Photo Review – The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1)by NK Jemisin

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1)

By NK Jemisin

Summary: This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

Source: I purchased a kindle copy.

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Review:

The Fifth Season was an amazing fantasy with rich detail and a unique society and premise. I read the book for the 2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge for an allegory, as the author has stated that is what her series is.

Everything about the world was clever and well thought out and I could see a lot of symbolism and I appreciated it. I enjoyed the setting and premise and wanted to get to know the world and the people in it.

My biggest issue with the book was how slow it was. Parts of it dragged, literally through a span of years, with characters I had a hard time connecting with. I wanted to know more, yet was given minute details that didn’t seem necessary and few parts made me feel like I knew the characters. Parts of the book spanned forever, other sections highlighted a few minutes of time and I felt like parts of the book seemed to drag on forever.

I also disliked the twist. I thought about halfway through that the twist might be a thing and it also served to confuse my previous understanding of the timeline and it was an unnecessary and kind of lame connection between the otherwise completely different characters.

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Photo Review – Joyland by Stephen King

Joyland

By Stephen King

Summary: Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.

Joyland is a brand-new novel and has never previously been published.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

Stephen King always knows how to tell a great story and I loved Joyland. It was about the coming of age of the main character, growing up and forging new friendships at the summer carnival a long way away from home. There was of course a supernatural element to the carnival and bit of a creepy vibe, which I enjoyed. I definitely recommend the book, especially to King newbies since it’s good and short.

Photo Review – Final Girls by Riley Sager

Final Girls

By Riley Sager

Summary: Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

Source: I received a hardcover as part of BOTM club

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Review:

I really wanted to love this book, but it wasn’t as compelling as I’d hoped. The twist, while unexpected, wasn’t enough to redeem everything else. It was flat and I didn’t care enough about the characters. Overall, it was forgettable, but I did fly through it, so I’d recommend to fans of light horror or beach read kind of mystery novels.

Review – All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

By Bryn Greenwood

Summary: As the daughter of a drug dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. It’s safer to keep her mouth shut and stay out of sight. Struggling to raise her little brother, Donal, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible adult around. Obsessed with the constellations, she finds peace in the starry night sky above the fields behind her house, until one night her star gazing causes an accident. After witnessing his motorcycle wreck, she forms an unusual friendship with one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold.

By the time Wavy is a teenager, her relationship with Kellen is the only tender thing in a brutal world of addicts and debauchery. When tragedy rips Wavy’s family apart, a well-meaning aunt steps in, and what is beautiful to Wavy looks ugly under the scrutiny of the outside world. Kellen may not be innocent, but he is the fixed point in Wavy and Donal’s chaotic universe. Instead of playing it safe, Wavy has to learn to fight for Kellen, for her brother, and for herself.

Source: I borrowed a copy from my local library on Kindle.

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Review:

I joined an actual in person book club in my new area and hit it off with all the members who showed up and we got to talking about readers and tough subjects and reading books that make you uncomfortable. Everyone in the book club recommended this book and something I HAD to read, but most importantly, I had to let them know what I thought about it.

I LOVE books that make people uncomfortable. Give me violence, give me taboo, give me anything that challenges the norm. Books should make you feel something and I just don’t understand the types of readers (who seem to be growing exponentially) who demand warnings and don’t want to read things that make them uncomfortable or be exposed to anything awful. I crave the books that challenge me in some type of way or go beyond what is normal and show me the terrible and screwed up things that make up this world. I’m not a reader who reads only happy things to escape the real world, so maybe that’s why.

So All the Ugly and Wonderful Things should have been on my radar long before now, but I’d never even heard of it! Everyone’s vague but emotionally charged reactions to this book and their insistence that I go read it made me so excited to jump in.

The storytelling was fantastic!

The author was able to weave a story that immediately grabbed me. There were multiple POVs, but I knew the main focus would be Wavy, a young and strange girl from a broken home. Each POV/chapter would end with me wanting to know more. Usually, POV shifts drive me crazy because it takes me out of the story, but the author knew exactly how to make the story flow while switching narrators that expanded upon the story without taking you out of it. Every transition was smooth. The book is an incredible example of how to tell a story, how showing vs telling impacts a story, and how to effectively write.

As far as the writing in terms of the subject matter, I did not think the writing was manipulative. The author never made me feel as if she dictated what emotions I should be feeling or steered me in any sort of direction. It was laid out in a beautiful way that gently nudged me to simply feel, keep reading, and go with the flow. Because of the POV switches, sometimes the a narrator would be describing something that happened with disgust or outrage, while we got another narrator who spoke of the same event differently, generally allowing the reader to make their own mind up about the events.

It’s tough to describe, but the storytelling definitely exceeded my expectations.

A lot of people will not like this book. It may be an immediate DNF with a ton of outrage. A lot of people will continue to read it and then be even more outraged as the events unfold. But for those who don’t mind a little bit of controversy, it will definitely make you think about how you feel about subjects you may have previously thought you stood firm on.

Essentially, the author weaved a story about how the world is not black and white. As much as I was uncomfortable and at some points a little grossed out, I found myself rooting for the characters, hoping for a happy ending that few would define as acceptable. The book made me think about preconceived notions, what love is, and how our lives really can seem like a series of decisions both in and out of your control that impact what happens to you and what kind of person you become. It was also about how people lie to themselves a little about their convictions.

I closed the book feeling that whatever Kellen and Wavy had was real. I closed the book arguing with myself about how my previous statement is outrageous and wrong. I didn’t need to read the hoards of 1 and 2 star reviews as my conscious was already yelling the same things to me. I know. It’s wrong to excuse this. But I stand by what I said. It was real, whatever love they had, however wrong it was.

I loved that the author also included other situations, probably to further confuse the emotions and moral compass of the reader. We can shout about what’s right and how any reader in their right mind could possibly rate this book anything but negatively, but let’s not ignore the other things in the story that weren’t right that none of us bat an eyelash about on a daily basis.

We had Wavy’s roommate in college who had an affair with her professor, an example of a true abuse of a position of authority, but a more socially acceptable transgression.

We had Amy, growing up in a good home, but wavering in her convictions, while Wavy contrasted her character by growing up in a broken home, but knowing herself and what she stood by. Wavy’s personality kind of ruins the argument that she didn’t know any better or was easily influenced.

We had Donal, who was allowed to live with his biological father, despite an awful home life and everyone just assumed he’d be fine, like they did with Wavy.

We had Liam and Val and everything they did to themselves and their kids, putting themselves first and letting them live in filth.

We had Amy’s mom, Brenda, at the helm, ready to tear down Kellen for what he did, vocal about how he ruined Wavy’s childhood while she neglected Wavy in the moments that really would’ve mattered. If anyone could’ve given Wavy her childhood, it was Brenda. She could’ve intervened at any time, but it was “too difficult” to care for Wavy. Grandma stepped in until she couldn’t anymore and Brenda convinced herself that Wavy would be fine, never really digging too deep or even see who was taking Wavy to school everyday or making sure Wavy ate, huffing about the times Wavy’s mom dropped her off with Brenda for the weekend. Everyone just let Wavy grow up in a broken home, out of sight and out of mind, fully knowing Wavy’s mom was not capable of doing it correctly, seeing the state of the kids whenever they were dropped off without warning.

So while we are all trying to wrestle with the wrongness of Kellen and Wavy, why was everything else okay? Why was no one ever checking up on Wavy, how did they call through the cracks in the system if Wavy’s aunt was SO CONCERNED? Where was Brenda’s concern for Wavy’s childhood innocence and ability to be a kid before she knew about Kellen?

It was beyond ridiculous and I can’t help but feel like, despite all the wrong Kellen did, at least there was someone there who truly cared about her and her wellbeing. And I think that’s where the line was blurred for me.

I loved the book for making me go back and forth with myself about what was really right, what I should’ve been rooting for, and what the heck is wrong with me for even thinking about excusing any of it. All while being well written and compelling. Only a truly good book can make you question something like this. Is it wrong? Do I need more information? Am I a terrible person for rooting for something like this? Am I only giving it thought because it’s not real and therefore it’s something I can ponder about? Is the world really a big shade of gray? Can we judge situations without knowing the details? What wrongs are MORE wrong in the world? I don’t know! I’m giving this 5 stars for being compelling, uncomfortable, and for making me really think about who I am a person and what behaviors I would defend or not defend. The author created characters who captivated me enough to root for them, hate them, and overall, just FEEL some type of way about it all.

Photo Review – Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Sometimes I Lie

By Alice Feeney

Summary: My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:

1. I’m in a coma.

2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.

3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?

Source: I purchased a kindle copy for a book club.

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Review:

This book was so gripping. I think it’s best read quickly, in all your free time, as fast as possible. If you spend too much time thinking about it, it might not hit you with the twists as well if you’re trying to mull over all the directions it might go. Some of it might seem over the top of you think too hard, but the twists just kept coming and it was so much fun to read.

Nothing that I expected to happen actually happened and that was the best part.

Photo Review – The Outsider by Stephen King

The Outsider

By Stephen King

Summary: An unspeakable crime. A confounding investigation. At a time when the King brand has never been stronger, he has delivered one of his most unsettling and compulsively readable stories.

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

Source: I purchased a hardcover

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Review:

I really enjoyed this book! It was intriguing and weird. I found myself totally and completely stumped by the scenario and then further shocked and surprised by he direction of the story. I loved the way it ended.

I haven’t really read many newer King novels and I feel like this book made me more eager to pick up the Bill Hodges trilogy and I’d never really considered reading them before since they didn’t seem “horror”-like.

Photo Review – The Raging Ones by Krista and Becca Richie

The Raging Ones

By Krista and Becca Richie

Summary: In a freezing world, where everyone knows the day they will die, three teens break all odds.

Franny Bluecastle, a tough city teen, dreams of dying in opulence, to see wealth she’s never known. Like the entire world, she believes it’s impossible to dodge a deathday.

Until the day she does.

Court Icecastle knows wealth. He also knows pain. Spending five years in Vorkter Prison, a fortress of ice and suffering, he dreams of life beyond the people that haunt him and the world that imprisoned him.

Mykal Kickfall fights for those he loves. The rugged Hinterlander shares a frustrating yet unbreakable connection with Court—which only grows more lawless and chaotic as their senses and emotions connect with Franny.

With the threat of people learning they’ve dodged their deathdays, they must flee their planet to survive. But to do so, all three will have to hide their shared bond as they vie for a highly sought after spot in the newest mission to space. Against thousands of people far smarter, who’ll live longer, and never fear death the way that they do.

Source: I received a digital copy from Netgalley

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Review:

I think the plot had a lot of potential, but I didn’t connect with the characters and there was no world building at all, which made it confusing because it was set in a weird society that was so obviously different in how class systems were set up. I needed to know more and was never given a true picture of the society.

The characters were linked together and could sense each other, which could have worked well, but seemed strangely awkward.

I kept reading in hopes that things would be explained, but then the characters went off on some starship academy and I only felt more confused at that point.

The plot has so much potential and I really wanted to love this book, but the execution wasn’t good and it was tough to get through.