Tag Archive | #BookReview

“Two Graves” Book Review

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Author: Zoe Kalo

Publisher: Createspace

Genre: Thriller, Novella

Rating: ✈️ ✈️ out of ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️

Synopsis and Thoughts:

Zoe Kalo’s novella is a story of revenge with allusions to Dante’s Inferno. Twenty-three year old music student, Angelica, is set on seeking revenge against the man who wronged her seven years prior. Having spent years planning, Angelica attends a masquerade ball hosted by the very man she seeks.

This novella had been on my to read list for a couple of years prior to my finally reading it. The description, especially with the reference to Dante’s Inferno, are what drew me in and piqued my interest; thus, when I was offered a free copy of this in exchange for an honest review, I leapt at the chance to finally read it.  Much to my disappointment, the book failed to live up to my expectations.

Granted, Two Graves is a short novella at 70 pages, but I felt that it would’ve been better if the author had taken the time to expand on the story and flesh it out more to either make it a longer novella, or even a full length novel. The story switched back and forth between the present and what occurred in the past to make Angelica want this revenge in a jerky manner to where it threw the flow of the story off. Meanwhile, the brief glimpses of the Dante-ish masquerade ball grabbed my interest in the description of the room and it’s group of people, but there was such little time spent there that I wasn’t able to fully appreciate the mood and experience that was being laid out.

In the end, the one thing that aggravated me the most about the story, was the end. After all of the buildup, the ending felt both rushed and abrupt. I actually had to re-read the last few pages a couple of times to make sure that I hadn’t missed something, and upon finding I hadn’t, I was disappointed in the ending and couldn’t help but wonder if the author had reached a point where she couldn’t decide how to end the book, after having created so many unanswered questions, that she just decided to end it rather than keep going and attempting to answer her own questions.

The reason for the two plane rating, versus just one, is because, despite all the issues I had with this book, I enjoyed the last quarter of the story when things really began to pick up and the references to Dante finally began to become known. Although I would not recommend this book, especially not to those who are looking for a revenge story, I will say that if you do decide to read this, proceed with caution.

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“Red Clocks”: A Dystopian Novel That Could Easily Become a Reality Book Review

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Author: Leni Zumas

Genre: Fiction, Dystopian, Feminism, Science Fiction

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Rating:  ✈️  ✈️  ✈️  ✈️ out of  ✈️  ✈️  ✈️  ✈️  ✈️

 

Synopsis:

In an America where Roe v. Wade has been overturned, resulting in: in-vitro fertilization also becoming illegal, the passage of the nationwide Personhood Amendment that gives rights to embryos, single people wishing to adopt and provide a childhood with a home are no longer allowed to, and Canada has closed their borders to women seeking abortions in order to maintain their trade agreement with the United States.

Living and trying to navigate within this new American society are four women who find their lives intertwining. Ro is a single high school teacher who wants nothing more than to have a baby before time runs out, all while writing a biography on a 19th century female explorer of the North Pole. Susan, a friend of Ro, is the mother of two young children who is trying to make the best of a failing marriage. Mattie, one of Ro’s students who finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy and looking to abort the baby without facing jail time. And Gin, the homeopath who lives out in the woods and assists the women of the town with various needs from tinctures for burns to special tea to help in both wanted and unwanted pregnancies. Things come to a head for all four of these women when Gin finds herself put on trial and forced to face the judgement of many of those she’s treated over the years.

Thoughts:

This book took me a bit to get into, but once I figured out the structure and flow of the story I found myself sucked into the lives of these four women. I found Red Clocks to be a truly frightening look at the extremes of what could happen if the United States were to ever reverse Roe v. Wade and to pass a nationwide personhood amendment. Red Clocks shows a society where women would not only no longer be allowed to terminate an unwanted pregnancy for whatever personal reason they had, but where women looking to have children who are unable to have children of their own, would not be allowed to proceed with in vitro fertilization due to the embryo not being allowed to say whether or not it wanted to be implanted, to single people no longer being allowed to adopt children due to the new rule of “every child needs two”.

Zumas does a wonderful job of examining the fallout from revoking women’s ability to live their life as they see fit for their own person and body. Zumas creates a society where “…women who miscarried should pay for funerals for the fetal tissue and … a lab technician who accidentally dropped an embryo during in vitro transfer was guilty of manslaughter.” This is a world where young girls are once again seeking back alley abortions and throwing themselves down stairs in hopes of aborting an unwanted fetus, the difference between this post Roe v. Wade society with the pre Roe v. Wade society is that prior to decision, women seeking an abortion were able to go to Canada for termination, in this new society, Canada has closed its borders to those seeking not only abortions, but also to those who want in vitro out of fear of damaging their relationship as a trading partner with the United States.

Despite the fact that this is a dystopian and speculative piece of fiction, the concepts and ideas that exist in this book are ones that are constantly being discussed and debated at all levels of society. Zumas has written an enlightening and though provoking novel that warns the reader to look closely at all angles of the argument before voting on the final outcome.

“Annihilation” or the Weirdest Science Fiction I’ve Read Book Review

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Author: Jeff Vandermeer

Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Rating: ✈️ ✈️ out of ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️

 

Synopsis:

Annihilation is the first book in Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, and recounts the story of what is known as Area X. It is an area that has been reclaimed by nature and has managed to remain completely cutoff from the rest of the continent. Since its discovery, there have been 11 expeditions into Area X, some of those expeditions were successful while others resulted in tragedy and murder. When the story begins, the 12th expedition is making its way into Area X, with this particular group being made up solely of four women with very distinct job descriptions. There’s an anthropologist, a surveyor, a psychiatrist who assumes the role of leader, and a biologist who serves as the narrator for the story.

Knowing the sordid history of the region and what happened with each expedition, the women are tasked with mapping the area and collection specimens. They are also meant to each keep written records of what they observe about the area and within one another, all while trying to avoid any possible contamination that may be present.

Thoughts:

I added Jeff Vandermeer’s novel to my to read list almost two years ago, after coming across it while browsing through an airport bookstore and thinking that it sounded promising. I finally decided to move it up on my to read list after seeing previews for the film and thinking that it might be a good idea to read the book before seeing the movie. Thus, I picked up a copy from local library and dove in with high hopes for what I was sure would be a truly unique and different science fiction book than what I was used to.

The book lived up to the fact that it was different from other science fiction books, it was weird and as a reader I was never truly certain that what the narrator was describing was in fact true, or if everything was a version of some truth from an unreliable narrator. I ended up finding this a rather difficult book to get through as I found myself having to go back whole passages to reread them due to having lost the trail that the author was laying, or because I had completely zoned out and stopped paying attention. Although there were brief parts of the book that really engaged me and held my attention, for the most part I found myself having a hard time focusing on the story; I had to continuously push myself to keep reading in hopes it would begin to make sense at some point in time.

Upon finishing the book, I have been left with the feeling that I would have been completely fine in going to see the movie without having ever read the book and still have left the theater feeling just as confused as I was at the end of the book. Granted this is the first book in a trilogy, so it makes sense that things would be left open-ended in order to get the reader to read the rest of the books, but I had such a hard time focusing on this book that I’m not even sure I’ll finish the series because at this point in time, I really don’t care what’s going on or what happens to the characters. As for the movie, I’ll wait for it to leave the theaters and either watch it when it plays on HBO or check out the DVD from the library.

 

“Geekerella” Book Review, or the Book that Filled my Geek Girl Heart with Endless Happiness.

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 Author: Ashley Poston

 Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Retelling

 Publisher: Quirk Books

 Rating: ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ out of ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️

 

Thoughts:

Geekerella was one of those books that I initially had no intention of reading, let alone buying a copy of. It wasn’t that it didn’t sound interesting, it did, so much as I already had so many books on my never-ending to-be read list that I didn’t see the necessity in reading yet another YA fairy tale retelling. Even after one of my friends read and gushed about it and told me about how I would love it too, because I’m a fangirl of many of the fandoms that are mentioned in the book, I still wasn’t convinced that this was a book I just had to have and read.

I know what you’re thinking, what happened that changed my mind? Well, the impetus that changed my mind was getting to meet the author and hear her speak about her book. Last October, I attended a young adult discussion and book signing at the Tattered Cover Bookstore where there were four YA authors in attendance to discuss their most recent books: E. K. Johnston for That Inevitable Victorian Thing, Melanie Crowder for An Uninterrupted View of the Sky, Katherine Locke for The Girl with the Red Balloon and Ashley Poston and her book Geekerella. Listening to Ashley talk about Geekerella  and why she chose to retell the fairy tale classic Cinderella with a comic con type setting and the homage to fandom life and the fans who bleed their chosen fandom, is what finally convinced me that I would get a copy that day. Sitting there, I could tell just how much Ashley loved her book and loved writing it, and I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in this world she had created, plus it didn’t hurt that there was a dachshund on the cover.

Having finally read, and loved Geekerella, I’m sorry I didn’t give the book a chance sooner. This book spoke to my geek girl heart, both with the Cinderella retelling aspect, as well as the myriad of pop culture references (Doctor Who, Marvel, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek, so on and so forth, to name a few). As I sat reading the book, with my very own dachshund curled up next to me, I found myself feeling all of Elle’s emotions as she dealt with her horrid step mother and step sisters, the anger over the chosen casting of an actor for a character whose entire life story you know like it happened to you, and missing her father who was the one person who shared, and introduced, this amazing fandom with her.

This is a book that I know I will revisit time and again, be it that I need to get out of a reading slump, or that I just want to spend an afternoon being a geek. Geekerella is the book that I know I will continuously find myself recommending to my friends who love a good book with numerous pop culture references. Thank you to the author, for being that final push I needed to not only read, but love this book.

In honor of the fictional fandom created in this book, remember to: “Look to the Stars. Aim. Ignite.”

“The Key to Everything” Book Review

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The Key to Everything mood board created by the author, Paula Stokes, and used with her permission.

Author: Paula Stokes

Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Rating: ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ out of ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️

Synopsis: College senior and psychology major Oakland Fuller is one who spends her life looking for signs and believing in the ever elusive soul mate. Following a series of failed relationships, Oakland quickly comes around to idea that the reason is because of unresolved issues she has with her high school boyfriend Seth; a theory which is further encouraged by both the school counselor and a fortune-teller who both say the same thing. Convinced that the universe is telling her she needs to contact Seth in order to explore what feelings they may still have for one another, Oakland obsessively begins to try to contact Seth.

With frustration mounting over a lack of response from Seth, Oakland’s best friend Morgan swoops in and convinces Oakland to join her on a guided Thailand excursion during their upcoming winter break. Traveling to Bangkok finds the two friends meeting a handsome pair of US military soldiers who are also on vacation. Deciding that she will take her friend’s advice, after all she is single, Oakland engages in some harmless fun and sex with Tyson. What starts out as harmless no strings attached fun, slowly begins to blossom into actual romance and what Oakland admits is her best relationship ever. Unfortunately, her new budding relationship is put at risk when Oakland spots Seth at a temple in Bangkok, and Oakland once again begins to question the signs the universe is sending her way and who she’s truly meant to be with.

Thoughts: First, I have to thank the author, Paula Stokes, for the advance e-ARC copy she was so kind to provide me with of her first self published novel. From the start, I found myself on a roller coaster ride  in regards to my feelings towards Oakland. I had a hard time with the fact that Oakland was so obsessed with wanting to reconnect with Seth in main part because I wanted her to come off as being a level-headed individual given the fact that she was planning on becoming a clinical psychologist. Oakland was so focused on looking for signs to prove that she was meant to be with Seth, and so determined that what she was doing was for the best, I couldn’t help but feel that if I were looking for a therapist to help me, she would be the last person I would go to.

I almost put the book down after the first couple of chapters due in large part  because of how annoying I found Oakland to be. With that being said, I persevered as I convinced myself that Oakland would grow as a character and prove that she wasn’t the idiot I felt her to be. Oakland is one of those characters where I found myself wanting nothing more than for someone to smack some sense into. I had a hard time dealing with her treatment of Tyson, despite them agreeing that what they were doing was all in good fun and that there were no strings attached, I still believe that Tyson was a good and kind man who did not deserve to be treated the way he was. Tyson was most definitely a better person than me, I don’t think I would ever agree to help the person I was into help track down their ex so that they could potentially get back together with this ex they claimed was their soul mate.

I think really the only reason why I kept reading the book was because I liked the other characters. I loved Morgan, for Morgan not only served as the voice of reason but she was fun and the kind of friend I’d want to travel to Thailand with. The senior citizen members of the guided tour provided great foil to the larger story, as the book continued and they started to share more about themselves, they proved that one should never judge those they don’t know based solely on age and appearance for at any given time people can surprise you and prove to be both interesting and engaging people to know. Tyson pretty much epitomizes that kind of man I would like to meet and have a long-lasting relationship with. Tyson is not only attractive, but he’s kind-hearted and truly wants for those around him to be happy, even if it means he’s left alone and unhappy in the end.

I know it sounds like I didn’t enjoy the book and you’re probably wondering why I gave the rating I did. Well the thing is, overall, I did enjoy the book. The story telling was engaging and the description of Thailand and all it has to offer drew me in and made me want nothing more than to hop a flight right away in order to see the sights and eat the food myself. I further kept reading out of curiosity, I wanted to see if Oakland would really give up the chance at true love for the memory of first love, or if she would see reason and pick the man who was supposed to be nothing more than a fling. Not wanting to give anything away, I won’t say whether or not the book provided me with the ending I so desperately wanted.

Just know that it is because of the other elements of the story that I gave a middle of the road rating to this book. The Key to Everything was not my first Paula Stokes read, and it certainly won’t be the last.

“The Flight Attendant” Book Review

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Author: Chris Bohjalian

Publisher: Doubleday

Publication Date: March 13, 2018

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Rating: ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️.75 out of ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️

Description from the book jacket:

Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She’s a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, already counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets.

Afraid to call the police–she’s a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home–Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it’s too late to come clean-or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did?

Set amid the captivating world of those whose lives unfold at forty thousand feet, The Flight Attendant unveils a spellbinding story of memory, of the giddy pleasures of alcohol and the devastating consequences of addiction, and of murder far from home.

Thoughts:

Earlier this year Chris Bohjalian came to Denver’s Tattered Cover Bookstore to read from and discuss his, at the time, latest novel, The Sleepwalker. During that discussion, the question that all authors are inevitably asked, “what are you currently working on?” came up. In answer to this, Chris shared that he was working on a book about a flight attendant who wakes up next to a dead body in a hotel room in Dubai. I couldn’t help but squeal when I hear this, turns out my squeal was quite loud as it caught Chris’s attention and I went on to share that I was excited because I am a flight attendant. This exchange resulted in not only email correspondence, but also a mutual following of one another on various social media platforms.

It was thus with much anticipatory breath that I waited for Chris to finish his book and for the galley’s to be produced, for I kept my fingers crossed I would get to read a galley of the book. Needless to say, my wish came true and I received my very own galley of the book. Thank you to both Chris and Doubleday for providing me with this wonderfully suspenseful book about a character with my same job.

Now for my thoughts on this book, both from a reader and a flight attendant’s perspective. As a reader, I found the book to be engaging right from the start as the reader is introduced to the main character, Cassie, and the body of the man she spent the night with lying next to her in bed. From those opening pages, I found that at no point did the story lag or lose my interest. I wanted nothing more than to keep reading, to see what would happen to Cassie and if her need for alcohol would be her inevitable downfall.

As much as I wanted to see what would happen to Cassie next, what she would say and do, I also feared what actions and decisions she would make. Cassie is perhaps one of the most complex characters I’ve read this year. At her heart she is a good person, but her drunkenness leads to such horrible decisions that I couldn’t help but want to reach into the pages and try to shake some sense into her as I feared both for her life and her career. Not wanting to give anything away, I will say that the climax of the book is like that final steep climb to the top of the tallest roller coaster and upon reaching its crest, you’ll find yourself wanting to throw your hands in the air and scream with the excitement of it all as it makes its final drop.

You’re probably asking yourself, if I loved the book so much, why the 4.75 airplane rating instead of a full 5 airplane rating? Well, this is where the flight attendant part of me responds to the book. Chris did a wonderful job in crafting and delivering this story, but there were some things about airlines and being a flight attendant that he got wrong. Although these few areas are ones that I know readers with no personal relationship to the airline industry (either work for an airline themselves or have a close relative who works for the industry) will pick up on these discrepancies, I unfortunately picked up on them immediately.

Despite this quarter point deduction, I still recommend this book and will even say that it’s my favorite of Chris’s books to date. This book is one that fans of Chris Bohjalian will not want to miss. It’s also great for readers who enjoy a good mystery packed with nonstop suspicion and thrills. For those who are going on vacation, whether it be to a beach or not, this is a great book to join you on your travels.

“Final Girls” Book Review

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Author: Riley Sager

Publisher: Dutton

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

It’s been ten years since Quincy Carpenter found herself the sole survivor of a horrific mass murder at Pine Cottage, which left her five college friends dead at the hands of a knife wielding madman. Having blocked out the events of that night, Quincy finds herself a member of the one club that no one wants to have to belong to, that of the Final Girls as dubbed by the media. Other survivors include, Lisa, who lost nine of her sorority sisters one night the knife wielding college dropout; and Sam, who survived an attack from the Sack Man while on duty at the Nightlight Inn.

Each woman has worked to put the events that forever changed their lives behind them by trying to move on with their lives as much as possible, despite the media’s attempts at disrupting their lives further. Quincy has worked hard to move on with help from her Xanax prescription, her baking blog, her caring boyfriend Jeff, and the constant reassurance of Coop, the cop who saved Quincy’s life all those years ago. For Quincy, she truly has moved on as the events of that night at Pine Cottage were so terrifying that she has completely blocked everything and suffers from total memory loss.

It’s after the first of the Final Girls, Lisa, is found dead in her bathtub with slit wrists, and the second Final Girl, Sam, shows up on Quincy’s doorstep, that she finally finds herself having to revisit the events of that night once and for all. Quincy finds herself in a race to learn the truth about Sam and why she’s there, evade the police and reporters, and to remember once and for all what truly happened that night at Pine Cottage if she has any hope of ensuring that she remain a survivor and Final Girl.

Thoughts:

I am an avowed life long horror movie fan and it is because of my love of this genre, especially the slasher movies of my childhood and youth (Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Scream to name a few), that I knew I had to read this book after reading the synopsis. I made a point to reserve the book at my library before it was even released, in order to ensure that I would be one of the first ones to read it, that’s how excited for this book I was. I am happy to say that this book did not disappoint as it pulled me in right from the start and held my interest up to the very end.

I found the author’s writing style to be not only engaging, but vividly described. I was able to picture everything as though I were watching it unfold before me on TV. It was because of this wonderful storytelling, that I felt more and more like I was reading the story of my new favorite slasher movie. In fact, this book made think so much of those classic slasher flicks, that I finished the book wanting nothing more than to have a horror movie marathon.

Something I appreciated about how Final Girls was told, was that the reader was told not only what each of the women went through and how they survived, but it also showed what happened to them years after their respective attacks. This is something that few movies do, usually they end with the main character surviving the attack and being surrounded by emergency personnel as they clean up the scene. I liked getting to see how each of the women responded to what happened to them. From Lisa who went on to help other women who had survived violence against them, Sam who went off the grid, and how Lisa resorted to prescription drugs to cope.

One of the things I loved most about this book, aside from learning about the three women and their stories of survival, were all the red herrings that were dropped throughout the book. Just when I thought I knew where the story was heading and what actually happened to Quincy at Pine Cottage, something would be presented that completely changed my supposition and proved that I was wrong in my thinking. At no point was I able to figure out where the story was going and I greatly appreciated that, as too often I find that I can figure out the plot and ending long before its revealed. It was indeed a joy to have been surprised by the ending and I couldn’t be more satisfied with how everything was wrapped up.

I don’t want to give away too much about the plot or how things turn out, so I’ll just say that if you are a fan of horror movies, teen slasher movies and a good thriller that keeps you guessing up to the very end, then definitely read Final Girls. Now if you will excuse me, I think it’s time I re-watch some of my favorite slasher flicks and the strong women who survive them to the end.