Books, YA (Young Adult)

Wilder Girls by Rory Power Review

Mark it on Goodreads!

Title: Wilder Girls
Author: Rory Power
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Page #: 353
Genre: Young Adult, Apocalyptic, Survival, LGBTQIA+
Age Recommendation: 13+

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

This book, hands down, has one of the best covers out there.  I think this book will wind up in a lot of  hands simply for its visual presence.

Unfortunately for this book I think it’s sale figures are  going to be out of whack as I got a copy for Barnes and Noble before the release date.  I later found out that it will be released officially on July 9th 2019.  I wouldn’t have grabbed it early as I want the publisher to get accurate data regarding the success of this book  and also so that the hype around the book is properly placed.  I waited to review it until close to it’s release date so as not to put this out into the world before it has a fair shake.

I wanted desperately to love this. I heard it pitched as an all girls version of Lord of the Flies and  while I can see that comparison I don’t think that is quite accurate.  The themes of the two books are in no way comparable.  The best I can say is that they both follow a group of children on islands.  Wilder Girls is focused much more on the characters relationships, it didn’t really dive very deep in a philosophical sense, whereas Lord of the Flies was a criticism of modern society, specifically questioning if manners are inherently human or if we are all just animals somewhere deep down.  I see the comparison, I just don’t totally agree with it.

I ended up rating this three stars out of five.  It was an okay book.  I wanted it to be a fabulous book, but it was okay.  This was the sort of book where the entire time I was reading it, I picked up on bits and pieces of stuff that I loved, but it didn’t feel right.  There were aspects of it that felt rushed and therefore unsatisfying and that kept pulling me out of the story.  I am definitely going to read anything that Rory Power puts out in the future as there was enough in here that I liked and I think the more she writes the better she will become.

This book shines most in its action and its mood.  It has such a lovely sense of dread and anxiety about it.  You feel like you are  with the kids and are fighting for survival while their own bodies betray them.  In scenes where the characters are forced to fight I felt like I couldn’t put the book down.  Power’s descriptions of The Tox and what it did to the physicality of the girls and the island at large was delightfully grotesque, yet beautiful at the same time.

Unfortunately, it seemed like the character relationships were a bit … rushed or underdeveloped.  Which is unfortunate when it comes  to a book that focuses so much on the dynamics between characters.  I enjoyed the banter between the girls but I also felt like I didn’t get to know any of them very much.  Hetty is obsessed with Byatt … Byatt is a bad girl who likes to push her boundaries … and Reese is an orphan?  They don’t seem to have much more than those traits and when they do or say things to suggest interest or even import in other things it felt disingenuous rather than opening up the characters.

Another strong aspect of this book was the girl on girl romance.  Nothing risque, honestly the treatment of the LGBTQIA+ aspects of this book was tasteful and normalizing.  It allowed for confusion and interest and there was no stigma presented on page AT ALL, which honestly was the best part.  It is one thing to put a queer romance to the page, it is another to make it seem just  as mundane and cute as any other … almost as if … it is just romance!

I think this would be a good read for the younger folks who read YA, although I will throw out the caveat that it does have a fair bit of violence in it so make sure your kid is okay with that. The reason I am saying that it would benefit younger readers more than older is that The Tox is a thinly veiled metaphor for puberty.  It would be a great way to engage with a younger reader who feels like … wait for it … their body is not their own (i.e. your arms are too long and your hips are too wide and you feel a bit weird and off sometimes).  It is a great way to open up discussion, especially with a fantastic and extreme counter point (at least you don’t have a second spine growing out of your back!)

This isn’t going to be a book for every kid.  I think that it could be great for some, but overall it is just okay.

Would I tell you not to buy it?  Of course not.  I am going to keep it as there will be times when it would be the right book to recommend to someone, I am just unsure that it will be a go to book to hand out at every chance I get.  I’m also not positive it will hold the test of time and remain a staple both in the cannon and  in young adult literature at large.

I did read this book with my book club and we will be posting a podcast episode with a full discussion.  If you don’t mind some plot spoilers and zany antics, then look for the episode on Bibliomancy for Beginners.

It has been a hot minute since I have posted on here.  This is partially because I have been struggling in my real world life.  I miss talking about books with you all and I hope to jump back on the band wagon.  My goal is to post once a week. I don’t know yet if I want to set a specific day, but once a week is going to be the goal.

Talk to you again soon!

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5-7, 7-12, Books, Children

5 Great Spooky Middlegrade Books/Series

These are the recommendations I have been waiting for.  As a child I couldn’t get enough of the horror genre … and that may have pervaded into my adulthood as well.  I want to talk about some hidden gems in the kids section that are on the scary side but definitely worth picking up around this time of year.  Whether it is just meant to be a good spooky tale or an outside reading project any of these books are worth a look.

It has been a long time since I saw a horror book in the kids section that doesn’t try to tamp down the scare factor and mix in some adventure … at least as far as the cover is concerned.  Took has one of the simplest … spookiest covers out there at the moment.  It is befitting a ghost story … or is it a witch story … both?  This story involves the very real fear of being a new kid in town alongside some scary local legends.  When the protagonist’s little sister starts acting strange, talking to her doll more than the real people around her, and finally disappearing into the woods he realizes that the stories kids have been telling him, might not be hazing pranks but may actually be true.  This is perhaps the scariest story on this list … at least in its simplicity.  It is the basic ghost story that you will find in the adult section as well.  This one is definitely meant for the horror buff, or for the brave kids who want to try something a bit more real.

 

I have posts where I discuss this new series by D. J. MacHale.  He was one of my favorite children’s writers growing up and he also wrote for and produced some of my favorite spooky television shows including Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Ghostwriter.  Am I dating myself here?  You might see this one in bookstores as Surrender the Key instead of Curse of the Boggin, they are the same book, there was just a title change between the hardcover and paperback editions.  This one is about a young boy who inherits a key, and a monster who can take the form of anything it chooses that sorely wants it.  How does a young boy outsmart a centuries old baddie who can better be described as simple bad luck.  Give it a try, and step into The Library where all sorts of mysteries throughout time are begging to be solved.

Yes, this might seem like a bit of a throw away recommendation.  Goosebumps have been a staple of the children’s section for more than 20 years at this point, but I want to throw out there the particular brand of Goosebumps books that took a page out of Choose Your Own Adventure novels.  Rather than a happy go lucky romp into space here you must choose between saving your best friends or investigating the weird man who took your backpack.  This particular one stuck with me as a kid, I still remember the scenes where the protagonist was seperated into all of its component pieces but maintained sentience enough to register that their eyes were in seperate jars from their mouth, their hands, and their feet.  A great adventure than can last from a few page turns to a good while if you play your cards right.  Just Beware because any mundane choice you make could be THE END!

We all know how terrifying the monsters our brains come up with in our sleep can be.  This story follows a young boy who cannot remember having a restful night’s sleep.  However, the real nightmare begins when the monsters that plague his dreamscape somehow finds its way into the real world.  This on top of a new stepmother he is pretty sure is a witch, a new house he is pretty sure is haunted, and the usual growing pains that a young boy suffers it is definitely a book worth a little bit of a shiver.  Just don’t read before bed, or you might give yourself Nightmares!

 

Growing up is hard, it is even harder when the end of the world has come via zombie hordes.  This was a new release when I started working in the kids section and it had hit the ground running.  The other really interesting thing about this one, it is a graphic novel.  As you would think, zombies and the fight against the inevitable is definitely stuck right in the middle of the horror genre.  How does a rag tag team composed of your average-joe, the nerdy best friend, a reformed bully, and the token love interest fair during the zombi-pocalypse.

Adult, Books, Musings

Try a Chapter Tag

I don’t know if this tag has made its way to the blogging community (probably because I am super late to be posting this here … HA!) but the premise is simple.  Pick some books from your shelves that have been sitting unread and read the first chapter.

This is a great tag for people in reading slumps or who are so excited about too many books and need to pick one… as long as you pick one and don’t keep cycling books chapter by chapter.

 

I tried to step my editing game up a bit with this one.  I have been trying to push myself not only here but in all aspects of my life.  I am tired of being sad and mopey, it is time to stand tall and be proud of the things that I do.

Adult, Books

Betwixt the Books Recommends: Horror!

When I say Betwixt the Books, I mean me because Gretchen does not read horror and therefor would have 0 books to talk to you guys about.  I read aloud a mildly spoopy book about zombies and she was too freaked out.  So, yeah, here I am to tell you where you should start in horror, where I started and what I love when it comes to Horror!

 

That’s all I have for you guys today!  I will have a comic review for you tomorrow and hopefully later in the week there will be a Wrap Up with Gretchen.  This is the final video that I was scheduled to do alone.  If everything works out we will have our precious back!

Adult, Books

A Blind Date with a Book!

I ordered a book from Brittany’s new etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/UnderTheRadarBooks

She sells books wrapped in pretty brown paper and tied up with string.  A label on the front tells you a little about the book!  She uses recycled materials and used books so you can love a book that has been abandoned and have a little fun.

If you are worried about getting something you won’t like or have already read, don’t worry because she asks for your goodreads account or a genre of book you would prefer before hand to get a feel at your reading tastes.  Every single person I have seen opening their books have loved them, even if they had never heard of them before!

Here’s my book and reaction!

I actually will have a Flicks review for you guys tomorrow so get ready for that~  All of the things this week.  Productivity hoooo!

Adult, Books

The Girl on the Train Book Review

Pop Sugar Reading Challenge Update: 18/40
A Book That’s Becoming a Movie this Year

*warning* This might be a review that has unpopular opinions.  You have been warned.

I decided to do my reviews this week as videos so that I can work on my ability to talk about books on video.  I feel like I never say anything helpful at all about books so I’m working on it.

In any case let’s watch this review:

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Title: The Girl on the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Page #: 325
Genre: Thriller, Urban Noir


I hope you guys enjoyed and I will be back on Friday with a lighter more positive review so look forward to that!

Adult, Books

Uncommon Bodies Anthology ARC Review

I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review!

This book is already published if you want to read it by all means pick up a copy!

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Title: Uncommon Bodies
Author: Anthology (full list of authors on Goodreads)
Publisher: Fighting Monkey Press
Page #: 300
Genre: Short Story Collection

I spent a long time trying to figure out how I would review this collection. It is difficult enough to review a collection of short stories written by one author, but when there are so many people writing so many pieces the challenge becomes ever greater. I feel as if that is the beauty of this anthology though. There are so many different stories in it. Some of them I was confused by, others I was awed. Some terrified me and others had me sighing at the adorable protagonist and their love interest. All of these things are held in one book and I was dumbfounded as to how I could sum it all up, and perhaps I can’t.

I’m not going to go through all 20 stories, it would take me forever and I doubt anyone would want to read that so I will do my best to discuss what I think was done really well here, and what I think could have been improved upon.

As far as the collection as a whole goes, I definitely think that it had a great breadth of pieces. I also appreciated how many of the pieces were incredibly inclusive not only because of its seamless discussion of common ailment, disfigurements, and disabilities along side mythical or magical creatures, but its inclusion of different sexualities. I actually thought the relation of physical “deformity” with non-hetero-normative sexuality identification incredibly interesting and if I could go into more detail without spoiling you I would. It is perhaps something I will write a paper on at some point in my life.

I am not sure, however, whether or not I liked the order in which these stories were curated. The breadth of the tones and genres in here is astounding for sure but it was a little difficult for me to go from a romantic story to a horror story to a poem to something else entirely. While I feel like it does allow the book to keep the stories separate from each other it is also a little jarring.

If you want to know some of my favorite stories in the bunch then I would say that the opening and closing stories, We is We by Michael Harris Cohen and Scars: First Session by Jordanne Fuller were incredibly poignant. I think they book end this collection incredibly well. The first was moving in its portrayal of the duality of opinions in conjoined twins. Whether or not it is better to be a spectacle behind the glass or experience the real world. The latter was an incredible story about over coming years of mental and physical abuse. I also want to shout out Undead Cyborg Girl by Kim Wells for its ability to make me laugh and awe on cue.

Stories that I found uncomfortable were mainly only uncomfortable because they were not my preferred style of story. All The Devils by Keira Michelle Telford read a bit like Jack the Ripper fanfiction to me, not only because of its erotic overtones, but because the writing wasn’t pushed as far as I thought some of the other stories were, and Reserved by SM Johnson was equally uncomfortable but only because of the over-sexualization to the point of fetishization of disability. Now I don’t have a disability and I cannot say whether these stories accurately or inaccurately portray such fetishization because of this, but it made me uncomfortable and I would put that forward as my only grievance.

The stories were interesting enough to keep me engaged. I was able to read two or three a day and finish it within a week. If you have an interest in magical realism there is plenty of that in here for you, if you have an interest in connections between perceived deformity and assumed deformity I think this also has some interesting comments.

Overall I really enjoyed the collection and would recommend it to you all if you haven’t already to look into it!

Adult, Books

Night Film by Marisha Pessl Review

Pop Sugar Reading Challenge Update: 1/40 completed

The First Book You See in a Bookstore

This is my first video review in a long time guys and I worked really hard on it.  Something a little different.  It is short and sweet and tells you everything you need to know, everything that I thought was wonderful.  I know this book came out a while ago but I just got to it.  If you have already read it I would love to discuss what you thought of it in the comments below!

For those of you who follow the book club we are having a live show tomorrow afternoon so look forward to that.  It is going to be a fun one.  (I have feelings)  Talk to you guys then!  I hope you have a good weekend!

Adult, Books

This Book is Full of Spiders by David Wong Book Review

You remember when I wrote book reviews, me too.  Let’s do that again.

Title: This Book is Full of Spiders
Author: David Wong (pseudonym of Jason Pargin)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Page #: 406
Genre: Horror, Humor, Science Fiction

This is the Sequel to John Dies at the End.  Actually, the last legit review that I posted was Taylor’s take on the first book in this series or if you want my opinion from earlier this year you can read that as well.

As far as sequels go I think that this definitely keeps the tone of the first book, it is equally terrifying and hysterical.  However as far as structure goes this book is completely different.  Where as the first book was more or less chronological you knew that the story was progressing linearly even if it was more like two lines that you jump back and forth between you had no idea what was going to happen plot wise.  Events were happening left and right that kept you feeling completely overwhelmed much like the characters were.  In this novel the events are very straight forward and make sense but the timeline of the novel is all kinds of messed up.

You jump forward and back in time to meet with different characters as they travel which I think is how you are able to get a handle on what is going to happen next in the story.  There is a very clear trajectory here you just might not read it in order per say.  That isn’t to say that you read something that happens days earlier, its more a few hours but still enough to give you a handle on what is going to happen while keeping you slightly off balance.

I think that part of the charm of these books are the characters.  They are so delightfully flawed.  These are not heroes, they aren’t really antiheroes, they are just normal guys who have been given some sort of higher purpose and they muck up so much that you kind of watch all of these events occurring with a sense of dread settling into your stomach the entire time.  They swear and fail and freak out in all the right ways.

It somehow manages to feel completely plausible while being completely outrageous and I sort of love it.

Plot wise you wouldn’t necessarily have to have read the first in the series because it isn’t so much a continuation of a line of events as another snap shot in David and John’s lives.  However I think that both are outstanding books and should be given a chance.  If you think the structure of this book is more to your liking then by all means read it first.

There will apparently be another installment in this series next year some time and I honestly can’t wait.  While these books will never make it into the literary cannon of classics I think that they have a firm place among the cult classics.  One of the best contemporary series I have read.  Go pick up these books if you haven’t already.  Seriously!  Go do it!

 

Adult, Books

John Dies at the End by David Wong Book Review (Bibliomancy for Beginners)

Because you can already find my thoughts on this book … here, I figured that you might want to know what the rest of the Bibliomancers thought.  Unfortunately the only other Bibliomancer to read the book was Taylor … so here you go!

He requested that I tell you how he is going to expand your mind-places.

Prepare your butts.

Title: John Dies at the End
Author: David Wong (Jason Pargin)
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Page #: 384
Genre: Humor/Horror/Thriller

Ok, the first thing I’m going to tell you is DON’T READ THIS POST. Seriously, don’t do it. You’ll all be much safer and much happier if you turn close this browser, walk away from your computer, and never find out about the Soy Sauce or the Spiders or how we might all die.You stopped reading right?

Fuck.

Alright, alright. If you’re going to go ahead and read this I should at least be here to keep you as safe as you’re going to be. Also, the implications of you reading a post I had written without me having stayed on the post long enough to write it is troubling to say the least.

John Dies at the End (A Super Special Meander of a Review )

So basically, shit goes down right from the start, and we’re tossed headlong into the insane day-to-day life of David Wong: occasional inexplicable savior of life as we know it. It’s weird, it’s dark, heads occasionally explode, and it is almost disturbingly funny. Like, nothing from this earth should be this entertaining. It had to have been grown in a test tube on some demi-plane just west of the Plane of Sentient Tumors, tended to constantly by small, loris-like creatures since before time began. Probably.

It’s 400 pages of strange, crazed momentum and if you think too hard about most of those events your brain will begin to bleed. It’s aware of its own contradictions, explaining some after the fact, and leaving others to confound you late at night when normal people are asleep, but you’re just lying there wondering whether John ever actually dies, and if he does, just how many times did it happen? If you let it go (just let it go, there’s no winning that fight) then this book is just short of flawless, and throughout it all it remains completely endearing. You will love these characters. Even when they give every indication to being assholes who may or may not have once punted pan-dimensional kittens you will forgive them every wrong. I’m not entirely sure why, but I’m almost positive it’s because they’re funny.

This book is not perfect though. I can say with utter confidence that there is probably one too many fart jokes in this book. Maybe. Like, there wasn’t anything wrong with any of them, but I give a quota of two fart jokes a book, max. But that’s just me.

I’m going to stop talking now, because if you have not already run to the nearest bookstore or are waiting impatiently but lovingly for me to finish before you run off to the nearest bookstore, then no number of words I write will change your mind. Go on you magnificent bastards, you’ve gotta experience this one on your own. Godspeed.