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Book Review: Smoke & Summons (Numina Trilogy #1)

Smoke & Summons Book Cover

Rating: 3.5 stars

As a human vessel for an ancient spirit, Sandis lives no ordinary life. At the command of her master, she can be transformed against her will into his weapon—a raging monster summoned to do his bidding. Unlike other vessels, Sandis can host extremely powerful spirits, but hosting such creatures can be fatal. To stay alive, she must run. And in a city fueled by smoke and corruption, she finds a surprising ally.

A cunning thief for hire, Rone owns a rare device that grants him immortality for one minute every day—a unique advantage that will come in handy in Sandis’s fight for freedom. But Sandis’s master knows how powerful she is. He’s determined to get her back, and he has the manpower to find her, wherever she runs.

Now, to outwit her pursuers, Sandis must put all her trust in Rone and his immortal device. For her master has summoned more than mere men to hunt her down…

I’m having a hard time deciding on what rating to give this story. I overall enjoyed reading it because I found the story and world-building interesting. The author does a wonderful job creating an immersive world to pull us into with a story and unique characters that you as a reader can get behind. I especially enjoyed reading from Sandis’s perspective and learning more about her abilities as she runs away from the man trying to capture and control her.

But at the same time, I personally sometimes found the story itself to move at a very slow pace. Not because I didn’t find the story interesting or wasn’t enjoying what I was reading. It just felt at times like the plot was moving too slow for me like I was always waiting for something to happen to Sandis and Rone. Even during the moments when they were just resting and had successfully managed to avoid capture.

What I enjoyed with regards to Smoke & Summons is the world our protagonists are in. I wouldn’t necessarily call it grim, but it’s not exactly what one would call one of the safest universes to be immersed in. Especially for someone like Sandis who had no choice in the matter in being able to control an ancient spirit. In their universe, her abilities are considered something to be feared. So, she’s not only on the run from the man who’s controlled her powers but the authorities in their world.

I also enjoyed reading about her powers. Especially since you as the reader discover that Sandis has started forming a connection with the ancient spirit she’s been a vessel for. I found learning about her abilities interesting because it’s a power I haven’t read too many stories about before. It’s also very interesting to read about too because her abilities with this ancient spirit aren’t like all the other vessels her master Kazen has control over. She has more control over summoning this spirit than any of the other vessels does and has a memory of what the spirit does whenever it takes over her body. None of the other characters in the story with her abilities have that type of control so I found that interesting to see.

What I enjoyed the most when reading Smoke & Summons was there was no forced romance between the two protagonists. Yes, it’s clear that they both have feelings for each other. However, Charlie N. Holmberg never forced romance into the story with Sandis and Rone. Most books of this genre always try to include romance into the story in some form or another. So, it was nice to see that not occur in this book.

But while I enjoyed this world and the overall storyline, the biggest criticism I have I already mentioned earlier, with regards to the pacing of the story. I found there were some moments when reading that the story just moved too slow. Most of this book I noticed involved Sandis and Rone on the run from Kazen and the numerous Numen and people he used to help catch them. There really wasn’t too much plot that moved the story forward involving Sandis discovering her connection with the ancient spirit that controlled her body. While I overall didn’t mind because when reading the story, you understand why that’s the case, it sometimes made the story drag on a little too much when you wanted to know more about Sandis and her abilities.

I overall enjoyed reading Smoke & Summons and am definitely planning on reading the next book in the trilogy Myths and Mortals. I just hope the next book improves in the pacing of the story so that this trilogy continues to interest me enough to want to read the next book to see what happens to our protagonists.

Book Review: Uprooted

Uprooted Book Review

Rating: 4 stars

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course, that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Uprooted is one of many stories that reminds me of why I love reading fantasy so much. The amount of fantasy in this story was beautifully written, hooked me from the first page to the last. It was like I could feel the magic being told in this story all around me as I read, and I loved every minute of it. As someone who loves reading fantasy, this book took me on a magical journey that I never wanted to see the end of.

The story building Naomi Novik does to bring this world to life is very well done. You get a wonderful glimpse of the world Agnieszka grows up in and see how the dangerous Wood plays a pivotal role in events that shape up parts of her life. At first, you don’t understand why the Dragon chooses a new girl every ten years to live in his tower until you get further into the story and learn more about him as a character. I found learning about all these intricate details to create the world these characters live in fascinating and wanted to see more of this world with each page I turned. Her writing is very powerful because it sucks you as the reader into the story she’s telling and makes you want to go on this adventure, into this world along with them.

While the world and story in Uprooted really sucked me in because it was interesting and very magical, I do have some criticisms with this story too. For starters, it took me a little while to like the characters in the story Novik introduces the reader to and the decisions they made. This was especially true to me for the protagonist Agineszka because she made some very irrational decisions in the story because people she loved were in danger. While I could relate to her character overall because she somewhat reminds me of myself, there were moments I didn’t like her due to the decisions she made without thinking of the consequences her choices would cause. Not to say I didn’t understand why she made these choices, but I sometimes thought she needed to put in some more thought to the decisions she made and how her choices would impact the lives of others.

I also wasn’t particularly fond of the romance Novik set up between two of the characters in the story. I honestly felt like it wasn’t necessary because it just didn’t make sense for these two people to be romantically involved with each other. They weren’t well suited for each other and it wasn’t something I was interested in seeing whenever I was reading this book. It just didn’t feel like it belonged in the story, so I was disappointed when I saw this romance occur between the two of them.

However, I really enjoyed reading this book because the world and the magical fantasy within its pages captivated my attention. This book reminds me so much of why I love reading fantasy books so much and I can’t wait to read Spinning Silver, even though it’s not a sequel but sounds like its very similar to Uprooted. I recommend this story to fantasy lovers like me and anyone who wants to read a story set in a wonderfully detailed world that’ll take you on a journey unlike any other. This book had a story that captivated my heart and that I know in the years to come I’ll be reading again.

Book Review: Everything, Everything

Everything, Everything Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

While I enjoyed reading this book completely, there were some things with regards to the story that just didn’t add up.

Everything, Everything is about this seventeen year-old named Madeline. She’s allergic to the world and has spent a majority of her life inside her comfy home so that she doesn’t die. The only people she spends time with are her mother and Carla. But everything changes when a moving truck arrives next door and a boy named Olly and his family move in. When Madeline sees Olly for the first time, she knows her she’s going to fall in love and that it’ll be a disaster. But what she doesn’t realize is how much her life is going to change.

Okay, so there are a lot of things I like about this book. I like the characters who seem very personable and relatable. Especially Olly, who we see has a very terrible home life, yet has a lot of energy that allows him to overcome any obstacle that gets in his way. I find myself able to relate to his character the most because I’ve been in his shoes. I know what it’s like to have someone who’s supposed to be a father figure hurt you in the ways his father has hurt their family. But I also enjoyed reading the story from Madeline’s point of view. She’s a very intelligent lady who despite her circumstances manages to make the most of the situation she finds herself in. She becomes close to the only two people she can really talk to, and even though she wasn’t allowed to go outside, she makes the most of the time she spends with those she cares about. Her relationship with Carla is one of my most favorite things about this book. Carla is very kind and caring towards Madeline, almost like a second mother figure for her throughout. She gives Madeline advice and doesn’t begrudge her for any of the choices she makes. Even when she messes up, Carla is still there to support her and guide her in the right direction. I like their relationship because you can see how much they both care about each other, and how happy they are together.

Another thing I enjoyed about reading Everything, Everything is the writing style. It felt very personal, like I was reading into the heart and soul of Madeline’s character. It also reminded me a little bit of a journal because of the cute illustrations that were in the book. Well, that and also the fact that Madeline literally put all of her thoughts and feelings into it. I liked it because I’ve never read a book written like this one. Especially one from the perspective of a teenage girl whose thoughts are pretty personal and relatable. It made reading this book that much more enjoyable because it allowed me an even better understanding of Madeline’s character.

Everything, Everything Image1
An example of one of the pages in Everything, Everything.

However, there are a lot of things about Everything, Everything that don’t particularly add up. For while this book was a good read, I felt like the author should’ve done some research on Severe Combined Immunodeficiency. Especially because Madeline supposedly doesn’t know what exactly she’s allergic to so anything she eats or touches could cause her to get sick. Yet, you see Madeline do a lot of things that should’ve triggered her system if she really had this disease. For example, when she kisses Olly for the first time. She should’ve gotten some sort of reaction from the kiss, but she doesn’t. She ends up being perfectly fine, as if she and Olly didn’t kiss at all. While I completely understand why this disease is talked about in this way, it’s still disappointing because it would’ve been nice to see a positive awareness for this disease. However, I still managed doing research into it myself because I know I don’t know too much about it either. So I even though Nicola Yoon didn’t look too much into it herself, I did some research to at least make myself a little more aware about this disease.

I also didn’t like how cliché Madeline and Olly’s relationship ended up being. While I liked them as a couple, I felt like it was a cliché because it pretty much follows the boy saves girl plot or makes it where it seems like it’ll be impossible for them to ever be together. Then they end up together because of miraculous circumstances that would’ve never happened if Madeline hadn’t made the decision to leave her house because of Olly.  This bothers me because I don’t like the concept that falling in love with someone will make all your troubles go away.  Real life doesn’t work that way so reading a romance that acts like that’s true is frustrating.

I also felt like the ending to Everything, Everything was a cop out. It was a cheap way of explaining why Madeline didn’t have SCID. It also felt like a slap in the face because Madeline wasted many years of her life for nothing. It was also frustrating because her mother, who conveniently is a doctor, should’ve known that her daughter had no problems and should’ve addressed her own turmoil she was experiencing. While I get treating your own child’s health can cloud your judgment, I felt like it was a complete cop out for an explanation. It also added more into making this story even more unrealistic by using that to get Madeline and Olly back together at the end. Just wasn’t the ending I pictured for Madeline despite that I wanted things to go well for her.

As a whole, Everything, Everything makes a great young adult romance. However, it’s lack of true representation of SCID and giving a unique ending make it hard for those with health issues to feel like they are being represented accurately. I overall liked the story, characters and the style of the writing, but it messed up in the ways that really mattered, which is why my rating isn’t as high as I’d originally planned.

Book Review: All the Rage

All the Rage Book Cover

Rating: 2 stars

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community.

 Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. 

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

This book was a disappointment to me for so many reasons. But before I talk about why I didn’t enjoy this book like everyone else seems to, let me tell you two of the things I did like about it.

What I enjoyed about All the Rage is its realistic portrayal of rape and the culture surrounding it. For those who’ve unfortunately had this horrible experience, what Romy goes through is all too real. Especially what happens after, with the people she thought were her friends turning their back on her. These people are really cruel to her because of her accusations, which they believe to be untrue. It isn’t until the end of the story that any sort of truth is found, even though there’s still no justice for Romy. This is very realistic of our world with regards to rape culture because rape victims are never believed to be telling the truth. Even those closest to them think they are fabricating or believe the victim wanted the person who hurt them. In Romy’s case, this is apparent because before the rape, she really liked her rapist. So when he hurts her, her friends find it difficult to believe her.

Romy’s reaction to her traumatic experience is also very realistic. She feels like she can’t trust anyone in her small town because they’ve betrayed her. It doesn’t help that the accusations are against the sheriff’s son, which plays into diminishing Romy’s chance at getting any justice for what was done to her. But what I like is how real they show Romy’s trauma. She doesn’t hide any of it from the reader throughout. It’s very clear she needs help, that she now has mental health issues because of her trauma. You see this in the story from the way she applies lipstick and nail polish, as if they are her armor she can take with her out into the world. But she also uses them as a way to hide herself. She believes that if she keeps applying these products, she’ll look and be a different person. She won’t be the person who was raped, but someone else entirely. I like that this novel includes her trauma because mental illness is a topic that really needs to be talked about.

Now, what I didn’t like with All the Rage is the characters. While I appreciate Courtney Summers exploring mental illness and rape culture, I felt like she focused so much on that she didn’t create characters with any personality. Romy is the main character, but she has no character development at all during the story. During the whole book, she’s pretty much doom and gloom because she’s so busy building walls around herself that she doesn’t notice how concerned her Mom and Todd are about her. This can also be seen with her “relationship” with Leon, the only character in the book I like besides Romy’s parents and other coworkers. She’s so busy guarding herself around him that she blows any chance of happiness she could’ve had. And when she does act normal around him, she’s using him in order to be a completely different person. The rest of the characters in the story also have flat and boring personalities too because they don’t add anything to the story besides being more tormentors to Romy.

I also had a hard time feeling any sympathy for her because she kept creating more trouble for herself. This can be seen in the story when she and Penny are both missing at the same time, and they find her with no recollection of what happened. These moments keep happening throughout the story, almost like Summers wants to continuously make her character the victim. She continuously makes stupid decisions that get her in trouble, but add nothing to the overall story, which made this book that much harder to continue reading for me. The only characters in this story I feel any sympathy for are Leon and Penny. I feel sorry for Leon for having to put up with Romy while I feel sorry for Penny for sacrificing her life for Romy who I feel didn’t really deserve it.

I didn’t enjoy this book so much I stopped reading it altogether. I stopped reading because I honestly didn’t know if I wanted to find out how everything ended or not. I also stopped because of how confusing the storyline was written. One minute, the story would be in the present, then we’d be back in the past with no warning. I’d stop reading and when I’d come back, I’d be so confused because nothing is explained to us. I also stopped reading because I just couldn’t deal with Romy’s character, which I explain in the previous paragraph. But I came back because I hate leaving books unfinished, and figured I should see this one through to the end. And I wasn’t disappointed because the last half of the book was better than the beginning, though the ending was pretty much a flop.

I also hated that the main antagonist isn’t really a character in this book. Throughout the story, Romy mentions what happened to her, but the person who truly hurt her is never physically present in the book. Yes, you get introduced to his lovely father and friends, but you never meet or deal with him in any way. I think this is a terrible oversight on Summers’s part because people who are raped by someone they know have to deal with seeing that person after the rape happens.

The plot of All the Rage is also horribly written. I hated it because so much was going on along with Romy learning to recover from her trauma. I also just found most of it to be a little pointless too because it didn’t move the story forward, or make Romy come to terms with what happened to her. For example, that scene with the stranger near the end when she finds Penny’s car is completely ridiculous because it really doesn’t add anything to the story.

To be honest, I really wanted to enjoy reading All the Rage, but this book has so many issues for me that I couldn’t. I know a lot of people like this book, and while it did have some moments where I was interested in finding out what happened, there are just too many things with this story that made it hard for me to enjoy. I really badly wanted to feel for Romy and everything she was going through, but her character is too unsympathetic for me to even entertain the notion of pretending to feel that way. So while this book was a powerful read for a lot of people, I just don’t see what makes it so special.

 

 

 

 

TV Review: Thirteen Reasons Why

After reading Thirteen Reasons Why, I found out it was becoming a Netflix show and decided to watch it once it was released. While I normally don’t do television reviews of any kind, I figured I could make an exception for this, considering I enjoyed the book so much that I was interested to see how it would look on TV. 

I wasn’t at all disappointed. It was everything I expected and more. The story transformed on television much better than I anticipated, bringing to life serious topics young adults need to discuss, such as bullying, rape and suicide. This is one of the things I enjoy about the book, but enjoyed more when I saw my imaginings come to life.  The directors made sure not to shy away from any of the issues Hannah brought to light in her tapes, even if it meant that the show was graphic with its content. These are all issues that need to be openly talked about so I was very pleased to see the directors highlight them. It showed that they really cared about bringing awareness to really heavy subject matter and making the show represent the books as close as they could. 

Hearing Hannah’s voice narrating her story really sucked me into wanting to see how these events unfolded. When reading Thirteen Reasons Why, it’s much harder to imagine what Hannah’s voice sounds like. But now, I find I’m not disappointed by what I hear not only because the audio is authentic, but because the actress who played as Hannah did a really good job at portraying her character. She made her much more sympathetic as a character because you could clearly see she was struggling and needed help. You can see as she continues telling her story how disappointed she becomes when the people she trusts continue letting her down. You can see Hannah falling apart leading up to the point where she can’t take it anymore and ends her life. All of these things make Hannah such a sympathetic character that you can’t help but follow along to hear what she has to say. 

Since we are already on the topic of character, I’d like to add I actually like the way all of the characters and the story is portrayed on the Netflix series much better than the book. When reading the book, I felt like all of the characters were flat since the whole story centered on Clay spending all night listening to Hannah’s tapes. You didn’t meet most of them besides being introduced to them with regards to how Hannah talked about them. In the TV original, however, you get to see and meet the characters Hannah’s story focuses on. You get to see how they all interact with each other and how Hannah’s tapes effected their lives. You also actually get introduced to both Hannah and Clay’s parents, both of which play a crucial role in the overall story arch in the show. In the book, these characters didn’t have much of an appearance other than Hannah’s parents no longer being at their house since her death. In the show, they are investigating the school with regards to Hannah’s death, trying to find out why their daughter committed suicide. The same can be said with the characters mentioned on Hannah’s tapes. In the show, they are all in a panic when Clay is listening to the tapes because he’s reacting to what he hears Hannah say about them. They’re worried he’s not going to pass the tapes on or turn them in to the school. 

I love that the show went off script from the books for a couple reasons. For one, it makes the story more interesting and continues to show how one person’s actions results in many different consequences. It also makes you as the viewer more interested in seeing what’s going to happen next as Clay continues listening to the tapes and reacting to them. Seeing Hannah’s parents invested interest in getting justice for their daughter plays a role in this too because they along with the tapes become Hannah’s voice since she can no longer speak. This all shows how suicide impacts everyone’s life, which is a very strong message that I appreciate the directors taking the time to portray in the script for the show. 

For all of these reasons, I find myself enjoying Thirteen Reasons Why as a television show more than a book. I find the show does a good job of bringing the words from the text to life in a way that every viewer can relate to. It also has more of an emotional impact on me because of my own personal traumas, some of which can be seen in my “Truer Than Fiction” blog post  I also highly recommend those going through personal problems of their own to watch it so that you can know you are not alone and that you can always get help.

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