You Read What? Book Review: I Am Forever

Author: Wynne Channing

Headshot

Publisher:  Self Pubbed

Date Published:  January 7th 2014

Format: eBook/Advanced Reader’s Copy

Source: From the author for an honest review

Synopsis:

Axelia fought an army of vampires and survived. Once fated as the destroyer of the vampire race, she is now welcomed into the immortal empire and revered as a god.

But instead of relishing her victory, she faces a dangerous new world and an empire at war. Axelia is thrust into the position of supreme vampire and caught in the crossfire of battle. To make matters worse, her role alienates Lucas, the one vampire that she trusts.

Her power spawns evil enemies. And they know how to get to her — by hurting those whom she loves most.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Goodreads

Number of Days It Took to Read: 1

Cover:

I Am Forever - lo-res (1)

I love this cover mostly because it’s feature a girl in a dress who isn’t passively chilling on the ground or water etc. There’s power to her stance. A+

The Writing Score: 4 out of 5

Recommendation: Great Sequel and a Must Read for those who enjoy vampire stories

Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable

Rating:  4 out of 5

Review:

When I read What Kills Me, I was blown away by how good it was as a self published book ( I had just started reading them) but also the fresh take on the vampire lore that I was so bored of at the time. Today the sequel, I Am Forever, comes out and its protagonist, Axelia, is dealing with the events of the last book. Whereas the first book featured a lot  running for your life and action, most of the sequel  was stable in location but dealt with unstable matters that were heavily based on lies, politics and power. I think it was a great next step for the story and really saw growth in Axelia as a leader as well as someone who can actually wield her power rather than just wing it as we saw in the first book. My favorite thing about this series was how Channing handled the romance. It felt organic and infused real issues that people in a blossoming relationships deal with. The secondary characters introduced were great and I enjoyed the dynamics between them and Axelia.

It was great that Axelia’s family was always on her mind rather than just pushed aside as I’ve seen a lot of protagonists in Young Adult literature do. The dialogue was witty and the humor was spot on. One of Channing’s strength lies in her description which is so vivid that I can actually imagine everything in my mind’s eye. My hope for the next book is that there will be more conflict thrown into the romantic relationships so that we can watch it grow in the same way the individual characters do. A kind of synchronizing of dance steps that comes with a young relationship that hopes to turn into something long term. I’d love to see familial relationships flushed out and explored more. This book has done a bit of that already. I’m excited for more of the description and I know that book three still has plenty of story to tell that ties into the bread crumbs left in this one. I really suggest this series to those who are tired of the vampire stories but also to those who want to enjoy a fun ride.

P.S.

I absolutely adore Lucas.

A. A. Omer

The opinions expressed here are mine and readers are welcome to disagree. In fact, I encourage it! I never believed in putting particular books or authors on some sort of universal pedestal but you’re free to put it on your individualized pedestal because I most certainly will.

To Read or Not To Read: Should We Read Books By Problematic Authors?

Lately there’s been this discussion about whether or not we should separate the artist from their art when we find out something not so awesome about them. We see this with R Kelly, Orson Scott Card and Woody Allen who’ve done or said some terrible things. However, can we still enjoy their art outside of that?

Orson Scott Card

(Orson Scott Card: Author of Ender’s Game)

Kit Steinkellner wrote a piece on Book Riot yesterday that discussed exactly that and she said she would personally stop reading books by authors who she found out to be “monsters”. I don’t think I own any books by questionable authors but I’m sure at some point I’ve read an author who’s not that great beyond the words on the page. I do know that art is a very personal experience and parts of who the author is gets imprinted on it. Is it fair for someone to decline to read a book of yours because you molested a young girl? Absolutely. I do think it’s a personal choice as Steinkellner pointed out because book censorship is never a good idea. Everyone has the right to express their ideas and knowledge just as other people have the right to access them. It’s up to you to decide what you’ll get from the experience and I think prefacing or checking out the author’s bio is a great idea if you do end up reading their work.

I’ve personally gone back and forth on this issue internally because some of these authors have written books that touched on really interesting ideas and issues on society that could be used as great teachable material. I also think it would be harder to let go of a book I’ve read and loved but, in the case of Ender’s Game, I’m more likely to drop an author if I haven’t read their book(s). What struck me about Steinkellner’s piece and separated her arguments from others was when she mentioned the White Male Authors of the book world.

How can I say an “uneasy yes” to all these authors? And why do I feel this insidious pressure to say yes? Is it because we’ve elevated these authors, all men, all white, to a legendary, almost-god-like status?

– Kit Steinkellner “No, I Won’t Read Your Book if I Think You’re a Monster”

I’m not saying that others who aren’t white men aren’t problematic but I do think we would be faster to demonize them rather than those who’ve be classified as the greats or must reads and who happen to be white men. If there’s one thing that I hope people who’ve been reading this blog have noticed, it’s that I am not a fan of the “universal pedestal”. It irks me to no end when I hear people say that Shakespeare is the greatest writer that ever lived and if you don’t enjoy or read his works then you’re nuts. Art is subjective. I don’t care if Shakespeare inspired works of fiction and other mediums centuries later, it doesn’t mean I have to or will enjoy his plays. I don’t care if Jane Austen is the best damn romance writer ever. She’s just not my cup of tea. There’s this pressure to bow at the greatness of a book and/or author that, when we find out they’re essentially an asshole, we’re suddenly unsure of what to do. Again, I’m not saying women, minorities etc can’t be assholes but I also don’t think we’d give them as much slack.

I say this: if you’re unsure on whether or not to drop an author due to their problematic beliefs/actions, then please let that conflict be based on the book and the author. Don’t ever feel pressured by the supposed “classics” (in terms of being deemed “the greats” versus their publication age) and the “must read thus must love”.

This is an interesting topic and I think it’s one that requires more discussion. What do you think? Should you drop a book because the author is problematic?

A. A. Omer

You Read What? Book Review: The Impossible Knife of Memory

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Publisher:  Penguin Group

  • Imprint: Viking Juvenile

Date Published:  January 7th 2014

Format: Paperback/Advanced Reader’s Copy

Source: From the publisher for an honest review

Synopsis:

For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

Number of Days It Took to Read: 1

Cover:

Impossible knife of memory

Nice cover and very relevant to the story

The Writing Score: 5 out of 5

Recommendation: Must Read

Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable

Rating:  5 out of 5

Review:

“Killing people is easier than it should be.” Dad put on his beret. “Staying alive is harder.”

This is my favourite quote from the book and quite possibly one that really captures it best. Right off the gate, I like to state that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) isn’t just limited to those who’ve served as soldiers and sent overseas into dangerous environments. Anyone can experience a traumatic event which means everyone has the potential to get PTSD but also not every soldier will have PTSD. With that said, I think this book is very relevant today given the military involved missions that America has engaged in the last decade or so and the many soldiers coming home from all kinds of traumatic experiences they’ve faced. I’m not a psychiatrist but as a reader I believe that Laurie Halse Anderson did a great job depicting not only the difficulties of a young person who’s facing a daily fear that her father may hurt himself (due to PTSD) but also the helplessness of that parent to do their job effectively because they can’t shake off the grip that past violence has on them. Hayley’s constant fear for her father may not be diagnosed as PTSD or would be as extreme as PTSD but it does create some kind of parallel between the constant fear that I’m sure soldiers like her father had while deployed.

This leads me to the topic of memory not only because of the title but also because memory seems to be a running theme in the book. We get glimpses of the memories that Hayley’s father had during his time overseas that tends to make him depressed, moody, angry or self medicate through drugs and alcohol. There is a ritual of forgetting or pushing aside when he drinks till he’s blacked out or getting high. Hayley does a similar ritual where she seems to have blocked out memories from before she went off driving around in her father’s truck at age 11/12. There’s an active form of forgetting that later becomes an unconscious forgetting where she no longer remembers the act itself. There’s also the changing the narrative of memories in order to cope which we see with Hayley in regards to Trish. Memories have the power to hurt us but they also have the ability to grow us if we think of it in terms of the cliche: Those who don’t know the past are doomed to repeat it.

Hayley’s past (or memory repression) and her father’s past affects her present. It affects the relationship she has with Finn as well as her good friend Gracie. It affects her schooling and communication with others. It also prevents her from thinking about a future for herself because she is so worried about the well being for her father. Her fear seeps into every facet of her life and manifests in interesting places like the mall which we don’t notice as anything other than a place of entertainment and necessity.

The most interesting thing about the book is Hayley’s binary world view that is different from our own. She sees people as Zombies or Freaks. Freaks seen as the positive while Zombies are a negative. I saw Freaks as the more desirable trait because Hayley states we are all Freaks when we are born. We have faults, feel a degree/moments of unhappiness and generally don’t have a smooth ride in life. Freaks are desirable because they don’t hide these things which Hayley views as universal which I too believe as well. Zombies, however, plaster on this facade of happiness and everything being great which is for the rest world to see despite how they feel internally. This is interesting because to a degree Hayley is in fact a Zombie when she doesn’t disclose her home situation and is not showing her true self to the world.

Halse Anderson writes beautifully and offers moments of Hayley’s father’s own point of view which gives the reader a greater insight into the situation. I loved Finn and had fallen for him as a character quietly and effortlessly. Hayley is a strong character and someone who I felt I wanted to protect as I tried offering unsolicited advice to the page. I do believe this is a wonderful book for teens but just as great for adults as well.

A. A. Omer

The opinions expressed here are mine and readers are welcome to disagree. In fact, I encourage it! I never believed in putting particular books or authors on some sort of universal pedestal but you’re free to put it on your individualized pedestal because I most certainly will.

You Read What? Book Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly

Author: Sharon Biggs Waller

Publisher:  Penguin Canada

  • Imprint: Viking Juvenile

Date Published:  January 23rd 2014

Format: Paperback/Advance Reader’s Copy

Source: From the publisher for an honest review

Synopsis:

Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.

After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?

Number of Days It Took to Read: 5

Cover:

a mad, wicked folly

I think this is an OK cover but I expected a lot more risk artistically given the main character’s passion for art. I just expected something memorable and worthy of the subject matter/themes. 

The Writing Score: 3 out of 5

Recommendation: Great book for teens to get a look into feminism at its beginnings

Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable

Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Review:

I recently interviewed the author of this book as part of a blog tour on writing, suffragettes, 1909 and horses among other things. It was fun. It was also a great way to introduce a debut author of fiction to other readers.

A Mad, Wicked Folly is an interesting book in my eyes because the story and themes want me to give it a 4 out of 5 but the execution holds me back a bit. I love Vicki. I think she’s realistic in pursuit of her passion (art) which can be easily described as narrow at first. When you want something so bad, you don’t want to do things that could jeopardize it or think about the institutional boundaries in place that prevent certain people from achieving it. You care about you being able to do it because it’s what drives you in life. What I’ve enjoyed most about this book is that it brings to the forefront the institutional boundaries placed against women in various aspects of society including the art school featured. Vicki is bold and brave within the context of art as she poses nude during her art class in France but the same can’t be said within the context of love and women’s rights. I purposefully didn’t place family in there because Vicki is not only bold in that aspect but also strategic. She chooses to not fight them on her engagement to Edmund in order to be able to apply and attend art school. Vicki is responding to the limitations of her station as a woman in 1909 and she does so with fire and calculation.

She’s smart. She’s someone we’d all love to be but she’s also who many of us are. Love could threaten her dreams and the very limited spots offered to women at art school isn’t something she wants to acknowledge because it could mean making (or not making) a stand. A stand that could cost her like those before her. She redeems herself in many ways in this novel and you’re captivated whenever she’s talking about artsy things like how to look at or approach a nude model and even the difference between nudity and nakedness. This is something Biggs Waller excels at.

I think this novel is a great introduction to feminism for teens. Although it is a particular brand of feminism since it deals with mostly Caucasian, straight and middle class/aristocratic women’s point of view. technically speaking, there was a lot of “telling” but not too much that I was turn off from reading the book. I do think that by dialing back on the telling and doing a lot more “showing”, this book could easily be a 5 out of 5. I also don’t think the descriptors at the beginning of each chapter (Date and Location)  is necessary to the story since I’ve only ever looked at it in the first 2 Chapters.

You go into this book with love in mind but Biggs Waller balances the believable  romance with Vicki as an individual as well as the women’s rights movement. I really do expect a lot of great things from this author.

A. A. Omer

The opinions expressed here are mine and readers are welcome to disagree. In fact, I encourage it! I never believed in putting particular books or authors on some sort of universal pedestal but you’re free to put it on your individualized pedestal because I most certainly will.

Top Ten Tuesday: 2014 Debuts (Or Releases) I’m Excited For

Top Ten Tuesday

I’ve joined in on the fun of Top Ten Tuesday, a feature hosted by The Broke and Bookish, and today’s top ten revolves around 2014 Debuts I’m Excited For. Most of my choices (if not all) aren’t really debuts but will be released in 2014. It was hard to narrow them down from 40 to just 10 but here are my  2014 debuts/releases I’m excited for!

10. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

winner's curse

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

I love the cover so much but the buzz surrounding the book is primarily the reason for why I want to read it. Bloggers cross the board are loving it so I’m curious to see what the gushing is all about.

9. Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

since you've been gone

The Pre-Sloane Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell.But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just… disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try… unless they could lead back to her best friend. Apple Picking at Night? Ok, easy enough.Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not? Kiss a Stranger? Wait… what?

Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go Skinny Dipping? Um…

I don’t read a lot of contemporary (or realistic) fiction in YA but this book sounds amazing. A list of tasks from a missing friend? Straight into the To Be Read pile. The cover is also gorgeous.

8. Going Over by Beth Kephart

going over

In the early 1980s Ada and Stefan are young, would-be lovers living on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall–Ada lives with her mother and grandmother and paints graffiti on the Wall, and Stefan lives with his grandmother in the East and dreams of escaping to the West.

I had a fangirl moment when I saw this book because I was a huge fan of Beth Kephart’s Small Damages. I will read anything she writes. Anything. *fans self*

7. Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell (DEBUT)

dear killer

Rule One—Nothing is right, nothing is wrong.
Rule Two—Be careful.
Rule Three—Fight using your legs whenever possible, because they’re the strongest part of your body. Your arms are the weakest.
Rule Four—Hit to kill. The first blow should be the last, if at all possible.
Rule Five—The letters are the law.

Kit takes her role as London’s notorious “Perfect Killer” seriously. The letters and cash that come to her via a secret mailbox are not a game; choosing who to kill is not an impulse decision. Every letter she receives begins with “Dear Killer,” and every time Kit murders, she leaves a letter with the dead body. Her moral nihilism and thus her murders are a way of life—the only way of life she has ever known.

But when a letter appears in the mailbox that will have the power to topple Kit’s convictions as perfectly as she commits her murders, she must make a decision: follow the only rules she has ever known, or challenge Rule One, and go from there.

Katherine Ewell’s Dear Killer is a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe.

That synopsis, guys. I love me some psychological thrillers and female killers. It should really just be a genre on its own. Dear Killer, please come this way to my book shelf…

6. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

Impossible knife of memory

For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading the Advance Reader’s Copy of this book a few days ago and it’s just so wonderful. It’s available now and I strongly suggest you pick it up. It’s beautiful and I will post a review of it soon.

5. When I Was The Greatest by Jason Reynolds

When I Was The Greatest

In Bed Stuy, New York, a small misunderstanding can escalate into having a price on your head—even if you’re totally clean. This gritty, triumphant debut captures the heart and the hardship of life for an urban teen.

A lot of the stuff that gives my neighborhood a bad name, I don’t really mess with. The guns and drugs and all that, not really my thing.

Nah, not his thing. Ali’s got enough going on, between school and boxing and helping out at home. His best friend Noodles, though. Now there’s a dude looking for trouble—and, somehow, it’s always Ali around to pick up the pieces. But, hey, a guy’s gotta look out for his boys, right? Besides, it’s all small potatoes; it’s not like anyone’s getting hurt.

And then there’s Needles. Needles is Noodles’s brother. He’s got a syndrome, and gets these ticks and blurts out the wildest, craziest things. It’s cool, though: everyone on their street knows he doesn’t mean anything by it.

Yeah, it’s cool…until Ali and Noodles and Needles find themselves somewhere they never expected to be…somewhere they never should’ve been—where the people aren’t so friendly, and even less forgiving.

I grew up in a neighbourhood that’s characterized as “ghetto” or “rough” in Toronto so I always gravitate towards books that are featured in areas like that because 1) it offers characters such as minorities that we don’t get to see as much and 2) it showcases people I grew up with. So definitely on the excited for list.

4. Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Landline

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.

Maybe that was always besides the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

Very much like Beth Kephart, I’ll read anything Rainbow Rowell writes. I’ve enjoyed her last three books and I wouldn’t be surprised if I fall in love with this one too.

3. Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira (DEBUT)

love letters to the dead

It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path.

I found out about this book from another blogger and the idea of writing letters about yourself to dead famous people sounded awesome. Using death to explore life is definitely something I’d be into.

2. The  Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings (DEBUT)

the murder complex

An action-packed, blood-soaked, futuristic debut thriller set in a world where the murder rate is higher than the birthrate. For fans of Moira Young’s Dust Lands series, La Femme Nikita, and the movie Hanna.

Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision.

The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?

Action-packed, blood-soaked, and chilling, this is a dark and compelling debut novel by Lindsay Cummings.

I heard about this book when I started blogging and added it to my To Be Read pile in 2012. Fast forward 2 years later and this book is finally coming out! I’m a Criminology Student so this book really intrigued me.

1. The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey (DEBUT)

the girl with all the gifts

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her ‘our little genius’. Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh. Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favourite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

I had the pleasure of reading this book already and I have to say that it’s amazing. The vagueness of the synopsis works for the book and I think it has the potential of being huge. Definitely one to watch out for.