are a variety of topics that can be discussed when it comes to reading this book, but the plot of the story isn’t something to boast about. The book was fascinating enough to read, but not a story that I’ll reread anytime soon.

Confessions of A Reader #1: Choosing Books to Read is Hard

Stack Of Books

Hello everyone, fellow readers and bloggers alike! Since I started doing my Confessions of A Writer posts, I’ve found I’ve enjoyed talking about writing and I know I’ll enjoy talking about my reading tastes just as much. So it is with great excitement that I bring to you what will be my first of what I hope will be many Confessions of A Reader.

With this first post, I’d like to talk about a struggle I know all readers face: choosing what book to read. Finding the next book to read is always one of the things I struggle with the most when it comes to my own reading. It’s not because there aren’t too many books to choose from, but because there are so many wonderful reading options I never know where to begin.

I mostly read young adult literature, fantasy and mystery. However, I’m not always in the mood to read these books and will definitely go outside of these genres to find something that strikes my fancy.

The way I choose what book to read next is completely random. It entirely depends on what I have going on in my life and if I have any books on my shelf at home that I haven’t read that I’d like to give a try. But even that isn’t a complete guarantee either because I never know when I’ll stumble upon a book I really want to read. For example, The Creeping is a book that was once on my Goodreads to be read list that I decided to buy on my tablet with some Barnes & Noble gift card money I was given for Christmas. Then a couple weeks ago, my boyfriend and I went to Greenville for a day. Along the way, we stopped at 2nd & Charles, which is a local second hand bookstore here in South Carolina. I bought a couple books there with a gift card my boyfriend gave to me as a birthday present, and am planning on reading those books next.

Confessions of A Reader #1 My Books I Brought Home
These are the books I bought at 2nd & Charles in Greenville.

But after I’m done reading these books, I don’t know what I’ll read next. I’ll have to see what I feel like reading on my shelf or maybe I’ll go to my local library and read some books from there.

Either way, readers have a difficult time choosing what book to read next. Because there are just too many books in the world to choose from and not enough time to read them all.

What about you? Do you struggle with choosing what book to read next? And what is your strategy to choose what book you want to read next?

 

Book Review: The Creeping

The Creeping Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

Eleven years ago, Stella and Jeanie disappeared. Only Stella came back.

Now all she wants is a summer full of cove days, friends, and her gorgeous crush – until a fresh corpse leads Stella down a path of ancient evil and secrets.

Stella believes remembering what happened to Jeanie will save her. It won’t.

She used to know better than to believe in what slinks through the shadows. Not anymore.

This book wasn’t at all what I was expecting, which was both a good and bad thing for me. I overall enjoyed the story, but there was a whole lot of things with it too that made me enjoy it a lot less.

For starters, the book cover for The Creeping is absolutely gorgeous. It’s gorgeous in the sense that it’s creepy in all of the right ways, making it where the reader wants to dive within the pages to see what the story is going to be about. I know it was one of the things I saw on Goodreads that made me want to read the story, to find out what happened to the characters. To see if the cover matched the overall tone in the book. Whether it does or not depends on the individual reader.

I also enjoyed all of the horror elements in the story, starting from hearing the story about what happened to Stella when she was a child to her looking to uncover the truth of what happened on that day. There was just so much interesting information about the town she lived in and the other girls who went missing that I was interested to see where it’d lead. It made The Creeping a much more interesting read for me because without it, I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed this book quite as much. I like that Stella decided to take the matter into her own hands because we learn so much more about the town she lives in and what she’s like as a person that we would’ve never known. It added to the overall tone of the book, which made me want to continue reading to see what happened next.

Related image
Via Giphy.

However, there is just so much with this book that I can’t look past that made me enjoy it less. For starters, I wasn’t fond of most if not all of the characters. Because of what happened in her childhood, Stella ends up becoming one of the popular girls at her school and her best friend Zoey makes her choose between staying friends with her or Sam, the first boy Stella kisses. So despite Stella choosing Zoey over him, Sam still cares about her and tries to be a part of her life. He lets Stella treat him like crap over the years in the hopes that one day she’ll realize how much he cares about her.

While she does eventually realize how much he cares and starts to feel the same way, I felt like their whole relationship was completely unrealistic. Especially since she was still friends with Zoey at the time who cares nothing more than about being popular at their school. I also just feel like Alexandra Sirowy added their romance in the story to add some unneeded drama into the book. Because while Stella and Sam grew up together and had been friends for a really long time, I just didn’t really see their relationship develop well in the story. I pretty much felt bad for Sam, despite not liking him that much either because he seemed desperate to win Stella over. I felt like he deserved a much better person in his life and just didn’t understand why he still cared so much about her when she didn’t take his feelings into account at all.

I also hate her relationship with her best friend Zoey. It feels like it’s extremely toxic because all Zoey wants is to be the most popular girl at their school. It’s to the point where I think she’d be willing to end her friendship with Stella in order to stay at the top. While I get there all in high school and haven’t reached maturity yet, their friendship just didn’t sit well with me at all. Even during the moments when Zoey backed Stella up and supported her, I still didn’t like her because there were a lot of moments when she wasn’t there for Stella too.

I also hated the ending of The Creeping. As someone who believes in the supernatural, I felt like there was so much potential to make the mystery of Jeanie’s disappearance so much more than what Sirowy decided to do. We were given all this information about the town and other lore that I was expecting something more to come out at the end of it. I was deeply invested in the book because of the horror in the story and we are given a predictable ending for the story instead. The ending was predictable because it felt like an obvious choice to make this person responsible for what happened to Jeanie. And for me, that was extremely disappointing because I saw so much potential for something extraordinary to happen instead. It made this book that much more of a disappointment to me because I felt like there was so much more that could’ve been explored.

I overall liked reading this book because the horror in the story made me invested to find out what happened next. However, I wasn’t quite keen on the YA elements in the story, like the romance between Stella and Sam and Stella’s friendship with Zoey was too toxic for me to enjoy. I also didn’t like the ending because it felt too predictable and obvious to me when I felt like there was potential for something more. But the horror in The Creeping was exactly what I needed because it kept me reading to find out more.

Book Review: Redemption (MILA 2.0 #3)

Redemption Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

Mila has been running for her life for so long. But there might be nowhere left for her to go. Especially now that she’s an incredible danger to herself and anyone who dares get close to her.

That’s why Mila has gone into hiding with friend and tech expert Lucas. She can’t take the risk of hurting people worse than the way she hurt Hunter: the boy she’ll always love, the boy who might never forgive her for what she’s done.

But then Mila discovers that General Holland—her ultimate enemy—has plans that are an even bigger threat to humanity than she is. His quest to reclaim Mila is only part of a larger mysterious endgame that will put people’s lives at stake. Mila must make a choice: either push aside her fears and fight him with everything she’s got…or turn her back on the world forever.

After getting to the end of this book, I can definitely say I enjoyed reading Redemption. While the ending itself made me want to cry, the overall direction Debra Driza takes this last book in the trilogy was really enjoyable to read. I felt like we finally got the real answers we needed as to why Sarah (the person who Mila used to be) died in the fire and found out what Holland was planning on doing next.

I found the way the story developed to be quite surprising. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting, but I went with it because I wanted to see where this would all end up. I also enjoyed reading about Mila’s relationship with Lucas. You could tell there was a good connection there and I really wanted to see where it’d go. While I like Hunter’s character, I found that I actually like Lucas better because he’s understood Mila since the beginning and still wants to help her find out the truth. And at this point in the story, Hunter and Mila’s relationship is pretty much dead anyway.

One of my favorite things about Redemption is the amount of detective work the characters do to find out the truth about Holland and what he’s plotting. In particular, the last half of the book where they are in the school trying to find out what’s going on with the scholarship recipient students. It’s quite an interesting plot in the story I wasn’t at all expecting because then we realize how big of a threat Holland truly is.

I also enjoyed that redemption was a big part of the story too. It came into play with Mila gaining back the trust of some of Quinn’s members of the Vita Obscura and Holland at the end of the book. Because after the events in Renegade, a lot of the characters are still weary of Mila and whether she’s really someone who can be trusted. The same is said with Holland because he is given a choice to make at the end of the story, which I feel like I can’t really get into without ruining the end of this trilogy. But it’s definitely a big choice, I can say for sure.

As the last book in this trilogy that I’ve enjoyed reading, there were still some things I didn’t quite enjoy about this one. For starters, while I enjoyed seeing a connection blossom between Mila and Lucas, I hated that the beginning of Redemption was pretty much the same as Renegade, except that Lucas is the boy with Mila instead of Hunter. But the plot pretty much starts out the same there because they both look together to try and connect Sarah’s death with Holland and to find out what he’s planning on doing next.

I also wasn’t quite fond of the way Driza decided to end this trilogy. I hated it because I felt like Mila deserved so much better after everything she’s gone through and it actually made me want to cry. But it also didn’t really tell us much either because we don’t know what happens with the other characters afterwards. Mind you, I wasn’t exactly expecting this trilogy to have a super happy ending or anything. I was expecting it to have a neat resolution though, and I feel like that didn’t really happen.

I think as a trilogy though, I think that’s one of my biggest problems with it. Because while I’ve enjoyed reading this trilogy overall, I just feel like there’s something missing in the plot. I guess the best way to describe it would be to say that it’s rushed so certain things that happen in the trilogy don’t necessarily make sense to me. The best example that comes to mind for me right now is the Vita Obscura group as a whole. From the beginning of the trilogy, the author made this group sound like it was huge with a lot of members in it. However, the only members of the group that come to help Mila out with uncovering the truth about Holland are the ones she interacts with in Renegade. Then, there’s everything that happens with Holland in general that’s full of plot holes. I know that Mila as an android is supposed to be a secretive military operation that not too many people are supposed to know about. But besides Holland, Quinn, Nicole and Daniel, there weren’t too many other key players who knew about Mila. To me though, that just seemed too convenient because I feel like more people would’ve played a part in Mila’s creation, therefore they’d be playing a big part in the story.

And that’s one of my biggest problems with this trilogy. The story being told overall is unique, amazing and everything I want to read in a science fiction, young adult story. But there’s just so much with the plot that doesn’t add up, isn’t fully explained that makes it hard to wrap your head around and accept what’s been told to you.

However, I still enjoyed reading this trilogy and was sad to see it come to an end, even if the ending isn’t at all what I wanted for Mila. It left me feeling emotionally sad to be done with these books, but also looking forward to whatever book I decide to read next.

Book Review: The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2)

The Silkworm Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days—as he has done before—and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives—meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…

Wow. I really enjoyed reading this second book in the series more than The Cuckoo’s Calling, which wasn’t at all a bad read, but was missing something The Silkworm had for me: suspense. It was a page-turner, from start to finish because I really wanted to know who killed this writer. I was also curious about the world Strike immersed himself into in order to find the killer and figure out why this person went after Owen Quine. The world of publishing has never been a world I’ve been a part of, though I hope for that to change one day. But I was curious about Quine and this mysterious book he wrote about the people in his life so I was ready to dive in.

I’m not going to lie when I say part of my enjoyment of this book is because the case involved an author. I wanted to learn more about his book, and what about it was so terrible that it couldn’t be published. But what I got from that caught me off guard, but also made me laugh at the same time. So I was surprised about the type of books Quine typically wrote, but was also intrigued as to what this revealed about his character. I like that his book was connected to his death. I like that being incorporated into the case because it eliminated a lot of people being responsible for his murder except for the characters we were introduced to.  The only problem I had when it came to this case is that Galbraith made Quine seem like the stereotypical author. His character sounded very cocky and arrogant, yet still eccentric at the same time, which is pretty normal to the way I’ve seen authors being described in books. This is a problem for me because people see authors this way already and was hoping his character would be described differently.

I also enjoyed seeing Strike and Robin’s friendship continue to blossom. I like seeing the way the two of them work together to investigate because you can tell that they trust each other. But at the same time, I worry that Galbraith is going to try and get them together as a couple. While I wouldn’t necessarily mind that, I really like seeing them work together and just being friends outside of the job. I also like seeing Robin’s character continue to develop as she stands up to her fiancé because she really enjoys her work. I feel like as she continues helping Strike with cases, she comes into her own and is becoming the person she’s meant to be.

I also enjoyed this book in the series more than The Cuckoo’s Calling because there was a lot of buildup when it came to finding Quine’s killer. The killer was revealed to us in a surprising way, which made us even more interested in finding out why this person killed Quine.

My biggest problem with The Silkworm is the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. I usually don’t mind when books have quotes, but the ones in this book felt like they didn’t belong to me, and I would’ve been fine reading the book without them.

I also felt that most of the characters who knew Quine were too similar. I don’t know if it’s because they all worked in publishing or were authors, but it annoyed me because I didn’t really like any of them. They just seemed too similar to me so when the killer was finally revealed, I wasn’t quite as surprised as I thought I’d be. I felt like any one of them could’ve killed Quine, it was just a matter of which one Galbraith decided on.

However, neither of these problems for me made me enjoy The Silkworm any less. It was overall a very suspenseful, intriguing read that made me continue turning the page. I can’t wait to continue reading this series to find out what happens next.

Book Review: Afterworlds

Afterworlds Scott Westerfeld Cover

Rating: 4 stars

BELIEVING IS DANGEROUS…

Darcy Patel is afraid to believe all the hype. But it’s really happening – her teen novel is getting published. Instead of heading to college, she’s living in New York City, where she’s welcomed into the dazzling world of YA publishing. That means book tours, parties with her favorite authors, and finding a place to live that won’t leave her penniless. It means sleepless nights rewriting her first draft and struggling to find the perfect ending… all while dealing with the intoxicating, terrifying experience of falling in love – with another writer.

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy’s novel, the thrilling story of Lizzie, who wills her way into the afterworld to survive a deadly terrorist attack. With survival comes the responsibility to guide the restless spirits that walk our world, including one ghost with whom she shares a surprising personal connection. But Lizzie’s not alone in her new calling – she has counsel from a fellow spirit guide, a very desirable one, who is torn between wanting Lizzie and warning her that…

BELIEVING IS DANGEROUS.

In a brilliant high-wire act of weaving two epic narratives – and two unforgettable heroines – into one novel, Scott Westerfeld’s latest work is a triumph of storytelling. 

The first time I read this book, I couldn’t put it down. It was about writing, and the world surrounding it, which fascinated me so much because I wanted to be a part of it. That was back in 2015, before I started writing here, before I graduated from college and was still doing my internship. I also loved reading the novel itself within the pages because Lizzie has such a fascinating story to tell.

Reading it again a second time, I’m just as enthralled with Darcy’s life as I was before. And I love Lizzie’s story just as much. To be honest, the way Westerfeld switches between worlds is one of my favorite things about Afterworlds. He does a good job of choosing when to end each chapter so that you’re hungry for more of what your leaving behind.

I also love this book because it’s a combination of young adult literature and paranormal romance. I love how the conflict Darcy goes through with her writing and her relationship with Imogen. You get to see her experience New York for the very first time, dealing with things writers deal with once a book is published while figuring out how relationships work. With Lizzie, I enjoy the paranormal aspects of her story like when she’s just back from the airport and truly realizes what’s happened to her and her learning more about the world she’s becoming a part of. I enjoyed learning about her mother’s childhood friend Mindy and seeing the flipside world.

Afterworlds is a good read for me because it talks about writing a lot.  I enjoy reading fictional stories that bring up real-life concepts, such as what it’s like being a writer and beginning the process of getting your book into the world. I enjoyed Darcy’s interactions with other authors as she struggled to figure out what she needed to do and she struggled with getting her second novel started.

However, there were a lot of things lacking overall in this book that I feel need to be addressed. For one, I felt like there wasn’t a whole lot of conflict when it came to Darcy’s new life and the characters just seemed a little flat to me. What I mean is that I feel like the biggest problems Darcy dealt with as soon as she arrived in New York was getting her novel completed and her relationship with Imogen. You didn’t really hear about too much else going on with her in the story except when problems with Imogen occurred, which mostly happened because of Darcy’s inexperience with relationships. Even the fact that she could barely afford to live in New York wasn’t really addressed, she just spent her money however she wanted anyway. It also just felt like her relationship with Imogen came out of nowhere because she never mentions having feelings for her until Imogen confessed the way she felt about Darcy.  The characters seemed flat to me because there wasn’t really any development as time went on, except with Lizzie, which wasn’t all that much either. Everyone pretty much stayed the same from the beginning to end, the only difference was that time moved forward in both stories.

I also didn’t particularly like the way Lizzie’s character developed when she was introduced into this new world. She gained this new ability to go into the flipside and see ghosts, yet immediately becomes attached to the first ghost she meets. She uses her new ability to cause bodily harm to another human being, but actually suffers no consequences for her actions. I understand why she hurts this person, but I still don’t think it’s the right way she could’ve done this and I feel like she hasn’t really learned much from the experience. I get she’s very curious about this new world she’s become a part of and wants to learn as much as she can about it. But I felt like that particular situation wasn’t necessary because there was no consequence for making that choice.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Afterworlds despite some of the problems I had with the overall plot and character development. Westerfeld’s writing really made this story enjoyable for me as I heard characters talk about writing and the two stories within made me interested in continuing to read to see what happened next. I look forward to reading more works by this author in the near future.

Book Review: Carry On

Carry On Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On – The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters.

After reading Fangirl, I knew I needed to read this book to see if I’d enjoy it just as much. And I did, maybe even more so for several reasons. But I found I couldn’t give it a higher rating than Fangirl because I found a lot more things wrong with it that I’ll discuss shortly.

Carry On is about the universe Cath fantasizes about in Fangirl. It’s about the world of Watford, a school for those with magic. It centers on Simon Snow, a boy who’s supposed to be the greatest mage the World of Mages has ever seen. In this book, he returns to school for his last year at Watford and his biggest nemesis/roommate Baz doesn’t return until several weeks later. It centers around the death of Baz’s mom along with Simon stopping the evil Humdrum who’s face is very similar to his.

What I enjoyed so much when reading this book is that it’s unique. While the storyline, characters and everything else in it are supposed to be a play off of Harry Potter, you can tell when reading it that it’s a completely different universe. I like that this story is very similar to the world I already love because it made it that much easier for me to understand everything that happened. The universe was very similar to Harry Potter, but in a humorous way that I appreciated. It was like Rainbow Rowell was writing a one novel parody of the Harry Potter series, but twisting it into something else that is just as enjoyable.

You Know You've Read a Good Book Paul Sweeney Quote
Via Popular Inspirational Quotes

I enjoyed reading Carry On so much that when I was finished, I was sad to see the story end. It felt like a piece of me had gone and went into Simon Snow’s world. And I know why I felt that way. This book has all of the elements I like in a story. It’s fantasy with a mixture of mystery, comedy, and its young adult literature that features LGBTQ characters. I like that the world Rowell portrays has magic in it, yet also has some real world elements mixed in that allow you as the reader to see magic alongside normal reality.

But most of all, one of my favorite features in this book is the relationship between Simon and Baz. Both characters are confused about their own identity, yet end up finding each other and connecting in a way you as the reader don’t expect: through the loss of a parent, aka, Baz’s mom who died many years ago at the hands of vampires. Simon could relate to what Baz was going through because of his own loss of not growing up with parents. So Simon did what he thought was right: to help Baz find out who really orchestrated the attack on the nursery that resulted in her death. This connection resulted in showing us their relationship continue to grow, from being roommates who hated each other to lovers. I loved seeing it come together because it was fun to watch the commentary between both of them as they uncovered the truth. It was entertaining, a breath of fresh air that I didn’t realize I needed. And it made moments in the story when things were turning weird more enjoyable for me. I could see the love for each other with each page I read and just couldn’t wait to watch their relationship continue to grow.

Carry On Simon Snow and Baz Pitch Because We Match Picture
Via Pinterest 

What also made Carry On an enjoyable read for me was the different points of view. I enjoyed reading this story from all of the character’s perspectives. It allowed me a better understanding of what was going on, gave me a clue about things I didn’t know before. It also made this book even more interesting because we were given access to these character’s thoughts and feelings, given an understanding as to what they were doing and why. I liked having access to all of the characters in this way because it allowed me to immerse myself even further into the story. It’s also different from any other fantasy novel I’ve read because there’s usually only one perspective that you have access to.

While Carry On is definitely a page turner, there were some elements when it came to the story that I disliked. For one, I thought the names of the spells in this world was ridiculous. I don’t know what Rowell was thinking when she came up with that idea, but it didn’t make sense to me. Especially because it wasn’t at all realistic to what magic is normally like in books. While this allows her world to be uniquely different, I don’t see how these different incantations would even be justified for someone with magic to say. I don’t know if she thought of this as a way to make fun of magic or something, but I just don’t see why magic wielders would have incantations that are nursery rhymes or common sayings that someone normal could say. That sounds like it could potentially lead to an accident, an incident that very easily could’ve been prevented.

I also wasn’t particularly fond of Agatha’s character. I felt like she acted throughout the story like she was above everyone else and just didn’t seem to care about the people she had called friends for the past seven years. Throughout Carry On, she was completely selfish, focusing only on the things that affected her life. She didn’t seem at all remotely interested in keeping up a friendship with Simon and Penelope, yet felt like she could criticize both of them for working with Baz to uncover the truth about his mother’s death. I felt like her character just existed in the story, but didn’t really belong. She was just in the story, wasting space that could’ve been better spent on other characters that played a crucial role in the overall plot.  I just didn’t like Agatha and wish she wasn’t a part of the story at all.

While this book was definitely a page turner for me, another criticism I have is that the overall plot was okay. It definitely had quite a chunk of holes in it that made it difficult to enjoy it as much as I’d have liked. I think part of the problem for me is that Simon Snow’s story is rushed. The whole plot structure in this story runs a little too fast, leaving very little room for making sure nothings being left out. I think part of the reason this is even a problem is because I feel like this story should’ve been spread out into multiple books. That would’ve given Rowell the chance to get the structure and story together and figure out how to end it. Instead, this story is at the final chapter of Simon Snow’s whole story. You learn most of what Carry On is about if you’ve read Fangirl, but I don’t think it’s enough because we miss out on all of the other years Simon Snow is at Watford. You get bits and pieces of some of the important details, but it’s not enough for us to just jump to the finale and see how everything will end for Simon Snow, which by the way is actually pretty disappointing too. With the plot, it feels like you’re missing something, yet not missing anything at all. It would for me be like only reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in the Harry Potter series and expecting to know every detail of the whole series without reading any of the other books. I feel like we miss too much and that the details we are given aren’t enough and have holes in them that don’t really connect the story.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Carry On much more than Fangirl. But because of the amount of criticisms I found myself having about it, it would’ve been unfair to give it a higher rating. But that doesn’t make it any less of a good read for those who want to be taken away to a magical world or for people who want to read about two boys falling in love.

 

 

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