Saturday, April 29, 2017

Y is for The You I've Never Known by Ellen Hopkins #atozchallenge

How do you live your life if your past is based on a lie? A new novel in both verse and prose from #1 New York Times bestselling author, Ellen Hopkins.

For as long as she can remember, it’s been just Ariel and Dad. Ariel’s mom disappeared when she was a baby. Dad says home is wherever the two of them are, but Ariel is now seventeen and after years of new apartments, new schools, and new faces, all she wants is to put down some roots. Complicating things are Monica and Gabe, both of whom have stirred a different kind of desire.

Maya’s a teenager who’s run from an abusive mother right into the arms of an older man she thinks she can trust. But now she’s isolated with a baby on the way, and life’s getting more complicated than Maya ever could have imagined.

Ariel and Maya’s lives collide unexpectedly when Ariel’s mother shows up out of the blue with wild accusations: Ariel wasn’t abandoned. Her father kidnapped her fourteen years ago.

What is Ariel supposed to believe? Is it possible Dad’s woven her entire history into a tapestry of lies? How can she choose between the mother she’s been taught to mistrust and the father who has taken care of her all these years?

In bestselling author Ellen Hopkins’s deft hands, Ariel’s emotionally charged journey to find out the truth of who she really is balances beautifully with Maya’s story of loss and redemption. This is a memorable portrait of two young women trying to make sense of their lives and coming face to face with themselves—for both the last and the very first time.

My Review:

I love Ellen Hopkins. She brings poetry into modern story telling. Seriously her work is AH-MAZING!! Her books tend to veer to the dark, the dirty and the real. She doesn't shy away from abuse, chemical or physical. Honestly her style reminds me of Go Ask Alice, except in verse. 
Her characters are always broken in some way or another. But even at their worst Hopkins finds a way to draw the reader in and make them care for them. In The You I've Never Known she does it again. While Ariel and Maya are probably some  of the cleaner main characters I've met in her books, they are still both so real. Maybe not always making the best choices, but still real. Watching her characters evolve is just amazing. Through her use of first person pov the reader really gets pulled in,
Combined that with the poetry and the way the poems are formatted to the page. Although Maya's story is in standard form and I felt drawn into her head as well.  But I really love the way the pages are set up. 
The twists and turns that populate Hopkins other books are present in Never Known as well. Some I suspected. Others I never saw coming. I won't give anything away. Whether you've read her work before or not, I don't want to take that away. 
I love Ellen Hopkins. Her books are raw. She doesn't shy away from the uncomfortable in hopes of making her characters lives easier for her readers to view. If you haven't read any of her work I definitely recommend doing so. Don't be scared off by the poetical format. Also don't read any of her books without tissues.   

Friday, April 28, 2017

X is for X: A Short Story by Jack Croxall

Fifteen-year-old X thinks she is going to die. Shacked up in the cellar of an old farmhouse, she starts a diary to document her last few days. Much less than a few days if the uglies manage to get in.

My Review:

Wow. Just wow. 

Yes, X is short, but it just blew me away. Thank goodness it has a full length novel based on it because I can't wait to dive back into the world that Croxall has created. ***Spoiler Alert*** I know based on what I read that X probably won't be making an appearance in the novel. But if it draws me in as well as this did, I'll forgive. You never do learn X's real name, so *shrug* who knows. ***End Spoiler*** 

Anyway. X is a great short. It pulled me in from the beginning and left me wanting more. I really didn't want it to end. If you haven't read anything by Croxall definitely pick this one up. It's currently free on Amazon. If you have read any of his work before... I still recommend picking it up. As I said previously I can't wait to read the book based on this story. X was AH-MAY-ZING!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

W is for Welcome to Zombie Colorado by Darby K. Michaels #atozchallenge

Colorado is overrun with zombies. A small group of survivors try to stay alive amid all the chaos and make it to safety, while the world they know begins to crumble.

Welcome To Zombie Colorado is a scary but fun adventure, with a little humor thrown in. It is a dark but realistic look at what the end of the rational world could be like, with a healthy dose of zombies. It's a great example of survival horror, and what a group of average people can do to survive a zombie apocalypse. Will these survivors be able to make it to safety, or will they die a painful death?

My Review:

I was really disappointed with Welcome. The story itself I think could be amazing. There were characters that could have evolved into real stars. Also the world that Michaels has decided to showcase them in could have been really interesting. But none of that happened. The main reason? There were huge editing issues. 
Constantly, from the beginning of the book to the end, the story switches between present and past tense. Sometimes even in the same sentence. 
Also the way the author has decided to jump into random characters heads with no warning. One moment it seems to be being told from the 3rd person, then it jumps into a characters head for a brief 'thought' or for the person to 'speak' and then back to 3rd person then to a characters  POV. All within a few paragraphs. 
Both of these issues could have easily been resolved if the author had only chose a course and stuck to it. I kept hoping by the end of the book that the author would have done so, but they didn't. 
Lastly there were some very obvious editing issues. Word repetition. Missing punctuation. Misspellings. etc. Things that should have been caught in editing or by a decent beta reader. Heck some of the items could have been pointed out by a simple Word program. 

Altogether the book read like a first copy. Maybe something that should be sent to beta readers or an editor. Definitely not something that should be put out as a finished work. Here's the thing, I understand that not all authors can afford a decent editor for their work. But generally beta readers are free. A decent beta reader would have caught the tense and POV issues and brought them to the author attention. I'm not sure if the author had beta-readers or not, but if they did they need to get new ones. Because if there were beta readers either the author refused to take any suggestions they made into account. Or worse, they were afraid, for whatever reason, to be honest with the author and point out things that needed to be corrected. 

The worst part is this story has A LOT of promise. But I don't think it was ready for print. I would love to read some more polished versions of the authors work in the future. I don't like writing reviews for books I don't enjoy. But I hope the author doesn't take this review as simply bashing their work. I tried to point out what caused me not to enjoy Welcome and I hope the author realizes that and that it helps them in the future to put out work that is finished and ready for publication. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

V is for Virus the Unknown by Larry Finhouse #atozchallenge

Brody had always wanted to live like the rich kids did, with their hot meals and shiny cell phones. Unfortunately, life had other plans for him and his sister Pippa. Struggling to pick up the pieces after their father’s mysterious death and coping with their mother’s drug use and her abominable new boyfriend, the children felt even more removed from hope. In this thrilling debut novella, Brody and Pippa are about to learn to rely on a completely different set of survival mechanisms — a set that would keep them alive while horror, a virus that slowly poisons the human brain, tears apart their small town. Amid the outbreak, tales of fright breed and people begin using the word zombie — something Brody, even though young, thinks is foolish.

The horror and fun begins here, Episode 1

My Review:

This first episode of Virus is definitely graphic. I know, I know. It's a zombie/horror story so it should be, right? Well, yeah, I guess. It's just it's more gory and graphic than I've read in a while. I think it's because the gore comes in even before the zombies make an appearance. Maybe that's it?

If you're ok with guts and gore then you should be fine with Virus. At least that part of it anyway.

As for the story itself. It ends on a cliffie. Which I kinda expected going in since it was labeled episode 1.  The rest of it was interesting. Unlike the average 'zombie' some of these were talking and obviously thinking. Plus a few other twists for the MC's themselves were thrown in. So it looks like the following episodes could go in any direction. Which is good. Not too predictable. 
The only problem I had with it was that certain phrases threw me out of the book. It's supposed to be set in the U.S. But there were a few phrases that obviously weren't American. So I found myself going back to confirm what country it was supposed to be in. It just threw me out of the story. If I wasn't from the U.S. I probably wouldn't have noticed. But yeah. I just think if you're going to set a story in another country you should make an effort to make sure you use the correct slang and stuff. 

Overall if you like your zombie/horror genre with a healthy dose of gore then this should be right up your alley. It is an episode, so it's short and and ends in a cliffie. But if you're familiar with serials none of that should come as a surprise. I would read the next episode. I want to see if some of my personal theories pan out about certain characters. It isn't the best first episode I've read, but it is by far not the worst.  

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

U is for The The Unsame Ones by Stephanie Skeem #atozchallenge

I was born in January.
So I am January, and everything that it entails. I bear the same name as a million other Januaries just like me, the same look, the same genetic makeup, the same job, the same face, the same goals, and the same dreams.

I am and will be a secretary for the rest of my life. I am good at what I do, I was made for my job, and my job was made for me.
I am Same.
I have lived the Same as every other January like me for seventeen years. 
And a year from now, on the first of January, I will die from the same genetic defect every January has died from. No January has ever lived past eighteen.
No January has ever wanted to.
Until now.
I believe I have been infected with the Unsame Virus. My head aches, throbs, and pounds 
without ever stopping. Before now, I never felt pain. I know I must turn myself in. That is the only logical thing to do.
It all started with the hideous Unsame One who crossed my path, and thrust a strange object into my hands. It is he who is to blame, and it is I who must fight this. I cannot shut out my master, keeper, and overseer, Time---nor disobey the clock. I will forever march to its dictates, and remain true.
I am a Same One. 
I was born Same. 
I have lived Same. 
And I will die Same.
I am January. 
I am Same.

My Review:

I really was looking forward to The Unsame Ones. The summary had really caught my attention. 
Overall I did enjoy the book. I liked the characters and I think the world Skeem has built is quite amazing. 
But there was one main issue that got to me. 
The main character would just go on these long winded overly repetitive internal speeches. The thing is when it first started I kinda liked them. They were almost poetic. The problem was not only were they long winded, they had a tendency to say the same thing in a slightly different way over and over and over and over. At first I thought that maybe it was the author trying to be ironic. Like the Sames are a certain way so that was how the character described the Sames world or anything involving the Sames. Then it happened describing anything Unsame as well. Then it seemed that some of the descriptions were repeated all over again. While a lot of it was pretty, whole pages of it just started to drag on. I felt like I was stuck in the same scene for ages. Really I thought the book might never end, and not in a good way.  I hate saying that because like I said, I really was intrigued by the premise of the story. I liked the world that Skeem has created. I would like to see more of it. Maybe a prequel explaining how the different Sames came to be. I wouldn't mind seeing what happens to Blade and January. But maybe in the next book the author can keep a tighter leash on January's internal monologues? 

Again, I did like the story that the book tried to tell. I just got bogged down in the constant flowery descriptions in the MC's head. I hate reviewing books like this. Where I actually enjoy the majority of the book, but there's that one thing that just kills it. Especially when without that one little thing the book would have definitely been 5 star amazing.

Monday, April 24, 2017

T is for Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher #atozchallenge

You can't stop the future. 
You can't rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker--his classmate and crush--who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah's voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why. 

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah's pain, and as he follows Hannah's recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

My Review:

So I initially was going to read thirteen before I binge watched the new show. Yeah.... that didn't quite work out. lol. My daughter really wanted to watch it and I ended up watching the whole thing in one sitting. 

I liked both versions equally. They both bring a very dark subject into the light and I think give it the attention it needs. I heard from someone recently that there has been some backlash. That some people are saying they feel both the book and the show glorify suicide. As someone who has had their own close relationship with the topic I have to disagree. I even recently read an interview that the author gave that said originally he planned to have Hannah live. But decided against it because it would have given the reader the idea that suicide wasn't permanent, or something along those lines. 

But I am not here to start a debate or fan girl over a tv show. I am here to review a book. (and maybe fangirl over it a bit. lol)

So on with the show!

I loved this book. I think it takes a heartbreaking topic and shows it in an honest light. Because of it's huge popularity it also opens a door for the readers to discuss said topic without the stigma that has become attached to it.

The characters. OMGS. Just yeah. I knew how the book ended. There wasn't going to be some magic last minute twist that brought Hannah back, yet I still couldn't help getting attached to her and Clay. Obviously you don't get to know the supporting characters as well in the book as you do in the show. But I didn't miss that. The book didn't give me a chance to. Where the show investigates how everyone effected Hannah and was effected by her death, the book is just the raw emotion of Hannah and Clay. One isn't better than the other, they're just different. But since the only two characters who's viewpoints you get to see in the book are theirs it just makes it a bit more raw. You also get to a better look at how she saw Clay. Why she was interested in him in the first place. Why she didn't see a way to make things work for him. 

The author did an amazing job of telling Hannah's story from her pov. You read it and you want to say "But no Hannah, there are other choices!" But that's the point. In her mind there wasn't. That's one of the hardest parts to explain to someone who has never had to struggle with suicidal thoughts. Even if you know there are better choices. You need help to get away from that mind set. In Hannah's case she even realized that, but when she reached out the person she asked for help just didn't. 

That's another thing, a lot of the time when someone reaches out they aren't taken seriously. I admit it is a hard thing for someone in good mental health to understand. That things are SO bad that the only acceptable plan of action would be one that leaves the opportunity for other choices to never happen again. But that's where a suicidal persons mind takes them. Sometimes even when they have enough left to want to ask for help they still can't take it. The person who wants to help them has to realize they have to hold on and not let go. Because it can be a constant battle. Somehow Asher is able to bring all of that to the table. He shows Hannah acknowledging that she can't do it alone. At the same time showing Clay coming to the realization that maybe there was something he could have done if he had just seen the signs. But that at the same time even someone who was supposed to see them wasn't able to help her. I'm not trying to be negative and say that she couldn't have been helped. I just think the help she needed was way more than Clay would have been able to provide on his own. 

But Asher is able to weave both their voices together to show both sides of the issue. From the very first page the reader is drawn in and long after the final page they still aren't let go. This isn't just another teenage angst ridden ill-fated romance. If you haven't seen the show or read the book, for whatever reason, I think that you should definitely at least read the book. Yes, It's heartbreaking. Yes, the girl died. No, I'm not going to give a spoiler alert on that one, you find out she's dead at the beginning of the book.  There is no magic or hero. There is only Clay and Hannah and their story. But it is so worth reading for whatever lesson you think to take from it. Whether it's suicide isn't the answer to you should be kind because you never know how your actions effect others. I think this is a book that should be read and discussed and read again. Even in it's simplicity the author has found a way to move the reader. For that reason alone it deserves to be read.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

S is for Salem's Vengeance by Aaron Galvin #atozchallenge

Salem's Vengeance

Amazon Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Sarah Kelly never expected to meet the Devil’s daughter. She only sought innocent dancing in the moonlight, not a coven entranced by their dark priestess. 
When her friends partake of a powder meant to conjure spirits - and the results go horribly awry - Sarah is forced to make a choice. To keep their secret risks her own damnation, but to condemn them may invoke the accusing remnants of Salem to rise again.

My Review:

Salem's Vengeance was a good read. I was intrigued by the authors take on the Salem incident. Just to clear up something though, the story itself does not take place in Salem. 
The story is told from the MCs POV.  But through her eye you are still able to get a decent understanding of the supporting characters. I like them all enough to want to find out what happens to them after the end of the book.
While the ending does leave some strings untied, it doesn't end on a cliffie, which is always a good thing in my book. lol
From the looks of this one the series should be good. I definitely plan on picking up the next book as soon as I get the chance.  

Salem is quick paced and a solid read. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking to fill their summer reading list.