Review: ‘Turtles All the Way Down’

I have to confess that the only John Green book I’ve read is the Fault in Our Stars. BUT I definitely was excited for this one and it did not disappoint!

 

Title: Turtles All the Way Down

Author: John Green

Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary

This book follows the story of Aza, who suffers from anxiety and OCD tendencies. She investigates the mystery of a fugitive billionaire, who is the father of one of her classmates, with her best friend Daisy. There is a reward offered for any information that leads to information on his whereabouts. She befriends Davis, the classmate, and begins to find out that she feels something more than just friendship with him and maybe it isn’t all about the reward anymore.

Likes

I really loved this book. I had been in a reading slump prior to this and I found myself brought out of it by John Green. The first thing I will address, as it is a passion of mine, is the mental health representation in this book. As someone who suffers from anxious tendencies herself (I am not diagnosed), I certainly related to Aza a lot in this book. While she has many habits that I do not, the thought spiraling is the most difficult thing to deal with. You could have one thought and that leads to another, and then another, and then you’re lost in them. I thought how anxiety and this behavior presents itself was described so well and I appreciated the caveats addressing the mental illness directly. Especially in young adult books, I think that it is so important to represent accurately so that readers can see that they aren’t alone. So much of the descriptions made sense to me and made me love the book even more. I was confused about the title of the book until a (SPOILER!) story was told within the book and then it made so much sense. I also love the cover art, as it describes the spiral well. I also liked the reality of the book. I felt that Aza was relatable and that even though Davis has some wacky elements, it was very real. I think her relationship with Daisy was also something to be admired and it felt like a real friendship.

Dislikes

The only dislike that I can note was that I wasn’t a fan of the romance. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Hazel and Augustus: but I just didn’t ‘feel’ the romance between these two characters. I couldn’t decide at times whether Aza was truly all-in or if she was using him at times. I did appreciate that Davis respected Aza’s anxiety in regards to her boundaries, though. That is something that is incredibly important within the context of dating someone with anxious tendencies.

Recommendation

I would recommend this book to fans of John Green–obviously!–or anyone who wants a read about mental health that is beautifully told.

 

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

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Review: ‘Stealing Snow’

I picked this up while browsing at the library the other day! The cover was GORGEOUS and SHIMMERY and I have to admit that I am a sucker for that sort of thing. I don’t judge books by their cover… But sometimes, the cover is too pretty to not pick it up.
Title: Stealing Snow

Author: Danielle Paige

Series: Stealing Snow

Rating: 3/5 stars

This was my first read by Danielle Paige! She is famous for her Dorothy Must Die series but I haven’t gotten around to picking that up yet (but I plan to!). The summary said that this was a retelling of the classic Snow Queen story and I truly love retelling so, because I love how authors reimagine classic tales into something wonderfully new. This story follows Snow, who is in a psychiartri company hospital. She learns one day that she is actually a princess of another land called Algid. She is taken away by a boy named Kai and she discovers truths about herself that she never thought possible.

This book was alright. I didn’t love it and didn’t hate it, hence my rating above. I like reading books that have some aspect of mental health in them and part of the reason I picked this up was to see how the author portrayed a mental hospital. I found that the representation was somewhat stereotypical but it didn’t bother me that much. I would also categorize this story as more of an Elsa-ish type of story. Yes, her power deals with controlling snow, but I got a very Elsa vibe from the way the story was told: which I was totally okay with! I thought that the story was transformed into something new and it was interesting to see the direction the author took the story in. I thought that there was a heavy fairytale aspect in this book and it follows many of the typical princess tropes that you find in classic fairy tales. My favorite thing about the story was that it depicted the main character as someone who discovers she isn’t broken and she is actually stronger than she ever thought possible, even when faced with the cold hard truth.

There are some twists in this book that I wasn’t expecting. But other than that, the story didn’t really grip me too much. I liked the writing style and how it was told, but I didn’t feel drawn into the world of Algid. I also felt a disconnect between a few characters that I expected to really feel connected to and for those characters to be connected to each other. I kept wanting something more, if that makes sense. I have to commend Danielle, though, for flipping the script and having the girl save the guy in her retelling. It was refreshing to not see that trope in this book and to have a female character doing the rescuing.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of retellings. It is a nice read and I am curious to see how she expands on the story in the second book.

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

Review: ‘The Night Circus’

Ahhh this cover is so gorgeous! I actually picked this up due to Goodreads and so many friends on there were reading it and loving it.

 

Title: The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Series: Standalone

Rating: 2/5 stars

Summary

This book follows the story of Celia and Marco, as well as the rest of the performers at the Night Circus. The Night Circus appears in a different city every few nights and is open from dusk till dawn, closing at that exact time. There are those who try and follow the circus but Celia and Marco became involved for a different reason: they are bound together and to the ‘game’, something that one of them must win in order to end it. But, love has a different idea for the both of them and not everything goes as their ‘masters’ planned.

Likes

I thought the concept of the circus was interesting. It kind of reminded me of Caraval and Daughter of the Burning City in the carnival aspect of it. I also liked that the author separated parts of the book by describing an area that you could walk into during the circus, what you would see, and what you would think. She used ‘you’ and it really put you into the circus at the point and I enjoyed that. I wanted to feel like I was at the circus and what I was experiencing while there. That was a unique aspect aspect and it propelled you into the world a little bit more. I am one for magic and I thought that Celia’s illusions were very cool. One thing she was able to do included changing the fabric of her clothes itself and making new outfits right on the spot. Of course, some would say that’s a party trick, and while it kind of is, she was much more powerful than that. Celia was a likable character and she was extremely intelligent. That quality came out in the story in a variety of ways, including solving the big question that formulated as the plot in the book. Her partnership with Marco was also inspiring and the two of them truly risked it all to be together.

Dislikes

Here is another example of me not liking a book that was super hyped and rec’d for me. And that’s completely okay, it was just disappointing. First, I wish there was more about the actual circus. I understand that there was a side plot that was the bigger picture, but other than those little blurbs I mentioned earlier, I didn’t really get to see what was happening in the circus. I wanted to hear about the characters doing their different acts–the main characters’ acts weren’t touched on in those blurbs. The two twins in the book also had a side plot that was interesting and I wanted to hear more about their part of the circus as well. I also wasn’t attached to these characters at all. I was trying my best to breeze through the book because I just wanted to finish. It was short, so that was possible, but I didn’t feel anything like I normally do when reading. The ending definitely surprised me and I think it was executed well but it should have evoked emotion and it… didn’t. So it missed the mark on an emotional connection for me.

Recommendation

Since it is below 3 stars for me, I’m not sure I could actually recommend this book. But, I will say it is for fans of the books I mentioned above and for those who are fans of the Crown’s Game. the Game is pretty similar and I think that also threw me off.

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

 

Review: ‘The Star-Touched Queen’

I picked up The Star-Touched Queen on a whim – I had just finished a few contemporary stories and needed something magical to read. I checked Overdrive (an app & website that is part of your local library!) for a new audiobook and saw this was available so I figured, why not give it a try!

Title: The Star-Touched Queen
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Series: Standalone – but with a companion novel, A Crown of Wishes
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

I liked this book a lot, but I’m also left very confused by it. I couldn’t tell you what exactly I liked about it or very specific details or tell you how things happened because… I’m not sure?

Now that might sound weird but it’s the only way I can think to describe it. This book was beautiful, but I was confused 90% of the time. I want to attribute that to me listening to this via audiobook rather then reading the print book. I listened to audiobooks all the time and rarely have an issue understanding or following the audio but for this story, I just couldn’t follow along. Don’t get me wrong – the narration was absolutely beautiful. I loved the narrator – she had the perfect voice. I loved being able to hear the names of people/places/things that I otherwise would’ve had a hard time pronouncing. (Maya and Amar, got it. But Gauri? I was a little lost without the audio.) The narrator switches between no accent when reading text but uses an Indian accent when the characters are speaking. I enjoyed that and it was a natural flow, nothing felt forced or overdone.

Back to the writing – it was beautifully descriptive and flowing but sometimes I became lost in all the words. I’m not sure how the characters got from Point A to Point B most of the time. I just accepted it and went along, but I was left feeling confused. I liked the beginning more then the ending – I think by the end, I just wanted to know how it ended and be done with it.

This story did remind me of Renee Ahdieh’s Wrath & The Dawn series so if you were a fan of that or looking for something similar, I would recommend this! I just would not recommend this as an audiobook. After reading other Goodreads reviews, it seems this story is really a hit or miss – you loved it and gave it 5 stars, or were like me and were left confused. It was an enjoyable read and maybe you will like it more then I did!

~Missy

Review: ‘Retribution Rails’

Erin Bowman does it again with another western novel, set in Arizona in 1887! Now you may be thinking, “I don’t like westerns” but TRUST ME for a minute and give this story a try! You might be pleasantly surprised to find you love this world, just as I did! I’m not typical a fan of “westerns” either, and I can’t say I can name more western YA books, but this is a solid, fast paced, fun gun slinging horse riding railroad chasing read!

Title: Retribution Rails
Author: Erin Bowman
Series: Vengeance Road companion
Rating: 4/5 stars

Retribution Rails takes place ten years after its companion novel, Vengeance Road. (If you want to read our review of Vengeance Road, head right on over here!) While it is not necessary to have read Vengeance Road to read and enjoy Retribution Rails, I would recommend reading that first and it definitely helps as we see some of our favorites (and not so favorites…) from Vengeance Road return.

This story was action packed right from the get go, as one would expect from a western! It follows Reece Murphy and Charlotte Vaughn and is told in dual perspectives. Reece is forcibly dragged into an infamous gang. Charlotte wants to be a journalist and is seeking freedom from her conniving uncle. Their paths cross and our story is off!

Reece was just a kid who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, he isn’t a bad guy. Charlotte wants to become a journalist who tells the truth – because the entire truth is important to her. Both of these characters grew on me and grew as people as the story progressed and that’s what I love to see in a story – character development.

Reece and Charlotte quickly cross pass with our favorites from Vengeance Road and I will admit, I squealed. A lot. It’s nice to see some familiar faces in a new story. It feels like coming home after a long journey. If you loved Vengeance Road, you will, without a doubt, love Retribution Rails!

I should mention that I listened to the majority of this story via audiobook and I would highly recommend the audio! There are two narrators, one for Reece and one for Charlotte, and for me, hearing someone speak in the western accent really helps set the mood of the novel. It is written as western speaking accents and while my New Yorker self cannot easily speak like that, I found listening to the audio quite enjoyable! (I also listened on 1.75x or 2x speed, since, like I said, my New Yorker self naturally speaks at 2x speed HA!)

As noted in the authors notes, a lot of what is said in this story is historically accurate, including when and where the railroads were build in Arizona. As with any story, it is mentioned some pieces were fabricated, but its great knowing there is historical accuracy to much of this story as well!

The ending left me wanting more, I need more answers!!! It was a fitting ending though, and I am satisfied with it.

After reading these two novels by Erin Bowman, I am very much looking forward to what she writes next and will have to go and read some of what she has written before Vengeance Road! She has proven herself as a strong writer and can’t wait to see what she puts out next!

Charlotte and Reece, I hope we meet again someday!

~Missy

Review: ‘All Rights Reserved’

“In a world where every word and gesture is copyrighted, patented or trademarked, one girl elects to remain silent rather than pay to speak, and her defiant and unexpected silence threatens to unravel the very fabric of society.”

This is the premise of All Rights Reserved, as taken from the Goodreads page. I loved the concept of paying for every word or gesture, that everything has a cost. That freedom of speech isn’t free at all. But unfortunately, this story fell short for me.

Title: All Rights Reserved
Author: Gregory Scott Katsoulis
Series: Word$
Rating: 2.5/5 stars

I really wanted to like this story. But as soon as I started reading, it immediately reminded me of both the Divergent series and the Uglies series. I liked both of those series, so ok, that wasn’t a bad thing. As I read on, there was just too much similarity to those worlds for me to really think of this one as unique. Don’t get me wrong – dystopian world isn’t trademarked (ha, irony) by those two worlds or any other dystopian YA novel – but this didn’t feel new to me, even with the concept of paying for words.

Every word or action you do has a price to it and after you turn fifteen, you will have a cuff attached to your arm and be charged for every single word or gesture – even shrugging or holding hands is something that you will be charged for. This world has found a way to copyright and trademark everything and the rights holders will be paid when you use what they own. If you run into debt, you will be put to work to pay off your debt. Oh yeah, and did I mention they can charge you for things your great-great-great ancestors did, such as illegally downloading music, movies, or other forms of media? They can and they do, which leads to most children in this world not being raised by their parents, who are taken in to pay off past debts.

For the majority of this book, I had a difficult time figuring out where this world was supposed to be set. It is said later on this is actually America and it seems maybe 30-40 years in the future. (This is just my estimate.) They live in a dome (feels like Divergent) but they know they are in a dome, which controlled weather and temperature and seasons, and that there are other domes out there. There are states, Texas as a state is specifically mentioned as being hot and somewhere you’re sent to work when you cannot pay your debt.

There are some moments that made me laugh and then actually stop and think. The concept of “liberties” where you can borrow books for FREE as long as you promise to return them seems like a myth to the main character Speth and her siblings. Freedom of speech is something we taken for granted here in America and I did appreciate that this book made me stop and realize that we are protected by the Constitution to be free to say what we want. We can speak, write, and put our thoughts out there without fear because we live in a free country – this futuristic world is not free. If I took nothing else away from this book, it was how important freedom of speech really is.

There were a lot of questions I had while reading this that were not answered. Goodreads says there will be a second book to this series but I’m doubtful it will answer my questions. Such as: How do you get a job? How much does your job pay you? You print your own food – how much do the printing supplies cost? If books are expensive because they are copyrighted, can people use the internet to read/learn or does that cost the same amount? Do they have cell phones if they have wifi? Do they have computers? Are you charged for talking over the phone/computer?

Those are just a few. I feel like this book poses problems or questions and does not answer any of them. It feels rushed. For me, this story just missed the mark of being good. I feel like if it was more fleshed out, if I were left with fewer questions at the end, I might have really enjoyed this. The ending really isn’t an ending, it feels very abrupt and I hope book 2 resolves some of this. You may enjoy this story more than I did, seeing as most of the Goodread reviews as of now are 4-5 stars – I might be in the minority here.

~Missy

Review: ‘Once and For All’

I am a huge Dessen fan and I will literally read anything she writes.

 

Title: Once and For All

Author: Sarah Dessen

Series: Standalone

Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary

This story follows Louna, whose mom is a wedding planner. Louna works for her mom in the business and is great at planning, as well as executing everything to the T. She meets Ambrose at one of the weddings and is surprised when her mom hires him to work with them for the summer, at the request of the bride’s mother. The story gets interesting when the two make a bet about living the other’s love life situation and both are challenged to date in a way they never have.

Likes

Sarah Dessen’s stories are cute. They’re romantic a lot of the time but they usually tackle the bigger picture rather than the small one. I think this did just that and showed how Louna’s love life was severely affected by the death of her boyfriend and how she failed to recover after that. Louna is a relatable character and honestly I think I’d love to work in the wedding planning business after reading this. I love to plan and organize, which Louna also does very well. She is a relatable character and I could see the two of us being great friends. Then we come to Ambrose. What kind of name is Ambrose anyway?! is what you’re thinking, right? It’s as unique as he is, I guarantee. I kind of hated him int he beginning because he acted like this pretentious asshole who only cares about himself and is also a major playboy. I know that kind of character is often attractive in novels but I am so immune at this point. Anyway, Ambrose definitely had a huge development throughout the book and that was one of my favorite parts. He has to change his attitude for the bet but I really think that he learns from this change and realizes that it is more than just about him. Louna teaches him this I feel like and also the job teaches him to be more responsible and care about others and their well-being too. The big picture in this story, for me, was to not let go of the past–remember it and realize how it affects you–but look forward to the future.

Dislikes

This wasn’t my favorite Dessen novel. I didn’t feel as attached as I did in other ones to the characters. Louna was fantastic but the supporting characters lacked luster. Her best friend in the book didn’t really hit me as someone that I would love to be friends with and she seemed like a side plot. I also didn’t feel much from the love story. I felt like they were great friends, and work partners, but the love story didn’t really hit me until the end and by then I wasn’t ready to have one thrown at me. It felt kind of rushed since it was admitted so far towards the end and I really love how Dessen’s love stories are so this made me sad!

Recommendation

I’d suggest this to other fans of Dessen, because her writing style is very much the same and it’s enjoyable. I’d also suggest to those who want a quick read because it was so much shorter than I imagined!

Happy reading! ~ Taylor