Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Why the Hype?: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Just the facts:

Overall:  2 Stars

Addiction Level: I read it when I had spare time.

Believe-ability: It was believable.

Dystopia Factor: Eh. It’s “normal” life.


            I’m not sure where to start with this book. It seemed to have rave reviews and since I’ve been reading a little bit of realistic fiction I thought I’d give this a try. I was aware that there was quite a bit of colorful language (over 200 swear words, according to this article. It also includes an interview with Rowell on the subject.) before I started and that it was being accosted by those who find joy in banning books. (This, regardless of the way I feel about this book, is not something I support at all.) What I found, however, is that first impressions stick with you, even when you try to lay them aside.

            My first impression of Eleanor & Park was disgust at the amount and variety of vulgar language. (Rowell supports her use of profanity in the above mentioned article, but as a reader I don’t really agree with all she has to say.) I really hate it when authors use profanity and particularly a lot of it. I find that it distracts from the story. Every time I came across string of curse words I was immediately pulled out of the story world and I had to try to force myself back in. It felt like I was involved in some stupid tug of war. Story world versus reality. Reality was pretty strong, by the way.

            After I got past the constant tug of war (which nearly made me quit the book) and finished the story I was mostly dumbfounded at the praise Eleanor and Park’s love story had received. Honestly, I didn’t find it that wonderful. There are plenty of amazing depictions of falling in love in young adult literature. This was not one of them. And that’s saying something – I’m a bit of a sucker for a good love story. (I’m very happily married to my high school sweetheart, at that.)

            What I found most enjoyable about Eleanor & Park was actually Park’s family. (Not the aim of the story I’m sure.) I really enjoyed the relationship that Park’s parents have. Park may have found them embarrassing, but what would the world be like if more parents were in love like they were? Children need the example of their parents to show them what love really is. And it’s good for children to see their parents show affection towards one another.

            Lastly, I will say that there was one scene in the book that really moved me. About half way through the book, Park’s mother comes to him seeking his forgiveness for how she had been treating Eleanor. I loved how, even though it was difficult for her, she realized that her behavior toward Eleanor was not what it should have been and it pains her to realize this. She is very open and honest during this exchange and it quickly became the best part of the book for me. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Enchanted Woods: White Hart by Sarah Dalton

Overall Rating:  4 stars
Addition Level:  I read it every waking moment.
Believe-ability:  The setting is believable.  (I did not want to sleep, because I feared I would be trapped in the Waerg Woods.)


Apocalypse Reads specializes in reviewing dystopian literature.  However, we like to mix up our reading choices.  After reading Eon and Eona several years ago I have been on the hunt for good fantasy literature.  One might say I am on a fantasy binge.  In any event when I saw that Sarah Dalton was looking for reviewers for White Hart, I jumped at the chance.  White Hart satiated my hunger fantasy but left me wanting more with the cliff hanger ending!
White Hart is a story about Mae, an outcast, and her journey of revenge through the Waerg Woods.  Prince Casimir accompanies Mae to retrieve stolen property.  They make an interesting pairing. 
Mae and Casimir discover that the Waerg Woods are enchanted and not in a good way.  They face many evils throughout their journey.  Dalton’s descriptions of the woods made me never, ever want to visit such a forest.  I am not afraid of dying, but I would not want to die a slow, painful death in there!  I was afraid to sleep at night, because I feared I would be able to escape whatever danger awaited Mae and Casimir in Waerg Woods.

What I liked:

  • The way Dalton made me care for characters in the first chapter of the book.  I shed a few tears for the first person who dies. 
  • The way the story kept me involved. I read the story almost nonstop over a weekend.
  • The description of the Waerg Woods.  Dalton had me running scared.  I NEVER EVER want to meet the Nix. 

What I disliked:

  • Mae was a bit whiny and kept making some poor choices.  I have hope that she will grow and redeem herself.
  • It was a bit short.  I wanted needed more! In Dalton’s defense she finished one journey.  However, she put her foot over the line of a new journey and then WHAM-O door closed. (See next bullet point.)
  • The end! Cliff hanger. Need I say anymore?

Many thanks to Sarah Dalton for an ARC. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Not What I Was Expecting: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Just the facts:

Overall: 3 Stars

Addiction Level: I read it when I had spare time.

Believe-ability: It was believable.

Dystopia Factor: Eh. It’s “normal” life.


            A Monster Calls is more of a short story than a novel and it follows a thirteen year old Connor as he deals with the emotional impact of his mother’s cancer treatments. Connor is being picked on at school, dealing with a messed up family life, and experiencing a recurring nightmare when a new monster begins to visit him each night. This monster, however, is unlike his nightmare because Connor discovers that the monster is real and not a figment of his imagination. The monster makes a bargain with Connor that he will tell him three stories but that Connor will in turn tell him a story when the time comes. Connor never really agrees to this, but the monster carries on as if he did.

            I feel like I should say this book definitely could fall under the category of “cover deception”. Yes, I know you should never judge a book by its cover, but that’s easier said than done. I certainly was not expecting a hybrid realistic fiction/ fantasy novel. A pure fantasy novel, sure, but not the realistic fiction part of it.  It caught me off guard but I continued with the story because I have been reading a little realistic fiction lately. We have to try new things, yes?

            Although I thought the story was a little obvious (kids dealing with major illnesses seem to be pretty popular right now) there were some things I really liked about the book. First off, the book has some wonderful illustrations throughout. I read the eBook version and wished I would have had a hard copy so I could enjoy the illustrations more (they turned out ok in eBook form, but it’s just different than print). And secondly, I really enjoyed some of the writing. I don’t usually include many quotes in my reviews, but there were a number that stood out to me in A Monster Calls.

Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak? (pg. 35)

It is a true story, the monster said. Many things that are true feel like a cheat. Kingdoms get the princes they deserve, farmers’ daughters die for no reason, and sometimes witches merit saving. Quite often, actually. You’d be surprised. (pg. 44)

“Son,” his father said, leaning forward. “Stories don’t always have happy endings.” This stopped him. Because they didn’t, did they? That’s one thing the monster had definitely taught him. Stories were wild, wild animals and went off in directions you couldn’t expect. (pg. 83)

            A Monster Calls isn’t necessarily a very surprising book or adventurous one, but it was worth the read, especially considering how short it was. Plus, Patrick Ness is a fantastic author. If you’ve read The Chaos Walking trilogy then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Fantasy Friday: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

Overall Rating: 5 stars
Addiction Level:  I ignored the husband and puppy until I finished the book.
Believe-ability:  I daydream and dream about it.


I was hesitant to read a companion novel, because I adored Ismae in Grave Mercy and wanted to follow her in Dark Triumph.  However, I became just as enamored with Sybella soon after I started Dark Triumph.
Plot wise Dark Triumph overlaps a little with Grave Mercy.  It picks up where the duchess has come to meet with the Marshall and Sybella warns the duchess of a trap.

What I liked:
  • Sybella:  She, too, is a real character.  She is not perfect and struggles with her identity and role in life.  She has a lot to overcome, being one of d’Albret’s daughters.  Ew!
  • The Beast:  I am so glad he survived!  I liked him in Grave Mercy, but I like him even more in Dark Triumph.  He epitomizes strength, honor, and integrity.  Sure “he won’t win any prizes” for his looks, but his heart is one of gold.
  • The continuation of the story.  I like how many people rally behind the 13 year old duchess.

What I disliked:
  • D’Albret:  The man is despicable!!!  While this series is historical fiction, I wonder how much liberty she took with his character.  To say the least he is despicable.  It is recorded in history that Anne duchess of Britany would not marry him.  (For more info check out LaFever’s site.)  LaFevers did an excellent job of crafting a disgusting character.  EW!!!
  • Mortain’s Abbess:  There is something up with that woman.  Hopefully we will find out in the conclusion.
  • Having to wait for Mortal Instrument!  The anticipated date is sometime in 2014.  Oh the agony of having to wait…<sighs dramatically and places hand on head while swooning>

P.S.  In case you are keeping track, yes this is the second post for Dark Triumph.  We liked the book so much, we wanted to post again!
P.P.S.  Yes, the agony of waiting is…agony!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Breaking the Usual YA Conventions: Infinityglass by Myra McEntire

Just the facts:

Overall:  3 Stars

Addiction Level: I read it every waking moment.

Believe-ability: It was believable.

Dystopia Factor: Eh. It’s “normal” life.


            Like I said in our Best Books of 2013 post, Rebecca and I actually did read our share of books last year. I wasn’t the most consistent with posting, but I would like to share my reviews for some of the books I finished, especially those that I’ve reviewed previous books in the series.

(Need to catch up on this series? Check out our reviews for Hourglass or Rebecca’s review for Timepiece.)

I had been anticipating this book and the conclusion of the Hourglass series for a long time. I also had been not so secretly hoping that McEntire would return to Emerson as narrator. However, it was not meant to be. Infinityglass is actually narrated by Dune and a new character Hallie. (Insert sad face here.) This was an instant dilemma for me. I didn’t care for Timepiece as much as Hourglass because of the change in view point and Infinityglass started off on that path as well. This brings me to my main point.

I think YA readers have come to expect a certain framework in their novels. An integral part of this framework is that we expect to be given the “starting lineup” of characters that will be telling the story. Once those characters are established we tend to be comfortable and happy to keep it that way. McEntire, however, has purposefully chosen to upset the contentment of her readers by giving us a series that does not follow this convention. What, then, is a reader to do?

This equates to my problem with the series (note: not McEntire’s problem). I absolutely fell in love with Emerson in Hourglass. I loved her snark and was looking forward to living in her world for a while longer. Then, along came Kaleb and my biggest feeling from Timepiece was disappointment. I know that some would argue that Timepiece suffers from Second Book Syndrome, but I would disagree. I think that it is easier to get hung up on what I wanted from Timepiece and Infinityglass than to appreciate the stories for what they are. Just because we as readers expect our narrators to stay consistent does not mean that they actually have to. It’s our job to read the books, not write them.

 I do think that Infinityglass has some things going for it. I loved that the overall story encompassed so many people. Typically YA novels rely on one or two characters to solve the dilemma of the story (see above: elements of YA framework) but McEntire creates an entire team of characters that have to work together to fix the problem. It really is a great reminder that no one person has it all together. There is no fantastic hero/heroine who can do it all on their own. Plus, McEntire uses all three books in the series to tell the story. I don’t think that any of the books are redundant or could be removed from the story. And although we don’t get all the details from the characters I love, we do learn about other interesting characters. I really enjoyed getting to know Poe a little bit better. Had I not read Infinityglass, I would never have known that I actually like Poe.

Lastly, I will say that upon reading Timepiece for the second time I was better able to enjoy it. I surely hope that happens when I reread Infinityglass. And perhaps, I need to remember that I do not control the plot or characters from my favorite books. I just get to go along for the ride.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Farewell to My Friend

Himself and I had to say goodbye to our dear Allie a few days ago. 
She almost made it to her 9th birthday. 
We will miss her very much.