Review: ‘Jackaby’

Hello! I saw this book while scrolling through my library’s digital collection and really loved the cover. I thought it was intriguing from the blurb and decided to check it out.
Title: Jackaby

Author: William Ritter

Series: Jackaby

Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary

Mystery? The supernatural? A zany dude? Check, check and check. This book is a retelling of the classic Sherlock Holmes story, with a female Watson at Sherlock’s side. Sherlock is named Jackaby in this version and Watson is named Abigail, who has recently come to New England in order to escape her parents. She is met with the zany Jackaby on the street one day and finds out he is looking for an investigative assistant, a job which she jumps for because nowhere else in the new town is anyone hiring. Abigail had no idea what she was getting herself into.

Likes

This book was fun. I felt it was a fun read that kept me interested in reading more. I love the show Sherlock and I have read another Sherlock retelling in the past. I find mysteries to be a genre that I am usually not interested in but this book had such a cool mystery! The retelling part of this book was the fact that Jackaby is a seer and he can see paranormal and supernatural beings that commit some of the crimes he investigates. In this story, that is no different, and the two are on a hunt for a serial killer in their small town. The characters all have parallels to Sherlock Holmes, and Jackaby is an unofficial partner with the police. I thought Jackaby’s character was very entertaining. He acted very much like Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock portrayal and he was simply hilarious. His deductions were very calculated but sometimes he would just basically talk to himself because his thoughts were going a million miles a minute. He certainly was an interesting part of this story that complimented Abigial very well. She was intelligent and inquisitive, learning both about investigating and the paranormal while assisting Jackaby on the cases at hand.

Dislikes

I didn’t like that this book was a little scatterbrained for me and I really wanted to know more about the supernatural beings. They were touched on slightly but I wanted in-depth descriptions of them in relation to the case. I have to say the twist of the killer did keep me on the edge of my seat and I didn’t guess it until it actually happened in the book. I liked the idea of having paranormal beings being the killer and it was an interesting take on Sherlock. My rating reflects that I was pretty indifferent to the book but I would definitely read the second with how the first one ended.

Recommendation

I would recommend this book to fans of Sherlock or mysteries. It’s fresh and new and I even think that it has a little bit of Doctor Who elements in it, with the supernatural aspect of it.

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

Review: ‘Every Last Word’

Hi! Mental health month is in May but I saw this book recommended on Twitter as part of mental health reads. After my month of LGBT reads, I figured that I wanted to try some that deal with mental health. Mental health is something personal for me, both because of my own experience as well as my career as a counselor, which I am studying for.
Title: Every Last Word

Author: Tamara Ireland Stone

Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary

This book truly hit me hard. I was lucky that my library had a digital copy and I downloaded it to start reading right away. But wow, this is a really ‘real’ book and it made my heart hurt and soar at the same time. The book follows Samanatha (or Sam), who struggles with anxiety and OCD. She goes through high school with a really terrible group of friends but meets a girl named Caroline, who introduces her to a new group of friends and the art of poetry.

Likes

I think my favorite thing about this book was that it told it like it is. It didn’t sugarcoat what anxiety was like and it showed the everyday manifestations of the mental illness. Additionally, it chronicles Sam’s therapy sessions which I think is so important for young people to read. Many are still plagued by the idea of mental illness being a stigma and that getting help means that they’re crazy. It doesn’t! It means that they’re strong enough to realize they need help to get better and cannot do it on their own. I have recently been shown that anxiety is the root and why I do many things that I do, and why I am the way that I am. For so long, I thought I didn’t have anxiety to that level, but once I accepted I did, I was able to deal with it so much better. I am not on medication or have severe anxiety (I like to call it ‘high functioning anxiety’) but I related to Sam in a way that I really needed to have years ago. Sam’s character truly made this book everything it needed to be for me and I can’t stress enough how beautifully written she is as a character.

(Dis)likes

There isn’t anything I didn’t like about this book. While it is a contemporary, it is told in a way that keeps you intrigued and there are some twists in this book that I wasn’t expecting at all! I also found it interesting that it depicted Sam’s mother a lot in the book and she was trained by Sam’s therapist on how to deal with Sam’s anxiety attacks, when they happen. It made me think about how I want to handle my own mental health practice some day and I feel that this is such an important asset. Parents often don’t know how to deal with their child’s mental illness or developmental disability–not at their own fault, but because some therapists just don’t teach them or think it’s important to. After reading this book, I agree that it is, and I would go on to suggest teaching small things to best friends so that if the parent isn’t there, they can help as well.

Recommendation

I would recommend this book to anyone struggling with anxiety, mental illness of any kind, or if someone you know is dealing with mental illness. It gives useful insights into how it really affects a person’s life daily and can help identify warning signs that someone needs some support.

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

Review: ‘Horizon’

Horizon is a middle-grade book by Scott Westerfeld that was pitched as Hatchet meets Lord of the Flies meets Lost. Now, Scott Westerfeld is one of my all time favorite authors so anything written by him, I’m sold. But throw in something about Lost? I’m instantly double give it to me now sold! I’m a die hard Lostie and I will love the show 4ever, so anything that is similar to it – sign me up.

Author: Scott Westerfeld
Series: Horizon (7 planned books)
Rating: 4/5 stars

Horizon did not disappoint. I’m not usually a fan of middle grade books – as an ~adult~, they just don’t resonate with me as YA books do. But I could really get into and enjoy Horizon. It is for a younger audience and the writing reflects that, but while it is simpler it is not in any way dumbed down. This is still a story about survival and the writing reflects that.

A plane crashes on a flight from New York to Tokyo as they’re flying over the arctic and the only survivors are a handful of young teenagers. But when they get out of the wreckage, they’re in the jungle, not the arctic as they were when they last looked out the window. …What? Exactly. (Somebody forgot to push the button in the hatch. 4 8 15 16 23 42)

These kids need to be resourceful and combine their unique skills and knowledge to survive. Some of the kids know each other because were on a class trip for a robotics competition – clearly smart kids. One boy was on his way home to Japan to see his father. Two Japanese sisters don’t speak any English. Yet this ragtag team needs to work together if they want to survive. And the jungle has some unexpected surprises for them.

As I said, I loved Lost, so I loved this book! It really felt like elements of Lost with the mysteries and unexplained events and locations. (Polar bear on the Lost island, anyone?) (Side note, if you want to talk about how much you love Lost like I do, please comment below so we can be friends :D)

This was full of action and you even learn a few Japanese words along the way! (Luckily the boy on his way to see his father speaks both English and Japanese. How convenient!)

This is the first of 7 planned books in the series and a different author will write each story. Book 2, Deadzone, is written by Jennifer A. Nielsen and will be released on September 12th, 2017. I would recommend this series for middle-grade readers but older readers can enjoy this as well! If you like stories about survival with some mysteries thrown in, this story is for you.

~Missy

Review: ‘The Queen of the Tearling’

I remember picking this book up when I was a teenager and being so intimidated by the density of the book. I actually didn’t read it back then and I recently saw the new cover and binding at my library so I decided to give it another try.

 
Title: The Queen of the Tearling

Author: Erika Johansen

Series: The Queen of the Tearling

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Summary

I was surprised by this book. I had heard that it was super detailed and dense and very hard to get through. Nevertheless, I decided to read it. The book follows the story of Queen Kelsea, who is the newly appointing queen of the Tearling. Her mother, the previous queen, has died and it is time for her to take her rightful place on the throne as she comes of age. It chronicles her journey to her Keep and all that happens within the walls of her castle.

Likes

I found that I actually really liked Queen Kelsea as a character. I found that she was a strong and just ruler, one that wanted to undo all of the horrible things that her mother did. Of course, these things were only done in order to keep the kingdom safe, but Kelsea is more about being a just and free ruler, and wants to provide the best of care to her citizens. I thought that it was an interesting touch to have her learn sword fighting and realize that there were many threats upon her life. This book also uses a sort of alternate world, where the setting is New Europe and the occupation of land is New London. It wasn’t examined too much but the areas had been renamed and Kelsea’s territory was the Tearling. I also found that this book was a lot like Game of Thrones. I love GoT, so I was pleased with it, but the storyline had similar elements.

Dislikes

Also like Game of Thrones, this book was VERY DENSE. People aren’t lying when they say that. There is a lot of description and there is a lot of added wordiness that kind of makes the novel drag on. I felt like the story moved at a fairly good pace but the ‘dragging on’ I reference is to detailed descriptions of scenes that really don’t make a difference to the book as a whole. I am personally not a fan of this, as I think I mentioned in the past, but it does paint a super clear image. I also found that the threat of the other queen trying to take over wasn’t that… Scary? Pressing? I don’t really know the word to describe it. She was told as this horrible ruler who demands this and that, but when it came to the actual scenes with her, I was let down. I think the second book delves into her a little more (It is called Invasion of the Tearling) and I might read it to find out a little more about this other queen (named the Red Queen).

Recommendation

I would recommend this book to fans of Game of Thrones. That is the closest thing I can relate it to and I think that it will please these fans very much. I also heard that once upon a time, Emma Watson was to star in a movie based on this book… But I haven’t heard anything about it lately! I think she would make a fantastic Kelsea!

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

Review: ‘Soundless’

I LOVE Richelle Mead. I read all of the Vampire Academy books within a week a few years ago. I remember my parents had to keep taking me to the library because I devoured them so fast. I also read some of her spinoff series, Bloodlines, and enjoyed that as well because Adrian is AMAZING. But how did I feel about this book?

 
Title: Soundless

Author: Richelle Mead

Series: Standalone

Rating: 2/5 stars

Summary

I didn’t like this book. And I was so surprised because I have loved everything else that Richelle has written. This just didn’t grip me and didn’t leave me wanting more. The book is about a group of people living on the top of a mountain. They are all deaf and some have even begun to lose their eyesight. Nobody knows why but they all accept that it is a part of their life. Many work in a mine and send metal down to the village at the bottom of the mountain, and then food is sent up in exhange for what they produce. Two villagers, our main character Fei as well as another man Lei, dislike this system and journey down the mountain to find out the truth.

Likes

First, what I did like was the general landscape that was painted. Richelle does a very good job of explaining setting so that you are truly immersed in a story. I felt like I was on that mountain with those people and I felt their pain as well. The book was very emotional at points because you really felt for the people on that mountain and you wanted to help them just as Lei tries to do. I also found the unique representation of those who are deaf to be interesting in this book. 99% of this book has no spoken word in it, just italicized sentences that stood for the signing the characters used to communicate. I haven’t read a book in the past that has had deaf characters in it so while I thought that was interesting to have, there is another reason for their deafness, which is a little strange.

Dislikes

Now to what I didn’t like about this book. The characters weren’t powerful enough for me to fall in love with them. They carried the main summary of the story but they didn’t make me swoon and didn’t make me have strong emotional reactions to what they did–those were reserved for the harsh plot points. I also didn’t find the love story in this book to be that compelling. After reading other books by this author, I had higher expectations for the main male lead and thought that the love story would play more of a part. That is just an opinion and my comparison to other books by this author, but I think the love story was unnecessary in this book. The story is tragic, and heartbreaking, but I think it was meant to be that way in order to strike a chord. I also thought that there would be more elements of Asian culture in this story. I think I sort of expected it with the setting of the book and I enjoy learning about new cultures, so it was a disappointment on my end.

Recommendation

I would recommend this book to someone who isn’t afraid of a ‘real’ story that has an optimistic ending. I am sure that in other terms, events like this have happened throughout history. It is painful and raw, which is also something I would use to describe this book.

Happy reading! ~ Taylor