Review: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Genre: Young-Adult, Contemporary, LGBT, Romance
Pages: 239
Series: None
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Knopf Books

5 Stars

4c9zr74Ki

Two Boys Kissing is another gem by David Levithan. Yeah, I’ve only read two other books by him, but I loved those two other book as well. I’m considering that a good sign.

Now, instead of doing the synopsis near the beginning like I usually do, it’s going to be an ongoing thing. I’ll start off by mentioning the narrative because it’s a peculiar one.

The novel is told from the perspective of AIDS victims of the late 1900s, before the disease had been identified and before there was research for medicine. I didn’t initially connect the dots to the history of AIDS, but the narrative is kind of the collective voice of the initial victims, most of whom were homosexual men. AIDS was even called Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (GRID) for a brief period of time.

The story is told in a way that seems as if those men are overlooking the lives of people living now, homosexual men especially, to see how they’re doing. This method of storytelling may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I liked it. It took a few chapters to get used to but it was an interesting, and good, choice.

The book follows multiple characters. The novel’s namesake are two boys, Harry and Craig, and they’re kissing because they want to set the world record for the longest kiss (which is over 32 hours long, by the way). They used to be a couple but they’re not anymore. Their story is them trying to navigate they relationship and, you know, the whole… kissing for 32 hours thing.

Then we have Peter and Neil. They’re a couple and have been for a year. Their parts show us what a normal relationship is like, on a regular basis. It’s not something we get to see often in YA because the stories featured are of the how-they-got-together variety. And I gotta say, while it wasn’t something exciting or dramatic, it was engaging. I loved seeing them together and reading what is possibly one of the most realistic representations of a romantic relationship.

The third pair we have are (is?) Avery and Ryan. They’ve just met and this is the classic meet-cute. And it really is very cute. So we have three pairs in different stages of a relationship.

Last, we have Cooper. He’s on his own, he’s lonely and he’s depressed. He’s trying to figure things out but he has no hope that he’ll ever be okay. His family isn’t the kind to be supportive of his sexuality, and that made Cooper’s story difficult. His narrative (which David Levithan does a fantastic job with) is sad and he will totally make you cry.

Overall, we have four stories that aren’t really connected but still feel like they are thanks to the way the book is written. I found this novel to be beautiful and I highly recommend reading it.

Review: Hotel Valhalla Guide and Camp Half-Blood Confidential, by Rick Riordan

I read Camp-Half Blood Confidential a couple of days ago but I felt weird reviewing just a short companion novel which you can’t even read unless you’ve read eleven other books, so I read the Hotel Valhalla Guide as well and now I’ll review them together.

The genre for both books: Fantasy, Middle-Grade/Young-Adult, Mythology (One Norse, other Greek)
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

28857930

Title: Hotel Valhalla Guide to the Norse Worlds
Pages: 156

Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard
Release Date: August 16, 2016
Rating: 4 Stars

Review:

This is a novella you can read without having previously read anything by Rick Riordan. It contains no spoilers for any of the series. It mentions a little detail about Thor’s hammer which you find out in The Sword of Summer, book 1 of the series, but it’s nothing major in my opinion.

It has a fun and simple narrative, illustrations, and introduces you to Norse Mythology. If you don’t know much about Norse deities (like I didn’t) than this book will help you become familiar with the gods and goddesses, the various creatures, some important stories, and the nine realms. It’ll definitely help when you’re read The Sword of Summer, which also has very little in the name of Percy Jackson spoilers. There’s a Hammer of Thor (book 2) sneak peek at the end, but that you can easily avoid.

So if you’re unsure about reading the series, start with this. You’ll become familiar with the myth and Rick Riordan’s writing. Then you can make your decision.

4c9zr74Ki

 

32320908

Title: Camp Half-Blood Confidential
Pages: 181
Series: …it’s complicated
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Rating: 4 Stars

Review:

Yeah… you can’t read this one if you haven’t read a lot of other book, not unless you want to get spoiled for a whole lot of things. To read this book, I recommend reading the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the Heroes of Olympus series, and book 1 of The Trials of Apollo series. It just won’t be as fun, or make as much sense, otherwise because there are a lot of easter eggs and details related to those books.

But if you’ve read them, then you can read this just fine. You get a little intro from Percy and he checks in every now and then, but this novella contains chapters and stories from many of the other campers, mainly the Cabin heads.

You also get a chapter from Chiron, interviews with recurring characters and descriptions of all the places in the camp. You get some history on Camp Half-Blood and, in true Rick Riordan fashion, it’s told hilariously. There are illustrations and little tidbits from the orientation film Apollo made for the camp about (I think) a 100 years ago. The orientation film is the reason from the book. It was so bad that the campers decided they needed something better to inform new campers of how things worked.

It’s worth the read in my opinion. But if you’re one of those people who are going to whine about Rick Riordan trying to “squeeze more money out of the Percy Jackson franchise”, just steer clear. Let us others have our fun.

Review: Wild Reckless by Ginger Scott

24500775

Genre: Young-Adult/New-Adult, Romance
Pages: 400
Series: Harper Boys #1 (Standalone)
Release Date: March 17, 2015
Publisher:  Little Miss Write

1 Star

4c9zr74Ki

This is a special-case one star. Usually, my one stars are of the nothing-in-this-book-works variety. But here, it’s a case of one thing bothering me so much that I can’t, in good conscience, give it a higher rating. Even though the writing and story are okay.

The story is told in first person, from the perspective of Kensington Worth, who’s just moved to a small town from the city and is having trouble adjusting without her friends. Her neighbour is Owen Harper, a boy who goes to her highschool and has a bad-boy reputation. He’s trouble, basically. Initially, Kensi and Owen do not get along. But slowly Kensi sees that there’s a different side to Owen, a deep and hurt side. Which is why she simply gets over him being a dick, and the romance kicks off.

As you might be able to tell by the way I phrased the previous sentence, I was not overjoyed. But the problem goes beyond that.

In the beginning, Owen is a total ass and is very mean to Kensi for no reason. Like seriously, we never get a real reason as to why Owen decided to fuck with her especially, other than maybe to move the book along. Boy-meets-girl has to happen some way, right? So what if it makes your male protagonist look horrible?

Anyway, after the little meet-not-so-cute was done and the two could interact without a plot device, Owen was suddenly no longer a douche. He never apologised and that bothered me, but I observed over time that he’s more of an apologetic gesture kind of guy than the traditional ‘saying sorry’ person. I could get behind that. Kind of. And I could get behind him being hot and cold all the time because even though it made me want to hit him, after he really committed to the relationship, he was pretty solid. That’s progress.

All that can be attributed to the character development (for the most part) and that’s not the reason for the one star. The reason is the relationship, mainly from Kensi’s side, because we only read from her perspective. Basically, it was obsessive.

After the first 5-10%, Kensi’s every thought was of Owen. Her thought process was, in a nutshell: Is Owen awake? Is Owen asleep? Is Owen at home? Is Owen playing basketball? Did Owen come to school? Where is Owen, if he’s not at school? Is Owen okay? What is Owen thinking? Is Owen angry? Is Owen sad? Is Owen hurt? Why is Owen not here? Did I accidentally upset Owen? Is Owen mad at me? What’s the expression on Owen’s face? I should go visit Owen. I want to be with Owen. I want to help Owen. I love Owen. Owen is everything. Owen owns me. Owen is this, Owen is that. Owen. Owen. OWEN.

If that’s not obsession, I don’t know what is. All Kensi wanted was to be with Owen and to make sure he was okay. Even when he hurt her, she made excuses for him and found a way to blame herself, that maybe she did something that made him to ignore her. It was very unhealthy. Talking of how he owned her and breaking apart because he was upset with her, I could say it was his fault but it was really Kensi’s obsession.

The whole thing, from how the book started to how the relationship was, it was very Twilight. Which, believe me, is NOT a good thing. Thankfully though, Owen was not a creep like Edward and he definitely did not sparkle. Not even a little bit. Didn’t even use glitter for fake sparkly-ness.

But sparkly jokes aside, the relationship was a problem. It already would have been with how dramatic it was shown to be. But when it got obsessive and took over every other plot point, things got really bad. Kensi was more broken up over an argument with Owen than she was over the whole shit-fest that was going on with her parents. In fact, everything that wasn’t the relationship was simply a plot device to help the relationship along. And to think that this book has gotten so many positive reviews because people think that this kind of toxic relationship is romantic? I truly do worry about people. You know, when I’m not thinking that people suck and should be avoided at all cost.

In the end, we have another long review, but this was necessary. The kind of relationship depicted in this book is unhealthy and people need to see that. There are more important things in life than getting a boyfriend/girlfriend. Spread the word, please.

Review: Snapshot by Brandon Sanderson

33953603

Genre: Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Crime, Novella
Pages: Just under 100
Series: None
Release Date: February 17, 2017
Publisher: Dragonsteel Entertainment

5 Stars

4c9zr74Ki

This little novella was… amazing. I shouldn’t be surprised since I’ve yet to be disappointed by anything Brandon Sanderson has written, but that’s the thing with awesomeness, it may be expected but it’s never predictable.

Snapshot is set in the very near, but technologically advanced, future. And in this future, there is a way to recreate any day from the past couple of weeks. This recreation is one you can interact with, and is called a Snapshot. It’s used to investigate crimes. Our protagonist, Davis, and his partner, Chaz, have been sent into a snapshot for a simple case. Things get complicated though, when a bigger crime comes to Davis’s attention and he decides to investigate.

Along with that, there are personal issues going on. There are multiple aspects to the story. It’s about the crime, yes, but it’s more about Davis as a person.

Now, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I don’t know how Sanderson manages to do so much in a novella. Like with The Emperor’s Soul, Sanderson has given us a very interesting world, a brilliant story and two very layered and well-developed characters. Davis, especially, has quite the experience, which changes him for the better. And the sheer delicacy with which the each scene is handled… to manage all that while maintaining a beautiful flow… it’s amazing.

And having written so many review recently that were, for me, on the long side, I’m gonna stop right here. I love this book and highly recommend it. A must-read, in my opinion.

Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

27883214

Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 407
Series: Caraval #1 (Can be read as Standalone)
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books

2.50 Stars

4c9zr74Ki

Were you to read this novel in one sitting, and very quickly, without giving it too much thought, I’m pretty sure that you’d love it. And I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way.

This is a novel that’s all about the fantastical aspect and not much about the details. The prose is very pretty and, contrary to what I’ve come to expect from books with pretty (aka purple) prose, it’s not pretentious. The pace of the novel is good and it’s not difficult to be engaged in the story. The author has put a lot of effort into making it magical and unexpected, and it shows. This is not a book that you would want to put down. But if you do put it down and just think about it for a while, the magic start to flicker and fade.

Seriously, if you’re invested, you might not even notice that there’s absolutely no world-building to be found other than a few short paragraphs about conquered isles, that I barely remember. We’re never told what really happened. But before I get into that…

Caraval is a circus/carnival of sorts, but more of a game. In the beginning, it’s mentioned that the Caraval only takes place once a year and at one place, one time. It’s a magical game that, if you win, you get a prize. The protagonist has wanted to go there her entire life. Wanted it almost as much as she wanted to escape her cruel father, with her sister. When she finally gets that opportunity, she has to decide whether she’s willing to risk her father’s wrath to go.

Obviously, she does reach the Caraval. There, it turns that the game is to find her sister, who’s been kidnapped. Dun dun dun…

Caraval is on an island. What that island is, we don’t know. How come one person owns and controls it, we don’t know that either. We don’t know anything, really. Like if the island is such a huge secret, how do people know of its existence? What’s the story of the island? What about the people of the island? If the Caraval master owns a fucking island, then why does the Caraval travel at all? Does it even travel? Because after those first few chapters, no one even mentioned the travelling part. Basically, the book is a stereotypical blonde; very pretty, but with no real substance.

And I can’t help but think that the author was trying to achieve what Erin Morganstern did with The Night Circus. It feels so much like it. But where the Night Circus was truly beautiful and magical, this is ephemeral.

The characters too, not much to them. The MC, Scarlett, didn’t have much of a personality beyond worry for her sister and fear of her father. Other times, she is what the plot demands her to be. Julian, the love interest, is the typical bad boy with heart of gold, who has secrets. He’s the love interest. The sister, Tella, I fucking hate. I can’t tell you why (NO SPOILERS!). But I just LOATHE her and all the shit she pulled, which Scarlett just overlooked.

The plot could have been interesting. It involved looking for, and solving, clues to win the game. But the clues were all solved by accident. There was no brain-work to be seen.

The romance, I felt, had a good starting point. But it became a rushed, insta-lovey mess very soon. The final 10-15 percent I hated. The were many character motivations and revelations that were very stupid. The epilogue was… intriguing, but enough to read the sequel? I can’t say for sure. It’s not coming out until next year anyway so I don’t have to decide right this second.

Overall, this wasn’t a novel that particularly bothered me (other than the shit with Tella) and I did enjoy it in a superficial way, but I can’t recommend it. It’s not very good. Honestly, read The Night Circus.

Review: The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

27904311

Genre: Middle-Grade/Young-Adult, Fantasy, Mythology (Norse), LGBT+
Pages: 471
Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #2
Release Date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

5 Stars

4c9zr74Ki

You know those rare moments when you’re in the mood to read a very specific kind of novel and then you find it and read it and everything is completely awesome? Yeah, that happened to me, and I can’t tell you how great it feels.

You see, I saw a map somewhere and there was a place labeled ‘Bali’ on it. That made me think of the Bali from Norse myth (Norse mythology doesn’t have a Bali; his name is actually Balder; Loki killed him) which made me want to read a very specific type of Norse mythology-related book. Then I realized that I hadn’t read Hammer of Thor yet so, on a whim, I paused my current read and picked this one up. Cue the best one and half day of the month. I never wanted the book to end.

It did end, obviously, and now I have to wait for the next, and last, book of the series, but that doesn’t take away from how much I enjoyed reading it.

The book picks up six weeks The Sword of Summer ended. Magnus has had time to adjust to being an undead warrior and has had some training. But while he was acclimating, bad stuff was still going down in the nine realms. Loki is up to his evil schemes again (when is he not?) and the giants are preparing to invade Midgard. The only way to stop them is with Thor’s hammer, which is still missing. So Magnus has to find the hammer before the giants destroy the world, while dealing with whatever Loki is up to. Easy peasy, right?

Yeah… not so much. But he’s gonna try his best. And he, of course, has lots of help. The old gang is back together!

We have Blitzen and his fashion expertise, Hearthstone with his rune magic and his uncanny ability to make everyone want to “wrap him in a blanket and shield him from all the bad in the world” (that’s a quote from a comment left on my Sword of Summer review on GR), and Samirah with her Valkyrie brilliance. There’s also a new character, Alex, but I want you to get to know this character yourself, so I won’t comment.

But yeah, everyone’s on a mission, the narrative is fun and hilarious as always, the characters are wonderful, the pace is relentless and the story is endlessly engaging. On top of that, Loki is so freaking awesome. I mean, he’s evil but he’s so clever that you can’t help but love him even though you kinda hate him too.

So, if not for all else, read the book just for Loki …And Magnus’s haircut. I don’t why, but I can’t get over the fact that Magnus got a haircut and Thor got one as well in the upcoming movie, Thor: Ragnarök); so now, in my head, Magnus looks like a younger Chris Hemsworth. I know that’s not relevent to the novel but it just keeps popping up in my head. My head’s weird.

Overall, I realize that half of the review was just me rambling but I’m hoping it was enough to convince you (if you even need convincing) to read the book. If not, read it anyway.

P.S. I forgot to mention Jack, the talking, flying, and singing sword, who is totally get back into the dating scene in this novel. You can’t miss that.

Review: Royally Matched by Emma Chase

cov

I might have allowed the cover had I liked the book (it’s not a terrible cover) but since I didn’t, you get the usual.

Genre: New-Adult, Romance
Pages: 276
Series: Royally #2 (Can be read as Standalone)
Release Date: February 21, 2017
Publisher: Everafter Romance

2 Stars

4c9zr74Ki

BEWARE OF VERY LONG REVIEW

Right after I finished reading, I was beyond pissed off. The review would honestly have just been a really angry, and long, rant. Thankfully, I rarely review books right after I finish reading them, and it was night so I went to sleep. Fortunately, in the morning, I was in a much better mood. Unfortunately, that better mood did not make the book better.

The story is a about Prince Henry, soon to be the king of the small kingdom of Wessco. Henry’s a wild child and, until recently, was second-in-line to the throne. Then his brother kind of… quit, and he was it. His grandmother, also the Queen, sent him away to get himself sorted and prepared, thinking some time alone would help him. Instead, Henry decided that it would be a good idea to hold a royal version of The Bachelor. During the show, he meets Sarah, a shy and sweet girl, and… you know what happens. It’s a romance novel.

Now that I’ve gotten that out-of-the-way. I’m going to take apart various aspects of the book, one by one. Don’t worry, some good parts will be sprinkled in as well.

Lets start with Henry. I thought he was a douche some of the time. He also whined and made horrible decisions. Thankfully, he didn’t claim to be any better and I was willing to overlook his douchiness because the whole point of the book was for him to change and become someone who could rule a kingdom. Where thing went wrong is that barely any part of the novel was actually concerned with his improvement. It was all about the love story, which wasn’t good.

We were told that Henry’s liked how pure (I’ll get to that one later) and innocent and good Sarah was, and Sarah liked that Henry was bold and took risks while she herself wouldn’t even read a book that seemed too strange because *gasp* what if she didn’t like it? I get the two reasons but we need more than that. Most of the conversations and relationship building happened off-page and it was mostly just him wanting to bone her. Then she wanted to bone him too. So they fucked and their was a stupid conflict (get to that one later as well) and they had to get their shit together again. On top of that, Sarah was boring and I hated her narrative.

Henry’s was great. He was funny and entertaining to read about and we got many great lines from him. But not Sarah, and not because of the boring but because she’s an avid reader and Emma Chase managed to completely screw up a reader’s perspective. Yes, reader read a lot and know a lot of characters. Yes, we after think about them. But we don’t try to channel or compare ourselves to a different character three times an hour! Our thought process is not “I am such a [insert character name] and need to be more like [insert different character name].”

And we got another case of snobby-reader. I just don’t understand why modern writers insist on making their character only read, or love, classics. I mean, is it so important to you that your characters only likes the “good” books like every other snob out there and treat all other novels as guilty pleasures? And then you proceed to reference Fifty Shades twice… It’s like you want me to not like your book.

Sarah aside, lets talk about the “later” topics. The “pure” thing. There’s a line:

For reasons I can’t put my finger on, the fact that this pure, unadulterated lass believes it—that she believes in me—makes me think that the day could come when I believe it too.

Honestly, I thought we’d moved past the ‘virgins are better’ thing. And then to find something like this in a book by an author that I really like… When are people going to stop with the slut-shaming? While there’s nothing wrong with being a virgin, could you please stop putting so much stock in an intact hymen. Being a virgin doesn’t make you pure or innocent any more than having sex makes you clever or savvy, or a slut. Your ability to blush isn’t linked to you hymen, get that through you head people.

And before I spend more time on that (this review is getting quite long as it is) let’s get to the stupid conflict (very quickly). Basically, it was stupid. The author needed a conflict near the end of the book and she chose the worst possible type, misunderstanding and miscommunication. I shouldn’t have been surprise because Emma Chase is also the person who wrote Twisted (award for ‘worst plot ever’ goes too…) but I still was.

Lastly, the missed opportunity. I’ve read Royally Screwed so I know that Henry’s brother, Nicholas, is a good character and any focus on the relationship between the two brothers would be a strong point of the novel. This knowledge was proved by the fact that one conversations between Nicholas and the Queen (Henry was eavesdropping) had more depth than rest of the book combined. So the fact that Nicholas didn’t show up after that one scene, until the epilogue, was very bad choice. This relationship could have saved the book like the Queen’s presence could have. But neither of them were there for long and what could have been a great journey for Henry as a character became just a bad romance.

Overall, I’ve trashed the book a whole lot  there was just too much wrong there  so now I’ll say a few positive things. I really did like Henry’s perspective, the book is well-written (objectively), there were many funny and some cute scenes and the moments with Nicholas and the Queen shone. That doesn’t mean I think you should read the book, but I had to mention this stuff.

While writing this though, I remembered another negative and since I’ve already gone on so long… one more paragraph couldn’t hurt.

There was a scene in which Sarah said some harsh things to Henry, things he didn’t deserve. He obviously was unhappy with that. But instead of going from there, the author wrote Henry doing something stupid right after so that the blame could be shifted to him and he’d have to make some grand apology. And it’s just that this kind of thing has happened one too many times in a novel. Female MC screws up, then male MC screws up right after so she doesn’t have to apologise. Stop doing that! Each person needs to be responsible for his, or her, actions! Just because the book is for a female audience doesn’t mean women can’t screw up and then not have to make up for it. Just… stop. Just like I’m stopping the review. Right… NOW!