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Sunday, June 3, 2018

Review: The Upside of Iris by Helen Rose



Title: The Upside of Iris
Author: Helen Rose
Format: eARC
Pub. Date: September 9th 2015
Source: Netgalley


Book Description:



What does love look like to you?

For young Iris, the whole world looks upside down, and the only person who truly understands and appreciates her perspective is her new friend Charlie, who has his own unique trait: he cannot speak. His silence, her precociousness, and their acceptance of each other make the two a perfect match.

But happiness is fleeting, as Iris’s new stepsisters, skeptical and jealous (as conventional folks often are of those who dare to swim against the tide), manage to drive the two apart. Iris and Charlie are separated for the remainder of childhood.

Grown-up Iris never forgets about Charlie, though, and her love for him influences the charming art gallery she now owns. But despite the visually magical environment she inhabits, Iris finds herself doubting Charlie once again, thanks in no small part to those pesky stepsisters of hers.

Still, before she decides to give up hope altogether, she decides to do one small thing for the other lonely souls around her . . . with wonderful consequences.

The Upside of Iris is an illustrated love story for all ages, and for anyone who has ever felt misunderstood. It is a whimsical, touching reminder that perspective is truly everything, and that a change in perspective can make all the difference in the world.






Review:


★★★★

This book is so charming and cute, I loved it. The whole plot is summed up really nicely in the blurb, so thankfully I don't have to rehash it here.

The illustrations are absolutely beautiful. They are stunning to look through, and are really the heart of the book. It's what makes the book work, and make it worth reading. Between the quirky story line, and these illustrations, it very much put me in mind of the film Amelie. Surreal, bright and colorful, but ultimately lovable and endearing.

It's a story of being yourself, and being happy. A story that tells you not to give up on what you're looking for, and when you might find it. It encourages uniqueness and tells you that it's okay to be different, that some people just see the world differently. In Iris's case, literally.

This is a great book to read with your child together, to go over the lessons learned as well as the vibrant illustrations that perfectly match the corresponding texts.

I received a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Review: I'm Not Missing by Carrie Fountain



Title: I'm Not Missing: A Novel
Author: Carrie Fountain
Format: Paperback ARC
Pub. Date: July 10th 2018
Source: Goodreads First Reads


Book Description:



When Miranda Black’s mother abandoned her, she took everything—the sun, moon, and stars—and Miranda found shelter in her friendship with Syd, who wore her own motherlessness like a badge of honor: Our mothers abandoned us. We won’t go begging for scraps.

When Syd runs away suddenly and inexplicably in the middle of their senior year, Miranda is abandoned once again, left to untangle the questions of why Syd left, where she is—and if she’s even a friend worth saving. Her only clue is Syd’s discarded pink leopard print cell phone and a single text contained there from the mysterious HIM. Along the way, forced to step out from Syd’s enormous shadow, Miranda finds herself stumbling into first love with Nick Allison of all people and learning what it means to be truly seen, to be finally not missing in her own life.






Review:


★★★★★

I was absolutely blown away by this book. I was shocked to learn that this is Carrie Fountain's first novel. It's beautiful, haunting, and just straight up well written.

However, I definitely wasn't surprised to learn that her first two publications are books of poetry. It's clear that Fountain has a way with words. The way that the writing flows is beautiful. It's a bit slow paced, but I liked that. This book is set in the desert area of the US, so for me the tempo of the writing matched the slow, low heat of the setting that the author drew me into.

I like that all of the characters were multi-faceted and had depth to them. You learn who Miranda is both at the side of her best friend Syd, and rediscover her along the way when Syd is no longer there. You learn who Nick is both through the eyes of Syd, who hates his guts, and through Miranda, who yearns for him even after he makes some questionable decisions. Even her father, who isn't really a main character, you learn to see the fatherly, put together side that Miranda sees and the scientific genius version that the rest of the world sees.

I like that Miranda was a little weird, and that she's relatable. She's flawed, like all of us. She respects prayer because of her family roots, but she isn't into the praying thing herself. So when she needs to sleep, she recites a historical speech to herself aloud instead. She breaks a romantic tension moment by laughing. She struggles with friendship and loss in a way that I think is just so human.

And then there's the case of the missing friend. Well, "not missing" friend. I actually wasn't sure where this plot arch was going, in a sort of a "who done it" type mystery style. I won't give spoilers, but I will say that I did not see the book taking the twists that it did, and it took me by surprise. But in a good way.

My only real criticism of this book has to do with the ending. I felt like there was still a few loose ends left frayed by the time the book was over. I'm a little disappointed that Miranda's mother wasn't a bigger part of the plot line. I would have really liked to have followed that path to learn more about what happened and why.

This book is gritty and emotional, but also full of twists and even quite a few laughs. Reading the slow paced, flowing language made it very relaxing and soothing to read, despite all of the drama and issues that are presented in the book. Be warned, there's some hard to swallow for some topics, like sex, abuse, and abandonment.

I hope this isn't the last novel by Carrie Fountain, and I recommend this to anyone who likes realistic fiction with a darker, problematic side to it.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Thank you.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Review: Moribund by Genevieve Iseult Eldredge



Title: Morbund
Series: Circuit Fae #1
Author: Genevieve Iseult Eldredge
Format: Paperback, Print, 300 pages
Pub. Date: October 24th 2017
Source: Goodreads First Reads


Book Description:



Dark Fae. Romance. Evil Plots. High school.
Our heroines could be in for the greatest adventure ever.

If only they could decide whether to kill or kiss each other.

High school sophomore Syl Skye is an ordinary girl. At least, she’s trying to be. School photographer and all-around geek, she introverts hard and keeps her crush on sexy-hot glam-Goth star Euphoria on the down-low. But when a freak accident Awakens her slumbering power, Syl is forced to accept a destiny she never wanted—as the last sleeper-princess of the fair Fae.

Suddenly hunted by the dark Fae, Syl’s pretty sure things can’t get any worse. Until she discovers her secret crush, Euphoria, is really a dark Circuit Fae able to harness the killing magic in technology. Even worse, she’s been sent to destroy Syl. With mean girls and magic and dark Fae trying to kill her, it’ll take more than just “clap if you believe in fairies” to save Syl’s bacon—not to mention, her heart.






Review:


★★★

I wanted to love this book, really I did. It has a lot going for it, but unfortunately for me it just fell a bit fact.

Plus, the cover is beautiful. I would love to have a print of it on my wall.

I love books with gothic/punk characters. And this book definitely has one. Euphoria seems so cool. She's a gothic musician and a dark fae, and she's pretty bad ass. She has a great sense of loyalty and of sticking up for what she wants. Plus, she's LGBT. So, I absolutely love this character. I love the idea of taking faerie magic and combining it with technology and a cyber punk type style. It's an original idea, and I think it's a cool one.

The main character, however, fell flat for me. I found Syl pretty irritating and I didn't really care for her. I love that she loves girls. I love that she has a sense of fighting for what's right. But everything else about her just bugged me. She makes so many emo jokes, and self depreciating jokes about herself to the point of annoyance. There's a bunch of catty mean girl drama that's forced and eye-rolling. Her vocabulary also really bugged me- I'm not sure who this book is written for. The whole bad ass saving lives and being in love with rock stars in night clubs thing feels high school to me, but the way Syl talks is definitely more junior high, but it all seems confused. One quote is "so darn sexy".... So she's old enough to be thinking about sex and sex appeal, but can't say damn? It's weird. She can also "sure as heck try" and "holy cats". Not to mention she knows her true identity for all of 3 seconds before she somehow solves a problem that none of the other faeries have thought of.

It's also really hard to differentiate these voices at times. The chapters alternate, but the two characters are written very similarly to the point of confusion.

This book also has what I like to call Batman Syndrome. Remember all those old episodes of the Batman tv show, where while Batman was tied up, the villain would narrate his whole master plan while Adam West struggled to undo the ropes? And the whole time, you're thinking "Why are you telling him all this, just do the plan!" That's what happened here. There's a ton of dialogue and narration but not enough actual story telling and world building and actions. I got kinda talked out.

All in all, this book was a mixed bag for me. I totally understand why people love it, and I definitely love parts of it. But parts of it were just a bit too disappointing for me. I'd be willing to reread this in the future to see if I still feel the same way, but for now I'm going to hold off on continuing the series.

I received a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Mini Review: James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl



Title: James and the Giant Peach
Author: Roald Dahl
Illustrator: Lane Smith
Format: Paperback, 144 pages
Pub. Date: April 1st 1996
Source: Goodwill


Book Description:



A little magic can take you a long way...

Roald Dahl was a champion of the underdog and all things little—in this case, an orphaned boy oppressed by two nasty, self-centered aunts. How James escapes his miserable life with the horrible aunts and becomes a hero is a Dahlicious fantasy of the highest order. You will never forget resourceful little James and his new family of magically overgrown insects—a ladybug, a spider, a grasshopper, a glowworm, a silkworm, and the chronic complainer, a centipede with a hundred gorgeous shoes. Their adventures aboard a luscious peach as large as a house take them across the Atlantic Ocean, through waters infested with peach-eating sharks and skies inhabited by malevolent Cloudmen, to a ticker-tape parade in New York City.

This happily ever after contemporary fairy tale is a twentieth-century classic that every child deserves to know. And Lane Smith's endearingly funny illustrations are a perfect match for the text.






Review:


★★★

I was feeling nostalgic, and what better way to cure that than to read books that you remember from your childhood. This book will always have a special place in my heart, but it is a wee bit more problematic than I remember it.

First, the illustrations. I love them. They're in that distinct style that I associate with Roald Dahl. It's dark, almost creepy. And yet somehow, endearing and charming. It's exactly how I remember it.

The story is just as silly and fantastical as I remembered, but it's a little bit darker than memory served. For example, the bugs have a casual conversation about killing James's aunts. There's also some questionable racism, which was probably okay in the 60s when it was published but reading it again in 2018 ho boy is that troubling.

All in all, I don't know that I'll read it again, but it still made me smile and it still holds its own from when I was young, albeit a bit more concerning.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Review: Goth Girl and the Fete Worse than Death by Chris Riddell!



Title: Goth Girl and the Fete Worse than Death
Series: Goth Girl #2
Author: Chris Riddell
Format: Hardcover, 218 pages
Pub. Date: September 25th 2014
Source: Half Price Books


Book Description:



Preperations are under way for the Full-Moon Fete and the Great Ghastly-Gorm Bake Off.

Celebrity cooks are arriving at the hall for the big event, and as usual Maltravers is acting suspiciously. On top of all this, Ada's elusive lady's made Marylebone has a surprising secret, and everyone seems to have forgotten Ada's birthday!






Review:


★★★★

So, my aesthetic and interests are definitely slanted more to the "goth" end of the spectrum. So when I see a book with goth in the title, especially about a goth girl, it's a big sell for me. Plus, there's illustrations and the binding is super pretty. I haven't read book one of the series but figured I'd give this one a try. I didn't feel like I was missing anything from the first book.

First, let's talk illustrations. They're super fun. They're done in a style that reminds me a bit of the Series of Unfortunate Events. Sort of dark, but well detailed and a bit whimsical. There's also fun little footnotes used to further explain things.

I think this is a book that works on two levels, sort of like Shrek. I know that's a weird comparison. But have you ever watched a movie or tv show for kids, and realized you and the kids are watching two different shows? Like they're laughing at a fart joke, but you're laughing at a more adult one? That's sort of how this book works. There are so many jokes and word play and references that I'm sure kids don't get. Not dirty ones, but for example there's a chef in this book named William Flake. His pet's name is Tyger, Tyger. As an English grad, I laughed. There's also a chef modeled after Gordon Ramsay whose signature dish is "A Nightmare in the Kitchen". I love Kitchen Nightmares. There's poodles named Belle & Sebastian, which is a band. The book is chockablock full of these sort of in-jokes, and I loved it.

It blends fantasy really well. There's vampires, there's a magical circus. There's pastries that defy physics. There's even a bear who's a housekeeper. I found it both silly and endearing, and I think that's good in a kid's book.

There's even a little mini-biography included in a sleeve on the back cover of the hardcover edition that helps to tie up the loose ends.

The only criticism I have is that the end scene is a bit sudden and rushed. It felt very "rips-off-the-mask-of-the-housekeeper I would have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for those meddling kids".

This is a fun read for kids or kids at heart. It's written in a similar vein to Series of Unfortunate Events or The 9 Lives of Alexander Baddenfield. It's a bit dark but a lot of fun, and I'd definitely read the other ones in this series.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Guide Review: The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs



Title: The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks
Author: Sam Maggs
Format: Hardcover, 208 pages
Pub. Date: May 12th 2015
Source: Quirk Books


Book Description:



Fanfic, cosplay, cons, books, memes, podcasts, vlogs, OTPs and RPGs and MMOs and more—it’s never been a better time to be a girl geek. The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is the ultimate handbook for ladies living the nerdy life, a fun and feminist take on the often male-dominated world of geekdom. With delightful illustrations and an unabashed love for all the in(ternet)s and outs of geek culture, this book is packed with tips, playthroughs, and cheat codes for everything from starting an online fan community to planning a convention visit to supporting fellow female geeks in the wild.





Review:




Yikes. Let's get this over with, shall we?

This definitely wasn't the book for me, that's for sure. From the get-go, I'm not sure who the demographic for this is. It's written in a really juvenile tone, but it mentions getting fandom tattoos, so... Not sure the age that this is meant for. It says in the book that this guide isn't just for girls to learn from, yet that's what the title of the book is. The word fan isn't gendered in the first place, so it was a choice to market it to women. This book also says that no one can be classified and we're all special... Then proceeds to talk about labels of fans and what defines them.

It's supposed to be a relatively feminist text, based on the cover, title, and introduction to the series. But I didn't feel that way. The male casts of shows are described not as talented, but as "yummy". There's also a fair amount of discussion of shipping characters and having crushes (like Han Solo). There's nothing wrong with ships or having character crushes, but it shouldn't be a focus of why to watch a show. People watch for talented actors, good writing, and plot lines that keep you hooked.

There's also a section that addresses how annoying "fan speak" is, but the book is still full of it. Words like glomp, squee, and feels are all in play. There's even a textual representation of a .GIF in this book. Like.... why though? I can see including it in an ebook or digital copy but it seems silly in a hardcover. That said, there's some interesting word/reference origins here, but most of it isn't new to you if you spend as much time on the internet as I do.

It's been 4 years since this book was published, and it's already incredibly outdated. Ben Affleck as Batman is a reality. This is something that, in the book, hasn't happened yet. There's also a ton more Star Wars and Avengers films (which, Avengers is really the only love Marvel gets). No one thinks of Aquaman as a lame hero anymore, not since Momoa got cast. Slang is off, shows are no longer relevant. I'm sure it was better years ago, but it doesn't all hold up.

A lot of this book is common sense. "How do I convert a friend to my fandom?" Watch stuff together. Not that hard of a concept. "How do I bring fangirl to my life?" Wear merchandise and hang a poster. "How do I notice a Harry Potter fan?" I mean, talk to people? Also a Hogwarts shirt is a pretty clear sign. I don't know why things like this needed explaining.

Though I clearly have issues with this book, I do give credit where credit is due. There's a section on comic con etiquette and what to expect your first time that I think is incredibly helpful. There's a highlight of popular conventions and where they're held, and some good resources for finding meets and stuff in your area. For me though, that's all I enjoyed about this book.

Maybe it's just me. If you learn something from this book, great. Genuinely. But it wasn't for me, and I don't recommend it.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Review: Hollow Beauty by Khristina Chess



Title: Hollow Beauty
Author: Khristina Chess
Format: Paperback, 225 pages
Pub. Date: September 13th 2014
Source: Goodreads First Reads


Book Description:



When tall, gorgeous Brody asks Olivia to the prom, she’s ecstatic—until he suggests that she use the two months before the dance to lose some weight. Does he think she’s fat? His comment sends Olivia on a spiral of insecurity and dangerously rapid weight loss that borders on anorexia.

As her pounds vanish, her friendship deepens with Ross, the new prep cook at the diner where she works. Despite his mysterious limp, he doesn’t suffer crippling low self-esteem like Olivia does; usually, she can’t even look at herself in the mirror anymore. But when she’s riding dirt bikes and searching for caves with Ross, she doesn’t feel ugly or fat, just herself again—hanging out and having fun.

With Brody, instead of finding the romance and true love she had hoped for, she feels like a terrified rabbit that he’s going to devour. She refuses to think about that. She’s almost thin enough to be beautiful for the prom.

And then the unthinkable happens.






Review:


★★

I'm always interested in realistic young adult books. The ones that address the tough stuff: eating disorders, self harm, conversion therapy, depression. Those are the books that helped me the most when I was that age, and I still look to them in adulthood. This isn't the first book on eating disorders that I've read, and it's something that I've dealt with in real life as well. Unfortunately, I didn't think that Hollow Beauty did a very good job with this topic.

What bothers me the most, I think, is how quickly the eating disorder issue presents itself. The boy she has a crush on tells her she needs to lose weight on page 4 of the book. And she just clings to this and the disorder starts. Did she have self-esteem issues before? Is weight something she's struggled with before? Was she already thinking about slimming down? I don't know. In the first few pages up to that point, she is happy with some fries after a sports meet. And then like lightning, out of nowhere, it begins. I wish that there was more about Olivia at the beginning, because it is so instantaneous that it comes off as odd.

I also don't really think her weight loss seemed realistic. People noticed the second she lost even a tiny bit of weight, and felt the need to comment on it. No one notices a pound or two, especially for athletes, who are always getting into shape. Not to mention that she's super rude to anyone who even shows a little of concern.

Her version of love just makes me sad. That you need to be all oogly eyed and lovey dovey and holding hands. Her judge of character at one point is that the jerk she likes doesn't open her car door, but the friend who zomg she can't POSSIBLY have feelings for, does. Such an odd little thing to use as a measurement, but whatever floats your boat I guess?

Another thing that bugged me is that while Jerk is talking about sex with her, and she's clearly uncomfortable with all of it, she has the bright idea that maybe she should just drink first so she'll like it. I'm sure that some girls out there really think like that but GOOD GOD, NO. In another moment of oddness, Olivia- who gets upset when she is even just a few calories off of where she thought and can't eat much without hating herself- slams a hard lemonade without thinking about it. Alcohol is terrible for you, weight loss wise, especially something as sugary as a Mike's.

I know I have a lot of problems with this book, but it wasn't ALL bad.

I liked that at the start of each chapter, it gave Olivia's current weight, and her goal weight. It was a good way to organize where she is in the journey and to keep track of what's going on.

I loved Ross, the friend she makes at the diner. He has a scar and a limp and is always kind to her. He's patient when she asks a million questions about his hobby, he shows concern for her weight loss, and I think it's cute that, as he's a cook, he just wants to feed her. If he was in this story more, I would have liked it more.

The book also does a good job of showing how toxic the internet/online groups can be. She joins a weight loss site called Blubber Busters which has a forum. She realizes quickly that support isn't always helpful, and that some of these girls take the weight obsession too far. While I'm not on eating disorder/weight loss apps, I am in other communities that definitely have some cesspools. I think it was a good thing to include.

There's also discussion questions in the back, if you're reading this for a club or class or something.

Overall, I found this book problematic and it wasn't for me. But it wasn't a total loss. There were some parts that were well represented, and enough interesting points that kept me reading until the end of the book. This might be a case of "it's not you, it's me", since other people seem to really like it. But, it just wasn't the book for me. Perhaps it'll be a better read for you.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.