As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti-DNF at 25%

I am putting this down at 25% and marking it DNF for several reasons:

1. The writing style. It was slow and repetitive which made it quite boring, in my opinion. Which was so disappointing because I liked Chelsea Sedoti’s previous book, The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett. In that book, I enjoyed how the secrets were slowly revealed and how the concept of perfect is fake. This book seems to have kind of the same motivation with the main character, Eldon, which I will get to in the next point.

2. Eldon. The main character, the only perspective the story is told, and the tragic teenager. He was an all-star football jock with a great girlfriend and a great family in his small town but then he falls from glory. His girlfriend wishes to be prettier and dumps him. His sister is dead (or dying/in a coma? It’s kind of unclear at this point) and he is no longer the all-star athlete as other teammates have wished to be the best. His history has darkened his future, I get it. But I found him to be profoundly irritating. He has the extraordinary opportunity to make any wish he wants for his 18th birthday and he hates it. I get that other people’s wishes have had a negative effect on his life but he is actively rebelling and avoiding making the choice of what wish to make, but it does not do anything to prevent him from turning 18. This story seems to be more about how he is the bitterly angry victim rather than the underdog hero.

3. His parents. I understand that they too are under a tremendous amount of financial stress, however, I think the author is trying too hard to make them (one in particular) either the scapegoat or the villains. The guilt trips and the manipulations are slightly redeeming when their wish history is revealed, however, it is still a little bit of overkill.

In conclusion, I did not like this book. It’s taken me 3 weeks of debating whether or not I should pick it back up again before I finally decided to let bygones be bygones. I am not writing off (pun intended) the author, Chelsea Sedoti. I am just going to be the opposite of Eldon and be optimistic that her next book will be better.

Please note: An electronic copy of this book was generously provided for free by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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These Vicious Masks (These Vicious Masks #1) by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas, Narrated by Heather Wilds- a 1/5 Star Review

 

Please note: A AudioCD copy of this book was generously provided for free through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, in exchange for an honest review.

Piper by Jay Asher & Jessica Freeburg, Illustrated by Jeff Stokely-a 4/5 Star Review!

I had the exciting opportunity to meet and see a presentation by the author Jay Asher recently (Thanks to my local Westerville Public Library for hosting!).  Although he is very nice, funny, and everyone should go see him if they get a chance-I left really excited because of his next book that was being released: Piper.

Piper is a graphic novel collaboratively written by authors Jay Asher and Jessica Freeburg and illustrated by Jeff Stokely.  It is a retelling of the Pied Piper and the twist is that his music does not affect one person: Maggie.  Maggie is a deaf girl, hence why his music does not endanger her.  Maggie’s hearing was lost due to an act of violent bullying and the injustice only stems from there as villagers continue to bully her relentlessly.  Yet she continues to make the best of it by telling funny stories to her caretaker, Agathe.

The Pied Piper heroically comes to save the village from the rat infestation that has wiped out the population with starvation and/or disease.  But this rescue comes at a price.  A price that the village decides not to pay once the deed is done.  But if they refuse to pay in cash, they will have to pay at a different price-revenge.

Graphic Novels are something that I have only recently begun to develop an interest in, my first being Brian K. Vaughn’s Saga series.  I simply must find more graphic novels that have been illustrated by Jeff Stokely as the artwork is marvelous.  The expressions of the characters, the movement of the wind, and the playful innocence portrayed in a single panel where the Pied Piper is eating an apple under a tree in front of a peacock, for example.  I was just so moved by the illustrations and they greatly improved the storyline.

Personally, I was hoping for more out of the character of Maggie.  I was initially so excited about this graphic novel because it centered around a deaf character.  Both of my parents are deaf and so I expected great things from this character but I was a little disappointed.  I had to take a star away because it seemed like being deaf only came into play when someone walked up behind her and scared her, when she was incorrectly pronouncing words when Agathe wrote down her stories, or when she was being bullied.  I just wish a little more research would have gone into her character because although lip-reading is a way to communicate, there was not any sign language at all.  Granted, I was not expecting American Sign Language in a story based in the medieval times, some home signs between Agathe and Maggie would have been redeeming.  Furthermore, going back to the sneaking up behind her example, when I try to sneak up on my parents, they can feel the vibrations from my walking behind them and it doesn’t always work.  What is failed to be mentioned is that when you lose one sense, the other senses get stronger.

Although I had to take one (slightly biased) star away, the story itself is minimalist yet powerful.  The elements of greed and the despicable villagers are well-balanced by the purity and optimism of Maggie and Agathe despite their tragic situation. Another well-balanced aspect in this story is how both of their backgrounds are isolated, tragic, and yet they find hope in one another.  Furthermore, when they go in different directions, they still protect one another making their love story even more emotional.

I also enjoyed that this was a retelling of the Pied Piper as I thought that was unique.  So many fairy tale retellings have centered around the princesses and Red Riding Hood lately that this one stands out.  And since I heard about it, Eminem’s song “Lose Yourself” has been stuck in my head:

I was playing in the beginning, the mood all changed

I’ve been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage

But I kept rhymin’ and stepped right in the next cypher

Best believe somebody’s paying the Pied Piper

In conclusion, I would recommend Piper for readers who enjoy retellings, tragic love stories, unexpected heroes, and graphic novels.

I would not recommend Piper for those who may be offended on how Maggie’s deafness is portrayed, or those who may be offended or triggered by bullying, violence, kidnapping, and revenge.

Poison by Galt Niederhoffer- DNF at 20%

There are too many great books out there for me to waste time on books like Poison. It felt like I was reading a basic outline of a piece of fiction rather than a completed novel. I skimmed through a lot of this 20% that I did read because the writing style is excessive yet basic. For example, when describing the wife it was something along the lines of saying she’s a former single mother of two, now baby makes three, and new husband makes a family of five. She works from home, requiring a babysitter so she can work while at home, working on the household chores while working, baby screaming while she’s on the phone, covering the phone with her hand to block out the screams, yet keeping a professional tone despite the maternal desire to soothe the baby.

I wish I could say that was an extreme example, however, I do not think it was that far of a stretch. It was excessively wordy yet not really revealing anything. The new husband is also excessive. He is over the top in the examples of how seemingly perfect he is supposed to be that I already did not trust him within the first few pages. It is clear that he is a bad guy, but what is not clear yet is why and how. I am sure that is further discussed in the book but, quite frankly, I just don’t care.

Please note: An electronic copy of this book was generously provided for free from the Publisher via NetGalley in exhcange for an honest review (thank you!).

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia- a 3/5 Star Review

Antonina (“Nina”) Beaulieu is headstrong, passionate, and finally escaping the countryside to enter her first season in London. Instructed by her dispassionate and downright mean cousin, Valerie, to hide her telekinetic powers, Nina does not do a very good job of keeping it a secret. Mostly because she does not know how to control them (kind of like Elsa before she gets her gloves in Disney’s Frozen). She finally gets the chance to meet someone like her, Hector Auvray, who can help her rein her powers in until appropriate. But it’s not just her powers that attract Hector’s attention. It’s her connection to the one true love he could never get over; her cousin Valerie.

I took away one star because of the slow pace and how often it is beat into the reader’s head that Valerie is the villain. Although I appreciate that the reasoning for her cold and greedy heart was given, it still was too forced that she was the antagonist.

I took another star away for two reasons:

1. I did not get attached to the romance between Nina and Hector. I thought it was very immature and overly dramatic.

2. It is touted as sci-fi but that only came to the telekinetic powers that Nina and Hector have. I understand that the telekinetic element is supposed to unify Hector and Nina as it is something that they share as well as makes them outsiders in society, however, it didn’t scream science fiction to me.

When it comes to characters, my favorite was Entienne, Hector’s friend. He was calm, loyal, and had a dry, frank sense of humor. If there were to be anything further done with this plot, be it a sequel or spin-off, I do so hope it focuses on Entienne. He honestly saved the book for me at the points where I was tempted to put it down and be done with it. The other supporting characters seemed to be either shallow or weak. I can see why Valerie’s husband Gaetan should be weak (for the most part) to balance Valerie’s ferocity, however, it was still somewhat redundant.

I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy a manipulative and selfish villain. I would also recommend this book for readers who enjoy telekinesis. Lastly, I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy insects, particularly beetles, as they play a large part in the plot.

I would not recommend this book for readers who may be triggered or offended by the following: mild foul language, suggestions of adultery, bullying, manipulation, and attempted murder.

Please note: an electronic copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review (thank you!).

Anna Dressed In Blood (Anna #1) by Kendare Blake- a 5/5 Star Review!

Cas is a ghost hunter, traveling all over North America to take down murderous ghosts with his special weapon; the athame. While still a high school student, hopping from one school to another does not exactly provide time and availability for long-term friends his own age. He is seeking to avenge his father’s death while saving the lives of the unsuspecting victims of the ghosts he kills. Until he meets the one ghost he doesn’t want to kill.

Anna.

Anna is famously called “Anna Dressed In Blood” in the small Canadian town of Thunder Bay. She haunts the house she died in decades ago and brutally murders anyone who dare step foot in it. Until Cas finds himself inside her house and lives to tell the tale.

I was very surprised at how much I loved this book. It was a Halloween themed pick for this month for a book club that I am in; it is perfect! It is equally haunting and humane. The best example of this is with the ghost of Anna. Her acts of violence are graphically gory, yet her backstory encourages sympathy.

The story was fast-paced and smooth, told in Cas’ perspective. The scenes are so well described that it the gore was discomforting, as it should be. It is kind of like a blend of the tv show Supernatural and the YA book Six of Crows. I recently read Six of Crows (see review here) and so I kept thinking that Cas in this book was misspelling Kaz. In truth, it was the scene in the basement with Cas that reminded me of the scene on the corpse boat with Kaz. The story itself is distinctive, however, particularly in how the story concludes. Therefore, I would certainly recommend this book for fans of Six of Crows and Supernatural.

Conversely, I would not recommend this book for those who may be offended or triggered by parental death, graphic violence, heavy foul language, domestic violence, murder, bullying, witchcraft, ghosts, or VooDoo.

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak- A 3 Star Review!

The Birches have much reason to celebrate this holiday season. Their daughter Olivia is coming home for Christmas, for once. Olivia is a doctor returning from a trip to Liberia where the Haag epidemic has been traumatizing and she is forced into quarantine for 7 days after her return. Joining her will be her mother, Emma, who is keeping a major secret so as not to ruin Christmas. Also present will be her father, Andrew, who writes a column reviewing restaurants and his secret from more than three decades ago will make an appearance. Then her sister, Phoebe, who demands the attention of everyone, still lives at home with her parents, and is planning her wedding during the quarantine. Can they get past the miscommunication and secrets to have a happy Christmas or will the secrets prepare for a battle of betrayal?

It took a long time to pick up speed. Little bread crumbs had been dropped along the way which did build up to the second half, however, the first half was so slow that I was tempted many times to move on to another book. Fortunately, I did make it through and it picked up very quickly after about 60% into the book. A great portion of it was predictable, yet the character development finally comes through and I could not put the book down.

I gave it three stars because I took one star away for how long it took for the story to pick up speed and therefore the amount of times that I was almost at the point of giving up. I took another star away because there were far too many coincidences with the characters and too many secrets that it became overwhelming at times. When Jesse met Emma, for example, and she reveals her secret to him, a stranger. Emma then went on to meet Sean, Olivia’s secret. Jesse also met George, Phoebe’s fiancee, randomly while on a walk and again randomly in a bar and discovered his secret.

I would (and have) recommended this book for those who have traveled to Africa and feel that the warfare and politics of Africa are far too easily ignored in the West. Additionally, for those who feel that the rest of the world groups Africa into one general concept rather than it being an entire continent. I would also recommend this book for readers who enjoy reading about family dynamics and secrets being revealed. Much like (one of my favorite authors) Liane Moriarty books, that are told in different perspectives and center around secrets.

I would not recommend this book for those who may be offended or triggered by: foul language, cancer, sibling rivalry, homophobia, infidelity, infectious diseases, and warfare in Liberia.

Please note: an advanced reader copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review (thank you Berkley Publishing Group!)