Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

23203252.jpgMy coworker pushed this book on me (I think she’s glad I’m back so she can start manipulating my reading list again). But it was totally fine that she did because it was awesome!

I always love a good, strong, female lead. And add a bit of fantasy, magic and heart-wrenching flirtation and I’m sold. All of the characters in this book had great personalities that complimented each other (and sometimes clashed with each other) in the best ways. There was witty dialogue, epic fight scenes, and I already mentioned the flirting.

Sometimes, whilst enjoying a good fantasy novel, I have moments where I wonder how authors are going to keep coming up with new, fantastic worlds of magic and awful baddies. But I’m almost always pleasantly surprised by what I come across. Jessica Cluess is no exception. The Ancients sound freaking terrifying and I can’t wait to see more of them. And the distinctions made between witches, magicians and sorcerers was a new twist.

All in all, this is a great debut novel that is an exciting, funny, with totally badass characters. Looking forward to the next book!

~Ren

Review: Smoke and Shadow Part Three by Gene Luen Yang

Avatar - The Last Airbender--Smoke and Shadow Part Three-001.jpgShe’s crazy and she needs to go down! And Zuko, you let her get away! Talk about a freaking sibling rivalry.

Sorry, getting ahead of myself. So I finally got my hands on the last book in the Smoke and Shadow story. I was a little sad at the end because, while it wrapped everything up that had been going on, there was still so much I wanted to know! Which I’m sure is the point, but I’m just so impatient! The good news is, we do get to see Sokka and Katara again in the next set of books to come out!

They hinted at a few things in the book. A bit of dialogue between Zuko and Azula make me wonder if things wont turn out mostly okay for the insane ex-princess of the Fire Nation. And Ursa finally worked things out with Kiyi, thank goodness. Oh! and what is gonna happen with the New Ozai Society? The former Fire Lord isn’t totally out of the picture yet. Anything could happen.

Who knows! I will continue to wait with bated breath and will continue to devour these stories. I miss the Gaang. *sigh*

~Ren

Review: The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro

30256105Oh gosh. What do I say about this book now? Umm, it was awesome? And funny? And was so gosh darn clever and cryptic and Sherlockian that it nearly left me behind on the way to the big reveal. Seriously, I might have to re-read just to make sure I got everything.

We pick up with Watson and Holmes pretty much where we left them in A Study in Charlotte. The two are enjoying their holiday break (or trying to) before they get swept up in another mystery and are lead all over Europe in search of Holmes’s uncle and the notorious Moriarty family.

I feel about the relationship between Holmes and Watson the way I do about the relationship between the characters in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (can’t think of their names right now). From the outside it all seems rather dysfunctional and overly complicated and like it just inherently wont work. But really, I think it might be one of the more honest relationship out there, one that isn’t trying to squeeze into the mold that’s been widely adopted in society. Lord knows Charlotte isn’t holding anything back.

Cavallaro has once again created a web of complex characters with dark and mysterious back stories and sent them on an ever intriguing adventure to discover the truth.

~Ren

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany

harry_potter_and_the_cursed_child_special_rehearsal_edition_book_coverThis book hit me in the feels a little bit (okay, kind of a lot). It played on my nostalgia and my thirst to know more of the HP universe and what happened to our Golden Trio when they were all grown up.

I don’t even feel like I can really write an honest review of this because by default I’m gonna say I love it. I mean, the biggest thing I would complain about is that there isn’t MORE about what happened with Harry, Ron, and Hermione and their families.

Also, I have to rant about this again. How in the name of Dumbledore’s beard did Hank Green predict ANOTHER thing about the Harry Potter world? Seriously, Accio Deathly Hallows should just be taken as prophecy, and it’s alllll coming true. Hank Green is a wizard.

If you’re a Potterhead, or even just someone who really liked Harry Potter, you should probably read this. It will probably hurt your heart a little bit like it did mine, but ultimately it will be worth it. so just do it, trust me.

~Ren

Review: Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky

ktbbGoldy Moldavsky’s debut novel Kill the Boy Band is a book for any girl that ever was a fangirl or ever will be a fangirl (so basically all of us). Or really, it is just a good book for anyone who understands crazy, passionate, slightly scary fandom love. But especially boy band love.

So it’s pretty much what it sounds like based on the title. The book follows four friends all obsessed with the same band (The Ruperts, so named because all the boys are named Rupert) and they’ve decided they are taking matters into their own hands. They want and up close and personal look at the boys, and it is exactly what they get. But nowhere close tot he way they were imagining.

The narrator is super relatable, and she’s also fairly self-aware. Which is a nice balance for the reader because then it’s not just trying to cope with crazy fangirl screaming. And the story becomes not just about all these shenanigans these four teenage girls get into while trying to meet their favorite boy banders. It becomes a bit of a social commentary on the fandom life, in whatever shape it might take.

Being crazy about a boy band or a TV show or a book series to the point of total life consumption is not, itself, a bad thing. Especially when you’re young and you kind of don’t have a lot of other things to occupy your time with. But it is sometimes wise to have a voice of reason come in and remind you there are other things in life. In addition to making some good observations about fandom this book is also just a hilarious, ridiculous fun read.

~Ren

Review: Weregirl by C.D. Bell

30090014*This review has a minor spoiler.*

This was one of the more disappointing books I’ve read in a while. I’m a big wolf lover, and I’d take werewolves over vampires any day. And even though it is written for middle grade readers, I went into this book have moderate expectations.

The book summary sounded interesting enough. Girl gets turned into werewolf, starts exploring suspicious things going on in town. Alright, let’s see how we go. It started off well but soon started to slip.

I felt things were reiterated too often, things the reader surely would have remembered after the first mention. The shaman character, who is supposed to help Nessa understand her abilities and guide her, is exceedingly absent. Which, I get is probably the point, but he just felt too absent. And Nessa never really even seems to figure out her powers on her own. Or she does in a really passive way, like she wasn’t even trying, just kind of went with it.

The writing was alright, a little clunky and oddly structured for my taste. If someone in the target age range was reading, they probably wouldn’t have minded as much, but it just didn’t grab me. Also, and this bit is gonna be a bit spoiler-y so…***SKIP THIS BIT IF YOU PLAN ON READING AND DON’T WANT SOMETHING SPOILED*** Luc so should’ve been the gray wolf Nessa kept tooling around with! Like, it even felt like that’s what the author was going for, but no! Maybe there is gonna be another book and it will just be revealed then but still! That should’ve been a thing.

Anywho, yeah. Not terrible but definitely not very good. If you have a young wolf lover in your life they will probably enjoy it some. But best to make it a library read just in case.

~Ren

Review: A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

23272028I’m not afraid to admit that it was the new BBC Sherlock series that got me amped up about all things Sherlock. So when I came across Brittany Cavallaro’s book A Study in Charlotte I was pretty darn excited.

Cavallaro’s book follows Charlotte Holmes and James Watson. They are descendants of the great Sherlock Holmes and John Watson respectively. The two finally meet at a boarding school in Connecticut and are immediately shoved into solving a murder together, of which they are prime suspects.

The fear with books like this, for me anyway, is that the author will try too much to recreate the original but with a modern spin. I think Cavallaro finds the perfect balance between telling her own story, creating her own characters while keeping the well-known habits and quirks of the beloved originals present but not overbearing.

James has a love of writing and a bit of a temper, but is tolerant of Holmes’ unorthodox behavior. Charlotte is calculated and emotional stunted much like her great-great-great grandfather, but has a better ability to express her more human side than he ever did (though she’s still rather stubborn about it).

The plot continued to thicken as the book went on, the relationship between Watson and Holmes grew and by the end I loved them as much as I loved Freeman and Cumberbatch’s pairing, or Law and Downey’s. I also absolutely loved the last chapter, but I don’t think I’ll say why so as not to spoil it.

~Ren

Review: Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

30965521-_uy200_Oh boy. This review makes me a bit anxious. This is such a hot button issue, I believe the term is. That fact alone hurts my heart. And this book hurt me more. But it is an issue that we cannot afford to ignore.

I have never experienced anything like the main character in O’Neill’s book, and haven’t talked much with anyone who has. But I don’t doubt the accuracy that O’Neill has captured in her book. I’ve seen news stories to confirm it. It blows my mind to think we live in a society where we preach “innocent until proven guilty” and in the same breath can turn around and condemn a woman for speaking out, brushing it off a “looking for attention.”

Okay, not gonna go any further with that. Spewing words in a book review is the wrong place to have a discussion about this. The book is a rough ride. There is not even a semblance of a happy moment anywhere. Not only is what happens to Emma disgusting, from the very beginning it is clear she lives in a toxic environment. Her relationships with her friends are toxic, and with her parents. I felt so down every time I thought about picking up the book.

I know it seems counterintuitive to pick up a book that will just depress you and anger you, but I think it’s important to try and gain as much understanding as possible. To continue to remind ourselves that this is a problem that needs to change, and that we can help make that happen, even in the smallest of ways.

~Ren

Review: While Mortals Sleep by Kurt Vonnegut

whilemortalssleepI don’t read a lot of short stories, but I do really like Vonnegut and am on some sort of poorly planned out mission to read all of his works. Of all the Vonnegut books at the Nelson Library, this is one I hadn’t read and was sure I could finish on time (on time meaning before I left the country).

Something I think many people tend to do is get caught up with trying to identify the moral of a story. Every story has to have a message, a purpose and a lesson they are trying to impart to the reader. And in some cases that is the truth, and in some cases it is more obvious than others. What I decided while reading While Mortals Sleep is that stories don’t have to have a moral. Sometimes they are just funny, sad, or perplexing stories and they exist simply because the author felt like writing it.

There is nothing wrong with writing a story, or reading one for that matter, that serves no other purpose than to entertain us. Stories that teach us things or make us think more critically about things and see familiar things from a different perspective are good, too. But like in all aspects of life, there should be a balance in reading. Happy and sad, funny and dark, practical and just down right silly. They all have a place in the literary canon.

The stories collected in While Mortals Sleep have all the elements you would expect from Vonnegut. Bizarre character names, undertones of satire and social commentary. And in some cases, a feeling of whimsy, in the least whimsical of ways. I do believe I have gone on long enough.

~Ren

Review: Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg

51oxxafqlkl-_sx328_bo1204203200_I have been a fan of Simon Pegg for many years now. I also enjoy the occasional memoir. So when I first came across Pegg’s autobiography, I knew I’d have to pick it up one day. That day has now come and passed! I now know more about Simon Pegg than I did before, and I loved every page of it.

A quick summary of the book would be, “Sincere, funny, self-aware and just a bit meta. And, of course, full of nerdy goodness.” Pegg starts the reflection on his life when he was a young boy and explores all the events that had significant impact on where his life is today. Sounds like a memoir, right? Throughout the book are insights about the circularity life can have, how coincidence and the Chaos Theory seem to always have their hand in things, to some extent or another, and how following your passion can in fact pay off.

Interspersed between the chapters discussing Pegg’s life is a fiction narrative that follows Pegg himself and his trusty android butler on a mission to track down the Scarlet Panther and is completed with a twist ending (spoilers!). This was a fun an unexpected addition to the book, which I enjoyed a lot, mostly due to the totally hyperbolic and ridiculous nature of the writing.

Personally speaking, it is sometimes difficult to read a book about someone you admire and envy a bit for their experiences and success. Sometimes while reading I’d catch myself think things like, “If only I liked horror movies more, if only I’d joined more clubs, if only I’d lived somewhere else, etc.” Sometimes I’d even catch myself feeling like I wasn’t actually that nerdy (to which I think certain people I know would scoff and say, “Yeah, right.”).

If you ever have moments like this when reading books by your idols and heroes or watching special features of a movie you love or reading interviews with your favorite authors, try to remember this: you are taking your own path and you will have your own amazing experiences. Don’t try to live someone else’s life. Just live your own. Like the things you like, do the things you want to do, and let the biggest thing you try to emulate from your idols be their passion for what they love.

~Ren