You Read What? Book Review: The Darkest Part of The Forest

Book: The Darkest Part of The Forest. Author: Holly Black. Release Date: January 13, 2015.

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Type: Standalone. The Darkest Part of The Forest. Holly Black. January 13, 2015. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. yalit. young adult. ARC (Advance Reader’s/Reviewer’s Copy) given to me for an honest review.

Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

Holly Black is one of the few authors who can almost guarantee I’ll love any of her books. Her last young adult book, The Coldest Girl In Coldtown, was the first time that wasn’t the case so I was a bit hesitant when I started reading The Darkest Part of The Forest.

nicki minaj hesitant gif

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You Read What? Book Review: The Winner’s Curse

The Winner's Curse. Marie Rutkoski. March 4th 2014. Farrar Straus Giroux. Macmillan.

Book: The Winner’s Curse. Author: Marie Rutkoski. Release Date: March 4th 2014.

Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux (Macmillan). Type: Series

The Winner's Curse. Marie Rutkoski. March 4th 2014. Farrar Straus Giroux. Macmillan.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.

—Mild Spoilers Ahead—

Man, I love this book. I can now understand why so many bloggers with different book tastes would buzz about it up to its release date and months afterwards.

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You Read What? Book Review: Far From You

Author: Tess Sharpe

Publisher:  Disney Hyperion

Date Published: April 8th, 2014

Format: Paperback/Advance Reader’s Copy

Source: From the publisher for an honest review

Synopsis:

Nine months. Two weeks. Six days.

That’s how long recovering addict Sophie’s been drug-free. Four months ago her best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong – a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered.

Forced into rehab for an addiction she’d already beaten, Sophie’s finally out and on the trail of the killer – but can she track them down before they come for her?

Cover:

Far From You

The cover makes sense within the context of the book. The premise will draw people in rather than the cover in this case.

The Writing Score: 4 out of 5

Recommendation: Must Read

Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable

Rating:  4 out of 5

Review:

I’m going to make this a spoiler free review because there are reveals in here that I think are worth the first time read for those of you who haven’t read it yet. I really enjoyed this book despite having a weird start there for a minute. Weird in the sense that the book’s decision in how it wants to tell the story might have done more harm than good in the first half but then redeemed itself in the second. I’ll get more into that later.

I enjoyed this book because it wasn’t just about the mystery of Mina’s murder but also about Sophie’s relationships before and after it. Her relationship with Mina was so beautifully complicated and both girls were equally dynamic, different and three dimensional in how they were constructed which was as people rather than as ideals or tropes. I love the exploration of love, the forms it comes in and the decisions people make in the name of it. Addiction is referred to a lot throughout the book as not just the relationship between Sophie and drugs but also the entire culture of addiction which includes the harbouring of secrets and the ever so present and persistent need to want to indulge in the object (or person) you are addicted to. I don’t see addiction explored in Young Adult narratives all that much so this is one of the many reasons why this book will standout and follow you after you put it down. The secondary characters are solid and enhance/compliment the complexities explored and, overall, Sharpe just did a really great job with a premise that could have easily made for a mediocre novel.

I do have some issues with the book that were minor but were present enough to distract me while I read. Earlier, I talked about the book’s format as being more harmful to it in the first half but then redeeming it in the second. It jumps from the present in one chapter to the past in the immediate chapter following it which would be fine if the chapters that dealt with the present were much longer (in the first half of the book, I mean). I say this because it throws the pacing off when the chapter earlier was gaining momentum that would be choked out by the following chapter that dealt with the past (which were usually moments for character development). This was fine in the second half of the book when we were nearing the end but I would have liked the present chapters to have more room to breathe. It may not be an issue for other people but it did cause me to re-adjust for the constant change in pace which took me out of the book a little. Also, first few chapters were doing a lot of telling versus showing in it’s over explanations of feelings, thoughts, facts etc but it was mostly in an effort to disseminate basic information which, once it did, wasn’t an issue for the rest of the book.

Again, this was a fantastic book. Sharpe did a great job and I highly recommend it to everyone.

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: Ignite Me

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. TREAD LIGHTLY…

Author: Tahereh Mafi

Publisher:  HarperCollins

  • Imprint: HarperTeen

Date Published: February 4th 2014

Format: Hard Cover

Source: Bought/Own

Synopsis:

The heart-stopping conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Shatter Me series, which Ransom Riggs, bestselling author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, called “a thrilling, high-stakes saga of self-discovery and forbidden love”

Juliette now knows she may be the only one who can stop the Reestablishment. But to take them down, she’ll need the help of the one person she never thought she could trust: Warner. And as they work together, Juliette will discover that everything she thought she knew-about Warner, her abilities, and even Adam-was wrong.

In Shatter Me, Tahereh Mafi created a captivating and original story that combined the best of dystopian and paranormal and was praised by Publishers Weekly as “a gripping read from an author who’s not afraid to take risks.” The sequel, Unravel Me, blew readers away with heart-racing twists and turns, and New York Times bestselling author Kami Garcia said it was “dangerous, sexy, romantic, and intense.” Now this final book brings the series to a shocking and climactic end.

Number of Days It Took to Read: 1

Cover:

Ignite Me

Cover is beautiful just like the others.

The Writing Score: 4 out of 5

Recommendation: Causal Perusal

Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable

Rating:  3 out of 5

Review:

Nobody likes endings. We cling onto the things we love because we don’t want them to run their course. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid we’ll forget them, forget the memories and feelings they were around for as we lived our lives or that we’d be forgotten as readers who were given a look into the lives of these fictional beings.

Shatter Me was the first book I read when I got back into reading for fun again after a year and a half hiatus. It stood out to me because of Mafi’s experimentation with crossing out words and the premise of a young girl who’s been in isolation for almost a year. There were powers, a sick world and the search for human contact. Unravel Me, its sequel, was filled with beautiful imagery and words that I either wanted to devour or throw onto my wall and admire. Two days ago, the third and final book had hit the shelves making it the end of the line for our girl with the deadly touch and the people we all saw her meet.

Mafi has gone on record countless time saying that this series is, at its core, about a girl trying to find herself. It started with Juliette in isolation and should end with her finding the strength to stand on her own. Not self isolation and loneliness but being able to be alone and essentially love herself with confidence. Ignite Me, however, felt like a book that catered to the fans who’ve been asking the question they felt was important, “Who will she be with?”. It’s a fair question to ask and one that I don’t fault anyone for asking but as the primary and urgent one to be answered? No. I said from the beginning that from the way the book was headed (and the themes that Mafi seemed to be hinting at) the most perfect outcome for her would be that she chose no one. That was the ending I thought Juliette deserved and one that felt consisted with her character. She had the power to change the world that had locked her up into a much better one. This was not the case. She ended up with Aaron Warner.

Before I get to the complicated feelings I have with this decision, let me begin with the issues I had with the book overall. I felt like the book as the final installment was anti-climatic. Unravel Me had set up a chance for the book to climax and for Juliette to put into practice this new found inner strength she keeps telling the reader she has. The first 2/3 of the book was essentially the same discussion being had again and again with no real forward movement of the plot or of the characters’ development. Juliette would establish her agency, Adam would spit on that agency because 1) it was at odds with the delicate girl he met in the first book and 2) it was linked to a potential romance with Warner who he hates, Juliette would be upset at his hateful words, Adam walks away and repeat. There’s also the: Juliette tries to get emotionally closer to Warner, Warner doesn’t trust it because he believes he’s either undeserving of it or that Juliette is searching for an ideal version of himself that doesn’t exist, he pushes her away, she’s sad, he does something touching/romantic towards her and repeat. Even with Kenji , there’s the: he teases Juliette, asks her if she’s stupid/ridiculous for [insert action], asks what she sees in Warner, asks her to go easy on Adam and repeat.

While that was going on, they were planning for a “war” against Anderson by converting Warner’s soldiers to their side which all happens near the end which just feels rushed and more like a wish fulfillment tacked on than what the series was building to. Even the revelation (and subsequent repercussions/reactions) of Warner and James finding out that they, along with Adam, are brothers felt like a deus ex machina (at least on how easy it was for Adam’s rage fueled hate against Warner dissolve into civility). The characters also felt inconsistent or on some kind of loop.

The book is telling us that Juliette is powerful. Physically, she is. Emotionally? I wasn’t convinced of her new found agency because it was so tied up with her two romantic interests. She even goes on to say that she should and is more capable in leading the group over Castle which I thought was a huge stretch since nothing in the second or even in the third book suggested that she had leadership qualities (brute strength doesn’t make you a leader). Who a character ends up with shouldn’t be the all important question that is answered in young adult books. The answer shouldn’t be based on who the reader wants to be with but who is the one that feels right for the character. Someone who inspires, encourages and essentially makes the character a better version of themselves.

The book is telling us that Warner is not such a bad guy after all and should be with Juliette. Warner as a character feels like a round peg being forced into a square hole. He was a really bad (yet interesting) guy in the first book. Then the novella, Destroy Me, came out trying to get readers to sympathize with him as a character which, in my opinion, failed because we were ultimately told how to feel rather than shown. I felt a little less antagonistic towards him in the second book but not enough to empathize or become a romantic possibility for Juliette. In this book, I saw what Mafi was trying to do with him but it was out in the distance and not within reach. She told us why Warner was great for Juliette as opposed to Adam and man, if she showed us, it would be an interesting place to take the love triangle model. Alas, I just didn’t believe it. There was a bomb dropped that all the bad things he did in the first book were all about perspective (i.e. the kid in the first book wasn’t real but a part of an elaborate simulation) and ultimately erases his villain past conveniently with only the residue of his I-Don’t-Care-What-People-Think attitude left to make us think he’s not completely reformed. That was too much of a stretch for me to make given the evidence previously presented compared to the ones now. Again, I didn’t believe it. Also, it made him less of an interesting antagonist in the first book by doing that. The only time I believed Warner as a more complex character was that scene when he’s on the floor after finding out his mother died and being comforted by Juliette. It made me mad that Mafi had it in her to show such a scene and didn’t put more of them in her last two books to develop Warner more fully. So why does Warner make such a great match for Juliette? He believes in her, he encourages her agency and never doubted that she had the power to be great. Yet, why couldn’t this have been shown?

Adam, I felt, was consistent in how he saw Juliette and their relationship. I guess it got lost a bit because they kept repeating the same conversation throughout and I didn’t seen any growth. If anything, the moment Mafi decided to focus on Warner/Juliette it felt like Adam was like a wounded dog being pushed aside. I saw him as not a romantic choice for Juliette in the second book but, once that was determined, he was no longer a character or an agent in the final book’s larger plot.

Kenji. I love Kenji SO MUCH but even he got caught in the loop. I liked there was more character stuff at the beginning for him but then he dissolved into the one dimensional clown in a snap. I always wished I saw a more natural friendship between him and Juliette but, again, that fell victim to the book’s structure.

What happened to the dystopic world? It was also prey to the book’s focus on romance. I’m surprised I don’t know this dystopic world as well as I know Hunger Games’ Pan Am or Divergent’s Chicago. I didn’t think this book would have an ending where all of the world leaders are brought down but I wasn’t expecting a lackluster, unsatisfying ending against a foe that was made legendary and a war that was referred to throughout the book. Overall, Ignite Me fell into the same hole that Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Princess did. It spent half of the book (if not more) setting up for the actions when the set up has already occurred in the previous books. I’m really disappointed with this one.

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: Pointe

Pointe by Brandy Colbert. April 10th 2014. Penguin

For the Month of February, there will be one book featured a week. It is a month celebrating Black Authors and the characters they write. – A. A. Omer

pointe

Author: Brandy Colbert.

Publisher:  Penguin. Imprint: Putnam. Date Published:  April 10th 2014. Format: Paperback/Advanced Reader’s Copy. Source: From the publisher for an honest review. The Writing Score: 5 out of 5. Rating:  5 out of 5.

Synopsis:

Theo is better now.

She’s eating again, dating guys who are almost appropriate, and well on her way to becoming an elite ballet dancer. But when her oldest friend, Donovan, returns home after spending four long years with his kidnapper, Theo starts reliving memories about his abduction—and his abductor.

Donovan isn’t talking about what happened, and even though Theo knows she didn’t do anything wrong, telling the truth would put everything she’s been living for at risk. But keeping quiet might be worse.

Review:

The last time I cried while reading a book was during The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini for my Grade 11 English class. Sobbed is a more accurate term since there’s only been two books in my lifetime that really got me going. The second was Pointe by Brandy Colbert.

I don’t often have the pleasure of reading a Young Adult book that has a lead black character who’s identity as a black individual is woven seamlessly into the story. The subtly taken to remind readers of her race with a comment here about the lack of black ballerina’s in the ballet world or a comment there about being the spokesperson for the entire black experience during the civil war unit at a predominately white school. I say remind because, despite being told that the character occupies darker skin, we’re just reading a story about one girl and her experience.

Theo is probably one of the bravest characters I’ve had the pleasure of reading. She wants things. More specifically, she wants to be a professional ballerina which is a difficult thing to do if you’re not dedicated,

hard working,

fearless,

disciplined,

talented,

and passionate.

These are the qualities I attribute to Theo but I’d also add broken. The broken skin on her toes when she works hard. Her broken self image leading to a broken relationship with food. A young broken heart that shouldn’t have been broken so it leaves emotional scar tissue that reverberates throughout her life. It even reverberates into the lives of the people she cares about leading to the physical and emotional break of her childhood best friend, Donovan, who copes through the breakdown of communication: he becomes mute.

Some might call Theo unlikable due to her “bad” decisions but those who do should take a good long look at themselves. Likability is a non-factor in fiction. People are the basis of great fiction and Colbert has written phenomenal fiction that will hook and live within you weeks later. Ballet not only offered Theo the much needed stability and structure to her life but it did the same for the reader. It was the only sure thing throughout and it was described so eloquently that those who don’t have knowledge on the craft will feel like they do once they’re done.

Colbert has debuted a gem that I think everyone should read both adults and teens alike. It’s a story about trauma and survival but also about hope and the proverbial light at the end of a tunnel. I hope to wrap Theo and Donovan in my arms and protect them the way they deserve to be protected. I also hope that readers wrap this book in their arms when it comes out this April because it’s definitely a life changer.

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.